February 26, 2011


A & I were discussing Friday night dinner plans, trying to come up with something somewhat near our house since the weather was a little crazy all day- drizzly, spontaneous thunderstorms, extreme wind, etc. A suggested a Greek restaurant in Fitler Square that I had never even heard of (shocking!). This place makes little to no effort to advertise- a website that requires serious internet searching to find, not acknowledged by menupages, etc. However, both Yelp and Urbanspoon have mostly positive reviews for the restaurant that has two other locations, one in Northern Liberties and another a bit south of Old City.

The restaurant was on the quieter side when we arrived, but filled up as we ate. Our waiter was also on the quieter side, but he was always around when we needed him, almost anticipating each step in the meal which was appreciated. Since we ordered an appetizer, we were asked whether or not we wanted bread- a good way to cut down on waste as the portions here aren't small. Thankfully the sliced baguette was primarily crust and air. Pesto-infused olive oil was a good intro to the tastes of Dmitri's- citrusy with a high quality depth to the oil flavor.

Extremely minimalist menu- no descriptions whatsoever.

We started out with two appetizers. I had read many good things about the spinach pie ($8.50), so that was an obvious choice. A solid chunk of pie was easily split into two decent servings. Thin crispy layers of phyllo sandwiched a ridiculously dense spinach filling. Knowing how much spinach cooks down, there had to have been a solid pound (or more) of fresh spinach cooked down with chopped onions, garlic, and fresh herbs and then mixed with a touch of crumbled feta and lemon juice. An incredibly delicious way to get a ton of veggies.

A has a love affair with Greek salad, so she ordered the version "with greens" (other options include "avocado citrus" and "green leaf") though we were initially served a simple bowl of tomatoes, tons of feta, and cucumber. We usually dislike complaining/sending food back to the kitchen, but this just wasn't what we had ordered, and our waiter had no problem whisking the bowl away and delivering a true Greek salad ($8.50). This seemed like a lighter version, with a few blocks of fluffy feta, green peppers, pickled peppers, olives, tomato, cucumber, red onion, and of course, lettuce. This was a serious salad and we both really appreciated the excellent mix of fresh ingredients. A light vinaigrette perfectly coated each forkful without making the salad greasy or soggy.

The platters at Dmitri's are notoriously enormous, so we split one platter and one additional "little dish" for our entrees. A ordered the grilled octopus ($12) which was the one slight disappointment of the meal. A pile of tiny strips of octopus were overcooked, making the meat chewy and with an unexpectedly stringy chicken texture. An overload of some kind of marinade didn't help. It would have been nice if the cut was a little thicker, because the pile of octopus was just... a little monotonous. A dip of some kind might have been nice, if only to give it some other kind of flavor. We really wanted to like it but.. it just wasn't that good. Sad.

However, the lamb platter ($17) totally made up for it. Thin chunks of lamb were grilled to medium, juicy with a bit of smokiness from the grill- simple and delicious. Again I would have preferred a thicker cut of meat, but the pieces were actually the perfect size to dip into the ahhhmazing tzatziki sauce served on the side- a super thick yogurt based sauce with the perfect amount of dill, parsley, and the faintest taste of mint. The meat was piled on a mountain of grilled peppers, onions, and squash reminiscent of summer BBQs. A slightly spicy rice and a hefty serving of sauteed greens (bok choy??) made the amount of food bordering on the absurd. We couldn't come close to finishing it between the two of us.

Of course, we saved a little bit of room for dessert as we're huge baklava fans (and recently had a somewhat disappointing version in Baltimore). Although it's not on the regular menu, it was a "special" dessert of the evening ($4.50). In the case of this nut and honey filled dessert, Dmitri's knows what's up. I like eating this pastry in kind of a weird way- layer by layer- and each crispy thin layer of phyllo broke off perfectly, allowing me to get down to the super sweet saturated bottom crust. This rendition utilized finely chopped walnuts and a good bit of cinnamon, adding extra dimensions of flavor to balance out the extreme sweetness. Again a solid portion size to split- half of this was more than enough to satisfy my dessert requirement.

