Thursday, November 25, 2010

Update: A Great Cookie - Tim Tams - revisited

It has been 10 years since I first sampled (and reviewed (9/2000)) a terrific cookie from Australia called the "Tim Tam".  At the time, an associate (thanks Natalie) brought me a box from a trip down under and I immediately fell in love with the chocolaty crunchy delectable cookie. To satisfy my cravings, I bought directly from a food importer for a few years until I found Tim Tams at a local movie theater- go figure.

Last night, my mother handed a box of "Tim Tams" from Pepperidge  Farm. UNBELIEVABLY TERRIFC! The people that bring us another of my favorite cookies, "the Milano- double chocolate", now bring us the "Tim Tam- double chocolate"!

How did I miss this one.  This is big news!  After Googling, I found the Facebook page.  UhOh, they say that it is only available on shelves from October to March- I'll have to dig into this to find our why, but let's not worry about that now...let's just enjoy the cookie and the day..

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nam's Bits Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you are a fan of the crunchy chocolate chip cookie, you will love these mini bites.

Nam's Bits

PS- OK, the truth. I just left a great lunch at Cafe R+D in Dallas and had an attack-

Saw Swoozie's across the parking lot and remembered that when I first saw the concept in Atlanta, about 8 years ago, they had really good mini chocolate chip cookies by the cash register (free samples).  I sauntered in and sure enough, the Dallas store also has free samples.... but that just wasn't enough, so I bought a jar and now I am feeling a bit guilty.  But not that much-   These "Bits" are great!

: )

Friday, November 12, 2010

Heading Home- Phily Tour and NY Chocolate Show (2010)

What a terrific few days in Philadelphia and New York. The NY Chocolate Show was amazing. Many thanks to those that gave me your time and products to sample. It will take me a few days to sort it all out, but I look forward to posting my impressions about them all. Everyone get ready to hear about what's coming in the near future to a store, restaurant or the web near you - really good stuff.

White, Milk and Dark!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NY Chocolate Shop: Gnosis Chocolate- Natural is really good!

Just before leaving the Show, I had the chance to meet and talk with the founder of Gnosis Chocolate.  Vanessa Barg is a very impressive Chocolatier.  Her story is one that is most inspiring- Good Ole US entrepreneurship, at its finest.  Gnosis Chocolate is Healthy and delicious. Organic, Vegan, Kosher, Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Venessa and her team have taken out what I used to think were the most important ingredients to make chocolate tasty and have proven to me that you can make great chocolate with just great chocolate and natural additions.  They have about 20 different "Cacao Bars", each that I sampled was fresh, authentic and quite good.

More to come after I visit in January.

NY Chocolate Show: Lily O'brien's

I have been to the Cafe on 40th street.  This is really good chocolate, inspiration from Ireland. Last year I had a few bars- I particularly liked the honeycomb crisp. I also sampled the desserts collection- the chocolate fudge cake chocolate was  excellent.  Today, I stuck a marshmallow into the only chocolate fountain at the Show.  The chocolate was really really good.

NY Chocolate Show: Mary's of Tokyo

After World War II, Tokyo needed chocolate and Mary's of Tokyo was born.
As the oldest of Japanese chocolatiers, they offer a complete line of chocolates.   What intrigued me was the fancy flavors they were showing off at the show. The chocolate covered sesame sticks were really good.  Mary's isn't available in the US, but hopefully it will be soon.

NY Chocolate Show: Chocovision- do it yourself

Buy your chocolate blocks from whomever you want and do it yourself.  No more double boiling or microwaving chocolate.  Chocovision has the perfect technology to make big and small shops or the foodie at home an almost expert chocolatier.

They come in several colors with lots of accessories and a DVD to show you how. It is a must for anyone interested in taking tasting to a new level.

NY Chocolate Show: Chocolat Michel Cluizel

Now this chocolate master is a master.  Take a close look at the sardines in the picture. The can is half opened  but you can clearly make out the fish (eyes and all)... problem is it is not fish, it is chocolate. These are almost perfect.  The "mushroom cap" chocolates are also artistic masterpieces.

I have not been to the fifth avenue store and I didnt have time to visit the Normandy workshops or Paris store earlier this year either- MY BAD!

Michel is a genius designer and his food is exquisitely delicious.  I will be back for more...

NY Chocolate Show: Payard

Payard is one of the Biggies.  A third generation French pastry chef and chocolatier, Francois is one of the world's best.  Stores all over the world, I was at the Las Vegas location at Caesar's Palace last month.  His food is well worth the trip if you are remotely close.

