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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Schoolhouse Kitchen’s Anytime Spreadable Fruit Line Being Sold in Whole Foods Markets In The Southern Region

SchoolHouse Kitchen has announced that the company’s Anytime Spreadable Fruit line will now be sold at Whole Foods Markets in the Southern Region of the U.S. The line consists of four low-sugar, no added pectin, loosely-set, fruit herb mixtures. The four flavors are: Rhubarb Raspberry Thyme, Peach Rosemary, Strawberry Black Peppercorn, and Cherry Blackberry Sage & Clove.

The Grocery Department of all Whole Foods Markets in the South Region—18 stores in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee—will sell the Anytime Spreadable Fruit line, bringing greater access to the SchoolHouse Kitchen line. Whole Foods Markets, founded in Austin, Texas in 1980, has nearly 300 stores in the 38 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, Canada and the U.K.

“We are so thrilled to expand the audience for our delicious and unique fruit spreads,” says Wendy W. Smith of SchoolHouse Kitchen. “Our relationship with Whole Foods Markets continues to grow, and we are very excited that more people are discovering our products. Whole Foods Markets is a leader in offering all-natural foods, and we are honored to have SchoolHouse Kitchen products be a part of the exceptional array of products.”

The Anytime Spreadable Fruit line is purposefully different from the traditional jam both in form and function. Containing about half the sugar of a normal jam, the uncommon pairing of naturally sweet fruits and savory herbs unleash taste opportunities that can be enjoyed morning, noon, and night —not just as the traditional topping of morning toast. Simply and gently infused with herbs or spices, these fruits are delicious paired with chicken or meat roasts; or served on an appetizer plate of pâté or cheeses, whether a pecorino to a triple crème Brie. In each scrumptious concoction, the fruit drives and the herb rides shotgun. chicken or meat roasts; or served on an appetizer plate of pâté or cheeses, whether a pecorino to a triple crème Brie. In each scrumptious concoction, the fruit drives and the herb rides shotgun.

Through the sale of SchoolHouse Kitchen all-natural, gourmet products, the company's mission is to support educational causes and program. To learn more about SchoolHouse Kitchen, its mission, and how to purchase products, visit www.SchoolHouseKitchen.com.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Editor's Choice: St. Dalfour

It’s officially winter here in the Midwest, but stashed away in the freezer are packages containing the blueberries that I bought at the summer Farmers’ Market. Maybe it’s because it was so rare when I was growing up, but there’s something wonderfully decadent about being able to have summer berries in January and the rest of the winter.

It’s that same feeling I had enjoying this week’s choice, St. Dalfour (www.stdalfour.com) Cranberry with Blueberry fruit spread. When you open the jar, the first thing that greets you is the scent of summer fruit. It is made in France, using an old French recipe, and so appropriately, I spooned it on to some French toast. The combination was delicious — the whole berries contrasted nicely with the soft, fluffy toast. It was a great taste of summer and a French summer at that. In addition, the spread is sweetened with a grape juice concentrate, so it’s not too sweet. Since it is made from 100 percent fruit, you can also enjoy it without too much guilt.

I can see it also on a variety of breads, English muffins and bagels. I can also see it paired with cheese, or topping pound cake and cheesecake for a special dessert. I bet it would also be good on ice cream. And it would make a tasty p and j sandwich.

For retailers, the 10-ounce jar of fruit spread would be a nice addition to breakfast baskets and other gift baskets. It could also be sampled in the store or used as part of an international-themed promotion.

—Barbara

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The December Issue of Gift, Gourmet & Decor is Now Available

Dear GGD Reader,

Welcome to the December digital issue of Gift, Gourmet & Decor Magazine.

GGD December Cover
This Month's Featured Content:
Show of Shows
Gear Guide
Game On
Neutral Spring Rugs

New Feature:
Enchanced Page Zooming Feature Now Available-Zooming is now easier then ever!

Please Note:

GGD Digital requires NO special downloads or applications to view in its entirety.

Please click HERE to begin reading now!

We hope you enjoy this issue and all future digital issues of GGD. Feel free to contact us with your thoughts and feedback at gwnplus@talcott.com.

Sincerely,
The GGD Team

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Editor's Choice: Italian Foods Corporation

I’m part of a food lovers’ book club, and we read, as you might expect, memoirs and other books about food. At our last meeting we read Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl’s memoir about her adventures as the restaurant critic for the New York Times, a book I first read — and loved — a couple years ago when I actually was a dining critic for a newspaper in Washington.

Our next book is The Man Who Ate Everything, by Jeffrey Steingarten, and it aims to hit close to home as well. After being named the Vogue food critic, Steingarten attempted to turn his dislike for certain foods, like clams, into love. This premise will carry over into our book club dinner party — we each have to make a dish that we hated when we were kids but now love.

While our dinner is still some time away, I’ve already begun thinking about what to make. Today’s product, a bell pepper and eggplant spread from the Italian Foods Corporation, has reminded me of a food that I used to avoid but now go out of my way to eat – peppers.

While I’m still not sold on green peppers (and this is something I’ve learned I’m not alone in), red peppers are one of my favorite foods. Served raw or roasted, they can be sweet or smoky, and they’re versatile ingredients. I regularly buy them at markets with no purpose in mind and create recipes around them.

So when this product landed on my desk a couple weeks ago, I took it home that night to try it. The spread is made from Italian bell peppers and eggplant in La Spezia in the Liguria region of Italy. I’ve used it to top slices of baguette and mixed it with spaghetti, and it’s delicious in both. It would be ideal on an antipasto tray, or used as a condiment on an Italian-inspired sandwich. My jar is just about empty, so I’m going to have to track down another one pretty soon. While I’m still not sure what to make for the dinner party, I think I’m on the right track.

— Amy

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Innovation Headquarters At The 2011 International Home + Housewares Show

Building on the more than 500 new exhibitors at the 2010 Show, the International Housewares Association (IHA) has announced a broad range of new exhibitors slated to appear at the 2011 International Home + Housewares Show, to be held March 6-8 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Well-known suppliers returning to the Show after a brief absence include Haier America; Lava Lite LLC; The Onecare Company; Stonewall Kitchen and Viking Range. Other returning companies include Adesso, Inc.; Gio’Lifestyle SpA; Kehe Food Distributors; Lynk, Inc.; Swiss Army; Tervis Tumbler; Viola Imports and Waechtersbach USA, Inc. Exhibiting in the new Discover Design category will be Adhoc; Blomus; Museum of Robots; Prinz Ltd. and SKS USA.

“The Show’s retail audience will welcome back these key exhibitors,” said Phil Brandl, president of IHA, which sponsors and manages the Show. “The retailer audience also told us that last year’s new exhibitors along with the thousands of new offerings from long-time exhibitors made the Show innovation headquarters for our industry.”

