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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Editor's Choice: Wearable Vegetables

While walking through the various showrooms at the recent Chicago Gift and Home Show, a group of kitchen accessories caught my eye. Actually what stopped me were a group of tea towels displaying clever plays on words such as "When Harry Met Salad" and "Silence of the Yams." They were joined by potholders proclaiming "Desperate Housechives" and "Thyme Is on Our Side", among others. You get it -- takes on movie and TV titles, as well as well-known phrases. I have to admit I could see these in my home and I bet you at least smiled as you read the titles. The collection from Wearable Vegetables ( also includes aprons, oven mitts, paper napkins, T-shirts and other casual apparel. Besides the vegetables theme, there's a wine phrases collection, also the Asian-inspired "Shiitake Happens" and other related phrases collection. And introduced recently for dog enthusiasts -- a collection called Wearable Dogs, featuring the appropriate dog photos. "Silence is Golden Retriever" is a example of the group.

As I said, pieces from these collections would be a bright, fun addition to a kitchen. (And a good addition to a gourmet shop's product mix). They would make a cute gift for any occasion. I can see them as a great shower or housewarming gift, or as part of a themed gift basket.

As for me, I see a "Lawrence of Arugula" tea towel in the future of an older brother who likes to cook -- take a guess of one of his favorite movies.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Peanut Butter-Salmonella Update

As you may be aware, a growing number of peanut butter manufacturers are recalling their products in connection with a salmonella outbreak. What follows is an update from the National Confectioners Association regarding candies and confections containing peanut butter. (Reproduced verbatim.)

Confectionery Industry Reacts to Recent Salmonella Outbreak in Peanut Butter Containing Products
Provides Consumers Convenient Chart to Help Identify Products Free of Contamination

Vienna, VA – In response to an investigation into a recent outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium linked to peanut butter and peanut paste, the National Confectioners Association has developed a table for consumers to check the status of their favorite confectionery products. The contamination has been linked to the Peanut Corporation of America whose products are sold and used within a variety of industries. While some confectionery manufacturers, especially makers of health and nutrition bars, do purchase from the source, the majority of peanut, peanut butter and peanut paste containing candies are safe for consumption at this time.

The FDA is keeping a comprehensive list of the products recalled that are not safe for consumption on its Web site, while NCA’s table lists products containing peanut butter that are safe to eat. More than 90 percent of commercially available candy products using peanut butter as an ingredient are free from contamination.

“The manufacture of products that are safe and wholesome is the number one concern of every confectionery company,” said NCA President Larry Graham. “On the very rare occasions that ingredients become a health concern on any level, the industry reacts quickly and in the best interests of its consumers. In this instance, we have worked closely with officials at the Food and Drug Administration to understand the problem, have disseminated information to thousands of manufacturers and retailers and are working to keep consumers up-to-date on the safety of a variety of candy products.”

Graham added the chart available on its Web site will be continually updated until the issue is contained.

NCA also encourages consumers with questions about specific products to contact the manufacturer directly. “Our members welcome calls from consumers who have questions about the safety of their products,” said Graham. “As always, if there is a concern over the safety of any food product and an answer cannot be ascertained in an expedient manner, the recommended course of action is not to consume the product.”

The National Confectioners Association’s table of candy products safe for consumption can be found on its Web site at The latest information from the FDA about this important food safety matter is found at

About the National Confectioners Association (NCA):
Founded in 1884 in Chicago by representatives of 69 confectionery manufacturing firms, the National Confectioners Association is one of the oldest, most respected trade associations in the world. Today NCA has more than 600 members and is the major association representing the entire confectionery industry, offering education and leadership in manufacturing, technical research, public relations, retailing practices, government relations and statistical analyses. NCA fosters industry growth by advancing and promoting the interests of the confectionery industry, its customers and its consumers.

For Immediate Release: January 22, 2009
Contact: Susan Smith,, (703) 790-5750

Editor's Choice: John Kelly Chocolates

Sorry for the delay on this week's Editor's Choice pick -- I've been playing catch-up from attending the Winter Fancy Food Show (and meeting Mario Batali!!!).

Ok, I know I've been on a chocolate kick with these editor's choice posts, but when the weather gets harsh, a little comfort food goes a long way. And what's more comforting than rich, creamy truffle-fudge (lighter than fudge, richer and denser than ganache) enrobed in semi-sweet chocolate?

