How to plan a dessert menu? Well there are several ways to do this, if you are organizing a dinner party you have to consider the main dishes as well as your starters to the meal, if it’s a grand affair, or if it’s an informal dinner party.

You need to consider the likes and dislikes of your guests, as well as yourself. For the most part it would be assumed that you know your guests and their likes and dislikes to a degree anyway.

So let’s start with a grand affair, which could be a special celebration like a birthday, a reunion, or something similar.

If you are starting with a fruit you might not want fruit within your desserts, or if you did you would want to choose different fruits as desserts, if you had pastry somewhere in your meal either to start or part of your main meal you wouldn’t want a fruit pie or pastry within your desserts. What you need to do is find a real balance within the menu as a whole so that things are not repeated which will add too much bulk and make your guests feel bloated and too full before they even get to their dessert. Nearly everyone will look forward to the dessert so it’s worth making the effort.

So let’s try putting together a balanced menu here, I am going to start with a small salad of rocket leaves as my base for a seafood starter, a combination of shrimps, mussels and a smoked fish like mackerel that is flaked perhaps, over the top of the other fish, or you could have a Mediterranean fish compilation of squid, shrimps and clams, perhaps cooked ahead of time and marinated in olive oil and lemon juice with seasoning and always add garlic, which I always add in large chunks so that they are easy to discard before I serve up. Not everyone is enamored of it and while they might not mind a hint of garlic they wouldn’t appreciate whole pieces of it on their plate. So we have our starter of rocket leaves, washed of course, as a bed for the seafood, spoon over the marinade, never waste it, and garnish with finely chopped parsley. No need to further season as the seasoning will have been done within the marinade. If your guests want to further season allow them to do that at the table by offering them salt and a pepper grinder which is always much nicer. Also offer plenty of fresh warmed bread, no butter as this will spoil the starter.

Now for the next course, since the first course has been quite light we can now afford to offer something a little more substantial, remember this is the second course of four, since it is a grand dinner party, we want to make an impression don’t we? Ok, so I would suggest either a risotto or a pasta dish, perhaps a few ravioli with a very nice plain tomato sauce, or cannelloni with a ricotta and spinach filling with the same plain tomato sauce. If it’s a plain sauce then it won’t be too heavy. Keep it simple because the filled pasta is quite special as it is. The sauce is easily made, by just sauting a small finely chopped onion, a garlic clove and freshly chopped parsley, in olive oil, season, add your sieved tomatoes and cook for at the very least an hour, longer if possible. Obviously make enough for your guests, I would use two cartons of the tomatoes for four people as a starter course which is what this is, if it were for the main meal I would make more sauce.

So the starter and second course is spoken for. Now comes the tricky part the main course, we need to think about what we started with which was fish, and the second which was a filled pasta dish, no meat used in the second course, so we need to decide what meat to use, which could be a leg of lamb, boned and stuffed with ham and mushrooms, I have cooked this many times and it looks pretty impressive. What you need to remember is that the lamb must be cooked very slowly, and it needs to rest, once cooked for at least half an hour before you slice it. So we will go with the lamb, your butcher can bone it for you, and if you are quite handy in the kitchen with this type of thing then go ahead and have a go and do it yourself. You do need a sharp knife which needs to be fairly small. Cut the lamb to the bone along the whole of the leg and simply scrape at the bone to remove the flesh from it. Once you have done this you are now ready to stuff it. You will need at least 8 to 10 slices of honey roasted ham, not too thickly sliced and lightly sauted mushrooms, onions and bread crumbs. Lay the ham across the open flesh of the lamb and top with a layer of mushrooms and onions and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Season well with freshly ground pepper and salt, now you need to bring the lamb together and tie it with fine string, if you cut lengths of string just big enough to knot off then it will be a lot easier. Take your time and secure the leg of lamb so that none of the stuffing is visible. It does take a little time but well worth it. Place it in a roasting pan just big enough for the piece of meat, season it, place it in a hot oven for 30 minutes to brown it a little then cover with aluminum foil and lower the heat as if you were braising. Allow it to cook on this low heat for at least four hours, check from time to time and baste it well. Once it is cooked remover it and let it stand.