Look at the size of these Chocolate Chip Cookies!

NY Chocolate Show: Rogue Confections

Rogue Confections was a very unique entrant at the show.  Handmade chocolates inspired by vintage patterns from wallpaper and postcards. The Belgian chocolate base, that the pictures adorn, is excellent.

Chocolate disks, postcards and cupcakes, they can put these unique patterns on almost anything. 
I was told a big order was made by a Dallas retail company featuring the city- I'll try and track them down and give some as gifts for the holidays.

NY Chocolate Shop: Pralus

Francois Pralus is a rare commodity in the chocolate business.  He one of the last artisans to produce his chocolate from beans, grown on his own plantation, to bar.  His other creations are fantastic. 

I took home his "Creme De Noisette".  This is a very smooth spread akin to Nutella but obviously a much more gourmet version.

It was a delight to meet Francois.  I can't wait to visit Paris and see the store first hand.  I also want to visit the plantation!

NY Chocolate Show: Fika Choklad

Hakan Martensson is a terrific Chocolate Maker.  He learned his craft in Sweden and was on the national culinary team at the age of 21.Hakan is also a fantastic sculptor. Hakan even won a gold medal in the 2008 Culinary Olympics. If his artistic medium was wood or bronze, Hakan probably would have pieces in several museums in NY and Europe.  Hakan's problem (if you can call it a problem) is he sculpts in chocolate. Because it is so beautiful and tasty,  it gets eaten before he has a chance to petrify it (or whatever you do to chocolate to preserve it for life).  So enjoy it when you have a chance to see it, it may be gone a few minutes later.

Check out Hakan and his delicious products at his 3 NYC stores.

NY Chocolate Show: Sendall Chocolates- Toffee Taboo

Bob Sendall is a terrific event producer and chef.  So many people asked for his sinfully terrific Toffee, he felt compelled to make a side business developing and selling it. Introducing "Toffee Taboo".  One fantastic flavor, different sizes.  Enjoy!

NY Chocolate Show: William Dean Chocolates- Tampa Florida

At the show this year I gave myself enough time to walk around and spend time meeting many true innovators in the chocolate field.  Bill Brown, Founder and Chief Chocolate Officer of William Dean Chocolates, is certainly one of them.  The design of his fantastic chocolates rates among the best, as does the terrific taste of his chocolates. It is obvious he spent considerable time learning his craft. In addition, I really became fascinated with his packaging.  

From a young age, it always frustrated me to have multiple layered boxes of mixed flavored chocolates and not know how many of your favorites you had or not have any idea how many were left while you ate your delights.  Bill solved that problem with a smartly architected box that when opened reveals all chocolates remaining.  Check out my video below for a peak.

NY Chocolate Show: No Chewing Allowed

Everyone knows savoring chocolate involves no chewing.  Put a truffle in your mouth and let your body temperature melt it.

Since 1934, this company has been making truffles and telling everyone- "No Chewing Allowed".

Despite the "cute" name, these are really good truffles and they do melt in your mouth.

NY Chocolate Show: Aux Anysetiers du Roy- Fondu made very easy

At parties, I am the first in line to stick my stick into a marshmallow or mini-oreo or pound cake or (if I want to be healthy) a big strawberry and then immerse it into a big pool of chocolate. It really doesn't matter to me if it is milk, dark or white- just open up the dessert line and start the fountain.

I've tried to make something of a fondu at home, but it rarely works- wrong chocolate, wrong container- to much trouble.  And so, what a treat when I stopped by the Auz Anysetiers du Roy booth.

Now this is clever, a perfectly sized "little crock" stoneware tumblers filled with multiple flavor options of chocolate that you pop into the microwave and voila- fondu, perfect and ready to eat. The tumblers keep it hot for about 45 minutes.  Put the top back on the croc and the chocolate is reusable and reheatable for months- just keep in refrig. between uses.

I counted 32 flavors (but think they may have about 100) and sampled 4. Tres Magnifique!

NY Chocolate Show: CoCo Sala (DC)- what a nice find!

I travel to Washington, DC quite a bit but am embarrased to say I have not had the pleasure of finding and enjoying CoCo. Sala Restaurant, Chocolate Lounge and Boutique, but that will end as soon as I get back to DC.

I had the chance to meet and sample this great concept and was really impressed with the artisan chocolate lineup- loved the PB&J.  Took home the hot co co. pops and made a mean hot chocolate.

After looking at their website, I can't wait to hit this hot spot.

