Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tantilizing Thursday: Tacolicious

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

SF Chocolate Salon 2011: the roundup

For the record, being a judge at something like the Chocolate Salon is no easy feat. You have to try as much as you can, make notes and then an informed decision. And you have to choose from well over 30 artisan chocolate makers.

I loved the setup this year, with the booths being farther apart it was easier to work your way across the room. I will say that my usual complaint stands and has nothing to do with organizers. People are shockingly short in manners. I actually had a woman back so far into I am not really sure how she managed not to notice but she didn't. I also had another judge step directly in front of me at one point and cut me off. This sort of behavior is pretty bad form and happens quite frequently at events, which makes me sad.

Now onto the good stuff! I tried so much chocolate Sunday and I have to say that there were some serious highlights for me.

I actually spent quite a bit of time at the Divine Chocolate booth chatting with Mark and trying the offerings. I discovered today that he is the CEO and you know what? I think that his passion for chocolate and for the company he works for should be shared by more CEO's! He was excited to share and lacked pretension in anyway. I was wowed by the dark chocolate with orange and ginger, which was light on the ginger with a fresh orange flavor and the 70% dark. I am already a fan of their products, so it was great to have the chance to try a new product and have such a delightful chat! If you've never had it, I am a sucker for the White Chocolate Bar with strawberries.

I wouldn't have known about this next discovery without a heads up from my friend Janet. Snake and Butterfly had dulce de leche chocolate dipped jalapeno peppers and they were nothing like what I expected. This is a treat I would go out of my way for: sweet spicy chocolate decadence at its most interesting. I tried all of the caramel offerings as well and I really loved the honey caramel. The texture and flavor was spot on!

I cannot stress enough that if you have the chance, you try Marti Chocolatts. The woman behind Marti, Tonet, is positively working magic with her truffles.The standouts for me were the Buko Pandan, the taste of fresh coconut making me fall even more in love with one of my favorite fruits, the Chevre en Choco Blanc which hit a home run with a hint of fresh mint and the Pineapple which burst onto the tongue in a happy tropical dance.

Tonet is a wonder who walked us through the tasting and chatted happily about her creations. Every bit of her love comes through in her work, including the Durian. For my first time trying it, it was pretty painless being wrapped in chocolate. Though I may never be a fan of the stinky fruit, I am glad to have the chance to try it.

One of my other favorites is Vice Chocolate, who have never disappointed me since we first met. I am mad for the Spicy Orange Almonds, but this time around I was in rapture over the Pear & Ginger caramels and the White Chocolate with Kaffir Lime. Vice always has great flavor combinations so whether you prefer traditional or more wild flavors, give them a try.

There were some major highlights to the day as I intersected with my friends chatting about life and chocolate, but my favorite moment had to be when Wendy from Socola asked Heather if eating her Siracha truffle was like being punched in the face and Heather responded that fist was wrapped in a velvet glove.

This is the sort of playfulness that endears people to me but Wendy is a serious powerhouse when it comes to flavor. I tried my second Durian flavored truffle of the day (and no matter how much I like you guys, it still tastes like feet!) and the classic Vietnamese Coffee. I adored the sassy slap of the Siracha truffle, which I followed with a cooling Jasmine. That was a perfect way to try them, complimentary and working to greater ends.

I really liked William Dean's Mexican Mango and the lovely Matcha tea, though I found myself a bit overwhelmed by the PB&J.

Another standout for me was New Tree, who always has some fresh & interesting offerings. This time I fell head over heels for the Milk Chocolate Apricot. Smoothly creamy and tasting of that delightful stone fruit, this is a treat I might have a hard time sharing with others. Also great was the 73% dark laden with Pink Peppercorn. New Tree also had some of the most nicest people I encountered. The ladies at this booth were all so sweet and treated everyone like a VIP.

My favorite discovery of the day on the bar side was Medecasse. All the cocoa comes from Madagascar and the owners have taken bean to bar excellence one step further by actually making the bar in Madagascar as well. The spirit of the people live in these bars. I recommend the sea salt with cocoa nibs and the 70% bar which owes its fruitiness to the terroir. The 80% bar has a subtle bitterness a true chocolate lover will appreciate.

I also enjoyed the surprise of Fabrica de Chocolate Momotobo. The almond and Orange Blossom sang, the green chileTamarind. I am not one who ever seeks out that flavor, but the memory will long stay with me of that marvelous zing.

