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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 March, 2009

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Gourmet Easter Chocolate Gifts


Good things come in small rocher nests. Rochers
are caramelized chocolate-covered almond
slivers, formed by L.A. Burdick Handmade
Chocolate
into a special Easter nest filled with 8
chocolate truffles, 8 marzipan eggs and a small
chocolate bunny. Charmingly gift-boxed, it’s
memorable.
All over America, boys and girls of all ages (yes, you!) are looking with fondness, covetousness and deeper forms of desire at chocolate bunnies, marshmallow Easter eggs and other tempting paschal candy. In every town there are goodies galore that beckon. But for your calories and discriminating palate, shouldn’t you have the best?

We sought out some of America’s finest chocolatiers—artisans who not only use the best chocolate, but create the best Easter candy memories. We promise you the best candy Easter eggs, amazing bunnies and Easter baskets that will make the fussiest child or chocolate connoisseur jump for joy. We know because, for the past month, THE NIBBLE offices have been turned into Peter Cottontail’s Chocolate Testing Station.

Read the full reviews of treats from Knipschildt Chocolatier, L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolate, Pete’s Gourmet Confections (certified kosher*) and Recchiuti Confections. Then visit these confectioners online or by phone at your earliest convenience—because hippity, hoppity, Easter’s on its way (April 12, 2009, April 19 for Greek Orthodox Easter).

*All of Pete’s Gourmet Confections are certified kosher. His Easter-themed products, while not likely to be of interest to kosher observers, just happen to come from the same kosher kitchen that has treats in general spring designs as well. He also makes kosher for Passover products.



Shop GertrudeHawkChocolates.com Today!

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CONTEST: The Pillsbury Bakoff $1,000,000 Grand Prize Awaits

Will you win the million dollar top prize in the 2010 Pillsbury Bakeoff? Will you be one of the 100 finalists to make the trip to Orlando from April 11-13, 2010, to compete for cash and merchandise prizes totaling $1,050,200. The Grand Prize Winner and runners up will be chosen from these categories:

– Breakfast & Brunches
– Entertaining Appetizers
– Dinner Made Easy
– Sweet Treats

While it’s not exactly a million bucks, the three other category winners each receive $5,000 and a GE Profile Induction Free-Standing Range. Take a gander at the prize rules at http://www.pillsbury.com.




Last year’s winning appetizer, Salmon Pastries
with Dill Pesto, from finalist Edgar Rudberg.

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Way North Foods Biscotti


Double Chocolate Biscotti, iced in white chocolate,
have a rich chocolate flavor and give the
satisfaction of eating a piece of chocolate cake.
Way in the north of Michigan is a gourmet foods company established to create all-natural products from choice local ingredients—the best of the farms, fields and orchards of the surrounding region. The company’s first product line is handcrafted biscotti, and if we were in Italy, we’d say bravo! What sets these biscotti apart is, even though they are twice baked like all biscotti, the standard size have a softness that is non-threatening to anyone with dental work, and provide a pleasing crunch while melting into cake-like satisfaction in the mouth. For those who want the traditional, rock-hard biscotti experience, the ends of the loaf,* cleverly called “stones,” are sold separately. Regular or stone, everything that emerges from the Way North Foods ovens is absolutely luscious and distinctively better than most biscotti we’ve tasted.

*Biscotti dough is rolled into an oblong loaf and baked once. Then the individual cookies are cut from the warm loaf and baked again, giving them their name—bis coctum is Latin for “twice cooked.”

The line departs from classic Italian biscotti (almond and anisette flavors), with a focus on Michigan fruits, plus chocolate. There are seasonal specials, and varieties are added faster than the website can be updated. For example, instead of the Dried Cherry White Chocolate Biscotti on the website, Cherry Cordial Biscotti were available, chocolate biscotti with dried cherries and a bit of dark chocolate icing drizzled with white chocolate.

