Friday, August 30, 2013

Recipe: Blended Chocolate Frappuccino

As you may know, I have a disproportionate fondness for Starbucks Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino". One day, as I was paying $5 for one of those bad boys, it occurred to me, "Hey, I could make this!"

Is that true? Read on. I don't want to spoil the surprise.

Here were my ingredients:

1) ice
2) milk
3) chocolate chips (I used a bag of Ghiradelli Semi-Sweet)

4) chocolate sauce (I used Dilettante Dark Chocolate Truffle Topping, which my friend Kendra gave me for my birthday and which I love)

I put some arbitrary quantity of each of these in the blender, and I drank the final product. It looked like this:

The taste was very similar to Starbucks'. I was pleased. It was cold and chocolatey and refreshing and not too milky.

The texture gave me some trouble. There were sips that tasted just like they ought to (a little crunch of chocolate chip, a little crunch of ice, and a lot of fluid). But there were also huge clumps of unblended ice at the bottom and for the life of me I could not figure out how to make them blend. Was there too much milk in the blender with them? Too little milk? I'm sure there are basic rules to using kitchen appliances that would make this really easy to figure out, but I am not very handy in a kitchen. Maybe you have already figured this out.

BOTTOM LINE: An excellent chocolate beverage for a warm summer's day. If you make it, and you figure out how to work a blender, please comment below.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Chocolate Room Chocolate-Mint Milkshake

I went back to the Chocolate Room, which, as we have said again and again, is one of our favorite places for chocolate in the city. This time my friend Kendra and I split a milkshake that was half chocolate and half fresh mint chip.

What can I say? It was a pure delight. Their mint chip is not peppermint, it is fresh mint, so it takes a little getting used to, but once you're in it, there's no turning back. Their chocolate ice cream is always wonderful. The milkshake itself was large enough that Kendra and I each got a full one of these cups.

BOTTOM LINE: The Chocolate Room never disappoints. They don't even know how to.


I went to Seaside Heights, home of the TV show "The Jersey Shore," for the first time last weekend. Much like Coney Island, the Seaside Heights boardwalk, while awesome, does not have many fresh ice cream options. It's a lot of Hershey's and soft serve. Unlike Coney Island, however, the Seaside Heights boardwalk has Kohr's.

Kohr's has been around for nearly a century. They make some hard ice creams but they specialize in custard, which the scooper told me was ice cream with an egg added into it to give it a smoother, more whipped texture. (Think whipped cream cheese versus normal cream cheese. Only ice cream, not cream cheese, duh.)

I got the chocolate custard, and it was pleasant, though nothing to write home about. The texture was quite nice, but it did not have a very strong chocolatey taste. The sugar cone was godawful-- if you go, just get a cup.

One thing Kohr's has going for it is a storefront placed roughly every three blocks along the boardwalk, each one with ever-so-slightly different flavors, so if you don't see what you're looking for at the first stop, just walk a little.

BOTTOM LINE: Not too remarkable or too chocolatey, but on a summer day on the Jersey Shore, Kohr's hits the spot.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Roh-Kaolade 60% with Spurulina

So I am mostly vegan now, which makes people do strange things.  My aunt wanted to buy me a bar of chocolate.  So instead of buying me a bar of chocolate, which is already vegan, she bought me this:

"Raw" chocolate with spirulina.  Now, if you are like me, this sounds like a terrible and unnecessary idea.  But sometimes bad ideas have happy endings.  This was actually really delicious?  It did not taste like spirulina -- it just made the chocolate taste nice and earthy, which I always like.

Bottom Line: When your teachers told you to make mistakes, I think this is what they were talking about.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New York Naturals Coconut Cacao Kale Chips

Someone left this in the office kitchen for anyone who wanted it...

because it is easily the worst-tasting food product on this planet.


Lindt 90%, Theo 85%, Chocolove 77%, and Green and Black 70%

So I ate some chocolate bars and didn't take pictures.  Here are some quick thought:

Theo's 85% bar is disappointing.  I often find 85% bars disappointing, and I'm not sure why.  I think maybe they are just sweet enough that you don't get the Pure Chocolate Feeling of 90% but still bitter enough that the sweet taste feels a bit fruity?  Or in this case raisin-y?  Or maybe I just call everything I don't like either "fruity" or "raisiny" as a post-hoc explanation?  I'm not sure.  I think I'm still bitter that they discontinued their 91% special edition Venezuelan-origin bar, which was maybe the best bar I've ever had.  That said, I usually like Theo, so maybe just avoid this bar.

Green and Black's 70% was much better.  There was really nothing special about it, but it tasted like 70% chocolate, which, when you think about it, is something really damned special about it.  I'll eat that stuff all day.

I also had Lindt's 90% (for the 100th time since I reviewed it) and Chocolove's 77% (for the first time since I reviewed it), and my opinions were unchanged.

