Happy post-Thanksgiving, mid-Hanukkah, pre-Christmas time! ‘Tis the season for comfort food and cranberries. Yes, cranberries deserve their own special mention. You know how I feel about cranberries.
I wish I could claim I was clever enough to invent this soup on my own, but I was inspired by a similar soup made by a local restaurant. A few weeks ago I tried their soup on a whim, grabbing a to-go container to take home with me. When I opened the container later to make some lunch, I was instantly floored by how much the soup smelled exactly like Thanksgiving dinner. I almost had to open my oven to make sure there wasn’t a turkey roasting in there that I didn’t know about!
Unfortunately, the smell was my favorite part of the soup. My objections to the taste were minor, except for one fatal flaw – it was loaded with cilantro. I am one of those people who can’t stand cilantro because all I taste is soap. So I decided to remake the soup on my own at home.
This Thanksgiving Soup with Turkey, Sweet Potatoes and Cranberries is perfect for using up those Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers. Don’t have any leftovers? Cook up a little turkey breast and use that to make the soup, or even substitute some chicken. The sweet potatoes make it filling while the cranberries add a pleasant sweet surprise. It will make your kitchen smell fantastic and evoke warm, comfy holiday memories. Comfort food at it’s best!
Thanksgiving Soup with Turkey, Sweet Potatoes and Cranberries
You’re probably going to want to add a good bit of salt to balance the sweetness from the dried cranberries (most of which have added sugar). I didn’t want to specify an amount, however, because it will vary depending on your cranberries and whether or not you add gravy. Just add a little, taste, and repeat until it tastes good!
2 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 large celery ribs, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning (thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary)
3/4 teaspoon dried sage
4 to 5 cups turkey broth or stock
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 pound cooked turkey (more or less)
1-2 tablespoons leftover turkey gravy (optional, but highly recommended)
salt, to taste
In a dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat, saute onion and celery in butter or olive oil until onions are translucent and celery has softened. Add garlic, cook 1 minute. Add sweet potatoes and stir in spices. Add turkey broth or stock, bring to a simmer, cover and cook 10 minutes. Add dried cranberries and continue to simmer until sweet potatoes are tender, about 10 more minutes. (If a fork easily slides through the potatoes, they’re done.) Add cooked turkey. Stir in gravy, if using, and season to taste.
Are you sick of pumpkin everything yet? Well, have I got the recipe for you!
This recipe has been in the works for a while, but I wanted to get it just right before I shared it with you.
Ginger, orange and dark chocolate is not a combination I would have come up with on my own. I like those things in pairs – ginger + chocolate, orange + chocolate – but all mixed together? Never would have occurred to me. Then I was introduced to Divine’s 70% Dark Chocolate with Ginger & Orange bar and everything changed. The flavors in that bar are so perfect I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. In fact, I might be a little obsessed. I even put the Ginger & Orange bar in my pumpkin bread, for Pete’s sake. (Who’s Pete? I don’t know, but I’m certain he would love the chocolate bar and this recipe.)
My first attempt at ginger cupcakes was a little meh. The ginger flavor was very pronounced, but by the second or third bite it was maybe a little TOO burny. In the words of my husband / taste tester, “Whoa.” They were also a little too sweet and a little too flat. Fortunately it just took a few tweaks to fix that right up. I used coconut oil to keep them moist, but kept some butter for flavor. The orange zest is subtle, but a sweet background note to the spicy ginger. The cupcakes have a pleasing soft texture without being crumbly, too. I’m very happy with how the final cupcakes turned out!
But wait. We need to get serious a minute about this frosting, though. Oh. Em. Gee.
It’s thick and smooth and super chocolate-y – like a ganache, but not quite as fussy or firm. The texture reminded me of the stuff you buy in jars at the grocery store, but the flavor was so much better. Best of all, it stays pretty soft at room temp. The outside will harden a bit so that it’s not a gooey, sticky mess, but when you bite into the cupcake the frosting will still give easily without crushing the cake. I was afraid such an intensely chocolate frosting would overwhelm the ginger cupcakes, but I found it was the perfect balance between creamy frosting and spicy sweet cupcakes.
