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September 27, 2007

Plans and Plots

Chocolate Show Update:
I got approved for the class and had my hotel and flight all lined up so there wasn't much left that could go wrong, right? Ha! It only took 24 hours for things to go pear-shaped. The date they've been listing for the class and emailing to me wasn't quite right. It starts a day later (I think they're just now hammering down their November schedules and realized there was a teacher availability conflict). I've been worried all along that something would derail somewhere along the way and I would end up having to come up with alternate plans (I refuse to cancel this year - did it last year and can't very well back out again, can I?) and already something has gone wrong. Eh, what can you do? We're working on trying to shift the flight and add an extra night to the hotel stay (one more day in the city is a nice thing) and hopefully once that is taken care of things will be all right (or am I putting a big fat jinx on myself?). I'll just cross my fingers and wait and hope that nothing else breaks down between now and then.

Chocolate Show Planning:
How I do love the internet. I figured it was time to try and figure out just what I'm in for with the whole Chocolate Show thing and try to decide if I can do it all in one day or not. Where better to look for scoopage than flickr? And after about ten minutes of cruising through the pictures I've come to one simple conclusion: I'm in trouble. There is just too much chocolate going on. I can tell already that I'll be spending a fortune there and I don't doubt that I'll be trying more than a few things as I make my way through the show (free samples will be the death of me). At the end of the day I probably won't even be able to move due to over-consumption and an unshiftable load of chocolate to take back with me.

I think the key to making it through the show without going broke, insane, or both is going to be to set very simple and clear rules for myself. Anything I can get through chocosphere I do not purchase at the show. Things from out of towners who have come in just for the show are to be sampled and purchased. Things from chocolatiers in New York can be skipped in favor of visiting their actual shops. I think if I keep to these basic guidelines I won't get into too much trouble there. Hopefully. Maybe.

Too much chocolate or not (and I really struggle with that concept), I am enthused to have the opportunity to try so many things that are new to me. I love the inventiveness that is constantly brought to chocolate. I really enjoy the things that come completely out of left field and surprise me (like, oh, I dunno, CHEESE) and I especially like them when, after a bite, I can understand just what the creator was thinking when they made it. There is excitement and discovery in trying new chocolates and that is why I love to just go out and lazily shop about trying things at random. I think I'll be doing rather a lot of that in New York and I really can't wait. It should be a good time.

Closing Thought:
I just realized: I've been more skeptical of mixing a dairy product (cheese) with chocolate than I was of mixing a meat product (bacon) with chocolate. That's a little strange. Eh, whatever. I'll still try it.

September 25, 2007

Chocolate and Cheese?

Chocolate used to be simple. The most exotic thing you'd find in it was a bit of fruit or a nut. Oh, how times have changed. Spices are everywhere and the old school fruits have given way to the superfood fruits like goji and people are adding things like olives and bacon into the mix.

And now cheese.

Yes, cheese. On a certain level it makes sense. Milk and chocolate are a natural combination. And what is cheese but old milk? Ok, it's a lot more than just old milk - theres rennet and stuff and I don't know hardly a thing about how they make it but at the beginning of it's life it's a dairy product, right? So in some ways it's not that far a stretch. In others.... well, it cheese for goodness sake! I mean, yes, there are cheeses that work with chocolate after some effort - nothing wrong with chocolate cheesecake - but in general it just isn't the sort of combination I would come up with myself.

All confusion aside it should come as no surprise that Vosges Haut-Chocolat, the people who brought us the fabulous Mo's Bacon Bar, are behind this new taste sensation. They have a nice Italian themed box of chocolates including the following:

  • rooster: Dark chocolate with taleggio cheese, walnuts, and Tahitian vanilla beans (cheese!)
  • olio d'oliva: Dried olives and extra virgin olive oil in white chocolate (this one frightens me somewhat)
  • balsamico: Balsamic vinegar, roasted hazelnuts, and dark chocolate (this sounds great to me)
  • sale del mare: Pine nuts, burnt sugar caramel, and sea salt in milk chocolate (also sounds fantastic)
  • finocchio: Fennel pollen, anise, and dark chocolate (this sounds like it could be really good - maybe)

There is a lot there that sounds great and a lot there that I'm not sure of just yet, but am more than willing to try. And, seeing as I'll be visiting Vosges in New York, I should be able to give them a try (and finally get that drinking chocolate I've yet to try). That's five more things to look forward to when I make the big trip in November.

