Back Again: Ristorante Morini

Recently my sister and I re-visted a favorite brunch spot. We hadn’t been there in a while, but our prior experiences had been so fantastic that we consistently recommended it to our family and friends. Social media famous, the restaurant has no trouble bringing in a steady stream of customers. When we returned we found that while the service was as friendly as ever, the food had taken a nosedive. The prices had gone up, and it was clear that the establishment had cut corners on the meal in order to save time and money. When half your meal consists of inedible chips, you know it’s time to move on to greener pastures. It was disappointing to have to remove this once-beloved spot from our list of recommended brunch spots. The best places, I find, are the most consistent not only in great food and service, but also over time. Ristorante Morini is one such place.

Ristorante Morini Chicken Eggplant Meatballs

My sister (perpetual lunch, brunch, and dinner companion) and I returned to Ristorante Morini in March after not having been for almost a year. Unlike my ill-fated brunch spot, Altamarea Group’s Ristorante Morini, did not cut corners over time. The menu is varied and the offers are exciting. I could spot a couple of old favorites (like those insane Bocconcini – chicken eggplant meatballs) as well as more than a few new menu items that I was dying to try.

Ristorante Morini Burrata Salad

To start we had the Burrata salad – creamy mozzarella, car acara orange, mache salad, and a toasted baguette. I love burrata, and the tartness of the cara cara orange and balsalmic reduction cut through the creamy mozzarella in the most delightful way.

Ristorante Morini Pasta NYC

My sister had Spagetti Vongole, a comforting pasta studded with manila clams and baby leeks. I had the Hanger Steak – grilled hanger steak with broccoli rabe and salsa verde. The entire dish was so good, I was tempted to lick the plate.

Ristorante Morini Hanger SteakBest Lunch Spots in NYC

A newer addition on the Ristorante Morini menu, the Semifreddo, was the dessert that surprised me the most. The dessert is a white chocolate semifreddo dome, complete with cashews, blackberries, and tiny mint leaves. I was immediately taken by the dessert mostly because I couldn’t stop eating it – it has great textures and flavors, but I really liked that it felt understated, it was a simple dessert that didn’t overwhelm the meal.

Ristorante Morini NYC

We also had the Torta Di Cioccolata (dark chocolate mousse, chantilly cream, and hazelnut gelato), which is another testament to what a great restaurant RM is. Last time I was here the same menu item looked completely different, and while the structure of the dessert has changed all the flavors are still here. In fact, I quite like how they changed it. This time, instead of being served in a bowl, the torta was served like a tiny cake. It was a perfect chocolate dessert.

Ristorante Morini Torta di Cioccolata

We also had the Torta Di Olio, which the fantastic waitress recommended to me. I’m not entirely certain if it’s a newer menu addition, but it was a first for me. The Torta Di Olio is an olive oil cake, with ricotta mousse, raspberries, rhubarb, served with pistachio gelato. My favorite flavors are tart and sweet, so this was right up my block, and it might just be my favorite dessert. Everything about it was perfect, from the meringue shards as garnish to the moiste cake and lemony curd. I wish I had one right now!

Torta di Olio Ristorante Morini

The staff at Ristorante Morini were absolutely kind, never hovering but always available. I cannot recommend this spot enough if you’re looking for a great brunch, lunch, or dinner. Their prices are fair, and the prixe-fix menu is definitely a deal. Most encouragingly, you can rely on Ristorante Morini for a great dining experience, every time.

Ristorante Morini
1167 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10028
(212) 249-0444

http://ristorantemorini.com

FoodSaver Fresh Review: Why I Can’t Stop Using this Kitchen Appliance

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary FoodSaver Fresh after attending the event, I was neither asked nor required to review this product, though I did so because I absolutely love it. ;)

You know you’ve entered the realm of adulting when you get really excited about household products. I mean, really, genuinely excited. A couple of months ago I was invited to an event to take a look at the FoodSaver  in action, and to pick up some tips from Food Network star Damaris Phillips. If you’re not familiar with it, the FoodSaver is a vacuum-sealing system that helps you keep your meals fresher, longer.

FoodSaver FreshNew FoodSaver Fresh

On average, FoodSaver users can save up to $2700 a year (compared to other food storage methods). At the event FoodSaver debuted their new FoodSaver Fresh appliance. The FoodSaver is a compact (hello, my fellow space-limited NYC apartment dwellers!) vacuum sealing device that works with both the classic FoodSaver bags, but also their new FoodSaver Fresh containers.

FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer ReviewFoodSaver Containers

I was totally intrigued with the device, especially when we were told that FoodSaver has the potential to keep certain foods fresh for twice as long. I immediately pictured the piles of money that I’ve spent at the Union Square farmers market and our local CSA, only to watch pricey fruits, vegetables, and herbs wilt, whither, and rot in mere days. I am all about supporting local growers and artisans. I only wish that I had more time to process my produce before they made an early departure. Since I’m not getting any less busy, the FoodSaver is exactly what I need.

FoodSaver Damaris PhillipsFoodSaver NYC Event

Damaris showed us some of her favorite ways to put the FoodSaver to work. My favorites were food prep, marinating, food saving, making a breakfast parfait that can be eaten all week long, and even using the FoodSaver containers to keep bakery treats like muffins and pastries fresh for even longer. Oh, and how can I forget, brown sugar! Keep your brown sugar from getting hard as a rock between uses.

FoodSaver Fresh Containers

The FoodSaver team sent me my own FoodSaver fresh and since then I have been using it non-stop. If I’m making stir-fry, I like to cut up all the veggies I’m using the day before. I store it all in a food fresh container and streamline cooking the next day. When I do my weekly Trader Joe’s run, I stick by butter lettuce and spring lettuce mix into one of the containers and vacuum seal it up. The lettuce stays fresh and does not get bruised at all – which means salads all week. I can’t believe how addicted I’ve become to using the FoodSaver Fresh and those containers! The containers themselves are ridiculously sturdy, easy to store, and they don’t stain. I actually feel like I’m running out of them because I find so many uses for them.

Food Saver Fresh Review

The FoodSaver FM1510 Food Preservation System clocks in at about $100, but when you purchase it directly from FoodSaver, you also get 2-quart vacuum zipper bags, 2-gallon vacuum zipper bags, 1-5 cup Fresh Container, 1-8 cup Fresh Container, and 1 produce tray (which fits the 3,5, and 8 cup containers). For more information, including all sorts of impressive details and uses for the FoodSaver, check them out here.

Ditch Food Prep Woes with Healthy Choice Power Bowls

This post is sponsored by BabbleBoxx.com on behalf of Healthy Choice.

When it comes to healthy eating, I have the best intentions. I have an excel sheet dedicated to meal planning, a Pinterest board for healthy recipes, and a brand new 32oz plastic water bottle in the prettiest blue and pink so I can drink those recommended 8 glasses a day. See? The best intentions. But then life gets in the way, and when something has to give, it’s usually those good intentions. Healthy Choice has just released their new Power Bowls, tasty meals that feed my body with exactly what I needs to keep going. With flavors inspired by Cuban, Korean, and Latin cuisines, I’m newly obsessed with these easy meal options.

Healthy Choice Power Bowls Review

All the planning in the world can’t save me from hectic days and last minute demands, and since we’re being honest, if I must choose between an extra hour of sleep or making lunch for the next day? I’ll usually pick sleep. Healthy Choice’s Power Bowls are perfect for anyone with an active lifestyle, who is short on time (or maybe not thrilled with the prospect of daily meal prep *ahem*), and a craving for good food. I tried the Adobo Chicken Bowl, which featured all natural chicken breast, vegetables served on top of brown & red rice, red quinoa, and black barley with a guajillo chili sauce and roasted pepitas. I loved that the chicken used in the bowl was raised without antibiotics, and that the lunch not only featured lean protein, but also whole grains, and plenty of veggies. If you’re still clinging to your new year’s resolution to eat better – this will definitely help.

Healthy Choice Adobo Chicken Power BowlHealthy Choice Adobo Chicken BowlHealthy Choice Meal review

If you like a little heat (who doesn’t), the Korean-Inspired Beef Bowl will be right up your block. This bowl featured all natural beef, shitake mushrooms, and vegetables served on top of brown rice, red rice, red quinoa, and black barley with a spicy gochujang and soy sauce topped with black and white sesame seeds. The other day I was running around the city all morning, and barely had time for a quick lunch before I had to head back downtown for an evening event. Usually I would be tempted by fast food options that promised little nutrition, but a fast meal. Instead I popped this in the microwave for around 4 minutes and had a delicious and balanced meal that I did not feel guilty about.

