Food

Bay Cities

Appearing in the dreams of foodies across LA County

Appearing in the dreams of foodies across LA County

In a blog dedicated to all things delicious, I would be remiss, dear reader, if I neglected to mention Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica. I’ve globe trotted enough to consider myself somewhat of a sandwich connoisseur, and I believe a concoction from this crowded local gem can be considered the Grandaddy of them all.

How else could a sandwich so easily command the title of Godmother? This heavenly combination of genoa salami, mortadella, coppacola, ham, prosciutto, provolone with “the works”—spicy peppers, a must—stars in the dreams foodies dream at night. Perhaps it’s the freshest, flakiest sandwich rolls to ever grace the taste buds. Or slices of the finest quality meats and cheeses imported from the great country of Italy itself, rather than simply imitated. After all, Americans tasted mortadella and created bologna (and even butchered—no pun intended—the pronunciation). Boyfriend almost always gets the meatball sub, with luscious and gigantic beef and veal rounds that he can really sink his teeth into. The sauce is thick and authentic, delightfully tangy, not sweet.

I recommend going for a late lunch to avoid the crowds and the accompanying traffic jam in the miniscule adjacent parking lot. Better yet, go when you have time to spare. Only by lingering can you truly appreciate the differences between the 26 types of olive oil on offer, or find the perfect combination of flavors in the many handcrafted pestos. Another great option is to grab picnic fixings like mixed olive salad and imported burrata, and on Thursday evenings in summer head to a free concert at the Santa Monica Pier.

Now that sounds like my idea of doing something delicious!

An Elimination Diet-Friendly Chinese “Chicken” Salad: Debunking the Deprivation Myth

Chinese Salad 2I’d like to state for the record: This Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "challenge-2013-elimination-diet-food-allergen-cleanse" has been the best thing I’ve done for myself in the past five years of my life. And as much as I’d like to wax poetic about the program’s many virtues, that’s a different post for a different day. I am here today however, to debunk the idea that my eating life is so deprived now. Have a looksy . . .

The penthouse* has been without gas for the last two weeks (in part due to my disorganization while we were moving, but in part also to the fact that Southern California Edison is as efficient and devoted to excellence in customer service as the DMV).

So what’s a cooking instructor on a highly limited diet and no access to a microwave to do? Get creative? Certainly. Pull out all those rarely used appliances tucked away into dark corners? You betcha. You’d be amazed what can be accomplished with a blender, a juicer, a crockpot, and a food processor.

And what can you make with those things? Sauce. And sauce makes this elimination dieter a happy girl. In fact, I read a post recently on The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen where a reader had stated, “Just give me sauces and I can eat anything.” Kindred spirits, we are.

So using Tom and Ali’s garlicky green sauce, I created this Asian influenced salad that can be eaten as early as Phase Two of the Elimination Diet, but is even better once citrus, nightshades, and chicken are reintroduced. The disclaimer is that nothing is trying to be chicken in the Phase Two friendly variation–it’s just that few descriptions have the same name recognition as “Chinese Chicken Salad.” Chinese Salad? Asian Salad? Chickenless Asian Salad? You get the picture.

This concoction tastes a lot like peanut sauce, and it is AMAZEballs. I didn’t want to spend $15 at Whole Foods on a jar of pumpkin seed butter, so the first time I made it, I used sunflower butter and it was delicious. This go around I used homemade (thus, cheaper) pumpkin seed butter, and added lime for balance, crushed red pepper for spice, and enough water to make it the consistency of salad dressing. Feel free to omit the citrus and the red pepper if you’re still in Phase Two.

Build your salad with your favorite combination of the following ingredients:

Phase Two-friendly options:

Romaine
Shredded cabbage (Red or green)
Radicchio
Shredded carrots
Shredded beets
Broccoli
Snap peas, cut into strips (I like these better than snow peas, but either would work)
Bean sprouts
Julienned green apple (you need something with tang, to mimic the flavor of mandarin oranges)
Cilantro
Pepitas (to mimic the crunch of the chow mein noodles), toasted for extra flavor loveliness.

