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TIP OF THE DAY: Cotton Candy Cocktail

Cotton Candy Cocktail

Cotton Candy Cocktail

Spun Sugar Dessert

[1] Top a cocktail or mocktail with cotton candy (photo Jeff Green | Barbara Kraft | Arizona Biltmore). [2] Soft drinks, shakes, and so forth can get the cotton candy treatment (photo courtesy Aww Sam). [3] Spun sugar, the predecessor of cotton candy (photo courtesy Food Network).

 

December 7th is National Cotton Candy Day. In different parts of the world, it’s known as candy cobwebs, candy floss, fairy floss and spider webs, among other names.

THE HISTORY OF COTTON CANDY

The father of cotton candy was spun sugar. In the mid-18th century, master confectioners in Europe and America learned to hand-craft spun sugar nests as Easter decorations and elaborate dessert presentations.

According to The Dictionary of American Food and Drink, the debut of the product we know as cotton candy took place in 1897 in Nashville.

Candymakers William Morrison and John C. Wharton invented an electric machine that allowed crystallized sugar to be poured onto a heated spinning plate, pushed by centrifugal force through a series of tiny holes.

In 1904 at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, Morrison and Wharton sold the product, then known as “fairy floss,” in cardboard boxes for 25 cents a serving. Though the price equaled half the admission to the Fair itself, they sold 68,655 boxes!

Here’s more cotton candy history.

COTTON CANDY AS A DRINK GARNISH

For those with a sweet tooth, cotton candy is a fun garnish for cocktails, mocktails and other non-alcoholic drinks.

Caterers love the idea, as do some mixologists. Some mixologists create “magic” at the bar or table, presenting a glass of cotton candy, then pouring the cocktail over it.

Check out this YouTube video and this fun recipe. The cotton candy disappears “like magic”.

 
THE COTTON CANDY COCKTAIL

Match the cotton candy color to the drink, or create contrast.

Here are some recipes to start you off:

Cotton Candy Daiquiri

Garnished Shots

Multicolor Cocktail With Multicolor Cotton Candy
 
 
For a drinkable dessert, garnish a glass of sweet wine.

You can find many more online, including a Pinterest page on cotton candy cocktails.

TIP: You don’t have to add an ice cream scoop-size ball of cotton candy. Sometimes, less is more.

 

 
  

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GIFT OF THE DAY: Cheese Grotto

If someone on your gift list is very serious about cheese (such a person is a turophile, Greek for cheese lover), consider the Cheese Grotto.

Think of it as a cheese humidor, to protect precious cheeses instead of cigars.

Everything old is new again. Cheese Grotto is based on a very old design, used to keep ripe cheeses in peak condition for generations. There’s nothing like it in the modern marketplace.

Designed by a cheesemonger, Cheese Grotto creates a perfect environment for wedges and uncut wheels to thrive. It keeps cheeses at their optimal stages of ripeness.

In other words, it keeps precious (costly!) cheeses in a state of stasis, maintaining their ideal ripeness for a longer period.

We’re not talking about supermarket swiss, mind you, or cheeses that you plan to consume the same day; but of artisan cheeses that sell for $25.00 a pound and up: cheeses you want to savor, a bit a day.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH PLASTIC WRAP?

Most cheese counters wrap your cheese in plastic wrap. That’s just to transport it home.

  • Cheese needs to breath (i.e., air flow), which means plastic wrap isn’t good for them.
  • Cheese needs humidity, the biggest challenge with home cheese storage.
  •  
    After you get home, cheese experts recommend re-wrapping the cheese in special cheese wrapping paper.

    While cheese wrapping paper is an improvement over conventional kitchen wraps—and is certainly less expensive than the Cheese Grotto—it isn’t nearly as effective (which is why cheesemonger Jessica Sennett created Cheese Grotto in the first place).

    Cheese Grotto solves the air flow and humidity problems with a humidor environment fostered by a clay brick that is briefly soaked in water. It releases moisture into the confined space of the Grotto.

  • For short-term consumption, you can leave the cheese at room temperature, keeping Cheese Grotto on the counter top.
  • For longer-term storage, it fits easily into the fridge (it’s 12 inches deep, 8.5 inches tall and 7 inches wide).
  •  
    Cheese Grotto has two adjustable shelves and holds 3-6 cheeses, depending on the size of the wheels or wedges.
     
