On the National Menu -- October 2010
Cookie Monster's Delight
Cookies are the newest upscale dessert confection. From the recently opened Cookie Bar in Chicago to chefs' specials in Indianapolis restaurants to fancy cookie recipes in L.A., the cookie has become an 'in' trend on dessert menus across the country. Thus, from its humble, bake-sale beginnings, the cookie takes on a new audience. Flavors such as cardamom crunch, balsamic caramel and potato chip chocolate chip have gained fans everywhere, reports the Indianapolis Star (August 20, 2010).
Going one step further, everyone loves that delicious combination of flavor and texture known as the ice cream sandwich (usually a cookie with ice cream filling). Long a favorite of young and old alike, due to its simplicity and portability, the treat has appeared in many manifestations over the years. Now, ChocolateBox Cafe, located at the Malibu Lumber Yard, infuses the best of French and Italian gourmet desserts to create the Gelato Macaroon Sandwich. Made with imported gelato sandwiched between Parisian-baked macaroons, it is the ultimate dessert treat.
Invented in ChocolateBox's kitchen, patrons are invited to first choose their macaroon flavor (choices include pistachio, vanilla, chocolate, raspberry and blackcurrant) and then the gelato or sorbet filling to best compliment the macaroon and satisfy individuals' taste buds. Seasonal Italian fruit, fresh whole milk and whipped cream egg yolk go into the gelato, and the sorbets contain no dairy, says ChocolateBox. A rotation of 20 flavors are served daily, so repeat costumers can 'customize' a new treat with each visit.
The Jubilee, Black Diamond, Georgia Rattlesnake and the Charleston Grey are out; the Precious Petite and Orchid Sweet are in...as watermelon varieties being grown on U.S. farms. The New York Times (August 18, 2010) reports more and more large breeds of watermelon are giving way to smaller, more portable ones. In fact, the hefty, old-fashioned, seeded melons now only grow in a few choice fields.
Consumers still want a watermelon that is exceptionally sweet and extra juicy, but a good watermelon also must ship well--which means a thicker rind and a uniform, rounder shape. It must be able to fit in a small grocery cart, so city stores will stock it. And, it cannot have seeds. Only about two out of every 10 watermelons sold in the U.S. have seeds, according to the Times article.
Thus, hybrid triploids, like the dark green Sugar Babies, are the future for many watermelon farmers. This is bittersweet for people who remember (and prefer) the traditional, gargantuan melons of days gone by. In fact, in Hope, Ark., giant melons are celebrated at its annual Watermelon Festival in mid-August. Patrons still have fond memories of the heavy, oblong watermelons--some that grew over 2ft long and weighed more than 50lbs.
For the farmer, the appeal of smaller watermelons is primarily economic. According to Dr. Terry Kirkpatrick, professor of plant pathology at The University of Arkansas, an acre of 'personal' (i.e., smaller-sized) melons might yield 65,000-80,000lbs, whereas the large varieties will only produce about 40,000lbs. And, the smaller melons sell in city groceries and farmers' markets, where they more easily fit in consumers' refrigerators.