Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best Chocolate of 2012

As you may have noticed, it is a popular thing on the Internet to post "year-end reviews," in which bloggers review their best albums, books, recipes, celebrity pregnancies, etc. of the year.

Not to be left in the dust, we here at Chocolate NYC are bringing you a list of our favorite NYC chocolates of 2012. We've included links to our reviews of each of these products, so you can learn more about why we've included them in our best-of list.

As we approach the new year, let's all resolve to eat as many of these foods as possible.

Leila: Fresco
David: City Bakery

Leila: Levain Bakery
David: DT Works

Leila: Brooklyn Farmacy
David: Fresco

Leila: Prestat 71% Dark Chocolate English Mint Crunch
David: Dolceria Bonajuto 90%

Leila: Sweet Revenge
David: Two Little Red Hens

I'd also like to take this moment to remind you that we maintain an updated "best of the best" list, running alongside the right-hand column of this blog. Basically, there is no reason for any of us to ever have to eat sub-par chocolate.

Your turn, readers: what are your favorite chocolates of the past year? And what chocolates are you excited to eat in 2013?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Belgian Hot Chocolate at Petite Abeille

A lot of the time when you order hot chocolate, you get Swiss Miss and water.  Or, if you are lucky, steamed milk with Hershey's syrup.  Now, if there's nothing else around, and if the Swiss Miss/Hershey's to water/milk ratio is high enough, I will happily drink that.

Sometimes, though, you get something that is basically melted chocolate, super thick, and filling enough for two meals.  Or maybe you'll get something completely unsweetened.  Or maybe something fancy, with a scoop of ice cream in it.  These are typically my favorites.

But sometimes you just want hot chocolate.  You know.  With milk and chocolate.  That's what we have here:

hot chocolate by candle light, and i set myself on fire fewer than two times.  success.

Petite Abeille is a lovely little spot in the West Village (along with spots in Chelsea and Flatiron).  They have waffles.  They have Tiny Flemish Pancakes.  Whatever you are picturing right now, they are tinier, and probably more Flemish.  It's a good scene.  And they have hot chocolate.  It's worth a trip.

Bottom Line: When you make hot chocolate from milk and chocolate, good things tend to happen.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Feodora Festive Chocolate Figurines

Guys, I'm telling you, Christmastime at my office is unreal. These chocolates from Fedora are just 1/100th of what we have at my work on an average day between December 8 and New Years.

Also, how is German candy so much better than American candy? If we had Festliche Chocolade Figuren in America, I guarantee they would be made out of corn syrup.

BOTTOM LINE: Germans continue to do it better.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Niederegger Marzipan Torte

I don't even like marzipan. Mostly because so much of it is not chocolate. But a co-worker brought this Niederegger torte back to the office from Germany, so the least I could do was eat it.

Oh my lord. It was great. It wasn't like American marzipan. It was just better. Inexplicably, magically better.

BOTTOM LINE: Go to Germany. Eat some chocolate-covered marzipan. Rethink all your previously held dessert opinions.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Meme is a delicious mediterranean and tapas restaurant. Its name is not pronounced like the word we use to describe "Gangam Style" and the Double Rainbow guy. It's pronounced like May May. Only I don't know how to create accents over the "e"s.

This is Meme's chocolate lava cake:

It was just right: kind of crispy on the outside, melty on the inside, chocolatey throughout.

BOTTOM LINE: You should get dinner at Meme. And if you're there, and if you're still hungry, you should conclude your dinner with this dessert.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Fresco peppermint cookie

As I'm sure you know by now, we love everything about Fresco. Their hot chocolate is currently my favorite in the city. Their chocolate gelato is mind-blowing. This cookie? Less good.

Let me be clear: still a really good cookie. The texture was chewy, just the way I like it. The chocolate-peppermint bits were evenly spread out. They just weren't chocolatey enough. This was our own fault. We could have ordered the double chocolate cookie. Instead we decided to branch out. Moral of the story: just stick to chocolate. Always.

