By Valerie Gordon, Guest Editor
Because of all the years I’ve spent working in restaurants, the last place on earth where I want to be on Valentine’s Day is a restaurant. Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day is the craziest time of the year at my artisan chocolate shop and bakery, Valerie Confections. So once our busy season hits, there is nothing that my partner Stan and I love more than a great bottle of wine and good food for a romantic DIY Valentine’s Day celebration at home.
We start with Manhattans (my fave holiday cocktail) and nibble on some crostini with cumquat marmalade, gruyere cheese, and salami. For dinner we get a really fantastic bottle of red wine and either order pizza from Mozza2Go, near our Los Angeles home, or if we have time, Stan makes a great cast-iron pizza.
Valentine’s Day Chocolate: For an Easy Dessert or a Romantic Gift
For your romantic Valentine’s Day celebration, your dessert should definitely be something you can eat with your fingers. Nothing is sexier! Plus, the natural aphrodisiac properties of chocolate make DIY chocolate truffles the perfect Valentine’s Day dessert. These homemade Rustic Chocolate Truffles are easy to make and beyond delicious.
Rustic Chocolate Truffle Recipe
Makes 50 delicious chocolate truffles, which keep 2 weeks once refrigerated
Ingredients Needed for Chocolate Truffle Recipe
• 2½ cups bittersweet (or 72%) chocolate, chopped
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1¼ cups heavy cream
• 1 cup any kind of unsweetened powdered cocoa
How to Make Chocolate Truffles
• Combine chocolate, butter, and salt in a medium-size bowl.
• Boil cream in a small saucepan until cream bubbles.
• Pour cream over chocolate, butter, and salt.
• Let sit for 1 minute, then stir until the chocolate melts and mixture is thoroughly combined.
• Refrigerate uncovered for 1 hour.
• Place cocoa in a bowl.
• Using a small scoop, melon baller, or teaspoon, scoop small rounds of truffle mixture, roll into balls, and place in cocoa 1 at a time, rolling to coat completely.
• Store in the refrigerator in a covered container.
Valentine’s Day Celebration Dessert for a Group: Easy & Elegant Raspberry Trifle Recipe
If you are hosting a group, I feel it’s really important to have one beautiful showcase dessert. Raspberry trifle is always a hit—it couldn’t be easier to assemble, and it’s meant to be shared. A wonderful dessert for a party!
Valentine’s Day Raspberry Trifle Recipe
Makes 1 raspberry trifle, which keeps 2–3 days once refrigerated
Ingredients Needed for Raspberry Trifle Recipe
• 1 store-bought pound cake
• 4 cups fresh raspberries
• 2 cups heavy cream
• ⅓ cup Chambord, Cassis, or favorite fruit liqueur
• 2 cups berry jam (we use our own Valerie Confections Blushing Berry Jam for best results, but you can use any kind of berry-based jam—raspberry, strawberry, blueberry—anything “berry”)
• Organic rose petals (pansies are also fine, and are edible; if edible flowers are unavailable, garnish with a larger amount of your favorite fresh fruit)
How to Make Raspberry Trifle
• Using a standing or hand-held mixer, whip heavy cream and Chambord to medium peak (approximately 2 minutes or when it appears slightly stiff).
• Cut pound cake into 1” slices.
• Spoon 4 tablespoons of jam into the bottom of a trifle bowl or glass bowl measuring 10”–12” in diameter and 4”–5” in height. It’s key that the bowl is glass.
• Place 1 layer of pound cake on top of jam, and trim cake slices to fit the bowl.
• Spread a 4-tablespoon layer of jam on top of the pound cake.
• Use ⅓ of the Chambord whipped cream and layer over pound cake (for 3 layers).
• Add 1 layer of raspberries, using approximately 1⅓ cups each time.
• Repeat layering until the trifle bowl is filled to the top.
• Finish with a layer of Chambord whipped cream and sprinkle with raspberries and rose petals.
• Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
• Be My BFF Valentine: Show Your Best Friends the Love on Valentine’s Day
• Try These Great Desserts When You’re Not in the DIY Mood
• What Are the Next Big Foodie Trends?
Valerie Gordon, Sweet Chef of Valerie Confections
Valerie Gordon is a culinary tour de force. From a childhood love of decadent sweets, Valerie developed a lifelong passion for discovering and creating delicious moments with food. She has forged a unique and varied career, and is equally adept . . . Read more
From Childhood Sweets to Culinary Career
Valerie Gordon is a culinary tour de force. From a childhood love of decadent sweets, Valerie developed a lifelong passion for discovering and creating delicious moments with food. She has forged a unique and varied career, and is equally adept at running fine restaurants as she is working in a busy kitchen. After spending her formative culinary years in San Francisco, amidst the early days of the farm-to-table movement, she relocated to Los Angeles to run the fabled Les Deux Cafés, one of the most celebrated (and missed) restaurants in recent Hollywood history.
