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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 Giftable

TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Condiments As Host Gifts

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Sir Kensington’s spicy trio: ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise. Photo courtesy Sir Kensington’s.

 

Invited to a July 4th celebration? Instead of bringing wine or beer, how about treating your host to gourmet condiments?

With all due respect to Heinz, French’s and Hellman’s, there are finer flavors to be had. Head to your nearest specialty food store or upscale supermarket and check out the options.

Since its debut five years ago, we’ve been enjoying the Sir Kensington’s brand—not a British import but a hip American creation.

  • Sir Kensington’s Ketchup, in Classic and Spiced, have 33% less salt and 50% less sugar than conventional brands.
  • Sir Kensington’s Mayonnaise is made from free range eggs, and is 33% lower in saturated fat than conventional brands. There’s Classic with lemon notes; Chipotle with cumin, garlic and tomato flavors; Dijonnaise, blending the Classic with Dijon mustard; Special Sauce, a riff on French remoulade with touches of paprika, mustard, and pickle relish; and Sriracha with the latest rage in heat.
  • Sir Kensington’s Mustard delivers more layers of flavor in Dijon, Spicy and Yellow.
  •  
    The line is Non-GMO Verified.

    If you can’t find the products locally, you can buy them online at SirKensingtons.com.

    And think past summer: They make great stocking stuffers.

     
      

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    PRODUCT: LidLover

    LidLover was created by a woman who wanted a lid that could fit with a tight seal around her kitchenware: bakeware, containers, cookware and dishes.

    While LidLovers can (and should) be used year-round, now that it’s summer we especially like them to keep the bugs out of patio and picnic food.

    The lids are easily storable and strong enough for the containers to be stacked. They can be easily stretched to fit over bowls with any type of rim.

    Even better: You save money and the environment when you use LidLover instead of temporary, landfill-bound covers such as plastic wraps and foils.

    The 12″ LidLover, with grooves fitting from 9″ to 12″, fits most large serving bowls and dishes. It’s $16.95.

     

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    Seal ‘em, stack ‘em, save the environment and keep picnic insects out of your food. Photo courtesy LidLover.

     

    LidLover is top rack dishwasher safe, may be used as a cover in the microwave and can be used in both the freezer (down to -40°F) and the oven (up to 400°F). All LidLover lids are made of BPA-free food grade silicone.

    Check out the different varieties of LidLover on the company website.

    If you’re invited to a picnic or a barbecue, bring one to the host!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Uses For Cream Liqueur

    Introduced in 1974, Baileys Irish Cream was the first cream liqueur on the market. Rich and, of course, creamy, it was a hit, and created the category of cream liqueur.

    Dozens of cream liqueurs have debuted since, from the familiar (chocolate, coffee, maple) to the exotic (amarula, the fruit of the African marula tree).

    A new contender is SomruS, which tastes like vanilla liqueur with exotic notes. It is made from “pure Wisconsin dairy cream and hand-crafted Caribbean rum mixed with the flavors of cardamom, saffron, almonds, pistachios and rose.”

    SomruS is called “The Original Indian Cream Liqueur” by its producer, bringing “the flavors, history and culture of the Indian sub-continent.”

    It is manufactured in the U.S. by SomPriya Fine Spirits of Chicago.

    Introduced last October, SomruS quickly racked up some prestigious citations, including Cream Liqueur of the Year from New York International Spirits Competition and a place on the Top 50 Spirits List of the Wine Enthusiast.

       

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    The bottle is fashioned after an ancient Indian decanter. Photo courtesy SomruS.

     

    The website says that it was created to complement Indian cuisine and represent “the vibrant culture that encompasses some one-fifth of the world’s population.”

    The one problem we have is with the marketing. Calling it the “Nectar of the Gods” is a bad call of the over-enthusiastic and under-informed.

    The nectar of the gods, as most of us learned in grade school, is mead—an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water. In ancient times, it was consumed throughout Europe, Africa and Asia (and by all the Greek gods).

    We would also argue that “the original Indian cream liquer” is Voyant Chai, introduced ten years ago and also made in the USA. What’s more Indian than chai?

    Are we too nitpicky, or simply focused on accuracy?

     

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    Drizzle cream liqueur over a dish of ice cream. Photo courtesy SomruS.

