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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 July, 2010

GOURMET GIVEAWAY #1: Inspired Cuisine Crème Brûlée Mixes

Enjoy this delicious dessert at home. Photo courtesy Inspired Cuisine.

 

National Crème Brûlée Day is July 27th, but if you keep your pantry stocked with Inspired Cuisine Crème Brûlée Mix, you can enjoy the rich, creamy French custard any day. With these mixes, the custard is easy to make at home in a fraction of the time versus crème brûlée from scratch. No kitchen torch is required because the crispy top can be made under the broiler.

What’s the difference between crème brûlée and other custards? See our Custard Glossary.

  • THE PRIZE:Ten winners will each take home two boxes of crème brûlée mixes to make at home. Make the delicious dessert by itself, or pair it with a nice liqueur like we did in our Grand Marnier Crème Brûlée Recipe. Approximate retail value for each two-box prize: $11.00.
  • To Enter This Gourmet Giveaway:Go to the box at the bottom of our Gourmet Desserts Section and click to enter your email address for the prize drawing. This contest closes on Monday, August 2nd at noon, Eastern Time. Good luck!
  • To find out more about Inspired Cuisine, visit InspiredCuisine.com.
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Low Carb Burger Salad

    We made reservations (a week in advance for an 8 p.m. slot!) at Five Napkin Burger in New York City’s theatre district. We arrived, wended our way through the packed room to our table, perused the list of burgers and placed our order.

    Before our (delicious) ahi tuna burger and bacon cheddar burger arrived, the duo at the next table received their order: large salad bowls filled with bell peppers, celery, chopped greens, cucumbers, green beans, radishes, red onion slices, tomatoes and Roquefort cheese—topped with burgers. We asked to see the menu again. There it was, in the salad column: Burger Salad.

     

    The burger salad from L.A.’s O! Burger. Photo
    courtesy OBurger.net.

    When our burgers arrived, on thick, white-flour buns, we were filled with carbohydrate remorse.

    While we ate every bite of our buns, we can’t wait to go back to have a burger salad. It’s available with any of the burger choices (which also include an Italian turkey burger, lamb kofta burger and veggie burger).

    On the opposite coast, O! Burger, an organic burger restaurant in West Hollywood, has two burger salad options. The large mixed salad bowl on the menu—baby greens, chick peas, cucumbers, napa cabbage and tomatoes—can be topped with one or two beef, turkey or veggie patties. There’s also a “Super Bowl”: two patties with grilled vegetables.

    While diners and other casual restaurants have long offered a “diet plate” of a bun-less meat patty with a side salad, in the hands of chic burger emporia it seems a treat, not a deprivation. The higher quality of meat and salad fixing has a bearing on this, of course.

    The best-of-both-worlds burger salad gives you the burger you pine for, while replacing the largely high-carb and nutrition-free bun with a choice fiber- and vitamin-filled salad, tossed with a fine vinaigrette.

    For those who don’t want that many veggies, Five Napkin Burger restaurant also serves an Inside Out Burger: a ground chuck patty and pickles wrapped in lettuce leaves with tomatoes and special sauce—no bun.

    Burger salad, inside out burger and super bowl deliver low carb nutrition and high palate enjoyment. We’ve started making them at home (with the amazing Built Burgers). The effort is minimal, and it beats trying to get a reservation.

    .

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Mango Vodka

    It tastes like mango juice mixed with vodka.
    Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

     

    There are a number of mango-flavored vodkas on the market: Absolut, Finlandia and Van Gogh, among others.

    We recently sat down with a bottle of Three Olives Mango Flavored Vodka, made with natural mango flavor. Drinking it in shots was pure pleasure, like a mango cocktail in a bottle—but far more enjoyable for us than any sweet, gussied-up cocktail.

    For those who do enjoy sweet cocktails, there is a vast selection of mango cocktail recipes—mixed with mango nectar or other fruit juice such as apple, orange and pineapple; with coconut milk; with other spirits including curaçao, rum, tequila, apple and watermelon schnapps; and laden with fresh fruit—bananas, mango and strawberries, for starters.

    While some cocktail recipes are simpler—mango vodka and Sprite, garnished with mango cubes, for example—who needs the Sprite when the vodka tastes this good?

    For our second shot, we floated a piece of sweet-and-hot Cowboy Candy—a circle of candied jalapeño—atop the vodka. Next time, we’ll have fresh jalapeños on hand.

    We must set forth: We don’t drink to get a buzz. When we want a fruit drink, we’ll have a smoothie, a glass of juice or a Diet Snapple (when we’re counting calories). When we want alcohol, we want to experience the taste of the alcohol.

    And who needs the sugar calories of juice, mixers and sweeteners, be they sugar or agave? At 69 calories per fluid ounce, two shots of Three Olives Mango Vodka fit into any calorie plan.

