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.
Honestly, mixing beer into peanut brittle didn’t sound especially appealing to me, but I gave it a chance. I was floored by how good it was, the blend of dark roasted Spanish peanuts, amber ale, butter, sugar, and a little sea salt. If it sounds weird, give it a try — that is, if a good, satisfying peanut brittle is what you really want.
The Beer Brittle is Anette’s signature peanut brittle, but more adventurous brittles include Buttery Chardonnay Wine Brittle, Firey Beer Brittle with Spanish Peanuts, and Triple Nut Bourbon Brittle with Pistachios, Almonds and Pecans. The Chardonnay Brittle is also excellent, but I found that the taste of white wine isn’t as perfectly suited to peanut brittle as beer is. (In the context of peanut brittle, chardonnay is surprisingly tame compared to the pungency of brewed hops.) The "firey" brittle, laced with chili peppers, is so spicy and hot that it’s hard to eat more than a mouthful or two at a time (which is probably a good thing). It’s therefore wise to reserve the firey brittle as an unusual treat, perhaps consuming it alongside Anette’s standard beer brittle. (I haven’t yet tried the Tripe Nut Bourbon Brittle, which sounds sumptuous.)
Because Anette’s is so close to an abundance of superlative wineries, it blends wine and liqueurs into other confections as well, notably chocolate truffles and sauces. The Tall Chocolate Wine and Liqueur Sauces set, for example, includes Chocolate Cabernet, Chocolate Port, Belgian Chocolate Brandy, Chocolate Raspberry Liqueur, Chocolate Amaretto, and Caramel-Butterscotch Scotch sauces. Other notable sweets include nuts, chews, and toffee, as well as what I’m eagerly looking forward to trying next: the S’mores Kit with Madagascan Vanilla Marshmallow, Rich Chocolate and Graham Cracker.
Anette’s Chocolates ships throughout the U.S. and Canada.
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Posted August 4, 2009 by Mariva in edibles, entertaining
It’s hard to imagine a better — or funnier — gift for the parents-to-be who already have everything than Safe Baby Handling Tips by David and Kelly Sopp.
This novelty picture book is basically a series of contrasting dos and don’ts with regard to taking care of an infant. For example, the correct way to "bond with baby" is to hold and coo at the baby, not attempt to engage him or her in a timed game of chess! And when you’re putting the baby down to play, put him or her in, say, a playpen, not a cage. When taking baby for a walk, put him or her in a baby backpack, not in an old potato sack.
I mean, sheesh, people — take care of the baby! Get this book.
Posted March 23, 2006 by Mariva in books, education, entertaining, entertainment, fun, gifts, home
The Solutions catalog offers all sorts of, well, solutions — or, as the company puts it, “products that make life easier.” Lest you think that Solutions products are akin to Kenji Kawakami’s 101, 99 More and The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindogu, check out this sampling of potentially useful items:
If you need help with home improvement or getting organized, Solutions also provides a handy list of free clever tips.
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Posted February 22, 2006 by Mariva in decor, entertaining, gadgets, gifts, home, innovations, kitchen, resources, travel
Whoo-hoo! Macy’s is having a big fat Presidents’ Day Sale on apparel, jewelry and shoes for him, her and kids — but today is the last day. Also, this is the last week of the annual Home Sale on bed & bath, dining, housewares, luggage and rugs.
Posted February 20, 2006 by Mariva in bath & spa, decor, entertaining, fashion, home, jewelry, kitchen
Knowing that I have an addictive personality — at least with regard to the "soft addictions" — I do my best to stay away from treacherous time traps like Freecell Solitaire. And if I owned a game console that could play Super Mario, I’d probably never see the light of day.
This morning, however, Fresh Air had an interesting story about a new video game that got my attention. The game is supposed to be both highly addictive and very popular — and not just among teenage boys, but among girls and grown women as well. Most intriguing of all, it’s not violent — at least in a kick-and-punch and shoot-’em-up kind of way. Produced by Namco Games, Katamari Damacy ("Roll It Up" in English) and the more recent We Love Katamari, begin with your avatar pulling a tiny ball that rolls around picking up random objects, like candy and game tiles. As you successfully pick up more and more objects, your ball grows larger and larger — first picking up animals and automobiles and then eventually skyscrapers and airplanes — until you’re devastating the landscape with your colorful mass of sticky stuff. The concept seems like an amalgam of the 1950s sci-fi flick The Blob and a black hole, with a little 3D PacMan thrown in.
I dare not start rolling around in such an appealing virtual world because of my aforementioned addictive nature, but if you’d like to give it a go, Katamari is available for Sony PlayStation 2 and other video game consoles.
