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

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REVIEW: Best Food Book Gifts

Mario Batali
Chef or emperor? Mario Batali is one of 50 memorable portraits by Melanie Dunea in her book, My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs And Their Final Meals.
  So many books…so little time. When we looked at all of the food books published this year to put together our holiday gift lists, we found wonderful ideas for everyone—and while the books stand on their own, we paired most of them with actual food products for an even bigger gift. A few were published in prior years, but they’re not so well-known; we find them so valuable that we’d be grateful to get them as a gift. To develop expertise in specific areas of food, we have books on chocolate, crab, oysters and truffles (the fungus). For food history, Alice Waters & Chez Panisse, Moveable Feasts, a book on the history of food from farm to table that is a real page-turner, and the snarky The Food Snob’s Dictionary, a good stocking stuffer. There are many more, including cookbooks. But one that every foodie must own is My Last Supper by Melanie Dunea, intimate portraits of 50 top chefs who describe their last meals. Dunea’s photography is stunning—each portrait is as special as Mario Batali’s, at left. Read the full review. See many more gift ideas in the Gift Finder of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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ARTICLE: Pairing Chocolate and Scotch

Pairing chocolates with wine and spirits doubles the pleasure of eating chocolates by themselves. If you haven’t already seen our wine, spirits and chocolate pairing guide, wine, spirits and chocolate-pairing guide, take a look. Then, read about a particular evening we spent with Laphroaig single-malt Scotch and some fine chocolates. We paired Laphroaig, known for its smoky peat and creamy, sweet oak flavors, with some smoky, creamy single-origin chocolates. It’s a special way to entertain a small group during the holiday season. And for a special gift idea for your single-malt loving friends, give a bottle of Laphroaig along with the chocolates we tried, so they can have their own tastings. It’s a great way to spend New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, too. Read more about alcohol for entertaining in the Cocktails Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.   Laphroaig
Laphroaig and chocolate…life is good.

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REVIEW: Best General Gourmet Food Gifts

Paromi Tea
Paromi knows how to rock a fruit tea; Ito En’s connoisseur teas are sublime.
  We divide our holiday gourmet food into 11 categories, and there’s one called “general” which contains all the yummy stuff that isn’t more specific—i.e., not chocolate, kosher, liquor, diet and organic foods. This year, our “general” fab foods range from chocolate-covered fruitcake squares (this is fruitcake you will like) to a gorgeous cube of pink Himalayan sea salt with a stainless steel grater (impressive at the table, and delicious salt) to pink rose nectar made from European rose petals (it’s wonderful to drink roses) to an anchovy sauce that’s descended from the famous garum enjoyed by wealthy Romans. And yes, there are divine cookies and teas. Take a gander at the full review and see if there’s something that belongs under a friend’s tree—or in your pantry.

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TRENDS: What’s Hot At Restaurants

According to a survey of more than 1,200 chefs across America conducted by the National Restaurant Association, the hottest restaurant trends are small plates (including tasting menus of small portions for main courses, dessert, wine flights and other alcohol beverages) and alternative-source ingredients—local produce, organics, sustainable seafood, grass-fed and free-range meat and poultry and alternative red meats (buffalo, ostrich, venison).
Ethnic cuisines continue to be strong, with fusion ethnic cuisine, flatbreads, Asian entrée salads, Asian appetizers, Latin American cuisine, ciabatta bread and Mediterranean cuisine rated high on the list of hot items ranked by the chefs.
– In the alcohol department, craft beer, energy-drink cocktails, martinis, flavored martinis, mojitos, artisan liquors, organic wine and specialty beer (seasonal, spiced, fruit, etc.) are all among the top 20 hot items. Also hot: signature cocktails, food-beer pairings and beer sommeliers, as well as food-wine pairings and wine sommeliers.
– Among non-alcoholic beverages, flavored and enhanced waters have taken the lead over espresso and specialty coffee.
  Smoked Black Cod
Sustainable seafood is hot—like this line-caught black cod from Nantucket Wild Gourmet & Smokehouse.
– Among trends in preparation techniques, braised food is considered more trendy than pan-seared, sautéed and grilled items. Also hot: deglazing/reductions/sauces.That’s what’s hot. So what’s not? Last year’s hotties—bottled water, fresh herbs, exotic mushrooms and whole grain items—while still popular, have dropped out of the top 20 hot items. Rated “most passé foods” are fruit wine, star fruit, low-carb dough and tofu. The National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 935,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a work force of 12.8 million employees. For more information about the survey, visit

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ARTICLE: How To Store Cookies

Maple Pecan Cookies
Maple Pecan Cookies from Michael’s Cookies.
Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel.
  Even if you dont go to holiday cookie swaps, sometimes, you find yourself with too many cookies at hand: your birthday, the holidays, an overzealous round of baking and recipe-testing…or maybe they arrive during a time when you’re cutting back on sweets. Supermarket cookie are baked with enough preservative to stay ”fresh” on the shelf for a year or longer. Artisan cookies are baked without preservatives, and need to be eaten promptly. The cookies taste best when they’re fresh out of the oven, or within five days of baking. So if you have too many cookies to consume within the “good eating” time frame and they are just too good to give away, read about storing cookies. To read reviews of our favorite cookies (including Michael’s Cookies, shown in the photo at left), plus yummy cookie recipes), check out the Cookie Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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