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It’s National Mushroom Month. Confused by portabellas and criminis—or is that cèpes? Give three cheers for the fungus among us in our glossary of specialty mushrooms. Photo of enoki mushrooms by Kelly Cline | IST.

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Home / Product Reviews / News

September 2007 Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

 

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9.24.07

News

No Soup For You! Al Yeganeh, whose hole-in-the-wall International Soup Kitchen on West 55th Street in New York City inspired the Soup Nazi character on “Seinfeld,” attracted investors and closed his tiny shop in 2004 to focus on franchising Original SoupMan stores to would-be soup entrepreneurs nationwide. The company launched around 40 stores in its first two years and introduced frozen soups to grocery stores. Despite publicity and a loyalty card program, eight of the 40 shops are now closed; other franchisees told the Associated Press they want out of their contracts because of poor profits or bad relationships with the company; several have sent the company Original Soupman Soupletters threatening to sue. Accusations include misrepresenting how much it would cost to open and run the business, bowl and cup sizes (which were larger than expected and inadvertently gave patrons more soup than they paid for), and failure to provide a promised summer product line that would generate sales in the hot months. Prices of $7 to $11 per 12-ounce bowl also made it tough to attract repeat customers. The AP reporter found one happy franchisee, in the Buffalo, NY, area, but stores have closed in Scranton and Harrisburg, PA, Myrtle Beach, SC, Boulder and Colorado Springs, CO, Ottawa, Canada, and even the Soup Man’s home town, New York City. Franchisees in locations including Stratton Mountain, VT, and Ridgewood, NJ, have asked to be released from their contracts as well. A spokesman for the company described the store failures as normal growing pains associated with any new restaurant franchise. We tried the now-closed New York City store, once. As patrons of the original International Soup Kitchen, we feel that the mass-produced franchised soups aren’t anything like the “homemade” products of the original store, and that part of the “growing pains” should be to fix the quality. Until then, we’ll spend our soup dollars on the Hale & Hearty line.

Champagne Shortage. By law, only wine made in the Champagne region of France from grapes grown in that region can be called Champagne. The grape vines grow atop a chalky substrata that gives Champagne its unique flavor among sparkly wines. The careful aging in chalky caves gives the wine its toasty, yeasty flavors. As the rich get richer, they want more bubbly—California sparklers, Cava from Spain and Spumante Dom Perignonfrom Italy just won’t do. As a result, Champagne producers are struggling to meet soaring demand. And the top plots that make the tête de cuvée Champagnes—Dom Perignon, Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Rare, Roderer Cristal, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame, etc.—are even more in demand. In any other industry, 2006 sales of 330 million bottles, up from 280 million in 2002, would sound like good news. Except the vineyards of Champagne are maxed out. Producers have reached the limits of what can be grown, vinified and aged. Champagne is a small area, just 150 square miles—there’s no room to plant more vines or age more bottles. Try telling that to the nouveaux riches of China, India and Russia, who are demanding what they want from Champagne’s famous caves. So for the first time, Champagne exporters, such as Moët & Chandon (makers of the famous Dom Perignon brand) are having to pick and choose who can buy their bubbly. According to ABC News, whose reporters interviewed Moët executives, precious allocations may be siphoned from Europe and headed into the hands of the new money (who, implicitly, will pay whatever it takes). Unless French citizens decide it’s cause for another French Revolution.

Yogurt Association Forms Probiotics Council. As probiotic foods like probiotic yogurt continue to grow in popularity (probiotics were a $112 million industry in 2001, a $294 million industry in 2006), The National Yogurt Association is creating a probiotics council so Breyer's Probiotic Yogurtyogurt manufacturers can have an active role in dialogue regarding regulatory standards and other probiotics issues. Probiotics are found in fermented dairy products such as yogurt and are known as “friendly bacteria” because they help to prevent digestive problems and may ward off diseases such as colon cancer. The NYA’s council hopes to become the reference point for the North American probiotics industry and wants to include food scientists within the NYA and outside experts and leaders. The NYA represents manufacturers, distributors and marketers of yogurt, and is under the umbrella of the American Frozen Food Institute. While all yogurt contains probiotic cultures, not all have a sufficient concentration to be deemed “probiotic yogurt.” For more information, read our article on probiotic foods.

