THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods


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TRENDS: Eat Well For Less


You don’t need to buy a “top cut” to
have a great steak experience.
  In these belt-tightening times, how can you eat like a king on a knight’s salary? Justin Marx, CEO of gourmet food purveyor MarxFoods.com, offers three tips on how to eat well in a down economy:

1) Dried mushrooms are a bargain compared to fresh mushrooms. It takes approximately 8-10 pounds of fresh mushrooms to yield 1 pound of dried. A half pound of dried shitake mushrooms costs only $29 with shipping, but is equivalent to 4-5 pounds of fresh shitakes, which would cost at least $40 at a retail store. Dried mushrooms can be stored in your pantry for a long time, can be substituted for fresh in just about any recipe and are easy to reconstitute. See THE NIBBLE’s Mushroom Glossary for more about gourmet mushrooms.

2) Enjoy truffle flavor via truffle oil. At $2,000 a pound or so, even the wealthy will be holding back on fresh truffles this year. But you can enjoy the flavor of truffles with truffle oil. There must be at least a hundred servings in each bottle of truffle oil; a little goes a long way.

At $35 per bottle with shipping, that means that you can delight in the truffle’s aroma and flavor for only 35 cents per portion. Imagine your next bowl of pasta embellished with truffle oil, for pocket change. Add some affordable dried mushrooms, reconstituted into a mushroom ragout. But don’t forget that the most important thing with using truffle oil is to put it on your food after it is cooked, because heat can destroy the flavor and aroma. To learn more about truffles, read THE NIBBLE’s overview and Truffle Glossary.

3) Braising meats makes affordable, delicious winter dishes. Usually, the meats that are perfect for slow-cooked winter dishes are far more affordable. Try wild boar shoulder, venison stew meat and bison skirt steaks. If you want to eat the finest quality meats and game and exotic meats, buy meats in bulk and split orders with friends and family to save, or buy a quarter grass-fed beef to really save. Also check out less expensive cuts of beef in THE NIBBLE’s popular article on Best Value Steak Cuts.

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NEW PRODUCT: “Cheese Slices” Teaches Cheese Via DVD

Cheese Slices is the first television series to explore the rich traditions and skills behind many of the world’s best loved artisan and farmstead cheeses. The 21-part series, now available on three DVDs, has been shown in dozens of countries around the world, but never in the U.S. It’s now available on DVD to American turophiles (i.e., cheese lovers). You can purchase it at Whole Foods Markets and selected specialty food and cheese retailers nationwide. The three DVDs explore the world’s great cheeses—Camembert, Cheddar, Feta, Gorgonzola, Parmigiano Reggiano, Stilton, goat cheeses, washed rind cheeses and much more. Each segment takes you on an insider’s tour—the animals, the milking, the cheesemaking, the ripening—that deepens your knowledge and appreciation of these great cheeses and the people who make them. The first two in the series are $19.95; the third DVD is $24.99. For more information, visit CheeseSlices.com. You can learn a lot about cheese in THE NIBBLE’s Cheese Section as well.
Goat cheese from the Vermont Butter &
Cheese
company, a NIBBLE Top Pick.

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PRODUCT REVIEW: O’Coco’s Organic Chocolate Crisps


Very chocolatey, very crispy and just 90
calories per package.
Low in fat, organic and just 90 calories per single-serve (.7 ounce) package, O’Coco’s are a real find. When you want a chocolate cookie snack, the dozen or so thin, half-dollar size cookie crisps hit the spot. At 79¢ per bag, the price is right, too. The USDA-certified organic line is also certified kosher (dairy) by the Orthodox Union.

We don’t like too many packaged cookies, and you won’t find many reviewed in THE NIBBLE. Even the organic variety, made with all-natural ingredients, are often too sweet or just not worth the carbs, which we’d rather enjoy in another form (ice cream, cake, chocolate…). But we taste everything that crosses our path, and really flipped for O’Coco’s Organic Chocolate Crisps: thin, wafer-type cookies that can be enjoyed from the grab-and-go bag, or as a sophisticated accompaniment to accessorize other foods.

