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Archive for Beverages

PRODUCTS: 4 New Favorite Foods & Beverages

Belvoir Elderflower & Rose Lemonade

Cholula Sweet Habanero

[1] A drink that says “summer” (photo courtesy Belvoir Fruit Farms). [2] A new, limited edition Cholula Hot Sauce (photo courtesy Jose Cuervo).

 

In two days we head to the Fancy Food Show, a trade show of specialty food producers so vast that, like Disneyland, you can’t possibly see it all, much less eat it all.

So before we head out to find new favorites, here are five more of our current faves, in alphabetical order.
 
 
1. BELVOIR FRUIT FARMS: CORDIALS & FLAVORED LEMONADES

Belvoir calls their beverages “non-alcoholic fruit cordials.” We’d call them elegant non-alcoholic sparkling drinks or a very sophisticated soft drink. But evidently, in the English countryside where they are made, says the company:

“Cordials were originally a way for country people to preserve some of each summer’s glut of fruit for the coming winter. Adding sugar to the fruit juice would stop fermentation and keep the juice fresh for a few months.”

Belvoir Castle is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland. The current duke’s mother infused elderflowers, grown on the estate, into a delicious beverage for family and friends, who couldn’t get enough of it.

Her husband saw a revenue potential, and the family business has been pressing and cooking fresh flowers, fruits and spices since 1981, combining them with local spring water. The line expanded, and is now sold worldwide.

The all-natural flavors include:

  • Elderflower Cordial
  • Ginger Cordial
  • Flavored lemonades: Elderflower, Organic Elderflower, Elderflower & Rose
  • Ginger Beer
  •  
    Each one is a must-try. There are 25.4-ounce full bottles and 8.4-ounce individual bottles. Buy them for yourself, buy them as party favors or as gifts to summer hosts.

    Discover more at BelvoirFruitFarms.com.

    Trivia: Originally, all the elderflowers were handpicked from bushes growing around Lord and Lady John Manners’ garden. The whole family helped to make the first batch of elderflower cordial, chopping the lemons and stirring the syrup. Lord John then popped the 88 cases of drinks into the back of his car and went around to local farm shops, persuading the owners to buy a bottle or two.
     
     
    2. CHOLULA HOT SAUCE: SWEET HABANERO

    Cholula Hot Sauce as had a cult following for some time. Now the cult has another flavor to enjoy.

    Sweet Habanero is a limited-edition flavor in a line that includes Chili Garlic, Chili Lime, Chipotle, Green Pepper and Original. The sweetness comes from pineapple flavor, and it’s a charmer, especially to those, like us, who like sweet + heat.

    The brand is thanking fans for their support by launching the Order of Cholula, in tandem with the new Sweet Habanero.

    Only 1,000 bottles of Sweet Habanero were made, so head to the Order Of Cholula and sign up.

    Trivia: The hot sauce is named after the 2,500-year-old city of Cholula, Puebla, the oldest still-inhabited city in Mexico. The name is derived from the Nahuatl (Aztec language) Chollollan, meaning “the place of the retreat.”

    Cholula, a third-generation family business, is now licensed by Jose Cuervo. It was begin by the Harrison family, originally of Chapala, Jalisco, now of Dallas, Texas. The image on the bottle is a portrait of Harrison family matriarch, Camila Harrison.

     

    3. DR. PEPPER CAKE

    Café Valley Bakery, a leading bakery producer for better grocers, has partnered with Dr. Pepper to create a Dr. Pepper Cake.

    We’re wary of foods that sound like gimmicks, but we’re always willing to try a sample when offered. We’re both happy and sad about this, because Dr. Pepper Cake is so delightful, we ate the whole thing.

    Made with real Dr. Pepper, the cake has a bottom of yellow cake, topped by a Dr. Pepper-flavored layer. The cake is drizzled with white icing.

    Dr. Pepper Cake is is certified kosher (dairy) by OK Kosher. It joins an array Café Valley Bakery soda cakes, including 7UP, Orange Crush, and A&W Root Beer (we haven’t tried any of these).

