Monday, December 22, 2008

World of Warcrack!

It's been an eternity since my last blog and I really need to roll up my sleeves and get back to some good ol' writing and cooking. I blame most of it on an addiction to World of Warcraft, which by the way I have happily kicked. A friend of mine introduced me to the game some call the "World of War-Crack" because of its addictive properties. I started playing it back in March and it wasn't till last month that I decided to stop cold turkey and get a grip on REALITY. I'm feeling much better now thank you.

So, the days ahead are gonna be exciting. This is the time of year I scramble to find decent chocolates, spices and fruits for the piles of truffles that need to be made. Stay tuned and I'll keep you all posted on the happenings and goings on of the Xocoatl Express! 

Monday, November 17, 2008

The World is Our Oyster




"I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead- not sick, not wounded - dead."
- Woody Allen (1935 - )

I, on the other hand, will eat oysters! I will slurp them out of the shell, I will fry them, I will put spinach over them and grill them for Oysters Rockefeller, coat them in horseradish and cocktail sauce and place them on crackers, I will drop them in the bottom of a beer as sort of my own version of an Irish Car Bomb, however I will not snort them off the table like some cocaine addict (in fact I happen to witness this once from some drunk frat boys sitting next to me at Barnacle Bills. I kept thinking what if that thing got stuck in his sinuses....gross). 

Jonathan Swift once noted that it was a brave man that ate the first oyster, and I kinda agree. But I bet that man or woman didn't have one thing to help them along... a cold bottle of Clos Des Briors. It was only recently that I got turned onto this wonderful wine. And when paired with raw oysters....it really comes alive, no pun intended. The Clos des Briords is a more powerful wine than most of the Muscadets. It is very mineral and quite austere in its youth, rather than fruity and light, which when chilled really brings out the mineral and salt flavors in the oyster. I highly recommend this wine! 

Country: FRANCE
Region: LOIRE
Sub-Region: MUSCADET

As for the oyster, if you happen to live anywhere near Apalachicola, Florida or know of a market that sells oysters from this region, by ALL MEANS GET THEM! I've had oysters from all over the world and not one can compare to the Apalachicola oyster. They are at their best in the colder months. Try to pick the large ones that are clear/wet on the inside and not sick smelling. They should taste salty and slightly sweet. If you do get a hold of a bad one and have already sent it down the gullet, skip the wine and go straight for the hardest liquor you can find. I might suggest a few shots of tequila and a prayer. Cheers! 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Existential Chili



My life isn't always about chocolate. Though a good piece of chocolate can send me over the edge of this flat earth. Actually my life is all about change and experience. And with the first crack of cold weather my gastronomy craves something different.....beans. Yeah that's right beans. I think it has something to do with fattening up for the winter. Whatever the case....it's chili time and these legumes are the star attraction. 

Recipe:
1 lb of ground turkey
3 spicy turkey sausages 
1 large red onion
1 can kidney beans
1 can spicy chili beans
1 can black beans
1 can of chopped basil/tomatoes
1 cup of chopped cherry tomatoes
a few sprigs of cilantro
a few sprigs of flat leaf parsley
1 tlbs cumin
1 tsp paprika
1tsp chili powder
3 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 cup of water
salt and cracked pepper to taste



Step 1: separate turkey sausage from casing, chop onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, cherry tomatoes




 
Step 2: saute onions in olive oil, then add ground turkey and sausage
Step 3: add cumin, paprika, and chili-powder (once turkey has browned drain off fat and put in crockpot)






Step 4: add the rest of the ingredients to the crockpot and set it on low for 6-8 hours
Step 5: serve!



* Note - I personally like my chili spicy so once I'm ready to serve it I'll add some chopped jalapenos and a few splashes of hot sauce. I also like to top it off with shredded cheddar cheese and a blob of sour cream. Oh and did I mention the tortilla chips on the side for dipping? So there ya go...enjoy life, embrace change, and take nothing for granted. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Mother, The Child, The Guru, and Hershey Kisses


I recently went to see my mom in North Carolina. She lives with her girlfriend in a wonderful B&B just south of Asheville in the mountains (literally IN the mountains). She lives so deep in the woods that the sun has a hard time finding her. The road winds and winds passed pastures dotted with beef, goats and beasts of burden, however for the most part it hides in the trees until reaching the house at the top of a mountain where the world opens up before them. And wow what a view!

