Monday, December 01, 2008

A Better Butter Cup
The world of designer chocolate sees plenty of classic flavor combos get modern gourmet makeovers. Until now no one had successfully remixed the peanut butter cup. Not only are
Los Angeles based Ococoa's dark chocolate butter cups sexy, they're presented in an elegant brown box and feature a variety of killer nut butters, jams and exotic flavors. Almond butter with Morello cherries, pistachio butter with sweet dates and sesame butter layered with figs are so ridiculously delicious that a simple review wouldn't suffice. I had to get the full scoop from Ococoa's owner, Diana Malouf in a Q&A session:

CN: When did you start making chocolate?

DM: I always loved baking. About 10 years ago I started making truffles and would make them for friends for Christmas. I got bored making truffles one year and decided to try making peanut butter cups. They were a hit. So my mind starting swimming with ideas and being of Middle-Eastern descent I drew on the flavors I grew up enjoying and turned them into the butter cups I now sell.

CN: The butter cups are gorgeous, do you have culinary or artistic training or was creating with chocolate a hobby that came naturally?

DM: Working with chocolate started out as a hobby and a desire to make food that people enjoyed. It took years of practice, trial-and-error to hone my skills. I don't know if I have a natural talent, but I know I have always had an inclination toward working with desserts.

CN: Why peanut butter cups?

DM: I love peanut butter and chocolate together but it seems like the selection on the market is just too sweet. I had to make something that I enjoyed eating. And being creative, I couldn't stop with just peanuts.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Handy Candy
Boy Scout or not, we should all "Be Prepared" to dive into this Swiss Army concept chocolate made of hazelnut praline. Perhaps it's the perfect gift for the chocolate loving MacGyver fan in your life?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pixel Perfect
These adorable custom chocolates from Decochoco of Japan were designed by the bridegroom for his pixel-themed wedding. You have to check out the pixel-flower wedding cake and a break down of the lovely event here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Piece of the Pie
Give the bean counter in your life a better chart to feast their eyes on with this Chocolate Pie Chart from Mary & Matt. The clever confection is broken down into 70% Milk Chocolate, 20% Dark and 10% White. But none of those boring stats would seem to matter much while stuffing yummy chocolate into your pie hole.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Live Richly!
Chocolate is an essential part of coping with troubling times. In fact,
the New York Times recently reported that casualties of the financial downturn are craving chocolate fudge sundaes. It makes sense, chocolate is one of the few affordable luxuries left. If you managed to salvage $6.25 from your 401K, a bar of Patric Chocolate is a great way to spend it. Each bar comes with a ten-step guideline that will transform your dining room into an oppulent tasting. I love Tip #5: "Smell the chocolate; it should smell fresh and full of aromas such as: cocoa, roasted nuts, fruit, coffee, vegetal-like aromas, tobacco, and others." And just in case you weren't sure about the notes of tobacco you thought you tasted, a description of the complex flavors present in each bar is printed on the package. When the "Lively notes of plum preserves" dance with "fruits rouges and enticing hints of butter-hazelnut toffee" on your tongue, I promise, you'll feel rich again in no time.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sagmeister Bar
Like chocolate, journaling can be stimulating and deeply personal, or in the case of graphic design superstar Stefan Sagmeister, deeply public. This chocolate bar is part of the creativity sparked by a personal, reflective list written in Sagmeister's diary. The list soon evolved into a series of very public, interactive works of art. If you're in need of some introspection or inspiration, check out Things I Have Learned In My Life, So Far. The creative project encourages reflection, journaling and offers more than a few nuggets of wisdom to chew on.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veer Towards Vere
nnovation, design and affordability make Vere a best bet this season. If you need to wow the chocolate lover in your life on a holiday budget, Vere's flourless brownies which are enrobed in dark chocolate and come in coconut, walnut, peanut butter and mint+nib, are more like truffles than baked goods. What I love even more than the modern take on the brownie is the slick packaging which makes them great for gifting and at $6.00 a box, you definitely get some bang. Also check out their unsweetened toasted coconut clusters (seen above) which happen to be sugar, alcohol and preservative free and might I add, delicious...I just singlehandedly finished off a box. Vere chocolate is certified by the Rainforest Alliance which means the cocoa farm where it's harvested is required to protect wildlife, soil and waterways and workers and their families with health care, education, decent housing and wages. For those reasons, Vere chocolate is at the top of my list this year.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Was ecstatic to usher in a new era last night upon the announcement of the upcoming President of the United States of America with the students from Columbia University,
his alma mater, as they took to the streets, stopping traffic, hanging from light posts, beating on pots and drums, blowing whistles, chanting "Obama" and waving to buses, taxi cabs and passersby, while residents waved from rooftops and windows during an impromptu parade from Broadway and 115th street to the celebratory gathering on 125th street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd, in Harlem Last Night. My feet are a bit blistered from running through the streets in high heels, but it was well worth every invigorating minute of it. I must have hugged and or smiled at a million This is beyond. This is history.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Stamp of Approval
Interesting concept for dark, milk and white chocolate flavored 1st class mail stamps--the old fashioned kind that you lick. Designer Toby Ng has packaged them beautifully in matching envelopes. These would make great actual chocolate bar designs don't you think?

