Spring Charcuterie and Cheese Board #Sponsored by Carnivore Club

Those of you who are meat lovers are really in for a treat today, I'm going to give you a sneak peak inside the April Carnivore Club box. For those of you who haven't heard of Carnivore Club, they're a subscription service dedicated to bringing you tasty, handcrafted meats from around the world. That's right, with the push of a button you can now get all of the meat delivered to your door and you don't even need to put pants on. This is the ultimate meat club for discerning individuals and let me tell you, they don't mess around when it comes to providing you with quality meat.

Vegetarians, I apologize, this box may tempt you away from your healthy lifestyle. If Carnivore Club had been around while I was still shunning meat I would have quit that nasty... er... healthy habit cold turkey. Don't worry, you can still send it to mom and dad (Mother's Day and Father's Day are coming up you know) and perhaps they'll at least let you smell the empty box. 

Today is not a good day to be a Vegetarian.

Make sure to keep reading for our tips on putting together the perfect Spring Charcuterie and Cheese board with the selections from the April box.

For a limited time you can Save 10% off your order from Carnivore Club using coupon code EATMEAT Offer valid through 5/31/16

Today's recipe was sponsored by Carnivore Club who has provided me a box of incredibly tasty meats from 'Nduja Artisans in Chicago, IL. No other compensation was given for this post, but it does contain affiliate links.

Today's recipe was sponsored by Carnivore Club who has provided me a box of incredibly tasty meats from 'Nduja Artisans in Chicago, IL. No other compensation was given for this post, but it does contain affiliate links.

What's in the Box?


The April box included five delicious offerings from 'Nduja Artisans of Chicago, IL

Salame Di Manzo (Waygu Beef Salami)
'Nduja (Spreadable Salami)
Nostrano  (Pink Peppercorn Salami) 
Finocchiona (Fennel Pollen Salami)
Cacciatorini Piccanti (Spicy Hunters Sausage)
 


Review

 

First let me start by saying that there isn't a single thing in this box I wouldn't want to chow down on again. In fact, I'm trying to figure out how to stretch my meager grocery budget to allow for a reorder of some of my favorites from the box. I could absolutely live off of the Finocchiona and I could see the Cacciatorini Piccanti becoming my new favorite pizza topping.

Want to know what I thought about each of these tasty treats individually, don't worry, you're about to find out.

I've never had the opportunity to try Waygu Beef before, so I was incredibly curious about the Salame Di Manzo. The flavor and texture reminded me a bit of summer sausage because it's so heavily spiced with peppercorn and a little bit dry. Surprisingly this ended up being my least favorite, mostly because of the dry texture (I'm not a huge fan of summer sausage either), but my husband said I was crazy and proceeded to finish it all off himself.

The 'Nduja immediately caught my eye when I first opened the box as it's the largest of the five offerings, but I'll admit they had me at the words spreadable sausage—I couldn't wait to cut into it. It's made from a combination of Calabrian Peppers and 100% Berkshire Pork which gives it the perfect blend of sweet, spicy, and smoke. It's also the most versatile of this months offerings as you can slather it on crackers, make a spicy vinaigrette, or stir it in to eggs (which I highly recommend.)  I can't wait to experiment with the leftovers.

I'm not even sure where to begin with the Nostrano, it's not like anything I've ever had the pleasure of tasting before. At first the flavor is mild; I can pick out the garlic and a hint of something slightly sweet (perhaps the wine) before finally tasting the pink peppercorns. I'm really surprised how much the flavor changes from start to finish.

The Cacciatorini Piccanti really packs a punch, so those of you who love things hot and spicy will really enjoy this one. I like to think of this one as pepperoni on steroids, it has a similar flavor profile, but a much more bold flavor. I can't wait to try this out on a pizza, I think it would be delicious.

My favorite out of all the offerings this month was the Finocchiona, a salami made with fennel pollen, fennel seeds, chianti, and black pepper. It absolutely melts in your mouth and was a clear favorite on our cheese board (it was one of the first to disappear, although I may have helped things along significantly.) 

