Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Eddie's Sweet Shop

The weather this weekend was beautiful, and beautiful weather means one thing: ice cream. I was tromping around Forest Park, in Queens, an outdoor space that I selected for my tromping because of its proximity to Eddie's Sweet Shop.

This is what Eddie's Sweet Shop looks like:

It's close to a century old and has a wonderful old-fashioned vibe, complete with classic frozen concoctions like malts, egg creams, and massive banana splits heaped with homemade whipped cream. Apparently an episode of Boardwalk Empire was shot here. These dudes have been here since Eddie's opened:

I ordered a float, which is a milkshake of the flavor of your choice, poured atop a scoop of ice cream, again the flavor of your choice. I got a scoop of mint chocolate chip floating in a chocolate shake. You know, because I am so unpredictable. Here is what my float looked like when it arrived at my table:

Here is what my float looked like about ten minutes later:

I will say that the quality of the ice cream was okay. It wasn't intensely flavorful, like Fresco. It didn't have a lot of crazy flavors, like Ample Hills. "Maple Walnut" was about as crazy as it got, here at Eddie's.

But I forgave them all of this because they were not trying for the artisan food crowd. They predate that nonsense (nonsense that David and I fully embrace, obviously), and they may outlast it, as well. They're an old-fashioned soda shop. The place was filled with a elementary school girls' soccer team who'd just won a match, and parents who were getting scoops for their kids while buying giant sundaes for themselves. It's okay that the chocolate ice cream wasn't made from Michel Cluizel 72% or whatever. It still made me feel happy.

BOTTOM LINE: The ice cream itself is adequate, and the ice cream-eating experience is a true delight.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Nunu 70%

At a subsequent trip to Treehaus, I picked up a Nunu 70% bar, which I liked better than the chocolate covered graham cracker.  I ate it with some other stuff, and it was nice and chocolatey, with a mild coffee flavor.  Exactly what I wanted.

With a clean pallet it was not quite as great -- it had a slightly acidic taste.  But I still enjoyed it.

Bottom Line: A nice, local 70% bar.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Treehaus: Featuring Nunu, Mast Brothers, and Tumbador (among others)

Manhattan Espresso Cafe was around the corner from my previous job, and they sold all sorts of secondary market deliciousnesses.  My current go-to is Treehaus.  Aside from baked goods and other great things, they sell chocolates by Nunu, Mast, and Tumbador:

I bought some Nunu chocolate-covered graham crackers.  They were good.  As described.  They didn't blow me away.

From Mast, I bought a black truffle sea salt bar.  Like with Nunu, I thought it was very good, but I didn't really get the hype.  Everyone with whom I shared it, though, did get the hype.  It was a bit salty and fruity for me.

Surprisingly, the winner for me was the Tumbador Mint Crunch, with nibs.  This is obvious, because I ate it too quickly to get a picture of the bar itself.  Readers will know Leila and my fondness for mint and nibs, so this might not be surprising.  It might not be the best mint bar in NYC, but it's yet another darn good version.

Bottom Line: This isn't even scratching the surface of Treehaus' sweet offerings, to say nothing of their savories.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Trader Joe's chocolate-covered peanut butter pretzels

Chocolate-covered peanut butter pretzels are the greatest thing Trader Joe's has ever done. Possibly, they are the greatest thing anyone has ever done, at least at a $3.29 price point. They are exactly the right size, exactly the right mixture of salty and sweet, exactly the right chocolate to peanut butter to pretzel ratio, and exactly the right amount of crispiness. Whenever I bite into one of these, I think to myself, "The world can't be all bad, after all."

BOTTOM LINE: An anytime snack that will fill you with optimism, joy, and peanut butter.

Moonstruck Chocolates, E. Guitard 91% Bar

Remember how I have good friends?  Well that's still true.  One of these wonderful human beings was in the Pacific Northwest and brought me back some spoils.  I had specifically requested to try Moonstruck Chocolates, from Portland:  

They did not disappoint.  The chocolate mousse bonbon was particularly exceptional, but all were quite nice.

My friend also picked up an E. Guittard 91% bar.  

I had skipped Guittard on my San Francisco trip, because they are sufficiently available in NYC.  I have always thought Guittard perfectly serviceable but nothing special.  This bar had the advantage of being at my favorite percentage, so I quite enjoyed it, but among 91% bars it pretty much fit the Guittard mold.  

