Results tagged chocolate from David Lebovitz

Seville

Spanish olives, garlic, capers, etc

I was en route to a workshop outside of Seville and right before hitting the “buy” button for the plane ticket, I thought – “What the heck am I thinking? Why not go a few days earlier, and some time in Seville?”

Yemas

I know I say this every time I visit somewhere, but I want to move here. In fact, I even think I found my apartment.

Seville apartment

My last visit I think was in, uh, 1983 – or something like that. So I didn’t remember much. But I do remember that when I left Spain (I was on an 8-10 month trip through Europe), I distinctly recall saying that I wanted to spend more time in Spain. So to prove that good things come to those who wait (and wait, and wait, and wait), I found myself back in the country. More specifically, in Andalusia.

After walking from the bus station, admiring the Moorish architecture, apartment buildings with spacious courtyards and stunning terraces, the tiled patios and walls (I went to the post office to mail some postcards, and it had the most lovely tile work!), and friendly people, I unpacked as fast as I could and decided to get down to business, and eat.

flan-like pastry

Seville is small enough so you don’t need to worry about taking public transit, getting lost, getting bored, or going hungry. And not necessarily in that order. It seems like every other business is some sort of eating establishment and people eat at all hours – starting with breakfast in the morning, standing at the stainless-steel bar, sipping cafe cortado. Then later in the day, between lunch and dinner (whose hours I have yet to master), people crowd sidewalks cafes. But unlike in Paris where everyone is drinking beer or wine, in Seville, most tables seem to have plates of something that people are collectively digging their forks into.

Flamenco

And there are plenty of little places to stop in at all hours, such as La Campana confectionary, where they candy everything – from green figs and tiny pears…

candied pears

…to sweet potatoes!

candied sweet potatoes

A few days isn’t quite enough to do Seville justice. And with over 3000 tapas bars, it’s hard to hit them all. But I was in touch with Shawn of Seville Tapas Tours (who gave me that staggering figure) and we met up my first day – and later that night – for some tapas action.

Spanish pastries

When I was booking my trip, right after I hit the “Book it” button on Expedia, the price had miraculously risen, which I find kind of odd (it’s like going to the supermarket and when you get to the register, they tell you the price has gone up since you put the item into your shopping cart) so I found an apartment on AirBnB which was great; right in the middle of town. Not only was it close to all the great tapas bars, which I later found out, renting an apartment had the added feature of no one knocking on my door at 8:35am to see if they could “service my room.” #hotelpetpeeve

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Salted Butter Chocolate Sauce

salted butter chocolate sauce recipe

When it comes to baking and desserts, one doesn’t necessarily think of salt as a flavor. But more and more, I keep considering, and reconsidering, the role that salt plays in just about everything I bake. And because I keep both salted and unsalted butter on hand – I can’t imagine my morning toast without a little salted butter spread over the top – I’ll sometimes reach for the salted variety when tackling a baking project or making dessert.

salted butter chocolate sauce

I wasn’t the first person to put salt on dessert; people from various cultures have been sprinkling salt on fresh fruit for ages. And many pastry chefs, as well as some big chocolate companies, have gotten in on the “salt in chocolate” act as well.

fleur de sel chocolate

But I’ve gotten so used to sprinkling it on sweets that sometimes if I’m having my last course in a restaurant and I think the dessert needs a little perking up, you’ll find me looking around the table for a little bowl of flaky sea salt. Salt is so important to me that I’ll sometimes carry a little wooden box of fleur de sel, which when I’d bring out in restaurants, my co-diners would give me a look as if I was being pretentious. (Then – of course – they’d ask if they could have a pinch too.)

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Éclairs in Paris

eclairs july 14 and pecan

I’m often asked about upcoming trends and each time it happens, I am sorely tempted to respond, “If I could see the future, I’d be buying lottery tickets.” I guess it makes good press – but the unfortunate thing about most trends is that they are often temporary. (In many cases, it’s a relief to see them go when their time is up.) Yet other times, a trend brings something to the foreground, allowing us take a fresh look at it.

eclairs

One trend that isn’t necessarily something new in Paris, is l’éclair, a torpedo-like pastry stuffed with a creamy filling then dipped or brushed with glaze. I’ve been eating them ever since I was a child, loving the tender, eggy pastry contrasting with the sugary icing striped down the top. Most bakeries in Paris have them and I pick one up every once in a while since they make a nice snack. They’re not overly rich, nor are they too-filling; they seem just enough to satisfy me without bogging me down. And they’re also easy to handle when navigating sidewalks riddled with walking people diagonally. (Although in spite of my holding on for dear life, I’ve almost lost a few in the fray.)

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Stockholm

Swedish potatoes
Swedish bread ring

I had no idea what to expect when I planned a trip to Sweden. I think it was a friendly discussion between friends when we decided it would be interesting to go to Fäviken, the famed restaurant northward of Stockholm. (I’ll do a separate post on that since it was such a unique experience.) So we made a reservation, then decided to spend a few days before and after, wandering around Stockholm, seeing what’s good to eat in the Swedish capital.

