November 1, 2008

Vosges Coupon Time!

What's better than good chocolate? Saving money on good chocolate! And the lovely people at Vosges Haut-Chocolat are going to help make that happen for you. They sent along a coupon for me to share with everybody for a nice fat 10% off all website purchases from November 1st through the 30th. That's an entire month! And oh, do they have some lovely stuff to save on. My favorites? Their Caramel Marshmallows and their Wink of the Rabbit Caramels. Oh and the Barcelona bar is terribly yummy. Mmmmm....

Magical Coupon Code: 2810WB1

Funny, I was thinking about them when I got their email. I was working on my Chocolate Gift Guide for this holiday season. They make the list and in a few days I'll reveal who else makes the cut.

October 8, 2008

Melamine Comes Closer to Home

By now most of you have probably heard some chocolate made in China was found to contain melamine. Last month there was a huge mess with melamine in milk in China which sickened tens of thousands and even killed four children so it's clearly not something you want in your chocolate. Well, now it seems that a lot of chocolate coins sold at Costco and some dollar and bulk stores across Canada are tainted as well. It was sold under the name Sherwood Brands Pirate's Gold Milk Chocolate Coins. Apparently this is the sixth recall for melamine in Chinese made products in Canada - yikes! The levels are supposedly not dangerous, but it's still worrisome. I try to keep things on happier subjects around here, but figure its worth posting a word of warning as it's getting to be more than a localized problem. Keep an eye on where your chocolate is from. In the Western Hemisphere probably all of the name brand chocolate (unless you consider Sherwood Brands to be name brand chocolate) will be fine. It's going to be the chocolate from companies you've never heard of that needs to be watched.

So the long and short of things is that there is bad chocolate from China as close to home (my home at least) as Canada and that would lead me to believe that there is probably bad chocolate in the US as well. If you buy a name brand chocolate you should probably be fine. If you buy from a chocolatier you should be fine. If you buy chocolate with no real name brand you had best make sure it's from someplace other than China. Just to be safe.

October 6, 2008

Credit Crunch Chocolate

This may just be too much for me. Honeycomb chunks covered in chocolate. Good chocolate, too! It's Valrhona. And the questionable combination is called Credit Crunch. Fabulous marketing, especially given that premium chocolate sales were up in spite of the real-world credit crunch. The perfect name at the perfect time. I'm just not sure it's the perfect confection, but I'm in no position to try it so I'm in no position to judge. I just find the concept interesting and the name and timing fantastic. Anyway, it's on the shelves at Selfridges in the UK now and available through that link a couple of scentences back. If anybody tries this I'd love to hear how it is.

Now excuse me while I stray a little off topic.....

And while I'm not entirely sure of the idea of chocolate covered honeycomb chunks, I do have to wonder what else could you do that's at least semi-original and still fits the "crunch" in the name? All the standards (krispies, nuts, and to a lesser extent pretzels, potato chips, and corn flakes) are right out unless you combine them or change them up somehow (taking a cue from Charles Chocolates we could do the caramelized rice krispies and throw in some pistachios and a little salt maybe). But the idea is that it's getting harder to come up with something new and different. There are only so many possible combinations of chocolate and associated other bric-a-brac you can create. Admittedly, that represents a LOT of different combinations, but you get what I'm going for here, right? Or am I wrong?

Anyway, I'm tempted to grab a bit of honeycomb and whip up a batch of my own to see what it's like. I have to admit I'm curious.

Coverage From The Press Association

March 6, 2008

Starbucks Chocolate

Well, now. I just don’t quite know what to think about this. Starbucks is stepping into the world of chocolate delivering tea and coffee flavored chocolates with the aid of (drum roll please)…. Hershey! Yeah, I’m being intentionally misleading. I can’t see Starbucks using anything as pedestrian as normal everyday Hershey chocolate (or Special Dark). Instead they are using an unspecified chocolate from the Hershey Artisan Confections collection of companies. And it appears to be one that is associated with bean-to-bar chocolate making. By my interpretation that would make it Sharffen Berger. Dagoba would also be possible, but if they were going organic I’m sure they would trumpet it. I’d guess they want quality without the additional cost that organic chocolate generally carries.

The flavors sound like they’ll be interesting. From the press release:

The collection includes: signature dark, mocha and milk chocolate bars and tasting squares; Tazo® Chai, Passion and Citron tea-infused chocolate tasting squares; Caffè Mocha, Chai, Espresso, Caramel Macchiato and Madagascar Vanilla Bean Truffles; and Milk Chocolate Covered Caffè Verona® Coffee Beans.

The most interesting thing about their whole foray into the world of chocolate is the fact that it will be available in grocery stores, drug stores, and the like, but it will not be available in Starbucks stores. I would be forced to wonder if this is because they’re using Hershey’s distribution channel and Starbucks stores aren’t a part of it. Whatever the reason, they’re supposed to be in stores now.

I’m curious to try some of what they are offering. I’m enjoying the whole tea and chocolate combination lately and I’ve always liked a little coffee with my chocolate so it should all be worth a taste. There is a link to the press release below and there is some neat stuff on it with product pictures and videos of chocolate tastings so check it out.

Press Release

January 22, 2008

Sugardaddy's Sweeties

So somehow Sugardaddy’s Sumptuous Sweeties was lurking just miles from my apartment and I was completely unaware of their presence. It wasn’t until after I had moved and I was looking for a Big Green Egg that I saw their little sign and realized that there was a place making lovely brownies less than a half mile from my door. **sigh** I disappoint myself sometimes. But I made up for it before haring off to NYC by stopping in and getting a fat pile of brownies to snack on.

For those who have yet to hear about the Sugardaddy action they are a company that makes gourmet brownies for whatever gifting, snacking, or entertaining occasion you may come up with and make them available over the web and phone. They are also available to those of us in Ohio at their humble factory store (where you get them really fresh). They have landed themselves all over the web and TV and have done battle with Bobby Flay on his Throwdown on Food Network and emerged victorious. They make good brownies.

The first thing you notice about a Sugardaddy’s brownie is that it’s round. They cut them round and package the edge bits as separate products (Pocket Change) for them as likes the edgy bits. Me, I prefer an edge free brownie so I’m all for the Sugardaddy approach. Next is the selection. My experience with brownies has generally involved the cardboard boxes from the grocery store so my vision of a brownie is that it’s a nice chocolaty brown and nuts are optional. Well, they have an array of “traditional” brownies (which they refer to as brunettes) and blondies (referred to as blondes) and the flavors run the gamut.

Auburn Original (brunette)
Bittersweet chocolate, espresso powder, and walnuts (it is also available without walnuts if you are the “no nuts in my brownies thank you” sort of person) make for a tasty combo. A nice dense brownie with a little coffee along for the ride. Very tasty.

American Beauty (brunette)
Chocolate and peanut butter with a nice layer of peanuts on top. Normally I avoid peanut butter with any sort of added sugar (I don’t like sweet peanut butter treats), but this is good. Not my favorite, but not something I’d turn my nose up at. Far from it.

Nutty (blonde)
Blonde brownie with a heaping load of – you guessed it – nuts (cashews, almonds, and pecans)! Of course, as a blondie, there is a distinct lack of chocolate. But it turns out that blondies are actually fantastic even without chocolate and they’re even better when they are loaded down with nuts. Good stuff.

Strawberry (blonde)
Blonde brownie with peanut butter and a nice strawberry swirl. I have not tried this one yet. I will correct this oversight soon.

