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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 January, 2009

TRENDS: Gastroporn, Or, How To Make Vegetables Erotic

PETA Gastroporn How times change! Animal rights organization PETA has turned the other cheek. Previously, members of the organization attracted publicity by throwing red paint (signifying blood) onto fur coats. Now they’ve recalled the bet between the sun and the wind over who could get the man to take his coat off. (The wind blew and blew stronger and stronger, but it only made the man grasp his coat around himself tighter and tighter. The sun simply shone hotter and hotter, and the man quickly removed his coat.)

In the interest of making it hotter and hotter for people to stop eating meat, PETA has produced a TV spot so hot that the Super Bowl turned it down. Yes, it is definitely not a “family friendly” commercial. But adults who appreciate scantily-clad women and beautiful produce should watch it a few times.


- Get serious about vegetables with THE NIBBLE’s #1 read article, our Squash Glossary.

- Finally understand the difference between sweet potatoes and yams.

- Check out our Exotic & Heirloom Vegetables Glossary.

- Learn your mushroom varieties.

- Meet the morel.

- Dream of truffles.

- Not into veggies? Try some edible flowers.

Shop igourmet.com

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Twisted Grandma Pretzels

In the cold north country of Eveleth, Minnesota lives a twisted grandma. She’s got spiked blonde hair and a tattooed toe. While the other local grandmas make cookies and casseroles, Twisted G makes some wicked pretzels. Sure, from the outside they look like normal, miniature pretzel twists. But take a bite: They taste like they’ve been dipped in garlic butter. Mmmm.

We couldn’t resist the twist. We ate the whole bag. No additional dip is needed, but for those who like to indulge, go for something with sour cream and onion or chives.

Get some Twisted Grandma Pretzels as a gift for your favorite garlic lover. Note to Twisted Grandma: With your name and look, you should start a band. TwistedGrandma.com.

- Take our pretzel trivia quiz and learn fun pretzel trivia.

- Discover more of our favorite savory snacks.

- Make your own with this soft pretzel recipe.

tabasco.com (McIlhenny Company)

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NEWS: Winter Fancy Food Show 2009

Essential Cane, our Bronze Star winner from the
2009 Winter Fancy Show, dazzled with a dozen
flavors of cane sugar, including Green Chili,
Habañero and Sweet Onion. Who took the
Silver? See the complete article.

Amazing! In the midst of an economic downturn, the 34th Winter Fancy Food Show matched all-time records with 16,000 attendees at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, who arrived with enthusiasm to peruse the 1,250 exhibitors—including more than 100 newcomers. Having walked all 198,000 square feet of the show several times, I tried dutifully to sample each of the 180,000 specialty food and beverage products. Tough job, but someone has to do it. If you think all that walking offsets all those calories—it doesn’t.

Why was the show so busy during such gloomy economic times? The show organizers, industry trade association NASFT, and market research firm Mintel, remind us that few parts of the retail/grocery world show proof that more than 90% of their categories have been growing since 2004. Amid current economic conditions, consumers are dining more often at home, and specialty foods and beverages will benefit. It’s easier to treat yourself to good food products than a good restaurant meal.

Read Contributing Editor Andy Whitman’s observations, and see which favorite products from the show received THE NIBBLE editors’ Gold, Silver and Bronze Stars.

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TOP PICK: Great Spirits Baking Co. Chocolate Cake

As pre-teens, when one might have thought us too young to appreciate it, we were enamored of the rum cake made by an old Italian baker. The cake was fragrant and moist from the rum syrup in which it had been soaked. A favorite of our mother, it would be ordered for holidays and special occasions. Our family enjoyed it for years, until the inevitable day that the baker from the Old Country retired, and the cake was no more. Styles had changed; the town was into fancy French patisserie. Thick buttercream and piped flourishes trumped alcohol-soaked pound cake.

In the decades since, we have had other spirits-soaked cakes, most not worth a second bite. Some, like the ones from the Bahamas Rum Cake Factory, were a passable fix for what we remembered from times past. Even the ones on restaurant menus disappointed as cloying or too alcoholic. Finally, we happened upon the spot-on mini bundt cakes from The Great Spirits Baking Company, and we are happy again.

This rum cake is made with Pyrat XO Reserve
Rum. You can’t get better than that!

They are noteworthy for top ingredients (Pyrat XO Reserve Rum, Patrón XO Café Tequila Coffee Liqueur, Patrón Citrónge Extra Fine Orange Liqueur, Callebaut chocolate) and small-batch production. These factors, plus great recipes turn out memorable chocolate and orange cakes. They are irresistible and sumptuous without being rich. (We’ll leave that word for those cakes laden with buttercream.)

With Valentine’s Day close upon us, a sampler trio is an excellent choice for gentlemen who don’t fancy a box of fancy chocolate. It’s a no-fuss dessert for two (just add whipped cream, and maybe a pairing of Patrón and Pyrat).

Read the full review.

Morrell - Great Selection of Fine Spirits

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Cheese Of The Week, Persillé De Malzieu

Persillé de Malzieu, from Murray’s Cheese Shop.

This week’s cheese recommendation comes from guest blogger Dana Romero, proprietor of La Fromagerie D’Acadiana in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Murray’s Cheese shop describes our cheese of the week as such: “Spice is the variety of life, which is why we hunger for this rare, powerfully spicy blue.” Produced just beyond the legally protected limits of Roquefort in the Languedoc-Rousillon region of France, this cheese is made from the pasteurized milk of Lacaune sheep milk, like Roquefort, but it captures a far greater flavor spectrum. “Texturally,” continues Murray’s, “Malzieu sits heavy on the tongue, only to dissolve into a milky skim within seconds. The threat of excess salt, razing sharpness, and intense moldiness is present but always at bay. Beautifully balanced with rich, fatty milk, mushroom, and a long sweetness that should be complemented by a rich, oily dessert wine such as Sauternes or tawny Port.”


