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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, April 27, 2010

Editor’s Choice: American Licorice Company

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Editor's Choice: SchoolHouse Kitchen

I have to admit, when I first read the label on this week’s choice, I was filled with skepticism. I knew I liked all the flavors listed, but I wasn’t sure how they would taste all together. Still, once again I was curious and so it was on a Sunday morning, that I opened the jar of SchoolHouse Kitchen ( Cherry Blackberry simply & gently infused with sage & clove spreadable fruit. I had decided to try it on my French toast.

When I opened the jar, it had a nice, fresh berry aroma. I spooned a bit on the toast and the tasting began. The first thing I tasted was the sweet fruit, but very shortly this was followed with a little bit of a kick from cloves. It was quite tasty, kind of, as the jar described it a “multi-layered taste.” I dipped the spoon back in the jar to spread more on the French toast.

I could also see it on regular toast, muffins and croissants. The company suggests using it with triple crème Brie as an appetizer. They also suggest using it with lamb. I have some lamb chops in the freezer, so that may be my next food adventure.

It comes in a 10-oz. jar, and other choices are Strawberry Black Peppercorn, Rhubarb Raspberry Thyme and Peach Rosemary. By the way, profits from sales go to support educational programs.

Once again, in the interest of bringing the news, a fine taste discovery.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Editor’s Choice: BetterOats

A couple weeks ago, the Fancy Food editors received the coolest package we’ve seen in a while. BetterOats ( sent us a large, suitcase-like box that contained a taste-testing kit for its oatmeal, which is made with 100-percent whole-grain oats, flax seeds and other natural ingredients such as real fruit.

The kit included everything — and I mean everything: bowls, spoons and varieties of the company’s oatmeal to compare with the included sample pack of the competition’s product. Also inside the kit were tiny jars containing the ingredients featured in BetterOats’ Oat Revolution Apples & Cinnamon oatmeal and the competition’s Apples & Cinnamon oatmeal. The kit encouraged us to see, touch, taste and smell the difference in each of the ingredients, and honestly, we picked up on them right away. Compared side by side, the dried apple pieces in BetterOats’ oatmeal were visibly larger and more “apple-y” smelling. The oats were full and not pulverized into a powdery resemblance of oats. And perhaps most astonishing were the jars comparing the amount of flax seed in each oatmeal: BetterOats’ jar was full, and the competition’s was empty.

Consider conducting this type of mini taste test in your store — it’s an interactive way to get your customers to notice the differences in the quality products you carry as opposed to those at the big-box stores.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Editor’s Choice: Cleancaf

Here on the Fancy Food blog, we’ve written a lot about our love of tea and a semi-regular habit of taking tea breaks in the afternoon. Based on the blog, you’d think we had banished coffee from the premises, but making coffee each and every morning while discussing the day’s work plans is our preferred way to get the creative juices going.

I’ve always paid as little attention as possible to the cleanliness or lack thereof of the office coffee maker, but in the back of my mind there’s always been a voice telling me to clean it out. Turns out, I’m not the only one. When I showed fellow editor Ashley Trent the sample of Cleancaf I got in the mail her first response was “Awesome, let’s use it tomorrow and write about it for our blog.”

Just as Cleancaf has promised, I wouldn’t know how much better my coffee would taste before cleaning it. The easy-to-follow directions instructed me to dissolve the powder in water and run the coffee maker a few times to make sure the cleaning solution is gone. The new batch of coffee was lighter and fresher than anything we’ve had in the office. I honestly can’t remember the coffee tasting this delicious.

Cleancaf, made by Urnex, is an odorless, nonacid scale inhibitor and detergent. With just one run through (the company suggests using Cleancaf at least every month), the bitter taste was gone. The cleaner also stops mineral deposits for a longer clean. Cleancaf can also be used on espresso makers and to clean a French press.

For even more coffee-cleaning solutions, Urnex makes Dezcal Activated Descaler that decalcifies brewers, espresso makers and pod and capsule machines. Grindz cleans coffee bean grinders, and Cafiza is a tablet that works on a home automatic espresso machine.

For more details about Cleancaf and Urnex’s other coffee-related cleaners, visit