Mantry Unboxing: Pizza Party + January Favorites

Right away I need to say that it feels great to be thawed out and to be able to get in and out of my driveway like a normal person again. Being stuck in the house for several days out of the last two weeks sounded like a killer idea three weeks ago but I’m glad to see the snow go, glad I’ll be able to get to the park to actually run since I have another race in the coming weeks, glad to be able to step off the back porch without slipping off the bottom step.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t taken a spill this year. Slipped many times, yes, went ankle-deep unexpectedly many times, also yes, but the apex came on the last day we were truly stuck-in. On Friday I finally got the snow shovel that I had ordered from Amazon. I say “finally” making it sound like it took forever to get here but it really only took the normal 2-day Amazon Prime shipping duration but in reality it just means that in 30 years I’ve never owned a snow shovel, let alone shoveled snow. Our driveway was still snow and ice, same as our sidewalk, and it was Ice Bears game time. I decided to take my snow shovel for a test drive on the way to the car, took a step off the front porch, slipped, grabbed the shrubs, slipped again and went down. Hard.

There’s a reason people shovel their snow the first chance they get. There’s also a reason we, as humans, should avoid ice under our feet and our wheels. I didn’t understand either of those until now and I also didn’t understand that apparently at age 30 those “I’m not young anymore” comments start to become legit. Though I fell and hit only my rear, my knees, legs, elbows, shoulders, back and chest all feel as though they were equally slammed into the coldness. I spent the evening at the Coliseum holding back wimpy little whines and moans from random aches and pains. It was pathetic.

Equally pathetic is this sad, sad news: This will be my last Mantry unboxing for a while. Without going into unnecessary detail, some more pressing matters need to be addressed and the few bucks I send to Mantry every month are better used elsewhere at the moment. Luckily for everyone involved (Erin, myself, and you, my dear reader) this month’s Mantry has all the ingredients required to possibly become the best yet. This month’s theme: Pizza Party!

From left to right:
Lemon Sugar Cookies from Grey Ghost Bakery, Charleston, SC
Scarpetta Genovese Pesto from Sauces’n Love, Lynn, MA
Classic Red Sauce from Jar Goods, Hoboken, NJ
Pizza Flour from Hayden Flour Mills, Phoenix, AZ
Prosciutto from Daniele, Inc, Pascoag, RI
Smoked Pepperoni from Vermont Smoke & Cure, Hinesburg, VT

There aren’t many things I like to make as much as homemade pizza. I recently got a new pizza stone to take the place of my recently cracked one and am looking to make up a few batches of sauce and dough soon. Everything in this crate is going to help me make pizza that I know is already good even better – check out the pepperoni! Check out that prosciutto! I can’t wait to get down on the pesto! We’ve already chowed down on two of the sugar cookies and they were lovely. Be on the look out for some tasty pizzas in the future on my Instagram!

Last month’s Mantry crate was a killer addition to the short month that brings us Black History Month as well as Black Metal History Month and the Super Bowl all in a measly 28 days. But not everything can be on the “top” list so what I’ve chosen for this month are:

Dry Cured Chorizo by Aurelia’s Chorizo (Boerne, TX)
Smokey Black Bean Dip by La Esquina (New York, NY)
Sweet Heat Pecans by Molly & Me Pecans (Holly Hill, SC)

The dry cured chorizo went onto a pizza, just like Mantry suggested, and I was glad they did. Usually I use Mexican chorizo that’s not much like the cured version you find in the Spanish variety so “put it in the pizza” wasn’t much of an idea I’ve had in the past but this allowed me to combine two of my favorite things into one dish! We gobbled on some of the smokey black bean dip with some leftover pita chips and loved how it was a great combination of creamy beans and a kick of fire that remained on the tongue. What a killer dip! We’re still enjoying the sweet heat pecans, mostly sweet than heat, but the bit of heat they do have is more of a compliment than a distraction. Something about candied pecans, man…

Just like last time and the time before and the time before, I’m keeping these items on a board over on Pinterest if that sort of thing does anything for you.

I hope the rest of you are as thawed out as we are now in Knoxville, I hope Old Man Winter takes a hike. And in preparation of potentially more snow, I implore you to do what I intend to do: prep some pizzas!

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Mantry Unboxing: Tailgate Tour + December Favorites

Erin and I have always had a pretty interesting time watching the Super Bowl. The first year I remember us watching it together was in 2008. We weren’t married yet and she was living in North Carolina. I would come down to visit for the weekend late on a Friday night and would be on my way back to Kingsport sometime Sunday night. On the night of Super Bowl XLII, the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 17-14 and we watched on a small-ish TV that was in the floor because we didn’t have anything to put it on which worked great because if I remember correctly there wasn’t a couch or any furniture to speak of so we sat in the floor on blankets, pillows and sleeping bags. We likely ate a pizza from Buck’s and I made the 2 hour trek back to east Tennessee that night so I could be at work in the morning. This situation was hardly “hard times” or considered “roughing it” – it was two people that loved each other’s company no matter the circumstance and both loved to see the Patriots lose.

