Whiskey and chocolate: the next big food pairing?

whiskey chocolateWhiskey and chocolate are two of my favorite things — but together? I was suspicious. That is, until I attended a pairing event at Union Square Wines here in New York City, hosted by Pacari Chocolate and Compass Box Whisky. Somehow, the flavors came together perfectly, and not just because of my whiskey buzz and sugar high (though those were there too).

The tasting consisted of five pairings, some traditional and others more off-beat. The one that blew me away was a pairing of the award-winning Hedonism, a vanilla and toffee-flavored Scotch grain whisky blend, with Pacari’s Amazonian Lemongrass chocolate. When the high citrus notes of the chocolate hit the sweetness of the whiskey a whole other flavor emerged, which lingered nicely in my mouth for quite some time.

Another popular pairing was Compass Box’s Orangerie, a Scotch whisky infused with hand-zested orange, cassia bark and clove, with Pacari’s Aji Chili-Coriander Spiced Chocolate. The sweet and the spicy came together just right and the coriander added an extra kick.One reason the pairing event worked so well is that both Pacari and Compass Box are artisan brands. Pacari is the first single-origin organic chocolate produced entirely in Ecuador with biodynamically-grown ingredients. Compass Box is a boutique Scotch whiskymaker and craft blender, known for blending specially-selected whiskeys from Scotland using natural processes, without chill filtering or artificial coloring. Because both the whiskey and chocolate are produced naturally and in small batches, they are able to retain many of the lipids that get lost in large-scale manufacturing — a big contributor to the flavor explosions I experienced from many of the pairings.

Drooling over your keyboard yet? New York-area foodies hankering for a taste can attend a pairing event on March 27 at the St Giles Hotel New York — The Court. Tickets are $35 and available here.

10 best smartphone apps for food enthusiasts

truxmap smartphone app for foodiesNowadays, there is a smartphone application for anything and everything. Food enthusiasts, wine connisseurs, and beer buffs will love these 10 handy smartphone applications. From beer and meal pairing to restaurant finding to where to eat that spicy burger that Adam Richman inhaled on Man vs. Food last night, there’s an app here for you.

TruxMap

With food trucks being such a popular trend, it’s only right to include a smartphone app that caters to it. This application includes a real time gourmet food truck map for many major cities in the United States, including New York, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Las Vegas and more. Once you download the app, you will first select a city. From there, you will be taken to a map that will show you where food trucks are open at that moment as well as locations that food trucks will be opening soon. Menus, food photos, directions, and the chance to submit your own reviews are other features of this app.

Available on iPhone and Android. Free.
epicurious restaurant finder smartphone app for foodiesEpicurious

Food lovers will enjoy using this app to search, browse, save, and e-mail over 30,000 recipes in their database as well as create shopping lists. Search for ingredients and browse through categories, such as healthy lunches or party snacks, to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Available on iPhone and Android. Free.

Zagat

Zagat is a well-known, trusted source in the world of restaurant recommendations, and their smartphone app brings this and more. While users will be able to browse over 30,000 restaurants to read reviews and ratings, there are other features to this app, as well. GPS allows for the ability to find nearby eateries, while their visual menus give people the chance to actually see photos of what they will be eating. Top Rated Lists, such as Best Burgers and Most Romantic, and the chance to write your own reviews are also available on this app.

Available on iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. $9.99 annually.

OpenTable

This is a great app for those who want to be able to find specific restaurants in their location but don’t want to pay a yearly fee for a smartphone app. OpenTable allows users to search restaurants by name or category, make reservations, view restaurant menus, get directions, and view interactive maps. You can even earn dining points that can be used to earn Dining Cheques for when eating at OpenTable restaurants.

Available on iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. Free.

cor.kz wine smartphone app for foodies Cor.kz

Wine connoisseurs will love this app, which gives users instant access to information on over 1,000,000 bottles of wine. All you have to do is type in the name of a bottle of wine or scan its barcode and the app will supply you with over 2,000,000 ratings and notes on the blend from wine experts. Other features include browsing by region or varietals, seeing Cor.kz staff wine picks, learning popular glossary terms on wine, and a “Daily Sip” magazine column.

Available on iPhone. $2.99.

Beer Hero

Brew lovers out there now have a smartphone app that caters specifically to what they love best, beer! This app not only allows users to read rankings of over 1,000 microbrews across the United States and find local brewpubs, it also helps you pair which food will go best with your beer of choice, and will tell you where nearby you can enjoy this perfect combination.

Available on iPhone ($1.99) and Android ($2.99).

Seafood Watch

This smartphone app was designed by the Montery Bay Aquarium in Montery, California, in order to help users find “up-to-date recommendations for ocean-friendly seafood and sushi”. Read reviews and ratings from others as well as post your own. Other features of this eco-friendly app include information on how different menu items should be fished or farmed, health guides, and GPS integration to allow for pertinent regional guides for users.

