The human sense of smell and taste are among our strongest senses, often triggering long forgotten memories and able to cause acute cravings for tasty foods.
At the Ahwatukee Farmers Market (and several others) you will find The Original Cobbler Factory, a local business serving up homemade apple, peach, mixed berry and cherry cobblers. I picked up one cherry and one mixed berry cobbler (even though I was early, the other flavors had already sold out) and hurried home to give them a try.
As badly as I wanted to pop my cobbler into the microwave to hurry the warming process up, I relented and followed the instructions (pre-heat oven to 350, heat cobbler 10-15 minutes), and waited with my fork at the ready.
First up, a mixed berry cobbler bursting with over a pound of blackberries, blueberries and boysenberries densely packed under a buttery, flakey crust. but for the overwhelming amount of blackberry seeds (which I don’t particularly like), this would be a great dessert on its own or topped with ice cream.
Up next, cherry cobbler with just the right balance of sweet, tart and tangy cherries and the Cobbler Factory’s signature buttery crust. I expected this to be more like a traditional cherry pie than a cobbler but was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t so wet, in fact, there was just the right amount of moisture and an over-abundance of flavor in this little cobbler.
Both of the cobblers I tried made me think of my my Grandmother’s kitchen when peaches or apples were in season, making delicious cobblers from scratch, for this reason alone The Original Cobbler Factory would get my recommendation but these well made desserts stand out on their own merits and deserve a place on the table.
A big boast D-Dog’s BBQ makes of its products, we shall see if the flavors stand up to the claim. As a big fan of locally produced goods and most anything associated with barbecue, I simply could not pass up the opportunity to give D-Dog’s BBQ Original Dry rub ($6) a try.
I brought my 8.5 ounce jar of rub home and broke out the pork. As a BBQ guy myself, any dry rub worth the jar its in must be tasty on pork and chicken so to the chops we go!
Four, inch thick boneless loin chops were thoroughly rubbed with D-Dog’s magic dust and lovingly slid into a hot broiler for fourteen minutes (seven minutes per side).
D-Dog’s rub gave the chops a beautiful rust red color (a result of the paprika) and a nice sweet, smokey flavor. Over-all, D-Dog’s rub is well balanced, complimented the meat and was quite flavorful. (the two that stood out the most for me were seasoning salt and Worcestershire sauce).
Is it better than ketchup? Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far but I will certainly use D-Dogs dry rubs in the future and I look forward to trying their other products as well.
D-Dog’s BBQ is a local company based out of Apache Junction, Arizona that produces BBQ Sauce and dry rub available on-line and at several Valley retailers. Find them at www.DDogsBBQ.com or follow them on twitter.
A few weeks ago a twitter friend asked me for my home address out of the blue, this seemed a bit strange but as it was someone I actually knew, I give it to her and promptly forgot about it.
Imagine my surprise a week or so later when the ‘Man in Brown‘ knocked on my door and produced a rectangular package in a plain brown wrapper. I hadn’t been expecting anything that day so I was a bit perplexed until I opened it up and found it was from Pop Chips.
Inside was information on the product, a HAND WRITTEN card indicating my friend Michelle Donati thought I might enjoy the gift and six bags of said chips!
I’d seen Pop Chips before but hadn’t had them and thought this was a great way to create excitement and get people to try the product. Popchips are all natural, not fried or baked. They are made by adding ‘a little heat and pressure’ until a chip pops into being, seasoned, packaged and sent out into the snackiverse.
I loved that none of the chips in any of the bags I opened were broken as this is a huge pet peeve of mine. I thought the chips had great crunch, good flavor and cool (if difficult to open) packaging.
I personally prefer the texture of thick cut kettle style chips from companies like Poore Brothers but I can’t think of a better way to reach out to potential new customers and create good will than Pop Chips ‘Pop it forward’ campaign. (Whomever came up with this promotion deserves a raise!) If the ‘Man in Brown’ comes knocking at your door unexpectedly, you might just find that you’ve been Popped!
