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Global Cuisine

Olive Oil Supply Plagued by Olive Quick Decline Syndrome

By Richard Thompson

Retailers looking for any supply increases or price stabilization for Italian olive oil are most likely not going to find it this year. The dismal 2014 harvest of Italian olive oil lowered levels of production and increased costs to retailers and consumers from a combination of conditions that have no immediate solutions and probably won’t be resolved in the near future.

David Neuman, CEO of Gaea, North America, LLC and who has worked previously with Lucini Italia has seen problems with Italian oil harvests for years and sees the industry working on borrowed time. “Every single year there’s a problem,” Neuman said, “Every year there are good harvests and bad harvests, but southern Italy is getting pummeled [by Olive Quick Decline Syndrome], and the last harvest was like a perfect storm. Too many combinations that came together.”

So what is plaguing Italian farmers and oil producers on such a dismal scale? Basically, everything that could harm production is happening all at once.
Italy had a terrible rainy season last year and olive flies had infested compromised crops, but the Olive Quick Decline Syndrome (OQDS), a bacterial infection that withers and desiccates the tree shoots, is now spreading across the province of Lecce, leaving Italian officials unsure on how to resolve the problem.

First reported at the end of September 2013 by the Italian government’s Plant Health Directorate in Malta, OQDS was already considered an epidemic in the Italian province of Lecce, with more than 8000 hectares of olive orchards affected, but a declaration that OQDS was responsible for olive tree deaths was deferred pending further study.

The Italian Trade Commissioner agrees with this non-committal stance, even while acknowledging the growing blight caused by OQDS. “We feel the authorities have to further investigate the bacteria and its effects that are a cause for concern” said Pier Paolo Celeste, Italian Trade Commissioner and Executive Director for the NY offices in the US, “It is not entirely proven yet.”

The ITC believes that the Xylella fastidiosa bacterium – the cause for OQDS – may not be what is making the olive trees sick. Instead, they believe that it is only a component that must be activated by right conditions to harm the trees, leaving the olive fruit still safe for consumption. “We know for sure that the quality of the fruit is intact,” Celeste said, “It attacks the tree itself, but does not affect the quality of the olive oil produced. It is absolutely safe.”
Some Italian non-government organizations, such as Peacelink, are pushing to save the trees infected by OQDS. The organization has requested the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an independent organization that advises the European Union, to confirm that the bacterium is not the cause of olive tree death. Peacelink points to trees that have survived and rebounded after the orchards have been treated, but hasn’t been able to provide enough proof to be sure.

The EFSA is saying that X. fastidiosa is a new problem for Italian olive trees and doesn’t seem to need specific conditions in order to spread, so there’s no concrete plan that is sure to succeed that will stop the spread. Since X. fastidiosa has such as wide range of hosts, it can persist even with insecticide treatments on specific host crops – such as olive trees.

On top of that, there is no record of successful eradication of X. fastidiosa once it finds a home outdoors. The destruction of olive trees that have been infected is one of the only ways to contain the spread of the blight, an action the Italian government is reluctant to approve and Peacelink outright opposes.
Despite their qualms, the Italian government has already culled an estimated 700,000 olive trees, with some reports indicating the number closer to 1 million or more. Some of these trees were between 150 and 200 years old.

The acreage that was culled was immediately replanted with new precautions in place to prevent further spread. This new crop of olive trees is hoped to be back in production in about three to four years.

“We are actively seeking out viable solutions,” Celeste said, “It is something that is being vigorously studied by our authorities; as it represents a unique challenge.”

The production will certainly not be back to normal in 2015. Neither will prices.

The Italian Trade Commission Office confirms that 2014′s limited production did affect prices. A recent report by the International Olive Council (IOC), an independent organization that reports on the olive industry annually, stated that Italian production actually declined 55 percent and prices climbed by as much as 37 percent from 2013. The IOC is currently projecting that Italy’s 2015 olive oil production will be larger than 2014′s, but still significantly below normal.

