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TIP OF THE DAY: Cheese Spreads, Cheese Condiments

Fig Spread With Cheese

Bonne Maman Fig Spread

Top: Crostini with Brie, Serrano ham and Fig Spread (photo courtesy Favor The Moments). Bottom: Enjoy trying the different spreads with different cheeses (photo courtesy Bonne Maman).

 

What’s a cheese condiment? What’s a cheese spread? you may ask. Here’s the food nerd explanation:

  • Cheese spread is one of the sweet cheese condiments.
  • A condiment is an auxiliary food product that adds flavor to another food.
  • “Condiment” is first found in print in French around 1420, and derives from the Latin condimentum, spice.
  • Mankind has been enjoying condiments for much longer, even before the dukkah of ancient Egypt the ancient Romans’ beloved fish sauce, garum.
  •  
    Chutney, ketchup, mustard and pickle relish are examples of condiments that enhance burgers and franks. Although you may not think of them as such, fudge sauce, marshmallow cream and whipped cream are ice cream condiments.

    Given America’s growing familiarity with fine cheeses, here’s an…

    INTRODUCTION TO CHEESE CONDIMENTS

    What is the difference between a mostarda and a mustard? Why would you put honey on cheese? Can you use the same condiments on a log of fresh goat cheese and an aged Gouda?

    Cheeses are wonderful on their own, but cheese condiments can bring out their nuances. Similar to wine pairings, the flavor and age of the cheese are taken into account when deciding on pairings.

    We have an elaborate chart of cheese condiment pairings, from aged balsamic and mustard to sweet condiments such as chutney, honey and preserves.

    Cheeses served with sweet condiments make delicious appetizers, desserts and snacks.

    Take a look at the newest cheese condiments in town: three fruit spreads from premium jam, jelly and preserves company, Bonne Maman. They are all natural, non-GMO and certified kosher by OU.

     
    MEET THE NEW CHEESE SPREADS FROM BONNE MAMAN

    First, a word about “spreads.”

    There are different types of fruit spreads, including chutney, jam, jelly, preserve and others.

    Aside from the jam and jelly group, some people hear “cheese spread” and think of like Port Wine Cheddar. Not here.

    As regards jam, in the U.S., “fruit spread” is generally a reduced-calorie product, replacing all or part of the sugar with fruit juice concentrate and low-calorie sweeteners. Not the case with Bonne Maman.

    The new spreads from Bonne Mamam are very thick and concentrated preserves that don’t run or dribble: They stand firm, enabling you to use them in more ways. The flavor, too, is more intense—glorious, in fact. It was all we could do not to eat them directly from the jar. (Well, maybe we did.)

    The best pairings are the ones you like. We’ve made some suggestions, but let your palate be your guide.

     

    Black Cherry Spread Cheese Pairings

    Tart cherries pair well with both sharp and creamy cheeses. We pair it with goat cheese, Brie and Camenbert.
     
    Purple Fig Spread Cheese Pairings

    This one is easy: Fig pairs well with all types of cheese.
     
    Quince Spread Cheese Pairings

    For centuries, membrillo, quince paste, has been the classic condiment for aged Spanish cheeses. Cabrales and Manchego are most often found in the U.S., but your cheesemonger may also have Idiazabal, Roncal, Zamorano and others. Italy’s Parmigiano-Reggiano, with nuances similar to Manchego, pairs well; so does aged provolone. The nutty Swiss mountain cheeses are also a match: Appenzeller, Emmental (with the big holes called eyes), Gruyère* and French Comté.
     
    NEXT STEPS

    Plan a cheese tasting with fruit spreads and other condiments. Your family and friends will love it!

    As of this writing, you can download a $2 coupon on the Bonne Maman website.
     
    PARTY FAVORS

    Looking for small Mother’s Day gifts or party favors? Jet.com is currently selling a six-pack with free shipping.

    The spreads are also available at retailers nationwide.

     

    Quince Spread

    Bonne Maman Purple Fig Cheese Spread

    Top: Quince Spread atop a pyramid-shaped cheese (photo courtesy Taylor Takes A Taste). Bottom: A jar of Purple Fig Spread (photo courtesy Jet.com).

     
    ______________________________
    *Switzerland has produced Gruyère for hundreds of years, but after an appeal to the EU, France was also allowed to use the name. French Gruyère must be made with tiny eyes—“between the size of a pea and a cherry”—to distinguish it from the original.

      

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    PRODUCT: Boulder Canyon Potato Chips With Healthier Oils

    March 14th was National Potato Chip Day, a good time to focus on what’s new in chips. We spent the day tasting Boulder Canyon chips fried in 100% better-for-you oils: avocado oil, coconut oil and olive oil:

  • Avocado Oil Chips: Canyon Cut, Jalapeno, Malt Vinegar & Sea Salt, Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper
  • Coconut Oil Chips: Kettle Chips, Sea Salt
  • Olive Oil Chips: Canyon Cut,
  •  
    They are variously made in standard cut kettle chips or “Canyon Cut,” with ridges. The potato chips are thicker (less breakage), very crisp, much less greasy and lower in sodium. We couldn’t stop crunching away.

    Find a retailer near you.

