Tag Archives: Chocolate

Graeter’s Great ‘Scream — Midwest Team Takes On NYC

Graeter's 'Scream

Selection of Graeter’s ‘Scream

Graeter’s Ice Cream is not entirely new to me. My sister-in-law in grew up in Cincinnati, home to this fourth-generation family-owned churner, and has been speaking the praises of Graeter’s for years.  But until recently native fans had to rely on mail order if they  hoped to find their favorite treat outside of the midwest and I could only sample their scoops on return trips home to Michigan. Good news for NYers {and me}: last week I received an email announcing these infamous midwest-made pints are taking on the NYC artisanal food scene and will be available in all D’Agostino stores.

This announcement also offered to ship a few fan favs my way for a taste test. I, of course, didn’t want to be rude and decline such a thoughtful offer. And so arrived four frozen flavs — Chocolate, Chocolate Chip, Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip, Mint Chocolate Chip and the Ohio State-inspired Buckeye Blitz {chocolate-peanut butter ice cream chock full of peanut butter cookie dough}.

Graeter's Famous Massive Chocolate Chips

Graeter’s Famous Massive Chocolate Chips

The verdict of the taste test? As a Notre Dame alum, you’ll never hear me speaking the praises of the Ohio State Buckeyes, but in this non-football face-off, the Buckeye Blitz outperformed the rest of the competition in my book. You’ll never hear me turn down anything with peanut butter. The good news is the win was not a landslide — every single pint exceeded expectations. What really set these scoops apart was not some off the wall flavor combination like bacon and bourbon {which seems to be what all the new fangled ice cream kids are making these days}, but the simple quality of good ingredients. It only takes one bite of their massive — and I mean MASSIVE — chocolate chunks to know exactly what I mean. They aren’t hard, break-your-teeth, frozen bits of pseudo-chocolate — they’re soft, gooey, pieces of fudgey heaven. And this is coming from a girl who is not a chocolate addict.

It’s nice to see hometown heros moving to the big city. And while I’ve lived here for over 10 years, and have some favorite frozen finds, I am 100% cheering for this new line-up — the sampling won’t end after these pints are empty.

More ‘Scream Teams:
SF Best: Bi-Rite Ice Cream Done Right
I Scream, You Scream For MilkMade Handcrafted Ice Cream
Victory Garden: A Victorious Frozen Yogurt Twist
Goat Town’s Non-*Goat* ‘Scream

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recipe goodness :: mastering the art of julia child’s chocolate mousse #JC100

Julia Child's Chocolate Mousse Bowls

This is the first recipe I’m sharing from the 100 days of Julia Child celebration.

In the words of Juuuuulia:
among all the recipes for chocolate mousse, this one is the best.

With two sous chefs by my side {thank you KMR and SKW} we masterfully whipped up this mousse in record speed — one on chocolate duty, one on egg creaming duty and the other on dish duty {a lot of bowls got egg on their face with all the separating, creaming, melting, folding that takes place}. While the mousse took a bit of symphonic precision in bringing together several separate movements in perfect timing, we found this recipe to be relatively easy to master as long as you prepare and measure out your ingredients into prep bowls before beginning. The only other recommendation I would make is to test this recipe with less sugar {or bittersweet chocolate instead of semi-sweet}. I have a savory tooth in general, but the crowd concurred that this meal-ender was a little too sweet — chalk that up to the French way of cooking.

Julia Child’s Chocolate Mousse 

Makes 6 small dessert bowls {or 12 if you want to limit your sweet intake}

4 egg yolks separated, whites reserved
3/4 cups sugar {I recommend trying to cut out 1/4 cup}
1/4 cup orange liqueur

6 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate {or try bittersweet}
4 tablespoons, room temp strong coffee
6 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely zested or chopped orange peel {optional}

4 egg whites
pinch of sugar

1/2 pint heaving whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
fresh in-season berries

  1. Measure everything into prep bowls before beginning to make this multi-step process seamless {especially if you don’t have sous chefs!}
  2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until mixture is thick, pale yellow, and falls back upon itself forming a slowly dissolving ribbon. Beat in the orange liqueur.
  3. Then set mixing bowl over the not­ quite simmering water and continue beating for 3 to 4 minutes until the mixture is foamy and too hot for your finger.
  4. Then beat over a cold water pot for 3 to 4 minutes until the mixture is cool and again forms the ribbon. It will have the consistency of mayonnaise.
  5. Melt chocolate with coffee in a separate bowl over hot water. Remove from heat and beat in the butter a bit at a time, to make a smooth cream.
Steps 2-5: Melt and Creaming

Steps 2-5: Melt and Creaming

  1. Beat the chocolate into the egg yolks and sugar, then beat in the optionaì orange peel.
chocolate + butter

chocolate + butter

  1. Beat the egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.
  2. Stir one fourth of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the rest.
  3. Turn into serving dish, dessert cups, or petits pots. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

whip and fold

  1. When ready to serve beat whipping cream and vanilla until thick enough to hold a peak. Serve in a separate bowl. Serve with fresh seasonal berries.
Julia Child's Chocolate Mousse

Julia Child’s Chocolate Mousse

Excerpted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Copyright © 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Channeling My Inner Juuuuulia:
Do This!: Celebrate Julia Child’s 100th Birthday 

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recipe goodness: millionaire’s shortbread worth a billion bucks

Millionaire's Shortbread: Perfect Bite-Sized Treat

One of my favorite places to find recipe inspiration is on food52 — a site created by two friends, Merrill Stubbs and Amanda Hesser, who wanted a place to showcase the best of home cooks. In looking for a winning holiday dessert that could easily be devoured in one bite while balancing a glass of bubbly, I came across Merrill’s recipe for Millionaire’s Shortbread. If you’re money hungry this dessert will sweeten the deal. It’s made with very few simple ingredients, can be made at least a day ahead of time and is worth its weight in gold when these little bites fly off the silver platter into your guests’ hands.

