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

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Hank’s Gourmet Sodas

[1] Treat yourself to soda made with real sugar, not high fructose corn syrup (photo © Hank’s Beverage Company).

[2] A selection of Hank’s Gourmet Sodas (photo © Hank’s Beverage Company).

[3] Better sodas make better floats (photo © Shag Photo | iStock Photo).

[4] Incorporate Hank’s sodas into cocktails, like Caribbean Recipe Ginger Beer in a Moscow Mule (photo © Arch Rock Fish [now closed]).


Hank’s Gourmet Sodas were launched in 1996 in greater Philadelphia.

Initially, the line was sold primarily through bars and restaurants, as a tastier alternative to mass-market, HFCS-sweetened brands.

The quality carbonated beverages were a success, and the line grew in size and popularity.

Soda lovers—and we are related to a few of them—loved them when we shared our samples. We, too, became fans.

Made with cane sugar, the craft soda line has eight flavors (one is sugar-free), plus two fall seasonal specialties.

They’re sold in 12-ounce glass bottles:

  • Birch Beer
  • Caribbean Recipe Ginger Beer
  • Diet Root Beer (sweetened with aspartame)
  • Grape
  • Orange Cream
  • Root Beer
  • Vanilla Cream
  • Wishniak* Black Cherry
  • Seasonal: Caramel Apple Cream, Pumpkin Spice
    The pure flavor leaps out of the glass, whether straight from the bottle, in a glass or in an ice cream soda.

    As a feel-good bonus, the beverage orders are processed by SpArc Philadelphia, an organization that helps people with disabilities.

    The website sells 12-packs of individual flavors, plus a variety pack.

    We sent a some as Valentine gifts.

    Get yours at

    High-fructose corn syrup is an artificial sugar made from corn syrup. It’s a common sweetener in sodas and fruit-flavored drinks.

    Excessive consumption of fructose or HFCS can lead to insulin resistance, a condition that can result in type 2 diabetes.

    According to the Mayo Clinic, as the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup has increased, so have levels of obesity and related health problems.

    Per the CDC, as of 2018 10.5% of the US population—had diabetes. 34.1 million adults aged 18 years or older—or 13.0% of all U.S. adults—had diabetes.

    More than 34 million Americans have diabetes (about 1 in 10); approximately 95% is Type 2 diabetes.

    That’s the third-highest rate in the world, after China and India [source].

    Type 2 diabetes most often develops in people over age 45, but more and more children, teens and young adults are developing it.

    Experts have attributed some of this to the HFCS in soft drinks, as well as other eating habits.

    Here are more potential risks of HFCS.

    High-fructose corn syrup is chemically similar to table sugar. Controversy exists, however, about whether the body handles high-fructose corn syrup differently than table sugar.

    *Wishniak Black Cherry is a Philadelphia thing. Other companies also make it. The flavor was originated by Frank’s Beverages, founded by Jacob Frank in 1885. Frank was a Russian immigrant who sold freshly-squeezed lemon soda on the streets of Philadelphia. When developing new flavors in the 1950s, company president Mulford Frank tried a cherry flavor and said, “This reminds me of a Wishniak.” Wishniak is a cordial made in Russia and Eastern Europe with cherries, and vodka and sugar. The name stuck (although, of course, there’s no vodka in the soda [source]).




    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Galette For Brunch, Lunch Or Dinner

    A yummy winter galette recipe is below. You can serve it at brunch, lunch or dinner.

    But first, some words about galettes (the term in Italian is crostata).

    Galette (from the Norman word gale, meaning “flat cake“) is a French term for a flat pastry, usually round—i.e., a rustic pie.

    The filling can be sweet or savory.

    Galettes preceded pies.

    Before pie pans became available and affordable, cooks would roll out a large circle of dough, placing the filling in the center. A large border of dough remained to fold up, the folded crust creating a border that keeps the filling in place.

    There was and is only a bottom crust.

    While the aim was to create a round shape, galettes could be less than a perfect circle but more free-form.

