Asian Avocado and Smoked Salmon Sandwiches and iPad2 Giveaway!

I’ll admit it – I love traditional Superbowl party food.

I love chili as much as the next gal. I can eat a hoagie with the best of them, and I have been known to down enough wings to require a gallon of blue cheese dressing and a bottle of Pepto Bismol.

But sometimes, just occasionally, I dream of a Superbowl where I don’t have to unbutton the top of my jeans, or where I’m not totally covered in BBQ sauce by the first commercial break. That’s pretty much where the inspiration for these tea sandwiches came from. I needed to know that there would be something in this year’s Superbowl fare that would be a little break from the fried mozzarella sticks but that would still be hearty and tasty enough to tempt all the people at the party who believe that anything that doesn’t include red meat is blasphemous.

If you can get your hands on some hot smoked salmon, be sure to use some here. It is tender but with good heft and a truly smoky taste that compliments the buttery avocado. If not, don’t worry – regular smoked salmon or lox works great, too. And don’t skimp on the ponzu – this citrusy, salty, sauce totally elevates the dish and drives home the Asian flavors.

Asian Avocado and Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches

 Ingredients:

1 loaf sourdough bread, sliced and crusts cut off
2 avocados from Mexico, halved, pitted, and diced
1.5. ponzu sauce
1/3 cup cilantro, cleaned and chopped
1 tsp. sambal olek or Asian chile sauce
1 lb. hot or cold smoked salmon, thinly sliced
1 lb. cream cheese, room temperature
3 scallions, diced

1. Combine the cream cheese, scallions, and cilantro. Set aside.

2. Combine the avocados, ponzu, and sambal olek. Taste for flavors – you may need more ponzu for salt or sambal olek for heat. Remember, though, the smoked salmon is salty, so you won’t want to overdo it here.

3. Spread the cream cheese on one slice of bread.

4. Layer the salmon on top…

5. Followed by the avocado.

6. Top with the other slice of bread, cut sandwich in half, and serve.

This sandwich is so good it may just make you forget that the team you hate just made a touchdown. Sourdough bread adds a tang that echoes the tart ponzu sauce. The herbed cream cheese provides a smooth, rich counterpart to the meaty smoked salmon and the fiery sambal olek. And the avocados are really the crowning touch to this sandwich. They are so buttery, so luxurious, so undeniably craveable that they will have you licking your fingers and tucking into another sandwich in no time.

Of course, I happen to be working with Avocados from Mexico , which is where this sponsored post originated. And, lucky for you…they are hosting an incredible giveaway!

If you enter the Game Day Package Sweepstakes, you are eligible to win one of six prize packages, each including…

16 GB iPad2 and a $100 gift card compliments of AFM
5-speed hand blender from KitchenAid
Cloth tortilla warmer, lemon/lime squeezer, and tortilla press from IMUSA
Signed Muy Bueno Cookbook

Just enter to win via Fritos and Foie Gras on the Avocados from Mexico website, using this link! It is valid until 11:59 PM, Sunday, February 3.

For another opportunity to win, check out Muy Bueno Cookbook and enter via her link. Only entries made on the Avocados From Mexico site via the listed link are eligible for this totally awesome giveaway, so be sure to enter through there!

The winner of my Sweepstakes package will be announced by 9 AM the morning after Superbowl Sunday. Unlike most giveaways on this blog, you can’t comment here as an entry, you must use the provided link. Also, only residents of the US are eligible to enter.

It’s avocados…it’s a giveaway…it’s a way to avoid total gastric reflux this Superbowl Sunday. If this doesn’t sound swell, I just don’t know what does.

Except of course, eating another one of these insanely tasty sandwiches.

Disclaimer: This sponsored post is part of the Avocados from Mexico – Game Day Sweepstakes. This is a working partnership with Avocados from Mexico and Muy Bueno Cookbook.

Travel and Leisure Global Bazaar Giveaway!

What’s the last time someone tried to give you free tickets around the world?

Never, right?

Well, how about the next best thing?

via

This year, Travel and Leisure magazine is taking over the Lexington Armory from September 28-September 30 for it’s Global Bazaar.

This is a travel show times ten.

On steroids.

Plus hula dancers and cooking demonstrations.

