Last night was the penultimate round of our current season of Memento - the cooking club Dan and I belong to. David & Carolyn hosted this round with a theme appropriate to February: Chocolate! The theme was in part decided or at least inspired by their kids, Logan and Zoe, who have been asking for a chocolate themed memento for years.
They started us off with trio of chocolate. First, flatbread with a subtle but delicious white chocolate baba ganoush. Next, a gluten free crostini with dark chocolate and fleur de sel - the first really intense taste of chocolate that gave my napkin a workout. And last but not least, roasted carrots with chocolate balsamic vinegar dipping sauce (that now necessitates a trip to Pike Place Market to procure our own bottle.
Next up, Lizzie and John delivered an silky smooth white chocolate parsnip soup with homemade dill oil and cocoa dusted macadamia nuts. It was so good it may have converted some parsnip haters to fans. It was one of my favorite items of the night.
In honor of our sugar/alcohol/meat free January, Dan made a strawberry banana smoothie from homemade almond milk, chocolate/stevia egg white powder, libido enhancing maca powder, and chia seeds. All served in a dark and white chocolate rimmed glass.
I paired that with an arugula and red butter lettuce salad with clementine and red grapefruit, homemade cocoa butter goat cheese, cocoa nibs (for crunch) and a homemade strawberry/white balsalmic "shrub" (sipping vinegar) & sunflower oil dressing.
Flying solo tonight due to a family medical situation, James served a creamy Brie cheese, chocolate and pear panini featuring local ingredients. It was served with a littlegreens and some crispy basil chips with Hawaiian sea salt I made last year and gave to he and Marcy. It was a perfect serving size and the chocolate and Brie tasted so wonderful together, their creaminess balancing with the crunch of the pear and bread.
The second entree was the first to include meat, and it was done wonderfully. Beef short ribs and Portabello mushrooms in a chocolate rosemary and tomato sauce. Melt in your mouth goodness. They were paired with horseradish mashed potatoes and sautéed carrots.
Finishing out our decadent chocolate meal was a white chocolate sphere hiding chocolate mousse and heart shaped Chez panisse Ginger snaps shaped like hearts, with poached pears. I loved the cookies with the mousse - and scored a few extras.
As our final courses were enjoyed, snow was accumulating outside, so we wrapped up quickly to get people home safely. Looking back, I see pears, balsalmic vinegar and root veggies (carrots, parsnips and potatoes) showing up repeatedly, weaving both adjacent and disparate courses together, sharing that responsibility with the chocolate, of course. It made for an excellent night of food and friends. And anything that could travel (sorry - no smoothie) was packed and sent home for Marcy to enjoy.