Taking Flight at the Chocolate Expo

Alissa & Chris at The Chocolate Expo at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, NY in March 2017.

Once or twice a year, Nassau County’s Cradle of Aviation is home to The Chocolate Expo. The name “The Chocolate Expo” is rather misleading, as many of the treats Alissa and I encountered were far from chocolate. While there were many chocolatiers on site, there were many other specialties, including beef jerky, hot sauce, peanut butter, peanut brittle, wine, moonshine, hard cider, cheese, and baked goods. 

One of the most special parts about this Chocolate Expo is that it takes place in an aviation museum. The Cradle of Aviation is home to over 75 different air and space crafts, showcasing the history of flight. While Alissa and I didn’t pay too much attention to the exhibits in the museum, it was hard to avoid them as the event took place in the museum itself. You could be enjoying a bite of chocolate, turn around, and then see a lunar module.

Obviously, not a lunar module.

Something else that made this event even more special was the fact that there were many vendors with gluten free options, some being exclusively gluten free. Shortly after arriving at the event, Alissa and I came upon a table of gourmet nut butters from the company The Peanut Principle. I really wanted to try one of their nut butters, especially the Honey, I Roasted the Peanuts flavor, but I was afraid that I couldn’t eat the pretzels that they were using to sample the nut butters. I went out on a limb and asked if they served gluten free pretzels to use in order to sample their peanut butter. Not only did they have gluten free pretzels, but they shared with us that they exclusively use gluten free pretzels and that all their nut butters were gluten free! While peanut butter is generally gluten free, they had many flavors that you’d imagine would have wheat, like I Want S’more, a s’more flavored peanut butter, or Dashing Thru the Dough, a cookie dough flavored peanut butter. They found creative and tasty ways to get around using wheat in their peanut butters and were one of my favorite booths. 

Another booth we visited was Yankee Folly Cidery, a hard cider company located in New Paltz, New York. When one thinks of hard cider, they might think of brands like Angry Orchard or Redd’s Apple Ale. Yankee Folly is a different kind of hard cider, and instead of being bottled in the style of beer, it’s more of a wine. In fact, I’d say it was closer to a Riesling than to a hard cider. The apple flavor was there, as well as the buzz, but it didn’t have the heaviness of most hard ciders. One of the interesting parts about Yankee Folly Cidery is that I’ve driven past the eponymous road over a dozen times from which they derived their name. Yankee Folly Cidery is located on Yankee Folly Road, which is in between the small town of New Paltz and the Shawangunk Mountains. Many summer days were spent walking through those mountains after a few hours’ drive from Long Island. If you find yourself in New Paltz, either for the rock climbing, hiking, or small town charm, I highly recommend a trip to Yankee Folly Cidery for their fine fares.

Chris at The Chocolate Expo at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, NY in March 2017.

If you know Alissa, you know that she is very fond of tea. While I would come to know just how fond of tea Alissa was later on in our relationship, it was on our first date that Alissa and I first drank tea together, sitting on opposite sides of a table at the bowling alley in between frames. It was Lipton’s black tea, and while it was good, it paled in comparison to the company. So, why do I bring this up, besides sharing a moment I look back on fondly? Not only does Alissa like tea, but she really enjoys it with honey. She truly enjoyed when we met Sandy Abrams and got the chance to taste her product, Magnolia House Honey. Her booth was filled with so many different flavors of honey to try and buy, ranging from raspberry, blossom (orange), and even mesquite. My favorite part about this booth was the way their display melded with the museum exhibit. It was fitting that the table displaying their product was housed under a U.S. Air Mail tent. It really enhanced the “Magnolia House” feeling. 

I’m going to try to convey this next thought as kindly as possible. Everyone at the event had a gimmick. They had a characteristic about them to attract patrons. In a food event, one of the biggest attractions and gimmicks is bacon. I thought that the world lost its fascination with bacon back in 2014. I was wrong, so wrong. I kid you not, the line for Bacon Bites, chocolate covered bacon, was so long that it made me retract my previous notion. Bacon is still a gimmick that gets people’s attention. 

Another gimmick is bro-chef, aka DJ Chef, the “Only Entertainer Who Simultaneously Cooks & DJ’s For Special Events World Wide.” DJ Chef had a team with him to promote his brand, and even though we caught him during his down time eating, he took the time to talk to Alissa and me. He shared with us that he had been on the first season of Cutthroat Kitchen and that he has been DJing just as long as he’s been cooking. It was very cool to meet him and chat for a bit. 