Dmitri's is a solid neighborhood restaurant- nothing too fancy and perfect for a low-key dinner. The quantity of food is a little much- definitely expect to take leftovers home if you order a "platter." I definitely want to go back for some pita and hummus because even after a huge dinner I was eyeing up the table next to us.

2227 Pine Street

February 23, 2011

Savory Swedish Pancakes

On our trip to Baltimore several weeks ago, our gracious hostess opened our eyes to the simplicity of a recipe we once thought would be impossible to make at home: crepes. Oh, sorry, Swedish Pancakes! Her recipe made thin, sweet, slightly eggy pancakes that we filled with nuts, fruit, and jam. According to Wikipedia, the Swedish variation of pancakes are very similar to the French crepe, and are even served in a more savory situation (on Thursdays only?) alongside pea soup for lunch.

Based on our dedication and love for pancakes, we knew we had to make these again. I decided to switch things up a little and added these pancakes to our dinner line-up for the week. J took over (she's the pancake master) and produced a lovely meal of savory crepes Swedish pancakes.

Savory Swedish Pancakes: makes 8-9 (serves 3)

4 eggs
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbs. melted butter
1 Tbs. ground flaxseed
1/2 tsp. salt

The original recipe was similar to the above, with the addition of 1/4 cup of sugar. If you're making the sweet, breakfast version, add this. J also threw in the flaxseed for a nuttier flavor (optional for the sweet version).

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth, and allow to "rest" in the fridge for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

While waiting, prepare the ingredients for the filling. The possibilities here are endless; we went with a vegetable based filling. J chopped a cup of broccoli, a small onion, and a green bell pepper and sauteed them until soft with a sprinkle of salt, freshly ground pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.

Eventually, we tossed in a few handfuls of baby spinach and cooked until wilted. After removing from heat, we stirred in 2/3 cup of ricotta cheese and 2 Tbs. of whipped cream cheese to add in some protein and bring all the veggies together.


When the batter is ready, the pancake production begins. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Carefully add 1/4 cup of batter to the pan and immediately swirl to allow batter to become a thin coat on the entire pan.

After a very short time, the pancake will begin to crisp around the edges and lift up, making it very easy to flip either with some quick finger action or a spatula. Another 30-45 seconds or so, and the pancake is done. Remove to a plate (optional to move to an oven at low temp to keep warm), and begin the next pancake. If you have a good non-stick pan, no additional cooking spray should be necessary. The inclusion of butter in the batter, in addition to adding a rich moistness to the finished product, also helps keep it from sticking.

Once J was well into the process, I started stuffing the finished crepes. I simply added about 1/3 cup of filling to the middle, and wrapped it up like an open-ended burrito.

Crisp yet pliable, the pancakes were perfect wrappers for our stuffing of choice. They aren't as doughy as traditional French crepes, but instead maintain a hint of egg in both texture and flavor. We could easily have added a tomato or cream based sauce to top them off, but we enjoyed savoring the flavors of both the buttery crepe and the sauteed vegetables without any additional components. Minus the (sort of random?) refrigeration time, the meal came together in a snap and would be an impressive meal to serve guests- at any time of day, morning or night.

We're no longer intimidated by this seemingly talent intensive dish, and we might just whip it up for our next weekend visitors.

February 21, 2011


It's that time of year again.. the snow is melting but spring is still a faint speck of light at the end of the wintry tunnel. I think someone invented Valentine's Day to keep the holiday cheer going through these bleak months. For a combination V-Day/early birthday present, I decided to treat my boyfriend (and myself) to dinner. Last year we headed to West Philly, so I chose another slightly-off-the-beaten-path location.

Bibou is a tiny little French restaurant tucked in the Bella Vista neighborhood in the Italian Market area. The area is a tad on the rough side (I may get some flak for saying as much), mostly residential and dimly lit in the evening hours. However, the restaurant whisks you away to another world- a charming "Country French" interior complete with toile curtains, simple wooden furniture, and a surprisingly unpretentious atmosphere. Though the tables are situated close to one another, the feel is more cozy than claustrophobic.

