Universe in 3 Pounds of Chocolate, Aztec Calendar by Casa de Chocolates

When I asked Arcelia Gallardo for her inspiration in starting Casa de Chocolates her answer was:

"My inspiration is to tell the true story of chocolate though chocolate itself; although we know the word cacao comes from the Olmec  and  that the Maya used cacao as currency, the Aztecs left us proof that cacao was actually consumed in the form of a drink."

Looking for a gift to be remembered, the Aztec Calendar, 3 pounds worth of chocolate by Casa de Chocolates will leave a mark.


"The Aztec Calendar represents the Aztec’s concept of the universe; it consists of an agricultural calendar cycle and a sacred calendar cycle which taught the Aztecs how to maintain the universe’s delicate equilibrium."

Ingredients are cacao, cocoa butter, sugar and cinnamon

Retails for $70.

Casa de Chocolates is based in Berkeley, California.

Chocolatier as Comic Strip Character, Patrick Roger Opens Brussels Shop

Creativite tout azymuth, all around creativity, is a good way to describe Patrick Roger, the French maverick chocolatier.

For the opening of his Brussels shop in November, Patrick Roger becomes a cartoon character.


His signature Boites Vertes ('Green Boxes') come handy as a ready made title for the cacao hero's adventures.

(* Illustration from Patrick Roger site...Thanks to Lauranie Choco for allerting me of Patrick's adventures)

Chrismas Eve Sicilian Style, Feast of Seven Fishes Dinner at Flour and Water, San Francisco

Chef Thomas McNaughton of Flour and Water (San Francisco) invites you to join him at the Chef Table in the Dough Room for an 8 course Sicilian style 'Feast of Seven Fishes' dinner on Saturday, December 24th at 7pm.


Program notes:

"La Vigilia (Christmas Eve), in many parts of Italy, is a partial fast where no meat products are consumed. With time, this simple meal has morphed into a decadent feast celebrated by many people all over the world."

Price with wine pairings is $265 per person

You can purchase tickets online...

I wish I could pay Flour and Water a visit on December 11 when pastry chef Belinda Leong will hold fort with a pop-up breakfast shop. Amongst goods on offer is Cinnamon Apple Kouign Amann which warmed my Breton heart.

Let Me Count the Ways to Celebrate with Champagne Tarlant Advent Calendar

Imagine if your Advent Calendar instead of holding chocolate when you tick off the days opened onto a different Champagne.

Christmas tarlant

That's what i thought when i saw this Christmas Tarlant Calendar which actually offers ways to celebrate with Champagne.

I could go for Oeuf a la Coque (December 2) for Breakfast even without Champagne.


Let Me Count the Ways to Celebrate!

(* Both images from Christmas Tarlant site)

Simplicity and Time for Contemplation, Japanese Ofuro, Hinoki Hot Tubs Nec Plus Ultra

When was the last time you soaked in the tub without worrying about time?

Surroundings, the room where you bathe matter.

In Japan for Ofuro (bath), wooden hot tubs combine comfort and simplicity.

If your living space allows, setting your Ofuro in a room with a view (onto a garden) will add to its Zen quality.

Hinoki wood is nec plus ultra if price tag is not an issue.

Soaking in a hot tub in Japan is as much to soothe the soul and mind than the aching body.


A good introduction to this topic is The Japanese Bath (Gibbs Smith) by Yoshiko Yamamoto and Bruce Smith with great photography by Aya Brackett including cover (pictured above).

Unfortunately book is currently on back order and will be available again in March 2012.

Time for contemplation on Tokyo Thursdays # 213

Previously: Pine Cones as Placecard Holders at 16 Seat Restaurant Les Chanterelles in Tokyo

(* Image of The Japanese Bath cover from Aya Brackett's website)

Indian Tiger's Eye Walking Cane, Old Sheffield Plate Bread Basket, Objects of Vertu Auction, Dec. 7

Why should we limit our holiday gift shopping to big box or local stores?

Even if you are not a collector, auctions are a good avenue for less pedestrian choices.

