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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,
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Archive for Entertaining

TIP OF THE DAY: Candy Apple Party

Is this your year to host a candy apple party for Halloween? Kids and adults alike will love the opportunity to customize caramel and/or red candy apples.

First send out the invites, then start to gather the ingredients.

You prepare trays of candy- and or caramel-coated apples, and guests do a quick re-dip and add their toppings. We’ll provide the caramel- and candy-coating recipes in a separate article.


Select toppings that are small in size or crushed. Big pieces of candy or nut halves can fall off, especially on smaller apple (recommended—see the next section). That’s why we excluded Gummies, Goobers, Raisinets and Teddy Grahams.

  • Candy corn
  • Chopped nuts
  • Granola
  • Mini chocolate chips or full size (how about a mix of
    butterscotch, peanut butter, mint, dark, milk and/or white


    At a candy apple party, every guest can customize an apple (at least one!). Photo with regular and chocolate caramel apples courtesy

  • Mini M&Ms
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Mini Reese’s Pieces
  • Oreo bits or crushed graham crackers
  • Pretzel pieces
  • Red Hots
  • Shredded coconut, plain or toasted
  • Sprinkles
  • Toffee bits

  • 2 slow cookers, chafing dishes, or other warmers for the two coatings
  • Bowls and spoons for the toppings
  • Individual bowls or plates for apple-coating
  • Ice pop sticks for the apples
  • Plates, napkins

    You do the messy part in advance: dip the apples in their first coat: dark, milk or white chocolate or caramel. Photo courtesy



    Choose varieties that are crisp but not singularly sweet (e.g. Delicious). The tartness or acidity of the right variety is a counterpoint to the sweet coating and toppings.

    You also want small apples over large ones. Big apples look more impressive, but smaller ones (typically sold pre-bagged) give you a better ratio of apple to topping. And, you can have more than one!

  • For red candy coating: Baldwin, Crispin, Honeycrisp, Idared, Jonathan, Stayman, SweeTango; secondarily, Braeburn, Gala, Fuji.
  • For caramel apples: The tart Granny Smith is the best variety for caramel apples; the tartness works well with the caramel. But any of the red candy apple types will work if you’re not seeking that nuance.
    TIP: Many supermarket apples have a wax coating that can inhibit the coating from sticking to the apple. If you can’t buy your apples from a farmers market or orchard, remove the wax coating by swirling the apples in a pot of boiling water and wiping them dry with paper towels.



    Set the slow cookers, trays of coated apples and bowls of toppings and other materials on a table or sideboard, ideally on a craft paper covering or tablecloth.

    When the guests are ready to create their apples, let them re-dip and add their toppings. Individual bowls for each person help prevent the toppings from spilling on the table.


    What to serve at your candy apple party? Apple-themed drinks:

  • Apple Beer or Ale
  • Apple Cider
  • Apple Spice Tea
  • Appletinis
  • Apple Wine
  • Apple Seltzer (like Polar)
  • Hard Cider
  • Hot Mulled Wine or Mulled Cider
  • Sparkling Cider Punch


    TIP OF THE DAY: Vermouth & Tapas, For Brunch & Cocktails

    Vermouth is enjoying a renaissance. Vermouth (ver-MOOTH) is a fortified wine—one that includes a base spirit—flavored with a proprietary mixture of botanicals (roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, spices).

    A glass of sweet red vermouth with an orange slice or twist was long a fashionable apéritíf for café society*. In Barcelona today, vermouth and tapas are a hot duo after mass, both at home and at the vermuterías that have popped up to serve them.

    Today’s tip is to try a bit of café society at home. Turn it into a brunch or cocktail party with tapas. Use the occasion to get to know vermouth, trying the different styles.

    You don’t have to try them all in one day. We’ve turned our monthly Sunday friends-and-family brunch into a vermouth and tapas event, trying different vermouths and tapas each week. So it doesn’t get burdensome, participants are assigned to bring a bottle (for those who don’t cook) and a variety of tapas (for those who do).

    And we have a great time!



    Red Vermouth

    An apéritif of red vermouth. Photo courtesy Foods From Spain.

    Vermouth evolved from a 16th-century practice in Northern Italy and Germany, where apothecaries would blend extracts of herbs and roots to blend with wine and brandy. This was the way to make bitter medicines more palatable. (Virtually all spirits were first developed for medicinal reasons.)

    The original recipe for red vermouth, and possibly even the name “vermuth,” was invented in Torino, Italy in 1786 by Antonio Benedetto Carpano. The red vermouths of subsequent producers like Cinzano were based on Carpano. Carpano is still a major brand in Italy, perhaps best known today in the U.S. for its Punt e Mes (“Point And A Half”), a sweet and bitter style.

    In the late 19th century, bartenders began to make cocktails with vermouth. The Manhattan and Negroni, made with sweet vermouth, and the Martini, made with dry vermouth, are three that remain popular today. A plain glass of sweet vermouth is still enjoyed as an apéritif in Italy, France and Spain, the three largest producing countries.

    There are a number of different vermouth styles: sweet and dry, red and white, amaro (with added bitters), chinato with added chinchona (quinine) and often gentian (a root), alla vaniglia with vanilla, and others. Vermouth houses typically make a variety of styles.