Millionaire’s Shortbread 

Serves 16-32 | Courtesy of Merrill Stubbs

Shortbread:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

For the caramel and chocolate:
1¼ cups sugar
¼ cup water
5 tablespoons heavy cream
5 tablespoons salted butter, cubed
1 tablespoon crème fraiche

½ cup heavy cream
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
Maldon, grey or smoked sea salt

  1. Put a rack in the center of the oven and heat it to 350 degrees. Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl and whisk in the sugar.
  2. Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the flour, stirring with a fork to make a soft dough. Gently pat the dough into a 9-inch square baking pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until it is golden and no longer looks at all wet. Set aside to cool while you make the caramel and chocolate topping.
  3. To make the caramel: Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, swirling occasionally until the sugar has melted but without stirring. Simmer for about 10 minutes, swirling the pot every once and a while, until the sugar turns a dark amber color. Do not let it get too dark, or it will taste burnt.
  4. As soon as the sugar reaches the right color, remove it from the heat and carefully add the cream, whisking all the time (the mixture will bubble up as you do this, so use an oven mitt or a long-handled whisk). Whisk in the butter gradually and then the crème fraiche. Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. When the caramel is cool enough to touch, pour it evenly over the shortbread, tipping the pan gently and tapping it on the counter to get rid of any bubbles. Put in the fridge to firm up a little.
  6. To make the chocolate: When the caramel has firmed up a bit, bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Off the heat, immediately whisk in the chocolate until smooth and shiny. Let the mixture cool for about 5 minutes, and then pour over the caramel, again tilting the pan and tapping it against the counter to smooth it out. Let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes, until the chocolate starts to firm up a little.
  7. To finish, Sprinkle the top with coarse salt and refrigerate until firm enough to cut into squares, at least 3 hours.
  8. When ready to serve, cut into 4×4 squares or cut each square in half diagonally to double the number of servings. These bites are so rich, I prefer to serve them this way and let the party come back for more.

Other Bite-Sized Party Pleasers:
Inside-Out Scotch Eggs w/ Ground Lamb, Harissa Yolk & Panko Gremolata
Cinnamon Sugar & Dark Cocoa Almonds
Mini Wild Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie w/ Scotch!
Union Square Bar Roasted Rosemary Nuts
Flaky Cheese Straws, As Easy As Being Barefoot 

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Do This!: Fall Cheese and Chocolate Extravaganza

Jessica Wurwarg Shares Some Great Pairing Information

Fall Cheese and Chocolate Extravaganza!

When: Saturday October 15
8:00 p.m. until the cheese and chocolate runs out…

Where: MikNic Lounge
200 Columbia St. between Sackett and Degraw
phone: 917 770-1984

What: Free Tasting {yes, FREE}
Learn about a selection of amazing cheeses and chocolates and how to pair  them with wines, beers or spirits
Did I mention it’s FREE? So get there early before the supply runs out!
Local artist, Chris Mancuso, will also be doing an on-the-spot painting.

Jessica Wurwarg (Cheese Guru)
Colleen Riley (Sweets Master)

Miki Mosman (Miknic proprietor)

RSVP to wurwarg@gmail.com so they can make sure to have enough good bites on hand.

Public Transit Directions: Take the B61 Bus or the F to Bergen or Carroll.

See Amazing Past Cheese Events with Jessica:
Historic India House Shares Spectacular Cheese and Space
Do This!: A Taste of What to Expect @ Artisanal Premium Cheese Classes
8.ate@eight #2: Who Cut the Cheese Didn’t Stink!

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Do This!: Vote for The Chocolate Gallery Cafe for Best Breakfast

Strawberry Stuffed French Toast

It’s that time of the year again — I’m calling in all my favors to get you to vote for my Aunt and Uncle’s family-run restaurant, The Chocolate Gallery Cafe, which has been nominated again for Detroit’s Best Breakfast Award.  If you live outside of the Motor City and your first response is “I’ve never eaten there,”  all you have to do is take a look at the picture above to know and trust it is well-deserved.  I’m asking for this favor not only because I think it is THE BEST, but because as a small family-run business, an honor such as this is essential to keeping the coffee flowing and the omelets flipping — so do your part and spread the love!

They have been nominated for and won countless local and national awards, which speaks volumes for the love and passion they pour into their family run business. While The Chocolate Gallery Cafe has been crowned the 1st place winner for the past two years and placed in the top 3 for the past four, it IS the undying energy they pour into their food and service that is the most compelling reason to support, visit and love this family cafe. So read on, drool over the pictures of their food, VOTE and then tell any friends or family you know in Michigan to stop by for a meal they are sure to enjoy!

The Chocolate Gallery Cafe opened its doors over 17 years ago, but got its start even earlier when a love for chocolate and hours of experiments in a home kitchen resulted in the recipe for their famous award-winning Chocolate Buckingham Torte. So rich it has royalty in its name. The award-winning Chocolate Buckingham Torte is layered to perfection, with a chewy brownie bottom, creamy chocolate mousse center all topped off with crunchy English toffee and whipped cream florets that provide the ideal contrast to its other rich layers. The answer to every chocolate lover’s quest for the perfect dessert, this torte is the jewel of my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Chuck’s boutique cafe.

