5 unique food and drink ideas – 2 snacks, 3 beverages

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We are always looking for new drinks, treats, snacks and desserts that set our tongues a-tingle and our imaginations aflame. Ran into a few such items recently and are happy to report so you can add them to your repertoire if you like.

Chocdates for snacks or dessert
Chocdates for snacks or dessert

Chocodate makes snacks that pair healthy sweets like Arabian dates, almonds and coconut together with a light, soft chocolate layer in individually wrapped little bites you can take with you anywhere. Each treat is 56 calories, and the wrapped goodies have a fairly long shelf life (about a year), which means you won’t have to throw any away if you decide to ration them for your weight’s sake. They come in coconut-chocolate-date, milk or dark or white chocolate, or in a package of assorted. SRP ~$5 for ~3.5 ounces. Tasty, not-too-sweet snack.

Donnafugata Floramundi
Donnafugata Floramundi

Donnafugata has successfully paired a delicious wine with fine art in its Floramundi 2016. It’s a refined Cerasuolo di Vittoria with a flowery soul. Complex, fresh and full-bodied, this red has intriguing aromatic depth and a fruity and flowery bouquet that is pleasantly spicy on the palate. With the 2016 harvest, Donnafugata reached its goal of launching production in Eastern Sicily in the Vittoria area – the only DOCG of Sicily. Made by blending Nero d’Avola (70%) and Frappato (30%), this lovely wine pairs beautifully with first courses and grilled meats. Or try it with red tuna steak, roasted amberjack or other fish baked in the oven, or with gourmet pizzas. The Floramundi label shows the fantastic figure of a woman giving gifts of flowers and fruits. The picture represents a dialogue between two souls: the elegant and sophisticated Floral Liberty, an art style found everywhere in Vittoria, and the tradition of Pupi Siciliani (Sicilian Puppets). SRP ~$30.

Gentleman Jack Tennessee Whiskey
Gentleman Jack Tennessee Whiskey

Gentleman Jack, double-mellowed Tennessee whiskey, from the makers of Jack Daniels. We just missed National Whiskey Sour day (August 25), but a nicely crafted cocktail is just as delicious any other day. So, for your edification, these guys have come up with some excellent sour recipes. Incorporating items like fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and flavors like peach, cucumber, ginger beer, Chambord and more, these four recipes are sure to please any whiskey-cocktail lover. Check ’em out here.

Michelles Maccs are fabulous for Kosher holidays, too!
Michelles Maccs are fabulous for Kosher holidays, too!

Michelle’s Maccs, by FreshBakedNY. These rich, delectable confections bear little resemblance to the typical meringue-disks-with-a-filling most of us know as macaroons. Before she started the business, inventor and former chef/sous chef Michelle Goldberg had been making these for years, both at home and for friends and family in The Hamptons and Manhattan. These eggless, flourless, gluten-free versions consist of an incredibly dense filling of thickly shredded coconut, sugar and, well, who-cares-what-else, all enrobed in a thick layer of Belgian chocolate: Simple White, Simple Dark or Simple Milk chocolate were the initial versions. Then later she added some other flavors that could knock your socks off: Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chocolate, Mango, Salted Caramel, Key Lime, Amarena Cherry, Orange Zest, Espresso and Banana Walnut, all available from the company website. The Pina Colada in white Belgian chocolate is hauntingly habit-forming.

P.S. Mich’s Maccs are not for dieters – each treat has 200+ calories. Delicious, and so rich you can eat just half of one and still feel like you’ve indulged. I had one for breakfast the other day and my mouth didn’t give a darn about nutrition – just love the chewiness of the tightly packed, thick shreds of coconut! These goodies come in boxes of assorted flavors or in little single-flavor tubes of four. Perfect for coffee-and or dessert. Irresistible. They’re calling my name from the refrigerator right now…

Alessandro di Camporeale “Donnata” Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC 2014. Deep, dark and delicious, this 100% Nero d’Avola wine is light-bodied with ripe cherry and sweet spice on a background of soft, silky flavors. It pairs nicely with rich tomato and cheese pasta dishes as well as with roast poultry and meats. Can’t be sure what price you’ll find it for – we saw online prices ranging from $9 to $20, so search carefully.

