It’s holiday season! And in my case, chocolate season. Winter is a great excuse for me to order and receive fancy truffles, caramels, and toffee under the guise of ‘gift sampling,’ that rarely makes it to the actual ‘gift-giving’ phase. This might also explain why, for the past five years, I’ve given members of my family used books, socks, and framed chocolate wrappers. I’m considering getting an L.L.M. so I can milk the impoverished student gig a few years more. Sorry, Mom. Enjoy your gently used sweater. Continue reading “Poco Dolce Bittersweet Chocolate Nut Tiles”
Happy Halloween! Am I dressing up? I’m not dressing up. I’m continuing in the grand tradition of exempting myself from holidays and social interaction by drinking cider, eating candy, and watching Twin Peaks in bed. Compare this to last year’s Bobcat Goldthwait/pumpkin crêpe and 2011’s Kubrick/leftover slices of cake marathon and you’ve got yourself a trend.
Womp womp, when was the last time I did one of these awesome round-ups? Probably around the same time Pandora thought it was appropriate to play ‘Hey There Delilah,’ which it’s doing right now. This time, it’s a little different- I have a mix of gluten-free products that I’ll give numerical ratings to, just like my big features, but…smaller. Think of it as the specialty food equivalent of GrubGrade’s First Looks or TIB’s Quick Reviews. Interspersed through this will be some recipes I’ve recently made that I’m particularly proud of.
Happy government shutdown! It’s okay, we have plenty to talk about on Foodette. Sometimes I feel like a pet seal- what can I say? I perform better when I have a small treat, and I need lots of little bites of energy to keep me through the day. I’m lucky that I live close enough to school that I don’t have to resort to buying my own lunch, but I like to keep a stash of goodies in my car and briefcase, too, for days when one class goes slightly over the schedule or when I just feel low on energy. Lately, I’ve been eating organic candy chews from Lovely Candy Co- these were sent to me over the summer, but I recently found the pack I’d been saving for school: superfruit!
They come in three flavors- blueberry, raspberry, and cranberry, and come individually wrapped. They are quite the faithful homage to Starburst- same creamy, chewy texture and shape, but are all natural, gluten-free, GMO-free, and fruity as hell, despite being somewhat stickier. I haven’t been able to put them down, and I’m not typically a candy person.
Where these succeed outside of their commercial counterparts is their flavor. They have sizable chunks of freeze-dried fruit, and some of the flavors have herbaceous notes to them. I am unsure if that’s from the fruit itself or an additional flavoring, but it makes for a very good foil to the sweet fruit and sugary base.
The only area where these fall short is packaging- the predictability of Starburst makes them easy to eat and parcel out. Everybody has a favorite flavor. With these, there are more to the package- approximately 30, but the flavor discrepancy was a little ridiculous. In my package, I had 17 blueberry candies, 10 cranberries, and 3 precious raspberries, which happened to be my favorite flavor. A more even adjustment would behoove the brand.
Like a slow blink, time has just slipped through my fingers. I still can’t believe that it’s the one-year anniversary of my grandmother’s death, that I turned 23 two days ago, that I’m six thousand miles replaced, rerooted, sprouting slowly. It doesn’t consume like it used to, all these changes, but it still feels like a firm punch in the gut sometimes. A soundless reverberation. I’m celebrating in small ways- a reconciliation dinner with Miss Love, another with K, and many beautiful meals with The Bedfellow keep me constantly curious and sociable.
But amidst the stress, there’s been celebration aplenty. I thought I’d keep the verbiage to a rare minimum and share some photos of the birthday pie and macarons I enjoyed- all gluten-free. The macarons were a gift from Miss Love, and the pie was a scheme of my own design, plotted over for months, and finally conceived over a few days in between notes and briefs. It was beautiful- Mi-Del gingersnap and Vermont Creamery maple butter crust, with a filling of Cortland apples, Vermont Creamery vanilla creme fraiche, Nielsen-Massey bourbon vanilla, Korintje cinnamon, Niman Ranch bacon, and Yancey’s maple-bacon cheddar cheese. Absolutely insane.
