AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2016

The Gourmet Retailer - Editors' Picks 2016

   

In The Gourmet Retailer's Fifth Annual Editors' Picks Awards, we pay tribute to 60 of the most original, engaging and downright fun specialty food items introduced at retail over the past year. Our October/November issue will feature the year's best housewares and non-food items.

Walk around any tradeshow or market, and you'll hear a common question: What's new?

Innovation is the lifeblood of consumer packaged goods companies as they constantly strive to attract new buyers and bolster their connection with existing purchasers of their products.

As in previous years, we put out a call for entries, and we received hundreds across all gourmet store categories. To help us winnow down the field, we sought the input of both our non-editorial colleagues and the staff of our sister publications in our Jersey City, N.J., offices.

Thanks to the group participation, we were able to make the final call on which products made the cut as 2016 Editors' Picks, based on a three-pronged criterion of innovation, taste/functionality and value.

Along the way, products that made it into what we refer to as the "Gold Circle" — those that earned across-the-board accolades, even from our pickiest participants. They included such crowd-pleasers as: Alter Eco Dark Salted Burnt Caramel Bar, Bhakti Lemon Ginger Black Sparkling Tea, Dolce Kitchen Alfajores, Fuji Apple Dry Sparkling, Serious Foodie Romesco Finishing Sauce and Zemas Madhouse Foods Sweet Potato Spice Cookies.

So read on. And look for our housewares and non-food winners in the October/November issue.


5 Generation Bakers Jenny Lee Rum Raisin Holiday Bread
SRP: $4.59
Phone: 412-444-8200
Web: www.5generationbakers.com
We picked it because: Rum-soaked raisins! Jenny Lee Rum-Raisin Holiday Bread is chock-full of golden raisins soaked in rum and swirled with Korintje cinnamon. Small-batch production permits natural fermentation prior to baking in a crimp pan. Before slicing, the loaves are bathed in melted butter and cinnamon sugar, which adheres when the butter sets up. OMG!


A&A Alta Cucina Italia Balsamico Al Mirtillo
SRP: $15
Phone: 770-369-4231
WEB: www.altacucinaitalia.com
We picked it because: A feast for the eyes as well as the palate! A&A Balsamico Al Mirtillo blends white balsamic vinegar of Modena with fresh Georgia blueberries to create a syrupy reduction that is tart and sweet at the same time. And the color — it's a beautiful brilliant dark blue purple. It's delicious added to salad dressing, paired with cheese, used as a marinade for proteins, or drizzled over ice cream, cheesecake or fresh blueberries. And the packaging — glass bottle and natural kraft labels — reinforces its artisanal nature.


Alter Eco Dark Salted Burnt Caramel Bar
SRP: $3.99
Phone: 415-701-1212
WEB: www.alterecofoods.com
We picked it because: Chocolate, caramel and salt is about as close to heaven as we can get. To create the new Dark Salted Burnt Caramel bar, Swiss chocolatiers expertly blend cane sugar, organic cream and pastured heirloom butter in to a golden caramel, drench it with 70 percent dark Ecuadorian chocolate, and finish it with prized Fleur de Sel de Guerande, a fine culinary sea salt hand-harvested from ancient salt villages in France. Like all Alter Eco chocolates, the bar is Fair Trade Certified, Non-GMO Project Verified, Gluten Free Certified, and free of soy ingredients, emulsifiers and artificial flavors. Let the indulging begin!


Barbara's Dark Chocolate Cranberry Better Than Granola
SRP: $5.99
Phone: 905-372-5441
WEB: www.barbaras.com
We picked it because: We can't get enough granola, and the suggested serving size is two-thirds of a cup! This delicious blend of toasted oat clusters and puffs, almonds and ancient grains and seeds such as quinoa and flax seeds has less fat and sugar and more protein than other leading granolas. In fact, it has nine to 10 grams of soy-free protein and six grams of fiber per serving. And it's Non-GMO Project Verified, has 28-30 grams of whole grains and more than 200 milligrams of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) omega 3s so we feel virtuous when indulging.


