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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 20, 2011

Editor's Choice-479 Popcorn


I grew up in a small town in southern West Virginia. So, when we went to the local theater, our choices in popcorn flavors were butter and plain. Therefore, when an assortment of 479°’s gourmet popcorn came to the office, I lunged at the opportunity to expand my popcorn palette. And, my education is much appreciated. The company’s Chipotle Caramel + Almonds flavor is one of the tastiest treats I’ve sampled during my tenure at Fancy Food & Culinary Products.

The company, whose name was rendered from the fact that Founder Jean Arnold believes 479°Fahrenheit is the optimal temperature for popping corn, has a variety of flavors. But, all of the popcorns contain no trans fat, are naturally gluten free and are certified kosher. The Chipotle Caramel + Almonds flavor is an ideal mixture of sweet caramel kernels delicately drizzled with traces of spicy chipotle. I was initially skeptical of the flavor combination. After all, a chipotle is a jalapeno chili ripened on the vine and then smoked for a few days. How would the company tame that spiciness? The answer is simple, a delicate hand. The popcorn isn’t overwhelmed by the various flavors, which allows them to co-exist simultaneously. This line is all about contrast in both flavor and texture. So, Arnold wisely threw in two big handfuls of almonds. The crunchiness of the nuts is a nice juxtaposition against the fluffiness of the actual popcorn.

I’m eager to try 479°’s other unusual flavor combinations. In fact, maybe I’ll smuggle a little of the Chipotle Caramel + Almond into my local theater. It will make those sappy chick-flicks I love even more enjoyable.

~Cathryn

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Editor's Choice: Sorrell Ridge


Even though I grew up in the Midwest, I have never liked winter (OK in this case pre-winter).  It seems no matter how sunny the day starts out by mid-day the skies have turned gray and cloudy.  It was in that frame of mind that I recently picked up a jar of Sorrell Ridge Premium Orange Marmalade (alliedoldenglish.com). I figured if I couldn’t have the warm weather right now, at least I could have a taste of it. Besides marmalade has that little luxury feel to it.

Sunday morning seemed like the perfect time to try it. I spooned it on some low-fat pancakes. The marmalade blended well with them. It is thicker and that gives it a nice full flavor and orange peels give it an interesting texture. The peels also made it not too sweet.  It was a flavorful combination and a good way to start the day.

I’m sure it would be great on waffles, English muffins or used in making a different  take on a  PB&J. I could also see it used with white cheeses for a tasty appetizer.

For retailers, it would be good in a fruit spread assortment or in a breakfast basket. Its consistency makes it ideal for sampling on crackers.

But for me, right now, it’s a taste of the good life.

Barbara

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Editor's Choice: Bove's Pasta Sauce


No matter what I do, I can never recreate my Nonnie’s marinara sauce. I have her recipe. I use the finest ingredients. I watched her make it. Regardless, my sauce doesn’t taste quite the same and I am left with a poor imitation. Therefore, I was thrilled when I discovered Bove’s Roasted Tomato, all-natural pasta sauce. While this canned sauce isn’t my Nonnie’s, it’s closer than I’ve ever come.

Last month, Bove’s Café (a third generation restaurant) celebrated it’s 70th anniversary. And, with a sauce this delicious, this longevity is no big surprise. Louis and Victoria Bove have been bottling the family sauce for the past 15 years. “We began selling my grandmother’s signature Marinara sauce, the same recipe she made at the restaurant,” says Mark Bove, company president. “But that wasn’t enough. People wanted more.”

And with Bove’s line of signature sauces, including: Vodka, Roasted Garlic, Mushroom & Wine, Basil and its newest flavor, Roasted Tomato — customers got their request. I have always loved the flavor of roasted tomatoes. So, when this jar came into the office I jumped at the chance to sample it first. The recipe combines fire roasted plum tomatoes, onions, fresh garlic and spices, olive oil and crushed red pepper. The sauce is spicy without being completely overwhelmed with heat. Moreover, you can tell the flavors are cleverly layered. Initially, I tasted the smokiness of the tomatoes. But, the more I ate, the more I detected other components with the recipe. My Nonnie taught me that the best Italian food focuses on simplicity, fine ingredients and respect for these ingredients. It’s clear Bove’s sauce has all these qualities in spades!

~Cathryn

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Editor’s Choice: Pasta Mama’s


I could eat pasta any day of the week, and I actually come pretty close. The only time I have gourmet pasta, though, is when my husband and I go to a local Italian restaurant. That’s why I was delighted to try a sample of Pasta Mama’s line of dry pastas and sauce mixes: Delicious, restaurant-quality pasta at home and without the fancy-restaurant price tag.

I chose the tomato basil linguine and creamy garlic sauce. The pasta, stored prettily in a clear, plastic bag with a gold-foil tie, is simple to cook: Boil water, throw in the pasta and cook until it’s al dente. The sauce is just as easy: Mix water and milk (or just milk) with the dry mix, and simmer in a saucepan until it thickens to your liking. The pasta was packed with a sweet tomato flavor, and I loved its thick texture. The sauce had just the right amount of garlic to be strong but not overpowering. And, both flavors went wonderfully with my simple, pan-fried and lightly seasoned pork chops.

Pasta Mama’s offers a variety of mix-and-match pastas and sauces for anyone to have an Italian adventure in the kitchen. The company’s website offers combination suggestions — such as pairing the apple spice fettuccine with the apple spice sauce — but to truly have fun, Pasta Mama’s recommends experimentation. Actually, I think the chocolate fettuccine embodies this philosophy. You can create dessert by serving this cocoa-infused pasta with Pasta Mama's chocolate sweet topping or cocoa mocha sweet topping.

Pasta Mama’s can throw a delightful wrench into any meal that needs new life breathed into it.

-Tara

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Editor's Choice: Recchiuti Confections


I’ve read recently that chocolate consumption continues to increase in the U.S. I don’t find it hard to believe, since I know I’m one of those people. So you can imagine how happy I was with our latest “feed the editors” package. Recchiuti Confections (recchiuti.com) had sent us a selection of its artisan chocolate bars, including several new flavors.

I immediately picked out the Bittersweet chocolate bar.  I opened the package, which incidentally can be resealed, and broke off a piece. I was rewarded with chocolate that had just the right amount of sweetness blended with a rich, yet smooth taste. It really was what bittersweet chocolate is supposed to be. I stashed the rest in the desk drawer to enjoy during the week.

Since there were several new flavors, the next day I sorted through the other selections. I was pleasantly surprised to find, that Hazelnut, another favorite flavor of mine, was still there. It is one of the new creations. The combination of flavors sounded intriguing and was. First you taste a full, smooth dark milk chocolate accented with a little sea salt. It then moves into the crunchy hazelnuts and finishes off with the taste of the burnt caramel syrup that coats the hazelnuts. A complex blend that is truly delicious.

