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Multi-Cookers Take Over Countertop Cooking


By Amber Gallegos

Within the realm of countertop cooking, a trend towards multicookers is on the rise. These small appliances take on double, or even triple duty, to compete to be the go-to appliance for daily cooking. They go beyond slow cooking or grilling, combining these basic functions along with a host of other settings to do everything from boiling, steaming, frying, sauteing, and baking, all in one machine.

KitchenAid took a major venture into the category with this year’s release of the 4-Quart Multi-Cooker and optional Stir Tower. The Multi-Cooker is basically like a slow cooker on steroids, with seven different cooking methods and four step-by-step modes. The cooking methods include sear, sauté, boil/steam, simmer, slow cook low or high, and keep warm. The step-by-step cooking modes are rice, soup, risotto, and yogurt. As cooks move through each step, the Multi-Cooker adjusts and displays temperatures and timing accordingly. The Multi-Cooker has precise temperature control that is applied and preset for each setting to ensure consistent results. The cooking can be programmed for up to 12 hours and the keep warm setting can be programmed for 24 hours There is also a manual setting that allows users to cook like on a regular stove top and select from warm, low, med-lo, medium, med-hi, and high. Each manual mode is adjustable within a temperature range to get just the amount of heat desired. A dual purpose cooking rack is included for steaming or roasting. The lid is clear tempered glass for easy viewing during cooking and it has an integrated strainer/pour opening. The cooking vessel features a nonstick CeramaShield™ coating that is 100 percent PTFE and PFOA free.

The separate Stir Tower is an accessory that mixes, flips, stirs, incorporates ingredients and stirs intermittently. It attaches to the Multi-Cooker for added cooking options, like making yogurt, risotto, meatballs and more. The silicone stirring paddle has two parts, a flip-and-stir wand that can be used alone, and a side scraper attachment that is optional to use in conjunction with the wand when making soups, sauces and stews to circulate ingredients thoroughly. The Stir Tower features three stir speeds and two intermittent stir modes. The KitchenAid Multi-Cooker and Stir Tower are available in silver, black or red with a suggested retail price of $349.99 for the Multi-Cooker, $229.99 for the Stir Tower accessory, and $549.99 for the Multi-Cooker and Stir Tower combined.

The Bellini Intelli Kitchen Master from Cedarlane Culinary was introduced to the U.S. and Canada market last year and is the machine closest in functionality to KitchenAid’s Multi-Cooker. The Bellini combines eight kitchen gadgets in one machine for chopping, blending, whipping, mixing, sauteing, steaming, stirring and boiling, even allowing for some of the tasks be done simultaneously. The machine differentiates from others partly because of the cutting blade that can, for example, quickly chop a whole onion and then sauté it right in the 2-liter stainless steel mixing bowl. The unit has 1000 watts of heating power and can heat up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. It has 10 speeds that can be selected from a rotary control, and cooking time can be set for up to one hour.

The Bellini includes accessories that enable the preparation of a variety of meals that go beyond one pot cooking. There is a stainless steel chopping blade and stainless steel stirring blade that lock into the bottom of the mixing bowl depending on what task the recipe calls for. A mixing tool snaps onto either blade for mixing tasks, like making a cake batter. Also included is a cooking basket that sits inside the mixing bowl so food can be cooked without hitting the blades below. There is a heat resistant spatula that is designed with a notch to lift the basket from the mixing bowl and scrape the sides. The dual steam accessory consists of two pieces, a container that sits directly on top of the mixing bowl and a top portion that is shallow with vents on the bottom and has a clear lid that is also vented. Cooks could boil potatoes in the cooking basket, steam veggies in the next layer, and also have fish steaming on the very top layer. The mixing bowl lid locks into place and has an integrated clear removable measuring cup. To ensure accurate recipe proportions, the machine also comes with an external digital food scale. With the Bellini Intelli Kitchen Master home cooks can make everything from a simple smoothie to a more complex risotto. It retails for $549.

The Philips Multicooker is a nice option for customers who want to spend less and don’t mind stirring the pot themselves. It has10 preset programs including slow cook, steam, fry/sauté, rice, risotto, stew/simmer, bake, yogurt, reheat and boil. A manual button allows users to change the time and temperature to any specific setting. There is a 24-hour preset timer that can be programmed to start cooking while you’re away so you can come home to a cooked meal. When cooking is done, the machine switches to keep-warm mode for up to 12 hours. The inner pot has a 4-liter capacity, is dishwasher safe, and has a nano-ceramic coating that is nonstick and scratch resistant. The lid of the Mulitcooker can be completely detached after use to allow for direct cleaning from every angle. Also included is a multi-use steam basket, spatula, spoon, rice scoop, and measuring cup. Using the Philips Multicooker, home cooks can prepare a variety of meals, from slow-cooked stews, braises and pot roasts to risottos and curries. You can also steam vegetables or rice, boil pasta, bake cakes or breads and make fresh yogurt. The Philips Multicooker has a suggested retail price of $249.

