The Design of All Things

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In my day-to-day life I create graphic and digital designs, but when I really look — I see that design transcends all and applies to everything I do. Even cooking.

Before the holidays I attended an evening of chocolate decorating on the Upper West Side at Voilà Chocolat with the Harvard Women’s Club of NY. It was a chance to play and let your inner child out. Once you enrobed your truffle in dark melted chocolate you could be an artist, by adding toppings of your choice. We then took the balance of the chocolate left over and forged unique bars. I made mine look like an oversized cookie.

I got a compliment from the left, then I got a compliment from the right and a comment that I must have done this before (it was my first time). Then one of the assistants said he noticed I had designed an unusual topping combination he had never seen before.

The next step was packaging our delights in a sophisticated set up that looked extremely professional when completed; and Voila! — a gorgeous looking and tasting present to share.

I often take this all for granted, it’s what I do everyday, though now I realize it is a gift I possess and love to share with others.

Contact me with your creative project challenges — it will be fun and possibly very delicious.

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The Spirit of Cacao Tasting

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This past Saturday was a bit cold and gloomy, but not inside Back Label Wine Merchants cozy back room. That is where 25 curious chocolate and spirits enthusiasts gathered to taste 8 new experiences from around the world. Mark Christian of the C-Spot and the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund spoke about the chocolates and what makes them heirloom designation, Natasha Soto-Albors of BLWM explained her spirit choice pairings then I discussed the importance of packaging and its effects on why you purchase what you do and showcased the Heirloom Chocolate Series package Mark and I worked together on.

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Our line up was:

#1 Designation VII

Spirit — Tuthilltown Cassis Liqueur (NY)

Chocolate —  Origin: Maya Mountain, Belize / Barsmith: Brasstown (USA) / Cacáo-content: 70%

#2 Designation IX

Spirit — Bittermen’s Citron Sauvage (OR)

Chocolate —  Origin: Piedra de Plata, Ecuador / Barsmith: TO’aK (Ecuador) / Cacáo-content: 73%

#3 Designation II

Spirit — Catskills Provisions NY Honey Rye (NY)

Chocolate —  Origin: Beníano, Bolivia / Barsmith: Oialla (Denmark) / Cacáo-content: 78%

#4 Designation Preliminary

Spirit — Old New Orleans Cajun Spice Rum (LA)

Chocolate —  Origin: Purús, Brazil / Barsmith: Luisa Abram (Brazil) / Cacáo-content: 81%

My fave pairings in order were 3, 1, 4, 2.

One of the highlights was the chance to try the TO’aK sample disks from Ecuador. This bar at $300 a pop is the most expensive in the world. I was very curious to find out what makes it so special. I did like its very mature, grown up flavor, but as discussed earlier much of the hoopla is the cost of wonderful packaging and store presentation of the bar. Well done.

As a bonus, one of the guests, Glenn Petriello of Glennmade Craft Chocolates  gave out samples of his two heirloom chocolate bars whose beans originate from Belize and Ecuador. Glenn is a new bean to bar producer in Hoboken “yeah” and has 6 single origin dark chocolates in his line.

There were many lively questions and discussions and was so much fun that when it was over no one wanted to leave, but eventually we had to go ;-(

The quote of the day from our package “Save the Earth: It’s the only planet with chocolate”.

How to Date a Chocolate

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With my current status being off of processed sugar (except for darkest chocolate and bread), one of my missions is about creating desserts using 100% cocoa and natural sweeteners.

I have discovered that dates are one of those amazing fruits that is very sweet but doesn’t impart a strong individual taste, blending in invisibly.

I found this Paleo Truffle recipe and made my version without the added coffee.

I shared some with friends who instantly fell in love and were all surprised and excited that no processed sugars were added.

For a more decadent version with a minor amount of sugar — enrobe the truffles in a melted mixture of 75 – 100% chocolate bar pieces, then sprinkle them with shredded coconut or roll in cocoa powder.

If you are not a fan of coconut, you can leave that ingredient out and use another fruit oil in its place.

Here’s the recipe…

½ Cup each:

• Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, Hazel Nuts, Pumpkin Seeds

• 6 Dates

• ½ Cup Shredded Coconut

• 2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder

• 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

• 2 Teaspoons Freshly ground coffee

• 2 Tablespoons Shredded Coconut for rolling

Run the nuts and pumpkin seeds in a food processor or blender until ground into a fine flour.

Remove the nut flour and grind the dates and shredded coconut in the food processor until smooth.

Mix these ingredients together with coffee and cocoa powder according to taste.

Finally, add the coconut oil and mix it all together by hand. Roll the paste into small nibbly balls (about 12) and sprinkle them in shredded coconut.

Dates add the sweetness but also help hold the balls together so if you can’t get the paste to hold its shape, try adding a few more. The coconut oil also helps, add more if you need to.

These snacks should be refrigerated to become firm.