The 3-ounce bars are also available in Semisweet, Feve (cacao nibs), Dark Milk, Almond, Sesame Nougatine and Orchard.

The bars are contained in stylish packages that display the initial of the flavor. I can see them used in gift baskets or as part of a gourmet chocolate display. With the holidays coming, they would be a fun stocking stuffer. Or, as one of my co-workers chose, the lettered packages can be used as a family initial to give a great, personalized treat to a chocolate lover.

Barbara

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Editor's Choice: Casa Martinez Salsa


My house is a football house. Whenever our alma mater (WVU) is playing, you can find my husband and I eagerly cheering on a victory. However, it would be impossible to do so without a hearty mixture of snacks available. Our favorite, as much for its flavor as for its convenience, is chips and salsa. But, while I favor more flavorful varieties, my cohort wants his salsa to be hot and spicy. Luckily, with Casa Martinez’s Salsa — we discovered the best of both worlds.

Casa Martinez recently released its signature line of five salsas (Habinero, Quemada, Nopal, Tatemada and Chipotle) this summer. And, the line’s been met with remarkable success. One of the biggest advantages to the salsa is the lack of mystery ingredients. To ensure the salsa is jam packed with flavor, the company uses only the freshest vegetables. Tender tomatoes, tangy peppers and a perfect blend of spices provide the base for the simply artful line of salsas Casa Martinez brings to the table. On a chilly Halloween eve, we sampled both the Chipotle flavor and the Habinero. I was remarkably surprised by the amount of heat each salsa gave off. However, the spice wasn’t so overwhelming that it kept me from going back for more. Nor did it overpower the other flavors within the salsa. What’s remarkable is that despite the heat, all the ingredients within the salsa blended harmoniously.

While this line would obviously make an excellent dip, I can see it being used as a condiment on sandwiches or heated and used as a sauce. One thing’s for sure, it’s our go to tailgating treat during Mountaineer games!  For more information about the line, visit casamartinez.com.mx/

~Cathryn

Monday, November 7, 2011

Editor's Choice: Pamela's Products

I’ll be perfectly honest: I was not expecting to like Pamela’s Products’ Whenever Bars. But one bite was all it took to prove myself wrong.

These things taste so good! I was expecting a hard-as-rock granola bar. Instead, the bars are chewy, like a freshly baked oatmeal cookie. The Oat Chocolate Chip Coconut bars are simply addicting with creamy chocolate and sweet coconut flavors; they make great afternoon snacks. The Oat Cranberry Almond bars are fantastic for breakfast with a tangy, fruity taste.

Besides the two flavors that I tried, the Whenever Bars are also available in Oat Blueberry Lemon and Oat Raisin Walnut Spice. And Pamela’s gluten-free and wheat-free products include biscotti, cake mixes, cheesecake and more.

Don’t think that healthy foods taste like cardboard. Pamela’s Products definitively put that myth to rest.

-Tara

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Editor's Choice: Snikiddy Snacks


I have to admit that I am always on the lookout for a good snack. So I was intrigued when this week’s subject, Snikiddy Snacks’ Eat Your Vegetables snikiddy.com), arrived in the office. I decided to sample the Sea Salt flavor. The veggie chips had a nice crunch, a good start. Of course you first taste the salt. Then, however, there’s a little bit of spice blending into a rich flavor and even a bit of sweetness. All in all, a satisfying taste that brings you back for more.

Then there are the bonus points. I have been trying to eat more healthy snacks and it turns out that an ounce of the chips (about 13) have a full serving of vegetables in them, along with being a good source of Vitamin A.

But back to the taste, I could see them as a good accompaniment to a sandwich or soup. They could also be used with a favorite party dip. And of course enjoyed right out of the bag as a tasty snack.

Retailers could also highlight them in a display for children’s lunches. In addition, they are gluten and wheat free, another consideration for some people.

Besides Sea Salt, the chips are also available in Sour Cream & Onion (a popular choice with several co-workers) and Jalapeno Ranch flavors.

A snack without guilt — always a welcomed find.

Barbara

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Editor's Choice: bakeshop Cookies


With Halloween right around the corner, it seems like everyone’s mind is on candy, candy, candy. That is, everyone except the staff of Fancy Food and Culinary Products magazine. Our minds are on cookies, marshmallows, brownies and coconut macaroons. And, thanks to the newly opened New Jersey sweets company, bakeshop, we have plenty of these delicacies to go around. I’m lucky that fall has finally arrived so I can hide the extra pounds from these sweet treats beneath a bevy of bulky sweaters.

Nicole Mahoney, the founder of bakeshop, believes that cookies and baked goods should be delicious, fun and the perfect indulgence for any occasion. Therefore, all the company’s products are handcrafted in small batches using the finest quality, all-natural ingredients including locally sourced products such as farm-fresh eggs and Brooklyn-based Mast Brothers chocolate. It’s easy to taste the love and care put into these products. The brownies are so moist they melt in your mouth. The macaroons are the perfect combination of sweet coconut flavoring and melted chocolate and the waffle cookies would be an ideal addition to either your breakfast table or a dessert tray. The cookies are understandably light without being crisp. The waffles provide a nice, savory juxtaposition against the sweetness of the milk chocolate.

Any of these treats would be a great addition to gift baskets or used as wedding favors (trust me, your guests will thank you). Just make sure the ceremony is during the fall or winter months … and instruct guests to bring a bulky cardigan. They will definitely want to go back for seconds. For more information about bakeshop, visit bakeshopcookies.com or call 973/919-1988.

~Cathryn

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Editor's Choice: Cypress Grove Chevre

Just from browsing the Cypress Grove Chevre website, you can tell that this California-based company is run by people who are deeply devoted to goat cheese. Not only do they make excellent fare, but their website is teeming with cheese facts. For example, did you know that France has a different cheese for each day of the year? Or that the love of cheese is called “turophilia”?

I might become a turophiliac myself if I keep eating Cypress Grove’s cheese. I sampled the PsycheDillic and Purple Haze fresh cheeses, which are both part of Cypress Grove Chevre’s Flashback Family Gift Pack.

Both cheeses were wonderfully creamy and smooth. I found that eating them at room temperature (which Cypress Grove recommends) brought out each flavor to its fullest. The Purple Haze, meshing lavender and wild fennel pollen, was light and tasted fragrant. The PsycheDillic was made with dill pollen, and it tasted herbal and earthy.

The Flashback Family Gift Pack has a groovy hippie theme and even comes with blue John Lennon-styled glasses. In addition to Purple Haze and Psychedillic, the pack includes:

-Sgt. Pepper
-Ms. Natural
-Herbs de Humboldt

Each flavor is sealed into 4 ounce packages. The family pack should not be restricted to just families, though. It would make a great gift for any wine or cheese lover, as well as any foodie.