     
    ABOUT THE OILS

    Mass-market brands use different oils to fry their chips: canola, corn, cottonseed, sunflower or soybean oil, depending on price and availability. These are O.K., but are not better-for-you oils.

  • If you care about genetically modified foods, be aware that canola, corn, cottonseed and soybean oils are often made from them.
  • Sunflower oil is rich in vitamin E antioxidants, but it’s also high in inflammatory compounds.
  •  
    On the other hand, avocado, coconut and olive oils are among the healthiest oils you can use.

    Yes, some of Boulder Canyon’s other chips use sunflower and/or safflower oil, but the new specialty oil chips are for consumers who care about the difference.

    The entire Boulder Canyon line is:

  • Certified gluten free
  • Non GMO
  • No MSG
  • No Trans Fat
  • Certified Kosher (by OK)
  • No Cholesterol
  • Low Sodium
  • Vegan
  •  

    Boulder Canyon Olive Oil Chips

    Boulder Canyon Coconut Oil Chips

    Olive oil and coconut oil, two of the three better for you oils used by Boulder Canyon potato chips. Photos courtesy Boulder Canyon Authentic Foods.

     

    ABOUT BOULDER CANYON FOODS

    Since its inception in 1994, Boulder Canyon Authentic Foods has focused on premium snacks sold through the natural foods channel, where consumers were looking healthier alternatives to traditional snacks.

    The ingredients are top quality, non-GMO and minimally processed. The chips are cooked in small batches, in kettles instead of mammoth factory vats.

    A good community citizen, the company offsets 100% of its energy usage with Renewable Energy Credits. The purchase prevents as many as 3,421,989 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere annually.

    The company also participates in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, with a certification audit that the corrugated cardboard packaging used to transport and store products meets the standards of the Initiative.

    Here’s more about Boulder Canyon Foods.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Curate Snack Bars

    America doesn’t need another “good for you” snack bar. The $6.2 billion U.S. snack market is plenty crowded as it is. The Curate brand’s research turned up more than 1,000 varieties of snack bars.

    But when you taste Curate, you’ll be delighted that management decided to enter the premium snack bar market.

    The brand took a chef’s approach to developing recipes, testing combinations of ingredients that are both nutrient-dense and luscious, with a bonus of eye appeal.

    All-natural, gluten free, non-GMO, soy free and lightly sweetened, the bars contain 4 to 7 grams of protein and are a good source of plant-based fiber.

    Each bar comprises some six ingredients including quinoa supergrain, omega 3-packed seeds, a fruit and a nut. They’re non-GMO and gluten-free.

    Each of the first six flavors out of the gate is equally tempting, depending on whether your temptation is chocolate or a fruit profile:

  • Dark & Tempting Balsamic Fig & Hazelnut: balsamic vinegar, hazelnuts, Mission figs, orange zest, quinoa, sunflower kernels
  • Harmonious Blend Marcona Almond & Apricot: apricot, balsamic vinegar, honey, lemon, Marcona almonds, quinoa
  • Indulgent Dark Chocolate & Hazelnuts: almond butter, dark chocolate, hazelnuts, quinoa, sea salt, vanilla
  • Irresistible Dark Chocolate Strawberries & Pistachios: almond butter, dark chocolate, pistachios, quinoa, strawberries, toasted oats
  • Salted Decadence Dark Chocolate & Almonds: almond butter, dark chocolate, hemp, Marcona almonds, quinoa, sea salt
  • Sweet & Tart Berry Bliss: almonds, blackberries, blueberries, chia, cranberries, flaxseed, quinoa, raspberries
  •  
    The line is certified kosher by OU.

    More products are in the works, including bars designed for kids, with plans to extend the offerings with other better-for-you snacks.
     
    You can buy the bars at retail (here’s the store locator) or online on Amazon.com, Soap.com and Target.com.

     
    WHO MAKES CURATE SNACK BARS

    Curate bars are made by Abbott Laboratories, a $20+ billion global company that makes healthcare products as well as nutritional products: from Glucerna, PediaSure and Similac to as Zone Nutrition Bars and EAS Sports Nutrition.

    The company decided to further its nutrition heritage with a consumer snack brand. A new division, Curate Snacks, was born.

    As big as the snack category is, the company feels that the opportunity for delicious, nutritious snacks has “tremendous” potential.

    Take a bite, and you’ll discover why.

    Learn more at CurateSnacks.com.

     

    Curate Dark & Tempting Bar

    Curate Indulgent Bar

    Curate Irresistible Bar

    Curate bars in three of the six flavors: Dark & Tempting Bar, Indulgent Bar and Irresistible Bar. Photos courtesy Curate Snacks.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Shpickles Pickled Vegetables, Shmolives Pickled Olives

    Last summer, when scouting a Brooklyn food festival, we came across Shpickles, Shmolives and Shnuts. They’re made by hand by a mom-and-son company called Brooklyn Whatever.

    Mom, a social worker and son, a chef, started a family business to add more flavor to pickles, olives and nuts. The result: unique, assertively spiced, better-for-you snacks, garnishes, or for a relish tray.