    While many vermouths are regional and not imported, familiar names in the U.S. include:

  • French vermouths Noilly Prat, Boissiere
  • Italian vermouths Cinzano, Martini & Rossi
  • Spanish vermouths Lacuesta, Canasta Rosso
    Other countries have gotten on the vermouth bandwagon. There are a number of American brands (Atsby, Gallo, Imbue, Ransom, Sutton Cellars, Vya from Quady), along with vermouths from Australia, Germany and elsewhere.


    vermouth with tapas

    Trade the Mimosa and omelet brunch for vermouth with tortilla española and other tapas. Photo courtesy Foods From Spain.



    After Ferran Adría closed the famed El Bulli temple of molecular gastronomy, he opened a vermutería in Barcelona: Bodega 1900, that serves different vermouths and tapas.

    In Barcelona, the trendy food capital of Europe, vermouth is now the midday fashion on weekends. It’s called “la hora del vermouth” (vermouth hour, after “cocktail hour”): good food and drink, good conversation, a good time hanging out with friends and family.

    It’s easy to create your own “la hora del vermouth” for brunch or an all-vermouth-and-tapas cocktail party.


  • Fresh anchovies marinated in vinegar (or you can grill them)
  • Fried green plantains
  • Green olives stuffed with piquillo peppers and anchovies
  • Grilled shrimp with olive oil and lemon juice
  • Marinated peppers and anchovies
  • Manchego cheese with serrano ham
  • Mussels with vinaigrette
  • Oysters and/or clams on the half shell
  • Potato chips, homemade or artisan
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Serrano ham
  • Tortilla espanola, an omelet with onions, peppers, potatoes and sausage (substitute a frittata or quiche)

    For brunch, add a green salad, with fruit salad for dessert (you can marinate the fruits in a bit of sweet vermouth or orange liqueur). If someone wants to make flan, by all means!

    Here’s what the menu at a tapas bar looks like.

    We promise, you’ll love this new approach to brunch and/or cocktails.

    Many Americans recoil at the thought of anchovies, tough, bristly and way too salty. But these are cheap anchovies, typically served by diners and pizzerias. You must try fine Spanish anchovies—practically another species.

    Tender Spanish anchovies and boquerones, white anchovies, are imported canned and available fresh in May and June.

    They are a classic Spanish tapa. Boquerones are lightly pickled in vinegar and olive oil. Lightly salted and smoked anchovies are only distantly related to the over-salted anchovies too many of us have had.

    They are truly delicious. Try them: La Tienda is an importer of fine Spanish foods, and the photos of anchovies on their website will change your mind, even before the first bite.

    *Café society was the precursor of the jet set, and what more recently has been called the “beautiful people.” Beginning in the late 19th century, these wealthy individuals and celebrities gathered in fashionable cafés and restaurants in New York, Paris, and London. As a social group, they attended each others’ private dinners and balls, vacationed at the same elegant resorts, and so forth. In New York City, café society would hang out at El Morocco, the 21 Club and the Stork Club. American journalist Lucius Beebe (1902-1966) is generally credited with creating the term “café society” in his weekly column in the New York Herald Tribune, which ran in the 1920s and 1930s.



    TIP: Create A Guacamole Party Bar

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/guacamole sabrinamodelle calavocomm 230

    Guacamole with crispy bacon and shredded
    cheddar. Here’s the recipe. Photo and recipe
    courtesy Sabrina Modelle | The Tomato Tart
    via California Avocado Commission.


    National Guacamole Day is September 16th, and we wondered: If there are salad bars and frozen yogurt bars, cereal bars, baked potato bars and chili bars*, why not a guacamole bar? Who doesn’t love the opportunity to customize their foods?

    Individual bowls and an array of ingredients enable each person to start with a base of smashed avocado, and pile on the fixings. They can then be mixed in or eaten as is—a mountain of flavors and textures.

    Whether for a general party or drinks, we like to include a crunchy salad base, to make a more substantial dish. We prefer shredded cabbage, a.k.a. coleslaw mix. You end up with “guacamole coleslaw” at the bottom of the dish.

    To encourage creativity, mix some non-traditional items (bacon? mint? pineapple?) with traditional ones.

  • Avocado: mashed, smashed or diced†
  • Cheese: crumbled cotija, goat cheese, queso blanco, queso fresco or queso oaxaca; shredded cheddar or jack
  • Diced veggies: bell pepper, carrot, cucumber, green and/or red onion, jicama, radish, tomatillo, tomato/sundried tomato
  • Seasonings: cayenne, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and/or minced garlic, hot sauce, lemon and/or lime wedges, paprika, salt/seasoned salt, Worcestershire sauce
  • Heat: chile flakes, minced chipotle and jalapeño‡
  • Herbs: chives, cilantro, mint, parsley
  • Salad base: arugula, chicory, escarole, iceberg, radicchio, romaine, shredded cabbage, watercress
  • Toppings: bacon, corn, crushed pineapple, diced mango, olives, salsa, sour cream or plain yogurt, toasted nuts

  • Chips and dippers: celery sticks, crostini (toasted or grilled baguette slices), endive leaves, pita chips, tortilla chips, flatbread
  • Drinks: beer, white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or other crisp, medium-body white wine), white sangria
    Set the dishes on a table or buffet in this order: bowls, salad, avocado, veggies, heat, seasonings and toppings; include serving utensils with each option.

