Friday, February 27, 2015


THOSE WHO LOVE figs probably have a few favorite spreads tucked away already. But if you spot these Orchard Choice California Fig Spread from Valley Fig Growers, don't pass up a chance to try them. They come in a range of flavors and have exactly the right level of sweetness. The added orange and balsamic vinegar and pepper are inspired. They play very well with the flavor of the figs, and pull the spread directly onto the cheese plate. Love these. They're $5.49 per jar if you get at least 3 (plus shipping.) Find them online at

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


NO, THEY'RE NOT good for you, nor are they a gourmet snack, but I predict that these new little Honey Maid Go Bites will probably be a hit with snackers who love a good crunch. The bites are filled with either vanilla or chocolate and they're super crunchy -- much more so than a basic graham cracker. In terms of a mainstream junkfood, I'd give them a B+. Good, but I wouldn't eat the entire box in a single sitting. Find them in most supermarkets.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


PROTEIN IS MY go-to when I'm hungry. Often, I reach for cheese, but this jerky beats cheese in so many ways. It has more protein, less fat AND it has caffeine. Talk about a win-win-win when you're on the go. Every Perky Jerky I've tried also has great flavor; they make it in so many flavors that there's something for just about everyone in their lineup. Various package sizes of Perky Jerky's beef and turkey jerkys can be found at gourmet markets and at Costco.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


SELECTING WINE based on what the label looks like or what the label text claims about the flavors in the wine is never a good idea. Much better is to do a little research on wine regions, then google some opinions on a wine. That said, I just fell for the gorgeous label on this bottle of 2012 Loveblock Pinot Noir -- and it turns out that the wine inside is just as beautiful as the label.
Unlike any other pinot I have tried from New Zealand, this one has deep tannic notes and such a hit of smoke, berries and mushrooms that it begs to be served with smoked sausage or barebecue. The wine, from Central Otago, is made by Kim Crawford. The 2012 Loveblock is about $28.  

Friday, February 20, 2015


ANYONE WHO DOUBTS that a gluten-free cookie can be delicious needs to pick up a box of the new Walkers Gluten Free Shortbread Cookies -- any flavor will do. Open, taste and admit that these are just plain delicious. They may not satisfy those who like their cookies big, fat and chewy, but they are perfectly charming shortbread cookies, with no strange or off-flavors. The cookies are made with a rice-potato-maize flour blend that makes for a great sandy texture. Find Walkers at most grocery stores.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


                                                                                   Photo courtesy Castellina. Pictured here is a fresh chestnut, before it is peeled.
At left is a chestnut that's been opened, the nut inside removed.                  
I GREW UP in California, where chestnuts are a novelty. There are very few chestnut trees here, and apparently such little demand that markets in the West stock them seasonally, if at all. This is likely why I know so little about them. In fact, I have a single taste-memory of the nut: Slightly sweet, very grainy and not a bit delicious.
CHESTNUTS, TAKE 2: An Italian company called Castellina sent a chestnut package for review consisting of samples of chestnut flour, flakes and paste. The problem is that I had no idea what to do with the stuff. I stared at it for weeks, thinking "I am not sure I want that."
When I finally decided to open the bag of flakes and put some in my mouth, I was truly surprised. The flakes are seriously delicious. Who knew? They are toasty, nutty and creamy. The flour has a beautiful chestnut color and aroma and adds not only flavor, but texture to cookies and breads.
Bakers in the Eastern U.S. are likely more familiar with chestnuts and have likely used them in myriad ways in recipes -- and now that I've actually tasted the stuff, I say it's time for California bakers to get in the chestnut game.
Chestnut products can be found at most Whole Foods and some import stores. Recipes can be found on the company's website: