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Specialty Foods — An examination of the SOFI Awards 2015 Finalists

Guest Contributor Robert Stepanek joins us to help analyze new trends in Gourmet Foods in his distinctive voice.

One of the clearest examples of foodie awareness is the realm of specialty foods, increasingly health conscious, but always deliberately appealing to the globally nuanced palate. Innovations abound and traditions can often reveal enhanced subtleties simply from innovations in freshness.

For many, one of the clear hallmarks is the Sofi nomination,; for a precious few, the SOFI Award reveals the cream of the cream.

Wade through the Twilight Zone analogy at the beginning. Robert provides great links to the finalists by the end.

 

2015 sofi™ AWARDS

 

By Robert Stepanek for LuckyGirl MEDIA

The first time I laid eyes upon the statuette given to the winners of the SOFI Awards – the annual honors recognizing outstanding achievement in the realm of specialty foods – I detected a distinct familiarity about the form, but couldn’t immediately place it. While the figure is fundamentally modeled on ‘Oscar’, the three-dimensional logo of the Academy Awards, in that it is bisymmetrical, golden, standing erect, and holding an object (appositely a serving platter instead of a sword), there was another aspect to it that struck me as reminiscent of an iconic predecessor – namely, the head. The SOFI statuette, you see, is apparently wearing a chef’s toque, but not one that is clearly delineated; rather the sculpting is more evocative than realistic, so that the abstracted headwear resembles as much a bulbous projection extending the cranium as a hat sitting atop it.

 

And then I had it – the Sofi statue is a Kanamit!

 

It was in 1962 that the classic episode of “The Twilight Zone” first aired, featuring a race of 9-foot aliens who arrived upon earth, bringing with them technologies that brought peace, harmony and plenty to our planet – not least among these being the means to make barren lands arable, which, by feeding the hungry masses here, consequently banished widespread misery and want. Hence, the apt title of the teleplay: “To Serve Man”. Of course, this had a double-meaning, as it was also the title of a Kanamit cookbook featuring earthlings as the main ingredient, a fact tranlsators arrived at too late to prevent space-shiploads of fattened humans from being flown to the Kanamit planet like so much interstellar cattle.

Despite the similarity of the Kanamit noggin and the head of the SOFI statuette, I haven’t discovered any production notes suggesting that a chef’s toque was indeed the inspiration for the cranial prosthetic worn in “To Serve Man” by the late 7-foot actor Richard Kiel (best known as the villain ‘Jaws’ in the James Bond movies), who portrayed most of the Kanamits, but it’s amusing to think that the ‘Twilight Zone’ special effects team had that in mind (or on mind, as the case may be).

 

Science fiction analogues aside, “to serve man” could well be a fitting motto for the 3,000-odd members of the Specialty Food Association, which presents the annual Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows. It is, after all, the business they are in, no ironies about it. And while the Summer Fancy Food Show, running at the Javits Center from June 28-30, offers a staggering array of specialty food products comprising a cornucopia with regards to variety, flavors and innovation, the crème de la crème of the event has always been the SOFI Awards.

 

Now in their 43rd year, the SOFI Awards (the acronym SOFI stands for Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation) are the top honor in the $109 billion specialty food industry, and out of 2,715 entries submitted by members of the Specialty Food Association, finalists have been determined by a national panel of 36 specialty food experts over eight days of tastings.

Those judges with the tough job of winnowing all aspirants down to the 125 finalist products in 32 award categories come from a variety of food industry entities, such as Whole Foods Market, Food52 Shop, Kroger, Fresh Direct, The Fresh Market, Mouth.com, Citarella, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants, Williams-Sonoma, and Food & Wine, among others.

The gala red-carpet awards ceremony, with a reception afterwards featuring tastings from the finalists, took place at the Javits Center on June 29, with the winners announced by Ted Allen, host of Food Network’s “Chopped”. The finalists, listed under respective categories, are:

 

APPETIZER, ANTIPASTO OR HORS D’OEUVRES

Pickled Carrots: Ginger & Spice, Pernicious Pickling Company, LLC [www.perniciouspickling.com]

100% Fullblood Wagyu Beef Summer Sausage
, Lone Mountain Wagyu LLC [www.lonemountainwagyu.com]

Cracked Wheat Salad, Haig’s Delicacies [www.haigsdelicacies.com]

Grilled Olives, Italian Products USA [www.italian-products.com]

 

