SPOTTED AT THE 2018 SUMMER FANCY FOOD SHOW (CHRISTMAS IN JULY EDITION)

Spotted on Shelves is showing off what was in the aisles at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show (FFS) in New York City. I scoped out new products from familiar brands and interesting things from up-and-coming companies.

As is the nature of trade shows like this, I was plied with free samples and the occasional tote bag. This did not affect what was chosen to appear in this column or my opinions of the products, but it did affect my waistline.

It’s July, hot as Hades and even my sweat is sweating. So, let’s talk Christmas! Because it apparently takes time to manufacture and order products, (aren’t we living in the future?) booths at FFS were displaying new things that will be hitting shelves right around the time we’ll switch from complaining about the heat to complaining about the cold.

Tate’s Bake Shop Cookies – Double Chocolate Peppermint and Butter Crunch

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Tate’s – makers of thin, crispy chocolate chip cookies – are debuting two new flavors of thin, crispy cookies for the holidays. The samples I tasted were both delicious – Butter Crunch was quite caramel-y and Double Chocolate Peppermint was minty, but leaned more chocolate than, say, a Thin Mint. Neither one, however, struck me as particularly a holiday flavor. With repackaging, these could run all year.

Available starting in October in grocery stores and retailers nationally.

Pretzel Pete Seasoned Pretzel Mini Twists – Peppermint Flavored

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I don’t think I’ve ever had a peppermint pretzel that didn’t have white chocolate to act as a liaison. Pretzel Pete cut out the middleman and put the peppa’ right on the pretz here. The seasoning dust was sweet, minty and buttery. The pretzels were the standard mini twists that we all know. It was a good combo. I really enjoyed them.

Available on Amazon starting in August

Crafty Cooking Kits – Who-ville Village, Who-ville House, Mini Who-ville House and Mickey Mouse Holiday Gingerbread Cabin Baking Kits

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As someone who loves baking, these pre-baked kits make me a little sad that children aren’t getting the full experience of making something from scratch. But if they act as a gateway drug to get screen-obsessed kiddos into the kitchen and creating, I’m OK with it. And they’re adorable.

Available in grocery stores and retailers starting September/October.

Rice Krispies Treats Kits – Ugly Sweater, Holiday Snowman, and Christmas Stocking

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Huh, this ugly sweater thing just keeps going, doesn’t it? These kits provide the Rice Krispies, marshmallows and decorating supplies. You add butter to make the treats and lay on the frosting and sprinkles.

Available in grocery stores and retailers starting September/October.

Skinny Syrups Limited Edition Holiday Collection – Christmas Cookie, Peppermint Bark, and White Chocolate Mocha

Skinny Syrups Whipped Foam Topping – Chocolate Peppermint and Christmas Cookie

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These zero-calorie syrups seem like a good multi-purpose product, particularly for those of us trying to escape the holidays without a massive weight gain. In addition to what the label suggests, I want to try these in cocktails, throw a dash into peanut butter, and add them to waffle/pancake mix. The foams – let’s face it, those would just get poofed right into my mouth. I won’t bother with the pretense of a food vehicle. I didn’t get to sample them, but I’ll be looking for them on shelves.

Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory Cookie Straws – Peppermint and Red Velvet

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Both of these cookies were dense but crunchy with a powdered sugar coating and would make a nice addition to a holiday cookie table. The peppermint cookie straws were a subtle peppermint. Red Velvet cookies were basically a chocolate chip cookie with a red color.

Available in gourmet shops and select department stores and online starting in September.

Stonewall Kitchen Holiday Baking Mixes – Chocolate Peppermint Brownie Mix, Chocolate Peppermint Fudge Mix, and Holiday Bundt Cake Mix

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Sadly, I didn’t get to sample these baking mixes, which is downright tragic. I’ve never seen a Fudge mix before. I was told that the bundt mix is like panettone. Since panettone is a yeast bread, I’m guessing this is a vanilla cake with the traditional panettone mix-ins like raisins and candied citrus.