These Triple Ginger Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting will definitely cure your post-October Pumpkin Overload Blues!
Full Disclosure: Divine Chocolate generously provided me with the chocolate used in this recipe, but in no way influenced the recipe or anything I said about them. All opinions are my own. I am legitimately a BIG fan of their delicious chocolate and their fair-trade/farmer-owned business.
Triple Ginger Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting
Makes 12 cupcakes
Coconut oil is a solid fat sold in jars, like crisco. You can find it in my health food stores. I used refined coconut oil in this recipe because it’s flavor is very neutral with no coconut taste. Measure the coconut oil solid for this recipe – no need to melt it. If you can’t find coconut oil, an equal amount of butter should be a fine substitute.
1/2 cup milk
1/2 to 3/4 ounce peeled, fresh ginger root, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
3/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger
1/4 cup refined coconut oil, at room temperature (solid)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups granulated sugar
zest of 1 large orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 Tablespoon orange juice
1 batch of Chocolate Fudge Frosting (below)
candied ginger, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
Combine chopped fresh ginger and milk in microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl, and heat on High for 30 seconds in microwave, or until warm. (Do not to boil!) Set aside to steep for 10 minutes. Pour milk through a fine mesh sieve, pushing on ginger pieces to extract maximum ginger flavor.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and ginger. Stir in chopped candied ginger.
With an electric mixer, beat together coconut oil, butter, sugar, and zest until light and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Beat in egg, vanilla, and orange juice. With the mixer on low, alternate adding dry ingredients and steeped milk until all combined.
Divide batter evenly in prepared muffin tin. Bake at 350°F for 18-20 minutes, or until cake springs back and toothpick comes out clean (edges may brown slightly).
Cool completely on a wire wrack. When cool, frost with Chocolate Fudge Frosting. Store covered at room temperature.
Chocolate Fudge Frosting
Adapted from Bon Apetit
Frosts 12 cupcakes
I’m not kidding when I say you need to sift the powdered sugar. If you remain stubborn and decide not to (like me), your frosting will be lumpy & grainy. If you immediately regret that decision and want smoother frosting (like me), don’t toss it. A quick whir in the blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender (what I used) should do the trick. Blend for a few seconds, then stir thoroughly. Repeat until smooth, but don’t overblend or your frosting may break. If it does, add a splash of cold heavy cream and stir thoroughly, repeating until it’s smooth again.
The original recipe says this should take an hour or more to cool and thicken, but mine did not take more than 15 minutes or so. Be sure to plan ahead, just in case.
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons milk or cream
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder
3.5 ounces bittersweet (85%) dark chocolate, chopped (1 whole bar)
1.5 ounces bittersweet (70%) dark chocolate, chopped (about 9-10 squares of a bar)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar, *sifted*
orange zest (optional)
Heat butter, sugar, cream, milk and pinch of salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar, until it simmers. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate to pan and whisk briskly until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Whisk in vanilla and powdered sugar. Cool until thick enough to spread.
A few weeks ago, I got a sudden craving for cinnamon raisin bread. Something about the cool, rainy weather we’ve been having made me long for that sweet, cinnamon-y swirled bread. The more I thought about it, the more certain I was that if I was going to bake anything in October, it had to contain pumpkin. Divine Chocolate was also generous enough to send me one of their 70% Dark Chocolate with Ginger & Orange bar and, well… I think you can see where I’m going with this.
And then get out your baking pan because you’re going to want to make this one ASAP.
PS. You better believe I intend to make some french toast out of this deliciousness.
I’ve got a treat for you today! If you’re like me, you’ve probably found yourself wondering how to get your favorite digital recipes out of the computer and into the real world. I’ve longed for eye-catching (as in, not just text on a page) printable versions of my recipes to give to friends & family along with the treats I make them and to use as gifts for bridal & baby showers, but where to start? I may have a copy of Photoshop, but I’m no designer.