Among the nearly 200 new exhibitors scheduled to date are:

  • Clean + Contain Expo exhibitors: Olivet International; Starmaid International and Taymor Industries.
  • Dine + Design Expo: Kehe Direct and UBIFRANCE/French Trade Commission.
  • Dine + Design Expo, Discover Design category: Chilewich, LLC; Cose Nouve; Denby; KOR Water; notNeutral; Stelton, Inc.; Vynebar; Wabnitz-Royal VKB and Robert Welch.
  • Wired + Well Expo: Ligo Electric; Kids Line LLC; DPI, Inc.; Twin-Star International, Inc.; Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf; Elettroplastica S.p.A.; Relief POD International; Baby Brezza Enterprises, LLC; GMJ USA Inc. and Spectronics Corp.

To register for a no-charge Show badge or download a complete list of exhibitors, visit www.housewares.org.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Editor's Choice: Spicy Nothings

I'm a sucker for Indian cuisine, and a good curry is usually my take-out meal of choice. But after receiving samples of Spicy Nothings curry sauces here at the office, I might start neglecting my usual Indian joint (sorry, Marigold!) and start cooking ethnic cuisine at home.

 I brought home a jar of the Coconut Curry sauce and gave it a try the next time I was in the mood for a spicy meal. (I didn't have to wait too long... ) Preparation was simple: I boiled a few cups of rice, sauteed a cut-up chicken breast, then poured in the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes. I topped a plate of rice with the chicken/curry mixture and dinner was done.

The curry flavor was undeniable, which is a pleasant surprise from a jarred sauce. And one jar made plenty of curry — I happily had enough for two days' worth of leftovers for lunch. Next time, I'll consider mixing the curry with a bit of cream or chicken stock — I like my sauces more on the thin side. (Unusual, I know.) I'm excited to try the rest of the curry line, particularly the Spicy & Tangy Curry and the good old Classic Curry. And the sauces leave plenty of room for customization. You can add your own veggies, experiment with different proteins and even use it as a dip. The company's website, www.spicynothings.com, has plenty of recipes and suggestions for getting creative with your curry.

—Melody  





Wednesday, December 1, 2010

123rd Philadelphia National Candy Gift and Gourmet Show Jan. 9-11

The Philadelphia National Candy Gift and Gourmet Show will be held January 9-11, at the Atlantic City Convention Center, Atlantic City New Jersey. Organizers say it is the most significant event that is focused exclusively on the products, services, and technology of the confectionary industry. All this is at no cost to you when you pre-register to attend. You’ll find:

* A focused and comprehensive exhibit floor, showcasing the latest products, equipment, and supplies for the gourmet confectionery industry.

* Buyer’s Drawing: At the show when you receive your Hall Badge and Show Guide you will also receive a card containing Sponsoring Exhibitors. All you have to do is visit each of the exhibitors listed on the card and have that exhibitor stamp the card. Once you’ve seen all the sponsoring exhibitors and have a fully stamped card you will place the card in a drum next to the Retail Confectioners Association of Philadelphia Booth (Booth #1 on the Floor Map). The drawing will take place on Tuesday, January 11. There is also a second chance drawing when you make a purchase from one of the sponsoring exhibitors. Prizes will be announced at the Show.

* Free seminars & demonstrations to attend before and during show hours. Including: Candy 101, Ganache Basics, The Art of Tempering, What every Retail Confectioner needs to know about advance lawsuit protection, Tax Reduction and Real Estate Planning, Basic Chocolate Molding, Ice Cream & Gelato Seminars, Confectioners Sculpting Contest, Old Fashion Taffy Demonstration to name a few.

For more details and to Register for the show visit www.phillycandyshow.com or call 888/CANDY-89 (888/226-3989).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Editor's Choice: Jelly Belly


Like probably many people, jellybeans are a favorite of mine. Growing up, they were always a special part of our Easter treats. And over the years the flavors keep expanding and they have become a year-round enjoyment.

The latest product to arrive in the office, however, takes this enjoyment to a whole new level. It is Jelly Belly Jelly Beans Chocolate Dips (www.jellybelly.com). And, yes, it is just what the name implies, jelly beans covered in chocolate — dark chocolate, to be precise. The combination is inspired and delicious.

The flavors include Very Cherry, Orange, Raspberry, Strawberry and Coconut. In the interest of accurate reporting, I sampled almost all. The chocolate taste blends perfectly into the fresh fruit taste. I found myself going back for more throughout the day. I’m told the Coconut was also delicious and also resulted in return visits. And the best part, each
jellybean is just under four calories.

The 4.15 oz. gift box would make a great gift for any occasion. There’s also a 2.8-oz. bag, for more of a take-along or office drawer snack.

—Barbara

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Editor's Choice: Bigg Riggs

We all love tastes that remind us of home, so for my first editor’s choice blog, I chose two products from Bigg Riggs, a West Virginia-based company that sells jams, BBQ sauce, apple butter and other items at farmer’s markets in Northern Virginia. I hadn’t tried the products before, but I have a fondness for that part of the country, since I lived in Washington, DC for four years before relocating to Chicago this summer. I love the southern-tinged tastes you can find in that area, plus the company has a great back-story, making it a no-brainer to sample the products.

Bigg Riggs is the brainchild of Calvin Riggleman, who would reminisce about his family’s farm in Hampshire County, West Virginia to his army buddies while he was stationed in Iraq in 2003. The farm has been in the Riggleman family since the 1940s, and Riggleman’s fellow soldiers gave him the idea to jar fruits and sell them at farmers markets. Soon he added vegetables and the product line grew, eventually being sold at Whole Foods stores in Northern Virginia.

I started with the Hot Pepper Jelly, which comes in a 12 oz. jar. The jelly is the number one selling Bigg Riggs product, and with good reason — it’s a delicious concoction of sweet and heat that’s perfect slathered on a cracker with a bed of cream cheese. It’s accessible for different palates, so you’ll still appreciate it if spicy food isn’t your thing.

I also tried the Strawberry Biscuit Fixer, a charmingly named classic jam that has as many uses as you can think up. I tried a bite right out of the 12 oz. jar, and it has a fresh-made taste that isn’t too sweet. Try it on morning toast, in a nostalgic peanut butter and jelly sandwich or even as an ice cream topping. Jams are made with pure cane sugar and all Bigg Riggs products are made with all-natural ingredients.

Each jar is $6, and you can learn more about Bigg Riggs on their web site.

