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Archive for January, 2008

TIP OF THE DAY: Be Color Blind To Olive Oil

Olive Oil
Don’t judge an oil by its color. Different varieties of olive produce different colors of oil.
  Don’t judge an olive oil by its color. Many of us have been led to believe that the darker and greener an olive oil is, the better the quality. It’s not true: The dark green color is just a characteristic of some cultivars (varieties) of olives. Other top olive cultivars yield lighter-colored, and equally delicious, oils. Plus, knowing how people are attracted to the dark green oils, some producers add color to lesser oils (shocking, but true). Color is so unimportant that in judging competitions, oils are drunk from blue glasses to mask the color! Now that you know the “color trick” doesn’t work, how can you find the best oils? Try to research brands before buying, and buy at specialty stores where you can taste the oils. There’s plenty of information about olive oil, and reviews of 100 brands, in the Oil & Vinegar Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine. You can have hours of fun with:
– Our Olive Oil Glossary
– Understanding the Flavors & Aromas Of Olive Oil
 

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NEWS: Lindt Chocolate Owner/Chair Dies

Last week, one of the titans of chocolate entered into eternity. Rudolph R. Sprüngli, owner and chair of the largest prestige chocolate company in the world, Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli A.G., passed away in Geneva at the age of 88. If you have noticed the pervasiveness of Lindt chocolate throughout your town, it is thanks to the leadership of Mr. Sprüngli. He took the company from being another Swiss chocolate manufacturer to the world’s largest producer of prestige chocolate, with a work force of 4,000. (The most expensive category of chocolate. In the confection industry, chocolate is categorized by its price per pound at retail. The categories include Mass Market, less than $15 per pound; Mass Market Premium, from $15 to $25 per pound; Gourmet, from $25 to $40 per pound; and Prestige, at $40 per pound and higher.) Mr. Sprüngli kept the family firm, established in 1845, from being acquired by a mass-production multinational corporation. He listed Lindt & Sprüngli on the Swiss stock exchange in 1986.   Lindt Excellence
The 85% cacao bar from the Lindt Excellence line is one of the finest 85% bars in the world. Read our full review of Lindt Excellence chocolate bars.
Rodolphe Lindt revolutionized the chocolate industry in 1879 when he invented conching, the process that smooths chocolate into the velvety, aromatic product we know today. While Lindt was arguably the most famous chocolatier of his day, his business in Berne, Switzerland remained a small though high-quality one. In 1899 it was acquired by the larger Sprüngli chocolate company of Zurich, and Lindt & Sprüngli has been a major player in the quality chocolate business ever since. However, it took Rudolph R. Sprüngli, who was born in 1920 and spent his entire career with the firm, to build the brand overseas. Today, the U.S. eats so much Lindt chocolate, there’s now a production facility in Vermont! Rest in peace, in chocolate heaven, Mr. Sprüngli.

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s Chocolate Cake Day

Chocolate Cake
Satisfy your chocolate yearnings with this cake, made from the Triple Chocolate Cake Mix and Milk Chocolate Frosting from The King’s Cupboard.
  Today is Chocolate Cake Day. There are many who opine that every day should be Chocolate Cake Day. Some days, we’re with them. Then we remember that there is too much of a good thing. And if every day were Chocolate Cake Day, when would we have lemon tart, pumpkin pie, apple crumble, etc.? So, you’ve got to watch what you wish for.

If you have a refined palate, you may have noticed that it’s not easy to go out and buy a great chocolate cake. We experience quite a bit of frustration when we bring home something that looks good—for which we have paid quite a handsome price—and the taste just isn’t there. It isn’t as if the bakery used (zut alors!) margarine instead of butter. The two biggest shortcomings are anemia in the chocolate department, and/or overly sweet, in both cake and frosting. You should never be able to taste the sugar in a recipe, any more than you should taste the salt.
So, aside from baking your own favorite recipes from scratch, what’s a time-pressed person to do to celebrate Chocolate Cake Day?

– Keep a few boxes of the most excellent chocolate cake mixes from King’s Cupboard on the shelf.