Product Watch

Caramelized Pear Wins Häagen-Dazs Contest. Scoop: The Häagen-Dazs Flavor Search has a new winner. The next limited edition flavor to be added to the Häagen-Haagen Dazs Caramelized Pear And Toasted PecanDazs ice cream lineup is Caramelized Pear and Toasted Pecan, created by Leslie Zoerb of Buffalo, New York. It’s sweet intense pear ice cream, with morsels of caramelized pear and crunchy toasted pecan pieces—perfect for fall. One might think that last year’s winner, Sticky Toffee Pudding, has to give up the crown. But the flavor proved so popular that it has been moved from a limited edition flavor to a full-time member of the the Häagen-Dazs ice cream line. A hefty 5,000 entries from all over the U.S. were narrowed down to three finalists. Consumers were able to voice their opinions on both the selection of the final three and the winner, online and at taste-tests at select Häagen-Dazs shops. The two other semi-finalists were Christine Hanusi from Ewing, New Jersey, who created Blueberry Belgian Waffle from a love of Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean ice cream atop fluffy waffles, and Ken Wan from Lafayette, California, who combined two favorites, coconut ice cream and chocolate, into Coco y Cacao.

The winning flavor is available nationwide at all major and local Häagen-Dazs retailers. 

Read our review of Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

Photo above: For a festive dessert, serve the new Caramelized Pear and Toasted Pecan ice cream with a poached pear, either plain or as shown with caramel sauce.

Haagen Daz Caramelized Pear and Toasted Pecan Ice Cream

The Better Minibar. Vosges Haut Chocolat specializes in exotic candy bars. But at Vosges Minibars$7.50 for a 3.5-ounce bar, you could drop a few dollars (and pick up a few pounds) trying each one to find your favorite flavor(s). Now the bars are available in a mini half-ounce size or $2.50 each, or tucked into a “library” gift box that includes all nine flavors:  Barcelona, Black Pearl, Creole, Gianduja, Macha, Naga, Oaxaca, Red Fire and Wooloommooloo. We must admit that, despite our regular preference for dark chocolate, we just love that Barcelona bar: hickory smoked almonds and fleur de sel gray sea salt in a 41% deep milk chocolate. It’s also the line’s best seller. Read our full review of Vosges Chocolate bars.

Liz Lovely CookieA Lovely Treat. Liz Lovely cookies, available in chocolate chip, peanut butter, macadamia and more, are now certified organic, Fair Trade Certified and certified vegan. Although the cookies have been certified vegan by Vegan Action since Liz Lovely’s start in 2003, the company more recently partnered with the Vermont chapter of the Northeast Organic Farmers Association and TransFair USA to mobilize the business toward organic and Fair Trade certification. The suggested retail price is $3.99 to $4.39 for “two big ones” (so you can “share the love and make a friend”). For more information, or to order cookies, visit LizLovely.com For more organic and Fair Trade Certified products, visit our NutriNibbles section.

 

Yogurt That Packs A Punch. Carbonation isn’t just for beverages anymore. Go-Gurt Fizzix (get it?), the new line of Yoplait Go-Gurt (portable yogurt in a tube), has the Fizzixsame nutritional profile as regular Go-Gurt, but is also fizzy. Now you have the answer to the question, “What’s even more fun than yogurt in a squeeze tube?” (Fizzy yogurt in a squeeze tube!) The line comes in six flavors: Blue Raspberry Rage, Fruit Punch Charge, Strawberry Lemonade Jolt, Strawberry Watermelon Rush, Triple Berry Fusion and Wild Cherry Zing. Go-Gurt Fizzix is available nationwide for a suggested retail price of $2.50 for eight tubes of Go-Gurt (2.25 ounces each).

Enough of the sweet—now on to the savory. And this next gourmet product is as savory as it gets.

