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GIFT: Sitka Salmon Shares, Fresh-Caught In Alaska

Whole Raw Salmon
[1] Freshly caught and skinned wild salmon (all photos © Sitka Salmon Shares).

Line Caught Salmon
[2] Line-caught salmon.

Fisherman With Salmon
[3] After they’re caught, the fish are quickly processed.

Sitka Salmon Shares
[4] They’re blast-frozen, and shipped by FedEx to your doorstep.


[5] The fish arrive ready to season and cook.

 

Several months ago we wrote about a wonderful service for fish lovers: Sitka Salmon Shares, a wild-caught Alaskan seafood delivery service.

Sitka is a port city in southeastern Alaska, near Juneau, the state capital, which is inland.

Sitka sits on the west side of Baranof Island, on the Gulf of Alaska.

And it’s there that a collective of local fishermen pull the catch into their boats and quickly bring it to port.

There, it’s filleted, blast frozen to -50°F and individually vacuum-sealed, locking in the fresh-caught flavor.

We’re a very happy subscriber. The fish is as good as it gets.

Sometimes we’ll eat the fish night after night, until it’s gone, because we can’t stop eating it.

The vacuum-packed seafood can sit in the fridge for more than a week (we’ve had excellent results with salmon two weeks in the fridge).

When we won’t be dining in for a week or so, some of the fish stays goes into the freezer for later in the month. It maintains its fresh taste without degrading.

  • If your freezer is 20 degrees below zero or colder, the fish stays fresh-tasting up up to 1 year without degradation.
  • If your freezer is warmer, the fish will last 2-3 months before its freshness starts to degrade.
  • You can likely keep the fish even longer than 3 months or a year; these are just the points at which the fish just starts to degrade.
     
    Buy it for yourself, and make a gift to others who:

  • Want to eat more healthfully.
  • Want to eat more wild-caught fish.
  • Want fish so good, it requires just the simplest cooking.
  • Appreciate a sustainable gift.
  • Want to support family fishermen/women.
  •  
     
    HOW DO THE FISH TASTE?

    The company’s motto is “from boat to doorstep.” The fish tastes like it was just pulled out of the water.

    When we test fish or meat, we cook it simply, with no seasonings. The true test of flavor is how good they taste when they’re “naked.”

    The Sitka Salmon Shares salmon and cod we tasted were so good, just steamed, that we had no need to add salt, pepper or lemon juice to the cooked fish. (We cooked it “medium rare.”)

    We felt so good eating great fish for dinner, that we ordered a premium share in addition to our regular share.
     
     
    COMMUNITY SUPPORTED FISHERY SEAFOOD DELIVERY

    Sitka Salmon Shares is Community Supported Fishery (CSF), the fish version of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), where farmers deliver boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables during the season.

    Consumers purchase “shares” of the seafood harvest before the fishing season begins.

    The number of shares purchased dictates how much fish the fishermen catch, which is why you need to sign up before fishing season begins.

    Your share of the wild Alaskan catch is delivered to you monthly during the fishing season, which runs from April thru December.

    The species and weight of your fish will vary, based on the plan you select.
     
    Subscriptions are open now, and the company will send a gift card.
     
     
    WHEN YOU SIGN UP

    You choose the species and quantity of fish for your monthly delivery, ranging from 3 to 9-month intervals (you can cancel at any time).

    The 2020 catch is based on what’s best in the sea. The 2019 catch included:

  • Albacore tuna
  • Black bass
  • Black cod, lingcod, Pacific cod
  • Halibut
  • Shellfish: Dungeness crab, spot prawns
  • Pacific rockfish, yelloweye rockfish
  • Salmon: Alaskan king salmon, coho salmon, keta salmon, sockeye salmon
  •  
    A FEEL-GOOD PURCHASE

    The CSF (Community Supported Fishery) supports small-boat family fishermen.

