Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sunflowers from the Farmer's Market

We bought some sunflowers at the Square One Farmer's Market. They're quite nice!

Mecsa Osha Peruvian Jungle Chocolate 75%

This chocolate bar is produced from cacao beans from Peru, and is Fair Trade chocolate (meaning the local producers get paid more for their beans) and Organic. Mecsa Osha means "Sleeping Beauty" and refers to a mountain in the jungle of Peru where the beans are produced. The cacao content of this bar is at 75%. The ingredient listing is fairly good, cocoa liquor, cocoa powder, cane sugar, cocoa butter and soy lecithin.

How does it taste? Not that good, fairly chalky, and the bar was quite hard, ie. it took a fair amount of strength to break (though the bar was certainly thicker and thus less wide than other bars, so that probably was the reason why). This bar was about $3 from a health food store. I don't know if I would buy this again.

Hachez 88% Premier Cru

The German chocolatier Hachez uses South American cacao beans, and, as far as I know, beans from Ecuador specifically (I have enjoyed a number of bars made from beans from Ecuador). The ingredient listing is good, cocoa beans, cocoa butter, cocoa powder, sugar, soya lecithin and Bourbon vanilla. The cacao content is at 88%.

How did it taste? The high cacao content of this bar, 88%, made me a little leery at first, I was expecting chalky chocolate, but it snapped well, was creamy and smooth, not at all chalky, and tasted very good. I got a little bit of coconut flavour from the bar, but this did not make me like the bar less. My beautiful Bride enjoyed this bar as well. I would definitely buy this bar again.

Favargar Noir - Plain

The Swiss chocolatier Favargar has been in existence since 1826; they should know a thing or two about chocolate. This bar is simply bitter dark chocolate, without any extra flavourings, at 70% cacao content, so it should be a good indicator of the quality of their chocolate. The ingredient listing is fairly good, cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, low-fat cocoa, soya lecithin and vanillin.

How does it taste? Not bad, though a little chalky, and it doesn't snap well. I think the name of it, Plain, is a good indicator of its quality. I don't think I would buy this bar again.

Royal Family Cherry Blossoms Cake

Pineapple Cake is the traditional form of this cake, but there are other kinds of fillings. What I dreaded about this cherry blossoms cake, was that it would be the overly strong cherry flavour of many cherry sweets and desserts. I was pleased to taste a more subtle cherry flavour, one can imagine that it might be the essence of sweet-scented cherry blossoms blooming in the Spring (albeit, I doubt that real cherry blossoms taste of anything). This has quickly become my favourite of these Taiwanese desserts.

Vivani Organic Dark Chocolate

The German chocolatier Vivani I've seen now in several health food stores, and I haven't enjoyed their bars that I've tried. This one is just pure chocolate, a good indicator of how good their chocolate is, without the distraction of any extra flavourings. The ingredient listing is very short, all Organic, cocoa mass, raw cane sugar and cocoa butter (and I think all bars should be like this). The cacao content is at 72%.

How did it taste? As I said, I didn't like much the other bars that I have tried, though this one I did like. This is good chocolate, tasty, snaps well, and a bar I would buy again.

Godiva Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Almonds

I've tried some of the bars from the German chocolatier Godiva, this one is a dark chocolate at 72% cacao content, with almonds. The ingredient listing is good, chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin and almonds.

How does it taste? The almonds are fairly small pieces, I'd prefer whole almonds or bigger chunks. The chocolate is tasty, though the combination of the two does not make it a good bar. I don't think I would buy this bar again, and I don't know that I have enjoyed any of Godiva's bars.

Toi, Moi & Café's Costa Rica Monte Verde Coffee

I found this Organic and Fair Trade and Special Grade coffee in a Lebanese specialty store, of all places; it was about $9. Toi, Moi & Café have made it their mission to render the coffee business more transparent (certainly I've always wondered where my coffee comes from, and why a lot of it just isn't very good). This is pretty good coffee, and my favourite bean, from Costa Rica. This is not only Organic, but is also Fair Trade (meaning more money is given to the growers). It is also what they call Special Grade, which means that it is of Arabica type, grown at an altitude of 1200 meters, should be hand-picked selectively and roasted to express all the flavours and aromas of the region. The beans are from the Monte Verde region of Costa Rica, and are Mid Roasted (neither Dark nor Light); they are also Filter Ground. I like how they say it has a Chocolate aftertaste, perhaps that is why I like it so much.