Other options, once you’ve graduated from Phase Two to Reintroduction:

Julienned red, orange, and yellow pepper
Organic chicken, cut into strips–I used Fiance’s delish go-to marinade of Sriracha (here’s a homemade, paleo version http://nomnompaleo.com/post/36060636540/paleo-sriracha-homemade-20-minute-sriracha), sesame oil, and soy sauce. Use wheat free tamari if you’re eliminating gluten.
Orange, supremed–I toyed with using peeled and separated tangerines, but I think the seeds would be annoying.
Organic water chestnuts—I would love to buy these fresh, but apparently that would require a quick jaunt to an Asian food market. In Asia.
Organic baby corn–see note about water chestnuts.

Take a look at both versions. No deprivation here.

Packed with Phase One-friendly goodies

So crunchy and flavorful

Chinese Salad 3

Then once you add in citrus, nightshades, and chicken

Chinese Salad 4

Adaptable for any Phase and so good you’ll be eating it well after the diet’s over

 

And just so’s I’m not alienating the non-Eliminators out there, I’ve got more killer sauce recipes coming soon: high on flavor, low on refined sugars and other yucky additives, as well as a comprehensive guide of refined sugar alternatives due out in the next few weeks. So stay tuned.

In the meantime, do something delicious!

FourPlay and Buffalo Balls

Fourplay2You like the name of this post? Me too.

Funny thing is, it was totally inadvertent. I knew I’d be doing a wine post–Carhartt’s 2010 FourPlay, to be precise–and Fiancé and I were brainstorming what would make the perfect meal to go with it. And yes, at times, we prefer to build our menu around the wine instead of the other way around. What’s wrong with that?

FourPlay is a flavorful red blend from one of our very favorite wineries in Los Olivos. The 2010 vintage produced only 350 cases of the sweet, sweet nectar and Fiancé and I have been saving this bottle for a special occasion–something like, hey it’s Thursday, and we’re on our way to pick up more Carhartt wine this weekend, so let’s drink up. You know, that kind of occasion.

FourPlay is 35% cabernet sauvignon, 31% merlot, 24% cab franc, and 10% petite verdot. Four players working in balanced juxtaposition to get our juices flowing, and ready for the main event–in this case, a steaming plate of gluten-free fettuccine with Fiance’s crockpot marinara and huge, flavorful meatballs made of bison. Seeing as how the wine is described as a perfect partner to savory meats, hearty pastas, and aged cheeses, we figured this menu was a bull’s eye, and it gave me an excuse to buy some fancy cheeses to indulge in beforehand (for the first time since the Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "challenge-2013-elimination-diet-food-allergen-cleanse" began–woot!).

Fourplay3I took one sip of this wine and told Fiancé that I want every glass of wine I ever drink to feel this way in my mouth. Holy velveteen, I’m in love. The blend has brilliant clarity, and a cherry red hue with rich intensity, belying its cabernet sauvignon component. It’s also fairly leggy, which makes me think of a great line from my favorite sommelier (and mentor–lucky me) Caitlin Stansbury, about how merlot, which she affectionately dubs the Sex Bomb, “shows more leg than Angelina Jolie.”

Stick your nose in the glass, and you’ll find a medium intensity aroma of ripe red fruits–cherries and cranberries, the very same that you taste when you take a sip. I also detected a hint of baking spices, and Fiancé noted a little smoke. What a delightful surprise on this celebratory Thursday, to find that I actually am a fan of merlot, which it turns out is the likely reason this wine feels so damned good to drink!

Fourplay1If you’re curious about how to zero in on your favorite qualities when wine tasting, and yearn to bring out your inner wine-know, you should check out Caitlin’s book, Wineocology. Watch out, this sassy sommelier has a mouth on her, which is why I could read this book and drink wine all the live-long day.

I hope you’re heading into the weekend with plans to do something delicious!

 

More Bang for Your Veggie Buck: Lacto-Fermentation

lacto-fermented veggies

 

I consider myself healthy. I do yoga 3-4 times a week and try to bike rather than drive whenever its warm, which is mostly always. Fiancé and I eat well—lots of grilled, lean meats and salad at every meal. Because Mexican food is my greatest love, I’ve created healthy variations: including fresh, homemade salsas, low calorie “refried” black beans, and fish tacos that are grilled and not fried. We even eat whole wheat bread and tortillas most of the time.

