Sunday, April 3, 2011


For my 40th birthday my sister, who shares the birthday with me, arranged to have my family meet me at Jungle Jim's for the day because she knows what a Foodie I am. My whole family has an appreciation for good and wholesome food thanks to my mother, so they, like me, were more than happy to explore the world of new and fabulous foods.

And since I'm a sharer, I'm sharing the fun with you!

So, we start with the Dragon Fruit. Looks like a kiwi, doesn't it? It cost $6.00 for this one big guy but I didn't care...I needed to experience the flavor. It claims the flavor of a kiwi/pear combo with a sweet and crunchy texture, but the one I tasted was very mild. Very pleasant, but very mild. It has a very high water content and is high in Vitamin C.

They recommend removing it easily from the skin, cutting it up and placing it back in the skin for serving purposes, which is adorable. If served at a party, it would definitely be the most unique and talked about entree'!

Passion fruit is one of my favorite flavors! The sweet tartness of the seeded syrup makes my toes curl in a happy way. It's a delight that should only be enjoyed when you have the time and presence of mind to indulge and appreciate. Jeni's introduced me once to a passion fruit ice cream that I fell head over heels in love with and then she stopped making it. Beans! :(

Check out the Rambutan....the hairy, hairy Rambutan. Looks like a sea urchin, doesn't it? What's so fascinating about this hairy little ball is the pearl it protects inside.

Just take a knife and gently cut around the middle of the belly and pop off the top to reveal the pearly goodness. It's like a grape without the skin.

As beautiful and elegant as it appears, the taste is not as sweet as the average grape. It's taste is pleasant and mild and absolutely worth the tasting....for the novelty of it, if for nothing else.

When we had our Funky Fruit Tasting Party we could not locate these, so we ate them out of the can.....NOT the same. I was super excited to find these and cut them open. As you can see, they have one almond-sized seed in the center. Don't eat it!

Longans are another fruit at the Funky Fruit Party we couldn't track down at the time, so I was eager to slice these acorn look-a-likes open and reveal the "grape" impostor inside. Again, the everyday grape probably wins for best flavor, but if you happen upon these little nuggets, you must try them!

They have an intriguing looking seed inside them as well. You've got to work for this food, people.

I couldn't resist the Meyer Lemons because I'm a lemon lover! They're just sooooo beautiful!

I bought three chocolate bars and the one below was my FAVORITE!

Vosges is a little pricey, but zoom in on that caramel oozing out and tell me you wouldn't give up six dollars out of your wallet to taste it!

This is what you're looking for.... ♥

These were just a few of the marvelous wonders that we found. Check out a Jungle Jim's near you and enjoy some foodie fun!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Very Fortunate 'Mistake'

Have you ever wondered why people call chocolate chip cookies 'Tollhouse Cookies'?

I have, many times. I wonder why all kinds of things are called what they are...why do you ask? My mind can be a confusing place sometimes...but I like it there! :)

So as I was pondering what to do with the kids on this icy morning (since school has been canceled), I went immediately to the most obvious choice...bake cookies! Who doesn't love cookies? And it's a win-win, because the kids can be involved and they really enjoy it! However, as I was considering what kind of cookies to make, and (of course) chocolate chip came to mind, I started wondering again (for the 874th time) why people call them Tollhouse Cookies.

What did we ever do without Google, people? It is by far one of the most important tools in this house. And no, I am not kidding. So I took some time to do a little research, and guess what? I'm going to share with you the reason chocolate chip cookies are so often referred to as Tollhouse Cookies!

Apparently, a woman named Ruth Wakefield (and her husband, of course) operated a New England lodge called the Tollhouse Inn, so named because the house was originally a "toll house" where travelers stopped to pay a toll for using the highway. While their horses were being taken care of, they enjoyed a home cooked meal in the toll house. Anyway, one evening she was preparing to make her favorite treat, Butter Drop Do cookies, and though the recipe called for baker's chocolate, she had none. Can you imagine? I would be in a state of distress! HaHa! So what did Ruth do? She had a bar of semi-sweet chocolate, a gift from Andrew Nestle of the one and only Nestle Chocolate she chopped it up into small pieces and used it in place of the baker's chocolate. Although she expected the chocolate to melt into the cookie like baker's chocolate would, it didn't. Oh, of course the morsels softened up a bit, but they didn't disperse and become part of the cookie.

