THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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PRODUCTS: 5 Beverage Favorites

1. ANGRY ORCHARD: ORCHARD’S EDGE KNOTTY PEAR

Hard apple cider is hot, but what about perry?

Pears are also turned into hard cider, called perry in the U.K.; but perry is not as well known in the U.S.

American cider makers tend to label their perries as pear cider. And there are far fewer of them.

We’ve had all of Angry Orchard’s 13 apple ciders, but these days it’s their one perry—a.k.a. Orchard’s Edge Knotty Pear—that has our attention.

It’s available nationwide, and will open your eyes to the joys of pear hard cider. We need for more American cider lovers to try it and convince Angry Orchard that there is a market for more perry.

The term perry comes from the Old French word for pear, peré (PEH-ray), from the Latin word for pear, pirum.

As with apples, the pear varieties used to make cider tend to be sour, and aren’t pleasant eating.

Next step: Look for Knotty Pear cider and buy it. If you find several brands, buy them all and have a perry tasting.

Discover more about Angry Orchard ciders.
 
 
2. COFFIG: ROASTED FIG COFFEE SUBSTITUTE

We’ve tried caffeine-free coffee substitutes: Thanks but no thanks. But Coffig has succeeded in making a natural coffee alternative from roasted figs.

We didn’t believe it until we tried it. It really does substitute for coffee, hot or iced. If you’re looking for an alternative, try it.

We think you’ll like it. And there’s a 100% Money Back Customer Satisfaction Guarantee if you don’t.

Coffig comes in convenient, individually wrapped “tea bags” for single cups; as well as in pouches of powder for making larger batches. The product is 100% roasted black figs.

You can buy them on the website: Coffig.com, and on Amazon.
 
 
3. SAMUEL ADAMS: GRAPEFRUIT REBEL IPA

In 2014, Samuel Adams introduced Rebel IPA, their take on a West Coast IPA (India Pale Ale).

West Coast-style IPAs use hops from the Pacific Northwest, which have different flavors than European hops, and generally have more hop intensity.

We liked Rebel IPA. So did a lot of other people. It did so well in these IPA-happy times that siblings began to arrive: Rebel Rouser Double IPA, Rebel Rider Session IPA, Rebel Juiced IPA, Rebel White Citra IPA and our favorite, Rebel Grapefruit IPA.

We are fans of wines with grapefruit notes, like French Sauvignon Blancs, and love it in beer, too. Rebel Grapefruit IPA is brewed with real grapefruit in the mash, for a prominence of flavor that complements the citrus of the hops.

See it, try it. Find details at SamuelAdams.com.

Find more beer types and terms in our Beer Glossary.

 
 
4. SEALAND BIRK: ORGANIC BIRCH WATER

First came coconut water, then maple water, and now birch water.

The producer, Sealand Birk (birk is Danish for birch), advises: Drink your water from a tree—just like the Vikings used to…the people of the Nordic regions rejuvenate their body and soul after long, harsh winters with the uplifting spring tonic of birch tree water.

Birch water has become “the detox ingredient de jour” thanks to its antioxidant- and mineral-rich nutrient profile. It won the drink category of the 2016 Nature & Health Natural Food Awards.

We had the opportunity to drink the line at a trade show, and proclaimed every flavor (blueberry, cranberry, elderflower, gooseberry, mango, raspberry rhubarb) and the unflavored original winners.

So where can you buy it? Write to info@sealandbirk.com with your zip code.

 

Angry Orchard Knotty Pear

Coffig

Samuel Adams Rebel Grapefruit IPA

Birch Water, Blueberry Flavor

Sprite Cherry Cola

[1] Knotty Pear from Angry Orchard is a perry: pear cider (photo courtesy Angry Orchard). [2] Coffig is a coffee substitute made from figs (photo Pinterest). [3] Our new favorite beer from Samuel Adams: Rebel Grapefruit IPA (photo Boston Brewery). [4] Refreshing, nutritious water tapped from birch trees, available plain or flavored (photo Sealand Birk). [5] Sprite’s first new entry in 56 years: Cherry Sprite (photo Coca-Cola).

