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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 29, 2009

Editor’s Choice: Iota

With the winter gift shows just around the corner, I’ve been thinking about the various companies I want to visit to take a look at their new home and kitchen accessories. A must-see on my list is Iota (www.everyiota.com), one of my favorite companies that specialize in stationery and gifts that can be cross-merchandised with gourmet goods.

With bold, trendy color palettes, Iota always has a great lineup of eye-catching textiles and giftware. At the upcoming winter markets, the company will introduce new eco-friendly textiles, notecards, giftwrap, notebooks and more that are designed with retro-inspired themes and patterns.

One of my favorite new patterns is Cottage Kitchen, a 2010 bonus pattern from the company. Items in Iota’s kitchen collection — including aprons, oven mitts, towels, recipe boxes and other accessories — are decorated with this playful pattern that is sure to be a hit with cooks of all ages.

Take a look at Iota’s full line of vibrant home accessories in the OneCoast showrooms in Atlanta, Dallas and New York at the winter shows. You can even meet Iota designer Kelly Alford at a special event in Atlanta, January 8 at 11 a.m.

-Ashley

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Editor’s Choice: Tribe


So much of eating and cooking has nothing to do with the food itself. I often enjoy the process of cooking and the conversation with my close friends as much as whatever it is I’m preparing. As a vegan, a lot of the memories I have of eating and enjoying food as a child center around foods I don’t eat as an adult. I don’t ever miss meat, but guilty pleasures like ice cream and pizza (or anything with cheese) are often missed.

When a container of Tribe Pizza Hummus arrived in the office, I was thrilled to dig in and enjoy pizza flavors once again. My coworkers and I gathered in the office kitchen to sample the snack, and we came to a conclusion: If you like pizza, you’ll love pizza hummus. My memory may have faded with time, but Tribe expertly captured the flavors of my favorite childhood food (I’m going to pretend I didn’t eat it for breakfast in college).

Simply stated, it is comfort food at its best. Natural, vegan, organic. I love all these qualities in food, but you don’t often find organic and pizza in the same prepackaged food. During the office tasting, I ate more pizza hummus than I care to admit, but I’m not really surprised. I’ve always been a fan of Tribe hummus. I love the bold step they take in creating new flavors and unusual ingredient combinations. And seriously, who doesn’t love pizza?

Learn more about Tribe and it’s hummus online at www.tribehummus.com.

-Mary

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Editor’s Choice: Yogi Products

As you probably have gathered, I’m always on the lookout for something to snack on here at work. Usually it helps if it’s something you can eat while typing or shuffling through papers. So when my co-worker Ashley handed me the package of Yogi Granola Crisps (www.yogiproducts.com), I figured this could be a find. Turns out I was right. The flavor I tried was Baked Cinnamon Raisin. The first thing I noticed is that the crisps are bite-size, just right for snacking. They have a nice crunch. The taste reminded me of cinnamon graham crackers; it’s a little sweet, but not overly. It’s one of those tastes that make you smile. Now here’s the good part — the flakes are made with five ancient grains, including oats (always a plus), and are actually a healthy snack. There is all kinds of information on the package about what other good-for-you benefits they provide. Speaking of the package, it is resealable, so even if you’re inclined to eat half the bag, you can act like an adult and save it for another day.

And I’ve just discovered that the Crisps come in two other flavors, Fresh Strawberry Crunch and Mountain Blueberry Flax. Two more of my favorite flavors, so I’m off to the office kitchen to see if those packages are still there. A 10.4-oz. resealable bag has a suggested retail of $5.

-Barbara

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Editor’s Choice: Steven Smith Teamaker

It’s a morning tradition in the editorial department to take a break and head to the kitchen for some tea. I’m sad to say that this morning at approximately 9 a.m., I polished off the box of Mao Feng Shui tea from Steven Smith Teamaker. (If I were a tween and not a totally mature editor, I would insert sad face emoticon here.)

Varietal No. 8: Mao Feng Shui full-leaf green tea is just one of the many delectable blends from Steven Smith, a company that crafts its teas in small batches for an exceptional drinking experience. The company’s wonderful array of green, white, oolong and black teas, as well as its herbal infusions, are created from ingredients picked at their peak. With its earthy aroma and light, almost ethereal color, the Mao Feng Shui blend tastes like a fresh spring morning (I know it sounds cheesy, but trust me). The leaves for this blend are harvested in the spring from China at a high elevation.

During my time drinking the eight or nine bags in the 15-bag package of Mao Feng Shui, I drew immense pleasure from untying the cute little string-tie box of tea (which we’ll certainly be using as a pretty storage container for paperclips and office supplies now that it’s empty). I will miss dropping the elegant sachet into my mug of hot water. The roomy, biodegradable sachet provides greater full-leaf expansion, which helps release even more of a green-tea aroma. And let’s not forget all those fabulous antioxidants I am consuming with each sip!

You simply must check out the company’s website (www.smithtea.com). I guarantee you will find yourself on it longer than you intended (at least I did — I’m a sucker for well-designed websites). Don’t miss the humble About section, in which I learned — to my surprise! — that founder Steven Smith is also the founder of popular well-known and –respected brands Stash Tea Company and Tazo.

-Ashley

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Editor's Choice: Stonehouse 27

Let’s be honest. No one has the time or energy (especially during the holiday season) to whip up a gourmet meal every night. Add one busy editor with too many after-work commitments to this time crunch, and you get my dinner dilemma just a few nights ago. Faced with a plum tomato, red onion, cabbage, tofu, celery and jasmine rice, I reached for a sample of Stonehouse 27’s Cilantro and Coconut gourmet Indian curry.

I’m not entirely sure the veggies I had aligned with traditional Indian cooking, but that’s the beauty of a delicious curry. As the rice cooked, I sautéed the hodgepodge of vegetables in the curry. Instantly, the aroma of cilantro filled the kitchen, creating an Indian cooking extravaganza. The fresh ingredients (onion, tomato, cilantro, garlic, among others) added a crisp, refreshing taste to the curry. The subtle taste of lemon added another layer of cool, zesty flavor.

Turns out, Stonehouse 27 wouldn’t be insulted that I improvised my meal. Exotic and easy-to-prepare are themes right on the label. Open-ended cooking suggestions (think: serve with fish, but also great with vegetables) makes the curry a create-your-own-epicurean adventure. Stonehouse 27 also makes Dates and Tamarind, Tamarind and Garlic, Tomato and Chilies, Cashews and Cream, and Cashews and Cream curries in varying degrees of heat.

Check out Stonehouse 27, its curries, ingredients and health benefits at www.stonehouse27.com.

-Mary

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Editor's Choice: Crispy Green


When I spotted the package of FruitziO from Crispy Green (www.fruitzio.com) during my most recent forage for food in our office area, I was immediately interested. You see, the packaging is a silver foil pouch, the contents freeze-dried fruit; it brought a happy memory for most of us of a certain age — astronaut food. It looked like the kind of packaging and product that was designed to take and eat on space flights.

Opening the package releases the smell of the fruit, in this case, apples and strawberries. This was a good sign. The fruit pieces are sweet and a little crunchy with a nice mouthfeel. They add a little cane sugar, and that’s it. It’s three ingredients and all-natural. Best of all, it satisfies your taste for something sweet, but it’s only 100 calories for the whole bag, which is one serving. And it’s fruit, so it’s good for you. It is even vegan, so my colleague, Mary, can enjoy it.

Tasty right out of the bag, I bet the pieces would be good on top of ice cream. I could see a kid liking the package, and it would be great to take for lunch. It also is perfect for hiking and camping in the great outdoors, which some people do.

FruitziO, a fun treat in a great package.

-Barbara

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Editor’s Choice: 479˚ Popcorn

Last week, the editors were blessed with a package of popcorn hailing from sunny San Francisco, California. Ordinary popcorn? No way! In fun flavors such as Fleur de Sel Caramel and Vietnamese Cinnamon Sugar, popcorns from 479˚ Popcorn (www.479popcorn.com) are a hit among our editors. We love the fantastic and innovative flavor combinations that lead to a truly gourmet snacking experience.

