Wednesday, October 28, 2009
What, pray tell, is a chocolate party? You might ask.
I give chocolate parties to fight the evil Hershey's empire! Well really, it's to introduce people to the fascinating variety of chocolate there is in the world and to give them a taste of the history of chocolate. I usually end up getting a ton of chocolate and having tons of leftovers. Which is fine by me. I try to get a variety, milk, dark different textures and flavors just to give people an idea of what kind of stuff they might like to try again in the future.
Anything is fair game. This time around we had chocolate beer. We also got to taste Vosges' bacon and chocolate bars. These were the hit of the last party I had, and most people thought they were "interesting." Even for me that one is an acquired taste.
Other things we do
-I use a Pierre Marcolini origin's box to throw a tasting. The idea behind the tasting is to show people that the only real difference in the flavor of chocolate comes from where the beans come from. Marcolini makes his truffles exactly the same way but uses different beans from different countries. There is a clear palatable difference between the truffles and I try to draw attention to that. This time I actually sat people down and walked them through how to taste the chocolate. Like a fine wine, there's an art to tasting chocolate.
-Play chocolate smarts. This trivia game has a lot about the history of chocolate. I like to pull this one out because it contains a lot of information about chocolate and can be a fun ice breaker. The only disadvantage is that now that I've had this party four times a lot of people already know the answers :)
-drink wine and eat some snacks and enjoy each other's company. This is the most important part of the chocolate party for me. I get to have friends meet friends, and share my love of chocolate with them.
I suggest trying to throw a party of your own. Just take a few of your favorites and share them with someone you love. Chances are they'll thank you for it later.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
From Tasting Table...a newsletter I get in my email now and then. It's good! Go there!
Hey, Little Sister
Get a taste of Rick Bayless's Xoco before it opens
Rick Bayless returned from a recent trip to Oaxaca with some good news: "What we're doing is every bit as good as what they’re doing there."
Bayless is referring to the chocolate he and chef Shaw Lesh will be making from scratch at his new 60-seat restaurant, Xoco ("Little Sister"), set to open in mid-August. Xoco will be an ode to Mexican street food--an all-day quick-serve café with a slow food heart.
Churros con chocolate will be on the morning menu; come lunch, it's all about tortas. These giant Mexican sandwiches will be filled with braised suckling pig (with pickled onions and habaneros), chorizo, lamb barbacoa, and jamón Ibérico with Otter Creek cheddar--all on Labriola bread crisped in a wood-burning oven.
At 3 p.m., it's time for caldos. The broths for these soupy meals-in-a-bowl will be simmered overnight, then heated to order with an array of additions. The drink menu will feature local craft beers, prickly pear sangria and Topolovino wines, an Albariño and Syrah that sommelier Jill Gubesch created with Qupé vineyards to match the heavily spiced food.
While waiting for the (alleged) mid-August opening date, make Xoco's chorizo-bean torta at home (click here to download the recipe). Get the ingredients at Guanajuato and Casa del Pueblo markets--two of Bayless's favorite sources for Mexican staples.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
This thick candy bar had crisp wafers in the middle, with Rice Krispies above and around the wafer. The innards of Rice Krispies and wafer were held together by caramel, and then the whole thing was coated in chocolate. The Rice Krispies underneath the chocolate gave the top of the bar an uneven, lumpy appearance. The whole thing was very crisp, but soft enough to bite into, and it tasted great.
First of all chocolate innards just makes me crack up. It's the perfect way to describe the inner workings of a chocolate bar. I wouldn't actually call the crispies inside rice crispies. I didn't really taste the rice crispies that the reviewer mentioned, but it could have been so subtle I missed it.. This bar is by Nestle and it actually really reminded me of another bar they have called 100 Grand. Except 100 Grands are a little bit denser because the caramel is thicker. The softness of the Lion bar was what made it stand out to me. Everything blends really well together and the contrast of the crispy wafers added to the whole package. I would add this to my list of candy bars that I like; a small list, but still very satsifying. 4/5 stars.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Anyhow, from what I've heard from various sources, it is much better to taste chocolate in the morning when your palate is completely fresh. Which makes a lot of sense. Your mouth tends to keep flavors of food in mind long after you've eaten them. This is why sometimes during a fancy meal they'll give you a little sorbet shot in the middle to cleanse your palate. I've also seen coffee beans used at different places that have perfume to try and clear the air of all the perfume you've spritzed. And I also suppose it isn't really fair to the chocolate to judge it right after you've had a double shot espresso from Starbucks (ahem...sorry Blackberry Bar you still were not that good).
