Friday, February 20, 2009

A Trip to the Vere factory!

So I finally got around to going to one of the Vere Chocolate's Factory Days. After walking through the wholesale district and nearly getting lost, I came to the building where Vere is located. You might mistake it for an office building or wholesale storefront, but when you take the elevator upstairs to the factory you are greeted by lime green walls and pictures of chocolate dust. The store feels very upscale and the factory itself is very clean and shiny.

vere chocolate

factory 3

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.

samples 2

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.
chocolate and feet
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

A look at things to come (Vere chocolate)

I'm always looking for something new when it comes to chocolate. Vere chocolate actually came up in one of those little google advertisements that are tailored to your emails. Well of course I get tons of email about chocolate, so every now and then something shows up that I actually want to click.

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

Starbucks Chocolate

After the last two posts anyone reading this blog must think that I'm a snob when it comes to chocolate. Well I am, but I can also be pleasantly surprised by things. Starbuck's chocolate happens to be one of them.

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!

Why I hate Hershey's Chocolate part 1

From what I hear, it was Hershey’s that proposed and pushed a petition to the FDA to allow for the re-formulation of chocolate to allow for using any vegetable oil rather than the cocoa butter naturally found in chocolate. (From Chocolate News)

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

Valentine's Day Poser Chocolate

So I was in the Duane Reade earlier, and against my better judgment I went ahead and looked in the Valentine's Day chocolate section. I had a box of Russel Stover's chocolate that a student had given me earlier in the day, so already I was in for a "treat," but then I found this little box of wonders.

Russel Stover's

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 crap stuff that they put in it. This was a clue to what would happen next.

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.

Barack Obama chocolates


Now if only they could spell soya lecithin correctly. Then I might be able to take them seriously

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Caramel goodness

Went shopping for chocolate today for a very belated birthday present for this guy I like. (and apparently he reads this blog so I guess I've been outted) Went to Vosges in Soho. I really enjoyed walking in Soho on a nice day like today. The place just reeks of trendiness. I always tell myself that even if I had the money to go into those stores and buy jeans, they're made for skinny twiggy tall girls, which I, sadly, am not. But the stores are nice to look at and everything feels fresh and unique. The day was beautiful and I was on my way to buy chocolate. What more can you ask for.

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.

Chocolate box

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A yummy white chocolate (and other Lindt goodies)

I just bought a Lindt White Coconut bar from Duane Reade and it is amazing. Little white flecks of coconut in with the rich white chocolate. It makes you feel like you're on the beach sipping a pina colada. Maybe that's just the coconut talking but it's really yummy. And even though it has some artificial flavors in it, the chocolate is still really good. I can look past the fact that it's not totally pure or anything, but it's worth a shot.

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.

What your valentine's Day Chocolate Gift says about you:

So Valentine's Day is just around the corner. And what a better gift to give than chocolate. Chocolate has been associated with Valentine's Day since the mid-20th century...though V-day itself apparently has been around since the middle ages. I personally think the holiday is overrated. A few of my relationships have ended either on or around Valentine's day so I can't say the holiday brings back any fond memories for me either. Also I'm really picky about chocolate so I've always asked people not to get me chocolate on Valentine's or Christmas unless they're really sure about it.

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

Most expensive chocolate sundae ever!

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. :)

Most expensive chocolate evar

Food Network Challenge: Chocolate Fantasy

They're having a challenge on the Food Network. It's called the chocolate fantasy challenge. As in many of the challenges they have on the show, the challenge in this episode is to build a fantasy tower of chocolate. The designs are beautiful and exciting, but what a waste of chocolate :)

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

Hot cocoa, hot chocolate

So it's snowing. Winter is almost over, but here in New York we're still getting snow dumped on us. What better way to combat the cold than to snuggle up with a cup of steamy hot chocolate... or is it hot cocoa? Contrary to popular belief, hot chocolate and hot cocoa are not the same thing.

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

Chocolate: an amazing canvas

I've always believed that chocolate is amazing. You can make chocolate into pretty much anything you want it to be. For instance different chocolate stores cater to different people.

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.


Why I can't get behind Jaques Torres

And now for my first post.

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!


Starting out

Hey everyone. This Jeni, aka Chocolette. I'm someone who is passionate about chocolate. I live in New York and have been trying to find the best stuff out here. I throw chocolate tastings and generally obsess about chocolate. This blog is dedicated to the best/weirdest chocolate out there. I also post about the overrated stuff, the creme de la crap that passes for good chocolate these days. Because believe me, with the rise of gourmet chocolate you're gonna find some pretenders. It's all about being informed and knowing what you like and don't like. If you've got thoughts feel free to post comments. I'm more than happy to argue my opinions with y'all.

Peace love and chocolate!