Tag Archive | Food

Tasty Holiday Treat: Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle!

Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle Bag
All Photos By Gail

With the Holiday season fast approaching, the time is now for guilty pleasures and dietary indulgences. Fans of this blog know well my love of the decadent sweet treat called Brownie Brittle — an oven-baked brownie-thin with a crisp cookie crunch. OMG, this stuff is delicious. In honor of what I like to call the Holidaze, Brownie Brittle reintroduces flavors that are available only during theses chilly months, and tarts-up their packaging with snow flakes and bows so that you can grab a few bags for last minute gift giving! Convenient!

Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle Close Up
Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle is Ready For its Close Up

With a narrow window of availability to purchase Brownie Brittle’s holiday varieties, I want to make sure you try what is not only my favorite flavor, but the favorite of Brownie Brittle originator herself, Shelia GSalted Carmel Brownie Brittle! The salted caramel chocolate treat remains very much on-trend, and Brownie Brittle leads the charge this Holiday season with its Brownie Brittle that is liberally studded with velvety Caramel Chips, and topped with a Dark Chocolate Drizzle — for added festiveness! Something I learned from watching too many baking shows is that adding salt to chocolate does not make the treat taste saltier. Rather, salt enhances the flavor of the chocolate, and makes it taste like the most delicious thing on earth.

Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle

Warning: Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle is highly addictive! I recommend that you take a few pieces out of the bag, put them on plate, and then take that to the TV room or wherever you are going to have your snack, leaving the sealed bag behind you in the kitchen. so that you don’t lose control. Shop for all varieties of Brownie Brittle at your local supermarket, or online at This Link!

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Dining at Uskudar, NYC’s Best Turkish Restaurant!

Uskudar Interior Shot
All Photos By Gail

Heavyweight Champion Mohammed Ali once said, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” Promoting itself as a Taste of Istanbul in the Heart of New York City, Uskudar Turkish restaurant’s 30-year dedication to authentic and delicious dishes has earned them a reputation for serving the very best Turkish cuisine in the City. Stop in for a visit and you will soon discover that the food speaks for itself.

Olives

Uskudar’s Chef/Owner Ibrahim Ozdemir began his 40-year career in the restaurant industry baking bread in one of Istanbul’s biggest hotels. When he opened Uskudar on the upper East side in 1987, his objective was to serve dishes whose flavors could transport diners to his homeland, if only for a few hours.

Turkish Bread

Ozdemir still bakes the fluffy, chewy bread that arrives at your table hot from the oven, and he takes care that every dish he serves is as fresh and authentic as possible. Even the lamb they serve is butchered on site. Uskudar’s extensive menu offers something for every palate,  including chicken, seafood, lamb and an array of vegetarian dishes. The narrow space is warm and cosy, with exposed brick, and back & white photographs of Istanbul landmarks adorning the walls. With the attentive, friendly service, you will feel at home right away.

I dined at Uskudar with a friend who had been there many times before, and she had been talking to me about the restaurant for weeks before we were able to finally a make date. There were so many dishes that she wanted me to try that we ended up ordering way more food than two people could possibly eat, but it was worth it.

Mucver and Borek

Two must-try appetizers are the Mucver — shredded zucchini fritters fried to a golden brown crispiness on the outside, but moist on the inside —  and Borek — crispy pan-fried phyllo rolls, stuffed with crumbled feta and spinach. Both taste great topped with a little dollop of tangy homemade yogurt.

Meze Platter
Mediterranen Meze Platter

An excellent way to sample many different tastes is to opt for the Mediterranean Meze Platter, featuring generous portions of assorted vegetarian appetizers including Yalanci Dolma (Grape leaves stuffed with rice, black currants, onions, pine nuts), Spinach Tarator (Spinach dip made with  labne — a strained-yogurt cheese — with garlic, and minced walnuts), Hummus (traditional Chickpea dip with tahini, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice), Fasulye Pilaki (White Kidney Beans with scallions, tomato, garlic), Ezme (Tomato, onion, parsley, and walnut spread), and Patlican (Smoky eggplant dip with garlic, yogurt, herbs). Two hungry diners could easily make a satisfying meal from this selection of exotic and flavorful dips, accompanied by a basket (or two) of fresh bread and a generous pour from the wine list. If you are dining with a group, the Meze Platter can easily serve as an appetizer for three to four people. It’s huge!

Chicken Yogurt and Rice
Chicken Yogurt and Rice Pilaf

For an entree, I wanted to try a dish that I had not tasted before, but which had familiar ingredients, so I chose the Chicken Yogurt, which is chunks of chicken breast baked with sautéed pita and yogurt in a little casserole dish. Like all entrees, it comes with a side of your choice of rice or vegetables, and I chose the fluffy rice pilaf.

Chicken Yogurt Close Up

Here’s a close-up shot, where you see that a few colorful peppers and tomatoes have been added for flavor and texture. The chicken in this dish is absolutely succulent, and perfectly season. The sautéed pita maintained the consistency of a firm noodle, and the yogurt blended with the natural juice of the chicken to create a light sauce. This dish was excellent, and it would also be a good choice for a non-adventurous diner (we all know them) who had not tried Turkish food before.

Vegetable Casserole

My dining companion wanted to try the Vegetable Casserole, because although she eats meat, it was one of the few dishes she had not tried before. This dish is very simple,  comprised of a variety of vegetables such as carrots zucchini, potatoes and onions stewed in a tomato sauce, and served with a side of rice or vegetables. My friend asked if she could have a bit of both rice and vegetables as her side, and they were happy to accommodate her.

I will admit that after enjoying so many delicious appetizers, I purposely ate only about half my entree (taking the leftovers home), because I knew what was coming up next: Dessert!

