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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 December, 2008

PRODUCT REVIEW: Penguin Ice Premium Spring Water

For Penguin Ice bottled waters, the bottle is just as important as the water inside it; its cute name and logo are hardly a prerequisite for serious bottled water drinkers. But Penguin Bottling Company believes that water is fashion: While there’s always been the good and the blah of bottled water in terms of taste, now there’s the element of table fashion to consider.

As one of the newer waters on the market (introduced in November, 2007), Penguin Ice is designed to accompany the “well-dressed table”—a trademark and image of the Penguin Ice Waterbrand. The company’s co-founders, Mikel M. Draghici and John R. Ingrassia, want nothing less than to elevate their water’s exterior status. Turning water into wine, as it were, the 750ml European glass bottles have a sleek wine bottle design. The founders envision a table elegantly set with china, silver, satin, flowersb and, of course, fine stemware filled with Penguin Ice.

The two longtime friends entered the water industry to quench a growing consumer thirst for higher-end water. Draghici, who had been a computer security executive, and Ingrassia, a former Washington, D.C. corporate attorney, wanted to create a water product that was impressive both inside and out. In 2006, they initiated a worldwide search to find the water and the glass bottle that met their standards.

The water is sourced from the banks of the Outaouais River in the village of St. Andre d’Argenteuil near Montreal, Quebec. The bottles tell a brief story of the water reserve (in both English and French) and the Laurentide Ice Sheet it once was. The Laurentide Ice Sheet covered most of Canada and the northern United States, down to New York City, during the Ice Age.

The last Ice Age peaked around 20,000 years ago, filling today’s rivers, lakes, oceans and underground water sources. Now, some of it is bottled as Penguin Ice, still and sparkling.

Read the full review on TheNibble.com.

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Delicieuse French Artisanal Ice Cream

Looking for a way to put the zing into Christmas dinner? Still haven’t found that gift for someone special? Want to start the new year with something new and noteworthy? We know what we’d like: a big shipment of Patricia Sampson’s artisan ice creams—cow’s and goat’s milk. Patricia sells her products under the brand name Delicieuse French Ice Cream Artisanale, which is an understatement. Perhaps she felt that Merveilleuse or Magnifique was too boastful, so we’ll have to boast for her:

We’ve had the house-made ice cream at the finest restaurants in America—Citronelle, Gary Danko, Jean-Georges, Le Bec-Fin and Patina, to name a few—and Patricia Sampson’s can stand toe to toe with any of them. In fact, having tasted some 30 of her cow’s milk and goat’s milk ice creams and sorbets, we’d bet on her to win Top Ice Cream Chef.

And you’re a winner too, because while none of those great restaurants will overnight you a pint of whatever you’re dying to dig into (unless, perhaps, you’re the president-elect or other A-lister), you can order to your heart’s content at IceDreamOnline.com. As you’ll read later in this review, while most goat’s milk ice cream has a distinct flavor, you’d never know that some of Delicieuse’s products are made of goat’s milk. (When tasting the goat’s and cow’s milk products side by side, we could taste a difference. But the difference didn’t say “goat,” just great.) That makes this exquisite-tasting ice cream a quadruple bonus for people who have high cholesterol or lactose intolerance: goat’s milk is lower in fat and calories and is more easily digested than cow’s milk. But make no mistake: We’re mad (or maaad) for the entire line—every flavor we tasted was superb. Read the full review on TheNibble.com.


Create a stunning dessert by using a kitchen torch
to brûlée the bottom of a dish—it’s the same
crackly, burned sugar as you’d create on the top
of a crème brûlée. Top with a scoop of ice cream
and a counterpoint—here, candied macadamia
nuts, but it could be one of Mari’s New York
Brownies
(they’re bite-size)—and a sprig of mint
to garnish.

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HOLIDAY COUNTDOWN: Affordable Gifts, Great Recipes, Food Fun!


Who wouldn’t be happy to get a luscious brownie
gift? Shown here, Mari’s New York Brownies.
If you want to avoid the holiday shopping crowds, we have the solution: delicious gifts that are just a point and click away (or you can phone in your order). We’ve created “favorite gift lists” in 14 different categories for your shopping (and nibbling) pleasure. We’re mindful of the economy—no caviar this year, no luxury gifts (except a couple for wine connoisseurs), delicious choices from $20 to $35, and great stocking stuffers for less than $10.

