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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,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for March, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: Snack On Baking Chocolate Discs

Photo courtesy Antoine Amrani.


The fine chocolate discs used for baking and making chocolates can also be used for snacking.

Also called baking wafers or couverture wafers, the discs, which are made by premium chocolate producers, come in one-pound boxes (and larger sizes for professionals). Guittard, for example, offers:

  • 38% cacao (dark milk chocolate)
  • 61% cacao (semisweet chocolate)
  • 72% cacao (bittersweet chocolate)
  • When you feel the need for a bite of chocolate, one or two small wafers can satisfy.

    Or enjoy a triple treat: one disc each of milk, semisweet and bittersweet chocolate.

    And the price is right: One-pound boxes of this fine chocolate cost around $10.00, and there’s no tax on baking chocolate. When you compare the prices of fine chocolate bars, $10.00 for 16 ounces of chocolate discs is a good deal!

  • Find our favorite chocolates, recipes and many pounds of chocolate information in our Gourmet Chocolate Section.



    PRODUCT: Matcha Tea

    Matcha, the tea revered in the ancient Japanese tea ceremony (cha no yu), was brought from China to Japan by Zen Buddhist monks in the 12th century.

    Unlike other green teas, matcha is made from leaves that are shielded from direct sunlight. The tea plant is covered with reed screens three weeks before harvest, resulting in a high concentration of chlorophyll and a deep dark green leaf. This gives matcha ten times as many antioxidants as regular green tea (it also has about half the amount of caffeine found in a comparably sized cup of coffee).

    What makes matcha different is that no leaves are steeped (brewed). Instead, tea powder is frothed.

    The dried leaves are deveined and destemmed, then ground into a fine powder — almost the consistency of talc. A spoonful of tea is then whisked into hot water with a bamboo tea whisk (chasen). The result is a foamy green drink with a fresh, vegetal sweetness.


    It’s easy to make matcha at home.
    Photo courtesy Republic Of Tea.


    Making Matcha Is Easy
    1. Heat fresh water just short of boiling (filtered water or spring water is ideal).
    2. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of matcha powder to the bowl or cup.
    3. Pour in 6 ounces hot water.
    4. Using a tea whisk, whisk briskly for a minute or two until the matcha forms a nice green colored foam. If you don’t have a tea whisk, use a small kitchen whisk or a battery-operated frother. It isn’t “official,” but it works.

    There’s no need to strain; just take a moment from your day and enjoy the calming drink.

    You can purchase matcha at a tea store, an Asian market or online; in tins and in individual portion packets. You can also treat yourself to a complete matcha tea set.

    Thanks to the Republic Of Tea for inspiring this post.

    Learn all about tea in our Tea Glossary.



    TIP OF THE DAY & RECIPE: Corned Beef Hash

    Not your mother’s corned beef hash.
    Photo courtesy Delmonico’s Steakhouse & Restaurant.


    When life gives you corned beef, make corned beef hash. If you’ve got leftover corned beef from St. Patrick’s Day, you can make this delicious gourmet corned beef hash recipe for brunch this weekend.

    Hash is a mixture of foods cut into small pieces. Corned beef is typically mixed with chopped onions and diced potatoes. The addition of grated beets creates “red flannel hash.”

    Corned beef hash is most often served with fried or poached eggs—it’s nice to mingle soft yolk with the hash—and toast. Some restaurants add hash browns or home fried potatoes.

    But we’ve got something special for you: Corned Beef Hash Eggs Benedict. Created by Chef William Oliva of Delmonico’s Steakhouse Restaurant in New York City (the birthplace of Eggs Benedict), this version will dazzle.

    If the recipe is too fancy for you, simply turn the leftover corned beef into a conventional hash for breakfast, or use it to make stuffed peppers for dinner.

    Leftover pork, poultry, roast beef and veal can also be “hashed,” as can tofu.




    ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Have A Tipsy Leprechaun

    We’ve presented a number of cocktails for St. Patrick’s Day, but we’ve saved the best for last. This one contains our favorite food: ice cream.