    Or for gifts. We can’t think of a better house gift for hosts, combining flavor and fun. Shpickles and Shmolives will be our go-to house gifts for the forseable future.

    The line is all natural and certified kosher by Rabbi Dovid Chaoi. Shpickles and Shmolives are free of dairy, gluten, soy, sugar and wheat, making them vegan as well.
     
    SHPICKLES: PICKLED VEGETABLES

    Other companies make great pickle cucumbers. Brooklyn Whatever has started out with other pickled vegetables:

  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower & Beets
  • Jalapeño Peppers
  • Kale Slaw
  • Okra
  • String Beans
  •  
    We can’t choose favorites here: We like them all. And we feel so good about eating them: So much flavor, so few calories.
     
    SHMOLIVES: SPICED OLIVES

    Shmolives is a blend of seven different olives, marinated in a “secret mix” of herbs and spices that adhere to the olives, giving you a mouthful of zing with each bite.

    Made by hand in small batches “the old way”—stirring to coat the olives with wood spoons—they are a must for any olive lover.
     
    SHNUTS: SPICED NUTS

    Shnuts are a mix of almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans and walnuts—no peanuts.

    They’re sweet and savory: herbs and spices with a touch of brown sugar. Made with all natural ingredients, filled with “good fat,” a handful is a healthful snack.

    HEALTH NOTES: The USDA-approved heart-healthy nuts are almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. These nuts contain less than 4g of saturated fats per 50g. Walnuts have the highest amount of the heart-healthy alpha linolenic acid, which many studies show lowers total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) levels.

    As with Shpickles and Shmolives, Shnuts are prepared by hand, roasted twice and flavored to perfection: the perfect “shnack.”

     

    Shpickles Brussels Sprouts

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    A sampling of Shpickles: Brussels Sprouts, Carrots and Cauliflower & Beets.

     
    Shpickles are $10 per 15-ounce jar, Shmolives are $15 per 15-ounce jar. Shnuts are not yet on the website, but should be there soon.

    Get yours at BrooklynWhatever.com.

    Plan ahead for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifting.

    Not to mention green gifting for St. Patrick’s Day, with Shpickles Brussels Sprouts, Jalapeños, Kale Slaw, Okra and String Beans.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Raincoast Crisps, Crackers That Have It All

    For holidays, we always spring for special crackers. We have our year-round go-to favorites, but a special occasion deserves special crackers with the hors d’oeuvre, soup and cheese courses.

    Raincoast Crisps is one of the finest cracker lines made.

    Lesley Stowe spent years as a caterer before the demand for her crisps grew so great, she realized there was a different opportunity to pursue. She went into the crisps business full-time.

    Perfect for antipasto, dips, cheeses, pâtés or eating by themselves, these crisps are a perfection of flavor, texture and eye appeal. They’re packed with seeds (flax, pumpkin, sesame), nuts, fruits and herbs.

    There are now six year-round flavors and a pumpkin edition for the holidays.

    These small batch crackers* are made from scratch, using the finest-quality, all non-GMO ingredients. While Lesley could make them flat naturally, she creates a slight curve in the crisp to make them even more special (and great for dipping).

    Much time was spent in the development of Raincoast Crisps. There’s a lot of hand labor required to get them just so. As a result, they’re pricier† than production-line crackers. But as a splurge, don’t hesitate to spend your money on them; they’re worth it. The products are certified kosher by OU.
     
    *In the U.K. and Canada, crisps are something small and crunchy. Potato chips are called potato crisps.

    †We have seen them for $7.99 to $11.99 for a 170 g (6-ounce) box, depending on the retailer.
     
    THE GLORIOUS RAINCOAST CRISPS AND IDEAS FOR
    PAIRINGS

    As a caterer, Ms. Stowe had the experience to develop cracker flavors to pair with popular nibbles. Her choices follow, although your own preferences should guide your way.

    Original Raincoast Crisps

    With four types of seeds—no nuts, no fruits—this savory crisp is match anything, but Lesley favors it with:

  • Cheese: Boursin, Brie, Gruyère, Washed Rind Cheeses
  • Charcuterie: Bruschetta, Creamy Pâtés, Smoked Salmon
  • Wine: Champagne, Chardonnay, Zinfandel
  • Beer: Lager, Guinness, Wheat Beers
  •    

    Raincoast Crisps With Ham

    Raincoast Crisps Flavors

    TOP PHOTO: Use Raincoast Crisps as the base for canapés. BOTTOM PHOTO: The flavors and textures of Raincoast Crisps. Photos courtesy Lesley Stowe.

     
    Cranberry Hazelnut Crisps

    This sweet and fruity crisp, with plump cranberries and toasty hazelnuts, is a natural with:

  • Cheese: Brie, Emmental, Aged Cheddar, St. André or other triple crème
  • Charcuterie: Salami, Smoked Turkey
  • Wine: Cabernet/Bordeaux, Pinot Noir/Red Burgundy, Zinfandel
  • Beer: Grolsh, Pale Ale
  •  
    Fig & Olive Crisps

    Pair this savory and salty crisp, made with Adriatic figs and Kalamata olives (no nuts), with:

  • Cheese: Brie/Camembert, Brilliat Savarin or other triple crème, Chèvre
  • Charcuterie: Capicollo, Tapenade
  • Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
  • Beer: Indian Pale Ale, Pilsner
  •  

    Rosemary Raisin Pecan Rainbow Crisps

    Raincoast Crisps With Muffuletta Spread

    TOP PHOTO: Rosemary Raisin Pecan crisps
    with blue cheese. BOTTOM PHOTO: The
    filling of a New Orleans mufffuletta sandwich
    is turned into a dip. Here’s the recipe. Photos
    courtesy Lesley Stowe.

