Tuesday, January 19, 2010

More Fancy Food

Waiting for my flight home from San Francisco. First one was cancelled. Hoping to make it back to So Cal by tonight. It's been a productive trip - saw some great things, ate some fabulous food, and drank way too many Irish Coffees. Godiva's Gems Party was a chocolate indulgence. The specialties of the evening included several colorful martini's, all named after gem stones, except for the Chocolotini, of course. A colorful character decked out in turquoise feathers and sparkly gowns helped create an even more exotic ambiance.

The show at Moscone had a new organic section with all things green and organic. Sea salt is still hot, and a central ingredients in all things both sweet and savory. Healthy options were also offered in chocolate bars, granola mixes, yogurt and energy drinks.

One of the best of the healthy options is the new PopChips - a crispy snack that tastes a lot like potato chips, but way less fat. The PopChips team handed out free samples in front of the convention center using Segways to move quickly up and down the streets of San Fran.

Here's a picture of one of my co-workers, posing for a pic with Lady Romeo - at least that's what the name tag said!!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Fancy Food Show 2010 - Out the Door for Lunch

Just arrived in San Francisco for the Fancy Food Show. This is my 10th show, and truly one of my favorite trade shows - not only because it's in San Fran (a fabulous food town), but also because I get to see everything that's new and delicious in the world of food. Arrived at the hotel, checked in and headed out for a little shopping. Nordstrom's at the Westfield Shopping Center holds fond memories for me, including a romantic trip with my honey who took me shopping and picked out beautiful outfits to try on. Best part of that trip was watching him carry a Christmas gift for our daughter, a life sized Barbie Doll, under his arm while we shopped!

After a couple of hours - I needed refreshment, so headed down to "Out the Door," one of Slanted Door's satellite restaurants. Gleaming glass tiles, bamboo and brushed stainless steel tables make the decor eco chic but friendly. Ordered a bowl of Beef and Noodle Soup and a crisp Pilsner (I was parched from all that shopping).

A steaming white bowl was set in front of me, the beef had just been added to the rich broth and was still pink when it arrived. I added some beautiful bean sprouts which still had little green leaves at the top, not like the sprouts at the grocery store! I also added a couple of Thai Basil leaves, a squeeze of lime and some sliced jalapenos and dug in. The broth was silky and delicious, with small ribbons of caramelized shallots floating on the surface. The beef was tender and the wide noodles delicate and delicious. A perfect midday feast, not too filling and so very satisfying.

Back at the hotel room to change before heading out again. Tonight, I will be joining the festivities at the big Godiva party at Vessels restaurant. They are introducing their new line of chocolates, Godiva Gems, and should have plenty of samples on hand. Good thing I ate a light lunch!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cookie Art in Los Angeles

The smell of vanilla, butter and cinnamon floated out through the office door. The fragrance was warm and inviting and smelled of course like cookies! Our tour of Monaco Baking Company’s newly opened factory and showroom started with a tour of the new offices and bakery, and ended with a box full of gorgeous cookie to take home. Monaco has been baking up cookie art since 1994, starting out with a huge order and the front cover of the Williams-Sonoma catalog. Indeed, this is cookie art, with each cookie handcrafted by a team of cookie artists. Watching them work was fascinating. Several decorators quickly iced Easter egg cookies with a deft dunk, quick swirl and swipe with one finger to eliminate extra icing. Other decorators piped stars on flags, outlined star fish and sea horses, or added petals to pastel flowers.

Monaco Baking specializes in highly decorated cookies, cut from unique molds and then iced and decorated to perfection. Royal icing provides a rich flat surface in dazzling icing colors where cookie artists use their craft to embellish details, coloring in sections, placing dots, stars, eyes, buttons, and leaf outlines. The cookies are then allowed to dry, and finally tightly wrapped to retain freshness and protect the colorful creations for shipping. Over the past decade, the company has grown the cookie collection to include more than 5,000 artistic designs.

I had the privilege of getting to know and working with Monaco Baking when I was served as the senior buyer of gourmet foods for a specialty retail company. I worked closely with Stephanie Cigana, V.P. Product Development at Monaco, to develop seasonal cookies that matched our product themes and images. Stephanie is a talented designer with a great eye for detail and color. Philip Moreau, Monaco's President and Founder, handles the business side of things and has developed efficient systems for controlling the company’s inventory, operations and packaging functions. Philip also served as our tour guide on this trip!

Monaco’s cookies are available in several different flavors, including cinnamon sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, chocolate and classic gingerbread (other flavors are also available). The cookies range in size from about 6” tall to mini cookies, each about 1 ½”. The company also makes giant, oversized cookies for special occasions including a 3’ tall nutcracker.

And although during the peak of their season, the bakery produces more than 150,000 cookies a day, probably the products they are best known for are their unique holiday gingerbread creations, which includes everything from mini-gingerbread house Christmas tree ornaments to giant gingerbread mansions, as well as gingerbread trains, lighthouses, cottages of all shapes and sizes, and a scrumptious gingerbread bird's house.

Monaco has been baking cookies for major specialty retailers from their inception, including Martha Stewart, Harry and David, William-Sonoma, Starbucks and many more. The cookies are baked fresh daily, contain 0 grams of trans fat and are certified kosher. Not only are these cookies beautiful, they are also quite tasty. The dough is sweet, but not too sweet, and has a great crumbly, buttery texture. The biggest challenge for most folks is that they are almost too pretty to eat – but in the car on our drive home, we managed to overcome those challenges!

Monaco's products are available at many retail locations, including those listed above. Many of these specialty retailers also offer Monaco's incredible cookies on their websites as well. Cookies not only make a great gifts for every celebration, they also make great party favors and decorations for special events too! For a delicious selection of Monaco cookies, be sure and take a look at the retailers listed above. One of my favorite websites for cookies and other sweet treats is http://www.cookiegallery.com. The site offers dozens of cookie assortments, to fit every price range and color preference, including this Baby Boy Blue collection. Prices for cookie assortments start as low as $19.99 with free shipping on select orders.

For more information regarding Monaco Baking and custom cookie collections, you can also check out their website, http://www.monacobaking.com/.