The Food Guy, Steven Keith Eating his way through the state, plate by plate

These Easter Goodies Better Than Good

There’s a place to get really fantastic West Virginia-made chocolates right here in town – let’s hear it for Holl’s! – but it’s always nice to try out foods from other places.

One of the perks of being a hope-to-someday-be-famous food writer is that companies often send you their products in the hopes that you’ll sample, savor and spread the word about them.

That’s exactly what happened with renowned Pittsburgh chocolatier Edward Marc, who sent me a case of their Easter goodies to nosh on. We broke into them today and were really impressed with everything we tasted.

Featuring top-quality ingredients from across the globe, the Vanilla Salt Caramels, filled chocolate eggs (loved the mocha, peanut butter and nut meltaway) and dark chocolate bunnies were so fine. You can check them out, and order your own, at

A few weeks ago, we also sunk our teeth into some fantastic gourmet cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake, with locations in New York and Washington, DC. Almost too pretty to eat (almost!) we enjoyed both vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, but especially the red velvet and carrot cake options. A mound decadently rich buttercream (in deceptively light pastel colors) topped each one.

Delish. You can browse or buy at

Not-So-Sweet News: Not All Chocolate Good. GASP!

If you’re planning to buy chocolates for someone special on Valentine’s Day – and aren’t we all? – the folks at Consumer Reports suggest you purchase wisely.

Based on the results of recent testings, editors learned two important things:

  1. All chocolates are not created equally.
  2. Higher price does not always indicate better quality.

Big names like Hershey’s, Russell Stover and Whitman’s were deemed “merely so-so.” Even Lindt, perceived as a gourmet brand, only received a “good” rating.

The good news is they found 12 excellent (though pricey) chocolates they described as “ultra-smooth.” Among those recommended are, in order of taste, Norman Love Confections Signature Gift Box, Woodhouse Assortment, Christopher Elbow  and Candinas.

But the bad new is, most are only available online.

If you’re looking for something you may be able to find in local stores, Godiva’s Gold Ballotin earned praise for a good selection.

But your best bet – and my VERY STRONG RECOMMENDATION – is that you check out Holl’s at Capitol Market. Those wonderful, West Virginia-made Swiss-style chocolates are divine.

Check them out at

As for the Consumer Reports test, full ratings are available at

Pasta Poll: More Would Give Up Chocolate First

Are you more likely to pick pasta or choose chocolate? To worship angel hair or covet cocoa? Faint over fettuccini or melt over go gaga over Ghirardelli?

Well, according to a recent survey by the National Pasta Association, more Americans pick pasta over chocolate as the one food they couldn’t live without. Nearly 60 percent of Americans ages 18-54 said they would give up chocolate before they’d skip the spaghetti, macaroni or fusilli.

According to the survey, an average American eats pasta seven times per month and has five packages of dry pasta in their cupboard or pantry. Tallied up, Americans eat about 20 pounds of pasta per person in the U.S. each year. 

Which pasta is found on more plates?  Thirty-two percent of those surveyed say spaghetti is their personal favorite, followed by angel hair with 16% of the votes and penne with 11%. The lowly bowtie came in last at only 4%.

As for the debate, I add only this: Thank goodness we don’t have to choose only one.

Eat Great Chocolate AND Help Save the Ta-Tas!

It’s not a new product, but now is a great time to rediscover Ghirardelli Chocolate – and help a good cause in the process.

In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, specially marked pink ribbon packages of the company’s Intense Dark™ chocolates available now through December will carry a code inside the package redeemable for a $1 donation to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

The company also is teaming up with award-winning author, television host and food-and-wine expert Leslie Sbrocco to come up with some delicious pairings for Ghirardelli Intense Dark™ chocolates.

Check out for tips, videos and more.

According to retail experts, Americans purchase about 58 million pounds of chocolate during the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, making Feb. 14th the second-largest chocolate holiday. So, how can you celebrate this day of hearts while still protecting your own heart and overall health?

Here are some light and luscious lessons to love from Carolyn O’ Neil, co-author of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous! 

  • Bubbles for you and your babe: Did you know that Champagne is one of the lightest libations on the bar menu?  Toast your love with a glass of “Brut” Champagne or other dry (not sweet) sparkling wine such as Spanish Cava or Italian Prosecco at only 78 calories for a 4-oz. glass.
  •  Choose chocolates with benefits: Ditch sugary heart-shaped candies in favor of Adora, a rich all-natural chocolate fortified with calcium, magnesium and vitamin D. Adora is a win-win for taste and health, with each indulgent disk providing up to 50 percent of the daily value of calcium plus plenty of vitamin D3 and magnesium. Choose dark or milk chocolate varieties.
  • Keep the romance heavy and the menu light: Planning a romantic dinner? Eating too much may make you drowsy before the dancing begins. Whether it’s at a snazzy bistro or a cozy dinner at home, choose lean proteins such as sirloin steak, pork tenderloin, steamed shrimp or grilled fish. Go for the greens in side salads and steamed vegetables, plus avoid fat- and calorie-laden fried appetizers.
  • Red is the color of the day: So enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner. Studies have shown that drinking red wine in moderation, a glass or two a day, can lower your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Red wine and chocolate is a great flavor pairing, too, and both are good sources of disease fighting antioxidants.

A Dessert Disaster Turned Tasty Treat

Mousse is one of those desserts I had never made at home because I mistakenly thought it would be too complicated – or just time-consuming – to prepare. I mean, how could something so delightfully luscious be easy, right?

How wrong I was!

I ran across a super-simple recipe last night and whipped up a fantastic dessert in mere minutes. Plus I learned a valuable lesson along the way. (More on that later. Oooh, foreshadowing!)

Here’s all you need to do:

  1. Whip 1 cup of heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form and place in refrigerator.
  2. Melt 5 ounces of chocolate, any style or flavor, over a double boiler, whisking until smooth. (I used chopped-up milk chocolate bars, but would’ve preferred dark. You can use chocolate baking squares or chips, too.)
  3. When chocolate melts, stir in a splash of vanilla and your choice of liqueur, for added flavor, if desired.
  4. Then fold chocolate into whipped cream until combined and spoon into dessert cups. Chill until set.

So easy, but oh so good.

And I also successfully  – for the first time – rescued chocolate that has seized. If you’ve worked with chocolate much, you know what I’m talking about. If chocolate comes in contact with even the tiniest amount of water while melting, it immediately hardens into a clumpy mess, rendering it unusable. When this has happened to me before, I’ve tried doing what all the books say – just add a bit of cream or butter or oil and stir it back to its proper consistency. Never works.

Last night my chocolate revolted when I added a little  Bailey’s Irish Cream. Turns out the cream base was the problem, so next time I’ll use the rum or brandy suggested. But never fear. I just returned the pan to the double-boiler for a minute and the hardened chocolate quickly re-melted to the same perfect consistency I had before. And once it was mixed in with the cream, no one knew a thing.

Until now, I guess!