Forager Nuts & Vanilla – Hit or Miss?

Miss – ‘missed it by a mile’ as they say

Even though I try to limit my consumption of packaged products, there are a few that I’m partial to. One of my favorite grab and go snacks is a bottle of cold pressed greens – no fruit, just cucumber, celery, kale, spinach, etc. I like to try different brands so I looked at Forager. Unfortunately the only green drinks I saw contained fruit juice. So then I wondered how their shakes would be.

The ingredients looked pretty good: cashews, almonds and oats scented with cinnamon and ground vanilla beans, dates . But I guess this is a case of ‘just because they could, doesn’t mean they should’. There is something wrong about the texture of this beverage, it’s like chalk. And I’m not sure where they went wrong with cinnamon and vanilla but the flavor seems unbalanced.

Forager has a large vegan product line. Because I believe in the type of products they create, I will try them again, but it won’t be one of their shakes. Forager Nuts & Vanilla – a MISS.

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Qrunch Quinoa Burgers – Hit or Miss?

MISS- the main reason, Texture.

I dislike the name veggie burger because I’ve never eaten them to replace burgers. Before I switched to a plant-based diet I ate veggie burgers, or black bean burgers, simply because I like them. They could never replace a burger. Only a burger is a burger.

So that being said, you may wonder… what is wrong with the texture. They have the texture of quinoa and breadcrumbs, with nothing to bind them together. I found them to be too delicate, and easy to crumble, to stand up tp being eaten on a bun. And the mouth feel was a bit odd. I enjoy a bite of loose quinoa but there is something about a ‘patty’ crumbling in your mouth that lacks appeal.

As far as the flavor, there wasn’t really any flavor. I tried the green chile flavor. I didn’t really expect it to taste like green chile, but I did expect it to have a taste. After living in New Mexico for almost twenty years, I know that nothing produced outside of New Mexico, and sometimes Arizona, actually tastes like green chile. Sorry, but New Mexico has set the standard for green chile.

Were these so bad that I’d throw them away? No. But I will probably crumble them on a salad instead of eating them on a bun. I’m glad they were on sale! I guess quinoa just doesn’t have a texture that lends itself to being eaten on a bun.

Black, White, or Melange?

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When Only the Best Will Do

Nothing Beats Boudin Sourdough

sourdough_4818First I want you to know that Boudin has in no way endorsed this review, nor asked me to write it and I don’t own any portion of Boudin. Rest assured my opinion is entirely my own. And as someone who is capable of everything from making my own bread to making my own curry, I am not easily impressed. In some ways this is a curse, I rarely eat out, I know that I can produce better (healthier) food in my own kitchen. And likewise, there are very few commercially produced foods that I adore. But Boudin Sourdough is one of them.

So you know what sourdough is right? and how it came to be? Well, here’s the short (unscientific) version. When flour mixes with water it begins to break down and a result of that process is the production of glucose, and that’s just what yeast likes to eat! As the yeast does it’s thing carbon dioxide is produced and presto chango… your bread rises. Now of course you can add yeast to dough and make this happen. But sourdough uses a ‘starter’ – a little colony of yeast that is fed and groomed, just waiting to be turned lose in a batch of bread dough. As this ‘starter’ is maintained it takes on more and more yeast from the naturally occurring yeast around us. Believe it or not the yeast in different parts of the World taste different and produce different results.

San Francisco has some of the best yeast, hence the reputation of San Francisco sourdough. Now it is possible to alter the flavors based on the age, and other attributes, of the starter. But the main thing defining the flavor is location!

I’ve tasted my way through San Francisco sourdoughs and Boudin is the BEST! Anytime a companion is traveling through San Francisco I ask them to bring me a Boudin’s.

Not planning to travel to the West Coast any time soon? No problem, order on line from Boudin Bakery. In fact check out their website for more information about sourdough and their company, which has been around since 1849. And I just noticed they have a sourdough bread club… uh-oh!

Use sourdough bread the same way you would use any bread, sandwiches, French toast, toasted on the side of a salad, grilled cheese, etc. And don’t let the little ends go to waste! Cube them, toss them with olive oil and black pepper and toast them in the oven to make your own croutons. My favorite use for these is floating in a French onion soup.

There’s a great article about sourdough at Wikipedia, they refer to sourdough dating back to 3700 BC!

If you like sourdough, join me this fall and I’ll show you how to make and maintain your own starter! Then the possibilities will be endless!

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

El Señor Rio y Don Patrón en mi Casa

Traveling Taster_72dpi_IMG_3333crpOK, we’ll get to the results of the tequila tasting in a moment. But first… an introduction. I present to you The Traveling Taster! A fellow Bon Vivant, and certainly he knows how to Savor his Life! He’ll be occasionally stopping in to provide a different perspective on flavor. If you enjoy his visits please let him know! And so, without further adieu… I give you The Traveling Taster and his review of fine tequila.

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When it comes to rating spirits, I am a novice with no formal training, nor do I profess to be an expert about adult beverages. So with that said, I’m sharing my opinion of, “I like what I like.”

Today I ventured to compare two Tequilas. Añejo Patron, and Añejo Senor Rio tequila. Añejo means vintage or old in Spanish.

My first tasting was Añejo Patron. It has a very light amber color. Its bouquet is mildly sharp, sending a subtle disbursement to the back of one’s nostrils. Its introduction to the tongue and palate are lively and festive, presenting a warm awakening upon reaching the esophagus. A spirit that is full of vigor.

My second tasting was of Añejo Senor Rio tequila was very different and pleasantly surprising. It possesses a rich golden hue. Its bouquet is of an earthy/woodsy flourish however, its palate introduction suggests a confident floral effervesce. These two seemingly contradictions meld to augment its essence.