Modernist apple core sculptures.
The seasonal Laduree was pink peppercorn-flavored- and grey! Easily the strangest pastry I’ve had in a while- pure, undiluted pepper-infused cookie with no sugar to speak of. The sole deviation from a savory route came from the buttercream, offering a creamy, thick texture similar to frosting, but also very spicy.
I baked the pie deep-dish style, in the base of my new Le Creuset.
The inaugural slice, augmented with a scoop of creme fraiche.
More macarons! Salted caramel, vanilla, raspberry, peppercorn, pistachio, and more.
The Bedfellow and I shared this sweet dark chocolate and honeycomb bee bar, a gift from Savannah Bee at the Fancy Food Show, on the first chilly, smoky day of autumn. I hope you enjoyed this miniature birthday tour!
I am probably not the best person to be marketed toward. Like you, my Google search terms can best be described as ‘erratic and occasionally emotionally disturbing.’ An evening may start on the NY Times, clicking around various op-ed articles about death, and then abruptly switch to sixteen different pasta recipes. From there, Bloomberg and Cracked are visited in equal amounts, and I typically culminate the evening with a two-hour jag of Corgi-hunting, crying, and pointing on Petfinder. Also, porn.
So whenever I see ads in my mailbox for food or Kleenex or caskets, I laugh because it’s all very obtuse. Google doesn’t know me much better than your average Facebook stalker does. Do I mind it? In the sense that I don’t want it to happen, yes. I’m entitled to my privacy in dog and carb-lusting, but the ads are so ridiculous that to an extent, I don’t even care. The spot-on precision of the recent Udi’s package, though, that’s an accuracy in espionage that I don’t mind at all. I received a box of products from Udi’s today that makes me want to lobby for the Foodette Inbetween Nourishment and Enrichment Bill of 2013, which exists solely for the purpose of me being able to eat all the muffins in one day. One of the included items was something I’d been ogling at each visit to Whole Foods, shaking my head every time I passed them. Soft-baked salted caramel and cashew cookies. Holy bane of my existence, Batman. Did they film me? Did they gauge the sweat on my palms through my implanted social media machine? I don’t know.
That is, until I got a box of Udi’s treats today, including these wonder-cookies. They’re beautiful. They are chewy and soft, and have the texture and homey raw flour tinge of a fresh sugar cookie. I had an ex who used to make killer cookies, and these are the closest thing I have to them. The cashews add a nice salty, nuttiness, which offsets the more protein bar-esque flavor of the cookie base. I liked that the caramel element wasn’t in the form of a saccharine filling or sticky sauce on top, but felt more incorporated into the cookie, and gave it a rich, brown butter flavor.
TL;DR: I ate four, thus negating the mega-power-ultra workout I did the other day. Oh, the timing of it all.
I’m food negligent. Maybe you’ve seen it before. The truth is, I’m not good at food. Not ‘food preparation,’ I’m great at that. Not ‘food eating’- that speaks for itself. No, I’m talking about the wild, ephemeral, time-sensitive concept of general ‘food.’ And the thing at which I suck. I go grocery shopping maybe once a month, sometimes on my own, sometimes with The Bedfellow or my Mom, like today. And I get a lot of food. Plenty of staples, healthy snacks, ingredients for recipes, condiments. Shopping feels great, especially when there hasn’t been a lot of food in the house and I’ve spent the last four days making variations on ‘Bean Mustard Rice Chex Taco Surprises’. (The surprise is the lack of flavor.)
