According To Science, White Wine Is Better With Cheese

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By Cooking Panda

When we close our eyes and imagine ourselves tucking in with a loved one to a charcuterie board paired with wine, we immediately envision ourselves in a dimly lit room, popping lactic pills with — you guessed it — a glass of red on the table.

Red wine has earned itself a pretty strong reputation over the years for its health benefits and antioxidant properties. And let’s face it: it looks dang sexy in a glass.

However, some research has slowly but steadily been demonstrating that white wine itself has vindication — possibly even superior — qualities.

Per Munchies, the Centre for Taste and Feeding Behavior has released an article titled “Use of Multi-Intake Temporal Dominance of Sensations to Evaluate the Influence of Cheese on Wine Perception.”

Essentially, the researchers confirm that anybody who chooses a glass of white wine to sip on with their cheese is doing it right, because apparently, it appears to pair better with our favorite dairy product than does red wine.

Thirty-one participants took three sips each of Pacherenc, Sancerre, Bourgogne and Madiran wines. Next, they were instructed to imbibe those same wines, only to intersperse their sipping with bites of Epoisses, Comte, Roquefort and Crottin de Chavignol in between.

Ugh. What we wouldn’t give to have been participants in a study such as this one…

The scientists then used a method called multi-intake temporal dominance of sensations (TDS), which prompted participants to first associate the taste in their mouth with a word projected on a screen, and then redraft their associations as the taste evolved. Next, participants subjectively rated the wine, by itself and then paired with the cheeses.

The results? White wines were perceived as more refreshing, pleasant, and less astringent than reds were when consumed with cheese. The cheeses also apparently tasted better when paired with the white wines than they did all on their own (although we would never turn down cheese… ever…)

“This protocol could be a first approach toward developing an interesting tool for the food sector which would help to better understand perception of the impact of one food product on another, leading eventually to a better description of a whole meal,” states the article, according to Munchies.

Sources: Munchies, KQED Food / Photo Credit: Artisanal Cheese

Tags: charcuterie, cheese, pairing, red wine, Taste Test, white wine
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Here It Is: The Best Canned Pumpkin For Your Pie

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By Cooking Panda

Pumpkins may be orange like Donald Trump’s tan, but I think it is safe to say that they are certainly not quite as divisive as he is. On the whole, the majority of Americans appreciate the special gourds for what they are: delicious in many forms.

Many people customarily enjoy pumpkin pie around the holidays, and if you are planning on making the staple treat this year, you’ll probably need to pick up a pie or two’s worth of the canned stuff. It’s easy, pre-pureed, and usually ends up being pretty dang tasty.

So which brand of canned pumpkin should you spend your money on?

Luckily, our pals over at Cooking Illustrated took on the task of sampling three widely available canned pumpkin products to break it down. Which variety reigns elite? And which one fails to live up to its competitors?

The three different brands varied both in hue and texture; some looked bright orange, as we are accustomed to pumpkin-products looking; others looked anemic. Some were more pulpy, while others offered taste-testers more of a baby-food-like mouthfeel (yuck).

Ultimately, between the three contenders, Libby’s, One-Pie and Farmer’s Market Organic Pumpkin, one was crowned the obvious winner.

Folks, get yourself over to a store and pick up a can of Libby’s.

According to the testers, Libby’s won because it had a silky and smooth consistency (which is just what you want when digging your fork into a nice, comforting slice of beautiful pumpkin pie) and a subtle sweetness that did not overpower anybody’s palate.

Apparently, Libby’s uses Dickinson pumpkins, which are largely recommended because they boast both a tender flesh and a natural sweet flavor profile, which doesn’t need additional additives to make it taste good.

Thankfully, you probably won’t have to search too hard to find yourself a can of Libby’s — the brand makes 85 percent of the world’s canned pumpkins, which means that even if you have no luck in your first grocery store, you should be able to snag yourself a can or two easily, no matter where you live.

Sources: Cooks Illustrated / Photo Credit: Cooks Illustrated

Tags: canned pumpkin, libby's, pumpkin, Pumpkin Pie, Taste Test
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We Try: Every Single Flavor Of Quest Bars

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By Cooking Panda

If you are a member of either an online or real-life fitness community, you have probably heard about Quest Bars before. The wildly popular brand (which grew a staggering 57,000% in its first three years, reports Food Business News) has generated a lot of buzz, and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.

First of all, their nutritional profiles are pretty hard to beat: each bar boasts a high protein and fiber content, making them a smart post-workout snack or meal-replacement. Secondly (and arguably more importantly): they taste good, ya’ll. 

As of May 12, Quest Nutrition offers 18 different flavors of Quest Bars, and so in the name of health and “science”, we hunkered down to present you with our official taste test and ranking of every single flavor.

