Archive for March, 2011

Where to Buy:  Morning Glory Confections on Foodzie

Product Description:

Morning Glory’s New Mexico Chili & Pumpkin Seed Brittle uses earthy and hot New Mexico chile powder, cumin, coriander, Mexican oregano and other spices to create a taste experience that lingers long after the brittle is gone.

What I Think:

I ordered these tasty bits of brittle after I saw another brittle from the same company (their Chai Tea and Cashew Brittle, which I shall review at a later date on the SororiTea Sisters Blog) on the homepage of Foodzie.  I was intrigued by this particular brittle because I love pumpkin seeds and I love the combination of spicy and sweet… this brittle seemed promising!

cute little plastic box - keep it and reuse it!

The brittle is packaged in a cute plastic box and is reasonably priced at just $5.  There are four pieces of brittle in each box, two large pieces, and two that are about half the size of the large pieces (so, I guess one could technically say that there are three “whole” pieces of brittle in each box).  The brittle is quite thick at 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick!

This brittle is an explosion of flavor.  The crunchy brittle is sweet and buttery and just like other brittle candies I’ve had, starts out with a lot of crunch and then turns kind of caramel-y sticky in the mouth.  YUM!

The chili does not hit the palate until about midway through the first bite, and then POW!  This brittle delivers a powerful kick of spice!  That spicy taste stays with you, too.  It is a long, lingering, WARM aftertaste (or shall I say burn?) that is quite pleasant.  However, if you don’t like spicy treats, this is not the brittle for you.

That’s not to say that this is extraordinarily hot – it isn’t.  I would categorize it somewhere between warm and medium heat.  Not quite mild, not too hot.  For this palate, it’s just right!

I love the texture and flavor of the pumpkin seeds.  They don’t really seem to present a lot of flavor at the start, but as I continue to snack on these confections (and I can’t seem to stop snacking on them!) the flavor develops.

My Final Thoughts:

This tasty treat offers a palate-full of flavor – spicy, sweet, and salty – all in one bite.  And, in case you’re wondering, I recommend sipping on a white tea (like this one from Imperial Tea Garden)with this treat.  White tea has cooling properties to it, and it will help soothe the palate!

Product Description:

JJ’s Chocolate-covered Cocomels start with the same mouth-watering Cocomels (coconut milk caramels), cooked a little softer than normal, which we then hand-dip in premium dark chocolate. It is the magical evolution of the Cocomel, still vegan, gluten, and corn free, just more decadent.

Where to Buy:  JJ’s Cocomels on Foodzie

Chocolate Covered Java Cocomels

What I think:

In my March Tasting Box, I received three different Cocomels from JJ’s Sweets:  a Chocolate Covered Java Cocomel, a Chocolate Covered Fleur de Sel Cocomel, and a Fleur de Sel Cocomel… my mouth is watering already!

I am starting with the Java Cocomel, mostly because I’m not a coffee drinker, and I know how much I love salted caramel so I have a pretty good idea that I will LOVE the Salted Cocomels.  I am pretty sure I’ll enjoy the Java one too, but, not quite as much.

The chocolate coating is a dark chocolate, and it is sweet with a nice level of bitterness in the background, and it has a snap to it.  It is a fresh and rich chocolate.  This chocoholic is happy!

The coffee flavoring is quite strong with this, but I don’t feel that it overpowers the flavor of the chocolate or the flavor of the caramel (err… cocomel).  The cocomel is quite interesting.  It tastes very much like caramel, it tastes buttery, sweet and decadent.  Very thick and sticky, just like a good caramel should be.  And I can taste the coconut aspect to this cocomel too, but it isn’t so prevalent as I expected it to be.  It is more of a background note.  This has that good old-fashioned caramel taste – like it’s been caramelized in a copper pot.

It’s delicious!

