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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 April, 2008

NEWS: World Beer Cup Winners Announced – U.S. Craft Brewers Lead

blue-moon-250.jpg
THE 2008 champion Best Large Brewery In The World. Blue Moon, based in Golden, Colorado, is owned by Coors.
  Beers in 91 style categories took honors yesterday at the 2008 World Beer Cup championships, held in San Diego. Every two years, a highly-qualified panel of beer professionals selects winners in what has been called “the Olympics of beer competitions,” because it awards a gold, silver and bronze in each category. A World Beer Cup gold medal allows a brewery to say that its winning beer represents the best example of that beer style in the world. Craft beer has grown enormously over the past decade. In 1996, at the first World Beer Cup, held in Vail, Colorado, 250 breweries in 20 countries entered 600 beers. This year, 644 breweries from 58 countries and 45 U.S. states vied for awards, with 2,864 beers entered. While brewers from all major continents earned awards, the U.S. won 185 of the 268 style category awards and four of the five Champion Brewery/Brewer awards.
Judges from 21 countries worked in teams to conduct blind tasting evaluations of the beers. Of the 129 judges, professional brewers and brewing industry experts, 64% came from outside the U.S. Where is America’s award-winning craft beer coming from? California (35 medals), Colorado (22), Oregon (16), Illinois (9), New York (8) and Washington (8). Entries were received from 45 of the 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico—everwhere except Alabama, New Hampshire, South Dakota, North Dakota and West Virginia.

Here are some of the top beers to look out for: The Lost Abbey beers, made by Port Brewing Company in San Marcos, California, is the 2008 Champion Brewery in the Small Brewing Category. The MidSize Brewing Company Champion is Privatbrauerei Hoepfner GmbH of Germany, maker of Hopefner Pilsner. And the Large Brewing Company champion is Blue Moon Brewing Company of Golden, Colorado, which is actually owned by Coors. A detailed analysis of the entries and awards can be found at WorldBeerCup.org.

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NEW PRODUCT: Starbucks Pike Place Roast Coffee

If you live in a major city, you’ve probably seen the ads for Starbucks new Pike Place Roast coffee…and perhaps you got a taste of the free coffee given out on April 10, the launch day. The name honors the location of the first Starbucks coffee emporium (way back in 1971) in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. The goal was to provide Starbucks customers with a signature, “every day” coffee. Starbucks offered different daily choices of its 25+ different blends and single origin coffees. But research showed that many patrons wanted the same taste every day.

Now, Pike Place Roast will be brewed from freshly-ground beans, every half hour. It’s an excellent blend: robust enough for serious coffee drinkers and moderate enough for moderates. After a week of enjoying a daily cup, we conclude that the company has done a great job of appeasing both camps.

  Starbucks Pike Place Roast
A blend to appeal to everyone…and to pair perfectly with coffee cake, cookies and chocolate-based foods.
Everyone will note that there’s a smoother finish and softer acidity in this arabica blend. Coffee geeks or super palates (take your position on the podium of your choice) will note nuances of cocoa and toasted nuts. While it’s a universal cup, the flavor notes pair well with foods that have chocolate, cinnamon or nuts (coffee cake, chocolate chip and other cookies, almond toffee, chocolates and chocolate desserts).

Equally as important as the flavor, IOHO, is that Pike Place Roast is the first of Starbucks’ coffees to bear a new mark symbolizing the company’s ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability, through an expanded relationship with Conservation International, an organization that works in 40 countries to protect plant and animal diversity. Coffee bearing the new mark is purchased from C.A.F.E. Practices-verified suppliers. In 2003, Conservation International and Starbucks joined forces again to design Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices, a set of environmentally-, socially- and economically-responsible coffee buying guidelines to support conservation and make a positive difference in the lives of farmers and their communities—similar to the goal of Fair Trade Certified practices (Fair Trade Certified is a trademark of Fairtrade Labeling Organizations (FLO), an international monitoring organization whose U.S. auditor is TransFair USA).

Free tastes are still being given out over the next two weeks across the country. Find an event near you at Starbucks.com. See more of our favorite javas in the Coffee Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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VIEWPOINT: Organic Prices Rice—So What!

