Sunday, March 4, 2012


Butterfinger Truffles

This recipe makes enough to serve at the party and to send home with guests. Put them in small boxes or cellophane bags, tie with pretty ribbon, and hand them out as friends and family head out the door.
Makes about 80
Butterfinger Truffles


  • 10ouncessemisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
  • 1tablespoonunsalted butter
  • 1cupheavy cream
  • 1 1/2cupschopped Butterfinger candy bars (about 8 ounces)
  • 4teaspoonsunsweetened cocoa powder
  • Chopped roasted unsalted peanuts or peanut halves


  • Place chocolate and butter in a medium bowl. Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan; pour hot cream over chocolate mixture. Let stand for 1 minute, then stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in chopped candy. Cover and chill until firm, about 2 hours.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Using a melon baller, scoop 3/4” balls (or heaping teaspoons) from chocolate mixture. Roll truffles between your palms to make surface smooth. Place on the prepared sheet.
  • Place cocoa powder in a small bowl. Roll truffles in cocoa powder to coat. Garnish with chopped peanuts or peanut halves. Chill until firm. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight between sheets of waxed paper. Keep chilled.


   Our world and our lives revolve in and around consuming or producing food products and services for our daily well being and for our survival.  Food takes up a lot of our  time, from what we eat to how it is prepared and served.  Also  in  how we develop  our senses of sight, smell and taste, in what we like and what we don't.  I hope you enjoy this top 10 list,  as much as I have.


   The nutmeg tree is the only tree that provides two spices: nutmeg (the one we are all familiar with) and the lesser known mace. Mace was very popular in the 18th century as a flavor additive to meat products and is an essential ingredient in the traditionally made French white sauce, where the mace is steeped with an onion in hot milk before being added to a mixture of flour and butter to produce b├ęchamel sauce – the French “mother” sauce. Pictured above the nutmeg is the brown seed and the mace is the red outer layer.

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   Sushi is not from Japan. It originated in the 4th century BC, in Southeast Asia where it was salted and fermented with rice to preserve it. After a couple of months of fermentation the fish was removed from the rice, and the rice discarded. It eventually spread to China, and was introduced into Japan in the 8th century. The Japanese preferred to eat their fish with rice and so the modern Japanese variant was born. In the 1980s, as a result of health consciousness, sushi began to spread all over the world. If you are not a fan of raw fish in your sushi, try Korean kimbap (pictured above) instead – it is almost identical but usually featured cooked meat products.

Russian Service
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   While most of our Western food flavors originate in French cuisine, the style of service we are all most used to – individual plates pre-filled and served – is called Russian service, and it originates from the table of the Czar. In French cuisine it was traditional for all food to be prepared in advance and displayed in huge amounts on side tables – it was an extremely lavish affair. But the end result of this was that much food was wasted and wasn’t always hot. Russian service, prepared with the expertise of the chef in the kitchen, caught on very fast and was so convenient that it is now the primary way we dish our meals at home.

Oldest Restaurant

   Stiftskeller St. Peter is a restaurant within the monastery walls of St. Peter’s Archabbey, Salzburg. It is claimed to be the oldest inn in Central Europe because of a document mentioning it in 803 AD. Stiftskeller St. Peter is known to be the oldest continuously operating restaurant and inn on Earth, and its website states “Genuine Salzburg hospitality for over 1,200 years”. St. Peter’s Archabbey is also reputed to be the oldest monastery in the German-speaking world, having been founded in 696 AD by Saint Rupert.

Can Opener

   The first tin cans used to preserve food appeared in the 1770s, in the Netherlands and were used by the Dutch navy. The first patent for tin cans as a method of preservation appeared in 1810, and was submitted by Peter Durand, a British merchant. These first tin cans were usually heavier than their content and were opened with whatever tools you had lying about – in fact, one can carried the instructions: “Cut round the top near the outer edge with a chisel and hammer”. It was not until 1855 that the first tin can opener was patented. The first openers worked much like a knife until 1870, when a rounded wheel design was patented. This design was difficult to use as it still required brute force. In 1925, the tin can opener as we know it – with the double wheel – was patented. To this day it remains the most popular style.