Chocolate Buckingham Torte

With many food fans clamoring for their desserts and a catering business taking off, The Chocolate Gallery decided to settle on a home and open a quaint cafe in Warren, Michigan, where their talents could be showcased and enjoyed on a regular basis — breakfast, lunch or dessert!

And thank goodness, because have you ever had something as delicious as Strawberry Stuffed French Toast (pic at top)? Made from thick cut french bread, stuffed with cream cheese and fresh strawberries, heated to crispy perfection and topped off with a warm homemade strawberry puree — 100% deliciousness!

Not extravagant enough for you? Like the line between breakfast and dessert to be crossed? Not surprising that The Chocolate Gallery Cafe does too! And so was born The Very Berry Stuffed French Toast, topped with a drizzle of premium chocolate and homemade whipped cream.

Very Berry Stuffed French Toast

More of a traditionalist? How about the Fresh Blueberry Pancakes to satisfy your morning sweet tooth? Light and fluffy, they are the perfect breakfast bed for those sweet Michigan blueberries to burst with warmth on.

Fresh Blueberry Pancakes

A Menu Must: And for those of us that are just plain ‘ole egg lovers, The Eggs Benedict is out of this world. Topped with homemade hollandaise sauce and served with a side of cafe potatoes, this savory selection wins my vote.

Eggs Benedict

Hungry yet? Dreaming of breakfast or a sweet treat? Hopefully you live close enough that a visit to The Chocolate Gallery Cafe can be a reality, but if not, for now you can support this sweet cafe with a click of a button and a vote to win Best Breakfast in DetroitThe Chocolate Gallery Cafe is also available for Full Service Catering, Chocolate Fountain Rentals and custom sweet treats, including Truffles and Molded Chocolates.

Map3672 Chicago Road, Warren, Michigan
Reservations: Not Taken (Open Thurs-Sun 8am-2pm)
Phone: 586.979.1140
Photos: John Martin Photography

 

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Barcelona Digested: Food for Foodies

And so comes the end of my Barcelona digestion. The recap of everything there is to love about Mercat de la Boqueria, how chocolate is central to Catalonia and where to go when you want to eat like a local, can only be ended with a summary of the places you must visit if you’re someone like me. Someone who takes more pictures of her food, than any 15th century painting or statue. The best thing about Barcelona is its astounding mix of traditional and avant garde — for that reason, it might just be one of my top 10 favorite cities to eat in.

Tapac 24 {Tapas and Great Breakfast | L’Eixample}
Tapas bar of acclaimed chef Carles Abellan, owner of Comerc 24. Great place to grab a full breakfast if you’re craving more than a typical croissant or boccadillo. It’s just off Passeig de Gracia, so an easy stop in this area before or after you check out the block of discord and Gaudi’s famous architecture. I had the most delightfully crispy edged egg, with a gooey yolk that ran all over a pile of roasted potatoes and chorizo. Um, yes. Why don’t they eat more breakfasts like this in Barcelona?

Breakfast at Tapac 24

Federal {Australian Farm-Fresh & Great Breakfast | Poble Sec}
Poble Sec is a new up and coming area, and is home to some of the best new restaurants {Ferran Adria of El Builli fame just opened Tickets and 41º here}. Federal is Australian-owned and serves an amazing full breakfast, which is hard to find in Boccadillo-loving Barcelona. The kitchen closes at 4pm on Sunday and there is always a wait, so plan to get there no later than 3pm. I had the most amazing coconut-banana bread w/ honey labne and a free-range egg with a yolk the color of a setting sun. Amazing.

Coconut-Banana bread with labne honey

Free range eggs straight from heaven

ABaC {High-End Dining |Tibidabo}
ABaC is the Per Se of Barcelona. Very quiet dining, inventive cuisine, extremely attentive service.  This should be on any high-end dining list and is worth every penny. I’d tell you everything I ate, but would ruin the surprise — just know that there was frozen “lipstick” involved.

ABaC: Maresme peas royal with Iberian consommé and citrics, barnacles and sea cucumber

La Botifarreria de Santa Maria {Spanish Meat Market | Born}
If you’re looking to smuggle some acorn-fed Iberico ham, Serrano ham or sausages in your suitcase, this is your place. If meat is what you’re looking for, come here and take in all the varieties — there’s even a Coca-Cola infused sausage.

Cured Meat!

Honey and Cheese Market {Market}
Stop by this market every other Friday and Saturday outside the Santa Maria del Pi church. Another great place to pick up some local goods for gifts — sample honey from eucalyptus, thyme, oranges, lavender, you name it and pair it perfectly with some delicious local goat and sheep’s cheeses.

Hone and Cheese Market

Other previous written-up foodie favs:

Cacao SampakaArtisanal Chocolates to die for

Mercat de La Boqueria The best market on the planet. Clearly, since it’s in every Barcelona Digestion that I wrote.

