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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 Valentine’s Day

VALENTINE’S DAY: Make Heart-Shaped Whoopie Pies

The biggest challenge to New Year’s diet resolutions is Valentine’s Day. Hopefully, we’ve lost a pound or two in January so we can proceed with “the sweetest holiday.”

We’re starting with heart-shaped whoopie pies. They require an investment in a heart-shaped cookie pan, which can be used year-around: for Mother’s Day, engagement and anniversary parties, to say “I love you” to someone special, and so forth.

The same pan makes jumbo cookies. Add a stick to make cookie pops.

It will be love at first bite when you turn out goodies with this dishwasher safe, nonstick pan. The 12-space pan makes 12 cookies or 6 whoopie pies. Recipes are included.

The pan is $12.95 at Sur La Table stores or online.

BYO whoopie pie recipe.

 

Heart-shaped whoopie/cookie pop pan from
SurLatable.com.

 

  

Comments

GIFT OF THE DAY: Special Caramels For Your Honey

salted-caramels-droga-230r

Salted honey caramels. Photo courtesy
Droga.

 

For the lover of gourmet caramels, something special for your Valentine:

Put Your Money On Honey salted caramels from Droga Chocolates of Los Angeles.

The luscious bites are the result of a bet that a caramel couldn’t be made without corn syrup. Seeking a solution to the challenge, Droga says:

“Inspiration stung us—honey was the answer! The first honey caramel came to bee, and people have been abuzz ever since.”

And you should make a bee-line for them! So soft and redolent of fine honey, each taste makes you want another. And another.

The small-batch caramels are:

  • Made with California creamery pure cream and butter
  • Sweetened with raw California wildflower honey
  • Enrobed in premium dark chocolate from Guittard
  • Sprinkled with delicate French fleur de sel sea salt
  •  

    The nine caramels in the gift box ($16.95, two boxes for $29.95) will disappear quickly, but leave such happy memories.

    Droga confections are certified kosher by KOF-K.

    Get yours at DrogaChocolates.com.

    There are caramels in other flavors that also hit the spot. Here’s our review.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

    chocolate-covered-potato-chips-sharisberries-230sq

    Oh so good! Photo courtesy Shari’s Berries.

     

    Some people would like box of creamy chocolates for Valentine’s Day.

    Others would gladly trade for a bag of chocolate-covered potato chips.

    Savory meets sweet when crunchy, salty potato chips are drenched in quality chocolate—in our humble opinion, the greatest improvement to the potato chip since it was invented (potato chip history).

    While you can find chocolate-covered chips at Trader Joe’s, more giftable versions come from Shari’s Berries, shown in the photo. A bag of 14 ounces of divine chocolate-covered potato chips is $24.99. The chips are certified kosher (dairy) by OU.

     

    For a more formal presentation, Neuchatel’s Swiss Chips, dipped in milk chocolate, are packaged in a purple and gold can, $8.00.

    Swiss Colony sells 8.5 ounces in a gift tin for $17.95.

    Enjoy them from the bag, can or a serving dish. Use them to garnish ice cream and other desserts. And hold us harmless from any addiction to chocolate-covered potato chips that may develop.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Super Bowl Macarons, Valentine Macarons

    danas-super-bowl-macarons-230

    The battle of the macarons. Photo courtesy
    Dana’s Bakery.

     

    In addition to the Super Bowl, we’re celebrating the Mac Bowl: the battle between two macarons for the title of tastiest.

    Dana’s Bakery, a wonderfully creative maker of delicious macarons (a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week—here’s the review), has created two flavors for the occasion:

  • Denver Chocolate Peanut Butter Macarons
  • Seattle Sea Salt Caramel Macarons
  •  
    In vibrant team colors, each bite is a victory. Get yours at DanasBakery.com. The line is certified kosher.

    Who needs chicken wings, guacamole and pizza? We’re set with our Super Bowl macarons. Game on!

