May 2, 2014 · 8:00 am
Was your first thought, “ho-hum, the grocery aisles are full of pretzels”? That was kind of my reaction when I saw Pretzel Pete Gourmet Pretzel Nuggets on the shelf, but I did a double-take when I saw the “spicy-hot!” logo and realized they were sour cream & habanero flavored. Wow! I picked up a box, and also bought a box of honey mustard flavor since Allen is not always a fan of super spicy foods. I poured myself a cold drink (a fire extinguisher, if needed) and prepared for taste-testing. I was pretty excited to see the pretzels were made from sourdough, which is my favorite bread. Ever. The first bite was awesome! The pretzel is softer than most, but has a very hearty crunch. The sourdough flavor is yummy, yet the seasoning is definitely the star. Fiery habanero flavor is balanced nicely with cool sour cream. Allen wandered in while I was enjoying my snack, and before I could warn him about the spice factor, he had popped a pretzel nugget in his mouth. Surprisingly, he loved it, so the heat is not overwhelming for those who can’t tolerate as much. We immediately broke out the honey mustard flavor to try and found them to be really different from the national brands. Flavor permeates each bite, and isn’t overwhelmed by salt. Karl Brown, President of the family company that makes Pretzel Pete Gourmet Pretzel Nuggets, was kind enough to share the unique process that makes the pretzels so great. They are made in single “slow” batches, and soaked in seasonings. Karl said other companies’ pretzel products are simply sprayed with seasoning as they move along a conveyer belt, a method he described as a “20-second shower”. By contrast, Pretzel Pete nuggets get a “4-minute bath” in seasonings. So no wonder the pretzels are so flavorful! The pretzels all have complementary seasonings: honey and mustard, sour cream and habanero, garlic and parmesan cheese (gotta find these!), and cheddar and ale. The pretzels are baked to a softer finish than most, giving them a very distinctive texture. Pretzel Pete sounds like a character straight out of the old west, but the company is located in Pennsylvania. The customer testimonial page on the company’s website shows the world-wide reach of this snack. People from Germany, Australia, all over the United States, and some of our military heroes in Afghanistan wrote to say how much they love Pretzel Pete Gourmet Pretzel Nuggets. We heartily agree! Like many artisan foods, finding Pretzel Pete products might be a challenge, but so worth the effort! They are most often found in gourmet food and specialty stores, but the most reliable source is the company’s website. Where to buy Pretzel Pete Gourmet Pretzel Nuggets
January 2, 2014 · 8:00 am
Katrina Markoff ‘s nickname, Wild Ophelia, was inspired by her childhood experiments with unusual ingredients and chocolate at her family’s fruit stand. She carried her passion and creativity into her career, founding Vosges Haut-Chocolat, and she is recognized as a visionary chocolatier for her fusion of high-quality chocolate and exotic ingredients. Katrina’s second company, Wild Ophelia, partners with other food artisans in developing upscale, distinctly American, chocolate candies. Wild Ophelia chocolates are made with all-natural ingredients, are manufactured with 100% renewable energy, and are packaged in 100% recycled materials. Along with the company’s commitment to producing high-quality chocolate in an environmentally responsible manner, Wild Ophelia’s mission is to educate Americans about their food sources and encourage them to really appreciate their food.
Because I’m crazy for sweet and savory combinations, we sampled Wild Ophelia All-Natural Smokehouse BBQ Potato Chips Dark Chocolate Bar, which pairs Wild Ophelia’s 70% cocoa content confection with Billy Goat Chip Company’s BBQ Chips for a warm, spicy, dark chocolate treat.
Billy Goat BBQ Potato Chips were born in the first gastropub in St. Louis. The restaurant’s chips became so popular that commercial production was practically demanded. The handmade chips are made from thinly-sliced potatoes dusted with Billy Goat Chip Company’s Kicker seasoning.
We love Wild Ophelia’s mission to build cooperation among American food artisans, and the great-tasting result of the partnership with Billy Goat Chip Company. The complex flavor combination of chocolate, potato chips, and BBQ spices makes the last bite as interesting as the first. Join Wild Ophelia’s “American road trip through chocolate”!
Where to buy Wild Ophelia Chocolates
Where to buy Billy Goat Chip Company Smokehouse BBQ Chips
(Note: “Find a Store” links to a list of retailers on the Company’s website, but stores may not carry all of the Company’s products. Please check with your local store to be sure they have this specific product in stock. If not, ask them to carry it!)