Everything you want to read about Barcelona:
Barcelona Digested: Hang with the Locals – Cava and Cafe Catalonian Style
Barcelona Digested: Chocolate Central
Barcelona Digested: Mercat de La Boqueria
recipe goodness :: barcelona favorite recreated | balsamic chick pea salad

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Barcelona Digested: Chocolate Central

When you hear the phrase “spanish cuisine,” it’s likely your first associated thoughts are about tapas, paella, or maybe even Iberico ham. But you should not discount how central chocolate is to the Barcelona food scene. Almost every cafe and even several bars I visited prominently displayed churros and hot chocolate on their menu {a tempting departure from bar nuts}. Artisanal chocolate shops can be found on nearly every winding road. One of my favorite stands at La Boqueria had no less than 100 different bite-sized chocolate confections to savor. And one of the main architectural must-sees, Casa Amatller, was once home to a wealthy family that made their money in the chocolate business. Heck, there’s even a museum dedicated entirely to chocolate. If you are a chocoholic, Barcelona is your city — xocolata bites below…

Cacao Sampaka {SHOP & CAFE | L’Eixample}
Albert Adria
{brother of El Bulli legend, Ferran Adria} may be known for his newly acclaimed Tickets and 41º restaurant and bar combo, but his passion is actually chocolates and Cacao Sampaka is his workshop. It’s only a short walk from the “block of discord” {Casa Amatller, Casa Batllo, Casa Lleo Morera, La Pedrera} and definitely worth the visit, whether you’re looking to pick up a gift or just savor some of the best chocolate bites from cocoa nibs to handcrafted truffles. There’s a cafe in back, but I couldn’t even make it past the walls and tables that allured me with beautiful packaging and inventive flavors. I would have taken some pictures, but I got my hand slapped when I tried. Next best thing: buy some for yourself, be delighted by each perfect little square and then take a picture of the box.

Cacao Sampaka

Casa Amatller {SITE | L’Eixample}

Chocolate Carvings

To the left of Casa Batllo {a Gaudi must-see}, this house has equally as interesting modernist architecture to check out {and it’s free in contrast to the hefty entrance fee at Gaudi’s Casas}. The stonework of this house alludes to the chocolate business and hobbies of the original owners and a small museum inside tells the history of their chocolate trade. When you first walk in, be sure to check out the stonework depicting a monkey making, eating and, ahem, digesting his chocolate {photo to the left}.

Casa Amatller

Mercat de La Boqueria {SHOP | Barri Gotic}
Amongst all the amazing fresh fruits and vegetables, there are also several chocolatiers displaying truffles and chocolate candies in practically any flavor combo you can dream up. I counted over 100 different handcrafted specialties at this stand, which is the first one you’ll see when you enter La Boqueria. Grab a bag, a set of tongs and start nibbling.

Chocolate at La Boqueria

Escriba {SHOP & CAFE | Barri Gotic}
Right outside La Boqueria, this pastry shop sells artisanal chocolates and is known for its Easter cakes and chocolate sculptures. There’s also a small cafe in back, where you can snack on any number of their delights {by now you may be in need of a savory bite to offset all this chocolate — try their outstanding Jamon Iberico croissant}.

Escriba

Cal Pep {RESTAURANT | Born}
One of the best meals I had in Barcelona was at this tiny diner-style, small plates casual seafood restaurant. But it wouldn’t be a complete meal without dessert — Cal’s version of churros and chocolate take the form of doughnut-round churros drenched in a liqueur-spiked, warm chocolate sauce. Delish.

Churros and Chocolate

Museu de la Xocolata {MUSEUM & CAFE | Born}
If you really have your heart set on seeing large sculptures entirely made out of chocolate, add this to your list. I did not find it entirely worth the trip, but for a mere 4euro and a free chocolate bar as your entrance ticket, there’s not much to lose in planning a quick 30 minute stroll through the exhibit. Yes, that is a chocolate version of Sagrada Familia.

Chocolate Sagrada Familia

More Barcelona Digested:
Barcelona Digested: Mercat de La Boqueria
recipe goodness :: barcelona favorite recreated | balsamic chick pea salad
Barcelona Digested: Hang with the Locals – Cava and Cafe Catalonian Style

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Barcelona Digested: Mercat de La Boqueria

Mercat de La Boqueria

There is so much to write about the Barcelona food scene — it is arguably one of the top eating destinations in Europe with a mouth-watering balance of traditional and cutting edge restaurants, cafes and shops to eat your way through. In an effort to fully digest my week in Barcelona, I set out to categorize the best dining experiences and quickly noticed Mercat de La Boqueria was on all of my lists. It is a not only a place to find beautifully vibrant produce, locally sourced butcher stands and mounds of fresh-off-the-boat seafood, but it’s a specialty foodies dream, where one can seek out Iberico cured ham, artisanal chocolates, regional olive oils and spices. La Boqueria even houses a few legendary tapas bars that come highly recommended and are visited by locals. It is a place to eat what you see, buy gifts that will be reminiscent of Barcelona and explore the heart of Catalonian cuisine the way Catalonians do. Deservedly, Mercat de La Boqueria gets its own post.

A picture is worth a thousand words:

Fresh Seafood

Perfect Produce

Piles of Fruita

Sweet Mandarin Oranges

Artisanal Chocolates

The Land of Fruits and Nuts

Once Happy Chickens

My New Goat Friend

Where to Eat @La Boqueria:

If you’re interested in grabbing a bite of prepared food, I highly recommend paying an early morning breakfast visit {9am} to Pinotxo or El Quim de la Boqueria., two petite walk-up establishments that have no more than 10 bar stools at the bar. Showing up before the masses only adds to the experience, as you can have a quiet one-on-one chat with the owners and taste some of the most unique creations that aren’t always available when the market is abuzz with visitors. You’ll understand how special this early morning hour is when you visit the market midday and struggle to not bump elbows.

