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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

TIP OF THE DAY: Café Liégeois

We made this recipe yesterday, for National Coffee Day.

Instead of our favorite after-dinnner coffee—a steaming cup of French or Italian roast with a shot of coffee liqueur, substituting for dessert—we celebrated with a Café Liégeois (lee-eh-ZHWAH). It’s a parfait with layers of iced coffee, ice cream and whipped cream (which is called chantilly—shon-tee-YEE—in French).

We highly recommend it as an easy-to-make dessert for coffee (and especially iced coffee) lovers.

While the original recipe does not contain alcohol, no one is stopping you from adding a shot of coffee, chocolate or vanilla liqueur.

If you don’t have parfait or sundae dishes, use what you do have: beer glasses, wine goblets, any tall glasses, glass mugs. You can even make the recipe in conventional coffee cups, although part of the eye appeal is looking at the layers through glass.


Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 cup iced coffee, black or lightly sweetened
  • 2 scoops coffee ice cream
  • 1 scoop vanilla ice cream
  • Whipped cream
  • Optional liqueur

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/cafe liegois benoitbistro 230

    A modern variation of Café Liégois. Photo courtesy Benoit Bistro | NYC.

  • Optional garnish: crushed roasted coffee beans or chocolate-covered coffee beans, shaved chocolate

  • Add a layer of cubed brownies, pound cake, or crumbled cookies.
  • The Chocolate Liégeois replaces coffee ice cream with chocolate ice cream for a mocha effect.
  • In the photo above, Philipe Bertineau, pastry chef at Benoit Bistro in New York City does his own take: coffee granité, chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

    Chocolate Liégois. Photo courtesy Relais de l’Entrecôte | Hong Kong via Kee Hua Chee.



    1. MAKE the coffee and refrigerate. Also refrigerate or freeze the dishes or glasses. When ready to serve…

    2. FILL each dish or glass with ice cream and pour over the iced coffee and the optional liqueur. Add the whipped cream, garnish as desired and serve immediately.


    According to Wikipedia, Café Liégeois did not originate in Liège, Belgium; it was originally known in France as Café Viennois (vee-en-WAH), Viennese Coffee.

    Following the Battle of Liège in World War I, in which the city of Liège put up a resistance to the advancing German army with its Austrian-made guns—Paris’s cafés changed the name of the dessert from Viennois to Liégeois. Curiously, notes Wikipedia, in Liège itself, the dessert continued to be known as Café Viennois for a while.


    In the U.S., both ice cream desserts are made from the same ingredients. The difference is in how the ingredients are presented.

  • An American parfait shows its ingredients in layers: ice cream, syrup, fruit. It is traditionally served in a tall, narrow, short-stemmed glass, and topped with whipped cream.
  • A traditional sundae dish is a wider, tulip shape with a scalloped rim. First ice cream is scooped into the dish, and it is topped with syrups, fruits, wet walnuts and crowned with whipped cream a maraschino cherry (today a fresh strawberry is often substituted). Crushed nuts and sprinkles can also be added. The sundae was invented in the U.S. Here’s the history of ice cream.
  • A French parfait differs from the American version. It is a frozen dessert made by folding fruits, nuts and/or other ingredients into whipped cream or egg custard—more like a semifreddo or frozen soufflé. See the different types of ice cream.


    FOOD FUN: Spilled Coffee Art

    When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When it gives you spilled food, make art.

    That’s what Italian artist Giulia Bernardelli does. She’s become a specialist at turning spilled coffee, honey, jam and other foods into wonderful canvases that look as if they were created by accident.

    Animals, landscapes and portraits art so beautifully crafted that they really look like an accidents.

    Giulia doesn’t plan her work in advance but develops the ideas as she eats the food. At one breakfast, for example, she imagined the footprints left by a cat who walked into the jam.

    You can see that and other images at For more images, go to Google Images and search for Giulia Bernardelli.


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/spilled food art giulia bernardelli 26 230

    Spilled coffee turns into a landscape with people and animals. Photo courtesy Giulia Bernardelli.