T-fal will debut the 7-in-1 Multi-Cooker & Fryer in September. With a suggested retail price of $99.99, the small appliance comes in at an even more affordable price point than the Philips Multicooker. The unit has more of an emphasis on the frying capability, with a 1.6-liter oil capacity, but with 1600 watts of power it can also braise, saute, simmer, brown, boil and keep warm, along with having a food capacity of 1.3 pounds. The removable bowl has a non-stick coating and the lid has a viewing window. The lid, bowl and basket are all dishwasher safe. The appliance also has a removable timer that allows cooks to leave the kitchen without fear of not hearing the timer go off.

BLACK+DECKER just introduced the Multi-Cooker – Slow Cook & Sear in June. The appliance is equipped with a slow cooker and stovetop function, making it easy to create true one pot meals. With a capacity of 6.5 quarts, it is bigger than T-fal’s Multi-Cooker and focuses more on slow cooking. The built-in stove finishes sauces, sears meats or sautés ingredients, while the slow cooker function provides a convenient way to cook tender delicious meals. The slow cooker can be turned to low, medium, high and keep warm while the bake and roast functions allow you to set desired temperatures from 200 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The removable ceramic coated pot has cool touch handles with an easy view glass lid. A roasting rack and recipe book is also included. The BLACK+DECKER Multi-Cooker has a suggested retail price of $99.99.

This story was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Kitchenware News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.


Newly Published Spices and Salt Prints Now Available

A new series of six prints illustrating the spices and salts of five regional cuisines is now available through Designed by Chef and Spice Master Tim Ziegler and Tea King Brian Keating in partnership with American Image Publishing, these colorful 1′ X 3′ wall prints are an expansion of the duo’s popular SPICES print (published in 2002, 2012), currently used in restaurant kitchens and culinary schools around the world.

“Brian and I developed this new series to give professional chefs, gourmands and home cooks a worthwhile resource on these wonderful ingredients,” says Chef Ziegler. “You can refer to the posters for inspiration or admiration. We think they’re a great learning resource and, thanks to the graphic design of Pat Welch and photography of Bob Montesclaros and Lois Ellen-Frank, stunning art pieces as well.”

american-kitchen-spices-printsA unique gift for home cooks to top chefs, each poster in the new series serves as a handy reference tool and a vibrant, globally-inspired decorative piece that will liven up any kitchen. Beautifully depicting an array of spices and offering descriptions, ingredient origins, local flavor profiles and recipe applications, each poster offers a detailed look into one of the following cuisines: Mediterranean, Continental, Southeast Asian, Indian/Chinese and American Grill, as well as the fascinating global study of salts in SALT, The Edible Rock.

The prints have already received praise from culinary professionals.

“Not only [are the SPICES prints] beautiful and stylish, they keep me mindful of the simple beauty and interconnectedness that is the world of taste,” said Chef Mick (Michaelangelo) Rosacci, Tony’s Market in Denver.

“The new line of prints is BEAUTIFUL…collectible and worthy of framing,” said Lori Frazee, Pit Master/Chef at Barn Goddess BBQ.

Each poster in the series retails for $20 at, with additional retailers to come.

Selling Pickles and Seeing Smiles — and a Silver sofi

By Lorrie Baumann

Kendra and BaronKendra Coggin and Baron Conway were looking to do more with their lives than answer to their corporate bosses in 2013, so they started making pickles. Just two years later, and just six months after the pair attended their first Fancy Food Show, their Pernicious Pickling Company’s Ginger & Spice Pickled Carrots are among the finalists for a sofi Award. “It’s what we wanted, but we never expected it would happen,” Conway says. “We were very, very surprised.”

In 2012, Coggin was a graphic designer, sitting at a computer all day and creating digital marketing materials for exciting entrepreneurs. Conway was working in advertising and marketing too, but his area of expertise is in business development and strategy. Both of them were infected by the ideas and energy of their clients, and they started thinking about going into business for themselves. They wanted something that would be creative, that would allow them to control their own destiny and that they could feel passionate about. “We wanted something where you don’t mind working 60 or 80 hours a week to create something that impacts people in an interesting way,” Conway says. “It’s about the food they love and the joy they get.”

They’re both food lovers, and, for both of them, pickles were part of their family history. “My family has always had a very strong relationship with pickles, particularly savory, while Kendra was more familiar with the sweet hot flavors of the South,” Conway says. “At some point, we looked around and saw that there were no artisanal pickle companies in southern California.”

The two started making pickles and serving them to their friends, who were enthusiastic, so they decided to do some research into what it would take to start a pickling company. A year of work went into the business plan and the licensing that was necessary before they could sell their product. “California has very strict rules about shelf-stable pickling. You have to have a cannery license, commercial kitchen, regular inspections from the California Food & Drug Bureau and keep meticulous production records. All of these things are required to sell, whether it’s in a Whole Foods Market, a mom and pop grocery, or at a farmers market,” Coggin says. “Even the recipes have to be submitted to the state for approval, along with samples for pH testing. It took us close to a year to get everything together. Then once you’ve received your cannery license and begin production, you have almost monthly inspections from the FDB to test your product and confirm records. This experience is certainly a far cry from the home canning we did growing up.”

All those complications could help explain why there are not many people making and selling shelf-stable pickles in Southern California, even though there’s a lot of excitement in the market about pickling, she muses. The two of them launched their business in October, 2013 with 10 products. Yes, 10.