You know who is though? Ste Grainer, the creative talent behind Saunter Studios. Ste has been designing beautiful things for over 10 years. His Etsy shop is full of awesome, easy-to-customize printable Photoshop templates for birthday invitations, holiday cards and now… recipe cards! (And did I mention they’re all VERY affordable?)
Seriously, you have to check these out. They’re stunning. And there’s a free recipe card of one of my favorite recipes for you to download below!
Here’s Ste himself to tell you more…
Cooking and photography are a natural pair. You’ve worked hard to create a beautiful looking dish that simply begs to be devoured. What better way to remember it and share it than to capture that moment: the steam, sizzle, and shine of your delicacies fresh from the kitchen.
Both cooking and photography are all about sharing. You cook a delicious meal to share with your family and friends. You share your favorite places, people, and moments through your photos. One day, as I was watching my wife Kristen photograph her latest culinary creation for her blog Shutter N Spice, I realized that combining her recipes and photos would make for an even more fun way to share both. That’s why I made my photo recipe card Photoshop templates.
These templates are designed to be printed at 4×6, the perfect size to fit in your recipe box. They’re slightly larger so they’ll print at a full bleed (ed. note – that means all the way to the edges!), giving your photos more room to shine. They’re designed with beautiful free fonts, but you’re free to use your own fonts for your own style. All of the templates have space for ingredients, clearly numbered instructions, color-coordinated categories, quick details like servings, prep and cook time, and even source info (to reference the original blog post, cookbook, or friend who provided the recipe).
These templates are great for sharing your favorite recipes, whether as personalized gift sets for family and friends, single recipe giveaways at potlucks and parties, or selling them at craft shows and farmer’s markets. The template lets the recipe and your photos shine, and still manages to leave space for people to find out more – link them to your blog, your business, or just leave a personal note that the recipe was from you along with a personal photo or logo.
Don’t have Photoshop? No problem – you can also order custom recipe cards through my shop as well. And the more you order, the less you pay per card! (I send you the digital files to print the cards yourself so you can print and reprint the recipes as many times as you’d like.)
You can find all of the templates at the Saunter Studios Etsy store here:
(Ed. note – You can follow Saunter Studios on Facebook & Pinterest too!)
Intrigued but want a free sample? Every Friday I post a new printable recipe card (front and back) in one of the templates available. This Friday’s recipe roundup is one of my favorite recipes from The Craving Chronicles. My wife and I made these Cinnamon Glazed Pumpkin Cookies almost the same week that Theresa posted them way back in 2009, and they’ve become a fall staple in our house.
Download the Cinnamon Glazed Pumpkin Cookies recipe card for FREE here and print them yourself!
But wait! There’s more…
Want to promote your own food blog or get a free sample card of your own recipe? Get in touch with Ste on the Saunter Studios Facebook page or blog and have your recipe featured in the weekly
recipe roundup. Each week, Ste will select, design, and share a free recipe card including links back to your own blog.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I escaped from work and life for a week to visit the beautiful state of Colorado. When I started planning our trip, I suddenly discovered just how HUGE the state is. I quickly realized we would not be able to see the whole state in one week, so we decided to focus our trip on the Boulder / Denver metro area, with a 2-day stay in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park being the highlight of our trip. If you’ve never read my About or Photography pages, you might not know that I’m primarily into nature and landscape photography – so I was REALLY excited about capturing the beauty of the Rockies with my camera.
I have an uncle who lives in Colorado and was kind enough to be our tour guide for the first few days of our trip. The first day we took a quick drive out past Estes Park and into Rocky Mountain National Park. The afternoon storms had already started building over the mountains at that point, but the scenery was still breathtaking. I took some quick snapshots but didn’t fuss too much because I figured we’d be back later in the week when I’d have more time to take photos. We got our first taste of Rocky Mountain elevation at around 11,000 feet above sea level. The air was noticeably thinner but not too uncomfortable.
