Daily Food
Last Minute Valentine's suggestions
This time last year, I was up to my eyeballs in delicious local chocolates and suffering serious sugar shock while our photographer John Anderson and foodstylist MM Pack set up all the mouthwatering photos. This year, I received a few tasty Valentine's treats and plenty of information about local offerings that are worth sharing. If you still haven't made those Valentine's Day reservations or purchased just the right gift for your Sweet Baboo - here are some ideas that might just help you avert romantic disaster this weekend.

* My favorite candy treats this year are the Chocolate Caramel Hearts from the candy island at Whole Foods Markets. Little caramels dipped in milk and dark chocolate - very yummy.

* Those wacky guys at Mangia Pizza have been selling heart-shaped pizzas for twenty years now and this is their busiest week of the year. Don't let that stop you - a heart-shaped deep dish Mangia pizza, some salads, and a browine could be the perfect way to say "I Love You."

* A romantic movie feast could be just the answer for your Valentine's date. All three Alamo Drafthouse theaters still have seats available for wonderful films with enticing multi-course feasts designed to complement them.
Alamo at the Ritz: Casablanca Feast see the full menu at www.originalalamo.com/Show.aspx?id=6098
Alamo Village: Romeo + Juliet Feast www.originalalammo.com/Show.aspx?id=6097
Alamo South Lamar: Annie Hall Feast - Two screenings with Lobsters!!! www.originalalamo.com/Show.aspx?id=6096

* What about a scoop of Paciugo gelato for your beloved? The little shop at West 2nd and Lavaca features the following special flavors for Valentine's Day: Strawberry Rose, Rose Chocolate Chip, Amarena Black Cherry Swirl, and Berry White - white chocolate gelato with an intense raspberry swirl.

* Impress your significant other with a great meal at home without getting the kitchen dirty or breaking a sweat. Drop by Lee's Meat Market(1601 W. 38th, 467-6700) and choose from one of four prepared meals in the price range of $22.95- $29.95 per person. Take it home, heat it up, and get lucky!

* Need a new way to express your feelings this year? The talented young ladies at Sweet Tempered (4301 W. Wm. Cannon, 892-9100;www.sweettemperedaustin.com) have a line of decorated heart-shaped sugar cookies with snappy messages for $2 each.

* Celebrate Valentine's Day with tea and chocolate at the Tea Embassy (900 Rio Grande, 330-9991;www.teatreasures.com) where they're offering free tea and chocolate tastings this weekend. Friday and Saturday, February 13th & 14th, 10am-6pm

Keep an eye on this space for more ideas tomorrow!

12:02PM Wed. Feb. 11, 2009, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

I Am So Grateful for Rain!
After months of debilitating, extraordinary drought, we've finally seen some rain in Austin this week. And true to my statement at the first of the year - I am very grateful and saying so to anyone who will listen, several times a day. Say it with me now, "We are so grateful for rain and would love some more!"

11:49AM Wed. Feb. 11, 2009, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

Where's the Summer Sausage Blimp?!
I won't lie, while the Arizona Cardinals make history against the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend, I'll be going a little crazy. Everybody knows about the annual License to Crunk on Super Bowl Sunday. While for some it's whiskey and pharmaceuticals, for me it's about a midmorning nosedive off the wagon for the junk-in-the-trunk nosh I've been deprived of all year. CPR may happen at my house, but it won't involve the cops. I'll be laying the foundations for this clearly American innovation early Saturday, so that Sunday morning I can get that Bacon Explosion on before the corn syrup, carageenan, guar gum, refined sugar, and fatty carbs disable my grilling skills. Those aren't sausage girders you see there, but don't worry, the Twinkie walls are strung with bacon to keep the Doritos from littering the field. Don't even talk to me about Monday morning.

