Shelf Life. Your Ultimate Food Court Is Now In Session. Your Ultimate Food Court Is Now In Session.

Fancy Crackers

By amy • • Nov 29th, 2015 • Category: Appetizers, Baked Goods, Supplies, Columns, Pantry Items, Prepared Foods, Snacks, crackers, grains

At this time of year, festive nibbles and snacks move to the front of the store – let a thousand crackers bloom! – to be greeted by frazzled shoppers, who pick up boxes of upscale thins and wonder: are these things worth $8.99? There are further anxieties: will Uncle Doug try them? Will they go with that slightly aged tapenade at the back of the fridge? What about my food expert friends – will they take one bite, exchange pained smiles, and leave early? What is ‘harissa’, anyway?


Our mothers had Triscuits; we get curatorial angst.

This week Shelf Life aims to make sense of a chaos of comestibles. We chose a stack of fancy crackers – various flavours and styles, all high-end – and asked three experts in the art of home entertaining to snack carefully and deliver their verdicts: party essentials or party washouts? Following the tasting session, panel members were invited to select a favourite cracker and create his or her special bite-sized recipe.

Balancing cocktail napkins and tiny plates are our best-of-the-season judges: the needs-no-introduction doyenne of French cuisine, cookbook author and television host Laura Calder; catering empire-builder Peter Carruthers, chief wizard at event planners 43 Degrees Design Collective; and legendary purveyor of fine desserts and sweets, Dufflet Rosenberg (Dufflet’s Small Indulgences now an established Great White North holiday tradition); all in Toronto. Space limitations prevent us from evaluating every product in a given category; entries reflect the luck of the draw. Items are blind taste tested and awarded between zero and five stars.

Brand One

Gone Crackers
Parmesan and Rosemary
142g, $7.99
available at fine food stores
for more information visit

Laura: They’re shaped like little shovels; they’re designed for dipping. The cheese flavour is very apparent, though, so I don’t know if I’d want anything added on top. Brand One has a pleasant mild taste, and they snap nicely. I’d make them a little smaller.

Peter: Yeah, they have a long shape, but you could crumble them on soup – a nice thick soup like pumpkin. I like these – they don’t smell or taste artificial. It’s like Brand One came from a kitchen rather than a factory floor or lab.

Dufflet: Brand One crackers are working for me, because they look very artisanal, and I can smell some rosemary there. They crunch and snap well – good cracks! – and I’m enjoying the cheese flavour.  

Brand One Total : ELEVEN AND A HALF STARS ***********1/2

Brand Two

Stonewall Kitchen
Down East Salt and Pepper Crackers
142g, $8.49
available at fine food stores
for more information visit

Laura: Oh – pepper ! Nice to see pepper make an appearance. These crackers taste strongly of both salt and pepper, and have a nice crunch. Brand Two seems to be made with good quality oil. They’re seriously sturdy, they’re not going to fall to pieces the minute you add a topping.

Peter: Thank God for pepper – I can never figure out why there are so few pepper crackers out there. These look homemade, and now that I’m actually tasting them I’m not disappointed. They’d fit very well in a selection of crackers.

Dufflet: They’re very crackery, there seems to be absolutely no fat content, which is fine. They look browned and crafted – if I spotted Brand Two on the table I’d pick one up. I like the peppery and salty thing.

Brand Two Total: TWELVE STARS ************

Brand Three

Lesley Stowe’s Raincoast Crisps
Pumpkin Spice Crackers
170g, $8.99
widely available
for more information visit

Laura: Lesley Stowe crackers, unmistakably. Or a knock off, of which there are many. I’m not a fan of the cinammon, but they’re very well made, and they seriously fill me up. If you came home late at night tired and hungry you could make little wintry, fruitcake-y mini-meals from Brand Three.

Peter: And now the star of British Columbia! If I had these crackers and a quiet kitchen and a really kick-ass cheese from Quebec and a nice glass of red wine I’d be a happy man. They’re almost a meal replacement, because there’s protein in there.

Dufflet: Like all the Lesley Stowe crackers these have nuts, seeds, oats I think, and dried fruit. Their appearance is always distinctive, and they’re dense, like a biscuit. I would eat these at breakfast, or as a midday snack. And they’re fresh-tasting.

Brand Three Total: TEN AND A HALF STARS **********1/2

Brand Four

The Fine Cheese Company
Celery Crackers
150g, $7.99
available at fine food stores
for more information visit

Laura: I like the boldness. Celery, right? And dill seed. They have a hexagonal shape and an earthy, seedy texture and taste, which people will either like or not. I’m interested – right at this moment I’d love to try them with something like vichyssoise.

