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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 Entertaining

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 GoodCook.com.

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

RECIPE: WATERMELON AGUA FRESCA

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
  •  
    Preparation

    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.
     
    MORE AGUA FRESCA RECIPES

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

    Comments

    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.

    ICE CREAM & DESSERT WINE: A NEW CONCEPT

    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.
     
    HOW TO PAIR WINE WITH ICE CREAM & SORBET

    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.
     

    WINE & ICE CREAM PAIRINGS

  • 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!)
  •  
    HOW TO SERVE WINE & ICE CREAM

  • 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.
  •  
    WHAT ABOUT PAIRING WINE WITH SORBET?

    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.

      

    Comments

    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.

     

    painted-palm-tree-hb-egg-zevia-FB-melodramablog-230

    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.
     
    WANT TO HARD-BOIL EGGS MORE EASILY?

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

      

    Comments

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

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/saison bottle glass beerobsessed 230

    Saison, a refreshing summer ale. Photo
    courtesy BeerObsessed.com.

     

    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.

     

    SAISON: THE FREESTYLE ALE

    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!

     

    IT’S PARTY TIME!

    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 EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEER & ALE

    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 BeerTutor.com for the quick tutorial.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Serve Food In A Martini Glass

    martini-glass-inspiredesignandcreate-230

    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.

    12 WAYS TO USE MARTINI GLASSES—BEYOND DRINKS

  • 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
  •  

    RECIPE: APPETIZER SALAD WITH FRESH MOZZARELLA

    If you don’t like fennel, substitute ingredients you do like in the recipe below, from EatWisconsinCheese.com. 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
  •  

    fennel-salad-martini-glass-wmmb-230

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

     
    Preparation

    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.

      

    Comments

    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.

       

    white-sangria-courvoisier-230r

    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.
     
    RECIPE: SPARKLING WHITE SANGRIA

    Ingredients

  • 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
  •  
    Preparation

    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.

     

    white-punch-courvoisier-230

    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.

     

    RECIPE: LEMONADE PUNCH

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

    Ingredients

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

    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.

     

    EAU DE VIE, CORDIAL, LIQUEUR & SCHNAPS: THE DIFFERENCE

    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.
  •  
    WATER OF LIFE

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

    gimlet-moscato-gallo-230L

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

     

    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!

    RECIPE: GIMLET COCKTAIL

    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
  •  
    Preparation

    Shake all ingredients with ice until ice cold. Strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with lime peel.
     
    RECIPE: GIN FIZZ COCKTAIL

    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
  •  
    Preparation

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

     

    RECIPE: GIN & TONIC COCKTAIL

    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
  •  
    Preparation

    Add the gin and ice to highball glass; top off with tonic water. Garnish with a lime wedge.
     
    RECIPE: GIN RICKEY COCKTAIL

    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.

     

    gin-tonic-lime-qtonic-230

    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.

    Ingredients

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

    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.
     
    RECIPE: GIN MARTINI COCKTAIL

    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.”

    Ingredients

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

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

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: “Leftovers” Antipasto Plate

    We can’t wait to get to Seattle to eat at Chef Ethan Stowell’s restaurants. Until then, we visit the websites and drool over the food photos.

    And we get ideas. After spotting this asparagus antipasto plate, we thought of different approaches to antipasto.

    Antipasto means “before the meal” in Italian—meaning before the main meal. It’s the traditional first course of multicourse Italian dinner.

    Most of us have had one along the way. The contents vary greatly by region, but Italian restaurants in the U.S. often have cured meats, marinated artichoke hearts, mozzarella or provolone, olives, peperoncini and pickled vegetables (giardiniera).

    Our mother’s typical antipasto consisted of artichoke hearts, fresh mozzarella, Genoa salami, giardiniera, a slice of cantaloupe in season wrapped with prosciutto, olives and our childhood favorite, BQ brand sesame breadsticks.

    But back to Ethan Stowell and his team of chefs:

       

    asparagus-antipasto-ethanstowell-230

    An asparagus-based “antipasto.” Photo courtesy Ethan Stowell Restaurants.

