B.T. McElrath Chocolate

Holiday chocolates from Minneapolis chocolatier B.T. McElrath include spicy ganache snowflakes, berry ganache poinsettias, and peppermint buttons.





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Gourmet News is compiled by MELODY LAN. 

Product Reviews


Gourmet News & Views

December 2005



Discrepancies in Healthy Eating. A recent study conducted by Tate & Lyle, one of the world’s largest ingredients companies, found that American consumers are struggling to maintain healthy diets despite knowing what is best for their body. Experts (and consumers) acknowledge that part of this is due to the fact that we are surrounded by delicious-tasting foods, and many times healthy foods just don’t satisfy the way that fat- and sugar-laden foods do.

With new year’s resolutions just a few days away, we at THE NIBBLE will do our best to guide people to delicious foods that are healthy too. Click here to see the index page of our Nutri Nibbles section, where you can read our reviews on a nutritious, yet delicious foods; and our Diet Nibbles section, which has many low calorie and sugar-free foods that we think are as tasty as our regular Nibbles.

Apple Crackle
We could have an apple a day, but we’d
like to alternate with Apple Crackle.
Click here
to read our review.

Information in the table below is derived from the key findings gathered by Tate & Lyle. See if your eating habits and health knowledge are similar to the responses of the people in the study.

What is Considered Healthy?
Is it Included in Your Own Diet?
Fresh Vegetables
Fresh Vegetables
Fresh Fruit
Fresh Fruit
Nutritious [Food]
Nutritious [Food]
Low Fat [Food]
Low Fat [Food]
Glasses of Water
Glasses of Water
Low Sugar [Food]
Low Sugar [Food]
Low Calories
Low Calories

Given that people tend to “glorify” their responses in research survey, the situation is probably much worse than in the chart above.  Resolution: eat healthier in the New Year. You can eat all the “good stuff”: just balance it with the healthy stuff!

New Product Watch

  • Ito En Ltd., producers of one of our favorite lines of Japanese iced teas, has introduced its first sweetened, ready-to-drink black teas. The all-natural Sri Lankan teas are infused with fruit flavors and are available in Tea Apple and Tea Lemon. Like all Ito En teas, they are authentically brewed from premium, whole, loose tea leaves using state-of-the-art brewing techniques. Ito En’s original line of bottled teas, Tea’s Tea, is unsweetened—made only of purified water, tea leaves, and vitamin C. Flavors include Golden Oolong, Green Hoji, Green Genmai, Green Jasmine, Green White, Lemongrass Green, Mugicha, Pure Green, and Rose Green. For more information, visit Itoen.com.


Restaurant Industry Forecast. According to the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) 2006 Restaurant Industry Forecast, restaurant industry sales are expected to reach a record $511 billion—more than half a trillion dollars. Steven Anderson, president of the NRA, explains that sales each day are over $1.4 billion and account for 48 percent of the consumer food dollar. The restaurant industry is projected to employ 12.5 million people in about 925,000 locations.

Based on a survey done by the NRA, the 2006 forecast predicts a number of growing trends. Among the highlights for consumers are:

Full-service restaurant sales are expected to hit $173.4 billion in 2006, a 5.2 percent jump over 2005. Photo by Nelson Syozi.

Focus on Healthier Menu Selections

  • 72 percent claim they are trying to order healthier choices as compared to two years ago.
  • Over 50 percent of restaurant operators notice that salads and bottled water are much more in demand.

Preference for Wi-Fi and TV Access

  • 27 percent of adults said they would use wireless Internet access if a restaurant offered it.
  • 52 percent of respondents between the age of 18 to 24 said they would use Wi-Fi if the restaurant had it available.

Need for Convenience

  • 34 percent of adults say takeout food is a vital part for them on a day-to-day basis.

