Trixi’s Treasures Magical Dust Coated Snacks

IMG_2678-Version-6When ex-registered nurse Tricia Wong was at the wit’s end of battling her lifelong asthma and in a severe sense of depression, she turned towards listening to motivational speakers like Tony Robbins to help her get by. One day she decided to listen to the message she heard woven through the bottom line of all these inspirational leaders, which was to find something she had ultimate passion for and follow it through. This is when she became an entrepreneur and began the snack food company Trixi’s Treasures with the help of her aunt – a small boutique business that specializes in “Shantelyn Treasure Dust Mixes” for a bevy of customizable snack blends.

The Treasure Dust mixture is a 100% all natural powder mixture that you cook with a cup of oil or butter and then pour onto your favorite nosh goodies in a Chex Mix-like fashion: for example, a combination of cheese curls, cheerios, pretzels, peanuts, dried fruits, etc. What results is a strangely magical blend of sweet, salty and savory that is confounding in its ability to be equally addictive on a cheese coated item as it is on a sugar coated one.

I have not been a purveyor of boxed and bagged snacks in my adult life only because I overdosed on Cheez-Its alongside my mom on the lounge chair in the backyard of my youth where we used to tan and munch with trashy magazines on Saturdays. I binge on a bag of Doritos three or four times a year and blame it on college football season  and consider that a dirty little secret. So, when I received my box of Trixi’s Treasures in the mail to sample, I was sure I would be as unaffected by them as I am by the Cute Gardener’s perpetual stock of buttery appetizer crackers or Planter’s nuts under the coffee table. Instead of sending me the mixes, they sent me bags of specialty snack blends packaged up like regular bags of chips that covered the original blend of Treasure Dust all the way through more daring versions like a jalapeno, spicy variety and a berry version.

It only took a few weeks to dust off four of the highly-addictive bags that truly seemed like treasures in all the different things I would uncover in each bag: toasted rice or corn cereal squares might crawl up from the bottom of one while roasted green peas might swim in another while rye or baguette chip slices might emerge in the last.

And the “dust” coating in itself – definitely a winner for those who a have a sweet tooth. It makes these snacks hard to put down, definitely difficult to not finish in one seating once you start.

You can buy your own dust or order your own customizable snack blends online. Otherwise, you’d have to find the ladies at a country fair, which they tour with relish.

Boccalone’s Society of Salted Pig Parts

IMG_4995The last time the Cute Gardener and I were in San Francisco we visited the Ferry Building for a food-sampling spree. Our afternoon was spent tasting from all of our favorite places like Hog Island Oyster Co. and Cowgirl Creamery and exploring some new ones like Boccalone, owned by one of my favorite chefs Chris Cosentino. The meat emporium, equipped with fridges hung with hearty sausages and old-fashioned cherry red bologna slicers, featured a salumi cone for a few bucks where you could try samples of yummy versions of salami.

Boccalone Jan 1Having enjoyed it so much as well as having a partner who is also a meat lover, I decided to buy the CG a three-month membership in the store’s Salumi Society for Christmas. For $66 bucks a month, purchased right over the Internet, he would be shipped an ice pack Styrofoam box of four surprise packages of salted pig parts. Who knew what would be in those boxes or what neat dishes could be made from them? I thought it would be fun to be at the mercy of the store’s choices.

The store was also very flexible with shipping. They stated that the boxes would go out a certain time every month but that varied based on their busy-ness so on two occasions I had to call and make sure the boxes wouldn’t arrive on days when the CG would not be in town to receive them. Although they were super accommodating with all my wishes in a very charming small business way as opposed to a huge, non-responsive corporation way, the fact that they aren’t shipping like clockwork could be a potential irritant to some customers.

Boccalone Jan 4The first month’s box was stocked with cotechino, pancetta, salame pepato, and spicy Italian sausage. The traditional meats were great and of good quality and enjoyed with wine and charcuterie as well as used in cooking pasta and other dinner meals. The CG got the willies though from the cotechino, which was a flabby, gelatinous white meat with an odd beige rind. Information that came with it suggested it could be fried and seared on polenta or something of that sort as a flavor additive but he found that it just melted away into nothing when attempted.

IMG_4990The second month’s package was my favorite assortment as it had brown sugar and fennel salame (I am a huge fan of sweetened meat but others, like the CG, may not be). It also had a yummy pate di campagna that was wonderful eaten cold, a slab of herbed lardo, which became the CG’s favorite (although he mentioned it was not from Boccalone but a popular Italian Iberico maker, not that we were complaining!). It also had more spicy Italian sausage, which we had already eaten in the first box. This is an important consideration for those who think they will be getting different items every time.

Boccalone AprThe third and final box contained another repeat – the brown sugar and fennel sausage from the second box. It then provided breakfast sausage that was long, delicious and spicy and lonza – a cured and spiced pork loin that the CG enjoyed immensely being that it was similar to young prosciutto before it turns into ham. The fourth item was called ciccioli and actually looked like a bunch of tender cartilage spines folded together into plastic, or albino dehydrated eels. We had no idea what it was but it tasted bizarre, like eating bleached bones. I got on Twitter and asked Chris what they were and he answered: skins, tendons and meat. I’m still not sure what we were supposed to make with something composed of those three ingredients but it sure authenticated the fact that Chef Cosentino leaves no part of the pig untouched in his culinary world.

Boccalone Jan 5So overall, we were dosed with enough salame to make us feel good, a few premium items to make us feel like our money was worth it, some gross and funky, foreign parts that challenged our sense of adventurousness and a few repeats that gave us an idea of what the store considered its most popular parts. I think in the future I will bypass the Salumi Society and order the things that I know I like right off the website to be delivered on my choice of date.

The Golden Stench of Vacherin Mont d’Or

IMG_5119I arrived at the Cute Gardener’s house on a late afternoon like any other day but there was something odd in the air of his pristinely kept home: a subtle yet rank perfume not unlike sodden socks set out to dry on a piece of concrete and forgotten about for a year. I politely enough said nothing and went about my work until I discovered the smelly culprit at the stroke of the cocktail hour.

As we got ready for a night out at a swank French bistro, the CG presented me with a wooden round containing a cheese that had never crossed my path before. Clearly it was the source of the home’s fragrance of the hour, and seeing that the cheese was already half eaten I understood why. It had enough time to permeate the entire atmosphere through the channel of my mate’s vulnerability and gluttony for exotic triple creams. I was instructed to take a sip of Riesling first and then try the cheese. After the syrupy crisp apple flavor of the vine hit the back of my throat, a small spoonful of the cheese on my tongue exploded in a bath of silken, woodsy flavor tinged on the edge with an almost oniony bite.

The vat contained Vacherin Mont d’Or, one of the most prized cheeses on the market. Known for its “spontaneous exuberance” (indeed, making me squeal a little with each bite), it is a highly seasonal Swiss cow creation made with the winter milk of the cows that produce Gruyere in the summer. It’s only available once a year and costs about $40 for the small tub. The CG got lucky while visiting the Beverly Hills Cheese Store and asking the man behind the counter if he had anything super runny. He was duly sized up in the store first before the man behind the counter concurred that he was worthy enough to be sold the very last one on hand. My own search online for more of the cheese turned out dismal results and continuous red SOLD OUT signs across the screen.

I took a third sip of Riesling with another pungent bite, delivered by a tiny metal spoon small enough to deliver the perfect smidgeon of such a million dollar palate punch. It was all I needed to be completely sated by this precious cheese, the perfect precursor to a classic French meal.