Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Matters of Taste

By Maureen Clancy

April 25, 2007


You don't need a Fairy Godmother's magic wand to transform that simple steak into fancy restaurant fare. All you need is a tiny tub of Epicurean Butter. These boldly flavored compound butters (the term means that minced herbs, seasonings or liquids are folded into softened butter) can be melted into a dish at the last minute or dolloped on a finished plate. The Scampi Butter, with garlic, lemon juice and herbs, is nice with pasta and pan-sautéed shrimp. Black Truffle Butter does wonders for risotto and grilled steaks. Chili Lime is good on halibut and pork chops. All are quite salty. The 12 flavors cost about $3.50 each at Whole Foods, Bristol Farms and some Vons stores.

We knew we were in for a rush of “single-origin” chocolate when big-boy Hershey's jumped on the bandwagon. Now, single-origin chocolate ice cream has arrived, courtesy of Choctal, a Pasadena-based company. Four deliriously delicious ice creams are made with cacao powder from Borneo, Costa Rica, Ghana and Santo Domingo. To be honest, I didn't detect a whole lot of difference in the flavors – maybe a hint of fruit here, a hint of coffee there. But comparing them is a fun exercise for serious chocoholics, and they make a darn good dessert for the rest of us. A pint costs about $6 at Whole Foods and Jonathan's La Jolla.

The spokesman for Fever Tree Tonic Water was brief and to the point: “You buy super-premium vodka, then mix it with some low-grade stuff containing corn syrup and sodium benzoate. It doesn't make sense.” After a personal taste test, I'm inclined to agree. The product, from England, has a bright, bitter, clean taste that made a gin and tonic more refreshing. Quinine is the first ingredient on the Fever Tree list, followed by cane sugar. Quinine is last on the Schweppes list, after high-fructose corn syrup and sodium benzoate. Bitter Lemon and Ginger Ale are also available; all cost about $6 a four-pack. Coming soon to upscale markets.