The second day of our trip we took a ride out to Pikes Peak, which I later learned is the 39th highest peak in the US at 14,115 feet of elevation. We opted to drive up to the top, although there is also a cog railroad you can ride to the top. Honestly, I’m not sure which is more terrifying but I can tell you the drive to the top of Pikes Peak was breathtaking in more ways than one. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart! The views were incredible on the way up, and we discovered a few surprises along the way. Did you think Santa’s Workshop was in the North Pole? Wrong! It’s in Colorado. And so is bigfoot! Or so the sign would lead you to believe. At the top of Pikes Peak, I discovered what they mean when they talk about “thin air” at high altitudes. At 14,000 feet, moving any faster than grandma walking speed would leave me gasping for air. The best way to describe it is that you’re breathing air, but it feels like the air isn’t working. It’s a unique sensation, and one I’m definitely glad I did not experience for long!
Sadly, after that the rain started so the rest of our trip was spent focusing on indoor activities and just trying not to get swept away in flood waters. For rainy day activities, I recommend a visit to the National Center for Atmospheric Research for some cool, sciency weather exhibits. Also, take a tour of the Celestial Seasonings factory in Boulder. They’ll give you all the free tea samples you can drink of any flavor you want! If it’s not too rainy, the Denver Zoo is huge and very nice.
But wait, we haven’t talked about the food!
We discovered Early Bird in Westminster, CO almost by accident and we ended up liking it so much we ate breakfast there 3 times. Early Bird focuses on fresh, seasonal, and local food that delivers a lot of flavor. The first time we visited the creme brulee french toast grabbed my attention right away. I ordered it topped with peanut butter and bananas. So filling and delicious! On subsequent visits I tried one of their “risers” (open-faced omelets) and their signature eggs benedict with braised pulled pork. Of course I couldn’t leave without one of their browned butter nutella cookies too! Everything was fantastic and so reasonably priced. There is no way you will leave Early Bird hungry!
Speaking of breakfast, when I solicited recommendations for places to eat around Denver, the one place everyone unanimously recommended was Snooze. After having breakfast there, I completely understand why. We ordered the highly recommend pancake flight to start, with Blueberry Danish, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, and Sweet Potato pancakes. They were so good my eyes rolled back in my head. It was a tie between the pineapple and sweet potato pancakes for my favorites! Then, because it’s my favorite breakfast ever, I had to order the eggs benedict with smoked ham and smoked cheddar hollandaise. Everything was so perfect it was hard to believe, right down to the crispy, not at all soggy hash browns.
Another favorite place to eat in Denver was at Pinche Tacos. They had rave reviews online and I figured it would be a good stop for lunch. The sign outside simply reads, “Tacos. Tequila. Whiskey.” Who could say no to that? Not me! We started with an order of Queso Fundido con Tequila because I can never say no to queso. The chips were so fresh they were still warm and the melty cheese was incredible. At that point I decided that if we were in a place known for tequila, I needed to try a margarita. They make excellent margaritas. Lots of fresh lime flavor and they’re not overly sweet or salty. For lunch we tried a selection of their extensive taco menu, including a chipotle & beer battered fish, slaw, avocado & pineapple guacamole taco (my favorite) and the Carnitas taco, made with crispy roasted pork, pickled red onions, and avocado crema (my husband’s favorite). Incredibly we still had some room left after all that, so of course I had to order the churros for dessert. I loved the way they served them in an oversized mug with a chocolate dipping sauce!
The award for most unique dining experience goes to our dinner at Gold Hill Inn. My uncle told us he wanted to take us to this great restaurant, but that on the way there we would wonder where he was taking us. He wasn’t kidding! Gold Hill Inn is just 10 miles outside of Boulder, but it’s 3,200 feet above Boulder at 8,300 feet above sea level, on the side of a mountain. About halfway there, the road turned from asphalt to dirt. The restaurant is housed in a 1924 log cabin. It was like taking a step back in time! The food, however, was just as modern as any other restaurant. We were treated to a 6-course meal of home cooked, seasonal foods. It was an experience I won’t forget!
Last but not least, I fell hard for ModMarket when we accidentally stumbled upon them for lunch one afternoon. ModMarket is exactly what I wish fast food would be. They focus on real, whole foods with no preservatives or artificial sweeteners. You won’t find any Diet Coke at ModMarket! As they say, “We make things from scratch, which is a total pain, but it makes our food taste better.” Love it!
