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Archive for Top Pick Of The Week

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Yellow Tail Sparkling Rosé

If you’re buying sparkling wine for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, you may be tempted to buy Champagne. But unless your guests are wine connoisseurs, you can have just as pleasant an experience with other sparkling wines, for a third to half of the price of the least expensive bottle of Champagne.

Champagne is a name-protected sparkling wine that is made only in the Champagne region of northeast France. Every other wine that has bubbles is called sparkling wine.

You can find sparklers from other regions and nations in the $10 to $12 range that are very satisfying in the glass. When mixed into a cocktail, no one can tell the difference.

But the difference in price is substantial. The most affordable Champagnes tend to be in the $35 range. If you’re buying several bottles, do the math.

We do buy Champagne and look for values—both the houses we know, like Pol Roger Brut Reserve, $35, and smaller houses that the wine clerk recommends. Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte and Jacquart are $35, the better-known Mumm is $40.

A number of years ago, on a recommendation from wine expert Robert Parker, we purchased and went crazy for the $35 Egly-Ouriet, a smaller producer we’d never heard of. Today you can find bottles from $38 to $65, depending on the vintage and the retailer.

   

Yellow Tail Bubbles

We buy Yellow Tail Bubbles Sparkling Rosé by the case! It’s also available in Sparkling White. Photo courtesy Yellow Tail.

 
WHEN YOU NEED A LOT OF BUBBLY…

When multiple bottles are required, we turn our sights elsewhere, to sparkling wine varieties that are $8 to $15 a bottle. Prices will vary by retailer, but keep an eye out for:

  • Asti Spumante from Italy: Martini Asti is about $12; the sweeter Cinzano Asti, $13, is great with dessert.
  • Australian Sparklers: Our favorite is Yellow Tail Bubbles in regular and rosé, $10.
  • Cava from Spain: For $8, look for Cristalino Brut and Cristalino Brut Rosé; Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut is $12 and Freixenet Cava Carta Nevada Semi Dry (sweeter) is $9.
  • Crémant from France: Numerous labels of this Loire Valley sparkler sell for $12-$15.
  • Prosecco from Italy: Good sparklers are available for $9-$10.
  • California Sparklers: In the lower ranges, look for Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge Brut, $10 and Moet et Chandon’s Chandon Brut, $17.
  • Other American Sparklers:: Domaine Ste Michelle Brut from Oregon ($10) and others from New York to Texas.
  •  

    NOTE: If you’re checking prices online, make sure they’re for standard 750ml bottles, not half bottles or splits.

     

    Moet et Chandon Champagne

    Yellow Tail sparkling wine from Australia
    (photo at top of page) is $10. Moet et
    Chandon Champagne from France (photo
    above) is $40. Photo via Pinterest |
    Facebook.

     

    WHY IS CHAMPAGNE SO EXPENSIVE?

    It’s a question of supply and demand. The supply is limited because by law, Champagne can only be produced in the Champagne region of northern France. There’s no more land that can be planted with grapes.

    The demand began around 1715 in Paris, when Philippe II became the Regent of France. He liked sparkling Champagne and served it nightly at dinner. The cachet was taken up by Parisan society. Winemakers in Champagne began to switch their products from still wines—the majority produced at the time—to sparkling.

    Throughout the 18th century, new Champagne houses were established. Moët & Chandon, Louis Roederer, Piper-Heidsieck and Taittinger were among the major houses founded during this period.
     
    Is Champagne Better Than Other Sparkling Wines?

    Champagne has the most complex flavors among sparkling wines, and the greatest aging potential, which deepens the complexity.

    Its unique flavors—toasty and yeasty—are due to the layers of chalk underneath the region’s soil.

     
    A vast chalk plain was laid down in the Cretaceous period, 145 to 66 million years ago (it’s the same huge expanse that created the White Cliffs of Dover in England). The chalk provides good drainage and reflects the heat from the sun, two factors that influence the flavor of the grapes.

    Champagne makers perfected the méthode champenoise, adding a dosage of sugar that generates a secondary fermentation in the bottle. This creates the bubbles.

    While producers the world over use the méthode champenoise to make sparkling wines, only the vine roots in Champagne grow down into the chalk, creating the prized flavors and body.

    However, not everyone likes yeasty, toasty wines. Other regions produce lighter bodied wines with citrus and other fruity flavors and floral aromas. The only way to discover what you like is to taste, taste, taste.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Raincoast Crisps, Crackers That Have It All

    For holidays, we always spring for special crackers. We have our year-round go-to favorites, but a special occasion deserves special crackers with the hors d’oeuvre, soup and cheese courses.

    Raincoast Crisps is one of the finest cracker lines made.

