French Macarons from Decadent Creations

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What I Think:

While shopping at my local New Seasons Market, I found this cute little box of macarons on the bakery shelf.  The packaging was almost as alluring as the contents:  the box is a pretty French blue, and it’s been wrapped in twine.  Really cute with a very French sort of appeal to it.

It didn’t take me long to start in on these treats.  I could think of little else on the way home except those macarons in the grocery bag!  I did take a moment to read the label and I found that Decadent Creations is a local bakery in Beaverton, Oregon.  I like supporting local businesses, so I felt even better about this purchase.  (I always feel a little guilty when I buy treats for myself, and knowing that I’m supporting a local business … lessens the guilt just a little bit.)

The macarons are delicately crisp on the outside and light and airy on the inside.  The creamy filling adds the right amount of decadent sweetness.  These seem to just melt in my mouth.  So delicious and … yes … decadent.  They named their bakery appropriately!

???????????????????????????????There were three flavors in this box:  2 pistachio macarons, 2 lemon lavender macarons and 1 salted caramel.  The pistachio macarons were very sweet and it was a little difficult to discern the nutty pistachio flavor through all the sweetness until the finish, then the pistachio nuttiness came through.  The pistachio macarons were good … but my least favorite of the three.

The lemon lavender macarons were delightful!  The lemon comes through prominently as soon as I bite into the crackly crisp shell of the macaron, and the lavender pops through as I continue to eat and allow the flavors to move across the palate.  I like that the lavender is delicate here.  It’s just the right amount of lavender to add a hint of sweet, floral contrast to the tangy lemon notes … but not so much to overpower the confection and give it a soapy taste.

The salted caramel macaron was by far my favorite.  Oh my goodness.  Perfection!  The caramel is sweet and creamy and luscious, and there is just the right touch of salt to cut through that sweetness to keep it from becoming cloying.  I only got one Salted caramel macaron in my box of five macarons, and I found myself wishing that all five of them were the salted caramel!  They’re so good!

My Final Thoughts:

These were delicious.  At $6.99 for a box of five, they’re a little spendy, but, macarons ARE a little difficult to find and when you do find them … the price I paid is comparable for what I’d pay elsewhere.  These were a little bit of heaven.

Pistachio and Almond Nougat from Vadeboncoeur Nougat

This Nougat is available on Petit Amuse.

Product Description:

Nougat is produced by whipping egg whites and honey in copper pans over high heat. While still pliable and hot, nuts are folded in and the mixture is spread out in wooden molds lined with wafer paper, where it cools until it can be cut and wrapped.

If your vision of nougat is tough, tooth-breaking bricks, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Murat’s nougat is incredibly supple. Aromatic honey lends a gentle sweetness, while fresh, flavorful pistachios and almonds offer textural contrast.

What I Think:

Oh My Goodness, this is GOOD!

There was a time (like before I tasted this nougat bar) that I would have said I’m not a big fan of nougat.  I thought it to be hard and sickeningly sweet.

But, that’s all changed now that I’ve tried this nougat.  This is amazingly good. The nougat is soft and chewy with a lightness to it that reminds me more of marshmallow than what I thought of when I thought “nougat.”  It’s almost… fluffy.

Yes, it is sweet, but this isn’t cloying the way the nougat I’ve had in the past is.  I’m sure that if I were to eat more than 1 bar of this at one sitting, it would get too sweet, but, as it is, the bar is quite satisfying:  sweet but not too much and loaded with pistachios and almonds.  The nuts give it a nice crunchy texture and mellows out the sweetness a bit.

The only problem I’ve found with this?  It disappeared too quickly, and unfortunately, I find them to be a bit pricy.  $5.94 per bar on Foodzie?  Yikes!  I don’t think I will be re-ordering these any time soon.

My Final Thoughts:

This is AWESOME and I want more.  I wish they weren’t so expensive.  My tea recommendation?  Well, I chose something malty:  this Assam Kama from Simpson & Vail.  It has just the right touch of savory quality to offer contrast to the sweetness of the nougat, making this a very enjoyable, palate-pleasing snack.

French Dark Hot Chocolate on a Stick from The Ticket Kitchen

Where to Buy:  The Ticket Kitchen on Foodzie

Product Description:

Bold but not afraid to be sweet, our signature French Dark chocolate is just aggressive enough. Swirl a block of our signature French Dark chocolate into 6-8 ounces of steaming milk, and you’ll have a cup of hot chocolate worth lingering over. We can’t help feel that the stirring adds to the experience, soothing you over while building up anticipation for that first sip. The hot chocolate that results is the same caliber you will find in the world’s finest cafes and bakeries. Trust us, we know our hot chocolate.