After My Own Heart
It would be pretty sweet to spend Valentine's Day kicking back in the rainforest with other cacao enthusiasts learning to make chocolate the traditional Mayan way instead of having to stomach all of the smarmy displays around town. If you're interested, the Cotton Tree Lodge, an all-inclusive eco-resort nestled in southern Belize offers week long chocolate making tours from February 8th-15th, 2009 and then again in May. Here are some fliks from last year's event. Looks like things get pretty messy! Mention The Chocolate Nerd when you book and they'll give you a 10% discount on your trip!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Witches' Oven
Come December, getting one's hands on a box of Fat Witch Brownies is akin to working magic. I was delighted today to learn that should I fail once again to make the holiday wait-list, I'm in no way relegated to a brownie-less celebration. As an alternative, I can now pick up a box of Original Fat Witch Brownie Mix. I love the illustrated cityscape on the box and anyways, pulling a batch of these bad girls out the oven will totally earn you brownie points.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Out of Africa
It was Claudio Corallo's passion for Tarzan
fliks that called the Florence, Italy native to seek a life in the African Jungle. In 1974, at the adventurous age of 23, the young Italian took a job in the government of Zaire doing an agricultural census. He later found more interest in his work with a local coffee exporter. Eventually he was able to purchase two coffee plantations and start a family with the Portuguese ambassador to Zaire's daughter. When civil war drove Zaire's dictator Mobutu Sese Seko from power in 1993, Corallo's plantations were looted. He then moved his family to Sao Tome and Principe, independent, equatorial, volcanic islands off the coast of Gabon. The Corallo family has been there since cultivating what some consider the best chocolate in the world. While that claim is subjective, there's no denying that breaking open a bag of Fair Trade Claudio Corallo is like popping the top off of a bottle of a tropical perfume. Notes of cocoa, earthy and floral, and tropical citrus immediately create a sublime olfactory experience rivaled only by its taste. With his Chocolate Laranga, Corallo has paired his origin chocolate with chewy bits of orange peel. Thinking it the perfect flavor and texture for a gourmet brownie, I melted a few ounces into a batch and served it warm with vanilla bean ice cream. Corallo, a purist, who upholds the integrity of the chocolate by forgoing any additives such as milk powder or even vanilla extract may be cringing at the thought of Corallo brownies, but what can I say? They sure taste great!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pretty As a Picture
Model turned pastry chef Taylor Foster Allen's journey from the cookie trays to the runways and back again is an inspiring tale that exhorts one to pursue their dreams. This image of truffles taken by Allen's creative partner Joshua Allen is simply dreamy. If you can't make it to their Bovina, NY organic bakery a visit to the Heaven On Main Street site is just as sweet. More via Boho magazine.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Couture Custard for Cool Customers
I had the best Giandujia ice cream made from Michel Cluizel chocolate and Piedmont Hazelnuts from the coolest gourmet ice cream truck parked outside of Barney's Coop on the Upper West Side. The guy who works the truck said that it was his friend's brilliant idea to bring the Van Leeuwen experience to the streets of New York. And while I'll always have a soft spot for Mister Softee 's Jingle and their vanilla cone with chocolate sprinkles, I'll definitely splurge for a few bucks more (a small cup was about $3.75) for the hormone free, locally sourced custard that tastes more like gelato than plastic. Even the cups and spoons were a nice tactile experience and when I checked out the website I learned that they were made from renewable sugar cane and corn husk. The Ginger ice cream was quite delicious as well. Can't wait to try the Red Currant and Pistachio or one of their sundaes which come with Cluizel fudge and whipped cream. Yum!

