Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The CocoaRoar Report

I’M BACK! Many of you know that I have been up to my eyeballs in chocolate since my last posting, as my apartment was transformed into a veritable chocolate factory this month. During the first three weeks of December, I somehow managed to hand-craft and package nearly 2,000 CocoaRoar truffles in between gigs, which left me very little time for any sort of writing. Obviously I love making chocolate, but I love writing just as much and I have genuinely missed having the time to do that. And I apologize profusely for neglecting all of my dear readers in these past weeks.

I had all the best intentions of posting frequent updates here on Kitchen Fiddler from my CocoaRoar chocolate factory during the past month. Honestly, I really did. I wanted to show you pictures of what was going on in my little kitchen, especially during those times when I made such a hilarious mess. There were times when it looked as though Jackson Pollock had gone to town in my kitchen, using my baking trays and counters for his canvases and pouring melted chocolate instead of paint! I had every intention of including a truffle recipe for those who weren’t able to partake of these truffles first hand, as I was so eager to share my chocolates with everyone in any way I could.

However, reality hit. No matter how many thousands of truffles I’ve made in my lifetime, I’m always surprised that the process takes longer than I think it will, especially since each truffle has to be scooped out and shaped by hand, then hand-dipped in melted chocolate. Every spare moment at home this month was spent creating truffles, boxing up truffles, or arranging to get those truffles to so many wonderful customers. (Thank goodness for Sylvia, Ming, and Cenovia who were my little elves, occasionally coming over to help me put chocolates in their crimson boxes, providing much laughter and moral support as well as much-welcomed practical help!) This was all happening in the midst of a crazy-but-happy December performance calendar, one which included multiple Christmas concerts and church services on top of my regular show/orchestral schedule. So between truffling, warming up for various concerts and trying to get a halfway decent amount of sleep, there simply was no time for me to write. And I missed it terribly!

It was a crazy month but truly in the most fun and celebratory way. I felt like I was hosting a month-long chocolate party. Friends continually came by to pick up their truffles, following the enticing scent of cocoa that emanated from my apartment and wafted down the hallway almost to the elevator. I felt like the Chocolate Fairy whever I'd show up to gigs loaded down with shopping bags filled with truffle boxes, ready to spread cocoa joy and chocolate happiness all around.

And now that the CocoaRoar factory has been dissembled and I’ve had a few days to catch my breath, I’m all yours again and am thrilled to be back on Kitchen Fiddler. My culinary imagination has been running on overdrive lately, and I'm envisioning all the many savory dishes I want to cook in these next weeks. I’m already imagining how I’m going to photograph and write about these favorite winter comfort foods to share with all of you, and I can assure you that there will be many yummy postings on this blog in January. (Wait till I tell you about the killer roast chicken I made for Christmas dinner, for you're going to love it! Stay tuned...)

But for now, here are a few photos from these past weeks, and I present to you The Twelve Days of Christmas a la CocoaRoar.

TWELVE Quarts Of Heavy Cream. Some of it was combined directly with the chocolate, while much of the cream was steeped with herbs or tea leaves or, in this case, with fresh mint sprigs.

ELEVEN Favorite Films Playing In The Background. I had many of my favorite movies playing to keep me company while I truffled and boxed, including Moonstruck, Amadeus, Dangerous Liaisons, Pulp Fiction, Annie Hall, Manhattan, The Graduate, Michael Clayton, Ocean’s Eleven, Out of Sight, and The Full Monty!

TEN Performances of “South Pacific”. I managed to put in a few appearances at the show from the time truffle-production commenced on December 3rd, and I was very happy to have friends in the South Pacific orchestra trying these chocolates for the first time!

NINE Batches of Caramel & Sea Salt Ganache. This was definitely the most popular flavor this round, as some of you ordered boxes filled solely with caramel truffles! (You know who you are…)

EIGHT 6.6-lb Bags of Valrhona Chocolate Discs. It is a beautiful thing to open one of these substantial bags and be greeted with the intoxicating aroma of fresh deepest darkest chocolate. But when you have eight of those in your kitchen??? All I can say to that is MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

SEVEN Hours of Sleep Nightly (almost!) Unlike last December when I first launched CocoaRoar and was massively sleep-deprived, I was thrilled to average more than six hours of sleep a night this month!

SIX Fabulous Flavors: extra bittersweet, caramel&sea salt, Grand Marnier, fresh mint, raspberry earl grey, and ginger. I loved them all, and I hope you all did too.

FIVE Golden Spools of Raffia Ribbon. The scarlet boxes tied with gold ribbon look so festive, but this color scheme is not limited just to Christmas and is in fact the CocoaRoar signature look.

FOUR-and-Forty Batches of Ganache. Life can’t be all that bad when you’re blending ridiculous quantities of bittersweet chocolate with obscene amounts of heavy cream to make one silky batch of ganache after another, then scooping countless truffles out of the ganache once it has set.

THREE Memorable Performances of Handel’s “Messiah” at Carnegie Hall. My hands still smelled like cocoa, no matter how frequently I washed my hands before the concerts! But my heart was filled with joy to play this incredible music in such a magnificent hall with treasured friends and colleagues. Between sharing chocolate and music-making with dear friends, to say nothing of playing music of such hope and a love so incomprehensibly great, life felt undeniably full and rich this month.

TWO Hundred+ Leopard-Tissue-Lined Boxes, all of which were eventually filled with either six or twelve truffles. I lined the boxes up on my bookcase just so that I would have a visible sense of accomplishment as the towers got smaller. The three-deep stack of boxes originally was so high that it covered my movie-still photo of Mrs. Robinson’s extended leg in “The Graduate”! I felt happier as the stack got lower and lower, eventually revealing postcard-sized movie posters of Paul Newman in "The Hustler" and Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's". And soon enough, all 200+ boxes were filled with chocolates and delivered to their happy recipients!

Instead of "a partridge in a pear tree" to finish off the Twelve Days of CocoaRoar Christmas, I would be remiss if I failed to include ONE HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who have responded to my truffles and other culinary endeavors this year! You have no idea how much I love sharing these morsels of chocolate decadence with you all, and sharing my other food-related adventures with you here on Kitchen Fiddler has been a true delight.

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2009 filled with friendship and love, great music and fabulous food, and joyful adventures of all kinds!