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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 Chocolate

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: barkTHINS Chocolate Bark

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barkTHINS: thin and rich. Photo courtesy
Ripple Brands.

 

There are several reasons to love barkTHINS:

  • The delicious varieties, crammed with inclusions* (see the list below).
  • The thin pieces that, unlike conventional bark, let you have half as much.
  • The Fair Trade certification (FairTradeUSA.org) that helps poor farmers.
  • The everyday affordability (yet it’s great for party favors and stocking stuffers.
  •  
    October is National Fair Trade Month, the perfect time to feature barkTHINS as a Top Pick Of The Week (here’s more about Fair Trade certification).

    The line debuted in 2012. Unlike traditional chocolate bark that is thick and hard to break, barkTHINS are thin slivers of chocolate that are easily snap-able—easier to eat, fewer calories in your chocolate fix, more flexibility as a dessert garnish (well, that probably wasn’t their intent but it’s a use we employ regularly, by crowning a scoop of ice cream or breaking into pieces for mix-ins).

     

    *The industry term for what many people call “mix-ins.”

     

    barkTHINS FLAVORS

    Each variety is as delicious as the next, depending on your flavor preferences. We were personally thrilled with Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel, a limited edition for holiday season. The packages have a shelf life of 12 months, so if you can’t live without it, you can stock up until the new batches arrive for the next holiday season).

    Feast upon:

    • Dark Chocolate Almond With Sea Salt
    • Dark Chocolate Blueberry & Quinoa (sweetened with agave)
    • Dark Chocolate Mint
    • Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel (Limited Edition)
    • Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed
    • Dark Chocolate Toasted Coconut With Almonds
    • Milk Chocolate Peanut
     

    bark-thins-pkgs-230

    A great party favor, stocking stuffer, teacher gift, etc. Photo courtesy Ripple Foods.

     
    The bags stand upright for presentation as party favors. You can stick a place card on the front; you can tie a ribbon through the shelf-hanger opening at the top for added festiveness or to hang on the tree.
     
    Check the store locator for a retailer near you (including Costco, H-E-B, King’s, Stop & Shop, Wegmans, Whole Foods Market and numerous others), or head to Amazon.com.
     
    WHAT IS FAIR TRADE CHOCOLATE?

    A Fair Trade certification guarantees consumers that the farmers who grow the product are getting paid a fair price. In many areas of the world, middlemen buy up crops at a price that often is the same or less than what it cost the farmer to grow it, resulting in a cycle of poverty. Under Fair trade, farmers can increase their incomes and gain afford education and healthcare for their families.

    When you make a conscious decision to seek out Fair Trade products, you are helping hard-working people raise their standard of living. You can feel good about every bite and every sip (look for Fair Trade coffee, tea and hot chocolate, too).

    Fair Trade certification also means that the farmers are following good agricultural practices and are investing in their farms and communities. To learn more, visit FairTradeUSA.org.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pairing Chocolate Bars & Wine

    If your idea of grown-up Halloween does not include costume parties, how about a chocolate and wine tasting?

    For years, THE NIBBLE has been updating its highly-regarded wine and chocolate pairing chart. You can use it to prepare a memorable Halloween tasting.

    While our chart is quite extensive, your tasting can be as simple as four or five chocolate bars. John Scharffenberger, who got his start as a wine maker, shares his own favorites to pair with Scharffen Berger dark and milk chocolate bars:

  • Scharffen Berger 72% Signature Dark Chocolate. John Scharffenberger notes that darker chocolates pair beautifully with dry, rich, full-bodied red wines. He likes an Italian Amarone, a Spanish Rioja or French Bordeaux.
  • Scharffen Berger 72% Dark Chocolate with Pistachios and Sea Salt. While you can use the same wines when pistachios are included, lighter nuts like pistachio can be served with Mas Amiel, a dessert wine from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France; Sauternes, a dessert wine from the Bordeaux region, or Cabernet Sauvignon, which can bring out nutty accents.
  • Scharffen Berger 33% Smooth Milk Chocolate. Lighter-flavored chocolates pair best with light-bodied wines. John Scharffenberger advises that buttery caramel overtones make this chocolate a perfect complement to a Sauvignon Blanc. Also try it with Armagnac, a single-distilled French brandy.
  •  