NY Chocolate Show: Bonnat Chocoilatier

Stephane Bonnat and I had a chance to meet and chat.  Mr. Bonnat is the 4th generation chocolatier from his family's Bonnat Chocolatier in Voiron, France.  Since 1884, Bonnat has been making chocolate confections at the base of the alps. I think Stephane had fun collaborating on a clothing design for the Fashion Show and for introducing his newest goods at the Chocolate Show.

Stephane, I'm coming to Voiron for a tour and proper sampling!!

The Show presented the Bonnat Chocolate Bars.  I had a chance to sample many of the flavors and found them an excellent representation of the areas where they buy their cocoa.

I was especially excited to learn the story and taste the chocolate bar from Mexico-

Bonnat Xoconuzco Bar
Bonnat Cacao real del Xoconuzco 75% Bittersweet Chocolate
I can't tell the story any better than the website :
This is the first cocoa known to have been cultivated by man in a sustained way, from near the Izapa pyramid in Mexico. Cacao del Xoconusco was reserved for the Emperors of the Precolumbian civilizations to imbue them with strength and courage. For the first time since 1850 this cocoa is being utilized so you can discover its raptuous aroma and exceptional flavor. Kosher-Parve

NY Chocolate Show: 2 Chicks with Chocolate

On Wednesday night, I had a wonderful conversation with Founder/Daughter Elyissia Wassung and on Thursday, I spoke with Mother/ Chick 2, Barbara.  What enthusiasm for their work.  Elyissa successfully marries her corporate background and experience with her inherited love and talent for chocolate.   I had a chance to sample many of their great goodies: loved the bark- Oreo & Pretzel.  Heard a big buzz about the Fire & Ice Martini's.

NY Chocolate Show: The Europeans are coming... Christophe Roussel

I had a chance to sample and talk to several chocolate makers at the show:

Christophe Roussel: Although there is no easy way yet to buy this chocolate in the US, keep an eye out for this man and his line.  Christophe has the personality and the goods to breakout in the US in a big way.  His work is simple yet powerful.

Christophe is a chocolatier and a patissier and this brings him to the land of Payard and Torres.  His chocolate is beautiful and delicious.  Every sample amplified the ingredients beyond my expectations.  Christophe has a pedigree that has taken him from South America to Switzerland to St. Barts and France- he even worked at Relais & Chateau (see previous post about one of the best desserts I have ever experienced).  I didn't get to sample his desserts but a trip to Paris, La Baule and Guerande to taste first hand is not far off on my calendar.

A few chocolate examples: Christophe makes what I would call marshmallow sticks: From a perfectly designed and decorated box, I found, in multiple flavors, this thin stick of chocolate.  It has a delicate mini cookie on the bottom, with a marshmallow center and crunchy cookie nibs, encased in his chocolate-   it is to die for. Christophe also made a classic american style chocolate with an Oreo center, surounded by Marshmallow and covered in Chocolate- a Oreo-marshmallow-chocolate lollipop.  GREATNESS!

Welcome to America, Christophe!  I have a feeling you'll be here awhile.

NY Chocolate Show: I'm back

I attended my first NY Chocolate Show 12 years ago, when it was in SoHo.  I know because I have the T-Shirt to prove it.  The show has grown quite a bit since then, but the idea remains the same: make chocolate accessible to anyone willing to try it.  This year there are companies from Japan, Europe, North and South America, Africa, and many other parts of the world. Manufacturers, retailers, chefs and enthusists all enjoy sampling and talking "chocolate".

A highlight was meeting Chocolatiers from the US and abroad who are creating terrific delights that I hope everyone will have a chance to enjoy in 2010 and beyond.

I salute you all and thank you for such exquisite flavors, tastes and combination.

My mission to get people to eat more chocolate is certainly achieved at shows like this one.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NY Chocolate Show: Big Chocolate

A Chocolate Show would not be complete without the Big 3 sampling their pieces. I don't mean Mars, Hershey and Nestle.  I am talking about Callebaut, Guittard and Valrhona.

Each has a distinct profile yet each offers endless variety of flavors and types to satisfy any chocolate maker- recrational and professional.

Most of the premium professional chocolate makers use one of these 3 chocolates as their base.

Guittard was founded in France in the late 1800s and is still run by the Guittard family- 5 generations later. Known for small batch blending and careful aging, old world processes are still in practice at Guittard.

Valrhona was created in 1922 in the Rhone Valley in France. Well known for it's exclusive selection of couverture chocolate, Valrhona provides products and services to professional chocolate makers as well as a line of Valrhona branded bars and squares sold to discerning chocolate lovers worldwide.

