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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,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Giftable

PRODUCT: Annie B’s Caramels


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



    GIFT: Meat Of The Month Club


    Top-quality cooked and cured meats monthly. Capicola from


    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




    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 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.



    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



    A different vodka experience. Photo courtesy Tito’s.



    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.




    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



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




    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
    There’s one savory option:

  • Cheddar Pecan
    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


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



    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 to get yours.

    Or, find a retailer near you.



    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.



    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
    Tied with grossgrain ribbon, the jars are $7.00 each, with a 2 jar minimum.



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


    Get yours at



    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.



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



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



    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.


    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.



    GIFT: Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free Cheesecake


    Delicious cheesecake, sugar-free and gluten-free. Photo courtesy Cinderella Cheesecake.


    For a cheesecake-loving mother who has given up sugar, here’s a find: sugarless cheesecake from Cinderella Cheesecake Company.

    It’s sweetened with maltitol, the finest-quality sugar substitute, and has a gluten-free cinnamon cracker crust.

    The classic-style cheesecake recipe also includes cream cheese, eggs, sour cream, natural vanilla flavoring. It tastes just as it should: rich, creamy, wonderful. Sugar-free observers, rejoice!

    Cinderella Cheesecake Company is a family-owned business founded in Riverside, New Jersey in 1965 with a broader product line. But by the early 1980s, the cheesecake business was so rocking that founder Alfred Rezende decided to drop the other baked goods to focus on expanding the cheesecake operation.

    The company sells cheesecakes to distributors, restaurants and non-profit groups for fundraisers, as well as direct to consumers online.

    In addition to the No Sugar Added cheesecake, the company makes conventional cheesecakes in Almond Amaretto, Egg Nog, Mango, Pineapple, Plain, Pumpkin, Sampler (two slices of each flavor), Southern Pecan, Washington Cherry and White Chocolate Peanut Butter.

    All cheesecakes are eleven inches in diameter and precut into 16 slices. A four-pound cheesecake is $38.00. It freezes nicely.

    Get yours at



    TIP OF THE DAY: Truffle Cheese

    One of our favorite cheese experiences is truffle cheese. It provides all the pleasure of a shaved truffles dish at a fraction of the price. The cheese makers use bits and pieces that have fallen off the precious truffles during handling.

    Truffle cheeses are typically made from a blend of cow’s milk and sheep’s milk or cow’s milk and goat’s milk. One of our favorites is made from only goat’s milk. Any truffle lover who tries these cheeses gets hooked.

    If you can’t find the cheeses locally, you can get excellent-quality varieties from, which sells individual cheeses plus a truffle cheese assortment.

    Here are two we’ve been enjoying recently.


    Bloomy-rinded, semisoft Truffle Tremor, from California’s Cypress Grove Chevre, is imbued with truffle aroma and flavor, dotted with black Italian summer truffles (Tuber aestivum Vittadini) truffles throughout. Elegant and sophisticated, it is a luxurious table cheese.

    Among its many awards over the years are First Place at the American Cheese Society Awards in 2014, First Place at the 2014 World Championship Cheese Contest and the Super Gold at the 2014 World Cheese Awards.

    It’s a perfect marriage of ripened goat cheese and truffles, delivering floral, herb and mushroom notes. Made 200 miles north of San Francisco, it’s an earth-shaking masterpiece.



    A slice of heaven: Truffle Tremor. Photo courtesy Cypress Grove Chevre.

    Since its creation, Truffle Tremor was only made in a three-pound wheel; you’d buy a wedge—or the whole wheel for $75.00. Now, it’s also available in a one-pound mini ($25.00).

    It’s available at many fine cheese stores, and online at

    For Mother’s Day or other special dinner, we like to serve a slice of the cheese with a green salad (lightly tossed in vinaigrette), or with sweet accompaniments. For a Truffle Tremor dessert plate, for every eight ounces of cheese serve:

  • ½ cup candied ginger
  • ½ cup candied pecans
  • ½ cup candied orange peel (recipe)
  • Optional raisin or walnut bread
  • 1 bottle dessert wine or equivalent dessert beer
    Or, a simple drizzle of honey (how about truffle honey!) with slices of baguette will do nicely.
    Note For Connoisseurs

    Truffleur is another great, semisoft American truffle cheese, produced by Tumalo Farms in Oregon. This is another goat cheese, infused with native Oregon white truffles, then aged three to four months.

    It’s rare to find a white truffle cheese. The flavor and aroma are distinctively different from black truffles. Because the cheese is relatively mild, the truffle flavor really comes through at the finish—wonderful! Since it is made with the local truffle harvest, this cheese is seasonal, usually available only December through February. So mark your calendar.

    Semihard, in addition to the cheese plate it can be used to make a spectacular mac and cheese, or to melt atop a burger.



    Fromager d’affinois with Périgord truffles. Photo courtesy Fromagerie Guilloteau.



    From France, this variety of fromager d’affinois, a Brie-like double-crème cow’s milk cheese, is a beautiful blend of the creamy cheese with the subtle earthiness of the truffles.

    The black truffles are from Périgord—the best truffles in the world. It is a seasonal product that is in store for the holidays from October to January and then again in March through May.

    You can find it now in most gourmet/specialty stores, Whole Foods Markets, Trader Joe’s (as a unit size under their label called the Truffle Brie) and some Costco stores. Learn more at

    These tips should be followed with all fine cheese:

    Forget the plastic wrap: Re-wrapping soft-ripened cheese in wax paper or parchment paper will allow the cheese to breath as it continues to ripen.

    Keep the cheese cold (33°-35°F) and remove from the fridge at least one hour before serving.



    These are the favorite pairings from the folks at Cypress Grove Chevre:


  • Barleywine
  • Trippel
    White Wines

  • Gewürztraminer
  • Riesling
    Red Wines

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Pinot Noir
  • Zinfandel
    Dessert Wines

  • Demi-Sec Sparkling Wine
  • Moscato
  • Port
  • Sweet Sherry

    Check out our comprehensive article and glossary of the different truffle types.



    GIFT: A Camera Lens Mug

    Here’s a special gift for a mom, dad or grad who’s into photography: This camera lens is actually a mug!

    Totally detailed, it looks and feels like the real thing and holds a hefty 15 ounces of beverage. The lens cap sip top doubles as a coaster or a dish for nibbles.

    A stainless steel lining keeps beverages warm longer (like a thermos), and the screw top lid (the lens cap) provides spill-free transporting. The lid’s sip-top slides and locks to prevent spills.

    The Camera Lens Travel Mug is $29.95 at

    We promise: Everyone will ask where you got it.



    Drink from the camera lens—it’s a mug! Photo courtesy What On Earth Catalog..




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