This 3 day festival is going to be a gastronomic and travel extravaganza, with days for families, a night with parties, and more. Check out this schedule:

Friday, Sept. 28

8PM-11PM
Session I: Kick-Off Party

via

*Enjoy food from chefs like Jose Andres, Scott Conant, and Michael White. Visit global food trucks with authentic dishes from around the world, and sample all sorts of cocktails (by such high end companies as Patron Tequila) and wines(i.e., Layer Cake vineyards). As you dine, enjoy live fire eaters and belly dancing performances, and shop to your heart’s content from artisans sourced from Morocco, Sri Lanka, and other exotic locales – you won’t find this stuff at Duane Reade! Don’t miss hanging out in the Global Sky Club lounge by Delta and talking to representatives from the Easter Islands, and Taj Hotels.*

Saturday, Sept. 29

1PM-5PM
Session II: Global Bazaar by Day

More of the same…

8PM11PM
Session III: Global Bazaar at Night

…and you know you are going to want more of those Patron cocktails.

via

Sunday, Sept. 30
11AM-3PM
Session IV: Tribe Family Opening

This one is all for the kids! No booze, no age restrictions (you must be at least 21 to attend the other sessions), and lots of interactive installations. Dance, sing, eat, and have fun with the little ones!

Of course, these tickets are rather pricey – about $125 per event. That includes all food, booze, and entertainment, but hey, it is still expensive. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go to any or all events for free?

YOUR WISH IS GRANTED

(Darn it, wish I had a little genie costume for moments like that!)

via

I have 2 sets of VIP All-Access tickets to give away for the event. That means you get into any event, all weekend, for FREE!!!

Just leave a comment in the comment section, and you could be the winner of 2 tickets! The winner will be chosen at random this Sunday at 8 pm, and will be announced MOnday, September 24.

Good Luck!

*Disclaimer: I have partnered with Travel and Leisure to provide this giveaway. I am attending the event for free, but am not paid for my participation.*

Italian Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes.

Everyone loves them, right? Everyone that is…except for me. I mean, I love chili. I love tacos. I love burgers. The problem is that Sloppy Joes are always too sweet. Beef cloaked in a sweet ketchup-y sauce turns out flat and one-dimensional.

Then, when Kitchen Play asked me to develop an outdoor-friendly recipe for Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend as part of their 30 Days of Outdoor Dining celebration, it got me thinking.

This cheese, made with Parmesan, Asiago, and Romano, has enough American cheese to make it perfect for melting enough Italian cheeses to give it sharpness and depth. This gave birth to Italian Sloppy Joes. Ground pork, Marsala wine, and roasted tomatoes combine for a totally new take on these sandwiches. They are so sloppy that they really should be eaten out of doors and can be finished on the grill or an indoor oven.

Best of all, the sandwich really highlights the tangy taste and smooth melting texture of the cheese.

Italian Sloppy Joes

Ingredients:

2 lbs. ground pork
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup Marsala wine
1/4 cup cream or whole milk
3 cups fresh spinach, washed
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 Tbsp. each cleaned and chopped rosemary, sage, and basil
Salt and pepper to taste
8 slices Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend cheese
8 sun-dried or oven dried tomatoes (re-hydrated in boiling water, if they are very tough)
8 hamburger buns or sandwich rolls, sliced

1. Put the onion and garlic in a large pan with the olive oil over medium heat. In about 10 minutes, the onions should be translucent and start to give off a deep, savory scent.

2. Add the herbs and for an additional 2 – 3 minutes, or until the herbs have wilted.

3. Add the pork and cook until the pork has become totally cooked through, with no pink color.

Some juices will collect at the bottom of the pan. Let them evaporate rather than draining them, because these juices enhance the flavor of the meat. This will take about 10 minutes.

4. Add the spinach and move it around for a minute or so until it wilts.

5. Add the wine, cream, and tomato paste. Then, taste for salt and pepper.

7. Put meat on top of one half of the roll…

with a tomato on top…

and finish with a slice of cheese.

8. Place in the broiler or under a grill, covered, until cheese is gooey and melted.

9. Top with remaining half of roll, and serve.

The pork’s natural sweetness blends with the fragrant Marsala wine, woodsy herbs, and fresh spinach to create a sophisticated ragu. Yet, the tomato paste and touch of cream ensures that it is familiar enough that kids will not be scared to try itand most likely, love it! Soft rolls soak up the meaty juices, and the sun-dried tomatoes provide a salty punch. The crown of glory here is the Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend cheese - melty and stretchy, providing a gooey texture and a nutty, tangy taste. These are perfect with homemade potato chips and a pile of napkins. Ketchup can wait for burgers.