Uskudar Dessert Menu

Uskudar makes all of their authentic Turkish desserts on premises, and while they may have unfamiliar names, you will surely recognize Baklava, a pastry made with many layers of flakey filo dough, baked with nuts and honey syrup. There are also Turkish versions of Flan, Chocolate Pudding, and Rice Pudding on the menu.

Turkish Dessert Trio
Trio of Desserts

Since my friend is a regular customer, she asked our server if the kitchen could put together smaller servings of three of her favorite desserts for us to share. Again, they were happy to do so. Here’s what we ate.

Baklava

This is the Baklava, which is studded with chopped pistachio nuts, gooey with honey, and very rich. One tiny piece was plenty after such a large meal.

Kadayif

This dessert is called Kadayif, which is a pastry that’s very similar to Baklava, except is it make with shredded wheat.

Kayisi 2

Last but not least, you must try the Kayisi: Pouched Apricots stuffed with a whole Almond, and topped with sweet Whipped Cream and finely chopped Pistachios. This sweet treat is simply divine, and I will order it every time I come back to Uskudar. Amazing.

While menu prices are very reasonable, Uskudar also offers a three-course price fixe lunch for just $19, and a three-course ‘early bird’ dinner (served 4 – 7 PM) for a mere $27 — which are unbelievable bargain prices for Manhattan restaurant dining. Whether Turkish cuisine is your favorite, or you’re just in the mood for trying something new, be sure to put Uskudar on your radar to enjoy an unforgettable culinary experience.

Uskudar is Located at 1405 2nd Avenue (Between 73rd & 74th Streets), Just One Block from the 72nd Street Q Stop, In NYC. Uskudar also offers outside catering, and they can host private parties, or small corporate events. Visit Their Website at This Link for More Information!

Vatan Indian Restaurant Offers All You Can Eat Vegetarian Feast in an Authentic Setting!

Table and Menu
All Photos By Gail

One of the most enjoyable parts of dining in an Indian restaurant, especially if you possess an adventurous palate, is the experience of being able to taste many different dishes as part of one meal. If I am looking for an incentive to step beyond the comfort zone of my ‘stand by’ favorites, and the quality of the food is still reputably high, I might check out a place that has unique decor, or that features the dishes of a region or state whose food I haven’t yet tasted — because all Indian cuisine is definitely not the same.

Entry Hall

I was recently offered the opportunity to visit Vatan, a Vegetarian Indian Restaurant in Kips Bay which specializes in Gujarati cuisine. A little bit of Googling told me that Gujarat is a state on the western coastline of India, with a strong influence of Jain culture and philosophy, which explains why Vatan favors purely vegetarian dishes.  Vatan is also distinct for its  prix fixe dinner, which includes a thali-style arrangement (many servings of various foods all served together on a large silver platter) of appetizers and condiments, followed by a thali-style main course array, including bread, followed by dessert. The price is $34 per person and it includes all you can eat of any featured dish from any of the three courses. Exciting!

Left Side of Dining Room with Tree

As soon as you enter Vatan, it is clear that you will be dining in an immersive atmosphere unlike other Indian establishments in Manhattan. Vatan’s cozy main dining area emulates the look of a beautiful open courtyard, so you will almost feel that you are dining outside. There is even a tall, leafy tree in the center of the room, whose branches spread out across the ceiling. If you look closely, up high you will see a couple of monkeys perched among the leaves, ready to playfully pelt you with an orange! Just kidding, of course, but it does look that way!

Monkey in Tree
“Hi, There!”

Interior Courtyard Shot

Interior View with Ganesha

Two seating options are offered for your optimal comfort: you can either remove your shoes and sit cross-legged, or sit western style.

Ganesha

The focal point of the dining room has to be this glowing red monumental figure of Ganesha, the Elephant-headed God who is the Remover of Obstacles. It is really captivating!

Mural Indian Lady

The walls also feature may colorful murals like the one above, which is just outside the kitchen, and the mural  below, which was adjacent to our table.

Dining Room Mural

All of the staff are dressed in beautifully-detailed, traditional costumes, which gives the experience an even more immersive and authentic feel.

Merlot

Our server arrived promptly to take our drink order (beverages are not included the fixed price), and they do have both beer and wine on offer. I ordered a glass of this lovely, full-bodied Merlot, which provided a nice complement to the spicy food. Menus are not really necessary, since Vatan serves a fixed fare (though you can choose a vegan, or gluten-free option), but they do have a few specialty sides, which are available for an additional charge. With the Entree Thali, you also have the choice of your preferred degree of spiciness. I opted for mild (which trust me, was still quite spicy) while my dining companion went with medium spiciness.

Appetizer Thali
Appetizer Thali and Condiments

When our appetizer course arrived, our server took a few moments to describe the ingredients in each dish, as well as brief details of how each was prepared (boiled, fried etc). She even offered suggestions as to which condiments went best with which appetizers, or main course dishes. The service was truly impeccable throughout the meal. Here’s a description of everything on the Appetizer Thali:

Chana Masala (Chickpeas With Onions And Coriander)

Khaman (Puffed Cream Of Wheat Flour Cakes)

Muthia (Steamed Flour With Spinach)

Mirchi Bhajia (Fried Hot Peppers With Garam Masala)

Batatavada (Fried Potato Balls In A Chickpea Flour Batter)

Ragda Patis (Potato Cutlet In A White Bean Sauce)

Sev Puri (Potatoes, Garbanzo Beans, Yogurt, And Chutney Filled In A Crispy Bread)

Samosa (Triangular Savory Pastries Filled With Spicy Potatoes And Green Peas)

Despite what you may be “used to” when dining out, I encourage you to just surrender to this unique experience. You may be tempted to ask for bread and raita (popular cucumber yogurt dip), since many Indian restaurants serve those items with the appetizer course, but sit tight, because that’s coming up.

