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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

BOOK: Craft Beer World

craft-beer-world

A gift for beer lovers. Photo courtesy Dog ‘N’
Bone.

 

Looking for a gift for your Memorial Day hosts, or for Father’s Day? Instead of a bottle of wine, how about some craft beer?

Package the beer with a copy of Craft Beer World by Mark Dredge

With the explosion in the popularity of craft beers across the globe, more must-try beers are available than ever before.

Craft Beer World presents more than 300 of the world’s most innovative and delicious, showcasing the best of each style in 50 different categories.

From an American IPA bursting with citrusy C-hops or an Imperial Stout full of dark roasted malts, the book explains the key characteristics of each, from classic to cutting edge brews.

There are also nuggets of beer information, including how to serve different beers and how to pair beer with food.

 

Also consider a beer flavor wheel, a shortcut to comparing styles.

Another type of beer flavor wheel provides descriptions of the myriad flavors of beer.

Whether you’re looking for bitter beers or brews with hints of chocolate or coffee, these guides reviews will point you in the right direction. There’s not just one perfect beer to suit your taste buds; there are many!

Check out the different types of beer in our Beer Glossary.

 

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A beer flavor wheel provides instant comparisons. Photo courtesy Beverage Ideas.

 

  

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PRODUCT: Functional Coffee K-Cups In Delicious Dark Roast

Functional foods are everyday foods and beverages enhanced with supplements that have a helpful effect on the body. Beyond normal satiation and nutrition, they do something really good for the body (that is to say, they have a specific “function”).

Beyond slaking an athlete’s thirst, for example, sports drinks restore electrolytes, carbohydrates and other nutrients that have been expended during vigorous activity. Relaxation beverages let you chill without alcohol. Energy drinks give you…wings?

Coffee Blenders has launched a line of functional coffee K-cups. Made from a 100% Arabica dark roast, with a blend of beans from Central and South, the coffee is an excellent dark roast—depth of flavor without undue bitterness. We’d buy it with or without the added functionality.

Which is a good thing, because understanding exactly how much of the functional ingredient you need to achieve the desired result can be tough to figure out. It’s true even in the simplest case of drinking conventional coffee to stay alert. What may work for you likely differs from the person next to you. Some people need one or two cups, some people five or ten cups, from the same pot of coffee.

 

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Delicious dark roast coffee with added functionality. Photo courtesy CoffeeBlenders.com.

 

Coffee Blenders Lean is fortified with Svetol®, a safe, all-natural plant extract of decaffeinated green coffee that has been clinically proven to burn fat and help with weight loss. Components in Svetol inhibit specific enzymes and shut down the glucose pathway in the body. Each cup includes 400 mg of Svetol.

Coffee Blenders Focus contains Cereboost™, a safe, fast-acting, all-natural plant extract derived from American Ginseng. Cereboost™ is clinically proven to improve brain function, especially in the cognitive areas of working memory and alertness. Each cup contains 200 mg of Cereboost.

Coffee Blenders Escape is blended with L-Tea Active™, more commonly know as L-Theanine, a safe all-natural amino acid found in green tea leaves. L-Tea Active is safe, all natural and clinically proven to induce relaxation without drowsiness while improving mental clarity. Some athletes take supplements to relax and focus before a big competition. Each cup contains “a full serving” of L-Tea Active.
 
WHERE TO BUY

Coffee Blenders Coffee, in boxes of 15 count, are $19.95 on the company website.

The company is currently running a special while supplies last: The “Lean Bundle,” consisting of four boxes (15 K-cups per box) for $71.96—a 10% savings on the coffee, plus a free French Press K-cup brewer.

The brewer, My French Press by Cafejo, is a portable, single-cup brewing system that brews K-cups and pods as well as ground coffee. It’s BPA Free, microwave- and dishwasher-safe.

Gift a box of K-cups to a friend who shares your goals (focus, stress reduction, weight loss).

  

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GIFT: Grilling Vegetables Basket

Are you guesting on Memorial Day or holding your own shindig?

If it’s the former, and you don’t have an assigned dish to bring, here’s a fresh idea:

Instead of a bottle of wine or a pan of brownies, how about a basket of freshly picked vegetables? Your hosts will have something to grill and enjoy after the party food is gone.

Melissa’s, purveyor of premium produce, has put together a barbecue gift basket of Anaheim chiles, Asian eggplant, red or yellow bell peppers, chayote squash, elephant garlic, fennel, cipolline or Maui onions, plantains and portobello mushrooms.

The idea is to provide better versions of standard grilling favorites, plus something new. (When was the last time you grilled fennel or plantains?)

