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Welcome to Fancy Food & Culinary Products' blog, your place to read reviews of the great fancy and gourmet products we find in the marketplace.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Editor's Pick: Choctál

I visited Peru in August, and I found a great little shop that featured a myriad of edible products derived from the cocoa bean. There were liquors, candies, chocolates, jams, jellies, teas and even pure roasted cocoa beans, and we learned how the nuances of the flavors changed depending on where the bean was grown.
While I’m back in Chicago hard at work for Fancy Food & Culinary Products magazine, I was instantly taken back to the souvenir shops of Machu Picchu when a lovely sampling of Choctal ice cream arrived at our office.

Choctál’s eight unique flavors don’t feature fun and flirty names like Dare Devil Chocolate but rather a worldly, straight-forward account of the exotic lands from which these flavors derive.

Names like Dominican Chocolate, Ghana Chocolate and Kalimantan Chocolate as well as Papa New Guinea Vanilla, Mexican Vanilla and Indonesian Vanilla instantly intrigued my appetite for travel as well as sugar.

Picking out which single-serve pack to try first was like closing my eyes and pointing my finger to a spinning globe. Following my taste buds, I settled on Madagascar Vanilla to start. Picking up the 4-ounce carton was a luxurious experience, for the design doesn’t play to my lustful love affair with dessert but rather exudes an air of sophistication and eco-consciousness, designed with a burlap-type background and muted colors of blue and brown. The logo itself elicits a near Aztec feel, furthering my sense of adventure.

Choctál's unique name serves as an homage to the ancient cultures that revered cacao as “food from the gods," using the sacred ingredient in a drink called “Xocolatl,” “Cachuatl” or “Chocotal.”

My favorite part: The ingredient description right on top of the peel-back lid: “Pure bourbon vanilla and flakes of vanilla beans; utterly seductive rich, complex and classic flavor.” Indeed, a classic flavor, and my favorite. But this vanilla bean ice cream delivered an unusually pure flavor of vanilla amidst a truly creamy, complex and indulgent texture of ice cream.

I was drawn to the Costa Rican Chocolate description as well: “Lively, well-balanced coffee and caramel flavors; a hint of butterscotch adds a subtle back note.” That’s two points for Choctal, as this deep, velvety and oh-so-rich chocolate flavor matched its product description to the T.

As with fine wines and whole-bean coffees, Choctál believes the area of the world in which a particular cacao or vanilla is grown makes all the difference in the character of the product. Each region produces unique flavor profiles, according to its press release, yielding complex, nuanced flavors. Choctál also sources high-quality ingredients with no artificial additives, eggs or gluten and partners with companies that focus on sustainable practices in both harvesting and production.

After my sampling of both, I felt like I just returned from a trip around the world, and I thought how fun it would be to share a single-serve pack with everyone at my next dinner party. The countries that they decide to “try” would make for a great conversation start; but then again, with ice cream this rich and creamy, who has time for talking?

Choctál is available for purchase at over 200 stores nationwide including Bristol Farms, Whole Foods and an ever-expanding list of independent gourmet grocers. The indulgent frozen treats are also available for order online at

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Editor's Pick: noosa yoghurt

Noosa yoghurt is a unique combination of sweet and tart taste wrapped in a  thick, velvety texture—it’s truly one of a kind. It’s made in small batches on a family farm in Colorado with wholesome ingredients: all-natural whole milk from happy cows, fresh fruit purees and infused with a touch of clover alfalfa honey. Its irresistible and savory taste will make you fall in love after just one bite and keep you coming back for more!
Perfect for fall, the company offers two seasonally-focused flavors— Pumpkin and Cranberry Applethat make the perfect addition to any fall meal and are a guilt-free treat perfect those watching their waistlines.
·         Pumpkin, originally released as a limited-time offering, proved so popular that it is now available all year round. Now, consumers can enjoy real pumpkin puree in a velvety yoghurt, as an exceptional dessert; in pumpkin-inspired recipes; or as the star ingredient in a parfait by just adding crumbled ginger snaps and whipped cream.
·         The all-new Cranberry Apple, inspired by festive holiday flavors, is the perfect combination of sweet and tart and brings to mind cozy family recipes. Sit around the dining room table and enjoy the yoghurt as a snack, or as a main ingredient in a seasonal coffee cake or muffins to warm up on a brisk fall day.

All noosa yoghurt is available in the traditional 8 ounce container and 4 ounce 4-packs mini-containers.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Editor's Pick: Simpson and Vail Literary Teas

Simpson and Vail is unveiling a new line of tea tins—each blend was created with a specific author in mind. The ten different teas vary from a black tea blend to a flavored herbal blend. The authors included in the line are William Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Emily Dickinson, James Joyce, Beatrix Potter, Lewis Carroll, and Charles Dickens.

