New Cordials: Pear, Apricot, Current, yum!

I have made new cordials in both dark (Arriba 72%) and milk (Criolait 38%) chocolate. These are new flavors.

Currents and Rum, or as I like to call it Rum Raisins with little raisins. We could call this Drunk Sultanas, too. But strictly this are Zante Currents and Dark Myer’s Rum.

I also made Pear and Poire William. This is amazingly good.

I also made Apricot and Grand Marnier and Apricot with Irish Mist. Where as I love Grand Marnier I must say that Irish Mist with the Apricot is UNBELIEVABLY good. I made them and I can’t believe that these combinations are so good. I’ll just have to take it on faith but you wont because you can buy them right now. I just made a VERY SMALL amount of these. First come first served and then I’ll make more.

I you love my Cherry Cordials, and I know you do, you will absolutely LOVE these new cordials. Yum. Order now. 518 966 5219. The website is coming along. Sigh. I’ll get it done soon. This Tuesday, we’ll set up for photography. Soon. Pictures will come. Oh, and these look like the cherry cordials.

Laura Cater-Woods: Photo Op

And here she is, the maestra herself:

Having a professional improvement coaching seminar:

And everyone having a wonderful time, they loved this class. Too bad you couldn’t make it. Unfortunately, I don’t have any at table. Enjoy.

Recipe: Christmas Eggnog at the Greenville Arms 1889 Inn

Here it is, it’s very simple. This recipe make about 5 or 6 drinks, depending on how much you give each person. It’s sweet and you may want to cut the sugar in half, but try it like this and you’ll agree that this is the best eggnog you’ve ever had.

See, even Hudson is begging for some. Don’t give it to your puppy. It’s too strong.

Separate 5 eggs.

Mix the 5 egg yolks first with almost a cup of dark rum, I usually use a scant cup, about 9/10ths. I let that sit to “cook”.

Then I take the whites and put in two heaping table spoons of powdered sugar and a whip to hard peaks. Usually, I start whipping the whites and then close to the end add the sugar.

Next, I add 4 heaping table spoons of powdered sugar and a pinch of white sea salt to the yolk mixture. (This year I used the salt we were given in Austria at the great Edel Beisel. Nice.) I whip that in and then add a cup of heavy (38-40%) cream. I whisk this up.

Next, gently fold in the whites. Remember, you don’t want to over whip the whites and at this stage you must fold in the whites to preserve the fluffiness of the drink.

Serve with a pinch of mace on top. I like mace better than nutmeg because it is more pungent. But you can use nutmeg, freshly ground if you got it. It’s hard to find mace unground. But, if you want it in blade form, here it is at my favorite Savory Spice Shop. Tell them Chef Mark sent you. It’s hard to grind but it you’re the type that grates their own nutmeg, then have at it and enjoy.

Don’t forget, these are raw eggs. So, in the case of kids, invalids or other people with health problems, best to buy the already pasteurized eggs.

See, it knocked my Mom for a loop. She’ll tell you because it’s strong.

Bree is done eating and now it’s time for bed. God natt och God Jul.

OK, OK. So we’re drinking my fantastic hot chocolate. But it’s close enough. ๐Ÿ˜‰

And so ends a wonderful semi-Swedish Christmas

and not a creature is stirring, except my dog Hudson

and soon my sweet Bree-girl. We have just finished watching Fanny och Alexander (Fanny and Alexander), the theatrical version. What I’d like to do is get the TV release which is two hours longer, or at least that’s what I remember. This, to me, is Ingmar Bergman’s finest movie.

What we do is, on Christmas Eve, we get our tree and then decorate it while I make a terrific eggnog.

I usually make pastries and such to have with the eggnog and we also roast chestnuts that contrast with the creamy and flaky pastries.
This year, I spent my time in the kitchen making my new hot chocolate drink mix. For the grand opening, someone had my hot chocolate and wanted the mix. I didn’t have a mix, I made it directly from melted chocolate. However, that wont do. You can’t sell the chocolate, as it were, since it’s a blend, and I can’t sell a liter of hot chocolate to go, too difficult. So, I spent yesterday formulating the hot chocolate. It came out great, though we didn’t have that this morning. Let me explain.

I was too tired to bake, so we had dinner at the Brasserie, a local restaurant. Nice. I brought Terri, the owner, some of my hot chocolate mix, both the regular version and my special, lightly spiced version.

