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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for October, 2007

NEWS: Cocoa Butter Substitution

HersheyThis year: made with cocoa butter.
Next year: made with vegetable oil?
  Will this be the last Halloween with “real” chocolate? If many of the big commercial chocolate makers have their wish, it will be. They filed a petition with the FDA earlier this year, to amend the standards for chocolate production. The proposed change would give manufacturers the option to replace the cocoa butter in chocolate with cheaper vegetable oil, and still be able to call the product “chocolate.” The product exists today, but must be called chocolate-flavored or imitation chocolate. If changes are legislated, you, the consumer, will have to read labels to know what you’re buying; and in instances such as restaurant and bakery purchases, where there is no label to read, it will be caveat emptor. We wrote about this serious issue in April, and urged NIBBLE readers to comment on the FDA’s website (you can read the post in April’s Gourmet News & Views).
The comments period is closed now, and the petition is under review by legislators Dow Jones MarketWatch commented on the overall issue and updates, quoting NIBBLE founder Karen Hochman. Read the full story. We continue to speak for chocolate lovers everywhere when we ask that the government focus its attention on food safety issues, rather than revising chocolate standards.

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PRODUCT WATCH: Mercer’s Port Ice Cream

Mercer’s Ice CreamA year or so ago we tried Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream, made in New York State. The Port ice cream was a standout, but at the time there was no online distribution. Now, a NIBBLE reader from St. Louis writes that he tried the flavors locally, also likes the Port, and recommends a local distributor, FrostOnTheVine.com, that will ship them. There’s a four-pint minimum ($10.00 a pint plus shipping). For a special holiday dessert, that’s not bad, and the four pints will go fast. You can mix and match flavors (the others are Peach White Zinfandel, Red Raspberry Chardonnay and Royal White Riesling), but we’d stick with the Port—which is formally named Ala Port, by some person who does not understand that (a) Port is named after the Portuguese town of Porto (a.k.a. Oporto) from whence the wine was originally shipped, not after the French word for door (la port), (b) one should never make up fake French, but if one must, one should spell it correctly (À la Port, not Ala Port), and (c) if you have four flavors in a line, you should follow a nomenclature—not serve up three names in English and one in “French.”

 

You can’t make these at home: Freezing alcohol and ice cream (or sorbet) successfully is something even the professionals have to work at. For a great line of wine sorbets, read our review of Wine Cellar Sorbets, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week. You can find more of our favorite ice creams and sorbets in the Desserts Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine. And for the answers to the differences between ice cream, French ice cream, sorbet, sherbet and other frozen delights, check out our Ice Cream & Frozen Desserts Glossary.

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BOOK: The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry

Sharper Knife

Many women will be at least a little jealous of Kathleen Flinn. At age 36, she leaves her high-powered corporate job to pursue her lifelong dream of attending Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Paris. She falls in love not only with the City of Light, but with a man she eventually marries. And, she gets a book deal to write about it all. It has all the makings of a Lifetime movie.

The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry is not just a story about all the feel-good moments in Flinn’s life. She also records the many trials and tribulations of attending culinary school—the backstabbing, the stress, the intimidating chefs and the grueling classes. But, her feelings of self-doubt are quelled by her motivation to receive her Superior Cuisine diploma—despite the fact that she never intends to be a professional chef but just an excellent home cook. Flinn shares many recipes as well as hilarious stories of her many house-guests, including one particularly repugnant self-dubbed “wine snob.”

We finished this book in just a matter of days and really wished there were a second volume. Is Flinn still cooking regularly? Where does she work now? Is her husband still a knight in shining armor? The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry reads like good, romantic fiction, except that it all actually happened.

