Last year, I wrote about Tofurky’s parent company, Turtle Island Foods (still independent!) and their line of great vegetarian and vegan meat alternatives (most under the Tofurky brand name). This year, they’ve expanded their line to include some new convenience meals: “chick’n” pot pie, eggless quiche, and hot sandwich pockets.
They graciously sent me a sample of several of the new products to try out. I have to say, I was a bit dubious about a vegan pot pie. Not the filling so much, but the crust. Gotta have a rich, buttery crust on a pot pie; otherwise, what’s the point? But this pot pie (including the crust) was delicious. It was actually better than the pot pies I remember eating when I was a kid (and my husband agreed). I was hoping that my daughter (a picky eater) would like it, but once she finished the top crust and was just left with mostly filling, she pushed it aside. But we gladly finished it for her.
The quiche was also quite tasty. I’m not a big fan of really eggy quiches, so because this one is egg-free, I liked it quite a bit. But if eggy quiches are your preference, this version isn’t going to do much for you. The pockets were also quite good and easy to prepare. The pepperoni pizza (with an herbed crust) was my favorite. I didn’t even let my husband have the second pocket in the package. And I feel no remorse.
Now, just because these are vegan foods, don’t think they are “health food.” The pot pie has about as much fat and calories (and sodium) as a standard pot pie of a similar size. Which is why it tastes so good. The pockets, however, are definitely more diet-friendly, with each at 300 calories or fewer per pocket.
How they got to their initial list of 1,400-ish from the estimated 6,000 or so bakeries in this country, I’m not sure, though at least some bakeries were considered due to a nomination from a panel of experts. These experts (some of whom have bakeries that made the list) contributed additional criteria, including atmosphere, technique, consistency, service, what their “standout specialties” are, and if they can make a good croissant.
Unsurprisingly, New York tops the list with nine bakeries. Massachusetts, Pennsylvaina, and Oregon each have four; California, Florida, and Washington state each have three bakeries on the list. Ultimately, bakeries in just 24 states made it, including a single bakery right here in Middle Tennessee.
I stopped in around noon and to my surprise, there were still kolaches available, so I got a cherry kolache. But my eyes were immediately drawn to a rolled loaf of bread that had hints of bright reddish-orange peeking through. What is that? Sriracha cheese bread.
Yes, Sriracha cheese bread. As it appeared to me, it was, at first, pizza dough. But then it was lovingly coated with Sriracha hot sauce and very lightly sprinkled with cheese and, finally, rolled into a log and baked. I had to have it. Though I really expected it to be too hot for me, I knew my husband would love it.
Once I got home, I tried it. Delicious. The bread was crispy on the outside and chewy inside like a perfect pizza crust. And then the heat kicked in. Not burn-your-lips heat, but enough to make you aware of what you’re eating (and enjoy it). After several more bites, I set it aside and set about figuring out what to serve for dinner that would go with it.
The Red’s product line — frozen burritos and quesadillas — is geared more toward omnivores than vegetarians like myself, but offers two options (a bean and rice burrito and a bean and cheese quesadilla) for those who don't eat meat. My challenge, however, was actually finding the meat-free versions locally. Though Red's products are widely available, the nearby Publix and Target didn't carry any of the vegetarian versions. Fortunately, I finally found the burrito at the Harris Teeter in Belle Meade. I also picked up steak and pulled pork quesadillas for my husband to try.
The first thing I noticed about this frozen burrito was its heft. It weighed in at nearly three-quarters of a pound. (The company is in the process of introducing a smaller burrito that weighs 6 ounces). I cooked it according to the directions (microwave some; oven to finish) and dug in. I have a pretty healthy appetite, but I couldn’t finish it. My husband had just one of the two quesadillas in the package and was satisfied (which is a big deal). He did finish my burrito, though. The verdict? This is a damn good burrito. The kind you’d make at home if you felt like putting in all the work of dicing and chopping and cooking rice and so on. Delicious and better than most frozen burritos. More in line with what you get at Baja Burrito or Blue Coast Burrito. My husband loved his quesadillas, too (both flavors).
Recently, Alexandra of Sweet Betweens wrote about her visit as did Kira over at Cook, Pray Love and Adrien at Food is a Good Thing. And frequent Bites commenter Tracey, too. Sheesh! I have other friends who’ve been as well, so I have it on good authority that great things come from there.
So obviously, I was interested in trying out Roots Organic's products. I figured I'd get a coupon or two, but no, they sent me their entire line of hummus to try. Eight different flavors! Granted, it's really easy to make a good hummus at home, but I rarely do. Usually only for parties because most recipes have a large yield. A lot of commercial hummus is rather bland, though. Not Roots Organic. They consider themselves “the microbrew of hummus” because it's made in small batches with care. And it’s evident from the taste.
The first I tried was the one that was most unusual: Thai coconut curry. I was dubious, but holy cow, that stuff was good. I took it (and a few other flavors) with me to “tailgate” before a recent show at the amphitheater at Fontanel, and though all flavors got the thumbs-up, the unanimous favorite was the Thai coconut curry. The flavor is not bold, but not subtle either, and the coconut really comes through. It’s not spicy; it had just the right amount of curry. I checked with the company and it’s available at both Whole Foods locations (Green Hills and on McEwen in Franklin). The Turnip Truck also carries this brand, but you might want to request this flavor next time you stop in if you’re on the East Side.
Other flavors were the plain, oil-free (half the fat!), spinach, roasted garlic, black bean, roasted red pepper, extra hot chipotle. Every flavor was better than just about any store-bought hummus I’ve had. I even liked the chipotle, which had a real kick to it from the pepper, but still a really great taste.