Friday, July 25, 2008

I feel pret-tea...oh so pret-tea!
Who doesn't love a fabulous makeover? I first encountered Joanie's Smiles (below) tea flavored chocolate bars last year at Subtle Tea during a stroll on Madison Avenue. I wanted to blog then, but Joanie, the Malibu based Cordon Bleu chef and chocolatier insisted that the re-design was well worth the wait. Now branded chocolatea from smilechocolatiers, the new packaging raises the bar by presenting the haute chocolate in a fresh, airy, new light with absolute
ly gorgeous watercolors, each as delicious and sublime as the experience it dresses. Joanie's perspective brings together the aromatic properties of tea with the richness of chocolate. Featured here are the 72% Dark with Pomegranate White Tea, 64% Dark with Coconut Green Tea, 37% Milk with Wild Rasberry Tea and 37% White Chocolate with Pistachio Green Tea. She also plays with Chai and ginger and beyond. The complex flavors are made to savor and range from subtle to more powerful. The Coconut Green Tea being my favorite so far as its flavor is by far more subtle than the others. I took Chef Joanie's brilliant advice and washed them all down with a nice glass of Prosecco, needless to say, I'm a very happy girl.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Drip Tease
What's brewed, sophisticated and made with beans? Wrong answer! It's not coffee, it's Cabaret! An entire pound of Mexican cacao beans are brewed to produce a single jar. Touted as an adult chocolate beverage, the purveyors of the sultry syrup promise an afterglow. Just add a teaspoon of the stuff to a cup of hot water and...well, let's see what happens. I'm expecting my jar to arrive this week. You can win your very own jar of Cabaret by being the first to post the correct answer
to this riddle:

I'm seldom seen but always heard.
I'm bi-polar and I eat lots of sugar but I'm always on top of things. I'm usually cramped up in my warm, dark, office but if I could stretch out, you'd be surprised at how big I am. Who am I? Good Luck!