    5-bars-ribbon-230

    For holiday gift giving, tie some fine chocolate bars with a ribbon and bestow them with or without matching wines. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     
    THE NIBBLE particularly likes these wines with milk chocolate: Hungarian Tokaji (pronounced TOE-coy); Muscat, a white dessert wine from France with peach and apricot flavors’ and Tawny Port, a fortified wine from Portugal. In fact, Tawny Port is our favorite match with milk chocolate. Its nutty nuances highlight milk chocolate’s nutty and caramel notes and enhance the overall chocolate flavor.

  • Scharffen Berger 33% Milk Chocolate with Toasted Coconut and Macadamia Nuts. For this delicious bar, THE NIBBLE recommends Brachetto d’Acqui, a light, ruby-colored sparkling dessert wine from Piedmont, with typical aromas of fruit and roses. It’s a great match with both nuts and coconut. A Sauternes from Bordeaux (Lafaurie-Peyraguey or similar style) or a Late Harvest Semillon from Australia are also good complements.
  •  
    The educational fun of a tasting is to be able to compare and contrast different wines with different chocolates, and decide what you like best. That’s more important, after all, than any expert opinion.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Autumn Chocolates

    While Halloween chocolate is creeping into stores—chocolate ghosts, pumpkins, candy corn and other holiday specialties—you have a few weeks to enjoy some “autumn chocolate” until Halloween week.

    Until then, how about some “autumn chocolates” that are in chocolate shops until the Christmas flavors come in? Today, we feature two of our favorite chocolatiers, with very different products.

    RECCHIUTI CONFECTIONS: AUTUMN DRAGÉE SAMPLER

    San Francisco-based chocolatier Michael Recchiuti is known for his fine chocolates, made with a custom blend of Valrhona chocolate. His popular Dragée Sampler, available year-round, includes Burnt Caramel Almonds, Burnt Caramel Hazelnuts, Peanut Butter Pearls and Cherries Two Ways.

    From now through the end of November you can enjoy the flavors of the limited-edition Autumn Dragée Sampler: Burnt Caramel Almonds, Candied Ginger enrobed in 64% cacao dark chocolate and Tart Cranberries enrobed in 70% cacao chocolate.

       

    recchiuti-autumn-dragees-230

    Autumn Dragée Sampler. Photo courtsy Recchiuti Confections.

     

    A lovely treat or gift: a 12-ounce black gift box (sturdy and reusable) tied with an orange satin ribbon is $29.00. Get yours at Recchiuti.com.

    WHAT ARE DRAGÉES?

    Dragées (drah-ZHAY) are a French word for almonds encased in a hard-shell coating. The almonds can also have a chocolate coating underneath the sugar. They are a popular wedding favor, representing good luck. Hazelnuts, which can be made in the same manner, are a more modern variation.

    “Dragée” is also used to describe tiny, round balls of sugar, often coated with edible silver or gold, and used to decorate baked goods; and to refer to sweet, medicated lozenges. The commonality is the sugar coating. In French, dragée also refers to nonpareils; dragée à la gelée de sucre is a jelly bean. And finally, dragée is French slang for bullets (small shot).
     
    Panned Products

    Dragées are part of a confection category known as panned products. Panning is one of the basic methods of coating chocolate onto a center (mostly hard centers such as nuts and crystallized ginger; the other methods are enrobing and molding or shell molding).

    In panning, chocolate is sprayed onto the centers as they rotate in revolving pans; cool air is then blown into the pan to harden the chocolates. On a small scale (and before the industrial revolution), nuts are coated on a pan on the stove top; they can be rolled in cocoa powder or other coating before they harden.