The Bearded Baker not only specializes in French macarons, but also proves that you don’t have to start shaving come December. His gimmick is not only that he is a bearded man, but also that since studying chemistry, he has an advantage in bringing the best tasting French macarons to market. Scott, the bearded baker himself, was very cool and joyfully shared his wares. I must admit, there may be a bit of beard envy.

The next booth brought a tear to my eye, and it’s not only because it was for Eagle Rock and Wild Coyote Gourmet Sauces. Back in 2012, my life changed when Hurricane Sandy came through town and washed away most of my apartment’s contents. I came home the day after the hurricane to see everything in my apartment in complete disarray, including the fridge that had fallen over. Inside that fridge, I had a bottle of Eagle Rock and Wild Coyote Chipotle Hot Sauce that I had purchased at a street fair in Bethpage. I lost a lot that day back in 2012, but seeing a glimpse of my past at this event had me welling up. I made sure to bring home a bottle of that chipotle hot sauce, and I hope that I get to finish it this time. 

Dragon’s Nest Baked Goods was a fun booth, specializing in gluten free treats. In fact, their motto is “Gluten free. Guilt free.” Their booth featured many baked goods, including cookies, breads, brownies, muffins, cupcakes, and scones. Alissa and I both took home a scone, and the next morning, after a few seconds in the microwave, I dove into a bacon and cheddar scone. The day before the Expo, while in Bay Shore at Local Burger, I had a cheeseburger on a gluten free bun. It is only today as I write this, and after a little research, that I discovered the bun at Local Burger was a freshly baked and delivered Dragon’s Nest product.

Alissa at The Chocolate Expo at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, NY in March 2017.

I want to take this moment to remind you that while we were walking around this Chocolate Expo, it was in a museum. There was an exhibit that featured three female figures dressed in the garb of the 1940’s. What made this exhibit special is that when I think of women during the 1940’s, Rosie the Riveter and A League of Their Own come to mind. It was this day that I learned a little more about the role of women during World War II. Women were called upon to take up roles as Red Cross Workers, tending to wounded soldiers returning from war, Army Corps Privates, and Air Raid Wardens. It was a prime moment to take a step back and take in a bit of history. 

Alissa and I spent several hours at The Chocolate Expo and wished we could go into detail about the many booths we enjoyed. I’d like to thank some of our other favorite companies: Maiden + Liberty, The Cheese Guy, Chocolate Moonshine Co., Raw Chocolate Love, Chez Hedwige, Shrub & Co., and Lake George Distilling Company.

After the expo, Alissa and I took a time machine, back to the 90s. We visited the Nunley’s Carousel, housed adjacent to the museum. It should be noted that Nunley’s wasn’t the first home for this carousel. Having been constructed back in 1912, it first brought joy to world at Canarsie’s Golden City Park in Brooklyn, New York, until 1940 where it found a home at Nunley’s in Baldwin, New York. In 1995, Nunley’s closed their doors and in 2009, the carousel found its home on Museum Row, right next to the Cradle of Aviation. 

This was not my first time riding this carousel, having grown up in Nassau County, only a short drive to Baldwin. I have some great memories at Nunley’s. This would be my first time riding it in over 20 years. For $2 apiece, Alissa and I took a ride on that carousel, laughing and enjoying every minute of it. 

Alissa & Chris at Nunley’s Carousel on Museum Row in Garden City, NY in March 2017.

It was quite the great day, filled with tasty food, plenty of laughs, and we finished with a carousel ride. I would encourage everyone to take a trip to Garden City, New York the next time The Chocolate Expo rides into town. Make sure to check out their website for updates, as well as other locations where the expo appearing. I promise you that you will really make the most of the day if you come to the Cradle of Aviation. Don’t forget to visit the Nunley’s Carousel for some extra history and excitement. That’s all for me this week.

Alissa & Chris at The Chocolate Expo at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, NY in March 2017.

As always… stay kissing and stay cooking.

Let’s Talk Turkey Tacos!

There are so many exciting and nerve-wracking stages of relationships. Chris and I have been lucky that the early milestones of ours have been nothing short of successful and charming, and some form of food talk appears in almost every conversation we’ve had. With Kissing Cooks, it’s been quite the pleasure to discuss our inspiration and experiences with loved ones as we grow in readership through social media.

When Chris agreed to meet and have dinner with some of my closest gal pals and their families, it was a great night where the laughs were just as abundant as the yummy tacos. He won them over and I couldn’t have been happier since he’d basically won me on our first date months ago! Our hostess of the night, my friend Nichole, prepared ground turkey with a homemade taco seasoning. Chris and I were immediately intrigued by this prospect, especially since we frequently talk about the ideal ways to organize spices and herbs in one’s cabinet (mine, more specifically). Not to mention, this method allowed for us to save some cash on the sometimes sodium-heavy packet varieties on store shelves, so that we may rely on our own flavor preferences to dictate heat levels and what we’re putting into our bodies. Kissing Cooks is not just about the kissing or the cooking; it’s also about building up our repertoires as home cooks, and with that, we hope to do our very best to learn how dishes are made from scratch (in most cases, at least).

