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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Seed & Mill Halva Is Halva Heaven

Seed + Mill Halva

Seed + Mill Halva

Seed + Mill Halva

Seed + Mill Halva

Halva With Ground Coffee Beans

Halva With Pop Rocks

Halva Dessert Plate

Halva Dessert Plate

Halva Cake

[1] Clockwise from top: rose, cinnamon, pistachio and coffee. [2] Chocolate chile halva. [3] Lavender halva. [4] From the front: chocolate orange, date, lemongrass and marble. [5] Caffeinated, with ground coffee beans. [6] Vanilla topped with Pop Rocks. [7] A halva dessert plate: mixed flavors and fruits. [8] Dessert plate of halva with dried fruit. [9] For a special occasion cake, just add a candle. All photos courtesy Seed + Mill.

 

Halva versus halvah? Who cares how to spell it*, when it tastes this good.

The sweet confection’s name derives from the Arabic word halwa, which means…sweet confection.

The best halva we can imagine comes from a relatively new company, Seed + Mill, founded by three friends in New York City, one of whom grew up in Israel.

The company was born when the latter friend couldn’t find quality tahini in the U.S., and decided to grind her own. Fresh tahini is ground on-site at their store in Chelsea Market, New York City, and sold along with other sesame-based products.

The company says that theirs is the only store in the U.S. that solely purveys sesame seed products (although we noted a frozen yogurt machine with goat’s milk yogurt).

While all products are excellent, our food-life-changing experience was engendered by the sesame-based confection, halva(h). Seed + Mill makes the most ethereal, exquisite halva we can imagine—and we have been halva-deprived, for reasons we’ll explain in a bit.
 
ARTISAN HALVA

Seed + Mill distinguishes its products using white sesame seeds from Ethiopia, considered the world’s best. Known for their richness of flavor, they are grown in the area of Humera, a city in the northwest corner of Ethiopia, at the borders of Sudan and Eritrea.

Most of the sesame used for halva and tahini sold in the U.S. is made from seeds from India and Mexico, and are not as flavorful. Hence, our disappointment with the halva available to us.

Seed + Mill’s sesame seeds are shipped from Humera to Israel, where they are roasted. Some stay in for a bit in Israel, to be ground in small batches and turned into halva. Whole roasted seeds are shipped to New York, to be ground into tahini.

The halva is made by small Israeli producers to the company’s specifications. The producers use ancient artisan technique—no machines, but caldrons, paddles and troughs. The sugar is boiled and whipped into a foam that produces the melting lightness of the confection. Vigorous hand-kneading produces the finest, fluffiest halvah.

Although halva is approximately half sesame paste and half sugar, you can assuage some of the guilt with sesame’s enviable nutrition† and heart healthy fats.

The confection is only mildly sweet, the opposite of fudge and American candy bars.

And let us add: Seed + Mill has as much in common with halva brands like Joyva as McDonald’s has with Per Se.

Even the large halva cakes sold at Zabar’s and shops on the Lower East Side have become so mediocre through the use of cheaper ingredients, that we gave up eating halvah several years ago.
 
THE HISTORY OF HALVA

  • Some scholars suggest that an early form of halva originated before the 12th century in Byzantium, the ancient Greek colony that later became Constantinople, and now Istanbul.
  • Evidence exists that the original was a somewhat gelatinous, grain-based dessert made with oil, flour and sugar.
  • The first written halvah recipe appeared in the early 13th century, and included seven variations.
  • In the same period, a cookbook from Moorish Spain describes rolling out a sheet of candy made of boiled sugar, honey, sesame oil and flour; sprinkling it with rose water, sugar and ground pistachios; and covering it with a second layer of candy before cutting it into triangles.
  • Halva spread across the Middle East to the Mediterranean, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In each locale, its name and ingredients changed slightly to include regional products.
  • Depending on local preferences, different recipes ground different seeds or nuts to make the halva. For example, Egyptians added pistachios, almonds or pine nuts. Indians flavored their halva with ghee, coconuts and dates.
  • Flour and oil disappeared from the recipe.
  • One recipe, made with sesame tahini, was favored by the Ottoman-ruled Romanians. Their Jewish population passed it on to Ashkenazi Jews throughout Europe. It was this sesame halva recipe that was brought to the U.S. in the early 20th century by Jewish immigrants.
  •  
    Here’s more halvah history.
     
