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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, 2009

PRODUCT: White (Chocolate) Christmas

If your dreams of a white Christmas include chocolate, head to the nearest store that sells Hershey’s.

Hershey’s Bliss white chocolate squares with a “creamy meltaway center” hit the spot. Not sugary-sweet like some white chocolate, they’re portion-controlled so you can enjoy just a bite or two.

You can also use the little square of Bliss to crown other desserts, or serve a piece along with cups of coffee.

Or, use them in our Cupcake Surprise recipe.

  • Check out our favorite chocolates—and everything you’ve always wanted to know about chocolate—in the Gourmet Chocolate Section of THE NIBBLE.
  •  

    bag2-230

    Bliss for a white Christmas. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

    MORE TEXT HERE

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Everyday Yummies As Holiday Gifts

    savory-jars-230s

    Spread joy with Paumanok Preserves
    savory chutney, conserve, jelly and jam.
    Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

    While many people search high and low for that Very Special Gift, there’s often nothing better to give food-lovers than the most delicious versions of everyday products they really enjoy. 

    The best gourmet peanut butters, jams, chocolate bars, maple syrups, teas or mustards, for example, are treats that recipients can appreciate every day of the year—and they’ll think of you with every delicious bite or sip.

    Put together a selection of the finest in a gift box. In addition to the food themselves, your gift will be the joy of discovery.

  • Check out Paumanok Preserves (at left), a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.
  • Visit the main index of NIBBLE food reviews to find great products in every category.
  • Comments

    GIFT: Holiday Mozzarella

    Still looking for a holiday gift for a cheese-loving foodie?

    Treat him or her to delicious and festive red and green mozzarella rolls from the Mozzarella Company, one of America’s finest artisan cheese makers. This is no ordinary mozzarella: It will please the most discriminating turophile (that’s Greek for cheese lover).

    The red and green spiral fillings include basil pesto, green olives, prosciutto and sundried tomatoes. They’re great for slicing for hors d’oeuvres and salads (how about a holiday Caprese salad with fresh basil and roasted red peppers) or making fancy holiday grilled cheese sandwiches. We love them as indulgent snacks: just us, the mozzarella rolls and a knife and fork. And maybe a crisp white wine.

     

    holiday-mozzarella-basket-230

    Deck the halls with mozzarella. Photo courtesy Mozzarella Company.

  • Purchase the holiday mozzarella basket and other wonderful cheese gifts at Mozzarella Company. The mozzarella basket is $85, shipping included.
  • Read our review of Mozzarella Company cheeses, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.
  • Comments

    PRODUCT: Wine As “Table Decor” (With A Mantra!)

    hobnob-wine-230

    Does the label and fancy cap color influence
    your choice of wine? Post a comment.
    Photo courtesy HobNob Wines.

     

    When you’re an editor, you get hundreds of pitches (emails or letters) everyday, from product manufacturers or PR firms that represent them. The good pitches try to put a new spin on the product.

    Most products are not revolutionary or even different—another granola, another line of pasta sauce “made from Grandma’s recipe,” and so forth.

    Thus, we had to chuckle when we received this pitch for HobNob Wines (a brand we’re not familiar with). Nothing was mentioned about the quality of the wine. Instead: “Each budget-friendly bottle doubles as décor while complementing your holiday feast.” They didn’t mean, “stick a candle in the empty bottle.” They were referring to their snazzy bottle labels and coordinated cap colors.

    The wine bottle as table décor? So we should buy wines because of the snazzy labels? Because our guests don’t know what they’re drinking, as long as it’s alcohol?

    And there’s more: This wine has a mantra: “at the center of it all.” Mantra? At the center of—say what?

    We’ve heard some people mis-use the word “mantra” instead of slogan, diminishing a profound word that means “capable of creating a spiritual transformation.” Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and wordsmiths of the world: protest!

    While we can LOL at the “mantra,” we’re bemused by the concept of wine as table décor. It sure would save on the flowers! Maybe we run in rarefied circles, but our guests would be much more impressed with some bottles of 1945 Mouton Rothschild, 1895 Yquem and 1931 Quinta do Noval Nacional. Now that’s table décor!

    (In fact, if that’s how you’re decorating your table, please invite us to dinner!)