Would I order this again? Absolutely! This box sent me into a meat coma that lasted the whole weekend. I really need more of this in my life.
 

Price


Pay as little as $50/month with a recurring subscription (monthly, bi-monthly, and quarterly plans available) with a three month minimum or purchase a single box for $55. 
 

Where to Subscribe

Carnivore Club - The Ultimate Meat Club for Discerning Individuals

For a limited time Save 10% off your order using coupon code EATMEAT Offer valid through 6/30/16

Deadline for Father's Day orders is June 30th


The July box features features a selection of meats from Wisconsin River Meats including elk and bison summer sausage!

Make sure to keep reading for our tips for putting together the perfect Spring Charcuterie and Cheese board

Spring Charcuterie and Cheese Board + Carnivore Club Review

My rules for putting together a first-class charcuterie and cheese board are fairly simple: select one type of cheese for every type of meat you'll be offering, making sure at least one of them is a good aged cheddar so it doesn't compete with the flavors of the meat you select. If you're offering something spicy, balance it out with something sweet. I've noticed that if I put fresh fruit out on the board it often gets overlooked, so I like to offer at least one cheese with fruit in it. This time it was white stilton, one with blueberries and the other with apricots—it's the perfect addition and adds a little color to make things more visually appealing. I also like to include something soft, but flavorful. Lately I've been leaning towards herbed Havarti; it's a great addition for the non-meat lovers since it's really tasty on crackers or eaten alone. The last choice is always a wild card, something that jumps out at me while I'm shopping—in this case it was a mustard seed white cheddar, which adds a little zip to some of the more mild meat selections. 

Other important things to remember:

Always buy twice as many crackers you think you'll need. Even after the meat and cheese is long gone people always enjoy nibbling on them, so it's important to have extras.

And finally, remember there is no right or wrong to putting together your board. As long as you choose a good selection of meats and cheeses to accommodate a variety of tastes you'll be in good hands. But don't forget, for the best flavor you should always serve your selections at room temperature.
 

Spring Charcuterie and Cheese Board

Cheese

3 Year Aged Sharp Cheddar - Hooks
Blueberry Fayre (White Stilton with Blueberries) - Long Clawson
Sunburst (White Stilton with Dried Apricots) - Long Clawson
Havarti with Herbs & Spices - Castello
Red Dragon (Mustard Seed White Cheddar) - Somordale

Meat

Cacciatorini Piccanti (Spicy Hunters Sausage) - 'Nduja Artisans
Nostrano
(Pink Peppercorn Salami) - 'Nduja Artisans
Finocchiona
(Fennel Pollen Salami) - 'Nduja Artisans
Salame Di Manzo
(Waygu Beef Salami) - 'Nduja Artisans
'Nduja
- 'Nduja Artisans

Crackers

Potter's Crackers - Winter Wheat Crackers and Caramelize Onion Crisps

Here's an up close look at the 'Nduya and Salame Di Manzo made from Wagyu beef

Here's an up close look at the 'Nduya and Salame Di Manzo made from Wagyu beef

Disclosure


Today's recipe was sponsored by Carnivore Club who has provided me a box of incredibly tasty meats from 'Nduja Artisans in Chicago, IL. No other compensation was given for this post, but it does contain affiliate links.

Tuesday Tea - March Selection Club - Simple Loose Leaf

Back in September I was offered a chance to try out a new customizable tea subscription service called Simple Loose Leaf. As I mentioned earlier in the month they contacted me in February to let me know that they were making changes to their subscription plans and gave me the choice of receiving the last tea in my six month subscription or trying out the new plan for a month. I opted to try out the new plan, called the Selection Club, so I could share it with you. The new plan is structured quite differently, with the classic plan you picked which teas you wanted to have sent and received one per month. Members of the new Selection Club are sent an email each month with a menu containing five teas, you can either choose to be sent two of the teas from the menu or smaller amounts of all five teas. Also new to this plan is the ability to sample one tea from the next month's menu. I have to say, I love this, it lets me decide ahead of time if I want to reorder something I really enjoyed or avoid something I thought I would enjoy and ended up disliking.