“Out of the gate, we had these 10 products, and we decided, the hell with it, we’ll just launch with all 10 of them,” Conway says. “We saw an opportunity, a gap in the market, and we decided to jump in and see if we could take advantage of it.”

pickled carrotsThe 10 products include the Pickled Carrots that were Finalists for  a 2015 sofi Award, Fashionably Dill Pickled Red Beets, Sweet Hurry Curry Pickled Cauliflower, Sweet ‘n Sour Pickled Red Onions, Lean ‘N Mean Pickled Beans, Sweet Mustard Bread & Butter Pickles, three kinds of dill pickles and Pucker Up Hotties Sour Garlic Pickles. Of the 10 varieties, the Fashionably Dill Pickled Red Beets and Lean ‘N Mean Pickled Beans are actually the company’s best sellers, so it was a little surprising that it was the Ginger & Spice Pickled Carrots that caught the attention of the sofi Award judges. “The carrots are kind of this underdog, so it really surprised us,” Coggin says. “Inspired by the rich cultural diversity here in Southern California, we wanted to take the classic spicy mix of carrots, onions, and jalapeños you receive at Mexican restaurants, and add an Asian flair by making them with rice vinegar, to have a more mellow vinegary flavor, crushed red pepper, ginger, Thai chile. When you bite into the carrot, you get the sweetness of the carrot and the ginger, followed soon afterwards by a tinge of heat.”

“With all of our pickles, we try very hard to create a balanced, layered flavor profile,” Conway adds. “So it complements and extends the food it’s paired with.”

They’re both taking joy in what their business is bringing to others as well as themselves. “People love pickles. There is this force that draws people to us when they see we have pickles,” Coggin says. “It crosses all ages and genders. Little kids come up and want the spiciest pickles, or they want to try the pickled beet because it’s bright pink.”

“Pickle people are happy people,” Conway adds. “When folks eat pickles, they have a smile on their face… They want to share memories about pickling with their grandmother or a favorite pickle dish experienced abroad – we’ve received more than one old family recipe in the mail. It’s really quite emotional at times, and it’s been an unexpected joy to see. We started Pernicious wanting to create pickles that people would love to eat, yet we didn’t quite expect the happiness, nostalgia, and community pickles would bring to us.”

A Southern Season of Gustatory Pleasure


By Lorrie Baumann

A visit to one of the Southern Season stores in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; or Raleigh, North Carolina; isn’t just a grocery shopping trip; it’s something like a quest for the specialty foods, the wines or beers and the kitchen gadgets and skills in using them that can elevate dinner into a celebration of life. Also, it’s fun. The four-store chain will celebrate its 40th anniversary this fall, says President and COO Dave Herman.

He’s been running the operation for a little more than a year after a 35-year career as an executive for a variety of companies that make or sell high-end products, including a stint as Vice President of Retail for Lenox and one at DANSK. This is his first foray into specialty food retailing, and the only real downside is that he’s having to spend more time at the gym, he says.

Southern Season is often described as a culinary mecca or a food-lover’s paradise. Three of the stores are each roughly 50,000 square feet displaying about 80,000 SKUs of specialty groceries, kitchenware, prepared foods and deli, floral, candy, coffee and tea, small electrics and tabletop items. There are 4,000 kitchen gadgets, 5,000 wines, more than 1,000 craft beers and 500 cheeses. The smallest and newest store, located in the Cameron Village shopping center in Raleigh, is called A Taste of Southern Season, and the 3,000-square foot store offers a curated selection of specialty food, wine and beer, often to customers who’d been driving the 26 miles to the Chapel Hill store.

Our customers cut across the spectrum. If we have a wine festival or we celebrate wine, we get a more mature audience. When we celebrated beer, the audience skewed a lot younger. Candy goes across the board,” says Herman. “The spectrum of customers is very wide. It depends on what that person’s individual passion is…. There are people who are very, very passionate about their cheese. There are people who are passionate only about blue cheese.”

Catering to those passions has made each of the three larger stores a destination for shoppers who bring their friends and come to hang out in the store for a few hours at a time, sampling tea or coffee or a locally-made barbecue sauce, indulging in an ice cream cone from the old-fashioned soda fountain, having lunch at the in-store restaurant, taking a class at the cooking school or planning an event with a menu supplied by each store’s special events coordinator “We give a lot of small vendors a chance to start. It could be someone who was an investor on Wall Street and who decided to quit and make his grandmother’s jam,” Herman says. “That’s when the magic happens – when people walk through the doors, and they meet these vendors, and they learn the stories of these products.”

Providing that entertaining shopping experience for customers is one of the three legs of the triangle that make Southern Season what it is, according to Herman. The other two legs of the triangle are the stores’ dominant assortments of products and the customer service skills and passion of the stores’ sales associates.

The stores’ product assortment varies by location, with each of the three large stores incorporating 10,000 products made in its home state. Each department manager in those three stores has a say in exactly what the product assortment for his or her department will be, especially with respect to locally-made products. “Each department manager in each store has the ability to tailor the assortment and localize it. You’re trying to be a big company, but you never want to lose the fact that the department managers speak to people every day,” Herman says. “They want to do something; let them try it. Customers come in and ask for the department managers because they trust their opinions, but no one’s ever asked for me.”

