Taza Chocolate – Union Square, Somerville

Taza Chocolate is having an Open House & Factory Tour this Saturday, May 2nd at their factory in Union Square, tazaSomerville. If you don’t know about Taza, how the chocolate tastes (delicious), or how they operate (excellent corporate citizens), the open house is a perfect opportunity to find out. You’ll see their factory, tucked into an industrial building, sample chocolate, meet the makers, and see where the beans are roasted and winnowed.

There are many details that set Taza apart from almost all other chocolate makers in the US, and I’d try to explain them, but they’d just get jumbled up. Youll be much better served by reading this excellent Cake and Commerce post. If you’re too excited to read, watch Sooz’s videos on How The Roaster Works, How The Cocoa Winnowing Machine Works, and Grinding the Cocoa Nibs.

Last week, I had the opportunity to go through temperingthe factory tour with the special bonus of seeing the beans ground into chocolate and watching some bars get molded out of the tempering machine. I refuse to cook with a thermometer, tempering is something I bloggers with hairnetsalways hope happens to the shell of my truffles by accident (it never does). Because of this, I got more excited to see the tempering machine than I was expecting. Like before with the post from Cake and Commerce, I’m going to shirk off the responsibility of writing up the visit, but lucky for you, Bostonist has covered it perfectly. Also, peep this wonderful picture of some of Boston’s best food bloggers (I know, you’re wondering what I was doing there, me too) in hair nets.

Taza’s ‘bean to bar’ process for making chocolate makes a bar that’s photo3about as far away from a Hershey Kiss as you can get. The texture of the chocolate is pleasantly grainy and the flavor is almost fruity. I like how they direct trade with (and actually overpay) bean co-ops to get the best of the best cocoa beans, and I like how the chocolate is delivered locally by Metro Pedal Power. I’m in the bag for them and you should check out their Open House. Also, if you see Alex (at left), be sure to ask him if he’d prefer to be known as a chocolatier or chocolate maker.

Taza Chocolate – Union Square, Somerville

Free Barcelona, Spain Travel Guide

It took seven and a half months, but I’ve finally finished the review of our trip to Barcelona and Sitges, Spain in June, 2008. I started it as a review to make remembering our trip easier. As I was writing it up, I decided to make it more of a travel guide to hopefully convince you to go to Barcelona. It was an amazing trip.

There’s a lot of information in here. The guide is broken up into 10 chapters linked below with the highlights of the day for easy reference:
Day 1: Boston to Barcelona: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Barcelona is very beautiful. Parts are dirty and smelly, but those parts are serviced 24/7 by sanitation workers. I was struck by how most of the buildings look like they were from the 50s or 60s and wondered what makes the replacement cycle so much faster in cities like Boston. The city is eminently walkable, and the transportation system adds to the ease in getting around. If you like looking out over cities from heights, you’re in luck. There are at least 6 different tourist destinations that offer great views of the city.

Bottom line?
Where to stay: Hotel Regencia Colon – Perfectly situated and affordably priced.
Must visit landmaks: Santa Maria del Mar, La Boqueria, Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà, Montserrat, Sitges
Must eat: Tapaç 24, Euskal Etxea, Chocolateria Valor
Must shop: Kukuxumusu, Xocoa

For my mom, here’s a slideshow of our trip and a collection of videos from different points.

Also, please play around with this map I made of all the places we went to or should have gone to. I spent days before we went researching restaurants, hotels, landmarks and popping them onto this map to make it easy to figure out what to do in each neighborhood once we got there. The price of this travel guide is worth it just for this free map.

In closing, I hope you’ll go Barcelona because it’s awesome and you going will validate our decision to go. If you do go, I hope you find this Travel Guide helpful because would validate the time I put into it. Because after all, what’s a blog based Travel Guide if not an adventure in navel gazing?

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Free Barcelona, Spain Travel Guide

Salt and Chocolate and Caramel

This NY Times article about salt and caramel made me hungry. But I wanted them to go further because salty chocolate is really where it’s at, and not not just bacolate, or bacon chocolate, (which we’ve talked about here, here, here, and here), either.

When we were in Barcelona (review to come, I SWEAR), we were served a dessert of 4 scoops of chocolate ganache drizzled with olive oil and topped with a pinch of sea salt. If I do nothing in the next 50 years, I will be a success if I can get this dish in front of the American diner. Anyone know anywhere here that serves this?

Salt and Chocolate and Caramel

Do You Know Where Your Turkey Comes From? – The Food Link Round Up

Sarah Palin caused an uproar a couple days ago by conducting an interview in front of a farmer slaughtering turkeys. I didn’t follow much of it, but my main reaction to it was more on the side of “Really? That was the best place for an interview” aas opposed to “those poor turkeys”. Though it lead me to this article by Patrick Martins, director of Slow Food USA. (Speaking of Slow Food…)

When you sit down to your Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, waiting for the main attraction to be brought in on a platter, take a moment to think about where it came from and how it found its way to your table.

So where’s my turkey coming from? I wasn’t sure my mom would know, but she did. Plainville Farms. I looked through the website and didn’t find much of anything except they have a ton of USDA labels about how they treat their animals. So I feel a little better that at least I know. So where’s your turkey from?

