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Archive for Fish/Seafood/Caviar

TIP OF THE DAY: How To Taste Oysters

There are numerous flavor wheels (also called aroma wheels and tasting wheels) created by the specialty foods industry. Industry professionals use them to understand the different flavors of the products they represent.

The charts show the flavor spectrum in the particular category, mapping nuances of flavors and aromas. They’re a great way to learn how to taste. We’ve spent many enjoyable sessions, sitting down with the food and the wheel.

THE NIBBLE has presented a:

  • Beer Flavor Wheel
  • Cider Flavor Wheel
  • Coffee Flavor Wheel
  • Olive Oil Flavor Wheel
  • Wine Tasting Wheel
  •  
    We’ve also created our own Chocolate Tasting Chart.

    Today, we present an Oyster Flavor Wheel (below) created by Pangea Shellfish.

    The flavors of agricultural products like cacao beans, olives and wine grapes are greatly affected by their terroir, the unique components of the place (environment) where they are grown. For example, depending on where it is grown, Sauvignon Blanc can have grass or grapefruit notes—or neither.

    Terroir, pronounced tur-WAH is a French agricultural term referring to the unique set of environmental factors in a specific habitat, which affect a crop’s qualities. It includes the climate and microclimate, weather, elevation, proximity to a body of water, slant of the land, soil type and amount of sun. These environmental characteristics gives the wine its character. Terroir is the basis of the French A.O.C. (appellation d’origine contrôlée) system.
     
    OYSTERS ARE A BIT DIFFERENT

  • Oyster terroir includes the mineral components of the body of water (comparable to the soil components of land-grown products) and what type of food the water provides to the oyster; the temperature of the water; and seasonality, which includes both the temperature and spawning cycle.
  •    

    Oysters On The Half Shell

    Permaquid Oysters

    Top: Oysters On The Half Shell at Ox And Son | Santa Monica. Bottom: Permaquid oysters from JP Shellfish.

     

  • Texture is a major component of an oyster’s flavor profile, so the wheel devotes a lot of space to it. Texture, or mouthfeel, can vary widely among varieties due to the oyster’s species and growing method.
  •  
    These factors are why even oysters grown in the same region taste very different. For example, a Malaspina oyster from outside Vancouver Island tastes of artichoke with undertones of metal and salt. A Pemaquid oyster from Maine tastes of cucumber.

  • In other product wheels the aromas, smelled before consuming the product, are emphasized in the wheel. But Pangea notes that it’s very hard to detect more than a refreshing ocean aroma in any fresh oyster.
  •  
    French oyster growers recently coined the term merroir to describe products harvested from the sea instead of the soil (marine + terroir = merroier).
     
    SEE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF OYSTERS & OTHER OYSTER TERMINOLOGY IN OUR OYSTER GLOSSARY.

     

    Band Oysters

    Riptide Oysters

    Top: Band oysters, shucked and ready to taste. “Band” refers to the pronounced black band at the bottom of the oyster meat. Bottom: Riptide Oysters from Westport, Massachusetts. Photos courtesy Pangea Shellfish.

     

    HOW TO USE THE OYSTER FLAVOR WHEEL

    1. Start with the taste section. Be sure to note the oyster’s saltiness by using a brine scale of 0 to 5—0 being no salt, 5 being full ocean salinity.

    2. Follow the wheel clockwise to note the oyster’s texture and finish. The finish is the taste that remains in your mouth after you’ve eaten the item.

    An oyster may have multiple attributes in each section, so taste for all the nuances. .

     
    What If The Oyster Doesn’t Taste Great?

    If you encounter an unpleasant oyster, faults are built into the wheel. The wheel does not explicitly call out faults because it is subjective (an analogy: certain wine grapes have a quality described as “skunky” and some aromas are heavily sulphuric. Some people dislike them, others don’t care. Each taster should evaluate a product based on his/her own preferences.
     
