Tag Archives: dessert

Thanksgiving 2012

8 Jan

Thanksgiving in my family is a pretty epic event.  There are about 40 people every year, and we bring pretty much the same dishes ever year. I love the traditions and I love the food.  We’re one of those few families that actually get along and it’s the day I look forward to most every year.  

And even though we walk to the train station (through the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade) and take a train, I still can’t resist baking up a storm.  I last blogged about our Thanksgiving in 2009, but I realized that there are a few recipes that I consider classic to my repertoire that I haven’t yet blogged about.  Also, 2012 was the year of the Brownie Battle.

Thanksgiving is also a time of experiment for me. While I bring a lot of the same things, in the weeks prior I try to refine them and make them better, and I try to bring something new each year.

My peanut butter cups are pretty much set in stone at this point, but I did have an accidental experiment when a drop of water splashed into my chocolate cups. They always warn you that water is melted chocolate’s worst enemy. But here I had some side-by-side proof.  Check out the consistency of the one cup that got a single drop of water (center of the shot) versus the rest.

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And Thanksgiving also happens to be a time when I am very thankful for my KitchenAid (Thanks again, Mikey! Best gift ever!) One of my favorite moments is when the chocolate hits the batter and makes perty swirls.

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I have been making a family brownie recipe for years (from my Grandmother’s recipe folio) that was noted as being from my (totally awesome and inspiring) great Aunt Dinah (who is currently in her late 90s, but you would never believe it).  I actually made the one’s from Grandma’s recipe when I was on the Wendy Williams show, and you can find that recipe on the Wendy site.

I always assumed that the recipes were the same, but my cousin (Dinah’s granddaughter) noticed some differences between our recipes.  So… what else to do besides an epic Brownie Battle?

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I put a sprinkle on Grandma’s recipe to differentiate, but turns out the color and texture were different enough to be able to tell.

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Aunt Dinah’s was a bit fluffier and fudgier. And while I love Grandma’s recipe, Aunt Dinah’s recipe won hands down (recipe at the end of this post).

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I also made my Drunk N’ Nutty Pie, but I have refined it a bit and replaced the chestnuts with pecans (for texture, added after the slow cook but before the crumb topping).

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I could eat this filling with a spoon! Slow cooked apples and cranberries in red wine. SOOO good. And such a beautiful scarlet color.

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I also changed out the crumb topping for a new blend and cooked it a bit longer (until the top browned, about an hour) at a lower temperature (350 degrees) to get it a little crisper. The new topping is simple to remember:  1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 stick unsalted butter cut into 4 or five chunks, and 1 cup pecan halves. Pulse a few times in the processor to make a coarse meal.  I definitely liked this new topping even more!

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And then there are the meringue kisses.  I absolutely love these and they are a family favorite. My grandmother used to make them, and I took them over for Thanksgiving to make sure they would always be around.  They sit in the oven overnight (which made for some fun times the next morning when I preheated the oven and forgot they were there… but luckily only lost one tray and not all!) This recipe also at the end of this post and I also posted about how NOT to make them and did a tutorial on making meringue in a vlog. The vlog is instructions how to make a meringue torte, but the same principles apply to the cookies, just with different ingredients and ratios.

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So we schlepped peanut butter cups, Drunk N Nutty pie, meringue kisses, two sets of brownies, apple cider salted caramels, and Mike’s famous butternut squash souffle up to White Plains.

My dad’s cousins host every year, and they always set a beautiful table and we all get name markers.  The rule of Thanksgiving is that if you bring a date (which must be approved by Dinah, by the way), you get to sit with them during year 1, but after that, they’re on their own.  

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And my cousin Eric and Aunt Linda are our expert turkey carvers each year.

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Mike was kind enough to go in early and grab a turkey leg for me. (Awww)

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And the dessert table always just looks like something to dive into, mouth first.

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Here is the final Drunk N’ Nutty pie:

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And brownies.

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And meringues with other brownies.

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And the peanut butter cups.

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 With my cousin adding a sign to remind the family that these were famous peanut butter cups.

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And the final apple cider salted caramels (with a spice cake behind that my aunt made). (IT”S JUST ALL SO GOOD!)

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The day after Thanksgiving every year, we have a leftovers party at my dad’s house in New Jersey. We invite our friends and ask everyone to just bring some leftovers for everyone to share. It’s a great gathering and I look forward to this every year (almost as much as Thanksgiving itself).  And every year I make a cider recipe that is an absolute crowd pleaser.

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And my favorite breakfast the day after: leftover sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows on top!

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Gosh I just love Thanksgiving!!!

