Like so many stories, it started as a home business, making product as gifts for friends and family. Twelve years later, it's in a storefront with online sales and plans for expansion. The story of Becki De Koning Tyner and her business, The Chocolate Architect, is an example of a single homemade product growing into full fledged business.
Tyner pictured with her product
For years Tyner had been making a chocolate fudge based on her grandmother's recipe. Over time she had tweaked it until she had created something that was unique - not quite fudge, not quite a hard chocolate. "It's more like the inside of a truffle," says Tyner. Or like a firm ganache. Smooth and silky, she named it Chocolate Silk, which she eventually trademarked. 

Tyner used her chocolate as gifts that she gave to friends and family. She also gave it as holiday gifts to her clients and business associates while she worked in her career as an architect. Everyone commented that it was something unique, that they had never experienced elsewhere, and that she should develop into a business. 

Being able to play with new products is one of the fun things about food blogging. When I went to the Fancy Food Show in January, I noted some trends. One was the new delivery systems for flavors. There were flavored sprays, gels, and crystals. I was lucky enough to get sent some of the crystals: basil, mint, fennel, and rose.

The Herb and Flower Crystals are made by Fresh Origins. These flavor crystals are really flavored sugar crystals. Fairly large crystals at that. The most obvious use for them is on top of desserts such as cookies and cupcakes. They would also add a nice little bit of crunch on the top of a sundae.

To rim a glass for a cocktail, I had to grind them down a bit smaller with a pestle. I love basil muddled into my mocktails and  so having a glass rimmed with these crystals gives that bit of flavor as well.

You can find these crystals available online from Gourmet Sweet Botanicals and Marx Foods.

Strawberry Rose Cupcakes

White cake mix of your choice
6 large strawberries, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake liners in pan. Prepare cake mix as usual.
Mix together the cake mix and strawberries. Fill prepared cupcake lined pans up 2/3 of the liner. Bake for 20 minutes or until cake tester draws out cleanly. Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool completely.


4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon rose water

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy. Beat in the rose water.

When cupcakes are cooled, frost with icing. 

One of the things that immediately struck me in Mark Bittman's book VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 was when he discusses the word "diet". To pretty much everyone, the word "diet" refers to a temporary meal plan meant for weight reduction. In actuality, the word "diet" just means "what a person or animal usually eats and drinks". 

When you hear the word from your doctor, it's because he's telling you to change what you eat and drink for medical reasons. Even so far as to go vegan. That's what happened to Mark Bittman when he was diagnosed as being pre-diabetic with indications for heart disease as well. Bittman, a food writer for the New York Times, wasn't interested in taking drugs like Lipitor or eliminating the foods he loved. How would that work with his job? Besides, he loved food too much.

He decided to compromise and created a lifestyle plan that has worked for him for over six years. During the day he eats vegan, then after 6 p.m. he can eat whatever he wants. Vegan Before 6.

Like any diet book, VB6 discusses how the American diet has deteriorated over the last 50 years with the dependence on fast foods and highly processed foods.  It goes over how we should all be eating more vegetables, whole grains, and stay away from processed foods that strip nutrients and are just wasted calories.

And all I got was a fabulous lunch! LOL.

It seems that Sacramento goes forever without any real recognition in the food world and then this year we had two, that's TWO, James Beard Award winners.  Our friend, Hank Shaw, won for his blog,  "Hunter Angler Gardener Cook." Frank Fat's won for America's Classic.

Today I was treated to a press lunch to celebrate their award.The America's Classic is awarded to "beloved regional restaurants". "Distinguished by their timeless appeal, they serve quality food that reflects the character of their communities."

In the case of Frank Fat's, it's been a fixture in Sacramento since 1939 and even has the nickname of the "Third House" of the Legislature. This refers to the fact that over the decades many a political deal has been hammered out within their walls, over a cocktail or a plate of their famous Frank's Style New York Steak. Every governor and scores of politicians has eaten at Frank Fat's over the last six decades.
Frank's Style New York Steak

It was interesting to learn a few things about its history. The New York steak has been on the menu since the very beginning, never changing.