-Tara

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Editor's Choice: Jolly Llama


There was great joy in the office last week as a special package arrived. Since it was marked perishable, it had to be opened immediately. The package contained Jolly Llama (jollyllamasorbets.com) Real Fruit Sorbet Squeezups. You could hear the enthusiastic response as the boxes were taken out and the flavors were revealed.

I selected a raspberry one and with the first taste realized why the llama on the package was so jolly.  It brought a taste of fresh raspberry, just sweet enough. It was also creamy. The combination of texture and taste made a satisfying treat.

The next day, I tried a peach one. Again I was rewarded with a wonderful fresh fruit creamy taste. I’m told the mango flavor was another crowd pleaser with my co-workers. I say heard, because I was too late to sample one. Incidentally, there is a reason for the great taste. The squeezeups are made from sun-ripened whole fruit. 

Besides raspberry, peach and mango, they are also available in blueberry, strawberry, acai and banana coconut. And you don’t have to feel guilty because they are fat free and also offer Vitamins C & A.

For retailers, they are also gluten-free, an important consideration for many people.

The squeezeups, are a delicious treat and a taste of summer, all rolled up into one.

Barbara 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Editor's Choice: August Kitchen's J. Burger

Even as summer fades to fall, I love a good barbecue. And while barbecues are normally a hearty collection of beers and brats — my favorite element is the burger. I recently told my husband that I could eat burgers daily and it wasn’t an exaggeration. In fact, in my house I’m the Burger Connoisseur. So, I was completely surprised when I discovered a way to simplify making burgers without sacrificing the taste.

Enter August Kitchen’s J. Burger. This jar of seasoning can be used as a marinade or a dip. Sold in both Original Onion and Chipotle & Onion flavors, J. Burger makes traditional ground chuck gourmet. It’s clear from the flavor profile that August Kitchen uses real onions (not onion powder) in the mixture. When preparing you burger, add 1 tablespoon into every 5 ounces of ground meat before making patties or balls. While the preparation method is the same for the company’s Chipotle & Onion flavor, this mixture is much richer and spicier. While it’s not for the faint of heart, it will definitely still be a crowd pleaser.  If you’re looking for an alternative to red meat, the company recommends its use when marinating chicken or fish.

So, if you want a burger that isn’t part of a value meal, be sure to stock up on August Kitchen’s J. Burger. Even burger connoisseurs won’t be able to turn up their noses at this gourmet delicacy that makes an ordinary meal extraordinary.

~Cathryn

Monday, September 26, 2011

Editor's Choice: Curt's BBQ Sauce

Besides ice cream, barbecue sauce is my husband’s favorite thing to eat. We often joke that we should cut out the middleman and not bother with cooking meat: just pour some sauce on a plate and lick it up; better yet, drench a few pages of newspaper in it for a heartier meal.

Needless to say, I was excited when Curt’s BBQ Sauce (218/731-2432 or curtsbbqsauce.com) arrived in our office. I brought home a bottle of the Mild flavor and asked my husband to slather it on the pork chops that he grilled that night.

Both of us gave the sauce two thumbs up. The sweet, tangy flavor went well with the pork, but I can imagine it also being tasty with steaks, chicken, ribs or onion rings and French fries when used for dipping. The sauce is thin, so it means you can spread it out to go a long way, or use half a bottle between two people (like we did) to get as much sauce onto each bite as possible.

Curt’s offers its tantalizing sauce in Mild, Medium and Hot flavors. It also comes in sizes ranging from 4 pints to 1 gallon and ranges in price from $16—$52, not including shipping.

I had wanted to bring home the Medium flavor to satisfy my husband’s taste for hotter barbecue. But I didn’t move quickly enough—another staffer whisked away this flavorful sauce.

Tara

Friday, September 16, 2011

Editor's Choice: Bentley's Reserve


When it comes to popcorn snacks, we all have our favorites. It might be a local brand, and/or a childhood treat. For me, the most important part is it has to taste fresh. So I was more than willing to try a sample of Bentley’s Reserve (bentleyspopcorn.com) a couple of months back at a gift show. The popcorn had a great rich taste. It was not overly sweet, but filled with a delicious toffee caramel flavor. It was definitely a winner.

I was given a couple of sample bags to take home. This week, since it was my turn to review, I opened one and found that it tasted just as fresh as I remembered. That great toffee caramel flavor once again brought that “this is so good” feeling.

The Bentley family has been making the gourmet popcorn from old family recipes for a many years.  But there’s a little more to the story. The family members are also passionate about helping homeless pets. In fact, the company is named after the family dog. Through the Bentley’s Buddies program, for every bag sold, Bentley’s Buddies make a charitable donation to the Homeless Pets Foundation.  

The gourmet popcorn also comes in cinnamon almond and praline pecan. I could definitely see it used as a holiday party treat. For retailers, it is available in bags and gift boxes, so it would make a fine gift. And it is also offered in grab-n-go 2.5-ounce bags, perfect for store display.

Barbara

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Editor's Choice: Hammond's Candies Pumpkin Pie Dip

The weather has already started to cool in Chicago as summer melts away. But, I’m not depressed. Fall is my favorite season (despite the fact that dreary winter weather follows it). Fall is a season built around rust colored hues, football games and adequately layered clothing. Most importantly though, it’s the season for all things pumpkin flavored. Therefore, when Hammond’s Candies sent us a sample of their newest condiment — Pumpkin Pie Dip — I was thrilled.

I have to admit, I am not much of a pie baker. Therefore, I was incredibly impressed with the flavor and subtle seasoning employed.  The dip sincerely tasted like a homemade pumpkin pie in a jar. However, what is most noteworthy about Hammond’s Candies’ dips are their product versatility. I bought a package of pretzels and used it as a condiment. But, I can also see the flavor being warmed and used as an ice cream topping. Or, melted down to compose a glaze for cakes. Or, as the filling for pies and tarts. Because it’s not overly sweet, the dip can perfectly accent either an appetizer tray or a dessert table. 

Hammond’s offers a variety of flavors in the company’s dip category to match various seasons. While Pumpkin Pie is perfect for fall, sample the company’s Peppermint Patty or Chocolate Cherry Cordial dips during the holiday season. Grandma’s Apple Pie dip would be ideal for springtime. And, the Lucious Lemon Drop dip is light enough for summer evenings. All five flavors come in 9 to 10 ounce jars and retail for $6.95. So, be sure to ring in my favorite season with a delicious corresponding flavor, Pumpkin Pie. YUM!