Kim got me an iPod Nano so I can listen to my music when I commute to New Jersey. I got her a chocolatiere with cups, beautiful porcelain, so that we could enjoy the occasional cup of hot chocolate in style. They are Limoges. I also wanted to see what these chocolatieres were like. Plus Kim got the Stanly Maltzman painting for Christmas and her birthday for at least another few years. ๐Ÿ˜‰ My mom got us a beautiful stain glass in a frame. Created by Frank Lloyd Wright. Beautiful. We got her a trip to NYC and some cards. My brother John lives in Brooklyn so she was able to visit him before Christmas. I also got a gift card to Barnes and Noble, my favorite bookstore from Kim’s Mom. Thanks.

After we decorate the tree, a live one that we usually get from a neighbor. She’s trying to clear her land and charges us $20 to cut down a tree off of her property. This year we went to a lot. They charged us $35 for a fantastic tree, very tall and beautifully shaped, about 8 feet tall. Sadly, one string of lights gave out. We’ll have to buy new ones. We’re down to only two strands.

Then, on Christmas, after Kim made muffins and a nice breakfast basket for our guests, yes we had one couple, a newly wedded couple. It was very sweet having them stay in the cottage. We’re open year round, though in the winter we restrict it to mostly the holidays and the weekends. This IS our relaxing time, after all.

Hudson is still eating. He’s a silly puppy.

We breakfasted on the muffins and had espresso. I’m still thinking of opening a cafe. After that, we watched James Bond, Dr. No. What we normally do is watch all the Jame Bond movies, from Dr. No through Her Majesty’s Secret Service and end with the last one Sean Connery did, the non-Albert Broccoli production. I just love these movies and Kim does, too. Then on Christmas, we watch Fanny and Alexander, a 5-6 hour undertaking. My mom loved the movie. Kim likes it, too but she knitted through all of it. It’s hard to follow if you don’t speak Swedish or read the subtitles. We do this every year.

And now, I’m in charge of our sweet puppies. Hudson is calling, it’s time he went back out again and then to bed. We’re all tired.

Merry Christmas.

Recipe: Asafoetida and Steak, who would’a thunk it?

Well, the Worstershuster, ah, wostershire, Ah forget it. Apparently the asafoetida in Worcestershire does not compensate for the cholesterol in a steak. Bad news. However, used directly on a steak with some smoked sea salt and black pepper is a combination made in, OK, I’ll say it, heaven. No surprise. If garlic and steak is good, then asafoetida would be a good bet. It is.

I used it this year on chicken and right now I’m eating it on steak with a very nice cab (Charles Krug 2004). I was making my Milk Cherry Cordials and, as one would suspect, that also goes very nicely with the cab. I assume the dark would go as well. Haven’t tried it but I’m a bettin’ man and I’m willing to take that bet.

Getting Reservations for the French Laundry by Phone

It isn’t impossible to get reservations at the famed French Laundry by phone, no matter what some people say. I’ve gone four times and each time was by phone. I just called exactly two months in advance, it used to be one, to the second and voila, I have reservations.

Though, I must say, this guy does have a system. Give it a shot. It can’t hurt.

After thinking about our visit to the French Laundry some more, I realise that part of our expectations was that it would be like it was 10 years ago. It’s moved on and in our minds, we have not. On the other hand, I could have gotten this same experience at Tru in Chicago. That is to say, the model is similar. It felt like we were at Tru rather than the French Laundry. So, I guess we’ll have to go back and retry it sometime in the future. Of course, we’ll be paying for this visit for the next 6 months. So, how about in five years? Check back then.

BTW, Kim completely disagrees with this sentence: “On the other hand, I could have gotten this same experience at Tru in Chicago.” She felt that the experience was nothing like Tru and completely French Laundry. I have to say that she is right. However, I also feel that top notch restaurants are going for the two amuse buse whammy left and right. Charlie Trotter’s is the first restaurant to have an amuse buse station, or so they told us. They are also going for a strictly tasting menu approach. And finally, the mortar style bombardment of desserts as typified by Charlie Trotter’s, Tru restaurant, French Laundry and many others. Finally, the gift of Pound Cake (Charlie Trotter’s, Tru), Short Bread (French Laundry) is now the thing to do. However, I’ll bet dollar to donuts that the French Laundry started all these trends. Or maybe Charlie Trotter’s. And Tru and other restaurants like them are following in their brilliant footsteps.

In the end, I would have been willing to say, “Hey, it’s just me. I must of gotten up on the wrong side of the souffle” Except for the fact that Kim feels the same. Something was missing. But don’t let me discourage you. Get on the phone or online and get a reservation. Don’t forget to call them 72 hours before the reservation to confirm. What have you got to lose? ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s still the best bet in town.

My Rhinecliff Adventure

Most of my Rhinecliff adventure happened in Hudson and in Rhinebeck.

