This Foodie Blog Post is not About Roger Waters. Or The Wall. Or Pink Floyd. 07.13.2012

Okay, look, I’m lying.  This particular foodie blog post is about Roger Waters, The Wall, and Pink Floyd.  After what I saw last night, it has to be.

I had fully intended to write about my meal at Jaleo and the usual tapas I eat (the shrimp and the beautiful, gorgeous ham atop bread smeared with tomato) and new things I tried (the salted cod pastry with honey) before going to hear and see The Wall.  Really.  And I will. But right now, I have to pause and pay homage to Roger Waters. 

When I was 10 years old, I heard my older brother listening to The Wall.  It was spectacular.  Although I wasn’t using the term “mind blowing” at that age, that’s what it felt like.  I heard it first on a record, and eventually, with saved up allowance money, I bought The Wall on cassette tape.  It was glorious.  I listened to it over and over again, never tiring of the reverberating anguish.  I recognized that it was dark, but I also recognized that the darkness was beautifully written and composed.

It stayed with me through middle school and high school.  I was in a trigonometry class and after the class had finished a test early one day, my classmates and I launched into an analysis of The Wall.  In earnest.

Freshman year at college I met one of my best friends, and I was horrified to learn that she had never heard a single Pink Floyd song.  What kind of life is that?  So I sat her down one evening in a quiet room, and played my tape of The Wall, and later that semester, Dark Side of the Moon. I should have had a CD player by this time, but that’s another story.  (FYI mom and dad:  I have a CD player AND I have The Wall on CD now.  Hope you’re happy.)

The concert last night was everything I expected and more.  It was the movie and the album blown up into an opera, and in your face, inside your ears, and running through your body.  There was not one sound last night that you could not feel.  It was loud and shocking and moving, just like the album.

An actual wall was seamlessly built on stage throughout the concert, and then, elegantly crumbled down at the end to thunderous applause.  Images on the wall from the movie and newer, powerful anti- totalitarianism, anti-war images were truly breathtaking. 

When I was running, I always had “Run” in my mix of music I listened to on my runs.  There is energy and intensity in that song when you listen to it --  running or otherwise -- and it is magnified exponentially in this concert. 

Waters was a perfect gentleman with the audience.  He says The Wall is as relevant today as it was more than 30 years ago when it was released.  He is right.  And he now has the benefit of technological advancements for The Wall to visually be in a concert what he probably imagined when he wrote it. 

Okay. That is my homage to Waters, who I am sure had a good meal or two when he was in town.  More photos from the concert will be on my Flickr page.

Chocolate Factory Tour 07.08.2012

Passion of the Sea Truffle

When I think about Gaithersburg, Maryland, I do not conjure up a chocolate factory in my mind.  I used to live there once upon a time, so I should know, but I am happy to be wrong.  Not only does SPAGnVOLA have a chocolate factory there, they provide regularly scheduled tours of their factory.  It’s not a big factory, but it’s thoughtful and enough for my corner of the world. 

As you know, I’m not a big chocolate fan but I do appreciate really good chocolate.  SPAGnvVOLA chocolate is delicious and I’m already planning numerous boxes for holiday presents.

SPAGnVOLA (pronounced spang-vola), means Hispaniola in Criole and refers to the island where the Dominican Republic is located.  SPAGnVOLA is a single-estate chocolatier with a cacao farm in the Domincan Republic.  The process they employ is organic from start to finish.  The Gaithersburg facility is called the Truffle Factory and you can see why from the photos.  They also serve gelato and coffee. 

On my last trip to Paris, I remember walking by more than one chocolate shop and gaping, unable to move simply because the chocolate looked so incredibly beautiful.  I cannot tell you how much it pleases me to have such a shop so close to me.  Aside from the product being delicious, the shop is well appointed, the factory meticulously clean and organized, and the staff friendly and knowledgeable.

Justin Brooks giving a tour.  Kids get the front row.
Our tour was led by SPAGnVOLA’s marketing director, Justin Brooks, who talked about and showed us how the chocolate is prepared from pod to truffle.  The tour is not long, but Justin packs in a lot of information and makes it interesting.  Tours are free and conducted Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.  We also got a little taste of chocolate, which only made me want to buy their chocolate.  The factory also has two-hour chocolate making classes (again, a possible holiday gift).

A few blog posts ago, I wrote about the chef’s table dinner at Rasika West End and mentioned how a little inside knowledge enhances a meal and a dining experience.  In that vein, I think the factory tour is a stroke of genius.  It’s been done, but why isn’t it done more?  You become intimate with the process and the product, the passion of the owners, you’re offered a taste, and boom!  You’re in.  Brand Loyalty 101.

Take the tour, buy some chocolate.  You won’t be sorry.

