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Archive for February, 2012

VALENTINE’S DAY: Toast With Taittinger Champagne

If you’re headed to the wine shop to buy Champagne, there are a lot of choices. Where should you start?

Take a look at Taittinger. It’s a universal favorite, described by one prominent wine reviewer as “the essence of Champagne.” One of our friends, a wine writer who could have chosen anything, served it at his wedding.

Don’t purchase a vintage year Champagne.* Vintage champagnes typically need to be laid down for 15 or 20 years to reveal their glorious nuances. Knowledgeable people who buy them don’t plan to drink them anytime soon.

Instead, look for a nonvintage Champagne, such as Taittinger Brut La Française. A nonvintage Champagne is a blend of wines from different years (see footnote).

*Vintage Champagne is a blend of wines from that one particular year indicated on the label, when the quality of the harvest, measured by the sweetness of the grapes, meets the requirements to declare a “vintage.” True vintage years may happen three or four times a decade, or fewer. Because vintage Champagne commands a significantly higher price, some Champagne houses declare a “vintage” in a year when others do not feel the quality of the harvest merits it. This doesn’t imply that nonvintage Champagnes are inferior; in fact, in a lean year, wines from richer vintages are mixed together to create the house’s “perfect” recipe.


Elegant and crisp, a perfect Champagne style. Photo courtesy Taittinger.


With a nonvintage Champagne, the different barrels of wine are assembled by the winemaker into a “perfect recipe,” known as the house style (le style de la maison): a consistent taste from year to year. And it’s a value: about $45.00 for Taittinger Brut La Française, compared with $80.00 for the 2004 vintage Taittinger Brut Millesime—which, as noted, is far too young to drink right now. (If your idea of a value is $10, you can find a nice sparkling wine, but it won’t be Champagne.)

Taittinger Brut La Française is made from 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Noir grapes. Crisp, creamy and complex, it has notes of citrus, green apple and the characteristic Champagne toastiness.

The best rose for Valentine’s Day: Rosé Champagne. We love rosé Champagnes, which acquire their natural rosy color from contact with red grape skins. Taittinger Brut Prestige Rosé is a beauty, with the greater roundness that rosés have, compared with traditional Brut Champagnes. It’s priced in between the nonvintage and vintage Taittingers, around $65.00. It’s hard to find, so if you see a bottle, pounce on it. It’s a memorable Champagne for a special occasion.

If you want Champagne with dessert, head for Taittinger Nocturne, a sec† Champagne that is vinified for sweeter foods. Taittinger Nocturne has twice the dosage (sugar added after the second fermentation) of the brut Champagne. Brut Champagnes are not vinified to pair with desserts, and will seem too astringent if you drink them with sweeter foods. Instead, those in the know drink sec and demi-sec Champagnes. Sec Champagnes also go well with foods that typically pair with sweeter wines, such as foie gras, lobster and double-creme/triple creme cheeses (our idea of a perfect meal). The nose evokes peaches, apricot and yeastiness (as with toast, a characteristic of Champagne). As with its brut brother, there’s crisp acidity and rich mouthfeel, tropical fruit and minerality. Trust us, it’s romantic.

Whatever is in your glass, have a delicious Valentine’s Day.
†While sec means “dry” in French, as it refers to Champagne, it indicates sweetness.



VALENTINE’S DAY: Our Valentine Gift To You

How many different types of sugar have you
had? Check them out in our Sugar Glossary.


Here’s something sweet for Valentine’s Day: THE NIBBLE’s Sugar Glossary, featuring all types of sweeteners, in a downloadable PDF.

What’s the difference between demerara and turbinado sugars? Corn syrup and golden syrup? Crystallized sugar and rock candy?

You’ll find just about every type of sugar and sweetener, and hopefully will be inspired to use them in your recipes.

The Sugar Glossary is one of our 80+ food glossaries. Take a look at the others and let us know the next glossary you’d like to be downloadable. (Use the Contact Us link at the top of the page).

We’re always updating our glossaries as we come across new information. For the latest version of the Sugar Glossary, see the online article.




TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Deano’s Jalapeño Chips

Hopefully, your Valentine’s Day will be filled with lots of romance.

But if you need more heat, try Deano’s Jalapeño Chips.

The typical “jalapeño chip” is a potato chip or tortilla chip flavored with jalapeño extract.