BAKED INGREDIENT, BAKING MIX OR FLAVOR ENHANCER Ingredient or Cereal

Salfiore di Romagna – Sweet Sea Salt of Cervia, Fruit of the Boot, Inc. [www.fruitoftheboot.com]

Taco Night Blend, Just Cook Foods [www.justcookfoods.com]

Banana Muffin Almond Flour Mix
, Simple Mills LLC [www.simplemills.com]

Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownie Kit
, Sutter Buttes Olive Oil Co. [www.sutterbuttesoliveoil.com]

 

BREADS, MUFFINS, GRANOLA OR CEREAL

Organic Stoneground Flakes
, Back to the Roots [www.backtotheroots.com]

Blueberry Hemp Ancient Grain Granola, Appetite for Healthy Living LLC [ www.purelyelizabeth.com]

Cheese and Chive Biscuits, Callie’s Charleston Biscuits [www.calliesbiscuits.com]

 

CHEESE

Tunworth Soft Cheese
, The Fine Cheese Co. [www.finecheese.co.uk]

Whole Milk Ricotta, Bellwether Farms [www.bellwetherfarms.com]

Bay Blue, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company [www.pointreyescheese.com]

Bonne Bouche, Vermont Creamery [www.vermontcreamery.com]

Cabricharme
, World’s Best Cheeses [www.cheezwhse.com]

 

CHOCOLATE

Mababu Tanzania 72% Dark Chocolate Bar, Askinosie Chocolate [www.askinosie.com]

Switzerland Dark Chocolate 60% Cocoa with Essential Pine Tree Oil, Milkboy Swiss Chocolates [www.milkboy.com]

72% Madagascar Sambirano, Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate [www.dicktaylorchocolate.com]

Avant-Garde Bar Tangy Tomate, Chocolat Moderne LLC [www.chocolatemoderne.com]

Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Chocolate Toffee, Laurie & Sons [www.laurieandsons.com]

 

CLASSIC

Olio Verde
, Manicaretti Italian Food Imports [www.manicaretti.com]

Original Blue, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company [www.pointreyescheese.com]

Original Rainbow Trout Caviar, Sunburst Trout Farms [www.sunbursttrout.com]

Creme Fraiche, Bellwether Farms [www.bellwetherfarms.com]

Cultured Butter Sea Salt Basket, Vermont Creamery [www.vermontcreamery.com]

 

COLD BEVERAGE

Ouzon Soda
, OPA! Originals, Inc. [www.greeksoda.com]

White and Vine, Owl’s Brew [www.theowlsbrew.com]

Avocado & Greens, Forager Project, LLC [www.foragerproject.com]

Bittermilk No. 3 Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour, Bittermilk LLC [www.bittermilk.com]

 

CONDIMENT

Special Sauce, Sir Kensington’s [www.sirkensingtons.com]

Spiced Ketchup, Sir Kensington’s [www.sirkensingtons.com]

Chili Jam, American Spoon Foods [www.spoon.com]

French Plums
, Boat Street Pickles LLC [www.boatstreetpickles.com]

Habanero Mustard Seeds, Taste Elevated LLC [www.tasteelevatedshop.com]

 

CONFECTION

Organic Hard Candy – Meyer Lemon & Raspberry, Torie & Howard LLC [www.torieandhoward.com]

Coconut Granules Green Tea Mints – Cardamom Cinnamon
, Sencha Naturals [www.senchanaturals.com]

Goat Milk Chai Caramels
, Big Picture Farm LLC [www.bigpicturefarm.com]

 

COOKIES, BROWNIES, CAKES, OR PIE

Organic Molten Chocolate Cake – Dark Decadence
, Hot Cakes [www.getyourhotcakes.com]

Salted Sour Lemon Cookies
, Wackym’s Kitchen [www.wackymskitchen.com]

Burnt Sugar and Fennel Shortbread
, Lark Fine Foods LLC [www.larkfinefoods.com]

Hot Ginger, Zesty Cookie Company LLC [www.zestycookieco.com]

 

COOKING, DIPPING OR FINISHING SAUCE

Zanzibar, Kitchens of Africa [www.kitchensofafrica.com]

Authentic Moroccan Seasoning
, cHarissa [www.charissa.biz]

Coconut Curry Simmer Sauce
, Maya Kaimal Fine Indian Foods [www.mayakaimal.com]

Deadwood: Eulogy Verde Taco Sauce, Something Eclectic [www.racecitysauceworks.com]

 

