Archive for April, 2012

Picture from Foodzie, click on the photo to go there!

Product Description:

“People, Profit, Planet” is the triple bottom line that Bumble Bar believes in. Their chewy, sesame seed-packed energy bars are made with organic ingredients, and they enforce green practices from processing to packaging.

Learn more about Bumble Bar on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

Because the Original Peanut bar focuses primarily on the nutty flavors, I decided to go with that and chose a mild, nutty-tasting Kukicha to enjoy with this bar:  Organic Kukicha from Imperial Tea Garden.  When I enjoyed my Chocolate Crisp bar, I chose a rich, creamy Matcha to enjoy:  Organic Ceremonial Grade Matcha from Arbor Teas.  I enjoyed how the rich, supple flavor of the Matcha brought out the deep cocoa notes of the bar.

What I Think:

I really didn’t know what to think of these at first.  They kind of look like some sort of bird treat!  But after one bite, I was hooked!

Both bars look pretty much the same except for the color – the Original Peanut is a pale tan color … like the color of toasted sesame seeds, and the Chocolate Crisp bar is darker … like chocolate.  They are kind of sticky to the touch, kind of like a chewy granola bar.

The Original Peanut bar tastes pretty much like one might expect – very peanut-y.  The sesame seeds provide additional nutty flavor and lots of crispy crunch.  I can taste hints of vanilla and cinnamon within the bar – not a lot, but just enough to keep things interesting.

The Chocolate Crisp bar was my favorite of the two … I mean… hello?  Did someone say chocolate?  It is – again, as one might expect – chocolate-and-peanut tasting.  The chocolate here is a bittersweet, dark chocolate, and I like that.  It doesn’t come off as too sweet or candy bar like.  It doesn’t taste like it’s been loaded down with sugar.  It actually tastes wholesome while also tasting delicious.  Not an easy feat, but, Bumble Bar pulls it off!

My Final Thoughts:

I like these a lot more than I thought I would.  I was just kind of “meh” about receiving them in the Earth Day Foodzie box, but, as I peruse the Bumble Bar website, I find myself making a mental wish list of what I’d like to try!  Let’s see, there’s Chai Almond and Cherry Chocolate and Harvest Hazelnut … did I mention CHAI ALMOND?

Product Description (from Foodzie):

This fourth generation of family farmers harvests their stone fruit when it’s tender and ripe. Hand-slicing and traditional sun-drying preserves the juiciness, yielding deliciously sweet, tender fruit, requiring zero energy beyond mother nature to process.

Learn more about Blossom Bluff on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

Because the flavors of these dried fruits are so intense and sweet, I wanted something on the lighter side, so I selected a white tea:  Silver Needle from Mandala Tea.  The tea is crisp and refreshing and delicate, allowing the full flavor of the fruit to be experienced.

What I Think:

I don’t usually purchase dried plums.  While I do prefer fresh plums to dry (although when I was a child, one of my favorite “treats” were chili saladitos, but that’s another story!), I found these to be very delicious.

The texture of plums is quite nice.  The first thing I noticed is that they don’t feel sticky the way many commercial dried plums or prunes do.  They are tender and chewy and oh – so – sweet!   But they don’t taste like they’ve been sweetened, the sweetness is the natural sweetness that comes from the fruit itself, and I like that.

I also like that they are organic and un-sulfured, they’re the kind of snack you can feel good about eating because they’re delicious and satisfying (and just sweet enough to curb the sweet-tooth craving too!), and they’re healthy for you and the planet too!

My Final Thoughts:

Very tasty, and different from the dried plums that are readily available.  These are naturally sweet and wholesome, without additives.  Just the fruit, and I like that.

Product Description:

Chef Alexa caps a Salty Caramel puff with milk chocolate pretzels

Learn more about 240Sweet on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

Since these tasty confections pack a serious flavor wallop on their own, I suggest choosing a pure, unfettered black tea to enjoy with these.  I like this Keemun Mao Feng from Life in Teacup.   It has a pleasing, smoky character with light caramel-y undertones that accentuate the caramel flavor of the marshmallow.  A very decadent pairing!

What I Think:

Oh MY!  These are amazing.

And HUGE!  I measured one of them, and it measures 2 1/2 inches x 1 1/2 inch x 1 1/2 inch!  That may not seem very big in print, but, when it comes to a sugary sweet, puffy marshmallow, it’s enormous!  Seriously, you’ll not want to eat more than one of these in a sitting.

