Category: Drinks (Page 1 of 3)

NYC Food Adventures: Tap Water

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

Tap Water? Yes, Tap Water.

I’ll be honest. Until this moment, I had not considered blogging about tap water. Who blogs about tap water? Who even thinks about it? The answer to the latter question, however, is easy: my husband. He is a HUGE water drinker and you could even call him a water connoisseur.

Mike likes his water pure, as free of minerals as possible. He thus is not a fan of mineral water, and as an environmentally conscious person, he’s not a fan of bottled water in general. So he pays a lot of attention to the quality of tap water. We bought our home in San Leandro because tap water here (and further north in Alameda county) comes from snow melt from the Sierra Nevada – and apparently, snow melt water is the freshest and tastiest.

While I didn’t have many expectations about New York City tap water, I didn’t really think it would be good. The only time I’d read anything about it was back in the early 2000s when a story came out about how the water in NYC was not kosher – it’s full of tiny crustaceans left there to kill mosquito larva. Around that time there were stories about how the wigs many Orthodox women wear were also not kosher as they used hair cut during pagan ceremonies, but locusts, plagues of which occasionally hit Israel, are – so all these weirds facts stuck in my mind. Imagine my surprise, then, when Mike insisted in getting tap water whenever we ate out, even at fancy New York city restaurants.

It turns out that New York city tap water is really good. It has won taste contests, something which Mike, as a water connoisseur, was aware of, and tastes clean and fresh. The water comes from reservoirs and lakes in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains, and thus it’s a combination of snow melt and rain water.

According to Mike, who had plenty of opportunity to try it, NYC tap water is just as good as ours. So if you visit, make sure to try it.

Black Irish Irish Cream: Taste Just Like Baileys

We are not huge alcohol drinkers, but I do like cream liqueurs from time to time, and Baileys Irish Cream is our “default.” Irish Cream consists of Irish whiskey, cream, cacao and sometimes other flavorings. It was invented by an ad agency back in 1973, but the Irish seem to have adopted it as their own.

We usually buy Baileys when it’s on sale, or Kirkland Irish Cream, the Costco brand, if we shop at Costco. But I saw that Safeway also carried O’Connery’s Irish Cream Liqueur for just $8-9, and I figured it was worth a try. It gets fairly good reviews and is made by a well known distillery. I do most of my purchasing online, however, and despite the fact that I always ask for no substitutions, Safeway invariably substitutes unavailable products for ones that much more expensive. So unsurprisingly Safeway sent me this Black Irish Irish Cream instead of the O’Connery. At $25, it was over 3 times the price I expected to pay, but fortunately Safeway gave me a refund. I kept the bottle, however, and today I gave it a try. It tastes just like Baileys.

I don’t really know how to describe Irish cream, and there might be some minute differences that a connoisseur could tell, but to me they taste pretty much the same. The same can be said about Kirkland Irish Cream, btw. Unfortunately, both Black Irish and Baileys cost approximately the same – at least when not on sale.


Doing some digging online, I found out that the Black Irish brand is owned by singer Mariah Carey, who realized you can make far more money selling alcohol than singing. Given the very commercial origins of Irish cream, I don’t think anyone can be upset. Still, no reason to buy it or not buy it instead of Baileys – if I had to choose between the two, I’d go for whichever one is on sale.

Hot Cocoa in Fine China

A few nights ago, I was watching an old episode of Miss Marple, At Bertram’s Hotel to be exact, and in one scene a maid brought Miss Marple a cup of cocoa in bed. It was served in a dainty tea cup and the whole thought of drinking cocoa in bed from fine china seemed very luxurious. So I tried it the other day. It was glorious. It’s also a way of getting a sweet treat in a pretty limited amount – a tea cup doesn’t hold that much, after all.

It also reminded me of how fondly my aunt Gladys used to talk about her evenings at Bennington College in Vermont. Gladys had studied to be an English teacher at the INPLV in Buenos Aires (where the famed Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni had been one of her professors), and had received a fellowship to do post-graduate studies at Bennington. She taught Spanish there, I think, and lived in the dorms where every evening the girls would be served hot chocolate. I don’t know if they drank it from tea cups, but now I like imagining it being so. She was so extremely fond of reminiscing about her time at Bennington.

Growing up, cocoa was something that only children drunk. It was generally in cold drinks, which we called by the names of the most famous brands, Toddy and Nesquik. Or at least that’s how it was in my house. I don’t remember adults ever drinking cocoa, maybe that made the memories fonder.