Did we complain? Heck no—we can’t imagine turning down any flavor baked by the gifted Chef Perry Harmon. Lemon Dried Blueberry, Maple Walnut (made with local maple syrup), Orange Dried Cranberry and Dried Cherry equally pleased our critical palate. We can’t wait for new seasonal flavors and limited editions. We wish you had some marvelous biscotti to munch on as you read the full review. But buy some today and you’ll have them in time to chew over next week’s Top Pick.



10% off Fudgy PB VitaTops

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GOURMET TRAVEL: Taste Of Vail, April 1 ~ 4

You can eat all you want and then ski off the calories at the Taste of Vail Food & Wine Festival. Nonstop airfare is $200 from most cities, so pack your bags and your appetite and head for the hills (very high and majestic mountains) of Colorado. The festival, which takes place during the last weekend of ski season, kicks off with the 5th Annual Colorado Lamb Cook-Off in the heart of Vail Village—classic lamb chop dishes and exotic recipes prepared by Vail’s finest chefs, guest chefs and the Colorado Lamb Board, perfectly complemented with fine wines and beers. The festival continues with wine tastings, a mountaintop picnic (10,350 feet above sea level) and a Grand Tasting Dinner with breathtaking Rocky Mountain views. A full, four-day pass to the 19th Annual Taste of Vail is $600 and includes nine events plus all the morning cooking seminars. Find out more at www.tasteofvail.com—and send us a postcard! taste-of-vail
The new meaning of “al fresco dining”: a picnic
10,350 feet above sea level, at scenic Eagle’s
Nest on Vail Mountain.


15% Off Orders of $100 +

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BOOKS: Save Money With Your Slow Cooker & “Slow Cookers For Dummies”

Cut back on the high cost of takeout. That slow cooker that’s been tucked away in your kitchen cabinet is an easy solution for making delicious, cost-efficient entrees at the touch of a button. Slow Cookers For Dummies provides basic tips and troubleshooting, as well as delicious recipes that go beyond soups and stews. How about:

– Holy Guacamole Tomato Salsa, Peach Butter, and Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam
– Classic Vegetable Casserole with French-Fried Onions, Macaroni & Cheese and more
– Apple Bread Pudding, Chocolate Caramel and Peach Crisp
– Irish Coffee for a Crowd, Mulled Wine and Ruby Red Cider

In addition to convenience and money savings, a slow cooker lets you feed your family wholesome, all-natural proteins, grains and vegetables, and steer clear of prepared mixes and convenience foods that are loaded with salt, hidden sugars and preservatives. Can’t beat that!

– Don’t have a slow cooker? Try this 3-1/2-quart one from Rival.

Egg-celent Children's Gifts for Easter!

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Dorot Frozen Herb Cubes

Fresh herbs, garlic and ginger are such wonderful additions to recipes that, for many cooks, they’re kitchen staples. But what happens when you don’t have any on hand? Or if you’re in a hurry and don’t want to wash, dry and chop? Or if the fresh parsley in the bin has turned yellow, and your garlic cloves are dry and hollow?

Enter Dorot, an Israeli-based company specializing in fresh-frozen herbs. They are packaged in what look like tiny ice cube trays, four by five inches, filled with 20 bouillon cube-size nuggets. While frozen herbs will seldom equal fresh ones, these handy substitutes are light years beyond dried herbs, and occupy little freezer space.

The choices include crushed garlic or ginger and chopped basil, cilantro, dill, mint, parsley and red chile peppers, as well as Asian, French, Italian and Mexican herb mixes. Some freeze better than others; we liked cilantro, ginger and parsley the best.


Instant flavor in a flash…after you toss these herb
cubes into your soup, dressing, eggs or other
recipe. Shown: Dorot garlic cubes.

The cubes pop right out of the tray, so they can easily be added to sautés and soups, dressings and marinades, or anything that needs a hit of concentrated, fresh flavor. (Or color, for that matter. If you had them now, you could make green scrambled eggs for St. Patrick’s Day.)