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RECIPES
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Aunt Dinah’s Winning Brownie Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter (softened)
  • 1 stick margarine (softened)
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar (it used to be 2 cups, but at some point in history it was changed)
  • 4 ounces unsweetened or bitter Baker’s chocolate
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3/4 to 1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Melt 4 ounces unsweetened or bitter Baker’s chocolate.
  2. Mix together 1 stick butter, 1 stick of margarine, 1 3/4 cups sugar.
  3. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beat well after each egg.
  4. Slowly pour the melted chocolate into the sugar/butter/egg mixture.
  5. Add 1 cup four, 1/4 cup at a time.
  6. Add a pinch of salt.
  7. Add 3/4 cup (or 1 cup) of walnuts.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees. (The recipe says for 18-20 minutes, but it took me 25-30 each time, so just bake it until a toothpick comes out clean)

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THE Peanut Butter Cups

Ingredients:

  • Good quality chocolate (I like Ghiradelli and frequently make milk, semi-sweet, and white chocolate versions to please everyone’s pallettes) 
  • Creamy Peanut butter – 1/2 cup
  • Salted butter- 1 stick melted
  • Confectioners Sugar- 1 & 1/3 cups
  • Graham Cracker Crumbs – 1 cup

Directions:

  1. Prepare either mini candy cup molds (these are my favorite and I use them for all sorts of things) or cupcake liners (full size, cut down in about half)
  2. Melt chocolate and pour half into prepared molds (you can use your finger to spiral it up the sides of the cups so it makes a mini dish)
  3. Put these in the fridge until hardened
  4. Combine the peanut butter, butter, confectioners sugar, and graham cracker crumbs in a mixer until blended
  5. Put peanut butter mixture into the chocolate cups (Only put in enough peanut butter mixture so they are below the top level. You can smooth out the top of the chocolate with a bench scraper or knife)
  6. Top cups with the other half of the melted chocolate and put into refrigerator until set
  7. Pop out and try not to each all of them in one sitting (but I will totally understand if you do)

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Meringue Kisses

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites (room temperature)
  • pinch of cream of tarter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 oz. chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  1. Preheat to 350
  2. Beat egg whites until frothy
  3. Add pinch of cream of tarter and salt and beat until stiff
  4. Add sugar 1 tsp at a time
  5. Fold in chocolate chips
  6. Slowly add vanilla
  7. Put cookies on silpat
  8. Turn off oven and leave off over night
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Apple Cider Salted Caramels from SmittenKitchen

3 Jan

One of my favorite food blogs is SmittenKitchen. Her recipes are great and she does a great job of describing how to make certain things. Also, I find her recipes pretty crowd pleasing so I usually go to her site first when it comes to baking.  She released a book recently and when asked to pick out her favorite recipe, she managed to point to her Apple Cider Salted Caramels.

I read the post during Hurricane Sandy (while we somehow got insanely lucky and kept our power) and knew immediately I had to try this recipe. I love salted caramels and I love apple cider. This sounded like everything wonderful about fall.

So the day after the storm, I put on my boots and went a few blocks away to the grocery store in search of cider. By some odd fortune, there was one, single carton of cider left… laying down on an empty shelf.

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The recipe is actually incredibly easy. I know that a lot of people are intimidated by caramels and making candy, but it really just comes down to a bit of patience and a good thermometer.

I put mine into a silicon baking dish and they came out perfectly.

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I sprinkled some flake salt on top of mine as well.

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And I used my bench scraper to cut them into perfect squares.

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And managed to get through the cutting only eating one… 

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But these little nuggets of heaven didn’t last long as I rolled them in parchment paper.  I think I ate almost half during the next hour.  They were freakin’ amazing. 

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And they got accolades from my office. Perfect little candies.

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I made them a second time and I think that the cider I used impacted the final texture.  It just refused to reduce to the same syrupy consistency of the first time, even after I cooked it for twice as long.  I went with it, and they still tasted GREAT, but they were a bit stickier and harder to handle.  I had to keep them in the fridge just to make sure they could be peeled from the wrappers.  But still… delicious.

The recipe specifically says to use unpasteurized cider, but I couldn’t find that, so both times I used pasteurized cider that was in the refrigerated section.  I’ll have to try a few more times (damn!) The first time around I used Red Jacket cider, so if you find that, I’d scoop it up for this recipe.

This recipe is going straight into the KEEPER section.

Smush: “The NY Deli of Desserts”

29 Oct

Just across the street from Bryant Park, there seems to be a collection of dessert shops opening up.  A chocolate store opened up a few months ago, and then a few signs popped up for various dessert places, including what looks like it will be a patisserie and, of course, Smush.  Smush bills itself as “The NY Deli of Desserts” and is decked out in neon signs and fun art.

They have signature sandwiches to choose from.