    The new flavor is available at grocers nationwide. The 26-ounce cake has a suggested retail price of $5.99. Here are the retailers that carry the line.

    Trivia: The Dr. Pepper soft drink is made from a secret formula of 23 flavorings.
     
     
    4. P.B. CRAVE: COCONUT MILK CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER

    We have long been fans of P.B. Crave’s flavored peanut butters. These days, the line includes peanut butter and chocolate combinations:

  • Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Peanut Butter
  • Raspberry Dark & White Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Sweet & Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter
  •  
    and the latest:

  • Coconut Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter
  •  

    Dr. Pepper Cake

    PB Crave Milk Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter

    [3] A Dr. Pepper Cake, which goes great with…Dr. Pepper soda pop (photo courtesy Dr. Pepper). [4] The latest in a line of chocolate-peanut butter flavors (photo courtesy PB Crave).

     
    The company calls their newest flavor “a Caribbean beach escape with a blend of coconut, organic honey, and milk chocolate chips.”

    Resistance is futile!

    Discover more of this all-natural line at PBCrave.com. Might we suggest an all-flavor tasting party?

    Trivia: Peanut butter was originally developed by a physician as a protein-packed food for patients who no longer had teeth to chew meat. Here’s the history of peanut butter.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Chocolate Ice Cubes In Vanilla Milk Or Cocktails

    Today’s tip might be a natural for Valentine’s Day, but we like it even more for the cold drinks of summer.

    These chocolate ice cubes are the brainchild of the Parisian chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin.

    His Summer Chocolate Ice Cubes are simply a chocolate ice cream recipe that gets poured into ice cube trays instead of an ice cream churn. Why didn’t we think of this years ago?

    While M. Hévin’s recipe is for a family-friendly, gourmet chocolate milk drink, you can also use the chocolate ice cubes in cocktails or with liqueurs.

    They keep your drinks cold, as they add chocolate flavor by slowly melting. Use them:

  • In regular drinks: Iced coffee, an egg cream, an ice cream soda, or a simple glass of…regular or chocolate milk.
  • In cocktails: Black Russian/White Russian, Chocolate Martini, Coffee Martini, Grasshopper, etc.
  • With liqueurs: Add to a rocks glass of chocolate, coffee or Irish cream liqueur.
  •  
    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE ICE CUBES & VANILLA MILK

    The recipe makes enough for one ice cube tray: cubes for 6 rocks glasses or 4 highball glasses. While it goes without saying, we’ll say it: Make the ice cubes 6 hours before you plan to use them, or the night before.

    The vanilla milk also needs to chill for several hours. You can make the entire recipe the night before.

    You can also enhance the flavor with chocolate-friendly seasonings: cayenne pepper, cinnamon, instant coffee, nutmeg, etc.

  • Add a teaspoon of spice to the ice cream mix.
  • Mix the spice with coarse/decorating/sanding/sparkling sugar for a sugar rim.
  •  
    Hévin’s recipe starts with his homemade ice cream, which is poured into ice cube trays instead of churned into ice cream.

    We used Lactaid milk so that all of our crowd, including the lactose sensitive, could have them. Lactose-free milk is virtually like regular milk, but the lactose (milk sugar) that is hard for some people to digest has been de-activated. All the Lactaid products (cottage cheese, ice cream, holiday egg nog) are delish!
     
    Ingredients For The Chocolate Ice Cream

  • 6.8 ounces/200ml milk
  • 3.5 tablespoons/50ml water
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Optional: 1 cup of instant coffee (prepared, not granules)
  • 70g of 66% cacao dark chocolate
  •  
    For The Vanilla Milk

  • 2.5 cups/600ml whole milk
  • 1/4 cup/60g sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  •  
    Optional

  • Liqueur of choice
  • Straws for tall glasses
  • Sugar, spiced sugar or cocoa mix rim (use sparkling sugar/decorating sugar
  • Whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CHOP the chocolate finely and place it in a heat-resistant bowl.