     

     

    VALENTINE MACARONS

    For Valentine’s Day, Dana has transformed the classic Sweethearts candy, also called conversation hearts, into macarons.

    Sweethearts are made by the New England Confectionery Company (NECCO), makers of Necco Wafers. Each hard heart-shaped candy is printed with a romantic message: “Be Mine,” “Kiss Me,” “Adore Me,” and “Crazy 4U” are some of the messages.

    WHO INVENTED SWEETHEARTS CANDY?

    Sweethearts date all the way back to 1866. In 1847, 26-year-old Boston pharmacist Oliver R. Chase invented a machine that cut lozenges from wafer candy—similar to Necco Wafers.

     

    danas-valentine-macarons-230

    Macarons for your Valentine, atop a bed of Sweethearts candy. Photo courtesy Dana’s Bakery.

     
    While it turned out to be the world’s first candy-making machine, the original intent was to create lozenges to soothe the throat or to settle the stomach. The line between “losenge” and “hard candy” is pretty slim.

    In 1866 Oliver’s brother, Daniel Chase, designed a machine that pressed designs onto the wafers, and began printing sayings on what had become “candy.”

    Sweethearts were launched by NECCO in 1901. In 2010 the recipe was changed to allow for bright modern colors; contemporary sayings have been added, such as “Email me” (no doubt soon to be “Text Me”) and “LOL.” NECCO receives hundreds of suggestions a year on new sayings.

    Sweetheart macarons are available from DanasBakery.com.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Red Moka Pot

    moka-pot-red-imusa

    The classic moka pot dons a red coat.
    Photo courtesy IMUSA USA.

     

    Here’s a no-calorie Valentine gift for someone who loves strong coffee: a red moka pot.

    You can purchase the six-cup version at Macy’s for $14.99; it also is available in pumpkin orange and cobalt blue. A three-cup version is available at Kohl’s.

    Bialetti, originators of the moka pot, make six-cup versions in solid red, orange, blue and violet.

    Up until few decades ago, before the introduction of electric-powered espresso machines for the home, people with money made espresso in a moka pot, a manual Italian espresso maker. People without money, space or a frequent need for an electric espresso machine still do.

    WHAT’S A MOKA POT?

    A moka pot is a stove top coffee pot that makes strong coffee. Instead of the more recent drip coffeemakers, where water drips down through ground coffee into a carafe below, the moka pot holds the water in its bottom half. When heated on the stove, the steam pushes boiling water up through the grounds into a top chamber, from which it is poured.

     

    HISTORY OF THE MOKA POT

    The aluminum Moka Express, with its octagonal body, was patented in 1933 by the Italian inventor Luigi De Ponti and acquired by Alfonso Bialetti. It enabled Bialetti, a metals engineer, to transform his company into a leading Italian coffee machine designer and manufacturer.

    Before the moka pot, only people of means could brew café-quality coffee at home, using large and expensive commercial machines that required training. Most people drank their coffee at a café or coffee bar.

    The creation of the small, efficient, user-friendly and affordable Moka Express allowed anyone to quickly brew at home the bold, robust-tasting coffee beloved by Italians. It replaced the more primitive coffee-makers developed in the late 19th century such as the Napoletana.

    Although today there are electric moka pots, it the original survives in its original form—a feat for a kitchen appliance designed more than 80 years ago. The major change has been a move to stainless steel by some the versions, as well as novelty designs like the one above and Bialetti’s cappuccino moka pot with a fun cow-pattern enamel coating (there’s also a plain, elegant cappuccino pot).

     

    WHY IS IT CALLED “MOKA?”

    The Red Sea port city of Mocha in Yemen was the major marketplace for coffee—grown in Africa—from the 15th century through the 17th century. The principal port for Yemen’s capital city, Sana’a, it was later eclipsed by the ports of Aden and Hodeida.

    Because the name is transliterated from Arabic letters, there are a variety of spellings: Mocha, Mocca, Moka, Mokha, etc.

