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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 June, 2009

FREEBIE: Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt, Friday 6/26



Pinkberry

Get your free swirl on Friday. If you’re reading this after Friday, you can still enjoy Pinkberry—just not for free!

 

If you like frozen yogurt and live near a Pinkberry store, you’re in luck. This Friday, June 26 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Pinkberry is giving away “free swirls” in celebration of its new flavors, Passionfruit Pinkberry and Coconut Pinkberry.

So for all you Pinkberry fans who’ve been feeding your habit with Original, Green Tea and Pomegranate Pinkberry: Here’s your chance to treat your tongue to rich and smooth Coconut or tangy, tropical Passionfruit. For everyone who hasn’t been to a Pinkberry yet, now you can try it free. At participating stores while supplies last. Note that the free sample does not apply to delivery service, so don’t even think of calling to ask for your free sample to be delivered.

  • See more of our favorite frozen desserts in THE NIBBLE’s Ice Cream Section.
  • What’s the difference between frozen yogurt, frozen custard and all the other frozen desserts? Defrost the mystery in our Frozen Desserts Glossary.
  • Comments

    NEWS: Restaurants Go Green

    As Gordon Gekko said, “Green is good.” He just didn’t understand which green was going to become the big focus. In a National Restaurant Association survey of trends for 2009, environmentally friendly equipment and sustainable practices topped chefs’ lists of hot trends and top cost-savers. Green practices, organic, sustainable and local foods are  also on consumers’ list of wants. So the Environmental Defense Fund and Restaurant Associates have developed Green Dining Best Practices that enable restaurants, corporate cafeterias and museum eateries across the country to spare the environment as they lower their foodservice costs. Overarching goals include reducing the greenhouse gas footprint and re-engineering the menu to provide more local and organic vegetables, sustainable meat and seafood.

    A comprehensive set of science-based recommendations for environmentally friendly foodservice, the practices have been tested for 90 days by two Restaurant Associates clients, Random House and Hearst Corporation, which have large corporate cafeterias in New York City. Early results show annual benefits of more than $85,000 in cost savings, a reduction of 275 tons of carbon pollution and a reduction of landfill waste by 60 tons, among other environmental benefits. You can get them free of charge at www.edf.org/greendining.

    organic_cabbage-230
    Organic cabbage. Photo by Herman Hooyschuur | SXC.


    The pilot program revealed some interesting answers:

  • Eat seasonal, local foods. Eating seasonal produce from local farmers can have a lower environmental impact than buying organic. Local foods reduce greenhouse gas by transporting the foods short distances. Organic foods save the environment from pesticides, but require more fuel to transport food greater distances.
  • Use traditional dishes. Some disposable plates and flatware labeled “recyclable” and “compostable” are so only in theory; many are not made in the U.S., and U.S. municipalities do not have the equipment to recycle or compost them. Plus, when these products go into landfills, they give off greenhouse gas. Using soap, water, traditional, dishes and flatware has a lower environmental impact.
  • Turn off appliances not in use. In commercial facilities, coffee urns are a huge energy drain; they tend to be left on all day. They should be turned off or put on timers to save energy. (At home or in a small office, pull the plug out after you’ve finished brewing. Coffee in a glass carafe on the warmer plate gets scorched after 15 minutes. Get a coffee maker that brews into a thermal carafe.)
  • Half of the waste in a restaurant is food waste. An anerobic “digester” breaks the waste into liquid form, which saves an enormous amount of money and fuel over carting away traditional garbage. (Tours were available to see it in action.)
  • Lunch served from Random House’s new green kitchen was so delicious. We ate two plates of everything and only regret we didn’t bring Tupperware to take more home. We share it with you for recipe ideas—which just happen to be largely vegan:

  • Salad of organic farro, organic spring onion, roasted organic fennel and organic preserved lemon.
  • Field-grown mâche (in season—not greenhouse-grown which uses energy), shaved organic watermelon radish, and diced plum, with watermelon vinaigrette.
  • Organic tricolor cauliflower salad (white, orange and purple cauliflower)—so beautiful, even kids will eat cauliflower without question. Orange cauliflower, a mutant, contains 25 times the level of vitamin A of white varieties. You can also find green cauliflower.
  • Salad of marinated and roasted organic wild mushrooms: trumpet, nameko and maitake mushrooms, on a bed of baby arugula (see our Mushroom Glossary).
  • Salad of shredded organic escarole, organic white beans, sheep’s milk Pecorino and roasted organic sweet peppers.
  • Salad of organic quinoa, sugar snap peas, organic spring peas and organic grilled spring onion, with an organic green garlic dressing.
  • Cheeses: (1) Fresh goat tomme from Vermont Butter & Cheese, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week. One tomme was coated in fresh-snipped dill, one in a finely-ground black and pink peppercorn and fresh parsley mix, set on a plate atop extra virgin olive oil. (2) Another NIBBLE favorite, Old Chatham Sheepherding Company’s sheep’s milk Camembert and sheep’s milk Roquefort-style cheese. All cheeses were slices of heaven. Accompaniments included organic apricots, figs, dates, almonds and honeycomb, plus beautiful artisan breads and crackers, including a raisin walnut loaf and long, soft breadsticks we’ve got to track down!
  • Incredibly buttery, melt-in-your-mouth brownies and excellent organic coffee from Seattle’s Best Coffee, organic tea and iced tea from Harney & Sons. Plus, lots of infused water: with thin-sliced cucumbers (our favorite), blueberries, supremed and sliced oranges, and thin-sliced lemon. Just add the fruit to a pitcher of water—about a cup of fruit per pitcher.
  • With gorgeous food like this, it’s easy to be a vegetarian. But the two executive chefs involved with the pilot had more in store for us.