  • The fishermen receive a fair wage for a day’s work.
  • Sitka Salmon Shares returns a percentage of all CSF-related revenue back to fisheries conservation and habitat protection efforts.
  • The cooperative also purchases carbon offsets to compensate for the carbon that is released in their distribution system.
  • The entire system is transparent and accountable, from the moment your fish is caught to the moment it reaches your hands.
  •  
     
    YOUR NEXT STEP

    Head to SitkaSalmonShares.com and pick a plan.

    Then, relish each box of fish you receive.

    If you’re not a skilled cook, remember: No fish-cooking skills are required. A simple steaming is marvelous (and very low in calories).

    Your fish-loving friends and family will be thrilled with a gift of Sitka Salmon Shares.

    Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Give a gift of fish and you provide a number of memorable meals.

    NOTE:

    Memberships are open now, and available year-round except for one transition week.

    There is a one-week period in late September/early October when you cannot purchase a membership.

    That being said, if you hit the website during that week, just come back the following week!

      

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    HOLIDAY GIFT: Baileys Red Velvet Irish Cream Liqueur

    Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur had us at “hello.”

    Over the years, the liqueur’s portfolio has expanded far beyond Original Irish Cream liqueur, to Chocolate Cherry, Espresso Crème, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Cinnamon and limited-edition flavors for the holidays (Pumpkin Spice, Baileys Strawberries & Cream).

    Each flavor is an indulgent drinking experience…a substitute for ice cream…a treat whenever you need one…a way to wow guests.

    And now, for Holiday 2019, there’s a new way to wow: Baileys Red Velvet Irish Cream (photo #1).

    The flavor was created in collaboration with Georgetown Cupcake, a cupcake bakery that originated in D.C. Their best cupcake seller is (drum roll…) the Red Velvet cupcake.

    But the liqueur it is oh, so much better than any red velvet cupcake or layer cake.

    Baileys Red Velvet liqueur has rich cocoa flavor that classic red velvet cake should have, but most rarely do (that’s our humble opinion).

    It smells like cocoa, tastes like cocoa made with heavy cream, and for eye appeal, it’s a dusty rose color.

    TIP: Before it sells out, buy more for Valentine gifts and Mother’s Day. Freshness is guaranteed for two years.

    The 750mL bottle lists for $23.99. For more information visit Baileys.com.
     
     
    USES FOR BAILEYS RED VELVET IRISH CREAM LIQUEUR

    Sip it straight! This stuff is just too good to mix into cocktails, to bake into brownies or red velvet cake, or to swirl into cheesecake.

    But you can:

  • Drizzle it over cheesecake and ice cream.
  • Add it to hot whole milk or half-and-half and drink it as “hot red velvet chocolate.”
  • Make a float, as in photo #1: Fill a small glass halfway with Baileys Red Velvet, add vanilla or chocolate ice cream, and top with whipped cream.
  •  
     
    THE HISTORY OF BAILEYS IRISH CREAM

    Baileys Irish Cream was created almost 50 years ago by Gilbeys of Ireland, part of International Distillers & Vintners (which is now part of Diageo), as it searched for something new to introduce to the international market.

    Research began in 1971, and the liqueur was formulated by an internal team plus consultants.

    The formulation of Baileys was created with a surfeit of alcohol from a distillery and a desire to use surplus cream from an Irish dairy business, both owned by by the parent company, Grand Metropolitan (Irish cows are known for quality of their milk).

    The first trial formulation included alcohol, cream and Nesquik, the classic chocolate milk powdered drink made by Nestlé.

    Finally, the approved formulation: a delectable concoction of the cream from the cows, Irish whiskey, cocoa extract, both beet and cane sugar, and some proprietary ingredients we can’t suss out (Vanilla extract? Sweetened condensed milk? A hint of coffee? None of these?).

    When it was time for branding, the name was inspired by the Bailey’s Hotel in London, although the liqueur’s registered trademark omits the apostrophe. R.A. Bailey, whose signature adorns the label of the Original bottle, is a fictional character.

    The liqueur was launched in Ireland in 1974, the first Irish cream liqueur on the market [source].
     