Joyce, my mom, wanted to go to New York City, so Kim and I got her a train ticket to visit my brother John and his girlfriend Carla. So, today, this morning, I took her to Hudson to get on the train. We arrived on time and the train was late. She had two bags, one of them heavy, and a pocketbook and another smaller bag. So, I helped her on the train with the bag. As I was putting the bag onto the train, the train started moving. I threw my mothers bag into the rack and sprinted towards the conductor and the nearest exit. The train was moving and I was jumping. Needless to say, they wouldn’t let me jump. The train was probably only going 5 miles an hour but it also might have been ten.

I rode the train to Rhinecliff. One of the conductors gave me a yellow tag with a handwritten message saying that I could board the return to Hudson. How nice. In the meantime, I was hungry and there is nothing in the Hamlet of Rhinecliff to eat, especially near the train station. I was told this by the Amtrak ticket agent who probably also lived in Rhinecliff. Such a beautiful little town.

Ernie, the cabbie who took me to Rhinebeck, said that there was the Mobile station in Rhinecliff. Such a nice, picturesque little hamlet and only Mobile ham sandwiches to eat. He took me to Foster’s Tavern, in Rhinebeck. I had always wanted to eat there but we always either ate at Terrapin or at the inn, the Beekman Arms, that’s there. Ernie said it was too froufrou, too chichi. I can’t imagine what he would have said of us. We, perhaps, are just too too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The tavern food was pretty good and hit the spot. I had a ginger ale with the French Dip I had ordered. The fries were very good. Then I went shopping to the local coffee and candy shop, forgot the name. I stopped in at Periwinkle to get some nice bath salts and then had a sugar free cherry cordial, not bad, and a mocha latte with soy.

Then Ernie picked me up at the coffee shop and took me back to Rhinecliff. The trip was uneventful except I lost my cell phone in the cab. Ernie is mailing it to me. I suspended the account for now. I hope it gets here quickly.

That’s my amazing Rhinecliff Adventure. My mom made it to Penn Station but was an hour late. Carla was waiting for her when she got off. And that all happened before the space aliens landed. Hey, I did say it was an amazing adventure. ๐Ÿ˜‰

French Laundry: Chef Thomas Keller light on the salsafy and medium starch

For Adina’s graduation, we gave her some money for buying clothes and such and Kim went shopping with her on her mother-daughter day. We also took her and Zeke, her boyfriend, to the French Laundry, the famous Yountville restaurant whose chef Thomas Keller, has become a legend in the culinary field. Chef and restaurateur. Yountville is in the Napa Valley.

Kim and I have eaten there 3 other times. Each time was magic. Well, almost each time. One time we went, the service was very slow. So slow that we should have been given free drinks or something. What would normally be a 5 minute or 10 minute wait between courses became a 30 minute or 45 minute wait. It was long ago but one waiter said that Chef Keller had been absent from the kitchen, vacation?, and was taking control of the kitchen back again, from his sous chef?, not sure. The service was terrible that time, the second time, we went. The third time we ate there by ourselves. Service was back to normal.

This was the fourth time. And what a different experience. First of all, they have added plenty of small touches to the decor. The linen is better. The tableware, dishes and cutlery is way better. Rather than one waiter and a runner, we had, I estimate, 4 or 5 waiters and two busboys plus a sommelier, who I think is new. And by new I mean, after our time. We last ate there 8 or so years ago. And if my memory serves, their wine list has expanded. Quite a big one though not the biggest I’ve seen it is focused on quality wines. The place is more elegant, more formal and not as relaxed and casual. And it is definitely more Laundry-esque. Our check was on a laundry ticket and the lamps had old laundry signals on them. Nice touch. Adina marveled. I thought it a little much.

There are only two tasting menus now, no a la carte, and Clair Clark is the pastry chef since 2005. Before Chef Clark went to the French Laundry, we had to suffer with Coffee and Donuts, yum. Kim and I had wanted to get the Coffee and Donuts. No longer on the menu. Oh, and the price, only $240 a person for either of the tasting menus. Ouch. It used to be $90 per person for the tasting menu. There is no wine pairings offered. Oh, and the tasting menu now only has nine courses.

Let’s see, what else? Hmmm. What did I miss? Oh, yeah, I almost forgot the food. When we used to go, we could count on a chefgasm each and every course. Is it us? I didn’t have a single chefgasm. Not a one. The food was perfectly prepared and also beautifully presented. Kim and I discussed our disappointment in the car coming home. Kim volunteered a few suggestions and a few opinions, and normally, those that know her know that she doesn’t do this that often. Basically, we discussed whether it was us or the restaurant. Have we, who have dined both in the US and abroad at some of the top restaurants and who now own our own restaurant and inn and chocolate shop, become jaded? Or, on the other hand, has the French Laundry switched its reference, its energy, if you will, from the food to the decor, wait staff, the ambiance?

