Valerie Confections' Fall Open House, Oct 31-Nov 5 (tons of FREE goodies!)

Cheese-, choco- and charcuterie-holics, mark your calendar! From Oct. 31 to Nov. 5, Valerie Confections opens its doors from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during its fall open house. Come hungry and ready to sample a difference decadent confection each day, from Valerie's oversized chocolate bars, hot cocoa, array of cookies, cheeses and even charcuterie.

The open house also celebrates the debut of Valerie Confections’ SUPER-CHOC-O-FOOD collaboration with Commune Design, resulting in a chocolate bar seemingly on fruit and nut steroids. Got questions or need gift ideas? Valerie's fabulous and knowledgeable staff will be on hand to chat and help answer any of your questions.

Valerie Confections' Fall Open House tasting schedule is as follows:

Monday, October 31st: Debut and Sampling of SUPER CHOC-O-FOOD
Valerie Confections teamed up with Commune Design to create this multi-media chocolate experience that is truly one-of-a-kind. SUPER CHOC-O-FOOD combines stunning packaging and an over-sized chocolate bar filled with a medley of nuts, fruits and soy salt for an innovative product that challenges the conception of chocolate merely being candy.
The bar contains darkened milk chocolate with a hint of caramel, and is loaded with dried pears, apricots, golden raisins, macadamia nuts, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds and peanuts. The presentation alone is an experience that must be seen and tasted, to be believed.

Tuesday, November 1st: Hot Chocolate And Cookies
Cookies and hot chocolate are the perfect holiday indulgence to give others, and to give yourself. Smooth and rich, the hot chocolate is wonderful on its own, but when paired with a crisp, chewy cookie, the combination is irresistible. Cookie flavors include Gingersnap, Oatmeal Raisin, Matcha White Chocolate Macadamia and the crowd-pleasing milk chocolate and almond filled Durango.

Wednesday, November 2nd: Chocolate Dipped Fruits And Chocolate Mendiants
A sophisticated holiday gift idea, the locally sourced, organic dried figs, pears and oranges used in the Dipped Fruits are hand-dipped in either bittersweet or darkened milk chocolate. Strikingly beautiful, the Mendiants blend spices, cocoa nibs, teas, organic nuts, unique salts and dried and dehydrated fruit atop disks of chocolate for a sumptuous treat that is a marvel for the eyes and the palate.

Thursday, November 3rd: Preserves Paired With Cheese And Charcuterie
The preserves from Valerie Confections have been touted as the “Best in LA” by Los Angeles Magazine. Hand-made using locally sourced fruit, the preserve flavors include White Fuji Apple & Vanilla Bean, Blenheim Apricot, Plum Ketchup and Mango Jam. The preserves are expertly paired with a wide array of fine cheeses and charcuterie.

Friday, November 4th: Mint Petits Fours And The Debut Of The Valerie Confections Tea Assortment
Specially blended by the American Tea Room for Valerie Confections, the new line of premium loose leaf teas are both inspired by and created to complement the extensive line of preserves and confections. The signature flavors include Black & Blue, Mint, Blushing Berry, Toasted Fig, Sweet Sencha and Blood Orange & Black tea. A reinterpretation of the Mint Mendiants, the Mint Petits Fours are a modern take on the classic confection. Each petit four has three layers of dense chocolate cake and two layers of rich white chocolate mint ganache. Covered in bittersweet chocolate and topped with an organic candied mint leaf, the presentation is finished with a ribbed ivory box and a green satin ribbon.

