THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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NEWS: Better Test For Antioxidants

The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports a better test for measuring the antioxidant value of foods. The CAA (cellular antioxidant activity) assay is a more biologically relevant method than the popular chemistry antioxidant activity assays because it accounts for some aspects of uptake, metabolism and location of antioxidant compounds within cells, according to the authors of the study. Antioxidant activity has been measured using a range of lab-based assays, including the ferric reducing ability of plasma (FRAP) assay, the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) and Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC). A test of select phytochemicals, the researchers reported that quercetin (a flavonoid found in berries, broccoli and leafy green vegetables, capers, citrus, cranberry, red grapes and others) had the highest CAA value, followed by kaempferol (found in apples, cabbage, onions, leeks and spinach,), epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG, found in tea), myricetin (found in berries, fruits, grapes, vegetables and walnuts) and luteolin (found in basil, celery, parsley, peppermint, thyme, sweet peppers), respectively.   Berries
Get your antioxidants here.
The CAA centers on dichlorofluorescin, a probe trapped within cells that can be easily oxidized to produce fluorescence. The decrease in cellular fluorescence when compared to the control cells indicates the antioxidant capacity of the compounds. The popular ORAC is still a valuable test; the CAA shows how the compounds react with cells and are believed to be is a stronger measure of how antioxidant compounds could potentially react in the body. Read more about antioxidant foods in THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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NEWS: Less Dungeness Crab This Year

Dungeness Crab
Look at my big, meaty claws. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
  A cargo ship headed for South Korea ran into a Bay Bridge tower earlier this month, spilling 58,000 gallons of oil into the San Francisco Bay. The spill polluted beaches across the bay and beyond. As reported by the Modesto Bee, the oil spill will delay the traditional December 1 start of crab season for the San Francisco fishing fleet, which will drive up demand for Dungeness crab caught elsewhere on the West Coast. Restaurants and seafood stores need to rely on supplies from the Pacific Northwest—Oregon and Washington state.
Some stores are going without; some restaurateurs report the price has doubled. The Dungeness crab, King crab and the Snow crab are the three main U.S. Pacific Ocean crabs. Dungeness, King and Stone crabs (from Florida and the Gulf Coast) have large, meaty claws and are eaten in the shell. Learn more about the different types of crab in our article, Crab Types & Grades Of Crab Meat, including a Crab Glossary. It’s one of 50 food glossaries in THE NIBBLE online magazine. The Dungeness crab, by the way, is named after Dungeness, Washington, but is found from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to Santa Cruz, California. For holiday party recipes, try the spectacular jumbo lump crabmeat from Miller’s Select.

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NEWS: Inventor Of Theme Restaurants Dies

The next time you’re at a theme restaurant—perhaps a Hard Rock Café, Jekyll & Hyde Café, Johnny Rockets, Medieval Times or Planet Hollywood—remember David Tallichet, the founder of the genre.* He passed away last month at age 84, and his story was told recently by The Wall Street Journal. Back in the 1960s, he designed restaurants as Polynesian islands, New England fishing villages and French farmhouses barricaded with sandbags to protect against German bombardment (you’ll see why in a moment). His Proud Bird restaurant at the Los Angeles International Airport had headphones at each table so diners could listen to control-tower chatter. His company, Specialty Restaurants, grew to revenues of $185 million at its peak in 1980. Almost all of his restaurants were in Southern California.
  Medieval Times
Medieval Times—the ultimate theme restaurant.
Where else can you eat with jousting knights and horses?
A Texan who piloted more than 20 B-17 Flying Fortress missions out of England during World War II, he stayed on active duty in the Air National Guard for a decade after the war. A later visit to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington inspired him to begin collecting war planes. He purchased or salvaged about 120 planes, going on expeditions to salvage wrecked or abandoned planes. He kept some and sold some to other collectors (so next time your significant other or roommate complains about your teapot collection…). In the early 1970s, the collection spawned a series of aviation-themed restaurants, 94th Aero Squadron, with a World War I-era setting. Since everyone wants to be famous these days, we’re waiting for the Red Carpet Restaurant, with “screaming fans” who beg for your autograph and “photographers” who snap bulbs as you walk up a long red carpet to the front door. You’ll get complimentary Champagne sent to your table from management (well, the cost will be included in the price of dinner) and “fans” that keep interrupting your meal for photos and autographs. Too bad that Mr. Tallichet, the king of Southern California theme restaurants, is no longer around to work on this one.*Other theme-oriented restaurants existed before then—for example, Trader Vic’s was founded in Oakland, California in 1934 and today has 30 restaurants worldwide. However, it began as a fine Polynesian restaurant with Polynesian decor. A theme restaurant, is one in which the food takes a back seat to the concept of the restaurant, and customers are attracted by the theme.

