Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Seattle Chocolates: #ChocolateGives

If there is one thing we love here at Chocolate NYC, it's holidays. That's because everyone else thinks it's a great idea to eat, make, and give chocolate things on holidays. We happen to know that every day is a great day for chocolate, but some other people need a "special occasion," and that is A-OK by us.

The Christmas/Hanukkah season is perhaps the best time of year for the gift of chocolate, as Seattle Chocolates has figured out. This December they're running a campaign called #ChocolateGives: you purchase chocolates from them, or just post something using the hashtag, and they will donate food to someone in need through food pantries in Seattle, Boston, San Francisco, and New York. You get to be charitable and eat chocolate at the same time. It's a win-win situation.

So how is the chocolate, you want to know? I'll tell you: it is very good.

They offer a variety of bonbons, my favorite being the candy cane ones: you can't go wrong with dark chocolate with peppermint flecks. I would eat these every day. They have a bazillion other flavors of bonbon, if mint isn't your thing: sea salt and peanut butter and fruit fillings of all sorts, sone dark and some milk chocolate, so you can get whatever floats your personal boat.

They take a few risks with their "truffle bars," some of which pay off, and some of which do not. I was unimpressed by the Birthday Cake one--it had too many ingredients and tasted too sweet, though I am not the target audience for white chocolate under any circumstances. The dark bars, on the other hand, are lovely, and I'd definitely recommend them.

BOTTOM LINE: I would eat this chocolate even if doing so didn't contribute to charity. The fact that it does (or that it will through the end of the month, anyway) is just icing on the proverbial cake.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Baci Perugina Double Layer Candy Bar

You probably know Perugina from their famous Baci chocolate hazelnut-filled "kisses":

But they now have a NEW product, called a Baci double layer candy bar, and they sent us a few bars to try because they are awesome. So this package showed up in the mail:

What is inside the package? These things!

And what is inside that wrapping? This!

As you may have predicted from the name "double layer candy bar," these bars have, ahem, two layers. In the dark chocolate bars, one layer is dark chocolate, the other is hazelnut chocolate, and in the middle are actual hazelnuts. The milk chocolate bars are the same, only with a milk chocolate layer in place of the hazelnut layer.

The hazelnuts added a great textural element, making this extremely edible. I went through a bar much faster than I'd anticipated. It is very much for candy lovers: the chocolate is sweet and straightforward. Even the dark chocolate bars are only 51%, and they're counterbalanced by the gianduia layer, making this a bar that's much better for the milk chocolate fan than for someone looking for an intense dark chocolate flavor. I could see this going over big with the Toblerone crowd.

BOTTOM LINE: A classy candy bar perfect for fans of sweet chocolate, and of chocolate with pieces of hazelnut in it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

La Maison du Chocolat Valentine's and Easter Collection

Sorry not to have updated regularly, but here is some good news: La Maison du Chocolat's Valentine's and Easter collections!

First of all, La Maison has 4 special bonbons for Valentine's 2015.  Apparently these are developed, like, a year in advance, and initially conceived about a year before that.  Each year has a theme, and this year's is caramel:

All four were good and interesting.  My favorite, unsurprisingly, was the plain dark chocolate bonbon, sourced from a plantation in Venezuela whose beans gave a strong caramel flavor note.  Apparently, many people did a double-take, thinking there was caramel in there.  I didn't, but I did love it.

My second favorite, surprisingly, was the milk chocolate.  It has some rooibos tea and some other good stuff.  An interesting taste that was still both chocolatey and playful.

I did not get to taste the Easter design, but wow:

Check out the detail on the "leather"!  This is all carved by hand!:

Not many of these are made, and each takes a full day, done in assembly line fashion.  It's delivered to the various shops in several pieces, and then "glued" together with ganache.

Bottom Line: La Maison du Chocolat is good enough to get us blogging again.

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.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Convivium Osteria

Apparently, we are on a desserts that taste like Lara Bars kick, because this chocolate, fig, and walnut cake (called a "frustingolo") from Convivium Osteria in Park Slope also tasted like a Lara Bar.