    Even after other sources of coffee were developed, Mocha beans (also called Sanani or Mocha Sanani beans, meaning “from Sana’a”) continued to be prized for their distinctive flavor—and remain so today.

     

    moka-pot-red-coffee-imusa-230

    Be my Valentine—have an espresso. Photo courtesy IMUSA USA.

    HOW TO BUY A MOKA POT

    Remember that a “four cup pot” means four wee espresso cups. If you like a double espresso—or a standard coffee cup full—buy the largest pot you can find—typically nine cups. Bialetti’s largest makes 12 cups.

    If you have the option, stainless steel will look better over time than aluminum.

    Typically, Italian roast coffee is used in a moka pot; but you can use whatever you have.

     
    MAKE TEA IN A MOKA POT

    What if you have two moka pots? Use one for tea. See our moka pot tip from ten days ago.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: A Different Take On Chocolate Kisses

    Chef François Payard is making it easier to send kisses this Valentines Day. Check out his Dark Chocolate Raspberry Lips.

    Packaged in a red clutch-shaped box, the chocolate lips are filled with chocolate ganache that has a hint of ginger, and are packaged with with a white chocolate raspberry lipstick—a real lipstick that is both edible and tastes like chocolate.

    Each box of chocolates comes with 18 lips and one lipstick for $55: a gift that’s sure to be remembered.

    Get yours at Payard.com.

    Want something more conventional? While you’re on the website, take a look at the:

     

    rasberry-kisses-2-payard-230

    Chocolate raspberry kisses with an edible raspberry-white chocolate lipstick. Photo courtesy Payard.

     

  • Champagne Truffles, Champagne-infused balls of chocolate ganache, lightly dusted with cocoa powder
  • Valentine’s Day Chocolate Collection, 70% dark chocolate squares, beautifully decorated and filled with salted caramel, raspberry and fresh ginger
  • Valentine’s Day Macarons In A Heart Box: caramel coriander, strawberry basil, lemon thyme and mint chocolate
  •   

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    CHINESE NEW YEAR: Godiva Chocolate For The Year Of The Horse

    Lady Godiva rides in for the Lunar New Year.
    The image is larger than the actual
    chocolates. Photo courtesy Godiva.

     

    Some foodies end the Christmas-New Year holiday season in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. But don’t forget about Chinese New Year, celebrated by Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese, who follow a different calendar than Western cultures. (There are actually a dozen different lunar holidays in Asia).

    Eating sweets symbolizes the beginning of a “sweet year.”

    The Year Of The Horse, begins on Friday, January 31st. If you were born in 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942, 1930 or 1918, this is your lunar year. If you follow astrology, you can check on what this means for your health, wealth, relationships and career.

    But regardless of whether your zodiac animal is a horse or one of the others (dog, dragon, monkey, ox, pig/boar, tiger, rabbit, rat, rooster, sheep, snake), you can treat yourself to a box of Godiva’s truly wonderful lunar year chocolates.

    This year’s selection from Godiva Chocolatier includes three spectacular pieces:

  • Dark Caramel Pear: crunchy caramel pear ganache with a touch of vanilla in a blend of milk and& dark chocolate, enrobed in dark chocolate.
  • Milk Cherry Almond: crunchy almond praliné, sour cherry and a hint of honey blended with milk chocolate, enrobed in milk chocolate.
  • White Pineapple Macadamia: nutty macadamia cream and sweet pineapple blended with white chocolate ganache, enrobed in white chocolate.
  •  
    Each offers a cascade of flavors and textures that are so much more glorious than the words used to describe them. They are exquisite chocolates, and we loved all three equally.

    The recipes were developed in Asia for the Asian consumer, and reflect those flavor preferences. The chocolates are less sweet than American-developed flavors—a boon for those domestic palates that have evolved to prefer a more moderate level of sweetness.
     
