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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

GOURMET NEWS: Lager Week

  This is Lager Week, so invite your friends to a magnificent beer and food pairing beer dinner. Start with some overall beer and food pairing tips. Then an appetizer of:

-Spicy Steamed Mussels, paired with an American sour wheat or farmhouse ale.

-For the fish course, Wood-Grilled Trout With Mission Fig Compound Butter is delicious with an India Pale Ale or an amber ale.

-Kebabs are always fun, and these Pear & Lamb Kebabs With Harpoon Winter Warmer-Rosemary Pan Sauce are wonderful with a seasonal winter ale like Harpoon, or a highly hopped brown ale.

-For those whose palates demand beef, Indonesian Beef Rendang, spiced with ginger, tumeric and coriander, calls out for Spiced ale or imperial brown ale.

-Now for that lager. The Cheese Course offers a wealth of choices that pair with lagers.

-But there’s still dessert—heavenly Vermont Maple Syrup- and Porter-Poached Apples. What beer to drink with it? Porter, of course!

We plan to serve this dinner on New Year’s Eve. See the many different types of beer in THE NIBBLE’s Beer Glossary—you can print it out, cut up the definitions, and turn it into a game, and every time someone can’t correctly define one of the beer terms, he or she doesn’t get to take another sip!

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CONTEST: Your Party Recipe Or Tip Could Win $400 In Gourmet Food

Enter your best party recipe by 4 p.m. P.T. on Tuesday, December 16, and you could win a $400 gift certificate to MarxFoods.com, an online resource for the country’s finest gourmet foods (and yes, imported ones, too). Use it to throw a holiday party, or to stock your larder with truffles, fine spices, artisan oils and vinegars, exotic meats and game, or our favorite ravioli from Nuovo Pasta, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week (filled with everything from lobster to short ribs—read our review).

Just go to http://marxfoods.com, click the Blog link at the top of the page, and enter your recipe or tip on the blog. The $400 winner and two runners up, who will receive $50 gift certificates, will be selected on Wednesday, December 17. Blog visitors will then vote for the winners from December 17 to Sunday, December 21; winners will be announced on Monday, December 22.

From the top: Portabella & Asiago Ravioli,
Gorgonzola & Sundried Tomato Girasole and
Roasted Vegetable Pansotti from Nuovo Pasta,
available on MarxFoods.com.
 

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RECIPES: Exciting Recipes With Cheese


Buttermilk Blue Cheese ice cream with a poached
pear is one of our favorite desserts—it’s thrilling.
  You can compose an entire dinner of cheese dishes, from appetizer to dessert, as we’ve done here, inspired by our visits to the famous Parisian restaurant Androuet. There, the menu consists entirely of cheese dishes (onion soup with Saint-Nectaire, fried Camembert, ravioli de chèvre, Roquefort tart, Issau Iraty raclette and dozens more) or plates of cheese (you can select from more than 100 types). Here are eight recipes, popular in America, that have been developed with cheese by master chefs across the country for the award-winning cheesemaker Roth Käse, of Wisconsin. The recipes incorporate seasonal ingredients and flourishes, but most can be enjoyed year-round.

-Creamy Artichoke Dip With Gorgonzola & Fontiago
-Poached Pears On Frisée With Macadamia Crusted Buttermilk Bleu Affinée
-Mexican-Style Chicken Soup With Queso Fresco
-Tartlette Of Rofumo, Prosciutto, Pears & Arugula
-Pork With Fontina, Prosciutto & Sundried Tomato Sauce
-Gruyère Soufflé With Endive & Apple Salad
-Sweet Potato Risotto With Fontina
-Buttermilk Blue Ice Cream With Poached Pears

Learn more about cheese by skimming through our Cheese Glossary.

