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Archive for Top Pick Of The Week

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: Modern Oats Instant Oatmeal

    Two years ago we recommended Modern Oats, a packaging concept that places elegantly-flavored, gluten-free* oatmeal in stylish grab-and-go cups.

    All you have to do is add hot water to cover the oats in the coated paper cup. Put the lid back on, wait a few minutes and enjoy. No added sweetener, milk or microwave is required. The colorful designs give a boost to starting the day.

    Success has enabled the brand to expand the number of flavors to 10. The lineup now includes:

  • Apple Walnut
  • Chocolate Cherry
  • Coconut Almond
  • 5 Berry
  • 5 Berry No Sugar Added
  • Goji Berry
  • Just Oats
  • Mango Blackberry
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Vermont Maple
  •    

    Grab & Go Oatmeal

    Cheerful packaging adds to the enjoyment of these delicious flavored oatmeal cups. Photo courtesy Modern Oats.

     

    Suggested retail price is $3.50 per cup.

     

    Modern Oats Coconut Almond

    Coconut Almond, one of 10 flavors. Photo courtesy Modern Oats.

     

    MODERN OATS ARE GOOD OATS

    The rolled oats in the containers are grown by family farmers in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. They are minimally processed by steaming and flaking; you look into the carton and see what looks like “real oats,” instead of the small particles familiar to consumers of instant oatmeal.

    Not surprisingly, the oat flakes provide a textural differences that deliver a more solid bite (and, the company says, optimal absorption of nutrients).

    Modern Oats are produced in a 100% gluten free facility and are Certified Gluten Free, Non-GMO, Halal, Kosher, Vegan and 100% Whole Grain. (Whew: There’s no more room left on the carton for any more certifications).

    Bonus: Oats are the only major grain proven to help blood cholesterol†.

     

    If you can’t find the cups locally (here’s the store locator), buy them on the Modern Oats website.

    There’s a four-flavor gift-boxed set; an assortment of flavors makes a nice Easter gift for the nutritionally-focused.
     
    ____________________
    *To be certified gluten-free, they must be processed in a facility that does not also process grains with gluten. In the milling and processing process, oats are susceptible to cross-contamination; so not all oatmeal and other oat products are gluten free.

    †Eating three grams of soluble fiber from oats each day, as part of a diet that’s low in fat and cholesterol, has been shown to lower blood cholesterol. This may reduce the risk of heart disease.

      

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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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    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/cauligflower beets 230

    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: Soulfully Sweet Great Gluten-Free Cookies

    If you’re looking for a great gluten-free cookie, look no further than Soulfully Sweet.

    You can tell that many, many test batches were baked to find the magic mixture that makes these cookies taste so good.

    With the right mix of ingredients and technique, you can’t tell that baked goods are gluten free. Soulfully Sweet has pulled this off, creating crunchy, very flavorful cookies that easily pass for conventional gourmet cookies.

    The best ingredients are not inexpensive, so don’t be dismayed that a box of eight cookies (2-1/2 inches in diameter) is $10.99, and you’ll want all eight flavors. They are a find for the cookie-lover on a gluten-free diet. Once you taste them, you’ll be happy to give up something else to fit them into your budget.

    We loved every one of the eight flavors:

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Toasted Pecan Cookies
  • Double Chocolate Cookies For Chocoholics
  • Molasses Ginger Cookies With Spice Infusion
  • Oatmeal Cookies With Cherries & Chocolate Chips
  • Oatmeal Raisin Cookies With Toasted Walnuts
  • Orange Cookies With Pistachio & Cranberry Chunks & Orange Essence
  • Peanut Butter Cookies With A Peanut Avalanche
  •  
    In addition to gluten-free, the ingredients are non-GMO, mostly organic* and “virtually” soy-free. The cookies are preservative free and all natural.
     
    A taste is worth a thousand words, so head to SoulfullySweet.com and indulge your cookie passion.
    __________________________________
    *The combination of gluten-free and organic ingredients is often hard to find and very pricey when you do find it. The cookies range from 84% to 90% organic ingredients. This brand doesn’t cut back on the absolute best-tasting gluten-free ingredients, and that, plus the small batch artisanal production, is why the cookies are so expensive.

