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THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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NEWS: Social Networking Sites For The Restaurant Biz

It was only a matter of time, but now at least two social networking sites have sprouted up, aiming to be the MySpace and FaceBook for the restaurant industry. Restaurant owners, managers, chefs, servers, vendors, and yes, foodies are invited to communicate in virtual communities such as BiteClub.com (love that name!) and FohBoh.com (insider lingo for Front Of House, the service staff, and Back Of House, the kitchen staff). At this time, Bite Club is more intimate and clubby, with a feature that enables participants to vote on the quality of each person’s post—if it isn’t good, it gets sent to the bottom of the lists so the good posts float to the top. Every site should employ this technology, so we don’t have to plow through those endless, vapid posts like, “Great idea, Brad.” “Yeah, I liked it too.” “Me too.”   Bite Club
Are you a restaurant professional, or do you want to hang with them? Head to the virtual communities on BiteClub.com and FohBoh.com.
FohBoh has sub-groups from Pizza Lovers to Branding to Wine Lovers to Atlanta Area Wine Network. (Will somebody please tell the Bartender’s of Boston that they need to fix their punctuation?) If you’re a restaurant professional or a restaurant enthusiast, check ’em out.

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Banana Creme Pie Day

White Chocolate Banana Tart
This white chocolate banana tart, scrumptious in and of itself, has been accessorized with a chocolate straw, a miniature cookie, fresh raspberries and a mint sprig. Recipe and photograph courtesy of El Rey Chocolate.
  It’s National Banana Creme Pie Day. As we were going through our recipes, we found this one for a White Chocolate Banana Tart, which is far more interesting (sorry the photo isn’t better). It’s made with El Rey’s Icoa white chocolate, which many people feel is the finest white chocolate made (Icoa was a native goddess). However, it’s hard to find, so buy any top-quality white chocolate bar. Be sure to read the ingredients label: If the words “vegetable oil” appear, steer clear!—it’s imitation chocolate, and won’t taste so good. Look for the words “cocoa butter.”
Tart Dough Ingredients
• 7 tablespoons lightly salted butter, at room temperature
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 1-3/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted
Tart Dough Directions

1. Cream the sugar and butter using the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy.
2. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl.
3. Add the flour. Mix until combined. Refrigerate at least one hour before rolling out.
4. Roll out the tart dough. Using tart pans that have been sprayed with baker’s spray, line each tart pan with dough. NOTE: After tart dough has been rolled out, it can be chilled for at least an hour and re-rolled. After the dough has been re-rolled once, discard it.
5. Poke shells with a fork and bake at 350°F for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.Pastry Cream Ingredients
• 1-1/3 cups whole milk
• 1/2 vanilla bean
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
• 1 envelope gelatin, softened in 1/4 cup water and melted
• 4 ounces El Rey Icoa or other top quality white chocolate, finely chopped
• 2 ripe bananas, puréed

Pastry Cream Directions
1. Whisk together eggs, sugar and corn starch.
2. Bring the milk to a boil, with the vanilla bean scraped into it. At the boiling point, add some of the hot milk to the egg/sugar mixture and whisk together.
3. When the milk boils, stir in the egg mixture and lower the heat to medium. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until custard thickens and begins to pull from the side of the pot.
4. In a stainless steel bowl, pour the custard on top of the white chocolate. Whisk together until the chocolate is melted. Stir in the butter. Add the melted gelatin and whisk together.
5. Add the puréed banana. Cool in an ice water bath. Refrigerate until needed.

Assembling The Banana Tarts
Ingredients

• 1 recipe banana-white chocolate pastry cream (above), chilled
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 4 bananas
• Optional garnishes: raspberries, mint leaves, chocolate straws, miniature cookies

Assembly Directions
1. Whip the heavy cream and sugar until stiff.
2. Whisk the chilled banana pastry cream.
3. Fold 2/3 of the whipped cream into the banana pastry cream. Reserve the remaining whipped cream for garnish.
4. Fill each tart shell with banana pastry cream.
5. Using a propane torch or the broiler in your oven, brown the sliced bananas.
6. Arrange the bananas around the inside edge of the tarts.
7. Using a pastry bag, pipe a rosette of whipped cream in the center of each tart. If you do not have a pastry bag, scoop a dollop of whipped cream into the center of each tart.
8. Garnish with raspberries, mint leaves, chocolate and cookies and serve.

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FOOD HOLIDAY: St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day will be celebrated on Monday, March 17, 2008, honoring the feast day and date of death of the priest and patron saint of Ireland, who died on March 17th around 460 C.E.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade actually took place not in Ireland, but in New York City on March 17, 1762. Kilted bagpipers and drum corps drawing enormous crowds (a few years ago, we joined them to see both a kilted Sean Connery and a suited Mayor Bloomberg march).

These days the holiday is celebrated not just by people of Irish descent, but people of all backgrounds, in the United States, Canada, Australia, and even in countries where there is no Irish population, such as Japan, Russia and Singapore.