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PRODUCT WATCH: Michael Gagné Cream Cheese Biscuits

Michael Gagne’s Robinhood Free Meetinghouse Biscuits
Our favorite biscuits—try them and you’ll be
hooked, too.
  The formal name of this product is Michael Gagné’s Robinhood Free Meetinghouse Biscuits—perhaps the longest-named food product in the world. Michael Gagné is the chef, the Robinhood Free Meetinghouse is the historic building in Maine that houses his restaurant, and Biscuits are, well, the product. It’s a lot of name, and there’s more to come, because there are three flavor varieties that add up to four more words. But then, it’s a lot of biscuit. The 72-Layer Cream Cheese Biscuits are our favorite biscuits in Biscuitdom: worth every cent and every calorie. When we first named them a Top Pick Of The Week, they had very limited distribution and the shipping cost as much as the biscuits (still, worth it!).
Now, Michael Gagné has bi-coastal distribution, with additional expansion underway. Look for the biscuits at Costco, Earth Fare, Hannaford, Harris Teeter, Kowalski’s, Metropolitan Market (Seattle), Treasure Island Foods, Vitamin Cottage, Whole Foods Markets and Wild Oats. They are also available in smaller specialty stores. And, there are Five-Herb Biscuits and Cinnamon Rolls, both made from the same cream cheese dough. But it’s the Classic 72-Layer Cream Cheese Biscuits that have our heart. We’ve shown you the packaging instead of a beautiful biscuit shot to make them more easy to recognize in the store’s freeze case. Read our full review in THE NIBBLE online magazine, where you’ll see plenty of delicious biscuit photos.

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TRENDS: Black, The New Color Of Health Food?

McCormick came out with black food coloring this fall (it did not previously exist at the consumer level, so now you can ice chic [or goth] cupcakes to your heart’s content). Based on a food trend reported by Florida’s Sun Sentinel, McCormick may be an American trendsetter. Ebony-colored foods are red-hot in Japan and other parts of Asia, and the trend may be headed west. Black foods have been eaten for hundreds of years in Japan for their rich taste (deeper-colored foods generally have more profound flavors). But now, people are buying them for their nutritional value.   Black Rice
Black rice, also known as “forbidden” rice (see our Rice Glossary for more information).
The black-food fervor in Japan began a few years ago with a cocoa drink spiked with black soybeans. Next, a black-soybean tea was granted FOSHU status (foods for specified health use), the Japanese equivalent of an FDA-approved health claim. Black vinegar drinks are promoted as tonics to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Black soybean coffee and black soy milk have become popular. On the food side, there are black rice, black sesame biscuits and cereal, and black soybean coffee. If you want to jump the trend, the Sun Sentinel suggests:
Black Beans. The familiar black bean contains more antioxidants (including anthocyanins) than any other bean. Add them to chili, soups and salads. Read more in our Bean Glossary.
Black Rice. This whole-grain rice contains more fiber and nutrients compared to white rice. Some varieties look purple when cooked (see the photo above). We love making Thai rice pudding with black rice and coconut milk. Read more in our Rice Glossary.
Black Soybeans. High in protein, fiber and anthocyanins, black soybeans may be better at lowering cholesterol levels than yellow soybeans, according to Japanese researchers.
Black Vinegar. A dark vinegar typically made from brown rice, it’s an Asian version of balsamic, aged to give it a woodsy and smoky flavor. Find it Asian markets. Read more in our Vinegar Glossary.
Blackberries. The purplish-black berries have among the highest antioxidants of any fruit.
Nigella Seeds. Also called black onion seeds, these tiny jet-black seeds are staples in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. They have a nutty, peppery flavor and are used as a seasoning for vegetables, beans and bread (including naan). Find them in ethnic markets.
Black Mushrooms. Aromatic and rich in flavor, black mushrooms include shiitake, wood ear and black trumpet. Dried versions are easily found in Asian markets. Read more in our Mushroom Glossary.
Perhaps you’ll be inspired to whip up a New Year’s Eve dinner with black foods in every course, to celebrate a healthy new year.

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