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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 October, 2008

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Mari’s New York Brownies

Mari gives you the go-ahead to indulge your brownie cravings in a refined and sensible manner. By making individually-wrapped brownies that are 1-1/2” square, you can have your cake and eat it, too. Mari offers happy restraint: Have one compact, deliciously satisfying piece. If you insist on eating the whole box, it’s of your own free will.

These are brownies as they should be: portioned in a manner that doesn’t break the calorie bank. How can you feel guilty eating something so petite? Yet you’ll definitely be satiated, because those few bites are all that one could ask for: rich, chocolatey, complex—and varied. Mari makes brownies in seven flavors, plus three seasonal varieties. You can have it your way with an assorted box or your favorite flavor.

All of the flavors are charmers. Jewel-like in their little cello wraps with colorfully beckoning labels, the brownies tuck into briefcases, pockets, gym bags (yes, you deserve it!) and lunch boxes. Use them as place settings and party favors. For a simple dessert, serve them with coffee. For a gourmet dessert, add a scoop of matching or contrasting ice cream.

Mari’s New York classic chocolate
brownies are available with or without
walnuts. Or try one of the other eight
flavors. Shown in photo, clockwise from
bottom: Blonde Bombshell, Coconut,
Sugar & Spice, Cranberry Cognac and
Thai Coffee.

In these days of financial uncertainty, Mari’s is a bright light in the gloom of holiday gift obligations. Give six brownie “jewels” in a beautiful box. It’s less than $20, but to a food lover, it dazzles as much as a Tiffany trinket. In fact, we repurposed the stunning coral and white boxes to hold jewelry. Read the full review and see more photos, as we describe each delicious bite.

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NEWS: Haagen-Dazs Downsizes Pints


The 16-ounce Haagen-Daz pint: soon to
be history.
Maybe no one noticed when yogurt when from 8 ounces to 6 ounces. But will Haagen-Dazs lovers take note when the iconic pint downsizes to 14 ounces, beginning in March, 2009? Faced with increasing cost of ingredients, many manufacturers must choose to raise prices or put less in the package. The superpremium ice cream brand has chosen to do the latter. The good news: Now when you eat that entire “pint” of Haagen-Daz, there will be fewer calories. The puzzlement: Next year, when you go to the store to buy a “pint” of Haagen-Daz, what do you properly call it? “Small container” could be confusing, as the company sells quarts, “pints” and dixie cups.Read our review of Haagen-Daz Reserve flavors, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.

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CONTEST: Win 4 Dozen Oysters

If you had four dozen live oysters would you return them to the sea? Make a Thanksgiving stuffing? Write a poem? Those are a just a few of the ideas submitted to the MarxFoods.com oyster contest. Marx Foods is an online specialty high-end food distributor of the finest epicurean products. Its location in Seattle puts it a mere shell’s throw away from Puget Sound, with access to Kumamoto, Olympia, Pacific and Virginica oysters (see THE NIBBLE’s Oyster Glossary for the difference).

There are two ways to win: 1) Leave the best oyster-related comment at MarxFoods.com or 2) Refer the most contestants. Once the contest closes, the polls will be open October 21st through the 24th for the foodie community to vote on the finalists to determine a winner, who will be announced on Monday, October 27th. All ideas submitted can be viewed at the MarxFoods.com Blog.

Live Virginica Oysters from Marx Foods.