    At the end of the table, place the forks and spoons for blending and napkins, and dinner plates for the individual bowls and chips. Place large bowls of chips or other dippers on the tables.
    *More food bar ideas: Breakfast & Brunch Bar, Lunch & Dinner Bar and Dessert Bar.

    †Hass avocados are preferred. While other varieties are larger, the Hass variety is creamier, a desired characteristic for guacamole.

    ‡To accommodate those who just like a little heat, have two bowls of jalapeño: one minced and served as is, one with the heat-carrying seeds removed before mincing.



    Mesoamericans cultivated the avocado, a fruit which had grown in what we now call Central America for millions of years. The conquering Aztecs‡‡ called it ahuacatl; the “tl” is pronounced “tay” in Nahuatl, the Aztec language. Guacamole was compounded in a molcajete, a mortar and pestle carved from volcanic stone.

    When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1519 under Hernán Cortés, they heard ah-hwah-cah-tay as “aguacate,” the spelling and pronounciation they adopted.

    The name guacamole comes from Mexican Spanish via the Nahuatl “ahuacamOlli,” a compound of ahuacatl [avocado] + mOlli [sauce]. The chocolate-based mole sauce comes from that same word, mOlli.

    Ahuacatl means “testicle.” Aztecs saw the avocado as resembling testicles and ate them as a sex stimulant. According to Linda Stradley on the website, for centuries after Europeans came into contact with the avocado, it carried its reputation for inducing sexual prowess. It wasn’t purchased or consumed by anyone concerned with his or her reputation.


    Guacamole On Spoon

    Custom-blending guacamole is not only fun; you get exactly what you want. Photo courtesy McCormick.

    American avocado growers had to sponsor a public relations campaign to dispel the myth before avocados could become popular. After then, their dark green, pebbly flesh also earned avocados the name, “alligator pear.”
    ‡‡The Aztecs, who probably originated as a nomadic tribe in northern Mexico, arrived in Mesoamerica around the beginning of the 13th century.


  • Avocados been cultivated for over 10,000 years.
  • Avocados have more potassium that a banana, plus many other health benefits (here are the 12 health benefits of avocado).
  • Leaving the pit in to keep it from browning doesn’t really work.
  • The largest-ever serving of guacamole weighed 2,669.5 kg (5,885.24 lbs), created by the Municipality of Tancítaro Michoacan in Tancítaro, Mexico, on April 4th 2013. But how many tortilla chips were needed?
  • During festivities for the last Super Bowl, 104.2 million pounds of avocados were consumed nationally, mostly as guacamole.


    PRODUCT: Watermelon “Keg” Tap With Watermelon Agua Fresca

    A melon tap turns any large, seedless watermelon into an punch bowl, ideal for filling with watermelon-based beverages. Simply hollow out the melon, insert the tap and fill it with your beverage of choice. In addition to a refreshing drink, you give guests the fun of dispensing their drinks from a watermelon. (In the fall, you can do the same with a pumpkin.)

    For starters, fill your watermelon “punch bowl” with watermelon agua fresca. It’s a memorable finale to the summer.

    Agua fresca is Spanish for “fresh water.” In culinary terms, it refers to sweetened, fruit-flavored water. Like lemonade, it is noncarbonated and nonalcoholic.

    But you can keep a bottle of spirits next to the melon dispenser for guests who’d like a shot or two. May we suggest watermelon vodka? You can find watermelon-flavored vodka from Smirnoff, Three Olives, Pinnacle (Cucumber Watermelon), UV (Salty Watermelon) and others.

    The tap in the photo is the PROfreshionals Melon Tap, $9.99. It includes “feet” that insert into the bottom of the melon to keep it stable. Another variation, from Final Touch, is designed to look like a beer tap handle. It’s $19.99.


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/watermelon kegger goodcook bradshawintl 230

    Turn a watermelon into a punch bowl. Photo of PROfessionals Melon Tap courtesy

    This agua fresca recipe was created by Cheeky Kitchen for Good Cook. Of course, you can also serve the drink from a standard pitcher.


    Ingredients For 8-12 Drinks

  • 6 pounds seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons agave or honey
  • Fresh mint for garnish
  • Optional: gin, tequila, vodka
  • Ice

    1. SLICE and discard a 2” piece from the top of a large, seedless watermelon. Carve out the red melon flesh from the inside of the watermelon and cut into large cubes (they can be as free-form as you like, as they’ll soon be puréed). Place in a large bowl and set aside.

    2. PREPARE the melon for serving by ensuring it can stand upright. Slice a small portion from the bottom of the melon to make it more stable. Place the tap about 3 inches from the bottom of the melon and push it through the rind to the inside. Set aside.

    3. PURÉE the watermelon flesh and all other ingredients in a blender in small batches, as needed. Pour the beverage into the prepared watermelon. Press the melon tap to dispense the drink into large glasses filled with ice.