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Celebrate the upcoming holidays with kosher rose wines

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Kosher rose wine - so lovely chilled
Kosher rose wine – so lovely chilled

The term “kosher” when applied to wines has, in the past, made most of us think of very sweet, viscous wines such as one made by Manischewitz. But just as the sophistication of wine consumers everywhere is growing by leaps and bounds, so the makers of kosher wines have been finding new ways to create wines that hold their own in more sophisticated company. Case in point, The Royal Wine Corp. has a summer portfolio of quality rosés from around the world that taste delicious – and are also priced reasonably.

Since rosé isn’t meant to hang around for a long time, it’s a good idea to get to your wine store soon and plan to invite friends over to help you enjoy these crisp, all-shades-of-pink rosé wines, each with its own personality. Some god choices for the fall holidays from The Royal Wine Corp. portfolio include:

Shiloh Rosé. Colored bright raspberry red with a nose of apricot, yogurt, ripe strawberries, cherries, and cream. The Israeli wine is medium in body with notes of strawberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, and peach. Medium in acidity with a long finish, its soft and inviting tannins make it perfect to enjoy with food.

Herzog Lineage. This unique California rosé “has guts,” according to Geller, with medium acidity and a “long and bursting finish” of flavorful, ripe fruit. The medium-bodied wine would be a great com­panion to BBQ, oven-baked salmon in a rich sauce, or simply on its own as an aperitif – with or without some light snacks on the side. “Superb wine, grab it as it will go fast!”

Elvi Vina Encina Rosa. This light- to medium-bodied Spanish rosé is redolent of fresh ripe black cherries, papaya, forest berries, and rose petals. On the palate are enticing notes of cherries, papaya, guava, and peaches, with a lingering finish of dried cranberries. Medium-plus acidity is ever-present but not heavy or ponderous. “An impressive effort, especially considering the price,” Geller says.

Sainte-Béatrice Instant B. Very light on the palate and the nose, this Provincial rosé delivers nice acidity with notes of fresh berries and has a very pleasant light color. Geller notes that this entry-level wine shows Château Roubine’s ability to make quality rosé at every price point.

Château Roubine, Cru Classé (Côtes de Provence, France)
Vibrant and light-bodied with a pleasant soft smell of sweet meadow flowers. Light in tannin, then grows more complex as it opens up. Perfect for quaffing or with food.

Les Lauriers des Barons Edmond & Benja­min de Rothschild, Rosé (Bordeaux, France). Completely dry with fresh acidity. Hints of white flowers and herbaceous aromas. Medium-bodied, notes of sweet lemon. Ideal with light, delicate white fish.

Check out all The Royal Wine Corp. wine collections.

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5 new food products you might like

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As more and more discoveries are made on all fronts – from robotic exoskeletons to Dark Matter and Dark Energy in the universe – the world of food is no different. It just keeps coming up with new and exciting ideas, many of which are significantly healtheir than similar items in our pasts. Snacks, for example, and seasoning agents and even ugly-but-nutritious produce. Check out these 5 ideas:

Kiwa Life chips n snacks
Kiwa Life chips n snacks

Kiwa Life, styling itself “The Taste of South America,” searches for sustainably farmed vegetables in the growing regions of Ecuador. For example, their Andean potato chips, made from potatoes grown in the Andes Mountains, are processed at high altitudes to minimize cooking times and then exported around the world. A sample we tried proved to be crispy thin and delicious, with a richer, sweeter potato flavor than typical chips – of which we are huge fans here. We could say these Andean potato chips taste a bit more like real food than some of the US’s top brands. The company also makes Golden Plantain Chips that were tasty, but not quite salty enough for our salt-craving taste. Also, definitely not as crispy, crunchy as typical potato chips. However, at only 65mg of sodium per ounce, they’d make a great crunchy-enough snack for those who must watch their sodium intake closely. The company espouses social responsibility, and that’s good. Just wish they didn’t have to ship everything so far. They’ve even got their site translated into Russian, but when you go to the “shop” page, it says shopping for their snacks is only available in the U.S. (in 12-unit boxes).

