Monday, March 12, 2012

Dark Chocolate Deliciousness...

I must admit, I wasn't quite sure what I'd discover when I first heard of Bourbon Creams. Living in America, the word bourbon brings to mind that native spirit distilled using at least 50% corn and historically coming from Virginia and Kentucky.

So, curious to see exactly what this British biscuit is, I sought out a packet. I quickly discovered that these Bourbon Creams have nothing to do with American Bourbon, and that's a good thing!

Crawford's are one of those companies which has a very loyal following, but for which there is very little information available. If you go to the website for United Biscuits, the company which bought William Crawford & Sons in 1960, there is no information whatsoever about Crawford's biscuits. When I wrote to United Biscuits asking for information regarding this biscuit, I was told simply that they were in production at the time United Biscuits acquired Crawfords and is a small brand which is manufactured and sold in the United Kingdom only.

What we do know is that William Crawford & Sons was founded in 1813 at Leith. 

So what is a Bourbon Cream? Well, it's a dark chocolate treat! A Bourbon Cream is chocolate fondant sandwiched between two thin oblong biscuits with granular sugar sprinkled on top. Like the Custard Cream, it is neither overly sweet nor is it too fancy. It truly is a perfectly blended dark chocolate biscuit.

And it's yummy enough to feel like you are treating yourself, but not so fancy that you feel bad for having two or three at a sitting.

Now I mentioned earlier that United Biscuits informed me that Crawfords Bourbon Creams were only sold in the United Kingdom. While that might be the official story, if you spend a short bit of time on the internet, you will find quite a variety of sources to help you to enjoy this classic treat at home.

So when I have desire for some dark chocolate and I want something with a little crunch, I'm going to be relying heavily on these biscuits. I now make sure to have a packet or two in the cupboard...

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Ginger Is Perfect with Breakfast...

For those who have been following my blog, you will have realized that I do love my ginger. And I mean the plant, not those lovely ladies with red hair, though I do have an acknowledged soft spot for Amy Adams. But enough of that nonsense...

After my recent adventure writing about Tiptree's Black Currant preserve, I decided to explore some other offerings in their range of preserves. The one which immediately struck my eye was their Ginger preserve.

With the first mouthful, I was immediately captivated and what I intended to be two pieces of toast with Ginger preserves turned into four pieces!

Tiptree Ginger Preserve on Toast
Tiptree was founded by Arthur Charles Wilkin in the village of Tiptree in the south eastern English countryside of Essex in 1885.

As new varieties were added the distinction between jams made with home grown fruit "conserve" and foreign produce "preserve" was made, but in America there is a preference to the term Preserve, which is found on Tiptree packaging exported here.

Tiptree's Ginger preserve was first offered in 1905 and is made from sugar and ginger, as well as pectin and  sodium citrate. The Ginger originally came from China, as this was supposed to be the best source of Ginger at that time.

Tiptree is committed to using the best fruit available, so they now source their Buderim Ginger from Yandina, Australia, on Queensland's beautiful Sunshine Coast.

And from the time you open the jar, you immediately notice the whole chucks of ginger in the preserve.

These preserves are an amazing combination of sweet mixed with spicy ginger, free of glucose, artificial coloring and preservatives. It is what Preserves were meant to be, and what they still are if you take some time to look.

And Ginger, in addition to being delicious, is also acknowledged to be effective in the treatment of nausea. 

My mouth is watering right now, and as soon as I am finished writing this, I'll be enjoying another piece of toast Tiptree's Ginger preserves, a new favorite I'm sorry it took me this long to discover.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fragrant as a Breeze from the Pines...

For as long as I can remember, as long as there was soap in the soapdish, I really cared little for what soap I used.

Well, that all changed one day when I was on holiday and used some soap my father-in-law provided for the bathroom. He had discovered the soap at a golf club outside Philadelphia years earlier.

When I entered the living room, freshly showered, my wife commented on how fresh and clean I smelled and I was quick to take note of her approval.

I've been buying it by the case ever since!

Lightfoot's is a bit of a mystery.

This is what I have discovered after extensive searches. Lightfoot's was founded by William Lightfoot Shultz about 1915 in Brooklyn, New York as the Lightfoot Shultz Company and by 1918 was operating in Hoboken, New Jersey. He made fragranced soaps and toiletries as well as shaving soaps. In 1933, the American Razor Blade Company acquired full interest in the company, having been a part owner since 1919. Shultz went on to found the Shulton Company in 1934, the makers of Old Spice.

