Archive for the 'Highly Recommended' Category

BonBonBars at The Sugar Cube in Virginia

Friday, February 6th, 2009

BonBonBars have arrived at The Sugar Cube in Alexandria just in time for Valentine’s Day!  Not only do they have my Scotch, Caramel Nut, and Orange Candy Bars available individually, but also several gift collections that include handmade caramels as well as candy bars: Scotch, Nutty, and Farmers Market.

I urge you to click on the link for The Sugar Cube, not only to learn about a candy store that’s run by two sisters with an enthusiasm for candy and quality (and that I wish was about 3, 000 miles closer to me so that I could go myself), but also to read their completely wonderful write up about BonBonBars on their front page… It makes me blush and be so grateful that my candy is appreciated.

And I snapped a picture of the gift collection boxes before I sealed the mailing box…  I have to admit, I’m not usually a ribbon and bow kind of person, but I loved the ribbon that I found and would be rather thrilled to get a gift like them myself….

Fatted Calf – Napa

Friday, November 14th, 2008

There are some names for which I have an instant affinity. I remember the first time that I read the word “Fatted” followed by the word “Calf” on Sam’s blog (edit: link fixed!) when I lived in Napa. I knew that somehow I would get to know this Fatted Calf myself. It took a while. They opened their charcuterie store in Napa’s Oxbow Market after I had moved back to LA, and it wasn’t until I took a mini-desperation-vacation to Napa in February of this year that I was finally able to purchase their goods and try it for myself (after driving it back to Southern California in a mini-cooler w/ ice brought along for exactly that purpose).

And it was phenomenal. The bacon and the sausage became legend in my mind.

When I took my more relaxed visit to Napa last week, I was prepared to buy more, and couldn’t help telling everyone I knew about them and offering to take orders to bring back some. So, this time, I brought a larger cooler for their meaty goods, and got a bag of dry goods besides.

Bacon… Greens Sausage… Sheep’s Milk Ricotta… Bierwurst… Sweet Italian Sausage… Those were my spectacular goods this time. There’s a certain kind of freshness and exuberance of flavor that informs every product. The texture is very important, too — being rather looser than usual in the sausage and salami, and slightly more substantial than usual in the bacon. In the best and most respectful way, you realize that the meat comes from real animals who were treated well. I’ve never had anything quite like it, and I’m quite addicted. I wish I had bought more and my next trip to Napa will probably be fueled in large part by an overpowering craving; only a few strips of bacon remain, preserved in my freezer, and they don’t ship. I am even saving the rendered bacon fat, something I’ve never done before and I don’t really know what I’ll do with it.

If I lived in Napa, I don’t know how I’d resist having something from them daily. Their offerings rotate some every week, so I wouldn’t really get bored of flavors… And one a day would be balanced by a healthy diet overall… And they also sell gorgeous fresh meat, sandwiches, Rancho Gordo Beans, and Bates & Schmitt’s apple products (I got the syrup last time), so yeah, complete meals all around… And… And… hmm, I’ve put a lot of thought into this.

I have not been completely bedazzled by the Kool-Aid, though — the Beef Jerky that I got is way too tough for me, and I don’t know what to do with the pieces that remain. And the Rabbit Pate was a bit too firm for me, though I remember getting some kind of wonderfully silky pate last time… and perhaps will again next time!

BonBonBar Review on Sugar Savvy

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

The first official review of the Pumpkin Pie Bar is up over at Sugar Savvy!  Sera, who also maintains The Candy Enthusiast blog (and who I was lucky enough to meet at the Century City Farmers Market a few months ago), has written a completely fantastic review of the Pumpkin Pie, Orange, and Malt Bars.  I have to admit, whenever I read the clever and thorough analysis, I blush and bite my lip, and think “Wow… This is really all about candy made by my company?”  It’s so touching to read about how much they are appreciated!  Thank you, Sera!

Ubuntu – Napa

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

For various reasons that deserve a separate post, I went up to Napa for a couple days earlier this week. After reading about Ubuntu in the NYTimes and various food blogs, I was dying to try it for myself. It’s a vegetarian restaurant, but it’s the most artistic and boldly flavored on that I’ve been to. I ate at Ubuntu both nights that I was in Napa, and if I was still a local, it would easily be my local standby. And I should mention that it’s reasonably priced, with dishes ranging from $10-$14 or so, and are perfect for sharing; they’re technically small-bites plates. Although wine is kind of pricey per glass, you can get “tasting size” 2oz servings for $3-5 or so.

And the staff? So friendly and helpful. I sat at the bar, and felt very comfortable, chatting and doing a little paperwork.

