Our judging panel tasted wines, beers, tea, coffee, all sorts of tasty savoury and sweet snacks and more to determine the shortlists in the next six categories of this year's Caterer and Hotelkeeper Excellence in Food & Drink Awards, in association with 3663 First for Foodservice.
Here, we reveal what our judges have been drinking and snacking on in the name of excellence.
Gonzalez Byass: Beronia Tempranillo 2006
The grapes for this wine are selected on the basis of maximum phenolic ripeness of fruit, especially of the skin.The wine has a short-cycle maturation lasting no more than 48 hours, on double lees, giving intense fruitiness and round tannins. The casks have a special "toast", tailor-made for this wine, which gives it liquorice, mocha/coffee nuances combined with intense berry fruit flavour.
To buy it, call 01707 274790 Gonzalez Byass
PLB: Group Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Grown in Chile's Casablanca Valley, the grapes were harvested at the beginning of April when they showed their greatest aromatic potential.This wine has a pale-yellow colour with tinges of green and a fresh, attractive aroma mixing citric fruit, blossoms, herbs and mineral notes. With a recommended drinking temperature of 8-10øC, it is suitable as an aperitif and accompanies salads, seafood, cheese, white meats and some Japanese dishes.
To buy it, call 01342 336548
PLB: Group Fairfields Sauvignon Blanc
Fairfields is PLB's New Zealand brand created for the UK ontrade, and the Sauvignon Blanc is described as a fine crisp, dry wine with pale colour and ripe fruit.The grapes are grown in Ara, which holds a prominent position in Marlborough, New Zealand's most renowned winegrowing region. Wine growers of Ara have adapted their viticultural techniques to the physical environment, and high vine densities and low yields are a noteable feature of their approach.
To buy it, call 01342 336548 PLB Group
Cafedirect: Fairtrade Organic Machu Picchu Fresh Ground Coffee
This gourmet single-origin fresh-ground coffee from Cafédirect is made from organically cultivated, hand-picked arabica beans grown on the foothills of the Andes. Particularly suitable as an after-dinner coffee, Machu Picchu has a full-bodied taste with a nutty flavour and dark chocolate overtones.
To buy it, call 01494 436426 Peros
Mighty Leaf Teas: Green Tea Tropical Tea Pouch
Green Tea Tropical blends smooth green tea leaves with pineapple, guava, banana and strawberry.
The hand-crafted, cotton-stitched, biodegradable silken tea pouches contain fruit pieces and spices that are too big for ordinary tea bags, and the individually wrapped pouches are portion-controlled for a two-cup teapot. It is suitable as an after-dinner drink or as an iced tea, and pairs well with spicy foods and seafood.
To buy it, call 01377 217793 Somerset Distribution
Nestlé: Aero Bubbly Hot Chocolate
There has been strong growth in the amount of hot chocolate consumed out of home, with Allegra stating that 25.7% of caf‚ customers regularly purchase a hot chocolate drink each week. Available in an instant or add-milk format, Aero Bubbly Hot Chocolate has a creamy texture and is topped with bubbles characteristic of the Aero chocolate bar. It contains 99 calories per serving and is available in 1kg and 2kg tins and in 24g sachets.
To buy it, call 0800 742842 Nestlé Professional
Bottlegreen: Elderflower Cordial
Crafted according to traditional winemaking techniques, Bottlegreen's Elderflower Cordial combines hand-picked elderflowers with Cotswold spring water to create a naturally flavoured alternative to alcohol for bars and restaurants.The stylish conical glass bottle can be attractively displayed on back bar displays alongside those of other juices and alcoholic beverages. The cordial can be served with still or sparkling water, or used as an ingredient in a cocktail or food recipe.
To buy it, call 01453 874000
Britvic: Gatorade Naturals
Developed in 1965 by University of Florida physicians, Gatorade is described as the most-researched sports drink in the world and has a 48% global market share.Scientifically formulated to rehydrate, Gatorade contains a blend of fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates. This latest formulation contains no artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners or preservatives and comes in orange or lemon flavours in a choice of single- or four-pack 500ml PET bottles.
