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Archive for October 11, 2015

TRAVEL: Destination Dining In The Dominican Republic

Ask a room full of people what they think a vacation at a Caribbean luxury resort might be like, and you’d probably hear comments about lying under a palapa all day with waiters bringing endless glasses of Champagne, or having a personal genie who caters to their every wish.

How about consulting a pillow menu for the just-right cloud to rest your head on as you slip into your rose petal-strewn bed? He might mingle with the aromas of the cigar lounge, she might watch her diamonds refract in the sun over the pool with a swim-up refreshment bar.

One thing no one would likely say is that they’d expect an unforgettable gourmet experience.

Iberostar’s Grand Hotel Bavaro in easily reached Punta Cana, Dominican Republic is a white-glove, 5-star resort that offers all of the above, but it has done something to make it a little different. It has become a gastronomic destination.

At the Grand Bavaro, as well as at Iberostar’s dozens of luxury resorts sprinkled throughout Mexico and Latin America, the family-owned company wanted to showcase its Spanish history and sensibility. What better way to emphasize these two ingredients? Write up a menu!

   

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The menu from Chef Jordi Cruz. Photo by Rowann Gilman | THE NIBBLE.

 

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When you’re not focused on gourmet dining, there are beautiful grounds and a sparkling blue ocean. Photo courtesy Iberostar.

 

Iberostar’s Chefs on Tour program lets gastronomes enjoy special menus created and prepared by a roster of multi-Michelin starred chefs from Spain throughout the year.

These world-class dining occasions with exquisite Spanish wine pairings use local ingredients and visiting chefs’ own techniques.

A recent seven-course dinner put the spotlight on Jordi Cruz who, at age 37, is the world’s youngest 4-Michelin-star chef.

A bit of a maverick, Barcelona-born Chef Cruz took up some formal culinary training but quickly realized that the best way to learn was to do.

And so he did, in some of Spain’s most highly praised restaurants, working with chefs such as Ferran Adrià and Martín Berasategui.

The charismatic Cruz has won more than four major awards in his young career, and from what I tasted, all were well-deserved.

For more information, visit the resort’s website.

— Rowann Gilman

 

  

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TRIVIA: For National Popcorn Month

For National Popcorn Month, here’s some trivia from The Popcorn Factory, based on a survey conducted online by Toluna Quick Surveys:

  • Favorite Flavor: Caramel corn is favored 2:1 over the second most popular flavor, cheese. If you add in the Butter Almond Toffee flavor (caramel and almonds), its 3:1. Here are the stats: Caramel 19.82%, Cheese 9.91%, White Cheddar 9.91%, Butter Toffee Almond 8.27% and Butter 8.17%.
  • Pronunciation: 27% say caramel in three syllables—car-a-mel—while 44% pronounce it car-mel. Really, people? Look it up: it’s pronounced as it’s spelled: car-a-mel. Carmel is a city in Monterey County, California. Clint Eastwood was the mayor, 1986-1988.
  • Sharing: 76% like to share their popcorn, 24% like to snack alone.
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    The favorite time to eat popcorn:

     

    Caramel Corn

    Caramel corn is the #1 flavor. Photo courtesy The Popcorn Factory.

  • While watching a movie, 65%
  • As an after-dinner snack, 11%
  • While relaxing or participating in a hobby, 6%
  • At a social event, 2%
  • As a special reward, 2%
  • With a meal, 1%
  • Other, 3%
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    Check out the history of popcorn, an all-American snack. Air-popped without butter, it’s a low-calorie, high-fiber whole grain snack. You can add a bit of plain or flavored olive oil, and all the herbs and/or spices you like.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 21 Ways To Use Beets

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    TOP: Beets are most familiar in a reddish-purple hue, but are also available in different shades of red, orange, white, yellow, even red with a red and white bullseye pattern inside (chioggia beets). Photo © Carole Topalian Photography | Edible Madison. BOTTOM: Chioggia beets. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

     

    Beets are one of those ‘em or hate ‘em foods. But they’re so delicious, we can’t understand the haters.

    We enjoy beets year-round. We eat the edible roots, but the greens are also delicious—just sauté them. And for fall, the colors are perfect.

    The availability of fresh, cooked, and canned beets makes it easy to incorporate beets into any meal. And unlike many canned or precooked vegetables, the flavor and texture are pretty close to fresh-cooked beets.

