a delicious fruit-based galette with JavaMania’s delectable bourbon coffee

I have had a nice happy vibe going on after my morning cup of Kenyan coffee with bourbon from JavaMania. It’s a dreary day, and that’s saying a lot.

This afternoon, I looked at my daily email from the discounted (inexpensive AF) book site, Bookbub, featuring this Williams-Sonoma cookbook:

this digital cookbook is priced at $1.99 which is inexpensive AF. But at this price for a limited time (click Amazon link to see if the offer is still active).

And a lightbulb went off.

A fruit-based galette would make a delicious dessert pairing with JavaMania’s Kenyan bourbon coffee. And this berry galette with its sweet-tart profile would be a nice complement with the sharp, smooth bourbon notes in the coffee.

And galettes, being a rustic pie, are easy to make. Simple yet elegant, right?

JavaMania’s Delectable Boozy Coffee

The Real Deal

My mother was a coffee addict so the thick aroma of coffee was always percolating throughout the house. She drank her coffee black. No cream. A little sugar, on occasion.

Hot. Cold. Lukewarm. The temperature made little difference to her. Needless to say, she was not a connoisseur.

Despite growing up around coffee (or maybe because of it), I did not drink (or like) coffee until my late 20’s. And what brought me to it was primarily the caffeine kick. This was a stressful time in my life (exasperated by a stressful manager at work and marriage on the home front).

The start of my love affair with coffee came later. Which led to a coffee (direct sales) business for a spell. And while I will probably never specialize in it again, given my continued love affair, my goal is to create coffee tasting events and sell coffee through this site at some point.

For now, I am sharing great finds. And this Brulee Bourbon Kenya coffee from JavaMania in Loves Park, IL is the “real deal.” It is a delectable “boozy coffee” (as opposed to just adding booze into whatever brand you’re drinking though I do that too).

The bourbon notes are pronounced, lingering on the finish (as intended). It’s real bourbon, and not artificially flavored as many so-called boozy coffee brands are.

Simple but elegant brown box packaging (desk cube is mine)

Superbly roasted in my book. The rich scent of coffee wafts from the packaging (available as whole beans, ground, and K-cups…I ordered the K-cups) denoting freshness and the promise of a top-shelf product.

Dark. No bitter, burnt notes. Smooth.

No doubt, this is probably best as an after-dinner coffee. But me being me, it is my morning cup. Well, while I’m working at home, anyway.

As in I can taste and “feel” this coffee, (meaning, it’s probably “not work appropriate” unless you work for yourself or your office is has a retro Mad Men environment hehe). Though keep in mind that I imbibe on occasion these days, so I am definitely a boozy lightweight.

Check out Cheryl Day’s new book on Southern Baking (w recipes and black culinary history)

Southern baking–like most of the region’s historic foodways–is more than just an amalgam of timeless treats: Many of the South’s most cherished baking traditions are vestiges of the lives and livelihoods of enslaved Africans and their descendants. Black women, in particular, originated many of the innovative recipes that the white women they cooked for would publish and profit from. This whitewashing erased generations of Black women’s contributions to Southern culinary culture, a long legacy that chefs and food historians are working to fully uncover to this day.

Back in the Day bakery co-owner and Southern Restaurants for Racial Justice cofounder Cheryl Day is here to set the record straight: “We are the creators of this cuisine,” Day tells me, holding my Blackness in tandem with hers for a brief moment. “I want [Black] folks to be really proud of the fact that Southern baking is something that we created.” Day’s pride in her craft and heritage shines brightly through the pages of her newest cookbook, Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking, out November 9.

Cheryl Day Just Wrote the Definitive Book on Southern Baking, Bon Appetit
Credit: Event Brite, Cheryl Day November 2th

Canadians Are Foodies, Eh?

What is the single biggest misconception about Canadian food?

That Canada has no food identity. That’s because, I suppose, we have few “national dishes,” which is similar, in a way, to the United States. You have the hamburger; we have poutine and butter tarts. Our identity is really tied to our regional products, and that’s where the gold is. I’m talking about oysters from Prince Edward Island; crab and lobster from Gaspé; blueberries from around Lac Saint-Jean; Ontario produce like apples, corn, rhubarb, and wheat from the prairies; viniculture in British Columbia; and more great seafood on the Pacific coast and Gulf Islands. So our identity is inherently woven together with the abundant diversity of products from province to province.