Bare Snacks Simply Banana Chips
SRP: $3.99
Phone: 509-554-5550
WEB: www.baresnacks.com
We picked it because: What could be better than baked banana chips? We can enjoy munching on crispy chips and not worry about too much fat or too many calories. Crafted in small batches, Simply Banana Chips are made from fresh, ripe bananas that are slowly baked — not fried — to a perfect crunch. And they never have added oil or sugar. Now, where was that bag?


Bear Pond Farm 3 Greens Pesto
SRP: $6.99
Phone: 860-324-4201
WEB: www.bearpondfarm.com
We picked it because: Pesto is one of those sauces we can't get enough of. This is pesto for a new generation — light, vegan and made with superfoods. It's a combination of greens blend (organic arugula, organic kale, basil), green olives, non-GMO extra virgin olive oil blend, roasted pumpkin seeds, organic leeks, organic miso powder, apple cider vinegar, garlic, lemon juice concentrate and natural flavor. Keep it the fridge or — if you're able not to eat it all at once — freeze it for use later.


Better For You Foods Poppy Seed & Onion Bread Bowls
SRP: $4.99
Phone: 561-314-9642
WEB: www.better4ufoods.com
We picked it because: One less bowl to clean! Better4U Foods, the natural foods brand best known for healthy frozen pizzas, recently launched an innovative line of frozen bread bowls. Poppy Seed & Onion Bread Bowls are perfect for filling with chili, dip, soup, eggs and more. Two Bread Bowls come in each package so we can share — if we have to.


Bhakti Lemon Ginger Black Sparkling Tea
SRP: $2.99
Phone: 303-484-8770
WEB: www.drinkbhakti.com
We picked it because: Bubbles, tea, ginger and lemon all in one drink make us swoon! Bhakti's Lemon Ginger Black Sparkling Tea is a blend of carbonated Fair Trade Certified black tea, Bhakti's signature fresh-pressed ginger and a splash of fresh, organic lemon juice. A boost of energy with caffeine from the black tea and a natural kick from the fresh pressed ginger. The perfect refreshing carbonated beverage.


Big Fork Brands Portabella Mushroom Bacon Sausage
SRP: $6.99
Phone: 312-206-9444
WEB: www.bigforkbrands.com
We picked it because: This is a carnivore's dream. Big Fork believes bacon makes everything better so the company crams as much bacon as possible into its Portabella Bacon Sausage. These sausages are made with hardwood smoked uncured bacon and antibiotic-free pork, sea salt, brown sugar — and lots of roasted portabella mushrooms. They're naturally encased and smoked using a combination of hickory and applewood.


Blackberry Patch Blueberry Ice Cream Topping
SRP: $6.99
Phone: 800-853-5598
WEB: www.blackberrypatch.com
We picked it because: We love blueberries in any form. Blueberry Ice Cream Topping is made from just three ingredients — fresh berries, pure cane sugar and lemon juice. Blackberry Patch makes its ice cream toppings by hand in small batches
so every spoonful evokes old-fashioned goodness.


Bob's Red Mill Paleo Baking Flour
SRP: $13.99
Phone: 800-349-2173
WEB: www.bobsredmill.com
We picked it because: Those on a primal diet deserve baked goodies too. Bob's Red Mill Paleo Flour combines nut flours and starches in the right proportions and can be used to make cakes, cookies, pancakes, crackers, pizza crusts and more. It's grain-free, gluten-free, a good source of fiber and has a clean ingredient list. Let the baking begin.


Bonafide Provisions Free Range Chicken Broth
SRP: $9.99
Phone: 760-683-9146
WEB: www.bonafideprovisions.com
We picked it because: Even those of us who aren't paleo enjoy bone broth. Bonafide Provisions' certified organic, Free Range Chicken Broth tastes long simmered because it's slow simmered for 24 to 48 hours, then immediately frozen to maintain its nutrition. It's made from triple-filtered water, Free-Range Certified Organic chicken bones, organic onions, organic fresh garlic, Celtic sea salt and organic apple cider vinegar and finished with organic parsley. It's time for a nice warm cup.


