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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 November, 2007

TRENDS: House-Flavored Waters

 

Infused Water
Infused water: Coming to a restaurant near you?
 

Trying to be more environmentally friendly, some restaurants are creating a new trend by eschewing bottled waters, installing water filtration systems and creating their own flavor-infused waters. As reported by Nations Restaurant News, restaurateurs on both coasts are creating tempting water options for demanding patrons. Here are some examples of what you can expect as the trend spreads nationwide:

– Broadway East, opening next month in New York City, will have no bottled water whatsoever for sale. A comprehensive filtering system will filter the city water the moment it enters the building. Guests can have the filtered still water in a carafe for free, and house-carbonated water for $3 per liter.

- At Coi restaurant in San Francisco, hydrosol, a by-product of essential oil production, is used to create exotic flavored waters. Added to glasses of still or sparkling water by the dropperful, it creates flavors such as chrysanthemum, lime, passionfruit and rose, which complement the restaurant’s cuisine.

- District restaurant, in New York City’s theater district, has a water-filtering system that fills reusable bottles with still or sparkling filtered water (at a $5 per bottle charge). The chef prepares seasonal flavors by making fruit purées and straining out the pulp to produce a clear liquid. Winter flavors planned include cucumber and lemon grass, plum and fresh ginger, and yuzu.

– At Graffiti, another new restaurant in Manhattan, the fenugreek water is evocative of the owner’s Bombay childhood. Fenugreek seeds are soaked in water overnight to infused the water. Recent studies have suggested that fenugreek is useful in lowering blood cholesterol and in helping to control diabetes.

Read more about water—and some of our favorite bottled brands—in the Water Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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RECIPE: Chocolate Stout Float Dessert

Still looking for something special to serve for Thanksgiving dessert that’s not the traditional pie? Do you like beer, ice cream and chocolate? Then here’s an option that requires absolutely no cooking, courtesy of The Chocolate Room of Brooklyn: a Chocolate Stout Float. All you need to do is purchase chocolate ice cream and chocolate stout. The Chocolate Room uses Brooklyn Lager’s chocolate stout, but microbrewers nationwide make them in the fall and winter.Directions: Pour the stout into a brandy snifter or wine goblet and add a scoop of the best chocolate ice cream you can find—from your local ice cream parlor, a boutique brand (check out all the selections at Whole Foods and Wild Oats) or Häagen-Dazs. Serve with a spoon. It’s that easy—and it’s a winner!   Chocolate Stout Float
Chocolate Stout Float: pour chocolate stout,
scoop ice cream and enjoy!
When you’re in New York, plan a trip to The Chocolate Room in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn—it’s easy to get to by subway (directions at TheChocolateRoomBrooklyn.com). The dessert café, which specializes in desserts with wine and beer pairings, is open from noon to 11 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday (to midnight Friday and Saturday). They also sell chocolates from one of our favorite chocolatiers, Fritz Knipschildt. Brooklyn’s Park Slope is a great neighborhood for food lovers, with lots of shops and restaurants. For more of our favorite desserts, visit the Dessets Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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NEWS: You Can Gain More Than A Pound On Thursday

Thanksgiving Turkey
Can you really eat all this without feeling
more stuffed than that turkey?
  Not that we didn’t have an inkling, but the average person eats 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving, according to the New York Times. Starting with cocktails before dinner—and perhaps some mixed spiced nuts and fat-laden dips—those calories and fats start to pile up. The butter on the Brussels sprouts and the biscuits, the sugar in the cranberries, the carbs in the stuffing…oh sure, be the Grinch Who Ruined Thanksgiving. Here’s our solution:
– No calorie-laden cocktails, just wine spritzers, nicely diluted with club soda.
– Steer clear of the hors d’oeuvres—not just because of the calories, but because they will fill you up and you’ll be in pain before dessert arrives.
– Eat lots of roast turkey—the most low calorie and healthy food on the table—and just take quarter-cup portions of everything else.
- Forget the biscuits and cornbread—you can have them any day of the year. They’ll just fill you up and cause your buttons to pop. Have two bites if you must; then roll the rest up in a napkin, out of sight. Ask to take a piece home for breakfast. Save your calories for dessert.
– Drink judiciously through dinner. Alternate every glass of wine with a glass of water.
– If you’re too full for dessert, have a bite and ask to take the rest home. Then you won’t feel left out.The key thing to remember is that your family or friends will be happy to send you home with a plate of food. You don’t have to eat it all in one meal: You can enjoy the rest tomorrow. And if you live in the home where the dinner is being served—it will be there for the next two or three days! Follow these tips and you won’t go into a “food coma.” Yes, we have a lot to be thankful for—including the bounty set before us. But we can also be thankful for the will not to eat it all.

