Savor the Small Chocolate Bites

SwirlsOne small chocolate taste is never enough. No matter the hype, no Platonic Ideal of the cocoa morsel has yet found its way from the mind of a master chocolatiere to taste buds of the supplicant. No satisfaction is found at the spectrum’s other end either: Those who worship the common prejudice that chocolate satiation can only come through quantitative consumption also want for satisfaction.

In the middle of the gamut — albeit, on a path searched with no guarantee of bliss — is the succession of small bites. Each tiny, delicate nosh of chocolate to be judged for the value it alone and through complement with the other bites adds to the overall aim of satiated pleasure.

How best to follow?

Opt from flight after flight of chocolate sampling as it is nearly impossible to keep the individual bites straight … and this is well before you try something like pairing them with wines at a marketing concept in search of a restaurant niche like NYC’s Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar. Swallow bite after bite of drugstore candy bars and see if you don’t get sick. Nibble upon bean-to-bar after bean-to-bar and see if you just don’t end up confused.

As glorious as it may be to do your tiny bit grazing with a tiny mushroom shaped, chocolate dazzled funghetto, or as dark (and not in the chocolate way) as it might make you feel to swallow tiny chocolate feet, or as endearingly cutesy as you think you look while ingesting eensy-teensy chocolate hamburgers, courtesy Japanese vending …

… the most joy to be had is following the small bite path through your own kitchen.

It is always worth the effort to try, even if enough energy is invested to result in dreams about a tiny chocolate frog invasion, like the ones in @SweetOlenkas salted caramel brownies. Make yourself chocolate fudge micro-cakes, dwarfed chocolate chip cookies, or even tiny chocolate wine cakes. Bake and savor small.

Because, if you disdain the delicate and want to go big or go home when putting mouth to chocolate, you risk comparison to UKFA, gourmandizing his way through what look like four supermarket eclairs in eight rather indiscriminate gulps … with bits of abdominal-vicinity foreplay.

Your choice.

#chocolate #recipes

Not Just VDay Junk Food

heart on chocolateIronically and regrettably, Valentines Day has become a day not so much to celebrate chocolate as to debase it as a commodity, a mostly forgettable but expected token. Transformed cacao pods gift wrapped in the celebration of a saint (or perhaps a massacre depending on how you are feeling about love this 14 February) is an expected part of the background for the holiday much like tinsel on a Yuletide tree. The result is that for most of the media and holiday participants, chocolate receives the same respect whether the offering is the drugstore staple, a $4.99 Whitman sampler, or an artisanal aspirer like the $260 To’Ak chocolate bar. (Not to insist or suggest that price defines the brown stuff, just that there are recognizable differences in both the quality and meaningfulness between these two particular chocolate offerings.)

It’s a sad state of affairs as, whatever one’s taste, chocolate should never be considered just a junk food indulgence. Admittedly, with just over two weeks left to go it is unlikely much can be done. Even if there was the will there is no way the day can be turned into a festival of analysis about chocolate’s health benefits or a consideration of its reputation as a premier aphrodisiac.

Given the world today, it is definitely easier to go along and get along by treating all chocolate giving and receiving on V-Day within the current desultory tradition. But if you can’t, if conscience or knowledge makes each chocolate an expression of emotion resonating with judgment of the specific qualities of the proffered morsels then the love (or lack of) provided with the gift is a much more complex communication to unravel. It’s enough to give one a cheap-chocolate headache.

For the strong of heart and keen of mind: unless you are absolutely sure of your love for the day vow to neither offer nor accept chocolate. Actually, even for them given how often the day ends in disappointment it might be better to hide oneself away.

To be safe, ban chocolate from V-Day and wait instead for 15 February for when the pressure for perfection in communication is less. Build your own, new and better chocolate traditions celebrating singles awareness day, scheduled for Lupercalia — a Roman precursor to V-Day partly celebrated with the pairing of lovers by random selections from a bowl of names. Just a note: nothing says you can’t celebrate it with another individual, preferably someone with whom you are smitten.

This is all not to suggest that chocolate and V-Day get divorced — or that we re-establish the mating rituals of Lupercalia — just that maybe for the day, good of chocolate, and peace of mind they should gain a bit of separation.

