The world of a food blogger is occasionally challenging. Sardine rillettes? Maybe not. David Lebovitz’s Seaweed Sablés? Sticking with Snickerdoodles. Mimi’s Oxtail-Macaroni Gratin? I’m a lumberman’s daughter and partial to Babe.
Sometimes, however, sacrifices must be made. In the spirit of the upcoming holidays and our approaching winter, stress-minimizer comfort drinks are required. This week I’ve nailed down the only two you’ll need: The Little Nell’s Hot Chocolate, called the Best in America by Travel & Leisure magazine and the Original Irish Coffee recipe compliments of barman Dara Cruise of Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin, Ireland. Now, Readers, who could better put the Irish in the coffee than an Irishman?
Realizing I will endure any travail and tribulation for LightsOnBright, I’ve navigated between an early morning hyperglycemia stupor and an evening boozy haze for the past week. Being tagged as the “Best Ever” is akin to “George Washington Slept Here” but, in the end, the Nell’s hot chocolate does lovingly caress your taste buds. Mmmmm Since the only Irish coffee drinks I’ve ever tasted were topped with Reddi-wip, I wanted to do better. I turned to the Irish who didn’t disappoint.
ASPEN’S LITTLE NELL’S HOT CHOCOLATE
Travel & Leisure Magazine calls it “America’s Best Hot Chocolate.” “Best Hot Chocolate Ever,” says Buzzfeed. This cup of deliciousness lives three blocks from me at The Little Nell, a ski-in/ski-out hotel located on Aspen Mountain at the base of the Silver Queen Gondola. I had never tasted this drink but last week’s full-on snowstorm became an opportunity to sip.
Tuesday morning Luky Seymour, Membership Director of the Aspen Mountain Club, and I met at element47, the hotel’s restaurant. We were soon joined by Pastry Chef Curtis Cameron whose responsibility it is to maintain this “Best in America” designation. “We serve this hot chocolate every day, all day, all year long,” he said, “but in the winter it’s especially popular. We average making upwards of 200 cups a day.”
The Chef and his crew create the concoction in 20 gallon increments. “If we’re hosting a special event, we sometimes meet the guests getting off the gondola with a cup of this,” he adds. “The secret is to use pure cocoa which is bitter and rich.”
Although Cameron says the home cook can choose the dark chocolate and cocoa powder of choice, he prefers Valrhona which can be purchased here. Truthfully, Readers, I don’t love or even crave chocolate but I found this to be delicious and restorative. All that dark chocolate, perhaps? And, let’s not forget the two light-as-a-feather marshmallows sitting on the saucer. Step aside, Campfire marshmallows. You’re done.
How do you spell R-E-S-T-R-A-I-N-T? Calories – 472. Cost – $12 a cup.
ORIGINAL IRISH COFFEE
Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups:
alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat. Alex Levine
Although my Irish Coffee experience is limited, I diligently plied the Web this week to raise my bar. First, choose among the many good Irish Whiskeys: Bushmills 16, Redbreast, Yellow Spot, Green Spot, and Jameson 18, for example. The coffee must be fresh, high quality and steaming hot. The slightly whipped heavy cream must be very cold. Therefore, when the cold cream is poured gently over the hot coffee, it will hang out on top and not infiltrate the coffee.
Although I stumbled and bumbled through numerous tasting trials, I finally settled on, what I consider, the best I can offer any home cook. My hot chocolate and Chef Cameron’s drink taste remarkably alike. (Minus the accompanying cloudy pillows, I’m afraid.) ) And, if I were an Irishman, which I am not, I would want my Irish Coffee to taste exactly as I made it.
“Irish whiskey is the comfortable clothing, the familiar friend, the comfort food of whiskey. You don’t have to work at it, you just enjoy it.” Lew Bryson
LITTLE NELL’S HOT CHOCOLATE shared by Pastry Chef Curtis Cameron, element47, Little Nell Hotel
2 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Valrhona Dutch process cocoa powder (or, your choice)
1.5 ounce Valrhona P125, an 80% dark chocolate (or, your choice)
Pinch of salt
1. Bring the half-and-half to boil, and whisk in sugar. Bring back to a boil. Whisk in cocoa powder, chocolate, and salt.
2. Top with whipped cream which has just begun to thicken. Add chocolate bar shavings to the top.
3. Variations: marshmallows, chocolate chips or a peppermint stick.
4. Supersize the chocolate with a sidecar of Amaretto, Bailey’s, Frangelico, Kahlua or your favorite coffee liqueur.
ORIGINAL IRISH COFFEE courtesy of Barman Dara Cruise, Four Seasons Hotel, Dublin Ireland
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 jigger Irish whiskey (1 1/2 ounces or 3 tablespoons)
Heavy whipping cream, slightly whipped
1. Fill footed mug or a mug with hot water to preheat it, then empty.
2. Pour piping hot coffee into warmed glass until it is about 3/4 full.
3. Add the brown sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Blend in Irish whiskey.
4. Top with a collar of the whipped heavy cream by pouring gently over back of spoon. Serve hot.
5. Sprinkle with nutmeg, if you wish.
TIPS: Be sure that your coffee is hot and your slightly whipped cream is cold. Hold a cold tablespoon over the cup of coffee and pour the slightly whipped cream over it and into the container.