— Amy

Friday, November 12, 2010

The November Issue of Gift, Gourmet & Decor is Now Available

Dear GGD Reader,

Welcome to the November digital issue of Gift, Gourmet & Decor Magazine.

GGD November Cover
This Month's Featured Content:
Enliven Sales
Winter Markets Update
Valentine's Day
Greeting Card Gazette

New Feature:
Enchanced Page Zooming Feature Now Available-Zooming is now easier then ever!

Please Note:

GGD Digital requires NO special downloads or applications to view in its entirety.

Please click HERE to begin reading now!

We hope you enjoy this issue and all future digital issues of GGD. Feel free to contact us with your thoughts and feedback at gwnplus@talcott.com.

Sincerely,
The GGD Team

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Editor's Choice: Mexicali Blues

 In the effort of full editorial disclosure, there was one major reason I wanted to review the samples of Mexicali Blues salsas that arrived in our office last week. I'm not a particular salsa aficionado, nor am I keen on eating foods so hot my taste buds never forgive me. But the restaurant that bottles its salsas of the same name is a local institution... from my home town. Mexicali Blues is a mom-and-pop type of establishment in the heart of Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. I remember it fondly from family get-togethers and teenage birthday parties made special by off-key renditions of "Feliz Cumpleanos a Ti" and heaping mounds of fried ice cream. And while it's been years since I've stepped into the restaurant for a plate of enchiladas or an icy margarita, I was happy to have a little local flavor at arm's length in our staff fridge.

Paired with my favorite brand of tortilla chips — La Preferida, made locally here in Chicago —the original Mexicali Blues salsa made a perfect accompaniment. While I prefer a more chunky, vegetable-studded salsa, the smooth consistency was a refreshing change. It took me a full minute to work up the courage to dip a chip into the Mexicali Blues XXX salsa, and as it turns out, I was rightfully fearful. The XXX salsa isn't for spice wimps like me.

It's always a good sign when local establishments start manufacturing their own product for wholesale. Maybe I'll make a special trip to visit the Mexicali Blues salsas at the restaurant during my Thanksgiving visit back home.

—Melody

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Editor's Choice: Dandelion



Although I have never personally used this week’s Editor’s Choice, we also like to use this space to tell you about some neat products we have seen. The feeding items for baby and kids from Dandelion (www.dandelionforbaby.com) I saw at the recent ABC Kids Expo fit into that category. 

The bowls, divided plates and utensils are all made from corn, a renewable source. They are designed for small hands. The bowls have deep sides to keep food where it belongs. The divided plates keep food items apart — an important concern for many kids. There is even an infant feeding set, consisting of a bowl and slim spoon for the littlest members of the green team. All the pieces are yellow, just like the corn. In addition, all the pieces are hand washable.  
These pieces are a great way to introduce kids into thinking eco-friendly and a fine choice for parents who think green. And for retailers, carrying kid products in your store, especially eco-friendly ones, could be a good way to distinguish your store in the community.  
—Barbara

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Oct/Nov Issue of Fancy Food Digital is Now Available

Dear Fancy Food Reader,

Welcome to the October/November digital edition of Fancy Food & Culinary Products Magazine.

Fancy Food October CoverThe Fancy Food digital magazine includes all the same great content as found in the print edition.

This Month's Featured Content:
Gourmet Gift Guide
Superbowl Snacks
Gourmet Pasta Sauces
Covering Our Cover

New Feature:
Enhanced Page Zooming Feature Now Available-Zooming is now easier then ever!

Please Note:

Not all ads will have a yellow link icon; however, you may still access their websites by clicking either on their company logo or embedded web address.

Please click HERE to begin reading now!

We hope you enjoy this issue and all future digital issues of Fancy Food Digital. Feel free to contact us with your thoughts and feedback at fancyfood@talcott.com.

Sincerely,
The Fancy Food Team

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Editor's Choice: Two Leaves and a Bud


I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for cute packaging. So when we received a box of adorably packaged tea by Two Leaves and a Bud, I couldn’t help but grab a few packets. Not wanting to immediately ruin the cute wrapper that encased the tea bags, I kept the packets in my pantry for the perfect time to savor a mug of tea. It turns out I didn’t have to wait very long. The minute I felt myself coming down with a case of the sniffles, I knew a steamy cup of tea would be the perfect antidote.

I could barely wait the recommended four-minute steeping time before taking my first sip of the Organic White Peony blend. The taste was delicate and sweet, but with enough flavor to take the tea a step above my usual Earl Grey. I added a splash of honey to soothe my throat, and as it turns out, the tea was just what the doctor ordered.

I had intended to save my second packet of tea for a later use, but I found myself steeping another cup. This time, an organic chamomile, which was a more gentle, balanced tea that would be a great non-caffeinated nightcap or the perfect addition to an evening spent snuggled with a book and oversized armchair.

—Melody

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Editor's Choice: Royal Hawaiian Honey


One of the best things for me about working on Fancy Food is getting to sample an array of interesting products. This week’s Editor’s Choice certainly falls into that category. It’s Royal Hawaiian Honey Organic Christmas Berry (www.tropicaltradersfoods.com). I brought it home a few weeks ago and decided Sunday morning was a good time to try it.

The first thing you notice when you open the jar is the amber color and thick texture. I dipped a spoon into the jar. I had decided to try it on my French toast and the combination was delightful. The texture is a little grainy, a rich taste of brown sugar with some molasses and then, at the end, some spices. I look forward to trying it with cheese
and other types of bread.

Incidentally, honey is rich in antioxidants. So it is not only great tasting, but it’s good for you. Another great find. And for retailers, it would be a great treat in gift baskets, and since it is from bees from the Christmas Berry shrub, a great tie-in for a holiday season.

—Barbara

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Editor’s Choice: New York Tabletop Market


This week’s Editor’s Choice is a bit out of the ordinary; rather than focusing on a product, I want to highlight a valuable resource for tabletop and kitchen goods.

Today is the first day of New York Tabletop Week, which runs through October 15 at three amazing venues in New York City: Forty One Madison, 7 W New York and 230 Fifth Avenue. In these buildings, you’ll find the latest designs in dinnerware, glassware, textiles, gadgets and more.

A variety of special events are taking place, too. Tomorrow, Forty One Madison will host a special breakfast seminar, “New Womenomics: What Women Want & How To Reach Them, Teach Them & Speak Their Language,” presented by Dannielle Kyrillos, editor-at-large for DailyCandy.

At 7 W, be sure to check out the Color & Cuisine Lobby Display, which consists of four vignettes designed by style experts who will use products pulled from 7 W showrooms.

230 Fifth Avenue will also offer an array of new products and special amenities, including complimentary breakfast and lunch for buyers.

If you’re not in New York this week, make a point to visit the spring 2011 Tabletop Market, which runs April 12-15.

