Recipe of the Month: Dark Chocolate Walnut Torte

November 30, 2013

Dark Chocolate Walnut Torte

Varietal: Dessert Wines (Port)

Serves 12

Fran Bigelow, founder and owner of Fran’s Chocolates, was named “one of the top ten artisan chocolatiers in the United States” by Chocolatier Magazine. With her recipe for a rich, yet airy chocolate torte, redolent with tannic, earthy walnuts and semisweet chocolate (it reminds me of a brownie on steroids!), Fran suggests pairing Port (either Tawny or Red works fine—go with your preference or what you have on hand). “Red wine is hard to pair, unless it’s aged and has very low tannins, usually an expensive one. But good if you’re just finishing a great bottle of wine after dinner.” My kind of woman!

8 ounces walnut pieces (about 1 3/4 cups)

7 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

8 large eggs, at room temperature, separated

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 recipe Dark Chocolate Ganache Glaze (Recipe follows)

1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped until soft peaks form, for serving

1. Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300°F.

2. Grease or coat a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.

3. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and lightly toast in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until they begin to give off their aroma. Allow the nuts to cool completely before proceeding.

4. Transfer half of the nuts to a food processor and pulse until finely ground, with pieces no larger than 1/16th inch. Repeat with the remaining nuts. (This should yield approximately 2 cups.)

5. Stir the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Remove when nearly melted and continue stirring until smooth. Return the bowl to the double boiler only briefly if the chocolate begins to set up.

6. In an electric mixer bowl (use a whisk attachment if available), combine the egg yolks and 7 tablespoons of the sugar. Beat on medium-high speed to combine, then scrape the sides of the bowl and increase the speed to high. Continue beating until the mixture becomes thick and pale yellow in color and the sugar has dissolved, 5 to 6 minutes more. Gently fold the walnuts into the yolk mixture.

7. In a separate clean mixing bowl, and with a clean and dry whisk or beaters, begin whipping the egg whites on medium-high speed. Increase the speed to high and allow the whites to become quite frothy, slowly adding the remaining 7 tablespoons of the sugar. Continue whipping until the peaks are stiff but not dry; they should appear glossy and smooth.

8. Gently fold the melted chocolate into the yolk mixture until well blended.

9. Lighten the yolk mixture by quickly folding in one-quarter of the whites. Then gently fold in the remaining whites in three parts. Do not overmix or the egg whites will deflate.

10. Evenly spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.

11. Transfer to a wire rack and allow the cake layer to cool at room temperature for 15 minutes. To remove from the pan, go around the edge of the cake with a thin-bladed knife, then release the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely chilled. (Once cooled, the layer can be wrapped airtight in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week prior to assembly.)

12. To assemble the cake, using a large offset spatula, thinly cover the top and sides of the cake with 1/4 cup of the glaze.

13. To finish glazing the cake, place it on a wire cooling rack positioned over a rimmed baking sheet. If the glaze becomes too firm to pour over the cake, stir gently in a double boiler over hot water until it softens enough to pour (about 90°F). Beginning 1 1/2 inches from the edge of the torte, slowly and evenly pour the glaze around the circumference of the torte layer, making sure that the sides are covered. Then pour the remaining glaze onto the center of the torte.

14. Using a metal offset spatula and working quickly, spread the glaze evenly over the top, letting the excess run down the sides.

15. Let the cake sit at room temperature until the glaze sets and becomes slightly firm, about 20 minutes. Once set, slide an offset spatula under the base of the torte, rotating the spatula to release any spots where the glaze has stuck to the rack. Carefully lift the torte and, supporting the cake’s bottom with your free hand, slide it onto a serving plate.

16. To serve, slice the cake and dollop with the whipped cream.

Dark Chocolate Ganache Glaze

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

1. In a small saucepan, heat the cream on medium-high heat until it begins to boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the finely chopped chocolate until smooth, using a rubber spatula so as not to incorporate any air. Cool the ganache, stirring occasionally until it thickens and forms ribbons off the end of the spatula, 5 to 10 minutes.


