it’s rare, darlings, to find sensual treats in the daylight in such a serendipitous way but we had two Lovely meetings this morning – one Very Early (7.30AM – a lick of mascara and a hope of moisturizer and we Dashed out of the door to greet the dawn) and the other at a more civilized hour (11AM – a marvel(l)ous time to talk about the Future and hear someone say:
I have a house in Brazil – you must visit.
and then we had a few stolen hours before our next engagement and found ourselves (you Know how That Is) outside Vosges.
have you been?
not just a splendidly glittering and decadently full chandelier……
but deep papal-purple walls with a dark and sumptuous walnut (?) long counter with some minxes (of both genders) offering dark, rich, decadent drinking chocolate from the Aztec gods, via Paris and a smush-ing-of-vanilla-bean with a hot-chili or two.
did we mention the soupcon of whipped cream on the side?
perhaps we didn’t………oh. d i v i n e.
here’s how Katrina – the glorious creator of Vosges – describes the inspiration behind this chocolate heavenly-ness.
“These three cocoas were the second collection I created. They were meant to be tried as a set or a flight, where you would taste your way from white to spice. Bianca’s nose, the bouquet is heaven! If all I could do is smell this cocoa I would be a happy camper. The Aztec Elixir was the first chili and chocolate drink on the market and I remember how people were so wide eyed and disbelieving…until they took a sip. The ancho and chipotle chillies with bits of vanilla are so well complemented with the chocolate, it just warms me up. The vanilla sugar we make is truly my favorite part of drinking both the La Parisienne and the Aztec Elixir. Instead of just using an extract I like EATING the vanilla bean itself. In fact, the vanilla bean flavor is in the pods not the little seeds, so when you have a sip of the cocoas you actually bite into small bits of vanilla bean and chew. The texture is somewhat similar to coconut.”
we were so inspired by not only the Chocolate (which we sipped under the chandelier, as one might expect) but also the beautifully sensuous bags – we were given one to take home…….and found ourselves deciding to get creative…
yes – a moment of decoupage followed this……..we’ll post tomorrow when it’s dry and a little glitter applied and a satin ribbon and some imagination gloss-to-finish.
Katrina was inspired to set up Vosges by a transformative experience in Paris (the best sort of transformative experience – we’ve had a few ourselves) and decided to set up her own shop in Chicago upon returning to the USA.
What was the response when you first opened your boutique in Chicago?
Honestly, people thought I was nuts. I was the crazy girl who used oddities like Hungarian paprika, curry and wasabi in chocolate. In the beginning I had to cajole customers into trying them, but once they did, their minds opened, judgment was lost and curiosity begged for another bite.
we adore the cRaZY people – they make life so much more interesting.
but one needs guts to be cRaZY – not just inspiration and talent and a sense of proportion and beauty and elegance – real guts – real – I Can Do This sort of guts – enough to steel oneself to one’s dream and build a Vision with a plan underneath it and to Ignore nay-sayers with dull dust of despair in their veins.
well, that’s what we think.
and it’s served us well, thus far.
it sounds like it has served Katrina Markoff well too.
and we urge you to sample the drinking chocolate on your next possible opportunity to embrace indulgence.
we’ve been re-reading Ruth Reichl’s books, in preparation for a special event (we like to do our homework – more on this, at some other juncture……..nothing is Ever Certain, after all) and we found ourselves in reverie at her stories about Falling in Love in Paris in the late 70s (which is probably why we ended up in Vosges in the first place, driven as we are by Literary seductions of all Kinds – especially when one is inspired by the time people wore their hair long and free and still subscribed to Opium, the fragrance, darlings, as a seductive ploy).
due to the magic of the interweb – here is Ruth’s chocolate cake recipe.
Big Chocolate Cake
Serves 20-25. Adapted from Comfort Me with Apples by Ruth Reichl. This recipe makes a lot of cake and so would be perfect for a big party, but it also takes very well to freezing, even with the frosting on: after a couple of days I carved up our remaining cake and wrapped individual slices carefully in plastic wrap to freeze. Either warmed in the microwave or simply left out to come up to room temperature, the defrosted cake seemed (to us, at least) to have lost nothing in the way of taste and texture, even, amazingly, after a few months. If you are having a really big party, you can, Reichl says, double or triple the recipe as long as you adjust the baking timefor whatever size pans you are using.
For the cake:
- 1 1/2 cups boiling water
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 6 large eggs
For the frosting:
- 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup whipped cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 13x9x2inch baking pans; line bottoms with waxed or parchment paper and butterthe paper. Flour the pans (you can “flour” pans for chocolate cake withcocoa powder, if you like) and tap out excess.
- Whisk together boiling water and cocoa untilsmooth. Then whisk in the milk and vanilla. Sift together the flour,baking soda, and salt.
- If possible in a standing mixer, beat togetherthe butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add one egg at a time,beating well after each addition. On low speed, beat in the flourmixture in 3 batches and the cocoa mixture in 2, alternatingflour-cocoa-flour-cocoa-flour. The batter may look curdled.
- Pour half of the batter into each pan and smoothtops. Bake in the middle of the oven until a tester comes out clean andthe cake begins to pull away from the pan, 25-35 minutes. Turn thecakes onto racks to cool completely.
- Make frosting: melt the chopped chocolate in adouble boiler or in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Cool toroom temperature. Beat together the butter and cream cheese until lightand fluffy (I could not find whipped cream cheese in the store, so Ijust whipped it at home until it looked a little lighter and fluffierbefore adding the butter). Add the cooled chocolate and the remainingingredients and beat until thoroughly combined.
- Assemble cake only when the cake layers have cooled completely.
it’s worth reading this on Ruth’s own site – mainly because there are splendid comments from Ruth interspersed throughout the memories shared by those who have loved her work over the years…….like this:
all this talk about chocolat(e) and decadence and sumptuousness has made us think about movies (quelle surprise) and we do believe we’ll be watching this in the late hours after a sociable evening with friends downtown – a perfect end to a glorious (if a little heady with the sugar) day.
it’s unlikely that we’ll be baking a cake (we live in a bijou but frankly shoe-box Manhattan apartment and there’s not enough room to assemble all the ingredients) – even a chocolate one – but we have been going home and making our own lunch for the past two weeks, when possible, and that feels so utterly full of self-care and nurturing and lovely (it helps that we’ve been making large pots of minestrone and French-inspired-soups with melted cheese on the top and plenty of sturdy root vegetables).
there’s something so grounding about soup.
and something so transporting about chocolate.
what’s your favo(u)rite sweet-delight-ness?