    WHERE DO YOU GET ONE?

    The Cheese Grotto, handmade to order in Virginia, is $350. That includes optional engraved initials and shipping.

    The materials are made from wood and other components that are natural and environmentally friendly.

    Order yours at CheeseGrotto.com.

     

    Cheese Grotto

    Cheese Grotto

    Cheese Grotto

    [1] and [2] For the true cheese connoisseur, the Cheese Grotto (photos courtesy JRennet). [3] What the professionals have (a cheese cave at Murray’s Cheese).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: A Pudding Parfait Is An Easy Dessert

    Chocolate Pudding Parfait

    Pudding Parfaits

    Tiramisu Pudding Parfait

    Butterscotch Pudding Parfait

    [1] All chocolate pudding parfait (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers.) [2] Mixed flavors and garnishes (photo courtesy Yotel |NYC). [3] Tiramisu pudding parfait (photo courtesy The Vegan Cookie Fairy). [4] Butterscotch and vanilla pudding parfait (photo courtesy Gather By D’Amico).

     

    It’s the annual crazy-busy holiday season. In the midst of gift shopping, holiday cooking and sending cards (or e-letters or whatever), there’s a stream of adult friends and kids’ friends dropping by, planned get-togethers and other celebrations. When you don’t have time to bake a cake (and don’t want to pay $$$ for them), the solution is pudding parfaits.

    Instant pudding, cookie crumbs and a garnish make a pudding parfait with little work, but everyone will be delighted. In our home, there are always boxes of Jell-O pudding (regular and sugarless), cookies and some type of chocolate or candy.

    With just 15 minutes advance notice—or while the coffee brews—you can make a pudding parfait.
    Combinations:

  • All Chocolate Pudding Parfait: brownie base, chocolate dark chocolate pudding layer, milk chocolate pudding layer, garnished with whipped cream and any chocolate you like.
  • Banana Pudding Parfait: vanilla wafer crumbs, banana pudding, topped with a banana slice (you can caramelize the slices in advance and they won’t “brown”.
  • Butterscotch or Caramel Pudding Parfait: cake crumbs, butterscotch pudding, garnished with toffee chps
  • Cannoli Cream/Mascarpone Pudding Parfait: biscotti crumbs (substitute yellow or white cake), pudding or sweetened mascarpone, topped with cocoa drink powder, shaved chocolate, chocolate chips
  • Coffee/Tiramisu Pudding Parfait: coffee liqueur-soaked lady finger crumbs, coffee pudding, chocolate garnish
  • Lemon Pudding Parfait: butter cookies/shortbread, lemon pudding, lemon zest, tangerine garnish
  • Milk Chocolate/White Chocolate Pudding Parfait: topped with mini chocolate chips
  • Pistachio-Chocolate Pudding Parfait: cookie crumbs, pistachio pudding, chocolate pudding, pistachio nut garnish
  • Red Velvet/Chocolate Pudding Parfait: chocolate cookie crumbs, red velvet pudding, chocolate pudding, strawberry/raspberry garnish
  • Vanilla Pudding Parfait: chocolate cake crumbs, vanilla pudding, topped with drinking chocolate
  •  
    NO COOKIES?

    Substitute:

  • Bread crumbs, slightly sweetened or spice
  • Cake, brownies or muffins, diced
  • Dessert sauce: caramel, chocolate, strawberry, etc.
  • Fruit, diced
  • Preserves, marmalade, sweet chutney
  •  
    FOR ADULTS: LIQUEUR

    Add a hint of liqueur to:

  • Crumbs or other bottom layer
  • In-between layers
  • On top, as a garnish
  •  
    GARNISHES

    See what you have on hand:

  • Berry, fruit slice, orange/mandarin segment
  • Brandied or maraschino cherry
  • Brownie cube
  • Candies (allsorts licorice? candy corn? gummies? M&Ms/Nerds/Skittles, toffee bits?)
  • Chocolate chips (or other flavor)
  • Chocolate square, shaved or curled chocolate, cacao nibs
  • Citrus peel or grated zest
  • Coconut, grated
  • Mini biscotti, cookies, meringues
  • Mini marshmallows or a regular toasted marshmallow
  • Nuts
  • Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream, slightly sweetened
  • Pocky sticks
  • Spices: clove, cinnamon, garam masala, nutmeg
  • Sprinkles or dragées
  • Sweet herbs: basil, chervil, lemon thyme, marjoram, mint, pink peppercorns, sage, sweet cicely, tarragon
  • Whipped cream, crème fraîche, mascarpone
  •  
    WHAT’S IN THE PHOTOS?

