Category Archives: Food Products

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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X-13D

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 x13.doritos.com, 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.

Why.not.

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).

An edible garden’s birth

edible schoolyard's sign for their spring plant sale

The Edible Schoolyard, an Alice Waters landmark of gardening and good eats in Berkeley, is holding its annual spring plant sale. I noticed this sign while picking up pizzas at Gioia’s yesterday–I’m tempted to go there and pick up some more vegetables to plant–maybe you’ll be tempted, too?

The sign reminded me of my own vegetable garden, newly started this year–yesterday, I finished my planting of fines herbes (parsley, tarragon, chives, chervil) by planting some chervil. Ah, I felt strangely satisfied! Visions of scrumptuous food danced through my mind.

But for now, reading about using herbs, fresh from the garden, has to suffice: for example, Pinch My Salt’s herbed tuna salad post makes me salivate, as I watch my garden grow.

What do I have planned? I’m thinking herb tempura with the Korean perilla leaves! Pesto with the basil! Soup with the sour garden sorrel. Kimchi with the Korean radish. North Korean eggplant stew with the Korean eggplant. Oodles of possibilities with my fines herbes, and nibbling on lavash and tarragon sandwiches. Eating carrots fresh out of the earth, raw and sweet. Tea with the chamomile, tea with the mint! And maybe mojitos with the mint! Infused cocktails with the anise hyssop. Chicken soup with dill. Yogurt with dill.

The possibilities seem endless.

vegetable garden mid-May

UK Montage

British cookbooks!

A few years ago, I went to England and practically starved (if not for afternoon tea and the fish and chips in between, I would literally have starved)–the good news was that I lost seven pounds during my four day stay. I came home and told my husband that “England is a miserable place!”

He didn’t believe me, being an Anglophile himself. “I’ll take you and you’ll love it.”

He was right. It is now one of my favorite places in the world, London one of my favorite cities that I have visited multiple times now. I love England–and not just for its culture and architecture and beautiful parks and its sights, either. I love England for its (get ready now) food. I think I now gain a few pounds when I visit London.

I thought I’d list a few of the food highlights of my visit…

cheese and onion pasty

Pasties! This delicious pastry/lunch-you-can-hold-in-your hand was a new discovery for me–found on a frantic search for lunch near the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Center across the way from Westminster Abbey (talk about the incredible juxtaposition between a high tech conference and staring out the windows to an old historic church across the circle).

I loved them so much, we had pasties two days in a row for lunch–the first day, I fetched cheese and onion pasties at Stiles at Sutton Ground Market. The second day, I did a taste test, with Cornish pasties from Stiles, and cheese and onion pasties from West Cornwall Pasty Company further down the street. (Stiles won).

Now I am addicted to the suckers, and am secretly glad that no one makes pasties in the Bay Area. I did look up a few recipes and was horrified at the lard content–now I’m more than secretly glad that they aren’t as easily obtainable around here.

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Memorable Sights at the Fancy Food Show

Fancy Food Show Montage

In addition to the Memorable Eats, the Fancy Food Show has its share of memorable sights–the place is a feast for the eyes as well as…well, a feast (of samples).

First off, the show encompasses both north and south halls of the Moscone Center–no small feat. Connie and I walked the halls for five hours and we saw “the whole show,” in disbelief at our accomplishment. To tell the whole truth, we walked past the majority of stalls without checking in to manage this feat. In other words, the fancy food show is really close to that vision of heaven with eternal food and samples.

My memory is a blur of tastes and sights…

But amidst all the sights, I want to call out a few that I saw…

FOOD CELEBRITIES
What is a food show without a handful of food celebrities hawking their wares and shmoozing with the thousands of foodies crowding the convention hall?

Paula Deen…
paula deen

Here’s Paula Deen hawking her brand. When Connie and came around her booth earlier in our walk, we remarked on all the Paula Deen products, only to have the booth people claim she’d be by later. Oooh. I love Paula Deen. We made a note to try to come back in a couple of hours.

When we finished roaming the South Hall we went back to her booth, only to see a HUGE line of people waiting to meet her and take a picture with her. Patience is not one of my virtues; I snapped a picture of her from afar. Hell, I’ll photoshop myself in if I’m desperate. 🙂 I would like to say, however, that she was the only food celebrity hugging her admirers and taking pictures arm in arm with her fans.

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Memorable Eats from the Fancy Food Show

Fancy Food Show!

Connie and I went to the Fancy Food Show yesterday–she’s an experienced attendee and as we prepared for a drive to the Moscone Center in San Francisco, she advised newbie me, “Pace yourself, there’s a lot of ground to cover,” and “Don’t forget to bring some water to drink.” Hrm. It felt like we were going to the Himalayas. Awesome.

The Fancy Food Show covers both the north and south wings of the Moscone Center, no small feat. Every inch of space is taken up by exhibitors–and they ranged from the ubiquitous olive oils, cheese, chocolate (some of the most heavenly purveyors!) and drinks…to collagen marshmallows and goat milk ice cream. Everyone’s offering samples (including the collagen marshmallow people), so we paced ourselves (even so, the food stands were doing a screaming level of business–who has the room and time to eat after noshing on samples all day?).

In five hours, we made quick work of the place, except for the hour “rest” at the Sardinia cooking demonstration where we got to watch the chef make 3 dishes out of pane carasau (a crispy flatbread thing) and then EAT the 3 dishes.

at the sardinia food tasting booth

The chef was quite a character, just to note. He loved the following analogy the best: “It’s like pizza…” I guess we Americans are known for equating pizza as The Italian Food.

Ah, but I am writing this post to talk about one facet of the Fancy Food Show: the standouts, at least for me. When Connie and I stopped by a British cheese stand in the last hour of our stomping around perusing, the cheesemonger asked us, “I haven’t been able to get out of here. What do you think is notable out there?”

I was at a loss for words, and at a loss for memory. We’d just tasted some FANTASTIC fruit, but I couldn’t recall them (carica and yumberry). Yet Connie had a GREAT answer, “Collagen marshmallows!”

marshmallows with collagen for your skin!

Yes, these collagen marshmallows were the oddest, yet most intriguing (to two women obsessed about skin care anyway) food artifact we’d seen all day. Apparently, you don’t need botox injections, you can eat yourself to firm-faced beauty with these suckers. They come in various flavors, as the vendor handed us a bag each (Connie got strawberry, I got…uh…yogurt flavor) of this “functional food.”

collagen marshmallows

Each marshmallow contains 3000 mg of collagen, and can be toasted, too–the vendor stated eating them will have the same effect as a collagen injection (where?). And the cheesemonger’s reaction to Connie’s proclamation? “Oh! I wonder if they will lift ALL FOUR CHEEKS!”

(Cheeky monkey!).

Connie had the press packet for the product, which had the following testimonies for the product:

what consumers are saying about collagen marshmallows

The last one had us bowling over with laughter.

If and when one of us starts eating the marshmallows, we’ll let you know the progress.

The other products that pierced my psyche were some of the “new fruits” on the market, and I mentioned them earlier: yumberries and carica.

These days, there are some fruits coming out of the deep recesses of other countries, and they are a true fad (pomegranate was BIG this year, even though I have been eating them since I was a child off the numerous trees in our Southern California backyard). Where have these fruits BEEN all these years? First off? The yumberry.

yumberry

They weren’t feeding us the yumberry fruit, though the vendor did have a handful on display. They look like rambutan, and reminded us of lychees, just like rambutan. What they were selling was the juice of the yumberry, and the juice felt like a sip of the tropical–not quite like mango, but a lot milder. (They also had mangosteen juice at the show–and sipping the juice is the closest I’ve gotten to tasting the fruit that I have been looking for for YEARS).

My favorite? The carica fruit.

BEST discovery ever!

We ran into the carica fruit late into the show, our bellies distended from all the snacks and the visit to the Sardinia cooking demo. (We had moved on from the Italy section to the “other countries” section, which really was the most interesting). The booth was lit up by all the bottles of this golden fruit, and we were drawn into the golden color of the fruit jars.

“Do you want a taste?” asked the vendor. We had been asked this a kazillion times, and after awhile, we would just nod our heads in a haze, but here in this Chilean booth, we nodded our heads with fervor. She cut the fruit into small pieces, pierced the golden yellow fruit with a small fork and handed them to us.

We bit into something that was really tropical heaven–especially considering the fact that we were not eating FRESH fruit but something out of a jar.

“It tastes like a combination of mango and pineapple!” she chirped.

Connie and I nodded our heads in agreement, in revelation. All throughout the show, we had been in search of sorbet stands, in need of palate cleansers, and here we were, feeling that same sensation from a piece of fruit. Connie’s eye was quick, and she pointed to a pitcher, “Is that the juice?” Yes it was. And we had a sip of that, too.

Carica is a rare boutique fruit, grown in the semi desert valleys of Northern Chile on trees that only live five years (ack!)–and as far as the literature tells us, it is a gourmet product over there that can be used with savory dishes and with desserts, hot or cold. This particular vendor was Tamaya Gourmet, which claims the previous uses for the fruit…and that the juice can be used to make things like martinis. I’m not the only one who found this fruit a revelation; Sam over at Becks n Posh made a note about carica from the fancy food show on her food blog, too.

The Fancy Food Show is still going on at the Moscone Center in SF, through tomorrow. More pictures on my flickr set. (See if you can spot the food celebs at the food show).

Next Up from C(h)ristine: Memorable sights at the Fancy Food Show

schwag from the fancy food show