France is pretty famous for their bread, and I happen to love bread, so the offering of sliced baguette and butter was not refused. Though it didn't look too impressive, the bread was dense and pillowy with a thin but crispy crust. The pre-packaged French butter was also ridiculously good- salty, creamy, and smooth... Baguette and butter- one of those simple pleasures in life.

I started my meal with the terrine ($10), a combination of pork fat and crumbled, crispy chopped meat from the head of a pig wrapped up in a few thin layers of phyllo- rich yet delicate enough to avoid being too heavy. A spoonful of "sauce gribiche" was like the most complex egg salad ever- chopped pickles and capers gave texture to a creamy emulsified egg-yolk mayonnaise mixture speckled with fresh chopped parsley. The combination of the sauce with the meat and pastry was magical- and easily savored in small bites.

My date went with one of the appetizer specials- venison sausage wrapped in brioche ($10). The meat was unique- it lacked a certain level of spice that I tend to associate with sausage. Instead, the lean venison had an almost slow-braised, smoky flavor that stood on its own- mild but with a hint of gameyness, and not in a bad way. The brioche wrapper was on the dry side, but soaked up the sausage juices and provided a sweet, slightly eggy flavor. A buttery sauce certainly didn't hurt either.

The entree was a pretty easy choice for me- grilled turbot ($28). This white fish was a new species to me, and is pretty similar to flounder, except ten times better. The meat itself was surprisingly dense with a bit of chewiness to it. The fillet was also surprisingly thick (those flat fish just look so...thin), and cooked to absolute perfection. It almost seemed like it had been poached in butter and then painted with those grill marks. Tiny little butternut squash spatzle (hey... isn't that a German food?) mixed with slow-cooked spinach rounded out the dish- perfect complements to the fish. A generous addition of beurre blanc (translation: white butter) was creamy and rich, exactly what the dish needed to seem like an extraordinarily luxurious treat.

I thought the boyfriend would most certainly order the bouef (he's typically a red meat eater), but he opted for the pied de porc ($25). Gross side story: his med school class quite recently began to learn suturing techniques on pigs feet... apparently this made him interested in consuming them. Coincidentally, a video was just posted online describing the cooking process for this dish. Five hours of braising causes the meat to be literally falling off the bone. Sauteed foie gras gets wrapped up into the foot meat and the whole thing gets pan-fried to add a crispy outer shell. Served piping hot over a deep pool of lentils, the combination of meats and cooking techniques provided for a rich and hearty explosion of flavor.

Of course I needed to see what they could do in terms of sweets, so we split the goats milk creme brulee ($8). Honestly, I don't typically like creme brulee because I find it a bit two-dimensional, but something told me this would not be the case at Bibou (I also may be obsessed with all things goats milk). The cool, creamy custard alone won me over, but the crispy, thick layer of caramelized sugar was like a hard candy coating. Cream and sugar and a hint of vanilla... seemingly simple yet so darn delicious. Complimentary macaroons and meringues were a sweet surprise.

In fact, it seemed that the entire menu is a study in the contrast of simplicity and complexity. The chef makes it seem entirely effortless, accentuated by the time he takes away from the kitchen to stop by each table and relay his mission to offer food as true to original French cuisine as possible. The service from our waiter, the hostess, as well as the additional wait staff was nothing but hospitable and helpful... being called Mademoiselle and hearing "Bon apetit" made the experience that much more genuine. The check didn't end up breaking the bank, but I'd still reserve this as a "special occasion" restaurant. Be sure to call well in advance for reservations- though they are on OpenTable, you can get in by phone before you are allowed to book online.

BYOB & cash only!
1009 S. 8th Street

February 17, 2011

Winnie's Le Bus

A & I have enjoyed some delicious food in Manayunk, so when we made plans to head there for a charity bowling event, we knew we had to enjoy dinner there as well. We also knew we wanted something relatively quick, inexpensive, and with a range of menu choices since we were accompanied by a couple of friends. A emailed out a list of options, and we all settled on Winnie's Le Bus.

We're more familiar with the Le Bus bakery/mini-cafe a few blocks from us, though I can't say we've ever stopped in. Metropolitan Bakery is much closer if we need a last minute baguette, and Le Bus is too close to DiBruno's to compete in the snacks/treats category. However, the Manayunk extension offers a full sit-down restaurant version highlighted by Le Bus baked goods and classic American "good, gotta eat food" (their catch phrase, not mine).

