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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.

VALENTINE GIFT: Kiss A Frog Chocolates

If you know a woman who is still waiting for the frog to turn into the handsome prince, here’s an idea for Valentine’s Day:

A box of Kiss A Frog chocolates, frog-shaped chocolates. The chocolates include 26 solid chocolate frogs and 6 frogs filled with peanut butter. They’re nestled in a chocolate brown, heart-shaped box tied with a gossamer green ribbon.

The box of chocolate frogs, a total of 16 ounces, is $39.00 at BlackDinahChocolates.com.

Black Dinah Chocolates, handmade in Maine (on a remote island offshore), are a favorite at THE NIBBLE (here’s our review).

The confectioners also make beautiful bonbons, bark, salted caramels and other beguiling confections.

Discover more at BlackDinahChocolatiers.com.

 

kiss-a-frog-blackdinah-2014-230sq

Chocolate frogs will have to do instead of a handsome prince. Photo courtesy Black Dinah Chocolates.

 

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Non-Ketchup Dips For Fries & Onion Rings

baconnaise-firebox-230

Baconnaise, bacon-flavored mayo, is good
stuff (but stick to the regular, not the Lite).
Photo courtesy LiteBox.com.

 

When Chef David Venable of QVC wrote us to suggest Beer-Battered Onion Rings with Horseradish Dill Dipping Sauce—the recipes are below—we thought: What else works as a condiment with French fries and onion rings instead of ketchup?

For a change of pace or a special occasion, try these condiments, dips and sauces:

  • Aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), the classic for Belgian frites (recipe)
  • Bacon mayonnaise like Baconnaise
  • Blue cheese dip (here’s our favorite)
  • Chipotle ketchup, curry ketchup or sriracha ketchup (recipe)
  • Ginger-sesame sauce (recipe below)
  • Homemade lemon or lime mayonnaise (recipe—grate zest into the mayo to taste)
  • Korean dipping sauce, based on tofu, red pepper paste, soybean paste (recipe)
  • Ponzu sauce
  • Saffron mayonnaise (recipe)
  • Salsa, red or green
  • Spicy mayonnaise (like chipotle or wasabi mayo)
  • Vietnamese dipping sauce, sweet and tangy, with lime juice and Thai chiles (recipe)
  • Yogurt dip—tzatziki or raita
  •  
    RECIPE: GINGER-SESAME SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 large garlic clove, very finely chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK together the ingredients in a small bowl.

     

    RECIPE: HORSERADISH DIPPING SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoon horseradish
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK together the mayonnaise, ketchup, horseradish paprika and dill in a small bowl. Set aside and cook the onion rings.
     
    RECIPE: FRIED ONION RINGS

    Ingredients

  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) beer
  •  

    onion-rings-horseradish-dipping-sauce-qvc-230

    Onion rings with horseradish dipping sauce. Photo courtesy QVC.

  • 3 large onions, preferably Vidalia, sliced into 1/4-inch rings and separated
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CLIP a deep-frying thermometer to the side of a deep, heavy pot. Add 2 inches of canola oil to the pot and slowly heat the oil to 350°F. While the oil is heating…

    2. WHISK together the flour, egg, garlic powder, oregano, cayenne, salt and black pepper in a bowl. Gradually whisk in the beer, stirring until a thick batter forms.

    3. DREDGE the onion slices in the batter. Using tongs, add four or five onion rings to the hot oil and fry for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown. Turn them halfway through cooking. (Cook the onion rings in batches or the oil won’t stay hot and the onion rings will be soggy rather than crisp.)

    4. USING tongs, remove the fried onions to a wire rack or paper towels to drain. Cook the remaining batter-dipped onion rings. Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Turkey Bacon Pancakes

    turkey-bacon-pancakes-jennieo-230r

    The longest pancakes ever. Photo courtesy Jennie-O.

     

    Ladle pancake batter over strips of bacon, and long, fun pancakes result. This recipe from Jennie-O uses the company’s turkey bacon, but you can use any bacon you wish.