In the mean time think about what vegetables you might like. I like roasted veggies with my lamb so I would prepare a selection such as sweet red and green peppers, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, onions and whole plum tomatoes and perhaps chunks of aborigine. There are no hard and fast rules about what veggies to roast of steam for that matter, just what you like or prefer, and since we had a pasta dish for one of the courses I wouldn’t bother with potatoes here. Roasted vegetables always look nice and caramelized once done and they compliment the lamb beautifully, in face they compliment any roasted meat well.

So now we come to the main reason for the written piece. How to plan a dessert menu, well I think you can see that planning a menu, even a dessert menu depends largely on what the whole menu is to begin with, so far we have a fish starter course followed by a pasta course, and then the main course of slow roasted stuffed lamb and roasted vegetables.

We now need to think of desserts that will compliment the courses that have preceded the dessert. Lamb is quite fatty, so any dessert we choose should be refreshing and light. Fruit is always a favorite, but you might want to have more than one dessert on offer, so a good fruit salad is a good one, perhaps a dairy dessert, like a fool or syllabub, and perhaps an ice cream gateau of some sort. I don’t know about your guests but mine always like a little of them all so I usually have at least three if not four on offer.

You could go in many directions with the fruit salad; you could have a berry fruit salad with lots of red berries, an exotic one with passion fruit, guava and pineapple etc. or a very plain one. I always like to add just a little sherry to mine and a dusting of cinnamon with a light sprinkling of brown cane sugar.

The syllabub can be a citric one with orange or lemon juice, I have even made it with passion fruit and it is so delicious. Always be sure to offer small servings rather than large ones of the syllabub as it can be quite rich. Of course there is the cheese board, don’t have too many cheeses. Choose a hard one like good strong cheddar, a soft one like gorgonzola or another blue veined cheese and one in the middle, perhaps smoked or non smoked Gouda. Not everyone wants a sweet cream gateau, yes its so easy to make. All you need is a block or container of good vanilla ice cream, fruit such as soft berries and a coolie made of fruits cooked with sugar and sieved, and allowed to cool of course, although serving warmed coolie with ice cream gateau is quite acceptable. All you need to do is soften the ice cream just so it is a little pliable, not melted, put it in a bowl along with the soft fruit, add a little sherry or your favorite liquor, a fruit based one and mix all the ingredients together, place the ice cream mixture into a prepared cake tin and put it back into the freezer. When you are halfway through the main course take it out of the freezer to slightly soften, turn it out onto a nice glass plate and drizzle the cool coolie over it and sieve icing sugar over it. Now all you need to do is make a nice pot of coffee to finish the meal off nicely.don’t forget the mint chocolates.enjoy!

This can be used as a basis for any menu making, think about who will be attending, what their likes and dislikes are, how they will be eating, at a table or as finger foods for a buffet etc, and what type of meal it will be, formal or informal. There are no rules as such, but just a little thought can make it as enjoyable for your guests as it will be for you, the cook. There is something quite special about sharing a meal with friends and family, so make it extra special.


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  • Healthy Living

    An uncomplicated and extremely pleasant way to entertain guests. That would be the best definition for a cocktail party. And, honestly speaking, it is also a painless way to entertain business acquaintances or take care of social obligations with people with whom you don’t care much about spending a long evening or sharing a complete meal with.

    Let’s go straight to the main course of a cocktail: the drinks.

    If you have a large number of guests and no professional bartender to help out with the mixology duties, then the best idea is to let the guests help themselves out and set up strategically placed “self service” tables with the necessary items.

    You will need to provide your thirsty friends with at least five basic liquors: scotch, bourbon, gin, vodka and rum. You can also include interesting additions such as Peruvian Pisco and Mexican Tequila. Accompany them with an assortment of mixes, orange and cranberry juice, buckets of ice, wedges of lemons, glasses in several sizes and long-handled bar spoons. For the “light drinkers” you can include wine and beers. Don’t forget your non-alcoholic friends. Besides the juices, provide them with sparkling mineral water.