More @ Untangling Canada’s Food Fact’s and Fictions

When my marriage broke up, I researched places that I might move to start over again. And as you might guess, a place with a burgeoning foodies scene was a key criterion. Toronto was at the top of the list for its multicultural population replete with diverse and exciting restaurants.

Still, I must admit that I never equated Toronto or any other Canadian provinces with a particular food dish or food identity. Okay, except poutine. And I hate poutine (or at least I have long thought so).

Cheese curds just look weird to me, okay.

Still this photo and recipe for how to make poutine at Kitchen Sanctuary makes me think about giving this dish a go:

That’s why the article on Taste that makes it clear that Canadians are foodies too along with the series on Audible, Field Guide to Eating in Canada, caught my eye. The problem is that I don’t have a subscription to Audible as I am am not a big audio books listener.

I prefer the printed page (or screen). And the good news is that Meredith Erickson is also working on a book on Canada’s food scene. In the meantime, given my big time interest in gastronomy, I will check out some of her other works too.

Plenty: A Memoir of Food and Family

Plenty is about food people. Not just about any food people but my food people. And not just my food people but my food women.

Plenty author, Hannah Howard on finding her food people (mostly women), article @ Salon

I sneak in reading from Hannah Howard’s Plenty: A Memoir of Food and Family (this is her second memoir, the first being Feast). between looking up who teaches what at culinary arts and hospitality programs for my marketing day job. Her writing is warm and inviting. Rich. The polar opposite of what I am doing for work.

I got my Kindle copy for FREE (which after going to Howard’s website and reading the September 2021 release date, realize is an “advance copy”)as part of First Reads, from Amazon.

The article on Salon hinted that this would be a book that I would enjoy. But honestly I was not sure as “portraits of food women” conjured up stilted vignettes like the ones compiled for culinary textbooks, and appearing in shaded boxes and oft called “Case Study”? In textbooks, these are part of textbooks’ “bells and whistles” designed to engage students and make the topic “interesting.”

But more often than not, they are boring.

Howard’s voice and experiences are mesmerizing. And this IS a book about “food women. ” And not the usual suspects, many whose celebrity status was created thanks to Food Network. In this book, the women are unknown and unsung to me and others outside the tight knit food community. So I click on the link to the book at the bottom of the page. And when I get there, I learn that I can order the book for free being an Amazon Prime member. The program is called First Reads.

I have nothing to lose except adding one more title to my Kindle library that I delve into excitedly at first. Then abandon after a few pages.

I am not disappointed. I am enchanted.

Each chapter refers to a significant “food woman” in Hannah Brown’s life, rendered so vividly you feel like you are living her experience right along with her. I soak up her descriptions of foods and dishes, like lampredotto, a “Florentine street food,” made with tripe.

Lampredotto Photo credit: Atlas Obscura

I learn stuff. I should have know that terrior applies to cheese, but embarrassingly, this never occurred to me. Howard talks about a job at Murray Cheese (in the chapter, Allison). I discovered this venerable food institution while completing an assignment for gastronomy class, sinking into mouth watering photos and descriptions of cheeses known and foreign (which was remarkable given I have here before never been a cheese person). In her book, I learn that Murray Cheese was bought by Kroger’s grocery chain (I have found fabulous food finds at Food for Less, so this does not bother me like Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods did).

Readers will fall in love with Howard’s astute perspective on food, love, and the richness both bring to life.”

— Publisher’s Weekly

@ hANNAH HOWARD WRITER AND CHEESE MAVEN

Plenty also makes me sad. It takes me into my own memories, many connected to my vulnerabilities and idiosyncrasies. Hannah got over her body issues and disordered eating (though these are the memories that she recounts in Feast).

At this ripened older age, I am still working on mine.

