Monday, August 25, 2014

Videri Chocolate Factory – Product Review

Not all chocolate is created equal.

I recently learned about the Videri Chocolate Factory in Raleigh, North Carolina. I haven’t been there in person, but if I ever have occasion to visit Raleigh you will find me taking a tour of this chocolate factory. (Call me obsessed, but I honestly can’t think of anything better to do on vacation!)

The folks at Videri reached out to me and asked if I would like to sample their chocolate. I’ve never been known to turn down chocolate unless it contains dairy or is too sweet. But hand crafted dark chocolate? That was an easy answer – heck yes!

Videri sent me complementary samples to review. This is what arrived, beautifully packaged and kept cool:

It felt like Christmas.

I wanted you to see the packaging because it makes a great gift for your favorite chocoholic.

But now, let’s talk about the chocolate. Videri Chocolate Factory is a bean to bar factory that uses only the finest organic cocoa beans, cocoa butter, and organic sugar. There were no other ingredients on the labels (except sea salt for the sea salt bar, and pink peppercorns for the peppercorn bar). In fact, chocolate liquor is not even listed as an ingredient? Why? Because they make their own from organic cocoa nibs. You won’t find soy lecithin, xanthan gum, emulsifiers, or artificial flavorings in Videri chocolate. The facility is completely gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free. They do use dairy for the milk chocolate bars; dairy is processed on shared equipment, but precautions are taken to sanitize.

Okay, I know what you really want to know – how does it taste? This isn’t cheap grocery store chocolate; is it worth paying for?

I received an assortment of chocolate bars – all dark – ranging from 60% to 90% cacao. The 90% cacao is crafted from Ecuadorian beans and the 75% from Venezuelan beans. To call it artisan chocolate would almost be unfair because it is so much more than that. This is chocolate for the true connoisseur.

When I visited the website to decide whether this was a product I wanted to review, I was struck by the description of the dark chocolate bar as “the chocolate bar for purists,” a category that I put myself in when it comes to chocolate. Nevertheless, I was intrigued by some of the unique flavors, most notably sea salt, and that is what I tried first:

Note that each box contains 2 bars, and every box is hand-numbered with an edition.

And, oh my… there are not enough adjectives in the English vocabulary to describe how good this chocolate is. Truly. It is exquisite. Yes, I am gushing.

The bottom line: this is not chocolate I will use for baking (although Videri does also sell baking chocolate). This is chocolate meant for savoring, one (okay, maybe two or three pieces) exquisite piece at a time.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Bring the GFAF EXPO to Your Doorstep With Send Me Gluten-Free

The Gluten Free Marketing Group (the folks who bring us the Gluten Free and Allergen Free Expos) has done it again. This time they are bringing products right to your home with a new offering called Send Me Gluten Free. I was lucky enough to receive a free sample to find out what it's all about (and you can get lucky too -- see coupon below).

If you've ever been to a GFAF Expo, you know what I mean when I say that it's a ton of fun to walk around and find new and exciting products (as well as your current faves) to try. That's the same feeling I got when this box arrived at my front door:

The box I received was exactly the same as what they sent to the Send Me Gluten Free subscribers. Everything inside is gluten-free, and most were also free of other top allergens, varying by product. Depending on your specific food allergies, some products may be more or less suitable for you.

This is what I found inside:

Black Bean Spaghetti from Explore Asian Authentic Cuisine contains only black beans and water. I have tried this one before and it wasn't a hit. I may have to try it again.

TeeChia sustained energy cereal is made with gluten-free oats and a variety of fruits and seeds (made in a facility that also processes tree nuts -- otherwise top-8 free according to the ingredients label).

This Sevierly Good organic traditional bread mix is the product I am most wanting to try. The mix is top-8 free (using a standard rice/potato/tapioca flour blend). The add-ins call for eggs or egg replacer (I'd choose Ener-G egg replacer for this one).

I don't usually think of hot beverages as an issue for those with food allergies, but single-serving samples of coffee and tea were included.

A couple of small snacks and a lipstick sample from Red Apple were also included. The Raw Rev bar contains tree nuts.

