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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 December, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: Send A Digital Food Gift Certificate

The digital gift certificate is followed by a
snail mail version, with olive oil! Photo
courtesy Nudo.

 

It’s the 11th hour and you still need a special gift?

We’ve got the solution: an email gift certificate that will arrive the same day. There’s no need to scramble—or even leave your house. Most online merchants have a gift certificate that will be sent within 12 hours.

We’ve got two special recommendations that range from as little as $5.00 to $500.00.

Gift Certificate #1: Olive Oil & A Tree

Here’s gift that’s sustainable, green and healthy. Everyone can use fine olive oil.

Nudo, a family-run cooperative of 12 artisanal olive oil producers in Le Marche,* Italy, offers a delightful idea: an Adopt-An-Olive Tree gift certificate, complete with delicious olive oil. Here’s what’s included:

 

  • A personalized adoption certificate and information booklet that describes the tree that has been adopted in the name of the gift recipient.
  • Three 250ml tins of flavored extra virgin olive oil (chili, lemon and orange) from the current fall harvest.
  • Four 500ml tins of first cold press extra virgin olive oil, to be sent following the upcoming spring harvest.
  • An open invitation to come and visit, hug and/or water the tree in person.
  •  
    The entire adoption program costs $109.00, plus shipping. It’s not inexpensive, but it is memorable! You may not be able to afford a villa in Tuscany, but you can own a little piece of the Italian countryside.

    A digital gift certificate will be mailed within 12 hours, and a paper version will arrive with the first oil shipment. Order your gift certificate.

    *Pronounced leh-MAR-keh. One of Italy’s 20 regions, it lies on the Adriatic coast, immediately south of Emiglia-Romana and west of Tuscany.

      

    Gift Certificate #2: Customized Chocolate Bars

    For $5.00 to $500.00, you can send a chocolate bar gift certificate that allows the recipient to customize his/her own chocolate bars. It’s chocolate perfection!

    Just a few toppings you can add to the dark, milk or white Belgian chocolate bars:

  • Chips of any color: butterscotch, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, peanut butter.
  • M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, toffee bits and other favorites.
  • Every type of nut, toasted pumpkin seeds and other seeds.
  • Candy corn, gummi bears, jelly beans, Sour Patch Kids—the works.
  • Cookie dough, Junior Mints, Kit Kat pieces, marshmallows and Oreos.
  • Every type of dried fruit.
  • Herbs and spices, from lavender to chipotle and curry.
  • The excitement of creating your own bars is part of the fun of this gift. Visit Chocomize.com. See our review of Chocomize bars.

     

    Add anything you want to create your ideal
    chocolate bar. Photo by Katharine Pollak |
    THE NIBBLE.

    Comments

    RECIPE: Make “Christmas Quesadillas”

    With the kids home through the New Year, here’s a way to keep the holiday spirit going for lunch or dinner:

    Christmas quesadillas!

    The idea comes from Red’s All Natural, makers of burritos and quesadillas.

    Keep a box of the quesadillas in the freezer. Then, heat them (the microwave works fine) and top with green guacamole and red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved.

    If you don’t have guacamole, try fresh green herbs, spinach or other greens, or for a fusion dish, pesto. For the cherry tomatoes, you can substitute sundried tomatoes, red bell peppers or sliced roasted peppers (pimentos).

     

    Deck the halls with quesadillas! Photo
    courtesy Red’s All Natural.

     

    Red’s All Natural quesadillas are crafted with antibiotic and hormone-free meats, fresh veggies, beans and spices. The four flavors include bean and cheese, buffalo chicken, pulled pork and steak. Learn more at RedsAllNatural.com.

    Feliz Navidad!

      

    Comments

    VIDEO: How To Open A Bottle Of Champagne

     

    If you don’t know how to open a bottle of Champagne, it can seem daunting. But it’s really quite simple:

  • Remove the foil and the metal cage that cover the cork.
  • Hold the cork with one hand. With your other hand, gently turn the bottle. You’ll hear a gentle pop. And that’s it!
  •  
    Just watch this video. You’ll also see the correct way to pour Champagne.

