Last night I had some really good chocolate. Really. Good. Chocolate. The kind that makes me want to go all choco-snob with an accent from here on out.
A dear friend and I happened upon a quaint chocolatier shop during an errand running outing. We chatted up the cashier while making a purchase, and was informed that the shop had chocolate tasting parties in the evenings. Dear Friend decided she should have a chocolate tasting party in honor of her upcoming birthday. I happily attended!
Brian Pelletier, owner and chief chocolatier (sounds like a character from a Dumas novel, right?) at Kakao, was our culinary tour guide for the evening. He offered a brief overview of the origins of the art of chocolate making, and then he became my BFF. (For at least 2 hours.) He told us about how his shop takes all the calories and fat out of chocolate each Wednesday evening. And then he gave us chocolate. mmmmm.... It was not the sold-in-gas-stations-chocolate-shaped-and-lacking-flavor-type of chocolate. It was the kind of chocolate that you wanted to let melt in your mouth and then swirl around before it was gone. The kind that invites your tongue to the dance floor. We tasted cacao nibs. Think the flavor of cocoa powder, but crunchy. This will be appearing on a dessert at home very soon! This is full of antioxidants and other wonderful things for you.
We tried lavender truffles. They steep dried lavender in cream to make the insides, dip them in chocolate and oh-so-carefully, place a lavender bud on the top.
Then we tried a dark chocolate truffle with a candied lemon peel on top. Mmmmm....
...and pate de fruits. (Think the adult version of orange slices from your childhood.) And this brittle was certainly the confection with the most personality of the evening...Pecan Chipotle Brittle (a.k.a. Cowboy Brittle). It was sweet and crisp, but had a git-along-little-doggie sunset of spice at the end of each bite.
But these...these were my favorites. Sea salt caramels. If you like sweet and salty together...stop the bus. (Even if you don't, you have to at least try it sometime.) Creamy, salty, chocolatey. Did I mention creamy?
Come to mama! I purchased a package of 4 of these caramels. I shared one with my dear hubby. The other 3...let's just say they didn't make it even 12 hours at home.
I'm sure Brian and his staff would love to have you come and try some of these confections in person, or he would want you to know that he ships just about anywhere! Promise me one thing, though, if you go...bring something back for me!
I have a favorite cook book. It is my 'go-to' for recipes and inspiration. In an era where websites offer VERY helpful reviews on recipes, it's hard to go on your own to try a paper-based recipe. Here's a cook book, full of recipes I LOVE. I have tried many of the recipes in this cookbook, and have yet to be disappointed. So, in case that recommendation was not strong enough, I'll say it another way. If you get to buy one cookbook this year...BUY SASSAFRAS!
Whatever you choose to call them, everyone loves a little bite...sweet or savory...for munching. The French and Italians call it like it is. Hors d'oeuvre - apart from the main work. Antipasto - before the meal. Perhaps the purpose of these pre-meal morsels is to sustain guests between their arrival and being seated at the dining table. However, they are occasionally served in place of a meal, and can be served at a table or passed 'butler style'. (I don't know about you, but I think butler style hors d'oeuvres sound fancy!) Suggested amounts per person vary between 6 and 12 (and some even up to 20, if replacing dinner) bites each hour. It's fun to offer guests a variety of tastes and textures in your appetizer selections. Here is a menu for an appetizer reception I prepared last weekend, served in place of lunch.
Bacon Chicken Brochettes
Corn and Black Bean Salsa Cups
Cornmeal Blinis with Mascarpone and Strawberries
Garlic Hummus on Cucumber
Pesto Turkey Sandwiches
Romeo and Juliets (Guava Pate and Manchego Cheese)
Orange Glazed Pecans
Swedish Raspberry Shortbread
I know you'd love to see some pictures of the service table for this event. The truth is, so would I. I had my camera, but I didn't have a spare minute to snap photos. Maybe sometime I'll have a staff photographer. ;)