Archive for January, 2012

Product Description:

Hearty and healthy, these double nut pancakes are loaded with protein. No more starchy pancakes!

Learn more about Freddy Guys Hazelnuts here.

What I Think:

For the purposes of this review, I prepared a pancake according to the recipe (it’s really easy, just add an egg and milk), and ate it topped with just butter so that I could experience the pancake before adding additional toppings such as syrup, peanut butter or jam.

The pancakes fry up very fluffy and thick, but they are much heartier than a typical pancake because there are bits of chopped hazelnuts in the mix.  In addition to providing a heartier texture, they add a very pleasant crunch and a pleasant earthiness and sweetness to the pancake.  I also like that the pancake doesn’t taste overly sweet, allowing the natural sweetness of the hazelnut to shine through.

One cup of mix makes about 6 pancakes, and they are very substantial and hunger-satisfying, much more so than the typical buttermilk pancake.  Very good topped with maple or berry flavored syrup, but I like them best with my chai syrup that I make using brown sugar and a strong infusion of masala chai spices.

My Final Thoughts:

I love that this is a local product, and I especially love how delicious the pancakes are.  You can also make delicious, nutty waffles with this mix.  This mix can help you make an ordinary pancake breakfast something special!

Product Description:

Unapologetically flavorful with a splash of bergamot citrus. A refreshing new take on the classic Earl Grey.

Learn more about Teatulia Teas here.

What I Think:

As you may recall, this is the tea that I received in my Tea Time Treats tasting box … yes, the tasting box from September!  I had tried and reviewed this tea before, but, since I am just now finishing up the last of this tea from my September tasting box, I thought I’d explore it a little via review for this blog.

I do love Earl Grey, it is one of my favorite flavored black teas.  There is just something about the tangy flavor of bergamot when combined with the bold flavor of black tea.  An incredible flavor combination.

What makes this Earl of Bengal a bit different from a typical Earl Grey is the tea base that is used which is a black tea from a tea estate in Bangladesh.   This gives the black tea a different flavor:  it is robust and full-flavored, but with a smoothness to it that is moderately astringent.  In my first tasting of this tea, I did not note any bitterness to the cup, and while there is not a strong bitter taste with this tasting, I notice just a hint of bitterness – a savory bitterness – that hits about mid-sip.  The bitterness leaves almost as quickly as it arrives, offering just a bit of contrast to the sweeter tones of the tea and the tangy notes of the bergamot.

My Final Thoughts:

I really enjoy this tea.  A lovely rendition of Earl Grey!

Pizza by Mat Douglas

Posted: January 25, 2012 in Recipes
Tags: ,

Tonight, my husband made pizza for the family, and when he pulled them from the oven, they ended up looking like “works of art,” so he asked me to write a review about them. 

The Pepperoni

Location:  Home

Order:  Pizza with pepperoni, Italian sausage, red bell pepper, red onion, mushrooms, pineapple and extra cheese.

What I Think:

Recently, my husband offered a helpful hint to our soon-to-be son-in-law.  I can’t remember exactly how he put it, but to paraphrase, it went a little something like this:  “learn to cook one or two things very well so that you can give your significant other a day off from cooking once in a while.”  One of the things that my husband can prepare very well is pizza.

The "Works" Douglas Style: Pepperoni, Italian Sausage, Red Bell Pepper, Mushrooms, Red Onions and Extra Cheese. Half with Pineapple.

Aside from not having to do much when it comes to cooking dinner (I do have to do some minor preparation, like slicing the mushrooms and bell peppers and cooking the Italian sausage), what I like best about homemade pizza night is that I can have the pizza customized to just the way I like it:  pepperoni, sausage, red bell pepper, thick cut mushrooms, red onions, extra cheese and pineapple.  Sure, I can get these ingredients at most pizzerias – with the exception of the thick cut mushrooms – but it ends up costing a fortune to get the pizza made just right, and since I’m the only one in this household who likes pineapple on pizza, I feel really bad having to purchase a special pizza just for me.