Excellent customer service is a natural outcome of hiring sales associates who love the products and love to help customers, Herman says. “They come with a born passion for the product, and they probably learned to be nice from their parents. They get to share the products they love,” he says. “They come to us with a passion for cheese or a love of wine. I don’t think we can take a lot of credit for that….. We have a sales team that’s exceptionally passionate about what they sell. They love these products, and I think that our levels of service, our passion comes across. They’re telling incredible stories behind these products. Our story is the stories: the stories of our sales associates, the stories of our vendors.”


The New Super-Trendy Vegetable: Beets


By Richard Thompson

Beets are getting a whole new look this year, emphasizing their nutritional benefits while being featured in products that appeals to shifting consumer tastes. Similar to the way kale appealed to consumers last year, beets are being marketed as the new super trendy vegetable, grabbing the attention of food retailers and restaurateurs who are selling more items with beets in them than in previous years. Beet products are becoming so popular that this year’s list of sofi Award finalists include two different beet products that were up for three different awards between them.

The past five years have seen beets become more common place as people are more educated about them, says Natasha Shapiro of LoveBeets, known for their popular beet-featured product lines. Adding to the 20 percent increase in distributorship they have seen in the last year is their variety of beet juices and line of beet bars. The Love Beets health bars are coming in Beet & Apple, Beet & Cherry and Beet & Blueberry with all three made gluten-free and with clean ingredients. “We are making beets more fun, accessible and upbeat,” said Shapiro, “We’re modernizing the idea of beets.”

Blue Hill Yogurt, whose Beet Yogurt is a sofi finalist, combined the earthy sweetness of beets with the acidic tangyness of yogurt for a natural and unique trend that could push people looking for something new in milk products. Amped with raspberries and vinegar to maximize the natural earthy sweetness of the beet, Blue Hill wants people to think outside of what is normally thought of with beets and yogurt. “This is a savory yogurt that offers some sweetness, but not fruit-like sweetness. It’s a great afternoon yogurt,” said David Barber, President of Blue Hill.

Beetroot Rasam Soup from Cafe Spices, another finalist for the sofi Award, is competing in two categories, New Products and as a Soup, Stew, Bean or Chili Product. The colorful soup that pairs roasted beets pureed into a tomato base with tamarind, garlic, chiles and mustard seeds is an inspiration from the company’s culinary director and chef Hari Nayak.

Featuring naturally occurring nitrates that help extend exercise performance, fitness communities have long embraced the healthy benefits of beets. Coupled with social media and a general health conscious mindset in consumers, appreciation of beets has spider-webbed through mainstream markets, according to Shapiro. “Its the one vegetable people feel strongly about, Shapiro said, “At events, people just want to share their experiences about beets.”

Adam Kaye, Vice President of Culinary Affairs for Blue Hill, who worked with Dan Barber on their sofi nominated Beet Yogurt, goes one step further. Kaye has seen the appreciation of beets growing beyond it being a fancy potato and finds the whole vegetable incredible. “There is something about the beet that straddles the savory and the sweet,” said Kaye, “You can taste the earth in beets.”

This story was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.


The Italian Sauces for Consumers Who Don’t Trust Processed Foods


By Lorrie Baumann

The federal Food and Drug Administration has announced that it proposes to require that nutrition fact labels on packaged foods include a declaration of added sugars “to provide consumers with information that is necessary to meet the dietary recommendation to reduce caloric intake from solid fats and added sugars,” according to the agency’s announcement published in the Federal Register in March, 2014. If and when that proposal becomes a federal requirement, the labels on Uncle Steve’s Italian sauces will report that the sauces contain the same amount of added sugars they always have – zero.

The recipes for the sauces came from Steve Schirrippa, actor, author and creator of the sauces, who’s better known as his character, Bobby Baccalieri on the hit television show “The Sopranos.” He got the recipe from his mother, who has since passed away, Scarpinito says. “Steve wanted to pay a tribute to his mother. Abundant home cooked Sunday family meals were very important to her. Steve honored her by producing products he got from her recipes to keep the Sunday tradition alive.”

None of the three varieties of Uncle Steve’s sauces: Marinara, Tomato with Basil and Arrabiata, contain any added sugar, a common ingredient in other prepared pasta sauces. They also contain no GMOs or gluten, and they’re organic. That’s at the insistence of Schirripa’s wife Laura, who’s a marathon runner conscious of healthy eating and who told her husband that if he wanted to make and sell tomato sauce, he needed to be sure that it would be good for people as well as enjoyable, says Uncle Steve’s Italian Specialties Chief Operating Officer Joseph Scarpinito, Jr.:“If you were to line up all of the popular tomato sauces and then remove the ones with pesticides, tomato paste, puree, and added sweetener, you’d be left with only one—Uncle Steve’s.”

Uncle Steve’s is simmered on our stove for six hours. The only sugar in our sauce comes from organic tomatoes imported from Italy and organic onions. Quality is of the utmost important to us,” he added.

The sauces were launched just last year on the company’s website and quickly picked up by Whole Foods Northeast. Other markets along the East Coast followed.