    [1] All Chocolate Parfait: chocolate cookie crumbs, chocolate pudding, chocolate mini chips.

    [2] Assorted Flavors: chocolate layered, vanilla, vanilla/chocolate layered, variously topped with candied orange peel, chopped nuts, cookie crumbs, mini meringue, strawberry, raspberry.

    [3] Tiramisu Parfait: chocolate cookie crumbs flavored with coffee liqueur, vanilla pudding flavored with coffee liqueur and instant coffee, topped with whipped cream and a chocolate wafer.

    [4] Double Pudding Parfait: chocolate and vanilla pudding layers, topped with whipped cream and a chocolate “cigarette.”

     
      

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    GIFTS OF THE DAY: Artisan Honey, Spicy Honey

    SAVANNAH BEE COMPANY ARTISAN HONEYS

    Anything from this wonderful company makes a great gift, including the honey beauty products. Since 2002, we’ve been avid customers.

    The company gathers varietal honeys:

  • Acacia Honey
  • Lavender Honey
  • Orange Blossom
  • Rosemary Honey
  • Sourwood Honey
  • Tupelo Honey
  •  
    They’re sold in different sizes, with prices varying slightly by varietal. These prices are for the tupelo honey:

  • 3 ounce jars, $15.00 for a two-jar package
  • 12-ounce jar, $22.00, 12-ounce pump top jar, $27.00
  • 20-ounce flute, $38.00
  • 80 ounces (for foodservice, unless you eat a heck of a lot of honey), $150
  •  
    You can’t go wrong with anything, but if you need a recommendation:
     
    FOR ANYBODY: WHIPPED HONEY

  • In Original, Chocolate, Cinnamon or Lemon. The cinnamon version is nicely seasonal; the chocolate flavor is a must for chocolate lovers. There are also samplers.
  • This creamy honey spreads like butter. We especially like it for breakfast with toast or spooned into oatmeal or tea.
  • Anyone who has a jar may or may not admit to eating it by the spoonful as a snack.
  • A 12-ounce jar is $16.55, two 3-ounce jars are $12.00 (put one jar each into each of two stockings).
  •  
    FOR THE CONNOISSEUR: TUPELO HONEY

       

    Savannah Bee Whipped Honey

    Savannah Bee Tupelo Honey

    [1] Whipped honey: spreadable in four luscious flavors. [2] Tupelo honey: 12-ounce jar, 20-ounce flute, 3-ounce jar (photos courtesy Savannah Bee).

     
    Tupelo honey is “the gold standard by which all other honey varieties are measured,” says company founder Ted Dennard. “It’s like a thick, slow-moving river of liquid sunshine.”

    For two weeks each spring, white tupelo trees in the Southeastern swamps bloom with flowers that glisten with nectar. The bees flock to the blossoms. The result: tupelo honey with its buttery undertones and mellow, clean sweetness.

    Tupelo honey complements numerous foods, and it’s definitely another one of those “eat from the spoon” delights.

    The entire line is certified kosher by KSA. Just try some on those latkes!

    NOTE: The honeys recommended here have nothing to do with “supermarket honey,” which is gathered overseas from many sources and blended to create a profile that will appeal to the lowest common denominator (with all due respect).
     
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF HONEY

    THE HISTORY OF HONEY

     

    Bee's Knees Honey

    Bee's Knees Spicy Honey

    Oh honey: The spicy honey is one of our favorite new [to us] products of the year (photos courtesy Bushwick Kitchen).

      SOME LIKE IT HOT: CHILE PEPPER-INFUSED HONEY & OTHER SPECIAL FLAVORS

    Sugar with spice is certainly nice. We love the palate buzz that comes with the chile-infused honey from Bushwick Kitchen.

    Wildflower honey from New York State’s Hudson Valley is infused with fresh chiles in Brooklyn, delivering a New York state of mind that we love.

    The artisans also produce Meyer Lemon Honey and Salted Honey, flavored maple syrups and other products that we hope to try soon. Take a look at Bushwick Kitchen.

