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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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Nonni's biscotti

For every coffee and tea drinker in America, there's a biscotti-lover.
In my opinion, biscotti tastes best when dipped in a piping-hot cup of cappuccino while sitting on my balcony during a rainy spring afternoon. It takes me to Italy and back in the blissful 10 minutes I have to myself before the chaos of life rudely interrupts my cognitive getaway.
All that from a cookie, you ask? Yes, my friends. Biscotti, when done right, is a girl's best friend. And when Nonni's Foods sent me samples of its Nonni's Biscotti, I knew I found my new bestie.
The press release touts premium ingredients and artisan roots dating back to 1988, when the company’s founder first opened his bakery. But today, Nonni's is stepping into the 21st century with new packaging that debuted this year. The new biscotti boxes feature vibrant imagery of its different flavors: Originali, Salted Caramel, Cioccolati, Dark Chocolate Almond, Limone, Toffee Almond, Triple Chocolate and Turtle Pecan. The new design also notes key ingredients as well as calorie count in bold font at the top right-hand corner of the box.
As a health-conscious Millennial consumer, I am instantly drawn to the mentions of "Real Almonds," "No Artificial Flavors" and "90 Calories" at the top of my almond and walnut biscotti box. Personally, I love when companies make a point to highlight nutritional facts front and center rather than hide them on the back or side panel. It's not necessary; but it goes a long way in showing me that they stand behind their product's contents 100 percent.
There's also a brand-new logo that features the phrases “artisan baked” and “Italian inspired” to signify the family recipe traced back almost a century ago to Lucca, Italy, a place that still inspires today’s bakers. The addition of a transparent window cutout to the front of each box is designed so consumers can see the biscotti firsthand. From the window, I can tell that each biscotti is individually wrapped (8 come with each box) to seal in freshness. Finally, the entire Nonni's history is told on the back of the box in storybook format, touting a heart-warming tale of the founder's grandmother, Nonni, who baked biscotti for her friends and family. "Today, our bakers are inspired to follow Nonni's Old World traditions in preparing a variety of delicious delights using real ingredients you might find at a farmers market," it reads.
The company's new tagline, "Real Ingredients, No Compromises," proudly sits to the side of the story, hovering proudly over a fantastic photo of a biscotti resting on a hot cup of joe. Looking at the image makes my body warm from the inside as I envision my Saturday morning routine of balcony, cappuccino and biscotti. But now that I'm attuned to the pure ingredients and beautiful family story behind the product, I'll be choosing Nonni's from the store shelves from now on.
“At Nonni’s, we are proud to offer consumers a Biscotti they can feel good about eating, made with no artificial flavors or preservatives,” said Patricia Bridges, senior brand marketing manager, in a press release. “We are thrilled that the new 2016 packaging tells our story and provides consumers with clear information about our ingredients.”
For ordering information, retailers can call 877-295-9604 or visit

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Gaea olive oil

Gaea olive oil is a product of "old world" production in Greece, the result being authentic, flavorful and high quality products that have garnered many international awards.
I poured Gaea olive oil over my pasta, and it instantly gave me a taste of pure ingredients grown in the fertile earth of Greece. The packaging is sophisticated and attractive, and it certainly will stand out on store shelves. Its aesthetic looks are just as impressive as its taste.
This product will no doubt appeal to the gourmet-food lover who knows what kind of an impact quality olive oil can have on one's food. In addition, the morals of the company and its dedication to sustainable production is equally as enticing for customers who care to ask about its backstory. 

According to its press release, Gaea's ingredients are exclusively of the highest quality: naturally grown in Greece, sun-ripened and harvested the traditional way. It is important for Gaea to preserve and to optimize what Mother Earth offers. All Gaea products are Non-GMO and traceable to the source. Gaea is also dedicated to sustainable production. As such, Gaea produces the first Extra Virgin Olive Oils that have been certified Carbon Neutral. Gaea is also committed to reducing its water footprint, and it is a member of the non-profit Water Footprint Network. All Gaea olives are traditionally harvested, picked and sorted by hand and then processed with care. Almost all of Gaea's oils are certified PDO (Protected Designation of Origin).

Here are the new Gaea products:
Kritsa Estate EVOO - Kritsa extra virgin olive oil is produced in Kritsa, in one of Crete's oldest olive groves dating back 4,500 years from ancient trees dating back 80-100 years. This area has a warm, dry, semi-mountainous climate with a lot of sunshine as well as perfect soil conditions, which are ideal for olive oil tree cultivation. The production comes out of common grinding from a variety of olives known as "Koroneiki," which are ground within three hours from the harvest to ensure very low acidity and top quality.

