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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 February, 2008

PRODCT REVIEW: Maple Leaf Farms Duck

Maple Leaf Farms sells a variety of succulent Pekin duck products, some of which are pre-cooked and ready to eat in just two minutes! It’s some of the best pre-cooked duck we’ve ever tasted; the raw duck breasts we cooked from scratch were also superb. But we love being able to have duck more often, just heating and eating without the heavy aromatics of roasting duck from scratch. If you love duck—and would love to enjoy it more often if only someone would cook it for you and serve it to you in your own home—see what Maple Leaf Farms has to offer. Read our review of their duck products. It will also unravel the mysteries of all those duck terms—the “m” words (muscovy, magret, mallard and moulard), the difference between Pekin duck and Peking duck, and what exactly is a confit.   Confit Of DuckDon’t have an entire day to make confit of duck? Buy it ready-made from Maple Leaf Farms, heat and eat!
 

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s Surf & Turf Day

The classic Surf and Turf is a lobster tail and
a filet mignon. Photo courtesy
MackenzieLtd.com.

 

Now, we must ask: Why would anyone make Surf &Turf Day fall on February 29th? Should we celebrate this tasty holiday only once every four years?

Perhaps it’s put on Leap Day because of its ostentatiousness—it is, after all, a dish that combines the two most expensive dishes on the menu, lobster tail and filet mignon.

Of course, mankind has been combining meat and seafood in meals since the dawn of plenty. Fine dining establishments served both lobster and steak on the same plate in the last quarter of the 19th century. Diamond Jim Brady was just one of many gourmands whose table was laden with both beef and lobster.

But the disk known as Surf and Turf (or Surf ‘n’ Turf, to be even more vulgar), is an American invention.

 

The earliest earliest print reference found by FoodTimeline.org was published in the Eureka [California] Humboldt Standard of August 14, 1964: “An entrée in restaurants in Portland [Oregon] is called surf and turf—a combination of lobster and steak.”

However, there is a second claim, without printed proof, that the same dish by the same name was served at the Sky City restaurant, in the Space Needle, at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

The dish is called “Reef and Beef” in Australia. Evidently, ostentatious displays are not limited to the U.S.

Modern Riffs On Surf & Turf

Don”t be constrained by lobster and steak. Pick your favorite seafood and meats: crab cake, crab legs, scallops or shrimp with lamb chops or pork chops, for example.

Or, enjoy a hot dog in a bun paired with lobster, shrimp or tuna salad in a bun, a clam roll or lobster roll.

Fish and chips with a tasty sausage also has its appeal. As does crab cake and ribs.

We could fill the Leap Days for the rest of our life with different options, and not run out.

Happy Surf & Turf Day!

[Updated February 2012]

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Make Rosemary Pepper Bacon

Winter days beg for hearty breakfasts and brunches, and this tasty bacon recipe is sure-to-please. Put strips of bacon on a baking sheet. Strip leaves from one sprig of rosemary per half pound of bacon and sprinkle them over the meat. Add fresh-cracked pepper to taste and roast at 400°F until crisp, about 10 minutes. Or, you can start with Nueske’s delicious pepper bacon. Either will make your eggs or BLT sing an exciting new tune.- Read about more of our favorite pork products in THE NIBBLE online magazine.   Pepper Bacon
You’ll love your homemade pepper bacon, but treat yourself to some from a top producer, too.
 

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Clam Chowder Day

Creamy New England clam chowder. Photo
courtesy MackenzieLtd.com.

 

We’re happy as a clam that today is National Clam Chowder Day. (Although as our colleague Philip has always asked, why is a clam so happy? It sits immobile on the ocean floor, waiting to be scooped up for someone’s dinner.)

You can celebrate with New England Clam Chowder (sometimes called Boston Clam Chowder), Manhattan Clam Chowder or even Rhode Island Clam Chowder; restaurants tend to serve one or the other. New England Clam Chowder is the oldest version.

According to the book 50 Chowders by Jasper White, the oldest-known printed chowder recipe is for fish chowder, printed in the Boston Evening Post on September 23, 1751. It calls for onions, pork, salt, pepper, parsley, sweet marjoram, savory, thyme and a biscuit (later replaced by oyster crackers or saltines served with the soup instead of cooked into it)—ingredients that are still used today.