I had meant to post Michael Pollan’s latest (now 5 weeks old) NY Times effort –
An Open Letter to the Next Farmer in Chief – and this is as good a post to do it in. We’re in full food round up mode now, folks. It was neat how Pollan responded to readers’ comments in a different section, that’s a good move on the NY Times’ part.

And here’s an interview with Pollan from The American Conservative where he talks about the idea of food security being something the Right and the Left can work together on. Interesting parts:

You see it in other traditions, too: the Mayans also had grain reserves. Now the amount of grain we have worldwide is a six- or eight-day supply. If there were a major shock to the system, people would go hungry quickly. It was one of the reforms of the Nixon administration to get rid of the grain reserve under enormous pressure from agribusiness and big grain traders who wanted more control over the market and wanted to be able to speculate on grain prices.

and

“Arugula,” we should remember, is a marketing term invented by somebody who thought that this very common green, known by farmers all over the Midwest for many years as “rocket,” needed to be tuned up and given new appeal. It’s a complete marketing creation, and it’s completely ruined a very healthy green—at least from a political point of view.

Here’s the NY Times late to the chocolate covered bacon (bacolate) party we covered last year here and here.

Shopsin’s from April 2002:

What does happen occasionally is that Kenny gets an idea for a dish and writes on the specials board— yes, there is a specials board—something like Indomalekian Sunrise Stew. (Kenny and his oldest son, Charlie, invented the country of Indomalekia along with its culinary traditions.) A couple of weeks later, someone finally orders Indomalekian Sunrise Stew and Kenny can’t remember what he had in mind when he thought it up. Fortunately, the customer doesn’t know, either, so Kenny just invents it again on the spot.

Here’s a 2004 article from Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, on Bush’s USDA. There’s too much in here to quote, so just read the whole thing.

And of course I would be remiss for not posting the interview that started the post off. An, no, THE epic definition of political blindness, unless of course the GOP base rallies around stuff like this.

Do You Know Where Your Turkey Comes From? – The Food Link Round Up

Homemade Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food Ice Cream Recipe

I’ve been making ice cream the last couple weeks trying out different flavors. I made Blueberry Chocolate Chip (Total Failure), Cayenne Cinnamon Chocolate Chocolate Chip (kinda success), Raspberry Chocolate Chip (kinda success), and Mint Chocolate Chip (success). Today I tried Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food and it’s great. If you like lots of junk in your ice cream (leading to more junk in your trunk), give it a shot.

I didn’t use a recipe, but I’ll try to recreate below what I did:
Start by putting 2 cups of cream and 1 cup of whole milk in a saucepan on low. Stir regularly to heat evenly without growing a skin on the cream and to avoid that heated milk taste. At the same time, whisk 2 eggs and 2/3 cups sugar for a while. Then do it for a couple minutes longer.
When the cream/milk is hot enough (you’ll know) pour it on, eh, let’s say 6 ounces of semi-sweet dark chocolate. If you want to make a different kind of chocolate ice cream, use different types of chips. Mix the cream/milk with the chocolate and stir it well so all the chocolate is melted and folded in. Pour chocolate mix into egg and sugar mix and stir well. Chill this mixture in the fridge for about 25-30 minutes, or until cool. I run the ice cream maker in the fridge to keep it extra cool, if you live in Alaska, you might consider running it outside. Put the mixture in the ice cream maker and turn it on for about 25 minutes or so. When there’s about 3 to 5 minutes left throw in chocolate chips to taste. You might want to use chopped up chocolate chunks instead. Prepare caramel and marshmallow sauce. (I used Fluff this time, and it’s great, but it gets hard in the freezer, so I’m going to check out marshmallow sauce the next time.) I folded this into the ice cream as I put it into the Tupperware, basically 2 big scoops of ice cream, one small scoop marshmallow, one drizzle caramel. Repeat until out of ice cream. Put some wax paper on top of the ice cream and sit on your hands for 2-3 hours after putting it in the freezer.
Eat a lot.

Homemade Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food Ice Cream Recipe

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 8: Sitges

Thanks for clicking on the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. There are 10 chapters total, listed at the end of this post. Check out the introduction for more information.

It was on this day that the realities of staying at a gay hotel began to set in, but only in that the realities of staying at a gay hotel are that there aren’t any women down at breakfast besides J. Earlier in the week, it was impossible to notice because we were the only ones at breakfast. Today was very hot, so why not spend the morning lounging on the beach reading trashy novels? In any case, that’s what we did until lunch. We had a smoothie at Parrots Terrace and then light sandwiches at Mostaza right next door before, uh, going back to the beach to read trashy novels for the afternoon.

Douglas at Parrots who had steered us so rightly to The Beach House on our first night in Sitges suggested Mezzanine. We weren’t AS thrilled with Mezzanine, but only because of the incredibly high bar set by The Beach House. The atmosphere was lovely, the service charming, and the tempura de gambas had eyes. The food was presented amazingly, but unfortunately, there was something missing from the taste. The chocolate cake for dessert, however, was out of this world.

tempura-de-gambas

There are 10 chapters in the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. I hope you find them useful.
Introduction
Day 1: Barcelona to Boston: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Map of where we went or wished we had.

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 8: Sitges