     
    ABOUT BAILEYS

    The Bailey’s brand is now owned by Diageo, the alcoholic beverages giant.

    It’s available in 180 markets worldwide. It’s the number one selling liqueur in the world, and is currently ranked 7th among all distilled spirits sold worldwide!

     


    [1] Sip the pink elixir from a liqueur glass, or turn it into an ice cream float (photos #1, #3 ad #4 © Diageo).


    [2] Have some as a chaser after a piece of red velvet cake. Here’s the recipe from McCormick.


    [3] Red Velvet: Baileys float, cookies, cupcakes, layer cake.


    [4] Before it sells out, buy it now for Christmas and Valentine gifts.

     

      

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    CANDY GIFT: Eat Your Drink Gummies (Jellies) With Alcohol


    [1] These jellies taste like real cocktails (all photos © Eat Your Drink).


    [2] A lineup of food fun.

    [3] So much better than a mint on your pillow.


    [4] Naughty Or Nice, the limited-edition holiday collection.

     

    We have a new candy love: alcoholic cocktail gummies from Smith & Sinclair

    The London-based confectioner creates alcoholic drinks you can eat. Really.

    These delicious gummy mounds—actually pâte de fruits (think Chuckles, one of our childhood favorites)—hold a subtle kick at 5% ABV (the equivalent of ½ shot of alcohol). Yes, you really taste the rum or tequila.

    Can you get smashed by eating them? Not in our experience—and we ate four pieces at once!

    Individually wrapped, the bites of heaven are gluten-free and vegan.

    Each two-bite gummy has a spirit base (gin, prosecco, rum, vodka or whiskey) that is blended with fresh fruit, herbs, syrups. You can taste the high quality of the ingredients.

    They’re coated with garnish infused sugars (photo #1) that add to the cocktail flavor.

    The company suggests that you allow the gummy to rest on the palate, but we found it difficult to wait.

    The different assortments each feature 4 flavors of “expertly mixed cocktail gummies”—two pieces of each flavor.

    The After Dinner Box we received as a gift contained:

  • Gin and Tonic (40% gin)
  • Mocha Espresso Martini (40% vodka)
  • Hibiscus Negroni (40% gin)
  • Passion Fruit Mojito (40% white rum)
  •  
    The Celebration Box includes:

  • Berry Daiquiri (40% dark rum)
  • Elderflower Gin Spritz (40% gin)
  • Passion Fruit Mojito (40% white rum)
  • Pineapple Bellini (40% vodka)
  •  
    The Gin Obsessed Box features:

  • Gin and Tonic (40% gin)
  • Cherry and Hibiscus Bramble (40% gin)
  • Elderflower Gin Spritz (40% gin)
  • Hibiscus Negroni (40% gin)
  •  
    There’s a limited edition Naughty Or Nice Box for 2019, with:

  • Amaretto Sour (40% whiskey)
  • Cherry and Hibiscus Bramble (40% gin)
  • Mandarin Spritz (40% vodka)
  • Mocha Espresso Martini (40% vodka)
  •  
     
    GUMMIES VS. JELLIES VS. FRUIT PASTES VS. PÂTE DE FRUITS

    The magnificent-sounding French term, pâte de fruits (pot-duh-froo-EE), describes what Eat Your Drink calls gummies.

    Pâte de fruits translates as the rather frowsy-sounding fruit pastes. Jellies is better. Pâtes de fruits are gourmet fruit jellies.

    They are gourmet fruits jellies, made of fruit purée, sugar and pectin. A great pâte de fruit is like eating a wonderful piece of fruit in a different form (similar to a great fruit sorbet).

    If you’re old enough to remember Chuckles candy (hard to find these days), they are “jelly candies coated with a light layer of sugar.”

    Bingo! That’s much like Eat Your Drink, although the latter ups the ante with top quality ingredients and—oh yes—alcohol.

    Calling the candies “fruit jellies” has its own challenges, as in confusing “jelly” or “fruit jelly” with the bread spread.

    What About “Gummies?”

