Archive for September, 2011

I’m usually excited and happy when my Foodzie Tasting Box arrives, but this month, I’m all that times ten!  Why?  The theme!  The theme this month is Tea Time Treats!!!

Could there possibly be a more perfect theme for me?  I mean, seriously, the only way to make it more perfect would be to make it a “Tea Time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Harry Potter.”  And… when that box arrives – I think I shall faint.

As it is though, I’m thrilled with this box.  It may only have five items (the boxes usually have six), but they are all perfect choices for Tea Time.  The selections this month include:  Salted Rosemary Shortbread Cookies from Lark Fine Foods, Snicker Dudes Cookies from Liz Lovely, Indian Ajwain Cashews from Oren’s Kitchen, Tupelo Honey from HoneyPax, and of course TEA … Earl of Bengal Tea from Teatulia.

What an awesome selection, right?

I’m so excited about each of these items … I have tried the Earl of Bengal Tea from Teatulia before, however, I’m happy to have it back in my cupboard, because it’s yummy.  I’ve tried a few of Liz Lovely’s cookies before, but not the Snicker Dudes, so I’m happy to try something different.

There is also something new about the map card this month… and that is … it’s not a map card!  It is a card telling us a little bit about the theme:

Sometimes I hit those moments (I’m sure you do too…) where things are swirling around so fast in my head, I call my own “tea time-out”.  There’s this amazing local tea shop in my neighborhood called Samovar Tea Lounge that I’ll pop into either on a Saturday morning after yoga or on a weeknight evening.  Sipping slowly on some good tea always clears my head.  This month we’ve packed your box with some amazing black tea (in compostable containers!) along with treats to pair with each sip.  Weather you throw a tea party or your own “tea time-out”, I hope you enjoy your tasting this month.

~Emily, Chief Eater

The card also features a little bit of information about each product in the box.

Best. Box. Ever!

Where to Buy:  Justin’s Online and select stores

Price:  $9.95 for a 16-ounce jar

Product Description:

Quick Question:  Do you eat cake frosting for breakfast?  I didn’t think so.  Neither do I.  Yet some chocolate hazelnut butters have more sugar than cake frosting.  You can check.  I’ll wait … see.  So this is a warning that my chocolate hazelnut butter may not taste like what you’re used to; sugar.  What it will taste like is a delicious combination of the premium hazelnuts and homemade chocolate for an addictive, skip the bread and eat with a spoon delicacy. 

What I Think:

When I received this packet in my Foodzie Tasting Box for August along with the other Justin’s nut butters, I figured it would taste like Nutella.  I usually keep Nutella on hand, so I held off on tasting this Chocolate Hazelnut Butter because I didn’t really figure it would be anything all that different.

And you know what… this is very similar to Nutella.  Except … I can taste the hazelnuts.  I mean… really taste the hazelnuts!  As with my other experiences with Justin’s nut butters, this has a slightly different kind of consistency and texture – it tastes homemade.  It doesn’t taste like it was made in a factory.  So every once in a while, I can feel the texture of a bit of finely ground nut that wasn’t ground quite as finely as the other particles.

This is smooth and creamy, nutty and oh-so-chocolate-y!  This just simply tastes better than Nutella.  It is sweet… but like the above description states, this doesn’t taste like sugar.  And I think that is what my fascination for Nutella was about – it was the sugar.  It does taste like cake frosting.  This … doesn’t.  It is sweet, but this tastes like chocolate and hazelnuts.  And even though I love cake frosting … I like this better.

My Final Thoughts:

Well, I am going to finish my last jar of Nutella because I don’t like the idea of wasting it.  But, when it comes time to get a new jar, I think I’m going to reach for THIS instead.

 

il Piatto (or Il Piatto, or il piatto … I’m never sure about the whether or not I should capitalize with this restaurant…) is one of my favorite restaurants in Portland.  The food is delicious, but what inspires me most about this place is the surroundings – it is very free in spirit.  From the blue-green European plaster walls and the bold-colored curtains that lend a sense of privacy to each booth, to the antique collectables that line the high shelves throughout the restaurant and the crystal chandeliers that hang from the ceilings:  every decorative touch gives this restaurant a sense of artistic ambiance.  This place really appeals to the artist in me. It is the kind of place that – if I lived close enough – I’d want to visit daily just to sip on some tea and possibly sketch a while in an attempt to capture some of its charm.

