Top Pick Of The Week

September 25, 2007

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Empire Torte

It wouldn’t be a party without a cake, so we selected Empire Torte, made with El Rey chocolate from Venezuela, one of the finest chocolates in the world. Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel.

WHAT THEY ARE: Our very favorite Top Picks Of The Week, chosen from the Top Picks of 2004 through 2006.
WHY THEY’RE DIFFERENT: Our 52 Top Picks Of The Week are already “the best,” so these are truly la crème de la crème—the products we dream about when we’re thinking about the best specialty foods we’ve ever had.
WHY WE LOVE THEM: We taste more than 3,000 products a year; by now we’ve tried perhaps 10,000. These are the 10 in 10,000 that make us the happiest. Taste them and you’ll know why!
WHERE TO BUY THEM: All are available online—information is included at the end of each full product review. Much to our chagrin, most of these amazing foods are in extremely limited retail distribution. We beseech every fine food retailer to put them on the shelf!

The Best Of The Top Picks:
Third Anniversary Issue,
Part II

Party on, Nibblers! We’re concluding our third anniversary celebration with the the final five of our Top 10 favorite nibbles from 2004 through 2006. (If you missed the first five, you can read them here.)

Today’s group is a mixed bag of product categories; in alphabetical order, it starts with dessert. It wasn’t easy choosing among 123 eligible (and terrific) Top Picks for this short list. The rules were “no chocolates,” because we could fill an entire Top 10 with chocolate bars, bonbons and truffles. But candy was eligible, and as you’ll see on this list, we have two winners. For the most part, we looked for products that were not just the best-tasting in their category, but that lingered in our hearts—foods we would be thrilled to eat every day. Of course, that would make them less we keep the magic going by sending for them every so often.

Enjoy these virtual bites of Empire Torte, Gary West Buffalo Strips, La Maison du Chocolat Pâtes de Fruits, Meyenberg Goat Butter and Pariya Persian Sweets. Hopefully, you’ll get to try each of them. You can click on the links above to the full reviews or read the capsule summaries below. A celebratory bottle of Champagne doesn’t pair well with that scrumptious Empire Torte, but to find out what does go well with chocolate cake, see our Wine & Dessert Pairing Chart.  

  • Read reviews of more of our favorite products.
  • See the Table of Contents of the September issue of THE NIBBLE, plus the back issues archive and our most popular articles.
  • All of the Top Pick Of The Week newsletters are permanently archived on, in chronological order and by product category.
THE NIBBLE does not sell the foods we review
or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them.

Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their respective categories.


Celebrate Our Anniversary

Williams-Sonoma Entertaining: Cocktail Parties 4000 Champagnes World Encyclopedia Of Champagne
Williams-Sonoma Entertaining: Cocktail Parties. Throw a successful cocktail party large or small, indoors or outdoors, elegant or casual. Recipes for food, drink and essential planning guides. Click here for more information or to purchase. 4000 Champagnes, by Richard Juhlin. Written by “The Champagne King,” who holds the world record for the most Champagnes tasted, this is an incredible reference volume—written with Juhlin’s notable sense of humor. Click here for more information or to purchase. World Encyclopedia of Champagne and Sparkling Wine, by Tom Stevenson. In addition to the bubblies of Champagne, this in-depth guide covers the sparkling wines of the world: California, Italy, Australia and beyond. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Anniversary Issue: Top 10 Top Picks, Part II



Our first five “Best Top Picks” had the makings of a nice dinner. Our final five is a mixed bag, but equally delicious. It includes an anniversary cake, plus some delicious Persian petit-fours to accompany the coffee afterward. Selections are presented in alphabetical order.

My Empire For A Torte:
Empire Torte

If King Richard III of York had asked for an Empire Torte instead of a horse in that final battle of the War of the Roses, things might have turned out better for him. More than a chocolate cake, this confection can serve as a cementer of friendships, a panacea for what ails you, the best way to apologize, the key to many things mortals wish for. Had Richard sent an Empire Torte to Henry, Earl of Richmond with a note that said, “Let’s meet to settle our differences,” Henry very possibly would have settled—contingent, of course, upon Richard bringing more tortes.

Why this torte, among all the rich, dense flourless chocolate cakes? Because it achieves the impeccable balance of delivering profound chocolate flavor without going over-the-top into cloying sweetness or overly-creamy richness of most ganache cakes. It is a torte worthy of a king. Fortunately, it’s accessible to the rest of us. Read the full review.

Empire Torte

Empire Torte*: can it make people fall in love with you, enemies forgive you, clients give you more business? Very possibly. Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel.

Buffalo Jerky
The next time friends come over for a microbrew, serve them tender, moist and utterly delicious buffalo strips from Gary West. Soon they’ll be singing, “Give me a home where the buffalo roam,” and heading to your computer to order their own supply. At 60 calories an ounce and 99% fat-free, you’ve saved enough calories over chips and peanuts to have another beer!

