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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 December, 2007

TIP OF THE DAY: National Cupcake Day & Cupcake Recipes

Chocolate Cupcake
If you don’t want to bake, you can order these
cupcakes from Divvies.com, a NIBBLE Top Pick
Of The Week. Read our review.
  Today is National Cupcake Day, so enjoy a cupcake—in fact, make some with a chocolate “surprise.” Fill the cupcake liner halfway with batter, then insert a piece of chocolate from your favorite gourmet chocolate bar (the size should be equivalent to a miniature-sized chocolate bar, about 1″ x 3/4″). Then top off the cup 2/3 to 3/4 of the way with batter and bake as instructed. The chocolate bar will melt during the baking process. After you ice the cupcakes, you can add another piece of chocolate to decorate the top. We love making a chocolate cupcake recipe and using a spicy “Aztec” chocolate bar, like Jacques Torres’ Wicked Way Bar. Or, enjoy this recipe for vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.
 

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NEWS: Jamón Ibérico (Pata Negra) Arrives In The U.S.

People who have eaten jamón Ibérico (Iberian ham) in Spain have waxed poetic about the artisan dry-cured ham of southwestern Spain that has been called the “Rolls Royce of ham.” But it has not been available in the U.S., because of a USDA concern about the processing conditions. After USDA officials inspected and approved specific facilities in Spain, Santiago Martin of Fermin USA obtained USDA approval two years ago to export the ham to the U.S. and began taking $200 deposits for 15-pound hams that cost $780.00. A wait list of 300 people—restaurants, retailers, and consumer enthusiasts—plunked down their money. Finally, after a 10-year effort to import the product, the first hams have arrived. There are three different types of Jamón Ibérico:

1) Jamón Ibérico de Pienso, or simply, Jamón Ibérico is made from pigs that are fed only grain. The ham is dry-cured for 24 months. This is the ham that has just arrived. A 9-pound boneless ham is $800.00, or about $89.00 a pound. With bone-in, it drops to just $52.00 a pound (but weighs 15 pounds, hence the $780.00 price tag). This is the ham commonly served at tapas bars (and now you know why those slices are so thin!).

 

 

  Jamon Iberico de Bellota

Is it worth $96 a pound? Yes—Jamón Ibérico de Bellota has amazing, complex flavor. The good news is, it’s eaten only a few fragile slices at a time, like carpaccio—maybe an ounce’s worth.

2) Going up a level, Jamón Ibérico de Recebo is made from pigs that are pastured and fed a combination of acorns and grain.

 

3) The ultimate ham experience—we call it the kobe beef of ham—is Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, made from free-range pigs that roam oak forests along the southern border between Spain and Portugal and eat only acorns (bellota means acorn). The result is meat with a marbling of rich, golden fat. The ham is cured for 36 months—a very long time enabled by the high fat content and the antioxidant quality of the diet. At $96.00 a pound, these $1,400 luxury hams are expected to arrive in July 2008. So if you’re looking for that ultimate holiday gift, you can give the recipient a box of acorns and a card…and you’ve got until July to come up with the cash. The hams are available through LaTienda.com.

The hams are more popularly known as pata negra, or “black hoof,” a casual name for the Ibérico pig (which is all black). They are the last free-ranging, free-grazing pigs in Europe, roaming the dehesas, the oak forests, of southwestern Spain. For more information about jamón Ibérico, visit FerminIberico.com or get Jamón news at Jamon.com. If you don’t care for the price tag (and we certainly don’t blame you), visit our Pork, Ham & Bacon section for some less costly, yet delicious, hams.

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RECIPE: Classic Rum Egg Nog

Egg Nog
For those counting their calories, Mount Gay
Eclipse is delicious sipping rum straight up.
  It’s Saturday. If you’re entertaining this weekend and still haven’t come up with that special holiday cocktail, how about that universal favorite, classic egg nog? An American invention based on a European milk-and-wine recipe (Colonials added the rum, a New World spirit, and in the late 19th century, Bourbon), egg nog not only tastes great, it has domestic roots (although unless you live in Kentucky or the Caibbean, it doesn’t count as locavore). Check out the egg nog recipe, courtesy of Mount Gay Eclipse Barbados Rum (a splendid light amber rum you should get to know), and also drink in the egg nog history and trivia. George Washington, a big egg nog fan, added not only rum but rye whiskey (another American invention) to his nog. If you’d like to look at more holiday cocktail recipes, click over to the Cocktails & Spirits section of THE NIBBLE online magazine. If you need a Diet Egg Nog recipe, we’ve got one of those, too, in our Diet Nibbles section.
 

