Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates…

You never know what you’re gonna get. These are the famous words of Forrest Gump, from the classic movie. This quote might be the most quoted line from the movie and possibly one of the top movie quotes of all time, but I suspect that is because there is some truth to it. No one ever knows what life will throw at them much like a box of chocolates is a grab bag or surprise (unless you have the cheater guide that tells you which chocolate is where).

I have received many boxes of chocolate in my lifetime: a Russell Stover heart every Valentine’s Day from my grandfather, a special surprise from Davidson Chocolate compliments of my parents, and collections of chocolate covered cherries for Christmas or Valentine’s Day. I have fond memories of all of them. Whether truffles, chews, cream-filled, clusters, or cherries, they were all delicious! (That is, except for coconut, I do not mess around when it comes to that dreadful one in the box. Thankfully though, I have come to have a pretty good eye for picking these out.) Milk or dark chocolate, I love them both! Most of the time I savor the box and see how long I can make it last, but I am human so occasionally one thing leads to another and the box is half-eaten, whatever. Although these boxes of chocolate have always been delicious and are good quality confections, what made them taste even better is that someone I loved gave them to me. Whether as a surprise or an expected Valentine’s Day tradition, they made me happy because of the person who bought me the chocolate. I have never and will never buy myself a box of chocolate, it seems almost like gluttony and not that special treasuring that is especially associated with chocolate.

Surprisingly, Jerry had never given me a box of chocolates. Last year for Valentine’s Day my request was a customizable chocolate bar and he has bought me chocolate in many other forms, but never a box of chocolates. However, I can definitely forgive him for this since he gave me one this year for my birthday and his story to go with the chocolates led to him getting down on one knee and asking me to marry him. Yes!

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Left, back: dark chocolate covered cherries, foremost: caramel truffle, rightmost: Black Forrest truffle

I think the first thing I said after “Yes!” and “I love you” was, “What kind of chocolates are those?” The box was from The Candy Factory in Lexington, my hometown favorite for anything chocolate. Upon opening the box, I had immediately recognized the dark chocolate covered cherries (I can’t decide if I like milk or dark chocolate better with cherries, it’s a total toss up).  Jerry told me the others were a caramel truffle and a Black Forest truffle. The caramel truffle was a milk chocolate shell filled very liberally with caramel and with a little bit of white chocolate on top. Beautiful and tasty. The Black Forest truffle was dark chocolate with a chocolate infused with cherry flavored filling. It had a pink drizzle on top, again beautiful and very tasty. He really knows me too well, including a familiar favorite but indulging my love for novelty with new varieties, a mix of milk and dark chocolate, and combining beauty with tasteful, locally made chocolate. The chocolate was really enough for a yes. I totally jest, I have even better reasons for my answer.

Thanks for letting me share my good news with you!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Turning 20…

So, I am writing this in the last few minutes of my 20th birthday. People always ask you on your birthday, do you feel older? I think it might be because it keeps small talk alive or goes beyond just “Happy Birthday! Uh… see ya later!” But in truth, I don’t feel any older. If someone asks me tomorrow how old I am, there is a very good chance I will respond that I am 19. But, just because I don’t feel older, doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been a wonderful birthday. I got to catch up with friends, received some beautiful and extremely thoughtful cards, and talked to the fam. As far as food goes, I have eaten a ton of grapes, some of my grandmother’s legendary cream-filled oatmeal cookies, baked French toast, marble cake with chocolate mousse filling from La Patisserie, tzatziki, spanikopita, a Greek salad from Toast, chocolates from Davidson Chocolate, and a caprese salad-inspired sandwich with fried plantains from La Patisserie over the past two days. I really could not ask for better.

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I loved the food, but this (and talking with the special people in my life) was definitely the best part of my birthday.