21st Century Garum. The main condiment of the ancient Romans was a fermented anchovy sauce called garum, similar to modern Asian fish sauces like Thailand’s nam pla. The well-to-do used it on everything, like Americans use salt and ketchup; and the costly sauce was given as gifts. The closest thing you may be familiar with is GarumWorcestershire sauce, which has anchovies but many spicy flavors as well. Now, a salty anchovy sauce from Cetara in the Campania region of Italy is available in the U.S. While not exactly garum, it’s as close as you’ll get. A clear amber liquid, Salted Anchovy Sauce—Colatura di Alici—is a highly concentrated salty condiment made from anchovy drippings packed in handmade chestnut wood barrels with salt, and weighted down with rocks. A distinctive mark of authentic colatura are these special wooden barrels, made by elder artisans of the area. Months later, when the anchovies are removed, the colatura is is glistening at the bottom of each barrel. A descendent of ancient garum, Colatura di Alici is a traditional condiment in the villages along the coast of Campania, where it has been made for centuries and is considered a connoisseur food, traditionally exchanged in phials at Christmas time as a sign of friendship. The extremely rich fish flavor adds an intense accent to all dishes, from antipasti to entrées. Slow Food includes colatura in its Presidio of foods in risk of extinction. Cetara is a steep Mediterranean fishing village on the coast of Campania, whose economy solely depends on the the anchovy fishing. The anchovies fished in this area of the Mediterranean Sea are particularly small and flavorful, and make an exceptional colatura. Lovers of anchovies should grab a bottle, plus other bottles as holiday gifts for their gourmet friends. Colatura di Alici, made by Nettuno, is available from Gustiamo.com. 3.38 ounces is $25.00—now you know why only rich Romans used it. But it’s intense—you only need a few drops on your pasta, vegetables or Caesar salad. Read more about garum, and see the ruins of an ancient factory, in our article about umami, the fifth taste.

Special Savings

Charles Chocolates Birthday Discount. We didn’t realize we were the same age, Charles Chocolatesbut Charles Chocolate is also celebrating its third birthday—and offering a 25% discount through October 15 on their delightful edible chocolate boxes. Chose from the Fall Chocolates collection, The Tea Collection (tea-infused chocolates), Fleur de Sel Caramel Assortment or the Fresh Orange & Lemon Marzipan Assortment. The chocolates are packaged in a fully-edible chocolate box. As an added bonus, everyone who takes advantage of this discount will receive an e-mail coupon for 10% off on all holiday orders placed during November and December 2007. Visit Charles Chocolates.com, and read our full review of Charles Chocolates.
Eat the box: It’s chocolate, too!

Contest

Cake Mate CookiesCalling All Cake Mate Artists. Are you a whiz at both baking and decorating? Do people ooh and aah at your creations? Are yours the first goodies to sell out at the school bake sale? Now that it’s back-to-school season, Cake Mate wants you to enter its Mother of All Bake Sales contest. Just create an original recipe using at least one of Cake Mate’s decorating products (icings, gels or cake decorations) and submit a color photograph along with the recipe. Five winners will be chosen and inducted into the Cake Mate Bake Sale Hall of Fame. In addition to their new titles, the Hall of Fame inductees will receive a $1,000 cash prize and a $1,000 donation to their favorite charities. Entries must be received by November 15, 2007. 

Find the rules and download the application at CakeMate.com.

Trends

Cake Mate Tube

Sugar High. The All Candy Expo, the largest confectionery show in North America, took place last week in Chicago. Two of the trends driving the mass confectionery industry today have trickled down from the specialty foods industry. The first is unusual flavor combinations—for example, “Aztec” chocolate blends that combine chile, cayenne pepper and cinnamon. The second is “artisan” collections from mass producers like Nestlé, Russell Stover and Whitman. Are these artisan chocolates the same quality as those we write about in THE NIBBLE? Not by a long shot—but they’re finer quality than the basic lines of these chocolate companies. One mass company that has done a good job with its artisan line is Cacao Reserve by Hershey’s. In 2006, almost 3,000 confectionery products debuted, about half of them chocolate. Looks like our sweet teeth keep getting sweeter!

Jeweled Ice Cream Cone9.10.07

News

Million Dollar Ice Cream. People may plunk down a lot of money for a single scoop of premium ice cream, but one million dollars might be pushing it. Then again, this single scoop of Bruster’s Cherry Vanilla ice cream, created by diamond manufacturer Lazare Kaplan, has 20 troy ounces of 18k white and yellow gold, 548 round diamonds, 87 square emerald cut diamonds and one 5.63 carat Fancy Intense Yellow radiant-cut diamond. Interested in purchasing the jeweled treat? Bruster’s will donate the proceeds of the sale to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. A great gift for ladies who watch their figures; it’s calorie-free.

