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Specialty Food Association Names sofi Winners

By Lorrie Baumann

The Specialty Food Association announced on April 19 that 154 products earned sofi Awards this year. An additional sofi Award for Product of the Year, awarded to the single product that received the highest score in the judging, will be announced at the Summer Fancy Food Show in June.

The April announcement, made without a public ceremony by Specialty Food Association President Phil Kafarakis and celebrity Chef Sara Moulton, honors products in 39 categories with gold, silver, and bronze awards for each category. Sofi awards have been presented by the Specialty Food Association since 1972. This year, sofi Awards were also given to the best new product in 37 of the categories. The winners were chosen from among almost 3,000 entries submitted by 875 Specialty Food Association member companies, noted Kafarakis. “Winning the sofi is really a big deal,” he said.

“It’s the best of the best. It’s promoted in the industry like crazy,” added Moulton, who recalled that in covering the Fancy Food Show for 12 years for “Good Morning America,” she always liked to head first to the display case for sofi winners because she knew that those products had already been filtered by knowledgeable judges. To this day, when she’s at the Fancy Food Show, the sight of a sofi statuette in a vendor’s booth will often make her turn aside and take a look at that booth, even if she hadn’t intended to do so, because the statuette indicates to her that the booth represents a company that produces good products, she said. “It attracts a lot of traffic,” she said.

Judging for this year’s awards competition was done at the Specialty Food Association offices in New York over a two-week period by 62 judges who included chefs, culinary instructors, bloggers, food writers and specialty food buyers, Moulton said. “We all get together to talk about what’s happening in the specialty food world,” she said. “You learn while you’re tasting. It’s fantastic.”

The products were judged after being prepared by professional chefs as they were intended to be used, according to Moulton. For instance, a marinade intended to be used with chicken was prepared by the chefs according to package directions before being presented to the judges for tasting. “These are all prepared right then and there as we tasted them,” she said with particular reference to the entries in the pasta, rice and grains category.

Each product was judged in a blind tasting, so the judges didn’t know which company had made it. Scores were sent directly from each judge to be tallied without any discussion that might otherwise have influenced anyone’s individual decision, according to Moulton. “We tasted the food the way it should be tasted,” she said, adding that this year’s judging process was an improvement over the methodology of previous years. “I think it was the best it’s ever been,” she said.

In four categories, the gold award winner was also named best new product. Those were Wozz! Kitchen Creations’ Cambodian Coconut Peanut Sauce, Aunt Dottie’s Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette from JGF Enterprises, Manicaretti Italian Food Imports’ Rustichella d’Abruzzo Pasta Integrale di Farro – Couscous and Le Bon Magot LLC’s Spiced Raisin Marmalata. JGF Enterprises also won a silver sofi in the salad dressings category for its Aunt Dottie’s Turmeric Maple Dressing. Le Bon Magot also won a gold award for its Tomato and White Sultana Chutney, a bronze award for its Lemon-Sultana Marmalata with Caraway and Saffron and a bronze award for its Brinjal Caponata condiment. Manicaretti Italian Food Imports also won a bronze award for IASA Spicy Anchovies in the seafood category. In addition to the two sofi awards for Cambodian Coconut Peanut Sauce, Wozz! Kitchen Creations won a bronze award in the vinegar category for its Spiced Beet Vinegar and a silver award in the condiment category for its Balsamic Fig Mostarda Savory Spread. Calivirgin Olive Oils swept the gold, silver and bronze awards for olive oils with a gold award for Jalapeno Garlic Olive Oil, a silver award for Blood Orange Olive Oil and a bronze for Frantoio Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Azienda Agricola Coppini Arte Olearia Srl won the award for best new product in the olive oil category with Olives and Mandarines Condiment Coppini Arte Olearia. More than 80 olives oils were entered for the sofi judging this year, according to Kafarakis.

Vermont Creamery was also among this year’s big winners. Its Vanilla Creme Fraiche received a gold award in the category for a dessert sauce or topping or a syrup; Cultured Butter with Sea Salt Crystals won a bronze award in the category for dairy, yogurt or dairy alternative products; a silver award for Bonne Bouche, a geotrichum-rinded aged goat cheese; and a best new product award for St. Albans, an aged cow milk cheese introduced to the market in October of 2016.

New Line of Gourmet Side Dishes from Royal Basmati Rice

Royal Basmati Rice is launching a new line of gourmet side dishes in eight globally-inspired flavors. Royal Authentic Adventures™ dishes are made with Royal’s Premium Basmati Rice.

