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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.

      

    Comments

    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.

      

    Comments

    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.
  •  
    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 .

     

      

    Comments

    HALLOWEEN: Best Chocolate Witch

    Chocolate Witch

    Bewitching in dark or milk chocolate. Photo
    courtesy Li-Lac Chocolates.

     

    We’ve been looking around, and think we’ve found the best chocolate witch for Halloween. Eight inches tall and weighing in at 14 ounces of solid chocolate, the Big Halloween Witch from Li-Lac Chocolates is our favorite this season.

    There are many nifty chocolate molds around, but we like the garments and expression of this particular paranormal practitioner of magic. With her crooked smile, flowing robe and pointed hat, carrying her broomstick and jack-o’-lantern, she’s almost too cool to eat.

    The chocolate witch is made fresh to order in milk or dark chocolate, and is certified kosher (dairy) by OU.

    Get yours at Li-LacChocolates.com, or at the company’s retail stores in New York City.

    The 90-year-old chocolatier has been delighting New Yorkers for generations. We love to sneak in for a bite; or, in the case of this witch, many bites.

     
    THE HISTORY OF TRICK OR TREATNG

    “Guising” traditions began as a Christian practice in the Middle Ages, when children and sometimes poor adults would dress up in the costumes and go around door to door during Hallowmas (All Saints Day, November 1st, the day after Halloween). They begged for food or money in exchange for songs and prayers for the dead (the latter called “souling”).

    That tradition was ported to the U.S., with children going door to door for treats in exchange for reciting a poem or singing a song. Bonfires, a European tradition on All Hallows Eve (Halloween), were also held.
     
    The night before Halloween came to be called Mischief Night, when the neighborhood youth would sow some wild oats. Front gates were removed, windows were soaped and outhouses were tipped over [source].

    The term “trick or treat” didn’t emerge until the 1920s. The first printed reference is found in a newspaper from 1927 [source].

    While today the “trick” portion of trick-or-treat is usually an idle threat, it began with youthful participants who insistently rang doorbells and promised worse (knocking over trash cans, sticking a pin in the bell so keep it ringing, papering the house) if they did not get a treat. The residents paid the price in candy or other treats, and the costumed visitors went on to the next house.

    Individual trick-or-treating evolved in some locales in the 1960s and 1970s, into community events for the whole family, house parties for kids, and other activities that circumvented the need to send children to strange houses (and the reverse, to avoid having to opening one’s door to strangers).

     

    THE HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN CANDY

    For hundreds of years, Halloween came and went with no candy! Costumed children going door-to-door received everything from homemade cookies and cake to fruit, nuts, coins and toys.

    It wasn’t until the 1950s that candy manufacturers began to promote their products for Halloween.

    In the 1960s, following a hoax that miscreants had inserted pieces of glass into apples and other treats, factory-made, wrapped candy became the only acceptable treat to hand out. Producers of the most popular candies made miniatures, making a household’s candy giveaway more affordable.

    Here’s some trivia about popular Halloween treats:

     

    Chocolate Pumpkins

    Chocolate pumpkins from Woodhouse Chocolate.

     

  • Candy corn: Candy corn was invented in the 1880s in Philadelphia by George Renninger of the Wunderle Candy Company. He didn’t trademark it, so other companies produced their own versions. The Goelitz Confectionery Company (now the Jelly Belly Candy Co.), has been making candy corn since 1898.
  • Hershey’s: The first Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar was produced in 1900; Hershey’s Kisses followed in 1907. Chocolate, which had previously had been a luxury item, became affordable for average Americans.
  • Reese’s: In 1917, Harry Burnett Reese joined the Hershey Company as a dairyman and later worked in the factory. He began making candies in his home basement, and ultimately left Hershey to built his own factory. He invented in Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in 1928. Full circle: In 1963, Hershey acquired the H.B Reese Candy Company.
  • Mars: In 1923, a Minnesota candy maker, Frank Mars, launched the Milky Way Bar. It was followed by Snickers in 1930 (reportedly named for his favorite horse) and Three Musketeers in 1932. Frank’s son Forrest Mars joined the company, had a falling out with his father, relocated to England and created the Mars Bar.
  • Kit Kat: The Kit Kat Bar first appeared in England in 1935, known as Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp. In 1937 it was rechristened the Kit Kat Chocolate Crisp said to be named after a venerable London literary and political group, the Kit-Cat (or Kit Kat) Club. The brand was acquired by Switzerland-based Nestlé, which debuted the Nestlé Crunch Bar in the late 1930s.
  • M&Ms: In 1941, Forrest Mars launched M&Ms. He had anticipated that World War II would engender a cocoa shortage, so he partnered with Bruce Murrie, son of a Hershey executive, to get access to a sufficient supply. M&Ms stands for Mars & Murrie.
  •  
    [Source]

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Better For You Candy & Treats

    Every time we dip into a bag of Bare Fruit Apple Chips, we wonder: Why isn’t everyone eating these?

    So before Halloween, we’re recommending them as the better-for-you treat, for the people you love. Everyone else can get those miniature junk candies from the supermarket. (Sorry if we have maligned your favorite candy bars; but honestly, you hardly taste the chocolate for the sugar/corn syrup.)