So which bar will it be this morning? How about the bar from the actual grocery store where I brought it from? Guess you guys don't really have much of a say here, so I'll be going with that one.
The Zeytuna bar comes in a bunch of flavors but I chose the Milk Chocolate with Almonds variety. The bars are actually made for the Zeytuna market by a company called Astor Chocolate. I'm not sure how many of these markets there are in New York, but the only one I've been able to find is the one down the street from me. This is a beautiful market. I was also surprised at how much chocolate they sell and how many of their bars I hadn't tried.
So after opening the bar and giving it a good wiff, I can already tell that this is going to be good, or at least better than the last one. The milk chocolate gives off a strong chocolate flavor which is great. Most milk chocolate loses its chocolate flavor when the sugar and milk are added in. A good milk chocolate recipe keeps the flavor of the chocolate while smoothing out the flavors.
Biting in. The bar was a little mushy due to the heat level in my apartment. In any case the bar is still delicious. And I love the fact that the almonds are chopped so small they only leave small traces in the chocolate. Compared to a Hershey's almond bar where the almonds are whole, this bar doesn't ruin the chocolate with nuts. The almonds compliment the chocolate. There's enough hint of crunchy almond to remind you that it's there, but not enough to overwhelm.
The aftertaste is also really pleasant and stays with you a while after the chocolate is gone. I love chocolates that stay with you partly because you don't have to eat a lot of it to enjoy it. One or two bites is enough to keep you satisfied. And this chocolate is satisfying. Nothing like a warm and delicious bar of chocolate in the morning, right?
Now I think I'll go make myself a cup of coffee and enjoy my breakfast. A new day is waiting. Good Morning.
Monday, August 10, 2009
The first bar is a Hachez Blackberry 77 % Dark Chocolate with Cocoa Nibs.
So this is one of those bars that bothers me alot. They claim to be "all natural" and talk about the quality of their ingredients. And yet there is that red flag "natural flavorings." I'm always a little wary of flavors being added to chocolate. I'm a purist. Chocolate doesn't need much to make it good. But ok maybe I'm overreacting right? This is blackberry flavored chocolate after all. How else are you going to get the flavoring into it unless you flavor it?
The beans in this chocolate are supposed to be an arriba variety from Ecuador, for what that's worth anyhow.
Unfortunately this chocolate, as with many other flavored chocolates I've had, left a really bad aftertaste in my mouth. I could smell the fragrant blackberries, which for some reason reminded me of the kind of perfume you get as a little girl (don't ask me why), even before I opened the gold wrapper. The blackberries seemed to cover up the fact that the chocolate was lacking something.
One other thing to note that the ingredients list also includes lemon acid. I wonder if this is what left the bitter aftertaste. I can understand that the lemon acid was used to balance out the blackberry flavor, but it seems a little overpowering for me.
All in all I give this bar a 2/5 stars (and yes I have stars now! BOOYAH~! :) )
Thursday, July 30, 2009
"women like chocolate right?"
"men need to use smelly body spray to attract women right?"
"well why not combine the two?!"
Marketing genius. I actually want to get this and try it out, but I have a feeling I'd waste my money. Either that or a gaggle of hot girls who love chocolate would attack me (which I wouldn't exactly mind), but still...this strikes me as a very bad idea.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Who am I to turn down free chocolate? :)
Monday, June 1, 2009
|Mon. 01 Jun '09|
|Cooking | NEW YORK CITY|
| Parlor Trick |
Jacques Torres Ice Cream opens in Dumbo
Just opened next door to his flagship store and chocolate factory in Dumbo, Jacques Torres Ice Cream is a natural match to the goodies his shops already sell. His chocolate-covered Cheerios and malt balls appear as toppings, while his chocolate-chunk cookies house fist-size ice cream sandwiches.
Unlike most ice cream makers, Torres mixes his own base from scratch: The result is purer flavor and a soft, luscious texture. Chocolate banana is the chef's favorite variety, though we're just as content cooling off with bean-studded vanilla or sweet pink strawberry. Plus, fruit sorbets are airy and dairy-free, and frozen yogurt is thick and tangy.
In addition to selling the frozen treat in the new parlor, Torres will also offer scoops from ice cream carts stationed at both of his Manhattan shops this summer--but only in Brooklyn can you request fresh-made waffle cones and bowls. And though he's still perfecting the recipe for his chocolate sauce, Torres promises it "will be the best in town."
Now that's way better than a cherry on top.
Jacques Torres Ice Cream, 62 Water St. (between Main and Dock sts.),
Thursday, May 21, 2009
As far as chocolate goes, it was pretty good. Though I think my microwave over-nuked the chocolate which made it a little like burning, but so far so good.