Gluten-Free Market Grows. Studies have shown that celiac disease, intolerance for a protein found in wheat, rye, or barley, affects about 2.2 million Americans. The cure? Sticking to a diet without gluten. This is a challenge since many foods have traces of it. As a result, the gluten-free food manufacturing industry has seen tremendous growth by supporting dietary restrictions, expanding at an annual growth rate of 14.6 percent. According to David Browne, director of SPINS, a California-based market research company, the U.S. has more then 2,000 products labeled gluten-free, ringing up more than $600 million in sales each year.

Curious Cookie
Curious Cookie has a delicious chocolate chip cookie we can’t even tell is gluten-free. Click here to read our review.

Gluten possesses certain properties that retain water and trap gas from yeast, giving way to the springy and chewy textures we love most in baked goods and pasta. To replace gluten without compromising flavor or consistency, several substitutes mimic the jobs gluten does, including a combination of eggs and gluten-free starches like rice flour. Simulating the right properties while making something still taste good is, without a doubt, a challenge. But with the growing market, food manufacturers are motivated. Click here to read our review of Ford’s Margarita Mix Nuts, an absolutely delicious gluten-free cocktail nut mix.

Farm-Raised Caviar: The Next After The Best. The ban on Caspian Beluga caviar effective September 30, to save the endangered Beluga sturgeon, has spurred the demand for farm-raised sturgeon caviar. The New York Times suggests that chefs and consumers are realizing the the need to conserve the almost extinct sturgeon fish. Rod Mitchell, owner of caviar importer, distributor and retailer, Browne Trading Co., explains that as compared to 2004, in 2005 he has sold three times as much farmed caviar. To produce caviar, many fish farms are breeding Siberian sturgeon, which produces caviar similar to the Caspian osetra, and white sturgeon, a native fish of California and the Pacific Northwest.

California Estate Osetra
Tsar Nicoulai’s California Estate Osetra, from farmed white sturgeon.

While some of the fresh water Beluga caviar can still be purchased at about $200 per ounce, farm-raised caviars run between $50 to $75 per ounce, a 50 percent jump over the last year. You can find a number of caviar brands at the store, including domestic caviars that come from the American hackleback or black paddlefish, which are raised in Missouri and Tennessee (and tend to be less expensive, about $30 per ounce). One of our favorite American caviars is from Tsar Nicoulai, which farm-raises white sturgeon that produce a caviar similar in flavor to Caspian Osetra.


People Pick Pepperoni Pizza. No matter how much of a gourmet you are, chances are you eat your share of pizza.  Here are some statistics reported by Pizza Today, the trade magazine for pizza parlor owners:

  • The average American consumes 46 slices or 23 pounds of pizza per year.
  • The five most popular toppings, in order, are pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, ham, and green peppers. 
  • Delivery accounts for 35%, takeout for 35%, and dine-in for 30%.
A pepperoni, sausage, and mushroom pizza—three of the most popular toppings people choose for their pizza. Photo by Michal Adamczyk.

There are 64,500 pizzerias in the U.S. selling  3 billion pizzas annually, for a total of $30 billion in sales (it will approach $40 billion by the end of the decade).  Independent pizzerias account for approximately 33 percent of industry's sales, with the lion’s share going to the big boys, who split up the market this way:

  • Pizza Hut - 17.5 %
  • Domino's - 10.2 % 
  • Papa John's - 6.4 % 
  • Little Caesar's - 4.1 %

They see opportunities for international growth in:

1. China
2. India
3. Middle East
4. South America

So, better get take that trip to the Great Wall and the Taj Mahal before there's a food court across the street with McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Starbucks, perhaps serving...

The Breakfast Pizza. Since 40% of pizza sales take place after 4 p.m., Papa John’s and other chains are seeking new revenues from their real estate by launching the breakfast pizza. The toppings will include a variety of breakfast classics like scrambled eggs and bacon, but baked atop pizza dough with no tomato sauce. There are sweet versions too, including apple walnut with piped sugar icing, that essentially turn pizza into a flatter version of danish. The interesting thing is how long it took the pizza industry to adapt their product for the breakfast trade, given how long Egg McMuffins have been popular in the fast food biz, followed by breakfast burritos.