Valerie Confections Is Born
Entirely self-trained as a chef, she left Les Deux and founded her namesake confectionery in 2004 with her partner Stan Weightman Jr. Since that time, Valerie Confections has become recognized as one of the top artisanal chocolate brands in the country, known for modern interpretations of classic chocolates and confections, all elegantly packaged for gifting.
New at Valerie Confections: Preserves Set for Williams-Sonoma Stardom & More
Never content to rest on her laurels and always interested in absorbing and exploring the world around her through food, Valerie continually expands her company. In 2009, Valerie introduced her line of Classic California Cakes, paying homage to bygone bakeries (including the beloved Blum’s bakery of Valerie’s childhood). She recently developed a line of preserves, which were subsequently named “Best in Los Angeles” by Los Angeles Magazine. In addition to local farmers markets, they will soon be available in select Williams-Sonoma locations nationwide. Most recently, Valerie collaborated with renowned Los Angeles design firm, Commune Design, on a chocolate collection inspired by Byzantine tiles.
Valerie Gordon Builds Her Chocolate Brand
Valerie Confections has been recognized in many national media outlets, including Vogue, House & Garden, Newsweek, In Style, USA Today, Chocolatier, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and the nationally syndicated radio programs The Splendid Table and Good Food. Valerie Confections will also be featured in an upcoming episode of Unique Eats on the Cooking Channel.
The First Cookbook for Valerie Confections’ Recipes
Valerie’s recipes have appeared in many online and print publications, notably the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Daily Candy. Her first cookbook is scheduled to be released by Artisan Publishing in 2013. Valerie and Stan live in Los Angeles with their young son August.
• Get Easy Dessert Recipes for DIY Chocolate Truffles & Raspberry Trifle, Perfect for Valentine’s Day or Any Day
• Try These Great Desserts When You’re Not in the DIY Mood
• What Are the Next Big Foodie Trends?
By Anu Karwa
1. Trendy New Gourmet Food: Butter. Familiar with Himalayan pink salt? Fleur de Sel? Introducing fancy butter: Organic Valley Pasture Butter, produced only in summer when cows create the most flavorful, nutrient-rich milk. As if you needed another reason to reach for the bread basket.
2. Must-Have Gourmet Product: SousVide Supreme. Top Chef addicts who “plate food” know about cooking “sous vide”. Now, home cooks have a water oven at an “affordable” price. Truly for gourmands.
3. Great Food Find: John & Kira’s Urban Garden Bars. These new chocolate bars use ingredients from urban gardens for flavors like Tangy Orange + Garden Rosemary. A portion of profits goes to the gardens.
4. Our Favorite Wine for Fall: Dusted Valley Boomtown 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington. My new favorite wine under $15, unbelievable richness for the price. Make it your “house” wine.
5. Diet Conscious Specialty Food: Galaxy Desserts Mousse Duos. Guaranteed to be the best 110 calories of your day. Lap up its rich decadence without fear, thanks to built-in portion control.
Have a fashion or lifestyle question? Tweet @PageDaily or post it on the PageDaily Facebook page. For more wine-related tips, tricks, and product picks—read Anu Karwa’s The Next Big Thing in Wine: La Follette.
Anu Karwa, Epicurean Contributing Editor
Anu Karwa has been called a no-nonsense walking 411 for a new generation of female wine drinkers and home entertainers since she launched Swirl Events, an in-home and corporate wine tasting events company with a fresh, hip spin. For anyone who thinks Perez Hilton should be required reading . . . Read more of Anu’s top epicurean tips, tricks & product picks.
Interview by Anu Karwa
Ever fantasize about running a winery? Many do, but few ever take the risk. From bagpiper to vintner, Greg La Follette discusses the upcoming launch of his Sonoma County-based wine label La Follette.
Anu Karwa: You’re launching La Follette winery in September. What’s the focus of the winery?
Greg La Follette: The focus of La Follette Wines is crafting benchmark, cool-climate Pinot Noir.
AK: What wines are you introducing?
GL: We’re showcasing renowned parts of the vineyard in the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Mountain, and Mendocino AVAs with 3 vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs, a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, and 3 vineyard-designate Chardonnays, a wine produced from the grapes of a single vineyard.
