Archive for October, 2012

I was really surprised when the mail carrier knocked on the door … I wasn’t expecting anything.  I had just received my notification that my box had shipped a day or two ago, so I wasn’t expecting my Goodies box until a little closer to the end of the month.

But this was a happy surprise, and especially welcome given the evening that I had last night, and the day that I’ve been having today.  Last week, my husband had come down with a bad cold (maybe it was the flu?) and he had to miss a couple of days of work.  Anyone who knows my hubby knows that he just doesn’t miss work.  He has to be really sick to miss it.  Otherwise, he drags himself in there.  That’s just the kind of guy he is.  So when he needs to call in sick … you know he’s sick.

Fortunately, it wasn’t a long-lasting bug … he was feeling down and out for a couple of days, but he was able to head back to work after only missing a couple of days.  And after a few more days had come and gone, I thought that maybe I was in the clear and I wasn’t going to come down with whatever he caught.

Yeah… no.  It didn’t happen that way.

At some point late at night I started feeling really sick … hot one minute, freezing the next, and every time I’d swallow it felt like I was swallowing razor blades.  Achy everywhere.  In short … not feeling good.  This just hasn’t been my month!  First a sprained ankle, now some flu or cold bug.  I guess we can’t be 100% … 100% of the time.

So, it was a nice surprise to have my box arrive today … even though I don’t have the taste buds to really enjoy anything (I’ll be saving these goodies until after I’m feeling better), it was nice to get a lovely box of goodies!

The “theme” card of this box reads “Trick or Treat” which suggests that there are all kind of indulgent goodies in the box.  (I guess the fact that it’s called a “Goodies Box” might also lead one to assume that the box is filled with goodies too!), and really, that’s what’s in here.  Most of these goodies are ones I haven’t yet tried!  I like that, because I love trying something new.  Who knows … I might just find a new favorite!

Tucked inside this month’s box are Toasted Coconut Chips from Dang, a Mayesa drink box (it appears to be a chocolate-y drink), Cinnamon Brown Sugar Smartfood Selects, Juicefuls, Nutella & Go, and a bag of Chocolate Chip Brownie Brittle.  YUM!  Again, a box brimming full of yummy goodies for just $7.  I am not sure how Goodies Co.  does it!

I’ve tried Nutella before, and I do enjoy it, although I must tell you that I’ve discovered a better product (Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter) so I guess this is probably the only product I’m not super-excited about.  But I’ll still enjoy it!

As I said before, I’m not going to start digging in to this box until I’m feeling better, I can’t really write a review on these foods with my tongue feeling as though it’s covered in a blanket and only about 1/4 of the flavor getting through.  I want to have my taste buds in full working order to taste these!

Another fun box!

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

Product Description:

These fruit + nut presses from Grace & I are elegant, delicious, and utterly unique. They are gorgeous (pictures do not do justice) and add a gourmet statement to any cheese board or fruit tray. Wow dinner party guests or surprise the foodie in your life who’s seen/eaten everything. They even come with their own wooden board for extra charm. Sweetest of the presses, the fig + nut, is one of their best sellers.

This product is available on Petit Amuse.

Tea Suggestion:

This fruity, nutty snack is something that seems like it would go very nicely with wine, so I selected a tea that is wine-infused to enjoy with this it.  This Wild Monkey Marsala seemed like the perfect fit:  the cinnamon notes of the tea really enhanced both the fruit and nut flavors, and while this tea doesn’t offer a strong “wine-y” taste, the dimension of flavor in the tea really seems to accent the Fruit & Nut Press very well.

What I Think:

This Fruit & Nut Press from Grace & I was part of this month’s Petit Amuse sampler box, and at first glance, I thought that this was a fruitcake of some sort.

But it isn’t!  Instead, it is dried figs, hazelnuts & almonds that have been pressed together into a square, cake-like form, looking very much like a dense fruitcake that’s loaded with fruit and nuts!  But there’s no cake in this, no pastry, just fruit and nuts!  Just the very best part of a fruitcake, all compressed into a square (for the sampler box, we actually received a smaller, rectangular slice of the Fruit & Nut press).