To buy it, call 0118 930 6666
The Naturally Light Fever-Tree tonic uses only fruit sugars that are sweeter than sucrose to offer a tonic that is lower in calories than other tonics on the market.The Fever-Tree range was launched in 2005 by Charles Rolls and Tim Warrillow after the duo despaired of existing tonics "drowning the aroma and taste of the great gin". The Fever-Tree range contains high-quality essential oils from around the world and, according to the company, sales are increasing at a rate of 300% per annum.
To buy it, call 020 7349 4922
RDA Organic: Fresh Passionfruit, Grape and Orange Juice
One bottle of RDA Organic contains the juice of four or five pieces of fruit, and provides the body's full recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. As the name suggests, RDA is 100% organic, but is also GM-free and is certified by the Soil Association.Unlike other processed drinks, the RDA range contains no added sugar or artificial sweeteners, water, concentrates, preservatives or flavourings.
To buy it, call 0870 833 8732
CONFECTIONERY AND IMPULSE SNACKING**
Henderson's: Yorkshire Sauce Crisps
Billed as the ultimate Yorkshireman's crisp, Henderson's Yorkshire Sauce Crisps are made with potatoes delivered to the factory by tractor from a farm 10 miles away. All ingredients are natural and provided by local suppliers, packagers and distributors.Henderson's Yorkshire Sauce is combined with Henderson's Relish for a touch of spice and to give the crisps an appealing taste, appearance, aroma and texture. Transparent bags also ensure that the crisps are clearly visible to the consumer.
To buy it, call 01909 774411 Yorkshire Crisps
Nestlé Professional: Kit Kat Senses
Targeted at the healthy-minded female consumer as an everyday treat, the Kit Kat Senses bar contains five pieces and just 165 calories.Light, crispy wafer encases hazelnut praline centres and is finished with a layer of smooth milk chocolate. The five individual pieces retain the characteristic Kit Kat snap but also allow for portion control if required. According to consumer trials conducted by the company, 77% said they would definitely/probably purchase Kit Kat Senses again.
To buy it, call 0800 742842
Paul Wayne Gregory: Pure Indulgence
Pure Indulgence contains 12 chocolate varieties that are described as a mix of classic and modern concepts.The oblong chocolates meet European cocoa standards and include fine ingredients such as vanilla pods imported from Tahiti and fruit pieces from France, where 100% of the pulp is mixed with 10% sugar to retain freshness, colour and vitamins when frozen.The chocolates are packaged in a box with a transparent food-graded plastic inlay, designed to withstand transportation and humidity.
To buy it, call 020 8679 5503 Paul Wayne Gregory
FOOD ON THE GO**
Brother Tom's: Steak and Mature Farmhouse Cheddar Pie
Brother Tom's developed its 110g rectangular pies with the premium snack market in mind.
The filling is made using 98% best braising Scotch steak, gently oven-cooked for four hours in a rich gravy with a Somerset mature farmhouse Cheddar, and contains no artificial flavours or preservatives.Supplied frozen, the pies regenerate in 15-17 minutes in a standard oven or in 5-6 minutes in a combi-oven. There is a compact branded merchandiser together with branded plates available for displaying the pies on a bar or counter.
To buy it, call 07879 402484 Brother Tom's
Fresh! Naturally Organic: Eat the Seasons Combo Box
Each box contains half a sandwich, a seasonal salad and a dressing, plus a compliments slip stating that everything within is organic, has been sourced in the British Isles and is in season that week.
The contents vary according to the season and availability, but a typical example is a Dorset ham, Wensleydale cheese and apple-and-cider chutney on wholemeal bread; a salad of broad beans, beetroot, fennel, radishes and Hampshire watercress; and a rapeseed oil and cider vinegar dressing.
To buy it, call 020 8795 2117 Fresh! Naturally Organic
Monty's Bakehouse: Hot Posh Pastries
This range of savoury and vegetarian fillings wrapped in a light, non-flake pastry includes Lamb and Mint; BBQ Chicken; Chicken Balti; Spinach and Ricotta; Chargrilled Vegetable; Pork and Apple; Egg and Bacon; and Italian Chicken.The pastries are individually packaged in a sleeve convenient for hot on-the-go snacking. Frozen delivery gives a 12-month shelf life, and cooking is from frozen.