Or you can make your own by choosing a cookie, spread, toppings, and ice cream.

They have a display of their cookies to choose from.

We showed up right at closing time, and while they were all but closed, they offered to stay open to make our Smushes. They only had 2 flavors left: pumpkin and french toast.  I signed right up for the pumpkin while Mike went for the french toast.

They even make their own ice cream here, which was individually wrapped and ready to be smushed.

Our Smush man made our sandwiches.

I went with nutella, pretzels, and vanilla ice cream on my smush.

Mike went with bananas and vanilla ice cream on his french toast cookie.

And the verdict?

SOOOOO good!

The cookies were perfectly done, soft enough to be enjoyable yet hard enough to be a perfect conduit for everything in between.  The ice cream was equally perfect for immediate eating.  And the pretzels I added to mine were a great salty crunch.  I love being able to choose all the ingredients and flavors to suit my mood. And the fact that it tasted great and was the perfect texture all the way through left me recommending Smush to just about everyone in the area.

And when I picked up the paper underneath after finishing my Smush, I noticed a little smart touch. A wet nap at the very bottom.

Overall, Smush was much better than expectation and we really enjoyed it.  A perfect snack for after dinner, before or after a Broadway show, or basically anytime you have a hankering for something sweet in midtown.

I would really like one right now, actually!

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

Dominique Ansel Bakery

1 May

When Mike and I ate at Daniel in summer 2011, the entire meal was epic, but the desserts were hands down the best I can remember.  I looked up the pastry chef when I got home and found out that it was Dominque Ansel.  I also caught some news that he would shortly be leaving Daniel for his own venture.

Thankfully, that venture maintained his presence in New York and he opened up his own bakery in SoHo.

I got down there a few weeks after they opened, and I had a stepping into Willy Wonka moment.

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They had cases filled with beautiful pastries.

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They have a few shelves of packaged goods.

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And a huge menu of goodies, including their famous Madeleines, which are made to order after 3pm on Fridays and Saturdays. I was impressed to see Dominique Ansel behind the counter and going to the back to make the madeleines.  I wanted to tell him how much we enjoyed his desserts at Daniel, but never had the chance (that’s a lie… I just couldn’t bring myself to talk to him… you have your celebrities, I have mine).

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I ordered up some macrons to bring to my team in London.  While it was a gift, I did manage to snag one to try.  It was the best macaron I’ve ever had. By far. And I’ve had many. Every time I’m within 2 neighborhoods from SoHo, I think “maybe we should drop by there to get some macarons.”  Sadly, we haven’t been back yet. Though I foresee these in my very near future.

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We also ordered one of the pastries that looked divine.  It was packaged in the most elegant box I have ever seen.

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Inside was like a perfect prize.

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It was absolutely beautiful. Sadly, I was just too full to eat this and was off to London that night, so Mike had to take one for the team and eat it himself.   To quote his opinion: “Deeeeeeeeeee-licious!”

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Why was I so full? Well… because these little babies were just captivating.  When we had these at Daniel, I have a distinct memory of the waitress unfolding the napkin on top of these warm, steaming madeleines and the smell just being totally overwhelmingly delicious.  It was a similar moment upon opening up this paper bag and peering inside.

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They were definitely smaller than the ones at Daniel.

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And I don’t think they were QUITE the same.  They still tasted great, and that warm, lemony, sweet pillow is still something other-wordly, bit it just wasn’t 100% there.  Perhaps nothing can ever be as good as your first time.

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Boulud Sud

28 Feb

In an effort to make our way through The Platt 101, New York Magazine’s  list of Best Restaurants in New York (2012 edition), we made a New Years Day reservation at Boulud Sud.  This was my fifth restaurant in the Daniel Boulud empire (having been to DB Bistro, Cafe Boulud, Bar Boulud, and Daniel), and I can’t help but love each and every place.

Walking in, the space is very modern and bright with an open, bustling kitchen that somehow managed to operate quietly.

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Boulud Sud focuses on Mediterranean flavors.  Both the bread and oil hinted at this, and I had to keep reminding myself that I shouldn’t fill up on it, even though it was quite delish.

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I ordered a cocktail:  The Spiked Apple, which came with Glenkinchie 12 year old scotch, spiced apple cider, allspice dram, and lemon juice.  It was served in a giant, hollow, round ice cube and was absolutely delicious.

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We went with the three course prix fixe for $44.  Mike started with the octopus appetizer that came with ictrus pieces, marcona almonds, arugula, and vinegar. It was quite delicious, but it couldn’t compete with the octopus at Kefi (though what could?)

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I started with the soup, which I think was sunchoke (the menu posted online is different from what we had)

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It came with croquettes that were light, yet crunchy, and went very well with the soup.