  • Agua Fresca recipes: horchata (creamy almond), lychee, mango and pineapple
  • Apple-Cucumber-Lime Agua Fresca Recipe


    TIP OF THE DAY: Pairing Ice Cream & Wine

    We’ve written extensively on pairing wine with desserts, from apple tart and chocolate cake to cheesecake and tiramisu. There’s a brief mention of two sweet wines that go with ice cream: Nigori saké, a sweet, milky style, and Pedro Ximénez* dessert sherry.

    But the problem with those limited ice cream and wine pairings is that ice cream comes in many flavors, and you wouldn’t pair the same wine with chocolate ice cream as with strawberry.

    So since then, we’ve devoted lots of time to pairing wines with ice cream. The recommendations are below, and also include pairings with sorbets.


    How alien is the concept of wine and ice cream? So much so that we couldn’t find a photo of a dish of ice cream together with a glass of wine “for love or money,” as the expression goes. The closest we got was a bowl of rum raisin ice cream, over which Pedro Ximénez sherry had been poured as a sauce.

    It is widely thought that ice cream and wine just don’t mix. One reason given is that the butterfat from the cream dulls the palate; but foie gras too is even fattier and sweet wines are splendid with it. The other reason is that the coldness of ice cream numbs the palate, and this can be true.


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/px sherry BodegaJoseDeLaCuesta 230

    Pedro Ximénez, a sweet sherry, goes well with chocolate, ice cream and numerous desserts. Photo courtesy Bodegas José De La Cuesta Pedro | Spain.

    However, if you wait at least 10 seconds to sip the wine, following a spoonful of ice cream, your palate can be “primed” for wine. Use sorbet instead of ice cream and avoid the butterfat issue altogether.
    The Tradition Of Sweet Wine For Dessert

    Sweet wines date to ancient times. The finest wines in Rome were sweet white wines. Bonus: The higher the sugar content, the more a wine can withstand aging, temperature shifts and transportation; so sweet wines held up better.

    Also, then as now, sweet wines pair with any course, depending on the particular dish. Today, wine connoisseurs pay big bucks to attend dinners where different vintages of Chateau d’Yquem, the priciest sweet wine (it’s a Sauternes from the Bordeaux region of France), is poured with every course.
    The Tradition Of Sweet Wine For Dessert

    For centuries at refined dining tables in Europe, dessert consisted of a glass of sweet wine, alone or with fresh fruit. A glass of Port with cheese is another time-honored tradition. Wherever a sweet wine is made, you can bet that it is enjoyed at the end of dinner.

    We respect that tradition: A glass of Sauternes with sweet summer apricots or peaches is divine; ditto with Port and Stilton or other blue cheese. Over time, we’ve switched our guest menus away from serving a substantial dessert after a big meal (including a cheese course), to a dish of sorbet and a glass of dessert wine.

    More recently, we’ve been inviting friends to an “ice cream social”† to try different wine and ice cream pairings. It’s a delightful occasion, and we highly recommend it. Consider it for adult birthday parties.
    *Pedro Ximénez, pronounced him-AY-nez and also spelled Jiménez and various other ways, is a white Spanish wine grape used to make fortified wines like sherry. It’s also the name of the sweet dessert sherry made from it. Pedro Ximénez is often abbreviated as PX. The identity of the original Pedro Ximénez and his relationship to the grape is lost to time.

    †Ice cream socials—parties where people came to eat ice cream— were popular events in the U,S. They date back to the 19th century before freezers, not to mention electric ice cream makers (i.e., they were a laborious undertaking, and thus a real treat). Some churches and communities still give them, but today it’s an easy party to throw at home. Here’s how to have an ice cream social.

    While we’ve paired specific sweet wines with specific ice cream flavors, below, you first need to seek out what your local wine stores stock. Explain the specific ice cream flavors you’d like to serve and see what they recommend from their inventory. You can bring them this list, to make the selection process easier.

    France’s vintners produce a wealth of sweet wines:

  • Banyuls, a fortified red wine (Roussillon, France)
  • Champagne Sec, the sweetest style of the sparkling white wine (Champagne, northeast France)
  • Bonnezeaux, white wine (Anjou, Loire Valley, France)
  • Maury, red wine (AOC†, Roussillon, France)
  • Muscat de Rivesaltes, a fortified white wine (AOC, Roussillon)
  • Muscat-de-Beaumes-de-Venise, white wine (AOC†, Rhone Valley, southeast France; not to be confused with the dry red AC wines labeled Beaumes-de-Venise, formerly known as Côtes du Rhone Villages)
  • Sauternes, white wine (Bordeaux, southwest France)
  • Vin de Paille, white wine (Jura, France)
    Dessert wines from other countries include:

  • Amontillado Sherry, fortified red wine (Spain)
  • Brachetto d’Acqui or Lambrusco, slightly sparkling red wines (Italy)
  • Black Muscat, red wine (California and elsewhere)
  • Ice-Wine/Eiswein, red and white (Austria, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and elsewhere)
    *AOC, an abbreviation for appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), “controlled designation of origin,” is an official designation that assures that a product was produced in the specified region according with specific ingredients, according to traditional techniques. The analogous word in Italian is denominazione di origine controllata abbreviated, DOC.


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/nigori sake takarasake

    Nigori saké is unfiltered, creating a cloudy, or milky, appearance. The style is brewed to be sweet. Photo courtesy Takarasaké.