Read the full review on TheNibble.com.

 

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Mary’s Gone Crackers

A quick glance at the Mary’s Gone Crackers package can make a serious foodie apprehensive: wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, no hydrogenated oils, no trans-fats, non-GMO. The litany of what’s not in these crackers is so extensive, you start to wonder what is in them that makes them taste so vibrant and delicious. (See the answer in the main review.) They’re also organic, whole grain and kosher.

Mary’s crackers taste so good, and deliver such flavorful, addictive crunch, that it’s a pleasure to get your three daily servings of whole grains (and 455mg of omega-3 fatty acids per serving) by substituting whatever cracker or chip you’re enjoying now. The flat, round wafers have a great nutty, whole wheat taste despite an absence of wheat. Each of the five flavors (Original, Black Pepper, Caraway, Herb and Onion) is distinct and straightforward. Black Pepper, for example has a nice pepper bite; Herb features basil, oregano and other dried-herb-rack staples; Onion is reminiscent of Lipton Onion Soup mix, in a good way. Even the Original is splendid: a hearty grain flavor accented with the sesame and flax seeds that characterize the entire line.


You’ll go crackers when you taste the
lively, complex flavors of Mary’s whole
grain, gluten-free crackers and twig
snacks.
In finding a solution to her own gluten-free needs, Mary Waldner has created a line that any lover of fine flavors will find exciting. There’s a new product line, Sticks & Twigs, that offers similar excitement in a pretzel-stick shape. Read the full review for the whole, healthy scoop.

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GOURMET NEWS: EAT-JAPAN Sushi Awards


The winner: a sushi made of seven
different treatments of rice. Last year’s
winner, Golden Shooting Star, was also a
vegetarian sushi.
Award-winning chefs from Japan, Russia, Scandinavia, the U.K. and the U.S. competed on October 6th at Sushi Awards 2008 for the Sushi Of The Year Award, a unique creation developed for the event. The “Seven Sushi Samurai” created their selected sushi for 322 sushi connoisseurs, members of the press and a guest panel of British culinary celebrities. The event, held at Bloomsbury’s London House, was sold out (there was a waiting list for the £90 tickets).

The winner was Mitsunori Kusakabe of Sushi Ran in Sausalito, California. Born in Osaka, Japan in 1970, Kusakabe is a largely self-trained sushi genius who holds the 6th American Sushi Skills trophy. He has carried his skills around the globe before bringing them to his Michelin-starred restaurant, Sushi Ran in California. Born in Osaka, Japan in 1970, Kusakabe is a largely self-trained sushi chef who also won the sixth American Sushi Skills competition. His creation, “Seven ’Rice’ Samurai,” used only rice (no fish or vegetables, except for the nori wrapper and garnishes such as shiso flowers), and demonstrated his skills as a chef; judge Kyle Connaughton, head chef of The Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen, called it “tecnhically brilliant.”

Kusakabe utilized used seven different cooking methods—fermentation, frying, toasting, sautéing, roasting, freezing and extraction—to transform rice into an innovative sushi. The inspiration behind this recipe was Kusakabe’s desire to show the world just how delicious and essential rice is, and how versatile rice can be. You can only imagine how good this sushi tastes, but the next time you’re in the neighborhood of Sausalito (right across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco), see if you can get a reservation at Sushi Ran.

Last year’s winner, Golden Shooting Star, was also a vegetarian sushi. To learn more about the different types of sushi available at most sushi bars, read THE NIBBLE’s Sushi Glossary. And if you’re headed to any of the cities where the rest of the Seven Samurai sushi chefs work, you can be assured you’ll find some exciting sushi there.

Read more about the Sushi Of The Year competition, and see photos of the runners up.

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