Available in gourmet shops and select grocery stores start in September/October.

Dry Sparkling Soda – Cranberry and Blood Orange

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For the holidays, Dry is making new flavors of their soda in large, festive, champagne-like bottles. While there were no samples on hand, the horror-movie enthusiast in me gets very excited at any mention of blood orange, so I’ll be looking for that on shelves.

Available starting in September/October in grocery, big box stores and Amazon.

Dewey’s Bakery Limited Edition Holiday Cookies – Soft Baked Dark Chocolate Mint with Chocolate Chips, Soft Baked Triple Chocolate Brownie, Moravian Style Gingerbread Cookie Thins, and Moravian Style Hot Cocoa Cookie Thins

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Dewey’s was showing and sampling their holiday cookie lineup. I tried the gingerbread and hot cocoa cookie thins, which were tasty and delicate. Exactly the kind of cookies you munch away on and then realize “I ate THIRTY of those?” I also had the urge to make a sandwich cookie out of them with some homemade jam. The hot cocoa thins with a couple of mini-marshmallows between them, microwaved for a few seconds would be great, too.

Available starting in September/October in major grocery chains nationwide.

Hands Off My Chocolate – Strawberry Meringue White Chocolate and Cinnamon Cookies Milk Chocolate

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These weren’t available for sampling, but I love the packaging and look of the bars, so I’m going to try to track them down for stocking-stuffers. They look like little bundt cakes or wreaths. So cute!

Available at select retailers starting in September/October.

SPOTTED AT THE 2018 SUMMER FANCY FOOD SHOW (SWEETS EDITION)

Spotted on Shelves is showing off what was in the aisles at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show (FFS) in New York City. I scoped out new products from familiar brands and interesting things from up-and-coming companies.

As is the nature of trade shows like this, I was plied with free samples and the occasional tote bag. This did not affect what was chosen to appear in this column or my opinions of the products, but it did affect my waistline.

FFS is a great place to indulge one’s sweet tooth. I marveled at all the different ways sugar was used – candy, cakes, jellies, even coffees. You kinda need a sugar high to get through the miles and miles of exhibitor booths. Here are a few interesting sweets unearthed in those aisles.

Candy Kittens Gourmet Sweets – Wild Strawberry, Eton Mess, Blueberry Bliss, Sour Watermelon, and Peach Fizz

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I’m a sucker for cats. A cat-shaped gummy candy? I’m dying. I tried the Sour Watermelon flavor, which was a pleasant, low-key version of a Sour Patch Watermelon. The Eton Mess variety, named after Britain’s meringue/whipped cream/strawberry dessert, was a not-too-sweet strawberry and cream without the sugar coating.

Available at CostPlus World Market starting in August.

Loacker Blueberry Yogurt Crispy Wafers and Quadratini Blueberry Yogurt Bite Size Wafer Cookies

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Loacker’s new Blueberry Yogurt wafer bites keep the well-known and loved wafer formula with the filling this time being a deep fruity blueberry with a dash of yogurt tang.

Available at retailers and grocery chains nationally starting now.

Jelly Belly Candy Cones Ice Cream Flavored Mellocreme Candy

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I expected these to be gummy, but they’re candy corn! The package advertises that each piece is two flavors – the cone and the ice cream. It’s true! The cones tasted caramel-cone-y. The ice cream flavors were as promised, but reminded me of 80s-era aroma touchstones – scratch and sniff sticker chocolate and strawberry and Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers vanilla and mint. The orange was a bit more subtle and creamy that the rest.

Available in grocery stores and retailers starting now.

Biena Thin Mints Chickpea Snacks

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These are chickpeas with a coating that perfectly mimics Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies in taste and velvety chocolate texture. The chickpeas added a new dimension of crunch and nuttiness, however. I didn’t love the combo (turns out I don’t really like chickpeas), but if you’re a fan of one of both of these elements, they’re worth a try.