  • Late Harvest Wines (made the world over from Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Semillon, Viognier, Zinfandel and other red or white grapes)
  • Madiera, fortified red wine (Portugal)
  • Moscato d’Asti, sparkling white wine (Italy)
  • Moscatel de Setúbal, red wine (DOC, Portugal)
  • Muscat, red and white (grown in many locations in Europe, Australia, U.S. and elsewhere)
  • Nigori Saké, milky white and sweet [the name means cloudy] (Japan)
  • Pedro Ximénez Sherry [abbreviated PX], fortified white wine (Spain, Andalusia region)
  • Reciotto de Valpolicella, red wine, very raisiny (Amarone, Italy)
  • Ruby Port, fortified red wine (Portugal)
  • Sparkling Shiraz (Australia) or Lambrusco (Italy)
  • Sweet Madiera (Bual or Malmsey), fortified red wine (Portugal)
  • Tokaji (Tokay) 5 Puttonyos‡, white wine (Hungary)
    ‡Puttonyos is the Hungarian word to denote the level of sugar in wine; the comparable word used in the U.S., France and other countries is brix.


  • Any flavor of ice cream matches with its corresponding liqueur (e.g. raspberry with raspberry liqueur) or complementary liqueur (e.g., chocolate ice cream with coffee liqueur, peach ice cream with raspberry liqueur)
  • Apricot ice cream, Bonnezeaux, Sauternes, Vin de Paille
  • Berry ice creams match with Champagne, Muscat, Nigori Saké
  • Butter pecan, maple walnut or other nutty ice cream with PX Sherry, Sweet Madiera
  • Caramel or dulce de leche ice cream with PX Sherry or Sweet Madeira
  • Chocolate ice cream with Banyuls, Nigori Saké, PX Sherry; or Brachetto or Lambrusco with bittersweet chocolate ice cream
  • Chocolate chip ice cream should be matched to its base flavor: chocolate, coffee, mocha, raspberry, vanilla, etc.
  • Coconut ice cream with Late Harvest Semillon, Nigori Saké, Sauternes, Beerenauslese (or the pricier Trockenbeerenauslese)
  • Coffee or mocha ice cream with Amontillado Sherry, Nigori Saké, Madeira, Ruby Port
  • Floral ice cream—Earl Grey, jasmine, lavender, rose—with Ice Wine
  • Ginger or pumpkin ice cream with Sweet Madiera
  • Mint ice cream with Nigori Saké, Madiera or Late Harvest Zinfandel
  • Rum raisin ice cream with PX Sherry or Reciotto de Valpolicella
  • Stone fruit ice cream—apricot, cherry, mango, peach, plum—with Muscat-de-Beaumes-de-Venise
  • Vanilla ice cream with Nigori Saké, PX Sherry, Sauternes, Sweet Madiera, Vin de Paille (bonus: Scotch also works!)

  • Serve the wine in a glass.
  • Drizzle it over over the ice cream.
  • Soak dried or fresh fruit in the alcohol overnight and use it as an ice cream topping, along with a glass of the wine.

    You can use the same wines and liqueurs as with the analogous ice cream flavors; or with a sweet sparkling white wine. For citrus sorbets (grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange—not represented in the ice cream list), pair with the sparkling wine or the matching liqueur.



    FOOD FUN: Paint Hard-Boiled Eggs

    Why should Easter be the only occasion to rouse your inner artist by painting hard-boiled eggs?

    The practice of decorating eggshells is ancient, predating Christianity. Engraved ostrich eggs found in Africa date back 60,000 years. Decorated ostrich eggs, also replicated in gold and silver, have been found in 5,000-year-old graves in Egypt and Sumeria. [Source]

    The Christian custom of decorating eggs at Easter has been traced to the early Christians of Mesopotamia, sometime after 100 B.C.E.

    But you don’t need a religious context to decorate eggs. On a hot summer day, it’s a quiet activity that can be done while in the shade—or in the air conditioning. For summer themes, think beach, birds, blue sky, butterflies, flowers and yes, palm trees.

    Cook a batch of eggs and let family and friends paint away. Take a vote afterward and give a prize for the “people’s choice.”

    Then, you can peel the eggs for protein-rich snacking, or turn them into sliced egg sandwiches or egg salad.

    You don’t have to hard-boil the eggs, either.



    Why wait for Easter to decorate eggs? Photo from the Zevia Facebook page, attributed to “Melodrama blog.” (We couldn’t find the blog.)

    Those who are not likely to break the eggs can paint raw eggs. The decorated eggs can then be used for cooking. But for cooking, keep them cool, first in air conditioning and then in the fridge.

    You can keep raw painted egs as art by removing the innards. Simply pierce each end of the shell with a thick sewing needle. Then, blow strongly on one of the holes. The contents will be expelled through the other hole.

    Here are tips on how to make hard boiled eggs from the American Egg Board.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Saison (Farmhouse Ale) For Summer

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    Saison, a refreshing summer ale. Photo


    We’ve written before on summer beers, brewed to be refreshing on a hot day: lighter in body with a moderate A.B.V. (alcohol by volume).

    Perhaps the most interesting of the lighter, hot weather styles is the saison (say-ZONE, meaning “season” in French).

