Knightly Indiscretions

First, I must apologize to most of you. I know you only started reading because “hot man in armor” and “sex” flashed through your brains. Sadly, this isn’t the title of a trashy chivalric romance.
At least, not the kind you were expecting.

Indeed, I’m thinking first and foremost about Ritter Sport, the best chocolate company this side of Heaven. A German company, Ritter (or “knight” in German) has been tickling my palate since 2004.

So what? I’ve been eating chocolate from other companies for a lot longer. I’ve had everything from Hershey’s to Ferrero Rocher. Everything from Ghirardelli to See’s Candies. Everything from Lindt to the small business confectioner. Basically, I’ve had a lot of awesome. But the funny thing is, I’m not that excited about chocolate. I don’t even particularly like the stuff. I find it too rich for my normal palate – the exact same reason I don’t care for cake.

Why, then, would I get excited about a chocolate company at all? Simply because Ritter Sport does it for me. I’m not saying I want to hit it every single day – but when I get one in the mail…well, let’s just say it’s hard to resist. Their chocolate has a smooth, creamy texture, and the fillings are never TOO much. They also don’t wax their chocolate or change their recipe just because it’s sold abroad (practices I find abhorrent in certain large companies). Oh, and it’s already divided into perfect little squares. It’s never too much, and never too little. Furthermore, they tickle my sense of culinary adventure. Ever tried corn flakes in your chocolate? Neither have I! It seems like they’re constantly experimenting and coming out with new flavors. And of course, they’re considerate enough to make tiny variety packs so you can try them all.

Favorites:
Rum Trauben Nuss (“rum raisin hazelnut”)
Marzipan (be still my heart….)
Peppermint (spicy, yet sweet)

Bonus: Their website doesn’t suck.

http://www.ritter-sport.us/#/en_US/home

Tea’d Up

ZI’ve always had a mad passion for tea. The path to tasty tea discovery, though, was often blocked by popular teas that were of an inferior quality. I have, howevever, found many teas that I like if not love. Here’s a list of what I’ve tried, whether or not I liked it, and why.

Bigelow: Not really my favorite. In a pinch, it’s better than just hot water, but I can’t recommend it for flavor or originality. It’s certainly more economical than many of the other teas, though. They’re also into sustainability, which is pretty cool.

http://www.bigelowtea.com/

Celestial Seasonings: Talk about brilliant marketing. If you like tea, bright colors, pretty pictures, and exotic names, CS is a great route to go. It’s tasty, but more expensive than Bigelow. If you’re getting started drinking tea and want to ease into it, you’ll get exactly what they offer on the packaging. Not to mention the clever quotes by equally clever people that they place on the box, and the fact that it’s mostly recyclable and recycled. Also fair trade certified, which is always cool. Ultimately, CS takes the prize in marketing and appeasing the “lightweights” among the tea drinkers.

p.s. You can take a tour!

http://www.celestialseasonings.com/

Twinings: My favorite of all name-brand teas. No frills, no gimmicks, just good tea. You can get pre-packaged tea bags (easier but less flavorful) or you can get loose leaf (more flavorful and better for the environment. Plus they last forever!) As the gentleman in the video points out, loose leaf tea isn’t really practical for an office setting; however, for those that love tea, loose leaf is the only way to go. You can order several different flavors: Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Darjeeling, Lady Grey, Irish Breakfast, Ceylon Orange Pekoe, Jasmine Green, Gunpowder Green, and Prince of Wales. (You used to be able to get one of my favorites, Lapsang Souchong, but it’s since been discontinued. Sad panda.) I’ve only tried Earl Grey and Irish Breakfast, but I’m certainly in love!

http://www.twinings.com/home.php

Zhena’s Gypsy Tea: A lesser known brand, but very tasty. I’ve tried the Fire Light Chai (rooibos + spices) and the Peppermint Joy. I’m not much for chai without the spices and the milk and sugar, but I still liked it. The peppermint was a kind of peppermint-meets-green tea, and I REALLY liked that one. Similar to Celestial Seasonings, they’re also eco-friendly and fair trade certified. Also good for sometimes tea drinkers.

