Archive for February, 2012

Product Information:

For lovers of chocolate with a crunch. The cocoa nibs add texture to the 63% cocoa bar’s naturally smooth flavor. A light dusting of sea salt intensifies the complex flavors of the cocoa.

Each bite has a satisfyingly sweet & savory experience to be remembered.

Learn more about Madécasse on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

Personally, I prefer black tea with chocolate, as the deep flavors of the tea complement the flavors of the chocolate so well.  With this particular chocolate bar, I found the dimension of flavors to be so pleasing I wanted something fairly mild from my black tea choice, so I chose this Neela from The Tao of Tea.  It has a pleasant sweetness and a mellow character, and it highlights the amazing complexity of this chocolate bar quite nicely.

What I Think:

This is one of those chocolate bars that is so incredibly tasty that it’s difficult to stop eating it.  I broke off a portion of the bar to savor, and the next thing I knew, I looked down to see not only that small portion (about 1/8th of the bar) had vanished, but, HALF of the bar was gone!

I’ve never really paid much attention to the cacao percentages on chocolate as far as determining what percentage level is most satisfying to my palate, but, based upon this experience, I am thinking that my personal preference is in the 60-65% range.  Dark, with lovely bittersweet tones, but not so dark as to overpower some of the more delicate notes within the chocolate.

I am noting some fantastic fruit notes in this bar.  Sweet and luscious, but the added sea salt offsets some of that sweetness so that it does not become cloying.  The sea salt also adds a very enjoyable crunch to the bar (as does the cacao nibs).  It has a deep, roasted flavor to it and I like the way the savory roasted tones and the sweet fruit notes meld together to bring a delectable sweet yet savory contrast.

My Final Thoughts:

Truly a beautiful chocolate experience – this chocolate bar is one that I think all lovers of chocolate should try.

Product Description:

This jam is bright and fruity, a burst of tart-and-sweet classic raspberry flavors with floral violet tones. We use fresh organic raspberries from Yerena Farm and prepare the jam in a way that retains the raspberries’ fresh flavor.

Learn more about Inna Jam on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

I recommend a robust black tea to serve with this jam (although, I think it would be tasty with just about any tea, really!) like this Thirsty Elf Elixir from Damn Fine Tea.  The strong flavors, smoky undertones, and caramel-y sweetness compliment the true fruit flavor of this jam quite nicely.

What I Think:

I typically do not purchase raspberry jam.  It isn’t that I dislike raspberries, in fact, I love them (raspberry + chocolate = one of my favorite all-time flavor combinations).  But what I don’t love is the seeds of raspberries, which seem to get lodged in between the teeth.  And it would seem that with raspberry jam the seeds are very abundant.

Having said that:  this is seriously good jam.

For the purposes of this review, I toasted a slice of 8-grain bread, and topped it lightly with butter, and then spread a generous amount of jam on top.

The raspberry tastes very fresh and bright, and it reminds me of the jam my gramma used to make – she didn’t make raspberry jam, she made ollaberry jam (which is kind of cool since her name was Ola) – but, what makes this jam similar to gramma’s ollaberry jam is the fresh, true-to-fruit flavor.  Very vibrant and flavorful, without being too sweet.

It tastes like fresh, sweet-yet-tart raspberries.  And as I eluded to above, there seems to be very little sugar or other sweeteners added to this.  Yes, it is sweet, but, it tastes like a fruit sweetness, not a sugary sweet sweetness.

It is as if the berries were picked at the peak of freshness and then processed into jam promptly to preserve that fresh, naturally sweet flavor of the berry.  This jam is a celebration of fresh berry flavor, not sugar.

And a bonus:  the seeds are not problem.  Yes, they are there, but they aren’t as course or hard as I’ve experienced with other raspberry jams.  The seeds are soft and they aren’t getting uncomfortably lodged in between my teeth.  I don’t know if that has anything to do with the way the jam has been processed or if it has to do with the actual type of raspberries used in this jam.  I just know that I’m not needing to run to the bathroom to floss my teeth after eating a piece of toast, and I’m very pleased about that.

My Final Thoughts:

This is, without a doubt, the best raspberry jam I’ve ever tasted.  It tastes fresh and flavorful and I’m not having to fish out raspberry seeds from between my teeth.

Product Description:

Ingredients:  Bolivian Chocolate 68% (cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla), Almonds, Bergamont Peel (peel, sugar, glucose), Feuilletine (wheat flour, sugar, anhydrous milk fat, whey powder, salt, barley malt flour, sodium hydrogen carbonate), salt.

Made locally in Portland.

Where to Buy:  The Meadow

Tea Suggestion:

I recommend trying this with a smooth, delicious Ceylon like Bon Matin from Téanzo 1856.  The rich, well-rounded flavor of the tea accentuates the sweet notes of the chocolate, and bring the bergamot tones into focus.

What I Think:

On the package of this small chocolate bar, it says “best understood by tasting,” and I agree.  This is one of the most unique chocolate bars I’ve ever tasted.

