October 27, 2014

Well, it is the start of a new week, and although that sometimes comes with the dragging of heels while returning to work/a busy schedule, I’m here to brighten your Monday a bit with a giveaway! And not just any old giveaway; in honor of American Cheese Month, I’ve got a giveaway for a $50 Whole Foods Market gift card for you to create the cheese tray of your dreams!

American Cheese Month at Whole Foods Market

American Cheese Month spans the month of October, but I don’t know why you have to relegate yourself to eating amazing American made cheese during those four weeks only. Undoubtedly, my favorite aspect of our brand new Whole Foods Market near my house is the cheese section. When I’m shopping, you can almost always be sure to find me visiting that particular counter. I love trying out cheese varieties that are new to me, and Whole Foods never seems to disappoint with their selection. So, when Whole Foods asked me to try out some American made cheese, how could I possibly say no???

I asked my in store cheesemonger to set me up with a variety of textures and flavors with the cheese, and I left it up to her to surprise me with what she thought I’d find interesting. I ended up with five different cheeses, along with some flatbread, for my cheese tray!

American Cheese Month at Whole Foods Market

My first selection was the Rum Runner BellaVitano by Sartori. The cheese is made in Plymouth, Wisconsin and is a Whole Foods Market exclusive. The texture is slightly firm, and the initial flavor of this cow’s milk cheese is buttery. The cheese is soaked in a Wisconsin-produced “Heath rum,” and you can definitely taste the sweetness as you enjoy every bite. It was definitely one of our favorites in the tray!

The next cheese on my journey was the Saxony-Alpine Cheese made in Cleveland, Wisconsin. It is full bodied and features sweet and nutty flavors. This cow’s milk cheese has won awards at both the U.S. Cheese Championship and the Wisconsin State Fair, so it isn’t fooling around!

American Cheese Month at Whole Foods Market

Moving on! The third cheese we sampled was the Five Peppercorn Raclette by Emmi Roth out of Monroe, Wisconsin. I had never tasted a raclette cheese before, and it was the cheese on the tray that brought the most controversy, if you will. The aroma is very distinct (which is what could draw people in or drive them away if they aren’t used to strong smelling cheese), but the texture is smooth and great for melting, which is what I would recommend doing with it instead of eating it cold. It is another Whole Foods Market exclusive!

Next up – the Snowfields-Aged Butterkase Style Cheese by Saxon Creamery. This is another raw milk cow’s cheese. During the late fall and early winter in Cleveland, Wisconsin, their herd produces a unique milk that is high in protein and cream. It is aged for 6 months and rotated through 3 different aging rooms in order to develop it’s unique flavor – buttery, with notes of parmesan. Yet another crowd pleaser on our cheese sampling tray!

American Cheese Month at Whole Foods Market

The final cheese we sampled was the Rogue River Blue Cheese from Central Point, Oregon. The cheese itself is beautiful, marbled with bright blue specks. This blue cheese is wrapped in Syrah grape leaves that have been macerated in pear brandy. It is cave aged for a minimum of 9-12 months. The texture is unbelievably creamy and the flavor is vibrant.

American Cheese Month at Whole Foods Market

Of course, it wouldn’t be a great cheese plate without some sort of cracker or flatbread! I had to pick up a package of the new Raincoast Flats. These non-GMO flatbreads are debuting exclusively in Whole Foods Market this October in Kale and Walnut and Lemon Fennel flavors. I opted for the Kale and Walnut Flatbreads, and they were the perfect complement to my cheese. The long, thin flatbreads add the perfect crunch, and the flavors are light. They quickly disappeared from our tray…I guess I’ll have to return to Whole Foods to replenish!

American Cheese Month at Whole Foods Market

Have I made you hungry for cheese yet? Fear not, Whole Foods has also given me a $50 gift card to dole out to one of my fabulous readers! You too can create the cheese plate of your dreams! Just use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter to win!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***Disclosure: Whole Foods Market provided me with a gift card to purchase cheese samples, as well as a gift card to give away. All opinions are my own.****

September 24, 2014

There is something oh so wonderful coming to my neck of the woods. It’s opening today. I would be referring to the brand spanking new Whole Foods Market Clearwater. For me, the excitement is palpable. I have been anxiously awaiting the completion of the construction process for many months. I watched like a hawk to see when the opening date would be announced, and it has finally arrived. Whole Foods Market Clearwater, I have a feeling we are about to become the best of friends.