I love restaurants that you make look at food in a new way, and to appreciate new flavor combinations without being overwhelmed. In this case, the ingredients are so immaculately cared for and presented. You notice their vibrant colors and unique shapes, and experiencing their unique flavors and textures is a special treat. It’s like a spa for all parties involved, except that it feels a little more decadent, and a little more masculine. In his NYTimes writeup, Frank Bruni says to that the space calls to mind a ski lodge, with its high ceilings and stone walls, and I felt that, too. I couldn’t remember what used to be there, and a bartender reminded me that it was a furniture store.

The bowl of the Caramelized Sunchoke Soup arrived dotted with a slow-cooked egg yolk, a quenelle of caramelized sunchokes, a sage leaf (fried?), and apple puree (I believe) before the waiter poured the soup inside. At first taste, the soup was already something otherwordly, making me wonder how the caramelization of the sunchokes led to such an elegantly smoky flavor… until I remembered that it is infused with coffee. It’s not weird for the sake of it, but a perfect pairing that gets even more exciting when sampled with the garnishes at will.

The Cauliflower in a Cast Iron Pot – roast-puree-raw-“couscous”, our vadouvan spice, coriander, and toast lived up to the legend of its cauliflower trifecta – creamy, crunchy, roasted.

The Carrot Gnocchetti with, among other things, mimolette cheese, turning it into a macaroni and cheese with a twist of carrot. I loved the garnish of micro carrots on top, as if growing out of a patch on to of the pot. Um, the pic… is not so clear.

As far as plating goes, you can tell it’s rather modern. Dishes tend to come layered in surprising ways in one vessel or strewn along a plate with a light hand.

This Braised Fig dessert was the first dish that I just had to take a picture of, with its figs, lavender meringue, lemon cream, edible flowers, and yogurt ice cream. The sprightly slivers of candied lemon peel were just the right touch for spikes of flavor.

I also loved the Chocolate “Cheesecake” in a jar, with huckleberries, cacao nib crumble, and perhaps the best tuile that I’ve ever had – deeply chocolate and light and shattering. Incidentally, I played with the idea of a candy bar made with chocolate nougat, dried blueberries, and cacao nibs last year, and this makes me want to revisit it.

The Medjool Date Cake was the last thing that I ate there, a perfect cube of moist cake, with candied quince… and earl grey ice cream… and caramelized apples (I think)… and matchsticks of apple…and candied lemon. The earl grey ice cream was such a delightful part of this dish, mingling so well with the other autumnal flavors that I can’t wait to play with the combination myself… and taste it again.

As all the “I think’s” show, I didn’t ask too many questions or take notes, or take pic’s of the menu as I used, too… I just wanted to relax and enjoy, and I did.

California Tart Company – Los Angeles

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Ok… even just writing the title of this post has given me a tart craving.

I have the fantastic fortune to sell BonBonBars next to the California Tart Company at the Brentwood Farmers Market on Sunday mornings. Right now, it’s a two-person company: Evelyn heads up the baking side more while Roberto heads up the sales side more.

Their products are savory tarts — most modeled after the Italian torta pasqualina — as well as sweet tarts. And the tarts are just my style: lots of delicious filling encased by a thin layer of rather lean dough. There are 2.5 cups of vegetables in every tart. The vegetables are allowed to shine as the often farmers market-fresh stars that they are; unlike so many prepared vegetables available for sale in stores and restaurants, they are not drenched in oil or smothered in a rich filling. These tarts are really about feeling good — you feel good when you buy them (b/c Roberto and Evelyn are wonderful to chat with and b/c they’re fairly priced at $6.50), while you’re eating them because they’re delicious… and afterwards because you feel nourished, not stuffed…

Here’s a sampling…

Spinach & Pea Tart, “a taste of Liguria”

Leek & Brie Tart, more of a French-style

Oh, and there’s this landscape of porcini and assorted mushrooms, over caramelized shallots, sprinkled with thyme….

There’s also an amazing Zucchini, Basil, & Parmesan Tart, “with the feel of Positano.”

Although I should know better, I still work under the delusion that I can last through the whole Brentwood market without eating, but it is a 6 hr market and I often end up scoffing a cold tart down at some point, which gets earlier and earlier every time, because it’s too good to put off. But if I wait (or act brilliantly and buy multiple tarts), their full flavors are really unleashed after being heated up in the oven for a few minutes… Add a salad and a glass of wine, and it’s an even more perfect meal…

Especially since you can keep the party going with one of their dessert tarts…

This is their Pear & Chocolate Tart… DO YOU SEE ALL THAT CHOCOLATE???

This post may overflow with dithering admiration, but you see, I barely buy pre-made food anymore — it’s so rarely good and so often over-priced and needlessly fatty. I’m so grateful to have access to their tarts because they’re exactly what I would want to make for myself at home. They focus on the good stuff.

For now, they’re selling to the lucky customers at the Brentwood Market and the Manhattan Beach Market on Tuesdays… but the word “store” has come up. And in the meantime, they do catering, too.