-Books ~ Cookbooks
-Books ~ Culinary Reference
-Books ~ Sustainable Foods
-Brownies & Cookies
-Chocolate & Caramels
-Gourmet Foods
-Green Gifts
-Hot Housewares
-Liquor & Wine Gifts
-Kosher Gifts
-Organic Gourmet Food
-Stocking Stuffers ~ Food
-Stocking Stuffers ~ Housewares
-Sugar-Free Gifts
 

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RECIPES: Christmas Cocktails With Infused Vodkas

Whether you’re preparing for the Kwaanza “Karamu” feast, setting up the menorah for eight fun-filled nights, trimming the tree to Nat King Cole Christmas songs or just basking in the holiday buzz that’s synonymous with the first months of winter, infuse your holidays with a whole new kind of “spirit.”

Toast your holiday with holiday-themed fruit-flavored vodka cocktails certain to leave a lasting impression. The recipes were developed by SKYY Infusions, which use all-natural fruit flavors (and this year won awards for best fruit-flavored vodka at the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago). Impress guests by adding your very own twist, with creative garnishes or customized glassware tied with holiday ornaments, ribbons or other themed accents.


Garnish your Berry Sparkle cocktail with holly
berries, shown here, for a more festive look.
Holiday Cocktail Garnishes

Fresh sprigs of rosemary look like Christmas tree branches. Holly berries should not be ingested—eating more than three holly berries can cause illness* in adults, and have a worse effect on children. Don’t use it as a drink garnish just in case happy guests decide to nibble away. Instead, look for red currants (they look like the epitome of Christmas), white currants, lingonberries, Champagne grapes (Zante grapes), sweet gooseberries (which are red, not orange) or dried red mulberries (the fresh ones are out in the summer).

*According to the Wisconsin Poison Control Center, holly berries are “seriously poisonous;” ingestion of 20 or more berries can be fatal to children. The berries, leaves and stem of mistletoe are all considered toxic.

-Berry Sparkle With Raspberry Vodka
-Merry Cherry With Cherry Vodka
-Holly Day Cocktail With Grape Vodka
-Midnight Kiss With Passion Fruit Vodka
-Winter Chill With Citrus Vodka

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NEWS: Red Wine May Fight Alzheimer’s


In winter, you can go with mulled wine, shown
here surrounded by its spices. Click here for the
recipe.
White wine drinkers may want to switch to red. While red wine has been touted for its health benefits for some time (the grapes have high levels of antioxidants), a new study from UCLA and Mount Sinai School of Medicine suggests that the polyphenols in red wine may hinder the formation of protein plaques linked to Alzheimer’s disease. In an article in the November 21 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the researchers report that in lab tests, the polyphenols in red wine blocked the formation of toxic protein clumps thought to destroy brain cells and induce dementia. David Teplow, a UCLA professor of neurology and senior author of the study, says that “the compounds were shown to block the earliest stages of clumping, suggesting that polyphenols might prevent or reduce disease in humans.” Certainly, a glass of red wine can reduce stress! The study continues at Mount Sinai, testing the effects of grape seed extracts in clinical trials in humans.
Polyphenols are potent antioxidant compounds that have demonstrated greater antioxidant protection than vitamins C and E. The most “famous” polyphenols are the flavonoids in green tea, which may inhibit cancer by blocking the formation of cancer-causing compounds and suppressing the activation of carcinogens. These are the flavonoids catechin, epicatechin, epicatechin gallate, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and proanthocyanidins. Other sources of polyphenols are found in peanuts, white tea, olive oil, pomegranates, certain other fruits and vegetables, and cocoa/dark chocolate. Chocolate or cocoa that has been processed with alkali (“dutched” cocoa) will not contain any polyphenols or antioxidants.

Read more about antioxidants in our Guide To High-Antioxidant Food.

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FREEBIE: Holiday Gift Labels

Don’t spend money for gift labels in these tough times. Courtesy of Land O’Lakes, you can print 18 different gift label designs on your color printer. Using a standard 2″ x 4″ sheet of white mailing labels, such as Avery#5263, that prints 10 labels per sheet, you can become a creative label maker. You’ll need Adobe Reader to open the PDF files. (If you don’t have it, you can download it free.) There’s a theme for everyone, including Chanukah and general winter motifs. Start your label-making at http://www.landolakes.com/promotions/Free-Gift-Giving-Labels.cfm.

