Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Welcome to the fourth annual Food Find Edition! This year I’ve done my best to gather photographs of as many of the finds as possible.
Thanks to those of you who took the time to share the names of your favorites! 
This a Kroger brand. Admittedly, I don’t eat it as regular bread. I make shards out of it, baking it the night before I use it, and making the shards the following day. This “take and bake” bread bakes in just eight minutes, and makes one great shard. For those of you who would like to try your hand at making these easy and delightful bites I’m including my go-to recipe at the end of this post. Below – a batch of shards, fresh out of the oven and topped with Provolone and hard Italian salami.


I am a major butter fan. Supermarket butter is, for the most part, a dim version of the butter I remember from my childhood. But there are exceptions. Last year, I told you about a couple of lightly salted butters from Mennonite country and France. This year, I want to introduce you to Ferrarini, an Italian sweet butter that, unless you are feeling particularly decadent, should be saved for spreading rather than cooking. It’s also wonderful on top of steamed vegetables, but it is a major splurge.

Andi and Clay of Memphis are major fans of this Mississippi-based company’s marinade and barbeque sauce. Created over 150 years ago by Lucinda Macklin, head cook at a Holly Springs, plantation, the recipe has been handed down through the family, from Lucinda to daughter Aussaeibelle, then on to her daughter, Thelma, who passed it on to her son, LaMont Burns.  Burns didn’t just make the sauce, he bottled it. According to the company’s website, this four-generation sauce is good for grilling, dipping, and baking, and great on just about everything. Available regionally at select stores, or by mail. For more information call 662-838-3431, or visit their website at lamontsbbq.com.  
I try to find and sample as many of your finds as possible before I write about them.  When I went looking for Andi and Clay’s sauce, I was amazed at how many different sauces, marinades and sopping sauces there were. Rufus Teague's sauce caught my attention. It has a great looking label, interesting copy, and a flavor combination unlike anything I had seen before. There were, of course, a few of the basics: tomato paste, sugar, brown sugar, honey, vinegar, molasses, salt, water, followed by an imaginative list of ingredients, including twists. The list included raisin paste, soy sauce, soy beans, natural smoke flavor, mustard with mustard seed and turmeric, dried onion, concentrated orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, anchovy paste, chili pepper powder, dried garlic, ground celery seed, and (this is on the wrapper) “other spices you can’t  know about.” They say this ‘all natural, gluten-free’ sauce is “best on beef, chicken pork and fish, and also goes well with everything else.” I tried it on oven baked baby back ribs this last Memorial Day weekend. Oh my oh my oh my.
True Confession time. I can’t find that email (and therefore the name of the person who recommended BISTOGravy granulates, but after a quick search on the Internet I learned that they are a British product, available in the International section of your supermarket. From the website’s description, these granules appear to be gravy extracts―add boiling water and you’ve got (depending upon your choice of products) beef, turkey, and vegetarian gravy. The name Bisto, as it turns out, is an acronym for” Brown, Season and Thcken.”  Apologies to the reader who sent in the find for not being able to credit it to you

Donna and Mike B wrote to say they found a wonderful Cambria blue cheese at Sam’s. As they supplied no brand name, I had to do a bit of sleuthing. It turns out that Cambria is in Wisconsin, a tiny rural hamlet of some 767 people living within 1.4 square miles (according to the last census). Given the size of their village,it’s amazing that so many noteworthy people called it home, including (among others) actress Gena Rowlands, musician Owan Mays, and baseball’s Davy Jones. Within the 307 households is a thriving Amish community of cheese makers. While I can’t be sure that Donna and Mike were talking about Salemville’s Cambria bleu cheese, the company’s products can be found at Sam’s, Kroger’s and Target. According to their website, they make their cheese by hand, using no machinery or electricity for that matter, and deliver it to the factory in ‘traditional 10-gallon milk cans.” A note at the bottom of their home page states that their cheeses are rich in calcium, contain no preservatives or chemical additives and are “farmer certified rGBH-free (A genetically engineered, artificial hormone).  
One day while at my Kroger, supermarket cheese counter, I spied a small piece of cheese whose name was unfamiliar to me. The lady behind the counter said that it was Agour Ossau sheep milk cheese from the Pyrenees Mountains of France. She said that she was introduced to the cheese by a family from the Basque region that forms the border between France and Spain. A pricey cheese, they love it so much, they buy half a wheel at a time. As this remnant was in the ‘$5 or less” basket that contains small bits of this and that, I was able to sample it without breaking the bank. It took a few bites to take in the flavor, as it was a bit different than other cheeses I’d tried. Buttery, but not like a brie. And firmer than a brie, but not as firm as say, a Swiss cheese or Gouda. The cheese lady suggested it be eaten wish summer fruits and a glass of red wine. I thought it was tasty all by its lonesome. When I looked it up on line, one company suggested pairing it with Les Folies Fromage Black Cherry or Licorice fruit spreads. Available at Costco and your local cheese counter. 