The Floods & How You Can Help
I’m sorry I don’t have more or better photos to share, or really any recommendations for outdoor activities in Colorado – which is full of them! You’ve probably heard on the news by now that the Denver / Boulder / Estes Park area of Colorado experienced heavy rain and some of the worst flooding in decades the week we visited in early September. We ended up cancelling a lot of our plans, including our stay in Estes Park, but we were fortunately never in danger. While I am hugely disappointed that our trip didn’t turn out to be what I had hoped for, I also realize that things could have been much worse and we were overall very lucky. My disappoint is nothing compared to anguish of residents in Boulder, Estes Park, Longmont, Lyons, and other communities along the Front Range as they try to clean up and recover from the massive floods. Many towns received over a foot of rain in 3 days, with Boulder receiving 17 inches that week – 9 inches of which fell in ONE day. The amount of rainfall many of the Front Range towns experienced during that week exceeded their average annual rainfall totals.
I’ve included a few links below in case you feel compelled to help. While the rain has finally stopped, Colorado is facing a long clean-up process ahead of them as they continue to recover from this natural disaster.
Pop quiz: It’s nearing the end of summer and you have chocolate-loving family members coming to visit. What do you do?
Did you answer “Panic”? Then you are correct!
Just kidding. Don’t panic. You’ve got this.
All you have to do is make them this super-easy chocolate zucchini cake. You see, you get to use up all the zucchini taking over your garden (or your neighbors’ or coworkers’ gardens) and you get to eat chocolate while claiming you’re eating your vegetables.
I love this cake. It’s like a little black dress. Simple. Flattering, but uncomplicated. Appropriate for all occasions. And with just the right accessories, it’s like WOW.
The cake is moist and tender with a good chocolate flavor, thanks to Divine‘s fabulous cocoa powder. (Did I mention their chocolate is fair trade and owned by the cocoa farmers? Awesome.) You could eat the cake un-frosted and be perfectly content. But if you want to turn the chocolate flavor up to 11, frost it with some chocolate ganache. A half pound of Divine chocolate in ganache form really sends this cake over the top. You’ll end up with a cake that will satisfy any chocoholic! Even ones who don’t like veggies.
I liked accessorizing this simple chocolate cake with local fresh raspberries (for a little tartness) and a tiny dusting of powdered sugar, to compliment the rich cake. You could substitute strawberries or blackberries, if you prefer.
If there’s a better way to eat your veggies, I sure would like to know about it!
Full Disclosure: Divine Chocolate generously provided me with the chocolate used in this recipe, but in no way influenced the recipe or anything I said about them. All opinions are my own. I am legitimately a BIG fan of their delicious chocolate and their fair-trade/farmer-owned business.
Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Ganache Frosting
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes one 13×9-inch cake
Please note, this makes a 13×9 cake so it’s big enough to feed a crowd. Don’t freak out about the tiny bit of corn syrup in the ganache. It’s just there to keep it soft enough to put your fork through at room temperature. For this recipe, I melted roughly 1/2 cup of solid coconut oil in the microwave (10-20 seconds on High), then measured out an exact 1/2 cup of liquified oil for use. To save your arm, I recommend shredding the zucchini with a food processor. For the ganache, your chocolate should be chopped into roughly chocolate chip-sized pieces.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Divine cocoa powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder (optional)
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 heaping cups (12-14 ounces) shredded zucchini (about one 10-inch zucchini)
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
8 ounces Divine 70% baking bar (about 1 1/2 bars), chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Preheat over to 325°F. Grease a 13×9-inch cake pan (or spray with baking spray).
Whisk together flour, coco powder and espresso powder in medium bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter, coconut oil, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Beat until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time until smooth again. With mixer on low, alternate adding yogurt and flour mixture just until combined. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips with a spatula. Spoon batter into prepared pan. (Batter will be thick.) Bake for 35-40 minutes at 325°F, or until set and the top springs back when touched. (Note: you can use a toothpick to test for doneness, but be aware that melty chocolate chips can look like uncooked batter!)
