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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: Cookie Cutter Gift

If you need a special house gift for a summer host, consider baking cookies in special shapes. Or, bring the cookie cutters as gifts, along with pre-measured ingredients, as an activity gift.

Most people who bake have cookie cutter circles, flowers and hearts, and perhaps some holiday shapes. But with more than 15,000 listings on Amazon.com, you can find something personal for your friends and family.

For Families With Children

  • Dinosaurs
  • Farm animals
  •  
    For People With Beach Houses

  • Beachware
  • Marine life
  •  
    For Sports Enthusiasts

  • Golf clubs
  • Horses
  •  

    sea-creature-cookie-garnish-wilton

    Cookies on sticks, cookies in cakes. Photo courtesy Wilton.

     

    Just decide on your hosts’ recreational interests, and find a cookie cutter to match it.

      

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    GIFT: Assorted Burger Box From Omaha Steaks

    Owe someone a gift? We saw this burger collection on sale at Omaha Steaks, and knew it was the solution to some of our own gift-giving challenges, to thank everyone who has invited us to spend a summer weekend outside the city.

    The “Burger Mania Combo” includes four each of:

  • Beef Burgers, ground from the trimmings of Omaha steaks
  • Brisket Burgers, a bold, beefier take on the traditional sirloin blend
  • Pork & Bacon Burgers, a savory flavor explosion
  • Salmon Burgers, full of flavor and color
  • Veggie Burgers: delicious and packed with fiber
  •  
    THE SALE

     

    assorted-burgers-omahasteaks-230

    A burger bonanza: five different types of burger. Where to begin? Photo courtesy Omaha Steaks.

    The collection of 20 burgers, regularly $146.00, is on sale for $54.99. That’s a savings of $91.01, which more than offsets the shipping.
     
    The patties are four to six ounces, depending on variety. Order yours at OmahaSteaks.com.

    The burger patties arrive frozen. BYO buns and garnishes.

    For starters, here are 12 burger recipes from Omaha Steaks.

    That’s part of the fun. Make a party out of mix-and-match burgers, buns, sauces and garnishes. And beer, of course.

      

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    PRODUCT: Cake In A Jar

    Way back in 2009, we discovered the excellent cake in a jar from Yummy Cupcakes in Los Angeles. It became a Top Pick Of The Week, and one of those products that, years later, we still pine for, remembering every spoonful.

    The trend was slow in starting. After five years, in the past week we’ve received notice of two more cake in a jar products.

    DUFF’S CAKEMIX

    The Food Network’s Ace of Cakes, Duff Goldman, has a custom bakery in Baltimore, a line of cake mixes and cake decorating accoutrements sold nationwide, and most recently, a bakery café, Duff’s Cakemix, also in L.A., which includes a studio where Duff wannabes can decorate their own cakes.

    The bakery offers an array of freshly baked sweets, including Dinkies (Duff’s version of Twinkies) and Cake in a Jar.

    The latter presents an opportunity to send a special occasion “slice” of cake in a Mason jar, which keeps it moist and fresh for five days (not that there will be any left by then).

    So gift challenges are solved: You can send cake in a jar as a birthday gift, or to celebrate any occasion. There’s currently a seasonal red, white and blue Star Spangled Cake In A Jar.

       

    confetti-cake-duffscakemix-230

    Confetti Cake is sweet and celebratory. Photo courtesy Duff’s Cakemix.

     
    You can buy them in two, four or six units, and in two sizes: 8 ounces ($14 for two jars) or 16 ounces ($20 for two jars). The eight-ounce size is more than enough, but the larger size will keep for five days and affords the opportunity for continuous celebration.

    Flavors include Chocolate With Chocolate Buttercream and Chocolate Chips, Confetti With Vanilla Buttercream, Marble With Chocolate And Vanilla Buttercream and Vanilla With Vanilla Buttercream.

    We received a sample of the Confetti With Vanilla Buttercream. The confetti says “celebrate”; the recipe was a bit on the sweet side for us, but should be just the thing most American palates are looking for.

    Order them online at DuffsCakemix.com.

     

    jar-open-chicagocake-230

    Skip the wedding cake; almost everyone will
    prefer cake in a jar. Photo courtesy Chicago-
    Cake.com.

     

    CAKE CHICAGO

    We then received news that one of our favorite artisan bakers, Cake Chicago, is selling cake in a jar.