     

    Rosemary Raisin Pecan Crisps

    Try this sweet and savory crisp, balancing sweet Thompson raisins with pecans and fresh rosemary, with:

  • Cheese: Brie, Chèvre, Mild Blues
  • Charcuterie: Salami, Muffuletta
  • Wine: Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux Reds
  • Beer: Cream Ale, Blonde Ale, Pale Ale
  •  
    While you’re at it, check out Lesley’s recipe for Caramelized Onion & Blue Cheese Dip. We couldn’t get enough of it.
     
    Salty Date and Almond Crisps

    Made at the request of customers for a saltier crisp, this combination of dates and almonds is topped with a dusting of coarse sea salt. Try it with:

  • Cheese: Havarti, Port Salut, Smoked Applewood Cheddar
  • Charcuterie: Country Pâté, Prosciutto
  • Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti, Zinfadel,
  • Beer: Honey Brown Ale, Pale Ale
  •  
    There are also two flavors exclusive to Whole Foods Markets: Apricot Fig & Lemon Crisps and the seasonal Pumpkin & Spice Crisps.
     
    WHEAT-FREE, NUT-FREE CRISPS

    So that more people can relish the crisps, there’s a wheat- and nut-free line made with oats, in:

  • Cranberry: Pair with Brie, fresh goat cheese or a triple crème; and/or prosciutto
  • Oat and Seed: Pair with blue cheese (softer is better), hummus, salami
  • Rosemary Raisin: Great with any cheese or dip
  •  
    WHERE TO FIND THEM

    There’s a store locator on the website, and they are sold online at Dean & DeLuca, iGourmet and other specialty food sites.

    However, reading the reviews on Amazon raised an issue we need to point out. While almost every comment called them the “best crackers ever” (while bemoaning the high price), the majority reported that the crackers arrived in crumbs, that the packaging wasn’t good for shipping.

    If you can’t find them or can’t afford them, several people have recreated their own copycat recipes—much to the chagrin of Ms. Stowe who spent so much effort developing them. (“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” she says.)

    We can’t think of a better holiday gift for a foodie—along with a fine piece of cheese.

    Learn more at LesleyStowe.com.

    Cranberry Raincoast Crisps
     
    Cranberry Hazelnut Crisps photo courtesy Dean & DeLuca.

      

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    GIFTS: Gourmet Food

    We taste thousands of products a year, and a few always stand out as “great for the holiday gift list.” Here’s the first of this year’s gourmet food gift lists. We also have a chocolate gift list, a stocking stuffer gift list, and others to come (spirits, food books and more).

    CARNIVORE CLUB: THE BEST ARTISAN MEATS

    For foodies or meat lovers, Carnivore Club finds the most exceptional cured meats and packages them a gift box with an introduction to the artisan and ways to serve the items. The club delivery can be monthly, quarterly, bi-annually or just once.

    Each box has 4-6 selections of handcrafted meat, a total weight of approximately 18 to 28 ounces. Past selections have included meats as varied as biltong, duck breast prosciutto, Iberico ham, ‘nduja, water buffalo braesola and wild boar sausage.

    Products are curated by a team of meat lovers dedicated to “finding the greatest artisans on the planet, and sharing their best creations with our members.”

    Satisfy someone’s inner carnivore at CarnivoreClub.co (yes, it’s co, not com).
     
     
    DEAN’S SWEETS: CHOCOLATE CHRISTMAS TREES

    Dean Bingham gets credit for the most creative chocolate Christmas trees this year: hand-stacked blocks of 70% cacao dark chocolate or 32% cacao milk chocolate that create the tree. The nonpareils add a Christmas lights effect.

    The artisan chocolates are all natural and are made in a nut-free facility. The large tree is 5.5” tall x 5.5” wide at the base (1 pound, 7 ounces of chocolate) is $29.50; small tree is 3.5” tall x 3.5” wide (7.5 ounces of chocolate, $17.50).

    Get your tree(s) at DeansSweets.com.
     
     
    E-CREAMERY: PERSONALIZED ICE CREAM PINTS

    eCreamery sells top quality artisan ice cream; but the real differentiator is the ability to create custom labels for each individual pints. Sure, you can leave the flavor as the title on the pint, e.g. Banana Toffee Praline Crunch or Chipotle Maple Bacon Ice Cream.