Don’t get me wrong. Yes the food was good, yes the food was cooked perfectly and yes the presentation stunning. But there was no wow. Kim thinks that we remember the wow factor, the OHMYGODICAN’TBELIEVEIATESOMETHINGTHATGOOD factor. The first time you eat great beluga caviar and think you are eating fall but the second time you are eating great beluga caviar. And she also thinks it IS the French Laundry. To sum it up, and this is what I think, there was less of Thomas Keller in the food than before. There was less risk in the food. Personally, I would rather have eaten at Perilla 10 times than the French Laundry once. I’d would have rather eaten at our local restaurant, the Mountain View Brassery 20 times then the French Laundry once. The telling moment came when Kim said she enjoyed the lunch we had at Bistro Jeanty better than the dinner at the French Laundry. Unheard of! But I agree. I’m glad we went but I don’t think we’ll be going back unless we come into some money. The experience was fantastic but I think our memory of how it used to be clouds our perception of how it is.

I loved my Lamb’s Tongue Salad, at Jeanty, even if the dressing was a little too vinegary and I absolutely loved the toast points and marrow, even if the points weren’t really points. I loved the meal I had at Bistro Jeanty and it didn’t even cost 1/10th of the price at French Laundry.

On the other hand, Adina and Zeke marvelled over the food. They didn’t like everything or think that everything was mana from heaven but they had their one or two or three favorites that they absolutely loved. Adina, especially loved the French Laundry, exclusively made for them, butter and she loved the Jurassic salt. (I quipped that I prefered Pliocene salt for its freshness. I probably should have said Cretaceous, it would have been funnier because they are both from the Mesozoic! Indeed, the Phanerozoic was a good eon. Then you could have quipped, “I much prefer the more mature Triassic salt.” I thought it was funny because the Pliocene is right before the Pleistocene, the rise of modern humans. Ah, forget it.) Gotta get me some of that Jurassic salt. It had a sweet taste with a little metallic aftertaste.

Zeke and I had the chef’s tasting menu and Kim and Adina had the vegetable (not vegetarian) tasting menu. I wont comment too much on the Tastings of Vegetables though I’ll tell you Kim felt the same way I did, maybe more so.

I started us with Gaston Huet’s wonderful, beautiful, Vouvray. A treasure. Then we had a fantastic Gevrey-Chambertin 1994 and then we finished with their Volnay, 1995. Very nice. We had only 1/2 bottles because I didn’t think Kim was going to drink a lot and Adina had no wine. I can’t remember the producers but the wines were good. From the Gevrey-Chambertin I remember overriding vanilla and then it calmed down. The Volnay was grapy and very bright. I’m sorry I didn’t write down the producers now. Ooops. But it was a dinner for Adina, not for drinking wine.

The Chef’s menu started with Oysters and Pearls. I love this dish. When I had it last, there was twice, or three times, more in the dish. This allows one to fully appreciate this dish. Rather than give me a good dose of my favorite food, I got an alabaster spoon. Though, I must say, there was more than enough caviar. Personally, I would have preferred less caviar, I know, I know, and more of the dish. This was yummer. The best dish for me. I’m still in love with this dish. Though, after eating at Perilla, the farro “risotto” is more than just a close second. It’s now even with this dish. Sorry Thomas, all of his wait staff called him Thomas rather than Chef Keller or Chef Thomas, but I need it the way you used to do it with 4 or 5 oysters not two. (Boohoo. Whine, whine.)

Look, before I go on, if any of you are lucky enough to eat at the French Laundry once, rather than say four times, it will be the best culinary experience of your life. Go eat there and then comment on this post.

I had the Foie Gras en Terrine and Zeke had the Bluefoot Mushrooms. The Fois Gras was great. I added the Jurassic salt as well as the grey sea salt and the extra white Belgium salt, each salt on a differnt section of the mini-terrine. Yummer. This was great. The toast points were exquisite. This was brioche at its best. They even replaced the toast points as I was eating to make sure that I had the warm points at their freshest. (See what I mean. Great service. Take note, John. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Though, the points weren’t the classic points of my youth. I marveled at the bread. Crispy crust and soft crumb. Good on you, Clair. Zeke said the mushrooms were good.

Kim had the Valley Oak Acorn Flan, which she said was great. Adina liked it too. I tasted a little and thought, not bad. This is a very Thomas Keller type dish. Good on you. (Yes, Randy lives in Australia and has picked this expression up. I rather like it.)