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NEW PRODUCT: Champagne & Crystals

For years, Champagne house Moet & Chandon has been gifting celebrities and VIPs with bottles hand-embellished with Swarovski crystals; Anne Hathaway, Nicole Kidman, Blake Lively, Madonna and Kanye West have all received their own crystallized Moet. Now, non-boldfaced names can buy their own at MyMoet.com. Choose Moet & Chandon’s White Star or Nectar Imperial, 750ml or magnum, and gold or silver Swarovski crystals. If your name (or message) is seven letters or less (two lines on the magnum) and you can pay the hefty tab, you or the lucky recipient of your choice can have a keepsake bottle.

To say that embellishment is pricey is an understatement: The Nectar Imperial magnum, $86.99 in its unadorned state, came to $249.95 with the application of crystals. Frankly, we’d rather have two more magnums of Champagne—hold the crystals. But if money is no object in your household and you’d like to hand out keepsake party favors at your New Year’s Eve bash, head over to MyMoet.com.
 

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NEW PRODUCT: Focaccia Sticks

New York Style, baker of such carb treats as Bagel Crisps, Crispini Flatbreads, Pita Chips and Pretzel Flatz, has turned trendy focaccia into a crunchy stack. New Focaccia Sticks are available in 5-ounce snack bags and are certified OU(D) kosher. Baked without trans fats, this is not diet food (any more than regular focaccia): three small pieces, 15g (about half an ounce), are 70 calories.

Our favorite of the three flavors is Roasted Garlic & Herb, tasting like enormous, crunchy garlic croutons. Rosemary & Sea Salt takes second place, although the sea salt does make this flavor, well, best for those who like things on the salty side. The Quattro Formaggio, which everyone wanted to open first, delivered the least flavor.
 
These are greasy snacks, drenched in oil. Rather than wipe our fingers constantly, we prefer Focaccia Sticks as salad and soup garnishes. While most of the pieces in our bag were broken, in peak form the Focaccia Sticks look like miniature biscotti, 3 inches long by 1/2 inch wide.

There’s a store locator on the website; you can find them at Costco, Sam’s Club and major chains. For more information visit NewYorkStyle.com.

See THE NIBBLE’s Bread Section for our favorite bread, crackers and other carbalicious treats.
Zip through our Bread Glossary: it’s a paean to the world’s great breads.
Check out our favorite snacks in THE NIBBLE’s Snacks Section.
For a great crunchy snack with reduced fat and calories, get Popchips potato chips. Can’t beat ‘em.

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RECIPES: Fall Lamb Recipes


Cranberry-Marinated Rack Of Lamb is a wonderful
fall and holiday dish.
Lamb is delicious year-round, but this special recipe collection uses seasonal accents—cranberries, wild rice, maple and apple, for example—to give these delicious cuts some fall flair.

-Cranberry-Marinated Rack Of Lamb With Almond Wild Rice
-Guinness-Roasted Leg Of Lamb
-Maple And Apple Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops
-Thai-Curried Lamb Shanks With Cilantro Rice

To learn more about the different cuts of lamb, visit our Lamb Glossary.

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Scarpetta Spreads & Dips

In Italian, “fare la scarpetta” means to mop up the sauce from a plate of food with a piece of bread. It is the highest compliment one can pay to a home cook.

It won’t be hard to “fare la scarpetta” with this charming line of spreads and dips from Sauces n Love, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week for their superb pasta sauces. Amid all of that not-so-good-for-you holiday food, these vegetable purées are healthy (veggies, extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt), versatile (as a dip, sauce, spread, general condiment or garnish) and easy (open the jar, spoon it out). For those with food restrictions, they’re vegan, gluten free, low sodium and have no added sugar.

The five authentic Italian recipes include Artichoke & Olive, Asparagus, Olive & Almond, Red Pepper & Eggplant and Spicy Red Pepper. Read more about them, and about how we used them to create more flavorful and glamorous food almost instantly, in the full review.


Spoon me, dip me, spread me on a sandwich,
swirl me in a risotto or bowl of pasta.

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