Archive for January, 2010

Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of… Mochi???

Posted in Fancy Food Show with tags , , on January 30, 2010 by massapeel

Back at the Fancy Food Show, we trudged — ok, that’s got too negative a connotation — meandered, perhaps, through aisle after aisle of Italian specialty food.  Had some amazing stuff – most notably (but which I failed to photo) was a series of tapanades containing black and white truffles.  Delicious. 

Although, as an aside, I have to admit that not everything there at the show was delicious.  In fact I had one product that was downright disgusting:  black truffle macaroons.  OK, so I guess the nausea factor is in part my fault for complicitly tasting this drek, but in my defense, I thought that it was a creative, savory macaroon…  some blend of ingredients that omitted sugar for other binding agents and herbs, etc…  needless to say I was WRONG.  It was a regular old macaroon (french style – like a puffy sandwich cookie that is a smooth crusted cookie with a chewy, slightly spongy and gooey, insanely sweet interior — like a dessert macaroon, but with black truffle!?!?!?!?!  Someone must have been on something when he/she decided to meld those flavors.  It was truly one of the more disgusting things that I have ever tasted.

OK.  enough negativity – just wanted to inject some realism, so that you all don’t think that I am one of those people who gives everything a 10!

Bubbies Mochi - balls of yum!

Back to my stroll through Little Italy….  Next to the Rao’s booth (which was in fact 5 booths), there was this small unassuming ice cream cart full of delicious little nuggets that I have never seen before:  mochi.  Now, one would have thought that I’d know what mochi are, having visited Hawaii twice, and having a girlfriend-in-law of something like 7 years who is a Kona native.  But, I must admit that I have never seen, let alone tasted, mochi.

What is mochi?   Technically it is “decimated sticky rice” – or, sticky rice that has been ground up so that it no longer resembles rice at all, but more of a thick paste – like poi (a taro root paste indigenous to Hawaii), for anyone who has had that. 

Mochi ice cream is a slightly-smaller-than-ping-pong ball sized dollop of ice cream encased by this sweetened rice paste confection, and then frozen. 

The mochi ice cream that I encountered at the Fancy Food Show was the product of Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream Deserts of Hawaii.    

cross-section of Bubbies mochi ice cream treats

And they were great.  The mochi virgin has no idea what to expect, and will be pleasantly surprised by the chewy outer mochi shell (which could be compared in texture to marzipan, or fondant icing), which keeps the sinfully creamy scrumptious ice cream inside cold and firm.  

And another thing.  Each ball is a mere 1.25 ounce, so it is a 2-3 bite treat (or a one-bite treat for the glutton who is not daunted by brain-freeze), so it is even acceptable for those of us counting Weight Watchers points!  Just be sure to have enough restraint to only eat one!

So.  Some details regarding Bubbies.  Funny name for a Hawaiian company, right?  The founder, born and raised in New York state, named it for his grandmother, who introduced him to his love of ice cream.  He moved to Hawaii for school, and remained, introducing the 50th state to his amazing creamy treats. 

As for Bubbies Mochi Ice Cream, we are lucky enough to have access to nineteen flavors (give or take, depending on specials):  azuki bean, blueberry , chocolate coconut , chocolate espresso, chocolate mint, chocolate peanut butter, chocolate vanilla, green tea, guava, lychee, mango, passion fruit, pistachio, raspberry white chocolate, sakura (cherry blossom flavored mochi paste), strawberry, strawberry dark chocolate chip, tiramisu and vanilla.  I can vouch for the flavors that we tasted:  green tea, azuki bean, lychee and chocolate espresso, the last of which was my unexpected fave…  I can only assume that the excellence of these 4 flavors is carried through to the other 15!