I love the delicious fig taste of this Fruit & Nut Press, and I’m also really enjoying the variety of textures within it.  The fig is soft yet chewy, and then every once in a while, I reach the solid crunch of a nut.  It’s really quite delightful to eat.

My Final Thoughts:

As I nibble on this delicious snack, I can’t help but think how perfect this would be served on a cheese platter at one of those fancy New Year’s Eve parties that my father and step-mother used to host.  It is sweet, nutty, fruity, and tart, with barely there touches of saltiness all in one bite.  It would offer such a pleasant contrast to the sharpness of a good cheddar or a Bleu cheese.  It would also be great to serve along with finger sandwiches during tea time!

Just browsing through the Petit Amuse website, I probably would not have thought of putting something called a “Fruit & Nut Press” in my shopping cart, at least, not until having tried it!  But I love that the sampler subscription lets me do just that – try some of the yummy items that are offered at Petit Amuse, all for a very reasonable $10 per month!

This month, my Knoshbox arrived on what turned out to be a very bad day for me.  As I was walking down to the mailbox to check the mail, I rolled my ankle and sprained it.  Painful!  And I mention this because there was no mail in the box – the mail carrier had not yet arrived – and because this box was delivered in a medium flat rate box the mail carrier had to bring it up to the door anyway.  My disastrous trip to the mailbox was completely unnecessary.  How fate laughs at me.

A scan of the theme card in this month’s box. I didn’t get a photo of the box and its contents before I started munching on the Bacon Peanut Brittles. By the time I got home from the hospital, I was on painkillers and had totally forgotten to snap a picture before I began munching! Sorry!

But… let that not lead you to think that this month’s box is also disastrous – far from it!  This may just be the best Knoshbox ever!  It contained only four items, but, one of these items is so beyond exciting!  A full-sized container of Pumpkin Sauce from Skillet Street Food!  OH yeah!  I’ve been wanting to try this since trying their Bacon Jam.

Also in this month’s box was a full-size package of granola as well as a Toasted Orchard Bar, both from Nate’s Naturals, and a full-size package of Bacon Peanut Brittles from the Redhead, NYC.  I’ve already sampled the Bacon Peanut Brittles, and they are amazing… so perhaps I might share this package with my husband.  Maybe.

Then again …

Anyway, this is a very exciting box, and I’m so happy that I have the opportunity to try these products.  Also included in the box is the theme card (this month’s theme is “Autumn Harvest”) which told of the inspiration behind the four selections.  The only thing that I’m missing this month is the little handwritten note on the back of the card.  It’s a small thing, but, I like that special touch.  It makes me feel like I am getting a gift from a friend that was packaged with care rather than an assembly line packaged box.  Knoshbox, if you’re reading this … I like the handwritten note.  It was a nice little touch.

As you can see by my little note under the scan of this month’s theme card, I have already started diving in to the yummy goodies in this month’s box!

Bridge City Cafe is not our (my husband and my) ordinary kind of lunch stop.  Especially the Bridge City Cafe in the Lloyd Center Mall.  We generally avoid the mall food court because it seems like they’re usually more expensive than other lunch stops.  After all, they do have the high overhead costs for their prime location in the mall, and they’ve got to recoup those expenses. 

But, because we were going to be in the mall anyway (we had to rent a suit at the Men’s Wearhouse for my husband), and there was a great deal on LivingSocial, we decided to “break the rules” and visit Bridge City Cafe in the Lloyd Center Mall.  We enjoyed it so much that when we had to return to the mall the next day, we stopped in again!

Location:  2304 Lloyd Center, Portland, Oregon

Order:  The Living Social voucher entitled us each to a sandwich of our choice, a bag of chips, a drink and a cookie.  On day one, I ordered the Steel Roast Beef sandwich, and on the second day, I ordered the St. John’s Turkey Cranberry sandwich.

