Tag Archives: vanilla

Chocolopolis

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a culinary tourist. I know most people head to new places with lists of museums, sights, or shopping districts. I prefer to arm myself with lists of restaurants, bakeries and chocolate shops.

Well, when I was in Seattle last month, I headed straight for Chocolopolis. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed. Not only did I get to speak to the lovely Lauren Adler, but she told me about the artisan chocolate makers that she gets to work with. The store is stocked with artisan chocolate bars that I’ve never even heard of, much less tasted. And the confectionary case is stocked with a rotating selection of offerings from top-notch chocolatiers. When I was there, they had Theo Chocolates, Norman Love Confections, and Christopher Elbow Chocolates.

Christopher Elbow was in the store the previous day, doing a tasting and demonstration. I missed him by 18 hours.

I drowned my sorrows in a mug of warm drinking chocolate, served with a homemade vanilla-strawberry marshmallow. A double-layered marshmallow that tasted like fragrant vanilla and juicy strawberry, dunked in thick, luxurious drinking chocolate: it was like a warm, adult version of neopolitan ice cream, eaten straight from the bucket.

And then I carted home a bag stuffed to the brim with artisan chocolate bars.

Chocolopolis
1527 Queen Anne Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 282-0776

Frasca: food, wine, and chocolate

“I always pick the second least expensive wine on the menu.”

I went with my friend Mark to Frasca, and he picked the bottle of wine. As you can see, Mark is a very discerning wine drinker. Lest you he’s a total plebe, he picked a lovely Cotes du Rhone that tasted like blackberries, smoke and spice. Nom.

Frasca’s beautiful. Once you get past the slightly confusing black curtain in the entrance, you find yourself in a wood-panelled room full of beautiful people and delirious smells. Aside from that, you might want to eat there because of the restaurant’s, for lack of a better word, pedigree. Among other accolades, co-owner Chef Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson won the 2008 James Beard award for best chef in the southwestern US. Co-owner and wine director Bobby Stuckey is a Master Sommelier. Oh, and they met while working at The French Laundry. Huh.

Anyway, back to food. The market salad was clean and bright, with nice acidity. Garnished with two kinds of cheese and beauitfully salty salami, it was a great start to the meal. I’ll admit, though, that Mark’s braised lamb dish was exceptional.

Mark’s next course was a duck thigh ravioli, which was as delicious as it sounds. I had a lobster pasta alla guitara, thin noodles (think angel hair pasta, but with a fancier name) tossed with lobster and lemon. Rich, redolent and succulent, this dish could have been the end of the night and I would have gone home happy.

Of course, I kept going. We both got the Colorado beef shoulder, which was so. freaking. good. Enrobed in a salty, sweet, rich and acidic jus, the beef was cooked to exactly medium, all seared and crusty on the outside. Served on a ricotta cream with meaty mushrooms that soaked up all the jus, it was tasty. And then some.

For dessert, I had the house special bombolini, otherwise known as warm, deep-friend pillows of delicious. With a passionfruit centre in the middle and dusted with icing sugar, the bombolini looked a bit like doughy eggs. Served with homemade vanilla ice cream, the hot-cold combination was beautiful. Mark’s chocolate peanut butter torta was a peanut butter mousse on luscious chocolate cake, with banana ice cream.

And because that wasn’t enough, I insisted on getting a plate of house chocolates. More on those tomorrow.

Frasca Food & Wine
1738 Pearl St
Boulder, CO
303-442-6966
Frasca Food & Wine on Urbanspoon

The Kitchen Cafe doesn’t disappoint

Before the name Chef Hugh Matheson mean anything to me (he won the 2009 IACP award for community service), I met several people who spoke reverently and enthusiastically about The Kitchen Cafe in Boulder. Well before it was trendy to do so, The Kitchen Cafe supported local farmers and producers, serving organic and seasonal food wherever possible.

There’s a proper restaurant downstairs, and a more casual, loungey atmosphere at The Kitchen [Upstairs]. Well, I headed [Upstairs] in search of tasty food and the promise of happy hour. From 5:30-6:30 pm each day, they feature a three-course prix fixe for $26 ($34 with wine pairings). Now, that’s not a cheap dinner, but it’s incredible value for amazing food and wine in a beautiful room.

First course was a rustic bruschetta with basil pesto (thick, rich and unctuous), mozzarella (clean, fresh and delicate), red onion (sweated and sweet), and radishes (crisp, without their customary bite) on top of toasty bread. Garnished with olive oil and parsley, this appetizer was really well-composed. All the flavours worked well together, and – more importantly – complemented each other. This was paired with a 2007 Ochoa Viura-Chardonnay from Spain (nice and light, with notes of roasted pineapple and mango).