    Discover more about chocolate in our Chocolate Glossary.

     

    apple-cider-caramels-lakechamplain-230

    Apple Cider Caramels. Photo courtesy Lake
    Champlain Chocolate.

     

    LAKE CHAMPLAIN CHOCOLATES: CHOICES GALORE

    On the other side of the country in Vermont, Lake Champlain Chocolates is our go-to source for delicious American-style chocolates. We love thechocolate-dipped dried apricots and orange peel, buttercrunch, nut clusters and many other treats. The couverture chocolate is Callebaut from Belgium, and line is certified kosher by Star-K.

    For fall, there are:

  • Assorted Milk and Dark Chocolate Truffles give you a taste of the season via Spiced Pumpkin, which joins French Roast, Hazelnut, Legendary Dark and Raspberry, $16.
  • Autumn Chocolate Coins, a mix of milk and coins, foil-wrapped in festive foliage colors.
  • Autumn Chocolates of Vermont, an autumn-themed gift box of chocolates, $25.50
  • Caramel Chocolate Leaves, $13.00.
  • Milk Chocolate Apple Cider Caramels, $35.00.
  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Leaf Bag beckons to lovers of peanut butter cups, $13.00.
  •  

    Find them at LakeChamplainChocolates.com.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Chocolate Face Mask

    chocolate-face-mask-secretbeautybar-230r

    Another way to enjoy chocolate. Photo
    courtesy Elizabeth’s Secret Beauty Bar |
    Miami.

     

    If you have no Father’s Day plans, how about treating yourself to a chocolate face mask?

    Elizabeth Garcia of Elizabeth’s Secret Beauty Bar in Miami shares the recipe for her signature chocolate mask. You can use it on the face to rehydrate, and on your body or feet as well.

    Spas that promote chocolate say it is a natural way to exfoliate, and promote the “rich antioxidants that help to combat free radicals, which are responsible for our cell aging.”

    Forget about that: A surface mask isn’t going to penetrate and protect you from aging.

    Instead, enjoy a chocolate mask because it’s fun and puts you in a good mood, from the scent alone. Chocolate-loving men will enjoy it as much as the ladies.

    Here’s how to mix your own:

     

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE MASK

    Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons raw cocoa powder (preferably organic)
  • 2/3 cup water (preferably bottled water)
  • 2 tablespoons honey (preferably organic)
  • 5 drops of coconut oil (substitute mint or orange oil)
  •  
    Instructions

    1. PLACE coconut oil and honey in a small microwave safe bowl. Microwave with honey for 6 seconds.

    2. BLEND cocoa powder into coconut oil/honey and stir until mixture becomes creamy.

    3. APPLY to your skin using a facial brush; leave on until it hardens. Elizabeth does not recommend using your fingers. We used a wood tongue depressor. We also recommend soothing music. Chopin worked for us!

    4. REMOVE with cool wash cloth in an upward motion.

     
      

    Comments

    FATHER’S DAY: Maggie Louise Salted Caramel Heraldic Shields

    If Dad is the king on Father’s Day, how about a box of these chocolate heraldic shields, filled with salted caramel?

    Any celebrant who appreciates fine chocolate will roar when he receives a box of such luscious chocolates, embossed with kingly lions.

    The heraldic shields are crafted in extra dark chocolate by El Rey and filled with vanilla bean cream caramel and sea salt. As a finishing touch, the chocolate is brushed with edible gold.

    We’re fans of Maggie Louise, who combines design flare with terrific taste and beautiful packaging.

    A 6-piece gift box is $13.50.

    Get yours at MaggieLouiseConfections.com.

    And browse the website for more wonderful chocolate creations.

     

    shields-gift-box-230s

    Regal and delectable: salt caramel heraldic shields. Photo courtesy Maggie Louise.

     

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Whiskey-Infused Chocolate Truffles

    If Dad loves chocolate and spirits, this may be the ideal Father’s Day gift!