What I Think:

The atmosphere … well, you know the atmosphere.  This Bridge City Cafe location is in the food court in the mall.  Kids running around and screaming, babies crying, mothers yelling, cell phones beeping, and generally a lot of hurrying and scurrying around.  As an agoraphobic, it isn’t my favorite kind of atmosphere … not at all conducive to a comfortable place to dine out.

But, sometimes, when one is hungry and time is short … my daughter was getting married in a matter of days and I didn’t have a lot of time to go out and enjoy myself.  So, we picked up lunch where we could and how could we NOT take advantage of the LivingSocial voucher!  We each got a whole sandwich of our choice, a bag of chips, a drink and a cookie!

The word of this paragraph is FRESH.  That’s because everything about the sandwiches is FRESH!  The sandwiches are all made fresh to order, the bread is fresh (and soft and amazing!) and all the trimmings were fresh.  The lettuce wasn’t wilted, it was crisp and … yes, fresh.  Everything looked really appetizing.  The one exception was the tomatoes, which were a bit more on the pink side than the red so I picked those off of the sandwich.  I usually only want a tomato on my sandwich if it’s really ripe and tender.

Truly the best part of these sandwiches IS the bread.  I love that I had a sandwich made with bread that was baked in the shop that very morning.  The sourdough used to make the Steel Roast Beef was soft but with enough of that sourdough texture to give it some real substance.  The St. John’s Turkey Cranberry was made on a honey molasses bread and it was sweet, soft, and delicious, and really complimented the tart cranberry and the mild, juicy turkey very well.

We also got our choice of cookie, and I chose the lemon cookie.  Let me tell you something, if you’re ever near a Bridge City Cafe and are hungry for a fresh, homemade cookie … stop in and TRY the lemon cookie!  It tastes like a lemon bar!  You know the kind with the shortbread crust and the lemon curd-like filling?  Yes… it tastes just like that… with the shortbread and the lemon curd baked right in.  It’s amazing.  If you’re a fan of lemon-y baked goods, these cookies ARE NOT to be missed!

My Final Thoughts:

I really enjoyed both visits to Bridge City Cafe.  Sure, I’d rather not eat in the mall – the atmosphere is a bit much for me and tends to make me anxious.  But, if I happen to be in the mall and find myself hungry, I know where I want to go.  This is definitely one of the best stops at the food court!

Bridge City Cafe on Urbanspoon

Product Description:

We blend the spicy tea ourselves for this puff

What I Think:

I love chai … I love 240Sweet’s marshmallows … it’s kind of a no-brainer!  I knew I’d love these puffs!  They are so fluffy and sweet, but also deliciously spicy.  And these aren’t like vanilla marshmallows that have been rolled in finely ground spices and tea, the spiced tea has been infused into the marshmallow, flavoring every inch of these huge marshmallows, making for a very satisfying tea and marshmallow experience … all in one!  Of course, a cup of tea along with it doesn’t hurt!

Believe it or not, though, I found these to be better with a cup of hot cocoa.  I put one in the cocoa to melt while I munched happily away on another (for review purposes only, of course, I needed to see what it tasted like without the cocoa’s influence).  Because of the spices and the hint of tea in the marshmallows, they offered a lovely layer of flavor to the cocoa that I really enjoyed.

I can taste the cinnamon and the peppery kick of the ginger in this.  I also taste hints of clove and I can even taste the subtle note of tea in there.  The aftertaste is a little bit like cardamom.  The spices are very warm and delicious, and offer a pleasing contrast to the sweet flavor of the marshmallow base.

My Final Thoughts:

240Sweet’s marshmallows are my favorite and there’s a reason for that.  They’re superb!  Have you ever tried a homemade marshmallow?  They are so much better than anything store-bought.  You really MUST get to 240Sweet and order some Marshmallows.  They have so many tempting flavors from which to choose … and this one may be my favorite one yet.  I love the spices here – they’re spicy without being out-of-control hot … tempered by the sweet, luscious, puffy marshmallow.   So good.