    Lesley Stowe spent years as a caterer before the demand for her crisps grew so great, she realized there was a different opportunity to pursue. She went into the crisps business full-time.

    Perfect for antipasto, dips, cheeses, pâtés or eating by themselves, these crisps are a perfection of flavor, texture and eye appeal. They’re packed with seeds (flax, pumpkin, sesame), nuts, fruits and herbs.

    There are now six year-round flavors and a pumpkin edition for the holidays.

    These small batch crackers* are made from scratch, using the finest-quality, all non-GMO ingredients. While Lesley could make them flat naturally, she creates a slight curve in the crisp to make them even more special (and great for dipping).

    Much time was spent in the development of Raincoast Crisps. There’s a lot of hand labor required to get them just so. As a result, they’re pricier† than production-line crackers. But as a splurge, don’t hesitate to spend your money on them; they’re worth it. The products are certified kosher by OU.
     
    *In the U.K. and Canada, crisps are something small and crunchy. Potato chips are called potato crisps.

    †We have seen them for $7.99 to $11.99 for a 170 g (6-ounce) box, depending on the retailer.
     
    THE GLORIOUS RAINCOAST CRISPS AND IDEAS FOR
    PAIRINGS

    As a caterer, Ms. Stowe had the experience to develop cracker flavors to pair with popular nibbles. Her choices follow, although your own preferences should guide your way.

    Original Raincoast Crisps

    With four types of seeds—no nuts, no fruits—this savory crisp is match anything, but Lesley favors it with:

  • Cheese: Boursin, Brie, Gruyère, Washed Rind Cheeses
  • Charcuterie: Bruschetta, Creamy Pâtés, Smoked Salmon
  • Wine: Champagne, Chardonnay, Zinfandel
  • Beer: Lager, Guinness, Wheat Beers
  •    

    Raincoast Crisps With Ham

    Raincoast Crisps Flavors

    TOP PHOTO: Use Raincoast Crisps as the base for canapés. BOTTOM PHOTO: The flavors and textures of Raincoast Crisps. Photos courtesy Lesley Stowe.

     
    Cranberry Hazelnut Crisps

    This sweet and fruity crisp, with plump cranberries and toasty hazelnuts, is a natural with:

  • Cheese: Brie, Emmental, Aged Cheddar, St. André or other triple crème
  • Charcuterie: Salami, Smoked Turkey
  • Wine: Cabernet/Bordeaux, Pinot Noir/Red Burgundy, Zinfandel
  • Beer: Grolsh, Pale Ale
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    Fig & Olive Crisps

    Pair this savory and salty crisp, made with Adriatic figs and Kalamata olives (no nuts), with:

  • Cheese: Brie/Camembert, Brilliat Savarin or other triple crème, Chèvre
  • Charcuterie: Capicollo, Tapenade
  • Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
  • Beer: Indian Pale Ale, Pilsner
  •  

    Rosemary Raisin Pecan Rainbow Crisps

    Raincoast Crisps With Muffuletta Spread

    TOP PHOTO: Rosemary Raisin Pecan crisps
    with blue cheese. BOTTOM PHOTO: The
    filling of a New Orleans mufffuletta sandwich
    is turned into a dip. Here’s the recipe. Photos
    courtesy Lesley Stowe.

     

    Rosemary Raisin Pecan Crisps

    Try this sweet and savory crisp, balancing sweet Thompson raisins with pecans and fresh rosemary, with:

  • Cheese: Brie, Chèvre, Mild Blues
  • Charcuterie: Salami, Muffuletta
  • Wine: Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux Reds
  • Beer: Cream Ale, Blonde Ale, Pale Ale
  •  
    While you’re at it, check out Lesley’s recipe for Caramelized Onion & Blue Cheese Dip. We couldn’t get enough of it.
     
    Salty Date and Almond Crisps

    Made at the request of customers for a saltier crisp, this combination of dates and almonds is topped with a dusting of coarse sea salt. Try it with:

  • Cheese: Havarti, Port Salut, Smoked Applewood Cheddar
  • Charcuterie: Country Pâté, Prosciutto
  • Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti, Zinfadel,
  • Beer: Honey Brown Ale, Pale Ale
  •  
    There are also two flavors exclusive to Whole Foods Markets: Apricot Fig & Lemon Crisps and the seasonal Pumpkin & Spice Crisps.
     
    WHEAT-FREE, NUT-FREE CRISPS

    So that more people can relish the crisps, there’s a wheat- and nut-free line made with oats, in:

  • Cranberry: Pair with Brie, fresh goat cheese or a triple crème; and/or prosciutto
  • Oat and Seed: Pair with blue cheese (softer is better), hummus, salami
  • Rosemary Raisin: Great with any cheese or dip
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    WHERE TO FIND THEM

    There’s a store locator on the website, and they are sold online at Dean & DeLuca, iGourmet and other specialty food sites.