    If you’re not sure about which wine to buy, don’t pick the spiffy label. Consult your wine store clerk, who will be able to point you to substance (the best-tasting wine) over style (the best-looking packaging), for the same price. Anyone who asks for a wine with a mantra may get what he or she deserves.

  • Check out our favorite wine and dessert pairings.
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Crushed Peppermint Magic

    It’s easy to add a touch of everything sweet in your holiday kitchen.

    Crush a package of red spiral peppermints between sheets of waxed paper with a rolling pin. (You can also crush candy canes.) Keep them in an airtight jar.

    Then, use them to apply a bit of holiday flavor to ice cream, the rims of hot chocolate mugs, cake and cupcake icing, vanilla yogurt…whatever strikes your fancy.

    It’s as if the Good Peppermint Fairy touched her wand to make things a bit more special!

  • See many more garnish ideas.
  •  

    peppermints_230

    Crack me, crush me and use me for decor.
    Photo by Jeffrey Collingwood | SXC.

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie & Peppermint Ice Cream Pie

    frozen ice cream pie

    There’s no “homemade” pie easier
    than an ice cream pie!

     

    Here are two easy holiday desserts that are sure to delight. The pumpkin ice cream/frozen yogurt pie is just as rich and creamy as the traditional variety with the added indulgence of a toffee, walnut topping and optional chocolate drizzle. The peppermint ice cream pie can be made with plain peppermint, mint chip, chocolate mint chip or candy cane ice cream.

    The original pumpkin frozen yogurt pie was created by Louise McLane and is courtesy of Sweet Scoops Frozen Yogurt, our favorite frozen yogurt (read the review—it’s probiotic, too). Both recipes make a 9-inch pie.

    Use the gingersnap crust with pumpkin and the chocolate crust with peppermint.

    Gingersnap or Chocolate Crumb Crust Ingredients
    - 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    - For pumpkin pie: 1½ cups gingersnap crumbs (24 small gingersnaps, crushed and pulsed in a food processor until finely ground); for peppermint pie, substitute Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
    - 2 tablespoons sugar
    - 1/8 teaspoon salt

    Preparation
    1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. Lightly butter pie pan. Stir together all ingredients in a bowl and press evenly on bottom and up side of pie pan.
    3. Bake until crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on a rack to room temperature.

    Filling Ingredients
    – 2 pints pumpkin frozen yogurt (you can order Sweet Scoops online) or your favorite pumpkin ice cream, softened until spreadable
    OR
    – 2 pints peppermint ice cream

    Preparation
    1. Spoon softened frozen yogurt/ice cream evenly into pie shell. Place in freezer while preparing topping.

    Topping Ingredients For Pumpkin Pie
    – 1 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
    – 1 cup English toffee bits (such as Skor)

    Preparation:
    – Mix together walnuts and toffee bits. Sprinkle liberally and evenly on top of pie.
    – Press slightly into frozen yogurt or ice cream to adhere. Return pie to freezer while preparing glaze.

    Topping Ingredients For Peppermint Pie
    – 1 cup crushed candy cane
    – 1 cup mini chocolate chips

    Preparation:
    – Mix together candy cane and chocolate chips. Sprinkle liberally and evenly on top of pie.
    – Press slightly into ice cream to adhere. Return pie to freezer while preparing glaze.

    Bitter Chocolate Glaze Ingredients (For Either Pie)
    – 2 ounces (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate
    – 2 tablespoons butter

    Preparation
    1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a small bowl over hot water on moderate heat (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water), stirring until completely smooth.
    2. With a spoon, drizzle spoonfuls of the glaze over the pie in a zigzag pattern.
    3. Return pie to freezer for a half hour before serving, or until glaze starts to look dull.

    Be prepared to accept compliments!

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Salad Recipe

    Make a beautiful red-and-green Christmas salad by adding “red” greens to your vegetable mix.

    If you can’t find the more exotic red lettuces—red leaf lettuce, red oak lettuce and red romaine—most stores carry the naturally red-veined chard, baby kale and radicchio. You can mix them with regular green leaf lettuces, if you like.

    You also may find red endive and red mustard greens. For more color, slice very thin rings of red and green bell peppers, and slice water chestnuts into thin disks as “tree ornaments.”

