Category Archives: Finer Things Club

Tea Tuesday: My New Kyusu

Japantp003The new eater kitchen has been stocking up with some nifty international implements lately. Following on the heels of our Molcajete from Mexico is our new Kyusu from Japan. You have probably seen a Kyusu before – it’s just the Japanese word for “teapot”. More specifically though, Kyusu usually refers to a style of clay/ceramic teapot with a single handle.

They are considered especially well-suited to brewing green tea, or Japanese sencha. Sencha is supposed to be brewed in small batches, and is well suited to these little pots. My new white ceramic Kyusu is Muji Brand [this link is in Japanese – it’s a miracle I found it…], courtesy of my cousin Lauren. Tea Nerd has a ton of  information about the Kyusu, including places to purchase them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Finer Things Club, Tea

FTC: Mint Mischief Potato Chips

India FlagThe potato chip is definitely transnational. Since its invention in Saratoga Springs, NY in the 1850s, the humble potato chip has gained popularity across the world. Needless to say, as it has gone global, it’s picked up some pretty interesting taste combinations.  The latest interesting twist on the plain old potato chip comes from India, and the multinational company, Lay’s.

These potato chips from India are called Mint Mischief and feature mint, lime and jalapeño flavors. They were brought back by a colleague of mine who recently went to India for a wedding. I was expecting the chips to be fairly spicy, but there is only a hint of heat. These chips were conundrum to my American palate, since Mint is usually associated with sweet and not savory (except mint jelly with lamb, I guess). If the mint had been substituted for cilantro, a more familiar Latin flavor probably would have registered. But in the end, I really enjoyed the mint mischief chips and their unique flavor combination. I don’t know where to get them in Chicago, so if you have a friend who is going to the subcontinent, ask them to stock up!

[Flickr Photo from Dw33by]

3 Comments

Filed under Finer Things Club

FTC: Aero Bars

England International candy is  so wonderfully random and varied, you can’t help but love it. At the top of my list of fun international candies from my youth has to be Aero, made by Nestle. Aero is a UK creation, and was first made by the Rowntree Mackintosh company in 1935 (Nestle bought Rowntree Mackintosh in 1988). Above all else, Aero is a novelty bar, and not some extraordinarily fine bittersweet chocolate.

The novelty, in this case, is that Aero bars have a bubbly, aerated chocolate filling, which creates a pretty unique texture. Tellingly, the tagline of Aero is “have you felt the bubbles melt?”If you cut the bars open you can really see the bubbly interior – check it out below. Though we searched the web for how the bubbles in Aero form, it seems to be a closely guarded and much-speculated secret. Aero bars also come in dark chocolate and mint varieties – check out the awesome green color below! Aero is available at Cost Plus infrequently, and any respectable British Market.

Leave a comment

Filed under Finer Things Club

Finer Things Club: Gjetost Cheese

norwayThis Norwegian import, (pronounced “yet-oast”) is hands-down one of the most unusual and distinctive cheeses the eaters have ever sampled. Gjetost is actually known as Brunost (literally ‘brown cheese’) in Norway. If that weren’t confusing enough, Gjetost goes by a variety of names across Scandinavia (Sweden – mesost, and Denmark – myseost). Gjetost is made from goat and cows’ milk and whey, which is boiled to a caramel brown and a soft consistency. Due to this caramelization, the cheese has a sweet, burnt sugar taste. Gjetost is commonly served sliced very thinly on top of fruit or crackers. This unusual cheese is commonly available at Whole Foods and many specialty stores. The most common variety in the US is is Ski Queen, which is found in a distinctive red package, as seen below.

flickr photo from [oknovokght]

1 Comment

Filed under Finer Things Club

A trip to DiBruno Brothers Market in Philadelphia

ItalyDiBruno Brothers
930 S. 9th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19145diinterior