But seriously, the moment I leave the apparently sterile, cryogenic arms of the temperature-monitored grocery store, I start freaking out. As I’m putting the pasta into my cupboard, or am carefully wrapping the chicken to freeze for later, I panic. What if my freezer isn’t cold enough? I wonder, checking the temperature for the eighteenth time, moving aside buffalo steaks and duck breasts that could bludgeon a grown man to death. How do I know my vegetables are okay? I worry, staring at the crisper drawer like it’s a petri dish filled with herpes. I take an apple, a sushi roll, and a round of goat cheese out. Because you are with me, I think, you will die sooner and sadder than you would in the hands of a normal person. After all, they have to share top billing with the other food that comes and goes in my life. It’s never just goat cheese- it’s six different kinds of aged goat cheese, with a wedge of cheddar and St. Nectaire for the sheer hell of it.
It’s a tragic feeling.
I’m so sorry, organic polenta. We were doomed from the start.
You deserved better.
And it compels me to eat the sushi and the goat cheese for dinner and lie awake in bed at night, worrying about the ribeye. What will happen to them? How can I take care of them, like delicious, spoiling babies? Some foods are easy. Most foods are hard.
Macarons, on the other hand, are not hard. I don’t need to worry about keeping them fresh because they’re typically gone before you can say ‘Ladurée.’ They’re French, they’re gluten-free, they’re customizable in a myriad possibilities, and they’re absolutely ethereal if they’re done well. If they’re done well. On this side of the pond, people have taken a quintessentially American approach, swelling the delicate, crispy biscuits into meringue-sized blobs with buttercream oozing out the sides, or relegating them to novelty items prettier than they taste, where the paper they’re on is more nuanced than the pastry itself. They tread a line as delicate as their cookie shells, and luckily, Sucré makes them perfectly.
I was sent a box of their PB&J macarons in time for school, though if you’re sending your kid to lunch with these, be prepared for some serious Ralph Lauren wedgies. These are impeccable- a faintly floral strawberry shell with a dollop of thick, oozy jam and a rich, salty, peanut butter buttercream. Even the French, professed peanut butter haters, would swoon for these. The macarons are coated in sparkly sugar, which, though pretty, admittedly throws them from savory, which I prefer, to decadently sweet.
Want a box? I’m holding a Twitter contest for a box.
Just retweet this: RT: “Give me your macarons, Foodette! http://bit.ly/pbjmacaron”
And you could win! I’ll collect the entries on Tuesday, October 1, and announce a winner! If you don’t want to wait, macarons and other delicious treats, like king cake, can be purchased online.
What have I been eating? You mean, outside of the trail mix I’m eating out of the bag, like some eco-friendly, organic trough? Plenty of good food, despite my long nights and early mornings.
Starting with a refreshing cocktail from the new bar, made with the last (sob!) of the Rhubarb liquor from Root, a splash of Fever Tree tonic, and Owl’s Brew Pink and Black tea-infused cocktail mixer. Much better than my last attempt, a drink that tried to mix cognac, coffee, and ginger libation. Not great.
These sweet citrus sodas from Q, the makers of my favorite tonic, are also great in cocktails, although lately, I’ve just been drinking them out of the bottle after school. They’re slightly bitter, like they’ve been steeped with the fruit rind, and are not too sweet.
Dinners have been, with the exception of my bangin’ tacos, fairly lackluster, and chiefly consist of whatever combination of meat + beans/rice + cheese/sauce I can inhale before the gym or before I pass out in bed. This is one of them, but I think it’s a clever one. Kraft mac and cheese is not gluten-free or friendly, but, as I have discovered, the cheese powder is okay for those with gluten sensitivity. Behold, Easy Quack. Replace the noodles with tri-color quinoa, add some creme fraiche, hot sauce, salt, and pepper to the cheese powder mix, and voila! It was awesome underneath grilled chicken.
This was another late-afternoon supper, a very easy cheese pizza, courtesy of the kind folks at Amy’s, who sent me a coupon. For the price, a heartbreaking $11 and change, it’s a relatively small pizza, and personally, I prefer the Trader Joe’s version, with a thinner crust and cost. But this had a really comforting, nostalgic flavor, like an amped-up Ellio’s with a thick, dense crust and a pervasive sourdough flavor, which I loved.