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PRODUCT WATCH: Choctál’s Single Origin Vanilla Ice Creams

When we first reviewed Choctál in April, the pioneer in single origin ice cream had just introduced four single origin chocolate ice creams (Costa Rican, San Dominican [Dominican Republic], Ghanian and Kalimantan [Borneo]) and a vanilla from Madagascar. At last, the other vanilla single origins are rolling out: Indonesian, Mexican, Papua New Guinean, plus a combination Costa Rican Rain Forest Chocolate and Vanilla pint—perhaps the most gourmet (and jumbo) Dixie cup ever conceived. This means you can plan one heck of an ice cream tasting over the holidays. We’re saving our tasting party for New Year’s Eve, but we plan to dig into the pints ASAP. We adored the Madagascan vanilla, and can’t wait to see how the siblings compare. (Allow us to quote from our review: “It tastes like a true artisan product, something that the pastry chef at a fine restaurant would create.”)   Choctal Vanilla Ice Creams
See how vanilla tastes different with beans from different parts of the world.
As with all single origin products, each has a unique flavor profile determined by the terroir (soil and microclimate), the growing conditions and the processing. While we haven’t tasted the new vanillas yet, here’s what the manufacturer promises: Indonesian Vanilla is full-bodied, blending the creamy sweetness of classic bourbon (Madagascan) vanilla with a luscious woody floral note. Mexican Vanilla is sweet and spicy with a touch of cinnamon and a coconut finish (vanilla is indigenous to Mexico, by the way). Papua New Guinea Vanilla has fruity, floral notes of cherry that linger on the palate during a long, lush finish. The Costa Rican Rain Forest Chocolate and Vanilla combines the well-balanced flavors of coffee and caramel in the chocolate with classic, full-flavored Gardella Rainforest Vanilla. If you love vanilla (and it is the best-selling flavor in America by far), how can you resist? They should be savored by themselves and compared to each other, but they’ll be splended atop any pie or cake as well. Read our original review of Choctál single origin ice creams. Find a store locator at Choctal.com.

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BOOK: The Food Snob’s Dictionary

Food Snob Dictionary
Take this book to your next dinner party.
  After devouring The United States of Arugula last year, we couldn’t wait to read The Food Snob’s Dictionary, David Kamp’s newest book that both pokes fun at and educates Food Snobs and non-Food Snobs alike. Kamp defines the Food Snob as a “reference term for the sort of food obsessive for whom the actual joy of eating and cooking is but a side dish to the accumulation of arcane knowledge about these subjects.” Throughout the book, Kamp’s snarky tone allows those already in-the-know to test their food knowledge (and perhaps make fun of themselves a bit), while also educating “everyone else” (or, perhaps, Food Snob wannabes) about unfamiliar culinary terms. No longer will you have to struggle with the difference between Romanesco and romesco, for example. Also fun are the “extras” Kamp includes, such as his list of “Six Things that Food Snobs Like, Even Though They’re Not Supposed To.”
We beg to differ with some of Kamp’s choices, though. You will never catch us eating Cheez Whiz; but then again, we don’t consider ourselves Food Snobs. Rather, we are Food Enthusiasts. P.S. Romanesco is not a sauce, but an Italian dialect spoken in Rome. (Originally it was spoken only inside the walls of the city, while the little towns outside the walls had their own dialects. Talk about territorial!) Romesco is a famous sauce originating in the Catalonia region of Spain, most often served with seafood. It is typically made from almonds and/or hazelnuts, plus roasted garlic, olive oil and small, dried red peppers called nyores. Other ingredients can include roasted tomatoes, red wine vinegar, onion, fennel and mint. The sauce, also called romescu, can be served with a poultry, vegetables and other foods as well. Feeling like a Food Snob yet?

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PRODUCT WATCH: Chocolate-Dipped Altoids

Since they debuted last year, we’ve been gaga for Altoids Dark Chocolate Dipped Mints. When we heard through the food grapevine a few months ago that there was a recommendation in to discontinue them (because they were not on in sync with the “curiously strong” branding), we stockpiled them. From the TV spots that are now running, it seems that we’re not the only ones who want our Altoids curiously coated in chocolate. For only 15 calories for two pieces, you can have a chocolate mint fix as often as you like.   Altoids
Our favorite chocolate mint fix.
The Chocolate Dipped Altoids are available in three flavors: Dark Chocolate Dipped Peppermint (easily identified by a white ribbon on the package), Ginger (gold ribbon) and Cinnamon (red ribbon). The chocolate coating mitigates the fieriness of the cinnamon and ginger flavors. But if it’s fire you want, the plain Ginger Altoids are so curiously strong (but exciting so), that the Original Peppermint Altoids had better not challenge them to a fight. If you can’t find the chocolate-dipped Altoids locally, you can find them online for about $48/dozen. They make great stocking stuffers.

