Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mandi's Favorite Things

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you've likely heard of the annual show that Oprah Winfrey does called "Oprah's Favorite Things". I wouldn't call myself a big Oprah fan and I don't watch her show very often, but I do mark my calendar every year for that one show she does at the beginning of the holiday season - the one where she showcases her favorite goodies, gadgets, toys, technology, etc. and then gives them all away to everyone in the audience. If you've seen the show, you've watched the audience full of grown adults jump, scream, and cry as they realize they are getting to take home thousands of dollars of new products. The show features the things Oprah has grown to love that year - everything from silk pajamas to the iPad; key lime bundt cakes to Jimmy Choo shoes; Sony camcorders to stainless refridgerators. And it's quite a spectacle. The show is such an advertisement for the products she features that the whole world practically runs out to buy what they saw. Sales skyrocket, and unknown companies are put on the national map.

While I know I don't carry a fraction of the influence that Oprah does, I do stumble across some pretty cool things every now and then that I love to share with other people. In fact, just the other day I was in St. Augustine, Florida on vacation with my husband and kids, and I found something I went crazy over. This little shop hiding in the tiny historic town of St. Augustine had the coolest idea ever, and I instantly fell in love. I wanted to tell the world about it (especially because they ship their product all over the country), so it inspired me to write a "Favorite Things" blog of my own. I want to share some of the things I've found and fallen in love with, so that other people can discover them and enjoy them as much as I have. And since this is a food-themed blog, I will limit my list of favorite things to favorite "food things" (meaning it is in some way connected to food - which is my favorite thing anyway). So here are my top 5 "favorite food things" of the year (try not to jump and scream and cry). By the way, the place in St. Augustine is # 1 on the list, so you'll have to read to the end to find out what it is.

5. 'Southern Scrumptious' Crunchy Sweet Pickles

My mom's cousin, Betty Sims, is a cookbook author and culinary instructor in Alabama(she knows people like Martha Stewart). I recently visited her home and attended one of her cooking class/demonstrations at her 'Southern Scrumptious' studio. She makes and packages her own sweet pickles to sell (and ship). I love sweet pickles, and I've never had any even close to as good as these. They're thick, crispy, and super-delicious, and they're made with whole cloves of garlic (which means they HAVE to be good)! Put them on a pimento cheese sandwich, and you've got heaven. To purchase a jar ($7.95), visit the Southern Scrumptious facebook page or website ( - an extra special perk is that the proceeds go to a charitable foundation for Lou Gehrig's Disease (Betty's son recently passed away from that disease).

4. VIA 'Lightly Sweetened' Iced Instant Coffee from Starbucks

I'm not an instant coffee fan, but this is not your grandmother's instant coffee! I became hooked when the barista at Starbucks convinced me to taste it - magic I tell ya. It's a powder-fine, microground natural roasted coffee with a touch of real cane sugar in a packet. You simply mix it with cold milk and shake it up - at home or on the go, it takes 30 seconds, and it tastes like a fresh iced latte (thick, creamy, and bold). That means I don't spend $3.00 on a drive-thru iced latte nearly as often as I used to - which makes my husband very happy. And while we're on the topic of Starbucks...

3. Starbucks 'Cake Pops'

Whoever decided to put a ball of cake (complete with icing) on a stick is on my list of heroes. Brilliant in my book. They come in 3 flavors - birthday cake, tiramisu, and rocky road - and the birthday cake is my clear favorite. On the outside, it's a pretty pink circle of firm (and not too sweet) icing dabbed with a few tiny white sprinkles. Inside it's pure deliciousness - a super moist white cake that melts in your mouth. A bite-sized cake 'popsicle' on a stick - seriously, what could be better? Thanks to these suckers, I can no longer drive past a Starbucks drive thru without stopping for one.

2. 'Anthropologie' Aprons

I'm an apron-lover. I have a slight obsession with them, actually. One of my favorite places to be is at my stove in my kitchen. I love to cook, and I tend to make messy things - fried stuff, saucy pastas, things that require flour and other messy ingedients... so I actually need aprons to protect my clothing (I'm a bit of a messy cook). But I don't believe in wearing your basic 'plain Jane' apron - I love the cute, fancy, unique ones that may as well be part of your wardrobe. Some of my aprons are cuter than my actual clothes (which makes me wonder why I wear them over my cheap 'Target' clothes so that my mess ends up on the awesome apron instead of what's beneath it). Anyway, 'Anthropologie' has the coolest aprons out there. They have cool designs, patterns, colors, and prints, and they are all cut differently - some are long, some are short, some have ruffles, some have v-necks, etc. My husband loves coming home to find me at the stove in my cute 50s throw back apron, looking like June Cleaver. He finds some of them to be super-sexy too! So I try to wear them as often as I can (I aim to please). You can find them on anthropologie's website (

1. 'The Hyppo's' Homemade Gourmet Ice Pops

And last, but not least... my number one favorite food thing I've discovered this year is 'The Hyppo' - a store in St. Augustine, Florida that makes their own fresh, local, & natural gourmet popsicles in creative, unique flavors. They make all their popsicles in house with real fresh ingredients (no artificial flavors, etc). When I walked in on a hot May day, I tried the pineapple cilantro (with bits of actual cilantro and chunks of fresh pineapple), and my son got the mango pineapple. Both were amazing! Some of their other flavors include pistachio coconut, cucumber lemon mint, Mexican chocolate, pink grapefruit, strawberry basil, reisling pear, mango habanero, lavender lemonade, blueberry coconut, Elvis Presley (banana, peanut butter, and honey) and so many more. My favorite thing about this great shop is that they ship all of their ice pops all over the country (using dry ice). So I don't have to be in St. Augustine to enjoy these delicious little treasures. I can have my own stash delivered right to my door to keep in stock for the hot summer days ahead. I've also decided that I'm going to send a dozen of them to everyone I know as gifts for holidays, birthdays, thank-you's, etc. It's the perfect unique gift for grown-ups and kids alike. So don't be surprised if you find a box of delicious gourmet ice pops on your front doorstep one day soon with a tag that says "Love Mandi".

I hope you check out some of these things for yourself... and enjoy my favorite things as much as I do! Let me know what you think!