This blog, this eclectic little creature who keeps me company, has now given me a reason to celebrate. I grab a bottle of champagne (yep, always got one) and chill it. I do not worry about which champagne to choose. In the only growing region in the world, Champagne, France, my quest was to determine which of the local, luxury brands I liked best. Days began with a champagne tasting in the vineyards of Dom Perignon and wound up in the wine caves of Moet & Chandon. I also had to decide what foods go best with champagne, and now I am confident. All foods, and especially desserts.
I’ve been nominated by the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) in the Recipe-Based Blog category and I can tell you that this honor evokes the feeling of a dry sip of cool champagne – a swirl of effervescence. Those of you kind enough to travel with me here regularly labor through my PHILOSOPHIES (egads) and my consuming obsessions with food and travel. If nothing else, this blog illustrates how these twin passions that drive so many of us are constant. I took my first Champagne trip when I was 22. While I continued to study, taste and learn through the next 33 years, the knowledge first forged in those fields – indeed, the love – is with me always.
Yet I agree with Anthony Bourdain’s cagey reluctance to learn too much about wine. In his breakout book, Kitchen Confidential, he explains that for those of us who wander into trouble easily, gaining expertise in wine means you have to drink a lot (more than you already do, just sayin’) and spend a lot of time tasting and a lot of money as your standards escalate. You also have to have a capacity to remember history and vintages even though you are a little drunk. To my oenophile friends, this is second nature. In my case, a little knowledge is dangerous enough for now. The terrible thing is that I enjoy every drop of champagne so much that I don’t like to cook with it (sherry, cognac, chardonnay, cabernet, fine.) and, as a chocolatier, I never liked making champagne truffles. I prefer these two treasures separate and equal: a dark, cocoa-dusted, French-style truffle and a crisp glass of Perrier-Jouet. Here’s a recipe for Champagne Vinagrette from Epicurious made with Champagne vinegar so you can have a little salad, savor the chocolates and drink your bubbles uninterrupted.
Dark, Cocoa-dusted, French-style Truffles
adapted from Chocolate Bliss; that’s them with caramel on the cover.
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons kosher salt
16 ounces (2 cups) dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher), finely chopped; (put 8 oz .into a bowl; put 8 oz. aside to melt)
2 ounces unsweetened cocoa powder, (sifted) for dusting
Heat the cream to a scald and pour it over the chopped chocolate, which makes a basic ganache. Add the vanilla & salt. Stir until the mixture becomes smooth, then allow to chill for about 20 minutes in the refrigerator. When it is firm enough to handle, make 1-2″ balls, dip them in the melted chocolate, the roll each truffle in sifted cocoa powder. Serve at room temperature with champagne.