BOTTOM LINE: If you are an intense chocolate lover, to the point where all other flavors are wasted on you, then this cookie will not represent to you the best of Fresco's offerings.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

GEPA 70%

I get these bars from my family in Europe.  I rarely see them in the US.  It's a pity, because they are great.

I actually had a German friend over at my house, and he brought me some Lindt chocolate (yes, Swiss).  When he saw this bar sitting on my table, he nearly bowed before it, so I guess they know what's up in Germany.  GEPA is apparently extremely socially conscious in addition to being delicious.  In fact, they are (as they say) a "fair trade company."

Anyways, I guess this is just mostly rubbing it in your face that these get delivered to me every few months.  HAHA.  I'll be back soon to be even crueler when I let you know all about my chocolate expedition throughout Europe.  The good news is that if you find me on The Outernet, I can share some chocolate with you.

Bottom Line: If you see this, buy it.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Theo Cocoa Nibs

We've already established that we love Theo.  I keep this canister of nibs on my desk at all times.  They're excellent nibs, bitter but rich and chocolatey.

definitely a canister.

The only downside is that every once in a while, as is the case in almost any pack of nibs, you get a piece of shell or otherwise unchewably hard item.

almost time for a refill.

But the dud rate here is definitely lower than average, and the nibs are more delicious than average, so these come highly recommended.

Bottom Line:  A great way to give yourself a boost without a sugar rush.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Cookie Takedown

Matt Timms is a savior and saint of the excessive eating culture (i.e. my culture). He runs a series of food takedowns at the Bell House in Gowanus.

Some of these events I'm not interested in, like "the meatball takdown" or "the bacon takedown." But some of them I am SUPER-interested in, like "the ice cream takedown."

Mainly, I am interested in whatever takedowns involve chocolate.

Sunday was the annual cookie takedown. Thirty amateur chefs baked hundreds of cookies, and everyone who attended ate and voted on each of the thirty varieties. I went with my friend and co-cookie lover, Reed. We started our afternoon with Lactaid pills and ended it with Pepto Bismol.

Here is one half of the cookies I ate:

Here is what Reed called "the winners' circle"; a.k.a. our favorites:

Included in the winners' circle were the following:

1) Fluffer Nutter Mouth Ballz, by Diana Yang: A peanut butter cookie with chocolate and marshmallow topping.

2) French macarons, by Susan Palmer (a.k.a. the girl in the little red kitchen). These macarcons ultimately won both the audience choice award and the judges' choice award. Their texture was perfect.

3) Frankencookie, by Gordon Lingly: Included one layer of peanut butter cookie, one layer of chocolate chip cookie, and one layer of brownie.

4) Fluffer Nutjob, by Katie Clark (a.k.a. Loven Brooklyn: My favorite kind of kitchen-sink cookie, which included pretzels, chocolate chips, and marchmallows.

5) S'more Guilt, by Jessie Krux and Caitlin Viggiano: A cookie that was basically marshmallow and chocolate chip cookie dough. As I was eating it, I was like, "Was this even baked through?" "Will I get salmonella poisoning?" and, "Who cares?"

Here is a different plate of cookies that I ate:

Some people could not finish all their cookies, so they just left them there. They obviously did not think ahead and bring along a Ziploc bag for storing extra cookies. (I have some practice with takedowns.):

Here are some of the chefs showing off their wares. Bear in mind that I took these photos after hundreds of eaters had ravaged their tables-- this is what was left over.

BOTTOM LINE: One of the greatest days of the cookie-eating year. I highly recommend that you buy a ticket when next December rolls around. Oh, and bring a Ziploc bag.

Prestat Dark Chocolate English Mint Crunch

I love everything about this bar. I got it at the Chocolate Show and have been slowly enjoying it since then. The chocolate is my favorite amount of darkness (71%), and the balance of mint and chocolate is just right.

According to their website, Prestat has held a Royal Warrant from Her Majesty the Queen for over 35 years. They now hold a Royal Warrant from me, as well.