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PRODUCT WATCH: Pellegrino Organic Olive Oil From Italy

What do you do when you’re a New York opera singer and your grandparents in Calabria, Italy make beautiful, organic-certified olive oil from the ancestral olive groves? You start The New York Olive Oil Co-Op and distribute the freshly-pressed olive oil to local enthusiasts who sign up for regular deliveries. Of course, it can be purchased by the single bottle or tin as well. Made from the Leccino olive, which is used to make the popular Tuscan olive oils, in this oil from the boot of Italy, grown the strip of coastline, the oil has the perfect gentle touch of pepper—not the cough-inducing quality of many Tuscan oils. We love the green olive aroma, moderate, fruity taste and rich, buttery texture. If you’re still looking for gifts for your gourmet friends, this could be it! It’s a delicious oil for heart-healthy people to drink from the spoon: 22 grams (.78 ounce) of EVOO per day may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Read our full review, and learn all about olive oil in the Oil & Vinegar Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.   Extra Virgin Olive OilSo good, you can drink it from the spoon.
 

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PRODUCT WATCH: Kettle Chips 100-Calorie Packs

Kettle Chips Lightly Salted
Keep your potato chip snacking under control with Kettle Chips’ 100-calorie packs.
  Starting January 1, Kettle Bakes Lightly Salted Potato Chips will be available in 100-calorie packs, at delis and supermarkets nationwide. The bags contain 18 chips with 65% less fat than regular potato chips. As part of a movement by manufacturers to provide portion-controlled, calorie-limited snacks, the chips are a solution for kids and adults alike. They’re also a top-quality product, made with real potato slices and without artificial ingredients, cholesterol, MSG or trans fats. (In fact, Kettle is the number one brand of natural potato chips). The suggested retail price is $1.09-$1.39 per bag. Kettle’s flavored chips are a favorite at THE NIBBLE (read our article, The Top 5 Flavored Gourmet Potato Chips, in THE NIBBLE online magazine). Every year, the company sponsors a People’s Choice contest to enable customers to vote for the next new flavor. HOLIDAY GIFT ALERT: You can still send someone a holiday gift of a Party Pack of all five “contestant” flavors for just $14.95. Go to BuyKettleChips.com. These are NOT the 100 calorie packs—but it’s not yet January 1st, so party on!

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TIP OF THE DAY: Bloody Mary Bar

When planning a holiday cocktail party, consider a Bloody Mary bar with everything from Virgin Marys to variations like the Bloody Bull (beef bouillon), Blood Mariner (clam juice), Danish Mary (aquavit instead of vodka, plus dill), Highland Mary (with Scotch) and Russian Mary (with yogurt). Or, try a Bloody Maria (tequila instead of vodka) or a Chipotle Maria. In addition to being highly popular, the red color is seasonal, along with the green garnishes of celery stalks and rosemary sprigs. See the sea of Bloody Mary recipes, plus the history of the Bloody Mary (contrary to legend, it wasn’t invented at Harry’s Bar in Paris). You can find more seasonal recipes in the Cocktails Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.   Bloody Mary
This Bloody Mary is all dressed up for the holidays with Morton’s Seasoned Salt, a shrimp, a cucumber slice, grape tomato and the familiar celery stalk.
 

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NEWS: Artisan Chocolatier Pierre Marcolini Goes Corporate With Nestlé

