Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Culinary Memo: Sundried Tomatoes and You

Here at Natural~Specialty Foods Memo we believe culinary knowledge goes hand-in-hand with business and industry knowledge for those of us working in and around the food and grocery industry. To paraphrase a famous song: "You can't have one without the other."

Wednesday is food section day in newspapers throughout most of the world. And each Wednesday food writers offer-up lots of collective knowledge about the culinary aspects of food and drink.

Beginning today, and each week thereafter, we will mine the Wednesday food sections of papers throughout the world, bringing you what we believe is the best of culinary insight for our readers. By the "best" we mean an interesting article or two each week which is geared to our readers. These pieces will offer, in our judgement, a unique combination of culinary knowledge, food trends, and information well-suited for industry professionals as well as readers of all sorts.

Today's Culinary Memo is about that mediterranean treat, the sun-dried tomato. Today one can buy sun-dried tomatoes in nearly every grocery store in the developed world. They come bulk or packaged in the produce department, packed in oil in jars on the grocery shelf, and even as sun-dried tomato paste in toothpaste-like tubes.

Sun-dried tomatoes also are an ingredient used in grocery products sold throughout the store: salad dressings, condiments, pasta sauces, flavored pastas, frozen foods, snack chips, crackers, flavored oils, and even Oatcake cookies (Walker's brand) are just some of the many food products containing sun-dried tomatoes.

Did you know sun-dried tomatoes were first introduced in the United States in 1979 by the famed gourmet grocer Dean & Delucca at its flagship New York City store? Sun-dried tomatoes also are one of the few foods produced in a completely sustainable manner: the sun remains today as the primary energy-source used to dry them.

These and other interesting facts about sun-dried tomatoes can be found in an article in today's New York Times' food section by Mark Bittman, who writes a weekly column each Wednesday in the Times called The Minimalist.

Mr. Bittman is a late convert to the sun-dried tomato trend, which really is no longer a trend. Like many specialty foods items, which after being around for some time often become fairly mainstream, the sun-dried tomato has matured from a treat basically enjoyed by a select few foodies just 10 -to- 15 years ago, to a product enjoyed today by millions throughout the world. Sun-dried tomatoes can even be found in sandwiches made by shops like Subway and Togos, and served on top of pizzas at chains like Roundtable. Have no doubts though, sun-dried tomatoes are still a foodie's delight, despite their more widespread popularity.

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