    Modern galettes often use puff pastry as the base; but can also be made from a yeast dough like brioche, or a sweet pastry crust.

    Different regions make pastries called “galette” that are different in concept; for example:

  • Galette bretonne (Breton galette), a buckwheat crêpe with a savory filling.
  • Galette des rois (King cake), is a puff pastry filled with a creamy almond filling, eaten in January for Epiphany. A variation is made in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
  • Southern galettes are skillet biscuits (fry bread) served in the Deep South.
  • Canadian galettes are large, soft cookies.
  • Galettes campinoises (Kempense galetten) are a type of waffle cookie popular in Belgium: made in a waffle iron, round and crunchy.
  • Galette complète is a square buckwheat crêpe, often filled with ham, Gruyère and a fried egg. The four edges of the galette are folded up over the ingredients to leave only the egg visible in the center.
    And there are other variations called galette, no doubt [source].

    We’ve just defined a galette: a free-form single-crust flat filled pastry made without a pie pan. Here’s how it differs from a:

  • Tart. A tart is defined by the pan in which it is baked (a.k.a., a tart pan). The pan can be circular, rectangular or square and is typically shallow; the edges are straight and usually fluted. The bottom should be removable. The single crust is thicker than a pie or galette, enabling it to be freestanding outside of the pan. The filling is firm and doesn’t run (think cheesecake and custard textures). Thus, unlike pies, tarts are usually served unmolded and freestanding; the filling doesn’t run.
  • Pie. A pie can have top and bottom crusts, or just a bottom crust (as in Key lime pie and pecan pie). The sides of a pie pan are sloped. A pie crust is crisp and flaky traditionally, and the fillings are semi-loose. Pies are cut and served straight from the dish in which they were baked. The crust and filling wouldn’t allow them to stand alone.
    As with galettes, pies and tarts can be sweet or savory.

    Here’s the difference between pies and tarts.


    This recipe is a “winter galette” because it uses vegetables that are easily available in the cold weather months: artichoke hearts, leeks and portabello mushrooms.

    With lots of vegetables, salty parmesan cheese and a flaky crust, you can serve it for brunch, as a light lunch with a salad, as a bite with wine or cocktails, or as a first course at dinner.

    Thanks to DeLallo for the recipe.
    Ingredients For 4-8 Servings

  • 2 (12-ounce) jars marinated* artichoke hearts, drained
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 white onion‡, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 leeks, cleaned and chopped
  • ½ pound pancetta, diced (substitutes below†)
  • 8 ounces baby portabello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1 egg, whisked

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bay leaf and salt and cook gently until the onion is soft and aromatic, about 10 minutes.

    2. ADD the leeks and cook, stirring, for three more minutes. Then add the pancetta, garlic, mushrooms and thyme. Cook for 5 more minutes.

    3. ADD the wine and allow the mixture to simmer for 3 minutes. Then add the stock and simmer for another 3 minutes to reduce the mixture. Stir in the artichokes and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile…

    4. MAKE a roux by melting the butter in a separate pan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and stir constantly for 3-5 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Add the roux to the artichoke mixture and cook for another 3-5 minutes, until it thickens slightly.

    5. REMOVE the skillet from the heat and stir in the ricotta and parmesan. Set aside to cool slightly.

    6. TAKE the puff pastry from the refrigerator. Flour your work surface and roll the dough to about 1/8-inch thick. Cut into a 9” circle or keep rectangular. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

    7. TOP the dough with the artichoke mixture, leaving a 3-inch border around the edges. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling. Brush the crust with the beaten egg.

    8. BAKE the galette for 45-55 minutes or until the crust is golden. Allow it to cool for 5 minutes, then slice and serve.


    [1] Artichoke, portabello and leek galette. The recipe is below (photo © DeLallo).

    Caramelized Onion Galette
    [2] Another winter galette combines onions and apples. Here’s the recipe (photos #2 and #4 © Good Eggs).

    Beet Galette
    [3] More winter galette: Here, beets and sweet potatoes. Here’s the recipe (photos #3 and #5 © Vermont Creamery).