Simpson and Vail is known for creating delicious traditional and dessert tea blends with a quirky sense of humor and love of history. There is a literary tea for everyone in this collection. The delicate prose of Jane Austen’s novels is evoked in a tea blend that combines peppermint with a gentle touch of vanilla. The adventures of Pip and Oliver go wonderfully with a hearty, well-rounded variation on the typical British tea of Dickens’ time. Each of these ten teas comes in their own specially designed tins branded to each author, their lives and works.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Editor's Pick: JulieAnn Caramels

Remember the joy of the campfire experience? Memories of burning embers and aromas of just-burnt marshmallows exist in the back of your mind just enough to yearn for the S'More on crisp nights.

No one knows just who invented the gooey marshmallow and chocolate goodness trapped in pieces of graham crackers, though some credit it to a Girl Scout troop leader—image that! I’d assume this was no Troop Beverly Hills.

Chocolate melts while just the right pressure is added to the mallow-graham cracker combination for a bite-sized treat that’s become so etched in Americana nostalgia that chocolatiers and sweets companies have been replicating the S’More for years trying to find that shelf-stable version.

I think I found it by the way. On a stick at that!

JulieAnn Caramels’ Su’Mores bring so much joy into one bite, it’s an incredible and very savored moment that’s amplified with the addition of caramel. It’s not too messy, avoids all smoke and flames and takes us on a campfire journey.

The simple graham cracker is topped with what JulieAnn calls the finest of marshmallows that’s as white as your teeth. It’s later wrapped in the company’s famous caramel—which is not too stick-to-your-teeth sticky; just enough—and wrapped with a mixture of light and dark Guittard chocolate and trickled with a drizzle of white.

Order yours here and you’ll have customers begging for more. Girl Scout’s Honor

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Editor’s Pick: Torie & Howard

Torie & Howard’s newly introduced organic Chewie Fruities candy has been named a finalist in the Martha Stewart American Made Awards.

The 4-ounce package of assorted Chewie Fruities candy, introduced in May, was selected as a finalist and now is eligible for the Martha Stewart American Made Audience Choice Award. Public voting for the finalists ended on Oct. 19, Winners are to be announced this week.   Torie & Howard produces all natural, organic, Non-GMO candy designed to satisfy consumers with discriminating palates who crave healthy, yet indulgent, snacks.  The candy is USDA Organic and kosher certified.  The company was launched by color consultant Torie Burke and interior designer Howard Slatkin in early 2012 with headquarters in New Milford, Conn.  In keeping with its pledge to produce snacks in ways that are as health-friendly, eco-friendly and socially conscious as possible, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Autism Speaks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Editor’s Pick: Talenti Gelato

Fall brings colorful, crunchy leaves, football games and decadent seasonal flavors of gelato. Just because the weather starts getting colder, doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to enjoy frozen treats. Talenti Gelato is bringing back three seasonal flavors this month.
·         For the pumpkin flavor fanatic, Pumpkin Pie blends brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin and then adds real pie crust pieces for a delicious take on a holiday treat.
·         Want a beverage and dessert in one? Meet Old World Eggnog, which is a rich and creamy interpretation of the traditional holiday drink, with fresh egg yolks, pure vanilla extract and fragrant nutmeg.
·         And last but certainly not least is Peppermint Bark, an indulgent gelato that combines semisweet Belgian Callebaut chocolate with a smooth and refreshing peppermint base.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Editor's Pick: Bertolli Riserva

Full of artisanal ingredients like extra-virgin olive oil, imported Parmigiano-Reggiano and more, the Bertolli Riserva Italian Sauces are inspired by Bertolli’s founder, Francesco Bertolli, and pretty much transport you back to Francesco’s home of the sunburnt rolling Tuscan hills and aromas of Italian cuisine sneaking from the kitchen windows. The Bertolli Riserva Sauce that caught my eye: Porcini Mushroom with White Truffle Oil.

The shade-grown porcini mushrooms are enhanced by the decadence of the white truffle oil to create a seriously indulgent and rich taste and aroma that quite literally spilled out of my kitchen. If I were Italian, and I’m not, I’d imagine the simmering sauce to be something of a staple in my Italian grandmother’s kitchen. It beckons to be dished out to friends and family at the dinner table, so that’s what I intended to do—fettuccine with spinach and turkey meatballs in a porcini mushroom sauce.

Because the sauce is practically fool proof—simply add to a sauce pan and simmer—I decided to go with another old stand by: turkey meatballs. Using a trusted ‘ol recipe from Bon Appetit that I’ve had a bit of previous experience with, I mixed my egg, onion, minced garlic, frozen chopped spinach that was thawed and squeezed to remove all moisture, some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, about ½ cup of plain breadcrumbs, some parsley and finally, the ground turkey, in a bowl.  I formed the mixture into balls and placed them on a baking sheet to eventually broil until browned—about 15 minutes in the oven.

After they looked golden brown and delicious, I placed them into the simmering Porcini Mushroom Sauce compliments of Bertolli. In a separate boiling pan I cooked the fettuccine, added that to the sauce and meatballs and served delicately with extra Parmigiano Reggiano.