In Japan the best part of someone else’s vacation was the omiyage (oh-mi-YAH-geh) they brought back. The word itself means “souvenir” but it has other connotations, most commonly it means “duty gift”.
The typical duty gift is a package of individually wrapped tea sweets. When brought back to the country of your particular origin, the package is opened and the sweets placed on each person’s desk. There is always enough. If not, the package is left in the kitchen area on a first come first serve basis.
In Japan I was rarely not among the first served. Mostly because I was curious- tea sweets have always been a source of fascination for me. Ever since the first taste in elementary school when someone’s mother performed a tea ceremony and the little bit of red bean paste was put on a tiny plate in front of me… I mean really, red beans?
I don’t tend to bring things back from my trips because I have this very very bad habit of overspending and then feeling really really bad about it shortly after. Basically because being of tiny budget I like to put a lot of thought into what I buy, but then I wonder if folks will enjoy what I’ve bought blah blah blah. Short story long I get gifts for my family and that’s it.
Which is why I was a little surprised when a coworker who’d spent two weeks on the west coast (and gave every impression of hating me from nose to toes) brought me a giftie. A cute little jar of cranberry jam with an extra top so that the empty jar can be used as a spice shaker and a bag of violently pink cinnamon chocolate from a little town in Oregon.
Hmmmm… do I dare blog?
Oh yes. I dare.
The idea of cinnamon chocolate intrigues me. When the lovely folks at Haagen Dazs came out with their Mayan Chocolate, well, I was all for it. More of that, I say. Target’s chipotle and ancho spiked Choxie is on my list. I think spiced cocoa is about the yummiest thing going.
But with white chocolate? Um, no. Even the best white chocolate tastes distinctly like chalk. And in this case, not enough flavor there to support the spice. And the color. Yikes. I offered some to my mother and the look on my face made her say, “It’s not good is it?”
Me: “It’s interesting. Really. Try it.”
She didn’t buy it. She works for the federal government and she’s suspicious. (How suspicious? If my mother hears me so much as walk through the kitchen she tells me to stay out of the fridge.) The company that makes it, Cranberry Sweets & More was featured on $40 A Day with Rachael “Devil Girl” Ray, also makes a tasty lemon meringue pie candy- their lemon pate (a smooth jelly) enrobed in white chocolate. Lemon and white chocolate… hmmm…
The jam from Misty Meadows in Bandon, Oregon tasted so good. Cranberry jam, not cranberry sauce, but jam. Thick, sticky, gloriously pectin-filled, full of juicy rubies and not too tart. Do I defile it with peanut butter (organic, of course) or just eat it by the spoonful? The answer is a resounding yes.
This jam makes me want to get all domestic. But first it makes me want to board a plane to Massachusetts so I can break up with the cranberry bogs in the Northeast. Sorry kids. There’s a new sheriff in town.
For a your own lovin’ spoonful, visit gotjam.com.
If you absolutely must have white chocolate with a hint of Red Hot, go to cranberrysweets.com and go nuts.