July 9, 2013 at 11:21 AM ET
The Fancy Food Show, now in its 59th year, convened in New York last week with thousands of specialty food artisans, importers and entrepreneurs vying for attention and one of the coveted Sofi Awards for excellence in specialty foods. While I have been covering the Summer Fancy Food Show for TODAY for a number of years, this year I was asked to be a judge in the Best New Product category.
With a panel of important palates and specialty food purveyors, we tasted some 452 products over two days, from gum balls and garam masala to spicy chocolates, condiments and snacks. At the show, these 10 came in as finalists and one was chosen for the coveted SOFI Award for Best New Product. Find out what's trending its way to specialty stores and gourmet food aisles.
Big Picture Farm — Cocoa Latte Goat Milk Caramels
Two big trends emerged in a small candy: local and coffee! Big Picture Farm caramels are a worthy SOFI finalist! This grown up candy is made with fresh, raw, creamy, goat's milk from the farm's herd (who live a healthy and happy life in the rich pastures and leafy woodlands of southern Vermont) finished with a few shots of Brattleboro's own espresso roaster, Mocha Joe.
Greenwave Foods, Inc. — Crunch-a-ma-me Edamame Super Premium Shelled Edamame
We all clamor for local, USA-produced products, but do you know where your edamame is from? A lot of Americans may not be aware that 90 percent of our edamame is coming from China.
Greenwave thought it could make better edamame right here at home and took advantage of the soy belt of Arkansas where they grow and process the only American raised edamame. These soybeans will be available nationally in the coming months for around $4.00 per lb.
Snack finalist and soon-to-be family fave:
Gimme Health Foods — Organic Roasted Seaweed Snacks, Teriyaki
Asian snacks continue to be big, and seaweed is considered a healthy treat! "Gim" (roasted seaweed) is enjoyed every day in Seoul, Korea, as a side dish to meals.
The company's name, GimMe, is a play on the Korean word for seaweed. It's highly nutritious, and the company says their biggest consumers are 5 to 15-year-old kids!
Artisan Biscuits Ltd. — The Fine Cheese Co. Pearls of Pure Goats' Cheese
Hailing from the British Isles and Ireland, these soft and delicate pearls of goat's cheese are ready to spread on a cracker or warm crostini to make a simple canape. The pearls, which melt in your mouth, are made from goat curd and marinated in sunflower oil scented with garlic and herbs. These got all the judges going! It's a little miracle.
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. — Point Reyes Bay Blue
The Blue Cheese category continues to trend and this one really got the judges going back for more! Introduced as a counter-balance to the original, more pungent Point Reyes Blue cheese, it's a sweeter and milder blue cheese, rustic by nature with a gorgeous rind.
This cheese has an earthy mushroom flavor with a salted caramel and butterscotch finish. Don't stand between me and this cheese!
People want something quick, but they also want it to be special and comforting as well. This category includes boxed pasta and soups and snacks you can keep on hand and count on for a flavorful dinner with good ingredients.
Sabatino North America — Truffle Mac & Cheese
Tastemakers are always looking for twists on comfort food classics. This truffle mac and cheese fits the bill and introduces consumers to the wonderful world of truffles at an affordable price,$8.99. I call this the ultimate adult pantry staple — I could eat the box single-handed with a big spoon.
Sauces 'N Love Sauce over Pasta
Another comfort food taken to the next level is Porchini & Shiitake Alfredo by Sauces N' Love, a Boston-based company that continues to excite the SOFI judges. Passion and Italian tradition inspire their creations.
The sauce hits the perfect balance of a typical American sauce with trifolata di fungi and Alfredo sauce, classics from northern Italy. The mushrooms are sauteed in garlic and extra-virgin olive oil, and the Alfredo is a simple sauté of shallots in butter, light crew, Parmesan cheese and Gruyere. ($6.99 a bottle, coming in August)
Oregon Seafood Bisque
You can drink this bisque out of cups at the start of a dinner party. This is a new company from Coos Bay, Oregon, that's focused on wild, sustainable seafood. Don't let the lack of sodium or its gluten-free status scare you away, this heat-and-serve soup tastes great; it will certainly please even the most discerning pallet. It's really tasty!
Haig's Delicacies — Taboule Salad Mix & Serve
Haig's is a San Francisco original and was an integral part of making San Francisco a food mecca. The store on Clement Street has been part of the same family for years, and its tradition of creating quality Mediterranean foods from family recipes is alive in this taboule salad. Just give it a simple stir and you have "homemade" taboule salad and a great refrigerator pantry staple for easy summer meals.
Tres Agaves Organic Cocktail-Ready Agave Nectar
Cocktail Mixers are a growing trend in the specialty food world. Tres Agaves Organic Cocktail-Ready Agave Nectar is one of only three ingredients in the famous margarita recipe pioneered at Tres Agaves Restaurant in San Francisco. Now home mixologists can get margarita-ready in minutes by shaking up Tres Agaves Tequila and fresh lime juice. It has no artificial additives, pours and dissolves easily, and is only 60 calories per serving.