     

    WAYS TO USE CREAM LIQUEUR

    That doesn’t take away from the fact that SomruS is delicious, rich and nuanced. It’s a versatile liqueur for:

  • Straight sipping
  • Cocktails (there are many on the SomruS Pinterest stream)
  • Coffee, hot or iced
  • Tea, ditto
  • In dessert recipes: puddings, cream pies and tarts
  • As a topping for ice cream
  • In homemade vanilla ice cream
  • To flavor whipped cream (instead of vanilla extract)
  • In cake icing
  • In an adult milkshake
  • As an alcoholic alternative to pancake and waffle syrup
  •  
    It’s a handsome gift option, too.

     

    Check out the SomruS website. If you can’t find it locally, SomruS is available for online orders from PassionSpirits.com, which ships to 46 states and overseas. The suggested retail price is $24.99 for a 750ml bottle.

      

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    PRODUCT: Annie B’s Caramels

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    Buy them in a bag or a gift box. Photo courtesy Annie B’s.

     

    Annie B’s caramels aren’t the usual square or rectangular affairs. They’re shaped like the salt water taffy we enjoyed as a kid.

    The all natural caramels come in more flavors than most:

  • Amaretto Caramels
  • Black Licorice Caramels
  • Black Raspberry Caramels
  • Blueberry Caramels
  • Butter Rum Caramels
  • Cherry Caramels
  • Chocolate Caramels
  • Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels
  • Huckleberry Caramels
  • Maple Caramels
  • Original Caramels
  • Sea Salt Caramels
  •  

    Our favorites: Original, Cappuccino, Chocolate and Sea Salt.

    Original is a buttery caramel, and Cappuccino adds strong coffee flavor. Chocolate has a mild chocolate flavor.

    Sea Salt is unlike any other salted caramel we’ve had. It’s made with large crystals of coarse sea salt, delivering lots of salt in every bite.

    It was too much salt for us, but it might become the favorite flavor of salt lovers.

    Options include bags of 10 and 16 pieces, gift boxes and bulk boxes.

    The bags are just $5.00 each: great for party favors and stocking stuffers (you can never plan too far in advance!). Nautical-themed gift boxes are currently 20% off and there’s free shipping on orders over $49.00.

    Get yours at AnnieBsCandy.com.

     
      

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    GIFT: Meat Of The Month Club

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    Top-quality cooked and cured meats monthly. Capicola from DeLallo.com.

     

    Need a special gift for your favorite carnivore? Murray’s Meat of the Month Club will send a monthly treat of the finest cooked or cured artisan meats.

    Each month you or your giftee will receive Murray’s choicest selections: cooked and cured meats, whole and encased meats, salami, pâtés. Two delicious selections will arrive on the third Thursday of the month.

    If you’re giving a club membership as a gift, Murray’s will email you a welcome letter that you can tuck in a card.

    The Meat of the Month Club is priced beginning at $225.00 for four months of deliveries. Other options include six months ($325) and twelve months ($625). All prices finclude shipping.

    Order at MurraysCheese.com.

     

     
      

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    GIFT: Premium Spirits For Father’s Day

    For Father’s Day, here are some spirits that will light up Father’s Day for that special Dad who loves tequila or vodka.

    Casa Herradura has two superior expressions for the tequila lover:

    HERRADURA SELECCIÓN SUPREMA, EXTRA-AÑEJO

    Herradura Selección Suprema is the highest grade tequila from Casa Herradura. Aged for more than 49 months in American oak barrels, it has a very dark copper hue, paired with an intense aroma of brown spice and floral notes.

    This is an enormously complex, world-class sipping tequila for the connoisseur. The suggested retail price is $350 for a 750ml bottle. Pricey, yes; but for tequila lovers, it should be a memorable experience.

    At a more affordable price is Herradura’s limited edition Colección de la Casa, Reserva 2014 – Scotch Cask Finish Reposado.

       

    CASA HERRADURA SELECCION SUPREMA TEQUILA

    The greatest tequila in the world? Photo courtesy Casa Herradura.

     

    It undergoes a double maturation process after resting in two different types of oak casks: American oak and single malt Scotch casks. This creates a totally new flavor profile for fine tequila. The suggested retail price is $89.99.

    For more information visit Herradura.com.