 

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A gift for your barbecue hosts. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

 

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Fun skewers that circle the plate. Photo
courtesy Charcoal Companion.

 

The Melissa’s gift basket also includes:

  • A set of four circle kabobs.
  • A grilling basket to keep cut veggies from falling into the fire.
  •  
    The price is $64.99 on Melissas.com.
     
    Send it as a Memorial Day gift for dear friends and family, or a thank-you gift to your Memorial Day hosts.

    You can put your own basket together by going to the best produce market in town and picking out unusual versions of family favorites (Asian eggplant instead of conventional Italian eggplant, for example).

     

      

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    FOOD FUN: Chocolate Fried Egg

    What would you do with a chocolate fried egg?

    Serve it for breakfast, with a cup of hot chocolate?

    Give it as stocking stuffer or Mother’s Day party favor?

    Enjoy it all by yourself?

    Whatever your choice, this little treat from Maggie Louise Confections is sure to please.

    The chocolatier notes:

    “The Cordelia is a chocolate dream dish. A fried egg in a pan has turned into a chocolate skillet made with El Rey 58.5% dark chocolate, filled with hand-crafted vanilla rice crispy treats and salted caramel, then topped with an El Rey Icoa white chocolate egg.”

     

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    A chocolate fried egg in its own skillet. A perfect breakfast for chocoholics. Photo courtesy Maggie Louise.

     

    It’s the Maggie Louise version of a candy bar. Hey, we’ll take a dozen!

    (At second thought, at $14 each, we’ll take two.)

      

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    GIFT: Bird’s Nest Cheesecake

    This cheesecake gift from Harry & David is inspired by the chirping birds of spring, who decorate the top with a “nest” of premium chocolate shavings that holds a few bright blue candy almond robin’s eggs.

    The creamy cheesecakes also feature a chocolate cookie crust and a chocolate ganache layer on top.

    The two New York style cheesecake cheesecakes are 5.5 inches in diameter, enough for four people or a big piece for two.

    A delicious gift for a cheesecake lover or a special occasion dessert, the Bird’s Nest Cheesecakes duo is $29.95 at HarryAndDavid.com.
     
    BAKE YOUR OWN

    Here are some of our favorite cheesecake recipes.

     

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    Cheesecakes for springtime. Photo courtesy Harry & David.

     

      

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    EASTER: A Chocolate Box Filled With Fleur De Sel Caramels

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    Please, Easter Bunny, bring us one of these!
    Photo courtesy Charles Chocolates.

     

    Charles Chocolates of San Francisco makes some truly wonderful products. We’re gaga over the melt-in-your-mouth Orange Twigs and the Triple Chocolate Almonds.

    But for Easter, we must have a Bunny Collection Edible Chocolate Box: a white chocolate box filled with classic fleur de sel and bittersweet chocolate fleur de sel chocolate-enrobed caramels. Decorated with chicks and bunnies, there’s nothing child-like about the sophisticated flavor of these confections.

    Eighteen caramels in their edible box, 17 ounces of treats, $65.00. Order online.

    If you don’t want the edible box, you can save a few dollars by getting the fleur de sel caramels in a regular gift box.

    Ten pieces, 3.9 ounces of treats, is $24.00. Order online.

     

    If you’re in San Francisco, drop by the Charles Chocolate store in the mission district, and enjoy some goodies inside or on the outdoor patio.

      

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    EASTER: Bunny Bread & Other Sourdough Gifts

    Boudin Bakery in San Francisco loves to make bread critters. The bakery cafe, which features salads, sandwiches, soups and sourdough, Original Sourdough French Bread, has designed special gifts for Easter that can be shipped fresh anywhere in the country.

  • Sourdough Baby Bunny Rolls: Celebrate springtime with these 4oz 1-dozen adorable Sourdough Baby Bunny Rolls. $19.95; order online.
  • Easter Sourdough Bunny Gift Basket: Have friends and family who might prefer an alternative to chocolate? This basket includes a one pound sourdough Mama Bunny Bread, a half dozen Baby Bunny Rolls and an 8 ounce bag of Marich’s delightful Easter select candy mix (because you have to have a wee bit). $24.95; order online.
  • Seasonal Bread Club: 12 months of the seasonal loaves in the photo below. Each month two tangy one-pound specialty loaves arrive, including Crab Breads (January), Heart Breads (February), Shamrock Breads (March), Bunny Breads (April), Grape Clusters (May), Turtles (June), Cable Cars (July), Bears (August), Grape Clusters (September), Pumpkin Breads (October), Turkey Breads (November), Christmas Tree Breads (December). $21.95/month; order online.
  •  

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    Send bunny bread for Easter. Photo courtesy Boudin Bakery | San Francisco.