Uncle Matt’s Organic Orange Juice Review

Pretty Good

Order Uncle Matt's Organic Orange Juice, Pulp Free, Plastic Bottle | Fast  Delivery

I continue in my quest of finding a commercial orange juice that can rival fresh squeezed. Basically, I want something that tastes as good as Odwalla did back in the 90’s, before an e-coli crisis forced them to pasteurize their juice. I realize it’s quite hard.

At $7-$9 for a 52-oz bottle, Uncle Matt is priced as a premium supermarket brand (similar to Nature, Evolution and the former Odwalla), and it seems to achieve pretty much the same quality. It’s closer to orange juice than the cheaper brands, but not quite fresh. I still prefer the Costco brand more, but this will do in a pinch. I did find it too sweet for my taste.

La Croix Lemoncello & Hibiscus Sparkling Water Review

Best La Croix Flavors — We Matched the Best LaCroix Flavors for Whatever  Type of Vibe You're Feeling
Image borrowed from La Croix

This water smells exactly like lemon buttercream frosting. It’s hard to imagine how they were able to create that exact scent, but they did. As the sparkling water is not flavored, however, it does not taste like lemon buttercream frosting, but it leaves you with a weird buttery feeling in the back of your mouth. It’s pretty disconcerting.

While drinking it is an interesting experience, it’s not a particularly pleasant one. I’m slowly forcing my way through the 8-pack because I paid for it, but not because I enjoy them.

Natural LaCroix Hi-Biscus! flavored Sparkling Water
Image borrowed from La Croix

I’m ambivalent about hibiscus drinks, known as jamaica in Mexico and karkadeh in Egypt. I’m neither a fan nor a hater. But I was curious enough about this hibiscus sparkling water to give it a try. It’s somewhat better than the limoncello one, but still not my cup of tea – or sparkling water.

First, I don’t actually detect much hibiscus flavor. What I detect is a flavor similar to, albeit les pronounced than, the berry sparkling waters in the market. I completely despise those flavors, but I can bare with this one because it’s lighter. Still, I’m also only finishing the box because I don’t want them to go to waste.

Pomegranate Mint Lassi

I discovered this delicious drink at All Spice restaurant in San Mateo, and I was hooked.   I’m a big lover of sweet lassis, and I couldn’t believe I had never had a mint one before – when it seems like such an obvious flavor combination.  I wasn’t sure what the pomegranate contributed – I still don’t know – but the drink at the restaurant was so delicious I just had to try it myself.

I did as a first course for my 2017 Christmas Eve dinner – and it was a big hit.  The recipe is very simple, you need:

  • plain yogurt (regular or Greek)
  • pomegranate juice
  • honey
  • dried mint

I can’t tell you the proportions as I simply combined the yogurt with the lassi until it had the right consistency and then added honey until it was sweet enough – beating with an immersion blender, but you can just put everything in a blender.  I then added mint until I could taste it.   I tried it with both fresh and dried mint, but dried mint works far better.  The key to this lassi is to let it rest for at least half an hour before serving, as the flavors need time to combine.  But make it, you won’t be disappointed.

Tea, lovely tea: Reviews of ESP Emporium flavored teas

I’ve never been much of a fan of flavored teas, I like black tea enough as it is.  I’ll make an exception for Earl Grey, but that’s about it.   I didn’t even begin tasting flavored teas until we started going, more or less regularly, to the Golden Tea Garden in Hayward.  The owner is a huge flavored tea aficionado, and her menu of teas reaches into the dozens, if not hundreds.  Every time she gives you a taste of something new and features special flavors.  I still always order black tea, but the girls and whoever else comes with me freely explore the flavors.

Last week, as I was considering Christmas presents for the kids, I remembered how much Mika loves caramel tea and decided to buy her some. Browsing through Amazon.com, I was amazed to find out just how expensive caramel tea was!  Fortunately, I eventually came about ESP Emporium teas.  ESP Emporium is an online tea specialty store selling all sorts of exotic, flavored and regular teas, as well as tea making/drinking equipment.  Basically, they seem like a competitor to Teavana.  Fortunately, they price the items they sell through Amazon.com much more reasonably.   More importantly, they have some amazing, if very fleeting, sales on items – I’m not sure if they are overstock or lower quality (the photos of what I got do not always match the ones on ESP’s website) -, but the prices are definitely attractive.  I now make it a point to add in whatever ESP Emporium is on sale at a good price whenever I’m making a qualifying Amazon purchase.

