THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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ON OUR RADAR: Interesting Nibbles From The Past Week

– The Los Angeles Times tastes 23 dark chocolate bars. While we agree with quite a few of their choices, their last-place bar, Theo’s 75% Ivory Coast, to which the Times ascribed “flat, chalky texture; there’s little chocolate flavor and no finish,” was ranked “phenomenal” by THE NIBBLE tasters earlier this year. We also liked the 70% Santander bar that the Times tasters placed second-to-last. In wine circles, bottle variation is frequent—even bottles of wine pulled from the same case can taste very different. So are we seeing “bar variation?” You can read our detailed reviews of Theo Chocolate and Santander Chocolate, and many of the other bars reviewed by the L.A. Times in the Chocolate Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.
– If you are seduced enough by a pretty picture to make the recipe, then TasteSpotting.com is for you. Pore over the luscious photos; then click through to the blog on which they appear, and find the recipe. Some non-recipe photos appear, like carved pumpkins and racks of aging cheeses.
  Theo Chocolate Bars
Theo’s Ivory Coast bar, spurned by the L.A. Times, adored by THE NIBBLE.
– Food blog Chez Pim urges you to participate in the 4th Annual Menu For Hope. This annual fundraising event is coordinated by food bloggers from all over the world. From now until December 21, check out the raffle offerings and bid on the prizes. Contributions go to the U.N. World Food Programme. Last year, Menu For Hope raised $60,925.12. If charity isn’t enough of a motivator, consider these incredible prizes: touring the El Bulli laboratory with Ferran Adrià, a historic British meal prepared by The Fat Duck’s Heston Blumenthal and a lunch date with food science writer Harold McGee.
– The battle royale of cookbooks: Are the mammoth Gourmet and Bon Appetit recipe compendia fighting it out like the Crips and the Bloods?

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TIP OF THE DAY: National Cupcake Day & Cupcake Recipes

Chocolate Cupcake

A chocolate cupcake from Divvies, a line that is allergen-free.

 

Today is National Cupcake Day, so enjoy a cupcake—in fact, make some with a chocolate “surprise.”

  • Make your favorite cupcake batter.
  • Fill the cupcake liner halfway with batter, then insert a piece of chocolate from your favorite gourmet chocolate bar (the size should be equivalent to a miniature-sized chocolate bar, about 1″ x 3/4″).
  • Then top off the cup 2/3 to 3/4 of the way with batter and bake as instructed. The chocolate bar will melt during the baking process.
  • After you ice the cupcakes, you can add another piece of chocolate to decorate the top.
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    We like to make a chocolate cupcake recipe and using a spicy “Aztec” chocolate bar, like Jacques Torres’ Wicked Way Bar.

    Or, enjoy this recipe for vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

     

     
      

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    NEWS: Jamón Ibérico (Pata Negra) Arrives In The U.S.

    People who have eaten jamón Ibérico (Iberian ham) in Spain have waxed poetic about the artisan dry-cured ham of southwestern Spain that has been called the “Rolls Royce of ham.” But it has not been available in the U.S., because of a USDA concern about the processing conditions. After USDA officials inspected and approved specific facilities in Spain, Santiago Martin of Fermin USA obtained USDA approval two years ago to export the ham to the U.S. and began taking $200 deposits for 15-pound hams that cost $780.00. A wait list of 300 people—restaurants, retailers, and consumer enthusiasts—plunked down their money. Finally, after a 10-year effort to import the product, the first hams have arrived. There are three different types of Jamón Ibérico:

    1) Jamón Ibérico de Pienso, or simply, Jamón Ibérico is made from pigs that are fed only grain. The ham is dry-cured for 24 months. This is the ham that has just arrived. A 9-pound boneless ham is $800.00, or about $89.00 a pound. With bone-in, it drops to just $52.00 a pound (but weighs 15 pounds, hence the $780.00 price tag). This is the ham commonly served at tapas bars (and now you know why those slices are so thin!).

     

     

      Jamon Iberico de Bellota

    Is it worth $96 a pound? Yes—Jamón Ibérico de Bellota has amazing, complex flavor. The good news is, it’s eaten only a few fragile slices at a time, like carpaccio—maybe an ounce’s worth.

    2) Going up a level, Jamón Ibérico de Recebo is made from pigs that are pastured and fed a combination of acorns and grain.

     

    3) The ultimate ham experience—we call it the kobe beef of ham—is Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, made from free-range pigs that roam oak forests along the southern border between Spain and Portugal and eat only acorns (bellota means acorn). The result is meat with a marbling of rich, golden fat. The ham is cured for 36 months—a very long time enabled by the high fat content and the antioxidant quality of the diet. At $96.00 a pound, these $1,400 luxury hams are expected to arrive in July 2008. So if you’re looking for that ultimate holiday gift, you can give the recipient a box of acorns and a card…and you’ve got until July to come up with the cash. The hams are available through LaTienda.com.

    The hams are more popularly known as pata negra, or “black hoof,” a casual name for the Ibérico pig (which is all black). They are the last free-ranging, free-grazing pigs in Europe, roaming the dehesas, the oak forests, of southwestern Spain. For more information about jamón Ibérico, visit FerminIberico.com or get Jamón news at Jamon.com. If you don’t care for the price tag (and we certainly don’t blame you), visit our Pork, Ham & Bacon section for some less costly, yet delicious, hams.

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    RECIPE: Classic Rum Egg Nog

    Egg Nog
    For those counting their calories, Mount Gay
    Eclipse is delicious sipping rum straight up.
      It’s Saturday. If you’re entertaining this weekend and still haven’t come up with that special holiday cocktail, how about that universal favorite, classic egg nog? An American invention based on a European milk-and-wine recipe (Colonials added the rum, a New World spirit, and in the late 19th century, Bourbon), egg nog not only tastes great, it has domestic roots (although unless you live in Kentucky or the Caibbean, it doesn’t count as locavore). Check out the egg nog recipe, courtesy of Mount Gay Eclipse Barbados Rum (a splendid light amber rum you should get to know), and also drink in the egg nog history and trivia. George Washington, a big egg nog fan, added not only rum but rye whiskey (another American invention) to his nog. If you’d like to look at more holiday cocktail recipes, click over to the Cocktails & Spirits section of THE NIBBLE online magazine. If you need a Diet Egg Nog recipe, we’ve got one of those, too, in our Diet Nibbles section.
     

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    PRODUCT WATCH: Pellegrino Organic Olive Oil From Italy

    What do you do when you’re a New York opera singer and your grandparents in Calabria, Italy make beautiful, organic-certified olive oil from the ancestral olive groves? You start The New York Olive Oil Co-Op and distribute the freshly-pressed olive oil to local enthusiasts who sign up for regular deliveries. Of course, it can be purchased by the single bottle or tin as well. Made from the Leccino olive, which is used to make the popular Tuscan olive oils, in this oil from the boot of Italy, grown the strip of coastline, the oil has the perfect gentle touch of pepper—not the cough-inducing quality of many Tuscan oils. We love the green olive aroma, moderate, fruity taste and rich, buttery texture. If you’re still looking for gifts for your gourmet friends, this could be it! It’s a delicious oil for heart-healthy people to drink from the spoon: 22 grams (.78 ounce) of EVOO per day may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Read our full review, and learn all about olive oil in the Oil & Vinegar Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.   Extra Virgin Olive OilSo good, you can drink it from the spoon.
     

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