    But you can also personalize it: Peace & Joy From The Hofstadter Family, Amy & Sheldon’s Holiday Cheer, and so on. There are:

  • Nine holiday flavors, including the two previously mentioned plus Candy Cane Swirl, Gingerbread Cookie Swirl and others.
  • Twenty year-round flavors—the basics plus Chocolate Cake & Brownie Bites, Chocolate Malt Ball and Sea Salt Caramel.
  • There are five sorbets that are dairy free and vegan.
  •  
    Including overnight shipping in ice, four pints are $84.99, eight pints are $139.99 at eCreamery.com. BUT WAIT: There’s a savings of $15 off plus free shipping with code SweetNY15, through January 31, 2016 (shipped to one address).

    It still may be the most expensive ice cream you’ve ever bought, but it also will be among the most memorable.
     
     
    4505 MEATS: BACON-LACED HOT DOGS

    There are many recipes that call for wrapping a sausage with a strip of bacon. 4505 Meats of San Francisco saves you the trouble: Bacon is embedded in its hot dogs.

    These creative sausage makers have loaded uncured hot dogs with uncured bacon, a recipe guaranteed to wow. A 3-pound package of 16 dogs is $33.00 plus shipping at 4505Meats.com.

       

    Carnivore Club

    Chocolate Christmas Tree

    eCreamery Holiday Pints

    Bacon Hot Dogs  at 4505 Meats

    TOP PHOTO: A past box from Carnivore Club, featuring the charcuterie from Charlito’s Cocina. SECOND PHOTO: Chocolate Christmas tree from Dean’s Sweets. THIRD PHOTO: Bacon Hot Dogs from 4505 Meats. BOTTOM PHOTO: The finest ice cream with labels customized by you, from eCreamery.

     

     

    Robert Lambert White Fruitcake

    Savannah Bee Whipped Honey With Cinnamon

    Tonnino Ventresca Tuna

    Valrhona Hot Chocolate Mix

    TOP PHOTO: A deluxe fruitcake from Robert Lambert. SECOND PHOTO: Whipped Honey With Cinnamon From Savannah Bee. THIRD PHOTO: Tonnino’s Ventresca Tuna, made from sashimi-quality tuna loins. BOTTOM PHOTO: Valrhona Hot Chocolate at Sur La Table.

     

    ROBERT LAMBERT: ARTISAN FRUITCAKES

    Robert Lambert has long been a great food artisan, who uses the bounty of local California heirloom fruits and nuts to make his creations. He crafts our favorite fruitcakes, pricey but worth it, orchestrating a memorable symphony of flavors unlike anything you’ve ever imagined.

    There’s a white fruitcake and a dark fruitcake; the difference is the mix of hand-candied luxury fruits and the spirits.

  • White Artisan Fruitcake has light-colored fruits: golden raisins, candied bergamot, coconuy, Rangpur lime, Meyer lemon peel, blood orange peel, Buddha’s hand citron and candied young ginger all contribute. Nuts include almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans and walnuts. Each cake is soaked in the fine French cognac, infused with herbs and spices, topped with a California bay leaf and candied white grapefruit peel star.
  • Dark Artisan Fruitcake has dark fruits: dates, prunes and dark raisins, hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts. The cake has a touch of molasses and brown sugar, the spices are cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. The cake is soaked in his favorite 10-year-old Ficklin port.
  •  
    The one pound fruitcakes are $55 each, or any two in a gift tin for $100, at RobertLambert.com.
     
    SAVANNAH BEE: ARTISAN HONEY

    Our favorite honey producer, Savannah Bee spins together crystallized honey and aromatic cinnamon, forming an irresistible and spreadable Whipped Honey With Cinnamon. There are two sizes: a 12-ounce jar ($16.55) and a pair of two 3-ounce jars ($6.50).

    Another favorite holiday gift is Winter White Honey. From the Idaho Rockies, it is creamy, smooth and spreadable with natural finishing notes of cinnamon. This white-hued honey with a bright red label is available in the 12-ounce jars ($12.50) and two three-ounce minis ($12).

    For the honey connoisseur—or anyone with a refined palate—Sourwood Honey Gold Reserve is the honey gift. The sourwood trees in the Appalachian Mountains blossom only in “vintage” years, when there’s plentiful sun and rain.

    The flavor of sourwood honey is big and complex with hints of maple and spice. With a large jar, there’s enough to spare for basting grilled chicken or pork tenderloin, as well as lavish in tea and on pancakes. Sizes range from 3-ounce minis to 80-ounce jumbos, $12 to $92. The popular 12-ounce size is available with an optional pump—no dripping honey.

    For an even more special gift, the Sourwood Reserve packages 20 ounces of honey in an elegant tall flute and equally elegant packaging, $120. The company owner, one of the world’s great artisan honey experts, it “calls arguably the best in the world.”

     
    TONNINO: TOP QUALITY TUNA IN JARS

    Some people buy the best of everything. In the case of tuna, that’s Tonnino tuna, so lovely it’s packaged in a see-through jar.

    Our local gourmet stores sell it for $8 to $10 jar, but on Amazon it’s just $5.99. “Just $5.99” may still have sticker shock for those who wait for sales of supermarket brands for 99¢, but for gifting, think outside the can!

    The large fillets stand tall in jars, very different from what’s packed into cans. And the flavor must be tasted! Even our brother, who waits for the 99¢ sales, acknowledged as much. We now have solved the problem of what to get the tuna lover and the health-focused.