    RECIPE: Caesar Salad Pizza

    caesar salad pizza

    A grilled Caesar Salad Pizza from Chef
    Marcus Samuelsson. Photo © Paul Brissman.


    When we saw this photo on the website of Chef Marcus Samuelsson, we couldn’t wait to make one.

    The grilled pizza combines the ingredients of Caesar salad—romaine, olive oil, anchovies, garlic, citrus juice, egg—with pizza crust standing in for the croutons. And the dough incorporates garlic and basil, like seasoned croutons.

    It’s a bit of work, but well worth the effort. You can save time with premade crusts and tomato sauce.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings (2 Oblong Pies)
    For the Dough

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2½ to 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
    For the Caesar Dressing

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Juice of 2 limes
    For The Pizzas

  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)
  • ½ cup plus 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ cup tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup sliced black olives
  • ¼ cup roasted red peppers
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1 cup shredded romaine lettuce
  • Optional: 4 poached eggs


    1. MAKE THE DOUGH: Put the water in a bowl, stir in the yeast and sugar, and let sit until frothy, about 10 minutes. Add the salt, olive oil, and 2½ cups of the flour and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, about 8 minutes, adding up to ½ cup more flour if the dough seems too wet.

    Put the dough into a well-oiled bowl and cover a damp cloth. Set aside to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead in the garlic and basil. Put it back in the bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

    2. MAKE THE DRESSING: Put the egg yolks, mustard, chopped garlic, and anchovies into a blender. Blend until smooth. With the motor running, pour in the oil in a slow, steady stream, then pour in the lime juice and blend until emulsified, about 1 minute. Scrape the dressing into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate it until you need it. It will keep for about 3 days.


    Caesar Salad

    A conventional Caesar Salad. Here’s the history of Caesar Salad, the original recipes and variations. Photo courtesy


    3. MAKE THE PIZZA: While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 250°F. Put the tomato on a small rimmed baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the black pepper, and the sugar. Bake until the tomatoes have dried, about 1 hour. Put the remaining ½ cup olive oil in a small bowl. Add the minced garlic and microwave for 30 seconds.

    4. PREHEAT a gas grill to high heat. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Shape each half into a ball and pat down on a lightly floured surface. Use your fingers to stretch the dough into 10-inch oblongs; it is nice if you leave a slightly thicker rim.

    5. TURN half the grill down to medium heat. Brush 1 piece of dough with the garlic oil and place it, oiled side down, on the high-heat side of the grill. The dough will begin to puff almost immediately. When the bottom crust has lightly browned, use two spatulas to turn the dough over onto the medium-heat side of the grill.

    Working quickly, brush the garlicky oil over the crust and then brush with half of the tomato sauce. Scatter with half of the roasted chopped tomatoes, half of the black olives, and half of the roasted red peppers. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella and half of the basil. Close the lid and cook the pizza until the cheese melts. Remove the pizza from the grill and set it aside while you prepare the second pizza with the remaining ingredients.

    6. MAKE the optional poached eggs. Toss the arugula, romaine, and some of the Caesar Dressing together. Cut the pizzas in half, pile the salad and eggs on top, and serve right away.



    TIP OF THE DAY: How to Recycle Coffee Grounds


    You can toss your coffee grounds, or re-use
    them in multiple ways. Photo courtesy


    September 29th is National Coffee Day. If you brew your own coffee, what do you do with the spent grounds?

    Here are green alternatives from Folgers Coffee and our own archives.



  • Body scrub: Add grounds to warm water or coconut oil and use as an exfoliating scrub.
  • Antioxidant facial: Mix two tablespoons of grounds with an equal amount of cocoa powder. Add three tablespoons of whole milk or heavy cream and a tablespoon of honey. Spread on your face; remove in 15 minutes.

  • Dye clothing or “antique” paper.
  • Scented candles: Mix the grounds into the wax of homemade candles. You’ll get a coffee scent as they burn.
  • Soap: Add grounds to homemade soap. They work as an exfoliator also impart some caffeine through the skin.

  • Marinate meat: The acid in the grounds is a tenderizer. A small amount added to a marinade gets great results without imparting the taste of coffee.