3:20AM Fri. Jan. 30, 2009, Anne Harris Read More | Comment »

New Cocoa Puro Products in My Kitchen
During the Christmas holidays, local chocolatier Tom Pedersen dropped off samples of the newest products in his Cocoa Puro line of delectable chocolate treats. The holidays flew by before I had a chance to try them out and report back on the results. Now that I've had plenty of time to enjoy them at my leisure, here's what I can tell you. This year's Kakawa Hot Chocolate mix is a deeply satisfying blend of Venezuelan chocolate, Costa Rican cocoa, and cane sugar with a touch of Chipotle chile powder and genuine cinnnamon for a subtle, warming finish. I used the mix for traditional Mexican hot chocolate and I also added a couple of generous scoops to instant espresso and hot milk for an absolutely wonderful homemade Mocha Latte! I've also made very good use of the Kakawa Spice Rub, slatering it on petit beef filets and lamb ribs to savor the rich flavors of ground cacao, coffee, dried porcini mushrooms and other spices as a complement to those toothsome meats. However, this year's absolute winner has to be Petersen's new Caramelized Cacao Nibs, crunchy little pieces of roasted 70% dark chocolate beans caramelized in pure cane sugar. Chocoholics will love them right out of the bag for snacking, but I've been so enamored of them as a potential ingredient, I've added them to all the sweets I can think of in the past few weeks. Here's what I've discovered: The nibs are the perfect crunchy, dark chocolate counterpoint to the velvety texture of my annual holiday Chipotle Chile Fudge, but I was disappointed to discover they don't stick too well to the tempered Callebaut chocolate coating on my Butter Toffee. They are great sprinkled on various flavors ice cream and gelato, such as peppermint, salted caramel, Mexican vanilla, and chocolate. Crunchy nibs made a provocative garnish for the Aztec Torte (flourless dark chocolate and peanut butter torte w/chipotle powder and chile caramel sauce) that I made for a friend's birthday cake early this month. So far, they've been very a satisfying addition to Chocolate Chip Cookies and made a unique filling for Rugulach along with cinnamon sugar. I'm hoarding the last handful while I wait for inspiration to strike again. Purchase Tom Pedersen's Cocoa Puro products at his weekly booth at the Downtown Farmers' Market or look for them on the web at www.cocoapuro.com.

11:40AM Mon. Jan. 26, 2009, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

Hooray for 'Duck Soup'!
Aficionados of the films of the Marx Brothers, as well as those with a culinary appreciation of duck dishes, will want to purchase tickets for this week's Duck Soup Feast at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. Chef John Bullington has designed a mouth-watering four-course menu for a mere $50. The feast is Wednesday evening, Jan. 28, at 7pm. Check out the menu and make reservations at www.originalalamo.com.

First course: Duck confit with fresh flax cracker, strawberry-garlic jam, and aged Gruyere

Second course: Duck soup à la Groucho

Third course: Seared duck breast with Meyer lemon glaze, wild mushroom barley, and braised kale

Dessert: Duck egg/goat's milk ice cream with cocoa nib/peanut crisp

11:21AM Mon. Jan. 26, 2009, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

Back to Blogging with News of Roger Mollett!
Wow, it seems like forever since I made a blog post! That's because it really has been nearly two months since I've updated any information here, but that changes today. For those of you who love and remember former Central Market Cooking School chef Roger Mollett, he's having a rough go of it with diabetes-related health issues at the momemt. In lieu of sending out regular emails to their legion of Austin friends, Roger's partner Greg Murphy is posting regular info on a care page. Now it's possible for any and all of us who are concerned about Roger's current health problems to go to www.caringbridge.org/visit/rogermollet for information and the opportunity to post messages of support and concern to Roger and Greg. Check in with them and let Roger know that we all envision him well and hearty as soon as possible.

11:04AM Mon. Jan. 26, 2009, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

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Holiday Dessert Contest Winners Recipes Revealed
The recent Holiday Dessert Recipe Contest at Faraday's Kitchen Store (1501 RR 620 North, 266-5666) attracted more than 50 entries and a large, enthusiastic crowd to the store on the day of the judging, November 15th. Linda Adams won both the Grand Prize and the Cakes/Cupcakes division with a recipe for Fresh Pear Cake she adapted from a Houston Junior League Cookbook years ago. With pears in season, it should make a tasty addition to any holiday table.