-Ashley

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Editor's Choice: Obrigadeiro


Since receiving a box of brigadeiros (pronounced bree-ga-day-rows), made by Minnesota-based candy company Obrigadeiro, I’ve been asking myself the same question: “How did I spend a month in South America without trying these Brazilian confections?” I have no idea — too much Argentine wine, perhaps? Or maybe I was blindsided by the ceviche, ahi de gallina and empanadas that called to me from restaurant menus. But had I known about the existence of these truffle-like candies during my trip, I probably wouldn’t have returned home.

Obrigadeiro is attempting to bring the candy, popular in Brazil, Portugal, Spain and Chile, to mass appeal in the U.S. The brigadieros are shaped and packaged just like truffles and come rolled in coconut, cocoa powder, nuts, sprinkles and more. The candy traces its history back to 1945, when Brazilian women’s rights groups made and sold the confections in an effort to promote suffrage.

One bite of the rich, chewy brigadeiro, and I knew I was done for. Don’t let the truffle-like exterior fool you: The brigadeiro has a soft, supple center. After savoring the traditional fudge, I couldn’t help but try another, against the better advice of my waistline. The second was a creamy, dulce de leche–filled morsel rolled in pecan bits. I’m normally not a fan of anything with dulce de leche, but I found myself pleasantly surprised with its sweet, caramel-like taste.

While not much can replace a fudgy, liqueur-infused truffle in my book, the brigadeiros are a refreshing and exotic change of pace. A box of brigadeiros puts a fun spin on the perfect hostess or holiday gift. And if I ever find myself roaming South America again, my trip won’t be complete without a brigadeiro or three.

—Melody

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Editor's Choice: H.K. Anderson


Although I like a variety of snack foods, I’ve always been partial to pretzels. I’m not sure why. I remember when I was growing up, we always had pretzels in the house. In any case, I’m always ready to try a good pretzel. So I gladly accepted the samples that were being handed out at a recent show.

It was a good call. H.K. Anderson (www.hk-anderson.com) Honey Wheat Braided Twists is a real find. When you bite into them, the pretzels are crisp, not very doughy. They say it has something to do with the way they are braided. The blend of the wheat and honey gives you a rich, mellow taste. They make a great, filling snack.

Although tasty on their own, I bet the pretzels would be good served alongside a variety of dips. I could also see them accompanying fall soups, such as pumpkin or squash. And, of course, they would be good alongside a favorite fall beverage.

For retailers, the pretzels come in a 10-oz. bag that has a cool black-and-white photo of the company’s old delivery trucks on the package. They definitely would stand out on the shelf.

-Barbara

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Editor’s Choice: Marley Coffee

I have a confession. Few people in my professional life know about this, but I’m prepared to let it out.

I have a small percentage of hippie running through my blood.

Yes, despite my unassuming external appearance (which I suppose is fairly conservative), there are peace-loving, crunchy-granola-consuming, hemp-wearing, jam-band-loving aspects of my personality that I’ve done my best to abandon since college. (Although, I admit, these traits do occasionally resurface, particularly if I’m at a concert. If you ever witness them in person, don’t judge me.)

So, I was thrilled, as you can imagine, when I received samples of Marley Coffee.

Marley Coffee?! Yes! Named for the idol of all hippie worshippers, the legendary, iconic Rastafarian, Bob Marley.

The company, founded by Marley’s son Rohan, offers single-origin and blended coffees that are inspired by the aromas and memories he has of the Marley Estate in the Blue Mountains in Jamaica. The coffees are ingeniously named after familiar Bob Marley tunes; flavors include One Love, Simmer Down, Lively Up!, Mystic Morning and Jammin Java.

All in all, Marley Coffee will be appealing to all your customers, whether they are closet hippies who disguise themselves as coffee snobs or whether they sport dreadlocks for all to see.

-Ashley

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New statistics on hunger

Yesterday, the U.N. released new statistics on world hunger that indicated that for the first time in 15 years, the number of chronically hungry people (those who are unable to consume the minimum energy intake of 1,800 calories per day) around the world has dropped. Nonetheless, an astonishing total of roughly 925 million people fall into the chronically hungry category, and that number does not reflect the aftermath of the recent flooding in Pakistan.

To read more, click here.

-Ashley

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Editor's Choice: Braswell's


As the newest editor here at Fancy Food, it probably goes without saying that I consider myself something of a foodie. Or an indiscriminate eater, in any case. Maybe it was the years I spent devouring anything deep-fried that came out of my mother’s kitchen, or the fact that I lived in Florida during the first half of my childhood, but Southern food will always stake claim on a piece of my heart. Grits, pecan pie, anything smothered in gravy — I love it all, which is why I was delighted to try Braswell’s — a Georgia-based condiment company — as my first Editor’s Choice.

The company's all-natural line of salad dressings come in perfectly Southern flavors, such as Vidalia Onion & Summer Tomato and Peach Vanilla. The slim, attractive bottles have one especially brilliant feature: They’re reusable. The smart folks over at Braswell’s incorporated a durable cap that snaps easily back into place, and each carafe holds nine ounces of product. Braswell’s even offers Carafe Companions, small packets of dry dressing mix for refilling empty bottles.

But onto the taste: Unable to choose between the Vidalia Onion & Peppercorn and the Raspberry Vinaigrette, I divided my lunch in half and drizzled the dressings over leafy greens, sliced chicken breast, thinly sliced apples, raisins, toasted walnuts and lots of crumbled bleu cheese. The Vidalia Onion dressing had the perfect amount of savory to accompany the sweetness of the salad, and I found myself wondering what other uses I could glean from this dressing. A marinade for chicken or fish, perhaps? Or mixed into a potato salad for a little extra bite? I hope to exhaust all the options.

The tangy sweetness of the Raspberry Vinaigrette paired well with the crunchy walnuts and sliced chicken breast. Unlike more subtle vinaigrettes, the tart raspberry flavor was undeniable. My thoughts soon drifted to bite-sized toasts smeared with creamy Brie, topped with a dollop of this sweet raspberry condiment.

Whether you dream up something more imaginative or stick to a well-crafted salad, these Braswell’s dressings are a great tool to add to your culinary arsenal — or simply the fridge.

—Melody

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Editor's Choice: St. Lucia Bread Company


They say that bread is the staff of life. It’s certainly been true in my family where I grew up appreciating a great slice or two of bread. So I was a happy camper when several loaves of bread arrived at the office a few months back. The bread from the St. Lucia Bread Company (www.stluciabread.com) has all natural ingredients with no preservatives and they recommend keeping it in the freezer. You take it out two hours before you serve it.