But apparently there is healthy and there’s healthy. I have learned right out of the gate that I am not the kind in italics. Healthy in italics means you sprout your quinoa so that you’re able to absorb the minerals you don’t get when you eat the cooked kind. Healthy in italics means you drink a green smoothie once (or twice or several times) a day. Healthy in italics means you already know what stevia and amaranth and adzuki beans are, you know all about (and regularly employ) lacto-fermentation.

I just eat well. I have not yet achieved “health nut” status. And don’t, for one second, get the idea that I think there is anything wrong with what I’m calling “health nut.” The term is merely a way to differentiate from myself—a health-food-loving cooking instructor-slash-food blogger with a TON to learn about health.

As a result of this Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "challenge-2013-elimination-diet-food-allergen-cleanse", I’ve had to seek out inventive new recipes, predominantly from the Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen’s website. It’s there that I discovered that there are “normal” pickles (laden with sodium, not nutrients) and then there are “healthy” pickles.*

What’s that, you say? Healthy pickles?

That’s right pucker lovers, hoarders of the brine, seekers of the tang. “Pickles”–or pickled veggies of your choice–that introduce healthy bacteria into your intestinal tract! You begin with raw, nutrition-packed veggies (think radishes, cauliflower, cabbage, or green beans), and pack them into a salt brine where they are allowed to ferment at room temperature. No pasteurization (or heat) is involved, preserving the nutrients. And the lactobacillus bacteria that cause the fermentation produce B vitamins–a cherry on top of the probiotic love they’re already giving to our gut.

Read more about the benefits of this friendly bacteria here.

 

kimchi

 

Lacto-Fermentation

In high school my best friend Julie told me that her Korean family made kim chi by burying a glass jar of cabbage in the yard for several weeks. She was describing what is apparently a very common method of employing lacto-fermentation. For me, however, the image (slimy intestines) and corresponding flavors (sweaty socks) that came to mind made kim chi that food I was never able to wrap my head around enough to try. Until a few years ago when I was “tricked” into eating the condiment while dining at a Korean BBQ for the first time. I was rapidly shoveling bowl after bowl of the stuff into my mouth when my Korean roommate commented on my affection for kim chi. I tried–for all of three seconds–to be horrified, then just conceded that I might actually have fallen in LOVE with the spicy-sour stuff.

In the initial weeks of the Elimination Diet, without vinegar or lemon, I found that I really missed tangy foods. So I was excited to come across this recipe. I happened to have a couple of canning jars, so I can attest to the fact that metal lids will work, although I plan to buy the plastic kind for my next round. And as a bonus—they’re really pretty on top of your fridge!

Here’s Tom the Nutritionist, doing a better job of explaining the process than I could ever hope to recreate here.

For a written step-by-step, click here.

So easy, you can’t not try it! I love the idea of getting my savory munchie fix with something that’s actually benefitting my health.

*In spite of their many benefits, lacto-fermented veggies are high in sodium, so would not be considered healthy for those on a low-sodium diet.

Have you tried lacto-fermentation? Any favorite flavor combinations?

Have you done something delicious today?
(Bottom photo by Nagyman)

 

 

Challenge 2013: Elimination Diet a.k.a. Food Allergen Cleanse

Goal:

Find the perfect response to the statement: Why not just do the scratch test at the Doctor’s office? That sounds sooo much less terrible.

When everyone around you is running a marathon or giving up alcohol for 30 days or doing the Insanity workout, you start to feel the need to demonstrate that you’re is not an irresolute schlub.

This is how a girl who hates diets and rules ended up on the elimination diet food plan. Meaning a 6-week (minimum) eating regimen that removes all possible allergens from your diet, reintroducing them slowly–after a cleansing period–to test the system for reactions.

Why Is This A Good Idea?

There are so many reasons to give this eating plan the old college try, not the least of which is gaining a general sense of feeling “better.” I chose to follow The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen’s guidelines; the site is beautiful and the recipes, delicious sounding. Nutritionists Tom Malterre and Ali Segersten really manage to sell this “diet” in a beautifully photographed blog that just might entice you to take the challenge yourself. When you visit their site, you’ll read about all which conditions can be remedied by eliminating allergenic foods and reducing the accompanying inflammation these foods cause.

So my reasons?