Plan Description:

When you join Simple Loose Leaf you will tour the world and explore the wonders of tea. Our members embrace the discovery of new passions and rekindle their forgotten loves through our carefully curated menu of teas. Select a plan, make tea selection, and get a package!

Where to Purchase: 

March Selections:

Gunpowder Green
Russian Caravan Black
Winter White Chai
Ti Kuan Yin Oolong
Raspberry Vanilla Mint Green

In mid-February I was sent the Selection Club menu. The process was simple, I only had to fill out a short form with my contact information and my selections for the month. 

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Gunpowder Organic Green

Suggested Brewing Tips:

Serving Size: 2 - 3 teaspoons (2.3g) per 8oz serving

Water Temp: 180°F

Steep Time: 2 - 3 minutes

Review:

I feel that part of the fun in signing up for a tea club is the chance to discover something new so when I selecting my teas for the March Selection Club, I decided to break out of the box a little so to speak, I selected two teas that wouldn't normally appeal to me. I've never really been a fan of gunpowder green tea, oftentimes it is either heavily smoky or astringent and those types of flavors have never appealed to me. Up until now I haven't found one that I would consider finishing a full cup of, but this tea was different, there was only a subtle smoky flavor that I found pleasant, rather than overwhelming. Even though this is a tea I wouldn't order again, I'm not really a fan of smoky teas no matter how subtle, I would highly recommend it to those of you who do enjoy them. The quality of this tea is wonderful and it's organic to boot. I'm really glad I selected this tea for my March box, it gives me hope that one day I may enjoy a small handful of smoky teas.

My Rating: 78/100

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Raspberry Vanilla Mint Green

Suggested Brewing Tips:

Serving Size: 2 - 3 teaspoons (2.3g) per 8oz serving

Water Temp: 180°F

Steep Time: 2 - 3 minutes

Review:

This tea has only a hint of raspberry, but it mingles with the vanilla and mint for a beautifully balanced cup of tea. It's not the type of blend I would have normally ordered for myself even though I love green tea, I'm just not a huge fan of raspberries unless they are fresh off the vine, but I really enjoyed this. The vanilla lends a somewhat creamy flavor, smoothing out the more tart notes of the raspberry and the mint sits on your tongue long after your cup of tea is gone. While I really enjoyed trying this tea hot, it truly excels as an iced tea and makes me look forward to the hot days of summer that are just around the corner.

My Rating: 80/100

Overall Box Rating: 79/100

Would I order this again? Yes. Neither of these teas were ones I would have normally ordered and I enjoyed them both. It was nice to break out of the box and discover something new.

Disclosure:

In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that Simple Loose Leaf has provided me with a free month of their new subscription service. As always, all opinions are my own. 

Simple Loose Leaf: Bringing Tea Directly to Your Door

UPDATE: Since this post Simple Loose Leaf has changed the format of their subscription service significantly, so most of this information is out of date.


You may have seen the teaser post I put up recently for Simple Loose Leaf and today we're going to take an an in-depth look at what I think about their new customizable tea subscription service. 

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Description:

Simple Loose Leaf offers the first custom loose leaf tea subscriptions.  

We believe in changing the way loose leaf tea subscriptions are sold.  At Simple Loose Leaf we believe that every tea lover should have the opportunity to create the perfect tea time experience for themselves and those they love.

We offers almost 130 different loose leaf teas that our customers can use to create exceptional moments in time, through tea, for themselves and others.  Our subscriptions can go as long as 6 months and include 2 oz. and 4 oz. size options for every tea we offer.

Other Information:

Type: Monthly Tea Subscription

Where to Purchase: 

Review:

Things that really stood out as being done right

Shipping Time:

The first tea in my six month subscription arrived a day early. 