Boulder Flavours Balsamic Nectar
SRP: $19.99 & $29.99
Phone: 303-578-2283
WEB: www.balsamicnectar.com
We picked it because: America now has its own balsamic. Balsamic Nectar is aged in Boulder, Colo., using a modern process that captures the essence of traditional balsamic vinegar at a fraction of the cost. This wonderfully sweet yet savory vinegar, which hails from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, contains no thickeners, no added sugars and no preservatives. Available in 200 ml and 375 ml bottles. How good is it? Good enough to win the 2016 sofi award for best vinegar.


Beets Mucho Gazpacho Imported by Culinary Collective
SRP: $4.99
Phone: 425-398-9761
WEB: www.culinarycollective.com
We picked it because: It's a new twist on an old favorite. The cold soup/drink began in the hot climate of Spain's southern Andalusia region. Mucho Gazpacho is convenient and ready-to-drink. Beets Mucho Gazpacho is made with whole fresh tomatoes, beets, sweet onions, red cabbage and sweet red bell peppers, blended with extra virgin olive oil, wine vinegar, salt and ginger. Each 8-ounce bottle has two full servings of vegetable and two to three grams of fiber. Non-GMO, gluten-, additive- and preservative-free.



Dolce Kitchen Alfajores
SRP: $1.69 - $1.99
Phone: 240-417-5742
WEB: www.thedolcekitchen.com
We picked it because: When the sweet tooth calls, alfajores answer! Alfajores — aka sweet milk cookies — are a traditional South American dessert. The mouth waters at the thought of two all-natural flaky shortbread cookies that are filled with dulce de leche and topped with a touch of powdered sugar. Betcha can't eat just one!

Dry Soda Co. Fuji Apple Dry Sparkling
SRP: $6.99
Phone: 206-652-2345
WEB: www.drysparkling.com
We picked it because: A soft drink for grown-ups! Full bodied and elegant, Fuji Apple Dry Sparkling celebrates the sweet, crisp taste of one of the world's most beloved apples. Crisp and refreshing, it pairs well with food and serves as a simple and sophisticated cocktail mixer. Made with just four all natural ingredients, including a touch of cane sugar, allowing the flavor of the fruit to shine through. Non-GMO Project Verified, caffeine-free, sodium-free, kosher, and made without artificial color or flavors. 4-packs of glass bottles sold exclusively at Target until October, when new national retail outlets will be added.


E.H. Gourmet The Sun Always Rises Bloody Mary Mix
SRP: $13.99
Phone: 757-431-1996
WEB: www.ehgourmet.com
We picked it because: What's a weekend without a Bloody Mary? The Sun Always Rises Bloody Mary Mix is inspired by Ernest Hemingway's time in Paris at Harry's New York Bar. The recipe is based on the original Bloody Mary created there plus a dash of olive juice and a dollop of Dijon mustard, to create its distinctive flavor.


Eden Foods Instant Organic White Miso Soup
SRP: $9.32
Phone: 888-424-EDEN
WEB: www.edenfoods.com
We picked it because: It's the easiest miso soup ever. Instant organic Eden White Miso Soup is handmade, freeze dried, traditional organic soybean and white rice miso with organic kuzu (aka kudzu or Japanese arrowroot), organic silky tofu, and organic green onions (scallions). Freeze-drying best preserves miso soup's subtleties, beneficial nature and savory flavor. All we have to do it place one of the eight cubes and eight ounces of hot water in a bowl, cup or thermos. Then stir, and let it sit for a moment. It contains no chemical additives, MSG, autolyzed yeast extract; Eden-tested for non-GMO and gluten-free.


Enjoy Life Foods Margherita Pizza Plentils
SRP: $3.99
Phone: 866-972-6879
WEB: www.enjoylifefoods.com
We picked it because: Guilt-free chips! Plentils Lentil Chips made with plant-based, protein-filled lentils and have 40 percent less fat than traditional chips. Margherita Pizza flavor has are 130 calories for a single serving of approximately 31 chips. Certified Gluten-Free, Non-GMO Project Verified, kosher and halal certified, and free-from the top eight most common food allergens: wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, fish and shellfish.


Epicurean Butter Organic Cocoa Coconut Butter
SRP: $4.99
Phone: 720-261-8175
WEB: www.epicureanbutter.com
We picked it because: A way to have chocolate for breakfast! This delicious compound butter blends organic butter, organic unrefined coconut oil, organic cocoa, organic honey and Himalayan pink salt. Spread it on French toast, crepes, pancakes, waffles, crusty bread, almost anything. Available in 3.5-ounce packages and 1-ounce single-serve squeeze packs.