BOTTOM LINE: One of the best chocolate mint bars I've ever found.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Big Gay Ice Cream Shop

We were not impressed by the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. We liked the concept. We liked the people who worked there. We liked the description of the thing we got. (The Gobbler: pumpkin butter and maple syrup, pie pieces, and whipped cream.)


The chocolate soft serve was just, well, soft serve. It wasn't particularly bad, but it was no better than any other soft serve we have ever had anywhere. And the toppings tasted cheap and pre-packaged. Which would have been disappointing enough, but then the price tag was $6.50. When you're paying $6.50 for a cup of ice cream, you really do not want toppings that taste like they just came out of a package.

The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop must appeal to some people's tastes, as I hear they are doing well enough to be opening up a second branch. But to our tastes, this sundae just was not as interesting as the store's concept or branding. Not even close.

BOTTOM LINE: Good enough soft serve, but nothing to write home about; overpriced for the quality you get.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Amy's Bread hot chocolate

David is very, very well-versed in hot chocolate. So I was surprised and delighted that when I first shared Amy's Bread's hot chocolate with him, he told me that a) he had never tried it before, and b) it instantly made it on to his Top Ten list. I feel that sort of personal ownership for Amy's. Maybe because I go there like once a week.

According to Amy's Bread's website, their hot chocolate is "homemade with a blend of artisan chocolates." They use three scoops of a thick sludge of blended Scharffen Berger and Guittard chocolates. None of that powder or syrup crap here; this is real chocolate. And then they will add a homemade marshmallow. And serve it to you in a big bowl. It is rich but still easy to drink, and it makes me feel like I'm in Paris.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended hot chocolate with top-notch ingredients.

Friday, December 14, 2012

City Bakery cookies

I like City Bakery a lot. I LOVE their hot chocolate. David does, too. There will be more posts about this. We are City Bakery fans.

Which is why I hate to say this-- but I must. I don't like City Bakery cookies. They are so crispy. A million times more so than Jacques Torres cookies, even. City Bakery cookies get stuck in my teeth. They have a gritty, granular texture.

I know this is to some people's liking, because City Bakery is awesome, and they wouldn't make their cookies this way if people did not like them. But I can't get behind them. I was at a holiday party with a free platter of these cookies, so I ate three of them. But I felt disappointed by every one.

BOTTOM LINE: For crispy cookie-lovers only.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dar 525 Nutella French Toast

I am a terrible iPhone food photographer. Why didn't I take a picture of this nutella-stuffed French toast BEFORE I had eaten most of it?

Because I was too hungry to wait. That's why.

This is from Dar 525. There's French toast with nutella and bananas inside of it, a berry compote for you berry fans out there, and some powdered sugar and shaved nuts on top. It's like a crepe, basically. Only French toast. So, as you can tell, it's excellent.

BOTTOM LINE: One of the best ways I have found for incorporating chocolate into your morning menu.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christopher Norman Chocolates Hazelnut

This was a gift from a friend of my mother's. He heard I ran a chocolate blog, so he gave me a Christopher Norman bar from Hudson Chocolate Bar, which is part of Verdigis Tea Shop. It's in Hudson, which is about two hours upstate from NYC.

I have never been to Verdigis Tea Shop, but after eating this delightful treat, I'm thinking I should probably make a pilgrimage there.

Pretty simple: fine, rich chocolate on the outside; smooth, creamy chocolate flecked with hazelnut on the inside. Handmade in New York. Classy presentation, clean flavors. Just really quality chocolate done right.

BOTTOM LINE: The perfect high-class bar for gianduja fans.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Desserts On Us Macadamia and Milk Chocolate Laceys

I had never heard of Desserts On Us before, but it seems like laceys are their Thing. Like, they have registered the word "laceys." They also seem to make baklava, but baklava is not chocolate, so I can't say for sure.

Copy from their website: "2009 sofi™ gold winner for Outstanding Cookie! A crisp continental confection with rich smooth chocolate melted between two feather light, toffee-almond wafers."

