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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

GIFT: Divine Fair Trade Chocolate

Most of the world’s farmers live in poverty. They’re forced to accept whatever brokers want to pay them for their crops.

Fair Trade ensures that farmers are paid fair value for their crops. This affords a minimum standard of living, money for adult (instead of child) labor and the ability to farm with sound (sustainable) agricultural practices.

Fair Trade is the trademarked term of nonprofit organization that audits transactions between U.S. companies offering Fair Trade Certified products and the international suppliers from whom they source. It is one of several organizations working all over the world to certify fairly traded goods. Here’s more on Fair Trade.

In the case of the the world’s greatest chocolatiers, an elite group, Fair Trade is a moot point. The chocolatiers are already paying top dollar to secure the limited supply of the world’s ultra-finest cacao beans.

But there’s a lot of chocolate, even in the premium category (not the mass marketed bars), that comes from farmers who sometimes have to sell their crops for less than it costs to grow it.

 

Special holiday flavor bars and foil-wrapped dark and milk chocolate coins. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

 

If only all farmers had the ability to emulate the Kuapa Kokoo farmers’ co-op in Ghana. The name means “good cocoa farming.” Instead of exclusive ownership under a corporate board of executives or a family who has handed down the business from generation to generation, the business is actually owned partly by the 40,000 small farmers who grow, harvest and partially process the cacao.

The cooperative works at improving the social, economic and political well-being of its members. Women cacao farmers play significant roles at all levels of the organization, and the co-op encourages environmentally sustainable production.

 

Christmas tree boxes filled with chocolate
Christmas trees. Photo by Elvira Kalviste |
THE NIBBLE.

 

And, their cacao beans are used to make the Fair Trade Certified line, Divine Chocolate.

DIVINE CHOCOLATE FOR THE HOLIDAYS

This very reasonably priced line, beautifully packaged, offers a nice choice stocking stuffers, teacher gifts or office gifts. Each purchase supports these farmers and their excellent mission.

If you like, you can use the gift to teach your family, friends and colleagues about supporting Fair Trade, and. They’ll feel good about every bite.

There’s something for every chocolate-lover in Divine Chocolate’s collection:

  • Advent calendar, $4.55
  • Chocolate bars: holiday special 38% Milk Chocolate With Spiced Cookies and 70% dark chocolate with hazelnuts and cranberries, plus 13 year-round flavors, $3.99
  • Chocolate coins in milk or dark chocolate, 1.75 ounce mesh bag, $3.99
  • Christmas tree box filled with Christmas tree chocolates, 3.5 ounces, $8.49
  •  

  • Dark Chocolate Mint Thins and Ginger Thins, $8.49
  • There are savings with the purchase of multiple pieces of the same item, as well a gift baskets with an assortment of products.
     

    See all the holiday specials and the entire product line at Divine Chocolate.com.

    —Steven Gans

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Chocolate For Sports Fans

    Pass the pigskin—we want some chocolate.

    This life-size football is available in dark, or white chocolate from fine chocolatier Li-Lac Chocolates.

    At 11 x 6″ x 6.5″ and 2.2 pounds of premium chocolate, the football is $48.00.

    If football isn’t your sport, there are:

  • Chocolate basketballs, a life-size 10″ diameter and 3.5 pounds of chocolate, $65.00.
  • Chocolate baseballs, 3″ diameter, 4.5 ounces (each, box of 2), $18.
  • Chocolate golf balls, 1.5″ diameter and 1 ounce each, box of 6 $18.
  •  

    Life-size football in premium chocolate. Photo courtesy Li-Lac Chocolates.

     

    There are tennis rackets, baseball gloves and more; each made to order in dark, milk or white chocolate at Li-Lac Chocolates.

    —Steven Gans

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar

    Caviar chocolate isn’t for anyone. But here’s a bar with more universal appeal:

    The PMS Bar from Lucas Candies. P is for peanut butter, M is for milk chocolate and S is for salted potato chips.

    It’s so creamy, with a light potato chip crunch, and nifty looking with a semi-sweet chocolate drizzle. At $4.00, it’s a great stocking stuffer.

    We were also fond of the newest Lucas candy bar creation, the Haverstraw Bar, made with milk chocolate, toasted coconut and toffee chips. The confections are made fresh by hand daily.

    The Lucas family has been making chocolates since 1896, when five Lucas brothers emigrated to the U.S. from Greece and settled on the Hudson River in Haverstraw, New York.