Explore Cuisine Organic Red Lentil Penne
SRP: $4.99
Phone: 888-208-9471
WEB: www.explorecuisine.com
We picked it because: We can serve this delicious gluten-free pasta to anyone. Explore Cuisine Red Lentil has only two ingredients — organic red lentil flour and organic brown rice flour — but it packs 11 grams of protein and is a good source of fiber. And it's organic, gluten-free and non-GMO and offers a low glycemic index. Pasta is back on the menu.


Fratelli Beretta USA Salamini
SRP: $4.99
Phone: 201-438-0723
WEB: www.fratelliberettausa.com
We picked it because: These teeny-tiny bite-size bits of delicious salami are dry-cured just like their full-size cousins. And they're shelf-stable so we can toss the easy-open package in a purse or lunch bag or car or desk drawer — you get the picture — and have a tasty snack anywhere, anytime. What a great idea!


FreshForward Beverages Classic Aromatic Sparkling Bitters Sparkling Water
SRP: $1.99
Phone: 305-607-9090
WEB: www.sparklingbitters.com
We picked it because: Bitters are on trend. Classic Aromatic Sparkling Bitters combines sparkling water and tonic bitters for a light, refreshing, convenient drink. Bitters have a centuries-long reputation for aiding digestion, relieving upset stomach, curbing sugar cravings, cleansing the liver and stimulating digestive enzyme production, but we love them for their taste. Cheers!


Frontier Co-op Organic Saffron Threads
SRP: $17.99
Phone: 800-669-3275
WEB: www.frontiercoop.com
We picked it because: We only buy saffron — a true indulgence — from trusted sources. Frontier's organic saffron threads are the handpicked stigmas of saffron crocuses that grow in the Castilla-La Mancha region of Spain. They impart a pungent, delicate flavor and rich yellow color to any dish. It's time to find that paella recipe.


Harvest Soul Organic Probiotic Juices
SRP: $4.49
Phone: 404-217-3028
WEB: www.harvestsoul.com
We picked it because: Probiotic juices make us feel healthy. Harvest Soul Organic Probiotic Juices blend superfood fruits and veggies with GanedenBC30, an odorless, tasteless probiotic powder. We can't decide which of the four flavors we like best — Pro Green, Pro Tropical, Pro Berry or Pro Beet.


Jammit Jam Cherry Clove Cabernet
SRP: $7.99
Phone: 214-912-3907
WEB: www.jammitjam.com
We picked it because: This is jam for grown-ups. Actually, its whole fruit spread made with cherries, pure cane sugar, cloves and a touch of Cabernet. And with just seven grams of sugar per tablespoon, we can eat a lot without feeling guilty. It pairs beautifully with cheese, especially aged Gouda and Ossau-Irraty. Or it can be used to fill crepes or to top ice cream or cheesecake. Or as a sauce for pork or duck. Bet we finish the jar before we run out of ways to use it.


Justin's Maple Almond Butter and Pretzels Snack Pack
SRP: $1.99
Phone: 866-972-6879
WEB: www.justins.com
We picked it because: It hits the trifecta — healthy, convenient and delicious. We can just toss it in a drawer or purse or backpack or lunchbox and have a satisfying snack whenever we want. Justin's Maple Almond Butter Snack Pack has five grams of protein and only three grams sugar for just 190 calories. One side of the package is Justin's gourmet Maple Almond Butter, the other side premium pretzels. The only drawback is we want to eat these all day long.


Kahiki Thai Basil Chicken Yum Yum Stix
SRP: $3.99
Phone: 614-322-3180
WEB: www.kahiki.com
We picked it because: Our taste buds said thank you. Thin, crispy wrappers with flecks of basil cooked into them encase boldly flavored chicken to create Thai Basil Chicken Yum Yum Stix. Made with only 100 percent natural ingredients, no preservatives, artificial flavors or MSG added. Just pop them in the oven or microwave for a quick and delicious snack, appetizer or meal. The more we eat, the more we think Yum Yum is the perfect name.