Royal Authentic Adventures is available now at nationwide grocers including Harris Teeter, Kings Supermarket Inc./Balducci’s, SpartanNash, Tops Friendly Markets, Walmart (Calif. locations) and Costco, and will hit shelves at Shaw’s and Wegmans stores in May, followed by Weis Markets and Randalls stores in June.

Royal basmati riceEach variety of Royal Authentic Adventures delivers a global, gourmet adventure in a delectable side dish that cooks in only 12 minutes. Royal Authentic Adventures takes taste buds through a journey across the world’s most celebrated culinary cultures, encompassing authentic flavors and ingredients native to each region. Blends include:

  • Mexican-Style Basmati Rice – Fire roasted tomatillo and green chile flavor made with a special blend of tomatillos, green chiles, onions and other savory herbs and spices brings the warm and lively flavors of Mexico to family dinner tables. (Vegan and gluten-free)
  • French-Style Basmati Rice – A medley of French Provençal vegetables made with red bell pepper, thyme, carrot, parsley, and garlic celebrates the beautifully balanced flavors of France’s far-reaching culinary influence. (Vegan and gluten-free)
  • Thai-Style Basmati Rice – Basil lemongrass curry flavor infused with the mild-sweet yellow curries of Thailand, along with robust and spicy notes of citrus, lemongrass and ginger, combine to bring out the bright, fresh flavors of traditional Thai dishes in every bite. (Gluten-free)
  • Greek-Style Basmati Rice – Herb and lemon flavor made with a blend of classic Mediterranean spices and seasonings including lemon, oregano, parsley, garlic and olive oil is sure to become a family favorite. (Gluten-free)
  • Japanese-Style Basmati Rice – Shiitake ginger flavor made with shiitake mushrooms, ginger, green onion, soy sauce and toasted sesame flawlessly re-create the exotic and aromatic flavors of the Far East. (Vegan)
  • Moroccan-Style Basmati Rice – Herb tagine flavor made with slow-roasted tomatoes, mint, cinnamon, cloves and chili peppers provides an earthy, yet delicately nuanced taste of the Middle East. (Vegan and gluten-free)
  • Indian-Style Basmati Rice – Wood-fired tandoori flavor made with garlic, paprika and turmeric offer an ode to India’s masterful culinary influence. (Gluten-free)
  • Argentinian-Style Basmati Rice – Chimichurri flavor is a vibrant and soulful blend of citrus juices, herbs and garlic, making this side dish a tango for the taste buds. (Gluten-free)

Abhinav Arora, President of LT Foods Americas, says, “Because rice is a celebrated staple in so many cultures worldwide, Royal is always looking for innovative ways to incorporate other traditions and backgrounds into our product lines. We are excited to offer our customers a tour of diverse flavors from around the globe with Royal Authentic Adventures. This line truly represents our brand values and commitment to diversity.”

Royal Authentic Adventures uses no artificial colors or preservatives and is made with basmati rice sourced from the foothills of the Himalayas. Overseeing the harvesting, milling, processing and distribution of its products, Royal Basmati Rice is dedicated to providing the highest quality of ingredients to its customers.

Silver Medals for Sutter Buttes Natural and Artisan Foods

Two flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oils from Sutter Buttes Natural and Artisan Foods were awarded silver medals at the 2017 Los Angeles International Olive Oil Competition, and a third Sutter Buttes oil, its Meyer Lemon Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil, received a bronze medal. An award of a silver medal indicates that the oil has superior qualities beyond those expected for a well made extra virgin olive oil, while a bronze medal indicates a well made oil. The two Sutter Buttes oils honored with silver awards were Garlic Herb Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil, in which fresh flavors of garlic and herbs are infused into Sutter Buttes’ extra virgin olive oil, and Citrus Habanero Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which offers the flavors of fresh hand-picked habanero peppers and Sutter Buttes’ Meyer Lemon Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil to make an oil with a spicy kick to flavor grilled shrimp, scallops or fresh oysters.
This was the 18th annual competition for the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition, which draws oils from around the world. The 2017 competition received 600 entries from 369 producers. These oils received a total of seven best of show awards, 21 best of class awards, 131 gold medals, 166 silver medals and 89 bronze medals. Among domestic oils, best of show awards went to Halter Ranch, the winner in its class for medium oils, for its 2017 Mediterranean Blend and to Pacific Sun Farms, the winner in its class for robust oils, for its 2016 Tehama Blend.
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