Is there anything that goes together better than the Holidays and chocolate? (The answer is absolutely not, by the way.) It’s time to get ready to indulge in the best the season has to offer, and also to share the love (of chocolate, of course). So when Green & Black’s asked me to come up with some ideas for Holiday gifting that used their delicious, delicious organic chocolate bars, my answer was OF COURSE I WILL. Countless hours were spent in the test kitchen - a.k.a. my kitchen - developing these ideas, my friends, and I can assure you that I enjoyed every single one of them. Really, I did this for you in the spirit of the season, not just so I could eat a whole lot of luxurious, ethically-sourced Green & Black’s organic chocolate in the process. Obviously. My family was definitely not bothered by this project one bit. So in the spirit of the season, my gift to you is these gift ideas - or get creative and come up with some of your own. Just make sure you use the good stuff, because Santa’s watching.Read More
One of my favourite weekend things (or let’s face it, any day of the week) is a cappuccino and a cookie of some sort. These Double Dark Chocolate Cashew biscotti are from a recipe that I’ve been working on for a few years. They happen to be grain-free (and can be vegan if you use dairy-free chocolate chips, which I didn’t do here) as I used to follow a mostly grain free diet because that’s what worked for me. Now I’m on more of a 70/30 kind of thing. Regardless, these are delicious and will satisfy the cookie monster in you however you prefer to eat. They are made of almond and coconut flour, so have a crumblier texture than regular biscotti, but are super chocolate-y and delicious. I also add Central Roast cashews for even more nutty goodness. If you are looking for a cookie fix, give them a try! (Note, I live life in metric because it is the superior system of measurement, but for some reason I still bake in imperial measurements. Probably because I learned it from my Mom & Nana. It’s confusing, but it’s my way. Just don’t talk to me about the weather in Fahrenheit, it drives me nuts.)
- 1 ½ cups almond flour
- ¼ cup coconut flour
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder. (Use the good stuff)
- 1 tbsp flax seeds
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup Central Roast Raw cashews (you can toast them ahead of time if you would like.)
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips (obviously I usually end up putting more than that in, plus eating a few more. Obviously).
Preheat oven to 350 F. Pulse cashews in food processor for a sec to break them up a bit and put aside. Put all dry ingredients except cashews and chocolate chips in food processor to combine. Add wet ingredients to combine then put the mixture in a bowl – it will be a bit sticky. Fold in cashews and chocolate chips (eat a few more chocolate chips. Repeat). On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, form mixture into a loaf shape. Bake for 15 mins at 350 F. Let cool for at least an hour. (Overnight is fine too.) Slice into biscotti. Re-bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Let cool and enjoy the chocolatey goodness.
Pinch me, I'm on my way to a chocolate-tasting dinner with Cacao Barry.
That was my tweet, mid-makeup application, this past Monday night as I was getting ready to head out for what I knew would be a truly memorable dining experience. Can you blame me? I was on my way to Colette Grand Cafe, a venue known for creating luxurious French culinary experiences, to experience one the notorious flavour dinners by conceptualized by legendary French chocolate company Cacao Barry. Now, if I had you at "Cacao Barry", hold on a moment longer while I explain: this is no ordinary chocolate tasting dinner. These #FlavourDinners are a series of dinners where chefs cook primarily for other chefs and create menus inspired by Cacao Barry chocolate. Each menu item incorporates Cacao Barry into it, along with one additional particular ingredient as a through line for the entire menu. This scenario creates a particular challenge, because not only are the host chefs cooking for their peers, but also bound by the intricate dance of two flavours that must be included in each menu item. No easy task for the host team of chefs, sommeliers and mixologists, but a total no-brainer for me when I was asked if I would like to have a seat at the table.
There is a lot of history behind Cacao Barry. With over 170 years of of tradition behind the name, it has become a name that chefs trust to create memorable dishes for their guests. But they are also a brand that continually strives to innovate, by collaborating with chefs to push boundaries when it comes to flavour combinations and to ensure the sustainability of cocoa for future generations. Given that, and the nature of the Flavour Dinner challenge, it is no wonder that Colette's Executive Chef Jennifer Dewasha and Pastry Chef Annegret Henninger were inspired to create a bold menu to showcase not only the versatility of the chocolate, but also of the modern French fare that they do so well.
Dining at Colette always feels like a special experience, but as this was an evening in early December, things felt extra sparkly. (The very tempting display of Cacao Barry Couverture certainly made the atmosphere extra special as well. Chocolate everywhere always helps. Note to self.) It turned out that while the guest list was indeed mostly chefs including Nadege Nourian, Mark Thuet, Louis Lim and Atul Palghadmal. There were also other food writers and personalities in the mix as well such as Bonnie Stern and Amy Rosen. Suffice it to say, I was in very good company.