In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was traditionally a religious holiday (pubs closed). But in 1995, the government decided to use St. Patrick’s Day as an opportunity to drive tourism. It is now a multi-day celebration featuring parades, concerts, fireworks and other attractions.

  Shamrock Cookies
Bake shamrock cookies for a St. Patrick’s Day treat. Photo courtesy Eleni’s.
 

Corned Beef And Cabbage and Irish Soda Bread are some of the favored treats of the day, along with Irish beer, Irish Cheddar, Irish Coffee and anything green—from bagels and beer to broccoli soup and green-tinted chocolate chip cookies (add 1-1/2 teaspoon green food color to your favorite recipe).

Our own NIBBLE celebration focuses on food and drink, starting with a selection of sweets you can order for gifts, a St. Patrick’s Day party, or just to treat yourself and your family. Take a nibble of our recommendations.
  

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NEWS: The Exceptional Brownie Now Exceptionally Kosher

Peanut Brownie
The Exceptional Brownie’s Peanutty Swirl is one of the dairy brownies.
  The Exceptional Brownie, which produces its brownies under a kosher-dairy certification from KOF-K, is producing some of its flavors under a kosher-parve certification from the Orthodox Union. With the 15% annual growth of the kosher food market, company founder Claire Sauerhoff reports that the need existed to produce both a dairy brownie (made with butter) and a parve brownie (made with margarine). People who observe kosher dietary laws do not eat dairy products with meat products; there is a six-hour waiting period after meat has been consumed before dairy-based products can be consumed (including even a bit of milk in tea or coffee, or any dessert that contains butter, cream, cream cheese, sour cream or other dairy product). Now, with the dual choice from The Exceptional Brownie, people who love all-butter baked goods can plan their days (brownies and blondies for breakfast?), and people who want a brownie after a meat-based breakfast or lunch can munch away on the parve version. Both recipes use premium chocolate, real vanilla and other top ingredients.
Read our review of The Exceptional Brownie, whose dairy brownies are available in Berry Nutty, Blondie, Butterscotch Blondie, Espresso Choco-Chip, Double Chocolate, Peanutty Swirl, Raspberry Swirl and Walnut Double Chocolate. The Exceptional Brownie’s Walnut Double Chocolate Brownie was the winner in a national competition sponsored by COPIA, the American Center for Food, Wine and The Arts, founded by Julia Child and Robert Mondavi (among others) in Napa Valley. The parve brownies are available in Double Chocolate. Find more of our favorite brownies in the Cookies & Brownies Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day

It’s National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day—and starting Monday, our Gourmet Giveaway Trivia Quiz focuses on peanut butter. So, all you lovers, tune back in then and you can win a delicious peanut butter prize. We’re a little constrained here about what we can write about peanut butter, because most of the juicy insights are questions in the trivia quiz. So instead, we’ll talk about flavored peanut butter.There isn’t yet a National Flavored Peanut Butter Day, because all of these “designated holidays” are petitioned by large companies or their public relations firms, and flavored PBs are often made by smaller, artisan companies that don’t have the bandwidth for such initiatives. So, we’ll do a little horn-tooting here for them.   Onion Parsley Peanut Butter - Peanut Better
Try Onion Parsley Peanut Better on a roast beef or turkey sandwich, instead of mustard or mayo.
Our first flavored PB epiphany came when we tasted the Peanut Better peanut butters at the Fancy Food Show in the summer of 2004. Imagine seeing a lineup of jars called Onion Parsley Peanut Butter, Rosemary Garlic Peanut Butter, Thai Ginger & Red Pepper Peanut Butter and Spicy Southwestern Peanut Butter. We could almost imagine the latter two, because we’ve made our share of spicy Szechwan noodle dishes. But Onion Parsley? Rosemary Garlic? After one bite, we were astounded, and Peanut Better quickly became a Top Pick Of The Week. (The company also makes Cinnamon Currant, Deep Chocolate Peanut Praline, Sweet Molasses & Vanilla Cranberry and other sweet and savory flavors. And, the line is organic and kosher.)A short while later, in January 2005, we were at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco and discovered P.B. Loco, a company founded by law school graduates in St. Paul, Minnesota. Their Sun-Dried Tomato Peanut Butter knocked our socks off, and two of their numerous sweet PBs—Raspberry White Chocolate and Sumatra Cinnamon & Raisin—remain our all-time favorites (who needs dessert—just dip in a spoon). But back to those exotic savory peanut butters: What do you do with them? They are dynamite on turkey, chicken, ham, roast beef and grilled vegetable sandwiches (pair them with soft cheeses like mozzarella, too). Use them to baste chicken or lamb, mix some into meatloaf, stuffing, bread and muffin batter. Spread them on apples or pears. Make canapés, along with meats, cheeses or vegetables. Dip crudités into them, toss them with steamed vegetables, add them to baked potatoes. Go [pea]nuts! Read more about PB in the Jams, Jellies & Peanut Butters Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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