At the Food Fête party this week after the Fancy Foods Show, a representative from Nielsen-Massey Vanillas handed me a kit sealed with a vanilla bean. She suggested that if I didn't want to cook with it, I could take advantage of its pleasant fragrance.

"Oh, don't worry — I'll cook with it," I reassured her. Although they're rather expensive — pods cost around $5 each — cooking with vanilla pods, in my opinion, imparts a more natural flavor than using vanilla extract. I like to use them in everything from cakes to vanilla-flavored hot chocolate. What about you?