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GOURMET TRAVEL: Truffle Camp, January 2009

Foodies with funds can give themselves a nice holiday gift: a 3-day trip to Truffle Camp with Chef Ken Frank, executive chef and owner of the Michelin-starred La Toque restaurant in Napa, California, who features a truffle menu at his restaurant. For three days, eight truffle fans will have the rare opportunity to immerse themselves in everything there is to know about the prized delicacy. Truffle Camp includes three days of dinners and luncheons—all with truffles and wine, of course, including a farewell breakfast of truffle omelets—side trips to a local farm and winery (with wine tasting), hands-on experience preparing truffle dishes with Chef Frank, plus lodging in the Westin Verasa Napa, the new resort where La Toque restaurant is located. You can attend camp from January 11-14, 2009 or January 18-21, 2009. Happy campers will need to fork over $2,900 per individual based on single occupancy or $4,800 per couple based on double occupancy.  You’ll leave with a goodie bag and recipes to help create truffle specialties at home. For more information about the Truffle Camp, visit LaToque.com. Santa baby, just slip the tickets under the tree for me. Been an awful good girl!  
Costlier than gold: the Périgord truffle of France
and the white Alba truffle of the Piedmont, in
Italy.

See photos of gorgeous truffles and learn all about these fungus “jewels” in our uber-informative article on truffles.
Console yourself with the affordable wonder of D’Artagnan Truffle Butter.
Check out D’Artagnan’s mousse of duck foie gras, packed with black truffle pieces and spiked with Sauternes. Nice for holiday entertaining (or gifts).
Enjoy the affordable indulgence of Tsar Nicoulai’s Truffled Whitefish Caviar, American Caviar infused with truffle flavor.
Make foie gras French toast with black truffles.
Get Elizabeth Luard’s book about truffles.

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RECIPES: Holiday Cocktails


It’s a pumpkin pie in a glass.
This holiday season, start your guests off with the same flavors that end the meal—pie! These cocktails take advantage of seasonal flavors to perfectly complement your cocktail hour—or dessert.

Caramel Apple Pie Cocktail

The seasonal flavors of this sweet cocktail come from butterscotch schnapps and real apple cider. For more pie flavor, you can dip the rim in graham cracker crumbs.

Ingredients Per Cocktail

-1 ounce tequila
-1/2 ounce butterscotch schnapps
-1 ounce apple cider
-1 teaspoon lemon juice
-Apple slice garnish
-Graham cracker crumbs for rim (optional)

Preparation

1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
2. Add tequila, schnapps, apple cider and lemon juice.
3. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass. If desired, first moisten rim of glass and dip into graham cracker crumbs.
4. Garnish with notched apple slice.
Pumpkin-tini

You can try different rims for different flavors. This recipe calls for cinnamon, but you could use graham cracker crumbs, shredded coconut, cocoa powder—or a blend.

Ingredients Per Cocktail

-1-1/2 ounces vanilla vodka
-1-1/2 ounces crème de cacao
-2 tablespoons pumpkin purée
-1-1/2 ounces milk

Preparation

1. Shake milk and pumpkin purée to combine.
2. Pour in vodka and crème de cacao, and shake over ice.
3. Strain into cinnamon-rimmed martini glass.

Learn how to plan a cocktail party.
Find more winter cocktail recipes in THE NIBBLE‘s Cocktail Section.

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TOP PICK: Le Grand Pesto

We know about pestos. For our review of the best pesto sauces, we dipped and sauced with hundreds of them, from the classic pesto alla Genovese* to scores of variations from A to Z (or at least to S, including shiitake mushroom, spinach, sundried tomato and sweet red pepper pestos).

*The classic recipe contains basil, olive oil, Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses, pine nuts, garlic and salt.

The good news is, no matter how much exciting food you’ve tasted in a specialty food category, there’s always more to discover. So we smacked our lips when we came across Le Grand Pesto, an all-natural line of artisan pesto sauces and tapenades made by a couple in Canada. Since then, we can’t imagine life without Le Grand Pesto Lemon Confit & Pumpkin Seed Aromatic Sauce—it may ensure our cult status among foodie friends who credit us with the discovery (try it with fish, seafood, pasta, vegetables and anything that lemon takes a shine to).

