La Maison Du Chocolat is quite an amazing place where chocolate dreams really do come true. The chocolates and macarons are made in Paris and shipped to the NYC locations several times a week. I once went for a tasting on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and I quickly realized that chocolate is not just “candy,” but something that can be elevated to a very high art. La Maison du Chocolat is featuring some lovely gift-ables in a collection they call the Winter Night’s Dream Collection. This combines a traditional reindeer motif with gold stars, and delicate “lacework” made entirely of chocolate as the front piece, created by Nicolas Cloiseau, Master Chef of La Maison. I received precious sample — “The Reindeer.” This is a dark chocolate pendant, latticework of reindeer and chiselled stars in white chocolate, open disk with stars in dark chocolate covered in gold leaf, crunchy roasted nuts of mendiant (almonds from Valencia, pistachios from Sicily, hazelnuts from Piedmont, pecans, chocolate beads and nibs) set in milk chocolate.
The piece is almost to pretty to eat, and it’s made entirely by hand, but it is just $42.00, beautifully boxed!
Cute for very lucky children or the young at hear adult is this La Maison du Chocolate Advent Calendar featuring 24 days of chocolate surprises before Christmas. Inside the little boxes on the “Branches” of the cardboard tree you will find: almonds dipped in milk and dark chocolate, almonds coated with gianduja and dusted with cocoa, roasted and caramelized crushed almonds dipped in milk and dark chocolate, plain and flavored pralinés. This one is just $62.00. If you are fortunate enough to live in NYC or Paris, go to the LMDC boutique. Otherwise, there is a lot more that you can oogle and order on the La Maison du Chocolate Web Site.
Who knew New Jersey was the place to find unusual coffees and teas? Coffee Bean Direct, and Tattle Tea, are based in Frenchtown New Jersey, but they offer a wide selection of coffees and teas hand blended with unique ingredients, from all over the world. At a tasting this Fall, The Advice Sisters tried some really unique flavors, including one with maple and bacon. When I brewed this chai tea to my guests, they were reluctant to try it at first, but the smoke-y and maple scent won them over. One put sweetener into the tea (it really doesn’t need it if you’re not into that) and one used milk, but the rest of us just drank it as-is, enjoying the mild smoked and maple flavor and the lovely aroma. I didn’t have a single tea leaf of that tea remaining, at the end of the evening! For traditionalists, there are all sorts of black, white, herbal, green, oolong, and decaf teas and blends with spices and fruits, flowers and more. The company also has Coffee Bean Direct, and their website GreenCoffees.com has a wide variety of ground and whole bean coffees from single origin to green coffee blends. you can roast your own, or get it roasted, but the point is that you’ll get beans that are really fresh. The coffee can be purchased in 1 lb. bags, 5-lb. burlap bags and 25-lb. and 50-lb burlap sacks. For the holidays, there are also sample packages that let you try some unique blends (there’s a maple bacon coffee blend too). Coffee and tea (the websites also have tea and coffee accessories) make great gifts for the gourmet and are great host/hostess gifts too. With more than 100 varieties of coffee and 70 varieties of hand-blended teas, you’ll find something wonderful to savor during the holidays and throughout 2014. Visit www.greencoffees.com, www.coffeebeandirect.com and www.tattletea.com
Sweet treats are traditional stocking stuffers, but why settle for a traditional candy cane? Try Godis Snogubbe, in translation,. a package of minty marshmallow candies in the shape of plump snowmen, just $1.29 per package, from IKEA. That may sound like an unlikely source for holiday goodies, but actually, IKEA has plenty of them. Their adorable Pepparlala Hus (gingerbread house) is a petite DIY version that comes with the room and walls. You add your own icing and candies for decoration (ingredients for icing are included). You might not be able to fit the house into a stocking, but for just $3.99 you can make it and bring a smile to a child (or adult’s) face, or simply get one and use it as a holiday centerpiece Visit your favorite IKEA store or http://www.ikea.com
When I was a little girl, my mother used to give elegant cocktail parties. And one of the things I remember quite vividly about then, were the cheese crackers that she used to serve. She’d buy tins of buttery cheese crackers, and put them into little crystal bowls. They were so fragrant and delicious, you didn’t even need to serve a dip with them. When the crackers were finished (and there were usually none left at the end of the party) she would let me have the tin to keep little treasures in. Fast forward to 2013, and I’ve discovered John Wm. Macy’s CheeseSticks.
Caterer and chef John Macy founded John Wm. Macy’s CheeseSticks in 1985 in NYC. The crackers remind me of the fragrant, elegant little goodies that my mother served her special guests way back when, but these aren’t just one flavor as hers were. These come in a wide variety of flavors and shapes, and both savory and sweet. I am a Smoked Jalapeno fan — the “heat” is on, but not so much you’ll feel a burn past the next sip of your wine. The products are sold in boxes and in assortments of boxes, and also in small 5 oz. tins with a single package of Sesame Gruyere or Cheddar & Asiago flavor, or a 10 oz. gift tin with two packages of either flavor. You can get boxes of cracker-shaped crisps, or longer, twists cheese sticks. Either way, they make great gifts and are fabulous for holiday parties. There are so many different types and variety packs, I can’t go into all the variations in a gift guide, so the best thing to do is just go to the John Wm. Macy’s CheeseSticks Web Site and choose the ones you want, or check out the various large retailers that sell them such as Costco, Whole Foods Walmart, etc. Better buy a few for yourself though because I warn, you, the flaky, crunchy, flavor-packed treats are seriously addictive.
At Food Fete, a seasonal showcase for gourmet (and mainly healthy) food items, I met Carmen and Monique St. Luce, purveyors of Jonty Jacobs Biltong (dried meat slices) & Droewors (dried sausage). These are unique and natural traditional beef Delacroix originating in the Western Cape of South Africa.Jonty Jacobs was founded by Monique Daniels, a South African raised in Australia who relocated to New York in 2010 and who couldn’t find the quality of dried meet products she wanted–so she created her own! Despite the funny names, these products are essentially high quality beef jerky (and what guy doesn’t love beef jerky)? But the products are not full of chemicals and additives and they are not cured using sodium nitrates. The meat is 54% pure protein, with n0 trans fat , no artificial flavoring, coloring or preservatives, and with no sugar and less than 470 mg. of sodium in the beef slices, only 290 mg, in the sausage.
Unlike many Beef Jerky products flooding the US market, Jonty Jacobs Biltong & Droewors DO NOT contain chemicals/additives and are not cured using sodium nitrates. The Biltong is available in two cuts; traditional includes the fine layer of fat which maintains the meats tender, natural flavor and a lean cut for the more health conscience. The dried sausage or Droewors is available with a small amount of spice for a bit of a kick It’s flavorful and not sliced so thick you have to “chaw” on it. If you like, you like you can sprinkle the secret biltong spice blend onto the meat (or on anything else you wish). When I tried this dry spice on some Biltong Beef Slider it at Food Fete I realized it had a bit of a “kick!” to it, and I liked it so much, I took a jar of the spice, home. It would make a great gift for your lover of “heat” as well as your lover of “meat” There are also grass fed and Kosher versions by special order. This would make an unusual, fun and healthy gift for a man, woman or family, and it’s affordable at just $10.00 per 4 oz. bag. But you do have to order it through the website (don’t wait until the last minute to place your order): http://www.jontyjacobs.com