As you can tell by reading this blog, both L and M are big fans of cheese. When we’re traveling we never miss an opportunity to scout out the local cheese shops. On a recent trip to Philly had the chance to visit one of our favorite cheese shops – DiBruno Brothers. When L used to go to school in Philly, she visited this DiBruno Brothers location at least every couple of weeks (she also turned M into a convert). Though M is not from Philly, he lives in Wisconsin, so needless to say, he takes his cheese very seriously. It’s our cheese-loving opinion that DiBruno Brothers is one of the best cheese stores around. The first thing DiBruno Brothers has going for it is its location smack dab in the middle of Philadelphia’s Italian Market. The Italian enclave in South Philly is big, bustling and vibrant, unlike many others (our trip to the NYC Little Italy was underwhelming and frankly kitschy), and the famous Italian Market is located in the middle of this Little Italy. Philadelphia’s Italian Market, though perhaps less impressive than it was a few decades ago, still provides a wide range of small, authentic, family-run Italian shops that would be right at home on a street in Parma or Naples.di2

Though the market is full of great specialty food store, DiBruno Brothers has always been out favorite for its great selection and friendly staff. When you enter, the first thing you notice are the huge cheeses hanging from the ceiling, cured Italian meats sitting on sample plates to eat, a huge cheese counter on one side of the narrow store and a wide variety of dry goods on the other. It goes without saying that cheese is the star of the show. From Italian favorites like Parmigiano-Reggiano and Mozzarella di Bufala to Scandinavian and Argentine cheeses, DiBruno brothers has it all. If there is any variety you would like to try, DiBruno Brothers is generous with samples. The staff are all knowledgeable and helpful and have made great suggestions over the years. The selection is wide and varied, though some of the more unique varieties can be a bit pricey. On our last visit, however, M was on a mission for Garrotxa, a Spanish goat milk cheese he fell in love with back in Wisconsin. Since then he had not seen it anywhere, but DiBruno came to the rescue.

dbbcheeseAlong with a copious variety of cheese from around the world, DiBruno Brothers also boasts a selection of olives, meats and ready made foods. There is enough here to keep you occupied (and fed) for days. The DiBruno empire also stretches into a ready-made food store further up the block in the Italian market, and to a large store and cafe in Rittenhouse Square. However, for us, the DiBruno Brothers cheese store in the Italian market will always be the real deal. This is what heaven looks like!dbbmural

Leave a comment

Filed under Finer Things Club

Finer Things Club: The Last of the Julmust

norwaysweden_flagJulmust is a Scandinavian soda that is sold only around the holiday time. So – like many other Christmas items, now that the holidays are over – Julmust goes on sale.  We visited World Market on New Years Eve, where we found that  Guttsta Kalla Julmust was on sale for the bargain-basement price of $0.49!  Having never tried Julmust, we decided it was a must-buy. Two of the main ingredients in Julmust are barley and hops, similar to beer. However, Julmust is not fermented, so it is non-alcoholic. Upon tasting, we ascertained that Julmust is pretty much beer with juice. On top of the hoppy flavor, Julmust did have some holiday spiciness, but it was not necessarily our cup of tea. Though we concede that Julmust is a fine holiday tradition, it’s definitely an aquired taste.julmusttree

Leave a comment

Filed under Finer Things Club, Holidays

Finer Things Club: Torrone for the holidays

Italy spain
As the holiday season draws to a close, we are finishing up the last of the Christmas goodies – including one of our favorites torrone. It’s a pretty simple confection made of egg whites, honey, almonds and sugar. Popular across Southern Europe, this almond nougat is known as Turrón (Spanish), torró (Catalan), or torrone (Italian).The origin of Turron is Arabic, and was created by moors in the town of Jijona, in Valencia, Spain. Spanish turron comes in 2 basic varieties – soft Jijona or turrón blando, and hard Alicante or turrón duro, similar to peanut brittle.

torrone

Torrone is most commonly consumed around the holidays – La Florentine is one of the most popular varieties in the US, and has individually-warpped portions of soft torrone in Vanilla, Lemon and Orange flavors. You can even get La Florentine torrone online, though it is pretty commonly available in larger grocery stores. Delicious Days even has a recipe to try on your own, even though it seems pretty tricky.