May 6, 2013 · 8:00 am
My husband thinks we should have a commercial popcorn popper. Not one of the small-scale table-top models, but a full-sized movie-theater style popcorn machine. Right, Honey. Exactly what we need. There is definitely something inherently more tasty about popcorn popped in a commercial popper, though. I never gave the origin of the commercial popcorn popper a single thought until the vintage striped bag of G.H. Cretors Just the Cheese Corn grabbed my attention at Plano’s Central Market. In business since 1885, it just stands to reason that the Cretors family must know a thing or two about popcorn. As I quickly learned, “Great Grandpa” Cretors invented the popcorn machine in 1885, and in 1893, it debuted at the Chicago Columbian Exposition. Five generations later, the Cretors family is still popping corn and making Cheese Corn with his recipe.
I haven’t been a huge fan of cheese popcorn because often the “cheese” is nothing more than a chalky dusting of fake cheese powder. Ick! Just the Cheese Corn seemed promising, because the ingredients listed on the bag included real cheddar cheese. That had to be a good start. The bag also indicated Cretors Just the Cheese Corn is Kosher, gluten-free, has no GMOs, and is made with all natural ingredients. With such an impressive resumé, I was expecting it to be really good, and it certainly was! The popcorn was exceptionally fluffy, and the tasty cheddar cheese was tangy without even the slightest hint of chalkiness. Add one more attribute to Just the Cheese Corn — this yummy and wholesome snack has only 170 calories in a 2-cup serving. Are you looking for your car keys right now to run out and pick up a bag? This would be the perfect snack for family movie night.
G.H. Cretors offers sweet and salty Kettle Corn, Caramel Corn made with real butter, Caramel Nut Crunch with roasted nuts, and Chicago Mix, a combination of caramel corn and cheese corn. The company’s website offers a sampler pack with full-size bags of all flavors, and also features a store locator to find a local retailer. The vintage photographs on the site are very cool, too. Check out this Waukegan, Illinois family company and their very tasty popcorn flavors!
February 18, 2013 · 8:00 am
Are you sometimes at the intersection of “want to” and “have to”, and “have to” is the road you must take? That has been our path for the past couple of weeks. While new, interesting gourmet foods have beckoned at every turn, more pressing issues have presented themselves. However, in spite of having too much to do with too little time, there were moments where artisan foods could not have fit into our lives more perfectly.
We were so happy to find Grandad’s Gravy on the shelves of our local Dallas area grocer, Market Street. It made a great lasagna for a weekend family dinner, then when the work week got crazy hectic, we had some pretty delicious “rerun” meals. I’m determined to try it in a skillet lasagna recipe that will be tasty, yet quick enough for weeknight preparation. Allen is definitely all in for that program, as lasagna is his favorite Italian dish. If your local grocer doesn’t carry Grandad’s Gravy, you can order it online.
A family member was diagnosed with Celiac’s disease (gluten intolerance) last week, which reminded me of Mary’s Gone Crackers, and her great line of sweet and savory gluten-free treats. Care package in the works!
We made a trip East Texas over the weekend to visit family, and I got to spend a couple of hours with my BFF, Karen, while she was in town visiting her parents. Yea! Unfortunately, in our haste to leave home and get on the road, I forgot to pack her “Tex-Mex Package” , so I need to mail the Mateo’s Gourmet Salsa, the Mateo’s Gourmet Red Enchilada Sauce, and the Primizie New Mexican Chimayo Chile & Lime Crispbreads I had bought for her. I was thrilled to find Mateo’s Gourmet Salsa at a market in East Texas, so I introduced my extended family to the only salsa we ever have in our refrigerator!
We have continuously followed RoRo’s Baking Company’s efforts to raise $35,000 for their new facility. Their Kickstarter project is a win/win. Send RoRo’s delicious Cinn-A-Rolls to the troops in Afghanistan for only $10, or savor some delicious Cinn-A-Rolls or Dinn-A-Rolls for yourself, while at the same time you help a fledgling artisan business expand. You will not have to fulfill your pledge unless RoRo’s fund-raising goal is achieved. Time is short for RoRo’s to make their February 28th deadline, so don’t delay!
Here’s hoping the new week will bring more time for savoring good foods, catching up with good friends, and delighting in precious family time.
January 30, 2013 · 8:00 am
I heard about this Denver, Colorado company by way of Talladega, Alabama. That’s where my brother and sister-in-law were traveling when they noticed 34°. They were stocking their hotel room with snacks during a business trip, and ran across 34° products at a local market. I got an email report on how much they enjoyed the Cracked Pepper Crispbread the same day they arrived back home, which was my clue to search them out in Dallas as soon as possible. I had to make a few stops before finding them at Market Street. (Note to Karen – we have to go to Market Street in Colleyville on your next visit. You are going to love it!) Because Primizie Crispbreads were already on our radar screen, I had a preconceived notion of what 34° would be like, but I was wrong. While Primizie Crispbreads are hearty and crunchy, 34° Crispbreads are very delicate and crisp. So same name, both very yummy, but distinctly different.