This year, Scarpinito is concentrating on expanding distribution of the sauces to the Southeast, Southwest and West Coast. “That expansion has already started – the sauce has been picked up by the Albertson’s Boise division and by Gelson’s in Los Angeles,” he said. “The sauce is also available from several distributors servicing large independent retailers.”

New products are also under development, including olive oil, pasta and other flavored pasta sauces. Scarpinito is naturally a little coy about pinning them down with any more detail than that, but he did offer a hint: we can expect to see an Uncle Steve’s vodka sauce early next year.

Once the FDA’s proposal is finalized, the FDA wants to give the food industry two years to switch to the new labels. In addition to requiring a declaration for added sugars, the FDA is also proposing a new format for the label that would make calories, serving sizes, and percent daily value figures more prominent. Serving sizes would be changed to reflect the amounts reasonably consumed in one eating occasion. “People are generally eating more today than 20 years ago, so some of the current serving sizes, and the amount of calories and nutrients that go with them, are out of date,” according to the FDA.

This story was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.


Bone Broth In Minutes


By Micah Cheek

Bone broth, the heavily reduced stock that has been popular with various diets and health regimens, is becoming available for quick home use. Mark Cronin, Regional Grocery Buyer/Supervisor of Jimbo’s… Naturally!, says Jimbo’s started selling premade frozen broths three years ago with great results. “Customers want things that are easy for them; offering it where they can be taken home is easy. That’s part of why they’ve been so successful.” Bone broth became popular with various health-conscious groups as a minimally processed source of protein and collagen, and then its popularity exploded after Marco Canora started offering it in his restaurant restaurant, Brodo, and the New York Times took note. It has been touted as an intestinal health aid, workout beverage, and even a morning coffee alternative.

Prepackaged bone broths have found a market with people who want to enjoy the purported benefits of bone broth, but lack the time to simmer organic bones for more than 12 hours. “We have done some customer surveys. People are saying, ‘We love broth, we believe in broth, but we love that we don’t have to make it,’” says Lance Roll, Executive Chef and founder of The Flavor Chef. “There’s also the issue of handling the product. Fifty percent of people have a spouse that doesn’t enjoy the smell of broth. If you’re cooking it for 12 to 24 hours, it constantly smells your house up.”

Premade bone broths have the added convenience of a six month shelf life in the freezer. Shelf-stable broths from Pacific Foods are available in boxes as well. Cronin believes that the next step in retail bone broths should be pre-portioned ice trays or packets so that small amounts can be thawed conveniently.

A good indicator of quality for a premade bone broth is how it behaves at room temperature. The process of making bone broth aims to extract as much gelatin and collagen from bones as possible, so a good bone broth will be a loose gel when thawed. The gelatin contributes to a rich texture when the broth is consumed.

It is recommended that broths are heated in a pot on the stove, rather than in a microwave. After heating, variations are only limited by the consumer’s tastes. Traditional bone broths are crafted for sipping, with only salt added. Seasonings like fresh ginger and lemon slices or steeped herbs customize the flavor. Bone broth can also be used wherever standard broths are called for, as the liquid in braises and stews or as a base for sauces.

For those who don’t enjoy drinking broth straight, Cronin suggests cooking it with rice noodles, green onions and other vegetables to make a simple soup. Roll has recently developed a Coconut Ginger Mint and Lemon Bone Broth soup, made with 80 percent chicken bone broth.

The majority of retail bone broths are made with either beef or chicken. Many are certified organic. Organic pork broth is rarely seen because of the difficulty in finding pigs that meet organic standards. “We’re not going to be doing it any time soon, mainly because I can’t get enough good pork bone,” says Roll. As bone broth gets more attention, Cronin is looking forward to more varieties of products becoming available. “There are more and more companies jumping into it on a retail level,” he says.



sofi Awards 2015 Honor Great Goats


By Lorrie Baumann

Goats are getting a lot of love tonight,” Big Picture Farm Co-founder Lucas Farrell observed as he accepted the sofi Award for Outstanding New Product for 2015 for Raspberry Rhubarb Goat Milk Caramels together with Co-founder Louisa Conrad. The two started their farm in the fall of 2010 with just four goats and now have 44, who were very happy to see Farrell back at home after the conclusion of this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show. “They were very happy to see us. They’re going to go on new pastures, and I’ve got to mow the old ones,” Farrell said.

The show was a commercial as well as critical success for Big Picture Farm, which also won a sofi Award this year in the Outstanding Confection category for Goat Milk Chai Caramels. Big Picture Farm previously won a sofi in 2011 for its Sea Salt and Bourbon Vanilla Caramel, and the chai caramels also won a Good Food Award in 2013. During the three days of this year’s show, Big Picture took “a fair amount” of orders, both from current customers and some new ones who stopped by for a taste after the sofi Awards ceremony, Farrell said. “It helps bring people who might otherwise not stop at our booth to come over and put a caramel in their mouth,” he said. “That’s our main selling point, when they taste it.”