Pierre Marcolini
From left: Peter Brabeck-Lethmathe, Chairman
and CEO, Nestlé S.A., Lars Olofsson, CMO, Nestlé S.A. and Pierre Marcolini, pointing to Marcolini’s Holiday Star And Truffles, coincidentally one of our recommended chocolate holiday gifts. A nice-looking group, but can’t Nestlé photographers do better than these “natural” point-at-the-goods shots?
  One of our favorite artisan chocolatiers on earth, the great Pierre Marcolini of Belgium, has inked a deal with the largest producer of mass-marketed chocolate, Swiss giant Nestlé. In the old days, this was called “selling out.” Today, artisans deserve to be able to cash in for their years of hard work and contribution to the craft—not to mention, the great pleasure they have given to the thousands of people who have been privileged to enjoy their chocolate. But, you may want to enjoy it sooner rather than later, for who knows what changes are in the wind. According to the press release put out today by Nestlé, the partnership will allow Nestlé to benefit from “…the know-how and artistic talent of one of the world’s leading luxury chocolate makers, while Pierre Marcolini will gain access to Nestlé’s global experience.”
Pierre Marcolini will provide inspiration for future Nestlé chocolate ranges, while Nestlé will help Pierre Marcolini expand his network of boutiques across the world.” Does this mean the end of Marcolini’s impeccable standards? Time will tell. Marcolini already has a “worldwide” operation with 15 stores in Belgium, Paris, New York, Kuwait and Japan. There are just so many great beans available, and just so much chocolate that can be made by hand, to scale up a true “luxury” venture, Nestlé-style. The release continues, “Pierre Marcolini will continue to lead his company as an independent and autonomous operation, and Nestlé will join its board.” As of today, the Nestlé logo is on Marcolini’s home page, even more prominent than Marcolini’s own. Perhaps it’s just Marcolini’s excitement and anticipation. You can read the full press release here. Read our overview of Pierre Marcolini and our reviews of his chocolates, chocolate bars and confitures. We wish Mr. Marcolini the best in his new venture.

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TIP OF THE DAY: Gadget Gifts

If you have a favorite kitchen gadget, give it as a gift. It may seem small, but if it does a big job, the recipient will be grateful to have it (our friends were thrilled to get those inexpensive garlic-peeler tubes). To make it a more important gift, package it with the food it’s meant to help—e.g., the garlic peeler with imported French garlic or a silicone barbecue brush with gourmet barbecue sauce. Click here to see some of our favorite gadgets…and some of our favorite barbecue sauces…in THE NIBBLE online magazine. For more gift ideas, see our Gift-Finder section. By the way, the Blender Bottle, shown in the photo at the right, has proven to be a godsend in making scrambled eggs, pancakes, diet shakes from powdered packages and anything else that needs to be fluffed or dissolved. It’s the best $8.99 we’ve ever spent!   Blender BottleWe couldn’t live without our Blender Bottle. Read the review.
 

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REVIEW: School House Kitchen Condiments

School House Kitchen Condiments
The yummiest mustard we’ve had all year.
  Of the thousands of products we have reviewed, perhaps this is the first sold by a not-for-profit organization that was established specifically for the purpose of generating money for education. Hence the name, School House Kitchen. Fortunately, this school house had a good “cooking program,” because the vinaigrette, chutney and mustard are excellent. If you like bottled vinaigrettes, Balsamic Vinaigrette Basico is a sweet, rich dressing with peppery undertones that is perfect over mixed greens or vegetables or as a marinade. Bardshar Chutney sits in an interesting space between sweet and savory chutneys, and as such is versatile to accompany just about anything. It has dark, sophisticated flavors as well as a perky fruitiness. Sweet Smooth Hot Mustard (shown at left) has a touch of sugar and an original creaminess from the unique addition of butter.
Your sandwiches will love you, as will anything else this mustard touches (you can eat it from the jar, it’s so good). The ladies at School House Kitchen teach a good lesson: Create products that make the grade. Read the full review in THE NIBBLE online magainze.

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REVIEW: Chukar Cherries Gourmet Brownie Mix & Pie Filling

Chukar knows cherries. The company specializes in cherry products. We’ve previously reviewed their lovely preserves, toppings and barbecue sauces and scrumptious dried cherries. How would they do with baking mixes? Much better than other mixes we’ve tried! If you want to whip up a batch of Black Forest Brownies (chocolate chips and dried cherries) that taste homemade, just add butter and eggs. If you’re set on making a cherry pie, cobbler or tart, this is the cherry filling to use (you’ll never be able to look at a can of that supermarket pie filling again). We also used the cobbler filling in crepes, omelets, with a pork roast and to top ice cream. The products are all natural and certified kosher. Read the full review in THE NIBBLE online magazine. And learn more about the charming cherry in our Cherry Facts article, which includes a Cherry Tiramisu recipe that would taste even better with Chukar Cherries cobbler filling.   Cherry Pie

Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy boy? In a cinch, with scrumptious Cherry Cobbler Filling from Chukar Cherries.
 

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