    Cake Chicago began life as a wedding cake specialist, subsequently branching out into daily treats like cookies, bars and chocolate truffles.

    So it’s no surprise that their cake in a jar achieves a higher standard. Just look at the elegant layers in the jar, perfectly fitted.

    We’d give these as wedding favors and serve a dessert that most guests will prefer to wedding cake. As you can see in the photos, the perfectly-fitted layers and make an excellent presentation.

    Like Duff’s, the jars can be wrapped in grosgrain ribbon, and tags can be added for quantity orders.

     
    Flavors include:

  • White buttermilk cake with raspberry conserve and Italian meringue buttercream
  • Chocolate fudge cake with salted caramel filing
  • Carrot cake with cream cheese filling
  • Banana cake with fudge filling
  •  
    The price is the same as Duff’s: $7.00, with a two jar minimum (8 ounce size only). Order online at Cake-Chicago.com.

    And if anyone out there wants to send us a gift: More cake in a jar, please! It’s a happy way to enjoy a nice piece of cake.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Buy Peaches

    bowl-summerset-peaches-froghollow-230

    Summerset peaches. Photo courtesy Frog
    Hollow Farm.

     

    This tip is from Pearl Driver, the marketing director at Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood, California (in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area) and Farmer Al Courchesne, a co-owner and farmer-in-chief.

    “Before I started working with Frog Hollow Farm,” says Pearl, I would carefully inspect each individual piece of fruit and select what I believed was the sweetest and most ready-to-eat—only to go home and find out how off the mark I was!”

    She now shares her “insider tips” on how to select peaches.

    HOW TO BUY PEACHES

    There are three main characteristics help to identify a sweet, juicy, ready-to-eat peach: color, touch and skin texture.

     
    Color

    The real color you want to look for is not the rosy blush but the background color of the fruit. It should be deeply golden, not pale yellow.

    The rosy red color is deceptive: Our brains are genetically evolved to think that the color red implies delicious and sweet. As a result, peach growers have bred the red color into their peaches. It doesn’t ensure superior fruit.

     

    Touch

    You can tell if a peach is ripe by a gentle yet firm squeeze with your fingers (not hard enough to bruise it). If there’s a little bit of a give, it means that the fruit is almost ripe—but not quite.

    Leave that peach on the kitchen counter for another 2 to 3 days, until it is soft to very soft.

    Skin Texture

    This is the most telling of all three characteristics, and the one least known.

    You can tell that a peach is ready to eat by looking for signs of shriveled skin around the stem end. Those wrinkles indicate a really ripe peach.

    The wrinkles develop during ripening, when water starts to evaporate from the fruit’s porous skin. As the peach starts to dry up, the flavors intensify.

    Now you’re ready to head out and pick out some peaches.

     

    organic_peaches_autumnFlame-froghollowfarm-230

    Autumn Flame peaches. Photo courtesy Frog Hollow Farm.

     
    Storage

    When you get them home, here’s a grower’s tip: Always store fruit on your kitchen counter in such a way that no two pieces of fruit are in contact with each other.

    In other words, it’s better to line them up on the counter than have them touching each other in a fruit bowl.

    A final suggestion:

    Pearl’s favorite fruits from the farm are the O’Henry peach and the Flavor King pluot. So keep checking the website and when you find them, treat yourself to a box.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Jam For Inspector Clouseau

    gift-box-deptofsweetdiversionsFB-230sq

    Jam in covert gift packaging. Photo courtesy Dept. Of Sweet Diversions.

     

    With popular television franchises like CSI, Law & Order and NCIS, detective culture has finally seeped into specialty food.

    The perps (actually, they’re the good guys) moved from Europe to Los Angeles to form their artisan jam agency (“a top secret covert organization”).

    Agent Copperpot hails from France, where she learned the craft of small batch jam making from both of her grandmothers. Chester Pinkerton, born and raised in Switzerland, is a professional illustrator.

    They created the Dept. of Sweet Diversions with a primary objective “to create delicious little diversions so you can treat yourself to something truly special.”

    Otherwise stated, their goal is to elevate the art of preserving to inspire people to try new fruit and flavor combinations.

     

    They source local organic and/or sustainably grown fruit in bountiful southern California, and make jams, jellies, marmalades and fruit butters. (Check out the different types of jam and other spreads.) Most of the ingredients come from farmers markets within a 12 mile radius of their kitchen.