     
    SEED & MILL’S MOST HEAVENLY HALVA

    Halva is made when tahini (ground sesame paste) is blended with sugar at a high temperature, and then hand-stirred.

    The company boasts 27 flavors, including two sugar-free varieties. They’re all available online, and the retail shop in Chelsea carries about ten them at a time. Some are seasonal; for example, expect cranberry in the fall and lavender in the summer.

    Wile many Seed + Mill flavors are vegan, about half of the flavors do include a bit of butter, which makes the halvah even lighter and melt-in-your-mouth. These are noted on the website.

    The non-butter flavors meet dietary preferences including dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo and vegan.

    If this seems like a lot of flavors, note that Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566), the Ottoman Empire’s longest-reigning sultan, had a special kitchen built next to his palace that was dubbed the helvahane, house of halva. It produced some 30 varieties of the confection.

    At Seed + Mill, you’ll find traditional and modern flavors:

  • Cardamom Halva
  • Chia Halva
  • Chili Chocolate Halva
  • Chocolate & Orange Halva
  • Chocolate Pistachio Halva
  • Cinnamon Halva
  • Coconut Dark Chocolate Halva
  • Crunchy Peanut Butter Halva
  • Dates Halva
  • Dulce de Leche Halva
  • Ginger Halva
  • Goji Berry Halva
  • Lemongrass Halva
  • Marble Halva
  • Mixed Chocolate Halva (dark, milk and white chocolate)
  • Nutella & Hazelnuts Halva
  • Pistachio Halva
  • Rose Oil Halva
  • Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Halva
  • Sweet Pecans Halva
  • Vanilla Halva
  • Whiskey Halva
  • White Chocolate & Lemon Halva
  • White Chocolate Raspberry Halva
  • Yummy Flaky Halva (for garnish)
  •  
    Sugar-Free Flavors

  • Sugar Free Coffee Halva
  • Sugar Free Pistachio Halva
  •  
    Seed + Mill is certified by United Kosher Supervision. You can purchase a piece as small as a quarter-pound, or order an entire halva cake.

    While you’re at it, treat yourself to a jar of the company’s rich, silky tahini in herb, organic and organic whole seed; and two sesame spices, mixes of sesame with salt or za’atar.

     

    RECIPE: HALVA ICED COFFEE

    Seed + Mill adapted this recipe from Ben of Havoc In The Kitchen. He found it in a Russian food magazine, where it was originally made with peanut halva.

    The shake-like drink does nicely as a snack, a dessert or, with the whiskey, an after-dinner drink.

    Ingredients For 2-3 Servings

  • 2 cups strong brewed coffee, chilled
  • 1/3 cup peanut or sesame halva
  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 2-3 ice cubes
  • Optional: 2-3 tablespoons whiskey (or to taste)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the coffee, halva, ice cubes and ice cream in a blender. Process for 5 minutes or until smooth and foamy.

    2. STRAIN and discard the tiny pieces of halva and the coffee will be silky and smooth.

     

    Halva Iced Coffee

    [105] Serve halva iced coffee with alone or with halva dessert plate.

     
    3. RINSE the bowl of the blender, return the strained coffee and blend for another 2 minutes and to foam.
     
    ________________

    *The word is transliterated from Arabic, so either halva or halvah is correct.

    †Sesame seeds are one of the world’s healthiest foods. Here’s a nutrition profile.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Casa Noble Tequila & A Tequila-Cheese-Chocolate Tasting

    Casa Noble Blanco Crystal Tequila

    Casa Noble Reposado

    Casa Noble Tequila Carlos Santana

    Casa Noble Alta Belleza

    [1] Casa Noble Crystal Tequila: the best blanco/silver tequila we’ve ever had. [2] Add a bit of age and you get a reposado tequila. [3] The special edition named for company director Carlos Santana: Casa Noble Santana Reserve 5 Years Anejo. [4] The top of the line, Casa Noble Alta Bellezza, is as great as tequila gets. But let us quickly say: They’re all great! (Photos courtesy Casa Noble)

     

    You’ve no doubt seen more ads or advertorials that promise “the finest tequila in the world.”

