Category Archives: Food Products

fancy it up with truffle

truffle salt and truffle oil

I’ve only had truffle overload once: in New York, at the now-defunct Palio restaurant a dozen years ago, with so much truffle on my risotto that afterward I burped truffle. And ended up throwing up truffle risotto into the toilet of my hotel room. Lucky toilet.

It took me a few years to venture towards truffle again; in hindsight, I blame the red wine for ejecting the truffle out of my body. But I have never turned my back against this earthy, rich flavor again and every year I look forward to Fall for all its beauty, including the emergence of truffles.

Truffle is decadent, it’s a taste that’s hard to put a finger on. It’s like the high fat European-style butter of the mushroom/fungus world (hey, truffles are technically fungi that sprout fruiting bodies beneath the ground, while mushrooms are fungi that sprout above ground).

We can’t always get our hands on truffles; they’re in season for only several weeks a year. But I still seek its flavor all year long, and I did come upon truffle salt at the Fancy Food Show this past year. Why had I never thought of it before? I scored a little sample vial of truffle salt with a little squeal of glee (along with lots of free vanilla and vanilla paste, flavored sugar (mrmm lemon sugar and sweet onion sugar!) and all manner of chocolate). The vendor, fusion, maker of many fine artisanal salts, advised me to sprinkle the black truffle salt on some on popcorn.

But I had a better idea. I “fancied up” some scrambled eggs (made with farm fresh eggs of course!) with a sprinkle of this black truffle salt and a splash of truffle oil.

These days, I’m trying to eat healthier, and eat fewer carbs. I’m in this weird tundra of food possibilities (carbohydrates are my promised land–meat, not so much) and I’m in a continuous search for flavors and textures that will make this high protein, lower carb land sparkle for me (lower carb meaning, not 95% carb anymore).

Wow. The truffle did it. It made something ordinary, extraordinary. I now crave truffle infused scrambled eggs as much as I do brioche bread from the Cheese Board or morning buns from La Farine.

I recommend splurging on the black truffle salt (available at salt works for $17.99 for a 5.5 ounce jar…or if you care to pay more for less, dean and deluca offers 3.5 ounces for $28), to make something ordinary, extraordinary. The possibilities are endless: on some simple boiled pasta (okay that’s carb), or on vegetables or on popcorn, or all manner of egg preparations, whether it be poached, fried, scrambled, omelet, frittata, or quiche.

tiffin tins

tiffin tins

A few months ago, I watched a Gordon Ramsay episode (I forget which show–it was either his “Kitchen Nightmares” or the UK original–I watch ALL of his shows they are TERRIFIC) during which he initiated a tiffin delivery service at lunchtime. There he was, showing the staff (and by proxy, we the viewers) an entire box of these really awesome stackable, portable tins. Lunch would be delivered in those shiny tins.

My reaction: Cuuuute. I had to have them. IMMEDIATELY!!!!

I grew up in the tradition of “bento boxes.” My mother didn’t call lunch “brown bag lunches,” she called them “bentos.” When we went on a picnic she said, “I’ll prepare a bento box.” And when I was on a school field trip, “bento” it was, again. In 1970s America, that meant I got a lot of weird stares and finger pointing. All because I didn’t bring lunch in a lunch box with Daffy Duck on it or in a small paper brown bag. Or the requisite bologna sandwich with potato chips.

I didn’t understand how awesome my bento box was at the time–which for me was stackable plastic boxes filled with leftovers from dinner (in hindsight, waaay better than an Oscar Mayer bologna sandwich). But eventually, my mother gave in and started packing lunch for me in a plastic Bugs Bunny lunch box.

Of course, the transition was not seamless–at first, she packed my lunches in a REGULAR sized paper bag (the kind that could hold at least four cantaloupes) to my great dismay. Where did white people buy these tiny brown lunch bags?! We eventually found them, but not before procuring a very cute plastic lunch box at the local Zody’s.