But when my husband makes the pizza, he can add pineapple to my portion of the pizza for just pennies.  And my husband really is a master when it comes to making pizza.  The crust is crispy and delicious, just the right amount of sauce and lots of cheese … and here’s the best part:  the mushrooms!  Most pizza joints slice their mushrooms too thin, and they either end up too over cooked and I can’t really taste them because the flavor gets lost with the stronger flavors of sausage and pepperoni.  Or worse yet, the texture of the thin-sliced mushroom ends up slimy and that’s just not very good.  I like my mushrooms sliced thick, so that I can taste their earthy, meaty flavor and the texture remains intact.

We buy the dough pre-made.  Our local grocery store bakery mixes the dough, and sells it in slabs, and the crust that this dough makes is quite delicious.  Mat rolls the dough onto cornmeal (I love the texture that this step creates) and then stretches it onto the pizza pan.  He then par-bakes the crust, and then tops it with sauce, cheese, and toppings.  He bakes it until the crust is golden brown, and the cheese is melted and bubbly.  What emerges from the oven is a pie of perfection … or in his words:  “A work of art.”

My Final Thoughts:

I would take Mat’s homemade pizza over anything from a pizzeria any day.  This is the kind of pizza you eat with a fork because the toppings are heavier than the crust.  It’s delizioso!

Product Description:

This is the recipe that started it all! A delicious, crispy blend of organic oats, sliced almonds and a touch of pure Madagascar vanilla, this is our bestselling granola.

Try warming it up as your morning oatmeal or crumbling it as a topping for your favorite peach cobbler recipe.

Learn more about Michele’s Granola here.

What I Think:

I’m loving this stuff.  I occasionally purchase granola cereal at the grocery store, and it’s alright, but, this granola from Michele’s blows the grocery store stuff away!  It tastes so fresh and toasty, and it pleasantly crunchy without that hard kind of texture.

It has a very delicious nutty flavor.  It is sweet, but not sticky sweet as if it’s been saturated with honey.  That’s because it hasn’t been.  This has brown sugar, but it doesn’t taste sugary sweet.  It tastes as if it has been lightly sweetened, just enough to give it a pleasing taste without overwhelming the natural goodness of the other ingredients.

And every ingredient is represented in each bite.  I taste the almonds and the sunflowers, I taste the coconut.  It all works together very well.  So delicious right out of the bag, which is how I ate most of my package of this granola.  I did manage to save some for a bowl of cereal, and it makes for a very hearty,  satisfying breakfast.

My Final Thoughts:

This is the best granola I’ve ever tasted.  So incredibly flavorful.  Each individual oat is toasted crisp, and this brings out the deliciously earthy, nutty flavor of it, and really enhances the overall texture, which is light but crunchy.  If you try this, you won’t want to go back to ordinary granola.  There’s just no comparison.

One guaranteed hit with my family is BBQ!  Everyone loves it.  For my husband’s birthday dinner, we went to Famous Dave’s this year (be sure to check their website and sign up for their P.I.G. email list, and they’ll send you a special coupon for your birthday!)

Baby Back-n-Meat BBQ Combo (with brisket, Wilbur Beans and Drunkin' Apples)

Order:  My husband wanted to try the Southside Rib Tips for an appetizer ($11.99) and as an entry, I chose the Baby Back-n-Meat BBQ Combo (Original Style, I chose Texas Beef Brisket to go along with my Baby Back Ribs:  $20.99).

Location:  9911 NE Cascades Parkway, Portland, OR

What I Think:

As I said in the introduction, barbeque is always a hit with my family.  It’s probably my youngest daughter’s favorite dinner, and it would probably rank in the top 5 for my husband, and the top 10 for me.  Of the few places that we’ve tried in the Portland area, my daughter’s favorite BBQ spot is Famous Dave’s.

