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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,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Entertaining

TIP OF THE DAY: Pizza & Beer Flight

Enjoy different beers with your pizza. Photo courtesy Delancey Hollywood.


Why don’t all pizza restaurants offer a beer tasting flight?

Delancey Hollywood has it right: a tasting of four different beers to enjoy with your pizza.

If you can’t make it to Hollywood, create the concept at home. How about debuting it during the Super Bowl?

Since most people don’t want to consume four entire beers with a pizza, buy plastic tumblers for shorter pours.

The biggest challenge is what beers to offer. You can do a tasting of four different lagers or other beer types to compare brands, or mix it up: an ale, IPA, lager and stout, for example.

We’re so into this idea, we’re going to have it for lunch today.

Now, the second biggest challenge: What type of pizza to order?




TIP OF THE DAY: Cranberry Martini Taste-Off

You can make a Cranberry Martini with cranberry liqueur, or you can use cranberry sauce to make a novelty version of the drink.

We adapted this recipe from Cooking Channel mixologists Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark.

Why not have a Cranberry Cocktail Challenge at your holiday celebration? Mix up a batch of Cranberry Sauce Cocktails and another of Cranberry Martinis (made with cranberry juice—recipe below) and let the guests choose their favorite.


Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 tablespoons cranberry sauce (without whole berries)
  • 2 ounces vodka (you can use gin or tequila if you prefer)
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: sprig of fresh rosemary

    1. COMBINE the cranberry sauce, vodka, lime juice and bitters in a shaker.



    Turn leftover cranberry sauce into a cocktail. Photo courtesy Alie Ward | Georgia Hardstark.

    2. ADD the ice and shake very vigorously for 45 seconds. Strain into a chilled Martini or coupe glass.

    3. GARNISH with a sprig of rosemary.


    Cranberry-Martini-Penny Burt-IST-230

    A classic Cranberry Martini. Photo by Penny Burt | IST.



    At its simplest, the Cranberry Martini, a.k.a. Crantini, is a simple variation of a Cosmopolitan, which combines vodka, cranberry juice, triple sec and lime juice. The simplest Cranberry Martini recipe leaves out the last two ingredients. Whether you like a gin or vodka Martini, there are several ways to approach this cocktail.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 ounces vodka or gin
  • 1/2 to 1 ounce vermouth (optional)
  • 1/2 ounce cranberry liqueur or 2 ounces cranberry juice
  • Fresh, frozen or dried cranberries for garnish

    1. POUR the first three ingredients into a cocktail shaker or mixing glass with 2 ice cubes. Shake for 10 seconds and strain into a chilled Martini glass.

    2. FLOAT 3 cranberries for garnish.


    This citrusy variation showcases the flavor synergies between lime and gin.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 parts gin
  • 2 parts freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 parts cranberry juice
  • Lime wedge or wheel for garnish

    1. STIR the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.

    2. STRAIN into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.
    Let us know which recipe wins at your house!



    TIP OF THE DAY: Go A-Wassailing


    Christmas punch bowl. Photo courtesy


    If you live in a community where you can walk from home to home, how about going a-wassailing?

    No one has to sing—that’s caroling. But you certainly can combine the two.

    Line up friends to participate, have everyone make a different punch (or egg nog). Start at one house, work your way down the line and then, if you like, vote on the best. Make it an annual tradition.

    “Wassail” began as a greeting among Anglo-Saxons, early Englishmen. Pronounced WASS-ul from the Middle English wæs hæil, it means “good health.” Centuries later, the term evolved into a drinking toast.

    The wassail bowl tradition began in the 14th century in southern England, home to apple groves galore and a lot of apple cider. The first wassail bowls contained hot mulled cider. When you come across references to “a cup of good cheer,” that’s what you were served.

    How does wassail fit in to these hot mulled drinks?

    During the holiday season in Merrie Olde [medieval] England, a host would invite friends over for a celebratory drink. The festivities began when the host held up the big bowl* of drink and exclaimed, “Wassail!”

    As wine became more plentiful—and there was a need to salvage bad batches of wine—hot mulled wine became an alternative to mulled cider.

    Both are still traditional Christmas drinks in Europe. Mulled wine is called Gløg in Sweden, Glögi in Finland and Glühwein in Germany.

    You don’t have to serve mulled cider or wine in your wassail bowl. There are many, many Christmas punch recipes, made with your favorite spirit or alcohol-free.