Types Of Clam Chowder

  • New England Clam Chowder. If you like creamy soups, the New England style may be more of your cup of soup. It’s milk- or cream-based (with flour as a thickener), and splattering it is unlikely to permanently ruin that shirt or tie.
  •  

  • Manhattan Clam Chowder. If you want to save calories or cut back on cholesterol, Manhattan Clam Chowder is based on broth and tomatoes. It is actually an Italian clam soup, arriving on these shores with Italian immigrants in the late 1800s. It tends to be seasoned with oregano, from its Italian heritage. The original Italian soup achieved broader appeal with the name of New York Clam Chowder, which evolved to Manhattan Clam Chowder.
  • Rhode Island Clam Chowder. This variation, found chiefly in Rhode Island, is made with clear broth.
  •  
    What’s A Chowder?

    All chowders tend to be made with potatoes, onions, and of course, clams. If you have a shellfish allergy, you can opt for Fish Chowder, which substitutes shredded fish, often cod, for the clams, and throws in corn kernels for good measure.

    The word chowder has its roots in the Latin word calderia, which originally meant a hearth for warming things and later came to mean a cooking pot. The word evolved to cauldron, which in French became chaudiere, a heartbeat from chowder.

    The first chowders in our culture were fish chowders, made in cauldrons in fishing villages along the coast of France and in the Cornwall region of Southwestern England. When the fishermen came to the New World, they found clams in huge supply along the northern Atlantic coast, and clam chowder was born.

    Here’s a review of one of our favorite New England Clam Chowders, available by the can from Bar Harbor Foods.

    How Many Types Of Soup Have You Had?

    Check out our delicious Soup Glossary.

      

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    FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Flavored Waters

    If you can’t find the flavored water you want in a store—or if you want to save the amount of plastic you consume—you can make it yourself and save both money and the environment. Refill a 16-ounce water bottle with water and start by adding 5 drops of flavor extract (from the spice department) with a clean medicine dropper. We love making mint water this way! If you want to sweeten your water, add a few drops of low-glycemic agave syrup (you’ll find it in the supplements department of natural food stores), or use a liquid non-caloric sweetener. Read about the water that inspired us to make our own, Hint Water, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week. Find more of our favorite waters in the Bottled Water Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.   Mint Water
    We made mint water with mint extract, and added a spring of fresh rosemary and a lemon wheel to layer the flavor. Great taste, zero calories.
     

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    CONTEST: Hot Sauce Gourmet Giveaway

    Serrano Chile
    Looks pretty…but don’t take a bite, even though the serrano chile is just “medium heat.” Serranos are used in milder hot sauces.
      How hot is hot? You’ll find out if you’re the winner in THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet Giveaway this week. Just answer a few trivia questions about hot sauce—you don’t even have to answer them correctly. Everyone who enters has an equal chance of winning. The prize: A hot sauce sampler from award-winning Dave’s Gourmet, providing you with a variety of flavors and heat levels. You’ll get bottles of Original Dave’s Insanity Sauce, Dave’s Hurtin’ Habañero, Dave’s Ultimate Insanity, Dave’s Cool Cayenne and Dave’s Crazy Caribbean. All are made with the best natural ingredients. Learn more about the different types of chiles and heat levels in the Chile Glossary in THE NIBBLE online magazine. NOTE: Even after the Gourmet Giveaway is over, you can still take the quiz and learn more about hot sauce. After all, learning is its own reward.
     

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    TRENDS: Olive Oil Tasting Bars