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While awaiting our next course, Mike looked at me through his glass and I cracked up.  The glass made it so he had a little face inside the glass.  I just love this picture.

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Mike went with the lemon-saffron linguini with razor clams and shaved bottarga (fish roe).  This was bursting with flavor and typically wouldn’t be something either Mike nor I would order. But it was very enjoyable.

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I got the chestnut ravioli with celeriac, black trumpet mushrooms, and castelmagno (an Italian cheese).  I really enjoyed this.  I wish it had more chestnut flavor (I always want more chestnut flavor) but the raviolis were delicate and had great flavor.  They were also cooked perfectly.

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And it was super pretty.

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Mike and I can’t pass up an opportunity to order brussels sprouts (I’m still pissed off that I spent over 20 years of my life without brussels sprouts).  These were very similar to the ones we make with pancetta, and the roasted hazelnuts added a great smoky flavor and crunch. (But I still like ours better…)

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I was actually most excited about Boulud Sud because of all of the wonderful things I heard about the dessert (in fact, just found out that Ghaya Oliveira was nominated for a 2102 James Beard Award for Best Pastry Chef).  Mike got the Fromage Blanc Tart with plums compote and lemon sorbet.  It was like a light, flavor-filled cheesecake.  Delish.

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I got the dessert that was recommended by everyone on Foursquare and photographed on every food blog: The grapefruit givre (with sesame halva, rose loukoum, and grapefruit sorbet).   It was just as beautiful as everyone said.

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The strings on top was the halva and then below was something that resembled heated sugar (like a creme brulee top).

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As you dug into it, it was layer upon layer of treats in a frozen grapefruit.  It was unlike anything I have ever had (and something I would probably not have ordered for myself had it not been so highly recommended) and it was stupendous.

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Overall, our meal was spotless, service was great, and we had some really unique and fun dishes.  I was totally full and felt like I had eaten at one of the better restaurants in NYC for $44.  I call that a good value!  Go and get that grapefruit thing… you won’t be disappointed.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

Top 10 Noms of 2011

29 Dec

I can’t believe 2011 is over!  I always love going back through the past year of blogs to pick the top 10, and this year proved MUCH harder than years before.  There were just so many great Noms in 2011!

For the past Top Noms of the year, check out 2010 and 2009.

#10 – Alma de Cuba: Philadelphia I dream about the pork entree I had here, and that chocolate cigar for dessert (that was on fire) will always hold a tender spot in my food heart.

# 9 – The Breslin lived up to expectations with an awesome lamb burger and the scrumpets… oooooooohhhh the scrumpets.

#8 – We had wanted to visit Barbuto for a long time, after falling in love with the chef, Jonathan Waxman, on various food shows on television.  It was a meal made of some of the freshest, most lovingly crafted ingredients.


#7 – Our experience at Maialino was just a few days ago, but I am still thinking about that bacon and those desserts.  I can’t wait to go back again and try more… especially their namesake pasta.

#6 – When we decided to try Catch, Top Chef Hung’s new restaurant we didn’t know what we were in for. It was dark. It was Meatpacking. But it was delicious and inspired.  Awesome combinations and executed beautifully.

#5 – Imperial No. 9 was a fantastic journey of food, with many dishes that I would go back to eat all over again.  If you go, order as much as possible and share. Totally worth it.

#4 – Our adventure at Mountain Flying Fish in Breckenridge, CO was something I will never forget.  A well curated Omikase from the chef, who is a personal friend of my aunt proved to be one of the most perfect, original, and exciting meals I have ever had.  Land locked sushi shouldn’t be this good. Food shouldn’t be this good.  It was just… bliss.

#3 – Mike took me to Daniel for my birthday, and it was impressive.  The entire tasting menu was already one of the best meals I ever had, and then the desserts came.  The best series of desserts I have ever had. Hands down. And I LOVE dessert.

#2 – When I think of epic meals, I have to mention Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  A day-trip from NYC in Westchester, NY, it is actually ON the farm (which made for a lovely day as well).  Everything that comes out in the blind tasting menu was from the farm or locally sourced.  You don’t get fresher than that. And it’s hard to get any better.

#1 – Valentine’s Day at Colicchio and Sons for the Tasting Menu was phenomenal.  It took over the #2 all-time spot (under WD-50, which we tried again recently, by the way, to see if it could hold on to that #1 spot… more on that soon).  I have been to Colicchio and Sons a few times for their a la carte menu, and it’s always fantastic, but this tasting menu was other-worldly.  The duck egg, confit gizzard, & parsnip dish was hands down the best thing I have EVER eaten.  Just… wow.