My personal favorite is the Chipotle Caramel and Almonds. It’s a great blend of spicy and sweet, and the nuts make me feel like I’m eating something healthy during work. (Brain food, right?) 479˚ Popcorn combines the smokiness of chipotles with organic ancho chile for added heat; the popcorn is then blended with dark caramel and roasted organic roasted almonds which lends a note of rich earthiness.

We’re excited to try the other exciting flavors that came in our sweet package from founder Jean Arnold! Look for 479˚ Popcorn in our upcoming January issue.

-Ashley

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Editor's Choice: La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer

Like many home chefs, I turn to my favorite blogs for new recipes. But, there are a few vegan and vegetarian cookbooks in my kitchen that I can always use for inspiration and a little guidance as I try new cooking techniques and cuisines.

My two very best friends gave me La Dolce Vegan, written by vegan goddess Sarah Kramer, for my birthday several years ago when I was just considering eliminating diary and eggs from my already vegetarian diet. Inspired by Sarah’s words and passion for vegan cooking, I dove into the book trying recipes and broadening my horizons. Years later, I still flip through the cookbook and fold over corners (the banana pancake recipe has a permanent crease).

What I like most about the cookbook are the recipes for replacement ingredients. For example, rather than instructing home chefs to use meat alternative, Sarah provides a recipe for doing it on your own, so the entire meal is made from scratch. Sarah’s, and by extension the cookbook’s, funky, retro approach to vegan cooking and living and the brief stories that accompany certain recipes add personality to the book. And, having entertained a time or two using La Dolce Vegan recipes, I can provide ample omnivores who will attest to the deliciousness of these recipes.

I’m not the only one who loves Sarah and her series of vegan cookbooks; she has become a legend of sorts for vegans, having also penned How It All Vegan, The Garden of Vegan and Vegan A Go-Go. Gourmet retailers can learn more about Sarah and her cookbooks on www.govegan.net.

-Mary

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Editor’s Choice: The Scrumptious Pantry

Last week, the editors at Fancy Food took a trip to Italy.

Ha — we wish! But it sure felt like we had flown to the boot-shaped European country when we tasted a variety of handcrafted products from The Scrumptious Pantry (www.scrumptiouspantry.com).

The Scrumptious Pantry represents 21 gourmet food items from Italian regions such as Tuscany and Piemonte. Founder Lee Greene sources all the company’s products from family farms and artisan producers. What’s more, she gives the farmers the spotlight on the products’ packaging, which displays photos of the producers to add a personal touch to the food.

Rob Benes, public relations representative for The Scrumptious Pantry, hosted a tasting for us and shared everything from Durham Wheat Rigatoni to a fantastic Sun-dried Tomato Spread. But my favorite product by far was the Balsamic Dressing Sauce, which features a great photo of an artisan named Guido.

For more than 150 years, Guido’s family has been producing this sauce with pride at the Acetaia Paltrinieri in the Emilia-Romagna region. A younger version of the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena (which is aged for at least 12 years), the Balsamic Dressing Sauce is bottled after four years of aging.

I found the sauce to be a surprising blend of sweet, tart and savory. Because it contains no vinegar, it was delicate and full of complexity, and it had a cool, smooth finish that could add character to a number of foods and dishes. Rob told us the sauce would be perfect drizzled over salads, vegetables and meats, but it could also be a fantastic touch to fresh strawberries. I’d be eager to try it on all of these suggestions. So, retailers: Keep this product in mind when your customers are searching for something special!

-Ashley

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Editor's Choice: Chef Hymie Grande

I'd be the first to admit, I am very much a coward when it comes to trying anything that lists chiles as a main ingredient. So when I read the "mildly spiced" on the bottle of Chef Hymie Grande New Mexico Sweet Barbecue Glaze (www.chefhymiegrande.com) I was more than skeptical. But it was part of an impromptu food tasting and appeared the mildest of the three offered, so I decided to be a big girl and give it a try.

I was pleasantly surprised. The glaze has a just a little bit of a kick. It's sweet, but not overly, with a hint of a smokey taste. As a bonus, the bottle says it contains all natural ingredients.

The glaze would be good for barbecued ribs and chicken, natch, and also on other meats. I could also see it blended into ground beef for hamburgers and meatloaf. It could be used in other chicken dishes or with fish, such as salmon.

So there you have it, a good reward for some of us willing to take a chance and a good taste for all. Incidentally, retailers could set up some sampling of the glazes in their stores. Bet Chef Hymie will pick up some new fans.

-Barbara

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Food Recall: Plum Organics

Clostridium Botulinum in Baby Food

EMERYVILLE, Calif.--(Business Wire)-- Plum Organics announced today that it is taking the precautionary measure of voluntarily recalling one particular batch of its 4.22 oz. Apple & Carrot Portable Pouch baby food with the best by date May 21, 2010 and marked with the following universal product code (UPC) #890180001221 located on the bottom of the package. These pouches are sold individually at Toys-R-Us and Babies-R-Us locations nationally.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with this product and no other Plum Organics products are affected. As a further precaution, samples from every Plum Organics product manufactured before and after this batch were tested and found to be within quality standards.

The recall was undertaken as a precaution due to the risk of potential contamination with Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism, a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition. Consumers should not use these products, even if they appear to be normal, because of the possible health risk. Symptoms of botulism poisoning in humans include general weakness, dizziness, double vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention.

"The product did not meet the FDA guidelines for proper acidity level," said Dr. Paul Gerhardt, a Food Science Ph.D. and member of the Plum Organics action team. "Though the risk of illness from this one batch is minimal, Plum Organics is taking the extraordinary step of recalling all Apple & Carrot Baby Food Pouches with best by date May 21, 2010."

The official recall notice can be found at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm187323.htm

Senate Hearing on New Food Safety Bill Tomorrow: 10/22 at 10:00 am

At 10:00 am (Eastern), the first hearing about S. 510: The Food Safety Modernization Act by the HELP Committee will commence. The committee will hear testimony from several experts in the field, such as FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, and safe food advocate Caroline Smith Dewaal, Director of Food Safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). She will be sharing the story of S.T.O.P. member Mike Thomas, who was sickened in the first peanut outbreak in 2007.

Watch the hearing at: http://help.senate.gov/

S.T.O.P. - Safe Tables Our Priority is a national, nonprofit, public health organization dedicated to preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens. For more information, please visit http://www.safetables.org.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Editor's Choice: Dulcet Cuisine

Some people like their condiments plain. They're not big into change and will always have the exact same products in the door of their fridge. Take my dad for example. My mom had to "sneak" organic ketchup onto the table for him to try before she told him what it was. I try to understand this mentality. You like what you like -- I get it -- but sticking to the old mainstays when it comes to condiments shuts so many doors!

Take Dulcet Cuisine, for example. Company owner Pam Kraemer spices up condiments from dressings to mustards with unexpected flavor profiles inspired by her world travels. Earlier this year she launched a new line of ketchups in the same fashion: Peppery Moroccan, Mild Indian Curry and Sweet Orange Chile are three fresh new choices in the stale world of ubiquitous red tomato sauce. If I HAD to choose a favorite, it would have to be the Peppery Moroccan, but ask me another day and I may be inclined to tell you Sweet Orange Chile. It thrills me to substitute one of these unexpected splashes of flavor for traditional ketchup on a burger, hot dog or chicken sandwich, on fries, with meatloaf, on kebabs, in sloppy joes, with shrimp... you get the idea. The ketchups are made with premium ingredients and can make a simple meal just a little bit more exotic.

All of Kraemer's products are available from her website, www.dulcetcuisine.com.

-Stephanie

Thursday, October 15, 2009

October/November Top Shelf Advice

We asked retailers:

"How do you train and reward your employees?"

Click on the comments link below to find out what our readers said and to add comments of your own!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Editor's Choice: Lucini Italia

I’m typically a summer girl, but fall is suddenly my new favorite season. Maybe it’s because Chicago rarely has a proper fall — we usually only experience sweltering summers and brutal winters, although any readers in Minnesota would call our climate mild at most.