Kim had heirloom beets “Cuites sous vide”. Beets sous vide. Who would’a thunk it? Thomas Keller, that’s who. Adina had to have a special dish because this dish had Juniper Berries. Kim loved this dish but, and this went for the whole meal, the Juniper Berry “Aigre-Doux“, which is like a gastrique and is found in French Cuisine while an Agrodocle is found in Italian cuisine, was more decoration than culinary. Basically, we felt that all the gastriques, agrodocles and sauces were artistically presented but there was not enough of said applications to really taste them. Kim was majorly disappointed because she wanted a nice juniper berry flavor with her beets. Beets are her fav.

Then, Zeke and I had the eel. I LOVE eel. Zeke was bowled over by this dish and thought it the best dish until he had the lobster and then the steak. I love eel and I like the way this was cooked but found the whole plate a little dry. This could be good and reminiscent of Japanese food but I missed having a little juiciness to this dish. Zeke marvelled that he was eating 100-Year-Aged Balsamic Vinegar. (This is what I’m talking about. Sure 100 year old balsamic is great, I use a 25 year old in my ganache and some of my plated ice cream desserts, but it isn’t anything particularly new for me or Kim. Though, it is yummy and expensive.)

Kim had the Jidori Hen Egg Omlette. (Thankfully it wasn’t a Roster Egg Omlete. ๐Ÿ˜‰ She loved it. Not much to say here.

Then Zeke and I had the Beets and Leeks, this is the Maine lobster dish. I enjoyed this and liked the Pommes Maxim’s though they were a little tough. (See, I should never say anything like that at the French Laundry.)

Kim got the Chestnut “Bread Pudding”. She loved this though personally, I found it dry. (A theme is developing here.) I forget what Adina had. I couldn’t see what she was eating. But she liked it.

Zeke and I had the lapin (rabbit) rather than the canard (duck). Funny, they write duck but use lapin. I just wish I had pictures of the rabbit. Pictures will be coming soon.

Kim and Adina had the Potatoes Gratinees. No comment. Didn’t try them.

The beef was good. Zeke liked it quite a bit.

I am not sure what Kim and Adina had but I think Kim said something about not enough Tomato Compote. I forget.

In short succession, the Dome St. Estephe was good and the pear sorbet very good. I also loved the Vol Au Vent and the Shiso Sorbet was great. I’ll have to make it. It was the best part of the meal. I am not sure what Kim and Adina had. I forget.

We also had a Meyer Lemon Posset or Pot au Crรจme, Kim got a nice crรจme brรปlรฉe. See this website for some nice pictures. Mine are coming. Oh, we didn’t get any tuile that I remember, not like this. Our tuile came in cones as a second, yes I said, second amuse buse. Indeed, I felt that I was bombarded with dessert, a lot like Tru Restaurant. In other words, we all loved it.

The chocolates were good and Adina liked the pastacio caramel crรจme so much that I’ll have to make my own version just for her. It tasted like she added chocolate to the caramel crรจme. Nice touch. I didn’t like it as much as Adina but we’ll see if she’ll like my version. I want to add more pistacio and I also want to lighten up the chocolate in the crรจme. It might have been cocoa powder. Not sure.

The chocolates, btw, were perfectly made, beautiful and subtle. I prefer my chocolates and left some for Chef Keller and his kitchen staff, though the box was slightly beaten up, I’m afraid, with all the travel. I also left some for the wait staff and gave the sommelier some of my toffee. I hope they like it. I should have added more cherry cordials. Those are everyone’s favorites. And yes, I left a big tip.

So, in the end, you just can’t go home again. This includes the Laundry. It just isn’t the same. It’s grown in some ways and in others it has diminished. But then again, I’m just a poor innkeeper. (And a lot more poor after eating at the French Laundry. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Where does Kim live?

That’s a good question. She is blogging, people, but she is blogging on her new blog, Crazy by Design – Artist Interrupted. It seems, according to her blog, that I have not been doing a good job on Saturday’s fielding guests checking in. While I think she exaggerates, when we get back from CA, I’ll be helping her move into the Studio so she can spend more than one day a week on her quilting. I want her to spend more time quilting and less time working.

The more time she can quilt, the more of her beautiful quilts we’ll have. Though we art still open for the holidays and the chocolate shop is open, now that my mother is here, she is doing much of the work that Kim used to have to be interrupted for.

So, now you know where she spends her time. ๐Ÿ˜‰

See you all when we see you.

You can’t go home, but the wine here is good.

