Tag Archives: basil

Theo Chef Sessions limited edition confections

The idea of limited edition is kind of like eating seasonally. Something that’s limited edition is less likely to be taken for granted, though you run the risk of turning it into something precious. Or, worse, a marketing scheme.

Thankfully, in the case of limited edition things that are actually kick-ass and that, when they become available you need to snap one up immediately, there’s the Theo Chef Sessions limited edition confection collection. (Say that five times fast.) Featuring collaborations with some of the top chefs from Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, this might be the only opportunity you’ll have to try things like carrot caramel, pine resin ganache or candied beet pate de fruit.

Theo Chef Sessions limited edition confections

Standouts in the collection were the Chris Cosentino (Incanto) agro dolce brittle, a crispy crunchy brittle with pine nuts, capers and currants. Your brain expects sweet and it gets salty and savoury. I wanted more of the Maria Hines (Tilth) tamarind lime chili caramel, with its juicy, complex flavour profile. And, featuring the most traditional flavours of the bunch, the creation from Jerry Traumfeld (Poppy) didn’t disappoint with the huckleberry pate de fruit and cinnamon basil white ganache.

This limited edition (whee!) collection is only available for Valentine’s Day, so get ’em while you can.

Disclosure: The lovely team at Theo Chocolate sent me a box of these, gratis.

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…I’m back!

Huzzah!

Hello, lovelies. Thanks for your patience while I took a bit of a break. It was a case of life spinning madly out of control, and something had to give. While I’m sad that it was this blog, I’m glad to be back and writing. I’ve had a good think about how to balance the things I need to do with the things that I want to do, and I’ve come to a decision.

I’m going to post, at minimum, once a week. Yes, that’s significantly less than the daily posts that I started with. However, seeing as how I started this blog while I was delightfully unemployed, I think that a weekly post is a happy compromise. It’s a case of quality versus quantity. This way, I can have a week to think about what I want to say, and make it count. [So she says hopefully.]

Yup. And now we return to your regularly scheduled programming.

I’ve started working with chocolate again. I’ve been writing about it and tasting it for nearly a year now, but I really needed a break from working with it. It didn’t occur to me how much I missed it, but I’ve been experimenting for the past couple of weeks. And, I’m pleased to report, I love it again. LOVE. IT. There’s something about watching chocolate melt, playing with the temperatures, tempering it, and inspecting the final products. And, of course, eating it.

In honour of International Bacon Day, I made a batch of bacon caramels and dipped them in chocolate. Dipping the caramels was surprisingly tricky. They were softer than caramels that I’ve worked with before, so I had to work quickly before they relaxed into limpid pools of caramel goodness.

And, each caramel donated a bit of bacon fat to the bowl of chocolate. It was exceedingly generous of them, but by the end of the batch the chocolates were looking like they weren’t setting as well. I panicked a bit (oh noes! have I lost my tempering touch?) until I realized that it was a layer of bacon fat on top of the chocolate. Hrm. They did set in the end, and they were delicious, but this is a logistical detail that I’ll have to work out.

This weekend, when gifted with some fresh basil from a friend’s garden, I made some lemon-basil truffles. They’re more basil than lemon, but they taste bright and summery and delicious, and I’ll take it.

In culinary school, I always emerged from chocolate classes looking like I had taken a bath in it. I was notorious for getting two horizontal streaks, one each at chest-level and waist-level. Chest-level corresponded to the rim of the giant bowl of chocolate that I was tempering, and waist-level corresponded to the height of the granite counter.

Thankfully, I work cleaner these days. The kitchen is spotless and I didn’t get anything on my apron – though, I confess that on my evening run yesterday, I found a  streak of chocolate on my high-tech, air-wicking running shirt. The chocolate pixies must be after me. It only makes me run faster.

Strategy and stamina

I attended the Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon last weekend. In principle, it sounds like heaven on earth. A room stuffed to the brim with chocolate bars, chocolate confections, and even chocolate spa products? Good heavens to Betsy, I say.

If you stop to think about it, it’s actually a really challenging situation. There was no way I was going to taste everything, so first I had to figure out which ones were interesting enough to taste. That narrowed it down from 27 exhibitors to about 10.

Still, ten is a lot. Especially considering that most tables were sampling anywhere from 5-15 items.

I started with the bean-to-bar producers, and there were some pretty impressive chocolates in the room. I look forward to the next time that I’m in the same room with Amano Artisan Chocolate, Theo Chocolate and Claudio Corallo Chocolate. Each company has a slightly different approach, and it makes for really interesting conversation – and incredibly delicious chocolate.

Next up, the confections. There were a lot to sample, so I had to be pretty brutal. If I didn’t like one sample, I’d try one more. And if I didn’t like that one, then that was it.

