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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 February, 2010

TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Water-Tasting Party

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It can walk the walk on the grocery shelf, but
can it “taste the taste?” Have a mineral water
tasting party to find out. Photo courtesy
Antipodes.

 

Whether you’re looking for a zero-calorie way to get through the Academy Awards or a great way to entertain adults and kids in general, water is the way.

Have a mineral water tasting, comparing domestic and imported waters to your local tap water and club soda (with sparkling waters).

It can be a formal sit-down or a walk-around event, open or “blind”—where you mask the water bottles in wine bags so tasters aren’t biased and you reveal the results at the end.

Select up to 12 waters—perhaps six still and six sparkling—and a great time will be had by all. What should tasters look for? See our article, How To Evaluate Water.

  • Find reviews of spring and mineral water and more articles about entertaining with waters, in our Bottled Water Section.
  • Check out our Water Glossary.
  • Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Smoked Shrimp & Scallops From Sullivan Harbor Farm

    How could it be that we have lived this many decades without the joys of smoked shrimp and scallops?

    Smoked fish we’ve had aplenty: black cod (sablefish), chub (carp), salmon, sturgeon, trout, whitefish. But our smoked shellfish experience has been limited to imported cans of smoked mussels and clams. We employed them in various hors d’oeuvres, dips and dishes and concluded that what we’d bought was the smoked shellfish equivalent of supermarket canned tuna.

    Sullivan Harbor Farm does away with those memories, bringing an “I must have more!” allure to smoked shrimp and scallops (and also to smoked salmon). The smoked shrimp and smoked scallops add big personality to recipes, not to mention wowing the cocktail crowd as nibbles in various forms (dips, hors d’oeuvres, canapés or straight from the toothpick). If you love shrimp, scallops and smoked foods, you’ve got to try them!

    The products are all natural: no preservatives, chemicals or colorings are used. Made in small batches using old world techniques—including outdoor smokers.

    You’ll enjoy all the different ways you can use these smoked tidbits. For lunch we enjoyed them atop Al Dente Pasta’s garlic parsley fettuccine, tossed with some rosemary basil olive oil from Sonoma Farms and a bit of brown butter. Fresh parsley was a light offset to the smoky seafood. A gourmet feast in minutes!

     

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    Smoked shrimp and scallops combine into
    easy, delicious recipes. Photo by Jerry Deutsch | THE NIBBLE.

    Read the full review to see how else we’ve used these smoky protein treats.

  • Find more of our favorite seafood products, plus recipes and informative articles, in our Gourmet Seafood Section.
  • Check out our Seafood Glossary.
  • Take our Smoked Salmon Trivia Quiz.
  • Comments

    BEER PAIRING: Carrot Cake & IPA!

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    Love hops and malt? Get to know India Pale
    Ale. Photo courtesy New Belgium Brewing.

     

    New Belgium Brewing, the third-largest craft brewer in the U.S., rolled out its new Ranger India Pale Ale this month. The brewer’s hoppiest offering to date, it’s named after the brewery’s sales team, known as the Beer Rangers, who lobbied long and hard for an IPA.

    This 6.5% ABV IPA has hops for days: Cascade (citrus), Chinook (floral/citrus), and Simcoe (fruity). IPA lovers will relish the intense, dry hop flavor.

    The ale is brewed with pale and dark caramel malts that harmonize with the hop flavor. Will you be singing after your first sip? Try some and find out!

    Hoppy and malty are the cornerstone flavors of India Pale Ale, which was first brewed in 18th-century England as a heavier style beer that could make the long trip by boat to British troops and government officials in India. Though it’s not new on the scene, IPA is currently one of the hottest styles in American craft brewing (hence, the Beer Rangers’ plea).

    Read more about the different styles of beer in our Beer Glossary.