My Other New Friend and Infamous Owner of Pinotxo

The Next Pinotxo Generation Serving Up Egg Tortilla

Amazing Chick Pea Breakfast

Mercat de La Boqueria Must-Do Tips:

 

  • Go early (9am) to watch all the purveyors set up each nut, chocolate and fig, to perfectly present their bounty. The quiet of the early morning hour is spectacular in contrast to the midday buzz — the best way to take it all in.
  • Breakfast or Lunch at Pinotxo — A tiny tiny family run bar, but the owner is one of the most well known in Barcelona. Good things come in small packages. Go early (9am-ish) and ask for the specials to avoid the rush.
  • Breakfast or Lunch at El Quim de la Boqueria – Quim has been at the helm of this kiosk bar for the last 20+ years. It’s a place for fresh seafood and high-end tapas.
  • Buy some goods and make yourself a picnic to take to Park Guell for an outdoor lunch overlooking the Barcelona sprawl.
  • Things to try: exotic fruit, bite-sized chocolates, horchata, anything your heart desires!

More Pictures to Devour:

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And More Barcelona to Digest:
recipe goodness :: barcelona favorite recreated | balsamic chick pea salad

Barcelona Digested: Chocolate Central
Barcelona Digested: Hang with the Locals – Cava and Cafe Catalonian Style

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Winter Fancy Food Show: San Fran Specialties Digested

There were no shortage of snacks to sample at the specialty food show in San Fran this weekend. Much like the Summer show I attended in New York, the spread ranged from candies, cheeses, chocolates and coffee to fine meats and preserves from over 1,300 exhibiting food producers from around the world.

Straight off the flight from the Big Apple, I made my way to the food show, with an empty stomach and press badge in hand to see what new discoveries could be found and to pay a visit to a few favorites I savored last time.

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My Favorite Specialty Foodies and What to Love:

Bella Cucina {Salts, Spreads, Oils and Preserves from Atlanta}

The packaging will catch your eye immediately – beautifully jarred and labeled, these products will delight any gift recipient and your kitchen counter alike {hence the name}. More importantly I sampled several of what’s inside Bella Cucina’s jars – aromatic savory salts, artichoke lemon spread {their best seller accounting for 17% of all sales}, mint pistachio pesto, roasted sweet peppers grown especially for Bella Cucina – and wished I could buy several of them on the spot. As someone who can appreciate unique flavor combinations and beautiful packaging, Bella Cucina won me over immediately.

Justin’s {All Natural Nut Butters from Boulder}

I love peanut butter period. But give me a spoon of chocolate hazelnut butter, honey peanut butter or maple almond butter and you have just upped the ante on a simple snack time favorite. I always loved the day my mom made me a peanut butter and honey sandwich for lunch, so it just makes sense to bring these flavor combos together in one jar, except it’s not always in a jar. Justin’s sources high quality organic California nuts and has brilliantly packaged their product both in a jar and in a squeeze packet to take these delights on the road. I think it’s time to move your old friend Skippy aside for a spread or squeeze of Justin’s premier PB product.

Poco Dolce {Chocolate from San Fran}

So much chocolate in this world – is it possible to create a new and BETTER chocolate? Apparently yes. I was guided through aisles of food booths to Poco Dolce with assurance that these chocolates were the best around. I concur. With flavors like burnt caramel, sesame toffee tiles {winner of a sofi Gold award}, and super chile, owner, Kathy Wiley, elevates chocolate squares to new levels exciting your taste buds with both sweet and savory flavor combinations. Also try her toffee squares — bite sized toffee covered in bittersweet chocolate. If you’re not an SF local, fear not, see here for places to get your hands on those bites.

Fra’Mani Handcrafted Foods {Artisanal Cured Meats from Berkley}

Just take a look at the picture of this beautiful mosaic of head cheese.  And beside this well-photographed delicacy, Fra’Mani was generously tasting a range of their other flavorful cured meat products – little ham, rosemary ham, roasted turkey galantine. Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching – why not replace those roses with a fragrant bouquet of artisanal cured meats? It’s the way to say I love you in 2011.

Beehive Cheese Co. {Handcrafted Cheese from Utah}

I first had Beehive’s Barely Buzzed by chance when it was paired with a wine at a tasting up in Livermore, CA. The cheddar cheese is hand rubbed with a Turkish grind of Colorado Legacy Coffee Company’s, lavender buds and olive oil, which makes your head spin in delight — perfectly named I would say. At the time we were with a group of eight people, who were all commenting more on the cheese than the wine and we made note of what we were sampling in an effort to find this delightful slice again. Previously it was not easy to come by, but distribution has expanded to many Whole Foods Markets, so next time you are rolling down the aisle looking for an exciting addition to your cheese plate, pick up Barely Buzzed for a deep caramel flavor or Big John’s Cajun Rubbed for something with a little kick.

Creminelli Fine Meats {Artisanal Cured Meats from Salt Lake City}

I first discovered Creminelli at the New York Wine & Food Festival in October. With a glass of cabernet in one hand, I sampled some of their finest salumi – lacy thin cut mortadella, hot sopresata, dark & rich wild boar sausage and their award-winning Barolo-infused salumi {winner of this year’s Good Food awards). So imagine my delight to stumble upon them next to the Beehive Cheese Co. Good cheese & meats hanging out together {both from Utah} – all I needed was a glass of vino and a comfy chair to make my day.

