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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

GIFT: Maille Mustard Collection


A gourmet gift for a mustard lover. Photo
courtesy Maille.


A Maille mustard boutique opened near us recently. If you love mustard, make it a destination stop when you visit Dijon, London, Melbourne, New York, Paris or Sydney.

They are meccas for lovers of fine mustard, as well as gherkins, vinegars and vinaigrettes. The thrill: tasting some 20 different mustards, all so delicious from the spoon that we could have devoured an entire jar.

Established in 1747* in Paris, Maille (pronounced MY) is known worldwide for its sublime mustards and vinegars. From the outset, the company supplied the kings of France and other monarchs, including England and Russia.

The brown mustard seeds are grown in the heart of Burgundy, and most of the mustards are made with white wine. Some are smooth, some are whole grain (delightfully chewy!).

Each year, the product team explores new combinations of ingredients that achieve a complex taste profile and trending flavors.

There are more than 30 mustard flavors, some seasonal specialties. You can purchase them individually or in preset gift boxes of four, six and nine varieties. The website currently sells:

  • Apricots And Curry Spices
  • Basil
  • Black Olive
  • Black Truffle
  • Blue Cheese
  • Candied Orange Peel And Ginger
  • Celeriac, Black Truffle
  • Chablis Mustard
  • Cognac
  • Dijon Blackcurrant Liqueur
  • Fig And Coriander
  • Fine Herbs
  • Gingerbread And Chestnut Honey
  • Hazenuts And Black Chanterelle Mushrooms
  • Lemon And Garlic
  • Honey
  • Honey And Balsamic Vinegar
  • Lemon And Harissa
  • Mango And Thai Spices
  • Morel Mushroom And Chablis

  • Parmesan Cheese And Basil
  • Pesto and Arugula
  • Pistachio And Orange
  • Pleurote and Chanterelle Mushrooms
  • Prune And Armagnac
  • Red Pepper And Garlic
  • Roasted Onions And Wild Thyme
  • Saffron And Crème Fraîche
  • Sauternes
  • Shallots, Chervil And Chanterelle Mushrooms
  • Sun-dried Tomato And Espelette Pepper
  • Walnuts
  • White Wine Mustard
  • Wholegrain Chardonnay Mustard


    Grab a [disposable] spoon and dig in at the tasting bar. Photo courtesy Maille.

    After tasting the 15 or so mustards on the bar, it was hard to pick a favorite; but that day, it was Fig And Coriander, a whole grain mustard.

    Find all of the mustards online at


    A special four jar mustard gift set in an elegant black box includes Dijon Blackcurrant, Morel Mushroom, Saffron and Isigny Crème Fraiche, and Cognac($40). Individual jars also are packaged in a black box.

    The boutiques also have six- and nine-jar sets, not yet on the website.

    If you get to a boutique location, you’ll be charmed by the mustards on tap. Served from old-fashioned ceramic pumps, a choice of three basic mustards and one seasonal specialty draws mustard into old-style stoneware jars with sealed with cork stoppers. Fans buy mustard by the jar and get frequent refills.

    If you’ve never thought mustard could be magical, head to Maille boutique. You’ll be hooked—and will have an ongoing choice of gifts for your foodie friends to use on everything from sandwiches to elegant recipes, of which there’s a selection on the website.
    *Since 2000, Maille has been owned by the Unilever Group.



    MOTHER’S DAY: Wonder Woman Cups & Mugs


    Enjoy your coffee with Wonder Woman. Photo courtesy


    Wonder Woman was blessed with a wide range of superhuman powers to help her fight the good fight. Many mortal woman do as much with their own skill sets.

    If you’re looking for a thank-you gift for Mother’s Day, how about a token of all the amazing things moms accomplish Pick something from Zak’s new Wonder Woman line:

  • Wonder Woman Coffee Cup (ceramic)
  • Wonder Woman Juice Glass (glass)
  • Wonder Woman Insulated Cup with Straw (high-quality plastic)
  • Wonder Woman Multi Purpose Plate (high-quality plastic)
  • Wonder Woman Travel Mug (high-quality plastic)
  • Wonder Woman Water Bottle (high-quality plastic)

    Prices are as low as $2.99 for a 10-ounce glass and $4.99 for a mug—affordable enough for party favors.

    Check out the whole line.



    EASTER: Chocolate Gift Certificate

    Here’s an easy solution to a gift emergency: a chocolate e-gift certificate.

    If you’ve forgotten to bring a gift, or if you receive an unexpected gift and want to reciprocate, you don’t have to sneak out to the nearest store.

