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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

GIFT: Better-For-You Dried Fruit Gift

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The better-for-you gift. Photo courtesy Zabar’s.

 

We like to send premium dried fruit gifts to people and families who focus on healthy living.

We like food gifts in the first place. Unless we know that someone really wants something specific, no one we know needs more stuff to fit into already jammed households.

If it’s an office gift, well, no office needs more cake, candy and cookies lying around during the holidays.

This 1-pound, 8-ounce tray is $24.98 at Zabars.com.

The fruits were picked at the peak of perfection, carefully dehydrated, then packed in a reusable wooden crate. The lucky recipient(s) will munch on dried Angelino plums, apples, apricots, kiwi, pears, prunes, yellow peaches and white peaches.

 

 
  

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GADGET: The New Egg Timer

There’s a new egg timer on the market, one that’s purely visual.

We’ve been enjoying the new Taylor Egg Timer.

Simply place the timer into the water when cooking eggs on the stove top. The colors will change, indicating when you have soft, medium or hard boiled eggs.

Internal sensors in these 21st century egg timers calculate cooking stages precisely by temperature, not loosely by time. The timers heat up in precise synchronization with the eggs, and make automatic adjustments to accommodate the number of eggs, the amount of water and the altitude.

For people who make boiled eggs, it’s the new best thing. It takes the guesswork out of cooking eggs and you get perfect results every time.

And it’s a great stocking stuffer. It’s also a good for New Year’s resolutions: Make protein-rich hard boiled eggs for snacking.

 

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One of the “21st century egg timers.” The red color moves up as the eggs get cooked. Photo courtesy Taylor.

 

Versions from three different manufacturers are available now:

  • HIC, $6.79 on Amazon.com.
  • Norpro, $7.49 on Amazon.com.
  • We couldn’t find the Taylor egg timer for sale on line, but head to Target stores. It’s $4.99.
  •   

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    GIFT: Madécasse Artisan Chocolate Bars

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    Madécasse chocolate bars can be gifted individually or in boxed sets. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    If you’re looking for something special for a chocolate lover, check the chocolate section of Whole Foods Markets. In addition to other fine brands, they carry Madécasse chocolate bars, made in Madagascar from locally-grown cacao and vanilla beans.

    The fairly traded chocolate is made with a rare native heirloom cacao, so people who really like to taste the differences in cacao by terroir will have a field day.

    You’ll find flavors such as:

  • Espresso Bean Chocolate Bar, made with 44% dark milk chocolate that has caramel notes, and blended with a coffee crunch.
  • Salted Almond Chocolate Bar, 63% semisweet chocolate, sprinkled with roasted almond nibs and sea salt for.
  • Sea Salt & Nibs Chocolate Bar, 63% semisweet chocolate with added crushed cocoa bean nibs and a light dusting of sea salt. It was the winner of “Best In Show” at a recent Paris Salon du Chocolat.
  • Toasted Coconut Chocolate Bar, made with a 70% bittersweet chocolate with fruity notes, topped with crunchy flakes of toasted coconut.
  • Special Holiday Bars, Orange Cranberry and Hazelnut, both 63% semisweet chocolate.
  •  
    Other options include plain 70% and 80% cacao bars, Cinnamon & Chile Pepper, Citrus & Pink Pepper. There are gift sets at Madecasse.com. Each bar retails for $4.99.

     
    For holiday gift giving, you can replace the straw tie in the hole punched in the top of the package with a festive ribbon, tie a bar onto a larger gift box, or even hang it from the tree!

    ABOUT MADÉCASSE

    Madécasse Chocolate is a Brooklyn-based chocolate manufacturer established in 2006 by two Peace Corps volunteers who served in Madagascar. Their mission was to improve economic opportunities for farmers and villagers in the region. The name Madécasse refers to an inhabitant of Madegascar.

    Madécasse is the only company producing bean-to-bar chocolate and vanilla products that are grown, harvested and hand-wrapped entirely in Madagascar. The chocolate is made from the world’s last remaining genetically pure cacao beans.

    All Madécasse products are Fair for Life certified, a certification similar to Fair trade, but which offers four times the economic impact.

    Learn more at Madecasse.com.