 

Product Watch

McSteamy Is McDreamy. McCormick Seafood, Potato and Veggie Steamers are now available to make tasty meals a snap. The Steamers are pouches filled with McCormick seasonings. You add vegetables or fish plus a tablespoon of water or oil to activate the seasonings, pop the pouch in the microwave, with no more effort or mess, a delicious meal is ready. We had Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Potato Steamers and Lemon Garlic Seafood Steamers. In five minutes, the salmon was ready and moister and more delectable than we could have made it using other techniques. The potatoes took eight minutes. As with popcorn, you have to be careful about opening hot microwaved bags; but if your kids can microwave popcorn, they can make these meals for themselves. Everything tasted fresh and we can’t wait to taste the rest: Garlic Butter Seafood Steamers, Garlic & Rosemary (great for string beans) and Italian Herb Potato Steamers, and Cheddar Cheese Vegetable Steamers (try it with broccoli or cauliflower). Available in food stores nationwide at a suggested retail price of $1.79 per pouch. For more information, visit McCormick.com.

McCormick Steamers

Carvel Cupcakes. While we’ve moved on to gourmet ice cream, we still have a soft spot in our heart for the swirl of our youth, Carvel. Now through February 28, 2008, Carvel Ice Cream is offering ice cream cupcakes at participating retail locations nationwide. Each yellow cupcake is topped with Carvel’s soft-serve ice cream. Toppings include Brown Bonnet hard-shell chocolate coating (our favorite!), whipped topping, milk chocolate fudge and rainbow or confetti sprinkles. The cupcakes are available individually, in boxed sets or grouped together to form round or sheet cakes (which is the hot trend in parties, including weddings—no cutting involved!).

Rice SelectFreebies

Free Gourmet Rice. It’s National Rice Month. To celebrate, we’ve published three recipes for light and delicious rice salads (Thai Chicken, Bangkok Shrimp, and Chicken with Thyme) from one of the few U.S. producers of artisan rice, RiceSelect of Texas. RiceSelect would like you to have a free container of any of their products. Just visit RiceSelect.com and go to the Flavor Club page to request yours.

 

9.10.07

News

The Mighty Humble Blueberry. Many people can’t get their hands on enough high-antioxidant blueberries. But what do you know about the little blue bundle of health? On September 14th at 8 p.m., watch the documentary film, “The Mighty Humble Blueberry,” online at EducationChannel.org. The film chronicles the history of the New Jersey blueberry, with topics that include the blueberry’s use by Native Americans, its economic and social importance and its modern-day cultivation. Go to AboutBlueberries.com for more information. We’re taking the website’s advice and are tossing some dried blueberries into our popcorn.

The NibbleTHE NIBBLE’s “Top Pick Of The Week” e-Newsletter Turns 3. If you read our Top Pick Of The Week newsletter, you know that we celebrated its third birthday last week. Here’s the news release we sent out. If you’d like to join the celebration, sign up to receive the weekly Top Picks by email or by RSS (by clicking at the orange box at the top of the page).

Starbucks Earns More Bucks. Starbucks has had a busy week: The coffee café giant signed a contract to continue providing its coffee on United Airlines flights worldwide, as it has for the past 13 years. And the first Russian Starbucks opened in the Mega shopping mall in Khimki, a suburb of Moscow. The first beverage ordered was a venti cappuccino. The coffee was a long time in coming: Starbucks first had to win a legal battle to wrest the right to its brand name from a squatter who had registered the right to use it in Russia, and was asking $600,000 from Starbucks. Starbucks won in court two years ago, and then set about launching its maiden store. We’re guessing the squatter will be patronizing the competitive chains that have sprouted up in the interim.

