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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 November, 2011

NEWS: Dine In A Life-Size Gingerbread House

Inside this life-size gingerbread house: a
dining room waiting for you! Photo
courtesy The Great Wolf Lodge.

 

Nibble, nibble little mouse. Who’s that nibbling at my house?

You may remember those words from Hansel and Gretel. They also gave birth to the name of THE NIBBLE webzine and blog…

Not because there’s a cannibal witch living here, but because Hansel and Gretel couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the big gingerbread house, decorated with the confections of their wildest dreams. Every week, we at THE NIBBLE also go wide-eyed when we discover something new and fabulous.

You don’t have to enter a fairy tale to nibble in a life-size gingerbread house.

All you have to do is head for Niagara Falls, Ontario.

 

The Great Wolf Lodge, a year-round indoor water park, goes into holiday mode this month. Opening on November 24th, Wiley’s Winter Wonderland—of which the gingerbread house is just one feature—will enable fortunate families to cloak themselves in the holiday spirit. You can have breakfast, lunch or dinner in the gingerbread house. Reservations are available to the general public as well as to Lodge guests. We’re not sure if Hansel and Gretel will be your servers—but we hope so!

It takes more than 300 hours, hundreds of pounds of gingerbread, chocolate, cookies, pretzels and candy to build the house. During construction the entire lodge is filled with the sweet aromas of gingerbread and chocolate (no extra charge to inhale all you want!).

On the 24th, families will be able to walk through the front door of the gingerbread house and sit down for a holiday meal. Dining reservations are available to the public, as well as to Great Wolf Lodge guests.

Each year, diners make a charitable contribution via a $20 reservation fee (which is apart from the cost of the meal). This year, the recipient of the donations is Child Advocacy Centre Niagara, which helps abused children.

For gingerbread house dining reservations, call 1.905.354.4888 ext. 5718. Select holiday dining times are available. through January 9th, 2012. If you go, send us some photos!

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Know The Different Types Of Onions

When should you use which type of onion?

Onions come in all shapes and sizes, not to mention a variety of colors. Their textures and flavors can be quite different. Different types of onions can’t necessarily be substituted for one another.

So how do you know which onions are best for which dishes? From French onion soup to succotash, the onion varietal you use does matter.

To help get your onions in order, we’ve created an “onion glossary,” explaining the differences among green onions (scallions), leeks, pearl onions, red onions, shallots, sweet onions, yellow onions and others.

Know your onions! Head for the onions.

Find more of our favorite vegetables and recipes in our Vegetable Section.

 

Yellow onions are a kitchen standard. What
other varieties should you be using? Photo courtesy PachD.

 

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Prevent Cutting Boards From Slipping

Consider replacing wood cutting boards with
acrylic boards. Cutting board set from
Farberware.

 

Yesterday we took a cooking class at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, where we picked up this tip:

To prevent the cutting board from slipping, place a moist paper towel underneath it.

If you have slippage problems, try it.

When you’re done slicing and dicing, wash the cutting board and use the paper towel to wipe the counter.

Cutting boards can deteriorate over time, as they develop deep knife grooves that can harbor bacteria. Then, it’s time to replace them. Rather than toss them in the trash, seek ways to repurpose them—for example, underneath houseplants, as a cutting surface for crafts and other projects, and as a surface protector when using glue.

 

While wood cutting boards are traditional and handsome, wood is naturally porous. Beyond the knife grooves, which can harbor harmful bacteria, the microbes can hide in the grain of well-used cutting boards. To avoid food safety problems, health departments prohibit wood cutting boards in commercial kitchens.

Instead of wood, select acrylic cutting boards. We use these cutting boards, from OXO Good Grips.

Lastly, to prevent cross-contamination, you need to thoroughly wash cutting boards with soap and hot water after cutting raw meat or seafood. To address the contamination problem, some companies are producing color-coded cutting boards. But we haven’t yet seen a set that’s large enough for serious cooking.

Acrylic cutting boards can go right into the dishwasher, for a thorough sanitizing.

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Thanksgiving Coffee, Christmas Coffee

As if there isn’t enough to prepare for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, there’s also the after-dinner coffee to consider.