 
Amazon lists three flavors (original, blueberry, raspberry) but they are “currently unavailable.”

Hopefully they’re coming soon. You can ask to be emailed when they arrive.

The company’s main website is based in Australia, and has e-commerce; but the U.S. website currently does not.

Otherwise, you may just have to tap a birch tree.

One could do worse than be a tapper of birches.
 
 
5. SPRITE: CHERRY SPRITE & CHERRY SPRITE ZERO

Lemon-lime Sprite was introduced to the U.S. in 1961 as a competitor to 7 Up. Why has it taken this long to come up with a line extension, Cherry Sprite?

The answer is vending machine technology; specifically, Coca-Cola Freestyle, the touch screen soda fountain that has changed drink dispensing in movie theaters and other soda-thirsty locations.

The machine features 165 different variations of Coca-Cola products: Coke, Diet Coke, Dr. Pepper, Sprite and the company’s other brands. Consumers can add flavors to their base drink of choice.

Upon review of purchase data, cherry was the number-one flavor added to Sprite. Thus, you can now buy Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero in 20-ounce bottles in stores nationwide. The new flavor was a long time coming, but worth the wait.

Theatre fans note: Formulations for the Freestyle dispenser and the bottled versions of Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero vary a bit. The most obvious difference is that Sprite with added cherry flavor from the Freestyle produces a red-tinted drink, whereas bottled Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero is clear.

And LeBron James drinks it. See him at Sprite.com.

  

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PRODUCT: Facundo Baccardi Premium Rum & A Chocolate Banana Cocktail Recipe

Chocolate Banana Rum Cocktail

Facundo Neo Rum

Facundo Rum Collection

[1] Chocolate banana cocktail. The recipe is below. [2] Ready for its close up: Facundo Neo rum. [3] The Facundo Bacardi Rum Collection (photos courtesy Bacardi).

 

Weekends are time for testing new cocktail recipes. The one below is from the Facundo Rum Collection, a luxury portfolio.

If we were lucky enough to have a bottle, we’d sip it straight as the rum was intended, and substitute another white rum in the cocktail.

Bacardi’s Facundo Bacardi Rum Collection, introduced in 2013, is the distiller’s commitment to the emerging category of premium sipping rums. The rums are made from the company’s private rum reserve: the finest batches of rum aged for very long times.

The line was championed by Facundo L. Bacardi, who strongly felt that the company should be a player in the emerging category of premium rums.

The four expressions range from $45-$250 a bottle. They are made in different styles, and produce a wide range of flavor experiences.

For example, the first rum in the collection, Facundo Neo, is a blend of rums that have been aged for up to eight years.

It’s not exactly your basic quality brand white rum, used to make a Mojito or Piña Colada. Regular white rum is aged for a year, sometimes more.

The result of the extra aging and the fact that the “best” barrels were aged: Neo’s flavor profile is a beautifully balanced, with notes of banana, almonds and freshly cut grass. To experience them, sip them neat or on the rocks.

If you’re a person for whom money is no object, you can use whatever rum you like in mixed drinks. But truth to tell with the recipe below, after you mix vermouth and two liqueurs with the rum, only the most professional palate could articulate the difference.
 
 
A NOTE ABOUT AGED RUM

It’s easy to understand the age categories of tequila, scotch and other spirits. The producing countries have laws that govern, among other things, how long the spirit has been aged prior to bottling.

For example, Mexican laws govern how many months a tequila can be aged in order to be called silver, reposado, anejo, extra anejo tequilas (details).

With rum, aging can last from one to thirty years or more, but you often won’t find a number on the bottle*. There are exceptions, such as Appleton (the top expression is 50 years old!) and Flor de Cana.

The Facundo expressions include Facundo Neo Rum, Facundo Eximo Rum, Facundo Exquisito Rum and Facundo Paraiso XA Rum. Each is aged longer than the next. But as with most rums, don’t expect to know how long that aging period was.

