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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,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Valentine’s Day

FOOD FUN: Strawberry Cake With Strawberry Heart-Shaped Macarons

Steph, a blogger in Sydney, Australia, created this masterpiece: a fluffy vanilla cake layered with strawberry and balsamic vinegar icing, topped with heart-shaped macarons filled with the same icing strawberry-balsamic icing.

The recipe is on her website,

In Italy, fresh strawberries with a few drops of fine aged balsamic vinegar are a popular dessert. Steph loves the combination, and it was a short leap to adding caramelized balsamic vinegar to strawberry buttercream icing.

“All I did was purée the fruit and mix it into my regular buttercream icing, along with that amazing caramelised balsamic vinegar,” says Steph. “It has a gorgeous depth of flavour and a bit of tang from the balsamic. It helped that I [already] had that beautiful sweet and thick balsamic vinegar, which seemed perfect to use in desserts; but you could use any balsamic and adjust the amount you add to the icing until it tastes just right.”

In terms of going the extra mile to make heart-shaped macarons: Steph, we take our hat off to you.

A Valentine cake that will turn heads. Photo courtesy Raspberri Cupcakes.




FOOD FUN: Chocolate Pills


A cure for some: chocolate pills. Photo courtesy Fika.


If you have a friend suffering from heartache, how about chocolate pills for a Valentine’s Day cure?

These pills are roasted and caramelized hazelnuts and almonds, enrobed in 70% dark chocolate.

The prescription for instant happiness: 3-5 chocolate covered nuts daily.

A bottle of Chocolate Pills is $8.00 at

Adapting the coffee-centric lifestyle of Sweden, Fika is a coffee house and confectionery with several locations in Manhattan. Chocolates are hand-made in house and are sold online.




VALENTINE COCKTAIL: Pomegranate Refresher

For a sophisticated Valentine cocktail that isn’t overly pink or laden with rose petals, we like this from Tequila Herradura . Herradura used its Silver Tequila to make the drink.


Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 ounce blanco/silver tequila
  • 1 ounce vermouth
  • Dash orange bitters
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • Ice
  • 1 ounce club soda
  • Garnish: pomegranate arils (seeds)
  • Garnish: mint sprig or notched strawberry on the rim


    1. PLACE all ingredients except the soda into a high ball glass filled with ice.



    Pretty in [pale] pink for Valentine’s Day. Photo courtesy Tequila Herradura.

    2. ADD the club soda and use a bar spoon to stir the ingredients. Add the pomegranate seeds.

    3. GARNISH with the mint sprig or strawberry and serve.



    RECIPE: Valen-Tini Chocolate Martini


    Make this Valen-tini with ice cream. Photo courtesy McCormick.


    A Valen-tini for Valentine’s Day: This one’s a rich, creamy chocolate Martini with optional ice cream, whipped up by the folks at McCormick.


    Ingredients For 2 Cocktails

  • 1 cup light cream
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate syrup
  • 1 tablespoon banana, strawberry or raspberry extract
  • Ice cubes
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream
  • Optional dessert: add a small scoop of chocolate or vanilla ice cream

    1. FILL cocktail shaker two-thirds full with ice. Add light cream, vodka, chocolate syrup and extract; shake until well mixed and chilled.

    2. STRAIN into 2 Martini glasses. Top with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired. Serve immediately.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Pairing Cheese & Chocolate

    Forget the bread, crackers and fruit: Who knew that plain chocolate, chocolate truffles and chocolate-covered caramels—the latter two with prominent dairy and buttery notes—pair so well with cheese?

    We know that chocolate cheesecake, and a chocolate ganache topping on regular cheesecake, are delicious. So how about serving a piece of cheese with a piece of chocolate?

    If you love both cheese and chocolate, you can have a party that pairs both, for Valentine’s Day or any special occasion. You can pair almost any cheese, from a sweet mascarpone to a mushroomy Brie to a tangy blue. You can also add toasted nuts and a libation of choice. But start with some guidance from the experts.

    When deciding on pairings, contrast textures in the cheese and chocolate. For example, try a soft, creamy cheese with a simple dark chocolate square, or a hard, crumbly cheese drizzled with chocolate ganache.

    Lake Champlain Chocolates offers these insights:

  • Soft ripened goat’s, sheep’s or cow’s milk cheeses tend to be more pungent, acidic and aggressive and pair well with both dark chocolate and milk chocolate.