     

    At the top of the plate: the PMS Bar. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Historical note: Between 1771 and 1941, Haverstraw was “The Brick Capital Of The World,” thanks to immense clay beds formed by the Hudson River’s water and rich soil that lined the waterfront. By 1883, there were 42 brickyards in the area that manufactured 148 brands of brick—more than 300 million bricks in one year for the New York City area alone. At one time, more than two-thirds of the buildings in New York City were constructed of Haverstraw brick.

    Back to the chocolate: Today the store, in its original location, is operated by the fourth generation of the Lucas family. The same recipes that came with the family from Greece in 1896 are still made, along with some new ones like the PMS Bar and Haverstraw bar.

    Historical note #2: Peanut butter was introduced to the masses in 1904 at the Universal Exposition in St. Louis, but it was a while before it was commercially produced and became a staple in American households. Krema Products Company of Columbus, Ohio began selling peanut butter in 1908 and remains the oldest peanut butter company still in operation today.

    The first shelf-stable peanut butter was invented in 1922. Here’s the history of peanut butter.

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Caviar White Chocolate

    Good things come in small packages. In the case of Petrossian’s new Caviar Chocolate, the package is small but the flavor is huge, and the memory will last a lifetime.

    Petrossian has partnered with the great French chocolatier Pralus to create (to our knowledge) the world’s first caviar-studded chocolate.

    For that select group of people who love both chocolate and caviar, you couldn’t find a better gift. “Even we were amazed with the result!” says Petrossian, describing their reaction to what Pralus had created.

    The silken white chocolate and slightly salty, crunchy beads of sturgeon caviar are a marriage made in heaven: the highest form of salted chocolate. The cost of four small pieces: $29. The experience: priceless.

     

    One singular sensation: caviar chocolate. Photo courtesy Petrossian.

     
    An origami-folded, ribbon-wrapped gift box holds four 1.5″ x 1 1/8″ tablets, .79 ounce total weight. Purchase it at Petrossian.com or at Petrossian’s New York City restaurant and boutique.

    Petrossian doesn’t rest on its laurels as the world’s most prominent purveyor of fine caviar. The creative minds there are always trying to do more.

    Recent innovations include caviar cream, caviar powder, Papierusse (“Russian paper”)—sheets of pressed caviar that look like Japanese nori—and caviar cubes for garnish.

    Just imagine a gift basket with all of these wonderful products—and some fresh Petrossian caviar! Can we send you our address?

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Chocolates To Help Darfur

    Taste great, feel good chocolates. Photo
    courtesy Compartes.

     

    Here’s a feel-good holiday gift that’s beautiful, delicious and sure to be appreciated.

    Jonathan Grahm, owner and chocolatier at top chocolatier Compartes in Los Angeles, has created this five-piece set, Chocolates for a Cause: African Chocolate Collection.

    The chocolate-covered caramels are adorned with a rainbow progression of the African continent, and are packaged with a Relief Beads bracelet for a three-in-one gift: chocolates, bracelet and the gift of a donation to Darfur. The set is $20.00.

    Proceeds benefit Relief International’s efforts in Darfur. They directly help feed malnourished children and fund a women’s help center.

    Order at Compartes.com.

     

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Neuhaus Haut Pâtisserie Collection

    You know something is really good when, the minute you finish it you want another.

    We don’t know what the chocolates tasted like when the company was founded in 1857; but Neuhaus Chocolates’s new “Haute Pâtisserie” collection is the best Neuhaus chocolate we’ve ever tasted, and stands on the podium with the finest chocolates in the world.

    “Haut pâtisserie” means high-class pastry, a reference to the nine internationally-reknowned pastry chefs/chocolatiers who each contributed a unique piece to the collection.

    A pâtissier typically creates a suite of sweets: biscuits (cookies) and macarons, cakes, chocolates, confectionery (caramels, dragées, fondant/nougat, fudge, hard candies, marshmallows, marzipan, pâte de fruit, etc.), ice cream and, of course pastries.

     

    Neuhaus Haut Patisserie collection. Photo
    courtesy Neuhaus.

     
    Haut, by the way, is pronounced “oat,” and not “hoat,” as the people responsible for “Haut Goth” or “Haut Look” would have it. The complete pronunciation: oat pah-TEE-suh-ree.

    THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BOX FOR THE MOST EXQUISITE CHOCOLATES

    The exquisite round gift box is a keeper. In pale green with textured gold accents, it is may be the nicest package from any chocolatier and evocative of the luxurious boxes that were used to package chocolates in earlier times. It holds 27 chocolates: three pieces from each of nine pastry chefs. It is available with an elegant coordinated bag and an illustrative booklet with the story of each praline for $45.00, at NeuhausChocolate.com.

