Some like it hot. I don't, but since I love all things caramel and caramelized, I convinced myself to give the spicy hot treats made by Cowgirl Chocolates a try. The first bite of hot caramel corn shocked my tongue and sent me running for a glass of milk. But as I tasted through three kinds of caramel corn, chocolate-coated nuts and toffee, I had to admit that the combination of pepper and rich, buttery caramel works. Since I'm a wimp, my favorites in the lineup were those with mild spice, especially the barely hot hazelnut toffee. The rest of the world will probably find the fire level in the nut clusters and the Pumpkin Spice and Spicy Chocolate Triple Nut caramel corn flavors to be just right. Cowgirl Chocolates come in pretty little packages, all dressed up with buttons and bows.

The caramel corn sells for $8.95 for a 6-ounce bag. The Caramel Nut Clusters are $12.95 for 4 ounces, and the Roasted Hazelnut Toffee is $16.50 for 8 ounces, 1 pound for $24 (this is the size you really want). Cowgirl Chocolates, based in Idaho, only sells mail-order through its Web site. To check out the selection, go to http://www.cowgirlchocolates.com or call the company at 888-882-4098.

EXPLOSION OF ROSES: When the return address says Craft Distillers in Ukiah, I know one thing: What's inside is something special. I am never sure if I will like it -- I wasn't crazy about the wasabi liqueur, and I didn't even need to taste the Qi smoked brandy to know it wasn't for me.


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But the Fraser River raspberry vodka and the Select Barrel XO brandy? These are bottled perfection. Inside the most recent package was a small vial of Crispin's Rose Liqueur. I opened the vial and inhaled an aroma so gorgeous that I was tempted to dab it behind my ears. Instead, I took a tiny sip. I loved the way the perfume washed across my tongue and filled my nose. It was like being in a small room stuffed with roses.

Crispin's Rose Liqueur may not appeal to all, but anyone who has ever used rosewater in cooking will appreciate the artistry it takes to capture so perfectly the essence of rose petals. Crispin Cain, creator of the liqueur, says every bottle contains five kinds of apples and the petals of a dozen homegrown roses. The liqueur is $85 for a 375-ml bottle. To order, call 800-575-9997.

A COOLER WHIP: Whipped "cream" that comes in a tub will never get top billing at my house, but I admit there are times when convenience rules -- when a portable tub is exactly what we need. The problem is that most commercial tubs of whipped topping are not only packed with chemicals, but they're also made with trans fats, which are an absolute Don't Eat in my book.

The solution? The new TRUwhip All Natural Whipped Topping by Peak Foods. It's not real cream, but at least it's 70 percent organic and contains no trans fats and no GMOs. The creamy topping is made with tapioca syrup and palm kernel oil, plus a little soy protein. The palm kernel oil is not terrific for you because it is a saturated fat, but it isn't the cholesterol nightmare that trans fats are.

TruWhip tastes a bit different from its competitors, slightly fresher but without the vanillin backdrop. It's definitely what you want on your Thanksgiving pie if you're not going to whip up the cream yourself. The topping can be found at Whole Foods. A 10-ounce tub is $2.99.

Reach Jolene Thym at jthym@bayareanewsgroup.com or 510-353-7008.