Tasty Travels

No matter where we travel (and we have been on the road quite a bit lately, which explains my absence), we are perpetually drawn to the local community owned food cooperative, Whole Foods store or other cool natural foods grocery. Whether it is because we are hungry, want to keep some healthy snacks with us or just afraid of missing out on our next favorite bite or sip, the urge is strong and we barely settle into a new city before we feel the magnetic pull luring us into the nearest store.

In these adventures, we have learned an important lesson: every region of a company's stores or independent health food stores carry different products. This makes the hunt that much more intoxicating as we get introduced to some fantastic local products as well as national edibles we don't have access to in South Texas.

For us, this experience becomes an adult food lover's scavenger hunt as we carefully scrutinize each and every aisle and shelf inspecting products and looking at labels. Of course, we always take home a prize or two or three. Or an entire bag full of treasured sips and eats.

Couple this love (or obsession) of finding new foods with our recent attendance at the National Restaurant Association convention in Chicago and we've more than doubled our new favorite food finds.

Since you know I tend to make everything from scratch, you can trust all of these products are approved and tested by both David and me--two very difficult critics. But, honestly, it's easy to fall in love with all of our new finds because they are high-quality, good for you and absolutely delectable.

Below are a few of our new favorites, some of which I hope are available at a store near you. I'd love to hear about some of your favorite food finds, now that you know I am on a constant search...

Spindrift
The crispness of sparkling water is what kept me returning to this booth at the National Restaurant Association convention. This four-day convention had us on our feet trekking anywhere between 5-10 miles every day as we traversed the exhibit floors and meandered the city streets.

When we came upon the Spindrift booth, the packaging captivated us and the fact that David and I are both water freaks and were downright thirsty, we had to try this stuff.
David's love affair with sparkling water began decades ago when Perrier first hit the US stores. Even though I lean more towards still water as a regular thing, we are both loving Sprindrift. Canned sparkling water made with real fruit is a remarkable invention. No artificial flavors, chemicals or anything nasty like that. Just sparkling water and real fruit. The fact the creator was inspired to concoct a new beverage that would help him kick his Diet Coke addiction makes this story even more powerful--and now this beverage is helping others.

The cucumber is unbelievably refreshing and the grapefruit is probably my favorite. I can see the grapefruit sparkling water making a spectacular Paloma (grapefruit soda + tequila). The flavors are so well balanced, it makes Sprindrift downright fun to drink. Effervescence combined with real fruit like blackberry, lemon and watermelon will make everyone you know want to drink more water. I added a few drops of liquid stevia to the raspberry-lime and made a delicious homemade soda.
Spindrift does have a line of sodas. I tasted the mango orange which was divine, but with 20+ grams of sugar per bottle, I think their sparkling fruit water is the best choice for everyday consumption.
Each sparkling water flavor comes in a four-pack and, in San Antonio, we have successfully located grapefruit, watermelon and cucumber at Trader Joe's and a nearby Target carries the blackberry and raspberry with lime varieties. Neither store carries all flavors and I still can't find the lemon anywhere, but seek out Spindrift at a store near you and find your favorite. #bestsummerdrink2016

Mediterranean Sea Water
This is another item we stumbled across at the NRA. Filtered Mediterranean sea water from Spain is used to make a variety of products including these fabulously crisp and not-too-salty potato chips as well as bottled beer. But the best idea is simply to cook with the sea water. When you cook with sea water, your dish will have less sodium than traditional salt, plus you'll be getting the benefits of sea water's 78 minerals.
Though this is the company's first foray into the United States market, I am guessing this is a product you will find on your gourmet grocer's shelves within the next few years, but I wanted to share it with you because it is that good!

