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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, September 29, 2009

Editor's Choice: Stephen's Farmhouse Jam

My morning routine has not changed in years. Mini bagel, toasted, with peanut butter and a large cup of coffee. OK, two cups of coffee. A little more than a month ago I received a sample of Stephen’s Farmhouse Peach Cobbler Jam and promptly brought it home and let it sit in a cabinet for weeks.

One morning, frantic that I was out of my much-needed peanut butter, I reached for the Peach Cobbler Jam as an alternative. The sweetness of the jam was delightful and I was pleasantly surprised to see that within the smooth texture were chunks of actual peaches. At one point I dipped a spoon into the jar and pulled out half a peach. I’ve never liked the juiciness of an actual peach (way too messy for my liking), so the Peach Cobbler delivered a surprising amount of flavor in a smooth, naturally sweet jam with pieces of the fruit not-too-messy to enjoy.

I’m happy to report that Stephen’s Farmhouse jams are all homemade; something I should have been able to guess by looking at the simple jar. The jam looks like it came from a roadside farm stand. The company’s website,, says the peaches are locally grown and organic. The company also explains that its jams share qualities with preserves because the jams have lots of fruit.

Jam and jelly flavors available include fig, pear, pomegranate, pepper jelly, kiwi jalapeno, pear with cinnamon, strawberry rhubarb, quince and many others. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Stephen’s Farmhouse happily takes requests for its jams and jellies so you get exactly what you want. The jams and jellies the jams are sold exclusively through the Bella's Confections website, They will be selling the jams in sets of three for $19.95.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Editor's Choice: Mt. Vikos

A self-proclaimed Francophile, I will be the first to admit that I know next to nothing about Spanish culture, aside from reading Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and watching Chef José Andrés’ PBS show, Made In Spain. So naturally, when we received tortas in the office here at Fancy Food, I had no idea what they were and may have accidentally confused them with tostadas (quelle erreur!).

Nonetheless, I was excited to try this generous treat from Mt. Vikos, which sent us three new flavors of Ines Rosales tortas from Seville, Spain. Made using a classic recipe and technique, the olive-oil tortas are hand-flattened and hand-wrapped. Sheree Cardoos, general manager of Mt. Vikos, says Ines Rosales has been producing its tortas the same way since 1910. In search of some new, exciting flavors, Cardoos went to Seville to work with the bakers at Ines Rosales and came up with the three newest flavors, two savory (Rosemary and Thyme) and one sweet (Seville Orange).

I tried the Seville Orange and devoured the entire thing in probably less than one minute. (Impressive, I know.) The natural orange flavor was pronounced without being too sweet. And the delicate, flaky texture of the torta was just what I craved at the end of the day. Needless to say, the torta was muy delicioso. Congratulations, Spain — you’ve conquered a French snob!

For more information, visit


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Editor's Choice: Hagensborg Chocolates

Let's face it. We all have times when we feel like a total pig. Whether you're a stress eater (guilty!) or eating is part of your job (also guilty!) or you have a craving for... something... that you just can't satisfy, sometimes it just can't be helped. Well now you can enjoy your piggy proclivities in good company!

I stumbled across Hagensborg Chocolate at the Summer Fancy Food Show this year, and I'm glad I did. Despite what you might think at first, the Vancouver-based company's Truffle Pigs have nothing to do with earthy, aromatic fungus. On the contrary, Hagensborg's Truffle Pigs are a creamy combination of truffle center and a smooth dark, white or milk chocolate shell. The chocolate truffle bars come in flavors such as Mint, Mocha, Peanut Butter, Original Milk and Dark, and perhaps the best part, aside from their taste, is the fact that these playful treats are molded into the shape of three frolicking pigs that do their best to ensure you are never alone when that chocolate craving hits.

Newly available in the Truffle Pig collection are individually wrapped single piglets, which come in a decorative container of 60, perfect for cash-register impulse buys. It's not often that I'm able to call chocolate cute, but it's not often that your chocolate smiles at you, either! And the Truffle Pigs from Hagensborg are adorable, whether they're solo or with friends.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Editor's Choice: Jessie Steele

Forget about cooking. The kitchen was really made to be a runway, and Jessie Steele is the Christian Dior of kitchen couture. The perfectly pretty patterns and vintage-inspired silhouettes make the company’s aprons a must for every fashionista foodie.

Girly aprons are not a new trend for kitchen accessories, but Jessie Steele takes the design one step further with details I’ve never seen anywhere else. The new fall 2009 catalog includes a black and white houndstooth bib apron with black buttons down the front and on the pockets for a lady-like, 50s housewife-inspired ensemble. Other fun prints include cupcakes (adorable), Summer Lemons (so cheerful) and Café Toile (tres chic). The company’s chef aprons are less about fashion, but still don’t lack in the design department. The prints in this line range from flames and skulls to poppy field and damask. I adore the children’s aprons and can envision moms teaching their little girls how to whip up the perfect homemade apple pie in matching Jessie Steele bib or half aprons.

