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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, 2010

TIP OF THE DAY: Storing Tea

Zhena’s Gypsy Tea is perfectly packaged in a
metal container with an airtight lid. Photo by
Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

 

June is National Tea Month—drink those antioxidants up!

Tea is a fragile product: oxygen, humidity (moisture), heat, light and other aromas are its enemies. They cause the tea to go stale (lose its flavor) and equally bad, to take on other, unwanted flavors.

Under ideal conditions, black and oolong tea can remain fresh between 2-3 years and green and white tea can remain fresh for up to 2 years.

However, when you purchase tea, you have no idea how long ago it was picked and processed. The tea could have been sitting in a warehouse for a year or two before it was made into bags or sold as loose tea to a distributor. And that means even more time until it gets to the retail shelf. Thus:

  • Don’t buy more tea than you’ll use in 6 months (green tea) to a year (black tea). After the container is opened, oxygen interacts with it and the flavor begins to slowly dissipate. Jumbo boxes of 100 tea bags are no bargain unless you’ll use two bags per day.
  • Store tea in airtight containers, preferably metal, away from a heat source. Just because a container has a lid doesn’t mean it’s airtight—but it’s a start.
  • Learn how to brew the perfect cup of tea.
  • Comments

    PRODUCT: MaryAnna’s Sweet Tea

    Everyone in the South knows about sweet tea, but it’s lesser known in other regions. Sometimes non-Southerners will come across “Southern-style tea” or “extra-sweet tea”—which is the same thing.

    If you favor adding three or more sugars to your tea, this is the iced tea for you.

    The extra sweetness comes from adding a generous amount of sugar to the water before it boils (or while it’s boiling). Adding the sugar to hot water, as opposed to chilled tea, enables the liquid to hold more sugar. In chemistry terms, that’s known as supersaturation.

    After brewing, the tea is chilled. Sweet tea is such a popular beverage that West Bend sells an iced-tea maker with a “sweetener chamber” at the top, to conveniently dissolve sugar or other sweetener into the tea as it brews. (We brew iced tea daily without sugar and are in love with the Breville Tea Maker.)

     

    West Bend’s iced tea maker. Photo courtesy West Bend.

    MaryAnna’s all-natural bottled sweet tea is a nice introduction to quality sweet tea: It tastes like fresh-brewed. The Summer Sweet Tea has just the right amount of lemon juice to brighten the flavor without making it “lemony.” The Berry Sweet Tea is flavored with raspberry; the effect is one of fresh, infused berries. The teas are made with filtered water, premium tea and cane sugar.

    Both flavors hit the spot. The only caveat is the sugar/carb count: one 16-ounce bottle has 160 calories, 38g of sugar and carbohydrates. A sixteen-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola, by comparison, has 192 calories. But the sweet-of-tooth don’t read nutrition labels, and these sweet teas are brewed to please.

  • Buy MaryAnna’s Sweet Tea online.
  • Find more of our favorite teas in THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet Tea Section.
  • Comments

    GOURMET GIVEAWAY: Sara Lee Frozen Desserts & Smucker’s Dessert Toppings

    The winner takes the cake, cheesecake or
    any four Sara Lee desserts. Photo courtesy Sara Lee.

     

    This week’s prizes are all about that sweet treat you try to save room for at the end of a meal: dessert! (And who are we kidding: We always have room for dessert, but we don’t always wait until the end of a meal to enjoy it!)

    One winner will get four coupons—each good for one free Sara Lee Frozen Dessert—along with two bonus Pepperidge Farm Deli Flats discount coupons (to possibly use for the meal before dessert).

    Five other winners will have an opportunity to dress up their desserts with Smucker’s Dessert Toppings. Last year, consumers voted to determine the next Smucker’s Ice Cream Toppings flavor, and the winning flavor was Black Cherry Topping. Each winner will receive a jar of the winning topping, which is made with real black cherries, along with Smucker’s classic Special Recipe Milk Chocolate Topping.