For the chance to try  Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend, just read below:
Be sure to check Kitchen PLAY every day for the next fabulous recipe featuring new LAND O LAKES® 4 Cheese Italian Blend or LAND O LAKES® Deli American Cheese. Then, get in on the fun by leaving a comment with your own “30 Days of Outdoor Dining” tip for dining al fresco this summer. If you do, you’ll be entered to win a lovely grilling prize pack, including one grilling spatula, one marinade brush, one set of tongs and one grill scraper. Kitchen PLAY will be giving away four prizes total, one each week! Please visit Kitchen PLAY for sweepstakes guidelines.

Disclosure Statement
*Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Land O’Lakes as part of the Kitchen PLAY SideCar series. All
opinions given are my own.

Hidden Valley New Ranch and Salsa Ranch Dip Giveaway!

I was the weirdest kid on the planet. My favorite actress was Bette Davis, the only class I ever tried to skip was P.E., and I had a collection of soaps (that’s right…I collected fancy soaps like most kids collect baseball cards).

Even weirder…I didn’t like ranch dressing. While most kids were gleefully dipping pizza crusts (it’s a Southern California thing), it was all I could do not to gag. It wasn’t the taste…it was the texture. The stuff just looked putrid to me – it was too runny, like it was just white colored water. Don’t even THINK that I would ever use it to top vegetables!

Luckily, the Hidden Valley people heard my pleas.

I was invited to Pop Burger try the new versions of their ranch dressing, made specifically for dipping and topping. No more white water, no more unsightly puddles of ranch pooling all over the plate, and the topping itself lost that saccharine aftertaste.

In the forefront is the regular ranch topping. Tangy, fragrant with garlic, and far more savory than its previous incarnation. The salsa ranch is even better – slightly spicy with even more garlic flavor and just a bit spicy – more zest than real heat. I also love how the salsa ranch is totally smooth – no stray bits of bell pepper peel to disturb the homogenous texture.

 French fries (crispy and liberally salted) were delicious in the plain ranch topping. Kind of like dipping them in mayonnaise, but with an herby quality that really enhanced the taste of the potato.

The mini burgers (overcooked, but still soft and tasty) topped with the salsa ranch are also great – they get a delicious zip and tang from the dressing, which stays on the burger without dripping too much or getting too watered down.

This actually changed my view of ranch. The texture has so much to do with it.

(That’s what she said)

I actually really loved the way the ranch tastes -its tangy and creamy qualities both cuts through and compliments heavy food like burgers and fries. It is perfect for people who don’t like blue cheese dressing, because it has the same thick texture with none of the blue cheese funk. I could absolutely see using this with onion rings, buffalo wings, as a dip for a great grilled cheese, and even – yes – as a dip for crudites.

Now you can try it, too! Simply leave a comment below, and you will be entered for a chance to win one bottle each of Original and Salsa Ranch toppings for yourself!

If you never liked ranch dressing, you really have to try this stuff. And if you were a weird kid too…well, of course you were. You’re reading this blog, after all!

Winners will be announced on Friday, April 6!

Pop Burger on Urbanspoon

*I attended a press sponsored event. I was not paid or required to to write about the product, and my opinions are my own and, I feel, unbiased.*

Jalapeno Popper Monkey Bread and Jarlsberg Dip Giveaway

When Kitchen Play contacted me about taking part in 29 Ways to Leap into Jarlsberg Dip, I was good to go. Delicious Jarlsberg cheese, a gieveaway for my readers, and the chance to create a delicious, totally bad-for-you recipe? What about that DOESN’T sound amazing.
The only thing was…what should I make? A decadent pasta? An elegant canape with smoked salmon? Some sort of french fry, poutine-meets-disco-fries dish?
Well, as fate would have it, I was short on time this week. Like, munchkin short on time this week. I needed a recipe that was incredibly easy, foolproof, and could be made in 35 minutes from start to finish. And of course, because it’s me, it needed a hefty dose of something spicy. And with that, I give you
Jarlsberg Jalapeno Popper Monkey Bread

Ingredients:
1 container Jarlsberg Dip
2 containers refrigerator biscuits
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 jalapenos, diced (if you want to be really evil, throw a couple of diced birds eye chiles in there in place of the jalapenos)
4 Tbs. butter, melted

 1) Put the diced chiles in a medium sized bowl. Also, preheat the oven to 350 F.