~Cathryn

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Editor's Choice: Gimbal's Fine Candies

Every once and a while, the Fancy Food editors take a little break from so much, well, fancy food. Don't get us wrong — we're still passionate about gourmet products and specialty food retailers, but every once in a while, we review something a little more low brow. No high quality ingredients, eco-friendly organic origins or impressive-sounding health benefits; instead, we go for the check-out counter appeal of good, old-fashioned, bad-for-your-teeth candy. And today's fix comes in the form of Gimbal's Fine Candies' Sour Lovers, a rainbow of gummi candies that make your mouth pucker upon contact.

The Sour Lovers are exactly what they sound like. Each flavor packs quite a sour-tasting kick, but with enough sweetness that you'll find yourself eating way more than you realized you could. My mother wouldn't want me to leave out that the candies are made with real fruit juice and are high in vitamin C, although most kids frequenting your store will only see the rainbow of colors and a thick, grainy coating of sugar encasing each piece. Sour Lovers are just as addicting as I had suspected they were, and if you're ready to take a little fancy food break yourself, keep a few bags of these intensely sour candies at the front of your store for an unexpected yet welcome change of pace.

—Melody

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Editor's Choice: Simply 7 Snacks


Like probably many people I like to have a little something to munch on to go with a sandwich. Unfortunately, most of those treats, like French fries and chips of many varieties are not the best for you. It’s the old trying to eat healthy thing, again. I was faced with this dilemma at home this weekend and discovered a tasty alternative.

I had picked up a bag of Simply 7 Snacks (simply7snacks.com) Hummus Chips at a show recently. The chips are baked, giving them health points and at the same time providing them with a good crunch. The Sea Salt flavor offered that first satisfying salty snack taste. This is paired with the hummus, which gives them a fuller, richer flavor. The chips are the perfect accompaniment for sandwiches and soups. Since they are formed like shells, they also would be good for scooping up hummus and other dips.

Sea Salt is the original flavor, but the chips also are available in Tomato Basil and Spicy Chili Pepper. Retailers could promote them as a snack alternative, an option to include in school lunches and in college care packages.

And, of course, a fine addition to the snack drawer.

Barbara     

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Editor's Choice: Katie's Home Style, Old-Fashioned, Pool-Room Mustard Slaw


There are a few Chicago delicacies that I readily enjoy, as well as a number of which I pass on. For instance, you’ll never catch me indulging on deep-dish pizza. Mostly because I believe it tastes like a pizza casserole. It’s too dense for me. And, when I initially moved here, I thought I would feel the same about Chicago-style hotdogs. With so much going on, how could it be good? But, the Chicago dog (complete with a beef frank smothered in yellow mustard, onions, pickled relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato wedges and a dash of celery salt on a poppy seed bun) stole my heart. In fact, I’ve sworn that I will never eat hotdogs any other way. That is, until I sampled Katie’s Home Style, Old-Fashioned, Pool-Room Mustard Slaw by the Shoals Commercial Culinary Center. The condiment made my barbecues easier because it adds so much to hotdogs and hamburgers.

Made in Florence, Alabama, Katie’s Slaw is a delightful mixture of cabbage, mustard, carrots, onions, sugar, vinegar, bell peppers, various spices and salt. It has an unexpected spicy kick that’s not for the faint of heart. While I solely tried it on my hotdog, I can see the slaw as an excellent accompaniment on hamburgers, cold cut sandwiches or alongside barbecue chicken. Moreover, it’s low in cholesterol and calories. Many Weight Watchers clients claim it’s the perfect way to liven up proteins without over-indulging. It’s available in over 70 stores and delicatessens in eight states. I advise you make your store, restaurant or deli the next to offer it. Your customers will thank you! And you better believe, I’m thankful to have the condiment for future outdoor gathers to come. This way, I don’t have to stock up on yellow mustard, onions, picked relish, dill pickle spears, tomato wedges or celery salt!

~Cathryn

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Editor's Choice: Sulpice Chocolat

One of the many benefits of editing a gourmet food publication is the chocolate. We receive our fair share of chocolate samples in every form, packaging and shape you can think of. And not just any chocolate: high-end, gourmet products that make chocolate snobs like me weak in the knees.

Sulpice Chocolat picked the perfect week to send us a box of samples. It happened to be a week full of deadlines, impending projects and rather busy schedules, so taking a moment to myself for a quick chocolate break was much-needed. I chose the Pistache flavor, which incorporates cardamom, orange essence and toasted pistachios into a chocolate bar packed with 55-percent dark chocolate. (A perfect ratio, if you ask me.) The flavors blended beautifully, and had I not shared this little gem with the other editors, I could have easily scarfed down the entire bar and been left wanting more.

Paired with a cup of hot tea or coffee, enjoying a gourmet chocolate bar from Sulpice makes the perfect wind-down treat. And trust us, it won't hurt to stash a bar or two in the office for a busy day treat.

—Melody

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Editor's Choice: Asian Sun Tea



Like many people, I have been drinking more green tea lately. I’ve always enjoyed tea and the many reported health benefits are an added bonus.  So at a recent gift show, I was happy to try a sample of some peach-flavored iced tea. I was pleasantly surprised that the good tasting tea from Asian Sun Tea (asiansuntea.com) was actually liquid green tea that was mixed into cold water. The tea comes in liquid form in single serve packets and there’s no steeping required. The single serve packet means you can take it anywhere. It also works with hot water. The company rep said she also mixes it into smoothies.

Besides the peach, the teas are available in natural, lemon and raspberry flavors. They are offered presweetened or unsweetened and in 15-count boxes.

But for retailers, there is more. The company offers a lovely embroidered silk tea wallet that holds four teas. It is available in an assortment of colors and retails under $10. I could see it as a great add-on gift, in a gift basket or even as a stocking stuffer.

The teas are also available in gift boxes and a wooden tea box, perfect for display.
Something that tastes good and is good for you, that sounds like a fine choice to me.

Barbara

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Editor's Choice: La Crema Roasting and Packaging

I start every single morning with coffee, and prefer to make a cup myself rather than stopping at Starbucks. I usually just reach for a blend from Trader Joe’s, but I love trying new coffees to liven up my morning.

At the Living and Giving Show at the Chicago Merchandise Mart this week, I picked up a pack of coffee from La Crema Roasting and Packaging, which is based in West Chester, OH. The Blah Blah Blend is part of La Crema’s Girlfriends line of coffee, which includes four blends flavored with chocolate, spices or nuts. The Blah Blah blend is flavored like a vanilla cupcake frosted with almond icing, and was great with just a splash of milk. I drink my coffee iced during the warmer months, and this blend translated well to an iced version. I never add sugar to coffee, and it was a nice change from my more bitter drinks to sip a coffee featuring hints of sweetness.

La Crema uses 100-percent Colombian coffee and packages the Girlfriends line in bright green, pink or black packaging with a café design on the front. It would be perfect as part of a brunch gift basket or to serve at a girls only shower or other event.

