This is the first of a two-part presentation of products we’ve recently tried. They can be part of the kitchen pantry or given as gifts.
And, they can be given as gifts for Valentine’s Day, instead of chocolate and cupcakes.
In alphabetical order, they are:
Some people think that bourbon is Jim Beam; after all, it’s the world’s best-selling brand.
But artisan brands typically put mass brands to shame; and that’s the case with Black Dirt Distillery’s handcrafted bourbon, made with Crown Maple Syrup.
Both companies are neighbors in New York State’s artisan food paradise, the Hudson Valley. Black Dirt is the first micro-distillery in New York State.
The bourbon brand takes its name from the dark, fertile soil left by an ancient glacial lake that once covered thousands of acres of upstate New York (more mastodons have been unearthed there than anywhere else on Earth). This is the first time the land has been used to grow corn for bourbon production.
The partnership, in which Black Dirt Bourbon is aged for an additional year with Crown Maple syrup, produces a spirit so smooth and sweet, you can’t help but sip it straight. It’s sheer pleasure, and may open many minds that an ounce of a fine spirit can be more enjoyable than a glass of wine.
Smooth and supple with a touch of sweetness, this is a bourbon worth seeking out.
Discover more at BlackDirtDistillery.com.
For health-and-wellness-conscious Valentines, the gift of a luxurious bottle of extras virgin olive oil will impress.
Laudemio Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an elite, award-winning product and ambassador of Tuscan olive oil-making—the finest example of high quality extra virgin.
In medieval times. the term laudemio referred to the oil made from the finest part of the harvest. It was reserved for the feudal lord.
The name became the byword for quality and prestige. In 1986, a consortium of the highest quality olive oil producers took the name for its brand.
Laudemio Frescobaldi* is produced from the hand-harvested olives that are milled the same day at a controlled temperature at the property’s own mill (both of these are important to keep the acidity low, the oil from oxidizing).
The line of oils, made from different single origins and blends, is delicious. We know: We drank all of them from cups, and then tasted them with different foods.
Why a Valentine’s gift? Beyond the wellness angle, the Laudemio olive oil bottle is a modeled after a high-end perfume bottle
You can find Laudemio at fine retailers and online at Olio2Go.com.
For more information visit Frescobaldi.com.
*The oil is distributed in partnership with the Italian vintner Frescobaldi.
3. LOVE CRUNCH CHOCOLATE CEREAL WITH RED BERRIES
A few months ago, we wrote about the new Chocolate Frosted Flakes from Kellogg.
But from our adult point-of-view, we prefer Love Crunch from Nature’s Path Organic. Dark chocolate flakes, made with Italian dark chocolate, are a blend of corn meal, whole grain rolled oats and whole wheat meal. The bonus is a sprinkling of freeze-dried berries, pink nuggets that dot the dark chocolate flakes.
And, the sweetness level is geared to an adult palate, compared to the more sugary flavor of the Frosted Flakes.
If there’s a better Valentine breakfast cereal, we haven’t found it.
The cereal is certified USDA Organic, Non GMO and OU(D) Kosher. For more information, head to Nature’s Path. Note that these are the chocolate cereal flakes, which are also available in Dark Chocolate Macaroon and Dark Chocolate & Peanut Butter. The brand also makes Love Crunch granola and granola bars in a variety of flavors.
 Blackberry juice gives this beer a rosy hue for Valentine’s Day (photo courtesy Traveler Beer Company).
4. LUCKY TRAVELER BLACKBERRY SHANDY
Shandy is a beer mixed with a soft drink or juice; it can be carbonated or still. Apple juice, ginger ale, ginger beer, lemonade and orange juice are popular pairings.
In the case of Blackberry Shandy, blackberry juice and lemon peel are added to the brew. The result is a mild fruity sweetness, a beer that can be drunk as an aperitif, with most courses, including cheese, dessert and a box of chocolates.
Its blush rose color is right for Valentine’s Day. You can even use it to marinate berries or a mixed fruit salad, or substitute it for regular beer in recipes.
Discover more at TravelerBeer.com
Hack: Mix a wheat ale with pomegranate or other red juice. Try half-and-half, then adjust according to your palate.
Discover more at TravelerBeer.com.
This gift is for coffee lovers, but you don’t need a cup of coffee to enjoy a crunchy snack of Rip Van Wafels, another health-and-wellness gift idea.
Stroopwafels (syrup waffles) are an old Dutch treat, invented in the town of Gouda in 1784. Two thin wafers are sandwiched around a thin filling, traditionally a soft, chewy caramel-flavored syrup.
The traditional way to eat them is with a cup of coffee, tea or cocoa. Just before it is consumed, the stroopwafel is placed on top of the hot cup in order to soften it. The filling melts, and scents of cinnamon and nutmeg are released into the air.
Originally made from leftover crumbs, the stroopwafel was not a grand treat; but in poor homes, it was an easy one to pull together.
Now, you can enjoy the treat as a better-for-you snack, individually wrapped for portability.
Rip Van Wafels has created with a health-oriented version with the nutritional needs of endurance sports athletes, such as cyclists and runners. It is relatively low in sugar (8g) while delivering good carbs that athletes need to keep energy levels high.
The wafels are sold at many Starbucks, You can gift that someone special—or your work group—with a variety box.
Discover more at RipVan.com.