Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2013, 10:38 am

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Bushra Tayh, btayh@qconline.com

Beat the winter blues at Isle of Capri's Winterfest
This Sunday, Jan. 27, spend an afternoon watching talented award-winning chefs from Chicago, Des Moines and the Quad Cities--including Matt Meadows and Jason Gomez of the Isle of Carpi--compete at the Winterfest Competition at the Isle of Capri in Bettendorf from 1-5 p.m.
View amazing creations in candies, celebration cakes, wedding cakes, centerpieces and ice carving. Sample chili from Calypsos, Banquets, Farraddays' and Tradewinds. Vote for your favorite; proceeds from the chili voting will benefit Honor Flight of the Quad Cities.
The ice carving competition starts at 1 p.m. in the courtyard behind the hotel. The winner will be announced at 5 p.m. Enjoy complimentary hot cocoa at an outdoor cocoa bar and stay warm by outdoor fire pits while you watch professional carvers from all over the Midwest.
This event is open to all ages. Seating is limited. Tickets are free and can be obtained at the IsleOne Guest Service Center, Java Bay Trading in the hotel, or online. For more information, visit theislebettendorf.com.

Mr. Tidbit: Melting away
Mr. Tidbit stumbled upon Hershey's new Baking Melts, subtitled "chocolate baking pieces," too late to rush the news into discerning kitchens in time for the annual Christmas cookie frenzy, but maybe that's just as well. They are still a little hard to find — and, Mr. Tidbit must say, a little confusing.
A video at Hershey's website suggests the quarter-size Melts (milk chocolate or semisweet) can be used anywhere you might use chocolate chips — cookies, bars and so on. But it's pretty vague about why you would want to do so, noting only if you use Melts "You'll get an equally delicious but slightly different result." (Nowhere is it suggested they taste any different, and they don't.) In discussing Melts, both the bag and the website refer to "chocolate layers."
Mr. Tidbit's best guess at what all of that means is this: The Melt notably is wider (but thinner) than a chocolate chip, so if your cookie contains fairly few, Melts' wide little stripes of chocolate would increase the probability that a given bite will contain some chocolate. But if you pack your cookies full of chips (or Melts), that distinction disappears.
So what's the real difference between Hershey's chocolate chips and its new Baking Melts? Oh, go on — guess!
Correct! They cost more. The shelf price of Melts where Mr. Tidbit found them was the same as that of Hershey's chips, but the bag of chips contains 12 ounces; the bag of Melts is 10 ounces. (That's a 20 percent higher price per ounce.)
-- Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

((with StrawberryPanini.jpg, #200304))
Easy Recipe: Strawberry Mascarpone Panini
Yield: 4 servings
8 slices fresh bread (1/2 inch thick)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 pound Florida strawberries, hulled and sliced thin
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Heat a panini press or griddle over medium heat. Spread a thin layer of mascarpone on top of each bread slice. Add an even layer of strawberries to 4 bread slices. Use the other 4 slices of bread to top the sandwiches. Brush sandwiches with butter and grill or press until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer panini to cutting board and dust with confectioners' sugar. Serve warm.
-- GateHouse News Service