Feb 28 2011

chocolate raspberry cake

Let me get straight to the point and tell you that this is one of my very favorite cake recipes. It’s chocolate (which scores it several points right off the bat) accented by a delightfully tart raspberry filling. The layers are moist and rich and the three of them piled up together give it some impressive height.

The cake is a little more complex and the ingredients are a little pricier than the average cake (especially because I always seem to accidentally buy twice as much chocolate as necessary because the original recipe calls for a ganache filling instead of raspberry), but it’s definitely worth it. Still, I currently only make it once a year for the annual February get-together for the birthday celebration of my mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake

This year’s family get-together was especially fun with the addition of Jill, an old college friend of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and because my niece, Amelia, is now nearly 2 1/2 years old. We don’t get to see Amelia nearly often enough and each time we see her it’s like I’m looking at a whole new person! She grows and develops new skills so quickly and it’s so cool to see how much she has changed. Continue reading

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Feb 23 2011

individual spiced chocolate cakes

chocolate and cinnamon

The seared duck dinner we made for Valentine’s Day was a bit more involved than usual for a weeknight for us (especially after a full day at work and then going to the gym), so I wanted to make a pretty simple dessert.  The good news is that there are a ton of recipes out there for indulgent, decadent chocolate cakes that are really easy to make.

chocolate and cinnamon

I already had plans to make something along the lines of individual chocolate desserts of some kind and then when we were on the chocolate tour at the Taza chocolate factory, I snagged a card with a recipe for molten spiced chocolate cakes.  It was perfect timing.

spices in spiced chocolate cake

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Feb 19 2011

seared duck with duck fat, pan-roasted fingerling potatoes, haricots verts, and balsamic cherry reduction

seared duck with balsamic cherry reduction

Growing up in my family, the idea of eating duck was much like the idea of eating your pet.  It’s not that we had ducks, but  they were almost like a family mascot.  My dad did an amazing Donald Duck impersonation which my sister and I requested about five times a day.  As a reward, we showered him with Donald Duck figurines which sometimes included other duck paraphernalia.  We also spent many weekends out on our sailboat in the Chesapeake Bay and, not knowing better, fed the ducks all the time.  So I was always horrified by the idea of eating duck and swore I never would.

The first time I ever had duck was entirely accidental.  I was at a work gala and I grabbed a quesadilla appetizer off of a passing tray and put it in my mouth before hearing what it was. I shocked.  Horrified.  Who puts duck in quesadillas?  I felt like I had deeply betrayed my old friends from the Bay.  I renewed my oath to never, ever eat duck (again) and went on my way.  Until I started dating a Filipino guy.  A Filipino guy who loves his duck.

I held strong to my no duck rule for quite a while.  But after time my reason starting seeming more and more silly and Joseph, while entirely supportive of my choices, was also eager to open my eyes to one of his favorite foods.  I finally broke down and (intentionally) ate duck at a food and wine festival in Orlando.  I had a reached a point in my culinary life where I didn’t want to be restricted by my own inhibitions.  Since the food was all there and being prepared whether or not I ate it, I went for it.  And I had to admit that I liked it.  I have since even gone so far as to order it at restaurants! Continue reading

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Feb 13 2011

a weekend of food love

Taza Chocolates

One of things that I really love about Joseph is that we both really enjoy and value food.  It’s not enough just to like food, to like to eat it.  Who doesn’t like to eat?  To be the man that I’ll spend the rest of my life with, he has to really appreciate what went into a dish to make it what it is, he has to celebrate the flavors and the way they work together, and he has to have a curiosity and genuine interest in what makes a dish so special.  It doesn’t hurt to also be an amazing cook who also does a heck of a job washing dishes.  Joseph is all of that, and more.

Valentine's at Taza Chocolate

We spent the weekend before Valentine’s exploring local food treasures including the Danish Pastry House (absolutely incredible pastries), Fastachi (nuts, chocolate, and more), Penzeys Spices, John Dewar & Co. Butchers, and the Spirited Gourmet for a sake tasting.  Then we had a fabulous dinner at Hungry Mother, one of my favorite restaurants in the Boston area, where the highlights were the braised beef tongue appetizer, the french gnocchi (I always have to order their gnocchi), and the outstanding bourbon upside-down cake with butter pecan ice cream.  I can’t stop thinking about that sweet, salty, rich, nutty caramel goodness.  And that was just Saturday.

cacao pod

Sunday, we trooped off to Taza Chocolate for a tour at the factory.  If you aren’t familiar with Taza Chocolate, they’re located in Somerville, MA, just outside Boston and they are the only direct trade, organic, stone ground, bean-to-bar chocolate maker in the country.  You’ll find plenty of chocolatiers in the States, but finding one that buys the cacao beans and does everything else from roasting the beans, to tempering, to making the bars, wrapping them (by hand no less!), and selling them is much more rare.  I knew it was a really cool company, but being there and actually seeing and hearing more about it, well, I’m completely smitten.

Taza Chocolates

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