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a sweet sip: hot chocolate and whipped cream


Hot chocolate made headlines recently. The mere mention of this hot beverage seems to strike up memories and spark an occasional craving. There’s nothing better after a day on the ski slopes than to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa. Staying overnight in a cabin or lodge, hot chocolate tends to be a favorite after dinner drink, and no doubt a soothing way to warm up alongside a fire.

Though I often interchange the term hot cocoa with hot chocolate, hot cocoa refers to the concoction made with Dutch-processed powder, while hot chocolate refers to the beverage made with a chocolate paste and in more modern times includes milk mixed in. Cocoa was discovered and put into use by the ancient Mesoamerican civilizations and it has been enjoyed ever since. As the Kakawa Chocolate House shares, the Olmecs, Toltecs, and later the Mayans & Aztecs ground together the cacao beans from the cacao (kah KOW) tree along with spices, chilies, and herbs and created a paste. The process of creating chocolate is a little more complex, and you can find more on the subject below, but with added water these elixirs became highly coveted. Thick, rich, and frothy, chocolate was thus first enjoyed as a drink. Lucky for us, creamy style drinking chocolates have become popular once again.

Every now and then I enjoy a demitasse size cup of drinking chocolate. I find that hot chocolate tends to be a little too sweet for my taste, but if I am going to enjoy a cup, I love it with spicy chipotle or cayenne added in. Making hot cocoa at home from scratch, instead of ripping open a packet of powder, is a good way to control the sweetness in the drink. It also ensures that I’m drinking actual chocolate instead of something that is chocolate flavored and loaded with additives. The same is true for whipped cream. Next time you’re at the market, bypass the can and get a carton of heavy whipping cream instead. If you haven’t had homemade whipped cream recently, it’s ridiculously easy to make and something to try all over again. Creamy, luscious and pampering, it’s a little something sweet to indulge in.


So why did hot chocolate make recent headlines? Chocolate in the news is nothing unusual, it has been throughout history. In an interesting update though, a report found that drinking hot chocolate “may taste more flavorful in an orange cup” so in an orange mug, it’s apparently yummier. I’m too biased to conduct the experiment myself though it did influence the purchase of this rather cute mug. If you find an orange cup, go ahead and invite someone over for two cups of hot cocoa, have them try both and see which one they prefer.

If you are by now craving a warm cup of cocoa and have plans to head to the store to buy some, I recommend reading the list of ingredients on the box or can and look for ones that have chocolate listed first. Often I buy Guittard or Ghirardelli Dutch-processed cocoa and whip it up myself, it’s a good way to ensure that it won’t be too sweet. Brands and chocolatiers such as Theo, Askinosie, TCHO or Jacques Torres as an example craft drinking chocolate mixes, and all that’s needed is your favorite milk such as soy or almond to be added in. Nothing like homemade, here are a few recipes to try:

Alton Brown’s Hot Cocoa Recipe -with a pinch of cayenne or try chipotle
Thick Hot Chocolate – from Food52
Copia Hot Chocolate – with orange zest from Guittard
Champurrado Atole de Chocolate Masa-Thickened Mexican Hot Chocolate

To make it decadent, top your cup of cocoa with homemade whipped cream. While mixing the cream, add in a hint of vanilla, try it with a sprinkle of orange zest or even fold in peppermint candy pieces, there a lot of creative ways to enjoy it, and it’s worth it.

How to Make Whipped Cream

2 tablespoons powdered or confectioners sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions: place a metal mixing bowl into the freezer until cold, for 10 to 15 minutes. Place the cream into the mixing bowl. Using a metal whisk or hand blender, beat or mix until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and continue to mix until stiff peaks form but don’t overbeat. Makes about 2 cups.

