Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Italian Ceramics at Gourmet Fusion

Gourmet Fusion has just added Intrada to our team of international suppliers. Intrada, specializes in Italian handcrafted by artisans from all over Italy. Some of their products are traditional in style, while others are contemporary to fit in with today's modern kitchens and dining rooms.

Whether you choose something traditional like the Capodimonte boxes, or the sleek modern look of the understated espresso cups, these stylish and functional decorative accessories will complement your
cooking, and add elegance and beauty to any dining room or kitchen. More authentic Italian ceramic pieces can be seen in the Gourmet Fusion store.

Monday, August 27, 2007

All About Coffee

It is possible that we owe coffee to Abyssinian or Arabian goats, which to the great astonishment of the goatherds, became unusually lively as soon as they nibbled the leaves and berries of a shrub known as kif or koffe. It was suspected that the animals' energy derived from the fruit of this plant. The shrub spread from the high plains of Ethiopia as far as Sudan and the Yemen, where experiments with the red capsules began. The Arabs finally developed a process to harness the stimulant effect in a form that was palatable. They released the seeds from the seed pod, roasted them - in the same way that nuts were treated - ground them in a mill, and finally poured boiling water on the powder. The very first cup of was ready!

Types of Beans

The two main types of coffee beans grown for consumption are called Arabica and Robusta. The general differences between the two are taste and the conditions under which they grow. Arabica beans are delicate and require cool subtropical climates, they are vulnerable to cold and must be grown at a higher elevation of 1,900 to 6,500 feet. Robusta beans grow from hardier plants that can withstand tougher climate conditions, and are capable of growing well at low altitudes of 650 - 2,600 feet. The taste of
beans ranges from sweet-soft to sharp-tangy, with a roasted scent of fruity notes and sugary tones. The Robusta taste range is neutral-to-harsh and is often described as tasting grain-like, with a roasted scent similar to that of raw peanuts.

Different Coffee Bean Roasts

Coffee beans in their raw state (green) are subjected to heat for varying periods of time to achieve the different types of roasts, this is known as the roasting process. There are many different roasts of beans available on the market but the following guide lists the main categories and their common names.

Dark Roasts (14 minutes)
The darkest roasts such as Italian Roast are also known as "Heavy Roast". Beans are roasted to almost jet black giving a smoky well roasted taste. This masks the natural flavors of the coffee bean.

Medium Dark Roasts (12 to 13 minutes)

Medium dark roast is when the beans are roasted at a high enough temperature to bring the natural oil of the coffee to the surface. Examples of this are Espresso Roast and Kenyan.

Medium Roasts (9 to 11 minutes)

Medium roasts balance body with flavor. Some examples of medium roast coffee are American Roast (not as dark as any of the European roasts, but with good flavor), Columbian Narino, Guatemala Antigua and Serena Organic Blend (these last three being Starbucks offerings).

Light Roasts (7 minutes)

A light roast gives a very subtle flavor. The surface of the bean is usually dry with no oils present and flavor is light-bodied. Many Breakfast Blends are lightly roasted beans.

How to Store Coffee:
Roasted Beans
Roasted coffee beans gradually deteriorate after they have been roasted and are best used within six months, but they must be properly stored. Some people suggest storing beans in an airtight container in a freezer for up to 12 months and using them in small quantities as and when required. However, there is a debate about the effect this has on the beans when they defrost, and when I checked on my Starbucks bag of coffee beans, they simply suggest storing in an airtight container and using within one week of opening, and this would be my choice. If you roast your own beans, it is suggested that you only roast one week's worth at a time.

Ground Coffee

Ground coffee deteriorates very quickly. Ideally, you should grind the coffee immediately before use, but if you choose to buy it ready-ground, then it is best to buy it in very small quantities and use it as quickly as possible.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Back To School Lunch Zipped With Style

Back to almost certainly means packing bags filled with books, papers, pencils and, of course, on-the-go snacks. These great little designer bags by Mobi from the Gourmet Fusion Store provide the answer to transporting all your goodies in a stylish and fun way.

