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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 June, 2008

Best Barbecue Sauces 2008

So much barbecue sauce, so little time. Our box of bottles to try for Barbecue Season 2008 was so heavy, we could hardly lift it. As in previous years, we tested our products on chicken. (See Part I and Part II for other favorites, including kosher and sugar-free barbecue sauce.)This year’s sauces that more than pass muster* are a widely-varying group of flavor profiles. Read each mini-review for details.

*The phrase “to pass muster,” meaning to be acceptable or satisfactory, comes from the military. Troops are gathered in a group to show officers that they are acceptably dressed and equipped. Muster refers to the gathering, so it is especially appropriate for our gathering of barbecue sauces.

Recognizing that preferences vary, we included some sauces this year that might not have passed our “moderate sugar standard” in previous years. You’ll see from our comments what we thought was good, and why people who look for sweeter foods should enjoy them.

-Big John’s Ol West BBQ & Dippin Sauce

-Blender’s Barbeque Sauce, Marinade & Dip

-Buz & Ned’s Real Barbecue Sauce

-One Drop Gourmet BBQ Sauce

-Smoke Master BBQ Sauce

-Taste Of Tassleberry Strawberry BBQ Sauce

Read the full review on TheNibble.com.

 

 
Depending on your pick from our new
crop of barbecue sauces, those ribs
(or chicken, or pork) can taste smoky,
sweet, hot or like strawberries. Photo
by Ed O’Neil | IST.
 

Comments

PRODUCT REVIEW: Dutch Moon Cookies


Cookie, waffle, chocolate and caramel in one luscious treat. Above, the Milk Cappuccino Dutch Moon stroopwafel cookie.
Photography by Saidi Granados.
  Stroopwafels are an old Dutch treat, invented in the town of Gouda in 1784. The traditional way to eat them is with a cup of coffee, tea or cocoa. Just before it is eaten, the stroopwafel is placed on top of the hot cup in order to soften it up; the filling melts, and scents of cinnamon and nutmeg are released into the air. Originally a poor man’s treat made from crumbs, the cookies are ubiquitous in Holland, from inexpensive supermarket varieties to artisan-baked cookies. An American wife and Dutch husband have revived the artisan art in New Amsterdam, with delightful results: Chewy, chocolate-dipped Dutch caramel wafers, for small daily indulgences, guest treats and gifts. They are perfect with coffee and tea, and a novel gift for a host or hostess.

We were sad when one of our favorite artisan producers in Massachusetts discontinued the delicious stroopwafel from its line. The complex yet homey cookies just weren’t moving as fast as other items, they said. We can only conclude that it’s because most Americans have never heard of a stroopwafel, and don’t know how good it is. Whether from a gourmet producer or the supermarket, it’s not easy to find a stroopwafel in this country.


So we were thrilled when, at a recent restaurant trade show in New York City, we came across Dutch Moon Cookies. New Yorker Tracey Denton and her Dutch husband Eelco Keij, created this Dutch treat for Americans. Succulent and cinnamony, it’s a most delicious introduction to the stroopwafel.

Read the full review on TheNibble.com.

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Robert Lambert Preserved Fruit

If you haven’t bought artisan preserved fruits before, you’re in for a treat. Just a few fruits of these wine-and-vinegar preserved delicacies on each plate turn a regular meal into a restaurant entrée, a plain scoop of ice cream into something that deserves a fancy French name. Robert Lambert, one of our favorite artisan producers, has created another all-natural hit, using the finest ingredients.

Robert Lambert is one of America’s great food artisans. He runs a boutique operation in California, the land of plenty. Within an hour’s drive or so, heritage fruits grow on trees owned by families for generations—small amounts of fruit waiting to be harvested and turned into microbatches of delicacies for those in the know.

Luscious black cherries, preserved in Merlot, add instant gourmet glamour to everything from plain grilled meats to ice cream. Photography by Claire Freierman.
Robert preserves the fruits in wine, vinegar, herbs and spices, plus a small amount of sweetener (sugar and/or honey or grape juice). He likes to serve them on the plate next to meat or fish, like a pickle or a chutney, or in a ramekin on the side with the equally delicious preserving syrup. We like spooning both fruit and syrup over the meat or fish. It’s easy to deglaze the pan with some of the syrup and some stock to make a delicious sauce. We also love the fruits on top of ice cream, sorbet and plain cakes, where they turn something simple but good into something memorable. Add a bit of Chantilly (whipped cream), a mint or rosemary sprig, and suddenly a plain slice of pound cake becomes a “gâteau” that you can name after yourself or the guest of honor. Read the full review on TheNibble.com.

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RECIPES: Classic Summer Cocktails


The ever-popular Margarita seems to be a classic with every generation.
  Modern mixology, like today’s fine cuisine, has become a throw-down to see who can create the most complex, fascinating drinks with new flavors and nifty ingredients. In the process of entertaining cocktail customers with new wow factors, many of the classic drinks have fallen by the wayside. While some, like the Martini, are enjoying a renaissance (including hundreds of variations on the theme that make the drink unrecognizable, as in the Plum Sakétini), when was the last time anyone ordered a Tom Collins—even though a bar glass is named after it?