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Reveo Gourmet “Virtuoso” Marinator Electric Vacuum Tumbler


No time to marinate before grilling? Pity:
Food would taste so much better.
Solution: A Reveo Gourmet Marinator. It
marinates in just 10 minutes.
The original Reveo Gourmet Marivac was very popular. It was hand-operated with a pumping action, needing no electricity, so it could be used outdoors. It reduced marinating time from overnight (or days) to 10 minutes! Now, the effortless electric Virtuoso model eliminates the elbow grease. Food writer and cooking teacher Alissa Dicker Schreiber found the Virtuosoto be much more than a “marinating gadget.” It makes meats exceptionally juicy and “among the best” she’s ever eaten. It also uses less marinade, is easy to clean and is dishwasher-safe. It can hold a five-pound chicken or a family’s worth of steaks, cutlets or seafood. At $199.95, this is not a casual purchase—but is well worth it if you marinate frequently.
Let’s face it: A lot of us marinate our food at the last minute. We’re busy and hurried and forget to do it the night before—or simply don’t think about our next meal that far in advance. So we quickly sauce up our chicken, meat, fish or what-have-you mere minutes before cooking. Sure, the food usually emerges from the grill or pan with some marinade flavor cooked around its edges. But as a recent whirl with Virtuoso by Eastman’s Reveo Gourmet showed us, that doesn’t do marinating justice.

You see, a long marinating period, in a mixture consisting of some fat, some acid and some seasoning, infuses meat with flavor, tenderizes it and helps keep it juicy (like the brine for a Thanksgiving turkey). With its vacuum technology, the Reveo Gourmet makes achieving these results fast and easy, usually requiring no more than 20 minutes instead of hours or overnight.

Read the full review on TheNibble.com.

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Mamie’s Famous Cheese Wafers

In the South, cheese straws and biscuits are de rigueur for entertaining; elsewhere they are a popular cocktail snack—or simply great with a beer. Mamie’s Famous Cheese Wafers, which claims to be the first slice-and-bake hors d’oeuvre, is a real find. A peppery cheese biscuit, it keeps in the freezer until you have guests, then wows them with the aroma of Cheddar, the taste of Southern pecans and a complex palate that’s sure to please. You do virtually nothing except slice and bake and accept compliments.

Sometime in the 1800s, recipes for cheese straws began to appear in cookbooks. At the simplest level, they were easy cheese doughs. Take flour, baking powder, grated cheese and some salt; then knead, roll out the dough and cut with a pastry wheel into long, narrow strips (the “straws”). The original cheese straws were said to have been made from leftover biscuit dough and baked along with the biscuits, but served as snacks instead of with meals. More evolved recipes used complex cheeses and spices, added nuts and herbs and created different shapes—twists and rounds, for example. Today, according to the makers of Mamie’s Famous Cheese Wafers, they are “absolutely a Southern party requirement. They are served at parties, weddings, showers, holiday celebrations and ‘just because.’”

Read the full review on TheNibble.com.
 
One bite, and you’ll know why these
cheese waters made Mamie famous.
 

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Long Kow’s Crystal Noodle Soup


An easy way to eat your greens. The
crystal noodles are underneath the
veggies. Shown above: Vegetables &
Eggs variety.
  With Long Kow’s Crystal Noodle Soup, and all you need to do is provide the boiling water and the spoon (chopsticks or a fork are helpful to manage the noodles) to enjoy a bowl of steaming noodle soup made in its own bowl in just three minutes. Savory, in four flavors, and leagues better than the other products in its genre, these soups are imported from China.

If you’ve experienced cello packets of ramen noodles or instant cups of noodle soup, (and is there anyone who hasn’t?), you know that they offer a comforting repast, but not a quality dining experience. Long Kow has upped the ante, using superior ingredients and a large enough portion to make a meal in its own bowl. Just add boiling water, and in three minutes your steaming hot meal is ready. You also need to supply an eating implement—you could slurp the soup from the bowl in a pinch, but the long noodles would present a challenge.

Although the ingredients are freeze-dried, you’d swear they were fresh-made, from the bok choy, mushrooms and spinach to the eggs and tofu. And how satisfying those glassy bean thread noodles are in their savory broth. Well done, Long Kow!

Read the full review on TheNibble.com.