Gary West Buffalo Strips:
Give Us A Home Where The Buffalo Roam

We don’t want to call this jerky. The word jerky calls to mind terms like “dry,” “leathery” and “convenience store check-out counter.” When we think of Gary West’s Buffalo Strips, words like “tasty” and “gourmet” fill our brains while we try to remember if there’s any left, and where. The company makes beef and elk strips—also very yummy—but if we had to choose one, the buffalo strips are the most tender and sweet (counterintuitive, we know).

If you’ve never had jerky—or if your jerky experience has you running in the opposite direction—rest assured that Gary West is the zenith of the genre. Reticent tasters at THE NIBBLE who tried to phone in sick on Gary West Jerky Tasting Day ended up snitching the last pieces from the table, and then surreptitiously placed their own personal orders.

Yes, The Gary West Jerky Experience is one that everybody who eats meat should have—and the sooner, the better. Read the full review.

La Maison Du Chocolat Pâtes De Fruits: A Fruit in Every Pâte

We first discovered La Maison du Chocolat as a young girl who pilgrimaged to Paris for culinary enlightenment. The chocolatier, Robert Linxe, got great press even on our side of the ocean; and we were determined to make our first visit memorable. When we finally got to the shop after a very long walk (that looked deceptively manageable on the map), we rewarded ourselves by purchasing one of everything.

Yes, the chocolate was deliciously dark, the fondants silky and the sophisticated flavors quite unlike anything available in the U.S. at the time. But what captured our fancy most were the pâtes de fruits.* To the unschooled they looked like French relatives of the children’s fruit jellies like Chuckles and the more refined Gimbal’s fruit slices. But they tasted like something quite out of this world. Before leaving town we stocked up on all the pâte de fruits we could manage, unsure that such shimmering gems of intense fruit flavor would ever cross to our side of the ocean. Read the full review.

*Pronounced POT duh froo-EE—not pâté (pah-TAY), which is a different type of food and not made of fruit.

Pates de Fruits Maison du Chocolat
Winning the ribbon: Are there better pate de fruits in the world? Maybe, but we’re happy to stop right here. Photo
by Matt Chun.


Meyenberg Goat Butter
We sprinkled sweet goat butter with alaea, red volcanic sea salt from Hawaii (learn more about it). We also sprinkled salmon caviar, tobiko, snipped chives, fresh chopped basil, olives and capers for simply spectacular canapes. Meyenberg Goat Milk Butter is one of our favorite specialty foods—it’s so versatile, we eat it at every meal—and guests are thrilled to discover it! Photo by Melody Lan.

Meyenberg Goat Butter:
Got Your Goat

This NIBBLE will get you to look at butter not as a dairy commodity, but as a specialty food as individual and exciting as every other product we write about. There was a point in life where we may have thought no further about wine than “red” or “white”; a time when a decision about a chocolate bar was simply “with nuts” or “without nuts”, and butter was “salted” or “unsalted.” Today’s gourmet butters are so exquisite that they demand as much attention as fine cheeses. In fact, we purchased our first bar of Meyenberg Goat Milk Butter last July, after it won one of four first-place awards given to butter at the American Cheese Society’s Annual Cheese Competition. For several months prior, we had eyed the large silver foil rectangle at Whole Foods, where we try a different artisanal butter every month; it had just never made it into our shopping cart. The minute we saw the list of award winners, we were off to purchase a bar, and we have not been without a bar and a spare since. We are simply maa-a-a-d about it. Read the full review.

Pariya Raahat & Nougat:
The Sweet of Sultans

Pick a legend: Aphrodite cooks up a treat to entice her lovers using water from her pure, natural springs in Cyprus. An Anatolian confectioner arrives in Constantinople with a secret sweetmeat recipe that fast becomes fancied by Sultan Abdulhamid I, and by fashionable ladies who present the treat to each other in special lace handkerchiefs. A Turkish sultan asks his court’s most skilled confectioners to conjure a candy that will please his many wives.

Whichever romantic vision dances in your head, “Turkish Delight,” longhand for raahat (also known as raahat lokum—loosely translated as “easy to eat”), is a treat adored by Greek lovers, Turkish sultans, sultans’ wives and foodies alike, in flavors that will wow you. The nougats—almond, pistachio, saffron and sour cherry—will make you want to take a magic carpet ride to the nearest Middle Eastern merchant. Fortunately, you can order these delights online. Read the full review.



Conjured to please a sultan’s many wives. You don’t have to join a harem to enjoy this most delicious treat.


Thanks for sharing our third anniversary with us.

Karen Hochman, Editorial Director
And The Entire NIBBLE Crew

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to everyone who loves great food.

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