Friday, April 28, 2006

MarieBelle's Spring Showers
When my boyfriend brought home Maribel Lieberman’s limited edition Spring Showers Box, featuring a reproduction of the "Umbrellas in the Spring" print by her husband and artist Jaques Lieberman, my eyes completely lit up. Mrs. Lieberman, chocolatier, designer and founder is clearly a proponent of the marriage between good design and fine chocolate which, as an illustrator by trade, and chocolate enthusiast by hobby, happens to be the perfect incarnation of my two loves. Made of premium dark, milk and white chocolate and up to 72% cocoa content, each lovely design corresponds to it’s own luscious indulgence. You get to customize your box when you buy them from her Broome Street boutique. My box contains such flavors as: capirhinia, cardamom, champagne and espresso. Unfortunately, they’re simply too pretty to eat! If you’re expecting a full report, you may have to wait until I bring myself to bite through all of that gorgeous design.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Band-Aid Break
I don’t have a thing against milk chocolate, especially when it’s brilliantly packaged. For life's emotional bumps and bruises, CHOC-AID deliveres the perfect remedy. 10 milk-chocolate bandages manufactured in Colombia for Lemberger Candy Corp., come individually wrapped so you can stuff a few in your pocket. I found them at Chelsea Market Baskets on 9th Avenue. The web site is also a fantastic place to find customized chocolate gifts. Enjoy!

Friday, April 21, 2006

NYC Chocolate Meetup

Thanks to chocolate critic and chocophile Clay Gordon and, a slightly nerdy (nerd is the new sexy) phenomenon sweeping the nation that manages to inspire online communities of cyber geeks and Gen Xers to get off their arses and socialize, I was a part of the first ever Meetup for The NY Metro Chocolate Meetup Group. We met at Chocolat Michel Cluizel Boutique, a hidden oasis of haute chocolate and elixir. Surrounded by two restaurants, this best kept secret is the perfect place for dessert dating. For $15, I received tons of tips on chocolate tasting, history and production and best of all, enjoyed champagne with about 30 other chocolate enthusiasts. We all got to taste our choice of Michel Cluizel confections. I picked the Earl Grey with dark choccolate ganache as the little purple ship printed on the top appealed to my aesthetic senses. The Cluizel staff was very informed and suggested that I let the chocolate warm before tasting as the tea flavor is very subtle. In fact, we learned that all chocolate should be tasted above room temperature (at about 68-72 degrees as aromatics are generated when chocolate melts). The cocoa content originated from about 9 different plantations from all over the world and was at about 60%. The chocolate was hands down, the best I’ve had in quite awhile and blended with the bergamont flavor of Earl Grey perfectly. I also chose to taste the Madagascan dark chocolate ganache from the Palet Av Cacaos Des Pures Origines. It was simply divine: a rich, long lasting, mouth coating cocoa flavor with natural hints of tropical fruit. Additionally we received two mysterious dark chocolates shaped like little Easter eggs from Chuao for simultaneous group tasting. Turns out, they were infused with extra virgin olive oil, citrus peel and sundried tomato, which a few of us mistook for dried cherries upon first tasting. I found them to be surprisingly yummy. The beginning taste of olive oil and chocolate was complimentary and smooth and coated the tongue nicely. The not-so-subtle taste of sundried tomato was acidic and tangy without being unpleasant or salty. The citrus wasn’t so evident, but was more present in the lingering aftertaste. If you’re into chocolate, or just plain indulgence, and you're in town next month you should check it out, it's fun.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Crummy Cookies
I so love that the Crummy Brothers (nod to Josh Spear for introducing us to the super cool company) gave the chocolate chip cookie a posh new look. The sophisticated flavors like Lemon Ginger Chocolate Chip and Saffron Pistachio Chocolate Chip are far from child’s play. You’ll wanna forego the milk, and pair with a dessert wine instead. For starters, I tried the Original: a basic recipe made with organic chocolate (organic cocoa beans, organic evaporated cane juice, organic cacao-butter and non-GMO soy lecithin). The note inside says that the Crummy guys use dark Ecuadorian chocolate, and lots of it. Each bite is chocked full of yummy chocolate chips. The sugar on the cookies edge is carmalized for added crunchiness while the center stays nice and chewy. My cookies arrived with a handwritten thank you note from Brian and an arrow pointing to the guy in the middle, thanks Brian! I love the witty branding. Could the name be any more perfect? These guys seem to be great at the art of self-deprication, trust me, these delicious morsels are hardly crummy!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Teuscher for Two
A fabulous VP of sales for Frette, the purveyors of luxury bedding, tipped me off to Teuscher champagne truffles in the early 1990’s. Ironically, she used to eat them in bed. The dreamy Swiss confections have been a classic since 1947 thanks to Adolf Teuscher, Sr., the man himself. The delicate truffle is made of fresh cream, butter and chocolate. Each is filled with cream champagne surrounded by a dark chocolate ganache, enrobed in milk chocolate and lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar. The quaint box of two is the perfect little something to leave on your lover’s pillow.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Belgian Bravado
Belgian chocolate giant Cote d’Or’s corporate marketing director on Hershey’s: "To eat Hershey, for me, is like eating sand, but to Americans, it's good chocolate.'' Wow, was I offended? Not really, I was more so curious to see what they’ve got to back up all of that bravado. So I picked up Cote d’Or’s version of gianduja at Fairway. And uh, yeah, I’d much rather eat their mass-market milk chocolate, even if it is like four times as expensive as Hershey’s. In fact, I avoided the low-grade American movie theater chocolate by smuggling a bar into Ice Age (disclaimer: I was with a toddler). The silky-smooth consistency of the high quality milk chocolate, made from African cocoa beans, and the 15% gianduja is definitely authentic (gianduja is a smooth milk chocolate and hazelnut confection that originated in Switzerland). The hazelnut flavor is intense devoid of any nuts. The texture of the bar is slightly gooey and it instantly dissolves in your mouth. Two bars come in one wrapper, and they break off conveniently into little portions like a Twix. It looks like Cote d’Or’s money is where their mouth is. As for me, I’ll be stuffing mine with their chocolate.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Arriba with Conscious Cocoa!
The sweet aroma of this bar alone is huge pick me up. It’s so pure that you can smell it’s chocolaty notes straight through the box. Supposedly, Arriba cocoa, grown solely in Ecuador, is the only cocoa that smells of a floral bouquet even before the beans are roasted. To preserve the precious scent, ingredients like vanilla and other covering aromas are avoided. In fact, this chocolate bar is as straightforward as it’s packaging. What you’re getting is 65% pure Arriba cocoa mass, cane sugar and cocoa butter. What I like even more than the nutty dark chocolate, which I found to be a bit grainy, is that Vintage Chocolate is down with the Rainforest Alliance, a conservation organization dedicated to implementing better business practices for biodiversity. Their mission is to preserve the Ecuadorian rainforest and guarantee a fair price for cocoa farmers. When you buy Arriba chocolate, you support the farmers directly, help preserve the only native cocoa flavor varietal in Ecuador, and safeguard the Ecuadorian rainforest. Now that’s a huge incentive to buy chocolate, not that we ever need one.