I don't know what a "continental confection" is, but I can say that these were tasty. They're not really my type of thing, as they're very crispy and chewy and got stuck in my teeth (that's just the nature of toffee), and they weren't really intensely chocolatey (because they have so much going on that's not just chocolate). But I think they'd be a great thing to serve with tea or to guests after a dinner party.

BOTTOM LINE: Excellent for dessert-lovers; not so special for chocolate-lovers.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Foray to Massachusetts #4: Tres Gatos

I have had a soft spot for churros and chocolate ever since the summer I was 16, when my best friend, Allie, and I went to Spain and ate churros and chocolate roughly every single night around 3am. It is hard not to have a soft spot for churros and chocolate: they are a fried thing dipped in thick liquid chocolate. What's not to love?

I have found that it's impossible for any churros anywhere in America to live up to my memories of the churros in Burgos, Spain. But these Tres Gatos churros did a very good job.

This dipping chocolate was killer: thick and warm. When I got too full to eat any more of the churros, I just scraped up the rest of the chocolate with my spoon. Plus Tres Gatos is really cute and cozy and had other tasty (non-chocolate) stuff on their menu. I recommend it here.

BOTTOM LINE: An excellent choice for churros in Boston.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Chocolate Mint Iced Tea at Argo Tea

I have been traveling a lot recently, creating a huge backlog of posts (from exotic locations).  If things have been a bit slow on my end, it's because I have had almost no time in front of a computer.

so unassuming!  i barely made a single assumption!

I have, though, spent a lot of time at airports.  While at one, I got this chocolate mint iced black tea from Argo.  I honestly wasn't expecting much, as chocolate teas usually disappoints me.  Surprisingly, this was great and just what I was looking for.  It was the perfect blend of chocolate, tea, and mint.

Bottom Line: The first time I've had real tea that was actually chocolatey.  If you are in the mood for both chocolate and tea, seek this out.

Additional note from Leila: I have been a fan of the chocolate mint tea at Argo since senior year of college; in fact, it is how I first started teaching myself to drink tea.

This beverage is a mug filled halfway with hot chocolate, and then the other half is mint tea. So it has the benefits of being a mint hot chocolate, while still having the lightness of tea. Once I learned I could enjoy this, I started making it myself, slowly cutting back on the amount of hot chocolate and increasing the amount of mint tea until I was drinking just a straight cup of mint tea.

My one caution here is that it's very sweet. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Just wanted you to be aware.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Devil's Food Chocolate Ice Cream at Blue Marble at the Barclay's Center

I was walking around the Barclay's Center for the first time, and I spotted a Blue Marble among the concession stands (shared with Junior's Cheesecake, a guilty pleasure of mine from which I was able to abstain for the evening).  I went back an hour later, after eating real food, to claim my prize -- devil's food chocolate ice cream.  But they were sold out!  I was despondent.  Sadly walking the Barclay's Center, feeling like a traitor to my beloved Knicks (even though i was there for college basketball rather than the Nets), without even ice cream to console me.

But after dejectedly doing a lap around the arena, I saw someone walking away from Blue Marble with chocolate ice cream!  An outrage!  I stormed up to the front.  Instantly recognizing me, they insufficiently apologetically informed me that more had been made/delivered just after I had left.  They did not know the pain they had caused.

They rang me up for my ice cream.  $8.75!  Another outrage!  But then it was served to me:

It was at least 8 scoops.  Maybe 12.  Thinking about it, $8.75 was a total bargain, on a per-scoop basis.

As for quality, well, you certainly won't find better at a sporting event.  And the quality seemed in line with their home store.  The downside is that Blue Marble is based in Brooklyn, which to me just obviously means that the ice cream is going to have too high of a cream-to-chocolate ratio for my highly unreasonable tastes.  But it's still great chocolate ice cream no matter how you look at it.

Bottom Line:  If you're at Barclay's, get three friends together and go in for one of these.  You'll have plenty of ice cream at a cheap price, and I doubt you'll find anything better at any sporting event any time soon.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Foray to Massachusetts #3: Eat Cake

Eat Cake is a charming little independent cake shop in Newburyport, Massachusetts. They do wedding cakes, which I've never tried. And they have a massive menu of cupcakes, including A LOT of chocolate options, which I have sampled.