However, if you are going along and getting along in keeping with the current commoditification of Valentine’s chocolate, at the very least put in some effort when you give or gain chocolate (and love).

Too Much Chocolate?

woman biting chocolate barPortland bean-to-bar maker Woodblock announced that 24 January will be the date when it holds the championship of chocolate chomping. Possibly a world record may be at stake.

As a public service (?) for potential contestants they posted training videos


It seems undoubtedly a good publicity stunt, but a contest that celebrates cacao quantity over quality does beg the question: can anyone eat too much chocolate? “Too much chocolate” might make for a cute cookie advertisement, but it’s also pretty much an absolute truth that too much of anything kills the enjoyment, and in this case also can threaten the overindulger’shealth. To unbeg the question: yes, it is possible — as well as stupid — to eat too much chocolate.

Oddly, people brag about their overindulgence. There is even a recipe jetsamming about internet seas for Too Much Chocolate Cake that has as its base a pre-mixed devil’s food cake recipe, raising with flares an objection including the irony of there not being enough real chocolate in the TMCC.

Obviously, the Chocolate Chomping Champion will have bragging rights, but those rights come with an overly eerily similar to the fish from Spongebob who really, really, really gets excited that chocolate bars are for sale:

Perhaps there should be a contest to discover how much is the right amount of chocolate to eat, to find that moment immediately prior to eating too much. Maybe it has something to do with types of chocolate or percentages.

Probably not …

#chocolate #businessadvice #marketinghype #recipes #contests

Happy (Chocolate) New Year…soon

chocolate ideal picSkipping over holiday pieces (at least for the time being) let’s talk 2015 and chocolate trends.

This fruit of the gods is a tried and true pleasure, a long-time luxury with an incredible history that has its ups and downs (as in “white” chocolate).

Still, somehow, great is not good enough. The search is always on for the new, the trendy, the tomorrow. Why? Something about human nature not worth trying to understand here.

Anyway, hearing the breath of Janus getting closer, the most important new year news will definitely be that the “we’re running out of chocolate” hysteria is overblown. The world market is changing, but don’t panic yourself into hoarding a domesday supply of drugstore crapchoc in your apocalypse shelter … yet.

As support for keeping calm, Big Chocolate is planning to still go about its business. Barry Callebaut predicts it will be crunch, acidity and shimmer making chocolate pop, and is expanding its sourcing footprint by moving into Chile, among other new growth territories. Cargill posits transparency in labeling, leading to the PR spin highlighting that what was “bad” with chocolate is actually “healthy” for you. Everyone is fighting over the Chinese market, and there is a frothingchocolate and tea trend. Finally, going all in on the mercenary, restaurateurs are focused on how to cobble a few more bucks per 2015 table with the sales pitch that restaurant chocolate is for sharers.

Rather than look to the business world for guidance, the new year could be the time to confront the difficult facts in chocolate’s backstory such as child slavery in the chocolate fields. Not the worst resolution for the new year is — in the spirit of the gods who first planted cacao seeds on earth — to resolve to help in ways big or small.

Perhaps with conscience salved it will make the search for the new and novel even more enjoyable. Trends are, of course, concepts that enough others have discovered so the idea has spread and one can feel like an insider before masses partake and “it’s, like, soooo over, yesterday, deceased, and penny-eyelidded.” Quirky chocolate-related foodish ideas that recently popped their heads out of the corners of cuisine and might (or might not) take off include
cinammon mini-biscuits with chocolate gravy, and cocoa baguettes.

Those wishing to conspicuously consume for 2015, should keep on the lookout for more fancy-schmanzy, you-are-buying-story-much-more-than-taste chocolate bars such as the current $100 and $260 options.

If the trend thing is too much and you would rather not yet look forward and perhaps learn from history in order to repeat/not repeat it, here’s a quick look at where the science and culture of chocolate is so far:

#chocolate #2015trends #HappyNewYear #BigChocolate #foodies

Chocolate Trendy Data Foodie Frenzy

chocokeyboardThe current IBM ad campaign highlights a chocolate, soybean, apricot burrito concoction. Its conceit is that taste is just the sum of correctly connected data points, in this case via the company’s “Chef Watson,” not yet out of Beta and available primarily to foodie sites like Bon Appetit.