As the years passed, Erin got a little more interested in football and Super Bowl Sunday became more of an event that I could’ve hoped for. In 2009 (Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburg over Arizona) we were still in NC only I was a resident and we had furniture. The game was also likely accompanied, again, by a pizza from Buck’s. Super Bowl XLIV (New Orleans over Indianapolis) took place while we were in Oak Ridge and we chowed down on a tray of fried chicken sliders and banana pudding from Wishbones. All this to say, the Super Bowl is usually on at our house – even after “cutting the cord”* several years ago, after which we began streaming it online using our Macbook Pro and a DVI to HDMI converter on our bedroom television – and we’ve always accompanied it with some kind of typical sports night bar food.

And this is because typical sports night bar food is to be expected when it comes to any sporting event but especially the Super Bowl. So it comes as no surprise that my favorite box subscription service Mantry have taken it upon themselves to up the bar food game for those of us fortunate enough to give a shit about what we serve with this month’s crate theme Tailgate Tour.

From left to right:
The Classic from Owl’s Brew, New York, NY
Mike’s Hot Honey from Mike’s Hot Honey, New York, NY
Dry Cured Chorizo from Aurelia’s Chorizo, Boerne, TX
Pork Clouds from Bacon’s Heir, Atlanta, GA
Smoky Black Bean Dip from La Esquina, New York, NY
Sweet Heat Pecans from Molly & Me Pecans, Holly Hill, SC

So what’s not to like in this month’s crate? Heck, I’ve even already ripped into the Smoky Black Bean Dip last night with some chips we brought home with our takeout from Moe’s. Creamy, beany and spicy in the end, the bean dip has already proven to be a hit in our house and I just opened the crate yesterday afternoon! I’m extremely excited to bust open the chorizo since it’s one of my favorite foods to eat / use and I’m intrigued by the booklet’s recommendation to utilize the Mike’s Hot Honey on slices of pizza. These items are made to make you up your Super Bowl snacks but that’s still a week away and I just can’t guarantee these things will still be here when it comes…

As usual, I want to go over some of my favorites from December but in an attempt to not just review everything from the crate (seriously, it was the best crate yet) I want to just say that the Hazelnut Whiskey Cookies from Whimsy and Spice (Brooklyn, NY) were unreal , definitely bringing out the hazelnut taste we’ve come to know and love between two cookies that bring in a crunchy, crumbly, whiskey punch. I also paired the lovely Bourbon Blueberry Jam from Jam Stand (Brooklyn, NY) with the Spicy Borsellino from La Quercia (Norwalk, IA) and a fried egg on a toasted English muffin for a tasty, though messy, breakfast sandwich that hit every tastebud and left them wanting more.

But the stars of the December show were…

Hazelnut Pancake Mix by Freddy Guy Hazelnut Farm (Monmouth, OR) and the 100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup from The Syrup Shop (Burlington, VT).

Yes, both items together. Because syrup is made to go with pancakes. The first time I made these it was a straight-up operation: just pancakes and just syrup. Following the instructions on the back of the pancake mix exactly will make about 5 decent-sized pancakes. I fried them up in butter in my cast-iron skillet until browned and what came out was some buttery, fluffy goodness with chunks of hazelnut throughout. The pancakes alone would’ve been enough but the pure maple from Vermont was incredible. No filler, no chemical – just pure maple syrup – and the flavors were all there to prove it. I warmed it a little which made the already-perfect syrup even better and a perfectly complimented the pancakes.

So if it was so perfect why try to make it even better? As my mother used to say: Because I said so! The booklet from last month’s crate had a serving suggestion for the pancakes and syrup where instead of topping your flapjacks with the pure maple syrup only, you make some fried apples caramelized in some butter, a bit of the syrup and (my choice) some Jim Beam Devil’s Cut 90 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. I thought it was the best, Erin thought it was the best so I think it’s safe to say it very well could’ve been the best breakfast I’ve made in a while if not ever!

In the spirit of keeping up the lame Pinterest board I started where I pin items I’ve reviewed here, I’ve done the same with these guys and you can find that board here.

Do me a favor and make yourself something sexy for the Super Bowl – I know I’m going to!