    The Oregon Distiller’s Collection from Moonstruck Chocolate is nine-piece collection of truffles infused with spirits from five of Oregon’s finest craft distillers.

    The spirits are infused into chocolate ganache and hand-piped into hand-painted chocolate shells. The collection is a parade of deliciousness:

  • Bendistillery Crater Lake Pepper Vodka Truffle: A ganache of ivory and dark chocolate is infused with the spirit. A blend of five different sweet and hot chiles creates a balance of flavor and spice; in an ivory chocolate shell.
  • Bull Run Distillery Pacific Rum and Cola Truffle: A blend of dark and milk chocolate ganache is infused with the rum and cola-flavored spirit to mimic the classic cocktail; in a dark chocolate shell.
  • Bull Run Temperance Trader Bourbon Whiskey Truffle: A dark and milk chocolate ganache is infused with this popular whiskey, creating sweet and smoky notes with a hint of fruit and butterscotch; in a dark chocolate shell.
  •    

    craft-distillers-230

    A gift box of spirits-infused truffles. Photo courtesy Moonstruck Chocolate.

     

  • Clear Creek Distillery Oregon Apple Brandy Truffle: The spirit is blended into a ganache of ivory and dark chocolate, featuring notes of grass, apple and spice; in dark chocolate shell.
  • Clear Creek Distillery Oregon Pear Brandy Truffle: A blended milk and dark chocolate ganache is infused with the pear brandy; in an ivory chocolate shell.
  •  

    moonstruck_craft_distillers-goodstuffnw-230r

    Each individual flavor can be purchased
    separately, too. Photo courtesy
    GoodstuffNW.com.

     
  • House Spirits Distillery Krogstad Aquavit Truffle: The aquavit is blended into an ivory and dark chocolate ganache, creating a warm blend of chocolate, star anise and caraway flavors; in a milk chocolate shell.
  • House Spirits Distillery Coffee Liqueur Truffle: The strong, freshly-brewed coffee flavor of the liqueur infuses a blend of milk and dark chocolate ganache; in a dark chocolate shell.
  • House Spirits Distillery Aviation Gin Truffle: This milk and dark chocolate ganache is infused with the gin, delivering a bouquet of botanical flavors, with top notes of citrus, anise, cardamom and lavender; in a dark chocolate shell.
  • Rogue Ale Dead Guy Whiskey Truffle: A blended ivory and dark chocolate is infused with the whiskey, creating delicately sweet notes, a rich malt complexity and a warm peppery finish; in a milk chocolate shell.
  •  
    Who could resist? The nine-piece sampler is $20.00. The flavors can be purchased individually in boxes of 20 pieces for $50.00.

     

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHISKEY & WHISKY

    Check out the different types of whiskey in our Whiskey Glossary.
      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: Rocky Road Bark For National Rocky Road Day

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    Make it in 15 minutes! Photo courtesy Brown
    Eyed Baker.

     

    June 2 is National Rocky Road Day, a flavor created in 1929 when William Dreyer mixed chocolate ice cream with nuts and marshmallows, the “rocks” in the road. Here’s the history.

    Today, have a dish of rocky road ice cream and make some rocky road bark to go with it. Thanks to Brown Eyed Baker for this easy recipe. See more photos and the original article and more photos.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, total time 45 minutes.

    RECIPE: ROCKY ROAD CHOCOLATE BARK

    Ingredients For 1 Pound Of Bark

  • 16 ounces good-quality milk or semisweet
    chocolate (like Lindt), finely chopped
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LINE a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

     

    2. MELT the chocolate over a double boiler (or in 30-second intervals in the microwave on 50% power, stirring after each). Once the chocolate is melted, remove from the heat and let sit for a few minutes to cool slightly, stirring occasionally. Add the marshmallows and walnuts and stir to combine.

    3. SPREAD the chocolate mixture onto the prepared pan in an even layer, covering about a 7×7-inch space. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but that’s a good guideline.

