MarieBelle Chocolate
If any month provides an excuse to eat fine chocolate, it’s February. These hearts, filled with passionfruit ganache, are from Marie Belle.





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Gourmet News is compiled by MELODY LAN. 

Product Reviews


Gourmet News & Views

February 2006



New Product Watch: Sustainable Canned Tuna & Salmon. Early this month, Ecofish, a New Hampshire-based eco-friendly seafood company, introduced canned, sushi-grade Albacore Tuna and Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon, both rich in Omega-3. Prior to canning, the fish are inspected by independent labs for levels of mercury and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls: a mixture of chemicals found in the environment).

canned tuna and salmon
Canned tuna ranks second in the top ten most-consumed seafoods in America, after shrimp.
Salmon comes in at third place.

Each package of canned fish bears the Seafood Safe Label, which indicates the portions safe for human consumption under EPA guidelines. For consumers who are concerned about the environment, the seafood products are sustainable and come from supervised family-owned fisheries where the fish are organically handled.

Both fish products are available nationwide in healthfood stores and can be shipped direct. Click here to find a retailer near you. Ecofish canned tuna retails at $3.19, and the suggested retail for canned salmon is $5.99. To purchase the canned tuna or salmon direct, telephone 877.214.3474.

New Flavor Watch: Chick Chocolate’s Survivor Chick. Seattle Chocolate Company introduced Survivor Chick to the sisterhood of Chick Chocolates at the 2006 NASFT Winter Fancy Food Show. Survivor Chick features a smooth white chocolate center flavored with the sweet essences of raspberries and then all enrobed in rich, dark chocolate.

Survivor Chick chocolates
Survivor Chick retails at about $1.99 to $2.50
per 1-ounce box.

The signature line includes Strong Chick, a classic rendition of smooth milk chocolate; Extreme Chick, a 55-percent cacao dark chocolate packed with cocoa nibs; and Nutty Chick, a creamy milk chocolate mixed with toffee and almonds. Every piece is made with all-natural, kosher-certified Schokinag chocolate from Germany.  

All profits from Survivor Chick sales will be donated to organizations that fight against women’s cancers. According to the Chick Chocolates website (, this chick’s personality profile is “vibrant, enthusiastic and full of life. She embraces everyone and looks at everything as a wonderful gift.”

While each graphic 1-ounce box, which includes three individually wrapped pieces, is ideal for an indulgence on the go, the personality profiles of each chocolate also make these sweets an ultra-hip party favor. Click here to read our article Gourmet Party Favors for our other recommendations.  

Take-Out with a Click of the Mouse. We use the Internet for practically everything nowadays; it seems only natural that we would order food this way, too. The National Restaurant Association reports that in 2005, 11 percent of U.S. restaurant consumers ordered online. Large chains, like Chipotle Mexican Grill, have systems that allow customers to customize orders through their company websites. According to an article in The Arizona Republic, Chipotle Mexican Grill received 13,000 online orders between December 15th to January 11th.

takeout box
Photo courtesy of The Straits Cafe.

The convenience of ordering over the Internet and picking up food at a designated time has significantly helped the crowds at restaurants during peak lunch and dinner hours. Consumers benefit from not having to wait in line, but the restaurant staff also saves time since it’s much faster to take and complete orders from the computer than through faxes, phone calls or in person. Now with online ordering, you can spend your lunchtime eating instead of waiting.


Bison Meat Makes a Comeback. In the U.S., “bison” and “buffalo” are often used interchangeably. You’ll find that the National Bison Association is the National Buffalo Association too. But while “buffalo” scientifically denotes the large species from Africa and Asia, “bison” accurately refers to the enormous, North American animals. According to the National Bison Association, about 35,000 bison were processed nationwide last year, a 17 percent increase from 2004.

Gary West
No matter what it’s called, our favorite buffalo (or bison) strips are from Gary West. We can’t get enough of this tender, flavorful product. Click here to read our review of Gary West Buffalo Strips.