Now that you have a cup of hot chocolate to hold (or on your mind) snuggle up with a cozy blanket, curl up in your favorite comfortable chair or by a fire, and sit back for a few worthwhile reads dedicated to this drink:

The Art of Manliness The Surprisingly Manly History of Hot Cocoa
Jane Austen’s World Hot Chocolate, 18th-19th Century Style
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation A Cup of Hot Chocolate, S’good for What Ails Ya
NPR How Hot Chocolate Became More American Than Apple Pie
Understanding Chocolate: From Tree to Factory
David Lebovitz Living The Sweet Life in Paris Cocoa Powder FAQ: Dutch-process & natural cocoa powder
theKitchn Food News and more on whipped cream
Live Science Like Hot Chocolate? Drink it in an Orange Cup

Have a favorite hot cocoa recipe or story to share?

yumivorecocacream (3)

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heritage park apricot orchard

With summer in full swing in Silicon Valley it means the farmer’s markets are brimming with ripe juicy stone fruits of all kinds. The markets throughout the San Francisco Bay Area are open year-round, which means farm fresh produce is accessible and always within reach. For some folks, beyond the market, a selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables are even available around the corner from their home. Apartment complexes with names such as Apricot Pit or Cherry Blossom or a small shopping village named Cherry Orchard serve as a reminder that before the present day name Silicon Valley took hold, the area was referred to as Valley of Heart’s Delight reflecting the abundance of orchards and edible gardens in the area. If you pause to take in the surroundings, or if you’ve resided in the valley long enough, you’ll still be able to spot old farm-like buildings and a few fruit or nut groves. And if the fruit is in season, you don’t even have to travel to the farmer’s market to pick it up.

The Heritage Park apricot orchard has it’s fruit stand open for a few short weeks during the summer season. It’s worth visiting to pick up a bag of tree-ripened sweet apricots, and for a chance to enjoy truly local fruit and a throw-back to pioneering times. The Blenheim apricot may not look as large or pristine as some other apricot varieties, but it’s one of, if not the tastiest of the bunch. Bursting with flavor, pull them apart, take out the pit and pop them in your mouth. What’s important to remember about the Blenheim is that some may appear smaller or have different yellow-orange tones and vary in color when comparing to other store-bought apricots, but the pure apricot taste is unbeatable. Beyond apricots, the stand sells a few other stone fruits from other nearby farms, local honey, jams and dried apricots are available as well.

For more about Blenheim apricots, Santa Clara County’s agricultural history and apricot recipes visit:
Apricot King
We Love Jam
Northern California Gardens
Early Santa Clara County History
Looking Back: Canning in the Valley of Heart’s Delight
Orchards & Farmlands: Historic Photos of Silicon Valley

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the judgment of paris


May 24th marks the anniversary of the 1976 Paris Tasting also known as The Judgment of Paris. In 1976, as America was celebrating its Bicentennial, English wine merchant Steven Spurrier founder of l’Academie du Vin, France’s first non-government wine education program, organized a blind wine tasting event. Eight French men and one French woman taster, all with distinguished wine credentials, were selected as judges for the panel. Assembled at Paris’ Intercontinental Hotel, California Cabernet Sauvignons were pitted against top red Grand Cru wines from Bordeaux, and California Chardonnays competed against the notable whites from Burgundy.

The results of the tasting were astounding. To the judge’s chagrin, the wines selected in first place were shockingly California’s Stags Leap 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon produced by winemaker Warren Winiarski and 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay produced by winemaker Mike Grgich. When the results were announced it was “like a vinous shot heard round the world.” noted Barbara Ensrud of the Wall Street Journal. Until this moment in time, French wines were unrivaled, their superiority had been sealed. California had been regarded for primarily serving plonk productions. To suddenly have fine California wine, produced by pioneers who took their craft to a new level, take the center stage in France and command first place was overwhelming. Ronn Wiegand later in an article captured the implications of The Judgment of Paris: “The French monopoly [on fine wines] was crushed permanently.” The quality of French wine was in no means tarnished by the verdict, its reputation of course remained intact . The event however put California wine on the map- and that’s something we can raise a glass to.

