Archive for July, 2012

Product Description:

A crunchy treat to satisfy your sweet tooth. It’s a snack that everyone will love.

Learn more about Bernod’s Pop City on the Bernod’s Group website.

Tea Suggestion:

I figured I’d probably have a glass of iced tea with this treat, but then I thought … how about Genmaicha?  I bet that the roasty-toasty flavor in the tea will bring out the sweet corn flavors in the caramel corn.  One of the best Genmaicha teas that I’ve tasted in a long time is this Matcha infused Genmaicha from Aiya.  Pairing these two was a very delectable, savory experience!

What I Think:

I was so delighted when Bernod Group asked me to try their caramel corn.  First of all, I love caramel corn (what’s not to like?  A sweet, slightly chewy caramel coating over crisp popcorn?  YUM!) and even more importantly, my daughter loves the stuff… this would be a great opportunity for her and I to spend some time eating something yummy together!

The popcorn is popped up big and fluffy, and the caramel has generously coated each kernel … but each kernel is separate, and not attached together by the sticky caramel … which makes it easier to eat.  When I bite into a kernel, it is lightly crunchy but not not hard.  The caramel tastes sweet and buttery, and there is just enough saltiness to the popcorn (as well as the naturally savory element to the grain) to add some contrast.

I also noticed as we neared the end of the bag, that there were very few small pieces of popcorn – it’s as if the popped popcorn was sifted through to separate the small and unpopped kernels from the large, fluffy kernels.  I’m also noticing no uncomfortable hulls stuck in my teeth.

My Final Thoughts:

My daughter and I both really enjoyed this treat.  Every kernel has a good amount of sweet caramel coating but my teeth don’t feel sticky after eating it.   It’s crunchy, a little salty, and deliciously sweet.  And at $2.99 for a 7 oz. bag, it’s an affordable treat that’s fun and delicious for the whole family.

Product Description:

Golden with a delicious baked cheese flavor, these crackers make for the ideal treat with our signature Flagship cheese melted right in!

Learn more about Beecher’s on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

Crackers are a favorite tea time snack of mine, preferably with cheese … and these have the cheese baked right in.  I enjoyed these with a cup of Good Afternoon Tea from Grey’s Tea.  The smokiness of the tea lent itself very well to the delicious cheesiness of these crackers (and I do love a good smoky cheese!)  A very yummy pairing!

What I Think:

These crackers kind of threw me off at first… the texture kind of threw me off.  I thought that maybe they were stale because they didn’t have that light and crisp kind of texture that you get from other (commercial-type) cheese crackers.  These are denser and crunchy … but it took eating a couple of crackers to realize that they aren’t actually stale, they’re just not your typical cheese cracker.

And it’s not just the texture that’s different… it’s the cheese too.  I can really taste the cheese!   And it doesn’t taste like some artificial cheese.  This tastes like cheese that you might taste at the cheese bar in Whole Foods.  I can taste the quality in this cheese.  It tastes rich and sharp and delicious.  The cracker is lightly salty, and has a pleasing tangy cheese note.  Easily, the best cheese cracker I’ve ever tasted.

My Final Thoughts:

Overall the crackers are really outstanding … even if they do throw you for a loop at first!  They are deliciously crunchy and satisfying, with a distinct cheesy taste and a hint of saltiness.  They are wonderfully savory, something that I definitely will be buying again at my local Whole Foods (I was so excited to find them there the last time I was shopping, but I didn’t buy them because I knew I was getting some in this box).

Product Description:

Partially popped. And fully delicious. Savor the crunchy heart of air-popped kernels. Revel in flavor that’s positively packed in – not lost in the fluff of ordinary popcorn.

