Ev'rywhere you go;
Take a look in the five and ten glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in ev'ry store
But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be
On your own front door.
- Meredith Willson
Stepping outside into the rare glow of sunshine I am kissed by the cool, crisp chill of winter in the air. That special humidity that whispers snow tickles my nose and once again I am excited by the hint of another change of season. I slip on my gloves, tuck my hands deep into my pockets and there is a newfound briskness in my step inspired by the upcoming holiday season electrifying the day.
I love autumn, but this year autumn has meant nothing but rain, rain and more rain. No bright sunny days, no bundling up in gaily-colored sweaters to protect against a joyful, dizzy drop of temperatures, no crunch of golden and red foliage underfoot, only gray, damp days, matted, sticky swaths of dead leaves lying like an old forgotten scarf in the gutter and a disagreeable wet rawness seeping underneath our clothes and into our homes, chilling us to the bone. No pleasure at all.
But with Jack Frost now nipping at our noses, I am starting to get excited! We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, so there is no rational line drawn precisely in between the pages of the calendar, no great November-December divide that signals the go-ahead for the official kick off of the Christmas season. Here in France, the decorations are now being hung up and down every street, swags of lights strung across the roads from shop to shop, streetlamp to streetlamp. White fluffy reindeer and polar bears, tiny elves and princess dolls are finding their way into winter scenes in every store window, snowy white, silver and gold deck every hall, garlands of green and red wind up staircases and grace window displays all over town. Candy store windows are being stacked with beribboned boxes of holiday delights and wine shops are no doubt clearing space for the extra crates of Champagne. No, I don’t celebrate Christmas but no doubt my readers know how much I love the season!
It’s been absolutely crazy in our private little kingdom here what with Simon coming home to visit then leaving for an impromptu trip to New York and, be still my motherly heart, not thinking to contact us for 4 days to let us know he had arrived at his friend’s apartment in one piece. I have been working like a madwoman on projects as yet to be told day and night and even roping my men into the action, handing out duties as a mother doles out cookies to her little ones. Husband’s Mac died and joined wayward, bored, computerless Simon in pushing little old mom out of her desk chair and taking over her laptop, leaving her like a rudderless tugboat in the great ocean, rubbing her hands in worry and pacing back and forth across the wooden floors. I’ve been cooking and baking, testing two fabulous cookbooks (soon to be posted!), organizing the first From Plate to Page workshop and packing for my long-awaited girls’ weekend in London with Meeta, Jeanne and Hilda.
So through all of this as well as the long, long month of rain, I simply had no time to cook or bake anything for this post…. BUT….
As I am now so excited by the lighting of the first Hanukkah candle on Wednesday, December 1st (and JP has already selected our gift for this year YAY! Something absolutely frivolous but simply gorgeous!), I have decided to offer you two gifts: a few favorite Hanukkah dishes that I created and posted over this past year, sweet and savory meals to be eaten and enjoyed all year round yet perfect for this Jewish holiday (just follow the links!) AND CHOCOLATE!!!
The kind, generous people at Hotel Chocolat, British Cocoa Grower & Chocolatier, presented me with a box of their LUXE Classic Christmas Selection of luxury chocolates and they have offered to send one lucky Life’s a Feast reader the same sensational box of chocolates! I am privileged to be living in a city filled with chocolatiers and have become quite the connoisseur so when I received my box of Hotel Chocolat chocolates I was a bit skeptical. JP’s eyes lit up and he dove in. I hesitated – well I always do, just wanting to select the right flavor! But I worried that I wouldn’t like these chocolates. I mean, I’ve been spoiled by the best chocolates French artisans have to offer! Oh, ever the worrywart! My hand hovered over each chocolate, dark, milk, filled or not. When I finally slipped the first into my mouth all doubt disappeared as the creamy chocolate slid over my tongue, the meltingly smooth praline filling blended with the perfectly balanced chocolate and I was convinced that I was holding in my hands stunning, top quality luxury chocolates. The dark chocolate is smooth yet rich and peppery, the milk creamy and not too sweet. And whether filled with meltingly smooth praline, mouth-warming truffle, liquor- or fruit-infused ganache or soft caramel, each and every one is fabulous! JP and I select one – or two – every evening as we settle down together on the sofa with our after-dinner glass of wine and our only complaint is that soon, oh much too soon, the box will be empty.
Be sure to visit the Hotel Chocolat website and just ogle the amazing selection of chocolates. And don’t forget the holidays! They have an amazing array of dazzling holiday gift boxes from gorgeous Christmas Crackers and Advent Calendars, to special Christmas Tree Boxes and luxurious Stocking Fillers and Wreaths. It makes a girl wish she did celebrate Christmas... well, she can still enjoy the fabulous chocolates, can't she?
Hotel Chocolat will directly send a box of Christmas Chocolates to one lucky winner here in Europe. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post (please leave either your e-mail address or twitter handle so I can contact you) by Friday, December 3 and I will randomly select the winner to be announced in my post immediately following this date. You can also tweet about the Giftaway (be sure to use #hotelchocolat and @lifesafeast in your tweet so I can find you) by Friday December 3, 12am CET. If you do both – you have two chances of winning the box.
And do take a minute to read this delightful little interview of fabulous blogger Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella for Australia's Mylookbook in which she recounts her "celebrity blogger" status, discusses her wonderful, entertaining blog as well as her future book and mentions two of her favorite blogs... Thanks so very much, my friend, for the honor. Much! Cake for you!
Any questions? Then off you go.
A Thanksgiving Dessert Recipe From a Thanksgivingless American: don't miss my latest story and a fabulous Chestnut-Chocolate recipe on Huffington Post Food.
And for a little dessert:
It's Christmas time in the city
Ring-a-ling, hear them sing
Soon it will be Christmas day
City sidewalks, busy sidewalks.
Dressed in holiday style
In the air
There's a feeling
Meeting smile after smile
And on ev'ry street corner you'll hear
- Jay Livingston & Ray Evans