THE NIBBLE BLOG Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
Also visit our main website, TheNibble.com.



Archive for Entertaining

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.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP: Food In Flower Pots

    If you’re charmed by food served in tiny flowerpots, invest in a set and see how many different foods you can serve in them.

    BREAKFAST

  • Berries, grapes or other fruit
  • Biscuits/rolls (photo below plus this recipe and this one)
  • Boiled or scrambled eggs
  • Yogurt
  •  
    LUNCH & DINNER

  • Biscuits, bread sticks
  • Fries (photo)
  • Mixed olives, pepperoncini
  • “Relish tray”—carrot and celery sticks, gherkins, black or
    green olives, radishes
  • Sides
  •  
    SNACKS & DESSERTS

  • Candies, pretzels, snack mixes
  • Crudités and dip (photo above)
  • Cupcakes (photo and recipe)
  • Dirt pudding (photo and recipe)
  •    

    hummus-carrots-dandyfreshFB-230

    Hummus and baby carrots. Photo courtesy Dandy Fresh | Facebook..

     

    rolls-bbcggoodfood.com-230

    Who needs a bread basket? Photo courtesy BBCGoodFood.com.

     

    ALL YOU NEED

    1. Small terra cotta flowerpots like these. Your garden store may also have them in plastic “terra cotta.”

    2. A liner—napkin, parchment or wax paper to plug the hole.

    3. The food to put in it.
     
    HAVE A CONTEST

    Why not have a contest to see how many flowerpot food ideas your friends and family can generate? We’d be delighted to publish your winners.

     

      

    Comments

    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.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pair Saké With Cheese

    sake-cheese-curdnerds-230

    Buy the cheese, open the saké. Photo courtesy CheeseNerds.com.

     

    Recently, we were invited to a cheese and saké tasting at the French Cheese Board in New York City. Think you should sip saké only with Japanese food? Think again.

    While it doesn’t seem intuitive, the the traditional Japanese drink, brewed by fermenting rice, has a broad range of flavors and styles that pairs with various foods. Like wine, it’s a global beverage.

    Saké is made from four ingredients: rice, water, yeast and koji, an enzyme. Saké is fermented and brewed like beer, but served like wine. It is also characterized as a wine because of its alcohol content is similar.

    Think of saké as you’d think of white wine. A bolder saké can stand up to spicy cuisine, like Indian food. It can also pair well with French dishes. A milder sake is better with delicate flavors like sushi and sashimi.

    Now for the cheeses: Another reason saké pairs well with cheese is that both contain lactic acid. Most aged cheeses go better with bolder sakés, fresh cheeses (like chèvre) with milder ones. With aged cheeses, we personally like:

     

  • Genshu saké, a style that’s stronger because it is not diluted with water.
  • Nigori saké, cloudy because it is roughly filtered old-style, which leaves microscopic particles of rice in the liquid. We also like its hint of sweetness with stronger cheeses.
  •  
    As with white wine, serve saké semi-chilled, around 60°F.

    The journey to knowledge includes trying what you can get, and seeing how you like it. That goes with both sakés and cheeses.

     
    WHAT CHEESES SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

    Your favorites! We’re serving saké and cheese today, for Mother’s Day, with Truffle Tremor, a truffle cheese; Point Reyes Blue Cheese; Red Hawk, a strong, Muenster*-style cheese from Cowgirl Creamery; and a Brie. The first three cheeses are from Marin County, north of San Francisco; Brie is imported from France.

    If you want to see what pairings others have done, check out the website TrueSake.com, written by a sommelier who recommends his top three cheese pairings with particular sakés; and look for similar content online.

    If you’re not sure about taking this on by yourself, ask your local cheese store to set up a tasting. Here’s a report from CurdNerds on a tasting at Murray’s Cheese in New York City.

    More to discover:

  • Sake 101, an overview
  • Saké terms, a glossary
  •  
    *That’s Alsatian Muenster, not the mild American “munster.”

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Decorated Macaron

    violet-macaron-w-flowers-culinaryvegetableinstitute-230

    Almost too pretty to eat. Photo courtesy Culinary Vegetable Institute.

