Archive for December, 2011

Learn more about all the wonderful treats from Xocolatl de David on their website.

Price:  $3.00 per bar

Product Description:

Almost immediately after making the first Raleigh Bar with Salted Caramel, I made one with my Bacon Caramel.  It was delicious, and nice counterpart to the original. It is the most popular of the three types of Raleigh Bars, and for good reason too. The smokey, bacon-y goodness complements the nougat, pecans and the chocolate very well.

Pecan Chocolate Nougat, Bacon Caramel, 72% Chocolate from Ecuador.

What I Think:

Oh YUM!

Yes, these bars are small… but, they pack a lot of flavor into one little bar.

I’ve tried several different chocolate covered bacon type confections, but, this one has the most bacon flavor of any that I’ve tried to date.  And what I like best, aside from the fact that I can really taste the bacon, is that I can also taste each of the other flavors that are enrobed in this thin coat of dark chocolate (thin, yes, but, I like that I can still feel it snap as I take a bite.  It is fresh and rich and truly delicious).

Once my palate recognizes the bittersweet flavor of the dark Ecuadorian chocolate, it almost immediately tastes the burnt-sugar sweetness from the caramel, and then the salty, smoky flavor of the bacon comes through.  The pecans add a really delightful flavor and texture to this candy.  Just a little crunch, and a nice nutty flavor that adds another dimension to this very rich, decadent treat.

Nougat, as I’ve said before, isn’t my favorite flavor inside a candy, but, here, it doesn’t come across as too sweet.  The savory qualities from the bacon offer enough contrast to help keep this definitely rich and sweet confection from being too cloying.

And, even though this bar is (was!) small, it is just the right size.  Any larger, and I think it would have been too much … too sweet, too rich, too cloying … or at the very least, it would have left me feeling guilty for taking in too much decadence.  As for a tea pairing, I wanted something strong and sturdy to go along with the strong flavors presented in this bar, but also, something that didn’t have flavors other than the tea (in other words, not a flavored tea), that might compete with this candy, as it does have quite a bit to it as it is.  I chose this Assam Kama from Simpson & Vail, which has a rich, malty flavor that really complimented the flavors of this bar very well.  Any high quality, rich Assam would do, of course, but if you can get your hands on some of this Assam Kama, you’ll be doing yourself a big favor!

My Final Thoughts:

Completely, and totally, YUM.  With the inclusion of these two little candy bars in my Bacon and Bourbon Box from Foodzie, it definitely made the entire box worthwhile!  If you love the combination of bacon and chocolate – you MUST try this candy bar!

Learn more about The Redhead here.

Product Description:

More savory than sweet, these crunchy peanuts are tossed lightly with maple syrup, a dash of cayenne, thyme, and small chunks of salty, smoky bacon.  Holiday snack, solved.

What I Think:

This was one of two items featured in the Bacon and Bourbon box that prompted me to choose it for my tasting box this month.  I’ve had my eye on this product for months now!  I knew I had to – at some point, when finances would allow me to – try it.

And it is the first item to be sampled this month too.  I tried to hold off on trying them, but these actually seemed to be calling out to me.  I do try not to devour everything once I get them, trying to find just the right time to try them and the right tea with which to taste them, but these just could not wait… so I made a mad dash for the kitchen and brewed some tea!

The name of this product is a little deceiving, at least for me.  When I think of “brittle” I think of the hard, candied sugar and nut type treat.  What I have before me are more like “candied nuts” that are more on the spiced savory side than on the sweet side.

They are deliciously crunchy, with a crispy shell of maple and spices.  These spices creep up on you, let me tell you!  It starts out rather mild, and after a few handfuls, you’re in need of a beverage to cool things down.  The shell is also salty, of course, not just from the peanuts, but also from the teensiest, tiniest morsels of bacon.  The bacon delivers a hint of smoky flavor, but every once in a while, I encounter a slightly larger bit of bacon and it is slightly chewy, smoked bacon-y and YUMMY!

