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For Life’s LIttle Emergencies, It’s Best to Carry Your Own Salt with You

For Life’s LIttle Emergencies, It’s Best to Carry Your Own Salt with You

maldon sea saltHave you ever been to a pretentious restaurant where you felt you had to harass the waiter in order to get some salt for your table? It’s only topped in the aggravation department by one of those faux Asian places where they hand you a bottle of low-sodium soy sauce and, with a straight face, said, “It’s Chinese salt.”

Well, there’s no need to have to put up with that kind of asinine, anti-customer service behavior.

My colleague, Bonnie Walker, has written about the collection of salt packets she carries with her, because she likes salt on her food. It is the way millions of us prefer to eat — including many chefs.

But those little white packets, found at fast food places everywhere, contain iodized salt, which has, well, the flavor of iodine.

So, let’s give thanks to the folks at Maldon Sea Salt for helping matters immeasurably with a new little item they have begun to market: tins filled with flakes of sea salt in them. Each one is smaller than a mint tin, so it’ll fit quite comfortably in your pocket, and it’s easy to refill from a larger bottle of the salt.

Sur la Table carries the tins at the counter. They sell for $2 apiece.

So, arm yourself before you head out to dine. You never know when you’ll need it.

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Make Your Own Chai in Minutes

Make Your Own Chai in Minutes

Make your own chai at home.

Make your own chai at home.

Chai is a Hindi word for tea, but in our culture, it more specifically refers to a version of the drink made with milky rich black tea and flavored with sweet spices.

This version, also known as masala chai, has gained quite a following in Indian restaurants as well as coffeehouses.

You can make it easily at home, if you have a well-stocked spice cabinet and a good spice grinder, as the recipe below from ably demonstrates. It’s a lot cheaper this way than the price you pay, plus you can make it the way you want, maybe with a little more ginger or a little less black pepper.

chai mixOr you could give a spice mix called Rani Brand Tea Masala a try. I found this at the Himalayan Bazar, 8466 Fredericksburg Road. The mix, which costs about $3.99 for a 3-ounce jar, has the spices already ground together. And that’s all it has. The ingredient label promises it’s made up of only the following: cardamom seeds, green cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, dry ginger, cinnamon and anise seeds.

No sugar, no artificial sweetener, no preservatives. The recipe on the side calls for the black tea, the milk and the sugar added. I left out any sweetener altogether (I don’t drink sweet tea, either) and enjoyed the extra spiciness. Just remember to strain the chai as you pour it into the cup, because the spices, unlike the sugar, won’t dissolve.

Masala Chai

4 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons black tea (decaf is best)

In a mortar, crush the cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon, or use a coffee grinder.

Transfer the crushed spices to a small saucepan, add the water, ginger and pepper and bring to a boil.

Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let steep for 5 minutes.

Add the milk and sugar to the pan and bring to a boil.

Remove from the heat and add the tea.

Cover and let steep for 3 minutes.

Stir the chai, then strain it into a warmed teapot or directly into teacups.

Makes 2-3 servings.


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Get Your Oink On at Melissa Guerra’s New Store

Get Your Oink On at Melissa Guerra’s New Store

The Oink Oink line at Melissa Guerra Tienda de Cocina.

Sugar skull molds for Day of the Dead.

Melissa Guerra Tienda de Cocina has opened in its new home at the Pearl Brewery. The kitchen goods store is now in the new Lab Building, which is also the home of Adelante, LeeLee Shoes and Dos Carolinas and will soon house the Twig Book Shop.

Among the items for sale right now are some Day of the Dead themed sugar skull molds in various sizes, all for $9.95 apiece.

Plus, there are a number of pig-related items to decorate your kitchen with. There may be talk of a pork shortage, but these pink piggies, in the Oink Oink line, will probably not be out of sight much, whether you’re getting a porcine timer, tongues or a spatula. The line comes in various sizes. These would make perfect stocking stuffers for the foodie on your Christmas list.

For more information, call (210) 293-3983 or click here.

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What’s Hot: Stubb’s Green Chile Marinade

What’s Hot: Stubb’s Green Chile Marinade

Stubb’s has gained quite a reputation for its barbecue sauces, which are notable in a crowded market because, among their virtues, they’re low on sugar but not on flavor.

Now, the Austin-based brand has introduced a small-batch seasonal offering, Green Chile Marinade, which is billed as an “all natural blend of Hatch green chiles, garlic and lime.”

If that sounds like a winner, then wait until you taste it.

Shrimp baked in Stubb’s Green Chile Marinade.

The marinade is hot, but not too hot, and it has a nice fruity quality, from pineapple and lime juices. That balance makes it perfect for an array of meats. I tried it on separate occasions with chicken wings and shrimp, and neither could have been easier. Simply marinate your choice of meat — I think pork would be perfect — for at least an hour and then cook. You can use the leftover to baste the meat with.