Saturday, November 5th: Seasonal Sweet And Savory Pies From The Market
A collection of Sweet and Savory pies are the perfect accompaniment to every holiday meal. Valerie Confections features both Seasonal Sweet and Savory pies available in full size or hand-sized versions. Seasonal Sweet flavors include Apple & Salted Caramel and Cinderella Pumpkin, while the Savory selection includes a Padron Pepper Potato & Fontina and a Kabocha Squash & Bleu Cheese pie. All of the pastries are sealed with a buttery, flakey crust

3360 West 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA (Intersection of Virgil and 1st Street)
(213) 739-8149
Held from Oct. 31 to Nov. 5 from 10 am-6 pm


This Sunday: LA Magazine's "The Food Event 2011" at Saddlerock Ranch

It's back! This Sunday, October 23 from 1-4 p.m., LA Magazine hosts its sixth annual "The Food Event 2011," a culinary extravaganza at Saddlerock Ranch in Malibu. Check out demos and expert panels from celebrity chefs like Karen & Quinn Hatfield (Hatfields), Ricardo Zarate (Mo Chica, Picca), and Steve Samson and Zach Pollack (Sotto); tastings from nearly 40 top LA restaurants such as Farmshop, Lukshon, Patina, Playa and Osteria La Buca; and libations of fabulous wines and spirits. The Malibu location, home to Semler and Saddlerock Wines, is smack in the middle of acres of natural beauty, vineyards, and rolling hills. It's worth the 30+ mile drive for a few hours of tranquility, tastings and total foodie bliss, all just outside LA.

Wine Tastings from "The Food Event 2010"

Tickets are $95 each, which might sound pricey. However, considering other foodie events charge upwards of $150 per session, it's a steal. Especially given the level of culinary talent on "The Food Event's" roster. Bring a blanket, comfy shoes and your appetite. If and when you inevitably indulge a bit too much (is there such a thing?), stretch out on the grass on your blanket and enjoy the view. You'll be ready for another round in no time.

LA Magazine's The Food Event 2011
Saddlerock Ranch
31727 Mulholland Highway
Malibu, CA 90265


Trick or Treat: Chef Kerry Simon's Halloween Junk Food Platter

LA Market, Chef Kerry Simon's restaurant in downtown Los Angeles' LA Live/JW Marriott Hotel, is known for its retro, comfort-food themed dessert platter. Think homemade milk & cookies, doughnuts, Froot Loop treats, cotton candy, snowballs and Faux-stess cupcakes. It's a time capsule on a plate, filled with treats that nary an adult nor child can resist. It's only natural that the king of junk food cuisine adds a "trick" to his treats, serving up a Halloween-themed dessert platter from October 15-31.

LA Market's Signature Junk Food Platter, courtesy of Chef Simon Kerry

The dessert plate, aptly named Simon's Spooky Sweets, includes the following treats:
  • Orange and purple coconut snowballs
  • Bat and mummy cake pops
  • Pumpkin-shaped Rice Krispy treats
  • Frosted brownies with gummy worms
  • Candy corn and carmel corn parfait
  • Fruit loop treats
  • Chocolate chip cookies
So head down to LA Market for a "ghoul's night out" and stuff your face with Simon's decadent desserts. It's Halloween season after all, when candies and calories don't count!

LA Live/JW Marriott
900 West Olympic Boulevard


From Sea to Plate: The St. Regis Hotel's "Fish Ritual" in Punta Mita, Mexico

Everybody needs a quick getaway once in a while. Bryan and I got ours a few weeks ago courtesy of a ton of accrued Starwood hotel points and US Airways flight credits. We traded those bad boys in for a quick three-day stay at the St. Regis Punta Mita, about 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Two planes, one car and four hours of travel time later and we were spending a Thursday afternoon sitting on a picturesque white sand beach, welcome margarita in hand. Talk about a departure from an office cube and LA traffic!

Upon checking into the hotel we were greeted by Carl Emberson, the St. Regis' General Manager, a boisterous fellow who is eager to share his love for the hotel property and its many amenities. He was particularly excited about the Fish Ritual, a weekly activity where local fisherman haul their catch of the day onto the beach and St. Regis guests get to hand-pick their fish for lunch and/or dinner. But wait, it gets better.

St. Regis' Catch of the Day, Straight out of the Pacific!
Bryan and I walked down to the oceanfront, where one of the St. Regis restaurant chefs and his attendants were manning the Fish Ritual. A table prepped with a bed of palm fronds and ice was topped with an array of stunningly beautiful fish, from red snapper to rainbow fish to Mahi Mahi. I'm talking sparkling scales, jewel tones, clear eyes and firm flesh. It doesn't get fresher than that.