KonaRed Original Cold Brew Coffee
SRP: $3.99
Phone: 808-212-1553
WEB: www.konared.com
We picked it because: Our afternoons require RTD cold brew. Premium estate-grown Kona and Colombian coffee beans are infused with the nutritional benefits of Hawaiian coffeeberry, roasted to perfection, then slowly steeped in cold water for over 16 hours, creating a smooth, delicious craft cold brew coffee. Long afternoons just got a lot better.


La Tourangelle NutriBlend Oil
SRP: $14.99
Phone: 510-970-9960
WEB: www.latourangelle.com
We picked it because: Everything old is new again. Organic Amazonian Nutriblend Oil has its roots in the Sacha Inchi seed that grows in the Highland Amazon Forest. The seed has been used for thousands of years in traditional Peruvian medicine. The organic blend, which includes organic high-oleic sunflower oil, organic virgin Sacha Inchi, organic refined coconut oil and organic sesame seed oil, has nutty bold aromas with earthy undertones and complex flavors. It pairs well with salads, vegetables, ancient grains and meat. It's also an excellent source of vitamin E and omega 3s.


Litehouse Foods Simply Artisan Reserve Simple Seasons Feta
SRP: $5.49
Phone: 208-920-2033
WEB: www.litehousefoods.com
We picked it because: This is shakeable real cheese. Litehouse Simply Artisan Reserve Simple Seasons Feta Cheese is the first real, finely crumbled soft Feta cheese in a glass jar. It has just five ingredients — milk, salt, culture, enzymes and an agent to prevent caking. Let the shaking begin.


Lone Mountain Wagyu Beef Jerky
SRP: $5.85
Phone: 310-622-1040
WEB: www.lonemountainwagyu.com
We picked it because: Fullblood Wagyu beef jerky is a dream come true. This hand-sliced and smoked jerky is made from select cuts of 100 percent full-blood Wagyu beef, the epitome of fine beef. Perfectly seasoned with salt, garlic and pure maple syrup, it has just the right amount of chew balanced with a melt-in-your-mouth quality. It's what artisanal, small batch jerky is supposed to be.


Luvo Chicken in BBQ Sauce
SRP: $5.99
Phone: 703-283-0255
WEB: www.luvoinc.com
We picked it because: It's fast, easy, healthy and delicious all in one. Luvo's Chicken in BBQ Sauce comes with millet grits and collard greens, evoking a Southern-inspired feast. The chicken was raised without antibiotics. The meal has 20 grams of protein, 23 grams of whole grains, one full serving of fruit & veggies — and just 280 calories. Who said a frozen dinner couldn't be a feel-good treat?


Mamma Chia Grateful Greens
SRP: $2.99
Phone: 855-588-2442
WEB: www.mammachiawholesale.com
We picked it because: Who doesn't want a healthy and delicious drink? This fresh line combines the nutritional powerhouse of chia with vibrant greens in great-tasting flavors to provide a delicious, fun, on-the-go beverage. While Grateful Greens is our favorite, each of the four invigorating flavors is bursting with nutrient-rich chia seeds and organic power veggies. Chia & Greens is one of the most nutrient-rich green beverages on the shelf with one of the lowest calorie counts from sugar.


Norseland Jarlsberg Garlic and Herb Cheese Crisps
SRP: $3.99 - $4.99
Phone: 203-324-5620
WEB: www.jarlsberg.com
We picked it because: Crunchy, cheesy crackers! The handcrafted, small-batch crackers are sprinkled with real Jarlsberg cheese right before they go into the oven for baking. The Garlic & Herb Crisps are flavored with garlic and herbs — and Mediterranean sea salt. Each serving has 120 calories, 3.5 or less grams of fat and five grams of protein so we don't feel guilty about indulging.


Nutiva Organic Hazelnut Spread
SRP: $7.99
Phone: 800-993-4367
WEB: www.nutiva.com
We picked it because: Chocolate hazelnut spread has gone organic. It's smooth, creamy and delicious. It's also vegan and each serving has five grams of fiber, 450 mg of omega-3s and 12 grams of sugar (which is 40 percent less sugar than that other brand). We love it on toast, bagels, crackers, apples, a spoon, a fingertip...


