Showing posts with label Chocolate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chocolate. Show all posts

Monday, January 19, 2009

A strange cup: Cocoa Bar

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As romantic as it seemed, something about this place just didn't sit right with me.

After dinner at Pho So 1 the four of us made our way to Cocoa Bar randomly, simply because it was one of the closest dessert places in the area. The place was nearly empty, and right from the beginning things felt sort of off. It began with the high prices and numerous unavailable items, continued with misdelivered orders and concern about the freshness of the desserts; and ended with some (possibly intentional?) miscalculated charges on the bill. And throughout the course of the night the owner exhibited odd, awkward behavior that did nothing to make the place feel cozier. I can't explain it—he just seemed chummy in a way that didn't feel chummy at all.
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We tried to enjoy ourselves despite, and I did appreciate my spicy dark hot chocolate for its balanced level of heat and sweetness and good ingredients. TL seemed to really like his chocolate truffle cake, too. But both JL and LB were put off by the gelato and brownie dessert, and I think we were all put off by the vibe of the place overall. I think it's safe to say that Cocoa Bar isn't a place to which I plan on returning.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sugar and spice and everything nice: Dessert Truck

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I'd already eaten a whole plate of ho-hum pad see-ew for dinner at Montien Thai with TL, ID, and ID's friend J, but as we headed to the train we ran into the famed Dessert Truck and I stopped dead. I had read an entire post about all of the truck's various offerings not long before, and there was no way I was passing this one by.

I opted for the goat cheese cheesecake, "topped with fresh blackberries, rosemary caramel, and a pistachio crisp," as well as their acclaimed chocolate bread pudding. I wasn't crazy though…I took them both back to my apartment before digging in with MH, giving myself time to digest before padding my dinner with sweets.
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I'm glad I waited. Not having a sweet tooth, there was no way I could have finished either one by myself, though both were quite good. Goat cheese haters wouldn't have been able to overlook the unmistakable goaty tang in the cheesecake, but luckily, I'm a fan. And I enjoyed the pool of rosemary honey around the cheesecake, which added a surprising herbal note.
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The sweetness of the honey did get sickly after a while though, and with the chocolate bread pudding I didn't fare any better. Even MH, who can inhale a pint of ice cream in about ten minutes, ate a spoonful and paused before commenting, "Oh, that's…thick." She stopped eating shortly after.

This isn't to say that either of them were bad, just that they were both much too sweet. I could clearly taste the quality of ingredients, and I'm impressed that desserts at this level are being offered from a truck. For most other folks this mobile dessert vendor is probably a dream, but for me, I'm good with stopping at what I've tried.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

For conquering cravings, only City Bakery will do

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I'm generally not into sweets, but sometimes I get intense cravings for cookies. Chewy, buttery, sugar-and-chocolate-filled cookies.

And when you have the good (or bad, depending on how you look at it) fortune of working within easy walking distance of City Bakery, the choice for where to get such a one is easy. The above chocolate chip cookie has edges that are just a bit crisp, and a thin, crackly outside layer that gives way to an almost gooey center. Each bite floods your mouth with brown sugar, butter, and rich, melty chocolate.

This cookie is so intensely sweet and decadent I can't tackle one without a mug of strong black coffee on hand, and even then I can only eat about a third, verrrry slowly, before my tastebuds give up and die. One cookie lasts me about three days, and I end up satisfied for a good long while.
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I also occasionally pick up one of City Bakery's whole wheat croissants, which I like better than their famous pretzel croissant. (They actually seem exactly the same to me, aside from a bit more salt and a smattering of sesame seeds on the pretzel version, but the whole wheat is a bit cheaper.) The flaky crusts of City Bakery's croissants give way to interiors that are dense and doughy and fragrant with butter, and though they can be a bit greasy, they're the best I've found in the area.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Two Chicks in The Big Easy, day 2: Too much buffet, and bad fried chicken

Catch up! Day 1.
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The next day, MH and I woke up late. We were both hungry, and I decided that I wanted to hit up one of the jazz brunches I kept seeing advertised. MH was kind enough to humor me even though she hates buffets.