    We’ve tasted hundreds of olive oils, and know that among the basic styles—mild, buttery, herbal, fruity, peppery, earthy—we like herbal and fruity flavors, but tend to avoid those cough-inducing peppery styles. Others may go straight for the pepper. But when you’re staring down a shelf of two dozen or more olive oils, you haven’t a clue as to which tastes like what. And you probably don’t have THE NIBBLE’s review of 90+ extra virgin olive oils with you. So, plunk down $15 or so, and hope for the best. But if you live in St. Louis, or other towns where olive oil tasting bars are popping up, you actually can try before you buy. Extra Virgin, an olive oil boutique that opened in October 2007, stocks 25 to 30 oils from Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Chile, Australia and the United States.   Olive Oil Tasting Bar
    Now, you can try before you buy, and select the olive oil that pleases your particular palate.
    The oils range from light, fruity and delicate to pungent—and you can taste each one of them to decide your personal style, pumping an amount into a paper cup or plastic spoon (23 grams, or two tablespoons daily, may reduce the risk of coronary disease…and some of these oils are so delicious, you can drink them from a spoon like a treat if you don’t like to enjoy them on salad, pasta or vegetables). The store is the second career of a retired pathologist with an undergraduate degree in nutrition and food science, who understands the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil. She also saw, while taking an olive oil sensory evaluation course at the University of California-Davis, how much different olive oils can influence dishes, from boiled potatoes and white beans to chicken and beef. Located in Clayton, Missouri, a St. Louis suburb, the store also features bulk olives from Spain, Italy, Greece and France, related specialty foods (vinegars, tapenades, pasta sauces) and gifts with olive patterns and themes (aprons, potholders, candles). If you pass by Extra Virgin or any other olive oil boutique, do stop in—not only for your own edification, but to help these wonderful ventures thrive. Give gift certificates as as gifts. Don’t forget to check out Extra Virgin’s website. E-commerce isn’t up yet, but there are recipes for granola and lemon banana bread that use EVOO. (If you haven’t had rustic cakes made with olive oil, in the Italian and Greek fashion, they’re wonderful—especially with fresh herbs like basil, thyme or rosemary added to the batter.)
    - See the different flavors of olive oil on TheNibble.com.
    - See how the flavors and aromas come together with this olive oil wheel.
    - Clarify specific terms in our olive oil glossary.
    - Read about our favorite olive oils in the Oil & Vinegar Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.
    - Check out our mega-review of 90 extra virgin olive oils.

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    TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Tortilla Chip Day

    Blue Corn Chips
    Tortilla chips are made in yellow, white and blue corn (shown above); and riding the whole grain nutrition wave, are also made in multigrain blends.
      On the heels (perhaps too close on the heels) of National Corn Chip Day (January 29th), February 24th honors one of America’s favorite snack foods, the tortilla chip. Surprisingly, tortilla chips are not a traditional Mexican food. They were first popularized and mass produced in southwestern Los Angeles in the late 1940s by Rebecca Webb Carranza, who, with her husband, owned a Mexican deli and tortilla factory. Misshapen tortillas were rejected from the tortilla manufacturing machine, and she turned them into chips—cutting them into triangles, frying them and selling them in snack-size bags. Needless to say, they sold well, and became a popular appetizer in Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants in California. They expanded beyond California in a big way in the late 1970s, with the growth of Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants, replacing corn chips like Fritos as America’s favorite corn chip snack. As we mentioned in our post on corn chips, the main difference between the two types of chip is that a tortilla chip is cut from a whole tortilla, and a corn chip is corn meal processed into a particular shape.
    - See our favorite gourmet tortilla chips.
    - Make this tortilla soup recipe—a favorite Mexican dish, blending chicken, corn and tortilla chips.
    - Enjoy one of our favorite guacamoles with your chips, Yucatan Guacamole—not only delicious, but organic and kosher.
    - Find our favorite salsas in the Salsas and Dips section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.
    - Before they were tortilla chips, they were tortillas. Read about our favorite tortillas, from Tumaro’s.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: “Diet” Oscars

    It’s too easy to pile on the calories over a long evening of watching the Oscars. So eschew the nachos and feature some healthy snacks. For a “diet” menu, start with crudités and a nonfat yogurt and spinach dip (mix thawed, drained frozen spinach with dry vegetable or onion soup for seasoning). Move to chicken skewers with lots of mushrooms, peppers and onions. For dessert, get a jumbo fruit basket from Edible Arrangements: it’s great taste and glamour, all-in-one. Read our review of Edible Arrangements, and find other gourmet diet products in the Diet Nibbles section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.   Fruit Basket - Edible ArrangementsAn Edible Arrangements fruit basket.
     

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    ENTERTAINING: Academy Award Nominee Cookies

    Academy Award CookiesWho wouldn’t want to take a bite out of Johnny Depp?   Invite the Best Actor and Best Actress nominees to your Oscar party—at least, in cookie effigy. Every year, we spring for these cookies from Eleni’s, a New York City bakery that specializes in hand-decorated cookies in every conceivable design. They outdo themselves with their Academy Award cookies, creating a set of Best Actor and Best Actress cookies with great likenesses of the performers. The only downside: 16 of these cookies are about $60, plus shipping. But, sometimes fun doesn’t come cheap. Read our review of Eleni’s Cookies, and find our other favorite cookies and brownies in THE NIBBLE online magazine.
     

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