By Analiese Paik
The massive, sold-out 2014 Summer Fancy Food Show at the Javitz Center in Manhattan was an excellent opportunity to visit with some favorite specialty food makers in the local-sustainable food space, and discover quite a few new ones. The specialty food business is booming according to the press releases I received upon check in. Demand by consumers for high-quality foods made by small or local businesses, especially chocolate, cheese, olive and other specialty oils, yogurt, and coffee, has surged since the 2009 economic downturn according to the Specialty Food Association, the industry trade group responsible for the show.
Enjoy highlights of local and sustainable foods from the show. I shall never leave my Nikon home again.
Barefoot & Chocolate Expands Line of Spreads
Sasha and Trent Lewis, co-owners and founders of Barefoot & Chocolate in Norwalk, CT, have expanded their line of lovingly crafted chocolate spreads to include a third flavor – Dark Chocolate Almond Spread with Sea Salt – that is milk free and vegan. Also new are the single serve packs of Hazelnut Chocolate and Almond Coconut Chocolate spreads, a convenience when traveling or packing snacks for school.
All products are made with Non-GMO Project Verified, Fair Trade ingredients including organic cane sugar, organic cocoa powder, organic sunflower oil, organic skimmed milk powder and organic vanilla. The almonds and hazelnuts are not organic just yet.Think of these as a locally made, sustainable alternative to Nutella.
Bean-to-Box, Fair Trade Gourmet Cocoa Products from Cissé
With accolades from Serious Eat and Epicurious to Forbes and the Chicago Tribune, this women-owned, Mamaroneck, NY-based company offers convenience, excellent flavor, and ingredient traceability to consumers. At the show, delicious brownies and cookies made with their baking mixes tasted homemade. That has everything to do with fine, sustainable ingredient sourcing including organic, Fair Trade cocoa from the FUNDOPO cooperative in the Dominican Republic, organic cane sugar, and Madasgar vanilla beans. “Frozen hot cocoa”, made by blending milk, Cisse semisweet hot cocoa and frozen banana, is a perfectly refreshing summer treat anyone can whip up at home. Look for their products in both natural and conventional retailers nationwide. www.cissetrading.com.
Stratford-Based Nuovo Pasta Launches Organic Line
Nuovo Pasta’s USDA Certified Organic pastas will soon show up in freezer cases in Whole Foods Markets across the state, giving consumers a chance to switch to local-organic. The new organic collection includes five flavors of ravioli, 2 flavors of tortellini, and sacchetti (beggar’s purses). Nuovo has been producing fine, artisan pasta and specialty sauces for 25 years and sells to retailers and food service establishments. Ask your favorite school, hospital, nursing home, or restaurant to go local-organic with Nuovo, a two-time Sofi award winner. www.nuovopasta.com
Organic Fruit & Veggie Smoothies for Kids
Juicing is all the rage, but I live by a whole food doctrine. I don’t buy juice for my kids because it robs them of the nutrition found in the whole fruit or vegetable. So, I was more than a bit reluctant to try these product, but am glad I did. Green Mustache, a woman-owned business, blends tasty combinations of organic whole fruits and vegetables to produce four flavors of smoothies just for kids. Each bottle contains one serving of fruits and leafy greens, is well under 200 calories thanks to no added sugar, and supplies a few grams of protein from ground chia seeds.
Try as we might as parents to get our kids to eat right, there are some kids (I know; I have one) who are so picky they turn their noses up at most vegetables. That’s what Founder and CEO VanTrang Manges discovered while raising her children, and what led her to create the smoothie solution. These smoothies are perfect for school snacks (but mom I’m the only one eating cut up fruit), camp snacks (must be refreshing and somehow homemade smoothies don’t cut it), and grab at home snacks (I don’t want another yogurt!). Green Mustache’s products can be found at Walter Stewart’s Market in New Canaan and Palmer’s Market in Darien and will soon be expanding to other stores. www.getgreenmustache.com
Moonstruck Introduces Milk Chocolate Fortunato No. 4 with Cacao Nibs
Moonstruck, a renowned artisan chocolate shop in Portland, Oregon, is one of a handful of chocolatiers making bars with the legendary Fortunato No. 4 chocolate produced by Marañon Chocolate Company from Cacao Nacional beans grown in Peru. This species of cacao was rediscovered in 2011 and is considered by some to produce the best chocolate in the world. The chocolate has fruity and floral flavors and aromas and lacks bitterness, a quality attributed to its rare white beans. Moonstruck is now adding cacao nibs to the 68% cacao bar, which adds both flavor and texture, and has also introduced a 50% milk bar with cacao nibs. Moonstrucks’ Fortunato No. 4 bar was my #1 eco-luxe pick in our 2011 holiday gift guide. It’s a fantastic story and every purchase supports good taste, biodiversity, sustainable growers, and artisan food entrepreneurs.