    Jennie-O uses better-for-you whole wheat flour in this recipe, but you can substitute refined white flour.

    RECIPE: TURKEY BACON PANCAKES

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 12 bacon slices, cooked according to package directions
  • Maple syrup
  • Optional garnish: berries or other fresh fruit
  •  

    Preparation

    1. HEAT the griddle pan to medium-high. In medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

    2. WHISK together the buttermilk, egg and butter in small bowl. Add to the flour mixture. Stir until combined, do not over stir.

    3. PLACE two strips of bacon together every 4 inches apart on greased griddle. Ladle ¼ to ? cup of the pancake mixture over the bacon to form long pancakes. Cook for 2 minutes or until bubbles appear over surface of pancakes. Flip and cook 1 to 2 minutes longer or until golden brown.

    4. SERVE with maple syrup and optional fruit.
     
      

    Comments

    SUPER BOWL: Garrett Popcorn

    For Super Bowl munching, how about some Spicy CheeseCorn? The limited edition flavor from Garrett Popcorn is a welcome gift: a yummy blend of cayenne pepper and chili powder mixed with freshly melted Cheddar cheese corn.

    Combine with a cold beer, and you may not care who wins or loses.

    Send Spicy CheeseCorn as a gift or send some to yourself, at GarrettPopcorn.com.

    You can choose from an array of tin sizes and six different tin designs, from 1 gallon to 6.5 gallons ($31 to $135). And if you don}t like things spicy, you can choose from Garrett’s other flavors:

  • Almond CaramelCrisp
  • Buttery
  • CaramelCrisp
  • Cashew CaramelCrisp
  • CheeseCorn
  •  

    spicy-cheesecorn-beauty-230

    Spicy CheeseCorn; BYOB. Photo courtesy Garrett Popcvorn.

  • Garrett Mix (sweet CaramelCrisp with savory CheeseCorn)
  • Macadamia CaramelCrisp
  • Pecan CaramelCrisp
  • Plain
  •  
    You can order single flavors or combine three flavors in one tin. Details are on the company website.

      

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    VALENTINE GIFT: X.O. Cognac

    hennessy-xo-230

    It’s a beauty—and it has a just-as-lovely gift
    box. Photo courtesy Hennessy.

     

    We sign our letters to friends with “X.O.,” short for a hug and a kisse.

    The abbreviation for “hugs and kisses,” XOXO, has been used for centuries to express love or good friendship at the end of a written letter or card (and these days at the end of an email or text message). The X stands for kiss and the O for hug.

    What is the history of this custom? Why not HKHK instead of XOXO? There’s more about that below.

    First, we’d like to suggest a luxurious Valentine’s Day gift: X.O. Cognac, a divine aperitíf or nightcap.

    This style of Cognac was created in 1870 by Maurice Hennessy, to be enjoyed with his circle of friends. The bold, intense and complex flavors are based on much longer aging. Some of the 100 eaux-de-vie* assembled to create X.O were aged for 30 years. M. Hennessy gave it the name X.O to signify “extra old.”

    It’s a Cognac for connoisseurs, served neat, on ice or with a splash of still or sparkling water. Don’t even think of mixing it in a cocktail!

     
    By the way, it was Maurice Hennessy, great-grandson of company founder Richard Hennessy, who created the Cognac classification system. He used varying numbers of stars to designate different quality, first producing Hennessy’s Three Star Cognac, today known as V.S (Very Special). His classification system was adopted by the entire industry.

    When he was the Prince of Wales, King George IV of Great Britain asked Hennessy to create a “very superior old pale Cognac.” It was designated V.S.O.P—Very Superior Old Pale—and since then, a letter system evolved to replace the stars (see below).
     

    LUXURIOUS VALENTINE GIFT IDEA

    Deliver your hugs and kisses with a bottle of X.O. Cognac. In addition to Hennessy, it is made by a number of Cognac houses including Camus, Courvoisier, Martell, Rémy Martin and others. They bottles cost $150 and up.