- Amy

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Editor's Choice: Java Frost

I don't make a habit of sipping pipping hot beverages at my desk in the middle of July, but today I'm making an exception. Today just happens to be the first day this entire month that Chicagoans have escaped the unrelenting sun, and the humidity has dropped to a nearly tolerable level. So as I scanned our shelf for the newest gourmet product to review, a tin of Java Frost Candy Cane Creme Gourmet Drink Mix caught my eye. I know what you're thinking: What sane person drinks hot chocolate in the summertime? As it turns out, I do. And I'm glad I did.

Java Frost is known for its line of gourmet drink mixes, and the Candy Cane Creme is just one in its line of holiday offerings (along with Pumpkin Cheesecake and Red Hot Reindeer). Although similar to a hot chocolate, the Candy Cane Creme is more like a creamy mint tea. The little flecks of peppermint take the beverage over the top; I felt like I was drinking a liquid candy cane. While I simply stirred a few tablespoons of the mix into a mug of hot water, customers can also incorporate ice and a blender to make a drink similar to a Frappuccino or pour the drink straight over a glass of ice.

While the Candy Cane Creme certainly won't be my drink of choice once the sweltering heat kicks back in, an afternoon mug every once in a while is a sure way to bring a little Christmas spirit in July.

—Melody

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Editor's Choice: Aladdin's Containers

Just as in elementary school, one of my favorite times of the day is lunch. With the recent rise in warm weather (yes, even in Chicago) — my fellow editors and I are notorious for camping out picnic style in the common area in front of our building. And, as with all things, we each have our own style of lunch contraptions. Some have easy to fold bags; others tote cool lunch boxes. I am partial to bent, dented and morphed Tupperware containers. It’s true. While all my work friends have clever lunch bags, I’m the odd person out.

However, that’s soon to change as I’ve discovered Aladdin’s Collapsible Lunch Collection. These containers are perfect for keeping portable, on-the-go lunches fresh. Moreover, they come in a variety of sizes. I’m partial to the large “salad size” container. As an added bonus, salad lovers can include a variety of condiments (think nuts, cheese and dressing) in the smaller containers (which have indented places in the large bowl’s lid). Aladdin’s mid-sized container has an attachable stem tray in case you want to warm entrees in your office kitchen.

One of the more annoying side effects of bringing your lunch is having to tote Tupperware home. Aladdin found an easily solution to this as well. All containers collapse so they are easy to get home and equally easy to store in my crowded apartment cabinets. It seems Aladdin thought of everything. Luckily for me, the company can serve as my lunch time genie. For more information, visit Aladdin-pmi.com.

~Cathryn

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Editor's Choice: Vermont Natural Foods


I’ve always liked light dressings on my salads. At home, a good olive oil and balsamic vinegar is just fine with me. If I’m at a restaurant, my tastes run to trying one of the vinaigrettes offered.

I’m also a big fan of berries. So you can imagine my delight when Vermont Natural Foods Red Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette (vtnaturalfoods.com) was sent to the office recently. I took it home and tried it on a simple salad. As I took the first bite, I was welcomed with the great taste of raspberry, sweet, yet a little tart blending nicely with the balsamic vinegar. It livened up the salad.

I next tried it on some slices of yellow zucchini I had cooked in the microwave. Again, it added a good contrast to the vegetable’s fresh, mellow taste. Lastly, I sprinkled a little on a roast beef sandwich where it added just the right burst of flavor.

Incidentally, besides the taste, another great thing about the vinaigrette is that it is gluten-free. In fact, it is part of a line of gluten-free vinaigrettes the company offers. Besides dressing salads, vegetables, etc., they all can be used to make tasty marinades for chicken and other meats. The website provides recipes.

For retailers, I can see this vinaigrette as part of a summer meal planning or grilling display. I can also see it as part of a celebrating berries promotion.

But for me, most of all, it captures in a bottle another great taste of summer.

Barbara

Friday, July 8, 2011

The July Digital Issue of Fancy Food Magazine is Now Available


Welcome to the July digital issue of Fancy Food & Culinary Products.

FF July Cover
This Month's Featured Content:
• Divine Desserts
• Shortcut Sauces
• Chocoholic Unanonymous
• Shelftalk

• Readers Respond
• Ad Index

New Feature:
Now Viewable on Ipads


Please Note:
The FF 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 FF. Feel free to contact us with your thoughts and feedback at fancyfood@talcott.com.

Sincerely,
The FF Team

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Editor's Choice: Ovation

For many people, a bite of chocolate after lunch or dinner isn’t just a treat—it’s a necessity. Small and sweet Ovation sticks fit the bill. Available in mint, orange, Irish cream or cappuccino, the sticks are a great way for customers to have a chocolaty bite after a meal.

The cappuccino offers a light hint of coffee flavor, which comes from real coffee beans. It isn’t overwhelming, so those who don’t love coffee won’t be turned away. The sticks come individually wrapped with 40 to a 4.4-ounce box. The kosher chocolate can be served with ice cream or coffee, and are great just on their own.

Ovation sticks, made by SweetWorks, check in at just 15 calories per stick, so customers won’t have to worry about ruining their diets.

—Amy

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Editor's Choice: Demitri's Bloody Mary Seasoning

I love breakfast food. In fact, at my house, we often have breakfast for dinner and cook an assortment of waffles, French toast, omelets, bacon and grits. And, my love for the morning meal doesn’t stop at the food. Morning cocktails are regularly enjoyed — whether it means mixing up Bellini’s, mimosas or Irish coffee.  However, my breakfast/brunch beverage of choice will always be the Bloody Mary. This probably stems from my inherent love of all things tomato/tomato flavored. When I was a child, my mom had a huge vegetable garden and I would eat cherry tomatoes by the fist full. So, when Demitri’s Bloody Mary Seasoning Kit (complete with two cans of tomato juice, two different jars of seasoning and the company’s Bacon RimShot) showed up in the office, I made a beeline for it.

The seasoning I prepare myself for Bloody Mary’s generally resembles a combination of ingredients you would use to marinade a steak. There’s certainly a hearty mixture of Worcestershire Sauce, a dash of garlic and red pepper flakes (as I like my libation spicy). Therefore, I was happy to see that Demitri’s incorporated a similar recipe and executed it perfectly. I sampled both the company’s signature flavor and its Chipotle-Habanero (the newest flavor in the line). Both were tasty and well balanced (a difficult feat considering the number of ingredients listed). The Chipotle-Habanero has a hearty kick that’s spicy without turning the drinker off. You’ll definitely come back for more. I preferred the Bacon RimShot — a bacon flavored bloody Mary rim salt that features J&D baconsalt — against the more basic flavors of the classic recipe. Regardless, these handy mixtures are sure to make breakfast, brunch or breakfast of dinner more fun!