    It’s easy to whip up a Tipsy Leprechaun, a more sophisticated stout float that also contains Irish whiskey and Irish cream liqueur.

    The recipe comes from R Lounge, a new lounge/restaurant with a beautiful view of Times Square in New York City.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 1.5 ounces Irish Whiskey, such as Jameson’s
  • 1 ounce Irish Cream Liqueur, such as Bailey’s
  • 3 ounces Guinness Stout
  • 2 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 2 ounce chocolate syrup
  • Optional garnish: Maraschino cherry
    1. Glaze a pint glass with chocolate syrup
    2. Blend ingredients and add to glass.
    3. Garnish with cherry.
    4. Consume.
    5. Have another.


    We can’t wait to celebrate! Tipsy Leprechaun
    recipe and photo courtesy R Lounge in Times Square, New York City.


    Want more ice cream? Here are recipes for Chocolate Stout Float and Chocolate Stout Ice Cream



    TIP OF THE DAY: Cheese Storage

    Preserve your Parmesan. Photo courtesy
    Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.


    Hard cheeses are the most durable, lasting for months after they’re cut from the wheel. But they still need proper care.

    Store hard cheeses—including Asiago, Manchego, Mimolette, Parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano), Pecorino, Romano and Tête de Moine—in an airtight plastic container with a few sugar cubes.

    The sugar will absorb excess moisture and prevent the cheese from getting moldy. Replace the cubes when they get soft.

    If your cheese dries out, here’s a tip to save it:

    Revive dried-out Parmesan or any other hard cheese by wrapping it in a damp paper towel and refrigerating it in a resealable plastic bag for a day before using. After using the cheese, return any leftovers to the fridge in the bag, without the towel.

    Thanks to our friends at for this helpful tip.


    A related tip: Don’t throw away the rinds of hard cheeses. Add them to simmering soups to impart a deep, rich flavor. Remove the rinds before serving the soup.

    Find more tips in our Gourmet Cheese Section.



    PRODUCT: The Best Chocolate Sauce

    There are lots of chocolate sauces out there. The best ones are made from, not surprisingly, the highest quality chocolate.

    While we’ve had a variety of tasty dessert sauces, four brands have been named Top Picks: The King’s Cupboard, Robert Lambert Chocolate Sauces, Sassy Sauces and Somebody’s Mother’s. Except for Robert Lambert, which focuses on chocolate only, the brands offer both chocolate and caramel sauces.

    The King’s Cupboard has introduced three new flavors:

  • Irish Cream made with real Irish cream liqueur, perfect for St. Patrick’s Day
  • Crème De Menthe, a robust chocolate mint that is certain to delight
  • Bourbon Caramel, with a splash of Bourbon whiskey (it’s family-friendly; we’d add an extra splash)

    Three new dessert sauce stars. Photo
    by River Soma | THE NIBBLE. Tray from

    Chocolate or caramel sauce drizzled over cake, crêpes, ice cream or fresh fruit elevates something plain to something special. Mix a teaspoon into a cup of coffee to make a fancy drink or add to milkshakes instead of chocolate syrup. If you need a sweet fix, just dip a spoon into the jar.

    The products are kosher-certified (dairy) by OU. Crème de Menthe and Irish Cream are also certified organic.

  • Read our full review of The King’s Cupboard.
  • See our favorite dessert sauces and recipes in our Dessert Sauce Section.
  • How many types of dessert sauce are there? See our Dessert Sauce Glossary. You’ll discover new options to serve with your desserts.


    PRODUCT: The Best Cheese In The Country

    Evalon is the best cheese in the country.
    Photo courtesy


    The United States Championship Cheese Contest, America’s largest cheese and butter competition, has been judging dairy products since 1891.

    With America’s continued interest in fine cheese, the contest has more than doubled in size since 2001. At this year’s recently concluded competition, more than 30,000 pounds of cheese were entered, representing 1,604 entries from 30 states.