The only problem came when I tried to reheat what I put in the fridge the next day. The chocolate started to boil (because I put it in too long) and the smell spread all over the apartment. I have to remind myself that chocolate is very temperamental, and doesn't like to be burnt. ^_^
The store itself is tucked away in a huge office building. The staff were all really quirky and fun. I ended up getting an Elvis cupcake and their "trial" package. One of the workers suggested I pace myself, but I had just signed up for personal training at the gym. This, if anything, is my last chance at something devilishly delicious. It's veggies and grilled chicken from here on out, but who says I can't go out in a blaze of delicious chocolatey glory?!
I'm such a stickler for temperature when it comes to hot chocolate. If I can't drink it without setting my mouth on fire then it isn't worth it. The hot chocolate from Jaques Torres and Starbucks tend to burn the roof off my mouth (though to be fair to Starbucks you can get it at "kid temperature" which isn't as hot). But the one from Crumbs was perfect. And the peppermint flavor was perfectly balanced with the chocolate.
I have the feeling that, like Starbucks, the quality of Crumbs' beverages depends greatly on the barista, but if you have a chance get to Crumbs and try their hot chocolate. Yeah yeah so it's a little hot for hot chocolate, but it's worth it. And if you really can't stand it, get it on ice. Though I'm sure the ice cubes will make the hot chocolate taste...er... well you get the idea. :)
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
That said, I am happy to report that I have some wonderful news! I found a Girl Scout! Now you might wonder why this is important. Why, might you ask, is this such a life-changing situation? It means that I have a new source of my favorite cookie, the THIN MINT!
Growing up, I was a Girl Scout. I wasn't a very good Girl Scout and I wasn't very good at selling cookies either. My mother ended up buying nearly all the boxes of cookies I was required by the Girl Scout laws and bylaws to sell. This didn't turn out to be such a bad thing. I got to eat Samoas (coconut and chocolate covered cookies) and their shortbread cookies, but my favorite of all the Girl Scout cookies were the Thin Mints. Now that I am no longer a girl scout, these cookies are much harder to come by. You can't find them in any store, and recently I've been canvasing my neighborhood to try and find someone, ANYONE, who even knew a girl scout. Finally, at work I discovered I work with a teacher whose daughter is a girl scout.
EPIC MAJOR SUPER SCORE!!! ::fistpump::
But back to why this is the greatest discovery since Columbus found America
Thin Mint cookies are mint cookies, wafers really, that are covered in a layer of chocolate. These cookies take me back to my childhood. I don't really think I can be objective about them, and who knows they might not really taste that good. They taste great to me, but I know plenty of folks who don't like them. But I'm happy to have a box of delicious minty nostalgia to take me back. And they're also really great to dunk in milk!
Sunday, April 5, 2009
The cafe itself is a mix of retro styling with purple and turquoise accents. I felt like I walked into a cafe that was trying really hard to be chic and seem rich and decadent, but something felt forced about the place. Maybe it was the brown walls or the swirling decor that made me feel uneasy. Maybe it was the faux crystal chandeliers or the woman painted on door to the ladies' room. But this is a chocolate CAFE after all, and maybe I am expecting too much. I tend to do that when it comes to chocolate. And I also qualify, that I am a bit jaded and believe that chocolate should speak for itself. If a place is overdecorated it makes me think that the chocolate might be lacking something.
After buying a box of truffles, their honeycomb bar and toffee bars, I sat down and ordered a small cup of their signature hot chocolate. The hot chocolate comes in different flavors depending on what kind of chocolate you want used. The chocolate is melted and served at the perfect temperature. I hate hot beverages that burn my mouth, but these, and I say these because I went back and got a second one after the first one, were perfect. The Signature Hot Chocolate, which I recommend, is warm, milky and has very subtle chocolate flavoring. The dark chocolate is a pure shot of unadulterated chocolate, rich and hard to take all at once. This is one hot chocolate that deserves to be sipped and savored.
I will say a bit about their truffles, though I find that the best thing about Lily O'Brien's is the hot chocolate. Overall, I found the chocolate used in their bars and truffles was very thick and heavy. The milk chocolate was very sugary and I found some of the chocolates lacking in flavor. My favorite pieces were the ones done in white chocolate including their Creme Brule truffle. Also I was surprised by the toffee bar which was more like a caramel bar. When I think of toffee I think crunchy. This is not to say that their chocolate is bad, quite the contrary, but if you're going to try one thing at this store make it a hot chocolate.
