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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

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: The Flying Meatballs

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Six large meatballs are tucked under a
blanket of smooth tomato sauce. Photo by
Faith Tomases | THE NIBBLE.

 

There is a National Meatball Day: It’s coming up soon, on March 9th. And we know just how we’re going to celebrate: with lots and lots of The Flying Meatballs.

The Flying Meatballs is a side business established by an elegant restaurant in Whippany, New Jersey, Il Capriccio. The restaurant’s meatballs have been a perennial menu favorite, with patrons always asking for orders to go.

The Grande family, owners of the restaurant, decided that the meatballs were ideal for selling directly to consumers—that they would literally “fly off the shelves.” Hence the brand name.

Made in small batches, the meatballs are now sold direct-to-consumers at TheFlyingMeatballs.com). They’ll also be at a growing list of deli counters, currently at Balducci’s and King’s (listen up, Fairway!).

Six meatballs, blanketed in sauce, include a choice of:

  • The Classic Meatballs, a 50:50 blend of beef and veal, $16.00
  • 100% Premium Beef Meatballs, $15.00
  • Organic Grass-Fed Meatballs, $25.00
  • The Three Meats Meatballs—beef, pork and veal—$15.00
  • 100% Premium Turkey Meatballs, $15.00
  •  
    The company sent us a sample of each, and we’re now a raving fan. Each order of meatballs is packed by the half-dozen in a velvety tomato sauce. The meatballs are bit: about 3.5 ounces in weight and about three inches in diameter. Two meatballs is more than enough for adults; small eaters and children will do well with one meatball. A big eater, we consumed them without the conventional pasta or submarine roll, with just a big salad. We were more than satisfied.

    Everything is made from scratch, including the breadcrumbs. Just as at the restaurant, prime, natural cuts of meat and premium ingredients are combined into a dense yet tender texture. You get lots of great meat for the money.

    Chef Grande has a degree in engineering, which enabled him to design and build a proprietary meatball extruder. The technology creates a replicate a perfectly hand-rolled meatball, just like his grandmother makes.

    The meatballs are flash frozen after being made and keep their flavor and consistency until thawed and cooked.

    “We’re bringing the comforts of Nonna’s kitchen to customers’ doorsteps,” says chef Natale Grande. The recipe, handed down through generations, rocks. We must give a shout out to the wonderful sauce. A velvety purée, more a gravy than a conventional chunky sauce, it is so good we would like to buy buckets of it and put it on everything.

     

    DELICIOUS ACCOMPANIMENTS

    Pasta

    The company also sells premium imported pastas from Rustichella d’Abruzzo:

  • The curly al torchio (the torchio is the press that shapes them)
  • Bucatini, thick spaghetti with a hollow center
  • Casarecce, meaning “homestyle,” two-inch twists
  • Farro (spelt) penne rigate, short tubes with ridges
  • Fusilli, “little spindles,” a variation of corkscrew pasta
  • Spaghetti, the oldest cut (the name means “lengths of cords”)
  • Organic whole wheat spaghetti
  • Organic kamut pasta from pasta maker Gianluigi Peduzzi
  •  
    Grating Cheeses

    For a primo pasta experience, there’s a choice of six aged Italian cheeses:

     

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    Bundles of love. Photo courtesy The Flying Meatballs.

  • Vacche Rosse (“Red Cow”), 30 months aged), considered to be the finest Parmigiaino-Reggiano
  • Grana padano
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Percorino crotonese
  • Pecorino romano
  • Ricotta salata
  •  
    You can see that it’s not all about Parmigiano-Reggiano. The next time you make pasta, consider one of the others. Check out our article, Italian Grating Cheeses.
     
    Pasta Sauces

    The same is true with the sauce. Much as a tomato sauce is beloved on pasta, consider other favorites from the Grande family, including:

  • Basil pesto
  • Classic tomato ragu (the signature San Marzano-based tomatoes sauce that envelopes the meatballs
  • Roasted garlic and broccoli rabe purée
  • Mascarpone fondu, a smooth and very creamy cheese sauce made from blend of mascarpone cheese and 18-month-aged Grana Padano cheese
  •  
    Along with some fine olive oils and a mac and cheese (a blend of Gruyère, provolone and marscopone with a touch of nutmeg over imported gemelli pasta—we can’t wait to try it), TheFlyingMeatballs.com is a treasure trove for delicious Italian comfort food.