Healthy Choice Korean Review

That’s what I love most about these frozen meals – they taste like something that I would actually cook for myself at home. The flavors are present and they taste real. It’s so easy to fall off the wagon when you’re pursuing a healthy, active lifestyle because there are so many factors that go into how your day turns out. I know from my experience that having a stressful morning will often mean that I look for ways to “cheat” for lunch, I’ll negotiate myself into treats especially if they are easy to obtain. Stocking my freezer with Healthy Choice Power Bowls means that making the right decision for myself is so much easier.

Healthy Choice Bowl review

In case you aren’t yet tantalized with the appealing option of Adobo Chicken Power Bowl or a Korean-Inspired Beef Bowl, Healthy Choice also offers a Cuban-Inspired Pork Bowl and a Chicken Sausage & Barley Bowl. I know I can’t wait to try them! Because every bowl contains over 16g of protein and 6-8g of fiber, it really is easy to make a Healthy Choice for lunch (see what I did there? ;)).

Happy Women’s Health month! How do you stay health & stick to your health goals?

The NYC Chocolate Project: Cocoa Store

Located at 15 E 18th Street the Cocoa Store is easily the smallest chocolate shop that I’ve been in. What they lack in space, they make up in creative use of that space. The walls are lined with some of the priciest chocolate I’ve had, and the jewelry-style display case makes their limited selection of truffles feel extra special.

The Cocoa Store in NYCNYC Chocolate Shops

Cocoa Store is a “retailer of prestigious chocolate brands from around the world”, and carries primarily five chocolate brands: Amedei, Domori, Castronovo, Dick and Taylor, and Harper Macaw.

You can buy single truffles from the display case, or chocolate bars and collections from behind. I definitely recommend the miniatures collection in front of the register, in this case your best bet is to acquaint yourself with the flavors of the chocolate offered before committing to a whole bar or collection.

Cocoa Store NYC register

Out of all the chocolate shops that I’ve been to, the Cocoa Store offers the most intense (and expensive) chocolate. If you, or someone you know, are hardcore chocolate connoisseurs – the kind that know the bean location and cocoa concentration of their chocolate – then you and they will love this place. Especially dark chocolate fans.

Initially I was sort of skeptical of the prices I saw at the Cocoa Store, however a little digging proved that the chocolates offered here are the real deal – they’re boutique chocolates with a world-wide following. Amedei’s single plantation chocolate, Chuao, is considered by some very influential chocolatiers to be possibly the greatest chocolate in the world. Food & Wine’s Pete Wells wrote an excellent article on the chocolatiers here, it’s well worth reading whether or not you’re a chocolate fan.

Cocoa Store NYC display case

Domori, another specialty chocolate, was founded in 1997 and are credited with restoring the cultivation of Criollo beans. In 2002, Gianluca Franzoni opened a plantation in Venezuela where he is cultivating varieties of Criollo that are on the verge of extinction.

Castronovo, owned by one of few female chocolate makers in America, Denise Castronovo, offers sustainable American craft chocolate. “Castronovo sources the cacao beans and contributes to providing an income for indigenous people who live off of the rainforest.  The prestigious awards she has received, including 7 World Final International Chocolate Awards, and 8 Academy of Chocolate Awards from London are just the result of her lifelong commitment.” – Cocoa Store

Amedei Chocolates NYC Cocoa Store

Dick and Taylor source their cocoa from around the world, using only organic cocao and organic cane sugar. With options like Black Fig, 72% Maple Coconut, and a limited release Vietnam Tien Giang with tasting notes of spice cake, apricot, and almond butter, you really can’t go wrong trying at least one. Each 2oz bar runs about $8.50, and ranks as a small, affordable luxury. Plus, the packaging is absolutely beautiful.

Harper Macaw chocolates are sourced from two of Earth’s most threatened biomes – Brazil’s Atlantic and Amazon rainforests. Their mission? Turning chocolate into a force for tropical reforestation. You clearly see their inspiration in the creative and eye-catching design of their chocolates.

Harper Macaw Chocolates Cocoa Store NYC

On my first visit I ended up spending roughly $80 on chocolates – I had a few pralines and truffles, an Amedei Toscano Red Chocolate Bar, Domori Napolitains D-Fusion Sleeve, a Single Origins Sleeve, a Domori Pret a Porter Chocolate Gift Bag, and a Criollo sleeve.