SFMOMA dedicated an exhibit to the historic event: How Wine Became Modern. For expanded details and interesting reading visit:

Chateau Montelena: 1976 Paris Tasting

Stags Leap Wine Cellars: The 1976 Paris Tasting

Warren Winiarski History and Legacy

Grgich Hills Estate – Judgment of Paris

Grgich celebrates 50 years of making wine – and history – the Napa Valley

The vintner who did it his way

The Day California Wines Came of Age

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a brief history of the pancake

Pancakes. The mere mention of the word and watch as eyes light up. Pancakes are the epitome of comfort food. Whether you’re eating them while wearing cozy slippers and lounging late one morning, or enjoying them as a fulfilling dinner, pancakes are a universal feel-good food. It’s perhaps the one meal that easily appeals to all ages, and can be found across the globe. Sweet or savory, and regardless of what you call them, this thin round flat delightful disc musters up memories and easily gets our stomachs grumbling.

So if in fact pancakes can be sweet or savory, what makes a pancake well, a pancake? By definition:

* The ingredients may vary, but all pancakes are foremost composed of starchy batter.
* For it to be considered a pancake the batter is poured onto a flat hot surface.
* The batter is then cooked – or proper terminology baked – in a pan or on anything flat.
“Thus a pan does not the pancake make”.

It’s unclear exactly how far back in our ancient history pancakes became a staple dish in our diet. Archeologists though have been able to track examples of grain-based cakes back to the Stone Age. Historians thus began discussing the presence of a form of pancakes in our early culinary repertoire around the cultivation of grains, with flat rocks serving at the time as primeval griddles. Pancakes continued to evolve in Biblical times with references found in the Old Testament as well as in Roman and Greek records.2

Onward to more modern times, in Europe we find the pancake serving both commoners and nobles alike, though it would be the presence of rich ingredients, butter as an example, which would distinguish the plate. Pancake A Global History by Ken Albala notes the first recipe for a crêpes was found in Livre fort excellent in the 1540s, and Good Huswifes Handmaids for the Kitchen had the first English recipe printed in 1588. From there on, we can flip through text, but according to Albala, it’s the Dutch in the seventeenth-century that may lay claim to our modern mouthwatering recipe. (Side note, we also must credit the Dutch for wondrous waffles and aebleskivers, a real treat). Pancakes populated the New World by this time and had become widely popular in British cookbooks. By the eighteenth century E.Smith’s The Compleat Houswife, the first cookbook printed in America, comes complete with a recipe for the protagonist of this story. Albala notes the most popular English cookbook of the century on both sides of the Atlantica The Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse 1747 had five pancake recipes listed. It’s in 1796 though, the first all-American cookbook American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons, that the pancake is given true glory and essentially put on a pedestal.3

It’s the versatility of this dish, and it’s lenience with the range of ingredients mixed together, that makes the pancake perhaps the most popular food of all time across generations and continents. Whether it’s served up as a street food, or doled up for fine dining, there’s great comfort in knowing this comforting dish will let you leave the table smiling and satisfied. From a historical perspective there’s still much on the plate to cover. It’s a challenge though to condense all of the pancake’s true global history into one page (certainly impossible to do so without building up an appetite). But it’s clear, throughout history, and importantly across cultures, the pancake clearly has a role to play and why so many people have a penchant for pancakes.

Many thanks to Globetrotter Diaries (@globetrottings), OMG! Yummy (@omgyummyblog) and Chow & Chatter (@chowandchatter) for the inspiration behind dishing up a brief history of the pancake. Be sure not to miss a taste of their delectable pancake dishes: Simply Perfect Pancake Recipes.
For additional details into the history behind pancakes (and books referenced in this post):

Pancake A Global History by Ken Albala 1,3
A History of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat 2
Apicus –a recipe for ova sfongia ex lacte (egg sponge with milk) in the oldest Latin cookbook

Photo courtesy of Beth Lee OMG! Yummy

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how wine became modern: 1976

Design + Wine 1976

Celebrating modern day wine’s influence on culture, art and design the story begins with the Judgment of Paris and then touches on cultivating grapes, to wine-making, bottling, tasting and even the language of wine.

Life-size photomural evoking Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper

Original bound copy of Time magazine, article by George Taber

1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay

Stags Leap 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon

Read more about the exhibit:
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art SFMOMA
A Vine Show
Wines and Vines Exploring the Evolution of Wine

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