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, December 17, 2014

Editor's Pick: Georgia Grinders

If you've ever taken a note or appreciation to my eating schedule, you'd find that peanut butter is an unwavering mainstay. Zero questions asked. An apple and peanut butter a day (most days) keeps the doctor away, right? The peanut butter to my apple is typically of the all natural, many times organic, variety; so when I found out about Georgia Grinders' two-ingredient PB, my eyes widened, and I cut right into an apple, its sidekick.

Made with two simple ingredients, the finest quality non-GMO Georgia grown peanuts and sea salt, the peanuts are hand selected, slow roasted and then ground to the NaturAlmond company's signature texture for a really fresh peanut butter experience. I tried the creamy first. Just the right amount of salt with a fresh-out-the-shell taste, it was delicious. Same can be said about the crunchy, of course. 

The Georgia Grinders Peanut Butters, which are available in creamy and crunchy versions, began production in December and were picked up by regional Whole Foods, Sprouts Farmers Markets, Central Market Grocery Stores and many gourmet food markets in Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama and Florida.  But now, the 12 oz glass jars of Georgia Grinders Peanut Butter will be available on shelves beginning in January at all of these retailers. For more information on where to find Georgia Grinders  Peanut Butter, or how to carry it in your store, visit

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Editor’s Pick: Tonja’s Toffee

Tonja’s Toffee is a delicious treat that satisfies any sweet tooth, without hurting them. I am very picky about what sticky foods I eat. After enduring braces for 4.5 years and now wearing a permanent retainer, I won’t eat anything that I think will damage my teeth. One of the great things about Tonja’s Toffee, is that it’s neither tough nor sticky. Each bite is a sweet, perfectly textured treat bursting with flavor.

Kansas-based Tonja Williams, the owner, knows how to please both the taste buds and the eye, with her visually-appealing packaging perfect for gifting. Each portion—1/4, 1/2, and 1 pound—is sold in a clear, high-quality bag making it a great holiday gift for neighbors, teachers or anyone else in your customers’ lives.

Each batch of toffee is made from pure butter, sugar, whole almonds and milk chocolate. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Editor's Pick: Umpqua Oats

One of my pre-New Year resolutions has been to eat breakfast more often. I used to love eating breakfast. Until I stopped becoming such a morning person, and decided as much as I love breakfast, I love sleep more. Instead of making an egg-white omelet stacked with bacon and cheese in the morning, now I grab a pack of Instant Oatmeal and hit the road. The only problem is, now the flavors are starting to taste somewhat basic. I was thrilled to come into the office one day last week and learn about Umpqua Oats. They recently launched their new flavor, Vanilla Almond Crunch. The first-of-its-kind, warm oatmeal cup included a satisfying mixture of custom-milled rolled oats, oven-roasted almonds, rich Bourbon vanilla, sweet honey and crunchy vanilla almond granola. 

The conveniently-packaged breakfast filled the office kitchen with a delicious vanilla aroma that I haven't experienced in a long time and the flavor combination isn't overwhelming, in fact it's fairly discrete. It's also completely satisfying. It had a little bit of a different texture than the oatmeal I'm used to, it was thicker and creamier than you would expect. It's definitely innovative—a concept the company is no stranger to.

In the development of Vanilla Almond Crunch, the company conducted multiple focus groups and invited people to provide their opinions on several oatmeal flavor profiles. After an overwhelming response to Vanilla Almond, the company moved forward in the Umpqua Oats wayby adding a unique twist on traditional oatmeal with granola that stays crunchy even when hot water is added.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Editor's Pick: Little's Specialty Foods

It’s not hard to spot a customer’s longing for comfort food as the seasons change. The proof is in the grocery and specialty food store purchases: hearty vegetables, broths and stews, heavier meat and game choices, spices that bring depth to cooking. It’s all part of this comfort food kick that happens to be a result of changing weather. And let’s face it, is there a meal more substantial and hearty than chili? It’s the cover poster for the season, and Little’s Specialty Foods helps you turn the dial up on that subpar homemade chili you’ve been making for years—and in my case, saves me prep time and stress time.

A mild chili mix with a major kick of flavor, the Chili Pepper Chili Seasoning Mix is Little’s signature mix. Not too spicy, it uses the right blend of seasonings and a heap of chili peppers to really amplify the ingredients that have already become a staple of your chili—for me that’s ground turkey, white beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, red onion, tomato paste and a few others depending on the day of the week. Incorporate the mix, and it’s convenient, easy to prepare and ready in just 20 minutes—though you can imagine, the longer it stews the better.