The garden dining area of The Court of the Two Sisters was beautiful, full of trailing wisteria and fountains. But their buffet was indoors, in a space that felt rather dark and empty. Stepping between the two areas meant a change in mood that was slightly disorienting.
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There were lots of items on offer though, at least eighty I believe.
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Here's my sampler plate, clockwise from top: biscuit (slightly sweet, tasty); crabmeat pasta salad; Cajun pasta salad; flounder and crabmeat roulade (good); curried chicken salad, eggplant-andouille casserole (tasty); spicy andouille; cheesy shrimp pasta (good); duck l'orange (tough and flavorless); jambalaya (much too salty); and braised veal (tough and too salty).
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I also snagged us a plate of boiled crawfish and shrimp, with a good dollop of rémoulade on the side. Unfortunately, the shrimp were desperately overcooked and had turned into little curves of pink rubber, and the crawfish were much too salty. I tried the sauce with one, but that was salty too. I quickly abandoned the entire plate.
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My second plate, clockwise from top: crawfish salad; sweet potato and andouille salad (surprisingly vinegary); potato salad chunk; shrimp étouffée on rice; potatoes au gratin; more cheesy shrimp pasta; another flounder and crabmeat roulade; and in the middle, more eggplant-andouille casserole.

I also tried a bit of sherried turtle soup, which tasted like beef broth; if there was supposed to be a turtley flavor—whatever that may mean—the soup didn't have it.
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Then it was on to dessert. Two plates, mine and MH's: Bananas Foster (buttery and too sweet); whiskey bread pudding (solid as a brick); pecan pie (decent filling, bad crust); king cake (stale); chocolate cream-filled cupcake (tasty in a Ding-Dong kinda way); brownie; chocolate cake; vanilla ice cream (half-melted and foamy in texture).

I can't say it was a stellar meal, but, um, sitting in the courtyard and listening to the jazz trio was nice. And it was filling at least?

We spent the rest of the day making our way along the waterfront and walking around the French Quarter and the French Market. Neither of us felt hungry even as it hit late evening.
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But when we left the Quarter and stepped onto Canal Street, we spotted a Popeyes. Before our trip, we had heard from several different people that the Popeyes outposts in New Orleans were excellent. MH and I were curious what all the fuss was about, and had even contemplated staging a NYC-NOLA taste-off to see how they compared. We figured it was as good a time as any to give the chain a try.

Remembering our meal now, I can't believe that the results of a taste-off would have been too different. The spicy chicken in our two-piece meal tasted like KFC, and wasn't spicy; the gummy biscuits tasted overwhelmingly of artificial butter; the Cajun fries were decent but not extraordinary; and the chicken étouffée was just okay. And I liked the Cajun rice, but I suspect it might have been because it was the only item that wasn't mouth-dryingly salty.

Were we putting too much expectation on what was, in the end, fast food? Did we just get a shoddy meal? It doesn't matter, I suppose, because we didn't go back again for a second try. We weren't doing too well on the eats that day.

To be continued....

Two Chicks in The Big Easy:
Day 1: All fried, all the time
Day 2: Too much buffet, and bad fried chicken
Day 3: Our beignet addiction takes hold
Day 4: Still fried, but deliciousness at last
Day 5: Food court and dive bar surprises
Day 6: Giant salads, muffalattas, and no beignets
Day 7: "Beignet...done that"

Friday, February 29, 2008

Shtinky Puddin

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Well, these puddings look good, don't they? Like if you were to dip a spoon into one of them, you would emerge with a creamy mound of rich, dark chocolate that would fill your mouth with joy and happiness.

Oh, if only.

Granted, this was a low-fat recipe, using skim milk and cocoa powder instead of cream and melted chocolate. I chose this one because I was planning on serving the pudding at the end of a fondue meal (post to come!), and I thought it would be good to have a sweet dessert that wasn't too rich afterward. Reviews and descriptions had led me to believe that I wouldn't be able to tell the difference, or if I could, I wouldn't mind.