Eager to surrender myself wholeheartedly to the joys of autumn, I ventured to the ends of the earth (aka Poplar Grove, Illinois) with my boyfriend one Saturday afternoon to revel in nature’s bounty.

Ok, I might be sounding overly dramatic. Let me translate: We picked apples. And not just a few apples. An entire, overflowing, 32-lb. bushel. And now neither of us knows exactly what to do with them.

I thought, rather foolishly, that apples could only be used two ways: They can be eaten by themselves or finagled into a dessert (apple crisp, apple brown betty, apple pie, apple cobbler…). How wrong I was! Challenging myself to use my Galas and Jonagolds as imaginatively as possible, I’ve started incorporating them into savory creations.

One of my favorite recipes thus far involved a bottle of Lucini Italia’s Fig and Walnut Savory Artisan Balsamic Vinaigrette. Made with extra-virgin olive oil, the all-natural vinaigrette (which is also gluten-free and vegan) has a rich, nutty flavor with a tangy finish from the figs. To start my recipe (which is perfect for lunch) I seasoned a steak with black pepper and kosher salt and then marinated it in the Lucini vinaigrette for a few hours. Then I grilled it, sliced it thinly, and served it in a fantastic salad of arugula, toasted walnuts, sliced brie, dried cranberries and thin apple strips. I can’t even begin to tell you how well this vinaigrette paired with the apples — they soaked it right up and took on an incredibly earthy flavor that enhanced their freshness.

Share this recipe with your customers! It’s great for fall and is sure to be a hit.

For more information about Lucini and its product line, visit www.lucini.com.

-Ashley

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Editor's Choice: Pepper Dog Specialty Foods

Ah, fall. The leaves are falling, football fever is filling every family room and sports bar, and Midwesterners, myself included, are preparing for what might be the coldest winter yet (the weather man says that every year, though). Fall is truly a season of transition (winterizing cars for the months ahead, layering cardigans to makes summer’s tops last a few weeks longer), and I happily stumbled upon an impressive transitional salsa in Pepper Dog Specialty Food’s Pepper Dog Hot Salsa.

When I brought home my jar of hot salsa, I was too eager to try it in a recipe so I gingerly dipped a corn chip in the smooth salsa. First thought, “That wasn’t so bad. Wait. OMG, my mouth is on fire.” The transitional beauty that is Pepper Dog Salsa was yet to be discovered. On a surprisingly warm Labor Day, I drizzled mine on a grilled vegetarian hot dog (the key to veggie dogs is adding lots of toppings). The kick was intense but I devoured that dog and went back for seconds.

Now convinced I could handle the Pepper Dog Salsa’s heat in greater volume, I added 3/4 of the jar to a batch of chili. The company has found that its salsa’s super-smooth texture lends it to become a perfect cooking sauce to add kick to tried-and-true recipes. On the back of the jar, Pepper Dog offers a chili recipe for an easy-to-make five-minute chili using kidney beans and ground beef. I made mine with a mixture of black, red and kidney beans, a cup of 312’s finest brew, tomatoes, corn, onion and green pepper. The heat from the salsa was noticeable, but didn’t dominate the rest of the flavors. A new kick to spice up the fall fave.

My falls typically start with chili and the meal takes me through winter up until the tulips begin to bloom in the spring. I’m excited to spice up this fall staple with more spice from Pepper Dog, but I think the salsa is something that’ll stick around and find its place on a picnic table next summer.

More info on Pepper Dog Salsas can be found at www.pepperdogsalsa.com.

-Mary

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Editor's Choice: Stephen's Farmhouse Jam

My morning routine has not changed in years. Mini bagel, toasted, with peanut butter and a large cup of coffee. OK, two cups of coffee. A little more than a month ago I received a sample of Stephen’s Farmhouse Peach Cobbler Jam and promptly brought it home and let it sit in a cabinet for weeks.

One morning, frantic that I was out of my much-needed peanut butter, I reached for the Peach Cobbler Jam as an alternative. The sweetness of the jam was delightful and I was pleasantly surprised to see that within the smooth texture were chunks of actual peaches. At one point I dipped a spoon into the jar and pulled out half a peach. I’ve never liked the juiciness of an actual peach (way too messy for my liking), so the Peach Cobbler delivered a surprising amount of flavor in a smooth, naturally sweet jam with pieces of the fruit not-too-messy to enjoy.

I’m happy to report that Stephen’s Farmhouse jams are all homemade; something I should have been able to guess by looking at the simple jar. The jam looks like it came from a roadside farm stand. The company’s website, www.stephensfarmhouse.com, says the peaches are locally grown and organic. The company also explains that its jams share qualities with preserves because the jams have lots of fruit.

Jam and jelly flavors available include fig, pear, pomegranate, pepper jelly, kiwi jalapeno, pear with cinnamon, strawberry rhubarb, quince and many others. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Stephen’s Farmhouse happily takes requests for its jams and jellies so you get exactly what you want. The jams and jellies the jams are sold exclusively through the Bella's Confections website, www.bellasconfections.com. They will be selling the jams in sets of three for $19.95.

-Mary

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Editor's Choice: Mt. Vikos

A self-proclaimed Francophile, I will be the first to admit that I know next to nothing about Spanish culture, aside from reading Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and watching Chef José Andrés’ PBS show, Made In Spain. So naturally, when we received tortas in the office here at Fancy Food, I had no idea what they were and may have accidentally confused them with tostadas (quelle erreur!).

Nonetheless, I was excited to try this generous treat from Mt. Vikos, which sent us three new flavors of Ines Rosales tortas from Seville, Spain. Made using a classic recipe and technique, the olive-oil tortas are hand-flattened and hand-wrapped. Sheree Cardoos, general manager of Mt. Vikos, says Ines Rosales has been producing its tortas the same way since 1910. In search of some new, exciting flavors, Cardoos went to Seville to work with the bakers at Ines Rosales and came up with the three newest flavors, two savory (Rosemary and Thyme) and one sweet (Seville Orange).

I tried the Seville Orange and devoured the entire thing in probably less than one minute. (Impressive, I know.) The natural orange flavor was pronounced without being too sweet. And the delicate, flaky texture of the torta was just what I craved at the end of the day. Needless to say, the torta was muy delicioso. Congratulations, Spain — you’ve conquered a French snob!

For more information, visit www.mtvikos.com.

-Ashley

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Editor's Choice: Hagensborg Chocolates

Let's face it. We all have times when we feel like a total pig. Whether you're a stress eater (guilty!) or eating is part of your job (also guilty!) or you have a craving for... something... that you just can't satisfy, sometimes it just can't be helped. Well now you can enjoy your piggy proclivities in good company!

I stumbled across Hagensborg Chocolate at the Summer Fancy Food Show this year, and I'm glad I did. Despite what you might think at first, the Vancouver-based company's Truffle Pigs have nothing to do with earthy, aromatic fungus. On the contrary, Hagensborg's Truffle Pigs are a creamy combination of truffle center and a smooth dark, white or milk chocolate shell. The chocolate truffle bars come in flavors such as Mint, Mocha, Peanut Butter, Original Milk and Dark, and perhaps the best part, aside from their taste, is the fact that these playful treats are molded into the shape of three frolicking pigs that do their best to ensure you are never alone when that chocolate craving hits.

Newly available in the Truffle Pig collection are individually wrapped single piglets, which come in a decorative container of 60, perfect for cash-register impulse buys. It's not often that I'm able to call chocolate cute, but it's not often that your chocolate smiles at you, either! And the Truffle Pigs from Hagensborg are adorable, whether they're solo or with friends.

-Stephanie

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Editor's Choice: Jessie Steele

Forget about cooking. The kitchen was really made to be a runway, and Jessie Steele is the Christian Dior of kitchen couture. The perfectly pretty patterns and vintage-inspired silhouettes make the company’s aprons a must for every fashionista foodie.

