THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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Archive for December, 2008

RECIPES: Cocktails For Christmas

Haven’t thought of a special Christmas cocktail yet? There’s still time to get some cranberry juice cocktail and add it to vodka, gin or rum. Pick a Martini or Mojito (the martini is easier) and make a cranberry version as your house “Christmas cocktail.”

Cranberry Martini recipes (simplest version: cranberry juice, vodka or gin, lime)
Cranberry Mojito recipe (cranberry juice cocktail, mint leaves, brown sugar cubes, lime and ideally, sugar cane swizzle sticks)

Mint sprigs and fresh cranberries for garnish help with the green and red holiday theme. Merry Christmas from all of us at THE NIBBLE!

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Deck the halls with a cranberry martini. Photo by Penny Burt | IST.

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TRENDS: 2009 Restaurant Directions

In a down economy, discretionary restaurant meals are one of the first things to get cut by conservative consumers. Food industry consulting and research firm Technomic sees five trends looming large in 2009, as restaurants try to coax customers to come out and spend:

1. Experimentation and innovation—with new menu items, delivery services and price/bundling schemes.

2. Continuation of ethnic flavors, with a highlight of regional cuisines such as regional Italian and Jalisco-style Mexican fare.

3. “Local” food sourcing and a menu emphasis on the foods of the region.

4. Goldilocks serving sizes: big, little and just right. More small-plate, prix-fixe and bar menus, in addition to more family-style entrées that can feed two or more.

5. Up-scaled and expanded kids’ menus, beyond standard kids’ menu items to items that reflect the restaurant, for instance, a crab cake at a seafood restaurant—along with more specialty beverages and smoothies. (Editor’s Note: Makes good sense to help develop the foodies of tomorrow.)

Hmmm…interesting, but we’re not certain that a kid’s crab cake or delivery service is the hot button when money is one’s chief concern. “Price/bundling schemes,” whatever they are, sound promising. What would make us spend money at restaurants when we think we should exercise restraint are financial incentives. Our suggestions include:

1. The “new menu items” should include more affordable dishes across categories (appetizers, entrees, desserts). There should be some comparatively inexpensive choices in each group. If your goal is to fill seats, this can be done—at least on certain nights of the week.

2. Offer more affordable wines, meaning, more reasonable markups. We’d show up to eat more often and buy wine if we could pay $20 for a $10 retail bottle instead of $35. Paying $12 or $15 for one glass of average wine is like pouring money down the drain.

3. Allow a BYO for a corkage fee on slow nights.
We understand that much of a restaurant’s profit has come from those $12 wines-by-the-glass and the bottle markups; but when people can buy the entire bottle for $12, they’re staying home and grilling or ordering a designer pizza in these penny-pinching times. We’d like to suggest that restaurants find other ways to improve their margins, including:

1. Charging for the bread basket. How many people really want that bread, and how much of it gets wasted (or how many of us fill up on it before the food arrives)? No one needs those carbs (or the fat from the butter). Few of us serve a bread basket at home; at the restaurant, it’s a bad-food temptation we don’t need put in front of us. Charging for it is a way for restaurants to save (and earn) money.

2. Serve smaller portions of dessert. Most of those who want a little something sweet at the end of the meal could do with half the calories, carbs and fat of what we’re typically served—that’s why “sharing a dessert” is a standard calorie-cutting recommendation. In addition to earning higher margins from smaller portions, there’s probably a market for a selection of mini-desserts sold to people who would normally decline dessert (similar to selling an “appetizer portion” of a main course).

It’s food for thought!

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PRODUCT: Wine Cellar Sorbet For Christmas Dinner

There’s still time to have Wine Cellar Sorbet at your Christmas dinner—as a palate-cleanser between courses or a light dessert for adults who still want something sweet but have no room for anything else. Yes, the sorbets are for grown-ups: They are 5% alcohol and are distinctly—and delightfully—alcoholic. You need to order by midnight tonight for delivery by 12/24 (or, check the website for a retailer near you).