    Judges retasted the first prize winners from 76 categories of butter and cheese to determine the overall winners:

  • First Prize: At the top of the podium is a hard goat’s milk cheese, Evalon, made by Katie Hedrich of LaClare Farms in Chilton, Wisconsin. Out of a possible 100 points, Evalon scored 99.06 in the final round of judging, during which judges re-evaluated all the individual category gold medal winners to determine the champion.
  • First Runner-Up: Next came a Parmesan made by Sartori Reserve of Plymouth, Wisconsin. It scored 98.97 points.
  • Second Runner-Up: Also making the cut, an Aged Gouda made by Holland’s Family Cheese of Thorp, Wisconsin, with 98.95 points.

  • It’s Wisconsin, winning 42 gold metals out of the total 76 categories judged—plus the three grand awards.
  • California came in second, with nine golds.
  • Vermont earned five gold medals.
  • Idaho took home four golds.
  • New Jersey, New York and Ohio each captured three golds.
  • Oregon and Pennsylvania each won two gold medals.
  • Kentucky, Michigan and Utah each earned one gold.
    For more information on the contest, as well as contest photos and complete results for all 76 entry classes, visit

    Find great cheeses, recipes, and everything you need to know about cheese in our Gourmet Cheese Section.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Caring For Your Vanilla Beans

    Vanilla is the second costliest spice in the world, after saffron. Those vanilla beans are expensive; but they provide superior flavor over vanilla extract (and we mean real vanilla extract—don’t try to save money by using artificial vanilla).

    Vanilla beans need to be stored in an airtight container. That’s why some beans are sold in their own glass capsule. Keep them in a cool, dark place—but never in the fridge, where they will harden.

    Properly cared for, vanilla beans should last for two years or more. If your bean becomes dried out, don’t worry: As soon as it’s added to the warm milk or cream in the recipe, it will plump up.

    It’s easy to use vanilla beans.

    Some recipes call for the whole bean (the pod, shown in the photo). Some require only the seeds inside the bean.

    If you need only the seeds, split the bean lengthwise and scrape them out. Don’t throw away the pod: It can be used in another recipe. Even if a pod has been cooked, you can dry it for 3-4 days and toss it into a canister of sugar, tea or coffee, where its flavor will infuse.


    Vanilla is the second costliest spice in the
    world, after saffron. Photo by Joan Vicent
    Canto | IST.


    More care notes: Tiny crystals covering a bean indicate a top-quality bean, not an inferior one. On the other hand, a fuzzy coating indicates mold, which has affected the flavor of the bean. Throw it out. Mold occurs where there is dampness and the bean isn’t in an airtight container.

    All about vanilla.



    ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Irish Coffee Recipes

    Irish coffee. Photo courtesy Home Essentials.


    There are two more days to plan for St. Patrick’s Day. Even if you aren’t Irish, it’s a reason to celebrate with friends and family.

    If you do nothing else, treat yourself to an Irish Coffee, which was invented in Ireland—for trans-Atlantic airline passengers on layovers (the history).

  • Irish Coffee is easy to make. Invite friends over to toast with a cup or two.
  • Try these Irish Coffee recipes.
  • Consider serving it with a slice of Irish Coffee Cheesecake.
    For some reason, National Irish Coffee Day is January 25th (in the U.S., not in Ireland). Note to the people who apply for and declare these holidays: Why?

    Find more coffee recipes in our Gourmet Coffee Section.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Sweet Potato Chips

    It’s National Potato Chip Day.

    Don’t celebrate with just a conventional white potato chip. Try a sweet potato chip instead.

    The nutritional values of white and sweet potatoes are similar. Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A, and have a little more vitamin C and calcium; white potatoes have more iron.

    We’ve long enjoyed:

  • Sweet potato chips from North Fork Potato Chips
  • Terra Chips sweet potato chips
  • Food Should Taste Good sweet potato tortilla chips

    If you can’t find them in your supermarket, check a natural foods store.

    Or make your own sweet potato chips with this potato chip recipe.

    Check out the history of the potato chip. It was a war of wills.


    Sweet potato chips are more favorful
    and nutritious than white potato chips.
    Photo by Elton Lin | THE NIBBLE.




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