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Archive for Giftable

GIFT OF THE DAY: Baron Chocolates

Baron Milk Chocolate Bar

Baron Chocolate Truffles

Baron Chocolate Gummi Bears

Chocolate Covered Gummi Worms Baron

[1] Baron Chocolate Bars are made in two sizes and 10 flavors. [2] Everyone’s favorite: chocolate truffles with plain or flavored chocolate centers. [3] Our favorite treat: chocolate-covered gummi bears and [4] worms (all photos courtesy Baron Chocolatier).

 

Baron Chocolatier was created by Tomasz Kotas, the third of three generations of chocolatiers from Poznan (Posen), Poland.

After selling chocolate in Europe for 30 years, The Millano Group decided to establish a North American subsidiary—the U.S. is the world’s single largest chocolate market.

Selling private label* chocolates in the U.S. beginning in 2009, it more recently launched its own brand, Baron .

The brand is probably the best quality chocolate we’ve had at such low price points. For consumers looking for the most affordable premium chocolates, take a look at Baron.

All chocolates are made with natural ingredients, GMO-free and certified kosher by Triangle K.

The company makes a larger variety of products than these, but for starters, here’s what most people would like to find under the tree (or on the table or anywhere else).
 
PREMIUM CHOCOLATE BARS

Plain or fancy, there are small bars (1.76 ounces, 50g) and large bars (3.5 ounces, 100g). In addition to plain milk and dark chocolate, there are 8 specialty flavors:

  • Milk Chocolate (1.75 or 3.5 ounces)
  • Milk Chocolate With Almonds (1.75 or 3.5 ounces)
  • Milk with Sea Salt Caramel (1.75 or 3.5 ounces)
  • Milk Chocolate With Toffee Crunch (1.75 ounces)
  • 50% Dark With Orange & Almonds (1.75 or 3.5 ounces)
  • 50% Dark Chocolate with Raspberry Pieces (1.75 or 3.5 ounces)
  • 50% Dark With Sea Salt (1.75 or 3.5 ounces)
  • 70% Dark Chocolate (1.75 or 3.5 ounces)
  • 70% Dark Chocolate With Orange and Almonds (1.75 ounces)
  • 70% Dark Chocolate With Sea Salt (1.75 ounces)
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    PREMIUM CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

    The truffles are round balls filled with ganache, plain and flavored, in 5.25-ounce boxes (148 g).
    The are made in six flavors:

  • Dark Chocolate Truffles
  • Dark Chocolate Lava Cake Truffles
  • Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffles
  • Milk Caramel Brownie Truffles
  • Milk Chocolate Truffles
  • Milk Chocolate Truffles With Strawberry Cheesecake Fillings
  •  
    There are also seasonal limited-edition flavors.

    CHOCOLATE GUMMIES

    As gummi enthusiasts, our personal greatest delight are the milk chocolate-covered gummi bears and gummi worms.

    They’re so inexpensive, we bought stocking stuffers for everyone!

    Warning: addictive!

     
    WHERE TO BUY BARON CHOCOLATES

    Baron is sold at some 80,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada, and is also available online at Amazon and other e-tailers.

    Examples of pricing from Amazon:

  • 6 boxes of Milk Chocolate Truffles with Milk Chocolate Creme Filling, 5 ounces each, ($3.63/box) $21.79
  • 12 bars plain Milk Chocolate Bars, 1.76-ounces each, $27.19 ($2.27/bar)
  • 12 Dark Chocolate Bars, 3.5-ounces each, $39.12 ($3.26/bar)
  • 12 3-ounce packages Gummi Bears or Worms, $10.71 (89¢ each)
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    For chocolate gifting, these prices can’t be beat!

     
    ________________
    *Private label goods are those made by a manufacturer for a client’s brand name. For example, the foods sold under the Williams-Sonoma brand are manufactured for them by other companies.

     
      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Just Spices, Extra-Fresh Spice Blends

    Usually THE NIBBLE doesn’t review spices, salad dressings and other categories where it’s difficult to describe the differences or superiority of one brand over another.

    After all, if you tried garlic powder from three different producers, what would you say? Once the garlic is cooked in the recipe, any brand will taste good.

    But when we met up with Just Spices, and the contents were so fresh, beautiful and aromatic (see photo #1) that we couldn’t resist them, both for our own kitchen and as stocking stuffers.