Appetizer Thali

Detail shot of the Chana Masala (foreground), Muthia (right rear), Khaman (left front ) and Batatavada (left rear).

I enjoyed every dish on my tray, though I did offer my hot pepper to my friend, since I did not want to tempt fate. We were asked if we would like seconds of anything, but not knowing how much food was still coming, we declined.

Entree Thali 1

The Entree Thali arrived next, and it was just as beautiful as the previous tray. Here’s what we ate, as seen in the photo above:

Toor Dal (Boiled Lentils Cooked With Indian Spices)

Bhaji (Sautéed Spinach And Corn)

Ful-Cobi (Cauliflower And Green Peas Sautéed In A Savory Sauce)

Batakanu Sak (Potatoes Cooked In A Mild Red Gravy)

Chole (Chickpeas Cooked With Garam Masala)

Puri/Roti (Puffed Whole Wheat Bread/Whole Wheat Flatbread)

Papadam (Thin Lentil Wafers)

Kheer (Rice Pudding With Dry Fruits)

Aam Rus (Mango Soup)

It is not uncommon in Gujarati cuisine to have both savory and sweet dishes in the same course, such as the entree dishes of Rice Pudding and Mango Soup, which I enjoyed mixing together in a single bite.

Entree Thali 2

The little puffed Puri breads are ideal for holding small bites of food and making little tacos with them. Super tasty, and also, fun!

Rice and Yogurt Soup

Because you are not quite exploding just yet, they also bring you delicious Entree Complements (Seen Above):

Pulao (Boiled White Rice With Peas)

Khichdi (Lentils Mixed With Rice And Assorted Vegetables)

Kadhi (Soup With Yogurt And Chickpea Flour In Authentic Spices), which is close raita and which we shared for use as a sauce to cool the fire of the spicier dishes.

Roti Plus Two Dishes
Roti Flat Bread

Everything was delicious.

Indian Ice Cream

After a short break to let our food ‘settle’ a bit, it was time for the final Dessert And Chai course, consisting of mango and one other flavor of Homemade Indian Ice Cream, which we split evenly.

Gulub Jamun

There is also Gulab Jamun , a warm Donut Ball in a Sugar and Rose Syrup, which I just added to my ice cream because I thought would be more fun, and it was.

Masala Chai

Masala Chai is a sweet Indian Tea with Cardamom, Ginger and Milk; the perfect ending to a perfect meal. While we were advised that we could have as much as we wanted of everything, frankly, the cumulative portions served were very generous. The fixed price menu is an excellent value and I could not possibly have eaten one more bite. .We really enjoyed our evening at Vatan, and I am looking forward to returning for future visits with new friends!

Indian Lady Artwork

Vatan is Located at 409 3rd Avenue (Between 28th and 29th Streets), in the Kips Bay Neighborhood, New York City. Visit Vatan NY Dot Com for more Information and to Make a Reservation.

Favorite Products, Packaging and Booth Displays From The Summer Fancy Food Show 2018!

Summer Fancy Food 2018 Entrance
All Photos By Gail

Oh my goodness, you know I must have been having a crazy fun summer when the season is essentially over before I can even get around to posting my always-hotly-anticipated annual photo recap of the Summer Fancy Food Show, 2018 edition! I have no excuse, except to admit that there is too much rad fun going on over here! Please forgive my tardiness, Specialty Food Association — I promise I will make it up to you with this awesome coverage that you are about experience. To kick things off, let me give a round of shout outs to the considerable number of tasty edibles that you should be putting in your mouth right now. Let’s do his thing!

Michelles Macs

How luscious do those chocolate-enrobed morsels look in the above photo?  Please allow me to introduce you to Michelle’s Maccs — the Macaroon of the Gods. If you are a fan of coconut, then you need to get hip to Michelle’s Maccs, an elite coconut macaroon that comes in 13 gourmet varieties  — including Amarena Cherry, Peanut Butter, Orange Zest, Banana Walnut (with little bits of real banana) and Espresso — each covered either milk, white, or dark Belgian chocolate. Decadent.

Michelles Maccs

Michelles Macs

Check out this close up of the Simple Milk variety: dense with sweet, chewy coconut and drenched in rich Belgian Milk Chocolate. Irresistible! Handcrafted with simple, high-quality ingredients, Michelle’s Maccs are eggless, flourless and naturally gluten-free. What a perfect confectionary treat for yourself, or to give as a gift. Michelle’s Maccs’s are part of the full line of gourmet baked goods from Fresh Baked NY, and you can find out more about them at This Link!

Something Good to Eat Soup Ladies

Over in the New Brands on the Shelf aisle, we met the lovely ladies behind Something Good to Eat  Soups! Meet Sandy Khorrami  and her two beautiful daughters.  Something Good to Eat  is a line of hearty and exotic soups made in small batches right here in NYC. Vegan and sugar-free, with no preservatives or stabilizers, these delicious soups are as close to homemade as you’ll find outside of your own kitchen!

Something Good to Eat Soups

Inspired by her own mothers home-cooking, Sandy has hand-crafted original recipes for unique soup flavors like Pomegranate Beet with Basmati Rice (which reflects Sandy’s Iranian heritage), and Spicy Mushroom with Lemongrass and Quinoa. Delicious served hot or cold, Something Good to Eat is a brand to put on your radar.