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

Product Description:

Unlike most crackers, Castleton crackers are not just vehicles for other foods but are flavorful and hearty enough to be standalone snacks. They come in large cracker sheets that you break, which adds a nice rustic quality but are sophisticated enough to present at a dinner party. With the addition of caraway, sesame and poppy seeds, this rye cracker has not only a strong rye flavor but also pleasant nuttiness. It would be stellar with cream cheese and lox or for snacking on its own.

These Castleton Crackers are available from Petit Amuse.

Tea Suggestion:

With such a hearty texture and tasty rye flavor, I wanted something that would complement the cracker without overwhelming it.  I chose this 2012 Margarets Hope 2nd Flush Darjeeling from Darjeeling Tea Lovers.  The delicious muscatel notes of the tea seemed to accent the unique complexity of the cracker, while something about the buttery taste of the cracker and the astringency of the tea just seemed to really go together perfectly.

What I Think:

Having already tried the Windham Wheat crackers from Castleton, I was pretty confident that I’d probably enjoy these crackers, even though rye crackers are not usually something I tend to reach for when shopping for crackers.  I usually prefer wheat (and I like the rice crackers too!).  It’s not that I dislike rye, I actually quite like rye bread, I just never really considered rye crackers.

But now that they’re sitting in front of me and I’m devouring the small sampler package that was part of my Petit Amuse box for October, I’m asking myself WHY have I never really considered rye crackers?  I really am enjoying these.

I love the caraway seeds and the flavor they add to the cracker.  They are slightly anise-y, adding a hint of licorice-y flavor to the cracker, while the poppy seeds add a nice crunch and the sesame seeds add a nice, nutty flavor to the cracker.  These crackers are even better than rye bread, and I daresay that I like these better than the Windham Wheat!  They have that same buttery, delicious quality of the Windham Wheat crackers, but, with more texture!

My Final Thoughts:

I like these crackers a lot.  I am considering making these a permanent staple in my pantry.

Product Information:

Each yummy square is topped with crunchy almond slices and made with good-for-you ingredients like our seven whole grains, sweet potatoes and beans. And with natural sweetness from agave, 4g of fiber and 300mg of ALA omega-3, they’re a nutritious snack your kids will ask for by name!

This Kashi Soft-Baked Square was part of my Goodies Tasting Box for September.

Tea Suggestion:

Because of the cake-y/cookie like taste of the square, I decided that a black tea was the way to go.  I went with this Assam Mangalam from Zen Teas.  The robust, malty tones of the Assam gave this hearty bar from Kashi a boost, and this snack became a meal!

What I Think:

I really like this!

I can’t recall ever having tried Kashi’s products.  I kind of see them as “trendy” foods… like they’re pushing this health food angle because it’s the “in” thing to do, but, I always find myself wondering if they’re really nothing more than those other fatty junk foods, just dressed up to appear to be something it’s not.

I confess that I’m kind of a novice when it comes to reading labels.  Sure, I read them when looking at things like juices for my daughter – I like to make sure they’re not just a bunch of corn syrup – but, I don’t check the label on everything that I buy, and I really don’t know what all those numbers in the Nutrition Facts box really mean.  I mean, sure, this says that it’s just 6 grams of fat, but what does that really mean?  (And, no, I’m not looking for a nutrition lecture here, I’m just stating that I’m not really knowledgeable about these things and how I should be applying them to my overall dietary plan)

But, after quickly perusing the ingredient list here, I’m pleased at what I see.  I don’t see any artificial sounding ingredients … this stuff all looks like healthy options.  There are some sweeteners in this:  agave, tapioca syrup (this is a sweetener, isn’t it?) and cane juice … and while the verdict is out as far as I’m concerned with agave (is it healthy, or is it just glorified corn syrup?) I’m happy to see that this doesn’t seem to be chocked full of sugars and most of the ingredients appear to be whole grains and other healthy foods.  There’s even sweet potatoes and garbanzo beans in this!  Wow!

