One of our most important and influential people, in my life at least, is my mom. Since Mother’s Day is a bit more than 2 weeks away (if you really don’t remember, it’s Sunday, May 12th) you still have some time to get her something before she’ll bite your head off. Here are some of my gift ideas:
Coco Délice is based out in San Francisco, California, whose mission is to have great flavor and appearance, and utilizing the best possible, local ingredients. Their chocolates are French inspired by technique and dominantly French inspired with touches of spice (like their orange cardamom bars).
Their Cognac truffles were dense, lush chocolate truffle flavor in a nicely sized ball with very modest notes from the cognac. Light and not remotely obvious. The cognac flavor is more a gentle in the background and a delicacy on the finish than a noticeable presence. Their salty caramels are one of my favorites as I love the creamy consistency of the salty caramel ganache enrobed with a crisp, tempered chocolate. It’s delicious and beautiful that my mom – or any discerning chocoholic would love to have these anytime.
Gail Ambrosius started in 2004 in Madison, Wisconsin. Her brand offers a great variety of truffles, caramels, and other chocolate confections. I tasted an assortment of truffles drawn from three collections: the Classic Collection, featuring traditional flavors like caramel, raspberry, and espresso, the Adventurous Collection, with combinations like cinnamon/cayenne and lemongrass with ginger. The Mother’s Day Collection is a variation of all of the flavors and in an adorable box. These chocolates are delicious and fantastic.
Mast Brothers is probably the most well known of the bunch listed. This Brooklyn chocolate brand sells exclusively handcrafted chocolate bars. It may sound boring but they do it so well, as these bars are complex and robust with flavors – even on their single estates and single origin bars that do not have any toppings to enhance their bar further. All of these bars are wrapped in beautiful, patterned paper set in a gold foil.
It is hard to pick a favorite but I did like the nuanced sweetness from Crown Maple’s sugar found from Crown Maple Bar and I love how their 74% cacao chocolate mingled with Stumptown Coffee‘s crisp, fruity notes that’s blended in this bar. (From their online shop, Mast Brothers sells in sets of bars starting at $40 for a set of 5 bars and up or you may find it at your local retailers for individual bars.)
You might be aware of my love for Hudson Chocolates‘ seriously delicious and innovative chocolates that has a whimsical personality. I don’t want to sound like a broken record but you should consider ordering their chocolates if you or whomever you’re ordering for like something a little out of the ordinary flavors.
Coffee & Tea
Portland Roasting Coffee is a 15-year old brand that emphasize sustainable environmental and social practices throughout its business, including its “Farm Friendly Direct” sourcing program involving partnership projects with coffee producers in several origin countries. Certified organically grown, this coffee is sourced from a group of family farms belonging to the PT Indo Cafco cooperative. This year, they are recognized at Good Food Awards 2013 and deserves such a title.
Their organic Sumatra beans are what I would consider a classic, dark-roasted Sumatra. Roast-rounded acidity, slightly lean mouthfeel, rich bittersweet balance, with soft aromatic wood notes that deepen toward baker’s chocolate. Rich and sweet in the short finish; a roast astringency shadows the long. The Ethiopian has a sweet, bright, berry acidity with hints of cacao (it’s their award winner). The Honduras coffee is a well-balanced, floral with sweet caramel and brown sugar notes. Their Mexican has a flavors of chocolate and light citrus with a rich, velvety body.
Cuvée Coffee Roasting Company has been providing independent coffee houses and coffee enthusiasts with sustainable artisan blends, single origin, and estate coffees since 1998, based out 20 miles west of downtown Austin, Texas.
Their Ethiopia Cuberow has great floral and cherry notes and a light-medium body. The Reserva was their coffee blending experiment (think of it as wine blending). They took the best coffees from three farms, and processing them three ways ending up with original coffee that has the complexity of an espresso blend embodied in a single-origin coffee. It tastes like a really big red wine (think Cabernet), sweet red fruits, honey sweetness, and balanced with a spicy finish. The Dead Fingers has prominent dark chocolate notes that rolls into ripe cherry with nuances of caramels in the finish. The Spicewood 71 is meant to be in ways, their signature coffee blend. It has notes of sweet melon with toffee and caramel with an orange citrus flavors balancing a malt-y chocolate body.
