An online community for gourmet and specialty food retailers.

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, November 18, 2015

Editor's Pick: Choctál

I visited Peru in August, and I found a great little shop that featured a myriad of edible products derived from the cocoa bean. There were liquors, candies, chocolates, jams, jellies, teas and even pure roasted cocoa beans, and we learned how the nuances of the flavors changed depending on where the bean was grown.
While I’m back in Chicago hard at work for Fancy Food & Culinary Products magazine, I was instantly taken back to the souvenir shops of Machu Picchu when a lovely sampling of Choctal ice cream arrived at our office.

Choctál’s eight unique flavors don’t feature fun and flirty names like Dare Devil Chocolate but rather a worldly, straight-forward account of the exotic lands from which these flavors derive.

Names like Dominican Chocolate, Ghana Chocolate and Kalimantan Chocolate as well as Papa New Guinea Vanilla, Mexican Vanilla and Indonesian Vanilla instantly intrigued my appetite for travel as well as sugar.

Picking out which single-serve pack to try first was like closing my eyes and pointing my finger to a spinning globe. Following my taste buds, I settled on Madagascar Vanilla to start. Picking up the 4-ounce carton was a luxurious experience, for the design doesn’t play to my lustful love affair with dessert but rather exudes an air of sophistication and eco-consciousness, designed with a burlap-type background and muted colors of blue and brown. The logo itself elicits a near Aztec feel, furthering my sense of adventure.

Choctál's unique name serves as an homage to the ancient cultures that revered cacao as “food from the gods," using the sacred ingredient in a drink called “Xocolatl,” “Cachuatl” or “Chocotal.”

My favorite part: The ingredient description right on top of the peel-back lid: “Pure bourbon vanilla and flakes of vanilla beans; utterly seductive rich, complex and classic flavor.” Indeed, a classic flavor, and my favorite. But this vanilla bean ice cream delivered an unusually pure flavor of vanilla amidst a truly creamy, complex and indulgent texture of ice cream.

I was drawn to the Costa Rican Chocolate description as well: “Lively, well-balanced coffee and caramel flavors; a hint of butterscotch adds a subtle back note.” That’s two points for Choctal, as this deep, velvety and oh-so-rich chocolate flavor matched its product description to the T.

As with fine wines and whole-bean coffees, Choctál believes the area of the world in which a particular cacao or vanilla is grown makes all the difference in the character of the product. Each region produces unique flavor profiles, according to its press release, yielding complex, nuanced flavors. Choctál also sources high-quality ingredients with no artificial additives, eggs or gluten and partners with companies that focus on sustainable practices in both harvesting and production.

After my sampling of both, I felt like I just returned from a trip around the world, and I thought how fun it would be to share a single-serve pack with everyone at my next dinner party. The countries that they decide to “try” would make for a great conversation start; but then again, with ice cream this rich and creamy, who has time for talking?

Choctál is available for purchase at over 200 stores nationwide including Bristol Farms, Whole Foods and an ever-expanding list of independent gourmet grocers. The indulgent frozen treats are also available for order online at

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Editor's Pick: noosa yoghurt

Noosa yoghurt is a unique combination of sweet and tart taste wrapped in a  thick, velvety texture—it’s truly one of a kind. It’s made in small batches on a family farm in Colorado with wholesome ingredients: all-natural whole milk from happy cows, fresh fruit purees and infused with a touch of clover alfalfa honey. Its irresistible and savory taste will make you fall in love after just one bite and keep you coming back for more!
Perfect for fall, the company offers two seasonally-focused flavors— Pumpkin and Cranberry Applethat make the perfect addition to any fall meal and are a guilt-free treat perfect those watching their waistlines.
·         Pumpkin, originally released as a limited-time offering, proved so popular that it is now available all year round. Now, consumers can enjoy real pumpkin puree in a velvety yoghurt, as an exceptional dessert; in pumpkin-inspired recipes; or as the star ingredient in a parfait by just adding crumbled ginger snaps and whipped cream.
·         The all-new Cranberry Apple, inspired by festive holiday flavors, is the perfect combination of sweet and tart and brings to mind cozy family recipes. Sit around the dining room table and enjoy the yoghurt as a snack, or as a main ingredient in a seasonal coffee cake or muffins to warm up on a brisk fall day.

All noosa yoghurt is available in the traditional 8 ounce container and 4 ounce 4-packs mini-containers.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Editor's Pick: Simpson and Vail Literary Teas

Simpson and Vail is unveiling a new line of tea tins—each blend was created with a specific author in mind. The ten different teas vary from a black tea blend to a flavored herbal blend. The authors included in the line are William Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Emily Dickinson, James Joyce, Beatrix Potter, Lewis Carroll, and Charles Dickens.

Simpson and Vail is known for creating delicious traditional and dessert tea blends with a quirky sense of humor and love of history. There is a literary tea for everyone in this collection. The delicate prose of Jane Austen’s novels is evoked in a tea blend that combines peppermint with a gentle touch of vanilla. The adventures of Pip and Oliver go wonderfully with a hearty, well-rounded variation on the typical British tea of Dickens’ time. Each of these ten teas comes in their own specially designed tins branded to each author, their lives and works.