Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Shake Shack concrete

I go to Shake Shack a fair amount, but I've never actually gotten a milkshake there, despite its name. Instead I go for the concretes. A concrete is custard (so frozen, but soft) with different toppings spun into it.

There are a lot of toppings to choose from, but I generally go with a Shack Attack, because it is chocolatiest: chocolate custard with fudge sauce, chocolate truffle cookie dough and Mast Brothers dark chocolate chunks, topped with chocolate sprinkles.

BOTTOM LINE: How can you possibly go wrong with this?

Happy 30th birthday, David!

On Sunday we had a surprise 30th birthday celebration for my co-blogger David. Obviously that meant we had 30 cakes. Here is what they all looked like:

We'd had a lot of leftover chocolate chips from our chocolate party. Our friend Danielle took them all--I mean like hundreds or possibly thousands of chocolate chips--and baked them into vegan cakes.

Here is the birthday boy himself cutting into a cake:

Here is what a plate with samples from the various options looked like. There was also milk, as you can see, but I didn't touch it. Milk is just a thing that takes up room in your stomach when that room could be better used for more chocolate.

We'd asked every party guest to bring with them two bars of chocolate. So at the end of the party we sent David home with all the bars pictured here, on the bottom shelf. Stay tuned as we review them over the weeks/months to come. You know, just in case you were worried we were running out of material.

Happy birthday, David, and many happy returns of the day! Thanks for giving us an excuse to eat 30 chocolate cakes.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Macaron Day round-up

Thursday was NYC Macaron Day, which is an annual day of amazement and wonder when you can walk around the city and get free macarons from participating bakeries. I took my lunch break to hit up the West Village stops.

First up was Francois Payard, which is the originator of the amazingness of Macaron Day. I got a chocolate macaron and it was so, so awesome. Perfect texture, flavor, everything.

I would have eaten about a zillion more. Fortunately, there were two more stops on my walk.

Next up was Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe. They weren't offering chocolate macarons when I was there, only caramel. But even the caramel was delightful, despite its handicap of not being chocolate. They also had other appealing-looking chocolate baked goods on display. I would go back.

Third stop was bisous, ciao, which you know is going to be good because they only sell macarons. They had more than a dozen flavors, though not all were available for the free sample.

The one I got was blood orange with a dark chocolate cream in the middle. Phenomenal. So flavorful. I would go back here, too, and try more of their many flavors, like the peppermint dark chocolate one, which sounds like it's designed for me.

BOTTOM LINE: Macarons are expensive. So it's really nice to have a day when you can eat them for free.

Madecasse citrus and pink pepper bar

We got this Madecasse bar at Whole Foods. What makes Madecasse unique is that they not only harvest the cacao beans in Madagascar; they actually make the chocolate bars there, package them, the whole bit. What happens out of their Brooklyn factory is the distribution, not any of the chocolate-making.

According to this article I read about Madecasse:

Seventy percent of the world’s cocoa beans come from Africa, but less than one percent of the world’s chocolate is produced there. Most African cocoa winds up in chocolate factories in Belgium, Switzerland, and France.

There are people who farm cacao plantations who have never actually tasted chocolate, or, even if they have, they may not have tasted chocolate created from the beans that they're harvesting. This is why you can go to a country like Ecuador, which grows great cacao, and have trouble finding a decent bar of chocolate to eat. This is why Madecasse is special.

So, that's the sociopolitical background. The question now is: how's the chocolate?

Answer: it's interesting. The pepper is not too spicy, and it's not textural, either, but you can definitely taste it. It works well. The "combava fruit" advertised on the package is just a lime. This lends the bar an almost juicy taste, like biting into one of those pieces of gum that has a fruity liquid interior.

Overall, it was good, and unlike other bars. But it was not very chocolatey. I mean, it clearly was chocolate, but the flavor notes were not "chocolatey."

BOTTOM LINE: A tasty, unique bar, but without a strong chocolate flavor.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

John & Kira's "Urban Garden Mint" 62%

I bought this on a whim, walking through Philadelphia.

Ok, I had sort of heard of them before.  Maybe because I googled chocolatiers in Philadelphia.  Maybe.

Anyways, it is very aptly named.  It tastes like a garden.

Bottom Line: If you want your mint chocolate to taste like a garden, you should buy this bar.

Vosges Marzipan Bar, Green Tea Bar, and Hot Chocolate

I stopped by the Vosges shop in Soho recently, and they are really just a solid company.

So the matcha green tea bar with spirulina was not the biggest hit.  I mean, it was ok.  But Roh-Kaolade did it better.  Still, it was interesting.

The marzipan bar was really excellent.  The marzipan was fresher and gooey-er than the Rittersport version.  The only downside was that it had a stronger taste, so that -- despite have a higher chocolate-to-marzipan quantity ratio than the Rittersport -- it did not have a substantially higher chocolate-to-marzipan taste ratio.

It should also be noted that Vosges makes excellent hot chocolate.  It is not thick like City Bakery's.  It is for drinking.  It is a drink.  That is ok.  It is delicious.  It tastes like chocolate.

Bottom Line: Vosges is great, because they do simple things really well but also have really wacky ideas that are usually worth a try.

Nouveau Chocolates in Tulsa, OK

A friend sent me these, from Tulsa!:

Ok, technically from Broken Arrow, but I think that is pretty much the same thing.  Google says they are 20 minutes apart.  I don't know whether that is a lot.

Anyways, these are Oklahoma-made, Belgian-style chocolates -- apparently the family has a shop in Belgium.  I could not discover the Belgian brand, despite diligent (ok, actually not-at-all diligent) online research.

The bon bons were very good.  They tasted hand-made and quality.  The dark chocolate discs were good as well, but I am fairly certain they were simply re-tempered Valrhona (or something similar).

Bottom Line: If you're in Tulsa (or Broken Arrow), stop by.  Try to uncover the family mystery!