chatting with ginger park and frances park about allergies, away! + two scrumptious chocolate recipes

Ginger, Justin, and Frances show off Justin’s Pizza (photo by Trish Moreis-Stiles)

Chocolate Chocolate, yum yum, happy happy!

Look who’s here! As promised, the fabulous Park Sisters are visiting today to tell us more about their new cookbook, Allergies, Away!: Creative Eats and Mouthwatering Treats for Kids Allergic to Nuts, Dairy, and Eggs (St. Martin’s, 2013).

If you remember my previous post, you know that Ginger’s son Justin was diagnosed with severe food allergies when he was just a year old. The new cookbook contains 70 of Justin’s favorite recipes developed specifically for kids like him by his beautiful and talented mom and aunt.

Some of you may know that food allergies are growing by epidemic proportions in this country. Six million kids (or 1 in 13) are affected, and this number has grown by a startling 50% since the late 90’s. Affected families are having to learn different coping strategies that can sometimes prove pretty daunting. What do you cook for your allergic child to keep him safe, make sure he’s adequately nourished, and actually enjoys the variety of foods on his plate? Since eating is also a social activity, how do you ensure he doesn’t miss out on the fun of birthday parties and other special occasions?

Adorable Justin at his third birthday party.

Justin has given all the recipes in this new book his highest *five star rating*. You don’t have to suffer from food allergies to enjoy them either. You’ll find many familiar comfort foods included, and I love the diverse mix of dishes, everything from Korean bulgogi and half moon dumplings to Mexican quesadillas and chili, to Italian pizza, lasagna and risotto to Greek tzatziki (thanks, Koomo!). Of course they’ve included chocolate. Did you have to ask?

Seoulful Half-moon Dumplings!

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a little julia childish lunch, or, filling a tall order

Chef Ris Lacoste (front left) hosted Julia’s 90th birthday dinner at 1789 in 2002 (via Washington Post).

The Sunday after Julia’s 100th birthday, Len and I had lunch at RIS, an “upscale neighborhood café,” located in the Foggy Bottom district of Washington, D.C. I thought it would be fun to eat at one of the places participating in National Julia Child Restaurant Week.

Ris exterior via Laura Padgett

Besides, it was a good chance to check out RIS, the culmination of Chef Ris Lacoste’s illustrious two decade career in the D.C. area, where among other things, she served as Executive Chef at one of our favorite restaurants, 1789 in Georgetown. Ris (short for ‘Doris’), first met Julia when she was 26 and Julia was 70, as she was graduating from La VaRenne Écôle de Cuisine in Paris. Over the years, Ris encountered Julia many times; Julia frequented a couple of the restaurants Ris worked at in New England, and there were many meetings, dinners and other official events associated with the American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF).

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sweet sweet visit to chocolate chocolate

AS furry residents with their favorite bon bons from the shop.

Chocolate Chocolate!

So good, you have to say it twice :).

Some of you may remember when I reviewed Chocolate Chocolate: The True Story of Two Sisters, Tons of Treats, and the Little Shop That Could (Thomas Dunne Books, 2011), and interviewed co-authors Frances Park and Ginger Park. We rhapsodized about half-moon buttercream dreams, le bouchon, chocolate covered pretzels and dark almond bark.

We learned how Frances and Ginger opened Washington, D.C.’s, first independent, high-end sweet shop featuring decadent delights from all over the world. We met some of their most memorable customers and marveled at how they launched their writing careers on a rented Selectric typewriter in the store’s tiny backroom.

Most important, we reinforced our staunch belief that writers and chocolate naturally go together — the creamy, dreamy combination seems to create magic in its wake, forging lifelong friendships, steeling sisterly bonds, and inspiring award-winning books.

You may also remember that Chocolate Chocolate was my hands-down favorite food memoir of 2011. I gave everyone I could think of a copy for Christmas, and I gave my brother’s family a copy when I visited them in Hawai’i last November.

Well. My 13-year-old niece Julia absolutely loved the book and shared it with her friends. Going to Chocolate Chocolate and meeting Frances and Ginger was at the top of her must-do list when she visited us in Virginia recently.

Julia loves reading, writing, blogging, and chocolate!!

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twice as good: chocolate chocolate by frances park and ginger park

“Imagine a little moon of chocolate, simple and smooth, even virtuous. A moon slowly melting onto your tongue, and every muscle instinctively melting with it. Imagine feeling so sated nothing could disappoint you ever again. That was the promise of a Half-Moon Buttercream Dream.” (Chocolate Chocolate, Chapter 4)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that writers and chocolate go together. Jane Austen had it for breakfast. Thomas Jefferson and Samuel Pepys touted its health benefits and restorative powers, and Roald Dahl always had a stash of chocolate bars on hand for dinner guests.

For award winning authors Frances Park and Ginger Park, chocolate is their American dream — a hard won livelihood, an unforeseen impetus for their writing careers, and the subject of their divinely delicious new memoir, Chocolate Chocolate: The True Story of Two Sisters, Tons of Treats, and the Little Shop That Could (Thomas Dunne/St.Martin’s Press, 2011).

Most of us would agree that starting any business is a risky, difficult proposition at best. When Frances and Ginger opened Chocolate Chocolate (D.C.’s most popular gourmet sweet shop) back in 1984, they were in their 20’s, had no previous business experience, and were the only minority-owned, independent shop in the city. A shady contractor had left their shop in shambles, they struggled mightily to build a clientele, and at one point they even lost their lease — but their strong sisterly bond, fierce commitment to family, and steely work ethic enabled them to transform a small lobby space on the corner of a big office building into a nationally renowned, locally beloved chocolate boutique.

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