Deano’s Jalapeño Chips are the real deal: actual jalapeño chiles, sliced and fried. No potatoes have been invited to this party.

The chips are delicious with a beer, as a garnish for food, as a jalapeño crust for chicken or fish and other nifty uses.

Read the full review.

Find more of our favorite chips and other snacks.


Slices of jalapeño fried into crisp deliciousness. Photo by Elvira Kalviste |




TIP OF THE DAY: Non-Food Uses For Milk

You can do more than just drink it. Photo
courtesy Midwest Dairy Association.


Although we didn’t celebrate it at THE NIBBLE, February 11th was Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day. It was also Peppermint Patty Day, so we baked a batch of brownies with chopped peppermint patties.

However, for the occasion, our friends at the California Milk Board,, shared these tips that we felt merited passing along—especially if you frequently have milk that’s a day or two from turning into spoiled milk.

You can use the milk:

  • To Polish Patent Leather: The next time you spill milk, wipe it up and use the cloth to polish your patent shoes or bags. It will buff dull patent leather into a fine shine.
  • For A Milk Bath: For softer skin, spill 1 cup of milk into a tub of warm water. The lactic acid in the milk softens your skin, working as an exfoliator; the natural fats act as a moisturizer (you should be able to forgo the Aveeno). Remember, Cleopatra bathed in ass’s milk to beautify her skin.

  • Burn Remedy: The next time you spill burning hot food on yourself (or touch a hot pan), head to the fridge and spill some milk on your skin. Cover minor burns with a cloth soaked in whole milk. Whole milk is more effective than cold water because the fat content soothes burns and promotes healing.
  • Red Wine Spills: Instead of looking for a bleach pen to get red wine off your garment or tablecloth, blot the stain with a clean cloth moistened with milk. It works 99% of the time.
    If you’d like to cook with milk, check out the recipes on



    PRODUCT: Van Gogh Chocolate Vodka For Valentine’s Day

    Some might say that champagne is the perfect Valentine’s Day libation. But chocolate lovers might prefer chocolate vodka or chocolate tequila.

    Yes, they actually smell and taste like chocolate. At Van Gogh Vodka, distilled in The Netherlands, the vodkas are hand-crafted in small batches using a unique method invented by the distiller, all-natural ingredients, and premium grain alcohol. The grain alcohol goes through a six-week process, including multiple distillation followed by an all-natural double infusion flavoring.

    Dutch Chocolate Vodka

    For this clear vodka, Dutch cocoa flavors are combined with nuances of bittersweet coffee. The nose is chocolate and coffee; on the palate chocolate dominates, with nuances of caramel.

    We like sipping it straight, but here are three cocktail recipes from Van Gogh. Combine all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker, shake and strain into a martini glass.

  • Chocolate Almond Kiss: 1 ounce Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka, 1 ounce hazelnut liqueur, 1 ounce cream.
  • Double Dutch Mocha: 1 ounce Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka, 1 ounce Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka (a NIBBLE favorite), 1 ounce chocolate liqueur.
  • Triple Chocolate Truffle: 2 ounces Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka, 1/2 ounce chocolate liqueur, 1/2 ounce creme de cacao, 1/2 ounce cream.

    Chocolate-infused vodka makes for delicious sipping. Photo courtesy Van Gogh.


    Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka

    Unlike the Dutch Chocolate, this spirit is dark brown in color. While the distiller’s notes say this vodka is intense, we found the chocolate flavor to be much milder than Dutch Chocolate Vodka. There are charming flowery notes in the aroma and more of an alcohol taste. For mixing, it is fine; but for sipping straight, go for the more chocolaty Dutch Chocolate.

  • Milky Way Martini: 2 ounces Van Gogh Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka, ½ ounce Van Gogh Vanilla Vodka, 1 ounce Butterscotch Schnapps
  • S’More: 2 ounces Van Gogh Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka, 1/2 ounce agave nectar, 3 ounces lemon-lime soda (like 7-Up).
  • Vincent’s Swirl: 2 ounces Van Gogh Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka, 1 ounce Van Gogh Vanilla Vodka, splash of butterscotch schnapps; after pouring into glass, lightly swirl some chocolate syrup
    More of our favorite Valentine cocktail recipes.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Shad Roe, An Ephemeral Delicacy

    Any Cole Porter fan knows about shad roe,* but how many have tasted it?