Oh, and by the way, not only did these make my “L List” – I learned as I was writing this that these treats made Oprah’s O List in June of 2006!  Get some sent to you today:  http://bubbiesicecream.gourmetfoodmall.com/

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It all started with a kumquat…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 28, 2010 by massapeel

inspiration

I need to take a break from the Fancy Food Faves…  this blog is totally all about food, and I have more stuff to share regarding the Fancy Food Show, however, that was not the purpose of starting this blog.  And by now, people may be wondering when I am going to get to that point…  So, without further ado, allow me to introduce myself…

I am a upper-30ish attorney (former corporate civil defense litigator, turned general counsel & compliance officer specializing in medical law) who has a passion for food.  I love to eat food.  I love to cook food.  I love to look at food, smell food.  The only thing I don’t do is grow food…  I have a self-diagnosed black thumb!  As my husband jokes, my family will be sitting at a meal, planning our next meal!  And, I don’t like just any food…  I like good food. 

This passion has existed as long as I can remember.  For example, I remember as a kid getting imported marinated artichoke hearts in my Easter basket — seriously.  I remember eating steamed artichokes when my 2 upper front teeth had fallen out, so every leaf that I scraped/ate had a strip of delicious earthy artichoke flesh left behind just waiting for my dad to finish off with some salty drawn butter.   Don’t get me wrong, I also remember the first time I had a Slurpee, and a Twinky, too (that should clue you in to the fact that those processed indulgences were so infrequent that actually DO I remember them).  But the lion’s share of food eaten in my family was freshly prepared, and relatively gourmet.

kumquat tree

So, having established that I love food, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I have always wanted to be involved in the food industry — some way, some how.  I had waitressed in my younger days, so I knew that I did not want to own a sit-down restaurant — way too consuming of nights and weekends (i.e., not conducive to having a family – my other passion).  So, that meant that I needed to make and sell food at retail.  However life takes over, time is consumed by existing obligations, children arrive on the scene, and needless to say, I never did anything to promote my food-related-aspirations.  Enter the kumquat.

It all started with a kumquat.  Really.  This past fall, my mother & partner in crime in this venture, commented to me that she had a potted kumquat tree that had produced fruit that she did not know what to do with.  Now, anyone who has ever had a kumquat knows that they are TART!!!  So, we decided to make marmalade out of it.  My dad is a marmalade fanatic, and this was going to be a Christmas present to him. 

We made the marmalade, and it turned out fabulously (Seville Orange, Apricot and Kumquat Marmalade).  For those

beneath the peel

of you marmalade afficianados out there, this was like true British marmalade in that it has a bite — it is bitter as well as sweet all rolled into one sticky yummy concoction.  And it was so seemingly simple, that we decided to make jam every week and eventually man a booth at the Charlottesville Farmer’s Market. 

The name:  “Mass A’Peel – jams with a twist”…  we decided that our schtick was the total embrace of citrus peel.  In other words, each of our products must have some citrus peel in it…  need not be a full out marmalade, per se, but they must have at a minimum some citrus zest.  Hence the name.  (by the way, I like puns!)

So, this blog will chronicle my mother’s and my adventures in making jam (and other food products) and in becoming entrepreneurs in the gourmet food industry, interspersed with general musings on food.  So, buckle up and enjoy this stream of consciousness culinary ride!

Numero Trois

Posted in Fancy Food Show with tags , , , on January 24, 2010 by massapeel
I’ve touched upon a drink and a sweet, fruity food, so now let’s turn to the savory…  cheese (which goes oh so well with the panetone discussed in the last post!).  While at the food show, there was an overwhelming abundance of cheese.  And, while I do love me some cheese, I have to admit that I am a wuss when it comes to particularly stinky runny cheeses…  French cheeses…  camenbert-type cheeses…

(As an aside, and then I promise to get back on point:  several years ago my husband and I were celebrating the purchase of our house with wine and cheese at a French café/restaurant — Ciboulette, for those of you C’ville folks.  Anyway, this place was owned by a French man who somehow acquired cheeses certainly banned by a multitude of USDA regulations.  During bottle #2, Andrew asked for a “chef’s choice” cheese, and arriving at our table was a soft rinded cheese wrapped in grape leaves and emitting a funk of monumental proportions.  But, we were on bottle #2, and thus, senses were slightly dulled.  Andrew scarfed the cheese appreciatively, but no amount of wine would get me to eat that stinky stuff (I do realize that this is somewhat sacrilegious in the world of cheese).  Since I would not partake, there were leftovers, Andrew wanted to take it home to savor the next day.  Needless to say, the next day, he opened the refrigerator and exclaimed “Dear God, there is something rotten in this fridge.”  No, dear…  that was the cheese that you ate!)