But that’s OK, because, you’ll want to have some for later.  I received the “standard” size package of these, which is stuffed 3 of these gigantic caramel-swirled marshmallows that are studded with chocolate covered twist pretzels and then tied with a pretty purple ribbon.  It’s a visually appealing package, and these would make a YUMMY gift to your sweet-toothed friends (or yourself!)

They are soft and puffy, like you’d expect from a hand-crafted marshmallow, and you taste salty goodness in every single bite, which is nice, because it does help to cut through some of the sweetness of the marshmallow.  But don’t worry, because these are plenty sweet, too!  And they are LOADED with pretzels, so you get a bite of pretzel in nearly every bite of marshmallow too (I think there was maybe one bite where I didn’t get any pretzel, but that was mostly by my own desire because I wanted to taste the marshmallow on its own).

My only complaint is that the pretzel was a little on the stale side, rendering them a little less crunchy.  They’re still delicious, but, just not quite as fresh as I expected them to be.

My Final Thoughts:

Overall, I found these to be an amazingly delicious treat.  Sweet, salty and savory, all in one.  I like that these are salty not just from the pretzel but also from the salted caramel swirl, which gives this confection a fantastic balance of flavor.  Absolutely, decadently, indulgently YUM!

Product Description:

This delectable snacking experience features almonds, apples, and flax seeds, tickled with date, balsamic vinegar and cayenne.

Learn more about Sahale Snacks on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

I highly recommend that you have a glass of iced tea nearby when you start eating these snacks!  I really like this Apple Pearadise from Big Tea House. It makes a stunning iced tea, and the sweet, fruity notes of the tea go very well with the fruit flavors of this snack mix.

What I Think:

This tasty snack mix is a wonderful juxtaposition of flavors and textures.

The flavor is all at once spicy from the cayenne pepper, sweet from the apples and dates, nutty from the almonds, and just a little tangy from the balsamic vinegar.  Add a little salt just to keep it interesting, and WOW!  So good.  It’s an exciting balance of flavors that is sure to make the palate happy.

But it is, first and foremost, a spicy snack.  So if you tend to prefer your snacks on the timid side, this is not the snack mix for you.  But if you like your snacks with a little bite – you should definitely look for these the next time you’re in your local Whole Foods Market.

The almonds are lightly glazed with a cayenne balsamic glaze and then sprinkled with flax seeds.  This gives them a nice crunchy texture and a spicy, tangy flavor to go along with the natural, nutty sweetness of the almonds.  Then chunks of apple and dates are added, which give the mix a pleasing sweetness and a chewy texture to contrast with the crunch of the nuts.

My Final Thoughts:

As much as I enjoyed the Sahale Cashews with Pomegranate and Vanilla, I think I might like this snack mix even more!  I love the spicy flavor of this one… it is very warm but not what I would call spicy-hot… although as I said above, you’ll want to have that iced cold tea nearby to help cool the palate.  YUM!  Seriously, I loved both of these snack mixes … so much so that I may have to try some of Sahale’s other intriguing snacks!

My Foodzie box arrived on the afternoon of the 19th, but I decided to save this post for today – Earth Day! – since I selected the Earth Day themed box.

The three boxes we had to choose from this month were “Outdoor Entertaining” as well as this Earth Day box, and held over for another month was the “Brooklyn Box,” although by the time I had received my email and got to the website to choose my box, the Brooklyn Box had sold out.  I was a little disappointed by that, because I found it difficult to choose between the Brooklyn Box and the Ski Lodge Box last month, and while I am completely happy that I chose the Ski Lodge Box, I would have liked to have the option to choose the Brooklyn Box.

But rather than lament about not being able to choose the Brooklyn Box, I am going to spend this time effusing over the Earth Day Box!  My Box included two sesame seed bars from Bumble Bar, popcorn from Quinn Popcorn, Styrian Pumpkin Seeds from CB’s Nuts, dried plums from Blossom Bluff Orchards, and a can of Classic Gold Sparkling Yerba Maté from Guayaki … in other words:  TEA!  Yay!

So as you can imagine, I wasn’t too disappointed that I couldn’t choose the Brooklyn Box because I did get some really awesome selections from the Earth Day box.  Also included in the Earth Day box was a special bonus:  a reusable mesh produce bag from Flip & Tumble – an environmentally friendly option to those plastic bags from the store.