  • Chef Nick Cavaretta of Random House presented seared Arctic char with an arugula pesto, topped with organic red amaranth microgreens. This is an easy (and healthy) dish to make at home. You can buy excellent pesto (including arugula pesto); if you can’t find red amaranth microgreens, substitute what you can find, or the prettiest sprouts.
  • Chef Jayson Brown of Cafe57 at Hearst smoked Eberly Farm organic chicken over hickory chips. He served it on top of a snap pea purée and a side of diced fingerling potatoes and pea sprouts.
  • We were thrilled to have enjoyed this sustainable lunch—and more thrilled that within two years, the 110 foodservice facilities managed by Restaurant Associates will be green (and audited by the Green Restaurant Association!). Now, everyone else: Get into the act! If your company has a cafeteria, if you know people who own restaurants, download and forward the Green Dining Best Practices from www.edf.org/greendining.

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Caffe Acapella Coffee Candy Bars



    coffee-cup-300b-2301

    Each candy bar delivers the caffeine content
    of two cups of coffee! Photography by Corey
    Lugg | THE NIBBLE. Styling by Lauren LaPenna.

     

    Many people love a good cup of coffee. And they love a good chocolate bar. So now, how about a coffee bar—not an eating establishment where you get a cup of coffee, but a coffee candy bar that’s cousin to the chocolate bar? After much experimentation, the founders of Caffe Acapella have created coffee candy bars that have the creamy texture of milk chocolate, without any chocolate ingredients. They’re made from roasted coffee beans instead of roasted cacao bean (the basis of chocolate). Coffee lovers are going to love them.

    But a creamy candy bar that melts on the tongue isn’t the only focus. The star of the show is the genuine coffee flavor of the Arabica coffee beans used to make the bars. With each new batch of beans, sample bars are produced for experts to taste test; with approval, the beans move ahead to production. The resulting bars not only encapsulate the coffee flavor of fine beans, but also the caffeine content. Each 2.25-ounce bar contains the caffeine equivalent of about two cups of coffee! (And boy, does it ever taste better than Red Bull.)

    Read the full review to see why these coffee candy bars had us singing with happiness after the first bite.



    Read more reviews of our favorite candy & confections.

    Learn more about the history of coffee.

    How do you describe the kind of coffee you like? See THE NIBBLE’S glossary of coffee descriptors.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Red Pepper Sour Cream

    Enjoy your baked potato with something special. Take 1 cup of roasted red peppers (pimentos), well drained; combine in a food processor with 1 cup of sour cream (or substitute reduced-fat sour cream or fat-free yogurt). Blend until smooth and add 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice. Top with minced green onions. Also try this delicious topping on nachos, as a dip and a general garnish.

    Click here for more garnish ideas.

    Comments

    NEWS: Cheese Unites Lovers—But No Cheesecake Wedding Cake!



    sarahcheeselady-230

    You can see more of Sarah Kaufmann’s work at SarahCheeseLady.com.

     

    They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In some cases, specifically, it’s cheese. Sarah “The Cheese Lady” Kaufmann, a nationally-recognized cheese sculptor, has carved hundreds of commissions from cheese, including several dozen wedding requests. But she was always the sculptor and never the bride, until she met Bill Parry, a retired U.S. Naval officer, while traveling to San Diego to present a 600 pound, six-foot-long cheese carving of the USS Ronald Reagan at the home-porting ceremony.

    On July 4, Sarah and Bill will host a pirate-themed wedding, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin near the banks of Lake Michigan. There will be a 32-foot long ship (wood, not cheese) christened the MV (Matrimonial Vessel). Guests received their invitations, illustrated with a special cheese carving done by the bride-to-be, inside glass bottles and have been instructed to attend in full pirate costume. On the wedding day, yellow flags with blue anchors announcing “Love Anchored in Cheese” will fly from the ship’s yardarm and decorate the tents. Even the wedding rings are designed to look like cheese—bands of gold with cheese dimples and holes.