Tea Packaging:

I loved the fact that even though I ordered 2 ounces of tea it was packaged in two resealable 1 ounce packages. I think this is a great idea because my second ounce of tea will remain fresh longer. I really do hope that they continue to ship tea this way. Unfortunately, not 30 minutes after I wrote that I got an email from Andrew, one of the owners, letting me know they were unhappy with the way the tea was currently packaged and are considering changing to a larger size package.

So I sent him a lengthy email. Want to read part of it?

It's funny that you mentioned that you were changing the packaging, because I had just gotten done writing about how much I liked it. I'd be curious to know what exactly you didn't like about it. I haven't had the chance to open the tea yet, but it looks like it is a resealable package, which is very important in maintaining freshness.  I also really like the fact that the tea is packaged in one ounce increments because I can open one bag, drink from it, and not worry about my other ounce of tea becoming stale from repeat exposure to air. I also prefer a bag that doesn't have a window on it. I'm notoriously bad about leaving my tea laying around and the exposure to light has a very negative affect on the flavor. The only real downside I see to your current packaging is weight. It is quite a bit heavier than most of the packaging I see other vendors use.

What type of packaging were you considering as an alternative?

His response:

The packaging will actually still be basically the same Kraft bags.  We are just looking at moving from the 2 oz, the one we used, to a 4 oz.  We are not looking at any packaging that has panels/windows in it.  We may consider doing bags that do not have the valve depending on how the bags manage the air when sealing the bag.  All tests that are going to be doing over the next few days.  The primary issue we have with the 2 oz bags, and you nailed it when you mentioned shipping, is that they cost more to ship because we have to ship more of them. 

UPDATE: Since my initial review Simple Loose Leaf has moved from shipping teas in individual 1 ounce packages, unless you have ordered a 1 ounce subscription plan. They now arrive in a single 2 ounce package for 2 ounce subscriptions, or two 2 ounce packages for 4 ounce subscriptions.

As a customer I really appreciate the fact that Simple Loose Leaf is going to great lengths to make sure they keep shipping costs economical. With USPS raising rates yet again on January 26, 2014 this is going to make the challenge of economical shipping that much harder for small businesses nation-wide.

Things I'd like to see done a little differently

Packing Materials and Shipping Costs:

First off, I would love to see a little more care taken in the packaging of the tea for shipping. My first shipment arrived in an unpadded kraft envelope, and although you can't see it in the photo, it didn't arrive in the best condition. At the very least I would like to see bubble wrap to give the tea a little cushioning, although I would prefer a padded mailer, or even a small box. 

The problem with changing how the tea is packaged for shipping is that it is going to negatively affect shipping costs. My package cost $2.24 to ship via 1st class mail and Simple Loose Leaf only charged me $8.75 for shipping the entire six month subscription. Shipping rates have been raised slightly since I placed my order. If you take a quick look at Simple Loose Leaf's shipping FAQ and follow their given breakdown for shipping (6 teas x $1.75) + (1 tea x $.50) = $11.00 will be the new shipping cost for an entire six month subscription containing seven teas. If you do the math, they are still losing $2.44 over the course of six months, more actually since I ordered seven teas, one of which was 4oz. Keep in mind none of this is factoring in the costs for printing labels and packing materials.

I appreciate the fact that Simple Loose Leaf is not trying to make a profit on shipping. They have also addressed the issue of the type of envelopes used in shipping. They have plans to move to a padded envelope in the near future.

UPDATE: Since my initial review Simple Loose Leaf has made some changes to how they ship their teas. They have discontinued using the tan mailers you see in the photo above and now use bubble mailers. This offers much better protection in transit and my last two shipments have arrived in perfect condition. 