The theme card in the box explained the inspiration behind The Earth Day Box:

We obviously care a lot about good food, but when the foodmakers commit to earth-friendly practices, we can really taste the sweetness of saving our planet.  This month we’re featuring some of our favorite sweet and savory snacks that are grown sustainably or make a commitment to green processing and packaging.  You’ll sip on a sparkling yerba mate with organic ingredients made in a carbon-neutral processing facility, earth-conscious organic and non-GMO popcorn in compostable packaging and sun-dried plums produced with only the energy provided by Mother Nature herself.

I look forward to trying these goodies!  Be sure to watch this blog for reviews of each of these products!

Product Description:

The richest biscotti, extra dark cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate chips and grown La Columbe espresso allows them to stand on their own.

Learn more about Gilda’s Biscotti on their blog.

Tea Suggestion:

I love dunking biscotti in my tea!  For this richly flavored biscotti, I selected an equally as rich tea:  this amazing Laoshan Northern Black tea from Verdant Tea.  The deep, rich chocolate flavor of the biscotti really highlights the delicious chocolate-y tones of the tea.

What I Think:

As I’ve said before, I love biscotti, so I’m always happy to try different brands and varieties!  This is the first of several flavors of Gilda’s Biscotti that I will be sampling over the next couple of weeks.

These little pieces of biscotti are so cute.  They aren’t those typical LONG pieces of biscotti that you might find elsewhere.  Each piece of biscotti is just over 1 1/2 inches long and about 1/4 of an inch wide.  They’re bite size, making them a lovely treat to serve with my morning tea.

Texture wise, it is very much what I expected from biscotti.  Very hard and crunchy.  I have reviewed other biscotti on this blog, some had a slightly softer texture … they were still incredibly crunchy but not quite as hard as these.  And while I do prefer the slightly softer texture, that is not to say that I dislike these, because I don’t!

I love the flavor of this one.  I am not normally one to enjoy espresso (coffee?  me?  NO!)  But I do have to admit that the espresso goes very well with chocolate.  I don’t really taste a strong coffee/espresso flavor, but, I do taste how it enriches the chocolate tones in a way that nothing else can.  The chocolate is so incredibly rich, I taste so many subtle nuances within the dark chocolate now that are just … absent … when espresso or coffee is not added.

My Final Thoughts:

Overall, these are rich and chocolatey, with a strong, crunchy texture that although quite hard to the tooth, it does not detract from the delicious flavor of the chocolate.  These biscotti should be on every chocoholic’s must try list!

On the afternoon of April 17, aka Tax Day, my husband and I took a short drive to Tigard, Oregon to visit PF Chang’s which is located in the Bridgeport Village Mall.  (My review of our visit to PF Chang’s will be published soon!)  After lunch, we walked across the way to visit Sweetest Thing Cupcakes because … well, I Love Cupcakes

Location:  7413 SW Bridgeport Village Road, Tigard, Oregon

Order:  2 cupcakes – Lady in Red ($2.50) from their Daily Menu and Turtle Cheesecake ($2.75) from their Tuesday/Saturday Special Menu.  Also, I ordered a cake pop ($2.25) for my youngest daughter.  Since the cake pop actually managed to arrive intact to my daughter (I didn’t even sneak a bite!), I can only tell you what she thought of it, which was “It was good.”  When I attempted to get more details, I was told “I don’t know!  It just tasted good.”  She’s ten… but, somehow she’s already managed to get the attitude of a teen-ager.

What I Think:

I haven’t had a lot of luck with Red Velvet cupcakes, but, I’ve really WANTED to like them.  They’re so popular, it seems, and it would also seem that every cupcake bakery has a Red Velvet cupcake.  But to be honest, I’ve never really understood it.  I never really got it.  Red Velvet, well… tasted just kind of… meh.  I love the frosting, which is typically a cream cheese frosting.  But, the cake part just never really made me jump up and down with excitement … and I felt like I should be jumping up and down with excitement with a red velvet cupcake because it’s basically a cupcake (like ’em) with a light chocolate flavor (um… LIKE chocolate, uh huh)… so then, why don’t I love red velvet more than I do?

Cupcakes on Display at Sweetest Thing: I chose the Lady in Red (top right) and the Turtle Cheesecake (Bottom Left)

Well, that all changed this evening when I tasted Sweetest Thing’s Lady In Red cupcake!  This cupcake is not “meh” … it is YUMMEH!