The sleeves are the best way to familiarize yourself with the varying degrees of cocoa content, bean sources and flavors, while the chocolate gift bag is great for gifting and easing yourself into the serious and intense flavors offered. The bag itself seems to be themed around hazelnuts with exception of the Rum and Chestnut ‘Cuneesi’ Pralines – which utilize chestnut cream and Agrimontana chestnuts liquor instead.

Amedei Chocolates in NYC

My favorite was the Amedei Toscano Red Chocolate Bar, which features a minimum of 70% cocoa content, and dried red fruit (strawberry, cherry, and raspberry). I always love the marriage of tart and sweet, and while the dark chocolate here isn’t exacting teeming with sugar, it’s still beautifully done.

Amedei Toscano Red

After doing my little bit of googling research into the brands sold at the Cocoa Store, I really feel much more enthusiastic about this little shop. You’d be hardpressed to find brands like Amedei elsewhere and I only know of one other place – 2beans – that carries Domori. In terms of access, the Cocoa Store is part of what makes the city so great – that we have the ability to hop on the train or bus and are able to access luxury chocolates, possibly the greatest chocolates, quite easily.

Cocoa Store
15 E 18th Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 982-8005

https://cocoastore.nyc/

The Sweetest Treat from the Heart of Brussels: Planète Chocolat

I can’t believe it’s almost the end of the year! 2016 has been a crazy ride to say the least, so it’s only fitting that we end it on a sweet note. Every year my family has a fun little New Year’s Eve party where we screen Poseidon (the Kurt Russel one) and King Kong (the Jack Black one) and go all out on hors d’oeuvres and sweets. There is nothing so magical as ringing in the new year with decadent chocolates and sparkling bubbly on the tongue. This year will be extra special as we’ll be adding Planète Chocolat chocolates – straight from Brussels – into the mix.

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Planète Chocolat is one of the few artisan chocolateries to be found in the heart of Brussels. Made from 100% pure cocoa butter, without artificial flavors, or genetically modified foods, Planète Chocolat is dedicated to creating delicious chocolates that just as much a treat for the eyes as for the palate.

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Although Planète Chocolat is not in NYC, and couldn’t be a part of our NYC Chocolate Project, they do offer 24-hour express delivery via DHL. So if you’re looking for a super last minute gift, or some excellent chocolates to share with family and friends at your New Year’s Eve party, Planète Chocolat have got you covered.

chocolate-collection

Planète Chocolat were kind enough to send me a box of one of their Christmas collections. There are about 18 different kinds of chocolates included in the Christmas Box of Chocolates: Orange Ganache, Caramel Chocolate, Praline & Honey, Amands Au Café, Praline Citron, Ganache Truffle, Noix de Muscade (nutmeg), Belgian Cookie (speculoos), Cocoa Ganache, Coffee, Cinnamon, Honey & Chestnuts, Pralines Honey, Praline, Praline Coffee, Praline Rice, Pralines Coconut, and Pralines Mint.

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The chocolates themselves are all very good, my favorite being the Cocoa Ganache which is much more intense then the Praline – which will be a hit with Nutella lovers – another favorite of mine. This chocolate is perfect for gifting or keeping on hand, you simply can’t go wrong with this crowd-pleasing collection.

planete-chocolate-review

To find out more about Planète Chocolat and their amazing shipping times click here – and definitely take a peek at the Christmas Box of Chocolates for your holiday entertaining!

Straight from London: Artisan du Chocolat

I can’t believe the holidays are already here. I know it’s only October, but really, people have clearly brought out the pumpkins, pumpkin spice lattes, and are only a hop and a skip away from rocking around the Christmas tree. It’s thrilling, and if the weather would be a little more autumn and a little less winter I would be even more excited (no, but seriously, it’s been icy cold here in the city). If you haven’t already started thinking about the holidays, then now’s the time. My favorite gift to my mother last year was these amazing chocolates from Artisan Du Chocolat. Because the famed chocolatier is located across the pond in London, naturally some gifts like this one will take a little more forethought and planning.

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The chocolates can take up to a couple of weeks to transport, I ordered early in December last year and sat the box on a cold windowsill until Christmas morning – they arrived with plenty of time to spare. I’m not sure if the excellent shipping was because I live in NYC, so I would definitely advise giving yourself a week leeway if you live on the West Coast or in the mid-west or basically anywhere else that’s not the East Coast.