Lightfoot Shultz became a part of the Philip Morris Company in 1960 when the American Razor Blade Company was purchased by Philip Morris. In 1973, Lightfoots was dissolved and the brand sold to the Bradford Soap Company. In 2009 operations were moved to West Warwick, Rhode Island. While Bradford is the maker of the soap, they do not distribute the soap, and distribution is handled by Kenyon's Grist Mill in west Kingston, Rhode Island.

Rumors abound on the internet of the soap being made in England and dating to 1890. While Bradford Soap did open a plant in Chester, England in 1993, it was sold in 2005. I have found nothing to substantiate any claims of the soap dating to the 1890s or its English origins.

What we do have is an American made soap, which for years was only found in private clubs in America, developing a strong, but quiet, following.

The soap is hard milled, which means it lacks water and glycerin. While perhaps costing more per bar, it will last longer and is more resistant to "dissolving" in your soap dish.

And if you buy it by the case, which I do, you will find that the longer you have the bars, the longer they will last. This is because they continue to dry out as you keep them and this drying process results in a longer soap life in your soap dish.

Lightfoot's is filled with essential oils and resins of pine, which encourage the lungs to breath deeper, which in turn brings you to a deeper state of addition, that pine scent leaves you feeling and smelling fresh and refreshed after any level of exercise or activity.

I really like this soap. And while its origins may be less impressive than the packaging and internet rumors may imply, it is a well made soap with a well deserved reputation for quality.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

America's Resort Since 1778...

There are few places in the world today where you can step back into the age of the elegant resort hotel.

Yes, there are resort hotels around the world, but most of these are modern late 20th and early 21st century creations which bear little or no resemblance to those resort hotels which dotted the shores and mountains of America in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Circa 1914 Advertisement for The Greenbrier from "The History of The Greenbrier"

The Greenbrier, which dates to 1778, is located just inside West Virginia on the border with Virginia.

The current main hotel, designed by British architect Frederick Junius Sterner, was built to replace the earlier "Old White," and opened in 1913. This is not the oldest part of the resort complex, as rooms in Paradise Row, originally called Brick Row, offer cottage rooms which were originally built in the 1820s and have been modernized to keep up with the times.

I first became aware of the resort, when each year, I would receive notices of the annual share holders meetings of, first the Chessie System, and later CSX, the railroads which were the descendants of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, which bought the resort in 1910. But every year, I would pass on the chance to visit the resort.

The North Parlor

When it came time to select a destination for my honeymoon, I wanted to find a place where I would not hear any apologies for anything going wrong during our visit. I wanted a resort which had a long history of taking care of their guests in the finest manner possible. It was at this time that The Greenbrier immediately sprang to mind.

Since that first trip, we have been back three times, once again while still under railroad ownership, and twice under the ownership of West Virginian, Jim Justice.

With the change in ownership have come changes to the resort, including the addition of a new underground shopping, dining and casino area. The dining options at the resort have increased and new life has been breathed into the resort. Aside from the relocation of one restaurant and the conversion of the "Old White" lounge into a steakhouse, most of the changes are quite imperceptible.

There is no doubt we were quite spoiled in our first visit to the resort which lasted for a week and began and ended with a train ride from our home to the train station across the street from the front door of the hotel. We stayed in the Spring Row Cottages and for a good portion of the trip had the resort to ourselves.

Since then we have stayed in the main hotel and limited ourselves to a long weekend in White Sulphur Springs. Our visits have been in November, January and February, and despite the fact that these are not the main season for the resort, we have found that there has been more than enough activities to keep us occupied, from the golf course when the weather permits, to the spa, bowling alley, movie theater, and indoor swimming pool built in 1911 and described in 1914 as "a bathing-pool which might have been the pride of Rome." They also have an off road driving school, falconry, skeet, trap and sporting clays, and the list goes on...

The Cameo Ballroom

During World War II, the resort was used as a military hospital, and when the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad bought it back from the US Government in 1946, they hired Dorothy Draper to redecorate and remodel the hotel. It took her 16 months, 30 miles of carpeting, 45,000 yards of fabric, 15,000 rolls of wallpaper, 34,567 individual decorative and furniture items and 40,000 gallons of paint to complete the job. 

A Room in the Main Hotel Decorated in Typical Dorothy Draper Style

When the resort reopened in 1948, her "Romance and Rhododendrons" themed hotel hosted 300 of the "biggest wigs" C&O Railroad President Robert Young could find. This extraordinary party marked a new era in the resorts history, one which has been maintained by Draper herself, and her successor Carleton Varney to this day.

The Lobby Bar

The Greenbrier is an incredible vacation spot, be it for a long weekend or a week, and one which will always hold a special place in my heart.

The Trellis Lobby

With so much to see and do at The Greenbrier, I cannot do it justice by writing about it in one single blog entry, so this will be the first in a series of entries I will be writing on the resort based on my most recent visit last month. I hope you will return to see what I have to write about the spa, casino and dining options available at The Greenbrier.