    Use an elegant vinaigrette. Try fine olive oil with a sherry or Champagne vinegar in a 3T:2T proportion and a pinch of dry mustard; add salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste. Instead of regular table salt, wen add more flavor with a seasoned salt, like saffron salt, fennel salt or other artisan salt blend.

  • See more salad recipes.
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    The red-leaf lettuce at top makes a festive
    Christmas salad. Photo by Scott Bauer | U.S.
    Agricultural Research Service.

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Purista Cocktail Mixers

    mojito-bottles-230

    Get some mojo with these Mojito mixes. The
    drink is named after the Gullah word for
    magic spell. Photo courtesy of Purista.

     

    ‘Tis the season to mix cocktails…but Purista’s tropical cocktail mixers are popular year-round.

    Developed by a bartender for bartenders, the mixers are made from pure (hence the name ingredients): fresh fruit juices, organic sugar and filtered water.

    The sleek bottles look great on the bar, and at $9.99, are impressive yet inexpensive gifts for your favorite party animals. Current flavors include:

  • Caipirinha, the Brazilian favorite
  • Margarita, America’s favorite cocktail
  • Mojito, the Cuban Classic
  • Blackberry Mojito, an exciting fusion (blackberries are not a Cuban fruit)
  • Read the full review.

    Find more of our favorite cocktail mixers in THE NIBBLE’s Cocktails & Spirits Section.

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Edible Gold & Silver

    All that glitters on your plate may be edible gold and silver.

    Edible gold and silver are gold and silver leaf, metal that it is beaten so incredibly thin that it can be eaten (the metals are not digested or absorbed but pass right through the body). The gold is 22 or 23 karat; some products are even certified kosher and halal!

  • Silver leaf embellishment of food is a very old tradition in India, for both sweet and savory dishes.
  • In India, and in 15th-century Europe, edible gold was used medicinally.
  • Italian royalty of the 16th century decorated savory dishes with edible gold; sweets covered in edible gold were served during afternoon meals as “heart-healthy” food.
  • In England, the cooks of wealthy Elizabethans added gold dust to fruits piled high in big bowls on banquet tables.
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    gilded-planet-gold-230

    Chocolate mousse never looked so good.
    Photo courtesy of GildedPlanet.com.

  • More recently, the Japanese have been adding edible gold to foods and to saké; American mixologists have been known to shake a few gold flakes into Champagne flutes. And chocolatiers and pastry chefs worldwide have been adding golden glamour to fine chocolates and desserts.
  • There is no limit to the quantity of edible gold or silver that can be ingested (it’s more what you can afford); but the idea is to provide visual beauty, since gold leaf and silver leaf have no flavor or aroma. Note that these are European standards; edible gold and silver have never been approved by the FDA because no one has ever sought to have them approved. That’s because there’s very little use of edible gold and silver in the U.S., outside the highest levels of chocolate- and pastry-making.

    You can purchase the products in shakers for as little as $29.95 at GildedPlanet.com and turn your Christmas or New Year’s Eve dinner into something memorable. Not to mention, gold-dusted cornflakes or bagels to start the new year. The website also has gold-and-recipe kits that make nice gifts for people who cook with panache.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cupcake Surprise

    mini-morsels-230

    Our Cupcake Surprise is decorated with
    Guittard’s colored white chocolate morsels.
    Photo by Corey Lugg | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Today is National Cupcake Day, so enjoy a cupcake—in fact, make some with a chocolate “surprise.”

    1. Make your favorite cupcake recipe (we love Sprinkles cupcake mixes).

    2. Fill the cupcake liner halfway with batter.

    3. Insert a piece of chocolate from your favorite gourmet chocolate bar (the size should be equivalent to a miniature-sized chocolate bar, about 1″ x 3/4″).

    4. Fill the liner 2/3 to 3/4 of the way with remaining batter and bake as instructed. The chocolate bar will melt during the baking process. Cool.

    5. Frost the cupcakes. You can add another piece of chocolate to decorate the top.

    We love making a chocolate cupcake recipe using a spicy “Aztec” chocolate bar.

  • Here’s an entire cookbook of yummy cupcake recipes.
  • Comments

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