Calllebaut is the leading providers of gourmet chocolate to chefs, cooking schools. customers worldwide.  Headquartered in Switzerland, Barry Callebaut is more than 150 years old and is involved in all aspects of the chocolate industry- from Farmers to manufacturers to grocery and restaurant shelves.

I love attending shows like this, because one can only truly appreciate the subtle differences when it sample him/herself   The big 3 always have new products to try and these 3 let you sample all you want!
: )

NY: Chocolate Show of New York's Fashion Show

Tonight, I attended this very unusual event.  Unfortunately, my train from Phily was a bit late, so I wasn't able to see all of the 2010 collection on the runway, but what I did see was enticing enough for me to book my trip for 2011.

For years I have discussed attending fashion shows with my friend Gerald (a big time high-end retail executive) and for years he has never quite gotten around to issuing me the proper credentials in Milan, Paris or New York to attend with him.  A few days ago, I saw the Chocolate Show of NY was presenting their own chocolate inspired show, so I caught the proverbial "next plane" to see what a real Fashion Show looks like first hand-- and boy was I not let down.

Everything you see on TV and in the movies was present, including runway, press, girls, ooing and aahing spectators and high fashion clothes.

Master Chocolatiers, like Michel Cluizel and Christophe Roussel, teaming with High End Fashion Designers like Betsey Johnson to create very unusual and extravagant 2010 collection.

So much fun to watch.. definitely a great kick off to the 2010 chocolate show.  Benefiting Clean Ocean Action

Phily: Marcie Blaine Artisanal Chocolates - Hiding in Verde

Marcie Blaine Artisanal Chocolates is the creation of namesake Chef Marcie Blaine Turney.  The display is in the middle of  Verde, her boutique shop, with the kitchen hiding in the back.  
OK, not all of the chocolates I purchased made it home for my review, and I won’t admit to eating them all (though I did love every single bite), so I am able to report only some my favorites here:

Soft Pretzel- peanut butter with pretzel pieces ganache.

Philly Skyline- crispy hazelnut milk chocolate praline
Sweet Lula- cardamom marshmallow, vanilla bean (very unique flavor- not your ordinary marshmallow chocolate candy)
Busy Bee- lavender honey chocolate
Peppermint Crunch- crunchy mint ganache
Smoked Bacon- dark chocolate infused with smoked bacon

Phily: Lore's Chocolates- Look closely....

Lore’s Chocolates-  Set in an old brownstone type building on 7th Street, you feel like you are walking back in time as you enter the shop.  Lore’s offers about 120 different chocolates in the store everday.   Really every type of chocolate you could ever want or think of wanting.
I didn't have time for a tour of the factory, but in doing my research, I saw this "everyman" front door to what is actually a very sophisticated manufacturing plant that the founding family has been improving for almost 50 years.
I bought a sample of my favorite classics in a combination of milk and dark chocolates- with innards of pretzel, marshmallow, peppermint, caramel, and molasses.  You choose what you want from the myriad of options around the shop and some very nice women put it together in a box for you... then off you go!  In my case,  to the train station.

Phily: Teuscher at The Bellevue

At the corner of Walnut and and Broad, in the Shops at The Bellevue sits another small shop delivering a huge flavor.  This week, the fall flowers are in bloom at this Teuscher shop.  I have reviewed the Champagne Truffle many times over the years and it NEVER fails to stand out, but the packaging at Teuscher should get equal billing, especially if you need to give a gift.  It is almost like visiting a museum or hall of fame of packaging and everything put inside fro Teuscher is superb.

Phily: Max Brenner (Round 2)- Now in Philadelphia

Stopped in Max’s new Phily location.  Smaller than the Las Vegas store at The Forum Shops (see my review last month).  I was able to have a quick hot chocolate and refill  the coffers from what I picked up and ate (or gave away) from the Vegas trip.  I can’t get over how well thought through a concept this is. From hot chocolate to artisan chocolates to fancy chocolate pieces, MB has it all.
I didn't have time to have a meal this trip, but enjoyed some new chocolate treats I hadn’t seen before.  I still recommend getting “a shot” of chocolate.  It is just what the doctor ordered.   Also, get the “Crockies”- Hazelnut praline cream rolled in dark chocolate and wafer flakes.  WOW!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Phily and NY- NY Chocolate Show- here I come!

I'm taking a short trip to NYC to report on the NY Chocolate Show.  Figured I'd catch a late night flight tonight to Phily to catch up on chocolate opportunities in Philadelphia + try and interview a cool company I found on the web a few months back...

Then it's a short train ride to the Big Apple for the NY Chocolate Fashion Show tomorrow night.

more soon....