    To celebrate the launch, New Belgium Brewing held a beer pairing lunch with a menu by caterer Sarah Tomsic. The hoppy IPA was paired with:

  • Haystack Mountain chèvre, a fresh goat cheese log rolled in Cascade hop dust*, chili caribe**, salt and black pepper
  • Wasabi-citrus salmon: wild caught Sockeye salmon marinated in wasabi, fresh orange juice, and soy; dredged in panko and black sesame seeds, baked and drizzled with a citrus reduction
  • Arugula salad with blood orange segments, spiced pepitas and honey-cinnamon vinaigrette
  • Individual ginger carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting
  • So, grab some Ranger India Pale Ale and schedule a dinner party. Variations on all of the recipes above can be easily found in your favorite cookbooks or online.

    * Pulverize hops into hop dust. If you can’t get your hands on hops, substitute fennel pollen.
    **Chile caribe, is a concentrated chili powder.

    Comments

    GOURMET GIVEAWAY: Kitchen Table Bakers Parmesan Crisps

    Forget buying cheese to go with your crackers. If you win this week’s Gourmet Giveaway, you’ll enjoy plenty of cheese in your crackers.

    The Gourmet Wafer Crisps from Kitchen Table Bakers are made entirely of Parmesan cheese. There are eight varieties: Whether you love garlic, jalapeños, rosemary or Italian herbs, there’s a crisp calling your name.

    The delicate, lacy baked cheese thins contain no wheat, gluten, trans fats or sugar, are rich in calcium and protein and are a sophisticated snack or ingredient for even the most discerning palates.

    The cheese crisps are is known in Italy as a fricco (FREE-co): a wafer made entirely of cheese and seasonings.

    Want to know more? After entering the Giveaway, check out our review of Kitchen Table Bakers Parmesan Crisps.

     

    Butternut squash soup with an assortment of Gourmet Wafer Crisps. Photo by Melody Lan | THE NIBBLE.

  • THE PRIZE: Five winners will receive Parmesan Crisps in each of the following flavors: Aged Parmesan, Everything, Flaxseed, Garlic, Rosemary and Sesame. It’s enough for a party (if you’re willing to share!). Approximate Retail Value is $36.00.
  • To Enter This Gourmet Giveaway: Go to the box at the bottom of our Artisan Breads Section and enter your email address for the prize drawing.
  • This contest closes on Monday, March 1st at noon, Eastern Time. Good luck!
  • Learn more about Kitchen Table Bakers at KitchenTableBakers.com.
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Eat The Bloomy Rind

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    Eat the rind! Photo of Brie courtesy Whole Foods Markets.

     

    White rinds on cheese—called bloomy rinds—are meant to be eaten. If you’ve been cutting them away, try them. Connoisseurs consider the rind part of the unique character of the cheese.

    The bloomy rind category of cheese refers to those cheeses with snowy white, downy rinds and soft, creamy interiors. Along with fresh cheeses, it comprises the soft cheese category.

    On a bloomy rind cheese, the rind is composed of one of the greatest cheese molds, Penicillium candidum, which grows naturally as the cheese ages (the antibiotic penicillin is derived from the same family of mold—it was discovered by accident by Sir Alexander Fleming, who found that a penicillium mold growing in a petri dish had killed the Staphylococcus in the dish).

    The bloomy rind is produced by spraying the surface of the cheese with Penicillium candidum before the brief aging period (about two weeks). The mold grows on the outside of the cheese, breaking down the protein and fat inside, making it soft, runny and more complex.

  • Two of the most famous bloomy rind cheeses are Brie and Camembert. Learn the difference between Brie and Camembert.
  • The rinds of all cheeses are edible, but some are best left to other purposes. These include hard rinds of aged cheeses (which can be used to flavor soups and stews) and bandaged-wrapped cheeses: You don’t want to eat the cloth!

    Comments

    NEWS: Sara Lee “Organics” Controversy

    Boo, Sara Lee!

    According to corporate and governmental watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute, a nonprofit farm policy research group, Sara Lee is trying to pull one over on consumers.

    The popular supermarket brand has launched a marketing campaign for its EarthGrains bread, using misleading environmental-friendly catchphrases with the hope of attracting people who want to buy organics because they’re better for the environment and healthier to eat.

