THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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TOP PICK: Rick’s Picks Pickled Vegetables

With Rick’s Picks, you can pick a peck (or at least a 15-ounce jar) of pickled red peppers, asparagus, beets, green beans, green tomatoes, okra and, of course, that most familiar of pickled vegetables, the cucumber (including garlic dills, bread-and-butter and other pickles).

It was love at first bite with Rick’s Picks. We usually leave our specialty food store with arms aching, because we’re carrying so many jars. Rick’s, a beautiful artisan product, is no cheap pick(le), but it’s worth every nickel. Every sandwich served becomes more gourmet with a garnish of Rick’s Picks. A barbecue becomes memorable with a Rick’s Picks tasting bar. Some of the vegetables make cocktail garnishes extraordinaire. And as gifts for those who love their pickles, a sampler package—or even better, the Pickle Of The Month Club—will make you a hero.

 
We first wrote about Rick’s Picks two years ago. But Rick Fields continues to innovate (Smokra, pickled smoked okra, is a slam dunk—even for people who say they don’t like okra). With barbecue season, Father’s Day and summer guesting upon us, it’s time to revisit these gourmet pickles. There are four gourmet cucumber pickles and seven pickled vegetables for appetizers, sides, snacks and garnishes. You’ll never think of a pickle the same way again. In fact, you may even be inspired to try pickling your own! Read the full review on TheNibble.com.

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TOP PICK: Microbatch Chocolate Bars

  If you’re a person with a passion for the world’s greatest chocolate, why not produce it yourself? That’s what the chocolate artisans in this week’s Top Pick have done—the majority of them as a second career.

They are not chocolatiers in the traditional sense. Their goal is not to make bonbons, nut clusters and truffles. They are chocolate purists whose goal is to produce the best chocolate bars in the world from scratch, traveling abroad to source raw beans, cleaning, roasting, winnowing, grinding, refining, conching, tempering, molding and packaging the chocolate—some with no help, some with a partner and/or a tiny staff. In the process, most have built or modified chocolate-producing equipment for results they could not otherwise achieve.

So, how good are these bars? They rank with the world’s best, including acclaimed small producers (but still, much larger than micro producers) like Amedei, Michel Cluizel and Pralus. If you like great dark chocolate, this is an eye-opening journey you can take without ever leaving your home. Read the full review and learn more about these exceptional chocolate bars on TheNibble.com.

 

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Mad Mac Macaroons

While most Americans don’t have to go too far to buy a tarte aux pommes (French apple tart) or a mille-feuille (Napoleon), one of the toughest baked delicacies to track down is a macaron, a French macaroon. Those fortunate enough to dine out often on haute cuisine may get a decent macaroon on a petit-fours plate. Sometimes you can find them at retail; but like Aesop’s fox and his grapes, the macaroons are often dull when they should be exciting.

A hasty note: We are not speaking of the type of macaroon that is a hearty, chewy, mounded cookie made with coconut (see Erica’s Macaroons, another Top Pick Of The Week). Those coconut macaroons are only one variation on the theme, having evolved from the original Italian almond paste cookie, which was similar to today’s amaretti (read the history of the macaroon). French macaroons evolved in a different direction, some into ethereal, filled, meringue-like cookie sandwiches—pretty, variously flavored and colored, a delicacy for a sophisticated table. Yet, not everyone has the knack for making them this way. We’ve nibbled on quite a few macs that have made us long for better flavor and texture.

 
One of New York City’s prominent patissiers, Florian Belanger, recognized the need for an alternative to droning, monotonous macaroons. He began Mad Mac to supply restaurants, hotels and retail pastry stores nationwide. Thanks to online ordering, you, too, can enjoy tasty bites of Mad Mac, in colors that make a special dinner or a party even more festive. Made from egg whites, sugar and almond flour, macaroons are often a better end to a fine dinner than heavier sweets. And they’re easier: All you have to do is open the box and put them on a plate.Read the full review, see more photos of these mad, fun macaroons and get a tray or two for your own festivities.

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TIP OF THE DAY: Cheese & Veggies

Fruits are frequently served with cheese, but vegetables are also a traditional accompaniment. Italians serve goat cheeses with radishes and pecorino romano with fava beans. Tomatoes in season are always delicious. Marinated vegetables—always part of a good antipasto—are a refreshing complement. Experiment to see what pairings you like best. Click here to learn more about fine cheese at THE NIBBLE.  
Cheese and vegetables make a delicious
combination, these goat cheeses from
Harley Farms already have herbs and veggies mixed in.

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: True Natural Taste Artisan Organic Mustard


Mustard is a fantastic condiment; it has no calories, fat, or sugar. The mustards and horseradish from True Natural Taste are a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week. Read the review here.
 

America’s specialty food stores are packed with gourmet condiments. Yet, as good as we would like them all to be, different brands vary in the degree of excitement they present to the demanding palate. That’s why it’s especially rewarding to discover a line that should be on the shelves everywhere: True Natural Taste Organic White Mustard. The Honey Mustard alone is the best we’ve ever tasted, and proves that you can find sophistication and layers of flavor in a product that is generally pleasant, with a one-dimensional sweetness. The rest of the mustards are so well crafted, you can taste the quality of the ingredients (where can we buy apple cider vinegar that’s this good?).

Here is an artisan at work, preparing small batches of mustard with the very best ingredients available. You’ll know it the minute you taste it, and may start eating the mustard from a spoon (as we’ve enjoyed doing over the past few weeks).

There’s also an organic Atomic Horseradish, marrying horseradish root with parsnip to create a very different and earthier, more flavorful style than the prepared horseradish in the refrigerator case (or our grandmother’s own eye-opening recipe of horseradish and beets). The line is certified kosher and (like all mustard) is gluten free.Mustard is a terrific condiment. Low calorie, no fat or sugar (no cholesterol, no carbs), it has a spate of health benefits that are discussed in the main review. When you find a line this good, it’s worth clearing the shelf of your current inventory and trading up to a truly terrific taste. The Dijon flavor won the “best organic mustard” gold medal at this year’s Napa Valley Mustard Festival; but read about our favorites in the full review at THE NIBBLE.

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