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VIEWS: “American Cheese”

If you’re serving a cheese course on Thanksgiving, we hope it’s American cheese. Some of the greatest cheese artisans in the world work right here in the U.S.A.—and they’ve been earning top awards at world cheese competitions (see details in the Cheese Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine). It would be un-American to bring a Roquefort or a British Cheddar to the table on our day of national thanksgiving. Instead, bring one of the incredible blues from Rogue River Creamery or Point Reyes Farmstead, a great goat cheese from Cypress Grove Chèvre, a Fiscalini Cheddar from California—or any one of a thousand fine American cheeses (there were more than 1,200 at this year’s American Cheese Society competition). If you’d like to send someone a gift basket of American cheeses, MurraysCheese.com has several selections—but call or click over today in time for overnight delivery tomorrow.   Murray’s Cheese
The “Pioneer Picks” gift basket from MurraysCheese.com. All-American cheeses and goodies to go with them (honey, nuts and
crackers).
As far as that product known as “American Cheese,” we’d like to have the name changed because it defames everything thing that is great about American cheeses; but it has a patent as well as a standard under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. Want to know what “American cheese” is? “Pasteurized processed American cheese” (it can be called processed or process cheese) is made of scraps of Cheddar or Colby that otherwise would be unsalable (it can also be made of cheese curd and granular cheese). Processing forms them into new presentable shapes, adding emulsifiers so they will melt smoothly. That’s why American cheese is so popular on hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and cheese omelets—it does not separate or not run off (nor does it provide much flavor). There are other types of processed cheese, including prominent brands like Laughing Cow, which originated in Europe. Processed cheese often contains as little as 51% cheese; Velveeta, which cannot be called cheese but “cheese food,” contains even less. Processed cheese was invented in 1911 by Walter Gerber in Switzerland, but James L. Kraft of Chicago first applied for an American patent for his improved method in 1916. Kraft Foods introduced the first sliced process cheese to stores in 1950. The rest is history. Hmm.

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Nip ‘n Tang

Nip ‘n Tang
Cousin to a spicy honey mustard, Nip ‘n Tang adds the bite of horseradish.
  Perhaps one of the most versatile condiments around, Nip ‘n Tang combines fruit and horseradish for a sweet and spicy profile—sweet fruit and spicy/tangy horseradish. If you like peach and mango salsa and honey mustard, you’ll like Nip ‘n Tang. The flavor combination makes it versatile as a spread, dip, salad dressing and marinade component, meat and poultry glaze and unusual topping (try the sweeter flavors with plain or vanilla yogurt or on vanilla ice cream). The line is all natural, allergen and fat free and certified kosher. We particularly like the Blueberry and the Cranberry Orange, both of which would be terrific on turkey sandwiches this Friday. Read the full review.

Read about more of our favorites in the Condiments Section and the Salsas & Dips Section of online magazine.

 

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CONTEST: This Week’s Gourmet Giveaway Is Fruit

With Thanksgiving coming up, you could win a cornucopia of healthy gourmet food: choice fruit, nuts and cheese plus a keepsake “horn of plenty” basket to use as holiday decor. Enter THE NIBBLE’s weekly Gourmet Giveaway. All you have to do is answer a few fun trivia questions; you don’t even have to get them right, and if you’re a trivia buff, you’ll enjoy reading the answers. The weekly food prize relates to the trivia topic. This week’s topic is fruit. Here’s a bit of trivia not in the quiz: Most people think that nectarines are a cross between a peach and a plum, but they’re actually a variety of peach with a smooth skin. You can learn more about peaches in our peachy keen article on the topic. Enter the Gourmet Giveaway on TheNibble.com.   Horn Of Plenty Fruit Basket
Win this cornucopia—or horn of plenty—of fruit, nuts and cheese.
Gourmet Giveaway prizes are sponsored by DelightfulDeliveries.com, one of the premier Internet gift retailers.