Product Watch

Burrata? It’s not a new Mexican food, but a fresh Italian cheese, subtle creamy and luscious. Burrata, which means “buttery” in Italian, is a hollow ball of mozzarella di bufala filed with a buttery cream that contains pieces of mozzarella. You cut into it and the cream oozes out. It’s wrapped in a green leaf (an herb-like Italian plant called asphodel, similar to leek) as well as a clear plastic bag to contain Burratathe natural liquid. As long as the leaves are still green, the cheese within is still fresh. A rare delicacy from the Murgia area of Italy’s Puglia region (the southeast coast of Italy), the “heel of the boot,” burrata was created around 1920 on the the Bianchini farm in the town of Andria. This week, the food editor of the Toronto Star lamented how rare it is to come across one. This summer, it appeared on the cover of a major food magazine, sending foodies in search of the hard-to-find cheese. There’s not much burrata made in the U.S.; what we get is flown in from Italy. It is then quickly sold, and must be eaten right away (ideally within 48 hours of manufacture). Given the logistics and the very short shelf life, that’s why it’s so hard to find. The article reported that the cheese is “all the rage in New York and Los Angeles,” but this New York turophile finds that relatively few people know about burrata (and now you know why—you can’t depend on finding one even when you’re hunting for it). Enjoy your prized burrata with special company; it is a treasure to be shared. When you cut into it, the creamy center oozes onto the plate and begs to be spread on fresh, crusty bread or crostini. Serve it for lunch as you would mozzarella, with heirloom tomatoes, fine olive oil and fresh basil; with a salad; or with prosciutto. It also can be enjoyed atop pasta. You can order it online from iGourmet.com, 12.5 ounces $13.99. Remember, it’s flown in fresh, so it may be out of stock; they'll notify you when it comes in.

Grits in a Tube...And Polenta Tips. A note to Southerners and other grits lovers (we eat them every day in New York City): Soon there will be pre-cooked grits in a tube, ready to heat and serve, about $3 for 18 ounces. You can San Gennaro Gritshave a slice for breakfast, sprinkled with sugar and a side of fruit like hot cereal, serve it plain with butter, top with a fried egg or enjoy it savory-style with cheese (a variation of the famous “cheese grits”). Many fans spend a half hour at the stove converting dry grits into hot cereal. Now, Gennaro “Jerry” Mascio of Gennaro Foods in Kent, Washington—the company that launched shelf-stable polenta-in-a-tube 14 years ago—has ported the technology to grits. The polenta tubes, sold nationwide under the San Gennaro brand plus private labels, will shortly be joined by grits-in-a-tube. The sausage-type tubes, by the way, are called chubs. It you haven’t tried the polenta—available in Traditional, Sundried Tomato & Basil and Basil & Garlic—you’ll be surprised at how simple it is to prepare, and how delicious it is. If you like corn, you’ll like polenta. It is traditionally served with stews, instead of potatoes or other starch, but it has been discovered by a new generation of chefs and is served as with fish, poultry and meats (put the stove-cooked polenta on the plate and lay the protein atop) and as a side dish, variously flavored. San Gennaro polenta, formed into a tube shape, provides different opportunities. While a favorite Italian preparation is simply a San Gennaro Polentatopping of tomato sauce and fresh-grated cheese, we love to play off the shape. Just slice and pan fry or microwave, and you have a firm base for anything. Top it with a grilled shrimp, scallop, smoked salmon and salmon caviar, or grilled mushroom and some fresh herbs for an elegant first course. Melt cheese over them for a snack, or use them as a base for an open face mini burger. We serve them as hors d’oeuvres, first courses and sides. The chubs need no refrigeration before they are opened and are shelf stable for nine months. The polenta is fat free and gluten free. Both product lines are certified kosher by KOF-K. retailers can also order a 100% organic-certified version. For more information visit Polenta.net. What’s the difference between grits and polenta? 

  • They’re both made from corn. Polenta is simply coarsely-ground corn, also known as cornmeal, that is cooked with stock or water. It is known in America as cornmeal mush.
  • Grits are a more complex preparation. The corn kernels are soaked to remove the casing (at which point it is known as hominy—hence the term, hominy grits). The hominy is left to harden and then is ground to the texture of tiny pellets, the “grits.” These are boiled with water, into a cereal similar to cream of wheat.

Contests

Your Recipe May Bring Home The Bacon. Do you have an amazing pork recipe that’s so demanding, you don’t make it as often as you’d like? The National Pork Board wants to help you enjoy it more often. In celebration of National Eat Dinner Together Week (September 16-22), the National Pork Board is sponsoring a “Delicious But Demanding” pork recipe Pork Roastcontest. From September 16 to October 13, home cooks can enter their family’s favorite, labor-intensive pork recipe and a short description as to why it should receive a simplified “recipe makeover.” The grand-prize recipe receives the makeover, and the winning entrant gets a $1,500 gift certificate to Dream Dinners, a “dinner store” in which meal assembly can be done ahead of time and then stored in the freezer (see DreamDinners.com). The grand prize also includes a $1,000 gift certificate for family cooking classes, personalized aprons and chef hats and gift certificates for pork. Two runners-up will receive pork prizes as well. Judging is based on creativity, difficulty of preparation and originality. Both the original recipe and the makeover recipe will be featured on TogetherForDinner.com. Maybe you’ll have some time this weekend to pour over your pork recipes...and plan to get the family together for dinner as many times next week as you can.