I favored the Añejo Senor Rio tequila. Now, you may or may not agree so, give them both a try and let your olfactory senses determine if “you like, what you like.”

*Though most beers, wines, and spirits are readily available at many locals globally. The Traveling Taster may opine his  comparisons by way of virtual travel from the comfort of his residence.

My Two Russian Friends

I’d like for you to meet Tobaritch and Hammer & Sickle, my two favorite Russians.

I am a firm believer in tastings, for yourself. We all wonder ‘is this one better than that one’? Sometimes it’s a variety of apples, sometimes a cheese, sometimes a wine, and often it’s a spirit. I say release your Bon Vivant and allow yourself to develop preferences! You don’t have to overspend or over indulge to give yourself this opportunity.

Here in Tucson we have a market called Total Wine and More. The interesting thing about this place is that they encourage their employees to try the products they sell, and to have opinions. So far they’ve been dead on! About six months ago I wanted to do a vodka tasting to compare potato vodka with that made from grain. Unfortunately I didn’t record or retain my results so I’ll have to repeat that tasting (poor me). But it was then that I discovered Hammer & Sickle, a moderately priced Russian vodka. I loved it, so smooth, so refined, so silky.

Then about a month ago, my opinion of vodka was to be challenged. I was having trouble finding the Hammer & Sickle. A helpful young man pointed it out and then said those words that meant I was in for a tasting ‘have you tried….’ Trust me, when you hear this at Total Wine and More you want to listen. He showed me his new favorite Russian vodka Tobaritch. It was even less expensive, I was skeptical but, OK, I’m daring so I’ll give it a try. The results have caused quite a dilemma around here.

Tobaritch is distilled from grain, Hammer & Sickle from wheat. Tobaritch has a 300 year history and can be traced back to Czarina Catherine II. You can read about the awards they’ve won (over 50) at www.tobaritch.com. Hammer and Sickle has also won several awards, you can get more of their story here www.hsvodka.com.

A tasting is supposed to establish a preference, a winner if you will. I find both the Tobaritch and the Hammer & Sickle to be incredibly smooth, refined and silky. They are both mouth-warming, but not mouth-burning, when sipped at room temperature straight out of the bottle. I just can’t choose one, which means this tasting was not successful.

If you’ve had these two Russian vodkas and you have a preference, please share your opinion. I’m sorry my tasting wasn’t more definitive. We have a guest writer stopping in later this week with a report on tequila… and trust me, his tasting has a clear winner!

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Single Malt Education

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Have you ever wondered why some single malt Scotch is $19.99 a bottle and others are $39.99? Not to mention those that exceed $100 per bottle. Is there really a difference? If there is a difference will I be able to detect it or is that type of discerning taste only experienced by ‘super tasters’? There was only one way to find out……

We had three single malt Scotches, there were all very close in price $27-39 per 750 ml bottle. For the first time ever we enjoyed our Scotch neat, no ice, no soda! It was a delightful experience. I found the Glenlivet to be smooth, very smooth. But the Grangestone, while just a smooth, had a more complex flavor. The Hamilton’s Lowland wasn’t a smooth as Glen but it was more complex. I suppose the Grangestone was my favorite but I would be delighted if a guest arrived with any of the three.

The snacks above took about 5 minutes to layout. It was a simple presentation but oh so delicious. The cheese on the left is the Screaming Dutchman Gouda – a jalapeño and habañero variety. The bluish cheese is a blue flavored jack. At first I was a little put of by this cheese. But this evening I figured out that it needs to be room temperature. Once it warms the jack texture softens a little and it’s much more enjoyable. I really think it would make a great grilled cheese with tomato soup (maybe lunch tomorrow :-). The yellow cheese is an aged, smoked cheddar. It’s been aged for five years and has a great flavor. Behind the cheeses we have baby carrots with black bean hummus. Interestingly we found that the carrots were the best thing for cleansing our palettes between scotch samples. We also used a new glass for each brand, no mixing the flavors.

The detail oriented readers will see that we have Irish Whiskey on the beverage tray. We decided to forgo those and stick with just single malt Scotch. When we do our Irish Whiskey tasting I want to compare the 12 year Jameson with 18 year! I suppose I’ll need some Dubliner cheese for that one. I’m not sure we’ll ever officially compare Bushmills to Jameson as that’s an Irish feud that goes back hundreds of years, it might be better to stay out of THAT debate!

So there you have it. A completely unplanned event. With five minutes of prep we had a beautiful evening with excellent conversation, excellent flavors, and we managed to expand our horizons. Presentation, presentation, presentation……..

Te[quila] for Two

Here in Tucson it’s getting warm. As we enjoy more patio time I crave less red wine and more spirits. This weekend we will have an official taste test; Don Julio vs. Patron.

Several years ago, while in Mazatlan I went on a tequila factory tour, not just for the free samples I assure you. Although, I certainly did enjoy them!

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Here we have an agave ready to be smoked. This tequileria uses a large open pit, ahhhh so that’s where the smokey flavor comes from in some tequilas.

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The picture below is after they’ve been on the fire…

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And that is just the beginning of the process – there’s still distilling, aging and bottling to do. So much work goes into a batch of fine tequila, and if you ask me it’s well worth it!

So which is better – Don Julio or Patron? I will research it fully and keep you posted!

2015 Update – I’m still testing! Actually I find both of the silver varieties equally smooth. I suppose it’s then time to move on to the gold, or anejo. Bummer, there’s more tequila tasting to do!