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Chocolate

Happy Valentine's Day

Chocolate. The one word says it all. This is a celebration of it, Valentines day or not.

Her road trips have reaped the discovery of some of the finest handmade chocolate.  You can order Swiss chocolate (and she did merely for variety), but the best yet is from a tiny shop in Meetseetse, Wyoming and another in Deadwood, South Dakota.  And she’s had some fine chocolates as you’ll see.  Here, in her opinion, are the standards, the chocolate truffle go-to’s, some classics, and some not.  They’re anything but basic.  This post is all about taste and will run the gamut from some of the best handmade truffles in the world to a “flavored” chocolate syrup. And she insists Champagne to savor them properly is really a must (make it nice and dry, please).

Meetseetse Chocolatier

The Meeteetse Chocolatier is off the beaten path. During a tour of the West, a merchant in Cody, Wyoming tipped her off to the cowboy confectioner. Tim Kellogg is a real cowboy. And a chocolatier. Seems an unlikely combination of talents, but that did not deter her! He’s not been making chocolates for 100 years, or even 10, but it’s obvious at the first taste, it doesn’t take that long to perfect something divine.

The Meeteetse Chocolatier

The Meeteetse Chocolatier

From his website: “In June of 2004, my mother suggested that I make a bunch of truffles and brownies to sell during the Cody Stampede as a way to raise money for a new bronc saddle. I said Absolutely Not! My mom finally talked me into getting a booth at Art in the Park, and that was that.”  Ahhh, were it not for the advice of Mothers!  The world might be chocolateless.  She shudders.

Meetseetse Chocolatier

Meetseetse Chocolatier

Vosges Chocolate was inspired when Katrina the Chocolatier and genius behind these uniquely exotic truffles, had a life moment with truffle beignets at the Place des Vosges. Combining chocolates from all over the world with unique ingredients, such as dark chocolate infused with Japanese wasabi and ginger topped with black sesame seeds, lends a delightful twist.

She had eaten a few boxes of these before learning the correct pronunciation of “Vosges” and wants you to have that very important information so that when you call to place your order, there won’t be any confusion on your part about having dialed the correct establishment. Just say “Vohj” real fast, kind of drawing out the end a bit, with as much of a French accent as you can muster, and you’ve got it.  The factory’s in Chicago, so actually, any accent will do.

Vosges

Vosges

Coldplay designed the plate. Since the top two words are “Love and Chocolate”, she bought it. Besides, she likes Coldplay.

Here’s another of her favorites. Teuscher chocolates are imported  from Zürich, Switzerland where they’ve been making them for 70 years. Her husband bought the first box several years ago in New York on business. The Classic Champagne Truffles are the signature chocolate of Teuscher. There’s really a smidgen of Dom Perginon champagne creme in the middle!  So guys, this one truffle will meet your quest for chocolate and champagne all in one convenient bite.  Not.

Teuscher Champagne Truffles

U-Bet Chocolate Syrup

You didn’t think she was a total chocolate snob, did you?  Being a true chocoholic is not nearly as profound as some will lead you to believe.  No proper story about truffles, champagne, diets, wasabi, cowboy confectioners, and words she can’t pronounce would be complete without chocolate syrup.  And yes, it does say “FLAVOR”, as in, it’s not the real thing. Forget it. It’s good. Fox’s U-bet Original Chocolate Flavor Syrup has been made for 104 years in Brooklyn, NY. They know chocolate syrup.

Here’s the recipe for the famous egg-cream for which their syrup was originally intended.

The Original Brooklyn Egg-Cream
• Take a tall, chilled, straight-sided, 8oz. glass
• Spoon 1 inch of U-bet Chocolate syrup into glass
• Add 1 inch whole milk
• Tilt the glass and spray seltzer (from a pressurized cylinder only) off a spoon, to make a big chocolate head
• Stir, Drink, Enjoy

Chubby Chipmunk Treasure

Of course there’s a favorite. She won’t bore you with all the appropriate superlatives these truffles deserve.  You’ll simply have to order a box for yourself or someone you really, really, really love.  The Chubby Chipmunk was discovered on a winding road trip that found her in Deadwood, South Dakota.  She broke the law there.  Not over these, however. But mind you, they’re that good.