    While a bottle of Hennessy X.O., at the top of the price scale, can cost upwards of $200, we found it “on sale” at WineAnthology.com for $165.

    If you’re not looking for a bargain, you can get a custom-engraved bottle directly from Hennessy. Your message is engraved on the back of the bottle, making it a lovely keepsake (see the photo below).

    We also like to give an engraved bottle of X.O. Cognac as a wedding gift or anniversary gift.

     

    COGNAC CLASSIFICATIONS

  • V.O.: Very Old, aged a minimum of four years.
  • V.S.: Very Special. The youngest brandy in the blend has been aged for at least two years in cask. Also called Three Star.
  • V.S.O.P.: Very Superior Old Pale; the youngest spirit in the blend is aged four years in cask but the average can be 10 to 15 years.
  • X.O.: Extra Old. The youngest brandy is aged for at least six years but the average is 20 years or more. In 2016, the minimum storage age of the youngest brandy used in an XO blend will be 10 years.
  • Extra/Napoleon/Vielle Reserve: While regulations designate a minimum of 6 years of age for the youngest brandy, this average is usually older than X.O.
  •  
    There are other age designations, but they are smaller productions and are not typically imported to the U.S.
     
    Other terms to know:

     

    valentine-engraved-bottle-230

    Engrave a personal message on your X.O. Gift Photo courtesy Hennessy.

  • Hors d’Age: Meaning “beyond age,” this is a rare Cognac that is off the designated age scale.
  • Varietal: Made using only one type of varietal grape
  • Vintage: Aged and was put into the bottle in the year of the vintage
     
    ABOUT X’s AND O’s

    The custom of placing X’s on envelopes and at the bottom of letters notes, signifying kisses, dates back to the Middle Ages. At that time, a Christian cross was drawn on documents or letters to indicate faith, honesty and sincerity. A kiss, indicated with an X, was then placed upon the cross by the signer as a display of his or her sworn oath.

    A similar practice dates back to early Christian history. Since most people could neither read nor write, an X was used as their signature on documents, and an actual kiss was placed upon it as a show of sincerity. [Source]

    What about the “O?” Current speculation is that it is of Jewish derivation, since Jews would not use the sign of the cross.

    In terms of how the two symbols came together in the very non-legal “hugs and kisses”: Alas, dear reader, the answer is lost to history.
     
    *Eau de vie (eaux is the plural), pronounced oh-duh-VEE, is French for “water of life.” It’s a clear, colorless fruit brandy. After the brandy is aged in wood, it takes on its amber color. Cognac is a region in northern France; only brandies produced there can be called “Cognac.” The artisanship and strict production regulations in Cognac creates a superior spirit. Generic “brandy” can be produced anywhere.

      

  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Greek Layered Dip

    greek-7-layer-dip-foodnetwork-230

    This variation, from Cameron Curtis | The
    Food Network
    , uses artichoke hearts. Photo
    courtesy Food Network.

     

    How many times have you had a Mexican layered dip—a.k.a. Seven Layer Bean Dip or Seven Layer Taco Dip—a layering of chopped black olives, diced tomatos, grated Cheddar, guacamole, refried beans, sliced green onions and sour cream, served with tortilla chips?

    Sure, it’s popular. But for this year’s Super Bowl, how about a different spin: a seven layer Greek-style dip with pita chips? That’s what we’re making.

    Yo don’t need seven layers: You can choose as many or as few layers as you like. The one thing we personally insist on is layering the ingredients in a glass salad bowl, so everyone can enjoy the pretty layers before the chip-dippers get busy.

    PICK YOUR SEVEN LAYERS

    Spreads/Dips

  • Babaganoush
  • Hummus
  • Tzatziki
  •  
    Dairy

  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  •  
    Vegetables

  • Artichoke hearts, well drained and chopped
  • Cucumbers, diced and seeded
  • Kalamata olives, chopped
  • Fresh tomatoes, chopped and seeded or sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • Red or yellow bell peppers, small dice
  • Chopped red onions or thinly sliced green onions
  •  
    Plus

  • Optional garnish: fresh dill, mint and/or parsley, snipped
  • Pita chips
  •  

    INDIVIDUAL LAYERED DIPS

    Here’s a simple recipe from Stacy’s Pita Chips. If you don’t have verrines (the small glasses in the photo), clear juice glasses or other appropriate vessels, you can buy plastic rocks cups (9 ounces).

