For more than 45 years, the Specialty Food Association has honored the best in the industry with sofi™ Awards. The sofi recognizes culinary excellence and creativity in multiple specialty categories. Throughout February, entries will be accepted for the awards, considered one of the highest honors in the food world.
“Everyone from senior level buyers to chefs take note of sofi winners,” said Phil Kafarakis, President, Specialty Food Association. “These are remarkable products that help shape and grow industry trends and have a big impact on the marketplace. It’s a tribute to the continuing strength of specialty food in retail, foodservice, and with consumers, that we see such interest year after year in the sofi Awards. We can’t wait to see the products entered for 2018.”
The sofi Awards recognize 154 winners in 39 categories, which range from baked goods to vinegar. Sixty food professionals including chefs, culinary instructors, recipe developers, food journalists and specialty food buyers will gather to blind taste all of the entries. Judges will not see packaging, pricing or any brand identification – the focus is on product only.
For additional information on the sofi awards and how to enter click here. Winners will be announced in April, and the 2018 product of the year will be announced at the Summer Fancy Food Show this June in New York City.
By Robin Mather
Nashville, Tennessee, producer Mod Squad Martha was among those introducing new products at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show with the launch of Chive Jive and Bluebird Vinaigrettes, as well as Music Row Moroccan Salmon Marinade and Rub. The company contributes a portion of sales to Crossroads Campus and Bonaparte’s Retreat, two 501(c) charities founded by singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris to strengthen the human/animal bond.
Chocolatier Valrhona unveiled Blond Orelys 35 Percent, chocolate lozenges sweetened with muscovado sugar, to the company’s Blond Range of chocolates.
US Wellness Meats, the Canton, Missouri-based retail purveyors of Heritage Pork, Grass-Fed Beef, Bison and Lamb, Wild-Caught Seafood, plus poultry and rabbit, sampled its sugar-free pork bacon and other products. Boone County Organics sampled its organic chocolate-covered freeze-dried aronia berries, one of the newest trending superfoods, from the US Wellness Meats booth.
Wella Bar, which produces organic nut-based protein bars, showed off four new flavors, including Hazelnut Cacao, Almond Sour Cherry, Almond Blueberry and Almond Cacao. The bars gain their protein boosts from whole milk and egg whites. A portion of the company’s sales benefit the Bee Kind initiative, which Project Apis began.
Everton Toffee introduced a line of butter-toffee covered pretzels, in Original Toffee, Toasted Pecan and Roasted Cashew flavors. The company, nearly 300 years old, also showed off its new gift tins, which feature charming Dickensian cartoon characters, each with his or her own “life story.”
Angelic Bakehouse, producer of sprouted grain breads, showed its new sprouted bread crisps in 7 Grain with Sea Salt, Honey Wheat with Raisins and Sea Salt, and Rye with Sea Salt flavors. Like its other products, the crisps are Non-GMO Certified, Kosher and feature fully transparent labeling.
The Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery sampled its new natural cheddar cheese curds in individual 2-ounce packages, and announced that it will soon add frozen breaded curds to foodservice and retail outlets.
Plocky’s Fine Snacks introduced its Protato Crisps in Original with Himalayan Pink Salt, Spicy Honey Barbecue and Peppercorn Ranch flavors. The chips combine potatoes with plant protein for additional nutrition and are available in three-ounce bags.
Alexian, producers of all-natural pates and specialty meats, revealed their new Specialty Crackers in Olive Oil & Sea Salt flavor, made with just three ingredients. The crackers are Non-GMO Project verified, vegan-certified and kosher.
Dockside Market, a Key Largo-based longtime producer of tropical-flavored cakes, introduced its new Breezer cookies in Key Lime with White Chocolate Chips, Coconut Crunch with Chocolate Chips and Pecas, and Honeybell Orange with Chocolate Chips flavors. The bite-sized cookies come in a resealable bag.
Organic Prairie, a farmer-owned company, introduced its Mighty Beef Grassfed Organic Jerky and Beef Sticks. The jerky comes in Teriyaki, Original and Peppered flavors, while the beef sticks come in Teriyaki, Original and Spicy Jalapeño flavors. All are gluten free, nut-free and non-GMO certified.
Organic Valley introduced its Cream-on-Top Grassmilk Yogurt in a new 6-ounce serving cup, including four new varieties with organic fruit.
Jake’s Nut Roasters introduced five new flavors of its California-grown dry-roasted almonds, available in 5-ounce pouches, 7-ounce cans and four-pack gift sets. The flavors are Mesquite-Smoked, Bleu Cheese with Cracked Pepper, Bloody Mary, Barbecue and Maple.
Lotao showed its three flavors of Coconut Blossom Sugar (Ginger Kiss, Java Kiss and Oriental Kiss) and its line of organic rice and legume products, including Curcuma Sun Golden Rice, Oriental Sensation Smoked Rice, Glam Wedding Pink Rice, and Royal Pearl Black Rice, and Carillas Ahumadas, Caviar de Los Huertos and Tolosas de Leon beans and lentils.
Karoun Dairies unveiled four flavors of its Mediterranean-style labne, a yogurt-cheese spread in Lite, Original, Tzatziki and Spicy (with spicy red pepper, garlic and parsley). The company also introduced Blue Isle yogurt dips in Tzatziki, Masala and Hummus flavors.