They don’t look the same as other truffles. Kind of lopsided and mishapen and a bit alarming when the lid is raised, you slowly realize as you’re examining them, they’re handmade.  As in no machine touches them, ever.  They’re so beautiful you feel sad at first to bite into one. That passes quickly. They’re about an ounce-and-a-half of exquisite chocolate sublimity.  She’s addicted to the darks and feels certain the diet will be breached over one, or more of these.

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Champagne. Whoever said champagne was meant for celebrating didn’t drink much of it. She doesn’t know about you, but it’s made for drinking, and with anything you like. She overwhelmingly prefers it accompany chocolate.

” Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it”– Napoleon Bonaparte

Technically, as you’ve likely heard, “champagne” refers to wine from the Champagne region of France. Practically, it refers to any bubbly you want, but if it’s not from France, the correct term is “sparkling wine”.

She dislikes the rule, and never says “sparkling wine”.  She’s yet to be arrested for that. Brut Natural is the most dry, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Sec, Demi Sec, Doux, follow. She prefers dry champagne, but claims Brut Natural, Extra Brut are difficult to find, so she drinks Brut. Here are her favorites from the least expensive up:

P.S. She’s actually had a glass of Dom Perignon and was disappointed, a real blow. Maybe her expectations were too high. Her taste buds too low.

Korbel Brut $11
Piper Sonoma Brut $14
Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut $22 ** Best champagne for the value
Louis Roederer Brut Premier $53
Bollinger Special Cuvee $55

Website Information

 

Diner Divine

Lots of things make a travelers’ heart palpitate. For many of us it’s a great diner.  One you discovered when you just wanted a cup of decent coffee and something with egg but with one thrilling glance realize you can have a Bloody Mary and artisan bacon to boot. One that makes you wonder why your hometown can’t be cool enough to have a diner like that and causes you to consider taking out your life’s savings to start one (a frighteningly strong urge after a couple of Bloody Mary’s – I’m not saying I had a couple…).  Sadly, discovering them doesn’t happen all that often. Oh they’re out there but passers-through seldom have such luck.

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Blue Moon Diner, Charlottesville Virginia

Near the University of Virginia we stumbled upon just such a diner. A tiny place on the corner of West Main, heads bobbing at the bottom of the windows were the only indicator of life (we beat the crowds).

With a front window full of LPs, blues music coming from the turntable, a tiny dining area with carefully tucked tables, a bar area with nostalgic barstools, the gleaming chrome topped by black leather, fun little touches of moons and ambiance strategically placed,  my mind was only on one thing – coffee. Okay, two things – coffee and bacon.

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A bottomless cup of coffee served in weighty blue speckleware, just like all coffee should be served.

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My brain sated with the coffee I thought I’d better see what they had to go with bacon.

  • Apple Omelette with sausage, blue cheese and granny smith apple slices
  • Mediterranean Omelette – spinach, feta cheese, tomato, red pepper, and capers
  • Huevos Bluemoonos
  • Blue Moon Monte Cristo with french toasted Surryano ham, turkey and swiss on sourdough
  • French Toast with cinnamon swirl bread and house vanilla-ginger syrup
  • Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly

With great pain I chose and ordered the Mediterranean omelette with the side of artisan bacon, then opted to extend the torture and began to check out the rest of the menu. For dinner, how about starting with Portobella Mushrooms stuffed with local organic andouille polenta topped with sweet jalepeno relish followed by Chicken Pot Pie with organic chicken, carrots, celery, onion, peas, and corn served in a dutch oven topped with puff pastry?

Look! I never said this was your everyday diner!

For dessert, how ’bout a Grills-With, a grilled Krispy Kreme glazed donut with Vanilla ice cream and Hershey’s syrup? Or an ice cream sandwich with black raspberry ice cream on an oatmeal cranberry cookie or “Elvis” banana ice cream with chocolate dipped peanut butter cookie?

The barstools give an indicator of how cool this place is.  First, there are barstools, a very important component of diners, secondly, the floor is a retro black and white check, not so much a requirement, but very cool.