Girly aprons are not a new trend for kitchen accessories, but Jessie Steele takes the design one step further with details I’ve never seen anywhere else. The new fall 2009 catalog includes a black and white houndstooth bib apron with black buttons down the front and on the pockets for a lady-like, 50s housewife-inspired ensemble. Other fun prints include cupcakes (adorable), Summer Lemons (so cheerful) and Café Toile (tres chic). The company’s chef aprons are less about fashion, but still don’t lack in the design department. The prints in this line range from flames and skulls to poppy field and damask. I adore the children’s aprons and can envision moms teaching their little girls how to whip up the perfect homemade apple pie in matching Jessie Steele bib or half aprons.

The wonderful thing about the aprons is that, no they won’t make a piecrust perfect, but they will make slaving over the stove more stylish. The aprons would make great additions to a store’s holiday merchandise. Year after year, foodies get cookbooks and slow cookers, but a Jessie Steele apron under the tree is a gift that is immediately opened and used Christmas morning. The giddy excitement lasts, too, because these aprons are durable enough to use every day.

Check out more designs online at www.jessiesteele.com.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Editor's Choice: Seattle Chocolates

As anyone who’s ever walked a food show with me knows, when someone mentions sampling chocolate, I’m there. So when the opportunity to sample J.Truffles from Seattle Chocolate came, I was more than ready. Visually, the truffles are cool-looking. They look like little pyramids—sort of little chocolate architectural wonders, complete with different designs on each one.

So much for visuals, it was time to go exploring, so to speak. Fortunately, the truffles came with a photo sheet telling what was inside each one. Always a good thing, in case there’s something, in my case coconut, you don’t want mixed in with your chocolate.

I have developed a real fondness for dark chocolate over the last few years, so my first pick was the Magma 65 Dark. Besides looking good, the taste of the dark chocolate shell blending with the dark chocolate ganache was sensational. It’s the “signature truffle” of the line for good reason.

Later in the day, it was time for another visit to the “pyramids.” This time the choice was a Cherry Praline. Labeled as a “new American classic,” it was almost my civic duty. Again a winner. The rich taste of cherries, combined with pecans in dark chocolate ganache—what’s not to like?

Actually, I think probably everything in the line, which also includes Crème Brulee, Pure Vida Café and Savory Hazelnut, is a delicious treat. And since I’m all for “bread and circuses” I think the presentation of the architectural gems make them a fun gift as well.

For more information on J. Truffles from Seattle Chocolates, visit www.seattlechocolates.com.

Barbara

September Top Shelf Advice

What kind of holiday promotions, events or sales do you offer?

"We always [decorate] the windows. We buy special props. Last year we had snowmen holding whisks and other kitchen utensils. We are known in town for our windows.
“We also have several open houses. We do food demos using products that we sell in the store, such as panini makers. In the middle of December, we offer a Men’s Night Out. We serve beer and pizza, and men can buy presents. We offer gift-wrapping and gifts with purchase. We’ve done it for two years and it’s been busy and fun.
“In town, an Art Walk is held the first Friday of the month. In December, it usually coincides with the Tree Lighting. We and the rest of the stores stay open extra hours.

-Erin Earles, manager at Epicure in Anacortes, Washington

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"We decorate and we will have a holiday open house. We also have holiday music playing in the store. I’m going to run a gift registry in early December. We have a lot of men in the area that like to cook, and their wives come in to see what they may want.
“Another thing I do all year round is what I call the Tuesday Special. I come in on Tuesday and write on the blackboard a certain special item, say hand soap, that is 20 percent off. The special runs the entire week, but it brings customers in on Tuesday to see what is on special."

-Karen Tuccero, owner of A Passion for Cooking — The Kitchen Store in Madison, Connecticut

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"Every fall, in late October, we have a Nordic Ware Day. We use the holiday cookware to make holiday food, and we cook and bake all day. Anytime we cook or demo, sales go up. We also have cooking classes that focus on holiday foods. During the holidays, we bring in merchandise, such as items from Trade Associates Group, and use them in part of the store’s decorations. We also offer free gift-wrapping.

-Barbara Freeman, owner of Kitchen Outfitters in Savannah, Georgia

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"We do a Vendor Day event on a Saturday afternoon in the latter part of November. We invite vendors in to demo their products. We do the demos one at a time, and each vendor gives away a prize. We invite people through our Cooking Class newsletter that goes out four times a year. We charge a fee of $10 a person.
“We also invite local cookbook authors to come in to teach a class and do a book-signing during the year. We do an additional book-signing close to the holidays. I also find one big thing to put on sale during the holidays. Last year it was a Scanpan 9.5-qt. Dutch oven for half price.
“Also, in mid-November we invited 26 people to come to a Wusthof event. We charged $10. Each person was set up with a cutting board, knife and fruits and vegetables. Each was led through a demo of handling cutlery, cutting, and maintaining the knives by a Wusthof representative. They had time to ask any questions as well."

-Martie Sullivan, owner of Sweet Basil Gourmetware & Cooking School in Scottsdale, Arizona

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"The first Friday of each month, we have music and food for our customers. During the holidays, it is a bigger event. Every Saturday during the holiday season, we have culture and food demonstrations. We will make a holiday treat native to some country, such as special Swedish cookies. At Thanksgiving, we offer cooking classes, including Native American cooking classes. And of course, we offer classes for baking pies and cookies. After Thanksgiving, on Black Friday, we don’t have a big sale. We try to create a more comfortable setting. People can come in and enjoy a glass of wine while they shop."

-Donna Okarma, manager of Rudy’s — A Cook’s Paradise in Twin Falls, Idaho

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Editor's Choice: Daphne Baking Co.

Summer is beginning to wilt around the edges (though to many Chicagoans, it never felt like it started) but here at Fancy Food, we just put the final touches on our September Holiday issue, chock-full of winter holiday treats, grab-and-go gift ideas, and party supply tips and tricks. The winter season is in full swing in the minds of Fancy editors, so maybe it's not unusual that the Editor's Choice this week is Daphne Baking Company's Macadamia Nut Tart. While it strikes me as more of a winter-appropriate dessert, I got to try the tart (along with a sampling of other flavors from Daphne Baking Co.), and whether it was the brown sugar or the hint of maple syrup, the nutty, chewy sweetness was one that would definitely pick up and serve to friends or family. If it stayed around in my freezer long enough. The tart is great served plain, but would be heavenly warmed up with a scoop of melty vanilla ice cream. (Are you craving it yet?)

The tarts from Daphne Baking Co. come in boxes of two 3-in. tarts, and are available in not just Macadamia Nut, but Chocolate Raspberry, Lemon, Passion Fruit, Pumpkin and Chocolate as well. Find out more about Daphne Baking Co. at www.daphnebaking.com.

-Stephanie

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Editor's Choice: My Lunch Box

Some of my fondest memories from school are, sadly, not of the classroom, but rather in the lunchroom. Trading Little Debbie snack cakes, sipping from my Capri Sun juice bag and feasting on my favorite school foods (Mexican Pizza), left an indelible mark on me. As kids get older it becomes more important to teach them to create healthy meals for themselves and school lunch is no different.

Chronicle Books just introduced the My Lunch Box recipe box filled with 50 recipes easy enough and healthy enough for a child to make for themselves (or with an adult's help as indicated) and eat at school. Some of the main dish recipes (there are 25 total) are new to the lunch box, like the Chicken Chopstick Salad. I liked this recipe because is called for leftover chicken and is a not-so-common meal I think kids would really like. Then there are lunchtime classics reinvented to be something special. For example, the Swirlin’ Twirlin’ Pinwheels are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches rolled up to be more fun to eat. There are also 13 recipes for sides (Hearty Arty artichoke dip) and 12 treats recipes (Zucchini Cupcakes, anyone?).

The recipes aren’t rocket science and there’s some stuff a creative parent would be able to create, but that’s exactly why My Lunch Box is for kids. It gets the creative juices going and helps kids learn to plan meals and take an active role in meal preparation. The kit also comes with blank recipes cards and stickers that say “Mmmmmm …,” “Cheesy,” and "I made this on _______ ,” which I think will make testing the food that much more fun.

-Mary

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Editor's Choice: Baronia

I’ve never quite understood the pasta snobs out there in the culinary world. Maybe it’s because the blood running through my veins is exactly zero-percent Italian. But honestly, pasta is pasta…right?