Congrats to Light Traveler for solving the riddle. Answer: The Brain.
Light Traveler and I will be sure to let you know how we enjoy Cabaret so check back soon!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Nip and Suck
Whoa! Even though I attended the Design and the Elastic Mind show at the MOMA earlier this year I don't recall seeing these. I'm actually glad I didn't because I'm freaked out by the photograph so there's no telling what my reaction might have been to seeing them in person. Suffice to say they are design and chocolate and that's what we talk about around these parts. Ana Mir designed these chocolate nipples and according to her they're interactive. I don't see how, you're either biting these or staying the hell away from them. Hopefully this is the last we've seen of anatomically correct chocolate.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Liz Lovely/Chocolate Nerd Cookie Contest Giveaway!
I've been raving about Liz Lovely's cookies for the past week. I decided to stop raving to give you a chance to see for yourself how moist and delicious they actually are. In ten words or less, tell us why you deserve to have this mouthwatering cookie sampler delivered straight to your door. The one with the funniest, nerdiest or most clever answer wins!
Congrats to Yumgivme Cookiemikoff for bagging this valuable prize. Let's do this again!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Certifiably Delicious!
If you're vegan or just conscious about what goes into your tummy, you'll find that
Liz Lovely bakes a kick ass cookie. These super moist, four inch, certified vegan, organic and Fair Trade cookies are baked in Vermont with wholesome ingredients such as local well water and maple syrup. They're made without eggs, milk or animal byproducts and trust me, you won't even notice. The Chocolate Moose dragons are rich and fudgy and packed with chocolate chips and cacao nibs and sprinkled with cane sugar. The Goats a' Grazin are super soft yet hearty with rolled oats and raisins and taste way better than most. They came two to a bag and are carefully shipped with eco-friendly packing peanuts made of organic corn starch that totally broke down in tap water before my very eyes. I think I'm in love with Liz Lovely!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Calorie Count
Smart chocolate concept from L'Agenzia per il Disegno e la Funzione out of Torino, Italy. Each portion is stamped with its corresponding calorie count. If they listed the ingredients on the bar's backside, could they go without designing a wrapper?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Comic Relief
Jean Galler teamed up with Brussels born cartoonist Philippe Geluck to grace Belgian chocolate with the star of the famed strip Le Chat. The
cerebral feline who is known to don a jacket, tackle philosophy and even indulge in a cigar or two may look a bit goofey here but as long as he's made of creamy Belgian 70% dark and milk Fair Trade, I choose to take him seriously.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Chocolate Chuck's
Love this white chocolate nod to the classic Chuck
Taylor by Barcelona based Xoxoa though not sure if the laces are edible.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Castilian Cocoa
Xoxoa, the Barcelona based chocolate chain is super cool. The online destination alone offers a ton to look at including signature chocolate packaging by famed illustrator Jordi Labanda and the most adorable chocolate sneakers I've seen thus far. I was entranced by the chocolate lovers soundtrack and the site's trippy graphics which transport you to a virtual chocolate rave. Picture yourself in a posh Barcelona lounge being presented with well dressed chocolate by cool customers in vintage Custo. Disfruta!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Chuao's Fashion Faux Pas
I couldn't help but chuckle when I came across the ChocoPod Purse. According to Chuao (who I love by the way) this is every woman's dream. That is if that woman were dreaming she were still 6 years old and had received this as a birthday party favor. The multi-colored take on Chuao's signature chocolate pod pattern is supposed to be inspired by the much adored Murakami Louis Vuitton collaboration and while I'm all for the marriage of chocolate and fashion, I'm feeling like this will land you on the wost dressed chocolate list.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bespoke Toffee
I'm not one to be impressed by the whole celebrity name drop thing so I'll spare you the details about whose favorite variety of classic English toffee I'm presently munching on. It's rumored that everyone from a famous makeup maven to a poet laureate, a governor, and even a basketball legend are crazy about this stuff. And after indulging in
Miss Nicky's Gourmet English Toffee in coconut chocolate macaroon, cashew, and whole nut almond with chocolate, I'm totally sold. The indulgently buttery, handmade perfection is made fresh to order in small batches. You can even request it sugar-free which aside from a slight Splenda aftertaste is indistinguishable. So if you love traditional style toffee Miss Nicky delivers--literally and figuratively.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pixel Magic
Design geeks can really dig their teeth into Tithi Kutchamuch's chocolate bar concept which attempts to make a statement about the Super Size culture we presently live in. The bar's pixelated structure allows him to subtract portions leaving in their absence a graphic design. He's trying to make the statement that less is more but I'm not quite sure if he succeeds. What I do know is that I don't mind paying for less chocolate and more art. Found on Yanko Design.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Chalk It Up!