You’ve heard the term “wafer-thin”, right? 34° Crispbreads might be the wafers that set the standard. These super-crisp crackers are almost translucently thin. They have generous flecks of cracked black pepper, rustic shapes and a cool swirl design. Best of all, they are scrumptious! The company’s website recommends enjoying the crackers with cheese, so I tried them with some gouda. The cracker provided a very satisfying crunch with a little pepper heat without overwhelming the cheese. They are also extremely tasty straight from the box, just as the carton promises!
Craig Lieberman found his passion for fine foods as a grad student in Australia. He was inspired to import specialty foods from Australia and operated his Colorado-based business until 2008, when he decided to change course and produce his own foods. Native Australian crispbreads were the inspiration for his 34° crackers, which were created especially to complement cheeses. In addition to the cracked pepper flavor, 34° offers natural, sesame, rosemary, and whole grain. The company’s website has an easy search feature to find a retailer close to you. These crackers would be great to keep on hand for easy entertaining!
December 4, 2012 · 7:00 am
We told you a couple of months ago how much we loved Primizie Classic Italian Red Chile & Herbs Crispbread. We knew at first bite we would be tasting Primizie’s other flavors. Their Spicy New Mexican Chimayo Chile & Lime Crispbread should go on your “must try” list right away! Everyone at our weekend buffet gave these crispbreads two thumbs up.
Mark and Lisa Spedale, the Austin caterers who launched Primizie crispbreads, have created a masterpiece line of snacks that are all natural and free of preservatives, trans fats and cholesterol. Their process of grilling, then frying the dough creates a texture and crunch that is like no other snack chip. The chile and lime combination is a classic which in this case, is very well done. I don’t know that I had ever tasted chimayo chile before, but it is flavorful without being hot. Primizie’s website suggests serving these tasty treats with soft cheese, queso or guacamole. We stuck with the basics for our buffet because we wanted to focus on the flavor of the crispbreads. They were delicious solo, and with simple toppings of monterey jack cheese, diced avocado and jalapeño peppers. I changed gears today and topped the crispbreads with creamy Chimay beer cheese, which might my favorite combination, at least so far!
I wish I could send each one of you a bag of these tasty treats because they are not yet widely available outside Austin and Dalls. The Spedales are working to expand their distribution network and you can help them (and yourself). Visit their website and download a letter you can take to your local grocer, asking that they carry Primizie crispbreads. The company’s tagline is “Crave the Crisp” and I promise if you get your hands on these snacks, you will!
November 21, 2012 · 7:00 am
Southern Living magazine claims that cheese straws are like deviled eggs–every Southern cook wants to make great ones. I’m happy to simply eat great cheese straws, and Janis & Melanie Original Cheese Straws make me very, very happy! First, they have the perfect crisp texture. In my humble opinion, some cheese straws lean a little too far toward crunchy rather than crisp, but not so with J&M. Second, their cheddar is better. I’ve had cheese straws with the pronounced taste of artificial cheese products, but the Original Cheese Straws are the real deal. Finally, the spice is just right. Cayenne pepper provides the pivot point between flat, fabulous or fiery flavor, and J&M found the balance. Now that I love Original Cheese Straws, I’ll have to try their Asiago, Bleu and Jalapeño flavors!
The holiday season provides many opportunities to enjoy and share Original Cheese Straws. They are great on an appetizer buffet, or with wine and cocktails. They are super complements to soup or salad, and they are addictive straight from the box. Jamie Parham, the creative baker behind J&M, even suggests trying Original Cheese Straws with jams and chocolate sauce! I’ve noticed them in upscale gift baskets, so keep them in mind for business gifts, or as a perfect partner to a bottle of wine for a host gift. Check out the gift tins available on their website.
Janis & Melanie is a family-owned business started with the recipe for their Original Cheese Straws. Jamie’s daughters, Janis and Melanie, are involved in the company that bears their names. The family also makes delicious cookies, and we shared their key lime cookies with you in an earlier post. J&M’s gourmet food line has become one of our favorites!
October 23, 2012 · 7:00 am
I’m really excited to share this treat with you. Perhaps ridiculously so. First and foremost, the product is awesome! The kettle corn is crispy and light. The tagline on the bag claims “the perfect balance of sweetness & salt” and it is absolutely true. Angie’s product has four perfectly simple ingredients: popcorn, corn oil, sugar and sea salt. This is seriously the kind of treat that you might not be able to stop eating, and at less than 150 calories for a two-cup serving, you can enjoy it without having to schedule an extra workout at the gym! One of the small things we love about Angie’s Authentic Kettle Corn is the resealable packaging which means we never have to search for a “chip clip” when we are through snacking. Genius!
