Girls’ Night at The Chocolate Lovers’ Club

I have three close girlfriends that I have been friends with since I met them when I came to their school in 5th grade. The three of them have know each other even longer.  They are the best!  We don’t see each other or talk as often as we would like, but every time we are together, we pick up right where we left off, nobody gets upset if you have dropped off the earth for a month or four two.  The conversation flows, often along with the adult beverages 😉  It is too much fun.

One day I got an email from Amy that she saw a Groupon for a four-course dinner and chocolate tasting at The Chocolate Lovers’ Club in Princeton, NJ.  We knew we had to go, and hoped we could get Tracy and Bethie on board.  And the hubbies/grandmas to watch the little ones.  I mean, what could be better than a Girls’ Night…  with food…  and wine…  and CHOCOLATE!

Unfortunately Tracy couldn’t make it, but Amy’s future sister-in-law, Megan, was happy to join us.

The Chocolate Lovers’ Club is a cute little shop in the Princeton Forrestal Village.  They sell their handmade, gourmet chocolates, offer chocolate classes, have dinners and tastings, host parties and showers, and more.

We had such a great time!  Truthfully, I think there are all couples there, other than us, so it definitely would be a unique date night with your significant other, too.  But definitely consider it for a night with the girls, too.  As we learned, it has been proven that women derive significantly more pleasure from chocolate than men do.  It really was a lot of fun!  The food was tasty, the chocolate was divine, and we even learned a lot of interesting chocolate trivia.  Plus, for my own benefit, I got some ideas for some new recipe creations.  So I had to tell you about the evening.  I will apologize in advance that these pictures are not the best display of my lack of photography skills.  But I was too busy trying to catch up with the girls to take stunning photos.  I’m just not good enough yet to get it perfect on the first or second try.

The theme when we attended was A Taste of Hawaii, so we were greeted with leis and a Pineapple Ginger Ale punch, which was so light and refreshing.

Pineapple Ginger Ale Punch

We started with a salad, where we had our first taste of chocolate in the form of cacao nibs crushed and sprinkled over a salad of mixed greens, pineapple, red onion and grated cheddar.  This is definitely a great idea for a summery salad, and, as we learned, cacao nibs are a superfood, high in antioxidants.

Pineapple Cacao Nib Salad

This was followed by a little appetizer of cream cheese on crackers with some mango jelly.  I love the combination of sweet and salty, so this would definitely be a yummy, quick party snack.

Mango Jelly and Cream Cheese on Crackers

Next was the main course, which was served small plates style.  We were free to take a few samples, and then return to the buffet as often as we liked.  I defintely had seconds of the creamy coconut shrimp rice, the savory pork patties, and the sweet and tasty sweet potato and banana casserole.  A pineapple chicken kabob and some steamed green beans rounded out the meal.

Chocolate Dinner Main Course

Then we had the pleasure of tasting some wonderful chocolates from craft producers in Hawaii who make their chocolate in small batches.  The dark chocolate was 60% cocoa, not milk or other added ingredients – just pure chocolate and sugar.  The slight bitterness to the chocolate was such a wonderful contrast to the Pineapple Ginger Ale punch.  The white chocolate was not the artificial tasting white chocolate that you see lining the aisles right now in the form of “chocolate” bunnies.  This was real cocoa butter with sugar, and it was so smooth and creamy, and provided just the right amount of sweetness to some mango iced black tea.

And of course you can’t go to a chocolate dinner without finishing up with dessert.  And we had two – both of which were delicious and simple enough to do at home.  In fact, I am thinking of turning both of these ideas into layer cakes.  I bet they would be fabulous!

The first was a Chocolate Kona Coffee Cake, which consisted of a simple sponge cake, drizzled with chocolate ganache made from the amazing Hawaiian chocolate and coconut milk instead of cream.  This was then sprinkled with crushed Kona coffee beans, lemon zest, and sea salt.  I don’t even really like coffee, but this was such an incredible contrast of flavors that somehow all worked together beautifully.

Chocolate Kona Coffee Cake

Then we finished simply with pineapple chunks drizzled with a white chocolate ganache, also made with coconut milk, macadamia nuts, and sea salt.  Delicious!

Pineapple with white chocolate ganache and macadamia nuts

Well, since The Hubby spent the night at home with The Bug, I thought he deserved a few treats, too.  And I got The Bug a white chocolate bunny for his Easter basket.  I might have also bought some for myself.

Bag of chocolates

We sampled the caramel truffles and sangria truffles, which were smooth and creamy.  The sangria truffle was so unique, with that delicious combination of chocolate and orange.  And we tried the dark chocolate bark with cacao nibs, and this was so well-balanced – bitter and sweet, creamy and crunchy.

Sangria truffle, caramel truffle, and dark chocolate cacao nib bark

Oh, and by the way, my choice of Cupcake Red Velvet wine was a perfect selection!

By being an email follower, I was also lucky enough to win a free ticket to a chocolate tasting.  So I will be heading back to sample some more of their wonderful treats at the end of April.  I am bringing The Hubby this time, though.  I love Girls’ Nights, but I also love Date Nights, too, and I think he will love it as much as I did.

So if you are in the area, stop in and check out their chocolates, try some drinks or desserts, or sign up for one of their fun Supper Club Nights!

Enjoy!