Just Preserves for breakfast
Just Preserves for breakfast

Just Spreads come from the same importing company, New Frontiers, as the Kiwa Life snack line. The spreads are made with real fruit, and the only added sweetener is apple juice concentrate – still a sugar, but healthier than common alternatives like corn syrup. Delicious on toast, bread, oatmeal, biscuits or whatever, it’s great to know you’re not ingesting a ton of cane sugar in each bite. Love that Four-Fruit one!

gimME Health makes organic roasted seaweed snacks. Read here about the family that runs the company. We tried the Toasted Coconut version. Turned out we had to sort of educate ourselves to the taste. Our first reaction was, oh, this tastes like very savory seaweed-wrapped sushi. Almost seemed too strong for a snack. But the next time we tried them, they seemed much more complex – crispy like chips, umami like…seaweed, slightly chewy from the coconut, and just a touch sweet. Delicious and surprisingly satisfying. A serving is stated as being a whole individual bag, but you may find yourself satisfied with less than the whole bag. How often does that happen with other salty, crunchy treats like potato or corn chips? Never, right? And by the way, most places don’t even sell single serving bags of chips anymore. You buy one and you get 2.5 or even 3 servings in a bag – the calorie count grows exponentially as you eat your “small” bag. Anyway, these gimMe snacks aren’t cheap at $3.99 for a .77 oz bag. But they’re super healthy and uniquely tasty/satisfying.

Ink flavored soy sauces
Ink flavored soy sauces

Ink Flavored Soy Sauces are a secret weapon for giving your culinary creations that sumpin’-sumpin’ special that is so subtle that many people won’t know what they’re tasting. They’ll just think your food is especially flavorsome and unique. Tried the Ginger Sesame version and the Lemongrass versions and found they gave a delicate boost of flavor to dishes like plain cooked quinoa or plain sauteed fish filets. The website gives suggested foods to use each type with. Other flavors include Garlic Sesame, Orange Chili, Thai Chili, Wasabi – all ranging “from sweet to heat.” Nice to know it can be this easy to make a plain dish taste exotic. $10.99 per bottle with small discounts for larger quantities.

Imperfect Produce. One in five fruits and vegetables grown in the U.S. doesn’t meet the strict cosmetic standards of grocery stores – often resulting in waste on the farm. Help farmers fully harvest their precious crops, and help more people have access to affordable fresh produce at 30-50% less than grocery rates. Sign up for your customized box of funny-looking but delicious, nutritious Imperfect Produce and save 33% off your box during the month of August to celebrate the innovative food delivery services 3 year anniversary; use the code “BIRTHDAY3.” PLUS, they will also donate a meal to a customer-selected local food bank for every #giveimperfect hashtag used on social media. For box options, visit www.imperfectproduce.com/join. Order and search by zip code here.

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Summer parties at Cafe Brauer event space

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Chicago view from roof of Cafe Brauer
Chicago view from roof of Cafe Brauer

One of our favorite places in the city is The Patio at Cafe Brauer in Lincoln Park Zoo (2021 N. Stockton Drive). And they’re now featuring live music 5:30-7:30 every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Various artists and groups perform. If you’ve never been, put this on your summer bucket list for sure.

Recently we discovered the beautiful Cafe Brauer second-floor, indoor-outdoor covered rooftop party/event space in that same lovely brick building that houses The Patio. With twinkling party lights, luscious bites and colorful banners everywhere, Cafe Brauer’s party partners showed off their wares at a recent media event held in the party space on the roof. Some of the businesses you can engage on your own or as part of planning your Cafe Brauer party include:

love, sugar & grace Beautiful bakery specialties for everyday and for all your social functions.
Entertaining Company – Catering delicious passed hors d’oeuvres, buffet stations, seated entrees, and more.
Kloeckner Floral – Gorgeous arrangements for holidays or any occasion.
Blue Plate Catering – 85 unique Chicago venues, award-winning cuisine. Green certified.
Frost Event Production: lighting, staging, video, audio and fabrics.
Chicago Vintage Weddings – Create the perfect ambiance from their collection of vintage items. Or let them host your event in their intimate venue, CV Atelier.
The Flower Firm – Perfect floral decorations for occasions from intimate gatherings to huge corporate events.

Party treats at Cafe Brauer
Party treats at Cafe Brauer

 

And in case you want to wander over to the Zoo before, during or after your party, look at this incredibly beautiful oasis you’ll find just inside the Zoo Gate. So many reasons to do your next party at Cafe Brauer!

Lincoln Park zoo oasis right near Cafe Brauer
Lincoln Park zoo oasis right near Cafe Brauer
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