Bruschetta

Location:  2348 SE Ankeny in Portland, OR

Order:  Grilled Bruschetta ($9), Rabbit with Polenta ($25)

What I Think:

My husband and I went for lunch, but they allowed me to order from the dinner menu.  It had been years since I’ve had rabbit, and I was really looking forward to trying the rabbit dish at il Piatto.

We ordered the Bruschetta as an appetizer.  Two of the slices were topped with hummus while one was topped more traditionally (or at least, what I would consider to be traditional), with fresh tomatoes, onions and capers.  The fourth piece of grilled toast was topped with a bright green pesto.   My favorite of these was the toast topped with the fresh tomatoes, onions and capers.  The tomatoes tasted as if they were fresh from the garden:  sweet and juicy.

Panini con Pollo

My husband ordered the chicken panini ($9).  The chicken was grilled, and it was juicy and tender.  The portabello mushroom was delicious and meaty.  A tasty sandwich.

But the rabbit!  It was amazing!  My father raised rabbits when I was a teen, and so rabbit was something that we ate pretty often.  Since moving out and on … I think I’ve only had rabbit once.  And I’ve missed it.

The rabbit was perfectly cooked; it had been braised until it was so tender it fell right off the bone!  Based on my experience with eating rabbit in my youth, I would guess that this rabbit was a farm-raised rabbit.  Game rabbits tend to be much tougher and have a strong, wild taste to them.  This meat was sweet and succulent, although because it was cooked on the bone, it did still have a slightly wild taste.

Rabbit Simmered in Wine with Grilled Polenta and Spinach

The sauce that was served with the rabbit was a flavorful, savory sauce.  It had a tart flavor with just a hint of sweetness.  This was an excellent contrast to the sweetness of the meat, as well as the sweet, starchy taste of the polenta.  The polenta was grilled, giving it a crisp exterior with a creamy, soft interior.  A mound of steamed spinach rounded out the plate.  A nice texture to the spinach, not mushy or over-cooked.

My Final Thoughts: 

il Piatto is one of my favorite restaurants in the Portland area.  I love the atmosphere and I love the food.   If you’re in the Portland area, I recommend visiting.  Watch Living Social for deals!

Il Piatto on Urbanspoon

Where to Buy:  Justin’s Online or in select stores

Price:  $5.99 for a 16 ounce jar

Product Description:

I don’t know kung fu and I’ve never learned to play the piano, but what I do know is how to make peanut butter really, really well.  Some people might consider my single-minded obsession with nut butters to be a waste of time, but I disagree.  Can you kung fu a piece of celery into tasting better?  I think not.

What I Think:

As with the two other nut butters that I’ve tried thus far from Justin’s, I am tasting this with a slice of toasted 8-grain bread and apple slices.

As with the classic peanut butter, the consistency is smooth and creamy.  Occasionally, I’ll pick up a tiny (teeny-tiny!) chunk of peanut.  Since my review of Justin’s Classic Peanut Butter, I’ve been contemplating how to explain the difference in flavor between Justin’s nut butters and everyone else’s (or at least those that I’ve tried).  It’s not just the flavor (although the flavor difference is significant), it’s the texture.  Yes, this is creamy and smooth, just like a creamy peanut butter off the grocery store shelf … but this has a less processed kind of texture to it.  You can not only taste the individual ingredients, but you can feel them too.  This tastes (and feels) real … like someone who really cared about the product made this.  Or… if I can borrow a phrase from Chef Carla Hall, I can taste the “love” in this.

This Honey Peanut Butter blend tastes very much like the Classic Peanut Butter, but it is sweeter.  I can taste the honey, but it isn’t a strong or overpowering note.  It is subtle.  Unlike the Classic Peanut Butter, which is made with no sugar, it has a sweetness to it, but it isn’t cloy.  This nut butter does not rely upon the honey as it’s main flavor component, it is an accent to the main event:  the peanuts!