Case Coffee Roasters is based out in Oregon, who is a small but cutting edge coffee roaster, offering a well rounded selection of coffee beans roasted to perfection. They are also a Good Food Awards 2013 winner.
Their Kenya Gatomboya is a washed processed beans from the Nyeri region. It’s vacuum packed on site to maintain maximum freshness on its long ocean voyage. Tropical fruits dominate this beautiful cup of coffee: lots of red grapefruit, papaya and kumquat finishing off with a silky, juicy mouthfeel. Their Bolivia Irupana has flavors of sweet almonds, milk chocolate, and white peach dominate this cup.
Heart Coffee Roasters started in October 2009, based near Portland, Oregon. The motivation behind our coffee is simple: uncompromising quality. We are a specialty coffee roasting company aiming to bring people a focused, exceptional coffee experience. Their focus is on quality green coffee and their roasting style distinguish their coffee from other roasters.
Their Stereo Single Origin Espresso is a seasonal espresso blend that contains 50% Yukro Ethiopia and 50% Perla Del Sur. It has delicious notes of raspberry and black tea. Their Rwanda Karenge was an interesting, bright, citrusy brew with notes of mandarin orange, and a dark, somewhat black tea. The Columbia El Desarrollo had a medium body with sweet-tart notes of hibiscus and melon with a milk chocolate background.
Le Palais des Thés recently rolled out new teas for spring: Les Plaisirs Purs teas (also known as Pure Indulgence). These particular teas have intense fruity, aromas that are clean and true to the flavors labeled. There are four flavors: lemon, orange blossom, pear, and iced mint that would satisfy the kind of tea drinker who loves fruity or herbaceous teas.
Baked Goods, Condiments, Jams, Salami, Baking Mixes
Salt of the Earth Bakery is a family run bakery that is based in New York City. They create all natural, certified kosher, chocolate treats by pairing the right chocolate with unique salts and spices to bring out one-of-a-kind flavor. All of their sweets are paired with a specially selected artisanal sea salt that brings out the pop in the flavor and elevates the snacking experience.
I adore their baked goods as they are loaded with tons of flavor. If you have to force me to pick a favorite, their fudgeiy brownies have my heart (or should I say, my gut?), most notably The OMG. I have an Achilles’ heel for salted caramel. So they meld the best of two worlds, a moist fudge-y brownie with a gooey, salted caramel that’s flecked with Fleur de Sel de l’Ile de Ré. I think I died a few seconds in heaven every time I took a bite off of that confection. It’s incredible.
Their other brownies are packed with flavor. The Kona is deep and rich with coffee flavor. The Mayan is initially chocolate-y and cinnamon-y but then the cayenne really gives you a swift kick in the palate. The cookies are very good as well. Texturally, it sits on the fine line between crisp and chewy and the chocolate flavor with a hint of salt was perfection.
Rouge Maple harvests incredibly flavorful, yet delicately clean tasting, pure organic maple syrup. They source the sap of majestic maple trees in pristine Notre-Dame-Des-Bois, Quebec, Canada. Their maple syrup is considered rare as less than 20% of the world’s supply is organic.
The company has moved far away from the traditional rustic wood cabin look that people have come to associate with the maple syrup industry. Instead, Rouge maple syrup glass bottles are sleek and unique, having been designed and imported from Italy. Another innovation introduced is the spill proof pour-spout that comes with each bottle. This provides a more controlled pour, and, perhaps more importantly, the end of sticky bottles. And of course, the bottles are reusable, which reaffirms their commitment to supporting sustainability wherever possible.
Their maple syrups are very clean and has vibrant maple flavors that I can imagine the various sweet and savory applications to food.
INNA Jam creates fresh, seasonal jams from organic fruit sourced within 150 miles of our Emeryville, California kitchen.
Though their jalapeño jam is the most popular and what started this jam company, I opted for their fruit jams. Their Royal Blenheim Apricot was nectary and heady, a classic-tasting apricot jam that was marvelous on my morning toast or bagel. Flavorfall Pluot is a unique California fruit. It is a cross between a plum and an apricot. This varietal has the perfumed, floral brightness of a plum and the sweetness of an apricot. The complexity and depth of flavor of this fruit is astounding and lingers on the palate. The Pomerine is a unique fruit from a local farmer whose son crossed a pomelo and a tangerine, resulting in this still unnamed variety (they named it pomerine since it’s half pomelo and half tangerine). This jam has a soft, spoonable type that tastes like both a tangerine and a pomelo. It does have some bitterness but it’s not overbearing.