I have a pity party remembering how NYC has long been a foodie and cultural beacon for me. These are experiences that I would have loved, so I read with a bit of envy and jealousy. And while moving there probably wasn’t realistic as a very young and little monied, single mother, why did it not occur to me to move there later.

That said, Chicago was and remains a foodie town, and because I worked downtown and lived in Wrigleyville/Boy’s Town, frequenting hot foodie spots Lincoln Park, I remind myself that I have had more than a few delicious and new-to-me food experiences.

Still, I cannot help but wonder if I am fronting when I call myself a gourmet. For example, I have seen tripe on my grocery stores shelves, but I saunter right past with little inclination to take it home and cook a distinctive dish of it.

The good of it is that the immersive experience of being part of a larger food scene through books like Plenty: A Memoir of Food and Family by Hannah Howard, feed the aspirational part of myself.

And I think, “It is NOT too late for me.

What Makes It Good Chocolate, Anyway? Or, premium chocolate is in eyes of the beholder.

These well-known brands are what many folks (not just kids) consider “good chocolate” or the premium stuff. There’s research that confirms that when these brands appear on food menus, there is typically great sell-through.

After my “science of chocolate” and more post, I got to pondering on what is good chocolate, anyway?

Growing up my idea of premium chocolate was Marshall Fields Frango Mints and Fannie May’s Vanilla and Rum Creams, Pixies, Mint Meltaways, and Trinidads.

When I could, I stayed away from Whitman’s and Russell Stover’s chocolates which are typically found on the drugstore shelves. This is what I thought of as “downmarket chocolate.”

Yep, I can be a snob like that.

That said, I eat more of what I think of as everyday chocolate: decent tasting chocolate at “everyday prices.” Like Dove and Nestle’s Crunch.

When I think of “good chocolate” or premium brands, chocolate makers like Valrhona, Barry Callebaut, SCHARFFEN BERGER, and Vosges Haut Chocolat come to mind.

Oh and as a general rule, Swiss and Belgian chocolate, made by bonafide chocolate makers from those respective countries. Which means Lindt Chocolate qualifies as good chocolate, right? Only, these later brands have been downgraded (in my mind), when they started showing up on my local CVS drugstore shelves. Ditto, Godiva.

Not fair, but are you seeing a pattern here?

Next post, I’ll share some academic and critical viewpoints on chocolate. But let me end this one by asking you?

What makes a chocolate brand good or premium to you?

Chocolate Grows on Trees, The Science of Good Chocolate, and other notes for chocoholics and food nerds

A good piece of chocolate is like a good piece of music. It contains something memorable that stays on your mind for the entire day…Most of us don’t recognize this nuance because we grew up on confections characterized by sweetness and one dominant chocolatey note—consistency we expect when reaching for a Hershey’s or a handful of M&M’s.

from The Science of Good Chocolate, Simran Sethi, Smithsonianmag.com, October 18, 2018

Cacao Pod being harvested. While chocolate is a $130 global business dominated by “Big Chocolate,” the workers who grow, harvest, and process the raw cacao make less than $2 a day.. Photo Credit: Pixabay on Pexels.com

A few years back, I blogged about chocolate because I had started a Dove direct sales business.

[Remember I have both pedestrian and gourmet foodie tastes.]

In a direct sales home business, it is (mostly) early acolytes that make any money. Oh and extreme hustlers and in some cases, con men.

I’m neither, so unsurprisingly, the blog nor the business lasted long.

Still, there was an upside:. New stuff to learn. YAY!

And I delved into learning as much as I could about chocolate, which for me, is as exciting as eating it.

It’s how I learned that chocolate (premium and pedestrian) starts as cacao. No, a raw cacao pod is not as appealing to look at as a Dove Chocolate Martini. But they are a great conversation starter. And when you’re trying to to sell folks high-priced Dove DISCOVERIES or recruit bodies to join your “consultants” team (known as becoming part of your “downline” in direct sales/multi-media marketing lingo), a good conversation starter comes in handy.

Photo from “Chocolate Live Tree” Etsy Seller. $39.99, free shipping. Sure, lots of positive reviews but “Where in the USA would a cacao tree grow and produce pods (seeds)?”

