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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

TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Creme-Filled Chocolates Day

DeBrand Molded Chocolates
Molded chocolates from DeBrand Fine Chocolates.
  Fittingly, February 14, Valentine’s Day, is also National Creme-Filled Chocolates Day. Cream-Filled chocolates were made possible by Jean Neuhaus, the Belgian chocolatier who invented the first hard chocolate shell in 1912. Using molds, it enabled fillings of any kind and consistency—creme, whipped cream, soft caramel, light ganache, liqueurs, etc. Previously, only solid centers like caramels and nut pastes could be enrobed in chocolate—anything else would have leaked out. In enrobing, the center—marzipan, fruit jelly or nuts in caramel, for example—were hand-dipped into liquid chocolate. The center had to be solid enough to be held and hand-dipped. With Neuhaus’ chocolate molds, chocolates could now be made in pretty shapes, too—flowers, butterflies, fleur-de-lis, crowns, berries and others that are now familiar to us.
Thanks, Jean Neuhaus, for vastly expanding our world of chocolate bonbons. Today, bonbons with chocolate shells are known as Belgian style, and dipped chocolates as French style. Some chocolatiers work in only one style, some create a mixture of both. Chocolate shells have a thicker chocolate covering than dipped chocolate, so consumers have their preferences, based on whether they like more chocolate flavor or more flavor of the center. Read more about filled chocolates, a.k.a. bonbons, in our article on chocolate truffles and ganache in the Chocolate Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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TIDBITS: The Difference Between Kettle Chips And Conventional Potato Chips

What exactly are “kettle chips,” such as those made by Boulder Canyon, our Top Pick Of The Week (see the previous post)? Let’s start at the beginning. Potato chips, invented in 1853 in Saratoga, New York, were originally called Saratoga chips. Chips got soggy quickly in the days before vacuum packaging (or even airtight bags), and needed to be purchased fresh. By the 1920s, every town in the U.S. had its own chip maker, or “potato chipper.” The chip maker sliced up potatoes and fried them one batch at a time in a small kettle. The continuous fryer was invented in 1929, creating tremendous economies of scale and driving most of the small, kettle cookers out of business. By the 1940s, automation had evolved to change much of America’s artisan food production into mass production, including potato chips. Potato farmers bred the natural sugars out of potatoes to accommodate mass production, because the natural, variable sugar content required individualized attention to know when the batch was done. The result: Chips like Lay’s and Wise, which sell many millions of bags a year, but are only a shadow of the former gustatory glory of the potato chip.   Potato Chip Hors d’Oeuvre
The right chip is not just a good snacker: It creates sexy hors d’oeuvres. Photo courtesy of Kettle Brand chips.
Today’s “kettle chips” are a return to the thicker, small-batch chips made with top ingredients (you can use some of the best brands to construct fancy hors d’oeuvres, as shown in the photo). While today’s “kettles” are fryers much larger than the original stovetop kettle, they are still small in comparison to mass-produced chips.
– Read more about potato chips in the Snacks Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.
– Read the history of the potato chip (you’ll learn how the potato chip bag was invented—a technology breakthrough of the time)
– Fry your own kettle chips with this recipe.

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Boulder Canyon Potato Chips

Boulder Canyon Potato Chips
Two of our favorite flavors of Boulder Canyon potato chips: Hickory Barbecue (front) and Parmesan &
Garlic.
  The second potato chip to be named a Top Pick Of The Week by THE NIBBLE specialty food magazine is the polar opposite of our first. North Fork Naturals, the first top chip, offers classic potato and sweet potato chips. Boulder Canyon pulls out all the stops to present seven flavors plus “original” all natural potato chips.* These thickly-sliced, small-batch kettle chips are flavor-forward in a delightful way: You know what you’re tasting, and it tastes good. Whether as a casual snack with a beer, a more tony encounter with a martini, a side with a sandwich or a more creative pairing (garlic chips are killer with cucumber-yogurt dip), you’ll understand the difference between a chip off the same old block and a chip that belongs at the Ritz.The kettle chips are made in Balsamic Vinegar & Rosemary, Hickory Barbecue, Jalapeño Cheddar, Malt Vinegar & Sea Salt, Parmesan & Garlic, Sea Salt & Black Pepper, Spinach & Artichoke and Totally Natural/Original. We do have some favorites. Read the full review to find out what they are. Find more of our favorite salty treats in the Snacks Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.
*There are also three crinkle-cut flavors.