John Kelly Chocolates ( offers its signature Truffle Fudge Bars in an individual 2-oz. size or an 8-oz. bar, in a variety of flavors and assortments. They even come dressed up in white boxes with bows as a decadent wedding favor. The truffle fudge comes in flavors such as cappuccino, caramel, chocolate, dark chocolate, mint, orange, peanut butter, raspberry and vanilla, and several of those flavors are also available with nuts.

The more I think about it, I just don't know if I could pick just one flavor as my favorite -- would it be the one with the subtle, crisp hint of orange? Or maybe the simple dark chocolate with just enough walnuts. But then there's the new Truffle Fudge Bites, with the layer of caramel and light dusting of sea salt that they were sampling at the Winter Fancy Food Show (we featured these in Shelftalk, October 2008). I may have to get back to you on this one!

Visit the company's website for more information on flavors, assortments and pricing, and be sure to check out the John Kelly wedding favors in the February Gourmet Gift Guide of Fancy Food & Culinary Products!


Postscript: Associate Editor Ashley Trent on the Mint Truffle-Fudge, "This is like a delcious, gigantic Frango mint. So good! Tastes like Christmas."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winter Fancy Food Show update 1/19

It was another busy day at the show today!

I stopped in at Torn Ranch ( (booth 737) to see what Rich had going on, and he showed me the newly reintroduced Mashuga Nuts line, with its brand new packaging. Right now the hot item at Torn Ranch is the Dark Chocolate Caramel with Sea Salt.

I passed Bella Vita Bags ( (booth 559) and spotted this great little wine caddy (no pun intended), which would be perfect for a Father's Day gift of dad's favorite wine. Company owner Marisa China was also displaying a purse bag, a bag that would fit the bottle horizontally, with a cut-out handle for a fashionable way to give the gift of wine to a favorite diva.

I was making my way through the booths in the South Hall, and who should I see at the Magic Seasoning Blends ( booth (3007) but Chef Paul Prudhomme himself. He was gracious enough to have his picture taken for a celebrity-studded Have We Caught Your Fancy edition. Look for his new Magic Shrimp Seasoning blend in our February issue's Made for the Grill feature. The other new Magic Seasoning Blend in the company's extensive lineup includes Magic Sweetie Blend, which is a blend of sugar and spices created to enhance anything from cereal to coffee or tea.

I stopped by the Gia Russa ( booth (4312) to see if I could sample the new sauces they were offering in conjunction with Mario Batali, and found a crowd clustered around the booth. Mario Batali was sitting there, in the booth! He was in the middle of a business discussion, so I decided I could be patient and meet him later this evening at the post-show event Gia Russa was sponsoring. My patience was rewarded because not only did I get to try the excellent new sauces, I also got to meet Mario himself! He was also kind enough to pose for a Have We Caught Your Fancy shot. Thanks, Mario!

Stay tuned, readers, I've got more to share with you!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Winter Fancy Food Show update 1/18

After a long, busy day at the Winter Fancy Food Show, I'm finally sitting, shoes off, feet up, reflecting on the day. Outside my hotel room window a budding street musician is playing a very soulful rendition of (I kid you not) the Godfather theme on his sax. My senses are still reeling from the shock of leaving behind a cold gray city with dangerously cold windchills of -30 and arriving in vivid, lively San Francisco, where the temperature is a steady, slightly cool mid-60s and people are outside to enjoy themselves -- not to hurry off to their next destination, hiding behind scarves and hats, head down, not caring when they bump into people as they bustle by.

The show itself had, according to many of the exhibitors I talked to, a surprisingly busy first day. While Joanne and I were getting ready in our booth, the pre-show buzz filled the air. The buzz raised to a tense peak when the voice over the loud speaker announced that it was 15 minutes till the show floor opened.

Once I was able to explore the floor, I came across a lot of new products and some companies I hadn't had the opportunity to talk with before. Here is a small sample of the things I found at the show today:

I stopped by the Stubb's ( trailer (booth 529) to find artist Jason Baalman painting away inside -- with barbecue sauce! In celebration of the company's 40th year in business, they've decided to have a little fun with their products, creating artistic imagery of C.B. "Stubb" Stubblefield, the man behind the brand. Stop by for an autographed poster and to taste their two new sauces, Honey Pecan Bar-B-Q Sauce and Hickory Bourbon Bar-B-Q Sauce.