Available in Whole Foods now.

Stonewall Kitchen Strawberry Lemonade Jelly and Hot Pepper Cranberry Jelly

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I usually love Stonewall Kitchen’s jellies, so I was excited to see these two new flavors at FFS. The Strawberry Lemonade, however, was a little too sedate for my taste – I was some lemonade pucker. The Hot Pepper Cranberry on the other hand, set my mouth on fire and I didn’t taste much cranberry (although with the 5-alarm going on in my head, it could have just gotten ignored).

Available in gourmet shops, select grocery stores and specialty retailers starting now.

Bailey’s Cappuccino – Irish Cream, Caramel, and Mint Mocha

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I hate coffee. I intended to just take photos of this product, but the sales rep in the booth convinced me to try it. “Cappuccino? Pfffff,” I said. That guy should earn salesman of the year because I DID LIKE IT. It was sweet and milky and caramel-y – (hence it’s presence here on the sweets list!) nothing like the horror stuff I’ve tasted. I drank the whole sample. This product was released earlier this year in K-Cups and is now coming out in multi-serve instant bags. Just scoop into a cup and add hot water. There’s a technology in this that allows it to self-foam (I’m told it’s the only product on the market that does!) which was pretty cool. Score one for coffee.

Available in grocery stores starting in September.

Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cake Bites

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If you’ve traveled to anywhere tropical, you have definitely encountered Tortuga Rum Cakes. Perhaps you’ve purchased some at the airport 10 minutes before your flight home because, in your hotel room at 1 a.m., you ate the ones you bought in town to bring back for friends & family. Well, Tortuga must have cameras in my hotel, because they’re introducing rum cake bites – perfect for late night snacking beachside or back home. They’re individually wrapped, a little bigger than a quarter, and retain all the rum aroma and flavor of the original. They are a lot more moist, however.

Available at travel/airport retailers starting in July and will launch later as a variety pack for cruise ships and duty-free outlets.

SPOTTED AT THE 2018 SUMMER FANCY FOOD SHOW (IT’S MADE OF WHAT? EDITION)

Spotted on Shelves is showing off what was in the aisles at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show (FFS) in New York City. I scoped out new products from familiar brands and interesting things from up-and-coming companies.

As is the nature of trade shows like this, I was plied with free samples and the occasional tote bag. This did not affect what was chosen to appear in this column or my opinions of the products, but it did affect my waistline.

One of the thrills of FFS is new things – ingredients and processes and forms you’ve never heard of. In the immortal words of C+C Music Factory: “Things that make you go hmmmm…” Here’s a few of of what I found in the aisles.

Mansi Premium Calamansi Juice Drink

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Ever heard of Calamansi fruit? Me neither. It’s a citrus fruit from the Philippines. When I took a sip of this calamansi drink, I flashed back to every vacation where I leisurely consumed bad novels and tropical beverages. The reps at the Mansi booth described the fruit as “Lime on the outside, tangerine on the inside,” which was a pretty accurate assessment of the flavor of the juice. They were serving it on ice and warm – which I could totally see myself curled up with on a chilly autumn night with some of those cookies from the previous post.

Available now in select East Coast & West Coast grocery stores and on Amazon

Suzie’s Black Rice Drink Non-Dairy Beverage

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It feels like every other week there’s a new “milk” coming out…and here’s another one! How does one get milk from rice? It it like getting blood from a stone? While billed as a “non-dairy beverage,” this stuff if definitely milk-adjacent. Not only that, it’s CHOCOLATE-milk-adjacent. The color was chocolatey, and the taste had a cocoa quality – along with a little hint of savory that would keep me from believing this was cow’s milk. But it was pretty tasty and a good alternative if you can’t do dairy.

Available online, at Independent grocery stores, natural foods stores and Amazon starting in late September.