    2. COMBINE the milk and water in a saucepan. Add the sugar, cocoa and coffee and mix thoroughly to avoid lumps. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Then…

     

    Chocolate Ice Cubes

    Chocolate Ice Cubes

    Milk With Cocoa Rim

    A tall glass with chocolate ice cubes, and [2] wioth the vanilla milk added (photo courtesy Nordljus). [3] How about a Black or White Russian in this rocks glass (photo courtesy Ellen Fork). [4] Who won’t drink milk with chocolate ice cubes and a cocoa powder rim (photo courtesy Oxmoor House)?

     
    3. REMOVE from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let it melt for 5 minutes; then gently mix with a wooden spoon until it is smooth and creamy. Allow to cool, pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.

    4. MAKE the vanilla milk. Pour the milk into a large saucepan, add the sugar and mix to dissolve.

    5. SCRAPE the vanilla bean and add the beans and pod to the pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and remove from heat. Allow to cool; then refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

    6. TO SERVE: Place the chocolate ice cubes in the glasses (depending on the size of the glasses 3 to 4 ice cubes) then pour over the milk to the cold vanilla.
     
     
    This recipe by Jean-Paul Hévin appeared in the Elle à Table and appeared on Nordljus.com. We can across it on Sandra Kavital | Blogspot. Thanks also to Keiko of Nordljus.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Teas For Sushi & Sashimi

    Japanese Green Tea & Pot

    Cups of Green Tea

    Sushi Plate

    Sashimi

    Genmaicha Tea

    [1] Green tea and a conventional iron pot, called a tetsubin (photo courtesy Japanese Green Tea Online). [2] Green tea isn’t necessarily green. It depends on where the tea was grown and production factors (photo courtesy Coffemania | NYC). [3] A conventional sushi plate of nigiri and maki (photo courtesy Takibun). [4] Sashimi (photo Direct Photo). [5] Genmaicha, with toast rice: our favorite (photo courtesy Sugarbird Sweets).

     

    Sushi and sashimi are among our favorite foods, and we down cups of green tea with each plate.

    Most of the complimentary green tea served at Japanese restaurants is, not surprisingly, average quality. Even if it’s good tea to start with, it can grow pretty weak due to infusing the same leaves one time to many.

    In Japan as well as the U.S., the tea used is often sencha, a basic green tea (approximately 80% of the tea produced in Japan is sencha). It may also be bancha, the second-most-widely-produced tea, more robust and astringent than sencha.

    If you want to train your palate to the differences, ask your server to tell you which type it is.

    In Japan, the lower down the line the sushi bar is (such as a takeout place), the more likely it is that the tea is agari, a low-quality, powdery tea—which should never be confused with to the pricey powdered matcha, to which it has zero relation.

    The variety, known as konacha or kona-cha, is a mix of the residual dust, fannings, leaf particles, and bits of stem broken off during the processing of quality teas, like gyokuro or sencha (paradoxically, it’s low-quality tea from high-quality leaves). Konacha has a bitter taste, said to complement the flavor components of of sushi very well.
     
    ENJOYING GREEN TEA WITH YOUR SUSHI OR SASHIMI

    If you don’t like the green tea that is served with your raw fish, consider that it may be the particular green tea, and not an indictment of the entire green tea category. As with any product, those at the top end can be glorious. They just may not be available where you eat your sushi.

    In New York City, where we enjoy thrice-weekly sushi meals, it’s very rare that we get anything resembling a satisfactory (much less a good) cup of tea unless we’re at a very high-end restaurant. While our everyday sushi is excellent quality, the tea quality never measures up to the fish. We wish we could pay for better tea, but it’s not the Japanese way.

    That being said, any green tea served, no matter how bland, goes well with the raw fish.
     
    Trending At Asian Fusion Restaurants

    Some Asian-fusion restaurants we patronize don’t give any tea away, but will sell you pots of tea.

