This Friday Favorites installment is a reflection on 2015. Here, I've assembled here a motley array of some of my favorite culinary and life-affirming discoveries this year. I share them in the hopes that something may inspire you, too.
1. Vintage Charm by Pyrex. This is a big year for Pyrex. Earlier this year, I wrote a story for Paste about the Pyrex exhibit in Corning commemorating its 100th anniversary, and I was reminded again of my love for it. Such workhorses in the kitchen. Recently, I was at Shop-Rite and discovered these gems.
2. The Owl's Brew. If you love tea, and are into creative cocktails, this is for you. Tea concentrates, ready for your beer, spirits or wine, or splash them with seltzer or other beverages for non-alcoholic enjoyment. The folks behind this cool company, which launched in 2014 (check), are serious tea drinkers. (You may have seen some special-edition versions of these products in either West Elm or Williams-Sonoma.)
3. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. You may know this somewhat local (Frenchtown, NJ) author from her paradigm-shifting best seller Eat Pray Love. Gilbert offers some insights from her own experiences with creativity that have really shifted the way I think about creativity, fear, new projects, and so forth. I'd also highly recommend the podcast Magic Lessons, in which Gilbert talks to someone who's blocked or struggling with their creativity and then brings in various marquee-named friends to offer their advice, too.
4. Sorghum. I've been using sorghum flour a lot this year because it's somewhat sweet, neutral and gluten-free substitute for traditional flours, but it also combines well with all-purpose flours, oat flour and rice flour, too. It grows well in the United States (Texas is a big producer), and can withstand dry weather; historically, it's more known in the Southern cuisine. It's pretty widely available in most supermarkets.
5. Speaking of alternative flours, Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich is one of my favorite books from the past year, even though it was published in late 2014. If you want to learn how to use corn, buckwheat, teff and oat flours and happen to need to bake that are gluten-free, this is your dream book. It's also a James Beard Award-winner.
6. I spent a good deal of time doing research on the fallacy that is much of modern extra virgin olive oil for Rodale's Organic Life. In the process, I discovered this amazing, award-winning extra virgin olive oil in the process from Castillo de Canena. This one here fro Picual olives is fruity, herbaceous and smooth, available at Whole Foods Markets and retailers such as Olive Oil Lovers.
7. The Loving Piece, in downtown Easton. Organic clothing, cool jewelry, organic body care, Himalayan pink salt lamps (good for health and well-being, as it adds negative ions to the air), crystals my kids are always asking for, and other natural, feel-good, positive-vibe raising stuff. So thrilled it's in my town.
8. Organic Chamomile Honey Tea from Republic of Tea. This is a cool story. Republic of Tea has partnered with Xerces organization, a nonprofit company that works to protect wildlife through the conservation of pollinators such as bees. The tea uses heirloom chamomile grown at the base of the Alps, with honey for this tea. Sometimes chamomile teas are flowery and soapy in a way that I dislike, but this is floral, with notes of apples, and I love that the aroma of honey hits you as soon as you open the container. It's the perfect tea for any time of day, but I especially enjoy it in the late afternoon or evening, or whenever you need a little extra help winding down.
9. Seely Chocolate Mint Patties. While we're on the subject of Whole Foods, if you're lucky to live near one of these stores, you may have seen these handmade gems from Seely. The organic mint is grown right on the third-generation family farm in near Clatskanie, Oregon. It's their own oil that goes into the candies, which are covered in a rich dark Belgian chocolate. This is not the peppermint patty you grew up with; it's herbal and sharp and refreshing in the way that most mass-produced national brands are not. Everything they make is non-GMO and gluten free.
I've got lots of honorable mentions, such as the single-origin old-world chocolate bars from Barcelona's Blanxart, the wide array of extracts from Nielsen-Massey that I use regularly (chocolate, coffee, peppermint) and on and on. Stay tuned for another year of culinary and spiritual discoveries.
What are some of your favorite discoveries from 2015?