Oh man…we just got back from a glorious vacation. We took some time and headed west to visit our chickies in California. What a treat!
You know – as difficult as it is to say good-bye… well, we don’t really ever say good-bye, it’s actually something to the tune of, “See ya”…but even as difficult as that is…it’s worth the joy of seeing our beauties so happy in their habitat. We hung where they live, laughed with their pals, visited their workplace, and ate at their favorite joints…all against the backdrop of bright sunshine and baby-blue skies.
Lauren and Chels did a great job of weaving us into their very busy schedules, but there were a couple of days in the middle of the week that Dom and I were going to be on our own, so rather than kick around LA without them – we decided to take a road trip north to Sam Clam’s Disco… I mean San Francisco. (I hope you’ve all heard that joke or that’s gonna seem pret-ty weird.)
Anyway, Dom and I had been to San Francisco a number of years ago – but only briefly for a conference, plus I was far along in my pregnancy for Nick, and feeling, welllll, pregnant, so we had always hoped to make our way back for some of the seafood and chocolate I wasn’t much in the mood for the first time. (Besides, all I really craved for him were potatoes cooked in the microwave – but I’ll save that for another post!)
So yes – we needed to get back for that long-lost culinary adventure and boy did we!!
We managed to fit in clam chowder, crab legs, shrimp, mussels, pollock, scallops and cioppino… Oh yeah! Steaming chowder with oyster crackers and cracked black pepper on the pier before our guided tour out to the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz Island, and all the rest (some breaded and some steeped in a saucy stock) for dinner at a great little place called Scoma’s. The day was drizzly, but perfectly staged, with ominous gray skies above Alcatraz…
On our way back to the hotel we of course had to stop for dessert. Dessert that included, you guessed it, Ghirardelli chocolate. Dom got an ice-cream sundae in a waffle bowl trimmed in dark chocolate, and I, believe it or not, got hot cocoa. But not just any hot cocoa. It was the most luxurious, decadent, aromatic mug of melted chocolate that I have ever had. I decided then and there that I must not go another 19 years before having it (or something close to it) again. So here we are, just six days later and we’re swimming in chocolate.
It was definitely my lucky week because while doing a little shopping before heading back home, Chels stumbled upon Ina Garten’s most recent cookbook, FoolProof, which just so happens to have a recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate.
Meant to be my friends, meant to be.
I’m not sure there’s ever been a recipe of Ina’s that I don’t love, especially since she and I share the same taste for cilantro. And this hot chocolate is no exception.
I will admit – I turned the heat up just a little bit more than Ina – but you can easily adjust the cayenne to your liking…
I’ve decided that this will be one of my Valentine gifts for Dom this year. The older I get the more I realize that the best gifts for this sweet day are homemade…just one more thing in a long line of life’s full-circle moments. Am I right? Like the little red hearts we used to cut out of red construction paper folded in half then affixed to white paper doilies with chunky paste. We’ve all made them, and have all received them. Is there a better Valentine?
So on this day which calls for good food and warm company, we’ll relive a special moment that we don’t have to go too far back in our memory-banks to enjoy.
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
- 4½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
- ⅛ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ⅛ heaping tsp. ground cayenne pepper
- Place the milk and brown sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.
- Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper.
- Allow to steep for 3 minutes.
- Reheat the mixture over low heat until it reaches a slow simmer.
- Pour into mugs.
(*Recipe adapted from Ina Garten.)
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