The wonderful thing about the aprons is that, no they won’t make a piecrust perfect, but they will make slaving over the stove more stylish. The aprons would make great additions to a store’s holiday merchandise. Year after year, foodies get cookbooks and slow cookers, but a Jessie Steele apron under the tree is a gift that is immediately opened and used Christmas morning. The giddy excitement lasts, too, because these aprons are durable enough to use every day.

Check out more designs online at

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Editor's Choice: Seattle Chocolates

As anyone who’s ever walked a food show with me knows, when someone mentions sampling chocolate, I’m there. So when the opportunity to sample J.Truffles from Seattle Chocolate came, I was more than ready. Visually, the truffles are cool-looking. They look like little pyramids—sort of little chocolate architectural wonders, complete with different designs on each one.

So much for visuals, it was time to go exploring, so to speak. Fortunately, the truffles came with a photo sheet telling what was inside each one. Always a good thing, in case there’s something, in my case coconut, you don’t want mixed in with your chocolate.

I have developed a real fondness for dark chocolate over the last few years, so my first pick was the Magma 65 Dark. Besides looking good, the taste of the dark chocolate shell blending with the dark chocolate ganache was sensational. It’s the “signature truffle” of the line for good reason.

Later in the day, it was time for another visit to the “pyramids.” This time the choice was a Cherry Praline. Labeled as a “new American classic,” it was almost my civic duty. Again a winner. The rich taste of cherries, combined with pecans in dark chocolate ganache—what’s not to like?

Actually, I think probably everything in the line, which also includes Crème Brulee, Pure Vida Café and Savory Hazelnut, is a delicious treat. And since I’m all for “bread and circuses” I think the presentation of the architectural gems make them a fun gift as well.

For more information on J. Truffles from Seattle Chocolates, visit


September Top Shelf Advice

What kind of holiday promotions, events or sales do you offer?

"We always [decorate] the windows. We buy special props. Last year we had snowmen holding whisks and other kitchen utensils. We are known in town for our windows.
“We also have several open houses. We do food demos using products that we sell in the store, such as panini makers. In the middle of December, we offer a Men’s Night Out. We serve beer and pizza, and men can buy presents. We offer gift-wrapping and gifts with purchase. We’ve done it for two years and it’s been busy and fun.
“In town, an Art Walk is held the first Friday of the month. In December, it usually coincides with the Tree Lighting. We and the rest of the stores stay open extra hours.

-Erin Earles, manager at Epicure in Anacortes, Washington

"We decorate and we will have a holiday open house. We also have holiday music playing in the store. I’m going to run a gift registry in early December. We have a lot of men in the area that like to cook, and their wives come in to see what they may want.
“Another thing I do all year round is what I call the Tuesday Special. I come in on Tuesday and write on the blackboard a certain special item, say hand soap, that is 20 percent off. The special runs the entire week, but it brings customers in on Tuesday to see what is on special."

-Karen Tuccero, owner of A Passion for Cooking — The Kitchen Store in Madison, Connecticut

"Every fall, in late October, we have a Nordic Ware Day. We use the holiday cookware to make holiday food, and we cook and bake all day. Anytime we cook or demo, sales go up. We also have cooking classes that focus on holiday foods. During the holidays, we bring in merchandise, such as items from Trade Associates Group, and use them in part of the store’s decorations. We also offer free gift-wrapping.

-Barbara Freeman, owner of Kitchen Outfitters in Savannah, Georgia

"We do a Vendor Day event on a Saturday afternoon in the latter part of November. We invite vendors in to demo their products. We do the demos one at a time, and each vendor gives away a prize. We invite people through our Cooking Class newsletter that goes out four times a year. We charge a fee of $10 a person.
“We also invite local cookbook authors to come in to teach a class and do a book-signing during the year. We do an additional book-signing close to the holidays. I also find one big thing to put on sale during the holidays. Last year it was a Scanpan 9.5-qt. Dutch oven for half price.
“Also, in mid-November we invited 26 people to come to a Wusthof event. We charged $10. Each person was set up with a cutting board, knife and fruits and vegetables. Each was led through a demo of handling cutlery, cutting, and maintaining the knives by a Wusthof representative. They had time to ask any questions as well."

-Martie Sullivan, owner of Sweet Basil Gourmetware & Cooking School in Scottsdale, Arizona

"The first Friday of each month, we have music and food for our customers. During the holidays, it is a bigger event. Every Saturday during the holiday season, we have culture and food demonstrations. We will make a holiday treat native to some country, such as special Swedish cookies. At Thanksgiving, we offer cooking classes, including Native American cooking classes. And of course, we offer classes for baking pies and cookies. After Thanksgiving, on Black Friday, we don’t have a big sale. We try to create a more comfortable setting. People can come in and enjoy a glass of wine while they shop."

-Donna Okarma, manager of Rudy’s — A Cook’s Paradise in Twin Falls, Idaho