If you like a red hot kick, the Chili Pepper Chili Hot Seasoning Mix was not created to set your mouth on fire, but instead provide a constant heat to your food. Little’s slow-releasing blend of spices was actually created for the Chili Pepper Chili & Dogs restaurant in 1994 using a balance of chili peppers and secret spices to transform ground beef, turkey or vegetarian dishes. Little’s is a family owned and operated company with a flagship product line of mixes established in 1980. All of their products are free from artificial ingredients, gluten, and contain no added MSG.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Editor's Pick: Parmigiano Reggiano

I have a weakness for cheese. I decided long ago that when I didn’t have three roommates, I would make space for one shelf or drawer in the fridge specifically for cheese. Now that I live alone, I have plenty of space to keep many varieties of cheese. Right now, I happen to have three different aged cheeses from Parmigiano Reggiano.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a tasting at La Scuola di Eataly where attendees gathered to learn how to give taste tests and what sets Parmigiano Reggiano apart from other cheese brands.
Parmigiano Reggiano is only made in Italy and each block of cheese has a number on it, allowing the consumer to track the location and find out where it was made. Flavors between each location slightly vary due to the diet of the cows which is impacted by terrain. However, Parmigiano Reggiano has very strict standards in place that assure the consumer that their cheese is high-quality.
At the tasting, we tried cheese that was aged 14 months, 24 months and 36 months. The 14-month-old cheese was very young, didn’t crumble as well and wasn’t very oily. The 36-month-old cheese was much more crumbly and oily. Everyone was instructed to smell the aromas and the flavors and textures of the different ages were noticeable.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Editor's Pick: Date Lady

I eat red meat, chicken and eggs. I enjoy trying foods considered delicacies in other countries. Since I don't typically go for vegan options, I was surprised how quickly I jumped at the chance to try Date Lady's chocolate spread. And I wasn't disappointed. It was heavenly. I used it in the same way I would Nutella—on toast, then on toast with peanut butter, then on apples, apples with peanut butter—you get the idea. I became inspired and started seeing what else I could include in my smorgasbord of health-conscious, chocolate-covered, goodness. Turns out, it's a very versatile spread, and at the very least, it goes well with just a spoon too!
Date Lady's products are all organic, and the chocolate spread itself is vegan, containing no nuts, dairy, or processed oils or sugar. The coconut oil and cocoa butter give it a much smoother texture than other chocolate nut spreads. Date syrup is what gives this delicious treat it's sweetness, and while I don't have much of a sweet tooth, when I get a craving, I won't feel bad about how much I eat. 

The Springfield, Mo.-based company started when a wife and mother of two heard about a honey-like syrup that came from dates. She brought some home to put on pancakes and waffles, and eventually started using it in place of sugar. 
The website includes some recipes that utilize the lines of five products developed: Date Syrup, Caramel Sauce, Organic Dates, Date Balsamic Vinegar and, of course, Chocolate Spread. The recipes range from truffles, to apple cider, to barbeque sauce and a selection of muffins. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Editor's Pick: Frontier Soups West Coast Kale and Quinoa

Homemade-In-Minutes. That’s Frontier Soup’s effort to make the culinary process simpler for those looking for a flavorful, healthy meal without the hassle. With little time to prepare meals this week, I was looking for something that would last, leftovers included. I needed something light, but with enough depth in flavor and substance so I could feel full—it is a soup after all.

The West Coast Kale and Quinoa Vegetable Soup Mix that I prepared did just that. It gains its hunger-satisfying substance from white quinoa and flakes of kale and butternut squash that are freeze dried to preserve nutrition. A vegetarian and certified gluten-free soup, it gratifies consumers' desires for delicious and easy ways to incorporate nutrient-rich ancient grains and kale into diets.

I baked a few boneless chicken breasts in the oven as the soup simmered, tore each apart, and added it into the soup mix with about ten minutes left. Although the mix has a bounty of vegetables, I added some tomatoes and a bit more fresh, in-season squash, and the savory seasoning already included—think garlic, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and a peppercorn blend—provided a counterpoint to the sweetness of the squash.
These soup mixes were formulated as a response to consumer’s need for vegetarian soup options, along with an easy way to prepare them. As fall sweeps in and winter gets set to show its face, be sure to stock your shelves with these types of hearty, homemade-in-minutes soups.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Editor’s Pick: Marich Milk and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Popcorn

Sweet and salty is always a promising combination but it’s especially a winning one with Marich Premium Chocolate’s Milk and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Popcorn.

Each kernel of light and fluffy popcorn is covered in a rich, caramel glaze, topped with sea salt and encased in a layer of high-quality milk or dark chocolate.