The cake is light and moist, and it had a red-brown color to it.  I could taste the chocolate, and yes, the chocoholic in me was kinda sorta saying … “hey, more chocolate please!”  but since I realize that red velvet is only lightly chocolate, I wasn’t upset by the light chocolate flavor here.  I was pleased by the balance of flavor, it didn’t taste too heavy or cloying.  It has a very palate pleasing taste with just the right amount of acidity to offset the sweet flavor of chocolate, and also the sweetness of the decadent cream cheese frosting.  To top this cute cupcake off there was a little flower on top, made of a paste of some sort.

After finishing this cupcake, I thought that there was no way the Turtle Cheesecake could top it and I saved that one for last because I knew I’d love it … so that is to say that I really LOVED the Lady in Red … and I can now happily say that I like red velvet cupcakes.

But, I quickly forgot about how stunning the Lady in Red was after my first bite of the Turtle Cheesecake cupcake.  Oh. My. Goodness!

I had cut this cupcake in half with the intention of sharing it with my husband.  But, as he was asking me how good it was, I had already started to bite into his half of the cupcake.  (Sorry my love!)  And I told him this:  “It is really good.  I would share it with you, but it’s too good to share, and I want it.”   So, I ate his half too.

And, I might feel guilty about that if it hadn’t tasted SO GOOD.  But, it did, so I don’t.

The cupcake was rich and moist and deeply chocolate.  It was filled with a deliciously creamy caramel filling, topped with a bit of cheesecake-like filling, and then frosted with a rich chocolate cream frosting, and topped with crunchy toasted pecans.

Seriously … that was one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever tasted in my life.  And my only regret is NOT that I didn’t share it, but that I didn’t buy more than just one of them.

My Final Thoughts:

I am very happy that I had the chance to visit Sweetest Thing, and I will be definitely be bugging my husband to return … hopefully next time on a Sunday, so that I can try their Breakfast in Bed and their Salted Caramel cupcakes.  And this time, I’ll remember to get my husband a cupcake or two, as well.

Sweetest Thing Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

Product Description:

Our original spicy blend and boldest brew, with traditional flavors of cardamom, ginger, clove, pepper and cinnamon. Brewed with organic Assam black tea and sweetened with
organic cane sugar.

Learn more about Dragonfly Chai on their website.

What I Think:

I found a bottle of this chai concentrate at New Seasons Market when I visited them recently.  I had tasted (and really enjoyed) Dragonfly Chai before when I dined at Cup and Saucer Cafe, but I really wanted the chance to experiment with the concentrate myself.  So, I decided to pick up a bottle of the Spicy Black Tea Chai concentrate.

And it is SPICY!  Usually with spicier chai blends like this one, it is because they added lots of ginger, but, what is different here is that it doesn’t taste overly ginger-y.  I taste a lot of ginger, but, I also taste cinnamon, clove, pepper and cardamom.  It is spicy but it is not a concentration of peppery spice, allowing the other spices to reach the palate.

It is really easy to prepare a cup of latte:  2 parts of chai concentrate to 1 part milk.  I tried it once using coconut milk in place of my milk mixture, and I didn’t really care for it, so I think I’ll leave the coconut milk to my smoothies and keep using a mixture of 1/4 cup one percent milk and 1/4 cup half & half (to make 1/2 cup of milk mixture) and add that to 1 cup of chai concentrate.  Then you can heat it on the stove or in the microwave until its a suitable temperature … and enjoy.

Really, it’s not that much easier than to make a stovetop chai latte using loose leaf tea, BUT it is a lot less messy, and that’s just as important to me as simplicity because I hate cleaning up the mess after preparing chai using the stovetop method (that is, simmering the loose leaf chai blend on the stovetop in a mixture of milk and water for a few minutes, straining and serving) It’s messy, and for that reason I rarely make a stovetop chai.

DragonFly Chai to the rescue!

My Final Thoughts:

I’ve tried a few different chai concentrates, and there are some that I really enjoy, and some that I really didn’t enjoy at all.  This is one that I really enjoy!  I also LOVE that DragonFly Chai is a local company, based in Portland.  If you like chai, but find that you don’t want to deal with the fuss and mess of making your own on the stovetop, give DragonFly Chai a try!