Before our appetizer was brought to the table, our server brought a small bowl of salted potato chips to the table so that we could test out the rather impressive selection of barbeque sauces on the table:  Georgia Mustard (not your average mustard, this one was sweet with just a hint of sharpness from the mustard, and a tangy note from vinegar), Texas Pit (one of my favorites, this one had a nice balance between hot and sweet, with a nice tomato-y flavor), Sweet and Zesty (another favorite of mine, I actually mixed the Texas Pit & the Sweet and Zesty together for my brisket; this sauce had a delicious sweetness to it with a hint of citrus.  It goes light on the spice, but there is some spice to it that lingers in the aftertaste), Devil’s Spit (which, as implied by the name is quite spicy) as well as the classic Original Rich and Sassy.  Also on our table was Famous Dave’s newest sauce creation called Wilbur’s Revenge, which was (according to our server) is made with habanero peppers.  I was not feeling so adventurous as to try this one.

Our first visit to Famous Dave’s was shortly after this Portland location opened, and the appetizer we ordered was the Onion Strings.  These are yummy.  I was a little disappointed that we didn’t order them again this time … disappointed until the platter arrived at the table and I sunk my teeth into one of those amazing rib tips!  So good!  Succulent, juicy meat that’s been slow cooked so that it falls off the tip of the bone (which is actually more like cartilage than it is bone).  A good amount of char on the meat, but, it isn’t overdone.  So tender and good.  These came with a side of pickles and pickled red onion.  The pickled red onion makes a remarkable palate cleanser – not too spicy, not too sour, but just enough of a different flavor to enliven the palate after it becomes inundated with BBQ sauce.

My daughter consumed so much of the appetizer, she didn’t have room for her dinner when it arrived.  Seriously!  We had that packaged up (because hey, what’s better than going out for ribs for dinner?  Going out for ribs and having left overs for the next day.  Oh yeah!)

But, I still had some room for my dinner.  The brisket was amazing – so incredibly tender.  It melted in my mouth!  I shared some with my husband, and I think he was probably wishing he went with the combo instead of the Big Slab ($22.99)  The ribs were also quite tender, with a nice seasoning to them that was not too hot nor too sweet, and I found that these also reheated nicely since most of them ended up in the “doggy bag” for lunch the next day.

As side dishes, I chose the Wilbur Beans and the Drunkin’ Apples.  The beans were just alright … tasty, but not the best BBQ beans I’ve ever tasted or anything.  In fact, I think I’ve tasted better from a can.  The sauce could have been thicker, I think they needed to be simmered longer so that the sauce could reduce and thicken.  Not bad, but not great either.

But, I loved the apples.  So much so, that I found myself wishing I had ordered apples as both sides and foregone the Wilbur Beans.  These delicious, cooked until tender but not mushy apples were a little sweet warmly spiced from the cinnamon, which was sprinkled liberally over the apples.  I could also taste just a hint of almond flavor.   I liked how the sweetness of the apples complemented the the tangy barbeque sauce on the ribs and brisket.

My Final Thoughts:

I don’t know that I would say that Famous Dave’s is my favorite BBQ establishment in this area, but, I do know that it’s my daughter’s favorite restaurant, so I suspect that they haven’t seen the last of us at Famous Dave’s.  The food is delicious, though, and I especially loved the rib tips appetizer – so much so that I think I could have been happy ordering that as my entree.  Good food, lively atmosphere, and very friendly service.  Not much to complain about!

Famous Daves on Urbanspoon

This afternoon, I arrived home to find my Foodzie Box waiting for me.  I had put my subscription on pause for the month of January, so I actually received this Breakfast in Bed box by mistake, but, I am still quite happy with the contents, so I’m not complaining.  Despite my previous complaints about the changes made with the Foodzie Tasting Box, one thing this company has got going for them that has kept me with them is an exceptional customer service department.  They allowed me to keep the box, which is very cool of them.