http://www.gypsytea.com/

Anatolian Treasures: Now extinct, this company used to specialize in teas from Turkey. It’s since been converted to essential oils and goes by Appalachian Valley, which I believe was the parent company. I only tried two teas, the linden (tilia europea) and the rose hip. I enjoyed them both and was sad to find out that they stopped making tea.

http://www.av-at.com/

Carolina Peach Tea: Now I’m getting into specifics. A friend of mine sent me “Charles Towne Carolina Peach Tea” (no typos in that, that’s really how it’s spelled). I was actually quite pleased with the black tea + peach flavoring, and normally I’m not too keen on it. This particular tea came through the Hale Tea Company, located in Georgia, USA. If their other teas are as tasty as this one, I’d certainly be willing to try the others.

http://www.haletea.com/

Koala Tea: I stumbled upon this tea company thanks to having a strong Jewish community nearby an old neighborhood. The tea was actually called “Gey” something or other. It was a Kosher chamomile tea, and it was pretty good. I did some research into the company, and found out that it was supplied by Koala Tea, an Australian company that specializes in tasty, Australian organic and USDA certified organic tea. They also make sure that the tea bag paper is unbleached, a concept that I never really considered. If you’re looking for exotic, organic tea, try them out.

http://www.koalatea.com.au/showcat.asp?CatID=49

New Mexico Tea Company: Earl Grey being one of my favorite teas, a kind friend sent me a bag of “Rosie Earl Grey” – a delightful loose leaf. I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit, as the rose included in the blend lends it a sort of floral fragrance (please forgive the winey alliteration). Combined with the necessary begamot, it’s what I would call a “top shelf” sort of tea.

http://www.nmteaco.com/

Shahrzad: I picked up this brand while living in a very Persian/Iranian neighborhood. I’ve tried the scented black tea and the cardamon. I’m perfectly happy with them; they’re exactly what I expected them to be, and the flavor is fine. I haven’t had cardamon for a while, so if I wanted to make Indian-style chai, I used the cardamon black tea as a substitute. (It worked well enough.) Not only is it a decent tea, it’s very economical. They almost always have a buy one get one special.
If you’re interested in trying it, I would recommend popping over to your nearest Middle Eastern/Persian/Indian/Armenian/North African grocery store and checking for it there. Online searches came up with some strange results, so you’re best off hunting for it in person.

Olive Nation and Spice Traders and Teas: Following what I consider to be a logical course of action, a lot of tea companies sell spices and a lot of spice companies sell teas. I’ve tried one from Spice Traders and Teas, a special blend called “Bloodberry.” I’m happy enough with it – mostly I got it out of “Halloween spirit.” I plan to try a few other teas from each. If nothing else, I would recommend both these stores for their spices.

p.s. Spice Traders and Teas seems to be reconstructing their site a bit.

http://www.olivenation.com/Default.aspx

http://www.spicetradersteas.com/store/

Lastly, here’s an interesting idea from a German company – Advent tea!
http://www.alnatura.de

Major Tom to Ground Control: “Spaghetti? Really?”

If you’re an airplane aficionado, you’ve probably been to at least one air & space museum. If you’ve got no interest in air or space, you’ve probably avoided them. Whether you’ve been or not, take the opportunity to explore the gift shop (always one of my favorite activities.) They usually stock one of modern America’s more interesting snacks, dehydrated food (a.k.a “Astronaut Snackies”).

Though experimentation in popularity has added (and subtracted) from the civilian market, the ice cream is always a good bet. Dehydrated spaghetti? Not so much. Even as a kid enjoying the novelty of it, I found it a little gross. The ice cream, though, is loads of fun. I had Neapolitan as a kid, and mint chocolate chip as an adult. And now, thanks to the internet, you can order it online….*giggles of mischief ensue.*

Somewhat sadly, there’s no more dried spaghetti (in case you’re like me, and you enjoy being a pallet masochist.)