Continuing the goat love, Fat Toad Farm Goat’s Milk Caramels won the 2015 sofi Award for Outstanding Product Line. Fat Toad Farm is run by husband and wife team Steve Reid and Judith Irving, their daughter Calley Hastings, and three employees. “We’re from Vermont,” Hastings said as she accepted the award. “Our family is back there working the goats so we get to be here.”

The awards were presented by Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, an Iron Chef and frequent judge on Chopped, who substituted for Ted Allen from Chopped, who had been scheduled to host the ceremony but sent a video presentation in his stead. “You know how much I love food I’m eating, and you know I’m quite passionate about it,” she said. “I really love food, sometimes too much, and nothing gives me more joy than to eat food made by people who love it too.”

Awards were presented in 32 categories, with winners selected from more than 2,700 entries. Products were tasted and judged by a panel that included journalists and restaurateurs to select finalists, while the winners of the gold trophies were selected by the votes of retailers and distributors who tasted the products during the show.

Callie’s Charleston Biscuits took home two sofi Awards for Outstanding Frozen Savory, which went to the company’s Country Ham Biscuits, and for Outstanding Bread, Muffin, Granola, or Cereal, which went to Cheese and Chive Biscuits. There was a tie for the sofi for Outstanding Cooking, Dipping or Finishing Sauce, and dual sofis went to Charissa for Authentic Moroccan Seasoning and to Kitchens of Africa for Zanzibar.

Three Lone Mountain Wagyu products were selected as sofi finalists: 100 percent Fullblood Wagyu Beef Summer Sausage in the Appetizer, Antipasto, or Hors d’Oeuvres category; 100 percent Fullblood Wagyu Beef Sausage Links in the Frozen Savory category; and 100 percent Fullblood Wagyu Beef Jerky in the Savory Snack category. The gold award went to the summer sausage.

This year’s Outstanding Baking Ingredient, Baking Mix or Flavor Enhancer was the Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownie Kit by Sutter Buttes Natural and Artisan Foods, while the Bay Blue from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese was named the Outstanding Cheese. The Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Chocolate Toffee from Laurie & Sons was named Outstanding Chocolate. Read more about Laurie & Sons in the snacks supplement in this issue. The Outstanding Cookie, Brownie, Cake or Pie was Organic Molten Chocolate Cake – Dark Decadence from Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery, while the Outstanding Dessert Sauce, Topping or Syrup was Salted Caramel Sauce from Coop’s MicroCreamery.

Vermont Creamery’s Cultured Butter Sea Salt Basket was named the show’s Outstanding Classic Product, while the Blackberry Sheep Milk Yogurt from Bellwether Farms was named Outstanding Dairy or Dairy Alternative Product. The Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream from Steve’s Ice Cream took home the award for Outstanding Ice Cream, Gelato or Frozen Treat.

Tea Forte’s Vanilla Pear Tea was named Outstanding Hot Beverage, while Owl’s Brew’s White and Vine was named Outstanding Cold Beverage. The award for Outstanding Condiment went to Sir Kensington’s Special Sauce, while Grains of Health took home the Outstanding Cracker award for Laiki Black Rice Crackers. Crown Maple’s Grade A Very Dark Color Strong Taste Maple Syrup was named Outstanding Foodservice Product. The award for Outstanding Jam, Preserve, Honey, or Nut butter went to Manicaretti Italian Food Imports for Sicilian Pistachio Spread. Fra’ Mani Handcrafted Foods’ Salametto Piccante was named Outstanding Meat, Pate or Seafood; Castillo de Canena Smoked Arbequina Olive Oil, imported into the U.S. by Culinary Collective, won the award for Outstanding Oil. The Outstanding Vinegar was Organic Apple Balsamic Vinegar from Ritrovo Italian Regional Foods.

Nella Pasta’s Corn, Caramelized Onion & Thyme Ravioli won the award for Outstanding Pasta, Rice, or Grain. The award for Outstanding Pasta Sauce went to Pumpkin and Kale Alfredo Sauce from Sauces ‘n Love. Cracked Sesame Miso from Nago Foods won the award for Outstanding Salad Dressing, and Sweet Chili Chickpea Chips from Maya Kaimal Fine Indian Foods were named the Outstanding Savory Snack. Kettle Pipcorn from Pipsnacks won the award for Outstanding Sweet Snack. Look for more about Pipsnacks in the October issue of Gourmet News.

Tate’s Bake Shop’s Gluten Free Ginger Zinger Cookie was named the Outstanding Vegan or Gluten-Free Product. Nona Lim Thai Curry and Lime Broth from Cook San Francisco was named Outstanding Soup, Stew, Bean or Chili.

Finally, the Outstanding Salsa or Dip was Kiwi Lime Salsa Verde from Wozz! Kitchen Creations. Wozz! won sofi Awards in 2014 for Ginger Soy Infusion, which was named Outstanding Dressing, and for Triple Ale Onion Spread, which was named Outstanding Condiment. “I’m an Australian in America, winning with a Mexican condiment,” Wozz said as he accepted the award. “God bless America!”

 This story was originally published in the August, 2015 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.

FDA Announces Ban on Trans Fats

The Food and Drug Administration announced on June 16 that it had finalized its determination that partially hydrogenated oils, the primary food manufacturing source of trans fats, are not “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) for foods, giving grocery manufacturers three years to remove them entirely from food products.