    The pralines—what Belgians call bonbons (here’s an explanation of the difference between Belgian and French chocolates), are thick shells of wonderful chocolate. Each pastry chef was guided by his own creative, cultural and gastronomic inspiration. The initials of each chef are worked into the design patterns on the top of each chocolate.

    In alphabetical order of surname, the pastry chefs are:

    Christophe Adam
    Paris, France

    Adam achieved fame as creative director at Fauchon, and currently focuses on sweet delicacies in his own business. He bonbon is dark chocolate with a ganache of Sicilian pistachios and oranges from Valencia, enriched with black raisins from Chile. The orange flavor prevails, and we love it.

    Dominique Ansel
    New York, New York

    Ansel is originally from Paris, but is one of the best (if not the best) pâtissiers in New York right now. His awards include “Best New Pâtisserie of New York” and “Top 10 Pastry Chefs in the United States.” We voyage to his pastry shop as often as we can. For this collection, he created a milk chocolate shell filled with ganache inspired by childhood memories: roasted peanuts on a layer of caramel “à l’ancienne.” The sensation begins with savory peanuts and finishes with sweet milk chocolate.

    Joost Arijs
    Ghent, Belgium

    Arijs eventually became Chef Pâtissier at the three-star Michelin restaurant Hof van Cleve. In 2012 he and his bakery’s co-owner were awarded the title of “Best Pâtisserie in Belgium”—which says something, given the high standards in that country. Chef Arijs enjoys combining chocolate with fresh notes of fruit and citrus. For Haute Pâtisserie he has created a dark chocolate shell with a crumble of cacao nibs. The couverture is 70% Ecuadorian cacao ganache wit a layer of Indian mango coulis. We also detected a hint of citrus—perhaps some exotic lime.

     

    The gift set: box, bag, brochure. Photo
    courtesy Neuhaus.com.

     

    Oriol Balaguer
    Barcelona & Madrid, Spain

    Balaguer’s honors include “Best Dessert in the World” and “Best Pâtissier in Spain.” His piece is a milk chocolate shell filled with popping sugar on a layer of praline (using the world’s finest Piedmont hazelnuts) and passion fruit. We don’t generally go for hazelnut praliné, but we’d gladly take a few boxes of these. They are perhaps the best praline ever. Website. In the U.S. you can purchase his chocolate at Borne Confections.

    Martin Chiffers
    London, England

    Chiffers is president of the U.K. Pastry Team, which won the European Pastry cup in 2012. Inspired by berries and flowers from Cornish gardens, his milk chocolate piece features rose on a layer of praline “à l’ancienne,” made with hazelnuts and fresh raspberries. The raspberries dominate, deliciously. The burst of fresh raspberries makes this perhaps our favorite piece in the collection.Website.

     

    Raphaël Giot
    Namur, Belgium

    This Belgian pâtissier is known as “the goldsmith of pastry.” His dark chocolate piece is a salted caramel “à l’ancienne” on a layer of velvety praliné, enriched with pieces of hazelnuts and enrobed with dark chocolate. We—previously noted, not generally a hazelnut chocolate fan—really liked it. Website.

    Koji Tsuchija
    Tokyo, Japan

    Koji Tsuchija has seven luxury chocolate shops in Tokyo, called Théobroma. His dark origin chocolate ganache infused with yuzu is a perfect marriage between the bittersweet chocolate and refreshing acidity of the citrus. We can never get enough of tart-yet-sweet yuzu. It’s another winner. Website.

    Bernd Sierfert
    Michelstadt, Germany

    Sierfert held the title of “Best German Pâtissier” for five years running. His milk chocolate piece, called “Chinese Girls,” is chocolate ganache infused with Chinese jasmine tea on a thin layer of crunchy praline with Oriental ginger. The flavors are subtle, the crunch is lovely, the overall chocolate is sweet happiness. Website.

    Louie Ye
    Shanghai, China

    Ye is the executive pastry at the world’s tallest hotel, the Park Hyatt in Shanghai, and has represented China in the World Pastry Championships. His piece represents Asian cuisine and combines sweet and savory flavors. An herb-accented caramel, lush and lovely with a hint of salt with dark origin chocolate from Ecuador. The finish of the chocolate goes on and on. Hotel website.
     