Friday's Fish Ritual at the St. Regis Punta Mita
Every decision regarding the fish is made by the guests, from the specific fish they want, how they'd like it prepared (Ceviche? Grilled? Steamed in a banana leaf?), any accoutrements they prefer (Garlic basil sauce? Champagne Savoyan sauce?), what time they'd like to have it ready (Lunch? Dinner?) and even in which of the three St. Regis' restaurants they'd like to dine. Forget the trend of "from farm to table," we're upping the ante to "from sea to plate."

Here's what we chose:
  • Fish: Red Snapper
  • Preparation: Ceviche (appetizer)/Parilla con Talla Verde, aka grilled with garlic basil sauce (entree)
  • Where: Sea Breeze Restaurant
  • When: Dinner at 7:30pm, the best time to watch Punta Mita's gorgeous sunset
Build the Perfect Fish Dish
With the exception of a pointing at a sad little lobster stuck in a restaurant's tank, never before have we been able to literally choose our protein -- barely hours out of the sea -- and see it transformed into mouth-watering dishes. We started with the ceviche, which was marinated in lime juice, onion, spices and served with chopped tomato and fresh chips. Simple yet delicious. Our entree followed, huge filets of grilled red snapper topped with a light garlic basil sauce. To describe the snapper's flesh as anything other than sublimely succulent would be a disservice to the chef. It was easily the best piece of fish either Bryan or myself have had.

Appetizer: Snapper-Turned-Ceviche

Entree: Grilled Red Snapper with Garlic Basil Sauce |
Ratatouille of Vegetables & Jasmine Rice (not shown)
The Fish Ritual was a truly unique experience, one that we'll remember fondly. And if you're curious, it didn't break the bank, either. For two portions of the ceviche and two fish filet entrees, the bill came in at about $75 (US). It felt awesome to know we had literally walked down to the beach, pointed at the fish we wanted, chose the when/where/how and showed up a few hours later to enjoy a pescado feast. If you're in Punta Mita, definitely check St. Regis' fish ritual out. Then make sure to spend the rest of the day enjoying a cerveza by the pool. :)

Bonus Photo: Stunning View During the Fish Ritual
Lote H-4
Carreterra Federal 200, km 19.5
Punta Mita, Nayarit 63734


Dessert Review: Adelia's Blondies Mix (Makes a Darn Good Pizookie, Too)

Last week Bryan and I hosted a small dinner party to celebrate the birthday of a close family friend. We had dinner ready to go (our go-to homemade pizza recipe), bottles of booze were getting their chill on, but something was missing: dessert! Oh no! You can't have a birthday without a birthday dessert, whether it's a cake, cupcake, pie, or even just a scoop of ice cream. Instead of panicking or running to the store, I knew exactly what I would do: whip up a batch of Adelia's Blondies.

Adelia's Blondies: A Southern Family's Favorite Recipe
A few weeks prior I had received a packet of Adelia's Blondies mix direct from Nashville, where Amelia's all-natural mixes and recipes for blondies, brownies and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are made. While Adelia herself passed on at the ripe old age of 97, her great-grandchildren are honoring her legacy (and her name) by passing along their family's favorite baking recipes for bakers like you and me to enjoy.

Adelia's Blondies Mix
Blondies -- if you haven't heard of them -- are wonderfully soft, chewy chocolate chip cookie bars. Imagine if a brownie was made out of chocolate chip cookie dough, but had the same delicately crackly, caramelized crust on top. Well, that's a Blondie you're imagining and they're absolutely delicious.

Adelia's Blondies Mix couldn't be easier to make. All the dry ingredients -- a flour mixture and a brown sugar -- are contained in individual bags inside the Blondies package. All the "baker" needs to do is provide an egg, some vanilla extract and unsalted butter. Simply melt the butter, whisk in the brown sugar until combined, add one beaten egg and a splash of vanilla. Gently whisk in the remaining bag of dry ingredients until combined, pour the mixture into an 8x8 greased baking pan and let it bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Voila! Blondies!