I admit, the sandwiches paled in comparison to the tasty Korean food she used to pack for me, but escaping the teasing of classmates was worth the trade off

Now I’m going back to my roots. I’ve fallen in love with bento boxes..and tiffin tins.

I found my tiffin tins at AngelinHome. I bought the mini tiffin tins–and they are a bit small, so unless you’re a super light eater, get the regular sized ones.

I find them entrancing. The biggest drawback is the obvious: tiffins are made of metal. And metal cannot be microwaved. So they are a bit of a bummer when you drag them to work and realize you have to take them OUT of the tin to heat up. So I’ve been packing fruit salads and such in them. Delish.


Budweiser + Clamat = "Chelada"

I was out of town a month ago when we spotted this can of Bud Chelada, aka Budweiser+Clamato. Hrm. Intrigued, we bought a can and then took turns drinking from it and making funny faces, and then doubled over with laughter, we took sips again just to keep on laughing.

Needless to say, we were not too entranced by the taste.

But then the other day, I came across a Slashfood’s post on Michelada–at first, knowing of Bud Chelada, I thought this was perhaps a proprietary name for the Michelob version of this same drink.

Nope. It’s some other concoction–one that you can make with Michelob even though it’s preferable to use a dark beer.

Not being a beer fan, I’m not a fan of the beer cocktail, either.

Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee

I am a coffee lover who does not drink coffee.

At one point in my life, I drank over six cups of coffee a day (plus espresso!), with a particular penchant for Peet’s Major Dickason’s blend coffee. After Peet’s, I fell in love with Royal Coffee in the Oakland Rockridge neighborhood (it now has the unfortunate name of “Cole Coffee”–say it real fast, sounds like COLD coffee, doesn’t it?).

But after I quit drinking caffeine a few years ago, I couldn’t find a decent decaf coffee ANYWHERE. And I’m stuck with decaf, because caffeinated, regular coffee has the kind of effect on me now that I’ve always envisioned CRACK would have–bouncing off the walls, nonstop talking, speeding thoughts, insomnia.

Every now and then, I indulge in decaf coffee from Cole Coffee, but it’s just not anywhere near the same–the taste is lacking. I miss the coffee ritual, I miss the roasted smoky taste. I miss the hint of the sugar, the cream swirling in the black coffee, turning it into a mocha brown. Mrmmm. I miss coffee.

Last week, however, I visited a friend of mine, who offered me some decaf coffee. I said yes out of courtesy. She poured me a cup. The coffee was secondary, I thought. We started chatting, immersing ourselves in a deep conversation about philosophy, writing, reading, sickness and recovery. I sipped the coffee.

And stopped the conversation. “R–,” I asked, “What is this coffee?” It was the BEST coffee (decaf, or caffeinated) bar none, I had EVER tasted. It was AMAZING.

Blue Bottle!” she answered.

Ah, I replied. The mythical Blue Bottle Coffee. I had heard about it, smelt it in the Ferry Building once. I had no idea they made a decaf coffee so marvelous.

My friend remarked on how wonderful it was–and how, most importantly, she could buy it online. At which point, I hurriedly scribbled that fact into my notebook, went home, and bought some straight away. The day it arrived, on my doorstep, I was greeted with the heady roasted scent of coffee–freshly roasted. I carried the box into the kitchen, trailing a wonderful odor that I felt was so rich and heavy that I believed the molecules were dropping to the floor.

Blue Bottle Coffee ship orders out by the pound, once a week, from Oakland (so if you’re in the Bay Area, you’ll get the coffee the next day)…in whole bean form only (but if you’re a coffee snob, you won’t be surprised by that requirement).

Their other coffees, I can only imagine, must be even more amazing. But I? I’m giddy with my decaf noir from Blue Bottle.

Pumpkin Time: puree


It’s pumpkin time!

I love pumpkins. I am not a big Halloween fan, and I don’t like to carve faces into them–I like to EAT them. And when Novella offered me one of her wonderful pumpkins after a visit to her city farm, I nodded yes. I had never seen pumpkins like hers, adorned with what looked like beautiful callouses on them (when a squash has things like that, it looks downright tasty to me). I asked for one of the smaller ones because we’re only a two person household, and how could we eat so much pumpkin?