Plenty of room for a walk-in party of four during the dinner rush on a Friday evening- we settled right in and started perusing the menu. Our waitress brought over a basket of Le Bus bread- a nutty, darker raisin bread; a grainy, slightly sweet and denser corn bread, and a plain white French bread for those with boring palates (I judge). The assortment was appreciated, and it was a good intro to the various baked goods that Le Bus offers.

Our group agreed to split the Hummus appetizer ($8.75). Seriously, I think we've ordered something like this at the past twelve restaurants we've been to, but it's a classic. And it's always good. Though the supposed star of the plate was unmemorable, Winnie's upped the ante with fluffy, whole-grain, seed-y pita; mixed grilled squash; a deliciously firm, salty block of feta; and some of the best eggplant I have ever eaten. Soft without being mushy, sweet without losing the savory, and with a rich, oily taste that wasn't greasy in the least. I want the secret recipe. A few olives completed the plate. Again a solid variety of options- we all tasted a little bit of everything.

A & I were kind of boring and stuck to the "for the vegetarian..." portion of the menu. I went with the veggie burger ($10.85), a well-formed patty of whole grains, veggies and herbs on a wheat-y but still light and airy hamburger bun (the real burger is served on ciabatta). A thin slice of melty white American cheese, salsa, guac, lettuce, tomato, and pickles... *whew*... the height on it was pretty intense. Squishing everything down and cutting the monster in half seemed to help. Because of it's meatless status, it was actually pretty light- I had no problem conquering the burger. Unlike some veggie burgers (Village Whiskey comes to mind), the patty wasn't sloppy at all. It held it's form and had a good texture and relatively neutral taste. The sweet potato fries were a little on the limp/cold/plain side for me, and the side of yogurt/applesauce/horseradish was too reserved- I would have liked for it to be more sweet and/or more spicy.

So big I had to take the top off to cut it...

A ordered the brown rice nut salad ($10.50), which sounds so ridiculously healthy and boring, but of course, she enjoyed it. It was actually more of a second rendition of the appetizer plate: the same pita, hummus, and olives. The salad portion was pretty small, but was a good room-temp mix of brown rice, fresh chopped veggies, various nuts and seeds, and a few raisins for good measure. Sliced avocado ($2 extra) was great for smearing on the pita. I would prefer to see this salad served on a big bed of mixed greens- brown rice doesn't need pita as a co-star. Though the Mediterranean-inspired tahini-based dressing makes the pita/hummus addition sort of obvious, I think the chefs could get a little more creative.

Weekends call for a little more of a "treat splurge" so I pretty much forced our table into sharing the brownie sundae ($6). A piping hot brownie was topped with three scoops of ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. Extravagant? Absolutely. I like my brownies cold and more like a thick fudge, but this one was super hot and not at all chewy- more like a chocolate cake. The ice cream was good- vanilla, chocolate, and mint, which was the perfect combo to melt together over the brownie. Nothing out of this world, but a nice sweet ending to the meal. I certainly ate more than my fair share.

Our dinner wrapped up with the perfect amount of time to find our way (up many steep hills) to the bowling alley, and we were certainly all satisfied. Splitting the app/dessert kept us from being too full to move, but maybe I should have blamed my gutter balls on a food baby. I hear the brunch is great on the weekends, but that the place gets packed full of bikers- not the Harley kind, the Trek kind. I enjoyed the quieter dinner scene- our waitress even had time to chat with us about Justin Beiber. Solid comfort food for a good price, overall a positive experience.

Winnie's Le Bus

February 15, 2011

Pub on Passyunk East (P.O.P.E.)

Back in September, J and I went on a South Philly adventure along Passyunk Avenue, visiting a bunch of great establishments that are usually just out of reach. With a friend in town visiting, we decided to venture out again on a revisit to one of the stops we had made on our previous trip. Unfortunately, our first choice restaurant was packed, and we weren't willing to commit to a long wait. So down the street we went, checking menus and discussing options until we came to The Pub on Passyunk East (or P.O.P.E., for short). This had also been one of our stops last fall, and with our mildly pleasant memories and the pull of a warm, empty spot, we settled in.