    The jam is made by hand in small batches using traditional techniques. Each flavor features organic ingredients and is completely free of preservatives. Nothing is processed (even the pectin is homemade).

    The pair are quick to note that “Breakfast isn’t the only meal of the day that should feature jam, it’s just the first!”

    Their jams pair exquisitely with fine cheeses, mixed into cocktails and served as a condiment with fish and meat dishes. But don’t stop there: Here are 20 of THE NIBBLE’s favorite ways to use fine jam.

     

    The current line consists of eight choices, available plain or in “covert” gift packaging.

  • The Cocoa Caper: orange jam with dark chocolate. Enjoy it on a crêpe.
  • The Grand Scheme: strawberry jam with Grand Marnier liqueur. Pair it with brioche.
  • Master of Disguise: tomato jam infused with basil. Pair it with burrata cheese.
  • Mr. Bartlett’s Stepchild: pear jam with ginger and acacia honey. Pair it with Cheddar.
  • Operation Peppercorn: strawberry jam with balsamic vinegar & the refined heat of black pepper. Pair it with goat cheese or Brie.
  • The Return of Mr. Bartlett: pear jam with vanilla bean and chestnut honey. Pair it with blue cheese or top French vanilla ice cream.
  • The Sanguine Seduction: blood orange marmalade with vanilla bean. Enjoy it on toast.
  • The Suite Surprise: apple butter sweetened with agave. Enjoy it on a peanut butter sandwich.
  •  

    mr.bartlett-pearjam-vanillabean-chestnuthoney-230

    We devoured the contents with a spoon! Photo courtesy Dept. Of Sweet Diversions.

     
    We received samples of Master of Disguise (tomato jam), Operation Peppercorn (strawberry balsamic), The Return of Mr. Bartlett (pear jam) and The Sanguine Seduction (blood orange). We’ll be ordering more of the delicious blood orange marmalade and tomato jam. We demolished the contents with a spoon!

    And we’ll be trying more flavors, too. A six-ounce jar is $12, or $14 with Top Secret gift wrap.

    Discover more at Dept.OfSweetDiversions.com.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Blake Hill Preserves

    grapefruit-lemon-thyme-marmalade-230

    One of the exquisite marmalades. Photo by
    Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Blake Hill Preserves is an artisan chutney, jam and marmalade producer based near historic Grafton Village in Vermont’s Green Mountains. There, a gifted duo traditionally crafts all-natural chutneys, jams and preserves with sophisticated modern, bright, fruit-forward flavors and marvelous textures. You can see the difference, even before you taste it.

    Each small batch is slow-cooked by hand, carefully layering the ingredients to concentrate intense, fresh flavors. All of the ingredients are top quality ingredients, many organic. The line is certified kosher by OU.

    One weekend in 2009, Vicky, a third-generation English preserve maker, turned a bumper crop of wild blackberries growing on Blake Hill Farm into 70 jars of glistening jam. A friend sneaked a jar to the local grocery store and returned an hour later with Vicky’s first jam order; Vicky and Joe Hanglin formed Blake Hill Preserves and have been pleasing demanding palates ever since.

    Joe, who grew up in Gibraltar with British, Spanish and Italian ancestry, brings his culinary heritage to the line of chutneys, some of which are made with fruits, vegetables and spices inspired by Moroccan tagines and the flavors of the Middle East.

     

    We were thrilled with the samples they sent us, and recommend them to all for personal enjoyment and gifting.

    The 200-year-old farm, purchased in 2004, came with meandering old stone walls, beautiful wooded trails and an abundance of wild blackberry and raspberry bushes. Vicky and Joeadded blueberries, gooseberries and blush-pink rhubarb, all of which are use to make the wonderful spreads.

    Since everything is made in small batches, so flavors can sell out. But today, you can purchase this cornucopia of exquisite products:

    CHUTNEYS

  • Apricot & Fresh Orange
  • Cranberry, Apple & Mulling Spices
  • Middle Eastern Date & Red Chile
  • Moroccan Plum & Fennel
  • Rhubarb, Apple & Ginger
  •  

    JAMS

  • Blackberry & Rhubarb
  • Blueberries & Summer Plum
  • Perfectly Plum
  • Raspberry & Hibiscus Flower
  • Strawberry & Rhubarb
  •  
    MARMALADES

  • Fresh Seville Orange
  • Grapefruit & Lemon
  • Lemon, Lime & Aged 100% Agave Tequila
  • Orange & 10-Year Single Malt Whisky
  • Orange, Lime & Ginger
  •  

    The products are completely natural, low sugar, low salt, gluten free and fat free. Beyond spreads, they are delicious with cheese plates, with grilled paninis and other sandwiches, as condiments for everything from barbecue to winter stews, as dessert toppings and much more.