The rich chocolate is dark but at 68% it isn’t too dark.  It is sweet with minimal bitterness to it … just enough to keep it from being too sweet.  It has a tender snap to it.

The almonds are crushed to very small bits, resembling “crispies” more than almonds, and giving the bar not only a nice crunchy texture, but a delicious nutty flavor.  The candied bergamot peel adds a chewy element to the bar, and just the right amount of tanginess.

Because of the size of the almond and bergamot peel bits, every component of this bar is evenly distributed throughout the confection.  Every bite is absolutely delicious, from start to finish.

If ever there were a perfect chocolate candy bar, this would have to be it.

My Final Thoughts:

Right now, all I can think of is when I can visit The Meadow again and get another bar!  That was the most delicious chocolate bar I’ve ever eaten in my life … and I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate in my time!

Our visit to the Northwest Public House offered some very interesting surprises.  The Northwest Public House is just off of 23rd Street (one of my favorite streets in Portland), and it is a house that’s been turned into a restaurant/pub with a very home-y kind of feel to it.  Another Living Social opportunity to sample the cuisine of Portland…

The Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops

Location:  2327 NW Kearney Blvd, Portland, OR

Order:  I ordered the Chicken Roulade (small plate) and the Baby Chef Mac (small plate), while my husband ordered the Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops (that was the first big surprise of the evening … the second was that he really liked it!)

What I think:

When we first entered through the front door, I was shocked at how cozy this place was.  It was almost too cozy.  It felt a little crowded to me, and if our Living Social voucher wasn’t just about to expire, I would have suggested coming back on another evening.  However, it was a “now or never” kind of predicament with the voucher on the verge of expiring, so we were seated near the bar, which appeared to be the only available table in the place.  (I learned later that there was also a dining room upstairs, and there is also outdoor seating, although with it being January when we dined at this establishment, outside didn’t seem like the optimal place to dine)

Since our visit, it would seem that they’ve changed the menu just a bit, as I no longer see the Chicken Roulade on the menu, which is just as well, as it was my least favorite item ordered for the evening.  Also no longer on the menu are the Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops, which is kind of shame, because my husband devoured this entree, which was complete with a side of brown rice and topped with a delicious sweet-and-spicy mango salsa and steamed vegetables.

This is a dish that I would have never guessed that my husband would order, I figured he’d probably order a burger.  But it was a wonderful surprise for him to order this, I like to think that my journey as a novice food critic is having a positive effect on him as he is becoming more adventurous and trying new things.

My husband was good enough to share with me a couple of bites of his entree.  The scallops were perfectly cooked and were very tender.  The veggies were delicious – especially the mushrooms.  I also really enjoyed the mango salsa, which really elevated the flavor of the overall dish.

As I mentioned before, I was not as impressed with my Chicken Roulade.  It was a chicken breast that had been pounded thin, and then wrapped with goat cheese, peppers, and arugula, cooked through and then sliced very thin.  Three slices, topped with lemon basil cream sauce, were put on the plate along with a serving of sweet potato mash.  The sweet potato mash was delicious, as was the cream sauce.  The chicken, however, was overcooked.  The filling was tasty but there really wasn’t much too it, and it did little to disguise the fact that the chicken was dry and flavorless.  The only thing that saved these overcooked discs from being completely inedible was the lemon basil cream sauce, which was incredible.

Kahlua Krème Brûlée

Fortunately, I also had a small plate of Chef Mac & Cheese to help satisfy my hunger.  Really, I would have been happy with just a large plate of the Mac & Cheese rather than ordering the two smaller plates.  Seriously, I wanted to crawl into this bowl of Mac & Cheese … it was absolutely the best Macaroni and Cheese I had ever eaten in my life.  The blend of cheeses (aged cheddar and smoked gouda) and the garlic cream sauce combine to make an incredibly rich, flavorful, creamy delight that elevated this comfort food to new heights.

For dessert (which was my third and final surprise for the evening!) we shared a bowl of Kahlua Krème Brûlée.  I absolutely love Crème Brûlée, it is my favorite dessert, so this was a big treat for me.  There was not a lot of Kahlua flavor to this dessert, but there was a LOT of burnt sugar on top – which is my favorite part of the dessert, so I left quite content.

My Final Thoughts:

Despite my misgivings about the Chicken Roulade, this is a place I’d be very happy to visit again, if for no other reason than to enjoy the most delicious Macaroni & Cheese in Portland.  (If you think you’ve tried better Macaroni & Cheese in Portland, please comment on this post and let me know where I can try it!)  This is comfort food at its finest!

NorthWest Public House on Urbanspoon

Product Description:

Intensely satisfying with bits of smooth, rich, organic chocolate to balance tart Bing cherries and sweet cranberries. Our Gracious Granola base adds pecans, almonds and coconut for a wholesome indulgence as delicious as it is nutritious.

Learn more about 18 Rabbits on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

Since I ate this for breakfast, I drank a robust Assam with it.  I recommend this amazing Malty Assam from the Tao of Tea.