I recently tried the Berry Blueberry Bread with Walnuts. The first thing you notice as you open the bag is the great scent. The bread has a full rich taste. The blueberries are just sweet enough and accented nicely with the crunch of the walnuts — a great combination. I first tried the bread along side some soup. Then again with some peanut butter spread on it. The third tasting, open face with a slice of baked ham, was my favorite. It was a good combination of the salty and sweet tastes. The bread would, of course, be great with a cup of tea. Or I could see it served with some cheeses.

The bread comes in a variety of flavors including: Apple Cinnamon Nut Bread, Pear Bread with Walnuts, Banana Nut Bread and others. The company is based in Texas and the breads come in a commemorative Texas Flag Tin that is reusable. This also makes them great gifts.

-Barbara

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Pot and How to Use It

This was a fascinating article. Perhaps I'm biased, as Roger Ebert is somewhat of a Chicago hero. Regardless, it's definitely a testament to the fact that food experiences are inevitably tied to memories and feelings. Would love to flip through this cookbook, if only for Ebert's witty words, enviable sense of humor and clear passion for food.

-Ashley

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Editor's Choice: Equal Exchange

I’m a big proponent of fairly traded goods. I appreciate companies that recognize their power to make a difference in the world through their products and their contributions. When I received samples from Equal Exchange, a company that creates fair-trade chocolate, I was blown away — not only by the decadence of their chocolate bars, but also by their impressive marketing materials that delve into their strong support for cacao farmers.

Equal Exchange’s farmers belong to co-ops, which empowers them and allow them to be actively involved in business and make decisions about projects that will improve their communities. The company makes their chocolate products with cacao supplied from these farmers, located in the Dominican Republic, Peru and Panama, as well as sugar from co-ops in Costa Rica and Paraguay and vanilla from a farmer association in Madagascar. All ingredients are organic and fairly traded, and the bars contain to additives or artificial flavorings.

Through their partnerships with these local farmers, Equal Exchange has helped impoverished communities make improvements, such as installing wells for drinking water. The company also works toward eradicating child labor in the chocolate industry. (Visit www.equalexchange.coop/child-labor-in-the-cocoa-industry for more information.)

These sweet facts make the chocolate taste that much better. I have so far tried the Organic Orange Dark Chocolate bar — needless to say, it was love at first bite. I’m eager to try the other flavors as well. Visit www.equalexchange.coop to learn more.

-Ashley

Good news

Good news for anyone who loves magazines as much as we do. Can't wait to pick up a copy!



-Ashley

Friday, August 27, 2010

Post-Katrina food culture

We are approaching the the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this weekend.

Although I have no true personal ties to New Orleans, the event and its aftermath have always been intriguing to me. In 2005, I was just starting out as a news reporter, and one of my first stories was about the arrival of Katrina refugees. Hitting the five-year mark puts a number of things into perspective, both on an individual and large-scale level.

I can't help but feel that so many of the stories, photos and video clips being posted across the media are a little haunting, and the results of this year's oil spill certainly add to the sting. Add in a growing list of complex political implications, and the news coverage can become overwhelmingly disheartening.

This article by a writer from The Times-Picayune was an honest, if not bittersweet, profile of how the food culture has changed in New Orleans since Katrina. While there are indeed triumphs, such as the increase in urban farming and the opening of specialty food stores, there are also pitfalls, such as the "food deserts" across the city. I found this list thought-provoking and thought foodie readers would appreciate it.

-Ashley

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Editor's Choice: Yumnuts Naturals


Cashews are one of my favorite kinds of nuts. Sure, growing up there were peanuts at baseball games and pieces of walnuts in homemade brownies, but cashews were special. Maybe others knew that as well, since there were always so few of them in those nut mixes. Plus they were from Brazil, so that gave them a certain panache. So imagine my delight when packages of cashews arrived at the office recently.

Yumnuts Naturals (www.yumnutsnaturals.com) are dry-roasted cashews coated with all kinds of tasty flavors. I immediately zeroed in on the one marked chocolate.

It was a great choice. The cocoa powder coating is a great beginning to the crunchy nut. The light coating blends perfectly with and doesn’t hide the taste of the cashews. Incidentally, there are no preservatives or artificial stuff. And bonus points: Nuts are good for you.

The other flavor choices are Sea Salt, Honey, Spicy Cajun, Toasted Coconut and Chili Lime. Yumnuts come in a resealable 5-oz. bag. They are the right size to fit in an office drawer or take with you for a yummy snack. And for retailers, they are the perfect size to put in a gift basket or other gift packages.

-Barbara

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Editor’s Choice: Working Class Studio


One of my favorite companies has just launched its fall 2010 collections, and I’m seriously thrilled with each and every one of the new home and kitchen accessories. If you’ve never heard of Working Class Studio (www.workingclassstudio.com), it’s time to get familiar: The company is a division of the Savannah College of Art and Design (www.scad.edu), and it boasts the colorful, creative works of its students, who major in various art and design specialties. (See the products up close at the upcoming New York International Gift Fair (www.nyigf.com) in the Accent on Design division in booth #4017 and at the Canadian Gift & Tableware Association Gift Show (www.cgta.org) in booth #9541.)

One line that will be particularly attractive to gourmet retailers is the Hostess Collection, which includes kitchen textiles such as aprons, pot holders, oven mitts and tea towels. The line, designed by John Hiemenz (B.F.A., graphic design, 2009; graduate advertising student) and Abby Hyslop (B.F.A., fibers, 2008), features playful graphics with a retro flair and earthy color palette that’s perfect for fall. The four color combinations can be mixed and matched to add a funky touch to the kitchen.

See the entire collection here.

-Ashley

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Editor's Choice: Robert Rothschild Farm


When I moved to Chicago in 2007, I quickly learned the city’s number-one culinary rule: Never put ketchup on a hot dog. While Chicago has its share of fine restaurants and gourmet retailers, the hot dog unites us all, even vegans like me who go for a veggie dog.

I love hot dogs, and I also love cilantro and jalapeno, so it was a natural for me to get excited when a jar of Robert Rothschild Farm’s new Cilantro Jalapeno Mustard arrived in the office. I’ve written for Fancy Food & Culinary Products magazine for longer than a year, but it took this spicy mustard from Robert Rothschild to get me into gourmet condiments.

The mustard has little chucks thanks to the jalapeno pieces. Couple the jalapeno with zesty mustard and cilantro flavors, and the condiment makes for a tangy treat on top of burgers, as a base in a potato salad and on hot dogs. Aside from the taste, I love the ingredients. Robert Rothschild adds flavor with all-natural herbs and spices rather them chemical additives. The ingredients are all grown on the Rothschild farm in Urbana, Ohio, and the products are produced there as well.

