I scream for ice cream…chocolate of course!

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Baby, it’s hot outside! 

Welcome summer…and so, my mind goes directly to ice cream!! Lovely, cold, delicious creaminess! Perfect to not only cool you down but take your taste buds to wonderful places.

Store-bought ice cream is good and super quick, but in no way is it as much fun as making it yourself and with your kids. You also have the ability with homemade ice cream to control what actually goes into it. Take this Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ingredients label below into consideration.

Now are you ready to make your own?

Cherry Garcia Ingredient Label – Skim milk, wafer (bleached wheat flour, isomalt*, maltitol*, caramel color, sorbitol*, palm oil, cocoa, corn flour, modified corn starch, salt, baking soda, natural flavor, soy lecithin), maltodextrin, polydextrose, sorbitol*, cream, stabilizer (mono and diglycerides, cellulose gel, cellulose gum, carrageenan), sucralose (Splenda brand), vitamin A palmitate, acesulfame potassium, natural flavor, artificial flavor.

     *sensitive individuals may experience a laxative effect from excess consumption of this ingredient.

Today making ice cream is quite economical! You don’t have to buy an ice cream machine to make it, but you can get a machine for super cheap. Look at these models available in Chef Central.

  • Zoku Ice Cream Maker  $25.95

  • West Bend Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker $49.95

  • Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker $59.95

  • Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet & Ice Cream $89.95

Ready to be your own Ben & Jerry, creating your own wacky flavors?  Here’s a great recipe to start with…and of course it is dark chocolate!  You can also put the ice cream between 2 chocolate chip cookies for your own ice cream sandwiches. Or be more decadent and check out our new Luxxelles…sweet wafers covered in creamy caramel, Sicilian Trapani sea salt and 72% dark chocolate!  http://luxxchocolat.com/luxxelles4pack.aspx. Or even add cocoa nibs or chocolate chunks!

This recipe is an original from Cuisinart, perfect for their machine.  My only addition would be folding in small pieces of chocolate (please use real dark chocolate!), perhaps some toasted almonds and dried black cherries. Yum!

Deep Dark Chocolate Ice Cream

Ingredients

2-1/4 cups whole milk

2-1/4 cups heavy cream

1 vanilla bean

1-1/8 cups granulated sugar

1-1/8 cups Dutch process cocoa

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Instructions

  • In a large saucepan, combine the whole milk and heavy cream over medium-low heat. With a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise; use the blunt edge of the knife to scrape out the “seeds” of the vanilla bean.

  • Stir the seeds and bean pod into the milk/cream mixture. Simmer the milk/cream mixture over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean pod and discard it or rinse and reserve for another use.

  • Combine the sugar, cocoa, eggs, and egg yolks in a medium bowl; using a hand mixer on medium speed, beat until thickened like mayonnaise.

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  • Measure out 1 cup of the hot milk/cream mixture. With the mixer on low speed, add the cup of hot milk/cream to the cocoa mixture in a slow, steady stream and mix until completely incorporated. Stir the chopped chocolate into the saucepan with the hot milk/cream. Stir the egg mixture into the hot milk/cream. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and begins to resemble a chocolate pudding. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a bowl and stir in vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the chocolate mixture, and refrigerate until completely cooled.

  • Pour the chilled custard into the freezer bowl, turn the machine on and let mix until thickened, about 25 to 30 minutes. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

Stay cool and enjoy!  Please share with us what your favorite ice cream concoction is and we’ll include on a follow up post!  Send to Lisa at luxxchocolat@optonline.net.

~Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2015, 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

Snowy day fun with chocolate! Truffle mania!

red-wine-trufflesSpring may be days away yet, surprisingly, winter seems to still be in full bloom. But being stuck inside can be a lot of fun when there is chocolate involved! How about gathering the kids and your girlfriends together for an afternoon or evening of truffle making?

Truffles may look difficult but they can be quite simple to make. And they are certainly an elegant addition for an everyday dessert, to enjoy when having family or friends over or even as a personal gift from your kitchen wrapped in a beautiful box.

Making truffles with your kids is also an ideal way to get your kids to enjoy dark chocolate, which has less sugar and real health benefits than milk or white chocolate. They won’t even notice since they are having great fun!

You might want to create two different types of truffles…one for the kids and one for adults in mind. How about Cognac or Grand Marnier truffles? Yum!