I believe these are, as described on their website, the "Double Chocolate Mint Chip cake dipped in Chocolate with Mint buttercream dipped in Chocolate again." They were chocolatey. They were minty. I was happy.

BOTTOM LINE: If I lived in Newburyport, I would go to Eat Cake and would indeed eat cake every day of the year.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Foray to Massachusetts #2: Terry's Toffee Chai-cago Spice

Terry's Toffee Chai-cago Spice is yet another product that I picked up at the fabulous Cocoanuts. It was really good.

Terry's Toffee's website describes it as an "infusion of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom & pepper, dipped in dark chocolate." But it wasn't too spicy, and you can trust me on that, because I am very sensitive to spice. It was enjoyably warm. Like a chewy Mexican hot chocolate!

BOTTOM LINE: Like a Mexican hot chocolate in candy form.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Vosges Peppermint Candy Cane Bar

The peppermint blitz continues!  Vosges makes "Haut Chocolat."  It's even the subtitle to their name.  And it's very true.  But how will a haut chocolatier fare when trying to make not just a peppermint bar, but a candy cane bar?

that candy cane looks suspiciously like bacon

I will answer that question myself, because that is my job.  The answer is, "Very well."  The question was for dramatic effect.  Did you feel the drama?  I know I did.


So they literally use crushed candy canes.  As many of you know, candy canes are peppermint-flavored candy.  Which, in America, means they usually don't actually have any peppermint in them, or any mint at all. They are mostly corn syrup with some artificial flavoring.  Don't complain.  If you want to complain, buy a regular peppermint bar.  This is America.

But, as I stated, Vosges is haut chocolat.  They are not going to make a plain, artificial candy cane flavored bar and send you packing.  It's a Peppermint Candy Cane Bar, and so there is actual peppermint oil in here too.  Don't worry: the natural and artificial peppermints play nice together, and the candy canes add the perfect crunch.

My only real question is: If you cover candy in high quality chocolate, is it still candy?

Bottom Line: I know that you should buy and eat this.  I just don't know whether it is candy.

Peppermint Bark Comparison Shopping

'Tis the season for peppermint bark!

By now, I think everyone on the Internet knows how we feel about chocolate-mint combinations: extremely positively. So obviously peppermint bark is the greatest part of December.

But which peppermint bark?

Well. Here are a few ideas.

These babies are from Cocoanuts, which we were raving about after our trip to Boston. They're like simple dark chocolate nonpareils, except with crushed candy cane instead of little sugar drops. Delightful.

This was a free sample from Ghiradelli. Not so good, my friends. The base is milk chocolate, and then there's a layer of what seems like white chocolate with peppermint flavoring in it. The texture was too creamy for me and just didn't have enough of that candy cane crunch. That said, Ghiradelli has an entire Limited Edition Peppermint Bark collection, so it's possible one of the other products performs better.

This is one of my favorite holiday treats: the Trader Joe's peppermint bark. I have not yet purchased a tin this year, which is why I have nothing to photograph for you. But it is a holiday classic: a layer of dark chocolate, a layer of white chocolate, and a layer of crushed candy canes. Perfection.

Who makes your favorite peppermint bark?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Asher's Milk Chocolate Boardwalk Crunch

As you may recall, I am a big fan of Asher's. I'm now including their Milk Chocolate Boardwalk Crunch in that statement.

Here is what is in this thing: marshmallows, buttered popcorn, nuts, and pretzels. It is basically an entire meal. A meal inside a chocolate bar.

It's pretty awesome. It has a great salty/sweet balance. It's more like a very high-end candy bar than it is like a normal chocolate bar.

My one complaint is, of course, that it's milk chocolate. Now I just need to order the Dark Chocolate Boardwalk Crunch, and my life will be complete.