    *Today that big bowl is known as a punch bowl, but punch was not to arrive in Europe for three more centuries. Details below.



    If you consult a dictionary, you’d think that mulled wine is one that is studied or pondered. According to Harvard University, the origin of the word “mull” to mean heated and spiced is shrouded in mystery.

    Mulling spices are a blend of allspice, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg (what some Americans call “pumpkin pie spices”). The recipe varies, and star anise, cardamom and peppercorns can also be included, along with dried fruit such as apples, orange rind and raisins.

    Thus, a “mulled” drink is one which has been prepared with these spices. The technique is to heat the drink with the spices and then strain them out before serving. Mulling spices may also be added to the brewing process to make spiced beer.


    In the 17th century, merchant travelers of the British East India Company discovered the festive Indian drink, punch.

    The word “punch” is an English variation of the Hindi word, “panch.” Panch was made from five different ingredients: sugar, lemon, water, tea or spices and an alcoholic spirit. The word for “five” in Sanskrit is panchan–hence the name.


    Hot and Bothered-svedka-230

    Mulled cider, with an optional splash of vodka. Photo courtesy Svedka Vodka.


    The concept was brought back to Europe, where it became a mainstream drink at festive occasions.

    After carbonated water (soda water) became available in the late 18th century, it became a sixth ingredient, added to the punch for some effervescence. However, the word for six in Sanskrit is shata. “Shat” just doesn’t work, so we’ll stick with “punch.”

    Here’s a video recipe for wassail.

    This non-alcoholic version of a wassail recipe combines apple cider and pineapple juice: certain to be popular with the kids.

    Start planning to go a-wassailing!



    GIFT: Chocolate Tray


    Something special: a chocolate tray to serve chocolate truffles. Photo courtesy Fika NYC.


    Need a unique gift for a chocolate lover?

    How about a chocolate tray, that can be topped with chocolate truffles or other bonbons.

    The handcrafted tray is in the shape of a wine bottle in roughly the same (although two-dimensional) size, 13 x 4.5 inches.

    It’s sure to elicit oohs and ahhs, not to mention a discussion of when the tray itself will be eaten.

    The chocolate tray is $38.00 at




    TIP OF THE DAY: Feast Of The Seven Fishes


    Seven courses mean smaller portions, like
    this taste of grilled octopus. Photo courtesy
    Scrapetta | Beverly Hills.


    You’ve still got plenty of time to plan a Feast of the Seven Fishes for Christmas Eve. Known as Esta dei Sette Pesci in Italy, the tradition was brought to the U.S. by Italian immigrants.

    Some background:

  • The tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve dates back to medieval times, to the Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from meat or milk products on Fridays and specific holy days. Fish, typically fried in oil, was most often substituted.
  • Other traditional dishes included baccalà (salted cod fish), calamari and seafood (oysters, scallops, shrimp, smelts).
  • The tradition is believed to have started in southern Italy, in areas like Naples and Sicily. It is not a tradition in northern Italy.
  • Italian Catholics would receive Holy Communion during Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. In the spirit of the holiday, there was abstention from meat prior to receiving communion.
  • The seven fishes may have represented the seven days of the week, but some families serve 13 varieties of fish, representing Jesus and the 12 apostles.
  • You don’t have to be a follower of the faith to participate in the feast. Adapt the tradition to your own celebration.



    Anything goes. Italy has a wealth of coastline, so options were plentiful.

    You don’t have to cook it all: Assemble a group of people to bring their favorite fish and seafood dishes (a curated potluck).

    If you want to feast but don’t want to cook, check with local restaurants. For example, Chef Tony DiSalvo of the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica, California is presenting this tempting Feast of Seven Fishes menu at his restaurant, Cast:

  • Course 1: Baby Kale Caesar, White Anchovies, Garlic Croutons, Shaved Parmesan
  • Course 2: Kusshi Oysters, Mignonette, Cocktail Sauce
  • Course 3: Smoked Trout and Avocado, “Chips and Dip”
  • Course 4: Dungeness Crab Toast, Yuzu Mayonnaise
  • Course 5: Grilled Octopus Salad, Chickpeas, Olives and Feta
  • Course 6: Homemade Linguine with Clams, Mussels and Shrimp, Chilies and Herbs
  • Course 7: Lobster Risotto, Bisque Emulsion, Tarragon, Chervil and Chives
  • Dessert: Traditional Italian Cookies, Coffee, Tiramisu and homemade Limoncello