    Cheese and chocolate? Absolutely! Photo courtesy

  • Aged cheese is nutty, and less acidic, with a crunchy texture that pairs well with chocolates with fillings and inclusions, such as almonds, honey and maple.
  • Blue cheese, with its sharp, pungent aromas and flavors, enhances the undertones of bittersweet dark chocolate (70% or higher cacao content).
  • suggests pairing:

  • Bittersweet chocolates with salty cheeses, like aged Asiago, Parmesan or pecorino.
  • Dark chocolate with complex, aged cheeses such as Beaufort, Cheshire, aged Gruyère, Manchego.
  • Milk chocolate with fresh, sweet cheese like crescenza, cream cheese, crème fraîche, mascarpone, ricotta, and Teleme; or buttery, semisoft cheeses like Brie, creamy blues, triple crèmes and washed rind cheeses.
  • Chocolate with nuts or dried fruits with creamier, semisoft cheeses as well as aged, more complex cheeses, such as Asiago, Cheddar, fontina, Gouda, or beer or wine washed rind cheeses.
  • Spicy chocolates with sharp cheeses that are not overly salty: aged Gouda and aged Jack for example.
    Vermont Creamery likes these pairings:

  • Fresh goat cheese with its creamy tartness with dense milk or dark chocolate truffles.
  • Soft, ripened cheese with dark chocolate, especially those spiced with cinnamon, cayenne or anise for a more complex flavor profile. Try Aztec chocolate with aged goat cheese.
  • Aged cheese with nutty notes, such as good Cheddar, well with an almond chocolate bar or chocolate-covered almonds. Bonbons with honey and maple fillings work, too.
  • Strong blue cheese, sharp and pungent with semisweet dark chocolate. Try a great blue like Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue with a simple bar of 50% to 65% cacao.


    Jasper Hill’s chocolate and cheese Valentine git set. Photo courtesy Jasper Hill Farm.


    You can download an extensive party guide from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, but here are the highlights:

  • Alpine-style cheese like Gruyère or Emmental, with milk chocolate. Since the Alpine cheeses have nutty notes, you can also pair add some nuts, from plain almonds or walnuts to rosemary cashews.
  • Aged Cheddar with chocolate-dipped bacon or with Aztec (spicy) dark chocolate. Hints of cayenne or other pepper really work with Cheddar. Also try spicy chocolate with a blue cheese.
  • Aged Parmesan with dark chocolate and oatmeal stout. The nutty flavor of aged Parmesan also invites dark chocolate covered almonds. If you’re a beer drinker, try it with an oatmeal stout.
  • Blue cheese with dark chocolate truffles and a glass of Port. Blue cheese and Port are already a popular pairing. The dark chocolate bridges the saltiness of the cheese and the sweetness of the wine.
  • Mixed milk cheese—a combination of cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk—tend to have an intense earthy flavor. Pair them with white chocolate, with its sweeter counterpoint. If you like, add some cranberry chutney. These earthy cheeses also work well with chocolate-covered salt caramels. Yum!
    The great British chef Heston Blumenthal pairs caviar and white chocolate. So if you have a favorite food, test it with a bite of dark, milk or white chocolate to see if it works.

    Brooklyn chocolatiers the Mast brothers, known for their small batch, artisan chocolate bars, joined up with Jasper Hill Farm to develop a milk chocolate trio that showcases the flavors of cow’s, sheep’s, and goat’s milks.

    It’s a rare experience to see how a chocolate bar made with other animal milks compare with the familiar cow’s milk used in all conventional milk chocolate. Here’s your chance! These particular bars are made with semisweet 60% cacao that has naturally nutty notes. But what you’ll also find is that:

  • The cow’s milk bar has toasty notes of tobacco and wood smoke.
  • The goat’s milk bar has notes of citrus and date.
  • The sheep’s milk bar tastes of dulce du leche and fresh dairy.
    Jasper Hill Farm has created a Cheese & Chocolate Gift Box that pairs this unique chocolate trio with two chocolate-loving cheeses. Each gift box contains the three 2.5-ounce chocolate bars plus:

  • Bayley Hazen Blue, made with raw cow’s milk, a creamy blue cheese with sweet undertones (8 ounces). Pairing with chocolate brings out its buttery flavors of the milk.
  • Weybridge, made with organic cow’s milk, a bright, dense cheese with an edible bloomy rind. A bright, tangy cheese, it has a yogurty flavor that becomes more intense and gamey as it ages. It’s made in a limited-edition heart shaped just for Valentine’s Day (3.5 ounces).
    The gift box is $62.00 at You can order any time and specify your preferred delivery date.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Unconventional Valentine Treats

    You don’t have to give chocolate or cupcakes on Valentine’s Day. In fact, some people may prefer a less conventional gift. Think outside the [chocolate] box.