Ocean Beauty Seafoods Echo Falls Oak Whisky Cask Scottish Smoked Salmon
SRP: $14.99
Phone: 206-285-6800
WEB: www.oceanbeauty.com
We picked it because: This is the real deal Scottish smoked salmon. It's smoked in retired Macallan whisky casks and co-branded with the beloved Scotch brand. No preservatives or sugar is used to make this delicious treat — just Scottish salmon, natural wood smoke and salt. The 200-gram packages ship frozen. Time to binge watch "Outlander" while binging on smoked salmon.


Organic Valley Grassmilk Yogurt Plain
SRP: $5.29
Phone: 888-444-6455
WEB: www.organicvalley.coop
We picked it because: Cream on top! Organic Valley Grassmilk Yogurt is made in small batches, with milk from 100 percent grassfed cows, resulting in a unique, creamy, delicious yogurt. Because it's made with non-homogenized, organic whole milk, there's a layer of cream on top when you open the carton. Each satiating serving contains 10 grams of protein.


Peanut Butter & Co Pumpkin Spice
SRP: $5.99
Phone: 212-757-3130
WEB: ilovepeanutbutter.com
We picked it because: A fall favorite partners with a perennial favorite. Peanut Butter & Co. Pumpkin Spice peanut butter is the first seasonal flavor from the country's No. 1 flavored peanut butter. It blends real pumpkin and sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg with creamy peanut butter to create a spread that practically screams autumn. We can't wait to spread it on apples, add it smoothies or just eat spoonfuls right from the jar!


Pedon Group More than Pasta Red Lentil Pasta
SRP: $3.99
Phone: 786-558-0941
WEB: www.pedon.it
We picked it because: Gluten-free pasta has come of age. More than Pasta Red Lentil Pasta has all the benefits of pulses (i.e., dried seeds, like dried peas, dried lentils, dried chickpeas) in a delicious pasta. And talk about clean labels — it's 100 percent made of pulses. It cooks al dente in just few minutes and is gluten- and soy-free and kosher. As an Italian-made product, it's also non-GMO. Ciao bella!


Poco Dolce Confections Smoked Almond & Ghost Chile Salt Tiles
SRP: $22
Phone: 415-255-1443
WEB: www.pocodolce.com
We picked it because: Heat is so hot right now! These unique chocolate squares feature a ghost chile-infused sea salt that is hot on the tongue but not overwhelming. The quick burst of heat balances the light smokiness of the hickory-smoked roasted almonds and the rich bittersweet chocolate. We hope we can make the eight pieces in the box last more than a day.


Quality Candy Co. Gilliam Organics Very Berry Organic Lollysticks
SRP: $2.99
Phone: 702-565-4711
WEB: www.qcandy.com
We picked it because: We can share these candy sticks with kids of all ages, including those who have food allergies. Gilliam Organics Very Berry Lollysticks are made with fruit and vegetable extracts, 100 percent natural flavors and without artificial dyes. They're safe for those with allergies because they're vegan, non-GMO, fat-free, gluten-free, tree nut-free, egg-free peanut-free, soy-free and dairy-free. One thing they're not free of is deliciousness!


Quinn Snacks Classic Sea Salt Pretzels
SRP: $4.49
Phone: 303-927-6655
WEB: www.quinnsnacks.com
We picked it because: We've found a gluten-free pretzel we can love. No need to settle because these are as good as any pretzel we remember. They're naturally gluten-free and allergy friendly — corn-, soy- and dairy-free. Made with ancient whole grain sorghum flour, they're Non-GMO Project Verified. And we really like the farm-to-bag transparency on the package.


Saffron Road Crunchy Chickpeas with Sea Salt
SRP: $3.49
Phone: 877-425-2587
WEB: www.saffronroadfood.com
We picked it because: We love to munch the crunch. Chickpeas are little protein- and fiber-packed bundles that satisfy our need for healthy snacking. Saffron Road Non-GMO Project Verified Crunchy Chickpeas with Sea Salt have an intense savory flavor that explains why folks have been harvesting sea salt for millennia. A healthy snack perfect for any time of day.