*I’ll stop suffering from food hangovers. I live to eat and not the other way around, so its time to take this bull by the horns.
*I’ll discover what my triggers are (pleaseohpleaseohplease don’t let it be cheese), so I can carefully pick and choose the moments to eat them.
*To learn a lot about more about food and discover some new flavors (as a cooking instructor, it’s important to always be learning, right?).
*I might lose weight.

3 Potential Road Blocks

*If you try this, accept that you will not be fun for the next six weeks. For the first fourteen days especially, the response to remarks like, “oh you can order a salad,” when everyone wants to go out to dinner, will still be, “no, I can’t.” Planning is of the essence.
*The food might be so boring or bland, I might fall instantly and firmly off the wagon.
the-shining*Being deprived may make me feel the need to remodel the bathroom with an axe. This possible outcome is based upon a history of starvation-induced offenses, leading Fiancé to mandate that I NEVER be allowed to do anything requiring actual fasting.

Reasons to Stay Tuned

*I’m a real person, so I’m likely to mess this up from time to time, in ways that might even be humorous. Plus I hate rules remember, so I may even cheat out of spite, and then you’ll know whether or not it works for real people, or whether you have to be a hyper-focused zen master in discipline in order to reap the benefits.
*I believe there are delicious realms to be discovered my friends, and I intend to send all that lusciousness your way.

Meantime, check out my slightly less than successful first days of the Elimination Diet below.

Day 1: Put off diet for an additional week and ate half a pound of cheese. And leftover Easter candy. This is going to be hard.

Day 1 (again):

All delicious things, no?

All delicious things, no?

Green smoothies ONLY for two, very long days. Green, meaning chalk full of vegetables, the flavor of which is only slightly masked by the meager handful of fruit the recipe calls for.

Discovered I hate smoothies. Not even just the veggie kind—I don’t really even like fruit smoothies. It’s a texture thing, apparently. Felt hungry and tired all day long. My stomach cramped and I lay on the couch and whimpered to evoke sympathy from Fiancé.

I cheated repeatedly to entice myself to drink down 2 blenders-full a day. A dried apricot as a reward. A gluten-free zucchini cracker to provide an alternative to the salsa-esque consistency that had been in my mouth all day long. A bowl of smashed warm raspberries (what the what?) because they didn’t taste like kale and were well, warm.

I also had a headache all day long. I never get headaches. I thought I was going to feel like superwoman, not like I’d been poisoned.

This cleanse sucks.*

Looks better than it tastes.

Looks better than it tastes.

*Spoiler Alert

This post is finally going live after I’ve actually been doing the diet for a few weeks. It’s worth muddling through the tough days at the beginning–I promise! Furthermore, upon researching my first few days of “symptoms,” everything I experienced is a common effect of a detox (which is why I do the research after, not before, so that I don’t have a chance to talk myself out of things).

I just wish I had had a cheerleader to tell me this stuff during the first few days, rather than a bunch of health-nymphs hopped up on wheat grass fluttering about saying things like “green smoothies are delicious and energizing! I could drink them all day,” and “here are 1 billion invigorating recipes!” when all they really are is kale and a bunch of other good-sounding things that are, in fact, not good because all you taste is kale. Blech.

Ever tried one of these programs yourself? How’d you get through it? I’d love to hear your tips and war stories.

And then in celebration that you’re not suffering through this yourself, go do something delicious!

 

End of the World Cake

end-of-the-world-cakeOnce I was invited to an End of the World Party. Guests were encouraged to partake in whatever sorts of activities they’d want to spend their last hours on earth doing. I showed up with ingredients for four different recipes, a bottle of good champagne, and some great tequila. To me, these “last hours on earth” were all about indulging in the finest food and spirits. For others at the party, like Kenneth* who wore nothing but a speedo and red high heels, they were about (cough) something else.

Oddly enough, someone at the party accused me of using cooking as a way to resist “connecting” with others. I wanted to hold his face in my hands and look into his glitter-lined eyes and say, “Oh sweetie, don’t you realize that a chef is never lonely?” A kitchen can be the size of a kleenex box and if something delicious is happening, everyone will be standing in it.

But maybe he was calling me out on something: Food mattered more to me than the dance party or the guided-meditation-slash-jam-session with well-meaning strangers–and it was evident to others. I spent only a very modest amount of time worrying about it, however, because the celebration I had with myself, Don Julio and this cake was all I needed to sail into eternity with a smile. Stay tuned for the gluten-free version, as this post was originally published before the realization that changed my life.