You can also send this frozen fantasy as a gift. Purchase a gift certificate for a 4, 6 or 12 pack of Wine Cellar Sorbet; the recipient will get an email gift certificate and can have it delivered at the time of his or her choice. (A 6-pack enables him/her to taste all of the flavors.)

The sorbets are made from fine wine—Cabernet Sauvignon, Chanpagne, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Rose and Sangria. Of everything we’ve tasted at THE NIBBLE over the years, Wine Cellar Sorbet remains one of our very favorite foods, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week and winner of THE NIBBLE Outstanding Artisan Award. Even if you don’t have it for Christmas, you should make a point to try it in the New Year. Sorbet also has far fewer calories than ice cream, no fat, no cholesterol. Not that we’re saying it’s health food…

Read our review and order online at WineCellarSorbet.com.

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RECIPES: Name Chefs Feed Your Family For $10

Time Magazine dug into “recession dining” and had six chefs develop dinner for a family of four for $10. Some aren’t brain science, but others are inspired, like Tom Colicchio’s Fennel Pork Loin. The “menu” includes:

* Tom Colicchio’s (Craft Restaurant, NYC) Fennel Pork Loin and Pasta Vegetarienne

* Tyler Florence’s (The Food Network) Roast Chicken With Lemon, Garlic and Fresh Bay Leaves

* David Myers’ (Sona, Los Angeles) Spaghetti With Pancetta and Chili Flakes

* Eric Ripert’s (Le Bernardin, NYC) Rice & Beans, Green Salad and Banana Flambé

* Charlie Palmer’s (Aureole, NYC) Orecchiette Pasta “Risotto” With Pancetta and Goat Cheese

* Suzanne Goin’s (Lucques, Los Angeles) Braised Chicken With Paprika Onions, Cous Couse and Date Relish

Dig in to the Recession Gourmet Recipes.

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NEWS: Oatmeal, The New “Hot” Food?

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A healthy, hearty bowl of Holly’s Oatmeal.

Starbucks began selling oatmeal in portable covered bowls this fall, and it has proven to be one of the most successful food products the company has introduced, according to an article in this week’s Wall Street Journal. Smoothie chain Jamba Juice has launched oatmeal in Chicago, with a rollout to all locations by January. Is the food that so many moms had to struggle to make kids eat becoming hot?

It should. Oatmeal a whole grain cereal. A diet high in whole grain foods (2.5 servings per day) is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke. If you think your current cereal or bread is whole grain, read our article on whole grain cereals)—you may be surprised.

Oatmeal tips:

– Try to avoid turning your bowl of health food into a high-glycemic nightmare. If you crave sweetness, instead of topping it with brown sugar, try an artificial sweetener and fresh fruit, like half a banana or some strawberries (strawberries are pricey right now, but there are bargains to be found).

– The Quaker Oats product most of us have grown up with is rolled oats. A quick lesson: After the outer husk (the chaff) has been removed from the oat grains, the bran-covered grains that remain are known as oat groats. Steel-cut oats are oat groats that have been chopped into smaller pieces and retain bits of the bran layer, that provides flavor, texture and nutrition. Rolled oats have been rolled into flat flakes under heavy rollers, so they lose that texture.

– Don’t scrimp on the quality of your oatmeal. As with any other food, you get what you pay for, and the specialty brands are better than the mass marketed brands. (Try Bob’s Red Mill, which can be found at Whole Foods Markets, natural food stores and other specialty stores.) It you don’t like the “mushiness” of rolled oats, try steel cut oats. They take a while to cook (there’s no “quick-cook” version), but it’s worth it.

– Best of all, try Holly’s Oatmeal, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week and a winner of THE NIBBLE Outstanding Artisan Award. If this textured, flavorful mix of different whole grains, almonds and dried fruit doesn’t convert naysayers into oatmeal lovers, nothing will. The small gift boxes may seem pricey ($6.99 for a 16-ounce box yields 8 portions, or 81¢ a serving—of course, a fraction of what you’d spend on a muffin or croissant). But you can buy it in bulk bags for the same price as any other oatmeal. One serving of Holly’s Oatmeal has 38g of the 48g of your daily whole grain requirement and there’s a gluten-free variety, too.

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