Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier Tea Collection

Here’s a set of interesting truffles I found to be duly appropriate- Keepitcoming was recovering from a brief malady, so tea-flavored confections couldn’t go wrong. This particular set is from Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier, and features four truffles in Earl Grey, Rose, Blueberry, and Jasmine.The four truffles are enrobed in dark chocolate, ranging from 61%-70%, and feature flavored teas infused within the ganache itself. This may have been the first issue we had with these. Rather than the essences of the flavors in an oil or powder, the teas were used, possibly yielding a weak flavor.We started with earl grey, a particular favorite tea of mine. The dark chocolate paired well with the slightly astringent flavor, carrying a heavy bergamot and lemongrass spiciness in the first five seconds, but then tapered out to a mild chocolate and little else. Where I would have loved to taste a little cinnamon, orange, and more peppery spice, the midpalate was very short and unsatisfying. The chocolate was delicious, but I was really looking for that flavor to carry through until the end.The next flavor was rose. A similar effect occurred here- we enjoyed a luxurious chocolate truffle with a nice fruity shell, but would have never guessed that this was a rose-flavored confection. There was no floral notes in the first truffle, though Keepitcoming tasted a very faint rosiness in the next. It was a very pleasant truffle but touted little else.The blueberry truffle was the most satisfying of all the flavors sampled. From the entry, it had a distinctly fruity, dark taste, and was pleasantly grainy with the pieces of blueberry. The chocolate, a lighter dark, was paired well with this flavor and counterbalanced the dried jamminess of the berries themselves. There was no distinctive tea flavor here, but it was a fantastic fruit truffle and maintained an accurate representation of its ingredients.The last truffle in our tasting was a jasmine truffle. This had a flavor that reminded me of wild grapes, a very tart and tangy flavor underneath the smoothness of the chocolate. After knowing its flavor, it might have been more easily matched, but as an unknown taste, it’s rather murky and indistinguishable.In all the chocolates, the ganache was rich and creamy and fantastic on its own, but might have been too rich and overwhelmed the subtleties of the tea flavors.

479 White Cheddar and Black Truffle Popcorn

I am continually amazed by my level of self-restraint.

I’ve had this popcorn for about a week now, and I haven’t eaten the entire box. Damn. This might not seem like a big feat, but I have two prime factors riding against me. The first is my large appetite, indifferent to the gourmet, that pit of desire in my belly that makes me want to devour anything and everything. And the second factor is how incredibly rich and well-crafted this popcorn is.The popcorn in question is 479 Popcorn, and was graciously sent to me by Caroline Yeh of the company itself. This is gourmet popcorn, and while I generally scoff at popcorn as a snack, preferring the less cumbersome and teeth-sticking potato crisps, this truly represents smart food for the Smartfood set.

Of the five flavors I was sent, I was both genuinely terrified of and intrigued by the black truffle and white cheddar popcorn. While “Ebony and Ivory” crooned in my ears, I set about getting to know this popcorn in a more intimate fashion.

Truffle oil is a fascinating ingredient. Able to give the simplest of dishes a rich and deep flavor in the most sparing amounts, each variety coats the mouth with a earthy, salty taste- what we now know as “umami.”This being the black truffle oil, I was expecting a very dominant flavor, with the white cheddar acting as padding for the starchiness of the corn. The flavor was balanced, extremely so, and was less of a coating or seasoning than an infusion. Each piece of popcorn had a luxurious and silky cheddary flavor, one that I’d actually associate as white cheddar. It was sharp and buttery, with a slight tang. The truffle oil was the star of the show. It accentuated upon the saltiness and crumbly sour flavor of the cheddar and yielded a very garlicky, earthy scent. Surprisingly, it also brought out the corn’s scent and gave a pungent delight to the entire snack.This was an extremely excellent combination of flavors. I was highly impressed at how seamlessly the oil eased into the natural flavor of the popcorn and cheese without adding a strange texture or taste on top of the rest. It was integrated really well. I am increasingly excited to eat the next few flavors in the box because of this positive experience, and definitely can’t wait to write more about them.

Disclaimer: No couches (or chaises!) were mussed, molested, messed up, macerated, or mucked on during the photography of this review.