Vranas Estate EVOO - Gaea's Vranas PGI extra virgin olive oil comes from the island of Lesvos and is made from the unique variety called "Agrielia." Grown on ancient trees dating back 80-100 years that are exposed to the sun for more than 3,000 hours per year, the olives acquire a distinctively warm aroma and taste. Classified P.G.I. (Protected Geographical Indication) by the EU, which guarantees the superior quality and total integrity of the product.

Balsamic and Honey Glaze - Gaea Balsamic and Honey Glaze is the balsamic vinegar of Ancient Greeks with a creamy texture – Crema di Oxymelo. This glaze is unique in that it has only four ingredients with nothing artificial and no sugar added.

Natural Grape Glaze - The Greek Crema di Balsamico, Petimezi is based on a Greek recipe produced in a traditional way. GAEA Petimezi Cream is made of 100 percent natural grape juice syrup (grape must) and contains only two ingredients with no sugars and nothing artificial added. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Orange Madeleines from Sugar Bowl Bakery

In a focus group, feedback on a new product launch is valuable. But when feedback comes voluntarily from a stranger who simply feels the need to stop you and put in his two cents--that, my friends, is priceless.
So my experience goes when I dined at a local sushi restaurant with my husband. Trying to save money on dining out, I admittedly committed a big restaurant no-no: I brought my own dessert. Of course, I don't make that a habit, but I simply couldn't help myself. I had just received a box of Sugar Bowl Bakery's newly launched (in early February) orange-flavored Madeleines cookies, and I was so eager to try them that I couldn't even wait to get into the car before breaking them out. 
I did, however, manage to stem my desire long enough to finish dinner like a grown-up. But after I completely cleaned my plate of salmon skin roll and edamame, I decided I had waited long enough. I stealthily pulled the big clear box of what I had always known as delicious, buttery Madeleines cookies, and this version looked just like the original except for the orange-colored label as opposed to classic white. (The word "orange" also sits above the iconic Madeleines print that's front and center on the package.) You can clearly see through the packaging that the cookies boast a slight orange hue as well, further intriguing my taste buds.  
I handed one cookie to my husband and finally had the chance to bite into one myself. Instantly, I knew I could never go back to the original flavor. Since 2003, Sugar Bowl Bakery's Madeleines have been more of the (mouthwatering) same. But this new (and truly exciting) orange version was a subtle citrus variation that blended all the sweetness of just-ripe Valencia orange zests and oils with the soft, buttery goodness of a traditional Madeleine. 
Then, I was busted. A very polite and very petite waiter came to our table, knelt down beside me and politely pointed to my box of cookies. "Excuse me," he whispered with a thick Asian accent. "I don't want to intrude, but--" 
I interrupted him with instant apologies and began to stuff my box of Orange Madeleines back into my purse. Then I realized, with astonishment, that I was not being reprimanded. No, I was being interrogated. 
"Where did you get those Madeleines? I've never seen that flavor. Where can I buy them? Did you get them from Costco?" he inquired. "I buy a whole box from Costco every month because I know I'll finish them in a week, but I didn't know they had different flavors." 
A whole box in a week, huh? Judging from his small stature, I had my doubts. But then again, he seemed like a very honest guy. Once I got over my realization that I was not being kicked out of this fine-dining restaurant, I proceeded to answer his questions with vigor. 
"No, the company sent them to me. They just launched a line of flavored Madeleines this month, that's why you've never seen them. This is orange, do you want to try some? They also have Meyer lemon. They'll be on shelves soon. The new fall flavor is Pumpkin Spice, and there's Tuxedo for winter," I said. 
Although he refused my offer several times and insisted that he "did not want to intrude," I insisted right back that he simply must have a taste. I plated several cookies and pushed them in the general direction of his mouth, simultaneously reaching for my notepad and pen to take notes on his conclusion. 
"I love them," he said. My natural reporter instincts immediately kicked in with the "why" question. "It's different, and they've been doing the original for so long that it's really nice to have a new flavor. Plus, orange is a very Asian citrus flavor, so I know they'll be popular. They will definitely sell through," he assured me--that's a note to the wise for any specialty food retailer.  
Delighted with his feedback, I insisted that he keep the rest of the box to hold him over until the new flavor hits shelves. He tried to say no, but I knew this was an offer he couldn't refuse. Someone with a Madeleines passion this big deserved it, I thought. Then I went home to write up my blog post.  
"Biting into the bright Lemon and Orange Madeleines will take you to beautiful spring and summer days, and the Pumpkin Spice and Tuxedo Madeleines will whisk you to cozy autumn and rich winter. We wanted to make something we'd enjoy with our own families, and you can taste the love," said Andrew Ly, CEO of Sugar Bowl Bakery in a press release. "It only made sense to expand the line to include some of our favorite seasonal flavors." 
The cookies are free of artificial flavors, artificial colors, trans-fat and preservatives. The Lemon Madeleines are made with Meyer lemon zest and lemon oil; the Orange Madeleines are made with Valencia orange zest and orange oil; the Pumpkin Madeleines are made with real pumpkin puree and spices; and the Tuxedo Madeleines are made with the highest quality cocoa powder. 
For more information on the Sugar Bowl Bakery brand, its products or where to find them at a store near you, visit