~Cathryn

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Editor's Choice: Doc's Dressings

We get our fair share of salad dressings here in the Fancy Food office. And luckily for us bring-your-lunch types, there's always a wide array of dressings to choose from in the staff fridge. I never have to worry about toting a bottle of ranch along with my usual salad. With last week's salad — greens, sliced Asian pears, chopped walnuts and a sprinkle of crumbled bleu cheese — I reached for the perfect accompaniment: the Balsamic Vinaigrette from Doc's Dressings.

The slightly sweet vinaigrette didn't overpower the veggies in my salad, and its tangy kick paired well with the crisp pears. I can see this dressing used alongside a vegetable tray as a dip or even used as a marinade for grilled chicken breasts. Best of all, the vinaigrette is low-fat and gluten-free, making the dressing more appealing to specialty customers.

Other than the Balsamic Vinaigrette, which comes with a sweet message to a childhood friend on the back of the bottle, Doc's offers Mark's Miso Vinaigrette, Quintessence Marinade and Doc's Rockin' Salsa, and the company has even included recipes on the website for using each product.

But if you're anything like us, the salad dressing will be gone before you have a chance to even contemplate an alternate use.

—Melody

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Editor's Choice: Aunt Sally's


Like many people I suppose, for me, certain foods are connected to memories of people and places. I first tasted this week’s choice, Aunt Sally’s pralines (auntsallys.com) during a trip to New Orleans. I remember walking into the charming shop and deciding to try some of the local fare. With the first taste, I became a praline fan. It was delicious, and there was something wonderfully decadent about it. Over the years, I’ve brought back pralines to enjoy and shared them with family and friends.

A perk of working for Fancy Food & Culinary Products magazine is sometimes your favorite foods come to you. It was at the recent Sweets & Snacks Expo held here in Chicago that I received samples of the pralines, including some new flavors.

One of these is Bananas Foster. For me, it is another memory treat. The smooth, rich creamy taste of pecans and brown sugar blends perfectly with the taste of banana and other flavors to evoke the famous dessert served at Brennan’s, The praline makes a great dessert or a nice treat in the afternoon. It joins a whole selection of flavors including original, Café au lait, and chocolate. All would be a fine take-along choice for a summer evening outing, as well.

For retailers, I could see the pralines included in a variety of gift baskets. They could even be part of a promotion or theme event. And for later in the year, they could be a fun stocking stuffer.

It’s another gift from New Orleans that you can enjoy anytime.

Barbara

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Editor's Choice: Sahale Snacks Tuscan Almonds with Parmesan and Herbs

When it comes to snacking, I’m generally looking for two things — crunchy and cheesy. My snack preferences usually lead me to cheese popcorn or cheese and crackers, but sometimes I want something a little more upscale. When Sahale Snacks’ Tuscan Almonds with Parmesan and Herbs crossed my desk today, I  opened them as a post-lunch snack.

The seasoned nuts are part of Sahale’s newest collection, which also includes Barbeque Almonds with Mild Chipotle and Ranch and Southwest Cashews with Chile and Cheddar. I didn’t open either of the other bags, since I was drawn to the promise of salty Parmesan and herbs like basil and thyme.

The nuts provide a definite crunch and the seasonings are baked onto them, forming a rough coating. Also in the seasoning mix is sun-dried tomatoes, red pepper and oregano. Each serving offers five grams of protein, calcium, iron and fiber, so it’s a healthier choice than chips. And it’s tasty — the mix of toppings evokes Italian dishes and they’re a fun twist on straight up almonds. Recommended for cocktail parties or straight out of the bag at your desk.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Editor's Choice: KP's Specialty Spicy Trail Mix


For the majority of my childhood, I detested nuts. In fact, in elementary school, I was overheard telling a teacher that I had a peanut allergy. This lie cost me an entire playtime and earned a severe scolding from my mother. And while I can’t pinpoint the moment this aversion to nuts passed, I can say with certainty that the salty snack is currently one of my go-to afternoon treats. Therefore, I was highly pleased when KP’s Spicy Trail Mix — a combination of peanuts, almonds, cashews, sesame sticks, BBQ corn sticks and chocolate morsels covered in spicy goodness — arrived in the office (as were my colleagues; the nuts were wiped out quickly to say the least).

It’s not surprising that the trail mix incorporates a mildly, spicy kick. KP’s Specialty Pepper Product’s slogan is “Flavor & Heat in Harmony.” The tagline couldn’t be more accurate. The trail mix is spicy without being inedible. The heat adds to the flavor of the nuts and sweets without overpowering them. It’s also unsurprising that the line has been awarded multiple Scovie Awards for the past three years in both the nut and snacks-unique categories.

KP’s tins are compact enough to throw into a backpack and nibble on during summer hikes or throw in your purse in case your blood sugar drops. Moreover, the line offers a multitude of unique flavors including sweet and spicy peanuts. The company also produces a variety of spice blends to ensure steaks aren’t bland. For more information, or to purchase the products visit shop.kpsauces.com.

~Cathryn

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Editor's Choice: Almondina


I often feel that come 3 p.m., everyone needs a cookie or two to get through the rest of the work day. After a little sugar rush, that mounting to-do list doesn't seem quite as long, and deadlines seem just a bit more manageable than before. Today's 3 p.m. snack came in the form of chocolate-dipped Almondina biscuits, a thin hybrid of cookie and biscotti that contains a variety of nuts and raisins and comes dipped in rich dark chocolate. Not too sweet, Almondina biscuits provide just the right amount of chewiness and a little bit of crunch to make for a satisfying snack.

Based on his grandmother's storied recipe for petit gateau sec, owner Yuval Zaliouk began manufacturing the biscuits under his grandmother's name, Almondina. The product appeals to both snackers and the health-conscious; Almondina contains no preservatives, cholesterol, added fat or salt. And with only 30 calories per biscuit, I know I'll be having one more than mid-day cookie.

— Melody

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Editors Choice: Doti US Berry Allure


As anyone who reads our Editor’s Choices probably knows, I am rather fond of chocolate. With all the good research coming out about its benefits, especially dark chocolate, I feel vindicated. I do, however, also try to eat healthy, fruits and vegetables, etc., so our latest food package, was the perfect subject for me on several levels.

Berry Allure, chocolate covered delicacies, from Doti US Inc. (doti-us.com) consists of fruits and nuts covered in milk and dark chocolate. Over the course of the week, I went on a tasty tour. I first sampled the mix, which offers a natural pairing, smooth dark chocolate encases sweet, flavorful strawberries and chewy gooseberries. These are paired with milk chocolate semi-crunchy almonds for a delicious variety of tastes and textures.