I also found a sample of gluten-free soy sauce. Yes, it contains soy. (I'm still waiting for someone to come up with a soy-free soy sauce.)

There were also a handful of coupons (some for products in the box and others for other deals to explore -- including a free issue of Delight Gluten Free magazine).

All in all there were a variety of products. If you want to try them yourself, check out the various subscription plans for Send Me Gluten Free and use code: BLOG20 to receive 20% off of your order.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Blueberry Syrup

I continue to have a strong supply of just-picked blueberries that I simply must create something delicious with. Today's recipe is Blueberry Syrup, made with Wholesome Sweeteners Light Corn Syrup (which I received a complimentary sample of).

Blueberry Syrup reminds me of a lazy summer day with salt water breezes.

When my family visited Cape Cod for summer vacations, we would make at least one breakfast outing to The Pancake House. Long before the days of iHOP, The Pancake House served dozens of different flavors of syrups. (I'm pretty sure I would appalled by the ingredients in those syrups today.)

It's hard to claim that my version of Blueberry Syrup is healthy -- it is pretty much all sugar -- but at least I used fresh blueberries and kept the added sugar low.

Blueberry Syrup

1 ½ cups fresh blueberries, crushed
2 tablespoons Wholesome Sweeteners organic cane sugar
2 tablespoons Wholesome Sweeteners organic light corn syrup
½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Combine all of the ingredients in a small non-reactive saucepan over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes until the sugar is melted.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and boil until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Strain the sauce from the skins. My favorite trick for straining skins and seeds is to place a double mesh strainer directly over a bowl:

Let the sauce cool, then transfer it to a jar and refrigerate. Drizzle it over ice cream, pancakes, or chocolate cake! This recipe makes about 3/4 cup of syrup. Scale up if you need more or if you have lots of blueberries!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Here, There, and Everywhere - Where I Will Be Appearing This Fall

I have a number of events lined up for this fall, to coincide with the early September release of The Allergy-Free Pantry.If you are able to join me at one of these events you can be among the first to get a signed copy of the new book, or just stop by and say hi!

There are two Gluten-Free and Allergen-Expo’s in the Northeast where I will be at the author table. On Saturday, September 6th I’ll be at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, NJ and on Saturday, Oct 25th and Sunday, October 26th I’ll be at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, MA. The events run from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. This is a great event to find and sample new gluten-free and allergy-friendly foods.

On Sunday September 7th from 10:00 am to1:00 pm) I’ll be signing books at the Kids with Food Allergies Strides for Safe Kids mall walk and fundraiser in Plymouth Meeting, PA. This is Kids with Food Allergies primary fundraiser for the year; even if you can’t make the event, I’d love for you to join my virtual walk team.

On Sunday September 14th from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm I’ll be signing books at the North Jersey Food Allergy Conference, at the Saddle Brook Marriott in Saddle Brook, NJ. This is the first year for this event that should prove to be very beneficial to the community.

I’ll be at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference at the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas on Saturday Sept 27th and Sunday Sept 28th. This is the second year this event is being held, and it would be an understatement to say that I am truly looking forward to it. On Saturday morning I’ll be joined by Selena Bluntzer to host a hand-on photography session we are calling “Put Your Best Food Photo Forward”. Saturday night I’ll be signing books at the Wine and Sign Party, and on Sunday, I’ll be sharing the stage with Debbie Adler (of Sweet Debbie’s Org….) and Charissa Luke (Zest Bakery) to talk about Recipe Substitutions.

If you are in New York State, I have two library events scheduled; I’ll be at the East Fishkill Library on Thursday, October 9th at 7:00 pm and at the Guilderland Library in Albany, NY on Saturday, November 8th at 1:00 pm. Both appearances will feature a demo and book signing.

The Allergy Eats Conference for Restaurateurs and Food Service Professionals moves to New York this year, and I am honored to be speaking alongside Lori Sandler (from Divvies Bakery) and Beth Hillson (from Gluten-Free and More Magazine) at the Radisson Martinique on Tuesday October 21st. The event starts at 8:00 am.

Whew! By the time Thanksgiving rolls around I think I’ll be ready for a vacation!