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RECIPE: Easy Valentine’s Day Dessert

If you still don’t have a special Valentine’s Day dessert, you can pick up these ingredients and have something special in 5 minutes. Kozy Shack, Chocolate Covered Strawberries all-natural pudding and pie filing is the first in a new line of Limited Edition products from the pudding company. This flavor, available through April 1st, drops large pieces of strawberry into a very satisfying chocolate pudding. The recipe for the Chocolate-Strawberry Cream Pie is on the package, but we’ve included it below. The pudding is delicious right out of the package and as an ingredient in other desserts.

Ingredients
– 1-8″ premade pie shell (regular or chocolate crust)
– 22-ounce container Kozy Shack Chocolate-Covered Strawberries Pudding
– Whipped topping
– Fresh strawberries and shaved chocolate to garnish

  Kozy Shack Pie
Make this pie in 5 minutes with Kozy Shack’s Chocolate Covered Strawberries pudding and pie filling.
Preparation
1. Pour pudding into pie shell and spread evenly.
2. Cover entire surface of pie with whipped topping.
3. Place in freezer for an hour.
4. Remove, slice and serve. Visit KozyShack.com for more recipes, and check out the recipe collection in the Desserts & Ice Cream Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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TIP OF THE DAY: Heart-y Valentine Sandwiches

Peanut Butter Sandwiches
If you don’t have heart-shaped cookie cutters, use stars for your “star” Valentine.
  Each year, the Peanut Butter & Co. Sandwich Shop in the heart of New York’s Greenwich Village helps lovers celebrate Valentine’s Day with a special Sweetheart’s Snack. It includes heart-shaped PB sandwiches, milk, PB cookies, and other goodies. You can create the treat at home with a large heart-shaped cookie cutter, your favorite PB and J, and a mix tape of romantic tunes. (If you don’t have a heart, you can substitute stars or other shapes). Keep your lover guessing: Use a different flavor of peanut butter on each sandwich. If your Valentine prefer savory to sweet, use a garlic or Southwestern PB with turkey or ham, instead. Read our reviews of our favorite peanut butters: plain, crunch and flavored, and our favorite jellies, jams and preserves.
 

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RECIPES: Valentine Cocktails

If your idea of a Valentine’s Day celebration is more than Champagne—or if you’d like to warm up to that bottle of Champagne with some kissable cocktails, for your drinking pleasure we present:

The Love Potion Cocktail, made with Absolut Raspberry and cranberry juice
The Right Kiss, gin, ruby Port and maraschino liqueur
Pomegranate Martini, with vodka, Grand Marnier and pomegranate juice

Find more mixology in the Cocktails & Spirits Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

  Valentine Martini

Love Potion Martini, a creation from Ocean Spray.

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Tortellini Day

TortelliniHeavenly Porcini Mushroom Tortelloni from Bertagni.   We don’t have to twist arms to get people to celebrate National Tortellini Day at THE NIBBLE. In fact, we’re lunching on several flavors of the wonderful tortellini from Bertagni (the topic of a prior post). Tortellini (tor-teh-LEE-nee) are small pastas stuffed with a variety of fillings, and a favorite pasta dish worldwide (wontons are cousins). They are served in soups—as in the classic dish, tortellini in brodo—or with sauce. We also serve them as hors d’oeuvres and snacks—with dipping sauces, on skewers with complementary meats, cheeses and veggies. Tortellini originated in Bologna and are accompanied by a legend: When the goddess Venus stayed in a tavern on the outskirts of the city, the innkeeper spied on her through the keyhole of her room, but could catch only a glimpse of her navel. Spellbound, he went to the kitchen and, to capture this vision, shaped fresh egg pasta into the bite-sized, navel-shaped tortellini. Larger bites, called tortelloni, are also made.
Tortellini and tortelloni are made by adding a filling to a circle of dough, then folding it in half, making a semicircle of the half and pinching the ends together to form the shape. By the way, the word for navel is not tortellini but ombelico; torte is the past participle of the verb torcere, meaning filled.