Persillé de Malzieu is Roquefort gone wild. It spends three months in the caves of Peyrelade, in Malzieuville, France, where the atmosphere inside the caves help to produce an unctuous paste, ethereal bouquet, salty edge and wild mushroom flavor. But this cheese’s flavor profile also offers something very sweet and creamy, not quite as salty, that registers like Gorgonzola Dolce. It has a very outdoorsy flavor. “Persillé” means “parsleyed,” and is a common term for French blue cheeses (referring to both the color of the mold and the veined appearance. It is priced at around $24.99/lb. That’s not inexpensive, but blue cheese lovers will want to give it a whirl. Have it for dessert, as Murray’s suggests, with a glass of Sauternes or Port.

Learn more about blue cheese.


Shop igourmet.com

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SUPER BOWL: Splurge On Pickles

Don’t blow your New Year’s resolutions on fattening Super Bowl food this Sunday. Buy yourself a Pickle Pack from Rick’s Picks and indulge on low-calorie, high fiber, high-taste artisan pickles. The all-cuke Pickle Power Pack is currently on sale for $29.95; although if you’re in the chips, we also love the Pickle Party Pack for $41.95 (two types of pickled green beans, smoked okra and pickled cukes).

These vibrant veggies are brined without salt or sugar—but with the best herbs, spices and vinegar. They’re a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.

- Read our review of Rick’s Picks.

- Check out the different types of pickles in our Pickle Glossary.

Kool Gherks


KegWorks.com (Dot Com Holdings of Buffalo, Inc)

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NEWS: No Surprise ~ Restaurant Closings Are Up

Starbucks The national restaurant count has slipped for first time in eight years, according to a news release from The NPD Group, a market research firm. Typically, the number of U.S. restaurants grows each year, with increases of 1.8 percent in 2007 and 0.4 percent in 2006, for example. The number of total restaurant locations in 2008 contracted from 2007 by 0.1 percent, driven by closures of independent restaurants, including such prominent names as Emeril’s in Atlanta and San Domenico in New York, and units within large chains such as Starbucks and Bennigan’s. While family-dining and fine-dining segments showed drops, casual-dining and quick-service locations showed small but positive growth in 2008, NPD data shows. The industry is battling a slowdown in consumer spending, especially for dining out, as well as escalating operating costs.

Free Coffeemaker - 120x60

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DISCOUNT: Heavenly Soufflé For Valentine’s Day

Want to send your sweetie (or Mom and Dad, for that matter) a sweet soufflé Valentine? It’s more creative than a box of chocolate, and in addition to Chocolate and Chocolate Mint, there are Raspberry and Pumpkin soufflés. Go to HeavenlySouffle.com and use coupon code Val2009.

Read our review of Heavenly Soufflé, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.

Find more Valentine gifts in the February issue of THE NIBBLE specialty food magazine.

Heavenly Souffle

Bake Me A Wish!, bakemeawish, gourmet cake, valentine cake

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PRODUCT: VitaMuffin VitaTops

VitaMuffin Muffin Tops People who like muffins, chocolate, muffin tops and reduced-calorie foods have discovered VitaMuffins (read our review). The 100-calorie chocolate muffin tops are so popular that VitaMuffin expanded the options from the original Deep Chocolate to Chocolate Fig, Dark Chocolate Pomegranate, Double Chocolate Dream (with white chips), Fudgy Peanut Butter Chip, and Triple Chocolate Chunk. There’s also a Sugar-Free/Low Carb Velvety Chocolate.

We recently tasted all seven chocolate varieties in one sitting and found the original Deep Chocolate to have the most satisfying chocolate flavor (it contains chocolate chips). In retrospect, that’s not much of a surprise: the semisweet chocolate flavor of the chips is taken away when white chips, PB chips, pomegranate and fig are substituted in the other flavors.

A box of 12 two-ounce individually-wrapped muffin tops is $16.00 ($18.50 for sugar-free) at VitaMuffin.com. They freeze beautifully. The all-natural VitaTops are also made in Banana Nut, BlueBran (blueberry), Golden Corn, CranBran, MultiBran and AppleBerry. The non-chocolate varieties retail at $14.45 per dozen and most have 80 calories.

Vitalicious, the manufacturer apprises us that you can walk off the 80-100 calorie VitaTops in 13-15 minutes. Share a muffin top, coffee and a stroll with a friend.

A box of chocolate VitaTops goes on our list of Valentine gifts for people you love too much to send a box of chocolate. Gift certificates are available. Read the full review at http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/nutri/breadstuffs/vitalicious-vitamuffin.asp.


Vitalicious

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CONTEST: Great American Pie Show

How good is your best pie recipe? The First Annual “Great American Pie Show,” featuring weatherman and bon vivant Al Roker from NBC’s Today Show, will take place April 24-25 in the Branson (Missouri) Convention Center. If your recipe is the winner, you can finally get your piece of the pie, which includes a first prize of $2,500 cash plus a 4-day/3-night fun-filled vacation for two in Branson.

Enter your recipe in any of four pie categories—Fruit Pies, Nut Pies, Refrigerator/Freezer Pies and Pudding/Cream/Custard Pies. The contest rules and entry form are at GreatAmericanPieShow.com. Finalists will be invited to Branson on April 24 and 25, where their pies will be presented to the judges

Al Roker
Al Roker himself.

Valentine's Day Cookies

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