She served the cookies to her guests, and before long, the word was out about these amazing cookies! The recipe was published in a local paper, and soon was featured on the Betty Crocker radio series, "Famous Foods from Famous Eating Places". Eventually, Mrs. Wakefield cut a deal with Nestle and offered to let them print the recipe on their packages of semisweet chocolate in exchange for a lifetime supply of their chocolate! What a deal, eh? Yes, Mrs. Wakefield, I think we'd have gotten along just fiiiiiine.

And as you all know, the Nestle Tollhouse Cookie recipe has become the most popular cookie of all time. Talk about a VERY fortunate mistake!

So there you have it! Now you (and I) both know why chocolate chip cookies are referred to as Tollhouse cookies! Or maybe it's the other way around, since they were called Tollhouse cookies first. Oh well, no matter! They are still the most scrumptious cookie in my book!!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

It's a Citrus Tasting Party

It's Food Tasting time again and this party's theme was Citrus. Our wonderful and beautiful host was Miss Jen and she did a stellar job!

She not only arranged to have us taste a variety of oranges, grapefruits, and lemons, but she also had some citrusy desserts for us to indulge in between tastings. She decided that as much as we strategize to add cheese to every tasting party, cheese does not go with citrus, so she filled our bellies with dessert instead. How's that for a brilliant plan?

So...I'm going to cover the citruses first and make you wait for the desserts.

Pictured center stage up above is the Blood Orange, which had a very distinct flavor - a wine flavor, as a matter of fact. We were all very impressed with it's rich, deep color and it's unique flavor. It definitely stood out next to the Navel Orange which tasted like good ol' orange juice. I can't say that the Cara Cara wowed us much with it's flavor, but Clementines are always yummy.

The White Grapefruit, shown above, was the runaway winner in it's category, which shocked most all of us. The Rio Star was expected to be the favorite, but the White was new to all of us and stole our hearts. That's not to say we didn't appreciate and enjoy the Rio Star and Pink, but the White Grapefruit was the dark horse. What does that mean for you? That means you should go out and introduce yourself to the White Grapefruit and see if you can make a new friend, like we did.

The Meyer Lemon was also a big winner with it's sassy tartness, but deliciously, sweet twang. When tasting the lemons I chomped down hard because I adore the bite of a good lemon and the way my face contorts when the juice explodes in my mouth. The rest of the girls took small, little bites of the juice to avoid such facial contortions. The regular Lemon was just that...great and wonderful, but the Meyer was outstanding! The Meyer Lemon would be perfect for freshly squeezed lemonade on a hot summer day.

The Meyer is native to China and is thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. It has a little bit of an orange hue to it, so keep that in mind when looking for them.

We also tasted a Minneola, which was very mild like a tangerine, and the Pummelo, which was nice, but not knock-your-socks-off good, so that's all the attention we're giving them here because it's time.......


Jen served us Frozen Orange Yogurt that she made herself with the help of her handy-dandy Cuisinart ice cream maker.

It was light, mild, citrusy, and a little bit was perfecto and it was only the beginning!

She also made in her Cuisinart, a Frozen Meyer Lemon Sorbet that everyone nearly died over. I've never see Anne look so blissful as she sat quietly in her chair, eyes closed, happily spooning the sorbet into her mouth. She left us momentarily and took up residence in La-La Land. I'm sure plain lemons would have tasted just fine in this recipe, but around these parts we don't settle for "just fine", so we strongly recommend that you use Meyer lemons if you too, want to take a trip to La-La Land.

Now, it's no secret that Jen and I are Jeni's Ice Cream snobs, but I'm telling you right now, Jeni's lemon sorbet had NOTHING on Jen's Meyer Lemon Sorbet.....just saying!

Oh...and check out the stunner down below. This was the finale and wow, did it create a stir! An Elegant Citrus Tart with a toasted coconut crust, a buttery orange curd as it's filling, and freshly peeled and sliced citrus segments as it's topper. How beautiful is that?

I must tell you that I was super nervous that I wouldn't get a picture that did this masterpiece justice, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I think it's beauty and elegance pops from the photo, but sadly for all of you, you actually had to be there to taste the flavor.

The flavor was light, divine, and unlike any other dessert I've had. It should be served to royalty. I know I felt like royalty when I ate it.