    Squash Galette
    [4] A summer galette; here, an individual-portion galette of zucchini and yellow squash.

    [5] Another summer galette: heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese.

    [6] Many galettes are filled with fruit (photo of cherry galette © Uliana Kopanytsia | Unsplash).





    *We used plain canned artichoke hearts not soaked in marinade.

    †For a pancetta substitute, consider Canadian bacon, prosciutto, smoked ham or smoked sausage. For a vegetarian alternative, olives or cubes of portabello mushrooms are often substituted. Since the recipe already has portabellos, you can add more of them. Also consider chickpeas and Textured Vegetable Protein.

    ‡You can substitute yellow onions. Yellow onions are preferred for caramelizing, which draws out their natural sweetness. White onions are slightly sweeter, a bit milder in taste than yellow onions and can be used raw with salads and sandwiches. White onions shouldn’t be confused with sweet onions such as Maui and Vidalia. While these sweet onions are also white, sweet onions have a much higher sugar content and a lower sulfur content. The sulfur content creates the pungency in onions.


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    RECIPE: Margarita Cupcakes For National Margarita Day

    [1] Margarita cupcakes (photo and recipe © Santo Spirits).

    [2] Yes, you can drink a Margarita with the cupcakes (photo © Casa Noble Tequila).

    [3] Santo Fino Blanco Tequila (photo © Luekens Liquors).


    National Margarita Day is February 22nd*.

    If you need a recipe, here are 27 Margarita recipes, from classic to nouvelle.

    Let’s add some food fun. Here’s a sweet bite to go with the cocktail: Margarita cupcakes.

    The cupcakes and icing contain the ingredients of a classic Margarita: tequila, triple sec and lime zest and juice.

    Can you drink a Margarita (photo #2) alongside the cupcake? Absolutely!

    Thanks to Santo Tequila (photo #3) for the recipe.

    Make the cupcakes more festive with printed cupcake liners (photo #1).

    Ingredients For 12 Cupcakes

    For The Cupcakes

  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons lime zest
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons Santo Tequila Blanco
  • 2 tablespoons triple sec
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon lime extract†
  • ½ teaspoon buttermilk
    For The Glaze

  • 1 tablespoon Santo Tequila Blanco
  • ½ tablespoon triple sec
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
    For The Icing

  • 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons Santo Tequila Blanco
  • 1 tablespoons Triple Sec
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Pinch of salt
  • Optional garnish: lime zest, lime wheel

    1. PREHEAT THE oven to 325°F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

    2. SIFT together the flour, baking powder and salt.

    3. CREAM the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time; mix well after each addition.

    4. ADD the lime zest, lime juice, tequila, triple sec, vanilla and lime extract.

    5. ADD the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk. Mix until just combined; do not over-mix (it toughens the crumb‡).

    6. DIVIDE the batter among the cupcake liners. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick shows only moist crumbs. Meanwhile…

    7. MAKE the glaze. When the cupcakes are done, remove the tin from the oven.

    8. BRUSH the tops of the cupcakes with the glaze. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.

    9. MAKE the icing: Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the zest, tequila and triple sec. Add in the cream and beat for approximately 5 minutes more, until the icing is light and fluffy.

    10. PIPE or spread the icing on the cooled cupcakes. Garnish with lime zest (zest the lime right over the icing) or a segment of a lime wheel.



    *February 22nd is also the birthday of George Washington, who likely never heard of tequila. He drank beer and porter, which he brewed on his estate. He also liked Madeira, a fortified wine produced on the Portuguese island of Madeira. He also planted American grapes for wine. He had tried planting Madeira, but the grapes were not successful in the Virginia soil [source].

    †Lime extract has a zesty lime flavor that is used most often in baking and beverages. The lime flavor in this extract comes from distilled lime oil pressed from the skin of limes. Just a teaspoon adds a zingy twist to dip, drinks, fudge, salsa, etc. If you don’t want to buy a bottle, here’s how to make it from fresh limes.