     
      

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    GIFT: Treat House Gluten Free Crispy Rice Treats

    Gluten free*, artisanal and an appropriate portion size—two square inches as opposed to those supersized Rice Krispies Treats—the gourmet Crispy Rice Treats from Treat House have been a NIBBLE favorite since they debuted. (Here’s our original review, a Top Pick Of The Week.)

    These gourmet crispy rice treats (that’s Rice Krispie treats without the trademark infringement) continue to dazzle with an ongoing stream of seasonal flavors and designs.

    For Holiday 2014, there’s a gift box of crispy rice treats topped with holiday and winter theme garnishes, including a dreidel and chocolate foil coins for Hanukkah.

    All treats are gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free. The marshmallows are made using raw cane sugar, not corn syrup.

    And, the line is kosher (dairy), supervised by United Kosher Supervision.

    There’s a feel-good component, too: Ten cents of every treat (more for larger items) is donated to The Food Bank For New York City, a relief organization working to end hunger.

       

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    Nostalgic and gluten free! Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

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    Perennial favorite S’mores joins holiday candy cane and peppermint treats. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

    The flavors at Treat House range from kid stuff (Birthday Cake, Bubble Gum, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Chocolate Pretzel, M&M, etc.) to sophisticated (Chocolate Raspberry, Salted Caramel, etc.).

    But for the holidays, head for the seasonal specialty gift box.

    The 12 pack of holiday crispy rice treats in a the silver and snowflake gift box is $31.

    Get yours at TreatHouse.com.
     
    THE HISTORY OF RICE KRISPIES TREATS

    This childhood favorite, no-bake cookie was invented in 1928 by Mildred Day and colleagues in the home economics department at The Kellogg Company. It was created as a fund raiser-for the Camp Fire Girls, a nationwide American youth organization.

    The recipe consists of butter, marshmallows and Rice Rice Krispies cereal. The butter and marshmallows are melted together, blended with the Rice Krispies and pressed into a pan. When cool, they are cut into bars. Many subsequent variations mix in other ingredients, from chocolate chips to licorice and gummi bears.

     

    Check out the different types of cookies in our tasty Cookie Glossary.

     
    *Some flavors have garnishes that are not gluten free.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Share A Favorite Gadget

    For an inexpensive holiday gift or stocking stuffer, give one of your favorite kitchen gadgets—one that most people probably don’t have, but you wouldn’t want to be without.

    Last year for us it was a serrated peeler, two years ago a mushroom brush.

    But this year, it’s going to be a Wavy Knife from Crisp Cooking. Just by slicing in a normal fashion, it provides a decorative side to fruits and vegetables, whether cooked (including fries) or for crudités and salads.

    We have an old-fashioned crinkle cutter, but the wavy knife is an improvement, easier to use and potentially safer.

    The ergonomic handle provides a sure, comfortable grip and better cutting control. The offset blade provides plenty of “knuckle room” while cutting.

    At $12.99, it’s pricier than the peeler or mushroom brush, but it’s also a more substantial gift.

     

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    This year’s gift to everyone old enough to cook: a Wavy Knife. Photo courtesy PeanutButterAndPeppers.com

     

    Check it out at CrispCooking.com.

      

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    GIFT: Teesy Weensy Microchip Cookies

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    It’s raining microchips: Hallelujah! Photo
    courtesy JK Chocolates.

     

    Tiny cookies, 1/2-inch in diameter. When we first received them as a gift, we thought: What to do with these? Sprinkle them on ice cream? We’d rather eat one big cookie than fuss with tiny ones.

    But we were the minority opinion. Squeals of delight from kids and adults alike. So: Heres a holiday gift that is way different and sure to please.

    Since 1984, Julie and Karleen, the J and K of JK Chocolates, have been creating delicious chocolate sauces. What started as homemade teacher gifts evolved into a business, as people asked to buy them year-round.

    Over the years, as word circulated about the chocolate sauce flavors, they subsequently developed Microchip Cookies, teensy weensy little bites. To imagine the Chocolate Chip Microchip, think of a chocolate chip covered in just enough cookie dough to bury the chip. It’s a half inch wide.