Fresh Pear Cake
4 cups peeled and chopped pears
2 cups sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
Combine all three ingredients in a bowl. Stir often and let stand for one hour.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt
2 tsp baking soda
Sift together. Add to the pear mixture and mix with a spoon.

2 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
Whisk together in a bowl and then stir into fruit/flour mixture with a spoon. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-12 cup Bundt pan. Pour cake batter into pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning the pan over to release cake. While the cake is cooling, make the glaze.

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter
Combine ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for 6-7 minutes. Drizzle over cake. Serves 12-16.

6:59PM Mon. Dec. 1, 2008, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

Thanksgiving Dessert Ideas
Two local businesses are ready and willing to help out with tasty dessert selections to complement your Thanksgiving feast. No matter what the family sweet tooth craves, these folks have something to satisfy.

The talented ladies at Sweet Tempered (4301 W. Wm. Cannon, Bldg. B-120, 892-9100; www.sweettemperedaustin.com)have four delicious holiday pie options from which to choose: Harvest Pumpkin ($9.99); Pecan ($14.99);Apple Pie ($15.99); and Chocolate Cream ($13.99). All pies are 9 inches and will yield 8-10 servings. Pies must be picked up at the bakery by 6pm on Wednesday, November 26th.

While pie may be traditional at Thanksgiving, the folks at Teo (1206 West 38th, 451-9555;www.caffeteo.com) suggest you try one of their gelato cakes this holiday season. Each rectangular terrine has three flavors of one layer year and should be sliced to reveal a stripe of each delectable flavor selection. Choose from I Noci (the nut) with peanut butter, hazelnut, and pistachio gelato; Il Zucca (the pumpkin) with pumpkin, Bourbon vanilla, and cinnamon; and Il Sol (the salt) with salted caramel, bacio, and Bourbon vanilla. Each gelato cake serves 10 and costs only $19.95. And if the family prefers a scoop of gelato on top of any flavor of holiday pie, why not consider a pint or quart of one of the following - pumpkin or gingersnap gelato for pumpkin pie, Bourbon vanilla or salted caramel gelato for pecan pie, cinnamon or salted caramel gelato for apple pie, cranberry sorbet as a palate cleanser? The possibilites are endless. Gelato cakes, pints, or quarts can be picked up until 10pm on Wednesday, November 26th.

5:22PM Mon. Nov. 24, 2008, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrivé!
"At one past midnight on the third Thursday of each November, over a million cases of Beaujolais Nouveau begin their journey through a sleeping France to Paris for immediate shipment to all parts of the world. Banners announce the news: Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!"

The annual arrival of the new wines is always an occasion for celebration at Austin's popular French restaurants and this year, the Texas Culinary Academy joins in the fun, owing to the French heritage of their Cordon Bleu curriculum. Here's what's happening.

Chez Nous (510 Neches, 473-2413, www.cheznousaustin.com) The arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau always inspires a festive atmosphere at Austin's oldest French bistro. They will be open the regular hours with the regular menu, pouring plenty of fresh, new wines.

Aquarelle (606 Rio Grande, 479-8117, www.aquarellerestaurant.com) The proprietors of this little French jewel box invite you to attend their Beaujolais Soiree. The fete will take over the restaurant for the evening and will feature a variety of light, young wines paired with a casual street food menu. Look for reasonably priced wines by the glass and such delectables as a plate of imported cheeses, baguette sandwiches stuffed with steak, beef Burgundy,or coq au vin, served with pomme frites. Food items and glasses of wine will be priced individually. Thursday, Nov. 20, 5-9pm.

Ventana Restaurant, Texas Culinary Academy (11400 Burnet Rd., 339-3850, www.tca.edu) Sommelier instructor Jane Nickles will host Beaujolais Nouveau and Beyond - an hors d'oeuvres and Beaujolais Nouveau reception followed by a four-course dinner showcasing dishes and wines from the region around Lyon, France. $60 per person, reservations necessary. Friday, Nov. 21, 6pm.

7:03PM Wed. Nov. 19, 2008, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

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