    Ingredients

  • Hummus (you can use flavored hummus for one of the layers)
  • Tzatziki
  • Diced tomatoes (you can substitute red bell pepper when tomatoes are out of season)
  • Toppings: crumbled feta cheese, sliced black olives, minced red onion
  • Garnish: chiffonade of mint, pita chip
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE a layer of hummus at the bottom of the glass, followed by a layer of tzatziki. Repeat.

     

    mini-layer-dip-stacyspitachips-230

    You can make layered dips as individual portions—a fun appetizer idea. Photo courtesy Stacy’s Pita Chips.

     

    2. ADD a layer of diced tomatoes. Top with the feta, olives, onion and mint. Crown with a pita chip.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Crème Yvette

    creme-yvette-2-230

    Crème Yvette violet liqueur, worth getting to know. Photo courtesy Cooper Spirits International.

     

    This old-fashioned-looking bottle with an unfamiliar name hasn’t been around in more than 40 years. Purple-hued and violet-scented, it was enjoyed since the 19th century in cocktails and as an after-dinner digestif.

    Alas, it was one of many old-fashioned liqueurs that went out of style and ceased to be produced; in this case, it went defunct in 1969. But it recently caught the fancy of the creator of St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur (another favorite for Valentine’s Day or any day), who has resurrected it.

    Crème Yvette, also called Crème d’Yvette and Crème de Yvette, is made from parma violet petals*, blackberries, blackcurrants, red raspberries and wild strawberries, along with honey, orange peel and vanilla.

    Currently, it seems to be available in New York and California, but you can see if your local liquor store can order a bottle for you.

    There are cocktail recipes on the brand’s website, CremeYvette.com. We enjoyed mixing it with sparkling wine (we also layered St. Germain into one variation).

    And it’s delicious atop raspberry sorbet—an easy Valentine’s Day dessert.

    (By the way, exactly who Yvette was has been lost to history.)
     
    *The same exotic flower used to make those violet pastilles.

     

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Celebrate Burns Night Tonight

    When you sang “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve, did you recall that it was first a poem from Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland (1759-1796)?

    His birthday, January 25th, is celebrated in Scotland as Burns Night. Family and friends gather for an evening of good food and company—a warm and happy event much like our Thanksgiving. A traditional Burns’ Supper is served. Here’s the supper format, if you want to plan ahead for next year.

    But you can have a much smaller event tonight, as brief as enjoying a tumbler of Scotch and reading a poem. Burns’ complete works are available free online. Some suggestions: A Red, Red Rose (“My luve is like a red, red rose…”); To a Louse; To a Mouse; Tam O’Shanter.

    If you’d like to do something a bit more elaborate, call around and invite a group for a Scotch tasting (here’s how). Everyone can bring whatever brand they have at hand…along with any bagpipe music.

    Then, there’s a Scotch and chocolate tasting. While solid chocolate wasn’t invented in Burns’ lifetime, he was a bon vivant and we’re sure he’d approve.

    Here are more food ideas for Burns Night.

     

    scotch-cheese-wisconsincheesetalk-230

    Celebrate Burns Night with Scotch and a poem. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     
    Heid doon arse up! (That’s Scottish for Get on with it!)

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Spreads With Wine

    butternut-goat-cheese-dip-mondavi-230

    Butternut squash spread, served warm. Photo
    courtesy Mondavi.

     

    If your crowd drinks red wine rather than beer during the Super Bowl, here are some dip ideas from Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi. The brand created recipes that go well with its Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. For good measure, a tablespoon of wine is added to each of the dips.

    If you’re a Super Bowl guest, offer to make the dip as well as bring the wine.