There are many different ways to decorate them that everyone can have fun with. Be creative! You might already have these things in your cabinet.Picture1

  • Cocoa powder

  • Melted chocolate (dark, milk, white)

  • Chopped nuts

  • Coconut

  • Colored sprinkles

  • Decorative icing

  • Colored sugar crystals

  • Chopped dried fruit pieces

  • Icing sugar

So, let’s get started!  What’s key here is the chocolate you choose and I’ll give you some ideas so you are making truffles with beautiful, rich flavor.  This recipe makes about 60 truffles so you may want to split it in half – one for the kids without the alcohol and one for the adults with the alcohol. Or make two full recipes so everyone can have some to take home.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (16 oz) good dark chocolate such as Valrhona 64% or 72% –

At Whole Foods it’s next to the cheese and bakery section not the bar chocolate aisle. It’s usually in bulk chunk form. Good to ask. Also at Trader Joe’s. Stay away from the round disks from craft stores and some chocolate stores – not real chocolate!

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or Cognac, optional

  • 1 tablespoon prepared coffee, optional

  • 1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract

  • Chosen decorations – see above for choices

Directions

Chop the chocolates finely with a sharp knife. Place them in a heat-proof mixing bowl.images

Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just boils. Turn off the heat and pour the cream into the bowl with chocolate. With a wire whisk or rubber spatula, slowly stir the cream and chocolates together until the chocolate is completely melted. Kids can help stir. Whisk in the Grand Marnier, if using, coffee, and vanilla. Put in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Use this time to get all of your decorations in place.

Take out several bowls and pour your chosen decorations into each. Take a vote with the kids! Maybe cocoa powder in one, colored sprinkles or coconut in another.

Take out a baking sheet or two lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Take the bowl out of the refrigerator. With 2 teaspoons, spoon round balls of the chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet.

Now everyone wash your hands!  gluten-free-truffles-baci-04B

For this article, we’ll just touch on dry decorations. Roll each dollop of chocolate in your hands to roughly make a round ball. Please note that if the truffles are held too long in your hands, they will melt. Just refrigerate and re-use.

Put each ball into your bowl containing a decoration. Or use 2 or 3 decorations. Have fun with them! Toss to cover them, then put them on clean parchment lined tray to dry. Allow the truffles to set for about 10 minutes before devouring.  These will keep refrigerated for a week, but serve at room temperature.truffles

Enjoy some wine with your truffles too! A rich red is perfect with dark chocolate, like a nice Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir with earthy notes.

Have fun and roll on! I’d love to see what fun you had so please send me pictures!

~Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

Tis’ the Season for Hot Chocolate!

Temperatures have dropped and the snow has moved in. Not sure about you but having a hot chocolate is on my mind! Nothing better to warm you up after a cold day at work or running around with the kids.

kid with hot chocHot chocolate often takes us back to our childhood. I can just picture sitting at the edge of our frozen pond in a snow bank with my ice skates on sipping away on the chocolaty warmth. But back then and still today, many still buy a box and rip open a packet called “Hot Cocoa” or “Hot Chocolate”. But what’s the difference?  And do the ones we like even contain chocolate? The powders may seem to be an easy option, but are they really the best option given all of the artificial ingredients and the mass of sugar chock full in these products?

It’s interesting to see that even when there are consumer studies ranking the best “hot chocolate” in America they include products that don’t even contain chocolate or cocoa. Hmmm, makes you think….  But let’s also not lose focus on the fact that even though some products do have real chocolate in it or that it’s organic chocolate, doesn’t mean it’s going to taste good!

What’s the difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa? There apparently isn’t always a distinction. You’d think hot cocoa should contain cocoa powder of some sort and hot chocolate should contain chocolate (ground, shavings, chunks). Doesn’t sound hard yet many products that contain cocoa powder call themselves hot chocolate and products that contain real chocolate call themselves hot cocoa?? Then there is drinking chocolate, which is a European term…defined as a beverage made with chocolate.  And then there are those that don’t contain cocoa or chocolate and call themselves hot cocoa and hot chocolate. Seems there should be some sort of rule or regulation, no?

