An Escape to the Sea

Last week my family and I went in search of the kind of therapy that only saltwater can provide.

We found it in the ocean breeze…  ocean gull

a gentle surf…

ocean perfect

on the sandy shore…

beach

in these decadent oysters…

oysters

and these divine conch cakes…

Conch cake

and these scrumptious shrimp…

shrimp

Life is good.

ocean 2

“My soul is full of longing
for the secret of the sea,
and the heart of the great ocean
sends a thrilling pulse through me.” 

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow –

Tea Time

A lovely pot of Rooibos, Savannah Tea Company

“As the centerpiece of a cherished ritual, it’s a talisman against the chill of winter,

a respite from the ho-hum routine of the day.”

 – Sarah Engler –

“Tea Up,” Real Simple magazine, February 2006

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie

“Chocolate chip cookies, I gotta have more,
You can bake ’em in the oven, or buy ’em at the store
But whatever you do have ’em ready at the door
And I’ll love you till I die!”

– Chorus of Chocolate Chip Cookies by Bill Steele

My husband loves chocolate chip cookies – – almost as much as I love coffee and chocolate. He claims that if he were given the choice of any dessert, a chocolate chip cookie would be his pick . . . along with an ice cold glass of milk. Cookie Monster apparently made quite an impression on him in his early childhood.

We don’t celebrate Hubby’s birthday with cake. And I’ve never fretted over what to give him for Valentine’s Day. From made-from-scratch, to store bought, to gourmet, he’s tried the gamut. If chocolate chip cookies are what Hubby loves, chocolate chip cookies are what Hubby gets! We even bucked tradition and served a giant groom’s cookie at our wedding reception. Not a radical move these days, but it was an uncommon occurrence 16 (almost 17) years ago.

In early December, I enjoyed a girls’ getaway weekend trip to Chicago. Christmastime in Chicago, oh what shopping fun! I was like a kid in a candy store. When one of my girlfriends pointed out a Vosges Chocolate shop, I ran in to load up on casually strolled in to select a few goodies to take back to my family. At the end of the counter, by the cash register, was a tasty looking display of chocolate chip cookies as big as my face! When I asked for their price, the cashier informed me that they were not for sale but were an example of the finished product of The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix. BINGO! I’d just found a perfect Christmas gift for Hubby.

Though Hubby is the big chocolate chip cookie fan, it seemed that I was the one that couldn’t wait to make those cookies. Every time I opened the pantry, that white and purple box cried out to me. But, being that it was his gift, I refrained from suggesting we make them. Then, finally, a couple of weeks ago he got his Betty Crocker on.

While Hubby was in the kitchen, I was in our home office channeling my inner Mark Brunetz, so only got the following pictures:

HOT OUT OF THE OVEN

Do these look gorgeous or what?

Now this isn’t a mix you just whomp up, mind you. In order to get the perfect cookie, one must read the instructions carefully. Really! It even says so on the box:

My dear Hubby did just that and the end result was pure chocolate chip cookie nirvana! Never was there a more fitting name for a recipe. Vosges’ mix truly does yield the ultimate chocolate chip cookie! They were the most divine, most decadent cookies we have ever eaten — which is why there are no more pictures to share! Who has time for pictures when there’s some good eating to be done? 😉

I could try to describe a Vosges Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie to you, but I see no need to when Katrina Markoff, founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat, as already done so in a most poetic way:

“While some like their chocolate chip cookies crunchy and others like them chewy, I lie somewhere in between. My ideal cookie is large enough to share with a mounded top and thin, crisp edges. I like to hear the crunch of the cookie exterior against my teeth juxtaposed to the gooey chocolate and the moist interior. Achieving this perfect balance is a labor of love, science and art!”

My friends, Vosges has ruined us for any other chocolate chip cookie. And for that, we are thankful!

Peppermint Nostalgia

Candy canes are as synonymous with the Christmas holidays as Christmas trees, stockings, and Santa Claus.  But you’re not likely to find those crook-necked confections in my household.  No, when I buy peppermint it has to be King Leo stick candy.

Originally made by the Standard Candy Company in Nashville, TN, King Leo has been a regional favorite for over 100 years.  Indeed it has been a tradition in my family for several generations.  Those trademark blue tins with the lion were permanent fixtures in the homes of my grandparents and great-grandparents–not just during the holiday season, but year round.

One time, when I was in elementary school, I found a King Leo tin in my grandparents’s garage.  Anticipating that soft, chalky peppermint perfection, my mouth watered as I pried open the lid.  Imagine my disappointment when I found nuts and bolts (of the metal variety, not the edible variety) instead.  Oh well, at least they repurposed the container.

My fondest memory associated with King Leo is that a tin was always within arm’s reach of my great-grandfather.  He smelled of peppermint and chewing tobacco, and every time I see that familiar logo I recall my sweet Granddaddy.

If you happen to see King Leo when you’re out and about this holiday season, consider giving it a try.  Those soft sticks are great for garnishing baked goods, using as stir sticks in hot chocolate, or simply on their own.

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