With the holidays coming up, you could suggest that your customers buy one bag of each, and combine them in glass dishes for holiday parties. The contrasting chocolates look nice next to each other and pair well with a full-bodied red wine such as Malbec.

The candy comes in a heavy brown paper bag emblazoned with the Marich label. It’s a great adult stocking stuffer or gift for holiday office parties.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Editor's Pick: Cosmos Creations

The following is a true statement: I've never before had anything sriracha. Cosmos Spicy Sriracha puffed corn was my first experience with the wildly popular hot sauce. I once saw a card that read "You're the Sriracha to my everything," so I figured I had to give it a shot.

Cosmos Creations launched their new flavor in September, which joined their already exciting line of seven flavors, Sea Salt Butter, Salted Caramel, Cinnamon Crunch, Sea Salt and Vinegar, Coconut Crunch, Caramel and Aged Cheddar & Cracked Pepper. “Spicy flavors like Sriracha are a huge trend at the moment and here at Cosmos Creations, we like to keep up with what’s popular in the snack food industry,” says Jerid Strasheim, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Cosmos Creations. “Our goal is to always listen to the consumer and provide them the types of flavors they enjoy.”

Cosmos Creations started out in Oregon in 2004 as Cosmos Caramel Corn, and exploded onto the scene after it became a local sensation. They developed over a dozen flavors and showcased them at trade shows and consumer events, helping develop their devoted following.
4 Him Food Group purchased Cosmos in mid-2011 and has since moved the company into a new production facility, allowing plenty of space to set themselves up for success on a national level.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Who is Today’s Specialty Food Consumer?

With the specialty food market approaching 100 billion dollars (it’s expected to reach that number in 2016) this gourmet-centric universe is growing roughly three times as fast as the regular food market. In 2014, 145 million people—that’s 59 percent of U.S. consumers—purchased specialty foods, according to this year’s Today’s Specialty Food Consumer Report produced by the Specialty Food Association and Mintel International. These two organizations have been conducting research together for 10 years now, and this year they’ve produced some highly detailed, top-level statistics on just who is purchasing specialty foods, how they’re using these products, as well as their attitudes, interests and concerns.

At The Core
Core specialty food consumers defined by Mintel are aged 18 to 44; affluent, earning more than $75,000 annually; more likely to buy specialty foods from a broader range of retailers; the biggest weekly spenders on grocery and restaurant food; and ones who spend a larger percentage of their food dollars on specialty products each week. Within this group, 18-24s and 35-44s are most likely to purchase the largest range of specialty food categories. 

Infographics and images courtesy
of the Specialty Food Association
“Specialty foods are considered foods that are premium quality,” says David Lockwood of Mintel. “These may be made by small or local manufacturers, they may have the very best ingredients available, they may be premium, fancy or gourmet, and they’re often, but not always, more expensive.” The difference in definition this year is noticeable—by fine-tuning the examples and narrowing the definition, the Association is able to better illustrate the premium status of the foods. Food once considered niche has actually moved into the mainstream—for instance, Greek Yogurt has been replaced by chutneys in this year’s survey. And while the figures represent a drop from 74 percent of consumers purchasing specialty foods in 2013 to 59 percent this year, the difference is a matter of redefinition rather than a decline in purchases.

The top ten categories that these specialty food consumers are buying range from chocolate (1) and olive oil (2) to cheeses (3), coffee (4), beverages (8), and tea (10). Much of the top ten categories are consistent with 2013, but tea has most noticeably moved up the ladder. 

When surveying popular categories by age group, research found that 18-24s tend to gravitate towards on-the-go items. Snacks, condiments, cookies and chocolates were all prominent purchases for early Millennials who bought these products for guests, gifts and the office. Ready-to-eat prepared foods as well as cooking sauces, rice, quinoa and others were popular among 25-34 year olds. Baking mixes, cooking sauces, and products that offer short cuts in home cooking got the attention of 35-44 year olds who might be time pressed juggling families and careers. Additionally, since 2006, women, younger adults, affluent households, and Hispanics have been the most likely purchasers of specialty foods.

These specialty food consumers value food tremendously and make that known with their wallets. They’re the biggest weekly spenders on both groceries and restaurants, and they’re most likely to spend a larger percent of their food dollars on specialty items. The research has put a spotlight on spending habits, and these consumers are happy to pay more for better quality food—be it beer, cheese, meat, or farmer’s market produce.

Sustainability is Key
According to the 2014 Consumer Report, 84 percent of specialty food consumers believe it’s important to buy sustainably produced food, and retailers can benefit by attracting the subset of specialty food consumers who purchased products with sustainable and ethical claims in the past six months. Grocers should stock an array of ethically produced food and beverages and clearly call out their claims. The most commonly purchased food and beverage product claims are all-natural (62 percent), organic (56 percent) and locally sourced (47 percent). What’s more important to comprehend is that nearly ¾ of specialty food consumers support companies that practice sustainability as a whole.

