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Archive for December, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Great Fruitcake…And The Right Drink To Pair With It

December 27th is National Fruitcake Day. The most maligned food in America is not cilantro. It is fruitcake.

Unlike cilantro, which delivers a consistent take-it-or-leave-it flavor, regardless of where it is grown, it is man who has manipulated cheap ingredients and preservatives into frightful fruitcakes.

But yes, Virginia, there is great fruitcake—the kind that, 100 and 200 years ago, people had reason to celebrate—and not just at Christmas. It was the wedding cake of choice.

Several weeks ago we received a simply superb fruitcake sold at Williams-Sonoma (and alas, now sold out). It was made by the fabulous Beekman Boys, a.k.a. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, of the website and the Planet Green reality series.

Made with a century-old family recipe, there’s no candied citron, maraschino cherries or unrecognizable, nuclear-colored fruits in the Beekman 1802 fruitcake. It’s made with dried fruits soaked in applejack brandy (apricots, dates, cherries, figs, pineapple, raisins), brown sugar, butter, eggs and flour. Every ingredients is delicious and the cake is so lovely, we didn’t share a bite of it.


The luscious classic fruitcake from Beekman
1802. Photo courtesy


The recipe isn’t in the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook, although said book has a smashing carrot cake and a lovely gingerbread with exotic spices. We did, however, find the fruitcake recipe on the Beekman 1802 website. So start soaking those dried fruits in applejack or rum.


We love a good cup of black tea with our fruitcake, or a spice tea like Constant Comment (which is also available in a decaffeinated version and a green tea version).

Port is the wine of choice, but other choices include:

  • Fruity or sweeter beers: cranberry ale, fruit beer and seasonal fruitcake beer, pumpkin ale, and May wine.
  • Sweet oloroso sherry.
  • Madeira, 5 or 10 years old (e.g. Bual).
  • Whiskey aged in sherry casks, like The Macallan.

    The earliest known recipe for fruitcake dates to ancient Rome, using pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and raisins. By the Middle Ages, honey, preserved fruits and spices had been added and the cake was enjoyed throughout Europe. Recipes varied widely by region.

    In the 16th century, sugar from the Caribbean—and the discovery that sugar could be used to preserve fruits—made fruitcakes more affordable and popular. Everything was delicious for a few centuries.

    But the mass-production of prepared foods that followed World War II led to low-priced and not great-tasting fruitcakes. Following tradition, people gave them as Christmas gifts, but few recipients enjoyed eating them. Many of them regifted their fruitcakes; thus the joke from comedian Johnny Carson, that there was only one fruitcake in the world and it got passed from person to person.

    Bake yourself a really good fruitcake and see why it deserves its place among delicious Christmas foods.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Special Ice Cream For New Year’s Eve

    Ice cream that smells and tastes like
    gingerbread. Photo courtesy


    Ice cream is one of our favorite desserts—heck, it’s our favorite food, period.

    For New Year’s Eve, we like to make a special flavor. Last year it was lavender. Prior years included anise, chipotle chocolate, chocolate pretzel, peppermint schnapps and white chocolate with edible gold flakes. For the Millennium, we splurged on black truffle ice cream.

    This year, we’re making Gingerbread-Trappist Ale Ice Cream, to serve with an apple tart. Those who have no room left for the tart can enjoy a spoonful or two of easy-to-down sweetness. (Note: Trappist ale is one type of Belgian ale, and should be used in this recipe. See the footnote* at the bottom of this post for the difference Belgian beers and ales.)

    In addition to serving it as a glammed-up version of apple pie à la mode, you can make ice cream sandwiches by toasting slices of gingerbread loaf or other favorite loaf: banana cake, carrot cake or chocolate or regular pound cake.


    This recipe, from Brandon Matzek’s blog,, was adapted from a recipe created by Ethan Frisch and Max Falkowitz, and sent to us from the Craft Beer Association.

    Made with candied ginger, cinnamon, clove, allspice and Belgian-style ale, the ice cream smells and tastes like gingerbread. The Trappist ale (we used Duvel, one of our favorites) adds a delicious depth of flavor. Brandon Matzek’s serving suggestion is to scoop the ice cream over a warm slice of gingerbread, topped with sautéed apples.

    You can serve a glass of Belgian ale along with the dessert. Or a cup of spice tea.



    Serves: 8 – 10

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1-2/3 cups Trappist ale, divided
  • 5 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 inch nub of ginger, peeled and sliced thin
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 3 star anise “petals”
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 ounce dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • Zest of half a large lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup candied ginger, minced
    1. In a large saucepan, add heavy cream, whole milk, 1-1/3 cups ale and molasses, stirring to combine.

    2. Add allspice, black peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fresh ginger, nutmeg and star anise.

    3. Cook mixture over a medium-low heat until just below a simmer, stirring frequently for about 15 minutes (you want to see steam rising from the surface, but minimal to no bubbles).