Saucy Mama Susie Barhyte, the culinary mind behind the Barhyte sauces (, mustards and other products, was in her booth (booth 272) with chef Paul Sturkey, and the duo was firing it up behind their counter, sampling the new lines of Saucy Mama products and Sturkey dressings. Dressings, sauces, marinades and mustards make up the line of products that bear labels depicting the saucy mama herself, and Sturkey dressings include a bottled version of the chef's house dressing and house dressing light, as well as an Herb Ranch and a Caesar.

For our first WFF show "Have We Caught Your Fancy," I found Molly Anderson and Amy Anderson-Rasmussen, owner and national sales director (respectively) of Blue Cattle Truck Trading Co. ( (booth 273). I'm not going to lie -- the thing that caught my eye was how charming their booth was. Their products, displays and literature all depict a rustic, country brand, and the samples they offer of their baking mixes (cooked to a finished product, of course) only enhanced the brand experience. (In other words, they were tasty!)

I will be posting more later, so check back in for more updates! And if you're at the show, stop by and say hello! We're at booth 2408.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Editor's Choice: Beaverton Foods

Mustard and I go way back. Growing up in Chicago, I’ve learned to love the condiment -- it’s one of the sacred toppings on a Chicago-style hot dog, never to be replaced by that suspicious substance known as ketchup. And with my Bohemian, Polish, German and English heritage, you can bet I’ve been taught to dollop mustard on everything from sausages to pretzels.

As I am such a regular mustard consumer, I was thrilled to come across Inglehoffer Extra Hot Horseradish Mustard (which is now referred to as “the good mustard” in my household). Not only does this grainy mustard have an earthy, full-bodied, vinegary tanginess, but it also has a nose-burning bite that is slightly addictive if you like adding a kick to your foods.

I first used Inglehoffer Extra Hot Horseradish Mustard on corned beef, which my mom made with colcannon (a mashed potato dish made with cabbage) and fresh rye bread. I had high expectations—after all, this mustard took the gold in the Horseradish/Wasabi category at the 2008 Napa Valley Mustard Festival. After one taste, I was hooked. I even spread a little bit on my rye bread. (Note: use only a small amount. My dad was overconfident and spread a large spoonful on his corned beef. Subsequently, much beer was consumed to try to erase the intensity of the spicy horseradish spread.)

Since the corned beef meal, I’ve been regularly using the Inglehoffer mustard on my sandwiches; it pairs well with salami, roast beef and even turkey. But what I’m really looking forward to is summer, which I can try it on a bratwurst hot off the grill.

Inglehoffer Extra Hot Horseradish Mustard is made by Beaverton Foods (, an Oregon company that has been making condiments since 1929.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Editor's Choice: Red Fork

It is my firm belief that even the most committed foodie should occasionally indulge in a frozen pizza. Before you cringe, consider that they are quick, easy, convenient, and the perfect accompaniment to a relaxed night in. In fact, they are even starting to appear as upscale frozen dinner options. Standing in front of the pizza freezer, consumers are no longer stuck having to choose between sparsely topped pepperoni with cardboard crust or supreme (and that's using the term lightly) with a rock-hard "self-rising" crust.

Luckily, Red Fork Natural Foods offers three different options for the discerning pizza connoisseur: Margherita, which features roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and extra virgin olive oil; Chicken & Smoked Gouda, a perfectly balanced combination of mozzarella, roasted red onions, tomatoes, a garlicky tomato sauce and big pieces of grilled, white meat chicken; and Bianca, featuring mushrooms, kalamata olives, mozzarella and a creamy ricotta-garlic sauce.

I was happy to sample the Chicken & Gouda: the crust was light and crispy, made with a touch of honey and olive oil, and the flavors of the sauce and toppings were skillfully blended to create a pizza I missed when it was gone.

Red Fork's website is under construction at the time of this post, so for more information, call 800/509-4441 ext 120 or e-mail


Monday, January 5, 2009

January Top Shelf Advice

What changes are you making to keep sales rolling in tough times?