    Tasting Tips

    To ensure a complete flavor experience:

  • Forget the condiments: lemon, sauces, etc. They cover up the flavor of the oyster, and were needed in the days before refrigeration, to cover up any possible results of sitting in a warm place.
  • Do not discard the oyster’s brine (also called liquor), the liquid in the shell. The brine is part of the tasting experience, and is essential to identify the salt content.
  • Chew the oyster 3 to 4 times. Throwing back oyster shooters is fine when their freshness is past their prime, but should never be done with premium oysters. Otherwise, you completely miss evaluating the flavors, texture and finish.
  • Have a palate cleanser between oysters. Water or seltzer (club soda contains salt) is a good option, but some people prefer water crackers like Carr’s. Unsalted matzoh does the same thing for a fraction of the price.
  •  
    Remember that there are five components of taste: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami, the “protein” taste

     

    Oyster Tasting Chart

    This chart is © Pangea Shellfish Company, and is the first version of the wheel. It will continue to evolve based on input from industry professionals, so check for the latest version.
     
    HAVE AN OYSTER TASTING PARTY

    Don’t want to shop and shuck at home? Bring the wheel with you to a top seafood restaurant and let the professionals do the work.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: First Course, Small Bites

    Ravioli Hors d'Oeuvre

    san-marzano-tomatoes-can

    Fancy Appetizers

    Top: A Swordfish-Ravioli Stack with Mexican garnishes. Photo courtesy Chef Eric LeVine. Center: Canned San Marzano tomatoes. Bottom: Chef LeVine’s delectable cookbook; photo courtesy Lyons Press.

     

    Today’s tip is that it’s easy to be creative in food preparation. Start with a first course/appetizer/starter (use the word of your choice).

    This recipe may look complicated, but putting it together is easy. The hard part was thinking it up, and that was done by Chef Eric LeVine, Food Network Chopped Champion and ICA* Chef Of The Year.

    He used Mexican seasonings, so think of serving a mini Margarita (in shot glasses or other small glasses) with the course.

    Chef Eric is also author of Small Bites Big Flavor: Simple, Savory, And Sophisticated Recipes For Entertaining. He wrote it for the home cook who wants to make imaginative and fun dishes. It’s a great start on a path to cooking more creative food.

    We’ve created our own version of his recipe.

  • If you don’t eat shellfish, substitute a ravioli of choice. For surf and turf, use meat ravioli.
  • Chef Eric made a spicy shrimp sauce. We took a simpler approach: crushed San Marzano tomatoes with minced fresh herbs.
  • The amount of fish you need will vary based on what portion size you want to serve. You can also serve the recipe as a main, by purchasing a 6-ounce swordfish steak for everyone and adding more ravioli.
  • We purchased the ravioli, pico de gallo and guacamole, making the assembly pretty speedy.
  •  
    RECIPE: TEQUILA-LIME SWORDFISH & RAVIOLI STACKS.

    Ingredients

  • Swordfish steaks, 2-4 ounces per person
  • Shrimp ravioli or substitute
  • Sauce (recipe below)
  • Fresh pico de gallo
  • Guacamole
  • Garnish: lime wedges
  •  
    For The Marinade

  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup tequila
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt to taste
  •  
    For The Sauce

  • 1 can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves (or substitute basil or parsley, if you have them on hand)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the marinade and marinate the swordfish steaks for 30 to 40 minutes, covered with plastic wrap, in the fridge. Use a glass or ceramic dish to marinate, or plastic storage bags. While the swordfish marinates, cook the ravioli.

    2. BRING a large pot of salted water to a boil, and add a tablespoon of olive oil to keep the ravioli from sticking. Add the ravioli and stir constantly for 5 minutes, taking care not to break the ravioli. Cook to al dente, since you’ll be reheating it before serving. Remove the ravioli one-by-one with a slotted spoon and place, not touching, on a microwavable baking sheet, tray, or in a glass baking dish. Cover with foil and set aside.