Because partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are no longer “generally recognized as safe,” they become subject to premarket approval by FDA as food additives, and approval of exceptions seems unlikely, even though the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) will lobby for a reconsideration of a ban on low-level uses.

The terms partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) and trans fats are used somewhat interchangeably because PHOs are the main food processing source of trans fats. Partially hydrogenated oils are created in the production of some food products when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them semi-solid in consistency. In bakery applications, for example, trans fats can give liquid vegetable oils that are cheaper, more shelf stable, and cholesterol-free the functional performance of butter, which generally sets the norm for quality expectations for baked goods.

Foods containing unapproved food additives are considered adulterated under U.S. law, meaning they cannot legally be sold. In plainer English, the FDA is essentially banning trans fats in food products, and the “no trans fats” label on food products will become obsolete. Naturally occurring trans fats found in small amounts in some meat and dairy products are not additives and a special case, and they do not fall under the ban.

Since 2006, the FDA has mandated that nutritional labels on foods specify the level of trans fat content. In November 2013, the FDA announced its intention to accelerate the elimination of partially hydrogenated oils from the U.S. food supply, having provisionally made the determination that these trans fats carriers are not GRAS. The intensifying glare of regulatory attention on trans fats has already spurred extensive reformulation in the food market, such that trans fat has been reduced by 78 percent since 2003, according to an FDA estimate, and by 86 percent, according to the GMA. Nevertheless, partially hydrogenated oils are still commonly used in many popular food products, including many bakery products, coffee creamers and microwave popcorn.

Moreover, FDA regulation previously allowed less than a half gram of trans fats to be labeled as “0g,” so that zero didn’t mean what consumers would logically interpret it to mean. That loophole, too, is closing.

In terms of consumer confidence, the mainstream food industry has paid a price for foot-dragging and sleight-of-hand on nutritional and labeling issues, leading to consumer counter-revolutions including the current clean label movement. A November 2014 survey by Packaged Facts showed 23 percent of U.S. adults strongly agreeing and 38 percent somewhat agreeing that, “Grocery manufacturers often mislead by highlighting only the positive nutritional qualities in their products, not the negative ones.” At the other end of the spectrum, only 3 percent strongly disagree and only 6 percent somewhat disagree. The findings were published in the Packaged Facts report, “Food Formulation Trends: Ingredients Consumers Avoid.”

From the perspective of public health, trans fats have been especially linked to coronary disease, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Trans fats raise the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol while lowering the level of HDL (good) cholesterol. Various health organizations have long fought the use of trans fats. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association both cite research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2012) estimating that a trans fat ban could prevent 10,000-20,000 heart attacks and 3,000-7,000 coronary heart disease deaths in the U.S. annually. Dr. Steven Nisssen, chair of the cardiovascular medicine department at the Cleveland Clinic (long top-ranked nationally for cardiology) describes trans fats as “clearly harmful” and praises the FDA’s ban. The ban is also consistent with First Lady Michelle Obama’s signature Let’s Move initiative, with its focus on childhood obesity.

Boundary Bend Comes to America

By Lorrie Baumann

Australia’s leading olive oil producer, Boundary Bend Olives, had been in California just long enough to get stationery printed with its address at a former John Deere dealership in Woodland, California, about 20 miles northwest of Sacramento, before the company started winning awards for its California oils at the New York International Olive Oil Competition. The April 15 competition drew nearly 700 olive oils from 25 countries for judging by an international panel of experts, and Boundary Bend took home four NYIOOC awards for Cobram Estate oils produced from California olives as well as five awards for oils produced in Australia.

Cobram Estate Ultra Premium Picual, a medium picual oil from the U.S., won a NYIOOC Silver. Cobram Estate Super Premium Robust Blend, which combines leading varieties from California and Australia for a blend with a cut green grass nose, a strong spicy aroma and complex fruit flavors, earned a NYIOOC Gold Award. Cobram Estate Super Premium Medium Blend took home a NYIOOC Gold Award for appealing fresh fruity aromas and penetrating flavors, and Cobram Estate Ultra Premium Mission, from olives ultra cold-pressed within four hours of picking, received a NYIOOC Silver Award. The company’s NYIOOC awards for Australian oils included two Best in Class Awards for Cobram Estate Ultra Premium Hojiblanca and Cobram Estate Super Premium Premiere, a Robust Blend oil that also won a Best in Class Award in 2014; Cobram Estate Robust Flavour Intensity, a full-bodied blend from Australia that was pressed within six hours of picking, which won a Silver Award; Cobram Estate Classic Flavour, a medium blend from Australia also pressed within six hours, which won a Gold Award and Cobram Estate Ultra Premium Picual, which was ultra cold-pressed within four hours of picking and won a Silver Award in both 2015 and 2014.

Boundary Bend Co-founder and Executive Chairman Rob McGavin announced the company’s plan to expand its operations to the United States in May, 2014, and in January of this year announced that it had set up operations on eight acres near Woodland, California under the guidance of fifth-generation California farmer Adam Engelhardt, formerly of California Olive Ranch, and now CEO of Boundary Bend’s U.S. operations. The company had a small crush last October using another company’s plant for trial runs with small batches of oil. Boundary Bend plans to be in commercial production in California this calendar year. “We do plan to plant our own groves. We’ve got the trees for the plantings ready and are assessing suitable land and expect to have that in process within the next year,” McGavin said. “We’re just waiting for all the balls to line up.”