    For a treat or a gift (the packaging is quite attractive), order a slew of meatballs. All are delicious, although our personal favorite was the complex layering of Three Meats.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Chocolate Pills

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    A cure for some: chocolate pills. Photo courtesy Fika.

     

    If you have a friend suffering from heartache, how about chocolate pills for a Valentine’s Day cure?

    These pills are roasted and caramelized hazelnuts and almonds, enrobed in 70% dark chocolate.

    The prescription for instant happiness: 3-5 chocolate covered nuts daily.

    A bottle of Chocolate Pills is $8.00 at FikaNYC.com.

    Adapting the coffee-centric lifestyle of Sweden, Fika is a coffee house and confectionery with several locations in Manhattan. Chocolates are hand-made in house and are sold online.

     

     
      

    Comments

    GIFT: Red Rocker Cashew Toffee

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    Delicious toffee made with cashews instead of conventional almonds. Photo courtesy Red
    Rocker Candy.

     

    Red Rocker Candy, of Troy, Virginia, makes one of our favorite toffees: Cashew Toffee with White Chocolate. Every batch is hand-made using only the finest ingredients: pure butter, the best nuts money can buy and fine chocolate couverture.

    The result is just the way we like it: oh so buttery, with the different twists of roasted cashew instead of almonds, and white chocolate (although dark chocolate and milk chocolate versions are available).

    The toffee is a best-seller year-round; but in its bright red packaging, it makes a delicious Valentine gift.

  • Red foil package, 8 ounces, $12.00
  • Red gift box, 16 ounces, $24.00
  • Jumbo box, 5 pounds, $72.00
  •  
    Get yours at Red Rocker Candy.com.

    And get some for your Valentine, too.

     

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pairing Cheese & Chocolate

    Forget the bread, crackers and fruit: Who knew that plain chocolate, chocolate truffles and chocolate-covered caramels—the latter two with prominent dairy and buttery notes—pair so well with cheese?

    We know that chocolate cheesecake, and a chocolate ganache topping on regular cheesecake, are delicious. So how about serving a piece of cheese with a piece of chocolate?

    If you love both cheese and chocolate, you can have a party that pairs both, for Valentine’s Day or any special occasion. You can pair almost any cheese, from a sweet mascarpone to a mushroomy Brie to a tangy blue. You can also add toasted nuts and a libation of choice. But start with some guidance from the experts.

    When deciding on pairings, contrast textures in the cheese and chocolate. For example, try a soft, creamy cheese with a simple dark chocolate square, or a hard, crumbly cheese drizzled with chocolate ganache.

    Lake Champlain Chocolates offers these insights:

  • Soft ripened goat’s, sheep’s or cow’s milk cheeses tend to be more pungent, acidic and aggressive and pair well with both dark chocolate and milk chocolate.
  •    

    chocolate-and-cheese-dallmanconfections-230

    Cheese and chocolate? Absolutely! Photo courtesy DallmanConfections.com.

  • Aged cheese is nutty, and less acidic, with a crunchy texture that pairs well with chocolates with fillings and inclusions, such as almonds, honey and maple.
  • Blue cheese, with its sharp, pungent aromas and flavors, enhances the undertones of bittersweet dark chocolate (70% or higher cacao content).
  •  
    RealCaliforniaMilk.com suggests pairing:

  • Bittersweet chocolates with salty cheeses, like aged Asiago, Parmesan or pecorino.
  • Dark chocolate with complex, aged cheeses such as Beaufort, Cheshire, aged Gruyère, Manchego.
  • Milk chocolate with fresh, sweet cheese like crescenza, cream cheese, crème fraîche, mascarpone, ricotta, and Teleme; or buttery, semisoft cheeses like Brie, creamy blues, triple crèmes and washed rind cheeses.
  • Chocolate with nuts or dried fruits with creamier, semisoft cheeses as well as aged, more complex cheeses, such as Asiago, Cheddar, fontina, Gouda, or beer or wine washed rind cheeses.
  • Spicy chocolates with sharp cheeses that are not overly salty: aged Gouda and aged Jack for example.
  •  
    Vermont Creamery likes these pairings:

  • Fresh goat cheese with its creamy tartness with dense milk or dark chocolate truffles.
  • Soft, ripened cheese with dark chocolate, especially those spiced with cinnamon, cayenne or anise for a more complex flavor profile. Try Aztec chocolate with aged goat cheese.
  • Aged cheese with nutty notes, such as good Cheddar, well with an almond chocolate bar or chocolate-covered almonds. Bonbons with honey and maple fillings work, too.
  • Strong blue cheese, sharp and pungent with semisweet dark chocolate. Try a great blue like Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue with a simple bar of 50% to 65% cacao.
  •  

    jasper-hill-cheese-chocolate-230

    Jasper Hill’s chocolate and cheese Valentine git set. Photo courtesy Jasper Hill Farm.