The funky, bag shown here in Candy Camo Green can be used for kid’s snacks, candies, crayons, change, party favors and more. Great for back to school lunches, choose a different design for each day of the week, and liven up even the most boring packed lunch.

Other designs include Cupcake, which is great for birthday goodie bags, Polka Dots and Smiley Combo.

These fashionable, fun designer bags measure 6.5" x 6.25", and come in a box of 20 for $4.50.

Not just for kids, these quart-sized bags also comply with the FAA’s size regulations, making them perfect for organizing toiletries and cosmetics in carry-on luggage.

Monday, August 20, 2007

PoachPods Have Arrived!

Yes, Poachpods have arrived at the Gourmet Fusion store, and the great thing about them is that no special skill is required to make the perfect poached egg every time - if you can boil water, then you can make a perfect poached !

These innovative little by Fusion Brands, are made from super light flexible silicone, and they simply float in the water during cooking. Not only are they great for poaching eggs, they can also be used for flan and cakes, and molding gelatin (Jell-o) and desserts. So how exactly do they work?

To Poach an Egg in a PoachPod
Evenly oil the PoachPod, crack an egg into it, and float in boiling water. Cover the pan with a lid and cook in boiling water for 4 to 6 minutes or to desired firmness. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pad from the water. To remove the egg from the Poachpod, run a spoon around egg edge, then flip pod inside out and gently push egg out.

To Bake Flan, or Cakes in a PoachPod
Fill the PoachPod with your favorite batter and place on a pan for support, then cook as directed in your recipe.

To Mold Foods in a PoachPod
Fill PoachPod with food to be molded, chill if needed, and flip PoachPod inside out to remove food.

PoachPods are ideal for a quick or supper snack, and since you can use them in the freezer and microwave as well, the possibilities are endless. They come as a set of two in cool mint green, and dark forest green, and when you've finished, simply put them in the dishwasher and find a tiny space to store them! A set of two is available at the Gourmet Fusion online store, and also in our Solana Beach store at the Leaping Lotus for $9.99.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Summer Strawberry Daiquiri

While are still at their best, and reasonably inexpensive in the supermarkets, using them in as many different ways as possible to make the most of the sweet, ripe fruit is a challenge.

As the temperatures sizzles in most parts of the country, these elegant, cool cocktails are a great way to start a beach or backyard party. Some cocktails use only white rum, but the addition of cointreau in this drink, gives an extra zing to the flavor which is a great blend with the sweetness of the strawberries - but make sure you buy plenty of strawberries because one is usually never enough!

Strawberry Daiquiri

  • 4 ripe strawberries
  • 1 ounce Bacardi
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • 1 ounce Lemon Juice
  • Ice
  • Strawberry for Garnish
  1. Pour all the ingredients into a blender
  2. Blend together and strain into a serving glass
  3. Garnish with a strawberry on the side
Look out Don the Beachcomber!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Is Your Fish Sustainable?

Many of us try to include more fish in our diet because we are aware of the beneficial effects on our hearts and our health in general. The summer is a great time for barbecuing fish and the supermarkets have an abundance of wonderful looking fish and seafood available.

However, quite often people worry about the safety of eating certain seafood, especially if it is farmed overseas, and for those ecologically minded people, the worry of over-farming is of great concern many of us would like see greater use being made of protected areas to safeguard fish stocks. Scientists at Stanford University predicted some time ago that unless we change the way we manage all the ocean species together, as working , then this century will be the last century of wild seafood.

So I was interested to learn about a new resource for consumers and retailers which gives information about fish and other seafood in the U.S in the form of a website run by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries). The website, called “FishWatch – U.S. Seafood Facts” should help people identify the status of fishery stocks and understand the management and science requirements involved with building and maintaining sustainable fisheries. You can visit this site at

If you are at all concerned about your diet, and knowing whether you are buying sourced fish in supermarkets, check out this site, which also provides nutrition information and other interesting facts about U.S. fisheries, and over the next 60 days is inviting comments from readers to help evaluate and improve its website.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Look Chic in the Kitchen

Let's face it, you are never quite sure what to wear if you are having guests for dinner, but still have to prepare food when they arrive. The simple answer is the Gourmet Fusion Classic Chef's Apron. You can don this professional looking outfit over the top of your dressy clothes, and yet still look stylish and chic.

