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THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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STOCKING STUFFER: Southern Straws Cheese Straws

[1] Original: cheesy with a kick of cayenne (all photos © Southern Straws).

[2] Don’t want any heat? Go for Mild.

[3] Like lots of heat? Spicy is for you.

[4] Want a nice gift? Go for the Holiday Box.


Cheese straws are a delectable cocktail snack: cheese crackers raised to their most sophisticated form.

They pair perfectly with wine, beer, cocktails and spirits on-the-rocks. Warning: Like potato chips, you can’t stop eating them.


No one can pinpoint the exact origin of cheese straws, but they are credited as a Southern invention.

As the likely tale goes, an inspired cook mixed leftover biscuit dough with some cheese, forming it into long narrow strips that were baked along with the biscuits.

But instead of being served at meals with the biscuits, they were enjoyed as snacks.

Their popularity spread: You can find cheese straws in recipe books, beginning in the 1800s.

The most basic recipe is an easy cheese dough made from flour, grated cheese, a teaspoon of salt and baking powder, cut with a pastry wheel into long, narrow strips (“straws”).

In more recent times, with better cutting apparatuses, they are also made in squares or shorter sticks; and called cheese straws, cheese sticks or cheese crisps.

Cheese straws are usually served at cocktail parties or instead of crackers or bread with soups or salads.

While early recipes are non-specific, simply stating, “cheese,” flavorful Cheddar has become the cheese of choice.

Some producers also make varieties with Parmesan, Romano, Swiss and other cheese varieties.

Southern Straws is a mother-and-son bakery in Georgia, making cheese straw squares with a recipe that is generations-old.

Rather than the old-fashioned long straws, Southern Straws are cut into bite-size square wafer that enable people to just have a bit (or, in our case, empty the whole bowl).

They are made in three flavors:

  • Original, The most popular flavor, a traditional recipe that has a nice kick of cayenne spice at the end.
  • Mild omits the cayenne. It’s perfect for people who don’t want heat, including serious wine drinkers who don’t want cayenne to interfere with the flavors of the wine.
  • Spicy, on the other hand, ramps up the cayenne. It pairs nicely with beer, Bloody Marys or Martinis.

    Nicely packaged, there’s a size for every occasion:

  • The three-ounce box is an ideal stocking stuffer or party favor.
  • The six-ounce box contains two three-ounce bags, for freshness.
  • The Holiday Box is filled with three three-ounce bags: You pick the flavors and specify what to say on the gift card
    Cheese straws are a food gift for everyone: to be enjoyed as a personal snack or served to guests.

    Cocktails, anyone? Bring the cheese straws!



    STOCKING STUFFER: Wine Foil Cutter & Refrigerator Magnet

    Cork Pops, manufacturer of wine accessories, has come up with another great product for wine lovers.

    The latest collection is an improvement on conventional magnetic foil cutters.

    What makes them better than the wine bottle foil cutter you already have?

    First, the cutting blades are so much better than most versions we’ve tried.

    They are quite sharp and work very well (the rest of the device is made from hard plastic).

    Just place the cutter over the lip of the bottle: With 2 turns the foil cap is easily removed and you’re ready to remove the cork.

    Second, it’s a refrigerator magnet! There’s no need to rummage through a drawer looking for your foil cutter: It’s right on the fridge.

    There are six fun designs: Fish (in photo), Flip Flops, Frog, Grapes, Hot Lips and Palm Trees.

    And at $6, they’re an affordable stocking stuffer, party favor, or add-on to a wine gift.
    Get yours at
    —Kris Prasad


    [1] A wine foil-cutter and refrigerator magnet from Corkpops, one of six designs (photo © Corkpops).




    RECIPE: Sandeman Sangria With Port & The History Of Port

    [1] Make a holiday sangria using Ruby Port. The recipe is below (all photos © Sandeman).

    Sangria With Ruby Port
    [2] You can serve sangria from a punch bowl as a Christmas punch, but the easiest way is to pour from a pitcher.

    [3] Sandeman Founders Reserve, a ruby port, can be used in numerous cocktails, many on the Sandeman website. Here, a Ruby Sling (recipe).

    [4] Sandeman Founders Reserve, a Ruby Port. You can drink it and cook with it.


    Seven Christmases past, we made a Christmas Sangria with Sandeman Port. It included cinnamon schnapps and clementine soda, and was a big hit. Here’s the recipe for Sandeman Sangria #1.

    It was a hit in our family, and has been the official warm-up drink of our Christmas festivities.

    But wait: There’s a new Christmas Sangria from Sandeman, and it’s a much simpler recipe.

    Sandeman makes several expressions of Port: the classic ruby, tawny and white Ports; aged tawnie; reserve wines; and vintage wines.

    The well-known icon, called Don [Mr.] Sandeman, features a man dressed in a Portuguese student’s cape and a wide Spanish-style hat (photo #4).