Digitally Native
The digital niche (within the specialty food market niche) is growing, and almost half of specialty food consumers said that they had bought gourmet products online. These consumers are more active on social media to talk and learn about food than ever before, and Millennials, the most dominant buying group, are leading the pack. It’s their second nature to purchase online and give recommendations online. For specialty food consumers, the sheer number of time online exceeds two hours per day outside of work—they’re engaged in the gourmet food universe and they’re using these platforms for the purpose of connecting and sharing products, ideas, brands and retailers online.

Piece of the Socioeconomic Pie
The aging U.S. population (over-55’s) are actually the fastest-growing age group, but they are the lightest users of specialty products. Retailers and wholesalers must also take into account the delayed maturation of Millennials (they’re getting married, starting families, and buying houses later than any generation prior). The combination of both means that the industry is vulnerable to a slower market growth going forward. To combat this, companies and retailers must either begin marketing to an over-55 crowd, or push for the quicker maturation of Millennials’ purchasing decisions—the latter seeming more effective.

Additionally, brands must take into account that the industry’s greatest consumers are ones that bring in more than 75K annually—however, this is only 30 percent of the U.S. population. Find ways to market to buyers who don’t make exceptional incomes.

For more information and to check out the full 2014 Consumer Report, visit the Specialty Food Association.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Editor’s Pick: Totally Bamboo Wine Themed Cut & Serve Board

I am a big fan of wine and cheese nights, frequently gathering my friends together for a mid-week break to relax and unwind. I recently acquired Totally Bamboo’s Wine Themed Cut & Serve Board. The striking bamboo is cut into the shape of a wine bottle. It is finely sanded making it smooth to the touch. A strap at the top makes it easy to hang in my kitchen, making it a beautiful decoration when I am not using it.

The high-quality bamboo material washes well in the sink, and it remained free of any marks when I sliced the creamy Havarti and used the pesto goat cheese spread. Bamboo is 6 percent harder and denser than maple, which is what many cutting boards are made from.

All of Totally Bamboo’s products are made of 100 percent bamboo which is a completely renewable source and makes their products eco-friendly. Totally Bamboo also doesn’t use any dyes or stains, making all customers feel comfortable preparing food and eating off of their products.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Editor's Pick: Bauli Mini Croissants

To end my week, last Friday I tried a package of mini croissants, compliments of BauliI tried both the chocolate cream as well as the vanilla custard, and couldn't decide which flavor I enjoyed more. So I tried another of each, and another—lather, rinse, repeat—until both bags were gone. The results are in. It's a tie. 

The company, who makes Italian holiday cakes and pastries, recently launched in the U.S., introducing traditional Italian desserts with natural ingredients to the market. Their initial products include Il Panettone di Milano, an Italian Christmas bread with candied citron, lemon zest and raisins; Il Pandoro di Verona, Golden bread which is a star-shaped Christmas bread; and their Chocolate Cream and Vanilla Custard Croissants.

With the holiday season just around the corner, the company brings the Italian culinary experience to the seasonal products bring authenticity, heritage and tradition to family and friends gathered around the dinner (or dessert) table. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Editor's Pick: Simple Salsa E-Z Mixes

It’s Taco Tuesday, and very few things in life are more depressing than being forced to eat that bland, less-than-flavorful salsa your friend bought at Trader Joes—pardon the exaggeration, it’s for the story’s purpose. Although beautifully ripe, in-season tomatoes act as a strong foundation for flavorful salsa, it’s the marrying of herbs, spices, and other ingredients that take such a basic fruit to the next level.

Enter SimpleSalsa’s E-Z Mixes. The 60-second salsa requires one packet of the company’s seasoning and spice combo, 14-ounces (whether a can or fresh) of tomatoes, and you’re ready to tango. The healthy, MSG and gluten-free products spice up dishes at a fraction of the price of store-bought jars, and with a list of choices like Restaurant-style Fiesta, Smokin’ Chipotle and more, the flavor options suit plenty of salsa aficionado’s preferences.