I can hear them now. “WRONG!” they shout as their faces grow as red as a hot pot of Sunday gravy. Settle down, macaroni aficionados and fusilli connoisseurs! I finally get it! There is a distinct difference when you’re cooking good pasta.

When we received a package full of different varieties of Baronia Italian pasta, I took home the organic whole-wheat penne rigate for some experimentation. Relax, everyone; I wasn’t about to douse those precious tubes with an inferior jar of Prego. I was on a mission to make a meal with fresh ingredients to complement the authentic flavors of the pasta.

Luckily, my garden has been blessed with an overabundance of tomatoes this summer. Penne alla Vodka was definitely in order. To begin, I heated some olive oil in a pan and added chopped garlic, onion and red pepper flakes. I then removed the pan from the heat and added the vodka (note: cook with the stuff you would drink, aka, the good stuff). Returning the pan to the flame, I tossed in diced tomatoes, coarse salt and fresh black pepper. When my pasta was done cooking (I like mine al dente, so I boiled it for about 13 minutes), I drained it and added it to the pan. Finally, I poured in heavy cream and stirred until all the pasta was coated. I finished off the dish with freshly torn basil from my garden and some shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The first word that comes to mind when I tasted this dish was “robust.” The pasta’s pure earthiness combined with the sun-soaked flavor of the tomatoes was divine. And the extra kick from the red pepper flakes and vodka added a bite that balanced well with the mild cheese and cool basil.

This recipe is surprisingly foolproof and unsurprisingly delicious, so tout it away to your customers when you are promoting a high-quality pasta such as Baronia. And most importantly, let them know that it just won’t taste the same with a box of mediocre grocery-store pasta.

Visit www.pastabaronia.it to see more of Baronia’s offerings.

-Ashley

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Editor's Choice: Cypress Grove Chevre

I try not to choose award-winning products for my editor's choice. Not because I don't think they're good, but because if they've recently won an award from, say the American Cheese Society or the National Association of Specialty Food Trade, chances are you'd already know about it. That being said, I chose Cypress Grove Chevre's Truffle Tremor as my editor's choice this week (even though it took home a Sofi Gold award at this year's Summer Fancy Food Show) simply because I can't stop thinking about it. The smooth, velvety goat cheese starts out just as you would expect, and finishes with the earthiness from the truffle (and this isn't just truffle flavoring or truffle oil -- you can actually see pieces of truffle in the cheese).

The cheesemakers at Cypress Grove Chevre recommend pairing the cheese straight with a dry white wine, or adding a thin layer over mashed potatoes and parsnips. Personally, I can't wait to try it with pesto and tomatoes as a flatbread pizza.

For the cheese connoisseur who is looking for something a little different, this is definitely a cheese I would recommend!

Stephanie

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Editor's Choice: Carolyn's Handmade

I’ve been attending The Chicago Market for more than two years but prior to joining the staff of Fancy Food, I never had a reason to venture into the gourmet temps section. After sampling coffee, I made a beeline for Carolyn’s Homemade’s Jalaprika Cashews I had eyed earlier at the Thompson Marketing booth.

Now, I love heat, but I was initially taken aback by the flavor and kick of the Jalaprika, which didn’t set in until after I’d swallowed, but I’d already decided to keep sampling. Although noticeable, the spiciness was not over powering and I was still able to taste the nuttiness of the cashew.

Munching on these cashews is only for the strong willed. I’d placed them out at a party and watched as guests are surprised but continue to munch. I took a few sips of a Pilsner while eating the cashews later in the evening and the subtly of the Pilsner enhanced the flavor but not the heat of the cashews – an enjoyable balance. They’d also make excellent additions to a salad with a mild cheese or in a stir fry. Days later, as I munch on them while editing the August issue of Fancy Food, I’m able to eat more and more cashews and handle the heat better while still getting a kick out of the kick.

Carolyn’s offers a Gourmet Chocolate Bark Hostess Gift Tin using the Jalaprika Cashews with dark chocolate bark. If cashews are your thing, the Jalaprika seasoning is also available on Walnuts and Pecans in gift sets, bags and glass jars. Check out the website, www.40parklane.com.

-Mary

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Editor's Choice: Rao's

Growing up in an Italian family, I remember going to wedding banquets and having special foods. One of these party foods was a tray they passed around family style filled with sliced meats and cheeses, antipasto, with this great-tasting dressing. It was a treat and not the kind of thing you normally got at home. I mention this because it turns out that now maybe you can.

That’s the taste I experienced when I tried Rao’s Homemade Italian Herb Dressing on my humble salad of lettuce and tomato. It was a great, fresh taste, with just the right amount of herbs and spices. It was a real, “I remember this moment.” In fact, it has a recipe for an antipasto on the bottle. An added bonus the dressing has some sugar in it and is not as bitter as some others I’ve tried. Besides green salads, I’ve also drizzled it over green beans and tossed it with leftover cooked pasta and tomatoes for a summer salad. I can see it dressing other vegetables as well. And I’m seriously thinking of buying some cold meats and provolone in the deli and tomatoes from the Farmers Market in the near future and giving a simple antipasto dish a try. (www.raos.com)

-Barbara

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Editor's Choice: Itzy Ritzy

I don't know what my carbon footprint is, I haven't purchased a hybrid car, and I don't have an urban chicken coop in my back yard. But I am a lot more conscious of my environmental impact now than I have ever been in the past. I am always looking for ways to create less waste (I've even got my family members to use totes when they grocery shop, rather than plastic bags). So I was excited to try out a Snack Happened reusable and washable snack bag when my coworker Mary received a sample.

These fun bags and other products from Itzy Ritzy (www.itzyritzy.com) are aimed at parents with small children, but while I have no children of my own, I do bring my own lunch to work, more often than not, and many of the bright patterns available would be just as at home in an adult lunch bag as it would a diaper bag or lunch box. The bags feature a lead-free zipper and are made of 100-percent cotton, with a waterproof interior lining -- no plastic to dry out and crack. Best of all, the bags are machine washable.

With bags like these, I can say good-bye to non-biodegradable plastic sandwich and snack bags!

-Stephanie

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July Top Shelf Advice

When do you start decorating your store for the winter holidays?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer Fancy Food Show, Part I

Today was day one of the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City. I wish I'd have taken pictures yesterday when our sales manager Joanne and I were there to set up and hand out ad boards -- it's like being backstage at a musical or play. You walk the aisles (very carefully! You don't want to get run over by a an electronic cart or cherry-picker!) and see booths in every stage of set-up. As of 12:30, there were booths complete with product displayed, counters draped and ready for the show opening, and there were booths that were still empty, except for a few boxes and crates marked with the company name. Boxes and storage crates of every size and shape were piled around the show floor -- I think it takes seeing the show in that stage to really get an appreciation of what goes into each and every booth on the floor.

Anyway, the first day of the show was great! I made the mistake of starting out up on the first floor, just like everybody else and their mothers. I wandered the 400-1000 aisles for a bit before heading downstairs. Here's a few of the companies I came across today:

The Cooperstown Cookie Company offers baseball-shaped shortbread cookies in officially licensed Major League Baseball packaging. New this year are the Baseball Hall of Fame vintage tins and classic Stadium Tins, including a favorite from my hometown, Wrigley Field. Now baseball fans can hang in through the seventh inning stretch with the Tube of Bunts, a cylindrical tin featuring logos from teams such as the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees and of course, the Chicago Cubs. More info at www.cooperstowncookie.com.

New to the Fancy Food Show, Somebody's Mother's Chocolate Sauce (www.somebodysmothers.com) was sampling their Chocolate Sauce, Caramel Sauce (nominated for a 2009 Sofi award) and White Chocolate with Pear William Sauce, which they sampled drizzled over some vanilla ice cream -- delish! Lynn Lasher and her three children, Reese, William and Hayden, were were manning the booth and dishing out samples of all three sauces. Good luck on the nomination, Lasher family!