    3. MAKE the sauce: Combine the tomatoes and seasonings and blend thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

    4. GRILL the swordfish over medium heat to desired doneness, 10 to 12 for medium (we like ours medium rare). Cut into pieces. We cut 6-ounce swordfish steaks into 3 pieces for a portion size of 2 stacks. You may wish to serve only one stack.

    5. MICROWAVE the ravioli and the sauce briefly to warm them.

    6. ASSEMBLE the stacks. Place a small pool of sauce on the plate, topped with a piece of swordfish, a ravioli, and a garnish of guacamole and pico de gallo. Add the lime wedge and serve.

     
    __________________
    *The International Caterers Association
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Mussels At Home

    One of our favorite bistro foods is Moules Marinières (mool marin-yair), Sailor-Style Mussels. The mussels are steamed in a flavorful broth, to which they add their briny juice.

    We recently had a pot of the classic dish at Restaurant Dominique in Greenwich Village—a handsome room with big windows facing charming West Village streets.

    We not only ate every mussel; we scraped the pot for every last bit of the divine broth. We can’t wait to go back for more mussels…and everything else on the classic bistro menu.

    There’s also a mussels restaurant in New York City that serves 21 different variations, from the classic (white wine broth with garlic, shallot, parsley) to cuisine-specific riffs.

    We’ve tried everything from Indian Moules (cinnamon, curry, garlic, star anise, white wine) to Mexican Moules (calamari, chipotle in adobo, chorizo, posoles), even Meatball Moules (meatballs, tomato, onion, garlic, pesto, Parmesan cheese).

    During our most recent mussels foray, we however, we were reminded of how cramped and noisy the restaurant is; not to mention that one needs to book a table days in advance. The next day we came across the following recipe from Chef Eric LeVine, for our favorite Moules Marinières: Thai curry with coconut milk and lemongrass.

    We were hit with a blinding revelation of the obvious: We can make this at home in short order. Mussels are $4 a pound, compared with a $25 restaurant serving.

    If you don’t like Thai flavors, find a recipe for what you do like. Here’s one for classic Moules Marinières, plus how to buy and clean mussels.

    Steamed mussels are low in calories and gluten free.

    RECIPE: MOULES MARINIÈRES (STEAMED MUSSELS)
    IN THAI CURRY BROTH

    Ingredients For 4 First Courses Or 2 Mains

  • 8 sprigs cilantro, separate leaves and stems and roughly chop both
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 small shallots, sliced thin
  • ½ teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon zest plus 1 tbsp. juice from 1 lime
  • Kosher salt
  • 15 can (15 ounces) coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus more to taste
  •  

    Raw Mussels

    Steamed Mussels

    Mussels In Coconut Curry Broth

    Top: Wild mussels from Good Eggs. Center: Into the pot (Le Creuset). Bottom: Voilà, let’s eat! (Photo chef Eric LeVine.)

  • 2 pounds fresh mussels (ours were from Prince Edward Island), scrubbed with beards removed
  • 1 small Thai or Serrano chile, thinly sliced
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the cilantro stems, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 shallot shallot, the coriander seed, chili flakes, lime zest and a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. Grind into a smooth paste.

    2. SCOOP 2 tablespoons of thick cream from the top of the coconut milk into a large saucepan. Add the oil and heat over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic, shallots and ground paste plus the green curry paste. Cook for 4 minutes.

    3. ADD the remaining coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook about 3 minutes. Taste and season as desired,

    4. ADD the mussels, first discarding any that are cracked or already opened. Stir, cover and cook, shaking the pan until mussels open. Stir in the chopped cilantro, sliced chile and lime juice.

    5. DISCARD any mussels that haven’t opened in the pot. Divide the contents, including the broth, among two or four bowls.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Rebel Fish Salmon Fillets

    THE NIBBLE has always written about better-for-you foods. But each January, when people make their resolutions to eat better in the new year, we declare it Healthy Food Month.