    If you want to keep things simpler, and have your friends just relax and be served, you can choose one or two types of cocktails, made up in batches. For example, pitchers of Martinis and Margaritas, of Tom Collins and Cosmos, any combination that you think might be a good mix for your crowd.

    In general, a cocktail party shouldn’t be longer than two hours. Those two hours should fall anywhere between 5 8 pm. It is not a good idea to go beyond that time, because a cocktail party is usually the prelude for another event: going out for dinner, the theatre, another party, etc. So, try to keep it within the two hour frame and, if there is going to be dinner afterwards, keep the appetizers light and simple.

    Talking about appetizers, we can go to the second most important element of your cocktail party: the food. Imagine how your party would end up with all those drinks and no food. Stay on the simple side. An assortment of well-chosen cheese and crackers, pates and small quiches bought at a specialty store are enough for an informal party. If you want to get more sophisticated and impress your guests you can have specially made hors d’oeuvres such as smoked salmon, stuffed mushroom caps, ready to eat shrimp, artichoke dip with veggies, etc.

    The last but not least element of a successful cocktail party is the ambiance. Make sure that you have different cozy sitting areas throughout the party so that people can sit down, relax and chit chat. Tall round tables are great for this type of parties, because people can eat, drink and talk, but they don’t get stuck in one sitting area. It gives them more room to move around and mingle. To set the mood, work up the lights to create a smooth atmosphere, cool music in the backgrounds, fresh flowers and candles.

    My best advice: don’t overdo it. The two most important ingredients of successful entertaining are simplicity and creativity. However you choose to organize your cocktail party, you should always be within your comfort zone and be able to manage it. In this way, you will not feel overwhelmed and when your guests arrive you will be relaxed and able to greet them with your best smile.


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  • Others

    Candy man:

    When it comes to candy I am a lover. From the time I could walk I was into the candy bowl. Whenever I could scrape up a penny I was at the store. In those days there use to be all kinds of candy for pennies.

    As I grew up I still loved my candy bars and ice cream. I would beg, borrow or even steal to get my candy. Once when I was messing around at the dump I found some change among the trash. I kept looking until the dimes, nickels and pennies added up to a whopping thirty cents. I had me a feast of candy that day.

    When I first started working for my uncle I went to the store with his family and I bought several candy bars. My aunt got a little perturbed at me for eating all of them before dinner. She gave me her opinion of that in short order. She said that I should buy fruit from now on. Not so much candy. I tried that for a while. It wasn’t as good so I went back to candy. This time I rationed it out some. We lived too far from the store and she wouldn’t buy very much for me.

    My aunt made the best chocolate cake. Before I headed out to the barn to do the milking each day I just had to take some cake. I always cut a sliver the full length of the pan so she wouldn’t know. If she did know, she never let on.

    As a teenager before I went to work on the farm, I was getting those nasty zits on my face. The doctor told me to lay off the chocolate and the sweets. I did for a while but gradually went back to eating it.

    Several years later, when my grandchildren came along, I had a dresser drawer full of all kinds of candy and nuts. They knew where it was, but only got it when I gave it to them. Their mom was a stinker and wouldn’t let me give them all they wanted.

    That was really a good thing because I can’t eat that much anymore. I am now a diabetic. I have to watch how much candy I eat. I have to prick my finger every now and then to check my blood sugar and see if I have to increase the pills that the doctor gave me.

    If there is a youngster reading this, or his folks read it, know that when you get older you don’t want diabetes. Then you will still be able to eat the treats. Go easy on the goodies, okay?


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    You will never make enough of this recipe to have leftovers, no matter how many times you double it. Everyone loves guacamole, and it’s always the first thing to be cleaned out on a table full of fancy hors d’oeuvres. There is plenty of leeway for adjusting amounts of the various ingredients, but here is a basic plan for success.