Learn more about Halfpops on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

With these buttery, salty snacks I recommend iced tea!  These would be great with hot tea as well, but they have that snack-y kind of appeal that just screams iced tea to me.  Today I’m sipping on some cold-brewed tea from 52Teas newest brand:  Southern Boy Teas, and I’m drinking the RadioactiviTea “flavor” – which isn’t really a flavor at all, but pure, CTC Assam teas.  The natural fruity notes provide a lovely sweetness which is a very enjoyable contrast to the salty, buttery goodness of these Halfpops.

What I Think:

The half popped kernels have always been a “secret” pleasure of mine, I would always dig for them at the bottom of the bowl… but I didn’t realize that other people loved them as much as I did … enough to create a whole new snack around them!

These kind of taste a bit like Corn Nuts, only they’re better, because they don’t taste overly processed.  The Corn Nuts, while enjoyable because they’re crunchy and have a tasty corn flavor, have always tasted just a bit artificial to me … very junk food/corn chip like to me.  But these taste more like popcorn.  Oh sure, I’m sure they still qualify as “junk food” with all the salt and buttery flavoring, but they don’t taste overly processed.  They have that natural crunch and sweet corn taste of real popcorn, because that’s what it is.  These aren’t uniformly shaped and processed.  They look like what’s at the bottom of the popcorn bowl, only… there’s more of them!

I was kind of hoping for the cheese flavored Halfpops to be in the box, mostly because I figured it’d be something different from what IS at the bottom of my popcorn bowl, but, it only took one taste of these buttery, yummy, salted Halfpops to not feel like I’m missing out on the cheese flavor.  These are really awesome.   Lots of buttery goodness and just enough salt… just the way I like my popcorn.  (Although recently, I’ve taken to adding a sprinkling of Bourbon Smoked Paprika on top of my popcorn!)

Hey, Halfpops, if you’re reading this, you should team up with Bourbon Barrel Foods and make a Bourbon Smoked Paprika flavored Halfpops.  Or… a Bacon flavored Halfpops would be good too.

My Final Thoughts:

I really like these.  I was kind of underwhelmed with the idea of them being in the box at first, but, I’m glad that Foodzie included them.  They are sure to satisfy that crunchy snack craving when you get them:  they are a little sweet from the corn and the butter, salty, and irresistibly good.   My only real complaint is that there are a lot of “empty” shells in the package – the hulls that have shed off of the Halfpops.  A minor irritation, really, not a big deal, but something I think is worth mentioning.  I see that these are available at my local Whole Foods, I think I’ll have to look for them the next time I’m shopping!

 

Product Description:

Foodie granola bar is an oxymoron, or so I thought. All health benefits aside (and there are many), this granola bar is seriously tasty. Even the thick brown paper packaging makes you feel like you’re opening a gourmet treat. The bar is sweet, nutty with rich peanut butter, and chewy with a little crunch from the puffed brown rice. A slight tang from the cranberries balances all the flavors. The bars are made with high quality local ingredients, are delicious, and support a good cause – what more could you ask for?

I received this Garuka Bar in my July Petit Amuse Tasting Box.

Tea Suggestion:

These granola bars are so tasty, they’d make a great tea time snack, even if it is a bit unconventional.  I enjoyed this with a cup of refreshing White Peony tea from Peony Tea S.  The lightness of the tea allowed me to thoroughly explore all the nuances of the bar:  the sweetness of the honey, the tartness of the berry and the creamy peanut butter taste.  It was a very refreshing combination.

What I Think:

I’ve had the opportunity to taste several “gourmet” granola bars since I’ve been doing the “tasting box” thing, but, none have been quite like this Garuka Bar.

This is seriously yummy.  While it does have the components of a granola bar, it tastes nothing like any granola bar that I’ve ever tasted … but with the components there it is vaguely similar.  This is so much better!  YUM!

The first thing I notice, once I get past the heavy Kraft paper wrapping is the look and feel of the bar.  It has been shaped into a bar shape, but it’s easily broken from this shape … not even broken, you can simply give it a slight pull and a portion will break away.  This is not your ordinary hard granola bar that is difficult to break or bite into… this takes the idea of “soft” granola bars to a whole other level.

