Northwest corner’s girl friday

Northwest Corner’s Girl Friday

Up until now we have featured companies selling products from art to food. Well this time we are doing something a little different. Northwest Corner’s Girl Friday, gives people in Northwestern Connecticut the most important product there is, time. Whether you have a small business, that needs general office help, bookkeeping, marketing, a special project, or numerous other things, or if you are an individual that is too busy and could use someone to do  errands, shopping, taxes, organizing, gardening or waiting for a service person, now you can get your own personal Girl Friday.

Northwest corner's girl friday

Although the gender is different, just like Robinson Crusoe you can have a personal assistant that is competent and loyal when you need one. Fortunately, unlike Crusoe you don’t have to rescue your Girl Friday from Cannibals. All you have to do is call 860-605-8674 and ask for Dawn. With that one little phone call your business problems or stressful hectic pace can be relieved.

To get a more detailed list of services provided you can go to Northwest Corner’s Girl Friday’s Facebook Page. It may not get you to a tropical island, but it could relieve enough stress to make you feel like you are on one.

 

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Toas-Tite baklava

Toas-Tite

Toas-Tite baklavaWhen you visit the Toas-Tite website and you are of a certain age, you are overwhelmed with a sense of nostalgia. You float back to a simpler time, a time before microwaves, George Forman Grills and Panini presses. Ok even I am not old enough to remember these products, but I do remember simpler cooking and foods. I remember a kitchen that wasn’t loaded with more electronic devices then a Best Buy. And  I also remember the enjoyment of these simpler dishes.

Toas-Tite was popular in the 1940′s and really was ahead of its time. It converts every day sandwiches into a sandwich pie. Think Jamaican beef patty, Hot Pockets, only with your own fresh ingredients and without all the preservatives. Grilled cheese pies, Taco pies, the choices are only limited by your imagination. The sandwiches come out toasty on the outside with sealed edges to lock in all the hot gooey ingredients inside, the flavor unlocked with every bite.

As much fun as the Toas-Tite itself is, what is even more fun is the people behind it. I am writing this on July 4th and is there anything more American then two sisters finding an old device at a roadside sale, awakening family memories and starting a business to bring back that device? This story has it all nostalgia, sisterly camaraderie, tag sales and good old American entrepreneurship.

Just take a look at the videos that the owners made to demonstrate the Toas-Tite. They not only demonstrate the ease of use and some recipe ideas, they are a refreshing look at real people with a real product.

But ultimately it comes down to the product. And the Toas-Tite is a fun way to make sandwiches appealing for kids as well as for loading up your bread with thick, hot, dripping, ingredients and yet keeping them in place without spilling all over your plate. There is a reason why this product was so popular after all. and why it brings back such fond memories.

The Toas-Tite is two die-cast aluminum saucers attached at one end by a lever and at the other by two handles. You use it on a gas or electric stove, on a fireplace or even a grill if you are cooking out. It is simple and easy. Open it up put in a slice of bread, tortilla or any other pliable shell, fill it with all your favorite ingredients, close it and put in on the stove. In a couple of minutes you have a hot treat completely sealed in  a toasty shell.

You can get your own Toas-Tite, and watch their videos on their website. There is even a blog with all kinds of recipes such as Sloppy Joe’s, Baklava and banana bread.

 

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Char Crust Varieties

Char Crust

Char Crust Original Original Hickory Grilled on tenderloinIt’s nice to see a small business with staying power. That is what the Char Crust Company has. How much staying power? Well their signature products Original Hickory Grilled and Roto Roast have been around since 1957. Originally you couldn’t buy them, you had to go to Char Crust’s owner Bernard Erikson’s fathers restaurant to enjoy them. But since they were first used at Al Farber’s Steakhouse in Chicago, these rubs have been pleasing palates.

The progression of these rubs is a testament to their quality and taste. With customers practically begging for their spices to bring home with them, they started selling the original two rubs. When Bernard’s father retired and closed the restaurant, other Chicago chefs and restaurants became the main buyer’s of the rubs. As chefs migrated from Chicago to other parts of the United States, they brought the rubs with them and orders grew.  As the accolades from chefs grew they finally decided to make them available to home cooks in 1998.

Despite them now being sold in every state in the U.S. and in Canada, the rubs are still made as they were in 1957.  They make all their own rubs in small batches using the same quality ingredients they always have. Unlike many rubs, most of Char Crust’s are moderate in sodium with one even identified as low sodium. Also unlike most rubs, Char Crust Dry Rub is certified Kosher.

The only thing that has changed with Char Crust since they were first put on meats in 1957 is that they have expanded their line from the original two rubs to nine varieties, and of course you can actually buy them yourself without having to try to sneak them out of the restaurant.