Shawn Askinosie
went from criminal defense lawyer to defending righteous chocolate. Askinosie Chocolate's branding is so cool, it should be against the law. I applaud the clever chalk board packaging on his box of single origins which comes complete with chalk for easy personalization. The free-trade chocolate sans artificial sweeteners, additives or even vanilla is perfect for the percentage obsessed purist who thrives off of the nuances of origin chocolate. The rugged, almost vintage packaging replete with maps of the regions of origin leads me to believe that this might be the chocolate of choice for Indiana Jones.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sucré Bleu!
Fellow foodie Blake Killian of Blakes Makes just wowed me with this sophisticated offering from his friends at New Orleans based Sucré. The bright, clean packaging really set the stage for a wonderful experience, and once I opened it, I was not disappointed. The jewel-like bon bons really do taste as sublime as they look! With flavors inspired by the culturally rich Big Easy, each offering is as diverse and sumptuous as the next. Among my favorites are: Magnolia-pecan ganache infused with praline liqueuer, Blangè- white chocolate ganache finished with banana and a hint of rum, and Avery-caramel and milk chocolate enhanced with salt from the Avery mines. The ganache is as smooth as it gets and they totally melt in your mouth. Definitely high up on my list, better than much of what I've tasted recently including the limited edition neuhaus truffles shipped directly from Belgium.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Curry In a Hurry
I'm a huge fan of curry and excited by the fact that I can enjoy it in a clutch sized candy bar. Fair Trade Certified is also important, so I decided to give Theo Chocolate's milk chocolate Coconut Curry bar a try. Love the illustration on the package and intrigued by the fact that th
ere's enough curry in it to actually stain the inside wrapper yellow. Their complex formula includes red pepper, cloves, fenugreek and cardamom and has a strong peppery kick. I think I'd prefer this particular mixture of spices over a bowl of rice. That being said, I continue to believe that curry in moderation is an excellent compliment to chocolate. Vosges' Naga is still my favorite.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Tea Ceremony
I was remiss to talk about my Chinese New Year gift although I've been nibbling on it ever since. The limited edition box from neuhaus celebrates the lunar new year of the Earth Rat with imported belgium tea pralines infused with jasmin, litchi and yunnan Imperial tea. The ganache is incredibly creamy and rich with tiny bits of tea leaves. I'm digging the one-piece box, there's no lid, instead it folds open origami style like the ones from the MoMA store.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Eat Your Words
I'm not big on Scrabble yet I'd be easily lured with Mary & Matt's version. I know a fare share with formidable vocabs so I'm usually the one with the made up words who's left holding more than a few unplayed letters--not such a tragedy if I get to eat them.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Breakfast In Bed
Pardon the digression. I just received an email from the Honey Bunches of Oats With Real Chocolate Clusters crew alerting me that a Valentine's music video was dedicated to yours truly. The hip-hop interlude is nothing short of hilarious. All I can say is wow! As part of the V day campaign for the new chocolate cereal, you too can dedicate the painful experience to a friend. And yes, wig clad casanovas in faux silk pajamas will spell out lucky said friend's name in roses. Have fun!
Hog Heaven
NOTCOT just tipped me off to Fat Pig chocolate designed by The Brooklyn Brothers. Their website, like the witty packaging is lots of fun. I'm not sure if the chocolate is actually for sale, but if I succeed in getting my hands on it, I'll be happy to let you know if it's worth a pig out.
Update: The Brooklyn Brothers just sent some over and I literally am stuffing my face as I type. Nice chocolate! It's super creamy, quality milk chocolate and organic too. The bars are more substantial than I thought-- a weighty 3. oz each. Great job for a creative studio who just happened to try their hand at chocolate. Word is, it goes on sale this week here for $5.95 per bar in time for Valentine's--though I'd be cautious and gift to self-assured lady friends only!  

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ice Cream Social
I could just eat these delicious ice cream pops from chocolate-log right up! but I'll spare myself the mouth full of felt. They should get along great with the donut plushies I stood in line for back in 06. I know, I can be such a nerd:(

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Loco for ficoco
It's been a pretty busy first few weeks of the new year and things are finally winding down enough to catch my breath. I had a pretty sweet holiday season and want to say thanks for all the good wishes and chocolate stocking stuffers. I've already downed a tin or two of Almond Roca, two boxes of Crummy Brother's Original's, not to mention a huge bag of Baci-all thanks to Grandma! And shout out to Mom who slipped in a box of Bellagio Sipping Chocolate which I haven't yet had an opportunity to enjoy--gotta space these things out--So far, this Ficoco spread is one of the more sensible acquistions-it tastes awesome on muffins, sits pretty in your cupboard, is fat free and full of basic good stuff--figs, sugar, cocoa, so I've been spreading liberally! Back to work! Wishing you all a happy, creative, and productive 2008!...