Monday, August 27, 2007

New York, New York

New York is truly a culinary wonderland. A couple of years ago I took a "sweets" tour of New York that featured Magnolia's cupcakes, Jacques Torres' chocolates and lots of other goodies. I learned my lesson on that trip; you can actually overdo chocolate in a single day in New York. So when I set out to put together a chocolate tour for the Baron, I kept it small but oh-so-sweet.

We dropped the little von Schokolats off at the American Girl Place and headed down to Union Square. First stop: ABC Carpet & Home.

I kept hearing, "Why are we going to a carpet store?"

First off, it's not really a carpet store. I mean, they do have carpets, but it's so much more. All sorts of funky, groovy stuff for your home, and then all these other little stores within the big store. That's where Chocolat Michel Cluizel is.

It's part chocolate shop, part restaurant. They offer guided tastings, from the Introductory Tasting at $35 per person (features 7 chocolates, including blended and single plantation varieties and a "superlative bonbon") to the Full Spirit Tasting (an emphasis on how chocolates pair with fine spirits ranging from Cognac and Muscat to single malt Scotch and Tequila).

The chocolates were lovely. They weren't too froofy with painted designs or gold leaf, and there weren't any of those "spice cabinet" combinations that I loathe. It was a difficult decision, but I finally got a dark bonbon for each of us, and then the Baron picked out two round, prickly things in pink and orange. I would've never chosen these so I'm glad he did. Turns out they were filled with liqueur-- mine had Grand Marnier-- and they were delicious. (Michel Cluizel is the only chocolate shop in Manhattan that's allowed to sell liquor-infused chocolates, because they have a liquor license.)

I also bought a 20 dram "vial" of cocoa nibs (the container looks like a prescription bottle-- very cute!) and a tasting box of single-origin chocolates (more on these in another post). It was pretty pricey, I must say. The individual chocolates were about $3 a piece, so this isn't chocolate to binge on.

Then it was onto Max Brenner. (I'd put the link to the website here, but every time I go to it, it takes forever and I don't want you to curse me.) I know that Max Brenner has been lambasted by the culinary community for being more of a marketer than a chef, and Brian and the Baron felt like the place was a little too Disney World, but I liked it. We were pretty hungry at this point, so the question was: do we order lunch or do we order something sweet and wonderful from the desserts menu? (They had things like peanut butter and chocolate crepes, chocolate pizza, S'mores and dip-your-own ice cream bar.) The answer: both. The Baron ordered a cup of the Mexican Hot Chocolate which came in one of their signature "hug mugs." It doesn't have a handle so you just hug it to your lips. It was pretty tasty: rich and thick with a good kick of cinnamon and peppery spice at the finish. Brian ordered a chocolate beer, which wasn't really chocolatey. More malty and dark like a Guinness. We decided to split a normal lunch and the Munchies Waffles: two waffles topped with your choice of milk, dark or white chocolate ice cream, served with crunchy chocolate balls and chocolate syrup. I would've gotten the dark chocolate, but the Baron's gentle palate dictated that we have the white. It was fabulous. I mean, what's not to love? The waffles were hot and crisp, the ice cream smooth and milky, and the sauce and crunchies gave it more texture. Deeelish! The chocolate shop had an array of individual chocolates for sale, and then boxes of different goodies and hot chocolate and such.

While we were having our feast, we got to talking to two women at the table next to us. One of them said that her grandmother, who lived to be 100, was addicted to dark chocolate. She said when they cleaned out her room at the nursing home, they found a hidden stash of Hershey's Dark. (See, it is a potent antioxidant!)

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