    However, reading the reviews on Amazon raised an issue we need to point out. While almost every comment called them the “best crackers ever” (while bemoaning the high price), the majority reported that the crackers arrived in crumbs, that the packaging wasn’t good for shipping.

    If you can’t find them or can’t afford them, several people have recreated their own copycat recipes—much to the chagrin of Ms. Stowe who spent so much effort developing them. (“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” she says.)

    We can’t think of a better holiday gift for a foodie—along with a fine piece of cheese.

    Learn more at LesleyStowe.com.

    Cranberry Raincoast Crisps
     
    Cranberry Hazelnut Crisps photo courtesy Dean & DeLuca.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Dingel’s Oven Shortbread & Gingerbread (The Best!)

    Dingel's Oven Shortbread

    Three-inch monogrammed shortbread tiles,
    with a back coated with salted caramel.
    Photo courtesy Dingel’s Oven.

     

    A few months ago we were introduced to Dingel’s Oven, located in Beaverton, Oregon. What a find! And what a solution to gift-giving throughout the year. Because anyone who receives a box of cookies from Dingel’s Oven will look forward to another one, and another, and another.

    Bakers Uta and Ego specialize in the most delicious shortbread cookies and gingerbread cookies. Both are made in three-inch square “tiles” with crimped edges and a large monogram in the center.

    The cookies themselves are perfection, made even more perfect because each batch is hand-baked to order. In a cookie tin (provided by you), they’ll last for more than two months. That would be a theory, because no mere mortal can resist devouring them.

    But in the name of research, we’ve kept a few for almost three months now. While not as perfect as the fresh-baked—for example, the terrific fresh butter flavor we initially tasted is now a normal butter flavor—they are still delicious. No one who hadn’t tasted the originals would know the difference.

    The cookies freeze well, too.

    THE COOKIES

    Salted Caramel Shortbread Tiles

    The shortbread tiles have a surprise: The bottom of each cookie is covered with salted caramel. Shortbread and salted caramel together is wedded bliss.
     
    Glazed Gingerbread Tiles

    Requests for the gingerbread tiles continue beyond the holiday season, so the cookies are available year round. Centuries ago, ginger was expensive and a holiday splurge; that’s why gingerbread is associated with Christmas. Today, there’s no reason not to enjoy it year-round—especially with memorable cookies like these.
     
    Cookie Details

  • Many companies say that they only use the freshest, simplest, purest ingredients of the highest quality. That may be so; but Dingel’s Oven ingredients are even fresher and higher in quality. The butter in the shortbread really sets the bar, as does the ginger in the gingerbread.
  • The cookies are sold by the dozen. One dozen 3″ x 3″ cookies are $24.
  • The recipes contain no peanuts or nut products. No artificial additives, preservatives or extenders are used whatsoever. Sorry, but there is no gluten-free option.
  • Your personal message will be written on a gift card. For corporate gifts, the card can feature a 4-color logo.
  •  
    But don’t tarry. Since every the cookies are hand-baked to order, the bakers need two-week lead time for the holidays; and as much lead time as possible is greatly appreciated.

     

    BEYOND THE HOLIDAYS

    Think of Dingel’s Oven tile coookies year-round for:

  • Bachelorette parties
  • Wedding favors
  • Baby showers
  • Corporate gifts
  • Custom cookies for any occasion
  •  
    Instead of an initial monogram, you can have a logo or other image on your cookies.

    Thank you, Dingel’s Oven, for creating a memorable cookie that solves just about all gift-giving needs.

     

    Gingerbread a la Mode

    Serve the cookies à la mode, with vanilla, coffee or rum raisin ice cream. Photo courtesy Dingel’s Oven.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Serpent’s Bite Apple Cider Flavored Whisky

    Serpent's Bite Bottle

    Good enough to tote in a flask. Photo
    courtesy Spirits Marque One.

     

    Flavored shots are trending, and our favorite this season is Serpent’s Bite Apple Cider Flavored Whisky.

    It does for whisky what so many distillers have done for vodka: infuses a delectable layer of flavor.

    And Serpent’s Bite is the flavor of fall. It will appeal to fans of whisky and hard apple cider alike. It’s very smooth with a fine balance of sweet, crisp apple cider flavors with the whisky. The latter is distilled from corn and rye, which are blended during distillation and then infused with the apple cider flavors.

    Serpent’s Bite was made to be enjoyed in a neat shot, straight up with a slice of apple, or in a mixed-based shooter.

    At 35% ABV/70 proof, it’s a bit less alcoholic than your typical shot.

    It’s available in 50 ml (MSRP $1.89), 750 ml (MSRP $15.99) and 1 liter bottles (MSRP $18.99).