Les Dames Online Culinary, Wine, and Travel Auction!

November 25, 2013

Victoria British Columbia Horse and Buggy Christmas Holiday photo

With holiday gift-giving much on everyone’s minds right now, may I suggest an easy way to get some incredible experiences for those you love by going to the Charity Buzz website and choosing an auction item or two?

By following this Charity Buzz website link, you’ll discover 13 unique and phenomenal auction packages, live now through December 10!

The packages were put together by Chapters of Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI), a worldwide philanthropic society of professional women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage, and hospitality.

Beginning in late October, I started my one-year term as Second Vice President of LDEI, so this organization is very near and dear to my heart.

So please take a moment to have a peek at the fantastic auction items for sale.

Packages include Four Tickets to the International Pinot Noir Celebration and a $100 Gift Certificate to the Joel Palmer House in the Willamette Valley (donated by my very own Seattle Chapter); a Three-Day Napa Wine Experience for Four at Cakebread Cellars (San Francisco Chapter), and Lunch with Carla Hall and Four VIP Tickets to “The Chew” in New York City (Washington, D.C. Chapter).

So please go to Charity Buzz and start bidding today!!!

Celebrate the Holidays at the Pike Place Market

November 18, 2013

Pike place market xmas photo northwest wining and dining website link

Pike Place Market brings the magic back to the holiday season with the fun and joyful event, Magic in the Market, on Saturday, November 30. The festivities take place from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., with the Market shops and restaurants open all day.

Meet Santa and his favorite elf in front of the Pike Place Market clock and take your own family photos while also finding original stocking stuffers, specialty foods, and handcrafted gifts for everyone on your list.

Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition Teams will perform for holiday shoppers from 1 p.m. to 4:30 pm under the Market Clock.

Kids 12 and under will have fun decorating cookies made by Pike Place Bakery in the new Atrium Kitchen located on the first floor of the Economy Building from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The lighting of the 20-foot holiday tree as well the Market Swine Deer, Carrot, Strawberry, and Pear will be led by Santa with the help from Figgy Caroling teams at 5 p.m.

Event Details

What: Magic in the Market holiday celebration featuring free photos with Santa, a tree lighting ceremony, Figgy Pudding Carolers, and cookie decorating for kids.

When: Saturday, November 30, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Where: Santa, tree lighting ceremony and Figgy Carolers will be located near the Market clock and sign; cookie decorating held in the Atrium Kitchen, Economy Market Building at 1st and Pike St.

Dish of the Day: BOKA Duck and Claret Cocktail

November 11, 2013

BOKA chef peter birk northwest wining and dining website

At a  press dinner last month to celebrate the new Fall menu at BOKA Kitchen + Bar in downtown Seattle’s Hotel 1000 (just a few blocks from our condo), executive chef Peter Birk (formerly with Ray’s Boathouse and McCormick & Schmick’s) wowed the crowd with many lovely courses.

BOKA duck breast northwest wining and dining website link

This is a lousy photo due to the ever-changing rainbow of colors glowing from the wall near our table, but among his best dishes that evening was Crispy Duck Breast with Black Tea Custard, Chanterelles, and Roasted Grapes.

BOKA tea-infused martini northwest wining and dining website link

It paired perfectly not only with a Matthews Cellars Claret, but with a Black Tea Martini with Matthews Claret Mousse created by BOKA’s new bar manager and chief mixologist Cory Duffy.

Cory, who also owns Rain City Spirits (“Seattle’s Craft Vodka”), is taking the BOKA bar menu in intriguing new directions with a carefully curated collection of handcrafted, culinary-inspired cocktails.

You’ll want to try Cory’s house-made tonic water (made with Pinot Gris!) that figures “big” in the House Made (Big) Gin & Tonic.

