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Tell a friend the best peanut brittle you can buy

Beer Brittle with Spanish Peanuts, by Anette's Chocolates

You may not get a hankering for peanut brittle often, but when you do, the yen can be inexorable. Making it yourself can be more trouble than it’s worth, and it’s not easy to find high quality peanut brittle in most stores, even in candy shops. (A quick search for "peanut brittle" yields mostly recipes, not readymade shopping sources.)

Enter Anette’s Chocolates by Brent, maker of arguably the best commercially produced peanut brittle in the world. Anette’s is based in Napa, the heart of Northern California’s Wine Country. Napa Valley and surrounding areas are known for their world-class vineyards as well as top-notch microbreweries, artisanal cheese, and gourmet food products. Thus, it makes sense that one of Anette’s most popular products is its Beer Brittle with Spanish Peanuts.

Posted August 4, 2009 by Mariva in edibles, entertaining

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Tell a friend Batter Blaster pancakes

Batter Blaster

This is a story about pancakes. It begins in one of my favorite places. Let me explain.

San Francisco is not the densest city by any means, but space is at a premium nonetheless. So when a single store occupies an entire city block — a large city block — that is a big store in San Francisco. The experience of shopping at the only Costco in San Francisco feels like half-privilege, half-pandemonium. Wheeling a ginormous cart around the street-width aisles of Costco, for me, is a guilty pleasure. There’s only so much paper towel and laundry detergent I really need, but I find any excuse to go. I would imagine that anyone who’d grown up behind the Iron Curtain might bask in the consumer abundance of Costco as a sort of earthly paradise.

In one of the refrigerated aisles, an entire case contained shelf upon shelf of bright golden-yellow spray cans. I thought nothing of the spray cans at first, assuming that the cans were just a brand of whipped cream I hadn’t seen before. But I did a double-take as I noticed something horrifying on the cans: the word batter. Costco, you’ve got to be kidding me, right? Batter — (pancake and waffle, that is, not cake) — in a spray can? Look, spray cheese is bad enough, but spray batter heralds the end of civilization.

Perhaps even more amazing was that the word organic also appeared on the can. I’ve been brainwashed by Whole Foods, I admit, but when I see the word organic, I automatically think healthy. (Or at least healthy-wannbe.) Was it possible for something healthy to be stored in spray can — which, by defnition, indicates processed food? Who could have predicted that I would stumble onto such a paradox in the refrigerated section of Costco? Organic and spray can seem like matter and antimatter: how can they simultaneously occupy the same space?

Posted September 9, 2008 by Mariva in business, edibles, health, innovations, kitchen

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Tell a friend best coffee ice cream

Some people find their favorite flavor of ice cream early in life and stick with it. Me, I go through phases. For years my favorite was strawberry, then it was praline, then pistachio, and then, for a while, vanilla bean. (Not regular vanilla, or French vanilla, or cherry vanilla or vanilla fudge, but vanilla bean. I wanted to see dark specks of what looked like dirt throughout the white cloud of cream.)

Now my flavor of choice is coffee. I’ve sampled coffee ice cream from a variety of manufacturers, including Ben & Jerry’s (mediocre at best), Häagen Dazs (passable but too subtle for my taste), Double Rainbow (sadly, Coffee Blast is more eh than a blast), and Starbucks (which, since it’s in the business of selling masstige coffee, should really produce more piquant coffee ice cream than it does). Sadly, none of these brands truly satisfies the discerning coffee ice cream palate. What disappointment.

Mitchell’s Ice Cream does produce a delectably smooth Kahlúa Mocha Cream — (Kahlúa being a well-known Mexican brand of coffee-flavored liqueur) — but unfortunately Mitchell’s is only available in the San Francisco Bay Area. (This is a great loss to everyone outside this region, and we hope that one day Mitchell’s expands its local empire without sacrificing the superlative quality of its many unusual flavors.)