 2) Add the bacon,

 and the cheese,

 and mix well to combine.

 3) Take your biscuits from the tin and cut each biscuit into two pieces.

 4) Put a half teaspoon sized dollop in each biscuit, and

 roll,

 crimp,

swirl,

 pinch,

 or flatten your package so the cheese mixture is contained inside the dough. I found it helpful to wet the seams with water to ensure that they stay closed. It doesn’t matter what the shape of the dough is – a dumpling, a roll, a squishy package…whatever. Be aware that if a little bit of cheese peeks out, it isn’t the end of the world. Just do your best.

 This is what you will end up with – a huge hodge podge of shapes.

 5) Take each roll, dunk it in the melted butter, and…

 put them in a loaf or bundt pan, piling them in closely to each other. They all have to be touching each other so they can bake together into one solid loaf.

 6) Put the loaf into the oven for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

 7) Wait as long as you can before pulling off tuft after tuft, and serve.

This is just great. Buttery morsels of fluffy biscuit dough surrounding creamy, melty Jarlsberg cheese dip, crunchy bacon, and fiery notes of fresh chiles. The beauty of this is that the dip makes the cheese so melty, creamy, and luscious – a direct counterpart to that salty bacon and hot spikes of jalapeno (or, if you are like me, hotter) chile peppers. 
This would be great dipped in salsa or sour cream and chive dip but it was fantastic on its own. For game day, boys night in, or a quick snack before heading out on the town, this can’t be beat for convenience and indulgence. 
And speaking of indulgence…why not indulge yourself in this 
GIVEAWAY!:
Jarlsberg USA is holding a giveaway on their Facebook page for a fantastic tote filled with all sorts of Jarlsberg cheese products, including:
Jarlsberg Lite Cheese
 Jarlsberg Cheese Dip
Snofrisk (a Norwegian style cream cheese)
crispbreads
honey crèmes
honey vinegar.
So head on over to our facebook page to enter. Then stay tuned to Kitchen PLAY for all “29 Ways to Leap Into Jarlsberg Dip.”

Because, really…don’t you need some Jalapeno Popper Monkey Bread of your own?
Thought so. 

Green and Black’s Chocolate Giveaway

It’s good to have friends in high places. That’s why I keep Feisty Foodie close…well, also because she appreciates a good “that’s what she said” joke as much as I do.
Really, we are quite obnoxious to be around. 
 Anyway, when she invited me to a Green and Black’s event, I was beyond psyched. I have had Green and Black’s organic chocolate before, and I commend the company’s dedication to fair prices to the farmers who grow the beans. 
 Also, the chocolate is outstanding. The White Chocolate is amazingly thick and complex – not sickeningly sweet like so many white chocolates are. The Mayan Gold is gently spicy with cinnamon, and the Salted Peanut Milk Chocolate is a Snickers bar gone deluxe. 
 What I didn’t know is that you can use Greens and Blacks to cook. Wouldn’t that be like using caviar in a tuna fish sandwich?
Actually, no. As delicious as the chocolate is for eating plain, it is formulated for baking as well. The flavors enhance and intensifiy in cookies, cakes, and such. The Cherry Chocolate bar would be so great in a bread pudding. 
 When we sat down to try our hands at making tiramisu, we got to see how well the chocolate works with other ingredients. The Mayan Gold was just outstanding with the creamy mascarpone, bitter espresso, and tangy madeira. 
Too bad you couldn’t try the tiramisu. It was really great. 
Of course…you CAN try Green and Black’s!
The company has graciously donated a sampler box of delicious chocolates. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment in the comments section. The winner will be announced Monday, January 23!
In the meantime, here is my musical tribute to some of the best chocolate I have ever tasted…

Asian Sandwich Slaw and Giveaway Winners!

