Chocolate Mousse Trilogy

Yes, it's a cliche dessert, but people continue to eat and love it, simply because it's a taste of heaven. Some desserts are just classic and shouldn't be messed with...kinda like vanilla ice cream. The chocolate trilogy is one of the desserts I made during my all too short dessert gig. It's a dense, rich chocolate bottom, layered w/ dark, milk, and white chocolate mousses. I've served the same mousse in mini chocolate cups, as filling inside a cake and even as the cake itself. It's so versatile! You can't go wrong with mousse as it even pleases the non-chocolate lover's pallete. I regretably admit that my very own husband does not share the same love of chocolate as myself, but even he can't get enough of the milk chocolate mousse!

I've practiced my mousse recipe a lot over the years. It can be tricky, but I'll try to give good pointers throughout the recipe. Hopefully, with this recipe, your mousse will result in the silky, smooth, creamy perfection that defines what a decadent mousse should be. I'll post the recipe for the individual mousse and the cake bottom. The great thing about mousse is that it can prepared well in advance, making it perfect for entertaining.

Below it's unmolded and plated. A little raspberry coulis can do wonders!

I made the same combo as a huge cake for my cousin's birthday.
Please excuse the tacky candles...

See Recipe!


Bazin's on Church

I’ve been to Bazin’s on Church on several occasions since it opened in 2006. It’s exciting to have a trendy, non-chain option right in Vienna, where I live. It’s located on the very charming Church Street. The street is adorned with cute antique stores, a fresh bread shop, frozen custard, and even a wine cellar right next door to the restaurant. Bazin’s on Church is a very charming restaurant itself, and definitely the neighborhood “gem” of Vienna. It’s small, with only one main dining room, and very simple, but modern at the same time. The simple ambiance of the brick walls and arched wooden ceilings makes you feel like you are having dinner at a wine cellar. They also have a really nice wine list to compliment. The food for the most part is very good. Don’t expect to be amazed (except for the apps), but do expect above average dishes, and satisfaction. The overall package (proximity, charm, and food) is why I continue to return.

Appetizers are the highlight of the menu. It’s also very hard to choose, since they literally have over 10 options, all sounding equally appetizing. I have never had a bad appetizer here. The delicate potato ravioli smothered in a lobster beurre blanc is decadent. The crispy oysters on a bed of pureed spinach are the best oysters ever to be served. Everyone that has tried these oysters has only raved and raved. The ravioli and oysters are constant offerings. Most of the other appetizers are seasonal offerings. I had delicious butternut squash ravioli with amaretti cookies in the winter months, and pesto pasta with chorizo and shaved parmesan in the summer. You can’t go wrong with any of the appetizers on the menu. I’ve even ordered 1 appetizer to start and 2 additional for my entrée. They are that hard to choose from!! On my most recent trip, for my cousin’s birthday, the 6 of us decided to order a different appetizer so we could all try one anothers. Great idea! The apps are very generous portions for sharing too. In short, don’t pass up the apps.

Entrees on the other hand fall short of the first course. Neil and I both agreed that we’ve had better experiences with their entrees when they first opened (2006). Since then I’ve seen a decline. They seem to be putting more focus on their starter menu and desserts (I’ll get to later). It’s a definite buzz kill, because the apps get you so giddy and excited for what’s to come. The entrees all sound appetizing on the menu. Most recently, a grouper on a bed of stone ground grits, spinach, with crawfish and a Cajun spiced sauce, didn’t live up. It was bland, and the sauce tasted, for lack of better words, “ketchupy”. The grouper, itself was seared nicely though, and the grits were yummy. My cousin, who’s vegetarian, ordered the seasonal offering of asparagus risotto. A nice blend of taste was definitely there, but the risotto was underdone…risotto is not meant to be served “al dente”. Neil ordered a pork chop that had a smoky bacon sauce and pearl onions. Again, the sauce was really bland…every bite left you wanting that extra spice to give it the right kick. The best part of his meal was the pearl onions, which he cleaned up.