And three Dutch "Finds"...


This award-winning cheese took home the “Best European Cheese” award this year at the Global Cheese awards, having won a   bronze medal (kind of like the Cheese Olympics) last year in the World Cheese awards sponsored by the guild of fine foods in Birmingham, England. Pretty good any way you slice it, when you consider that nearly 3,000 cheeses were competing. I first tasted this nutty, slightly crumbly cheese during a sampling at Kroger, and have been a fan ever since. What does it taste like? Hmmm. Well, If you married Gouda and Parmesan (more Gouda, less Parm) you’d have some idea. But it’s like describing vanilla. You have to see for yourself. Oh by the way, it’s lactose and gluten-free.


This is another Gouda – and one of my all-time favorites. It’s a cow-milk Gouda that has been aged at least five months. Named after the famous Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gough, it is, ear-resistible (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)
I have only seen Robusto at Whole Foods. Knowing what a fan I am of Dutch cheeses, my all-knowing cheese guru sliced off a bit of this wonderful Gouda for me to try. It was delicious. I’ve never seen it anywhere else, but if you have a Whole Foods in your area, and enjoy a good Gouda, I recommend it highly. I’ve seen it described as having hints of both Parmesan and Cheddar. Add it to your cheese board.
And just for fun...


I kid you not. Though this faux fudge looks and tastes like the real thing, it’s actually made of cheddar cheese and such seemingly incompatible ingredients are paprika and turmeric extract. A seasonal item, I found it at Kroger about a month before Easter, where it was available through the first weeks of May. I bought a few packages and had fun giving to friends to try before telling them what it really was, and then giving them a package to take home to the delight of their children and grandchildren. A fun conversation-starter at parties and such, it may not be the best fudge you’ve ever eaten, but it is far from the worst. Everyone I know said it was good to the last bite. A fellow shopper said she was planning on serving it to friends along with fresh strawberries at a baby shower – a berry good idea, indeed!
An east coast reader loves this ooey gooey butter, and she’s not alone.  Apparently a lot of Trader Joe’s customers are spreading it on their pancakes and waffles, favorite bread and using it as an ice cream topping. When I looked it up on the Internet I found that it is the supermarket’s second most popular product! If you, like me, don’t have a Trader Joe’s in your area, you’ll find it on Amazon.com, where it described as a spreadable treat as ‘reminiscent of gingerbread and made with crushed biscuits’.    

Lean Cuisine products have made our list before, with a Chicago reader giving their Chicken Pecan entree shout out. I’d like to add their Artichoke Ravioli to my list of ‘Faves’. 

I’m also impressed with Lean Cuisine’s Honestly Good entrees, which cost a little more, but are generous in size, low in calories, and high on flavor and imagination. This one is my personal favorite.    
Watch any of the various TV chef’s shows, or read a food magazine or two, and you will soon realize that San Marzano canned tomatoes are their tomato of choice, and with good reason. Stacked up against other brands you’ll find these Italian plum tomatoes to be far more flavorful, and has far fewer seeds. Domestic brands are fine for everyday cooking, but when I invest in all sorts of ingredients for special dishes, it just makes sense to grab a can or two of San Marzanos. They’re available in most supermarkets. This particular brand can be found at Fresh Market.


I discovered this wonderful and inexpensive antipasto salad at Aldi’s last Thanksgiving.  Beautiful to look at, extremely flavorful, it’s chilled and straight out of the jar, as an accent in a fresh salad, or set on top of a shard (see  “Breads”) or cracker (my favorite combination). I generally pour the chilled contents into a clear bowl for a pretty presentation, and set it beside the shards, with a pint-sized fork, and allow party-goers to pick and choose the combinations that please them. Aldi’s also sells Tuscan Garden artichoke hearts, same thing, minus the rest of the medley.   
I’m a big fan of Tuscan Garden All Natural Artichoke salad and quartered artichoke hearts. I use various bits of the salad on my shards (see “bread”), and both to punch up a salad. So good, and inexpensive. Both are available at Aldi’s.