    Gummy candy may mean something different in the U.K., where Eat My Drink originated.

    Both are made with gelatin, sugar and flavoring.

    But in its homeland, Germany, and in the U.S., “gummy” or “gummi” refers a different texture—it’s solid, whereas jellies are covered with sugar, more flexible, and made in domes or squares.

    Gummies also typically have a less-intense flavor than jellies. (Here’s the scoop on gummies).

    Hey, we’re just a food educator, trying to provide the bigger picture.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK & STOCKING STUFFER: Divina Fig Spreads

    If you’ve never had a deliciously ripe fig (photo #6), you’re missing out.

    A superfood rich in fiber, iron, manganese, potassium, and plant calcium*, figs can be enjoyed in many ways (and have medical uses as well).

    Figs have been a mainstay in the Mediterranean since ancient times. They were a significant part of the basic diet of the ancient Greeks.

    Greece remains one of the largest producers of figs worldwide.

    Our Product Of The Week showcases Greek figs as a spread; specifically, the Divina fig spreads (photo #1).

    And what fig spreads they are! We have long purchased fig spreads, but none as good as these.
     
     
    DIVINA FIG SPREAD

    First: What is a spread?

    Jam, jelly, marmalade, preserves and the other types of spreadable condiments, both sweet and savory, can all be called “spreads.”

    However, in the U.S. manufacturers have co-opted the term “fruit spread” to mean sugar-free/reduced calorie spreads.

    Blame the FDA for the confusion: In 1940, the Food and Drug Administration created “Standards of Identity” describing what constitutes a jam, jelly, preserve, spread, etc.

    Here are the different definitions of jam, jelly, preserves, etc.

    Ignore the U.S. definition for “spread” as you contemplate Divina fig spreads.

    Divina fig spreads are deeply fruity and complex with notes of caramel and honey. They taste like ripe figs were mashed inside the jar. They’re as close to eating a piece of fruit as we’ve ever experienced in a spread.

    Even if there were only the “original” fig spread, these delectable condiments have so many uses beyond toast (see below).

    Beyond the original, Divina fig spreads are accented with other sweet and savory flavors. Choose among:

  • Black Olive Fig Spread
  • Chili Fig Spread
  • Cocoa Fig Spread
  • Kalamata Fig Spread With Almonds
  • Orange Fig Spread
  •  
    Depending on your palate, each of them is an heavenly experience.

    All the spreads use non-GMO Greek Aegean figs and are all natural and gluten free.

    A bit of an extra commercial for Divina: Everything we have tasted from this brand has been top drawer. You’ll never be disappointed with Divina.
     


    HOW TO USE THE FIG SPREADS

    Here’s a roundup of how we use fig spread:

  • As a breakfast bread spread, on French toast and on porridge.
  • As a condiment with charcuterie, cheese plates and Baked Brie, and omelets.
  • As a garnish on ice cream and sorbet, or a spoonful from the jar.
  • As a dessert sauce or garnish, blended with mascarpone.
  • In a sauce or paste for pork and poultry, with balsamic vinegar, as a glaze or to deglaze a pan.
  • In tartlet shells or phyllo cups, topped with a dab of crème fraîche or mascarpone; or in hand pies.
  • In crêpe filling mixed with cream cheese or goat cheese, or in the center of baked apples.
  • In thumbprint cookies, rugelach, fig jam bars or homemade Fig Newtons.
  • Mixed into yogurt.
  • Mixed into a balsamic vinaigrette or barbecue sauce.
  • On crostini with goat cheese or chicken liver mousse/pâté, plus a balsamic drizzle.
  • On sandwiches and panini, especially beef, cheese, grilled cheese, ham, turkey and grilled vegetable.
  • On white pizza, topped with fresh figs, artichokes, arugula, caramelized onions or sweet onions, fennel, goat cheese, prosciutto, sundried tomatoes, sweet sausage, zucchini, whatever.
  • Shaken with tequila or vodka for a fig cocktail.
  • Swirled into cheesecake or ice cream.
  • Thinned with water to make fig ice pops.
  • With a chunk of parmesan cheese, in a classic Italian cheese course pairing with a Barbera, Brunello, or a Cabernet Sauvignon.
  •  
    And we use them as gifts for our food-loving friends, alone or with a Baby Brie or blue cheese.