We’ve been snacking on spoonfuls of the five other flavors, in between using them as a condiment on everything from eggs to sandwiches to soups and salads. Just try enlivening that Caprese salad or cheese pizza with Spicy Olive & Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade. Squirt a spoonful of 4 Nut & Cheese Pesto into a bowl of tomato soup or onto pear slices. Try


Pesto can enliven almost every dish (except sweet
desserts, but try them with cheese). Here, Le
Grand’s herbalicious Garden Pesto turns the same
old poached egg into a gourmet delight. Healthy
eaters can enjoy the egg, pesto, microgreens and
stewed plum tomatoes. Revelers can rest a
pancake and some bacon underneath.
some Sun-dried Tomato Pesto on that sandwich instead of mayonnaise, or serve it as a spread with cocktails. You’re a hero without doing any actual cooking (but, then, being a top hunter-gatherer is as great a skill as being a good cook). The products are very thick—no oozing pools of oil, but vegetable paste with only as little oil as needed to bind the ingredients. You can spread them, or dilute with your own oil into sauces. All are made with the finest ingredients, no preservatives and no sugar or sweeteners of any kind.If you love fresh, new tastes, want easy ways to make your everyday foods fly high and can’t wait to play with six new ready-to-cook-or-eat condiments/sauces/ingredients, read the full review on TheNibble.com.

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TRAVEL: California’s Artisan Cheese Festival


Award-winning Mount McKinley chevre from
California’s Cypress Grove cheesemaker.
  Still have money for gourmet travel? Need a spectacular gift for that cheese-loving someone special? Head to four days of turophile revelry at California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, held in Petaluma (Sonoma County) from March 20-23, 2009. The third annual festival, held at the Sheraton Sonoma County–Petaluma Hotel, is a wonderful opportunity to:

-Educate people who want to learn more about artisan cheese
-Support the artisan cheesemaking community and its sustainability
-Celebrate and enjoy the creations of the artisan cheesemakers
-Eat a heck of a lot of great cheese that is hard to come by

Over the four day festival weekend, you’ll explore handcrafted cheeses, foods, wines and beers from California and beyond. At the second annual festival in March 2008, more than 1,700 attendees met more than a dozen international award-winning cheesemakers and learned how to taste, buy, serve and enjoy distinctive artisan cheeses from the experts.
The educational seminars and tastings were led by cheese experts, cheesemakers, chefs and fromagiers from across the country, and virtually every session involved tastings and/or pairings of artisan cheeses.Planning for the 2009 festival is underway, and the schedule of events will be posted and tickets will go on sale shortly. Sign up for updates at the website, ArtisanCheeseFestival.com.

Visit THE NIBBLE’s Cheese Section for reviews of our favorite artisan cheeses.
Discover the meaning of “turophile” in our Cheese Glossary.
Learn the History Of Cheese.
Take our Cheese Trivia Quiz.

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TOP PICK: Linzer “Celebration Cookie”

Some cities achieve fame through beauty (Paris), power (New York) or the ability to entertain (Las Vegas). The city of Linz, Austria is like Bialystock, Russia, home of the bialy (cousin to the bagel), Frankfurt, Germany, home of the slender sausage that achieved immortality when served on a roll,* and Pils, Czechoslovakia, which brewed a great style of beer (pilsner) to drink with it. Say the city’s name and what’s the first word association? The food named after it.

*At Coney Island, New York City, in 1871. See the History Of The Hot Dog.

Linz gave us the Linzertorte (Linzer Torte is the English spelling), and gets additional honors, too: The Linzertorte is the oldest-known torte† recipe in the world. The earliest-found written version dates to a manuscript from 1653. This doesn’t mean that the torte did not exist prior to then, just that it is the first proof as to the approximate date and place of its origin. As with any item, it is likely to have developed some time prior to its first-known written record.

 
It’s a Linzertorte—no, it’s a jumbo cookie that
looks like a cake, a 12″ circle cut into 12
triangular cookies. Impressive to serve, it tastes
just heavenly. We can believe we ate the whole
thing!