USDA Certified Organic Logo
Buy organic and save the planet.
  Yesterday, a New York Times headline blared, “Sticker Shock in the Organic Aisles” (Section C, page 1). The newspaper questioned if the cost of organic food—which can be 20% to 100% higher than conventionally-produced food—is “prompting some consumers to question their devotion to food produced without pesticides, chemical fertilizers or antibiotics.” Obviously, those with budgetary constraints need to shepherd their dollars, but organics rarely end up in the shopping carts of such shoppers, much as they might like them. The article emphasizes the high cost of organics by citing $4.55 (on the high end) for a loaf of organic bread versus $3.79 for conventional bread, $4.99 versus $2.99 for a half gallon of milk and $6.39 versus $3.59 for a dozen eggs. This may be more of a rise than regular groceries are experiencing; but with the truly shocking rises in gasoline and real estate, to name just two items, is the increase in organic food a “shock?”
Even if your household consumes twice the amounts of the staples cited by the Times each week, the difference is $11—a blip for many of us who pay $4.50 for a daily cappuccino, have cocktails after work and/or buy imported water. In a country where many people spend so much money on recreational trips to the mall to buy extraneous apparel, beauty products and home accoutrements, it’s not a hardship to divert $50 a week to organic food. In fact, it’s an ethical choice. If each American ate 10% organic food, it would curtail greenhouse gas emissions that are the equivalent of taking two million cars off the roads each year. It would have been informative for the Times to offset quotes such as “The prices have gotten ridiculous” and “Man, $6.99 for a gallon of milk is pushing it,” with a couple of sentences explaining that many people who choose organic products do so to help save the environment. On Earth Day, April 22nd our Viewpoint will address this subject in depth. Here’s the New York Times article. Read more about organic issues and trends in the NutriNibbles section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Garlic Day

April 19th is National Garlic Day, and we’re celebrating with three of our favorite garlic products:

Garlic Pepper Jelly from Aloha From Oregon, a savory jelly that’s great on frankfurters and everything else (and a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week)

-Garlic Aïoli from Restaurant Lulu, a garlic mayonnaise that’s perfect for for seafood, sandwiches or dipping those frites, (and another NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week), and

Garlic Valley Farms Garlic Juice, which jazzes up any dish (and wasn’t named a Top Pick Of The Week only because our Top Pick selections have always been a bit more glamorous than a spray-on garlic juice—but it’s amazing on salads, pizza, pasta, fish, eggs, anything)

Find more of our favorite jazzer-uppers in the Condiments Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

  Garlic Valley Farms Garlic Juice
You won’t believe how good it is!
 

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NEW PRODUCT: Tumai Water

Tumai WaterYour purchase of Tumai Water helps people worldwide who have no safe drinking water.   Tumai Water is bottled at a spring in Alton, West Virginia. But proceeds from its sales help the neediest people all over the world. Tumai means “to hope for” in Swahili. Millions of Swahili speakers in Africa are among the estimated 1.1 to 1.3 billion people on the planet who lack basic clean, safe water. They are forced to drink parasite- and bacteria-polluted water that causes widespread disease and the death of an estimated 4,500 children per day. It’s easy to ignore these statistics in a country that spends $15 billion a year on bottled water, where virtually every citizen has access to a safe municipal water supply. Tumai Water is a new brand that wants to leverage America’s appetite for bottled water to return a portion of sales to projects that bring safe water to those people who so desperately need it. The mission is similar to that of Ethos Water, a spring water brand that is sold at Starbucks cafés throughout the country (it tastes similar to Ethos Water, too). Tumai Water currently lacks such a powerful distribution partner—but they will ship the water to your home or office by the case. If you are planning to buy water to give away at an event, or want to stock the shelves of your store with something that will inspire people who buy bottled water, the message on the bottle is powerful, and will earn you goodwill among those who receive one.
On the one hand, we want people to reduce their carbon footprint by learning to accept their local tap water (which can taste much better with the simple installation of a water filter). On the other hand, we know millions of Americans enjoy bottled water or insist upon the convenience. Let those bottled water purchases do good on this planet. Visit TumaiWater.com.

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Vermont Butter & Cheese Company

Today, you can buy a piece of decent chèvre in any major city. But in the early 1980s, few people knew what chèvre—goat cheese—was. It was then that Allison Hooper learned how to make chèvre, as an apprentice cheesemaker in Brittany, and returned to Vermont with a passion to make it in the U.S. Fortunately, she found a business partner and an audience of chefs—then consumers—eager to serve her products. Vermont Butter & Cheese Company became a leader in the American artisan cheese movement, and Americans learned how to love chèvre. At VBC, as the company is fondly known, the goat cheeses were joined by European-style cow’s milk dairy products also relatively unknown to Americans: crème fraîche, mascarpone and even quark. And then came the great artisan cultured butters, higher in butterfat than American contenders and the zenith of butters, as you’ll read in detail in the full review. All of the cow’s milk products are certified kosher by KOF-K, are carried by fine retailers nationwide and are available online. Join us in exploring these award-winning, artisan dairy queens. Find more of our favorite butters and cheeses in the Butter & Cheese Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.   CrottinCrottin, the classic goat cheese shape from the Loire Valley of France, as made in the U.S.A. by Vermont Butter & Cheese Company.
 