Quality Control:

Let's move on a bit to the fact that they've actually lost a bit more money in shipping by forgetting to front load my subscription. Personally I chalk this up to the fact that it is the first shipment and they're just getting in the swing of things, we know all about that around here, don't we? My subscription lasts for six months, however, I ordered seven teas. This means that my first month I should have receive two teas. A simple email solved this problem and I was given the option of either receiving my missing tea with my next shipment or having it sent out immediately. My missing tea is already in the mail, but I don't have a tracking number for it.

Tracking Number:

Since I'm on the road quite a bit throughout the year tracking numbers are incredibly important to me. I like to give my husband a heads up when I'm expecting a package so he can bring it in for me. I did receive a shipment confirmation so it shouldn't be very difficulty to include the tracking number with it.

Holiday Section:

The transition from summer to fall typically brings seasonal favorites including apple, pumpkin, cinnamon, and maple. These seasonal favorites bring in big money in both the coffee and tea industries and this is one area that Simple Loose Leaf is neglecting. The current Holiday section only includes two teas, neither of which are geared towards autumn. While the site does include a few other teas that would fit into the Holiday section they are not easy to find without reading each description.

Rather than a Holiday section I would rather see seasonal offerings. I find that in the Autumn I drink a lot of Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong, during the summer I tend to lean more towards fruity blends. I just love a good peach tea on a hot summer day, don't you? I think the seasonal section would be much easier to maintain, I mean, what kind of tea could you possibly list in the Holiday section for the 4th of July? My point is, the Holiday section is going to remain neglected much of the year because many Holidays don't have specific flavor profiles associated with them.

Other things I'd love to see:

A really spectacular Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal. A New Year's deal would be nice as well since I typically don't have money during the holiday season, but am occasionally gifted some by my generous family. I think a lot of companies miss out by not having a post-holiday sale.

A Free Sample included in every order. This will give customers a chance to try a wider variety of teas, perhaps letting them discover one they just can't live without. 

I would love to see a 1 ounce package available for the subscriptions. I have to really love a tea before I would considering ordering 2 - 4 ounces of it. 

UPDATE: 1 ounce subscriptions are now available.

On the website:

A drop-down menu allowing me to sort by Price (low to high and high to low), New, Bestselling, and Highest Rated. 

UPDATE: This feature is now available on their website.

Steeping instructions listed on the website, not just on the packaging.

UPDATE: This feature is now available on their website.

Are the teas Vegetarian/Vegan friendly? This is a popular question these days and I would love to see the answer listed in the FAQ. Simple Loose Leaf says since they can't be 100% sure, they're going to err on the side of caution and say the tea is not Vegan friendly. Their wholesaler does not currently provide that information to them.

One last thing you may not have even noticed, but I did.

Many companies undervalue what a good photograph can do for a product. It can either catch the attention of a potential customer or turn them away. If you've read my About section on this blog, then you know that I have a background in commercial photography and more specifically product photography. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise to you that the photographs Simple Loose Leaf uses immediately caught my attention, and not necessarily in a good way. I couldn't help but wonder why all of the tea was photographed in what looks like Terra Cotta flower pots.

So I asked.

I was told that the photographs were provided by their wholesaler. I looked up the company and it immediately made sense as to why they choose Terra Cotta pots to photograph their tea in. The whole sale company carries both tea and spices and the line of spices is called Terra Cotta spices. For the wholesaler, the use of the Terra Cotta pots makes sense, it ties the tea and spices together. For Simple Loose Leaf, the photographs just don't make sense. Eventually I would love to see them use photographs that fit the simple design of their website better.

Overall

I was please with this service, even if it has a few rough edges to smooth out. Since this is the first month shipments have gone out, I fully expected to run into a few issues. Simple Loose Leaf responded quickly to my concerns and let me know that they were already working on several of the issues that I had, trying to find the most economical solutions. I look forward to seeing their progress over the next six months, right now I think they are off to a good start.

Disclosure:

In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that Simple Loose Leaf has provided me with a $50 credit to use towards their subscription service. It did not cover the cost of everything and I paid $9.54 out of pocket. As always, all opinions are my own. If you are a company and would like to send me an item for review feel free to drop me an email.