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Honorable Mention:

The Truffle, Gruanciale, and Egg Pizza from Otto

Birreria at Eataly for the fantastic ambiance, beer, and damn good food

The classic New York feel (and food) of The Palm

Thumbs Up Diner: Atlanta for The Heap

Peking Duck House for the Peking Duck Special

Kefi for that amazing octopus

And 2 great Restaurant Week meals that were worth repeating…

Ilili for Restaurant Week

The Modern for Restaurant Week Winter and Summer

And last but not least… It’s hard to write about 2011 without mentioning Albert Hall Tavern, but now that Chef Bill is gone, the spark just isn’t there like it used to be.

Goodbye 2011! Onto even more fantastic adventures and Noms in 2012.

Grandma’s Plum Tart

26 Sep

Italian Prune Plums are only in season for about one day each year.  When I saw that Fresh Direct had them, I jumped at the chance to order them so I could make Grandma’s Plum Tart.

I use the crust for this tart A LOT (you can use it on basically any pie or any savory dish, like quiche, if you take out the sugar).  It is the EASIEST thing in the world to make and requires no fridge time nor rolling out.  You make the darn thing right IN the pie pan.  It isn’t a flaky crust, but I’d challenge anyone to say it is any less delicious. I used it as the base for the Drunk ‘N Nutty pie, so head over to that link for more instructions.

I was actually out of breadcrumbs, so I used graham cracker crumbs.  You don’t taste this anyway, but good to know you can substitute (this stops the crust from absorbing too much of the sugar).

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Grandma used to halve the plums with her fingers and the pits would fall right now.  I guess I don’t have her magical ability to figure out when they are perfectly ripe, so I am usually splitting them with a knife and carving out the pit.  (And I have to give a shout out  to Mike, who meticulously and patiently cut all these for me since I broke my right pinky, further limiting my already clumsy knife skills).  This time was no different, even though they felt very soft to me.  You then soak them in sugar. (Grandma used to always worry they wouldn’t be sweet enough… I will keep that in mind for the future because while this turned out awesome, it was a little on the tart side.  Next time remember: MORE SUGAR)

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After you split them all in half, you arrange them in concentric circles.  I have done this starting from the center or from the outside, and while both methods need a little balancing and adjustment, the outside-in method seems to make the most evenness.

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You then bake it up for an hour.  Last time I made it, it wasn’t quite so juicy (the plums were frozen… not sure if that had anything to do with it).  This one was almost FILLED with juice.  I was concerned it wouldn’t work… but I should not have worried.

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You then pour in a mixture of egg, flour, milk and Bristol Cream Sherry (or any sherry really, but Bristol Cream is always the most delicious).  I was nervous it was going to overflow, but it fit in just right.

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You then bake it a bit more until the egg mixture is set (not runny).

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This thing is a crowd pleaser.  It has a beauty to it with those plums and is incredibly easy to make but looks VERY difficult.  The flavor is very unique, and unlike anything I have ever had.

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And best of all… it reminds me of Grandma.

 

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RECIPE
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Grandma Litty’s Plum Tart

Ingredients:

Plums:

  • 2 to 2 ½ pounds Italian Prune Plums – Split in half (they should be softish, ready to eat and splitable by hand. You should add more sugar if they are on the hard side. You can split them and freeze them since they are only available in early September)
  • ½ to 2/3 cups sugar (more if not very ripe)

Filling:

  • One egg yolk
  • 1 tsp flour
  • ¼ cup milk
  • One tbsp Bristol Crème Sherry (or any sherry)

Crust:

  • one stick butter, room temp
  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp milk
  • 1 Tbl. Plain bread crumbs

 

Instructions:

· Cover split prunes with sugar and set aside

· Preheat oven to 350

· To make crust:

1. Cut up the butter in bottom of 9” pyrex dish

2. Add all the other stuff on top and using your hands, mush together very well, no flour should show.

3. Make ball in center, then press out with heels of hands, then fingers to get it up the sides… make even thickness bottom and sides.

4. Cover the bottom of the crust with BREAD CRUMBS.  This prevents the sugar from seeping thru the crust.

· Add plums in concentric circles, starting from outside… Stand them up and make it tight to keep them standing… use last plums in bowl to sop up all or most of the sugar.

· Bake at 350 for one hour.  Check after 35-45 mins, as sometimes the crust gets too brown, to prevent this, add a pie shield or place a ring of tin foil to cover the crust area.

· Remove from oven for 5 minutes and place on rack

· Beat one egg yolk with fork, then add 1 tsp flour, mix well with fork, then add ¼ cup milk, mix in one tbsp Bristol Crème Sherry (or any sherry)

· After crust has been out of the oven for 5 mins, pour the egg mixture gently over the plums.