Dark Berry (brunette)
An Auburn Original without nuts topped off with a nice little swirl of raspberry. I love me some raspberry and dark chocolate action and this delivers it just how I like it.

Cinnamon (blonde)
The coffee cake of blondies. Brown sugar, cinnamon, and a little nutmeg and ginger make this the perfect breakfast brownie and its available with or without pecans. I’ve had it without and was completely unaware that it was available with. This I also need to try. Without nuts it's fantastic. Probably my favorite of the batch.

Rich Mint (brunette)
Chocolate and mint is one of those perfectly natural combos and this brownie brings it into play in the form of a mint sandwich with mint buttercream icing between two brownie halves. I was expecting this to be my least favorite of the brunettes, but I came away very much in love with it.

Tahiti (blonde)
Tropical paradise in blondie form. Cashews and coconut, white and bittersweet chocolate chunks, and a little bit of pineapple. This really hit the spot, though I didn’t notice any pineapple while I was eating it. I guess I need to go back and revisit this one too.

Dark Citrus (brunette)
A seasonal selection featuring orange zest and extract in dark chocolate with some milk chocolate chunks thrown in for good measure. Quite the tasty combo.

To sum up, Sugardaddy makes a darn good brownie. Actually, they make nine darn good brownies some with optional nuts. If you’re on the north end of Columbus they’re a little west of the Polaris Fashion Place mall on the backside of a strip mall. If you’re in the area I highly suggest giving them a try. Odds are you won’t be disappointed. I’ve yet to be.

January 15, 2008

Pure Imagination Chocolatier

Well, I promised that I would get to Sugardaddy's this past weekend and what did I do? I went to Sugardaddy's! I followed through, really I did. It's just that they were already closed when I got there. Oops. But what I was up to before heading for my brownies was in the pursuit of chocolate as well! I needed chocolate and focaccia and beer and hot sauce so there was only one place for me to go: the North Market! I love the place to death and they had everything I needed. Grabbed some focaccia at Omega Artisan Baking, Some Scorch hot sauce from CaJohn's, a bottle of an interesting sounding holiday brew (with cocoa no less) at Grapes of Mirth, and a small assortment of truffles and a little bar from Pure Imagination Chocolatier.

Pure Imagination is Columbus' own artisan chocolatier and their chocolate is available at their little shop in the North Market as well as Whole Foods and Wild Oats. They do everything from chocolate covered potato chips to inventive truffles and according to their website they use only Fair Trade ingredients! My usual approach to them is to get an assortment of whatever sounds good at the time and this trip was no different. What I ended up with is (left to right top to bottom) a Jack Daniels Caramel truffle, a Grand Marnier truffle, a honey au chocolat truffle, a Midnight Extra Dark Bar, and a truffle that I want to say was Blueberry and Gouda. There is no doubt about the blueberry part, but I'm not sure what the cheese was and it isn't on their website so I can only take that stab at it.

So, yeah, they're attractive little critters, but how are they? Well, hmmm, where to begin? The Grand Marnier truffle was more subtle than many I've had (and the ones I've made) but nicely balanced all the same. The Blueberry and Gouda (maybe) was good. Blueberry and chocolate is my current favorite taste combination and the cheese just added an extra dimension to it. Very nice and inventive. This is my third round of cheese and chocolate and I've liked all three now. The Midnight Extra Dark Bar was good, but I have good chocolate bars all over the place and this wasn't a serious standout. Pretty and pretty good, but not amazing. The Jack Daniels Caramel, on the other hand, was borderline amazing. Very tasty. You get a nice undercurrent of the whiskey in the caramel and it goes quite nicely with the chocolate. And as good as that was, my favorite, as it has been every time I've gone there, is the Honey au Chocolat. There is just something special about the two flavors together. I don't know what it is or how to put it in words, but it just sings to me. Love it.

So now is the part where I normally assign a score, but I'm a little reticent to do so tonight mainly because I didn't have a wide enough variety of their pieces to offer a blanket endorsement. In the past, though, I have had nearly every one of their truffles. But I can't base it on those because something invariably went wrong with those (I'm not sure if it was my fault or theirs, but there was a renegade flavor in the truffles when I got to them). So I'm going to offer a score based on the few pieces I've got here. And I'm going to ignore the bar when I do it, too. The truffles are the main attraction so I'm going to focus on them. Every piece was well executed and some were standouts in terms of composition. Taking that and the fact that it's a local joint I've got to go with an 8.75 out of 10. I'm biased toward them because they're local, but the truffles are good. So there you go.

I'll get the brownies this weekend. I know when they close so as long as I remember to go before then it'll all work out.

January 1, 2008

Return To My Roots

Once upon a time chocolate, to me, was an afterthought. It was something in ice cream (and as far as ice cream is concerned I really prefer vanilla bean), the occasional York Peppermint Pattie, or possibly a (box of) cherry cordial(s) if I was in the mood. And then one day I found myself watching a show on chocolate on Food Network and somehow my curiosity was piqued. I needed to find out more about these truffle things they were talking about on the show. Well, one of the places featured on the show was Betsy Ann Chocolates which was in the Pittsburgh area. It turned out that I was heading to the Pittsburgh Comicon and there was a Betsy Ann in the mall right next to the show so I figured I would stop in and get some truffles.

And that was how it all began. The world of chocolate opened before me and I quickly became enamored of it. I sought to stretch my chocolate horizons and began trying chocolates from all over. But each time I hit the comicon after that I would go to the mall for more Betsy Ann truffles. They were the go-to chocolate for me. They make those offensively large truffles similar to the beasts you get at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and the ganache is always wonderfully smooth and nicely flavored. Lovely stuff.

With the shuffling of jobs last year and general life chaos I've managed to miss the Comicon two years running and so I never really have the opportunity to get back to the place that started it all for me. Each time I missed the show I sort of shrugged over the show - I can live without the comics - but I always sighed a little sigh that I wasn't going to get my truffles.

And out of the blue the week I was madly preparing to go to New York I arrive home to find a big and completely unexpected box on my front porch. I checked and lo and behold it was from Betsy Ann. This is the blessing and curse of blogging about chocolate. Stuff sometimes just shows up with no warning. I didn't start this blog to get free chocolate and I always feel guilty receiving it, but sometimes it's a real joy to find a little surprise on the front porch.

And, true to form, I took the bounty of chocolate goodness to work with me. I believe that the best way to make the experience of eating chocolate better is to share it with others and whenever I would go to Betsy Ann I would always bring it all in to work with me to chop up and share around. Anyway, as they had been in prior years at the prior employer, the chocolate was a hit. The big and flavorful truffles are a wonderful experience and it was nice to seef my initial wonder over them reflected in others.

I tried to avoid the truffles myself and stick to the other items in the assortment. The truffles had opened my eyes to the wider world of chocolate and so I always consider them my gateway drug so I wanted others to try the them as much as possible. But I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to have a raspberry truffle (and a couple of others - sharing can be hard sometimes). It was the one that opened the door for me and I really wanted to go back to that first special bite. And it was as good as the first time - rich and creamy and a perfect marriage of flavors.

Betsy Ann may not be a high-end super-fancy chocolatier, but they are that most special of breeds - the local chocolate company. They turn out wonderful quality products for the local market (and further through the power of the web). I love to find these little(ish) semi-regional chocolate makers as they make chocolate without pretension and simply load up on flavor and love.

There isn't a whole lot of point to this post and I'm sure it sounds like a bit of a shill, but to me chocolate is an experience and going back to the beginning was just a lovely experience for me. I suppose the only other thing I really wanted to say was to seek out and support your local chocolate shops. There are some real gems out there.