Lily O'Briens Chocolate Cafe is located at:
36 West 40th Street, Bryant Park, NYC 10018
Monday, March 23, 2009
I love chocolate and peanut butter. I mean peanut butter usually makes anything taste better, (ok maybe it doesn't make vegetables taste better...) but I think the richness of chocolate and thick gooey peanut butter are amazing together. Recee's has always been a not so guilty pleasure of mine, and I'm glad they've found as many ways to use their peanut butter as they possibly can... but that's another post for another day.
Today I am writing about Haagen Daz ice cream and Ghiradelli's Milk Chocolate and Peanut butter bars.
So let's start with the bad news. I was disappointed with the overall bland flavor of the Ghiradelli's chocolate. The milk chocolate did nothing for me and the peanut butter couldn't make up for the lack of flavor in the chocolate. I wouldn't even call the flavors subtle; they were just uninspiring.
On the other side of the spectrum is the Haagen Daz's peanut butter and chocolate ice cream. This flavor has become one of my favorites of late. Somehow they manage to swirl in chunks of smooth peanut butter in a flavorful chocolate ice cream. The peanut butter is surprising, and I find myself searching the container for the little flecks of it, and when I'm done I always want more. The chocolate ice cream is warm and has a really strong cocoa taste. If you cant' tell already I'm a huge fan.
If you can find it in your local deli this ice cream is a must try, at least once. Your chocolate loving taste buds will thank you.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
So Easter is right around the corner. And with Easter comes my favorite chocolate: Cadbury Mini Eggs. These things are like better M&Ms. They have a milk chocolate center with a candy shell. These are my guilty pleasures and I think I've gained about a pound eating them over the past two weeks. The milk chocolate is of decent quality and the shells are sugary and a bit chalky. They're my favorite candy this time of year, and I make sure to stock up on them for the long dry spell that happens after Easter.
Monday, March 2, 2009
First a disclaimer: I went in and introduced myself to the owner and said I write a blog, which could have been mistake number one, just in terms of the fact that this might have really skewed the meal in my favor. Most professional reviewers do not go in with guns blazing and demand spectacular service because that skews the results of their meal to be in favor of the restaurant. I, however, am not a professional, so I don't really think that lowers the marks of my review. It's just something to keep in mind if you want to go there (which I wholeheartedly suggest that you do!). Your experience might be very different than mine, but that's usually the case with restaurants anyhow.
The place is very trendy looking. From their website and walking by the place I somehow got the idea that the inside was much bigger. But the inside of the restaurant is taken up mostly by wine bottles, arranged stylishly above the bar, and the bar itself leaving room for a few scrunched tables and chairs. A few people who wanted to sit inside were turned away for a 30 minute wait, so I recommend trying to get there on the early side if you do want to eat indoors. The lack of seating inside is made up for by outdoor seating with heaters. I went on a rainy night and the umbrellas and heaters were enough to make the experience more than comfortable. I can imagine it would be extremely pleasant on a summer night to sit out and enjoy some wine there. The only idiosyncrasy was the loud house music. I know that when you want to draw in the young hip crowd you play "club music" but I thought the mood might be better served by low-key Latin music or maybe even Jazz.
At first we got some bread and what I like to call "top-chef olives." On one season during "restaurant wars" one team forgot to give their guests a place to put the pits of their olives. My friend and I tried figuring out where we should spit our pits out ("maybe over the fence?" he suggested). That was really the only major thing that surprised me service-wise through the night.
The meal itself was a huge success. We ordered a few appetizers which were very yummy, including some very spicy dumplings, but the highlight was the meat and cheese plate. I discovered recently at my own chocolate tasting how well a combination of flavorful meats and cheeses goes with sweet chocolate and wine. It balances everything out. At Ayza, you can choose between a variety of cheeses and meats to make your platter. I recommend getting the manchego (sheep's cheese) and sopressatta (like salami). They also added guava paste which was sweet, chewy and thick a perfect combination to the meat and cheese. I know that on Top Chef they give chefs crap for putting things on a plate without a coherent theme, but in this case I wanted a little sour, sweet and salty and this dish really came through for me.
Finally, and you know you've been waiting for it, desert!
I forced my friend into splitting some truffles and wine with me. One of the options on the menu is to choose from a variety of Jaques Torres truffles and then choose two flutes of wine from the sweet wines menu. All I can say is DO THIS!! Just do it. You might want cake, or still be hungry, but this is what I came here for and it did not disappoint. (And also even with the disclaimer I'm not sure what they could have done to rig this one. It seems like this would be similar for all the people who go there).
