Friday, August 15, 2014

XOXO Chocolates

Is there anything we like more than receiving a box of chocolate products in the mail?

No. There is not.

XOXO Chocolates is a small, independent Las Vegas chocolatier and bakery. They make fudge and various types of bark and biscotti and brownies and just a whole host of delicious things. So we sampled some of them, as we are wont to do.

The white chocolate fudge (upper lefthand corner) was salty and sweet, with an excellent texture, the kind of soft that melts in your mouth.

The espresso fudge (upper righthand corner) was excellent if you're a coffee fan. It had a strong coffee flavor, and bits of coffee bean throughout it, to add texture.

The biscotti (lower righthand corner) was not very chocolatey-tasting. It was plain biscotti with raisins, so really the only chocolate came from the white and dark chocolate drizzled on top.

The bark (lower lefthand corner) was a little milky for my tastes, but the almonds added nice texture, and the white chocolate drizzled on top made it look pretty. I tried only this one kind of bark, but I can see on the website that they have peppermint bark (which is my favorite type) and sugar-free almond bark (which seems useful), so I think you just need to pick your flavor wisely.

The winner from my perspective was definitely the espresso brownie (in the center, with the bow). The brownie was straight-up delightful, and its frosting was what carried the coffee flavor, so you could easily scrape off some or all of it if you don't love coffee.

The prices are also reasonable. I think a package of XOXO Chocolates would make an excellent gift for someone--it certainly made an excellent gift for me!

BOTTOM LINE: An up-and-coming dessert company that clearly loves chocolate as much as we do

Thursday, August 14, 2014

McVitie's plain chocolate digestives

My junior year in college, I studied abroad in the UK. During the ten months that I was there, I ate roughly one thousand McVitie's plan chocolate digestives.

To clarify for Americans, I will say that "digestives" are basically cookies, sort of like graham crackers, and "plain chocolate" means dark chocolate.

When I lived in England, I would go through a pack of these in a couple of days. They are just so compulsively eatable. They taste basically like a s'mores only without the warm marshmallow inside--just something like a graham cracker with some dark chocolate coating it. It's not too sweet, and it's not so intensely flavored--it's like the dessert equivalent of pretzels, in that it's kind of plain and you just want to keep eating it.

Fairly recently, McVitie's digestives have become easily available in some U.S. grocery stores. They're only a couple dollars; not even priced like an import. When I first discovered this, I briefly felt like, "This isn't right. I only want to eat these when I am in England." Then I got over it. Now I eat three or four digestives every day.

Since my time in England, McVitie's has refined their packaging, adding this nifty re-sealable top, so you don't necessarily have to eat all the biscuits in one go (though obviously you can if you want to).

And because this is the U.S. and we have laws here, they've stickered the packages with FDA-friendly nutritional information, meaning that now, for the first time, I could find out just how many calories and grams of sugar are in each of these. I mean, I haven't read the label, so I don't actually know. But I could.

BOTTOM LINE: If you're buying a pack of grocery store cookies, I would definitely advocate for these over the Oreos, Chips Ahoy, or pretty much anything else on the shelf. Perfect for tea time, snack time, or coming home from a party at 3am.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ben & Jerry's peanut butter fudge core

As you probably know--because you are the sort of person who reads a chocolate blog--today is the first day of National Ice Cream Month, which is a real American holiday. Personally I do not need a specific month earmarked to eat chocolate. But, it's as good an excuse as any.

In celebration of this month, I finally tried Ben & Jerry's "core" ice cream.

The idea here is that you have chocolate ice cream on one side, peanut butter ice cream on the other, a peanut butter-fudge "core" running down the center, and peanut butter cups sprinkled throughout. Here's what it looks like.

So, Ben & Jerry's is great. It's not freshly-made or farm-to-table or organic or whatever a lot of the ice creams that we review on this blog are. You know this. It's like $5 or $6 per pint (which you can compare to a brand like, say, Jeni's, where pints cost twice that.

But for easily available, grocery store ice cream, it's great. It's thick and flavorful. They do not skimp on the mix-ins. If you're promised peanut butter cups, you are getting a full allotment of peanut butter cups--which is good, because Ben & Jerry's peanut butter cups are THE BOMB.

I guess I'd say that their mix-ins (peanut butter cups, cookie dough, whatever it may be) are better than their ice cream. I wouldn't eat a bowl of plain chocolate from Ben & Jerry's. Well, okay, I would, because I will eat a bowl of plain chocolate ice cream from anywhere, but it would not be my first choice. But their ice cream provides a totally good foundation for their mix-ins.

I don't know that the "core" ice cream is so much better than just chocolate ice cream with peanut butter cups, or just peanut butter ice cream with peanut butter cups. The fudge in the middle didn't add a huge amount for me: I was more focused on the ice creams. For me the main benefit of the "core" approach was that I got two different and very good flavors for the price of one. But if you were really into the "core" substance, then this pint would be even more appealing to you.