The compact trays stack neatly in the freezer. While they’re a terrific convenience any time of the year, they’re especially nice to have around in colder months, when garden-fresh herbs are in short supply. They’re also great for people who can never use up a large bunch of herbs. No one will know you didn’t take out the cutting board and chop away. Frozen, they should keep their flavor for up to two years. The products are certified kosher. Click here to read the full review.



Shop igourmet.com

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PRODUCT: Gluten-Free, Allergen-Free & Kosher!


Cornbread with corn jelly.
A NIBBLE reader has recommended the baking mixes of 1-2-3 Gluten Free, premium gluten- and allergen-free baking mixes that she says taste great and are versatile (there are more than 80 recipes for the 14 mixes). All products are produced in a dedicated gluten- and allergen-free facility and are certified gluten-free by the Gluten Intolerance Group, as well as certified kosher pareve. They have just launched two new products, Deliriously Delicious Devil’s Food Cake Mix and Micah’s Mouthwatering Cornbread Mix. Like many of 1-2-3 Gluten Free’s products, these two mixes are also free of dairy, soy, egg, peanuts and tree nuts.

Here’s more versatility: You, the baker, add the sweetener of your choice—sugar, evaporated cane juice or agave—which makes these products an ideal choice not only for celiacs, but for diabetics and other consumers with dietary concerns.


The cornbread can be made with sweetener or without. Eggs can be added by those who wish to enrich the recipe. The Devil’s Food Cake Mix can be made into a birthday cake, chocolate gingerbread cake or other recipes listed on the box and website. The Cornbread Mix includes a recipe for cranberry pecan cornmeal cake, jalapeño cheddar cornbread, pecan cornbread and cornbread stuffing. Learn more at www.123glutenfree.com.

See gluten-free foods reviewed by THE NIBBLE.



Shop TheFruitCompany.com

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GOURMET NEWS: U.S. Pastry Chef Of The Year Winner

The 20th annual U.S. Pastry Competition took place recently at the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show in New York City. Finalists included 15 pastry chefs from some of the country’s finest restaurants. The theme of this year’s competition was “Give My Regards To Broadway,” with each entrant submitting a showpiece, a cake and a bonbon interpreting the theme. Cacao Noel, a line of chocolate available only to professionals, was used by all the pastry chefs.

The Nibble Editors were on hand to taste the cakes and bonbons, along with delicious Pol Roger Champagne, one of our favorites. Although we didn’t have a vote, we did have an opinion.

– The pastry chefs seemed to take on their own theme of mousse and gelee: almost every cake we tasted was made of layers of mousse, mousse and more mousse, sometimes with gelee. It got to the point where we felt we were in a mousse competition, and wanted to send out for a piece of flour-based cake! If this is any indication of pastry trends, ladies and gentlemen, the retro mousse cake is back.

showpiece-1st-place
Ajith Saputhanthri’s first place-winning “Curtain
Call” showpiece.

- We also felt that while each cake was beautifully executed, showing great craftsmanship, the many recipes were on the bland side—beautiful to look at but not vivid on the palate. Why is that??? If what we see on “Hell’s Kitchen” is any indication, there may be too much smoking going on and it’s numbing the taste buds!

– A panel of highly esteemed chefs judged the competition; none of our favorites took an award. Note that our favorites were based on taste rather than appearance, as all of the cakes were attractive. Awards were given to the overall entry, which focused on the “showpiece” sculpture, as well as the cake and the bonbon.

– First place went to Ajith Saputhanthri, of Russo’s On The Bay restaurant in Howard Beach, NY. His showpiece, called “Curtain Call,” featured a hand-carved solid chocolate sculpture depicting intricate folds of a theater curtain and theatrical mask sculptures. His cake was a combination of Earl Grey tea chocolate mousse and a pomegranate-raspberry-hibiscus gelee, and his bonbon included lime and bittersweet chocolate. Salvatore Settepani took second place with his “Phantom Of The Opera”-themed showpiece and passion fruit, hazelnut and ginger-white peach cake. Third place went to Andrew Chlebana for his “Homage To Broadway” showpiece and tropical caramel-chocolate cake.