Some people like potato chips in their sandwiches. I’m a fan of coleslaw in mine. Nothing like big pile of creamy coleslaw on a spicy pastrami sandwich.
Unless of course, it’s a tangy Asian coleslaw on a light fish or meat sandwich. This isn’t a salad to serve on its own. This is a slaw specifically engineered for a sandwich. It is not so spiced that it takes away from the main event, yet provides the perfect sour tang to bring brightness to a meal between bread. And it couldn’t be easier to make:
Asian Sandwich Slaw

Ingredients:
rice vinegar, to cover vegetables
sugar, to taste
cilantro
1 onion, thinly sliced
juice and zest of 1 lime
3 carrots, grated
1 English cucumber, sliced into thin strips

 1) Combine all the ingredients. Let it sit for half an hour, then taste to see if you need more sugar. Um…that’s it. Really…that’s it. No salt, no pepper, no cooking. The rice vinegar effectively cooks the vegetables, rendering the onions sweet and mellow and turning the carrots savory and tangy.

 Make sure you strain the slaw before you serve it on your burgers or sandwich.

Oh, you want to know what kind of sandwiches? Well, you will have to wait until tomorrow to get the recipe for these Faux Saigon Subs. They are meaty, fragrant, and benefit from the refreshing cool tang of this simple salad. 
I can’t give away all my secrets at once. 
In the meanwhile, how about the winners of the giveaway?
Jookie, you have won $50 to Pickle Me Pete!
Kyle, you have won $50 to Mmm…Enfes! Please email me your mailing addresses so I can get you your gift certificates, or you may pick up your certificates in person!

2011 Epic Fails and Pickle and Pastry Giveaway

As the last post of 2011, I present to you a gallery of the year’s biggest culinary failures. Some you have seen, most you have not. This list will serve as a reminder to me in 2012, every time I try to take a picture with flash or eat at a Todd English restaurant, that I have done that before, and that it just doesn’t work.  If you read to the end of the post, you may receive a handsome reward…Without further ado, and in no particular order:
11 Epic Fails of 2011
1) Whole wheat pizza dough
It tastes like cardboard at a pizzeria and it tastes like cardboard at home. I do, however, love the Emile Henry pizza stone on which I baked it!
2) Impatiece when making root beer floats 
Or cupcakes. Or meatballs. Basically, I just need to try to be more patient. Otherwise, the soda will always run over the edge of the proverbial cup. 
3) Meatopia 2011
Actually, this was great. The problem was that it was on the hottest day of the year and after I ingested about half my body weight in roasted pork, beef, and offal, I had to go home and lie with a Buddha belly on my couch for 3 hours. All I could eat the next day was miso soup. I have never, never, NEVER been so food-ed out in my life.
4) Every single picture I took at Alta
No more need be said.
5) That time I tried to make matzoh brie in a stockpot instead of a skillet
The whole thing steamed instead of sauteed and became something akin to regurgitated baby food. So shapeless and insipid that even a heavy dose of Sriracha could not save it.
6) My entire meal at The Plaza Food Hall
 Overpriced, under served, mediocre…good Lord, Todd English, you should be ashamed of yourself!
7) This Tunisian pastry 
It looked like a beautiful glazed donut but was instead filled with must have been tobacco-infused rancid honey. If you pass by a Tunisian bakery in the Latin Quarter of Paris, just ignore it!
8) Tomato vinaigrette for a summer salad
Doesn’t it look just like tomato paste? That’s what it tasted like, too. 
9) Banana pudding from Donna Belle’s Bakeshop
 All the things here looked so delicious. So why did I choose the one item that tasted like absolutely nothing. Not sweet, not sour, not rich, not tart…literally, it was like I was eating air. Fatty, cholesterol-ruining air. 
10) Jack cheese-jalapeno bread
This pretty much sucked. The bread was leaden on the outside, gluey on the inside. It was so bad I gagged in the sink. 
That’s what she said.
11) Frozen Mango and Dulce de Leche Ice cream
Well, actually, this was pretty good. Great actually. I just wanted to end on a high note. 
And what better high note than with TWO gift certificates to give away to the Bryant Park Holiday Shops? I am giving away, courtesy of The Blaq Group:
 $50 to Pickle Me Pete (the habanero pickles were so hot that they actually made me cry)
and
 $50 to Mmm…Enfes (A Turkish food emporium with all sorts of delicious treats and sweets). 
There will be two winners of this giveaway, which you can enter just by leaving a comment on the comment section!
The only stipulation is that you must be able to use your gift certificate by January 8th when the shops close. So, if you are in the NYC area, leave a comment for a chance to win some awesome pickles or sweet Turkish treats! Winners will be chosen randomly and announced Monday, January 2!
Good luck and happy new year!