On this trip we got to talking about my life from an early age. I like it when she fills in the gaps. Seems there was a lot going on in the early 70's that I was only semi privy to. On this particular morning, sitting drinking coffee on the deck, we got to talking about my love for chocolates and Indian culture (Hindu). Then mom brings up a story that I had only briefly heard about but was missing the details. It involved us meeting a guru and something or other about Hershey Kisses. So, I had her write them down for me. It goes something like this:

It was the mid 70's and my friend Calli was a devotee of Baba Muktananda. She had lived in his ashram in India and was extremely exited about his visit to the city of Gainesville (Florida). 

She wanted me to meet him so badly but I didn't think I could go on the night he was to speak. Your father was away and I didn't have a babysitter, you were two or three. Calli insisted that I bring you so off we went.

The room was beautifully decorated with aromatic flowers but was void of furniture except for a platform. Spying a recognizable face, my boss at the time, we went to sit on the floor beside him (Calli was busy behind the scenes). James was always a shallow man the epitome of the saying "In a sea of like souls one would barely get their feet wet." 

With his hands in a religious pose he told me in a condescending manner, in a fake Indian accent, that women and men do not mix. I was sitting on the wrong side of the room

We moved to the woman's side just in time for the musicians to start drumming. They were awesome and drummed into a frenzy. In the height of it all you fell asleep! I was amazed at your timing. 

When Muktananda entered the room I felt that he wouldn't have cared which side of the room I sat on or if I had a child with me or how I was dressed. His entire being smiled. 

He gave a wonderful talk and told stories. I'll never forget. He was inspiring and funny and truly spiritual. In the end the crowd was allowed to approach in 2's on their knees to receive a blessing. Calli scooped you up under my protest and said that we had to meet him. We inched our way to the front where he beamed with recognition of a long time devotee and child she was holding. He was especially excited about you and asked a lot of questions and talked to Calli as an old friend. 

When he blessed people he did so with a silver handled collection of peacock feathers sprinkled with powdered incense. He tapped Calli on the head with it and while he was engaged in conversation about who you were and talking to you to make you smile, he pummeled me with the feathers on my head, in my face, on my shoulders...

Finally he asked if he could give you a "sweet". I never saw where they came from but he managed to produce a small handful of Hershey Kisses. I remember you smiling. You ate one right then and where given one to take with you. You had been blessed by Muktananda and Hershey Kisses.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Hallucinogenic chocolates doom Berlin sweet shop

Hot off the presses and submitted for your approval:

BERLIN (Reuters) - Police closed down a Berlin sweet shop after discovering the owner was selling chocolates and lollipops laced with hallucinogenic mushrooms and marijuana.

The 23-year old owner of the shop in the trendy east Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg, an area known for its vibrant night life, was taken into custody on suspicion of drug-dealing.

"In the shop we found 120 pieces of magic mushroom chocolate and countless cannabis lollipops," said police, who confiscated around 70 sachets containing various drugs, about 20 marijuana joints, a range of pills and some jars of drug-laced honey.

Police said one customer, who appeared intoxicated, was arrested after trying to buy a bag of hallucinogenic mushrooms from an officer in the shop.

(Writing by Josie Cox, editing by Peter Millership)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I have so much to talk about

I've been super busy these days with vacations, switching computers around, and dealing with small catastrophes on the home front that I've had little time to write. However, I promise all of you that is about to change. In the time away I have collected a ton of new photos, snippets and writings, so please stay tuned. 

Ok first things first, let me encourage any of you chocolate lovers to check out Bittersweetescapes if you happen to be in the NY area in November. This sounds like a wonderful trip all for the love of chocolate!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Roasted Beets + Fried Goat Cheese + Asparagus




Last nights dinner - 
Baked snapper, fried goat cheese and roasted beets, asparagus topped with roumalade sauce
YUM! 

Friday, July 25, 2008

So You Wanna Make Chocolates?


"So you wanna make chocolates?" a chef friend of mine once asked me. "I sure as hell hope you know what you're getting yourself into Aaron. The long hours it takes, the trickiness of tempering chocolate in all kinds of weather, not to mention the mess you're gonna have to clean up. Good God man that stuff gets everywhere!" 