    4. REFRIGERATE for at least 30 minutes, or until set.

    5. CUT the bark into pieces, using a sharp knife. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

      

    Comments

    MOTHER’S DAY: Chocolate Crowns From Maggie Louise

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    Chocolate for a queen. Photo courtesy
    Maggie Louise Confections.

     

    To show Mom that she’s your queen, treat her to these white chocolate crowns from chocolatier Maggie Louise, filled with chocolate sea salt caramel.

    Called “The Sophronia,” it was inspired by Maggie’s memories of the royal pomp and circumstance of London.

    The intricate crowns are made with El Rey’s famed Icoa white chocolate, then filled with hand-crafted chocolate caramel and dotted with Maldon sea salt.

    A six-piece box, beautifully packaged, is $15.00. Get yours at MaggieLouiseConfections.com.

     

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Chocolate Fried Egg

    What would you do with a chocolate fried egg?

    Serve it for breakfast, with a cup of hot chocolate?

    Give it as stocking stuffer or Mother’s Day party favor?

    Enjoy it all by yourself?

    Whatever your choice, this little treat from Maggie Louise Confections is sure to please.

    The chocolatier notes:

    “The Cordelia is a chocolate dream dish. A fried egg in a pan has turned into a chocolate skillet made with El Rey 58.5% dark chocolate, filled with hand-crafted vanilla rice crispy treats and salted caramel, then topped with an El Rey Icoa white chocolate egg.”

     

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    A chocolate fried egg in its own skillet. A perfect breakfast for chocoholics. Photo courtesy Maggie Louise.

     

    It’s the Maggie Louise version of a candy bar. Hey, we’ll take a dozen!

    (At second thought, at $14 each, we’ll take two.)

      

    Comments

    EASTER: Maggie Louise Chic Artisan Chocolates

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    Patent leather bunnies, rock ‘n’ roll eggs.
    Photo courtesy Maggie Louise.

     

    While we know a couple of investment bankers who became chocolatiers, Maggie Louise is the first Harvard lawyer we’ve encountered.

    After a career in corporate law, she trained at Le Cordon Bleu, where she developed the concept for an elegant line of chocolates. She launched Maggie Louise Confections in the Fall of 2013, with a line of modern, chic chocolates that combine art with sophisticated flavors.

    Based in Austin, Texas, the entrepreneur puts a hip and fashionable spin on fine Easter chocolate. Taking inspiration from the tunes at Austin’s South By Southwest musical festival, she created a limited edition Rock ‘n’ Roll Easter assortment:

  • Chocolate Caramel and Sea Salt Easter Eggs, covered in white chocolate with a spatter paint finish.
  • Patent Leather Bunnies, fluffy vanilla marshmallows enrobed in bittersweet El Rey chocolate (El Rey, of Venezuela, is one of the world’s great chocolate producers of chocolate couverture).
     
    The Rock n’ Roll Easter Box retails for $38 and includes 12 eggs and 3 bunnies. There are also Easter Egglets, chocolate with pastel zebra stripes, filled with a mix of peanut butter candy, cream caramel and salted chocolate caramel.

    Get yours at MaggieLouiseConfections.com.

  •  

     

    As a mom, Maggie Louise also has the young ‘uns in mind, with chocolate dinosaurs and robots. For the ladies, there are chocolate charm bracelets and pearls. For everyone, there’s a nifty chocolate fried egg and lizard-patterned s’mores.

    We look forward to working our way through the collection, piece by piece.
     
    The Best Packaging

    We receive many boxes of fine chocolate, but none is more beautifully wrapped than Maggie Louise’s.

    The packaging is very fine and impressive. The chocolate boxes are grand enough to hold good jewelry. Even the tissue paper is a keeper. It’s a great line for gifting.

    If you like fine chocolate, you’ll love perusing the Maggie Louise Confections website. Law’s loss is chocolate’s gain.

     

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    Year-round chocolates. Photo courtesy Maggie Louise.

     

      

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