    Instead, sneak onto the Internet and send a gift certificate via email. It will be in the giftee’s email box in minutes. sells ready-made and make-your-own chocolates. Our favorite is the customized chocolate bar, where you pick your chocolate (dark, milk or white) and up to five toppings—candies, fruits, nuts, spices and special decorations (crystallized flower petals, 24 karat gold flakes).

    There are more than 70 topping choices. Special Easter toppings include caramel “quail eggs,” carrot cake candy corn, peanut butter speckled eggs and a white chocolate “Happy Easter” plaque.

    Jelly beans are available year-round—along with Junior Mints, M&Ms, mini marshmallows, Oreo pieces, Pop Rocks, Reese’s Pieces, toffee bits and much more.

    Head to



    A candy-covered hollow chocolate Easter egg with two chocolate truffles hidden inside.




    PRODUCT: Ready To Eat Cookie Dough


    Get a spoon and dig in! Photo courtesy


    As many people who bake Toll House cookies know, the raw dough is as delicious as the baked cookies.

    Some people, wanting to eat the raw dough but not wanting to mix it, buy rolls of ready-to-bake chocolate chip cookie dough for that purpose.

    This led to a customer suggestion on the flavor suggestion board at the original Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop. The flavor was created and initially available only at that location, in Burlington, Vermont.

    Finally, in 1991, it was released to stores nationwide, to great success. It has remained one of the company’s Top 10 flavors. Last year it was #3; #1 was Half Baked, which combines cookie dough and brownie bits.

    But over the years, the dark side or raw dough raised its head:

    Raw eggs can contain salmonella, a bacterium that can cause serious illness. When cookie dough is baked the bacteria are killed.

    Commercial manufacturers of cookie dough and other products that incorporate uncooked eggs (Caesar salad, ice cream, mayonnaise and mousse, for example) began to use pasteurized eggs. (Be sure to check the package label for “pasteurized,” or ask your restaurant server to check with the kitchen.)

    At home, most cooks continue to use conventional eggs, and many of us continue to nibble on raw cake batter and cookie dough. If you want to do that, we implore you: Use pasteurized eggs.

    But now, Hampton Creek has created a refrigerated, dairy free, cholesterol free and allergy friendly cookie dough. It can be baked into vegan chocolate chip cookies (they’re kosher too, certified by KOF-K).

    But more importantly to us, it can be eaten as raw cookie dough, called Just Cookie Dough. It’s currently available in Chocolate Chip.



    We received a sample of Chocolate Chip Just Cookie Dough—a riot of chocolate chips held together with a small amount of dough. We polished off the 14-ounce jar (MSRP $5.49) in two days of snacking.

    How did it taste? Very pleasing, if not as redolent of brown sugar and vanilla flavors as the Toll House Cookie dough we adore (the Just Cookie Dough chocolate chip recipe uses molasses instead of brown sugar).

    But we’ve certainly added it to our shopping list for those cookie dough fixes, and to make our own custom cookie dough ice cream.

    Just soften a pint of your favorite flavor and stir in small balls of cookie dough; return to the freezer to harden.

    The product is currently rolling out nationwide. Find a store locator on the company website, or phone 1.844.423.6637.



    Americans love raw chocolate chip cookie dough. Photo courtesy Ben & Jerry’s.




    PRODUCT: Fries In A Cone


    French fry fun at home. Photo courtesy Gibson Table Compliments.


    If you love eating fries from a metal cone, the way some restaurants serve them, here’s a fun item from Gibson Table Compliments.

    The four-piece French Fry Serving Set has metal coned with ceramic inserts, a drip-proof alternative to the paper liners used at restaurants. There are two dipping cups that attach to each cone as an optional way to serve condiments.

    Beyond French fries, you can use the cones to serve other veggie fries and fried foods like mozzarella sticks. In fact, you can serve anything in them, from breakfast cereal to an ice cream sundae.

    A set of four is $25.00 at All parts are dishwasher safe.

    If you prefer butcher paper in your cone instead of ceramic, here’s a similar cone-only product.

    The white tissue liners are sold in packs of 2,000. If you’re going to load up, consider this version, printed to look like an English, French or Italian newspaper.

    Love them!

    Now for more fun:

    How many different types of French fries have you had? There are almost 30!



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: The Flying Meatballs


    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 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.




    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:



    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), 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.



    FOOD FUN: Chocolate Pills


    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

    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.




    GIFT: Red Rocker Cashew Toffee


    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

    And get some for your Valentine, too.




    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.


    Cheese and chocolate? Absolutely! Photo courtesy

  • 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).
  • 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’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.

    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 You can order any time and specify your preferred delivery date.


    VALENTINE GIFTS: Chocolate Lips, Macarons In Red


    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

    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



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




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