I should have really taken into account his words from that evening in New Orleans. We sat around talking about strategies for getting into the field of the culinary arts and how one becomes a chocolatier and what kind of people choose to take on the profession. And here all I thought it took was a special handshake.  He went on to explain that there really is no "easy" entry into making chocolates, you just gotta want it. 

Let me say how easy it is to sit back and talk chocolates and act all cool, but it sure is another thing to be slinging tempered chocolate, at all kind of hours, into molds at break-neck speeds because you don't want it to set up before you get to the next batch. There really is a lot more to it. I give it up to those people willing to do what it takes to see their dreams come alive.

Last night I had an order to fill for a co-worker. He has an anniversary in a few days and wanted a special batch for his wife. I worked all night. The mess extended from one end of the kitchen to the other, a virtual sea of brown. My feet hurt from marching back an forth, my back hurt from bending over and rolling out truffles, decorating molds, dipping chocolates etc. In the middle of me bitching about it I heard from the back of my skull -You just gotta want it! It made me smile because now I think I know what he meant.  



Monday, July 21, 2008

Dagoba Chocolates and a Schizophrenic's Holiday


Ever have one of those days where you get up and go to work but feel like something's missing.....like your clothes? I had to pat myself down to make sure I was wearing pants this morning. I've been having this feeling for the past few days and it just dawned on me what it was, I forgot to write my blog! Sorry about that. 

I went out of town this weekend to visit with the family. I'll spare you the gory details but my grandmother had surgery about a week ago. I thought I'd pay her and my grandfather a visit to see how they were holding up. I told her that I would bring some of my truffles but ran out of time and couldn't make them (sorry grandma). So I did the next best thing and bought some bars that I personally think are excellent.  

I wanted her to try Dagoba organic chocolates. I'm rather fond of their 37% milk chocolate Chai Bar with its bits of ginger and chai spices. I really dig Dagoba for their ethics and sustainability practices. Dagoba was founded in 2001 by Frederick Schilling, who at the time, was a 30 year old chef looking for a career change. I'm not gonna fill you in the details, but feel free to check out their website for more info.

Grandma has complained in the past that commercial chocolates taste too "waxy" for her palette and I tend to agree with her. But, I wanted her to experience some decent chocolates being made today that have a wonderful snap to them. I also wanted her to taste some of the new combinations of spices that are being added. The concept of percentages and different flavors seems kinda overwhelming, so I figured I'd take her a few bars from different regions and she could make her own distinctions. 

We spent the afternoon on her bed methodically tearing wrappers and eating chocolates. It was cool to watch her furrow her brow and try to guess the ingredients. She would put one down saying she didn't like it only to pick up again, take another bite and exclaim that it was her favorite. I really enjoyed our time together....not to mention sharing her chocolates. Thanks grandma if you are reading this. 

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Sonic Awakening


On a not so recent episode of "LOST" one of the main characters mentioned that Tallahassee Florida was nothing more than a land of strip malls and Waffle Houses. On the contrary it's much more than that. It's the deep end of the recreational pool in summertime with its sweltering heat. It's a monstrous mass of inert concrete and asphalt as far as the eye can see. Not only do we have Waffle Houses we have several major colleges, a myriad of state agencies, sprawling suburbs and new to my vocabulary....Sonic.

A few months back while driving down Monroe Street, listening to Ravi Shankar at full tilt, I noticed a strange but familiar fast food joint where people sit in their cars to eat. It then dawned on me that I had never been to a Sonic. I've seen the commercials and driven by the signs a number of times, but throughout all of my years I have never once had an inclining to pull in and order. The place always looked packed to the teeth. Everyone doing it. I must admit I felt I was missing out on some great American pastime of sucking down grease and huffing exhaust. Being a man of experience and curiosity I got kinda bummed that I hadn't participated. So, I made it my mission to dine at one, if that's what they call it.

In order to do this properly I had to have a guide, a person so adept in the ordering process, a person who knew the secret handshakes, a person who's been to the front line and single handedly held off the invasion, that person would be none other than my wife. Why she knows the in's and out's of a Sonic as if the prom were last weekend.