They do a nice job.  It's not too fancy, and it doesn't have any weird, unpleasant tastes, but they don't get the super-rich chocolatey flavor that the best bars do.  Overall a nice experience, but if you are in the market for a 90% bar, I might recommend Dolceria Bonajuto.

Bottom Line: I am still in favor of having friends.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Saturday was my birthday!

Here is a partial selection of the gifts I received:

Not pictured: four cookies from Levain Bakery (one of each flavor), artisanal caramels with a yet-to-be-determined origin, a bunch of retro candy from a retro candy store in Red Hook, a chocolate iced drink from the Coffee Bean & more! Reviews on all to come.

BOTTOM LINE: If you don't already run a chocolate blog, you should really start one prior to your own birthday. It will pay off in dividends.


Peacefoods is a well-respected vegan restaurant and bakery on the Upper West Side.  It's just a block down from Flor De Mayo -- maybe my favorite restaurant in the city -- so I often find myself here for dessert.

On a recent trip I picked up a chocolate chocolate chip cookie in addition to the brownie that I usually get.  The cookie honestly was not all that impressive, but the brownie is wonderful.  It's a great size -- about two or three bites -- and priced accordingly (less than $2).  Plus, if it wasn't obvious, it's vegan.

Bottom Line:  I honestly cannot think of a single reason to pass by Peacefoods without stopping in to grab a brownie.  I mean, even if you're being chased by the cops, maybe you can lose them by ducking in?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dagoba Mint, Lindt 90%, and Vosges Bacon

So here is a pretty normal evening for me.  Go see a friend play some music, hang out afterwards, buy three bars of chocolate, go somewhere with some people, and finish the chocolate in like five minutes.  So recently I did that with these three bars:

So here is some useful advice for the serious chocolate lover in a bind.  My favorite chocolate bar that you can purchase at Duane Reade is the Lindt 90% bar.  

It's super high percentage but not bitter.  I'm sure they do something super unnatural to make it so mild, but I'm not complaining.  Whatever they do really brings out the chocolate flavor.

The other bar I found -- not at Duane Reade -- was the Dagoba Mint bar.  It was not bad, but we have reviewed so many excellent mint bars that it is hard to recommend this too strongly.  But if you are out of mint options and have a craving, you will not be disappointed.

I don't eat bacon, but my friends do.  I love Vosges, so I picked up their bacon bar for everyone else.  It was a pretty big hit

Bottom Line: I continue to survive in the face of adversity.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


On my way home from Nairobi, I spent a day in Istanbul.  And, obviously, by "a day in Istanbul," I mean "a day in Istanbul eating chocolate.

Take Off:

As soon as I landed in the airport, I got some Turkish ice cream from "Take Off."  This was definitely extremely authentic, you guys.  I am pretty sure everyone in Turkey eats Take Off ice cream for dessert at home every day.

Anyways, I think this is supposed to be sorta chewier than regular ice cream?  I mostly ate it to calm down, after realizing that the first stamp in my passport is from Israel, and maybe that won't go over too well with the border guards.  Little did I know that the Turkish passport control could not possibly have cared less.  All they wanted was $20.

Gold Chocolate:

So I arrived.  I did some touristy stuff.  But my first chocolate shop was Gold.  They had some serviceable bon bons.  And they had a bar of 61.5% dark chocolate that Leila and I ate as part of a Turkish Taste Test. I ranked it third of five, and Leila ranked it last.  We agreed that it was chocolate and therefore good.  But we also agreed that next to the other options in front of us, it failed to impress.  It was a bit floral.  Leila does not like floral, but I do.

This was not the only thing that was Gold in Istanbul:

Mabel Chocolate:

Next stop was Mabel.  Fortunately, I bought just a bar, because it was not good.  It had a weird astringency, it had an after taste that we charitably described as "not nice," and it was too sweet.  Leila ranked it fourth, and I ranked it last.

Haci Bekir:

I decided to shake things up and buy some Turkish delight from the famous Haci Bekir.  Chocolate-covered Turkish delight, OBVIOUSLY:

So I tore into some chocolate-covered, mint-flavored Turkish delight while taking a ferry to Asia.  It was almost lunch time, and I had only been on two continents so far that day.  Need to step up my game:

so many birds

So here's the thing about this Turkish delight.  It was delicious.  But by the time I was almost ready to put them down, they made me SUPER ill.  It was a very m&m-like experience.  True to form, these were made from about 98% artificial ingredients.