Whole Foods Market Clearwater fresh produce

I was so fortunate to be invited in early to the store to take a sneak peek tour behind the scenes. Which only increased my excitement, because there are some amazing elements included in this location…

Whole Foods Market Clearwater pizza program

For instance: PIZZA! The Clearwater Whole Foods Market location is the first to have a pizza program, and I have a feeling I will be ordering up a slice (or a whole pie) to take home with a bottle of wine on a Friday night when I want a relaxing no-cooking evening.  I love that you can watch the pizzas cooking in their oven; the crust has a nice crisp crunch to it, and the toppings are amazing. I could go on forever about pizza, but I’ll move along.

Whole Foods Market Clearwater Greek Salad

Along with the pizza, the Whole Foods Clearwater prepared foods section is going to have a plethora of options to choose from. Rotisserie chickens (flavors changing daily), wings by the bucket, fresh donuts, cookies, an international food bar (the cuisine changes – in past stores they’ve offered Ethiopian, Jamaican, and more), an organic salad bar, and a regular salad bar. And because the Clearwater area is big for Greek cuisine, there is a Greek station available as well! Pita sandwiches with lamb kabobs, falafel, hummus, and more!

Whole Foods Market Clearwater beer wine cheese bar

Whole Foods Market Clearwater cheese case

Around the corner from the prepared foods section is where you will probably be able to find me: the beer, wine, and cheese bar! You can actually pull up a stool,  have a glass poured, and order up a cheese and charcuterie board of your choosing. And these cheese boards aren’t ordinary cheese boards, by the way. One of the biggest reasons I’m so excited to see this store in my area is for their amazing selection of unique and interesting cheeses. The fact that you can chat with staff who are knowledgeable about the selections is going to be such a treat. As for the beer, there will be local craft beer selections available, which is fantastic!

Whole Foods Market Clearwater cheese boards

If that wasn’t enough…there are $8 bar specials on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Sundays. Mondays are Beer and Burgers, Tuesdays are Beer and Pizza, and Sundays are Beer and Wings. If that doesn’t get your significant other (who doesn’t enjoy shopping) to be convinced to come along with you to the market, I don’t know what will.

Whole Foods Market Clearwater produce

I am really looking forward to shopping around the store to see what is available in Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value line. They have both natural and organic selections, and are priced to not break the bank. I know there are certain items I will be able to procure from Whole Foods that I just am not able to elsewhere (such as my favorite ginger beer that I can’t seem to find anywhere else – HOORAY! Moscow Mules for all!). I do love that Whole Foods’ products are free of artificial flavorings, colorings, sweeteners, preservatives, and hydrogenated fats. I’ve really been trying my best to rid my house of processed foods in general, and I think having Whole Foods nearby will really help me with the final transition.

Whole Foods Market Clearwater local vendors

Another thing to love about Whole Foods Market: they try to buy local whenever possible. They are highlighting local products throughout the store, either by placing them on endcaps like this one, or they mark them on the shelves. It’s great to see they are interested in supporting businesses near to the store. I can’t wait to discover some new local products from vendors I may not have experienced before!

Whole Foods Market Clearwater bulk food bins

I am also absolutely loving the bulk section in the back corner of Whole Foods Clearwater. From nuts, to grains, to dried fruits, you can fill up by the pound. I may or may not have made my plans to visit this section as soon as possible.

So – with the grand opening happening this morning, who is ready to shop? I know I’ll be a frequent visitor to Whole Foods Market Clearwater; I can’t wait to see what happens in the store!

Do you have a Whole Foods Market near you? What do you like to shop for when you’re there?


September 11, 2014

I almost can’t believe I am able to say this: I have kicked my caffeine habit. Hopefully once and for all.