Moving on to the Fleur de Sel Cocomel … this is where I expect to get more of the “true” cocomel taste without the chocolate or coffee taste.  The coconut is much more apparent in this sweet, gooey, chewy stick of cocomel.  And with each bite I am finding myself falling in love with cocomel!

The Chocolate Covered Fleur de Sel Cocomel … well, it is reminding me of the moment that I first fell in love with salted caramel… the local gift shop sold some very expensive chocolate covered salted caramels that I absolutely adored … but couldn’t afford to buy very often.  At $8.95 for a six-piece box, these Chocolate Covered Fleur de Sel Cocomels are a little more affordable, and they are every bit as delicious as those gourmet chocolates… perhaps even a little more intriguing in flavor due to the coconut milk aspect, which offers a hint of coconut flavor in the distance.

Personally, my favorite of the three that I tasted this evening is the Fleur de Sel Cocomel (without the chocolate, believe it or not!) because I really enjoy the stronger flavor of the coconut in the un-covered caramels.  And these confections are an even better bargain:  just $3.99 for a 4 pack!  If you love caramel like I do, I strongly recommend trying some of these for yourself!  They’re amazing!

My Final Thoughts:

These caramels are a vegan delight – even for those of us who aren’t vegan!

This cupcake is much prettier than it appears in this picture. My camera could not capture the irridescent glittery sparkle! It looks like it was sprinkled with fairy dust!

I am not on a gluten-free or otherwise restricted diet, but, I am curious about how gluten-free tastes.  Having heard so much about gluten-free products (most of it negative), I decided to find out for myself.  Lingonberries Market is a store that specializes in gluten-free and other allergy-friendly products, including these cupcakes.

Where to Buy:  Lingonberries Market in Vancouver, WA

About Fairycakes:

I couldn’t find any information about them online, this is straight from the cupcake packaging:


Fairycakes; 10364 NE Sacramento Street; Portland, OR, 97220; (503) 931-3898

About this cupcake:

Gluten-Free Cherry Chip Cupcake with Almond Frosting and Chocolate Cream Cheese Filling (hey, I said it was gluten free, not fat-free!)

What I think:

To be honest, I’m a little out of the know when it comes to gluten.  About all I do know is what little I’ve picked up from watching Alton Brown on the Food Network.  So from what limited knowledge that I do have about gluten, these cakes cannot be made with a typical wheat flour, and a quick glance at the ingredients tells me that is correct.

But, I would not have guessed it if I had not purchased this package myself from Lingonberries Market (package of 2 cupcakes, price $4.00).  They look just like a regular cupcake – they’re so pretty and sparkly!  No kid I know is going to feel like they’re on a special, restricted diet with this cupcake in front of them… they’re just going to feel special.

And they taste like a regular cupcake!  These are not quite as fluffy and light as the cupcakes I might make myself using wheat flour.  Yes, they are a little more dense in texture, but, it isn’t TOO dense.  The cake is moist and flavorful.  It’s made with real cherries too, not some artificially flavored chip.

The chocolate cream cheese filling is smooth, rich and creamy.  The frosting has a pleasing texture.  It doesn’t feel grainy against the tooth nor does it taste (or feel) too sweet.

I like that I can taste and easily recognize each flavor within this cupcake.  The cherries are very evident as I actually got a rather large bit of cherry!  YUM!  The chocolate was very satisfying to this chocoholic, and the almond flavor in the frosting added a nice dimension of flavor to the confection.  Overall, the cupcake tastes fresh and quite simply, it’s delicious!

My Final Thoughts:

To be honest, if I didn’t know it was gluten-free because I bought it from a gluten-free specialty shop and because it says so on the package – I would not have known.  These taste fantastic!

Where to Buy:  Zhi Tea on Foodzie

Editor’s Note: I debated with myself about whether or not I should review these teas here, or if I should review them on the SororiTea Sisters blog, but since these teas were part of my Foodzie Tasting Box I decided to review them here.