     

    Here’s something easy for Mother’s Day: a dessert or tea snack consisting of a single macaron, beautifully decorated.

    It’s from the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Ohio, where farmers grow the most glorious produce and chefs create wondrous dishes with it.

    You can create this macaron at home, either as a light dessert or as one of a number of dessert courses.

    Serve it with a cup of tea or a glass of sparkling wine. For birthdays, add a candle for the honoree.

    RECIPE: MACARON WITH FLOWERS

    Ingredients

  • Macarons
  • Edible flowers
  • Sanding sugar
  • Vanilla frosting
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PURCHASE or make macarons, ideally in a bright color for visual appeal.

    2. PLACE the macaron on its side, using a dab of frosting to affix it to the plate and keep it from rolling. While we don’t like canned frosting, in this case its thickness works to adhere the macaron.

    SPRINKLE the plate with sanding sugar in a complementary color. It’s typically available in pastels: blue, green, lavender, pink and yellow.

    3. PLACE the flower near the top.

    4. SCATTER the sanding sugar on the plate.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Plate Decorations

    If you admire the fancy plate decoration done by fine chefs, here’s a tip: It’s easy to makes everyday food look quite spectacular!

    There are three easy steps:
    1. Consider placing a bright-colored sauce or purée atop the plate, under the food. If you’re not using a sauce, try a circular or zig-zag drizzle.

    2. Add a garnish/garnishes around the rim of a plate.

    3. Top with herbs (chiffonade, leaves or sprigs), microgreens or sprouts.

    Just decide on what you want to garnish your plate. Choose from:

    RIM GARNISHES

  • Capers/caperberries
  • Caviar/roe: lumpfish, salmon roe, whitefish (plain or flavor-infused)
  • Citrus zest
  • Cress, microgreens or sprouts
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Minced herbs
  • Spices—chili flakes, mustard seeds, pink peppercorns
  •  
    DRIZZLES & DROPLETS

  • Balsamic or flavored vinegar
  • Flavored or plain olive oil
  • Gourmet mustard
  •    

    grilled-fish-rockcentercafe-230

    Grilled fish garnished with a bit of everything: balsamic droplets, pomegranate arils. Photo courtesy Rock Center Café | NYC.

  • Seasoned mayonnaise or aïoli
  • Vegetable or fruit purée
  •  

    lamb-loin-tatsoi-pomwonderful-230

    A simpler version: roast lamb on a bed of sunchoke purée with red sorrel and tatsoi. Photo courtesy Pom Wonderful.

     

    BEDS FOR PROTEINS

  • Chopped or diced vegetables, raw or cooked
  • Sauces or coulis (strained purée)
  • Grains and legumes (look for color: red rice, yellow lentils, e.g.)
  • Grain and legume/vegetable blends (rice and beans, succotash)
  • Mashed or puréed vegetables
  •  
     
    MORE GARNISH TIPS

    Collect photos and keep them in a file in the kitchen.

    Check out our many garnish ideas for both sweet and savory dishes, and a separate article on soup garnishes.

     

     

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: A Scotch & Chocolate Tasting For National Tartan Day

    It’s National Tartan Day, which recognizes Scottish-Americans’ contributions to America.

    Tartan, familiar in Scottish kilts, is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colors. Originally woven wool, it is now made in many other materials, and can even be found as wallpaper.

    Nineteen of the 56 delegates who signed the Declaration of Independence came to America from Scotland or were Ulster Scots, who had been living in Ireland. Others, like Thomas Jefferson, had Scottish ancestors.

    Today, more than 11 million Americans claim Scottish and Scotch-Irish roots, making them the eighth largest ethnic group in the U.S.

    You don’t have to be of Scottish ancestry to celebrate. Our family celebrated every holiday that involved food), a tip for food-loving families.

    You can celebrate with traditional Scottish foods like haggis, Scottish pie (filled with ground mutton), smoked salmon or tatties (mashed potatoes) and herring.

    Or you can kick back at the end of the day with a glass of Scotch, or a Scotch cocktail.

       

    chocolate-scotch-LaszloRakoskerti IST. 230

    Chocolate with Scotch? Absolutely! Photo by László Rákoskerti | IST.