More information about The Greenbrier can be found at The Greenbrier

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Monday, March 5, 2012

A Breath of Fresh...

For all my life, I have been a loyal customer of one brand of toothpaste, which shall remain nameless.
But I was never a great fan of the extremes of flavor.

It seems to me that the great solution to the toothpaste flavor, by most companies is simply to give the customer more. More mint. More cinnamon. More.

But that isn't what I want. I want clean, but not a burning sensation in my mouth.

And then I was introduced to vanilla mint. Now for those of you who have never tried it, you might be thinking, that this sounds gross. but what it gave me was a mild mint flavor for which I was looking. And then they discontinued the flavor.

Now I understand companies are sometimes forced by the bottom line to make changes in their product line. But when I wrote to the company and told them of my disappointment and asked for product recommendations, I was simply told that they didn't "have a recommendation" for me at the time and that I "may want to check [their] brand websites for information about [their] current products." That was it. That was all.

So I decided to try and find a replacement, but for the first time in my life, I decided to go beyond my lifelong toothpaste brand.

Let me just say, finding a replacement toothpaste is not an easy task.

After a year or so, I finally found what I was looking for in a toothpaste.

Macleans was founded by New Zealand born Alex C. Maclean in 1919, manufacturing "own-name" products for pharmacists.

In 1927 he created Macleans Peroxide Toothpaste, the very first whitening toothpaste.

The company was purchased by Beecham in 1938, eventually becoming a part of GlaxoSmithKline today.

The height of the brand's popularity may well have been the 1950s, when it was sold against a backdrop of Hollywood glamor. But it still remains in the market with a very dedicated and high profile following.

GlaxoSmithKline was not very helpful or responsive in my requests for information about Macleans. As a matter of fact, they never responded to the two attempts I made to contact them, which I have found to be very typical of mega companies with small brands still within their portfolios.

If my decision to use Macleans was based on the customer service of GlaxoSmithKline, I would not be using it and would have continued my search for another toothpaste.

But I found in Macleans I found the toothpaste with the texture and flavor I was seeking.

Specifically I chose Macleans Whitening Toothpaste. It offered my a very natural peppermint flavor, while at the same time being specifically formulated to whiten teeth and prevent discoloration after brushing. 

On a whim, I also decided to try Macleans Freshmint Mouthwash. This is anything but mild, and contains a noticeable alcohol flavor behind the mint. I have no doubt that this is quite the effective antibacterial plaque fighter.

I also gave the mouthwash the extreme test. After smoking a cigar, I used the mouthwash to see how it fared at eliminating "cigar mouth," and it passed the test with flying colors. Even the morning after, no sign of the cigar after taste remained, which I cannot say of every mouthwash.

Now I only hope that my "new" found toothpaste continues to stand the test of time for the next 85 years...

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Friday, March 2, 2012

The Timeless Elegance of Refined, Distinguished Freshness...

When I was at University, I made some efforts to find myself, as I think many of us do try at that point in our lives.

It was was there that I discovered a fragrance which has remained a favorite ever since.

Eau Sauvage was created in 1966 by Edmond Roudnitska for Christian Dior. It was designed as a tailor made fragrance for the active young generation.

The bottle, designed by Pierre Camin in 1966, has not changed since its creation, something quite rare in the perfume industry. The bottle shape is inspired by a flask with glass curves to reminiscent of the lines of draped fabric and the stopper was was influences by Dior's thimble.

A classic since its creation, this was Dior's first men's fragrance and was revolutionary for its simple audacity. It offers a perfect blend of crisp citrus notes with distinctive masculine woody undertones.

The top note, the first and most intense olfactory impression comes from Calabrian Bergamot, grown in southern Italy, brings a distinctive, sweet freshness and adds a special radiance to its citrus notes.

The heart note, its core, which lasts for several hours comes from Hedione and Lavender of Vaulcluse. Hedione's light, airy notes derive from research on jasmine absolute and its floral, jasmine scented and lemony accents combine with the floral and coumarin notes and woody tone of the Lavender.

The base note lasts the longest and can even be perceived on clothing for several months. This comes from Chypre Accord, combining Bergamot, floral notes, Oak Moss and Patchouli, creating a classically elegant and sophisticated fragrance.

It is the perfect balance of these fragrances within Eau Sauvage which have made it the classic men's fragrance from its beginnings. And a favorite with some women who prefer a more masculine scent as well.

Like all fragrances, your own body chemistry will play a large part in how it smells on yourself.

But for me, this is another perfect match and one which has and will remain on my shelf for a very long time.

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