That’s because unlike other spirit-producing areas, Caribbean countries did not stake their claim to exclusivity by passing appropriate laws to protect their rights, i.e., that only alcohol distilled in the Caribbean can be called rum. (Scotch can only be produced in Scotland, bourbon can only be produced in the U.S., tequila in Mexico, etc.)

 
As a result, rum has no consistent standards among countries. Beyond the Caribbean, rum is now produced in Australia, India, Reunion Island, South America and elsewhere around the world.

That makes any rules and regulations hard to enforce. Even proofs vary (40 proof vs. 50 proof for white rum, for example).

Thus, Mexico requires white rum to be aged a minimum of 8 months. The Dominican Republic requires one year. Venezuela requires two years.

Naming standards also vary. Argentina defining rums as white, gold, light, and extra light. Barbados calls them white, overproof and matured. The U.S. defines the categories as rum, rum liqueur, and flavored rum [source].

Some distillers use the word “premium” to describe their best aged spirits. Another common description is the word “anejo,” old. “Gran anejo” is even older.

But none of these terms tells you how long the rum has aged. It’s the blender or distiller who decides what to call it.

In their marketing literature you’ll find terms like aged, aged even longer and aged extensively—without explanation. Here’s an article that tries to explain what cannot be explained.

So don’t try to figure it out: Just enjoy it.
 
 
RECIPE: BANANA CHOCOLATE COCKTAIL

Beyond the Banana Daiquiri: a banana-chocolate cocktail for those who like to drink their dessert.

Ingredients

  • 1½ parts Facundo Neo rum (substitute other white rum)
  • ½ part dry vermouth
  • ¼ part Giffard Banane du Brésil (or other banana liqueur)
  • ¼ part Giffard Crème de Cacao white (or other white crème de cacao)
  • Garnish: lemon peel for garnish and dried banana chips
  •  
    Preparation

    In a mixing glass, stir all the ingredients with plenty of ice. Strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube. Garnish with a dry banana chip and a lemon peel.

    ________________

    *Age is beginning to appear in some rum bottles, such as Appleton and Flor de Cana aged rums. But again, statements of age may vary by country. For example, a Scotch may be a blend of ages from 8 to 15 years, but by law it has to specify the youngest Scotch in the blend, e.g., 8 Year Old. It’s too soon to tell what will happen with the rum category as a whole.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Quick & Easy Paella Recipe For National Paella Day

    March 27th is National Paella Day. Many people think that paella is a complex, time-consuming dish—and classic recipes can be.

    But you can make this simplified version from Good Eggs easily on any weeknight.

    After 20 minutes of prep time, 20 mins active time plus 40 minutes simmer time.

    RECIPE: SPRING SHRIMP PAELLA

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and cleaned
  • Optional: 1/2 pound mussels or clams
  • ¾ cup arborio rice, rinsed
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • ¼ teaspoon (generous) saffron threads
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 12 ounces fresh spring peas or snap peas, cut on a diagonal (or a mix)
  • 1¼ cups chicken broth
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, more as desired
  • Garnish: 1/3 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped (save the stems*)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE a large pan over medium heat (a skillet or roasting pan will do). Add in 2-3 Tbsp of olive oil, and add the onions. Crush the saffron threads between your fingers and sprinkle over the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute.

    2. ADD the rice, broth, lemon juice and zest, and stir until well combined. Turn the heat to high and bring liquid the to a boil. Cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 25 minutes.

    3. ADD the peas and 1 teaspoon salt, and stir to blend. Cover and simmer another 10 minutes. Taste and season with more salt if desired.

    4. PLACE the shrimp in an even layer on top of the mixture. Don’t stir, but cover and cook another 10 minutes.

    5. REMOVE the cover and turn the heat to medium. Continue to cook without stirring until the shrimp are fully cooked. Watch carefully to avoid burning the bottom, although a golden-brown crunchy, crusty rice bottom crust—called soccorat—is ideal.