     
    We received a gift set of two flavors, Chocolate Chip and Pecan Sweeties (like sandies). Our original reaction was, “These are cute, these are tasty, but for the money ($14.75 for a 4.75-ounce jar), we’d just as soon have some standard size cookies.”

    We were the minority opinion. Everyone else oohed and ahhed over them.

    So there you have it: a gourmet chocolate chip novelty that delights.

    But Chocolate Chip isn’t the only Microchip in town. the line includes:

     

  • Cheddar Cheesies with Texas Heat
  • Midnight Chocolate Chip
  • Original Chocolate Chip
  • Peanut Butter Chip with Sea Salt
  • Pecan Sweeties
  • Six-Spice Gingersnap
  • White Chocolate Chip Crunch
  •  
    You can purchase individual jars or gift sets, the latter packaged in a reusable black gift box with a ribbon and a gift card.

    In addition to the single jar option, there are numerous other options, some of which are:

  • A four-jar gift box for $56 and a seven-jar box tower for $84
  • A stack of three smaller jars for $26
  • Single flavor tins for $38 and $62
  • Tin towers for $48, $114 and $186
  •  

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    An individual jar of Microchips is a unique treat. Photo courtesy JK Chocolates.

     

    Get yours at JKChocolates.com.

      

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    GIFT: Sushumna Chocolate

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    The chocolate is made in individually-
    wrapped tiles. Photo courtesy Sushumna.

     

    For the person who meditates or does yoga, consider a gift of Sushumna chocolate. This line of “chakra-choc” includes seven flavors that correlate to the seven major energy points (chakras) in the body developed.

    Hindus refer to the chakras as the intersections of energy lines. One of them, sushumna, leads to the crown chakra, and is said to be the path to self-realization.

    Will these flavored chocolates lead you there? No promises are made, but at 30 calories per tile, anyone can enjoy a tile or two daily to find out.

     
    What is the Chakra-Chocolate correlation?

    According to the owners, on the chakra Ladder, these energy points are represented by color, emotive and physical attributes. They found natural correlations to these attributes among various nuts, spices, herbs and essences that they then married to chocolate.

     

    The creators describe their chakra-based chocolates:

     

  • Compassionate: Sweet dried cherries provide a burst of dark, luscious fruit flavor to complement the 70% dark chocolate. An explosion of flavor reminds you to keep your heart open.
  • Connected: Transform that “fire in your belly” into positive action with this sumptuous vanilla bean and white chocolate infusion. The universal aroma and flavor of pure vanilla blended with white chocolate strengthens and soothes this fiery, action-oriented power chakra.
  • Expressive: Vibrant, refreshing peppermint and 70% dark chocolate vivify this chakra and strengthen your innate ability to know and speak your truth.
  • Grounded: The warm, earthy flavors of sweet potato pie are blended with the familiar crunch of crisped rice, and swathed in luscious, smooth milk chocolate. This medley was created to help focus and realign your connection with the earth and all that’s primal through the “root chakra.”
  • Insightful: This blend of port-soaked currants with 70% dark chocolate captures the mystery and wonder of intuition. Help strengthen and balance your “third eye” chakra for a new perspective and way of seeing the world.
  •  

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    The tiles in a gift canister. Photo courtesy Sushmna.

  • Sensual: Cardamom, nutmeg and a whisper of cinnamon are blended into chai chocolate. Spices, a touch of heat and milk chocolate stimulate your second chakra—the energetic portal of the senses, and the source of creativity.
  • Transcendant: A savory blend of hemp oil, exotic mushroom extract, rich raw cashews, and silky milk chocolate which help you connect to your crown chakra: the connection to the cosmos and spirit.
  •  
    There are gift sets from $15 to $50.

  • Individually wrapped squares are $1.00; the Tea Boxed Set of 21 tiles is $28.00.
  • The Media Boxed Set, a reusable gift box with each of the 7 flavors, is $15.
  •  
    Get yours at SushumnaChocolat.com.

      

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    PRODUCT: Maille Dijon Mustard With Balsamic Vinegar Of Modena

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    Two favorite flavors together: Dijon mustard
    and balsamic vinegar. Photo by Hannah
    Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Often, the nicest gift you can bring to a party or dinner hosted by a foodie is something knew he or she probably hasn’t tried.