We ended up there one Friday after a wine tasting event. Right off the bat this sounds like a horrible idea, but I assure you at the time it was just the ticket. Alcohol commands! No need to choose a particular day, timing is everything in this type of endeavor. So, my trusty guide whipped the Jetta into the first available space and set about speaking in tongues at the monolithic display. 

At 9 o'clock on a Friday when everybody's rushing for a parking spot there's sort of an electrical cackle in the air and the low hum of bass filtering in from the neighboring kid's crapmobile. It's the sort of thing that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your head. The before-dinner atmosphere, the blend of hot grease bubbling off in the distance, the stink of car farts, the sun-roof open and Tom Petty's Mary Jane's Last Dance on the radio drove the night to a delirious expectancy. 

After some time our waitress arrived with a tray of Sonic's finest, 2 Cherry-Lime Aids, a chicken sandwich something-or-other and a tall stack of fries. Getting situated in a car has never been one of my better suits. Much to the chagrin of the kids next to us I immediately spilt my drink in my lap. "YES, I AM JUST A TOURIST HERE, GIVE ME A BREAK"! My guide on the other hand didn't find it nearly as amusing and handed me her napkins.

Life drifting by the window on a summer evening. The hypnotizing gastronomical apparatus of eating a greasy chicken sandwich with a wet sticky lap was actually quite the experience I was hoping for. Was the food good....no it wasn't. Was the waitstaff courteous and prompt....no they weren't. Will I ever go back...you bet your ass I will. The heart of Tallahassee sails unfurled into the night for those willing to seek adventure. 


Monday, June 16, 2008

HELP: In Need of a Kitchen Space!

Well the search is on to find a commercial kitchen here in Tallahassee, Florida. I'm ready to take my chocolate making experience to the next level and right now it's illegal to make food items for retail sale out of my home. So, in order to get my business license to make chocolates I first must have access to a commercial kitchen. If anyone knows someone or is someone that would be open to let me use/rent their kitchen space to make my hand-made artisan chocolates please e-mail me! Thanks, Aaron

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Book Comes Home to Roost!


I am sooooo excited! I just received my Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner book from Amazon.com. This book is an incredible read! I collect a myriad of books on chocolates and confections, and must say this one looks to be the best out of my collection. Never have I come across a book that is this stacked in theory, formula and recipes on chocolate and other candies. I have to give it up to Peter P. Greweling and the folks at The Culinary Institute of America

Monday, June 9, 2008

Hungarian Fish Soup


Summer seems like an unlikely time to make or even want soup. This is especially true if one lives in Florida where the outside temperatures are a balmy 90+ degrees. However, since all I had in the freezer was some leftover seabass from my last offshore fishing adventure and I wasn't in the mood to swim though the humidity to the store for groceries, fixing soup sounded about right. 

I recently came across this recipe for Hungarian Fish Soup while reading through some of my favorite foodie blogs. It was a super easy dish to prepare and I had all of the ingredients on hand. The flavor was out of this world for something that took zero time to make. The secret is paprika and lots of it, not to mention using a light fish (not carp like what's called for in the recipe- who eats carp?). Also it helps to have the AC down in the lower 70's. 

Recipe:
500 g small fresh water fish, or fish head and tail.
1- 1/2kg fresh water fish (carp) OR SEABASS!
2 big onions
2 tomatoes
2 Tbls. mild paprika
1 tsp. hot paprika
1 Tbls. minced garlic
1 pinch of cilantro
2 bay leaves
3 cups of broth (I prefer chicken broth)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Green & Black's


Recently I entered Green & Black's chocolate challenge put on by TLC's very own Curtis Stone. You may know him from his popular TV show "Take Home Chef".  The rules were simple, come up with a recipe using their chocolates, include 5 ingredients and type up an essay about your inspiration to go green. I entered a recipe that I had been working on during the spring (a basil + honey 70% truffle) and posted it with a delightful essay on how we live in an exciting time which has embraced environmental issues in a mainstream market. So, yesterday I found out I didn't win. However, Green & Black's sent me a voucher for some free chocolate, so I guess in a way I did win. I mean come on free chocolate for taking time to e-mail a recipe and an essay, you just can't beat that....well....ummm unless you actually won the grand prize. 