    Produced by FoodMatch, a company whose main business is as producer and importer of Mediterranean specialty foods for the wholesale market, the spreads are available at fine retailers plus:

  • Amazon
  • Murray’s Cheese
  •  
     
    THE HISTORY OF FIGS

    The common fig (Ficus carica) is one of the first plants cultivated by mankind, in the Fertile Crescent.

    Fossils dating to about 9400 B.C.E. have been found in an early Neolithic village near Jericho, in the West Bank.

    Based on this find, fig cultivation precedes the domestication of barley, legumes and wheat, and may thus be the first known instance of agriculture!

    In the millennia before Europe and the Middle East had access to cane sugar or beet sugar, figs were used, in addition to honey, as sweet snacks and in cakes, puddings and other desserts.

    Figs were brought from Asia Minor to Greece and Rome, then throughout the Mediterranean, and east to India.

    Figs, which can produce two crops a year, became common food. In 160 B.C.E., Cato the Elder wrote of several different varieties that were grown in his area.

    A fun fact for foie gras lovers: The Romans used figs to fatten geese for an early version of foie gras.

    From the 15th century onwards, figs were growing in Northern Europe.

     


    [1] Divina Fig Spread is made in Original plus flavors: Black Olive, Chile, Cocoa, Kalamata Fig & Almonds, and Orange (photo © Murray’s Cheese).


    [2] Fig Spread and Orange Fig Spread crostini with goat cheese (photo © FoodMatch).


    [3] Divina ready to spoon from a bowl (photo © Murray’s Cheese).


    [4] Pizza With Fig Preserves & Chicken Sausage. Here’s the recipe (photo © Bev Cooks).


    [5] Baked Brie and Fig Jam in Puff Pastry, garnished with pomegranate arils and candied walnuts. Here’s the recipe (photo © Aberdeen’s Kitchen).


    [6] Fresh figs: from top, Brown Turkey, Calimyrna, Mission and Kadota (photo © California Figs).

     
    The word fig, first found recorded in English in the 13th century, derives from the Old French figue, from the Occitan (Provençal) figa, from the Classical Latin ficus (fig or fig-tree).

    Figs In The New World

    Figs first came to America in 1520 with Franciscan missionaries, who brought a variety of fig from southern Spain to southern California.

    Since they were grown on the property of missions, the variety became known as the Mission fig.

    In the 1850s, settlers brought other varieties from the East Coast and Europe to California, which became America’s primary fig-growing region [source].

    There are thousands of fig varieties in the world but today, California specializes in six fresh and two dried types: Golden and Mission dried figs, and Brown Turkey, Kadota, Mission, Sierra and Tiger fresh figs (photo #6).

    Learn more about them and find many recipes from the California Fig Commission.

    ________________

    *There are numerous plant-based sources of calcium, including almonds, baked beans, black beans, blackstrap molasses, broccoli, collards, kale, oranges, seeds, spinach, tahini, tempeh and tofu [source].

      

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    FOOD HISTORY: The History Of Happy Hour

    Bloody Mary With Peppadew
    [1] Among the most popular cocktails in the U.S. are the Bloody Mary (photo © Bonefish Grill)…


    [2] The Martini (photo © Ruths Chris Steak House)…


    [3] The Cosmopolitan (photo © Inspired By Charm)…

    Classic Margarita
    [4] The Margarita (photo © Casa Noble Tequila)…

    Classic Daiquiri
    [5] The Daiquiri (photo © Tempered Spirits)…and…


    [6] The Moscow Mule (photo © Smirnoff).

     

    November 12th is National Happy Hour Day.

    If you work anywhere near a bar or lounge, you’ve probably seen a sign for Happy Hour.

