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


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TIP OF THE DAY: Cupcakes Replace Birthday Cakes

Have you been to a wedding recently (or seen magazine photos) where the wedding cake has been replaced by a tiered stand of cupcakes? Makes sense, doesn’t it? Few people like the heavy fondant that wraps many wedding cakes; plus, the cakes cost a fortune, and if you’re any kind of sophisticated bride and groom, you really don’t want to stand in front of your friends feeding each other cake while some MC sings “Now the groom cuts the cake, the groom cuts the cake….” So, porting the concept to birthdays, instead of a birthday cake, consider a platter of cupcakes. Beloved by children and adults alike, they eliminate the need to cut and serve, and an assortment provides guests with a choice of flavors. You can further dazzle by serving highly-decorated cupcakes—for example, topped with chocolate medallions or marzipan animals (you can see a photo here).   Cupcakes
Cupcakes from one of San Francisco’s favorite bakeries, Miette. Visit them in the Ferry Building when you’re in town. One of America’s greatest
food halls, you can purchase great food—and cupcakes for dessert—and dine outdoors by San Francisco Bay. Wednesdays and Saturdays are farmers market days. Photo by Frankie Frankeny.
You don’t need to purchase a tiered plate, although ask around to see if you can borrow one. If not, any round platter will do. The cupcake in the center should hold the candle(s). See more of our favorite cupcakes and cakes in the Cookies, Cakes & Pastries Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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NEWS: Conveyor Belt Sushi Chain Comes To U.S.

Surf Clam Sushi
Now, your surf clam can surf over to you via
conveyor belt.
  Is America about to experience conveyor-belt sushi in a big way? Known as kaiten-sushi, a branch of the largest chain, Sakae Sushi, has made the leap to America (“leap” is an appropriate analogy, since the company logo is a frog on a lily pad—although no frog sushi is served). The premiere is the launch of a goal to be, ostensibly, the first successful sushi chain in America. The company, based in Singapore, has 40 sushi restaurants there, and 20 in other countries—none of which offers the market potential of the large and sushi-hungry American public.
The high-tech restaurant should also appeal to the experiential dining desires of Americans. There’s a patented interactive menu at each table, enabling patrons to create custom orders, as well as a hot water tap to refill cups of green tea. There is three-tiered pricing—three different colored plates, priced at $1.90, $3.90 and $6.90, depending on the value of the contents. In a bit of architectural irony, the two conveyor-belt restaurant, totaling 97 feet of rolling sushi, sashimi, soups, salads, dumplings, ramen, yakitori and other bites, is located in the venerable Chrysler Building, one of the country’s most dignified architectural landmarks. It’s an easy location for anyone to get to, right across the street from Grand Central Terminal, at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. Taking the train into town? Drop in for some sushi before heading to your destination. The speed with which consumers can get their sushi from the conveyor belt gives new meaning to the term “fast food.”The chain was established in Singapore in 1997 with the goal of offering affordable Japanese food. In New York City, which is not known for conveyor-belt restaurants, it will certainly be the king of kaiten. The restaurant, located at 405 Lexington Avenue at 42nd Street, is open 7 days for breakfast, lunch and dinner, from 7 a.m. to midnight. A 24-hour delivery service will be offered. For more information, visit Sakae-Sushi.com or telephone 1.877.SAKAE-USA.

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PRODUCT ALERT: Leprechaun Bombs For St. Patrick’s Day

You don’t need the luck of the Irish to enjoy Leprechaun Bombs from Cosmic Chocolate. You just have to read THE NIBBLE (or else, live in Oakland, California and wander into this boutique chocolate shop). Part of the shop’s “Cosmic Bomb” series, these bonbons are the bomb: beautifully hand-painted chocolate shells, dappled with edible glitter. The Leprechaun Bombs are filled with a ganache that is infused with Bailey’s mint liqueur, Irish whiskey and Green Chartreuse, an ancient herb liqueur of more than 130 medicinal and aromatic herbs, flowers and other plants (who can even name that many?). Taken from an old alchemical recipe for an “elixir of life,” it was first made in the 1600s by monks of the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the Chartreuse Mountains of eastern France, intended as a medicine.   St. Patrick’s Day Chocolate
You don’t have to be Irish to deserve a set or two of Leprechaun Bombs from the Cosmic Chocolate Shop.
The recipe was enhanced and became popular as a beverage. It’s green in color, hence appropriate to the Leprechaun Bombs. A second Chartreuse liqueur, colored with saffron and milder and sweeter than the original, is called Yellow Chartreuse. The yellow color with the greenish tinge known as chartreuse takes its name from the Yellow Chartreuse liqueur. But back to the chocolate. You can purchase four bonbons for $8.00 in a transparent box, allowing the cosmic glow of the Emerald Isle to shine through (well, not really—but the candy looks great) at CosmicChocolateShop.com—and you can see the other Cosmic Bombs as well. We haven’t tasted the Leprechaun Bombs, but we’ve enjoyed every other Cosmic Bomb that has crossed our lips, so our money is on the Leprechauns. When you order, please tell the Cosmic Chocolate folks that it’s St. Paddy, not St. Patty (you’ll note that error in their website description). No one likes his name spelled wrong, not even the patron saint of Ireland. When your name gets spelled like a girl’s name, even a saint has his limits.
– See our other favorite St. Patrick’s Day chocolate, candy, cookies and more.