December 8, 2007

Safari Report Part Six

Here it is, the wrap-up I promised some days ago. I’ve gotten caught up in holiday stuff and life in general and just haven’t had the time to put it together. Until now.

After Monday I had class for the rest of the week so my only real option for getting more chocolate was the two hours between when class ended and most places closed. I planned to use those two hours as best as I could. So Tuesday when class finished up I jumped on the subway and headed down to Union Square to visit Max Brenner and Michel Cluizel.

Max Brenner is an actual restaurant with a bit of a chocolate shop in the front. They were giving out samples of some fabulously evil nuts that they did something to (looking at the website I think it’s “Caramelized pecan rolled in praline cream and fine cocoa powder”) and I could easily eat all day. With that in me I decided it was time to get something more inside of me and see how other things are there. The restaurant was pretty crowded so I just ordered a Dark Chocolate Granita (a frappe) at the drink bar and then grabbed some chocolate from the shop. I don’t remember much of what I got beyond what I think was a blueberry truffle. I do know I enjoyed everything I tried and the Granita was great as well.

With my chocolates secured and my drink in hand I walked the short distance to ABC Carpet & Home where the Michel Cluizel store is located. Lurking in the back of the store and down a few stairs is the only Michel Cluizel store in the US. And to me it’s like some sort of magical paradise. I didn’t know it at the time, but the chocolates I picked up there were some of the best I would get during my trip. The highlights were a number of excellent liqueur bonbons, a Grand Marnier Thistle (white chocolate filled with Grand Marnier – has a wonderful crunch to it and a lovely liqueur hit), and the mighty Cacaoforte which is a 99% cacao mass slab of goodness that has to be tried to be believed. I tried the Cacaoforte that night back at the hotel and fell in love with it on the spot. I really wish I had tried more of the pieces while I was there so I could have bought more to bring home, but I was really eating a lot of chocolate from a lot of places and I figured I would cut things short and not overdose.

Wednesday night I went to see Young Frankenstein the Musical (one of the few shows not shut down by the stagehands strike) and didn’t really have a lot of time for chocolate. The show, being a adaptation of one of my favorite movies, was great fun for me. I love the energy of a Broadway show and this one was ideal for me.

Thursday night, my last night in the city, I had been planning to go up and hit Serendipity3 for the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate since I had missed it earlier in the week, but, as I had mentioned earlier, they got closed down for some vermin issues. I had planned on hitting Dylan’s Candy Bar and Bloomingdale’s while I was up there and when I realized that Serendipity3 was off the menu I just forgot about the other places and changed my plans to going back to Cluizel for some more Cacaoforte for my rabbit sitters and myself and then tracking down some dinner. I rather overdid dinner with some fish and chips from A Salt And Battery down in the Village (best meal of the trip) and picked up some beers at Whole Foods to enjoy with that night’s big football game back at the hotel.

The next morning I got hauled off to the airport and headed home.

And immediately started to miss New York.

Anyway, the summary is what we’re after tonight. The places I really wanted to hit and didn’t get around to actually visiting:

  • Bloomingdale’s (so I could try some Martine’s)
  • Dylan’s Candy Bar
  • Chocolate Bar NYC
  • Economy Candy (forgot about it entirely in the rush of planning)
  • The Chocolate Room
  • Bierkraft (they have chocolate as well as beer)
  • Cocoa Bar
  • Christopher Norman Chocolates
  • Room 4 Dessert
  • Shake Shack
  • Varsano’s Chocolates
  • Lombardi’s Pizza
  • All the museums

Things I learned:

  • The Chocolate Show is very crowded on Sunday. Friday may be the best option.
  • There are no ATMs at the Chocolate Show and there is no re-entry once you leave.
  • Some of the exhibitors at the show are set up for credit cards. This is good.
  • The Subway is awesome.
  • New York City has an amazing array of chocolate to sample.
  • Being in New York City during both a writers strike and a stagehands strike is a terrible thing.
  • Even if everybody is on strike it is easy to have a great time in New York City.

Can’t wait to go back.

December 3, 2007

Safari Report Part Five

Well, I lost what I had started on the final full day of freedom in the big city, but I will not allow this to stop me! Starting over!

Day two was looking pretty ambitious as far as what all I wanted to get done. I had three Japanese bookstores to hit in addition to Nintendo World (to try Mario Galaxy out), Saks, Rockefeller Center and, oh yeah, there were about a dozen chocolate destinations I wanted to hit as well. I had this great plan all laid out with my subway directions and where and when to break for lunch and hauling stuff back to the hotel and I actually followed through on a lot of it.

The first stops of the morning were at Kinokuniya and Book-Off for some manga. The opportunity to get my hands on some of the manga I was missing was too much to resist so I had to go. But once I was done with them it was off to find chocolate! After going to Nintendo World (they actually had wii in stock - I so should have bought one or three and mailed them back to myself). I figured I'm a big kid at heart and a minor Nintendo fanboy so I more or less had to go. They had just had their big Mario Galaxy premiere party the previous night (which I had considered attending) and I figured that they would have it out for play and they did. Messed around with it a little and decided that it was time to move on.

My next stop was one of the places I had really been looking forward to visiting - La Maison du Chocolat. They have quite the reputation going for them so I really wanted to stop in while I was in town. After a bit of really confused searching (I came close to walking into Godiva and asking for directions to their competition - that would have been awkward) I finally found the place and sat down for (what else) some hot chocolate. They have a more bitter European style and a sweeter American style and I immediately opted for the European and turned down the cream on the side. I wanted it straight up and was really glad I got it that way. It was good strong stuff. After a few minutes of watching them shuffle around the new shipment (they get weekly shipments from the home office) I decided that the remaining half of my hot chocolate would really go nicely with a macaron. So I got a raspberry macaron and enjoyed it with the rest of my hot chocolate. The good, "bitter" (I didn't consider it bitter so much as just not overly sweetened) hot chocolate was really good with the nice sweet macaron. Having blown a good bit of money on chocolate the prior day and on manga that same morning I decided to limit myself to no more than $10 per chocolatier and my hot chocolate and macaron put me up to the limit for La Maison. I had decided, though, that at some point in the future I would have to go back to work over their selection of chocolates. This time around I was more there just to be there and try a little something. And having done so I moved on.

Next on the list was a side trip to another Kinokuniya just to see if they had anything different that I wanted but once done there I quickly moved on to Saks. And while Saks may sound like a normal touristy shopping destination I was there for more than just the enormous Jhane Barnes section (not that it wasn't worth the trip - I love Jhane's clothes). I was there for Charbonnel et Walker who lurk on the top floor of the store. They have a nice bright café with this cool single strip chandelier thing going around the counter area and a conveyor belt of chocolate dessert fun to boot. Of course they also have the all-important chocolates. I got a Pink Champagne Truffle and a Buck Fizz Truffle and pushed on. Both were excellent. I’ll definitely go back next time I’m in town.

The next stop had me sort of backtracking across the street to visit Teuscher. Their store was quite friendly and fun with lots of neat stuff to check out on the way to the counter where the real fun happens (at least to me). I’m pretty sure that they had a good bit of holiday action going on, but I sure can’t tell you if it was Thanksgiving, Christmas, or both. I was really mainly worried about picking just a few pieces of chocolate from the case. This actually turned out to be pretty easy. I just went with what sounded good to me. A Champagne Truffle, a Zebra Gianduja, and some raspberry log thing (I think it was). All were tasty.