Kicking Horse Coffee {Coffee from Canada}

One of my all-time favorite coffee producers of the year – if you haven’t tried it, you must. Not a new discovery for me, but I had to stop by to say hello and for a quick cup of joe to rejuvenate my jetlagged, sampled-out self.

  • Great Brew: most importantly, this cup of joe was delicious {and just what I needed after a lot of walking, talking and sampling}. It’s just making its way down from our friendly northern neighbor, so check their website for a retail store near you.
  • Great People: Buying only Fair Trade coffee, the company supports its farmers, regardless of the world market. As the largest cash crop in the world, this really does make a Kicking impact.
  • Cool Names: Kick Ass {dark}, Three Sisters {medium}, 454 Horsepower {dark}, Z-Wrangler {medium}, Decaf {dark}, Cliff Hanger Espresso {medium}. Clever coffee, what’s not to love.
  • Cool Packaging: 100% recycled cans {surprisingly most coffee cans are not fully recyclable — yeah, that little plastic top is no bueno}. Black cans with primary color tops catch the eye and look cool hangin’ out next to your coffee maker.

The Skim: If you haven’t caught on to the specialty food trends, then wake up and smell the artisanal hand-pressed coffee. 63% of American consumers purchased specialty food in 2010, up from 46% in 2009 and farmers markets have grown to become the fourth most significant source of specialty foods. Knowing where your food comes from and passionate support for the creativity and handcrafted quality that goes into small scale specialty foods, is driving the emergence of new food entrepreneurs to historic levels.  Mark your calendars, the Summer Fancy Food Show will be held in Washington D.C. July 10-12, 2011.

Dolled Up Delicacies:
Summer Fancy Food Show: Full Belly and Learnings Digestion
Del Posto Presents Murray’s Cheese & Salumi Wine Party @NYCWFF
Give Your Monday Morning Mug a Kick in the Pants with Kicking Horse Coffee
Le Grand Fooding ‘Twas A Grand Yummy Evening
New York City Wine & Food Festival Kicked Off With Good Eats

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Giveaway! Season’s Greetings Ghirardelli-Style

Ghirardelli Limited Edition Prize

The tree is up at Rockefeller Center, a certain coffee chain’s red cups are in everyone’s chilly hands and Ghirardelli’s Limited Edition Peppermint Bark has hit shelves — Christmas season is officially here!  I come from a family of chocolate lovers — my aunt and uncle own a restaurant in Michigan called the Chocolate Gallery Cafe {they often bake their award-winning desserts with Ghirardelli chocolate}, my sister-in-law works for Ghirardelli and my mom, well, she just loves to fill the candy bowls with it. One of the favorite flavors in our family is the Peppermint Bark — with a creamy milk chocolate bottom layer topped in white chocolate and flakes of crunchy peppermint, it’s chocolate that tastes like Christmas! But this treat is only available in November and December and I’m in the sharing spirit, so I’m giving one lucky winner a hefty supply of Limited Edition Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark! Use it as a gift this holiday season or keep it for yourself {it’s ok!}, but either way, enjoy the 8.ate@eight Ghirardelli holiday love.

How To Win:

  1. Leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite chocolate dessert is and why {recipes encouraged!}.
  2. For two additional entries: a) follow 8.ate@eight on twitter and b) tweet about the contest with a link to this post {be sure to reference @8ateATeight in your tweet so I can track}
  3. For two more additional entries: a) follow 8.ate@eight on Facebook and b) post a link to this contest on FB {be sure to leave a comment on my FB page that you’ve done so}

This contest will start today and end on December 3rd, 2010 at 6pm EST. Winners will be chosen at random using Randomizer.org and will be announced the next day, only people with United States shipping addresses are eligible. Winner will be emailed and will have 48 hours to respond with their mailing address or an alternate winner will be chosen.

Ghirardelli Peppermint Squares

‘Tis the Season!

Good Luck,
Christina

Need Some Chocolate Decadence?
Do This!: Vote for The Chocolate Gallery Cafe for Best Dessert

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Do This!: Vote for The Chocolate Gallery Cafe for Best Dessert

You may remember back in July when The Chocolate Gallery Cafe was up for Best Breakfast in Detroit.

Do This!: Vote for The Chocolate Gallery Cafe for Best Breakfast

I wrote about it. You voted. They won!

And now this sweet little cafe, my Aunt and Uncle’s gem, has been nominated for Best Dessert in Detroit by AOL’s City’s Best and I’m asking you to vote again. Just because you haven’t eaten there {why haven’t you?} or don’t live in Detroit, doesn’t mean you can’t cast a vote and support their family run business from afar. They have been nominated for and won countless local and national awards, which speaks volumes for the love and passion they pour into their family run business. This year, The Chocolate Gallery Cafe has been nominated again for AOL’s City’s Best Dessert award, so read on, drool over the pictures of their food, vote and then tell any friends or family you know in Michigan to stop by for a sweet bite they are sure to enjoy! {Also makes for a crowd-pleasing treat to bring to holiday parties}

Here’s a cyber taste:

The Chocolate Gallery Cafe opened its doors over 16 years ago, but got its start even earlier when a love for chocolate and hours of experiments in a home kitchen resulted in the recipe for their famous award-winning Chocolate Buckingham Torte. So rich it has royalty in its name. The award-winning Chocolate Buckingham Torte is layered to perfection, with a chewy brownie bottom, creamy chocolate mousse center all topped off with crunchy English toffee and whipped cream florets that provide the ideal contrast to its other rich layers. The answer to every chocolate lover’s quest for the perfect dessert, this torte is the jewel of my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Chuck’s boutique cafe.