They also had some plain chocolates (adequate) and non-mint flavored, chocolate-covered Turkish delight (slightly more delicious and slightly less sickening).


As far as I can tell, Baylan is the most  famous chocolate/sweets place on the Asian side of Istanbul.  And indeed it had a lot going for it.  The macaron was completely adequate, and the milk chocolate bonbon was good.

The bar was polarizing.  They told me it was plain dark chocolate, and that was a lie.  It had pistachios in it.  Leila loved it, pronouncing it her favorite of the five bars.  It ranked fourth for me, solely because of the pistachios.  The chocolate was of good quality.

Kahve Dunyasi:

I then proceeded to get myself extremely lost.  I think I took 4 different ferries, all of them were wrong.  But I finally found my way to a Kahve Dunyasi.  This seems to be the Turkish equivalent to Starbucks, if Starbucks were equally about coffee and chocolate.  I liked the hot chocolate there about as much as I do at Starbucks -- meaning that it is surprisingly good for what it is, but it still is what it is.  Leila might like Starbucks better than I do.

But their bar was excellent!  It was far from artisanal -- it use vanillin rather than vanilla, for example.  But it was a super rich 56%.  There was a slight hint of coffee, but it was mostly just very chocolatey.  I ranked it first of five, and Leila ranked it second.


I made my way from Kahve Dunyasi to the Taksim area, intending to stop by M Chocolate at the Marmara Taksim, but I ran into Gezi about a block away.  If this had been Paris, I would have kept my eyes on the prize, but I have had some fortuitous, random chocolate stops, and this was among them:

I got a milk chocolate bonbon and a marzipan bonbon, and both were excellent.  Two of the best bonbons of the trip!  

M Chocolate, Marmara Taksim:

The only ones that could compete were those at M.  Now, M is a different beast from every other chocolate shop in Istanbul.  This place is fancy by French standards.  It's in a hotel lobby.  There are lots of gloves involved.  And yes, those gloves are white.

picture not taken at the place of purchase
Both the honey bonbon and the hazelnut bonbon were excellent.  I also got their 61.5% bar (a popular percentage in Istanbul apparently?), with nibs.  The nibs added a nice flavor and texture.  The bar was good, but no better than, say, the store-bought Scharfen Berger bar with nibs.  It was my second favorite bar and Leila's third favorite.

Karakoy Gulluoglu:

Gulluoglu is a famous baklava chain in Istanbul subject to some sort of family feud.  Everyone told me I needed to try it, but apparently it's a big enough chain that there is a branch a couple blocks from my office in NYC, so I didn't sweat it.  But I met up with my local friend Aycan -- who wound up being an unsurprisingly wonderful host -- and she took me here afterwards.  This was apparently to the original location?  Or maybe just the only one not subject to the family feud?  I dunno.  I do know it was delicious.  They even had chocolate baklava!  Yes yes yes.  Unfortunately, my phone was too dead to take any photos.

Vakko Chocolate:

I had heard about Vakko Chocolate, but they didn't seem to have a centrally located shop.  What good fortune finding some at the airport on the way home!:

Well, sort of.  It was fine, but nothing special.


The biggest tragedy of my trip had been that, because I took so many wrong ferries, I had arrived at Divan right after it closed.  It looked really great, too.  But fortune was smiling upon me, because they were sold at the airport too!:

These were good -- definitely better than the Vakko -- but somehow I felt that it would have been better fresh in the store.  It was nice having some milk chocolate, though, in the face of all the mediocre dark chocolate bars.

Bottom Line: Istanbul is technically in Europe (mostly), but do not expect Parisian quality.  That said, there are a ton of locally made chocolate products, so it is a great city to explore.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Verdigris Tea and Chocolate Bar in Hudson, New York

We have been fans of Verdigris Tea and Chocolate Bar in Hudson, New York, ever since a friend of the blog gave us a delicious Christopher Norman bar from there, many months ago.

Recently, I made my own trip to the Chocolate Bar to see it for myself. Here's what I found:

Baked goods!

A program where you can sign up and get chocolate shipped to you every month! Genius. If anyone is wondering what to get me and David for our birthdays (which are, by the way, both going on this month), now you know. We'd like a chocolate subscription.


A massive assortment of delicious bars and candies from nearby chocolatiers, including some of our favorites from New York City itself. Verdigris has done an excellent job selecting which chocolates to carry, and I know because I've tasted many of these at the annual Chocolate Show.