CideRoad Revives American Heritage Beverage, Organically
Switchel, aka Haymaker’s Punch, is a refreshing water-based beverage flavored with ginger, vinegar, and maple syrup that dates back to the founding of our country. CideRoad Founder & CEO Kevin Duffy explained that, in Colonial times, it was commonly consumed by farmers to quench their thirst while haying fields all day in the hot sun. Hence the moniker “Haymaker’s Punch” and CideRoad’s tag line – “America’s Original Thirst Quencher”. CideRoad produces three flavors of USDA Organic switchel – original, blueberry and cherry – that strike a refreshing balance of tart and sweet and deliver full flavor. Ditch the soda and sports drinks and try switchel instead. This young, Mendham, NJ-based company is just entering Connecticut, so look for their switchel on shelves soon and consider using it to make your own craft cocktails. www.cideroad.com is under renovation, so please contact Kevin Duffy at kevin at cideroad dot com for more information, on Twitter @CideRoadBev, and on Facebook at CideRoad Organic Switchel.
Stonyfield Introduces Organic Petite Creme
This new line of yet-to-be-released organic soft cheese snacks caters to consumers who find Greek yogurt too thick and too tart. Marketing materials tout its rich, silky texture and appealing taste -mild with no tartness. The snack cups are packaged similar to their yogurts, but more squat. They’ll soon make their way into the refrigerator case next to the yogurts, which could confuse consumers. To me, these are a substitute for yogurt, not an add on. Calorie counts on these 5.3 ounce snack cups range from 100 for the plain to 140 for the vanilla and all are low fat and high in protein with cultured pasteurized organic nonfat milk as the first ingredient. They are very rich tasting and no stirring is necessary. www.stonyfield.com
Award-Winning CT Specialty Foods Companies
White Oak Farm & Table, SuperSeedz, and The Bites Company are all women-owned specialty food businesses whose products won awards at the CT Specialty Food Association’s 2014 Product Award Competition. These are successful businesses making high-quality products that are now more widely available at retail due to the tremendous exposure they received at the Fancy Food Show.
Renee Hooper, owner of White Oak Farm & Table, garnered 3 awards for her sauces and condiments:
- 1st Place in the CT Grown Category: Maple Hall Ketchup
- 3rd Place in the CT Grown Category: Tuscan Vegetable Sauce
- 1st Place (tie) Savory Condiment: Champagne Dill Wasabi Mustard
Renee and her husband John also own Christie’s Country Store where their products are sold. Mrs. Greens and Whole Foods Markets in the northeast carry the line, which is in the process of being Non-GMO Project certified. I highly recommend using the mustards on sandwiches and in dressings, and the spicy “ketchup” is perfect for seafood and adding tomato and spice to a burger. www.whiteoakfarmandtable.com
Dina Upton, owner of The Bites Company, produces two award-winning gluten-free cookies made in Black Rock, Biscotti Almond Bites and Biscotti Cocoa bites. Tied for second place in the Gluten Free Category in the CT awards, these treats are great for an afternoon pick-me-up or to serve with coffee or tea. They make a thoughtful hostess gift for the gluten-free eater. www.thebitescompany.com
Kathy Pelliccio, founder of SuperSeedz Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds snacks (Non-GMO Certified), won a first place award in CT for packaging (isn’t it fantastic?) and her cinnamon sugar pumpkin seeds won third place for a sweet topping. The full line of flavored, gourmet pumpkin seeds can be found in stores across the US. www.superseedz.com
Better Off Spread Launched by Brooklyn Couple
Jenny and Johnny are an adorable couple making uniquely flavored nut butter spreads from organic, roasted nuts – either peanuts or almonds. The Dark Chocolate Organic Peanut Butter spread, with rosemary, sea salt and lemon, was my favorite.These products have a thin consistency and lend themselves to being served as dips or used in sauces. I think The Ace of Spice -peanuts, black sesame seeds, Szechuan peppercorns, ground red chili pepper and sea salt – when mixed with coconut milk would make an interesting sauce for cold noodles. They are working on securing a USDA Organic certification and recently moved to using a co-packer. www.bettteroffspread.com.