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For Chocolate Lovers only
 
 

Annual Non-Chocolate Gift Food List

Yes, the holidays are stealing upon us once more. You want to find something different, something special, for those friends and family who can’t or won’t eat chocolate, so here are some suggestions:

—Steap Green Tea Soda, www.steapsoda.com, (215) 860-8180. Here’s an original idea: brewed green tea is combined with soda to make a not-too-sweet, refreshing drink. But there’s more: these products are kosher, certified organic, and contain no corn syrup. I tried the Key Lime, and to my amazement could taste both the fruit flavor and the tea. A light touch with the carbonation is a nice bonus, too. Available in the Key Lime I tried, as well as Raspberry, Lemon Dew, Orange, Root Beer, and Cola. You can also find this product at www.mybrandsinc.com. Is it the revolutionary beverage the founders claim it to be? Why not try a bottle or three, and decide for yourself? I guarantee you’ll enjoy the experiment.

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—Deep Mountain Vermont Maple Syrup, www.deepmountainmaple.com, (802) 525-4162. I’ve just tasted Deep Mountain products for the first time ever. Wow! Wonderful maple syrup; maple candy that has a true, deep flavor; and other products I didn’t get to try, such as a raspberry maple syrup and maple sugar. Deep Mountain Farm, in Vermont, is an organic operation, and the forest is managed sustainably. In addition to being the home of the agricultural operation, the farm is headquarters for a band, a theater company, and the Monte Verde Cultural Exchange! You can order maple syrup in sizes ranging from a half pint to a 30 gallon drum and in four grades (my favorite is the darkest, most maple-y, called Grade B). The candy is a bit fudge-like in texture, and it’s available in pure, pecan, ginger, and coconut. I’d use the maple sugar in a shortbread, but you might also like to sprinkle it on buttered toast or oatmeal. Fine for gifts—but maybe even better for yourself!

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—Sonoma Sausage, www.sonomasausage.com, (707) 258-9400; shop at 414 First Street East, Sonoma, CA. I had never heard of Sonoma Sausage until the morning I stumbled into their store, lured in by an irresistible aroma of grilling meat. I was promptly handed a sample of bratwurst. I’ve eaten bratwurst before, and it’s never been any big deal, but this was really different. Spiced perfectly, obviously made of good ingredients, and just as obviously fresh; this sure ain’t your standard supermarket offering. Sonoma has some 25 different types of sausage, ranging from North Country Polish to Irish Banger to Hot Beer to Chicken Pesto. And you’re in luck, carnivores—they ship! The website is under construction but still has some information, and you can call to ask for more. If there’s a grilling enthusiast or connoisseur of fine sausages on your holiday shopping list, make this your first stop.

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—Floribbean Key Lime Mustard Sauce, www.floribbeanproducts.com (under construction), (800) 282-8459. If I were limited to a one-word description of ths product, that word would be “bright”. I’m not talking about the color, although that could fit in under the same descriptor. But the flavor of this product wakes up your tastebuds; it’s sauce with sparkle! Serve it over grilled or boiled shrimp or crab legs, and you’ll feel as though you’ve taken a quick trip to Key West. I’ll bet this would be incredible on bluefish or pompano, and it would give a whole new perspective on poultry. The company advises that it’s a natural over warm or cold vegetables, too, so pass the broccoli or have it as a dip with cauliflower or carrots. An inspired combination of flavors.

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—Palette Fine Foods Golden Raspberry Jam, www. palettefinefoods.com, (403) 270-7339. As a bona fide raspberry freak, I naturally love a good raspberry jam. But golden raspberries are hard to come by in my neck of the woods, and I’ve only ever seen one or two other examples of a golden raspberry preserve. A lovely golden color, with a not-too-sweet, really fruity taste. If I had my choice, I’d eat this with freshly-baked croissants; the company suggests using it to top a cheesecake and has even thought of savory applications! Palette also offers a number of other unusual condiments, including a purple basil jelly and a lavender citrus spice rub. I applaud Palette for their use of wholesome ingredients, as they eschew artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

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—The Original Adams Rib Rubb, www.ribrubb.com, (888) RIB-RUBB. Why didn’t I think of this first? Rib Rubb is an herb and spice blend, a so-called “dry rub” for pork, beef, chicken, venison, etc. You rub it on, then cover and chill the meat. While it chills, the rub liquefies into a marinade; after the meat has marinated, you cook it as you normally would. I tried this on salmon at the Fancy Food Show this summer, and it was outstanding; the flavor of the salmon was enhanced but not at all overpowered. The “rubbs” are available in two varieties: original and ultimate (the spicier version). Michael Adams, the founder and president, also suggests using the rubbs on vegetables and in baked beans. I love the company slogan: “The longer it sits, the better it gits”. A nice gift for the grilling enthusiasts in your life, but equally good if you’re looking to add a little pizzazz to meals at home. Fun website.

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—Jungle Juice Coconut Honey, via www.gratefulpalate.com, “The Sweets”, (888) 472-5283. I think of coconut as a fairly delicate flavor, so when I heard about coconut honey I was expecting a pale golden honey with a mild taste. Shows you what I know! The world’s only coconut honey, produced in the Cocos Islands, looks like a beautiful cross between honey and molasses, and tastes like…well, not quite like anything else I’ve tried. It’s rich and almost spicy, sweet but not cloying. Great for a strongly-flavored tea, but my favorite way to eat it is drizzled on top of good butter or cream cheese on some whole grain bread—when I’m not licking it straight off a spoon, of course! This is a genuinely unique sweetener with a story as exotic as its flavor.