    There’s something for everyone on our list—not just spices, but herbs, too:

  • BBQ Popcorn Seasoning
  • BBQ Seasoning
  • Extra Spicy Seasoning
  • Flavors Of Italy
  • Flavors Of Mexico
  • Guacamole Seasoning
  • Hickory Rub
  • Murray River Salt (beautiful apricot-hued crystals)
  • Oatmeal Spice Blend
  • Pancake Blend
  • Pizza Seasoning
  • Pork Rub
  • Savory Eggs Blend
  • Seafood Rub
  • Smoothie Boost
  • Spicy Garlic Blend
  • Spicy Popcorn Seasoning
  • Steak Rub
  • Sweet Potato Seasoning
  • Tellicherry Pepper
  • Texas BBQ Dip
  • Vegetable Broth Seasoning
  •  

    Just Spices Savory Eggs Blend

    Just Spices BBQ Popcorn Seasoning

    Just Spices Gift Box

    [1] Savory Eggs Blend, a beautiful selection of aromas, flavors and colors. [2] There are two popcorn seasoning blends: BBQ and Spicy. [3] Give individual spices or a box of six Kitchen Essentials (all photos courtesy Just Spices).

     
    Prices range from $5.49 to $6.99.

    A Kitchen Essentials gift box of six spices is $34.49, and includes BBQ Seasoning, Flavors of Italy, Murray River Salt, Spicy Garlic Seasoning, Tellicherry Pepper and Vegetable Broth Seasoning.
     
    WHAT TO GIVE

    We’re giving Oatmeal Spice Blend to our oatmeal-eating friends, BBQ and Spicy Popcorn Seasonings to our popcorn-popping friends, Spicy Garlic Blend to our garlic-loving friends, and so on.

    Just scan the list above to pick what will be loved by your family, friends and colleagues (and don’t forget to buy your own).

    The bright, hip packaging is terrific: “a gift waiting to happen” we thought, the first time we saw them. The color and aroma of the contents are unmatched by other brands we’ve purchased.

    In fact, the brand was started by three college friends who couldn’t find what they wanted at the supermarket.

    Take advantage of their inspiration and travels around the world to buy from the best small growers. Because they buy and produce in small batches, the spices are so vibrant and fragrant, we spent quite some time inhaling each one.
     
    Order yours at JustSpices.com.

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Gingerbread Scone Mix

    November 21st is National Gingerbread Day…and also a reminder that it’s easy to make gingerbread scones with a $6.95 gourmet boxed mix from King Arthur Flour.

    We typically give small gifts to our Thanksgiving guests, and last year it was these scone mixes (this year it’s the Gingerbread Cake and Cookie Mix).

    The one-pound box makes 8 to 16 scones, depending on size. The mix is certified kosher by CRC.

    They’re whole grain, too, made with white whole wheat flour.

    The mix is certified kosher by CRC.

    The 1-pound box of mix makes 8 to 16 scones, depending on how you portion them.

    And you can use it to make gingerbread loaf, coffeecake, muffins, pancakes and shortcake.

    Get yours at KingArthurFlour.com.

    THE HISTORY OF GINGER

    Since ancient times, the Chinese and Indians used ginger root as medicine. Ginger originated in the tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia.

    By the first century, it had been introduced in the Mediterranean via India and became a popular spice in Rome. It fell from use with the fall of the Roman Empire fell, to return during medieval times as a spice for baked goods and other sweets.

    Ginger has been traded throughout history longer than most other spices. It was valued for its medicinal merits: it is a popular warming spice, a digestive aid, and sometimes used to treat flatulence and colic. Today, ginger is easily accessible in local grocery stores and throughout markets, but back in the 14th century it cost about the same amount as a live sheep or piece of livestock!

    Used as a medicine in medieval times, ginger became a popular holiday spice (it was too pricey to use year-round), most famously in gingerbread cookies.

    In 11th century northern European countries, it was used to flavor buttermilk drinks and over the next two centuries became used in cooking meats and in ginger pastes.

    During the 13th and 14th centuries, Arabs traders voyaging to Africa and Zanzibar planted the rhizomes, spreading the cultivation of the plant.

    Many ginger-flavored baked goods have evolved since then, from muffins to cakes. Today, we offer this recipe from King Arthur Flour for gingerbread scones: perfect weekend breakfast and brunch fare throughout the holiday season.

    THE HISTORY OF SCONES

    You may have heard two different pronunciations for “scone.” The word is pronounced “skahn” in Scotland and Northern England (rhymes with gone) and “skoan” in the south of England (rhymes with own), the pronunciation adopted by the U.S. and Canada.

    Which is the authentic one? They both are!

    Scones are traditionally connected with Scotland, Ireland and England, but exactly who deserves the honor of invention, no one knows for sure.

    Scones may well have originated in Scotland. The first known print reference, in 1513, is from a Scottish poet. However, in earlier eras, when communications were more limited, the creation of an actual item can have predated the first appearance of printed references by many years.

