An online community for gourmet and specialty food retailers.

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

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Last minute Halloween safety advice!

Whether you are a retailer looking for information to offer your customers or a parent with costumed kiddies hitting the streets -- er, sidewalks -- it's important to be familiar with available resources on how to stay safe this Halloween, especially in light of the recent problems with melamine. Both the FDA and the National Confectioners Association (NCA) are great sources for safety tips, food warnings and recall announcements. Here are some helpful Halloween-specific links.

General safety tips from the FDA:

FDA information, recalls and warnings specifically regarding melamine:

General safety tips from the NCA:

Have a happy and safe Halloween!

-The editors of Fancy Food & Culinary Products magazine

Have We Caught Your Fancy?

From the pages of our magazine, Have We Caught Your Fancy? is now making its debut on our blog!

Frank Stiernelof, president of SCI Scandicrafts Inc. appears with a copy of Fancy Food & Culinary Products at a recent trade show.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Editor's Choice: Nando's Peri-Peri

Anybody looking for a flavorful way to add some heat to their favorite dishes should give Nando's Peri-Peri Sauces a spin. The bright and complex flavor of the Wild Herb Peri-Peri Sauce (the product I recently finished) transitions to a subtle heat that leaves you with the difficult decision of whether to take your next bite or take a sip of something cold. Generally I opt for that next bite.

The Peri-Peri (or African Birdseye) pepper was stumbled upon by the Portuguese in the early 1500s when they were colonizing Mozambique, along the southeast coast of Africa. The pepper was used by natives in sauces and marinades for fish and chicken, a technique the Portuguese adopted and spread south to South Africa during the gold rush of the early 1900s. Fast-forward to the 1980s, when Nando's, a now-international restaurant name was founded in South Africa by two friends, Fernando Duarte and Robert Brozin. The restaurants, now numbering 52 and located all over the world, celebrate Portuguese-inspired flame-grilled chicken and the Peri Peri pepper. It was only a matter of time before their cooking products became available to consumers around the world.

My first experience with Nando's, however, was at a NASFT Fancy Food Show. I received a sample of the product and while suggested recipes on have thrilling names like Prawns Maharani, Duck and Wild Mushroom Ravioli, and Steamed Lemon Pudding with Peri Peri Bitter Chocolate Sauce, I thoroughly enjoyed the sauce as a way to spice up boring pasta salads, mac'n cheese and even a burger on the grill (ketchup not necessary!). It makes a killer Bloody Mary, and it would be good in chicken or egg salad, as well -- in fact, on occasion I found myself scanning leftovers in my fridge, looking for things that would specifically go well with the Peri Peri sauce, instead of the other way around. The sauce comes in heat ranges from Extra Mild with Lemon up to Extra Hot, as well as variations on the original, like Sweet Hot, Garlic and my favorite, Wild Herb.

Additional recipes and ordering information are available on

For retailers interested in carrying Nando's products, contact Talier Trading Group, (201) 484-0306 or e-mail

Monday, October 27, 2008

Smart Choice Program?

The food industry is already buzzing with word of the Keystone Center's Smart Choices Program (which is to be unveiled today at the American Dietetic Association's conference in Chicago). The program is capturing the attention of food industry giants such as Coca-Cola, ConAgra and General Mills. As part of the Smart Choices Program, companies will list calories per serving as well as servings per container on the front of their labels. Other big food industry players, such as Mars Inc. have already made announcements about this informational migration on their labels.

While this may be a sign of things to come with large, mainstream food companies, how do these changes affect the gourmet or specialty categories? Or do they? I know many gourmet/specialty food retailers take packaging into consideration when choosing product lines for their stores, so would calorie/serving count on the front of packaging be an added bonus for shoppers? Or would it be a reason to avoid certain products?


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Update: Béquet Gourmet Caramels

Be sure to catch Béquet Gourmet Caramels in action on the Food Network Sunday, November 2. The Celtic Sea Salt caramel will be featured on Road Tasted with the Neelys at 2:30 p.m. EST!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Editor's Choice: Béquet Gourmet Caramel

I have eaten a lot of caramel in my time, from the mass-market brands like Brachs to the upscale finest-ingredients-only varieties we feature in Fancy, as well as the only slightly burnt batch that I attempted to make last Christmas. In such a large category, there are certain characteristics one must look for to determine a truly outstanding caramel from the rest. Flavor, texture, stickiness and innovation are all key elements of what makes a quality caramel. One company that I found so far to have excelled in all of those areas is Béquet Gourmet Caramel.

