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Archive for February, 2009

NEWS: Amano Chocolate Wins 5 Awards From London Academy Of Chocolate

Amano Cacao Nibs

Madagascar bar and cacao nibs.

America has a new president, but also a new king…of chocolate. In mid-2006, we heard the buzz through the chocolate grapevine that some great chocolate was being produced by a physicist in Orem, Utah. We called to get some and were told by founder and chocolatier Art Pollard that he would let us know when the bars were ready for release. We were thrilled with them, and named Amano Artisan Chocolate, a Top Pick Of The Week. In the summer of 2007, at the Fancy Food Show, we watched at Amano’s booth as a stream of well-known chocolatiers stopped by to taste the goods of the new guy in town.

The small chocolatier, using traditional and antique equipment and incorporating both modern and ancient chocolate-making techniques, has received steady recognition. In addition to winning 2007 Outstanding New Product at the Fancy Food Show, some other awards include:

– 2007: L.A. International Chocolate Salon, Best Dark Chocolate and Best in Salon
– 2007: San Francisco International Chocolate Salon, Gold Medal for Best Dark Chocolate, Best Dark Chocolate Bar and Most Gifted Chocolatier
– 2008: Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon, Best Dark Chocolate
– 2008: London Academy of Chocolate, Bronze Medal, “Bean To Bar” Category

This year, Amano Artisan Chocolate has made a clean sweep at the prestigious Academy of Chocolate Awards in London, held last week. In this “Olympics” of the chocolate world, each Amano chocolate bar submitted received an award:

– GOLD: Madagascar 70%
– SILVER: Ocumare 70% (Venezuela)
– SILVER: Montanya 70% (Venezuela)
– BRONZE: Jembrana 70% (Indonesia)
– BRONZE: Ocumare Milk (Venezuela)

With the Gold win for the Madagascar bar, Amano has claimed the highest award ever given to an American company for bean-to-bar dark chocolate (i.e., a company that buys and roasts its own beans and makes its own chocolate, as opposed to chocolatiers that purchase couverture chocolate from other manufacturers to make their bars and confections). Amano competed against more than 60 premium chocolatiers from around the world; more than 440 entries were judged in 14 categories. An esteemed panel of judges consisted of Academy members, Michelin-starred chefs, food writers and international chocolate professionals.

Past Academy Of Chocolate awards have been dominated by such esteemed industry names as Amedei (Italy), Valrhona (France), Michel Cluizel (France), and Domori (Italy)—all NIBBLE favorites. (Continue paragraph here). This is the first time that an American company has been honored in such a resounding way by the Academy. In fact, this is the first time the Academy has awarded Gold and Silver awards to an American chocolate company for dark chocolate. That each chocolate bar in Amano’s entire line (the company produces only bars) was given an award is an almost unheard of accomplishment. Last year, Amano was the first American chocolate company to receive an award for making dark chocolate—a Bronze for the Madagascar, which this year took the Gold. It’s in the DNA of dedicated artisans to strive to improve quality with each batch that they make. It’s especially rewarding when the industry’s tastemakers take notice. And it’s rewarding to all chocolatiers in the United States that a small American start-up is given the same accolades as longtime pillars of European artisan chocolate.

More Amano News

Amano has just debuted five new cacao nib varieties: Madagascar, Ocumare, Jembrana, Barlovento (Venezuela) and Accra (Ghana). Unlike other chocolate makers, who package their nibs abroad, Pollard and his team roast the beans and package the nibs on-site. They taste wonderfully fresh. If you are a chocolate geek, as we are, you’ll want to get them all ($9.95 to $11.95 per 6-ounce bag) and have a nib tasting. Not surprisingly, the nibs taste as different as the chocolate made from them, and it’s a rare experience to taste and compare the nibs and the bars made from them. Nibs can be tossed into salads, savory and sweet sauces, baked into cookies, cakes and brownies, and eaten as high-antioxidant “health food.”

All products can be purchased at The company is still waiting for the packaging for the Montanya and Ocumare Milk bars, so you’ll find them in the online shop under “Previews.”

15% Off Orders of $100 +

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Mardi Gras Foods

Mardi Gras, or Carnival, celebrated February 20-24 this year, is Brazil’s largest annual celebration. The four-day party was brought to South America from Europe, and the Brazilians made it their own. The Mardi Gras celebration marks the beginning of the 40 day Lent season, starting on Saturday and ending on Fat Tuesday, or Mardi gras in French.

Every year, Brazilian Mardi Gras attracts millions of tourists as well as local celebrants. Each Brazilian city has its own Carnival traditions, including elaborate parades, masquerade balls and other social gatherings, and, of course, feasts. Carnival is believed to have originated from the Italian words carne vale, meaning farewell to meat. The feasts offer meat, and plenty of it.

If there’s a Brazilian-style churrascaria restaurant in your town, there’s no better place to order up a Caipirinha or two and celebrate Carnival. Texas de Brazil, one of the country’s premiere Churrascarias (there are 14 domestic locations—find one near you), offers these suggestions if you’d like to prepare an authentic Brazilian menu to celebrate Carnival at home:

The caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail, made
with cachaça, lime and sugar.

Caipirinha Cocktail. Brazil’s signature cocktail, the Caipirinha is made with cachaça, an intensely sweet Brazilian spirit. Learn more about cachaça and get Caipirinha recipes.

Brazilian Feijoada. Carnival’s signature dish is also the national dish of Brazil, and the perfect comfort food on winter night. Feijoada is a stew made of several types of meat cooked with beans and traditionally served with a side of white rice, salad and peeled oranges. It’s the cassoulet of Brazil.