All in all it was a great day and I am honored to have been a judge. I can't wait to see what new treats will be showing up next year!

Choclatique in action
French Toast from Cuisine Noir

Pure Dark


Lulu's Chocolates was having a great time!

Urban Legend Cellar reps Oakland

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Swagapalooza 2011

What I love about events is that I always meet the most interesting people and with Swagapalooza I have the opportunity to meet people outside my normal set, get some swag and perhaps find a new product or two to love.

Last year I was happy to get my hands on a bendable tripod, which I can now use, having received a lovely camera for Christmas. This particular event was created to help give new products PR they might not otherwise get and gives us a chance to discover some great new stuff.

This year’s crop was pretty good though I have a few kvetches:
     1)  If you are going to have that many food bloggers in one room, do better than pizza, crudités and pinwheels. With the amount of amazing underground food in SF, it feels like a golden opportunity was missed here. Magic Curry Kart and Dishcrawl were in the house, magic could have happened!
     2) Have a plan for when you totally lose your audience as to how you will get them back. I admit a few of the speakers lost me, though I tried to rally. It wasn’t easy.

The Keynote was given by Justin Kan of Justin TV, who in my opinion should get a good sport award. We were a bit of hecklers, but part of what he didn’t realize was that we were a) talking about the jacket he was wearing and b) the women were checking him out. So Justin if you read this, we loved you Justin

Transcendent Man may just be the scariest thing ever. I am all about technology and the things it can do to make the world a better place, but this is also one of my paranoia issues. The idea that Ray Kurzweil seems to believe that we are destined to merge with tech in the near future? Uh, yeah, did you see a little movie called Gattaca? Freaky stuff.

Boom Boom! Revolution - A card game you play by performing 'underground acts of guerilla goodness'. I get the concept but I am really sad that we need cards to tell us to be nice to people. I try to do good every day, even if all I do is smile at a stranger, compliment someone or help a friend in need. I get that I am not the norm. I also don’t dig the idea that you do good and then go online about it. The point of a good deed is that you do it, not that you get credit.
On the plus side, I went to the bar and made a new friend who lives in my town, crochets and likes hugs. Win!

Stunner of the Month You know what? Um. No. This presentation totally lost me. And I was not alone. For so many reasons. Did these people speak? I got a flier in my bag, but I have no recollection of them.

SwipeGood - You want to do good and have guilt free shopping? Do you need to round up while shopping to feel good about yourself? I do volunteer work and have for years. Also, since we are already seeing more companies like Tom’s Shoes, I feel better knowing that if I buy something someone who needs it gets a tangible item, ala TwoDegrees who gives a nutrition pack to a hungry child for every bar you buy. This is the sort of business model that more companies could follow and gain a lot of support. Also, the gent who spoke was cute, so that helped keep people engaged. So there is a lesson here: we are just shallow enough to listen when a cute boy is doing the talking.

I love FlingsBins these Pop-up recycling and trash bins are perfect for Spring and Summer filled block parties and picnics. I can’t tell you the amount of times we have been at a park and the trashes are hard to find or full. The fact that you can now bring your own and make sure that all your recycling is neatly taken care of in a biodegradable bag? Great!

SourFlour – Danny made one misstep in his speech, when he said the bread he had baked for the event was mediocre. After meeting him, I understood where he was going with that statement, but my advice is never be too humble when selling yourself and never be humble in a room full of drunk people who might yell at you. And one more thing: Don’t be the drunk idiot who is yelling rude things at the nice guy on stage.

My favorite presenter of the night was Sabøteur, hawking the world's first tailored waterproof blazer. This woman is trying to bring some class back to the men in startups here in the Bay Area. I heard some people bitching that she doesn’t do women’s clothes but you know what? We should be thanking her, ladies! There is nothing wrong with a man wearing a nice jacket and shirt. Also, women really don’t need one more freaking designer, trust me.

We were given shirts to take home and Sascha of course complained about the color (why does it always have to be black?) but I love the blue stripes and thought it looked stylish.  For $75 you get a nicely tailored shirt, extra buttons and some very nice cufflinks. The only real complaint he had was that the underarm seam was a bit scratchy, so hopefully that will be fixed by washing it.