The Beehive Cheese Company's "Barely Buzzed"

Anyway, that was all precursor to the self-evident truth that I did not eat a ton of cheese while there.  There were the delicious parmesans, the stinky rind cheeses, the mozzarellas, and a bajillion types in between.  However, among those was a gem that I DID try (more than once!):  The Beehive Cheese Company‘s Barely Buzzed cheese.  This cheese is fabulous.  It is a cheddar-type cheese that has been rubbed, dusted, coated – whatever – with lavender and coffee.  Bizarre sounding, yes, but the result is a delight to the palate. 

According to the company’s website, www.beehivecheese.com:

“This is a full-bodied cheese with a nutty flavor and smooth texture. The cheese is hand rubbed with a Turkish grind of Colorado Legacy Coffee Company’s (The Cheesemakers brother) “Beehive Blend”. The blend consists of a mix of South American, Central American, and Indonesian beans roasted to different styles. French Superior Lavendar buds are ground with the coffee and the mixture is diluted with oil to suspend the dry ingredients in the rub. The rub imparts notes of butterscotch and caramel which are prevalent near the rind, but find their way to the center of the cheese. The cheese is aged on Utah Blue Spruce aging racks in our humidity controlled caves, and moved to different temperature during the aging process to develop texture and flavor.”

Like I said, this cheese is really tasty, but don’t take my word for it, it has placed first in the Flavored Cheddar category of the  American Cheese Society Annual Competition for the past three years running, and has been recognized by cheesemongers nationwide – including Murray’s Cheese Shop (not only a mainstay in the cheese world, but also my cheese shop of choice while living in the West Village during law school years).  I am thrilled to have learned that it is actually sold in Charlottesville — I will definitely be getting some soon!

The Beehive Cheese Company's "Seahive" - another cheese, this time rubbed in sea salt and honey

The “L List” – Day 2

Posted in Fancy Food Show with tags , , , , on January 21, 2010 by massapeel

Well, we’re back in Virginia after a full day of travel.  Dylan, my 7 month old, did fabulously on all 4 legs of travel (2 legs each way) — couldn’t have asked for a better traveller!  And, while slightly jet lagged, we’re sticking to our guns to get ourselves back on Eastern time (i.e., we all woke up at 7:30-8am this morning, despite the desire to snuggle down into the covers for several more hours!)  Didn’t help matters that the phenomenally gorgeous sunny & 65-degree weather left just as we returned, only to be replaced by the prospect of sleet. 

Anyhoo…  I am sure that you are all curious as to my second selection of cool and new (or new to me) finds from the Fancy Food Show.  Drumroll, please….. 

tasty little gems

Number 2.   Guesses, anyone???  Bueller?  

This is paneforte.  What is paneforte, you ask?  Well, panforte is a traditional Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts, which some say resembles fruitcake.  I hate to even write those words, because “fruitcake” has such a negative association here in the States.  This delicacy is nothing like any fruitcake that I’ve ever had!  

So, here’s your history lesson for the day.  Paneforte  is hypothesized to have dated back to 13th century Sienna (Italy’s Tuscany region), based on documents which suggest that panforte was paid to the monks and nuns of a local monastery as a tax or tithe.  

Literally, panforte means “strong bread” which refers to the spicy flavour.  And, in fact, the original name of panforte was “panpepato” (peppered bread), due to the strong pepper used in the cake.  (I use the term “cake” loosely here…  really, depending on the recipe, it can range from a dense flourless cake to a paste – think quince paste that accompanies Manchego cheese).  And, in fact, because of its denseness and hearty ingredients, Crusaders are thought to have carried panforte with them on their quests, and used panforte in surviving sieges. 