People often ask me if my intention is to write about everywhere I eat or if I eye new products as material for my blog, the answer is ‘yes,’ and ‘no.’ I write about restaurants that I enjoy that are doing things differently than the pack and I write about products that for one reason or another catch my attention. (I often avoid places and products that are either mass market or who it seems everyone ‘else’ has written about).
That being said, there’s a little ice cream shop located in a shopping center at the North West corner of Shea boulevard and 92nd street in Scottsdale called Sweet Republic that has gotten my attention.
I’ve heard quite a bit of buzz from Phoenix foodies, have seen Sweet Republic featured on television and have eaten their creations on several occasions. In all, my experiences have been quite good. There are several flavors including salted caramel and a mint ice cream made with locally sourced ingredients that I enjoy but when I overheard that there was a BACON ice cream on the weekends for those in the know, I had to try it! (my love of bacon and/or butter has been painfully well documented).
I dropped by the Republic one Friday night and picked up a pint of ‘I Heart Bacon,’ and giddily headed home (after a generous spoonful as a taste of course). What to do, what to do? This ice cream wasn’t just something to be devoured whilst on the couch watching some sitcom or docu-drama. No ‘I Heart Bacon’ must be savored…it must be enjoyed, it must be painted onto a canvas which can allow it’s salty porkyness, to shine.
A stroke of pure genius hit me, I’d combine two of my favorite things in a new way, breakfast and dessert. Bacon ice cream topped Belgian waffles! Why hasn’t this been done previously (and if it has, why have I not had the pleasure of eating it?)
A friend offered to whip up a batch of waffles whilst I provided the ice cream and what followed was one of the tastiest breakfasts I’ve had in a while. Hot, fluffy waffles with a big scoop of ‘I heart Bacon’ ice cream melting in the center, drizzled with maple syrup will melt your heart and make your stomach smile.
The combination of sweet cream ice cream, salty bits of chewy bacon and little crunchy mapley surprises went perfectly with each bite of waffle. Each mouthful produced smiles as I enjoyed the contrast between the hot waffle and cold ice cream, the soft, smooth texture of the ice cream and the chewiness of the bacon. I was really blown away by how good it all was.
If you’re not one to try new things or if you prefer to sit at the table of normalcy then this is not for you. If however, you fancy a little creativity in your mouth, head on over to Sweet Republic for a scoop, cup, cone or pint of something special. If you REALLY want an over the top experience, pull out that waffle iron, grab some ‘I heart bacon’ ice cream, a little maple syrup and dig in…you won’t regret it!
Over the years I’ve eaten my share of toffee, though I do enjoy it, toffee has never really been something I’ve craved or sought out. Lately, a group of people on Twitter that I call “The Foodie Faithful,” have been going on and on about Goodytwos Toffee so I thought I’d drop in and have a look/taste.
With trusty pal “Mikey” in tow, I entered the toffee shop and was immediately struck by the intricate simplicity of the toffee shop. Mother/Daughter team Donna Gabrilson and Stacey Barnes have arranged their toffee haven in an open and inviting way allowing guests (I say guests instead of customers because in two seconds, they make you feel welcome), to roam and sample their toffee creations at will.
With toffee left, right and center, you almost don’t know where to start but that’s where Donna (AKA “Traditional”) or Stacy (AKA “Nutty Twist”), come from the secret toffee making lair behind the curtain, greet you warmly and tell you their story (of significant note here, they talk to you rather than at you, engaging while informing), and quite a story it is. The recipes were inherited from their grandmother and from they way the toffee’s taste, these ladies paid attention!
Starting with Grandma’s Traditional toffee and offering up such delights as Nutty-twist (a double nutty lime and tequila infused toffee), Sweet & Salty (Almonds, vanilla, dark chocolate and sea salt) and Creme de la Crunch (fresh pecans and almonds, coffee liquor and white chocolate), there are flavors and textures to make your mouth water.
I can’t remember a time when I was so excited by toffee or so thoroughly engaged by a small business proprietor, Stacy took the time to explain the thoughts and processes behind each flavor, never tiring of questions, not once seeming to grow impatient for me to make my purchase and move on. As each guest entered the shop Stacy greeted them with a warm affection generally reserved for a favorite cousin.