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—Star Hill Dairy Water Buffalo Yogurt, via www.igourmet.com (877) 446-8763) or www.dibruno.com (888) 322-4337). So you think you’ve tried all of the yogurts out there, eh? Think again! I didn’t even realize there were water buffalo in the United States, but evidently there are some in Vermont, where this yogurt is produced. It’s delightfully creamy and has just a bit of a tang to it. And Star Hill makes some great flavors. Sure, they do Plain and Vanilla, but you can also choose Honey, an amazingly good Vermont Maple Syrup, or Black Currant. Better yet, there are some very interesting varieties in the works. This water buffalo yogurt is high in calcium and contains live, probiotic cultures, and the folks at Star Hill are big believers in sustainable agriculture, which earns them some major points with yours truly. If you never thought yogurt could be a gourmet item, you need to dip your spoon into a carton of this.

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—Dreamfield Farm/Goobin’s, no website, (267) 972-3861. I was attracted immediately to Goobin’s Sauce by the slogan, “It’s as thick as his head”. And indeed these sauces are thick, which would make them ideal for grilling or gussying up a sandwich or adding to a dip or just about anything else you can picture. Goobin’s Unmellow Yellow is a mustard-based beauty, while the Grillin’ Sauce almost dares you not to slather it on whatever you fancy cooking over the flames. Both, it should be noted, have a definite spicy presence; these are not sauces for those who can’t take the heat! The Dreamfield Sauces include a Barbeque (a winner at the 2002 NJ State Agricultural Fair) and a Southern Style hot sauce. Old family recipes got the creative cooking going at Dreamfield Farm. So often did they hear, 'You know, you really ought to bottle and sell these' that they finally did! If you are tired of the same old sauces, give these a go.

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—Bariani Olive Oil, www.barianioliveoil.com, (415) 864-1917. This olive oil all but intoxicates you with its lush nature. Cold-pressed, unfiltered, a complex flavor that isn’t overly-peppery, and the smoothness of Don Giovanni; if this is not sensuality in a bottle, I don’t know what is. The Bariani family (and this actually is a family business) uses techniques developed in Italy on California varieties of olives suited for the microclimate in the Sacramento area. Amazingly, when the family emigrated to the US from Italy, they had no professional experience in making olive oil. They learned by doing, but evidently this clan learns quickly and very very well. Makes a pesto you won’t be able to stop eating (guess how I know?). Outstanding for any food where you want an olive oil with personality. Interesting website, with lots of information.

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—Lagier Ranches Organic Almond Butter, www.LagierRanches.com, (209) 982-5618. This is to ordinary almond butter what the sun’s warmth is to that emitted by a 15 watt lightbulb. A serious almond aroma and a great fresh taste, with the slightly sweet flavor good almonds always have. I suppose most people would spread it on bread, but I’m usually too busy licking it off a spoon (or my fingers). Lagier Ranches grows their own almonds and grinds their own almond butter monthly—far more frequently than some of the large manufacturers do. And, unlike many producers who make almond butter from the damaged nuts left after sorting, Lagier sells their damaged crop and grinds almond butter from #1 grade nuts. Another important note: this almond butter is made in a plant that does NOT process peanuts, a bonus for those who are too often shut out of consuming any nut products due to a peanut allergy. Smooth or crunchy almond butter, almond snacks (in flavors like cinnamon or tamari), and spreadable fruit (bing cherry, marion blackberry, or boysenberry), and all are certified organic. No e-commerce yet, but give them a call Monday through Friday during Pacific Time business hours to order. Also available in some stores and Farmers’ Markets in California. Delicious!

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—Gegenbauer Black Currant Vinegar, www.gegenbauer.at, www.chefshop.com, www.deandeluca.com. Please don’t dismiss this because it’s one of a plethora of fruit vinegars on the market. Many of those are just that, vinegars flavored with fruit. Gegenbauer harvests fruit and actually makes it into wine before adding a vinegar culture to it, and the difference in flavor is simply astounding. Sure, you can tell it’s vinegar, but there’s a definite black currant presence, and the combination is wonderful. By all means, use it on salads or add a bit to a glass of sparkling water, but I’d toss a few drops with lightly sweetened berries and serve that over a good vanilla ice cream, and I can see a place for it in some alcoholic drinks. Incidentally, Gegenbauer vinegar is available in a wide range of tastes, from asparagus (no fooling) to cucumber to fig to melon. There are other sites that offer several varieties (for example, zingermans.com has a number of the fruit vinegars), but chefshop.com and deandeluca.com are the only ones I’ve found who have the black currant.

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Stephanie Zonis provides the above information to anyone, but retains copyright on all text. This means that you MAY not: distribute the text to others without the express written permission of Stephanie Zonis; "mirror" or include this information on your own server or documents without my permission; modify or re-use the text on this system. You MAY: print copies of the information for your own personal use; store the files on your own computer for your personal use only; reference hypertext documents on this server from your own documents.

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