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GOURMET GIVEAWAY: Win Mrs. Field’s Hot Cocoa

Given the cold spell that has settled over much of the country, it’s appropriate that this week’s Gourmet Giveaway is hot cocoa. Four one-pound cans of Mrs. Field’s Hot Cocoa could be yours, just by answering a few trivia questions about cocoa (you don’t have to answer correctly to win). Each reusable can makes twelve 6-ounce cups or 6 large mugs of steaming cocoa. if you’re the winner, you can invite friends over for cocoa klatsch. When they ask what they can bring, tell them: cookies! Then, you can test them on the same trivia questions you answered, and award the winner one of your four cans. Enter here. If you’re a trivia lover, all of the quizzes from our prior Gourmet Giveaways are available for your recreational pleasure. There’s no longer a prize attached…but the fun factoids you’ll pick up taking the quizzes are a nice reward.   Mrs. Fields Gourmet Cocoa
You could win four of these captivating (and reusable) cans of cocoa.
If you hunger for hot chocolate, you may enjoy these articles in the Cocoa & Hot Chocolate Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine, which features reviews of more than 70 hot chocolate brands:
Cocoa, Natural or Dutched: Does It Make A Difference?
25 Great Hot Chocolate Tricks
Spiced European Hot Chocolate Recipe from chocolatier Michael Recchiuti

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NEWS: California Invites You To The “Land Of Wine And Food”

Apricot Orchard
Harvesting apricots in the Bonacich Orchard. Photo by Robert Holmes | California Travel and Tourism Commission
  As more and more people are planning their entire vacations around food and wine, the tourism industry is taking notice. California, with its vineyards, bountiful farms, cheese makers and star chefs, is the hottest destination in America for culinary tourism (yes, that’s what it’s called). We attended a luncheon and wine tasting organized by the California Travel and Tourism Commission, to celebrate its new campaign called “Land of Wine and Food.” You’ll see magazine ads, a website and even TV spots featuring celebrities, wine makers and chefs. At the launch event in New York City, we were greeted with a table of goodies, prepared and presented by the Food Network’s Guy Fieri (the original winnner of “The Next Food Network Star”).

Guy had prepared some of California’s signature dishes: A Tomales Bay Kumamoto oyster tasted so fresh, it was hard to believe that it had flown across the country. The fried version of the oyster with a generous smattering of Californian Dry Jack cheese had us asking for seconds. Also on Guy’s appetizer table were succulent Cornish game hens and San Francisco’s seasonal favorite, Dungeness crab.Now that we had a little food in our system, we were ready to partake in the “Wine Tasting Tour of California,” led by some of the winemakers whose wines were showcased. We tasted seven wines, ranging from a dry Muscat from Chalk Hill to an oaky Cabernet from Oakville (which seems funny when you see it in print, but not all wines from Oakville are oaky). Our personal favorite was the 2004 Curtis Winery Syrah from Santa Barbara County, presented by the winemaker (and former star of “The Bachelor”) Andrew Firestone. It tasted of plum and blackberry with a hint of vanilla and a caramelly finish. We’ll be searching for bottles of this one on our next trip to the wine store.

All this was followed by…lunch! John Stewart and Duskie Estes, the husband/wife chef team behind the restaurant Zazu in Santa Rosa, presented us with a delicious family-style meal, focusing on the seasonal and the sustainable for which Zazu is known. (in fact, many of the ingredients were picked from the organic garden at the back of the restaurant). A whole roasted lamb, raised by one their neighbors in Santa Rosa, was tender and bursting with flavor. The side of “Enormous Fagioli,” big Italian-style white beans, was accompanied by crisped vegetable bits that imparted a smoky flavor. We even discovered a new vegetable, puntarelle, which tastes a bit like chicory and is completely addictive.

The meal was accompanied by many of the same wines that we had tasted, plus new ones including a Bordeaux-style blend by Rodney Strong called Symmetry. Dessert was a stellar finish to the meal—burst-in -your-mouth goat cheese fritters, topped with chestnut honey (also provided by a beekeeper who is a neighbor to the restaurant.) In California, it seems, the best meal is the one that comes from just next door. Go locavore! Go culinary tourism! Go to California and taste all of this great food firsthand. Visit for information and to enter to win a six-day adventure to California’s Central Valley.