1 Comment

Filed under Finer Things Club, Holidays, World Eats

Holiday Food Around the World

panettoneSo we know about German Stollen and Italian Panettone – but there are so many other holiday foods from around the world that we never knew about. As ausual, Wikipedia provides a treaure trove of information about international and American holiday foods. It’s fun to explore. We have definitely not heard of some of these – like Chilean Cola de mono (literally, monkey tail) is a festive vanilla-flavored alcoholic coffee drink.

Leave a comment

Filed under Finer Things Club, Holidays, World Eats

FTC: Galeux d’ Eysines Squash

The culinary harbingers of fall are squash and pumpkins. I admit to getting a little overloaded on pumpkins around Halloween time (though I do like to carve them) since they get incorporated into every type of food, from ravioli to lattes. However, I have noticed this unusual squash at several farmers markets recently, and it really caught my eye. It’s called a Galeux d’ Eysines – in French Galeux translates to warty or scabby, so that’s pretty appropriate. Apparently this French heirloom variety is quite tasty and the ‘warts’ are merely cosmetic. You can even grow your own!

FrenchPumpkin

1 Comment

Filed under Finer Things Club

FTC: Korean Red Ginseng Candy

koreaA colleague of mine is from South Korea, and she always brings in the most interesting candies to share after she takes trips to South Korea. Her latest treat was red ginseng candies. Red ginseng is a popular ingredient in Korea – and is found in everything from tea to candy to jelly. Red ginseng is a special preparation of ginseng where it is heated to create a brittle texture.

I know ginseng is supposed to be good for you – and has been shown to have some anti-carcinogenic effects, but I’ve never had it like this. The little candies looked suspiciously like lozenges – and at first sample – they tasted like them too. Gradually the little maroon-colored candies tasted sweeter, but with a bitter, medicinal tinge. All in all, not bad – and pretty good for you (for a sweet). I’ve seen red ginseng candies in Asian supermarkets in the Chicago area, however you can get them from several online shops as well.

Leave a comment

Filed under Finer Things Club

Time for Dessert at Hot Chocolate in Chicago

Hot Chocolate
1747 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL

This ultra-modern chocolate bar has the feel of sitting inside of a chocolate bar itself! Done in deep browns and creams, Mindy Segal’s restaurant has a full dinner menu, as well as the featured deserts and chocolate drinks. We weren’t really in the mood for another large meal, so we stayed in the lounge section at the front of the restaurant and sampled some of the chocolate drinks and dessert creations instead. As dessert bars usually are, this one was a bit on the pricey side. However, the delectable deserts were worth it.

Doughnuts by Stu Pivak

Doughnuts by Stu Spivak

We sampled a vanilla crème brûlée with summer berries ($11) and a “Shot of Hot Chocolate” which was a tiny, rich brownie with a shot glass of chilled hot chocolate ($4). Each was delicious, and an inventive take on a dessert classic. Other unique menu items included a platter of doughnuts with a hot chocolate dipping sauce. We also had a good sampling of chocolate-flavored alcoholic drinks such as the Chocolate Martini, with Stoli vanilla, Kahlua, Baileys and chocolate milk ($12). In this case, the alcohol tended to overpower the chocolate. Not bad, of course, if that what you’re going for. All in all, sampling the treats at Hot Chocolate is a great way to end the night and satisfy your sweet tooth. Maybe next time we will even saple some of the savory items. If you’re ever in the Wicker Park area, we recommend stopping by to at least check out the unique ambiance and delicious deserts.

1 Comment

Filed under Finer Things Club, Reviews

FTC: Santander chocolate

When the World Market by me was going out of business *sniff* I stopped by one last time to scavenge. I picked up a mug and tea strainer, a tiffin box and a 70% Cacao & Espresso Coffee chocolate bar by Chocolate Santander. I am glad I did, though of course how can you go too wrong by combing two delicious flavors: dark chocolate and Colombian coffee. The dark chocolate was very smooth, and not bitter, and the coffee was not overpowering, and turned out to be a great compliment.