My Final Thoughts:

A delicious combination of sweet, nutty, and salty.  Justin’s is what peanut butter SHOULD be.

Where to Buy:  Botanical Bakery from Foodzie

Price:  $5.99 for a 3.5 ounce package

Product Description: 

A Love Story. Sure they are an unlikely pair, but some of the most glorious pairings began as duos that seemed at first glance… unexpected. These two have a lot in common, including antioxidants. But beneath these qualities, the basil embraces your palate, then the cinnamon slowly sets in with passion. Swaying back and forth. Cinnamon and basil. Basil and cinnamon.

What I Think:

My package arrived somewhat crushed, with most of the shorties in crumbs.  But, that aside, these are pretty tasty (and the crumbs are still edible!)  I was a little unsure about the combination of basil and cinnamon – it seemed an unusual combination, but, I also must say that was part of the allure of them.

The basil flavor is very delicate but it develops as I continue to munch on these.  Perhaps the buttery shortbread overwhelms the basil a bit.  The cinnamon is sweet and gently warm.  The trio of flavors – cinnamon, basil and shortbread – make for a very unique and delicious taste combination.  It’s rich, sweet, a little earthy, a little savory and a little (very little) spicy.

The texture is the same as in the other shortie shortbread cookies that I’ve tried from Botanical Bakery.  My daughter tried one and said it feels a bit like sand in her mouth – and I get that.  It has a dry, flaky texture that sort of crumbles at the slightest pressure.  It then melts in the mouth with the buttery flavor.

My Final Thoughts:

Like the two I’ve tried before this, I really love these “shorties” shortbread cookies.  I like the combination of basil and cinnamon and I’m glad that someone thought of it because they compliment each other very well.  These rate very high on the YUM scale!

Where to Buy:  Sir Kensington’s on Foodzie

Price:  $8.99 for an 11-ounce jar

Product Description:

Behold my finest creation! This ketchup is made with the ripest red tomatoes, olive oil and green peppers, and is sweetened with agave nectar, brown sugar and honey. Do not settle for anything less than Sir Kensington quality!

What I Think:

I want to start this review by stating that I don’t really care much for ketchup.  When I was single, I didn’t even have ketchup in my house. The only thing I put ketchup on is Breakfast Jacks (yes, from Jack-in-the-Box), and that’s only because I was programmed as a kid to only eat Breakfast Jacks that have been doused in ketchup, and when I bite into one without ketchup it just tastes wrong. In fact, ketchup is one of my pet peeves… err, that is, the act of slathering one’s meal with ketchup is one of my main pet peeves.  (You know how when guests come over for dinner, and someone covers the roast that I’ve spent hours preparing with ketchup?  I hate HATE hate that.)

However, if the ketchup used to defile my roast was THIS ketchup, I might be willing to forgive.  Yes.  This ketchup is that good.  This is extraordinarily good.  It is “wipe the plate clean with my fingers so that I can lick the ketchup off of them” good.

The first thing I notice about this ketchup is the aroma.  I can smell the fresh tomatoes and green peppers.  Then I notice the color and the texture.  Instead of the bright “cherry” red color of a typical ketchup, it has a deep, rich red that verges on the edge of a burgundy color.  The texture is not quite as smooth as a typical ketchup, this is chunkier.  Not like “salsa” chunky, but, this isn’t a ketchup you could squirt out of a squeeze bottle, either.

But the most important thing is how it tastes.  And this tastes really good.  It is sweet, but I don’t find it too sweet, especially when compared to the ketchup you’d find on the grocery store shelf.

This ketchup reminds me of vine-ripened, homegrown tomatoes.  It has that deliciously fresh tomato taste.  The peppers add a really amazing dimension of flavor.  Not spicy; but enough zesty flavor to make this ketchup stand out among the rest. It tastes really fresh and delicious – so good that it will elevate an ordinary pile of fries to extraordinary!

My Final Thoughts:

They call this “Scooping Ketchup” and that’s because you will want to scoop this out with a spoon and eat it.  I even used my fingers to clean the inside of the jar!  Yes, it’s that good.