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Posted January 18, 2006 by Mariva in entertaining, entertainment, fun, gadgets, games, gifts, home, innovations, news
What to wear to a New Year’s Eve party:
Posted December 30, 2005 by Mariva in entertaining, fashion, holidays, home, social
Does scented paper exist? I’ve been intrigued by the concept since seeing Legally Blonde, in which Reese Witherspoon’s character Elle Woods submitted her resume on paper that was not only pink, but scented as well, to give it that "extra something." After conducting my own exhaustive research, however, I found out that you can’t just purchase a ream of scented paper at, say, Office Depot.
The only products I found that were even close to this mythical scented paper included:
I also found a couple of resources for do-it-yourselfers, so that you can either infuse a scent into existing paper or make your own scented herb paper from scratch.
I hope someone eventually makes inexpensive scented paper that’s suitable for printing. A savvy entrepreneur could fill some niche markets in the wedding, home crafting, scrapbooking, stationery, dining napkin or specialty paper industries. Maybe Martha or Kate — or, more practically, Wausau Paper or Gartner Studios — should look into it.
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Posted December 28, 2005 by Mariva in bath & spa, business, decor, entertaining, gifts, home, innovations
||Jethro Tull Christmas Album
I’ve never been much of a Deadhead, but as youthful musical obsessions go, I would say I was definitely more of a Tull Skull. As such, this is one of my favorite winter holiday albums. Please don’t ask me what the lyrics mean; I usually don’t have a clue. But the album is delightful nonetheless — very solstitial.
||Music for a Soulful Christmas
This is a little-known compilation of wonderful Christmas songs by some of my favorite vocal artists of the mid-twentieth century: Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Nancy Wilson, Lou Rawls, Lena Horne and Charles Brown. Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" is alone worth the price of the entire album, but I should mention that I swoon to Nat King Cole’s "O Holy Night" as well.
This compilation features more artists that are current than those mentioned above. I love Harry Connick, Jr.’s jazzy, rhythmically exuberant piano version of "Winter Wonderland," the fun Hawaiian Christmas song "Meme Kalikimaka" by Poi Dog Pondering, and two very different versions of "O Come All Ye Faithful," one by Wynton Marsalis, the other by Art Garfunkel, both bittersweet and lovely.
It’s not too late to order any of these in time for the weekend.
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Posted December 20, 2005 by Mariva in entertaining, entertainment, gifts, holidays, home, music
Does it fly? Can it cry? Can you eat it? Is it blue? Can you throw it? The Mind-Reading Electronic Question Game is a cool-looking device that can guess an object that you’re thinking of (although I can’t imagine that it could come up with obscure band names and scientific terms). Good for long trips, waiting rooms, bored kids and party ice-breakers.
Or you could just play 20 Questions online for free.
Posted December 19, 2005 by Mariva in entertaining, entertainment, fun, gadgets, games, gifts, home, innovations, social, travel
When I was in the eighth grade, my English teacher assigned the class a unique exercise in vocabulary building: an empty table with general categories (cities, vegetables, animals, etc.) across the top, and single letters down the left-hand side. Our task was to complete the table with category-specific words that began with each of the letters. I was under the impression that I had to fill in every cell of the table — or fail the assignment.
So, with a little help from my family, I set about doing the assignment, which was more fun than I’d expected. Most of the cells were easy to fill in (an animal starting with the letter M could be moose or mouse or mink, and so on), but some of the cells seemed nearly impossible to fill in. In the end, I got creative, using nasturtium for a vegetable starting with N (with an asterisk, I explained that nasturtium was an herb that could be used in salads). Manhattan was my choice for a city starting with M, even though technically, Manhattan is a borough. For a vegetable starting with the letter D, I explained that "domato" is tomato pronounced with a bad head cold. My teacher seemed to appreciate my creative license, especially since I turned out to be the only student who’d managed to complete the entire table. I didn’t realize at the time that I’d been playing a handmade version of Scattergories, to which I would be been introduced five years later by a couple of little girls who beat me handily.
The San Francisco Chronicle publishes an annual review of board games, a terrific resource for game- and gift-buyers. The article claims that because of their annual imitators, "Trivial Pursuit and Balderdash are like the Beatles and Rollling Stones of board games . . ." To borrow this analogy, I would contend that Scattergories is the board game equivalent of — bear with me — Talking Heads. Perhaps marginal compared to the Fab Four or the Stones, but oh so cool. The centerpiece of Scattergories, a nifty icosahedral die with twenty usable letters, is worth the price alone.
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Posted December 15, 2005 by Mariva in education, entertaining, fun, games, gifts, resources, social