Winding Drive Jams is an artisan jam company based out in Connecticut who recently won the Good Food Awards for their Wild Elderberry Jelly. Unfortunately, they sold out of that when flavor I ordered these lovely jams. However, I loved the lush, spring flavors strawberry rhubarb that balanced the sweet and tartness. The blueberry limoncello was a recently 2013 Connecticut Specialty Food Award Winner. The jam is filled with whole blueberries that delivers an explosion of blueberry flavor with gentle notes of sweet limoncello. The kumquat orange jam has the intense floral, citrus complexity of kumquat tempered down by the sweetness of the orange.
Olli Salumeria was founded in 2010 by two friends, Olli Colmignoli and Chip Vosmik, based out in Virginia. Their salamis are tastes traditional, as they claim it’s based on 160-year old family recipes. Their pepperoni is wonderfully tangy and spiced that it’s great on almost anything. The Calabrese is a spicy salame that has a nice kick from cayenne pepper and paprika. The Molisana is a robust salame flavored with whole black peppercorn and garlic.
Columbus Salame started in 1917 in San Francisco, California. Though their production has moved slightly outside of San Francisco, they still retain their family recipes to be 100% pork salame and natural ingredients. Their wide selection of classic and artisan salamis are truly delicious that it’s hard to pick out what would be my favorite – choosing from their delicately pork-y cacciatore; spicy, hot soppresata that’s aged for three weeks; a mildly spicy chorizo and zesty herb salame that’s wonderful in my sandwiches.
Sisters’ Gourmet is my go-to brand for all-natural brownies and cookies mixes when I don’t have time to weigh and measure my ingredients for a dinner party I’m throwing. Their brownie mixes always yield to a rich, fudge-y brownie with lots of chocolate chunks that I love. Their cookie mixes are always a bit more interesting than the standard chocolate chip or oatmeal cookie. It’s great for mothers (or anyone you know) who want desserts in less than 30 minutes that have natural ingredients without preservatives or artificial colors, including the baking challenged.
Wine & Spirits
Terrazas de Los Andes Single Vineyard “Las Compuertas” Malbec 2010 is very plummy and woody on the nose. It’s very rich and thick on the palate and very dark. Toasty, charred wood leads with notes of flinty, iron minerality. It’s fleshy and concentrated and possesses nice acid to balance heavy tannin. It’s a dense, powerful and dry wine.
The Finca Flichman Dedicado 2009 (85% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Syrah) has highly expressive scents of fruity, spicy notes, showing a mix of blueberry and cherry, cinnamon, and hints of coffee, and minerals adding depth. The wine is balanced with acidity and flavors of ripe blackberry, a dusting of dark chocolate and spice. Sweet wild berries were met by a mouth-watering, bitter streak on the finish.
De Bortoli Wines is an Australian wine brand that has Emeri, Noble One and Old Boy as part of their wine portfolio.
Emeri Pink Moscato is what I almost could imagine as the stereotypical teenage girl – sweet, angelic, and a little effervescent. It has notes of strawberries and it has some muskiness to temper off the fruity sweetness.
Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2008. Since its first release in 1982, Noble One has picked up 109 trophies and 367 gold medals at wine shows – that’s some pedigree. It’s also the only dessert wine in the benchmark Langton’s classification of wine. Bright gold in color, it reveals honeyed citrus, apricot and lime juice aromas. These are shown on the palate, but with an impressive intensity that has a real wow factor. It’s got a luscious texture and balanced acidity that drives layers of fresh honeyed citrus flavors on the long finish.
Rhum Clément originates from the isle of Martinique which is situated in the French West Indies, between the islands of Dominica and St. Lucia and north of Trinidad & Tobago. The 1,128km² island is an overseas department of France thus a part of the European Union which also means the currency used on Martinique is the Euro.
Clément VSOP Rhum Agricole Vieux (40% abv/80 proof; $40) is an AOC Martinique aged rhum agricole, made from pure crushed sugarcane juice, estate produced and bottled. It is aged a minimum of four years in virgin Limousin barriques and re-charred Bourbon casks.