    Will there be cheese at the wedding dinner? You don’t have to ask! Sarah will create a Jolly Roger cheese carving for the appetizer table; Bill will cut out cheese hearts of Pepper Jack (his favorite) and gold “dubloon coin” circles of yellow cheddar. There will also be a Wisconsin artisan cheese tray, made by Sara Hill of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

    In what might be the first cheese-meets-pirates culinary evening, the “Supper for the Crew” menu will consist of whole turkey legs roasted pirate style, roast pork with sauerkraut, corn on the cob, summertime garden fresh salad, chunky fruit salad, carrot cake with Jolly Roger flag art and Cedar Crest ice cream with Wisconsin summer berries and chocolate fudge sauce. Beverages will include lemonade (with or without grog), Wisconsin microbrews, Wisconsin old-fashioneds, Captain Morgan spiced rum and other assorted spirits. And plenty of limes to ward off scurvy…but no cheesecake! (Could it be that the bride and groom don’t flip for cheesecake like the rest of us?)

    When the photographer tells everyone to “Say cheese!” he may get peals of laughter instead of mere smiles.

  • O.K., no cheesecake at the Kaufmann-Parry wedding, but you can bake your own with terrific cheesecake recipes in THE NIBBLE’s Cakes Section.
  • Our favorite Wisconsin artisan cheeses—like they’re serving at the wedding.
  • Munch through the entire Cheese Section on TheNibble.com—glossary, wine and cheese pairings, beer and cheese pairings, cheese condiments and reviews of lots and lots of fabulous cheeses.
  • Comments

    PRODUCT: Daddy Cakes Pancake & Waffle Mix

    Daddy Cakes makes pancake and waffle mix in popular flavors that proved popular with us. They are a line of “JAW” (just add water) and cook products that make it a breeze to whip up breakfast favorites. Some of the specialty flavors are special, indeed, and are available in a charming, limited edition, reusable gift tin or a glossy airtight sack (a great wee giftie or stocking stuffer).

    As you might suspect from the name, the mixes were dreamed up by a dad—in fact, two dads, who happen to be brothers. Often, when the men were put in charge of feeding the kids, they found themselves making pancakes. They put their heads together to determine how to make the best pancakes for their broods, and knew they had found the right recipe when the kids kept demanding “Daddy cakes.” (Hopefully, the kids won’t be demanding a royalty on the name.)

    Now a line with a broad variety of flavors, Daddy Cakes is a gourmet convenience food that’s worth the extra shekels. There’s no need to add eggs, milk, oil or anything but water to the mix; in five to ten minutes you’ll have a smokin’ stack of flapjacks (we mean that figuratively, of course—keep your eye on the temperature of that frying pan). You can add a couple of eggs and vegetable oil for a fluffier pancake; but we found that they were just as delicious either way, so save the ingredients and the calories.

    Read the full review and check out all of the flavors of these easy-to-make mixes.


    Daddy Cakes Whole Wheat mix, in a limited edition, reusable gift tin.

  • See more of our favorite breakfast foods in THE NIBBLE’S Cereals, Pancakes and Waffles section.
  • Learn more about pancakes and waffles in our Pancake & Waffle Glossary
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Best Onion Tip

    June 22 is Onion Rings Day (yes, there’s an official holiday for every food). If you’re ready to start cutting onions today or any day, try this tip: Put onions in the freezer for 15 minutes before you chop them. This helps reduce the spray of culprit onion oils that vaporize and sting your eyes when you cut into the onion.

  • Click here to read more about veggies.
  • Learn about the different types of onions.
  • Check out our recipe for Beer-Battered Onion Rings.
  • Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Hannah Banana Bread

    Some listen to Tim McGraw sing “Comfort Me.” Others dig in to a batch of Hannah Banana Bread. We fall into the latter group of comfort seekers. Lacking the time to bake our own banana bread, we have happily discovered Hannah Banana’s. While this banana bread loaf has a five- to seven-day shelf life, we have discovered that we can keep it in the freezer, making quick snacks of frozen slices à la mode (think ice cream cake) or giving them a slight nuke into extra-moist, warm comfort, enjoyed with a cup of tea or a glass of milk (or, why not, more ice cream).

    Banana bread is an all-American comfort food that has fallen too far off the radar. Unlike with chocolate chip cookies or cheesecake, home bakers need to plan ahead; the bananas need to be very ripe. If you try to buy it, banana bread doesn’t even make the Top 10 list of commercial baked goods. We rarely come across it in artisan bakeries, either. But depending on what poll you read, bananas are the most popular fruit in America. We eat 28 pounds of them a year. What gives?