Although last year’s total of bison meat processed rose, The Boston Globe reports that though there are over 250,000 bison on ranches in the nation and only 50 bison are typically processed each day in small plants; compared with millions of cattle, of which 125,000 are processed daily. Dave Carter, executive director of the Colorado-based National Bison Association, estimates that bison sales bring in only $112 million annually. The mature beef industry is a multi-billion-dollar one.

However, restaurants like Ted’s Montana Grill in Denver, which specializes in bison meat, are helping to raise the industry’s presence. The Boston Globe also states that there are currently 39 restaurants that offer bison in 16 states—twice the number there were in 2004. For the health-conscious consumer, bison is high in iron, low in cholesterol and hormone-free. That said, this year we may be seeing more sweet, tender bison on restaurant menus and thinking: bison, it’s what’s for dinner.

Baby Boomers & Food Spending. According to Packaged Facts, a consumer goods research firm, 78 million baby boomers spend more money on food and groceries for meals both outside and in the home, as compared to their Gen X/Gen Y counterparts. The report also found that on a weekly basis boomers between the ages of 45 and 54 spend $123 on food, while 25 to 34-year olds spend $102 and 65 to 74-year olds spend $75.

Baby Boomers
Overall, boomers are the largest food
spenders in the U.S. Photo by Valerio Lo Belo.

Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts, explains that this age group spends more on food because they not only can afford to, but because of the major concerns over health, particularly anti-aging. Baby boomers are the driving force behind the popularity of foods that are gourmet, fortified, organic and convenient, as these foods meet the demands of their upscale, yet busy lifestyles.

New Flavor Watch: Hint Water. Hint waters make drinking water for our health a simple task. Launched in April 2005, Hint’s original, refreshing line of waters are infused with natural, refreshing flavors that include Cucumber, Lime, Raspberry-Lime, Cranberry-Orange and Pomegranate-Tangerine. By the end of this month, two new flavors, Pear and Peppermint, will be offered in available stores nationwide. Tropical Punch will also join Hint Kids, a line that currently features flavors in Apple, Grape, Strawberry-Kiwi, and Mixed Berry.

Hint Water
These waters are a healthy and refreshing alternative to juice, sodas and other sweetened beverages.

Created for the experience of having a slice of cucumber or lime in water on the go, these beverages are pure water with all natural flavor essences. With no calories or sweeteners, every Hint water offers a refreshing taste in convenient bottle that also offers kids an flavorful, sugar-free alternative to juice. Hint waters are available in grocers such as Whole Foods, Gourmet Garage, Woodlands Market, Real Foods and Glen Ellen Market. You can also purchase a case of 24 online at


New Product Watch: Doubly Delicious Dessert Sandwich. Two of our favorite dessert companies, Ciao Bella and Eleni’s NYC, have joined together to make the Ottimo, a decadent gelato cookie sandwich that comes in four varieties. The gelato is from Ciao Bella, a New York artisanal gelato and sorbet company and the cookies are provided by Eleni’s NYC, a gourmet bakery.

Ice Cream Sandwiches
In Italian, "Ottimo" is translated as the "best.”

The Ottimo will be available in: Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Chocolate Gelato, Chocolate Neat Cookies with Espresso Gelato, Lemon Poppy Cookies with Lemon Gelato, and Snickerdoodle Cookies with Strawberry Gelato. Each individually wrapped dessert is 3 inches in diameter and contains 3 ounces of gelato. Available at a suggested retail price of $6 each, a box of nine Ottimos can be purchased for $54.95 on the Ciao Bella website. If you are interested in making your own gourmet dessert sandwiches, click here to read our article on how to make ice cream sandwiches, courtesy of Ciao Bella and Eleni’s. Click here for our review of Eleni’s NYC.

Valentine’s Day Dining. According to a study conducted by the National Restaurant Association, 35 percent of Americans dine out on Valentine’s Day, making this holiday the second most popular day of the year to eat at a restaurant (the first is Mother’s Day). The survey results also found that:

Couple Dining
Photo by Lotus Head.
  • Of the diners who eat out on Valentine’s Day, 20 percent spend over $100 on their meal. Eighty percent spend less than $100 on their meal, averaging to about $62.
  • At 47 percent, young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 are more likely to dine out on Valentine’s Day than diners in other age groups.
  • Those living in the South or in households of three or more are also more inclined to dine out on Valentine’s Day.