The 5 grand prize winners came up with some pretty interesting combinations. I especially liked Melissa Moore's creation of Roasted Jalapeno Peppers Stuffed with Brie Cheese and Raspberry Preserves. I think what I liked about her recipe was that the chocolate wasn't necessarily the theme. She used only 2 oz of melted chocolate to compliment the dish. Now some of the other winners, in my opinion, didn't do anything new or exciting. There was even one winner who paired basil, chocolate and shrimp.....I shudder at the thought. I guess they had one hell of an essay.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lost in the Bahamian Haze


Sorry I haven't posted a blog in some time but I just got back from vacation. I spent last week in the Bahamas on an island called Great Guana Cay (pronounced key). It's one of the "out islands" just off the main island of Abaco. We took the ferry from Marsh Harbor to Guana and stayed at a nice little bar/bed Grabber's at Sunset Beach. Life's rough, yeah I know it. 

I'll be back to writing on a routine basis once I recover and settle in. I have some great ideas for chocolates in the works. While over there I got to talking to the chef at Grabber's about different spices the Bahamian's use in their day to day food. So, I plan on experimenting with different combinations in my chocolates. Should be quite the experience....can't wait to get my hands into it! Until then. 

Friday, May 16, 2008

Grilled Portabella Madness

I'm not a huge fan of eating red meat, in fact I don't. Maybe that's because it makes me violently ill. So, I mostly just stick to chicken, fish and seafood. Although, once a year during my father's Octoberfest party I have been known to eat my weight in bratwurst but that's another story. Thank goodness for the makers of Tagamet-B!

Well, I often miss that rich flavor and texture of a thick grilled steak, so the closest thing I have found is that of a grilled portabella mushroom. I'm sure to get tons of hate mail for this, but hey these are my taste buds we're talking about and not just some schlep off the street that hits up every AYCE (all you can eat) or even worse, dines at Applebee's. To me this is steak! So I treat portabellas with as much respect as someone might treat, let's say....a cut of Kobe beef. 

I start with the best looking caps I can find at the store. They must be firm to the touch, almost springy. If they are too dry or there's any mushiness, forget it, I'll wait. Also, if they are pungent like dirty wet hiker socks (basically more than the usual funk) or hairy and moldy, I leave them be. 

Once home I marinade them in a Ziplock bag with soy sauce, olive oil and fresh minced garlic. I make sure that all of the caps are covered in the marinade. I'll let them sit like that for several hours in the fridge. I fire up the grill and cook them gill-side up first. After 5-10min I flip them and close the lid since the olive oil will catch fire. I let the caps cook another 5mins or so before removing them. They should look juicy and not dried out. Serve immediately. Yummers! 



Wednesday, May 7, 2008

No-Frills Tomato Onion Basil Quiche

I made four of these super easy quiches last night. Three of them were for work while the other one was for Adrianne and I's dinner. It's such and easy recipe that I thought I'd share. Don't expect some fancy-shmancy quiche here, it is what it is! 

Recipe:
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 tbs dried basil
1 tbs salt
1 tbs pepper
a pinch of nutmeg
3 eggs
1 cup cream
2 tbs of flour
2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese
1 (9") pie crust

Arrange chopped tomatoes in the bottom of the pie crust. Then add the chopped green onions. Next sprinkle basil, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cheeses. In a bowl whip eggs, cream and flour and then pour into the pie. Bake in a pre-heated oven of 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cool and set before serving. 


Monday, May 5, 2008

Deep Fried Chocolate Covered Cherries


Well, I did it! This past Sunday I fried up my first batch of chocolate covered cherries! And let me say it was quite the experience. Albeit a tad messy but exhilarating none the less. There's something about oil splashing and food frying that gets me excited. 

I first got the idea a week or so ago while driving by a KFC on my way home from work. I borrowed the idea from hearing about Snickers Bars being fried. I just thought it might be a better way to eat those awful chocolate covered cherries or boxed chocolates. I somehow don't see myself as being the first ever to come up with such a silly idea. But hey why not give it a go.....everyone loves food deep fried!

I went out and bought several packages of Cella's boxed chocolate covered cherries and stuck them in the freezer (thank you Christina from She Runs, She Eats for that tip! Go check out her blog....er after reading this one). I decided to use a simple tempura batter for the coating.