ESP Emporium sells teas either in canisters or in bags.  If you buy them at Amazon.com, it’s very clear which you are buying.  It’s much less clear on their website – I assume they all come in bags, but don’t really know.  They both seal very well, but the canisters are difficult to open – so if you have arthritis, you may want to order the bags instead. That said, I prefer them in canisters.

Also, please note the brewing time for each tea on the bag/container.  Rooibos and fruit teas require longer times than regular black teas.

I’ve been using my Keurig machine to brew the tea, as it’s very easy.  You can usually get at least 3 10-oz mugs of brewed tea from each filled canister.  But fill the canister, otherwise you’ll end up with a very weak tea.

Also to note, I only recently realized that Chinese tea comes from China (duh!).  I mean, I knew it, but Chinese tea has been such a commodity for centuries that it did not occur to me that it might suffer from the same problems of soil contamination that every other food from China does.  Unfortunately, studies show that it does.  It contains high level of lead, though fortunately the lead stay with the leaf and doesn’t make it into the tea itself.  Still, I think I’ll be cautious and stop buying Chinese tea in the future. I’m also going to be noting where teas are made, whenever I can find the information.

These are the teas I’ve tried:

Fruit Teas

IMG_20150301_130632

Goldrush Bergamot/Lemon

Goldrush Bergamot Lemon Premium White Green Tea Blend has green & white tea, white rose buds (I didn’t get any in the photo, but they’re there), yogurt granules and natural bergaot and lemon flavors.  This is a pretty weakly flavored tea, not too citrusy, but enjoyable with quite a bit of sugar.

Piña Colada (my photo)

Piña Colada tea

Pina Colada Rooibos Tea Blend is a mixture of Rooibos tea with pineapple cubes, coconut shreds and flavoring.

I also really liked this light, fruity tea.  It didn’t remind me of piña colada as much as it did of candy in general.  But it was light, and easy to drink. Again, I felt it needed sugar and did best without milk.

Sir Stuart tea

Sir Stuart tea

Sir Stuart is a blend of black and green teas with “ginger pieces, fennel, cardamom seed, flavoring, rose petals, cornflower blossoms”.

This is a really nice tea.  It is very balanced, with a grown up orangy flavor, a little bitter and a little bit spicy at time.  I always drink my teas with sugar, and I felt this one really needed it for the full flavor to burst through.   This is often my to-go tea when I don’t know what else to drink.

Chocolate Teas

Chocolate/Cream/ Truffles Black Tea Blend

Chocolate/Cream/ Truffles Black Tea Blend

Chocolate/Cream/ Truffles Black Tea Blend is a mixture of black tea with “broken cocoa bits, coconut shreds, chocolate chips” and “flavoring”.

I got a bag of this one and the smell when you open it is unbelievable.  The chocolate and coconut really come through and work well together, so that the end product is really neither.  It’s very tasty though, but I do thing it needs both milk and sugar for the true flavors to shine – otherwise I found the tea sort of weak.

Chocolate Sun

Chocolate Sun

Chocolate Sun

This is a Sencha green tea from China and includes cocoa peel, orange peel, cocoa pieces and other flavoring.

I made this in my Keurig and I found it to be very weak.  Of course, the Keurig doesn’t give it the 2-3 minutes seeping time this tea needs, but yet it does well with other teas that require longer seeping times.  I will try it again using a tea kettle and report back.

Caramel Teas

Caramel tea (my photo)

Caramel tea

Caramel Black Tea Blend is black tea with caramel pieces and flavoring.  It retails for $11.50 for 100g. I paid $3.

I originally came across ESP Emporium while looking for caramel tea, so I was very disappointed at how weak this tea is, both in terms of caramel flavor and flavor altogether. This was the case both through a regular brew and in the Keurig.

Maple Taffy

 Maple Taffy Black Blend

This black tea has cinnamon pieces, dehydrated maple syrup, cinnamon rods, popcorn, white cornflower blossoms and flavoring.

I have to confess that I just loved that this tea came with popcorn.  I don’t know if it added anything to the flavor, but just how cool is it to make popcorn tea?  The tea, meanwhile was very good.  It had a nice old-fashion caramel flavor and was definitely better than the caramel tea.

Flower Teas

teagarden

Flower Garden Fruit Tea Blend

Flower Garden Fruit Tea Blend is a mixture of pieces of dried sour apples and pears,  pink rosebuds,  freeze-dried strawberry and raspberry pieces, blackberry leaves, cornflower blossoms, marigold blossoms, rose petals, Roman chamomile and flavoring.