I learned that terrior, applied to chocolate, just like wine (which the Science of Food article touches about). Like in wine, terrior imparts chocolate’s tasting notes and contributes to it’s complexity. Terroir is a topic that both chocoholics and food nerds will bend your ear talking about.

To ready chocolate for the chocolate-covered strawberries I made for tasting parties, I learned how to temper chocolate (though truth be told, I was neither elegant nor very fast at it). Serious Eats has a good discussion on the science behind tempering chocolate, if you’d like to become better than me at it.

We learned why you don’t want the chocolate you’re melting (double boiler method, not microwave) to get wet. It seizes. Not good. And while we were taught that chocolate that seizes is unusable as in throw it away, this post at the Spruce Eats, says seized chocolate can be salvaged.

Premium French brand Valrhona couverture chocolate. Others include Guittard, Barry Callebaut, , Godiva, and Chicago’s Vosges-Haut Chocolat/ Photo credit: Vahrhona

Btw, the chocolate you’re melting and tempering is called couverture chocolate.

At the time I was blogging and trying to make a business in chocolate, most foodies were eating good chocolate from fair trade countries and buying high-priced chocolate from bean-to-bar makers like consumer + media darlings like the Mast Brothers who in the end got busted for selling bad chocolate. Turns out those $10 chocolate bars were “remelted chocolate.”

Now that I’m back at it (both the blogging and business selling specialty foods including chocolate), fair trade and the Mast Brothers are “in” again.

Products include a bar featuring the trendy “Oak Milk.” Oak Chocolate Ingredients: Organic Cocoa Beans, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Oats, Organic Brown Sugar, Organic Maple Sugar, Organic Vanilla. 50% cocoa content. No remelted chocolate this time, cross fingers..

What Is A Gourmet?

A gourmet doesn’t see food as a means to an end. To a gourmet, food is art. Such a food enthusiast is into edible luxury. Gourmets enjoy the experience of eating, making, or displaying food. Some even explore the history and the anthropology of the foods they eat. A gourmet takes time and care in preparing food and usually eats food slowly. Gourmets frequent places that offer extra information about a food’s origin, have ingredients of top quality, prepare foods from scratch, and serve dishes in a luxurious manner. The person you may have called a gourmet years ago might today be called a “foodie.”

found @ the Spruce Eats

To my mind, gourmets are foodies but not all foodies are gourmets.

For example, some foodies are obsessed with fast food fare, like McDonald’s cheeseburgers. Bill Oakley, who was a head writer for the Simpsons, has created a following for his fast food 59 second video reviews (2018 Vulture interview), loves em.

Photos from Bill Oakley’s Fast Food Instagram

I was impressed enough by what he said in Restaurant Business’s podcast to check out Oakley’s stuff on Instagram. And follow him.

And while I cannot praise McDonald’s or their cheeseburger in the same vein, I feel what Oakley says about judging a hamburger’s quality by its construction is spot on:

  • Texture
  • Balance of soft and crisp
  • Balance between hot and good elements

Thus, fast food or QSR (as it is known in the trade) foodies are a welcomed segment of the Chicago Southland Foodies community. Especially as there are an awful lot of fast food and casual food joints in Chicago’s South Suburbs.

And I eat fast food. In my twenties, I had the family nickname: Fast food junkie.

For a long time now, though, my tastes, cooking, and dining out experiences lean gourmet.

Gourmet restaurants prepare dishes from the highest quality ingredients with impeccable technique. They can serve food that challenges the palate or offers a twist from a traditional dish. For example, gourmet mac and cheese may use Gruyere, a cheese that is almost exclusively made in France and Switzerland.

found @ the Spruce Eats

So I was excited to learn that the gourmet-leaning restaurant, Kitchen + Kocktails, plans a September 2021 opening in the City [a.k.a. Chicago or the Windy City]. I learned about lawyer and restaurant-investor Kevin Kelley expansion of his Dallas restaurant by way of an interview in N’DIGO: Q&A with Kevin Kelley, Kitchen + Kocktails.

