This weekend, I was thrilled to host a house party for some of my blogger and work friends sponsored by Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets. The folks from Fresh & Easy brought in some of their best holiday fare for us to try out, including Brie & Cranberry Pastry Puffs, Mini Beef en Croutes, and Bacon Wrapped Shrimp appetizers. The appetizers are in the prepared foods section of the store, and are uncooked when you buy them. Just pop them in the oven for about 10 minutes, and you have tantalizing, decadent appetizers that seem like you've been slaving all day to prepare. I mean, seriously, how could you go wrong with brie cheese wrapped in butter pastry? Or anything at all involving bacon?
A few months ago, I went to an event in San Francisco to launch new Fresh & Easy stores in Northern California. I had never heard of Fresh & Easy before that, and was delighted to learn that they offer fresh, wholesome foods at reasonable prices. Fresh & Easy is owned by the British supermarket chain Tesco. They are in the middle of opening stores in California, Nevada, and Arizona. In addition to their own branded products, they also offer some of the top name-brand items and fresh bread from Il Fornaio bakery.
I've been shopping at Fresh & Easy in San Jose and lately Sunnyvale ever since then, whenever I can make the trip down. I am eagerly awaiting the opening of the Mountain View store, which is not that far from where I normally shop. I love the store's layout, the fact that it is not too big or too small, and have found their Fresh & Easy branded products to be high-quality. I used to make three different shopping lists for the three stores I go to (Trader Joe's, Safeway, and Whole Foods) and now can get everything my family likes in one store, including organics, ready-made convenience meals, and big-name brands like Diet Coke and Kellogg's cereals.
At the party, we were able to sample some of Fresh & Easy's terrific seasonal fare, including a wonderful roasted butternut squash and beet salad, a mixed fruit platter with a yummy cinnamon-flavored yogurt sauce, and a vegetable & cheese platter with ranch dip.
For dessert, we tried out the Variety Cheesecake which has four different flavors of cheesecake in one, including chocolate, New York style, pumpkin, and peppermint. In addition, we sampled some mini-cheesecake bites, which were great for those who didn't want a full piece of cheesecake, but just a little taste. My son took a big slice of chocolate cheesecake and had came back to tell me that there was "too much frosting and not enough cake." I had to explain to him that the "frosting" was actually the cheesecake part and the "cake" was the crust. He liked it nonetheless.
The cookie platter comes in a very cute, festive box shaped like a little house that can be used as a decoration by itself. The cookies are gingerbread bells and something like a wedding cookie. Both were quite tasty. All the guests agreed that these cookies and the Macadamia Nut Popcorn Clusters would make excellent teacher gifts.
We sampled several of the wines offered by Fresh & Easy, made by their own vintner. Frank and I both enjoy the sparkling Dreamstone Pink Moscato, which may not be the manliest of drinks, but is delicious all the same. We already had two bottles of it in the fridge when they arrived. It's the perfect Girls Night Out drink, in my opinion, and goes great with spicy and savory foods. We also enjoyed the Doon Buggy Red blend and the Small Wonders Russian River Chardonnay. For the non-wine drinkers, the Pumpkin Spice Apple Cider was a big hit, and tasted like fall to me.
Thank you so much to Fresh & Easy for sponsoring this tasting party! I can't think of any better way to celebrate the holidays than with good food, good friends, and terrific wine, especially without spending hours in the kitchen.
Disclosure: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets provided food and drinks and gift bags for this event. I did not receive any financial compensation for writing this post. All opinions expressed herein are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Fresh & Easy, Tesco, or any of their affiliates.