    Centuries ago, there weren’t newspapers that reported on the minutiae of life the way modern news sources do. There were no food columns in the local papers announcing that “McTavish Bakery has created a new griddle-fried oatcake called a scone—now available at 3 Sheepshead Lane.”

    In fact, there were few newspapers. Much of the population was not literate. So culinary historians rely on cookbooks and mentions in literature and other printed records. Given the perishability of paper, it is logical that many first-printed mentions of foods and other items may not have survived.

    What About The Name?

    One claim, probably not the best, says that scones are named for the Stone of Destiny at the Abbey Of Scone, a town upriver from Perth.

     

    Gingerbread Scones

    Gingerbread Scones

    Gingerbread Scone Mix

    Ginger Root

    Scone Pan

    [1] Triangle scones with icing. [2] Round scones with sparkling sugar. [3] Scones, pancakes, muffins and more come from one box of mix (all photos courtesy King Arthur Flour). [4] Ginger root (photo by Jan Schöne | SXC). [5] Long before baking pans were invented, scone dough was shaped into a round, cooked on a baking stone and cut into wedges. Modern bakers can use scone pans like this one from King Arthur Flour/

     
    It is a stone bench upon which Scottish kings once sat when they were crowned. The original was long ago removed to Westminster Abbey, and a replica stone stands in its place.

    Others say that the word derives from the Gaelic “sgonn” (rhymes with gone), a shapeless mass or large mouthful; the Dutch “schoonbrot,” fine white bread; and the closely-related German “sconbrot,” fine or beautiful bread. The Oxford English Dictionary favors the latter two.

    What About The Shape?

    Scones are related to the ancient Welsh tradition of cooking small round yeast cakes (leavened breads) on bakestones, and later on griddles. Long before the advent of baking pans, the dough—originally made with oats—was hand-shaped into a clarge round, scored into four or six wedges (triangles) and griddle-baked over an open fire.

    With the advent of stovetop and oven baking, the round of dough was cut into wedges and the scones were baked individually.

    Today’s scones are quick breads, similar to American biscuits. They are traditionally made with wheat flour, sugar, baking powder or baking soda, butter, milk and eggs, and baked in the oven—both in the traditional wedge form and in round, square and diamond shapes. This recipe produces a hard, dry texture.

    Traditional English scones may include raisins or currants, but are often plain, relying on jam, preserves, lemon curd or honey for added flavor—perhaps with a touch of clotted cream.

    Fancy scones—with dried fruit such as cranberries and dates, nuts, orange rind, chocolate morsels and other flavorings—are best enjoyed without butter and jam.

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Fine Teas From Steven Smith Teamaker

    Steven Smith Chamomile Tea

    Steven Smith Teas

    Steven Smith Lord Bergamot Tea

    [1] A calming herbal blend. [2] The selection of black, green, herbal and white teas will please everyone. [3] Lord Bergamot, the company’s version of Earl Gre;, powerfully blended (all photos courtesy Steven Smith Teamaker).

     

    Steven Smith of Portland, Oregon was* tea royalty in the U.S., first as co-founder of Stash, then as founder of Tazo, then as co-founder, with wife Kim, of Steven Smith Teamaker.

    Steve not only had the expertise; he had the commitment to seeking out the best, and the palate to know the best. When he started his eponymous label, his curated teas were noticeably superior to other “superior” tea brands.

    The company’s staff travels the globe to to personally select the finest small-batch teas and botanicals. They buy from longtime colleagues in the world’s best tea-growing regions in Africa, India, China and Sri Lanka.

    We drink a lot of tea, and try every brand that comes our way. There are many “artisan teas” that arrive in beautiful packaging, but trust us: Steven Smith’s teas are the best we can remember having. While the shape of the sachets (tea bags) and tins of loose tea looks familiar, the artistry inside is unique. For example:

  • Assam is big and malty black tea, blended by Smith with a bit of smoky Keemun.
  • Lord Bergamot is an “upgrade” of Earl Grey tea that combines Ceylon and Assam teas with the bergamot oil from Reggio Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot.
  • Meadow blends chamomile flowers with hyssop, linden flowers, rooibos and rose petals—a memorable herbal infusion.
  • Rose City† Genmaicha, our favorite green tea, grassy with the light, nutty flavor of roasted rice. Here, the unique touch is a bit of rose petal and manuka honey.
  •  
    Prices vary based on the cost of the ingredients, but an example with Lord Bergamot:

  • 2 ounce package of loose tea (for stocking stuffers), $5.50
  • 4-ounce packs $10.00
  • Loose tea tins $11.99
  • Box of 15 sachets, $11.99
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    Steven Smith Teamaker teas are all natural, gluten free, GMO free. The bags are compostable.