    Do you know the different types of Champagne?

       

       

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY & GIFT OF THE DAY: Fill Up A Gift Tin

    Find a handsome tin and fill it with
    something delicious! Photo courtesy
    Teavana.com.

     

    Still scrambling for holiday gifts?

    An easy way to treat people of all ages is with a gift tin filled with something delicious. We like Lindt’s Lindor Truffles or miniature cookies, but anything the recipient might like will be appreciated.

    You can purchase cookies, chocolate and tea in tins, but they’re covered with the manufacturer’s branding. For a tin that can be used anywhere—bathroom, bedroom, home office, kitchen—look for something special.

    For people who drink coffee and tea (or amaretto), try a tin of Lazzaroni Amaretti—small Italian almond cookies with universal appeal. The “manufacturer’s branding” comment doesn’t apply here because the design is so classy. We love the bright orange tins and have repurposed them in just about every room!

     

      

    Comments

    GIFT OF THE DAY: Cuisinart Extreme Thermal Coffeemaker

    Here’s the gift we bought for THE NIBBLE’s kitchen: the Cuisinart Extreme Thermal Coffeemaker.

    We had a perfectly fine coffeemaker with a glass carafe. We made a full carafe each day, so our small team could enjoy coffee throughout the morning.

    The only problem: Not everyone wanted coffee at the same time. After 15 or 20 minutes, coffee begins to scorch on the coffeemaker’s hot plate. So we’d turn off the machine; then warm the lukewarm coffee in the microwave, as needed. (Coffee connoisseurs may cringe at this thought, but a 20-30-second nuke works without harming the coffee.)

    At our holiday party, we passed the glass carafe unit on to a NIBBLE staffer and unveiled this Cuisinart Extreme Brew 10-cup Thermal Carafe CoffeeMaker.

    We’re happy with it. But we looked at some unhappy reviewer comments on Amazon.com and would like to address them, following our first week of experience with the unit:

     

    Our holiday gift to us: a Cuisinart thermal
    carafe coffeemaker for home or office.
    Photo courtesy Cuisinart.

     

  • Water Level. Two Amazon reviewers write that the reservoir and/or carafe doesn’t hold enough water for a 10-cup pot. That’s true if you use eight-ounce cups of water as the measure. However, the industry standard in coffee makers is a five-ounce cup. While this may sound strange to Americans, it’s a worldwide standard; Large mugs and oversized cups are not the norm elsewhere. So five ounces of coffee accommodates the standard eight-ounce cup (the size that comes with a set of dishes), plus room for milk and an inch at the top to avoid spillage.
  • Silver. In terms of “the silver looks cheap, not like our old Cuisinart which looked like stainless steel”: Alas, this is what has happened in the industry to keep prices down. Unless you’re paying double and triple for a top-of-the-line appliance, don’t expect the stainless steel. We recently needed to replace our 80s-era solid-metal Electrolux vacuum cleaner. The new one, made by the company that acquired Electrolux, is almost entirely plastic—and it cost nearly $1,000! We still keep a 25-year-old GE solid-stainless steel toaster oven that no longer works, as a souvenir of how beautiful appliance construction once was.
  • Pouring. We agree that the thermal carafe isn’t as precise a pour as a thin-lipped glass carafe. That’s a function of the thicker thermal casing. We were able to adapt to the new spout pretty quickly, and we don’t spill any coffee.
  • Hotness. We have thermal carafes—the kind used to carry coffee to work—that are champions, keeping the coffee hot for up to four hours (our favorites are from Nissan). Coffeemaker thermal carafes (we’ve tried three different brands) tend to work for half that time. Yet, it’s plenty of time for us to consume the full pot of coffee.
  •  
    Trading up to a thermal carafe, we feel we’ve gained much more than just a good-looking appliance:

  • Transportability. Having a pot that can be transported anywhere and set down on any surface—dining table, home office desk, garage; or at the workplace, to conference room and offices.
  • Freshness. The thermal carafe keeps the coffee fresh for a reasonable amount of time. Even if it’s only an hour, that’s better than scorching on the hot plate after 15 minutes!
  • Control. We love the brew strength control that our older unit lacked.
  •  
    TIP: Don’t Want To Buy A New Coffeemaker?