    If you want to know anything else about it, too bad. The only things on the one-page website are links to Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter feeds, the latter promoting the hashtag #BiteTheNight.

     
    Perhaps the only thing to say is: It tastes really good and would be a swell gift for the right folks.

    Spirits Marque One, producer of Serpent’s Bite, is part of Constellation Brands, the holdings of which comprise the world’s largest producer of wine, including Manischewitz and Robert Mondavi. Other alcohol brands among the hundred-plus include Corona beer and Svedka vodka.

     

    WHISKY VS. WHISKEY

    Whisky is the Scottish spelling of whiskey. The alternative spelling was chosen to differentiate the national product from Irish whiskey.

    The “whisky” spelling is used in Canada, Japan and Wales, as well as Scotland.

    In the United States, a 1968 directive from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms specifies “whisky” as the official U.S. spelling. However, it allows the alternative spelling, “whiskey.”

    Most U.S. producers prefer to include the “e,” as do we. Without it, it looks like something is missing.

    And another reason to keep the “e”: Irish whiskey predates Scotch whisky. Check out this brief history of whiskey.

    Ironically, distillation was discovered in the 8th century in Persia—a country that has not permitted the sale and consumption of spirits since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

     

    Serpent's Bite Shot

    Take a sip, bite the apple. Photo courtesy Spirits Marque One.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Better For You Candy & Treats

    Every time we dip into a bag of Bare Fruit Apple Chips, we wonder: Why isn’t everyone eating these?

    So before Halloween, we’re recommending them as the better-for-you treat, for the people you love. Everyone else can get those miniature junk candies from the supermarket. (Sorry if we have maligned your favorite candy bars; but honestly, you hardly taste the chocolate for the sugar/corn syrup.)

    Consisting simply of baked apple chips—no added sugar—these sweet, crisp chips satisfy the desire for sweetness an crunch. They’re fat-free, gluten free, fiber-filled.

    The apple chips are made from non-GMO project verified Washington State apples. And they’re certified kosher by Earth Kosher, an organic and kosher certifier.

    There are four flavors of all-natural apple chips, 90-100 calories per ounce (half cup serving), depending on the flavor.:

  • Fuji Red Apple Chips
  • Granny Smith Apple Chips
  • Sea Salt Caramel Apple Chips
  • Simply Cinnamon Apple Chips
  •  
    There’s also an organic line, including each of the flavors above plus a combination of all of them in one bag, Medley Apple Chips.

    There’s also an organic line, including each of the flavors above plus a combination of all of them in one bag, Medley Apple Chip
    This time of year we particularly like Simply Cinnamon Apple Chips, but will gladly eat whatever is closest. Who needs apple pie when you can have Bare Fruit Apple Chips?

    But you may think that Caramel Apple is better for Halloween. Plan ahead for stocking stuffers, and keep a supply in your glove compartment, desk drawer, gym bag, etc.

       

    cinnamon-apple-chips-bare-230

    chips-lovewithfood-230

    TOP PHOTO: It’s like apple pie in a crunchy chip. Phot6o courtesy Bare Fruit. BOTTOM PHOTO: Out of the bag. Photo courtesy Love With Food.

     
    You can get Bare Fruit products on Amazon.com or find them at retail via the company’s store locator. The “BUY” tab on the company website takes you to their Amazon store.

    They’re available in individual .53-ounce bags and in 1.69-ounce bags, three portions’ worth.
      
    NUTS FOR CRUNCHY COCONUT CHIPS

    After success with the apple chips, Bare Fruit came out with a divine line of coconut chips:

  • Chocolate Bliss Coconut Chips
  • Sea Salt Caramel Coconut Chips
  • Simply Toasted Coconut Chips
  • Sweet ‘n Heat Coconut Chips
  •  
    Loved ‘em all, but Chocolate Bliss truly is.

    GO BANANAS
     
    Most recently, the company has introduced crunchy banana chips. We haven’t yet had the pleasure of trying them, but you can let us know how you like them:

  • Cinnamon Banana Chips
  • Cocoa Dusted Banana Chips
  • Simply Baked Banana Chips
  •  

    HalfPops

    These crunchy popcorn nuggets are popped without oil. Photo courtesy Halfpops.

     

    HALFPOPS POPCORN NUGGETS

    If you grew up loving CornNuts, as we did, take note of the non-fried, gourmet version.

    Some people dig through the popcorn bowl to find those crunchy, half-popped kernels that taste even better than the fully popped corn. Smaller than a fully popped kernel, they’ve got the soft popped portion on the inside while the kernel remains crunchy on the outside.

