Four-star chocolate from a four-star chef.
When Thomas Keller of the French Laundry makes a chocolate bar, you just know it’s not going to be your run-of-the-mill candy.
Not by a long-shot.
What makes this chocolate bar so different and special is that it contains extra virgin olive oil. And naturally, it’s olive oil by one of Italy’s most exclusive producers, Armando Manni. The Tuscan producer makes some of the most cherished and expensive olive oils around, beloved by illustrious chefs such as Keller and New York’s Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Their collaboration is K+M Extravirgin Chocolate. The premium cocoa beans are processed in a way that maintains their antioxidants that are normally destroyed in the chocolate-making process. A small amount of Manni extra-virgin olive oil is added to boost the level of antioxidants even more.
Despite wrestling with a shortage of cooks, skyrocketing rents, rising business costs, and ever increasing competition, restaurants in the Bay Area and elsewhere did themselves proud this year, turning out food that was delightful, delicious, and unforgettable.
What dishes do I still dream about long after taking the last bite?
Here are my Top 10 eats of the year, in no particular order, of which I’d gladly have seconds, even thirds, if I could.
A sophisticated brownie with the intense taste of almonds.
Include a little Dorie Greenspan in your Christmas to ensure it’s a sweet one.
Greenspan is a baker extraordinaire who also happens to be great at savory cooking too. She can do it all, and it shows in her many cookbooks, Washington Post column, and her wonderful Everyday Dorie blog that’s followed by legions around the world.
Her newest cookbook, “Dorie’s Cookies” (Houghlin Mifflin Harcourt), of which I received a review copy, is a 518-page comprehensive cookie trove.
Cookie fans are sure to find something to love. Cookie Monsters like myself will be beside themselves trying not to make every single recipe at once.
There are bar cookies, drop cookies, butter cookies, and even savory cocktail cookies. I’ve bookmarked so many of the recipes, including “Princeton Gingersnaps,” “Devil’s Food Wafflets with Chocolate Sauce,” and “Triscuity Bites” (yes, savory cookies made with cream cheese and crumbled Triscuits).
Not your average chocolate chip cookie.
Does the world really need another chocolate chip cookie recipe?
You bet, if it’s by Nancy Silverton.
The renowned pastry chef can do no wrong. At least in my book. Over the years, I’ve made many of her recipes, and none have ever disappointed. She’s also the co-owner of my favorite pizza joint, Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, as well as nearby sister restaurants Osteria Mozza and Chi Spacca.
“Chai Chocolate Chip Cookies” is from her newest cookbook, “Mozza At Home” (Alfred A. Knopf), of which I received a review copy. It was written with James Beard Award-winning journalist Carolynn Carreno.
It’s a dirty little secret that most chefs don’t cook much at home. They just don’t have the time. Silverton was the same way for many years, until a trip to Italy reconnected her to the pleasures of cooking for friends, family, and even herself.
From Roy’s dark chocolate panettone — fit for a king or queen. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)
When I told my husband, who is notoriously frugal (he’d call himself, “cheap”), that I was writing a story about a pastry chef who makes a $50 panettone, he was beside himself.
He rolled his eyes, completely flabbergasted. Who in their right minds, he thought, would pay that much for an Italian Christmas bread that you can get for a song on the shelves at Cost Plus?
Then, I cut him a thick slab of the handmade dark chocolate panettone made by From Roy’s of Richmond. He put a forkful in his mouth. He let out a sigh. Then, he actually said, “OK, I can see paying $50 for this.”