     
    Among the many options, you can replace the vodka in a Bloody Mary with Scotch, creating a Highland Mary a.k.a. Bloody Scotsman.

    But we suggest a Scotch and chocolate tasting.

     

    kendallbrook-mackenzie-230

    Not into Scotch and chocolate? Celebrate National Tartan Day with an appetizer of Scottish smoked salmon. We like ours with a sprinkling of capers, some snipped fresh dill and a squeeze of lemon or lime. The onions are also welcome. Photo courtesy MackenzieLtd.com.

     

    SCOTCH & CHOCOLATE TASTING PARTY

    Paiing chocolates with wine and spirits is even more enjoyable than drinking the Scotch—or eating the chocolates—by themselves. If you haven’t already seen our wine, spirits and chocolate pairing guide, take a look.

    While we like Scotch from all over Scotland—the flavors vary substantially due to the local water and microclimate—it’s easiest to pair chocolates that have flavor notes similar to the Scotch, for example, smoky, peaty Laphroaig single malt Scotch, paired with single-origin chocolates that have smoky notes.

    Here’s what you need to know to have your own party.

    Here’s some tartan trivia from Laphroaig & Wikipedia to share at your festivity:

  • Tartan is often called plaid in North America, but in Scotland, a plaid is a tartan cloth slung over the shoulder as a kilt accessory, or a plain ordinary blanket such as one would have on a bed.
  • The best-known tartan patterns are the Black Watch and Royal Stewart.
  • Until the mid-19th century, tartan designs were associated with regions or districts, rather than any specific Scottish clan.
  • Tartan became popular throughout the English-speaking world after Queen Victoria expressed her fondness for all things Scottish.
  • The world’s first color photograph was of a tartan ribbon.
  • The English word tartan derives from the French tiretain, from the verb tirer which references woven cloth, as opposed to knitted cloth.
  • The word plaid derives from the Scottish Gaelic plaide, meaning blanket. The word was first used to describe any rectangular garment, including tartan. In time, plaid was used to describe blankets themselves.
  • A belted plaid is a blanket-like piece of fabric that is wrapped around the body with the material loosely gathered and secured at the waist by a belt. A portion of the fabric is wrapped up around the upper body and a portion hangs down to the knees (see it here).
  • The belted plaid was a standard item of men’s Highland dress from the late 16th century until the middle of the 18th century, when it began to evolve into the modern tailored kilt.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Cook Fish

    Lent began yesterday, the 40-day period from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday (this year on April 2nd). During Lent, observers recognize Christ’s sacrifice by giving up something pleasurable. Around the world, the most common Lenten practice is to give up meat. In the U.S., seafood sales soar during the six weeks of Lent.

    Whether you’re a lent observer, or simply want to eat more healthfully, here’s inspiration from GetFlavor.com, a magazine and website for professional chefs.

  • Baked fish: salmon wrapped in phyllo dough with dill and lemon sauce; quiche; en papillote; Salmon Wellington
  • Cured/pickled/smoked: ceviche, gravlax, pickled herring; smoked bluefish, cod, salmon, trout, tuna fillets; smoked fish pâté
  • Deep-fried fish: battered, tempura or breaded; calamari, fish and chips, fritters, nuggets, shrimp
  • Dips and spreads: pâté, taramasalata, whitefish
  • Grilled fish: whole fish or fillets; kebabs or skewers; cod, sardines, shrimp, snapper, whitefish
  •  

    pan-sauteed-catfish-230

    It couldn’t be easier: Pan-sautéed fish topped with a light salad. Photo courtesy Whole Foods Market.

  • Pan-fried or sautéed fish: Trout, soft-shell crab, salmon or trout patties
  • Poached fish: crab legs, salmon, shrimp cocktail, whitefish
  • Raw fish: carpaccio, sashimi, sushi, tartare, tataki
  • Roasted fish: fillets, steaks, whole fish
  • Steamed fish: fillets, steaks or whole fish; mussels, gefilte fish
  • Stews and casseroles: bisque, bouillabaisse, chowder, cioppino, curry, gumbo
  • Stir-fried and sautéed fish: Asian-style stir fry, blackened, with pasta
  • Specialty: caviar, crêpes, flan, mousse, pancakes, poke, risotto
  •  

    black-bass-porcini-brodetto-scottconant-230

    You can make this nicely-plated restaurant dish. Just place grilled bass or other fish atop a bed of grains or vegetables and surround with broth or sauce. In a pinch, you can make a sauce from a can of creamed soup. Photo courtesy Chef Scott Conant.