    Tonnino varieties include Tuna Fillets With Capers And Garlic In Olive Oil, With Garlic In Olive Oil, With Jalapeño In Olive Oil, With Lemon And Pepper In Olive Oil, With Oregano In Olive Oil, In Olive Oil (plain) and In Spring Water.

    The top of the line is Ventresca, “the royalty of our gourmet jarred tuna.” It’s hand filleted from a small section of the tuna’s underbelly (sushi eaters, think toro).

    Even the olive oil is delicious! A jar in every flavor is a special gift. See more at Tonnino.com.
     
     
    VALRHONA: GOURMET HOT CHOCOLATE

    The first hot chocolate mix from master chocolatier Valrhona, one of the world’s great chocolate producers and the name for fine chocolate in France. A perfect blend of the finest cocoa powder and dark chocolate chips, it makes a rich, chocolaty, marvelous cup of hot chocolate. Exclusively at Sur La Table, a 12-ounce tin red and silver tin is $21.95.

    You can package it with Peppermint Cocoa Stirrers and Marshmallow Snowman Beverage Topper marshmallows for a more elaborate gift. Or, go whole-hog with a set of Peppermint Stripe Mugs.

    Find it at SurLaTable.com. Orders over $59 ship free with code SHIPFREE.

      

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    GIFTS: Stocking Stuffers, Part 1

    For stocking stuffers, we look for special items around $10 (or less). Here’s the first bunch of gourmet foods we’d like to find in our stocking.

    ANNIE B’S CARAMELS

    In polka dot gift bags of 20 caramels, Annie B’s caramels are sure to please. The Signature Mix includes Butter Rum, Chocolate, Sea Salt and Original (vanilla) caramels. The Holiday Mix has Chocolate Raspberry, Peppermint and Pumpkin Spice caramels. The Chocolate Lovers Mix has Chocolate, Chocolate Sea Salt and Chocolate Raspberry.

    Each bag is $8. There are larger gift boxes and keepsake metal tins, $24. Get them at AnnieBsCandy.com.
     
    BAULI MINI PANETTONE OR PANDORO

    These sweet Italian Christmas breads now come in 3.5-ounce mini sizes—the equivalent of a breakfast pastry or a croissant. But what a pleasure biting into the little domed yeasty raisin bread (panettone) or sponge cake (pandoro)—we prefer the panettone. They’re $2.99 each at PiccolosGastronomia.com.

    If you want to give a full-size version, no one will be disappointed. It just won’t fit in the stocking. See the whole line at BauliUSA.com. The line is certified kosher by Star-D.
     
    GOURMET CHOCOLATE BARS

    Chocolate bars from two prestige producers are just right for stocking stuffers.

  • Cailler (kai-YAY) from Switzerland is very smooth and creamy milk chocolate. The Swiss invented milk chocolate, so you know it’s special. Choices include plain Rich and Creamy, plus Hazelnut, Almond Hazelnut and Cranberry and Almond Hazelnut and Raisin. Each bar is packaged in charming box-like wrapper.
     
    There are also dark chocolate bars and boxes of bonbons. Three individual bars are $13.50 at Amazon. For more information visit Cailler.com.us.
  • Chuao Chocolatier (chew-WOW) in California makes two holiday chocolate bars we love: Hope, Joy & Gingerbread in milk chocolate, and Peace, Love & Peppermint in dark chocolate. The 2.8-ounce bars are $6 at ChuaoChocolatier.com. We’ve got to stock up on enough Gingerbread to get us through until next year’s Christmas chocolate is produced.
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    THE MILL FUDGE FACTORY

    There’s lots of hand-crafted fudge around, but The Mill Fudge Factory gets it right: just sweet enough, not cloying. It’s melt-in-your-mouth moist, hand-cut and hand-dated for freshness.

    The company makes classic and inventive flavors. Choose from Belgian Chocolate, Chocolate Coconut, Chocolate Salted Caramel, Chocolate Raspberry, Chocolate Walnut, Natural Peanut Butter, Penuche and Pure New Hampshire Maple. Seasonal flavors include Cranberry Maple Nut, Eggnog, Holiday Mint and Pumpkin Pie.

    Want a hint of spirits? Scottish Whiskey fudge is made with with Johnny Walker Red. Cabin Fever Maple Whiskey Fudge is made with the whiskey declared the best flavored whiskey on the market. And Bailey’s Irish Cream Fudge is a perennial favorte.

    We loved every bite we tried of the regular fudge flavors. The sugar-free fudge was OK, but we could taste the erythriytol—we hope the company will consider re-formulating with maltitol (see the different types of non-nutritive sweeteners).

       

    Annie B's Caramels

    Bauli Mini Panettone

    Gingerbread Chocolate Bar

    Fudge With Whiskey

    TOP PHOTO: Annie B’s gift bag of caramels. SECOND PHOTO: A mini panettone from Bauli. THIRD PHOTO: Holiday chocolate bars from Chuao Chocolatier. BOTTOM PHOTO: The Mill Fudge Factory has conventional and “spirited” fudge.