    Flavored vodkas are a very individual experience. As much as we didn’t care for the Three Olives Grape Vodka we tried last week (again, neat; it would be better in a recipe), the Mango Vodka was a home run.

  • Find more of our favorite spirits in our Cocktails & Spirits Section.

  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Best Rice Pudding Recipe, With A Gourmet Twist

    Here are five ways to raise your rice pudding recipe to fine-restaurant status. Try all of them to decide what you think makes the best rice pudding recipe.

    1. Soak the raisins in Armagnac, Grand Marnier or other favorite liqueur.

    2. Think beyond raisins: Create a medley of small dried fruits that includes raisins as well as dried blueberries, cherries, cranberries, currants and sultanas (golden raisins).

    3. Try a different rice such as elegant, long-grained basmati and jasmine or short, oval arborio (used for risotto).

    4. Use coconut milk with black rice or red rice for a Thai rice pudding.

    5. Serve the pudding a martini glass or other glam dessert dish.

    Cold and creamy, rice pudding is fine hot-weather fare and great year-round comfort food.

  • Check out our Rice Glossary and the history of rice.
  • Find more of our favorite desserts.
  •  

    If you haven’t made rice pudding lately,
    try these gourmet twists. If you need a
    garnish, try a cinnamon stick or some
    whipped cream.

     

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: “Creamsicle” White Chocolate With Blood Orange Ganache

    In the days before air conditioning, it wasn’t easy to sell fine chocolates in the summer. Cocoa butter, one of the major components of chocolate (the one that provides the creamy, luscious mouthfeel), melts at 93.4°F to 98°F.

    Hot weather can make a mess of a chocolatier’s hard work.

    To beat the heat, many chocolatiers made special “summer chocolates” out of what consumers called “white chocolate,” but was actually a product called confectionary coating, a product that substitutes vegetable oil for the cocoa butter.

    Confectionary coating is melt-resistant, but without the cocoa butter it doesn’t taste like chocolate—in fact, if you have a good palate, it may not taste good to you at all. Some chocolatiers still use it. It’s easier to work with and it’s much less expensive than real chocolate.

     

    A beguiling summer bonbon, the Blood
    Orange Creamsicle. Photo courtesy BespokeChocolates.com.

    If you like milk chocolate but don’t like white chocolate, chances are you may have been eating confectionary coating instead of the real deal. Tip #1: Confectionary coating is stark white in color (like a piece of white paper); real white chocolate has a creamy color with a hint of beige. Tip #2: The ingredients list includes the words “chocolate-flavored” and/or “vegetable oil.”

    In today’s air-conditioned world, which includes overnight shipping in ice packs, you can enjoy your chocolate even when it’s too darn hot outside.

    One of our favorite pieces is this Blood Orange “Creamsicle” Bonbon from Bespoke Chocolates: a creamy, top-quality white chocolate shell with a tart-sweet blood orange ganache.

    It’s available for a limited time only, so don’t dawdle. But the company’s spectacular Pretzel-Covered Sea-Salted Caramel, which gets our vote for one of the top 10 bonbons in America, is available year-round. Order as many as you can afford.

  • Call to order: 1.212.260.7103, Eastern Time
  • Read our review of Bespoke Chocolates, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week
  • Visit the company website
  • Find more of our favorite chocolates in our Gourmet Chocolate Section
  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Healthy Bagels

    Dill is often used to garnish a plate of smoked salmon—it’s a perfect pairing. So we tried snipping fresh dill onto our bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon.

    The verdict: the more dill, the better. The pretty, fragrant herb also has a heap of health benefits. It has compounds that fight free radicals, neutralize particular types of smoke carcinogens (such as those in cigarette, charcoal grill and trash incinerator smoke) and act as an anti-bacterial. It’s also an excellent source of calcium, which prevents bone loss.

    Onion lovers may prefer snipped chives as the garnish—or feel free to add both. Members of the Allium family of vegetables—including garlic and onions—have anticancer, anticlotting, hypolipidemic (lower blood cholesterol), antibacterial, antiviral and decongestant properties.

    Here’s another tip: Instead of high-fat cream cheese, use low-calorie, high protein Greek-style yogurt. Triple-strained, thick and creamy, we like it just as much as cream cheese on a toasted bagel.

     

    The Sprouted Healthy Hemp Bagel from
    French Meadow Bakery, with a garnish of
    fresh-snipped chives. Photography by Claire Freierman | THE NIBBLE.

    Pass the bagels! Check out the whole grain, organic bagels from French Meadow Bakery, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week. They deliver two servings of whole grains per bagel, are only 260 calories (regular bagels can be twice that and more)…and are delicious.

    Whole-grain bagels, Greek yogurt and healthy herbs: The healthier bagel!