Rooted Food Co. Popped Lotus Seeds – Cheese & Chives, Thai Sweet Chili, Jalapeno, Salt & Vinegar, and Salt & Pepper

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I’m starting to think that you can pop or puff anything, dust on some seasoning and it’ll be good at a party. I’ve never had lotus seeds before, but blindfolded, I would have thought I was eating popcorn or a puffed rice snack. The flavoring was present, but not overdone. The Thai Sweet Chili was my favorite.

Available online, at Independent grocery stores, natural foods stores and Amazon starting in late September.

McConnell’s Eureka Lemon & Marionberries dairy-free ice cream

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Again, never heard of marionberries. Apparently they’re like blackberries, but different? Well, this non-dairy ice cream tasted to me like lemon and a laid-back raspberry combo. The lemon wasn’t overpowering, it it felt almost sorbet-ish in texture. A nice refreshing summer treat. And with one letter change, it could be named after a certain former Washington DC mayor.

Available now at select grocery stores nationwide

Miracle Tree Organic Moringa Superfood Energy Infusion Teas – Moringa Vanilla Oolong Grape Tea, Moringa Green Tea Ginger & Lemon Tea, Moringa & Chai Infusion Tea, Moringa Cherry Chamomile Tea, and Moringa Orange & Passionfruit Tea

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Class continues – Moringa is an herbal plant that grows in India. It must be the hot new health food because it was EVERYWHERE at the show. I tasted the moringa green tea, ginger & lemon tea of this brand. The tea itself looked really natural – instead of the usual ground up dust, this was big pieces of leaves and lemon rind. I really liked the moringa – it was grassy, but in a bright and sunny way that worked well with the lemon. The ginger was KICKING – the back of my throat burned. A good tea, but I’d prefer it a little less gingerific.

Available in select grocery stores starting in August

Vegan Rob’s Ashwagandha Puffs and Moringa Puffs

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OK, yes, I’m back at Vegan Rob’s – but for good reason – he dropped another new ingredient on me with his upcoming Ashwagandha Puffs. Ashwagandha is also known as “Indian ginseng” and seems to cure or help a long list of ills. But what I really curious about was what these puffs tasted like since the word Ashwagandha is Sanskrit for “horse smell.” Alas, there were no samples yet of the Horse-Smell Puffs. Considering all of Vegan Rob’s other puffs tasted great, I trust it’s going to be good. Also, our new friend moringa made an appearance in puff form at the booth. They had the same nice, bright grassy taste as the tea I sampled earlier and were just a little sweet.

Moringa Puffs available now online and health food stores. Ashwagandha Puffs coming soon.

Asarasi Water Harvested From Trees – Sparkling Tree Water, Organic Sparkling Lemon, Organic Sparkling Lime, and Organic Sparkling Cherry Lime

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Water harvested from maple trees. Maple trees aren’t exactly novel ingredients, but water made from trees? I’ve seen it in survivalist situations, but not in a grocery store. The water is a byproduct of tapping the trees for sap and is usually discarded. I tried the unflavored sparkling water – it was good, but definitely tasted different than your average bottled water, but it was hard to put my finger on why. If it was in a glass served to me, my reaction would be “What’s up with this water?” So leave it in the bottle so you don’t have to explain over and over to people that it’s tree water.

Available now in grocery stores and food service outlets.

SPOTTED AT THE 2018 SUMMER FANCY FOOD SHOW (HEY, COOKIE EDITION)

Spotted on Shelves is showing off what was in the aisles at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show (FFS) in New York City. I scoped out new products from familiar brands and interesting things from up-and-coming companies.

As is the nature of trade shows like this, I was plied with free samples and the occasional tote bag. This did not affect what was chosen to appear in this column or my opinions of the products, but it did affect my waistline.

Cookies were one of the more fun product categories at FFS. How can you not be happy when looking at or eating a cookie? Here’s a roundup of the cookies that delighted me in some way at the show.