     
    All confections are available in sampler gift boxes; half-pound portions are $10, one-pound is $18.00. There are more elaborate gift baskets, a four pound Fudge Sampler for $60 and a Fudge of the Month Club 3, 6 and 12 months, $14.99 or less per month. There’s free shipping on orders of $35 or more.

    Go for it at TheMillFudgeFactory.com.

     

    Quin Coffee Marshmallows

    Snowman Marshmallows

    Superseedz Pouches

    Topperfino Chocolate Mug Toppers

    TOP PHOTO: A foot of marshmallows from
    Quin Candy. SECOND PHOTO: A marsh-
    mallow snowman topper for hot chocolate or
    coffee, from Sur La Table. THIRD PHOTO:
    Three of the nine flavors of Superseedz.
    BOTTOM PHOTO: Topperfino chocolate mug
    toppers.

     

    QUIN “FOOT LONG” MARSHMALLOWS

    Quin’s melt-in-your-mouth marshmallows are different from any others. They’re made in foot-long lengths, then cut into thirds to fit into a stocking-worthy packet. In Coffee, Root Beer or Vanilla, they’re delicious, fun and $4 per bag (2.9 ounces) at QuinCandy.com.

    SUR LA TABLE SNOWMAN MARSHMALLOWS

    These adorable vanilla marshmallow discs with a snowman face are new and nifty. Individually wrapped in a perky square box, Frosty’s marshmallow face peers through a cut-out.

    Place one atop a cup of hot chocolate and it will melt into something even more delicious than it looks. The marshmallows work with coffee, too—especially flavored coffees like hazelnut and vanilla, or with a spritz of pumpkin spice syrup. We’ve used them to top chocolate teas, too.

    They’re $9.95 per box at SurLaTable.com.
     
    SUPERSEEDZ SEASONED PUMPKIN SEEDS

    SuperSeedz was a Top Pick Of The Week in 2007, and we’ve been superfanz ever since. Pumpkin seeds are a gift for anyone: vegan and cholesterol-free with 7g of complete, plant-based protein per serving. That means they contain the nine essential amino acids (more than peanuts, pistachios, almonds and chia seeds).

    They’re allergen friendly: dairy-free, egg-free, fish-free, peanut-free, shellfish-free, soy-free, tree nut-free and made with gluten-free ingredients. And they’re shell-free! SuperSeedz are dry-roasted in small batches, using a proprietary pan-roasting technique that bakes the seasoning right into each seed.
     
    Superseedz are currently available in nine flavors: Cinnamon & Sugar, Coco Joe, Curious Curry, Really Naked, Maple Sugar & Sea Salt, Sea Salt, Somewhat Spicy, Super Spicy and Tomato Italiano. Find them at food retailers across the U.S., including Safeway, Sprouts and Whole Foods Markets.

    They can also be purchased online at Superseedz.com. Two 1-ounce individual serving pouches are $3.99; a 5-ounce pouch is $4.99.
     
    TOPPERFINO CHOCOLATE MUG TOPPERS

    Our Top Pick Of The Week, Topperfino chocolate discs sit atop your hot chocolate or coffee, providing marvelous aroma before melting in to add Belgian chocolate to the cup.

    There are so many beautiful designs, in both dark and milk chocolate, that your biggest challenge will be deciding which design is perfect for which giftee. A box of 10 individually-wrapped discs is $13.99 at Topperfino.com.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: What To Do With Broken Chip Pieces

    What do you do with all the broken chips at the bottom of the bag? Toss them?

    Sure: We toss them right on top of plain Greek yogurt.

    Or atop a green salad.

    Or on top of mac and cheese or casseroles.

    We never let those little pieces chips die heedlessly. We use them as croutons.

    We use any chip pieces, plus cracker and pretzel pieces—anything crunchy. You can store all the crumbs in an airtight jar. A mix of crumbs will taste even better!

    If you have enough, pulse them to an even consistency and use them as breading for chicken and fish.
     
    TYPES OF CHIPS: CAN YOU ADD TO THIS LIST?

    Here’s the list of chips we’ve had. Can you add to it?

       

    Taco Chip Croutons

    Sweetgreen garnishes a green salad with tortilla chips. We use the broken chip pieces at the bottom of the bag. Photo courtesy Sweetgreen.

  • Bagel chips
  • Bean chips
  • Cassava/yucca chips
  • Chickpea chips
  • Corn chips*
  • Kale chips
  • Lentil chips
  • Naan chips
  • Pasta chips
  • Pita chips
  • Plantain chips
  • Potato and sweet potato chips
  • Rice chips
  • Soy crisps
  • Tortilla chips*/taco chips (and flavored tortilla chips)
  • Vegetable chips (e.g. beet, lotus root, yucca)
  •  
    *The main difference between the two types of chip is that a tortilla chip is cut from a whole tortilla, and a corn chip is made from corn meal.

     

    Maya Kaimal Naan Chips

    Stonefire Naan Bread

    TOP PHOTO: Maya Kaimal Naan Chips.
    BOTTOM PHOTO: Tandoori-cooked naan from
    Stonefire.

     

    A NEW KIND OF CHIP FROM MAYA KAIMAL

    The latest addition to our roster of chips are Naan Chips from Maya Kaimal Fine Indian Foods. Joining the company’s line of Chickpea Chips, they’re available nin Sea Salt, Rosemary and Almost Everything (onion, poppy and anise). You can find a store locator as well as e-tailers at MayaKaimal.com.