    We respect that: Profit margins in restaurants are notoriously low, and since we’d rather have tea with our sushi than [higher profit] beer, we have no problem paying for it. You’ll get higher quality than with freebie tea, abut it still may not be sublime, depending on available varieties and your palate.

    Only once in a blue moon do we find our favorite green tea to pair with sushi and sashimi, genmaicha (photo #5), at a restaurant. This lively green tea, a base of sencha, bancha or a combination of both, is blended with earthy roasted rice or popcorn. You either love it or not; but for us, it’s green tea happiness.
     
    Should You Pay For Tea?

    Our tip of the day is: If your restaurant offers a cup of better tea at a price, don’t hesitate to try it. It’s a modest sum compared to the price of the sushi (or a beer). It could be good and worth it; or you don’t have to order it again.

    We’ve been to chic restaurants (Asian and Western) that have a tea menu. Ideally, this should be top-quality loose tea. Some even bring out a fancy wood box that holds different bags* from which you choose.

    It’s a step in the right direction, but we often find that these teas—which are from specialty American purveyors—are not assertive (flavorful enough). While some people may like that milder style, we want full-flavor tea.

    Don’t let the box, or silky tea bags, convince you that this is top green tea; or think that the tetsubin, the traditional small, cast iron tea pot, makes the tea any better (more aesthetic, yes; better-tasting, no).

    Again, you don’t know until you try.

    If you’re a tea fan as well as a sushi fan, what can you do to ensure that the tea is at the level as the sushi?

    In foodie desperation (and not wanting to insult the restaurant), we thought to sneak good green tea into our local restaurant, to augment the tea we purchased. Then, fearing that we would, in fact, insult them if discovered, we asked if they would mind if we added some of our own tea to theirs—or if they wished, take our tea, add hot water, and charge us the same as their tea.

    This was not a difficult ask, as we brought genmaicha, green tea blended with toasted rice or popcorn (photo #5). It’s an easy excuse to claim one’s love of genmaicha with sushi.

    The other option was ordering in (i.e. delivery)—a less aesthetic experience, but one which guaranteed our choice of tea.
     
    AN OFT-ASKED QUESTION ABOUT RESTAURANT GREEN TEA

    Why is the tea served in sushi restaurants so hot?

    It’s often so hot that we can’t pick up the cup without using a napkin to protect our fingers. We laud the servers who bring it to us with no such protection.

    The answer:

    The very hot water and green tea both work to cleanse the palate and remove the natural oil reside that can be left behind by the fish. You may not notice them in your sushi or sashimi, but they’re there.

    Green tea, which is the norm in Japan, has more astringency than other tea types (black, oolong, white). This makes it even more effective to cleanse the palate.

     
    Here’s more on palate cleansing:

    As one navigates through an assorted plate of sushi or sashimi, the subtle flavors of each type deserve appreciation.

  • Each type of raw fish has a very distinct but delicate taste. It is also desirable to cleanse the palate to fully appreciate the flavor of each piece.
  • Marinated slices of ginger, called gari, also serve to refresh the taste buds between pieces.
  •  
    IF YOU CAN CHOOSE YOUR TEA, WHICH SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

    The tea should not be overpowering or have a flavor/aroma that could dominate the fish: never a flavored tea! Much as we like jasmine tea, the floral aroma and flavor detract from the delicate raw fish.

    We would pair what the restaurants serve, but the best quality we can get:

  • Bancha: A widely used restaurant and household tea; “the peoples’ tea”; a refreshing, lightly sweet flavor.
  • Sencha: Juicy sweet flavor, deep umami, and crisp, refreshing finish.
  • Genmaicha: This can be sencha, bancha or a blend, combined with roasted rice. The rice acts as a starchy sponge, aiding in the absorption of oils and flavors in the mouth. It’s one of our favorite green teas for any tea-drinking occasion.
  •  
    For more robust, richer, cooked foods in Japanese restaurants, such as teriyaki, shabu shabu, negimaki and yakisoba, go for a more robust tea.