     

    plum-fennel-chutney-230

    Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    At $7.49 per jar, these are wonderful gifts—and when you gift yourself with a selection, you’ll be spoiled forever. Say the owners, “It takes up to 13 ounces of fruit and vegetables to fill every 13 ounce jar!”

    Get yours at BlakeHillPreserves.com.

      

    Comments

    FATHER’S DAY: Maggie Louise Salted Caramel Heraldic Shields

    If Dad is the king on Father’s Day, how about a box of these chocolate heraldic shields, filled with salted caramel?

    Any celebrant who appreciates fine chocolate will roar when he receives a box of such luscious chocolates, embossed with kingly lions.

    The heraldic shields are crafted in extra dark chocolate by El Rey and filled with vanilla bean cream caramel and sea salt. As a finishing touch, the chocolate is brushed with edible gold.

    We’re fans of Maggie Louise, who combines design flare with terrific taste and beautiful packaging.

    A 6-piece gift box is $13.50.

    Get yours at MaggieLouiseConfections.com.

    And browse the website for more wonderful chocolate creations.

     

    shields-gift-box-230s

    Regal and delectable: salt caramel heraldic shields. Photo courtesy Maggie Louise.

     

      

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    PRODUCT: Limited Edition Garrett’s Smoky Cheese Popcorn

    In advance of Father’s Day, Chicago popcorn palace Garrett’s has introduced limited-edition Smoky CheeseCorn, for gifting or party fare.

    The popcorn is handmade daily from the highest quality ingredients and a signature blend of kernels. It is hot-air popped and stirred into freshly melted sharp cheddar cheese, infused with a wisp of hickory smoke.

    Purchase at Garrett popcorn shops in Chicago, Las Vegas and New York (plus international—see the store locator), or online at GarrettPopcorn.com.

    You can send Dad a one-gallon tin for Father’s Day, or the ginormous 6.5-gallon tin to feed a whole party. The flavor will be available through the summer barbecue season.

     

    smoky-cheesecorn-garrett-230r

    Cheesy and smoky: new Smoky CheeseCorn. Photo courtesy Garrett’s.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Beer Glasses ~ Stout Glasses

    stout-glass-spielgau-230

    Stout has never tasted better. Photo courtesy Spielgau.

     

    For decades, connoisseurs of fine wines and spirits have been able to enjoy them in glasses engineered by Riedel, to bring out every last nuance of flavor and aroma. If you’ve ever compared drinking a wine from the correct varietal-specific Riedel glass (Bordeaux, Brandy, Chardonnay, Tequila, etc.) and a generic wine glass, you know the results are amazing.

    Last year right before Father’s Day, we featured the first variety-specific beer glass, an IPA glass from Spielgau, specially contoured to enhance the flavors and aromas of IPA beer.

    This year, Spielgau—a 500 year-old company that was purchased by Riedel in 2004—adds the world’s first stout-specific glass. The company hopes to do for beer what its parent company has done for wine.

    Stout is a heavier style of beer characterized dark color, malty flavor, and thick, foamy head. The wide mouth of the 21-ounce Spiegelau Stout glass is conducive to pouring a strong head, while the flared base helps focus the beer’s aromas, which can then emanate from the glass’s wide opening. (See the different types of beers.)

     

    The stout glass was developed and tested with two American craft brewers of stout: Left Hand Brewing Company of Colorado and Rogue Ales of Oregon. A set of two glasses is $25 at SpielgauUSA.com. Branded versions of the glass with brewery logos are available through LeftHandBrewing.com and Rogue.com, respectively.

     

    HOW THE SPIEGEL STOUT GLASS WAS DEVELOPED

    Hundreds of glasses pulled from Spiegelau’s glassware archive were tested against a variety of the brewers’ own stouts to find the glass shape that had the most profound effect on the aromas and flavor profiles of each stout beer. After narrowing the options to a handful of shapes, Spiegelau’s German factory created six final prototypes for testing all stouts, varying by several millimeters in height, bowl width, angle and capacity.