Papa John’s and an Iowa chain, Happy Joe’s Pizza, are are testing the products in select markets. If the public goes for the concept, people who enjoy a cola for breakfast will have a pizza to go with it—hot right from the oven, not warmed-over from last night.

While NIBBLE readers are not likely to be dropping into Papa John’s for breakfast, this “evolution” opens the door for finer dining establishments to adapt the concept. After all, Eggs Benedict sounds passé, while Cornmeal Pizza with Egg and Prosciutto sounds happening. So, we predict that you’ll see gourmet breakfast pizzas on the breakfast menu of hip restaurants soon.

Big Billy Gets Popular. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, even though there are about 350 goat farms in the nation, the goat industry in America is still very small. But the growing popularity of goat products in the U.S. may be about to change, due in part to the lactose intolerance many people have to products derived from cow milk. Bob Duke, chairman of American Boer Goat Association, claims goats are by far the fastest-growing agricultural industry. He said that last year, prices for goat meat increased by 50 percent with the demand showing no signs of slowing.

George Laguerre, owner of Tigeorges Chicken, a Los Angeles restaurant with a number of customers who enjoy goat stew, explains that goat is becoming popular because it’s a healthier grass-fed meat.

Chevre (it means"goat" in French). Younger goat cheeses tend to taste fruity, but get sharper and more tart as they age.

Goat experts say that the calories in about three ounces of roasted goat is equivalent to the same portion of chicken, but with almost a gram less fat. The meat also has the same amount of protein as beef, with about 10 percent more iron. These nutritional benefits also cross over into the animal’s milk. The American Dairy Goat Association compared cow’s milk to goat’s milk and found that goat’s milk has 13 percent more calcium, 47 percent more vitamin A, and is loaded with riboflavin and niacin. Goat’s milk does not contain the indigestible proteins that cow’s milk has, which is why many lactose-intolerant people can enjoy goat’s milk products.

From this nutritious and delicious milk, you can find aromatic goat cheeses for every palate—soft, hard, creamy, chunky, and parmesan-style, with flavors that range from bold to delicate. Our favorite butter, bar none, is Meyenberg’s goat butter; and LaLoo makes rich ice cream that is enjoyed by people who can have cow’s milk as well as by those who can’t.

Click here to read our article on The Gourmet Goat.

Gourmet DIY Meals: A Growing Market. In 2005, ConAgra Foods Inc., an Omaha, Nebraska packaged-food company, conducted a national survey and found that over 70 percent of respondents stress about what to eat for dinner. All of us have resorted to unsatisfying frozen dinners from time to time, but today’s do-it-yourself meals have stepped up a notch in quality. More companies have begun to fill the need for easy-to-prepare meals with selections you might find at fancy restaurants. Now, shoppers can find more gourmet frozen dinner alternatives so they can make meals that are fast, mess-free, and delicious.

Tilapia fillets with marinara sauce from Market Bay.

According to Packaged Facts, a New York research firm, the gourmet ready-to-eat meals is estimated to be a $4.2 billion market and retail sales are expect to hit $13.5 billion by 2007. Companies like Market Bay, originally a seafood distributor, started packaging a number of their tilapia and salmon meals into oven-ready trays in September. In January, they will be launching gourmet meals with other fish like mahi-mahi, flounder, and cod, in sauces like smoky bourbon and spicy mango. The frozen entrees are distributed in upscale supermarkets.


A Slice of Marla, Please. In hopes to dispel the worldwide unease over eating a symbol that appears on Australia’s coat of arms, the kangaroo is about to get a diner-friendly name, just as cow becomes beef and pig becomes pork. Australia has launched a competition to find a new name for kangaroo meat that is acceptable to diners who are sensitive about eating the furry marsupial. Over 300 submissions have been submitted to Food Companion International magazine and the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia. According to Reuters, some contenders are marsu, marla, wallagang (from the Aboriginal language) and, agaroo. Entries less likely to advance to the finals are Cyril, Skippy, yummy and kanga.