    2 ripe avocados (they give slightly when squeezed, but are not squishy)

    1 heaping Tablespoonful of green onion, finely minced

    1 Tablespoon full of seeded finely minced ripe tomato

    Juice of 1/2 lemon or 1 whole lime

    1 Tablespoon finely minced fresh cilantro (I skip this if I don’t have fresh available.)

    1 teaspoon ground cumin

    teaspoon sea salt

    teaspoon ground black pepper

    14 drops of Tabasco sauce (adjust to taste) (You may substitute a small minced jalapeno pepper here.)

    The trick is to finely mince everything except the avocados for an optimum combination of flavors.

    Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mash until smooth. Add additional lemon juice or lime juice, if mixture is too stiff or lumpy. Taste test to adjust spices.

    Serve in an attractive bowl, garnished with cilantro.

    Guacamole is good on grilled hamburgers, as a sandwich spread, as a side dish for Mexican entrees, and, of course, as a classic dip for corn chips or fresh vegetables.

    The nutritional benefits of avocados are impressive. One whole avocado has about 250 calories and contributes 20 beneficial nutrients to the diet. These nutrients include 4% DV (Daily Value) Vitamin E, 4% Vitamin C, 8% folate, 4% fiber, 2 % iron, 4% potassium, 81 micrograms of lutein and 19 micrograms of beta-carotene. The avocado is virtually the only fruit that has monounsaturated fat, making it a heart healthy choice.

    In a world where it often seems like the things that taste the best to us are not very good for us, avocados are a delicious exception.


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  • Others

    Ice cream is one of the easiest and tastiest desserts you can make in the comfort of your own kitchen. The only thing you absolutely need to have in order to make ice cream is an ice cream maker. I use and recommend the ICE-20 made by CuisinArt, which you can find at Bed, Bath & Beyond, Amazon, or a number of stores. I also recommend a stand mixer to mix the ingredients for the ice cream.

    Once you have an ice cream maker, you are ready to being making ice cream. You will need 1 cup of milk, 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 cups of chilled heavy cream (keep in the refrigerator until you need it), and your choice of flavoring (vanilla extract, French vanilla, banana, etc.). These flavors can usually be found in your local grocery store in the baking aisle near the spices.

    First, mix the sugar and milk together in a large bowl. I personally prefer glass bowls for mixing, because they are sturdy and easy to clean. Blend the sugar and milk so the sugar is incorporated into the milk. Add your choice if flavoring to the mix (1-2 tsp. is usually enough). My personal favorite is 2 Tsp. of vanilla extract and 2 Tbsp. of ground cinnamon.

    Next, add the heavy cream to the bowl and mix until it thickens slightly.

    Next, pour the ice cream mixture into the ice cream maker. Follow the instructions that come with your particular machine as to how long to mix the ice cream. For the ice cream maker I mentioned earlier, it takes about 30 minutes to properly thicken.

    Finally, pour the ice cream mixture from the ice cream maker into a container with a lid and move to your freezer to harden before consuming. It will take approximately 1 to 2 hours.

    Lastly, kick back, relax, and enjoy your frozen creation. Feel free to experiment with different flavors and adding additional ingredients like nuts or fruit to the mix.


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    The Arturo Fuente cigar brand is considered to be if not the World’s finest certainly up near the highest level. It is the top selling cigar brand in the United States of America and this family based company of four generations produces nearly 24 million cigars every year.

    From humble beginnings in 1912 in Ybor City, Tampa, Florida, the Arturo Fuente line has grown to become a large, well-respected international brand, one of the most popular on the global market. With so many varieties to choose from including the Chateau Fuente, Chico, Churchill, Corona Grande, Exquisito, Panatela, Spanish Lonsdale, Royal Salute, Reserva No 4., Petite Lancero and the much vaunted Gran Reserva, Arturo Fuente is a brand that has a quality cigar for all smokers.

    Using only the best quality vintage tobaccos and employing skilled hand workmanship, an Arturo Fuente cigar is truly a work of art. As a result they are a highly sought after product and can sometimes be very difficult to acquire owing to lack of supply.

    The quote on the packaging of many Arturo Fuente cigars reads “We will never rush the hands of time”. This pithy saying sums up the dedication to quality control found in the production of this supreme range of smokes. One of the cigar lines, the A-Fuente Gran Reserva is so highly prized that only the most gifted cigar makers are allowed to craft them in the Dominican Republic factory.

