As food blogging becomes more popular and more established, companies will start to take advantage of that to draw attention to their products. At some point, it seems that most food bloggers will have to ask themselves what their policy toward accepting free stuff for review is.
Michael from Bella Viva Orchards offered me a box of dried fruit, and I was particularly charmed by the disarming honesty with which it was offered: “Perhaps, if you enjoy our fruit, you may want to use it in one of your recipes in your blog, which could be very helpful to us.” Very diplomatic.
He offered to let me choose the fruit, but I was so overwhelmed by Bella Viva’s huge selection that I let him pick. The fruit arrived soon afterward, packaged beautifully. I received unsweetened pineapple, raisins, mixed fruit, and orange slices. The pineapple, I just snacked on, and it was delicious. I’ve never understood why most dried pineapple is candied – isn’t pineapple sweet enough on its own? I also snacked my way through most of the bag of raisins. I didn’t think I liked raisins, but they became a perfect late afternoon snack for me.
I thought a compote would be nice for the mixed fruit. This recipe starts with white wine, which is mixed with warm spices and simmered until it’s slightly reduced. Then the fruit is added, along with water, and the mixture is simmered until it’s syrupy and the fruit is softened. The recipe calls for a mixture of apricots and plums, but I wanted to use as much of a variety as possible. My mixed fruit package contains apples, plums, nectarines, peaches, pears and apricots, and I threw in some of the raisins too.
Always looking for an excuse to have wine for breakfast (even wine that’s been cooked for 35 minutes, I suppose), I served the compote with French toast. It was great! Sweet and spiced, but still with a nice tartness from the fruit. It isn’t the most seasonal recipe right now, but come winter, this will be a handy topping to have around.
I don’t know that I’ll continue to accept products for review, but I definitely enjoyed it this time. My experience with Bella Viva Orchards was very positive, from the customer service to the quality of the fruit. I even have my very own coupon code! If you order something from Bella Viva’s website, enter “cookie” as the coupon code to save 10%.
One year ago: Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic – best chicken ever
Dried Fruit Compote in Spiced Syrup (adapted slightly from Food and Wine)
Makes 10 servings
1½ cups dry white wine
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) sugar
1 cinnamon stick
8 whole cloves
1¼ pounds (20 ounces) mixed dried fruit, coarsely chopped (3 cups)
2 cups cold water
1½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract
In a large saucepan, combine the white wine, sugar, cinnamon stick and cloves and bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the dried fruits, water and vanilla extract and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the fruit is plump and the liquid is slightly syrupy, about 25 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick and cloves. (The fruit compote can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)