Get your buzz back with dessert! Like the appetizer menu, there are also about 8-10 dessert offerings all made in house, and all divine. The strawberry shortcake biscuits release sweet juices when bitten into, from the berries that surround it. The warm chocolate tart is a solid offering.... can’t go wrong with dark chocolate paired with chocolate ice cream. Even better is the peanut butter tart. I don’t even like peanut butter in my desserts, but it's my favorite dessert there. I'd describe it as a peanut butter mousse sitting on top of a chocolate cake, and topped with a super thick layer of rich, velvety ganache. It’s just perfect. The hazelnut crunch bars are a fun treat, resembling the kit kat bar (originated by Michel Richard of Citronelle).

The service needs to be worked on. Some nights I’ve felt very rushed because they are trying to turn over tables quickly. It’s a small restaurant that’s always booked up, so it’s understandable. My way around this is to not order everything all at once…otherwise they will bring your entrée out before you have bitten into your appetizer. Chef Bazin’s wife is the general manager. She walks around throughout the night, but it’s obvious that she’s partial to tables that she knows. This restaurant has a lot of regulars. She could make a little more effort towards newbies (and I’m not even a newbie). I think the restaurant is starting to get a bit “cocky”…they know they have a following, great location, and barely any competition. I think they should be careful though, because it’s only a matter of time....

So, if you live nearby, definitely give it a shot, and don’t forgo appetizer or dessert. Also, you should hit the wine cellar next door, Church Street Cellars before dinner and do a few tastings. It’ll make for a fun evening. Reservations are a must!

Bazin’s on Church
111 Church Street, NW
Vienna, Va 22180



My cousin, her husband, and kids have been living in London for the last 10 years. The rest of us cousins in the states have always talked about visiting her, and we finally made a trip out there in November, 2007. It was a short, 4 day period, but we packed a hell of a lot in. We absolutely loved London, and definitely want to return to experience all that we missed out on.

My cousin was nice enough to let all 6 of us stay in her house in Putney. Putney is a charming town that’s only 30 minutes from the city. The neighborhoods that we walked through in Putney were so quaint and unique. The houses have rich history and detail, and they aren’t cookie cutters like you see in the states. My cousin’s house in particular was definitely a site. There is such amazing attention to detail throughout the house. My favorite detail in the house was the molding, with each room having a different pattern of molding. I almost felt like I was in an art gallery. Along with the exquisite details of the house, my cousin has great taste, and she complimented the luxury with absolute comfort.

On the day of our arrival to Putney, we walked over to her son’s private school to pick them up. That was a fun little field trip. The boys looked so adorable dressed up in their uniforms, and were so happy (and a bit embarassed) to see us. The school was definitely very prestigious. Those boys are learning so much more at their young age, than we ever did. The older one (at 6 I believe), is actually learning how to cook…already!!!! And the younger one is quite the entertainer, already doing performances at school. They are both so intelligent and so cute with their british tongues. That evening, we just stayed in Putney, and my cousin cooked us a fabulous dinner. She’s an amazing cook. We had a great time eating, drinking and bonding. The night ended in front of the fireplace with some port wine, truffles, and cheese. Perfection! My cousin knows how to entertain!

I would have been happy just staying in Putney alone. It has its own little city with pubs and restaurants. But, having traveled this far, we had to go to Proper London. So, on our first full day, we walked over to the Putney bus station, got our day pass for the double decker, and boarded. We had no idea where we were going, but just went. It was a blast!

We ended up in the historical Parliamentary area first. They also call their area the “mall” as we do in DC. Also, I thought it looked very similar to our mall. I almost felt as though I was walking down Constitution Avenue. London’s “mall” is definitely more massive though, with beautiful fields of green. We saw the “Eye”, and other historical buildings. It was neat to see Buckingham Palace. Although, I am embarrassed to admit that none of us recognized it. It just looked a little “dinky” (for lack of a better word), than what we always saw in the papers and on TV. Even more embarrassing is that one of us (NOT ME) actually asked a stranger “What is that building”. The stranger was not amused and responded rather coldly. Oh well…we deserved it :)

Anyways, after we were done with history, we walked over to the more happening areas of the city. We just walked, and walked, for what seemed like ever. The city is loaded with tons of shopping, restaurants, and bars…even on a larger scale than NY. And Harrod’s is everywhere. I guess our Macy’s would be London’s Harrod’s. But Harrod’s is a hundred times more massive. We found cute alleys, ended up in a couple of pubs for some Chandy’s (London’s mix of beer and lemonade), ate some yummy treats, and just got lost. We did literally get lost, but that allowed us to see more of the city. We finally made our way home, and had dinner in a delicious South Indian restaurant in Putney. London does Indian food justice!