We got Muscado and Maury with Cappuccino Port Wine and Hazelnut truffles. I was happy to discover that even though, or maybe because, the Port Wine truffle had a slightly alcoholic aftertaste, it went very well with the red Maury wine. The Muscado they had was like drinking a fragrant bouquet of flowers (I told my friend it was like drinking perfume, but perhaps this gives the wrong impression). The hazelnut truffle was a little dry and I was surprised when the shell of the cappuchino truffle colapsed in my mouth, but the chocolate was so good with the wine I can overlook some of the technical stuff. And even though I love to hate Jaques Torres, somehow eating their truffles slightly chilled on a cold rainy night with a glass of wine among friends, made them lovely.
Zaf, the owner was incredibly nice and helpful. He was nice enough to split the bill with us, which was a little pricey but totally worth it. And if you're lucky, who knows, he might split the bill with you too. The waitress mentioned that he "does that all the time"
Check out their website for location information, hours and menus.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Hi, my name's Mike, and I was asked to guest blog here by the lovely Chocolette on my experience with the holy grail of supermarket chocolate, the creme de la creme of casual chocolate, the Lindt 99% Cocoa Bar! As you may recall, Chocolette blogged earlier about her experience with trying flavored Lindt bars. Well, I've never tried their flavored chocolate, but I've always been a big fan of their plain chocolate; I love the taste, the texture, and the sheer amount of it that you get (the sizable quantity along with very solid quality makes Lindt bars a very solid casual chocolate purchase; you get a lot of bang for your buck).
I've always purchased Lindt bars in supermarkets while shopping for regular groceries, and the purest I had seen in the past was 85% chocolate. However, the other day I was in a hoity toity grocery store (World Market, to be precise), and for whatever reason they had a huge variety of chocolate. And sitting on a shelf, gleaming in the sunlight reflected by the big open windows behind it, was a truly glorious sight.
Once I snapped out of my trance, I immediately picked it up, and drove home quickly, eager to try the ultimate Lindt bar. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.
I knew this was something special the minute I opened the packaging. Instead of the standard metal wrapping, there was a gold metal lid of sorts, and it had a warning (translated into three languages, no less)! The warning included the following text:
Excellence 99% Cocoa is a unique chocolate that reveals all the strength and richness of cocoa beans. To fully appreciate its flavor and texture, we recommend that you progressively develop your palate through our range of high cocoa content chocolate bars, starting with Excellence 70% cocoa, then 85% and finally 99% Cocoa.
Thankfully, I had undergone the Lindt Rite of Passage and had become accustomed to the 85% level. I was ready. This was what my years of eating Lindt bars had prepared me for. It was time to have the Ultimate Lindt Experience. I opened the lid, and noticed that the square divisions were tiny compared to other Lindt bars, and that the chocolate looked MUCH darker. I broke off a piece, and popped it into my mouth.
The first thing that happened was that my eyes involuntarily shot open from the intensity, and my jaw dropped slightly. My senses were a bit overwhelmed at first; this was by far the most intense chocolate taste I had ever experienced. It was bitter at first, but the taste acclimated quickly to a pleasant but very strong and unrelenting chocolate flavor. I followed the instructions and let it melt in my mouth, which took some time. Once it had melted, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the aftertaste was roughly the equivalent of having just drank a very good, strong cup of coffee. In fact, the aftertaste was so good I didn't really want another bite of the chocolate for a while.
I've been enjoying the chocolate for the past several days, and give it my highest recommendation. You will almost certainly have to go out of your way to find it (like a specialty chocolate store), but if you're a chocolate fan, you can't pass this up.
One note of warning: whether psychosomatic or not, the chocolate has kept me up at night from the amount of natural caffeine in it (for some silly reason, I've been eating the chocolate late at night). I know chocolate doesn't have a lot of caffeine in general, but this is so concentrated I have a feeling the impact of the caffeine is more dramatic.
Well, thanks a bunch for reading, and thank you to Chocolette for the invite to contribute to the blog. Until next time... :)
Friday, February 20, 2009
I buzzed the doorbell, maybe too impatiently and I a woman came out from the back of the factory. It turned out to be the head chef, Erika Erskine. She's in charge of designing recipes for the chocolates, and I have to bow down to her because this chocolate is incredible. And all of this is after going into this being very skeptical about "healthy chocolate." But they brought me around to their way of thinking because their chocolate tastes so good. We ended up talking shop about chocolate. She was so nice and walked me through their free samples. She also gave me a bunch of free things to take with me, like little bars of their chocolates and a set of mint & nibs brownies. I really recommend going to one of their Factory Days and trying out what they have.