Obviously we were all wondering what the mystery ingredient that would be pairing with all that delicious chocolate was. Our welcome cocktail held the key: a potent mix featuring Absinthe, chocolate-infused vodka, Luxardo liquer, chocolate shavings and more. In case you missed it....the Absinthe was the tell. Our second feature ingredient (or flavour) for the night's dinner would be liquorice. Or licorice. Potato, potato. (For the sake of continuity, I'll use licorice in this article as that's how it was spelled on the menu). However you spell it, it's a vivid, unapologetic and rather polarizing flavour. I'm a fan, but I know many people find me strange for liking that deep, dark Dutch salted stuff, but I do. (Red "licorice" is just weird, sugary wax in my opinion). It is also a flavour that appears in a number of ingredients: including tarragon, star anise, fennel, licorice root and licorice mint. But is it versatile enough? Any way I looked at it, I knew this meal was going to be an adventure.
Here is a look at the beautiful dishes that Chefs Dewasha and Henninger created for us, and that Sommelier Brian Davies chose the most perfect pairings for.
TARRAGON: Venison Tartare, Cocoa Nibs, Puffed Grains, Pumpernickel, Tanzanie Origin Chocolate, paired with sweet vermouth.
FENNEL: Clay Baked Salmon, Parsnip & Zeyphr White Chocolate Puree, Braised Fennel, Sauce Meurette. (I wish I had written down the name of this wine, because it was incredible.)
STAR ANISE: Wild Hare Civet, Cavatelli, Wild Mushrooms, Extra Brute Cacao Powder
SWEET ROOT: Apples, Licorice Cake Alunga Milk Chocolate, Apple Cremeux
LICORICE MINT: Cassettes, Haiti Origin Chocolate Cream, Cucumber Aloe Vera Jel
Pastry Chef Annegret Henninger offered some great insight about working with Cacao Barry chocolate. Like any true icon, it stays true to itself rather than playing to the crowd.
It was an adventurous meal, full of flavour, beautifully plated, and as I mentioned, perfectly paired by our host sommelier. It was a testament to the skill and imagination of the team at Colette Grand Cafe, and to the range and quality of the chocolate used.
Oh - and should anyone really want to push the limits of their chocolate skills while making me dessert, head on over to the Cacao Barry website and check out this number for Anarchy. I'll be waiting.
All photos by Jeffrey Chan for Cacao Barry.
Twice a year, the One Of A Kind Show brings a slew of amazing artisans all under one roof in Toronto. Whether you're into food, fashion, art, beauty or many other marvels of craftiness - there is likely something wonderful there waiting for you. I was lucky enough to get a quick sneak peek at the show, and here are a couple of my favourites.
Part of my food philosophy is that fat is phat. In my humble opinion, the low-fat craze did a lot of damage - and this definitely includes to me. Ever since I started adding more good fats and protein into my diet, the effects have been amazing. But this isn't about me, it's about ghee. Ghee (or clarified butter) is a pretty amazing thing.....read more about that here. It can be a great source of good fat. I'm a bit too in love with this stuff, so I was pretty excited when I stumbled upon the awesomeness that is Lee's Ghee at the OOAK (it's a short form, let's use it). Lee's is based in Toronto, but somehow I knew nothing about her or her company until now. (See, this is why the OOAK Show is awesome.)
Lee's Ghee is hand crafted in small batches using unsalted, organic, cultured butter as a base for all of the flavours. They use locally-sourced Organic Meadow butter from Ontario, which is primarily grass-fed. Another big thumbs up for that. If you're just looking for a basic ghee, there is the Plain Jane non-flavour, which is really delicious. To get even more adventurous, there are infused flavours on the sweeter side like Cardamom Kiss (my fave!), Noisette, and Blind Date. If savoury is more your thing, go for Sage City or Gold Standard, which has all the amazing benefits of tumeric.
Can't wait to cook with this ghee....or even better, make some next-level buttered coffee with that Cardamom Kiss flavour.
I'm in the market for a new handbag that meets all my needs: fashion forward, beautifully crafted, and not covered in logos. So when I stumbled upon Opelle Creative at Booth I 26, I was kind of instantly in love with their designs. Again, even though they are based in Toronto, I wasn't really aware of them until now. (The OOAK Show wins again!)
Opelle designs based on the philosophy of New Luxury - closing the gap between traditional luxury and fast fashion, and I'd say they hit the mark very well on that. Each bag is crafted in Toronto, made of incredible quality leather that is as ethically-sourced as possible. I'd love to collect them all, to be honest. Definitely worth checking out either at the show this weekend, online, or at their new Toronto showroom.
Need a dose of whimsy in your life? Look no further than Booth E05 for greeting cards and gifts that make you smile and say "awwww". Affordable, adorable, and made here in Toronto by Queenie Best, Queenie's Cards offer a great alternative to those same old boring mass-produced greeting cards. The line has now expanded to include other gift items like clothing, mugs, iPhone cases and more, which you can find at the OOAK Show or online here.
Passionate about chocolate? Looking for a mid-OOAK show pick me up? Or perhaps an alternative to that drugstore Easter Bunny chocolate-ish product? Head to booth C41. That's where you'll find Odile Chatelain, a Parisian transplant who has honed her chocolate-making skills over a 30-year career in the culinary industry. Odile Chocolat's handmade truffles tempt with flavours like the Mexicana (tequila, candied lime peel & chipotle pepper), Bollywood (cardamom & silver leaf), and Tahitian Vanilla with Candied Lime Peel, plus wonderful salted caramels and a variety of hot chocolates. Visit Odile at the OOAK show or at their storefront at 829 Dundas Street West in Toronto.