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Gourmet News Archives

April 2005




Drink hot chocolate!   A new Agricultural Research Service study evaluating total amounts of flavanols* and antioxidants in cocoa and chocolate shows that more antioxidants are in products with higher cocoa content. In descending order, the most antioxidant capacity was found in natural cocoa powder, followed by unsweetened  baking chocolate, alkalinized or “Dutch” cocoa powder, dark chocolates, semi-sweet chocolate baking chips, and milk chocolate.

*Flavanols are the main flavonoids found in cocoa and chocolate

Research over the past decade has identified flavonoids as showing diverse beneficial psychological and antioxidant effects. They are also found in other fruits and vegetables (the cacao bean is a fruit): red wine, cranberries and blueberries are especially antioxidant-rich.

The Agricultural Research Service is the research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The study was presented at Experimental Biology 2005, an international scientific conference held earlier this month in San Diego.

Of interest to lovers of fine chocolate is that unsweetened baking chocolate, second on the list, is equivalent to a 100% cacao bar available from several luxury chocolate producers.  Bars of 85%, 99%, and 100% are in many lines.  While most dark chocolate lovers are more familiar with 72% and 75% bars, a journey into the higher cacao content levels can prove enjoyable, as well as healthy!



It’s a date.   The 2005 Date Chef Competition recently wrapped up in La Quinta, California. Both Best of Show and People's Choice awards went to Leanne Kamekona, executive chef at the La Quinta Resort & Club, for her entrée, Yucatan Rack of Lamb with Roasted Corn & Date Tamale—rare lamb chops with a roasted corn and date tamale garnished with broccolini, grilled purple radicchio leaves, fresh mint chutney, and corn shoots, in an Ancho reduction. The top dessert was a date tasting of Deglet date pudding with toffee sauce, a Khadrawy date parfait, pureed date phyllo with hazelnuts, and a mini root beer float with date ice cream.  These and the other award-winning recipes will soon be posted at DatesAreGreat.com. In the interim, you can peruse the winners from the 2000-2004 competitions.

You don’t have to cook up a storm to enjoy dates as daily fare. One of the world’s ancient crops, the fruit of the date palm tree, they have been cultivated for at least 5,000 years. Yet aside from the classic pork roast with dates or in a dried fruit collection, most Americans don’t “date” too much. Here are some easy gourmet treats courtesy of DatesAreGreat.com and our own NIBBLE collection:

  • Stuffed with savory fillings and and serve as hors d'oeuvres: smoked or spicy almonds, herbed goat cheese or mascarpone, or foie gras mousse
  • Wrapped, adding another dimension to stuffed dates by wrapping in ham (prosciutto can be thinly sliced and wraps well, as does speck) bacon or pepper bacon, or a flexible shaved cheese (and when wrapping in meats and cheeses, you can alter the fillings to include gherkins, melon—the only limit is your imagination)
  • Stuffed dateStuffed with sweet fillings and serve at tea or on a dessert plate: mascarpone or ricotta, plain or with any combination of chopped cherries, citron, honey, or shaved chocolate. You can add a regular or glazed walnut half, almond, pistachio or pecan.

Date PalmIf you’re not already a date fan, once you see how quick and easy it is to serve dates—and what a tasty change they are from the same old same old—they’ll find their way into your festivities repertoire.

                                                                     Date Palms


Food as fragrance.   Look around and you’ll notice a quiet revolution in fragrance trends, away from perennial (pun intended) tuberose, gardenia, jasmine and honeysuckle to scents from another part of the garden: citrus, nutmeg, fig, cassis, pomegranate, apricot, ginger. And not just in personal fragrance, but in everything from the toothpaste you grab for when you first stagger out of bed, the soap, bath gel and shampoo you use in the shower, the aprés-shower moisturizers, shaving creams, lip balms, room fragrance... even the products you use to clean your kitchen counters, wash your dishes, and do your laundry. There are scores of fine product lines from the better-known Jo Malone and Fresh to unique bath product lines like Hella Good bath scrubbies—washing pouches that are sybaritic experiences which must be tried (you must get Pumpkin and Cream).

Having spent the last 3 days pouring over the wares at the Extracts Show in New York City—a bi-annual trade show where many of the finest bath, body and spa lines are presented to retail store buyers—we estimate that two-thirds were largely food scented.  We sampled many fine lines; and as we continue to build THE NIBBLE website, we’ll be reviewing them in the Home Zone section.

But the one standout was a beautifully integrated and packaged line from Australia, Mor Cosmetics. With a depth of products in exquisite smelling scents that appeal to both men and women, including seldom-seen-or-smelled scents like pistachio, cumquat (the Aussie spelling), lemongrass and peach; and the more easily found green tea ginger, honey, milk, grapefruit, passionfruit, almond, fig & olive, and pomegranate; Mor is more—and easily earned our “Best in Show.”

Mor Cosmetics - Lemongrass Mor Cosmetics - Pomegranate Mor Cosmetics - Ginger Mor Cosmetics - Cumquat

Mor Cosmetics’ Lemongrass Body Wash, Pomegranate Body Scrub, Ginger Exfoliating Wash, Cumquat Lip Balm are just a few representative products and fragrances of a vast and exciting line.



Coming next: functional yogurt?   As Americans seek to improve their fitness by eating better, and strive to teach their children better nutritional habits to stop the ever-escalating childhood obesity, food producers have an eye to more functional foods.

Functional foods are those that provide health benefits.  In the words of the American Dietetic Association, “functional foods, including whole foods and fortified, enriched, or enhanced foods, have a potentially beneficial effect on health when consumed as part of a varied diet on a regular basis, at effective levels.”  Functional yogurts include those with probiotic (friendly) bacteria like Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Bifidus (Bifidobacterium bifidus). Both inhabit the intestines and protect against the entrance and proliferation of “bad” organisms that can cause disease. L. Acidophilus also protects the female genital tract.

SmoothieNow, Europe is upping the functional stakes with further enhancements like Omega 3 essential fatty acids.

According to the March issue of Dairy Foods, the U.S. dairy industry has been wondering about the formal emergence of the domestic functional yogurts market, which already have taken hold in Europe.  In Spain, the sector sales are forecast to grow 17% annually, outstripping growth in all other yogurt categories.

The products include drinkable and spoonable yogurts.

France’s Danone, parent of the United States The Dannon Company, leads the Spanish yogurt market. Are functional yogurt drinks far away from our shores? Soon your greatest choice at the dairy case may not be whole milk versus nonfat or plain versus flavored. but regular versus bio-enhanced.


Healty CowHelping Americas health today, Floridas Velda Farms, has done its best to attract more children to good-for-you milk drinks. New Healthy Cow™ fat-free milks are flavored chocolate, vanilla or strawberry (with reduced sugars); plus plain. They weigh in at 120-130 calories per 10-ounce bottle.

With clever graphics of cows in various fitness activities (weight-lifting, jumping, yoga), if packaging is most of the game, these kine should spur a growth in milk consumption.



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