    RECIPE: ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH & GOAT CHEESE SPREAD

    This dip is served warm.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Appetizer Servings

  • 1 pound butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into large pieces
  • 3 bulbs garlic, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Pinot Noir
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cayenne, to taste
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped (we use scissors and snip them)
  • Plus:

  • Crackers and/or bread: baguette slices, ciabatta, pita triangles or other favorite
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F.

    2. TOSS the first four ingredients in a medium bowl. Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake until the squash is fork tender, about 30 minutes.

    3. PLACE all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. (If you’re making the dip a day or more in advance, also taste and adjust when you’re ready to reheat it.)

    4. SPOON the dip into a serving bowl and top with extra pine nuts and goat cheese. Serve warm with the bread/crackers and a glass of Pinot Noir.

    TO MAKE IN ADVANCE: Hold back the goat cheese and pine nuts until you’re ready to reheat and serve. At the 25-minute mark, remove the dip from the oven and the sprinkle goat cheese and pine nuts over the top. Place it back in the oven on BROIL for the remaining 5 minutes to toast the pine nuts and warm the goat cheese.

     

    RECIPE: CARAMELIZED ONION SPREAD

    This dip is served at room temperature.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Appetizer Servings

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, sliced into half rings
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter over medium-low heat, then add the onions, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Slowly caramelize the onions by letting them sit for about 3 minutes, then stirring. Do not allow the onions to burn. If the pan gets too dry, add a small amount of water. When the onions are a rich brown color (about 30 minutes)…

     

    butternut-goat-and-caramelized-onion-mondavi-230

    Butternut squash spread, caramelized onion spread and some almond nibbles. Photo courtesy Mondavi. Photo courtesy Mondavi.

     

    2. ADD the Cabernet Sauvignon and cook for another three minutes or until the wine is completely absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat. Reserve 1-2 tablespoons of the caramelized onions for garnish.

    3. ADD the cream cheese, sour cream and yogurt to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth on medium low speed. Turn the mixer down to the lowest speed and add the onions. Add the seasonings to taste.

    4. GARNISH with the caramelized onions and chives and serve at room temperature.

    TO MAKE IN ADVANCE: Follow steps 1-3. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes to bring to room temperature. Garnish and serve.
     
    DIP OR SPREAD: THE DIFFERENCE

    Mondavi calls these recipes dips, but they’re actually spreads. What’s the difference?

    Both dip and spread call it like it is:

  • A spread is thicker and requires a knife to spread it, typically onto bread or crackers. If it requires a a knife, it’s a spread.
  • A dip is thinner and requires no utensil: Simply dip something into it—bread sticks, chips, crudités.
  •  
    Some recipes deliver a consistency between the two, and are dippable or spreadable. But if a chip breaks under the weight of the “dip,” it’s a spread.
      

    Comments

    VALENTINE’S DAY: Send A Cake To Your Valentine & To A Veteran

    bake-me-a-wish-cake-230

    Send a gift to a loved one and a veteran. Photo courtesy Bake Me A Wish.

     

    BakeMeAWish.com’s Valentine’s Day Freedom Cake is a Valentine gift with real meaning. When you send a cake to a loved one, Bake Me A Wish will also send a cake to a veteran in a VA Hospital in the U.S.

    It’s $75 for both cakes; the cake is normally $39.95 plus $15 shipping.

    If you’d rather buy something else: When you spend $25 or more at BakeMeAWish.com, use the code VETERAN. Bake Me A Wish will automatically donate 20% of the purchase price toward sending a cake to a veteran in a VA Hospital.

    The initiative is in partnership with, Soldiers’ Angels, whose motto is “May no soldier go unloved.” The non-profit organization provides assistance to families of enlisted soldiers.

    BakeMeAWish.com sends gift-boxed cakes nationwide, and includes a personalized card. If you’ve forgotten a special occasion, the cake can be delivered overnight.

     

    To order your Freedom Cake or other cake gift, visit BakeMeAWish.com.

     
      

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