La Maison du Chocolat Review and Giveaway!

There are very few reasons that you would not like this post:
1)You don’t like chocolate.
2)You don’t like giveaways.
3)You don’t read English.
As long as none of those statements apply to you, read on and prepare to drool.
When La Maison Du Chocolat invited me for a press tasting, of course I went…who wouldn’t want to go eat chocolate all afternoon? La Maison Du Chocolat was founded in the 1970′s and its owner is credited with inventing the ganache found in macarons. It specializes in high end chocolates and macarons, all of which are made in Paris and shipped to the NYC locations several times a week.
Basically, these chocolates have more pedigree than I do.
Which explains why, when I entered the small, exquisitely appointed shop in Rockefeller center, I started to feel intimidated. By the candy. Who the hell is intimidated by candy?
The tasting started with the limited edition summer chocolates, called Chiberta. It is named after the Basque city, near the border of Spain, where La Maison du Chocolat’s founder was born.
Each summer there are different special edition chocolates with different themes. Get it while you can, because once these babies are gone, they won’t ever return.
They are all beautiful to look at, but, come on…I was here for the taste, and you all know it.
*All printing in bold from La Maison du Chocolat Website*
Eztia (Honey in Basque), milk chocolate ganache flavoured with two Basque honeys: the sweet 
wildflower honey, and the more robust and intense chestnut honey from the mountains.

The first bite of Maison du Chocolat let me know I was in for a treat. At first this was creamy, smooth and sweet – not unlike milk chocolate. But the texture on top was crisp and the ganache inside was somewhere between frosting and fudge, at once rich and delicate. As I let the chocolate dissolve on my tongue, the sugary, viscous taste and texture of honey shone through. As someone who is not generally a honey fan, I can say that this pairing was genius - the high quality chocolate used tempered the honey’s natural sweetness, and they honey gave an incredible texture to this truffle-like chocolate.
Txokolate Iluna (“Somber chocolate” in Basque), plain dark chocolate ganache, with a smoky, robust character.
This is for the person who likes wines red, cigars Cuban and chocolate dark. With a low sugar and butter content, this chocolate had an almost meaty flavor to it – incredibly complex with tastes of berries when I first bit into it, and an espresso-like bitterness as it dissolved on my tongue.
 Praline Macaron, dark chocolate praline, very silky, 100% almond with crunchy slivers of chocolate macarons.
No Almond Joy ever tasted this good, that I can tell you. This was the most candy-like of the confections I sampled, with smooth and sweet ganache sprinkled with shards of almond and crunchy, sweet macaron that resulted in a very “user friendly” treat. This was like a cross between a Nestle Crunch bar and an Almond Joy. And it was delightful.
Espeletako Piperra (Espelette pepper in Basque), dark chocolate ganache blended with the sweetness of the red pepper, accented with the Espelette pepper.
I was prepared not to like this. Don’t like chili and chocolate. I have tried it several times before, and it always tastes painful, savory or just plain…weird.
This TOTALLY changed my mind. The chocolate really worked with the chili here. They used a very mild chili, which had just enough heat to brighten up the rich, dark ganache and make it seem citrusy and lighter than usual. There was a touch of fruitiness to it that also worked well here. At first, the taste was solely of the dark chocolate, and then the fruitiness, then., just at the finish, the slight amount of heat came through. Not enough to make your eyes water, but barely enough to make you sit up and say “did I just eat chili and chocolate? And LIKE it?”
And, yes. You did. 
Almond Paste with Patxaran, almond paste enhanced with the fruity flavours of anise and 
blackthorn berry of the traditional Patxaran liqueur, enrobed in dark chocolate.
Here it is. The reason I came. Perhaps the reason I was BORN. Hearty, savory almonds ground into a sweet, marzipan-like paste that was amplified by the earthy and fragrant taste of the liqueur. This was basically the best marzipan I have ever tasted: Smooth, rich, not cloyingly sweet. The dark chocolate paired with it tempered the sweetness of the paste and made it a winner.
And yes…yes you did. 
By the time we got to the macarons, I was over feeling intimidated. I realized that these chocolates loved me like I loved them. 
I had an especially deep relationship with the passion fruit macaroon, whose tart acidity blended incredibly well with the sweet chocolate ganache.  The crisp, airy cookies gave way to a pleasantly sticky middle of the cookie and finally the sweet, velvety ganache. These are supposed to last for about 3 days if you gbuy some, but these didn’t last 3 minutes on the table. The taste was bright but rich at the same time.
You know..like I like my men.
And speaking of men…the Madison store hosts all sorts of chocolate tastings and events, which I think would be an amazing bridal party idea. You could do the pairing with tea, but you might as well go all out and do the chocolate and champagne pairing.
I mean, I’m not coming if there isn’t booze.
The Pistachio was no slouch either. The natural saltiness of the nut juxtaposed the ganache perfectly.