    As a smaller gift to bring to pals at the office, we particularly like red berry jam. You can go for a pricey artisan brand, or look for an organic brand like Santa Cruz Organic Seedless Red Raspberry Fruit Spread.

    We love raspberry jam, but not the seeds. So we were very happy to discover Santa Cruz Organic’s Seedless Red Raspberry Fruit Spread. Not only is it seedless, it’s thick and lush with raspberry flavor. As a fruit spread, it’s also lower in sugar than most raspberry jams (and 40 calories per tablespoon). You taste the fruit, not the cloying sugar. (Here’s the difference between fruit spreads, jam, preserves, etc.)

    The fruit spreads are also made in Apricot, Blackberry Pomegranate, Concord Grape, Mango and Strawberry. In addition to being certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO, the line is certified kosher by OU. Look for it at natural food markets or online.




    A quality jar of strawberry or raspberry jam says “Be My Valentine.” Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

    On the savory side, look for something red and spicy. It could be a jar of artisan arrabiata pasta sauce, or something as much fun as sriracha ketchup.

    Lee Kum Kee, maker of terrific soy sauce, has added Sriracha Chili Ketchup to its line. It gives the ketchup lover another dimension of flavor and heat on burgers and fries, and in spreads and dips. We think it’s a great “guy gift.”

    Look for it in the Asian products aisle at your supermarket, at Asian markets or online.
    For a more generous gift, a bottle of red wine is always welcome, or a pink rosé.

    Personally, we’d like a jar of red caviar.



    FOOD FUN: Valentine Crackers


    Fun to make, fun to eat. Photo courtesy
    Stacy’s Snacks.


    Here are two fun ways to snack on Valentine’s Day.

    First the sweet: a fun idea from Stacy’s Pita Chips, delicious with a snack, coffee/tea break or for dessert with ice cream.



  • Stacy’s Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips
  • Chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • Valentine candy sprinkles

    1. MELT chocolate.

    2. DIP pita chips into melted chocolate. Set on wax paper.

    3. SPRINKLE with Valentine decorating hearts (LINK) before chocolate sets.


    Want something more savory? Try Valley Lahvosh Hearts Crackerbread.

    Similar in flavor and texture to Carr’s Water Biscuits, they’re packed with personality and ready to be topped or eaten plain with soup.

  • Spread them with soft cheese, or serve with a cheese plate.
  • Top them with shrimp salad, or whatever appeals to you.
    Whatever you choose, garnish it with something red: a radish slice, half of a cherry tomato, strip of bell pepper or pimento—even a berry.



    Savory sesame heart-shaped crackers. Photo courtesy Valley Lahvosh.




    VALENTINE GIFTS: Chocolate Lips, Macarons In Red


    You can actually reuse the “clutch” packaging
    as a fun evening bag. Photo by Faith
    Tomases | THE NIBBLE.


    We love gifts with “keeper” boxes. We always find ways to repurpose the boxes, which continue to remind us of the gift and the giver.

    Pâtissier François Payard has chosen beautiful packaging for his Valentine confections. We’ve selected two to highlight. Both can be shipped nationwide.

    “Kiss Me” Chocolates

    Eighteen luscious lips are packaged in a container so lovely, you could use it as an evening clutch.

    Half of the chocolates are milk chocolate filled with caramel and fleur de sel, enrobed in Valrhona’s 40% Jivara Milk Chocolate.

    The other half are gancache-filled dark chocolate, Valrhona’s 66% Caraibe. The ganache is infused with freshly puréed passion fruit and mango.

    The two flavors are a contrast in deliciousness: creamy caramel versus tangy fruit. A gift of Kiss Me Chocolates should earn you many actual kisses in return.


    “Sweet Love” Macaron Collection

    Pull the ribbon on the drawer of the box, and pull out 12 elegant macarons. There are four each in:

  • Cassis Violet: white chocolate with violet & black currants ganache
  • Passion Fruit & Banana: white chocolate with banana & passion fruit ganache
  • Rose Water: white chocolate with rose water ganache

    Born and trained in France (he’s a third-generation pastry chef), Payard moved to New York in 1990 as Pastry Chef at the four-star Le Bernardin restaurant, and subsequently at the four-star Restaurant Daniel. He was named Pastry Chef of the Yearin 1995, by the James Beard Foundation.