You’ve probably had, tried and enjoyed regular Yukon gold potatoes, but if you haven’t tried the pint-sized version, you’re in for a treat. Great roasted along with your favorite oven-roasted cut of beef or chicken, they’re insanely good sliced in half, laid out in a single layer (sliced side up) on a cookie sheet, brushed with or better yet dipped in a shallow bowl of extra virgin olive oil, lightly dusted with kosher salt and a bit of pepper, and baked in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour, turning once, until crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and, what else but, golden.

It was one of those happy mistakes. I thought I was buying Pompeian’s regular red wine vinegar, (which sat next to it on the shelf).  Rather than take it back to the store, I decided to give this newfangled vinegar a try. It’s been my vinegar of choice for most of my dinner salads ever since. It’s not that you can taste the pomegranate – it’s just that it adds that something extra that makes everything taste better. I add a splash of it to some version of the following mix (Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, celery, carrots, olives, radishes, red onion, marinated artichokes, baby red, yellow or orange peppers, pepperoncini or sweet  piquanté peppadew marinated peppers, hearts of palm, green or  red onions, drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil over the whole thing,  mix lightly, sprinkle with a shake each of garlic powder, celery salt, salt, pepper, basil, oregano and dill, and toss again. Soooo good.



I know, I know, freshly ground pepper is the pepper of choice. All of the chefs swear by it, and when have you ever been a restaurant, where the waiter comes to the table and asks if you’d like a little pepper on your whatever, and then sprinkles it on? So you have to trust me on this. Morton & Bassett’s bottled course ground black pepper is the phenomenal. I came across it, as I do so many of my favorite things, on my supermarket’s “Bent and Dent” shelf, where overstocked, almost out of date, bent, dented, torn or discontinued items are laid to rest. I’ve been buying it ever since – which is a splurge. It recently went on sale, and I bought two jars as well as two other of the company’s line of seasonings and spices. I haven’t tried them yet, so I’ll have to report back next year, but when it comes to pepper that zings – this fragrant pepper far exceeds McCormick’s, Spice Island’s, and other brands’ course ground black pepper that I’ve tried over the years.


Some years ago the Cooking Channel ran a Canadian-produced series called French Food at Home. It's star, a pert young woman by the name of Laura Colder, was a big fan of this sea salt, much as California chef Michael Chiarello uses Gray salt to season just about everything. Over the years I looked for Fleur de Sel, but it never turned up in my local market or at Penzey’s spice emporium. Then, one magical day, I came across it in a Philadelphia co-op, its charming packaging called to me. Back home, I took it out for a test drive, and quickly found that it was not designed to be table salt. Hand-raked and harvested in France, it is far more complex; which is to say that you only need a bit of this sea salt to get your point across. But oh, what a lovely point!


I never heard of Platinum yeast until someone raved about it on her baking blog.  It was easy enough to find at my local market, and produced the most delicious cinnamon buns!




Prior to finding these two salamis at Aldi’s, I was buying a far pricier Italian salami at my local supermarket. It was wrapped in paper, and preserved in a cloth wrap of sorts, but the actual salami was only slightly better than the Aldi’s brand. Great sliced as a noon-day snack or before-dinner hors dourvres, both the pinot grigio and chianti red wine versions are wonderful on the shards I mentioned in the bread section, topped with a bit of cheese and a marinated artichoke heart it is to die for. It also makes for a great sandwich when partnered with a bit of good mustard and fresh bread.

Wright Bacon is a household word in many Southern households. Thickly sliced, it is the perfect accompaniment to fresh eggs and strong coffee, tucked into a sandwich or baked with a bit of real maple syrup and served as an hors d’oeurvre. It’ll cost you, but every now and again it goes on sale, and freezes well. So stock up, and enjoy!


Corky’s Barbecue Restaurants are known throughout the mid-south for their succulent barbecue.  Their frozen products (and mail-order packs) have been gracing the area’s markets for years. But recently they ventured into the fresh pork category.  I happened to be in the market the morning they marked down packages of near due-date, pre-seasoned pork tenderloin (complete with packets of Corky’s famous barbecue sauce). The markdown price was so reasonable I bought three packages, gave one to a friend, put one in the freezer and slow-cooked the third that very day. Both methods produced equally tasty results. With enough leftovers for at least three meals, I looked for a recipe that would use the leftovers in a tasty and freezer-friendly way.  I will share the resulting recipe, which I found on the Internet and tweaked, at the end of this post.