Belgian Boys Mini Cookie Stash Belgian Chocolate Chip Cookies

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The Belgian Boys are back with more adorable packaging and a new flavor of their mini cookie stash cookies. These are fairly basic chocolate chip cookies, but their appeal lies in their mustache shape. They’re small but just the right size to give yourself a cookiestash, which is pretty cute. If you post a cookiestach selfie on social media and it’s chosen as that month’s Rock That Stash, the company will donate to the charity of your choice. That’s decent of them.

Currently available on Jet Blue Airlines, grocery and wider availability in September/October.

D? Gourmet Edible & Bakeable Cookie Dough Mixes – Sugar Cookie, Brownie Batter and Signature Chocolate Chip

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Technically not a cookie (yet…) but – Dõ, the insanely popular New York City shop that doles out cups of unbaked cookie dough, is moving into the home market with edible cookie dough mixes. What makes this different from whipping up a batch of any cookie dough and scarfing it? You can get salmonella from FLOUR now (for the love of Ernest J. Keebler, is anything safe anymore?) and Dõ heat treats their flour to kill any nasties. For the true Dõ experience, make the mix, then stand outside your house for an hour with 100 of your friends before coming inside to eat it.

Available for purchase on Dõ’s website in August, retail distribution soon afterwards.

Dewey’s Bakery Limited Edition Doughnut Shop Collection Soft Baked Cookies – Old Fashioned Glazed Doughnut, Chocolate Glazed Doughnut, Apple Fritter, and Cinnamon Bun

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I’d never tasted Dewey’s Cookies before FFS, but I’m a convert. Their flavors were familiar but done really well. The lemon tasted like real lemon, the banana tasted like real banana…the snozzberry tasted like..you get the picture. The Doughnut Shop cookies lived up to their name – soft with a crackly sugar coating that reminded me of doughnut glaze. The flavors are what they claim to be. They’re just lovely. My only complaint is that there’s no holes in the middle.

Available early 2019 in major grocery chains nationwide.

Dewey’s Bakery Limited Edition Fall Cookies – Moravian Style Pumpkin Spice Cookie Thins, Soft Baked Pumpkin Pie Cookies, Moravian Style Apple Cider Cookie Thins, and Soft Baked Apple Spice Cake Cookies

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Dewey’s had several collections of limited edition products on display for FFS, including this line of fall flavors. I did not sample this particular group of cookies, but based on my other Dewey’s tastings, it’s a safe bet they’re delicious.

Available starting in September/October in major grocery chains nationwide.

Dewey’s Bakery Limited Edition Valentine’s cookies – Chocolate Dipped Vanilla Hearts Mini Cookie Thins, Moravian Style Brownie Crisp Cookie Thin Hearts, and Powdered Sugar Raspberry Heart Shortbread Cookies

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The standout of this Valentine’s Day collection for me were the Raspberry Heart Shortbreads. The shortbread had an intense but authentic raspberry taste and crispy texture. The powdered sugar coating was a nice change of pace from most cookies, but as a New Yorker who wears a lot of black, it’s the scarlet C of a cookie addict.

Available early 2019 in major grocery chains nationwide.

The Sweetery Beer Buddies Biscotti – Rind & Stout and Yippee IPA

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These biscotti cookies were designed to pair with and dunk into beer. The airy but rigid structure did a great job holding onto liquids when dunked, but didn’t lose its crunch. The Rind & Stout flavor were chocolate-based with pretzel and pork rinds mixed in. Yippee IPA flavor were lemon cookies with SouthWest seasoning. Both were a nice balance of sweet and savory. The creator called them “Dog treats for guys” which was funny but easy to see – the flavors did lean a little dude-y. The Sweetery also has a existing line of Wine Sticks, designed to pair with wines – so, cat treats for ladies?

Available now in select gourmet shops and regional grocery stores.