    Each course is half the size of a normal portion, and you can make easy-to-prepare appetizers for most of them. Here’s what we’ve served in past years:

  • Crab dip with crudités
  • Oyster shooters
  • Seafood paté or tuna-olive tapenade
  • Seafood chowder
  • Carpaccio or sashimi
  • Smoked salmon or gravlax
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Crab cakes
  • Marinated seafood salad (calamari, octopus, shrimp, green and black olives, onion) over greens
  • Fried calamari


    Lobster risotto. Photo courtesy

  • Angel hair pasta with lobster, scallops or shrimp in a tomato cream sauce
  • Squid ink pasta with scallops and red caviar
  • Seafood risotto
  • Our favorite salmon dish of the moment
    For a kids’ menu, considera California roll, jumbo grilled shrimp, tuna noodle casserole, a seafood pasta dish and seafood-vegetable skewers.

    Here’s more about the Feast Of The Seven Fishes.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Tree Napkin Fold

    A few decades back when napkin folds were a staple of fancy entertaining, we bought a book on the topic and created everything from fans to fleurs-de-lis.

    If you’re not familiar with the art of napkin folding, here are 27 basic napkin folds and many more types of napkin folding on Pinterest.

    Napkin folding may seem old fashioned, but every formal dinner table still features crisp napkins. And there’s no better time than Christmas dinner to show off.

    Here’s how to make the Christmas tree napkin fold in the photo, from crafting site


    Napery is another term for linens used for household purposes, including napkins and tablecloths.

    In wealthy medieval households, there was an “office” responsible for the washing and storage of these items, headed by a naperer who worked closely with other offices.



    Fold green, red or white napkins into Christmas trees. Photo courtesy

    These included the office of the laundry, charged with the washing and storage of clothing; and the office of the ewery, which managed the water and the vessels for drinking and washing. In smaller affluent households that couldn’t keep up with the Joneses (or the Lord Joneses), these three functions were managed by the same staff. [Source]

    Crisp napkins were folded in style at the tables of the 19th-century elite and through the early 20th century. The art has been kept alive at certain fine restaurants and catering establishments.

    These days, things are more casual at our home—except for very special holiday dinners. We’ll be folding Christmas tree napkins on the 25th!



    TIP OF THE DAY: Write A Thanksgiving Poem

    If you’ve got time to fill before or after Thanksgiving dinner, have a poetry jam.

    Have guests compose their own poems, or print out some of the many at for recitation. Here’s our choice:

    by Maude M. Grant

    Take a turkey, stuff it fat,
    Some of this and some of that.
    Get some turnips, peel them well.
    Cook a big squash in its shell.
    Now potatoes, big and white,
    Mash till they are soft and light.
    Cranberries, so tart and sweet,
    With the turkey we must eat.
    Pickles-yes-and then, oh my!
    For a dessert a pumpkin pie,
    Golden brown and spicy sweet.
    What a fine Thanksgiving treat!

    It could become an annual tradition, with judging and chocolate turkey prizes.




    This heritage turkey breed is the Bourbon Red. Photo by Matt Billings | Wikimedia.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Cut Back On The Hors d’Oeuvre

    People who love to put out a good spread typically go whole-hog on the hors d’oeuvre. The problem, in advance of a big feast, is that those who have been holding back on eating in anticipation of the big meal may go overboard with the pre-meal tidbits.

    Guests may have eaten very lightly that day in anticipation of the dinner, only to be very hungry when by the time they arrive at your doorstep. They then dive into the platters of whatever you’ve put out: bruschetta, canapés, cheese, crudités, dips and spreads, paté.

    If they arrive an hour or two in advance of sitting down to dinner, by the time the main meal begins, they could be halfway stuffed. The solution:

    1. Let everyone know what time you expect to sit down at the table. Then, whether you plan a cocktail hour or multi-hour get together before serving dinner, everyone will be prepared. (If you’re the guest, call ahead and ask.)

    2. Limit what you serve to little nibbles—the kind most people won’t eat in bulk.



    Mixed olives and caperberries with fresh parsley and pink peppercorns. Photo courtesy Foods From Spain.