    After many deliberations, Left Hand Brewing Company and Rogue Ales separately and unanimously determined that the Prototype “C” stout glass delivered the optimal taste, aroma and mouth feel to enhance stout beers. The winning shape has:

  • A voluminous, open bottom glass base that drives beer and aromatic foam upward into the main bowl.
  • A wider, conical bowl that significantly amplifies aromas and also provides superior flow to mid palate, improving the taste, mouth feel and finish of complex stout beers.
  • A stark, angular shape and open base that create dramatic visual cascading effect into the glass as the beer is poured.
  • Ultra-pure quartz material, that makes for unsurpassed clarity and flawless, true color presentation of stout beer.
  •  
    So the next great gift for a beer lover: Spielgau stout glasses with a selection of artisan stouts.

     

    rogue-stout-glass-proofbrewingco-230

    The two “developer” breweries offer branded versions of the stout glass. Photo courtesy Proof Brewing Co.

     

    ABOUT STOUT

    The darkest and heartiest of beers, a stout is top fermented and differentiated from a regular ale by its brown-black color, chocolate-coffee flavors and fuller body. This is achieved by brewing with barley that has been dark-roasted to the point of charring (think of espresso beans, compared to a medium-roast coffee). Stout is thus both darker and maltier than porter, has a more pronounced hop aroma, and may reach an alcoholic content of 6% to 7%.

    Stout originated in Ireland, where most traditional stouts are very rich, yet sharp and slightly bitter. Stout is well-paired with strong cheese and a spicy sausage such as andouille. There are different types of stout:

  • Chocolate stout is a sub-category that uses different malts for an even more pronounced chocolate flavor. These days, some brewers add actual chocolate into the brew, or brew over cacao beans, or both.
  • Coffee stout uses dark roasted malts to add a bitter coffee flavor. With the tandem growth of interest in microbrews and fine coffee, craft brewers have added specific ground beans to create, for example, “Breakfast Coffee Stout,” “Espresso Stout” and “Guatemalan Coffee Stout.”
  • Cream stout or milk stout is a style made sweeter with unfermentable lactose (milk sugar).
  • Dry stout or Irish stout is very dark and toasty or coffee-note style, exemplified by the world-famous Guinness.
  • Imperial stout, Russian stout or Russian imperial stout has more of a rich, roasted quality and a higher level of alcohol. These are potent beers that can be almost as thickly textured as liqueur. Examples include Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout at 7% alcohol and Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout, at 8.7% alcohol. The alcohol content of imperial stouts can go to 9% and 10%.
  • Oatmeal stout adds oatmeal to the mash, which gives a smoothness and creaminess to the stout. It has more restrained flavors and less alcohol than Imperial stout. Samuel Smith makes a benchmark oatmeal stout, with notes of fruit, licorice, chocolate and toffee.
  •   

    Comments

    BOOK: Kitchen Survival Guide For Men

    save-the-males-230

    Save the males: Teach them to cook for
    themselves. Photo courtesy Save The Males
    Publishing.

     

    Chef Gordon Smith has cooked for royalty, celebrities, executives, and Olympic athletes. Now, in his mission to “save the males,” he tells men what they need to know to survive on their own—by cooking good food at home instead of resorting to less-good-for-you fast food and take-out.

    His book, Save the Males: A Kitchen Survival Cookbook, is a fun gift for single men as well as husbands, significant others and other men who have to fend for themselves in the kitchen, whether full-time or on occasion. It’s a practical culinary foundation for the novice and a great refresher course for any home cook.

    (If you’re buying the book on Amazon.com, note that there’s another book named Save The Males, about relationships. Don’t let it confuse you. The one you want is co-authored by Reparata Mazzola and Gordon Smith.)

    The underlying goal of “Save the Males” is fun, as Chef Gordon teaches readers how to switch from prepared foods to foods they prepare. An empty kitchen goes from foreboding to a place fragrant with delicious meals they cook meals for themselves, family and friends.

     

    Chef Gordon Smith is a regular guy who knows from experience that cooking improves one’s health and appearance (eat better!) as well as one’s sex life (a home cooked dinner is romantic!).

    Cooking for oneself is not only empowering; it could lead to a new hobby—or at least, it could get the man in your life to prepare dinner more often.

    And that’s the reason to give copies to dads, grads, brothers, sons and friends.

     
      

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