    In January, we don’t tempt you with gourmet potato chips, artisan chocolates or lemon meringue pie. Instead, we show that it really is easy to find or make delicious foods that are good for you.

    Take salmon. We all should eat more of it; but buying fresh fish or defrosting frozen fish, then cooking it, takes time and planning. You have to cook the fresh or defrosted fish in a day, before it starts to go “fishy” and deteriorates.

    (NOTE: Do not thaw frozen seafood at room temperature; it enables bacteria to multiply. Instead, thaw it in the fridge, allowing one to two hours per pound; or defrost it in the microwave right before cooking).
     
    BETTER EATING WITH REBEL FISH

    We have become very fond of Rebel Fish, the first U.S. branded line of fresh salmon that comes prepackaged with seasoning packets.

    Always fresh, never frozen and of very high quality, the product should become an instant favorite with consumers. A scrumptious fish fillet can be cooked in 90 seconds. It’s all natural: no artificial flavors or preservatives.

    The founders of Rebel Fish believe that we would eat more fresh fish if it were easier to buy and prepare. They’ve made it super easy.

  • The salmon is packaged in an innovative way that preserves freshness. The shelf life is 7 days or longer.
  • The fillet rests in a plastic tray inside the outer carton. All one need do is roll back the plastic and place the tray in the microwave. It’s fool-proof.
  • It can be cooked on the stove top or in the oven, but you can’t beat the 90-second microwave technique.
  •  
    The result: moist, silky, flaky salmon that’s the best we’ve ever cooked at home. We don’t even use the seasonings. We prefer the fish plain (that’s how tasty it is), or with a touch of freshly-ground pepper.
     
    WHAT YOU GET

    Inside each Rebel Fish carton is a 6-ounce salmon fillet and a packet of seasoning that you can sprinkle on it. Choices include:

  • Barbeque
  • Cajun Blackened (our favorite)
  • Cilantro Lime
  • Lemon Pepper Herb
  • Maple Mesquite
  • Smoked Sea Salt
  • Thai Chili
  •    

    Rebel Fish Packages

    Raw Salmon Fillets

    Grilled Salmon Nicoise

    Top: Each flavor is packaged in a different bright color. Second: What’s in the package? One six-ounce salmon fillet and a seasoning packet. Bottom: A 90-second cooked filet atop salad greens. All photos courtesy Rebel Fish.

     
    The only difference is the seasoning packet. Frankly, the blends are not our cup of tea—too complicated, with (egad!) added sugar. We, and likely most retailers, would prefer only one SKU (stock keeping unit*, more in the footnote at the bottom).
     
    The MSRP is $5.99 per serving. We’re more than happy to pay it.
    ___________________________
    *SKU, stock keeping unit, is a retailer identification that allows a product to be tracked for inventory purposes. Each size, flavor, etc. has a different SKU. Thus, the six different flavors of Rebel Fish require six SKUs.

     

    Grilled Salmon With Bowtie Pasta

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/salmon on vegetable bed rebelfish 230

    Salmon With Mixed Vegetables

    Top: Salmon atop bow tie pasta. Middle:
    With a Mexican influence: corn kernels, diced
    bell pepper and crumbled cotija cheese. Bottom: With asparagus and baby potatoes. Photos courtesy Rebel Fish.

     

    WHERE DOES THE SALMON COME FROM?

    Rebel Fish salmon is raised in pristine Pacific Ocean waters. It is farmed rather than wild, but the fish are isolated and contained in a pure environment that nearly replicates the wild and may be even better: guaranteed food, clean water, space and habitat without predators.

    Conditions are ideal for producing premium salmon with great flavor and delicate texture. Farming ensures a reliable year-round supply of fresh salmon.

    Rebel Fish salmon are nurtured throughout their natural growth cycle to ensure their welfare, as well as to guarantee high quality. State-of-the-art, stress-free farming practices are both sustainable and healthier for the fish.

