Category Archives: Finer Things Club

FTC: Havanna Alfajores

alfajor small2Yesterday, a colleague from Argentina was kind enough to bring in a box of these little Argentine snack cakes, each individually wrapped in gold foil. Alfajores are typical Argentine (as well as much of Latin American) snacks, and Havanna is a local manufacturer that produces them. An alfajor consists of a sandwich cookie (with a cake-like consistency) filled with dulce de leche and coated in chocolate (other varieties had a vanilla coating). For packaged cookies they were pretty good, as anything coated in dark chocolate and filled with dulce de leche would be; kind of like a very high-class Hostess cake. I’d imagine they are available in some Latin grocery stores, but are also available online.


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FTC: Trader Joe’s Chocolate Croissants

Finding quality croissants in America is hard. I had pretty much given up my search, but I’m proud to say I’ve found a worthy DIY alternative the Trader Joes’ frozen chocolate croissants. They cost $4.99 for one box, which had four croissants. They are frozen – but require some prep. They have to be left out overnight (9 hours according to the box) to rise, and should be finished with an egg wash before baking. I was impressed when I checked on my little croissants in the morning to see they had quadrupled in size. I am not a baker, but I hear this is a normal “bread” thing…

After baking for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, I was ready to sample the croissants, which had nicely browned. They were generously filled with dark chocolate, which was perfectly oozy and melty. They key to croissants, IMHO, is the flakiness, which I find missing from so many other varieties I have tried. These TJ croissants are awesomely flaky and buttery without being doughy. My one tiny qualm is the amount of fat in these puppies. Don’t look at the nutrition facts, they aren’t for the faint of heart. I meant to take pictures, but we ate the croissants so fast all that I would have gotten were crumbs and chocolate smudges.

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FTC: Our favorite cheese store in Madison, Fromagination

12 S. Carroll
Madison, WI

For a town with as much cheese fervor as Madison, WI, it’s a surprise there aren’t more cheese stores. However, Fromagination helps tip the balance in the right direction. Located right on Capitol Square, Fromagination is a nice artisanal cheese shop, which also specialized in gourmet spreads, oils, beer and “foodie” gifts. The store is dominated by a big glass deli counter, packed with cheeses. Piled high between the counters are also wheels of hard cheese, and the shelves are packed with gourmet treats. The selection of cheeses is excellent, about 30 American and international cheeses, with special emphasis, of course on Wisconsin varieties. Prices are reasonable, with many varieties at less than$15 a pound. We usually buy our cheeses at the farmer’s market, or at Whole Foods in the off seasons, and Fromagination had all of our favorites from both locales, including Roth Kase’s Gran Queso, Mimolette and Hook’s White Cheddar. They also offer gourmet sandwiches (for $7.50) and a series of cheese-tasting and pairing classes. We’ll definitely be back!


Fromagination by Susie Wyshak

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FTC: Mariage Frères Tea

So, I tried for the first time my Mariage Frères tea – and it was worth the expense. The cost was 20 euros [!!!] for a 100gm tin of Thé sur le Nil, a green tea mixed with citrus and spices. Green tea, sadly is probably my least favorite type of tea, but now I might be a believer. The quality of the tea is amazing. Each leaf is probably 1+” long which puts the “whole leaf” teas sold commonly in the US to shame. The instructions on the tin said to steep 3 grams for 4 minutes, so I did and I’m telling you – this is the best green tea I have ever tasted in my life. After the recommended 4 minutes of steeping, the tea was sweet, light, delicate and fruity. I didn’t even need to add any sugar.

Now I just need to find a way to get back to the store to get some more.

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FTC: Teas all over the world

{{photo: Wall of Teapots at Mariage Frères, Paris}}
Teas in our cabinets right now: did we mention we love tea? favorites have *
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FTC: Spanish Orxata de xufes

Right now I (L) am craving orxata de xufes (horchata de chufas), a Spanish drink of tigernuts and sugar with water. It is extremely uncommon (at least I’ve never seen it) in the US, where the Mexican horchata, which is rice-based, dominates. True, it’s a warm weather drink, and it’s freezing cold here – but some brutally cold orxata de xufes would really hit the spot.

{photo} The Boqueria Market in Barcelona, home of awesome Orxata. Maybe I should write more about this market later.

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