As I said, the theme of this box is “Breakfast in Bed,” and just as the name implies, it includes all of the ingredients you need for serving an amazing breakfast in bed!  Tucked inside the extra large box were full-sized packages of Hazelnut Pancake Mix from Freddy Guys Filberts, Polka Raspberry Jam from Inna Jam, and Original Granola from Michele’s Granola.  There were smaller bottles of Bloody Mary Mix from Fat & Juicy, as well as Medium Amber Syrup from Crown Maple Syrup.

Also inside the box were two recipe cards (one for Stuffed French Toast with Brie & Berries, and one for homemade yogurt), and the Theme Card, which explains the inspiration behind “Breakfast in Bed”…

We’re fortunate to live in San Francisco, where even the darkest days of winter are still pretty temperate.  Still it’s not uncommon for mornings to be socked in with fog or rain and gloom.  On those dank days when we don’t feel like facing the chill, we want nothing more than to cozy up with a comforting breakfast.  We’re stocking your pantry with everything you need so you can stay in your pajamas and fuzzy slippers a little longer.  Whip up a stack of hearty, nutty pancakes that are so good they don’t need anything on top — though they won’t suffer from the addition of a rich, aromatic maple syrup.  We found a fresh, crisp granola that you’ll want to eat right out of the bag, and a raspberry jams that beams the summer sun across the months to your table.  And if you needed to stay under the covers maybe a little longer than usual, go ahead and mix up a smoky, spicy bloody mary.  Or two.  If you end up lounging in your peejays all day, your secret is safe with us. 

Well, living in the Pacific Northwest, I can relate to gloomy, rainy mornings.  But, I rarely complain about them, because to tell the truth, I actually love the gray weather.  It is one of the things I am fondest of where we live, I love the cool, crisp weather.  It makes a good, hot cup of tea all the more comforting.  And I’m all about comfort, and it would seem that this box is also about comfort!

I’m really excited to try these goodies, with the possible exception of the Bloody Mary Mix.  I guess that’s mostly because I am not much of a drinker and have never had a Bloody Mary.  But, I’m willing to try it, who knows, I may have found something delicious, and, Bloody Mary mix is essentially tomato juice, right?  If all else fails and I’m not in to the Bloody Mary thing, I guess I could add this to my chili, right?

I might end up ordering the Jump Start the Year box … because there’s TEA in it!  You know, I just may be coming around to embrace the changes made with the Foodzie box!

Product Description:

Bacon. Jam. Need we say more? Josh Henderson simmers sweet onions, balsamic vinegar and, you guessed it, bacon, and then purees it down to a chunky, salty-sweet and irresistible condiment. This spread is good on absolutely everything: stuffed in pork chops, baked in tartlettes, mixed in spinach dip… you get the idea.

Learn more about Skillet Street Food here.

What I Think:

As I mentioned in my article about my Bacon and Bourbon Tasting Box, there were a couple of items in this box that made the decision about which box to choose an easy one.  This is one of those products.  I’ve had this stuff on my mental wish list for months now (actually, it’s probably closer to a year).

So without all the gushing about whether or not it lived up to my expectations (it did), and how much I love this bacon spread (and I do), let me just try to be as objective as I can.  It’s not easy, because I do love this stuff and it has definitely lived up to any and all expectations I had of it.

Upon opening the jar, I was a little surprised by what I saw.  I don’t know exactly what I expected to see, but, this stuff is NOT pretty.  In all honesty, it looks … well, it looks a little like something someone might feed to a dog.  Not really visually appealing. It looks as though this product had been processed in a food processor, and just by looking at it, you can’t really see any evidence that there is bacon and onions in this, because it looks like a well-processed meat product.

Fortunately, it tastes good enough that I can look beyond it’s appearance and appreciate its flavor.

It tastes like smoky bacon, and I can also taste the sweetness from the onions as well as the sweet and slightly sour note from the balsamic vinegar.  (And really, that is what made me want to try this.  Not just the bacon, but that it was a combination of onions, bacon and balsamic vinegar.  Three of my favorite ingredients in one container?  YUM!)  The flavor is rich and sweet and smoky and just flat-out delicious.