The classic lines of this apron and the bright white color instantly transform you into a professional in the kitchen, and make you look as though you've just escaped from the food network. The no-nonsense simple lines, and the neutral white color make it suitable for men and women - and who knows you may transform yourself into the next Catherine Zeta-Jones or Aaron Eckhart!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Lobster Rolls

As the end of summer draws near, marked by the celebrations, many of us will be having a final barbecue or beach party with friends and family. While the old favorites, such as hamburgers, steak, and hot dogs are wonderful, why not add some variety by making these tasty ?

The is really simple and from the great book by the Deen Brothers, Recipes from the Road. This recipe was discovered by them when they reached Portland, Maine. They suggest that unless you are on the Maine coast, you should make your own lobster rolls, and as an alternative to bread, you could serve the lobster salad in avocado halves, which is really helpful for those who are allergic to and wheat products.

Lobster Roll Ingredients
  • 4 1 1/2 lb lobsters or 4 lobster tails (or 1 1/2 pounds lobster meat)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 inner celery stalks and leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 rolls, split and lightly toasted or two avocados, split in half
  1. Remove the meat from the lobsters, chopping any large chunks into bite-size pieces.
  2. In a bowl, combine the lobster meat, mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery, parsley, and pepper to taste.
  3. Brush cut sides of the rolls with melted utter and fill with the lobster salad, or if using avocado fill each half with the salad and garnish with a slice of lemon and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper.
If you decide to grill lobster and serve it simply with drawn butter, then this lobster claw cracker in the picture from the Gourmet Fusion store Seafood Tools collection is a must. It is one of our most popular items, as it is stylish, functional and fun and cracks the toughest of claws. It has not been defeated yet!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Fancy Food and Peaceworks

The great thing about going to Food Shows is that you not only have the opportunity to find out about, and sample, some wonderful food from all over the world, you also learn that the common love of food overrides any issues involving race or religion. The New York Fancy Food show featured food produced in all regions of the US, Europe, Asia, and Africa - some of the vendors were seasoned producers and others were new companies from developing countries just starting out. It was also great to see the large number of companies promoting Fair Trade and organic produce.

One of the exhibitors we came across was PeaceWorks International who were promoting a selection of food products from different regions of the world, and educating people about of their mission. The concept of their organization is that they are a not-only-for-profit organization, and they believe that people working together under conditions of equality learn to shatter cultural stereotypes and humanize their former enemies. In fact, the PeaceWorks Foundation has fostered co-existence between many regions of conflict, proving the theory that when people work together striving to co-exist and prosper, amazing things can happen!

PeaceWorks currently does business with Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, South Africans, Turks, Indonesians and Sri Lankans and they have created some unique and exciting specialty foods using all natural, fresh ingredients. Some of the products we came across were Kind Fruit and Nut Bars, a health food bar from Australia made from whole nuts; Indonesian Bali Spice, a women-owned company producing sauces, seasonings and noodles that create a fusion of Indian and Thai flavors; Meditalia Pestos and Tapenades. These Mediterranean flavors are created through a partnership between Arabs and Israelis. PeaceWorks have proved that they can build and sustain a profitable company while doing a little good in the world, so who can complain about that?

Saturday, August 4, 2007

British Fish and Chips

I am not sure why, but there seems to have been a renewed interest lately in British Fish and Chips. I grew up in England and have had many meals of , both home made and from the "chippie". In the towns where I grew up chip shops, like pubs, could be found on most streets. Often you would have two chip shops next door to each other which was a great idea because most chip shops didn't open every night or every lunch time, but fish and chips were always in demand, so when one shop was open, the other one was closed. I have often thought that because this meal consisted of deep fried fish and French fries, it would now be seen as unhealthy and be waning in popularity, but my recent research shows that this is far from the case.