    Now the proprietor of five bakeries/bakery-cafés in New York City, he also sells selected products online.

    Discover more at



    A drawer of macarons pulls out with a satin ribbon. Photo by Faith Tomases | THE NIBBLE..




    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Valentine Cocktail

    Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with a romantic interest, friends or family, make the occasion special with a Valentine cocktail.

    What makes a “Valentine” cocktail? Color—a shade of pink, rose or red. If you want a Champagne cocktail, garnish it with “Champagne grapes” (they’re actually Zante currants), a red berry or an edible flower. And of course, it’s got to be a sweet cocktail.

    Chocolate cocktails are also options.

    We’ve listed some of our favorite recipes at the end, but here’s a new idea from Tequila Herradura.

    This sweet cocktail from is almost a good-for-you tonic, mixing the spirit with a serving of fresh fruit, plus fruit juice and low glycemic agave nectar instead of sugar- or corn syrup-filled cocktail mixer.


    Ingredients For One Drink

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 10 seedless red grapes
  • 1 ounce apple cider
  • ½ ounce agave nectar
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: apple fan


    Get ready to toast Valentine’s Day with some Love Nectar. Photo courtesy Casa Herradura.


    1. PLACE the grapes into the base of a cocktail shaker and crush with a muddler. Add the remaining ingredients including ice. Shake hard and strain over ice into an old fashioned glass.

    2. GARNISH with a fan of red apple. (Here’s a video that shows how.)

  • Amore Espresso Cocktail Recipe
  • Bright Red Cocktail Recipes
  • Chocolate Basil Martini Recipe
  • Five Chocolate Cocktail Recipes
  • Love Potion Recipe
  • Pink Cocktail Recipes
  • Pomegranate Martini Recipe
  • The Right Kiss Gin Cocktail Recipe
    Or, since you’ve got time, start thinking about making your own signature cocktail. Hint: There’s nothing easier than



    TIP OF THE DAY: Get A Heart-Shaped Cheese


    Coeur de Bray, a heart-shaped Neufchâtel
    cheese. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.


    Different heart-shaped cheeses appear at this time of year, especially goat cheeses. But the first heart-shaped cheese, created in the 14th century, was Neufchâtel (NU-shah-tell), a soft-riped cow’s milk cheese with a white rind.

    Note that French Neufchâtel is different from the American product of the same name, sold as a lower-fat alternative to cream cheese. American Neufchâtel has been disappearing over the last decade, as cream cheese manufacturers have marketed their own lowfat and nonfat versions.

    Authentic French Neufchâtel is one of the oldest cheeses in France and the oldest cheese in Normandy, dating back as far as the sixth century. Soft and crumbly, its dry, white rind is velvety and edible.

    Its buttery, pale paste has a salty, somewhat sharp flavor has soft mushroom notes, like Brie. Like Brie, the cheese develops an earthy character as it ages.

    Serve it with crusty bread, cherry jam, fresh berries or dried fruit.

    Neufchâtel pairs nicely with a crisp, dry white wine. Murray’s suggests Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc or Rosé. We prefer Champagne. And if you’re a red wine drinker, bring on the Burgundy.



    It is available in various shapes, the famous Neufchâtel heart shape is a tradition begun by young Norman women, as the story goes, to discreetly express their feelings of affection for young British soldiers during the 100 Years’ War*.

    This particular Neufchatel heart comes from the Pays de Bray, an area in northern Normandy. The name is AOC protected.

    It is “made from buckets of cream” from the famed dairy cows of Normandy, according to Murray’s Cheese, which sells it at retail and online for $15.99.



    A Neufchâtel heart, slightly aged. Photo courtesy Cheeses Of France.



    You can make your own heart-shaped cheese, the famed Coeur à La Crème (heart of cream).

    This luscious mascarpone creation (that’s the same cheese used to make tiramisu) is served with berries or a sauce of raspberry purée for dessert.

    Here’s the recipe.

    *A series of conflicts from 1337 to 1453 between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of France for control of the French throne. The war is commonly divided into three phases separated by truces, which together comprise the longest military conflict in history: the Edwardian Era War (1337–1360), the Caroline War (1369–1389) and the Lancastrian War (1415–1353), which saw the slow decline of English fortunes after the appearance of Joan of Arc in 1429. The French kept the throne and the cheese.



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