Churrasco de Fraldinha. In Brazil, churrasco is the term for barbecue and fraldinha is flank steak. The Churrasco de Fraldinha is a meal for meat lovers only; Brazilians use the best meat and cooking techniques so no sauce is needed, but you could make the Brazillian vinaigrette. If you have a grill, invite the gang over for a Churrasco de Fraldinha and Caipirinhas. It will be a memorable occasion!

Brazilian Vinaigrette. Similar to Pico de Gallo or salsa, a Brazilian vinaigrette can be made as spicy or mild as needed and is traditionally served over meats.

Papaya Cream. An easy-to-make dessert that will have you thinking it is summertime. Papaya Cream is a chilled dessert of fresh papaya and cream, a popular and traditional Brazilian treat.

Make your reservations—or start party planning—today.

The orginal sugar free, o calorie, 0 sugar cocktail mix

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TRENDS: Change In Presidential Dining Habits

Mr. McGregor’s Microgreens, a NIBBLE Top Pick.

Bill Clinton liked to go out for McDonald’s. W preferred a barbecue on his Crawford ranch. While a waist watcher, Barack Obama enjoys fine cuisine, frequently patronizing Chicago’s Frontera Grill and Spiaggia. He’s keeping White House chef Cristeta Comerford, who knows how to deal with those massive state dinners, while bringing in his own health-focused personal chef.

Knowing his own mind, the prez turned down advice from three food titans, Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters, Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl and Union Square Hospitality Group head Danny Meyer. The trio wrote a joint letter urging that Obama make the White House a showcase for local, organic and seasonal food. They wanted him to replace the unknown Comerford with a higher-profile chef whose cooking agenda was more in tune with theirs.

Longtime White House chef Walter Scheib, whose departure in 2005 elevated Comerford to top toque, points out that the White House does buy local and seasonal food from area farmers and co-ops…and that Laura Bush was a stickler for organic food. Who knew?

To help out with their personal meals, the Obamas are bringing in Sam Kass, who had been their private chef in Chicago. In addition to knowing what they like, he has a particular interest in healthy food and local food. Out with the Krispy Kremes, in with crudités! Read the full article in Restaurant Hospitality magazine.

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate Assortment

We kissed a Hershey’s Extra Dark and we liked it. Well, we didn’t kiss it, we ate it, and the whole pouch, at that—but only after inhaling the wonderful chocolate and fruit aroma, listening to its snap and checking out the mouthfeel, which is as close to kissing chocolate as a normal person gets. (Yes, it’s normal behavior—read our article on How To Taste Chocolate.)

While THE NIBBLE office is piled high with boxes and bars of the world’s greatest artisan chocolate, we are packing little individually wrapped, 45-calorie rectangles of Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate into our handbag, to indulge whenever we wish—no guilt in that! Purists will go for the Pure Dark Chocolate (60% cacao), but we prefer the fruit flavors.

Hershey's Extra Dark Chocolate
The Pure Dark Chocolate infused with Raspberry Flavor adds tartness (and real raspberry seeds) to the chocolate. But our personal fave is new Pure Dark Chocolate With Pomegranate Pieces, which add some nice chewy texture and a sweeter tartness than the raspberry.

So while you’re buying Valentine chocolate for everyone else, get a pouch or a bar for yourself, enjoy chocolate in moderation as part of a healthy lifestyle (we love this warning—it’s on the bag), and enjoy this grammar lesson, too:

The astute reader may have noticed our oxymoron above, “sweeter tartness.” There are many examples of oxymorons, or conjoining contradictory terms: sweet sadness, cruel kindness and wise fool are common examples. Though contradictory, an oxymoron makes sense. Thus, we must chide Hershey’s two grammatical fautes pas:

“Enjoy Hershey’s Extra Dark pure dark chocolate in its decadent simplicity….” Decadent simplicity?

1. Has anyone looked up the word decadent lately? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means “characterized by moral or cultural decline, luxuriously self-indulgent.” Decadent has got to be the most misused word in America, by people who call themselves marketing and communications professionals. Have you heard the current TV spot for “decadent” Diet Dr. Pepper? ROTFL-DUMB.

2. Even if “decadent” means what Hershey’s thinks it means (rich, luscious, indulgent), the word doesn’t work with “simplicity.” What is rich, indulgent simplicity? Sorry, this is not oxymoron, but edumoron—someone or many someones who don’t think they need to look anything up.

Disclaimer: If your trigger finger is itching to email us to say that you found a mistake somewhere on THE NIBBLE, keep in mind that we lack the resources of a Fortune 500 company to ensure everything is as accurate as it can be, all the time. But we do use the dictionary and thesaurus all day, every day.

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VALENTINE’S DAY GIFTS: Cupcakes & Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock Beer

You haven’t gotten your Valentine anything yet? Avoid the mobs at the chocolate stores and head for the nearest bakery. If you’d planned ahead, places like Magnolia Bakery in New York City would have already delivered cupcakes to your loved one(s), but it’s too late for that now. See if you can call ahead and have the wrapped box waiting at the pick-up counter. Barring that, hire an unemployed pal to do the standing for you, so he or she can earn some bucks to buy Valentine cupcakes, too.

Then, track down some Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock (a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week). This beer, made with Scharffen Berger chocolate nibs goes great with cupcakes. We bought ours at a Whole Foods Market. A 750ml bottle is about $20.00, but much more memorable than Champagne. If you want Champagne to go with the cupcakes, be sure it’s a sec or demi-sec, a sweeter-vinified Champagne. Dry Champagnes are not meant to go beyond the main course, except perhaps with a nice triple-crème cheese course.

Read our review of Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week. (Dot Com Holdings of Buffalo, Inc)

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