    Sara Lee claims that “Eco-Grain™”—its trademarked ingredient that comprises just 20% of the grain in EarthGrains breads—is more sustainable than organic grain. This is not true, and the Cornucopia Institute has created a comparison chart to detail the differences.

     

    saralee-earthgrains-230

    Sara Lee’s EarthGrains line. Not particularly
    earth-friendly. Photo courtesy Sara Lee.

    According to Charlotte Vallaeys, a Food and Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute, “Sara Lee is doing practically nothing to ensure its ingredients are truly ecologically produced. It’s a crass example of a corporation trying to capitalize on the valuable market cachet of organic, while intentionally misleading consumers—without making any meaningful commitment to protect the environment or produce safer and more nutritious food.”

  • The farmers who grow Eco-Grain differ very little from most conventional grain producers who use petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides.
  • Organic farmers, on the other hand, use natural fertilizers, compost and crop rotations to enrich the long-term health of the soil, without damaging the environment or potentially contaminating the food produced.
  • Sara Lee’s eco-claim for Eco-Grain production is that their farmers incorporate technology that has reduced chemical fertilizer usage by 15%. That means they’re using 85% chemical fertilizers.
  • In contrast, as mandated by federal law, organic farmers are required by law to reduce their synthetic fertilizer use by 100%—i.e., 0% chemical fertilizers.
  • Plus, as Cornucopia’s Vallaeys points out that, “Even if their new fancy wheat were truly superior, each EarthGrains 24 ounce loaf contains only 20% flour from Eco-Grain, with the remainder of the bread’s wheat coming from regular, conventional wheat. The total reduction in chemical fertilizer use in a loaf of EarthGrains bread therefore amounts to a meager 3%.” According to a Sara Lee press release, “the brand will look to increase the percentage of Eco-Grain in its products.”
  • To educate consumers about EarthGrains bread made with Eco-Grain wheat, Sara Lee launched a consumer marketing program called “The Plot to Save the Earth, One Field at a Time.“ The campaign includes print, TV, radio and digital advertising, public relations, social media and point-of-sale materials that take a whimsical approach to catch consumers’ eyes with tag lines like, “How your turkey sandwich can help preserve the earth.”

    “If advertising executives could be charged with malpractice, this would be a major felony,” said Mark A. Kastel, Co-Director at The Cornucopia Institute.

    Now that you’re aware, make your own decisions. If you want to help the environment and eat pesticide-free food, look for the USDA certified organic seal.

    Sara Lee also owns the brands Ambi Pur, Ball Park, Douwe Egberts, Hillshire Farm, Jimmy Dean, Kiwi, Sanex and Senseo.

    Comments

    COOKING: Cassis In Your Kitchen?

    cassis-le-creuset-230

    The new cassis for cooking. Photo courtesy
    SurLaTable.com.

     

    The cassis in our kitchen is crème de cassis, a heavenly blackcurrant (a.k.a. cassis) liqueur made in Burgundy. We employ it in various desserts, and adore it mixed with sparkling wine (a Kir Royale cocktail) or sometimes, in a still white wine (a Kir).

    Cassis is a great fixer-upper for white wines that you don’t much like. The sweet, silky blackcurrant liqueur covers up how flat, flavorless, acidic or otherwise unattractive the wine is.

    The cocktail was named after Félix Kir, a longtime mayor of the city Dijon in Burgundy (from 1945 to 1968)—as well as a former parish priest, resistance fighter and subsequent knight of the Légion d’honneur. As mayor, he popularized the drink by offering it at receptions. The cocktail was previously called a blanc-cassis and mixed with Aligoté, a white Burgundy. (We’re not, we emphasize, implying that the mayor served bad wine.)

    According to Sur La Table’s thinking, cassis is the new hot color for Le Creuset enamel-coated cast iron cookware. The retailer has the exclusive on the color, available now in SLT stores nationwide and online. It’s paired with Le Creuset stoneware in lilac. If purple is your thing, put it on your wish list. Or as one NIBBLE wag was heard to say, “Wait for the clearance and buy it at 30% off.”