While you can find the regular Stubb’s barbecue sauce lineup at most grocery stores, the Green Chile Marinade is only available at  Whole Foods. That’s because only 4,000 cases were made. So, if you’re a Hatch chile fan, grab a bottle before it’s gone.

A 12-ounce bottle is priced at $3.79.

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Oloves Are Easy to Love

Oloves Are Easy to Love


Have you been looking for a low-calorie, low-carb snack that actually tastes like food? And that’s also good for you? That’s the beauty of Oloves, pouches of green olives stuffed with your choice of flavors.

These tart treats are vegan as well as kosher. They aren’t packed in juice, either, so you can nibble on an entire packet without getting your fingers wet. You don’t need to cool them down, either, because they are shelf table; so, you can pack them up for a picnic, put them in your lunch box or grab them whenever you need a quick bite.

Oloves come in three flavors:

  • Hot Chilli Mama, or habanero
  • Lemon Lover, or lemon and garlic
  • Light-Hearted Vinaigrette
  • Tasty Mediterranean, or basil and garlic

I tried the basil and the habanero varieties, and both were pleasant treats that satisfied a mid-afternoon snack craving.

The price is $1 a pouch at H-E-B.


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What’s Hot: Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters

What’s Hot: Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters

When Joe Fee was in town earlier this year for the first San Antonio Cocktail Conference, the topic of conversation naturally turned to bitters. His family’s company, Fee Brothers, has been making bitters for four generations. In recent years, a number of flavored variations hit the market — mint, grapefruit, peach — and they’re all good. But the one version not to miss is rhubarb, which the label describes as follows: “Using flavors available in 1800s America, Fee Brothers developed Rhubarb Bitters for that authentic historical taste.”

The aroma harkens back to the past with a pleasant floral quality mixed with a strong sense of both cherry candy and maraschino cherries. Tart, delicious rhubarb mixed with bitter spices come in when you taste the bitters alone. Both fragrance and flavor suggest it would be great with bourbon or rye in cocktails as well as gin and even tequila. I tried it in a variation of the classic Old Fashioned called the Old Smashioned, which featured blackberries and a touch of orange flavor (see recipe below).

Don’t stop with the cocktails, though. Bitters add a welcome complexity to cooking as well. I tried the rhubarb bitters in a marinade for squash before throwing them on the grill. I could also see adding a dash or two to a vinaigrette to give it some life.

Just remember, when you use bitters, try a dash first and then build up to your desired flavor level. They are strong, and too much can be overwhelming.

Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters can be found at Twin Liquors on U.S. 281 south of Bitters Road. The price is $5.99. All bitters should keep for as long as you own the bottle.

The Old Smashioned

The Old Smashioned

1-2 drops orange blossom water
3-4 blackberries, to taste
1-3 dashes Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar, or more to taste

Rinse your cocktail glass with a drop or two of orange blossom water.

In a cocktail shaker, muddle blackberries. Add bourbon to taste, a dash of rhubarb bitters and the agave nectar with ice. Shake and pour into glass (you can strain the berry seeds, if you choose). Add more rhubarb bitters to taste. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Makes 1 cocktail.

Adapted from


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Ben & Jerry’s Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream

In the days before cupcakes upstaged cakes, red velvet cake was different from what it is now. It used to be a cake with a great layer of cocoa powder adding depth of flavor beneath all that red dye, and the frosting was meant to complement the cake, not upstage it. Back then, my mom even frosted hers with a seven-minute icing, coated in coconut, instead of cream cheese frosting.

Nowadays, the cocoa has disappeared, and, thanks to cupcakes, it’s more about the inches of cream cheese frosting on top than anything else.

So, when I first saw that Ben & Jerry’s introduced Red Velvet Cake ice cream, I never questioned whether I would buy it. The pint just jumped into my shopping basket.

But the question was, which style of red velvet cake would it be? Unfortunately, the answer was the latter. In fact, the supersweet ice cream was more about the cream cheese frosting, which was presented with a cheesecake flavor. It also featured bits of a cocoa-free cake batter, but the cake wasn’t the focus.

Yet, even if this ice cream didn’t match my preferred style of red velvet cake, I was won over to it after just a couple of spoonfuls. And that means whenever I want red velvet cake, I’ll make Mom’s old-fashioned recipe. But if I want a quick hit, I’ll take Ben & Jerry’s ice cream version over a modern cupcake version any time.

The price was $3.50 a pint at H-E-B.

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Stacy’s Introduces Simply Cocoa Pita Chips

Stacy’s Introduces Simply Cocoa Pita Chips

Stacy's Simply Cocoa

Just in time for Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day both comes Stacy’s Simply Cocoa Pita Chips, a limited-time-only flavor.

As lovers of pita chips already know, Stacy’s makes some of the best pita chips on the market. But the best have always been the Simply Naked chips, those without flavor, while the others, such as Parmesan Garlic and Herb, can taste a little less than natural.

So, what besides cocoa is in these chips? That’s what I wanted to know before trying them — or any other new product. The list includes, in order, enriched wheat flour, oil, sugar, organic cane sugar, cocoa powder, semi-sweet chocolate, sea salt, and and a few other ingredients that you can pronounce.

What does that mean when you taste it? It means that you get a good hit of cocoa, sweet and wheat with a nice dose of salt for balance.

These could be addictive. Think of an adult version of a chocolate cereal. You could probably even add milk or spread Nutella on it.

Just don’t eat more than seven of them. Otherwise, you’ll be consuming more than one serving, which means too many carbs or calories. And you’ll love every moment of it.

A 7 1/3-ounce bag sells for about $1.99 at Sprouts.



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What’s Hot: Cream, Aerosol Whipped Cream Gets a Kick

What’s Hot: Cream, Aerosol Whipped Cream Gets a Kick

Cream is a new product that feels like it should have been around for quite some time now: Alcohol and aerosol whipped cream combined.

That’s right, you’ve got the perfect topper for an Irish coffee in can. Or any mixed drink of your choice. Or on ice cream. Or orange poke cake. Or wherever your mind takes you.

It comes in six flavors: chocolate, cherry, raspberry, orange, caramel and vanilla.

I tried the chocolate version on the recommendation of a clerk at WB Liquors & Wine, 9801 I-10 W. I enjoyed the chocolate flavor and the ease of use. Then I took it to a party and watched people really enjoy it with everything from fruit to coffee. One woman even gave herself a shot in the mouth she liked it so much.

And who can resist a product with the tagline, “Get whipped”?

The can costs $12.99.

Whatever you do, don’t refrigerate the can, the checkout clerk told me. And that warning is written all over the can, too.

Here are a few ideas from the Cream website to help you get started. All are great without the Chocolate Cream, but each is made better with it.

Chocolate Monk

1/3 part Frangelico hazelnut liqueur
1/3 part Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
1/3 part Bailey’s Irish Cream
Chocolate Cream

Shake the liqueurs with ice. Pour into a chilled martini glass. Top with Chocolate Cream.

From Cream

Chocolate Milk

1/2 shot milk
1/2 shot Droste or other chocolate liqueur
1 dash amaretto almond liqueur
Chocolate Cream

Put the milk in the bottom of a shot glass, pour the liqueur on top and add the dash of amaretto. Do not mix. Top With Chocolate Cream.

From Cream

Peppermint Perth

Hot chocolate
1 ounce Rumple Minze
1/2 ounce white chocolate liqueur
Chocolate Cream
Shaved chocolate
Cocoa powder

Fill a mug with hot chocolate and the liquors. Top with Chocolate Cream and shaved chocolate, then sprinkle with cocoa powder.

From Cream

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What’s Hot: Graeter’s Ice Cream; Great Quality

What’s Hot: Graeter’s Ice Cream; Great Quality

Oprah favors Graeter’s Ice Cream as does Bobby Flay, we’re told. So, SavorSA ice cream enthusiasts decided to try it for ourselves.

After careful sampling, our response was: very good. And please give us more.

Graeter's Ice Cream now at H-E-B stores. There are 24 pint flavors and 5 rotating seasonal flavors.

Back in the 1800s the Graeter family pioneered the French Pot process of making only two gallons at a time with all-natural ingredients like heavy cream and pure cane sugar, according to the labels.

As the company press material rightly states, the result is a “dense, creamy texture and massive chocolate chips.” Look for regular and seasonal flavors (which rotate throughout the year.)

I agree with all of the above, and will add that the flavors are more intense without tasting artificial and without leaving any heavy, sugary aftertaste. In fact, though the ice cream was sweet enough, I didn’t find that I had to race off for a glass of water right after eating it.

The chips: The Graeter’s chocolate chips, which we had in the Mocha Chocolate Chip, Mint Chocolate Chip and the Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip (our favorite) were more like broken up, good-quality dark chocolate candy bars. No waxy taste. No searching your palate for something that really did taste like chocolate.

The Vanilla flavor was excellent, and Strawberry was also really good, offering up the occasional frozen strawberry. The Butter Pecan was the best example of that flavor that I’ve had in a long time.

Give Graeter’s a try. We went to a regular H-E-B to be sure they were in stock (they were) and to check on the price. At our store they were marked down from $5 a pint to $4.50. And, we discovered what we’ll try next —the Coconut Chocolate Chip.

Featured photograph by Bonnie Walker



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