Diet Soda
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   The very first diet soda was invented in 1952, and was called “No-Cal Soda-Pop”. Hyman Kirsch and his son Morris, both Russian immigrants living in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York, began selling sodas in 1904. Their involvement with the Jewish Sanitarium for Chronic Disease, led them to the invention of a sugar-free drink to meet the needs of the hospital’s diabetic patients. Nyman and Morris developed a line of carbonated, sugar-free, zero-calorie soft drinks which they called No-Cal that was known for special flavors like chocolate and black cherry. In the mid 2000s, INOV8 Beverage Company brought the product back to life.

Cola or Not?

   Despite the name, the primary flavoring ingredients in a cola drink are sugar, citrus oils (from oranges, limes, or lemon fruit peel), tamarind, cinnamon, vanilla and an acidic flavorant. Manufacturers of cola drinks add trace ingredients to create distinctively different tastes for each brand. Trace flavorings may include nutmeg and a wide variety of ingredients, but the base flavorings that most people identify with a cola taste remain vanilla and cinnamon. Acidity is often provided by phosphoric acid, sometimes accompanied by citric or other isolated acids.

First Takeout
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   First established in 1738, as a stand for peddlers, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba was opened in 1830, in the town center at Via Port’Alba 18, becoming the world’s first pizzeria and takeout joint. The restaurant replaced street vendors who would make pizza in wood-fired ovens and bring it onto the street, keeping it warm in small tin stoves they balanced on their head. It soon became a prominent meeting place for men in the street. Most patrons were artists, students, or others with very little money, so the pizzas made were generally simple, with toppings such as oil and garlic. A payment system, called pizza a otto, was developed that allowed customers to pay up to eight days after their meal. The pizzeria is still in business today.


   The tongue is a muscle with glands, sensory cells and fatty tissue that helps to moisten food with saliva. You cannot taste food unless it is mixed with saliva. For instance, if salt is placed on a dry tongue, the taste buds will not be able to identify it. As soon as saliva is added, the salt dissolves and the taste sensation takes place. Furthermore, without a sense of smell, even saliva won’t help you – smell makes an immense contribution to the taste of the foods we eat.

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   Honey doesn’t spoil. It is the only known food source that keeps indefinitely in its raw form. In fact, Archaeologist T.M. Davies discovered a 3,300-year-old jar of honey in an Egyptian tomb. To his amazement, the honey was in remarkably good condition. For centuries, honey was the primary sweetener throughout the world. Egyptian tomb reliefs from the third century B.C. show workers collecting honey from hives. Chinese manuscripts from the same period contain poems and songs praising honey and its many uses. Today, honey is an important ingredient in nearly every culture’s cuisine.


    In the middle of the Mediterranean coast, Valencia city, celebrates each year the final days of the winter and the arrival of spring with spectacular fires of pyrotechnics. From March 15th to the 19th (the feast of Saint Joseph, day of the father in the whole country), Valencia is given over to a carnival of bonfires, fiesta, fireworks and a healthy dose of satire known as Las Fallas, "the fires".

    Displayed on every corner all over the city are colorful ninots, giant paper-mache' figures often 20 feet tall or even more that have been paraded through the streets and then place in fantasy groups to tower over excited spectators. Each one in some way satires a political figure, or a soap star, or more exotic creatures from the movies, TV, sports idols, or simply imagination. Some of them are grotesque...others playful and charming...all are larger than life and up for public scrutiny.

    Every day at 2 p.m., firecrackers rip through the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in a noisy event called La Mascleta'. This concert of gunpowder is very popular and involves different neighborhood groups competing for the most impressive volley, ending with the terremoto, (literally means "earthquake") as hundreds of masclets explode simultaneously. While this may not be for the frail or faint hearted, you will understand how the Valencians got their valiant name.

    Another important event is the Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados, a beautiful ceremony every March 17th and 18th, that honors Valencia's patron Virgin. Thousands of Falleras and Falleros arrive to the city from every corner of the Comunitat (Valencia State) and take the streets wearing traditional costumes and dancing to their neighborhood or village bands as they wind their way to the Plaza de la Virgen to offer bouquets to the giant image of the Virgin.