CRACKER

Lesley Stowe Raincoast Flats Kale and Walnut Flatbreads
, Dare Foods [www.darefoods.com]

Laiki Black Rice Crackers
, Grains of Health LLC [www.laikicrackers.com]

Casa Madaio Tozzetti Al Burro di Bufala, World’s Best Cheeses [www.cheezwhse.com]

 

DAIRY OR DAIRY ALTERNATIVES

Beet Yogurt
, Blue Hill Yogurt [www.bluehillyogurt.com]

Blackberry Sheep Milk Yogurt, Bellwether Farms [www.bellwetherfarms.com]

 

DESSERT SAUCES, TOPPINGS AND SYRUP

Salted Caramel Sauce, Coop’s MicroCreamery [www.coopsmicrocreamery.com]

Charmed Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
, The Frosting Queens [www.thefrostingqueens.com]

Cold Brew Coffee Caramel
, Fat Toad Farm [www.fattoadfarm.com]

 

FOODSERVICE

Oragnic Turmeric Lemon Sachets
, Rishi Tea [www.rishi-tea.com]

Sea Fare Pacific, Oregon Seafoods LLC [www.seafarepacific.com]

Traditional Pastry Shell, 1.5 Inch, Dufour Pastry Kitchens, Inc. [www.dufourpastrykitchens.com]

Cultured Butter Unsalted
, Vermont Creamery [www.vermontcreamery.com]

Grade A Very Dark Color Strong Taste Maple Syrup, Crown Maple LLC [www.crownmaple.com]

 

FROZEN SAVORY

100% Fullblood Wagyu Beef Sausage Links, Lone Mountain Wagyu LLC [www.lonemountainwagyu.com]

Country Ham Biscuits, Callie’s Charleston Biscuits [www.calliesbiscuits.com]

 

HOT BEVERAGE

Rhubarb and Ginger
, teapigs [www.teapigs.com]

Vanilla Pear Tea
, Tea Forte, Inc. [www.teaforte.com]

Drinking Chocolate, Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate [www.dicktaylorchocolate.com]

 

ICE CREAM, GELATO OR FROZEN TREATS

Single-Origin Kalimantan Chocolate Ice Cream
, Choctal LLC [www.choctal.com]

Speculoos Cookie Butter, Steve’s Ice Cream, Craft Collective [www.stevesicecream.com]

Chamomile
, Tea-rrific! Ice Cream [www.tearrificicecream.com]

 

JAM, PRESERVE, HONEY, NUT BUTTER

Mango Lime Jam
, Cherith Valley Gardens, Inc. [www.cherithvalley.com]

Sicilian Pistachio Spread, Manicaretti Italian Food Imports [www.manicaretti.com]

100% Raw Gourmet Wild Dandelion Honey, Wedderspoon Organic, USA LLC [www.wedderspoon.com]

Carrot Cake Jam
, The Potlicker LLC [www.potlickerkitchen.com]

Coconut Jam, Hey Boo, LLC [www.heyboojams.com]

 

MEAT, PÂTÉ, SEAFOOD

Kleine Schweine, Olympic Provisions [www.olympicprovisions.com]

Prime Smoked Beef Brisket, Wagshal’s Imports [www.wagshalsimports.com]

Salametto Piccante, Fra’ Mani Handcrafted Foods [www.framani.com]

Blue Heaven, Creminelli Fine Meats [www.creminelli.com]

 

NEW PRODUCT

Mombasa, Kitchens of Africa [www.kitchensofafrica.com]  

Organic Stoneground Flakes, Back to the Roots [www.backtotheroots.com]

Pickled Cherries
, Boat Street Pickles [www.boatstreetpickles.com]

Pödör Apricot Seed Oil, Podor Oils and Vinegars [www.podoroils.com]

Raspberry Rhubarb Goat Milk Caramels, Big Picture Farm LLC [www.bigpicturefarm.com]

The Mayan
, Salt of the Earth Bakery [www.saltoftheearthbakery.com]

Beetroot Rasam Soup
, Cafe Spice – Global Cuisine [www.cafespice.com]

Bloody Mary Mix, American Spoon Foods [www.spoon.com]

Dark Chocolate Chipotle Almonds
, Clif Family [www.cliffamilykitchen.com]

Hot Mess
, Lillie’s Q Barbeque Sauces & Rubs [www.lilliesq.com]

 

OIL

Mandranova Nocellara Extra Virgin Olive Oil, De Medici Imports, Ltd. [www.demedici.com]