Jasmine Green Tea

Product Description:

Our organic jasmine green loose leaf tea was chosen for its high quality and well-balanced flavors. This balance creates a round yet assertive cup full of jasmine’s intoxicating scent grounded in the full leaf green. Mild, easy to drink, and full flavored, jasmine blossoms are folded into the drying leaves several times to impart a delicate, subtle scent throughout. USDA Organic and Fair Trade Certified.

What I think:

When I first opened the package for these teas, I was immediately disappointed.  The teas were bagged (I do prefer loose leaf), and the silky tea sachets were not individually wrapped to prevent cross-flavoring due to exposure to the other tea.  Tea is a very absorbent leaf and will readily absorb flavors of products with which it is stored, especially strong flavors such as spice and mint – which shared the package with this jasmine green tea.

That’s not to say that the tea is not good – it is.  I just feel like I am not getting a fair representation of the tea, because I can also taste notes of cinnamon, ginger, and peppermint mingling with the delicate green tea and jasmine flavors.

The green tea is light in flavor and possesses a moderate amount of vegetative taste.  It is a pleasant, mellow green tea, a good pairing with the sweet, exotic flavor of jasmine.

The jasmine is floral (of course!) but it isn’t overwhelming nor does it come off as soapy or perfume-y to the palate.  The flavor of the jasmine and the flavor of the green tea are very nicely balanced.

As I mentioned before, I can also taste distinct herbal and spice notes in this cup.  The cinnamon and peppermint seem to be the most prominent, but if I focus on the sip, I can also taste notes of ginger and even distant notes of clove and vanilla.

Actually, the combination of the jasmine, green tea, peppermint and spices makes for a rather intriguing cup and if I were still in the blending business (I flavored and blended my own teas for many years), I might actually attempt to create a jasmine peppermint green chai!

This is good hot or iced.

Turkish Spice Mint Tisane

Product Description:

We wanted a more complex and enticing peppermint based tisane, so we created our Zhi Signature Blend Turkish Spice Mint. We explored how to create something truly unique and flavorful, and after several attempts, we have nailed it. Organic peppermint, licorice, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger root, stevia leaf, clove, vanilla essence…Minty, a bit spicy, a tad sweet, with hints of exotic unfoldings…This blend really draws you in. Subtle flavor combinations are revealed as you engage this herbal extravagance. Enjoy the lingering sensations of ginger and cardamom as you sip this stimulating and caffeine-free drink.

What I think:

I could taste the spices and mint in the jasmine green, but I am not noting much jasmine taste in this blend – that is, of course, because this is a tisane and not a tea.  The difference being that a tea is comprised of leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant; and while a loose interpretation of the definition of tisane could possibly include teas, to most tea enthusiasts tisane has come to mean an herbal, fruit, or spice melangé that does not include tea leaves.  Without the tea leaves in this spice melangé, it simply doesn’t possess the flavor absorbency that a tea would have.

This is a delightful blend of spices and peppermint.  Peppermint can be a somewhat selfish herb and overpower the blend, however, Zhi Tea chose to blend it with some rather aggressive spices for balance.  In each sip, I enjoy the flavors of cinnamon, peppermint, ginger, and licorice, with background notes of clove and cardamom and a whisper of creamy vanilla.

If I were to change anything about this particular blend, it would be to eliminate the stevia.  Then again, I am not too fond of stevia, I find that it tends to impart a somewhat funky aftertaste.  I know that stevia is used occasionally by tea blenders to add a little sweetness to the blend; personally, I’d rather have the option to add sweetener with a drizzle of honey or a sprinkling of sugar than to have the choice made for me with the addition of stevia.

Despite the stevia, this tisane is tasty.  I prefer it hot – mostly because I prefer most spiced teas hot.  The warmth of the spices just seems to translate better with a hot tea.