Last night, we had dinner over at our friends Gregg and Karen’s place. It was great seeing them and also seeing Michele and Jimmy, their kids. I was very glad to see how well they were doing. Gregg and I have worked together for many years and are great friends. Karen is Gregg’s wife and is also good friends with me and Kim. To make our get together even more momentous, Gregg, and subsequently Karen, has been on a diet: no steak, no wine, no chocolates. And that’s what we had for dinner. We brought Gregg and his family a special box of my chocolates and confections. He provided the excellent steak and wine.

One of Gregg’s hobbies is fish. He has many multi-gallon fish tanks. Before dinner, we looked at his fish and watched him feed them. I put my hand in on an electric catfish and felt a mild jolt. Gregg had wanted me to try and squeeze him to get the full jolt. I demurred. Instead, I thought it better to eat dinner. So, we sat around the table and had a good burgundy and a Dehlinger Chardonnay, 1994 while eating cheese, crackers and just baked bread. We waited for the coals on the barbecue to become hot enough to grill our steaks.

I banked the barbecue and we seasoned our steaks. We had two aged steaks and two unaged steaks. I took one aged and one unaged and Kim and I seasoned them. Gregg and Karen took the other two. The idea was to cook both steaks, split them in half and then try them with the surprise Burgundy of the night, a 1988 DRC Richbourg, a truly beautiful wine. If you put the search string into Google, 1998 DRC Richbourg, you’ll See how tough it is to find it.

Before we had left CA, we drank a 1989 La Tache from my collection. So, for my first trip back to CA, Gregg pulled out all the stops. The steaks were very nice with the Richbourg, an aristocrat of burgundy, when Lalou Bize was still in charge of the domain.

After, we had the steaks with grilled asparagus, with salad and some very good cheese and bread, yummer, we repaired to watch the large moray eel that Gregg has. It was dark with white spots. I fed it a shrimp by grabbing the shrimp in a plastic tong and making the dead shrimp wiggle and “swim” to attract the eel. He wasn’t that hungry so he only ate one shrimp. The moray was about three to four feet in length.

At this point we had switch to a very worthy port, a 1977 Dow. (Jeez. What a typo. Gregg pulled out the 1977 not a non declared vintage. Gregg pointed this out to me with the words, “Who taught me about declared years. You think I’d pulled out a non-declared vintage. No Gregg I would think not. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Gregg kept on saying, I wish I had a Fonseca. But we drank them all up 7 to 10 years ago, while smoking Cuban cigars. Sigh. This Dow was very good. It reminded me of my Taylor ’63. it was that good.

Then we played name that tune as Gregg picked out songs on the guitar. His newest hobby. He’d been playing righty for 15 months and had to switch to lefty about 6 months ago so he was plinking away and doing a pretty good job. I would have had some major problems playing, say my cello, lefty. Ouch. But he did a good job playing both cords on the acoustic and the electric as well as picking the melody line. It was fun listening to him plink away. Truly Gregg, it was.

Then completely exhausted, satiated, and happy, we went home to our new hotel, the Wild Palms, in Sunnyvale, close to Gregg’s and closer to Napa. You may not be able to go home, but you can visit good friends and make new memories. That’s what this dinner was, new memories, new fun, good times. This whole trip was one for the scrap book or the blog. Unfortunately, we didn’t take pictures. Gregg, you’ll have to at least take pictures of your house and family and your self and the now empty wine bottle. I’ll put them in my scrap book or rather on the blog.

Thank you for making this visit great. We came to congratulate Adina on her success on graduating and on getting a great job right out of college. We couldn’t be prouder. I’m just glad we had time to also see old friends and eat great steaks and drink fantastic wine.

As you can surmise, another of Gregg’s hobbies is collecting and drinking great wine and eating great food with the wine. I’m glad he thought of us and I’m glad we were able to indulge his hobbies. It was fun but more importantly, it was memorable. Thanks Gregg and Karen. Now to make things even better, you need to come an visit us in our new home. See you there.

End of an Era: of start-ups and chocolate

I had arranged to see some of my friends from my software days. We all met at La Bodegita del Medio, on California in Palo Alto. It’s a Cuban restaurant and named after the famed Havana restaurant that Hemingway frequented. The food is good and reminds me of South America. I brought Zeke along for the ride.

I had planned to go to Vin, Vino, Wine to while away a few hours as we waited for the appointed time at 6:30, knowing that some would be late and some would be early. It was closed. So, we had some wine at Cafe Pro Bono and also at this new Mediterranean place. The bread at the latter was pretty good. The wine list was also better then at Pro Bono. I had the quail. Zeke had had a schwarmer wrap earlier.

So, by the time we arrived at the restaurant and had our drinks in hand, a Cuba Libre for Zeke and a ti’punch for me, I wasn’t very hungry. CJ arrived first, naturally. And then Dan Z., who brought his wife, Julia and his baby Natasha, how wonderful it was to see them all. And then Dinger the Bruce aka The Dinger or Dinger. Finally, Jason got there. He had had some fires to fight at work.