    We haven’t had a side-by-side comparison tasting of them, but we have tasted most of the , and most recently had have the most exquisite tequila tasting of our long life, with the founder and master distiller of Casa Noble Tequila, Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo.

    Don’t take only my word for it: Musician Carlos Santana preferred Casa Noble to the extent that he joined the board and had a tequila aged for five years (the bottle bears his signature).

    Casa Noble has two more features that will especially interest some consumers: It’s certified organic and certified kosher (by Star-K).
     
    WHAT MAKES THE FINEST TEQUILA?

    The best agave plants from the species Agave tequilana (commonly called blue agave), aged to maturity (10-14 years) before harvesting.

    As with everything, time is money. The most time-intensive production techniques, from roasting the agave piñas (they look like pineapples) to 100% natural fermentation and triple distillation (most tequilas are only distilled twice).

    Yet, the prices are reasonable for such great spirits.

    THE EXPRESSIONS OF TEQUILA

    If you know spirits, you know there are different expressions based on age. In the case of tequila, the expressions are aged according to law:

  • Blanco Tequila (“white”), also called plata (“silver”) or crystal. Clear and transparent, the tequila is bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged no more than two months.
  • Joven Tequila (“young”) or oro (“gold”): un-aged tequila blended with rested or aged tequilas. In some lesser brands, caramel coloring, sugar-based syrup, glycerin, and/or oak extract are often added in order to resemble aged tequila. Don’t buy based on color!
  • Reposado Tequila (“rested”): light yellow and translucent. The tequila is aged for at least six months but less than a year. Reposado began to emerge as a new category of tequila in the late 1980s
  • Añejo Tequila (“aged” or “vintage”): brighter yellow, aged at least one year, but less than three years.
  • Extra Añejo Tequila (“extra aged” or “ultra aged”): a golden color, aged at least three years in oak.
  • Older Expressions. These specialty expressions are not age-regulated per se; they can be as old as the distiller likes and designated by age (e.g. 7 Años) or by a proprietary name. For example, the limited edition Casa Noble Santana Reserve 5 Years Anejo (MSRP $549.99; we found it online for $499.99).
  •  
    Different distilleries can create even older expressions, in limited editions. These top-of-the-line offerings are typically housed in an exquisite bottle. While the bottle appeals to everyone, the taste is a connoisseur’s delight. They are priced accordingly (Casa Noble’s Alta Belleza—only 563 bottles available for the world—is $1,200).

    Here’s more about tequila.

    THE JOY OF CASA NOBLE TEQUILA

    First, let us say that we had the privilege of tasting Alta Belleza, the first release of Casa Noble’s Colección del Fundador. It is offeredin extremely limited quantities, priced at $1,200, and for those who don’t concern themselves with price, well worth it. For a spectacular tequila gift, look no further.

    The rest of us can find joy in Casa Noble’s Crystal (the best blanco/silver we’ve ever had) and the other expressions, all of which are affordable to reasonably affordable.

     
    These are the suggested retail prices (which, of course, can vary by retailer):

  • Casa Noble Crystal Tequila, $39.99
  • Casa Noble Joven Tequila, $49.99
  • Casa Noble Reposado Tequila, $59.99
  • Casa Noble Añejo Tequila, $69.99
  • Casa Noble Single Barrel Extra Añejo Tequila, $129.99
  •  
    After having the privilege to enjoy a tasting with Pepe a few months ago, the amazing Crystal (blanco, silver) has become our gift of choice for tequila lovers. Our gift note says: “Don’t make Margaritas with this: It’s meant to be savored straight!”

    Of course, if you want to make Margaritas with it, it’s your palate and your right! The Crystal will give an extra lime lift to the fresh lime juice in the cocktail.

     

    TEQUILA, CHEESE & CHOCOLATE TASTING

    We had our second memorable Casa Noble experience last week, at Murray’s Cheese. There, Adam Goddu, a general manager at Murray’s and a Certified Cheese Professional, joined Pepe Hermosillo to escort a group of food writers through a celestial pairing of great tequilas and memorable cheeses.