End of the World Cake (Refined Sugar-Free)
Author: The Wellness Chef
Almond Soufflé Cake with Lemon Curd and Berries, adapted from Cooking Light
Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
  • 2 tsp. matzo cake meal (I use finely ground matzo meal since I’ve never found matzo “cake” meal. It works like a charm. Or sub almond meal, available at Trader Joes, very finely ground)
  • 4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1 cup maple sugar
  • 1/4 cup matzo cake meal
  • 1 1/2 tsp. water
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup almonds, coarsely ground
  • 1 cup [url href=”http://thedeliciousthings.com/lemon-curd/” target=”_blank”]lemon curd[/url]
  • 2 cups of your favorite fresh berries (why not try raspberry, blackberry and blueberries mixed?)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Grease a 9-inch springform pan by rubbing with a paper towel dipped in grapeseed oil. Dust pan with 2 teaspoons matzo cake meal.
  3. Place the egg yolks in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at high speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating until thick and pale (about 1 minute). Add 1/4 cup matzo cake meal, water, lemon zest, fresh lemon juice, and salt; beat just until blended. Fold in the almonds.
  4. Place egg whites in a large bowl. Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently stir one-fourth of egg whites into egg yolk mixture; fold in remaining egg whites. Spoon batter into prepared pan.
  5. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool for 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Run a knife around edge of cake. Remove cake from pan. Cool completely. (Cake will sink in center as it cools.) Spread 1 cup Lemon Curd in center of cake, and top with berries. Cut cake into wedges using a serrated knife.
  6. Serve right away, as this cake is delicious fresh, but gets too moist from the curd when it sits for a long time.

 

*Names have been changed to protect the wicked and the naughty. I’ll bet they wouldn’t hesitate to go do something delicious right this minute!

 

Lighter Lemon Curd (Refined Sugar-Free, Plus a Vegan Variation)

lemon-curdHave you ever noticed that kids don’t seem to like lemon-flavored things? I didn’t as a wee lass, and my favorite little (who’s eleven now) won’t even eat a sugar cookie if it has lemon zest in it. It’s a funny thing, because when you fast forward to grown up me, I simply can’t get enough of the stuff. Lemon sorbet, lemon pound cake, lemon poppyseed muffins, lemon in my cocktails. It’s simply my favorite! Maybe in weaning myself off chocolate, I found sour to be a way to get my dessert fix without dying in the clutches of cloying.

Lemon curd might be my favorite way to enjoy my obsession. I’ll spread it on gluten-free toast or muffins, fill tarts and layer cakes with it, or mix it with fluffy coconut whipped cream and dollop it atop fresh berries.

The thing about lemon curd is people freak out about the fat content. While I no longer demonize fat (you can read all about why here), I’m always game for healthifying a recipe if it’s still going to taste great. And this recipe does just that. It’s basic lemon curd, except it uses whole eggs instead of just yolks to keep it copacetic for the folks in the world who still crunch the nutritional numbers. And it also makes use of an all-natural sweetener, maple sugar–which is my favorite replacement for table sugar in recipes with light-colored ingredients and delicate flavors.

And I even took it a step further: I found a vegan variation! Made egg and butter-free, obviously, but maintaining the pudding-esque consistency like a champ, and tasting every bit as good as the carnivore variation. I’ve included both recipes here so that no matter what your preference, you can do this deliciousness STAT!

Lemon Curd (Refined Sugar-Free)
Author: The Wellness Chef
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Makes 2 cups. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for a week.
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup maple sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. grated lemon rind
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. Place sugar and eggs in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended.
  2. Gradually beat in rind and juice. Spoon mixture into a heavy-duty saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Add butter to pan; cook 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly (do not boil).
  4. Spoon mixture into a bowl. Cover surface with plastic wrap. Chill thoroughly.
Lighter Lemon Curd (Refined Sugar-free & Vegan)
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: The Wellness Chef
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 1/2 cups
For your loved ones who are vegan, and all who aren’t but will never know the difference!
Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cup maple sugar
  • 2 T lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 T coconut milk
  • 3 T [url href=”http://” target=”_blank”]cornstarch[/url] dissolved in 3 T cold water
  • 2 T dairy-free margarine, divided
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the lemon juice, sugar, lemon zest and salt, stirring well to dissolve the sugar.
  2. After the sugar is dissolved, add the corn starch mixture and the coconut milk.
  3. Stirring constantly, cook until the mixture begins to thicken and bubbles gently, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add the margarine, and continuing to stir constantly, cook for several minutes more or until mixture resembles thick pudding.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a heat proof dish, cover the surface of the curd with plastic wrap and let cool completely before placing in the refrigerator.
  6. Chill 2 hours before serving.