The Kangaroo Industry Association
stated that around 15 to 20 percent
of the population is harvested annually.
Photo courtesy of Graeme Rainsbury.

Like Australians, most of us think of kangaroos as adorable creatures although in Australia, kangaroo meat is commonly used in pet food (as horse meat has commonly been used in the U.S.). Mel Nathan, editor of Food Companion International, explains that this is the very reason they are searching for a better name for kangaroo meat. The label “kangaroo meat” inhibits some chefs from cooking with the meat because they know people are not likely to order it.

In the past decade, kangaroo meat sales have grown to be a $200 million dollar industry. Australia’s kangaroo population is estimated to be over 57 million. The industry’s national quota for culling kangaroos in 2005 is 3.9 million animals.


PawPaw: The Next Fashion Fruit? Researchers, chefs, and farmers are pushing to promote the indigenous pawpaw fruit into the American diet. Often referred to as the “poor man’s banana,” pawpaw fruit is grown across the eastern U.S. from Kansas and Texas, and from the Great Lakes almost to the Gulf by American Indians. John Lagier of Lagier Ranches in the San Joaquin Valley, who farms the fruit, explains that ripe pawpaw has a creamy, custard-like flesh with flavors that resemble a mix of banana, papaya, coconut, cream and hints of caramel.

pawpaw fruit
Southeast Ohio has the strongest
commercial growing and harvesting of
pawpaws. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Although it’s a nutritious and delicious fruit, its flesh is so delicate that storing or shipping pawpaws causes easy bruising or spoiling. George Washington may have loved the fruit chilled, but most Americans haven’t even heard of the pawpaw because it has never been cultivated in huge quantities like apples and oranges; nor is it available in many markets.

While the fruit is extracted and frozen to solve shipping problems, the fresh fruit itself is still yet to be experienced by most Americans—and that’s exactly what the pawpaw proponents are working toward. According to USA Today, there are currently 11 universities throughout the nation trying to test 28 different pawpaw varieties to find shippable kinds. Neal Peterson, a pawpaw expert, teamed up with Kentucky State University to breed more pawpaw varieties that are sturdier. Chefs like Margot McCormack, chef and owner of Margot Café & Bar, Jim Gerhardt and Michael Cunhaof restaurants Seelbach’s Oakroom and Limestone, have been serving pawpaw as a way to get the fruit back on to American plates.

Keep an eye out for pawpaw, and if you get your hands on this delicious fruit, Neal Peterson advises that the best recipes to bring its explosive flavors are bread, chiffon pie, ice cream, and muffins. Pawpaw Chip, anyone?


Chocopologie by Knipschildt Chocolatier. Norwalk, Connecticut now has what every town in America should have: a chocolate cafe, galleria, retail shop and chocolate factory offering the wares of a top artisanal chocolatier. NASFT award-winner Fritz Knipschildt, whose beautiful chocolates have fans nationwide, has created a lovely, antique-filled refuge where one can enjoy chocolate in all forms. Have some bonbons, a cup of hot spiced chocolate, or our latest passion, Fritz’s chocolate-dipped cornflakes. Enrobing corn flakes may sound strange—but wait until you taste them!  The white chocolate cornflakes, dipped in superb Belcolade couverture, are our latest chocolate addiction. 

Chocolate Cornflake Clusters
Our latest addiction: Fritz Knipschildt’s Chocolate
Cornflake Clusters.
  To try them for yourself, click
over to Knipschildt Chocolatier.  Legal disclaimer:
we are not responsible if you can’t stop eating them.

Yes, there’s coffee too, and savory snacks, so there’s no need to follow the hordes to Starbucks when you can enjoy a genteel refinement—and great chocolate. A 5-ounce bag of mixed dark, milk and white Chocolate Cornflake Clusters is a great stocking-stuffer, for just $10.00.  If you’re within munching distance of Norwalk, stop by: 12 South Main Street, 1.203.849.3141.  You can watch the chocolates being made as well.  Please, Fritz: open a Chocopologie near us!

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