September 18, 2007

I Want To Be A Part of It:

♫ New York, New York! ♫

Well, last year's planned New York City Chocolate Crawl dissolved in the face of uncertain rabbit health. I fully expected to stay home this year since I just bought a new home and just bought my car and it didn't seem the right time to take an expensive vacation. But today I got approval for a training class I've been wanting to take. It just happens to be in New York and just happens to butt up against the Chocolate Show. So... I get to bundle up a bit of training and a bit of vacation and should be able to be there for at least a couple of days of the chocolate show. Nice.

I have a ton of planning to get done most important of which is getting the rabbit sitter lined up. I suppose it's time to get the old map up to date, too.

Fun fun fun! I hope.

Review: Razzberry M&M's

Here we go again. Another limited edition candy. This time it’s the new Razzberry M&M’s. I finally got tired of fooling around looking for them at the grocery and drug stores so after securing my lunch one day I went to the gas station to try and get my candy on. And, of course, it was there in great numbers in a not so obvious place (back with the hot dog rollers if I recall right). So I grabbed a pack of Elvis Reese’s Cups to share at work and a couple of bags of M&M’s and headed back to the office.

Tearing into the bag one is met with a strong raspberry aroma with a little milk chocolate around the edges. Looking in the bag the first time I thought I had made a mistake: nearly all the M&M’s are significantly larger than normal ones. And they’re kind of pink in color. Not a neon pink, but something darker and deeper. Think Pepto Bismol only more to the red end of the spectrum than the pink. Not the prettiest color and when you’re dealing with candy colors are important. Taste is, of course, more important, so I should probably move on to that subject. The taste is… not bad, but not very chocolaty (in my opinion) and sort of artificially raspberry. I had some high hopes for these, but in the end I don’t think that they live up to the promise on either the chocolate or raspberry front. At the same time a co-worker of mine seemed to like them just fine. They seemed to get an even better reception from him than the Chocolate Pop Rocks did. So everything here is my opinion and your mileage may vary.

It’s not a bad attempt, but it’s not something I expect to see coming back after it’s limited edition runs out. It’s just not that great. I’m going to give it a generous 6 out of 10 because my friend liked it. I’d probably go with a 5 on my own. It’s not that they’re bad, it’s just that they aren’t that good.

September 10, 2007

Review: 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate

Well, there has once again been a longer period between posts than I would like. It seems that most of my posts start like this now, but sometimes you just have to deal with what normal life is throwing your way and let the online thing slide. The nice thing is that I’ve been turning to chocolate to help me deal with the real life things. As I mentioned in the last post I had a chance to try the 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate and, while I had been planning on doing both it and the Razzberry M&M’s in one post, I just haven’t found the M&M’s so it they'll have to wait for another day.

Before we go any further I have to say that I love the normal 3 Musketeers bar. The fluff stuff in it is just wonderful as far as I’m concerned. It isn’t too airy and it isn’t too dense. The way it just sort of dissolves on the tongue is something I love. It is my go-to bar when I want a little chocolate snack and I've only got the vending machine to lean on.

Moving on. The new 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate is an immediate departure from the classic in terms of form. The normal bar is big and has a really substantial feel to it. The Mint bar is separated into two separate mini-bars. The two of them combined are a good bit smaller than the normal bar, but they are a nice size. It works out to two nice small snack size servings or one nice big serving. I like the choice it imparts. I have a tendency to tear chocolate bars to pieces and eat them a little at a time and this bar with its two pieces allows me to hold one back for later and I like that.

Taking a whiff of the bar you can tell it’s got some mint going on. It has quite a nice aroma with a little chocolate and a little mint hinting at good things to come. Tearing into it (I normally just break an end off in my mouth, but I wanted a look at it first) you find the center to be white as opposed to the normal light brown. The center is soft like the normal one, but it doesn’t feel quite the same in the mouth. Close, but not quite. But the important thing is taste, right? And on this point it definitely delivers. The mint flavor is light and nice. I tend to favor a stronger mint flavor, but this is really quite nice as it is. The chocolate isn’t as strong as I would like it, but that’s forgivable. What may not be forgivable is the slight saltiness it has. Having read Cybele’s review where she encountered the salty edge I was looking for it. It might not be as noticeable if you aren’t expecting it (I didn't the first time I tried it), but it was there (when I was looking for it) and it might turn some off of the bar.

So in the end we have a pretty good bar that honors the original and brings a nice soft hit of mint to the party. I didn’t like the texture quite as much, but it was still pretty close to the fluffiness I’m so fond of. On my standard 10 point scale I would give the normal 3 Musketeers bar a solid 8 out of 10. The 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate scores a respectable 7 out of 10.

As a final note I keep finding them on sale so it’s nice and cheap to give them a try (always a good thing).

Beyond this bar I’m very happy to say we are heading rapidly for Halloween so there is some more candy on the horizon and Christmas not far behind. Chocolate season is almost upon us again and I could not be happier.