Then I sink my teeth into the bar… mmm… peanut butter and honey!  Those are the two flavors I notice immediately.  There are big pieces of peanut in there too, giving it a nice crunch, and the puffed rice give it additional texture that is lightly crispy.  It’s really kind of a neat texture – the light, crackly crispiness of the rice versus the substantial crunch from the peanuts.

Every other bite or so, I come across a bit of dried cranberry in the bar and this is a delightful experience also.  It adds a nice savory element, just a little bit of tartness.  There is a little bit of brown sugar to this to adds to the overall sweet tone to the bar, and I like that too… it’s very much like a “health food candy bar” if you can imagine such a thing.

My Final Thoughts:

I really love this bar!  Very delicious – full of peanut buttery, honey and brown sugar sweetness, with just a hint of tartness to make it interesting.  It has such a remarkable and satisfying texture and it satiates the hunger pangs during those in between meal times when you want something to eat but don’t want a whole meal.

I wasn’t too excited about visiting this place on the day that we did.  That day was actually reserved for Eat. Art. Theater. (E.A.T) but as it turned out, when we arrived at the address for E.A.T. the restaurant had been closed and the establishment had changed ownership.  I was sad, because E.A.T. really sounded like a place I would have enjoyed.  So, as we were headed back to Vancouver, I remembered that I had a voucher for El Valle and we decided to visit.  And even though this wasn’t the place we had planned on visiting that day, as it turned out, we found a great place for Mexican fare.

Location:  6700 NE 162nd Avenue, Suite #713, Vancouver, Washington

Order:  We ordered a plate of Nachos for an appetizer and I ordered the Combination Plate with a Chicken Enchilada and a Chili Relleno.   To drink, I ordered a HORCHATA!

What I Think:

Well, as I mentioned in the introduction, there was still some lingering disappointment when we first arrived at El Valle… not in El Valle itself, but in the fact that we didn’t get to visit E.A.T.  But my disappointment disappeared rapidly when we ordered.  I noticed there was horchata on the menu (and this tends to be one of THE deciding factors for me on whether or not I’ll revisit a place … whether or not they have horchata!)

But when it came time to order, our server informed me that they were “out” of horchata.  I was visibly disappointed, and my husband remarked “this happens every time we visit a Mexican restaurant.  She sees horchata on the menu, and they don’t end up having it.”  At that, the server said, “I can make more.”  And they did!  And it was delicious!  Yay!

The salsa served at the start (with still-warm, freshly made chips) tasted very fresh.  A lot of tomato in it, with very little cilantro and onion in comparison to the amount of tomatoes … but I like tomatoes, and it had a nice level of spice to it.  I was becoming more and more encouraged with each bite that I was in for some good Mexican food!

The nachos were also quite tasty.  They were smothered in refried beans and loaded with cheese.  Not a cheese sauce… but shredded cheese that was all melted and gooey.  They also had a dollop of sour cream and guacamole on top, and I love guacamole, so I ate the side with the guacamole, while my husband prefers sour cream … so guess which side he ate from?  This is really how I love nachos.  Sure, there could have been other toppings … maybe some fresh tomatoes or something, but, I liked these just the way they were.  Delicious and very filling!

So filling, in fact, that I found it difficult to finish my combination plate.  I did manage to eat a good portion of it, though!  The relleno was delicious.  Chili rellenos are another “deciding” factor for me when it comes to Mexican restaurants.  If their chili rellenos do not impress me, I won’t be back.  They are like a Mexican staple for me, and my stepmother could even make a decent chili relleno, so if a Mexican restaurant cannot make a good one, I won’t return.

But this one was good.  It was stuffed full of cheese, and it had a moderate amount of mild heat from the chili and the batter was light and cooked through (yes, I’ve had chili rellenos that had uncooked egg-y stuff between the cooked outside and the chili … and it was revolting.  Which is why, as I said above, if I go to a place with bad chili rellenos, I won’t be returning).