Chad’s Chai Green Peace Tea

My poor Keepitcoming is feeling a bit under the weather today, so we decided to have some tea with our dessert this evening to heal up her throat. Luckily, I had just received some tea from Chad’s Chai and we eagerly cracked open a bag to have a go at it.The Green Peace tea is a mixture of green teas and mint leaves and from the get-go, smells really, really minty, like Crest level mint. Before steeping, the tea leaves are in coarse shreds in a bag. It smells like spearmint gum and has a nice, smoky, nutty strong tea scent. A little bit of this goes a very long way. Once boiled, we put two teaspoons into our teapot and let it sit for a bit, and when we poured it into our mugs, it released a smooth, crisp minty flavor. This is definitely a tea that needs some sugar. The bitterness in the green tea mingles with the mint, but the mint is not enough to suppress it. With a little sugar, we found that it was contained to a point of staying earthy and smoky, but not getting unpalatably bitter.This was a very good tea, better than we’d expected. I imagine that it would be very good iced, with some sugar and maybe some lime to accentuate some of the green tea’s natural flavors. Definitely a tea to try again.

State Street Deli, Northampton, MA

This is my deli.

Maybe you live in Northampton. Maybe you’ve been going here for years. Maybe, wonder of wonders, you actually pay the mortgage on this deli.

But make no mistake. This is MY deli. I…need it.State Street Deli, shown to me mere weeks ago by Keepitcoming Love, is the best place in Northampton. On the recent reader poll, you guys voted and told me you liked restaurant reviews. I know this is more of a poetic wax than a review, but trust me on this one.

If you go for nothing else in this deli, despite that they have an awesome rotating selection of cookies, an eclectic and moderately priced wine store, and a bitchin’ staff, go for the curried turkey salad on a sandwich.Every time I come in, a paltry three times in two weeks, Keepitcoming groans because she knows what is looming in her immediate future. It’s the same thing every time.

It begins, like most love affairs do, with the salutations.
“Hi.”
“Hi.”

And then, gracefully, moves onto business.
“What’ll you have?”
“Curried turkey salad on sourdough.”
“Anything on that? Vegetables? Sauce? Cheese?”
“Nope. Just that.”
“No pickle?”
“No pickle.”

And lo, the valediction!
“…I like that.”

That was from the first time, my deli deflowering, and how memorable it was. This salad is simple- shredded turkey, raisins, cashews, mayonnaise, and curry powder, but contains a microcosm of flavors that hit all the right spots on my taste buds and makes the camera macro flip out.The most beautiful thing about this sandwich is that it can hold its own on bread alone and needs no smoke and mirrors sauces or toppings to boost its flavor. It boasts enough substance all alone. Some sandwich purists may disagree and argue that vegetables give a textural difference, but I say NAY, that is a stupid opinion and you should be shot.Vegetables are for chicken salad and little else. (But it does look awfully luscious!)

This sandwich is incredible. It speaks for itself in its simplicity, and really caters to many tastes. Give it a try today, you won’t be disappointed! And check out the rest of the store, too. It’s funky and priced well.

New Feature: Keepitcoming’s Cocktails

Greetings, Foodette readers! Jess has handed over the reigns to me, Keepitcoming, for a special feature about one of my favorite pursuits: creating new cocktails!

This post will detail how I transformed Bella Lula Citronnade, a delightful lemon juice beverage we sampled at the Fancy Food Show, into a new creation I call “Lula’s Lanai.”Bella Lula reminds me a little of San Pellegrino Limonata, since they both have a perfect balance of sweetness and piquant lemon flavor. However, Bella Lula, while not carbonated, has one special feature that takes it to the next level: it has a distinct note of fresh mint leaves. The mint flavor comes across very naturally, even when mixed with vodka and a little tonic water for fizz. If my recipe sounds basic, it is because I discovered that Bella Lula needs very little adornment. It mixes well, but does best when its simple and elegant composition is allowed to shine. Bella Lula makes a similar beverage with orange juice, which is also outstanding and equally good in this recipe.Lemonade and fresh mint just scream relaxing summer fun, and what could enhance that lounging experience more than vodka? This for the lanai in your mind’s eye.