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Marble cake with chocolate mousse filling

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Mozzarella sandwich and sweet fried plantains

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NOT birthday related but this makes me happy:

Valentine’s Day meal from Commons (date with Alexandra, my fellow dessert lover): this would probably be my “last meal before I die” if it had to come from Vail Commons. Pictured from bottom left, going clockwise: falafel, pumpkin spice mini bundt cake, pumpkin bread with caramel drizzle, strawberries drizzled with chocolate, churro, pretzels and marshmallows drizzled with chocolate, and homemade Heath bar.  Don’t worry, we shared and only “tasted” everything (I did not eat everything on the tray). The pumpkin spice bundt cake was the clear winner of the desserts although the falafel bar always has my heart.

Thanks for a wonderful birthday and letting me share it with you!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Taco Tuesday

Sorry for the long delay in posting. I just hate it when blogs are posted far apart and irregularly. As much as I have tried to post at least every 5 days, I have obviously failed since the last time I posted was 12 days ago. Ahh! Sorry, sorry, sorry! I could blame it on homework or extracurricular activities or whatever, but it is basically just because of life in general. Everyone is busy so I won’t make excuses. Moving on…

Last Tuesday I had an experience that has been long awaited. I ate from a food truck! Did I ever mention that one time Jerry and I drove two hours to Durham to find out that food trucks don’t come out on Mondays? That was a real letdown… but dinner last Tuesday was worth the wait.

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I went with Jerry to this little taco truck (or maybe its considered a trailer?) parked in a gas station parking lot. It was called Arturo’s Taco Truck. A Hispanic woman made our orders right there after answering our probably really ridiculous questions about the menu. It was so fascinating to see her cook everything on the flat top and then finish the food off with cilantro and onions or cheese and sour cream, also reassuring to know that everything is made fresh and hasn’t been sitting in a taco truck for hours on end. I ordered a sope and a taco, both with fish. I didn’t really know what a sope was before I asked the lady who showed me the base and I decided I was up for the adventure so I tried it. Evidently the base is a fried patty/disc made of masa. This was heated on the flat top until a golden brown crust formed and then topped with the white fish, cheddar/jack cheese, cilantro, sour cream, grated parmesan cheese, and a slice of jalapeno. I was afraid this would be super messy but it surprisingly wasn’t. The taco was two corn tortillas heated through and filled with the fish, cilantro, and onions. A wedge of lime, a tomatillo salsa, and (possibly) a habanero salsa came on the side. Bonus: my meal only cost $3.75!

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Torta on the left and taco on the right.

The verdict: Simple yet “on the money” as Guy Fierri would say. The flavors went together unbelievably well. I probably would have picked a different assortment toppings if I had been asked, like lettuce and tomato with no cheese or sour cream, but these people obviously knew what they were doing. The lime enhanced all of the flavors and brought a citrus punch that lightened up the taco/sope. Both salsas were very tasty although very different. The tomatillo one was very good but not too hot although seasoned well. However, the habanero salsa had heat that wasn’t immediate but had quite a punch. The color made us think it had habanero  in it, and after eating several bites with this salsa the tingling sensation in my lips made me think we were right. Jerry got two steak tacos and a torta. Evidently a torta is a large roll stuffed with meat (spicy pork for him), cilantro, onions, cheese, sour cream, and more cheese. Then the whole thing was grilled and squished down. It looked really good.

I don’t know how authentic this was but we definitely enjoyed it and would go back. The fact that it comes from a truck and is only there on weekdays enhancing the ephemerality and mystery enshrouding the truck, although it does have a Facebook page. I feel like this is one of those places that you have to be in the know to try because it isn’t really advertised. Also, some people frankly find it sketchy to eat from a street vendor or food truck (I have absolutely no reservations, I assure you), but it wasn’t sketchy.  So, now you are officially in the know, so go try it! If you are a Davidson student, I urge you to try it before you graduate.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sweet Rolls

