Still, there are a few people and places we feel even more kindly towards. And we do have to admit sometimes there really isn’t anything better than homemade, so here are a few recipes, ours and others, we are happy to pass along, as well as some notices of friends doing interesting things with, by and for chocolate.
13 October: Questions and Answers with “Bug Chef” David George Gordon
IN addition to ingesting cocoa-coated squirmies, can there be a better, more appropriate way to celebrate Oct. 14, National Chocolate-Covered Insect Day, than to check in with Eat-a-bug Cookbook chef David George Gordon, whose recipes include Ants in the Pants (below), which features baked and then chocolate-pantsed ants.
Currently living in Seattle with his wife (and illustrator), Karen Luke Fildes, and a tank full of tropical fish, the just-a-shade-over-60 Gordon grew up poking and turning things in his backyard before getting a degree in biology, working at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and then Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. Since, he has written on bugs he hasn’t eaten, as well as slugs, dolphins, sharks, and horses … and attained a fair degree of harmonica harmonium. Taking a break from writing, tweeting, making what a 2008 Time magazine article referred to as his “classic dish” of orthopteran (cricket) orzo, and cooking for students and food festival attendees around the world, he was kind enough to answer a few questions and help us celebrate NC-CI Day
Cupid Alley Chocolatieres: How did you get your start as the master of insect recipes?
David George Gordon: I’ve been involved with this topic of entomophagy (that’s bug-eating to you) since 1996, More…
27 August 2012: Questions & Answers with Shawn Askinosie
If you happen to find yourself near railroad tracks in or near Springfield, Mo., follow them. At some point there is a rail yard and about a block away, wedged between a furniture fixer and hardware store at 514 East Commerce is Askinosie Chocolate in a low rise building featuring contemporary green and brown paint, a Stylish “A” and, most of all, social conscience and some fabulous bars.
The eponymous Askinosie is Shawn, the former criminal defense lawyer who had an epiphany that set him on a global chocolate mission:
18 August 2012: Not Health, but Magic and Hot Chocolate TrufflesCocoa/Cacao is healthful, but in all honesty and despite Hershey Syrup’s FDA disputed claims to the contrary, what is usually sold as “chocolate” with its dumpload of sugar and chemical additives usually isn’t. What chocolate is, as famed chef Julia Child (whose wouldabeen 100th birthday 15 Aug. 2012 was celebrated with the Google Doodle left) is whatever magic a great chef (or any chef) can make of it. And as she said, as has been remixed in as another birthday celebration: “What makes a great chef? Well, training and technique of course. Plus a great love of food, a generous personality and THE ABILITY TO INVENT HOT CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES.”
6 July 2012: Happy Chocolate Day 2012 …In case you haven’t checked the Almanac lately, we’ll be frontstore tomorrow, 7 July, with a couple special treats, but mostly celebrating Chocolate Day — an international note-taking of the Europeans discovery of the Mayan Goddess Ixcacao‘s cacao drink — by peddling the usual choco-deliciousness.
HOWEVER, for a few special friends who can make their way into the alley leading to Cupid Alley and, thus, our back door, make sure to stop in to see Grumps. As he announced loudly today, he’ll be honoring the day and dealing with the “frickin’ hellacious temperatures” outside by working on his Chocolate-Kahlua Ice Cream recipe in back. He’s mashed together some ideas and let us know that the base he’ll be tweaking all day for our backdoor visitors is
GRUMPS Choco-Coffee Liquor Ice Cream More…
1 July 2012: Focus Group-Tested Recipes, 2012 …Chocolate should be above politics, we believe. However, when choco-talking we often speak in code, not about the flavor(s) but where the stirrings of senses will lead our brains. So, once again thanks to Family Circle, cookie recipes will serve as proxies and the “taste” considered when print is brought to life will be the political not Bitterness, Sourness, Sweetness, Saltiness or Umami. So, this Obama/Romney throw&ndsash;down is an oven mitts-on clash of presumably staff-tested, focus-group screened cookie recipes.
vs. More …
27 June 2012>: Chocolate Pudding Pity Party …We blew it. All day yesterday in the backroom “lab” Grammia, Grumps and an ever-changing staff members trying to keep them from erupting into a massive food spat were slaving to find the right recipe with which to celebrate National Chocolate Pudding Day. We never found it (again this year).
Maybe the problem is that we just don’t take pudding seriously enough, feeling like Jello has it pretty much covered and defined for most palates … at least when the pudding is to stand alone? We’re intrigued by the idea of Gourmet mag’s chocolate pudding pie, but that feels like cheating when we’re just supposed to celebrate the historic pudding. More …
6 June 2012: Qs & As with J. Chocolatier …CHOCOLATE is ever surprising, as are the people it inspires. Showing her little boy around Washington, D.C., our assistant baker by way of Mexico, Valentine Quetzl, happened upon a yellow brick building with poppies painted on the side happening just off the Georgetown main drag, M Street.