The Fine Silver & Objects of Vertu auction presented by Dreweatts 1759 at 11:00 AM on December 7, 2011 (at Donnington Priory in the UK) lists offbeat objects amongst them an Indian tiger's eye walking cane (lot 112, late 19th-eraly 20th century, £100 -150 ) and an Art deco lapis lazuli box (lot 113, £400 -600) in the Objects of Vertu.


For your house parties, An Old Sheffield plate oval bread basket (circa 1795, lot 2, £200 -300) will add that little je ne sais quoi to dinner.

If you cannot be present in person at the auction, bid online.

Download the Full Catalogue and draft your list.

(* Images of lot 112 and lot 2 from Dreweatts auction catalogue)

Truffle Oil is Indigestible and Wrong, 'Simply Truffles' Talk with Patricia Wells

More than a cookbook, Simply Truffles (William Morrow, November 8) by Patricia Wells takes us on the black diamond trail, sharing anecdotes like the fact that Colette was said to have devoted 1 day a year to eat truffles to when and where you can find these earthy delights.

History buffs will enjoy the Truffle Time Line which starts in 2000 BC with mention that 'the first known text about the truffle is recorded by the Neo-Sumerians on clay tablets'.

We then get to the meatier part of 'Simply Truffles', some 50 recipes. The author offers wine pairing suggestions for a number of them.

Black Truffles

After exploring her new book, I had a little Truffle Talk with Patricia Wells.

Q: Patricia, why chose truffles or to be more specific black truffles as the subject of your new book 'Simply Truffles'?

Because truffles are native to our region of Provence. I have been working with truffles every season since 1984 and built a repertoire of recipes that needed a home, thus Simply Truffles

Q: How far back do we have to go to spot first truffle recipes?

The oldest surviving truffle recipes can be found in the first known European cookbook, Apicius, from 400 AD. The book records six truffle recipes, including one for wine sauce made with truffles as well as methods for storing truffles in sawdust. 

Q: Do you favor the 'all truffle tasting menu' concept? If you do where did you have the best tasting ever?

I love the "all truffle tasting" menu as long as it is done right and there are plenty of truffles. At least once each season, since 1984, we savor the truffle feast at the restaurant Beaugraviere in Mondragon, about an hour's drive from our farmhouse in Provence. There chef and owner Guy Jullien creates  the most memorable menus all paired with wines from his excellent cellar of Rhone wines. Some highlights include a winter vegetable ragout with an avalanche of truffles; a whole truffle baked gently in puff pastry; truffles scallops; truffled Bresse chicken; truffled St Marcellin as well as Brie; and truffle caramel  ice cream! 

Q: What percentage of truffles found in France are wild ones?

Today probably 80 percent of the truffles found are unearthed beneath an artificially mychorrizalized tree (one inoculated with truffle spores.) In aspect and taste there is no difference between a "wild" or "domesticated" truffle. 

Q: Does the idea of 'terroir' applies to truffles? Can you taste the difference from one area to the other and between producers?

Yes, for sure. For instance truffles founds in sandy soil will be rounder, and firmer. The taste difference may not vary dramatically from producer to producer but the aspect certainly can vary. 

Q: Are Truffled Croque Monsieur and Goat Cheese 'Reverse Oreos' with Truffles two good introductions to world of truffles for newbies?

Yes, they are, for they give more "bang for their buck" as we would say.

Q: What was the most unconventional truffle dish you ever encountered and tasted?

I am thinking and searching but not coming up with a most unconventional. Probably because it was not good and I don't remember it. If I come up with something, I'll get back to you!

Q: Finding truffles, is it all about 'pheromone'?

It has to be, but I have watched dozens of dogs hunts truffles and no two dogs go at it in the same way. Just wander and sniff gently, some are like wild animals and race about then stop dead like a cartoon character. I did speak with a farmer in Italy a few years ago. Their dog found one of the biggest  truffles ever found and it took them an hour to unearth it. They had to hold the dog back he was going wild.  

Q: For cooks who cannot afford a whole truffle, what is the next best bet, truffle salt, truffle butter?

Definitely truffle butter first, truffle salt next. They can work wonders.


Q: Is Truffle Oil just a restaurant fad?

Truffle oil is nothing more than perfume. Indigestible and wrong!

Q: Are you always present in November for opening Saturday of Marche aux Truffes in Richerenches?