     

    Boudin Bakery was established in 1849 and is the oldest continuous operating business in San Francisco. Boudin’s original “mother dough” has been replenished with flour and water every day for more than 165 years, and the original recipe is still used. The sourdough is leavened only with wild yeast “caught” from San Francisco’s fog-cooled air.

     

    bread-gift-club-boudinbakery-230

    Great gift: 12 months of fun sourdough
    loaves. Photo courtesy Boudin Bakery.

     

    ABOUT SOURDOUGH BREAD

    Sourdough is a method of baking using lactic-acid-producing bacteria (lactobacillus) that produce a characteristic sour taste and aroma. The sour taste comes from from the lactobacillus, which lives in symbiosis with the yeast, feeding on the byproducts of the yeast fermentation.

    Until science uncovered the leavening process in the 19th century, all yeast-leavened breads were sourdough. Sourdough starter from a prior batch is used to create the new batch.

    Sourdough starters are different from other starters; while regular starters can live for several years, sourdough starters can live for generations.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Liqueur For Mom Or Dad

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    Home-infused clementine vodka. Photo ©
    Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    Our colleague Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog has already made her Mother’s Day gift: which she calls climoncello (a rift on the lemon liqueur, limoncello).

    You’ve got more than enough time to make your own liqueur for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, in any flavor you choose. It simply requires a base spirit—vodka—plus fruit and sugar.

    You don’t even have to buy fruit: You can use citrus peels leftover from other recipes, which is what started Hannah on this journey. You can save them up in a freezer bag, and make a mixed citrus if you don’t have enough of any one variety. You’ll also need a large infusing jar and a funnel.

    Then, just cook it up and let the fruit or peel infuse for a month or longer. Hannah went on vacation, forgot about the steeping peels and ended up with a three-month infusion.

    Here’s her easy recipe:

    RECIPE: CLIMONCELLO, CLEMENTINE LIQUEUR

    Ingredients

  • 14-15 clementine peels
  • 3-1/2 cups water
  • 2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle vodka*
  •  

    *Don’t buy the cheapest firewater like Everclear, but don’t buy premium brands, either. Hannah used Popov; we used Russian Standard and Absolut (and couldn’t tell the difference in the finished product).

     

    Preparation

    1. PLACE the peels, water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook just until the sugar has fully dissolved. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and let cool to room temperature.

    2. TAKE a pestle or other blunt instrument and muddle/mash the rinds, bruising them to release more of the essential oils.

    3. ADD the vodka, give it a good stir and transfer the whole mixture, peels and all, into a large glass jar (be sure to save the vodka bottle for packaging the finished product, if you don’t want to buy a decorative bottle). Seal the lid tightly and stash it in a cool, dark place for 1-3 months. You’re likely to get even greater depth of flavor if you let it steep for an extra month or so. When the liqueur is ready, the liquid should be a golden orange color and smell of sweet oranges.

    4. STRAIN out and discard the peels, and transfer the liquor to an attractive glass bottle. Store in a cool, dark place for however long you can make it last. It should keep indefinitely, but you’ll no doubt want to enjoy it before too long.

     

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    Homemade mint liqueur. Photo courtesy Good Cocktails.

     

    MINT LIQUEUR

    If you’d rather have mint or other herb liqueur than a fruit flavor, here’s a recipe from GoodCocktails.com. You can make basil, rosemary or anything you’d like.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Cake Pops & Cake Balls

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    Baby Cakes cake pop maker. Photo courtesy Baby Cakes.

     

    If you’ve never made cake pops but would like to if it were easy, the Babycakes Pop Maker is a fool-proof, inexpensive appliance that make round balls of cake.

    The original cake pops recipe involves baking a cake, crumbling it into a large pan, adding frosting to stick the crumbs together, and then forming cake balls with your hands.

    The Baby Cakes cake pop maker delivers a similar result with less effort. Simply pour 2 tablespoons of cake or brownie batter into each hole, close the lid and bake for about 7 minutes. Dip the cake balls into melted chocolate or other flavor or peanut butter chips, or sprinkle with powdered sugar.

    You don’t even need sticks: Eat the cake balls like doughnut holes. You can inject a filling—jam, chocolate sauce, custard or pudding—into the balls with the injector tool provided.

     
    The machine can also be used to make wonderful baked hushpuppies and potato balls (which you can make on a slow day and freeze), and bread balls, like cornbread.