This summer, treat guests to a retro cocktail hour. Here are cocktail recipes for some oldies but goodies that haven’t been seen for a while, along with some classics that seem to be high on the list of the cocktail menu top hits:

-Bellini Recipe

-Grand Margarita Recipe

-Mojito Recipe

-Scotch & Ginger Recipe

-Tom Collins Recipe
 

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Patchwork Pâté

Patchwork Pâté is a successful Welsh country artisan product that has taken root in the U.S., where it is made carefully following the original recipes. The result: a delicious line of chicken liver-based pâtés with enough variety of flavorings to make every day a pâté day.

In 1982, Welsh housewife Margaret Carter found herself divorced with three children to look after. With no formal training, she attempted what many talented home cooks do: She made one of her special recipes to sell locally. With startup savings of just £9.00, she began selling her homemade pâtés to pubs in Llangollen, a town nestled in the beautiful Dee Valley in northeast Wales. Few Americans know Llangollen, but it is known as the Festival Capital of Wales (music, food, balloon and fringe festivals) and the horse-drawn boat ride on the Llangollen Canal is one of the oldest attractions in the country. The River Dee, which flows through town, is the most sacred Celtic River in Western Europe. According to Arthurian legend, the Fisher King, guardian of the Holy Grail, fished its deep flowing waters.
  Patchwork Pâté is an everyday indulgence. Photography by Claire Freierman.

But the town may become known as the birthplace of Patchwork Pâté. What started in Patchwork Pate her kitchen, in a Victorian shooting lodge on a hillside, has become a thriving international specialty food business, selling in the U.S., Hong Kong and Japan. The £9.00 investment is now generating £2.2 million a year. Two of Margaret’s children, Marcus and Rufus Carter, now run the company. The kitchen has become a 10,000-square foot facility in North Wales; in the U.K., Patchwork Pâté also sells savory tarts, quiches and pies. The company has won numerous awards for its pâtés, terrines, savories and desserts, including Wales’ True Taste awards. Despite scaling up, everything is made the way Margaret originally cooked it, by hand in small batches.

Not every artisan food maker reaches such heights, but Americans are fortunate that, at the Fancy Food Show three years ago, Patchwork Pâté was discovered. Now the recipes are made in Pennsylvania and distributed nationwide. You can tell from the first bite that, as in the U.K., only the best ingredients are used, including lots of fresh herbs. The pâtés are made in small batches without preservatives or additives. Read the full review on TheNibble.com.

Comments

TOP PICK: Mariposa Baking Company


Great taste and gluten free. So’s the
whole line of Mariposa baked treats.
From top to bottom: Triple Chocolate
Truffle Brownie, Coconut Lemon Square,
Mocha Truffle Brownie. Photography
by Saidi Granados.
  This is the first gluten-free product to ever be named a Top Pick Of The Week, and the second “restricted diet” food.* But these brownies, coffeecakes and biscotti are good enough so that anyone can enjoy them and ask for seconds. With more people discovering they have gluten allergies, we want any of your friends and acquaintances who have such restrictions to know about Mariposa Baking Company.
*Divvies Cupcakes, a prior Top Pick, are dairy-free, egg-free and wheat-free. Some other Top Picks are naturally gluten-free because no products containing gluten are used in their production (e.g. olive oil and soft drinks).

Recommended by a NIBBLE reader, this bakery in Oakland, California, is a marvel. We taste quite a bit of gluten-free, sugar-free and fat-free baked goods, hoping to discover ones that taste good enough to recommend to people on restricted diets. Our standards are that they have to be good enough for everyone in the household to enjoy. Whatever magic is being practiced at Mariposa Bakery, these wheat-free, gluten-free brownies, biscotti and coffeecakes can be enjoyed by anyone.
So even if gluten-free isn’t your food focus, take a minute to think of someone who will appreciate you forever for forwarding this review. Read more about Mariposa’s delectables in the full review. And take a look at more of our favorite baked goods in THE NIBBLE‘s Cookies, Cakes & Pastries Section.

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Amore Seasoning Paste

Want to add more flavor to your foods, quicker, easier and with minimal expense? Try Amore pastes—all-natural concentrated flavor in a tube. Just squeeze a bit of anchovy, garlic, hot chile pepper, pesto tomato or the other flavors in the line. The pastes are imported from Italy, where great cooking is a matter of national honor. They’re a very welcome addition to our kitchen.

Few things are as convenient as a product that can sit in the fridge for months, ready to add exciting flavor to any number of dishes at a moment’s notice. That’s why we love Amore’s gourmet pastes, which are available in seven varieties: anchovy, black olive, garlic, hot pepper, pesto, sun-dried tomato and tomato. They come in handy for everyday cooking, especially when we’re low on spices and aromatics—or just in a hurry. A mere squeeze of the tube gives sauces the tang of fresh tomato, dressings a garlicky zip, and marinades a rush of hot pepper heat.
  These squiggles are a lifesaver in the kitchen. Photography by Saidi Granados.