  • Use as plant food: The nitrogen-rich coffee grounds nurture houseplants and garden plants. Mix one part coffee grounds with four parts water, and water your plants with it once every other week. You can also sprinkle the grounds directly over the soil or blend them into the soil. Don’t use un-brewed coffee; it’s too high in acid and can burn the plants.
  • Compost, along with the paper coffee filter.


  • Touch up wood scratches with grounds and a cotton swab.
  • Clean the fireplace: Scatter grounds over the ashes to reduce the spread of dust as you sweep it up.
  • Use as a deodorizer, to remove strong smells (curry, fish, garlic). Rub some grounds over your hands or kitchen counter; then wash them off.
  • Remove unpleasant odors from garbage cans, closets, shoes, etc. Leave a cup of coffee grounds (or a smaller amount as appropriate) inside them overnight.

    Folgers has an online coffee calculator to tell you exactly how much water and ground coffee you need, based on the number of people.

    Note that in the coffee industry, a serving size is 6 fluid ounces. An American mug typically holds 12 ounces.


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/coffee soap offbeatandinspired 230

    Homemade coffee soap. Here’s the recipe from




    TIP OF THE DAY: Harvest Cobb Salad

    Harvest Cobb Salad

    Grilled squash and corn replace tomatoes and cheese in this Harvest Cobb Salad. Photo courtesy


    Today’s tip comes from Audra Fullerton, The Baker Chick, one of our favorite food bloggers (and food photographers).

    She created a Cobb Salad with fall ingredients, that serves as the inspiration to many other fall salads to come.

    Since tomatoes are now entering the sub-optimal period, she uses grilled squash in her Cobb Salad. She doesn’t use cheese, but if you want to, make it a deep orange or gold color*.

    As another shout-out to the fall season, there’s maple vinaigrette.

    Audra does it all in a little New York City apartment with a tiny kitchen and no grill. She says, “The chicken and corn are fabulous on the grill. I used my large cast iron skillet to cook pretty much everything—squash, corn, bacon and chicken. Either way works.”

    Salads are very adaptable, and you can add your favorite mix-ins, from dried cranberries to toasted pecans.

    Our own signature fall salad is modeled after Thanksgiving dinner:

    It’s a mesclun mix topped with cubed turkey and sweet potatoes, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts; the vinaigrette is mixed with a tablespoon of chunky cranberry sauce. Sometimes we add a scoop of stove top stuffing, since it’s easy to make and croutons just don’t equate.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

    For The Salad

  • 10 cups of salad greens
  • 1 small acorn squash
  • 1 ear of corn
  • 10 strips of bacon
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 1 avocado
    For The Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A few dashes of paprika
  • Option: beets, diced or crumbled cheese*, roasted or raw apples, pecans for added crunch
    *For a deep harvest orange or gold cheese, check out Basiron Pesto Rosso, Cahill’s Farm Flavored Irish Cheddar, English Cheddar With Harissa, Extra Triple Aged Gouda, Huntsman Cheese, Mimolette, Pecorino With Chile Flakes and Saxonshire Cheese.


    Audra notes: “The ingredients for the salad can be prepped in any fashion/order you choose, but I have laid out the process which found to be pretty efficient, both in terms of time and dishes used.”


    1. PREPARE the squash: Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the squash into 1-inch strips. Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to remove the skin and scoop out the seeds.

    2. HEAT a cast-iron skillet to medium high. Drizzle a bit of olive oil into the pan; when hot, add the squash rings in one layer. Add 2 tablespoons of water and cover the skillet—you want to create steam. Steam for 3-5 minutes; flip and repeat. When the squash is browned and tender, transfer to a cutting board. When cool, cut into chunks.

    3. WIPE the pan and reheat to medium high. Add another drizzle of olive oil. Place the ear of corn in the center of the pan and let it cook without flipping for 3-5 minutes; rotate slightly and repeat. (Letting it sit on the heat for a few minutes is what makes it char.) Keep flipping the corn until it is golden and a bit charred. Remove from the heat and transfer to the cutting board. When cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to remove the kernels from the cob. Set aside


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/cobb salad beets calpizzakitchen 230

    California Pizza Kitchen creates a Cobb Salad with beets and blue cheese. Photo courtesy KPC.

