By Food & Wine
February 01, 2009

By February, I’m always ready for a little indulgence. I’ve recovered from the holiday frenzy and settled back into a rather predictable routine. This issue is an antidote to that midwinter slump. Let’s start with my favorite indulgence: chocolate. We conducted an arduous, months-long inquiry to find the best and called the country’s top pastry chefs for milk-chocolate desserts. Most chocoholics swear by dark chocolate, but these recipes are delicious enough to make anyone see the light. You must try the milk-chocolate tart in a pretzel crust.

For another indulgence, we tagged along with culinary tour guide Peggy Markel on a scouting trip in northern India. Peggy took lessons from Rajasthani palace chefs and home cooks and came away with amazing recipes, like yogurt-marinated lamb kebabs. Despite the tragic terrorist attacks in Mumbai last November, Peggy will still be launching her Rajasthan food tour next fall. She says, “We must be brave in our fight against fear.”

Recently, I had the good fortune to co-host a dinner with food prepared by Michel Bras, one of the world’s most revered chefs. He was soulful and passionate as he explained his cuisine to the Francophile guests. His most incredible dish was a slow-roasted onion, a humble ingredient that fairly levitated with flavor thanks to a powder of dehydrated olives, ground almonds and demerara sugar.

I also challenged the winners of the Bocuse d’Or USA chef competition, chosen to represent the country at the international contest in France, to create simple, beautiful recipes for novice cooks. The roasted-squash soup, beef rib eye sautéed with chestnuts and goat-cheese cheesecake were simple, beautiful and indulgent: Now that’s a combination that can’t be beat.

Where I’m Coming From

Notes From My Recent Expeditions

Dynamo Donut & Coffee
San Francisco
This place should be crowned the new queen of the doughnut scene. The menu changes all the time, but I think the maple-bacon doughnut should be on it every day.

San Francisco
One of the best, most intriguing meals I’ve ever had. I adored the chicken risotto with confited gizzard and heart and sautéed livers.

New York City
It was great to finally get a taste of the extraordinary cheese at Obikà’s new Manhattan outpost after hearing so much about this international chain of buffalo-mozzarella bars.