    ‡The crumb is the inside of bread or cake; i.e., that which is under the crust. The term refers to the interior texture and tenderness, among other characteristics.


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    FOOD FUN: Potato Stacks With Romano Cheese

    Have some fun with potatoes this weekend: Make potato stacks in your muffin cups.

    The potato slices have crisp edges, and can be eaten like a stack of pancakes, in single slices, or whatever way creativity guides you.

    (We picked them up and ate them like chips.)

    The recipe, from Wisconsin Cheese, uses romano cheese for its tangy flavor to dishes.

    Romano is similar in texture to parmesan, but has a sharper, more assertive taste. There’s more about it below.


  • 5 medium russet potatoes (2-inch diameter), cut into 1/8-inch slices
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 ounces Romano cheese, grated (1 cup)

    1. HEAT the oven to 400°F.

    2. COMBINE the potatoes, butter and rosemary in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Romano; toss to coat.

    3. EVENLY STACK the potatoes in six lightly greased muffin cups. (The stacks will be taller than the muffin cups.)

    4. COVER the pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 35 minutes. Uncover; bake for 20-25 minutes longer or until the potatoes are golden and crispy around the edges.

    5. RUN a knife around edges to loosen the potato stacks; plate.



    Few cheeses in the world have such ancient origins as Pecorino Romano.

    For more than 2,000 years, flocks of sheep that graze freely in the countryside of Lazio, the region of which Rome is the capital. These sheep produced the milk from which the cheese is made.

    In fact, it was made in Roman countryside until 1884, when a city council ruling over cheese salting in shops caused producers to move to the island of Sardinia.

    Pecorino Romano was a favorite of the ancient Romans, from royalty to soldiers and everyday citizens.

  • In the imperial palaces, it was prized at banquets.
  • It was a staple ration for the Roman Legionaries (along with bread and farro soup).
    The processing of sheep’s milk for cheese was described by Homer (c. 800 to c. 701 B.C.E.).

    Columella (4 to c. 70 C.E.), a prominent Roman writer on agriculture, gives a detailed description of pecorino production in his “De re rustica” [source].

    The method of production of the cheese was also described by Pliny the Elder (c. 23/24 C.E. to 79 C.E. [he died during the Pompeii eruption]).

    Today’s Pecorino Romano is made from the same recipe, albeit with pasteurized milk.

    A hard grating cheese, “pecorino” refers to sheep’s milk cheese (pecore means sheep in Italian). Romano indicates that the cheese is of Roman provenance.

    While Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Pedano are the favorite grating cheeses of Northern Italy, Pecorino Romano is the choice in the southern portion of the country.

    It’s a bit drier and saltier than northern Italian grana (grainy) cheeses.

    When you see the word “genuino” (genuine) on the label, you know that it’s a Romano made in Lazio.

    Genuino Pecorino Romano has a grainy, crumbly texture that is much more flavorful than other Romanos.

    With the expansion of Rome and the value of real estate, some of the herd was moved to the expansive meadows of Sardinia. Today, just one producer, Locatelli (photo #3) makes the cheese in Lazio.

    Today, most Pecorino Romano is made in Sardinia or Tuscany. These regions have very similar pastures and breeds of sheep to Lazio, ensuring a consistent flavor and quality.

    Pecorino Romano is typically aged for one year.
    D.O.C. Cheese

    Pecorino Romano is a D.O.C. cheese (Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which translates to Controlled Designation of Origin).

    This means that the name protected by law.

    Other regions and countries can make this type of cheese, but it must be called, simply, Romano.

    There are numerous Pecorinos made throughout Italy, but only one is Pecorino Romano.

    The D.O.C. cheese production is overseen by the Consorzio per la Tulela del Formaggio Pecorino Romano, which ensures quality standards are met.

    The label guarantees authentic production techniques and a distinct flavor.
    How To Enjoy Romano Cheese

    Enjoy it grated into soups, salads, pastas and gratin casseroles. Sprinkle it over grains and vegetables, particularly potatoes and tomatoes

    For dessert, serve chunks drizzled with honey, along with sliced pears.