     

    Gluten Free Cookies

    Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Gluten Free Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Soulfully Sweet cookies in three of the eight flavors: Molasses Ginger, Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Chip. Photos courtesy Soulfully Sweet.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Biscotti Bites

    Biscotti Bites

    Almond Biscotti Bites

    Top: Each Biscotti Bite is a 12-calorie treat. Photo: Thomas Francois | FOT. Bottom: Almond, one of the three flavors of Biscotti Bites. Photo: The Bites Company.

     

    Every person who is mindful of calories searches for those magical foods that deliver the satisfaction without the calories. We discovered one such food in Biscotti Bites from The Bites Company.

    Before we wax poetic, note that other companies market products called Biscotti Bites. Some are miniature biscotti like Nonni’s Biscotti Bites, a product we enjoy very much.

    But The Bites Company makes little round cookies, just 1-3/8 inches in diameter.

    They’re less dense than biscotti yet still crunchy. And they deliver lovely biscotti flavor in in Almond, Cocoa and Lemon.

    Company founder Dana Upton had made traditional biscotti for 30 years. She reworked her recipe so that her cookies would still deliver a biscotti experience at 12 calories a bite.

    The recommended serving size is 10 cookies for 120 calories; 9 cookies have 3 Weight Watchers points.

    The cookies are all natural, made in small batches from scratch with top-quality ingredients. The Almond flavor evokes traditional biscotti. The Lemon flavor contains fresh lemon peel, for a lilting lemon flavor. The Cocoa flavor is more subtle; we prefer the first two.

    As for nutrition, Biscotti Bites are:

  • Are low in sodium, with no added salt.
  • Have less than 1 gram of sugar in each cookie.
  • Have the right “no” list: no canola oil, no GMOs, no high fructose corn syrup, no MSG, no soy, no trans fat.
  •  
    They are also kosher-certified, although the company is using up its supply of packaging without the hechsher.

    Biscotti Bites are sold in 4.5-ounce bags, and the Almond variety is available in 1-ounce single serve bags. You can buy them on the company website, TheBitesCompany.com, or head to Amazon for:

  • Almond Biscotti Bites
  • Cocoa Biscotti Bites
  • Lemon Biscotti Bites
  •  

     
    The MSRP for single packages is $5.99; a three-pack is $15.00. We promise, they’re worth every penny.

    They are so delicious that you can’t eat just one. Fortunately, you can have 10 at a time.
     
    BISCOTTI TRIVIA

    Biscotti date back to ancient Rome. They were originally made not for a leisurely snack with an espresso, but as a long-shelf-life food that could be carried by travelers, back in the day when you were not likely to find food on the road.

    Among the travelers who took biscotti with them were the Roman Legions. Here’s the history of biscotti.

     
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Just Mayo, Egg-Free Mayonnaise

    Just Mayo Bottles

    Crab Cakes Just Mayo

    French Fries Sriracha Mayo

    Top photo: the Just Mayo line. Second photo: Crab cake with Chipotle Just Mayo. Third photo: Sriracha Just Mayo with fries. Photos courtesy Just Mayo. Bottom photo: Grilled Mexican corn (elote) with Original Just Mayo. Photos courtesy Hampton Creek.

     

    The Just Mayo line from Hampton Creek has been getting a lot of attention since its debut in 2013.

    The San Francisco start-up focuses on foods with plant-based egg alternatives. Its first two products are Just Mayo and Just Cookie Dough, with Just Dressing, Just Pancake Mix and an eggless, plant-based scramble on the horizon.

    The full-fat mayonnaise alternative is made from expeller-pressed canola oil so for starters, they’re cholesterol free, allergy friendly and more sustainable (no animals to pollute the environment). The ingredients are non-GMO.

    The line is vegan, but you won’t find that designation promoted on the current product label. Rather, it’s marketed as healthier, better tasting and more sustainable for the planet.

    The brand did such a good job of attracting attention that Unilever, the parent company of mayo megabrand Hellmann’s, filed a lawsuit against Hampton Creek in 2014, since government specifications dictate that mayonnaise is made with eggs. The FDA was tipped off, as well.