This tea is just beautiful, pretty much just a combination of flower bulbs. And it tastes like flowers too. If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s mostly like a rose hip tea.  Definitely needs sugar to bring up the flavors, though.

Rooibos Teas

Also see Piña Colada tea above

Creamsicle Tea

Creamsicle Tea

Creamsicle Rooibos Tea has rooibos tea, flavoring, orange peel and freeze-dried yogurt pieces.  I guess I was expecting this to taste like an orange creamsicle, but it tasted like a very good, very balanced cup of tea with milk.  It was really nice, and definitely something to keep in the pantry for when you want just a classic tea with milk, but have no milk around.

Tiramisu/Mascarpone Rooibos Tea

Tiramisu/Mascarpone Rooibos Tea

Tiramisu/Mascarpone Rooibos Tea adds chocolate chips, brittle pieces, caramel pieces, freeze-dried yogurt pieces, roasted coffee beans, Roman chamomile and flavoring to the rooibos tea.

I’m not sure I can see all those ingredients in the tea, and perhaps that’s why it doesn’t actually taste like either Tiramisu or Mascarpone or a combination of either.  It lacks the sour element of both, other than perhaps as an aftertaste.  While I can’t quite describe the flavor of this tea – beyond being a well balanced rooibos – it is very pleasant, with or without milk.

 Ginger/Pepper/Orange tea

Ginger/Pepper/Orange tea

Ginger/Pepper/Orange Rooibos Tea has almond slivers pistachios, orange peels, coriander, pink peppercorns and flavoring added to the rooibos tea.

This is pretty much a generic rooibos tea.  It’s good if you like rooibos tea, which I do, but I think the added ingredients substract from each other rather than add, and what you are left with is pretty generic.

 

Limeade Recipe

This recipe is for “Brazilian lemonade”, but it tastes just like the lemonade I used to drink in Egypt over two decades ago.  It’s delicious and refreshing, but it does require a blender and a strainer.  The original recipe asks for 1/2 cup of sugar, but I felt it was a little too sweet. Next time I’ll make it with 1/3 cup.

 

  • 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. condensed milk
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 ice cubes + more for serving

Wash the limes, cut and discard both ends, and then cut them into 8 segments each.  Put limes, sugar, condensed milk, water and 3 ice cubes in a blender.  Blend until the ice has disintegrated.  Strain and serve over ice.

Adapted from Jumala’s recipe at AllRecipes.com

Marga’s Best Recipes

Exotic Drinks Review: Verka Mango Lassi, Coco Passion Fruit Drink &

lassiMy last visit to Santos Spice market ended with us buying several “exotic” drinks to try.  My oldest daughter loves trying new things, and while these weren’t cheap, they turned out to be very good.

My daughter loves mango lassis, and Verka Mango Lassi is pretty good.  It actually tasted more like a mango yogurt drink, though it doesn’t have any yogurt. The ingredients are milk, mango pure, sugar, cream and water. It comes in a 1 pint bottle.  It’s made in the USA.

passionfruitMika was excited t try Coco Passion Fruit Drink because she’d never had passion fruit or passion fruit juice before.  The drink, actually bottled in Thailand, is made of water, sugar, passion fruit juice, citric acid, artificial flavor, and gellam gum – so it’s not as pure as the lassi.  Still, it was very tasty.  Indeed, it tasted very much like guava juice, though it was thicker than the guava  juice we usually get.

lychee1We’ve never had lychee juice before, and T.A.S. Lychee Drink was sort of a revelation. It has the same flavor profile as guava juice but it’s sweeter, if you can imagine that, with a subtle floral/rose-like flavor.  We liked it, though I personally would have preferred it being less sweet.  Mika thought it was refreshing. I’m thinking that I should explore lychees more.  It seems like a sophisticated fruit that could enhance a multi-course menu.   The drink comes in a 10.5 oz can and it’s also made in Thailand. The ingredients are water, lychee juice, sugar and citric acid.

White Hot Chocolate Recipe

I personally liked this recipe for white hot chocolate, but nobody else was as fond of it as me.

  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • whipped cream for garnish
In a heavy pot, mix the white chocolate chips. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate chips dissolve.  Mix in the milk and vanilla extract. Continue cooking until the chocolate milk is heated through, stirring occasionally.  Serve and top with whipped cream.
Based on Paula Deen’s recipe at the Food Network.

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