Thanks to owner/chocosseur Jane Morris (more formally Maitre Chocolatier Morris), who studied with Fritz Knipschildt as part of her career change from investment banking begun in 2005, a budding chocolate institution that has only been open a couple years has become our new choco-Eden within spitting distance of the halls of congress (if that’s your thing and you have a few miles of propulsion). That, however, is not intended as a slight on the delightful endpoint of a cacao rainbow, but more of a comment on the current politicos who probably couldn’t tell a cacao tree from a roaster if either should happen to fall on them. Valentine’s report is that everything is made on site, the smells and look are enticing and it just felt really, really nice and comfortable from the moment she first noticed the tiny J. Chocolatier awning.
With a quick followup thanks to JC’s Facebook page, we were able to get a better sense of our new best DC friend:
(CAC) What’s your most popular seller … does it differ from your personal favorite(s)?
(Jane Morris) Our best seller is the Fleur de Sel Caramel. I like to say that this one appeals to everyone because it has the trifecta of flavors: salt, fat and sweet. While I enjoy this piece, my favorite would be the Ugly Butter Truffle. It’s made from whipped butter and chocolate (instead of cream and chocolate like most truffles). The texture is heavenly!
What is the most fun item in your store to make?
The most fun thing to make is making a new thing we’ve never made before. While most people imagine that making chocolate all day is a really fun job, it’s hard work. Having said that, it is fun to create something new, especially when it turns out to be a hit.
Where do you source your chocolate and why do you make those choices?
We use chocolate from 3 different makers — Valrhona, Callebaut, and Felchlin. The bean origins vary, but mostly the raw cacao is sourced from Venezuela and Ghana. Those countries are both producing very high quality cacao without the child labor issues that plague other countries, especially throughout Africa.
Where do your inspirations come from?
We are constantly trying new flavor combinations. Sometimes we are inspired by ingredients that work well together in other foods, so we add chocolate to the mix to see if that works. We offer both traditional and avant garde flavors. People like to see the unusual stuff, but it’s the classic flavor combinations that they buy over and over again.
Is it lonely being one of the few (maybe the only) Washington, D.C., artisanal chocolate makers in a city stuffed with purveyors of the cupcake fad?
I am happy to offer an alternative to cupcakes (and frozen yogurt, which is also ubiquitous). Our customers tend to be food-sophisticates and are pretty immune to fads. This is an audience I enjoy serving.
What’s the biggest challenge to business?
The biggest challenge to business is the expensive overhead that is a fact of life in DC. The other (equally difficult) challenge is a lack of access to capital.
If there were one thing you wish your customers knew more about how you create your chocolates before they walked into your shop what would it be?
I wish customers knew that the people selling the chocolate are the people making the chocolate. Customers often ask “is that any good?” Of course we think it’s good — that’s why we make it! I think this question is the result of customers expecting that the person who is selling them something has no vested interest in the product. We want people try things according to their own taste with full confidence that the quality will be excellent.
What are your near term plans or dreams for the future?
We really need to promote ourselves and work on not being the best kept secret around. For the near-term we’d like to introduce more people to our awesome fresh baked cookies.
Questing for fresh tongue-seducing chocolates? Jonesing for tummy-elating cookies? Valentine (and now the rest of us at CAC) urge you to seek out the yellow brick building with poppies on the side at 1039 33rd st., NW — just off M. And you have to walk, bike, metro or cab over as it all would lose something in the mail, if Morris would ever give in to the pressure from the aways.
Oh, one more take, from Doug Yuan and his Hungry Travels blog:
8 May 2012: Choc-Bana-Chia Pud … If you’re eating chocolate for health reasons you’re doing it wrong. We’re sorry. It’s true. We wish it were otherwise.
5 April 2012: Chocotzah (Chocolate Matzah) Recipe …We know most visitors to the store think we should be all about chocolate bunnies this time of year as our treat d’holiday. We should be, but we’re not. There is a longtime family tradition of not finding anything good about biting the heads and tails off cheap chocolate bunnies. More …
10 March 2012: Frosted “Not Yet” Carolina Chocolate Drops … Could bluegrass be the chocolate of music? We don’t really think so, but that doesn’t make us any less the fans of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, The band, which infuses a sense of political and musical history into its sound, snatched up a Grammy in 2010 for Genuine Negro Jig and is now doing the media circuit to support its new release, Leaving Eden.
Admittedly none of this has much to do with CAC … EXCEPT that we are inspired by our interest to try and match them up with some sort of creation. We’re not finished yet, but the current working draft — it is unlikely we’ll publish the final — recipe in their honor is: More…
1 March 2012: Like car wrecks, there are some recipes hard to turn one’s head from no matter how scary they are likely to appear. An example is Hedy Goldsmith’s featured recipe for Diet Pepsi chocolate chunk cookies. Goldsmith, chef/author of Cooking Directions
Stir in rice, coconut milk, condensed milk and milk in a large saucepan over medium heat about 25 minutes, or until until thick and creamy. Remove from heat. Add chocolate, coconut and vanilla until well blended. Serve warm or chilled.