Dancing Tomatoes

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When I first met Forest Collins of 52Martinis fame I was intrigued.  She has the style of a French woman blended with an unmistakable American openness.   She is whip smart and friendly yet reserved enough that she draws attention.  And she has her name, which fits in every way.  She’s from Seattle (we share the same alma mater, University of Washington) where the forests are a blend of cool serenity and wild vistas.  

She Loves Cocktails

And she loves cocktails.  In fact, she’s Paris’ cocktail maven, known both here and in the U.S. for her vast knowledge of the Paris – and beyond – cocktail scene.  As I learned all of this it became logical to figure out how to join forces in the small Parisian world of food and drink.  I suggested we do a video together and my natural inclination was to pair an appetizer with one of her amazing cocktails.  But everyone does that, particularly right now. So a vision of dessert and cocktails came to me and Forest’s eyes lit up.  “I love to invite friends over for a Sunday afternoon dessert and cocktail,” she said without missing a beat.  I also proposed a special event for our Live Classes with Susan, and she jumped on that too!

Chocolate Dessert

We settled on a chocolate dessert, the idea being that most everyone loves chocolate and, according to Forest, it’s a natural with spirits.  So, I told her I’d make my Moist Chocolate Cake, and she said she’d go to work figuring out a companion cocktail.

Cocktail History

Forest is steeped in the history of the cocktail, so her references when she creates one include flavor pairings, situations, and historical reference.  Cocktails date back to the 17th century in India where the idea spread to Britain and, eventually, to the U.S. A certain American, Jeremiah Thomas, became the king of cocktails in the mid 19th century, perfecting a theatrical skill that survives in some bars today, with fire and ice, lots of jiggling and throwing, and cocktails that seduced the public. Jump forward to the 1920’s when the original heyday of cocktails in Paris began thanks to, it is said, Americans who escaped Prohibition to drink here freely. They brought their taste and their demand for the cocktail with them.

Twenty Years Ago and Now

When Ms. Collins arrived in France twenty years ago, though, the cocktail was a sleepy part of Paris society.  She missed her cocktails and began to look, dig, sip, and share her way through the cocktails she discovered.    It is undoubtedly thanks in large part to her that the place of the cocktail is assured in the bevy of cocktail bars now established throughout the land, often complete with Jeremiah Thomas-like “barmen/women” who dance their way to beautiful cocktails.

So, thank you Forest Collins, and for the cocktail recipe here.

Remember to sign up for Live Classes with Susan for an enriching and delicious experience!

Forest Collins' Bright and Stormy Punch

You can divide this in half to serve fewer people!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: ginger beer, light rum, sparkling wine


  • Two cans/bottles about 12 ounces;360ml each Ginger Beer, chilled
  • 2 cups;500ml light rum, preferably “Agricole”, chilled
  • 2 bottles 750ml each,sparkling wine (Prosecco, Crémant, Champagne), chilled


  • Blend all of the ingredients together in a large bowl or pitcher. Don’t stir too much; you want to keep the bubbles. Serve immediately!


If you don’t have both chocolates available, you can also use chocolate that is 62-65 percent cacao. If you can find this type of semi-sweet chocolate, use just that rather than the two different percentages. The margin of baking time is large – the shorter time results in an almost runny center for the cake; the longer time gives a more solid, but still very soft interior. Either way, the cake is luscious!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: chocolate, eggs, unsalted butter, vanilla sugar


  • ½ cup;75g all-purpose flour
  • 1 large pinch fine sea salt
  • 7-1/2 tablespoons;112.5g unsalted butter
  • 5 ounces;150g 52 % chocolate, finely chopped
  • 5 ounces 150g 70% chocolate, finely chopped
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons;225g vanilla sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • Edible flowers for garnish, such as pansies, primroses, forget-me-nots


  • Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Butter and flour a 9-1/2 inch (22.5cm) spring form pan.
  • Sift together the flour and the salt onto a piece of waxed or parchment paper.
  • In a small, heavy-bottomed pan melt the butter over medium heat. Place the chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl. When the butter is melted, pour it over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate has melted into the butter.
  • In another large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar just until thoroughly combined – do not whisk them to a pale yellow. Whisk in the chocolate and the butter mixture, then quickly whisk in the flour and the salt. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, set the pan on a baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven until the edges of the cake are baked but the center is still soft and tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

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