    From the tiny cigarillo through to the giant presidente, every cigar type made under the Arturo Fuente brand has a strong attention to detail and quality. Perhaps the rarest and highest rated brand in the world, the Arturo Fuente Opus X is an example of a smooth, rich-flavored cigar experience. A special collection of 30 cigars in a Diamond Crown humidor can cost up to $1,000 to purchase yet the sumptuous design and supreme feel makes this a heavenly choice for the cigar connoisseur. Other lines such as the Hemingway and the 858 are extremely popular and sought after too.

    One reviewer exclaimed after testing an Arturo Fuente cigar, “Perfect cap, solid fill and immaculate wrapper!” Such opinions are common and although not all cigars will appeal to all consumers there is likely to be a choice that will satisfy even the most discerning amongst the extensive Arturo Fuente range.

    Arturo Fuente cigars are available from many retailers including on-line outlets such as 1001 Cuban Cigars, 2000 Smoker, 2 Guys Smoke Shop, 6Gares, ABC – The Cigar Store, Alexander Cigar Merchants,, Best Cigars Online, Best Priced Cubans. Guaranteed to please!



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  • Health

    Champ is a traditional Irish recipe, and is really a variation of mashed potato. It is usually served with bacon or else pork sausages.

    Serves 4


    5lb potatoes
    Bunch of scallions(spring onions)
    large knob of butter per person
    tsp salt
    1-2 pints of water
    1/2 cup of milk

    Wash and peel potatoes. Place in saucepan and cover with water and add salt.
    Bring to boil then reduce heat and continue cooking until potatoes are tender.

    While potatoes are cooking wash scallions and cut up with kitchen scissors discarding the roots. Place in a small saucepan with the milk and gently heat but do not let milk curdle.

    Drain and mash potatoes. Add scallions and milk. Mix well together and turn out on to plates and shape into mounds.

    Make a well in the center of each mound and stick a large knob of butter in each and serve.


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  • Healthy Living

    There are many chocolate lovers out there.  You may want to consider a gift related to this love when you are shopping for Christmas of 2010.


    Of course, chocolate is the ideal gift for someone who loves chocolate.  You will have many choices in the type of chocolate.  If you have a little more to spend, then you can get a nice set from somewhere such as Godiva.  They have many different packages.  You can get the “pure” stuff or you can get some related candies such as truffles.  There are many other brands that you can purchase at grocery stores.  Russel Stover is very popular.  Of course, many stores like Target have their own brands, and these may come in nice packages for the holidays.

    Set of hot chocolates

    A lot of people who like chocolate might enjoy a nice set of hot chocolates for Christmas.  This can be great because it might be getting quite cold outside, so they can sit by the fire and drink many gourmet brands.


    The make different books that are related to chocolate.  Some are about making them whereas others have different focuses.  You can try Great Book of Chocolate by Lebovitz, and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner by Greweling and The Culinary Institute of America or Artisan Chocolates by Garrison Shotts, all of which are very highly rated on

    Gift certificate to a chocolate store

    There are many stores that specialize in chocolates.  Of course, Godiva is a popular one.  You might want to get him or her a gift certificate to such a store so that they can pick out exactly what they want.  They sometimes sell these at a discount at stores such as Costco.

    Other chocolate related food product

    There are other food products that a chocolate lover might like.  You can get him or her a chocolate cake.  Costco has one that is delicious for approximately $17.  You can get him or her chocolate fudge.  There are many types of chocolate cookies.  You can purchase or make these.

    A chocolate lover may like something that is related to this delicious treat for the 2010 Christmas holiday.  The above ideas may be perfect. Of course make sure to pay attention to any dietary restrictions that someone has, and you can also look for something that is lower in sugar or fat.


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    Most of the recipes that I write are for things that I would order in a restaurant. One of my all-time favorite meals when I am doing some seafood dining is crab cakes!

    I have had a few experiments with crab cakes that did not come out very well, but I was quite satisfied with this recipe when I came up with it recently. The real trick for me was getting the patties to hold together, but not overmixing them. Lumps of crab are necessary to me for a good crab cake!