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NEWS: World’s Most Expensive Restaurants

Grant Achatz - Hearts Of Palm
Grant Achatz flight of hearts of Palm at Alinea in Chicago. See the rest of the Cuisine Gallery at AlineaRestaurant.com.
  If we won the lottery, we’d take our main squeeze and our four best friends on a tour of these top temples of cuisine, named by Forbes Magazine as the 12 most expensive restaurants in the world. Order the right wines, and your tab can double. We’ve been to four of them, and can attest that the cuisine is worth every penny. We’re starting our trip in California and working our way east around the world.
– CALIFORNIA (Napa Valley): The French Laundry
. This small, modest wood building was once a French laundry. You can eat Thomas Keller’s nine-course tasting menu indoors, or, weather permitting, in the much lovelier garden, where some of the vegetables and most of the herbs you’ll eat are grown. The $240 tab includes gratuity.

– NEVADA (Las Vegas): Joel Robuchon
. M. Robuchon is perhaps the greatest chef we have been privileged to experience. We are both desirous and fearful of trying his Las Vegas venture—dying to see if the $360, 16-course tasting menu can be even 50% of what the great chef produced at Jamin in Paris, and fearful of carrying around the disappointment for the rest of our life if it isn’t 90%.

– ILLINOIS (Chicago): Alinea. We have been a huge fan of chef/owner Grant Achatz since his days at Trio in Evanston. But to show his kinship to the rest of this list, he worked as a sous chef at The French Laundry and as a crew member of El Bulli (see below). His $195 tasting menu, 24 courses, is reminiscent of his El Bulli mentor, Ferran Adrià.
– NEW YORK (New York City): Masa’s
. Just a stone’s throw from THE NIBBLE offices, this sushi bar experience of a lifetime is described by the Forbes article as costing $400. Let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that is the bare bones minimum: there are a la carte extras suggested by Masa Takayama that you won’t want to miss. Thirty courses and four hours later, our tab was $600 per person. It money were no object, we would visit Masa more often, for delicacies we’ve never seen (or even heard of) before.
– CANADA (Montreal): Toque.
We’re not sure how this restaurant got on the list: a seven-course seasonal menu is $92, $147 with wine, making this a pretty inexpensive option in this company. We could fly there and back for dinner and spend less than we spent at Masa, down the street from us. The locavore menu serves Quebecois-style entrees such as roasted guinea fowl, leg of suckling pig).
– ENGLAND (London): Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.
The flagship restaurant of the brash but telegenic celebrity chef is tiny (just 44 seats) and elegant. The seven-course tasting menu here is $224—the priciest dinner in London. With all of his media and business interests, it’s highly unlikely that the main man will be in the kitchen.
– FRANCE (Paris): L’Arpège.
We first dined here in 1989, and it was hot stuff then—but chef Alain Passard did not publicly condemn red meat in 2001. Fresh-picked greens from his organic garden 150 miles southwest of Paris are delivered every day in time for lunch service. You’ll pay $495 for the nine-course tasting menu—or more if we don’t shore up the dollar.
– SPAIN (Las Roses): El Bulli.
Ferran Adrià is our hero. He invented molecular gastronomy (there would be no foams without him), and keeps pushing the button. The restaurant is only open six months of the year; Adrià and his spend the rest of the year inventing new dishes at their Barcelona “kitchen lab.” It may be the toughest reservation in the world, but the faithful will angle for them and pay $270 for the 30-plus course tasting menu.
– ITALY (Rome): La Pergola.
A rooftop restaurant atop the Rome Cavalieri Hilton atop the highest hill in town, with views of St. Peter’s Dome. La Pergola is the only three-star Michelin restaurant in Rome (and the Cavalieri Hilton is the only three-star hotel-restaurant in all of Italy). Chef Heinz Beck’s nine-course tasting menu runs $285.
– INDIA (New Delhi): Bukhara.
Specializing in tandoor cooking, entrées like marinated leg of spring lamb range from $28 to $50, which is huge in India, where an anesthesiologist earns $15,000 a year. And, pricey though the menu and location are, there’s no flatware unless requested: diners are encouraged to eat with their fingers, the local tradition.
– JAPAN (Tokyo): Aragawa.
O.K., now we’re talking money. Warned that the tab would be at least $550 at this “exclusive but modest little steakhouse” in Tokyo’s Shinbashi District, we look forward to steak, steak and more steak, the only entrée. Kobe, sourced from only one local ranch, is served simply with pepper and mustard—and trust us, it needs nothing at all. One problem we anticipate: is there a No Smoking section?
– AUSTRALIA (Sydney): Tetsuya’s.
An émigré from Japan, Tetsuya Wakuda has created the best restaurant in Australia, sporting innovation fusion cuisine. The degustation menu, a 10-course minimum, is $195. This wraps up our global restaurant safari, but we think we’ll stay in Sydney for a week to eat at Tetsuya’s a few more times.

