- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Book tours can sometimes be exhausting, but thanks to writing about food, I was able to have some terrific meals.

In San Francisco, while on the road promoting “Seriously Simple Holidays,” I stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, where I was lucky enough to dine at their fine restaurant, Silks.

I could go on about all of the delicious dishes I sampled, but what really got my attention was a most unusual dessert: a shot glass of ice-cold dark German beer (Kostritzer) placed beside a tiny espresso cup of hot chocolate topped — if you can believe it — with Snickers-laced whipped cream.

This dessert was presented on a small white rectangular platter and was amazing.

How could something this simple be this good? Chef Joel Huff describes his cooking style as fun and playful, complex, yet simple. I think this dessert is a perfect example of that philosophy.

His recipes are incredibly inventive. While many of the dishes on his menu are more complicated, this dessert hits a high note as a simple, innovative finale. The contrast of the frosty, slightly bitter beer and the frothy, bittersweet hot chocolate is wickedly rich. The small portions are just the right size and are immensely satisfying.

The next time you want to do something a little different, consider surprising your guests with this dessert. It is so easy to prepare that it works well for entertaining. You might mention to your guests that scientists suggest that both dark chocolate and dark beer are good for you.

While the Snickers-bar whipped cream is a luscious finish to the rich, creamy hot chocolate, you can skip that and just add a little sweetened cocoa to the whipped cream (see recipe below).

If you are a Snickers addict, however, Mr. Hull’s directions follow:

For the Snickers-bar topping, steep 1 pint of heavy cream with ½ Snickers bar on medium-high heat, then strain to remove all nuts. Chill thoroughly and then whip until soft peaks form. Garnish the hot chocolate with the Snickers cream. (You will have some left over.)

Help is on the way:

• You can multiply this recipe for the number of people you are serving.

• For a richer hot chocolate, you can substitute half-and-half or cream for the whole milk.

• Select high-quality bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder that has been sweetened.

• Use a microplaner or grater to grate the bittersweet chocolate for the garnish.

• Look for inexpensive shot glasses and espresso cups at World Market or Pier One Imports.

Hot chocolate and beer

CHOCOLATE WHIPPED CREAM:

½ cup chilled heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon sweetened cocoa powder

Grated bittersweet chocolate, for garnish

HOT CHOCOLATE:

1 tablespoon sweetened cocoa powder

3/4 ounce bittersweet chocolate (70 to 75 percent cacao), chopped

Pinch kosher salt

1 cup whole milk

1 ice-cold bottle of dark German beer

Beat together the cream and cocoa powder in a chilled bowl until soft peaks form. Reserve.

In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the cocoa, chocolate, salt and milk. Place mixture over medium heat, whisking gently. Once the chocolate melts and cocoa dissolves, raise the heat to medium high; whisk more vigorously to form froth on surface. When mixture bubbles around edges and seems ready to boil, remove from heat. Do not let it boil.

Ladle into 4 espresso cups with some froth on each. With a spoon, place a dollop of the chocolate whipped cream on top of each cup. Place the cups on small, rectangular plates. (If you don’t have rectangular plates, use round plates that will easily accommodate the cup and glass.)

Pour the beer in each of 4 cold shot glasses and place next to the espresso cup. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Holidays.” To contact her, go to www.seriouslysimple.com.

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