    Where To Purchase

    You can purchase the chocolates in Lunar New Year gift boxes, along with other Godiva pieces—20 pieces total for $50.00 and 32 pieces total for $120. They can be purchased in Godiva boutiques and online at Godiva.com.

    But our recommendation is to head to a Godiva boutique for a hand-packed box of 100% Year Of The Horse Collection. Seriously, we couldn’t get enough of them. They’ll only be in stores through January 31st.

    On days when you’re not eating the chocolate, check out the Lunar New Year specials at your local Asian restaurants.

     

    GODIVA CHOCOLATE MARZIPAN HEARTS

    Available only through Valentine’s Day (while supplies last) is another special treat: marvelous marzipan hearts, covered with your choice of dark or milk chocolate.

    Oh, how delicious! As with the Year Of The Horse collection, we couldn’t stop eating them.

    They’re available in Godiva boutiques only. Here’s a store locator: If you’re a marzipan lover, you’ll want more than a few.

    You may want to call first to make sure they haven’t run out; although there are plenty of other choices. But if your heart is set on marzipan hearts, you can always make your own with this recipe from AnEdibleMosaic.com.

     

    Photo courtesy AnEdibleMosaic.com.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cranberry Baked Brie

    Baked Brie in pastry with dried cranberries,
    honey and almonds. Photo and recipe
    courtesy Zabars.com.

     

    Here’s a recipe to serve with your favorite bubbly. It’s a favorite of Olga Dominguez, cheese buyer at Zabar’s in New York City.

    For the holidays use dried cranberries; for Valentine’s Day substitute dried cherries or strawberries.

    This party-size recipe uses a standard 17-inch wheel of Brie. If your celebration will be more intimate buy a Baby Brie, which at 8.8 ounces, serves up to four. (In theory, with a portion size of one ounce, it should serve eight—but we don’t know eight people with that much restraint).

    Brie (typically a double-crème cheese, although some like the Rouge et Noir brand are even richer triple-crèmes) is one of America’s top-selling cheeses.

    Other best sellers include Cheddar, cream cheese, mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano.

     
    RECIPE: CRANBERRY BAKED BRIE

    Ingredients

  • 1 large wheel of double crème Brie, 2.2 pounds
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 pound dried cherries, cranberries or strawberries (or a mix)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds plus extra for garnish
  • 1 package of ready-to-bake crescent rolls (or make your own pastry)
  • Crackers or bread (or a combination)
  •  
    Preparation

    Keep the Brie refrigerated and cold until ready to slice.

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F.

    2. CUT the Brie in half horizontally with a sharp knife, creating a top and a bottom.

    3. SPRINKLE the cranberries, half the honey and half of the almonds in the center of the bottom half of the cheese, to within two inches of the edge. Cover with the top half and press down the edges. (When you press down, the fillings will spread close to the edge.)

    4. OPEN the crescent roll container and prepare to wrap the Brie with the pastry. Lay the triangle crescent dough pieces on a work surface to form a sheet, overlapping the edges slightly. Press to bond together. Place the Brie in the center of the sheet and wrap the edges around the wheel until the entire surface is covered. Overlap and press the crescent dough close to the edges so that the Brie and fillings will not run out.

    5. PLACE on a nonstick cookie sheet with a lip (just in case the cheese does run). Pour the remaining honey in the top center of the wrapped Brie and sprinkle with the remaining almond slices.

    6. BAKE for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.

     
    Serving Suggestions

  • As a cocktail party food, provide bread or crackers and a spreader.
  • For a dinner party salad/cheese course, give each guest a plated wedge with some dressed mesclun or frisée salad greens. Pass bread or crackers in a basket for those who want it.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Double-Crème And Triplè-Creme Cheeses

    Serving bubbly for Christmas or New Year’s Eve? The perfect cheese to serve with Champagne or other sparklers is a double-crème or a triple-crème.

    Double- and triple-creme cheeses have a distinctive texture (very creamy) and flavor (buttery). Extra cream is added before the curd is formed, creating the heavenly richness.
     