Oh dear.

This household of two, it seems, is chock full of pumpkin eaters. (And neither one of our names is Peter, either–“Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater!”)

After admiring the pumpkin for a couple of weeks, I put it in the oven to roast, cutting it in half, and putting it (cut sides down) in a 350F oven for about an hour.

Novella's pumpkin, pre-roasting

Out came a pumpkin that was a vibrant orange in the Autumn morning light. It was almost like crab or lobster–going into the boiling water a dark metallic green…and coming out altogether red and orange and edible. That’s what happened with this pumpkin. It went into the oven a pinky orange, and came out almost fluorescent, the kind of orange that road workers wear:

brilliant orange

After cooling the pumpkins, and scooping out the seeds (oh drats! I forgot to save some BEFORE roasting the pumpkin! There goes the hope of planting these pumpkins next year), and peeling off the skin…I pureed the pumpkin.

I took a little taste of the unadorned pumpkin puree, and an involuntary smile crept over my face. This was the BEST pumpkin I have ever tasted. Thoughts of pumpkin cookies and pumpkin pie immediately leapt through my mind. Ooooooh.

roasted pumpkin puree

If you’ve never made your own pumpkin puree, you really ought to try. If you don’t have a friend who gifts you with a wonderful pumpkin from her garden, you can use sugar pie pumpkins from the store. It’s relatively simple to do (split the pumpkin in half, put it cut sides down, roast in a 350F oven for about an hour, scoop out the seeds, peel off the skin, and puree in a food processor). Not only is it simple to do, but the result is so fabulous, you’ll cringe at the prospect of having to use canned pumpkin puree forevermore.

You’ll have to use it a lot quicker than canned pumpkin puree–but the puree does keep in the refrigerator for a few days, a week…and I’m not sure if it lasts longer than that, because I use up all that puree within a few days.

Harvest season

Vegetable Garden 2007

This year, I planted a vegetable garden, a project that had long been germinating in my head. For personal reasons, I had more time than ever this Spring, and a desire need to be inspired by life. My father, an avid gardener, had moved to a desert retirement community, and left me with seeds (of hard to find Korean vegetables and herbs, like Korean bellflower, and chui namul) from his decades-old vegetable garden. They were begging to be planted. And pragmatically speaking, I thought that having my own vegetable and herb garden would yield me so much food, as well as foods that I could not easily find at the grocery store. The possibilities seemed endless!

And so I dragged in 32 bags of planting soil against doctor’s orders, convinced my husband to tier part of the hillside in a neglected part of our property, and embarked on a months-long project that would see me through physical and psychic crisis, become raided by a gopher, entertain my wiener dog no end (she likes to dig for gopher), and provide us with physical and psychic sustenance.

wall up, now soil being transported

Over the season, I planted the following: rose geranium (thank you to a friend who gave me a cutting), anise hyssop, Korean eggplant, beets, Korean radish, chamomile, French tarragon, chervil, chives, Korean chives, green onions, parsley, mint (in a separate container of course), French garden sorrel, carrots, Korean perilla, dill, shelling peas, Korean chrysanthemum leaves, basil, brussel sprouts, Korean bellflowers, and Korean chui namul.

Yes, it got a little crowded, but it seemed every week, I would take home a fascinating packet of seeds or a seedling and stick it in the garden somewhere. There had to be room, I wanted to grow so much!

Of course, the gopher who began visiting the garden at its burgeoning height, helped with making space, for better and for worse.

The gopher ate the following plants (in their entirety!), pulling them underground for his dining pleasure: chamomile, French tarragon, chervil, carrots, dill, shelling peas, brussel sprouts, Korean bellflowers, and Korean chui namul.