    Most of us are so oriented to having cheese with wine or beer, that we don’t think of serving a cheese tasting plate with tequila. But with a glorious tequila like Casa Noble, the pairing is as natural as a Burgundy or a Barolo.

    We asked Adam Goddu to advise all of us on how to put together a pairing of cheese and tequila.

    Then we thought: Add a chocolate pairing and make a terrific party of the four food groups (alcohol, cheese, bread, chocolate).

    In general, what do you look for in a cheese/drink pairing?

    Adam: We look for some magical math: 1 + 1 = 3. You want the items to complement each other but you also want the flavor combination to evolve into something more.

    We go by three basic pairing principles: “Like with Like,” “Opposites Attract” and “What Grows Together, Goes Together.” These work for pairings with crackers, jams and honeys as well as drinks.

    Certain regional pairings (Loire Valley goat’s milk cheeses with a crisp white from that region) are a natural pairing…they’ve been made in the same area for centuries. I personally prefer the opposites approach: if you have a rich, decadent sheep’s milk or triple crème, you want a white with a strong acidic back bone (and perhaps some bubbles!).

    Why do tequila and cheese work well together?

    Adam: I think wine and beer hog the limelight when it comes to traditional cheese pairings; but tequila can be just as versatile and special with the right combination or flavors.

    It can be difficult to pair cheese with high-alcohol beverages because that booziness can overpower many elements. When you have tequila with nuance and charm like Casa Noble’s Single Barrel Añejo, the sky is the limit. A funky washed rind or fudgy, spicy blue cheese pair wonderfully.

    Talk us through some of the more specific pairings of different tequilas.

    Adam: There are general rules you can use with certain styles, but you really need to remember that no two expressions* are exactly alike. Blanco and Joven [the two youngest expressions] are quite boozy [alcoholic] and pack a punch, so you need a cheese strong enough to stand its ground. [Editor’s note: We find Casa Noble tequilas to be so finely crafted, even the youngest are not alcoholic or “hot.”]

    Higher butterfat cheeses do very well overall (sheep’s or water buffalo’s milk cheeses).

    Anejo’s oaky/vanilla notes lean toward Alpine cheeses with caramel and roasted almond flavors dancing beautifully together.

    Blanco tends to have a clarity and subtly with sweet corn and grass coming to the forefront. You don’t want a big brassy cheese to overpower the tequila in this case so sticking with a milder, “sweeter” Brie style is perfect.
     
    What’s your favorite type of tequila to pair with cheese?

    Adam: I like a challenge, so finding the perfect cheese for Joven was a lot of fun.

    As far as straight up tastiness, the barrel-aged tequilas (reposado, añejo) allow a bit more freedom. You can play around with Gruyère, a clothbound Cheddar and a mild blue (Gorgonzola, Stilton) and find that each pairing brings out a different side of the tequila.

    For our tasting of Casa Noble’s Crystal, Joven, Reposado, Añejo and Single Barrel Añejo, Adam created the following pairings, served with honey, Marcona almonds, dried fruits, baguette slices and crackers.

    While the pairings were “textbook,” based on flavor profiles, we couldn’t find a mis-match. That’s what happens when all items are the best of their kind.

  • Crystal Tequila (not aged; no vegetal notes but flavors of lime zest and sweet corn) with Camembert (strong bloomy rind, full-flavored Brie style)
  • Joven Tequila (aged 6 weeks for sweet floral and tropical fruit notes) with Cornelia, a house specialty washed rind cheese with a creamy paste
  • Reposado Tequila (aged 364 days in French white oak, just one day short of a legal añejo) with Bianco Sardo, a rich, “wooly” raw sheep’s milk cheese. Tangy yet creamy, with earthy and sweet grass notes.
  • Añejo Tequila(two years in French white oak, beautifully balanced), with Annelies, an Alpine style raw cow’s milk cheese redolent of cooked caramel and nuts.
  • Extra Añejo Single Barrel (aged five years with Colton Bassett Stilton and Greensward (Jasper Hill Farm’s Harrison, washed in-house to create deeper flavors)
  •  
    CHOCOLATE & TEQUILA

    While chocolate was not part of the Murray’s event, we host chocolate pairings a few times a year (here’s what we do with wine, beer).