Stockholm phone boothSwedish bread
swedish cookiesgrain bread at Scandic in Stockholm

There is a lot of talk of the new “Nordic” cuisine – which often uses old-style techniques for cooking, and celebrates traditional ingredients, reviving some that were in the process of disappearing. Other chefs are exciting diners with unexpected flavors and combinations. This modern cuisine sometimes relies on smoking, grilling, and cooking over fire. I was pretty excited to go and see what these young chefs were doing, but I was also interested in tasting anything that was traditionally Swedish as well, including the breads and confections.

organic flour & grains

One the whole, we ate very well. I’ve posted a few tips at the end for making a visit to Stockholm a bit easier on the budget. There were a lot of details on the plates during a few of the most lengthy meals. At those places, meals were meant to be experienced, and are not easily written about. But I was just has happy pulling up to a market counter and downing a plate of Swedish meatballs and lingonberries. Here are some of the highlights of the trip:

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Dave and Kate’s Chocolate Brownies

kate's brownies

Where I grew up, we were neighbors with the Hepburn family. They were very nice people and were considered “walkers”, those curious people who live in suburbia that walk, rather than drive everywhere. We used to see them walking all the time and we’d always give them a wave. And then, we’d hit the gas pedal and keep driving.

We didn’t mingle much, and I didn’t see the most famous member of their family since she lived down by the seashore. Perhaps it was a mixed blessing that she didn’t live all that close because she was reputed to be a handful at the neighborhood meetings where she lived, and was said to be pretty sharp with a retort. But I don’t deal in celebrity gossip and as they say in New England, “High fences make good neighbors”, and we all kept to ourselves. Although word has it that she made excellent brownies, which I never got to sample from her oven, unfortunately.

chopped almonds for brownies

Years later, when I went to chocolate school in Belgium, I asked why unsweetened chocolate, which we frequently use in recipes in America (especially brownies), wasn’t easily available – or used – in Europe baking as well. And the folks at Callebaut Chocolate Academy didn’t really know either but told me that almost most of what they made was for the American market.

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La Manufacture de chocolat Alain Ducasse

pralines to dip

I don’t think there’s anyone happier than I am now that we now have our very own bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Paris. I remember when the movement started in America, and small chocolate manufacturers started popping up in the most unlikeliest of places by people curious about roasting and sourcing their own beans, then grinding them into smooth tablets of chocolate. I was impressed, but skeptical when it all started. But am thrilled the movement has taken off in so many ways and directions.

roasting cocoa beans for chocolate

For the past five years, Alain Ducasse has been nurturing the same vision in Paris, along with pastry chef Nicolas Berger, who is now running La Manufacture de chocolat, their chocolate atelier not far from the center of the city.

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Dandelion Chocolate

Dandelion chocolate

One of the interesting things about leading chocolate tours is that I get to meet a wide swatch of people who have various interests. Some just like to come and taste, others have more professional aspirations. When Todd Masonis joined me a few years ago, we had some talks about his idea of opening a bean-to-bar hot chocolate salon. I had a pretty good amount of experience meeting with – and tasting – many of the American bean-to-bar chocolates, folks who were participating in what Chloé Doutre-Roussel, whose is one of the most knowledgable people about chocolate that I know, refers to as “The American Chocolate Revolution.” And I was encouraging, but also knew of the difficulties these folks faced in terms of building a facility to make chocolate.

Many of these people are mavericks, with the “revolution” starting over a decade ago, and now encompasses perhaps two dozen or so enterprising people who’ve been producing bean-to-bar chocolate in the states. Todd had started a successful internet company so I could tell he had the drive to do something new and interesting, but sourcing the beans and getting the equipment together isn’t easy. So no one was more surprised than me to get a note in my Inbox recently from Todd, who said that inspired by our talks on that trip, he was about to open his new place, Dandelion Chocolate, producing bean-to-bar chocolate in San Francisco’s Mission district with his business partner, Cameron Ring. And I was intrigued.

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Food Gifts to Bring French People from America

Dandelion chocolate

Even though globalization has made things pretty available everywhere, and things like Speculoos spread and Fleur de sel can now be found in America, it hasn’t always worked quite the same the other way around. Some American things haven’t made it across the Atlantic and people often think that Americans subsist on junk food because at the stores that cater to expats, and in the “American aisle” at the supermarket, there are things like Strawberry Fluff (which I keep explaining to them that that’s something I’ve never seen in America), boxed macaroni & cheese, caramel-flavored microwave popcorn, bottled salad dressings, and powdered cheesecake mix, which I think I find scarier than they do.

And while there’s nothing wrong with a pour of ranch dressing or a Fluffernutter every now and then (although hold the strawberry-flavor..), those are not exactly the best that America has to offer. I often get asked by folks in the states what kind of things people from America they should bring to their French friends or hosts. And while it’s tempting to bring them something amusing like chocolate cake mix or boxed macaroni and cheese, they don’t see the same humor mixed with nostalgia in them that we do. (And yup, they have boxed cake mixes here too, so they’re not novel.) Peanut butter is also dicey; while we in America devour it, many French folks have an aversion to the flavor of it. Space is also at a premium so while it’s fun to think how delighted they would be to get a 2-gallon drum of “French” salad dressing or red licorice whips from the warehouse store, you’re probably better off devoting that luggage space to something that they’ll actually use and eat.

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