The additional rubs you can buy represent the more diversified tastes of today. They include All American Barbecue, Roasted Garlic Peppercorn, Ginger Teriyaki, Smokey Spicy Southwest, Amazin Cajun, Sun-Dried Tomato and Garlic and Hickory & Molasses.

Char Crust VarietiesRoasted Garlic Peppercorn has surpassed the originals in popularity and is now their biggest seller. It is perfect for not only beef, but lamb and fish, with salmon being especially popular.

Their website has more about their company, their rubs and provides tips and ways to use them. They also have a handy store finder that you just need to give them your zip code and they will give a list of nearby stores. If you are not as lucky as I am to have a store close by (there was one only six miles from me) you can always order directly from them.

 

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Simply Suzanne Granola

Simply Suzanne

Simply Suzanne owner Suzanne VierSimply Suzanne specializes in granola and trail mixes. Their product’s are made in Michigan using locally produced ingredients. Their products are made in small batches and hand crafted using whole grain rolled oats. But it is the spices that makes Simply Suzanne’s unique.

The owner Suzanne Vier was influenced by a trip to Barcelona Spain where she fell in love with their simply prepared food and their interesting, unique way that they blended in spices to give a fuller flavor. And that is what best describes Simply Suzanne’s Granola, fuller flavored.

It started with her adding black pepper to her homemade granola and her friends and family were so enamored by it that she decided to make a business of it. That was in 2009, and it has been welcomed just as readily by the general public.

It was so successful that stores such as Meijers, Whole Foods and Krogers, along with smaller specialty stores have picked it up, with earlier this year Meijers deciding to carry it in more then 190 of there stores. Despite its wide circulation in these large chains, for now it can only be found in stores in the midwest United States. However, they do service the rest of us via their online store.

Simply Suzanne GranolaSimply Suzanne’s has 4 different granola’s and 2 varieties of trail mix.  Their original granola uses pure maple syrup and brown sugar to sweeten it, then adds a little cinnamon and a lot of peanuts to its whole grains for a great flavor and a delightful crunch.  Another sweet granola they make is Lotsa Chocolate. Very Cherry uses Michigan cherries and a spice blend to provide a savory, yet sweet taste. Rounding out the Granolas is Dark Chocolate and Coffee.

The trail mixes, which were just introduced in April, are just as unique and intriguing.  Apple Rosemary Pecan Granola Trail Mix has all those items and raisins as well. Last, but not least, is their Cranberry Pepita and Dark Chocolate trail mix.

You can read all about Simply Suzanne at their website.

 

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Callie’s Charleston Biscuits Black Pepper Bacon Biscuits

Callie’s Charleston Biscuits

Callie's Charleston Biscuits Shortcake and strawberriesIt’s summer time and the strawberries are ripe, perfect for strawberry shortcake. As important to the recipe as wonderfully ripe strawberries is the shortcake. Well then Try Callie’s Charleston Biscuits. Their shortcake biscuits were a 2012 Sofi Awards Silver Finalist in the Outstanding Baked Good, Baking Ingredient or Cereal category.

But there is no need to stop with their shortcakes. Callie’s has several other biscuits, ranging from the savory to the sweet, to choose from. All of which show the same care and attention to details as their prize-winning shortcakes.

That attention to detail is reflected in each biscuit being made by hand, using Callie Whites own recipe and the finest ingredients. These biscuits have long been a staple of Charleston South Carolina events through Callie White’s renowned catering business. She along with her daughter Carrie Morey took the same demand for quality into Callie’s Charleston Biscuits when it was formed in 2005, allowing the nation to enjoy what had been exclusive to Charleston.

It all started with their Country Ham Biscuits, a popular southern biscuit but elevated by Callie. They use finely chopped artisanal Virginia Country Ham, Dijon mustard butter and combine it into their cheese and chive biscuit. Other variety’s include cheese and chive biscuits (sans the ham and mustard), buttermilk biscuits, cinnamon biscuits and their latest, black pepper bacon biscuits.

Callie's Charleston Biscuits Black Pepper Bacon BiscuitsIn addition to the biscuits, Callie’s produces another southern staple “Pimento Cheese” which is shredded cheddar hand-mixed with spices and pimento. Or if you want to kick it up a notch they also have a fiery pimento cheese, complete with “a secret fiery ingredient.”

To read all about Callie’s Charleston Biscuits visit their website. Callie’s products can be found at select gourmet stores throughout the country, and via their online store. You can see if there are any stores near you that carry Callie’s here.