    Chocolate and tequila are a delicious marriage, whether the groom is young (an unaged blanco), old (a well-aged extra añejo), or any age in-between.

    Plain chocolates are the purest way to merge the flavors. We like:

  • White chocolate with blanco or joven tequila
  • Milk chocolate with joven or reposado tequila
  • Dark chocolate with reposado or añejo tequila
  •  
    What about flavored and filled chocolates?

  • Fruity flavors—fruity ganaches (our favorites: orange, raspberry), chocolate cherries, bars with dried fruit, can pair with all expressions of tequila. They pair even better according to our chocolate-and-expression guide immediately above.
  •  

    Anejo Tequila With Cheese

    Greensward Cheese

    Bianco Sardo Sheep Cheese

    Colston Basset Stilton

    Amedei White Chocolate

    Stack Of Dark Chocolate

    Mexican Chocolate Tiles

    [5] All of Casa Noble’s tequilas are delicious with cheese. Shown here: Greensward and Stilton (photo courtesy Casa Noble). [6] Greensward, We love chocolate with tequila. [6] Bianco Sardo, a Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese. [7] Cossett Bassett, a beloved Stilton (cheese photos courtesy Murray’s Cheese). [8] Casa Noble’s Crystal, with its lilt of lime, is a perfect pairing with white chocolate (photo courtesy Amedei Chocolate). [9] For milk or dark chocolate, head to the aged tequilas (photo courtesy La Chocolate). [10] Aztec” chocolates with chile and other Mexican spices work well with tequila (photo courtesy Bespoke Chocolate).

  • Mint and tequila are also a classic pairing, with the bright, grassy heat of the tequila emphasizing the coolness of the mint.
  • Spices: According to the “universal law of food pairing,” wine and spirits were made to complement the local cuisine. Thus, spicy chocolates with chiles, cinnamon and other warm-to-hot spices like pepper go well tequila. Look for Aztec bars, which typically have all three.
  •  
    And get ready for a great Valentine’s Day (Or Anytime) Party!
     
    MORE PAIRINGS

  • Bubbly & Chocolate Pairings
  • Cheese & Chocolate Pairings
  • Scotch & Chocolate Pairings
  • ________________

    *An expression is a different variation (think recipe) of the distillery’s spirit. The variations can be based on age, single grain/malt vs. blend (whiskey), single barrel/cask, etc. The highest-regarded distilleries can produce limited editions expressions that are aged longer, with other features that appeal to a connoisseur’s palate.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Mochidoki, Ice Cream-Stuffed Mochi

    Like ice cream? Get ready for a [relatively] new variation: ice cream mochi (MO-chee).

    Mochidoki is a delightful ice cream treat—a sophisticated re-envisioning of a classic Japanese sweet made from rice dough: a dough of pounded, glutinous (but gluten-free) sweet rice flour that is steamed and kneaded until it becomes delightfully chewy and supple, with a velvet—like texture.

    The resulting rice paste was often eaten plain and uncooked, pounded into a soft, chewy rice paste. There are still sweet and savory, uncooked and cooked versions.

    Mochi is all about the texture. Centuries later, it was turned into dumpling-like sweets, exquisite little mouthfuls to accompany tea.

    We love daifuku mochi, filled with sweetened red bean paste or other pastes, such as peanut and sesame. They can be served with tea (any kind) or coffee for an easy yet elegant snack (the different types of daifuku).

    [SIDE BAR: Daifuku mochi are an ideal food for celebrations: Daifuku means good luck!]

    The rice paste can be made into other forms, but today we focus on the sweet treat.

    Like cookies and brownies, they are finger food; but like brownies and other bar cookies, they can be garnished simply—with sauces and/or fruit—to elaborate preparations like spun sugar.
     
    THE HISTORY OF MOCHI

    Ice cream mochi are a new, fusion food. The original mochi are Japanese sweet snacks, served as Americans might enjoy a cookie or two. Like a smaller, flatter jelly donut, the inside is filled with red bean (azuki) paste or other fruit-flavored bean paste, peanut or sesame paste. The rice outside is white or pastel-colored.