Next on the list was Richart, another place I had been looking forward to visiting. They have a really nice relatively simple store with a few pieces from a couple of artists adorning the walls opposite the counter. They state on the website that the stores are minimally designed so the focus is naturally on the chocolate. I really don’t remember at all what I got there, but I know that I picked up three different pieces and I’m betting money one of them had raspberry happening in it somewhere. I remember liking them, but can’t for the life of me say what they were. Sorry, it’s been too long and I’ve had too much going on.

I can tell you exactly what I got from my next stop, though. The final pre-late-lunch stop was Pierre Marcolini, where I ended up talking OSU vs Michigan while trying to decide what I wanted in the way of chocolate. I ended up with a Coeuer Framboise (bitter chocolate raspberry ganache in white chocolate all in the shape of a heart), a Citron (Earl Grey with lemon and lime zest coated in dark chocolate), and a Thym Orange (with thyme and orange peel). All were very good, especially the Citron.

At this point I wanted some lunch and I figured it was enough past the lunch rush that I could get a seat at Serendipity3, home of the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate and some insano expensive desserts with gold spoons and the like (I try to ignore that sort of thing – I’m more about the food than the money). I’d heard good things about the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate and so I figured it was worth a stop. I got seated immediately (they had a little table fit for one so I got right in) and started looking over the menu. Figuring that I’d been eating mostly chocolate all day I figured it was time to order a sandwich so I settled in on a spicy black bean and salsa burger and figured I’d chase it with the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. And then I saw another table get served their FHC (tired of typing it again and again). The thing was huge. It was a dessert fit for four and I really wasn’t ready to face it down so I just ran with my sammich (which was pretty good and satisfying). Sadly (or not?), I was going to go back for the FHC on Thursday after class, but stopping in my room first I saw on the news that they had been shut down due to flies, mice, and roaches. I’d seen nothing when I was there, but my eye was sort of caught by the lovely décor (decked out for the holidays) and the crazy big desserts they were serving up. I hope they can get their stuff together. I like the style of the place with all it’s Tiffany Lamps. The worst things I could really say (given the limited tasting of their menu that I had) was that the place was super crowded and cramped and seemed pricey to me, but most of New York seemed pricey to me so what do I know. Anyway, I had my lunch and left.

After that I walked right past Dylan’s Candy Bar and Bloomingdale's and started to head downtown to unload my stuff back at the hotel. Bloomie's and Dylan’s could wait. I had three more nights in the city and would, in theory, make it in. If you’ve been reading this whole travesty then you’ll have spotted the pattern. I did not make it back. I didn’t make it in due to a combination of Serendipity3’s infestations and my love of Michel Cluizel who I’ll talk about more in the wrap-up sometime in the next couple of days.

December 1, 2007

Safari Report Part Four

I really wasn't entirely sure how to proceed with the next part of this. After the Chocolate Show I cut back on what I was spending at each individual chocolatier to the point where I only picked up a couple of pieces from each one (with certain exceptions). And I made my way through the city at a pretty quick pace so some of the places sort of jumble together in my mind. I figure the best I can do is to try and just give my impressions of each place as best I can and call it good enough.

When the Chocolate Show got to the point where it was just too crowded for me to enjoy myself any more I decided it was time to head back to the hotel to unload my haul of chocolate. Once I had unloaded everything I figured that I might as well take the opportunity to head down to SoHo since I had missed out the previous night.

So it was time for me to finally face the subway. I had read all sorts of things about the subway, both positive and negative, and therefore had no idea really what to expect. But I bought my MetroCard, swiped through the turnstyle and jumped on the train as it pulled up all quite painlessly.

A few minutes later I emerged from the Houston Street station and started hoofing it over to Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven. The place feels really comfortable and relaxed while at the same time maintaining a casual class about itself. I had been partaking of chocolate all day (and was planning on having a hot chocolate at my next stop) so I only bought some pieces to go as opposed to kicking back and having a Wicked Hot Chocolate (which I love). I figured I'd have all week to head back for one so why rush to do it all on day one? Of course I didn't make it back. In the end I had a few pieces from the case and a package of dark chocolate covered marshmallows (which I could eat all day).

After a bit of routing trouble with the entrance to the Holland Tunnel I managed to make my way over to MarieBelle (who just opened a new place up on Madison Avenue - cool). I'd say it's a bit more elegant than Chocolate Haven, but still manages to be relaxed and comfortable. In the back of the store, behind the main counter, is their Cacao Bar and Tea Salon, which is where I had been planning on having a cup of their Spicy Hot Chocolate or at least a cup of their Dark Obsession Chocolate Rose Tea (ooh, that sounds all kinds of tasty), but they were crowded. Lots of people in the store and full up in the Cacao Bar. So I added it to the list of places I would return to later in the week (and the list of places I would fail to return to) and pushed on empty handed (noooo!). I wanted to take pictures, but the place was pretty crowded and while it's one thing to take pictures of a business and the people working there it's quite another to take a picture of the place and all the customers as well. At least to me it is. So I didn't even bother asking if photos were ok because even if they were I would have been unhappy taking pictures with lots of innocent people who have nothing to do with my blog.

The next stop was, in theory, Kee's Chocolates, but I got sidetracked by the art vendors along the street and ended up buying a piece (which was brutalized in my luggage on the way back home - the glass in the frame was shattered and there is a small dent in the picture itself which is a watercolor of a bunny - decor for Sophie's room). Alas. In the course of buying it I needed to get some cash (since the chocolate show had taken it all away) and some lunch so I stopped by Famous Ben's Pizza of SoHo and got a slice of white pizza (which was good - not great, just good - but not the way I like my white - I like garlic and fresh basil on top and this was bare) and hit the atm.

So, full of pizza and loaded with street art and a bit of cash, I turned my attention to finding Kee's. The shop itself is really simple as I remember it. Brick walls leading back to a small case where the chocolate is. And the chocolate looks fabulous of course. This was one of my primary destinations for my trip so I got a box of a dozen assorted pieces from the case (somehow I missed the macaroons - I don't remember seeing any at all and I would have probably bought some if they had registered in my brain at all). Everything I've had from it was really good, but the standout piece for me was the Pistachio (a white chocolate and pistachio truffle). I need to go back at some point and get a selection for tasting with a eye toward time and careful thought as opposed to the grabbing a piece from the box when the fancy takes me (which is how the box I bought went). Very pleased that I got to visit.

The final stop on my quick run through the streets of SoHo was Vosges Haut-Chocolat. At this point I was ready for that hot chocolate that I had missed out on back at MarieBelle so I ordered their Aztec Elixir which is the hot chocolate that I managed to forget to order for hot chocolate week last winter. Quite good. Drinkable (as opposed to some of the thicker hot chocolates out there) and nicely spicy. And, since I had been dying of curiosity (however it's spelled), I bought a box of the Itialiano Collection to try out. After seeing how well the combination of cheese and chocolate could be from the Smokey Blue Truffle I was really looking forward to trying the Rooster. At that point I still had the strange misconception that it was a chunk of cheese covered in chocolate (they show those spikes of cheese and a rooster next to it and my mind rushes to the wrong conclusion). After I let one get up to room temperature back at the hotel I was pleased to find that it's a truffle and a really neat tasting experience.

At this point my rush of planning fell apart. I had planned a good bit of what to do when I made my SoHo run, but since I had planned for it to be my first night in the city I had also added onto the end of it some optional places to go to top off the night and one of them was Alison Nelson's Chocolate Bar NYC. I had every intention of going there the first night and once I got past the first night and out and about town I forgot it entirely. So that's one more place I missed.