Next up was a dish of seared scallops, sauteed romaine, roasted potatoes, and anchovy dressing. The dressing was to die for: rich, creamy and salty. The scallops were sweet and seared, the romaine kept its texture and sweetness, and the potatoes were perfectly cooked. It was an exercise in the perfect bite: the acidity and tartness of the dressing, met by the sweetness and crunch of romaine, mellowing to the sweetness and texture of the scallop, all on top of a solid foundation of potato that actually tasted like potato. It was paired with a 2001 Tempranillo from Ramirez de la Piscina that was a bit too tannic on its own, but mellowed out nicely with the food.

Dessert was a Knickerbocker Glory, which was so insanely delicious but simple. In fact, I’m going to steal it and say I invented it. You can too: here’s how. Start with a large, bulbous glass – a Chimay glass, if you want to be exact about things. Put in a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream, creamy and fragrant with real vanilla. Top it with softly whipped chantilly cream and crumbled meringue bits. Add a few sliced strawberries, some berry syrup, and a drizzle of Chambord. Serve with a spoon and watch people swoon with delight as they eat a very grown-up ice cream sundae.

Even better, serve it with R&R Naughty Sticky dessert wine, all coy with its honey and toasted almond flavours. Naughty and sticky, indeed.

And because no meal is complete without chocolate, Rick the bartender let me try a homemade chocolate bar: 72% dark chocolate with walnuts and sea salt. This was not a demure salted chocolate. The salt was front and centre. But then it stepped aside to let the walnuts – all nutty, tender and crumbly – shine. And then the 72% dark chocolate brought its bittersweetness to the table.

I have my doubts as to whether Rick really wanted my “professional opinion,” because he knew that it was delicious. But hey, I’m happy to oblige.

The Kitchen Cafe and The Kitchen [Upstairs]
1039 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO
303-544-5973
The Kitchen on Urbanspoon

ChocolaTas, and method to my madness

You’ve probably never heard of ChocolaTas before. The Abbotsford company has been around for a while and does a bustling business providing wholesale chocolates to local restaurants and hotels. ChocolaTas used to have an occasional table at Granville Island Public Market, and made some buzz last year when it partnered with Emily Carr. Students were asked to supply custom designs for a winter line of chocolates. The winning designs were translated into coloured cocoa butter, applied to the tops of handmade chocolates, and sold as part of a limited edition collection.

Anyway, fast forward to today when ChocolaTas has a spiffy new booth at Granville Island Public Market. There’s an impressive selection of flavours ranging from the expected (80% dark chocolate ganache) to the unexpected (wasabi and lemon-thyme, among others).

I chose an assortment of chocolates to try. It has taken me a while to figure out how best to approach a tasting menu of chocolates, because I tend towards the exotic or unusual flavours. The problem with this is that if an unusual chocolate isn’t good, it’s not clear whether it’s the chocolatier or the flavour. I’m more disciplined these days, and try to get a mixture of classic and crazy. I’ll usually get a few classic flavours (caramel, hazelnut, vanilla or coffee) and then a few wacky ones to round things out.

ChocolaTas
151 – 1669 Johnston St.,
Vancouver, BC
V6H 3R9
604-488-1226

NYC: the legendary Ferrara Cafe

Ferrara Cafe
(Little Italy)

While in New York, I spent many evenings at Ferrara Cafe. There were so many things to try, and just too little time. Tragic.

They make a mean affogato: ice cream doused with searing hot espresso. You have to be careful on busy nights, though – the affogato can sit on the counter too long before it arrives at your table, which just ruins the entire point. Specify that you want the ice cream super cold, and the espresso super hot. I tried it once with vanilla gelato (too sweet) and once with coffee gelato (just right). It would also be pretty tasty with chocolate gelato, methinks.

There are tons of tasty things in the bakery case. Just pick one. You really can’t go wrong. You can do take out, or have a seat in the cafe.

And I dare you not to be tempted by the mountain of torrone that greets you as you walk in the door. Nuts and candied fruit, all wrapped in a sticky sweet honey meringue? How can you possibly resist?

Ferrara Cafe
195 Grand Street
New York, NY
212-226-6150

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.

Continue reading

Pudding for Christmas

As a North American, I think of pudding as a thickened custard-like dessert that you eat with a spoon. To an English person, pudding is something else, generally meaning a steamed cake-like dessert served in a ramekin, or inverted onto a dish.

One of my favourites is sticky toffee pudding: deep, dark, date-based cake served warm with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. In Vancouver, Burgoo does a decent version of it, except that it’s a little bit too sweet. In 2006, Haagen Dazs held a contest to develop a new ice cream flavour, and sticky toffee pudding was the winner. Now, I’m not usually a fan of ice cream with “stuff” in it, but I lurrrrve Haagen Dazs sticky toffee pudding ice cream. I’m so glad that it has been upgraded to a permanent flavour.

Continue reading