These artisinal bars are made in Colombia of 100% Colombian coffee and specific origin chocolate of the “Criollo” and “Trinitarian” varieties. Little did I know that Santander chocolates are made at the factory of Compañía Nacional de Chocolates, a company established in 1920. The company produces other varieties as well. Hopefully I will be able to find them elsewhere (RIP World Market)!

Leave a comment

Filed under Finer Things Club

FTC: Mimolette Cheese

We like cheese. No – we love cheese. Every time I am up visiting M we buy a new type of cheese to sample. On first look, Mimolette is weird and orange (due to the coloring of Annatto) and kind of looks like a melon, but is actually quite delicious. What is interesting about Mimolette is that is has a very nutty flavor, and almost tastes like hazelnuts!

Mimolette originates in Lille, France (where it is called Boule de Lille) and is based off of Dutch Edam cheese. You can buy Mimolette in a variety of ages, the older it is, the more strong, dense and oily the cheese gets (but not in a bad way). I would recommend Mimolette alone, since its flavor is wonderful and complex and I can’t really think of what type of dish it would taste good in. On the downside, it is somewhat expensive (about $16 per pound @ Whole Foods). Teddington Cheese has some more info on Mimolette here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cheese, Finer Things Club

Tea Tuesday: Dolfin Green Tea Bar

Chocolate and tea are probably two of our favorites foods, so when we found a product that combined both we were more than happy. The Dolfin Green Tea Bar, or more properly Au Lait au The Vert Sencha du Japon (Milk with Sencha Green Tea from Japan) is a 32% milk chocolate bar with 5% green tea (about $4 for an 9 oz. bar). We usually prefer dark chocolate, but can understand why they went with milk chocolate – to counter the natural bitterness of green tea. You can really taste the tea flavor, sweet and woodsy, but unfortunately the chocolate itself is a little gritty. We did not love the whole texture of this bar, especially since it is not very cheap. Overall, a little disappointed. We know there are other chocolate/tea bars, though, perhaps they will execute this concept better.

1 Comment

Filed under Finer Things Club, Tea

FTC: Vosges Oaxaca Cocolate Bar

Every time I go into a Vosges Haut Chocolate store I get really scared. First, because the counter staff usually stares me down in an intimidating way, like I am a hobo who wandered in off the street. And second, because everything is delicious and expensive and I want to buy it all.

Vosges is known is for its unique ingredients, and their candy bars include anything from curry powder to bacon. However, one of my favorites is slightly less ‘out there’, the Oaxaca Bar ($6.95). The Oaxaca bar is bittersweet chocolate (75%), blended with guajillo and pasilla chile peppers. There’s definitely some heat to this bar, and you can really tell in the finish. The chocolate is dark, but not bitter and is a nod to the bitter and spicy Xocolatl, an Aztec chocolate drink. If you’re a fan of dark chocolate you will find this bar completely addictive. You can find Vosges chocolate bars at Whole Foods or at other retailers like World Market.

Leave a comment

Filed under Finer Things Club

FTC: Paletas

Spring is officially here – yesterday I saw a paleta cart rolling down the sidewalk. Paletas are Mexican popsicles, with either a milk or water base, and they are delicious! While paletas are a common site on the street, they are also sold in most Mexican grocery stores. We recently picked up paletas from a local supermercado, La Huerta (580 S. Randall Rd, St. Charles, IL) in anticipation of the arrival of warm weather. Our all-time favorite place for paletas is Paleteria La Monarca (6955 N Clark St., Chicago, IL), especially their lime flavor.

L picked Mango and Chile variety – the bar was full of fresh mango chunks and a healthy dose of powdered chile – you can really feel the kick at the end. M went for the more conventional chocolate and almond milk-based bar. Think a really tasty version of a pudding pop, with shaved almond bits throughout. Other varieties available included strawberry and tamarind, as well as a melon flavor called “Mamey.” We were initially drawn to the brand because of its colorful butterfly packaging, a theme also present at La Monarca. Apparently Michoacan is a common name for paleta companies, and the unconfirmed home of the paleta is located in the Mexican State of the same name.