    4. COOK the bacon. Wipe the pan and cook the strips on medium heat, using tongs to flip until evenly cooked and crispy. (You may need to do this in 2 batches.) Set aside to cool, then coarsely chop or crumble. Pour out the bacon grease (you can reserve it to cook eggs, potatoes, whatever) and wipe out the skillet about 75% of the way; you want a little of the bacon grease and fond (the crisp tiny bit) to cook the chicken in.

    5. COOK the chicken. Season the breasts with salt and pepper and a bit of paprika for color (you can add other spices if you wish). Cook on medium heat, adding a touch of olive oil if pan seems dry. Flip each breast after 3-5 minutes depending on thickness. Cook for another 3-5 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board and chop into bite-size pieces.

    6. COOK the eggs. This part can be done while some of the other ingredients are cooking. Place 3 eggs in a small pot of water and turn the heat to high. Once boiling, cook for 5 minutes. Drain the hot water and immediately submerge the eggs in cold water for a few minutes. Peel and slice the eggs.

    7. MAKE the dressing. Whisk together the maple syrup, vinegar and olive oil, tasting to see if you’d like it sweeter or more vinegary. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    8. ASSEMBLE the salad. Top the greens with all the prepared ingredients except the avocado and bacon. Halve, cube and add the avocado right before serving. Drizzle the dressing over the top. Add the bacon at the table (or immediately before bringing the dishes to table) so it acquire moisture from the salad and lose its crunch.

    Cobb Salad was invented in Hollywood. Late one evening in 1937, Bob Cobb, owner of The Brown Derby restaurant, was scrounging in the kitchen’s refrigerator for a snack. He grabbed a mix of ingredients: a head of iceberg lettuce, an avocado, some romaine, watercress, tomatoes, a cold breast of chicken, a hard-boiled egg, chives, cheese and some old-fashioned French dressing.

    He then took some crisp bacon from a chef’s station and started chopping. He shared the snack with his friend Sid Grauman of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, who came back and asked for a “Cobb Salad” the next day. It was put on the menu and became an overnight sensation. Movie mogul Jack Warner regularly dispatched his chauffeur to pick one up.



    RECIPE: Oktoberfest Burger With Pork Schnitzel

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/samuel adams Octoberfest burger 230L

    The Oktoberfest Burger, with breaded pork
    cutlets. Photo courtesy Hard Rock Cafe.


    Hard Rock Cafe is celebrating Oktoberfest with a Germany-inspired burger, the Samuel Adams Octoberfest Schnitzel Burger.

    Available September through October 31st, it has German flavor accents: schnitzel (breaded pork cutlets) instead of beef patties, sauerkraut, whole grain mustard and beer-accented cheese sauce, all on a pretzel bun.

    The Oktoberfest burger is similar to the Schnitzel Local Legendary Burger served year-round at Hard Rock Cafe locations in Germany. Here’s more about schnitzel.

    The Oktoberfest Burger is served with a side of seasoned fries and a Samuel Adams Octoberfest beer.

    What’s an Oktoberfest beer?

    Oktoberfest Beer, or Märzen, is a smooth and malty amber lager with an ABV* of 6% or higher. See our Beer Glossary for the different types of beer.


    Ingredients Per Burger

  • Lightly breaded tender pork schnitzel
  • Samuel Adams Octoberfest-infused beer cheese sauce (recipe below)
  • Smoked bacon
  • Sauerkraut
  • Whole grain mustard
  • Fresh baby arugula
  • Pretzel bun
  • Optional: long toothpick

    1. PREPARE the schnitzel (recipe—substitute pork cutlets for the veal) and toast the buns.

    2. LAYER atop the bottom bun: mustard, arugula, schnitzel, cheese sauce, sauerkraut, schnitzel, cheese sauce, sauerkraut, bacon, mustard. Fasten with a toothpick if needed.



