Welcome to my backyard--the Florida Keys! I'm a travel writer, blogger and photographer with a passion for all things Florida, especially the Florida Keys. These islands are so much more than Duval Street and Jimmy Buffet. They are rich in history, culture, cuisine, nature and events--all surrounded by pristine waters teeming with wildlife. Whether you're a local or a visitor, the Conch Republic has many surprises in store. Let me be your guide.
When Key Largo Chocolatesannounced their first class, A Night of Chocolate, I couldn’t sign up fast enough. Tuesday evening, I joined 10 eager pupils in the factory behind their store tucked away in the Florida Keys. We donned snazzy hairnets and brown aprons with “Nobody knows the truffles I’ve seen” scrawled across the front. Who knew that would prove prophetic?
To help keep a casual feel to the class, chocoaltier Kristie Thomas kept the wine flowing. We broke into small groups to make ganache — the creamy center for our truffles. Sipping a glass of chardonnay while stirring 60% dark chocolate, triple sec, orange extract, heavy cream and butter left me feeling a bit like Julia Child. (Today would have been her 100th birthday!)
Next, we made small balls from a chilled champagne raspberry ganache, rolled them in a melted dark Belgian chocolate and followed with a swirl through crushed macadamia nuts. As we moved on to a large batch of hazelnut ganache filled with Pailleté Feuilletine, a finely crumbled biscuit, I realized I was running behind. The ganache was melting in my hands and the dipping chocolate was hardening. I felt less like Julia and more like Lucille Ball.
Kristie, in her trademark pink and green chef’s outfit, watched our antics, er, progress, with a bemused smile and gave us encouragement. Coasting on a chocolate high, we had smears on our faces, edible glitter in our hair and ear-to-ear grins. As we began to divvy up seven huge trays of truffles to take home, we sampled our final product. While I’d gained a newfound appreciation for the patience and skill required to create the gemlike concoctions, I'm still an amateur, but one whose truffles tasted divine!