While everyone was swooning over the tart, Jen gave each one of us a little "take home" jar of the Buttery Orange Curd. We love her. :)

There was wine at this party too...white wine, that is. There are no pictures because I was busy drinking it, but if truth be told, there wasn't a lot of wine drinking happening at this tasting. We were too busy eating desserts and citrus.....happily.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

An Elegant Citrus Tart

Want to impress your friends?

Of course you do!

Then let us implore you to make this tasty treat for your next get-together! This citrus tart was the dessert on the cover of Southern Living that caught my attention and demanded (yes, DEMANDED) that I take that magazine home so I could replicate all of this sweet citrusy goodness for our citrus party.

The crust is surprisingly simple and the addition of coconut really makes it something special. The original recipe called for coconut extract to be added, but I left it out simply because I didn't have any and didn't want to go buy it. And guess what? It didn't need it at all! It's fabulous can take the entire food-tasting group's word for it!

You will need to make the Buttery Orange Curd for this delectable delight, but no worries! The most time consuming thing about this recipe is cutting the pretty sections of fruit for the top, which is totally worth the time. Check out a quick tutorial here!

Citrus Tart
by Southern Living

1/3 c. unsweetened dessicated coconut
2 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. powdered sugar
3/4 c. cold butter, cut into pieces
buttery orange curd
9 assorted citrus fruits, peeled and sectioned (I used white grapefruit, oranges, and Rio Star grapefruit)

Preheat oven to 350. Bake coconut in a single layer in a shallow pan 4-5 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Let cool completely.

Pulse coconut, flour, and powdered sugar in a food processor 3-4 times or until combined. Add butter and pulse a few more times until crumbly. With the processor running, gradually add 3 Tbsp. water and process until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Roll dough into a 10 inch circle, about 1/4" thick, on a lightly floured surface. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim the excess dough and bake for 30 minutes at 350. Cool completely on a wire rack, about 40 minutes.

Spread buttery orange curd over crust and top with lots of pretty citrus sections!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Buttery Orange Curd

 You've all read about our tasting parties, right?  Sheri always does such a fantastic job of documenting and photographing them, don't you think?  Oh what fun we have, and what wonderful foods we get to taste!  This past month, I was the host and the theme was CITRUS!  Sheri's love for all things lemon is very well documented, and I love all things citrus I knew this was going to be fun and easy!  Now that I've piqued your interest, let me just assure you that Sheri's write-up of the citrus party will be posted quite soon, I'm sure...and then you too can enjoy!

Soon after we decided that the theme for the next party would be citrus, I was sitting at taekwondo practice watching the kids, when I saw the January issue of Southern Living sitting on the counter in a pile of magazines.  I grabbed it immediately, because it was featuring "the season's brightest citrus recipes".  The angels were smiling upon me at that moment, let me tell ya!  I pulled not one, but two recipes from that issue to throw into the menu for the party, and let me just tell you that both recipes were unbelievable, and yes, we are going to share the both with YOU!!!

When I first saw the recipe for this Buttery Orange Curd, I knew I was going to make it without a doubt!  See, it has become kind of 'thing' at our parties that someone always brings something to share...a favor of sorts.  I was instantly inspired to make it and put it in cute little jars for my guests to take home...a bit of sunshine in a jar!  And it was an added bonus that it was also an ingredient in the other recipe that I tried for the party...which I will share very soon!

Truly, folks...this recipe goes together so quickly and is just so.....buttery.  And orangey.  And yummy.

Try it!  Make some for your friends, or better yet, make some for someone you want to be your friend!!  They'll never be able to resist!  And if you DO make some for your friends, put it in little canning jars and print off these totally cute, totally free printable jar toppers from Wendolonia.  She's super creative, and has lots of cool crafty things on her blog!  Your friends will be so impressed! 

Buttery Orange Curd
by Southern Living

2/3 c. sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/3 c. orange juice
1 large egg, slightly beaten
3 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. orange zest
pinch of salt

Combine sugar and cornstarch in a 3 qt saucepan. Gradually whisk in orange juice and egg. Bring to a boil and keep it boiling, whisking constantly, about 3-4 minutes.