†As opposed to a cake, a torte replaces all or most of the flour in a typical recipe with ground nuts. Almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts are most often used.

Over time, the exceedingly popular Linzertorte, an almond or hazelnut short crust filled with jam, was made into tartlets and cookies. And now, we can celebrate because Let Them Eat Cake, an artisan baker in New York City, has created a spectacular dessert or gift that’s delicious year-round, but perfect for the holidays. It looks like a beautiful, round cake, but has been pre-cut into 12 slices. The raspberry jam gleams through the heart-shaped cutouts, and the surface glistens with crystalline sanding sugar. For the dining table, buffet, workplace or picnic, the cookie can be eaten with a fork or with the fingers. Available in raspberry, apricot or chocolate filling, only a grinch would overlook this opportunity to celebrate. Read the full review on TheNibble.com.

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TRENDS: Per Capita Beer Consumption Increases


Gordon Biersch Märzen. Read our full review of
this American craft brew.
  After declining annually since 2002, per capita beer consumption in the U.S. rose slightly last year. In 2007, total beer volume in the U.S. increased by 1.4%, returning to 2002 levels, according to recent research. We’re talking about domestic mass-marketed beers, the Buds, Coors and Millers—not the craft beers, which continue to grow each year (but represent a much smaller percentage of sales).

“Beer in the U.S.,” a report from Beverage Marketing Corporation, an industry research company, noted that per-capita consumption of beer in the country in 2007 hit 22 gallons (and if you don’t drink beer, think of how much the other guy is drinking). “While the decreases in the early years of the 21st century were in the order of one or two tenths of a gallon from one year to the next, they became a steadily recurring phenomenon,” the company said in the report.
While imports, which had been one of the most vibrant segments of the U.S. beer market, slowed considerably in 2003 and performed weakly in 2004, imports revived in 2005, but not enough to counterbalance the contraction in domestic sales. The result is that sales in the beer market were essentially flat. Imports played a crucial role in volume growth in 2006, increasing by double-digits. The largest U.S. brewer, Anheuser-Busch, had a sizeable increase in shipments of domestic brands in 2006 but stalled in 2007. However, the next two largest brewers, Miller Brewing Company and Coors Brewing Company, enjoyed solid growth, which contributed to another year of overall beer volume growth.

Find some of our favorite craft beers in THE NIBBLE’s Beer Section.
Learn more about beer in our Glossary of Beer Terms.
Learn the best Beer & Cheese Pairings.
See a six-course Beer & Food Pairing Dinner menu with recipes.
Check out these Tips for Serving Beer.

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TOP PICK: Sticky Toffee Pudding Co.

After the constant media coverage and the long lines at the polls this election year, you deserve a treat. We suggest everything made by The Sticky Toffee Pudding Company. Americans enjoy many blessings. One of them is that Englishwoman Tracy Claros moved to Texas and started a delightful specialty food company, making British-style puddings, which are like warm, individual cakes (learn more about puddings in the main review).

Tracy makes four puddings: the classic British Sticky Toffee Pudding, which is one of those foods that, once tasted, becomes an instant favorite; Ginger Sticky Pudding, the Sticky for gingerbread lovers (and those who don’t yet know they love gingerbread); English Lemon Pudding (totally irresistible); and Molten Chocolate Baby-Cake, a chocolate lava cake that, excellent as it is, becomes the third runner-up in this cornucopia of riches, only because the other three are so seldom found that you must have them whenever you encounter them. We can’t name the winner—the three flavors tie for first place.

Tasting even better than it looks, Sticky Ginger
Pudding is perfect for the holidays—although we
wouldn’t turn it away on a blazing August
afternoon.
How wonderful is it to have before you a sumptuous dessert, about which even Gordon Ramsay could have no complaint? Simply remove the individual portion from the wrapper, place the cup in the microwave for 40 sections, invert the pudding and its sauce onto a plate and garnish at will. You may devour it in only slightly longer time than it took to warm. Or you may have more restraint than we do. No refrigeration is required, although refrigerating (or freezing) extends the shelf life. Read the full review.

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