    Halfpops is an entire bag of them. We like this fiber-filled half-popped popcorn even better than the conventional full-popped. It was love at first bite for us. These little nuggets are a go-to snack whenever we need something crunchy and salty.

    These are healthy, whole grain snacks. They’re all-natural, with zero sugar or preservatives. As a whole grain product, each bag contributes 3g fiber/serving. Halfpops are certified gluten-free and are also nut-free.

     

    Halfpops are currently available in four flavors:

  • Natural Butter & Sea Salt
  • Aged White Cheddar
  • Caramel & Sea Salt
  • Chipotle Barbeque
  • Each one-ounce serving contains 130 calories and 260 mg salt. And we love each flavor Don’t decide: Try them all!

    They’re certified kosher (dairy) by OU. Get yours at HalfPops.com. There’s also a retail store locator on the website.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 21 Ways To Use Beets

    beets-purple-orange-caroletopalian-ediblemadison-230r

    chioggia-half-sliced-goodeggsNY-230

    TOP: Beets are most familiar in a reddish-purple hue, but are also available in different shades of red, orange, white, yellow, even red with a red and white bullseye pattern inside (chioggia beets). Photo © Carole Topalian Photography | Edible Madison. BOTTOM: Chioggia beets. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

     

    Beets are one of those ‘em or hate ‘em foods. But they’re so delicious, we can’t understand the haters.

    We enjoy beets year-round. We eat the edible roots, but the greens are also delicious—just sauté them. And for fall, the colors are perfect.

    The availability of fresh, cooked, and canned beets makes it easy to incorporate beets into any meal. And unlike many canned or precooked vegetables, the flavor and texture are pretty close to fresh-cooked beets.

    Today’s tip comes from Oldways, a not-for-profit whose mission is “to guide people to good health through heritage”: healthy eating and healthy foods that “have the power to improve the health and well-being of all of us.”

    Along that line, beet roots deliver fiber, folate, manganese, and potassium; the beet greens pack vitamins A, C and K.

    BEETS FOR BREAKFAST

    While it’s not a conventional breakfast ingredient, beets add vivid color, flavor and nutrition to:

  • Avocado toast: add sliced beets.
  • Bagel: with smoked salmon, cream cheese and sliced or julienned/matchstick beets. Add fresh dill for perfection!
  • Omelet: with diced or julienned beets.
  • Vegetarian “Eggs Benedict”: substitute a beet slice for the Canadian bacon.
  • Yogurt or cottage cheese: top with a small dice or blend with beets and fresh dill.
  •  

    BEETS FOR LUNCH

  • Salad: add to side salads and luncheon salads (our favorite: beets, goat cheese and toasted walnuts on arugula or mesclun, and “purple potato salad”—the beets impart a swirl of color).
  • Sandwich: sliced plain or pickled beets on the sandwich, in a wrap or as a side.
  • Sandwich spread and more: blend horseradish and cooked grated beets into Greek yogurt to create a spicy sandwich spread, dip, or sauce for fish and meats.
  • Soup: hot or cold borscht.
  •  
    BEETS FOR DINNER

  • First course: sliced oranges and beets on a bed of lettuce with vinaigrette or a drizzle of basil olive oil, or this beautiful galette.
  • Salad: grate over a green salad with finely sliced red onion and a red wine vinaigrette, add to a fall salad with roasted squash and fennel (recipe).
  • Garnish: add sliced, diced or in matchsticks, beets add pizzazz.
  • Beet mashed potatoes: recipe.
  • Grains: stir chopped roasted beets, crumbled feta and finely chopped beet greens into cooked farro, quinoa or brown rice; drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.
  • Roast vegetables: beets with carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, turnips, with fresh rosemary, crushed garlic, and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Sautéed beet greens: cook in olive oil with sliced onions, crushed garlic, red pepper and a pinch of chili flakes and salt.
  • Braised: cook sliced beets, sliced red cabbage and beet greens with a bit of apple cider vinegar and caraway seeds.
  • Cheese plate: pickled beets as a cheese condiment
  •  
    You can add beets to breakfast bars, brownies, energy bars, sangria, smoothies. You can even make beet ice cream and a vegan beet “cheesecake.” See beautiful recipes at LoveBeets.com.

     

    BEET HORS D’OEUVRE & SNACKS

  • Bruschetta: layer sliced beets on sliced baguette, top with Brie or other cheese, heat to slightly melt the cheese, garnish with fresh herbs.
  • Dip: blend beets into mayonnaise, plain yogurt or sour cream, with fresh dill;* or this beet dip and spread, or blend into white bean dip.
  • Beet hummus: recipe with pepper and recipe with ginger.
  •  
    *Or stir grated cooked beets, garlic, fresh dill or thyme, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice into Greek yogurt.
     