Remove from heat; whisk in butter, zest and salt. Place heavy-duty plastic wrap directly on curd to prevent a film from forming and chill 8 hours.  Spread on scones, english muffins, or toast...serve on top of sliced strawberries...use it to make some panna cotta or to make the next (secret) recipe we're going to share, or just eat it with a spoon.  Yes, it's that good!

Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Orange Cornmeal Cookies

It never ceases to amaze me what chefs and bakers throw in a bowl together to create dinner and dessert. When I peruse recipes and read an ingredient list that doesn't "add up" I cannot help myself from reading the entire recipe because I need to know how they plan to make it work.

I have learned over the years that everything works together....EVERYTHING! I added a Granny Smith Apple to soup last week for Pete's sake and it was fantastic, so in my my kitchen...anything goes!

When I saw this cookie recipe in a magazine and the title read "Lime and Cornmeal Cookies" I was like...."Of course!" ;)

It was late evening when I came upon this little gem, so bright and early the next morning I was in the kitchen creating this weird cookie. The recipe gave permission to substitute orange juice and orange zest for the lime, and since I had no lime at the time, I went with orange.


The recipe suggested drizzling melted chocolate over the orange cookies, but I felt the chocolate dominated the delicate taste of the cookie, so I went with the icing instead.

These cookies are refreshing and delightful. You could eat seven of them in one sitting and still go back for more.....or is that just me?

I made them one week later with lime and orange for comparison purposes and I personally prefer the orange. My "taste-testers" loved them both and made it clear that they would be perfectly happy if I made either of them again.

Orange Cornmeal Cookies

1-1/4 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Cornmeal
1/2 Cup Butter, softened
1/2 Cup Sugar
One Egg
One Tablespoon Orange Zest
One Tablespoon Orange Juice Concentrate
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and beat gently. Add vanilla, orange juice and zest. Then add flour and cornmeal and mix until a nice dough forms.

Roll into a ball and chill for at least one hour. Roll into a log and chill in fridge for 4-8 hours. Slice 1/4 inch thick slices and place on baking stone. Bake for 11-12 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

When cooled, drizzle with icing.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Andouille and Red Wine Soup

We've all had those small moments in our lives when we are so proud of ourselves that we can't help but jump up and down and give ourselves a high five. And when these priceless moments happen to us, all we really want to do is share that joy, that pride, that excitement with someone...anyone who will listen.

My moment came last Thursday evening when I decided that I wanted soup for dinner. I didn't have any sort of plan or recipe, I just knew I wanted soup.


When I found one, lonely, red potato, I decided to put him out of his misery and chop him up in little pieces and saute' him in a puddle of olive oil. Then I chopped up 4 stalks of celery, smashed 4 cloves of garlic, and threw them in the puddle as well. I placed a lid on top and let them mingle.

When I opened my fridge again, I noticed a big ol' Granny Smith apple staring me in the face. My first thought was..."Nobody puts apples in soup....that's weird." But before I knew it, I was cutting the apple and adding her to the pot as well. "Weird is good." I thought to myself.

"What do I do for protein? I could use beans, but I don't like beans....unless they're the green, string bean variety." And then I remembered that I had just purchased Cajun Style Andouille Smoked Sausage links, so beans were out and meat was in. Protein....CHECK!

Drinking red wine while cooking is always recommended, and since I already had a bottle in my hand........OOPS......a half a cup of it fell into the pot. I didn't want to use the whole bottle in the soup, so I poured in some beef broth.

I added some thyme for additional flavor, some diced tomatoes for color, and in a moment of mature, grown-up behavior I opened a can of White Northern beans and allowed a few fifty beans to drop into the soup. It felt good and bad all at the same time. It was hard to do, but I've got to learn to like beans....I've GOT TO!

When I couldn't find or think of anything else to add to my "souped up" soup, I placed the lid on top, turned the heat to low, and walked away for a couple of hours.


I returned to the kitchen at 8:53 PM wearing a proud smile on my face as the delightful aroma tickled my nose. I had a good feeling about this! I removed the lid, stirred the pot, grabbed a ladle, scooped it up, filled my bowl, found a spoon, loaded it up, took a whiff, took a taste, and....


MY moment.

.....that tiny little moment of accomplishment, of a job WELL done, of beautiful magic performed.