Other new mustards from the company include Blue Cheese Dijon Mustard, Cranberry Pomegranate Mustard and Tarragon Peppercorn Mustard. Find more information about the gourmet products at www.robertrothschild.com

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Editor's Choice: Briannas


I eat salads all year round, but, for me, they are especially enjoyable in the summer because I can get real tomatoes — yet another reason I love the weekly trips to the local farmers’ market.

Recently, I was looking for something different to try on these salads. As I glanced through the dressings selections, The New American dressing from Briannas (www.briannassaladdressing.com) caught my eye. It’s a catchy name. The dressing was labeled as creamy balsamic vinaigrette. Balsamic vinegar is one of my favorite dressing components, so I was interested. I’ve become more of a label reader, so I checked some of the other ingredients: honey, garlic, spices and grape juice. It sounded like a winning combination, so it came home.

The dressing has a good consistency, so it clings to the lettuce, tomatoes, snap peas and other good stuff that make up summer salads. It has a smooth, layered taste. It offers a hint of sweetness at first, but it is cut with the garlic and other spices. Another plus: It has all natural ingredients.

Besides using on green salads, I could also see it mixed into a pasta salad.

The bottle suggests using the dressing as a marinade for beef, chicken or even fish.

And for me, the dressing is also great drizzled on steamed green beans from the farmers’ market.

-Barbara

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Editor's Choice: Byron Bay Cookies

It may only be the end of July, but I think I may have found the ideal autumn cookie. I received samples of Australia-based Byron Bay Cookies’ (www.cookie.com.au) Sticky Date & Ginger Cookies, and they could not be a more perfect fall gourmet gift.

The cookies contain dates, which, in my opinion, are an underused ingredient in the U.S. I find dates to be earthy and naturally sweet all at once, which is really pleasing to my palate. If you have customers who are unfamiliar with the flavor profile of dates, these cookies are a great introduction.

The cookies also contain chopped walnuts and ginger pieces, both of which complement the dates well. These flavors meld together into an unexpected, subtly spiced treat that I could see being served with tea or warm apple cider in the fall.

I also was surprised at how soft the cookie was, despite its relatively dense ingredients. To my surprise, it was moist and flavorful rather than dry and tasteless as some comparable cookies are. Overall, Sticky Date & Ginger Cookies are cookies with substance; just one is fulfilling and goes a long way in satisfying a sweet tooth. Try these cookies in your store this fall; they’d be great in gift baskets and would also be a fun item to sample.

-Ashley

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Editor's Choice: Bob's Red Mill


Everyone who knows I have a vegan diet asks, without fail, “is it hard?” And I always have the same response: No. Having not eaten diary, eggs or meat for so long, I take for granted how simple it is to create nutritional and delicious vegan meals. Sometimes, it’s easy because I’ve already figured out what works, but sometimes cooking vegan is easy because I find a great product. Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten is one of those easy-to-be-vegan products.

After more than a year of buying pre-made seitan at Whole Foods, I picked up a bag of Bob’s Vital Wheat Gluten to make seitan from scratch, and I promptly let it sit in my pantry for months. Talk about shelf-stable, when I was finally prepared to make my own seitan, Bob’s was patiently waiting for me. Making seitan isn’t difficult, but it’s intimidating and time consuming, so finding the best ingredient is a must.

The Vital Wheat Gluten package has a seitan recipe and tips for incorporating the protein-rich wheat byproduct in baked goods. Bob’s suggests adding a few tablespoons to homemade bread for a elastic texture, and the package offers a recipe for Honey Oatmeal Bread too. Vital Wheat Gluten is so beneficial, health-conscious omnivores will love it too. For gluten-free diets, Bob’s offers myriad gluten-free products and continuously receives praise for its celiac-disease-friendly products.

I don’t just use Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten either. I just made homemade corn dogs with the company’s cornmeal, sprinkle the flaxseed on my salads, add bulgur to vegetarian chili and use its flour in just about everything I bake. Delicious, pure, organic ingredients are so important for a delicious meal, and I know I can rely on Bob’s Red Mill to help me make yummy treats.

Read more about Bob’s Red Mill in the baking ingredients article in the August issue of Fancy Food & Culinary Products, or take a tour of the factory with Bob himself in the video below.

- Mary

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Editor's Choice: Sahale Snacks

Ever since I was allowed to have a little coffee (with lots of milk) as a kid, I have loved the taste of coffee. Actually looking back, maybe that was my first latte. For me, there’s nothing better than coffee after a meal or as a midday treat (especially surrounded by a charming café). And maybe a cookie or two served with it to complete the picture.

So I was happy to try one of our latest arrivals, Sahale Snacks Almond Vanilla Latte Biscotti Crisps (www.sahalesnacks.com). The crisps are thin like a cookie or cracker. They have a rich vanilla taste, along with a nice crunch from both the crisp and almonds. And, of course, they offer the great taste of coffee. It was like having a latte without the cup. The crisps would, of course, be great with a cup of coffee, tea, with ice cream or even with a glass of wine.

And bonus points—it turns out they are made from whole grains, so they are actually healthy. The crisps are also offered in Cranberry Pecan, Pomegranate Cashew and Banana Walnut Chocolate. All sound good just on their own or maybe even with cheese.

They are packaged in a 5.5-oz. resealable bag.

-Barbara

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Editor's Choice: Wonka


Although Nestle’s Wonka brand (www.wonka.com) may not classify as gourmet, I couldn’t resist choosing the Wonka Exceptionals Scrumdiddlyumptious Chocolate Bar for my Editor’s Choice pick this week. Say what you will about big-brand chocolate, but this creamy candy bar is absolutely irresistible.

We received samples of an array of Wonka bars in the office last week, and I immediately tried the Scrumdiddlyumptious Chocolate Bar because, well, how could you not want to eat candy with a ridiculous name, especially one that was featured in one of the greatest films of all time? (Ok, maybe not the greatest film of all time, but certainly one of my childhood favorites. And I may or may not have the entire film memorized, including those catchy Oompa Loompa songs.)

The Scrumdiddlyumptious bar comes in a shiny, metallic purple wrapper that is as eye-catching and imaginative as the scenes from “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” film. The bar itself combines all my favorite candy elements: milk chocolate, toffee bits, crispy cookie pieces and crunchy peanuts. The chocolate is surprisingly rich and smooth, and the toffee bits add a caramel undertone that creates depth.

The arrival of these bars got me thinking about in-store merchandising. Have you ever considered creating a display of candy and foods inspired by films and books? Or merchandising classic candies alongside books such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl? The artwork in children’s picture books is so colorful and could be used as inspiration for displays. What’s more, it gives you the opportunity to tap into peoples’ childhood memories and love for nostalgic treats.