Photo credit: French Tart via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Cranberry-Jalapeño Relish

cran-relishFor those who crave the cranberry tang on their holiday table but loathe the jiggle of Ocean Spray, this recipe is for you. It’s nice to have some healthy crunch in a sea of roasted, mashed, steamed and smashed, and spoonfuls of this on top of gooey slathers of baked Brie just might bring tears to your eyes. I often find myself sitting down with the leftovers and eating straight out of the Tupperware, something I heartily encourage you try!

As much as I’d like to lay claim to this cranberry-jalapeno relish, my dear friend Teri brought this recipe into the fold, so I get to call “mine” only because I make it every time I see fresh cranberries at the market (and sometimes dream about it at night).

Cranberry-jalapeno relish ingredients

Add some fresh and zingy to your meal a’plenty

Cranberry-Jalapeño Relish
  • 2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (fresh are simply marvelous!)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1 large fresh jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped (don’t remove the seeds if you like it spicy)
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 2 blood or navel oranges, peel and pith removed, flesh separated into segments, juice reserved
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 3 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 Tbsp. maple sugar (maple syrup works too)
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
  1. Pulse cranberries in a food processor until coarsely chopped.
  2. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Stir in zest, onion, jalapeño, orange sections and juice, lime juice, ginger, maple sugar or syrup, and celery.
  4. Refrigerate 1 hour (up to 2 days).
  5. Before serving, stir in mint, cilantro and pecans.
  6. Enjoy a flavor circus in your mouth!

Print

 

For the most delicious holiday ever, what foods have to be a part of the spread at your house ?

Wine and Truffles: An Affair to Remember

Cakebread Merlot

Recently the boyfriend celebrated his 40th birthday, and his boss gave him a bottle of Cakebread Merlot and a box of Lindor chocolate truffles, with the strictest instructions to share them with me. I love his boss!

So we’re sitting on the couch soaking in the atmosphere of our new apartment, and it just seems like the right time to celebrate. I’ve never tried the Cakebread Merlot, but at around $50 a bottle (I looked it up, nosy thing), I know we’re in for a treat.  We decant it for 30 minutes to let the fruit and roasted herb aromas develop. We are very serious.

Lindor truffles come in dark, milk, and white chocolate and have a ganache center the consistency of butter. I’m not a big “chocolate-on-top-of-chocolate-decadence” girl (who would be, after working in a shop during college that sold every possible variant of the stuff), but these little babies are showstoppers. I’ve long since outgrown the over-sweet taste of most white chocolate but for some reason, white Lindor truffles hold the key to my heart. Basically, they defy everything I feel about the confection; about its decadence and tooth-pain inducing sweetness. And the buttery quality of the ganache gives such a silky mouth feel that it perfectly complements the velvety texture of the wine.

A tiny, creamy bite. A ripe, berry-filled sip.

The chocolate marries with the jammy flavor of the merlot, full of punchy plum and cherry notes, evoking Black Forest cake. Boyfriend compares the softness on the palate to sucking on a silk tie. It is marvelously balanced; there is just enough tannin to leave my palate cleansed and ready to taste all the nuances of flavor in the next sip and each one after that. Is that toasted oak that I detect?

Now this is certainly not the first time I have consumed chocolate and wine together. But it is the first time someone has given the combination to me (or Boyfriend) as a gift. Accompanied by the instruction to share this experience with someone awesome. Making this more than just a gift of wine and candy—making this a gift of time.  Making it a memory. A moment in my crazy life to stop and smell the roses. And plums. And cherries. And oak.

Doesn’t that just make you want to go and do something delicious?

 

Cakebread Cellars by James Lee is licensed under CC BY 2.0/ Brightness increased from original