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Entries in chocolate (2)

Sunday
Nov042012

Specialty Food Report Card: What are you buying … and why?

Specialty Food Magazine released its annual consumer report, revealing a growing interest in the marketplace (66% of U.S. consumers report having purchased specialty foods, up from 59% in 2011) with chocolate (62%), olive oil (59%) and cheese (56%) products leading the way. Have you sipped luxurious hot chocolate from Jacques Torres in NYC, sampled sea salt caramels from Fran’s in Seattle or explored sweets from your local chocolatier? (One of my favorites in NoVa is Artisan Confections) Beautiful, unique treats like these are worth their (relatively) small cost. No one re-gifts chocolate.

NASFT research indicates specialty food consumers are more inclined to shop at farmer’s markets, experiment with new recipes and buy food with a dual purpose, such as a charitible tie-in. A key note for the socmedia set: Facebook leads the way for discussing specialty food items and influencing buying decisions (77%), followed by YouTube (27%) and Twitter (19%). As a Twitter user whose feed is mostly populated with news + insight from chefs, brewers, winemakers and other F&B pros, I think the industry will see significant growth on that platform as well as the visual-heavy Pinterest -- especially among younger buyers – during the coming year.

As we head into the holiday season, what are you buying? Are you devoted to gourmet tea, fresh pasta or 20-year balsamic? And what most influences your purchases – word of mouth, social media, grocery browsing, impulse buys or traditional advertising?

Saturday
Jan282012

Special Menu Planning For a M/F Non-Cook But Let's Be Honest, M

I have a friend who contacts me twice a year about helping him plan a special (but not super expensive) meal for his lovely wife, also known as asking "Please Tell Me Exactly How to Do This So I Get Laid & Don't Burn the House Down."

First up, Valentine's Day -- a made-up holiday for which restaurants often develop exotic menus and then (usually) charge twice the price.

It's also a night when I avoid going out to eat. There are so many tasties to make at home, often with the one you love by your side, or at least pouring you wine. And it's that much easier to get naked in your own kitchen. 

Note: Do not try to get naked in a restaurant on Valentine's Day to prove me wrong. But if you do, tell me what happens.

This is the VTD menu I developed this year and actual e-mail I sent today, using simple recipes (he specifically requested steak) that I found online and adding my own notes for the home cook who needs a little direction  ... or a lot:

If having an appetizer and a side are too much, drop the appetizer. I have tips for each recipe, but the recipes themselves are easy to follow. Let me know if you have any questions and leave yourself a few hours to cook. The bruschetta topping can be made ahead, as can the potatoes & dessert if you want more time with the steak.

APPETIZER:
Bruschetta. Minimal cooking needed. You get to use balsamic in 2 recipes, which ties it all together. Spring for the hot house tomatoes, it's winter and they will have better flavor. Fresh herbs should be available at the grocery.

MAIN
Ribeye with arugula. A great combination because the greens cut the fat in the steak. Get good balsamic -- at least $10 bottle. It makes a huge difference. The only tweak I'd make to this recipe is you should get a bigger steak or 2 medium-sized steaks. Rib eyes have a decent amount of fat, so also ask that they be trimmed.

SIDE
Potatoes with carmelized onion and goat cheese. Note: Be careful not to burn the onions. If you do, just throw them out and have potatoes with goat cheese. It's excellent and easy.

DESSERT:
Chocolate-coffee cups.  This is basically a rich pudding. You will need small white baking cups called ramekins, and you should be able to find them in a cooking store, such as Crate and Barrel or Williams Sonoma, if you don't already have them. They are useful.  If you cannot find them, use the smallest bowls you have. This recipes makes enough for 4, so just double your pour! Get good chocolate such as Valrhona or Ghiradelhi, which you should be able to get at the grocery store with no problem.

WINE:
I wish I was there to give you some of mine! Cab Sauvignon is the go-to wine for ribeye, but it can be so expensive. This is what you should consider picking up, all relatively inexpensive:
Côtes du Rhone -- you can find a good one for around $15. Look for a Clos du Mont Olivet Montueil la Levade, Delas Saint-Esprit or Michel Gassier Cercius.
Syrah/Shiraz -- Look for Stump Jump, Smoking Loon, J. Lohr or Jacob's Creek Reserve. You should be able to get a bottle for under $15.