Made Good Soft Baked Mini Cookies

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When I tasted these little cookies, they were good, but didn’t bowl me over. Then reading the box and literature, I wondered if they’re the most “friendly” cookie on earth. They’re vegan, organic, Kosher, gluten-free, common allergen-free, non-GMO, produced in a nut-free facility and safe to send to school with your kids. I’m exhausted from just typing that list. But they still manage to taste like cookies, so nice work! As a childless adult in the age of deadly allergies and everything intolerance, I’m terrified of the prospect of ever having to provide food to groups of children. Bet I’ll be remembering these if an impromptu kids’ birthday party ever springs up around me.

Coming in late Summer/early Fall to grocery stores nationwide.

Fancypants Baking Co. Apple Crisp Cookies

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I’m kind of an apple freak. The house I grew up in was wedged between two apple orchards. These cookies had my attention as soon as I spied the big red delicious word “APPLE” on the bag. Hi, Fancypants…how’s it going? Oops! 3 of your cookies just fell into my mouth. These had the quiet applessence of a cider doughnut in a small, thin, crispy cookie. Not a Jolly Ranchers level punch in the mouth, but like something your grandmother would make. They were simple and lovely and easy to eat the whole bag in one sitting (cough – not that I would know, but I might know…)

Available in grocery chains this fall.

SPOTTED AT THE 2018 SUMMER FANCY FOOD SHOW (CHIPS, PUFFS & POPS EDITION)

Spotted on Shelves is showing off what was in the aisles at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show (FFS) in New York City. I scoped out new products from familiar brands and interesting things from up-and-coming companies.

As is the nature of trade shows like this, I was plied with free samples and the occasional tote bag. This did not affect what was chosen to appear in this column or my opinions of the products, but it did affect my waistline.

One of the biggest product groups at the Fancy Food Show were chips, puffs, and popcorn. It felt like there were 100 or more varieties of baked, fried, puffy, crunchy things vying for my attention – most of them screaming their health benefits. Less fat! High protein! More Fiber! Less carbs! Plants! Superfoods! Animal friendly!

Personally, I’m not in the chips game for the healthy eating – I’m in it for the yum. So I compiled some of the tastier snacks from the show, regardless of their health status.

Xochitl chips – Sprouted Red Corn & Multigrains and The Dipper

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Tired of losing your Xochitl chips in a heavy salsa? Personally, I like sending out chip rescue parties for those left behind. But these new chips are stronger and won’t break as much as the original – delicate – Xochitls. These taste like the basic Xochitl, but thicker. The Sprouted came off to me as slightly more textured than the original and a bit earthier flavor, but not a huge departure.

Available in grocery chains nationwide starting September/October.

Fuller Foods Serious Cheesy Puffs – Asiago & Black Pepper, Blue Cheese & Jalapeno and Sriracha & Cheddar

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These are billed as “absurdly large” cheese puffs. They were longer than most, but not insanely. I live in New York, I have an extremely high bar for the word ‘absurd.’ They were tasty, though. More nuanced flavors than the standard day-glo orange dust. The Sriracha was hot! Asiago Black Pepper was a solid, mild cheesy flavor. My favorite was Blue Cheese Jalapeno – a great combo of umami and low-level heat.

Available now in grocery stores nationwide.

SunTropics Banana Chips – Maple, Sweet Chili, Salted Caramel

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On the sweet side, these banana chips had a great hard sugar crunch. I tried the maple because I’m a maple fiend, but was skeptical because it’s a flavor that can go very (artificially) wrong. These were pretty true to nature, however, and didn’t overpower the banana base.

Launching late 2018/early 2019, first on Amazon, then select retails stores.

Sun Tropics Mochi Rice Bites – Sriracha, Tokyo Curry, Tamari Soy Sauce and Sea Salt

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These had the usual texture and feel of a puffed rice snack, but with unusual flavors. The Tamari Soy Sauce bites were sweeter and far less salty than I expected. Tokyo Curry were saltier (a good thing in my book) and had a strong curry powder flavor with a low level of heat.