I definitely lingered at the Chocolopolis table, working my way through their guided tasting of five single-origin chocolate ganaches made with chocolate from  different producers. It still surprises me how this seemingly simple thing – cacao, cocoa butter, chocolate – can taste so different, and the tasting definitely drove this point home.

I enjoyed the Saint Basil truffle from Intrigue Chocolates, though some of the other flavours were less remarkable. I’ll keep an eye on them, because I think they’re doing some interesting things.

William Dean Chocolates were showing off their cuckoo creation: a bleu cheese ganache on top of a pecan marzipan, dipped in dark chocolate. I appreciate the effort – and the pecan marzipan was a wise choice – but in the end, I’m not a fan of bleu cheese and chocolate. (For the record, I’m also not a fan of curry and chocolate.)

I also sampled their pate de fruits in raspberry and pear flavours. The flavours are nice, but the textures are a bit firmer than traditional pate de fruits. I mentioned this, and it turns out that it’s intentional. The firmer texture is meant to appeal to the company’s clientele in Tampa Bay. Sigh. At least it’s a case of someone knowing what the real deal is, and then consciously working around it – and not just a mistake.

In total, it took me five hours to navigate the room. Mind you, I wasn’t eating the entire time. I spent a lot of time talking to people, some time in seminars, and some time walking around aimlessly in an attempt to digest faster.

And listen to me, griping on about having to eat too much chocolate. What’s that I hear? Oh, don’t worry. It’s just the world’s smallest violin, whining away in the distance.

Osteria Marco makes a mean pizza

From the street, Osteria Marco looks more like a tea shop or gourmet food store than a restaurant. Once inside, the hostess leads you down the winding staircase to the cavernous, but not oppressive, dark-panelled basement dining room. Looking at the room, you wouldn’t even know that we’re in the midst of a recession. It was buzzing on a Tuesday night.

Since we were a large group, we were given a prix fixe menu to choose from. I started with a baby arugula salad, smartly dressed with a simple vinaigrette and finished with toasted baby pine nuts and currants. The arugula was delicate and didn’t have its typical bite, and the pine nuts provided a lovely nuttiness and richness to the salad. There were a few too many currants for my liking, but they did provide a sweet contrast to the dish.

The main course was touted as a margherita pizza from their wood-fired oven, but the menu didn’t say that it was going to be 14″ in diameter. I would have liked the crust to be a wee bit crisper, but aside from that it was delicious. The tomatoes were rich and meaty (San Marzano tomatoes, I’m sure), the basil nice and bright, and the mozzarella fresh and gooey. After trying to hock a few pieces of pizza to my dining companions, I ended up taking half of the pizza home with me.

The dessert menu was a little uninspired, but I was also so full of pizza that dessert wasn’t an option.

The kicker: all this food (including next day’s breakfast in leftovers), plus a glass of wine, came in at $20 including tax and a generous tip.

Osteria Marco
1453 Larimer Street
Denver, CO
(303) 534-5855
Osteria Marco on Urbanspoon

Best of New York: John’s Pizzeria

John’s Pizzeria
(Greenwich Village)

My second cousin took me to John’s Pizzeria. I had to double-check the address with him, because there are tons of variations on the name in Greenwich Village. He impressed upon me that we weren’t just going for the best pizza in New York; we were going for The Best Pizza in New York.

To be fair, he didn’t give me a chance to try any of the impersonators in the neighbourhood, so I have no idea what the competitors were offering.

But John’s pizza is delicious. The thin crust is simultaneously crispy yet chewy. More amazingly, the crust actually tastes like something: like flour, yeast, and salt. We had a margherita pizza, with brightly fresh tomato sauce and basil. It was perfect. The tomato sauce is rich and full, just salty enough, and complements the crust beautifully.

We also had one with pepperoni and garlic, and another with anchovy and black olives. Both were good, but neither came close to the plain old tomato sauce and basil pizza.

Also, the Murray Cheese Company is just down the street at 254 Bleeker Street. They have a beautiful selection of cheese, meat and other goodies. Like chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

John’s Pizzeria
278 Bleecker Street, between Seventh Avenue and Jones Street
New York, NY
212-243-1680
John's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Dine Out Vancouver: Parkside

I’ve been meaning to go to Parkside for a while, going so far as to make it one of my new year’s resolutions. Well, I took advantage of Dine Out Vancouver to cross this one off my list – and it was so good, I’m hoping to cross it off more than once.

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Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe

I make a really simple, but really tasty, tomato sauce. It consists of tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt & pepper, and a bay leaf. With such a simple recipe, it’s really important that you’re using the absolute best ingredients. And, since tomatoes are the star of this sauce, you’d better use the best tomatoes you can find: San Marzano tomatoes.

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