    The program is SQF certified, which assures wholesale buyers and retail customers that food has been produced, processed and handled according to the highest standards.

    SQF is a food safety program that is recognized globally for food safety certification, and is the only program that the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) endorses for food production, manufacturing, storage and distribution agencies.

    The brand’s parent company is Marine Harvest Group, the world’s leading seafood company and largest producer of farmed salmon, with top certification.
     
    SALMON NUTRITION

    Farmed salmon is as nutritious as wild salmon. In fact, a recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that farmed salmon typically has more omega-3† fatty acids than wild salmon.

    Note that actual amounts can fluctuate as they are influenced by factors such as species of salmon, water temperature, type and availability of food, and stage of maturity. One big difference is that farmers can create consistent levels of omega-3s in their salmon by controlling the amount and composition of the feed to produce consistently nutritious salmon.

    Rebel Fish Salmon is an excellent source of protein and vitamin D that contains natural omega-3 fatty acids in addition to other critical vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc, and vitamins A and B. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon, at least twice a week to ensure you get plenty of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
     
    What about the name? The company says that it encourages consumers to “rebel against the ordinary” when it comes to meal preparation.

     
    ____________________________________
    †Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that may promote brain development, heart health and may also reduce the risk of chronic disease. Seafood is a natural source of two healthy omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Since our bodies cannot make omega-3, it’s important to regularly include them in our diets. The American Heart Association recommends that adults have two servings of omega 3 per week to maintain optimal health benefits.

      

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    RECIPE: The Best Fried Calamari (Squid)

    Every year on Christmas Eve we have a Feast Of The Seven Fishes. We’re not of Italian descent, but our mother believed in celebrating every holiday that had good food.

    We’ve previously shared some our past menus:

  • 2014 Feast Of The Seven Fishes
  • 2010 Feast Of The Seven Fishes
  • 2009 Feast Of The Seven Fishes
  •  
    This year we’re adding a new dish to our feast repertoire: fried squid (calamari). Why such a basic preparation?

    We love cornmeal-crusted fried calamari. Sadly, we haven’t seen it on a restaurant menu in several years. Even eateries that are more creative with their food use all-purpose flour.

    So, much as we’re not keen on deep frying in our apartment kitchen with no exhaust fan, we’re jonesing for some cornmeal.

    Our favorite flour for frying is cornmeal; our favorite breadcrumbs are panko, which we use instead of the fresh breadcrumbs in the original recipe. We also use the cornmeal-panko combination for fried chicken.

    If you have corn flour instead of cornmeal, use it. The difference is that corn flour is ground to a much finer texture than cornmeal.

    RECIPE: CORNMEAL CRUSTED FRIED SQUID

    Ingredients 6 Servings

  • 2 pounds small squid, cleaned
  • 1 cup plain or cornmeal flour
  • Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups breadcrumbs (see recipe below to make your own)
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  • Optional garnish: minced fresh parsley (highly recommended)
  • Condiment: sriracha aïoli or other flavored mayonnaise, sriracha ketchup or other flavored ketchup, marinara sauce, tartar sauce or cocktail sauce
  •  
    Before you start preparation, here are two important tips from the Sydney Fish Market to fry superior squid:

       

    fried-calamarii-sydneyfishmarketFB-230

    Cornmeal-Crusted Squid

    Fried Calamari

    Top photo courtesy Sydney Fish Market. Middle photo courtesy CB Crabcakes. Bottom photo courtesy Bull & Bear.

  • Removing the membrane on the inside of the squid tubes is the key to tender squid.
  • If you’re frying squid in batches, let the oil temperature recover between batches. Otherwise, the coating will absorb too much oil and will become soggy. You can alternate between two fryers as a solution.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SLICE the squid tubes into two or three sections, turn them inside out and wipe firmly with a clean, damp cloth to remove any membrane. Then slice into rings. Cut the tentacles (a delicacy we love!) in half.