September Flashback

The interior of the POPE certainly screams hipster, heavy on the dive. It's probably most well known for its drinks, but early on a Saturday night was quiet and just right for eating dinner and watching college basketball (Go Gators!). The menu is fairly simple, straight-up pub style that "pays heed to the craftsmanship kitchen of American classics," or at least according to their website. They also offer a handful of weekly specials that tend to focus on seasonal ingredients. J and I chose a salad off of the specials board to start our meal.

The salad ($6.50) was as eclectic as our surroundings, consisting of mixed greens and chopped Napa cabbage topped with sliced cucumber, pickled broccoli and red onion (!!), and spicy, crunchy chickpeas. We love anything pickled, so the unique preparation of broccoli had us fighting over the last piece. The chickpeas, assumedly baked, added an almost crouton-like texture while upping the satisfaction value with a kick of protein. The dressing, a sweet and spicy honey-ginger mix, brought it all together.

We both stuck with the vegan/vegetarian theme for our "main courses" (the POPE has many options for our meat- and dairy-free friends). It wasn't too difficult to choose the Grilled Vegetable Plate ($10), especially after our super sweet waitress gave it the thumbs up. She could tell I was somewhat worried about its satiety index, and immediately approved my choice and mentioned it as one of her own favorites. The monstrous plate arrived with quite a beautiful arrangement (particularly for a bar!), with a mound of smooth garlic mashed potatoes topped with a variety of grilled vegetables and a sweet balsamic reduction. Thick cut yellow squash and zucchini, soft roasted tomato slices, grilled red onion and juicy, meaty portabellas-- definitely veggie heaven. I had no problems (or guilt about) cleaning my plate.

As great as my dinner was, I had major food envy over J's choice: the nachos ($8). Listed as an appetizer, this dish easily serves as a meal for one (or maybe even two!), especially with the addition of meat. You can order these "regular," with cheese, sour cream, and the option of chicken or beef, or "vegan," with assumedly vegan variations of the dairy and a seitan topping ($3 extra for meat or meat-like substance). J went for the regular version (sour cream and cheese, please!) but with seitan crumbled over top. The pile of crunchy corn tortilla chips (great even on their own) was covered in shredded cheddar, a black bean-onion-tomato mix, jalapeno slices, sour cream and a generous heap of guacamole. Each chip came up with a slightly different variation of the toppings, every one just as good as the last. We don't often eat nachos, but these hit the spot. I may have continued to steal chips throughout the night.

While our dinner out wasn't what we had originally intended, we were all happy about our eventual experience. We found a great atmosphere for a meal shared with friends, and while the menu wasn't extensive, it certainly pleased us all. J and I are looking forward to warmer weather so we can make another leisurely trip down this strip of town, which will surely include at least a quick stop at The POPE.

Pub on Passyunk East
1501 Passyunk Avenue

February 13, 2011

Tyson Bee's

It's a well known fact that Penn students flock to the many food trucks scattered around campus. Everyone has their own opinions on where to get the best burrito, the best Chinese, even the best fresh fruit. Though A & I did not partake in this phenomenon as undergrads, we recognize good street food when we see it. The Tyson Bee's truck is hard to miss- with it's brightly colored amorphous animals and adorable fat bumblebees, it certainly draws the eye away from the nondescript silver boxes in the nearby vicinity. After somewhat of a rough go as the executive chef at a restaurant (Chew Man Chu), Tyson Wong Ophaso is now taking a stab at the food truck industry.

Now that A & I are both working on the west side of the Schuylkill, we've started eating lunch together about once a week. On a recent lunch break, we met up with a friend and headed over to 33rd and Spruce. There were several small groups of people waiting for their food, but we stepped right up and placed our orders. A cute detail is the use of playing cards to distinguish separate tickets- we were the king of clubs.