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These photos are from last years’ haul, but Artisan du Chocolat has whipped up some new and exciting offers for this year’s holiday season including an advent calendar for children and one for adults as well. The calendars are a great way to familiarize yourself with their chocolates – or you can pick up any of their assortments.

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Last years’ Holiday Beseen Assorted Tin was fantastic, featuring some of Artisan du Chocolat’s best chocolates – ganaches, salted caramels, chocolate pearls, coated nuts, etc. An assortment like this is perfect for holiday gifting, and also really great to keep around the house for holiday visitors.

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But what really makes Artisan du Chocolat worth the swoon-worthy shipping fees are, of course, their salted caramels. Or more specifically, their Original N°1 Salted Caramels. I first discovered them when I was at The London years ago at a press event where our parting gift from the team at Gordon’s restaurant there was a few of these salted caramels.

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These sea salted caramels where originally created for Gordon Ramsay’s menu at Claridge’s in 2002 or 2003. I’m not shocked that Chef Ramsay placed them on his menu as they really are a special treat. Unlike most salted caramels, this chocolate solidly encases a surprise of liquid sea salted caramel. Artisan du Chocolat uses pure untreated grey salt which is “harvested by hand from clay marshes, holds a wealth of minerals and trace elements that enrich its taste.” Sounds good, doesn’t it?

I’m a massive fan of passion fruit desserts, anything tart or even citrusy appeals to my sweet tooth. If you’re like me and like a little tart to cut through your sweet, the Passion Fruit Sea Salted Caramels are right up your alley. These chocolates are delightfully intense.

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Artisan du Chocolat chocolates are all prettily packaged, if the conversion rate was friendlier I would definitely buy them as gifts for all my friends and clients. For now I’ll make a holiday tradition out of ordering these for the woman that brought me into this world (and myself!).

More details on Artisan Du Chocolat, and to order them, click here.

How Bootler is Simplifying Online Food Delivery

bootler-chicago*This post is sponsored by bootler, all opinions presented are my own.*

The hottest question in my house is “What is for dinner?” And on Friday nights, it also happens to be the main source of contention. Of course we’re ordering out, but what are the delivery fees? How quickly (or slowly) will the food arrive? And are we sure that we’re getting the best price from all our delivery service options? If you live in Chicago, then Bootler has got you covered. And luckily for me, they’re headed to New York soon too!

bootler-service

If you don’t know, Bootler is an online aggregation service for food delivery. Bootler works with 6 different food delivery services to allow customers to pick restaurants, compare prices and availability, and ultimately save both time and money. As someone who occasionally feels overwhelmed by all the delivery options out there, this is music to my ears.

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Check out their quick vid for more info:

Bootler is simple, you just enter your address and select what type of food you’re craving from the restaurants available to your location. They recently launched their mobile app in September and are growing exponentially – did I mention we can expect them in New York City soon? I’m so excited! They’re also headed to more major cities too! Of course this means while you Chicagoan’s are currently enjoying some Epic Burger Delivery, soon I’ll be searching on Bootler for my own epic burger too.

bootler-app

With 100,000 visitors per month, and 2,000 people ordering via Bootler daily, I cannot wait to take advantage of Bootler’s service. You can also order alcohol from Bootler in Chicago from a delivery service called “Saucey” – so we know where you’ll be getting your New Year’s beverages from!

chicago-bootler

The ordering process is wonderfully simple – you search and pick where you would like to order from, you create your custom order, then you can compare the different delivery services’ and select which one to place your order with. Ta-dah! Pizza (and champagne from Saucery, if you’re over 21) just in time for Friday movie night!

Find out more and sign up with Bootler here.

Rethink Sweet with Buddy Valastro & Whole Earth Sweetener Co.

Buddy Valastro has recently partnered with Whole Earth Sweetener Co. in a campaign to Rethink Sweet, featuring new and exciting ways to make tasty treats using Whole Earth’s line of sweetener – and if the Cake Boss says it’s good then you know it’s good! Whole Earth Sweetener Co. offers a line of lower calorie, non-GMO sweeteners that have 50% fewer calories per serving than their traditional counterparts. Fortunately for me, I was able to see the sweetener put to the test firsthand when I was invited out to the Lackawanna Cake Factory & Filming Studio out in Hoboken a few weeks ago. I don’t often find myself in that neck of the woods, but I don’t think twice about crossing state lines when cake is involved.