Some things I learned about their chocolates:
-They only use dark chocolate only because of the high sugar content of milk chocolate. The true benefits of chocolate comes from chocolate with high cocoa content (Ie 70% and above)
-They use arriba beans from Ecuador. Their organic bars are made in Ecuador and brought here. The rest of the chocolates are made in their factory.
-They have a series of chocolates that are "diabetic friendly." Unlike other "sugar free" chocolates, they don't use sugar alcohols and other sweeteners that can be unhealthy for you
The most important thing, though is that their chocolate tastes great. I went home and ate chocolate all night, making notes of course. Granted you're supposed to taste chocolate in the morning when your palate is fresh, but I couldn't wait.
Some notes from my tasting.
-My favorite bar of chocolate was their mint and nibs bar. The mint tasted cool and popped out at you like a peppermint candy. Unlike other mint chocolates the mint doesn't get lost in the dark chocolate.
-Each caramel in the purist box kept getting better. My favorites were the lavender and rose caramels. The flavors are not overpowering and blend very well with the caramels. These give Vosges' caramels a run for the money.
-The crispy coconut clusters I got reminded me of the chocolate covered cornflakes from Jaques Torres, only what they should taste like. I only wish they were a little smaller and not so crumbly.
Vere chocolate ranks up there on my new favorite chocolates list. I really like their clean polished image and delicious dark chocolates. I secretly wish they'd make a milk chocolate version of their caramel box, but hey I'll take what I can get.
Their factory is located at 12 W. 27th street (6th floor). Factory days are M-Th 12pm-5pm and Fri 12-6pm.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Anyhow Vere chocolate (pronounced "very") advertises itself as "chocolate with benefits." They tout the health and mental benefits of chocolate. From what I know you have to eat a mountain of chocolate to get the health effects of chocolate (since the antioxidant content isn't that high), but hey if they can prove me wrong more power to them. And certainly chocolate makes me feel good when I'm down, but whether that just comes from the satisfaction of something tasty and emotional eating (which I have been known to do), or if it comes from the chocolate itself is something I'm not sure of.
At its worst, the whole campaign seems like another marketing ploy: Ooh chocolate is good for me, so I can eat a lot of it. They do warn that since chocolate is high fat it should be eaten "as part of a balanced diet" or something like that. I'm just not so sure I want chocolate, which has always been a succinctly guilty pleasure for me, up there on a health food pedestal even if there are great things in it.
They also make low sugar/no sugar candies which I am interested in trying. Clearly they are trying to bring health conscious people into the world of gourmet chocolate. And I can't fault them for trying. They also have gorgeous looking chocolate. I haven't tasted any yet, but hopefully that will soon be amended.
In any case I am making plans to go to their chocolate factory. Either tomorrow or Friday. They have a factory right here in Midtown and I was thinking of stopping by for a tasting and to ask a few questions. If all goes well I may find another favorite chocolate.
Their website can be found here.
Monday, February 16, 2009
I tried their coffee and chocolate bar. They sell them right at the front where you pay, and I figured why not? It was just three bites worth of chocolate, but the chocolate was very good. It had a subtle berry flavor at first. It took a little while for the full flavor of the dark chocolate and coffee beans to come through, but when it did the flavor was warm and lasted for a very long time. My only small problem with the chocolate was that I wished it could have been a little thinner. I found the chocolate a bit hard to bite into at first but very much worth it.
I can actually now say that Starbucks has good quality chocolate. I was a little worried at first, but I definitely think I will be buying from them again!
Chocolate is supposed to have only cocoa butter as fat. Otherwise it can't be called chocolate. As far as oils go, good quality cocoa butter is expensive. Hershey is proposing to make their chocolate even crappier by taking the chocolate out of it. Pretty soon, if Hershey has their way their chocolate will only be artificially chocolate flavored pieces of processed junk. The laundry list of ingredients in a Hershey bar already includes artificial flavoring (vanillin) and coloring. There is almost nothing that isn't artificial in a Hershey bar except the cocoa solids, and even those are low quality.
Which is funny because their commercials advertise them as being 'pure.' This ad actually makes me sick to my stomach when I watch it, but I'll post it to prove its irony.
Guess that's the same as the Wendy's ads that claim they're "not fast food."
Saturday, February 14, 2009
So Russel Stover has jumped on the "origin chocolates" bandwagon. They don't evenclaim to have origin chocolate in their truffles but added "taste" making it "origin chocolate tastes." Origin chocolates are chocolates where all the beans come from one place. Plantation bars are even more specific and can trace all the beans in their chocolates to one specific plantation, making it more likely that the beans will have a uniform flavor. Origin chocolate is the new buzzword in gourmet chocolates, and I guess people can be fooled into thinking that this actually means something. Usually it does, but all of this is totally lost in these Russel Stover's pieces.