Maracuja cake*

 
 
A veritable toast to exotic flavours, the Maracuja cake has a coconut dacquoise biscuit with a banana, passion fruit, coconut and lime cremeux associated with the silkiness of chocolate mousse.
Yeah…what more can be said about this? It is a moist sponge cake, soaked through with the tartness of passion fruit, the creaminess of bananas, the acidity of lime and the richness of coconut. Then, it is layered with milky, creamy chocolate mouse, before it is laid on a crispy coconut meringue base and topped with a fudge-like layer of icing.
I mean…if that does not sound like a party to you then…well, I just don’t want to go to any of your parties.
Chocolate sorbet. But not like other chocolate sorbets you have had, where every bite just reminds you of the creamy treat you really wanted but didn’t get.
This is better than most chocolate ice creams I have had. Smooth, no iciness, with an airy texture that belies its deep, intense, chocolaty taste. I would get this in a heartbeat, and you can get it, in individual cups in any of their stores.
Oh, but you don’t live near a store?
Well, then, I guess I will…
just have to give you a chance to win a GIVEAWAY here!
The winner will get a box of beautiful La Maison du Chocolat Chocolates!
These chocolates probably cost more than your college education and will definitely make you twice as happy.
Just leave a comment below for a chance to win. I will randomly choose a winner next week from the commenters. 
And if you are in town…head over to this amazing store. It is expensive. It is in Midtown. It is even a bit…dare I say…intimidating?
But, you get what you pay for. And here, you get the best chocolates I have had in America.
I said it and I meant it.
In fact, I meant it so much…I might just have to sing about it…
Now, leave a comment to enter this giveaway!
*Note: My tasting was paid for by the store.  I was not paid or required to write a review, and my opinions are my own and, I feel, impartial.*

Philadelphia Food Giveaway and Music Video!

Alright, enough with the niceties, people! Let’s just jump right into this post: 
The Philadelphia Tourism Council sent me this AWESOME package of locally made and grown foods to try! I mean, a package of Tastykakes this ain’t. These are foods and products from artisans who use organic, natural and/or local ingredients to make food the way that it should taste: simple and showcasing the perfection of its raw ingredients. 
 The pasta from Severino and Stepped in What tomato sauce, which is made with sustainable farming practices. 
 The rigatoni were exemplary – once again reminding me how you get what you pay for. This was nothing like the limp, overly doughy pasta I often buy for $1 on clearance. This was hearty but not doughy, tender but not gluey, and actually TASTED like something. It was really pretty great on its own, even before the sauce.
 Which was not like a standard tomato sauce. Far sweeter and purely tomato tasting than regular sauce, I personally missed the zip of oregano and spice of red pepper flakes. For me, it was just too sweet, bordering on ketchup-y. But my mother, who has a much bigger sweet tooth than I, LOVED this and inhaled it!
 This Maidenhead Cheese, from Cherry Grove farm was much more up my alley. Nutty and slightly creamy, like Gouda, it also had the tang of cheddar. Really perfect paired with pears and honey mustard on a sandwich or served with candied apricots and cherries for dessert.
Or just eaten plain…Whatevs. 
The best part of this package was that it is the subject of my first Fritos and Foie Gras Giveaway! Just leave a comment below and you could be the lucky recipient of:
1 jar Tait Farm Blackberry Jam AND
1 bar John &Kira’s Mighty Mint Urban Garden Chocolate Bar
I hope you all appreciate that I did NOT eat that chocolate bar even though I LOVE mint and chocolate. What can I say, I’m a giver.
So, leave a comment! The winner will be announced next week!
Also…here is my personal thanks to the Philadelphia Tourism Board, via a little someone I like to call Miss Katy Perry: