Like the Oscars are for the film industry, a fierce competition known as the sofi™ Awards is for the gourmet and specialty foods industry. Little known to the layman, this contest, in its 45th year, calls for hundreds of gourmet and specialty food companies nationwide, small and large, new and old, to duke it out for the Best Product of the Year, plus Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. The awards ceremony highlights the newest culinary innovations, recipes, and technology. Aside from bringing fame and prestige to the winners, a sofi™Award can mean millions of dollars in sales.
Categories from baked goods to condiments to sauces and meats, cheeses, and seafood are judged by a vast panel that include gourmet food industry tastemakers from the Culinary Institute of America, food media like the Wall Street Journal, Williams & Sonoma, Sur La Table, cookbook authors, famous chefs and restaurateurs, Whole Foods, and many more. These judges are not only the experts in their field but influencers of trends.
Outside of the industry, everyday foodies and culinary “passionistas” long to stay on top of the food trends for the pleasure of eating, drinking, cooking and sharing. Reading popular gourmet magazines like Bon Apetít and Food & Wine usually provide an insider’s look at cooking trends and recipes, however, some of the sofi™ awarded products never make it on their pages.
However, NC Living Magazine is in the know, and we are sharing the best in most categories so you can be on the forefront of some epic culinary covets. These stellar award-winners from the 2018 competition are ideal to incorporate into your next recipe, give as a hostess gift, or as a present for the food lover in your life. If not found on your grocer’s shelves, all products can be found on the Internet. To see the entire list of award winners, go to www.specialtyfood.com.
1 WINNING CATEGORY: PRODUCT OF THE YEAR
Product: Cardamom bitters, Brand: The Bitter Housewife
An ideal savory bitter to add to your next craft cocktail using añejo tequila or scotch (currently available at Whole Foods, Amazon and other online stores).
2 WINNING CATEGORY: BAKED GOODS, GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Product: Gran Pasticceria Tortina White, Brand: Loacker USA
A “trifecta of sublime tastes” per the winning notes, melding together creamy white and dark chocolates, crispy wafers, and hazelnut crème to make one darn good tortina wafer.
3 WINNING CATEGORY: BAKING INGREDIENT, GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Product: Roasted Peanut Oil, Brand: La Tourangelle
Made in the USA, this virgin pressed oil rates high on its nutty fragrance and ability to ramp up the flavor of any baked recipe, not to mention using it to dress a salad.
4 WINNING CATEGORY: BBQ SAUCE, GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Product: Badass Smoked Sriracha & Roasted Garlic Mop Sauce, Brand: Wildly Delicious Fine Foods
A sweet, salty, and savory sauce good to mop up anything and everything. Once you go Badass, you won’t go back. Enough said.
5 WINNING CATEGORY: COW’S MILK CHEESE, GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Product: Organic Rogue River Blue, Brand: Rogue Creamery
Aged for one year and produced in Oregon, this multiple award-winning veiny blue comes from pasture-raised cows that graze on organic land. The wheels are wrapped in Syrah leaves and soaked in pear brandy. Flavor notes include hazelnuts, berries, morel mushrooms, and sweet woodsy pine.
6 WINNING CATEGORY: DARK CHOCOLATE, GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Product: Poco Dolce Olive Oil and Sea Salt Bar, Brand: Poco Dolce Confections
Small batch bittersweet chocolate tiles made with California olive oil and topped with grey sea salt. Divine!
7 WINNING CATEGORY: COOKIE, GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Product: Orange Pistachio Shortbread, Brand: Smart Cookie
Nothing like a buttery shortbread sprinkled with toasted green pistachios, zests of orange, and hints of cinnamon and vanilla to make your mouth water. Balanced by texture and taste, this cookie is good enough to serve to dinner guests or at your next tea.
8 WINNING CATEGORY: CRACKER, GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Product: ParmCrisps, Brand: That’s How We Roll, LLC
These crackers pack a punch and a crunch made with 100% aged Parmesan Cheese. Made in small batches with no artificial ingredients, these fine artisanal crisps pair beautifully with a fig spread or raspberry jam.
9 WINNING CATEGORY: SALSA/DIP, GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Product: This Dip is Nuts: Roasted Green Chile and Pepita, Brand: Bitchin’ Inc.
Organic, gluten-free, vegan, and non-GMO, this dip with an almond base is not only tasty, but also healthy. A clear winner with its mellow heat and savory sweet flavors, it is smooth and “bitchin'” according to the brand.
10 WINNING CATEGORY: ICE CREAM, GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Product: Black Sesame Ice Cream, Brand: Humphry Slocombe
Handcrafted small batch ice cream blended with toasted black sesame seeds and garnished with sesame oil creates a new taste sensation for those who like savory and sweet. The product gets rave reviews across the board.
11 WINNING CATEGORY: COOKING MARINADE, GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Product: Ancho Chile Tamarind Sauce, Brand: Salsaology
Flavors inspired by the Jalisco region of Mexico, this marinade positively challenges the taste buds with its combination of savory, smoky and sweet. Delicate and tangy tamarind, roasted peanut and smoky chilies bring a new zing to chicken and pork dishes.