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Caw Caw Creek Farms Pork Shoulders

Caw Caw Creek Farm

Caw Caw Creek Farms Pork ChopsIf it was part of a pig you can buy it from Caw Caw Creek Farm. Their list of products covers from tails to snout. Ok, I didn’t find snouts on their list, but they do have tails, skin and feet. Caw Caw Creek are artisanal pork producers, taking the time to do things the old-fashioned way.  The big companies would call it inefficient, with only a few pigs using land that those companies would harvest millions of pigs from. Their pigs grow slower as they are old-fashioned breeds not the genetic hybrids used in most of todays pig farms. In addition, Caw Caw Creek Farm is certified humane by Certifiedhumane.org.

This makes for happy pigs. They get to spend their time grazing in open pastures, rooting and foraging through forests, keep their own diet, and build their own nests. The pigs live and sleep in one herd and can make baby pigs as the desire overcomes them.

The result is an heirloom pork that harkens back to older times when our food was richer in flavor and  not processed to the point of  blandness. With each ham, shoulder roast, spare rib, tenderloin or bacon you can tell the difference.

Caw Caw Creek provides a wide range of pork products. Along with the above mentioned list there is country prosciutto, fatback, fresh jowls, belly, hamhocks, a variety of sausages, and the aforementioned feet, skin and tails.

Caw Caw Creek Farms Pork ShouldersYou can only find their products in a select few stores in South and North Carolina, but fortunately for the rest of us, you can order directly from them. Check out their website for more details, and their online store to try the whole range of products.

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Sullivan Harbor Farm smoked shrimp

Sullivan Harbor Farm Smokehouse

Sullivan Harbor Farm cold salmonWhen you think of Maine you think of seafood. Sullivan Harbor Farm Smokehouse will make it so when you think of Maine you will think of smoked seafood. Because like so many small companies featured on Homegrown they take the time to do it right.

One of the recurring themes you will begin to notice if you read many of the articles here, is the attention to detail of these small businesses. And Sullivan Harbor Farm is no exception. It is best represented by their philosophy which is “No shortcuts! Small batches, old-world methods and fanatical attention to quality at each step.”  This philosophy means that they don’t take shortcuts so they dry cure their fish. Even though dry curing is much more labor intensive then the wet curing used by so many of the larger companies, they do it as it results in a firmer texture and silky finish.

But that is only the beginning of their process. From there they use small kilns,  another labor intensive method that results in a superior product. As does the use of only natural hardwood smoke.

You know that any company that takes such pride and is so meticulous with the processes for their product  will do the same with the fish itself. True to their attention to detail the salmon comes from only 65 miles away from the Bay of Fundy where its famous tide shifts strengthen the fish which are free of added hormones or antibiotics.

Sullivan Harbor Farm salmon varietyAlthough they are best known for their smoked salmon products, Sullivan Harbor Farm also offers smoked scallops, mussels, shrimp, arctic char and roasted rainbow trout. All selected and prepared with the same attention to detail as their salmon.

If you want to read more about Sullivan Harbor Farm Smokehouse you can visit their website  and can place orders via their online store.

Sullivan Harbor Farm smoked shrimpAfter trying their products, if you should get a sudden urge to learn to smoke or need to visit Hancock Maine they have that covered too.  They have a six-day seafood smoking course entitled “smoking with the pros.” The course includes six nights lodging at one of their cottages, the course and use of their sauna, pool, kayak and canoe.  Or if you just prefer to eat the products and not learn how to smoke them, they have weekly rentals of their one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom cottages.

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479 Popcorn Foodie Sampler

479 Popcorn

479 Popcorn

All you have to do is read 479 Popcorn’s “About Page” to understand why Homegrown small businesses are not only important but very special. These businesses are concerned about making a good quality product, of taking the ordinary into something special. Their popcorn exemplifies the small businesses that we feature here.

After all what is simpler than popcorn, or filled with more memories and nostalgia. From us old enough to remember Jiffy Pop, to anyone that has gone to a theater and got a big bag of “buttered” popcorn to the now ever-present microwave bags.

But this is as far from those popcorn memories as Welches Grape Juice is from a fine Pinot Noir.  Basic popcorn is transformed into Alderwood smoked sea salt drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Do you like cheese popcorn? Then how about Black Truffle and White Cheddar which features aged white cheddar drizzled with aromatic black truffle oil.

Perhaps you like your popcorn with some  caramel. Then you really have hit the jackpot, because 479 Popcorn has three variety’s that will leave Poppycock in its wake.  Chipotle Caramel & Almonds, Fleur de Sel Caramel which is caramel coated popcorn with sea salt, and Ginger Sesame Caramel give new flavor and deeper nuance to this sweet favorite.

Maybe you are more adventurous with your popcorn tastes.  Vietnamese Cinnamon Sugar adventurous enough for you? Or maybe Madras Curry Coconut and Cashews. Still not enough? Then surely Pimentòn de La Vera with smoky Spanish paprika with bursts of ripe organic tomato and onion will do the trick.