Venice Bakery gluten-free pizza and flatbread
Another food we flipped for the NRA show was the gluten-free herbed flatbread and pizza made by Venice Bakery. This third-generation company has morphed from a traditional bakery to making the country's best gluten-free pizza, pizza crusts and flatbreads for foodservice companies.
Jimmy DeSisto, the owner, is a great guy and we immediately clicked as we laughed, joked and kicked up some fun. Venice Bakery gluten-free pizza is the best pre-made pizza we have ever tried--and we have tried them all. For those of us not in foodservice industry, Jimmy says his products are also available at Sprouts nationwide (in the refrigerated section of the deli department) and other retail outlets or you can order online.
Snap Kitchen
The downtown Chicago Whole Foods recently launched a permanent pop-up Snap Kitchen within the store. I recognized it when I saw it because Snap Kitchen launched in Austin a few years ago and we dropped into the Triangle location a few months ago to check it out (see pictures below).

This ready-to-eat grab-and-go dishes feature lots of foods for all kinds of eaters including low calorie options, as well as gluten-free, paleo, low sodium and more. With five locations in Austin, Snap Kitchen's new markets include Houston, Dallas, Chicago and most recently Philadelphia.

As for the food, I really liked the vegetable lasagna and would definitely buy this dish again. The deviled eggs were good, but they are so easy to make at home using those lovely pastured eggs you get from your favorite farmers market vendor or food club. The chia pudding was alright while the cashew milk was delish. David tried the meatballs and was not impressed.

I remember thinking the $40-ish purchase price for the few things we wanted to try was a bit steep and unsustainable, especially for someone like me who doesn't really need this service and really likes to cook. However, those who don't like to cook, shop or deal with any of that aspect of their life, seek out the nearest Snap Kitchen and revel in the healthy foods you can savor but won't have you struggling to shop, cook or clean up afterwards.

Bark Thins
I think I've mentioned our love for Bark Thins, but a new variety we found in the northeast has me dreaming about it even more than before. I guess we consume two bags of Bark Thins a month. It's an easy, convenient chocolate snack that uses only a few ingredients and is a trustworthy already made product when we want a bite of something sweet.

The almond dark chocolate bark is our top choice, though when we travel we hope and pray the store(s) we visit carries the pumpkin seed or toasted coconut Bark Thins. We think these are the best two varieties and, sadly, our Whole Foods doesn't carry them. Whatever your preferred flavor of Bark Thins is, be sure to treat yourself to this dark chocolate bark filled with antioxidants as often as necessary. Or at least once a month.


Banza
If you or someone you know and love is a pasta lover, this Banza is for you. A pasta made from chickpeas, which makes them gluten-free. No kidding, you'll be surprised how good it is. A great texture and literally no taste of chickpeas, your friends and family may not even be able to tell it's not the real deal.
Choose from penne, rotini, shells and elbow macaroni and feel good about replacing your pasta habit with Banza that is filled with a whopping 13 grams of fiber and 25 grams of protein per serving.

They are rolling out a tasty mac-and-cheese kit, so look for it within the next few months on the shelves of Target, HEB and Sprouts, where you can find Banza today.

Paleonola
I know I have shared with you my love for Paleonola before, but we found the pina colada variety at a Whole Foods in New York and it's the bomb!

If you love coconut, buy this blend--if you can get your hands on it. Paleonola is our go-to brand of granola, though we always grab the maple pancake blend since the pina variety is not available at our store.

Knowing granola the way I know granola means you can trust me on this recommendation. Loaded with crunchy nuts, coconut and a few raisins, this granola will be your go-to yogurt companion. Or add a splash of milk and some fruit. Grain-free and absolutely delicious.

Sir Kensington Avocado Oil Mayonnaise
You know I make my own mayonnaise, but being fans of Sir Kensington condiments (particularly the ketchup and dijonaisse) made us reach for this jar of mayonnaise made with avocado oil.
Priced at $10 for the jar, it was a splurge, for sure, but worth every bite. The avocado oil gives it a super creamy mouth feel and the flavor is spot on terrific. A dollop will make your famous chicken salad, egg salad or sandwich that much better. So slather on the avocado oil mayo and feel invigorated knowing you are eating something very good and good for you.

The next time you hit the grocery store, check out some of these new foods. While they are mass-produced, they are done so with seemingly ethical standards and strive to find a balance between good and good for you.

And that's a win in my book!

Buen provecho!
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