Cool cake in pan on rack for 10 – 20 minutes, then invert onto rack to cool completely.
To make the ganache, place chopped chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl. Heat cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just barely simmers. Remove from heat. Let cool for 1 minute. Pour hot cream mixture over chopped chocolate. Let stand, untouched, for 3-5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Spread over cake.
Store cake covered at room temperature.
Note: If your ganache breaks (separates and becomes oily and gloppy) add a splash of cold cream and stir briskly for 1-2 minutes. Repeat until ganache is smooth and shiny.
If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, you probably know by now that I attended the Asheville Wine & Food Festival last weekend. I’ve waxed poetic about my love for Asheville, NC and it’s burgeoning food scene before. When the opportunity to attend the festival presented itself, you better believe I jumped on it in a heartbeat!
(If you don’t really care about my festival shenanigans, skip to the bottom to find out about the giveaway!)
The festival was three separate events held over the course of three days, and boy am I glad they were spread out. I’m pretty good at eating but even I was overwhelmed! Read on for a description of the events and eats. Just don’t judge too harshly for the terrible photos. I took them all with my phone because using a dSLR would have meant one less hand available for eating / drinking.
The festival’s first event was ELIXIR, a new event this year, showcasing the region’s spirits and mixologists (aka bartenders). There were abundant samples of everything from vodka to moonshine, and let’s not forget about the food. While the feature of this event was the cocktails, I was immediately smitten with the hors d’oeuvres. I’m not even kidding when I say I could have eaten all of the petite buttermilk biscuits with proscuitto, red onion jam, and Lusty Monk mustard. The sous vide pork belly with carrot ginger emulsion and petite pea wild mushroom ragout was so tender it practically melted in my mouth.
My favorite spirit of the night was Troy & Sons’ whiskey. Actually, they were my favorite of the whole weekend. Every single cocktail they put together was delicious and their whiskey is very smooth. I also really enjoyed a little drink made with Carolina rum, Barritt’s Ginger Beer.. and some other stuff. I’m not going to lie, after the first 30 mins and dozen samples, everything started to blur together a little bit. The event was sponsored by Angry Orchard hard cider, and I do distinctly remember trying their new seasonal fall cider, Cinnful Apple. I was already a fan of their hard ciders, but I’m really hoping they keep the Cinnful Apple around for a long time because it is hands-down this cinnamon lover’s favorite flavor.
The main attraction at ELIXIR was the mixologist competition. Asheville’s best bartenders put their skills to the test. The challenge: make a fantastic cocktail using at least one local spirit and Angry Orchard hard cider. We sampled a few of the creations (ok, maybe more than a few) but the 100 Proof Heartache from MG Road stood out the most. The unique combination of mescal (a smokey agave liquor), Carriage House apple brandy, Angry Orchard reduction with ginger & chili, lime, and cinnamon yielded an unforgettable beverage. Sweet, smokey, spicy and savory, it hit every part of my palette. The only way to describe it is to say it was like drinking a pulled pork BBQ sandwich… but in a really good way. MG Road took home the win with that cocktail!
This should come as no surprise – SWEET was the event I was most looking forward to. All-I-Can-Eat desserts? Dreams do come true. Asheville’s finest pastry chefs, chocolatiers and ice cream makers filled the historic Grove Arcade building. We floated from table to table, sampling everything while sipping on champagne from the Biltmore and local Nobel Cider.
My first stop was the True Confections table. Those mini eclairs were just calling my name! And they were perfect in every way. I was excited to finally get to try frozen treats from The Hop, Asheville’s favorite ice cream shop. With flavors like salted caramel, marscapone peppercorn swirl, and blueberry kale, what’s not to love? I sampled with peach prosecco sorbet (so light and refreshing!) while my husband tried the graham cracker porter (he gave it two thumbs up).
Those who know me will not be surprised that my very next stop was French Broad Chocolates, where I finally met Dan and Jael, the two lovely people responsible for creating my favorite place anywhere on earth – The French Broad Chocolate Lounge. It was a little bit like meeting celebrities for me. I got a little fan-girly and I think I might have scared them with my excited enthusiasm, but I just couldn’t help myself!