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TIP OF THE DAY: Red Caviar Hearts For Easy Valentine Hors d’Oeuvres

Take those heart-shaped cookie cutters and make heart-stopping hors d’oeuvres—or a first course—with toast, sour cream or crème fraîche and red caviar. Buy the best white bread or brioche, toast it, let the toast cool, and then cut the heart shapes. Spread with sour cream/crème fraîche, then top with one or several different red caviars: salmon caviar, tobiko, beet-colored whitefish roe (available from Tsar Nicoulai, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week), lumpfish or capelin roe. Drape a chive across each heart as the “arrow.”- See the full recipe.
– See more red caviar recipes.
– Learn more about caviar in our Caviar Glossary.
– See all of the articles, recipes and product reviews in the Caviar Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine
  Red Caviar
Make red caviar into heart-shaped hors d’oeuvres. Photo courtesy of Red-Caviar.com.
 

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Plum Pudding Day

Plum Pudding
Mother Sperry’s Plum Pudding is an artisan product from Seattle. You can buy it at ChefShop.com.
  “Who on earth would strive to create a National Plum Pudding Day in America,” we wondered. This is the boiled pudding dessert made of dried fruit that is traditionally served in the U.K. on Christmas Day (it’s also known as Christmas pudding). You can’t even get an American to eat a piece of fruit cake, let alone a dark, dried fruit and suet concoction, mixed with flour and spices (and related to mince pie, another dish not-so-beloved by Americans). And why would National Plum Pudding day be in the middle of February, rather than around the holidays? (It is available in the U.K. year round.) Plum pudding can be eaten with hard sauce, custard sauce, crème anglaise, lemon cream, etc. With a side of rum raisin ice cream, custard sauce and enough flaming brandy poured upon it, some Americans might warm up to it. We say this not to disparage plum pudding—we like a great one. It’s just that it’s not sweet enough for the American palate, and most folks don’t like puddings made with suet, which is beef or mutton fat (that’s pure saturated fat, folks—all the cholesterol without the flavor of butter).
The bigger issue, vis-a-vis the scramble to name every day of the year a food holiday, would seem that we’ve forgotten that February 12 is the birthday of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln was born in 1809 in a one-room log cabin on his parents’ farm in Hardin County (now part of LaRue County), Kentucky. Might not a more appropriate holiday for February 12th be Bûche de Noel Day, honoring Honest Abe with that charming buttercream cake decorated to look like a log? Just a thought. Those of you from Kentucky or Illinois, where the family relocated and Abe began his political career, might think of petitioning to get something more Lincoln-appropriate in the February 12th food holiday slot. Find out how all of these holidays (known as “special observance days”) are enacted…and perhaps you’ll be inspired to petition for your own. National Foie Gras With A Glass Of d’Yquem Day, anyone?

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TIP OF THE DAY: Pâtes de Fruit

Coincidentally, since our prior post was about Michael Recchiuti’s new cassis gelée chocolate, our tip of the day focuses on pâte de fruits—a.k.a. fruit gelee or fruit jelly, although we hesitate to use the latter term because these have nothing to do with Chuckles or those jellied watermelon slices. Pâtes de fruits (pronounced pot duh froo-EE) are gourmet fruit jellies, made of fruit purée, sugar and pectin. Those other fruit jellies are made with “fruit flavoring.” A great pâte de fruit is like eating a wonderful piece of fruit in a different form (as is a great fruit sorbet). For people who like sweets but not chocolate, a perfect Valentine’s Day gift is a box of the best pâtes de fruit we know, from Paris’s Maison du Chocolat (which, conveniently, has two shops in New York City from which they do mail order). And keep a box in your own pantry. They’re so versatile: instead of (or in addition to) cookies and petit fours when friends drop by for tea or coffee; as an accent on a dessert plate; when guests can’t eat your regular dessert due to nut or chocolate allergies. In fact, if you’ve forgotten the dessert, or the soufflé flops, bring out a plate of these beautiful, jewel-colored sweets and no one will be the wiser.   Pates de Fruit
Our favorite pâtes de fruit, from La Maison du Chocolat.
By the way, the difference between pâtes de fruit, plural, and pâte de fruit, singular, is not how many pieces you get, but how many flavors. If there’s more than one flavor, use the plural, pâtes. This nuance of the French language is courtesy of our French cousin Philippe. Read more about our favorite sweets in the Gourmet Candy Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine. If you pursue the greatest chocolates, visit our Chocolate Section.

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