Later in the week the single bag flavors beckoned, so I explored further. I was well rewarded. The dark chocolate coating opens to the sweet, fresh taste of pineapple. The apple surprises with a crunchy, not as sweet taste. Come to think of it, these fruits are often offered with chocolate fondues. The dark chocolate-covered plum was another treat, with a rich, full flavor.

Attractively packaged, these mixes and single fruits would be a nice host or hostess gift. I could also see them used as a dessert option. For retailers, they would be a great addition to a variety of gift baskets. I could also see them in your picnic and outdoor dining sections as a fun take-along option.

Barbara

The May Digital Issue of Gift, Gourmet & Decor is Now Available

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


This Month's Featured Content:
• Greeting Card Gazette
• Plush: Soft & Cuddly
• Halloween: Best Witches
• Newsmakers
• Colors: Honeysuckle
• Candyland
• Calendar

New Feature:
Now Viewable on Ipads

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, May 10, 2011

Editor's Choice: Stonehouse 27

Despite taking an Indian cooking class a couple years ago, I still reach for Grub Hub to place an order whenever I’m craving rich saag paneer, crispy dosas and tangy chicken tikka masala. It turns out I don’t always have to — I can reach for a jar of Stonehouse 27, which offers quality Indian flavors, and whip up dishes at home.

When a sampler box arrived at the office, I grabbed mild Cashews and Cream and medium Tomato and Chilies. At the grocery store I picked up blocks of tofu and garlic naan to serve alongside the basmati rice I always have in my pantry. I put the rice on to cook and fried the tofu while I heated the oven. Once the tofu was golden, I inverted the jars of sauce over two saucepans and placed the naan in the oven — dinner was ready in 20 minutes.

It couldn’t have been an easier dinner to make, and since each jar makes four servings, we had plenty leftover for work lunches this week. Our favorite was the Cashews and Cream, which is made with onions, garlic, paprika and cashews. Tomato and Chilies offered accents of earthy cinnamon.

But you don’t have to go the traditional route like I did. Stonehouse 27’s website offers easy recipes for its sauces, which also include Dates and Tamarind and Cilantro and Coconut. Try them as a pasta sauce, in nachos, or with mussels. Cook with veggies and top with an egg. Use as a marinade. The sauces are incredibly versatile, and one jar can go a long way.

Founder Sharon Fernandes, who grew up in India, wanted to bring a healthier edge to Indian cooking. The sauces are made with fresh herbs and produce, agave nectar instead of sugar and have no added salt. Finally, Indian food without the guilt — and in less time that it would take for your delivery to arrive.

— Amy

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Editor's Choice: Dr. Lucy's Gluten Free Cookies


I am decidedly not a health nut. My kitchen cupboards are currently brimming with an assortment of Girl Scout Thin Mints, Jelly Belly jellybeans, Cadbury Cream Eggs (i.e. the remnants of Easter) and Cool Ranch Doritos. On top of which, I’m notorious for baking Snicker Doodle Cookies and following the Sprinkles Cupcake truck on Twitter. (Needless to say, my gym membership is a remarkably wise investment towards maintaining a waist). However, I have recently noticed a trend in the gourmet snack market. While there is still an assortment of gluttonous munchies, healthy alternatives are becoming more and more frequent. Traditionally, this wouldn’t appeal to me. After all, if I want a healthy snack (i.e. something I view as flavorless) I’ll nibble on celery sticks. But, Lucy’s Gluten Free Cookies recently changed my option.
Dr. Lucy Gibney started the bakery as a way to create a flavorful, modified diet for her child — who has a number of food allergies. In order to do so, she has three key standards consumers can count on. The company only buys raw materials from carefully selected producers, thus reducing or eliminating the chance for allergen contact before use of the ingredients. The company uses the best available methods to ensure there are no detectable allergens from their testing list: gluten, milk, eggs, peanuts and almonds. And, tree nuts and peanuts aren’t allowed in the baking facility or even the building.
And, while it’s great that these tasty snacks are the perfect after school snack for children with allergies, why should you buy them? The answer is simple. They are delicious. There are four flavors within the brand: sugar, chocolate chip, cinnamon thin and oatmeal cookies. I’ve tasted both the chocolate chip and the cinnamon thin varieties. Surprisingly, in flavor, they rival anything I’d bake myself or even sweets I’ve noshed on at Chicago’s best bakeries. So, maybe this is my first step towards healthy eating. At bare minimum, I can replace those thin mints with something that won’t make me so thick!
~Cathryn

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Editor's Choice: Snikiddy

It seems that we've been getting loads of candy in the office recently. Not that I'm complaining; I have a bigger sweet tooth than Willy Wonka. But after a while, the guilt starts to set in. In the midst of developing a plan to abolish my sweet tooth, we received a bag of Snikiddy Baked Fries. After one salty bite, I could care less about the remaining truffles patiently awaiting consumption at my desk.

Snikiddy's mission to create all-natural products makes the company stand out in a world chock-full of snack goods. The Baked Fries are gluten- and wheat-free, made without preservatives and corn syrup and have 50-percent less fat than regular potato chips. We received the Sea Salt and Barbecue flavors, but Snikiddy offers several others, including Original, Classic Ketchup, Southwest Cheddar, Bold Buffalo and more. In addition, the company also sells a line of cheese puffs with flavors like Grilled Cheese and Mac 'n Cheese.

The salty, crisp fries have a crunch more similar to potato chips than French fries. I was happy to know that my hand wasn't covered in grease after just a few bites. Best of all, my 3 p.m. snack didn't leave me with a sugar rush. Snikiddy products may sound more like an after-school snack, but trust us when we say they appeal to the salt-loving adults in all of us.

—Melody

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Editors Choice: Kari's Malva Pudding

Pudding, for many, is one of those comfort foods. For me, it brings memories of a surprise treat at the end of a family dinner; later memories include banana pudding at a favorite local restaurant or bread pudding with rum sauce in New Orleans.

So I was immediately interested when we got an e-mail talking about a pudding cake that originated in South-Africa, Kari’s Malva Pudding (www.malvapudding.com). It is made from a Dutch recipe. The more intriguing part, however, was the celebrity of its fans, which include Oprah, Nelson Mandela and Henry Kissinger.

A few days later, the pudding cakes arrived. After thawing, it’s recommended that you heat it up a bit, so that’s what we did. The pudding is rich and dense, more like a cake than a pudding. Heating it in the microwave really brings out the caramel flavor and the little bit of sweetness from the recipe’s apricot jam.

To add to the delight, a chocolate flavor was recently added to the line. Again the pudding cake is dense, yet moist. The rich chocolate taste blends wonderfully with the caramel and is accented with the fresh apricot taste. Another flavorful choice.

