Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chocolate cache in Bisbee, AZ

This month I've taken two geocaching rides to Bisbee, AZ. I love the ride, I love the little town, and the hunt for a geocache gives my ride a "purpose," (as if I need one.) Between my limited budget of late, and a freezer bursting with goodness, I've taken to packing a lunch, and treating myself to something simple, like a darned good espresso from the Bisbee Coffee Company. A couple of weeks ago I found a particularly interesting cache by following this trail of photographic clues. I felt very clever indeed.

A few days ago I found a cache hidden somewhere up here (with the aid of a GPS enabled iPhone and sturdy boots):

Here's the view from the cache site. Lovely!

Bisbee is a popular place, so parking is always a little tricky. I usually park a bit off the beaten path and enjoy the walk. On this last trip, my parking strategy proved worthwhile. Oh happy day! - I found myself directly across the street from micro-chocolatier Gordon Terpening's shop, Chocolate (accent on the a, I've no idea how to do that from this blog interface.) At this lovely boutique, they not only hand make stunningly beautiful and tasty bonbons, but they first make the chocolate itself. By that, I mean they import cacao beans from around the world, and then roast, grind and conch them (a full 60 hours, thank you very much) right in their tiny workroom.

Chocolate, in its original form:

I got to see and taste the cacao nibs themselves, along with dark chocolates made from different varietals from around the world. My favorite? Definitely the Madagascar West African blend. I also had a nice little espresso cup taster of their hot chocolate. Doubting that a wide selection of low melting point treats would survive the trip in my sun heated top case, I had to make my small purchase wisely. The pressure! I opted for an orange chiltipin ganache filled confection to start my day and a dark chocolate rosemary lime treat to end it. Excellent!

Once the goods in my freezer run out, I'm checking out Cafe Roka, also in Bisbee, which I'm told should not be missed.

Bisbee is a town of artists. You can see funky artwork like this on practically every street corner.

A Happy Rider!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I believe in reincarnation

Reheating a plate of last night's leftovers seems to me to be some sort of karmic penance for yesterday's excess. Boring and never as good as the first time around (with a few noteworthy exceptions), I'd almost rather not eat. But transfigure those leftovers to something bigger, better.... well now you've captured my interest. For example, the cake in the picture is filled with leftover chestnut puree that had been taking up real estate in my freezer way too long. I felt very clever when I pulled out individual slices of it for my house guests last week.

I had my work cut out for me this week. I threw an opera party last weekend, and per the usual made, oh, ten times the food I needed. The job ahead of me, to reincarnate the party leftovers, was almost overwhelming even for me. But I did well, if I do say so myself, and now my freezer is bursting with tasty treats and quick meals that I look forward to enjoying over the next few weeks.

The party menu was as follows:
  • Pastry spirals filled with either ham/cheese or sweet potato/caramelized onion
  • Crostini with toppings: carrot salad, garlicky greens, sagey tuscan white beans, mushrooms with white wine and cream
  • One bad ass artichoke dip
  • The usual cheese nut and fruit board
  • Greek platter with hummous, dressed feta, tapenade, pita
  • Meatballs adobada (the goal was a no-silver ware party)
  • Dark chocolate truffles with the barest hint of cinnamon and ancho chile
  • Little "finger sandwiches" of cake filled with Mexican lime curd cream (You might remember said limes from this post. I preserved some curd for later use.)
  • Mini turnovers made of my UT blueberries
  • In addition, I had some leftover pork loin from earlier in the week, but not enough to turn it into a party item.
So you see, I had a LOT of food to process. Certain things can be tossed in the freezer as is - the turnovers, the pastry spirals, the cake (only a few pieces of each left, anyway.) Somehow they will be more enjoyable when "there's nothing in the house" to eat. Call it Christmas in March. The spinach and feta were a no brainer - Greek pielets. The tapenade? Another pastry spiral to be pulled out of the freezer when I find myself needing something clever without the time to produce it. The artichoke dip is lovely spread on a hot ham sandwich using ham left over from the pastry spiral project. The meatballs were frozen into little portions just right for a spicy taco. The truffles surprised me. I don't feel like a good hostess unless I make something intensely chocolate for my guests, even though I personally prefer the blueberry turnovers. But I guess the rest of my guests agreed, because I have loads of truffles left. Into the freezer they go, and will likely come back out as ganache for a cake. That's what they are made of, in the first place.

The real reincarnation happened with the pork loin and the mushrooms. The mushrooms are now contained within pasta in the form of ravioli. Homemade ravioli are so easy (once they make it to the freezer) and are one of my favorite elegant quick dinners. The pork loin became something I've wanted to make for a long time - char siu bao, or Chinese steamed pork buns. I've made the buns before, but never with pork. Wow - they are good! So much better than the original roast pork. (The roast was a few degrees over done in my opinion, and unless meat is done exactly to my taste, I hardly want to take the trouble to eat it.) I minced and shredded the pork as finely as possible, tossed in some mushrooms (yes, leftover!), added lots of garlic, ginger, soy, a dash of sesame oil, hot sauce and scallions. All this gets tucked into cute little buns of simple bread dough which is then steamed. They grow enormously in the steamer (I never fail to gasp when I open the lid), and come out as the original Wonder Bread (soft and white, but in a good way) with a moist savory surprise within.

What does this have to do with riding? Nothing. I haven't been riding in ages. I wonder if I even remember how. But I am going this Saturday no matter what. And my char siu bao are coming with me.