     

    You can download an extensive party guide from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, but here are the highlights:

  • Alpine-style cheese like Gruyère or Emmental, with milk chocolate. Since the Alpine cheeses have nutty notes, you can also pair add some nuts, from plain almonds or walnuts to rosemary cashews.
  • Aged Cheddar with chocolate-dipped bacon or with Aztec (spicy) dark chocolate. Hints of cayenne or other pepper really work with Cheddar. Also try spicy chocolate with a blue cheese.
  • Aged Parmesan with dark chocolate and oatmeal stout. The nutty flavor of aged Parmesan also invites dark chocolate covered almonds. If you’re a beer drinker, try it with an oatmeal stout.
  • Blue cheese with dark chocolate truffles and a glass of Port. Blue cheese and Port are already a popular pairing. The dark chocolate bridges the saltiness of the cheese and the sweetness of the wine.
  • Mixed milk cheese—a combination of cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk—tend to have an intense earthy flavor. Pair them with white chocolate, with its sweeter counterpoint. If you like, add some cranberry chutney. These earthy cheeses also work well with chocolate-covered salt caramels. Yum!
  •  
    The great British chef Heston Blumenthal pairs caviar and white chocolate. So if you have a favorite food, test it with a bite of dark, milk or white chocolate to see if it works.
     
    CHEESE & CHOCOLATE GIFT BOX

    Brooklyn chocolatiers the Mast brothers, known for their small batch, artisan chocolate bars, joined up with Jasper Hill Farm to develop a milk chocolate trio that showcases the flavors of cow’s, sheep’s, and goat’s milks.

    It’s a rare experience to see how a chocolate bar made with other animal milks compare with the familiar cow’s milk used in all conventional milk chocolate. Here’s your chance! These particular bars are made with semisweet 60% cacao that has naturally nutty notes. But what you’ll also find is that:

  • The cow’s milk bar has toasty notes of tobacco and wood smoke.
  • The goat’s milk bar has notes of citrus and date.
  • The sheep’s milk bar tastes of dulce du leche and fresh dairy.
  •  
    Jasper Hill Farm has created a Cheese & Chocolate Gift Box that pairs this unique chocolate trio with two chocolate-loving cheeses. Each gift box contains the three 2.5-ounce chocolate bars plus:

  • Bayley Hazen Blue, made with raw cow’s milk, a creamy blue cheese with sweet undertones (8 ounces). Pairing with chocolate brings out its buttery flavors of the milk.
  • Weybridge, made with organic cow’s milk, a bright, dense cheese with an edible bloomy rind. A bright, tangy cheese, it has a yogurty flavor that becomes more intense and gamey as it ages. It’s made in a limited-edition heart shaped just for Valentine’s Day (3.5 ounces).
  •  
    The gift box is $62.00 at JasperHillFarm.Shop.com. You can order any time and specify your preferred delivery date.
      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFTS: Chocolate Lips, Macarons In Red

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    You can actually reuse the “clutch” packaging
    as a fun evening bag. Photo by Faith
    Tomases | THE NIBBLE.

     

    We love gifts with “keeper” boxes. We always find ways to repurpose the boxes, which continue to remind us of the gift and the giver.

    Pâtissier François Payard has chosen beautiful packaging for his Valentine confections. We’ve selected two to highlight. Both can be shipped nationwide.

    “Kiss Me” Chocolates

    Eighteen luscious lips are packaged in a container so lovely, you could use it as an evening clutch.

    Half of the chocolates are milk chocolate filled with caramel and fleur de sel, enrobed in Valrhona’s 40% Jivara Milk Chocolate.

    The other half are gancache-filled dark chocolate, Valrhona’s 66% Caraibe. The ganache is infused with freshly puréed passion fruit and mango.