Alissa & Chris at the New Amsterdam Theater in NYC in January 2017, seeing Aladdin on Broadway. No human brains are actually harmed over the course of our relationship.

A week after our friend fest, Chris and I set out to establish our very own taco tradition by making turkey tacos. It should be said that we both have very different work schedules, and often, I have a little bit of prep time for sides and vegetables (really where my forte thrives) before Chris gets to my apartment. I confess: I usually nosh a bit here and there on a cucumber or cheese during the process just to hold me over.

When Chris called me on his way from work, he suggested an appetizer since it usually takes some time after he arrives to finally sit down to eat together and he was hungry. I was at a loss for a light, gluten free starter to have ready for him after his long day at the office (a lovely addition that I will always keep in mind for us to whet our palettes with in the future). Most of our meals at home together have included some sort of a salad that served just this purpose in the time before dinner was served. I’m only recently transforming my kitchen into a full-time gluten free zone, so I suggested to him that, along with a few other necessities, he pick up something festive, which turned out to be corn chip scoops and mild chunky salsa (both Tostitos), a more than appropriate choice for our south-of-the-border-inspired dinner.

Once the cooking was underway, Chris and I put to good use some of the thawed ground turkey I’d bought in bulk (and on sale). I had some extra corn shells (Ortega—of course gluten free), which made it feel like dinner was halfway ready for us that Friday night. When I researched the necessary ingredients for homemade taco seasoning (here), I was pleased to find that I already had most (garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, paprika, and sea salt) on hand, although Chris made the investment in the more potent and bolder flavors (chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and cumin) to keep for himself. These spices haven’t previously found a home in my pantry because, well, spicy + Alissa = no bueno. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a little kick on my tongue—the kick does not enjoy me; therefore, I’ve had to make healthier food choices to avoid a nasty monster that I’ve been facing for years now, better known as, acid reflux. In an effort to meet Chris’ spicy preferences and my own milder health needs, we adjusted portions and added the final product to our ground turkey, which was browning away in the pan within minutes of his arrival.

In addition, our meal included some favorite taco accessories, including light sour cream (Daisy), chopped iceberg lettuce and plum tomato, a finely shredded Mexican blend of four cheeses (Monterey Jack, cheddar, quesadilla, and asadero), salsa, spicy taco sauce (Ortega), as well as brown rice (Uncle Ben’s). Chris had the idea to season the rice with some dried cilantro, though we probably could’ve used a small squeeze of lime juice and zest (everything should have some zest) over it for a little extra authenticity.

I was also pretty happy to use many of my cute and mismatched mini bowls so that assembling our tacos with our favored accoutrements was easy to do and aesthetically pleasing for our carefully set and colorful table. Since I’d been feeling a little under the weather (darn allergies, or something like that), I opted to pair my delicious dinner with a tall glass of cold, filtered water, and Chris followed suit.

As always, there were plenty of leftovers to be saved for one more satisfying dinner. Ingredients like sour cream and the four-cheese blend would not go to waste either since these are essentials to my go-to anytime favorite dinner, cheese quesadillas (the first home-cooked meal I treated Chris to on our fifth date). Cleanup was a cinch, which only made it more obvious that turkey tacos will definitely be happening again for the Kissing Cooks in the future.

For dessert, Chris and I indulged in his homemade gluten free glazed brownies (Duncan Hines) that he very generously brought over to share with me. He knows all too well about my sweetest sweet tooth. We both highly recommend this amazing boxed mix, if you’re seeking gluten free alternatives to quell your baking needs, because it’s possibly the best gluten free brownie option I’ve tasted so far! With it, I enjoyed a hot cup of Throat Coat tea (Traditional Medicinals) with honey, as we watched the latest hilarious episode of New Girl and talked about our busy weekend plans of banana pancakes for Saturday brunch and attending The Chocolate Expo in Garden City on Sunday (which Chris will be writing about next!).

Maybe next time, our taco night will fall on a Tuesday for punny alliterative purposes, but really, aren’t tacos perfect for any night of the week? How do you like to prepare your tacos? What are your favorite taco toppings? We’d love to hear from our readers and fellow foodies about what inspires you to kiss and cook in the kitchen!

As always… stay kissing and stay cooking.