  • THE PRIZE: One winner will receive coupons good for four free Sara Lee frozen desserts. Five additional winners will each get two Smucker’s dessert toppings to serve on ice cream sundaes, fresh fruit, cakes or pies. Total retail value of all prizes: $59.
  • To Enter This Gourmet Giveaway: Go to the box at the bottom of our Dessert Sauces & Toppings Section and enter your email address for the prize drawing. This contest closes on Monday, June 28th at noon, Eastern Time. Good luck!
  • To see all the Sara Lee frozen desserts, visit SaraLee.com.
  • To learn more about Smucker’s Dessert Toppings, visit Smuckers.com.
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ice Cream Float (a.k.a. Ice Cream Soda)

    On the first day of summer, we’re thinking ice cream—and specifically, ice cream floats.

    You may have added a scoop of vanilla ice cream into root beer or chocolate soda. But exciting new combinations await:

  • The “creamsicle,” orange soda with vanilla ice cream
  • The “chocolate cherry,” cherry soda with chocolate ice cream
  • The “peach melba,” raspberry or cream soda with peach ice cream
  • The “raspberry lime rickey,” lemon-lime soda with raspberry ice cream
  • The “tropical paradise,” ginger beer with mango ice cream
  • Designate one night a week “ice cream float night” at your house, and try a different combination each week.

    What’s your favorite float recipe? Let us know.

    Find more ice cream recipes in our Ice Cream Section.

     

    Steaz green tea soda (enhanced with food
    color) and lemon sorbet. What should we
    name it? Photo by Aron Kremer SXC.

    Why is it called a “float?” The carbon dioxide in the soda causes the scoop of ice cream to float at the top of the glass.

    In the early days of ice cream fountains (usually located in drug stores, where pharmacists mixed the syrups), plain soda water was mixed with a syrup to create the flavored soda. Things are so much easier today!

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Dole Salad Kit

    Variety is the spice of life with 11 salad
    choices. Photo courtesy Dole.com.

     

    If you’re a fan of bagged salad mixes—and even if you aren’t—there are a whopping 11 varieties of the Dole Salad Kit, an all-natural combination of salad greens, dressing and mix-ins.

    The three we had were absolutely delicious.

    Here’s the skinny: Normally we avoid bagged salads. It takes us just minutes to tear up our own lettuce, carrots, radishes and whatever. And we don’t buy bottled dressing—making vinaigrettes is a snap. Why pay a premium for what we can make quickly for a fraction of the cost?

    Because the three complete Dole Salad Kit choices we tried—Asian Island Crunch, Autumn Splendor and Southwest salads—were as good as any restaurant salad. They were a treat. And they were ready to eat within 90 seconds of opening the bag.

    Dole Salad Kits saved us from making far less healthy lunch choices, and served as a really satisfying snack when the brownies beckoned.

    The salad kits are available in Asian Island Crunch Salad Kit, Autumn Splendor Kit, Hearty Italian Salad Kit, Perfect Harvest Salad Kit, Southwest Salad Kit, Spring Fling Kit, Winter Jubilee Kit and four Caesars: Caesar Salad Kit, Garlic Caesar Salad Kit, Light Caesar Salad Kit and Ultimate Caesar Salad Kit.

    The salads are perfectly appointed: Each bag has a packet of excellent dressing and a packet of mix-ins.

  • In the case of Asian Island Crunch, it was sliced almonds, dried pineapple, Chinese noodles and snow peas with sesame ginger dressing.
  • For Perfect Harvest it was dried cranberries and sliced almonds with an apple cider Dijon vinaigrette.
  • For Southwest Salad it was tortilla strips, Cheddar cheese and sour cream with a spicy ranch dressing.
  • The base for the salads varies according to the theme, but can include a mixture of romaine, iceberg lettuce, butter lettuce, red leaf lettuce, radicchio, red and white cabbage, carrots and radishes. The mix-ins range from dried fruits and nuts to cheese to croutons and other crunchies (like the tortilla strips).

    The salad kit varieties we tried provided a very fast and very good salad lunch or dinner. You can add proteins—leftover chicken or beef, for example, or grilled tofu.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Molded Ice Coolers

    Have you come across ice coolers for wine bottles?

    Instead of using a conventional ice bucket or Rapid Ice to keep bottles chilled at the table, you can earn oohs and aahs with a cooler made of molded ice.

    Ice coolers can be used plain (just pour water in the mold and freeze). But part of the fun is creating your own custom design. Add fruits, flowers, leaves, holiday ornaments or other thematic decor.

    The ice cooler can be used to keep vodka, mineral water and other beverages cold.