     
    His asparagus plate inspired us to create a “whatever” antipasto with foods we had on hand—which happened to include leftover steamed asparagus. We tossed them in a vinaigrette, and placed them on individual plates with:

  • Cheese (we had truffle cheese)
  • Croutons (thin slices of toasted baguette)
  • Dried figs (wish we’d had fresh figs!)
  • Mixed olives
  • Pâté (two varieties, thanks to a sample shipment from Les Trois Petits Cochons)
  • Pickled red onions (made in an hour with this recipe)
  • Sweet gherkins
  •  
    The tasty result seemed like a lot of thought and effort went into it. But really, we just went through the fridge and added a dab or this and that. Don’t hesitate to combine anything with anything else.

     

    greek-mezze-murrays-230

    Assorted Greek mezze. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

     

    AMUSE-BOUCHE, ANTIPASTO, HORS D’OEUVRE, MEZZE &
    TAPAS: THE DIFFERENCES

    Different but similar: Here’s the scoop on these popular foods:.

  • Amuse-bouche (pronounced ah-MEEZ boosh) is French for “amusing the mouth.” It’s an hors d’oeuvre-size portion plated in a tiny dish, sent as a gift from the chef after the order has been placed but before the food arrives. It is brought after the wine is poured. It is just one bite: A larger portion would constitute an appetizer. Amuses-bouches tend to be complex in both flavors and garniture, and enable the chef to show creativity.
  • Antipasto is a first course of assorted foods, served at the table (some restaurants have antipasto buffets).
  • Appetizer, a first course lately referred to as a starter in fashionable venues, is small serving of food served as a first course. It can be the same type of food that could be served as an entrée or a side dish, but in a smaller portion (e.g., a half-size portion of gnocchi). Or it could be something not served as a main dish, such as smoked salmon with capers.
  • Hors d’oeuvre (pronounced or-DERV) are one- or two-bite tidbits served with cocktails. They can be placed on a table for self-service, or passed on trays by the host or a server. Canapés are the original hors d’oeuvre; they’ve been joined in modern times by hot options such as cheese puffs, mini quiches, skewers, baby lamb chops and many other options. Technically, the term refers to small, individual food items that have been prepared by a cook. Thus, a cheese plate is not an hors d’oeuvre, nor is a crudité tray with dip, even though someone has cut the vegetables and made the dip. The term means “[dishes] outside the work [the main meal].” Several pieces can be plated to serve as an appetizer (first course). Martinets note: In French, the term “hors d’oeuvre” is used to indicate both the singular and plural forms; Americans incorrectly write and speak it as “hors d’oeuvres.”
  • Mezze or meze (pronounced MEH-zay) is an assortment of small dishes served to accompany alcoholic drinks or as an appetizer plate before the main dish. In Greece, expect mezedes of feta, Kalamata olives, pepperoncini, assorted raw vegetables and dips like taramasalata and tzatziki. Many other options include anchovies and sardines, saganaki (grilled or fried cheese) and roasted red peppers. In the Middle East, you’ll typically find dips (babaganoush, hummus), olives, pickles, tabouleh and other items, from raw vegetables to falafel and sambousek, small meat turnovers. Don’t forget the pita wedges!
  • Tapas (pronounced TOP-us) are appetizers or snacks that comprise a wide variety of popular foods in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold or hot, from cheese and olives to chorizo to a tortilla, meatballs, or fried squid. While originally traditional foods, some tapas bars now serve very sophisticated plates. You can order one or more tapas with a glass of wine, or order a series of plates to create a full meal.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Belgian Beer Tasting

    How about a Belgian beer tasting for Father’s Day?

    Until the American craft beer revolution, which began in the 1970s and blossomed in the 1990s toward the current wealth of craft breweries, Belgium was the [pretty small] country that produced the broadest range of beers.

    For a social gathering, you can offer tastes of the different styles and pair them with appropriate nibbles. Of course, you can choose any country or style of beer, but this recommendation honors the great Belgian beer tradition.

    Where to start?

    There are styles of beer produced in Belgium; American craft brewers are making some of them. Some closely follow the Belgian style; others are more creative interpretations.

    Here’s a selection to put together for a tasting, recommended by Flavor And The Menu, a magazine and website for chefs who want to know what’s trending:

  • Abbey or Trappist ales, so-called because they were originally created by monks, include dubbels, tripels and quadrupels. Dubbels, between 6% and 8A% ABV*, are reddish brown with moderate bitterness, robust body and a palate that’s fruity and malty. Tripels, 8% to 10% ABV, are usually deep golden yellow and creamy on the palate, with apple, banana, citrus, floral and pear notes, slightly sweet but with a dry finish.
  •    

    Gueuze_Fond_belgium.beertourism-230

    Gueuze, a style of lambic beer, can be an eye opener. Photo courtesy Belgium.BeerTourism.com.