Without further ado…

Last Place (#18): Cinnamon Roll


We’ll get the ball rolling with what is sure to be an unpopular opinion, but we found this one to be vile. Granted, we’re probably the only two people in the world who have marked dislikes for cinnamon buns (and really all cinnamon-flavored treats), so this bar never really had a chance. But we’re the taste testers, so: we don’t care!

#17: Lemon Cream Pie


Definitely more citrusy than lemony. While we appreciate that it didn’t taste artificial, it was still just sort of dull and unmemorable.

#16: Banana Nut Muffin

Like most people, we can get down for a piece banana bread — but not when it comes in the form of a protein bar. We’ll award it some points for its soft texture, but something about the flavor profile here tasted bizarre and ultimately unappetizing.

#15: Mixed Berry Bliss


Soft, and jam-packed with loads of freeze-dried berries. Each bite delivered a surprising amount of flavor, but the bar was hardly memorable.

#14: Apple Pie

In its natural form, this bar was unremarkable, but stick it in the microwave for 10 seconds, and it transforms into something truly reminiscent of the real thing (right down to the little chunks of apple in it).

#13: Peanut Butter Supreme


As a huge fan of peanut butter, I was positive I would like this one. While it was hefty and had real, intact peanuts, it tasted nothing at all like peanut butter. Pass.

#12: Coconut Cashew


We were both expecting this thing to be as dry as Steven Wright’s sense of humor, but it was actually pleasantly chewy and steered clear of the over-the-top sweet profile sometimes associated with coconut-flavored treats (Almond Joys, we’re side-eyeing you).

#11: Vanilla Almond Crunch


This somehow managed to taste like if one of those sweet-smelling soap bars fell into a vat of spray tan. So, you know. If that’s your thing…

#10: Strawberry Cheesecake


For lack of a better word, we found this to be the most gooey of all the flavors. It was extremely malleable, and tasted more sweet and gritty than cheesecake-y.

#9: Chocolate Peanut Butter


Again — where did the peanut butter go? What is going on? Why does this bar taste so much more synthetic and chewy than its other relatively non-chunky counterparts?

#8: White Chocolate Raspberry


This bar is very soft, and to Quest’s credit, they do not skimp on the white chocolate chunks. That being said, the bar has that particular fake, fruity flavor to it. If you like white chocolate, this will probably be a hit; if you’re iffy about it like we are, this bar is going to come across as too cloying.

#7: Peanut Butter & Jelly


Since we were united in our opinion that the other peanut-centric flavors were disappointing, we weren’t expecting much from classic ol’ PB&J. Credit where credit is due, though: Quest nailed it with this one. I am pretty staunchly in the strawberry>grape jelly camp, so this bar brought me right back to my childhood. It was soft, crunchy and infused with just enough sweetness.

#6: Cookies & Cream


Yup. This works. Our only tip is to limit yourself to one, because Quest bars have a way of forming into cement blobs at the bottom of your stomach if you attempt to eat more. Our friend told us so.

#5: Chocolate Brownie

This is the only non-chunky flavor that breaks the top 5, and that is because it is awesome. It has a dense texture, reminiscent of chocolate cake, and the cocoa flavor is decadent and satisfying.

#4: Mint Chocolate Chunk


This is essentially a giant Thin Mint, except with lots of protein, and generous amounts of minty bits that look so vibrant and green.

#3: Double Chocolate Chunk


Chocolate on chocolate — this is the closest to a candy bar you’re likely to get, and we’re not complaining.

#2: S’mores


Texture, texture, texture. The graham-cracker flavored base is soft and rich, broken up with bits of what seem like real graham crackers, large chocolate chunks, and some white yummy mystery specks we assume are meant to represent marshmallows. 

#1: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough


The undisputed winner by far. Too often have we tried cookie-dough-flavored treats only to find them lacking in flavor, texture, and general pleasure. Not so with this bar: It’s chunky, chewy, sweet, comforting and somehow good for you. 

Just take a look inside:

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Credit: Food Business News / Photo credit: Quest Nutrition, Brownie Bites, Quest Nutrition/Facebook

Tags: protein, quest bars, ranking, Taste Test
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We Try: Puerto Rican Cuisine

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By Cooking Panda

If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s travel with no regards to moderation, my health or — apparently — the sun (I am rocking a nasty full-body burn right now). 

Luckily, I know this about myself, and was therefore reasonably assured that I would be able to taste-test a respectable variety of foods and drinks during my three-day vacation in Puerto Rico — and then write about the experience.