1 Comment

Filed under Finer Things Club

FTC: Gopi Mango Lassi

Over last summer we acquired a new blender, and set out to make the perfect mango lassi, and Indian yogurt smoothie drink. We usually wing the blend of yogurt, cardamom and fresh mango, and the results are generally good. However, when we don’t have access to fresh mangos, it’s nice to have an ersatz version of the mango lassi around. That’s where the Gopi Mango Lassi we picked up at the Pita Inn Market comes in. At about $2 for a 1-pint bottle, the lassi itself was a steal. The drink itself was smooth and pleasant, but it could have packed more of a mango punch. We also did not taste any of the cardamom flavor we usually enjoy. While no substitute, for a snack on the run, this is a great option.

p.s. Gopi is a Sanskrit word for “cow herding girl.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Finer Things Club

FTC: Wisconsin Cheese Plate – To Spain and Back

Did you know that April is grilled cheese month? Well it is! In honor of this sacred month, the Eaters have compiled a lovely little cheese plate consisting of both Wisconsin-bred and Spanish cheeses (we ❤ Manchego, what can we say), complete with festive flags. We also selected several World Champ Cheese Contest contenders, marked with a *.

  • Vintage Van Gogh (Roth Kase, Monroe, WI) – This is far and away the best grilling cheese of our selection, due to its melty consistency and hint of sweet caramel flavor, but not our preferred cheese for plain munching.
  • Baby Swiss (Chalet Cheese Cooperative, Monroe, WI)- Award winning Baby Swiss, with a delicate flavor and smooth texture. Also a great grilled cheese staple. Coincidentally, Chalet is the only operating Limburger factory in America. Boy, we could tell.
  • *Redstone (Natural Valley Cheese, Cashton, WI)- This is a semi-hard cheese that we found best suited for grating. It has a taste not unlike very strong Parmesan, with a tinge less saltiness.
  • *Garrotxa Muntanyola (Quorum International, Sevilla La Nueva, Madrid)- A deliciously creamy, Catalan-style goat’s milk cheese that has a nice bite, but nothing too overwhelming. Excellent with figs and crusty bread.
  • Gran Queso (Roth Kase, Monroe, WI) – Gran Queso is a domestic Manchego-style cheese. Thus, not really from Spain, but extremely tasty nonetheless. This cow’s milk cheese has a nice bite and a smooth finish. We could eat a whole block in one sitting.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cheese, Finer Things Club

FTC: Caramels from Dulcelandia in Chicago

colombia.pngMexico FlagDulcelandia is a a chain of Mexican candy stores found across Chicagoland. Today I got my hands on assortment of caramels bought from Dulcelandia (though I have never been), and I am excited to say they were pretty tasty. I can’t wait to go to Dulcelandia myself to get some more sweets. Don’t tell my dentist!Cachitos

  • Ricos Besos: Did I lose a filling? Pure, chewy little chunks of milk caramel from Mexico. The chewiest imaginable.
  • Cachitos: These candies from Mexico were my favorite of the three. Cachitos are swirled chocolate and caramel pinwheels. Bite-sized and perfectly melt-in-your-mouth tasty.
  • Bianchi: Bianchi are little milk caramels with a gooey chocolate center from Colombia. They almost reminded me of a chocolate Werthers.
  • Arequipe: Arequipe is the Colombian word for a dulce de leche. These are from the same company as Bianchi, and have the same outer hard caramel shell with a gooey ducle de leche center.

Leave a comment

Filed under Finer Things Club

FTC: Biscoff Cookies

BelgiumBiscoff Belgians are known for their chocolate, but maybe they should be known for their cookies as well. Belgian-made Biscoff cookies are so addictive it is ridiculous. In Belgium they are known as “speculoos” (This site – On Food and Wine – also has an easy recipe).

The only ingredients in the cookies are Flour, Sugar, Oil, Brown Sugar and Cinnamon. Deceptively simple. The cookies are very crisp -almost graham cracker-esque- and taste of cinnamon, but not too strongly. Speculoos are great to eat alone, or, as we have found, to dip in chocolate fondue. Happily, they are pretty easy to find in America – even Walgreen’s has them.

3 Comments

Filed under Finer Things Club