This is also a good time to talk a little bit about tempering and chocolate storage.  All these bars were purchased at bodegas.  Bodegas increasingly have a good selection of chocolate, but they do not do a good job of storing them.  As a result, they freeze or melt (as the season demands) and then reform "good as new."  But it's not good as new, and you can tell.  They lose their shine and their snap, and there is often white bloom all over them.  But worse is the texture problem.  You bite in, and they crumble in your mouth.  Or they are waxy.  In fact, the reason I went so long without eating a Green and Black bar was because I used to buy them in bodegas, and they were super waxy and gross.  This bodega had done a better job of storage, and the bar was leagues better.  In contrast, the Lindt bar's texture was all wrong -- Duane Reade's perfect air conditioning generally keeps the bars in much better shape than whichever bodega served me the bar more recently.

Bottom Line: Where you buy the bar of chocolate can be almost as important as which bar you buy.  Unfortunately, there's no good way to find out a shop's ability to store chocolate until you open the bar.  But once you do, it's important to keep track.

Alter Ego 60%

 I ate this:

It was actually quite good.  It was a little fruity, which is not my favorite thing, but I still liked it.  The mini size is nice for when you don't want to have regrets over eating a full-size chocolate bar like some kind of animal named David.

Bottom Line: Nothing mind-blowing, and a bit fruity-tasting, but a nice dessert.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

L'Albero dei Gelati

When I first heard there was going to be a new gelato place in Park Slope, I have to admit I was dubious. I mean, this is Park Slope in the year 2013. It's not a neighborhood lacking for gelato. This new place was opening within a few blocks of two of my most beloved dessert venues, Culture and Caramello, so I just didn't see what new things it could bring to the table. The dessert table, so to speak.

But now that I have been to L'Albero dei Gelati, I will never doubt again. This place is awesome. It's owned and run by a couple from Milan; this is their first outpost in the United States. The gelato here is top-notch. Most of the media surrounding this place has focused on the savory gelato flavors that they offer, but let's get serious: all that matters is the quality of their chocolate gelato, which is superb. The texture is exactly right.

And they don't just sell gelato in this place. They have actual food, like classy, delightful meat and cheese platters. Obviously I didn't get those, because I was focusing my appetite on chocolate. But they also offer delicious pastries, cookies, cakes, and mousse. Here, for example, is a crispy nut cookie sandwich with a thick, nutella-like filling.

This thing is also awesome, and it only cost $2.25! There was a large selection of similarly delicious looking basked goods that I need to go back to try. Oh, and I need to go back soon because there is a beautiful backyard garden that I need to sit in.

BOTTOM LINE: A neighborhood can never have too many good chocolate options.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Barrington Brewery Chocolate Cake

Friend of Chocolate NYC Emily has been talking about Barrington Brewery's chocolate stout layer cake for years. The weekend before last, we finally got to eat it.

This cake has appeared in Bon Appetit magazine, which also provides the recipe, if you are a daring baker and want to try it yourself.

As you can tell, this cake is massive. I mean, I've seen babies smaller than this cake. One slice costs $7 and it's worth every penny. Emily and I split it and we couldn't finish it in one go.

I am usually not a cake person because I tend to find cake too dry, but this was almost brownie-like in its consistency, and that is a high compliment. It's still drier than a brownie, of course, but that just comes with the territory of being cake.

The frosting is the real winner here. Oh my gosh. This chocolate frosting! Perfect.

BOTTOM LINE: If you're going to the Berkshires, you should try a slice of this cake. Just find one or two people to split it with you first.

Monday, August 12, 2013

City Bakery Cookies Redux

Leila does not like City Bakery cookies.  I have gone on record as loving their melted chocolate cookie.  But I finally got around to reviewing their regular chocolate chip cookies:

They are good.  The problem is that they are crispy.  I think gooey is the more preferred option.  Especially because if your cookie is crispy that definitely means there is not enough chocolate in them.  There was not enough chocolate in these.  But there was still more chocolate in them then average, and that chocolate was really great.  So I actually think these are decent chocolate chip cookies for a chocolate lover, though maybe they are not the best cookies for a cookie lover.

I also received some of the vegan chocolate chip cookies:

The real problem here was that there was less chocolate.  I don't know why that happened.  I'd've done the opposite, since probably the cookie part is harder to make.  But maybe they had problems getting it to stick together with lots of chocolate and no egg.  In any case, these were actually not bad, but definitely not as good as the non-vegan version.

Bottom Line: Good cookies for a chocolate lover, but room for improvement in that there should still be more chocolate.

Chocolate at Belmont: featuring Noi Sirius 45%, Wild Ophelia Southern Hibiscus Peach, Patric "Columbia Art Bar" 70%, Jelina Chocolatier "Noir Dark" 72%, and Theo Almond Sea Salt

I went to the Belmont Stakes a while ago, and obviously I brought chocolate.  And obviously my friends did too.