· Return to oven for 5 mins… touch with your finger… if it is “set” (not runny) then remove from oven

 

Strawberry Shortcake

21 Sep

 

I was on a mission to make a great strawberry shortcake.  In my mind, the shortcake should always be more biscuit like. It has become fashion to make a strawberry shortcake with something that resembled angle food cake rather than the shortcake I know and love.  I went through AllRecipes.com and read a lot of reviews and comments and eventually decided on the one that had the most people complaining about how this didn’t taste like commercially bought shortcake.  Perfect!

I also picked up an awesome tip when reading the reviews.  It is always a difficult task to keep the butter cold (an important part of flaky crust) while also getting it small enough to blend into a crust.  So someone recommended to freeze it and then use a cheese grater to make little butter ribbons.  Wouldn’t you know? Worked like a charm!  I will be doing this for all future baking.

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I wanted to make smaller short cakes, so I opted to make the dough into smaller balls and then press them down to create smaller shortcakes (rather than 2 large ones that I would layer). I also tried another version where I put them in mini tart pans, and that worked well also.

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The dough was a bit sticky, but as long as you’re not too worried about getting your hands dirty, easy to work with. I also added in almond and vanilla extracts to add a bit of flavor.  It was a good move.

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You are supposed to layer it with sugar coated strawberries, but I am a fan of adding balsamic vinegar to the mixture to add a little punch to the flavor.  I then made some home made whipped cream, layered, and adorned with fresh strawberries.  It was delicious!!

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RECIPE
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Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake
(Original Credit to AllRecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 quart strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I wound up needing a bit more since it was a humid day and my dough was a bit sticky)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 dash ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I added this)
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (I added this too)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups sweetened whipped cream
  • Balsamic Vinegar (enough to coat the sugared strawberries)

Directions

  1. In a bowl, gently stir strawberries and 1/2 cup sugar; coat with balsamic vinegar, chill.
  2. Meanwhile, in another bowl, combine flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg; cut in butter until crumbly. (refer to tip above about grating butter)
  3. Combine milk and egg yolks; mix well.
  4. Add vanilla and almond extracts.
  5. Add to crumb mixture, stirring just until moistened.
  6. Divide and pat into two greased 9-in. round cake pans. (Or into 8 4-5 inch tart pans, or divide into 8 balls and flatten onto a greased or Silpat cookie sheet)
  7. In a small mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; spread over dough.
  8. Sprinkle with remaining sugar.
  9. Bake at 300 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until golden.
  10. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. (Layer may be thin.)
  11. Cool completely.
  12. Place one cake layer on a large serving plate; spread with half of the whipped cream.
  13. Spoon half of the strawberries over cream. Repeat layers. Garnish with mint if desired.

 

 

 

Working My Way Through the Albert Hall Tavern Menu- UPDATED 7/4/11

4 Jul

UPDATE:  Chef Bill is no longer steering the stove at Albert Hall Tavern.  It was a big loss!

 

Having a restaurant I like that has good beer and good people around the corner is a JOY.  And I’m not going to lie… FourSquare tells me I have been there 8 times.  That’s pretty impressive for only having been open for a month now! (UPDATE: I am now far past the 20 visits mark, and it has been open since January 2011.  UPDATE TWO: 36 visits as of 7/4/11)

They now have a full menu (slightly different from what is posted on MenuPages, but close) and I have had the luxury of trying many things on it.  So here is a run-down of my hits and misses:

Spinach Artichoke Dip: I really like this dip.  It has great flavor without being too greasy or heavy.   I kind of enjoyed the little sprinkle of crunch that the homemade potato chips added to this the first time we had it (it has since come without).  Had I not tried it that way originally, I probably wouldn’t think anything were missing.

Nom Points: 7 out of 10 (would be 7.5 with the chips)

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Roasted Cauliflower and Stilton Soup: The cauliflower soup alone would be delicious, but the stilton cheese brings it to a whole new level.

Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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New England Clam Chowder: It looks so unassuming…

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But look at that clam!  This was delicious and there was no skimping on the good stuff.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Bibb Lettuce: This comes with braised artichokes, duck prosciutto and lemon vinaigrette with duck cracklings.

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Those cracklings are worth every bite and every penny.   I do wish it had some sort of soft cheese to compliment all that duck.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 ouf of 10

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Pork Belly Tonnato: I LOVE pork belly.  I do wish, however, that our waitress had forewarned us that this was cold.  It turns out that I DO NOT like cold pork belly.  I couldn’t get over the idea that I was eating cold pork.  I wanted this to be melty fat and crispy skin, but it fell flat for me.  Not a fan.