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PRODUCT REVIEW: Bertagni Ravioli And Tortellini

Bertagni Ravioli and Tortellini
An 8-ounce package, that feeds 4 people as a side, is $5.99 (suggested retail price).
  Want a quick, delicious lunch or dinner? Look for the all-natural filled pastas—ravioli and tortellini—from Bertagni (pronounced burr-TOHN-yee), the oldest filled pasta producer in Italy. They’re found in your grocer’s refrigerator case, and at fine food stores nationwide. The company also does a vigorous private label business, so even if you don’t see the name “Bertagni” on the package, if it has the your store’s name on it and “Product Of Italy” on the package back, it may well be theirs. You’re in for a treat—the products are so good, we enjoyed them with just a dab of butter or olive oil (filled pastas are meant to be enjoyed simply dressed, because the filling is the center of attention). The pastas cook in four minutes or less, after the water boils—a benefit of fresh pasta. Feast on flavors like Basil Ravioli With Char-Grilled Vegetables; Fire-Roasted Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Ravioli; Arugula and Cheese Tortelloni; Porcini Mushroom Tortelloni; and perhaps our favorite (though it’s tough to pick just one), Ricotta and Parmigiano Reggiano Tortelloni.
Do these pastas taste so good just because they’re made in Italy (a country that has some of the best food in the world, because they use the finest, freshest ingredients)?
– Read our full review of Bertagni pasta.
– If your ravioli sticks together when cooking, read how to cook fresh pasta.
– There’s more in the Pasta Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s Peppermint Patty—Not Pattie—Day (Here’s A Recipe)

February 11th is Peppermint Patty Day. You may indulge in the occasional York Peppermint Patty or box of Junior Mints (we do). But if you love peppermint patties, making them at home is easy.

  • Combine 1 pound confectioner’s sugar, 3 tablespoons softened butter, 3 teaspoons peppermint extract and 1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract.
  • Mix in 1/4 cup evaporated milk. Roll into 1-inch balls, place on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet and chill for 20 minutes.
  • Flatten the balls with the bottom of a glass to 1/4″ thick, so they look like peppermint patties.
  • Next, prepare the chocolate coating in a double boiler: 12 ounces of good-quality semisweet chocolate (you can use chocolate morsels, but the key is to get the best-tasting chocolate you can find, like Guittard or Valrhona) with 2 tablespoons shortening.
  • Dip the patties and place them back on the waxed paper to harden.
    If you want to go all out, you can decorate the tops of the patties with candied mint leaves: Dip tiny leaves or cut pieces of leaf and crystallize in sugar syrup.

    This recipe makes about 5 dozen peppermint patties. Be sure to make extra for friends and family—they’re are so good, you’ll want to eat the whole batch.

      Homemade Peppermint Patties
    Make a batch of peppermint patties for yourself, plus more for gifts. Yours may not look this perfect, but they’ll taste great (photo courtesy Safe Eggs).
    To be perfectly correct, the spelling is patty. Patties is the plural form, so many folks assumed the singular to be pattie.

    The dictionary does not recognize “pattie” as a word; although the York Candy Company chose this [incorrect] spelling to refer to a York Peppermint Pattie.

    Patty first appeared in English around 1700, from the French pâté. It referred to an item of food covered with dough, batter, etc., and fried or baked, such as oyster patties. It then referred to ground or minced food; and finally, the thin, round candy we call a peppermint patty.

    Peppermint Patty is also a character from the Peanuts comic series.

    According to a company history in Wikipedia, the York Peppermint Pattie (sic) was first produced by Henry C. Kessler, owner of the York Cone Company, in 1940. The company was named for its location: York, Pennsylvania.

    In the annals of corporate acquisitions, in 1972 the York Cone Company was acquired by Peter Paul. In 1978, Peter Paul merged with Cadbury Schweppes. In 1988 the Hershey Foods Corporation acquired the U.S. operations of Cadbury Schweppes.

    The York Peppermint Pattie we know is different from Henry Kessler’s: the mint centers are only semi hard. In February 2009, Hershey closed the Reading, Pennsylvania plant that made York Peppermint Patties, 5th Avenue and Zagnut candy bars, and Jolly Rancher hard candies. Production was moved to a new factory the company built in Monterey, Mexico.

    Find more of our favorite peppermint candies in the Candy Section of THE NIBBLE webzine.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Marshmallow Valentines

    Lavender Marshmallows
    Artisan marshmallows like these, flavored
    with real lavender buds, can be as pretty as a box of chocolates.
      If your Valentine doesn’t like chocolate, how about marshmallows? Gourmet marshmallows come in a variety of flavors that will delight the young and charm the food sophisticate. In addition to Valentine gifts, we like serve them as “petit fours” after dinner with coffee. The medley of available colors and flavors match holiday themes and other occasions. And the flavors are heavenly.- Read our review of America’s best artisan marshmallows.
    – Check out Plush Puffs brand of marshmallows.
    – People on sugar-free diets will love La Nouba sugar-free marshmallows.
    – The fudge-covered marshmallows from Momma Reiner must be experienced.
    – The great Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini also makes gourmet marshmallows.

    Try some of these beauties and you just might develop a marshmallow habit.


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