Photo: Fig-Stuffed Pork Loin With Roasted Vegetables and Herbes De Provence courtesy of National Pork Board. Recipe on TheOtherWhiteMeat.com.

Homer Simpson’s Fantasy Recipes. Imagine a contest with creative cooks that uses Krispy Kreme donuts as the base for the recipes. The mind boggles! Yet, many people have risen to the challenge. If you think that your Krispy Kreme Krispy Kremerecipe can rival Paula Deen’s favorite Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding, make Homer Simpson happy. Submit your original recipe by October 15th, using any flavor of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Aside from the honor of knowing that millions of Americans—including Marge Simpson—will be making your recipe—there’s a $1,700 prize package of Lodge cookware, a Viking mixer and Krispy Kreme gift cards. The grand prize will be awarded based on taste, texture and appearance—so, ladies and gents, make sure it looks as good as it tastes. The five finalists will have their recipes featured in the Winter 2007 edition of Taste of the South magazine. See KrispyKreme.com for details.

9.3.07

News

Two Specialty Beverage Leaders Pass Into History. The specialty foods industry lost two greats this past week. MICHAEL JACKSON, the beer critic and author, died Thursday at his home in London, at age 65. While he had Parkinson’s disease, the direct cause of death was a heart attack. In the 1970s, an era where people simply drank beer, Jackson began to identify beers by flavor and style, pairing them with particular foods and dishes, just as wines were analyzed and paired. His articles, books and lectures are credited with giving impetus to the North American microbrewery movement. ALFRED H. PEET, who brought fine coffee to America, died Wednesday at his home in Ashland, Oregon, from cancer. Founder of Peet’s Coffee and Tea Inc., “the grandfather of specialty coffee” started his business in Berkeley, California in 1966. A single store blossomed into a public company with 150 stores in 10 states, plus a thriving mail order business to deliver great coffee to customers nationwide. Peet mentored a generation of coffee entrepreneurs, including the founders of Starbucks, who he trained and supplied with their first blends when the Seattle company opened in 1971. When the Dutch-born Mr. Peet started his business, Americans bought coffee in cans, not fresh-roasted. Trained in coffee and tea, he had worked at his father’s small coffee roastery, then apprenticed at Lipton’s Tea in London before moving to Indonesia to work as a tea taster. He immigrated to San Francisco in 1955. Chagrined at the state of coffee in America, he went to work remedying the problem. Peet is credited with almost single-handedly bringing top-quality dark roast coffee blends to Americans, and teaching us to appreciate varietal coffees.

Cork Versus Screw Cap: A New Battle. The popularity of screw caps has grown significantly in the past decade, since screw caps can offer wine a taint-free bottle (corks can harbor bacteria which result in a musty/mildew aroma or taste, known as “corked” wine; some wineries estimate that 15% of their wines are ruined because of corking issues.) Because only the cheapest wines (think Skid Row specials) historically used Screw Capmetal screw caps, it has taken years for the stigma against screw caps to erode; several $100+ bottles now use screw caps. One of the original reasons for going to metal caps was also to save the cork trees from over-stripping. But, as screw caps grow in popularity, the decreased demand for cork is threatening Mediterranean cork forests. Whereas 10 years ago, environmentalists were decrying the overabuse of the trees, now the World Wildlife Fund predicts that three-quarters of the western Mediterranean cork forests could be lost within the next ten years if the demand for cork continues to lessen. Most of the forests are privately owned, so as cork popularity wanes, the forests are at risk for neglect or sale. Not only do the 6.7 million acres of Mediterranean cork forest provide income for more than 100,000 individuals; proponents now point out that cork is a renewable material made from the fiber stripped from cork trees, that can then re-grow. Screw caps are typically made from aluminum with a plastic insert—both nonrenewable materials. Hmm...but if it hadn’t been for bacterial and environmental issues, the industry would not have spent the last 10 years convincing consumers that metal caps were cool. Yet a third part in this argument, as we reported in the June 11 Gourmet News, is that Corticeira Amorim, the world’s largest producer of corks for wine bottles, and Oeneo, a rival French cork producer, claim to have solved the bacteria problem. Having lived through both “cycles” of this argument, now, frankly, we’re confused. As Agent Mulder would say, the truth is out there.