-Ashley

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Editor's Choice: Sea Stones

Last winter, I was roaming the aisles of the New York International Gift Fair’s Handmade division, when the owner of Sea Stones stopped me. It was early in the show, so I had plenty of time to ask questions about the wine accessories (my favorite gift to buy myself).

Capturing the beauty of the Northeast coastline, the New Hampshire-based company uses rocks smoothed and shaped by the waters they come from. With stones gathered from private rivers and beaches, Sea Stones turns the stones into wine bottle stoppers and my new favorite, On the Rocks, a set of granite drink chillers. Think of them as more sophisticated versions of the plastic ice cubes popular for picnics.

I adore the natural aesthetic of the entire line, and the beauty of the product is only furthered by its functioned. Chilled stones gently cool spirits, so the flavors aren’t lost as they would be when ice is added. The chilled stones also prevent melting water from altering the taste. The set of six stones come with a hardwood tray to store and freeze in the freezer.

The handcrafted items are also one-of-a-kind finds. The items are designed by Mother Nature rather than a team of artists, so the stones’ grain and coloring is as natural as it gets. Sea Stone also makes wine glasses with recycled glass and stone, and the company provides merchandising displays for large orders.

For more information about Sea Stones’ products and its stone-replacement program, visit www.sea-stones.com, and look for the company again at the NYIGF in booth #9340.

- Mary

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Editor's Choice: Dave's Gourmet


Growing up in an Italian household, pasta and sauce was always part of our Sunday meal. This week’s choice, Dave’s Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce (www.davesgourmet.com), however, takes the concept in a new direction, and I was looking forward to trying it. It turns out I wasn’t the only one intrigued by the concept, and since the sauce is in a family-friendly size jar (25.5 oz.), I decided to take the tasting on the road — actually down the block. I also had a bag of some good-size, tubular, ridged pasta that I figured would be perfect for capturing the sauce.

In the interest of good reporting, I let one of my dinner companions take the first taste of the al dente-cooked pasta and sauce. An audible “ooh” followed by a "this is really good” was the reaction. Taking my first bite, I agreed, as I was greeted by the creamy texture and sweet taste of the butternut squash as it blended with garlic (of course) and the taste of roasted red pepper. It was delicious and made the pasta choice, which captured the sauce so well, such a good idea. In fact, our other companion used some bread to soak up the last bit of sauce before going back for seconds.

I could also see the sauce on cheese ravioli and tortellini. The company also suggests using it for lasagna. All sound like delightful meals to try really soon.

-Barbara

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Editor’s Choice: Earth & Vine


Mustard, in my opinion, is one of the most versatile condiments available. I use it on sandwiches, dip French fries in it and mix it with olive oil and vinegar for quick, fresh vinaigrettes.

So when I received a sample of Earth & Vine’s (www.earthnvine.com) Tangerine Habanero Mustard, I was excited to try it, especially because the flavors seemed so perfect for summertime.

The first thing I noticed about the mustard was its bright, tangy, citrus flavor. It balanced well with the classic, earthy undertones of the mustard, and was enhanced even further with a pleasant kick of habanero.

With summer barbecues on my mind, I can’t wait to try marinating pork tenderloin with the Tangerine Habanero Mustard and throwing it on the grill. The company offers a variety of other suggested uses, too: blending it with roasted potatoes, using it as a dipping sauce for fried zucchini and more.

Earth & Vine’s Tangerine Habanero Mustard is gluten-free and 100-percent natural. And if you’re looking for proof that this mustard is a winner, take into consideration the fact that Earth & Vine received a gold medal at the Napa Valley Mustard Festival for this flavor.

-Ashley

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Editor's Choice: Theo Chocolate

We don’t get many vegan candy samples here in the Fancy Food office, so I was delighted when Ashley stopped by my desk and dropped off a bar of Theo Chocolate’s Peppermint Stick dark chocolate candy bar. The 3.-oz sweet is organic, fair-trade certified and mighty delicious, if I do say so myself.

The rich dark chocolate was a perfect complement to the peppermint flavor. I’m not one of seasonally themed food (if it’s good I eat it year-round), but I can say with confidence that vegans and non-vegans alike will love this holiday candy. In fact, it’s packaged as a holiday treat in a red wrapper adorned with candy cane and snowflake images.

While Peppermint is a traditional holiday flavor, the company has surprising, creative nontraditional flavors and pairings, too. Take the Chocolate & Beer pairing kit for example. The concept is simple, but one that is rather unique. Theo Chocolate takes five of its favorite bars and matches them with different beer suggestions that will enhance the chocolate flavor. I think this is a great idea as I imagine the same people interested in fair trade-certified chocolate may also be interested in micro brewing and beer sampling (coworker Lacey, home brewer and Chef magazine editor, comes immediately to mind).

Theo Chocolate stands behind its products. Its openness is proof of the company’s integrity. Locals and visitors to the Seattle area are invited to tour the facility and learn about chocolate and how the company creates its chocolate by hand.

For more detail, visit www.theochocolate.com. You can also read about the company in the July issue of Fancy Food, available at the Summer Fancy Food Show.

- Mary

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Editor's Choice: Partners

Like many of us, I’m always on the lookout for midday treats that can be stashed away in a desk drawer. That being said, I collected several samples during our recent mission to the Sweets & Snacks Expo. One of the “finds” is the selection of Get Movin’ products (www.crackersrock.com) from Partners. I recently tried several from my stash.

The bite-size Olive Oil and Sea Salt crackers have a nice crunch. They have a full, rich taste, even though they are low in fat. The package says they are all natural, so it’s something you can feel OK about. And the 0.75-oz. bag is the perfect size for a midday snack or maybe even as part of a small meal. They are also available in Honey Wheat, Olive Oil and Sea Salt, Four Cheese Multigrain and Roasted Garlic and Rosemary.

Besides the selection of crackers, the company also has a group of Get Movin’ cookies. The Cinnamon Crisp was the next tasting. Again, the cookies are bite size. The cinnamon is sprinkled on top, so you can have that nice texture and burst of cinnamon flavor, then the rich cookie part. Again, they are all natural and another great midday treat. The cookies come in 1-oz. bags and also are available in Chocolate Vanilla Swirl and Lively Lemon.

As I said, a fine addition to the snack drawer and with the good weather finally here, they are the perfect size for a take-along treat to enjoy outdoors as well.

-Barbara

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Editor's Choice: Luken & May

Looking for an elegant treat to stock during the holiday 2010 season? Try the delicate biscuits from Australia-based Luken & May, part of the Byron Bay Cookie Company. The Fancy Food editors recently received samples of Luken & May’s Choc Hazelnut Butterbursts, and let’s just say the box of delicious cookies is nearly empty.