Chocolate Buckingham Torte

Chocolate Flourless Decadence Torte

Hopefully you live close enough that a visit to The Chocolate Gallery Cafe can be a reality, but if not, for now you can support this sweet cafe with a click of a button and a vote to win Best Dessert in DetroitThe Chocolate Gallery Cafe is also available for Full Service Catering, Chocolate Fountain Rentals and custom sweet treats, including Truffles and Molded Chocolates.

Map: 3672 Chicago Road, Warren, Michigan
Reservations: Not Taken (Open Thurs-Sun 8am-2pm)
Phone: 586.979.1140
Photos: John Martin Photography

Want Something For Your Effort?

Giveaway! Season’s Greetings Ghirardelli-Style

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Hands On With Giada De Laurentiis at the Food Network NYCWFF Demo

Giada de Laurentiis Greets the Audience with a Big Smile

Following Alton Brown’s “opening act” for the New York City Wine & Food Festival demos, Giada De Laurentiis was warmly welcomed by longtime friend and Food & Wine Editor, Dana Cowin. With her husband and a houseful of fans in the audience, she greeted the crowd with her big…smile. People actually asked me if her head was in fact as big as it seems on TV, so let me answer that question. It’s not so much that she has a big head, but that she has a teeny tiny body. How a woman who makes a living cooking and eating — mostly Italian food — can stay so skinny is beyond me! But I digress.

Giada couldn’t have been more charming or likeable and took a totally hands-on, participatory approach to her demo. Enter the lucky husband and wife team selected from halfway back in the seats to come on stage and help Giada cook Smashed Potatoes. I think the wife actually claimed her husband was the cook in the family, just so he could come up and meet her in person. Giada left them to follow a few simple steps {start with some fingerlings, boil ’til tender, smash with your hand, brown in a pan with a little olive oil & garlic and then toss in a lemon-parsley vinaigrette. Easy!} while she took questions from the audience.

Giada De Laurentiis Knows Her Audience

Husband and Wife Team Make Smashed Potatoes for Giada

The Infamous Tasting Bite from Giada

With her 2 1/2 year old daughter, Jade, to look after, Giada’s new cookbook is inspired by making good food, faster — relying a little more on good pantry items that are always on hand to cook a meal. So it was only appropriate that for her second dish, she invited two pint-sized friends on stage to help prepare her sweet & sour pork chops.

 

Giada's Little Helpers

Tiny fingers sure can be generous with the salt! It’s a good thing this was all for show and no one was actually eating these chops!

The Kids Were Very Generous with the Seasoning

Giada’s Sweet & Sour Pork Chops

Prep Time: 5 mins | Cook Time: 10 mins
Serves 4

4 Boneless Pork Chops
Salt and Pepper to Taste

1/2 cup Honey
1/2 cup Balsamic Vineagar
3 sprigs of Rosemary
1 bunch Scallions, diced

Add the honey, balsamic, rosemary and scallions to a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Heat a non-stick pan to medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Cook pork chops 4 minutes on one side and 3-5 minutes on the other side, or until slightly pink in the center. Remove from heat, add to a plate and pour sweet & sour sauce over top.

With mere seconds left on the clock for her demo, Giada still made time to call up another set of eager helpers to whip up the world’s fastest batch of double chocolate cookies. It was all for show, but the benefit of being on set is the {voila} already made finished product. And the benefit of sitting in the front row, is snagging one as the helpers return to their seats with a full plate of chocolate-y goodness. For all you chocolate bakers out there, I asked Giada what her preferred  chocolate to bake with is and she said Ghirardelli is the best {but Giada, you have to get the pronunciation correct, it’s Gear-ar-delly with a hard G like SpaGHetti!}

Giada's Helpers Whipping Up Double Chocolate Cookies

The Benefits of the Front Row

Another tasty New York City Wine & Food Festival event. Everyone benefits from the up-close access to some of Food Network’s biggest stars. Food Bank for New York City, Share Our Strength, the fans and my readers!

Want Another Bite?
recipe goodness :: Alton Brown Does Bourbon in the Morning
New York City Wine & Food Festival Kicked Off With Good Eats

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Summer Fancy Food Show: Full Belly and Learnings Digestion

You don’t have to call it “fancy” to get me to go to a specialty food show featuring 2,400 artisanal food purveyors from around the world, each exhibiting a wide range of products, including coffee, cheeses, handmade chocolates, premium olive oils and other delicious treats {sounds like breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert to me}. With press badge in hand, I headed to the United Nations of food exhibitors and wandered up and down aisles labeled Africa, India, Italy, Syria, Greece, New York and just about every other corner of the Earth. I spent the day sampling, chatting and taking notes at NAFTA’s Fancy Food Show — so much to eat and so much to share, but I’ll try to give you the best nibbles to digest.

sofi Awards Outstanding New Products:

More important than just showing off their products, these specialty foodies enter their goods for a chance to win in various sofi award categories, considered the highest honor in the specialty food industry. Gold Winners are announced at a red-carpet ceremony hosted by chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill Restaurant and receive a gold statue to proudly display at their booth, slightly reminiscent of an Oscar in a chef’s hat. Check out the hottest new specialty food products here, all nominated for a 2010 sofi {winners in each category have a gold box around the image}.

