In April I attended a virtual multi-day event: Specialty food live! I was really impressed with the variety of the purveyors and events. There was another online event in May. This was an opportunity to learn about specialty foods and make connections with companies I’d never be able to access otherwise. The Specialty Food Association members showcased their star products in a marketplace. In this story, I’m featuring one of the seminars I attended, along with some of the products that I loved. I am including links so you can purchase them!
Seminar: Foodservice Update-The Mega Trends:
One of the online seminars I attended was moderated by Mike Kostyo of Datassential. He talked about megatrends that will impact the restaurant industry. The topic was entirely new to me and very insightful. Although it might seem intuitive, tastes change. What baby boomers or Millennials like won’t be the same for Gen Z. Younger people are craving all-natural, plant-based, gluten-free products. He also discussed “10 flavors to watch.” some of these include fermented honey, next-level produce designs to look or taste a certain way (e.g. blue java bananas). Also on the list predicted to be really hot in 5 years or so are things like kheer, carob, dukkah, different types of curry, honeysuckle, nigella seeds, and chicory root If you see these on menus you can say you read about them first on advicesisters.com!
Specialty Foods I Loved, and You Can Get Them Too!
Everyone loves S’Mores, but Ticket takes them to a whole new level with handcrafted honey Grahams and homestyle marshmallows plus artisan milk chocolate. I couldn’t wait to try Ticket Chocolates’ artisanal S’Mores.
These arrived beautifully packaged in a clear cello box with enough yummies for 4 people. These are super sophisticated, not the ones you made in the Girl or Boy Scouts. Check out the Dulce de Leche with homestyle caramel swirl mallows, honey graham, and milk chocolate with sun-dried sea salt!
There’s also a classic artisan’s S’mores kit with the same chocolate and honey Grahams and vanilla bean mallows. All you have to do is light up the grill or the campfire or put them in the microwave for 3-5 seconds. However, I think you’ll need double the amount, because everyone will want Some More (S’more). Visit the Ticket Chocolate Website.
Forte and Gusto Chocolates:
“Forte” means “loud” in musical notation. But it also means “a thing at which someone excels.” When it comes to artisanal gourmet chocolate, Forte is well named! Forte Chocolates are excellent and unique. The company also makes Gusto ch0colates. “Gusto “means “to do something with great enthusiasm.” Gusto chocolates are also well named. Moreover, they’re not just for eating, but also designed for use in your recipes.
Some suggestions for using the Gusto chocolate: Gusto Lemon & Pepper in White Chocolate (use in pasta sauce or over salmon), Gusto Tasmanian Pepper & Lime in Dark Chocolate, (Mexican dishes anyone?), Gusto Honey in Dark Chocolate (cover & wildflower honey makes steamed cauliflower, sing!), Gusto Rosemary & Sea Salt in White Chocolate (smell the rosemary and use it in alfredo sauce or instead of butter in potatoes).
The packaging is slim and colorful. You will love the unique flavors whether you eat them all or add some to your recipes. Check out the Forte chocolate Website
Truffles are the ultimate decadent food. They definitely belong in the category of specialty foods. Advicesisters.com has visited Urbani’s showroom in NYC in the past. They not only have fresh truffles but sell all types of truffle-centric products. Urbani sent me some truffle products to cure my truffle craving. My favorites include the seasoned nuts and the potato chips seasoned with truffle.
The nuts are slowly oven-baked with a dash of olive oil and fragrant black truffle-infused salt. There are 4 servings in each 4oz bag but at just 170 you’ll be tempted to eat more. The mixed nuts have almonds, cashews, walnuts, and freeze-dried black summer truffles. However, you can just get only cashews or almonds. In the photo are two canned sauces. One is redolent with white truffles and porcini. The other has black truffles and mushrooms. The sauces elevate anything you put them on. Just open the can, heat the sauce. OMG! These make the most decadent pasta ever, and they are the easiest, quickest way to impress your dinner party guests.
Oils and Chips:
The Urbani Unico black truffle oil with 100% organic Italian Extra virgin olive oil comes in a tin, however, the truffle oil inside the tin is in a glass bottle. It is so awesome! This black truffle in organic extra virgin olive that Urbani Truffles sent has a light almost green scent, but on the tongue it’s is a burst of buttery truffle flavor. In addition, there is an actual piece of black truffle in the bottle, You can put it on anything, but my favorite is on freshly popped corn.