    CHOCOLATE TERMS

    What the French call bonbons and Americans call filled chocolates, Belgians call pralines. It’s a confusing because in France, praline is a caramelized almond and in the U.S., it’s a brown sugar patty with pecans. In fact, Belgian chocolatier Jean Neuhaus started the confusion in 1912, when he developed a process for creating hard shell filled chocolates that he called pralines.

  • The different types of praline
  • The difference between Belgian and French chocolates
  •   

    Comments

    GIFT: Fall Non-Pareils, Perky Chocolate Turkey

    Handmade, seasonal non-pareils. Photo
    courtesy Li-Lac Chocolate.

     

    If you need a small gift, including something for your Thanksgiving hosts, how about a box of these fall-accented non-pareils?

    They’re from Li-Lac Chocolates in New York City’s Greenwich Village, a company that just celebrated its 80th anniversary.

    They’re available in dark or milk chocolate in 1/2-, 1- and 2-pound boxes, they are $21/pound.

    If you prefer to make something yourself, get some seasonal sprinkles and shake them onto icing or whipped cream:

  • Fall Leaves
  • Non-Pareils
  •  

     

    Chocolate turkeys abound, but this one adds something special: candy corn “feathers” on its tail.

    The jumbo chocolate turkey is handmade to order, in dark, milk or white chocolate. It’s $75.00, also at Li-Lac Chocolates.

    Kids will swoon for it; but it can serve as a centerpiece.

    Perhaps award it as a prize to the best-behaved child?

     

    Struttin’ his stuff. Photo courtesy Li-Lac Chocolates.

     

      

    Comments

    HALLOWEEN: Creative Witch & Pumpkin Chocolate

    We’ve seen a lot of Halloween chocolate, but the best molded chocolate of the season are from Li-Lac Chocolates in New York City: a witch carrying her jack-o’-lantern (at right) and a jack-o’-lantern filled with candy corn (photo below).

    Li-Lac, founded in 1923, is a Manhattan institution. Before the eruption of the artisan food movement in the 1980s, there were only two chocolate shops on the entire West Side of Manhattan Island: Li-Lac Chocolates in Greenwich Village, and Mondel’s Chocolates in Morningside Heights, across the street from Columbia University (it opened in 1943).

    Happily, in this town of real estate sturm und drang, where family businesses regularly “loose their leases*,” these chocolatiers have survived.

     
    *When the old lease expires, the current, sky-high New York City rents make it impossible for many shopkeepers to keep their doors open.

     

    A witch carries her own jack-o’-lantern in this beautiful molded piece. Photo courtesy Li-Lac Chocolates.

     

    A NEW YORK INSTITUTION

    In our childhood, we’d take the subway down to Greenwich Village to the original Christopher Street location for some of everything. Our favorites were green marzipan acorns with dark chocolate tops, and chocolate-covered orange peel. McNulty’s Tea & Coffee was (and still is!) right across the street—for decades, the only store devoted to fine, loose tea and coffee beans. This was our first solo “gourmet expedition.”

    Li-Lac was founded in 1923 by a Greek expatriat, George Demetrious, who had studied the art of chocolate-making in France. During the 1920s and through the 1960s, New York City’s Greenwich Village was a Bohemian destination for artists, intellectuals and innovators. They didn’t have to go far for good chocolate, coffee or tea.

     

    This jack-o’-lantern hides a secret: His head
    isfull of candy corn! Photo courtesy Li-Lac
    Chocolates.

     

    DEFINITELY OLD SCHOOL

    For 90 years, Li-Lac has remained true to its history and tradition, eschewing automation and trendiness (no beer and pretzel caramels or chipotle chocolate) to continue production of the original recipes in small-batch production techniques. The company proudly bills itself as “stubbornly old-fashioned.”

    In 2005, rising rents forced Li-Lac to move from its original Christopher Street location. It found new retail quarters some seven blocks away at 40 Eighth Avenue (at Jane Street). There’s another location in Midtown at 109 East 42nd Street. Production moved to Brooklyn.

    Li-Lac’s selection of fresh artisanal chocolate includes more than 140 items—one of the largest selections of fresh gourmet chocolate in America. Take a look at Li-Lac Chocolates.com.

     

    PARTY ON SUNDAY

    If you’re in New York City, this Sunday, November 3rd, Li-Lac is celebrating its 90th anniversary at its Greenwich Village store, 40 Eighth Avenue at Jane Street. From 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. the public is welcome to stop by.

    The company will sell four original chocolate confections at the 1923 prices of 23¢ apiece. There will be complimentary wine pairings by Sparkling Pointe Vineyards and Winery, and the Kitchen Opera Company will provide musical interludes.