The hot chocolate list was the most exciting part for me. You know I almost always go in for a good Mexican hot chocolate. But then I saw the words "Angelina on the Hudson," and I felt my heart begin to pound.

You may recall that David went to Angelina a couple months ago. It's in Paris and it has the most amazing hot chocolate in possibly the world. Even David thought so, and he is hard to impress. I have been to Angelina only once, years ago, and I have never stopped craving it's hot chocolate since then.

So when I saw "Angelina on the Hudson" listed on the Chocolate Bar's drinks menu, naturally I was curious. And hopeful.

"Why is that drink called 'Angelina'?" I asked the woman at the counter.

"I don't know," she said. "I guess that's just its name."

I raised my eyebrows at her.

"Do you want me to ask the owner?" she offered.

Yes. Obviously I do.

The owner came out from the back. She was a woman who obviously knew her chocolate very well, a quality that I greatly respect in people. "It's named Angelina after this place in Paris..." she began.

That was all I needed to hear.

The Angelina on the Hudson hot chocolate was very good. Very rich and sugary. It was probably not as good as the real Angelina hot chocolate-- hard for me to say, because it's been years since I was at the real Angelina.

Regardless, I love that there's a chocolatier in New York that's trying to emulate my favorite hot chocolate in Paris. You can't find everything in New York. But if you're willing to try, you can come pretty darn close.

BOTTOM LINE: If you are within a twenty-mile radius of Verdigris Tea and Chocolate Bar, you would be a fool not to go. Maybe even a thirty-mile radius.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Offerings in Nairobi

I lived in Nairobi for the month of January, and the chocolate pickings were slim.  So slim that my friend Annie imported this Frango stuff:

And actually devoured it:

It wasn't bad, but certainly not import-worthy.  But in comparison to what was available locally, Guylian-aside, I can't say I really blamed her.

In addition to Guylian were Guylian knock-offs, branded "Beglian."

They actually weren't terrible.  I mean, they were chocolate.  They had vanillin, but they were relatively legit.  Can't say I would pick one up if I had other options.

There were these Beacon-branded mint things.  Er... "thins":

Also edible, but they were no Thin Mints.  Heck, they were no peppermint patties.

Also these "bon bon chocolates":

I still don't know what it was, but it was awful.

One time, there was one of these bars at Nakumatt:

Not only was it fancy looking, but it had arrived in Nairobi within 3 years of its production, which honestly impressed me.  That said, the bar didn't.  It was too fruity.  Sorry "Chocolat Stella, original Swiss chocolate."

Bottom Line:  It's not like you're going to Nairobi for the chocolate, so come prepared with your own stash.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chocolate Goat Cheese Truffles

I got these at the farmer's market in Union Square:

You, too, should get these at the farmer's market in Union Square.

Bottom Line: Why are you still reading this?  You should be on your way to Union Square by now.  For your sake, I sincerely hope you are using the mobile internet.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


This blog has had a lot of discussion about our favorite candy.  Well, since childhood, this has been my pick:

It's surprising, because I'm normally a purist, but it's not TOO surprising, because it's extremely delicious.  And those Belgians really do know how to do hazelnut praline.

So I think over the years, Guylian has cut out the partially hydrogenated oils from this product.  I remember that being a leading ingredient when I was younger, but now the most unnatural thing seems to be vanillin.  Honestly, though, I don't even care what's in it, which is what makes it candy.  It is simply DELICIOUS.
I spent a month in Nairobi, and the pickings there were unsurprisingly slim.  But the Nakumatt -- think East African Walmart -- carried Guylian's, so I was safe.  They even had a decent dark chocolate bar -- unlike the sugarfree ones they offer in the US.  This is what I survived on when I was running out of my last fancy European bars and then a dog ate the remainder.

Bottom Line:  David's vote for best candy.

Monday, April 8, 2013

16 Hundles

16 Handles is a chain of frozen yogurt stores.  16 Hundles is apparently their branch in the East Village:

There is some case to be made that this says "16 Hindles," but I am 99% sure it says "Hundles."
Anyways, I'm usually an ice cream/gelato snob.  I don't much care for frozen yogurt.  But I went here with a friend, because why not.  Their yogurt was about as boring as expected.  But then this happened:

Cookie dough, mochi, chocolate chips, brownies, graham cracker crumbs, and hot fudge.

Ok, I get it now.  Sorry for doubting you, trendy frozen yogurt chain.

Bottom Line: I guess sometimes going the healthy route pays off.