In fact, lately, tons of gluten-free treats have been coming in the mail! This all-purpose baking mix was from Glutino, and I used it to make some really delicious pretzel buns. It made quite a lot, too- eight baby slider rolls, six regular burger rolls, and two hot dog buns, which I used for…
These! It’s basically my rebuttal to the Red Robin Oktoberfest burger, which I cannot eat. Expect a post later. The sausages were especially unique, as they were made from buffalo.
These are the last of the Sugarfina gummies, the chili-ginger hearts, that I ate as a treat for finishing up some CivPro cases. These were very, very clever- a sweet, chewy gummy shell surrounding a spicy, jammy center. Really strong flavors.
This chocolate and almond tart from Hail Merry was also a treat for finishing assignments. I’m like a dog, I need incentive to do tricks or file memos. It was very, very rich, and I ended up taking two and a half days to finish it. Please, admire my bite.
Also, I swear this isn’t some sort of implicit ad from Crate and Barrel, advertising their adorable square plates. It’s just an indication that I need to get new plates. Unless you’re really into this one. These cookies are from a sweet company called Keep It Real Food Co, and all their products are gluten-free and vegan, which is also awesome. I’ve been eating their granola in oatmeal, on pancakes, and in cereal, too.
Fridge oatmeal, easy for early and fast breakfasts, in a multitude of flavors.
And finally, the FRCP, my new best friend for a million years, or until comfortably retire at the ripe, old age of 26, and my second best friend, CVS Gold Emblem blueberry-flavored cranberries with chocolate. They’re weird. I’m weird. We work it out.
Sometimes, treats come in that I’d just love to share. Whenever popcorn comes in, I know it’s time to give my Dad a call, and when anything with meat or cheese arrives at the door, the Bedfellow is mysteriously present. Gummies are a tough one, though. Nobody I know really enjoys them like I do, so when they come in, I typically have to eat them myself or coerce a willing participant into enjoying them with me. I swear, the fringe benefits of being my friend are ridiculous, if you’re not a total asshole.
Recently, Sugarfina sent a gorgeous box filled to the brim with gummy and chocolate candies, sourced from France and Germany. These are unique because they’re impossible to get unless you’ve got ties to the gummy mafia or are in the candy industry yourself, as they’re made for the company under different names. So in a sense, they’re gummy curators. They sent over a very Foodette-ish selection, the bulk of which I’ll present in candy pornalicious fashion here.
The Belgian Ale gummies were my favorite, by far, although from the convincing taste, I’m still not quite sure if they were gluten-free. The flavor was fantastic, with a very fruity, malty bite right at the start, very tangy, with a yeast-flavored edge. I don’t know how they did it, outside of actually infusing the candy with beer. Not only does it taste like a beer, it tastes like a good beer, one I’d actually drink. It only adds points to the fact that each gummy is shaped like a foamy beer stein, with a marshmallow cap at the top. Likely one of the most unique products I’ve had all year.
They sent a boozy chocolate, too, the Absinthe Cordials. The construction of these was interesting. From what I discerned, the absinthe syrup center was coated in a mint sugar candy, surrounded by milk chocolate, and yet another hard, green candy shell. A crispier candy than one might expect, with a very convincing mint flavor, though as a former frequenter of absinthe and its friends in Parisian bars, I’d liken this to more of a pastis flavor, as the licorice doesn’t come out as much as I’d like, but could also argue for the absinthe as it is bright green and does have a grainy crunch reminiscent of a sugar cube in absinthe. So clever.
The final cocktail candy came out a little squished in appearance, but are ridiculously fun to eat. The Cuba Libre gummies are firm and jellied pyramids of alternating cola gummy and rum gummy, with a semi-liquid gel center of rum. The rum renders them piquant, the cola makes them sweet. There’s a spiced tang to them that really evokes drinking a cold, icy cocktail, and each gummy is perfectly bite-sized. I love them. These would be the coolest party favor.