Count 'Em: Blondies' Combined Six Ingredients

Melt butter and add brown sugar

Mix until butter and brown sugar are thorough combined

Whisk beaten egg and vanilla to the sugar/butter mixture, then add remaining bag of dry ingredients.

Whisk all ingredients to combine (Make sure to appreciate the abundance of chocolate chips!)

Butter and flour a baking pan (I didn't have an 8x8 baking pan, so opted for a round pan instead)

Pour Blondies mixture into prepared pan

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden brown
Sounds easy enough, right? It is, except if you're me and you've just moved into your first house and have never used the built-in oven before. Not to mention the oven is a brand you've never heard of, with no manual to be found, and the only "directions" on said oven are hieroglyphic-like squiggles surrounding the oven dial like a clock. Not to worry, you just find a "squiggle" that looks somewhat familiar (two horizontal lines must mean top and bottom heating elements, right??), wait until the oven feels hot enough, and pop in your Blondies. I wish it were so easy.

The photo above -- yes, the one with the perfect looking Blondies -- was taken about when my oven's timer said it was 12 minutes into the 20 minute cooking time. Looking good, right? Well, sadly, just more three minutes passed and the Blondies looked more like Brownies. In a word, I was dev-a-stated. Expecting the worst, I grabbed the poor Blondies out of the oven, flipped them out onto a plate and... was thrilled to see a wonderfully gooey, cookie dough-esque center. All was not lost and gosh, it sure smelled great.

Blondies' Disaster Averted!
My darling husband, bless his heart, said to me, "It looks like a pizookie," which is essentially a pizza made out of cookie dough. To make one, cookie dough is pressed into a pizza pan and baked until it's a giant, warm, amazing cookie. Then it's typically covered with layers of ice cream, fudge, caramel, nuts, etc. It's a giant cookie pizza with and ice cream sundae as a topping. Who wouldn't want that for their birthday?? My heart sang because pizookies are beyond awesome. And slightly retro, which makes them even more cool.

Adelia Blondie-turned-Pizookie!
After all was said and done, I averted a major birthday dessert crisis. Adelia's Blondies mix stood up to the challenge, survived my insane oven, and gave a table full of birthday revelers a killer dessert. There was not one bite left, at which point I was forced to physically pull the plate away from my husband so he didn't lick it. I'm looking forward to trying Adelia's Blondies mix again, but this time after I figure out my oven. The fact that their mix delivered an incredibly delicious product even after being tortured by my oven really says something great about their recipe.

If you want to try Adelia's Blondies, Brownies or Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies mixes for yourself, visit AdeliaGourmet.com. Each $8 mix is available for purchase online.

Adelia's Blondies Mix
Available at AdeliaGourmet.com
Price: $8/package
Questions? AdeliaGourmet@gmail.com


My Culinary Epiphany in... Ohio???

I had a culinary epiphany last week. Where? In Ohio, of all places. I know, I can barely believe it either.

Last week, I spent four days in Cleveland, a city that Drew Carey practically put on the map and about which Ian Hunter sang, with genuine gusto, "Cleveland Rocks." Turns out it's also a place on the cusp of a serious foodie explosion, evidenced by the likes of Iron Chef Michael Symon, TV and real life chef and owner of some of Cleveland's most popular restaurants: Lola's Bistro (fine dining), Lolita's (gastropub) and B-Spot (burger joint). He's also responsible for bringing Cleveland's undiscovered and perhaps under-appreciated culinary delights to the attention of millions on shows such as The Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." Pierogis, anyone?

After trying (and falling in love with) Lola*, I was looking for another recommendation. Imagine my surprise when I asked local after local where to eat and nearly every single one of them said, "Dante in Tremont!" There was no hesitation, and every recommendation was accompanied with that face. You know the one. The one where someone is actually reliving the memory of one of the best meals in their recent history, but all they can manage to do is contort their face and say, "OhmiGAWD. It is just SOOO good." Four of those faces later and I was sold.

