This past Wednesday was National Chocolate Chip Day, a holiday I can support without question. If it were up to my children we’d probably sprinkle chocolate chips on everything… needless to say I am a huge fan. It all got me thinking about where Chocolate Chips came from. As you might have suspected, the creation of the chocolate chip came about for a cookie recipe. Ruth Graves Wakefield of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts added cut up chunks of a semi-sweet Nestle chocolate bar to a cookie recipe. They were an immediate success. Wakefield reached an agreement with Nestle to add her recipe to the back of their bags in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate. That was in 1939 and Wakefield lived until 1977. That is a LOT of chocolate. It was around 1941 when Nestle began producing chocolate chips, before that they added a cutter to their larger bars. This creation changed cookie making as we know it.
These days it is difficult to find a traditional bakery that doesn’t have some sort of chocolate chip cookie on their menu. While the Nestle Toll House Cookie recipe is a staple at home, here are some of my favorite chocolate chip cookies to eat when someone else is baking.
Bouchon Bakery Chocolate Chunk – This cookie is crisp on the edges and chewy in the middle. I had my fair share when I worked at Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center for over two years. Sometimes quality control is part of the job and I wasn’t complaining.
As many of you know, I worked at Bouchon Bakery in The Time Warner Building in New York City for over three years. It wasn’t always easy working for Thomas Keller but I did learn a lot about food, service and hospitality. Chef Keller is obviously very talented with food and also in the industry of making the guest’s needs come first. To this day, when I am cleaning I often think if he would approve of the appearance of my shop. Some days, I would love for him to walk in and see what I am doing and on other days, I might hide behind the table stacked high with boxes of chocolate. The Thomas Keller ‘Empire’ is based in Yountville, California and during my three years at Bouchon Bakery I tried and tried to get sent out to California to work, but to my disappointment, never got on that plane out west.
This past weekend, my husband surprised me with an early birthday present… a trip to Napa Valley with three friends. This was my opportunity to recharge, drink some wine and eat some amazing food. There was definitely talk of going to The French Laundry for dinner but I decided that is a once in a lifetime meal and I want to experience it with my husband. We did have an amazing meal at Single Thread Farms but I’ll save that for another time. We made a reservation for Sunday Brunch at Ad Hoc. Ad Hoc is likely the most casual of Thomas Keller’s restaurants, serving a single meal, family style for weekend brunch and nightly dinners. I started brunch with a Bloody Mary(a true sign of a vacation without kids!) and it only got better from there. Our meal consisted of a simple spinach salad filled with pickled red onions & grapes and topped with a creamy avocado dressing. The main course was Chicken Fried Steak topped with gravy along with roasted potatoes. We added a Spanglish Sandwich which was the best combination of a fried egg, toasted bread, cheese, tomato and lettuce I’ve had in a long time. Feeling very satisfied, we were presented with a Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting for dessert. It was rich, tangy and sinfully sweet.
After brunch I wanted to explore the rest of Yountville and check out the rest of Thomas Keller’s restaurants. A walk down Washington Street took us past Bouchon Bakery with a line winding down the block for their fresh baked goods and coffee. Next was Bouchon the bistro famous for classic French dishes and finally we stumbled into the garden at The French Laundry. I’m not sure we went in the proper entrance to the property as I never saw the famed Blue Door but the garden was amazing. We passed diners in a small dining room which opened out into the garden and the beautiful fall afternoon. The setting was magical and I look forward to returning one day to experience it for myself. We meandered back down the street to where we started our walk and got in the car to drive back to the airport.
The trip to California was exactly what I needed. It was a chance to catch up with old friends, catch up on my sleep and catch up with dreams of the past. I am so glad I was able to play ‘hooky’ from my life for a few days. I have returned refreshed and ready to take on the busy season ahead.