Monday, February 19, 2007

Field Trip!

My ass-kicking, garden guru, firefighter friend Sue called me the other day and asked, "Have you ever heard of Chocopologie?" Um, no, I hadn't, but it sounded like something I needed to know about. Turns out Fritz Knipschildt, who I had interviewed a few years ago about his chocolate business, had opened a retail outlet/chocolate factory/cafe/restaurant about a year ago. I didn't realize how out of the loop I've been. Needless to say, I HAD to go there. So yesterday Sue and I ventured out on a girls' day and went there for lunch.
Now, let me just say that if I was writing a professional review, I'd have to mention the atrocious service. There were two young women running around like chickens with their heads cut off, waiting on the entire restaurant, and one was particularly grumpy. But this is not a professional review, so we'll skip that messy part.
The place is really atmospheric, very Euro-coffeehouse. When you walk in, there are tables (some shared) where you can sit and eat. Then there's a loooong hallway where you can sit at the bar and watch the chocolatiers behind the glass do their thing. Very cool.
We both ordered a cup of "Chocopologie," the signature drink, described as "half deep, rich chocolate and half espresso with lavender foam." Before I describe it, let me just say that I'm getting over a cold, so my nose was totally stuffed up and therefore not at peak performance. But when I took the first sip, I was completely surprised. It didn't taste like chocolate, nor did it taste like espresso. "It tastes like ... sesame?" I said. Sue sipped hers. "Hazelnut?" she asked. I sipped again and concluded that it tasted like mild, liquid peanut butter. I don't know why. There were a few little buds of lavender floating on top. I know that a truly sophisticated person would ooh-and-aahh over this, but frankly, it just didn't do much for me. In fact, one of the buds got stuck in my teeth and it kind of grossed me out.

For lunch I ordered a panini and Sue had a buckwheat crepe, both of which came with really garlicky, yummy salads. The only savory chocolate thing on the menu was escargot in a chocolate beurre sauce. Maybe someday I'll try that, but I've never been much for escargot, either.

The dessert menu looked fabulous. There were all sorts of shiny, decadent-looking cakes, like pistachio chocolate cake and a banana pyramid, but we opted to buy some chocolates instead. I got a raspberry black pepper, orange rum and Turkish coffee. Here's the deal. Again, a person with refined taste would probably go gaagaa over these. But if I'm being totally, drop dead honest, I have to say I just don't dig these "fancy" flavor combinations. The raspberry black pepper was certainly intriguing, but when I have chocolate, I want it to be "CHOCOLATE!" Not butter and tobacco with a touch of heat. The orange rum was really strong, but not in a Christmas rum ball kind of way. More like a RUM! (orange) RUM! (chocolate) kind of way. The Turkish coffee was the best. It was shaped like a beehive and it looked like white chocolate, but it actually had a lemony taste to it. The inside was a very subtle coffee flavor. Surprising, since Turkish coffee is so over-the-top strong. The packaging they use is very nice. My pieces were tucked into a little handmade paper bag secured closed with a tiny piece of carved wood that looked like a toothpick.

What it comes down to, I guess, is that I have simple, basic tastes. I prefer California wine over French. I'd rather eat American or Italian food over French or Spanish. And when it comes to chocolate, I like nuts and caramel and nougat and very defined, distinct tastes. Subtley ain't where it's at for me. Chili pepper, violet, curry powder ... fine for some things, but not in my chocolate. I like Fritz, though, and I like Chocopologie and, of course, I love all chocolate simply for being chocolate. So I'll go back, but next time I'll try the cake.


cybele said...

I've only had one piece of Knipschildt's chocolates, so I can't really say much about his stuff yet. I did see the Bobby Flay throwdown show with him on it on Food Network and was glad to see that at least Knipschildt won.

I'm curious to give more of his stuff a try at some point. I kind of favor the old fashioned classics and I judge a chocolatier on how well they do their caramels, pretty much. I like the novelty stuff, but only if the standard stuff is really good.

Anonymous said...

I recommend the "Jennifer"s (pistachio/marzipan) truffles, the nougatine (coffee/hazelnut) truffles or, if you like white chocolate, the coconut ones. I stay away from the lavender caramels and prefer the caramels with sea salt - without the sea salt. The rest are just plain weird.