    But don’t wait to pick up a bottle of cassis. For cocktails, ice cream, sorbet, flavored ganache, trifles, cake filling and frosting, and a fruit salad dressing, it rocks. On the savory side, you’ll forget all about duck with cherry sauce once you substitute the cherries for cassis.

    Comments

    CHERRY TIP OF THE DAY: Toast To George

    It’s the birthday of the Father of Our Country (George Washington, to those of you who didn’t attend grade school in the U.S.).

    Washington was quite a fan of egg nog and devised his own recipe that included rye whiskey, rum and sherry.

  • If you’ve been missing nog since the holidays ended, try this egg nog recipe (plus the history of egg nog) and toast to George. If egg nog isn’t your thing, there are two other choices.
  • First, there’s kirsch (kirschwasser/kirsch water), which is a cherry eau de vie. In keeping with the Washington’s Birthday cherry theme, try it or any cherry schnapps straight or in a cocktail.
  • The other appropriate libation: a Margarita. Why? February 22 is also National Margarita Day! See the history of the Margarita plus Margarita recipes.
  • For the kids: alcohol-free egg nog or delicious tart cherry juice!
  •  

    eggnog-chefs-catalog-230

    Toast to Washington with egg nog: He loved
    it! Photo courtesy Chefs.com.

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Baileys Coffee Creamers

    baileys

    Try it—you’ll like it! Photo courtesy HP Hood.

     

    Here’s a terrific coffee enhancer that delivers far less calories than those mocha-chocolattes. They’re so rich and creamy, no added whipped cream is needed.

    Baileys Coffee Creamers—“all the flavor of Baileys without the alcohol”—are now available on the East Coast (for the time being, anyway—everyone else will have to be patient).

    The #1 liqueur in the world recently introduced the line of super-premium coffee creamer products following three years of development and consumer testing. We say: Great job!

    The four flavors—which include both sugar and real cream for your coffee—include Caramel, French Vanilla, Hazelnut and The Original Irish Cream. They’re all good—addictively good. Our favorite is Original, which tastes “just like Baileys without the alcohol.” A shot of Caramel in your coffee could substitute for a rich dessert.

    In fact, at 35-40 calories per tablespoon, added to a cup of zero-calorie coffee, these are a great dessert substitute as well as a sure-to-be party favorite.

    And they’re very affordable. Suggested retail price is $2.49 per 16-ounce container. French Vanilla and Hazelnut are available in quarts for $3.99. Look for them in the dairy section of your supermarket. The products are lactose-free (but do have 5g cholesterol per tablespoon) and have no caffeine. They are certified kosher OU-D.

    The products are produced by HP Hood under license from R & A Bailey & Co. The website is BaileysCreamers.com—but there’s not much on it at this point. Hopefully, some of the recipes we picked up at the Coffee and Tea Festival in New York City will end up there soon.

    Comments

    CHERRY TIP OF THE DAY: Cherries Jubilee

    Cherries Jubilee was a very fashionable dessert for many decades. The great chef Auguste Escoffier is credited with creating it for Queen Victoria—for either her Golden Jubilee of 1887 (the 50th year of a monarch’s reign) or her Diamond Jubilee in 1897—the record is not sure which.

    It immediately joined the menu at restaurants of haute cuisine, where it was prepared tableside with great fanfare.

    Pitted black cherries were flambéed with kirsch (which is cherry eau de vie, or unaged brandy) or regular brandy, then spooned into a stemmed silver dish of vanilla ice cream.

    You don’t need to have a stemmed silver dish—that kind of pomp disappeared in the 1960s. And it’s no biggie to get the cherries (frozen), ice cream and spirits to make the dish—tonight or tomorrow to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. A recipe for one head of state is certainly appropriate for another!

  • Here’s an easy recipe for Cherries Jubilee.
  •  

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    Cherries Jubilee. Photo courtesy RobertsDairy.com.

    Comments

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