Seattle Gourmet Foods Dilettante Chocolates Blood Orange TruffleCremes
SRP: $5.49
Phone: 800-800-9490
WEB: www.dilettante.com
We picked it because: Decadence is divine! TruffleCremes are always indulgent treats and blood orange takes them one step further. The fruit's citrus notes and hints of raspberry infuse a light ganache center that is then enrobed in decadent dark chocolate. Yum!


Serious Foodie Romesco Finishing Sauce
SRP: $9.95
Phone: 609-658-7420
WEB: www.serious-foodie.com
We picked it because: We can wow our dinner companions and never break a sweat! We just coat our favorite proteins with Romesco — basically a Spanish version of pesto — before they finish cooking and we have an amazing entrée. Romesco was created back in the day for fish but we love it on meat, poultry, eggs, even tofu. The Serious Foodie Romesco uses lemon drop peppers to kick up the spice. And it's gluten-free and contains no preservatives. In fact, our judges say this entire line of sauces is worthy of exploration. We think we'll be making fewer dinner reservations.


Simply 7 Kale Chips - Dill Pickle
SRP: $2.99 - $3.49
Phone: 877-682-2359
WEB: www.simply7snacks.com
We picked it because: Bet you can't eat just ... a handful! Simply7 Kale Chips are crunchy chips made from kale and potatoes. The Dill Pickle Chips combine the light essence of kale with the sweet and sour tang of dill pickles. The chips are kosher certified, Non-GMO Project Verified, gluten-free and vegan. The health benefits of a traditional kale chip (nearly 80 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K) with the crunch of a potato chip and without artificial ingredients. Hand us a bag, please.


Straw Propeller Gourmet Foods Moroccan Spice Oatmeal
SRP: $2.99 - $3.75
Phone: 855-507-8729
WEB: www.strawpropeller.com
We picked it because: Oatmeal is not just for breakfast anymore. Savory oatmeal makes a great lunch, afternoon snack or late-night splurge. Straw Propeller's Moroccan Spice Oatmeal adds savory spices and herbs to the certified gluten-free oats and then packages it all in convenient cups. Just add hot water to the cup, sit back and enjoy a new taste twist.


Suji's Korean Cuisine Spicy Korean Sauce and Marinade
SRP: $3.59
Phone: 402-504-1057
WEB: www.sujiskorean.com
We picked it because: Korean fare is all the rage. Suji's Spicy Korean Sauce and Marinade makes it easy to whip up delicious Korean fare, like stir-fries, Korean tacos and rice bowls. We love that it's made with gluten-free, non-GMO soy sauce and has no added MSG. It tastes like Korea, but it's made in the USA.


SuperSeedz Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds Somewhat Spicy
SRP: $4.49 - $4.99
Phone: 203-407-0546
WEB: www.superseedz.com
We picked it because: Pumpkin seeds with no shells are awesome. SuperSeedz Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds Somewhat Spicy take awesome to a new level. They're dry roasted and seasoned with a blend of aged cayenne pepper, garlic, sea salt — just spicy enough for us to notice but not so spicy that our eyes water. And they hit all the right buttons: peanut-free, tree nut-free, gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO. Let the snacking begin.


Swagger Foods Corp. Koreyo Kimchi Seasoning
SRP: $4.75 - $5.25
Phone: 847-913-1200
WEB: www.swaggerfoods.com
We picked it because: Kimchi has captured our hearts — and our palates. Swagger's Koreyo Kimchi Seasoning lets us add spicy and salty flavors to almost anything. Try it on popcorn or use it to season beef, chicken, pork, fish, eggs or tofu for Korean-inspired flavor. This versatile seasoning can be easily transformed into a dip or an Asian-inspired marinade. Made with USA-sourced ingredients.


Teapigs Matcha on the Go
SRP: $18
Phone: 212-705-8724
WEB: www.teapigs.com
We picked it because: Now we can enjoy matcha anywhere, any time. Teapigs Matcha on the Go are single-serve sachets that make it simple to get our matcha fix. We have them in our drawers, purses, gym bags, cars. We just add one to a bottle of water, shake it up and enjoy.