But we’re all for multi-tasking around here, right?  In addition to it's marriage with tomatoes, we tried the Smokin’ Chipotle Seasoning packet with chicken for fajitas had a serious depth of flavor. The packets should work just as well with steaks, pork chops and even soups, stews, taco meat or any dish that’s looking for a fiesta. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Editor’s Pick: Titan Tea

Trade shows can be exhausting, and between the exhibitors I need to see, the attendees I need to interview and the long hours, I don’t always have time for a meal, let alone to stand in a line at the food court. That’s where I turn to Titan Tea. Their delicious cold-brewed teas infused with electrolytes for hydration, ribose and caffeine for sustained energy keep me going when I am walking miles of trade show space. Former Major League Lacrosse player John Gagliardi developed the formula over the course of two years. He was inspired to create the tea because he was disappointed with sugar-laden drink options packed with artificial ingredients.  Brewed tea is Gagliardi’s drink of choice and it has great benefits and natural caffeine so it makes sense that he would develop a tea.

The teas come in four tasty flavors and are low-calorie.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Editor's Choice: Bloody Bold Bloody Mary Mix

Last weekend, I hosted a Bridal Shower brunch for a lovely group of ladies. There, I had the standard mimosas, fruit and bagel assortment. I also decided to make Bloody Marys for those with a savory tooth. I used Bloody Bold's Bloody Mary Mix for this event, and it went off without a hitch. The flavor combinations of tomatoes, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and added spices provided a rich flavor, and quickly became a favorite for the ladies, beating out the every-popular mimosa. 

The founder of Bloody Bold, Bob Wegryn started making his recipe in college, and after plenty of positive feedback over the next few years, learned to perfect the recipe to prepare for mass production. Like any truly great product, word of the product quickly spread, and with Bob personally taking cases of his product to liquor stores around Connecticut, the company was born. As someone who has been on a mission to create the World's best Bloody Mary, it truly does come down to the recipe, and Bloody Bold is definitely now in my top choices of mix.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Editor's Pick: Red Rocker Candy

“My dream is to shape a self-sustaining organization based on the old-fashioned values of family, quality, goodness and customer enjoyment,” says Sue Charney, owner of Red Rocker Candy, a confections company based in the small town of Troy, Virginia.

With a humble beginning in Southern California, Red Rocker Candy started with a desire to produce the best toffees, brittles and other confections to gift for friends, family, coworkers, etc. What they created was something more. Charney’s products bring back nostalgic, rich flavors of times gone by—a time when making products handmade meant something special.

The toffees are rich and buttery with roasted cashews perfectly blended; their white chocolate indulgent and sweet. But where the Rocking Chair extraordinaires had me sold was their signature blend, The Rocking Chair Mix. Because life is sweeter when snacks are coated with thick layers of creamy white chocolate, the Rocking Chair Mix features a blend of cereals, pretzels and whole roasted almonds, all en-robed in the creamy confection. The chocolate melts in your mouth before the salty, crunchy mix becomes your new favorite after-lunch snack.

Other fan favorites include the Toffee and Brittles. The brittles, Pecan and Peanut, are crunchy, rather than chewy; they're made with rich butter, pure sugar, and they’re not skimping on the Virginia Jumbo Peanuts or savory pecans. Perfect for gifting, their limited edition Barks include a Peppermint Bark hand made with a layer of rich dark chocolate, swirls of white chocolate (infused with peppermint oil) and sprinkled with crushed peppermints for an added boost of flavor. At Red Rocker Candy, fantastic ingredients and a passion for confections has proved a recipe for success.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Editor's Pick: Lola Granola Bars

The other editors and I do a lot of traveling for trade shows. When we are only at them for a few days and have so much to see and do, we try not to take too much time out of our busy schedules for eating. Each trip, we try to pack a few heathy, filling snacks to tie us over between breakfast and dinner. I recently discovered Lola Granola Bars, and they were the perfect snack to bring to the most recent show that I attended.

Lola Granola Bars are gluten-free and gmo-free and are packed with protein to give busy people the energy that they need during the day. The tasty, filling bars come in a five flavors, each one is named after the founder's children and her nephew. Most of the ingredients are sourced in the U.S., with many of them coming from the Northeast where the company is located.

Lola Granola Bars not only provides tasty, healthy snacks to retailers, it also provides food for kids anti-hunger back pack programs, so your customers can feel good about buying something for themselves.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Editor's Pick: Passage Foods

Passage Foods creates a way for you to travel the world by cooking your meals at home. Their line of Simmer Sauces are created by chefs around the world, using their knowledge of regional cuisine and age-old recipes. Each sauce is made with fresh, all natural ingredients that, when added to meat, seafood or vegetables, create an authentic international dish, right in your own kitchen.

I made Passage to Japan Teriyaki Chicken for dinner last week, and it was a huge hit. After boiling chicken and tossing some veggies in a pan, I added rice and the simmer sauce for a quick meal that actually was filling. I have noticed the growing popularity in Japanese food recently, so it was nice to be able to try making a meal myself. The mild and sweet flavor paired perfectly with the rest of the dish, and tastes how I would expect a Japanese restaurant to prepare their dishes for me if I joined them for dinner.