Peekaboo Ice Cream

Another new brand exbibiting at SFFS for the first time is Peekabo Organic Ice Cream. What makes Peekabo a unique product is the main ingredient hiding in each flavor — fresh vegetables! Take their Chocolate ice cream, made from the finest cocoa and pure, sweet cream to create a decadent, velvety dark chocolate ice cream. And the hidden cauliflower is providing your kids with a variety of vitamins, folate, fiber, potassium, protein, phosphorus and magnesium — wow! Eating your vegetables never tasted like this before!

Peekaboo Ice Cream
Vegetables Never Tasted So Good

Other Peekabo flavors include Strawberry with Hidden Carrot, Mint Chip with Hidden Spinach, and Vanilla with Hidden Zucchini. Scoop them up at your local grocery!

Graeters Ice Cream

I was first introduced to Graeters Ice Cream at SFFS 2016 and so it was nice to see the brand thriving at this year’s show. Their Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip  totally owns me.

Jenji's Brambleberry Crisp Ice Cream

Jenji’s Ice Cream wins Best Ice Cream Flavor Name for their scrumptious Brambleberry Crisp variety!

Sugar Bowl Bakery Signage

Sugar Bowl Bakery, a family owned company based in Hayward, CA, bakes a variety of bite-sized cakes and pastries that are perfect for lunch bags, afternoon tea, or easy snacking when you really want to treat yourself.

Sugar Bowl Bakery

Possibly my single favorite new sweet discovery of SFFS18 were Sugar Bowl’s Duet Bites; tiny cakes that uniquely blend chocolaty Petite Brownie Bites with buttery Madeleines cakes. Dessert perfection achieved!

Sugar Bowl Bakery Button Cakes
Image Source

Also introduced at SFFS18 are the bakery’s new Button Cakes, which are on shelves now. Button Cakes have the look, texture and taste of tiny, bite-sized muffins and come in four tempting flavors including Tropical Mango, Wild Blueberry, Lemon Zest and Madagascar VanillaSugar Bowl Bakery’s Button Cakes contain real fruit and vanilla bean seeds, with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. The Button Cakes are available in 8 and 16-count packages, with distribution throughout the United States.

Sweet Sams Cakes

While I’m talking about delicious cakes, I recommend the gourmet pound cakes from Sweet Sam’s. If you’ve ever raved about the moist and addictive Iced Lemon Pound Cake sold at Manhattan Starbucks stores, you should know that their secret supplier is Sweet Sam’s!  In fact, this Bronx-based baking company supplies over 500 New York-area coffee bars, gourmet markets, delis and other businesses with pound cakes, cookies, crumb cakes and other baked goods. Fine quality deserves its rewards!

Dina Assorted Baklava

UK-based Dina Foods produces high-quality, traditional Mediterranean breads and pastries in both sweet and savory varieties. Their Assorted Baklawa, seen above, is a show-stopper.

Bantam Bagels Egg Bites Booth Display

Bantam Bagels first blew up the frozen breakfast foods market with their innovative bite-sized, cream cheese-stuffed bagels. Now they have introduced Bantam Bagels’s Egg Bites Mini Breakfast Sandwiches, which are just fantastic! What could be more delicious than a crisp, chewy authentic NYC bagel puff stuffed with gourmet soft scrambled egg and cheese combinations? I ask yez . . .

Bantam Bagels Egg Bites Close Up

Available in Everything Bagel with Cheddar, Chipotle, Garden Veggie, Onion Gruyere, and original Egg and Cheddar flavors, Bantam Bagels Eggs Bites are one of my favorite savory discoveries at SFFS18!

Frontera Brand Booth

Frontera Gourmet Mexican Cuisine is based on the authentic recipes of Celebrity Chef Rick Bayles. Frontera’s new Taco Skillet and Taco Bowl meal kits elevate the convenience of frozen meals to entrees that will remind you of your favorite Mexican restaurant!

Frontera Taco Bowl

Made with fresh, classic ingredients like fire-roasted veggies, tender, delicious meats, and layers of authentic seasonings, Frontera Taco Bowls and Skillets will help you make a healthy and flavorful Mexican meal for the family that’s ready in just minutes! Fiesta!

Barzu International Plantain and Cassava Strips

And if you’re looking for some crispy chips to go with that south-of-the-border meal, why not sidestep the usual tortilla chips and go for something completely different, like Tumbis brand Plantain Strips and Cassava Strips? Imported From Costa Rica by Barzu International, these high quality strips are 100% Natural, with no trans fat and no cholesterol. Tumbis Plantain and Cassava strips are also high in fiber and potassium, so you can indulge with much less guilt! And they sure do taste divine with your favorite homemade guacamole recipe.

RW Garcia Organic Chili Cheese Corn Chips

I also flipped for these Organic Chili Cheese Corn Chips from the family-owned RW Garcia brand. Chili plus cheese plus corn chips means the name alone sounds too tempting to resist! I want to crunch a mouthful of them even as I type this.

RW Garcia Organic Lentil and Turmeric Crackers

At the show, RW Garcia introduced two varieties of organic, gluten free crackers including Organic Lentil with Turmeric (which is so healthy for you) combining natural ingredients like lentils, stone ground white corn, and a sprinkling of seeds, to create a delicious, crunchy cracker. You can now snack with confidence knowing that these delicious crackers are made with 100% USDA Organic and Non-GMO ingredients, no cholesterol and no trans fats.

Surgital Frozen Pasta

Do you like Pasta? I sure do? But, being a single gal, I also (obviously) appreciate convenience when it comes to preparing a meal for one. That’s why Surgital Frozen Fresh Pasta is not only The Chef’s Best Friend but my best friend as well.

Surgital Frozen Pasta

Look at all of these different types of Surgital gourmet pastas that you can buy to cook at home. Just look at them! While all Surgital products are imported from Italy, they are available for you to purchase in select US markets. Visit This Link for more product information and local store locations! Mangia!