So you see, he ate half the garden. I bought a ultrasonic emitting “gopher/mole peg” and stuck it into the ground, but apparently, that didn’t deter him. I let my wiener dog into the garden (to her great delight!) and allowed her, every month or two, to root through the ground and dig into his tunnels, leaving her scent and therefore trying to deter him, but to no avail.

I was sad–I didn’t get to see the Korean bellflowers bloom, or taste the Korean chui namul, or even harvest a sprig of French tarragon, or even have one cup of tea with the chamomile–nor did I get to use chervil, and use the fines herbes I’d planted! The gopher ate them all before I could have a taste. He pulled down entire brussel sprout plants before I they even matured! But next year–next year, I’ll plan my garden out right. I’ll plant in containers, or line the garden with something impervious to gophers. Or, because I just don’t have it in my heart to kill the gopher, I might just plant a surplus so maybe there’ll be enough to share.

mrmmm!  says the bee

But I got to eat part of the garden as well. With the basil, I made pesto. And used the sorrel for soup. The herbs finished and garnished a numerous amount of dishes. The anise hyssop was steeped in cream for a licorice flavored creme. I julienned and steamed radish with rice for a quick lunch. I was able to harvest a few pea pods to make a a great pasta dish with leeks, peas, and chives before the gopher devoured the pea plants in their entirety. Oh, and I ate innumerable carrots, uncooked, straight out of the ground, relishing their fresh garden sweetness.

Now it’s harvest season, and the garden has begun to lag–the carrots, beets, green onion, and radish have all been plucked and eaten, and the Korean perilla still stands remarkably tall and robust, but it has begun to flower and go to seed, a road that the anise hyssop took a few weeks ago, its licorice scented flower heads turning into seed pods. I think I’ll tempura fry the perilla leaves for a snack soon. And I won’t forget to collect the seeds so that I can share with friends, and have more to plant next season.

Happy Autumn everyone.

p.s.  friends: if you’d like some seeds, let me know.

Organic Rice Crispies–gone in a blink


I had no idea Organic Rice Crispies, as reported by Gourmet Magazine’s Food Blog, even existed. They were on the shelves of grocery stores, apparently, until they were pulled due to lack of sales.

They were never on the shelves of my neighborhood grocery stores, and I live in a hippie, organic-food-loving, Michael-Pollan-quoting, foodie town. I would have loved to have made organic rice crispy treats, complete with homemade marshmallow and plugra butter.

Did you see them?

St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

I love elderflower beverages, especially a cordial or presse mixed with sparkling water. I was first introduced to this flavor at a friend’s house–she gleefully went to her fridge and brought out the chilled bottle of elderflower cordial. “You’ll love this!” she exclaimed, as she mixed it with club soda. We enjoyed that beverage in the living room, our mouths swirling with the unique floral and fruity flavors of elderflower. (Man, if I ever run into an elderflower plant, you know I’ll bury my nose in its blooms, and possibly eat a flower head).

When I was in London, I happily tried many of the elderflower beverages–they seemed a mainstay in the beverage aisle! In the U.S., you’ll only find them at specialty stores, or in specialty aisles at gourmet grocery stores.

I guzzled those cordials down during my short visit.

elderflower cordial

And so, when I heard about an elderflower liqueur, I kept my eyes wide open for that Art Deco/Art Nouveau (ohh, I do so love Art Deco and Art Nouveau) bottle. I couldn’t find it, and nearly gave up. But then I found it (of all places) at Beverages and More!

Of course, you know I drove right over and grabbed a bottle.

Of course, you know, even though at the time I was under medical orders to abstain from alcohol…that I snuck a little sip. It was the most wonderful liqueur, one that really captured the essence of elderflower, instead of smothering it in an alcoholic haze. It is a bit on the sweet side, but then again, I’m also a fan of dessert wines like trockenbeerenauslese and beerenauselese rieslings, and sauternes.

This is one of those liqueurs that you can drink without mixing, in a glass full of ice, or simply with some club soda (as soon as I was off the ban, I was right on that). Recipes are popping up for this liqueur all over the place, as it’s building quite a little fan base.