    And while it isn’t an eating cheese, you can cut a piece to enjoy with a glass of hearty red wine.

    For the best flavor, don’t buy grated Romano.

    Instead, buy a wedge and “grate as you go” (photo #4). Keep the wedge tightly wrapped in the fridge.

    Perhaps the best-known brand for Pecorino Romano in the U.S. is Locatelli (photo #3): a D.O.P. cheese, hard and dense, strong and sharp in flavor, pale yellow in color.


    [1] Yummy potato stacks with melted Romano cheese and fresh rosemary (photo © Wisconsin Cheese).

    Fresh Rosemary
    [2] Fresh rosemary is a “must” (photo © Burpee).

    [3] Pecorino Romano cheese D.O.P. from Locatelli (photo © iGourmet).

    [4] Don’t buy grated cheese. Instead, buy a wedge and grate it as you need it (photo © iGourmet).

    [5] Cacio e Pepe, a famous spaghetti dish with grated romano and cracked pepper. Here’s a recipe (photo © Eataly).

    [6] Roasted broccoli with grated romano cheese. Here’s the recipe (photo © Kalyn’s Kitchen).

    [7] Tuscan bean soup with shaved Romano cheese (photo courtesy Lewis & Neal [now closed]).



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    RECIPE: Café Au Lait For National Café Au Lait Day

    [1] Cafe au lait (photo © Krups).

    [2] In France, cafe au lait is also served in bowls. This is an older tradition, from days long ago, before potters knew how to add handles to vessels. These bowls are available from La Poterie du Chalet | Etsy (photo © La Poterie du Chalet.

    [3] Caffe latte, the Italian version, is the same recipe but served in a kitchen glass (photo © Williams Sonoma).

    [4] Look for a milk frother that also steams (photo © Miroco).


    February 17th is National Café au Lait Day, a French term for coffee with steamed milk (photo #1).

    Brewed French roast or Italian roast coffee is mixed in a 1:1 ratio with steamed milk (frankly, at home we often just heat the milk in the microwave—a “rustic” version).

    Café au lait is different from a latte, which is made with espresso and steamed milk.

    In cafés, the milk is steamed with the steaming arm of an espresso machine. For less than $50, you can buy a device that both steams and froths milk.

    In France, café au lait is served in cups, but also in bowls (photo #2)

    The recipe for café au lait is below.

    The drinks are the same, but the terms are used to indicate the way coffee is served.

  • Café au lait, the French drink, is served in a white porcelain cup (photo #1).
  • Caffè latte, the Italian version is served in a kitchen glass (photo #3).

    Steamed milk is more widely used to make coffee and espresso drinks, because the milk is easily steamed with the steam wand on an espresso machine.

    The steam makes the milk very hot and slightly aerated. These very small air bubbles create a finer and more delicate foam called microfoam.

    That’s the same foam that’s used to make latte art.

    So what separates steamed milk from frothed milk?

    Frothed milk is more highly aerated, giving it more volume and significant amounts of foam. Aeration—the adding of air bubbles—is what makes the froth (foam).

    Frothed milk lends itself specifically to foam-filled beverages like cappuccino, where it adds a creamy, airy topping.


    Simply pour half a cup of extra-strong coffee and finish filling the cup with steamed milk.

    If you have a frother: Foam isn’t traditionally found atop a café au ait, but no one will report you if you use it.

    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • 1 cup steamed or otherwise heated milk

    1. HEAT the milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking until the milk is steaming and slightly foamy.

    2. FILL two large coffee cups halfway with the coffee. Divide the milk between them and stir.

    If you don’t have a steaming wand, you can froth the milk instead.

  • POUR the milk into a jar, filled no more than halfway.
  • SCREW the lid on tightly. Shake the jar as hard as you can for 30 to 60 seconds, until the milk is frothy and has roughly doubled in volume.
  • MICROWAVE the milk to heat it. Remove the lid from the jar and microwave, uncovered for 30-60 seconds.
    Quite frankly, often at home, we cheat by heating milk in the microwave.




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