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There are no food shots. Why you ask? Because by the time my food was served, I was way beyond photography. Here however, is the exterior of the place. I had my wits back by the time we left.

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** For more food related travel experiences of note, check out Wanderfood Wednesdays at Wanderlust and Lipstick.

 
Blue Moon Diner
512 West Main Street
Charlottesville, VA 22903
434.980.moon
Mon-Fri 8 am to 10 pm
Sat 9 am to 10 pm
Sun 9 am to 3 pm
 
 

Blue Moon Diner on Urbanspoon

A Big Fat Persimmon Lie

I’m home tonight.  With no plans to work on any of my assignments due within the next few weeks, or even blog about the latest road trip, I sat down, propped up my feet, and opened the innocent looking package from my husband’s employer regarding medical insurance for 2010. This is not a comedic stand up routine folks. Despite the fact the American medical system is broke and front and center in the news, I plowed in. How bad could it be?

Really bad. Five minutes later, depressed at the knowledge the cost for our coverage would be increasing by one-third, with thoughts of an HMO flashing through my head like Boris Karloff with a flashlight under his chin, I made my way to the kitchen.

Tonight I’d make the persimmon bread from the recipe that accompanied my recent post about the fruit’s seed being a predictor of winter conditions. The persimmons purchased over a week ago have ripened nicely on the countertop and need some attention – as in a suspension of batter and an oven.

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fruit, pecans, whiskey, raisins, butter, eggs. Forget about mixing all this together with flour and sugar; the individual components would be a gourmet meal for me.

Cutting into the first persimmon yields a soft, fleshy, orange fruit, the color for which fashion designers would need a brown bag. It’s that glorious.

Only thing missing: ummm, seeds. Nada. Zip. Zero. None. Whaaatttt??!!  My post that spawned a rush all over the world to purchase persimmons, is a LIE?!

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no seeds!

Yes. And no. The trees that yielded the persimmons that yielded the seed that yielded the spoon indicating lots of snow this winter, were wild persimmons picked on my Dad’s ranch. Being the ranch is 3 hours from here and to achieve 2 cups of mash from the not-much-bigger-than-a-marble fruit would take a bushel, I opted for market persimmons.

Some desperate research indicates I purchased the most widely cultivated species: the Japanese persimmon ‘Hachiya’.  Another variety was also available (looked more like the ugly step sister of a tomato) for which I will return to the market tomorrow. I’m on a seed quest. And geez louise, so are some of you!

My advice if you’re looking to open a seed to shock and awe your friends and family with Farmer’s Almanac type winter predictions that are a bit more scientific than my beloved Magic 8 Ball, tell the person at your market what you want to do. They should be able to guide you towards a persimmon species with seeds, thereby rescuing my reputation as a, umm, as a highly regarded forecaster with a Farmer’s Almanac and a Magic 8 Ball sitting on her desk.

Tomorrow I’ll post about how the seed quest turned out. In the meantime, the bread is fantastic – my new favorite quick bread – better than banana nut bread, strawberry bread, or zucchini bread. It’s my new go to for gifts. Good thing we were low on milk.

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A Spoon In My Persimmon

Before we talk about the persimmon seed as a harbinger of winter, I just want to know one thing: Who was the first person to open a persimmon seed? Okay, two things: WHY?!

It’s a good bet no one has those answers, so let’s proceed.

persimmon seed

This “spoon” looks more like a Serv-All…Wonder what it means if I’d found a Spork??

On my various road trips this fall I’ve noticed an abundance of persimmons. A trip to my parents’ ranch this weekend brought up the discussion about the old-timers method of predicting winter weather patterns by what the seed holds within.

I plucked some of the small ripe fruit, brought them home and proceeded to open a seed for myself. I’d never done this. Surprisingly, neither had my Dad.  So he didn’t know to warn me I’d need my McGyver husband to help.

persimmons

Persimmons were known to the ancient Greeks as the fruit of the gods.  There are several varieties, but most have this distinctive (and very memorable) quality – the unripened fruit is so high in tannins, your mouth will be welded shut upon the slightest nibble of the fruit (technically a berry).  It’s a common joke pulled on unsuspecting southern children, who will in almost all instances, eat anything.  Of course, this never happened to me.