I got really hopeful for a second and thought this might be good chocolate, but after looking at the ingredients I realized I was probably already aware of how this was going to go. First of all, the best chocolate uses as few ingredients as possible. This box had artificial flavoring listed on the extensive list of
As soon as I bit in I knew I had made a mistake. The caramels were exactly the same consistency and almost worse than the valentine's heart box I had before. The fillings did not go well with the chocolates and the artificial flavors were intolerable. I had to spit it out. I mean I really really tried not to, but I couldn't do it.
Sorry guys, but crap wrapped up in a pretty box with a pretty label on it is still crap.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
If I am going to buy caramels I always go to Vosges first. Their Wink of the Rabbit caramels are simply amazing. The caramel is the perfect smooth texture. They go down easy. Each bite is the perfect combination of chocolate and caramel, neither one overpowers the other. I'm not exactly a fan of the crunchiness of the nut on top of the dark chocolate one, but other than that the taste is perfect in texture and flavor. They're a little pricey, but since they're made with all organic ingredients it's worth it. I haven't tried the exotic caramels I got yet, but I'm sure they're also delectable.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Then I had the Toffee Crunch bar, and it does live up to it's name. I've never really been a fan of crunchies in my chocolate, but the flavors worked well together. I feel like this is a high end candy bar.
I also just had to try their Intense Pear bar. I honestly couldn't imagine how they would work pear into a chocolate bar and make it taste good. The bar has little pieces of almond and dried pear in it. I think the chocolate also has some kind of pear flavoring to it. It's interesting to say the least. Lindt has a lot of flavored bars and I think I'm going to try a few more of them.
Anyhow with all that said, I thought I'd make a post about what your Valentine's Day chocolate gift says about you and your love, or lack thereof.
You give your girl a bag of Hershey's kisses:
You're cute. But this gift yells that you just aren't that into her. I mean anyone can go into a Duane Reade and buy a bag of "chocolate" kisses. I don't even think Hershey makes real chocolate anymore. They put so much crap into their chocolate that the chocolate disappears in a mire of artificial flavoring. You might as well have just got her a card. At least that way she won't have to spit out your gift.
You give your girl a box of Godiva chocolates:
Ok you're getting there. Not too original, but at least the quality of chocolate is a step up from Hershey. Unfortunately, Goodiva is now making many of their chocolates in factories. The quality has gone down quite a bit from when they started, but the flavors are still interesting enough to keep me coming back. Or at least peering in their windows wishing for old Godiva.
You give your girl a box of exotic Vosges truffles:
Now we're getting there. These truffles are high class. And even better if you got her the spicy ones. Those say you love her AND have a flair for the exotic and spicy. Or get her the honey ones and call her your honey bunch. Or get her the bacon and chocolate bar and call her your bacon-bits. Whatever you call her at least the chocolate will be yummy.
You get your girl the $1000 or $25,000 sundae at Serendipity.
Call me. I'd be your valentine any day. Seriously.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Would you pay $25,000 for a chocolate sundae? I don't have that kind of money, but maybe if I take out a loan I could taste it. But again I bet the 24 karat gold makes the chocolate taste terrible... but probably not. I mean just to say you spent 25,000 buckaroos for something you can eat in 10 minutes tops... that's decadence for you. I just wonder what makes the "best chocolate" cost so much.
I was mad because Paula Dean had the owner and inventor of that sundae on her show and she lorded it over her audience by eating the darn sundae on stage while everybody else got to watch. (Ok fine it was a cheaper version of a different one, but still over $1000.) If I were in that audience I would have jumped up on that stage and eaten the golden flowers myself. Apparently, Paula is not as nice as Oprah. If it were Oprah everyone in the audience would have gotten to have their own $25,000 sundae. And a chocolate car to go with it.
But eh what can I complain. It's in New York after all. Maybe one of these days I'll head over to Serendipity and imagine what it might be like to taste one. :)
One of the problems with chocolate is that it's temperamental. If you don't cool the chocolate at the right speed or to the right temperature you get brittle chocolate that may bend or break. Which really sucks in this challenge because it's 100+ degrees in the town where they're having the challenge. Also with all the lights and cameras it makes it harder to gauge what the temperature will be from one minute to the next. I guess that just makes it more challenging.
I wish they would have said more about the chocolate making techniques. They used molds and vinyl and one person even used tubes to try and create long tubes of chocolate (of course they broke and didn't end up in her final piece). I saw a lot of luster dust (colored pearl powder used to make chocolate look shiny). I'm actually still curious what they used in their airbrushes to color the chocolate with.