Posted August 23, 2008 by Mariva in edibles

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Tell a friend CocoaBella Chocolates

CocoaBella Chocolates

San Francisco-based premier chocolatier CocoaBella offers gift boxes comprising the most delectable chocolate, bar none (so to speak). I should know; I was fortunate enough to sample a dark chocolate truffle with black currant ganache — and couldn’t believe how good it was. (Warning: CocoaBella is pricey, but the chocolate, which is encased in beautiful gift packaging, is worth it.)

Posted March 1, 2006 by Mariva in edibles, gifts

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Tell a friend Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Mardi Gras king cake

Mardi Gras is a bittersweet celebration in New Orleans today. If you’re not there, you can vicariously experience the sights and sounds through the All Things Considered New Orleans radio diary and make yourself a traditional Mardi Gras king cake. You can also listen to my friend Farai Chideya‘s moving News & Notes piece, "New Orleans Resident Revisits Levee Break."

Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Posted February 28, 2006 by Mariva in arts, community, edibles, holidays, news, travel

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Tell a friend vintage products, brand-new

The Vermont Country Store

Ever feel nostalgic for products or supplies that you remember from childhood, but haven’t been able to find in years? Your search may be over. The Vermont Country Store offers a wide variety of products that your parents or grandparents used — all brand-new and recently manufactured. How is this possible? The proprietors get permission to re-create vintage products as close to the originals as possible — including design and packaging — and bring them to market for another generation of consumers. If you’re not in the neighborhood of one of the stores in Weston or Rockingham, Vermont, you can order vintage games, classic New England apparel (warning: not for the fashion-conscious), long-lost fragrances and even food and beverages online. If you can’t find what you want, let them know, and they’ll consider re-creating it for you.

Posted February 15, 2006 by Mariva in bath & spa, business, decor, edibles, fun, games, gifts, home, innovations, kitchen, resources

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Tell a friend Valentine’s Day alternatives

Valentine's Day alternatives

Some people love February 14, in all its pink-blouse-and-red-sweater glory; others resent its existence and wish it would just disappear from the calendar. For those not celebrating romantic love today, I offer some alternatives:

Posted February 14, 2006 by Mariva in community, edibles, holidays, music, resources, social

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Tell a friend Vermont Teddy Bear

"Heart Throb" Valentine Bear

I can’t imagine a sweeter Valentine’s Day gift than a personalized teddy bear — especially one from the Vermont Teddy Bear Company (sister company to the PajamaGram Company), which makes high-quality, hand-crafted, fully jointed huggable friends that are guaranteed to last a lifetime.* As the company name indicates, each teddy bear is made in America, specifically in the Green Mountain State of Vermont.

To make your gift even more special — now that the original "-gram" communications service has ended — consider sending a Bear-Gram, which includes a bear of your choice, delicious gourmet chocolate and a personal message printed on a colorful gift card — all encased in a fun gift box, complete with an "air hole" so that your bear can get fresh air on his or her journey. You can choose from over one hundred Valentine’s Day Bears, including the "Heart Throb" bear pictured here.

Posted February 1, 2006 by Mariva in decor, edibles, fun, gifts, holidays, home

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Tell a friend Macy*s Valentine’s Day pretties


I love Macy*s. So chic, yet affordable. Get your sweetie a nice gift for Valentine’s Day — or better yet, get something for yourself! Jewelry, lingerie, fragrance, gourmet gifts, ties and cufflinks, electronics — it’s all here. Plus, you can find a nice selection of pretties for under $25.

Posted January 26, 2006 by Mariva in edibles, fashion, gifts, holidays, jewelry

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Tell a friend Minimus travel-size products


When you’re away from home — whether spending a lot of time at the office or going on a picnic or a trip — you’ll appreciate Minimus. Here you can stock up on a plethora of individual- and travel-size products, including food and beverages, laundry supplies, personal care and over-the-counter medicines. You can also purchase preassembled kits and care packages of snacks, mini-meals, personal supplies and medical kits — some specifically for men, women, college students, air travelers, campers and even cold and flu sufferers. Many kits make ideal care packages for military personnel. And speaking of the military, the preassembled package called the "military field kit" — comprising an emergency blanket, a small flashlight and a rain poncho — is something you may want to keep in your car or home storage area.

Posted January 24, 2006 by Mariva in edibles, gifts, health, home, resources, travel

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