    4. Whisk the egg yolks and brown sugar in a bowl until slightly thickened. Slowly, while whisking, add 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture to the yolks. Take your time here so you don’t scramble the yolks. Repeat this process with another 1/2 cup of the hot cream, then return everything to the saucepan.

    5. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Set a medium sized bowl in the ice bath and have a strainer ready.

    6. Return the saucepan to a medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. You will know the custard is thick enough when you see steam rise from the surface and the custard coats the spoon.

    7. Add the chocolate, lemon zest and the last 1/3 cup ale. Continue to cook for another minute or two, until the proper thickness is achieved again.

    8. Strain the custard into the medium sized bowl sitting in the ice bath. Stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Stir occasionally until the mixture has cooled. Refrigerate until cold (preferably overnight).

    9. Freeze custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream is three quarters of the way done, add candied ginger and continue to freeze until frozen.

    10. Serve to delighted guests.

    *Trappist ale is one of nine categories of Belgian beer and ale. Others include everyday Belgian ale, brown ale, golden ale, lambic, red beer, saison, specialty ales and wheat beer (witbier). Under an official designation established by the International Trappist Association in 1997, only beer brewed under the direct supervision of Trappist monks may be called Trappist. There are currently seven such breweries in the world: six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands. Abbey beer—which originally referred to any monastic or monastic-style beer—is the designation of products similar in style or presentation to Trappist beers, such as beers brewed in non-Trappist monasteries, commercial breweries that license the name from an extant Trappist monastery, beers named for a defunct or fictitious monastery, and so on.


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    Happy Holidays From The Nibble!


    Whether you
    or anything else,
    we wish you
    peace and



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    WHAT WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: Thermador Pro Harmony Oven

    The oven of our dreams. Photo courtesy


    Santa, baby, put this oven under the tree—for me!

    On second thought, leave it in the kitchen and have the reindeer pull the old range/oven away to appliance heaven.

    Thermador’s new 48-inch Pro Harmony® Range is everything an enthusiastic cook could dream of: six beautiful pedestal Star® Burners, an electric griddle and gas rangetop and two ovens. Two of the burners can maintain temperatures as low as 100°F—perfect for simmering delicate sauces.

    Perhaps the best-looking burners in the world, Thermador’s patented Star Burners deliver superior power and heat distribution while the exclusive burner pedestal allows effortless cleaning. We need it: We’re not the neatest cook.


    It’s so gorgeous, we’ve been going to the local showroom just to admire it—and Thermador’s other state-of-the-art appliances.

    See it up close and salivate over every gorgeous feature.


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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Kanon Organic Vodka

    In 1580, King Karl IV of Sweden built the Åkers Styckebruk foundry to produce cannons for the Swedish army. Along with the foundry, he built a distillery to make vodka for the workers (nice benefit!).

    Over time, the distillery became privately owned and the largest distillery in Sweden. Nearly 300 workers produced more than a million liters of vodka annually.

    After a succession of monarchs, King Gustav IV outlawed the private production of spirits, in order to reap the revenues via a state monopoly. The distillery was closed for more than 200 years. The monopoly was lifted in the 1990s and a new owner set out to revive the legacy. In 2010, the first case of Kanon Organic Vodka was shipped to New York.

    The vodka is produced with 400-year-old traditional techniques in an artisan environment: The distillery employs just 15 people.

    Kanon Organic Vodka makes a good gift at any time; but is especially easy to grab as a last-minute gift.


    Photo courtesy Kanon Vodka.



    Organic vodka is a feel-good product—and not just because the vodka is delicious. At Kanon, the entire production process is not only organic, but totally sustainable.

  • Organic means freedom from chemical pesticides and other artificial ingredients; organic production means that the environment was not harmed in the growth and harvesting of the ingredients. More about organic agriculture and products.
  • Sustainable agriculture and manufacturing use environmentally and socially responsible methods of production. It preserves natural resources by choosing natural, recycled and bio-degradable products, bio-friendly cleaners, and solar power where possible. More information.
    The superpremium vodka uses only the heart* of the distillation: The heads and tails are converted into ethanol to make environmentally-friendly biogas for local buses.

    The only ingredients in the bottle are wheat and artesian water. The taste and character of the vodka are maintained in perfect balance, with no “burn.”

    We keep our vodka in the freezer and drink it neat. Skal!

    Learn more at

    *Look at distillation as a bell curve. The distillate in the center (heart) of the curve is of higher quality than that produced at the beginning (head) or end (tail). The heads and tails can be re-distilled to get a second heart, but the heart from the first run is superior. The heads and tails, which are included in inferior alcohols, produce hangovers.


    You’ve seen vodka claims: distilled three times…five times…50 times. Kanon Organic Vodka is only distilled once. Here’s why:

    When the ingredients aren’t pure enough to begin with, when parts of the head and tail are included, then multiple distillations with charcoal filtration are needed to remove impurities. The impurities in Kanon are removed after a single distillation.

    Multiple distillations also remove the taste and character of the vodka.



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