It’s been two weeks and 5 days since I’ve had a “regular” caffeinated beverage. For years I was proud of the fact I’d never grown to enjoy coffee or tea. I drink the occasional latte or Frappuccino, but it’s usually once a month or less. I don’t have a morning coffee/tea – neither does Justin. I always laugh because I am convinced I found the one man in the world who doesn’t want to drink coffee in the morning. We don’t even have a coffee maker in our home. So sorry, anyone who comes to visit us…

Diet Coke kicking the caffeine habit

My one vice: a soda at lunch time. I admit, I became addicted to it over the years. Although I never needed caffeine to wake myself up in the morning, I would hit the midday slump and required a Diet Coke or another beverage to give me that boost for the second half of the day. I knew it was a bad habit, but I justified it daily because it was the ONLY caffeine I was having regularly. Everyone else has morning coffee: why can’t I have my daily Diet Coke? It has been the one beverage other than water I’ve enjoyed over the years. I’ve never been a fan of sports drinks, energy drinks, smoothies, fruit punch, or other beverages.

Ay yi yi. Since I’ve been working from home I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to break myself of this addiction. I knew it wouldn’t come easy; I’d attempted in the past with poor results. But I was determined this time, and I think it just might stick this go-round.

I’m not going to lie: the first week with no caffeine was brutal. Like any addiction, I was going through withdrawal. I started my first day on a Saturday so I wouldn’t notice quite so much. We were busy and running around – I didn’t even notice. Sunday was much the same. Then, on Monday when I went back to my work routine it hit me like a freight train. I would make it through the lunch hour, but at around 3pm Monday through Wednesday I would hit a wall. A wall so hard it rendered me unable to do work and I had to lay down for a 20 minute power nap.  Afterward, I’d feel much better. The rest of the week was a bit better, and the weekend went as usual. The second week that wall never did come around to smacking me in the face. Relief! I’m now almost all the way through week three and I don’t have any hints of an afternoon slump occurring. I’m back to regular functionality.

I will admit though: I am still craving a Diet Coke. A lot. We still have cans in our refrigerator (talk about a lesson in self control. Do I win an award for this?), and I look at them longingly at lunch time. But I know I have to go cold turkey for a few weeks to get myself into good habits before starting the “occasional” Diet Coke routine. I’m going to be honest: I’m not giving it up completely. I know I’ll still want to enjoy a soda every once in a while, and I’m totally fine with that happening. Once a week, perhaps? Everything in moderation, right? I am just happy to say I am not reliant on a daily dose of caffeine to to get me through, and that I’m not ingesting whatever chemicals are involved in the soda on a regular basis. I am calling that a huge success!

Have you tried to give up caffeinated drinks? How did you do?

July 31, 2014

It’s been a while since I featured a favorite wine of mine. But guess what: I’m baaaaack. Today I wanted to share a few thoughts on Chateau de Nages Buti Nages Nimes Blanc: a wine that won’t break the bank! Also – the name is a bit of a mouthful, eh?

Chateau de Nages Buti Nages Nimes Blanc

This vibrant bottle of French white wine has very quickly become a staple in my wine rack. It is a pretty little crowd pleaser, especially during these hot summer days when all you want is something refreshing in your glass. There are notes of fresh citrus, apricots, and apple. It is so crisp and bright: I definitely am a big fan of this one. I have found it pretty darn versatile for pairing, but alongside a light white fish dish is fabulous, as well as some stir fry with a bit of a kick.

Chateau de Nages Buti Nages Nimes Blanc

The price of the Chateau de Nages Buti Nages Nimes Blanc is really what has me reaching for this bottle time and again when I hit the store. $10.99 – I mean, you really can’t go wrong with this one! And I have to admit: I am a sucker for a pretty label on a bottle of wine. I know that I shouldn’t “judge a book by the cover,” but I am always drawn to a beautiful label on a bottle of wine. I love the elegant green label with the gold hummingbird gracing the side. Fun fact: Buti Nages means “to gather nectar,” and that is just what this little guy is doing if you look closely at the label! It’s oh so pretty to look at, and oh so nice to drink!

Do you have a favorite summer wine to fill your glass with?