479 Popcorn Foodie SamplerNow as wonderful as all those additions are, it doesn’t mean anything without a good popcorn. With the care and quality of the ingredients that go into their toppings, you know they aren’t going to take any less care with the popcorn itself.  They use heirloom organic grown by a small family farm that has been growing organic since 1945. The popcorn is then air popped with the caramel or spices added while still warm. They then ship it out the same day, no warehouses no mass production. Now that is the very epitome of homegrown.

479 Popcorn sells a wide range of box sets, kits, pouches and collections. Prices range from $14.00 to $55.oo. You can order from them online or check to see if you are located in one of the 29 states or two Canadian provinces that have stores that sell their products.

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skillet spreads

Skillet Street Food

As the name implies Skillet Street Food started out selling their food on the street. In this case from an Airstream Trailer throughout Seattle Washington. They have been selling food from their trailer since 2007. Now this isn’t your run of the mill food truck food.  Their menu varies, but they always have Poutine, and a burger made from grass-fed beef. But that’s about as close to typical as they get. From there you will find things like duck confit, trout with fingerling potato salad, or sockeye salmon chowder.

You can see why their food truck became so successful that they added a diner, and are adding a second food truck. The diner is located at 1400 East Union Street, also in Seattle. The food is similar but it just affords them a lot more variety.

Now all of that information is great if you are one of relatively few that live in Seattle and are fortunate enough to be able to try their delightful menu. But what about the rest of us? Well that’s the real reason for this post because they have their own line of unique sauces and spreads. And I do mean unique, as in bacon jam for example.

Skillet Bacon SpreadSkillet describes bacon jam, or bacon spread as they also call it, thus ”we take a big bunch of really, really good bacon and render it down…add a bunch of spices, onions, etc. and let it simmer for about 6 hours, give it a quick puree, blast chill it…take a left turn, and end up in pure bacon heaven. ”  They have added a second flavor to the bacon spread, Fennel and Black Pepper Bacon Spread. Those alone is enough reason to fly to Seattle, if they didn’t sell it online.

The other innovative product line Skillet has is their Pumpkin Sauce, which comes in three flavors, Chipotle, Brown Sugar and Vinegar, and Thai Coconut. They have several recipes on their site for use of their sauce and the Thai Coconut Shrimp sounds like a winner.

skillet spreadsSkillet Pumpkin Sauce and Bacon Jam can be purchased online through their online store or you can check to see if any stores sell it locally via this store locator.

In addition they have  a cookbook that is being released on July 10, 2012. You can get your preorder at Amazon.com.

Skillet CookbookPreorder Skillet Cookbook

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vanilla bean cajeta flan

Fat Toad Farm

Fat Toad Farm's Caramel SaucesWikipedia defines Cajeta as

a Mexican confection of thickened syrup usually made of sweetened caramelised milk….Mexican cajeta is considered a specialty of and popularly associated with the city of Celaya in the state of Guanajuato, although it is also produced with the traditional method in several towns of the state of Jalisco, such as Mazamitla, Sayula, andAtotonilco el Alto….

And one place more, Vermont.  Vermont? Well thanks to Fat Toad Farm in Brookfield Vermont, people in the U.S. can enjoy a high quality Mexican style Cajeta. This caramel sauce is not as sweet and much more creamy than most caramels which are based on sugar (often times high fructose corn syrup). Unlike Dulce de leche which is cow’s milk based, cajeta is made with goat’s milk.

Fat Toad Farm’s prides itself on the quality of its caramel sauce, with milk from their own goats and is made in small batches which  are hand stirred for hours, tested, and then each jar of caramel  is individually filled and labeled. The result of all this small-scale artisanal crafting is a product that is a creamy sauce with a silky texture and wonderfully complex, tangy  flavor.

Some of the uses for the caramel sauce are drizzling over granola and strawberries, ice cream, and  grilled fruit, and baking it into apple or pumpkin pies. It is also a great addition to hot chocolate coffee. But you can use it in many other recipes that you think up or try some of the ones you find on Fat Toads Farm website.

vanilla bean cajeta flanIn addition to Cajeta, Fat Toad Farm makes five different flavors of goat cheese, also known as Chèvre. They have the basic Chèvre, which is a mild goat cheese, a maple Chèvre which they describe as like a maple cheesecake, Sundried Tomato and Basil Chèvre,  Ginger Cilantro Sesame Chèvre and Olive Lovers’ Chèvre. Like with their Cajeta, all the fresh milk used in cheese production comes from their own goats.

You can purchase Fat Toad Farms products in certain specialty stores throughout the United States (take a look at the where to buy page from their website), William Sonoma’s nationally, select Whole Foods Markets in New England, and of course from their online store.

 

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