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Southern Alps Dried Fruit

Not from Switzerland or even from New Zealand (home of the Southern Alps mountain range), Southern Alps is a U.K. company with an attractive line of artisan products. Selecting the finest fruits from around the world, Southern Alps makes “slow dried” fruit, fruit and nut mixes, and includes the fruits in granola and muesli. The fruits are a find for elegant grab-and-go snacking, and there is a beautiful dried fruit gift box. Muesli lovers fond of bananas and figs may find a new favorite in Muesli No.5.

As is often the case with specialty food producers, what started out as a healthy, homemade food has become a major success. Founders Andrew and Lotte Garner started making their own muesli at home, then moved on to selling it at their local farmers’ market in the U.K. That was in 2001. After a friend suffered a severe reaction to the sulphur dioxide used in dried fruit (some, not all, dried fruit products use the additive), Lotte, who has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, created a warm-air fruit and vegetable dryer. Through experimentation, the Garners found that by drying high-quality fruits slowly, they retained maximum flavor and nutritional value without the need to add sugar or preservatives. The fruits were a hit and the tiny venture became a company with fans around the world.

Read the full review on TheNibble.com.

Sweet, thick slices of dried green apples.

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Caffe Sanora Organic Antioxidant Coffee


Enjoy a cup of joe with more antioxidants
than the coffee you’re drinking now.
When we first saw Caffe Sanora’s label, claiming to be “Natural Antioxidant Coffee,” we were skeptical. Doesn’t all coffee have antioxidants? It turns out that raw coffee beans lose a lot of their antioxidants in the roasting process, so Caffe Sanora has found a way to roast coffee beans while preserving more of the natural antioxidants. With 50% to 100% more antioxidants compared to other Arabica coffees, it is well worth it to consider swapping your everyday coffee with one (or more) of Caffe Sanora’s five varieties. The Breakfast Blend will appeal to people who want a light cup of sweeter, chocolate-nuanced coffee in the morning. Those who seek intense, rich or dark flavors should opt for the Dark Roast or Signature Roast. A portion of company proceeds is donated to not-for-profit cancer prevention research.

Caffe Sanora looks, smells and tastes like normal (even great) coffee. But just like Clark Kent can fool the world into thinking he’s your average joe, Caffe Sanora coffee can easily fool coffee drinkers into believing it’s your average cup of joe. But on the molecular level, 50% to 100% more antioxidants are swirling inside every cup of Caffe Sanora when tested against other Arabica coffees (the varying percentages depend on the roasting conditions of each brand of coffee). It makes sense that the “sanora” of Caffe Sanora derives from “sano,” the Italian word for health; with Sanora in hand, you can say “sayonara” (goodbye) to other gourmet coffees and drink up those antioxidants like never before!

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RECIPE: The Bee’s Knees PB Sandwich

Here’s the winning sandwich in Peanut Butter & Co’s Bee’s Knees Sandwich Contest, introducing their new PB blended with honey. The recipe, called “Fall Harvest,“ was submitted by Lynn O’Meara. While Lynn’s recipe specifies frying in olive oil, we personally preferred the flavor of melted unsalted butter.

Ingredients For 1 Sandwich:

-2 slices of whole wheat or whole grain bread (sturdy to hold up to grilling)
-2 tablespoons The Bee‘s Knee’s Peanut Butter
-2 tablespoons roughly chopped walnuts
-2 tablespoons dried cranberries
-Olive oil or melted butter
 
Preparation:

1. Preheat a panini grill (or non-stick skillet).
2. Spread 1 tablespoon peanut butter on each slice of bread stopping short of the edges by about 1½ inches (peanut Butter melts so it needs a little extra room).
3. Sprinkle the walnuts and cranberries on one slice. Cover with the other slice of bread (peanut butter to peanut butter), pressing lightly to seal the peanut butter around nuts and fruit.
4. Brush the outside of the bread lightly with olive oil. Grill sandwich for 2-3 minutes until bread is golden (If using a skillet, carefully flip sandwich when first side is golden). Slice and serve warm.

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