I’m now thinking about how I could use it in desserts and incorporate it into food recipes. I’m thinking–poached fruit in this wonderful liqueur–or maybe sneaking it into the egg mixture for a french toast? I’m not sure how the floral taste would work with the french toast, but it might work.

a cocktail recipe follows after the jump…

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super secret experimental Doritos

While on a late night run to 7-Eleven tonight, I spotted a display of black and white Doritos bags straight in front of us. Doritos has used just about every color of the rainbow in its bag designs, but it has yet to use a stark, black and white color palate.

So I deigned to examine the bags a bit closer. “This is the X-13D Flavor Experiment,” the bag says, volunteering “tasting notes” that said “All-American Classic.” Intriguing. Definitely intriguing enough for me to spend 99 cents on the bag of chips while my husband filled up a slurpee.

We got home and ripped the bag open (yes, I waited to get home to open it because, true to food blogger form, I wanted to take a PICTURE of the bag before I opened and decimated it).

I wanted to know what the chip looked like–it looked like a normal Dorito chip–triangular with orange flavor powder.

“Are you going to taste it?” asked my husband.

“Yes!” I said, handing him a chip.

We each took a bite.

Within one second, we both muttered, mouths full, “Tastes like McDonald’s ketchup.” (Actually, it was more like, “Shtastesh like McDonaldsh ketchup.”) We looked at each other, amazed. And pondered, hands on our hips, staring at the black and white bag.

“Actually,” said my husband. “Tastes like McDonald’s fries and ketchup. Smells like it too.” I nodded vehemently. “Sound like someone purposely decided to emulate McDonald’s over at Doritos.”

So try it. See if it tastes like McDonald’s french fries and ketchup. (I’ve heard elsewhere, as I subsequently searched for other feedback, that it tastes like a McDonald’s cheeseburger).

I also tried submitting the flavor at, but they wanted WAY too much personal information, plus all I wanted to type was “McDonald’s french fries and ketchup,” so I gave up. Apparently, you have a shot at naming this X-13D Dorito chip.

Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day: thumbs up

lavender dishwashing soap

Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day dishwashing soap is not edible, but smells like wonderful floral foods and lives in close proximity to food. And, after all, Mrs. Meyer’s had a presence at the Fancy Food Show (even though it was not officially a “food”). So why not mention them here on Muffin Top?

I thought the products were worth a mention on this food blog. Though I must have passed by the products at the local Whole Foods many many times, I never thought to try them out until I scored a few samples from the Fancy Food Show:

schwag from the fancy food show

I scored dish soap, surface wipes, and laundry detergent, all available in 3 scents: lemon verbena, lavender, and geranium (which smells a lot like roses). The samples lingered in a little basket in my utility room, collecting dust for some months. I didn’t have the heart to throw them away, and like all samples, I found the packaging cute and the thought of “needing a squeeze of dishwashing soap on a rainy day” too immediate in my mind to consider anything else but saving them.

Did I use them? No. But they must have served as beacons of advertising and branding, sitting there by my side door.

Because when we did run out of dishwashing liquid, and I found myself at Whole Foods where I could not buy the usual bottle of Palmolive, my eyes travelled towards the bottles of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day dish soap.


Geranium, lemon verbena, or lavender? Quick choice: lavender.

Mrs. Meyer's dish soap samples

The minute I popped open the bottle of dishwashing soap, I felt like I was about to take a bubble bath, not submerge myself into the drudgery of washing dishes. I love the smell of lavender–and afterwards, my hands smelled wonderful–as I typed on my laptop, I smelled like summer in Provence. (Okay, I have never BEEN to Provence, but this is how I would imagine Provence to smell like).

Man, I love a household product that makes me smell pretty, and has a scent that rings true.

I immediately went to my other samples, and popped them open to check out their scents. Equally delicious and intoxicating. Like the real thing.

Oh, and the soap cleans well, too.  It works well, and is biodegradable, phosphate-free, and made with those wonderful natural essential oils that make you feel good (as well as smell good).