Some interesting facts to know about these hot “chocolaty” beverages:

  • Historically, chocolate was sipped, not nibbled, until 1847 when the first solid chocolate bar was developedchocolate no sign
  • Many “hot chocolate” and “hot cocoa” brands are chocolate flavored and don’t contain chocolate at all or contain the tiniest amount. Doesn’t seem to make sense. But oftentimes we never find much information because most products don’t list how much chocolate or cocoa is really in there. Keep in mind what we’ve learned about other mass produced chocolate brands…they use the minimum the FDA will allow (10%) because cacao is expensive and using real chocolate requires special handling and technique = $$. If it doesn’t say how much is in there, assume it’s the minimum, especially when it says “artificial favor” on the label. See the Swiss Miss label below
  • Star Bucks Hot Chocolate contains no real chocolate! It’s only flavored… “Steamed milk with vanilla- and mocha-flavored syrups”
  • Hot chocolate made with real chocolate offers health benefits. Research continues to show us that antioxidants help prevent cancer, heart disease, age-related macular degeneration and aging in general because they fight free radicals in the body
  • Many “hot cocoa” and “hot chocolate” products can contain artificial additives and lots of sugar, including ingredients not acceptable to a gluten-free lifestyle. Read the labels. I personally try to stay away from artificial ingredients and labels that list the first ingredient as sugar. A great resource to learn about product ingredients is http://www.foodfacts.com/. Here is one label from Swiss Miss.

Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix Ingredients: sugar, modified whey, cocoa (processed with alkali), hydrogenated coconut oil, nonfat milk, calcium carbonate, less than 2% of: salt, dipotassium phosphate, mono- and diglycerides, artificial flavor, carrageenan. Contains milk.

  • The reason why some cocoa powders are Dutched or processed with alkali is because the manufacturer wants to makes the cocoa powder a richer brown color, have less acidity, a milder taste and easier to blend into liquids
  • Dutch process chocolate contains lower amounts of flavonols which are antioxidants than chocolate. Dark chocolate is an antioxidant super food. Some studies show that 60-90% of the antioxidants are destroyed by Dutching
  • Chocolate milk (with real chocolate) is effective in promoting muscle recovery following endurance exercise. More than 20 studies support the benefits of recovering with the high-quality protein and nutrients in chocolate milk after a tough workout. Hot chocolate is hot chocolate milkHot Choxx fire boots

So how to get all of the health benefits without the sugar or anything artificial and still experience the purest enjoyment that hot chocolate can bring? Just keep it simple… Scald milk, throw in good 64% or higher % dark chocolate that you would enjoy all by itself and any natural flavoring like cinnamon. Stir and enjoy! And if you’re looking for a fun experiment at home, try making some homemade marshmallows! Great for a snowy afternoon in with the kids. The kids can watch you make it (it gets hot!) and then once you spread in a pan, they can help you punch out different shapes with cookie cutters.

Or check out Luxx Chocolat Hot Choxx artisan hot chocolate on a stick. Just won 12 awards in the 2015 BEST Hot Cocoa & Drinking Chocolate Competition given by the International Chocolate Salon and TasteTV!

Enjoy!  HotChocolate2014-4star

Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced. Now served at Memoire restaurant in Ridgewood!

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

New Year’s Resolution…go to the dark side!

Are you a milk chocolate fan? What about your kids? Sometimes that’s all kids want because that’s all they’ve ever really experienced.  Or do they claim they don’t like the bitterness of dark chocolate?  It’s time you all come to the dark side. Why? Because all dark chocolate is NOT the same.  Time to rock the boat and add moving to dark chocolate as a part of your health-related New Year’s resolutions. Yes…it’s good for you!

As Americans, we have not had the privileged exposure to fine chocolate like those in Europe. We all grew up with Hershey and Nestle and it was pretty much all milk chocolate…which doesn’t have much real chocolate in it!  The facts are, chocolate is NOT sweet and it can be expensive. So chocolate makers add loads of sugar, anywhere from 80-90% of the product, and artificial flavorings to make it taste like real chocolate to save money. A Hershey’s® Bar is about 11% cacao (and it is probably because the U.S. FDA REQUIRES a minimum of 10% cacao solids). And Snickers® is less than 2%!  So is it the chocolate or the sugar everyone likes? Eating food high in sugar boosts your odds of tooth decay, heart disease, and diabetes, not to mention weight gain.