The very British fish and chips has, in fact, become even more popular, and is now served in the trendiest of London's , such as the Anglesea Arms in Hammersmith, the organic Duke of Cambridge in Islington and the Fish Shop on St John's Street which even has hand cut chips. Wow! Reservations are also recommended, so I guess it's not like waiting in line for frying time when I was a kid! The fish and chips I knew used to also be served with mushy peas. They are peas that have been boiled to the extent that their outer shell falls off, they lose most of their color, and are then mashed down into mush. This leaves them with consistency of a paste and hence the name, mushy peas. You can still buy mushy peas in tins in England, so I think they are still popular too.

One of the most successful fish and chip shops in British history was Harry Ramsden's. He opened his first fish and chip shop in in 1928 in a wooden hut in White Cross in Guiseley near Leeds, Yorkshire. His fish and chip empire was so successful that I believe at one point he even bought his own trawlers to cope with the demand for fish, and there are now over 170 Harry Ramsden shops in both the UK and overseas.

Why are fish and chips so popular? Well, for a start most people like the taste of them, kids love them, and the British did at one point convince themselves that they were a healthy well-balanced meal. If you want to read more history and amusing information about fish and chips in Britain check out the website of the National Federation of Fish Fryers, and for those who want to try it, below is the basic of how to make British Fish and Chips.

Ingredients (serves 2)
2 portions fish (cod, plaice, haddock)
1 lb potatoes

Batter for Deep Frying Fish
  • 4 ounces flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • Approx. 1/4 pint tepid water
  • 2 egg whites
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  1. Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and stir in the oil and enough water to form a smooth batter that coats the back of the spoon.
  2. Beat the egg whites until stiff, then fold into the batter with a metal spoon.
  3. Dip the fish in the batter and coat thoroughly.
  4. Deep fry in hot oil.
To make the Chips (French Fries)
  1. Cut peeled potatoes into chip shapes and soak in cold water, then dry thoroughly.
  2. Deep-fry in hot oil for approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Drain on absorbent kitchen towel.
  4. Just before serving, return to the hot oil and deep-fry for 1-2 minutes until crisp and golden.
  5. Drain and serve with fried fish.
The fish and chips can be served with fresh lemon wedges, parsley and tartare sauce, but traditionally would always be served with salt and brown malt vinegar. The newspaper is no longer considered a good idea!

Friday, August 3, 2007

How to Devein Shrimps or Prawns

What is the difference between a and a ? The terms shrimps and prawns used in the fish trade have no scientific basis. They are usually no more than an indication of the size of some of the 2,000 - 3,000 known species. Shrimp is usually the term applied to small prawns with over 100 to a pound in weight. Most of these are deep-sea creatures. The Gray or Brown Shrimp and the East Asian King Prawn live in shallow coastal waters. In addition to subdivisions based on size and depth of water, there is also a distinction between warm and cold-water prawns. Cold water prawns are better quality and, therefore, more expensive.

On top of this confusion, the use of the terms shrimp and prawn is not consistent throughout the world. They are usually sorted and named by their size but the system is different in Britain, Europe and the United States. The only point common to all of them is that extremely large prawns are sold as giant, king or tiger prawns.

Whether you are buying shrimps or prawns, you still have to figure out how to prepare them. You can buy them in most supermarkets either cooked, uncooked, with shell on or simply tail on, but there is no doubt that shrimp with the shell still in tact add more flavor to a recipe.

Some supermarkets will devein the raw shrimp for you, but if not, you can make your work easy with a simple shrimp deveiner like the one shown here. This is a relatively inexpensive tool and comes in handy for many preparation jobs.

To use the deveiner on raw shrimp, first run a sharp knife down its back, exposing the vein, then push the shrimp deveiner along the back, removing the vein, then rinse under cold water. This leaves the shell still in tact with the vein removed ready to add to your lobster boil, or paella recipe.

If using on cooked shrimp, first cook the shrimp. Then, if their heads are still attached, remove them. Hold the shrimp under running water and peel off the shell working toward the tail. Push the shrimp deveiner along the back, and they are ready to use in your favorite shrimp cocktail. Shrimp deveiners like the one shown here can be found in the Gourmet Fusion store, along with many other useful seafood tools.