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*Just wanted to add that I was hesitant to refer to Erin and I as “cord cutters” or even took part in “cutting the cord” as those are both phrases that I absolutely cannot stand. There’s a certain pretentiousness about it that I don’t want to be associated with. We merely stopped watching television for the most part and couldn’t justify paying $80 per month for DirectTV so we could watch football one time per year.

Mantry Unboxing: Bourbon Breakfast + November Favorites

So I missed posting about my favorites from the October Mantry box, GQ: How to Entertain in Style, but looking back, I don’t think it was as much “I forgot” as it was “I wasn’t that impressed.” The salami was good, as most cured meats are, and the chocolate “salami” was as tasty as it was an interesting concept but nothing really hit right-on for me. Thankfully our November Mantry box, Leftovers, was different and I want to share some of the things I enjoyed most:

  • Good News Cashews and Coconut Granola by Hudson Henry Baking, Co.
    Just before starting on this blog post I ate about a handful and a half of this stuff. Something about granola makes me think it’s going to be a terrible snack but if you can look past how messy it can be if you eat it by itself, it’s really not. I paired it this morning with a bit of blueberry Yoplait Light yogurt. The bag it’s delivered in is sizable – probably one of the most impressively large items I’ve had delivered via Mantry, and the flavor it provides is not lacking in either the cashew or coconut categories it draws its name from. Fresh and crunchy, this is some A+ granola!
    Buy it Here

  • Maplewood Smoked Bacon by Broadbent’s
    This was the first thing I tore into upon receipt of the box. The bacon is thick-cut and fries up beautifully. I added nothing to it or the pan aside from some fresh-cracked black pepper and even it wasn’t necessary. Mine and Erin’s tastebuds were assaulted with the strong, salty flavor you’d expect from country ham with a texture that was much thicker and sort-of chewier than your average bacon. There’s very little grease when you fry it up, likely because of how it’s cured, so you feel like you’re getting a nice fatty protein without as much of the fatty part. I enjoyed this bacon so much I ordered some for my parents and for my sister and her husband for Christmas.
    Buy it Here

  • “Ragin’ Rooster” Sriracha Mustard by Green Mountain Mustard
    Last week I made up some hamburgers that were equal parts lean ground beef and breakfast sausage. With a side of hand-cut cheese fries, the burgers didn’t need anything extra to assist with flavor but the addition of this Sriracha Mustard was a wise one. The mustard was a nice flavor compliment to the spice in the sausage while the Sriracha aspect provided a spicier “kick” while also adding a hint of sweetness that you don’t normally find in your average hamburger. We were both big fans of this one!
    Buy it Here

  • Spicy Maple Bourbon Pickles by Brooklyn Brine
    Also going on the aforementioned sausage burger, these Spicy Maple Bourbon Pickles stood well against the strong flavors of the sausage and Sriracha mustard, allowing for an even fuller range of tastes that basically attacked the palate on every front. I’m not a huge pickle-eater but these pickles along with the tiny onions floating around with them brought forth a nice extra bit of spice (but not too much) and a sweetness to the table. Again, not a big pickle eater, but I think these would stand well even on their own, let alone a kick-ass burger.
    Buy it Here

I’m trying to keep up the practice of utilizing my newborn Pinterest account to maintain a list of the Mantry items I’ve reviewed. You can find that board here.

December’s Mantry crate’s theme is Bourbon Breakfast and aims to give us a legit reason to look forward to waking up in the morning, especially during these cold, dark winter mornings most folks are currently experiencing (I say most because it was 53 degrees on the way to the gym at 5:30am here in east Tennessee). So maybe it isn’t as cold here as it is other places and maybe I’m more of a morning person than most but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to enjoy some of these bourbon-infused and inspired breakfast delights in this month’s box! Let’s get going:

Going left to right:
Hazelnut Whiskey Cookies from Whimsy & Spice, Brooklyn, NY
Bacon Spread from Skillet Street Food, Seattle, WA
100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup from The Syrup Shop, Burlington, VT
Hazelnut Pancake Mix from Freddy Guy Hazelnut Farm, Monmouth, OR
Bourbon Blueberry Jam from Jam Stand, Brooklyn, NY
Spicy Borsellino from La Quercia, Norwalk, IA

Saying I’m excited to get down on some of these breakfast goodies is an understatement. I struck out when I made these Pumpkin Chocolate Chai Protein Shakes from PaleOMG this morning – a little too bitter for my taste and, according to Erin via text message, adding honey doesn’t do it any favors. I do intend to give these another shot on Wednesday, though, and will be adding some things I think will make them taste better (and still keep it Paleo-esque) since serving them in our Butterbeer cups we picked up in Diagon Alley back in October apparently didn’t do the trick on its own!

Fingers crossed for good results from everything and tasty breakfasts!

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