10659368_10202660763781212_5334588376119262189_nBy moving over to dark chocolate in 2015, you and your kids can slash sugar intake in a big way!  And dark chocolate has proven health benefits. It’s a superfood!But of course, keep it in moderation. Here are some interesting facts:

  • All dark chocolate is NOT the same. That’s like saying every Cabernet Sauvignon from every vineyard is the same. Each chocolate maker, like a wine maker, is an artist in their own way. They have their own processes, proprietary recipes, use different amounts of quality or low quality ingredients grown in various places in the world under distinct climate conditions and in different soils, blend in flavorings or not etc. With chocolate, even how it is processed (ie: conching) can impact the mouthfeel (smoothness, creaminess), flavor and even perceived bitterness. High quality chocolate makers tend to conche longer…which makes their dark chocolates NOT bitter. In chocolate, you get what you pay for. Try the finer chocolate maker’s products. Even chocolates within a maker will be different. Don’t generalize. Experience everything. You will find the ones you will love!  (ask me!)
  • Look for chocolate labels that say 64%, 72% and other percentages over 60%. The % cacao that you see on chocolate labels basically indicates the % of real chocolate vs sugar. So the higher the %, the darker the chocolate and the less sugar, the more the chocolate flavor…and the healthier it is for you!  If it doesn’t have a percentage…stay away
  • Dark chocolate is natural and nutritious. It contains a decent amount of soluble fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, seleniumBenefits of choc
  • Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids which are antioxidants that have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and boost overall heart health. There are also studies in cancer, diabetes and many other disease states. Choose chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao or cocoa to optimize the antioxidant power and health benefits
  • Dark chocolate can have more than five times the flavonoids of an apple
  • Dark chocolate may reduce the risk of a heart attack. Research found that blood platelets clotted more slowly in people who had eaten chocolate than in those who had not. This is significant because when platelets clump, a clot can form, and when the clot blocks a blood vessel, it can lead to a heart attack
  • Some studies suggest that dark chocolate can offset Type 2 diabetes
  • Researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that dark chocolate is far more filling, offering more of a feeling of satiety than its lighter-colored sibling. That is, dark chocolate lessens cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods
  • Dark chocolate can boost your mood! It contains several psychoactive chemicals that act as stimulants and mood elevators… and may induce same feelings that love does. Key for stress reduction. Dark chocolate also influences serotonin which may provide an energizing effect. This increased energy may also improve longevity and stamina…which in turn has a perceived effect of increasing libido. It’s also seen to have an effect in Chronic Fatigue Syndromeeca871d11ff47a2735c44fae9ccf3446
  • Women who ate chocolate daily during their pregnancy reported that they were better able to handle stress than mothers-to-be who abstained. Also, a Finnish study found their babies were happier and smiled more
  • Dark chocolate can improve your skins ability for UVA/UVB sun protection (read one of my earlier blogs)
  • Not only will dark chocolate help your body ward off the effects of stress, but may boost your brain power. Researchers from Oxford University and Norway studied chocolate’s long-term effects on the brain by analyzing the diets of more than 2,000 people over age 70. They found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine, or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t

There is so much more to learn about the health benefits of dark chocolate, so stay tuned! Make the commitment today to go to the dark side of chocolate for you and your family.

And don’t forget, giving your sweetie chocolate for Valentine’s Day may show you care for their health as well as their heart!

cropped Lisa press photoLisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced. Now served at Memoire restaurant in Ridgewood!

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

Tasteful Tailgating

picnic basketIs it September already? Yup…here we are at the end of the summer, the kids are back to school, the temperature is starting to dip…and football season has begun! Are you a fan?  Whether you are or not, the game will either be on the tube or you’ll be hanging out with friends and family in a parking lot where beer, burgers, hot dogs, chili, wings and potato salad reign. Or perhaps you’re a fan of the Steeplechase. Had enough of the usual?

Although it may be difficult to replace those popular grilled staples, why not look at the tailgate as if it were a multiple course dinner affair, each course paired with a wine? Here are some ideas to upscale and add to the offerings to make it a more tasteful and fun experience!  And remember, just because it’s getting cooler doesn’t mean white wines are out. Get out your fancy wicker picnic basket and real wine glasses and let’s get something started.

oysters

Oysters on the half shell – Open and clean in advance. Make a mignonette sauce and you’re good to go! White wine vinegar, shallot and black pepper is all it is. Don’t forget the lemon.

The wine – Northeast coast oysters are ideally paired with Sauvignon Blanc from France’s Loire River, most commonly known as Sancerre or Pouilly Fume. The briny and steely nature of these oysters pair nicely with mineral or flinty qualities of a dry white wine. Or how about a Blanc de Blanc champagne?

chili

White Chili – OMG good. Get out your crock pot the day before and throw in uncooked chicken cubes, white canned beans, white corn, chopped Vidalia onion, clove of garlic, package of taco seasoning, green chilies and chicken broth. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Top with sour cream, lime juice, cheddar or Colby-Jack and serve with corn tortilla chips.