Standing out in the cold isn't my all time favorite thing to do, so thankfully the food was ready in about 5 to 10 minutes. We headed over to nearby Houston Hall to eat the goods in the warmth of the indoors. Although our lunches don't typically consist of multiple courses, we both wanted to try the steamed pork bun ($3). A thin, doughy pad of bun served as a platter for a generous pile of slow-cooked pork. Another circle of bun could be pulled over the top to create a little sandwich- also easier to eat this way. Hands down, the best aspect of this bun was the combination of meats- bits of pulled shoulder as well as a slab of pork belly. A minimal amount of sweet and salty sauce as well as the requisite cucumber and cilantro optimized the flavor palette.

I had a hankering for a good sandwich, so the "Grilled BBQ Lemongrass Pork Bahn Mi" ($5) obviously had my name all over it. My most recent Bahn mi in Newark, DE was rather untraditional, so I was hoping for a true Vietnamese hoagie. Ophaso did not disappoint- although the sandwich had a few modern twists, overall it fulfilled all of the Bahn mi requisites. Typically served on a crustier baguette, this roll was extremely soft and fluffy with only a hint of a toast on the inside. Cilantro, cucumber, shredded carrots and pickled peppers provided crunch, a solid hit of freshness, and a tangy vinegar undertone. However, the real highlight was the barbecued pork. Chunks of juicy grilled meat were coated in a thick, slightly smoky sauce- no dry, gristly meat here. A smear of spicy mayo added the perfect after-burn that extended the delight of each bite. Though I didn't experience much lemongrass, I have no complaints- the sandwich was terrific.

A went with the Korean BBQ Short Rib & Kimchi burrito ($5). Though the burrito wasn't particularly fat (ie overstuffed), it was still a good sized portion. The tortilla itself was thick and dense, with a whole-wheat flavor and specks of green herbs throughout. Although its hard to go wrong with short ribs and kimchi, the combination within the burrito was superb. The meat was cooked down to a "wet" consistency, providing extra flavor for the rice. Short-grain rice made for a more compact burrito, while the pickled veggies added a significant amount of spice. I noticed that the components weren't well distributed through the inside- one bite could be entirely rice or entirely meat. It would be nice if they were a little more mixed, but this can be an issue with any burrito.

Overall, our atypical foray into food truck cuisine was a success. The food was great quality and an adequate quantity for the price. Original takes on traditional Korean dishes made for a unique and interesting lunchtime meal. Though we will continue bringing our own lunches to work (cheaper/healthier in the long run), I would definitely recommend this truck to anyone in the Penn area- they're open till 5:30 so you can even pick up an early dinner on your way home.

Tyson Bee's
corner of 33rd St and Spruce St

February 10, 2011

Chocolate Truffles

Several months ago, J and I were gifted with some homemade chocolate truffles- a truly unique gift that was both beautiful to look at and delicious to eat! Seemingly professionally crafted and packaged, the little treats were very impressive. One of my goals on our trip to Baltimore was to learn the recipe and techniques required to produce my own home-crafted chocolates. What better pre-Valentine's Day post than to share it with you?

Chocolate Truffles

12 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or use morsels)
4 oz milk chocolate, finely chopped (42% cacao)
2/3 c. heavy cream (do not use ultra-pasteurized)
1 tsp vanilla extract
5.5 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
nuts, shredded coconut, sprinkles, other toppings of choice

Warning: This recipe requires several steps, lots of cookware and kitchen accessories, many hours and a lot of patience. Don't worry- the end result is well worth the time and effort!

First up: line a large baking sheet with plastic wrap, making sure to leave no cracks and allowing plastic to drape over the edge of the sheet.

Next, construct a double boiler. If you don't have one of these in your kitchen, use a heat proof bowl set into a pan of water with a protective layer between the bottom of the pan and the bottom of the bowl. We improvised with a glass baking dish in a pan containing two glass dish lids. Make sure the water level is not too high, and also ensure that the top bowl or dish is completely dry- any water contamination either prior or during the melting process could ruin the chocolate.

"Double Boiler"

Turn the heat on medium-low and bring the water to a very gentle simmer. Meanwhile, prepare 4 oz. of bittersweet (dark) chocolate and 4 oz. of milk chocolate, if necessary (if using chips/morsels, no preparation necessary). Also of utmost importance: choose high quality chocolate for a tastier outcome. We used Ghirardelli.