I always get to the Richerenches market several times each season but am almost always in the United States at the end of November so rarely get there for opening day.

Thank you Patricia for making time for a little Truffle Talk with us.

(* Photos by Jeff Kauck from Simply Truffles by Patricia Wells, published by William Morrow on November 8)

Haute Mille Feuille Recipe by Michel Roth from the Pages of Ritz Paris Cookbook

Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier set the bar high for hoteliers and restaurateurs who followed them.

Thanks to Michel Roth, the chef at Ritz Paris for past decade, we are invited to celebrate the hotel's rich history with Ritz Paris (Flammarion) released on October 25, 2011.

In addition to Michel Roth recipes, in opening pages of Ritz Paris Jean-Francois Mesplede, former director of Michelin Guide- France, sheds light on the main actors in this story, starting with Cesar Ritz then the Cesar Ritz-Escoffier partnership and concluding with Michel Roth.

He opens his introduction to Cesar Ritz with these words by a certain Monsieur Escher, Ritz first employer when he was 13:

"You'll never come to anything in the hotel business. For that, you need talent amd special flair. And I have to tell you, you don't have either."

To open a door on Ritz Paris culinary world, I had to start with a plaisir gourmand, a favorite pastry.

Vanilla Mille-Feuille, Ritz-Style

Serves 4

Puff pastry

1 generous cup (3 ½ oz./100 g) cake flour
3 sticks (12 1⁄3oz./350 g) butter, minimum 82-percent butterfat
½ cup minus 2 tablespoons (100 ml) cold water
1 ½ teaspoons (7 g) sel de Guérande
7 oz. (200 g) stoneground organic flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons (1 oz./25 g) melted butter
Confectioner's sugar

Pastry cream
½ vanilla bean, ½ cup minus 2 tablespoons (100 ml) milk
2 teaspoons (10 g) butter, 1 egg yolk
1 ½ tablespoons (20 g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon (10 g) cornstarch
1 tablespoon plus 2 ½ teaspoons (10 g) cake flour
5 sheets (10 g) gelatin (see page 2)
½ cup (120 ml) whipping cream


Puff pastry

A day ahead, prepare a beurre manié: use the dough hook of your mixer to combine the cake flour
and the butter. Spread out the beurre manié to form a square. Cover with waxed paper, and chill. To make the détrempe (the dough before the butter is incorporated): still using the dough hook, combine the water and salt, and then the flour with the melted butter. Do not overmix. Cover in plastic wrap, and chill.
The next day, envelope the détrempe (the second mixture) within the first (the beurre manié). Roll out, and fold over twice. Leave to rest. An hour and a half later, roll and fold two more times. An hour and a half later, repeat.
An hour and a half later, roll out the dough to make an even sheet of puff pastry (less than 1/16th in./2 mm thick). Place this sheet of pastry between 2 sheets of waxed paper on a baking sheet. Set a wire rack over it, and bake at 350°F (175°C) for about 45 minutes, until the pastry is a nice golden color.
When done, cut out 12 rectangles, 6 x 1 and 1⁄3 in. (15 x 3.5 cm). Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar
through a small strainer, and bake at 465°F (240 °C) for 2-to-3 minutes to caramelize the pastry. Remove from the oven, and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Pastry cream

Scrape out the vanilla seeds into the milk, and bring the milk and butter, with the vanilla seeds and
bean, to a boil. Whip the egg yolk with the sugar until pale and thick. Add the cornstarch and flour. Mix again until smooth. Pour the boiling milk over the egg mixture; then return mixture to the saucepan, and cook for 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, and add the gelatin, whisking so that no lumps form. Transfer the pastry cream to a pastry dish. Cover with plastic wrap flush with the surface, removing any air bubbles, and place in the refrigerator to cool completely. When the pastry cream is cool, transfer it to a bowl, and whip again until perfectly smooth.
Beat the whipping cream, and carefully fold it into the vanilla pastry cream. Chill until needed.

To assemble the mille-feuille

Spoon the pastry cream into a pastry bag fitted with a ½-in. (12-mm) tip, and pipe out two lines onto a rectangle of caramelized pastry. Repeat the procedure a second time, and sandwich four layers together. Top with a layer of puff pastry.