2010 Big Trends:

  • Sweet & Savory — salt & pepper chocolate; toasted almonds w/ truffle salt, peach rosemary jam
  • Indian is IN — chai, cashew, tandoori
  • Fall Flavors — sweet potato butter, chocolate, chips
  • Fig is Big — fig compote, balsamic, crisps
  • Superfruits — kombucha berry, hibiscus, acai

My Favorite Specialty Foodies and What to Love:

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Kicking Horse Coffee {Coffee from Canada}

  • Great Brew: most importantly, this cup of joe was delicious {and just what I needed after a lot of walking, talking and sampling}. It’s just making its way down from our friendly northern neighbor, so check their website for a retail store near you.
  • Great People: Buying only Fair Trade coffee, the company supports its farmers, regardless of the world market. As the largest cash crop in the world, this really does make a Kicking impact.
  • Cool Names: Kick Ass {dark}, Three Sisters {medium}, 454 Horsepower {dark}, Z-Wrangler {medium}, Decaf {dark}, Cliff Hanger Espresso {medium}. Clever coffee, what’s not to love.
  • Cool Packaging: 100% recycled cans {surprisingly most coffee cans are not fully recyclable — yeah, that little plastic top is no bueno}. Black cans with primary color tops catch the eye and look cool hangin’ out next to your coffee maker.

Vermont Creamery {cheese & butter from Vermont}
All the cheese I tasted was DE-LIC-IOUS, but let me tell you about a little cheese called Double-Cream Cremont.  Cremont is a mixed-milk cheese combining local fresh cows’ milk, goats’ milk and a hint of Vermont cream. It is luscious and should be on your next cheese platter or just pick it up for a mid-week treat. Try pairing it with a crisp white wine or Belgian Ale.

Rogue Creamery {cheese from Oregon}
Award winning blue cheeses ranging from sweet to smoky flavors. I sampled several and loved them all. These blues are a great punch to any cheese platter and pair really well with Rogue stouts and ales or a sweet dessert port.

Cypress Grove {cheese from Cali}
Long before the Fancy Food Show, Cypress Grove’s Humbolt Fog was on my top 3 list and often made an appearance on any cheese platter I threw together. Today I sampled several delicious sister cheeses, but one that stood out was the Truffle Tremor. That’s right, truffle+goat cheese = earthy, creamy goodness {quite worthy of a tremor}. Try it! Plus these clever friends made a wedding cake out of cheese! I only wish my picture turned out better so I could share…but check out an image here.

NEWTREE {chocolate from Belgium}
Fresh, unique extracts for well-being; playful product names; a medley of flavors to tempt your mood.  The premium chocolate not only tastes good and leaves a lasting impact on your taste buds, but with flavors such as pink peppercorn, ginger and lavender and descriptors such as sexy, tranquility and eternity, these bars offer a unique experience. NEWTREE also replaces a lot of the refined sugar with other fiber to lower the sugar content by 30% compared to average levels.

Anette’s Chocolates {chocolate from Napa, Cali}
Combining beer, wine, brandy, bourbon with chocolate and brittles, Anette’s puts together some pretty unique and delightful confectionary wonders. My favorite: Firey Beer with Spanish Peanut Brittle. These guys have been winning awards for their brittles since 2004, so they must be doing something right!

Sweet Marguerites {chocolate from Maine}
A small operation does not mean small in flavor. These little artisanal chocolate gems were such a treat it’s hard to pick a favorite, but with unique flavors such as Sweet Potato Caramel, Malted Bacon or Fleur de Sel, filled with dark caramel and macadamia nuts, you can be sure anyone receiving these as a gift would not be disappointed.

Food Should Taste Good {salty snacks from Massachusetts}
Forget the chips that leave your fingers orange, Food Should Taste Good is the fastest-growing natural salted snack brand in America and rightly so. With flavors such as The Works!, Jalapeno, Cheddar, Olive, Sweet Potato, Blue Corn, Multigrain, Lime and Chocolate, there are a variety of bags to suit your taste. And with all natural ingredients that you can pronounce, these chips provide a healthier way of snacking. P.S. they are also gluten free, cholesterol free and low in sodium, but you would never know it by how they taste…GOOD.

Rick’s Picks {Pickles from NY}
You may have already heard of these guys who are taking the pickle world by storm, but with creative minds they just keep coming out with new and exciting sweet, savory and spicy pickle combos. Launched this week, a new spicy crinkle-cut pickle chip called Hotties is brined in a blend of sriracha, dried habanero and minced garlic. After winning 2 sofis in 2009, it’s clear Rick’s Picks knows a thing or two about pickling and would be a welcomed addition to your next BBQ.

The Skim: For just a $35 entrance fee, you don’t need to be a professional to gain access and enjoy all the sampling from thousands of specialty food purveyors. The event lasts three full days, which is probably necessary to avoid a belly ache and make the most of all the goodness worth trying. And even if you already know some of the brands, many of them are launching new flavors or product lines at the show, so you’ll be the first to sample and be in the know of cutting edge food trends. If you couldn’t make it this year, put January 16th {in SF}, or July 10th, 2011 {in D.C.} on your calendar.

Want to Learn About More Artisanal Cheeses?
Do This!: A Taste of What to Expect @ Artisanal Premium Cheese Classes

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