Dante -- the signature, Michelin-starred restaurant of Chef Dante Boccuzzi -- is on a darling tree-lined street in a historic-turned-hip part of Cleveland called Tremont. And when I say hip, I mean it in the sweetest, smallest town kind of way. The restaurant is literally on the one main street of Tremont, located caddy-corner from Symon's Lolita, across from a surprisingly chic boutique (I bought a chenille-esque sweater made in Bali), and next door to a liquor store that seems to specialize in Wild Irish Rose fortified wines. Did I mention it is Michelin-starred?

Suffice to that the meal was pretty killer -- my shaved artichoke salad came with a goat cheese foam, arugula and aged balsamic, while Boccuzzi's innovative Black Forbidden rice risotto (originally reserved for Emperor's) arrived brimming with candied ginger, shiitake mushrooms and rock shrimp. But what I appreciated most about Boccuzzi's menu was his creativity when it came to portion sizes. If you're anything like me, when you're dining out you like to try bites of several different dishes. Unfortunately, ordering more than one appetizer and entree per person is nearly impossible with today's gigantic portion sizes.

Simple yet Brilliant: "Tasting," "Appetizer" & "Entree" Portions
(aka Small, Medium & Large)
Dante's got it right. The menu is organized into three sections: appetizers, signature starches, and entrees. While entrees are one-large-size-fits-all, appetizers are easily sharable amongst two people and the signature starches, including soups, handmade pastas, polentas and risottos, are offered in tasting-, appetizer- or entree-sized portions. I thought that was absolutely brilliant: the simple idea of offering some of the most popular items on the menu in three easily distinctly manageable sizes. Want only a bite or two? Order the tasting portion. Want a little more, to share with a friend? Opt for the appetizer portion. Heck, do the same with five or six dishes, satiating your palate with menu items like handmade Linguine alla Carbonara with poached egg and house made pancetta (the charcuterie is drying inside what used to be a bank vault, complete with massive steel door), the polenta with grilled prawns and zucchini, or the sweet Ohio corn chowder, packed with smoked bacon and sourdough croutons. Or, if you know exactly what you want, go for the entree size.

The point is, Dante's subtle tasting-appetizer-entree portion options really encourages diners to experiment and make their way through the menu. That means they'll order more dishes, find more options to recommend to friends, and the restaurant will make more dough. If you think about it, it's really a win-win strategy, one that I wish more restaurants would adopt.

2247 Professor Ave.
Tremont, OH 44113
(216) 274-1200

*If you're anywhere near Cleveland, go to Lola. Now. Order the Beef Cheek Pierogis, handmade Cavatelli with Rabbit Bolognese & a glass of Norton Vineyard's 2007 "The Monster" Zinfandel. Life-changing.


DineLA Restaurant Week Starts Today!

I'm officially excited (and hungry)! DineLA is back, taking over LA's restaurant scene from October 2-7 and 9-14! You know the drill: Hundreds of Los Angeles' restaurants are offering prix-fixe menus for lunch and dinner, often filled with their best-selling dishes. The menus are tiered in three price levels designed to meet the budgets of every Angeleno:
  • Deluxe Dining: $16 lunch/$26 dinner
  • Premier Dining: $22 lunch/$34 dinner
  • Fine Dining: $28 lunch/$44 dinner
DineLA's participating restaurants range from L.A.'s culinary cream of the crop – think Craft, Fig & Olive (Obama's fave) and Scarpetta, just to name a few – to more casual offerings such as Casa Vega and Hostaria del Piccolo. There are literally hundreds of restaurants to choose from but only so many meals in a day, so make your reservations accordingly -- and fast!

But wait, there's more: A list of locally-lauded hotels have signed on to offer "Stay & DineLA" packages, where you can stay one night in a guest room and enjoy a meal at a participating dineLA restaurant. Book a reservation and a night's stay at LA Market in the J.W. Marriott, Scarpetta in the Montage Hotel Beverly Hills, or Asia de Cuba in the Mondrian Hotel, among others. Consider it a mini stay-cation, or just a really fabulous place to crash if you have too much vino.

Need more info? Get it at DineLA.com.
Related Posts with Thumbnails