Specialities, Inc. to Introduce French Bayonne Ham at Summer Fancy Food Show

Specialities, Inc. will be introducing France’s legendary all natural Bayonne Ham at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City to complete the “trilogy” of the finest cured meats in the United States. The Bayonne Ham is crafted to the highest standards using a unique process handed down by centuries of meticulous care, time and knowledge. Bayonne Hams are the standard by which all other French hams are judged. Specalities, Inc. will be showcasing both the traditional tasting Bayonne Ham and a flavor of Bayonne Ham that has been cured and coated using France’s world famous AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) Espelette Red Peppers.

A ham can only become a Bayonne Ham if it’s produced in the very specific, clearly defined areas of the Adour basin in the heart of French Basque for salting and the south of France for rearing. All Bayonne Hams are assured by the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) since October 7, 1998 and protected under the European Union PGI label. The PGI label informs consumers about the specific characteristics of products and protects their geographical names from imitation and usurpation. Bayonne hams have only four ingredients; specially-bred and fed French pigs (corn and cereals), salt from the natural springs deep beneath the Pyrenees Mountains, air and the most important ingredient, time.

Bayonne Hams are air-dried, dark in color, with a very tender mild flavor with only a hint of saltiness. All Bayonne Hams have stringent levels of production requirements (breeding, slaughter and butchering, salting and distribution) all approved by officers from the Consortium du Jambon de Bayonne.

Specialities, Inc. was awarded the prized cured ham from France last July by the Delpeyrat Bayonne Ham Company based upon their expertise and experience to source, distribute and create sell-through of “Best of Class” specialty brands in the United States. After a two year approval process, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put its stamp of approval to begin importing the Bayonne Ham with the first shipments arriving in August of this year.

“We are honored to have been selected as the exclusive purveyor of the Bayonne Ham in the United States,” said Richard Kessler of Specialities, Inc. “We can’t wait for show attendees to experience the exceptional taste and smooth texture of this legendary ham.

All Bayonne Hams are cured by rubbing with 100 percent all-natural Adour basin salt and then covered with a thick layer of salt and placed in the salting room. The hams are suspended in a room where they are dried at a low temperature in artificially created winter conditions. Then the hams are hung in drying rooms where the long maturing process begins, gradually enhancing their flavor, aroma and tenderness. The next step is a process in which  a mixture of pork fat and flour is applied on the muscular parts of the ham, making for a gentler drying process during the long maturing period. In the last step, the ham acquires all of its qualities and revels its personality: a mild flavor, balanced saltiness and delicate aroma. Then the hams are tested by experts who define the hams’ taste qualities and are approved to wear the Bayonne branded tattoo. On average, it takes nine to 12 months to make a Bayonne Ham.

Specialities, Inc. will also be showcasing  other “Best of Class” specialty brands Le Bistro French Recipe Ham, Noel Spanish Serrano, Solera Spanish Cheeses and Meats, Bellentani Deli Meats, LactAcores Portuguese cheeses and Ermitage French cheeses at its Summer Fancy Food Show booth.

Sartori Cheese Releasing Limited Edition Extra-Aged Goat Cheese


Sartori Cheese will be releasing its Limited Edition Extra-Aged Goat Cheese to specialty cheese shops throughout the United States during the months of June and July.  Hand-crafted in small batches using 100 percent goat’s milk, this specialty cheese is only released twice during the year.

Sartori’s Extra-Aged Goat Cheese is made within Sartori’s Italian hard-style tradition.  Unlike a typical soft, fresh goat cheese, Sartori’s is extra-aged for a minimum of 10 months.  “This goat cheese is surprisingly different than what most expect.  When we age this in our curing room, the flavors begin to balance out and in the end the cheese delivers a savory, smooth, and creamy finish with hints of caramel,” shares Sartori Master Cheesemaker, Pam sartoriHodgson.