Tempura Recipe:
1 cup of flour
2/3 cup of ice water
1/3 cup of milk
1 egg
1 tbs salt
1 tbs sugar

Before mixing up the batter I filled up my deep fryer with 100% vegetable oil and heated it to 400 degrees. Next I procured the chocolates from the freezer and dunked them in the batter. I slowly tonged them into the oil. The first few I over-cooked. They exploded when the chocolate melted and the liquid center leaked out into the oil. So, I figured they needed to be "lightly" coated, flash fried and removed quickly.



After ruining 5 or 6 of them I started to get the hang of it. I just made sure to dip them one at a time and move quickly. Once fried, I patted them down with a paper towel to remove any excess oil, and then sprinkled them with powdered sugar. You might want to eat them as soon as they've slightly cooled, since they don't keep too long. The leftover ones later turned into a mushy ball of batter and syrupy goo. I must say the fresh ones were quite tasty, even for a boxed chocolate. 

All-in-all yummers but very heavy on my stomach and super messy. For the finale, I ended up popping a bottle of champagne to help celebrate this new creation. Give it a try! 


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Deep Fried Chocolate?

So lately I've been trying to come up with a way to use all of those horrible chocolates we receive for Valentine's Day, Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day. You know the ones I'm talking about, those "boxed" chocolates with their strange creamy centers, and even those awful chocolate covered cherries. Well, I think I have the answer.

Driving home I passed a KFC and it got me thinking how we here in the south just love to fry everything. We'll fry turkeys, oysters, Snicker Bars, Twinkies, even icecream... the list goes on and on ad nauseam. So why not fry up chocolate covered cherries? Sometime later this week I plan on breaking out my deep fryer and frying up a box of chocolates. I need to find the right batter that will hold the chocolate and keep it from becoming a total mess. Also, I need to try different oils. Would peanut oil heat and taste better than lets say a vegetable oil? Should be a fun experiment and I will definitely keep you posted on my progress. If you have any tips I would much appreciate them...hey you might even make it in my next blog. 

Friday, April 25, 2008

Roasted Beets & Fried Goat Cheese Salad


Came home the other night in a truly horrible mood, a real stinker, but with one whiff all of that went away. Adrianne was in the kitchen cooking up one of my all time favorites, roasted beets, Panko fried goat cheese and a fresh arugula spring mix salad served with a 2006 Blackstone Pinot Noir....heaven! It's amazing how the right meal can melt the daily grind right off me and fix everything. So, I thought I would share with you this wonderful salad. 

Beets:
Fresh beets at the market are rather easy to come by so start by getting a couple of them. Slice off the tops, next get all the hairy bits off, then cut into thick wedges. Toss with olive oil, kosher salt, crushed black pepper and a little sugar (the sugar is crucial!) Roast on a sheet pan in the oven @ 425 until they're crispy on the outside, stir them around every 10-15 minutes so they cook evenly.

Goat Cheese: 
4 oz of Goat Cheese and 2 of cream cheese mixed together, rolled into 1 oz balls and then flattened into a disc. Put in refrigerator so they'll get really cold. Heat olive oil in skillet to sizzling, medium high I guess. Dip the goat cheese in a beaten egg, then coat with Panko (we fry everything in Panko but any other type of breadcrumbs will do the job). Cook in hot oil until nice and golden brown on each side.

Adrianne likes to serve it on fresh spring greens w/ toasted walnuts (or pecans :) with a warm balsamic dressing. I actually prefer not to use any dressing since the arugula has enough punch of flavor. The Blackstone pinot noir with hints of cherry and tobacco was perfect for the salad. Plus, it's a wine that won't break the bank (under $15.00). -Thanks Adrianne! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

You STOLE IT Cindy McCain

Well once again we have some embellishing going on in the ranks of our politicians. First it was Hilary Clinton and her 96' trip to the front lines of Bosnia, and how she landed under sniper fire in the war torn country. But now, now we have something that's even worse in my opinion. Sen. John McCain's wife was recently busted for posting so-called "family recipes" on her website. These recipes were actually lifted from the Food Network!

