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Who needs Tryptophan, I'm always tired!

Spacer issue seven, volume eight  

Thanksgiving Assortment

Thanksgiving is of course nearly here, and its short arrival gives me the chance to yet again use one of my favorite phrases, "groaning board" and an oft used companion, "surfeit". GrapesAs in, "A surfeit of food led to the table's becoming a veritable groaning board, what!" There, now that that is out of my system, down to business. Like most American households, we will be preparing a feast (read groaning board) on the 24th for 18 or so of our closest relatives and this year we will be sticking to the basics. Of course there will be everyone's favorites and two turkeys to be sure that there will be leftovers for sandwiches on the 25th, but when I say "basics" I mean in the turkeys themselves. Thanksgiving BasketLast year we experimented with a heritage bird from a local farm that had been fed only stardust and marshmallow cream and would change our lives. Alright I made up the bit about the feed; I'm sure it was free range. When we removed last year's bird from a very authentic looking burlap sack, we thought that someone had pulled a fast one and given us a turkey/greyhound cross - so strange looking was this creature. WalnutsIt cooked up beautifully, gave off very little fat, a lot of the best juice for gravy we have ever tasted and when carved the meat was unremarkable. The supermarket turkey we purchased for sandwiches was preferred by everyone. So, this year you can guess where we are buying our two turkeys. Now, we don't know where you are buying your turkey for dinner, but we of course have suggestions about where you might find turkeys for dessert. SquirrelsWe have turkeys that range from white to dark, solid to hollow, plain to decorated and 2 1/2" to 8". Remember if you are interested in turkeys with names written on them we need to hear from you by the 21st. To accompany your turkey(s) we have a range of confectionery delights that will please both the eyes and the palate. Our Walnut Truffles are only available now and along with your choice of Thanksgiving Peanut Butter Cups are a wonderful treat to celebrate family and friends. Giant Acorns and Walnuts along with busy Squirrels and chocolate Grapes make beautiful table decorations and a delicious chocolate bites after the meal. While our Pilgrim ancestors may not have had the wonder of chocolate, as we now do, and celebrated with a wild turkey that more closely resembled the racing bird we ate last year, this year I give thanks for improvements, like the Butterball and Woodhouse Chocolate. Happy Thanksgiving!

John and Tracy Anderson

.Happy Thanksgiving


Turkeys with Names



Serves 10-12

I somehow missed the whole sweet potato casserole thing with the mini marshmallows when I was growing up. I don't know why my family didn't do that, but then again they didn't do the green bean mushroom soup casserole either. I count myself lucky on that score, but I have grown to love sweet potatoes. So I have made my own version sans the marshmallows and avec le chocolat. (I hope I didn't lose you there lapsing into bad french.) It's a little more grown-up, but still has all that dessert masquerading as a side dish appeal that the traditional casserole has. I hope you like it!

For the Potatoes:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
grated zest of 1 lemon
4 sweet potatoes - all the same size around the middle (about 3-4 lbs.)
4-peppercorn mix (you can get it already in a grinder in most grocery stores)
butter for greasing pan

Sweet Potato Gratin

For the Topping:
4 ozs. dark chocolate, chopped (I used 75% to lovely results, but you could use any dark chocolate you like)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup salted butter
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9X13 inch baking pan. Measure out your cream and add the thyme and lemon zest. Stir it about to combine, then let it steep while you prepare the potatoes.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1/8th inch thick rounds. A mandolin or food processor make this much easier than doing it all with a knife, but go with what you have. Use one potato's worth of circles to cover the bottom of the baking pan, overlapping the slices evenly. Pour 1/4 cup of the cream over the potatoes, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, then make a second layer of potatoes. Continue with the layering of potatoes, 1/4 cup of cream, salt and pepper until you have four layers in your pan. Sprinkle the chocolate evenly over the top.
Make a streusel topping by combining the brown sugar, flour nutmeg and butter in a medium mixing bowl. With your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a mixture that holds together in crumbles. Add the pecans. Spread the streusel evenly over the chocolate. Sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Put in the oven and bake for about one hour, until the sweet potatoes are tender (you can test this by sticking a knife in the middle. If it goes in easily, they are done) and the topping is golden brown.
Serve warm or at room temperature.



Alex Restaurant


As I mentioned last month, the restaurant scene in the upper valley is in motion and one of the newest entrants is Alex which can be found in Rutherford as part of the Rancho Caymus Inn. Opened in September by the Italian-born Alessandro Sbrendola, a Master Sommelier, and his wife Alessia, Alex is led in the kitchen by Nick Ritchie, late of Botegga where he was the Chef de Cuisine. Tracy and I have heard nothing but good things and so when we tried it last night, for the first time, we were looking forward to the experience and were not disappointed. The dining room is comfortable with sleek leather chairs, banquets, a polished wood floor and high, peaked ceiling. As you might expect from Alessandro's wine background, there is a large bar as you enter the dining room. In warmer months there are also outside tables. Once seated, the menu is traditionally organized for an Italian restaurant, but the dishes themselves are special. To start we had the Braised Octopus with Celery and Cured Olives Salad, Fingerling Potatoes, Red Onions and Ligurian Salsa Verde as well as the Burrata Cheese Salad with Local Mushrooms, Speck and Arugula. The salad was excellent, but the octopus was extremely tender and among the best we have ever had! Score one for Alex. For our main course we had Plancha Seared Prawns with Fall Squash and Pumpkin Caponata as well as Egg Fettuccine with White Wine Braised Rabbit Sugo. The prawns were perfect and the Caponata was the perfect fall accompaniment: chunks of tangy eggplant and pumpkin that were rich and flavorful. The rabbit was the show stopper, rich without being heavy, it was gorgeous. Score two for Alex. Service was enjoyable throughout the meal including wine service which was conducted by Alessandro himself. A welcome addition, Alex is well worth a trip.

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1367 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574
telephone 800-966-3468
email info@woodhousechocolate.com