It. Was. Amazing! And even though no one was there to high-five me, I did a little dance, sang a little song, and laughed to myself over my apparent brilliantness. (Yes, it's a word)

Now, as we all know, most soups taste better the second day, but what I'll tell you about this little number is that on the night of it's conception, there were so many flavors bouncing around on the palate that it was like happy food fireworks. I could taste the wine, I could taste the apple, I could taste the Andouille, and I could even taste the beans - the wine-soaked beans, that is. Turns out, I kind of like drunken beans. Who knew?

The next morning, I decided to relive the experience of the night before and heat up the soup for breakfast. Only now, the soup had a different flavor. It was still very good, but as with most soups, all the flavors merged into one and the "wild party" from the evening before had simmered, the pandemonium had subsided, and even though I was enjoying the same flavors, somewhere in the magic of the overnight hours, they had become one brand new flavor.

I recommend eating the soup the night you make it and eating it again the next day and have yourself two different won't be disappointed!

(Thanks for letting me share this moment with you!)

Andouille and Red Wine Soup

6 Ounces Cajun Style Andouille Smoked Sausage
Olive Oil
One Medium Red Potato, finely chopped
4 Stalk Celery, finely chopped
4 Large Garlic Cloves, smashed
One Granny Smith Apple, finely chopped
14 Ounces Diced Tomatoes
7.5 Ounces White Northern Beans
One Teaspoon Thyme
1/2 Cup Red Wine ( not dry )
2 Cups Beef Broth

In a good size skillet or pot, saute' potato, celery, garlic, and apple. Add thyme, sausage, tomatoes, and red wine. Cook for a little while longer. Then add broth and beans. Let simmer on stovetop for at least 2 hours.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Savory Chicken Soup

Who doesn't think of soup when it's 3 degrees outside?

In my world, traditional chicken soup means carrots, celery, noodles, and of course, chicken. But I didn't want Grandma's chicken soup. (Love ya, Grandma.. ;) I wanted something unique, pasta-free, and pleasantly piquant.

I stumbled upon this recipe and liked it, but it called for fresh ginger root, a touch of turmeric, and bean thread noodles. I had none of these in my kitchen, it was 3 degrees outside, and I wasn't leaving my house, so a little bit of improvisation was now on the menu.

I also noticed that the recipe failed to mention zucchini - clearly an oversight - zucchini goes in everything....duh-uh!

So, as my onions and garlic were bathing, blending, and softening, I peeked into my rack of tantalizing spices and chose some personal favorites.....garam masala, smoked paprika, and powdered ginger. I didn't measure anything....I just sprinkled each flavor until I stopped. How's that for precise?!

I added the zucchini and all the other good stuff and then mixed it in with the chicken and broth and let everyone get to know each other.

When I returned an hour later, I poured myself a bowl, dropped a little cloud of Greek yogurt on top, and indulged in the goodness.

Side Note: When I eat my minestrone soup that has a little kick to it, I like to add a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt. It gently diffuses some of the heat and adds another dimension of flavor.

When I had it for lunch the next day, the flavor was much more complex and the heat index had risen a twinkle or two. Even though I feel that I have already achieved perfection with this little medley, next time I'll probably sprinkle even more of the garam, paprika, and ginger and BAM...kick it up a notch!

Savory Chicken Soup

1/2 Medium Onion, chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Sprinkle or two of Ginger Powder
Sprinkle or two of Garam Masala
Sprinkle or two of Smoked Paprika
10-12 Twists of the Black Pepper grinder
One Tablespoon of Soy Sauce
One Quart of Chicken Broth
8-10 Ounces of Cooked Chicken Pieces
One Medium Zucchini, petitely chopped

Drizzle some olive oil in a hot skillet. Add the onion and garlic and saute' until softened. Add chopped zucchini, soy sauce, ginger, garam masala, paprika, and black pepper. Saute' a few minutes more. In a separate pan pour in chicken broth and chicken. Add skillet ingredients to the broth and chicken and let simmer on stove for at least an hour.

As with most soups, this tastes best on the second day.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's a Chocolate Tasting!!!

How does that picture grab you? The official winner of our Chocolate Tasting Party....Mr. Lake Champlain, Dark Chocolate, Rum Caramel. Can't you just taste it?!? It was the third chocolate to touch our lips and it was love at first bite. I knew from the reaction of the ladies that we already had our winner.