The Huffington Post reports the page featuring Cindy McCain's family recipes has been taken down. The campaign is blaming an intern for posting them without attribution, CNN and TMZ.com reported. Just one problem with that, the Post noted. The Republican presidential contender's wife submitted the recipe for Passion Fruit Mousse as her own for a New York Sun article in January.

Ok, if you have a recipe that's not yours, fine, since most of them are already in the Joy of Cooking. However, please please don't pretend it's from your family when it's not. I mean come on...... she had an intern come up with some recipes that would make her cool and appealing to the public. Well, I'm offended! There are so many people in the food industry working their asses off to come up with ideas and different recipes. They sure don't deserve this kind of behavior nor should they tolerate it! I don't mind simple embellishing but to outright lie about it, well that's another story. Phoooie on you Cindy and your intern! 

Monday, April 14, 2008

2007 Pinot Grigio-Fish Eye

Wine of the Week

This weeks showcase is Fish Eye, a 2007 pinot grigio from California. Ok, I really shouldn't call this a showcase, since it's hardly worth the write up. However, since I promised to write you a review once a week and find a decent chocolate pairing to go with it, well, here you go.

Now as you all know I love pinot grigios....simply love them. Especially during the spring and early summer when the air is clear and cool. As far as whites go I rank pinot grigios pretty high up on the flavor scale. Now with that said, I did not like the Fish Eye. First of all the thought of drinking something like a fish's eye isn't very appealing. It conjures up images of mechanical grapefruit spoons and flopping fish. Second, the finish was way too sweet for my taste. It was more like swilling a Boone's Farm outside of the high school dance with my fly down, shirt untucked and tie thrown over my shoulder. I read one review saying how "the aromatics in this bottle were like a tropical adventure"....yeah right, more like an adventure in a third world country jail cell where malaria was somehow involved!

Now the fun part, the part where I tell you just what chocolate would go nicely with this wine. Generally the rule of thumb is to choose a chocolate slightly sweeter than the wine being served. In this case it's nearly impossible! But, if I had to make a decision I would say milk chocolate, or maybe even a white chocolate. I tell you what, if you have any Easter chocolate wrapped in foil or better yet a chocolate bunny left over bite off the ears and pour yourself a tall glass (for this isn't your sipping beverage). At 8 dollars this screw top wine with its catchy blue-green label should be low on your wines to try list. That's my taste and I'm sticking to it...until next week. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hot Chocolate Rainy Day Dreams

I was going to save this recipe for the fall and winter months, but since it's been raining here non-stop I thought I would go ahead and post it. There's something about those mornings when I wake up to rain taping on the window and there's a slight chill in the house that I like a good cup of hot chocolate. Don't get me wrong I love my coffee and teas like I love the air we breath, but for chilly wet weather I'll take a hot chocolate any day. 

Ever since I learned the art of making the perfect cup I have a hard time opening that packet of Swiss Miss with those poor excuse for marshmallows stuck in there! Usually when I have an order of truffles to fill I will save any scraps of chopped/shaved dark chocolate and put them in a ZipLock baggy. Also, if I have any left over vanilla beans I will set them aside too. 

RECIPE
1 Cup Milk 
1 Cup of Half n Half
2 oz of Dark Chocolate (chopped into small pieces)
1 Vanilla Bean (split) or (1/2 tsp of extract if you don't have a bean available)
3 tbs of Sugar
1 tbs of Brown Sugar

Heat the vanilla bean (or extract) and the cup of milk in a saucepan on medium. 
Remove the bean and simmer.
Slowly stir in the Sugar and Brown Sugar.
Next add the chocolate being careful not to burn it. 
Blend the Half n Half blender until frothy and then add it to the saucepan.
Stir once more and serve. Bliss

For a bit of heat add a dash of cayenne pepper to the mix. 


Thursday, April 3, 2008

2006 Finca Flichman Malbec Reserva

Wine of the week. 
As you all know I love pairing wine and chocolate. It doesn't matter to me if it's at a dinner party or just a quick snack on a Sunday afternoon, I absolutely love the stuff. Yeah yeah so I've heard it's all the rage and trendy blah blah blah.....but have you actually tried pairing the two? 

