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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, May 26, 2009

Editor's Choice: Aunt Sally's Pralines

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

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


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Editor's Choice: Julia Knight

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

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

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

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

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


All Candy Expo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also check out the NCA's blog, for additional coverage!


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

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Editor's Choice: Leifheit International USA

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

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

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


Monday, May 11, 2009

Tradeshow Health Safety

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

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

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

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Have We Caught Your Fancy?

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

Thanks, Mary!

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


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Editor's Choice: Choclatique

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

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


Friday, May 1, 2009

May Top Shelf Advice

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