Peter: Brand Four is trying to make an impression and it gets high points for that. I like the texture; not too crispy, right down the middle. Wherever you find celery you could get out these crackers, from tuna to – beyond.

Dufflet: I agree with Laura – they’re not for everybody. But I don’t mind them; I like the fact that they’re unusual. The hexagonal shapes are inviting. The salt content is not too heavy.

Brand Four Total: NINE STARS *********

Brand Five

Evelyn’s Crackers
Cheddar Crispies
100g, $7.99
available at fine food stores
and online at

Laura: There’s total quality here. This cracker is rich – I think the richest we’ve tasted – with a cheese-butter aroma and a buttery texture. Does everybody else think Brand Five tastes like parmesan? A very satisfying product, including the deep red colour.

Peter: Love the free form rectangles  … this is a beautiful high-end cracker. Brand Five tastes expensive, like butter and reggiano. It needs some kind of meat, maybe very thinly sliced raw beef.

Dufflet: Or a pate. I would buy this cracker. It’s buttery and very savoury and has artisanal written all over it. Beautiful appearance, and the crisp cheese taste melts in the mouth.

Brand Five Total: FOURTEEN AND A HALF STARS **************1/2

Brand Six

The Fine Cheese Company
English Charcoal Squares
125g, $8.39
available at fine food stores
for more information visit

Laura: These are chic black squares, which would look amazing with a pale topping, such as cream and salmon roe. But the fat content is strange. Is that margarine? And the texture is like Oreos. Overall: Brand Six is purely decorative.

Peter: A sexy cracker appears, but it tastes odd. At first I thought: get out the white fish mousse, which would look fantastic. And then the taste kicks in, big problem. Too bad, black shingles. I’d rather use you for siding my garage …

Dufflet: Brand Six doesn’t taste the way it looks. I guess it’s supposed to be boutique or premium but the flavour is poor. Like Laura I wonder where the fatty taste is coming from. My reaction to the whole idea is: why?

Brand Six Total: FIVE AND A HALF STARS *****1/2

Brand Seven

La Panzanella Mini Croccantini:
170g, $6.99
available at fine food stores
for more information visit

Laura: These white, light crackers are snappy and versatile. They’re like crostini that got run over by a steam roller. You could do a lot with them. The salt content is balanced. Brand Seven would be good to have on hand.

Peter: The sodium is really persuasive. I like the little imperfections in Brand Seven, and the crispiness. These crackers have legs – they’re a good vehicle for just about anything. For example, chevre and lavender honey would do the trick.

Dufflet: The smell is lovely, the rosemary really comes through. These crackers are like crisp slices of bread, in that they’re not too salty, they’re a broad platform. There’s some nice olive oil in Brand Seven.

Brand Seven Total: THIRTEEN AND A HALF STARS *************1/2

Brand Eight

Spicy Moroccan Seed & Nut Crackers
125g, $7.99
available at fine food stores
for more information visit

Laura: Wow, Brand Eight is quite exotic. These look like thick cumin squares. Great healthy and authentic taste, and great lingering heat at the end, maybe a bit of cayenne. Brand Eight would work as a hors d’oeuvre but can also really stand on its own.

Peter: The cumin means you have your pick of styles. Because cumin is key in Mexican cuisine you could go for a south-of-the-border type hors d’oeuvre, or you could head off in a North African or South Asian direction. I like these crackers; they have character.

Dufflet: There’s no aroma to speak of, but the taste is curry-cumin, very crispy and tasty. I agree that Brand Eight works all by itself, but then again a bit of trout would be nice.

Brand Eight Total: THIRTEEN STARS *************

Results: Winning brand Evelyn’s Cheddar Crispies handily escaped the crackdown. The Charcoal Squares broke bad. All the others displayed degrees of distinction.

In honor of the  holidays we got fancy with some cracker creations;

Laura Calder selected Mondovino Spicy Seed And Nut Crackers.
Hors d’oeuvre: roasted carrots; goat cheese; a few drops of Thomas Lavers Chili Oil; mint


Peter Carruthers selected La Panzanella Croccantini Mini Crackers.
Hors d’oeuvre: Niagara Food Specialties natural Prosciutto; Creekview Cranberry Chutney; Smokestack Smoked Blue Cheese from Quebec.


Dufflet Rosenberg selected Evelyn’s Cheddar Crispies Crackers.
Hors d’oeuvre: McEwan’s Tomato Jam; sliced green grape; fresh thyme.


Shelf Life selected Stonewall Kitchen Down East Salt and Pepper Crackers.
Hors d’oeuvre: avocado and lime; radish; green onion curls; chopped Jalapeno.

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