– Bake up some of the King’s Cupboard Molten Chocolate Cakes & Gourmet Chocolate Cake Mixes (lava cakes). The Molten Chocolate Cakes are the “volcano cakes” or “lava cakes” you always order at restaurants…and you can make them at home in nine minutes. The gourmet cake mixes include Triple Chocolate Cake Mix and White Chocolate Hazelnut Cake Mix, with Triple Chocolate Frosting and Milk Chocolate Frosting to match.

– Splurge on our favorite Empire Torte, a dense, flourless chocolate cake that we admit an addiction to.

– Make this Chocolate Macaroon Bundt Cake. If you love Mounds bars, this is your slice of heaven.

If you want to bake from scratch, try this Chocolate Cabernet Flavors Di ‘Vine’ Cake, the 2007 winner of Bundts Across America. You can try it with a fruitier Cabernet Sauvignon; but you might want to take a look at our Wine & Dessert Pairings chart. Our Wine Editor prefers Late Harvest Zinfandel, Lustau Muscat Sherry “Emlin,” Recioto Amarone or Vintage Port with his chocolate cake.

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FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Truffle Paste

To enjoy some heavenly truffle flavor without breaking the bank, black or white truffle paste can be spread like a condiment on canapés, roasted meat and poultry. Stir a spoonful into risottos and sauces—it works wonders. We toss angel hair pasta with butter and truffle paste (you can use truffle butter to achieve the same effect). The tube or jar has a shelf life of a year and lasts about a week once opened. It’s a wonderful little luxury and a great birthday gift for your favorite foodie. If there’s any left, spread it onto your morning toast.

Try a tube. A tiny tube adds a lot of flavor.

– Read about our favorite, addictive truffle butter.

– Learn more about truffles in our exciting Truffle Glossary.

– Go truffle crazy with this wonderful truffled caviar (made with truffle oil).

  Perigord and Alba Truffles
The most precious of the fungus among us: The black Périgord truffle and the white Alba truffle. Read more about them in our Truffle Glossary.
Any or all make sexy Valentine’s Day dishes. Add some truffle cheese to the cheese plate, while you’re at it.

What about truffle oil? Caveat emptor. One day, we hope to have enough money to buy them all and do a big review in THE NIBBLE. Here’s a quick introduction. There are two types of truffle oil. The better kind is produced by infusing a high-quality oil, such as extra virgin olive oil, with the flavor from truffles. Truffle bits are soaked in the oil until it absorbs flavor and aroma. However, the vast majority of truffle oil is a chemical infusion that approximates the aroma and flavor of truffles. Some companies do it better than others. The oil can be used to add truffle flavor to a variety of foods; however, it must be sprayed or dribbled on, since heating the oil causes the flavor and aroma to dissipate. Similarly, once the bottle is opened, the flavor and oil will fade quickly. So only buy small bottles and don’t save the oil for special occasions once you open it—go truffle crazy and spray it on everything from salads to toast. Truffle oil on vegetables is terrific, and truffled mashed potatoes, celestial (substitute the oil for some of the butter).

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ON OUR RADAR: Interesting Nibbles From The Past Week

Lunch ToteSave money by bringing your lunch to work. Bring it in style with this Built NY Lunch Tote.
  The Urban Vegan lists 25 money-saving kitchen tips for pure vegans. The article starts with the premise that veganism doesn’t have to be expensive, but you don’t have to be vegan to find the tips useful. Some will sound familiar: Pack your own lunch—you can save at least $2,000 after-tax dollars a year. Invest $19.99 in the chic, insulated tote at the left, and you are now cool instead of a brown-bagger. (Shown: The Built NY Lunch Tote, available in black, orange or silver, keeps food and drink separated. Made from the same material as a diver’s wetsuit, it insulates for up to 4 hours with no additional refrigeration necessary.) Some tips are earth-friendly (we do all of them at THE NIBBLE, including using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins and rinsing/reusing Ziplock-type bags). It’s a good list to review. One of our favorites: Borrow rather than buy cookbooks.
 

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