Monday, August 3, 2009

Chocolate and a Cute French Man, My Perfect Lunch

Jacques Pépin
Really, what could be better then spending hours watching Jacques Pépin making lunch, or having a chocolate tasting with John Scharffenberger? Chocolate and the cutest French man I know of = most awesome lunch ever.

Scene from Julie & Julia
Julie & Julia is coming out soon and New York is filled with blogger events and preview screenings in celebration. Lucky for Brownie and I, we were invited to one such event, Scharffen Berger's Chocolate Luncheon at the French Culinary Institute. Both of us told our respective bosses about the need for a long lunch-we work in Midtown and FCI is in SoHo, a good 20 minute trip for either of us-and prepared to eat some quality chocolate and delicious food.

John Scharffenberger
The luncheon was held in FCI's Theatre, it's sort of like their own Kitchen Stadium. First up was a blind chocolate tasting directed by John Scharffenberger, one of the founders of Scharffen Berger Chocolate. Though it only came into being less than 15 years ago, Scharffen Berger has definitely made it mark on American cuisine. It's one of the preferred brands among most bakers I know including myself, not only because of the high quality of their dark chocolate, but the company pays attention at every step from the farmers and beans to the final tempering.

Mmm, Scharffen Berger
During the tasting, Mr. Scharffenberger discussed the different bean origins, explained how to taste the chocolate, the various chemical reactions occurring during each bite, the story of development for the various percentages, and why some bars are limited editions.

70% Cacao Bittersweet
The audience was asked to guess cacao and sugar percentages for each sample. I was seated next to Feisty Foodie, and both of us were completely off. It was interesting learning more about one of my food groups, and fun guessing which chocolate was what.

Pâté de Faux Gràs a Ma Façon
Now that we were filled with dark chocolate, the time came to watch Chef Pépin bake with chocolate while being feed chocolate oriented dishes. Our appetizer was Pâté de Faux Gràs a Ma Façon, a recipe created by Susan Asonovic, a 2008 Scharffen Berger Chocolate Adventure Contest winner. I enjoyed the creaminess of the savory pâté, minus the gamey flavor I usually associated with it. For someone who doesn't want to, or can't serve goose liver pâté, I would definitely recommend this as a great replacement.

Tri Tip Roast with Cacao Nib Rub
The main entree was Tri Tip Roast with Cacao Nib Rub, cooked perfectly for my tastes-still a little pink, but the heart has definitely stopped beating. The rub was well seasoned, not too spicy or sweet, the meat was tender, and I ate both my serving and Brownie's. It was absolutely amazing.

Dessert Plate
Then it was time for dessert, which we had been watching being made for close to 45 minutes now. Chef Pépin was giving his usual tidbits and stories, acting exactly the same as on TV. And I think all of us in the room fell more in love with him than we already were. Of course, dessert was excellent. The apricot-cognac glaze over warm chocolate cake was made by Mr. Pépin himself, everything on this plate was stellar.

Jacques Pépin Making Crêpes
As they were prepping for the last course, Chef Pépin began making crêpes. Brownie has listened to my complaints about not being able to eat decent, Parisian crêpes in New York, and she saw my eyes light up when Chef reminded me how to make them, the proportions, the melted butter in the batter, the essential pour. Some how all of this had flown out of my head, upsetting me for years. I didn't get to eat one of his, but I will be making a proper Gâteau de Crêpe soon enough. I could have watched and listened all afternoon long, but the ticking clock reminded me of a fast approaching meeting.

And we were able to make up for our long lunches by handing our bosses delicious chocolate bars.


Check out the cutest French man around at www.kqed.org/food/jacquespepin.

Learn more about Scharffen Berger, their chocolates, their processes, and order me some Cacao Nibs at www.scharffenberger.com.

and

Whet your appetite for Julie & Julia at www.julieandjulia.com, out in theatres this coming weekend.

3 comments:

Dolce said...

I'll show you how to make crepes in New York if you want :) It's as easy as 1-2-3 once you know how to prepare the batter and pour it!

Stacie Joy said...

Color me sickeningly envious!

A Foodie in Denial said...

I love Jacques Pepin. So envious you got to attend this event! Great meeting you last night btw.