Surprisingly, though, I learned that these yummy bits of goodness are not for everyone.  I gave some to my oldest daughter to try and she did not care for them, and neither did my husband, whom I was actually afraid to share some with because I thought for sure he’d love them and want to eat them all before I had a chance to write this article.

Ahhh, well, that’s just fine by me, because I’m loving them, and now I don’t have to share them!  As for tea … well, the first tea that came to mind was Maple Bacon Tea from ManTeas, but since I do not have any of that on hand, a good smoky Keemun like this Premium Keemun Hao Ya from Teavivre is what I chose to sip along with these delicious bits of peanut and bacon goodness.  The smoky tones of the Keemun encouraged some of the smoky tones of these “confections” to come out and play.  A really delicious combination.

My Final Thoughts:

These are really good … and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to finally try them.  But as they don’t appeal to everyone … if you’re on the fence about it, you might do well to find a couple of other people who might be interested in trying it and purchase the 3-pack and split it amongst you.  However, you might find yourself ordering them again soon!

Yep… another sports bar.  What was I thinking?  It was another find from LivingSocial, and this time, I managed to find a place that I would actually revisit… because their Bulgogi Beef Tacos are to die for!

sorry for the grainy quality of the photo... the bar was quite dark, and my camera just couldn't capture enough light to get a good photo. But, I still think it's a good representation of these yummy tacos.

Location:  2401 SW 4th Avenue, Portland OR (this bar & grill is actually part of the TraveLodge building, so when you get to the TraveLodge, you just need to park and walk around to the front of the building … and you’ll find Suki’s!)

Order:  For an appetizer, my husband and I shared a plate of Classic Buffalo Wings with Bleu Cheese Dressing ($7).  I ordered the Bulgogi Beef Tacos ($6) … I hope I spelled that right!  My husband ordered the Cheeseburger (and I forgot to note how much that plate was, sorry!)

What I Think:

First of all, I want to comment on the customer service, because when we first arrived, we were a bit surprised that the bartender was actually waiting on the tables as well.  We had our doubts, but, I must say that the customer service that we received was friendly and accommodating.  Yes, this man was very busy, but, he made sure each one of the customers in the place was well cared for.

The atmosphere … well, I have to say that – as a not-so-hot-on-sports kind of person – that I preferred the atmosphere here at Suki’s to the last sports bar we visited.  Maybe that’s because we visited on a Tuesday rather than a Sunday and the place wasn’t jam-packed full of sports fans yelling at televisions.  But, even though I’m not a particular fan of the sports theme, I found the atmosphere at Suki’s comfortable … if not a bit worn.

The Buffalo Wings were really good.  The wings were fried to crispy perfection, and they were coated with a spicy sauce that I found to be quite warm, but very enjoyable.  I like spicy foods, but, I don’t like them so spicy that I can’t taste anything else but spice.  With these wings, they were spicy-hot, but, I could still taste the tender chicken beneath the spicy sauce.

But… the Bulgogi Beef Tacos.  AMAZING.  Let me say that again.  AMAZING!

The Bulgogi Beef is a Korean style barbeque beef.  It was so tender that it seemed to melt in my mouth.  The barbeque sauce was sweet with a very mild spice to it.  The real spice, though, came from this incredible salsa that was served on the side.  It had pineapple in it, so I thought, ‘eh… it’s probably one of those spicy-sweet kind of salsas,” and I took a spoonful to taste it.  WOW!

Yes, it has a bit of sweetness to it from the pineapple, and I like the fresh, fruity flavor that it gave to the salsa.  But … it has a real kick to it too.  To counter the heat of the salsa, the beef topped a bed of cabbage and was topped with thin cucumber slices that had been sprinkled with some sesame seeds.  The tortilla was a corn tortilla that had been freshly grilled, so it had a light toasty taste and texture.  It had some crispness to it from the grilling, but it was still soft.  I liked this much better than the typical deep-fried corn tortilla.