My Final Thoughts:

These two teas were quite good, and certainly a very welcome surprise in my Foodzie Tasting Box (Foodzie, if you’re reading this, more tea please!)  Not my favorite from Zhi Tea (my favorite from Zhi is Gong Fu Black), but as a passionate tea enthusiast, I was certainly happy to try them!

I was hungry, but really what I wanted was something comforting.  I wanted soup.  Soup, for me at least, is the ultimate comfort food.  Warm and soothing.  Since we were in the Cascade area of Vancouver, Panera Bread immediately came to mind.

Location: 914 SE 164th Avenue, Vancouver, WA   Store #1063

Order: French Onion Soup in a Sourdough Bread Bowl; Iced Tea

Specifics: I ordered my soup to go.  In my bag, I received a sourdough loaf that was cut at the top.  In order to form a bowl, I needed to hollow out the bread.  Also in my bag was a bowl of french onion soup, a bag of croutons and a bag of chips, as well as cutlery and napkins.  The iced tea was self-serve from their drink station.

What I Think:

It was a few minutes before we arrived home with my “bagged lunch” from Panera Bread, so I warmed the soup up in the microwave for a few minutes because it had already begun to cool.

While I waited the minute or so for the soup to reheat, I hollowed out the bread bowl, and then I began munching on the chips.  The chips are tasty, kettle style (thicker cut), unflavored chips that are lightly salted.  I liked them because I enjoy the thicker cut of kettle style chips, as well as the crunch!

Now that my soup is hot – let’s move on!  The broth is a bit thicker than I am used to with a french onion soup.  I don’t know if that’s because it’s in the bread bowl and the bread has thickened it (or perhaps the croutons thickened it) or if it is usually this way.  It isn’t bad like this … just different.  The broth is rich, well-seasoned without tasting too salty and flavorful.  The onions are sweet and tender.  So far, so good… but then… not so good.  I come across a little “withy” in my soup – a tiny (about an inch long), very thin branch or stick or twig or something.  What it actually looks like to me is the branch from a sprig of thyme, and it very well could have been.  Unfortunately, finding a withy in my soup was not a very appetizing thing, so I couldn’t finish my soup.

The best thing about Panera Bread is, of course, the bread.  The sourdough was very good.  A very pleasing texture both inside and out:  a nice, crispy crust with a chewy inside.  The sour flavor of the sourdough was just right.  It is one of the better sourdough breads I’ve encountered, and I really enjoyed the flavor of the bread that had been soaked with the soup broth.

The iced tea appeared to be freshly brewed (or so it said on the brewing vessel), and it tasted alright… it wasn’t anything spectacular to write about so I’ll not invest a lot of time doing so.

My Final Thoughts:

The bread was excellent.  The soup was delicious until I came across the withy, which made it less appetizing for me.  Overall, not too bad, and I don’t think that coming across a withy in my soup will keep me from stopping by Panera Bread again in the future.  And even though I didn’t order one this time, they have excellent muffins!

Panera Bread on Urbanspoon

Where to Buy:  Bees & Beans on Foodzie

Product Description:

Crunchy, crispy, salty, and sweet, the ‘Bert bar has a satisfying crunch and comforting flavors. A filling of milk chocolate, filberts, crispy rice, honey, and peanut butter combines with dark chocolate to make an addicting treat.

What I Think:

If anyone’s been keeping track, you’ll know that all that I have left from my March Tasting Box is chocolate and tea.  My two favorite food groups!

The Foodzie homepage shows that the Honey Bar was to be in the tasting box, but that’s OK… the ‘Bert Bar seems more like the candy bar I would have selected for myself.  I love the contrast between salty and sweet!  I also love that this company is local!

I am actually finding it difficult to chat about this candy bar, because it tastes so good that I just want to eat.   But I shall try my best!

Unwrapped, the candy bar looks very much like a candy bar you might buy from the corner convenience store.  But that is where the similarity ends.  Let’s start with the wrapper which is in itself pretty unique as it is made of biodegradable cellophane.

