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TIP OF THE DAY: Cocoa vs. Hot Chocolate

We have addressed this topic before, but it has surfaced as the Tip Of The Day on (so we hope you enjoy it again). Yes, Virginia, there is a difference between cocoa and hot chocolate. Cocoa is made from cocoa powder and hot chocolate is made from shaved chocolate bars or other bits of whole chocolate. Hot chocolate is much richer because of the higher cocoa butter content of the solid chocolate. Both cocoa and hot chocolate can be made with either milk or water; milk, of course, makes it richer. You can’t make cocoa powder at home (unless you have a hydraulic press). However, you can make shaved chocolate. It is often marketed as “drinking chocolate,” but you can save money by shaving your own from your favorite chocolate bars—dark, milk, white or flavored. Shaving is a relative term; you can use anything from knife to a chocolate curler or grater to a pulsing food processor.   Burdick Hot Chocolate
Our favorite, from Burdick Chocolate, shows that glamour can live inside plain packaging. (Alternatively, glamorous packaging does not guarantee a great-tasting product.)
The better quality of the bar, the better quality of the hot chocolate. That’s why some of the finest brands are $25 a box (our favorite from Burdick Chocolate, shown at the left, is $14.00 for 12 ounces and $35.00 for two pounds). Read our review of more than 65 hot chocolate and cocoa brands in THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Valentine’s Day Gifts

Recchiuti Chocolate Valentine

Our Valentine’s Day gift lists have something
for everyone—including wonderful calorie-free
gifts. (But the Recchiuti chocolates, above, aren’t
on that particular list.)
  If you’re not all set for Valentine’s Day, take a look at our lovingly-selected picks (in alphabetical order, by category):- Chocolate For ConnoisseursDiet Valentine Gifts (no carb, no cal, no sugar)- Heart Cookies, Cakes & Brownies

Gifts For Cooks

Gifts For Kids

Kosher Valentine Gifts

Savory Valentine Gifts, for people who don’t like sweets

Find more gift ideas in the Gift Finder section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.


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NEWS: Obama & Oprah As Chocolate Truffles

Obama ChocolateOprah and Obama: united in chocolate.   First it was Oprah, then the Kennedys (Ted, Caroline and Maria Shriver). Then, author and public radio host Garrison Keillor. And now, a boutique chocolatier in Oakland, California is throwing its weight behind the charismatic candidate by making him even more appealing—in espresso—Cognac ganache. There are handmade chocolate truffles bearing the countenance of the candidate and his biggest supporter. You can buy all Obama in espresso-Cognac (Obama) ganache or all Oprah in raspberry ganache or (mix and match). Four pieces are $12.00. And as long as we’re getting cosmic with it, for your consideration there are:
– Al Roker (peanut butter/honey caramel)
– Bono (limoncello ginger)
– Madonna (red hot cinnamon caramel)
– Snoop Dog (mint grapefruit)
We’ve got to say, it’s an interesting assortment of cosmic icon choices. But Cosmic Chocolate Shop makes excellent chocolate. So if you don’t mind biting into Madonna, we’re sure that the red hot cinnamon caramel rocks. At Cosmic Chocolate Shop.

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TIP OF THE DAY: More On The Theme Of Soup

There’s some pretty good soup to be bought “fresh” these days. Many of the stores that sell it don’t make it themselves, but buy it in bulk from companies like Hale & Hearty, Kettle Cuisine or companies that sell only to foodservice. No matter the provenance, many of these soups taste terrific, some recipes are elegant and can save you a lot of time if you’re having a dinner party. A quart of soup can feed eight people four-ounce portions (or smaller), in demitasse cups, shooters, martini glasses, Chinese tea cups or other vessels (small bowls are good, too). The idea is to provide a small taste of something good, in a stylish presentation. We go for more courses and smaller portions, mirroring today’s “small plates” trend. But those who have dined upon our eight-course dinners know that we’ve been doing this for 20 years.
– While you’re at the store picking up the soup, buy a crunchy accompaniment—gourmet breadsticks or flatbreads, pappadums, Japanese rice crackers (the black sesame ones look great with anything, and taste great, too). Look to contrast textures in every course.
  vichysoisse.jpgSsh..don’t tell. We bought it and heated it up.
– Pick up a garnish for the soup—fresh herbs, edible flowers, basil oil to drop in circles with a medicine dropper, crème frâiche. Look to contrast flavors and colors in every course, too.
– If your dishes and the soup aren’t colorful enough, use bright table linens. If you don’t have them, pick up some bright, solid cocktail napkins (red, yellow, whatever color works with the soup, your dishes and tablecloth) to place under atop the service plate. (As a case in point, how much better would this cream soup in a colorless dish look, if it were presented on a richly-colored cloth, napkin or service plate? Voilá—you have an impressive course that took 10 minutes to buy and 5 minutes to plate.)

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s Homemade Soup Day

Demitasse Cups
It’s soup, served in demitasse cups with garnishes from edible flowers to sliced truffles. This presentation is from Ric Tramonto, executive chef/owner of one of our favorite restaurants, Tru in Chicago.
  Today is Homemade Soup Day. But on any day, soup is a great course for family meals or entertaining because of the variety of choices and ease of serving. It can be made in advance and takes no time to plate. For an exciting soup course, serve each guest a trio or quartet of soups in demitasse cups: three different seafood soups or vegetable purées, three different ethnic soups or fruit soups, or one chicken, one beef, one pork. Whatever theme you choose, you’ll have as much fun selecting soups and garnishes and serving your guests as they’ll have consuming them. You can buy colorful, inexpensive demitasse cups at outlets and discount stores and use them for other purposes, like mini panna cottas, mousse, pots de creme and sorbet.
– See some of our favorite soup recipes in the Soups & Stocks section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.
– Take our Soup Quiz and test your knowledge of soup.

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