Kidz SuperfoodProduct Watch

Drink Your Vegetables. Though it can often be a struggle to feed kids vegetables, usually giving them chocolate milk is not a problem. That’s why Amazing Grass has introduced “Kidz SuperFood,” a chocolate drink powder that combines 33 fruits and vegetables. The all-natural product is vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and GMO-free. The 200-gram canister has a suggested retail rice of $24.99 and the 15-count box of single-serve packets has an SRP of $21.99.  It is available at retailers including some Whole Foods markets or you can buy it online.

Corn Stripper. Why did we learn about this at the tail end of corn season? The OXO Oxo Corn StripperGood Grips Corn Stripper both strips your corn and catches the kernels at the same time. Forget wielding a hazardous knife to get those kernels—simply push the non-slip grip Corn Stripper down the cob and watch it collect the kernels in the ½-cup container (enough to collect kernels from about one ear of corn).  All Corn Stripper parts are dishwasher safe. We really wish we had one of these things yesterday—we had corn kernels flying everywhere as we removed kernels by knife. You can buy it online for $11.99.

 

Gourmet Travel

Top 10 Great Hotel Restaurants. If you’re globe-trotting, you can trot into this year’s White Restaurantroster of top restaurants, selected by Hotels magazine. The honorees “signal a new passion for healthy ‘clean’ food.” No more fussy cuisine: creative chefs use inventive preparation techniques and international accents to make their cuisine shine. Let us know how you like them: AMSTERDAM: Yamazato, Hotel Okura; BANGKOK: Thiptara, The Peninsula; BUENOS AIRES: El Bistro, Faena Hotel & Universe; HONG KONG: Caprice, Four Seasons; LONDON: Refuel, The Soho Hotel; NEW DELHI: The Spice Route, The Imperial; NEW ZEALAND: White, Hilton Auckland; PARIS: Les Elysées du Vernet, Hotel Vernet. Two U.S. hotels made the grade, both in popular sun spots: Elements in Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain, Paradise Valley, Arizona, and Pacific’s Edge in Highlands Inn, a Hyatt Hotel in Carmel, California. Bon appetit!

 

Trends


Finishing Salts.
Bring a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano to the table with a grater, and you were so culinarily chic in the 20th century. Today, you need to bring a big rock of sea salt to the table with that grater. Forget both the cheese and the peppermill: At the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco, a rock of Bolivian rose salt is grated for you by the Pink Saltservice staff. Want to do it at home? Buy your own rock here). These are not salts to pour into the stock pot, just as you wouldn’t add Lafite Rothschild to the Sangria pitcher. Instead, like fine olive oil, a few crystals are drizzled like a condiment on heirloom tomatoes, vegetables, meats, fruit, chocolate desserts (chocolate and salt are great counterpoints), even unsalted butter on bread. Christopher Kimball of America’s Test Kitchen is not a fan of artisan salts. He told The Miami Herald, “I think that these gourmet salts are just another fad, much like rare olive oils.” We don’t think either are a “fad,” just a stylistic preference. When you consider the type of cuisine that Kimball focuses on (the website currently features recipes for Rubbed Picnic Chicken, Glazed Meatloaf, Skillet-Roasted Potatoes, Light New York Cheesecake, Skillet Chicken, Broccoli, Ziti and Asiago Cheese, Easy Apple Strudel, Oven-Barbecued Spareribs, Lemon Bundt Cake, Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake and Stuffed Roast Butterflied Chicken), he simply joins the majority of Americans who love the tasty basics and don’t care for more nuanced food. If your palate hungers for more and you’d like to learn more about artisan salts, take a look at our Salt Glossary. Try enhancing your foods with crunchy Maldon, earthy alaea and some smoked salts.

The rose salt above comes from Kashmir, in the Himalayas. It was mined from unpolluted, fossilized sea salt that were formed more than 260 million years ago.

 

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