The wine – Choose a Chardonnay from Chile. Its bright fruitiness and acidity to cut the creaminess of the chili.

breslin lamb burger

Burgers – Try mini lamb burgers instead! If you’ve ever been to The Breslin in NYC, you know how amazing a lamb burger can be. Keep it simple and fresh. Ask the butcher for American lamb patties. Sea salt on each side, then grill it to medium rare, top it with sliced red onion, a slice of feta cheese, ground black pepper, olive oil and put between toasted ciabatta bun.

The wine – Serve with a good Rioja for dark fruit, spice notes, ripe tannins and good acidity or a full-bodied Beaujolais rosé, with notes of ripe fruit, ranging from juicy watermelon to dark cherry or an earthy and smoky Pinot Noir.

salmon

Cedar-Planked Salmon – The salmon rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, black pepper and fresh thyme and the lovely cedar notes from the plank are amazing. Don’t forget to soak the planks the night before!  Roasted lemons and a garlicky spinach with fennel are nice compliments.

The wine –  An elegant Pinot Noir with a smoky, cedar and cinnamon stick finish

fondue

Fondue party – Go retro and get out those fondue pots and sticks! The possibilities are endless….a Gruyère cheese fondue with artisan multigrain bread cubes, hot oil fondue with cubed beef tenderloin, coconut shrimp or veggies. Then there is chocolate fondue for dessert with marshmallows, cake or fruit! And please, make sure it’s good chocolate like Valrhona (available at Whole Foods).

The wine – Wow…too many twists and turns here.  Pair the Gruyère cheese fondue with an off-dry Riesling or Chenin Blanc and the beef tenderloin fondue with Tempranillo, Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon. It also depends if you have a dipping sauce so pair to the dominant flavor. For a dark chocolate fondue dipped with nutmeg-sprinkled orange slices, biscotti or banana bread, try an Argentinian Malbec with notes of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and anise.

Luxx Chocolat Contemporary Collection

Chocolate mini-bar – Have a nice array of chocolaty treats! Try an artisan chocolate and wine flight of 3 chocolates paired perfectly with 3 types of wine. Or perhaps griddle pan Belgian waffles. Yes! Waffles made right on the BBQ. Drizzle them with dark chocolate caramel sauce made with Grand Marnier or chocolate-covered drunken strawberries (cognac or champagne soaked before dipping) with whipped cream or cinnamon Belgian waffles with a bourbon and banana caramel sauce and dark chocolate shavings. Oh, I could go on and on!

The wine – The answer here is that it all depends. Depends on the flavors and aromas of all elements of the decadent dish, the percentage cacao, the type of chocolate…etd. Have fun and experiment or ask someone in the know.

Tailgating fare doesn’t have to be the usual! Mix it up and make it an experience involving finer flavors! It’s a winning combination.

Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

Like fairy tales? Not when it comes to wine or chocolate… Fairy tales Dispelled Part One

fairy-tales-002

Just when you think you have a good handle on something, surprise! Well, it’s time to dispel some common tales and partial truths associated with wine and chocolate. And since there are SO many, this is only the first part you’ll be reading. Knowledge is the key to better experiences and offering proper guidance to your family members. And you’ll also look even more brilliant at your next event or dinner party.

Better wines are sealed with a cork?

CorksNot necessarily. Screw capped wines can age just as well as a cork. And times are changing. Traditional cork is becoming a limited natural supply and has ongoing quality issues which impacts the ability to preserve wines from the negative effects of oxygenation on aging and wine preservation and even cork spoilage. Many wineries have been experimenting with plastic and plant-based polymer alternatives and screw caps and can attest that quality control is much easier and in many situations can improve wine aging. The use of these alternatives though are associated with cheap wine, right?

That image started to change about a decade ago, when commercial winemakers in New Zealand and Australia started using the enclosures much more widely for all kinds of wine, including some higher-end bottles. The fact is, screw caps have topped bottles from some of the world’s best wineries for about a decade, and even the most reputable wine critics openly acknowledge that there’s nothing wrong with sealing a wine bottle with a screw cap in lieu of a cork. New Zealand is leading the wine industry with the majority of wineries converting from cork to cap. Wineries in Australia, Spain, South Africa, South America, Canada, the U.S. and France are all testing the capping trend as well.