Dark Chips, Chopped Milk

In the double boiler, gently melt the two chocolates together, stirring constantly until a thick, smooth consistency is formed. The optimal temperature is 120 degrees, but we didn't measure. Remove from the double boiler to a stable surface.

In the meantime (it helps to have multiple hands in the kitchen), heat the heavy cream and vanilla in a small saucepan JUST until the cream begins to boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly while stirring (again, optimal temperature is 120, but I decided the ability to touch the cream pain-free was a good enough estimate). Our first batch of cream either boiled too much or cooled too quickly, causing a skin to form over the top. Stirring our second batch continuously helped to avoid this problem.

Once the chocolate and cream are ready, slowly pour the cream into the center of the pan/bowl of chocolate, stirring from the center and working towards the edges until completely emulsified.

This process may take several minutes and some good elbow grease- just keep stirring. After everything comes together, add the butter and continue stirring (you can also use an immersion blender, although I suspect this could get messy) until melted. Starting with room temperature butter and pre-cutting it into small chunks helps the process. After completely mixed in, pour the mixture onto your prepared pan, gently smoothing the chocolate until one large, even, thin layer is formed.

Cover the chocolate with another layer of plastic wrap and press down gently, allowing plastic to contact the chocolate. Freeze for one hour, or refrigerate for several hours/overnight. Perfect time to clean up and get out of the kitchen!

Once you're ready for the next step, prepare another baking sheet covered with wax paper. You can also set up a large bowl of ice water if you'd like- just make sure you have paper towels or old rags on hand. This helps significantly for this next step: rolling the chocolate into truffle-shaped balls. The chocolate will quickly warm up during the rolling process, and if it becomes too warm, it will begin to melt and smear onto your palms. Intermittently during the process, dipping your hands into the ice water will help minimize meltage.

Unwrap the top layer of plastic and cut the chocolate into even sized squares using a pizza cutter. If you start with an even layer of equal sized squares, you have a better chance of creating identical truffles.

Begin peeling the squares off of the plastic (with cold hands), and gently but quickly rolling into a ball. If you do not create a perfect sphere, you will have a chance to re-form them later. Place the balls onto the fresh baking sheet. If you find that the chocolate is sticking to the plastic wrap, fold it over from the bottom and peel plastic away. Or, simply re-freeze for a few minutes.

Once all of the balls are formed, place in the freezer for one hour.

Before the hour has passed, begin preparing for the next step. Use your double boiler (cleaned and well dried) to melt the final 8 oz. of bittersweet/dark chocolate. You may also want to change into clothes that you wouldn't mind splattering chocolate on! When truffles are ready, remove from freezer, and carefully scoop a small amount of melted chocolate into your hand (make sure chocolate is cool enough to safely do this!). If necessary, any reshaping of the ball can be done immediately before coating. Place the chocolate ball into the center of your palm and with your other hand, gently twist and turn until completely covered.

Place back onto wax paper. Once all are coated, place back in the fridge or freezer for at least ten minutes. This first coating step forms the initial layer of hard chocolate around the soft chocolate ganache filling.

Adding an additional layer helps to thicken the shell, as well as cover any imperfections that may have occurred in the first phase. This second layer proceeds almost identically to the first. However, before the second layer hardens, a topping can be added (although the most perfectly formed truffles can be left untopped!). We used finely chopped almonds, cocoa powder, and some edible gold or red dust. Coconut, other nuts, sprinkles, chopped peppermint candies or other more creative toppings can all be used as well. Prepare each topping in a separate dish prior to beginning your second coating. After rolling in your palm of melted chocolate, roll the truffle in the topping until completely coated and place back onto wax paper.

The second coat should set after just a few minutes. The truffles are now complete and can be prepared for gifting (gifting to yourself is completely acceptable). For a professional touch, place each truffle into a small paper wrapper (like a mini cupcake wrapper) and fill a festive box.

The truffles are good for up to two weeks stored in the refrigerator, but should be served at room temperature for optimal flavor. Admittedly a lot of work, they were a joy to make while spending time with our friend. Recruit your girlfriends and spend an afternoon in the kitchen to really wow your Valentine!