    Cheese sauce can be used on everything from breakfast eggs to dinner grains, potatoes, rice and veggies. This recipe is adapted from on, a great resource for cooking with beer.


  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup Oktoberfest beer (substitute other beer of choice)
  • 1 cup freshly shredded Gouda†
  • 1 cup freshly shredded Cheddar†
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste (or substitute cayenne or chili flakes)

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/cheddar 230

    Make cheese sauce with freshly-grated cheese. Photo courtesy


    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Process on high until very well blended, about 5-8 minutes.

    2. EMPTY the contents into a saucepan and cook over medium high heat. Whisk rapidly and continuously until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as desired; for an extra kick use the cayenne or chili flakes. For a perfectly smooth sauce, use an immersion blender as necessary.

    3. SERVE warm.

    *ABV is Alcohol By Volume.

    †Do not use pre-shredded cheese.



    RECIPE: Blueberry Trail Mix

    blueberry trail mix

    A snack of different names: blueberry trail mix, snack mix, party mix. Photo courtesy U.S. Highbush Blueberry Counci.


    Are you astonished by the sudden jump in price of fresh blueberries?

    That’s because blueberry season is over. But there is a substitute: dried blueberries. Use them in and on:

  • Bundt and pound cakes, cookies, muffins
  • Cereal
  • green salad
  • Fruit salad
  • Pancakes
  • Sauces
    Make a blueberry trail mix snack with the recipe below. You can also use it to top desserts and cereal.

    Ingredients For 4 Cups

  • 1 cup dried blueberries
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or other favorite nut
  • 1 cup thin pretzels, broken
  • 1 cup granola or other cereal
  • Optional: chocolate chips, mini M&Ms, other candy of choice, dried cherries or cranberries

    1. COMBINE the blueberries, walnuts, pretzels, granola and any optional ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to blend.

    2. STORE in an airtight container, but consume within a week.
    Find more blueberry recipes at



    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Use Ginger Beer

    Ginger beer is not alcoholic, but a stronger, spicier version of ginger ale. There are lots of cocktails made with ginger beer, the most famous of which are:

  • Dark And Stormy: ginger beer and Gosling’s Black Seal Rum (a black or dark rum).
  • Moscow Mule: ginger beer, lime juice, vodka (trivia lovers, it was the first vodka cocktail created in America, and is also called a Vodka Buck).
  • Other Mule Drinks: There’s quite a selection, from a Kentucky Mule with Bourbon to Swedish Mule with Aquavit (the different types of mule drinks).
  • Black and Tan Mocktail: a mix of ginger ale and ginger beer (after the Black and Tan beer cocktail, made from a blend of a pale ale or lager with a dark beer).
  • Ginger Beer Mojito: a mocktail or cocktail of ginger beer, fresh lime juice, fresh mint leaves and—for the cocktail—white rum (recipe).
    We far prefer the heft and sizzle of ginger beer to the more pallid ginger ale.

    You can buy ginger beer in grocery stores, or you can easily make your own. Here’s a shortcut recipe from Chef Jamie Oliver, no fermenting required.


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/dark and stormy marcussamuelsson ps 230

    The Dark and Stormy is named for the “storm cloud” effect created by pouring dark rum into ginger beer. Photo courtesy


    Ginger beer goes well with all spicy or highly-seasoned foods, as well as foods with sweet glazes and sauces, like barbecue or glazed ham. Find recipes below.


    Mule and buck are old names for mixed drinks made with ginger ale or ginger beer, plus citrus juice. They can be made with any base liquor.

    Some experts claim that a Buck is made with ginger ale, while a Mule uses the spicier ginger beer.

    Why buck? Why mule? That answer is lost to history, but here’s a detailed discussion.

    A bit of cocktail history: The Moscow Mule was invented in 1941 by John C. Hublein, importer of the than-not-well-known-or-popular Smirnof vodka. Here’s the history

    A Dark ‘n’ Stormy is traditionally made with Gosling’s Black Seal rum. Ginger beer was brought to the Caribbean by the English colonists, and full-bodied dark rum was first made by the Gosling family in 1860. It wasn’t a big jump to combine the two (one historian notes that Bermuda is only 20 square miles).