Morgenster Extra Virgin Olive Oil
, Rogers Collection [www.rogerscollection.com]

Stöger Organic Austrian Pumpkin Seed Oil, Los Chileros [www.loschileros.com]

100% Fairtrade Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, La Tourangelle [www.latourangelle.com]

Castillo de Canena Smoked Arbequina Olive Oil
, Culinary Collective [www.culinarycollective.com]

 

PASTA, RICE AND GRAIN

Wholegrain Freekeh, Freekehlicious LLC [www.freekehlicious.com]

Corn, Caramelized Onion & Thyme Ravioli, Nella Pasta LLC [www.nellapasta.com]

Garlic and Herb Stone Ground Grits
, Southern Culture Artisan Foods [www.southernculturefoods.com]

 

PASTA SAUCE

Pumpkin and Kale Alfredo Sauce, Sauces ‘n Love, Inc. [www.saucesnlove.com]

Umbrian Black Truffle Sauce, Italian Harvest, Inc. [www.italianharvest.com]

Italianavera Mamma Mia Seared Eggplant Pasta Sauce, Epicure Foods Corporation [www.epicurefoodscorp.com]

 

PRODUCT LINE

King of Pops
, King of Pops, Inc., [www.atlanta.kingofpops.net]

Kitchens of Africa
, Kitchens of Africa, [www.kitchensofafrica.com]

Bittermilk Cocktail Mixers
, Bittermilk LLC ,[www.bittermilk.com]

Coolhaus, Coolhaus, [www.eatcoolhaus.com]

Goat’s Milk Caramel
, Fat Toad Farm [www.fattoadfarm.com]

 

SALAD DRESSING,

Cracked Sesame Miso
, Nago Foods [www.nagofoods.com]

Japanese Plum Miso, Nago Foods [www.nagofoods.com]

 

SALSA OR DIP

Kiwi Lime Salsa Verde, Wozz! Kitchen Creations [www.wozzkitchencreations.com]

Lime Chili Cilantro Probiotic Salsa
, Cultured and Saucy [www.culturedandsaucy.com]

Papalote Roasted Tomato Salsa, Papalote, Inc. [www.papalotesalsa.com]

 

SAVORY SNACK

Sweet Chili Chickpea Chips, Maya Kaimal Fine Indian Foods [www.mayakaimal.com]

100% Fullblood Wagyu Beef Jerky
, Lone Mountain Wagyu LLC [www.lonemountainwagyu.com]

Chicken Sesame BBQ Epic Bar, Epic Provisions LLC [www.epicbar.com]

Jalapeno Parmesan Crisps, Kitchen Table Bakers [www.kitchentablebakers.com]

 

SOUP, STEW, BEAN OR CHILI

Nona Lim Thai Curry & Lime Broth, Cook San Francisco LLC [www.cooksf.com]

Beetroot Rasam Soup, Cafe Spice – Global Cuisine [www.cafespice.com]

 

SWEET SNACK

Kettle Pipcorn, Pipsnacks LLC [www.pipsnacks.com]

Navarino Icons Sesame Seed Bar
, Hellenic Famrs LLC [www.hellenicfarms.com]

Saffron Rose Popcorn, Masala Pop, LLC [www.eatmasalapop.com]

 

VEGAN OR GLUTEN-FREE PRODUCTS

Millet and Brown Rice Ramen
, Lotus Foods [www.lotusfoods.com]

Qancha Original
, Nazqiz Inc. [www.nazqiz.com]

TigerNut Flour, Organic Gemini [www.organicgemini.com]

Vegan Hot Fudge
, Coop’s Microcreamery [www.coopsmicrocreamery.com]

Frontier Bites Almond Blueberry Lemon, Frontier Snacks, Inc. [www.frontierbites.com]

Gluten Free Ginger Zinger Cookie, Tate’s Bake Shop [www.tatesbakeshop.com]

 

VINEGAR

O-Med Rosé Vinegar, O-Med Extra Virgin Olive Oil [www.omedoil.com]

Organic Apple Balsamic Vinegar, Ritrovo Italian Regional Foods [www.ritrovo.com]

Chinese Celery Drinking Vinegar, Pok Pok Som [www.pokpoksom.com]

 

Thank you, Robert!

We hope to have more of Robert’s food musings in the very near future.

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July 8, 2015 - Posted by | CULTURE, ENTREPRENEURS, FOOD AND WINE, GUIDES, HOLIDAY GUIDES, LIFESTYLES, Uncategorized, We Recommend | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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