    DOUBLE CRÈME CHEESES

    According to Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins, the first double-crème cheese was made in Normandy in 1850 by a cheesemaker whose name has been lost to history. He was a short man of Swiss extraction, and called his cheese Petit-Suisse (possibly his nickname!).

    By law, a French double-crème cheese has between 60% and 75% butterfat. Note that this is the percentage of fat in the dry matter of the cheese. Most double- and triple-crèmes have about 50% moisture, so a Brie that has 60% butterfat in the dry matter is actually 31% total fat.

     

    Decorate your Brie for a party. Photo courtesy WisDairy.com.

     
    As a point of reference, butter itself contains between 80% total fat (the legal minimum in the U.S) to 86% total fat.

    Double-crème examples include:

  • Boursault
  • Brie (a minority of Bries are triple-crèmes)
  • Fromage D’Affinois
  • Petit-Suisse
  • Domestic beauties: Bodacious from Bohemian Creamery in California, Cremont from Vermont Creamery and others (ask your cheesemonger)
  •  
    TRIPLE CRÈME CHEESES

    Like the first double-crème, the first triple-crème cheese was also made in Normandy (France’s dairy heartland), 75 years after Petit-Suisse was introduced. Called Le Magnum, it was made by the Dubuc family and was the ancestor of Brillat-Savarin*. By law, French triple-crème cheeses must have a butterfat content of 75% or more.

     

    Pick up this luscious Brillat-Savarin, a
    triple-crème cheese, at Whole Foods
    Markets. Photo courtesy Whole Foods.

     

    A Brillat-Savarin with 75% butterfat in the dry matter actually has 39% total fat.

  • Brillat-Savarin
  • Délice de Bourgogne
  • Explorateur
  • Gratte Paille
  • Pierre Robert
  • Domestic choices such as Kunik from Nettle Meadow in New York State, Mt. Tam and Red Hawk from Cowgirl Creamery in California, Triple Cream Disk, a chèvre from Coach Farms in New York State and other creamy delights (see what’s available from your cheesemonger)
  •  
    *The cheese was named for the French epicure (and also lawyer and politician) Brillat-Savarin, who famously said “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”

     

    HOW TO SERVE A DOUBLE-CREME OR TRIPLE CREME CHEESE

    You can go from basic (fruit) to gourmet (truffles):

    Fresh Fruits

    Grapes, mango, raspberries or strawberries are the best matches.

    Truffles

  • Cut the cheese in half horizontally; spread the bottom cut side with truffle butter or shaved truffles, and replace the top half of the cheese (let it sit for 30 minutes to develop flavor).
  • Optional additions to the filling: toasted walnuts (toast then chop) or, with shaved truffles, a thin layer of mascarpone and/or a drizzle of honey.
     
    Bread or Crackers

    Choose among baguette slices, water biscuits, wheatmeal biscuits (slightly sweetened whole wheat crackers) or other favorites.

      

  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Thanksgiving Water

    Even a glass of water can be special on Thanksgiving.

    Here’s a tip inspired by Ceylon Vogue tea, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week (and itself a great party favor or host/hostess gift). Depending on the size of your pitcher, multiply the quantity of the ingredients below.

    If you plan to bring the pitcher to the table, any extra cranberries tossed in will add festive color.

    RECIPE: CINNAMON ORANGE WATER

    Ingredients

  • 12 ounces of water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 slice orange
  • 1/2 apple, sliced (a red skin is more colorful)
  • Optional: whole rosemary sprig
  • Optional: 3-4 cloves
  • Optional: whole raw cranberries
  •  

    It’s easy to make Thanksgiving-flavored water. Photo courtesy Cinnamon Vogue.

     

    Preparation

    1. BOIL water and add to a pitcher with cinnamon and orange. Let cool. Add optional cranberries.

    2. REFRIGERATE until ready to serve.
      
    BONUS

    Cinnamon boosts your metabolism, among many health benefits.

      

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