Lemonera Lemonade

Eating non-stop for five hours is thirsty work. I enjoyed a glass of refreshing Lemonera all-natural Homemade Lemonade between bouts of stuffing my face.

Blue Monkey Watermelon Juice

Another guaranteed thrist-quencher, Blue Monkey Watermelon Juice is probably even more refreshing when mixed with the Vodka of your choice! Cheers!

Undercover Quinoa

While I’m walking the show floor, I like to pay attention to products that not only taste great, but that also have some kind of unique or on-trend flavor variety, a funny or clever name, or unique packaging. Undercover Quinoa has a very clever logo for portraying ‘quinoa in disguise,’ but I have to tell you that this product blew me away with its wildly addictive taste and irresistible lite crunch! Quinoa has been one of the more consistently popular choices for healthy eating for years, so it’s not exactly a hard sell. But if you can’t get your kids to eat it, try baking it into wafers and drenching it in chocolate. Sold!

Cacao Market by MarieBelle

Chocolate lovers at SFFS never have difficulty finding something a little different to satisfy the sweet tooth. Check out this Japanese Matcha Milk Chocolate bar from Cacao Market by Mariebelle New York Chocolates. Exotic!

Milk Boy White Chocolate with Potato Chips and Sea Salt

Milk Boy Swiss Chocolate’s White Chocolate with Potato Chips and Sea Salt bar helped that company make sofi™ Award history this year, winning the award for best new product in the category for milk and white chocolates! The gold award in that same category went to Milkboy’s Swiss Alpine Milk Chocolate with Crunchy Caramel and Sea Salt, and the bronze award went to their Swiss Alpine Milk Chocolate with Roasted Almonds. As the first company to win three chocolate category awards in a single year, Milkboy took home a trio of honors equivalent to the Oscars for specialty food! Congratulations!

Milk Boy Chocolate Booth Display

Mona Lisa Chocolate Cups

In the category of ‘food made gorgeous,’ Mona Lisa decorations of Chicago makes chocolate cups, shells and assorted decorations that can transform your desserts into elegant works of art!

Mona Lisa Chocolate Cups

These desserts look almost too beautiful to eat! Check out Mona Lisa’s full line of gourmet chocolate decorations at This Link!

Mona Lisa Chocolate Cups
Mona Lisa Tuxedo Tulip Cups Stuffed with Chocolate Mousse!

Let Them Eat Candles Display

Just when you thought there could not be one more unique and original product made from chocolate, along comes Let Them Eat Candles, which are, literally, Edible Chocolate Candles for every type of celebration!

Let Them Eat Candles Display with Cake

Available in boxes of three candles, in either milk or dark chocolate, Let Them Eat Candles come in a variety of printed designs and they can even be custom printed with your company logo or monogram for wedding. Just don’t eat the wick!

SugarSin Prosecco Gummies

I bet you know someone who would love these Prosecco Gummies candies by SugarSin. This UK-based confectionary makes assorted Cocktail Flavored gummies as well. Check them out!

Satellite Wafers

With their slogan “Taste the Memories,” Gerrit J. Verburg Company is always a huge hit at the show, with their nostaliga-inducing line of old-fashioned candies — like these Satellite Wafers — that delight the kid in each one of us!

Too Good Gourmet Halloween Cookies Packaging

Too Good Gourmet is ready for Halloween by placing its delectable cookies inside this adorable (and scary!) seasonal packaging!

Les Chocolat Des Francais

Le Chocolat des Français is a line of French chocolate bars that have a playful, and unique brand identity that features a variety of amazing illustrations on its packaging. Take a look!

Les Chocolat Des Francais

Designs this bold and exciting (collectible, even!) guaranteed Le Chocolat des Français an appearance in this recap  — and the Chocolate tastes great, too!

Nuts Original Snacks

You’ve heard of Beer Nuts brand peanuts and bar-snack mixes, which are marketed directly towards pairing with beer, but now Portugal-based Nuts Original snacks is giving Beer Nuts a run for the bar tab, so to speak. Nuts Original is the first company to create an entire line of select snack mixes that are perfect for pairing with not just beer, but also wine, or the cocktail of your choice — the first ‘bespoke’ cocktail snack, if you will!

Mystery Flavor Snack Mix

Each bag of Nuts Original contains the perfect blend of crispy crackers, dried fruits, and oven-roasted nuts, all optimally seasoned for flavor enhancement, to complement the special ‘moment’ of your drinking experience. I also love their mysterious, masked spokesmodel, who reminds me of Wonder Woman! Find out more about Nuts Original cocktail snack mixes at This Link!

Red White and Blue Chips

Too bad that this year’s July 4th celebration has passed, because what an ideal occasion that would be to break out the Saratoga Old Glories Kettle Chips – Red, White and Blue goes crunch!

Pink Himalayan Sea Salt

Sea Salt Superstores (purveyors of exotic salts) Himalayan Pink Salt wins Pink Thing of SFFS18! Because, Pinkness!

One Potato Two Potato Sgt Pepper Chips

One Potato Two Potato brand Kettle Potato Chips won my heart with their adorable homage — in both bag design, and name — to The Beatles, with their Sgt Pepper & Capt Sea Salt Chips. Squee!

Hoboken Farms Pasta Sauce

The label for Hoboken Farms organic Pasta Sauce, with its colorful depiction of a vintage a pick-up truck, is a work of art that’s worthy of the high-quality, farm-to-table style sauce that you’ll find inside the jar!