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 1.5 oz Sandeman Porto Founder’s Reserve
  • 1 oz of homemade sour mix (equal parts fresh lime juice and simple syrup)
  • .5 oz of orange juice
  • .5 oz of grenadine (homemade grenadine recipe)
  • Garnish: orange wedge

    1. FILL a tulip glass (or other wine glass) with ice. Add the ingredients and stir well with a bar spoon.

    2. GARNISH and serve.

    Port is a Portuguese fortified wine, a red wine made from a variety of Portuguese grapes*, then blended with distilled grape spirits.

    It is made in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. Only wine here can legally be called Port.

    (Wine Trivia: The Douro region is the third-oldest protected wine region in the world, after the Chianti region of Italy, established in in 1716, and the Tokaj-Hegyalja region in Hungary established in 1730.

    It’s Port in English, Porto in Portuguese, and is sometimes written as Oporto, after Porto, the largest city in the region and the second largest city in Portugal (Oporto means “the Porto”).

    Porto, located along the Douro River estuary in northern Portugal, was an outpost of the Roman Empire. Port wine is has been produced since then.

    It is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, though it also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties

    Port is made in several expressions: Crusted, Colheita, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), Ruby, Single Quinta, Tawny, Vintage, Vintage Character and White. Here’s an explanation of each type of Port.

    Grapes have been grown in Portugal since antiquity; ancient writings show that the inhabitants of northern Portugal were already drinking wine 2,000 ago.

    The Romans arrived in Portugal in the second century B.C.E. and remained for the next five hundred years. They grew grapes and made wine on the banks of the Douro River, where Port is produced today.

    After the establishment of the Kingdom of Portugal in 1143, wine from the Douro Valley become an important export. But it was a different wine.

    By the second half of the 15th century, a significant amount of Portuguese wine was being exported to England.

    The first wines known as Port were exported in the latter the 17th century, following the Anglo-Portuguese commercial treaty of 1654. English wine merchants settled in Portugal to oversee the trade.

    The fortified wine we know today was first created to preserve the wine during the long journey from the Douro Valley to England. It began to be fortified with the addition of brandy prior to bottling the aged red wine.

    Today, the process of fortifying Port is different: The wine is fortified during fermentation and not after ageing.


    Expressions is an industry name for the different styles, types or varieties produced by a particular house [brand].

    Colheita Port: A single-vintage tawny port aged for at least seven years. The vintage year is on the bottle, instead of a category of age (10 years, 20 years, etc.). It is different from Vintage Port, which spends only about 18 months in barrels after vinification and will continue to mature in bottle. A Colheita may have spent 20 or more years in wooden barrels before being bottled and sold. White Colheitas have also been produced.

    Crusted Port: Usually a blend of several vintages to achieve specific characteristics, Crusted Port is bottled unfiltered and sealed with a traditional cork. Like Vintage Port, it needs to be decanted before drinking.

    Garrafeira Port: Unusual and rare, vintage-dated Garrafeira is maturation for three to six years in wood to oxidize it, with further maturation in large glass demijohns, for at least eight years in glass.

    Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port: Originally a wine that destined for bottling as vintage port, LBV was left in the barrel for longer than had been planned, due to lack of demand. Over time it evolved into two distinct styles of wine, both of them bottled between four and six years after the vintage. However, one style is fined and filtered before bottling, while the other is not.

  • Filtered LBVs are ready to drink without decanting. They are usually sold in a stoppered bottle that can be easily resealed.
  • Unfiltered LBVs are mostly bottled with conventional corks and need to be decanted, then consumed within a few days.
    Ruby Port: The least expensive and most extensively produced type of Port. After fermentation, it is stored in tanks of concrete or stainless steel to prevent oxidative aging and preserve its bright red color and full-bodied fruitiness. It does not generally improve with age, although premium rubies are aged in wood from four to six years.

    Reserve Port: This is reserve Ruby Port, a premium ruby approved by the tasting panel of the IVDP, the industry association.

    Rosé Port: A new expression, first released in 2008 by Poças and by Croft, part of the Taylor Fladgate Partnership. It is technically a Ruby Port, but is fermented in a manner similar to rosé wine. It receives limited exposure to the grape skins, thus creating the rosé color.

    Single Quinta Vintage Port: These Vintage Ports originate from a single estate, unlike most Vintage Ports which can be sourced from a number of quintas. These are only produced in certain years when the regular Vintage Port of the house is not declared.

    Tawny Port: These red grape wines are aged in wooden barrels exposing them to gradual oxidation and evaporation. They thus mellow to a golden-brown color, and the exposure to oxygen imparts nutty flavors to the wine. They can be sweet or medium dry; they are typically served as dessert wine, but can be served with a main course as well.

    Vintage Port: Made entirely from the grapes of a declared vintage year, Vintage is by far the most renowned type of Port, the “top of the line.” But from a volume and revenue standpoint, Vintage Port accounts for only about 2%f overall port production. As with Champagne, not every year has grapes ripe enough and balanced enough to declare a vintage. The finest vintages can continue to gain complexity for many decades after botting; some 19th-century bottles are still be in perfect condition for consumption.