Total Nom Points: 5 out of 10

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As for the entrees…

Macaroni and Cheese: Plain ol’ mac and cheese with lots of cheesy goodness… like your momma makes it.   If you like it classic (which I do) and packed with cheese flavor (which I also do), this is WORTH IT.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Gnocchi: This comes with raisins, fennel, and crisp lamb sweetbreads in a smoked leek fondue.  Sweetbreads aren’t for everyone, and I can’t say I’m a fan, but once in a while they are delicious.  In this dish they worked, but I’m not sure if this is what I’d be running back for.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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Skillet Burger:  I liked this burger.  It came with a Jack Daniels (I think) dipping sauce which was awesome on the fries (which I’m pretty sure are made with duck fat and truffel).  I would have preferred if the bun was a little more delicious, but the meat had nice char and was cooked well.  I always find it hard to judge a burger, but this was above average.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10 (for the burger) and 8.5 out of 10 (for the fries)

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Fish and Chips: I would say that serving fish and chips on brown paper is dangerous because it shows grease, however, this fish was lightly fried and not at all greasy.  I wish the fries were a bit crisper, but I thought this was pretty enjoyable.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Branzino: This came with lemon and garlic sauce.  It didn’t mention that it was a whole fish on the menu.  It was tasty, though the sauce was a bit strong for my tastes.  I LOVE Branzino and this was simple and delicious and let those great flavors show.

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But it did come with a head (much to the dismay of my eating companion that evening).

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And then the big problem…. WAY too many bones.  Every single bite left me carefully chewing and reaching into my mouth to take bones out.  I don’t mind a little work, but this was WAY too excessive and left me enjoying my fish a lot less than I should have. (UPDATE: Chef Bill tells me he now serves this with many less bones.  Will have to try the new version soon.)

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10 (this probably would have been a 7 or 7.5 if not for the bone problem)

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Citrus and Thyme Roasted Half Chicken:  This was VERY citrusy, and the blood orange was a lovely touch.  It was quite moist but I wouldn’t say it was outstanding.  I wish the skin were crispier, but the sauce was interesting and delicious.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Lamb Shank Special:  Why this isn’t on the regular menu… I do not know.  HANDS DOWN the best entree we had here (though the steak the first time around was REALLY good).  It was so tender, great sauce, hearty portion, and the mashed potatoes were FANTASTIC.   This should be a menu staple.  It’s just too good to risk not being there.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Now onto dessert!

Hard Cider and Fig Baked Custard: This was yummy but very mild in flavor.  I don’t know if I’d go back to this, but I’m glad I tried it.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

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Black Walnut Brownie: Classic style brownie.  Crispy on the outside, dense on the inside.  Tasty, especially with strawberries.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Cherry Pie: This was everyone’s favorite dessert.  The crust was well flaked, inside well balanced between sweet and tart, and I would go back for more of this in a heartbeat!

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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I had previous blogged about the tuna tartare, mussels, duck & fig rillette, the ribeye steak, and the roasted veggies.  Here is a quick recap so it’s all in one place.

Tuna Tartare:  Delicious but WAY too peppery (and a little heavy on the capers).  Distracted from the delicate flavors of the tuna and quail egg.  A narrow miss of what would have been a great dish. Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Steamed Mussels: AMAZING.  This is the #1 dish to order when you are there.  The black garlic and charred rosemary in the sauce means that if anyone tries to take that bowl away before you get a chance to soak it all up with crusty bread, cut off their hand.  Total Nom Points: 9 out of 10

Duck & Fig Rillette: I appreciated how good this was, but I wouldn’t say it’s high on my list of favorites.  The fig and duck were perfect compliments, but the more I eat it, the more I realized I’m just not a rillette/pate kinda gal.  Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Ribeye Steak: The steak itself had great char and was delicious, however, what really made this dish stand out was the 3 sauces you could dip into.  The au poivre sauce was especially delicious. Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Barrel Roasted Winter Vegetables: I’m not sure what magic barrel they used, but it brought out all the great flavors of these veggies. Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

I have also tried the bone marrow, which is really delicious served with beets and deviled beef.  Highly recommended.  Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

So what would my perfect meal be at Albert Hall Tavern from the items I have tried?  Mussels, Cauliflower Soup, Bibb Salad, and the Lamb Shank.

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UPDATE:

I have since tried many more dishes on the menu.  Here are some highlights:

Suckling Pig: This was cooked to perfection.  Crispy skin, fantastic mashed potatoes, and those vegetables were something special!  Highly recommended.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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Shepherd’s Pie: This was packed with flavor and the mashed potatoes on the top were very well crisped and flavored.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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The inside was a treat that was certainly based in tradition but with bumped up flavor.  Delicious! And very filling.