    It is alternately referred to as farmhouse ale, since it originated on farmsteads in the Wallonia region of southern Belgium, a French-speaking region that shares a border with France.

    Saison was traditionally brewed by farmers at the end of winter, then set aside for the summer, where it was happily consumed by field workers. Yes, beer drinking on the job was common, because before the advent of quality-tested municipal water, it was safer than many water supplies.

    But that’s not your problem: You have a good municipal water supply. Instead, think about hosting a saison tasting party.



    Often referred to as a dry, fruity Belgian ale, the interesting thing about saison is that no two taste the same. That’s because each farmer brewed it with whatever he or she* had on hand, so there was no common recipe.

    We can’t think of any other style of beer where this is true. (See our Beer Glossary for the different styles of beer.)

    The colors vary (golden, amber, orange, from light to dark); the aromas vary (citrusy/fruity, spicy). Perhaps what they have in common is their refreshing nature.

    Another feature we happen to love to find in saisons is a mild “barnyard” character. Famous in certain Burgundy wines, it comes from from Brettanomyces yeasts that naturally exist on the farm (and can be purchased by breweries). “Brett,” as it’s often called, contributes earthy, musty aromas and some tart flavor.
    *As history was written by men, the role of women is often overlooked or understated. For example, farmer’s “wives” were also farmers. They may not have had the physical strength to plow the field (and certainly, some did), but they did many other essential farm tasks. And they brewed beer!



    Check your local shelves for supplies of saisons. While the classic Belgian import is Saison Dupont (a fruity and spicy style), American craft brewers make hoppy, malty, spicy, fruity and floral.

    So, the real Tip Of The Day: Collect as many as you can find and invite friends for a saison tasting. Do it now, or make it your end-of-the-season Labor Day celebration.
    What To Serve With Saison

  • Gougères, the delightful French cheese puffs (Gougeres Recipe)
  • Fondue with a hearty cheese like blue or Cheddar
  • Grilled meat or fish
  • Spicy dishes, including Asian and Indian specialties and for a salad, peppery greens like arugula and radishes
  • Rustic French fare: coq au vin roast chicken, stew
  • Cheese: Aged or fresh chèvre, Asiago, Colby, Fontina, Gorgonzola, Parmesan and “stinky” washed rind cheeses

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/belgian style saison 230

    Have a saison with crudités. Photo courtesy


    Although most of us use “beer” to refer to all suds, three parts of the brewing process actually defines what is a beer—illustrated by the lager style—and what is an ale.

    Ales tend to be fruity-estery in aroma and flavor, while lagers are clean-tasting and crisp. These differences are created by:

    The Yeast

  • Ales are brewed with top-fermenting yeast strains, which means exactly that: The yeast ferments at the top of the fermentation tank (they typically rise to the top of the tank near the end of fermentation).
  • Ale yeasts tend to produce esters, chemicals that can affect the flavor of the beer.
  • Lagers use bottom-fermenting yeasts, strains which do not typically add much flavor (the flavor comes from the other ingredients, especially hops and malt).
    Temperature and Time

  • Ale yeasts ferment best at warmer temperatures—room temperature up to about 75°F. They ferment faster than lager yeasts.
  • Lagers ferment at colder temperatures, 46°F to 59°F, and typically ferment over longer periods of time. The combination of colder temperatures and bottom-fermenting yeast is responsible for the mild and crisp taste delivered by most lagers.
    The Ingredients

  • Ale recipes often contain a higher amount of hops, malt and roasted malts, hence they typically have a more prominent malty taste and bitterness. Styles like India Pale Ale (IPA) are very hoppy.
  • Ales have more room for recipe experimentation than lagers; thus additional ingredients (called adjuncts) can be added during brewing. Examples: fruits (cherry, pumpkin, raspberry, etc.), sugars (honey, maple syrup, molasses) and spices (allspice, coriander, clove, etc.).
    Thanks to for the quick tutorial.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Serve Food In A Martini Glass


    A Caprese salad, made with cherry tomatoes
    and bocconcini.* Photo courtesy Inspire,
    Design and Create. Here’s the recipe.


    If you own Martini glasses but don’t use them often enough to justify the space, send them from the bar to the kitchen. When they come out, filled with food instead of drink, family and friends will be delighted. If you have oversize Martini glasses, so much the better.


  • Bread pudding, custard, mousse, other puddings
  • Caprese salad with cherry tomatoes and bocconcini substituting for sliced tomato and mozzarella (photo at left)
  • Chopped salad or green salad (see recipe below)
  • Gazpacho or other chilled soup
  • Fruit salad or compote (try watermelon salad, cubed or in balls, with feta and shredded basil)
  • Ice cream scoops or sundaes
  • Mashed potatoes (garnish with chives, bacon, grated cheese, whatever)
  • Nibbles with coffee (cookie bits, mini biscotti, chocolates, chocolate lentils, marshmallows, etc.)
  • Seafood salad (here’s a Vietnamese crab salad recipe)
  • Shrimp cocktail (try this shrimp cocktail with avocado recipe)
  • Sorbet with fruit or other toppings (you can marinate the fruit in brandy or fruit liqueur—recipe)
  • Yogurt parfaits


    If you don’t like fennel, substitute ingredients you do like in the recipe below, from Also take a look at this Dirty Martini Salad—simple greens with olives and an olive dressing (the dressing has chopped olives, vodka and olive oil).

