Gianduja, great wine at Ripple, cheese straws and more

Today I finally got around to making the homemade gianduja recipe I've had my eye on for a couple weeks now. I thought it'd be a great holiday gift for some of J's teachers and as we'd get to enjoy any extras, all the better. Gianduja, or chocolate-hazelnut, is a flavor I discovered most memorably via Italian gelato. There, gianduja is ubiquitous throughout Tuscan (and surely cuts a wider swath but I've spend most time in Tuscany visiting my sister) gelaterias, and I usually get a scoop of it alongside one of pistachio, a beautiful, transportive combo of tastes that never fails to melt my butter.

empty jars and festive dishtowels

Though I couldn't find shelled hazelnuts anywhere lately and now have a calloused hand from nutcracking a pound and a half of them, this was fun to make and is delicious. Weck jars always make for a lovely presentation and with a small porcelain spoon and festive dishtowel...well, I'd love to receive this treat!

chocolate gently meltinggianduja

I think I'm now going to move on to cheese straws and gumbo though I'm not yet sure which to start in on first. The boys gave T a stove-top popcorn making pot for Christmas and we let him open it early, today, as they had plans for a Sunday MythBusters together. Pretty cute, fun pot!

Last night, T and I went out to eat at Ripple, a local fave of ours. I love the inventive dishes its chef, Logan Cox, puts together. His risks don't always work but they're always fun to try and often really excellent and memorable. I got my standby dish, the composed seasonal veggies with goat yogurt and black cardamom which, with the winter veggies, was downright fabulous. T started with a wonderfully light roasted delicata squash soup which had the most marvelously layered flavors. For my entree I ordered two other primi dishes rather than a main. One, the risotto quinoa with black truffle, hazelnuts, rutabaga and a poached egg was divine though my sweet potato agnolotti with chanterelles, almonds and broccoli stems was definitely not something I'd order again. It was imbalanced and a bit flabby with the sweetness and almonds just too much in the mouth and nothing on the back-end. T ordered the venison with apple tahini, ham and cumin yogurt and really enjoyed it.

The wine I ordered is one you must try to find, as will I!!! It was the Beckmen "Cuvée le Bec" from Santa Ynez, CA. A 2010, it's a red blend of syrah, grenache, mourvedre and counoise. AWESOME!