    Today’s tip comes from Oldways, a not-for-profit whose mission is “to guide people to good health through heritage”: healthy eating and healthy foods that “have the power to improve the health and well-being of all of us.”

    Along that line, beet roots deliver fiber, folate, manganese, and potassium; the beet greens pack vitamins A, C and K.

    BEETS FOR BREAKFAST

    While it’s not a conventional breakfast ingredient, beets add vivid color, flavor and nutrition to:

  • Avocado toast: add sliced beets.
  • Bagel: with smoked salmon, cream cheese and sliced or julienned/matchstick beets. Add fresh dill for perfection!
  • Omelet: with diced or julienned beets.
  • Vegetarian “Eggs Benedict”: substitute a beet slice for the Canadian bacon.
  • Yogurt or cottage cheese: top with a small dice or blend with beets and fresh dill.
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    BEETS FOR LUNCH

  • Salad: add to side salads and luncheon salads (our favorite: beets, goat cheese and toasted walnuts on arugula or mesclun, and “purple potato salad”—the beets impart a swirl of color).
  • Sandwich: sliced plain or pickled beets on the sandwich, in a wrap or as a side.
  • Sandwich spread and more: blend horseradish and cooked grated beets into Greek yogurt to create a spicy sandwich spread, dip, or sauce for fish and meats.
  • Soup: hot or cold borscht.
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    BEETS FOR DINNER

  • First course: sliced oranges and beets on a bed of lettuce with vinaigrette or a drizzle of basil olive oil, or this beautiful galette.
  • Salad: grate over a green salad with finely sliced red onion and a red wine vinaigrette, add to a fall salad with roasted squash and fennel (recipe).
  • Garnish: add sliced, diced or in matchsticks, beets add pizzazz.
  • Beet mashed potatoes: recipe.
  • Grains: stir chopped roasted beets, crumbled feta and finely chopped beet greens into cooked farro, quinoa or brown rice; drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.
  • Roast vegetables: beets with carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, turnips, with fresh rosemary, crushed garlic, and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Sautéed beet greens: cook in olive oil with sliced onions, crushed garlic, red pepper and a pinch of chili flakes and salt.
  • Braised: cook sliced beets, sliced red cabbage and beet greens with a bit of apple cider vinegar and caraway seeds.
  • Cheese plate: pickled beets as a cheese condiment
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    You can add beets to breakfast bars, brownies, energy bars, sangria, smoothies. You can even make beet ice cream and a vegan beet “cheesecake.” See beautiful recipes at LoveBeets.com.

     

    BEET HORS D’OEUVRE & SNACKS

  • Bruschetta: layer sliced beets on sliced baguette, top with Brie or other cheese, heat to slightly melt the cheese, garnish with fresh herbs.
  • Dip: blend beets into mayonnaise, plain yogurt or sour cream, with fresh dill;* or this beet dip and spread, or blend into white bean dip.
  • Beet hummus: recipe with pepper and recipe with ginger.
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    *Or stir grated cooked beets, garlic, fresh dill or thyme, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice into Greek yogurt.
     
    THE HISTORY OF BEETS

    The modern beet (its botanical name is Beta vulgaris) evolved from wild sea beet, which grew wild in places as wide-ranging as Britain and India to Britain. The wild sea beet was first cultivated in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East—although only the leaves were eaten! (Even today, beet greens are delicious. Don’t throw them away: Sauté them.) In early times, the medicinal properties of the root (the red bulb) led that portion to be used to treat a range of ailments from constipation, fevers, skin problems and wounds.

    The Romans cultivated beets; early recipes included cooking beets with honey and wine (that’s still a good recipe today). Apicius, the renowned Roman gourmet, included a beet broth recipe in his cookbook as well as beet salad with a dressing of mustard, oil and vinegar.

    The original beet roots were long and thin like carrots. The rounded root shape of today was developed in the 16th century and by the 18th century was widely cultivated in Central and Eastern Europe. Many classic beet dishes originated in this region, including borscht.

     

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    TOP: Roasted salmon on a bed of beets. Photo courtesy Silk Road Tavern | NYC. BOTTOM: Roasted red and yellow beets with goat cheese. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     
    In 19th century England, beets’ dramatic color was popular to brighten up salads and soups. The high sugar content made it a popular ingredient in cakes and puddings.

    Today there are many varieties of beets sizes large and small, including candy-striped (with red and white concentric circles), orange, white and yellow. Look for these specialty beets in farmers markets.

      

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