Cookin’ With No Dough

Oct 042006
Authors: LIZ SUNSHINE Throwdown offers yearlong bragging rights

It all started when I refused to divulge my truffle recipe to the Collegian editor in chief, a cocky fellow who goes by the name Brandon Lowrey.

A few weeks ago, knowing I would be working late along with several others, I brought in a batch of my Kahlua Chocolate Truffles. This decadent confection is the result of tinkering with several bon-bon recipes over the months until I created my own.

That night, Brandon popped a truffle in his mouth and I think I heard him moan. Seconds later, he was begging for the recipe. I’m not exactly sure why I said “No!” but a primal, territorial instinct was at play (that, and I’ve been making a little cash on the side by selling them).

The following day, Brandon, in all his he-manish-ness, threw down the culinary gauntlet and challenged me to a bake-off. In his own words from that day: “Not only am I going to make truffles but mine will be better than yours.”

Sure, OK, whatever.

The rules were simple. Make one straight-up chocolate truffle and a second version could be a “wild card” with nuts, spices, a liqueur or any mystery ingredient, for that matter.

The judges, for what became known at the office as the “Truffle Throwdown” (a la Bobby Flay), were mutually agreed upon for their culinary prowess and overt sense of fairness. (OK, the reality is they’re all chocoholics who were easily convinced to stick around.)

The terms were clear: The confections would be judged on taste, texture and a combo presentation/originality category, and the winner would claim bragging rights, meager gift certificates and a very ugly trophy constructed with spare office supplies embedded into the dirt container of a dead house plant.

Talking smack before the match was tricky because I was in the midst of the Jewish holy days in which I’m compelled to atone. Honestly, this did not deter me from slinging a few barbs – if even in just my mind. (Read: He Doesn’t Have a Chance!)

Judgment day came on a Wednesday. A hush filled the tiny, windowless conference room as Brandon and I displayed our creations on a white linen cloth draped before the judges.

Let me say that what unfolded next wasn’t exactly a class act. One judge took a smoke break before the tasting and a second carped a lot about the contest running late. The third judge began choking at one point on the dust of a truffle that was drowning in powdered cocoa.

Alas, a victor eventually emerged, but not before the judges relocated to the newsroom for the final scoring and rattled off their likes and dislikes to the small crowd of not-so-curious reporters, photographers, editors and designers.

Brandon was praised for his use of Jagermeister in the wild card and lauded by one judge for his rustic presentation (he served his balls, called rather large by judges, on tiny paper plates).

One judge preferred my minty wild card offering, and I received kudos for presentation and texture. I served my truffles, which were praised for a melt-in-your-mouth creaminess, in clear, tall shot glasses.

In the end, I won. (Swept both categories, to be honest, but I’ll not gloat.) The free food certificates and the ugly trophy were great. Maintaining a place as a top food writer here was really nice. But all I really want is the fruit of my side bet with Brandon.

My original request, if I won, was to see the Doonesbury cartoon returned to our funny pages.

Oh Brandon, I’m waiting.

L’Chaim and B’Tay Avon (To Life and Eat Well)

Staff writer Liz Sunshine can be reached at

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