But this doesn’t really taste like cardboard or something equally as lackluster.  This is really quite tasty!  The bar itself has a taste that reminds me of the cake-y part of a Fig Newton, only denser and more delicious and satisfying.  The slivered almonds on top added a little bit of texture to the square, as well as a yummy, sweet almond taste.  Overall, this is sweet, but not too sweet, and really quite tasty.  Something I wouldn’t mind eating more often.

My Final Thoughts:

This is a very substantial, tasty bar.  This is something I could see myself keeping stocked in the pantry, it’s energizing and delicious, something that I could snack on and not feel guilty afterward.   And it’s very satisfying – I found those in-between meals hunger completely satiated after nibbling on this one bar.

Contest Announcement!

Posted: October 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

OK, so you’ve read about the first-ever Goodies Box from Goodies Co, right?  You haven’t?  You can check out my blog post about it here.  This is an all-new tasting box that offers delectable goodies like Cherry Berry Crunch and crunchy, delicious Somersaults.  When you subscribe, you receive a box of tasty goodies delivered to your doorstep every month … all for just $7 per month.  Yes, you read that correctly.  That’s SEVEN dollars per month!

This is easily the lowest priced tasting box that I’ve found … and while the old saying of “you get what you pay for” is often very true, I’ve got to say that I think that this box offers unbelievable value.  I don’t know that I could have walked out of the store with the seven items that I received in the September box for under seven dollars.  And this was sent to me with no additional cost for shipping!

The September Goodies Box

The only way this deal could get any better is to offer the box free … and that’s just what I’m doing right now! 

The nice people at Goodies Co., recently contacted me and offered me the chance to send one of my readers (like YOU!) the September Goodie Box absolutely FREE!  Sounds awesome, right?

Well, there’s a catch.  There’s always a catch, right?  But with this offer, the catch is simple:  Just comment on this blog post.

Yep, that’s it.  Just comment on this blog post.  Hey, I told you it was simple.

Just comment on THIS blog post, and tell me which of the seven items in the Goodies Box interests you the most, and why.  Don’t know what’s in the September Box?  Here’s the link to my article about the box, which includes a list of everything that was in the box!  So, if you count reading the previous article, that’s really two things that you have to do to win the September Goodies Box.  But, you should read the article anyway, so I’m not counting that.

You MUST comment on this blog post before October 23rd, which is when I will conduct a random draw of all those who commented on this blog post, and will announce one lucky winner who will receive the September Goodie Box free of charge!

When you comment, please be sure to include your email address so that I can contact you if you are the lucky winner.  I will, at that time, email you to get your name and shipping address, I will forward your information to Goodies Co., and they will ship you your free Goodies Box!

What a deal!

OK… I’m a little behind on my restaurant reviews.  Fortunately I do take notes … these aren’t based on my memory!  My memory just isn’t that good!  I do remember though that on the day we visited this restaurant for lunch it was a dreadfully HOT day.  I think we both just wanted to get out of the house, and out of the heat, which is what brought us to Ducktales Kitchen in Vancouver.   And the fact that we had a LivingSocial voucher was certainly another incentive…

Location:  612 N. Devine Road, Vancouver, Washington

Order:  I ordered the special of the day which was an Artichoke and Feta Cheese Ravioli with chicken and pesto sauce.  The special came with a choice of soup or salad – I chose the Caesar Salad.

What I Think:

The atmosphere at Ducktales Kitchen in Vancouver, Washington is very comfortable, very homey.  From the artwork from local artists hanging on the wall to the friendly waitstaff that treats you more like family than like patrons, it is a very warm and inviting kind of place.

The service is pretty quick, too.  My salad seemed to arrive almost immediately after placing the order.  The salad was composed of very fresh, crisp romaine, Parmesan shreds, croutons and dressing.  The lettuce was ice cold, and this was especially refreshing on such a hot day.  But … there was just too much dressing!  Had I known that the Caesar salad would be so drenched in dressing, I would have preferred the soup (although, it might have been too hot to really enjoy the soup!) or the house salad with dressing on the side.  It was still a tasty salad, but, there was just way too much dressing.  The croutons on the salad were a little “off” too, they tasted stale and they were kind of chewy.  I appreciated the freshness and chilly temperature of the romaine lettuce, but the rest of the salad was kind of disappointing.