    I have also included a simple sauce to drizzle over the cakes if you desire. It is a fairly simple version of tartar sauce, a classic pairing with crab cakes!


    1 Pound fresh backfin crab meat, picked over for shells

    1/2 cup bread crumbs or crushed crackers

    2 ribs celery, chopped very fine

    2 green onions, chopped

    1 egg, slightly beaten

    3 TBS mayonnaise or Miracle Whip

    1 tsp Old Bay seasoning

    non-stick cooking spray

    First, Combine the crabmeat, bread crumbs, celery and onions in a bowl. Gently toss with hands to mix. Wash your hands.

    Add the egg, mayonnaise and seasoning. Mix gently again to combine, but don’t break up all of the lumps.

    Shape into six patties and place on a plate. Cover this and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

    Spray a skillet with the non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Saut the crab cakes for 4-5 minutes on each side, adjusting the heat so as not to burn the cakes. Serve with lemon wedges and sauce listed below.

    For a super quick and easy crab cake sauce:

    In a small mixing bowl, combine:

    1/4 cup mayonnaise

    2 tsp. lemon juice

    2 tsp. dried dill, or 1 TBS fresh dill

    2 tsp capers

    1 TBS sweet pickle relish

    This is a simple tartar sauce that goes wonderfully when served with the crab cakes.

    If you are more of a cocktail sauce person, you can whip up an easy recipe for it by mixing 2-3 teaspoons of horseradish with 1/4 cup of chili sauce or ketchup!


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  • Healthy Living


    What’s that in your coffee? Check it out: it’s water.

    As a nation of connoisseurs, eating and drinking in restaurants and coffee houses that are special, do we notice the difference if our precious cup of coffee is made from one kind of water or another?

    There is just a dabble in your cup of that roasted bean, specially ground and chosen from just the right part of the world. The rest is water.

    Whether you buy your coffee or brew it yourself, you have choices. Well, we do have to wonder how many of us are brewing at home considering the lineup at the coffee counters for a cup o’ that good stuff. New York, Washington, California, maybe Paris or even Dubai – wherever – different cities: different water.

    Living in your apartment you have nothing to say about the water rushing out of your tap, unless you have a filter system or go through endless bottles of water. Not to condemn all tap water, in many cases it’s okay and probably safe. But it’s the taste, right? Do you like the taste? Ah, the taste! And will you have your morning coffee chlorinated?

    With choices to make, we have become bottled water aficionados. And so, good for us! Because of our preference for a better taste we find ourselves avoiding the tap for drinking. In spite of some new publicity about the water in those bottles, we still prefer it. Unquestionably, the taste is better.

    In brewing your own at home, you can also make a socially responsible choice. With plastic bottles now getting a bad rap, it’s a good thing to stay on top of the latest findings. Read the labels. Some labels are very informative, others say very little.

    Some bottled water is purified, some from natural springs. What springs? Where are they? How does it get from there to you? Discover your own preference. If it’s practical for you at home, invest in a filter system. There are fairly inexpensive and simple setups that attach to your faucet. You’ll need to replace the filter periodically; the same idea works with a pitcher you can keep in your fridge.

    And do we know if restaurants and coffee houses are filtering their water? Have we asked? Many will say that they do have a water filtration system. We hope so.

    Are you a cuppa joe kind of person or do you take your coffee seriously? Coffee is an incredibly diverse and magical food product. We have become experts, rattling off names, countries, agricultural methods, even beans that are politically correct. It’s not just coffee any more. You know the vocabulary; you understand the jargon of some of your favorite coffee houses. Those catchy names are part of our lexicon of the coffee world.

    Actually, the Romans, the Persians, the Turks loved their coffee too, and all treasured their water. There are ancient filtration systems that are to be admired. Coffee drinking and socializing started long ago and so did having a real appreciation for the water.

    So, about the water in your coffee or the coffee in your water: which came first? Coffee grows. Water flows. It’s all part of our great planet. Enjoy it all.


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