Here is one chocolate:

I've never been much of a fan of nuts in my chocolate.  I honestly did not particularly appreciate the almonds in this bar.  But I must say that I didn't really mind them too much.  The chocolate was really excellent -- Theo always does a great job -- and the nuts were unobtrusive.  The chocolateyness, as always, was key.

The biggest disappointed was the Noi Sirius 45% bar.  Especially because I love Noi Sirius.  Really, it was my fault.  I saw 45% and expected milk chocolate.  I tend to prefer dark to milk, but sometimes I am in the mood for milk chocolate.  But here's the thing: 45% dark chocolate is way too sweet.  As someone used to 90%+, this was difficult for me to eat in the way I imagine my high-percentage bars are difficult for the lay chocolate eater.

I did manage to succeed in getting one bar of milk chocolate: The Wild Ophelia Southern Hibiscus Peach bar.  

It was 41% chocolate -- almost as much cacao as in the Noi Sirius -- but with the milk and peach, it had way less sugar.  The peach was honestly a bit too subtle -- which may have been a blessing as this was a weird experiment -- but the bar was delicious, and we wolfed it down in about 5 seconds.

Next came the Patric Columbia Art Bar, which was just a 70% dark chocolate bar with a fancy name.

This was a solid chocolate bar -- definitely recommended -- but not as good as the Mint OMG.

Last, we went with the Jelina Chocolatier "Noir Dark" 72%.  I am always dubious of companies that use high-percentage sounding names for mid-percentage bars.  But good thing I did not prejudge here.

This was probably the best bar of the bunch, at least in my opinion.  It was not too fancy, but had a nice rich taste.  I look forward to trying more Jelina-brand bars in the future!

Bottom Line: This might not sound like the most successful haul, but if you knew how badly I did at the race track, you'd see how this was sort of the highlight of my afternoon.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

La Maison du Chocolat's Chocolate Mousse and Bonbons

La Maison du Chocolat makes chocolate mousse:

Now, as we know, La Maison du Chocolat does everything well.  This is an exception only in that it is good even for La Maison du Chocolat.  Definitely one of the top-5 chocolate mousses in NYC.  Woo.

So, while there, Angel and I got into an argument.  I insisted that the best bon bon there was the Caracas -- Venezuelan origin.  Angel insisted it was Akasambo -- Ghana origin.  We had both tried both, and both liked both -- these are two of the best bon bons in NYC -- but we were both EXTREMELY insistent.  So we did a blind taste test.

I predicted the result perfectly: we each preferred the other's pick.

Importantly, her taste set had Caracas first and mine had Akasambo first.  Now this actually gave me a thought.  I think, in chocolate taste tests, the first items tasted have an unfair advantage.  Because when you first taste a piece of chocolate, you're like, "CHOCOLATE!!!"  But then when you second taste a piece of chocolate and have to compare them, maybe you are like, "How can anything compare to that?"  And then you eat it and you are like, "Oh wait, that is good.  Hmmm...."  But then you remember "CHOCOLATE!!!" and then pick that because your second reaction was not as excited.

Bottom Line: Chocolate NYC: we have some theories.  Usually they are better thought out than this.  But great mousse!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Cinnamon Snail's Death by Chocolate

So this is actually vegan:

Also, maybe more surprisingly: it's extremely chocolatey?  I mean, just look at all that not-chocolate going on in there!  But seriously, it was incredibly chocolatey and delicious!  This ranks among my top donuts of all time, vegan or otherwise.  Though Doughnut Plant might still have it beat.

Bottom Line: Even if you are not vegan, you should consume as many of these delicious greaseballs as you can get your grubby little paws on.

Food Emporiun: featuring Chocolate Santander 70% and Chuao Salted Chocolate Crunch

Food Emporium has an often-underrated chocolate selection.  In fact, they have an entire chocolate shop on the Upper East Side.  But here are a couple bars I got when stopping by in Union Square:

I had never tried Chocolate Santander, but I was more than pleasantly surprised -- it was really great!  Richly chocolatey, but with interesting notes.  I'm bad at distinguishing Colombian chocolate, but now I am convinced that this is what Colombian chocolate is supposed to taste like.

I had tried Chuao once before, and I was disappointed.  But that surprised me, and it had been a while, so I gave them another shot.  This almost never works for me.  I am pretty consistent.  But guys: I totally loved this bar!  One of the few things that goes well with chocolate is bread, because bread is an amazing substance that goes with literally everything.  And the sea salt was very light -- just enough to make it a salty/sweet addictive situation, where you sort of tear through it ravenously as if it were M&Ms or something.  But without the regret!

Bottom Line: Two really great chocolate bars from an underrated chocolate supplier.  If you want to shove an entire dark chocolate bar down your throat and never look back, Chuao Salted Chocolate Crunch has to be among my top recommendations.  Santander is just a really good quality bar that you similarly will not regret.