Monday, December 23, 2013

Gourmet Gifts and Party Pleasers

It seems like no matter how much you plan for the holidays, you always forget something or somebody. So wether you need to put together a last minute gift basket or stock your kitchen with goodies to last through the rest of the year. I've recently found a few fun consumables that are also new to the marketplace in general. Impress your guests and your hosts with some or all of these treats.

You can never go wrong with putting bags of gourmet chips in your gift baskets and having extra bags in your pantry, for when celebrations lasts longer than anticipated or unexpected guests arrive. When I opened a box of English chips from Tyrrells, you would've thought I had a box of gold, the way my friends reacted. Tyrrells chips have recently been launched in the US with unique flavors like Mature Cheddar and Chives, Worcestershire and Sundried Tomato or Beetroot, Parsnip and Carrot with a touch of Sea Salt. What makes them different, besides the flavors is that they are cooked by hand in small batches. We couldn't wait to open them and dig in and I couldn't get enough of the Sweet Chili and Red Pepper. They run around $10 a bag.

On the sweeter side, look for Snappers, a delicious new product from the Milk Shake Factory by Edward Marc Chocolatier. They are the perfect flavor combination of salt and sugar. And the perfect texture combo of crunchy and chewy; made with pretzels, caramel and chocolate.  Until now, you've only been able to find these in the Pittsburg market. However, Costco has picked up the tempting treat and now sells Snappers at select locations for $8.99 a bag. They are turtle-like but without the nuts and also a bit messy but soooo tasty.
 To wash down both of these treats, try something sparkling, like a lovely Cremant d'Alsace from Helfrich winery in France. The grapes in this bubbly come from the oldest documented and northernmost Grand Cru vineyard in Alsace.  A bit yeasty with lots of minerals, flavors of green apples and in the $20 range, it's one heck of a great bargain for what's in the bottle. It's tre impressive! I could drink champagne or sparkling wine every day, all day, on it's own and with almost any food. In fact one of my favorite things, because it's so yin and yang, includes bubbles and chips!

Grab these for your Christmas or New Years celebrations and enjoy. Cheers.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fab Finds; Bread Pudding, Butterflies and Bennett's

If you are visiting or have friends visiting the Southwest Florida area for the holidays, I have a few new Fab Finds to help you both entertain and feed the family.

Reuben's Catering is now open to the public, only it's called Reuben's Smokehouse! Look for it on US41 in Fort Myers in the former Miami Connection location. Reuben serves up amazing comfort food like cheesy mac-n-cheese, green beans, coleslaw, homemade rolls and LOTS of flavorful meat, smoked everyday! SO good!

Chef Reuben has even bottled his own hot sauce. The beer and wine license just came in so the stash is in the process of getting stocked!

One thing you DONT want to skip is dessert and  the carmel, chocolate chip bread pudding. It's good enough to make you wanna fight over so, get your own!

The Shell Factory Nature Park in North Fort Myers opened it's new Butterfly Garden this week. It was fun tasting Lobetia wines, that appropriately enough have a butterfly on the label,  while watching awkward kids try not to squish or step on the beautiful creatures during the butterfly release.

The Nature Park is a family friendly, local find with, some amazing animals like alligators, owls, big cats, birds and lots more. Oh, and you don't have to go the middle east to ride a camel, they have one of those too!

I also checked out progress on the new Bennett's Fresh Roast on Sanibel Island. The downtown Fort Myers coffee shop has gained international attention for outstanding, made from scratch donuts and fresh roasted coffee. It's also the place to see and be seen.

Bennett's much anticipated opening on Sanibel will happen within weeks. I've seen the space and it looks great! Lots of light and lots of seating including outdoors. There is even a parking spot where you can plug in your Prius!

Lobster Lady Seafood in Cape Coral has a new chef and work is currently underway on some new menu items. I sampled this tasty tuna appetizer this week and it was fantastic. The garlic sesame peanut noodles were a delight.

I can't wait to see what new creations come out of the kitchen.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wine Wednesday; Lobetia

I went to Spain for Wine Wednesday and didn't even have to buy a plane ticket. Although that would've been kind of nice.

I actually went to the grand opening of the new Butterfly Gardens at the Shell Factory Nature Park and was introduced to a "butterfly wine"; well kinda. It has a butterfly on the label.

Lobetia is a Spanish wine made from organic and biodynamic farming practices. We sampled two as we participated in the release of dozens of beautiful butterflies.

Tempranillo is Spain's signature red grape. This one was nice and light on a warm afternoon; with flavors of plums, cherry and mocha

The Chardonnay was unoaked, bright and fresh with flavors of tropical fruits and pineapples.  Both wines are in the $10 range and perfectly suited for the festivities of the day.