    ________________

    *Save the parsley stems: They add excellent flavor to soups and stews. Parsley stems also prevent artichokes from browning. Just drop them in a bowl of water with the cut artichokes. You can store the stems in the freezer.
     
    MORE ABOUT PAELLA

  • Paella History & Types
  • Paella On The Grill
  •  
     
    WHAT IS ARBORIO RICE

    If you want a creamy risotto or paella, you need to use Arborio rice.

    This medium-length, round-grained rice is named after the town of Arborio, in Italy’s Po Valley, where it is grown. The grains have a more beige color with a characteristic white dot at the center of the grain.

     

    Easy Shrimp Paella

    Shrimp Paella

    Scoop Of Arborio Rice

    [2] You don’t need a special paella pan like this one; but here’s why it helps—plus other uses for it (photo courtesy Imusa). [3] Arborio rice: more beige, and much more creamy when cooked (photo courtesy A Sassy Radish).

     
    Developed to create creamy risottos, Arborio rice develops its creamy texture around a chewy center (the creaminess comes from a high starch content). It has an exceptional ability to absorb flavors.

    Arborio is a cultivar of japonica rice, the same variety that produces the other “sticky rices” including mochi and sweet rice.

    Pricier, creamier rices developed by Italians for their beloved risotto are canaroli rice and vialone nano.

    Rice pudding fans: These three rice varieties make creamier rice pudding, too.

    Here are the different types of rice.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fried Oysters On Greens, A First Course

    Fried Oysters

    Fried Oysters

    Shucked Oysters Quart

    [1] We enjoyed these at a rooftop restaurant in Manhattan (photo courtesy McKittrick Hotel | NYC). [2] Just a taste, from Tsunami Sushi in Lafayette, Louisiana. [3] A quart of oysters from our favorite oyster grower, Willapa Oysters. They’re grown in the cleanest waters in the USA (photo courtesy Willapa Oysters).

     

    Every so often we pass a quart of shucked oysters in our fish store, and think: Do we have time to fry oysters tonight?

    We like to serve fried oysters as a first course, on a bed of greens with remoulade sauce, which also dresses the salad.

    There are different approaches to fried oysters. Some people dredge them in flour, then an egg wash, then bread crumbs.

    If the oysters are good, they should release their flavor as close to your palate as possible. No extra layer of breading is required…or desired.

    That’s also why we won’t turn the oysters into a po’ boy: The bread gets in the way of tasting the gems of the sea.

    The remoulade recipe is a spicier variation of the French classic: a version you’d find served with fried oysters in New Orleans.

    RECIPE: FRIED OYSTERS

    Ingredients Per Quart Of Oysters (32 Meats*)

    For The Oysters

  • 1 quart shucked medium-large oysters
  • 1 cup whole milk or buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Dash hot sauce
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal (or use 2 cups all purpose flour)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Fresh parsley
  • Lemon wedges
  •  
    For The Louisiana Remoulade Sauce

    You can make the remoulade 1 to 2 days in advance to let the flavors meld.

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tablespoons Dijon or Creole mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 1-2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning†
  • 1 teaspoon pickle juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • Salt to taste
  •  
    For Serving

  • Mesclun or other salad mix
  •  
    Preparation

    You can use a pot or a deep skillet to fry.

    1. MAKE the remoulade sauce: Combine the ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.

    2. DRAIN the shucked oysters. Season the milk with garlic powder, paprika and hot sauce, and soak the oysters for 30 minutes before frying.

    3. PREHEAT the canola oil to 350°F. While the oil is heating…

    4. WHISK together the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper together in a separate casserole dish. When ready to fry, drain the oysters and dredge through the flour mixture, coating completely. Tap off the excess flour.

    5. FRY in batches of 4 or 5 (the oysters need space between them), using tongs to place the oysters in the hot oil. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes (“rare” is better for juicy, succulent oysters).