    The exact origin of mochi is unknown, though it is said to have come from China. By the ninth century, it had become a New Year’s treat in Japan, and by the tenth century mochi were used as imperial offerings and in religious ceremonies (more).

    It also became used as an energy food: from the battlefield, where it was easy for Samurai to carry and prepare; to the farm, consumed by Japanese farmers to increase stamina on cold days.

    Our first experience with mochi was the classic daifuki mochi, a tea cake of rice dough filled with red bean paste. We live in a city with readily available Japanese confections; if you’re ever in Manhattan, head to Minamoto Kitchoan with branches in midtown and the World Trade Center, and 11 locations worldwide. They also sell the delightful pastries known as wagashi.
     
    ICE CREAM MOCHI

    Mochi Ice Cream is the best treat to serve at parties or events because they are delicious and convenient. Not only do they come in a variety of flavors so that your guests can discover their favorites, but they are also the perfect serving size! With the solid outer layer of rice-flour Mochi dough, they are easy to grab and carry around.

    And centuries later, they were filled with ice cream.

    Mochi ice cream has begun to expand nationwide in the U.S.

    Mikawaya, a Japanese confectionary based in Los Angeles, started selling the product in Little Tokyo in the early 1990s. Building up a local following, it found its way to California-based Trader Joe’s, Albertsons, Ralphs and Safeway, and is now in their stores nationwide (you could buy pumpkin ice cream mochi for Thanksgiving).

    The invention in Los Angeles was the casual idea of the Jewish husband of the third-generation owner of Mikawaya, Frances Hashimoto. Joel Friedman created the fusion food for snacking, wrapping spoonfuls of ice cream in plain mochi cakes.

    Ms. Hashimoto developed her husband’s idea for retail. It took a decade of R&D to develop a rice dough that would remain chewy and tender after freezing. Commercial production began in 1993, with seven flavors: Chocolate, Green Tea, Kona Coffee, Mango, Red Bean, Strawberry and Vanilla.

    Mikawaya’s pioneering efforts engendered supermarket competition from Little Moons, Maeda-En and Mikawaya’s sister brand, My-Mo.

    But we prefer gourmet newcomer Mochidoki for its better-quality ice cream, broad variety of flavors and elegant, thinner mochi covering.
     
    MOCHIDOKI FLAVORS

    Flavors change seasonally. You can get a 10-pack of one flavor, or a four-piece gift box featuring four different flavors.

    The only problem is making a decision. We’re ready to place another order, and we don’t know where to start!

    All are so very delicious. The current best-seller is Salted Caramel; but we adored every flavor, with a “wow” to the hot-and-cold Spicy Chocolate.

    Fall-Winter flavors, available in 10-packs ($20), include:

  • Azuki Red Bean
  • Black Sesame
  • Frothy Chocolate
  • Ginger Zing
  • Lychee Colada
  • Mandarin Orange Cream
  • Matcha Green Tea Chocolate Chip
  • Matcha Green Tea Classic
  • Mochaccino Chip
  • Raspberry White Chocolate Crunch
  • Salted Caramel
  • Vanilla Chocolate Chip
  •    

    Mochi Presentations, From Simple To Fancy

    Matcha Mochi

    Chocolate Mochi

    Decorated Mochi

    Salted Caramel Mochi Doki

    Mochi Doki

    Mochi Doki Gift Boxes

    [1] Mochi are small balls of ice cream covered in a velvety, chewy rice paste. Two classic flavors: Matcha Green Tea and Vanilla Chocolate Chip. [2] Dress up the plate with dessert sauce (plus, with chocolate, some cacao nibs). [3] Garnish halves with whipped cream and fruit. [4] The best seller, Salted Caramel, garnished with spun sugar. [5] Four-flavor gift boxes let you try more flavors. [6] Three gift boxes, 12 great flavors (all photos courtesy Mochidoki).

     

    Daifuku Mochi

    Mochi Yogurt Pops

    [7] Before ice cream mochi, the popular sweet version was (and still is) daifu-mochi, a dumpling-like cookie stuffed with red bean paste, peanut or sesame paste (photo courtesy Morgaer | Deviantart). [8] Bits of mochi rice dough now appear in everything from brownies to ice pops (photo courtesy Kirbie’s Cravings).