    If you’ve got a thermos, just pour the coffee into it after you’ve had your first serving,

    As with a coffee maker carafe, you need to use a bottle brush and soap to clean the thermos with every few uses, or bitter coffee oils build up.

    Learn more about the Cuisinart Extreme Brew Thermal Coffeemaker

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Celebrate The Winter Solstice

    Today, take some time out of your busy day by celebrating the winter solstice.

    For those living north of the Equator, the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year—it has the fewest hours of sunlight. (The vernal [summer] equinox, the longest of the year, has the most hours of sunlight.)

    Using the Gregorian* calendar, the December solstice occurs between December 20th and December 23rd. Based on the rotation of Earth, the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the sun at the winter solstice, and closest to the sun at the vernal equinox.

    Since antiquity, man has celebrated the winter solstice with feasting, gifts, visiting, drinking and more of the pleasures that counter the daily hardships of life.

    If you don’t have the energy for feasting, enjoy a simple cup of warm cider with a cinnamon stick and an apple wheel. As a spirited option, add an ounce of rum, tequila or vodka.

     

    Add a touch of rum to warm apple
    cider. Photo courtesy Zaya Rum.

     

    With a little extra effort, you can make mulled cider, mulled wine or glögg. Here are the recipes.

    *The Gregorian calendar, used in most western countries, has 365 days in a year, 366 days in a leap year.

      

    Comments

    GIFT OF THE DAY: Cut The Fat With A T-Fal ActiFry

    Cut back on fat and still enjoy fried food.
    Fries for four require just one tablespoon of
    oil. Top of ActiFry not shown. Photo
    courtesy T-Fal.

     

    If you’d like to give a “group gift” to your family, and your family adores fried foods, we recommend the T-fal ActiFry.

    It’s a healthy gift, because it uses a fraction of the oil required to fry in a conventional pot or deep fat fryer. This saves calories and enough money so that the appliance will pay for itself over time.

  • The ActiFry is a low-fat cooker that enables you to fry your favorite dishes while substantially reducing the amount of fat required.
  • It produces cripsy, great tasting fries that have only 3% fat per serving. Just one tablespoon of oil makes two pounds of French fries. That’s 200 times less oil than a traditional three-liter deep fat fryer!
  •  

  • A versatile cooking appliance, ActiFry can be used to make a variety of healthy, low-fat dishes, including chili, risotto, meat and vegetable stir frys and seafood. Each recipe (a book is included) requires from 0 to 2 tablespoons of oil for four servings.
  •  
    Head to your nearest store or order the ActiFry online.

    We tried to switch to baked “fries,” but found them to be no substitute for the real thing. Here, we can have our fries just as we like them, with no guilt. It’s worth buying a special appliance!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Holiday Punch

    A punch bowl is not only a special attraction at holiday festivities; it saves the hosts the effort of pouring 20 separate drinks. Guests can help themselves!

    With the flavors of Campari (a red apéritif made from fruits and herbs) and pink grapefruit, this winter recipe will please from Thanksgiving until spring.

    The recipe was developed as part of a partnership between Belvedere (RED) vodka and (RED), the fundraising campaign that raises money for the Global Fund, the world’s leading financer of programs to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.

    There’s a special edition holiday bottle design of Belvedere (RED) vodka on retailers’ shelves. Fifty percent of profits from its sale will be contributed to the Global Fund.

