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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.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Editor's Choice: Chuao Chocolatier

With local Chicago windchills dipping down into the negatives this week, the first thing on my mind after my frigid morning commute is a steaming mug of hot cocoa. In light of the recent temperature drop and me needing my morning chocolate fix, I have come to believe that the best kind of cocoa is one that warms you from the inside out, one that combines rich, velvety cocoa with the warmth of pasilla chiles, cayenne pepper and subtle spices for an experience that goes beyond taste to for an appealing mouthfeel and an aroma that will have you seriously debating that second mug-full. The cocoa that has most frequented my mug this week is the Spicy Maya Hot Chocolate from Chuao Chocolatier (pronounced chew-WOW).

Chuao's Spicy Maya Hot Chocolate draws its flavor profile from the ancient Mayan culture, one that considered chocolate the food of the gods. The drink that the ancient culture enjoyed, however, was unsweetened, while the mix in Chuao's tin creates a smooth, sweet beverage with just the right amount of spice-driven heat.

Chuao was founded by Venezuelan brothers Michael and Richard Antonorsi. Michael is a master chef whose mission is to create a treat for all of the senses by combining unusual ingredients for a surprising, delightful outcome. But the Antonorsi brothers don't just create a wonderful chocolate experience; part of the company's mission is to safeguard the future of Venezuelan cacao production. Through the Aguasanta Growth Initiative (named after the Antonorsi's small family farm), Chuao helps to fund programs that teach Venezuelan cacao farmers better techniques for harvesting crops and classifying local cacao varieties. There is also a program that sends a "Cacao Specialist" to aid farmers who have questions or concerns about their crops.

For more information on Chuao Chocolatier, visit the website,

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Giving the Gift of Food

'Tis the season to be a foodie! According to The NPD Group, a leading market research company, 52 percent of the consumers who reported giving gifts during the holiday season give the gift of food.

Thankfully they avoid the proverbial brick-like fruitcake (well, 89 percent of them), but with the rich tradition of holiday cookies and recipes that have been passed down through generations, it's not a surprise that more than half of holiday gift-givers gift their loved ones with something edible. In fact, I was planning on gifting some tasty treats myself this Christmas. Mine will be homemade, and I wonder how much of what is gifted will be homemade and how much will be packaged products, like traditional gift baskets, boxes of truffles and boutique treats.

The NPD Group's report shows that 65 percent of respondents enjoy cookies around the holidays, which is no surprise if you have been on Gourmet magazine's website lately ( They recently posted their favorite cookie recipes from the last 68 years, just in time for the holidays (I recommend 1951's Sugar Shuttles and 1957's Lace Cookies). What really shocked me, however, was that vegetables came in second on the list as a top snack food traditionally eaten at Christmas. The only veggies that came out in my household growing up were carrot sticks we put out for Santa's reindeer.

More information about Christmas food-gifting and snacking can be found here.

What kind of food gifts are popular in your stores? And what kind of food gifts do you enjoy giving (or receiving)?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Editor's Choice: Naturally More

Like many people, I try to eat healthy, but I have to admit “taste” usually trumps “good for you.” That’s why, when the sample jar of Naturally More arrived in the mail, I was interested. I read that it was peanut butter fortified with flax seed, flax seed oil and other nutrients. Since I have been spreading peanut butter on my “healthy” morning bagel anyway, I decided to take it home and give it a try. I stirred it up as directed and put in the refrigerator. Next morning was the try-out -- again, remembering it was good for me. Imagine my pleasant surprise to see how easily it spread on the bagel. One of the ingredients is egg whites, which may that has something to do with it. So far so good. Then the first taste -- another pleasant surprise. It has a creamy texture, not at all gritty, and a good peanut flavor. I guess all the good Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids it contains don’t affect the taste.

I bet this would be good on all kinds of toasted breads, on waffles, on a variety of crackers, and, of course, as part of a P & J sandwich. It is also shown as an alternative to cream cheese for filling traditional celery stick appetizers.
As I said, something good for you that tastes good.

Naturally More is made in the U.S. by SNACLite LLC (


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Editor's Choice: Coupla Guys

If your shoppers are looking for an easy, quick, hearty meal this winter, I recommend Coupla Guys Foods' Buoy Base as the perfect product to point them to. As a play on the French Bouillabaisse, the 26-oz. jar is filled with fresh ingredients and requires just a jar of water and a seafood of your shoppers' choice for preparation.

I received a sample of the Buoy Base and used it in a quick pinch when I had some unexpected company for dinner. I dumped the jar of product, as well as an additional jar of water, into a pan on the stove and let it warm up while I sauteéd some shrimp in a lemon-infused oil, then I tossed those into the Buoy Base to simmer for about 10 minutes. While this makes a great stew, I found the end result to be thick enough (and absolutely delicious) served over a good rice, and of course, you can't forget the crusty bread for wiping the plate clean.

The Buoy Base can be used with almost any kind of fish or shellfish (shrimp, mussels, clams, squid, swordfish, etc.), and the rich, flavorful stew makes a hearty, filling meal. My impromptu dinner was a complete success, and even my picky father still asks when I'm going to "make that Coupla Guys stuff" again.

Coupla Guys Foods specializes in sauces, and aside from their amazing Buoy Base, the Chicago-based company also offers Awesome Arrabiatta, Marvelous Marinara, Perfect Puttanesca, Terrific Tapenade, Serious Sesame Sauce and Crème de la Crimini Sauce. The other thing I particularly enjoy about products from Coupla Guys is their labeling. Each jar comes with serving suggestions and a recipe that leaves lots of comfortable options and room for interpretation, based on the customer's preference (written, of course, in a charmingly Capone-like Chicago-speak). The language used is inviting and relaxing, and the attitude reflected on Coupla Guys products is, "throw this in, toss some of that in, and ba-da-bing, you got a meal." Couldn't be simpler (or tastier) than that!

For more information on Coupla Guys products (or to sample some charmingly Capone-like Chicago-speak), visit their website:


Monday, December 1, 2008

December Top Shelf Advice

What was your best-selling product in 2008?