    We nominate Maille’s new Honey Dijon Mustard with Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Together, the two classic flavors create a flavorful yet mellow blend that’s not quite as sharp as classic Dijon mustard. At 10 calories per teaspoon, it’s low in calories and high on flavor.

    We love basic Dijon mustard, but it’s that much special—similar to Edmond Fallot Gingerbread Mustard we wrote about recently.

    As you might imagine, there are countless ways you can use fine mustard to enhance almost anything on your plate.

    The product, which is a medium brown color as opposed to conventional yellow Dijon, just arrived in the U.S. Until recently, it has only been available at Maille’s European boutiques in Dijon, Paris and London.

    Get yours online at MyBrands.com for $9.89 per jar (7.9 oz/225g).

     

    SERVING SUGGESTIONS

  • As a condiment and with cheeses, cold cuts, pâtes, roasted meats and vegetables.
  • As a sandwich spread.
  • In vinaigrettes and dips.
  • In glazes and marinades.
  • In a sauce: Use it with wine to deglaze meat near the end of cooking to create a mouthwatering sauce. Here’s how.
  • As a seasoning in turkey stuffing, chicken and pork dishes, macaroni, potato salad (tuna, chicken, egg, etc.).
  •  
    You can find lots of recipes on Maille.us. Although we haven’t tried it, there’s a recipe for carrot cake that uses Dijon mustard!

     

    RECIPE: BALSAMIC MUSTARD & CRANBERRY SAUCE

    Combine the sweetness of balsamic with the balance of mustard in this new twist on homemade cranberry sauce. The cranberry sauce can be made up to five days in advance.

    Ingredients

  • 2 bags (8 ounces each) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup Maille Honey Dijon Mustard with Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
  • 1/2 cup water
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat to a simmer.

    2. REDUCE the heat to low and stir occasionally until the cranberries have broken down and the mixture is thick and sauce-like, about 20-25 minutes.

    3. REMOVE from the heat and cool completely before serving.

     

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    Cranberry sauce with balsamic Dijon mustard. Photo courtesy Maille.

     

    FOOD TRIVIA

    The Romans were probably the first to experiment with the preparation of mustard as a condiment. They mixed unfermented grape juice, known as must, with ground mustard seeds (called sinapis) to make burning must, mustum ardens in Latin. Hence, the name must ard.

     
    ABOUT MAILLE

    Founded in 1747 by Antoine Maille in Dijon, France, La Maison Maille stepped into history when the refined recipes first caught the attention of King Louis XV of France, becoming his official supplier of vinegar and mustard. Soon other European Royal Courts, including those of Russia, Prussia, Austria and Hungary, followed suit and granted Maille this significant honor.

    Maille is the leading producer of premium mustard, vinegar and cornichons in France and the number one brand of imported mustard in the U.S. Maille Honey Balsamic joins the brand’s U.S. imports, which include Dijon Originale, Old-Style (À La Ancienne), Honey Dijon, Horseradish and Rich Country mustards, plus Dijonnaise and Cornichons.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fig Jam, Fig Chutney & More Figgy Condiments

    Figs are hot and dry weather fruit—famously enjoyed for millennia in the Middle East, where it’s hot year-round.

    In the U.S., figs grow in zones 8-10 (most of our figs are grown in California. They have two seasons: a shorter season in early summer and a second, main crop that starts in late summer and runs through fall.

    Fig trees cannot withstand temperatures much below 20°F, and so are not grown in most of the Midwest and in the Northeast.

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    Dalmatia Fig Spread. Photo courtesy
    TheKitchn.com. Here’s their review.

     

    So depending on your residence, you won’t find fresh figs; but you can console yourself with a jar of fig jam or chutney.