Here’s some background information:

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is an island and unincorporated U.S. territory, found just east of the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Sea. Before visiting, I knew about Puerto Rico for its white-sand beaches and affinity for Rum (yum). Those who are more educated than I was, however, will know that PR is also famous for its food. Although Puerto Rican cooking is in many ways similar to Spanish, Cuban and Mexican cuisine, it is also a unique blend of Spanish, African, Taino, and American influences.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, here are my favorites of the Puerto Rican dishes, drinks and snacks I was able to try:

Frituras/Cuchifrito

Frituras is the generic term for fried treats, and they were sold everywhere. We found them as appetizers and at little street vendors on the side of the road; some were stuffed with cheese or meat, while others were thin, traditional finger-foods.

Almojabanas

Although it isn’t strictly Puerto Rican, my personal favorite was the Almojabana. Typically enjoyed with a cup of coffee in the morning, Almojabanas are small, gluten free (!) bread rolls found throughout Latin America, especially in Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Panama. Made with cheese and cornmeal, their sweet, crispy exterior gives way to a soft and cheesy center, and eating these made me feel like I was being greeted by a hug — welcome to San Juan! I’ve been back home for less than 24 hours and have already scouted out a local bakery that serves up a similar roll — “pan de bono” — in my neighborhood, so I can keep getting my breakfast fix.

Cafe con Leche

Considering that PR is America’s leading coffee producer, it should come as no great shock that the three variations I tried in PR blew me away. While I was able to enjoy a cup of it black (the taste was powerful yet soft, and had mild but fragrant sweetness), my fellow taste-testers raved about the cafe con leche. It was similar to a latte, but seemed to involve a large dollop of frothed, sweet milk in a larger cup.

Tostones (pictured here sandwiched between ceviche and quinoa salad)

There is only one thing that could get me to swear off french fries for life without regressing into my 7-year-old, tantrum-throwing form, and that is tostones. Traditionally served as either an appetizer or a side dish, these little discs are twice-fried plantain slices, and make a great conduit for transporting generous dollops of different sauces and condiments into your mouth. They’re golden brown and crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and are sprinkled with just enough salt to make them flavorful without being overpowering. When given the choice, I ordered these with every meal, and I’ve been scouring the internet for recipes ever since returning.

Mofongo

Before I left, I asked a few Puerto Rican friends to recommend their favorite dish, and every single one of them told me to try mofongo. Essentially, mofongo is a mashed mound of plantains (usually flavored with garlic) that serves as a sort of subtly sweet and fried edible bowl. As if that weren’t enough (I like the idea of dishware you can use and then consume), the starchy mound is commonly filled with a combination of seafood, meat, or vegetables, and drizzled with a warm broth, making it something of a national staple amidst a wide assortment of local food offerings.

Ceviche

Seeing as Puerto Rico is an island right in the middle of the Caribbean, it follows that seafood and shellfish are amongst the most common and tasty things to eat there (even though much of the seafood is imported). I had both a shrimp ceviche (light, flavorful and refreshing) and a conch ceviche served inside a “1/2 avocado” which was probably the size of my five-year-old niece’s head. 10/10, would attempt to devour again.

Medalla Light

The Compania Cervecera de Puerto Rico is one of two breweries in Puerto Rico, and its main brand is Medalla Light. I don’t think I went to a single establishment that didn’t offer up this beer.  The taste, smell, and feel are all what you would expect from a light lager, and it was highly, highly drinkable. As in I didn’t have any qualms downing one after the other in rapid succession as I got sunburnt lounging by the ocean — the booze-buzz, at least, helped to temporarily mask the searing pain. 

Pina Colada

Rupert Holmes knew what he was talking about: I actually tried my first Pina Colada after being caught in the rain on the beach in Rincon. I am not a particular fan of creamy coconut flavor profiles, so this was a pass for me, but come on: I wasn’t about to go to PR and not sample at least three different rum-based cocktails. As a fellow traveler noted:

“The best part about rum punch happy hours in Puerto Rico is that they are much longer than an hour.”

Turron de Ajonjoli 

I flew out of Rincon back to San Juan in a tiny plane that boasted a total capacity of around eight passengers. Because only four of us were flying that trip, our pilot introduced himself personally to each of us… and immediately recoiled when he got to me. Perhaps it was all the drinking and sunbathing, but three days in PR left me with a stuffed nose, a blocked ear, unwashed hair, and a pretty remarkable sunburn. As a consolation prize — or maybe because I just looked truly pitiful — he gave me a Turron de Ajonjoli at the end of the flight, and then recommended his favorite brand of aloe for my nose (thanks, pal).

The bar itself looks like a small, rectangular tablet, and has a strong, almost savory, sesame smell. I’ve had more brittle sesame snacks before (my old, wheezy babysitter used to keep a stash in her purse), but these roasted sesame seeds seemed to be held together with a sweet, caramelized brown sugar and biting into the bar was very soft. It left a pleasant and comforting goodbye-taste of Puerto Rico in my mouth.

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Photo credit: chalmerman/Instagram, Pac, Food Network (2)

Tags: pina colada, puerto rico, rincon, san juan, Taste Test
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