    Last month, it was reported that the issues have been resolved, by changing the product label. The new label describes the product as egg-free and non-GMO, and explains that “Just” in the product name means means “guided by reason, justice and fairness.” The brand will not claim to be cholesterol-free or heart-healthy. Here’s a report of the FDA’s decision.

    The new label is not yet out, but we’re guessing the image of a whole egg will be removed, too.
     
    JUST MAYO’S FOUR FLAVORS

    Just Mayo is made in four flavors: Original, Chipotle, Garlic and Sriracha. The flavored varieties especially add zing.

    So what are the ingredients?

    Canola oil, water, white vinegar and 2% or less of organic sugar, salt, pea protein, spices, modified food starch, lemon juice concentrate, fruit and vegetable juice for color) and calcium disodium EDTA to preserve freshness.

    If you have a sharp eye you’ve noticed the substitution: pea protein, a relatively new ingredient that is used as an alternative to whey protein in cheeses and yogurt. Made from a specific variety of the Canadian yellow pea, it has a neutral taste.

    And speaking of taste: In our blind taste test, about half of the testers preferred Original Just Mayo to Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise.
     
    USES

    Just Mayo can be used as a substitute for mayonnaise anywhere. For example:

  • Burgers and sandwiches
  • Dips
  • Mayonnaise-bound salads: carrot salad, cole slaw, egg salad, pasta salad, potato salad, tuna and seafood salads, etc.
  • Salad dressing for green salads
  • Sauces and plate garnishes
  • Anywhere you use mayonnaise (check the website for basic recipes: cole slaw, potato salad, salad dressings and other favorites)
  •  
    A FEEL GOOD PRODUCT

    In addition to the environmental benefit (no animal pollution), we feel better about egg-free products. Much as we love eggs, most sold in the U.S. are laid by hens raised in cruel conditions. About 88% are housed in tiny battery cages.

    Just Mayo is available at grocery stores nationwide, including Costco, Safeway, Walmart and Whole Foods Market. You can also use the website store locator. The product is available in 8 ounce (SRP $3.99) and 16 ounce (SRP $4.49) bottles.
     
    AT THE END OF THE DAY…

    While we enjoyed Just Mayo enough to make it a Top Pick, we’ll stick with our personal favorite (and eggy) mayonnaise, Lemonaise from The Ojai Cook (here’s our review).

    We love the added nuance of a flavored mayonnaise, and Lemonaise is made in Original, Light, Cha Cha Chipotle, Fire And Spice (tomato, cayenne, cumin) Garlic Herb (basil and tarragon), Green Dragon (mustard, cilantro, wasabi) and Latin (chiles, lime, cumin).
     
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Yellow Tail Sparkling Rosé

    If you’re buying sparkling wine for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, you may be tempted to buy Champagne. But unless your guests are wine connoisseurs, you can have just as pleasant an experience with other sparkling wines, for a third to half of the price of the least expensive bottle of Champagne.

    Champagne is a name-protected sparkling wine that is made only in the Champagne region of northeast France. Every other wine that has bubbles is called sparkling wine.

    You can find sparklers from other regions and nations in the $10 to $12 range that are very satisfying in the glass. When mixed into a cocktail, no one can tell the difference.

    But the difference in price is substantial. The most affordable Champagnes tend to be in the $35 range. If you’re buying several bottles, do the math.

    We do buy Champagne and look for values—both the houses we know, like Pol Roger Brut Reserve, $35, and smaller houses that the wine clerk recommends. Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte and Jacquart are $35, the better-known Mumm is $40.

    A number of years ago, on a recommendation from wine expert Robert Parker, we purchased and went crazy for the $35 Egly-Ouriet, a smaller producer we’d never heard of. Today you can find bottles from $38 to $65, depending on the vintage and the retailer.

       

    Yellow Tail Bubbles

    We buy Yellow Tail Bubbles Sparkling Rosé by the case! It’s also available in Sparkling White. Photo courtesy Yellow Tail.