The chocolate was 54% cocoa - so not super sweet, and the rum caramel was delicate but utterly divine. The best part was when you took a bite and the caramel filling spilled into your mouth while thin whispers of luscious lava drizzled down your chin.....ahhhh..... let's say it all together now.... "whispers of luscious lava drizzling down your chin...." (insert happy face)

Are you there with me in that happy place?

Okay...before I lose you for good here, let's back up for a second to the actual beginning of the party, where Teri made her grand entrance holding not bottles of wine, but a pot of chicken bathing in a savory Mole' sauce.

What's Mole'?

Mole' is a Mexican sauce that may contain up to twenty ingredients, including chili peppers and chocolate, which works to tame the heat of the chili peppers. It is not a chocolate sauce per se' as it is just one of the many ingredients and does not dominate.

For us, it was a wonderful way to stabilize our blood sugar with some protein - chicken style - and integrate the chocolate as well. The sauce was hearty, earthy, spicy, deep, complex, robust, and savory. Oh, and did I mention PHENOMENAL, because it was?! Carrie licked her plate clean and asked for seconds....need I say more?!

This sauce would be a wonderful way to serve leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. Had I posted this right after the party actually happened (early November) you could have used it in 2010, but alas I did not, so 2011 it is!

Once the "meal" portion of our party was complete, the chocolate tasting began. Let me just say that through my many hours of research on this subject, the three "rules" of throwing a chocolate tasting party that surfaced time and time again were:

1. Only taste 6 chocolates at a party.
2. Only serve water with the chocolates.
3. Serve bland bread as your palate cleanser.

I respectfully chose to break all three of these rules and I'll tell you why.

1. If six is great then twelve is perfect.
2. We drink wine at these parties, people!
3. Bland bread is for Lenten season and we hadn't even celebrated Thanksgiving yet, so Easter was clearly a long way away. THIS was a party......about I was serving food.

Also, you may notice that many of the chocolates were wrapped in artfully designed paper, which inspired me to remove each of the covers and paste them to a chocolate colored stock paper and have them laminated as place mats. Brilliant, eh? Came up with THAT idea 14 hours before the party.......crazzzzzzzzy, but super cool!

Ok...Ok....Ok.....Let's talk chocolate!

Speaking of creative wrapping, check out Theo's Spicy Chili Dark Chocolate. Jen and I chose this one mostly because it's cover was "coooool" and the idea of chocolate and chili together just sounded like a party. This little delicacy was fun because upon first bite, you notice a hint of orange flavor and you smile. And then, ever so slowly there's this warmth that arises seemingly out of nowhere. You're not even sure if it's real.....maybe it's all in your head, but as it quickly intensifies there's no denying there's a fire blazing in your mouth, rising from the "ashes" of the creamy chocolate. Once the wonderfully wicked flame dies down, your smile returns...."yum....that was FUN... can we do it again?"

So, if you like a little face flush with your chocolate, Theo's got the bar for you.

The next chocolate was chosen because of it's blissful blue, oceanic vibe and our affection towards blueberries. We found the chocolate to be smooth and tasty and the perpetual stumble into blueberry fields most pleasing to our palates. Most everyone was a fan of Mr. Endangered Species. Of course, it must be noted that he was the first chocolate tasted and as with most of our parties, first "bites" are frequently met with great enthusiasm and high praise, mostly due to the sheer excitement of just being at the party, so......

This next guy made the menu because amidst all the long, arduous hours of research I did for this party, the idea of chocolate dipped bacon surfaced quite often and earned rave reviews across the board. I seriously considered making it "from scratch" until Vosges here told me I didn't have was already done.

Mo's Dark Bacon Bar is the perfect chocolate for your next party - a perfect conversation piece!
Teri was not a fan. She likes her chocolate and her bacon but rejects the merging of the two, and we respect her opinion. The rest of us found it very interesting. It took the idea of chocolate covered pretzels or peanuts to a whole new level. It's chocolate covered salt, people and those two things do go together. Chocolate + Salt + Fat = Flavor. If you do the math, you'll all adds up!

I thought it was delicious and fascinating! Check it out at your local World Market.

You see the tiny bits of bacon in there?