Lula’s Lanai

4 oz. Bella Lula
1 1/2 oz. vodka (I like Smirnoff — neither too good nor too bad to mix)
diet tonic water to taste

Pour the vodka and juice over ice in a tall glass. Blend and top off with a small amount of tonic, just for effervescence. Garnish with a thin lime slice if desired.

Jet Puffed Swirl Mallows

There isn’t a whole lot in this world that pleases me more than a good 80’s bully flick. What am I talking about? You know the scene. The same lines, the same facial expressions, the same outdated turns of phrase. And the same punishment. Public humiliation. Food fights. Tripping. And the swirly.

I’ve never experienced a swirly, despite dangling on the edge of high school social circles, veering dangerously towards The Weird, but the phenomenon fascinated me much like waterboarding does. Who did this? When? It tapered out in my day, but even in mentioning, the swirly was an ominous fate for those who did not conform.These marshmallows have little to do with the aforementioned problem, but brought to mind vivid imagery and repressed issues I’ll probably bring up in therapy in twenty years. But they were on clearance for 68 cents, and for that, my mind was settled. I would take these freakish swirly marshmallows home and raise them as my own.This is really the meta-marshmallow to end all marshmallows. Now you can have cocoa in your cocoa while you cocoa with Cocoa. What? But really. There’s a pleasant, hypnotic brown and white swirl and an averagely sized marshmallow. I didn’t really enjoy these, much as I might not have enjoyed their namesake. The flavor, instead of being a combination of vanilla and chocolate, was a queasy berry flavor on top of a yielding fleshiness, a fake fruit from the island of Kraftedonia’s laboratory and scarier than Dr. Moreau’s creations. It completely dominated any hopes of gleaning an authentic marshmallow taste, and left a chalky residue and trail on the inside of my mouth, like a sweet, sugary STD. This was pretty unpleasant. No wonder it was so cheap.

Monterey Jack and Sundried Tomato Sun Chips

This is the newest flavor in the Sun Chips line, available only at Subway in a non-compostible bag that won’t cause early onset deafness. It’s supposed to be in conjunction with their fire-inspired line of rehashed sandwich combinations, but I don’t really see the relation aside from a well-placed promotion. I have to say, though, this is the most exciting chip flavor I’ve seen this side of Pringles Restaurant Cravings. Just kidding. Pringles are Satan’s spawn.This is an interesting flavor and seems to be leaning towards the Italian side of seasonings. Why it’s paired with spicy foods, I do not know. But this bastard hybrid chip is pretty decent, as far as chips go. The tomato and cheese are both present in the composition, but pretty weak. I’d have never assumed the tomato was sun-dried, when I got a rare hint of tomato flavor, and am getting more of a cheese appropriate to Chuck E Cheese than an aged monterey. Eh. I didn’t expect anything surprising.What did blow my mind, as much as Sun Chips can blow anyone’s mind, was how much the flavors clashed not with each other, but with the natural flavor of the Sun Chip. Sun Chips are one of the few chips I eat without any added seasonings, preferring their natural buttery and salty flavor over one laden with powder, and the nuttiness of the chip seemed to make the monterey taste weak and overly processed. It was just an unrequited pairing. If the flavors had been on another chip base, it might have passed as a decent pizza flavoring. If the cheese was different, it might have melded more seamlessly with the chip. I liked these, and they went fabulously with Keepitcoming’s WASP soup, but they’re a little misguided in their direction. They need a makeover or a high school guidance counselor to set them on their way.

