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Archive for June 14, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: Host A Pie Baking Contest

It’s [pie] party time! Photo by Jaclyn
Nussbaum | THE NIBBLE.


Looking for a summer entertaining idea? How about a pie baking contest?

Guests who can bake can show off their chops; non-baking guests will be thrilled to taste a pie buffet.

You can go freestyle, or take advantage of this new boxed kit: Pie Contest in a Box: Everything You Need to Host a Pie Contest. It contains everything you need, except the pies.

Created by Gina Hyams, the box includes a handbook to guide you through hosting your very own contest (including recipes and tips from champion bakers).

After you get the hang of it, you can adapt the idea to a cake contest, cookie contest, brownie contest, lasagne contest—anything.

Also among the box contents are:


  • 12 pie toppers to identify the pies (you can have as many or as few pies as you like, although it’s tough to taste more than 12!)
  • 60 scorecards (if you’re having that many people, the contestants should make more than one pie)
  • 5 judges’ ribbons (guests vote separately for the People’s Choice Award)
  • 4 prize ribbons (1st, 2nd, 3rd and People’s Choice)
    All you have to do is invite the contestants and other guests, set up a table for the pies and serveware and provide coffee, tea, milk and/or other beverages. Optional toppings, like whipped cream or ice cream, are sure to be welcome.

    NIBBLE PARTY TIP: If all the guests don’t know each other, make badges (or let your guests write them out on blanks) that say: My Name Is [First Name] And My Favorite Pie Is [They Write It In]. It’s a great ice breaker.

    You can let the contestants bake whatever pie they please, or make it a themed pie contest: single-flavor pie (e.g. apple or peach), chocolate pie, liquor-accented pie, local ingredients pie, etc.

    Although perhaps for the first pie contest, an open call is best. Then, you can repeat the success with single themes.

    You can use any type of food in a “competition.” With guests bringing the pies (or other wares), it’s a cost-effective way to entertain. The Pie Contest In A Box is $10.19 at

    Afterwards, send a press release to the food editor of your local paper, along with a photo of the winning pie and the recipe, should the winner care to share it (how to write a press release).

    You’re on your way to becoming a local food celebrity!

    You can also turn the event into a mini fundraiser, asking guests for a donation to a good cause.


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    We are big fans of Cold River Vodka and Cold River Blueberry Vodka, made by Maine Distilleries of Freeport, Maine. They’re artisan-made from Maine potatoes and are gluten-free, as well as very flavorful (we drink them straight up*).

    *The difference between straight up and neat: “Neat” means an undiluted shot served at room temperature; straight up is shaken or stirred with ice and strained into a glass.

    Now, from the same copper pot still, comes Cold River Gin.

    A traditional-style gin made from a 400-year-old recipe, Cold River Gin is ultra-smooth and “superpremium.” The gin is distilled with seven traditional botanicals: juniper berries (the dominant flavor of gin), angelica root, cardamom, coriander, lemon peel, orange peel and orris root.

    As with Cold River Vodka, the base spirit of the gin is made from potatoes grown at a nearby family farm, Green Thumb Farms, and is made with pristine spring water from the Cold River aquifer. Like the vodka, it is also gluten free.


    Cold River Gin, artisan-made in Maine.
    Photo courtesy Maine Distilleries.


    We generally like a heavy juniper flavor, but for those who don’t, the berries here are not overpowering. We can also taste the lemon and orange peel, and if we focus hard, the cardamom. We tossed some cardamom seeds into the glass for decor (and when the gin was gone, we chewed the seeds).

    Consider giving Dad a hand-numbered bottle for Father’s Day. The suggested retail price is $25.99. Learn more at the company website. To find a retailer near you, email

    Tomorrow: gin cocktail recipes.

  • How gin is distilled

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Frozen Kefir

    Dig in: It’s yummy, probiotic, very healthful
    and 99% lactose free. Photo by River
    Soma | THE NIBBLE.


    It isn’t frozen yogurt: It’s frozen kefir.

    What’s the difference?

    While many people think of kefir as “drinkable yogurt”—it looks and tastes like yogurt—it has a different complement of microorganisms. The result: A food even more healthful than probiotic yogurt.

    Kefir has twice the probiotics of frozen yogurt: 12 different strains of probiotic bacteria and yeast compared with six strains in probiotic yogurt, and two or three in regular yogurt.

    Lifeway, the nation’s largest producer of kefir (pronounced kuh-FEAR), has made us very happy with the introduction of frozen kefir.

    Our favorite food is ice cream—make that the entire frozen dessert group, including frozen yogurt and sorbet. Yet, our doctor has told us to cut back on the lactose.

    Lifeway Frozen Kefir is 99% lactose free. It’s tart and tangy, cool and creamy, and more than hits the spot. The four equally delicious flavors include Mango, Original, Pomegranate and Strawberry.


    But it’s not just a boon to the 30 to 50 million lactose intolerant Americans: It’s a healthful treat for everyone.

  • If you’re a fan of tangy frozen yogurt, read the full review and check out Lifeway Frozen Kefir. It’s rolling out now to supermarkets nationwide. If it isn’t in yours today, ask your store manager when it will arrive.
  • See our Ice Cream Glossary for the different types of frozen desserts.

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