The next morning, my cousin planned an outing for us to go to Portobello Road and Notting Hill. Portobello Road was probably my favorite part of the trip. It’s an enormous marketplace with vintage clothing, jewelry, furniture…you name it! They also had an incredible farmer’s market the day we went. All the food looked delicious, and the local produce, so fresh. Anyone that says that London doesn’t have good food has never been. We ended up buying a couple homemade vegetable tarts to have as an evening appetizer. We got a mushroom tart and a root vegetable tart. Trust me, you have never tasted tarts like these. After Portobello Road, we walked through Notting Hill and ended up at a Pub there. Notting Hill was absolutely gorgeous. The architecture is just beautiful. I really was amazed at how everything I saw in London (Putney, the city, the parliament, Notting Hill) all had their own character and style. Every area was so different and held its own. I was also surprised at the ambiance of the pubs we visited. Pubs in London are almost a family, civilized outing. Even my cousin’s sons came with us. You don’t go there to get “sloshed”, but instead to just relax and bond amongst friends/family in a warm/welcoming environment. And the beers are great! That evening, we went back to Putney, had some of the tarts, cocktails, and ordered pizza. The pizza was fabulous! After that, my cousin had arranged for us to go to an exclusive lounge in the city. We got all dressed up and tried to blend in with London’s “It” crowd. The fun never ends!

The 3rd day of our trip, we took it easy. All of us really wanted to check out Waitrose, London’s main supermarket. So, we went on a little shopping spree there. We bought all sorts of chips, chocolates, cookies that they don’t sell in the states. We also bought cordials. London’s big on cordials, which is a concentrated, flavored syrup that you can use to flavor water or even prosecco. Obviously, I prefer flavoring the latter, so I bought a strawberry/mint flavor. Later that day, we went to yet another pub along the water in Putney. I can’t get over how their pubs are so warm and welcoming. That night we ordered some carryout. Half of us ordered Thai, and the other half ordered Fish & Chips. I was in the fish & chips group. You can’t go to London and not have it! It was delicious!

Day 4, and it’s time to leave :( All of us were so sad. My cousin sent us off with a huge, hearty pasta lunch. We all had such an amazing time, and can’t wait to go back! Although, I hope my cousin is still living there if we go. One major point that I failed to mention, is that everything in London is super expensive. The exchange between the dollar and pound is horrible, and we literally paid double for everything. She really saved our finances and was an incredible host. I can't thank them enough! Don't let the exchange rate deter you. Everyone should splurge once in a while, expecially on a memorable experience. London is worth visiting, and only a 6 hour flight away. It has its own beauty and character that really sets it apart from the rest of Europe.


I went back this past wkd (June 20, 2008), and absolutely loved it. We ordered the lamb rigatoni, palena burger, and chicken. All three were delicious and very affordable. The lamb rigatoni was al dente with the perfect amount of sauce and ground lamb. The truffle cheese on the burger was the kicker..WOW!! The roasted chicken was the most tender I've ever had, and it had very subtle, tasty spices on it. I have to admit that our waitor wasn't very knowledgeable on the food, but I really don't care. The food speaks for itself!!!


I’ve heard so much positive chatter about Palena Café in Cleveland Park the last few years, and I finally made the visit. I’m glad I did, and I will definitely return, as it left me wanting to try more. However, the evening was not a very smooth one.

The six of us didn’t actually get to Palena until 8:30pm on a Saturday night….bad move. I already knew that wait times there were pretty bad, especially on the weekends. We wanted to sit in the Café/Bar section, which doesn’t take any reservations. We were given a 1.5 hour wait time. No worries though…most of our group ate late lunches, so we were fine with waiting. Also, the hostess takes your name and number down so she/he can call you 10 minutes prior to your table clearing up. I wish more restaurants did this. Being in Cleveland Park, we had so many options to grab a drink somewhere. We walked across the stree to Alero, and had some sangria..and tried really hard not to load up on chips and salsa.