Once a week I'm going to showcase what's on my wine rack and offer up a good chocolate to go along with it. Usually during the springtime I like a chilled pinot grigio, something very light and airy with hints of.....well, spring. However, Adrianne just brought home a Malbec and our rack is devoid of wine, so this week you get a Malbec! 

Malbec's are a dark-skinned grape with a rich color and thick or robust tannins. I really enjoy the varietal from the Argentine region of Mendoza. That's not to say the French varietal is bad. It's just that I think the Argentines have a way with Malbecs, must be the soil and all of that heat. 

Ok, with that said, this weeks feature is a 2006 Finca Flichman Malbec Reserva. At 13 bucks a pop it's not the most expensive of the Malbecs but definitely not the cheapest. It comes off as a strong red straight from the cork but settles down after breathing for 20 minutes or so (which I highly recommend). Once settled it tastes rather plumy with a hint of smoke. I would definitely pair this wine with a dark chocolate truffle, one that had some sort of cayenne pepper or smoke chipotle infused in it. But that's just my opinion and my taste buds in action. I give it a thumbs up!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

March - "Royal Foodie Joust"


Once a month The Leftover Queen puts on a cage-match cook off for her loyal members. The Royal Foodie Joust as it is known is a come-one come-all battle of culinary skills using 3 ingredients provided at the beginning of the month. You are allowed to do what you like as long as you have incorporated those 3 key ingredients into your recipe. Winners get bragging rights and a chance to pick the next months ingredients. 

This months challenge was to use lime, coconut and something from the sea. I came up with a Coconut-Lime chocolate truffle sprinkled with Fleur de Sel. Since it was my first challenge I was a tad bit excited to get started. So, here's my recipe: 

Ingredients:
2 1/2 ounces of 38% milk chocolate (chopped)
2 1/2 ounces of 64% dark chocolate (chopped)
2 1/2 Tbs. of Coconut Cream (canned)
2 Tbs. of Heavy Whipping Cream
1/2 Tbs of Squeezed Lime
3 Tbs. of Salted Butter (soft & cubed)
A pinch of Fluer de Sel for toppings

Directions:
1. In a sauce-pan gently stir the cream, coconut milk and lime juice over medium heat until simmer, then slowly bring to a boil.
2. Once the mixture reaches a boil pour directly over the chocolate (the 5 ounces of 38% and 64%). Stir slowly until the chocolate has ALL melted.
3. Add soft butter and stir gently.
4. Let cool until firm but not hard.
5. Scoop out small portions and roll into balls.
6. Let sit over night to harden.
7. Dip balls into tempured dark chocolate (75%) and place on parchment paper
8. Sprinkle with Fluer de Sel

OK......now go an vote for my dish! 

Monday, March 31, 2008

Grilled Grouper & Fennel Bulbs


Well, this past Saturday my old boss invited me out on his grouper boat for a day fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. And since I love fresh fish and being out on the water it was just too hard to say no. He really had to twist my arm. After a long day we managed to catch three large grouper, a ton of pink mouths (better known as grunts), seabass and one flounder. 


Sunday morning I prepped the grill, soaked a plank of maple and a handfull of wood chips in a pan, and then separated out two nice grouper fillets for Adrianne and myself. I put the grouper in a large Zip-Lock bag with virgin olive oil, soy sauce, and chopped garlic. I let them sit all day in the fridge while I ran some errands. On a side note, my father discovered this wonderful marinade while working in the Florida Keys. He said the local fisherman would grill everything using it and I can see why. Try grilling portabello mushroom caps with it! Mmmmm mmm taste just like steak, so rich and earthy. 


The market had some great looking fennel bulbs and squash so I picked them up along with a few other items. Back at the house I split the bulbs and rubbed the insides with curry paste and virgin olive oil. I fired up the grill and had Adrianne crack open a bottle of chilled Hopler (Gruner Veltliner 2005). During the transition from spring to summer I love to sit on the back deck with a chilled pinot grigio or some other white wine and cook. The weather is mild and the bugs have yet to descend upon us. 


I put everything on the grill at once; the fish, the split fennel and squash. I tossed the handful of soaked woodchips on the coals and closed the lid. The grouper grilled up nicely on the maple plank in no time. The fennel came out slightly charred and very aromatic. Along with the wine it was a perfect evening to end the weekend.