    A popular pick is houjicha, bancha leaves and stems that have been roasted. It’s smooth, with hints of coffee and roasted barley.

    Tea and sushi lovers: Go forth and conquer.
     
     
    DISCOVER LOTS MORE IN OUR:

    SUSHI GLOSSARY

    TEA GLOSSARY

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Iced Coffee, Drink Or Cocktail

    Black Iced Coffee

    Light Iced Coffee

    Iced Coffee

    Iced Coffee

    russian-iced-coffee-delonghi-230

    [1] Black iced coffee (photo courtesy Nescafe). [2] Iced coffee, light (photo courtesy Peets). [3] With half-and-half (photo courtesy Coffeemania). [4] Thai iced coffee (photo courrtesy Peets). [5] White Russian (photo courtesy DeLonghi).

     

    Many people can’t live without iced coffee. We see them walking around on the coldest winter days, sipping from jumbo cups of it.

    For more celebratory occasions, how about spiked iced coffee?

    It’s as simple as adding liqueur or a shot of your favorite spirit to a basic iced coffee.

    You can turn it into a party experience, too.

    PREPARATION TIPS

  • Keep the coffee in the fridge until you need to pour it. You’ll need fewer ice cubes, which dilute the drink. Or…
  • Make coffee ice cubes. We do this with whatever leftover coffee is in the pot; or you can make it from scratch. Just pour into an ice cube tray, freeze, and move the frozen cubes to a storage bag or container, freeing the ice cube for more cubes. Plan ahead and you’ll have enough for a party.
  •  
    If you’re having guests:

  • Make regular and decaf coffee. If you’re an uber*-host, make iced espresso as well.
  • Provide different sweeteners: non-caloric, superfine sugar and agave or simple syrup. Agave has a lower glycemic index, but as twice as sweet as sugar, so you use half the amount.
  • Have an assortment of milks, from fat-free to regular to half-and-half, plus a non-dairy milk.
  • Have cans of Reddi-Wip at hand so guests can have fun garnishing their own. Bonus points: provide both Original and Chocolate Reddi-Wip.
  •  
    Consider a DIY bar with different flavor additions.

  • Extracts: almond, anise, vanilla or other extract.
  • Flavored syrups: chocolate, hazelnut, vanilla.
  • Liquers: Bailey’s/Carolan’s Irish Cream, Magnum Scotch Cream Liqueur, Cointreau/Grand Marnier, Creme de Cacao/Godiva, Kahlúa, or other favorite. Note that liqueurs add sweetness. Taste first, then sweeten.
  • Spirits: Rum, tequila, vodka.
  • Spices: ground cayenne, chile, cinnamon, nutmeg.
  • ________________
    *For a millennia before it was a car service, it was an adjective. It still is.
     
     
    RECIPE #1: KAHLÚA ICED COFFEE

    Just add Kahlúa or other coffee liqueur to iced coffee, black or with milk.

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1 part Kahlúa
  • 2 parts iced coffee
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream, rough-ground coffee beans
  •  
    Preparation

    1. FILL the glass (or pitcher) with ice and iced coffee.

    2. ADD the Kahlúa, stir, and garnish as desired.
     
     
    RECIPE #2: THAI ICED COFFEE

    Thai iced coffee uses strong, bitter coffee—such as espresso, French roast or Italian roast—which acts as a counterpoint to the rich cream and the sweetened condensed milk. This is a sweet drink: There are no sugar-free versions.

    You can even use leftover coffee. While coffee purists may shudder at the thought, the sweetened condensed milk masks any notes they might have detected. Similarly, you can use strong instant coffee.

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 8 ounces of strongly brewed coffee
  • 2-4 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (the more you use, the sweeter the drink)
  • 1/4 cup cream, half and half or evaporated milk
  • Optional: dash of ground cardamom, cinnamon or nutmeg
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. POUR coffee into a mixing container (we use a repurposed glass orange juice bottle).

    2. ADD 4-6 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk and optional spices; stir well until dissolved. Refrigerate for one hour or longer to chill.