    Comments

    BOOK: Everything Tastes Better With Bacon

    Every bacon lover needs a copy of
    Everything Tastes Better With Bacon.

     

    When we first heard about this book, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it: “70 Fabulous Recipes For Every Meal Of The Day,” promises the cover of the bacon cookbook, “Everything Tastes Better With Bacon.”

    Any bacon lover would gladly eat every recipe in the book—and some of us might try to eat the gorgeous photographs.

    Author Sara Perry focuses half the book on finer variations of the tried-and-true: bacon and lentil soup, corn and clam chowder with bacon, the BLT, green beans with pepper bacon and lemon zest, mashed potatoes with bacon, spinach and Fontina cheese (unless you’d prefer the warm potato salad with bacon and arugula). Spinach salad, a popular bed for bacon, gets updated with a curry vinaigrette.

    Ms. Perry reminds us that bacon can be part of almost any dish. Breakfast biscuits are studded with bacon, figs with goat cheese are enhanced with bacon, a risotto is made with pepper bacon and marsala, polenta is topped with a bacon, corn and tomato ragout.

    Surprises include a maple sundae with hazelnut-bacon candy crunch and bloody marys with beet-and-bacon bites instead of traditional munchies. How about an apple pie with a bacon crust? We can’t wait until the temperature drops a dozen degrees so we can light up the oven and bake one.

    The book starts with a bacon primer: bacon types, storage, cooking tips. Any bacon lover would go hog-wild for this little cookbook. Even if you’ve made many a bacon quiche or frittata, Ms. Perry reminds you that the joy of bacon can be yours in any meal.

  • Buy the book. For $12.89 on Amazon, it makes a great gift (add some artisan bacon for even more thanks).
  • Check out bacon and the other cuts of pork in our Pork Cuts Glossary.
  • Win a bacon buffet dinner prepared by Sara Perry? We can only dream. Instead, we’ll start with the first chapter of recipes and sally forth—a much more exciting prospect than working our way through Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.

  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Watermelon Martini

    Take advantage of summer fruit by switching your cocktail choices.

    Save the Bloody Marys and Cosmos for fall, and make fresh fruit drinks while the sun shines.

    One of our favorite summer drinks is the Watermelon Martini. Not only is fresh watermelon delicious in a cocktail, but we love garnishing the drinks with slices of melon.

  • Here are six variations on a Watermelon Martini, including a Virgin Watermelontini.
  • Find more of our favorite cocktail recipes and product reviews.
  •  

    The Watermelon Wave includes orange
    liqueur. Photo courtesy Gran Gala.

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Caribbean Rum Cake

    A black rum cake is dense with ground
    raisins, prunes and cherries. Photo by
    Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

     

    There are some mediocre rum cakes out there, but we’ve been having a pretty good run tasting delicious brands.

    The most recent are from Caribbean Cake Connoisseurs, owners of the enviable URL Rumcake.com. They make both traditional Caribbean black and brown rum-soaked fruit cakes as well as the pound cake flavors more familiar to Americans.

    Rum was first made in the Caribbean in the 17th century, distilled from sugar cane juice or molasses. Authentic Caribbean rum cake most likely originated as a steamed pudding, brought to the Islands by English settlers in the mid-seventeenth century and modified along the way.

    While Americans typically enjoy pound cake-style rum cakes flavored with banana, chocolate, vanilla and other flavors, in the Caribbean, the “original” style is a dense fruitcake in brown (brown sugar) and black (with burnt sugar).

    Caribbean Cake Connoisseurs provides both styles. The brown and black cakes are available in bundts as well as sheets and layers, which are popular for weddings and other festivities. Bundt pound cakes in four flavors are available in gift tins or individual mini bundts.

  • Read the full review.
  • Find more of our favorite cakes and cake recipes in our Gourmet Cakes Section.
  • Comments

    RECIPE: Blooming Tea Punch

    We couldn’t stop drinking this fruity tea punch with tequila and vodka. It’s a refreshing way to entertain guests in the hot weather.

    It’s also beautiful to look at. The tea is brewed with “blooming tea” (also called flowering tea and presentation tea). The beautiful “flowers” made of tea leaves and actual flower petals add attractive decoration to the punch.

    The ice cubes in this punch are made of ginger ale and strawberries, so as they melt, they add more flavor to the punch.

  • Learn more about blooming tea and get the punch recipe.
  • Find more of our favorite teas in our Gourmet Tea Section.
  •  

    Cool off with this tempting tea punch. Photo
    courtesy TeaBeyond.com.

    By the way, the word “punch” comes from the Sanskrit word panchan and the Persian word panj, meaning five. From ancient times, punch was made from five ingredients: tea (bitter), sugar (sweet), lemon (sour), water (weak) and arrack [spirits] (alcoholic).

    Comments

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