We ordered empanadas, very good, and croquettes, not as good, for the table. Everyone ordered food but me and Jason. Zeke got the Tierra y mar. That used to be my favorite when it had the arepa. I wasn’t hungry. I just listened to everyone, soaking up the old Silicon Valley atmosphere. The talk was more of options and patents than databases or code or cloud computing, as always. When they found out that Zeke wanted to be a firemen, it turned out that many of my buddies had connections at different stations. Funny. I never knew that.

It was really great seeing everyone. One of the things that was hammered home was that everyone was now working for big companies, example, TiVo. (As I was writing this, I got another head hunter call. Looks like things are heating up here in S.V.) Bruce had his own hedge fund but basically, everyone else was not in a start up. The Silicon Valley landscape had changed. For the better? Who knows, but the next big company generator hadn’t hit. So, we were back to square one and the software industry has seen the end of an era. I felt out of place both in California and also in the high tech industry. I finally felt how Kim felt all those years when we lived in Silicon Valley. I guess you can’t go home. But you can visit and it was great seeing everyone.

I ended the night smoking a Cohiba Robusto with Jason, which he had graciously provided. It was the perfect end to the evening. Port, cigars and just hanging out by the pool. A light rain had started and that just added to the memories. Just like old times.

Some would say that the era had ended seven years ago. Some would say it ended four years ago. For me it ended yesterday night.

The next big thing is now chocolates. At least for me.

Adina Graduates with her master’s degree


Well, Laura Cater-Woods’ workshop was the last of the season. No more until next year. If you missed Laura’s workshop, you missed the best. Everyone had a great time and couldn’t stop talking about how great a teacher Laura is. She’s a art career councilor as well and that is something every artist need.

The chocolate shop is still open. We are in California visiting Adina and Zeke, her boyfriend.

Adina graduated from graduate school with her master’s in International Security and Conflict Resolution and already has a great job working for Santa Clara. Lovely. Now, rather than sending her money, she can send us money. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Send money! That what I used to say when I called from Sweden. “Send money, Mullsjo.” For 20 cents US you could call for 10 second from Sweden. So, 10 seconds of Send money! ๐Ÿ˜‰

We are so proud of her. She is poised to really make a difference in the world. Yea!

I’ve been also looking at electric cars. There are some nice ones. Our next car will be electric. I think I like the Green Vehicles cars in Los Gatos, CA.

I’ll be posting pictures. Both of the workshops and our trip. Oh, and my mom, who is holding down the chocolate shop fort, says that it’s a wintry mix right now. Danger. There goes the powder, hello ice. That’ll make for fast skiing.

It’s Snowing

It’s the first real snow of the season. It’s coming down in nice dry flakes. This will be pretty good powder for all them skiers.

This bodes well for my ski season, too.

Jing, jing, jingley, jing.

Pictures will be forthcoming.

Recipe: Holiday Top Chef Tiffany’s Salted Butterscotch Pudding Recipe

Question before the committee, can one make Tiffany’s Salted Butterscotch Pudding as seen in the edits on TV. If you look at the recipe above, click on this posts title, and count up the hours, an eyebrow or two may raise in inquiry as to whether it is possible to actually make said recipe in the allotted time. (OK, I have to stop channelling Steven and Marcel at the same time. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Actually, I believe they had 3 hours of cooking time and a half hour between each course. However, that hasn’t stopped me from seeing if this could be done in one hour.)

Seriously, you can make the Tiffany’s Top Chef Recipe very quickly if you take some short cuts. Strike that, not short cuts but if you understand the ins and outs of cooking. First of all, let me say that when I make desserts or my chocolates, I take my chef hat off and put on my pastry chef and chocolatier hat, both figuratively and literally. When doing pastry you have to slow down, change your attitude about almost all aspects of cooking, and basically, Ooooooommmmmmmm! To do this recipe, I stayed as Chef Mark and didn’t make that transformation to Pastry Chef Mark. So, Valerie and Ann, there IS a Butterscotch pudding!

I was able to cool down the mixture in a scant 15 mins to 75-80 degrees using a salted ice bath with plenty of cold water. I used that same ice bath over and over adding ice to it. Remember, in a water bath, you want to have the water line up to the line of the liquid in the pot. I didn’t change pots or do any of the nice things I normally do. I didn’t even change into my whites. I just banged this out. The waiting time I could have used to cook other things but in this time, I’m writing my blog. Not even a half hour has elapsed. And the temperature of the mixture is down to 72 degrees.