As with many award-winning cheese, Sartori’s Extra-Aged Goat has a wonderful story of origin.  A few years back this cheese was developed by Hodgson and her team.  “The idea has always been there to experiment with goat’s milk.  Growing up, I was very familiar with goats.  My dad purchased a couple goats to help trim his lawn on the farm and later in life my children showed the animals during county fairs.  When starting with the creation of this cheese, our hurdle was to understand how to craft a hard goat’s milk cheese and stay true to our Italian roots.  We decided to partner with LaClare Farms to source the freshest, highest quality goat’s milk.  From there, we created a hard goat’s milk cheese and aged it.  It’s the steps within the cheese make process that allowed us to continue within our tradition of hard-style award-winning cheese,” adds Hodgson.

Sartori first introduced this cheese in 2012 and received a Gold Medal at the Global Cheese Awards held in the United Kingdom.  Since its inception, Sartori has garnered seven awards for this very special cheese.

Sartori’s Limited Edition Extra-Aged Goat Cheese will be available at specialty cheese shops throughout the United States June and July.  Additionally, a limited supply of wedges will be available for sale at the Sartori online cheese shop,

Jade Monk Taking Matcha Green Tea Mainstream

Jade MonkJade Monk is redefining the ready-to-drink tea category with its first-to-market line of organic, cold-brewed matcha green teas. Now available in five regions of Whole Foods Market, Jade Monk’s new line of premium matcha tea is a delicious, authentic offering of some of the finest tea to ever hit the mainstream beverage set.

Utilizing a cold-brewing method, no heat is ever introduced during the production of Jade Monk’s USDA Organic and Non-GMO verified matcha beverages. To extend shelf life of the perishable tea, Jade Monk uses high-pressure-processing, a new method of cold pasteurization that applies high pressure (over 30 tons worth) to inactivate bacteria and other unwanted hazards without the need for high temperature pasteurization, which can be detrimental to matcha’s delicate flavor and whole food nutrients.

“Matcha green tea is unlike any other tea on Earth,” said Mike Fulkerson, Chief Commercial Officer of Jade Monk, LLC. “Because matcha is made by delicately grinding the entire tea leaf into a fine powder, all of those whole food nutrients and health benefits that regular tea bags carry away stay in the beverage and are consumed when you drink Jade Monk matcha.”

Although matcha may seem relatively new to the US, it has been consumed for well over 800 years throughout the Far East. For nearly a millennium, the Japanese have been honing and refining the art of matcha production, which has culminated in a distinct green tea that contains unrivaled flavor, nutritional properties and health benefits. Studies have shown that just one serving of matcha green tea contains the antioxidant equivalent of over 10 servings of traditional steeped green tea. Matcha drinkers also benefit from the whole food trace minerals and amino acids that the tea contains.

The Jade Monk ready-to-drink beverage line consists of four initial flavors: Unsweetened, Slightly Sweet, Mint + Honey, and Matcha Cleanse. The line can currently be found in the refrigerated beverage sets of Whole Foods Market stores in the Pacific Northwest, Southern Pacific, Florida, South and Mid-Atlantic regions.

Gelato-Filled Fruit from Divino USA

Divino USA, Inc. has entered the U.S. frozen dessert market with its distinctive line of Italian handcrafted gelato-filled fruit. The company is poised
to continue on the current trajectory of rapid growth in this country, having already secured national distribution available through KeHE, Haddon House, Nature’s Best and UNFI. Unlike any other gelato on the market, Divino is made from fresh Southern Italian fruit that is hand-picked near the Divino factory on the Amalfi Coast. The fresh fruit pulp is blended with volcanic waters from neighboring Mount Vesuvius, sweetened with natural sugar and lemon juice, and then filled into the halved fruit shell and frozen to a delicious single serving.
Divino varieties include Amalfi Lemon, Roman Kiwi, Ciaculli Tangerine, Apulian Peach and Black Diamond Plum. Each single serve item contains about 100 calories, and all are gluten-free certified, fat free and Non-GMO Project Verified. Each unit is individually packaged in a colorful box and includes a serving tray and spoon, allowing for easy display and grab-and-go. The fruit shell containing the gelato is also completely edible. The product has a shelf life of approximately 12 months. Divino calls its frozen treats ‘gelato’ because in Italy, both ice cream and sorbet fall under the gelato category.