    THE HISTORY OF BEETS

    The modern beet (its botanical name is Beta vulgaris) evolved from wild sea beet, which grew wild in places as wide-ranging as Britain and India to Britain. The wild sea beet was first cultivated in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East—although only the leaves were eaten! (Even today, beet greens are delicious. Don’t throw them away: Sauté them.) In early times, the medicinal properties of the root (the red bulb) led that portion to be used to treat a range of ailments from constipation, fevers, skin problems and wounds.

    The Romans cultivated beets; early recipes included cooking beets with honey and wine (that’s still a good recipe today). Apicius, the renowned Roman gourmet, included a beet broth recipe in his cookbook as well as beet salad with a dressing of mustard, oil and vinegar.

    The original beet roots were long and thin like carrots. The rounded root shape of today was developed in the 16th century and by the 18th century was widely cultivated in Central and Eastern Europe. Many classic beet dishes originated in this region, including borscht.

     

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/roasted orange beets salmon silkroadtavern 230

    roasted-beet-salad-orange-goat-cheese-ws-230

    TOP: Roasted salmon on a bed of beets. Photo courtesy Silk Road Tavern | NYC. BOTTOM: Roasted red and yellow beets with goat cheese. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     
    In 19th century England, beets’ dramatic color was popular to brighten up salads and soups. The high sugar content made it a popular ingredient in cakes and puddings.

    Today there are many varieties of beets sizes large and small, including candy-striped (with red and white concentric circles), orange, white and yellow. Look for these specialty beets in farmers markets.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Noosa Yoghurt

    To start with, Noosa is yoghurt, not yogurt. That’s the Australian spelling, and appropriate for a brand that originated Down Under.

    The original Noosa is a picturesque Australian resort town on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, the home of golden beaches. The name Noosa comes from an Aboriginal word meaning shade or shadows, a probable reference to the tall forests behind the sunny coast.

    On a vacation to Noosa, company co-founder Koel Thomae—an Aussie ex-pat living in Colorado—came across a tub of creamy yoghurt and passionfruit purée.

    It took just one spoonful for her to decide that she must bring this celestial style of yogurt to the U.S. Back in Colorado she found a partner, fourth-generation dairy farmer Rob Graves, who milked happy, pasture-raised cows. He took one taste of the Australian yogurt and agreed with Koel. America needed Noosa.

    They began to make Noosa in small batches, from farm-fresh whole milk, local raw clover alfalfa honey and purées of the best fruits. The “Australian-style” texture is thick like Greek yogurt but oh-so-velvety, as elegant as any dessert. (Some of that texture comes from kosher bovine gelatin.)

    The line is certified kosher (dairy) by OU, certified GMO free and made with rBGH-free milk from pastured cows.

       

    Cherry Yogurt Parfait

    Noosa Yoghurt is so silky, it’s like an elegant dessert. Photo courtesy ChooseCherries.com.

     

    The four-ounce cups, for 140 calories or so, depending on the flavor, is a wonderful bit of fruity sweetness at the end of the meal, or as a snack anytime.

    And for breakfast or lunch, well: What a treat. It’s worth seeking out.

     

    Noosa Yoghurt

    Some of Noosa’s luscious yoghurt flavors. Photo courtesy Noosa.

     

    There are 4-, 8- and 24-ounce sizes (not all flavors in all sizes):

  • Blueberry
  • Coconut
  • Cranberry Apple
  • Honey
  • Lemon
  • Mango
  • Peach
  • Pineapple
  • Plain
  • Pumpkin
  • Raspberry
  • Strawberry Rhubarb
  • Tart Cherry
  •  
    Not all flavors are made for each season; for example, Cranberry Apple and Pumpkin—both winners—are fall flavors,

    Here’s a store locator and the main website. Scroll to the bottom of the home page for a link to print a coupon.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Schmacon Beef Bacon

    The producer calls Schmacon “beef’s answer to bacon.”

    It looks like bacon and smells bacon; it cooks like bacon–preferably in the oven for maximum crispness, although it can be cooked in a frying pan.

    The result, crisp strips of Schmacon, tastes of beef instead of pork, but with the smoky, sweet spirit of bacon.

  • A serving of Schmacon contains 30 calories, 2 g fat, and 60 mg sodium.
  • A serving of pork bacon averages 60-90 calories, 4.5-7 g fat, and 190-360 mg sodium.
  •  
    Meatier, lower in sodium, calories and fat, Schmacon is a much healthier alternative, and you get more meat and less fat. More benefits:

  • Schmacon cooks in half the time of raw pork bacon.
  • It generates much less grease; and, as with bacon grease, you can use it to cook potatoes and eggs, make German potato salad, etc.
  • For everyone without a great kitchen exhaust fan: There’s no lingering smell of old bacon fat in the air.
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    Crisp, delicious Schmacon. Use it wherever you’d use bacon. Photo courtesy Schqmacon.