    Beyond spreading it on toast, here’s what you can do with it, courtesy of FrenchFarm.com,

  • Use it as a glaze for meats, especially duck and pork.
  • Mix it in with pan juices to make a sauce.
  • Add it to a red wine vinaigrette to make a spectacular salad dressing.
  • Pair it with cheese—our favorites being blue cheese , goat cheese, bleu or camembert on crostini.
  • Use it as the center of humbprint cookies.
  • Spoon it over cheesecake.
  • Add it to cheese and charcuterie plates.
  • Garnish a flatbread pizza made with prosciutto, Gorgonzola cheese and arugula.
  • Use it as a topping for ice cream.
  •  

    You can find Dalmatia Fig Spread (photo above)at many supermarkets, and other fig jams and chutneys at most specialty stores. But The French Farm has the biggest selection of fig condiments we’ve seen, any of which would make a lovely small gift or stocking stuffer for a foodie. The choices include:

     

  • Black Fig Jam (from L’Epicurien), to spread on toast, pastries, waffles, or to enjoy with cheese.
  • Confit of Figs & Black Olives (L’Epicurien), a spread of sweet white figs and savory black olives that can dress up just about anything. Pair with cheese or use as a sandwich spread.
  • Fig & Balsamic Vinegar Confit (L’Epicurien), delicious on a sandwich or on a cracker with goat cheese, or as a condiment with foie gras.
  • Fig & Grape Jam (from L’Epicurien), a delightful balance of juicy grape and earthy fig, spread some on toast or breakfast pastries.
  • Fig & Walnut Confit (from L’Epicurien) is perfect with goat cheese or on a slice of toasted baguette.
  • White Fig Jam (from L’Epicurien), more delicate than the black fig jam, is delicious on top of a slice of toasted baguette, with a slice of Cheddar on a crostini, or on a breakfast pastry.
  •  
    But fig condiments don’t stop at jam. Check out the other options:

     

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    Mustard with fig. Photo courtesy The French Farm.

     

  • Fig Mustard (from L’Epicurien), can be paired with cured meats, ham, roasted or smoked turkey, cheddar cheese, roast pork or a grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Grape Must Vinegar with Fig (from Il Boschetto) is freshly pressed grape juice that contains the skins, seeds and stems. The mixture is simmered with the addition of vinegar made from Tuscan red wine, into a rich balsamic-like syrup that is stunning over fish, fresh salads, and desserts.
  • Red Wine Vinegar With Fig (from Edmond Fallot), great for salad dressing, marinades, or sauces. Try it on a goat cheese-stuffed chicken breast with braised greens.
  • Spiced Fig Chutney (from L’Epicurien), both sweet and savory and perfect for a cheese board, charcuterie plate or a chicken or turkey sandwich.
  •  
    A BRIEF HISTORY OF FIGS

    The edible fig was one of the first plants to be cultivated by humans. Fossils dating to about 9400–9200 B.C.E. in the Jordan Valley predate the domestication of barley, legumes, rye and wheat, and may thus be the first known instance of agriculture. Some botany historians propose that the figs may have been cultivated one thousand years before the next crops (wheat and rye) were domesticated.

    Much later in time, figs were a common food source for the Romans. Cato the Elder, in his De Agri Cultura, lists several strains of figs: the Mariscan, African, Herculanean, Saguntine and the black Tellanian. In addition to human consumption, figs were used, among other things, to fatten geese for the production of a precursor of foie gras.

    In ancient times, figs were cultivated from Afghanistan to Portugal to India. From the 15th century onwards, they spread to Europe and later, to the New World. [Source]

      

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    GLUTEN FREE GIFT: Mary’s Gone Crackers Gift Pack

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    Scrumptious, gluten-free crackers. Photo courtesy Maryy’s Gone Crackers.

     

    Wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, vegan, no hydrogenated oils, no trans-fats, non-GMO: The litany of what’s not in Mary’s Gone Crackers is so extensive, you start to wonder what is in them that makes them taste so vibrant and delicious. (See the answer in our full review of this NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.)

    They’re also organic, whole grain, non GMO and OU kosher, and there’s a gift set you can send to anyone seeking to eliminate or cut back on gluten ($36.87 includes free shipping).

    The gift box includes the brand’s top selling cracker flavors plus serving accoutrements:

  • A 6.5-ounce box of Herb flavor Mary’s Gone Crackers
  • A 5.5oz box of Super Seed flavor Mary’s Gone Crackers
  • 2 bamboo dip bowls and 2 bamboo tongs
  • A deck of 10 delicious vegan dip recipes
  •  

    If you simply want to pick up some boxes for everyday eating, the line is carried at most natural food stores.

     
      

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