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GOURMET GIVEAWAY: Gourmet Popcorn

Dale & Thomas Popcorn
Win a keepsake tin filled with 3.5 pounds of Dale & Thomas gourmet popcorn in a choice of flavors.
  Like popcorn? Enter this week’s Gourmet Giveaway: The lucky winner of our popcorn prize will get three gifts in one! First, there’s 3.5 pounds of gourmet popcorn from Dale & Thomas (one of our favorite producers) in a choice of flavors/combos. Second, there are lots of uses for the keepsake gift tin. Third, the tin is wrapped in a colorful sack tote made from heavy, all-cotton canvas duck. While the popcorn will disappear quickly, you’ll get years of use from the sack and the tin. Certified kosher OU-Dairy. Retail value: $44.99. Enter the Gourmet Giveaway by answering a few fun trivia questions about popcorn; you don’t have to answer correctly to win. Find more of our favorite popcorns in the Snacks Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine. You’ll also enjoy the History Of Popcorn.
 

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NEW PRODUCT: YoCrunch “Snack Yogurt”

Six special-edition, Spring-themed flavors of Breyers YoCrunch yogurt have replaced the core yogurt line for the season: YoCrunch with mini M&Ms candies, Oreo Cookies n’ Cream, Nestle Buncha Crunch, Butterfinger and Reese’s Pieces. The containers have a new look for springtime: themed packaging that features flowers, children at play and (aw, shucks) a baby chick with eggs. We tried the new flavors of YoCrunch recently and like them all, with the exception of the Nestle Buncha Crunch. While we enjoyed many a Crunch bar in an earlier life, the crunch nuggets that comprise Buncha Crunch taste like waxy fake food, most likely due to the confectioner’s glaze (lac resin) used to keep the nuggets crisp. Otherwise, we enjoyed mixing Butterfinger, Reese’s Pieces, M&Ms and Oreo in with our yogurt; and while this 1% milkfat line is largely vanilla-based (Buncha Crunch is made in a strawberry yogurt version as well), we’ll try it with strawberry, coffee and other flavors on our own. We like this product as a snack and dessert for kids, who want to eat candy and cookies anyway. So why not couple the junk food with a nutritious yogurt that delivers 6g of protein for the same 200 calories as a candy bar (with some live and active cultures, to boot)? The line is certified kosher OU-D. Read our full review of YoCrunch Naturals, and check out our other favorites in the Yogurt Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.   YoCrunch YogurtHealthy yogurt marries candy or cookie pieces to create a better snack food.
 

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TIP OF THE DAY: Flavored Cream Cheese

If you don’t have time to make scallion
cream cheese, do the next best thing: Snip
chives into a small dish so that guests can
sprinkle them on top of the cream cheese. It takes two minutes to wash and snip the
chives.

 

When we serve flavored cream cheeses at brunch, the scallion cream cheese is the first to disappear. But commercial brands are gummy and specialty store fresh-made is pricey.

Here’s our trick:

  • Buy plain cream cheese, preferably organic.
  • Using electric beaters on slow, blend 8 ounces of cream cheese with 2 tablespoons of sour cream (you can add more for a more fluid spread).
  • Add 2 tablespoons of chopped scallions, or more to taste. That’s it!
  •  
    We also love olive cream cheese:

  • Purée roasted peppers and, instead of the sour cream, blend 2 tablespoons or more of purée to taste.
  • Add chopped green olives stuffed with pimento.
  •  
    Strawberries, bananas, guava, papaya, mango and pineapple (canned) are great blend-ins for sweet spreads.

    Find more of our favorite dips and spreads in the Salsas, Dips & Spreads Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Zippier Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipes

    Today is a holiday you can really sink your teeth into: Grilled Cheese Day! In fact, April is also Grilled Cheese Month—a much tastier concept than Taxes Are Due Month. Grilled cheese sandwiches are one of our favorite comfort foods—for lunch, light supper or snacks (you can cut them in quarters for casual hors d’oeuvres, too). Ask at your cheese counter for a tastier alternatives to American cheese, and test to find your favorites. We love smoked mozzarella and Jarlsberg, a Swiss-type cheese from Norway; and we find that making our sandwiches in a panini press in the best method. Otherwise, a frying pan will do just fine. Assemble the sandwiches and butter the outsides with softened butter. Fry: When the bottom slices are golden brown (2 to 3 minutes), flip them over, press down with a spatula and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. We like tomatoes on our sandwiches: We first sprinkle them with oregano or marinate them briefly in a vinaigrette for added flavor.   Grilled Cheese SandwichTuscan-style grilled cheese combines Fontina, mozzarella and grilled vegetables.
    But don’t stop there. We have a dozen gourmet grilled cheese recipes for you, along with tips on making the perfect grilled cheese sandwiches. Read the full article and pick your favorite recipes. We’ve been making two a day for lunch at THE NIBBLE offices, and the voting is intense. (HINT: If you love blue cheese, the two blue cheese recipes are a slam dunk…except for the sweet mascarpone and dulce de leche recipe. Testing and voting is HARD WORK!) Get the gang together and make all 12, for one heck of a grilled cheese-a-thon. When you’re done, you can fnd more sandwich recipes in the Bread Products section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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