    Consisting simply of baked apple chips—no added sugar—these sweet, crisp chips satisfy the desire for sweetness an crunch. They’re fat-free, gluten free, fiber-filled.

    The apple chips are made from non-GMO project verified Washington State apples. And they’re certified kosher by Earth Kosher, an organic and kosher certifier.

    There are four flavors of all-natural apple chips, 90-100 calories per ounce (half cup serving), depending on the flavor.:

  • Fuji Red Apple Chips
  • Granny Smith Apple Chips
  • Sea Salt Caramel Apple Chips
  • Simply Cinnamon Apple Chips
  •  
    There’s also an organic line, including each of the flavors above plus a combination of all of them in one bag, Medley Apple Chips.

    There’s also an organic line, including each of the flavors above plus a combination of all of them in one bag, Medley Apple Chip
    This time of year we particularly like Simply Cinnamon Apple Chips, but will gladly eat whatever is closest. Who needs apple pie when you can have Bare Fruit Apple Chips?

    But you may think that Caramel Apple is better for Halloween. Plan ahead for stocking stuffers, and keep a supply in your glove compartment, desk drawer, gym bag, etc.

       

    cinnamon-apple-chips-bare-230

    chips-lovewithfood-230

    TOP PHOTO: It’s like apple pie in a crunchy chip. Phot6o courtesy Bare Fruit. BOTTOM PHOTO: Out of the bag. Photo courtesy Love With Food.

     
    You can get Bare Fruit products on Amazon.com or find them at retail via the company’s store locator. The “BUY” tab on the company website takes you to their Amazon store.

    They’re available in individual .53-ounce bags and in 1.69-ounce bags, three portions’ worth.
      
    NUTS FOR CRUNCHY COCONUT CHIPS

    After success with the apple chips, Bare Fruit came out with a divine line of coconut chips:

  • Chocolate Bliss Coconut Chips
  • Sea Salt Caramel Coconut Chips
  • Simply Toasted Coconut Chips
  • Sweet ‘n Heat Coconut Chips
  •  
    Loved ‘em all, but Chocolate Bliss truly is.

    GO BANANAS
     
    Most recently, the company has introduced crunchy banana chips. We haven’t yet had the pleasure of trying them, but you can let us know how you like them:

  • Cinnamon Banana Chips
  • Cocoa Dusted Banana Chips
  • Simply Baked Banana Chips
  •  

    HalfPops

    These crunchy popcorn nuggets are popped without oil. Photo courtesy Halfpops.

     

    HALFPOPS POPCORN NUGGETS

    If you grew up loving CornNuts, as we did, take note of the non-fried, gourmet version.

    Some people dig through the popcorn bowl to find those crunchy, half-popped kernels that taste even better than the fully popped corn. Smaller than a fully popped kernel, they’ve got the soft popped portion on the inside while the kernel remains crunchy on the outside.

    Halfpops is an entire bag of them. We like this fiber-filled half-popped popcorn even better than the conventional full-popped. It was love at first bite for us. These little nuggets are a go-to snack whenever we need something crunchy and salty.

    These are healthy, whole grain snacks. They’re all-natural, with zero sugar or preservatives. As a whole grain product, each bag contributes 3g fiber/serving. Halfpops are certified gluten-free and are also nut-free.

     

    Halfpops are currently available in four flavors:

  • Natural Butter & Sea Salt
  • Aged White Cheddar
  • Caramel & Sea Salt
  • Chipotle Barbeque
  • Each one-ounce serving contains 130 calories and 260 mg salt. And we love each flavor Don’t decide: Try them all!

    They’re certified kosher (dairy) by OU. Get yours at HalfPops.com. There’s also a retail store locator on the website.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCTS: Pumpkin Flavored Foods

    The fall cool-down began here last week. But we knew fall was in the air more than a month ago, when the fall-flavor product samples started to arrive.

    Fall is perhaps the best season to get into the flavor spirit. As the choices of warm-weather fresh produce narrow, pumpkin, squash and foods flavored with “fall spices”—allspice, cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg—give us something to look forward to.

    Consider all the seasonal specialties with pumpkin:

    BREAKFAST: You can start the morning with pumpkin spice oatmeal, pancakes and muffins; spread your toast with pumpkin butter; and pop pumpkin marshmallows into your cocoa. Or, just grab a pumpkin scone and a pumpkin spice latte.

    BREAK: With your morning or afternoon “coffee break,” switch to Zhena’s Vanilla Spice Harvest Herb Tea or Republic Of Tea’s Pumpkin Spice Seasonal Black Tea, with a a pumpkin chocolate chip cookie or pumpkin biscotto.

    LUNCH: How about Chobani’s Greek Yogurt Flip, with Pumpkin Harvest Crisp to toss into the plain yogurt? (Pumpkin Harvest Crisp comprises pie crust pieces, glazed pumpkin seeds and pecans.) We also liked Chobani’s seasonal blended Cinnamon Pear yogurt.)