This is what I’m talkin’ bout. Gourmet food at its finest. And a restaurant Chicago Southland Foodies looks forward to checking out..

Cornmeal Crust Pizza, Canadian Down Pillows, The Everything Glass & Coveting the Good Stuff @ Move Co.

About two years or so ago, I joined Move, an online grocery store startup in San Francisco CA. What got my attention was the founder’s promise of high quality staple foods, including meat proteins and produce, at affordable prices.

Food being my category of interest (a phrase that I latched onto after reading the futurist Watts Wacker’s book, 500 Year Old Delta), the affordability part was not nearly as important as the “high quality foods” part. Particularly because making the trek through heavy traffic and too many crazy, weaving-in-and-out-of-lanes drivers to shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s had little-to-zip appeal. Even if food is my category of interest.

Photo credit: Wefunder

So like the giddy foodie I am, I happily gave founder Chai Mishra the $99 membership fee, waiting with the proverbial bated breath for the store to become reality.

To make a long-story short, I placed an initial $200 order but never became a weekly Move grocery shopper like I thought (and which the business model is predicated upon so it seems to me anyway). Checking my order history, I see that I placed nine orders in all of 2020.

What does get my attention is when Move Co. does “special promotions.” Like the Ethical Meats Package ($119). These are limited time promotions. You gotta grab the deal before it disappears. The meats in the Ethical Meat package can be bought individually on the site now, but not at that “deal price.”

Move Co also does “Special Drops.” Same premise I believe. I jumped on the Thanksgiving special because being COVID, I wasn’t hosting a shebang and didn’t want to do a whole lot of cooking. These were individual product offerings, most which I didn’t buy: premium Turkey (didn’t buy but later regretted that I did not). Purchases included a Gruyere mac and cheese, a fancy sage stuffing, and quiche (though maybe this was at Christmas), The quiche is an example of the good and bad of Move products (which I will cover in other posts about my Move experiences).

Pizza Ingredients: Cornmeal Crust (unbleached enriched wheat flour, water, non-GMO corn meal, non-GMO organic soybean oil, yeast, salt), Whole Milk Mozzarella (cultured, pasteurized whole milk, salt, enzymes), Italian Sausage (pork, water, salt, spices, dextrose, flavorings, garlic powder, paprika), Tomato Sauce (whole tomatoes, garlic, basil, sage, salt, pepper, sugar, calcium chloride, citric acid), Roasted Onions, Fontina Cheese (pasteurized cultured milk, salt, enzymes), Parmesan Cheese (pasteurized milk, rennet, salt) and Parsley

In April of this year, I discovered the California Cornmeal Crust Pizza, reordered the Brown Butter Brownie and pasture-raised pork (which I discovered through the Ethical Meats box). I got the Beef Shawarma, largely because the dish kept coming up in many of the other cooking and food communities and websites I follow. Turns out neither Dave nor I liked this very popular dish, though my guess is the flavor profile was spot on.

Then Chai did something that makes me pay more attention to Move product announcement emails and makes me scurry more often than not to check out their site. And that is adding new product categories. Note the packaging looks “utilitarian” but the products typically come from vendors that are family-owned SMEs, award-winning restaurateurs, and the like who use premium or “luxury” ingredients/processing techniques. These Move products are sold to members at cost.

And in a “smart” marketing move, Move promotes these using similar products on Amazon as a point of price comparison that makes you feel like a savvy buyer because the said product “IS A STEAL.”

From Move Co’s copy: A category-leading fill power of 850 makes our pillow lighter and puffier than the one currently on your bed.
A 100% cotton sateen shell gives the pillow breathability— saving you a few pillow turns every night.

Like this Canadian down pillow. Yep, I bought it, I’m a sucker for a good pillow. Ditto on the Turkish oversized bath towels (which haven’t shipped yet), They also added a solid selection of fine California wines. No, I haven’t bought any yet but want to (explanation as to what holds me back is a few paragraphs down).

And I just read this article on the effect that the California wildfires are having on California vineyards. Not good. So I might be rethinking purchasing those soon.