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First off, the inside of the factory/filming studio smells insane! Like butter and sugar and everything good and lovely to eat. If you don’t know (I didn’t!) the factory is where all of the Cake Boss cakes are made. This means not just the wedding cakes, but the store-bought Cake Boss cakes that you see at other bakeries and places like BJ’s. Basically they bake up all the pieces of the cakes and pastries and send them off to be assembled closer to the location of where you would buy them.

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We were given a tour of much of the factory, which was super exciting. There were giant mixers, a room where we saw employees rolling out innumerable pastries, and so much more – but my favorite had to be the decorating room.

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I actually tried my hand at cake decorating a few years ago and it is hard work, and I for one do not have the knack for it. While I’ve resigned myself to the life of a mere cake-eater, I have such an appreciation for the decorating team at Lackawanna Cake Factory –  if you’ve seen the show, or have been on their website, then you know that their work is beautiful.

Buddy also stopped by to tell us a little about why his partnership with Whole Earth Sweetener Co. –

“As a fourth-generation baker, quality and taste are a top priority, and Whole Earth Sweetener Co. uses ingredients sourced from nature, like stevia and monk fruit, which are crafted and manufactured into a great tasting line of lower calorie sweeteners that you can’t find anywhere else. Not only do Whole Earth Sweetener Co. products taste great, they also let you indulge in the sweet foods you crave and love, but with fewer calories.” – Buddy Valastro, Cake Boss

He also spoke about working with Whole Earth’s Sweetener and how he went through a testing process of using the sweetener and altering some recipes to accommodate any changes in the final product. He really stressed how that was most important to him – that what you bake tastes good, which is why he really loves Whole Earth’s sweeteners because it is a lower calorie sweetener that was still an excellent tool for him as a baker to make great treats.

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After having a couple of slices (yes, it was that good and I have no control over what happens when me and cake are in a room together) of cake made with the sweetener, I was completely sold! We also decorated these cute gingerbread men that were also made with Whole Earth Sweetener Co. – I put my, albeit limited, decorating skills to the test and created this little gingerbread man who is clearly ready for colder weather.

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Whole Earth Sweetener Co.’s range of products feature a Baking Blend, Turbinado Raw Cane 50, Whole Earth Sweetener Honey 50 and Whole Earth Sweetener Agave 50 – which are now available in 45 states from more than 60 select retailers as well as on amazon.com. To find out more about Whole Earth Sweetner Co. click here.

A Better Snack: Olives From Spain

This post is sponsored by Olives From Spain

Every year, Spain’s top wineries get together to celebrate their latest and greatest offerings with both wine novices, connoisseurs, and industry professionals. Hosted by the Trade Commission of Spain, Spain’s Great Match was packed this year. Thanks to Olives From Spain, I was able to attend and not only get a peek at popular vinters, but also dine on the country’s other favorite – olives!

Olives From Spain at Spain's Great Match, read more at nyctalon.comOlives From Spain at Spain's Great Match, read more at nyctalon.com 

I’m actually a hardcore olive eater – if you’ve been following me on twitter or Instagram you might know this already. Not only do they rate as one of my favorite snacks, but they are a strict requirement for my cheese plates. I mean, really, a cheese plate is not a cheese plate unless there’s a decent Manzanilla olive somewhere on it. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually know too much about olives, aside from my preference for the Spanish Olives mix at the grocery store. Luckily, the Olives From Spain team was on hand to school me on some interesting facts:

 Olives From Spain at Spain's Great Match, read more at nyctalon.com

Did you know that most olives are used solely for oil extraction? I had no idea! And while the time it takes for every olive to go through the process required to get them ready for eating may vary, only a select few are deemed suitable for consumption. I love that – it makes my snacking olives feel that much more special. Speaking of special, the olives served at Spain’s Great Match by Olives From Spain were something extra – just look at these Olives with Marcona Almonds (another Spanish specialty), diced piquillos, and Carables cheese. So, so good.

 Olives From Spain at Spain's Great Match, read more at nyctalon.com

But my favorite was the Queen Olives stuffed with goat cheese, and served with a slice of apple, honey, and extra virgin olive oil. Queen Olives are named for their size, which the Olives From Spain folks informed me correlates to their price. The larger the olive, the more expensive it is. I’m familiar with stuffed olives – I’ve had them with piquillos, lemon, and almonds, but up until this event, I’ve never had them with goat cheese. I expected the cheese to come across as sharp and bitter, but the combination of the olive with the cheese, apple, and honey struck such an ideal balance that I had to restrain myself from snapping them all up and eating them myself.