It was late afternoon at this point and I had a full load of stuff again so I hopped the train back to the hotel and went in search of dinner and found my way to Whole Foods for some dinner (where I skipped the chocolates in the case - Knipschildt I believe - I just don't trust that they'll be fresh from a display case like that). And then I settled in to relax a little (with a little chocolate) before setting out to wander the city a little more on foot (I did this a lot - it's a fun place for people who like to walk). And that's pretty much where day one ended.

Most of the write-up for day two is done so it should show up tomorrow. Then I can wrap up the whole mess and turn my attention to some items that have been happening since I got back. Not to mention holiday chocolate.

October 22, 2007

Back to Godiva

I'll admit I have mixed feelings about Godiva. Most of the problems I have with them are philosophical and stylistic and not worth going into. The thing is that no matter what problems I may have with them I always end up going back for more.

The first thing I love about Godiva is a biggie: free chocolate. I’m not a cheapskate or anything, but I do love getting something for nothing and Godiva are always there to supply me with a fix. Having signed up on both the website and in the store I get notices of free tastings and other in-store events and sales but more importantly I get coupons. Coupons for some serious free chocolate. This month I’ve had a coupon for three free pieces of their Chocoiste collection and another for either a can of cocoa, a box of biscuits, or a bag of coffee. Makin’ out like a bandit. And the best part of it all? It’s consistently good stuff. People can fault Godiva all they like (and believe me, I do), but they are very consistent and really pretty good. It may not be as good as your favorite chocolatier (nowhere near mine), but my favorite chocolatier isn’t in the mall. They have that convenience factor going for them. When I’m out shopping and I want a chocolate fix I know I can swing in for a marzipan heart or raspberry cordial and leave happy. Convenience, consistency, and quality. They may not be the best, but they’re solid all around.

So while I was out getting my free chocolate action going I decided to take the plunge and try their new Dark Chocolate Raspberry Chocolixir. So we have their standard dark chocolate blended icy beverage but with an added shot of raspberry syrupy stuff. It’s icy and chocolaty and not quite as sweet as I had expected, but really quite tasty. I’m not sure I dig the little grains of actual chocolate running around in it (gives it a grainy feeling beyond the normal grain of the ice), but it sure is tasty. I usually don’t hit things like this very fast, but I ended up with a solid brainfreeze while working on this one. Good stuff. Expensive, but good. I'll probably have another some time, but for now I'm looking forward to hot chocolate season. It's about time to get my cocoa on.

May 30, 2007

Chocolate and... Bacon?

Chocolate goes so well with so many things and there really seems to be no end to the interesting and surprising combinations of flavors that people come up with. Sometimes, though, a combination comes along that just leaves you wondering if it's really a good idea. A couple of years back Kevin (of Kevin's Tech Ramblings) decided to experiment with the combination of chocolate and bacon and created Chocolate Covered Bacon. I've been wondering ever since if there wasn't something to the idea. Sweet stuff like syrup goes great with bacon, so why not chocolate? Interested I was, but I never had the nerve to give it a shot.

Well today an email landed in my inbox that had me checking the date to make absolutely sure that it wasn't April Fools Day (it wasn't). It seems that the esteemed Vosges Haut-Chocolat has come up with a new bar featuring - you guessed it - bacon. The new Mo's Bacon Bar features smoked bacon, smoked salt and deep milk chocolate. That is a daring combination, but coming from Vosges, who are quite good at coming up with very tasty products, I have to believe that no matter how daring it sounds it's probably some excellent stuff. It may have a bit of a limited audience, though. Some people might have trouble wrapping their head around the concept. I'm certainly game to give it a try. And it gives me an excuse to order that hot chocolate I keep forgetting to order.

December 21, 2006

Go Forth And Read!

I'm trying to get my thoughts on holiday chocolate collected (and they are turning out to be few and to the point) but in the meantime I absolutely HAD to share this. I was over at Luxist (looking at things I could never afford ever) and they had a link to this series of looks into a Dallas-area chocolatier and their high-priced single origin chocolates. It's a really interesting piece of investigative journalism and I don't want to spoil the punchline for anybody so I'll keep it at that. Just give it a read.

September 27, 2006

Godiva's Golden Friday

godivalogo.gifI love mailing lists. Ok, I love good mailing lists. Chocolate makers and chocolatiers tend to have some nice mailing lists and one of my favorites is Godiva. They aren't my number one choice for chocolate, but they are great at letting you try their new products when they come out. Well, this Friday, September 29th, they are celebrating their "new" Gold Collection and true to form they are giving us a chance to try their new goodies for free.

Last week Lauren Young with Business Week was kind enough to let me know that she had an article up on the reinvention of the Gold Collection. I won't go into the depth she does in her article (which is a good read with some company history, the scoop on the new look and flavors and some amusing reader comments) but what I want to go into is the goodness that they are sharing with us.

First off, if you stop in on Friday or Saturday you can get free samples. On top of that they are having a contest that can win you a year worth of Godiva chocolate. I know that Godiva isn't everybody's favorite, but even those who don't love them aren't likely to turn down that much free chocolate. And the odds aren't nearly as long as you might think. They are giving away a year of chocolate to ten winners - PER BOUTIQUE! I know it sounds crazy but that is what the mailing says (and who knows, it could be wrong). If it is right then I like those odds a lot. And even if you can't get in to a boutique on Friday or Saturday you can enter online. The online sweepstakes looks like it is separate from the one referenced in the mailing and there are only 10 winners so it would seem to thin your odds a LOT compared to the in store odds. But it gives you a shot. And don't worry that you'll miss out on free chocolate if you can't make it in. They are having free samples of the Gold Collection from 9/29 - 10/1, 10/6 - 10/8, and 11/10 - 11/12. That's a lot of opportunities for some free chocolate.

Now the last thing I need to do is nudge people to think about these little mailing lists. Not only do you get the lowdown on the free chocolate events and the news about contests and new products but now and then you get some extra free stuff that only those on the mailing list get. Earlier this year I got a free Chocolixir and this time around I got a little certificate for a free four-piece Gold Collection Ballotin. Some of these mailing lists really pay off.

July 29, 2006

Review: Godiva Dark Chocolate Decadence Chocolixir

chocolixir.jpgI like to put myself on mailing lists because you never know what sort of neat stuff you’ll get in the mail. Every so often Godiva sends out notices of free tastings and the like and recently they sent out a coupon for a free Chocolixir.

Chocolixir is a frozen chocolate drink similar I suppose to a frozen hot chocolate in many ways. I don’t know what’s in it, but there is definitely ice and chocolate. Maybe milk. If CalorieKing is to be believed the 12oz drink clocks in at 660 calories (!) so there has to be something more than ice and chocolate in there. My money says milk and sugar and it wouldn’t surprise me to find there is Godiva cocoa mix in it either.

Speaking of money, this is not a cheap drink. You get 12oz for the low low price of $4.50. That price tag is why I’ve not tried it until I got me a coupon for a freebie. That is not a cheap drink. Compared to coffee drinks it is really expensive for the amount you get. Keep in mind that it has actual Godiva chocolate in it and you can somewhat understand the high price, but I still have an issue with it.

The drink itself is available in six varieties now: the original three - Dark Chocolate Decadence, Milk Chocolate Latte and White Chocolate Raspberry – and three new flavors – Milk Chocolate Caramel, Dark Chocolate Caramel, and White Chocolate Caramel. Each comes with the option of whipped cream and either chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, or raspberry syrup depending on which one you get.