Packaged in an elegant silver-and-white gift box adorned with ornaments and snowflakes, the Butterbursts are small, light cookies made with natural ingredients, including butter, roasted hazelnuts and bittersweet cocoa. In shapes such as stars, hearts, moons and raindrops, the Butterbursts taste similar to a crispy shortbread cookie with the perfect combination of hazelnut and chocolate.

I could easily see these cookies paired with flavored coffee for a party dessert. The decorative box also makes Butterbursts the perfect hostess gift for holiday parties.

Luken & May’s Butterbursts also come in Mango, Citrus Melon and Passionfruit. Learn more about the company at www.lukenmay.com.au.

-Ashley

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Edior's Choice: Jiminy Chips

Fact: I love chips.

I was shopping at Stanley’s my favorite produce store, when a ran across mustard chips, freshly made in the store’s new deli and butcher section. I stopped by the chip counter and saw rows and rows of Jiminy Chips, fresh made potato chips in the expected and unusual flavors, Sea Salt, Mustard, BBQ and Chocolate Marshmallow. Behind the counter stood a Stanley employee, manning the chip stand.

I grabbed a bag of mustard chips and my friend grabbed a bag of sea salt. Before we could even leave the paring lot, we ripped into the chips. The first thing I noticed was the lightness of the potato. Uniformly thin, the chips weren’t dry but they weren’t oily either. Light and crisp, the mustard flavor was barely noticeable with my first bite, but I attribute this to the homemade nature of the chips. The tangy-mustard flavor jumped onto my tongue with the next chip and subsequent chips. The Sea Salt chips had a much lighter, subtle flavor and, as you might imagine, tasted more like a traditional chip.

Knowing that fellow Fancy Food editor Ashley Trent was a mustard-chip fan, I brought her a bag the next week. “Ohhhh,” she said almost instantly. “These remind me of dipping my Portillo fries in mustard. Love it!”

The next day, as I continued to snack on the light chips, I looked more into the company. Jiminy Chips offers grocers and food retailers a chip-making machine and sources potatoes from Jiminy-approved farms. While I found Jiminy Chips within the deli section of a produce store, the chips are delicate and fresh enough to complement a gourmet establishment. Imagine setting up promotions for big sports day (read: the Super Bowl) or weekend cookouts during the summer. Freshly made chips, I think, can help a gourmet retailer define themselves and create another unique offering.

For more information about making Jiminy Chips in your store, visit www.jiminychips.com.

- Mary

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Editor’s Choice: Ricky’s Lucky Nuts

With the continued talk about the health benefits of their other relatives, like almonds and walnuts, peanuts have probably been feeling a little neglected lately. But let’s face it: Whether it’s the in-the-shell kind like at a baseball game or the dry-roasted variety, there’s something about the taste of peanuts.

So I was more than willing to try one of the latest offerings to arrive at the office. Ricky’s Lucky Nuts (www.rickysluckynuts.com) dry roasts good old American peanuts and combines them with all kinds of good stuff. I tried the Cocoa & Vanilla Bean flavors — both are conveniently packaged in the same bag. The peanuts are nice and crunchy. The cocoa-coated ones surprise you with a burst of pure chocolate taste. The vanilla-coated ones have a smooth, mellow taste. The combination of sweet and salty is kind of addictive, and although it’s two servings, I found myself wanting to finish the whole 2-oz. bag.

Besides this new flavor, the peanuts also come in savory flavors such as Bombay Curry Coconut, Black Pepper & Salt and Spicy Chile Chipotle.

I could see this being a great thing to keep in the desk drawer for an afternoon treat. Incidentally, the peanuts also come in 6-oz. bags, in case you want to share.

-Barbara

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Editor's Choice: Toffee to Go

I may have said it before on this blog, but I’ll say it again — I’m a sucker for beautiful packaging and handwritten notes. So when Mary presented the Fancy Food editors with a beautiful green-and-brown box of toffee from Toffee to Go and a handwritten note from co-owner Lisa Schalk, I was ecstatic.

Lisa sent us the company’s three flavors to sample: Milk Chocolate Almond, Dark Chocolate Pecan and White Chocolate Macadamia Nut. Each batch of toffee from Toffee to Go is made from scratch with fresh butter, premium chocolate, California almonds and Georgia pecans, and there are no preservatives in the recipe, which comes from Lisa’s husband’s family. (The couple started their business by making toffee in their own home and selling it at Christmastime — read about how they expanded at www.toffeetogo.com.)

The Milk Chocolate Almond toffee was my favorite for a few reasons. First, it didn’t present any danger to my teeth because it was thinner and not brick-hard like many toffees I’ve had before. It was smooth and delicate with just enough of a caramely crunch to it. I liked how the chocolate was rich without being overpowering, so the toffee flavor really came through. I also loved the fact that there were whole almond pieces in the toffee, which really added to the nutty flavor and gave it an authentic, homemade mouth feel.

These gourmet toffees would make great hostess gifts for dinner parties or special presents for the holidays. Try them today and you won’t be disappointed — nor will any of your customers with a sweet tooth.

-Ashley

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Editor’s Choice: American Licorice Company

Most of our samples are sent to Ashley Trent, and I normally play it cool when she says “Anyone want …?” I usually keep my 3 p.m. cravings in check and give myself about a minute to make the three-second journey from my desk to hers. But, my sweet tooth got the best of me when Ashley announced, “I got some licorice. Anyone interested?”

The aforementioned three-second sojourn to Ashley’s desk was cut in half as I launched out of my chair and pushed Editorial Coordinator Barb out of the way (a joke, I promise) to get my hands on the sweet stuff. I ripped open the bag and ate two pieces of American Licorice Company’s Natural Vines black licorice followed by a handful the company’s strawberry confections. The company says it created Natural Vines for the sophisticated licorice customer, which really puts me to shame for the way I inhaled the sweets. (I like to think of my indulgence as just enthusiastic research.)

I’ve always preferred strawberry licorice to black licorice, and the same can be said for Natural Vines. The black was a little on the dry side, but the strawberry had a light, sweet flavor that didn’t leave me feeling as if I’d coated my teeth in sugar. It uses natural ingredients without artificial flavors, high-fructose corn syrup or preservatives, too. And, once I got my self-control back, I resealed the bag, a new design from the company, and the licorice has stayed fresh and delish for two weeks. I can’t believe I have the restraint to make them last that long.

You probably know American Licorice Company for its Red Vines products, so check out www.candycabinet.com for more details about its sweet surprises like Natural Vines.

-Mary