     
    We think it’s terrific, and so does the trade: The National Restaurant Association gave Schmacon its Food and Beverage Innovations Award.
     

    THREE YEARS IN DEVELOPMENT

    This is not the first beef bacon on the market, but but it’s head and shoulders above the rest. Most other beef bacon is manufactured with the same technique as pork bacon, but that made no sense to CEO Howard Bender. He started from scratch, testing different cuts of beef, spice blends and cooking processes until, three years later, he was satisfied.

    The result, Schmacon Smoked & Glazed Beef Slices, is an achievement, a delicious alternative for those who do not eat pork products, and a boon to those who’d like “healthier bacon.”

    Why isn’t it called bacon? Today, the USDA limits the use of “bacon” to pork. “Turkey bacon” got grandfathered in.

     

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    TOP: Schmacon and eggs. BOTTOM: Look for
    this package at your grocer’s. Photos courtesy Schmacon.

     

    WAYS TO USE SCHMACON

    Use it anywhere you’d use pork or turkey bacon, including to make:

  • Bacon cheeseburgers and hot dogs
  • Bacon quiche
  • Bean and lentil dishes
  • BLTs
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Chowder
  • Eggs, pancakes, waffles
  • Green salad, wedge salad with blue cheese dressing
  • Hot bacon vinaigrette
  • “Larded” filet mignon and turkey breast
  • Surf and turf: bacon-crusted salmon fillets (recipe)
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    WHERE TO GET SCHMACON

    Over the last year, Schmacon has rolled out to restaurants and foodservice. It is now rolling out to retailer stores.

    Look for a retailer near you. If you can’t find one, you can purchase a ten-pound package from the manufacturer. Extra Schmacon can be frozen; but we bet you’ll run through the bulk package pretty quickly.
     
    Discover more at Schmacon.com.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Made In Nature Coconut Chips

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    Madagascar Vanilla Coconut Chips. Photo
    courtesy Made In Nature.

     

    The new Made In Nature Organic Toasted Coconut Chips are a big hit with THE NIBBLE team. We love them for snacking and garnishing.

    Crunchy, health-tasting and versatile, we enjoyed the original plain toasted coconut chips. But the flavored versions are even better, and each is a winner:

  • Ginger Masala Chai
  • Italian Espresso
  • Maple Madagascar Vanilla
  • Mexican Spiced Cacao
  • Vietnamese Cinnamon Swirl
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    A bit of maple syrup is used as a sweetener. All ingredients are organic and non-GMO* with natural flavors. The coconut chips follow the Made In Nature mission: healthy snacks and global flavors.

    The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) is $3.99 for a 3-ounce bag. The line is certified kosher by OU.

     

    *Certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified.

     

    A REALLY GREAT GARNISH

    Beyond delicious snacking and incorporation into your trail mix, toasted coconut chips fit into every meal of the day as a garnish:

  • Breakfast: cereal, cottage cheese, yogurt
  • Lunch: Asian chicken salad, green salad, PB&J sandwiches, soup
  • Dinner: general plate garnish, international dishes, rice and other grains
  • Dessert: cake/cupcakes/pies, fruit salad, ice cream
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    You can match the flavors of the coconut chips to the flavors of your dishes; for example, Italian Espresso Coconut Chips on coffee ice cream, Mexican Spiced Cacao on anything chocolate, or Ginger Masala Chai with an Asian stir-fry and rice.

    Or mix and match the flavors. We just added Vietnamese Cinnamon Swirl on top of a baked apple. We promise, you’ll have fun being creative with these flavored coconut chips.

     

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    You can toast your own coconut chips. Photo courtesy WholePureRecipes.com.

     
    If you want to make your own coconut chips, here’s a recipe from Jodye of WholePureRecipes.com. It takes a while to get specialty flavors perfect, though; so you might want to start with Made From Nature.

    Made In Nature is available nationwide at retailers such as Costco, REI, Safeway, Sprouts, Wegman’s and Whole Foods Market; at select natural food stores; and online.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Smucker’s Fruit Spread With Honey

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    Mix with cream cheese, feta, cream cheese
    and adobo sauce for a sweet heat spread.
    Photo © The J.M. Smucker Company.

     

    A few years ago, the Orchard’s Finest line from Smucker’s tickled our palate and became a favorite bread spread.

    Now, the Smucker’s team has charmed us with a new line: Fruit & Honey fruit spreads, sweetemed with honey instead of sugar. And it’s just enough honey to sweeten, but not be too sweet. One tablespoon has just 35 calories.