I opted for the Dark Chocolate Decadence because I’m a fool for Dark chocolate and I figured that it would be the least sweet of the flavors. Frozen coffee drinks are painfully sweet so I figured that frozen chocolate drinks would be at least as bad. The Dark Chocolate Decadence was sweet, but not as sweet as I feared. I’d like it to have been less sweet to heighten the dark chocolate flavor, but it wasn’t so sweet I didn’t like it. Overall the flavor was sweet and light. The ice in it was blended into oblivion so it was just enough to grind between your teeth without there being actual chunks of it. And all throughout it there are bits of chocolate. Best of all you don’t end up with a big pile of ground ice in the bottom of the cup like you do with some frozen coffee drinks.

The drink was quite tasty. I’d say it was better than most frozen coffees I’ve had but I’m not convinced that it’s worth the $4.50 price tag. And the calorie load! I want to know just what is in there that it manages 660 calories. That’s as many calories as in an average 3.5oz chocolate bar which clocks in at 2.5 servings. Ok, calories and price aside the drink is good - good enough to earn an 8 out of 10 score - but not good enough that I’m going to rush out for another any time soon. And, while it isn’t perfect, on a hot day like today, it is a nice treat. Especially when it's free.

April 3, 2006

Review: Trader Joe's Sao Tome Varietal

Sorry for not posting as often as I should, but life was getting in the way of blogging for a bit. It will probably continue to do so somewhat, but I'm going to try to get back into the swing of things.

The first step to getting things back to normal and posting back to more than a once-a-week affair is tonight's brief review. I went to Trader Joe's looking for something to munch on but wasn't finding much that caught my eye. I almost left without chocolate entirely but I caught the words "Sao Tome" out of the corner of my eye and my curiosity forced me to take a better look. It seems that Trader Joe's has slipped into the world of single origin chocolate without my noticing. Having already tried out two Sao Tome bars I decided that I would give this one a shot and see how it compared.

The first thing I need to mention is the size of this beast. It is a 7oz bar, which is well above the norm. Most of the bars I see are around 3oz. This is just huge. It's been a week since I first opened it so I can't say much for the aroma. Snapping a piece doesn't reveal much to me, but I think there is a little coffee to it. The bar is well formed and moderately glossy and seems to have a snap to it. It's kind of hard to tell the snap given how thick it is. The taste is really a strange mixed bag. I can tell it's Sao Tome. I was really surprised to taste it and be able to say, "Yep, that's some Sao Tome there." but for some reason I could tell. Beyond that it is strong and bitter and once the bitterness lets up it starts in with sour. Kind of a spoiled milk kind of thing going on in there and I really didn't like it. Add to that the fact that it is really pretty astringent, sort of grainy, and hurts my mouth and I really didn't have that positive an experience. I want to like it, but it really doesn't do much for me.

I was surprised that I found the bar to be so disappointing and decided to go back to my Sao Tome standard and grabbed one of the Lake Champlain bars to compare the two. It really was like night and day. The Lake Champlain was very smooth and much more enjoyable. The Trader Joe's bar just wasn't up to snuff as far as I'm concerned. I just can't bring myself to like it. It may just be a matter of taste, but for me this just didn't do it. I'll give it a six out of ten. It wasn't horrible, but you won't see me buying it again either.

March 27, 2006

Shopping for Chocolate

fun.jpgShopping for chocolate is, at best, a challenge. At least for me it is. I really don't know all that many places to get good chocolate so when I set out on a shopping expedition it is always some sort of crazy crap-shoot as to what I'll end up finding. More often than not the thing I'm looking for is not to be found, but instead I'll run across some other cocoa-infused wonder that I can't pass up. It's great stuff that I'm pleased as punch (as the phrase goes - personally I question how pleased punch actually is - it is a beverage after all) to have found such treats but it isn't that one special, magical, chocolate artifact that I had set out to find.

Yesterday is a good example of this. I was in need of a roadtrip to kill off some lingering stress so I jumped in the car and headed down to Cincinnatti and, of course, Jungle Jim's. I had high hopes of finding if not the new Kumasi Sambirano from Scharffen Berger then at least some of their chocolate-dipped matzos. I was also hoping for the organic Chocolove bars and an E. Guittard single origin tasting box but, alas, such items were not to be found. Of course this was a trip to Jungle Jim's and there are always interesting items to try there. I can always find something to buy.

I entered the store planning to resist temptation and not buy a dozen chocolate bars like when I'm on safari and I stuck to it pretty well. I was there for the trip and some power-browsing, not to buy up all the chocolate in the store. So, at the end of the day I walked out with some Mexican Coke (theoretically made with sugar and not corn syrup), some Moxie, an organic Valrhona bar (which I've been curious about for a while - the price has kind of kept me away from it - and for some reason I can't find it on their site), some dark chocolate covered ginger from Scharffen Berger, and - the grand prize of my little trip - a Dolfin Pink Pepporcorn bar! They had a lot of other wonderful things that I resisted the temptation to buy (a cache of Chocolatour bars, the entire selection of Dolfin bars, more Vosges bars) and I left the store having spent less than $40, which, for me, is a rarity.

Anyway, a trip like this illustrates a problem I have. I love to shop for chocolate. In town, out of town, it doesn't matter so long as I can get out and put my hands on some bars. The problem is that I have yet to find a good source of chocolate that I can count on to have pure gold on every trip (Jungle Jim's comes close and delivers on many other fronts in addition to chocolate). Without the ability to simply run out to the store and buy whatever I want I'm beginning to think that I'll have to start ordering my chocolate online which really isn't the same experience. I might never have tried Dolfin if I hadn't been able to see the pouch-style packaging first-hand. I'm very much a hands-on type of shopper and buying things online takes so much away from the experience. Of course you end up with exactly what you set out to get but that leaves out the option of the pleasant surprises you find on the way in the course of shopping.

This is having an effect on my long-term plans. I had been planning on a chocolatier/cafe style of business, similar to the chocolate lounge concept that Ethel's and Vosges have. The original (and long since changed) plan was to have a store with an wide assortment of chocolate nick-nacks and books. Now I'm thinking that maybe I want to add the store back in and carry an array of third party chocolate products, especially bars. A chocolate lover's candy store and cafe. It's still a few years off and will probably see more changes along the way, but I really like the idea of carrying a nice wide array of fine chocolate bars along with my own creations. Of course somebody else will probably do it before me, but that's my happy little vision.

March 5, 2006

Melt Chocolates

melt.jpgThere is a great article in the Independent today about a new London chocolatier called Melt which is headed by a man who seems to be well and truly chocolate obsessed. Chef Damian Allsop works in an open kitchen in the store creating what sounds like some amazing works of chocolate art - like jasmine tea truffles (which I think sound fantastic) - using only the finest ingredients. He has some very interesting ideas (using water instead of cream – I cannot imagine that to be easy) and a true passion for chocolate that should make Melt a very fun place to visit. The open kitchen sounds like real a treat to me because I would love to watch a true artisan chocolatier at work. The article is a nice read and, even better, has recipes! The fresh mint truffle recipe sounds like a winner to me and I’m at least curious regarding the chocolate soup.
Article Link
Melt Chocolates

February 28, 2006

Review: Vosges Woolloomooloo Bar

Reaching deep into the pantry I came up with a Vosges Haut Chocolate Woolloomooloo bar. They describe it as having "Roasted & salted macadamia nuts, Indonesian coconut, hemp seed and dark milk chocolate." I got the bar because I loved the idea of salted macadamia nuts in a chocolate bar and I love the combination of macadamia and coconut. The hemp seed I wasn't entirely sold on. I have zero clue what hemp seed is supposed to taste like but the rest of the bar sounded right up my alley so it came home with me.