All in all, I think the event was great and I look forward to next year to see what amazing new products and interesting new people will be part of the crowd!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

SF Chocolate Salon 2011

This years salon is the 5th annual SF Chocolate Salon and it looks to be the best one yet! Each year I discover a new chocolate maker that I love, many of whom are local to the Bay Area. The plethora of amazing artisan chocolate makers is absolutely mind blowing!

On top of the opportunity to taste test many of these delicious concoctions, there will be recipe and technique demos, interviews with top chocolate specialists like one of my personal faves Alice Medrich and some fascinating takes on the classic treat via such as Van Gogh Vodka, the makers of Dutch Chocolate flavored Vodka.

There are still some tickets left, so join your fellow chocolate lovers and let's enjoy some of the best that is on offer!

Here is a list of just some of the participants this year:

Follow the Chooclate Salon on Twitter!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Repost: Ginger Chocolate Cookie Bars

Ginger Chocolate Cookie Bars

These started pretty much the way most of my favorite treats do: I was making chocolate chip cookies, decided I wanted them to be Chocolate Chocolate Chip and well, here you go!

3 tbsp vegetable shortening
5 tbsp coconut oil (I used Tropical Traditions)
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c cane sugar
1 tsp vietnamese cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups chocolate (I used dark, semi-sweet & white)
1/4 c candied ginger, chopped
2 c pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a baking pan with parchment. melt shortening, oil and chocolate. Don't overmelt that way you can have some chunks if you like. set aside to cool.

add sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger. mix together with a wooden spoon. add flour and baking soda. mix together with wooden spoon.

Add eggs (make sure batter is not warm at all before adding eggs!) go to it with the wooden spoon.

Spread batter onto baking sheet evenly. bake for approx 25 min. let cool. eat!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

RePost: Afternoon Walnut French Toast

Afternoon Walnut French Toast

The trick to good French toast is not just the quality of the ingredients, but how long you allow the bread to soak. You cannot rush through it as you want the bread to be toasted and yet still have give on the inside.

I am not big on syrup, so I actually like to just add a bit of sugar to my mix, to give it a bit of sweetness and for flavor I use vanilla flavored sugar. You cannot rush food if you plan to enjoy it and thus you must take the time to care about what you are doing. This goes along well with the easy simplicity of breakfast for lunch.


1 loaf of walnut bread or other favorite bread (1-2 slices per person)
Vanilla Sugar
Butter or oil

Whisk eggs and sugar with milk. You need just enough for however much you are making. So per person about 1 egg, 2 tsp sugar and 2 tsp milk.

Soak your bread and heat the butter/oil in your pan.

Cook on medium heat until cooked through. Serve with something yummy such as some form of bacon or a lovely glass of tea!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Weather Rythyms: Staying Cool in the Heat

Last week here in the Bay Area, it was pouring down rain and everyone needed coats & rain boots.

This week the sun is shining rather fiercely and giving us a preview of  what summer will be like. The most important thing you can do while rolling with the ever changing weather is take the necessary precautions so that you can stay healthy and enjoy the sun!

*Stay Hydrated. I hear you saying you drink a lot of water but when the weather changes like this it's a good idea to drink more. Sweat, drink water, repeat.

*Eat well. Hydrating foods will carry you a long way: cucumbers, strawberries, watermelon and potatoes are just a few of the foods that help hydrate. Feeling a bit dry? A glass of water & a few fresh berries will help set you to rights again. Want more food that hydrate? Shape Magazine's go you covered.

*Sunscreen. It smells funny. It gets in your mouth when it sweats off. I personally hate the stuff, but am forced to wear it because I burn easily. The only sunscreen I have ever used and liked has been Alba Botanica. Since they make an unscented one, it doesn't bother my allergies and it protects my face.

*Dress weather savvy. Here in the Bay Area one usually needs to have at least a sweater handy in case of micro climate. That doesn't mean you have to wear it though! Wearing too many  clothes in warm weather can lead to dehydration or worse, so be smart and safe.

There are an amazing amount of fun things to do this weekend, so have fun, stay loose and enjoy the sun!

Urban Stitch  Tonight! Drinks, food and fashion for a low price!

Art Murmur Oakland has a plethora of talented Artists showcased every First Friday

Passport to the East Bay Check out the East Bay's hottest wineries this Saturday!