Beer Sales Will Grow. Research done by ACNielsen Homescan™ found that in 2005, beer drinkers were drinking less; as shown by the .4 percent drop in beer volume sales. But ACNielsen predicts that this year, beer will reclaim its top spot as the most frequently purchased alcoholic beverage in grocery stores. Manufacturers have carried out innovative changes to beer as a way to change how people perceive the frothy beverage. According to ACNielsen Homescan™, in 2006 you can expect to see:

Pint of Beer
The beer makeover aims to win more
beer fans. Photo by Dragan Sasic.
  • More Innovative Flavors: Companies want to reach a broader spectrum of beer drinkers and so will be offering a range of new flavors from bold to mild. Flavors will range from bourbon cask ale or winter ale to seasonal varieties like strawberry or citrus.
  • Specialized Packaging: To make it more convenient for people to include beer for a variety of social gatherings, mini-kegs and cooler packs will be widely distributed.
  • Growth in Number of Expensive Beers: There has been a trend in preferences for higher-priced beers. These particularly include imported and craft beers in both new and existing brands. Craft beer has been showing an annual growth rate of about 7 percent every year, and according to, has been consistently increasing for the past 35 years. Imports sell at an annual growth rate of 9 percent.

Click here to read our review on Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, one of our favorite beers for Valentine’s Day.


Twenty-Somethings & Specialty Food. According to Specialty Food magazine, with the new age of Food Network, Starbuck’s, and the Internet, twenty-somethings have become the largest consumer superpower since the Baby Boomers. The twenty-somethings group is comprised of young adults between the ages of 15 to 34 years old, which currently includes 79 million people nationwide. The article also explains that this particular demographic tends to be more adventurous with a greater interest in ethnic foods, as shown by their food purchasing choices.

Deluxe dessert
Twenty-somethings have discretionary income
and spend it on specialty foods. Photo by
Mario Carvajal, stock.xchng.

While twenty-somethings are also not resistant to spending money, probably because they are likely to have larger discretionary incomes, and thus can experiment with specialty foods, Specialty Food magazine finds that this group may not necessarily understand how to use the specialty food products they purchase. Click here to read the full article.

McDonald’s Goes Fair Trade. As of November 2005, McDonald’s has been offering a Fair Trade coffee in over 650 McDonald’s restaurants in the Northeast. Created by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters exclusively for McDonald’s, Newman’s Own Organics is a blend made from Fair Trade certified and organic specialty coffees.


Other companies like Starbuck’s and Costco, as well as small, independent businesses have begun to follow the trend too. Now, over 30,000 specialty food stores and dining venues in America offer Fair Trade products. Fair Trade guarantees that the farmers who grew the crop were paid a fair price for their product and were not exploited by middlemen who pay them less than their crop is worth. For more information on Fair Trade, click here.

New Flavor Watch: Häagen-Dazs. Häagen-Dazs lovers rejoice: several new items are making their debuts. Mint & Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Bar is infused with fragrant peppermint oils and then dipped in a rich, dark chocolate coating. It will be offered in stores starting this March. Mayan Chocolate, on shelves beginning this month, is an ice cream flavor inspired by an ancient Mayan chocolate recipe, is a rich, smooth dark chocolate ice cream with hints of sweet cinnamon. The Mayans didn’t have ice cream, of course; but they drank a spiced chocolate drink.  

Mint Bar

Mayan Chocolate

Last year, Häagen-Dazs came out with a light superpremium ice cream in seven flavors with 50 percent less fat than their original line.  In May, Häagen-Dazs will be adding seven more  flavors to their light line. The new flavors will include: Caramel Cone, Dutch Chocolate Chip, Cookie Dough, Cookies & Cream, Vanilla Caramel Brownie, Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Blueberry Cheesecake. All new ice cream flavors will be available nationwide by June 2006 at a suggested retail price of $3.69 a pint. 

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