     

    BOILING, POACHING OR STEAMING: THE DIFFERENCE

    These three related cooking techniques are both healthful and easy. Here are the nuances:

    Poaching

    Poaching is a gentle cooking method used to simmer foods in a hot, but not boiling, liquid. Water is often used as the poaching liquid but its flavor is often enhanced with broth or stock, juice, vinegar or wine.

    Typically, vegetables (carrot, celery, onion), citrus (lemon, lime, orange), herbs and/or spices are added to the liquid for additional depth of flavor. Chicken breasts, eggs, fish/seafood and fruit are good candidates for poaching.
     
    Boiling

    Boiling is more intense than poaching. Foods are cooked in rapidly bubbling liquid, most often water. Poaching is best suited to foods such as starches and vegetables that can withstand the high heat and the agitation of rapidly moving water.

    Beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower hearty greens (collards, kale, turnip greens), pasta, potatoes and rice are some of the most frequently-boiled foods.

     
    Steaming

    With this technique, foods are cooked by steam generated from boiling liquid. Water is most often used because little to no flavor is transferred to the food from the steam. Since there’s no direct contact with water, steaming retains the shape, texture and bright color (e.g., of asparagus or other vegetables and fruits) without becoming water-logged or soggy.

    Steaming also prevents vitamins and minerals from dissolving into the cooking liquid. Fruits, proteins, vegetables and even desserts—cakes, custards and puddings) can be steamed.

    For instructions on each of these techniques, visit CampbellsKitchen.com.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Oscar Party Sushi

    If your Oscar party will include sushi, how about a platter that looks like a director’s slate?

    This fun idea comes from SushiShop, which isn’t selling the “director’s slate” platters but developed this as part of an advertising campaign.

    You can make it yourself with:

  • 10 pieces of salmon nigiri (fish atop rice pads)
  • 10 pieces of tamago nigiri (egg custard)
  • 24 pieces of pieces of black caviar roll in green soy wrappers (or a cucumber wrap), topped with a dab of green mayonnaise (or a piece of edamame)
  •  
    Your local sushi restaurant can create this for you, or work with you to create a different design with different sushi varieties (check them out in our beautiful Sushi Glossary).

     

    sushi-directors-slate-sushishop-230

    Cut! Eat! Photo courtesy SushiShop.com.

     

    Unless you’re a mogul, you can buy affordable black lumpfish caviar or black capelin caviar. We found 12 ounces for $29.99 and $14.95, respectively, on Amazon.

    Check out the different types of caviar.

      

    Comments

    SUPER BOWL: The “Bivalve Bowl”

    From January 26th through January 31st, the New England Patriots-Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl match-up will be preceded by a competition between bodaceous bivalves.

    The storied Grand Central Oyster Bar in the heart of Manhattan is hosting “Super Bowl XLIX Oyster Platter,” pitting two New England oysters (Katama and Wellfleet) against two Washington challengers (Discovery Bay and Skookum—note that oysters are typically named for the bodies of water where they are harvested).

    Chef Sandy Ingber has selected beverage pairings to complement the oysters: for Patriots fans, Cisco “Whales Tale” Pale Ale from Nantucket; for Seahawks fans, Washington State’s Chateau St. Michelle 2013 Dry Riesling 2013.

    If you have a supplier of fresh oysters and a talent for shucking, you can serve this gourmet fare during the game.

    If not, call the Grand Central Oyster Bar for lunch or dinner reservations: 1.212.490.6650. The eight-oyster combination is $22.35 with beverages extra.

     

    Wellfleet-Mass-230r

    Game on: Will these Wellfleet oysters from Massachusetts best the Skookums from Washington? Photo courtesy J.P.’s Shellfish.

     

      

    Comments



    © Copyright 2005-2016 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. All images are copyrighted to their respective owners.