My husband described the burger as pretty average, like a typical burger from a typical sports bar.  But the fries were less than average – and after trying a few of them, I’d have to agree.  They were cold and tasted … almost stale.

My Final Thoughts:

If you go to Suki’s, don’t go for the burger!  But DO go for the Bulgogi Beef Tacos (at this point, I really hope I’ve been spelling Bulgogi right).  These were incredible and certainly made the trip not only memorable for me, but, were enough to make me want to visit again.  Certainly best tacos I’ve had in a very long while!

Suki's Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

As I mentioned last month (several times, I think), Foodzie has changed, and I am still not sure if these changes are for the best.  That being said, they certainly did tempt me this month.  They offered several different boxes to choose from at the beginning of the month, and I couldn’t decide between two of them:  The Bacon and Bourbon Box & The Stocking Stuffers Box.  So, I ordered one for a Christmas gift for myself.  So, I guess it could be argued that the changes are for the better, but, I must admit that part of me does miss the SURPRISE of the tasting boxes of the past.

But, I did get one surprise this month… and that is that I got one of the boxes a bit earlier than I expected.  I had ordered the Bacon and Bourbon Box as my subscription box, and the Stocking Stuffers box was the box that I placed an additonal order for.  I had expected to receive the Stocking Stuffers box today … not the Bacon and Bourbon box!  But that is what was in my mailbox this afternoon!

This Bacon and Bourbon Box contains five delicious treats:  Bourbon Cocktail cups from Lillie Belle’s, a Jar of Bacon Jam from Skillet Street Food, 2 Bacon Raleigh Bars from Xocolatl de David, a jar of Bourbon Smoked Paprika from Bourbon Barrel Foods, and a package of Bacon Peanut Brittles from The Redhead.

The reason I chose this one as my subscription box is because two of these items have been on my mental “wish list” for quite some time, and I’m thrilled that I will finally be tasting them.  And I’m even more excited to learn that three of the five items in this box are local!

Also enclosed in my Foodzie box (as always!) was the card formerly known as the map card (which I guess I should now start calling the theme card), which tells the story behind the Bacon and Bourbon card:

We’ve learned by now that the salty tang of bacon doesn’t pair with everything, but it’s irresistible when paired with peanuts and chocolate.  Bourbon provides a smoky complexity that takes meats and even chocolate to a whole new depth of flavor.  We’ve sourced five of the best Bourbon and bacon products in the country for you to taste.  Each has it’s own special take on at least one of these two memorable ingredients.  You’ll especially enjoy the Bourbon Smoked Paprika, smoked with the wood from old Bourbon barrels, which lends both sweetness and spice to an already memorable spice.  Our canister is sitting right on the Lazy Susan by our stove, ready to be sprinkled on a fried egg.  We loved the idea of taking these two favorite ingredients and putting them into one box.  Enjoy!

I loved the idea too, especially when the box included the bacon jam and the bacon peanut brittle!  I can’t wait to dig in to this box!

Alright, so… I guess I might try another month with Foodzie… and as long as they keep creating tempting boxes such as this one, they may keep me hooked.

To learn more about Fran’s Chocolates, visit their website.

Product Description:

A showcase assortment of our classic soft, butter caramels and our award-winning salted caramels.

What I Think:

I love caramels!  So I was so very excited when I received this package from my Secret Santa (I am a co-moderator of a tea group, and we have a Secret Santa Swap every year), direct from Fran’s Chocolates – as they make my favorite caramel of all time (or at least, one of them!):  the Grey Salt Caramel.  YUM!

The package arrived at my doorstep via FedEx, and inside the box was a beautifully packaged gift box filled with caramels from Fran’s Chocolates.  But not just the Grey Salt Caramels (which is – admittedly – the only caramel from Fran’s that I had tried up until now), but an assortment that also included some of their Milk Chocolate Caramels, Dark Chocolate Caramels, and Smoked Salt Caramels.