Available on iPhone and Android. Free.

tv food maps smartphone app for foodiesTVFoodMaps

The Travel Channel and Food Network come to together in this app to help users find the restaurants and eateries they see on their favorite TV shows, such as Man vs. Food, Best Thing I Ever Ate, Drive-Ins and Dives, and more. Find restaurants nearby, read reviews, get directions, and, when available, watch TV clips from the restaurant on YouTube.

Available on iPhone and Android. Free.

Tipping Bird

It can often be confusing knowing when to tip and how much when traveling. This app takes care of that for you by allowing users to choose the region they are in and get recommendations from the app on what the tipping etiquette is for different situations, including restaurants, bars, hotels, taxis, and travel tours. This app will also convert your home currency to the currency of your destination and calculate the tip for you. No thinking involved.

Available on Android. Free.

MyFitnessPal

For those who love food, this smartphone app makes it easy to indulge without going overboard. The app has a database of over 1,185,000 foods and restaurants to search nutrition facts, and allows you to log what you’ve eaten as well as your exercise for the day.

Available on iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. Free.

Turkish tea truck offers Istanbul version of food truck trend

tea truckThe food truck craze is nothing new to many Americans. Long a popular foodie option in New York, Los Angeles, and even Cleveland, it’s a food trend that’s constantly evolving to bring new ideas and tastes to the, er, table. The Turkish food blog Istanbul Eats, who launched a book version last year and now offer food tours of the city, spotted a very local version of the mobile eatery trend along the Golden Horn. They posted a few photos of Mehmet Abi’s çay kamyon (that’s tea truck in Turkish) on their Facebook page this week, complete with a seating area for sipping a hot glass. You can find Mehmet’s truck parked by the Karakoy mosque near the hardware market at the Galata Bridge, ask around for the Perşembe Pazarı (Thursday market) to find it.

Turkish çay is already quite mobile. Around Istanbul, you’ll spot men carrying trays of glasses to deliver to local businesses, the empty glasses are later collected or returned to the çay shops. And while coffee chains like Starbucks and Gloria Jean’s are quite popular in Turkey, you won’t find Turks drinking çay out of paper cups, the honor system works well for to-go orders as well.

While the food truck craze as we know it has yet to hit Istanbul, Turkish food is going mobile in other places. Pera Turkish Tacos launched late last year outside the former Tavern on the Green space in Manhattan and recently became the first food cart in the city to get a liquor license.

‘Thirsty Dudes’ drink up beverages from all over the world

Tired of drinking the same old stuff? Three Thirsty Dudes are on a liquid journey to taste test the world’s refreshments, one beverage at a time. Together, the team of Buffalo natives has reviewed over 1,200 drinks, ranging from mass produced soda pop and iced tea to more obscure drinks that fall into categories such as ‘chunky drinks’ and ‘elixir.’ They’re like foodies, except they steer clear of solids.

“I love when I go into what appears to be a run down corner store and it ends up being a beverage Mecca,” writes beverage buff Jason Draper on a recent review of Jarritos Pineapple, a soft drink from Mexico. Along with friends Mike Literman and Derek Neuland, the team has tackled drinks from six continents.

Some of my favorite reads were of Wonderfarm White Fungus Bird’s Nest Drink, a strange liquid described as “what the water looks like after you spit out a loogie while brushing your teeth,” and Taiwan’s Hey Song Shaking Jelly Soda, a half liquid, half gel concoction. “It’s like someone poured a nice half glass of sparkling white grape juice, then they filled the rest with unflavored Jell-O that wasn’t completely solidified yet,” writes Draper, with Literman (who pried open his can with a pair of pliers to get to the good stuff) adding: “Now I have a cup of just amber colored sludge and I’m loving it.”

Whether they are gagging on vinegar drinks or sipping down a refreshing workout drink, reviews by the Thirsty Dudes are written with humor and honesty. Check their website to see if they’ve reviewed your favorite regional drink – and if not, send the boys a care package and they’ll be more than happy to give it a go. The only think these Thirsty Dudes don’t throw down the hatch is alcohol; this trio of daring, drink devouring fellas is completely straight edge.

[Photo courtesy the Thirsty Dudes]

Photo of the day – Walk this way in Malaysia

Photo of the day
Today’s

Photo of the Day is from Malacca, Malaysia, a nice slice-of-life from Flickr user Don Wright of a local family out on a walk. We’re intrigued right now with Malacca after following the tweets and dispatches of the bloggers at Eating Asia, who are currently eating their way through Malacca. Malaysia is becoming increasingly well-known as a culinary hotspot and with colorful lakma, homemade fruit tarts, and lots of fresh seafood to eat still at bargain prices, it’s sure to become more popular with foodie travelers. Perhaps the little girl above is pointing the way to the next hot restaurant.

Taken any trips to up-and-coming destinations? Share them with us by adding them to the Gadling Flickr pool and we may choose it for a future Photo of the Day.