    One of the delectable family of Indian breads, naan (pronounced like the female name Nan) is a light, leavened bread, traditionally in a teardrop shape and cooked in a clay oven (see photo).

    The chips are baked in a proprietary flame-baked process meant to emulate a wood-fired tandoor oven. The process creates the signature blisters and bubbles of authentic naan flatbread (it took more than 40 tries to get it right).

    The toasty triangles are lighter and flakier than pita chips, and the seasonings are incorporated into the dough, not dusted on the surface.

    Enjoy them with guacamole, hummus or other dips; with cheese or soup; or simply crunch away.

     
    Maya Kaimal Naan Chips are Non-GMO Project Verified, certified kosher by OU, and vegan. for a suggested retail price of $3.49 to $3.99 per six ounce bag.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Gobble Up Turkey Plates On Sale

    If you feel you could have done one more thing to dress your Thanksgiving table, we recommend turkey-festooned plates. They’re all on sale now for half price, maybe even less.

    The handsome tom turkey on these “Plymouth” porcelain salad plates greet guests when they come to the table. They plates can be used for desserts as well.

    They create an endearing family tradition. We always looked forward to seeing the turkey plates each year at our grandmother’s house; and when our mother or aunt hosted the dinner, Nana had to bring the turkey plates with her!

    Microwavable and dishwasher safe, a set of four salad/dessert plates is on sale for $29.98, regularly $59.95. They’re an online exclusive at Williams-Sonoma.com.

    A matching set of four dinner plates, bordered with a harvest garland of oak leaves and acorns, is $33.98, regularly $67.95.

    What are you waiting for? Gobble them up!

     

    Turkey Salad Plates

    Turkey plates make an elegant impression at the Thanksgiving table. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT UPDATES

    blue-diamond-sriracha-230

    FSTG_bean-chips-generalmills-230

    TOP PHOTO: Almonds with a sriracha kick.
    Photo courtesy Blue Diamond. BOTTOM
    PHOTO: Bean & Tortilla Chips from Food
    Should Taste Good.

     

    Brands we enjoy and have previously reviewed are busy launching new lines. Here’s what we tasted lately.

    BLUE DIAMOND BOLD SRIRACHA ALMONDS

    Companies that have jumped on the “hot” bandwagon have figured out how to make products hot enough to please hotties, but not so hot that they loses sales from the other segments.

    These “bold” roasted almonds are delightful, and not as intense as the can indicates, or we would not have been able to eat them (medium salsa is the hottest we go).

    Consider them as stocking stuffers. Almonds are a healthful nut, so this is a guilt-free snack. The line is certified kosher by OK. More information.
     
    FOOD SHOULD TASTE GOOD BEAN CHIPS

    Our favorite line of tortilla chips, known for deftly combining other foods with corn-based tortilla chips, is now adding beans to the mix.

    Food Should Taste Good Black Bean Chips and Pinto Bean Chips combine nutritious, fiber-filled beans to deliver real bean flavors.

    Food Should Taste Good Bean Chips are gluten free, have zero grams trans-fat and are certified kosher by OU. More information.

    We must shout out to the line of tortilla chips in flavors galore. Beyond Cantina chips, there are Cheddar, Falafel, Guacamole, Harvest Pumpkin, Jalapeño, Jalapeño With Cheddar, Kettle Corn, Lime, Multigrain, Olive, Sweet Potato, The Works and White Cheddar.

    Love those chips!

     

     

    NASOYA CHIPOTLE BAKED TOFU

    Who says tofu isn’t flavorful? Nasoya, the country’s largest producer of tofu, has added a new flavor to its line of TofuBaked.

    Chipotle TofuBaked is ready to eat, sliced cold into salads or sandwiches, or heated for scrambles, omelets and Tex-Mex favorites (burritos, fajitas, tacos). Recipes on the website include Seven Layer Chipotle Dip, Southwest Breakfast Bake and Chipotle Tortilla Soup.

    We’re also fans of Ginger TofuBaked.

    The product is USDA certified organic and certified kosher by Star K.

    More information.
     
    POPCHIPS CRAZY HOT

    Quite hot, if not crazy hot, these chips are also quite tart, with as much vinegar as heat.

    In addition to red chili pepper flavor, there are hints of Cheddar cheese. We think it’s a winner for hot stuff lovers.

    The line is certified kosher by KOF-K and certified gluten free. More information.
     
    RUNA ICED TEA

    Runa Clean Energy has no sugar added iced teas, which, thanks to the guayusa from which the tea is brewed, has a natural sweetness as well.

    The line is certified kosher by OU, Fair Trade Certified and a Certified B Corporation.

    In 8.4-ounce/250 ml cans, flavors include Berry, Orange Passion and Original. More information.

     

    chipotle-tofu-nasoya-230

    popchips-crazy-hot copy-230

    TOP PHOTO: Spicy tofu, ready to eat from Nasoya. BOTTOM PHOTO: More hot stuff, this time in crunchy potato chips from Popchips .

     

      

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