Here are some tips from the experts at Eight O’Clock Coffee and THE NIBBLE:

  • Test new equipment in advance. Don’t wait until the dinner to try your new French press or Nespresso machine. Play it safe and test new coffee makers and brewing gadgets long before company arrives.
  • Don’t wait until after dinner to offer coffee. Coffee can be enjoyed from the moment guests arrive, and some guests may prefer it to a cold drink.
  • Provide a fine coffee shop experience. Set out shakers of cinnamon, cocoa, ginger, nutmeg and flavored creamers.
  • Provide a choice of milk. Some people like cream, some people prefer fat-free and some even require lactose-free milk. If you only want to deal with two choices, we recommend half-and-half for the cream crowd and lactose-free, fat-free milk for the rest. There’s no difference in the flavor between lactose-free and regular milk. People who want something in between the two choices can combine half and half with fat-free milk.
  •  

    Have you thought about coffee service?
    Photo by Ermek | IST.

     

  • Add some “holiday cheer.” A spoonful of brandy, whiskey or liqueur turns a cup of coffee into a holiday treat. It’s a great occasion to pull out the liqueurs you don’t use often. Chocolate liqueurs, coffee liqueurs, cream/creme liqueurs, honey liqueurs, some herbal liqueurs (anisette, benedictine) and nut liqueurs all work well. You can also provide shot glasses for those who want to sip separately.
  • Don’t forget the decaf. Be prepared for caffeine-conscious guests. Some people will want caffeine for the ride home. Others need to avoid it for medical reasons, or so they can get to sleep.
  • Coffee for large parties. If you’re brewing coffee in a high-capacity urn, consider storing and serving the coffee in thermal carafes after brewing. Carafes keep coffee hot and fresh for up to two hours, while urns may “burn” your brew as it sits. (We recently traded up from our glass carafe brewer to a Cuisinart thermal carafe brewer for just this reason.)
  • Coffee to go. Stock up on holiday-themed to go cups with lids, and send guests home with a cup of coffee for the road. Guests with a long ride ahead will appreciate it.
  •  
    Consider A House Gift Of Coffee

    While many guests bring a bottle of wine, consider bringing a bag or two of coffee. You can make the gift special by choosing a seasonal blend for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

    Especially if you’re one of the caffeine-conscious, feel free to BYOB (bring your own bag) of decaf.

    COFFEE LOVERS: Check out our Coffee Section for recipes, reviews and lots of great information on brewing and serving coffee.

      

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    COOKING VIDEO: How To Roast Marrow Bones

     

    This week, everyone’s focused on the turkey.

    But let us present a crowd pleaser that you can whip up in a jiffy when the turkey’s gone: roast marrow bones.

    Marrow bones, you say? Aren’t they a treat for the dog?

    Lucky dogs and lucky humans both eat marrow bones. Humans cook them first, and enjoy them on toast points. No less a gourmet than Anthony Bourdain has said that if he could choose his last meal, it would be roast marrow bones.

    While we previously thought that bone marrow was pure cholesterol, according to Wikipedia, bone marrow is high in monounsaturated fats that are known to decrease LDL cholesterol levels, resulting in a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

    It does sounds counter-intuitive! Bone marrow also contains a high proportion of vital nutrients: protein, B complex vitamins, calcium, magnesium and zinc, among others. It was a prized food in hunter-gatherer societies.

    How To Serve Roasted Bone Marrow

    Serve the bones standing upright on a plate. If you have espresso spoons, they’ll fit more easily inside the bones to scoop out the marrow, which you can then move straight to your mouth. Otherwise, use a dinner knife to spread the marrow on toast.

    Another way to serve the bone marrow is as a steak topper. Remove the marrow from the roasted bones and mix it with gremolata, a combination of three minced garlic cloves, 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley and minced lemon peel (remove the peel with a vegetable peeler).

    Atop a warm steak, the marrow will melt into the meat and the gremolata will add bright flavors.

    Pour some hearty red wine, and you’ll be in heaven.

    In addition to buying beef bones for marrow, you should also enjoy the marrow from braised beef shanks. You can enjoy the marrow from any bones. Our dad liked to crunch on chicken bones for the marrow.

    Let us know how you enjoy marrow.

       

       

    Find more of our favorite beef recipes.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Host A Holiday Chex Mix Exchange

    Have you participated in a holiday cookie exchange? It’s a tradition in many homes.

    Each participant bakes a large batch of a particular cookie recipe, then meets up at the host’s home for a cookie exchange, where everyone trades some of their batch for other participants’ cookies. The parties are also an occasion to share a cup of coffee and tea—or something stronger—and catch up with friends.

    Everyone goes home with different types of cookies to serve over the holidays.

    The folks at Chex, who introduced America to Chex Party Mix, are looking to save you time (and a sugar high) over the holidays. They’d like you to turn the cookie exchange into a Chex Mix exchange.

    We like the idea!

  • Instead of scores of sweet cookies, there are sweet and savory Chex Mixes.
  •  

    Instead of a holiday cookie exchange,
    go exchange crunchy Chex snack mixes.
    Photo courtesy General Mills.