     
    WHEN YOU NEED A LOT OF BUBBLY…

    When multiple bottles are required, we turn our sights elsewhere, to sparkling wine varieties that are $8 to $15 a bottle. Prices will vary by retailer, but keep an eye out for:

  • Asti Spumante from Italy: Martini Asti is about $12; the sweeter Cinzano Asti, $13, is great with dessert.
  • Australian Sparklers: Our favorite is Yellow Tail Bubbles in regular and rosé, $10.
  • Cava from Spain: For $8, look for Cristalino Brut and Cristalino Brut Rosé; Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut is $12 and Freixenet Cava Carta Nevada Semi Dry (sweeter) is $9.
  • Crémant from France: Numerous labels of this Loire Valley sparkler sell for $12-$15.
  • Prosecco from Italy: Good sparklers are available for $9-$10.
  • California Sparklers: In the lower ranges, look for Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge Brut, $10 and Moet et Chandon’s Chandon Brut, $17.
  • Other American Sparklers:: Domaine Ste Michelle Brut from Oregon ($10) and others from New York to Texas.
  •  

    NOTE: If you’re checking prices online, make sure they’re for standard 750ml bottles, not half bottles or splits.

     

    Moet et Chandon Champagne

    Yellow Tail sparkling wine from Australia
    (photo at top of page) is $10. Moet et
    Chandon Champagne from France (photo
    above) is $40. Photo via Pinterest |
    Facebook.

     

    WHY IS CHAMPAGNE SO EXPENSIVE?

    It’s a question of supply and demand. The supply is limited because by law, Champagne can only be produced in the Champagne region of northern France. There’s no more land that can be planted with grapes.

    The demand began around 1715 in Paris, when Philippe II became the Regent of France. He liked sparkling Champagne and served it nightly at dinner. The cachet was taken up by Parisan society. Winemakers in Champagne began to switch their products from still wines—the majority produced at the time—to sparkling.

    Throughout the 18th century, new Champagne houses were established. Moët & Chandon, Louis Roederer, Piper-Heidsieck and Taittinger were among the major houses founded during this period.
     
    Is Champagne Better Than Other Sparkling Wines?

    Champagne has the most complex flavors among sparkling wines, and the greatest aging potential, which deepens the complexity.

    Its unique flavors—toasty and yeasty—are due to the layers of chalk underneath the region’s soil.

     
    A vast chalk plain was laid down in the Cretaceous period, 145 to 66 million years ago (it’s the same huge expanse that created the White Cliffs of Dover in England). The chalk provides good drainage and reflects the heat from the sun, two factors that influence the flavor of the grapes.

    Champagne makers perfected the méthode champenoise, adding a dosage of sugar that generates a secondary fermentation in the bottle. This creates the bubbles.

    While producers the world over use the méthode champenoise to make sparkling wines, only the vine roots in Champagne grow down into the chalk, creating the prized flavors and body.

    However, not everyone likes yeasty, toasty wines. Other regions produce lighter bodied wines with citrus and other fruity flavors and floral aromas. The only way to discover what you like is to taste, taste, taste.

      

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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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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Dingel’s Oven Shortbread & Gingerbread (The Best!)

    Dingel's Oven Shortbread

    Three-inch monogrammed shortbread tiles,
    with a back coated with salted caramel.
    Photo courtesy Dingel’s Oven.

     

    A few months ago we were introduced to Dingel’s Oven, located in Beaverton, Oregon. What a find! And what a solution to gift-giving throughout the year. Because anyone who receives a box of cookies from Dingel’s Oven will look forward to another one, and another, and another.

    Bakers Uta and Ego specialize in the most delicious shortbread cookies and gingerbread cookies. Both are made in three-inch square “tiles” with crimped edges and a large monogram in the center.

    The cookies themselves are perfection, made even more perfect because each batch is hand-baked to order. In a cookie tin (provided by you), they’ll last for more than two months. That would be a theory, because no mere mortal can resist devouring them.

    But in the name of research, we’ve kept a few for almost three months now. While not as perfect as the fresh-baked—for example, the terrific fresh butter flavor we initially tasted is now a normal butter flavor—they are still delicious. No one who hadn’t tasted the originals would know the difference.

    The cookies freeze well, too.