As indicated by their name, the most of the hummus ingredients (including the primary ingredients of each) are organic. All are also vegan and gluten-free. Roots Organic products are available locally at Whole Foods, The Turnip Truck, and Sunshine Nutrition Center.
But sales at all locations have apparently been good enough to keep them open, and their customer base is fiercely loyal. The news of the planned purchase (awaiting SEC approval) was met with less than positive response in the Twitterverse. The aesthetics, product selection and quality are all very different between the two brands. And Harris Teeter shoppers are unlikely to shop at Kroger and will certainly be keeping a close eye on the quality and selection to which they've become accustomed.
Me? Eh, I'm a Publix shopper. I do, on occasion shop at Harris Teeter when I'm interested in a different shopping experience (it really is a lovely store) or looking for something I can't find at Publix. I'm not anti-Kroger, though. However, the store could definitely stand an Extreme Grocery Makeover. Even after two sets of renovations at the Belle Meade location in recent years, it still feels dingy and cramped. Attempts to make it more upscale seemed to fall flat. So I tend to go to another Kroger instead.
And I do shop at Kroger. There are just certain items that are significantly cheaper there (Dill Pickle Lay's potato chips, for example: $4.29 at Publix; $2.99 at Kroger), and there are some private-label items I prefer as well. The Kroger brand fajita seasoning is the secret to my fajitas and bean burritos, and the Kroger brand of gummy snacks (I prefer the dinosaurs to the sharks) are gelatin-free, unlike name-brand fruit snacks.
See? Kroger's not so bad. Kroger shoppers have, for years, even been nicknaming their Krogers. Though the nicknames I've heard for the East Nashville Kroger aren't very kind.
Anne Byrn's Cake Mix Doctor cookbooks made the Nashville native a trusted friend in the kitchen. She fixed a persistent problem: box mix cakes' chemical taste and unvarying rubber-sponge texture were only barely acceptable, and only because the mixes were so convenient. Her recipes turned cake mix into banana cake with caramel frosting, pumpkin cake, and lemon poppyseed cake.
Then she decided to fix what was broken in the first place: the cake mix.
Once she had formulated a yellow cake mix and a chocolate mix, Byrn set about getting them to the public. Corner Market has always carried them. Byrn did a stint on QVC in 2010, selling between 5,000 and 6,000 units in six minutes. She set up e-commerce on her website so that people without access could buy the mix online. She attended food trade shows.
Porter Road Butcher is expanding to West Nashville with a new location on Charlotte Avenue. A second shop, to be dubbed Porter Road Butcher West, will take over the former Mrs. Winner’s building at 4816 Charlotte Ave., across from Richland Park.
Opened in late 2011, the whole-animal butcher shop run by former chefs James Peisker and Chris Carter has exploded, tapping into a market for locally grown, non-industrial pork, beef, lamb and poultry. The East Nashville location on Gallatin Pike has been regularly selling out of product since this past summer.
“We opened up as a neighborhood shop and realize all of Nashville wants a neighborhood butcher shop,” Peisker says. “It’s gratifying because people have a passion for what we’ve been doing. By us growing, it shows Nashville is becoming a food city.”
But it’s also great for people who don’t or can’t consume honey (I discovered recently that honey allergies are fairly common). Hey Shuga! is just as thick as honey, so you can still get the rich flavor, texture and glaze in your favorite sauces, salad dressings, granola, and other recipes that call for honey. Not to mention it would taste wonderful in hot tea or lemonade … or in a Gold Rush. Though I have mostly just consumed it by the teaspoon. (Ahem.)
The Shuga line also includes Lil’ Shuga!, which is a blend of cane sugar syrup and stevia extract. The result is a syrup that’s much sweeter than sugar, but with only five calories in a 1/3 teaspoon serving. It’s great for people watching their weight, but not quite suitable for diabetics. It’s a happy medium, particularly in recipes where you need a lot of sweetener, because pure stevia extract in large amounts gets a little weird-tasting (almost metallic), but Lil’ Shuga still tastes great. Note: the website includes pointers for using both products in baking.
Hey Shuga! and Lil’ Shuga! are both available at the Nashville location of Whole Foods, but the product sampling this weekend will only be at the Franklin location. It’s definitely worth a try.
Whole Foods Market - Franklin
1566 W. McEwen Drive
Franklin, Tennessee 37067
Eh, notsomuch. The examples they use, including the Joe's O's seemed to be only very thinly cloaked in mystery. How could you not know those are repackaged Cheerios? And the vegetarian chili is so obviously repackaged by Amy's Organic that I didn't even realize that the can I bought from Trader Joe's was private label. Though, one of my favorites that they missed is the Trader Joe's version of Sunbutter. I've had jars of both side by side and it's easy to tell that the only difference is the label (and even then, there's a lot of similarity in color scheme and design). Right down to the best-by date printed on the lid, the products are identical. It's kind of hilarious. And the price difference varies by $1 to $1.50 per jar. Which is a lot, though not if you factor in a trip to Green Hills (hence the reason there is a name-brand jar in my house currently).
But the thing I think the story really missed is the actual name-brand products that TJ's carries at a significant price difference. Not everything in the store has some variant of a Trader Joe's label. For example, Kerrygold butter, Lightlife Smart Dogs, Morningstar Bacon, and Tofurky slices are all nearly half the cost at Trader Joe's than they are at Publix. Obviously, my shopping list is very specific, but I'm certain that there are other items in the aisles that are also heavily discounted. Though it seems the only real advantage to the beer aisle is being able to buy a single bottle of beer (in a size smaller than 40 ounces) ...
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