Drink and Play

The most innovative origin story for product packaging at SFFS18 belongs to Florida-based Surprise Drinks company. In 2006, inventor and current CEO of Surprise Drinks, engineer Pavel Dlouhy, developed a patented system of a drinkable beverage in a bottle with a toy hidden in a capsule attached to the bottle (Drink&PlayTM). Dlouhy’s inspiration for the Drink & Play patented bottle was the vision of his wife, who was pregnant at the time with their first child.

Drink and Play Display

Dlouhy approached the Walt Disney Company, which became the first license for Surprise Drinks in Europe. The heritage Disney brands, along with all the up and coming licenses associated with Disney have elevated Surprise Drinks to one of the top selling children’s beverages in Europe.

Drink and Play Product

Genius.

Pretzilla Soft Pretzel Burger Buns

Pretzilla Soft Pretzel Burger Buns: an absolutely delicious baked good with the best. name. ever! I want to eat them.

Bone Suckin Sauces

It’s always fun to spend time browsing in the BBQ Sauces aisle. Spotting a line of sauces with a product-approprate name like Bone Suckin’ is just one reason why that is true.

Attitude Vodka Logo

I’ve already mentioned how fond I am of Vodka, so it was extra sweet to encounter the folks at Got Attitude Vodka in the New Brands on the Shelf aisle. Even better: they were giving out free samples!

Attitude Vodka Bottles

Got Attitude Vodka is not meant for those who follow the crowd. It is for the bold, and those who speak their mind. How does Got Attitude taste? In a word: Smooth.

Attitude Vodka Recipes

Why not make one of these Cocktails with Attitude after you pick up a bottle? Join the Got Attitude family at This Link!

Krispy Kreme Jelly Belly

Jelly Belly — always ahead of the flavor trends  — makes its first of two appearances in this post for their drool-inducing Krispy Kreme Doughnuts-flavored jelly beans!

Frosted Cupcake Taffy

Here’s a flavor trend that I never cease to be captivated by: Birthday Cake — or, alternately, Cupcake — flavored . . . anything. At SFFS18 it was apparent that folks have gotten quite creative with this idea, introducing such festive treats as Frosted Cupcake saltwater taffy from Taffy Town.

Noosh Cupcake Almond Butter

Over in the New Brands on the Shelf aisle, we came across Cupcake-flavored squeezable Almond Butter from Noosh!

Birthday Cake Fudge

Country Fresh Fudge introduced their take on Birthday Cake Fudge — festive and delicious!

Goodie Girl Birthday Cake Cream Cookies

Goodie Girl gluten-free cookies got into game with their newest variety, Birthday Cake Cream sandwich cookies!

Goodie Girl Booth

And check out the gorgeous spectrum rug in the Goodie Girl booth! Now that’s visual merchandising done right!

Here are a few other creative and eye-grabbing ways that exhibitors stood out from the pack, drew crowds to their booths, and got folks to hang around for a few extra minutes in the vast sea of 2,600 exhibitors!

Pereg Spectrum Booth Display

Pereg Natural Foods also took advantage of the universal appeal of a color spectrum that was created from the simple alignment of their product packaging. Lovely.

Statue of Liberty Ice Sculpture 2

Cheribundi 100% natural Tart Cherry Juice knows that the cocktail party brings all the folks to the booth, and this statuesque ice sculpture of Lady Liberty served as a beacon to guide the cocktail-minded to their lively Sunday afternoon soirée.

Cheribundi Display

Brand representatives served both virgin and alcohol-enhanced cocktails which were expertly crafted to highlight the fresh fruit taste of Cheribundi; an ideal mixer that packs numerous health benefits including Phytonutrients  and antioxidants! Plus, free swag!

BBQ Sauce with a Hat

Pepper Creek Farms had the Instagram crowd in mind when they dressed-up their bottles of Salsa and BBQ Sauce in little hats and bandanas! Hey, it got my attention!

Juice Bottles in a Hammock

Retreat Tropical Juice Blends get their point across by displaying the bottles in a little hammock and Adirondack chair!

Salsa God Booth Display

Salsa God’s booth display is simple, well organized, and full of cool skulls!

Strawberry Hill Lollypops and Damien Hirst Cup

Strawberry Hill Candy is best known for their clever line of Novelty Lollipops that have to be seen to be believed. What caught my eye most in their booth though were these oversize tea cup and saucer props with their Damien Hirst Spot Painting motif!

Sauces N Love Car Grill

Sauces ‘N’ Love fresh pasta sauces cooked up one of their specialities dishes on a grill mounted on the engine of this car!

Pop Art Popcorn Booth

Pop Art Snacks Gourmet Popcorn is a pleasure to see at SFFS each year; not only for their Mirrored Disco Ball Booth — which is no doubt the envy of every exhibitor on their aisle — and for their numerous unique Gourmet Popcorn flavors, but because co-owner Mike always remembers my name!

Pop Art Hawaiian Sea Salt Popcorn

I highly recommend the Hawaiian Sea Salt with Avocado Oil Popcorn for its extreme deliciousness! So good!

Siren Snack Protein Bites Booth

Siren Snacks emphasized the “Clean Snacking” approach of their brands’ delicious, plant-based range of protein bites by installing an old-fashioned clawfoot bathtub filled with balloons right in their booth!

Spread Delights Booth Display

New, all-natural Spread Delights are single-serve, squeezable smooth spreads in Chocolate Hazelnut, Raspberry, and Almond varieties that will complement your toast, bagel, favorite pastry, or whatever strikes your fancy. The Spread Delights booth felt like new car showroom with its life-size packet replicas of each flavor perched atop a lucite display case of that flavor’s man ingredient. Classic and Classy!