AK: How would you describe your winemaking style?
GL: I would say it is intentionally wild. Practicing winemaking without a safety net. Taking risks and gambles in an effort to be true to the voice of the vineyard.
AK: What is mouthfeel, and why is it important to you?
GL: To me, mouthfeel is about pleasure. It’s what makes your tongue feel caressed when you sip a wine. A broad spectrum of descriptors can apply to mouthfeel, including “energy” and “nerve,” but what it comes down to is the pleasure your mouth experiences when drinking the wine.
AK: Does the reality of owning a vineyard match the fantasy?
GL: I am living the fantasy, and I wouldn’t change a thing. But it is a lot of work and requires the kind of tremendous support I get from my wife and kids. During harvest I am lucky if I get 1–2 hours of sleep a day. The day begins at midnight when you prepare to pick by sanitizing the bins. Then, you pick until 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. Then you head to the winery to taste all the fermenting wines and do punch downs until 9:00 a.m. or so. Sit down and have a bite to eat and a high-octane espresso. From 9:00 to 11:00 a.m., I’m looking at the chemistry and what’s happening in the cellar, then, from 11:00 or 11:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., I’m sorting grapes. The second round of punch downs goes until 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. Then, I’m tasting ferments again till 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. I am always in close communication with the wines. If I am lucky, I am in bed by 11:00 p.m. so I can get up an hour later and start it all over again. On days I am not picking, I can sometimes sleep until 4:00 or 4:30 a.m. There is no off-season for me really, not in this business and not when I love to travel to Australia to help out friends during their harvest.
AK: If you weren’t making wine, what would you be doing?
GL: Drinking it! I honestly cannot imagine doing anything other than what I am doing. It’s unfathomable to me at this time. When I was young, I pursued any number of things, from bagpiping to running a botanical garden. But now I can’t see any other path.
AK: You work with your 6 sons and daughters. Any challenges to running a family business?
GL: The kids have learned a great deal of discipline by being in a wine family. They haven’t always wanted to work as hard as I have asked them to. And when they’re teenagers, it’s not easy to be the dad that makes them come to the winery early in the morning after a school party or graduation. The biggest challenge is begging forgiveness for the time I am away from them.
AK: Is winemaking an art or science to you?
GL: It’s both. You can’t have one without the other. Nabokov stated, “There is no science without fancy and no art without fact.” Complexity in wine is not an accident. A truly artistic creation like wine is possible when scientific knowledge sets the stage for experimentation and intuition. When you partner with the land and interpret the voice of a certain parcel of earth, you have to be open to what it is saying . . . at that point, you forget the science. The letters are the science but the speech is the art.
AK: What’s your favorite wine in the launch of this line?
GL: It’s like asking me to pick my favorite kid, can’t be done! But I will say, whichever one my wife likes (the wine that is!).
AK: Biggest challenge in running your own winery?
GL: The real challenge is balancing the demands of being a wine family and being a good spouse and a good dad while spending so much time on the winemaking.
AK: Favorite part of your day?
GL: Being with my family, when my wife or some of my kids come to find me at the winery to say hello. Or, when the work is done and we sit down together and break bread.
The Man Behind the Wine: Greg La Follette
Greg’s route to winemaking began when he decided that playing the bagpipes wasn’t all that practical. After earning a masters in food science and technology at UC Davis, Greg learned winemaking at Beaulieu Vineyard, Kendal-Jackson, and Flowers before founding Tandem Wines in 2001. In 2009, he sold Tandem to Quivira Vineyards, and the new partners, Greg and Quivira-owner Pete Knight, developed La Follette to spotlight Greg’s unparalleled cool-climate vineyard resources and passion for Pinot Noir.
Anu’s Picks from La Follette:
Buy La Follette 2008 Van der Kamp Pinot Noir, $39.99, at lafollettewines.com
Buy La Follette 2008 Sangiacomo Chardonnay, $29.99, at lafollettewines.com
Have a fashion or lifestyle question? Tweet @PageDaily or post it on the PageDaily Facebook page. For more wine-related tips, tricks, and product picks—read Anu Karwa’s Drink Adventurously*.
Anu Karwa, Epicurean Contributing Editor
Anu Karwa has been called a no-nonsense walking 411 for a new generation of female wine drinkers and home entertainers since she launched Swirl Events, an in-home and corporate wine tasting events company with a fresh, hip spin. For anyone who thinks Perez Hilton should be required reading . . . Read more