Our table was finally ready, and I was super excited. We got seated right at 10 pm. Here is the part of the night that left a very bad taste in my mouth (no pun intended). As soon as we were seated, our waiter informed us to please order soon, b/c the kitchen closes at 10. I was pretty livid. We didn’t even get a chance to look at the menu, nor were we ever told by the hostess when we arrived at 8:30 pm that the kitchen closes at 10. There must be a pretty big disconnect between the front hosts and the kitchen. Anyways, I made my points to the waiter, who apologized profusely. Ok, fine…I just let it go, as I was too excited to eat anyways. He ended up being perfectly fine the rest of the evening.

On to the menu....the great thing about sitting in the Palena Café portion of the restaurant as that it gives you the flexibility to order from both the café menu and a la carte from the main dining room menu. I don’t see why anyone would even choose to sit in the main dining room, as the café menu has a lot of great choices not to be missed out on. Well, one of the main things I wanted to try from the café menu was the Palena fries w/ dauphine potatoes, fried lemons, and zippy mayo….and they were all out!! They were also out of two other items we wanted to order: the quill shaped pasta with lamb and the sablefish. They still had the famous roasted chicken, but the waiter informed us that it took 45 minutes to make, so we didn’t bother. I was pretty disappointed, but we ended up ordering other items that turned the night around. We ended up with the below items. There were a few other dishes that others at my table ordered, but I did not try, so can’t vouch, but everyone was happy with their food.

- Yukon Gold Potato Gnocchi- the gnocchi was extremely light, fluffy, and just melted in my mouth. It was the most perfect textured gnocchi I’ve ever had. You could tell a lot of care was taken with the rolling of this gnocchi, as there was not the slightest hint of overworked potatoes. However, the dressing/sauce that accompanied it was flat, and tasteless. They change the preparation up constantly, so I’m sure others fare better.
- Sturgeon & Shrimp- Very simple and incredibly flavorful and moist.
- Roasted Squab with curry spiced sauce- Excellent. The squab was incredibly tender and flavorful. It didn’t have any hint of gaminess. The accompanied sauce was also delicious, and had flavors of India. It was delicious.
- Selection of Perfectly Matured Cheeses w/ Tyrolean almond bread- Cheeses are of course delicious, but the bread that accompanies this was so soft, warm, and flavorful.

We also had two great bottles of red wine, one from Montalcino ($45) and another from Montepulciano ($54). I didn’t get to see the wine list, but I was more than happy with what was ordered. Our waiter was also very precise about pouring our wine. He gave us all equal amounts and poured little by little. I often find that at some restaurants, waiters will pour the bottle very quickly and over generously, in an effort to make you buy more.

Desserts were the sleepers of the night. We ordered 3 desserts for the table, so I think it’s a decent sampling to generalize that desserts are not their strong point. Next time, I’ll just get the cheese course for dessert. We ordered the following desserts:

- Coconut Chocolate Layer Cake w/ Coconut Ice Cream- the chocolate was bland and the coconut icing between the layers was almost dry and not creamy at all. The coconut ice cream was decent though.
- Baba au Rum Cake w/ Pineapple Ice Cream- This way too much rum and way too much pineapple syrup. All I could taste was pineapple. The flavor was just too overwhelming for me, and then served w/ pineapple ice cream on top of all that syrup….just too much of what should be a good thing.
- Rhubarb w/ Cinnamon Ice Cream- This was better than the other two, but not great. I know rhubarb is naturally tart, but this was really really tart. However, the cinnamon ice cream complimented the tartness well.

Portion sizes are on the small side for the price you pay, but I think it’s worth it. These aren’t dishes that you can easily make at home. They are very innovative, yet possess a simple, fresh quality. The dishes change very often, and the menu see on line are not their current offerings.

The restaurant is fairly sized. I didn’t get to see the main dining room in the rear. But, the café/bar portion is a good size with very comfortable seating. We were seated in a booth that fit the 6 of us very comfortably, and privately. The décor of the restaurant isn’t worth praise, but it isn’t distasteful either.

I can’t put this restaurant on my favorites list, because I need to try a whole lot more from the menu (considering most of what I wanted was out). Needless to say, I also need to get there a lot earlier!

3529 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008