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TRENDS: Continued Growth For Craft Beer

Craft Beer
A trio of craft beers from New York State that “competed” in our Super Bowl beer tasting (New York versus New England).
  This Bud’s not for you, if you’re one of the millions of Americans with a finer palate for craft beer, represented by the bottles at the right—all of which are proudly brewed in our home state of New York. (Brooklyn Brewery, which has quite a few exciting brews—of which the lager shown is the everyday basic—is one of our favorites.) The craft beer market again grew by double digits in 2007, leading all other segments in the beer category. The Brewers Association reports that estimated sales by independent craft brewers were up 16% in dollars (12% percent in volume). While craft brewers’ share of the total beer category is just 5.9% of sales and 3.8% of volume, In 2007, the U.S. had 1,449 total breweries in operation, of which 1,406 comprise small, independent, and traditional craft brewers. The other 43 are industry giants— Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser, Miller), Molson Coors, Pabst (also owns Schlitz) and regional brewers like Ballantine of New Jersey, Rheingold of New York, Stroh of Michigan, Stroud of Pennsylvania and Narraganset of Rhode Island.
Since 2004, dollar sales by craft brewers have more than doubled: they’ve increased by 58%, according to the Brewers Association. This correlates with the trend of buying local products, plus a preference for higher-quality, more flavorful specialty foods and beers. While craft brew quaffers are very familiar with labels like Anchor Steam, Brooklyn Brewery, Goose Island, Harpoon and others carried by stores that can carry upwards of 100 craft brands, nearly 70% of craft breweries are brewpubs that make and sell most or all of their beer on-premises. Read more about beer in the Beer Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Mulled Wine Day

Mulled Wine Recipe
[1] A cinnamon stick for garnish is optional. Here’s a recipe from Gimme Some Oven (photo © Gimme Some Oven).

Mulled Wine
[2] We drink mulled wine from glass mugs (photo © Bodum).


If you have stemmed glasses, now’s the time to bring them out (photo © Edward Howell | Unsplash).


Mulled wine with dried fruit (photo © Nastasya Day | Pexels).

 

You’ve heard of mulled wine, you say, but you don’t really know what it is? You’re not alone. So we’ll take a moment on National Mulled Wine Day, March 3rd, to give you some information to mull over, as well as mulled winerecipes for mulled wine and its Scandinavian cousin, glögg (pronounced glugg—add Aquavit or vodka along with the brandy, plus almonds and raisins).

The basics: Take a dry red wine and add water, brandy, spices, and some sugar or honey. Simmer on the stove top (read the recipe) and serve in mugs. But check out the recipes.

Glass mugs are preferable, since, as with any wine, one likes to enjoy the color of the beverage. But any mug will do.

If you’re going to buy glass mugs, we love the double-walled Bistro series from Bodum—photo #3).

They’re beautiful, keep the beverage hot longer and don’t require a coaster because the double wall keeps the heat and moisture raised above your tabletop.

For those who don’t drink alcohol (or for the kids), there’s also a recipe for mulled apple cider.
 
 
A BIT OF MULLED WINE HISTORY

The word “mull,” referring to sweetening, spicing and heating of wine or ale, has been traced back to 1610 or so.

Wine and ale often went bad. By adding spices and honey (sugar was not widely available for another two centuries), it could be made drinkable again.

Almost every European country has its version of mulled wine. Even the wine-snooty French make vin chaud (hot wine).

Today, it’s enjoyed as a comforting drink in chilly weather; not to cover up bad booze. Although if you think a bottle of wine is past its prime, go for it!

The spicy-sweet aroma of the mulling wine will fill your home—it’s the beverage equivalent of baking cookies.

You can buy premixed mulling spices in a specialty food store or spice shop (or even in some supermarkets); or you can measure out a little allspice, some dried orange rind (a.k.a. orange peel) and a few whole cloves into a muslin pouch or spice ball.

Add peppercorns if you’re into pepper, and star anise if you have it; and throw a few cinnamon sticks into the brew.
 
 
WASSAILING & THE WASSAIL BOWL

Centuries ago in Old England, the Anglo-Saxon peoples would toast with the expression waes hael, meaning “be well” or “be in good health.”

The tradition was that at the beginning of each year, the lord of the manor would greet the assembled family, workers and guests with the toast waes hael, meaning “be well” or “be in good health.”

In return, the people would respond would reply drink hael, “drink well.”

Thus, like our modern toasts on New Year’s Eve, the new year’s celebrations would begin.

Such celebrations are believed to have begun many years before Christianity began to spread throughout Britain (from around 600 C.E. [source]).

While the recipe varied by region, the wassail drink—typically served from a punch bowl, the wassail bowl—consisted of warmed ale, cider or wine, blended with spices (cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg) and topped with slices of toast (think very large croutons).

Since this was long before the availability of sugar, honey was used as a sweetener; and and perhaps an egg or two for a rich, creamy texture.

The tradition evolved to go wassailing began with the Anglo-Saxons in the countryside, where groups visited the orchards and blessed the trees.

Later, urban wassailing evolved into groups of merrymakers going from one house to another, singing traditional songs. This evolved into what we call caroling.

Wassailing generally take places on Twelfth Night, January 5th. However, some people still celebrate it on “Old Twelvey,” January 17th—the original date before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1752.

 
 
 
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