Cory, a self-avowed “big fan of punches,” wowed the crowd with his Dark Rum Punch. It’s made from roasted figs, orange peel, brandied cherries, Dark Rum, and VSOP Cognac, among other ingredients. Full of rich, spicy flavors, the media members at our table pronounced it, “Christmas in a glass.”

You’ll want to stop by BOKA for its upcoming seasonal events, which include chef Peter’s Thanksgiving Cooking Class on November 14, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner and three Holiday Hideout Pop-Up Boutiques in December.

BOKA chef peter birk northwest wining and dining website link

Here is chef Peter at evening’s end, relieved and proud after a job well done.


Free, Interactive eCookbook Available from Visit Seattle

November 4, 2013

Fresh from seattle ecookbook cover northwest wining and dining

Visit Seattle has launched a free interactive eCookbook that highlights a range of talented chefs and signature Pacific Northwest cuisine. “Fresh From Seattle” features 26 recipes from 12 noteworthy contributing local chefs, including award winners such as Tom Douglas, Maria Hines, and Thierry Rautureau.

The 92-page eCookbook is a rich compilation of recipes, cooking and storage tips, color photos, food history, chef bios, and more.

Fresh from seattle salmon northwest wining and dining

Seattle chefs contributed original recipes, as well as personal restaurant favorites, that are designed to pique the culinary curiosity of the inspired home chef. In addition to Seattle celebrity chefs, the cookbook also features acclaimed hotel chefs.

Fresh From Seattle is available here, where it is downloadable as a PDF or you can link to Apple iTunes App Store for download. Both options are free of charge.

“Between Seattle’s creative chefs and welcoming hospitality community, we formed the perfect marriage for this project,” said Ali Daniels, Vice President, Marketing, Visit Seattle. “We are a city of gourmands, constantly exploring and finding new ways to share the inspired culinary offerings of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle’s vibrant food culture just has to be shared, and ‘Fresh From Seattle’ does just that.”

Fresh from seattle ecookbook crab cakes northwest wining and dining

“Fresh From Seattle” eCookbook contributing chefs and recipes:

Thierry Rautureau – Luc and Loulay

Northwest Wild Mushroom Salad, Toasted Hazelnut, Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Neah Bay Wild Coho Salmon with Moroccan Olive Tapenade

Skagit Valley Savory Strawberry & Red Wine Soup

Tom Douglas – Tom Douglas Restaurant Group

Tom’s Tasty Sashimi Tuna Salad with Green Onion Pancakes

Peak of the Season Crisp with Brown Sugar Oats

Etta’s Rub with Love Salmon with Grilled Shiitake Relish

Dungeness Crab Cakes

Maria Hines – Tilth, Agrodolce, Golden Beetle

Skagit River Ranch Wagyu Beef Tartare with Dijon and Grilled Romaine

Loki Fishing Vessel Seared Sockeye Salmon with Sweet Corn Salsa

Oxbow Farm Mixed Summer Squash Salad with Parmesan, Hazelnuts and Truffle Vinaigrette

Daisley Gordon – Marche, Café Campagne

Warm Potato & Salmon Roe Salad

Marché Mackerel

Pernod Mussels

Salad Marché

Sarah Lorenzen – Andaluca

Chorizo and Clam Fettuccini

Pavlova with Lemon Cream and Fresh Berries

Gavin Stephenson – The Georgian

Rooftop Honey-Smoked Salmon

The Georgian Black and White Chocolate Soufflé

Kerry Sear – ART Restaurant

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad

Grass-Baked Chicken

Sean Pals – Brella’s Restaurant & Lounge

Grilled Peach Salad with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette

Thomas Horner – Hook & Plow

Razor Clam, Local Sausage, White Bean & Kale Stew

Peter Birk – BOKA restaurant + bar

Roasted Quail with Bluebird Grain Farms Farro

Preston Hagan – Jimmy’s on First

Jimmy’s Bloody Bakon Martini

Chris Lobkovich – Bookstore Bar & Café

Fiddlehead Fern Salad