Every hot chocolate Ticket Stick is handmade in our San Francisco chocolate kitchen of fine French couverture.

What I Think:

I don’t really drink a lot of hot chocolate, mostly because I’ve usually a cup of tea in hand.  But, I must say that I absolutely love the concept of hot chocolate on a stick.  No need for a spoon, just heat the milk and stir your way to a decadent mug of chocolate-y goodness.  And the best part, licking the stick after most of the chocolate is melted away – YUM!

And this Hot Chocolate on a Stick is totally yum!  Certainly not your ordinary hot chocolate!  It is quite possibly the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted.

The chocolate block is pretty large.  I used just six ounces of hot milk to make my hot chocolate, but, I think it would have worked well with eight or even ten ounces of hot milk as well.  With the six ounces, it made for a very rich, dark chocolate experience.  The flavor is sweet with a faint note of bitterness, and so very pleasantly chocolate-y.  Chocolate enough to satisfy even this chocoholic!

And what is especially cool about this hot chocolate on a stick is that you can add a little chocolate to whatever you’re drinking – how about a chocolate chai latte?  Or you can turn your morning cup of coffee into mocha!  Delicious!

The Ticket Kitchen offers many different options with this unique and delicious hot chocolate – you can purchase as few as two hot chocolate cubes on a stick for $7.00 or 36 for $120.00.  A little pricey for a cup of hot chocolate.  But then again, this isn’t your average cup of hot chocolate!  This one is for serious chocolate drinkers!

And for those who like their hot chocolate on the spicy side, they now offer Three-Chili Hot Chocolate on a Stick, featuring a blend of chipotle, ancho and cayenne chili peppers.

My Final Thoughts:

This Hot Chocolate on a Stick takes hot chocolate to a whole other level.  So good, it doesn’t even need a marshmallow!

French Onion Soup from Panera Bread

I was hungry, but really what I wanted was something comforting.  I wanted soup.  Soup, for me at least, is the ultimate comfort food.  Warm and soothing.  Since we were in the Cascade area of Vancouver, Panera Bread immediately came to mind.

Location: 914 SE 164th Avenue, Vancouver, WA   Store #1063

Order: French Onion Soup in a Sourdough Bread Bowl; Iced Tea

Specifics: I ordered my soup to go.  In my bag, I received a sourdough loaf that was cut at the top.  In order to form a bowl, I needed to hollow out the bread.  Also in my bag was a bowl of french onion soup, a bag of croutons and a bag of chips, as well as cutlery and napkins.  The iced tea was self-serve from their drink station.

What I Think:

It was a few minutes before we arrived home with my “bagged lunch” from Panera Bread, so I warmed the soup up in the microwave for a few minutes because it had already begun to cool.

While I waited the minute or so for the soup to reheat, I hollowed out the bread bowl, and then I began munching on the chips.  The chips are tasty, kettle style (thicker cut), unflavored chips that are lightly salted.  I liked them because I enjoy the thicker cut of kettle style chips, as well as the crunch!

Now that my soup is hot – let’s move on!  The broth is a bit thicker than I am used to with a french onion soup.  I don’t know if that’s because it’s in the bread bowl and the bread has thickened it (or perhaps the croutons thickened it) or if it is usually this way.  It isn’t bad like this … just different.  The broth is rich, well-seasoned without tasting too salty and flavorful.  The onions are sweet and tender.  So far, so good… but then… not so good.  I come across a little “withy” in my soup – a tiny (about an inch long), very thin branch or stick or twig or something.  What it actually looks like to me is the branch from a sprig of thyme, and it very well could have been.  Unfortunately, finding a withy in my soup was not a very appetizing thing, so I couldn’t finish my soup.

The best thing about Panera Bread is, of course, the bread.  The sourdough was very good.  A very pleasing texture both inside and out:  a nice, crispy crust with a chewy inside.  The sour flavor of the sourdough was just right.  It is one of the better sourdough breads I’ve encountered, and I really enjoyed the flavor of the bread that had been soaked with the soup broth.

The iced tea appeared to be freshly brewed (or so it said on the brewing vessel), and it tasted alright… it wasn’t anything spectacular to write about so I’ll not invest a lot of time doing so.

My Final Thoughts:

The bread was excellent.  The soup was delicious until I came across the withy, which made it less appetizing for me.  Overall, not too bad, and I don’t think that coming across a withy in my soup will keep me from stopping by Panera Bread again in the future.  And even though I didn’t order one this time, they have excellent muffins!

Panera Bread on Urbanspoon