    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/goslings ginger beer diet 230

    Avoid refined sugar and save calories with Gosling’s Stormy Diet Ginger Beer. It’s sweetened with sucralose and acesulfame potassium. (Stormy is the name of the seal mascot. the ginger beer is also available in the conventional sugar-sweetened form). Photo courtesy Gosling’s.



    The main differences between today’s ginger beer and ginger ale are the sweetness and spiciness. Ginger beer is less sweet than ginger ale and has a sizzling ginger kick. The spicier ginger beer provides a bite to cocktails, while the lighter ginger ale provides more sweetness and effervescence.

    Historically, both were fermented. Today only ginger beer is fermented, a reason for the higher price. Here’s more about fermented soft drinks.

    According to an enlightening article by Bill Norris, mass-produced ginger-based soft drinks began to appear in the U.S. by the mid-1800s. Back then, the ginger flavoring extract was aged in oak barrels for four years before use!

    Ginger ale was the most popular soft drink in the U.S. until the 1930s (Coca-Cola first was bottled for distribution in 1899 more).

    These early ginger ales were closer to what we now call ginger beer, described as “powerfully spicy.”

    Canada Dry ginger ale was introduced in 1907; the “dry” style prevails today. It gained favor around the time of Prohibition (1920-1933). Dry ginger ale has a more mellow ginger flavor and is easier drinking—what most Americans seek in a soft drink.


    Create a spicy, lightly sweet sauce for meat and poultry with a base of ginger beer. Try:

  • Corned Beef In Ginger Beer (recipe)
  • Ginger Beer And Tangerine Glazed Ham (recipe)
  • Grilled Chicken In Ginger Beer Sauce (recipe)
  • Pork Tenderloin With Pears & Ginger Beer Sauce (recipe)


    TIP OF THE DAY: Vermouth & Tapas, For Brunch & Cocktails

    Vermouth is enjoying a renaissance. Vermouth (ver-MOOTH) is a fortified wine—one that includes a base spirit—flavored with a proprietary mixture of botanicals (roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, spices).

    A glass of sweet red vermouth with an orange slice or twist was long a fashionable apéritíf for café society*. In Barcelona today, vermouth and tapas are a hot duo after mass, both at home and at the vermuterías that have popped up to serve them.

    Today’s tip is to try a bit of café society at home. Turn it into a brunch or cocktail party with tapas. Use the occasion to get to know vermouth, trying the different styles.

    You don’t have to try them all in one day. We’ve turned our monthly Sunday friends-and-family brunch into a vermouth and tapas event, trying different vermouths and tapas each week. So it doesn’t get burdensome, participants are assigned to bring a bottle (for those who don’t cook) and a variety of tapas (for those who do).

    And we have a great time!



    Red Vermouth

    An apéritif of red vermouth. Photo courtesy Foods From Spain.

    Vermouth evolved from a 16th-century practice in Northern Italy and Germany, where apothecaries would blend extracts of herbs and roots to blend with wine and brandy. This was the way to make bitter medicines more palatable. (Virtually all spirits were first developed for medicinal reasons.)

    The original recipe for red vermouth, and possibly even the name “vermuth,” was invented in Torino, Italy in 1786 by Antonio Benedetto Carpano. The red vermouths of subsequent producers like Cinzano were based on Carpano. Carpano is still a major brand in Italy, perhaps best known today in the U.S. for its Punt e Mes (“Point And A Half”), a sweet and bitter style.

    In the late 19th century, bartenders began to make cocktails with vermouth. The Manhattan and Negroni, made with sweet vermouth, and the Martini, made with dry vermouth, are three that remain popular today. A plain glass of sweet vermouth is still enjoyed as an apéritif in Italy, France and Spain, the three largest producing countries.

    There are a number of different vermouth styles: sweet and dry, red and white, amaro (with added bitters), chinato with added chinchona (quinine) and often gentian (a root), alla vaniglia with vanilla, and others. Vermouth houses typically make a variety of styles.