    Historians say that the origins of the festival go back to the time when carpenters cleared out their workshops and talleres at the end of winter, throwing out odds and ends of wood and old candles and lighting them on the street the day of Saint Joseph.

    Nowadays, celebrations draw to an end with a fabulous firework displays in the Paseo de la Alameda, called the Nit del Foc (literally "The Night of Fire"), on March 18th. All Fallas burn all over the city the following night (including the winner of the competition) in a tremendous spectacle of fire and joy. Valencia is at that moment like Nero's Rome, a city in flames. That's why Valencians call this the best firework fiesta in the world!

Fireworks in las Fallas

    Keep the fireworks in mind even if your are not a fan. Here they are not just fireworks. Over th centuries the Valencians developed them into a form of art. Valencia is the unrivalled Mozart of fireworks. Valencian pyrotechnic crews get regularly contracted for blowing up big world events, such as Olympics and New Years. The fireworks of the Fallas must not be missed.
   There are two types of fireworks during the Fallas Festival.
The Mascleta
    The firecrackers. The mascleta is not visual, it is just the explosions. But remember: in Valencia it is not just noise. It is an orchestra, there are all those various types of explosions and the Valencians attempt to create some kind of symphony out of them, much like playing a piano. There are various professional pyrotechnic bands who compete to create the best "melody".
    The best mascleta is meant to be on the last day of the Fallas Festival, the 19th of March. But get there early...most people will want to see it.

The Castillo
    The castillo is the visual fireworks, performed at night. Even someone who is not a fan and always finds the fireworks boring must see what the Valencians can do. It's not just a few green balls, few red balls and a bunch of white rays. It will leave you in awe with an open mouth, the shear complexity, aesthetics and artistic harmony is incredible. Words can't describe it. You have never seen anything like it.

Nic De Foc
    "Night of Fire". Usually the castillo lasts for 10-15 minutes. The Nic de Foc is the highlight of the Fallas fireworks...it is extra special, extra visual, extra inventive and extra amazing. It goes on for 25-30 minutes. Don't miss it and do pick a good spot early...once it starts the whole city will move towards a good spot and huge avenues will become totally impassable.

Street Petards
    This is one of the more unfortunate side of the Fallas Festival. Witch such Valencian devotion to explosions, the mascleta and castillo are simply not enough. On March 1st, the first petard is thrown on the streets. Over the next two weeks it gets progressively more until, finally, on the 15th, the city is entirely in a war zone. For the next four days, you simply won't walk 3 seconds without hearing an explosion to the left and to the right.
    It is fun to walk in such mayhem and it adds to the festivals atmosphere.     Unfortunately, its goes way beyond fun. Many of the petard throwers are benign family people entertaining their kids, or the kids themselves are doing the entertaining. This is hard enough in itself...it's not that much fun to jump of fright every ten minutes. But there is also that very malicious breed of adolescent youth who will try to catch you off guard and throw it under your feet when you are not watching. Those petards can be very strong.
    You will also come across something called borrachos. These are tubes which, once ignited, move around in frantic thrusts, with a long tail of sparks coming out of them. They can look very scary, thrown into the middle of the crowd (and this does happen often...otherwise it wouldn't be funny for those who throw them) but they don't appear to be very harmful in reality.

    Try to keep your hands free and look around. If you see a petard landing next to you...it is like something from a war movie with grenades. You have a second to close your ears or your ears with start ringing. Take care of your ears, those petards are no Christmas cracker. They are the reason so many locals don't stay in Valencia for the Fallas and so many others are hearing impaired.
      It goes without saying that if you have a serious problem with sudden explosions, such as risk of heart attack, you should not come to the Fallas.
      On the other hand, if you like this kind of thing, come to Paseo Alameda on Nic de Foc. On completion of the official fireworks, the biggest battle of Las Fallas will break out. The locals call it La Guerra de Los Petardos. Thousands of them will be thrown into the Turia river garden, but the battle will definitely spill out onto the Paseo Alameda itself and the crowds on it. Be advised that Las Fallas in general, are not too worried about being "safe", and in this fireworks battle...even less so.