Thanks to Mike in Memphis for this find. At just 120 calories per serving (2 patties), these sizable patties make for ‘a quick, satisfying treat,” with a ‘good smoky flavor.”  And the price? “…about $5.49 for a package of 8.” Also available in Maple and Brown Sugar.   


Growing up in Philadelphia, I took my lox for granted. Every Jewish-style deli sliced the salmon from the fish to order. No frozen slices lined up on wax paper, and certainly no pre-packaged stuff. Today there are still stores that cut-to-order (certain Fareway and Whole Foods markets), but packaging techniques have changed, and Ducktrap’s Kendall Brook smoked salmon as as close (or better)than its hand-sliced cousin. Made from fresh salmon, trimmed by hand with the brown meat and fat removed, it comes in traditional (my favorite), or with fresh black pepper and garlic.Serve it on a fresh bagel with real cream cheese (none of that whipped stuff), a bit of red onion, and maybe a slice of cucumber or tomato, and you are instantly transported to a far better place., or go gourmet, with a lemon wedge and capers, incorporated into a dip, spread, or bilinis, frittatas, scrambled or deviled eggs, An added plus: This salmon freezes well, so if you catch a sale, buy one for now, and a second, for later. 


I love Ginger Ale, but over the years I had yet to find a diet version that tasted like the real thing. Enter Canada Dry 10 – ten little calories, big ginger ale taste. They say that sales of carbonated beverages in general are going down, which  may have been the impetus for Canada Dry to work harder at perfecting a diet version. I’ve tried a few of their other ‘10’ drinks, but this one is far and away the winner in my frig.

I found this "Find" on a shelf in the Bent and Dent section. I’m not much of an espresso drinker, but the price was right, and I’m up for trying just about anything in the coffee family (although I have to say that a similar find in the same section – one of my favorite brand’s seasonal blends, was cough cough, awful). Café Goya turned out to be, as expected, a bit too dark for my pallet. I decided to mix it with an equal scoop of Duncan Donuts Decaf, which I’d been drinking at night. The resulting combo produced a near-perfect cup of rich, smooth and deep-bodied cup of coffee. I’ve been blending the two ever since.

An Oklahoma reader sent along two totally different beverage “Finds”. With them, this note: “I have been having tummy trouble for a long time and recently gave up milk to see if that helped .The problem is, I have a bowl of cereal almost every morning and I don't enjoy it without milk. My doctor last week mentioned that I should try Almond milk. I recently attempted Coconut milk and that was an epic fail, (big yuck) so I hesitated. But Hiland's original almond milk is very good. In fact, after a week, I can't tell the difference between it, and my skim I had been drinking. I am not buying the one that is low calorie because if I give up milk, I'm not ready to give up taste. So mine has 60 calories per 8 oz. (I don't use that much over the cereal.)”

Her second sip tip came in the form of this Argentinian wine. “They have a good Cab and a Merlot that we like. Very inexpensive, particularly if you go ahead and buy a case and get a 10% discount. We served it to friends and when they heard how affordable, they are buying it as well.” Their website notes that Wine Spectator and Wine & Spirits magazines are also quite fond of their Malbec, which comes in at somewhere between eighteen and twenty dollars.

I had seen the Seagram’s pouches, along with other brands, for a while, and finally let my curiosity get the best of me. I don’t drink much alcohol, not sure why, I just don’t. But the whole idea of it intrigued me, There were flavors ranging from frozen strawberry daiquiri to Frozen Margarita, Piña colada, I chose Sangria, because I have enjoyed the fruity wine coolers over the years, and at just under two dollars, it was an affordable taste test. The drinks have 5% alcohol, and so for the first time in 3,000 years I was carded at the checkout counter!  All you do is put the pouch in the freezer for six-to-eight hours, take out, tear it open and drink straight from the pouch, or pour into a glass with a straw (my option). It was very tasty – sweet, but not too sweet, (the flavors of red wine, apple and peach mixing and mingling) and all 5% of that alcohol (beer) got to me (or was it brain freeze?). Pop a few in the freezer, and when friends come calling, and you’ve got a ready-made cool way to beat the heat.    


Back in LA, Howard longs for Entenmann’s cakes―with no exception: No cheese, please. That leaves a full line of baked goods: buns and puffs, donuts and crumb cakes, Danish, Twists, Lite Bites and loafs, muffins and cookies, chocolate, banana, carrot and lemon cakes, the list goes on and on. Chances are at least some of them are available at a supermarket near you.