 Olives From Spain at Spain's Great Match, read more at nyctalon.com

Spain’s olives not only deliver great flavor and make a great low calorie snacking food, they also pack in a surprising amount of iron and fiber! There are currently more than 300 million olive trees in Spain, so there’s plenty to go around (or at least enough for my snacking habits). Which is a good thing, seeing as how Spain produces about half of the 145,000 tons of olives we import every year. Suffice it to say, the US is a massive fan of Spanish olives.

 Olives From Spain at Spain's Great Match, read more at nyctalon.com

How do you enjoy your olives? Do you serve them as a table snack? Or do you use them in marinades, salads, or stews? Olives from Spain are so versatile, but if you’re looking for a creative way to serve some look no further than http://olivesfromspain.us/ for more recipes and to learn more about your favorite Spanish olives!

How Target & Archer Farms Are Changing the Way We Drink Coffee

I am a dedicated coffee drinker. Dedicated. I like mine iced, blended into a slushie beverage, or simply drip brewed and served hot. But like everyone else, I am also interested in not only the flavor of my bean, but also who and how it is being sourced. And if you’re a K-Cup user, you’ve also probably been a little concerned with what happens to that K-Cup after you’ve used it too. Target, as usual, is on the ball and has heard customer concerns. This month Target is rolling out an expanded line of Archer Farms coffee featuring a few farm-to-cup improvements.

Archer Farms Coffee Bean Bar

I was invited to spend a morning with Target and Archer Farms highlighting these new improvements. I not only got to sip from Target’s new coffee additions, I also got to see how Target is looking out for the environment, the coffee producer, and the consumer. Oh, and I was able to see my face recreated in a cup of coffee (check in out on instagram!). Basically, my ideal kind of morning.

Target Archer Farms Coffee EventCold Brew Coffee Concentrate from Target

During the event I was able to speak to Emily Olsen, Senior Food Product Development Engineer for Target. Emily spoke to me about the entire process behind the bean, and invited me to see if I could taste the differences between four of Target’s newest coffee’s. Emily, whose job involves tasting loads of coffee (talk about dream job) and finding out what customers like us want, pointed out the fruity and acidic qualities of the coffees depending on the region that they come from, as well as the manner of their processing. It was so cool speaking to her, unfortunately I haven’t yet developed a coffee testers discerning tongue – they all tasted amazing to me, haha!

Farm to Cup at Target

Target was the first mass retailer to offer fair trade coffee. But they haven’t stopped there, they now offer 32 fair or direct trade options. Because of this commitment to fair & direct trade, they’ve also improved on quality and now will be offering 12 coffees with all-natural flavoring – and yes they’ll be ground, bagged, and available in single-serve pods for you K-cup folks!

Target Archer Farms New Coffee

Speaking of single-serve pods, I was thrilled to hear about Target’s environmental efforts. Before I broke my K-cup machine (a sad tale, really), I was constantly concerned with the amount of waste that I was creating. Target is now using Real Cup Technology, which relies on BPA-free translucent packaging. A Target rep spoke about the amount of waste created by traditional single-serve pods, and highlighted the extreme differences in waste produced with their new pod design, and it is significantly reduced. Basically, the new cups not only can be recycled, the filter and grounds are made easily separated (which you couldn’t do with traditional single-serve pods), so the grounds can also be composted. It’s so great to see Target roll out this massive initiative, with so many single-serve cups used daily, the damage – or in this case the amount of prevention can comparatively have a massive positive impact.

Target_Eco Cup Decal_36 x 50_7.18.16_Screen Shot

But there’s more – all of Target’s single-serve pods benefit Waterwise, a clean water non-profit committed to cleaning the water supply in Ethiopia through creating sustainable and innovative wet mills. In addition to all this good, Target has also redesigned their bags and boxes to feature more than 50 new pieces of art that represent where that coffee was grown or the type of coffee in that package. I’ve seen many of them and they look great – you definitely won’t be hiding these bags in the back of your cabinet!

Archer Farms Coffee Redesign

I’m so excited about this new development and can’t wait to get brewing! These new changes roll out in stores on August 7th!