     

    MORE GREAT FLAVORS

    Four-Piece Gift Boxes ($10)

  • Cinnamon Eggnog
  • Spicy Chocolate
  •  
    Four-Piece Collections ($10)

  • Americana Collection: Frothy Chocolate, Raspberry White Chocolate Crunch, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Chocolate Chip
  • Signature Chip Collection: Matcha Green Tea Chocolate Chip, Mochaccino Chip, Raspberry White Chocolate Crunch, Vanilla Chocolate Chip
  • East Meets West Collection: Black Sesame, Matcha Green Tea, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Chocolate Chip
  • Exotic Collection: Lychee Colada, Mandarin Orange Cream, Matcha Green Tea Chocolate Chip, Mochaccino Chip
  • Taste Of Thailand Collection: Ginger Zing, Mango Thai Basil, Thai Iced Tea, Toasted Coconut
  • Tropical Collection: Lychee Colada, Mandarin Orange Cream, Passion Fruit, Toasted Coconut
  • The Classics Collection: Azuki Red Bean, Black Sesame, Ginger Zing, Matcha Green Tea
  •  
    HEAD TO MOCHIDOKI.COM

    You can order as many boxes as you like for a flat rate of $15.00. They arrive frozen in dry ice and you can’t eat them immediately—they’re frozen solid.

    But 5-10 minutes at room temperature makes them just right.

    Order here.

    Hopefully, we’ll be seeing Mochidoki at retail soon. The brand was purchased by a private equity firm in 2015, with plans to bring mochi ice cream to a wider audience.

     
    WAYS TO SERVE MOCHI

    Mochi are neat to eat. You can snack on them as finger food, or add garnishes for an elegant dessert.

    You can eat them from the container or plate them, whole or halved, with garnish:

  • Berries or other fruit
  • Dessert sauces
  • Whipped cream
  • Anything from spun sugar to cookie crumbs
  •  
    Just let them sit for five minutes after you take them from the freezer.
     
    MAKE YOUR OWN MOCHI

    You can make daifuku mochi—the room temperature variety filled with bean paste. This recipe from The New York Times makes everything from scratch, including turning dry azuki beans into red bean paste.

    Note that the fresh dough will turn dry and stiff within a couple of days, so plan to eat your mochi in short order.

    If you want to make ice cream mochi, the shelf life is even shorter. Make them with this recipe, then freeze for two hours and eat. Otherwise, the homemade rice paste will freeze solid.

    Beyond the classic mochi, this article from Huffington Post shows how to use mochi (the dough) in conventional sweets: brownies, cakes, cookies, donuts, ice cream and ice pops.

    How trending is mochi? Check this website of baby names.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Aldi For Christmas Entertaining

    Recently, we went to our neighborhood specialty food store to buy appetizers for a get together with wine.

    Sure, the cheeses we picked were $25 a pound; our favorite crackers from La Panzanella and Raincoast Crisps aren’t inexpensive. And we do tend to buy too much.

    But when the cashier said, “$146.76 please,” we were floored.

    For this weekend’s entertaining, we took a car service to ALDI (we live in Manhattan, where most people don’t own cars). We paid $70 for a the same amount of food; so even with transportation we came out ahead. (And this group of friends doesn’t care about the difference between Fiscalini Bandage-Wrapped Cheddar and Cabot (our everyday brand).

    If you’re inviting friends and family, ALDI is the place to save big bucks on quality foods.

    From cheese and charcuterie to chocolate and desserts to an entire cooked ham, turkey or roast beef dinner: Everything is delicious.

  • There are also food gift items and wines, as permitted by state.
  • Weekly specials include dozens of food and non-food products at a great value: everything from small kitchen appliances and seasonal items to outdoor furniture and gardening tools.
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    All are carefully curated and are backed by a double guarantee. If you’re not 100% satisfied, bring it back for a refund and a replacement product.
     
    ABOUT ALDI

    ALDI launched in 1961 in Germany, the world’s first first discounter. In 1976 they opened a U.S. store in Iowa, and how have more than 1,500 stores in 34 states, expanding to 2,000 stores by 2018. Worldwide, there are some 10,000 stores in 18 countries.