    One box of mix makes 4 dozen balls.

    Make cake balls for an Easter treat, an anytime sweet, and a last-minute treat if someone drops by for coffee. By the time you brew the coffee, the cake balls can be ready. With Baby Cakes, it’s always party time.

    It’s also a fun gift for teens and tweens, who can make cake pops and cake balls for their friends.

    And, you can make “cake” in hot summer months without turning on the oven.

     

    The cake pop maker, which bakes 12 cake balls at a time, is $25.20 on Amazon.com. It includes:

  • 75 cake pop sticks and a filling injector
  • Recipes, a plastic cake pop stand and a fork tool for removing the balls without tearing them.
  •  
    You can buy a more elaborate cake pops serving tray for parties, and this much more glamorous cake pop tower.

    BAKING TIPS

  • Let the cake mix sit in the bowl for a few minutes, so it can start to rise.
  • Even though the baking plates are nonstick, lightly grease/spray the pan before adding the batter.
  • It may take a couple of tries to learn how high to fill the cups before baking in order to achieve perfection.
  • Be sure the lid is closed straight (or the balls can come out lopsided).
  • Save the styrofoam packing to hold cake pops as you dip them. Just make holes with an ice pick.
  •  

    175-best-babycakes-cake-pops-230

    Treat yourself to a recipe book like this one for decorating inspiration.

     

    There are several cake pops recipe books that show many ways to decorate cake pops—even if you’re not particularly dextrous.

    Then, you’re set for many hours of food fun.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Gakwiyo Provisions Jams & Jellies

    Gakwiyo means “good food” in the Cayuga Indian language. A few years ago the Cayuga Nation, headquartered in Seneca Falls, New York, began an initiative to can and preserve the fruits and vegetables that are grown on its ancestral lands.

    Patti Costello, manager of the initiative, explains that her goal was to make popular foods healthier. “There are approximately 500 members of the Cayuga Nation across the United States,” she notes, “and quite a few of them have problems with weight, diabetes and other heath issues.”

    Plus, members of the Nation “also love getting products that have been grown on their ancestral lands!”

    While they’re not reduced-calorie products per se, the ingredients are excellent. We tasted the samples that Patty sent, and particularly love the conserves, jams and jellies. Be sure to try the “sweet heat”—jams and jellies made with jalapeños.

    We’ve already laid in a supply for Mother’s Day party favors.

    The products include:

  • Conserves
  • Jams
  • Jellies
  • Pickled Vegetables & Fruit
  • Salsas & Sauces
  • Jams
  •  

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    Fruit and jalapeños combine to make exciting jams and jellies. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Everything we tried was delicious; the Green Tomato Raspberry Jam, an old-fashioned standard that is hard to find these days, is a knockout. We were so sad when the last drop was gone; but we can say the same about the Blueberry Rhubarb Jam, Strawberry Jalapeño Jam, and everything else we tried in the jam-jelly group.

    You can see the full line at GakwiyoProvisions.com.

     

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    It’s delicious on everything from bread to ice
    cream. Here, Habanero Gold Jelly. Photo by
    Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    SERVING SUGGESTIONS

    If you need guidance on how to use “hot” jams and jellies, here’s how we enjoy them:

    1. Breads & Crackers. Use them on anything and everything: from toast and bagels to biscuits and muffins to flatbreads and crackers. Hot pairs well with dairy; the jams are terrific with cream cheese.

    2. Breakfast Foods. Dab some on pancakes, waffles and French toast; use as a condiment with eggs or in an omelet; mix into a spicy fruit yogurt.

    3. Sandwiches. Replace your regular jam—including on peanut butter sandwiches.

    4. Hors D’Oeuvres. Top a block of cream cheese or a log of goat cheese and serve with crackers or sliced baguette; top a baked Brie (optional: sprinkle with sliced or chopped toasted almonds).

    5. Savory Sauce Or Marinade. Add to marinade or basting sauce for meats or fish; deglaze the pan by adding jam plus water, stock or wine to make a sweet-and-sizzling sauce.

     

    6. Meat Or Fish Condiments. The jams are a delicious accent to pretty much any grilled or roast meat, poultry or fish. The first night we tasted them, we enjoyed them with a Certified Angus Beef strip steak, grilled outdoors over coals. Delicious!

    7. Dessert Sauce. Serve over ice cream, sorbet, frozen yogurt, cheesecake, or pound cake (with whipped cream).
     

    Gakwiyo makes some 35 different products, and have recently started to sell them online and at farmers markets and festivals, to a great response.

    Try some and you’ll see why!

      

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