Not only are the flavors wonderful (the toffees are just the right texture, crunchy but never sticking to your teeth), but the duo go out of their way to use the best ingredients available, sourced from local purveyors wherever possible. The two are extremely passionate about their craft and before you realize it, you find yourself drawn into the toffee world (adding to the growing list of toffee that you can’t wait to take home and devour), and having a genuinely good time.
Ever wonder what happens to all of those toffee pieces that aren’t quite big enough to stand on their own? Looking for something unique to put into a gift basket? Got a couple of scoops of ice cream that need livening up? Goodytwos has just the thing for you in the form of “Toppers.” Scoop up a jar of these tasty treats for use as a topping on just about anything!
Did I mention the selection of crunchy peanut-brittle (they’re famous for the 2 alarm with cayenne pepper and chile powder), or scratch-made Traditional toffee topped, chocolate dipped marshmallows? (yes, I did leave with a trio of these melt in your mouth pillows of flavor and texture.)
Those who know me well will tell you that I’m not generally one for gratuitously effusive praise but I can’t stop thinking about how genuine these toffee ladies are. If you’re having an off day, walk into the toffee shop, there’s no way you’ll leave without toffee in your mouth, a smile on your face and little if any memory of whatever it was that you were fretting about to begin with. (each bag of toffee even comes with a “Crunchy Truth” inside, a witty fortune cookie style aphorism).
If you find yourself craving something sweet and are anywhere near Scottsdale (or the Prescott/Flagstaff Farmers markets), find the time to visit Goodytwos toffee, it’ll be worth the trip! One final thought they will leave you with…
Ok, so here’s the thing.. Anyone who knows me has heard my philosophy that bacon and/or butter make pretty much everything better! I mean really, how can a day start any better than waking to the smell of applewood smoked bacon frying happily on the stove? Having a bad day? Try a delicious BLT on soft, tangy sourdough bread with lots of mayo, fresh tomato, sharp cheddar, crisp lettuce and of course BACON!! Bacon cupcakes topped with maple buttercream? I’m IN!!
Let’s not forget about that lovely concoction that nature has provided to enrich our lives (and raise our cholesterol), BUTTER! What would a tall steaming stack of your favorite pancakes be without a pat of butter perched atop melting into a delicious little pool of happiness, just waiting for the addition of syrup? Sure, you can spread other things on your morning muffin or bagel but ever tried making Alfredo sauce without BUTTER? I think not.
Moving rite along, I recently came across a product that I’d never imagined, the very concept having eluded me for all of my 38 years.. I speak of course of Bacon Marmalade ! What’s this you say? Marmalade is a sweet sticky concoction made of fruit and spread on toast, bacon has no place here. You would be wrong.
Bacon Marmalade has five ingredients: bacon, sugar, water, vinegar, chile peppers (in the spicy version), and “secrets.” Sounds simple yet when you open the jar, the birds start singing, the air seems a little fresher and telemarketers everywhere hang-up their phones and allow you to enjoy dinner with the family. Seriously though, I tentatively stuck my spoon into the jar and scooped up a little taste. When the chewy, salty concoction hit my palate I knew I was onto something.
There is an unmistakable flavor of bacon coupled with something sweet that I couldn’t quite identify (although based on the ingredients I suspect sugar is the prime suspect), and then just the rite amount of heat and spice from the “chile’s.” My mind began to race as I put spoon to jar for more, should I make Bacon Marmalade crusted scallops? Maybe a little roast pork loin topped with my new-found friend? WAIT!!!!! I know….BACON MARMALADE BUTTER!!!! Of course I did it and let me tell you, it was spectacular.
The only thing keeping Bacon Marmalade from taking over the culinary world and it’s only Achilles heel is that it only comes in a little 4 ounce jar….SIGH…
If you want an imaginative way to liven up many of the same foods you’ve been making forever, log on to www.BaconMarmalade.com and sit forlornly by your door waiting for it to arrive.