Now, I made sure that the water in the water baths was hot before I put it in the oven. I even heated it up on the stove. I even had a Top Chef moment. I was moving so fast that I must have either filled the boats up too much or the hotel pans too much, and some of the water from the water bath go into the custard. So, I threw those out, refilled two of them, still having 9 boats filled with pudding. So, I made 12 all told though I did wind up throwing out three because of the water bath. (Another got water in it, as I was putting it in the oven, I think I burned my hand again, so what’s new?, and I just left it, hoping that the water would bake out fast enough. I whisked it in.)

Remember I am preparing this for my guests so it still have to be good. So, within 35 mins, I had it in my preheated oven in a water bath. I couldn’t get the bread in there as well, urfh, and Kim came in while I was putting it in the oven to tell me that Megan, our dishwasher, was sick and that she’d be doing the dishes. Thanks sweety. I love you.)

I set my alarm for 22 mins to see how much time it will take to bake it. I should be able to do the sauce in 10 mins. that’ll mean about 1 hour for this recipe. As it turns out, it took for some about 30 mins. The ones in the hotter part of the oven were done in 20 mins and the ones in the cooler part in about 25 mins. If I had a deck oven, this would have went better. Plus, you really have to watch the water levels. Don’t fill them up too much.

OK. so, then I made the sauce. It looked very thin for a caramel sauce and it doesn’t have any milk in it so it’s not going to get any browning from the Maillard reaction and it really isn’t a caramel but we’ll see. I just made it and it only took about 15 mins. I heated the apple cider four mins in the micro to keep it from seizing the sugar. I didn’t whisk. I used a wooden spoon. (Ah hem, I didn’t use apple cider. I didn’t have any. We produce some very good ciders around here but you know what, all I had was, %-}, apple juice. Still all in all, not bad.)

So, all told, 55 mins for the custard, which I could do and also do other things in the background. So, basically, if I were Tiffany, I would have started the custard and finished it by the end of the first round as I was serving. Then right before the third round, I would have just banged out the sauce and voila, done. If she had an hour between courses, which I think they did not, she could have done the whole thing in one hour because while waiting for the custard to cook, she could have banged out the sauce. Or she could have started in during round 2. Same diff. The custard would have finished by the middle to end of round three while she banged out the sauce.

— Later after eating it —

Boy, that is sweet. It’s not only sweet but it is very butterscotchy. I like it but I think I’d tone down on the sugar. Maybe half it. 3/4 cup brown sugar to maybe 1 cup. Those judges must have a sweet tooth. Ouch. Most of the diners like it, some thought it too sweet. Oh, well. And it does seem more of a pudding than a custard though it’s made like a custard. Most of the dinners just loved the caramel sauce. When I made it, I just left the cinnamon stick in it and never took it out.

I also had to reboil the caramel until that it got thicker. I wound up taking it to 230 F.

I’ll put my version of the recipe below. I followed her recipe and weighed almost every ingredient so that you’ll have a more baker like recipe to follow. I also added temperatures to the recipe. I also added some tricks so that you wont have too many issues. Enjoy.

Butterscotch Pudding:


100 g butter
225g brown sugar
1 vanilla bean (I used 1/2 of a Tahitian and it was very vanilla.)
480g whipping cream
280g milk (I used 2% with about 20g of cream in it.)
1t Fleur de sel
10 large egg yolks, beaten
blueberries as needed for a garnish. (Trust me on this.)

Caramel Sauce:
260g sugar
60g water
9g light corn syrup
1 cinnamon stick (I used True Cinnamon, Indonesian)
1 1/4 cups apple cider


Melt butter with brown sugar and cook until sugar is complete dissolved. Cook until boil In a separate pot, scrape vanilla from the bean and steep in cream with the whole pod. Heat to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and let cool to around 100F before using. Add cool cream to sugar mixture, slowly. Add in milk and salt and just barely bring to a boil. Temper mixture (at 144F) into eggs and then do a thin drizzle into the mixture while stirring briskly. Put in well salted ice bath for 15 mins or until the mixture has reached 75 F. Place pudding in containers and bake in a shallow water bath for about 20 mins in a 350F preheated oven or until firm but jiggly.

Caramel Sauce:

Combine sugar, water, corn syrup and cinnamon until sugar dissolves and mixture reaches 300F. Heat cider in the microwave for 4 mins or until mixture is between 110F and 120F. Add cider to sugar mixture while stirring with a wooden spoon and return to heat. Heat until mixture is 230F. Let cool and thicken. Serve over pudding warm.

Enjoy. This whole dish takes about 1 hour and 5 maybe 10 mins.

Hey, it isn’t chocolate but it’s yummer.