(* Vanilla Mille Feuille recipe from Ritz Paris released by Flammarion on October 25, 2011, recipes by Michel Roth, text by Jean-Francois Mesplede, photography by Grant Symon....Reproduced by permission of the publisher, all rights reserved)

Russian River Valley Lamb and Pinot Noir, Emeritus Wine Dinner at Prospect, San Francisco, August 29

Not content to bring their Pinot Noirs for this wine dinner at Prospect restaurant in San Francisco , Emeritus Vineyards is contributing a whole lamb raised on Emeritus fields in Russian River valley.


Chef Ravi Kapur of Prospect will also use produce grown on the property for 4 wines and 4 courses evening  - including a champagne reception.

Here's the menu:


sheep's milk ricotta on toasted sourdough, truffles spiced lamb, pinenuts, currants, phyllo


crudo of emeritus lamb, favas, sea beans, smoked mushrooms, rye, toasted nettles

lamb merguez smoked over grapevines, grape leaf braised octopus, shelling beans, elements of romesco  
for the table: polpette & roasted grape skewers

mixed roast of loin, belly, & ribs, lamb's quarters, smoked eggplant, eggplant chutney, lamb jus

for the table: sheep's milk polenta, lamb fat potatoes

roasted peaches from the vineyard, corn ice cream, streusel

for the table: chocolate truffles & caramel corn

Featured Wines:

Emeritus 'Hallberg Ranch" Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2009
Emeritus 'Hallberg Ranch' Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2008
Emeritus 'William Wesley' Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2007

Price (per person): $150 (includes tax and gratuity)

Online reservations via Brown Paper Tickets...

For accuracy:

"Emeritus owns and farms 150 acres of Pinot Noir vineyards in two Sonoma County locations: The home ranch-Hallberg Vineyard-in the heart of the Russian River Valley, and William Wesley Vineyard in the coastal mountains of the Sonoma Coast."

(* Hallberg Vineyard photo via Emeritus website)

Longtable In the Fields, Dining Outdoors, Outstanding in the Fields 2011 Tour

If you want to get to the roots of food, there is no better way than dining out, I mean outdoors, at one of the Outstanding in the Fields events on their 2011 Tour.

What is Outstanding in the Fields about:

"Outstanding in the Field is a roving culinary adventure – literally a restaurant without walls. Since 1999 we have set the long table at farms or gardens, on mountain tops or in sea caves, on islands or at ranches. Occasionally the table is set indoors: a beautiful refurbished barn, a cool greenhouse or a stately museum. Wherever the location, the consistent theme of each dinner is to honor the people whose good work brings nourishment to the table.

Ingredients for the meal are almost all local (sometimes sourced within inches of your seat at the table!) and generally prepared by a celebrated chef of the region. After a tour of the site, we all settle in: farmers, producers, culinary artisans, and diners sharing the long table."

Their next dinner with seats available is on Friday August 5th:

HOST FARMERS: Fred & Chris Thaxton, Thaxton Organic Garlic 

GUEST CHEF: Jonathon Sawyer, The Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland

Price per person: $180, Starts at 4 PM, in Hudson (Ohio)


Their Longtable in the Fields came to my attention thanks to Araxi Restaurant (Whistler, British Columbia) longtable @ north arm farm series in Pemberton...

After 3 years working with Outstanding in the Field, Chef James Walt collaborates with North Arm Farm’s proprietor Jordan Sturdy outside the 2011 Tour of Outstanding in the Fields roster.

The view by itself makes it worth a visit...

Check Full List of Oustanding in the Fields Stops for their 2011 Tour.

September dates include a number of European events including at Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry, Cork, Ireland on September 5th with Darina Allen.

Also at Hans Lund's Farm, Island of Lilleo, Denmark with Chef Anders Selmer, Kodbyens Fiskebar, Copenhagen on September 11.

Add to the list Rioja on September 17 and Radda in Chianti, September 20.

Please note, a seat at any of these events runs from $150 to $250 per person.

Setting my table in the fields for Green Day #188

Previously: Put Some Skin in Making Lunch Greener with Lunchskins by 3GreenMoms

(* image of Araxi at North Arm Farm courtesy of Araxi restaurant)