Captain John Smith said it best: “If it not be ripe it will draw a man’s mouth awire with much torment. But when it is ripe, it is as delicious as an apricot.”

persimmons

The seeds from my wild persimmons are a bit larger than a watermelon seed, hard as a native pecan shell, slicker than snot (I’ve actually written a story about snot), and as I wondered above, perplexing as to why anyone would have wanted to cut one open. But someone did and over the years predictions about winter were spun around the tiny, but perfectly formed, creamy white utensil in the center.

From the Farmer’s Almanac Blog: “A knife shape will indicate a cold icy winter (wind cuts through you like a knife). A fork shape indicates a mild winter. A spoon shape stands for a shovel to dig out all the snow.”

You want to see for yourself? Here’s how. Find or buy several persimmons and remove the seeds. You’ll need more than one piece of fruit because I lost several seeds down the drain and elsewhere in the kitchen when they shot from my hand during the cleaning process. Talk about putting your eye out! Under running, warm water, clear the schmaaz and seed covering. Eventually a dark, shiny seed will emerge. Now for the really tricky part. After some trial and error, we found the best tool is a utility knife. Hold the seed on a flat surface with a pair of pliers and CAREFULLY take the tip and insert into the seed, then rock the knife back and forth around the seed. Don’t get in a hurry! It may take a few times to do this without destroying the “utensil” within.

I’ve now cut open 8 seeds (with no trip to the emergency room!) and it’s a given, we’ll be shoveling snow this winter – the seeds all contain spoons.

So what’s in your persimmon seed?!

Persimmon Bread

Two 9-inch Loaves

Using the higher amount of sugar will produce a moister and, of course, sweeter bread.

Adapted from Beard on Bread by James Beard.

persimmon bread batter

The batter is a gorgeous kaleidescope of goodness.

3½ cups sifted flour
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 to 2½ cups sugar
1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2/3 cup cognac, bourbon or whiskey
2 cups persimmon puree (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
2 cups raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)
1. Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
4. Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins.
5. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Storage: Will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. The Persimmon Breads take well to being frozen, too.

Persimmon bread

 

Solo Road Trip’s Basic Food Groups – Mama Mia!

Recognizing the importance of the food pyramid to your health and overall well being is paramount – when you’re under 30. I’m no longer under 30 (HA! HA! there are advantages). Therefore, I’ve created my own cholesterol laden, fat riddled, delicious food pyramid based on a road trip this weekend to the Italian capital of Oklahoma – Krebs (population 2,000+).  I hope my doctor doesn’t see this.

It was the first purely pleasurable road trip I’ve taken in a few months. And when I encircled my arms around the gems I’d purchased at Lovera’s Italian Grocery, this tray resulted.

SRT Basic Food Groups

Had I been asked to choose my last meal before I recently summited my first mountain (Grand Teton), these items would top the list.  I could live off this assortment for the rest of my life.  Well, I’d have to buy more of course…

And wouldn’t this delectable plethora be fun to pair with various soda pop choices from your Arcadia library of soda pop? Talk about overindulgence – yikes!

Components in the SRT food pyramid: Meat – smoked or cured or medium rare grilled over a really hot fire; Cheese – in this case, Scamorza; Grapes (yep, they’re there, in a particular form); Bread; Olives – any kind, but these blue cheese stuffed ones bottled in olive oil, are sublime; Sweets.

Meat, cheese, grapes, bread, olives, sweets – the perfect ingredients for a lovely fall picnic. No inclination for a picnic?!  That’s OKAY. These are the PERFECT ingredients for anything (please no comments about a heart attack – this is meant to be a fun post – age means we’ve learned balance, right?).

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Nougat. My first. Definitely, not my last.

Italian Salami

EVOO

Cholesterol?! How DARE that word appear anywhere in this post!

Lovera's Grocery

SRT Basic Food Groups – purchased here, Lovera’s Grocery, Krebs, Oklahoma

 

The Grand Climb

 

Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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