Local brownie bakers, Mari's of New York (www.marisny.com) was also at the show, featuring "simply marvelous" brownies. These moist little bites come packaged in a coral gift box that you might just see in an upcoming Fancy Food gift guide. The company offers seasonal brownie offers, such as Holiday Cheer and L'Orange.

Tune in tomorrow for more updates from the 2009 Summer Fancy Food Show!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Editor's Choice: Funky Chunky Inc.

It's been busy over here at Fancy Food & Culinary Products while we try to get ready for the Summer Fancy Food Show. I've got an extensive list of booths to visit and people to see. Much of my time will be spent sampling new products and talking to owners of new companies, but there are some companies that I will always take a few moments to visit, even if they aren't introducing any new flavors. One such company is FunkyChunky Inc.

Mother-daughter team Ronni L. Feuer and Erica Feuer-Kopilenko are the masterminds behind an absolutely addictive confection that starts with buttery caramel popcorn. Then layers of milk, dark and white chocolate are drizzled on and glazed whole almonds, pecans and cashews are thrown into the mix for good measure. They also have a pretzel version, drizzling chunks of pretzel in milk, white and dark chocolate, caramel and adding pecans. I can't decide which I like better, and at shows I find myself in front of their booth, gazing over the little sample cups, torn between taking the biggest sample I can find and the hard-learned wisdom of pacing with samples at the show. As it usually happens, this is a moment where caution is thrown into the wind and I end up trying whatever they're offering.

Added incentive for stopping by the FunkyChunky booth however comes in the form of a bar. This summer, the company is launching a brand new line of chocolate bars in four flavors: Chocolate, which blends milk chocolate with dried berries, graham crackers, pecans, crispy rice and chocolate sandwich cookies. The entire bar is then drizzled with white chocolate; Licorice, which packs dark chocolate with chewy caramel and soft red licorice pieces, then is finished with a white chocolate drizzle; Peanut Crunch, jammed with salty, fresh-roasted peanuts and crunchy chocolate puffs smothered in milk chocolate, topped with drizzles of chocolate and peanut butter confection; and Graham Cracker, which melds dark chocolate, fluffy marshmallows and caramel together, then tops the combination with a graham cracker drizzled with dark, milk and white chocolates. Is your stomach growling yet?



The new bars are packaged in a clear acetate bag topped with a black bow and hang tag to best display the premium ingredients used in the small-batch, handcrafted confections. If you're going to the Summer Fancy Food Show, these delightful new products can be found at booth #4734. Otherwise, check back with the website, www.funkychunkyinc.com, after July 1, which is when the bars will be available to ship.

-Stephanie

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Editor's Choice: Peanut Shop of Williamsburg

For me, one of the most exciting parts of eating is discovering a food I previously disliked – or at least wasn’t over the moon for – can be new and interesting. I experienced this when I opened up the can of Praline Glazed Georgia Pecan from The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg, made using a traditional Southern recipe. I was happy to discover that the nut I’d long associated with a scene from When Harry Met Sally was in fact light, sweet and delicious.

Most of my run-ins with pecans are limited to dessert, and I can imagine the Praline Glazed Georgia Pecans as a delightful addition to vanilla ice cream. However, what I like most about these pecans is that I’m able to enjoy a handful and they’re delicious without anything added. Not too sweet and not dry either. Chopped up, the Praline Pecans can add a sweet topping to a salad served with a light vinaigrette.

The company doesn’t limit itself to flavors from the South. The Peanut Shop gets creative with its Yin & Yang Peanuts, a mix of honey roasted peanuts and wasabi peanuts. And, I’m pretty pumped about the New Pecan Trio. With Roasted & Salted, Praline Coated and Sugar & Spice in one 18-oz. tin, it’s a three-way combo of sweet and salty delights.

To see more of The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg’s nutty products, candy and sauces, check out www.thepeanutshop.com.

- Mary

I'd like to welcome Mary to the staff of Fancy Food & Culinary Products! Mary Gerlach, editor of Fancy's sister publication Baby & Kids will now also be contributing to Fancy Food & Culinary Products. Nice job on your first Editor's Choice, Mary!
-Stephanie

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summer Fancy Food Show Sofi Award Finalists

Finalists for Outstanding New Product 2009 and Outstanding Product Line

The judging is now complete to select Silver Finalists in all 33 categories of this year’s sofi awards for the outstanding specialty foods and beverages of 2009. This year’s panel of nine judges -- from The Pasta Shop and The Fresh Market to Pier 1 Imports, Meijer and the Myriad Restaurant Group -- met last week to select finalists for Outstanding New Product and Outstanding Product Line. Gold award judging will take place at the Summer Fancy Food Show. The 33 winners will be crowned at a special ceremony June 29 hosted by noted chef Ming Tsai.

Finalists for Outstanding New Product 2009:

Belle Chevre - Belle & The Bees Breakfast Cheese
Chex Finer Foods - Laurel Hill Tortilla Chips - Olive and Caper
Clotho Corp. - Haddrell's of Cambridge Rewarewa Honey
European Imports Ltd.- Cucina Viva Roasted Red Tomatoes
Grafton Village Cheese Co. - Grafton Duet
Koppert Cress USA - Mustard Cress Single Retail Unit
New England Herbal Foods - Danielle Fruit Chips - Roasted Coconut
Sonoma Syrup Co. - Acai Black Currant Superfruit Syrup
The Gracious Gourmet - Dilled Carrot Tomato Tapenade
Theo Chocolate – Theo Limited Edition Collection
Vinnedge Distributing Inc. - Vergnano Italian Organic Blood Orange Soda


Finalists for Outstanding Product Line:

Bellwether Farms – Bellwether Farms
De Medici Imports, Ltd. – A L’Olivier
Sarabeth’s Kitchen – Sarabeth’s Product Line
Silver Moon Desserts – Silver Moon Ice Cream and Sorbet
The Rogers Collection – Les Moulins Mahjoub

This year’s Sofi competition was robust. Members entered 1,997 products across all 33 categories, including 414 products for Outstanding New Product and 172 for Outstanding Product Line.

Don’t miss a chance to cheer for your colleagues at the Sofi awards ceremony at the Summer Show. To purchase tickets to the ceremony, visit www.fancyfoodshows.com. This event is an "education session."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Organized Retail Theft On the Rise

NRF Organized Retail Crime Survey Finds Criminals View Global Recession as Opportunity to Abuse Retailers and Consumers

--Organized Retail Crime Activity Jumps by 8%, According to NRF Survey--

Washington, June 10, 2009 – As another illustration of the wide effect of the down economy, retailers and consumers are increasingly being victimized by organized retail crime groups. According to NRF’s fifth annual Organized Retail Crime survey, nine out of ten retailers (92%) report that their companies were victims of organized retail crime during the past year, up eight percent from 2008. Nearly three-fourths (73%) of retailers also reported the level of organized retail crime activity has increased over the past 12 months, an increase of 11 percent from 2008. Loss prevention executives from 115 companies, including department, discount, drug, grocery, restaurant and specialty retailers, completed the survey last month.

“The unfortunate economic events of the past year have played an intricate role in how criminals continue to rip off the retail industry,” said Joe LaRocca, NRF Senior Asset Protection Advisor. “Organized retail crime rings have realized that tough economic times present new business opportunities by stealing valuable items from retailers and turning around to sell the merchandise to consumers looking for bargains.”

Even with the economy forcing retailers to cut staff and do more with less, 42 percent of retailers say their company is allocating additional resources to address organized retail crime. According to the survey, the average retailer spends approximately $215,000 annually just on labor costs to fight organized retail crime. Some retailers surveyed spend far more, with six percent of respondents spending more than $1 million dollars a year to employ loss prevention executives devoted to organized retail crime.

The fight against organized retail crime would be futile without the support of top management. According to the survey, nearly half (49%) of respondents believe senior management in their company understands the seriousness of the issue. For the first time in the survey’s history, NRF also asked loss prevention executives whether they felt law enforcement had a firm grasp on the issue; 38 percent agreed that police officers, detectives and federal law enforcement understood the complexity and severity of organized retail crime.