In addition, I received a bag of Luke’s organic white truffle & Sea Salt Potato Chips. It’s a good thing I took the photo quickly because these chips were gone by the end of the day! These would be particularly good for a party or when you want to impress your special someone. Warning: A visit to the Urbani Truffle website will make you want to order everything on the site!
Another way to impress in a super-easy way is to use pasta that already has flavorings in it. Valente Pasta has tons of these. I haven’t cooked them all yet but my first test was with the garlic parsley fettuccini in the photo above.
I added meatballs but you could just add some vegetables, or drizzle some truffle oil for added flavor. Delicious! These are small-batch pasta from a woman-owned company based in Virginia. However, the taste of these kinds of pasta reminded me of some of the best pasta I once ate in Italy. Visit the Valenti Pasta Website
ALEF Sausage/Gourmet Meat:
I laughed reading this on the ALEF Sausage website: “It’s pretty simple, who we are…We make sausage.“
Well, they make other cured meats as well. ALEF Sausage is from Illinois where they offer 50 kinds using only the old-world recipes and traditional methods. The uncured wagyu salami and bresaola in packages make the perfect snack. Both are delicious. They also make the perfect “cocktail hour” addition. The Uncured Waygu Bresaola won a 2021 (Specialty Food) Sofi award.
The wrapped salamis are equally yummy. After fermentation and smoking, the salami is air-dried for 1-3 months to blend their flavors and harden their texture. If you want to learn how salami is made or get some sausages and salami for yourself, visit the Alef Sausage and Gourmet Meat website.
Hancock Lobster Company:
Lobster and other seafood are very perishable, as you can see from the outer carton in the photo above. But that doesn’t stop the Hancock Gourmet Lobster Company from sending consumers into lobster heaven with all sorts of lobster-centric goodies.
I received a huge box filled with dry ice and 18 Mini Lobster Grilled Cheese appetizers. They were so easy to make and so sinfully good! You simply put them in a pan and grill them for a couple of minutes (if you can wait that long). These were one of my favorite specialty foods. They’d be a wow! as appetizers at your next gathering.
Hancock Gourmet Lobster Company is in Topsham Maine and all the lobsters are wild-caught off the coast. Moreover, the ingredients are locally sourced whenever possible. Their delicacies are inspired by Maine and family recipes. All of the items are frozen except for Lobster Salad and lobster Gazpacho.
Therefore, the next time you have a hankering for lobster rolls, lobster tails, soups, lobster mac and cheese, pot pies, pasta, or anything with lobster in it, go to the Hancock Gourmet Lobster website. The prices are reasonable considering the quality and transportation. The lobster is 100% natural without additives or antibiotics. Even better, this company cares about its customers and about lobster sustainability. For a drool-worthy experience visit the Hancock Gourmet Lobster Website.
Two More Last Minute “Finds”
After I’d finished putting this story together and scheduling it, I received requested samples from two more companies. Their offerings are too special not to mention. I haven’t any more time to photograph the items, so I’m including them with stock photos. But they’re mouth-wateringly great!
The Savannah Grace Cheese Straws from the Integrity Food Group are made with aged cheddar cheese. The crispy cheesy “straws” are a delightful biteful for a cocktail party or any time snacking. Helen and Jeff Bateman formed the integrity Food Group in 2006. Savannah Grace Virginia Shortbread Buttons are sinful -buttery delights. The company has pretzels and other yummy things! I was very tempted to try everything. Visit the Integrity Food Groups Website. https://integrityfoodgroup.com/
Also arriving too late to photograph (but not to taste) are Wind & Willow products. They have the most delicious cheeseball and dessert mixes, plus dip mixes, soups, and seasonings, and even recipes. If you’ve ever longed for a Key Lime Pie the Wind & Willow Cheeseball & Dessert mix will do you proud at your next dinner. And it takes just minutes to do! Get a graham cracker crust, combine mix with cream cheese and whipped topping, spoon into the crush and chill. Try the Sante Fe Cheeseball & appetizer mix like a hot dip. You can mix it with cream cheese for a cheese ball. A cup of Mayo and a cup of sour cream make a fancy dip with one of the dip mixes. I tried the roasted red pepper and cheesy bacon. All of the products make fancy food, easy! Visit Wind & Willow.