But even with many advantages over cork, expanded cap adoption really comes down to wine industry marketing reservations due to wine drinkers’ attachment to the pomp and circumstance of opening a bottle elegantly with a cork screw. What matters is what’s in the bottle, no?

Wine critics are always right?

winesnobWine criticism is a very particular thing. Everyone has a different palate although some wine reviewers may have fallen in line with your particular taste on an occasion or two. In order to be exactly in step with a wine critic, your expectations from any particular bottle of wine need to be shared. How do you really know you share the same taste? Our noses, mouths and brains vary in performance from one individual to the next. What it comes down to is learning what traits you like in different types of wines and to trust your palate. Ultimately, you are the one that counts.

Sweet wines pair best with chocolate?

cropped 90s beautySweet dessert, sweeter wine? Why? Forget those who think this is the only way to go. Remember, it’s about your palate, not a narrow-minded view on what makes a great experience. Please…no…  Don’t get caught in the sweet trap as it will limit your chocolate and wine pairing pleasure! Dessert wines, like Sauternes and Ports can make way for too much sweet going on. Occasionally a nice Port and a very dark high percentage and more bitter chocolate, ok. But how often do you really drink dessert wines? Your goal should be to compliment or provide a nice contrast with the actual flavors that exist in the many wines you enjoy normally…like smokiness, pepper, black berry, earth, cherry, honey etc. and not to overpower or compete on a sweetness level. It should be about flavors, scents and aromas! Note though that not every wine does go with chocolate, especially very dry tannic wines, so we’ll be discussing those principles as we go forward. It’s not a simple as it appears.

Stay tuned for the next fairy tale installment of wine and chocolate!

cropped Lisa press photoLisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

Sunscreen protection…with wine and chocolate? Yes!

red-wine-sunWelcome summer!  The kids are out of school, everyone is outside and it’s time to take a well-deserved vacation. The bright, hot summer sunshine can be a beautiful thing and a not so nice thing.

What’s good about sun exposure? In appropriate and measured doses it has a number of health benefits.  Sunlight helps synchronize the hormonal rhythms of your body and enhances our mood and energy. UVB rays produce Vitamin D which is important for maintaining optimal health. UVB also has been associated with cancer prevention and as an important treatment for various skin conditions including atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and vitiligo. Many experts now agree that the importance of daily exposure shouldn’t be underestimated. All in moderation. But since UVB rays can burn your skin and UVA rays can cause skin damage, wrinkling, age spots and premature aging, the best sunscreen offers protection from all UV light, or broad-spectrum.

We all know to use sunscreens daily while we’re at the beach, the pool or just running errands and chauffeuring the kids around. But did you know that both wine and chocolate offer UV protection? Not by slathering them on your skin, but by the simple enjoyment of them. Now there’s another reason not to feel guilty! (just no driving after you’ve had wine)

Did you know that…?

  • Eating dark chocolate and drinking red wine can help prevent UV damage
  • Multiple studies have shown that eating dark chocolate regularly may significantly protect skin from UV damage – skin reddened less when exposed to UV light
  • One study showed that when dark chocolate was regularly consumed for a longer period of time, the level of UV protection increased and that skin texture and hydration was greatly improved
  • Increased UV protection can be attributed to naturally-occurring antioxidant and anti-inflammatory molecules in chocolate and red wine called polyphenols, flavonoids and flavanols
  • Polyphenols, flavonoids and flavonols are found naturally in plants and fruits, including cacao (cocoa) and red wine
  • Red wine, made with the dark skin and seeds of grapes, is rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that includes resveratrol, also shown to have very powerful cancer-fighting properties
  • Flavonoids can actually stop the chemical reaction that causes skin cells to die, and thus causes skin damage. They may also help fight a wide array of conditions – including diabetes, strokes and heart disease
  • Flavonols can relax your blood vessels, thin your blood and lower your blood-pressure numbers naturally
  • To get the UV benefits of chocolate, make sure to get dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa, which will be stated on the package label

 But this great news doesn’t mean you should skip your sunscreen altogether, or even cut back. Just sit back and enjoy more of the pleasures that wine and chocolate can bring! A piece of 70% + dark chocolate and a glass of red wine regularly does your body good!

cropped Lisa press photoLisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

  1. luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936
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