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PRODUCT WATCH: Ciao Bella Fall Flavors

Ciao Bella Sorbetto
Ciao Bella Gelato: A low-calorie sweet treat.
  Ciao Bella, one of our favorite purveyors of authentic gelato and sorbetto, has introduced two seasonal fall flavors, ideal for entertaining or making family dinners a bit more special. When your guests can’t find room for a piece of pumpkin pie, or want something on the lighter side, there’s always room for gelato or for lower-calorie, dairy-free, fat-free sorbetto. Pumpkin & Spice Gelato, pumpkin accented with clove and cinnamon spices, is a perfect addition to holiday meals. It also complements a piece of chocolate cake for everyday festivities. Cranberry Orange Sorbetto, a favorite from last year, returns this month, in time for Halloween. Both will be available through the end of the year.
One of our favorite flavors, Blood Orange Sorbetto, is available year-round and also has the color and flavor of fall. Both of the seasonal flavors as well as 19 others (including the Blood Orange Sorbetto) can be purchased online at CiaoBellaGelato.com (4-pint minimum). For your nearest retailer, call 1.800.GELATO.3.

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CONTEST: THE NIBBLE’s Weekly Gourmet Giveaway Launches

If you love good food, what could be better than the chance to win a box of it each week? That’s the idea behind the Goumet Giveaway, launching today on TheNibble.com. Each week, a different prize, from chocolate to cheesecake to seafood to steak, will be given away. All you have to do to enter is answer a few fun trivia questions relating to the product—and you don’t even have to answer correctly to be entered to win. You’ll get the correct answers after you submit yours, so the “bonus” is that you’ll build your knowledge of fun food trivia.

Read the full press release about Gourmet Giveaway, and head on over to enter.

  Linguine
This week, win a pasta gift box. Photo by Adam Kulesza | IST.
 

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REVIEW: Twist Flavored Water

Twist Water
Sweetened, flavored artesian water in four
organic and four natural flavors.
  Americans are drinking more water, but also more sweetened, flavored water. The success of Glaceau’s Fruit Water and Vitamin Water have spawned other lines, and Twist is the first organic one. What makes water organic? First, it’s artesian well water, not municipal water which has been treated with chemicals. Second, the sweetener is organic (in this case, agave nectar) and the fruit flavorings are organic as well. Twist Organics’ four flavors include Mango Açaí (our favorite), Mandarin White Tea, Pomegranate Blueberry and West Indies Lime. The Naturals line is made with the same artesian well water, but with a non-organic sweetener (pineapple juice) and flavorings. It’s available in Lemon, Mandarin, Marionberry and Peach. The Naturals are less sweet than the Organics, and overall, both lines are less sweet and more natural-tasting than the other flavored, sweetened “juice waters” we’ve tasted. If you’ve found the other brands a bit too much, you may prefer this Twist. Read our full review in THE NIBBLE online magazine.
 

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FREEBIE: Chocolate From Green & Black’s

Most people don’t like the fact that the days are shorter (not to mention, colder). But Green & Black’s, which makes organic chocolate bars, wants you to appreciate the darkness (specifically, their dark chocolate). The company is offering free chocolate as the clock turns back and we lose another hour of light (or to put it positively, gain another hour of dark). From Saturday, November 3rd at 6 p.m. EST to Sunday, November 4th at 6 a.m. EST, visit AppreciateTheDarkness.com to request samples of G&B’s organic 70% dark chocolate bars, plus milk chocolate for those who don’t appreciate the darkness (the site won’t be live until November 4th). Their white chocolate is our current favorite white chocolate bar, but you’ll have to acquire that on your own. Fortunately, G&B is widely distributed—we buy ours at our local Whole Foods Market. Mark your calendar for two weeks from today—both to turn back your clocks and to get your free chocolate. Read more about the best organic chocolate brands in THE NIBBLE online magazine.   Green & Black’s Chocolate
Get free samples of G&B’s milk and 70% dark organic chocolate.
 

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