Angie and her husband, Dan, have a great story. They started selling their kettle corn on a part-time basis to build college funds for their two small children. Their decision to gift members of the Minnesota Vikings with bags of kettle corn changed the company’s course. Very soon, Angie’s was the official kettle corn of the Minnesota Vikings and fans were clamoring for the snack outside of the stadium. Angie and Dan saw an opportunity to take their part-time operation to a full-time business, and they now employ more than 150 people and sell their product in retail outlets in all 50 states. Angie and Dan have appeared on Martha Stewart’s television program and their kettle corn was featured in an issue of Food and Wine.
Giving back to the community is an important part of Angie’s business culture. They are active in charitable ventures, as are many artisans. They focus much of their effort on organizations that support education and the needs of children. In addition to their business and charitable commitments, they consider their responsibility as parents to their two children as their most important role.
You can order Angie’s kettle corn in several flavors directly from their website, and orders over $49 currently are shipped free. If you don’t want to wait on delivery, check the website for a retailer near you!
October 16, 2012 · 7:00 am
I had a tough time deciding whether to tell you about this great snack bread, because it isn’t widely available yet. Sharing wonderful foods that are easily obtained through retail markets or online sources is our primary goal, but this crispbread is too good to keep under wraps. When I saw the Primizie display at Central Market, I thought I was purchasing a bag of traditional flavored chips, but I was very wrong.
The bag described the contents as “thick cut, handmade crispbreads”, so I was expecting something similar to a pita chip. Wrong, again. The crispbreads are thicker and crispier than most pita chips I’ve tried. I could immediately imagine them holding up well to the most substantial dip, but I wanted to show you how beautifully rustic the chips are, unadorned by dips and spreads. You already want one, don’t you? The Italian seasoning is flavorful enough to enjoy the chips alone, but delicate enough not to compete with a dip. This artichoke dip recipe immediately came to mind. It is a great last-minute dish because it has only three ingredients that are usually on hand in our kitchen.
Hot Artichoke Dip
Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish.
1 cup mayonnaise (always use a quality product)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained
Place mayonnaise and cheese in food processor. Mix slightly. Add artichokes and pulse for 4-6 seconds, only until gently chopped and mixed. To serve hot, place in oven for 20-30 minutes.
Source: From My Kitchen, A cookbook of simple, Southern Recipes by Barbara Richardson McClellan
These wonderful crispbreads were created by Austin, Texas caterers Mark and Lisa Spedale. The dough is grilled, then fried for uniquely crisp chips.
After the crispbreads became a hit with their catering clients, the Spedales made plans for retail sales. They are available in the Austin area, and I was fortunate enough to find them in Plano’s Central Market (Dallas area). I hope you will turn any frustration over not being able to find Primizie snacks into action! Go to the company’s website and launch an email to see when Primizie’s might be available in your area. Lobby your local grocery or specialty market to stock Primizie’s, too. It will be worth your effort!
October 10, 2012 · 7:00 am
Before I knew the story behind Mary’s Gone Crackers, I was impressed with the clever product name. We brought a box home from the market, sampled a few crackers au naturel, and loved the crunch and complex flavors of brown rice, quinoa, flax seed and sesame seed. The slightly irregular sizes and shapes of the crackers gave them a rustic, homemade look. They are super crisp and hold their own with toppings, making them a great choice for appetizer buffets.
Mary’s story is compelling. She was a psychotherapist, dedicated to helping people improve their lives. At the age of 43, she was diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder marked by an inability to digest gluten found in wheat, rye, barley, and some oats. Mary began baking her own gluten-free crackers to have something to eat while friends and family enjoyed bread products. As so often happens in an food artisan’s world, she began sharing her crackers with friends and soon found herself bringing crackers to practically every gathering of friends and family. Mary estimates that before she officially began manufacturing crackers, she made over 30,000 crackers by hand!
In 1999, Mary and her husband decided to “go crackers”, and enter into full-time cracker manufacturing. They didn’t jump into the business without careful planning; in fact, it was five years later when they both gave up their careers to pursue their dream. They began by contracting with a manufacturing facility, but decided that they wanted more control over the product and process. Today, Mary’s crackers are manufactured in their own gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free facility.
Mary’s passion for helping people lead better lives took a very different path from her role as a psychotherapist, but her website states that her motivation remains the same – to heal people. Gluten-free diets have been front-page news for some time, but Mary’s Gone Crackers offers delicious options for anyone’s diet. Not only do they have several cracker flavors, they also make gluten-free cookies and pretzels. Find a location near you and try some soon!