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NEWS: Starbucks Airs First TV Commercials

Starbucks is breaking its first national TV ad campaign today. As reported in Advertising Age, the first of three animated 30-second spots will appear on cable networks, followed by two additional spots that launch on November 26th. Some of the spots are expected to run on network TV as well. The campaign, called “Pass the Cheer,” will be the focus of Starbucks’ effort “to reach out to a broader audience,” according to CEO Jim Donald. With the maturity of the brand and the “Starbucks experience,” saturation of Starbucks stores in the marketplace and fewer transactions per store, the coffee café giant needs to get consumers to come in and buy another cup. In response to questions from industry analysts, whether Starbucks had reached a point where it had too many stores and outlets, Mr. Donald demurred. Although Starbucks plans to open 1,600 stores next year, 100 fewer than originally planned, he said that the “saturation comment’s overblown.”   Starbucks Coffee Cup
Starbucks, spread the cheer the right way!
But perhaps with gas at $3 a gallon, more people are thinking twice about that $3 latte. To get them back in the groove, Cheer Passes will be handed out at Starbucks events throughout the holiday season. By going to a special website (ItsRedAgain.com), you can share a holiday cheer story and read the stories of others. Aw, gee. We’d like this idea a lot better if Starbucks donated a nickel to a good cause for every unique visitor to the website, and passed some holiday cheer to the people who really need it. If you’d like to spread the cheer by purchasing coffee that saves the environment and helps needy people, learn more about sustainable coffeeorganic coffee, shade-grown, bird-friendly and Fair Trade Certified coffee—and check out some of our favorite organic and Fair Trade coffees.

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Sticky Fingers Easy Scone Mixes

Blueberry Scone
Just add water: It’s ready in 12 minutes.
  We’re not too keen on most scones—they’re dry, crumbly and leaden, requiring a slathering of butter and jam. But Sticky Fingers Bakeries has pulled off a minor miracle, with a line of English scone mixes that are moist, flavorful and ready to eat in less than 30 minutes from start to finish. All you do is add water, stir and drop the dough onto a baking pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes and serve warm to appreciative family and guests. Two days later, kept in a zip-sealed bag, our scones were still moist and tasty! In addition to the regular line that we tried (12 flavors), there’s a separate line that’s kosher-certified by the Orthodox Union (6 flavors). The line is all natural: no preservatives, no trans fats, no saturated fats and no cholesterol; the kosher line was developed for natural food stores and has no refined granulated white sugars.
Read the full review in THE NIBBLE online magazine. You can see more of our favorite bread products in our Breadstuffs Section.

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QUESTION: What’s The Best Cut Of Beef For Jerky?

A reader of THE NIBBLE online magazine was checking out our Beef Glossary to determine the best cut of beef to use for making beef jerky at home. It’s a great glossary, but doesn’t get that granular. So we posed the question to Paul Murdoch, president of Gary West, which makes the most outstanding beef jerky we’ve ever had (it was a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week—read the review). Paul responded: “I favor inside top rounds. The meat texture is consistent, which is important. Try the Choice grade for more savory flavor and the Select grade for a less fatty cut. Flank steak and brisket are nice cuts for flavor, but not for texture. Pectoral and bottom round cuts are my third choice.” [EDITOR’S NOTE: Read about the USDA grades of beef in the Beef Glossary.] Now you have the answer, if you want to, try making your own jerky. For the less adventurous, we can highly recommend Gary West’s jerky as holiday gifts—it melts in your mouth (we especially love the bison). Read the recipes in the review—jerky is more than just a match for beer, delicious a combo though that may be. And if you’re a steak lover who wants more bang for your buck, read these tips from a top butcher on the value cuts of steak.   Gary West Gourmet Jerky
We love Gary West’s gourmet jerky.
 

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