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Friday Fun! March 16, 2012

Happy Friday again everyone!  I’m back for another edition of Friday Fun.  I’ll tell you what’s not so fun is that I am starting to write this at 2:50am.  Why, you ask?  Well, for some reason I m having a bout of insomnia tonight, and just as I was starting to wind down, The Bug decided to have a bit of a crying fit.  Well, he settled down, sort of, but now I can’t wind myself back down.  I’m sure staring at the glow of the computer screen is going to do wonders for helping to get me off to dreamland, but c’est la vie.  Gotta use the time somehow, especially since I’ll probably crash when The Bug goes down for his nap tomorrow, umm, I mean later today.  I’m sure I won’t finish this before I try to go to sleep, but at least I’ll get a start.

Last weekend, The Hubby and I got a date night, which was wonderful.  I’m actually hoping to do a little post about it, because we had yet another fabulous meal at The Frog & The Peach, in New Brunswick, NJ.  Every one in a while, we like to go out to somewhere REALLY good.  A lot of the time we try new places, but when we want a good meal with good service and a good atmosphere, without the wildcard aspect of trying a new place, we go to The Frog.

This weekend I am so excited for a Girls’ Night on Saturday with two good friends, Amy and Bethie, and Amy’s future sister-in-law, Megan.  Of course this has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day, but we bought a Groupon for a Four-Course Chocolate Supper Club dinner at the Chocolate Lovers Club in Princeton, “celebrating cuisine from chocolate-producing countries,” and supposedly includes virgin choctails, three appetizers, four tasting-size entrees, dessert, a cooking demo, and a chocolate tasting.  We will be experiencing A Taste of Hawaii.  OMG!!!!  I also think I will be picking up a bottle of Cupcake Red Velvet to bring along, because it sounds like the perfect pairing to me.

And Sunday I’ll be heading to a birthday party for The Half-Baked Housewife‘s little guy.  She has a huge family and tons of friends, so parties at her house are always such happy chaos.

OK, I think I can go to sleep now.

Apple cheddar and almond salad with balsamic maple dijon vinaigretteSo I am back, and having a salad for lunch inspired The Fountain Avenue Kitchen’s Apple Pecan Spring Greens with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette.  I only had romaine and cheddar, though I would much prefer spring greens and blue cheese.  Also, I used almonds instead of pecans, and left out the raw onion (yuck!).  Plus I fudged the dressing a little because I was only making a little for myself, and I used balsamic instead of apple cider vinegar, because I LOVE balsamic.  I also realized I forgot the dried cranberries.  Bummer!  But it was so tasty!

This week I also received several blogger awards from some of my new bloggie friends.  I am so honored, but it has been a busy week with attempting, unsuccessfully, to potty train The Bug, getting my Improv Cooking Challenge post completed, and pulling together my package for my Foodie Penpal, Jessica, that I haven’t had a chance to share the love.  So since the Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys are always on Sundays, I am thinking I will be doing a Sunday Awards Show post, so that I can highlight the lovely ladies who nominated me, and tell you all about some other awesome bloggers.

The Bug Planting SeedsThe Bug and I planted herbs this week from Growums.  Let’s see if my Black Thumb of Death rears its ugly head again.  Oh, and my random adorable Bug tidbit of the week is that when you ask him where something is, he points, and says “Right right there.”  Oh, and on the way home from pre-school the other day, he fell asleep in the car.  Usually he asks to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar when we get home, but since he was out cold, I just carried him up to his bed.  As I was laying down, he goes, “Hungry Caterpilaaaaa..zzzzzzzzzz” as he fell back to sleep.  So cute!  And one more thing – apparently at pre-school he is counting EVERYTHING.  He has no interest in letters, but he is all over the numbers.  Clearly the offspring of two engineers.

At Shop Rite I picked up a 5 lb box of Whole Wheat Matzoh.  I’m not Jewish and I have a wheat allergy, so don’t eat too many things like that.  But I thought I might be able to come up with some creative recipes.  And it was free.  And bonus, the only ingredients are whole wheat flour and water, so it’ll make a great whole grain, sugar/salt/preservative-free snack for The Bug.  Any other ideas what I can do with it?

The Bug and his car

Some things I came across this week:

  • In the early stages of tonight’s insomnia, I found this article about food bloggers posting recipes using “real food” versus packaged items and junk food to create visually appealing, drool-inducing recipes that don’t do wonders for the health of the nation.  I am all about balance and moderation.  So while I do try to focus on wholesome, nutritious, “real” food, I do think there is room in life for a little fun, like these Lucky Charms Cupcakes.  That being said, though, so far I think the most popular recipe on my blog is my Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Sausage Tomato Cream Sauce.
  • The Lean Green Bean put together a list of 60 Blogs You Should Be Reading.  There are a lot on there that I already read, and some that I have to add to my list.
  • Every year for Christmas, I make my dad Snickerdoodles.  He even says I now make them better than my grandma used to.  And The Hubby loves molasses gingersnaps.  These Snickercrinkles are like a combo of the two – I have to try them!
  • Ann at Sumptuous Spoonfuls had me hooked with this Double Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Bread.  I mean, it has Nutella, and it is chock full of healthy things like flax, whole wheat flour, yogurt and applesauce.
  • Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Brown Sugar Frosting and Snickers Cake – ’nuff said!
  • OK, I am not all about dessert.  I am always looking for some new vegetarian ideas for Meatless Mondays and Lent Fridays.  This week I found BBQ Chickpea Burgers and Black Bean Spaghetti Stir Fry.  I am very interested to try black bean pasta after my first venture into gluten-free pasta with brown rice spaghetti last week.  And I thing this Springtime Jasmine Rice Salad sounds amazing, with two of my favorites – asparagus and mushrooms – but I think I may have to add shrimp or chicken for The Hubby to consider it a meal.
  • How cute are these?!?!

I could go on, but I have towels to fold.  Ugh!

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And here is the weekly question:

What are your plans for the weekend?  Cooking up anything special?

Enjoy!