    ANTIQUE PUNCH, A VODKA HOLIDAY PUNCH

    Ingredients

  • 7 ounces vodka
  • 3 ounces Campari
  • 3 ounces vermouth
  • 5.5 ounces pink grapefruit juice
  • 16 ounces soda water
  •  

    Punch is easy to make, and delights guests. Photo courtesy Belvedere.

  • Garnish: slices of pink grapefruit and orange (get a blood orange if you can), strawberries
  •  
    Preparation
    1. Combine first five ingredients in a punch bowl.
    2. Top with ice, mix and top with the garnishes. (We added the strawberries with leaves on, not part of the original recipe, for a red-and-green garnish accent).
    3. Serve.

    GOT PUNCH (BOWL)?

    There are punch recipes for every season. Treat yourself to an affordable punch bowl and make punch a part of your regular entertaining menu.

    Two glass punch bowls we like are:

  • An elegant, daisy-etched glass punch bowl.
  • A simple but notable modern design.
  •  
    While acrylic punch bowls are inexpensive, we suggest avoiding them: They scratch easily.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Red Christmas Cocktail

    A Christmas cocktail. Photo courtesy
    Belvedere Vodka.

     

    For a Christmas cocktail with seasonal ingredients, you can’t do better than “Give A Fig,” from Belvedere vodka.*

    GIVE A FIG COCKTAIL RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 2 ounces (50ml) vodka
  • 1 thumbnail of ginger root, crushed
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
  • 3/4 ounce (25ml) fig purée
  • 1/4 ounce (1-1/2 teaspoons, 10ml) lime juice
  • 1/4 ounce (1-1/2 teaspoons, 10ml) vanilla sugar
    (or make your own)
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation
    1. Whisk sugar into pomegranate juice in a shaker.
    2. Add rest of ingredients and shake with cubed ice.
    3. Double-strain into a rocks glass and garnish with a split fig.

     

    Find more Christmas cocktail recipes.

    *Adapted from a drink created by Aaron Rosa, Purple Bar, Sanderson Hotel.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY & GIFT OF THE DAY: Red Ale For Christmas

    What better says “Christmas” to a beer lover than a brew with crimson color?

    Red ale, or Irish red ale, is, as its name suggests, an ale with a slightly reddish color. The color is intentional, and results from the use of a small amount of roasted barley in the mash.

    If it comes from Ireland, it’s called Irish ale. In the U.S. and elsewhere, it’s called red ale or red beer. Some Americans use the term amber ale, but this typically describes a darker beer—truly amber instead of reddish.

    Serve a red ale at your holiday celebration (add a cucumber wheel for a bit of green; or a lime wedge if your guests prefer to drink from the bottle.

    If you need a holiday gift for a beer drinker, put together a six-pack of different red ale brands (see below).

    How Well Do You Know Your Brews?

    Take a look at our Beer Glossary.

     

    Serve red ale for Christmas. Photo
    courtesy Craft Brewers Association.

     

    The Best Red Ales

    Here are the top 10 red ales as rated by judges in the 2011 U.S. Open Beer Championship.

    1. Pursuit of Hoppiness – Grand Teton Brewing, Idaho
    2. O’Regan’s Revenge Irish Red Ale – Sound Brewery, Washington
    3. Bomber Mountain Amber – Black Tooth Brewing, Wyoming
    4. River Falls Red Ale, Thomas Creek Brewing – South Carolina
    5. Cameron’s Auburn Ale – Cameron’s Brewing, Canada
    6. Celtic Ale – Harpoon Brewery – Massachusetts
    7. Red Mountain Ale – Silverton Brewing, Colorado
    8. Samuel Adams Red Ale – Boston Beer Company, Massachusetts
    9. O’Hara’s Irish Red – Carlow Brewing – Ireland
    10. Kilgubbin Red Ale – Goose Island – Illinois

    Cheers!

      

    Comments

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