To buy it, call 01342 894730
This branded hot-wrap snack concept provides meat, bread, sauces and packaging plus free-on-loan equipment if required. The meat is an 80g precooked and frozen skewer in four varieties - Chicken; Chicken Tikka; Mixed Kebab; and Minted Lamb Kofta - and the bread is an 8in Lebanese kiln-fired wrap. The ambient sauces come in three varieties - Peri Peri; Mint and Yogurt; and BBQ.Preparation involves heating the meat in a microwave or bain-marie, placing it on the bread, adding salad and a sauce, then wrapping and serving in branded papers.
To buy it, call 01753 575558 Rollover
Bakehouse: Almond Pain Chocolat
Providing a combination of two popular flavours, this croissant dough is filled with almond paste, made from ground almonds and egg white, and Belgian chocolate, topped with flaked almonds and finished with a dusting of icing sugar. The product is prepared by baking from frozen in 18 minutes, allowing to cool, then dusting lightly with the icing sugar supplied.
To buy it, call 0800 234034 Bakehouse
Bakehouse: Continental Pastry Selection
The selection brings together three pastries previously available only as individual lines. The All-Butter Croissant, Pain Chocolat and Pain Raisin are all made with rich, buttery dough with a light, open texture. A case contains 16 x 70g Croissants; 10 x 90g Pains Chocolat; and 10 x 105g Pains Raisin.
To buy it, call 0800 234034 Bakehouse
Délifrance UK: Chocolate and Hazelnut Flavoured Brioche
An alternative to a muffin or other morning goods was the idea behind this 65g brioche with a smooth chocolate and hazelnut filling.The fully baked and pre-egg-washed product is made with French flour blended with butter, eggs and sugar, presented in a white paper case. It is supplied frozen, ready to thaw and serve, in packs of 2 x 20.
To buy it, call 0116 257 1871
Délifrance UK: Multiseed Croissant
Aimed at hotels, cafés and the business and industry sector, this 20% butter croissant has a twist in that it contains poppyseeds, sunflower seeds and brown flax seeds for extra texture and flavour.
It is made with wholemeal flour and shaped so as to be suitable for slicing and filling with savoury items as an interesting addition to a breakfast or lunch menu. Supplied frozen in packs of 55, the 80g croissant is pre-egg-washed, ready for baking for 18-20 minutes.
To buy it, call 0116 257 1871
Dunkleys: Hereford Beef and Abbot Ale Pie
Hereford beef is cooked for three hours in a rich Abbot Ale gravy to make the filling of this 400g pie, which is then added along with roast portobello mushrooms to a shortcrust pastry case.
The beef is sourced from one premium beef supplier and the Abbot Ale, brewed for longer than is traditional for a distinctive taste, is cask-conditioned.
To buy it, call 01933 670400 Dunkleys
A MESSAGE FROM OUR SPONSOR**
"Excellence does not necessarily mean premium or expensive, just that the product accurately reflects or exceeds the expectations of the caterer and the consumer," says Ben Woodhouse, catering development controller at 3663 First for Foodservice. "An excellent food product must gain the trust of the caterer, and must really meet the needs of the customer, instilling confidence."
He adds: "Excellent products often have flexibility and a multi-functional application. They should be easy to use, reliable, and achieve the manufacturer's objectives as well as fulfilling the caterer's needs.
"Products should be able to give the caterer a point of difference from the competition - this can be by the product itself or by the way it lends itself to be presented."
Here are some top tips on how featuring excellent products on your menu can help provide an improved offering and maximise sales.
Point of excellence: smaller bottle sizes and screwcaps Featuring screwcap wines on your menu will help to minimise wastage while ensuring the freshness of your offering and achieving maximum speed of serve. If you are unsure of demand, or have a low wine consumption, try stocking 187cl bottles, which will allow customers to enjoy a good glass of fresh, quality wine and avoid any wastage.
Point of excellence: ability to meet the consumer's need for convenience and the caterer's need for speed
Offer customers a speedy but substantial on-the-go snack by featuring take-away items on your menu, such as Aberdeen Angus beef burgers, grilled paninis, stone-baked pizza slices or traditional pasties. Easy-to-prepare grab-and-go options are a simple way to improve your snack offering without too much pressure on your kitchen.
Point of excellence: ability to state provenances
Try featuring breads with provenance to satisfy current customer demand for knowing where food has originated. Provenance is still high on the consumer's agenda, and you can capitalise on this by choosing your products carefully. Specifying the product's region of origin - for example, "rustic French farmhouse loaf" instead of just "bread" - is proven to make dishes sound more appealing.