    It’s shad roe season, trumpeting the eagerly anticipated delicacy that is available for about three weeks each year. The season is short because as the waters get warmer with the coming of spring, the shad swim upriver to spawn. The more they swim, the leaner they become; hence the need to catch them at the beginning of their sojurn.

    One champion of shad is Sandy Ingber, executive chef at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant in New York City, who always lands the first shad of the season. He served the first shad and shad roe last Thursday, flown in from Georgia, and estimates there will be shad through April.

    “Shad is here, and I look forward to this delicacy every February at this time,” says Chef Ingber. “The inside ‘porcupine’ is delicious, and the roe is so delicate and wonderful that people come from all over the world to enjoy this treat.” Some fans reserve the roe from their fishmonger, so as not to be caught empty handed when the limited supplies arrive.

    Fresh-caught shad, beloved for its flesh and its roe. Photo by Jordan Rusev | IST.

    He serves shad, roe, and a shad and shad roe combo with stuffed tomato and crispy bacon.(Gosh, don’t you wish you could be a global locavore, following seasonal foods all around the world?)The Lenape Native American tribe referred to shad as the “inside-out porcupine” because of its many bones. One reason it is such a delicacy is that few restaurants have the expertise it takes to filet and de-bone a shad. (Watch out, Top Chef contestants.) Another is the delicate roe.

    *From “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love).”


    Shad roe. Photo by Docku | Wikimedia.

    What Is A Shad?

    Shad, or river herring, belong to the same scientific family as conventional herring (Clupeidae). Several shad species can be found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean and Caspian Seas. Most species are found in freshwater only during spawning, while others are only found in landlocked freshwater.

    The American shad spends the majority of its life in salt water but returns to its river birthplace to breed in freshwater. It is a boney fish, typically three to five pounds. While its flesh is eaten, it is prized for its eggs, the shad roe.

    Shad roe is not the prettiest food, either raw or cooked. In both instances, it visually resembles liver rather than fish. The flavor, however, is delicate—not at all fishy, an attribute some people ascribe to caviar and other roe. In fact, the flavor is so subtle that, like most delicate fish, it easily takes on the flavor of ingredients cooked with it—bacon, capers, mushrooms and onions, for example.

    While shad roe is not that high in calories,† it is high in cholesterol: about 500 milligrams per modest three-ounce serving (similar to calf’s or beef liver).

    Then there’s the added cholesterol: bacon, often cooked with the shad, and the butter in which it is cooked. But it’s a once-a-year splurge.

    Call up the best seafood house in town to see if they have shad roe. Or, cash in those miles and head to the Grand Central Oyster Bar. In the words of Cole Porter, “Why ask if shad do it—Waiter bring me shad roe!”

    Or, call your local fishmonger, beg for a piece and try these two recipes from The New York Times.

    †One cup of shad roe, an average portion, has about 375 calories.



    VALENTINE’S DAY: Sparkling Rosé Makes It Special

    Sparkling rosé wine—be it Champagne or from another part of the world*—isn’t a great idea for Valentine’s Day just because it’s pink. The color is an added bonus for Valentine festivities.

    What makes sparkling rosé special is the deeper fruit flavor, fuller body and roundness that comes from pinot noir grapes.† Never confuse rosé Champagne or other fine sparkler with “pink Champagne,” a lesser-quality product that is colored pink, rather than allowing a natural color extraction from the pinot noir grape skins.

    *Only sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France can be called “Champagne.” Wines made anywhere else—including other regions of France—are called sparkling wine.
    †Some sparkling rosé wines are 100% pinot noir, others are blended with chardonnay grapes. Sparklers that have no pink color can still contain pinot noir, but have not had skin contact with the pinot noir grapes, which impart the color.

    Rosé sparklers tend to be more expensive than their conventional counterparts. But for about $22.00 a bottle, a bottle of Domaine Chandon Brut Rosé is delicious; for $50.00, the Domaine Chandon Etoile Rosé has wonderful complexity and is well worth the money if your budget allows.


    Pretty in pink: as a cocktail or a dessert. Photo courtesy Domaine Chandon

    The two sparkling wines are made by Domaine Chandon, the Napa Valley winery founded in 1973 by Moët-Hennessy, producers of Moët et Chandon and Dom Pérignon champagnes.
    Serve these delicious bubblies:

  • As an apéritif, before dinner
  • As a sherbet champagne cocktail (shown in photo): 1 ounce of sorbet in a champagne flute, topped with Domaine Chandon Brut Rosé (the strawberry sorbet complements the strawberry notes in the champagne)
  • With dinner
  • As dessert: Adapt the champagne cocktail by adding a scoop of strawberry sorbet to a sherbet champagne glass, globe wine glass, parfait glass or compote dish; top with champagne and sliced strawberries.
    Should you serve sparkling wine with chocolates or chocolate cake?