Cypress Grove, makers of the iconic Humboldt Fog and other fine cheeses, announced its plans to produce individually-sized portions of many of its popular cheeses.
The Italian company Terra d Tuono showed its “Ballsamic” sphere ― a golf ball-sized sphere of solid balsamic vinegar, made possible by a patented new process. The sphere is designed to be grated over many dishes, including pasta, meat and fish, vegetables and salads, cheeses, and fruit, ice cream and desserts.
Biscotti Brothers, makers of traditionally twice-baked biscotti, revealed new packaging for three of its best-selling flavors ― Cranberry Pistachio, Classic Almond and Double Chocolate Chunk. The resealable gusseted bags provide a nine-month shelf life for the biscotti.
Ines Rosales, makers of the traditional Spanish olive-oil tortas, has introduced individually packaged traditional cinnamon cookies, baked with high-oleic sunflower oil. The cookies are light and crisp, sodium free and low in saturated fat.
Sierra Nevada Cheese Company sampled its new Russian-style fresh “farmer cheese,’ with live probiotic cultures. The company suggests using it as a filling for blintzes or in lasagna or filled pasta, cheesecake and other deserts, or simply to spread on toast or bagels.
Marich Chocolates showed its new holiday-flavored cookies and caramels. Candy Cane Caramels offer dark chocolate cloaked in the company’s signature candy cane coating, while its Dark and White Chocolate Gingerbread cookies are covered in white chocolate and dark chocolate marbling.
Sweet Shop USA introduced two new three-ounce chocolate bars in Spicy Peanut or Dark Goji Berry. Both are organic. The company also now offers boxed and individually wrapped singles in Salted Butter Rum Pecan Cluster, Fudge Love Truffle, and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Carmel, Milk Chocolate Bourbon Caramel, Dark Chocolate Mint Sticks, Milk Chocolate Peca Praline, Milk Chocolate Almond toffee and Dark Almond Sea Salt toffee flavors.
Olli Snacks has introduced new snack packs of Genoa Salami and Calabrese Salami, both including cheese and crackers, and sliced 2-ounce chubs of both Genoa and Calabrese Salamis.
By Lorrie Baumann
A few cheesemakers who brought their wares to the Summer Fancy Food Show this year are offering new mixed-milk cheeses that they hope will be a gateway for inexperienced consumers into artisanal cheeses from the milk of animals other than cows. These cheeses blend flavors from the milk of goats and/or sheep to result in cheeses that have flavor notes that might be unfamiliar and interesting to neophyte cheese-lovers, but they’re combined with the reassuring familiarity of tastes of cow milk.
One of these is Landmark Creamery’s new Switchgrass, a mixed cow and sheep milk cheese for which the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research collaborated on the recipe. The cheese has sweet, nutty characteristics like a sheep milk cheese, but because the cheese is made from cow milk as well, it can be offered at a retail price point in the lower $20s range rather than the price point dictated purely by the cost of sheep milk.
Landmark is a small Wisconsin creamery, just four years old, owned by Anna Thomas Bates and Anna Landmark, who make and age their cheeses in space belonging to other cheesemakers. The company has just launched a new Kickstarter campaign that the two Annas hope will produce the financing for new aging equipment and get them into their own aging space, Bates said.
LaClare Farms Cheesemaker Katie Fuhrmann is pursuing a similar idea with her GoCo, a fun cheddar cheese made with cow curds melded with goat milk curds. She’s also offering Blueberry Merlot Chandoka, a holiday spread made from her Chandoka, which tied for a second place in the Brest of Show category at the 2015 American Cheese Society Competition & Judging. That version of Chandoka was aged by Standard Market, but LaClare Farms, owned by Fuhrmann’s parents, Larry and Clare Hedrich, now has enough aging space to allow Chandoka to stay home to be aged there. The Blueberry Merlot Chandoka is a deeply decadent cheese spread, soft enough to be dipped out of its container with a finger when it’s at room temperature. The Merlot helps give it a beautiful caramel color as well as a deep fruitiness that helps to round out the flavor of the blueberries. This cheese is rich enough to make a satisfying after-dinner dessert as well as a cocktail party offering.
If you were lucky enough to have the chance to visit the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board booth during the Summer Fancy Food Show, you probably enjoyed the flight of five Wisconsin cheddars that the WMMB had there. These included Vat 17 World Cheddar from Deer Creek Cheese, Hook’s Triple Play-Extra Innings from Hook’s Cheese, Heritage Weis 5-Year Cheddar from Red Barn Family Farms, Red Rock from Roelli Cheese Haus and 8-Year Aged Cheddar from Widmer’s Cheese Cellars.
Widmer’s Cheese Cellars is known for traditionally-made cheeses with assertive flavors, but Master Cheesemaker Joe Widmer also knows how to make a cheese that’s perfectly balanced so that these strong flavors comfort and satisfy. The Hook’s Triple Play is another example of these interesting mixed-milk cheeses, as it combines milk from cows, goats and sheep. Extra Innings is an extra-aged variety of the original Triple Play, which received a third-place award in the 2015 American Cheese Society contest. The Vat 17 World Cheddar was made from a mix of cheese cultures from the different styles of cheddar cheese that are made around the world, ending with a cheese that combines the flavors of a familiar American-style cheddar with the nuances of British cheddars. Altogether, these five cheeses offered a world of new flavors from a cheese you thought you already knew.