    The two flavors are a contrast in deliciousness: creamy caramel versus tangy fruit. A gift of Kiss Me Chocolates should earn you many actual kisses in return.

     

    “Sweet Love” Macaron Collection

    Pull the ribbon on the drawer of the box, and pull out 12 elegant macarons. There are four each in:

  • Cassis Violet: white chocolate with violet & black currants ganache
  • Passion Fruit & Banana: white chocolate with banana & passion fruit ganache
  • Rose Water: white chocolate with rose water ganache
  •  
    ABOUT CHEF PAYARD

    Born and trained in France (he’s a third-generation pastry chef), Payard moved to New York in 1990 as Pastry Chef at the four-star Le Bernardin restaurant, and subsequently at the four-star Restaurant Daniel. He was named Pastry Chef of the Yearin 1995, by the James Beard Foundation.

    Now the proprietor of five bakeries/bakery-cafés in New York City, he also sells selected products online.

    Discover more at Payard.com.

     

    macarons-230

    A drawer of macarons pulls out with a satin ribbon. Photo by Faith Tomases | THE NIBBLE..

     

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Shiny Chocolate Hearts

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    Pretty to look at, these shiny chocolate hearts are filled with luscious raspberry-infused ganache. Photo courtesy Kohler.

     

    These lovely hearts, from Kohler Chocolates, are beautifully crafted:

    The dark chocolate shells are filled with a delicate raspberry-accented chocolate ganache.

    The dark chocolate is then enrobed with a thin layer of red-tinted white chocolate, which is hand painted with pink dots, and glazed to a very dazzling shine.

    Choose from four sizes, gift-boxed and tied with a lovely ribbon. The smallest size makes a great wedding favor.

  • 4-Piece Box, $9.99
  • 9-Piece Box, $18.99
  • 32-Piece Box, $59.99
  •  
    Get yours at KohlerChocolates.com.

     

     
      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: “Breakfast” Chocolate Bars

    If you know someone who would gladly eat chocolate for breakfast, [s]he may be able to justify it with these new chocolate bars from Chuao Chocolatier:

  • Cinnamon Cereal Smooch, milk chocolate mixed with bits of cinnamon toast cereal.
  • Strawberry Waffle Wild, milk chocolate mixed with tart dried strawberries and crispy waffle pieces.
  •  
    They join an existing line of 14 palate-pleasing and imaginative chocolate bars, including Baconluxious and Potato Chip.

    The chocolate bars sell for an SRP of $6.00 (but are on sale for $4.00), and can be found online at ChuaoChocolatier.com as well as at major retailers nationwide, including Bed Bath & Beyond, REI and Whole Foods Markets.

    MAKE YOUR OWN CEREAL CHOCOLATE BARS

    For about the same price, you can make your own chocolate bars at Chocomize.com. This fun company utilizes a process that lets you place your choice of some 70 different ingredients—fruits, nuts, candies, spices—atop a dark, milk or white Belgian chocolate bar.

     

    strawberry-waffle-wild-bar-230

    “Breakfast chocolate,” embedded with cereal. Photo courtesy Chuao Chocolatier.

     
    Cereal options include Caramelized Rice Krispies, Teddy Grahams, Vanilla Granola and Waffle Crunch. Non-cereal options include from Potato Chips and Real Bacon.

    For Valentine’s Day, there are Candy Sugar Hearts, Message Hearts and LOVE plaques in white chocolate, along with Lavender Petals, 24 Karat Gold Flakes and Pink Pop Rocks.

    You can create your own bar or send a gift certificate so the recipient can customize excactly what [s]he wants. (In fact, the gift certificates are one of our favorite Valentine gifts.)

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Mini Cupcakes From Baked By Melissa

    These itty bitty cupcakes (about half the size of the photo) will delight kids and adults equally.

    The Valentine Collection from Baked By Melissa—a pioneer in tiny cupcakes—includes three varieties. Packaged in a gift box with a pink ribbon, the Valentine Collection includes:

  • White Chocolate Pretzel Cupcakes: white vanilla cake, Bavarian cream stuffing, vanilla icing, white chocolate covered pretzel and chocolate drizzle topping.
  • Red Velvet Pretzel Cupcakes: Red velvet cake, cream cheese icing, milk chocolate covered pretzel and chocolate drizzle topping.
  • Peanut Butter Pretzel Cupcakes: chocolate cake, peanut butter stuffing, chocolate icing, dark chocolate pretzel and chocolate drizzle topping.
  •  
    The round ball at the top is a chocolate-covered pretzel, adding crunch and a hint of salt to the sweet cupcakes. The cupcakes are bite-size: slightly larger than the diameter of a quarter, one or two bites.