SPAGnVOLA Chocolatier
360 Main Street 
Suite 100
Gaithersburg, Maryland 20878


Cacao from SPAGnVOLA's AgroCriso Estate in the Dominican Republic

SPAGnVOLA's chocolate is 70% cacao and 30% pure cane sugar

This process goes on for days.  And smells incredible.

Anyone Who Loves Kale, Please Raise Your Hand 07.08.2012

And if you don't love, adore, and just downright worship kale, you might be deeply misguided.  I know, I know, it's bitter, it's weird, it's green...but it's so delicious, not to mention good for you.  Kale is packed with beta carotene, vitamins K and C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and calcium.  And if that wasn't enough, it also contains sulforaphane, a chemical with anti-cancer properties.  

Crispy kale has been around for a while and I don't tire of it.  It's easy to make and serves well as an appetizer, decorative side dish, or garnish.  It's also available in grocery stores, but why would pay for something so simple to make at home (and for a fraction of the cost)?

My parents were having a dinner party last night (to which we were not invited I might add) and Eric made two glassfuls of crispy, salty kale as a pass-around appetizer.  This is all you need:

A bunch of Lacinato kale (about 20 leaves)
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

1. Wash kale, dry, and take out the middle stem (it's really tough)
2.  Place in mixing bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper
3.  Lay flat on cookie sheets
4.  Place in oven for 30 minutes
5.  Cool on racks
6.  Place vertically in tall glasses
7.  Serve and enjoy!

Crispy kale out of the oven, cooling

Crispy kale, elegantly placed in tall glasses, drops of olive oil gathering at the bottom

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A Clean Fridge 07.07.2012

I am basking in the glory of these photos, which represent a brief period when the inside of our fridge looked like my fantasy fridge.  Lots of water cooling, only a few condiments, and some wine and champagne.  What’s not to love about this besides the fact that we couldn’t survive on the contents for terribly long?  Well, at least not the children.

Eric cleaned the inside with a cleaning solution and wiped every square inch down with Clorox wipes.  I then set the fridge up with what we had left following the horrible storms last week.  When Eric went to the fridge later in the day, he said:  “What the hell is this?!”

For some strange reason his fantasy of the perfect fridge is vastly different than my fantasy.  Why he doesn’t see the beauty of row after row of water bottles, I’ll never figure out.

We’re on Day 3 of a very clean fridge and we’re maintaining the status.  No extraneous condiment jars that seem never to expire, no leftovers kept beyond Day 2, and everything is still in plain sight. 

Send me a picture of your fridge – clean or otherwise – and I’ll post a gallery.  With your photo, send your name as/if you would like to appear with the photo, where you live, and a brief description of what you think when you open your fridge every day.  You know, your hopes and dreams.  Send your photos to:

Happy snapping!

This lasted for a few hours but those were really blissful hours. 

Holy Ganges water, Batman!  My family has always kept a bottle of holy wanter
from the River Ganges in India.  It's sprinkled throughout the house on the day you move
in and kept in the fridge forever after.  Well, until you run out.

The freezer

Starting Over: Story of a Fridge 07.03.2012

What we were able to save.  Ready for a Clorox scrub-down!

I am trying to imagine the number of people emptying out refrigerators this week up and down the Mid-Atlantic United States.  The storms of this past weekend have left so many people (including us) without electricity, seeking relief, and dealing with the aftermath.  It’s a huge mess.  Thankfully we were away this weekend, but returned Monday to find major tree debris around our house (not on the house) and no power.  The heat is oppressive and trying to get back to any normalcy is exhausting.

One of our big tasks today was emptying the fridge.  It’s a sad prospect because as you throw out each item, you add up how much money you’re throwing away.  And then there are your hopes and dreams:  there was a gorgeous eggplant I was going to curry, two quarts of deep red strawberries that were going to be marinated and piled on top of sponge cake with fresh whipped cream (out went the pint of heavy cream) -- and so much more.  All gone.

Emptying out the freezer.  We found some things
at the bottom that had been long forgotten.
But in the midst of this throw-out, I felt happy:  there was space – lots of space.  Can we live with what we just need today (and maybe tomorrow) and not what we might need for days and days to come?  I’ve heard of people never having leftovers in the fridge – could we be those people?  Could we be the type of people who don’t keep 35 bottles of condiments?  Or those people who have two perfect rows of San Pelligrino, chilled and ready to serve?  Dare I dream so big?

And that is the beauty part of an empty fridge.  You are back to a point of simplicity and control. 

My next task is to wipe down the inside of the fridge until it looks like the day it arrived at our house.   And then we’ll see.  Having two offspring under the age of five makes simplicity and control seem downright dreamy.

Incidentally, our local Balducci’s store was running on generator juice until it ran out.  I heard through a neighbor that they were calling in people to help get rid of the inventory.  So many hopes and dreams….

Part of the damage in our backyard