Fortunately, the ravioli made up for whatever the salad was lacking.  When the plate was first brought out, I noted that the pasta sauce was a little soupy, but it was incredibly flavorful.  So flavorful, in fact, I was kind of wishing I had a soup spoon to dish out the sauce and eat it by itself!  By the time I was about halfway finished with my dish, the sauce had thickened up nicely, though.  The chicken was very tender, and the ravioli was delicious, filled with lots of tangy feta cheese.  There wasn’t much artichoke in these pillows of pasta, but, I like feta cheese, so I couldn’t really find a whole lot of fault with them, except that I did notice that the pasta of the ravioli was just a little bit chewy.  Other than that, though, everything about this dish, from the sweet, juicy tomatoes and olives to the juicy chicken and flavorful sauce was really, really enjoyable.

My husband ordered a burger, and he really enjoyed it.  At the time of our visit, Ducktales was in a competition with one of the local radio stations where patrons would vote on their favorite burger, and Ducktales was in the top three.  We helped out by texting in a few votes, and in return we got a free dessert!

For dessert, we chose the berry cobbler, and it was so yummy.  Filled with marionberries, this dessert tasted like something that would have come out of my gramma’s kitchen.

My Final Thoughts:

I think that the dessert exemplifies what I really liked best about Ducktales Kitchen.  The food may not have been perfect, but it was really good.  It tasted like it was made with love and care … just like gramma would have made.  It tastes like a good, home cooked meal that I didn’t have to cook, and I really like that!

Ducktales on Urbanspoon

photo from Sensible Foods. Click on the pic to go there.

Product Details:

100% Fruit – 100% Fat Free – Gluten Free – No Added Sugar – No Additives/Preservatives – Crunchy, Sweet & Delicious

This product was part of my Goodies Tasting Box for September.

Tea Suggestion:

Because the dried fruit is so flavorful and such a strong taste, I decided to go with something on that had good flavor but wasn’t a strong, overpowering flavor so that the snack and the beverage were not competing with one another.  I selected this tasty Hazelnut Vanilla Oolong from Zenjala Tea Company.   The sweet, creamy vanilla and nutty tones provided an excellent contrast to the bright, flavorful fruits of this product.

What I Think:

I am really liking this snack … and so far, it may just prove to be my favorite product in the September Goodies Box.  These fruits are freeze-dried, which I like better than the dehydrated fruit, because I love the crunchy texture that the freeze-dry process imparts on the fruit.  I’ve tried a few freeze-dried fruits up until this point:  apples, strawberries, and pineapple … and of these three, pineapple is definitely my favorite.  It tastes like candy!

This package of Cherry Berrry Crunch doens’t have pineapple, but it does have apples, strawberries, blueberries and cherries.  Of the four fruits, there is far more apple.  I found this kind of interesting since the mix is called “Cherry Berry” … and based on the name I would expect there to be more cherries and berries than apples, but, I’m not entirely surprised, since apples are cheaper than cherries, strawberries and blueberries.

And the apple is nice in this.  It is sweet and crunchy, and when eaten by the handful with the cherries and berries, the apple gives off a mellow enough flavor that the flavor of the cherries and berries really shines through.  The cherries aren’t really strongly flavored, though, which kind of surprised me – I expected a slight tangy-tart note from them but they’re rather mild.  The blueberries are only slightly more tart and flavorful than the cherries.  Of the fruit, the strongest flavor is the strawberry, and it is bright and very sweet and has a tart finish.

My Final Thoughts:

This was a very tasty mix, although I found myself wishing for more flavor from the blueberries and cherries.  The strawberries seemed to dominate the entire pouch, and as a strawberry lover, I didn’t really mind that, but, I think it would have been neat to taste more from the blueberries and cherries.   If I see this in the store while shopping, I might pick up a bag.  It is an enjoyable, healthy and energizing snack-time choice.