Currently, Passage Simmer Sauces give customers a passport to India, Thailand, Morocco, China, Mexico, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Korea, Russia and Spain.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Editor’s Pick: Mediterra Nutrition Bars

Less of a diet and more of a lifestyle, the Mediterranean Diet emphasizes consuming more whole grains, fruits, greens and healthy fats, and less meats and sweets. This is what Mediterra is offering their customers.

Inspired by this diet, Mediterra brings to shelves ready-to-eat nutrition bars that fuel the marathon that is life. Savory bars, Yogurt and Oats bars, and Sesame Honey Energy bars are the three styles you’ll find at Mediterra. A favorite of the editors here are the Yogurt and Oat Bars, a certified kosher choice featuring a yogurt style coating and seven grams of protein. The bars, in Yogurt/Oat/Cherry/Pistachio and Yogurt/Oat/Apricot/Pistachio, also feature fig paste, sunflower seeds and raisins.

The company’s Savory Bars, rich in vegetable content, but low in calories, sodium and sugar, also contain protein-rich pea crisps and a touch of olive oil. A perfect middle-of-the-day snack for those craving a savory treat, the bars serve as an alternative to sweets and provide super foods and amaranth, an ancient grain. Flavors include Tomato/Basil/Capers and Olive/Walnut/Chives.

The third variety, the Sesame Honey Energy Bars, traditionally known as Pasteli, are dairy-free and contain only a few ingredients, roasted sesame being the most dominant. With the addition of Greek honey, pistachios from Aegina Island and even orange peel, the combination makes for a natural mix flavors with long-lasting energy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Editor’s Pick: Phin & Phebes ice cream

As my family, friends and co-workers will tell you, ice cream is my kryptonite, my Achilles heel, my weakness. At least once a week I will treat myself to a cone or a sundae from down the street. Well, with Phin & Phebes in the freezer at the office, I will be making those trips less frequently.

Phin & Phebes was started by two friends, Crista Freeman and Jess Eddy, in Brooklyn, NY, who were dedicated to creating a quality products from start to finish. The duo attended the prestigious Ice Cream University at Penn State University. (Rest assured, if I ever go back to school, it will be for this program.)

Phin & Phebes presently makes seven flavors: Coconut Key Lime, Banana Whama (Banana Pudding Ice Cream), Ginger Cookie Snap, Vanilla Cinnamon, Vietnamese Iced Coffee, Peanutty Pretzel, and Dark Chocolate Salty Caramel. After several rounds of taste testing, every flavor is a unique, creamy, burst of deliciousness but I am partial to the Dark Chocolate Salty Caramel. The salt in the rich decadent chocolate caramel opens your taste buds allowing the ice cream to literally melt in your mouth. Like all flavors, just a few bites is enough to fulfill any sweet tooth, and leave you feeling satisfied.

Phin & Phebes ice cream starts with a 14 percent butterfat base, milk, cream, pure sugar and farm fresh egg yolks. The company doesn’t use any stabilizers or syrups. All flavors include ingredients sourced by small, artisanal producers that Freeman and Eddy have discovered throughout the United States.

Now excuse me while I head to the freezer for another spoonful.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Editor's Pick: GoPicnic

It's rare that I wake up early enough to pack a lunch for work. Generally, if I don't pack some fruits, veggies and a salad the night before (and put my house keys in the refrigerator next to my brown paper bag as a reminder), I often forget about lunch. And as someone who frequently presses the snooze button more than once in the morning, I often don't have time to eat a balanced breakfast, and end up grabbing an instant oatmeal packet to go. So I was happy to stumble upon GoPicnic's ready-to-eat meals.

Today, I had their Creamy Vegetable Spread & Multigrain Crackers Breakfast. Complete with gluten-free crackers, a garden veggie cheese spread and a 90-calorie pack of fruit and nut mix, this meal on-the-go was a good Apples & Cinnamon oatmeal replacement. The Copper Cowbell creamy spread really was creamy and fresh, like a cheese spread I would expect to get from the grocery store. For breakfast, they feature six unique meals, including:

  • Almond butter and multigrain bagel chips
  • cinnamon spread and multigrain bagel chips
  • creamy vegetable spread and multigrain crackers
  • chocolate almond butter and croissant
  • maple turkey sausage, fruit and nut mix
  • superbutter and multigrain crackers

For lunch and snacking, GoPicnic offers 13 variety options in order to keep you from getting what they call hangry; the grouchy feeling easily and deliciously avoided with GoPicnic meals. Their boxed-meal concept is an alternative to the bag of chips offered in many office vending machines. There's no refrigeration or preparation required, and the perfectly sized box offers puzzles, reminiscent of the back of your cereal box as a child. They're perfect for travel, portion control, and any number of hunger emergencies. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Editor’s Pick: 5Sparrows

Just Add Coffee.