That's How We Roll Mrs. Thinsters Toasted Coconut Cookie Thins
SRP: $3.99
Phone: 973-602-3011
WEB: www.mrsthinsters.com
We picked it because: Ultra-thin, ultra-crispy, melt-in-your-mouth coconut goodness. We found ourselves munching down Mrs. Thinster's Toasted Coconut Cookie Thins with abandon. Coconut is one of the hottest flavor trends around, and these cookies nail it. And they're free of corn syrup, growth hormones and anything artificial. Where did we leave that glass of milk?


Casa de Alba Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Imported by The French Farm
SRP: $33
Phone: 713-660-0577
WEB: www.thefrenchfarm.com
We picked it because: We like to have a Spanish olive oil in our pantry. Casa de Alba Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a light, herbal taste with a peppery finish. This estate single varietal oil from Picqual olives is perfect finishing oil for our favorite gazpacho and our knock-your-socks-off paella. The unique tin features a painting of the Duquesa de Alba, making it distinctive enough to leave out on the counter.


The Spice Lab Caribbean Jerk Chicken Seasoning
SRP: $4.99
Phone: 954-275-4478
WEB: www.thespicelab.com
We picked it because: We can visit the tropics no matter where we are. This blend that includes garlic, onion, green onion, spices, sea salt and dehydrated onion peel captures the flavor of the Caribbean. Its grinder jar packaging mean the spices and herbs don't lose their punch because we only grind what we need. We like using Caribbean Jerk Chicken Seasoning as a rub, mixing it with oil to make a marinade or adding it to flour or bread crumbs to make a coating for proteins. So many options.


The Tea Room Chocolate Co. Milk Chocolate Bar Infused with Honeybush Caramel Tea, Organic
SRP: 99 cents
Phone: 510-567-8868
WEB:www.tearoomchocolates.com
We picked it because: Chocolate and tea — two faves in one. Honeybush infusions are similar to a rooibos but taste slightly sweeter. The milk chocolate in the bar is made with top-quality organic European chocolate with 38 percent cacao. These hand-crafted little chocolate bars — just 1.8 ounces — are a new go-to when we want a sweet treat. They're made with unsweetened organic chocolate, organic cane sugar, organic cacao fat, organic dry whole milk and organic honeybush caramel tea. We appreciate the built-in portion control. We confess we don't even feel guilty when we eat two.


Torani Salted Chocolate Caramel Sauce
SRP: $5.99
Phone: 800-775-1925
WEB: www.torani.com
We picked it because: We can think of about a gazillion things topour it over or add it into. Torani Salted Chocolate Caramel Sauceis where sweet meets salty and milk chocolate meets caramel. It's perfect for mochas, cocoas and milkshakes,on top of ice cream, in brewed coffee and more.


Van's International Foods Banana Nut Soft Baked Whole Grain Granola Clusters
SRP: $4.99
Phone: 855-258-5685
WEB: www.vansfoods.com
We picked it because: A bowl of delicious granola is a great way to start the day — or end a long evening! Van's new Banana Nut Granola is equal parts wholesome and awesome. It's dairy-, egg-, corn- and gluten-free and contains 14 grams of whole grains. How can something so healthy taste so good?


Vega Sport Performance Protein — Vanilla
SRP:$64.99
Phone: 855-395-8808
WEB: www.myvega.com
We picked it because: After a workout, we want to recover as quickly as possible. Vega Sport has 30 grams of multisource plant-based protein, six grams branched chain amino acids (BCAA) and six grams glutamine, to help build and repair strong muscles and reduce recovery time post-workout. This plant-based protein shake is Informed Choice certified, Non-GMO Project Verified, certified vegan, gluten-free and made without dairy or soy ingredients, artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners. We try to drink it 45 to 90 minutes after a workout shaken with water or a non-dairy beverage or blended in a smoothie.


Zemas Madhouse Foods Sweet Potato Spice Cookies
SRP: $5.99
Phone: 847-910-4512
WEB: www.zemasfoods.com
We picked it because: Could sweet potato be the new pumpkin? These mini spice cookies — made with vitamin A-packed Peruvian sweet potato flour — are redolent of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. And we just love the pumpkin seed crunch. Even the pickiest of judges won't miss the gluten. Non-GMO Project Verified.