    Only if it’s a demi sec or sec (sweet) style.‡ There’s too much acidity in a brut Champagne or sparkling wine, which fights the sugar in the dessert. Here are our suggestions for:

  • Pairing wines with different desserts
  • Pairing wines with different chocolates
    ‡While sec is French for “dry,” it’s idiosyncratic that, as regards Champagne and other sparkling wines, sec refers to a sweet style.



    RECIPE: Valentine’s Day Punch

    Punch with a punch: Ruby Port. Photo
    courtesy Sandeman.


    If you’re having a Valentine’s Day party and are looking for a special cocktail, the ruby red color and luscious flavor of this Valentine punch, made with ruby port, fit the bill.

    The recipe was developed for Sandeman Port—whose Ruby Port is a favorite of ours—by mixologist Adam Schuman of Fatty Crew restaurant in New York City.

    You don’t need a punch bowl: You can mix the ingredients and serve them from a pitcher (which is a space saver, as well).


    Serves 10-15.


  • 25 parts Sandman Ruby Port
  • 20 pieces allspice
  • 10 pieces star anise
  • 5 cinnamon sticks
  • 17 parts Jamaican white rum
  • 25 parts pineapple juice
  • 4 parts fresh lime juice
  • 2 dashes Pernod liqueur
  • 25 parts ginger ale
  • Ice
  • Garnish: nutmeg, optional lemon peel
  • Preparation

    1. Simmer 6 parts of port with allspice, cinnamon and star anise. Cool (you can put it in the fridge to chill).

    2. Add remaining ingredients except ginger ale and ice to the punch bowl.

    3. Before serving, add ice and ginger ale to the punch. Grate or sprinkle nutmeg over the punch.

    More Valentine Cocktail Recipes.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Vegetables On A Stick

    The easiest way to make vegetables attractive to veggie non-enthusiasts is to put them on skewers. Serve them as snacks or with lunch or dinner.

    Bamboo skewers are very inexpensive: six-inch skewers are $1.00 for 50, and you can wash and reuse them. (Make sure you get skewers with pointy ends, not flat popsicle sticks.)

    Then, cut whatever veggies you have into a large dice: bell peppers, brussels sprouts, carrots, celery, cucumbers, green beans, sugar snap peas and zucchini; whole or halved broccoli and cauliflower florets; cherry or grape tomatoes.

    You can get creative, adding anything from grapes to olives; but the objective here is not to make appetizer or dessert skewers but to get people to eat more veggies.


    The plainest food exudes glamor on a stick. Photo by Matthew Bowden | SXC.


    If you want a dip, serve salsa or nonfat Greek yogurt and your favorite seasonings. Here are three recipes for starters:

  • Caramelized Onion Dip
  • Citrus Yogurt Dip
  • Garlic Lime Yogurt Dip
    Serve the skewers on a plate, vertical in a juice glass or other vessel, or stick the pointy ends into a halved winter squash or a melon (and use the squash or melon for the next meal).

    Find more vegetable ideas and dip ideas.



    VALENTINE’S DAY: A Gourmet Tea Gift With Passion

    Any tea lover would adore these love-ly Tay
    Teas. Photo courtesy Tay Tea.


    If you want to give your Valentine some Love Potion No. 9, mix up this Love Potion Martini.

    If he or she would prefer some fine tea, one of our favorite tea purveyors, Tay Tea, offers these options in bright red canisters containing the finest loose leaf teas;

  • Better Than Sex, rooibos, chocolate and peppermint
  • Duchess’ First Love, rooibos and black teas with caramel
  • Lovers, rooibos, saffron and rose petals
  • Marry Me Again, black tea with lavender
  • Wild Woman, black tea with blueberries
    Although many people can give tea alluring names, few can blend such fine teas as Tay Tea’s Nini Ordoubadi.

    Whether for Valentine’s Day or just because you deserve some great tea, check out her wares at


    Read our review of Tay Tea.

    For starters, visit our Gourmet Tea Section and check out our Tea Glossary.



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