Much like my average morning, coffee for the people behind 5Sparrows is more than a caffeinated beverage; it’s a way of life. 5Sparrows evolved from a specialty espresso business, finding pleasure in connecting with people through drinks and the barista way of life. They started developing their own mixes, sourcing the best ingredients, and today their chai, cocoa and frappe powders are a boutique favorite.

The team behind 5Sparrows believes that it’s the encouragement of the coffee industry to think outside of the box that has fostered this idea of challenging flavors and ingredients to work in a different way.   

Which is why the Montana-based company is at the front of the line this week for our editor’s picks. Their zero-sugar product line refuses to taste like a typical sugar-free beverage; they’re still decadent and seriously sweet. A perfect choice for health conscious customers and retailers alike, their entire product line is gluten free and naturally sweetened with stevia and xylitol.

The Sugar Free House White Chocolate is a best seller, and after tasting the smooth, velvety drink (we added coffee rather than making a hot cocoa) we can see why. Other favorites include the Sugar Free House Chocolate, which dissolves easily into either hot milk or coffee for a full-bodied, rich chocolate beverage. It’s also stevia-sweetened—stevia being a natural sweetener made from a plant in the daisy family; it has zero calories, zero carbs and doesn't impact blood sugar levels when processed through your body. And the best part? There truly is no sugar-free aftertaste. The Sugar Free Monumental Spiced Chai, with its richness and depth, is also getting great reviews from customers. Join the cafĂ© culture at 5Sparrows; their powder, coffee-house specialties don’t disappoint. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Editor's Pick: Rosanna Farm Belle Syrups and Jams

After celebrating America's birth for a solid four days with friends and family in town, I realized on Monday that I needed to go grocery shopping. Since I live alone and don't own a car, grocery shopping can be an difficult. I need to get just the right amount of produce before it expires, and I usually plan my meals in advance and make enough for two or three servings. Since I leave for a trip to Atlanta later this week, I really had to plan my meals in advance so that I eat all of my food before I leave.

I normally eat fruit or make a smoothie before work in the morning, but this week, I decided to treat myself. I picked up a package of English muffins to indulge in before my trip south. This morning, I ate the best breakfast, an English muffin with butter and Raspberry-Rhubarb jam from Rosanna's award-winning Farm Belle product line.

All of the products from Rosanna's Farm Belle line are natural, sustainably sourced, gluten-free and kosher. They are beautifully packaged so they make a great gift or self-gift. The Raspberry Rhubarb jam has a great thick yet easily spread constancy and the syrups will be great with pancakes or waffles. The Marionberry-Pinot Noir has a distinct, unique flavor and will pair will with a number of cheeses and crackers. Tonight, I plan on pairing them both with baked brie and a glass of wine.

Rosanna also offers beautiful cartographic trays and a tote which display nicely next to the jams and syrups. Customers will be able to pair their favorites pieces with their favorite sweet indulgences, creating the perfect gifts for hostesses, housewarmings and other special occasions.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Editor's Pick: Maya Kaimal's Chickpea Chips

Chickpeas and rice. Something I never imagined I would enjoy in the form of a chip. Typically, I think of hummus when I think of chickpeas, so when I saw these bags of chips, I was fairly taken aback. 

Today I had the pleasure of trying Maya Kaimal's line of Chickpea Chips. The makers of Indian foods, sauces, and now chips, sent over some delectable flavors. Lightly Salted, Seeded Multigrain, and Sweet Chili. Besides being loaded with protein and fiber, they taste like a gourmet potato chip, which I'm always ready to try. I knew I was being healthy as I was eating handfuls at a time, which made them so much more enjoyable (they're gluten-free, kosher and vegan). Great with cheese, meat, or dipped in virtually any kind of sauce, the flavors go with just about anything, but are also delicious enough to be eaten by themselves.

Inspired by murukku, a traditional South Indian snack, their Chickpea Chips use the 

seasonings and ingredients that are always so popular among the flavors of South Asia. 
Maya Kaimal, owner of the self-named business, has received a Julia Child Cookbook Award, and as the driving force behind these Indian-inspired products, Maya attemps to always faithfully translate the traditional home cooking of her Indian family for the modern American lifestyle.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Editor’s Choice: Mustard Seed Sauce and Dressing

There’s a wide, wide array of flavors and cultures represented in Asian cooking, but from Vietnam to Korea and Indonesia to Malaysia, many basics and ingredients meld so well together. Ginger, garlic, shallots, sesame and lemongrass are all spotlighted in this cuisine, and cooking with an Asian touch has never been easier. Sauces and dressings from Mustard Seed bring a taste of the earth's largest continent into the kitchen.