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 celery heart
  • 1 heart of romaine
  • 9 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese (or cheese of choice)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch ground white pepper


    A Martini glass can be repurposed to
    serve different courses of food. Photo


    1. WASH and thoroughly dry the fennel, celery and romaine. Cut the fennel into thin slices, about 2 cups. Cut the celery into julienne strips, about 1/2 cup. Reserve four well-shaped romaine leaves for garnish; then cut the remaining romaine into julienne strips, about 3 cups. Cut the mozzarella into thin strips. Place all into a large mixing bowl.

    2. PUT the olive oil, lemon juice, mascarpone, mustard, salt and pepper in a blender container. Blend until thick and smooth, about 5 seconds. Pour over the salad; toss to coat. Divide the salad, arranging on serving plates, using the reserved lettuce leaves for garnish.

    *Bocconcini are bite-size fresh mozzarella balls. You can substitute ciliegine (cherry size) or perlini (pearl size) if you can’t find bocconcini. Here’s a recipe that adds bowtie pasta for a Caprese pasta salad.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Summer Sangria

    Thanks to our friends Laura and Charles for reviving our interest in sangria, a Spanish fruit punch. At a light summer dinner last week, the sangria they served paired beautifully with every dish.

    Americans were first introduced to sangria at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. The Spanish Pavilion had three restaurants, and the sangria offered with meals changed the way Americans thought of fruit punch.

    There are many recipes for red, rosé and white sangria. The types of wine and fruit used in Spain depended on what was grown in the particular region.

    We have two recipes from Courvoisier that are a bit more elegant than most recipes. The first uses sparkling wine instead of still wine, plus Cognac and peach liqueur, which complements the fresh summer peaches.

    It’s easier to serve sangria from a pitcher, but if you want to show off your punch bowl, go ahead. A tip about ice: The larger the pieces of ice, the slower they melt (and don’t water down the punch). If you have metal ice cube trays with a removable insert, you can omit the insert and freeze a block of ice in the base.

    If you happen to have other fruit or mint at hand, feel free to add it to the recipe, in addition to the fruits specified. There is no “best” recipe for sangria. It’s all delicious, and that’s what makes it such an easy drink to concoct (and serve), whether for parties, weekday dinner or weekend lounging.



    While many of us started with red sangria (it was introduced at the 1964 World’s Fair), in Spain the type of wine used is based on the wines made in the particular region. Photo courtesy Courvoisier.

    Sangria is not just for summer. With varied ingredients (stronger wines, more liqueur, winter fruits) it’s a year-round drink. Here’s the history of sangria.


  • 4 parts VS* Cognac
  • 4 parts peach liqueur or schnapps†
  • 2 bottles Prosecco or other sparkling white wine
  • ½ cup white grape juice
  • 2 ripe peaches
  • Green grapes
  • Ice cubes

    1. CUT the fruit: Thinly slice the peaches and cut the grapes in half. Add the fruit to a pitcher with the Cognac, peach liqueur and grape juice.

    2. CHILL in the refrigerator for for 1-3 hours. Immediately before serving, add the Prosecco and stir gently (you don’t want to break the bubbles). Serve over ice.
    *If you only have VSOP (the next higher grade of Cognac) and don’t want to buy VS just for this recipe, go ahead and use it. V.S. Cognac, also called Three Star, stands for Very Special. The youngest brandy in the blend has been aged for at least two years in cask. Many people prefer VSOP, Very Superior Old Pale, where the youngest spirit in the blend is aged four years in cask but the average can be 10 to 15 years. Scroll down here for the different classifications of Cognac, which are based on how long they have been aged prior to bottling.

    †Is it schnapps or Schnaps? Schnaps is the German spelling (and German nouns are always capitalized). The English added the extra “p,” and “schnapps” prevails in the U.S. In Germany the term refers to any type of strong alcoholic drink. In the U.S. it refers to a liqueur.



    It’s easier to serve sangria (or any punch) from a pitcher; but if you want to show off your punch bowl, go ahead! Photo courtesy Courvoisier.



    This recipe omits wine altogether, substituting a summer favorite, lemonade.


  • 250ml/8-9 ounces VS Cognac
  • 750ml/25 ounces lemonade
  • 20 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
  • 3 orange wheels
  • 6 lemon or lime wheels
  • Ice

    1. ADD the freshly cut fruit to a punch bowl or pitcher. Pour in the remaining ingredients.

    2. INFUSE for at least 10 minutes, or for several hours. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Add ice immediately prior to serving.



    Most people—including American producers and importers—use these terms interchangeably. But there are differences:

  • Schnaps/schnapps, a generic German word for liquor or any alcoholic beverage, is more specific in English, where it refers to clear brandies distilled from fermented fruits. The English added a second “p,” spelling the word as schnapps. True Schnaps has no sugar added, but products sold in the U.S. as schnapps may indeed be sweetened. As one expert commented, “German Schnaps is to American schnapps as German beer is to American Budweiser.”
  • Eau de vie is the French term for Schnaps. American-made brands labeled “eau de vie” (water of life) are often heavily sweetened, and have added glycerine for thickening.
  • Liqueur is an already distilled alcohol made from grain which has already been fermented, into which fruits are steeped. It is sweeter and more syrupy than a European eau de vie or schnapps.
  • Cordial, in the U.S., almost always refers to a syrupy, sweet alcoholic beverage, a synonym for liqueur. In the U.K., it refers to a non-alcoholic, sweet, syrupy drink or the syrup used to make such a drink. Rose’s Lime Cordial, a British brand, is called Rose’s Lime Juice in the U.S. so Americans don’t think it’s alcoholic.