    Happy hour is a marketing term for a time when venue (such as a restaurant, bar, bowling alley, stadium, state fair, or county fair) offers discounts on alcoholic drinks.

    Free appetizers and discounted menu items are often served during happy hour.

    But it hasn’t always been that way.

    While the words “happy hour” have appeared for centuries to describe enjoyable times, its use to refer to a scheduled period of camaraderie is of much more recent vintage.
     
     
    HAPPY HOUR WITHOUT THE BOOZE

    Since at least the early 1880s, the terms Happy Hour Social, Happy Hour Club, Happy Hour Social Club and similar names, had been in use as the names of women’s social clubs [source].

    They did not include alcohol, nor did the Navy’s version.

    In 1913, the crew of the U.S.S. Arkansas had started to refer to their regularly scheduled “smokers” as “Happy Hours.”

    There was no alcohol allowed onboard. Instead, these Happy Hours were a weekly entertainment for bored sailors at sea.

    They included boxing and wrestling matches, movies and music. By the end of World War I, these “Happy Hours” had spread throughout the entire Navy [source] and “dr.

    But alcohol was not restricted offshore, as evidenced by the “Drunken Sailor” song and “drunk as a sailor” anecdotes.

    A 1959 article on military life in the Saturday Evening Post referred to “those who spend too much ‘happy hour’ at the bar.” Other sources—mostly from places near Naval bases in California—refer to this cocktail time as early as 1951.
     
     
    PROHIBITION LAUNCHES THE MODERN HAPPY HOUR

    It wasn’t until Prohibition that “Happy Hour” began to mean drinking alcohol [source].

    People would host “cocktail hours,” also known as “happy hours,” at a speakeasy, prior to eating at alcohol-free restaurants.

    “Happy Hour” became a euphemism for that time.

    Following Prohibition, cocktail lounges continued the trend of drinking before dinner, and the term “Happy Hour” continued.

    In the 1960s, some bars and lounges began the promotion of discounted drinks during “Happy Hours.”

    These took place immediately after the standard work day, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. or 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.

    A buffet of nibbles—pigs in blankets, mozzarella sticks, crudités, mini pizzas, etc.—were usually served free, to accompany the drinks.
     
     
    BANS ON HAPPY HOURS

    Some Happy Hours got too happy, with resulting legislation to curtail the half-price drinking and its related car accidents.

    In 1984, Massachusetts was one of the first U.S. states to implement a statewide ban on happy hours. Other states followed, including Alaska, Indiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont.

    The reasons for the bans included the prevention of drunk driving, the elimination of nuisance noise to neighbors, and drunken behavior in the neighborhood.

  • In 1984, the U.S. military itself abolished happy hours at military base clubs.
  • In 2011, Pennsylvania mandated the expansion of the Happy Hour period from two hours to four hours, so customers would not down too many drinks in a short period of time.
  • Some flexibility ensued: In 2012, happy hour became legal in Kansas after a 26-year ban; and in 2015, a 25-year happy hour ban ended in Illinois.
  •  
     
    HOW TO CELEBRATE NATIONAL HAPPY HOUR DAY

    It may be too late for this year, but mark your calendar for next year.

  • Get a group together and head for a favorite bar or lounge.
  • If you can’t think of where, just search online for “Best Happy Hour.”
  • Or, consider inviting friends to a Happy Hour Cocktail Party. You can make it a potluck, asking each participant to bring the ingredients to prepare their favorite cocktail.
  •  
    For today, find a colleague or friend to join you after work at the nearest Happy Hour.

    And be happy, responsibly.
     
     
    FAVORITE COCKTAILS

    While each survey differs—and preferences vary by region, age group, etc.—a 2019 survey of bartenders published on MSN.com listed the 10 most popular cocktails as (in alphabetical order):

  • Aperol Spritz
  • Daiquiri
  • Dry Martini
  • Espresso Martini
  • Margarita
  • Manhattan
  • Moscow Mule
  • Negroni
  • Old Fashioned
  • Whiskey Sour
  •  

      

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