What I Think:

Until now, I’ve thought that there were two types of granola bars:  the crunchy granola bar and the chewy granola bar.  But this granola bar belongs in its own category.  It isn’t “crunchy,” but reminds me of a crunchy granola bar in that it is hard to bite into, in fact, it’s harder to bite into than a typical crunchy granola bar.  It is “chewy,” but, as I have already mentioned, it isn’t as soft and easy to bite into as a typical chewy granola bar.  This bar requires some jaw strength to eat!

Once I do bite into it, the flavors are quite nice.  Big chunks of chocolate, deliciously sweet and juicy cherries, and a little tartness from the cranberries.  The coconut in the bar gives it a nice sweetness and a pleasant texture.  The bar is tasty:  lots of nutty, oat-y goodness!

This bar is not as sweet as I expected it to be, it actually tastes healthy … which is why I suspect it was in the “Jump Start” tasting box.  Most granola bars available at the grocery store taste more like candy bars with some oats and nuts added to make parents think that they’re a healthy choice for their kids.

And I do feel satisfied after finishing the bar.  This is the kind of bar you’d want to take with you on a hiking trip because one bar is enough to satiate hunger and provide that much needed energy boost.  It doesn’t taste like its all simple sugars that will quickly break down and not provide that sustaining energy that is needed to keep going.

My Final Thoughts

I personally prefer my granola bars to be a little easier to bite into.  I found this hard texture at the start to be a little off-putting.  I think these would be better if they were offered as small, bite size snacks rather than a bar, so that they could be popped into the mouth and then enjoyed.  Once I got past that initial bite to break off a piece of the bar, it was very enjoyable.

Product Description:

Cinnamon Crunch bakes warm cinnamon into our whole wheat dough to create a delightful yet healthy treat. A little sprinkle of sweetness makes this perfect crunchy snack a coffee pairing delight! With just 7g of sugar (that’s 42% less than a granola bar!), this treat is a good-for-you twist on Grandma’s home baked cinnamon rolls.

Learn more about Somsersault Snack Co. on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

With this snack I would recommend something bold like this Mountain Kenya Tea from Mark T. Wendell.  The strong, malty notes would help elevate this snack into a light breakfast food, if you wanted more of a snack than a full meal for breakfast!

What I Think:

These are very tasty.  Much more like a crunchy granola bar than the Salty Pepper Somersaults, these would be very good when one is craving something a little sweet.

I love the basic “nugget” of these Somersaults which is comprised primarily of sunflower seeds.  Snack wise, I find the crunch to be a very satisfying crunch and it’s not only delicious and good for you, but, it also manages to satiate those little hints of hunger that hit me in between meals.

The cinnamon is not an overwhelming flavor in this, it is more like a light sprinkling of cinnamon and maybe just a hint of sugar.  It tastes sweet and mildly warm without being too sweet or spicy.  It is something that I think kids as well as adults could enjoy as a snack.

My Final Thoughts:

I really enjoyed both the cinnamon Somersaults as well as the salt and pepper Somersaults, and I could see me wanting to keep both on hand for when I want a snack.  The salt and pepper ones would be perfect when I want something a little spicy and salty, while the cinnamon ones make a great sweet snack that evoke thoughts of a warm cinnamon bun (YUM!)

Product Description:

Everyone’s favorite pairing

A truly classic flavor combination. It is the brownie equivalent of a chocolate-peanut butter cup….and who doesn’t love a peanut butter cup? A layer of creamy all natural peanut butter runs through the middle of this rich chocolate creation.

Learn more about Blissful Brownies on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

I recommend a good, solid black tea, something rich and full-bodied like this Organic Black Andean from Drink T.  I found that the rich, chocolate-y flavor of the brownie was enhanced by the natural chocolate-y tones within the tea.  A really delightful match.

What I Think:

This was the first item I grabbed from this month’s Valentine’s Box.  Mostly because I felt it was the most perishable, but, also because I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into a luscious, fudge-y brownie!

The brownie is huge!  It measures about 5 inches long by 2 inches wide by 1 1/2 inches thick.  It is so big that I cut it in half with the full intention of sharing it with my husband when he got home from work.  Whether or not that will actually happen … well, it will be at least another hour before he gets home.  So we shall see!

Oh goodness … this brownie is a chocoholic’s paradise!  Rich and chocolate-y.  There are big chunks of chocolate in the fudge-y brownie, and a creamy layer of peanut butter.  Sweet, a little chewy and deliciously decadent.  So sweet, in fact, that I do think I will be able to reserve this other half for my husband (or at least a quarter of it).

This is just the way I want a brownie to be.  There are typically two types of brownies:  the cake-like brownie, and the moist, fudge-like brownie.  This brownie is the fudge-like brownie, and that’s the way I like them.  It is thick and moist.  And even though it is a peanut butter brownie, the chocolate is still the main event.  The peanut butter is an accent flavor, helping to cut through some of the richness of the deep, dark chocolate.

This is so good!

My Final Thoughts:

These brownies are so chocolate-y that they are sure to satisfy even the most demanding chocolate craving.  Seriously yummy!  I may just have to visit Blissful Brownies’ website soon and try some other flavors!