      

    Comments

    HALLOWEEN: Zoë’s Chocolate Skulls, Bats, Ghosts & Bonbons

    You don’t necessarily associate chocolate with Greece. But Zoë’s Chocolate started with Zoë’s great Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim, who emmigrated to America in 1902. They built a small pushcart to sell homemade, hand-rolled chocolate confections made from their parents’ recipes.

    Their small pushcart quickly grew into a thriving business, and soon they opened a store, Chocolatier Petros, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Mary wrote to her brother Petros, Zoë’s grandfather, to come to the U.S. to work in the chocolate business. Petros and his wife worked side by side in the business for many years.

    Zoe’s father, George decided to visit her grandfather’s family, and began learning the recipes. He met his wife, Elaini, and the visit turned into a permanent stay.

    George, a master chocolatier, has been making the family chocolates ever since—now along with Zoe’s brother, Petros.

    Every bite of Zoë’s Chocolate is packed with three generations of love and devotion. But there’s also fun, as you can see in these gourmet Halloween chocolates.

     

    Halloween dudes: skills in white, dark and milk chocolate. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     
    GOURMET HALLOWEEN CHOCOLATE

    Chocolate Bark: How about a bag of batalicious bark (photo below)? White chocolate is decorated with Halloween’s favorite flying friend ($14).

    Chocolate Skulls: Spookalicious skulls are available in dark, milk or white chocolate (photo above, $3.50 each).

    Marshmallow Ghosts: Soft and gooey ghostly marshmallows with hints of Tahitian vanilla are perfect for those who don’t like chocolate (yes, there are some folks like that). For a ghoulish trick, watch the ghosts disappear in a cup of hot chocolate ($12.00 for a box of 3).

    Petros’ Pumpkin: Hollow dark chocolate pumpkins are filled with chewy sea salt caramels and delicious Drunken Pumpkin chocolate—milk chocolate ganache blended with a silky pumpkin puree and combined with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a hint of Cognac. Classic and beautiful, as well as delicious fun ($18.00).

    Head over to ZoesChocolate.com to order yours.

     

    Go batty for white chocolate bark. Photo by
    Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    BEAUTIFUL BONBONS

    If your idea of chocolate is a box of ganache- and caramel-filled bonbons, look at Zoë’s classic fare.

    While we don’t have space to show them here, head over to ZoesChocolates.com to see them for yourself: beautiful bonbons, half of which have Greek accents:

  • Greek-Inspired Flavors: Aegean Pistachio, Chestnut, Black Daphne Chocolate (flavored with the Port-like Mavrodaphne wine from the Peleponnese in Greece), Dionysus Baklava, Caffe with Greek coffee beans, Mediterranean Citrus, Orange Flower, Persephone’s Pomegranate, Tahini.
  • Classic Favorites:Apple Pie, Black Raspberry, Chewy Sea Salt Caramels, Dark Cacao Nib Ganache, Fleur de Sel Liquid Caramel, Mint, Pinot Noir Infused Fleur de Sel and for the fall season, Spiced Pear Walnut.
  •  
    Writing this has taken its toll: We must find a piece of chocolate!

     

      

    Comments

    HALLOWEEN: Custom Chocolate Bars

    Scrumptious fun: custom-decorated Belgian
    chocolate bars for Halloween. Photo courtesy
    Chocomize.com.

     

    Some of our favorite, affordable gifts are customized chocolate bars from Chocomize.com, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week and ongoing favorite.

    The base chocolate bar, excellent Belgian chocolate in your choice of dark (72% cacao), milk (34% cacao) or white, is $4.50 (the bar is 3.5 ounces). You can add toppings for about 70¢ apiece, which are then embedded in the top of the bar (some choices are more expensive, some are less).

    There’s a seemingly endless combinations of candies, fruits, herbs and spices, nuts and decorations—it’s actually 300 million possible combinations, according to Chocomize.

    But for Halloween, you can limit your decision-making to these fun toppings:

    HALLOWEEN CHOCOLATE BARS

  • Candy Corn, +70¢
  • Bloody Candy Bones, +60¢
  • Candy Bats, +85¢
  • Apple Caramel Candy Corn, +$0.70¢
  • Halloween Sprinkles, +70¢
  • Cherry-Filled Gummy Skulls, +70¢
  • Halloween Chocolate Rocks +$70¢
  •  

    The bars are made fresh to order and arrive within approximately four business days.

    Head to Chocomize.com and design a few for yourself or for gifts.

      

    Comments

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