I have eaten this on several occasions now, having tried it on burgers, on fried eggs, and even stirred into macaroni and cheese.  And it is so good.

My Final Thoughts:

While it’s not much to look at, it tastes remarkably good.  If you’re a bacon lover, you’ve gotta try this stuff!  As for a tea pairing:  well, I happen to like this with a good roasted Oolong like Zealong Dark from Tula Teas.

Product Description:

Someone once bet us that a caramel couldn’t be made without corn syrup. Being the worker bees we are, we decided we were up to the challenge, so we cooked and we stirred and we melted and we tasted. And then one day… the honey made it happen, and people have been abuzz ever since.

So put your money on honey and enjoy…

Four salted caramels made with Northern California wildflower honey enrobed in pure dark chocolate and sprinkled with fleur de sel.

Learn more about Droga Confections on their website.

What I Think:

I held off on publishing this review since I did recently review the caramel collection from Fran’s Chocolate.  I wanted to have a fresh perspective for these!

And these salted honey caramels from Droga Confections are quite extraordinary.  The caramel is a little harder than a typical caramel, I am not sure if that is because it is made of honey or not.  It is chewy and rich, and the slightly harder texture makes it a chewier, which means that I get more caramel-y flavor in each bite.

And what makes that so important is that this chewier consistency allows me to experience the sweet flavor of the honey.  It is not as pronounced as the caramel-y notes, or even the thin coat of dark chocolate or the fleur de sel, but there are ever so subtle notes of honey in there, and it’s quite nice to have such a pleasant complexity within a caramel.

As I mentioned in previous reviews, I prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate, and that is especially true when it comes to caramel.  Caramel has such an amazing flavor, but, it is often lost because it is (obviously) incredibly sweet, so it can come off as cloying and the caramel flavor is not enjoyed to it’s fullest.  But the sharper notes of the dark chocolate cut through some of the sweetness, and in this case, the salt also helps to cut through the sweetness.  This allows the dimensions of the caramel to be better enjoyed.

Are these as good as my favored Fran’s Chocolate salted caramels?  No, but, I certainly wouldn’t ever turn these away.  They are really delicious.

My Final Thoughts:

Incredible.  I like that I could taste the subtle notes of the honey in these.  As for a tea pairing, I would suggest something robust to add more contrast to the flavors of these confections, and I think that this Assam Sessa Hajua Estate Tea from Tea Licious is perfect.  The wine-y notes of this unusual Assam bring out the depth of flavor to the chocolate as well as highlight some of the notes of the honey.  Absolutely delicious!

I fell in love with Little Big Burger about a year or so ago, before I had tried Burger Bungalow. I found them on Living Social’s list of 365 Things to do in Portland (a list that is actually longer than 365, but who’s counting?)  By the way, Little Big Burger is #110 on that list:  Best Stand In for In-and-Out.  And, while Burger Bungalow is #1 on my list for burgers, Little Big Burger is #1 on my list for Fries.  They have the best fries EVER.  And I’d take Little Big Burger over In-and-Out any day!

Order:  Cheeseburger with Bleu Cheese and Order of Truffle Oil Fries.

Location:  3747 N. Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR (North Portland location)

What I Think:

I had ordered my Cheeseburger with Bleu Cheese, but, it was Swiss Cheese that adorned my burger.  It was still delicious, but, I really would have been happier with the Bleu Cheese … there is just something amazing when Bleu Cheese and beef come together; it is one of those combinations that just makes me happy, like bacon & chocolate and sea salt & caramel.

As I mentioned above Burger Bungalow makes my favorite local burger, and they have the variety and all kinds of crazy toppings for the burger that will please even the most eccentric burger enthusiast, but when it comes to simple burger pleasure, Little Big Burger is tops.  It is a bun, catsup, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and burger (and of course, cheese if you order a cheese burger).  But it’s the quality of those ingredients that makes this burger so great!

