The Alchemist

Brian McElrath's Zinfandel-Balsamic Vinegar Truffle is so potent and rich it seems almost meaty.

When I visited McElrath he pulled a tray from a refrigerator case that proved the real-life benefit of fantasy chocolate. On it was what he calls his "chocolate sushi," a three-layered combination of crispy rice, wasabi mousse, and crystallized ginger. It was not a good chocolate--the wasabi didn't taste like much--and as McElrath had warned, it was merely an experiment. But it was unforgettable, unlike most of my fantasy dinner parties. What would Dorothy Parker have to say to Josephine Baker anyway?

B.T. McElrath chocolates are currently available at about 20 Twin Cities locations, including the Afternoon at the Mall of America, Broviak & Co. in Minnetonka, Haskell's in downtown Minneapolis and Highland Park, La Paperie in Woodbury, Provisions in Excelsior, Surdyk's in Northeast Minneapolis, and Turtle Bread Co. in Linden Hills.

TABLEHOPPING
MAKE LIKE BRIAN: Both Cooks of Crocus Hill and William Sonoma carry the chocolate McElrath uses, Belgian Callebaut. The following recipe is from Patricia Lousada's Ultimate Chocolate (Dorling Kindersley Publishing, $24.95), one of those big, lush chocolate books with lots of extreme close-ups meant to get you all hot and bothered. Once you are, you can attempt the 100-plus recipes, which range from Mexican moles to heartbreakingly ornate chocolate layer cakes. Whatever you do, remember chocolate recipes follow the unforgiving fabulous-in-fabulous-out rule: They'll turn out only as good as the chocolate you put in.

Kristine Heykants

Location Info

Map

BT McElrath Chocolatier

2010 E. Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55413

Category: Retail

Region: Northeast Minneapolis

Mocha Petits Pots

* 11/4 cups light cream
* 2 tablespoons medium ground coffee
* 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
* 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
* 4 egg yolks
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bring the cream and ground coffee slowly to a boil, remove from heat, stir a few times, and strain through a fine sieve or coffee filter. Whisk in the chocolate and sugar until smooth. Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time.
Divide the mixture among four ramekins and put in a roasting pan. Pour in hot water to come two-thirds up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan with foil. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until just set. Cool, then chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.
THE TREND IS CHEAPER WINE EVENTS: Hallelujah--it looks as if now that everyone has realized how popular wine dinners are, the concept is evolving into other, cheaper manifestations. The Vintage (579 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 222-7000) plans to start hosting a series of evening "wine gatherings," featuring a lineup of appetizers paired with a single vintner's products, for an affordable $15. Meanwhile at the Mall of America's Napa Valley Grille (858-9934) they're exploring "wine lunches"--lighter, two-glass versions of their luxe wine dinners--also priced at $15 per person. The next two scheduled are May 13, featuring Deloach Vineyards wine, and June 18, for the Benziger Family Winery. Call for reservations.

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