Each of these caramels have something in common, and that is that at the core of each confection is a sweet, rich and chewy caramel.  I prefer these at room temperature so that the caramel is chewy but not hard to the tooth.  The caramel has an incredibly smooth texture, and a lovely creaminess to it.  (That is not to say that these are the milky, runny kind of caramels, these are toothsome and chewy, but even so, they possess a really wonderful creaminess to them)

Of the four in this assortment, the milk chocolate is probably my least favorite (although, it is kind of weird to say that, as I am thoroughly enjoying all four).  I find that the milk chocolate caramel is just a tad bit too sweet, with the sweet milk chocolate and the sweet caramel, there is very little to offset the sweetness.  That being said, these are still incredibly delicious and my sweet tooth approves.

The dark chocolate caramel has just enough of that cacao bitterness to it to provide contrast to the sweet caramel.  The definition in flavors is dramatically different with this confection versus the milk chocolate.  I can taste a buttery richness to the caramel, as well as the slight “burnt sugar” taste of the caramel.  Where as the flavors of the milk chocolate caramel were more smooth and seemed to meld together seamlessly, this caramel has much more complexity to the flavor … which is why I find myself preferring it.

But really, the best caramels, in my opinion, are salted caramels.  Since I tried salted caramels some years ago, I fell in love instantly and it is my preferred caramel confection.   And that very first salted caramel that I tried was a Grey Salt Caramel from Fran’s!  And they remain my favorite, now that I’ve tried all four of the caramels that Fran’s Chocolates offers in this Checkerboard Caramel gift box.  They are a perfect balance of sweet, chewy caramel, dark chocolate that is sweet with just the right amount of bitterness, and salt.  This balance allows for the subtle flavors of each component to come through, making for a very satisfying and indulgent experience.

The smoked salt caramels are amazing too.  The caramel is enrobed in milk chocolate, making for a sweeter, creamier confection, but this sweeter flavor candy works well with the smoked salt, because it allows the subtle smokiness to come through (whereas it might be a bit overwhelmed by the stronger flavor of the dark chocolate).  The milk chocolate is sweet and creamy, and melds well with the caramel.  The salt adds a nice little crunch to the bite and the salty is a perfect contrast to the sweet, and the lightest touch of smoke is delightful!   So amazingly good.

My Final Thoughts:

What a lovely and delicious Christmas surprise this Checkerboard Caramels box was.  And after having spent the last year trying some pretty phenomenal caramels (thanks to that subscription to Foodzie), I can still say that Fran’s Chocolates makes the best chocolate covered caramels that I’ve tasted, and I also love that they are located right here in the state of Washington!

A big thanks to my Secret Santa, you were so good to me this year:  THANK YOU!

I love fish and chips.  My earliest memories of fish and chips were of H. Salt Fish & Chips in Anaheim, California.  They would wrap their fish and chips in newspaper-like printed parchment, and it gave it a very English-like appeal.  If memory served, they even seasoned the fish and chips with a light spritz of malt vinegar, which is what I think I liked best about their fish and chips over the competition. 

It’s been years since I’ve seen an H. Salt fish and chips, and about 20 years ago, I discovered Skippers (at that time, I was living in Reno).  They didn’t season their fish and chips with malt vinegar (although they do offer it as a condiment), but they made one of the best clam chowders I’ve ever tasted.   After I moved from Reno back to Southern California, not only was I unable to locate an H. Salt, but also … no Skippers.  Sad times…

Until I moved to the Pacific Northwest … SKIPPERS!  They are still difficult to find, even here, but one location that is still going strong is the Skippers in Hazel Dell, Washington

Location:  6304 NE Highway 99, Vancouver, WA 98665

Order:  All You Can Eat Fish & Chips ($11.49 per person)

What I Think:

When the basket was brought to the table, it was filled with french fries, fish, cole slaw and a hush puppy.  The hush puppy was kind of a new addition to the fish basket since the last time we visited … or should I say, it had changed since the last time we visited.  It had been quite some time (at least six months) since we stopped in.  At that time, they started to include a hush puppy with their basket meals, but, back then, it wasn’t quite as memorable as it was this time.