I could see it topped with raspberries or as suggested, with ice cream. In the winter, the warm pudding would make the perfect ending to any meal or a dessert treat with friends.

For retailers, Malva Pudding comes in a round container and can be kept in the freezer. It would make a fine addition to your dessert section and then, of course, there is that story to tell.

Barbara

Friday, April 15, 2011

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

Dear GGD Reader,

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

GGD April Cover
This Month's Featured Content:
• Paper Power
• Season Greetings
• Paw Prints
• Baby Lookbook

• Top it Off
• Honeysuckle
• Calendar

New Feature:
Now Viewable on Ipads

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, April 12, 2011

Editor's Choice: French Food Connection

The French Food Connection rolled into Chicago yesterday, the first stop of a three-city tour bringing French confections, cheeses and other treats to people in the food industry. The tour stops in Las Vegas on April 13 and San Francisco on April 15.

The Fancy Food editors attended the show and we left with full tummies and a lot of great new products to share with you. Below are a couple of our favorites:

French Cheese Club’s Crème de Chaource
Crème de Chaource, a new product from Didier Lincet, is both versatile and delicious. The creamy, mild cheese is light and can be used to replace cream or butter in sauces. It can be mixed with pasta, spread between slices of bread for grilled cheese, and more. It also makes a great fondue.

Mag’m’s Macarons
Hailed by some foodies as the “new cupcake,” macarons are a delicate French confection. Not to be confused with the sweet coconut clusters, macarons are made with almonds, sugar and egg whites and feature a crisp shell with smooth filling. Mag’m offers the delicacies frozen, so it’s possible to have French flavors any time of day. We liked the raspberry and coconut passion fruit flavors.

Le Manoir des Abeilles’ Lavender Honey
Le Manoir’s honey is entirely unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. Raw and unpasteurized, the honey is creamy and packs great flavor. Le Manoir also offers flower, acacia and chestnut tree flavors, but the lavender really stands out.

Chocmod USA’s fruit pates
Chocmod has been selling truffles in the U.S. for 20 years. While the truffles are undeniably tasty, we’re still thinking about the fruit pates. Jelly-like squares coated in sugar, the pates come in apricot and blackberry. The blackberry tastes like you just popped a fresh berry in your mouth.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Editor's Choice: Vanille Patisserie


I love all things French. After all, this is a country where the fashion is couture, the men are romantic and the food is decadent. What I don't love is not having the money to consistently vacation there. However, thanks to the delicious desserts from Vanille Patisserie — my favorite part of France is within walking distance.


Husband and wife duo, Dimitri and Keli Fayard have two outposts of the gourmet French pastry shop in Chicago to accommodate downtown residents and their Lincoln Park counterparts. The pair is dedicated to maintaining classic French techniques and authenticity. In fact, Dimitri was born in L’isle Arne, France and he’s a member of the elite Academie Culinaire de France. However, despite a concerned dedication to traditional technique, the couple offers a variety of contemporary and surprising flavor profiles to please any palate.

As a huge fan of macarons, the beautifully petite cookie sandwiches were the first things I sampled. Vanille Patisserie offers 15 different macaron flavors per season. They create everything from classics (such as chocolate, raspberry and vanilla bean) to floral flavors (with tastes of rose and lavender) and even sinful delicacies (welcome chocolate hazelnut and peanut butter & jelly). I must shamefully admit that I sampled my fair share and was equally drawn to the refreshing lightness of their lemon macaron and the delicate nuttiness of their pistachio flavor. Everyone knows the secret to truly fabulous macarons is a crisp exterior juxtaposition with a chewy interior. Few pastry wizards can achieve this feat of culinary, textural magic. But, Vanille Patisserie did so with ease. Moreover, the buttercream, ganache or fruit paste fillings weren’t overly sweet or overpowering. In short, these macarons were au-dela parfaite.

Chances are, if you have as big a sweet tooth as mine, you won’t be able to stop at macarons alone. Vanille Patisserie offers an assortment of petit fours, entremets, tarts and croissants perfect for the wedding sweets table or gift baskets. They offer bon bons, truffles, candies and cookies wholesale for service related industries such as hotels, restaurants and gourmet markets. Visit their website, vanillepatisserie.com, for more information. And by all means, s’il vous plait profiter.

~Cathryn

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Editor's Choice: Contigo

I have a thing for reusable water bottles. On any given day, I have at least one at my desk, a couple in my car and several threatening to burst out of my kitchen cabinets. But for the amount of water bottles that I've accumulated, I've probably thrown out just as many. Sooner or later, the lid stops screwing on correctly or the interior straw starts leaking. When I stopped at the Contigo booth at the International Home + Housewares Show, I mentioned my penchant for reusable water bottles and how they inevitably get tossed once they stop working. Contigo sent me home with the Autoseal Bella Double Wall Insulated Mug, and I have a feeling I won't be needing any of the other water bottles I keep on-hand.

Contigo is known for the Autoseal technology; with a quick push of a button on the back of the mug, the seal opens up and allows you to drink — perfect for clumsy drinkers like me. The seal also prevents liquid from leaking, so you can throw it into a bag or stash it in a desk drawer without worrying about spills. The insulated mug also keeps both warm and cool beverages at a desirable temperature for up to one hour. I can sip cold water throughout the day and use it at night for a splash of hot tea.

The Bella comes in eggplant — my color of choice — and black, and each bottle holds 14 ounces of liquid. Stock up on a few Contigos, and you won't have to worry about stashes of broken water bottles. In my case, I'll be able to make better use of that overflowing kitchen cabinet.

—Melody



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

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

Dear GGD Reader,

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

GGD March Cover
This Month's Featured Content:
• Zen-spirational
• Dear Ol' Dad
• Time for Tabletop
• Garden State

• Natural Designs
• Shelftalk
• Calendar

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, March 22, 2011

Editor's Choice: Bella Vita


Maybe it was because it was a cold March day, but the items for warmer weather held a particular appeal for me at the recent International Home and Housewares Show. One in particular caught my eye so I was glad when several samples arrived at the office. It is a Chill It bag from Bella Vita (bellavitabags.com).

The sleek bag can be put in the freezer, taken out and used as a cooler to carry a bottle of wine or other beverages. I can see it as perfect for taking wine to an outdoor concert, party or bring-your-own-beverage restaurant.

The bag has a contemporary design and is filled with colorful and safe freezable liquid. The liquids come in a choice of fun colors, such as the red pictured.

The design also makes it great for a host or hostess gift, since you can use it to bring the wine and the bag is an additional, reusable gift.

For retailers it could be merchandised with outdoor and picnic accessories and also in the wine section.

The Chill It collection also includes several sizes of bags to accommodate bottles, a gourmet bag perfect for taking lunch and a bag that holds six bottles of beer.

I’m looking forward to putting this bag to use.

Barbara