     

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    A different vodka experience. Photo courtesy Tito’s.

     

    TITO’S HANDMADE VODKA

    Tito’s Handmade Vodka is one of the fastest-growing craft spirits, and it’s gluten-free (made from 100% corn mash). Wine Enthusiast magazine scored it higher than Belvedere, Grey Goose and Ketel One.

    It’s made in small batches (microdistilled) in an old fashioned pot still by Tito Beveridge (that’s his actual name), a geologist who first made it for Christmas gifts. Friends encouraged him to go commercial.

    His boot-strapped brew won the double gold medal at the World Spirits Competition and put Tito’s on the map.

    We found it online for prices ranging from $17.99 to $32.99. Here’s a store locator on the company website.

     

      

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    PRODUCT: Sandra Lee Cocktail Time Margaritas

    You could bring a bottle of wine as a house gift, or you could bring a bottle of ready-to-drink Margaritas.

    We really enjoyed the new Sandra Lee Cocktail Time Margaritas, in Key Lime or Strawberry. We’ll be buying more to bring to our Memorial Day hostess—and to enjoy ourselves, at home.

    The ready-mixed Margaritas taste like freshly-made, top-self drinks. A blend of premium blue agave silver tequila and triple sec liqueur, infused with real Key limes or strawberries, these open-and-pour Margaritas hit the spot with us.

    We prefer the classic (Key Lime) to the Strawberry, but if you want a strawberry Margarita, Ms. Lee’s is delicious.

    The cocktails, which are 13% ABV/26 proof, have fewer than 150 calories per 4-ounce serving.

    The suggested retail price is $15.99 per 750ml bottle. Learn more at CocktailTime.com.

     

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    A great-tasting Margarita, poured straight from the bottle. Photo courtesy Diageo.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Carla Hall Petite Cookies

    Most fans of “Top Chef” Chef love Carla Hall, a finalist on her season and a subsequent Top Chef All Star, winning the “Fan Favorite” award.

    She went on to become a cohost on “The Chew” and to start Carla Hall Petite Cookies, an artisan cookie company that specializes in teeny cookies.

    A brilliant idea for people who need just a bite, the cookies are either half-inch cubes or one-inch drop cookies, depending on the nature of the dough.

    They’re meant to pair “boldly and beautifully,” according to Carla, with beer, wine, tea and coffee.

    For home, entertaining and gifting, we’ve been charmed by these little cookies. Made in small batches, every step from mixing the dough to packaging is done by hand.

    Of course, only the finest ingredients are used: European-style butter, unbleached sugar and flour, couverture chocolate, artisan cheeses, fresh nuts, premium spices and, says Carla of her most important ingredient: love.

    Focusing on familiar flavors with a twist, choices include:

       

    Harissa Spiced Nuts and Cookies

    Mexican Chocolate Chip Cookies, teeny bites of heaven. Carla Hall Petite Cookies.

     
    Petite Cookies

  • Almond Ginger Cherry Shortbread
  • Black Forest Crinkle (our favorite, a cherry-chocolate delight)
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Praline
  • Mexican Chocolate Chip
  • Lemon Black Pepper Shortbread
  • Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate
  • Pecan Shortbread with Vanilla Salt
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    There’s one savory option:

  • Cheddar Pecan
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    There are also cakes and regular-size cookies (including the best Magic bar we’ve ever had):

  • Cakes: Apple Walnut Bread, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cinnamon Tea Cake, Lemon-Glazed Five Flavor Pound Cake, Salted Caramel Banana Bread
  • Cookies: Magic Bar, Oatmeal Cookie Sandwich, Triple Layer Cookie Bar
  •  

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    A gift box for any cookie lover. Photo courtesy Carla Hall Petite Cookies.

     

    WHAT SHOULD YOU GET?

    Most definitely, the Sweet Collection Gift Box, which includes six of the seven varieties of sweet petites. It’s $25.00; there’s a smaller box with three varieties for $12.50.

    If you want to include a signed copy of Carla’s cookbook, Carla’s Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes from Around the World—you can add it to the Sweet Collection gift box for a total of $45.00.

    There are other gift options, other goodies, and of course, you can buy individual packages of whatever you like.

    Head to CarlaHall.com to get yours.

    Or, find a retailer near you.