– We were disappointed to see that our favorite cake didn’t receive even honorable mention status. We were wowed by the cake made by Jose Manuel Hernandez of Fiamma Restaurant in New York City. It had a top layer of milk chocolate gelee and a middle of passion fruit gelee on top of—gasp—a real piece of hazelnut cake. The sweet-tart contrast of chocolate and passionfruit and the tempered, non-overpowering sweetness really, well, took the cake. Chef Hernandez, please invite us down for some more!

Despite our critique, we know how hard each of these pastry chefs work, and how committed they are to creating beautiful desserts for their customers, and how much time and sacrifice went into their entries. We look forward to next year’s competition.



Shop igourmet.com

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CONTEST: Win Fairytale Brownies


Fairytale Brownies, top to bottom: Walnut,
Chocolate Chunk and Caramel.
Want brownies? Got a recipe to share?

Create an original dessert recipe using Fairytale Brownies (which come in a multitude of inspirational flavors). What do you win?

– Grand Prize: A year of brownies—a Special Occasion Dozen sent to you or a gift recipient of your choice every month for a consecutive year. Retail value including shipping equals $562.20.
– 1st Runner Up: 9 months of brownies—a Special Occasion Dozen sent to you or a gift recipient of your choice every month for 9 consecutive months. Retail value including shipping equals $421.65.
– 2nd Runner Up: 6 months of brownies—a Special Occasion Dozen sent to you or a gift recipient of your choice every month for 6 consecutive months. Retail value including shipping equals $276.30.

- 3rd Runner Up: 3 months of brownies—a Special Occasion Dozen sent to you or a gift recipient of your choice every month for 3 consecutive months. Retail value including shipping equals $140.65

Contest deadline date is Sunday, May 31, 2009, and your entry must include a photo. Contest details are at http://blog.brownies.com/blog/internal-hidden/0/0/fairytale-brownies-receipt-contest/n.

Read our review of Fairytale Brownies.

Discover the history of the brownie, an American invention.



http://www.gertrudehawkchocolates.com

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VIEWPOINT: Clamato Tomato Cocktail, The Worst Product Of The Year?

A few weeks ago, we were at a food trade show in San Francisco, tasting away. Almost everything is good, if not electrifying (that is to say, not “Nibblelicious”). But at one booth, an attractive-looking white and dark chocolate pastry with coconut was so vile, we had to spit it out.

(As one NIBBLE staffer commented, “I not only spit it out, I also had to scrape my tongue.”) Generally at the Fancy Food Show, it never gets this bad; even in the supermarket, it doesn’t.

But as we were picking up a few supermarket items this week, we found a contender for the worst thing tasted this year.

The market was out of the organic brand of tomato juice we usually buy. As our eyes scanned the shelves, they noticed Clamato juice, a brand owned by Cadbury-Schweppes that we haven’t had in more than 20 years.

Hmm, we thought, healthy tomato juice and healthy clam juice combined. We’re in!

Ladies and gentlemen: Read the labels before buying, even on what you think is a simple bottle of juice!

 


Too much sugar in our savory foods!

 

Because when we got home and poured ourselves what we thought would be a healthy, tasty glass of it, we couldn’t believe our taste buds. Think tomato juice with tablespoons of sugar mixed in—only it was high fructose corn syrup. When we went back to the store, shell-shocked (note pun), we compared the ingredients in the Tomato Clam Juice Cocktail from White Rose. Same sad story. Same vile taste.

Why, oh why, does Big Manufacturing have to throw sweetener into every savory product from bagels to soup to tomato juice?

Not only does it taste horrific (to the refined palate, anyway—obviously somebody is buying it). It adds sugar calories where they aren’t needed or wanted, contributes to the obesity epidemic and warps the palates of the majority of Americans who don’t know better and think that this is what food is supposed to taste like.

We’re so spooked by this, we’re going to start reading labels on milk and egg cartons.

  

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