The aroma is chocolate-y and nutty.  And when I bite into the bar – candy bar bliss!  The chocolate is smooth and sweet with a hint of bitterness to it.  Because the dark chocolate shell is rather thin in comparison to the filling, it is difficult to tell of its quality when eaten with the rest of the bar.  But I took a little sliver off of the bar to see if I could get a “snap” from the chocolate.  Yep… it’s there.  This is the good stuff!

Inside the dark chocolate coating is a filling that looks like milk chocolate ganache with chopped nuts.  It’s a very dense-looking filling, but, possesses a very light texture.  Very smooth and creamy.  You might think that the milk chocolate and peanut butter would create a very thick, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth kind of texture, but, this is very light – probably because of the addition of crisped rice which also adds a nice crispiness to the bar.

The nutty flavor from the filberts and peanut butter is better than any peanut butter cup I’ve ever tasted.  This tastes fresh and not overly processed.  It just tastes smooth, rich and creamy with a nice crunch from the filberts.

This is an absolutely delicious candy bar.  I just finished the bar and am thinking about ordering more right now because I know I am going to want another very soon.  Totally YUM!

My Final Thoughts:

I am not going to go so far as to say that this is my favorite candy bar or the best candy bar I’ve ever tried because whatever chocolate I happen to have in front of me tends to be my favorite.  (yeah, I’m a chocoholic, remember?)  But I will say that this candy bar is an explosion of flavor.  Warning:  This candy bar can become addictive!

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAYto celebrate, I thought I’d review the greenest cracker I’ve ever come across!

Where to Buy:  Twin Cakes Bakery on Foodzie

Product Description:

More than just a flax cracker or kale chip. Thin and crispy cracker packed with nutrition. Made with the dark leafy green kale. Kale is full of phytonutrients and high in vitamin C, A, and K. Full of iron, protein, and Omegas! A cracker you will not find anywhere else.

What I Think:

OK… let me be real honest – this was the item in my tasting box I was least excited about.  It is not something I would have even thought about purchasing, so had it not been in this box, I would have never had the opportunity to try it.

And, well, I’m glad I did have this opportunity to try it.  Because it’s pretty tasty.

It has a very lightweight feel to the cracker – even though it looks incredibly dense.  It has a crispy texture which kind of distracts the mind from thinking that it’s consuming something incredibly healthy.  It feels like junk food, only it isn’t.

The texture as I chew this cracker reminds me a bit of a thick corn tortilla chip (more like a taco shell kind of corn tortilla rather than a thin, crispy chip).  The flavor is very strong and vegetative and tastes like … well, like kale.  I can also taste the pumpkin seed flavor and as I continue to munch on these, the flavor of the pumpkin seed develops nicely.

There is a bit of vegetable sweetness to the cracker, as well as a bitter taste to it that is attributed to the kale, giving this a pleasant savory appeal.  This would be very nicely paired with cheese, and the cheese that immediately comes to mind is a Wasabi White Cheddar (I find this at my local Chuck’s Produce).  The sharpness of the cheddar and the heat from the wasabi horseradish would really round out the flavors of this cracker very nicely.  A pleasant spicy dip would also be delicious with these crackers.  It also tastes rather nice right out of the bag while sipping a cup of spicy chai like this Spicy Seattle Chai from MarketSpice.

Will I buy these crackers again?  I don’t know.  But I will say that I wouldn’t overlook them like I would have before trying them.  I enjoyed them, and I think they may end up being something that I miss a couple of weeks down the road when I get that urge for a snack that will satisfy my hunger while not leaving me feeling weighed down.

My Final Thoughts:

These crackers ended up being a rather pleasant savory experience, and I found them to be very satisfying and even energizing when I had the urge to snack.    It’s also a great way to enjoy your greens without having the embarrassment of having a speck of green leaf caught between your front teeth!