12 “Noon to Midnight” Beverage

Oy. This is billed as an intelligent alternative to alcohol, so in the spirit of that lustful affirmation, I’m writing this in a slightly inebriated state. Where to start? On one hand, this beverage might get you accolades from your guests, who applaud your efforts to reach beyond the threshold of boorish alcoholic consumption. On the other hand, you might get punched in the gonads because this drink shits, and hard.Twelve is an interesting concept. For starters, you’ve got a nice 750 ml glass bottle with what’s essentially juice inside. I have no problem with that. I find that an Arnold Palmer, the simplest of beverages, quenches my thirst better than everything on a hot day. But what’s crammed inside this bottle is a mélange of clashing flavors that overwhelm and irritate the palate.The original flavor has more herbs and spices than a KFC in Greenwich, CT, and twice the audacity. From the second you crack open the screwcap on the bottle, the senses are agitated with pine, cloves, cinnamon and licorice on the nose, and a lighter fruity effervescence underneath. The combination of these flavors is truly aggravating. There is no healthy balance between the fruit and the spices, making the end result taste like you’re sucking on a pomander and at best, with doctoring from outside sources, taste like a sugary chamomile tea.We earnestly tried to determine if we were misinterpreting Twelve in some way, but appreciating a non-alcoholic juice beverage simply shouldn’t be this difficult. After each sip, we were faced with the unavoidable conclusion that drinking Twelve caused us to cringe and use swear words.I wish that this had tasted better, because I’d have loved to bring it to my fundamentalist Christian friends who abstain from drinking wine. They’d still be pussies, but at least they’d be quenched pussies who can enjoy the party. But in all honesty, I’d feel conflicted bringing this to any party. I can’t see an edible compliment to this drink that wouldn’t break under the intensity of the flavors, nor can I give a written compliment because I’m just disappointed in the construction of this beverage.

Theo Bread and Chocolate

I haven’t always been an adventurous eater. I mean, granted, my tastes run in the direction of all things fried and generally unhealthy, but these days, I’m more inclined to order an ostrich and fiddlehead ratatouille than a chicken sandwich. For a long time, I had a celebrity taboo list of things I wouldn’t eat, including peppers, mayonnaise, beef, anything older than me, and onions.This dry period spanned into 2002, when I took my first trip to France. French bread and Nutella. French bread and Nutella. Kinder eggs. On French bread. With Nutella. And one snail. You get the picture. So after I expanded my palate and took a sensory, palatable trip for eight years, I was pleased to rediscover this bar, compacting one of my old favorites into a chocolate.The appeal of this bar starts on the outside, with a wonderful and whimsically illustrated package, no corner left uncolored or bland. A cat and her mother share a bowl of bread and chocolate while some family portraits look on in admiration and potential jealousy. Can cats eat chocolate? Whatever, these can.Inside, the bar is simplistic, but speaks for itself. A dark berry scent wafts up from the surface. The first bite is all dark chocolate, with a rich and fruity flavor. High quality stuff. But then the bread kicks in, small crispy bites with a short, but intense buttery note that adds an interesting flavor to the bar rather than textural difference. It’s the best part of the bar, because rarely is butter featured as a flavor in a chocolate bar. It’s a creamy and salty note, and I wish it was more prominently featured against the delicious bread crumbs. The crumbs stay crispy and crunchy inside the chocolate and maintain a staggered presence throughout the bar, though it’s much easier to sense their presence if you suck away some of the chocolate first and let it melt. Delicious and innovative, though it seems to prompt mixed reactions.

Little Wings

Boy, she’s a tough act to follow, no? I don’t know if I can do it justice, but I’m back after Keepitcoming’s guest translation. I might have to keep her around! Anyhow, these are Little Wings, buffalo wing chips inspired by the SRV song of the same name. These are actually by the same company who makes Hippie Chips, a product I panned earlier on this year, but these kick far more ass and take their flavor on the road. Yum.Posed with my Gibson LP, these little tortilla shaped chips are actually imposters- they don’t try to be too bad or talk too bad, they’re just delicious multi-grain crisps shaped like tortillas. That’s the first interesting quirk. They’re baked and thus healthier and made with whole grains- no noise pollution and they ain’t gonna fry.

They’re baked and seasoned with a buffalo wing powder that actually tastes pretty accurate. For the man of wealth and taste, these are certainly a winner, if you can handle the heat. They have a nice bite to them that really accentuates the crispiness of the chips. Some may be tired of the buffalo flavor in snacks, but I think it’s fantastic. Like a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac, it’s a classic, take it or leave it. Only thing that could make it better is if they were shaped like little wings!What I found most interesting about these was the drizzled coating on them. In most sweet, angelic foods, you see a frosting, but it’s rare to see a salty and spicy snack with a glaze. The combination seems to be inspired by the daughter of the devil himself- it’s sinfully good. The creaminess and intensity is kind of freakish at first. It’s rather unexpected, but then it fades away into black, a cheesy, tangy oasis for the senses. These are rock stars and definitely on my a-list.