Saturday, March 23, 2013

Today I ate a Stradivarius.

2012, Brad Brubaker / Crayon and pen on paper / 22 x 16 in.
In celebration of becoming a chocolate connoisseur, I treated myself to a selection of Amedei solid chocolate bars. Having already done a tasting of their single origin chocolate, trying their other bars would nearly close the gap of tasting all of the products made from what I believe to be the best chocolate in the world. My plan was to follow Chloe Roussel-Doutre's advice--chewing the chocolate into small bits in order to maximize the surface area exposed to the tongue--and to document my taste reactions. Having found inspiration in chocolate before, I thought poetry might result from this act of devotion. What I didn't reckon was that I would create a work of art.

While tasting Amedei's Chuao bar, made from much coveted beans from the Chuao plantation in Venezuela, I felt a wash over me. I felt new terrains of my tongue explored and new taste buds were discovered...or perhaps brought to life. I had a phrase enter my head so clearly which accompanied this experience: deep red grooves. My God, I was eating a Stradivarius. And I knew that for my whole life, though I only first realized it in that moment, I have wanted to be a violin.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Chocolate Conneisseur's Desert Island List

When marooned on a desert island, make it rain.
(Note: This list was updated in 2016.)

The Chicago winters aren't the only reason I've been thinking about life on a desert island. Having finally gotten around to reading The Chocolate Connoisseur* by professional chocolate buyer Chloe Roussel-Doutre, I've been creating my Desert Island list. Many people create a fictional list of people they'd love to spend time with on a desert island** or the albums***/books **** they'd want with them, but Roussel-Doutre challenges her readers to meditate on the ten chocolate bars they'd want in their suitcase. (Presumably the suitcase has a regulated temperature in the fantasy.)

Without pause, I scrawled out a list of my ten of favorite chocolate delicacies, as well as five other treats that, despite my year-round cravings, are seasonal or unavailable in the U.S. That this task came so effortlessly for me is proof of my growth as a student of chocolate. After much studious research and personal exploration, I feel I can officially and confidently declare myself a chocolate snob--EHEM!--connoisseur.***** Make a note of it, friends.

Ten Chocolates for My Desert Island List:
Honorable Mention:
  • Ghirardelli - Peppermint Bark
  • Ritter Sport - Coconut Macaroon, milk chocolate with coconut filling
  • Theo Chocolate - Jasmine Truffle
  • Unknown brand in Belgium - Sp├ęculoos and chocolate covered almonds
  • Vosges - Gingerbread Toffee

* This book came recommended by the good people at Seattle's Chocolopolis.
** Most people choose what is known as a "fox" (i.e. Keira Knightley or Ryan Gosling), while I usually go the practical, trying-to-stay-alive route and choose an Eagle Scout.
*** An ever-changing list. Let's go with summer listening: The Ruby Suns' Sea Lion, Cory Branan's The Hell You Say, The Beatles' White Album and Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
**** You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers, my favorite, and Stephen King's The Stand: Complete & Uncut, which I've never read but when else does a person have that much time?
***** The chief connoisseur, Ms. Roussel-Doutre, and I do not always see eye to eye, especially on whether or not chocolate with stuff in it belongs in the company of solid chocolate bars. She says the true chocolate connoisseur is content enough to taste the subtle differences of the chocolate itself. I say a true gastronomic explorer of any type of cuisine sees the value of tasting how other ingredients combine to create a new effect. She also disapproves of white chocolate, something I usually agree with. Hopefully these clashes don't cause her to boot me out of the chocolate connoisseur club.

Friday, March 15, 2013

This Pie is a Portkey

Third (Almost) Annual Pi(e) Day Pot Luck & House Concert, 2013
"This pie is a portkey." This was the label on the first guest's tasty cntribution, promising accurately that the evening's contact with pie would transport the evening's guests to a different place. Offering far more sweet than savory (save my corned beef and cabbage shepherd's pie and another guest's spanokopita), some highlights included coconut pie, tiramisu pie, apple-pecan pie with a cinnamon roll crust, strawberry-chocolate pie and coconut pie. Another crowd favorite had one foot in the savory category and the other in the sweet: blueberry, goat cheese and basil pie.

The night was magnificent. The music was good, thanks to Liz Chidester. And the pie transported us.

Only 364 more days until Pi(e) Day 2014!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Graham Cracker Ice Cream

The indentation in the center was from eating it nose first.
This flavor idea has been on my list for close to a decade, following my introduction to the graham cracker-themed Crumbs Along the Mohawk during my first summer internship in Williamstown, MA. The next year, the first thing I did upon arriving in the Berkshires was buy that flavor and two other half gallons from Stewart's Shops. For that flavor and others, they remain a favorite among regional ice cream manufacturers.

Graham Cracker ice cream

2 cups whipping cream
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
12-14 graham crackers (or half a box), slap chopped
dash of cinnamon
dash of cinnamon sugar
(opt.) additional graham crackers, for topping
(opt.) dark chocolate covered graham crackers, for garnish and pregame eating

1.) Mix ingredients together. The challenge is balance: make sure the cinnamon doesn't completely overpower the smell of the graham in the mixture. Adjust graham crackers accordingly, but don't put too many in or it will soak up all the liquid.
2.) Chill overnight. Both you and the mixture.
3.) Put in ice cream maker. The mixture, not you.
4.) Eat and share.
5.) Receive accolades.