While I ask for "Finds" that are available on at least a regional level, Andi and Clay were so enthusiastic about these preservative-free, melt-in-your-mouth made-with-100% real butter-butter cookies that their Find begged to be an exception to the rule. This mom and pop bakery bakes their cookies in small batches with real butter, “No Crisco allowed” says owner Maurice Hill.  The bakery is named after his seven year old niece, who lost her life to Leukemia in 1997. Maurice and with Pamela say it’s their way of keeping the little girl’s memory alive. Live in Memphis? Stop by their bakery, where they bake more than a dozen different types of cookies, including their prize butter cookies, which are available at area Kroger stores. For more information, head for their

Never if my wildest dreams would I have thought that ginger snaps would be the Number One grocery chain’s number one best seller – but it’s true. A Florida reader raved about their gingery goodness, but it wasn’t until I went on their website that I found out how many people agree with her.  
NUTS and other SNACKS

The price of nuts went nuts this past year; bad news for those of us who love them. Aldi’s is known for having a great selection of moderately priced, high quality unsalted nuts, but they also sell an eight-ounce tin of salted mixed nuts that comes in at the bargain-basement price of just $2.29 a tin. Unlike other bargain brands, these nuts are a good size, crunchy, salty and absolutely habit forming.

Walgreen’s Nice line covers the gamut, from soup to nuts and beyond. Their Hiker’s mix is a tasty blend of raisins and a variety of nuts, without the extra sweetness of those delicious but calorie-laden chocolate-coated candies.
Jackie K says she found these multi grain, all natural chips at Wal-Mart on the popcorn aisle. While the company recommends pairing them with red pepper hummus, guacamole and bruschetta, Jackie says they’re delicious by themselves. “They have some interesting ingredients” she says, among them “blue corn, brown rice, flax, sesame and sunflower seeds, and quinoa. They’re also certified kosher, vegan and gluten-free. No artificial anything. “They have 140 calories per serving, so you can’t go crazy, but they’re very tasty!” The company


Love grapefruit? You’ll get hooked on these gummy-like grapefruit slices. Lightly dusted in sugar, they’re not too sweet. not too chewy, and much too delicious to resist. Available at Fresh Market.
Last Christmas my friend Missy gifted me with a generous assortment of chocolate covered almonds and caramels highlighted by an enviable supply of large, salty cashew nuts from Krema Nut Company. She said that while she’s not generally a sweet eater, she found herself drawn to them at a family dinner. She’s been a fan ever since; and thanks to her generosity, I am as well.

Last year I introduced you to Choceur’s Milk and Cream chocolate bars. This year, two more outstanding varieties from this outstanding chocolatier. The first, Choceur’s raisin and nut bar, where hazelnuts and raisins abound. I broke off a bit to show you how densely populated they really are. You won’t find a better chocolate at any price, let alone $1.99 for 7.05 ounces.

Also on my ‘You've gotta try’ this list – Choceur’s white chocolate. Break off a ‘brick’ or two or three and you have a creamy, intensely rich experience. Again, at $1.99, It’s both affordable and indulgent.
And that’s it for this year. Thanks again to those who sent in your favorites. And a special thanks to all of you who are so faithful to this this blog. Now, as promised, is my recipe for those shards (See “BREAD”.) Inspired by a flat bread recipe from the More From Ace Bakery cookbook, these crispy bites look beautiful in a breadbasket, popping out of a tall-glass, or laid across a serving tray, and topped with everything from cheese to prosciutto, the Tuscan Garden salad mentioned earlier, or a your favorite spread. Replace the salt with freshly grated Parmesan, and you’ve got another great bunch of crunch.

Now here's that recipe I promised you - Enjoy!


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice off both sides of the crust, leaving only the top and bottom crust.

Carefully slice 1/8-to ¼ inch thick slices, lengthwise through a down the side of the bread.

Brush with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with either salt or Parmesan cheese.

Bake just below the broiling position (second rack) in the oven for between ten and fifteen minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

Top with antipasto-type marinated vegetables (see TUSCAN GARDEN ARTICHOKE SALAD under “VEGETABLES”), thin slices Italian cold cuts, a favorite cheese, or eat them all by their lonesome. When I take them to a party I generally bring along the Artichoke Salad in a pretty see-through serving bowl and place it, along with a fork, next to the shards. People can then assemble them as they wish.

Once made, stored in a Ziploc bag, these tasty treats will stay nice and crispy for days. – if they hang around that long.