     

  • Chex cereals are full of fiber: Each variety provides at least 8 grams of whole grain per serving, towards the recommended daily 48 grams.
  • Instead of hours baking and cleaning in the kitchen, you can turn out Chex Mix recipes in the microwave in 15 minutes—less time than it takes to preheat the oven for cookies.
  • And there’s something for everyone: some 70 recipes, plus 20 gluten-free options.
     
    And of course, you can create your own Chex Mix. Our specialty is a Japanese Chex Mix with rice cracker snacks, wasabi peas and dry-roasted edamame—terrific with Martinis, Bloody Marys and beer (recipe below).
  •  
    Hosting a Chex Mix Exchange Party involves minimal planning and preparation. You can find all the information at Chex.com, including invitations, packaging ideas and shopping lists.

    Let us know your favorite recipe!

    Find more of our favorite snacks and recipes in our Gourmet Snacks Section.

    RECIPE: NIBBLE ON THIS! JAPANESE CHEX MIX

    Ingredients

  • 4 cups Rice Chex cereal
  • 4 cups Wheat Chex cereal
  • 2 cups Japanese rice crackers
  • 2 cups honey-roasted almonds (optional)
  • 1 cup wasabi peas
  • 1 cup dry-roasted edamame
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  •  
    Preparation
    1. In large microwavable bowl, mix all dry ingredients.
    2. In small microwavable bowl or measuring cup, microwave butter uncovered on High for 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in soy sauce. Pour over dry mixture, stirring until evenly coated.
    3. Microwave bowl of mix uncovered on High for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring every two minutes. Spread on foil, wax paper or paper towels to cool. Store in an airtight container.

      

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    COOKING VIDEO: How To Bake Acorn Squash

     

    Many people shy away from baking acorn squash at home. We don’t blame them: Unless you know how to cut one properly, the prospect of using a big knife to cut open a thick winter squash can be scary. The thick, green, ribbed skin can seem impenetrable.

    Yet the yellow-orange flesh inside is delicious: sweet, nutty and simple to bake.

    In this video, you’ll see how easy it is to cut and bake acorn squash. Instead of the cinnamon and clove used in the video, you can brush maple syrup on the squash for a different flavor profile.

    Acorn squash is loaded with the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene (it’s what gives the orange color to vegetables; the body converts it to vitamin A). A one-cup serving has about 115 calories—less than a cup of potatoes—plus 9g of dietary fiber, 2g of protein, manganese, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B9 (folate) and C.

    And it’s so yummy!

    Get cooking:

       

       

    Do you know your acorn and butternut squash from your Hubbard and kabocha? Check out all the different types of squash in our Squash Glossary.

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Keep Produce Fresh

    Today’s tip comes from a reader question to The New York Times: Does the mist that grocers spray on fresh vegetables keep them fresh or hasten spoilage?

    It depends. Without spraying, many vegetables would wilt, since, after harvest, they go into a drier environment and cannot replenish water through their roots.

    On the other hand, the water spray enables micro-organisms to start degrading the plant tissue.

    Below, Dr. Randy W. Worobo, an associate professor of food microbiology at Cornell University, suggests the best way to store your produce once you get it home.

     
     

    How To Extend The Life Of Fresh Produce

     

    Extend the life of your produce with these
    tips. Photo courtesy GrowingVegetables.com.

     

    You can throw away less produce—and save hundreds of dollars a year—with these simple steps.

  • Submerge produce in cold tap water for 5 to 15 minutes, until it is fully hydrated.
  • Drain and dry off the remaining moisture by blotting, using a salad spinner or simply letting the water evaporate at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Wrap the produce in a paper towel to absorb excess water, place it in a plastic bag (with the paper towel) and refrigerate.
  •  
    Storing herbs is a bit different.

  • Basil, Cilantro & Parsley. Certain herbs, like basil, are damaged by the cold in the refrigerator; the leaves will start to turn black. Instead of refrigerating, trim the ends and keep the herbs in an inch or two of water in a container on the counter, changing the water daily as with fresh flowers. Other long-stemmed herbs, such as cilantro and parsley, should be kept the same way.
  • Chives, Rosemary & Thyme. These herbs do go into the fridge, with a different treatment. Wrap them loosely in a paper towel and then in a plastic bag. Air needs to circulate, or the trapped moisture will attract mold. Place these herbs in the produce compartment or the butter compartment on the door, both of which are warmer than the rest of the fridge.
  •  
    As with all produce, don’t rinse herbs until you are ready to use them.