    Each container has a batch number that you can enter to see the provenance of the ingredients, the date it was packed, and personal notes from the tea blender.

    SPECIAL HOLIDAY BLENDS

    Celebrate the season with:

  • Silent Night herbal blend won’t keep you up at night. The caffeine free ingredients include locally-grown peppermint and sweet blackberry leaves accented with cassia (cinnamon), ginger root, sarsaparilla and sweet licorice root.
  • Morning Light black tea blend combines high-grown Ceylons, caramelized North Indian Assam, wild rosemary and a pinch of Northwest Douglas Fir needles. Oh Tannenbaum! (Check out this version, sung in English by Aretha Franklin.)
  •  
    Each tin is $14.99.

    There are dozens of teas, each totally wonderful with or without milk and sugar, along with:

  • Gift Sets: Chocolate Peppermint Latte or Creme Caramel Latte Kit, $25.00, are just two of the gift sets that any tea lover will be happy to receive. Check out the gift sets.
  • Franklin.)
     
    Custom-label tins are available for wedding parties, in blends customized to the couple’s preferences.
     
    HEAD TO SMITHTEA.COM TO BEGIN YOUR TEA ADVENTURE.

    If you’re in the Portland area, stop by the tasting room for a cup or two.

    WANT TO EXPAND YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF TEA?

    Check out our Tea Glossary.

     
    ________________
    *Mr. Smith passed away last year.

    †Portland is called the Rose City for its proliferation of roses. The climate is ideal for growing roses outdoors: warm, dry summers, rainy and mild winters, plus heavy clay soils.

      

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    GIFTS OF THE DAY: Rum Cake, Espresso Cake, Bundt Cake, Gift Cake

    Rum Cake

    Espresso Bundt Cake

    Espresso Bundt Cake

    [1] Divine rum cakes in 6 flavors from Rum Sisters. [2] This expresso cake from 1812 House: a coffee lover’s dream cake. [3] A duo of small espresso bundt cakes with caramel sauce.

     

    GIFT #1: RUM SISTERS, RUM CAKES & MORE

    We’ve tried lots of rum cake. But the Rum Sisters make the best we’ve tried in recent memory.

    The business was begun by two friends who shared a love of baking, cake and alcohol.

    Not to mention the skills to make truly great whiskey-infused cakes.

    Not to mention the premium ingredients, including fine rum, bourbon, Irish whiskey and Kahlúa.

    These rum cakes are so good, we ate the whole sampler box—6 mini bundts-in two days. When there was not a crumb left, we cried plaintively: More! More!

    There’s a tempting selection:

  • Bushwacker: Named after the coastal frozen drink, this rum cake has a delicious infusion of coconut and chocolate..
  • Drunken Monkey: Touted as “the best banana bread ever,” this cake is infused with bourbon.
  • Keel Over: This version of a classic rum cake is infused with dark rum.
  • Spice It Up: Think of the carrot cake with raisin and spiced rum.
  • The Big “O”: Aged Irish Whiskey and Irish Cream distinguish combine in this special flavor.
  • Twisted Sista: This dark chocolate cake is infused with Kahlúa and finished with white chocolate rum, a “twisted” medley of flavors.
  • Gluten Free Cakes: Keel Over and Twisted Sista are both made in GF versions.
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    Cakes are $25 (small) and $50 (large). Get acquainted with all six flavors in the Sumptuous Sampler of mini bundts, $30. (Regular folks might split one with a cup of tea, or eat half at a time.)

    Head to RumSisters.com.
     
    GIFT #2: ESPRESSO CAKE FOR COFFEE LOVERS

    Matthews 1812 House is a second-generation family business. The Matthews family started in 1979 in the family farmhouse in Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut (the house was built in 1812).

    From a line of two fruitcakes, “baking racks in the hallways and people sorting apricots and pecans on the dining room table,” the company now has a dedicated facility a mile away, and a full line of specialty cakes into cookies, bars, and other sweet treats.

     
    The flavor we haven’t seen before is the Espresso Bundt Cake. If a cup of espresso can be transformed into a cake, this is it.

    The moist cake has a bold coffee flavor, a hint of cinnamon, and less sugar than most bundt cakes. That’s why you can easily add caramel sauce, ice cream or whipped cream.

    A large bundt cake is $29.00; two mini-bundts, called Duo Cakes, $15.00, are packaged with espresso caramel sauce that fits nicely in the top wells.

    Order at 1812House.com.

      

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