Divino is available in natural foods stores, as well as select grocery and specialty stores across the country, with rapidly growing national distribution, and retails for approximately $3.99-$4.49 per single serving. For more information, visit

Spaghetti Without the Gluten from Explore-Asian

By Richard Thompson

For those who have to avoid their favorite pasta meals comes Edamame Spaghetti from Explore-Asian, a new spin on pasta that’s not only good, but healthier too. Gluten free, organic, vegan, kosher, non-GMO and approved by the American Heart Association, it’s not just ridiculously delicious but it’s sure to appeal to a wide range of health-conscious shoppers.

Retailing from 3.99 to 4.79, Edamame Spaghetti is made simply from organic beans and water. One serving has 24 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber, packaged and ready to eat in just a few minutes. Add a little pesto for a delectable treat, but any sauce is the perfect complement. This is pasta reinvented.

For further information visit them at

New Cabo Chip Flavors, Churro & Mango Chili Lime, Mirror Forecasted 2015 Flavor Trends

Cabo_ShipperAccording to a recent study, the biggest flavor trends of 2015 are expected to include unconventional flavor pairings, regional flavors, sustainable ingredients and savory updates on traditionally sweet items. Cabo Chips, a cantina style chip inspired by the beaches of Mexico, is right on trend with the launch of two new unique flavors that are both mouthwateringly delicious and surprisingly healthy – Churro and Mango Chili Lime. Cut from real tortillas, each chip is cooked in antioxidant-rich rice bran oil and made from 100 percent whole grains. They are also gluten-free, non-GMO verified, vegan, and kosher

“It’s astonishing how many ingredients you’ll find on food labels; many of which are tough to pronounce,”said Christian Bunte, Founder and CEO of Cabo Chips. “Cabo Chips are real chips made from real ingredients. Meaning our chips are cut from real tortillas, have pronounceable ingredients you can count on both hands, and they are packed full of flavor. It’s hard to believe, but our Original flavor has only five ingredients!”

The new Churro and Mango Chili Lime Cabo Chips were born from regional flavors of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and were inspired by popular Mexican street-style treats. They are the first authentic, Mexican-style tortilla chips to combine these unusual flavors in a healthy, portable snack. Unlike other sweetened tortilla chips, the Cabo Chips Churro flavor is salt-free. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the new Mango Chili Lime flavor caters to those looking for something in the sweet and savory category while also incorporating ancient grains like teff and chia.

mango-chiliMango Chili Lime: 100 percent whole grain tortilla infused with mango, a splash of lime juice and a pinch of mild chili and sea salt

  • A play on the popular Mexican street and beach snack of mango on a stick
  • A blend of two ancient grains, teff and chia; providing 60 mg of omegas, fiber and a full spectrum of other nutrients
  • The only tortilla chips made using real mango, chili, and lime juice
  • Cooked in antioxidant rich rice bran oil – high in gamma oryzanol
  • Gluten free, non-GMO, 100 percent whole grain, vegan and kosher
  • No trans fat, no preservatives, dairy free, nut free, no artificial flavor

ChurroChurro: 100 percent whole grain vanilla tortilla chips with a dash of sugar and organic cinnamon

  • A healthy and portable twist on the popular Mexican desert
  • Cooked with organic cinnamon and vanilla which have been shown to balance blood sugar, reduce inflammation and aid in relaxation
  • The only batch-cooked cinnamon and sugar chip –giving these chips the advantage of a true cantina crunch.
  • Cooked in antioxidant rich rice bran oil – high in gamma oryzanol
  • Gluten free, non-GMO, 100 percent whole grain, vegan and kosher
  • No trans fat, no preservatives, dairy free, nut free, no artificial flavor

The new flavors join Cabo Chips Original, an unconventional pairing of real soy sauce with lime juice, and Blue Corn, which is seasoned with a dash of sea salt and lime juice. Cabo Chips are made using a small-batch cooking method that results in a cantina-style crunch and texture, transporting the mind and taste buds to an authentic Mexican beachside cantina. The company uses only simple real ingredients for true flavors. This means no “flavorings,” yeasts, or maltodextrin. Cabo Chips Original and Blue Corn flavors have only five ingredients – all easy to pronounce. Cabo Chips have a suggested retail price of $3.49.