The burger appears smaller than a typical 1/4 pound burger from a typical burger joint.  It actually looks like something between a slider and that typical burger.  But, I actually like the size of it, because it makes for a thicker, juicier burger and you can taste the beef.

The bun from Little Big Burger is my favorite burger bun.  They use brioche buns and they’re lightly grilled so they have a crispy inner surface, and then it’s all fluffy and soft and even a little bit sweet.

And let’s not forget the other ingredients:  local beef (Cascade Natural Beef), fresh veggies, Tillamook cheese and Camden’s catsup. The pickle and the lettuce are the two veggies that stood out most prominently for me because the pickle was crunchy and the lettuce was not wilted.  Usually when I get a burger, I remove the lettuce and discard it because it is wilted and sometimes even slimy.  Gross!  But, not at Little Big Burger.  Everything is fresh and crisp and delicious.

But it’s their fries that put them over the top.  Sure the burger is delicious (and superior, in my opinion, to In-and-Out) but, the fries are sublime!  They are the best fries I’ve yet to taste in the Portand/Vancouver area (and believe me, I’ve been searching for good fries).

These fries are fried crispy and I am not sure if they are then treated to a spritz of Truffle Oil, or if they are cooked in a Truffle Oil blend, but, given how expensive Truffle Oil can be, I suspect that they are instead given some sort of spritz or drizzle of Truffle Oil rather than a cooking in the stuff.  If anyone knows for certain, please feel free to comment and let me know, I’d love to hear from you!  They are salted, and this time, I think they could have gone lighter on the salt, but, they weren’t really too salty.  They were toeing that line between just right and too salty though, and I would have rather it been just a little less salt.

My Final Thoughts:

Sure, the burger is delicious, but, its the fries that will keep me going back to Little Big Burger again and again, because, well, Burger Bungalow is not quite as far a drive.  I’ve tried both locations of Little Big Burger (the Pearl District and the North Portland locations – there are two new locations expected to open some time this year as well), and I’ve not been disappointed by either location, although, if I were to choose one, I’d go with the North Portland location, just because of it’s proximity to The Meadow (YUM!  Chocolate!)  … but then again, The Pearl District location is right down the street from Cupcake Jones.  What to do?

Little Big Burger (N Mississippi) on Urbanspoon

Learn more about p.o.p. candy on their website.

Product Description:

Enjoy slabs of our all natural single-nut butter crunches—Almond, Pecan, and Pistachio—in one package. People love this choice when they’re new to p.o.p.’s hand-made butter crunch or they just can’t decide on one excellent flavor.  It’s a GREAT sampler gift for someone you love or just for yourself cuz you deserve it!

What I Think:

When I first started munching on this delightful candy from p.o.p. candy, I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of toffee I was eating.  It seemed that with every piece the nuts tasted different.  At one point, I knew I was tasting pecans, and with the next piece, I thought I was eating pistachio, and at least one piece tasted like almonds.  I thought that maybe someone had made a mistake and mixed it up, but, then I read the little card insert and realized I had a classic trio pack.

The “butter crunch” toffee is incredible.  Not quite as “brittle” as a brittle, it is crispy but there is a little more softness and chewiness to the texture than in a traditional brittle.  It is sweet and buttery, and rather addictive.

The variety of nuts taste fresh and add a nice crunch to the toffee.  When I first saw that this was toffee and not brittle, my immediate thought was “why isn’t it coated in chocolate?”  But as I’ve mentioned several times, I’m a chocoholic, and I can’t seem to help myself from such thoughts.

But, I didn’t miss the chocolate for long.  After the first bite, I forgot all about the fact that it wasn’t coated in chocolate and just savored the delicious buttery flavor.  This little bag is full of wonderful!  My only complaint?  It disappeared too fast.

My Final Thoughts:

Completely and utterly YUM.  MUST get more!