Travel & Eats: Add a Little Spice, Warmth, and Romance to Your Holidays
Chef Jacques Haeringer from Washington DC’s Most Romantic Restaurant, L’Auberge Chez François, offers tips and recipes to create a bit of romance this holiday season.
A natural and wondrous relationship exists between love and food; between the heart and the palate. No truly passionate life is complete without the pleasures that food can provide. Imagine a quiet candlelight dinner with the one you love, or a lazy Sunday brunch for two. With the holidays just around the corner we might want to create a little time for romance and reconnect with the special people in our life.
“The holidays can be a romantic time for many couples as they dash to parties, snuggle on cold nights, and exchange gifts,” explains Jacques Haeringer, chef and owner of L’Auberge Chez Francois, voted Washington DC’s most romantic restaurant. “Most people associate food with comfort and prepared the right way food encourages romance.”
Studies show that we associate scents such as vanilla and cinnamon with love. Scientists have found that these food fragrances can stimulate our emotional and romantic appetites. As the author of the romance-inspired cookbook, Two for Tonight: Pure Romance from L’Auberge Chez François (Bartleby Press; ISBN 0-910155-43-7; $26.95; Hardcover), Jacques has known this for years and has been slicing, stirring, and serving up romantic meals at his family-owned restaurant and through his cooking classes, books, and public appearances.
Jacques says that romantic meals don’t have to be expensive. They can be small and light, maybe a bit of a snack. In addition to recipes he offers up some tips for couples to spice up their holidays this year.
- Welcome your special someone and close family and friends into your home with a warm glass of mulled wine.
- Add a splash of liqueur such as brandy, Kahlua, or other favorite to a steaming mug of hot chocolate topped with real whipped cream.
- Bake something sweet and fill your home with the smells of chocolate, vanilla, or seasonal fruits. Bring your special someone into he kitchen to help you put the finishing touches on together.
- Dip some fresh strawberries into melted chocolate, either white or dark, for an unexpected surprise.
- Splurge on one or two expensive ingredients such as caviar or a bottle of champagne to turn a simple meal into a memorable one.
- If you are on a budget consider buying a half bottle of champagne and serving a small but elegant appetizer such as shrimp or cheese.
- Take care to set your table, even your coffee table, with fresh flowers or candles, real china, stemware, and cloth napkins. With the right setting even take-out pizza comes with the message that you care!
- Spice up a holiday evening with these two easy desserts from Chef Jacques Haeringer and his romantic cookbook Two for Tonight:
Warm Chocolate Tart
The combination of chocolate and love is a double whammy. Chocolate contains caffeine-like substances which excite the system as well as the taste buds. There is nothing like a warm tart for dessert.
1 6-7 inch Sweet Pie Crust (recipe follows)
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup milk
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 whole eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the heavy cream and milk in a heavy saucepan.
Place over high heat and bring contents to a boil. Remove from heat, add the chocolate, and stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
Beat the 2 eggs in a bowl. Slowly pour the warm chocolate and cream mixture in the bowl, whisking constantly.
Pour the contents into the Sweet Pie Crust and bake in preheated oven for approximately 10 minutes until the custard is set. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the custard. The custard is ready if toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and serve warm with ice cream, if desired.
Variation: Garnish with a few fresh raspberries, a great combination.
Sweet Pie Crust
Makes a 6-7 inch pie crust
1¼ cups unbleached flour
¼ cup evaporated cane juice or sugar
Pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 whole egg
WITH A FOOD PROCESSOR:
Place all ingredients into the food processor. With the steel blade in place, process for 10-15 seconds until the dough comes together in a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight.
KNEADING BY HAND:
Place the sifted flour, evaporated cane juice, and salt in a mixing bowl. Thoroughly mix the contents.
Turn out the dry ingredients and mound in the center of your work surface. Make a well in the flour and place the slightly softened butter, cut in pieces, in the center. Using your fingertips, blend the butter into the flour until the dough is crumbly. Add the egg, lightly beaten, and the vanilla extract.
Knead only long enough to completely mix the ingredients.
Form the dough into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Take out ½ hour before rolling.
Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to approximately 1/8-inch thickness. Roll dough around the rolling pin and transfer to the pie shell. Line the pie shell, pressing in the dough evenly. It is not necessary to prick the bottom of the pie with a fork before baking.
Bake in a 375-degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until light brown. Allow to cool before filling.
No holiday meal is complete without a little bit of the “bubbly.” Try this delightfully light mousse.
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons evaporated cane juice or sugar
2/3 cup champagne
1/2 teaspoon gelatin
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Whip the heavy cream and refrigerate.
Combine the yolks and evaporated cane juice in a glass or stainless steel bowl and whisk thoroughly until the mixture whitens. Add the champagne and whisk together completely.
Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and cook, beating constantly until the mixture thickens to the consistency of a light hollandaise sauce. Remove from heat and continue whisking for about 1 minute. Set aside and allow to cool.
Combine the gelatin and water in a small bowl and let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin. Heat the softened gelatin mixture until the gelatin dissolves and the liquid clears.
Whisk the dissolved gelatin into the champagne mixture. Then fold in the whipped cream with the aid of a rubber spatula. Chill for 1 hour before piping the mousse into champagne glasses or dessert dishes.
Garnish with fruit marinated in champagne.
Copyright Chef Jacques Haeringer from Two for Tonight,
Bartleby Press; $26.95; ISBN: 0-910155-43-7
ABOUT CHEF JACQUES HAERINGER
Chef Jacques is one of America’s most respected and innovative culinary personalities. Continuing in his father’s footsteps, Jacques loves to create and serve contemporary French fare at his restaurant, L’Auberge Chez François, in Great Falls, Virginia. His menus feature reinterpreted Alsatian and French cuisine for American palates. When he isn’t in the kitchen, he can be found teaching his popular gourmet cooking classes. Jacques is often asked to author magazine articles, cook up recipes at culinary events, and to be a guest on television and radio shows across the country.
Jacques is the author of Two for Tonight,a collection of recipes that inspire romance through food and togetherness, and the Chez François Cookbook, the bible of classic Alsatian cuisine featuring some of the restaurant’s most popular recipes. He lives in Northern Virginia and is currently working on a new cookbook and television show.
For more information on L’Auberge Chez François, Chef Jacques, and his books and cooking classes, visit him online at www.ChefJacques.com, Facebook @JacquesHaeringer, and Twitter @ChefJacquesH.