Other highlights of the evening included Well-Bred Bakery‘s raspberry champagne cake, which had FOUR bottles of champagne in it. I loved the bright burst of raspberry flavor, and you could definitely taste the champagne. I also loved their packaging, which read “I’m well-bred and worth the calories!” Indeed. I was also wowed by the gluten-free flourless chocolate cake with espresso ganache from Strada.
And it was soon after that that we hit the wall. I didn’t think it existed, but it turns out there is a limit to how much dessert I can eat. We nibbled a little bit more, but I left disappointed that I physically could not eat every single thing offered. Maybe if I start practicing now I can be ready for next year?
The Grand Tasting
The Grand Tasting is the festival’s biggest and final event. The US Cellular Center was packed to the gills with beer brewers, winemakers, distillers, restaurants, farmers and artisan food producers. I have literally never seen so much food and drink in one place. As if that weren’t enough, the event also played host to an Iron Chef-like cooking competition between chefs from local restaurants Tomato Jam Cafe and Strada.
Due to a bit of poor scheduling on our part, we had to leave to Grand Tasting for a bit in the middle of the event (to tour the French Broad Chocolates factory – worth it!). Even with our early VIP admission, that only gave us about 3 hours total to see, smell and taste everything. It was not enough time!
Highlights included Pork Belly BLTs and Figs Two Ways (including the worlds smallest and cutest fig newton!) from the Biltmore, fresh sliced jamón ibérico (cured spanish ham) from Cúrate, lavender chicken salad from The Corner Kitchen, fresh cheese curds, and two more delicious cocktails from Troy & Sons. (What? I like whiskey.) I also discovered all natural, handmade Firewalker Hot Sauce and fell in love with it, which is saying a lot for this girl who doesn’t really even like hot sauce. Its citrus-y, habanero kick tastes great on just about everything, which is exactly what I’ve been putting it on. Bonus: it’s made with no preservatives or funky ingredients – just real foods like vinegar, citrus, peppers and spices. I love food I can feel good about eating!
The whole thing went by so fast, and there was so much to see and taste that we didn’t get to everything. I hardly even took any photos!
We have a winner!
Congratulations ReneeDF - who said, “I would have loved to try the marscapone and peppercorn ice cream! Hope I win, I need chocolate in my life (and mouth)!”. Well Renee, I think I can help with that. Check your email!
Congratulations! You made it through the whole post! Or you cheated and just skipped to the bottom. Either way, I’ve put together a little gift for you as a thank you for reading The Craving Chronicles. One very lucky reader will win a gift box from Asheville Goods full of my personal favorite Asheville treats. This is a one-of-a-kind gift box that I put together just for you! I selected all of the items in the box and the kind and wonderful ladies at Asheville Goods will be assembling it and shipping it straight to your door. The gift box includes:
- 12 Bones Smokehouse Blueberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
- Lusty Monk Mustard Original Sin
- French Broad Chocolate Riverbend Malted Milk Chocolate Bar
- Black Mountain Chocolate Sea Salt Chocolate bar
- Chocolate Gems Salted Caramel Selection
- Imladris Farm Raspberry Jam
- Firewalker Hot Sauce
For a chance to win, leave a comment on this post telling me what you would have liked to try at the food festival, what you’re most hoping to try in the gift box, or just tell me what you love about The Craving Chronicles! You have until Wednesday, September 4th 2013 at 5:00pm EST to enter – one entry per person, please. And now for the fine print… US residents only. ONE entry per person. Anyone violating the rules will be disqualified at my sole discretion. The giveaway ends Wednesday, September 4th 2013 at 5:00pm EST. Winner will be selected at random using a random number generator. Winner will be emailed, posted here on the blog, and announced on Twitter. In the event that the winner does not respond within two days, a new winner will be selected. Disclaimer: This giveaway is not sponsored and I have not been compensated in any way. None of the brands mentioned (aside from Asheville Goods, who are assembling the gift box) even know I’m doing this. This is literally just a gift from me to you!