The packaging needs to be touched on before I move on to the bar itself. The bar comes in a nice box with a little section on "how to enjoy an exotic candy bar" on the back. Inside the box the bar is sealed away in a foil wrapper. Absolutely lovely packaging and I would not expect anything less from a $6.00 chocolate bar.

Now, the chocolate. The bar has a decent gloss and has the Vosges logo and little pictures of some rather lifeless looking women with Vosges bags on it's eight squares. The bar smells very nice. It is clearly milk chocolate and you can smell the macadamia nuts very easily. It has a nice milk chocolate taste and there are absolutely tons of nuts in it. The coconut doesn't seem to offer much to the flavor. It's there but it takes a back seat to the chocolate and the nuts. There is a little edge to it but I'm not sure if it's the salt on the nuts or the hemp seed (which I still don't know what tastes like).

The bar is very nice and I found it hard not to eat more of it in one sitting (a very rare thing for me - I usually take five or six sittings to finish off a bar and I was tempted to eat the entire thing). I really enjoyed it, but is it really worth six dollars? I'm pretty sure I can find a better chocolate fix for the money. Still, it does leave me looking forward to the Creole bar that still lurks in my pantry. Ignoring the price I'll give the bar an 8.5 out of 10. I'll probably try their other varieties and their truffles, but I'm not sure I'll repeat.

February 13, 2006

ethel's chocolate Lounges

ethels.jpgI love the ethel's chocolates concept - taking goumet chocolate and making it accessible to everybody. And even better than that is the concept of the chocolate lounge. This article from likens the chocolate lounge to coffee shops and I like the comparison. It is a place to go and experience chocolate in a relaxed setting (and is very close in concept to what I hope to someday open). It is approachable and fun and seems a great place to go with one's friends. With chocolate having so many percieved health benefits this would seem to be a great opportunity for concepts like ethel's lounges. Hot chocolate instead of coffee and some decadent truffles instead of a scone. What's not to love? Just one more great things Chicago has going for it. There are 10 ethel's lounges in the Greater Chicago Area and I hope to find my way to one this year. Worst case is I'll order a box from their website.

February 1, 2006

Impulse Buy: Choxie Aztec Thin

This is not a review. Not to say I'm not going to award a score to the bar in question, but this is something I've been absent mindedly nibbling for a few days and haven't really given a whole lot of thought to. The bar that I'm not reviewing today is the Aztec Thin from Choxie.

Choxie is a line of premium chocolate products from the Target department stores here in the United States. They are on the cheap end of premium chocolates and are packaged in colorful patterns that catch the eye. Since their introduction last fall I'd been meaning to go and give them a try but up until this weekend I had never seen any. And it's not like I hadn't tried. Apparently they had the Choxie hidden away someplace other than where the normal candy and mints were in the foods section. I finally found some adjacent to the Valentine's Day chocolates as I was wandering the store in an aimless fashion this weekend looking for ideas for a project that I'm working on (the reason I haven't been diligently blogging this past week). I had an itch for a little chocolate and this would fit the bill just perfect.

With Choxie the idea seems to be to make more premium quality chocolates accessible to the general public. So my question is this: why hide it way off in the depths of the store where unless you are looking for chocolate you aren't going to find it? Shouldn't they be sticking Choxie at every last register in the front of the store? Or at least big island displays near the checkout. When I go to the grocery store all of the limited edition candy products are right there at the register on a huge display that is, frankly, in the way and hard to ignore. Don't they want people to buy Choxie instead of, say, Hershey or Kit Kat? And while I'm talking about Hershey and Kit Kat limited editions why is it that when I went to find some this week at the UDF I had to comb the store before I found them back by the hot dog rollers? I went through the candy aisle, through the checkout candy display and found not a one limited edition. No, they were hidden in the far recesses of the (admittedly small) store. Isn't the idea behind the limited edition bars for them to be an impulse buy? I believe I'm supposed to see a Raspberry Hershey's White Chocolate bar and say to myself "Wow, self, that looks good and since it's a limited edition I better buy it now if I want to try it."

Ok, aside from my trouble finding the chocolate I want to buy in a place that makes sense to me how was the Choxie? Well, the packaging says that it has ancho chiles and cinnamon. I was really surprised at how low key both of the flavors were. There was a background spiciness to the bar as opposed to it coming out and hitting you in the face with it. It was nice. I liked the chocolate - it wasn't too sweet for me though there was something a little strange in the texture. Might have been my imagination. The nibs on the top of the bar were nice too. Two out of four of the nibby bars I've had up until now have torn up the roof of my mouth pretty badly but this one I had no problems with and I love nibs. They add a little something darker to a milk chocolate bar like this and I like that. And on top of it all the bar only costs $1.80 - pretty nice price, no? So, if I had actually been paying attention instead of dealing with other issues I would probably be forced to give it, say, an 8.5 or so.

January 18, 2006

Free Hot Chocolate!

godivalogo.gifGodiva is having another in store event and you all know what that means: FREE CHOCOLATE! Ooooh, that is my favorite phrase in the English language. Okay, maybe not my favorite, but it's in the top ten for sure.

Last year Godiva introduced their Chocolixir frozen chocolate drinks and true to form they offered free samples. Now they are bringing us Hot Chocolixir! It seems everybody wants on board the hot chocolate train and Godiva is clearly no exception. Tomorrow and Friday, January the 19th and 20th, they will be giving free samples of their new hot chocolate product in select locations. Of course supplies are limited so there are no guarantees that even if you find a store that is offering samples that you can get one. Call your store before you go.

January 13, 2006

Chocolate on the Cheap

Due to some personal and work issues I've been feeling a little down the last couple of days so I decided to stop off at Whole Foods Market on the way home to get a little sushi to cheer me up. I figured an evening with sushi, chocolate, and a bad movie would be just the cure for what ails me. As I do every time I enter the store I swung by the chocolate aisle to see if they had anything new in stock. Most of the time it seems that their selection is poor and when something new shows up it is best to grab it before it disappears. I was happy to see a few more items had hit the shelves (though I have yet to see the elusive Chocolove Toffee & Almonds in Milk Chocolate that I was really hoping for) and was about to make due with a single bar when I noticed the bundles of bars on top of the display. They had been bundling bars together for holiday gifts for a while and I was suddenly hopeful that they might be discounted. On closer inspection I found them to have a Valentine's Day ribbon on them. Disappointed that I wouldn't score a bundle of chocolate at half off I nearly put it down without checking the tag. But curiousity compels and I enswervingly obey so I took a look, just to see how bad the mark-up for a little ribbon would be. My jaw nearly hit the floor when I read the price: $13.99! I carefully counted the bars and did a little mental math and then double checked the tag. I had eight bars of Green & Black's Organic Chocolate in my hand at $1.75/bar and 5 of them were varieties that I almost never see in stock. That's 40% off by my math! Now, this may have been a fluke. There were smaller bundles at the same price. The weird thing is that the other bundles at that price all had a different number of bars. There were 8, 6, and 5 bar bundles all at $13.99 for some bizarre reason. The 4 bar bundle was $8.99 (still a healthy 25% off). I feel guilty for getting such a good deal, but I would think that whoever prices these things out did it all for a reason.