The theme was "dreams" and I thought they did a pretty good job with it, all things considered. I just wish you could eat them. But I bet all that golden stuff makes the chocolate taste terrible. :)
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Cocoa is processed chocolate. The chocolate is processed with alkali to make a powder. Usually sugar is added right to the powder. If your hot "chocolate" comes out of a packet or is made out of powder, it's hot cocoa.
It's hard to admit this, but my favorite hot cocoa comes from Godiva. They had a great idea to mix hot cocoa with chai powder. Now they've stopped selling that particular variety but all you have to do is find some good chai mix (Bee Train is great) and mix it with the cocoa. You'll thank me for it later. Chocolate Bar also has a great spiced hot cocoa. They sell it at their stores as well as in boxes to take home.
Now on to hot chocolate. Hot chocolate is just that. Chocolate that you heat slowly over a stove to make a liquid. With hot chocolate you usually have to add sugar, vanilla and milk to make the mixture. Some hot chocolate uses sweeter chocolate, so you don't have to add sugar.
Williams-Sonoma has a great hot chocolate that can be made without adding anything except the milk. My favorite hot chocolate is Pierre Marcolini's Madagascar hot chocolate. All it is is shavings from my favorite chocolate of his. You still have to add milk vanilla and a good amount of sugar, but it's amazing. It's also fun to mess around with hot chocolate. Add spices like cayanne pepper (not too much!) and see what happens.
And finally, Ovaltine. I personally would choose to curl up with a cup of Ovaltine on a cold winter's night. (and no they are not paying me for product placement! I really do love this stuff!) Ovaltine is something by itself. It's a malted beverage that was originally designed to give pregnant women their daily nutrients. I fell in love with ovaltine at home. My mom had a big container of it. I'll admit I've actually eaten it straight from the can. I guess you could call it a malted hot cocoa. Whatever it is, it's good. :)
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Look at a store like Pierre Marcolini. Marcolini's store is right in the business district. It has a high-end feel. You feel like you are surrounded by classy beautifully designed polished chocolate. I think of his chocolates like fine wines. Even the boxes are classy. The store is designed to feel high-class and sophisticated.
Then you have a Chocolate Bar, a chocolate store that has more of a pop culture feel to it. Chocolate Bar sells T-shirts and other merchandise along with their chocolate. Featured bars include wrappers by prominent graffiti artists. The store has a trendy feel capturing the quirky fun side of chocolate. Some of their truffles have skulls and crossbones on them. I think of this as the trendy NYC hipster chocolate store. In a good way.
I can't think about Vosges Chocolates without thinking of their crazy flavor combinations. Their store in Soho has a distinctly New York urban feel to it. The flavor combinations are edgy and exciting, perfect for the adventurous New Yorkers. Curry chocolate? Chocolate bar with bacon bits? Their store is purple. I mean really. Purple and flowery, but not too flowery. And so are all of their boxes so it makes sense. I can't not think of purple when I think of their chocolates (I wonder if that's marketing genius or something)
Then you have a store like Teusher that kind of takes the middle ground. Their stores are full of truffles, wrapped candies and delicious animal shaped molded chocolates from Switzerland. The chocolate is both fun and classy at the same time. The store is always full of bright colors. It's crowded and kind of tiny, but getting your hands on the champagne truffles is totally worth it. Teusher's store in Rockefeller center reminds me of a child's fantasy chocolate store, full of delicoius treats.
Each store has its own style. Each brand has its own style of chocolate. Just goes to show you that chocolate can be pretty much anything you want it to be.
I really really try to like Jaques Torres. I mean everyone puts him on their lists of favorite chocolate in NYC, but I just can't figure it out. The only thing that really stands out to me about them is their hot chocolate and the idea of chocolate covered cornflakes (though personally I think the chocolate they use to make them is only slightly a step above Hershey's). It also seems that the store primarily focuses on molded candies at the expense of their truffles.
But maybe I'm jaded because I've had some crappy experiences at their store on the Upper West Side. First one was I had a milk chocolate truffle there that had actually gone bad. One of their signature champagne truffles actually. Apparently the milk in milk chocolate can actually spoil?! Anyhow that was a first for me. It was so bad I had to spit it out.
Secondly, they seem to keep the temperature of their store a little on the too high side. I looked at their truffle display and saw that a few of the peanut butter truffles had melted into each other. Also other truffles I had there did not have the right consistency. It's little details like that that matter to me when it comes to my chocolate.
I really really want to like them, but so far I've only been disappointed.
Step your game up JT!
Peace love and chocolate!