CideRoad’s Organic Switchel Available at Mid Atlantic Region Whole Foods Stores

CideroadCideRoad Organic Switchel, America’s Original Thirst Quencher, is now available at The Whole Foods Market Mid-Atlantic Region (Maryland, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington DC, Marlton and Princeton, New Jersey).  Traditional Switchel dates back to the American Revolution. Rumor has it the Founders drank this mix of cool water, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and ginger to keep hydrated as they drafted the United States Constitution.

CideRoad has resurrected this unique American beverage and added its own new, unique twists. Switchel is available in three flavors: Original, a spicy Cherry, and a snappy Blueberry, each made with an apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and ginger base.

CideRoad Organic Switchel is the perfect refreshment for any time of day, whether that be working in your garden, after a run, chilling on your porch or even working off a mean hangover. Plus, with under 70 calories per serving and lending the perfect balance of sweet, tangy, sour and tart, you can enjoy it guilt-free as a flavor packed cocktail mixer!

Breaking Bread with Steve Schirripa and Michael Imperioli


Uncle SteveSteve Schirripa is teaming up with his Sopranos co-star Michael Imperioli to meet their fans at The Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, where Steve will be exhibiting his Uncle Steve’s Italian Specialties line of organic pasta sauces. Schirripa and Imperioli, known by Sopranos fans as Bobby Baccalieri and Christopher Moltisanti, will be signing autographs and sharing sauce with their fans at The Hilton Level 2 – Hot Products Pavilion, Booth H201 on March 5 and 6 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There will also be raffle prizes given out continuously throughout both days.

“Michael Imperioli is like a brother to me, so it’ll be great to have him in Anaheim. We’re looking forward to breaking bread with our fans and introducing them to Uncle Steve’s sauces,” Schirripa noted.

Uncle Steve’s Italian Specialties was created by Steve Schirripa earlier this year. Each jar of Uncle Steve’s sauce is produced in the USA from small batches of fresh imported organic Italian plum tomatoes, vegetables and spices, “Our products are USDA-certified organic, gluten free, dairy free, vegan, and contain no added sugar. With no GMOs, no pesticides, and nothing artificial, you can be confident you are feeding your family not only great-tasting products, but nourishing them as well.” said Schirripa. “My mother cooked her sauce for six hours and unlike the others, we are doing the same.”

Uncle Steve’s is available in three flavors: Marinara, Tomato Basil and Arrabiata. It is available at Whole Foods Market, Central Market, ShopRite, Stop ‘n Shop and many other grocery and health food stores across the USA. For more information on where to buy or to purchase by mail, go to


Italian Foods Corp.’s Pastas Now Offered at Harris Teeter and Balducci’s


Harris Teeter and Balducci’s have added imported Italian Foods Corporation’s pastas to their lineup of gourmet products.

Harris Teeter now is carrying two of Italian Foods’ shelf stable stuffed pastas, La Piana® Mezzaluna with Basil Pesto filling and La Piana Ravioli with Squash in one-pound boxes, said Francesca Lapiana-Krause, General Manager. Harris Teeter also has added artisan, bronze die-cut La Piana Pasta di Campofilone Sage Fettuccine egg pasta and La Piana Tomato & Olive Pasta Sauce. The sale is through Haddon House of Medford, New Jersey.

Balducci’s has added two of Italian Foods’ long cut artisan egg pastas, La Piana tagliatelle and pappardelle, Lapiana-Krause said. The sale is being handled through Haddon House.

La Piana stuffed pastas are packaged in one-pound boxes with a suggested retail price of $6.19 to $7.19 and are available in six flavors. Three flavors of the stuffed pastas, which are shelf stable for 15 months, also are available in 8-ounce boxes with a suggested retail price of $4.49 to $5.19. Suggested retail prices for the artisan egg pastas are $8.99 and the La Piana pasta sauces are $8.99 More information is available online at, by calling 1.888.516.7262 and by connecting at


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