California produced paneforte - secret family recipe

However, there are likely as many recipes for paneforte as there are shops selling the stuff!  The delicious concoction that I sampled at the Fancy Food Show was more in the vein of dense fruity paste as opposed to the spicy cake variety.  It was an apricot almond paneforte, made from an old family recipe by The Paneforte Company.  (The family producing it lives in California, so my romantic imagination envisions them hand-picking apricots and almonds from their local (if not personal) groves.  But, truth be told, I did not have the time to ask them that!)  

It was deliciously fresh, and simple – perfect blending of the apricot paste — not sticky, not hard, just perfect — and bursting with flavor.   It reminded me of the kind of dessert that my mother would have allowed me as a young tot in the early 70’s…  in her hippie-mom days that included Easter baskets full of carob (I did not taste a Peep until I was in my 30’s, and frankly, I don’t know why I did it then…  peer pressure!).  BUT, this is ohh so much better (not that there is anything wrong with carob!).  It would be an awesome accompaniment to cheeses, with coffee or dessert wines, with those sweet Carr’s wheat biscuits…  or, frankly, just plain!  (and for those runners, triatheletes, etc… out there – I think that a slice of this would be eminently better than sticky icky Goo!) 

Hopefully, you’ll all try this stuff.  It rocks, and you’d be supporting a family business.  http://www.panfortecompany.com

The “L List”

Posted in Fancy Food Show with tags , on January 20, 2010 by massapeel

Might this be the "nectar of the Gods"?

Hey, if Oprah can do it, then surely so can I… let’s just hope that I am not served with a cease and desist letter anytime soon from Harpo Publications! So, without further ado, here is the list of my favorite finds at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.

Number OneSence Nectar. What is Sence, you ask? It is a rose nectar. Whaaaaa???? Rose nectar? blech, who wants to drink floral perfume? Um. I do. Listen to me when I say, this stuff is amazing. It comes in this gorgeous visually appealing pink glass bottle. But, how does it taste? It’s delish. I had it mixed with my drink of last resort – gin (hey, it’s five o’clock somewhere, right?). The Sence mixologist was using Hendrick’s gin – http://www.hendricksgin.com, which, amazingly enough is “a small-batch gin hand crafted in Scotland, with an ‘unexpected’ infusion of cucumber and rose petals.”

Further digging reveals that not only is it rose, but it is Bulgarian Rose which is extracted by gently pressing essential oils from the petals. Why is this relevant? Well, according to the Sence website (http://www.sencenectar.com), rose nectar is a beverage made from rose petals cultivated in the Kazanlak Valley and harvested during a three-week period from the end of May and early June in central Bulgaria. Rose blossoms are picked between 3 a.m. to 10 a.m. when the dew levels are at their highest, and then must be converted into concentrate within two hours of harvesting. Then the concentrate of pink rose petals, natural preservative sugar and water is pasteurized at the peak of aroma and flavor, virtually the same way it has been produced since 1256 AD.

Whatever the history, trust me when I tell you that this stuff rocks. And is so different. Run, don’t walk, to the nearest store carrying Sence Rose Nectar for a taste treat.

too pretty to drink... almost

[By the way. I apologize in advance for the photo quality — Annie Liebowitz, I am not. But, please bear with me, for hopefully practice will make better (I am quite sure that it will never be perfect!), and the photos will soon reflect the quality of the experiences!]

Fancy Food Show, here we come!!!

Posted in Fancy Food Show on January 19, 2010 by massapeel

So, after a whirlwind romance with the prospect of developing our own line of jams, Patti (my mother) and I have found ourselves in San Francisco at the Winter Fancy Food Show. Let me repeat that — I AM AT THE FANCY FOOD SHOW!!!!!!!!

For those who have never heard of this (which is probably everyone who has never been involved in the manufacture, distribution or retail sales of food or beverages), this is like Disney World for foodies in the trade! Seriously – hundreds and thousands of booths of purveyors hawking their product — beautifully packaged and displayed culinary treasures. (as an aside – they have a massage station here at the Mosconi Convention Center to massage away the aches and pains of 3 days on your feet, walking, networking and – most importantly – eating… I personally think that a cardio lounge would be more apropos – burn off all of those sampled calories!)

So, stay tuned for some of my faves… I’ll be back after a day of sampling and exploring!