So what I'm getting at here is to always check for deals while shopping. You never know when you are going to run into an amazing bargain. And who wouldn't appreciate a big fat stack of high quality chocolate for Valentine's Day, aside from those people who just plain don't like chocolate (the poor poor souls)? I'm actually glad I don't have an SO right now or I would feel compelled to hide this away for Valentine's Day. Now I get to enjoy them all myself and report the results of my enjoyment here.

January 9, 2006

Review: Godiva Platinum Collection 8 Piece Box

godivalogo.gifClocking in at an impressive $65 per pound I found myself in no hurry to try out Godiva's Platinum Collection. If it were not for the big post-holiday sale I would still not have taken the plunge. But with the 8 piece box down to a mere $7.50 I decided that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see if they had indeed produced something worthy of the name 'Platinum Collection' so I brought a box home with me. What I found was interesting to say the least. But $65 a pound interesting?

Continue reading "Review: Godiva Platinum Collection 8 Piece Box" »

December 29, 2005

Cold Weather and Hot Chocolate

lakechamplaincocoa.jpgOf all the wonders of winter that we enjoyed growing up in Ohio hot chocolate has to be one of the best. Coming in from the freezing cold to find a steaming cup of cocoa waiting for you is a wonderful feeling. Today we find hot chocolate becoming a bit of a trend among adults with an emphasis on quality that we didn't get when I was a kid. Hot chocolate came out of a packet with crunchy little marshmallows in it and more often than not was made with hot water and maybe - if you were lucky - a dash of milk as an afterthought. Today we are talking about real hot chocolate full of - pinch me - real chocolate and actual milk. Ah, heavenly.

I have a handful of articles to share today on the subject of the trendiness of hot chocolate and even an alternative to it.

Continue reading "Cold Weather and Hot Chocolate" »

Sweet Savings

godivalogo.gifJust a quick update on the post-holiday sale front. Godiva have started to heavily discount some of their Christmas collection to the tune of 50% off. This is a great way to get some great chocolate at an amazing price so be sure to check it out. I'm probably going to grab the Holiday Cocoa Collection (since I can't recall seeing either Dagoba or Green & Black cocoa locally) and maybe a box of truffles. Yum!
Chocolate Covered Sale

December 27, 2005

Post-Holiday Bargain Hunting

lakechamplain.gifA belated 'Happy Holidays' to everybody! Now that the madness is behind us - both of the big day itself and the big shopping day yesterday - we can get on with more important things. Things like chasing down holiday packaged chocolates at 50% or more off! A quick wandering through a few stores yesterday yielded a beautiful variety of good to excellent chocolates at steep discounts. Even the most pedestrian of grocery stores probably has some Dove chocolates in Christmas-colored wrappings and if you have a store close by with a more tasteful selection you can find great deals on brands like Lake Champlain.

Those who wish to skip fighting the mobs in the stores and having to hunt for their bargains can go the online route. Lake Champlain has a big sale selection on their website where they are doing as much as 66% off of their holiday products (the small package of Gelt - chocolate coins - is 1/3 it's normal price) making for some easy bargains without quite so much effort. A quick check of Godiva's site yields no sales yet (and they also "can no longer guarantee delivery by Christmas" - hee!) but they are sure to come soon enough.

Lake Champlain Chocolates on Sale

December 12, 2005

Britains Going for the Good Stuff

News.jpgAccording to an article on Yahoo! News the people of Great Britain are beginning to shift their tastes from more generic 'candy' chocolates and over to more quality chocolate. Sales of dark chocolate are up 30% and the increase is thought to be because of - what else - the potential health benefits of chocolate. A small article but interesting news.

December 9, 2005

Free Chocolate Reminder!

godivalogo.gifJust a quick reminder that through tomorrow, December 10th, Godiva will be offering free samples of their Pop Chocolates. The Pop Chocolates are truffles with an effervescent kick to them and come in two flavors: CranOrange Dark Chocolate Dazzler and White Chocolate Raspberry Sparkler. As is always the case, quantities are limited, only one per customer, and not all locations will be participating. Me, I'm going to head out. I can't pass up the offering of free truffles and the effervescence twist to it has me curious.

November 26, 2005

Godiva In-Store Event

godiva_logo.gifOur friends at Godiva are constantly offering in-store events ranging from demonstrations to tastings. December 1-3 and 8-10 they will be having a tasting event featuring their 'Pop Chocolates' - truffles with an effervescent zing to them. I've had fizzy chocolate beverages before, but not fizzy truffles so I'm looking forward to giving these a try, especially for free. The two flavors are CranOrange Dark Chocolate Dazzler and White Chocolate Raspberry Sparkler. I'm not sure if I'm up for cranberry in my chocolate so I'll probably go for the raspberry if I have to choose between the two. Be sure to stop by for the tasting, though you might want to check with the store ahead of time since it is, like all of their events, at 'select locations' only.

Washington Post on Premium Chocolate

News.jpgThe Washington Post have up a nice article discussing the growth of premium chocolate in the marketplace. They compare premium chocolate to coffee via what they call the 'Starbucks Effect'. It's an interesting read and its nice to see that people are beginning to recognize that there is more to chocolate than candy bars you can get at the gas station and dime a dozen assortments from the grocery store. And, of course, there is mention of the potential health benefits. Can't talk chocolate these days without the desperate hope that it could actually be good for you (personally, I feel that it doesn't matter - it's chocolate for gosh sakes - you don't need an excuse).

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November 18, 2005

Coupon: Mrs. Fields Chiller

mrsfields.jpgMrs. Fields Cookies has a new product! Like Godiva and Krispy Kreme before them, they are now offering a blended drink featuring their lovley products, the Mrs. Fields Chiller. And, through the end of the year, you can get a dollar off of one of these interesting confectionary beverages by paying a visit to (and registering at) their special promotional site. While you are there play with the cookies - it's fun to make a few million fly around the screen all at once. I have a feeling that I might be 'forced' to give one of these a try before long (I've stayed away from the Krispy Kreme one so far but the cookies might win me over). They look too tasty to pass up.

November 17, 2005

Godiva's G Collection

godiva_logo.gifGodiva has sent out the announcements that their limited edition G Collection is now available (it became available on the first of November). The G Collection is made up of 15 true artisan quality chocolates designed by their exceptional pastry chef, Norman Love, and will be available through February 14, 2006. The pieces in the collection are beautiful and the flavors all sound wonderful.

In addition to announcing the G Collection, their e-mail gives notice that you can try free samples (while they last) of their Candy Cane Bark in stores November 21-23 (limit one per customer, of course). Be sure to head out to your local Godiva for your free chocolate and while you are there take a look at the beautiful pieces in the G Collection. They a truly gorgeous.


New Häagen-Dazs® Newsletter

haagendazs3.jpgHäagen-Dazs® have sent out the holiday edition of their newsletter and it is crawling with chocolatey goodness. First item of note is the return of their ever popular German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream. In response to consumer demand they are bringing it back as a limited edition flavor this January. Also coming in January is a new flavor: Mayan Chocolate. It features dark chocolate and a tinge of cinammon in honor of chcolate's Mayan roots.

Also of note, though not chocolate, is the introduction of their limited edition Bailey's Irish Cream® ice cream.

I plan on trying all three.


November 16, 2005

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Opens 300th Store

rmcf.jpgRocky Mountain Chocolate Company announced in a press release yesterday that they have opened their 300th store. I have a soft spot in my heart for them since they have those lovely dark chocolate coated marshmallows and I can't help but be happy to see their success. You can read the press release here.
Congratulations RMCF!