    White Port: Made from white grapes (Malvasia Fina, Donzelinho, Gouveio, Codega and Rabigato, white port can be made in a wide variety of styles, from dry to very sweet. Young White Ports make an excellent base for a cocktail; sweet White Port and tonic water is a common drink in the Porto region. Aged whites are best served chilled on their own.

    *The six most widely used grapes for red Port wine are Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cão and Tinta Amarela. Here are the other grapes that can be used.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Citrus Cocktail Garnishes (Lemon, Lime, Orange)

    What do you do when your cocktail arrives with a bit of citrus peel?

    It can be lemon, lime or orange peel, depending on the drink.

    Do you:

  • Ignore or discard it?
  • Rub it around the rim of the glass?
  • Eat it?
    It’s a good idea to rub the rim, as is done with a cup of espresso. It leaves an invisible coat of the citrus oil, which will add flavor to the drink with every sip you take.

    We love the flavor of the essential oils in the peel (close to zero calories).

    We also admit to eating the peel. It’s a habit we picked up in college, when draining our drink to the last drop. With a limited budget, when no liquor was left we stretched the drink by working on the ice cubes and the peel.

    Different bartenders take different approaches:

  • Curl: a long, slender strip is peeled with a channel knife and then twisted into a curl/spiral (photo #3).
  • Strip: A wide oblong is cut from the citrus and dropped into the drink. Sometimes, the mixologist cuts designs into the strip with a channel cutter.
  • Twist: The classic piece of peel, an oblong typically given a quick twist and tossed onto the top of the drink (photo #1).
  • Wedge: A garnish that cuts a wedge from the entire lemon, served with drinks and foods. It’s to squeeze into the drink/over the food, for some fresh lemon flavor. It can be dropped into the drink or sit on the rim (photo #5).
  • Wheel: A wheel is a circle cut vertically through the lemon. It has both the flesh and the rind with the peel. It can be notched to sit on the rim (photo #4) or tossed atop the drink.
  • Zest: Use a 5-hole zester for long, slender strips—not grated zest but a slender julienne (photo #2).
    And now, the rim strip.

    What’s a rim strip? It’s name we gave to the orange peel in photo #1.

    We saw it for the first time last week, when we reviewed Mr. Black Espresso Liqueur.

    Instead of cutting a strip of peel for a twist and tossing it into the drink, some clever mixologist cut a slit on the bottom of the strip so the peel could sit on the rim.

    We haven’t seen this trick before, and we love it. It’s so much more elegant—and fun—than the classic twist.

    Depending on your perspective, it can look like a quarter-moon, a hammock or a Chinese sampan.

    Try it with your next peel garnish.

    Most people use only the juice and flesh of the lemon, and throw away the peel.

    We suggest that before you juice the lemon, zest it. Save the zest for everyday cooking, for perking up marinades, salads, salad dressings, sauces, sorbet and vegetables to flavoring a glass of water.

    If we have no immediate use for the zest, we use it to flavor ice cubes (fill the ice cube tray, then add some zest to each section.

    Here are the health benefits of the peel:

  • High in fiber and antioxidants, including vitamin C and D-limonene, the essential oil in the peel. It has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-stress, and possibly disease-preventing properties.
  • It has small amounts of calcium, potassium and magnesium.
  • A piece of peel has negligible calories.
    Here are more reasons to eat the peel.

    To your health!


    [1] Look closely at this Black Negroni: A slit enables the peel to sit on the glass rim (photo © Mr. Black).

    [2] Lemon zest and a basil leaf garnish this Blackberry Bramble (photo © Sugar Cane Raw Bar & Grill | Miami | Las Vegas | Brooklyn).

    [3] A Cosmopolitan with a lime curl (photo © Heathman Restaurant & Bar | Portland, Oregon).

    [4] A Margarita with a lime wheel (photo © Tequila Avion).

    [5] Old Fashioned with a lime wedge (photo © Maker’s Mark).




    STOCKING STUFFER: Zoku Jumbo Ice Cube Molds

    [1] Zoku’s Iceberg ice cubes (both photos © Zoku).

    [2] The classic jumbo sphere ice cube.


    If you’re planning to gift a bottle of spirits, how about snazzy jumbo ice cube molds from Zoku?

    They create cubes that melt so slowly, they won’t dilute the drink.

    Jumbo ice cubes have been around for a while in cube and sphere shapes.

    But Zoku has a couple of new shapes to consider.

    The Zoku Iceberg Mold (photo #2) looks more like a brilliant-cut diamond.

    Other Zoku ice cube shapes include:

  • Geometric
  • Classic Cube
  • Classic Sphere
    These ice cubes are not just for cocktails: They also shine in mineral water and soft drinks.

    Note that each mold makes one cube at a time, so plan ahead to make the number that you need.

    They’re $14.99 each at




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