BOTTOM LINE: Like a meal in a chocolate bar. A delicious, delicious meal.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Padre Figlio's Chocolate Mousse Cake

I am switching jobs, and as my farewell lunch, my office kindly took me to one of my favorite Italian restaurants in the city, Padre Figlio.  You may notice that this post is fairly similar to the one Leila just posted, except with 100% fewer "Woooo!"s.  Spoilers.

Padre Figlio has an amazing Prix-Fixe lunch deal, so we all indulged.  The entrees were excellent all around, and then we had our choice of desserts.  They have excellent cheesecake, but I opted for the chocolate mousse cake (of course):

Looks, pretty good, right?  Right.  It was pretty good.

It was good.  It had chocolate, mousse, and cake, roughly in that order.  Good order.  The chocolate shavings were really excellent.  And it hit the spot.  But it didn't blow me away.  There are better mousses and mousse cakes.  That said, it was a nice way to wrap up a great meal.

Bottom Line: Go to Padre Figlio for the food and stay for the dessert.  Do not go just for the dessert.

Supper's Flourless Chocolate Cake

On Saturday I went to my friend Lisa's bachelorette party. She wore a pink sash that said "bride-to-be" and we all wore pink beaded necklaces and shouted "Woooo!" a lot. I felt like we were in a movie about young women in New York City. Very exciting.

For dinner, we went to Supper. I'd never been before, but I'd been to its sister restaurants, Frank and Lil' Frankie's, both of which I love. Supper followed in its sisters' footsteps of excellence. The caprese salad was so good! The gnocchi, oh my Lord!

Anyway. This is not an entrees blog. This is a chocolate blog. Keep it together, Leila.

The menu was prix fixe, so my friend Leslie and I tried to guess what the dessert would be, based solely on the main courses we'd been given. I guessed flourless chocolate cake. She guessed tiramisu. We were both right.

That third thing was a hazelnut something. Creamy. Very good, considering that it wasn't chocolate.

Let me level with you: the flourless chocolate cake on this plate was not good. It was room temperature and dry. I wouldn't have known it was flourless if the waiter hadn't told me. It didn't have that appropriate fudgy quality.

That said, I would give this place the benefit of the doubt. Here is why:

1) I was overly full of gnocchi and caprese salad and lemon-parmeasan pasta and so on, so it's possible nothing would have tasted delicious to me at that point.

2) It's hard to create the most excellent food when dealing with a prix fixe menu for a table of ten. Going there with just a friend and ordering off the menu might yield a different quality.

3) The chocolate sauce on this plate was deeply delicious, so clearly this place is capable of creating excellent chocolate things.

BOTTOM LINE: A disappointing chocolate experience at the end of an otherwise fantastic dinner.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ciao Bella

There are a lot of tiers of ice cream/gelato, at least in terms of pretentiousness.  Ciao Bella is not at the top tier, probably because it is not sufficiently "artisanal."  It is a chain.  And it is sold (*gasp*) at grocery stores

spotting the dark chocolate sorbet is easy

But if you stop by the convenient Ciao Bella counter in the Grand Central Dining Concourse, there is really no way to distinguish its beautiful offerings from those of the more artisanal gelaterias.  And tastewise, I think Ciao Bella holds its own with just about anything, easily outpacing any other store-bought offerings.

My favorite item at Ciao Bella is the dark chocolate sorbet.  You need to be a sorbet person.  Many aren't.  But the real advantage is that it's just so much more chocolatey than gelato or ice cream, because those necessarily uses dairy.

once i drank it down this far, it got good -- as you can see from the color

On my most recent trip, I was thirsty, so I decided to mix it up and got an iced green tea float with the chocolate sorbet.  I made an amateur mistake, though, in getting the medium rather than the small.  They put in the same one scoop of sorbet with extra green tea, diluting the chocolatiness.  However, by the time I got to the more chocolatey bottom, the drink was absolutely hitting the spot.

what's with all that white color in that gelato?

My friend got a cup of cookies and cream and mocha gelatos.  Neither is really my style for obvious reasons, but both involved chocolate and were good versions of what they are.

Bottom Line: Easily the best stuff you can buy in a store and conveniently located in Grand Central