Then there's Lindt. Lindt's Intense Orange lived up to it's name. I like intense, so when I bit into this bar of Lindt Excellence and got rocked in the mouth by an explosion of orange flavor, I was not prepared, but I was pleased. I'm not sure he's a chocolate you would overindulge in, but he's a wonderful pick-me-up of chocolate citrus flavor that just may soothe that sweet-tooth craving IF you're one of those people who can eat your single serving size of chocolate and walk away satisfied. I believe I speak for Jen when I say that we have never understood or mastered that theory of single serving satisfaction.

Lindt's 85% Cocoa Chocolate is no joke.....IT IS 85% cocoa, and in our humble opinion, should only be consumed when melted down and fused with sugar. WOW! Speaking of that though....I did use this chocolate bar to make tiny flourless chocolate cakes that were so divine it wouldn't surprise me if they served them in heaven.....probably even for breakfast. Pictures and recipes are for another day..........waaaaait for it!

TCHO was a little pricey and we all agreed he wasn't quite worth his flavor in gold. The description on the inside flap boasted a citrus and sour cream experience and it was there, but oh-so mild. It didn't rock any of our boats and it's $7.00 price tag pretty much sank it. However, it did remind me of a chocolate dip I made once that consisted of sour cream, cocoa, and honey. It was a sinfully smooth, mousse-like dip that balanced the depth of the cocoa and the twang of the sour cream was good. This bar reminded me of that dip.....and that dip was cheaper to make.

Chocolove was a disappointment as well, but for different reasons. Cherries & Almond in Dark Chocolate....sounds wonderful, doesn't it?

The question of the moment was, "Where's the cherries....where's the flavor?" This was a chocolate bar with no personality. Forgettable and regrettable.

Look Mr. Chocolove, we don't eat chocolate for our health - as much as we want to believe it is good for us on some level - we eat chocolate, despite it's sugar and despite it's calories because we love, love, love the flavor on our tongues, the smell under our noses, the joy in our hearts, and the bliss in our souls. We consume chocolate purely for the heavenly taste of it, so when you sell us your "Choco-LOVE" you waste our time, our calories, and precious moments of our lives we'll never get back......moments that could have been spent with better chocolate.

Shame on you, Chocolove.

I threw in some Milk Chocolate from Newman's Own and the World Market brand and all the ladies turned up their noses at them. Well that may be girls, but sometimes you need to taste them all side by side - ugly next to next to poor...dirty next to clean - simply to remind yourself how good good can be.

I also brought two white chocolates to the table, much to the ladies chagrin. "White chocolate is NOT chocolate!" they all protested. I made them taste it anyway - see paragraph above. Turns out Michelle and Anne discovered that they sort of liked it. I presented them with Lindt's version of white chocolate and Green and Black's version. Hands down, Green and Black was the favorite. Lindt's was intensely sweet and crushingly sugary, but the Green and Black had a nice, clean, vanilla flavor that came from Madagascar vanilla beans. I really liked the Green and Black, myself.

So, my greatest concern/challenge with throwing this party was striking a balance between tasting twelve different chocolates and not having anyone leave my house feeling sick, guilty, or overindulged. I needed a plan......

Research showed that Gruyere cheese is a wonderful compliment to chocolate, so I bought me a slab of that and then Jen found the perfect missing piece to the puzzle....goat cheese with a cocoa rind, otherwise known as Carr Valley Cocoa Cardona. How cool is that?! It was $23 a pound, but we weren't buying a whole pound, so it really wasn't $23 at all. ;)

Both cheeses were amazing, delicious, and worth every single penny. I served them alongside my interpretation of "bland bread"....gluten-free crackers and water crackers.

Carr Valley Cocoa Cardona
worth every penny...

I didn't stop with cheese and crackers. There was that balance thing that needed to be achieved, remember? We needed more palate cleansers, so I served Asian pears, celery, Granny Smith apples, and toasted pecans and toasted walnuts.

You guessed it...they picked it all clean!

I even served up some frozen applesauce at the halfway mark. (A childhood favorite of mine)

And then there was wine. Carrie brought her personal favorite...Ecco Domani, and we toasted to chocolate and friends with the Gnarly Head.

Another successful and fabulous party if I do say so myself. I wish you all could have been there, but we encourage you to have a little chocolate tasting of your that you know how to do it. Oh, and it was Patty's birthday too! Not a bad way to spend your BIG day, eh?

Explore the wonderful and magical world of chocolate!!