Available at West Coast natural grocers & specialty stores within the next 2 months, wider distribution to follow.

Epic Provisions Oven Baked Pork Rinds – Chili Lime, Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, and BBQ Seasoning

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Epic Provisions, best known for their jerky, are introducing new varieties of their pork rinds – baked this time. I’m not much of a pork rind eater – I only tried them for the first time ever this year. I tried Epic’s Pink Himalayan & Sea Salt and Chili Lime flavors. The salt version was tasty but not overly-salty. Chili Lime definitely had chili – slightly more than I like (keeping in mind I’m a lightweight) but I couldn’t detect the lime. Both were far less greasy than the standard pork rind.

Available now in select Cost Plus World Markets, select Whole Foods starting this week.

Beanitos Bean Chips – Zesty Ranch and Red Hot Cajun

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Beanitos Bean Chips Dippers – Sea Salt, Twist of Lime, and Sea Salt & Pepper

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Beanitos Baked Bean Crunch – Mac N’ Cheese, Jalapeno Con Queso and Fuego N’ Lime

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These read as bean-based alternatives to your usual tortilla chips, nacho chips and cheese curls. I thought the Dippers were the best of the lot. The Twist of Lime flavor could have passed a blind taste-test with Tostitos Hint of Lime Chips. The Zesty Ranch and Red Hot Cajun did taste like Doritos, but with less of the over-the-top zest of the originals (could be good or bad depending on where your taste lies). The Baked Bean Crunch curls had good flavor – the Fuego N’ Lime in particular, but had a denser, softer texture than a Cheeto.

Available in grocery stores starting in September/October.

Popsalot California Popcorn – California Almond, Brazilian Cashew, Southern Pecan, Hawaiian Macadamia, Saigon Cinnamon, Clandestine Caramel, London Kettle, Costa Rican Cocoa, and Moroccan Harissa

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I tend to gravitate towards popcorn before chips or cheese puffs, so I was happy to find a company at the Fancy Food Show that had an extensive and thoughtful variety of caramel and kettle corns. They were all delicious and exactly as described, but two flavors stood out as particularly unique. The Costa Rican Cocoa was a dark, earthy chocolate – only a little sweet. The Moroccan Harissa was a unique flavor for a mass-market popcorn – spicy and savory, but not cheesy.

Available now in select grocery stores, department stores and Amazon.

Vegan Rob’s Dragon Puffs and Creamed Spinach Puffs

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I’m not vegan, but Vegan Rob’s vast flavor array caught my eye. Turmeric, Jackfruit, Brussel Sprouts – if it grows in the ground or on a tree, I think Vegan Rob can make a puff of it. I did not try his latest – Dragon Puffs – I guessed from the flame-kissed bag that it was gonna be a hot one. I did try a prototype they were showing for a Popeye-themed Creamed Spinach Puffs. They had a subtle spinach/salad greens flavor with a hint of cream. The texture and crunch were just right – in line with a Cheez Doodle. I liked them.

Dragon Puffs available now online, coming soon to grocery stores and health stores.
Popeye Spinach Puffs were a prototype product for testing at the show.

Aree Crisp n Chips Almond and Rice Snack Mixes – Black Pepper & Honey Mustard, Sriracha & Cheese, Butter & Corn, Rosemary & Tomato, and Barbecue & Salt Vinegar

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From the makers of Danielle fruit & veggie chips, these were combos of an almond-based flat chip and a puffed rice cake, meant to be eaten together. Each element is a separate flavor designed to pair with the other. The standout varieties for me were the Butter & Corn and Rosemary & Tomato. The corn was a typical corn chip and the butter was a bright, dominant flavor, but not in a fake ‘movie theater butter’ kind of way. While the rosemary was hard to find, the tomato was an authentic and pleasant flavor.

Available online starting in Fall/Winter, retail availability TBD.