    Quadrupels are more intense versions of dubbels, with an ABV range of 9% to almost 14%—the latter as much alcohol as a glass of wine!
    Food Pairing: Spicy sausage with whole-grain mustard, beef or lamb stew, Stilton or similar blue cheese, peppered gingerbread cookies (get these pepparkakor from Ikea or make this recipe).

  • Flanders sour ales are intense in color (red or brown) with balsamic, berry and plum notes. The style has intense acidity, produced by using cultured yeasts in the primary fermentation and aged in barrels with bacteria and wild yeasts.
  • Food Pairing: Grilled red meat or braises, Chinese food (think sweet-or-sour with the sour beer) and triple crème cheeses.

  • Lambics are an interesting category for sophisticated beer lovers. Gueuze lambics are perhaps the most challenging to drink—including challenging to pronounce (try HYOO-zeh). A blend of young and old lambics, they are dry and complex, with flavor descriptors such as barnyardy, briny and cheesy. Fruited lambics are quite different, with fruit and sweetener added during production. They are typically very sweet and low in alcohol—good “dessert beers.” Cherry lambics, known as kriek, are the most common, but raspberry, peach and other fruits are also popular.
    Food Pairing: Mussels in white wine, crab or washed-rind cheeses for gueuze lambics; mains or desserts that match with the fruit (duck with cherries or cherry pie with kriek, for example); asparagus quiche or frittata; fennel and apple salad.

  •  

    dark-trappist-ale-leffe-230

    Sign us up for a dark Abbey ale! Photo courtesy Leffe.

     
  • Saisons, or farmhouse ales, were traditionally brewed late in the year by farmers for drinking the following summer. Generally highly carbonated and very dry, they feature citrusy aromatics, peppery and floral notes, and a lively hoppiness. Saisons are available in amber, dark or light styles.
  • Food Pairing: Rustic foods, like bouillabaisse, roast chicken, bloomy-rind cheeses and rustic bread.

  • Whitbiers are light and citrusy wheat beer that have become very popular in the U.S. Good summer beers!
  • Food Pairing: Light salads and seafood.

    Start shopping to collect the beers for the tasting. If you don’t already know your area’s best source for craft beers, ask around.
     
    *By comparison, Budweiser and Molson are 5% ABV; Heinecken is 5.4% ABV, Corona is 4.5% ABV.

     

      

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    FOOD FUN: Use Your Julep Cups For Food

    Don’t put your julep cups away because the Kentucky Derby is over. Instead, think of what else you can serve in them, all year long.

    BEVERAGES

    Serve other cold beverages in these glamorous vessels. Kids won’t drink their milk? Let them drink it from the “special” silver julep cup.
     
    BUFFETS

    Use the julep cups to hold the forks, spoons and knives.
     
    FROZEN & OTHER DESSERTS

    Place julep cups in the freezer to chill them before adding ice cream, sorbet or other frozen dessert. The scoops will stay frozen much longer.

     

    shrimp-cocktail-julep-glass-butterNYC-230

    Today is National Shrimp Day. How about a “Shrimp Julep.” Photo courtesy Butter | NYC.

     
    You can also layer cake and ice cream in the cups, for a surprise ice cream cake dessert.

    And pudding is even more welcome when served in a julep cup.
     
    SALAD & VEGGIES

    Get your family to eat more salad and veggies by serving them in a glam silver container.

    Julep cups are also an impressive vessel for entertaining. Use them to serve anything to guests at a dinner party. They’ll also be impressed by your creativity.
     
    SEAFOOD

    Butter restaurant in New York City adds ice to the julep cup, but instead of bourbon and mint it adds shrimp and cocktail sauce. Can we take some creative license and call it a Shrimp Julep?
     
    SNACKING

    For fancy TV viewing, Oscar parties, Halloween and other occasions, fill the julep cups with snack food, from candy corn to popcorn.
     
    WHAT’S A JULEP?

    A julep is a sweet flavored drink made with sugar syrup, among other ingredients. A Mint Julep also adds bourbon, fresh mint and crushed or shaved ice.

      

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