    This void of banana bread means opportunity for a specialist in the genre like Hannah Banana Bread. This small, family-owned company makes banana bread in six flavors: Classic, Blueberry, Chocolate Chip, White Chocolate Caramel Walnut, Butterscotch Caramel and Walnut. For Father’s Day or any other gift occasion, the company will put three loaves in a gift box. Just don’t forget to put yourself on the gift list.

    Read the full review and find out what we thought of all six varieties of Hannah Banana Bread. Also, learn banana facts that will impress your friends!

    Very moist and naturally sweet from ripe bananas, banana bread can be eaten anytime of the day or night. Photo by Lulu Durand | IST.

    Read more reviews of our favorite cakes in THE NIBBLE’s Cake Section.

    Other “Top Pick Of The Week” Cakes.

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Annie Chun’s Rice Express ~ Black Pearl & Multigrain Rice Bowls



    We love black pearl rice, so we were happy to try Annie Chun’s new microwavable rice bowls, Black Pearl (mixed with sprouted brown rice) and Multi Grain, a mix that includes sprouted brown rice, Indian and regular millet (a grain-like seed, high in magnesium, protein and B vitamins) and the Black Pearl rice. Both products produce steamed rice in one minute—a good gluten free, whole grain snack or part of a larger meal. Steamed or sautéed veggies, tofu, poultry or seafood make quick toppers. The rice can be served in the microwavable bowl.

    Both varieties are unseasoned and require some kind of salt or other seasoning to bring up the flavor.

    Black pearl rice, with chocolaty notes, was once reserved solely for the emperors of ancient China—it is also known as “forbidden rice.” It’s rich in amino acids and high in vitamins and minerals such as iron, potassium and magnesium.

  • We added Pacific Island American Soy Sauce to the Black Pearl. Pacific Island Soy Sauce, which we discovered in our review of the best soy sauces, is a very interesting blend of soy sauce and vinegar, plus lemon, green onion and jalapeño. You get the tangy vinegar notes, as well as the soy, and it has 50% lower sodium than lite soy sauce.
  •  

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    Annie Chun’s Black Pearl Rice. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

  • The second time around with the Black Pearl rice bowl, we created mock rice pudding, adding milk and artificial sweetener, then reheating for 20 seconds. (Feel free to add half and half or cream and the sweetener of your choosing—white or brown sugar, maple syrup or honey.)
  • To the Multi Grain Rice we first added a tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese and some fresh-cracked pepper. We keep grated Parmesan in the freezer. The trick is to have it grated very finely at the store, not in flakes, and keep it in an airtight container. Then, whenever you need a spoonful to season anything from soup to eggs, take it from the container—it “defrosts” instantly.
  • For our second Multi Grain sampling, we seasoned the rice with a bit of the Pacific Island Soy Sauce and topped it with a poached egg and some minced fresh parsley (any herb will do). Some salt would have been fine instead of the soy sauce, but the vinegar in Pacific Island was a nice counterpoint to the poached egg.

  • A 6.3-ounce bowl is $3.19, a 12-pack is $31.08 at AnnieChun.com. The products are also available at retailers nationwide. We enjoyed all of these as snacks. With the whole grain goodness and comfort food warmth (especially during this three-week stretch of rainy days), we felt triumphant over our jones for ice cream.

  • See more types of rice in our Rice Glossary.
  • Comments

    NEW PRODUCT: Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread



    It’s no surprise that all natural foods taste better—at least, to us. (We’ve ceased to be surprised when we try to proselytize. For example, we’ll bringing soda-chugging friends what we think is a far superior product, such as Boylan’s or GuS all natural cola, both of which have exciting genuine cola flavor and far less sugar. Invariably, they tell us they prefer the big-name brands that are neither natural nor, to us, flavorful). But we never tire of side-by-side tests. Recently, we sat down with jars of supermarket favorite Jif peanut butter and two new variations, Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread and Jif To Go Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread.

    The new Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread is 90% peanuts; with sugar, palm oil, salt and molasses as the only other added ingredients, it is delish. It also has half the sodium of regular stabilized peanut butter. MSRP $2.70/18 ounce jar and $4.15/28 ounce jar.

    Reduced Fat Jif is 60% peanuts and has eight grams less fat per serving than the regular Jif To Go. It also has corn syrup solids, soy protein, sugar, salt, molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, magnesium oxide, ferric phosphate, niacinamide, copper sulfate, pyridoxine hydrochloride and folic acid. No surprise, we happily kept the Jiff Natural, and gave the Reduced Fat product to reduced-fat-buying friends. Available in 6-pack To Go cups, MSRP $2.99-$3.19, and 18-ounce jars.

     

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    Natural Jif and Jif To Go Reduced Fat PB spread. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

  • See more of our favorite peanut butter brands.
  • Your friends and family will flip for these fab, award-winning peanut butter sandwich recipes from Jif’s sandwich contest.
  • Comments

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