    While many vermouths are regional and not imported, familiar names in the U.S. include:

  • French vermouths Noilly Prat, Boissiere
  • Italian vermouths Cinzano, Martini & Rossi
  • Spanish vermouths Lacuesta, Canasta Rosso
    Other countries have gotten on the vermouth bandwagon. There are a number of American brands (Atsby, Gallo, Imbue, Ransom, Sutton Cellars, Vya from Quady), along with vermouths from Australia, Germany and elsewhere.


    vermouth with tapas

    Trade the Mimosa and omelet brunch for vermouth with tortilla española and other tapas. Photo courtesy Foods From Spain.



    After Ferran Adría closed the famed El Bulli temple of molecular gastronomy, he opened a vermutería in Barcelona: Bodega 1900, that serves different vermouths and tapas.

    In Barcelona, the trendy food capital of Europe, vermouth is now the midday fashion on weekends. It’s called “la hora del vermouth” (vermouth hour, after “cocktail hour”): good food and drink, good conversation, a good time hanging out with friends and family.

    It’s easy to create your own “la hora del vermouth” for brunch or an all-vermouth-and-tapas cocktail party.


  • Fresh anchovies marinated in vinegar (or you can grill them)
  • Fried green plantains
  • Green olives stuffed with piquillo peppers and anchovies
  • Grilled shrimp with olive oil and lemon juice
  • Marinated peppers and anchovies
  • Manchego cheese with serrano ham
  • Mussels with vinaigrette
  • Oysters and/or clams on the half shell
  • Potato chips, homemade or artisan
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Serrano ham
  • Tortilla espanola, an omelet with onions, peppers, potatoes and sausage (substitute a frittata or quiche)

    For brunch, add a green salad, with fruit salad for dessert (you can marinate the fruits in a bit of sweet vermouth or orange liqueur). If someone wants to make flan, by all means!

    Here’s what the menu at a tapas bar looks like.

    We promise, you’ll love this new approach to brunch and/or cocktails.

    Many Americans recoil at the thought of anchovies, tough, bristly and way too salty. But these are cheap anchovies, typically served by diners and pizzerias. You must try fine Spanish anchovies—practically another species.

    Tender Spanish anchovies and boquerones, white anchovies, are imported canned and available fresh in May and June.

    They are a classic Spanish tapa. Boquerones are lightly pickled in vinegar and olive oil. Lightly salted and smoked anchovies are only distantly related to the over-salted anchovies too many of us have had.

    They are truly delicious. Try them: La Tienda is an importer of fine Spanish foods, and the photos of anchovies on their website will change your mind, even before the first bite.

    *Café society was the precursor of the jet set, and what more recently has been called the “beautiful people.” Beginning in the late 19th century, these wealthy individuals and celebrities gathered in fashionable cafés and restaurants in New York, Paris, and London. As a social group, they attended each others’ private dinners and balls, vacationed at the same elegant resorts, and so forth. In New York City, café society would hang out at El Morocco, the 21 Club and the Stork Club. American journalist Lucius Beebe (1902-1966) is generally credited with creating the term “café society” in his weekly column in the New York Herald Tribune, which ran in the 1920s and 1930s.



    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Lobster Day

    For a long time, National Lobster Day was celebrated on June 15th. But according to The Boston Globe, on August 5th, National Lobster Day was officially declared by Congress to take place on September 25th.

    Sponsored by Senator Angus King of Maine, the resolution was agreed to “without amendment and with a preamble by Unanimous Consent.”

    Maine is the largest lobster-producing region in the world, and lobstering is a multi-generational family tradition. There are no corporate fleets, but independent lobster boat owners and more than 5,600 independent lobstermen who work on the boats (the women are also called lobstermen).

    Lobstering is an important component of the state’s economy, and care is taken to keep it that way.


    Maine lobstermen were committed to sustainability and traceability long before it was fashionable. The industry’s 150 years of responsible fishing practices have earned it the Marine Stewardship Council’s sustainable seafood certification.


    live lobsters

    Just-caught lobsters at the dock. Photo courtesy Lobsters From Maine.