    6. DRAIN for a minute on a paper towel-lined plate. Serve hot atop the greens with a lemon wedge and ramekin of remoulade sauce.
    ________________

    *There are approximately 32 medium-large shucked oysters per quart (4″ across in the shell before shucking).

    †Creole seasoning is a mix of paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano, dried sweet basil and other spices, depending on the producer. Cajun seasoning is a mix of garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes. If you don’t want a spicy remoulade you can leave it out; or mix some of the ingredients you have to get the 1-2 teaspoons for the recipe.
     
      

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    FOOD FUN: Easter Naked Cake With Chocolate Nest

    In our first apartment, we began to bake Easter cakes. For years, we had a Nordicware lamb-shape cake mold. We baked a chocolate cake (a black sheep, as it were), frosted it in vanilla and covered it with white flaked coconut.

    One year, we out grew the lamb, gave the mold away and moved on to a layer cake. The sides were covered in white coconut and the top was green-tinted coconut, the “grass” upon which we placed our favorite malted-milk speckled candy Easter eggs.

    After years of dying coconut, and with complaints from those who didn’t like coconut cake (you know who you are!), last year we made this Speckled Easter Malted Milk Cake.

    Alas, lacking a good hand for smooth icing, ours didn’t look quite this pretty. We haven’t met anyone who can show us the trick.

    So this year, we’re minimizing the need for icing by going with a naked cake (see photos).

    A naked cake can have can have a light, uneven swath of frosting on the outside with naked cake showing through (see the nakedness here).

    Or, it can have no side frosting at all. That solves my particular challenge!

    NAKED CAKE VS. STACK CAKE: THE DIFFERENCE

    Is a naked cake the same as a stack cake? No.

    Both of these layer cakes are so newly trendy that the terms are often used interchangeably. But they are different:

  • A stack cake has zero frosting on the sides, just between the layers—and often just powdered sugar on top.
  • A naked cake has an iced top, and can have a light swath of frosting on the sides (a semi-naked cake), as described above.
  • Stack cake is an older concept from Appalachia; it was a typical wedding cake in that economically-challenged region. Each neighbor brought one unfrosted cake layer to the party (it could be any flavor), to be stacked with layers of frosting provided by the bride’s family.
  •  
    EASTER CAKE IDEAS

    We like the concept of stack cake as a modern party idea—a pot-luck cake, as it were. Here’s how to throw a stack cake party.

    This Easter, we’re not going to ask everyone to bring a layer (maybe next year, guys). So we’re making a naked cake.

    We’re currently thinking orange pound cake layers topped with a great ganache. (It’s great when you make it from the best chocolate, like Callebaut or Valrhona). Make any cake and frosting recipes you like, 2 or 3 layers. You can add fruit to the frosting layers (raspberries, sliced strawberries).

    Thanks to the video below, we’re topping our cake a chocolate nest, filled with our [still favorite after all these years] speckled malted milk eggs. It is a really easy technique.

    You can find other nest recipes made with everything from shredded wheat and pretzel sticks to Chinese fried noodles and uncooked rice vermicelli. Trust us: The chocolate nests are easier—and taste better.

    You have plenty of time to practice: All you need is sugar water, melted chocolate, two pans, a bowl and a squeeze bag.
     
     
    VIDEO: HOW TO MAKE CHOCOLATE NESTS

     

    Naked Easter Cake

    Easter Naked Cake

    Naked Chocolate Cake

    [1] Here’s the recipe for this Chocolate Easter Egg Nest Cake from Chewtown. We used the chocolate basket recipe in the video below. [2] This naked cake from Black Jet Baking Co. is decorated with jelly beans and sprinkles (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [3] We prefer this type of side icing on our naked cakes (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour).

     

    Here’s the recipe with measurements.

    Note that this recipe makes individual nests. For a cake of 8-9 inches diameter, use a bowl as your mold instead of the foil.

    We did not make the leaves or feathers shown in the recipe, but instead filled our basket with malted milk eggs.

      

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