Now I’m salivating over the Everything Glass which at first glance, reminds me of a chemistry beaker. On a positive note, it also reminds me of the bottom part of the Chemex pour-over coffee maker, another product I’ve been long coveting, but which I’ve been teeter-toddling about buying.

I think those are beautiful and I’d walk a mile for a perfect cup of coffee. But so far, I have not succumbed to temptation, because REALLY? I don’t really need one. Besides, a lot of coffee makers make wonderful promises of a good time at night, but leave you crying in your coffee cup in my morning. Yeah, I’m looking at you Keurig.

Copy from Move Co Facebook Page: 1.5 cups, exactly — a half cup more than traditional glassware. Perfectly flat, wide base — keeping it from ever tipping over.
Narrow top — gathering, and keeping foam. Never spilling.
Award-winning Mt. Fuji inspired design.

And while I’m not a chemistry nerd or closeted Mad Scientist, I admit being drawn to the glass’s materials composition– borosilicate glass. Turns out, this IS EXACTLY what chemistry beakers are comprised of!

This substance makes chemistry beakers AND the Everything Glass “tough to break.” And apparently easy to clean (though I am not sure if this is the borosilicate or the Mt. Fuji-inspired design).

Sooooo….

This is a big plus and why I hovered over the buy now button: “The iconic shape holds fizz, aerates wine and opens up liquor .”

Because while I love pretty and cool things, I have a strong practical side and am a sucker for a product’s functionality. It is a large piece of “the quality of a thing” for me.

Before my wine and food pairing class, I would throw drinks into whatever stemware I had easy access to. Okay, I draw the line at jelly jars. Unless they are those “hillbilly” ones that a work colleague gave us for Christmas one year.

Just kidding. It’s collecting dust like my wine and liquor collection.

From class research, I learned that stemware does make a difference in the drinking experience. And no, hillbilly or mason jars never came up.

The Move Essential Bar Set is a quite reasonable buy: $29 for a 6-glass set when members preorder. But while I love buying alcohol (and get bottles from work colleagues at Christmas), these days, I am an occasional drinker.

So I tell myself, NO Gayle, YOU DON’T NEED THESE GLASSES!!!!

On the other hand…

Hosting Chicago Southland Foodies soirees would be a marvelous reason to have these. As the site says, they are a wonderful conversation starter. And I could talk a bit about stemware and which types are perfect for various drinks. Not to mention, it would be nice to do more than just dust off those bottles in my liquor cabinet.

Which of course leads me to thinking that I would need to order more than just one of the Essential Bar Set, right?

And down the rabbit hole, I go.

What Kind of Foodie Are You?

If you slide past the adjective “ardent” in the Wiki definition of foodie (covered in Eat, Drink & Be Happy” post #1 Foodies defined), you might think foodies are a broad category that includes about anybody. After all, even folks who “eat to live” like my ma was fond of saying have an interest in food.

The yin to these yang folks are people like me who have an ardent interest in food. Ardent folks are passionate, enthusiastic, oft times bordering on obsessed. We live to eat.

And like the Cambridge Dictionary definition of foodie, we not only love to eat food, but are “very interested in different types of food.” Synonyms that Cambridge notes are “epicurean and gourmet.”

I loved food and wine pairing so much in my gastronomy course, at some point, I may add a WSET Wine Certification to my learning program. There is also the Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the world’s oldest international gastronomic society.

Photo Credit: Yummy. Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, Kenya

I love exploring online and groceries for interesting foods–both pantry and fresh. For years I looked for the Frieda’s Inc. label for new fruits or vegetables to try (dragon fruit is trending, btw). These days, I will more often than not settle for familiar produce, like a good apple or tomato with a focus on quality and supporting local food. The other day, the online farmer’s market, Market Wagon turned up in my Facebook feed, so I put in a trial order. I’ll let you know what I think.

To many folks, this type of foodie is equated with “food snob.” So while I created Chicago Southland foodies to bring ardent food lovers together, I want the community to be broader and more inclusive than gourmands or epicureans.

What kind of foodie are you? I think this topic would make for a lively Chicago Southland Foodies taste and learn event. In the meanwhile, here’s a fun and short 5-question quiz over on Spoon University