    Maine Lobsters are 100% hand-harvested from small day boats, one trap at a time. Maine banned diving or dragging the sea floor for lobster in 1961.


    A new generation of modern chefs has added excitement to lobster meals, by trading the conventional boiled or broiled lobster with drawn butter for more modern flavor pairings: cilantro, ginger, honey and wasabi, for example. Classic dishes like Lobster Thermidor have given way to the far more popular Lobster Mac and Cheese.

    Now, what about the wine?

    As with many dishes, and especially fish and seafood, the type of wine is best matched to the preparation. Thanks to Lobster From Maine for some of these suggestions, which we merged with our own.

  • Lobster with Asian Seasonings: Drink Riesling or a sparkling white wine with high acidity, like Cava or Champagne (Prosecco lacks the acidity).
  • Lobster in Cream Sauce: Lobster Thermidor is our favorite dish, followed by Lobster Risotto. White Burgundy or an oaky California Chardonnay is the perfect match, and also work with Lobster Alfredo and Lobster Pot Pie.
  • Lobster Grilled Or Steamed With Drawn Butter: Champagne or an oaky Chardonnay is our first choice; or Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Pinot Grigio and Albariño also work, and are more affordable. Lobsters From Maine advises that, if you want to try red wine with lobster, pair grilled lobster with Grenache/Garnacha, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo or a rosé.
  • Lobster Salad: Vinaigrette requires a high-acidity wine: Cava, Chablis, Champagne, German Riesling Kabinett, Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre. If the salad is mostly greens with a small amount of lobster, you can try a Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Lobster Steamed In Beer: If the lobster is steamed in beer (usually Lager or Pilsner), drink the same type of beer.
  • Lobster in Tomato Sauce: Lobster Fra Diavolo or other pasta with red sauce and lobster calls for Chianti or another high-acid red wine. Tomato sauce has too much acid to pair with most white wines, but if you must have white, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc have the highest acidity of all the white grapes; Chablis has good acidity as well as minerality. The cooler the climate, the higher the acidity, so don’t pick a white wine from Australia, California, South Africa or New Zealand.


    A deconstructed lobster salad: lobster meat, cherry tomatoes, red leaf lettuce and droplets of basil oil and balsamic vinegar.Photo courtesy The Sea Fire Grill | NYC.



  • It takes lobsters an average of 5 to 7 years (depending on the water temperature) to grow to legal size. They grow more slowly as they get larger. A lobster that weighs 3 pounds is approximately 15-20 years old, and a 25-pound lobster would be approximately 75-100 years old. Some believe that lobsters in unfarmed areas—30 miles off the coast of Maine—can reach as 120 years in age.
  • Lobsters have different pigments in their shells and come in a variety of colors. Fishermen have been known to bring in blue, yellow, red and spotted live lobsters. Usually, when lobsters are hard-shelled, their shells are a darker color. Also, when you cook hard-shell lobsters, their shells will turn a brick red color and sometimes black, whereas soft-shelled lobsters, when cooked, are a bright red color.
  • A lobster can be a righty or lefty. The dominant claw is the larger, craggy one and is used to crush shells. The smaller, serrated claw is used to rip, tear, and retrieve the meat within its prey.
  • The “green stuff” inside the lobster is the liver, called tomale. The waxy red substance in the tomale is the coral, or roe. Both are considered to be delicacies.

  • The bigger the lobster, the less meat it has in its tail, proportionately. Plus, larger lobsters are less desirable because by the time the center of the meat is cooked, the outside meat is overcooked.
  • Female lobsters are the aggressors in mating; 42% of Americans consider lobster the world’s most romantic food.
  • Lobsters kept in tanks or other close quarters become cannibalistic. That’s why their claws are banded.
    Maine Lobster Trivia

  • In 2014, Maine lobstermen landed more than 120 million pounds of lobster—85% of the lobster caught in the United States.
  • The largest recorded Maine Lobster weighed 27 pounds. These super-lobsters usually end up in aquariums or museums.
  • The Maine Lobster industry is one of the oldest continuously operated industries in North America, with the first documented catch dating back to the 1600s.
    Here’s more lobster trivia.



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