Life Is To Be Lived: Mmmm For Chocolate

English: Chocolate mousse with strawberries pr...

I don’t often order chocolate desserts in restaurants. I’m more the carrot cake or vanilla/coconut cake kind of gal. Tonight, I just needed chocolate, nothing else would suffice. I ordered “Chocolate Mousse with Hazelnuts and Raspberry Coulis.” Oh my dear Lord. It was divine in every sense of the word.

It was milk chocolate mousse wrapped in dark chocolate (I know, right? The best of both worlds) with hazelnuts adorning the  little raspberry syrup spots on top of the white plate. It was not only breathtakingly good to eat, it was also pretty. Or as they say in “Hells Kitchen” the plating was magnificent.

I generally eat very little during the day, I think I had a snack pack of “Fig Newtons” for lunch and water to drink; it was so hot outside I wasn’t hungry. At home, where I proclaimed it was too hot to cook we decided to splurge and go out to eat. There’s something about not cooking that makes one ravenous in a well air-conditioned restaurant surrounded by your non-fighting family.

Tomorrow, I think I will stick to “clean” foods, fruit and vegetables and maybe chicken or a veggie burger. Tonight, however,was meant for only chocolate; rich, smooth, velvety, creamy milk chocolate and dark chocolate. It’s what the end of the week should be, a celebration for getting through it. Enjoy the weekend, everyone.

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*SWEET! ( A Foodie Blog )

Nutella, mon amour!

Image by JoX1989 via Flickr

I watch shows like “Unwrapped” on the Food Network Channel and it does me no good. I get too hungry while I am watching it so I slip downstairs for a snack or I’m afraid… seven. I can’t possibly match what I am eating to what I am watching so I stick to what we have in the house; it is not a pretty picutre. Tonight, I had two mini packs of cereal with milk; first, Apple Jacks and then Fruit Loops. Two sweet snacks with healthy one percent milk but after that the problems continue….now I need salt.

I located one of my new favorite items “Snyder’s Pumpernickel Onion Pretzel Sticks. Close your eyes and munch away and you will swear that you are eating a piece or two of pumpernickel toast. I know, right? It seems too good to be true but it really does work.  Another new product I have found are the 6-pack of Raisinettes.  You know when you go to the movies and they try to sell you practically a quart size of Raisinettes for twenty dollars? (ok,so I am exaggerating a little.) You feel like a complete slob if you eat the entire package but it’s just plain wrong to think we could stop half way. Impossible. Now this 6 pack gives you a smaller size so when you eat the entire package, you really didn’t ! Best part about it? You have five packages left!

On “The Best Thing I Ever Ate- Sweet Tooth” they were featuring crepes.  Sure, I will try anything that calls itself “Pure Ecstasy” (and I mean that only in a chocolate way) but frankly since I am not a chef I would just go for the main ingredient which is Nutella. Nutella is an amazing creamy combination of chocolate and hazelnuts; it looks a little like milk chocolate pudding in a jar.  I don’t need to make a crêpe for this delicious combination, all I need is a spoon, preferably a big one. Nutella is a staple in our house sans crêpe.

The next thing I saw featured was the Sant Ambroeus’ cake, named for the Sant Ambroeus, café.  It’s actually two (chocolate) desserts, chocolate mousse AND a pocket of chocolate custard,  in chocolate.  This would pretty much ensure a bonding experience with my daughter who is a complete chocolate addict. My goal is to take her there one day.

Next stop is to Tartine in San Francisco, a double pain au chocolate which is like a croissant, shaped differently with a lot of chocolate in it. In addition the other ingredient is lots of butter. Let’s see we have bread dough, butter and an amazing amount of delicious chocolate. What’s not to like? This is just not anybody’s chocolate either, (Hershey’s chocolate is still always fine with me) it’s special and I have to admit I would love to try it.

Next up, chocolate, peanut butter popcorn. I couldn’t kid you about this if I tried and why would I make it up?  I’m really not sure I like the sound of it. Convince me. A perfect blend of salty and sweet, maybe you have something there. Wait, what? Add popcorn and peanuts, chipolte chocolate sauce? “Sweet heat?”  Served with butter popcorn ice cream over home-made Cracker Jacks?  I think I will pass but of course that is just my opinion.  Another feature was like a home-made pop tart.  Seriously? A pastry shell and an interior of fresh fruit. Sorry, but to me this looks like more of a cereal bar and too healthy too. Of course I would try it if it was in front of me but I don’t think I would seek it out. If all else fails, and there is no deluxe chocolate combination to eat I will stick quite happily to my Nutella and to my Raisinettes. Now if they only came in dark chocolate 6-packs for my sister’s birthday…..

*I am not responsible for any incorrect detail due to intensified drooling.

Hey Ba, I Think It’s Now

a bird nest

Image via Wikipedia

I’m beginning to think that”these days may just BE the good old days” and I want to stop and appreciate them as much as I can. I want to  savor my children’s laughter, energy, and yes, even fighting. I want to enjoy family dinners served with a sauté of sarcasm and lumpy cheese sauce with laughter. I’m not saying that things are great but they are definitely good enough and  that’s just fine. My husband is still unemployed and our kids are just about to skip from home to college and I will be living in my own new reality, as an “empty-nester” which is both incredibly sad and exciting.