BOTTOM LINE: This is probably my new go-to choice for Ben & Jerry's pints. I'd even put it above Phish Food. Maybe even above Half Baked.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

After my deeply disappointing experience at Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream, I was ready to go to an ice cream parlor that never disappoints: Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain.

Farmacy is basically everything I look for in a restaurant experience. It's a charming atmosphere, they play 50s music on the stereo, and they offer delicious sundaes.

Unlike a place like Ample Hills or Odd Fellows, Farmacy does not have lots of ice cream flavors, or very experimental flavors. They offer about a half dozen flavors made by Adirondack Creamery, which are made with fresh, hormone-free ingredients.

The ice cream is very good on its own, but since this is an old-fashioned soda shoppe, you'd be a fool not to dress it up in a milkshake or a float or (duh) a sundae.

The one on the left is vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce and Farmacy's homemade peanut butter. The one on the right, obviously, is mine. It's a scoop of chocolate ice cream and a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream with hot fudge, whipped cream, and cookie crumbles from Farmacy's fresh-baked cookies.

BOTTOM LINE: Not my favorite standalone ice cream in the city, but unquestionably my favorite place in the city to eat an ice cream sundae.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Franklin Park bourbon milkshake

Franklin Park is everything a bar should be. They have pub trivia and a reading series. They have a lovely outdoor area. They have dancing and DJs on weekend nights. Most of all, they have bourbon milkshakes.

As you may recall from my foray into chocolate whiskey, I am intrigued by mixing chocolate and alcohol. Franklin Park's bourbon milkshake is the best way I've found to do this.

It definitely tastes bourbon-y, so if you don't like that, just get a non-alcoholic milkshake here (which they also make).

Pro tip: if you're putting bourbon in there, make sure to stir up your drink frequently. Otherwise all the bourbon will sink to the bottom and you will drink about nine ounces of plain chocolate shake, followed by about two ounces of brown-colored bourbon. If you mix it together, it will melt your ice cream, but will make for a pleasant chocolate-bourbon mixture throughout. I learned this the hard way.

BOTTOM LINE: A truly delightful drink for a summer day.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream

One month ago, I read about Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream and got really excited. Now, there are a lot of marvelous places in this city to get ice cream. Ample Hills, Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, Blue Marble--and that's without even having to think about it. So why, you wonder, would I get so excited about this new ice cream venue?

Because Morgenstern's menu listed the following:

Chocolate every way.
Chocolate frozen.
Chocolate whipped.
Chocolate crunch.
Chocolate baked.
It's over.

This so-called Chocolate Deluxe is priced at $15, but I will pay big bucks in order to keep you informed about important chocolate news. Plus, that's some really good menu copy.

So I gathered together a number of friends. And last night we went to Morgenstern's, to try this Chocolate Deluxe and see if it was, as promised, "over." And here's what happened:

They didn't have it.

The woman who worked there assured me that it wasn't that they had run out for the day. It's that the Chocolate Deluxe actually does not exist. The chef is still in the process of creating it. At some point presumably it will exist, since it is promised on the menu. But she could not tell me when.

Folks, go to Brooklyn Farmacy, go to Emack and Bolio, go to Sundaes and Cones. There is so much good ice cream in New York City. Don't waste your time on a place that promises chocolate they cannot deliver.

BOTTOM LINE: You're right, Morgenstern's: It's over.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Mouth chocolate-covered deliciousness gift bag

For Christmas/Hanukkah, the fabulously talented Mallory Kasdan (author of Ella) gave me a gift bag of chocolate-covered things manufactured in Brooklyn from Mouth, which sells indie, small-batch, artisanal foods.

Basically, I want to eat every single thing that Mouth sells, and ideally nothing else--if it were possible to thrive on artisanal pickles and mayonnaise and chocolate bars alone, that is what I would do.

I have now eaten every last item in my chocolate-covered gift bag. Here are my bottom-line responses to each item:

Nunu Chocolates, chocolate-covered grahams: Loved these. Crisp, chocolatey, sea salt sprinkled on top. More, please.

Nunu Chocolates, hokey pokey: This was okay, but the texture doesn't do it for me. It's chocolate-covered honeycomb, and it gets stuck in your molars. If you like honeycomb, though, this is a good choice.

Tumbador, corn nut dragee: Another good salty-sweet combo, but I liked this less than the Nunu Chocolates graham crackers, again because these got caught in my molars, and also sometimes they had a weird soapy taste.

Jacques Torres, chocolate-covered corn flake clusters: These were awesome. Crunchy, chocolatey, all the appeal of chocolate-covered pretzels only more interesting.

Roni-Sue's chocolate-dipped pretzels: These misled me. You know I love chocolate-dipped pretzels, and these looked so beautiful. The chocolate part was good. But the pretzel they chose to dip was texturally just wrong.

Tumbador, hazelnut dragee: Delightful.These were even better than the other Tumbador item, because unlike the corn nuts, these did not get stuck in your molars.

BOTTOM LINE: If I could receive this gift bag in the mail every couple months for the rest of my life, I would be happy. Also, go look at Mouth's website. They offer a lot more items than these. A lot of Brooklyn things worth eating.