    2. SEASON the flour well with salt and pepper and place in a bowl. Place the eggs in another bowl and the breadcrumbs in a third bowl.

    3. DUST squid in flour, shaking off any excess. Then dip into the egg, drain well and coat in breadcrumbs. Place on a plate, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    4. HEAT the oil oil in a wok or deep-fryer to 360°F/180°C. Deep-fry squid in batches, for 1-2 minutes, until golden and crisp (frying for more than two minutes will toughen the squid). Drain on paper towels. Cool the oil between batches; skim it to remove any loose crumbs.

    5. SPRINKLE the cooked squid with salt and optional parsley, and serve with lemon wedges.
     
     
    MAKE FRESH BREADCRUMBS

    1. PULSE day-old (or stale) bread in a food processor until finely crumbed.

    2. STORE in an airtight container in the freezer to use whenever breadcrumbs are required. You can mix crumbs from different types of bread, and always have a crumbs on hand while finding a good use for old bread.

     

    raw-squid-w-tentacles-ultimate-guide-to-greek-food.com-230

    Raw Squid

    calamari-raw-eatandrelish-230

    Top photo: Don’t discard the tentacles;
    they’re delicious. If you don’t want to fry
    them, save them and blanch them later.
    Photo courtesy Ultimate-guide-to-greek-
    food.com/.

     

    SQUID VS. CALAMARI: THE DIFFERENCE

    In The Beginning: Taxonomy

    While “calamari” has become a culinary term that encompasses calamari, squid and even cuttlefish, they are “different species,” as the popular term goes. Literally, they are in different orders; and below the order level are hundreds of genuses of “squid” worldwide, differing in size, skin color and other features.

    If your eyes are starting to glaze over, skip to the next section, “The Source Of The Confusion.” Otherwise, soldier on:

    One step down from the top taxonomy, Kingdom (here Animalia) is the phylum Mollusca.

    Remember your high school biology? After kingdom and phylum comes class, and there are two tasty ones that comprise most of the seafood we eat. Squid and calamari are members of Cephalopoda class; clams, geoducks, mussels, oysters and scallops are in the class Bivalvia. Lobsters, shrimp and other crustaceans differ one level up, at the phylum levele Arthropoda.

    Squid, calamari and cuttlefish are known as cephalopods, mollusks that have lost their hard shells in the evolutionary process. They are members of the class Cephalopoda and subclass Coleoidea. The Coleoidea subclass also includes octopus. They then fall into different families, then species, then genuses within the species.

    After Class is the Order level, where there is a parting of ways: squid and calamari to the order Teuthida and cuttlefish to the order Sepiida. Food geeks who want to know more can check out the full taxonomy.

    Treat cephalopods with the respect they deserve: Scientists believe that the ancestors of modern cephalopods diverged from the primitive, externally-shelled Nautilus (Nautiloidea) some 438 million years ago. This was before there were fish in the ocean, before the first mammals appeared on land, before vertebrates crawled from the sea onto land, and even before Earth had upright plants.

    Cephalopods were once one of the dominant life forms in the world’s oceans. Today there are only about 800 living species of cephalopods, compared with 30,000 species of bony fish. [Source]

     
    The Source Of The Confusion

    Calamari are plentiful in the Mediterranean Sea; Italians call the live and cooked versions calamari (the singular is calamaro). Since most people in English-speaking countries first encountered dishes called calamari in Italian restaurants, the word is used interchangeably.

    Truth to tell, Italian restaurants in America may well have been selling squid. Wholesalers and retailers blur the lines. Given the scientific complexities, it’s best to let this one lie and use the words interchangeably. Most people couldn’t tell the difference once they’re cleaned and cooked.

    However, if you’re buying raw squid/calamari, you can tell the two apart by the fins:

  • Squid have fins that form an arrow shape on the end of the squid’s body (the body is also known as the tube, hood or mantle).
  • Calamari fins extend almost all the way down the hood.
  •  
    Yes, it’s that simple.

      

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