The concentrated pastes, which come from Italy, add complexity and character to other foods too. They’re great in dressings and sauces, stirred into soups, on pizza or anywhere you need a hit of flavor. In some cases, they can even be used on their own as spreads. A note: The pastes we tried tended to be already salted, so be sure to taste as you go, before adding additional salt to your dishes. Consider this saltiness yet another convenience—you might not even have to bother with extra seasonings.

Amore is made by Gia, a company located in Sant’Agostino, a municipality in the province of Ferrara in the Italian region Emilia-Romagna, home to balsamic vinegar and Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese, among other delicacies. (Gia also markets a line o pastes in a tube under the Gia brand.) The pastes add negligible calories to dishes—about 15 calories a teaspoon—and are cholesterol-free and sugar-free.

Read about our favorite pastes and some great ways to use them in the full review on TheNibble.com.

Comments

TOP PICK: True Natural Taste Artisan Organic Mustard


Stone-ground mustard with horseradish: one of the stars of the line. Photography by Saidi Granados.
  America’s specialty food stores are packed with gourmet condiments. Yet, as good as we would like them all to be, different brands vary in the degree of excitement they present to the demanding palate. That’s why it’s especially rewarding to discover a line that should be on the shelves everywhere: True Natural Taste Organic White Mustard. The Honey Mustard alone is the best we’ve ever tasted, and proves that you can find sophistication and layers of flavor in a product that is generally pleasant, with a one-dimensional sweetness. The rest of the mustards are so well crafted, you can taste the quality of the ingredients (where can we buy apple cider vinegar that’s this good?).

Here is an artisan at work, preparing small batches of mustard with the very best ingredients available. You’ll know it the minute you taste it, and may start eating the mustard from a spoon (as we’ve enjoyed doing over the past few weeks). There’s also an organic Atomic Horseradish, marrying horseradish root with parsnip to create a very different and earthier, more flavorful style than the prepared horseradish in the refrigerator case (or our grandmother’s own eye-opening recipe of horseradish and beets). The line is certified kosher and (like all mustard) is gluten free.

Mustard is a terrific condiment. Low calorie, no fat or sugar (no cholesterol, no carbs), it has a spate of health benefits that are discussed in the main review. When you find a line this good, it’s worth clearing the shelf of your current inventory and trading up to a truly terrific taste. The Dijon flavor won the “best organic mustard” gold medal at this year’s Napa Valley Mustard Festival; but read about our favorites in the full review on TheNibble.com.

Comments

TOP PICK: Madison & Marcela Toffee

Madison & Marcela, located in a small seaside town in the low country of South Carolina, has hit a grand slam home run with three very different toffees. Chocolate Covered Peanut Toffee is a heavenly product—or perhaps a devilish one, as once you take the first bite, the bag is all but gone. CranAlmond Toffee (for those who want their antioxidants) is a beauty: cranberry-studded toffee on one side, lovely white slivered almonds on the other. For those who like things simple but perfect, Madison Crunch is a double-layered pecan toffee.

All of the ingredients are USDA-certified organic, with the exception of the chocolate on the Chocolate Covered Peanut Toffee (which is the excellent Callebaut brand from Belgium). The sweetener is raw cane sugar mixed with agave nectar. The agave nectar adds flavor dimension while cutting down on the sweetness (and it’s much lower on the glycemic scale than sugar—not that we’re claiming this as health food). Yet with all this organic goodness and handcrafting, the candy is still so inexpensive that you’ll want to order lots for party favors, stocking stuffers, teacher gifts, and just to hand out, because they taste so good, they put you in a munificent mindset.
  CranAlmond Toffee: ruby-like cranberries on one side, ivory almond slices on the other. Photography by Saidi Granados.

While we discovered these toffees months ago, we wanted to put them on hold as a last-minute Father’s Day gift. If you haven’t yet remembered Dad, Grandpa or Uncle Sidney, here’s your chance. Take a closer look at all three flavors in the full review at TheNibble.com.

Comments

Sophisticated Cherry Cocktails: Red For Independence Day


Tart cherry juice is a flavor-rich ingredient for cocktails.
Photo by Liv Friis-Larsen | IST.
  One of the healthiest juices you can drink is tart cherry juice. Sometimes called a superfruit,* tart cherries (also called sour cherries and Morello cherries) have among the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants, as compared to other fruits. They also contain other important nutrients such as beta carotene (19 times more than blueberries or strawberries), fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium and vitamins C and E. A growing body of scientific research links cherries to health benefits, from helping to ease the pain of arthritis and gout, to reducing risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Cherries also have been found to help regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, prevent memory loss and delay the aging process. You can read more about the fruit at the website of the Cherry Marketing Institute, ChooseCherries.com.

*A superfruit is one that has a high antioxidant level as well as nutritional density. Others include açaí, blueberry, cranberry, grape, guarana, mangosteen, noni and pomegranate.

Most of us are acquainted with the fun side of cherries: cherry pie, ice cream, yogurt and other delights. Now consider the cherry cocktail. These bright red cocktails are also perfect for red-themed holidays like Independence Day, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Find recipes for a Cherry Red Eye Mojito and Red Alert Cherry-Coconut Fusion on TheNibble.com.

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