    The honey we’ve had several times (and loved so much we didn’t sufficiently pay attention to the other flavors) is the Bee’s Knees Spicy Honey. The honey is first infused, and for a finishing touch a single red chile is suspended in the bottle.

    This charmer of a hot honey condiment goes well with…

  • Berries and other fresh fruits
  • Beverages, including hot and iced tea, club soda and cocktails
  • Cakes and other baked goods
  • Cheese and charcuterie plates
  • Chicken and other poultry
  • Croissants, muffins and toast
  • Ice cream and sorbet
  • Ribs
  • Sandwiches and crostini
  •  
    A 13½-ounce squeeze bottle is $15.95 at King Arthur Flour.

    But we bet your bottle won’t last the week. So…

    A gift set of all three bottles is $44.99 at Bushwick Kitchen.

    Honey Trivia: Honey is the oldest edible food, found in the tomb of a pharaoh. It doesn’t decay because it has virtually no moisture. That’s also why it was used to dress wounds in ancient times: No bacteria could survive to infect the injury.

    MORE HONEY TRIVIA

     

      

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    FOOD 101: It’s Repeal Day, Drink Some Real Gin

    On December 5th, in the spirit of Repeal Day—the repeal of the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution—raise a glass to your federal right to drink alcohol.

    In the winter of 1919, Congress passed the 18th Amendment, outlawing the production and consumption of alcohol in the United States.

    The original intent was to put an end to social misconduct, crime and family crisis—since on payday, too many breadwinners would squander much of their paychecks at the saloon, leading to brawling, inability to pay for rent and food, aggression at home, etc.

    Alas, instead of creating a better society, the law engendered the growth of organized crime, which was happy to bootleg, provide protection to speakeasies, and so on.

    Those who wanted to party at home found a way with bootlegged spirits, bathtub gin (which could cause blindness), and other horrors.

    After thirteen years of living with Prohibition, the 18th Amendment was repealed on December 5th, 1933 under the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt*. The date has been referred to as “Repeal Day.”

    So celebrate your freedom from bathtub gin with one of the…

    TOP 12 GIN COCKTAILS

  • French 75, with champagne, lemon juice and simple syrup.
  • Gibson, a gin Martini with a cocktail onion replacing the olive.
  • Gimlet, with lime juice and simple syrup.
  • Gin Rickey, with lime juice and soda water.
  • Gin & Tonic, with tonic water.
  • Gin Fizz, with lemon juice, sugar and soda water.
  • Martini, the original made with gin, dry vermouth and an olive garnish.
  • Negroni, with Campari and sweet vermouth.
  • Pink Lady, with egg white and grenadine.
  • Tom Collins, with lemon juice, simple syrup and soda water.
  • Salty Dog, gin and grapefruit juice with a salt rim.
  • Singapore Sling, with benedictine, benedictine, bitters, cherry heering, Cointreau, lime juice and pineapple juice.
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    BATHTUB GIN: WHAT WAS IT?

    Gin was the predominant spirit in the 1920s. After the Volstead Act (which led to the 18th Amendment), bathtub gin was “of necessity” created in actual bathtubs or other large containers. The alcohol to make it was either purchased from bootleggers or from legitimate medical suppliers, which sold denatured or wood alcohol.

     

    Gin & Tonic

    Caviartini

    The Gin & Tonic, photo [1] (courtesy Drizzle And Drip) and the Martini, photo [2], courtesy Petrossian, vie to be the most popular gin drink in America. We’re wild about Petrossian’s Caviartini® garnish, caviar cubes made exclusively by the company.

     
    By mixing wood alcohol with other flavorings, such as the juniper berries that flavored real gin, and allowing the mixture to steep in a tub for hours or days, the wood alcohol became more drinkable.

    Many gin cocktails were created to cover up the less-than-ideal flavor of bathtub gin.

    Actual distillation requires a closed distillation apparatus; it can’t be done in an open container like a bathtub.

    The process for converting wood alcohol into a drinkable form was not always reliable, resulting in batches that were poisonous, often leading to blindness and even death: About 10,000 people died from drinking bad alcohol during Prohibition.

    ________________
    *Not everything was rosy after the 19th Amendment was passed, repealing Prohibition. Prohibition gave way to the start of the Great Depression in the early 1930s. Constitution trivia: The 18th Amendment is the only one to be repealed; a total of 27 have been ratified. The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known as The Bill Of Rights, were ratified together in 1791.

      

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