This time, the hush puppy had whole bits of corn in it, not just corn meal.  It reminded me a bit of the sweet corn cake garnish you might get at a Mexican restaurant, except this had the addition of the large corn kernels and then deep fried.  Yummy.  I would have been happy with a few more of these on the platter!

One thing that I could have done without was the cole slaw, which was soaked in dressing.  I understand this need to “freshen up” what would otherwise be a platter of fried foods, but, I think it could be done with an updated recipe for the slaw.  Something refreshing and lightly dressed.

The french fries and fried fish were tasty, and I enjoyed them.  But, as I eluded to in my rather long introduction, when we go to Skippers, we go there for the CLAM CHOWDER.  It is amazing!  Rich and creamy and thick.  Very satisfying.  Plenty of clams.  Chunks of potatoes.

My husband and I both love clam chowder, so when we go out for seafood, we usually look for clam chowder on the menu, just to try it to see if we can find a better one than the clam chowder at Skippers.  We’ve tried quite a few, and enjoyed them… but so far, none better than Skippers.

My Final Thoughts:

When we go to Skippers, I usually order a fish basket like this All You Can Eat special, and I don’t know that I eat enough to justify the “All You Can Eat.”  I think I’d probably be better off with the All You Can Eat chowder ($6.99 per person), because that is what I usually order seconds of, anyway, and I’d probably walk away more satisfied.  That is not to say that the other items in the basket aren’t tasty, I enjoy them all (except the cole slaw).  But that clam chowder … it’s a winner and outshines everything else on the menu!

PS:  If you know of a seafood restaurant in the Portland area that makes a great clam chowder, please comment here… I’d love to try it and see how it compares!

Skipper's Seafood 'n Chowder on Urbanspoon

To learn more about this and other products from Willows Cranberries, please visit their website.

About Willows Cranberries:

Willows Cranberries grows premium quality cranberries and sells specialty cranberry gourmet food products. Willows brand cranberries are used in our own fresh fruit, trail mixes, syrups, sauces, vinaigrette, candies and more. We are always working on improvements of our crops and our specialty food line. We are proud to provide you with the finest quality fruit and products of the industry.

What I Think:

Until now, the only type of dried cranberry I’d ever tried are Craisins (which, if you happen to have any in your cupboard, this recall information may be of interest to you – fortunately the Craisins I have in my cupboard are not subject to recall).  I actually keep dried cranberries (Craisins) on hand all the time – they’re the new raisin.  Truth be told, I’ve never really been crazy about raisins, but, I love dried cranberries.

Since I do have some Craisins on hand, I thought it would be interesting if I were to compare the two … these Sweet Dried Cranberries from Willows Cranberries, and the Craisins.  Believe it or not, there are some significant differences between the two!

First of all, the color of the Willows Cranberries are very consistent.  Every single berry is deep ruby in color.  The Craisins are a bit lighter in color overall than the Willows Cranberries and the coloration is not as consistent with the Craisins.  The exterior of the Willows Cranberries is shiny, whereas the Craisins are a bit duller.  And as far as taste, the Willows Cranberries taste … better.  They are not as sweet as the Craisins, and they have a delicious fruity flavor to them that is sweet and tart, and they just taste … like properly ripened fruit. The Craisins have less of the ripe fruit flavor.  They taste as though they have more added sweetener to them (both dried fruits have been sweetened).

I guess what it boils down to is that Willows Cranberries are grown on a family owned farm, so when you buy Willows Cranberries, you can taste the difference between their cranberries and those grown commercially.

My Final Thoughts:

These make a great snack right out of the package and I always add a handful of dried cranberries to my oatmeal or farro porridge.  (I usually reconstitute them slightly first, by putting them in a bowl with a small amount of water, and microwaving them for a minute or two.)  So, I eat a fair amount of dried cranberries, and I almost always have some on hand.  Until now, I always purchased the Craisins, but, I may rethink that, and start ordering from Willows Cranberries, because they taste better!