    Forbes Magazine calls ALDI “A Growing Menace To America’s Grocery Retailers.” The store is family-owned, and also owns Trader Joe’s.

    Everyone loves the low, low prices, which Aldi achieves through a no-frills approach to food retailing:

  • Basic inventory displays. As with Costco, merchandise is displayed in their shipping boxes to help save resources in restocking shelves.
  • Selective inventory: the basics, but not the universe (e.g., the 10 most popular cheeses, 1 brand of ketchup or yogurt instead of several choices). There are gluten-free and organic foods.
  • No credit cards: cash or debit cards only.
  • BYO bags or pay for them. As with Costco, you can take empty stock boxes as you find them.
  • Private label products. More than 90% of the inventory comprises store brands, guaranteed to be as good or better than national brands.
  • No non-essential services: no overhead of banking, check-cashing, pharmacy, etc.
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    There is no e-commerce, but you can visit the company website, get the lay of the land and use the store locator to find the ALDI nearest to you.
     
     
    What Does ALDI Mean?

    The discount food business was founded by the two Albrecht brothers. The name is an acronym for (AL)brecht and (DI)scounter.

     

    Carved Ham

    Cheese Board

    Mini Linzer Tarts

    [1] Want an entire catered dinner? You’ll save a lot getting it at ALDI (photo courtesy ALDI). [2] From cheese and charcuterie to other nibbles, you’ll find what you need at ALDI (photo courtesy Cupcakes And Cutlery). [3] For dessert, there’s everything from the classics to the seasonal, like these mini linzer tarts (photo courtesy Aldi).

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Finally Ginger, Artisanal Ginger Cookies

    Finally Ginger Cookies

    Finally Ginger Gift Tin

    Finally Ginger Snack Pack

    [1] Finally Ginger artisan cookies are available in [2] gift tins and [3] snack packs (all photos courtesy Love From Cleveland).

     

    What a joy: delicious ginger cookies we didn’t have to bake at home.

    Cookies freshly-baked just for us, because they’re baked to order.

    Cookies with sugar and spice and everything nice. With three kinds of ginger: crystallized ginger, ginger root and ground ginger.
     
    Ginger cookies baked in five delicious flavors that will sizzle on your palate:

  • Ginger & Chocolate Chunk
  • Ginger & Lemon
  • Ginger & Oatmeal Cranberry
  • Ginger & Orange
  • Original Ginger
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    All are delicious and very special. Who’d have thought that a classic ginger cookie, popular since the Middle Ages, could be improved?
    Options include:

  • 12-Piece Cookie Gift Tins, choice of 2 flavors: $24.00
  • 24-Piece Cookie Gift Tins, choice of 4 flavors: $48.00
  • Subscriptions: 3-month subscription, $75; 6-month subscription, $150.00
  • 12 Two-Cookie Snack Packs (24 cookies, no gift tin) $36.00
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    The tins are great for storing tea when the cookies are gone.

    Head to FinallyGinger.com to place your order.
     
    DIFFERENT TYPES OF GINGER COOKIES & HISTORY

    While Finally Ginger calls itself a ginger cookie, it is a hybrid—a hard cookie with a snap, with a textured surface dotted with sparkling sugar.

  • A ginger cookie is a soft, molasses-type cookie that is flavored with ginger and other spices. It is larger than, and otherwise differs from, a gingersnap Crusaders returning from the Middle East brought ginger and other spices.
  • A gingersnap is a thin, plain round cookie with a hard, smooth texture like a gingerbread cookie. It is a smaller version of the traditional German Christmas cookie known as Lebkuchen. Like a gingerbread cookie, ginger snaps break with a “snap.” Gingersnaps contain a larger amount of ginger, and thus are spicier, than the chewier ginger cookies.
  • Gingerbread is a fancier affair, often cut into special shapes (cottages, flowers, hearts, horses, people, trees, etc., along with 3-D houses and carousels) and hand-decorated with icing and candies. Monks made the first gingerbread for holidays and festivals. The tale of Hansel and Gretel, published in 1812 (as part of Grimm’s Fairy Tales), vastly increased the popularity of gingerbread cookies and other treats, such as gingerbread Christmas cards. Gingerbread men and animals became popular Christmas tree ornaments.
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