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Scallops:  These came with braised endive celery root puree and tomato citrus vinaigrette.  I LOVED the puree and was very glad to have a semi-healthy side where most people would normally have served buttery potatoes.  The scallops were juicy, flavorful, and seared very well.  I’ve had this dish 2 times since.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

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Bangers and Mash: This is a very new item on the menu and we actually had the first plate served.  (Go us!)  It was sensational.  The caramelized shallots on top and the sauce were fantastic.  And the bangers (English Sausage) were so filled with flavor and so fresh that we couldn’t stop talking about them.  The potatoes were great (and I don’t even like mashed potatoes!)  I would add this to the ideal menu here.  One of my faves!

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Potato and Leek Tart: This wound up being much BIGGER than we anticipated.  The flavors were great and the greens on top made it taste fresh.  A very nice vegetarian option.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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And Chef Bill informed me that he had been making tweaks to the dessert menu.  His tweaks have all put dessert in the right direction.  Everything I have tasted recently has been a huge improvement over the desserts prior (which were fine, but average).  In fact, we enjoyed the new tiramisu so much, that this is all that was left of it… 

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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(Hopefully I’ll have a new picture to replace that with soon)

Upon discussing desserts, Chef Bill very kindly brought out a brand new dessert for us to try, on the house, that wasn’t on the menu. Passion Fruit Custard.  This was sensational.  The custard itself was great, but both my dinner guest and I RAVED about how the whipped cream was perfect.   Yum!

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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_______________________________________

7/4/11 UPDATE:
Brunch- French Toast with Lemon Marscapone: This was very well cooked and the fresh fruit on the side was a great touch.  I like when my french toast has a bit of crips on the outside and then a fully saturated, but not soggy, inside.  This was exactly that.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Brunch- Full English Breakfast:  This was a FULL plate with fried eggs, bacon, blood sausage, grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, and toast.  The grilled tomato was shockingly good, and it’s hard to beat blood sausage.  This is a hearty, good meal.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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“David’s” Chicken Liver Mousse: This came with cornichons and country bread and whole grain mustard.  I’m sure this scared a lot of people off, but live mousse topped with salty fat, spread on crunchy bread… yeah, in my opinion it doesn’t get much better than that.  And it doesn’t get much better than this version.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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Golden Watermelon: This was a pickled, yellow watermelon with goat cheese and bin the summer.  asil oil.  This was so light and refreshing.  Very nice if you want a small bite for summer.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Lamb Roast:  This came with a mint basil sauce over asparagus.  It was bursting with flavor and the sauce on top was a perfect compliment for the lamb.  I can’t say it’s what I expected from a “roast” but it was delicious.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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Scallop Crudo: New to the menu for summer, the scallop crudo with meyer lemon and herbs is refreshing, delicious, and as fresh as can be.  Yum.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Hamachi Crudo: One day they were out of scallop crudo, but they had hamachi crudo.  This was even more summary, topped with beautiful, edible flowers and the perfect amount of citrus.  Double Yum!

Total Nom Points: 7 .5 out of 10

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Soft Shell Crab: These very lightly fried softshell crabs are on top of jicama and carrot salad (shredded and mixed with a mild sauce of mustard, ketchup, and vinegar… which tasted MUCH better than it sounded) and wrapped in fresh cucumber.  This mixed so well together, with the bite of the salad (and slight spice) nicely complimenting the rich textures of the soft shell crab and then slightly cooled and refreshed by the cucumber.  Fantastic.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Oysters:  I would be remiss if I never mentioned the oysters.  We get these often and they are always fresh with great flavor.  One of my alltime favorite summer bites.

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Roasted Peaches: A new dessert on the menu. these peaches are perfectly roasted with an amarreto sauce and marscapone.  Delicately sweet and the roasting perfectly pulled out the flavor in the peaches.  We really enjoyed this.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

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Philly Noms- Naked Chocolate

27 Apr

This was supposed to be in line with all the previous Philly posts, but it looks like this one got left off.  Sorry about that!

We were on a quest in Philly to find a dessert place.  We checked through Yelp and found a recommendation for Naked Chocolate Cafe.  We walked in to find many fun things to try.

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And cases filled with treats.

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We decided to try a sampler of their filled chocolates.

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I was especially excited to try their St. Germaine filled perties.

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We also tried an assortment of the other flavors…

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The chocolates themselves were beautiful.  Each one with their own touch of design…

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We also sampled some gourmet hot chocolate, including one with salted caramel.

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I would say that the chocolates were absolutely stunning, but the taste isn’t quite up the par. They were all tasty, but the chocolate itself wasn’t as flavorful as I would have liked and I had a hard time distinguishing between the flavors once I bit in.  I am also a complete chocolate snob, however, so I think I have very high expectations for homemade chocolates.

It was a fun place to go, however, and I think the hot chocolate alone was worth it.