    Because spirits were initially intended to be medicinal, “water of life” was a logical term.

  • Eau de vie means water of life in French.
  • The Russian term zhiznennia voda, which was distilled down into “vodka” (that’s a pun), also means “water of life” (the literal translation of vodka is “little water”).
  • The Gaelic uisce beatha, pronounced ISH-ka BYA-ha, also means “water of life.” The pronounciation evolved into the more familiar term, whiskey.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Gin Cocktails For Father’s Day


    A gimlet: gin, lime juice and sugar. Photo courtesy


    How about a gin cocktail party for Father’s Day? You can serve your guests the five classic gin cocktails: Gimlet, Gin Fizz, Gin & Tonic, Gin Rickey and Martini. For a mocktail, a pitcher of limeade does nicely (a few dashes of bitters makes the limeade more cocktail-like).

    We love the idea of a tasting of the classics; but if you’d rather have modern gin cocktails, here are recipes for a Gin Mojito, Red Snapper (Bloody Mary) and Watermelon Martini

    You can have a bartender prepare the drinks to order, or make them in bulk in advance and serve them in pitchers (self-service). Provide shot glasses (plastic ones are fine) for tasting all, and full-size glasses for one’s favorite cocktail.

    Recipes vary widely—it’s easy to change proportions, switch lemon juice for lime juice, switch the garnish, etc. There are several styles of gin. Most recipes use London Dry Gin, but if you have something else, use it. If you have a favorite recipe for any of the drinks below, by all means use it!


    A gimlet is a tool for drilling small holes; the name was also used figuratively to describe something as sharp or piercing. The word “gimlet” for a cocktail was first used around 1928—perhaps for its effects on the drinker.

    According to Wikipedia, another theory is that the drink was named after British Royal Navy Surgeon Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette KCB (who served 1879 to 1913). Gimlette allegedly introduced the drink as a means of inducing his messmates to drink lime juice as an anti-scurvy medication.
    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 shots (or parts) gin
  • 3/4 shot fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 shot simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Garnish: cucumber wedge or lime wheel

    Shake all ingredients with ice until ice cold. Strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with lime peel.

    A fizz is a variation of a sour, a family of cocktails that uses lemon or lime juice. The fizz adds carbonated water (soda water). The first printed reference to a “fiz” appears in the 1887 edition of Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide. It became very popular starting at the turn of the 20th century.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 shots gin
  • 1/2 shot fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 shot simple syrup or 1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
  • Soda water
  • Lemon wedge for garnish

    Shake with ice and strain first 3 ingredients into a highball glass. Top off with soda water and stir lightly. Garnish with lemon wedge.



    The world’s favorite gin drink was born in colonial India, when the British troops took daily doses of quinine water (tonic water) to ward off malaria. Someone suggested mixing it with gin to make it more palatable, and the Gin and Tonic became the iconic drink of the British Empire.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 shots gin
  • Tonic water
  • Ice cubes

    Add the gin and ice to highball glass; top off with tonic water. Garnish with a lime wedge.

    The rickey was created with bourbon in the 1880s, at Shoomaker’s bar in Washington, D.C. The story is that it was a collaboration between bartender George A. Williamson and a good customer, Democratic lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey.



    A classic G&T with a (non-traditional) sprig of fresh thyme. Photo courtesy Q Tonic.


    In the bar for his morning glass of bourbon and Apollinaris sparkling mineral water, with lump ice, history was changed when one day, half a lime was squeezed into, then dropped into, the glass. The guess is that the lime was the bartender’s twist. Colonel Rickey may have preferred bourbon, but the cocktail became a worldwide sensation a decade later when gin was substituted to create the Gin Rickey. It’s similar to a Gin Fizz, but it uses London Dry Gin and lime juice, and less (or no) sugar.


  • 1.25 shots gin
  • 1/2 fresh lime, juiced
  • Optional: splash of simple syrup
  • 1 ounce soda water
  • Garnish: lime wedge
  • Ice cubes

    Fill a highball glass with ice. Squeeze the lime into the glass, getting as much juice out of it as you can. Add the gin, simple syrup and the lime shell. Top off with soda water.

    Is there a drink with as many variations as a Martini? The original may have been made in San Francisco in 1850 by bar owner Jerry Thomas. A stronger claim comes from Here’s the scoop. The first reference to a vodka Martini in the U.S. occurs in 1951 in a cocktail recipe book, Bottoms Up, by Ted Saucier. The drink took off when James Bond ordered his vodka Martini “shaken, not stirred.”


  • 3 shots gin
  • 1/4 shot dry vermouth (for a dry Martini)
  • 1-2 green olives, depending on size

    Shake the vodka and vermouth with ice. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with the olives.



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