Mingle Sparkling Mocktails

Props or themed-booths are certainly not necessary to attract attention. Mingle Sparkling Mocktails showed everyone how effective a straightforward approach can be with their clear branding and elegant product display. It was impossible to pass by their booth without stopping in for a taste of one of their refreshing non-alcoholic beverages!

Jelly Belly Merchandising

There’s a reason why the Jelly Belly brand makes its annual Manhattan land grab with one of the largest square-footage booths at SFFS — it’s because their merchandising is rather mind blowing. Everybody wants to hang out in the Jelly Belly booth. It’s like Christmas in there!

Jelly Belly Table Display

And look at how focused this display is for the new Jelly Belly Candy Cones! Forget that Candy Cones have two flavors that taste like both the cone and the ice cream in each piece, and just immerse yourself in this inviting fantasy landscape that features a parfait glass overflowing with candy, an ice cream cone-shaped light, and luscious looking fake ice cream cones in a rack. Now consider that Jelly Belly has hundreds of flavors, and this tableau is for just one flavor of Jelly Belly.  This is why they are number one, people!

S'More Better Smash Mallow

Last but not least, a shout out to the lady handling the day’s extreme heat while manning this booth for Smashmallow all-natural gourmet marshmallows (their slogan: “S’More Better”) who set up across the street from the Javits Center! Maybe next year they will move their booth so she can enjoy some nice air-conditioning!

Thanks to the Specialty Food Association for another great show, and see you next summer!

Product Review: Summer Snacking and BBQ Favorites From Traina Home Grown

Traina Brand Images
All Photos By Gail

It’s hard to believe, but we are now half-way through summer. If you aren’t already deeply-immersed in the weekend picnic and backyard BBQ scene, it’s time to step up your game! Traina Foods has just introduced Home Grown;  a new line of healthy dried fruit snacks and gourmet condiments that makes it easy to bring the taste of summer to your table right now!

Snack Size Frutons

One of the best things about summer is the abundance of fresh summer fruits that you can find everywhere — from the grocery store to your local farmer’s market. But, as silly as this may sound to some, there are those who miss out on fresh summer fruits because the time and effort it takes to wash, peel and cut up the fruit is just too daunting. With a plant-forward approach to eating in mind, Traina Home Grown introduces Fruitons, a delicious, convenient way to help you meet your overall healthy diet needs with perfectly portioned snack bags of their naturally sweet California sun-dried fruit. Sun-dried fruit is nutritionally equivalent to fresh fruit, being high in fiber, healthy nutrients, and antioxidants. Good to know!

Traina Dried Apricots
Traina Home Grown Dried Apricots

Not only are Fruitons a tasty, grab-and-go snack, but they can also be a versatile ingredient in creative meal preparation. I’ve been taking Fruitons to the office and adding them to the morning oatmeal I buy in the cafeteria.

Oatmeal with Dried Fruit
Oatmeal With Apricot and Cherry Fruitons Mixed In!

The hot cereal plumps the dried fruit, adding a chewy sweetness, and making a healthy breakfast even more delicious!

Frutons Large Bags

Fruitons also come in larger, resealable 6-once bags, so you can add the taste and nutritional benefits of dried fruit to all of your summer recipes.

Frutons Assorted Mix

Fruitons All American Blend contains a pleasing assortment of dried peaches, cranberries, grapes, apples and blueberries. This selection is ideal for making your own trail mix, sprinkling into salads, mixing into yogurt, and for perking-up the aforementioned hot cereals. Fruitons would also be an excellent substitute for raisins or other dried fruits that are called for in a variety of baking recipes! The creative possibilities are endless.

Frutons Sun Dried Tomatoes

Do you like sun-dried tomatoes? Who doesn’t? You probably already have a few favorite pasta recipes that call for this premium ingredient. Now you can have sweet and savory sun-dried tomatoes on hand all the time!

Traina Sauces
Traina Ketchups

If you’re planning a BBQ any time soon, be sure to pick up a couple of bottles of Traina Home Grown’s new Gourmet Ketchups and BBQ Sauces for all of your grilling needs! These sauces taste great on a variety of meats — burgers, chicken, steaks —  as well as on vegetables, and used in dips. There are four pounds of tomatoes in every bottle of Home Grown Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup, and these ketchups are also gluten free, kosher, vegan and contain no corn syrup.  There is an organic variety of Ketchup as well as two additional specialty favors.  Gourmet Sicilian Ketchup, with its Italian herb blend, is great on fish and chicken, and to add a kick to your meal,  try the spicy Gourmet Sriracha Ketchup! All are made with same care and quality ingredients.

Traina BBQ Sauces

You’re probably not going to find BBQ sauces like these anywhere else, because Traina Home Grown BBQ Sauces are made with real dried fruit, for an extra special taste! Both the Sun Dried Apricot and Sun Dried Plum BBQ Sauces are sweet and spicy, and would taste so amazing on ribs! The Sun Dried Plum variety reminds me very much of Hoisin Sauce. I served it as a dipping condiment with Trader Joe’s Masala Burgers, and it was off the hook!

Find out more about the Traina family of fine products, shop online, get recipes or find out where to shop in your neighborhood for the products in this post, at This Link!

Frutons Assorted Packaging

National Mac & Cheese Day Recipe: Creamy Cheddar Mac & Cheese Donuts!

Mac N Cheese Donuts

Holy Mother of Gouda, will you look at that photo? Did you ever imagine that such a thing as a Mac & Cheese Donut even existed? I did not, and yet, there it is. With today (July 14th) being National Mac & Cheese Day, I snagged this recipe for Creamy Cheddar Mac & Cheese Donuts from the website of Three Bridges [www.threebridges.com] — a chef-crafted pasta, sauce, and meal brand that makes clean eating easy. If donuts make you go nuts, this is the dish for you. Breaking the mold, these donuts trade in the sweet for the savory, but don’t be fooled — they’re just as addicting!