    DINNER: There’s pumpkin soup, pumpkin pasta, roasted pumpkin alone or with other vegetables, rice, even in a green salad. And by all mean, have a pumpkin ice cream hot fudge sundae for dessert. We’ll save the pumpkin cocktails, crème brûlée, bundt cakes and pies for another time.

    Here’s the first batch of what we’ve enjoyed so far:

  • Gourmet pumpkin baking mixes. At Sur La Table alone, there’s Pumpkin Spice Donut Mix, Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Brownie Mix, Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Cake Mix, Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pie Mix and Buttermilk Almond Pumpkin Spice Quickbread, all nicely boxed and giftworthy.
  • Pumpkin spice instant oatmeal from Quaker. Just add hot water, and 60 seconds later you’ve got a warm bowl of comfort. It’s OU kosher.
  • Pumpkin pancakes: There are mixes on store shelves, online, and of course, at IHOP.
  • Pumpkin spice peanut butter from Peanut Butter & Co. Blended with real pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices, at $6 a jar it’s great for Halloween and Thanksgiving party favors, too. It’s also available in a fall flavor three-pack, along with with Cinnamon Raisin and Maple PBs.
  • Pumpkin spice syrup from Monin, to make your own PSLs at home (even a sugar-free pumpkin spice latte).
  •  
    For snacking, we’ve enjoyed:

       

    talenti-pumpkin-pie-gelato-pint-230

    flip-pumpkin-harvest-crispchobani-230

    Dandies Pumpkin Marshmallows

    TOP: Talenti’s Pumpkin Pie gelato contains real pumpkin and actual pieces of pie crust. MIDDLE: Flip some Pumpkin Harvest Crisp into your yogurt. BOTTOM: Dandies pumpkin mini-marshmallows, vegan and kosher.

     

    danny-macaroons-pumpkin-2-scoutmob-230

    Pumpkin Spice macaroons from Danny Macaroons. Photo courtesy ScoutMob.com, which sells them and other tasty things.

     
  • Dandies all-natural pumpkin mini marshmallows, gelatin-free, vegan and certified kosher by the Chicago Rabbinical Council. Tasty and fun, most people would never suspect they’re vegan (and also nut-free, gluten-free and corn-free). Get them at ChicagoVeganFoods.com
  • Danny Macaroon’s spiced pumpkin macaroons, “pumpkin pie in macaroon form.” They’re made with real pumpkin, pumpkin pie spices and toasted pumpkin seeds. Get yours here. (Macaroons, based on coconut, are gluten-free.)
  • Talenti’s Pumpkin Pie gelato. While there’s a choice of pumpkin ice cream brands, Talenti’s pumpkin pie variation not only uses real pumpkin—it adds real pie crust pieces.
  •  
    There’s more to come, so stay tuned! But first note: Most of these are seasonal specials. Eat up!

     

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Noosa Yoghurt

    To start with, Noosa is yoghurt, not yogurt. That’s the Australian spelling, and appropriate for a brand that originated Down Under.

    The original Noosa is a picturesque Australian resort town on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, the home of golden beaches. The name Noosa comes from an Aboriginal word meaning shade or shadows, a probable reference to the tall forests behind the sunny coast.

    On a vacation to Noosa, company co-founder Koel Thomae—an Aussie ex-pat living in Colorado—came across a tub of creamy yoghurt and passionfruit purée.

    It took just one spoonful for her to decide that she must bring this celestial style of yogurt to the U.S. Back in Colorado she found a partner, fourth-generation dairy farmer Rob Graves, who milked happy, pasture-raised cows. He took one taste of the Australian yogurt and agreed with Koel. America needed Noosa.

    They began to make Noosa in small batches, from farm-fresh whole milk, local raw clover alfalfa honey and purées of the best fruits. The “Australian-style” texture is thick like Greek yogurt but oh-so-velvety, as elegant as any dessert. (Some of that texture comes from kosher bovine gelatin.)

    The line is certified kosher (dairy) by OU, certified GMO free and made with rBGH-free milk from pastured cows.

       

    Cherry Yogurt Parfait

    Noosa Yoghurt is so silky, it’s like an elegant dessert. Photo courtesy ChooseCherries.com.

     

    The four-ounce cups, for 140 calories or so, depending on the flavor, is a wonderful bit of fruity sweetness at the end of the meal, or as a snack anytime.

    And for breakfast or lunch, well: What a treat. It’s worth seeking out.

     

    Noosa Yoghurt

    Some of Noosa’s luscious yoghurt flavors. Photo courtesy Noosa.

     

    There are 4-, 8- and 24-ounce sizes (not all flavors in all sizes):

  • Blueberry
  • Coconut
  • Cranberry Apple
  • Honey
  • Lemon
  • Mango
  • Peach
  • Pineapple
  • Plain
  • Pumpkin
  • Raspberry
  • Strawberry Rhubarb
  • Tart Cherry
  •  
    Not all flavors are made for each season; for example, Cranberry Apple and Pumpkin—both winners—are fall flavors,

    Here’s a store locator and the main website. Scroll to the bottom of the home page for a link to print a coupon.

      

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