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

Cadbury Mini-Eggs

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

Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar

I've been wanting to go to Ayza for a while now. I walk by it every day when I volunteer at school and it looked promising, so a friend and I decided to stop there for dinner last night. Ok fine I dragged him there, but he liked it, so there!

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

The Lindt 99% Cocoa Bar

(this blog is courtesy of my good friend Mike. I turned him onto the wild world of gourmet chocolate a while ago and apparently he's still enjoying the ride. He told me about his experience with Lindt chocolate so I asked him to share. Hopefully he'll continue to blog here, but his main blog is called Mike's First Real Blog. It's a really fun read, so check it out)

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... :)