  • Check out the Exaco Ice Chiller. It comes gift-boxed for your favorite party hosts.
  •  

    Create elegant ice coolers for special
    events. Photo courtesy Exaco.

    Comments

    RECIPE: Meet Your Matcha With A Green Tea Latte

    With matcha tea, it is easy being green.
    Photo courtesy l’Âge de Thé.

     

    Green tea latte (matcha latte), a favorite coffee bar drink, is easy to make at home. Enjoy it hot or cold.

    Matcha is a powder of finely ground green tea leaves. It has a vibrant green color due to the high concentration of chlorophyll and contains ten times as many antioxidants as regular green tea. Matcha is the tea used in the acclaimed Japanese tea ceremony, cha no yu.

    Matcha powder is not steeped the way tea leaves are, but is whisked into a froth. Some think the beverage resembles warm tea ice cream.

    Matcha is also used to flavor other foods, from smoothies and baked goods (cupcakes, tea cakes) to pots de creme.

  • Get the recipe for green tea latte.
  • Find out more about tea in our Gourmet Tea Section.
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cookie Cutter Sandwiches

    You don’t have to be a kid to love these special sandwiches. In fact, they’ll be a hit for Father’s Day or for parties in general.

    Using thin-sliced whole wheat bread, build your favorite sandwich. Center the ingredients away from the edges so that you don’t waste much when cutting the shape. Then use jumbo cookie cutters—flowers, hearts, gingerbread men, stars or any theme—to cut out sandwiches.

    If you’re using salad fillings (egg, tuna, etc.), cut the bread and lettuce first, then add the fillings—or else they’ll squirt out when the sandwich is cut.

    For an added touch, garnish the top of the sandwich with a pickle slice or other pickled vegetable (we love the pickled smoked okra from Rick’s Picks), or an olive.

     

    Serve a ham sandwich that looks like a hog
    with this pig cookie cutter. Photo courtesy
    Old River Road.

    Find more sandwich ideas in our Gourmet Bread Section.

    Comments

    FATHER’S DAY: Last-Minute Gift Certificate

    You can print out or email a cheese gift
    certificate at any time on Father’s Day.
    Photo courtesy ArtisanalCheese.com.

     

    Uh-oh: Still don’t have a gift for Father’s Day? Don’t have time to run out and buy one?

    Here’s a great solution from Artisanal Cheese, one of the country’s finest cheese purveyors:

    A gift certificate!

    All you have to do is print it out online and hand it to Dad (BYO envelope, gift box or a ribbon to tie a “scroll”).

    Artisanal’s Cheese Gift Certificates can be used towards the purchase of cheese, a cheese gift basket, cheese accessories (books, cutting boards and knives, for example) and Artisanal’s superb cheesecake.

  • Get your gift certificate (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to print out—or select the email option).
  • Find cheese reviews, recipes and an entire wheel of cheese education in THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet Cheese Section.
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Gin Martini

    Vodka martinis overtook the original gin martini back in the 1990s. The trend was started by Bond, James Bond, who liked vodka martinis shaken, not stirred (and he picked that tip up from the writer Somerset Maugham).

    But new artisan gins are providing a reason to return to the original. Vodka is a simple, unflavored distillation. Gin is the opposite—so many different aromatics go into creating a fine gin, that each brand is very different from the next (see the components of gin). With very complex flavors—as much as any fine wine—fine gin, like fine Scotch, is delicious straight up.

    It also makes a better Martini. For Father’s Day, we’re trying a new small-batch gin, G’Vine. The word is a contraction of gin and the French word vigne, grapevine—for this gin is made in France from grapes instead of juniper berries.

    Make artisan gin part of your weekend celebration. Even if you’re not celebrating with your father, you can toast in his honor.

    Learn more about gin and find martini recipes:

  • Bluecoat American Dry Gin, a delight that’s distilled in Philadelphia
  • Martin Miller’s Gin, a special distillation from the U.K.
  • The Organic Spirits Company makes organic gin
  •  

    A Gibson is a martini garnished with cocktail
    onions instead of olives or lemon peel.
    Photo by Philip Pellat | IST

  • Classic gin recipes: Gimlet, Gin Fizz, Gin & Tonic, plus adaptations like a Gin Mojito and a Bloody Snapper (the Bloody Mary made with gin instead of vodka)

  • Comments

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