The chicken enchilada was also quite good.  The chicken was flavorful and very tender.  It seemed to melt in the mouth.  The side of Spanish seasoned rice was tasty, as was the side of cheese topped refried beans.  I didn’t eat too much of either of the rice or the beans, because I had really filled up from the nachos appetizer.

My Final Thoughts:

I will definitely be happy to revisit El Valle.  The flavors that I wanted were there.  I left full and satisfied.  And the fact that they had horchata and even made a fresh batch of it for me really REALLY impressed me.  So, yes, this has elevated El Valle to my favorite Mexican restaurant in this area.  Other Mexican restaurants, take note:  I want HORCHATA!  But as for El Valle:  We will be back.

EL Valle on Urbanspoon

The arrival of this month’s Foodzie Box was bittersweet for me.  Of course, I was excited to try all the goodies inside, but, I am also sad that this is to be the last Foodzie tasting box.  From what I’ve been lead to understand, the boxes will still be available as a one-off option on Joyus.  However, Foodzie as I’ve come to know it – delivering me unique, delicious goodies once a month – is gone.  No more subscriptions.  

And I don’t really think this is a change for the better, at least, not as far as the customers are concerned.  I do hope that Emily and Rob (they brought us Foodzie) did make out well with the acquisition, because at least someone got something good out of it.  But from this customers perspective – no, it’s not a good change.  Higher prices on the possibility of a one-0ff option.  No go for me.  The additional $10 price hike at the end of last year was as far as I was willing to push the proverbial envelope.  I am not willing to pay $39 for a box.  Just not going to do it.

This month, we were sent the email that allows us to choose our box, and our choices were:  Grilled Pizza Box, Raw Food Box and Seattle Box (which was their signature box).  To be honest, I wasn’t all that thrilled with any of these selections.

I mean, really, I don’t grill pizza … I mean, it sounds interesting and something I might want to learn more about, but, I didn’t feel comfortable enough with my grilling abilities to go ahead and get the box, you know?  The Raw Food box interested me somewhat, but, I didn’t know if I was interested enough in it to receive a whole box.  And the Seattle Box… ok, so I live here in the Pacific Northwest and Seattle is on the other end of the state from me, but, even this box I found a little disappointing because how could Foodzie do a Seattle box and not include something from Skillet (the company that brought us Bacon Jam).  And… how could they talk about Pike’s Place and not include something from MarketSpice?  (Preferably their MarketSpice Signature Tea!)  OK, so maybe that’s just the tea lover in me talking.  But, if they’re going to do a Seattle Box, you’d think that if they’re not going to include a tea then at least a coffee!  This is the Pacific Northwest!  We’re known for our hot beverages here.

And if they had included the coffee, it would have made my choice a lot easier, I must say, because I would have chosen the Raw Food box.  (I drink tea not coffee)  My point is that it almost feels like this box was “phoned in.”  You know?  None of these boxes seem as inspired as some of the boxes of the past.  Perhaps that will make it easier for me to say goodbye.

Anyway… that’s my rant about the box.  Let’s talk about goodies that were included.  In this box, there was a jar of Strawberry, Vanilla Bean and Lemon Jam from BigSpoonJam, a pouch of dried cherries (the Cherry Medley) from Chukar Cherries, a small package of Fluer de Sel Caramels from Jonboy, a bag of Flagship Cheese Crackers from Beecher’s, and a 2 oz. package of Butter & Sea Salt Halfpops.  Everything sounds yummy, sure.  Maybe I’m just feeling a little sad that this is my last box and it seemed very anti-climatic.