Here’s how to make them!

Creamy Cheddar Mac & Cheese Donuts

Ingredients:
1-12oz pkg Three Bridges Creamy Cheddar Mac and Cheese Kit
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp butter
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp flour
sauces, vegetables, or other toppings of your choice
Instructions:
  1. Prepare Three Bridges Creamy Cheddar Mac n Cheese per directions, let cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Mix the panko bread crumbs, one tablespoon of melted butter, and half of the cheddar cheese (1/2 cup). Set aside.
  3. Mix the mac & cheese with the egg and flour and remaining shredded cheddar cheese (1/2 cup).
  4. Use remaining butter to grease donut pan. Spoon the mixture equally into greased donut pan and sprinkle with the panko breadcrumb and cheese mixture.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and donuts feel firm.
  6. Add your favorite toppings to the donuts. Serve & enjoy!

Benares Indian Restaurant: Cozy Fine Dining in Tribeca

Table Top Art Shot
All Photos By Gail

If you’re looking for delicious and authentic Indian cuisine in NYC, it really isn’t hard to find. There are even a few neighborhoods — like East 6th Street or Curry Hill — with a concentration of reliable eateries that can satisfy any craving you might have for Indian Cuisine from a variety of regions. Great Indian restaurants are everywhere, but I have a couple of favorite places that stand out for me as being worth going out of my way for, and one of those is Benares. My foodie friend Anne and I attended an event at Benares back in 2012 to celebrate the opening of its now-former midtown location, and I still recall the delicious small bites and refreshing craft cocktails, along with gracious service and a comfortable but classy vibe that we experienced. So I jumped at the chance to revisit Benares now that the restaurant has relocated to Murray Street in Tribeca. We felt welcome the minute we walked in the door.

Recessed Ceiling Lighting
Room Shot

Benares takes its name from the city located in the Western state of UP (Utter Pradesh), and the extensive menu includes a medley of Indian dishes, with an emphasis on the cuisine of that  region. The city of Benares is known for vegetarian dishes, and the restaurant features over 20 delicious and unique vegetarian specialties, making it an ideal destination for groups with diverse dining tastes or dietary restrictions.

Rice Puffs with Dipping Sauce

Benares‘ menu also has many unusual seafood and meat dishes. Chef Peter Beck (formerly of Tamarind) prepares his signature dishes such as the Sevai Tomato Kurma (mussels, scallops, rock shrimp and crab claws tossed in a garlic tomato sauce over Indian style rice noodles) and the Tandoori Hen ( whole Cornish hen marinated in lime, ginger, cumin, garlic and garam masala and cooked in the tandoor oven). These are dishes that you will not find in other NYC Indian restaurantsI I brought Anne along with me, and we are served a tasting menu that included an enormous amount of indian specialties. Here’s what we ate!

Cauliflower Khasta Gobhi

Among a half-dozen or so appetizer bites that started off the dinner, we especially loved this Khasta Gobi: lightly batterrd and crispy fried cauliflower with garland crushed pepper in a tangy sauce.

Chicken Tikka

Chicken Tikka: Tandoor grilled tender pieces of chicken marinated in yogurt and spices.

Spicy Lamb

Makkai Ka Soweta Lamb with Fresh Corn

Makkai Ka Soweta: Lamb Shoulder marinated in yogurt, tumeric, chili , ginger and glare (very spicy) with fresh corn. Delcious!

Spicy Shrimp

Spicy Grilled Shrimp!

Table View with Full Meal

Our feast of several entrees — both meat and vegetarian — arrived quickly and included many of our favorites!

Basmati Rice
Basmati Rice with Saffron and Peas

Naan Bread
Freshly Baked Naan Bread

Malai Kofta

One vegetarian dish that I had never tried before is the Malai Kofta: a Vegetable and Cheese Dumplings served in Cashew and Onion Gravy. It is perhaps comparable to an Indian Matzhoh Ball! Very tasty!

Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer is a popular dish that everyone loves: Cubes of Indian cottage cheese served in creamed fresh spinach with mild Indian spices.

Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken is another mildly spicy meat dish that is a universal favorite, and a great introductory entree choice for anyone who has not had Indian food before. In this dish, tandoori grilled tikka of chicken is cooked in a smooth tomato gravy, rich in cashews and, as the name implies, finished with butter. Sublime!

Lamb Rogan Josh

Lamb Rogan Josh is dish that always makes me think of the American journalist and political analyst, Josh Rogin, but the two are not related! Rogan Josh is signature dish from Kashmir, consisting of succulent pieces lamb in a sauce flavored with cardamom, aniseed and paprika. The meat is excellent quality and has the texture of very tender beef. If you think you aren’t going to like lamb, I would recommend that you try this dish, and be won over!

Atom Bomb

We were understandably stuffed after indulging in so many amazing dishes, but our host insisted that we have dessert, and how could we say no to this gorgeous creation which they call an Atom Bomb: Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Rose Petal Ice Cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. It tasted as wonderful as it looks. Rose Petal ice cream is a delicate treat that I highly recommend. The subtle but distinguishable essence of rose gives this ice cream a very light and unique flavor. It is fun to try new things!

Diners at a Table

Benares‘s beautiful interiors and intimate dining spaces make it a perfect restaurant  choice for any occasion from a business lunch to a first date or just a get-together with friends. Theres something for everyone on the menu and they will make you feel so welcome you will return again again.

Benares is located at 45 Murray Street (take the 2, 3, A or C trains) in Tribeca, NYC. See more photos, full menus, and make a reservation to dine at Benares by visiting Benares NYC Dot Com!

Table View