Robin Béquet, founder of Béquet Gourmet Caramels, always enjoyed gourmet confections, but she didn't want to venture into the confectionery business herself unless she was sure she could make the best caramel available anywhere. The product of that mindset resulted in an array of caramels flavored with natural ingredients and made in small batches to ensure freshness. The caramels are just the right combination of soft and chewy, and most importantly, I've never been nervous about losing a filling! The caramels come in traditional varieties like Soft and Chewy vanilla butter caramels, but Béquet has also mastered the art of infusing just the right amount of flavor to create flavors like Chipotle, Chocolate, Espresso, Maple, Black Licorice and the newest, Pomegranate. She's covered the confectionery-and-sea salt trend with the customer-requested Celtic Sea Salt butter caramel and the surprisingly addictive Salt-Chocolate butter caramel.

Needless to say, her treats have gotten plenty of attention in the gourmet world, in the form of a Sofi gold for her Chipotle butter caramel and two silvers for her Soft vanilla butter caramel and the Celtic Sea Salt butter caramel. But Béquet doesn't take the credit for herself. "We are very fortunate that we have a great team of people -- our products are made by a team of people who really care about what they're doing," she says. "They care a great deal about the quality of the product, and there's no substitute for that."

For more information about Béquet Gourmet Caramels, visit


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Editor's Choice: Immaculate Baking

For the inaugural Editor's Choice post, I want to feature a product that has consistently impressed me since I received samples of it a couple months ago: Immaculate Baking's new-this-year Better Bakes. The Better Bakes are organic, ready-to-bake cookie dough and are available in five flavors: Chocolate Chunk, Vanilla Sugar, Triple Chocolate Chunk, Oatmeal Raisin and Peanut Butter. They come pre-shaped in packs of 24 dough balls, so the only skill necessary to bake them is arranging them two inches apart on a baking pan.

Now, I'm a self-admitted purist when it comes to baking -- the cookies that come from my kitchen are always the from-scratch variety. My mom is also perhaps the world's best chocolate chip cookie baker, so I have pretty high standards for what I look for in a great cookie. Immaculate Baking's Better Bakes surpassed them all. I tried the Chocolate Chunk first, just to see how they measured up against the traditional, from-scratch variety. In just 10 minutes, these little balls of dough baked into cookies that were soft, flavorful and surprisingly addictive! I've found that the cookie dough also freezes well, so they'd be perfect to keep around for surprise company. And as if that wasn't enough, the cookie dough is organic, so it is free from preservatives, trans fat and artificial flavorings (which may explain why they taste so good).

Immaculate Baking's founder, Scott Blackwell, not only has a passion for cookies (he develops the recipes himself), he is an avid supporter of American Folk Art. When he wasn't perusing the aisles of the grocery stores looking for flavor trends and new cookie ingredients, he created the Folk Art Foundation, which provides encouragement, support (financial and otherwise), and exposure to the artists working in the folk art tradition. So what's the connection between folk art and cookies? Blackwell sums it up in one word: approachability.

"I wanted approachability to be on the forefront of our company packaging, and what signifies that, to me, is something that tells a story, something whimsical and fun that has that approachability. Many folk artists hang their work literally on their front porches -- they're very inviting. The main thing for many of them is that they want you to come and talk to them and ask questions and find out why they're [creating their art], and that's how I want to run a business and how I want it to be perceived. These artists are fun, eccentric characters, and I think of myself that way, and I like to think that the products reflect on that as well."

For more information on Immaculate Baking's Better Bakes or to learn more about American Folk Art, visit


Monday, October 13, 2008

Welcome to our blog!

Welcome to the official blog of Fancy Food & Culinary Products magazine! We have been posting the question and responses from our Top Shelf Advice department, a page that appears in each issue of the magazine, for you to read and respond to, but now the magazine's editors will also be adding coverage of industry events, as well as other great regular features.
  • Editor's Choice — Each Tuesday, an editor will select a product based on its quality and taste to feature here on the blog. The product could be something we came across at a show, a sample somebody sent us, or something we found shopping on our own. We will include a product description, why we liked it, and contact information for the company that makes it. Check back or subscribe to our e-mail feed or RSS feed to get the latest updates delivered right to you (to subscribe, see the column on the right-hand side of the screen).
  • Have We Caught Your Fancy? — Currently a part of our Shelftalk department each month in the magazine, this is an opportunity for our readers to put faces with names with both manufacturers and shopkeepers. Those who send in a picture of themselves with the magazine will not only have a chance to appear on our pages, but will also be featured right here on our blog.
  • In-Store Spotlight — Our readers spoke and we listened! This brand new feature is something our readers have been asking for, and we're excited to be able to answer those requests! Each month we will select a store from our reader-base to be featured on our blog. This will include photos of the store, background information and a brief Q&A with the store owner.
If you are interested being considered for any of these features, please contact Associate Editor Stephanie Hunsberger via email, shunsberger(at)

Check back tomorrow for our very first Editor's Choice pick!