Restaurant Review - Open Sesame Bakery

I kept this restaurant in the back of my mind, after first seeing it quite a while ago, and it popped up again recently when I was in the area. Open Sesame Bakery is located in a strip mall at 235 Bayly Avenue in Ajax (east of Westney and west of Harwood) and specializes in Lebanese Food. There is lots to choose from, including hummous (made from chickpeas), cheeses, various filled breads, kebbeh and several hot dishes, including a giant grilled flatbread called saj filled with either zattar (thyme and nut spice mixture) or cheese. It's also a small grocery, with various Lebanese products, including coffee and nuts and sauces.

The saj was really good; I chose the one filled with cheese. Better than a pita bread, grilled.

The baklava here are pretty tasty; these all contain pistachios, there are also ones with cashews and pine nuts. The baklava are sold by weight; $11.50 per lb.

The maamoul are also quite delicious; these are date (without the sugar) and pistachio filled (with sugar) ones. There were also ones for sale filled with peanuts (or perhaps he said or meant pine nuts). They are $1.25 each.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Herbapol Raspberry with Rosehip Tea

I do like raspberry, especially in season, and like teas with rosehip in them. Picking up this offering from the Polish company Herbapol I also noticed that it contains hibiscus flower. Sold. Opening the package, it did smell very good, like raspberry (I was at first worried that it was raspberry aroma that made it, but it contains 40% raspberry fruit). And after steeping, it also smelled and tasted of raspberry. With the deep red colour of hibiscus. Quite refreshing. I don't know if this is a new company, or new to North America, but I'll be willing to try some of their other products.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cofe Roselle Instant Drink

One drink you can get in some restaurants in Thailand is Roselle, and it's likely that it's made with this sweetened Roselle drink. It's not a concentrate or syrup, so one doesn't have to dilute it much to get a good flavoured drink. So far, I've got down to 2 or 2-1/2 parts water to one part Roselle. Not bad, though sweeter than when I make it myself (I would not make it that sweet, is what I am saying). Also, it's not as strong a roselle flavour as when I make it from dried roselles. But not bad, and far easier to make. It is instant; just mix this with water, and drink!

This is five parts water to one part roselle; too weak.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Apple Market Health and Wellness Fair

I've written about the Apple Market in Mississauga before; they have lots of fruits and vegetables, a meat section and so forth, but attached to them is a small health food store. I was surprised to learn that this health food store sponsors a yearly Health Fair, this being the 10th year in existence (why didn't I know about this before?!). The Fair has passed, being held on Saturday, September 12th (and I believe it's held the middle of September each year) from 11 am to 3 pm. The Fair takes over a section of the Apple Market where they normally sell plants, as well an area behind that where they put up a large tent. There were many Health vendors there, with lots of free samples and a discount of 15% on their products sold at the Apple Market. We enjoyed some free food, saw one deal that we couldn't pass up, and took home some samples and literature. It's not as elaborate or large as shows I've been to in Toronto, the booths for each vendor are fairly small and sometimes doubled up, but it is a good representation of the major Health product vendors in Canada (a large number of them are Canadian). We plan on going again next year.

Young Ginger

We happened upon some young ginger in our local Chinese supermarket; my beautiful Bride had been looking for some. Basically, young ginger is ginger that has been picked early. Its growing season is from Spring to Summer (it's very late summer for us here, I can't explain the availability).Young ginger has all the flavour that you enjoy in older ginger, but has less of the bitterness or astringency that older ginger gets (ok, I like this strong flavour in many dishes). Older ginger too tends to get a little "woody" and is hard to cut; young ginger can be easily cut and doesn't have any of the hard knobby bits. There is also very little of the skin that you get with older ginger, though you still want to peel it. You can use young ginger in any recipe that you normally use ginger in now, you'll just get a smoother ginger flavour. One use of it that I found out recently, is pickling it; the pink ginger that you see with sushi, is pickled young ginger. I like young ginger, and would say that I prefer it to the older ginger.