    In the words of Melissa, a little cupcake equals a lot of love.

    The cupcakes, which are kosher-certified by OK, can be shipped nationwide and can be pre-ordered starting today. A 25-piece gift box is $25, plus shipping.

       

    peanut_butter_pretzel-230

    Shown here about twice the actual size, the cupcakes have the diameter of a quarter. Photo courtesy Baked By Melissa.

     
    To place an order, head to BakeByMelissa.com. For Valentine’s Day delivery, shipping orders must be placed by 3 p.m. on Friday, February 13th.

     

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    The Valentine gift box, tied with a pink ribbon. Photo courtesy Baked By Melissa.

     

    CUPCAKE HISTORY

    Before the advent of muffin tins, cupcakes were baked in individual tea cups or ramekins. The first reference to the miniature cakes dates to 1796, when a recipe for “cake to be baked in small cups” appeared in the cookbook, “American Cookery.” The earliest documentation of the term “cupcake” was in “Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook” in 1828. [Source]

    Cupcakes were convenient because they cooked much faster than larger cakes. It took a long time to bake a cake in a hearth oven; cupcakes baked in a fraction of the time.

    Muffin tins became widely available around the turn of the 20th century, and offered new convenience to bakers. Paper and foil liners were created for easier removal of the cupcakes from the pan.

     

    They evolved into children’s party fare, but in the last decade have taken a more sophisticated turn. First, some younger couples began to choose “cupcake trees” instead of conventional wedding cakes. This prompted a flurry of cupcake articles and recipes, and ultimately the opening of boutique cupcake bakeries nationwide, offering everyday treats.

    Each Baked By Melissa cupcake has 70-90 calories, but that’s a workable daily treat. An average-size cupcake from Crumbs, Magnolia, Sprinkles and the like will run you 450 calories or so (here’s a calorie comparison).

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Kiss A Frog Chocolates

    If you know a woman who is still waiting for the frog to turn into the handsome prince, here’s an idea for Valentine’s Day:

    A box of Kiss A Frog chocolates, frog-shaped chocolates. The chocolates include 26 solid chocolate frogs and 6 frogs filled with peanut butter. They’re nestled in a chocolate brown, heart-shaped box tied with a gossamer green ribbon.

    The box of chocolate frogs, a total of 16 ounces, is $39.00 at BlackDinahChocolates.com.

    Black Dinah Chocolates, handmade in Maine (on a remote island offshore), are a favorite at THE NIBBLE (here’s our review).

    The confectioners also make beautiful bonbons, bark, salted caramels and other beguiling confections.

    Discover more at BlackDinahChocolatiers.com.

     

    kiss-a-frog-blackdinah-2014-230sq

    Chocolate frogs will have to do instead of a handsome prince. Photo courtesy Black Dinah Chocolates.

     

      

    Comments

    SUPER BOWL: Garrett Popcorn

    For Super Bowl munching, how about some Spicy CheeseCorn? The limited edition flavor from Garrett Popcorn is a welcome gift: a yummy blend of cayenne pepper and chili powder mixed with freshly melted Cheddar cheese corn.

    Combine with a cold beer, and you may not care who wins or loses.

    Send Spicy CheeseCorn as a gift or send some to yourself, at GarrettPopcorn.com.

    You can choose from an array of tin sizes and six different tin designs, from 1 gallon to 6.5 gallons ($31 to $135). And if you don}t like things spicy, you can choose from Garrett’s other flavors:

  • Almond CaramelCrisp
  • Buttery
  • CaramelCrisp
  • Cashew CaramelCrisp
  • CheeseCorn
  •  

    spicy-cheesecorn-beauty-230

    Spicy CheeseCorn; BYOB. Photo courtesy Garrett Popcvorn.

  • Garrett Mix (sweet CaramelCrisp with savory CheeseCorn)
  • Macadamia CaramelCrisp
  • Pecan CaramelCrisp
  • Plain
  •  
    You can order single flavors or combine three flavors in one tin. Details are on the company website.

      

    Comments

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