When I was in my early twenties, my best friend Barbara and I would alternate saying “Laur, when is it gonna get better?”or “Hey Ba, when is it going to get better?” I don’t even remember now what was so bad back then. We asked each other this as we were selecting French pastries from a small patisserie: the fruit tart or the chocolate mousse? Two Libra girls in an enchanting bakery meant only one thing: both. Now, thirty years later, back then seemed like it WAS better but it was just different. “Youth” is wasted on the young” my mother used to mutter. We laughed and knew she didn’t know what she was talking about. We have all said the exact, same thing to our children as they look back at us and roll their eyes. How can we expect them to understand what no other generation ever did before?

Rereading the book Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg is helping to keep me in the present. It’s a book about a woman dying of cancer and her loving friends. It makes you stop and think about your life. For me, these are the good old times. Are we silly enough to think that things will get easier as we get older? They don’t. I prescribe reading Ms. Berg’s book surrounded by tissues and as Oprah would say “a-ha” moments.

Now, while we still have our two children home, at least for a few more months I am relishing my time with them. I want to freeze these days like photographs on our mantel. My son, my first born, a Senior, is always running out the door, his black and orange sneakers barely trailing him. He has about four and a half months before he leaves home  for the summer to be a Counselor at the camp he attended for many years. Camp is my son’s other home; it is a magical place that helped shape him as a person. My first-born,  has the same temperament as I do; we understand each other with a casual glance. He’s waiting to hear from colleges in the near future. As much as I try to spend time in the present, I miss him already.

My daughter, a Junior in High School came home from “College Night”  and sounded like a newly opened bottle of soda; her enthusiasm and excitement was contagious.  “I want to go to college tomorrow, Mom” she chirped.  I will have a whole year with just her where she doesn’t have to share the limelight with her older brother. I am not even ready to think about what life will be like when she goes off to college. This beautiful young woman will always be my baby.

I would like the world to stand still so I can try and burn memories in my heart. My nine year old dog is sleeping at the foot of my bed. The children laugh, fight, shout and antagonize each other yet their love for each other is incredibly obvious. I know my husband will find a job eventually and I just want to hold on to this feeling of our family; for as long as I possibly can. Here is my life lesson: cherish each moment; it’s as simple as that.

Thank You, Erica

Candlelit Table for One

Image by ecstaticist via FlickrI

I am not a paid restaurant reviewer so I am writing about my love of eating good food (not making it.)  I also have great admiration for those who cook incredibly well. Our friends, Mike and Erica, hosted a reunion a few weeks ago and old friends from the East Coast and the West Coast gathered together.  Erica made a divine appetizer of stuffed mushrooms based on Ina Garten’s recipe. It was one of the best things I have ever eaten and this is NOT the Food or Cooking Channel. We ate those amazing stuffed mushrooms with our eager fingers and never have I eaten such different tastes and textures in one appetizer. The sausage, olive oil, cheese, bread crumbs and mushroom appetizer combined with seeing old friends, talking, hugging and laughing, was a highlight of 2010 for me.

It felt like the kitchen scene from the movie, The Big Chill,  except no one died (although one person did leave the dinner table, head to the living room, wrapped himself up in a blanket, appropriated two pillows and apparently fell asleep on the couch for 3 hours.) I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Presently I fantasize about eating my favorite things in an expensive restaurant.  My husband and I would be seated inside a small dining room near a beautiful fireplace. A small bouquet of red and purple flowers sit prettily on the thickly starched white tablecloth where a soft candle would be burning.

To start, I would have jumbo prawns with cocktail sauce and a wedge of lemon (that had a paper coverlet on it to protect it from seeds.) In some circles the prawns would be the delicacy but in our family we have named the shrimp as the vehicle to which we get to eat the cocktail sauce. Another example of this would be that lobster is the vehicle to get to the melted butter sauce. You get the idea.

After that I would order a salad made with a lemon/olive oil, vinagrette salad dressing (the words truffle and champagne could be added although I don’t know exactly what they do.) Ripe cherry tomatoes, julienned carrots, red cabbage, and chopped parsley and chives would be on top. I love adding sweetness to things so for me, some craisins would be tossed in there as well.

The table is laden with “everything” flat crackers and warm, soft, dinner rolls with butter, room temperature (I hate hard, freezing cold butter)  shaped like sea shells. My entrée would either be the outstanding chateaubriand, like it is prepared at the  restaurant X2O or the divine filet mignon served at the Crabtree Kittle House, both amazing restaurants are located in New York. Rice pilaf or mashed potatoes would work nicely with this meal, but nothing fried and undignified as french fries and ketchup (those go with cheeseburgers only.)  Grilled brussel sprouts paired with a hint of maple syrup glaze and slivered almonds would be our vegetable.

Blood orange or lemon sorbet served in martini glass would be our palate cleanser. It would be served to help settle our wonderful meal and to leave room (not that this has ever been a problem for me) for dessert.  I am a sugar junkie and I like a variety of things so because it is my fantasy I am picking two desserts: a fresh fruit tart served in a marzipan shortbread crust with vanilla custard and a fluffy (never flourless) milk and dark chocolate mousse cake with real vanilla bean ice cream.

Thanks for joining me in my food fantasy. Here’s to 2011, with good friends and great food.  Wishing all of you a Happy, Healthy and delicious New Year.