    3. ADD a few ice cubes to two tall glasses and fill with the cold coffee mixture. Top off with the cream. As the cream sinks, it makes an attractive swirl.

    After you make the first batch, taste it and adjust the recipe. Add more sweetened condensed milk if you want a sweeter drink, or more cream if you want a richer drink or if the coffee is too strong.
     
    Dessert Variation

    Add a scoop of coffee or vanilla ice cream; garnish with whipped cream and toasted coconut flakes.

     
    RECIPE #3: WHITE RUSSIAN ICED COFFEE

    Iced coffee with a shot of vodka: Now there’s an idea for chillaxing on a summer day. If you want a serious cocktail, you can make an old-school Black Russian or a White Russian with these (recipes).

    You can make a White Mexican with tequila or a White Caribbean with rum.

    If you don’t normally sweeten your iced coffee, leave out the sugar. Adjust the ingredients proportions based on the size of the glass you are using.

    RECIPE: RUSSIAN ICED COFFEE

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • Chilled or room temperature espresso
  • Sugar to taste
  • 1 shot of vodka
  • Light cream or half and half to taste
  • Crushed ice
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BREW the espresso coffee. Let cool. Add the sugar and the vodka.

    2. POUR into a glass and top with cream. Add crushed ice, stir and serve.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Garnishing With Lilacs

    White Wine With Lilacs

    Cake With  Fresh Lilac Garnish

    [1] White wine with a scattering of lilac blossoms (photo courtesy Tay Tea). [2] Decorate desserts and other foods. Check out these recipes from Brit.co.

     

    We received the top photo from Tay Tea, a lovely tea salon in Delhi, New York, some three hours northwest of New York City. The proprietor spent years as a blender of premium teas, and departed from owning tea salons in New York City to the country.

    Fortunately for her fans, she sells her teas online. The blends are beautiful to look at, and you can’t make a wrong choice.

    Back to the lilacs:

    Lilac blossoms are edible, though they smell better than they taste, so are best used in small amounts as a garnish (only use those that have not been sprayed with pesticides). They typically blossom in April and May.

    According to an article on Care2.com, you can “drink in the beauty and aroma” by making a cold-water infusion.

  • Add washed lilac blossoms to a pitcher and fill to the top with spring water. Steep for an hour or more.
  • Strain, chill and serve.
  • You can make multi-note flavors by adding citrus slices, strawberries, herbs, etc.
  •  
    MORE WAYS TO CONSUME LILACS
    You can also:

  • Garnish wine and cocktails, iced tea or other nonalcoholic beverages.
  • Scatter atop green salads, crêpes, desserts, etc.
  • Candy to preserve as decorations for cakes and cupcakes (also called crystallized or sugared flowers; here’s a recipe).
  • More uses for edible flowers.
  •  
    Check out these nine lilac recipes, from cocktails to desserts.
     
    THE MYTH OF THE LILAC

    The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), one of 12 species of lilac, is a member of the Oleaceae family, commonly called the olive family.

    The family comprises flowering aromatic woody plants that includes, among others, ash, forsythia, jasmine and privet. Lilac is native to Eurasia.

    And it has a legend.

     
    In Greek mythology, a beautiful nymph named Syringa had caught the eye of Pan, the god of the forests and fields. He chased her through the forest; but she eluded him by turning herself into a lilac bush. Pan found himself holding hollow reeds instead of Syringa.

    (Note that in real life, lilac twigs are not hollow. They can, however, be easily drilled out.)

    Pan’s sighs, combined with the wind and the reeds, made harmonious sounds. Hermes, the fleet-footed messenger and god of boundaries and transitions, suggested that seven reeds of different lengths, bound together, could make what we now call pan pipes, an early flute. The flute was called Syrinx in honor of the nymph.

    Did Syringa spend the rest of her life as a lilac bush, to avoid Pan? The record is silent; but we thank her for inspiring the flute and other hollow tubes, such as sryinges for medicine and mechanical uses.

     
      

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