  • Olives, either by themselves or as part of an old-fashioned relish platter with gherkins, radishes, carrot and celery sticks (or the modern alternative, baby carrots and fennel sticks).
  • If you want to do something more creative, consider an olive platter with different flavors: plain olives with very distinctive flavors, such as Cerignola and Kalamata; a hot and spicy mix; olives stuffed with anchovy, blue cheese, garlic, jalapeño, etc.
  • Nuts, including spiced nuts, like Planters Pumpkin Spice Almonds; or a selection of different nuts.
    But forewarned is forearmed. You’ve slaved over that dinner, and the last thing you want to hear are guests groaning that they don’t have enough room for it.



    FOOD FUN: Party Plate Decals For Any Occasion


    Just a few of the Christmas decal choices. Photo courtesy Create UR Plate.


    We absolutely love this line of plate decals, created by party planner Sandy Casey of Create UR Plate.

    Hundreds of choices let you tailor your dishes to any party occasion. The “magic” comes from adhesive decals, which adhere to the base of glass or plastic plates from the underside.

    Made in sizes to fit both dinner plates and dessert plates, they’re $1.99 each and are reusable. The company also sells glass and plastic plates.

    Can you think of a more elegant—and fun—idea for party plates? The many decal themes include:

  • Anniversary
  • Baby Shower
  • Birthday
  • Bridal Shower
  • Easter
  • Graduation
  • Halloween
  • Hanukkah
  • New Years
  • Passover
  • Patriotic
  • St. Patrick’s
  • Tailgaiting
  • Thanksgiving
  • Valentine
  • Wedding

    You can also create your own custom design with your own photos and jpgs. Perhaps some Bark Mitzvah plates for Fido?

    See why we find this product so exciting. Check out the plates for

  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas
    You can also create plates as gifts, with photos of the kids, pets, team logos and so forth.

    Party on!



    One of many different ways to customize your holiday dishes with reusable decals. Photo courtesy Create UR Plate.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Dessert Bites & Picks


    Instead of full-size desserts, serve tasty
    mouthfuls: picks and bites. Photo courtesy
    Eat Wisconsin Cheese.


    Yesterday we published a list of hors d’oeuvre picks and bites for holiday entertaining. Today, it’s on to desserts!

    These irresistible desserts are easy to make and almost guiltless. Enjoy just a bite or two instead of a full-size dessert.

    Not only are they the best way to enjoy some sweetness at the end of a big feast, but they’re lower in calories. And you can have a few different varieties for a miniature “dessert sampler.”

    From the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (, you can see all the images and download a recipe brochure.

    Serve a selection of five or so different choices.

  • Brie Berry Pick: Mini Brie Cheese Wedge, Strawberry
  • Brie Nut Pick: Brie Cheese Log Slice, Chopped Pistachios, Raspberry Preserves, Red Raspberry
  • Brie & Fruit Pick: Strawberry, Brie Cheese Log Slice, Star Fruit Slice, Red Grape
  • Coffee Bite: Chocolate Cordial Cup, Mascarpone Cheese, Instant Espresso Crystals, Chocolate Covered Coffee Bean of Coffee Bean
  • Figgie Blue Bite: Fresh Fig, Blue Cheese, Candied Walnut, Honey Drizzle
  • Lemon Meringue Bite: Shortbread or Sugar Cookie, Mascarpone Cheese, Lemon Curd, Powdered Sugar Sprinkle, Lemon Peel
  • Tiramisu Bite: Chocolate Dessert Cup, Mascarpone Cheese Mixed with Chocolate Syrup, Small Wafer Cookies, Instant Espresso Crystals, Chocolate Covered Coffee Bean or Coffee Bean
  • Strawberry Shortcake Bite: Sugar Cookie or Short Bread, Mascarpone Cheese, Sliced Strawberry


    You can use ordinary toothpicks, but special (and inexpensive!) party picks will make your miniature desserts even tastier. Click on the links to check out:

  • Holiday party picks, silver and gold picks with a star on top
  • Christmas party picks: assorted red, green and white with Christmas trees on top.
  • Foil party picks: fun metallic fringe in blue, green, purple and silver for New Year’s Eve.
  • Conventional frilled party picks, with cellophane frills in bright colors for Thanksgiving.


    A tiramisu bite in a miniature chocolate shell. Photo courtesy Eat Wisconsin Cheese.




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