Thanks to the new partnerships formed with Federal and local law enforcement officials, retailers have had some success identifying stolen merchandise or gift cards at physical fence locations such as pawn shops and temporary stores (60%) and through online e-fencing operations (60%), where stolen merchandise is sold through online auction sites.

Organized retail crime is not only an isolated problem in a handful of areas across the country. According to the survey, a staggering 72 percent of retailers have identified organized retail crime syndicates who are exporting goods outside of the U.S. or across state lines. Additionally, 28 percent found that criminal groups under current investigation have connections to street gangs with international connections.

When asked how they would rank organized retail crime as a threat to their company, nearly one-third (29%) of retailers gave organized retail crime a “four” or “five” rating, identifying the problem as severe or significant. On average, retailers gave organized retail crime a rating of 2.87 on a five-point scale.

NRF will address organized retail crime and many other loss prevention issues such as return fraud and counterfeiting at its annual Loss Prevention Conference and EXPO at the Los Angeles Convention Center, June 15-17. Law enforcement officials and retailers are eligible for complimentary EXPO Hall passes. Visit NRF’s LP Conference website for more information.

The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2008 sales of $4.6 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com.

(Press release courtesy of the National Retail Federation, www.nrf.com)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Have We Caught Your Fancy?



Niman Ranch CEO Jeff Swain (with Editorial Coordinator Barbara Wujcik) holds a copy of Fancy Food & Culinary Products at a recent chef dinner at Gibson's Steakhouse here in Chicago. Niman Ranch and its family farmers raise livestock traditionally, humanely, and sustainably to deliver the finest tasting meat in the world. More information on Niman Ranch and its products can be found at www.nimanranch.com.

Editor's Choice: Galison

As the stationery editor at one of Fancy Food’s sister publications, Giftware News, I constantly receive samples of the latest designs in greeting cards, note sets and other related items. Although many of the samples in my storage cabinet admittedly go unused (because honestly, I never plan on sending a birthday card with a giant cat on the front), I did receive one item in particular that I brought home and put to use right away. I immediately saw the utility in this product, and I have no doubt that it will be a saving grace for many of your customers.

Accordion organizers from Galison, a company known for its trend-forward stationery and office accessories, are the ideal solution for savvy shoppers who are currently clipping coupons to save money on groceries and other household items. These miniature books, which retail for less than $10 each, are portable filing systems that include six divider pockets to store coupons and ads; a notepad and an elastic pencil holder are also included inside, which makes it easy to keep grocery lists and menu plans on hand while shopping.

What’s even more exiting is that the hardcover organizers come in colorful patterns and designs from an array of famous artists (the organizer shown is a classic Andy Warhol option; the spine of the book even features a Warhol quotation). No longer do shoppers have to use boring, bland or flimsy plastic organizers; these sturdy little books truly bring a sense of style to the newly trendy frugal lifestyle.

To see more of Galison’s accordion organizers, as well as other coordinating kitchen and office accessories, visit www.galison.com.

-Ashley

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Editor's Choice: Nutorious Nut Confections

This week's editor's choice comes to you straight from the pages of our July issue's Snacking All Stars feature. (Consider it a sneak peek!) The snack starts off innocently enough (after all, their tagline is "Innocently addictive"), with a mix of walnuts, almonds and pecans, but then comes the other stuff. In this case, for Cha Cha Chipotle, the other stuff includes sugar and spices, transforming the once good-for-you nut mix into an indulgent crunchy treat that is just plain good. I've got my reservations on how innocent the mixes from Nutorious Nut Confections really are, since they are so darn addictive. I was first hooked back when they were promoting their Cherry Vanilla Va-Voom, featuring cherries and just the right touch of vanilla. Since then, they have expanded the line to include Cranberry Orango Tango, Cha Cha Chipotle and Blueberry Lemon Merengue, which has been nominated for a Sofi award at this year's Summer Fancy Food Show. And of course, there's always simply the Ooo La La Original.

What's even better about these addicting nut mixes is that the company will be introducing the 2-oz. snack packs shown above at the Summer Fancy Food Show this year. This is particularly exciting for people like myself, who could take down a whole 8-oz. bag in one sitting if left unsupervised! Check out the Nutorious Nut Confections story and product details at www.nutoriousnuts.com or visit them at the Summer Fancy Food Show booth #5215.

-Stephanie

Monday, June 1, 2009

June Top Shelf Advice

What kind of staging or promotions do you create in your store?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Editor's Choice: Aunt Sally's Pralines

While walking the All-Candy Expo last week, a familiar logo greeted me. Just the sight of Aunt Sally’s Pralines,(www.auntsallys.com) brought back fond memories of my several trips to New Orleans. There were an assortment of pralines set out for tasting, but at that point I had already over-sampled—an occupational hazard at the show. The gentleman at the booth offered us several samples to enjoy later. Among them, I was especially intrigued with the Café Au Lait praline, a fitting name since the Aunt Sally’s Shop is located just down the street from the famous Café Du Monde.

On Saturday, having not had mounds of sweets for several days, I tasted my special find. The first thing you notice as you unwrap the wrapper is the inviting scent—sweet and homey. And then you take the first bite and get that great creamy, fresh taste. This is followed by the chewy crunch of the pecans. It’s like a Mardi Gras for your taste buds. And with the holiday buying season coming, I could see it as a great stocking stuffer. All in all, a great treat from down South. I can’t wait to taste the other flavors.

-Barbara

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Editor's Choice: Julia Knight

The past few weekends I’ve been waking up early to help my mom in her garden. With an acute eye for color and a vast knowledge of plant life (she worked at a local greenhouse as a preteen all the way through high school), my mom possesses a natural talent and green thumb that I envy, to say the least.

This year, my mom’s chosen a color palette of flowers that was oddly familiar to me, and I finally made the connection. Her peonies, impatiens and lilacs are reminiscent of the creations of one of my favorite tabletop exhibitors at the home and gift shows: Julia Knight.

Julia Knight makes elegant tableware with shapes and colors inspired by nature. The company’s serving pieces are made of high-grade, food-safe, sand-cast aluminum that is hand-painted with enamel mixed with crushed mother-of-pearl. The result is a collection of iridescent, one-of-a-kind pieces that are brilliantly colored and very well made.

I first discovered Julia Knight at a show two years ago in Atlanta; Julia Knight herself welcomed me into her gorgeous booth with a smile and eagerly told me all about her company and where she draws inspiration for her designs. I told her I had never seen tabletop quite like hers, and she explained that the secret was in the organic shapes and colors she uses. Julia’s striking hibiscus flower dishes were certainly the talk of the aisle, and since then, she has developed an array of collections inspired by seashells, fall leaves and more (visit www.juliaknight.net to see her collections).

Julia’s personal motto is to incorporate beauty into everyday life and to share it with friends and family. Both you and your customers will appreciate the special touches that her designs add to the table.

-Ashley

All Candy Expo

Today is the first day of the National Confectioners Association's All Candy Expo -- a trade show dedicated to the multiple categories that fall under the giant candy category umbrella. From sweet to sour, hard, chewy or soft, upscale gourmet to convenience store fare, this candy show's got it all. It's even got a section for snack food. Even if many of the products at the All Candy Expo are not generally products our retailers would carry (though the Gourmet Marketplace continues to grow!), the All Candy Expo is without a doubt one of my favorite shows to cover.

As a kid, I was always a candy hoarder rather than an OD-er -- I was always the one in the family who still had Halloween candy at Easter -- but at my first All Candy Expo, I quickly realized that a change of strategy was in order. You can't walk the show floor at the All Candy Expo without trying something, which makes it quite easy to OD. Nevertheless, to properly cover a candy show, one must push oneself to the limit, whatever the outcome may be. Sugar highs and lows, stomach aches and potential cavities be darned -- this is business and I will be there for my readers!