Astronaut food: http://www.astronautfoods.com/

The Tale of the Ming Cherries, Part 2

Now that I’ve mentioned the cherry cordial recipe from the blog ‘Losing Our Shirts, Keeping The Farm,’ I’d like to mention my own recipe.

Not having the time to go through the whole process, I took those darn ming cherries and a bottle of white rum. I had to ‘displace’ (into a bottle of Coke) a full glass of the white rum. Then I dumped almost an entire jar of ming cherries + syrup + a stick of cinnamon into it, shook it about, and tried (tried) to leave it alone for a month.

It lasted 24 hours.

I cracked it open tonight, and already the entire situation was much improved. (Notice the gap at the top.)

It’s pretty tasty so far. Which brings us to the next blog, “Making your own vanilla extract.”

The Tale of the Ming Cherries, Part 1

A few months ago, I bought a jar of ming cherries from China. At the time, I assumed that they would taste just like the maraschino cherries that we use lovingly (but sparingly) in the U.S.

After opening them up, we discovered that ming cherries and maraschino cherries are NOT the same. The ming cherries are, in fact, downright nasty.

Well, I don’t care much for throwing food away, and thanks to Anne of Green Gables, I didn’t have to. Something from my past viewings kept poking at my consciousness, a scene with Diana where she drinks “cherry cordial.” I didn’t know exactly what that was, but Diana got drunk off of it, so it probably wasn’t too terrible. (FYI, it’s actually raspberry cordial. I had to look it up.)

Anyway, I did a search of cherry cordial, and found a blog (Losing Our Shirts, Keeping The Farm) that has the recipe. It’s simple.

Cherry Cordial

a lot of cherries, pitted and mashed a little (approx. 2 cups per glass container)
clear brandy (Christian Brothers white brandy is recommended)
2 Mason jars/glass container
3″ cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
sugar syrup (2 cups sugar + 1 cup water)
coffee filter
large funnel

Put the cherries in the jar, cover with brandy, add broken pieces of cinnamon stick to it. Seal the jars, and MAKE SURE YOU SHAKE THEM UP. As Nancy Chase points out in her blog, the alcohol is what keeps the fruit from spoiling. If any of them aren’t in contact with the alcohol, it’s going to get nasty in there.
Next, tuck them away in a quiet little corner for about a month.

When the month is up, open them up and strain out the liquid. Then filter it by putting the coffee filter in the large funnel, and pouring (and waiting) for it to go through.

Meanwhile, make the sugar syrup by cooking the sugar and the water until it’s all dissolved. Take it off the fire and let it cool.

After it’s filtered and the sugar syrup has cooled, combine the two. Allow them to steep another two weeks.

Then, naturally, enjoy!

Keep in mind: Chase says they wouldn’t normally add all the sugar syrup, but it brought out the flavor of the cherries better.

See it here:
Part 1: http://keepingthefarm.blogspot.kr/2008/05/how-to-make-cherry-cordial-part-1.html
Part 2: http://keepingthefarm.blogspot.kr/2008_06_01_archive.html

Pumpkin and Persimmon Lattes

I’m a sucker for all pumpkin related foods, and this was no exception:

http://www.thedailymeal.com/how-make-pumpkin-spice-latte-home-0?utm_source=yahoo%2Bshine&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=pumpkin%2Blatte&RM_Exclude=Welcome

My question, then, is how well it will work if I switch the pumpkin pulp with persimmon pulp. Fall is persimmon season in South Korea, so I have an abundance of the tasty fruit. Initially I thought that a “pudding” would be interesting:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/persimmon-pudding-with-hard-sauce-recipe/index.html

The question of a persimmon latte is a question not easily answered. Fortunately, I have an army of human “guinea pigs” to try everything I make. Unfortunately, most of them weren’t raised with persimmons, and therefore don’t care for the taste. Sad panda.

My curiosity must be satisfied – I’ll craft it and report. Who knows? Sweet potato lattes are popular here. A persimmon latte isn’t too much of a jump. ^^