For more than 35 years, the Mustard Seed and Noodle Express Restaurants have brought their fresh Asian-infused flavors to their patrons. And in 2013, their sauces and dressings were introduced to the marketplace for fans—new and old—to bring into their own kitchens.

The Ginger Dressing, a personal favorite and one of the company’s signature items, is multi-functional and bursting with Asian flavors—think minced ginger, sesame seeds, onion, vinegar and more. Used as a dressing on salads it’s light and tangy, but where I think the dressing shines is as a finish on seafood dishes. Pour the dressing into a hot pan and let it thicken before serving with grilled proteins or fish.

The Asian Oil and Vinegar, the same dressing that is used for the restaurants’ Asian Slaw, is a flavorful and healthy alternative to traditional oil and vinegar dressings. With a hint of sesame and a burst of tangy influences, mix it with a pasta salad or as a pork or chicken marinade. Another signature sauce, the Osaka Sauce, is one that customers’ have been enjoying for years. The bursts of Asian lemon and mustard lend a flavorful boost to even to most basic meals. The culinary possibilities are plentiful. I’d recommend using the Osaka as a dipping sauce for vegetables or grilled chicken or as a deeply flavored glaze over cooked rice or noodles.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Editor's Pick: Suan's Foods Scotch Bonnet Pepper Jelly

I frequently have friends over on Thursday night for dinner or go to happy hour or do another social activity. There are a few reasons for this: it’s almost the weekend, I may want to try a new recipe or I need to take my mind off of work for a night.

Last week, I had one of my college friends over for dinner. She’s a vegetarian, and as a meat lover, sometimes it’s hard for me to create an entire menu without any red meat, chicken or fish, so often we’ll enjoy some wine and cheese. I went with some of my favorite go-to cheeses including goat and brie. This time, I also incorporated a jar of Suan’s Scotch Bonnet Pepper Jelly into the mix and we both loved it.

The jelly itself is the perfect consistency while remaining both smooth and firm. It was the perfect blend of sweetness with a punch of spice for a very slight aftertaste. It mixed well with the cheese, particularly the brie, and really brought the dinner to a new level, bringing some spice to the bland crackers I accidently picked out.

That weekend, I was running low on groceries, but had some eggs, bacon, asparagus and cheddar on hand. I mixed the bacon, asparagus and cheddar together in a French omelet and spread the Scotch Bonnet Pepper Jelly on top of it. It made for a delicious and semi-nutritious breakfast and my day was off to a good start.

Suan’s Foods has a number of recipes on their website. I can’t wait to try another!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Editor's Choice: SuperSeedz

Pumpkin seedswho'd have thought? When SuperSeedz arrived at our door, I had no hesitations when it came to ripping open a bag. As an avid nut and cheese snacker, anything I can mindlessly reach for and pop in my mouth handfuls at a time is just perfect—twice as perfect if it's a healthy option. What makes these dry roasted, all natural seeds so super, is the protein, iron and zinc contained in every serving that keeps me going throughout the day. With eight flavors, there's a bag of gourmet pumpkin seeds to satisfy everyone:

  • Sea Salt
  • Really Naked
  • Sugar & Cinnamon
  • Tomato Italiano
  • Somewhat Spicy
  • Super Spicy
  • Coco Joe
  • Original Curry

The flavor choices seemed curious at first, but they really work. The Somewhat Spicy bag was more on the very spicy side for my sensitive taste buds, but the Sea Salt package became addicting. 15 kickball teammates can't be wrong, and they devoured the bag during last week's game. Next week, I'll be sure to disguise these in a boring snack decoy bag. 

The Sugar & Cinnamon seeds were a brilliant complement to my after-work wine, and since wine is full of antioxidants, mixing Malbec with the 9 grams of protein, 2 milligrams of iron and 2 milligrams of zinc per ounce offered in these seeds, I was basically really, really healthy that one day.

These tasty pop-able snacks come to us courtesy of Kathie Pelliccio, founder of SuperSeedz and the company from which they come—Kathie's Kitchen. What had started out intending to provide salads with an added crunch, then turned into the same desire for yogurt and oatmeal. Soon, Kathie and her husband, Joe, took off running with the idea, selling bags at fairs and farmers markets. Today they continue to make us healthy snacks, finding ingredients in the most unlikely of places.