It has a deep, dark gold with a hint of amber in color. The aroma is smooth, lush, and fragrant with vanilla and toffee, over an earthy, sensual base. Hints of lush, sexy, moist, dried apricots float on top, with a layer of spice in between; followed by a bare bit of sweetness to round out the nose.
This is a dry, not sweet rum. It starts dry on the tongue at first, then a rush of big, tropical fruit and nut flavors comes along like a wave. Coconut, mango, papaya, pineapple, all melded together with a touch of the classic earthiness and herbal notes you find in good rum agricole. This is one of those spirits that a few minutes in the glass improve dramatically. What started out as excellent, soon became amazing, with the aroma and flavor becoming more full, warm, soft, and complex.
Clément 6-Year Old Grande Reserve Très Vieux has been distilled from fresh pressed sugarcane juice and aged a minimum of six years in a combination of virgin and re-charred oak barrels, yielding an exceptional aged Agricole Rhum, with a beautiful smokey aroma and long lingering finish. This rum is accentuated by the brilliant wood flavors balanced by the natural sweetness of the sugarcane distillate and displays some of the finest floral notes and pure character of the Clément cellar. ($50)
Rhum Clément Cuvée Homère is in a distinct decanter that looks like a giant perfume bottle with a metal closure. The Homère is considerably different than the first two, and far sweeter. The flavor profile of this rhum is complex with tremendous flavors and a long lasting finish. The balanced sweetness is accented by buttery and nutty notes, spiciness and oak. Easily my favorite of the lineup. Drink it without ice. (88 proof; $140)
Catoctin Creek Distiling started in 2009 in Purcellville, Virginia. Catoctin Creek makes two 100% rye-mash whiskeys, an unaged version named Mosby’s Spirit, and a very lightly aged version named Roundstone Rye Catoctin Creek’s rye whiskeys are organic and kosher.
Their Roundstone Rye ($38) has scents of rye grain in the beginning but with toffee and milk chocolate toward the end. When taken a sip, it has an oily and buttery texture with flavors of sweet, candied yams, rye toast, and more toffee and milk chocolate. It finishes with a pronounced rye grain, subtle vanilla, and lingering toffee notes. Quite delicious.
Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin ($38) is triple-distilled from organic rye. On the nose with juniper, citrus and eight other secret spices that make it perfect with a splash of tonic water. It tastes initially a little hot (it’s 100 proof), but it has a warm complex flavor. Caraway, black pepper, a jammy fruit like note and just enough juniper. It’s a complex “thinking” gin.
Caledonia Spirits is actually derived from a honey farm in Vermont, owned and operated by Todd Hardie. He started with honey wine or mead (hence why they make and sell their own honey; it’s solid like thick butter and really delicious). All of their bottles are sealed with beeswax to remind you that this is Hardie’s pride of his bees.
The Barr Hill Vodka is unlike most vodkas, which are grain-based, their vodka is handcrafted in small batches from raw honey using a combination of column and pot still distillation. This technique preserves the delicate floral aromatics and soft, earthy flavors of the honey, while lending depth and character.
Barr Hill Gin has a delicate, floral-like sweetness when I removed the cork. In the glass, it comes alive like a new season, with aromas of springtime grass, lily of the valley, lemon peel, and sage. In the mouth, the complexity keeps going with a finishing bit of snappy white pepper, but with very quaffable (I know it’s wine-speak but it does fit here) qualities that’s so silky in texture. Would be great as gin and tonic on a warm day.
Elderberry Honey Cordial combines the rich depth of elderberry with the sweet goodness of apple and raw honey, creating a joyous experience for the palette and spirit. The cordial is not overly sweet. It’s tart and sour like cranberries. The berry flavor is bold, deep and earthy.
Bake It Like You Mean It by Gesine Bullock Prado, photographed by Tina Rupp is a stunning cake-focused cookbook that goes beyond that standard yellow or devil’s food layer birthday cake. There are a few recipes that have shapes (like hearts or even a swirl) baked within a cake to a rainbow hued layer cake.
There are a few recipes I’m eyeing on baking soon so don’t be surprised if I’m writing about that in the next few weeks (or less).
To view more photos of this gift guide, please view the slideshow below (or CLICK HERE for my photo set):