Holiday Cookie Recipe Contest

Quick!  The deadline is November 1st for you to submit your favorite family recipe for those cookies that Aunt Betty used to always make.  Here are all the details (click there), but what you really need to know is how cool the prizes are.  Not only would you be the undisputed King or Queen of holiday cookies, but you’ll be featured in the Indianapolis Star‘s Taste section in December, PLUS your cookies will be a featured dessert in the L.S. Ayres Tea Room at the Indiana State Museum.  How cool is that?

Better get baking!

Limestone Scale

The Indiana State Museum is known for its architecture, built with elements found in Indiana such as steel, limestone, and the like. Turns out it is also good for climbing (don’t try this), and will be featured in a documentary entitled “Concrete Mountains”, being produced locally by an IUPUI School of Informatics student, Greg Oppman.  Climbers from Climb Time Towers were at the museum this past weekend, being filmed for the documentary.  Rumor has it, they may also be on lookout duty for Santa’s helicopter at the start of Celebration Crossing again this year!

Dave and Dana Hocutt and son John…

Cooking on Radio

Food Network is a great place to watch chefs at work…but have you ever considered radio?  You know… that old fashioned medium that forces you to create your own image in your mind’s eye.  It could be argued that radio is more demanding of you, as you must imagine a certain amount of what you’re hearing.  You know a person never looks quite like you imagine when you’ve only heard their voice.

Such was the case this week as Chef Dustin Gagne spoke to an invisible radio audience about pastries and chocolate.  What an interesting start he had into the food world, cooking for the entire Schumacher Racing Team for a couple of seasons!  Apparently one of their favorite Chef Gagne treats was his French Toast Casserole, consisting of croissants, cream cheese, cinnamon, etc.  YUM!  Now we enjoy his creations in the L.S. Ayres Tea Room, where he’s created various desserts made of high-end chocolate.

During the interview, the WSPM program host kindly described each luscious treat as he tasted the truffles, the smoked applewood bacon-flavored chocolate, the green tea chocolate bar, and others, but I just don’t believe it was the same as tasting it yourself!  If you’d like to hear the program, tune to 89.1 this Saturday, 10/18/08 at 1p.m. for “Indiana This Week”. 

Similar tastings occured on “The Art of the Matter” on WFYI-Public Radio, 90.1 for a Saturday at 4 p.m. airing.

Below is the cute Chef Gagne…who not only wields a large whisk, but definitely knows how to use it!

Bombes in the Gallery

There was a certain amount of alarm in the V.P. of Museum Program’s voice when he heard that not only were we going to COOK in a museum gallery, but we were actually making BOMBS! Well, once he learned it was BOMBES and we planned to merely melt some chocolate, he relaxed a bit.  Once he tasted it…well, all is good now!

Here’s our cute Chef Gagna, teaching Jenna Maloney of Fox59’s Morning Show how to make a Mousse Bombe…and then…the finished product!  These are being served daily in the historic L.S.Ayres Tea Room and trust me….you can only eat a couple bites before you need a direct line of insulin to calm your blood sugar level!  We’ve discussed having an all-staff weigh-in before and after this Chocolate exhibit! hahaha

Midges, Beans, Machetes, and CHOCOLATE!

What do midges, beans, machetes, and chocolate have to do with each other?  It all relates to America’s favorite flavor, chocolate.  You must know that chocolate comes from a bean;  the cacao bean, which is a seed from a pod on the cacao tree, which grows in the rain forest.  There’s a teensy bug called a midge, much like those gnatty-things that swarm around your head when you’re gardening.  Anyway, this little midge pollinates the cacao tree, which allows for the growth of the pods…(so without that pesky midge, there’d be NO chocolate!)  The density of the forest requires the cacao harvest to be done by hand, so folks with machetes cut off the pods, split them open, and spread the seeds out on banana leaves to dry out.  Once they’re dried (fermented, really), they are sent to market. 

Then…the real magic happens!  Manufacturers roast the beans and eventually you have that hot chocolate, that Mounds bar, or however-you-like-your chocolate. 

All this and more can be found NOW at the Indiana State Museum in the new Chocolate: The Exhibition.  Trace the history of chocolate from the ancient Incas when it was often used as money, to modern day manufacturing.  You can even visit the Chocolate Shoppe, where there are 50 different types of chocolate just waiting to be tasted (I’ve done my best to comply).  Who knew science and history could be so…tasty?

Hendricks County school kids enjoying a "day off" at the ISM

Hendricks County school kids love chocolate!