Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Sweet Weekend

I have been so busy lately with baking, classes and weekend trips that I haven't been able to blog. That means that I have a bunch of junk to write about and will be bombarding you soon with all of it, probably all at once, and in run on sentences. :) The latest trip I took was with a group of girls to Bodega Bay California, by way of Napa. It was a fantastic getaway with a lot of laughing, a fair amount of drinking, and of coarse plenty of sweets to eat.

Our first stop was something I have been wanting to do for a while, a chocolate tasting at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone just outside of Napa. The only "tasting" I am somewhat familiar with is wine tasting, and I loathe wine tasting. More than not liking the taste of wine, I detest pompous wine tasters.  I went into the chocolate tasting pessimistic, ready to be irritated by some fool who thip thip thip's the chocolate in their mouth and then says something like, "I love the bouquet... this would pair well with veal".

I am happy to report the tasting was amazing.  I thought I knew the difference between chocolates and the different processes chocolate goes though but I found out I didn't really know much. I have done my own "scientific" taste tests in my kitchen between high-end chocolate and chocolate compounds,  I have even compared brands, but I really didn't know what made them taste different other than the "quality", and price.
We pulled up a seat at the Flavor Bar and were given labeled trays of chocolate, two crackers, a cup of water and a set of head phones to watch the instructor on a large flat screen TV.  The 15 minute tasting video took us step by step cup by cup through the different tastes of chocolate from the cacao bean, nibs, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, unsweetened cocoa, bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate, and compound chocolates.  The end of the tasting was the most interesting, when we learned about the terroir. (I am using an accent in my head while writing "terroir" and I have my nose in the air) Terroir refers to the region the chocolate came from, which influences the flavor of the chocolate. It sounds pretentious, but you can really taste the differences between the Venezuelan, Ecuadorian, and Madagascan (sp?) chocolate. Each had a very distinct after taste (I am pretty sure that's not the proper term), Venezuelan (my favorite) had a fruit flavor, Madagascan was very citrusy and Ecuadorian was floral (yuck! but not bad enough for me not to eat it).

After the video was over I purchased a 8 piece box of Greystone Chocolates as a more informed connoisseur :) The chocolates I bought were just OK, but with my all time favorite chocolates just down the highway at Woodhouse, I probably won't be buying any of these chocolates again. The chocolate tasting on the other hand, I would do again in a heart beat.

We made one more stop on our way to the coast at the Korbel Champagne Cellars. I am not the right person to review champagnes, I am sure they would be delicious in a cupcake:)

When we reached Bodega Bay we almost immediately headed to the cutest shop in town, Patrick's Taffy Shop. Love it! How could you not love the ocean weathered pink and white striped candy shop. The shop is literally filled with taffy and a few shelves of retro candies too. I probably wouldn't care if it was filled with fish, I would still loiter in front of the shop because it is just so damn cute.

It was such a fun trip and I can't wait to do it again soon.

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