BOTTOM LINE: There was a flourless chocolate cake option. This is what I get for trying to branch out from flourless chocolate cake.

Brief ice cream round-up: Coolhaus and L'Arte del Gelato

It's after Memorial Day, which means we are in full-on ice-cream-every-day-until-October mode. A quick recap of some of the ice creams we're eating:

First, Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches.

This particular one is dirty mint chip ice cream between double chocolate cookies. Coolhaus is a food truck, and it has more adventurous flavors you can try (like Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch cookies, and Fried Chicken and Waffles ice cream). And they have more chocolatey flavor combinations, as we have eaten previously. But this one hit the spot. Fresh mint, chewy chocolatey cookie, and I am happy.

Next up, L'Arte Del Gelato. Continuing in my mint-and-chocolate flavor combination craze, this is a scoop of mint chip gelato with a scoop of Valrhona chocolate gelato. I got it from the L'Arte del Gelato stand on the Highline.

It's okay. I mean, if you're nearby, and you're in the mood for gelato, definitely eat it. But I have to agree with David: I've eaten L'Arte del Gelato a number of times and have never been blown away. There is gelato in this city that I would journey to eat--L'Albero dei Gelati, for example--but L'Arte del Gelato is not one of them.

BOTTOM LINE: Thank goodness it is ice cream season at last. I mean, I was eating a lot of ice cream even when it wasn't ice cream season. But at least now that feels more culturally desirable.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Russ and Daughters Cafe

Our beloved Russ and Daughters has recently opened a cafe, so naturally I went to check it out and order all the chocolatey things on the menu.

The cafe is really lovely, all clean and white decor, delicious bagels and challah. It feels very soothing. It is also super-crowded, probably because it is still so new. I managed to secure a table by showing up for brunch around 3:45 in the afternoon. Feel free to employ this technique.

Elyse got an egg cream:

Classic U-Bet syrup, milk, soda. I tasted a sip and it was chocolatey. I can't say any more than that because I don't like fizzy beverages. It cost $7.

We also split a chocolate babka french toast:

UM, what can I say about this. It was freaking delicious. I used the word "perfect" while I was eating it. It's the perfect crispy-soft texture. No gross eggy bits. Just warm, moist, somehow slightly crispy on the outside, very chocolatey bread product. Emily theorized that maybe they didn't fully bake the babka, and that's how it stayed so moist when they french toasted it. It's a good theory. All I can say for sure is that I loved it.

Unfortunately, it costs $10. Before tax and tip. And then there's that previously mentioned long wait for a table, most of the time. After brunch someone asked me if it had been "worth it," and I found this a hard question to answer. It was expensive, for a small piece of chocolate french toast. But can you really put a price on perfection?

BOTTOM LINE: Definitely go to Russ & Daughters Cafe. Ideally, go on someone else's dime.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Where is your favorite place of worship?

Mine is in Heathrow:

(photo courtesy of my brother)

Bottom Line: I'm pretty ready to support dark chocolate in a holy war against the imposter chocolate faiths.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Raw Hemp Brownie from Organic Grill

That's no brownie.  It's a Larabar.

Bottom Line:  Though I guess we do like Larabars...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mast Brothers dark chocolate with sea salt bar

You may be looking at this chocolate bar and thinking, "Well, that doesn't look all that attractive to me. That wrapper does't look like a jaunty shirt worn by Ralph Lauren on his sailboat." And to you I say, "That's because I tore through three-quarters of the bar before I stopped to take a photo. Of course it looks bedraggled now."

There is a LOT of sea salt in here, and it works great. It reminds me of what I like about dark chocolate pretzels. A great salty-sweet combo.

BOTTOM LINE: Mast Brothers does it again!

Chocolate Bar iced hot chocolate

Earlier this week, the temperature rose to 70 degrees for a brief but glorious afternoon (before it started raining). That meant it was at last time for my go-to summertime beverage: the Chocolate Bar's iced hot chocolate.

BOTTOM LINE: I have missed you, warm weather. And I have missed your beverages.

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!