The company is eager to enter the American market because the country’s olive oil consumption is quite high, but domestic production is quite low, McGavin said. The U.S. is the fourth-largest consumer of olive oil globally, with consumption growing spectacularly over the past 25 years from a bit more than 100,000 metric tons per year in 1990 to the current figure of almost 300,000 metric tons per year, according to the International Olive Council. Per capita consumption in the United States is only 0.9 kg, which is comparable to per capita consumption in the U.K. and Germany, and the vast majority of that is imported, with only 3.8 percent of the olive oil consumed in the U.S. produced domestically. “Consumption of U.S.-produced oil is growing but is limited by supply,” McGavin wrote in a May 2014 letter to Boundary Bend stockholders in which he announced the plan to expand to the U.S.
Boundary Bend Olives, founded in 1998 by college buddies McGavin and Paul Riordan, currently sells more olive oil in Australia than anyone else, and its Australia production, from its own groves in the Murray Valley region of Victoria, is greater than the entire volume of olive oil currently produced in the U.S. “We’ve grown from nothing 10 years ago to the number-one selling brand in Australia,” McGavin said. To his stockholders, he wrote that, “We believe we can replicate, in the USA, the success of our Australian integrated business, but we will be taking a conservative, long-term approach to our business strategy.”

Boundary Bend is starting up agricultural operations in California at a time when the state is in the midst of a historic drought. Agricultural economist Richard Howitt and others from the University of California, Davis and ERA Economics reported to the California Department of Food and Agriculture in May of this year that following three critically dry years, many irrigation districts had exhausted their surface water reserves and the groundwater table had been drawn down in many parts of the Central Valley. The economists estimated that this year’s drought, coming on top of the three previous drought years, will result in the fallowing of about 564,000 acres and an $856 million reduction in gross crop farm revenues across the state. About 18,600 full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs may be lost this year, and the total economic loss to California’s agriculture industry is estimated to be $2.7 billion.
None of that scares McGavin one whit. “We know it’s going to be difficult. It’s never, ever easy, but if we do it in a methodical way not to sound arrogant, but we are confident that what worked in Australia’s severe drought conditions will work in California,” he said.

He points out that he and his company have had some experience with drought in Australia. “We had the most awful drought. The scientists were calling it a thousand-year drought, and it went on for seven years,” he said. During the drought, the farmers at Boundary Bend learned how to monitor the water needs of their trees through telemetry-equipped sensors that monitor the percolation of irrigation water through the ground to the tree roots. They learned when the trees needed to be irrigated and when they could stay dry and still survive, thus minimizing the amount of irrigation necessary. “Olives really came into their own in Australia during the drought, and having that experience is something that we can bring to the U.S.,” McGavin said. He added that the experience in the best watering practices to make olive trees thrive on the least possible amount of water was a painful lesson, but he thinks that his neighboring California olive tree farmers will be eager to see how Boundary Bend does it, and that will be beneficial for California agriculture in the long run.

In addition, olive trees require half the irrigation water of nut trees, so replacing some of the nut trees currently growing in California’s Central Valley with olive trees will save water too, he said. “Being able to plant twice the area of olives versus nut tree crops for the same amount of water is a good use of the water,” he said.

When it has secured the land, Boundary Bend will plant the olive trees much less densely than the typical California super high-density planting. While Boundary Bend’s groves will have fewer trees planted per acre, the overall yield of olive oil per acre will be similar because the trees will grow bigger. They’ll also be more drought-tolerant.

The trees will be a mix of varietals rather than the Arbequina monocrop that’s typical in California. This will result in extra-virgin olive oils with outstanding shelf life, better health benefits and complex flavor profiles as well as lowering the risk of crop failure, McGavin said. A good Arbequina oil has a shelf life of 18 months if it’s stored properly, while other oils, such as the Coratina variety originating in southern Italy, can last on the shelf for up to three years because they contain more antioxidants. Those antioxidants are also credited with some of the health benefits of extra-virgin olive oils. “A mix of olives extends the harvest and offers different flavor profiles,” McGavin said. Stretching out the harvest allows the olives to be picked at optimum ripeness and rushed to the mill for pressing within hours.

The precise timing of the harvest and the speed of that processing is important in the protection of the volatile components of the oils. What makes a good extra-virgin olive oil is the minor components and how fresh they are and how much is expressed in the oil to contribute to flavor as well as health benefits, according to McGavin. “We think it works well here [in Australia], and we think it’ll work well in the USA, and we’re really excited about coming over and bringing it to American consumers,” he said. “A really important part of our strategy is to introduce the varieties that we grow in Australia and our way of growing them – different varieties of olives that give greater complexity to the oil.”

“We’re all a bunch of farmers,” he added. “Our company stands by farmers. We’re farmers, and today we own 2.5 million trees on our own land, and the reason we’re successful is that we love what we do and have a brilliant product.”


This story was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.

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