But call it something like a bland chocolate flan, and it might be close. My very kind friends described the texture as "somewhere between Jell-O and pudding." It wasn't sweet enough, chocolately enough, or smooth enough; each pudding was a stoic gelatinous blob into which spoons sliced rather than sank. I knew from how fast the hot pudding had set that something in the texture might be off, but by then it was too late.
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I could have experimented with re-cooking it and thinning it out I suppose, although I have no idea if that would have helped. Well, at least I got to use my set of ramekins for the first time.

Recipe:
"Dark Chocolate Pudding," Moosewood Collective

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A sweet to sweeten business

Chocolate-covered marshmallow
I've been at my current job for about four years now. Sweets show up often in my workplace—there are cupcakes for birthdays, donuts for meetings, and piles of homemade cookies for when the editors take on the slush pile. There are also the sweets that come in as gifts and thank-yous: near Christmas, one author always delivers several varieties of biscotti, and another sends on tins of extremely potent rum balls, thereby ensuring that the entire office is a little tipsy for an afternoon. And every Valentine's Day, one of our vendors gives my department a box of hand-dipped, chocolate-covered marshmallows.
Chocolate-covered marshmallow innards
Sneaky, sneaky…this time, the milk chocolate shell hid not just a square of marshmallow, but also a thick layer of bright raspberry jelly.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Still not photogenic, but at least they're nonpareil

Ready for the party
This batch was made with the remaining dough in the freezer from this first attempt.

As I was bringing these to a Superbowl party I rolled the edges in blue nonpareils in honor of the Giants (I'm a New Yorker after all!). I wish I had found a darker blue closer to the actual color of their uniforms but the cake supply shop I went to only had them in this shade.
Cut cookies, awaitin' the bakin'
These sliced better after being frozen overnight, though they still got a little sticky and soft as I was cutting. I baked these for somewhere between 10-11 minutes instead of 12, and this seemed to help keep them from drying out too much. Those pale spots you see in the cookies are clumps of cocoa that I had failed to properly incorporate. Um, I did mention I'm a novice, right?

I realize that with the cakey texture (from the cocoa I used?), these are sort of like dry brownies in cookie form more than anything else. They are decent and satisfy any chocolate cravings, but I'm not sure I will revisit this recipe, at least not without the proper cocoa to see if that makes a difference.

And my fingers are still stained blue. . . .

Thursday, January 31, 2008

These are just not photogenic.

IMG_0517.JPGThese ended up as dry, cakey cookies, pleasant enough, though I was hoping for more along the lines of crisp and slightly chewy as in the description. Mine also don't look nearly as dark as the ones pictured along with the recipe.

I'm guessing at least some of these issues are because I used unsweetened cocoa that was not dutch-processed. The recipe didn't indicate which kind to use and as dutch-processed cocoa is usually specifically called for, I assumed it was the former or that it didn't matter. However, in hindsight I realize that as the recipe used baking powder the writer might have meant to specify the latter? Certainly the difference in color is due to this reason, but I'm wondering if the difference in acidity is why they ended up more cake-like and dry also.

Finally, the dough was super sticky and didn't slice neatly at all despite sitting for two hours in the freezer. I had to manipulate the dough blobs with my fingers to keep them presentable.

I have more dough sitting in the freezer and I'm going to see if freezing overnight will take care of the stickiness issue. I'm also going to bake these cookies for a shorter time, maybe 9–10 minutes instead of 12, in an effort to keep the rest from being as dry.

Recipe:
"Intensely Dark Chocolate Icebox Cookies," Coconut & Lime

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Choco Bundt

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For steak night @ SYB's.

This cake, as the recipe description says, was really tender and stayed moist even after several days sitting on the counter (covered in foil). It wasn't too sweet and so was perfect for my tastes.

I dusted the cake pan with fine-grain sugar instead of flour, this seems to work reasonably well. I think the slight sticking I experienced when removing the cake was from not greasing the pan thoroughly.

I made this cake again about a week later and added 50% more cocoa with no compromise on texture or moistness. I may experiment with doubling it next time to continue increasing the "chocolateyness" of the cake.

Recipe:
"Featherlight Chocolate Cake," Epicurious.com