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Annie B's handmade caramels

I'm not a chocolate-lover by nature, so Valentine's Day is always kinda tough for me (in relative terms). I don't have much of a sweet tooth, and every year, before the big day of red, I practice my "surprise face" in anticipation of receiving that ubiquitous heart-shaped box of chocolates and flowers. 
While the flowers are not so bad (hint, hint to my husband), when you're not a sugar-lover, even the finest box of chocolates can make you roll your eyes at the thought of downing the required handful of morsels that signal the non-verbal, "Thank you for thinking of me!" to your sweetie. He did, after all, try. 
This year, the lovely wife-husband team at Annie B's sent me a sample of their Handmade Caramels with a classy yet simple "happy Valentine's Day" phrase in white cursive font that is written above a modest white heart on a red label. What, no white-lace borders? No frills? No garish designs that shout out, "Eat this candy now!"? No, none of that. But I assure you, the lack of gimmicks really make it pop. Put it next to any cash register for that impulse buy, and it will catch the eye of the guys (and girls!) looking for an upscale add-on for his flowers or Teddy bear. 
The Annie B's 8-ounce clear-plastic box of caramels modestly reminds the buyer with more small-print that the caramels are made in small batches and cooked in copper pots for the best and purest taste possible. 
Again, not a sugar-lover, so I was hesitant to delve into the sweetness of a caramel. I can down a bag of salt-and-vinegar potato chips all by myself but sweets are just not my thing--until now. Not even realizing that I had the choice of three different flavors in one box--seat salt, chocolate sea salt and raspberry chocolate--I pulled out the first two-inch stick of caramel I could grasp. With preconceived notions of what a super-sweet caramel usually tastes like, I bit in. 
Result: unexpected bliss (which is the best kind of bliss!). As it turns out, the chocolate sea salt caramel is not too sweet at all! In fact, it's actually salty! (Go figure.) "Wow," I thought, "a sea-salted caramel in which you can actually taste the salt!" As I chewed into the stiff caramel to break it down into soft goey-ness, I began biting down on precious chunks--not flakes-of actual sea salt. It was glorious. 
While other candies may boast the "sea salt" label, few actually follow through with the more-salty-than-sweet combination. But this fine morsel--which won a nod from "Oprah's Favorite Things in 2014--passes the test with flying colors. So much so that I was compelled to take a look at
Turns out, Justin and Amanda Henke bought the Annie B's company, which has been around since 1978, from its founders--another husband-and-wife duo--Tom and Carol Bouquet. In fact, the Henkes bought the candy company on the same day Amanda gave birth to her first child, August. (How's that for a sappy Valentine's Day story?!) 
It also turns out that Annie B's is known for much more than just their caramels (although that's what I'll be hitting them up for because I'm officially hooked). The company also offers small-batch popcorn in flavors like sharp cheddar, jalapeno cheddar and, of course, original caramel. 
I checked out the reviews left on their website and, sure enough, people are raving about my new-found love: chocolate sea salt Annie B's caramels. It seems, like me, once they tasted it, they had to have more. 
Also interesting are the notes about the company's (or couple's) Facebook page. Of course, I took a visit and, sure enough, it's active (unlike so many mom-and-pop companies that tout their social media pages but don't actually post anything). Not only is it active, but it's fun! There are quizzes, pictures and--surprise!--you can actually talk and chat with the people behind the candy. 
Yes, the wholesalers have amazing candy gifts to offer your customers for Valentine's Day. But if you're looking for that impulse-purchase all year-round, then set some samples up near your cash register and watch the Annie B's fly off the shelf.