Like water off a duck's back, or mocha down a luge

What could be more fun than working on a deadline, okay anything but really...with chocolate madness barely behind me I'm in a curiously ducky mood despite my hives and my waning migraine.

What has put me in such a mood? I have a secret mission this weekend in NYC and I am LOUSY at keeping secrets.

My lunch as you saw included French cheese and last night's late night nosh some saucisson from D'Artagnan. Such a nice find at the gourmet grocer across the street from my pied à terre - okay it's not my pied à terre, just my niece's apartment (a girl can dream can't she?) ...anyway, the grocer carries a pretty full line of the lovely products, from saucisson to duck breast and more. It's all I can do not to buy one of everything!

A decent boule, the red wine infused saucisson à l'Ail, some Cerignon olives..It's raining and likely to continue but even that hasn't dampened my spirits. Like a duck I waddle on. Or maybe swim, calm on the surface, paddling like hell underneath.

Yes I've got some ducky news to announce very shortly friends. In the meanwhile...

Got the sweetest hangover, I don't want to get over...

Chocolate Madness!

When NARAL requested that I help judge this year’s Chocolate Madness event, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. A pro-choice cause coupled with chocolate? Of course I would be there!

It was a fun night with some amazing skills in evidence. Not even a migraine could dampen my enthusiasm for tasting through the treats.

At the green table my fellow judges were: Dan, Chris, Honor, Cory, Andrea and I. Later joined by floating judges, Becky Sue and another whose name I neglected to get we nearly finished everything on the table.

Our first sampling was one of the standouts, I thought. But, like the topic that brought us all together - a woman’s right to choose - the topic of chocolate inspires some debate as well. Some felt the caramel brownie did not thrill while I disagreed. Andrea and I felt the caramel was toothsome and not at all cloying as some can be. It was a mouthful of mouth-feel and gooey caramel loveliness. I could eat several. All day. Every day.

After ballots were collected, I learned the caramel brownie was from Harvard Sweet Boutique. Click on the name to go to the online boutique. 

The other standout for me was the little bites of perfect brown butter cookies with a salted caramel filling. The Brookline bakery, Better Batch, had six varieties of the half-dollar sized cookie confections, some crispy, some soft (like the raspberry with chocolate cookie and chocolate ganache.) My first sampling of their work was such a stunning example of the perfect balance between crisp butter crunch of the cookie and the sweet filling with salty note to make each crumb sing.

Although the winning dessert was not part of my judges’ table array, I got a chance to sample it later. (The various judges tables were grouped by theme.) Congratulations to: Chef Shannon Black of Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro! Chef Black won her category "Flowing Water: Spoonfuls of Puddings, Ice Cream and Sorbets" for her Guanaja Chocolate Ice Cream with Cocoa Grue, Toasted Almonds and Smoked Salt.

Chef Black's category (gelatos and such) were not on my table, I got to sample it after my ballot was cast. Fantastic. Well-balanced, not one element overpowering or disappearing into the whole. Just beautiful! And speaking of beautiful: Chef Black, BHHB Owner Cecilia Rait and Anny Deirmenjian of Image Unlimited Communications made for a radiant team. (Note to single guys, this would be a great event to put on your calendar next year!)

Here is BHHB owner Cecilia Rait and Chef Shannon Black of Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro at work preparing for the crowd.

My very first ice luge - it's not even alcoholic!

During the post ballot walk around I got to sample an Iced Mocha drink scented with Tarragon and poured through an ice luge. The table host said “Last year we had one shaped like a martini glass and it was so popular....” Instantly, two women materialized at my side saying “Oh! did we hear Martini?!”

 

Really one of the most perfect cookies ever. Perfect balance of sweet, creamy, buttery cookie, touch of salt to pull it all together. Better Batch Bakery in Brookline (and Beacon Hill Bistro- is this event brought to us by the letter B?)They also do beautiful "painted" cookies - like art for wedding or party favors. So fun.

Big blue cup of Earl Grey? Mad for those edible cups. Hats off to Max Catering.

What's a chocolate event without bacon? Chocolate cupcakes with a bacon garnish.

 

Whoopie pies - a New England Classic, a cupcake and another bite or two, about the time I said "no mas!"