     

    CARLA HALL TRIVIA

    Fans of Top Chef may remember that Carla spent several years working as a model on the runways of Paris, Milan and London. It was in Paris that she fell in love with the art of food.

    But what most people don’t know is that before heading to Europe, Carla spent two years as a CPA at Price Waterhouse.

    When she returned from Europe, she attended L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland where she completed her culinary training and began her career as a professional chef.

      

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    GIFT: Cake In A Jar

    When you can’t be there to bake a cake, send a cake in a jar. Jar’d Cake from one of our favorite bakers, Cake Chicago, offers four delicious varieties to send as a Mother’s Day gift, or give as party favors.

    Everything at Cake Chicago is made from scratch, including the raspberry conserve a nd salted caramel.

    Choose from:

  • White Buttermilk Cake with raspberry conserve and italian meringue buttercream
  • Chocolate fudge cake with salted caramel filling
  • Carrot cake with cream cheese filling (spiced carrot cake, no raisins or nuts)
  • Banana cake with fudge filling
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    Tied with grossgrain ribbon, the jars are $7.00 each, with a 2 jar minimum.

     

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    Moist, delicious Jar’d Cake. Photo courtesy Cake Chicago.

     

    Get yours at Cake-Chicago.com.

      

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    PRODUCT: Tahitian Vanilla

    The United States is the largest consumer of vanilla beans, using around 1,200 tons per year. Most of them are made into vanilla extract.

    Most of the real vanilla extract* used in the U.S. is Bourbon† vanilla, also called Madagascar vanilla.

    As a Mother’s Day gift for someone who loves to make desserts, how about one of the world’s finest vanillas?

    Everyone knows about Bourbon vanilla. It’s become standard in the U.S., available in bulk as well as quality brands.

    It comes from Madagascar and although vanilla extract contains some alcohol, Bourbon vanilla has nothing to do with the alcohol Bourbon.

    Rather, it’s named after the Bourbon rulers of France.
     
     
    *An astonishing 97% of all vanilla products are synthetic, made of paper by-products! Artificial vanilla has been around since the late 19th century. But, tempting as it is to save money, there’s nothing like the real thing
     
    †The term Bourbon applies to beans Madagascar and the neighboring Comoro, Réunion and Seychelles. There is no connection with the liquor produced in Kentucky in the United States. It is called Bourbon after the French House of Bourbon that ruled France from 1272 to 1830, ending with the French Revolution. The island now known as Réunion was named Île Bourbon in 1649 and renamed Réunion in 1793.

       

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    The most trusted name in vanilla. Nielsen-Massey sells beans and produces extract for Bourbon/Madagascar, Mexican and Tahitian vanillas. Photo courtesy Nielsen-Massey.

     

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    Tahitian vanilla beans. Got beans? Make your
    own vanilla extract
    . Photo by Claire Freierman
    | THE NIBBLE.

     

    THE FLAVOR OF DIFFERENT VANILLA BEANS

    Here are the differences from Nielsen-Massey, a family business that has been devoted to vanilla for three generations:

    Bourbon Or Madagascar Vanilla

    Character: sweet, creamy and mellow with velvety after-tones. The vanilla of choice with chocolate and cream.

    Use in: anything requiring vanilla. It’s the benchmark.
     
    Mexican Vanilla

    Character: sweet and creamy with a deep, spicy character. Often selected by chefs for an added level of finesse to chili, barbecue sauce, tomato sauce, salsa and other spicy foods.

    Use in: cakes, frozen desserts, ginger snaps and other spiced cookies, hot chocolate.
     
    Tahitian Vanilla

    Character: fruity, anise-like flavor with floral notes. Use in cold or quickly-heated dishes; Tahitian vanilla’s delicate flavors don’t hold up well under extensive heating like baking.

     

    Use in: frozen and refrigerated desserts, fruit sauce, pastry creams, puddings and custards, shakes, smoothies.

     
    MORE ABOUT VANILLA

    Vanilla beans are also grown in Guatemala, Hawaii and the West Indies. Vanilla is a tropical plant, and can only grow 10 to 20 degrees north and south of the equator.

    Here’s everything you need to know about vanilla, including types of vanilla products, how to buy vanilla and the best vanilla extracts and beans.

      

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