    THE COOKIES

    Salted Caramel Shortbread Tiles

    The shortbread tiles have a surprise: The bottom of each cookie is covered with salted caramel. Shortbread and salted caramel together is wedded bliss.
     
    Glazed Gingerbread Tiles

    Requests for the gingerbread tiles continue beyond the holiday season, so the cookies are available year round. Centuries ago, ginger was expensive and a holiday splurge; that’s why gingerbread is associated with Christmas. Today, there’s no reason not to enjoy it year-round—especially with memorable cookies like these.
     
    Cookie Details

  • Many companies say that they only use the freshest, simplest, purest ingredients of the highest quality. That may be so; but Dingel’s Oven ingredients are even fresher and higher in quality. The butter in the shortbread really sets the bar, as does the ginger in the gingerbread.
  • The cookies are sold by the dozen. One dozen 3″ x 3″ cookies are $24.
  • The recipes contain no peanuts or nut products. No artificial additives, preservatives or extenders are used whatsoever. Sorry, but there is no gluten-free option.
  • Your personal message will be written on a gift card. For corporate gifts, the card can feature a 4-color logo.
  •  
    But don’t tarry. Since every the cookies are hand-baked to order, the bakers need two-week lead time for the holidays; and as much lead time as possible is greatly appreciated.

     

    BEYOND THE HOLIDAYS

    Think of Dingel’s Oven tile coookies year-round for:

  • Bachelorette parties
  • Wedding favors
  • Baby showers
  • Corporate gifts
  • Custom cookies for any occasion
  •  
    Instead of an initial monogram, you can have a logo or other image on your cookies.

    Thank you, Dingel’s Oven, for creating a memorable cookie that solves just about all gift-giving needs.

     

    Gingerbread a la Mode

    Serve the cookies à la mode, with vanilla, coffee or rum raisin ice cream. Photo courtesy Dingel’s Oven.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Serpent’s Bite Apple Cider Flavored Whisky

    Serpent's Bite Bottle

    Good enough to tote in a flask. Photo
    courtesy Spirits Marque One.

     

    Flavored shots are trending, and our favorite this season is Serpent’s Bite Apple Cider Flavored Whisky.

    It does for whisky what so many distillers have done for vodka: infuses a delectable layer of flavor.

    And Serpent’s Bite is the flavor of fall. It will appeal to fans of whisky and hard apple cider alike. It’s very smooth with a fine balance of sweet, crisp apple cider flavors with the whisky. The latter is distilled from corn and rye, which are blended during distillation and then infused with the apple cider flavors.

    Serpent’s Bite was made to be enjoyed in a neat shot, straight up with a slice of apple, or in a mixed-based shooter.

    At 35% ABV/70 proof, it’s a bit less alcoholic than your typical shot.

    It’s available in 50 ml (MSRP $1.89), 750 ml (MSRP $15.99) and 1 liter bottles (MSRP $18.99).

    If you want to know anything else about it, too bad. The only things on the one-page website are links to Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter feeds, the latter promoting the hashtag #BiteTheNight.

     
    Perhaps the only thing to say is: It tastes really good and would be a swell gift for the right folks.

    Spirits Marque One, producer of Serpent’s Bite, is part of Constellation Brands, the holdings of which comprise the world’s largest producer of wine, including Manischewitz and Robert Mondavi. Other alcohol brands among the hundred-plus include Corona beer and Svedka vodka.

     

    WHISKY VS. WHISKEY

    Whisky is the Scottish spelling of whiskey. The alternative spelling was chosen to differentiate the national product from Irish whiskey.

    The “whisky” spelling is used in Canada, Japan and Wales, as well as Scotland.

    In the United States, a 1968 directive from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms specifies “whisky” as the official U.S. spelling. However, it allows the alternative spelling, “whiskey.”

    Most U.S. producers prefer to include the “e,” as do we. Without it, it looks like something is missing.

    And another reason to keep the “e”: Irish whiskey predates Scotch whisky. Check out this brief history of whiskey.

    Ironically, distillation was discovered in the 8th century in Persia—a country that has not permitted the sale and consumption of spirits since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

     

    Serpent's Bite Shot

    Take a sip, bite the apple. Photo courtesy Spirits Marque One.

     

      

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