    Try A Freshness Extender

    You can buy freshness extenders for the produce drawer that dissipate the ethylene and keep the food fresher for longer. They’ve been a godsend in keeping our berries from rotting!

    The ethylene gas emitted by some types of produce hastens ripening—and then, spoilage. That’s why you can put green bananas in a closed bag for a day or two, which concentrates the gas for quick ripening.

    Apricots, kiwi fruits, peaches, pears and plums are also good ethylene producers. If any of these fruits are in a closed produce drawer with other items, the ethylene in the closed space will begin to degrade the neighboring produce.

      

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    PRODUCT: BaconLube Massage Oil

    It’s a massage oil. It’s a personal lubricant.
    It’s Baconlube. Photo courtesy J&D’s.

     

    According to a recent survey by Maple Leaf Foods, Canada’s market leader in the bacon category, when asked to choose between bacon and sex, more than four in 10 responders (43%) chose bacon.

    But they don’t have to make that decision with J&D’s Baconlube, a new, water-based lubricant that the company calls “the McRib of sex.”

    It’s a limited edition product: Only 3,000 bottles have been made. Get yours at Baconlube.com for $11.99.

    It could be this season’s quirkiest holiday gift.

    But our favorite product from J&D’s remains Baconnaise: a bacon-flavored, kosher-certified mayonnaise that lets us make mock BLTs without having to clean up the bacon grease.

    We buy it by the case to give as gifts.

    Do You Know Where Bacon Comes From?

    Yes, it comes from a pig, but what part of the pig? Learn your pork parts in our delicious Pork Cuts Glossary.

     

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Fast Food Day

    Today is National Fast Food Day, a very American holiday.

    The U.S. has more than 300 fast food chains, representing 40% of the nation’s total restaurant sales. Americans spend more than $110 billion on fast food annually, on cuisine that ranges from barbecue, fried chicken and pizza to Chinese food and Tex-Mex.

    Since the dawn of towns, there has been street food. It was sold by vendors who fed nearby workers and folks passing through, as well as neighborhood residents who had no fireplace in which to cook food.

    Street food has been called, incorrectly, “the world’s first fast food.” Fast food is defined as a meal that can be prepared quickly and easily, to be consumed on premises or taken out. Street vendors can spend hours cooking and preparing dosas, kebabs, tacos and other foods before bringing them to sell from a cart or a portable stand.

    While America is now witnessing a growth in street food—particularly food trucks—the popularity of street food waned in the early 20th century with the birth of burger stands, coffee shops, diners, drive-ins and sandwich shops—all places where one could get a quick meal. Are they fast food?

     

    Where would America be without fast-food fries? Photo courtesy McDonalds.

     

    No: The critical difference is that, be it a burger, a sandwich or a chef salad, the food at these types of restaurants is prepared to order.

    The closest relative to fast food is the restaurant concept known as “fast casual,” a type of restaurant that does not offer full table service (like Applebee’s and IHOP’s “casual dining”), but promises a higher quality of food and atmosphere than a typical fast food restaurant. Chipotle Mexican Grill and Five Guys Burgers are examples.

    How Fast Food Is Different

    Fast food uses preheated or precooked ingredients. Those fries and burgers are pre-cooked and sitting under a heat lamp awaiting an order.

    The food is served to the customer not on a plate, but in disposable packaging that can be brought elsewhere as take-out, or taken to a table provided by the establishment.

    The Father Of Fast Food

    In 1954, a milkshake machine salesman named Ray Kroc started the momentum leading to America’s fast-food phenomenon.

    Although the concept did exist (according to Wikipedia, the term “fast food” appeared in the Merriam–Webster dictionary in 1951), it was still new.

    Kroc was a milkshake machine salesman in California. He then became the exclusive distributor of a speedier milkshake machine, the Multimixer. One of his clients was the McDonald’s hamburger stand in San Bernardino, owned by brothers Richard and Maurice.

    Kroc inadvertently invented modern fast food with his vision of franchising the McDonald’s concept, in order to sell several Multimixers to each location. He offered his services as their franchising agent. Six years later, he bought the brothers out.

    Chain restaurants such as Howard Johnson’s existed before Kroc, but Kroc created the fast food model, standardizing portions and processes, keeping prices down and creating a culture of quick service and cleanliness.

    Today McDonald’s is the largest restaurant company in the world, with 31,000 restaurants located in 126 countries. The Moscow location is the busiest in the world; the largest location is in Orlando, Florida. It would be hard to find an American who has never eaten fast food.

    Happy Fast Food Day to all fast food fans.

      

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