    You also taste the honey in each bite. It’s a really nice departure from sugar-sweetened jams, and well worth trying. Even the shape of the jar is alluring.

    In addition to toast and PB&J or PB&B sandwiches, the Smucker’s shows how to create delicious and very easy recipes.

  • Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Blueberry Lemon Fruit Spread. Swirl it into slightly softened frozen yogurt in this easy recipe. Or, mix with cream cheese and yogurt or sour cream and spoon into graham cracker crusts for no-bake cheesecake tarts.
  • Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Strawberry Fruit Spread. Stir it into balsamic dressing for this quinoa, mixed greens and grilled chicken recipe.
  • Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Triple Berry Fruit Spread (a blend of blackberries, blueberries and strawberries). Mix with cream cheese, feta, chiles and adobo sauce for a sweet heat spread. Recipe.
  • Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Tropical Fruit Spread (peaches, mango, and passion fruit). Make a smoky mango salsa with black beans, fruit spread, lime juice, cilantro and paprika and serve it with tortilla chips or atop chicken. Here’s the recipe.
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    How many more ways can you use fruit spread? See our list below.

    Smucker’s Fruit & Honey fruit spreads are available at Walmart, Target, Publix and Safeway and other retailers nationwide. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) is $3.49 for a 9-ounce jar.
     
    WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JAM & FRUIT SPREAD?

    The difference is in the level of sweetness. Some jams can be cloyingly sweet. A good fruit spread isn’t.

    Jam consists of chopped, crushed or puréed fruit cooked down with sugar—a recipe as old as refined sugar. Fruit spread began to appear in the 1970s as a reduced-calorie product, made with alternative sweeteners such as juice concentrate. The honey in Smucker’s fruit spreads makes it so superior to others we’ve tasted.

    There are distinct differences between chutney, conserve, jelly, jams, marmalades and the other types of sweet spreads. Take a look.
     

    MORE WAYS TO USE FRUIT SPREAD OR JAM

    In Breakfast Dishes

  • Hot cereal. Use a dab instead of sugar.
  • Pancake and waffle topping. Substitute for syrup.
  • Yogurt. Add to cottage cheese or to plain yogurt, to make fruit yogurt.
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    At Lunch

  • Grilled cheese. Sharp cheeses like blue cheese and Cheddar are perfect pairings for jam or fruit spread. Grill with the cheese or serve it on the side as a condiment. For more flavor, use rye or a textured whole grain bread.
  • Salad dressing. Warm a spoonful and whisk it into salad dressings.
  • Sandwich spread. Spread on bread with a filling of cheese, ham, lamb, poultry or roast pork. To cut the sweetness, you can mix it with mayonnaise or plain yogurt.
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    Appetizers/Snacks

  • Canapés. Top a cracker or slice of baguette with cheese, ham, turkey or other favorite and a bit of jam or fruit spread.
  • Cheese condiment. Wonderful with a cheese plate (more cheese condiments) or atop a baked Brie. Make the popular appetizer of jam poured over a brick of cream cheese or a log of goat cheese, served with crackers.
  • Dipping sauce. Mix in a small bowl with sriracha or other hot sauce, a hot chile and vinegar. You can also make a dip with fresh grated ginger and soy sauce.
  • Pepper jelly. Mix in some red pepper flakes, dried or fresh minced chipotle, jalapeño or other chile (the different chile types).
  • Pretzel or breadstick dip. Mix with Dijon or other mustard. For a sweet-and-hot profile, add some hot sauce.
  •  
    Dinner

  • Meat glaze. Particularly delicious on poultry and pork. Mix with fresh herbs and garlic.
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    One of four flavors of the Fruit & Honey fruit spreads. Photo © The J.M. Smucker Company.

  • Sauce for meat and seafood. Use with wine or vermouth to deglaze the pan. Add some to the pan while you’re cooking chicken, pork chops, fish, scallops or shrimp and let the flavor coat the meat.
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    Dessert

  • Cheesecake. Fine jam makes a wonderful topping or a condiment on the side.
  • Cookies. Thumbprints and rolled cookies with a jam swirl are classics.
  • Crêpe filling. Delicious plain or with fresh goat cheese or mascarpone.
  • Dessert sauce. Mix with plain or vanilla yogurt or sour cream.
  • Ice cream and sorbet topping. Crown a scoop of sorbet. Lightly warm the jam so it flows like a sauce over ice cream.
  • Layer cake filling. A coat of jam between the layers is a classic: Think Sacher Torte! Apricot or raspberry jam is delicious with chocolate cake; any flavor works with lemon cake.
  • Tarts and tartlets. Fill tart or tartlet shells with jam. Top with a dab of crème fraîche, Greek yogurt, mascarpone or sour cream. Or, blend with cream cheese for a cheesecake-like tart.
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