One of things that I really love about Joseph is that we both really enjoy and value food. It’s not enough just to like food, to like to eat it. Who doesn’t like to eat? To be the man that I’ll spend the rest of my life with, he has to really appreciate what went into a dish to make it what it is, he has to celebrate the flavors and the way they work together, and he has to have a curiosity and genuine interest in what makes a dish so special. It doesn’t hurt to also be an amazing cook who also does a heck of a job washing dishes. Joseph is all of that, and more.
We spent the weekend before Valentine’s exploring local food treasures including the Danish Pastry House (absolutely incredible pastries), Fastachi (nuts, chocolate, and more), Penzeys Spices, John Dewar & Co. Butchers, and the Spirited Gourmet for a sake tasting. Then we had a fabulous dinner at Hungry Mother, one of my favorite restaurants in the Boston area, where the highlights were the braised beef tongue appetizer, the french gnocchi (I always have to order their gnocchi), and the outstanding bourbon upside-down cake with butter pecan ice cream. I can’t stop thinking about that sweet, salty, rich, nutty caramel goodness. And that was just Saturday.
Sunday, we trooped off to Taza Chocolate for a tour at the factory. If you aren’t familiar with Taza Chocolate, they’re located in Somerville, MA, just outside Boston and they are the only direct trade, organic, stone ground, bean-to-bar chocolate maker in the country. You’ll find plenty of chocolatiers in the States, but finding one that buys the cacao beans and does everything else from roasting the beans, to tempering, to making the bars, wrapping them (by hand no less!), and selling them is much more rare. I knew it was a really cool company, but being there and actually seeing and hearing more about it, well, I’m completely smitten.
Taza’s chocolate is unique in that, because it’s stone ground, it has a much coarser texture than a lot of the other chocolates that you may have had. They also have a very interesting assortment of flavors ranging from the expected, such as their 60% cocoa bar, to such interesting concoctions as their yerba mate chocolate bar and the salt and pepper chocolate bar (the latter being one of my favorites). They also sell all their chocolate bars as well as a number of other interesting chocolate products, like cocoa nibs and chocolate covered cocoa nibs, in their factory store. If you live in the Boston area or if you ever stop by, you have got to put the Taza tour on your list of things to do. You’ll get to learn all about chocolate and taste it along the way. If you’re desperate to try some but you’re not in the Boston area, the good news is that Taza chocolate is sold in all 50 states and even in Canada and some parts of Europe. And of course you can always order it. And no, I was not paid (cash or chocolate) to write this.
We were heading home after the chocolate tour, but the next thing we knew, we were parking the car and walking into Formaggio Kitchen. A foodie weekend such as this just didn’t seem complete without stopping at our favorite cheese stop. We made the rounds, sampling all of the many cheeses they had out. We really had intended to go home and eat some leftovers for lunch, but then Francis, a very friendly and helpful cheese monger there, helped us pick out some lovely charcuterie, including a Saucisson Sec Basque, a spicy salami flavored with smoked paprika.
Then a cheese called Winnimere caught my eye. Winnimere is a seasonal cheese from Jasper Hill Farm that’s washed in lambic-style beer made from the farm’s wild yeasts, and wrapped in a strip of spruce bark from the farm’s trees. I was instantly drawn to it (prior to learning all the aforementioned goodness) because my childhood dog’s name was Winnie AND it’s a Vermont cheese, one of my favorite states that I visited often growing up because my grandparents lived there. My sentimentality served me well – this luxuriously soft cheese with it’s woodsy, salty complexity was divine. We grabbed some grapes, a baguette, and took it all home for a wonderfully simple, yet fabulous lunch, pairing it with the bottle of Champagne we brought home from Paris last summer. It has been a wonderful celebration of our 6 years together (today!) and nod to Valentine’s Day.
Hope you’re having a weekend shared with the ones you love. Happy Valentine’s Day!