Also included in the box was the theme card, which explained Emily & Rob’s inspiration behind this box:

Seattle has a significant place in our hearts.  An easy flight from San Francisco, we love going up there for the dramatic skies, incredibly fresh seafood and of course strolling through the iconic Pike Place Market, one of the great food meccas of the world.  Plus it was Seattle that we first discovered one of Foodzie’s longtime bestsellers, Skillet Street Food’s bacon jam.  Along with Pike Place, markets like Ballard and Melrose are bubbling up all kinds of new foodmakers, and we’ve culled a few new faves, like buttery-salty caramels, cheesy crackers, and strawberry preserves that taste like a spoonful of summer.  If you can’t make a trip to the Pacific Northwest, this box brings a taste of Seatown to you.  ~Emily & Rob

I DO look forward to trying these, and there is more to look forward to, as well.  As some of you may have read, I discovered Petit Amuse (or should I say they discovered me?) and I do look forward to trying the goodies they deliver every month!  They will definitely help me get over the loss of Foodzie.

Ah… Foodzie, I will miss you.

Photo from Petit Amuse. Click on the pic to go there.

Product Description:

Lark combines intense dark chocolate with spice and heat for the ultimate chocolate-lover’s treat. These are perfect with coffee but would also make excellent gourmet oreos or ice cream sandwiches.

These cookies are available on Petit Amuse.

Tea Suggestion:

I couldn’t resist trying these cookies with this Hong Jing Luo from thepuriTea.  A perfectly lovely match, these two!  The cocoa notes of the tea work wonderfully with the dark chocolate flavor of the cookies, and I notice more of the sweeter notes as well as the savory qualities of the tea when enjoyed with the cookies … while I notice the smooth chocolate seems to glide over my palate while simultaneously being hit by the zesty spice.  On their own, this tea or this cookie would be really amazing, but together, it becomes a truly delicious culinary experience!

What I Think:

The first thing that struck me about this cookie is it’s weight.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The weight.  It was heavy for its size.  Normally, a cookie this size would be very light – so light you wouldn’t really notice it.  And while I wouldn’t say that this cookie is heavy, exactly, it seems to be more substantial a weight than other types of cookies this same size.   To satisfy my own curiosity, I weighed the cookie – .8 oz.  Then to just amuse myself, I took out a cookie of similar size (a raspberry thumbprint shortbread cookie from Knott’s Berry Farm – something I had on hand) and it weighed in at .4 oz.

After my fascination with the weight of this cookie subsided, I decided to take a bite, which lead to my next surprise about it … it’s texture.  It’s SOFT and dense.  After eating the Salted Rosemary Shortbread which is crispy, I kind of expected a crispy texture here too.  But this is soft.  My teeth sort of sunk into the cookie, as I tasted the rich chocolate-y flavor.

Then I notice the kick of spice.  This reminds me a bit of one of those gourmet candy bars that are chili pepper infused – it has that sweet-spicy quality that I love so much!  But this might be even better, because it’s in a cookie, so I get some rich, buttery goodness from the dough which gives the overall experience a very creamy sort of experience that complements the dark chocolate notes so well without making it taste like milk chocolate.

I love the dark cocoa here.  I can really taste the nuances of the chocolate – the fruit notes and the deep roasted flavor.  This isn’t filled with any unnecessary goodies – no nuts or chips or other bits and pieces – and like I said, it doesn’t need them.  This cookie focuses on the flavor of dark, rich chocolate and spice.  And it’s really executed so perfectly, that I find myself wanting nothing more from them.

My Final Thoughts:

These are exquisite cookies – perfect for the grown up palate.  This is something that you can put in the family cookie jar and not have to worry ab0ut the kids raiding – while they might think these are “OK” – I don’t think they’re going to love these the way a more mature palate would.  It’s got a delicious chocolate-y sweetness, and it’s “kicked up a notch” with that spicy note.  YUM!

And just a follow up on the Salted Rosemary Shortbread cookies (also from Lark Fine Foods and originally reviewed here) – they are every bit as good as I remember them.  Sweet and with just enough savory notes to give it a well-rounded flavor and palate-pleasing balance.  And oh-so-deliciously buttery!