If I had to pick one sweet thing that I could eat with my last meal, it would be very hard. I would probably agonize about what to pick for my last month. But, when I did pick I wouldn’t choose a good quality dark chocolate bar with a subtle hint of cherry, 3-layer carrot cake with nuts and the perfect amount of cream cheese icing , a Blizzard chock full of dark chocolate truffles, a chocolate ├ęclair with cold custard bursting out of it, or a caramel apple with a chocolate drizzle. It really pains me to say that, I am definitely not putting down those foods; in fact, they are some of my favorite desserts of all time. However, I would pick a cinnamon roll. Yes, this isn’t really dessert but instead an indulgent breakfast made perfect with a glass of milk (but, I have no scruples to eating one for dessert either).

Cinnamon rolls and I go way back. I have probably eaten a total of more than a dozen cans of  Pillsbury cinnamon rolls in my lifetime (Grands, Regular, and the ones with orange cream cheese frosting). My dad used to get me one for the occasional lazy Sunday morning when he brought breakfast home from Biscuit King and we would enjoy it together. It filled a small, sqaure styrofoam container; I loved it when it had extra icing and wasn’t overly done. Also, my grandmother sometimes buys me some delicious homemade ones from the Lexington Farmers’ Market and we always have them at the beach. These wonderful gustatory and family experiences influenced me to try to make homemade cinnamon rolls this summer on a day when I was feeling particularly ambitious. Unfortunately, the results embarrass me even to this day. I tried to follow the recipe exactly; I was uber-precise in my measurements because I wanted to make the best cinnamon rolls ever and top them with a delicious glaze/icing. It would be the perfect union of sugar, cinnamon, and dough. After measuring out what I thought was everything and combining it in the Kitchen-Aid as directed, I started to roll out the dough and laid down the mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Then, I came to the shocking and despairing realization that I had forgotten to add water to the dough. There was absolutely nothing I could do. So I just finished sprinkling the filling on the dough and rolled it up. Since the oven was already preheated, I figured that I might as well just go ahead and bake them. Looking back, I am unsure of my logic in making this decision. But, they came out as hard as bricks and I could not even try one for fear of breaking a tooth. I think I might have gotten a bit emotional sometime during this process.

So, I tried again. Except this time the butter was too soft because it had been sitting out for a while. When I tried to roll up the cinnamon and sugar topped dough, it was a sticky disaster. I flung it in the trash. I remember thinking that I it was really quite pathetic to have messed up twice in a row. After this, I am pretty sure that I ate something very sweet and chocolate-y to help me forget my failures.

But, back to cinnamon rolls. By the way, I am considering cinnamon rolls the same thing as what my family calls “sweet rolls” (which is probably a bit broader of a category). One of my first food memories is of eating a sweet roll at my great grandmother’s kitchen table. It was hot out of the oven, especially baked for our visit. The roll was soft and buttery, the dough made from the same as her signature homemade bread. And after a bite or two at the outside, you reached the middle complete with a maraschino cherry and a puddle of sweet, runny syrup. This was always the stickiest, gooey-ist, and best bite. I have later guessed that a lot of butter, sugar, and cinnamon go into the making of these delightful rolls.

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My great grandmother took a hiatus from making them, which is well-deserved and is definitely her right since she is almost 93 years old. I hadn’t had one in about ten years or so, a break that hadn’t done any harm to my figure but that had left me reminiscing over them.

Then, this Saturday I had one. It was so delicious! I warmed it up (I have a serious problem where I warm up everything that possibly can be heated in the microwave, I just love stuff hot!). It was everything I remembered it to be. The doughy and not too sweet inside with the the sweet and cinnamon-y outside that requires some finger licking. Although there wasn’t a cherry in the middle, sugary solution still ran out and I used the rest of the roll to mop it up. I really wish that I could at least let you smell a warm one, it is truly divine and definitely a scent that would impress (or maybe just starve) guests.

So whatever makes you as happy as this sweet roll makes me, treat yourself to one as an early Valentine’s Day present!