Bacon white chocolate pretzel bites were next, which I did admittedly eat despite the better judgment of my stomach. It wasn’t worth the headache, unfortunately. While white chocolate is a unique base for a bacon-based treat, it was the predominant flavor and lent a dysfunctional sweetness to the candy that even the salty bacon couldn’t balance out.
The sugar peach sweethearts were next, and were the perfect treat to eat while studying intentional infliction of emotional distress and celebrating the end of summer. They mimicked everything fun about a ripe peach- a little fizzy fuzziness in the sour sugar coating and center, and a very perfumy, floral, yet honeyed flavor. Cybele at CandyBlog reviewed these, and said they were like “little miracle pieces” in how deftly they encapsulated the fruit, which I found quite apt.
I only had enough in me to try these five, but I still have five more to go through! I’m all sugared out. More tomorrow!
Everyone was apprehensive, from the teenage girl behind me, whose eyeroll could have been seen in Texas, to the older woman in the front of the line. She shook her head wordlessly, overcome with the frivolity of my decision and whatever alternative decisions had led to this monstrosity, the one to get tomatoes and basil on my Greek yogurt. And, as I was quick to remind the dubious server, balsamic vinegar and sea salt. If I was going to eat a creamy salad after the gym, I was going to do it right.
“Are you sure you don’t want our new butter pecan?” she asked, offering me a bite-sized sample as a last-ditch effort to sway me. But I held my ground.
“No, I don’t think that will go as well with tomatoes,” and I smiled. It was a big, wolfish grin as I watched the three servers make my yogurt, each glancing anxiously at me, the mercurial masochist, as they fished tiny julienned shreds of basil out of a container and arranged plump cherry tomatoes atop the white, thick yogurt at the bottom of the cup. $3.88 and I was sitting outside at last, ready to enjoy my veggies.
Pinkberry sent me a gift card to try out some of their new selections, and I was excited to have hit the jackpot with their two savory offerings of Greek yogurt, three if you could the cucumber mint smoothie on the shake menu. This flavor features a fresh yogurt base, local to Fair Oaks Farms, standard to all the Greek yogurt selections, with grape tomato halves, basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and sea salt. Ordering it is a little clunky- I wasn’t sure whether the yogurt was alongside the sweet selections, if each flavor combination had its own yogurt, or if it used one collective base. Unlike the sweet Pinkberries, this is spooned, somewhat gloppily, from a bowl near the toppings. Consequently, the texture is not as smooth or as silky as the mixed yogurts- it is thicker and melts very quickly. The top half of the yogurt was melted by the time I received it.
I wonder if the yogurt would benefit from additional flavoring, especially with this combination. The strong flavor of the yogurt, tangy and concentrated, was impossible to avoid, no matter how many tomatoes and herbs were in each spoonful. The acidity of the balsamic vinegar didn’t help, and any aged sweetness was virtually undetectable. The strongest non-dairy element was the basil, herbaceous and extremely fresh, almost citrusy against the other elements, and was, with the fresh tomatoes, the only real ‘sweet’ part of the dish. And I couldn’t help but yearn, as I looked at the pallid color of the yogurt, for the silky, sweet, milky flavors of a burrata or fresh mozzarella ice cream in lieu of the staunch Grecian cream.
I’m torn as to how I feel about this, because its innovation as an entree and a dessert is frankly, groundbreaking, setting it apart from the trendy truffle and bacon ice creams and adding elements that almost make it wholesome. My entire lunch came to a svelte 200 calories, and refreshed me after the gym and the hot afternoon. But was it any more satisfying than a real salad, or for that matter, a sweet frozen yogurt? As an ambassador for its flavors, it’s not a very good representation. It’s a technique that is already used in fine, experimental restaurants like wd~50 and Eleven Madison Park, and is clever and accessible for a larger market, but needs significant tweaking before it can sway the suspicious.