But the show isn't all about sampling. There is an emphasis on education, with the Merchandising Marketplace and all the educational seminars. Here's a line-up of today's events:

8:00 - 8:45 AM New Item Trends
Richard J. George, Ph.D., Professor of Food Marketing, Saint Joseph's University
Joan Steuer, President, Chocolate Marketing LLC
Mani Niall, Executive Chef, Just Desserts

10:00 - 10:45 AM Retail Merchandising in a Rapidly Changing Environment
George Wishart, Global Managing Director, Nielsen In-Store
Steve Frenda, Managing Director, Strategy and Development, In-Store Marketing Institute

12:00 - 12:45 PM The Economy's Impact on Candy (lunch served)
Jason English, Research Associate, JP Morgan

2:00 - 2:45 PM Better for You Snacking
Jill Manchester, Vice President of Immediate Consumption, Kraft Foods
Michael Season, President of Natural Snacks LLC
Michael Rosenberg, President and CEO of The Promotion In Motion Companies, Inc.

Stay tuned for more information on the All Candy Expo! I'll be covering the show live tomorrow via Twitter, so be sure to subscribe at www.twitter.com/fancyfoodmag

You can also check out the NCA's blog, www.candydishblog.com for additional coverage!

-Stephanie

In photos:
-Emergency Chocolate Bar from Bloomsberry & Co., booth #1483
-Brand new lollis from Das Foods LLC, booth #766
-Funley's Delicious' Stix in the Mud, booth #1618

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Editor's Choice: Leifheit International USA

I've been told by many health care professionals lately that I need to drink more water, and I've been trying, I swear, I just hate having to get up from my desk to go refill my bottle/cup/mug. Either I keep putting it off, or I get distracted doing something else and all of the sudden the whole day has gone by and I'm no closer to that refill. Well, much to my delight (not to mention the delight of health care professionals across the greater Chicagoland area), I have found a solution to my problems. A bright, colorful, charming solution.

Leifheit International recently introduced a lovely line of insulated carafes in bold colors like deep cranberry, denim dark blue and translucent lime green, as well as simple black and white, and a classy chrome. A couple of weeks ago, a plump little lime green carafe arrived at the office (thanks, Lynn!) and now sits on my desk all day long, full of ice water and at my disposal. All Leifheit vacuum carafes are made with high-quality materials and double-wall, glass-lined construction that keeps one liter (8 cups) of liquid hot or cold for 12 hours -- so the ice water I fill it up with in the morning is still cold and refreshing as the afternoon drags on.

Functional, handy, attractive (dare I say cute?), the Columbus carafes from Leifheit have it all. Check them out at www.leifheitusa.com.

-Stephanie

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tradeshow Health Safety

With all of the recent news from the Center for Disease Control regarding the Swine Flu (H1N1), it's important to remember some basic common sense rules for protecting our health as we head into a busy tradeshow season.

The CDC recommends taking the following precautions for staying healthy and preventing sickness of any kind (not just the super-publicized H1N1). These tips are especially important in situations such as trade shows,when shaking hands and speaking in close proximity with a lot of people is the norm:
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
Avi Frier, a marketing professional from Presto Tradeshow who works tradeshows for a living, offers some more show-specific tips for exhibitors:
  • Bins of promotional items: Visitors touch multiple objects when reaching into a bin. Instead, spread items on a table and clean the table regularly; or hand items to attendees one at a time.
  • Candy bowls: Even more dangerous than bins, since candy goes right into the mouth. If you MUST distribute candy, it should be individually wrapped and handled like promotional items. Let food service professionals handle other food.
  • Shaking hands: Don’t drop your handshake! Psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, speaking on FOX news, said he’s concerned about the negative effects of eliminating the handshake. "We need human touch and genuine communication more than ever right now," Ablow said. So shake hands—but wash up afterward before touching your face or eating.
  • Hands-on demos & experiential activities: Touch-screen gadgets, video games, golf clubs, pool cues, etc. must now be cleaned after each use. Some exhibitors have eliminated them altogether.
Now, eliminating food samples at your booth altogether in the gourmet industry probably isn't a good idea, but as with any show, be vigilant with your food handlers. Keep disinfectant wipes or hand sanitizer handy in your booth and make sure you are taking care of yourself. Tradeshows can be really hard on the body (especially if you're filling your evenings with networking events or dinners with clients) and can make for some very long days. It may be a good idea to up the ante with vitamin C or by using a product like Echinacea or Airborne to boost your immune system. Make sure you get a good night's rest (which, I know, can be difficult if you're out of town, staying in an unfamiliar bed in a hotel), and are eating well (which can also be difficult at a food show -- I never stop for lunch, for example, but sustain myself on not-necessarily-nutritious samples throughout the day. Dips, chocolate and coffee do not make a healthful lunch!).

What are some of your staying-healthy strategies when you attend or exhibit at trade shows? We'd love to hear them!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Have We Caught Your Fancy?



Mary Gerlach, Fancy Food fan and fellow editor at Talcott Publishing, took the latest issue to Lousiville, KY while she attended a trade show. “I got there two days after the Derby,” Mary told us in an e-mail, “and I didn’t even feel like taking the picture. But, when I saw this golden lil’ fellow and his marble horse I knew they would like the issue’s bright color on such a dreary day.”

Thanks, Mary!

Are you going on a trip soon? Whether it's a trade show, a vacation, or maybe you live somewhere worth photographing -- send us your pictures with the magazine and we'll include them in our next Have We Caught Your Fancy? post.

-Stephanie

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Editor's Choice: Choclatique

I’m old enough to have seen the first walk on the moon live and space exploration has always been fascinating to me. So when my Fancy Food colleague Stephanie announced we had received a box of Moon Rocks, it got my attention. These Moon Rocks, it turns out, are chocolates from Choclatique (www.choclatique.com), introduced to honor the 40th anniversary of man’s first landing on the moon. The first thing you notice about them is how cool they look. They have this great bright, metallic-looking color and multi-faceted design. The company says the collection of dark, milk, and white chocolates are made to represent samples of rocks brought back from the various trips to the moon. Moon Rocks also have fun names like Apollo Almond, Cosmic Carmel Crunch, and Stellar Strawberry Shortcake. I tried one called Galatic Grape that combined dark chocolate with great grape taste. Our other “expert tasters” were similarly delighted with their choices.

I could see the 15-piece Moon Rocks Collection as a good gift for someone turning 40 this year or other 40th year celebrations. It could also be a fun gift for any space fan, including Trekkies , and as a Father’s Day gift. Or, of course, an out-of-the-ordinary, delicious treat for any chocolate lover.

-Barbara

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Top Shelf Advice

In light of this month's All Candy Expo, we wanted to know what's your best-selling candy or confection? (Check out the comments link below to see what our retailers said, and feel free to chime in!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Editor's Choice: Blue Crab Bay

Late last week a huge box arrived at the office from Blue Crab Bay Co.'s Pamela Barefoot. Inside was an array of products, from her dip mix kits to her line of snack/peanut mixes. Whipping up a crab meat dip on the spot was just not an option last week, but we did pop open some of the snack mixes to give them a try. Today, Tuesday, a mere four work days later, we are down to three -- count'em three pieces of the Crab House Crunch. An addictive sweet-spicy combination, the Crab House Crunch is a traditional non-tooth-breaking peanut brittle cut up into roughly 1 in. by 1 in. squares and dusted with the company's proprietary Chesapeake Bay Seasoning, a spicy, savory blend that contrasts well with the brittle.

I wasn't sure what to think of them the first time I opened the canister -- usually I prefer my sweet things to be sweet and my spicy snacks to be spicy, but I also love trying new things. I popped a piece into my mouth with an open mind and really truly shocked my taste buds. A pleasant heat with savory undertones was the first thing I noticed, but as I chewed, the sweetness of the brittle balanced out and then finally replaced the heat, leaving me with a sweet, peanut-y finish. And a craving for the next piece.

While I enjoy eating the brittle just like I described it above, I've noticed that some of my product testers here at Talcott have their own techniques for enjoying the product. Mary, for example, teases her taste buds with a bit of heat by licking some of the seasoning off before enjoying the whole shebang. Ashley, on the other hand, likes to enjoy the spicy and the sweet separately and waits until the seasoning has dissolved in her mouth before crunching into the brittle.

However you prefer enjoy the Blue Crab Bay Co. Crab House Crunch, the one thing that's clear is that you'd better do it quickly -- before it's gone!

-Stephanie