However, is concocting the counter-intuitive recipe using chocolate something that needs to be left to Big Data? This, after all, is still a collective that can’t seem to define itself without confusing a goodly portion of its audience.

Is this the cabal to which we want to leave the all-important task of mouth-pleasuring?

After all, chefs using just their own taste buds seem to be doing just fine coming up with mind- and palate-expanding chocolate preparations. For example, we’ve recently come across Chocolate Shawarma, Avocado Chocolate Truffles, Chocolate Cake with Zucchini, and Chocolate, Peanut-Butter Covered and Prosciutto-Clothed Grilled Bananas!

Chocolate in a burrito is certainly no more imaginative than that. Maybe this big data and chocolate thing can be written off as some sort of “trend” that will hover those beginning of 2015 looking-forward (?) lists and then mostly disappear. (By way of review here are PopSugar trends to look out for in 2014, and those on this year’s horizon according to mega chocmeister Cargill, which did not include price increases or that, thanks to it, we would see the trend of the consolidation of big chocolate.)

Or maybe it’s not even worth noting once, just another ephemeral result of corporate thinking, which as an example of where that track can lead to has somehow given us microwavable chocolate chicken curry from Iceland.

Take the chocolate burrito for what it’s worth. The moral of the ad, apparently: There’s no accounting for taste, even when it comes to chocolate.

#chocolate #recipes #advertising #bigdata

Ice Cream Done Right with Chocolate

chocolate ice creamJuly is National Ice Cream Month and today, 20 July, is National Ice Cream Day, which is an easy excuse to offer a quick primer on making chocolate ice cream at home as the perfect summer day activity.

Subjectively adding to the newsworthiness of the idea is a recent press release from downmarket ice creamer Baskin Robbins. Their research found that chocolate is the best at bringing the happy. While BR doesn’t bring any real science establishing the dominance of chocolate ice cream, there is enough anecdotal evidence to ease the acceptability of glomming on to this bit of news puffery.brhappy

There is a googleplexplus of chocolate ice cream recipes, but a couple to highlight are the David Lebowitz Easiest Ever, which is used with an ice cream maker, and Beyond the Stoop’s Banana-Peanut Butter-Chocolate No Ice Cream Maker version

A quick summary for using other ice cream recipes without having the slurry meet its maker is to: Chill completed mixture in a pan filled with ice. When chilled pour into freezer-safe stainless steel bowl which has been in freezer for at least a half hour, cover and return to bowl to freezer. Combine the ingredients for your ice cream mixture following the recipe. Every 30 minutes for three hours stir it up vigorously (if it has become too hard then soften it briefly in refrigerator). Give it at least another hour before eating.

A marvelous demonstration for using a contraption is outlined by the New York Times’ Melissa Clark as she showcases her basic recipe by taking on strawberries, although it is easy enough to use chocolate instead (switch strawberries puree, with seven-ounces shaved 70-75 percent dark chocolate, an additional quarter cup honey, and two teaspoons vanilla extract all eased in during mixing).

And while it is probably too late for starting Chocolate Mint for use this year, consider growing it in the garden or a windowbox as a great add-on for dishes of chocolate ice cream, among other uses.

Speechifying With Chocolate

darkCan there be a touch of hype when talking chocolate? There can be,but we are almost always happy to move beyond the silliness on behalf of taste and entertainment. Which is why we heartily recommend listening to claims about how a chocolate bar has led to a revolution in teaching math, and, not to put too fine a point on it, HOW CHOCOLATE CAN SAVE THE PLANET!!!!!

The good folks making the claims did so at Ted Talks, a series of short presentations that often enough are seen in videos going viral that feature an animated presenter who begins with a counter-intuitive assertion or fringe experience and then as PowerPoint slides in the background hover makes his or her way to a larger — if sometimes and somewhat limited by real life — truth. To be fair, sometimes the TTs are performance art for aspiring high brows and other times they are just another platform through which someone promotes their brand. However, that shouldn’t take away too much from these celebrations of cacao.

Nigel Nisbet explores his path from teacher to math gamer content visionary thanks to an epiphany he had while considering the packaging of the Toblerone bar, while Shawn Stevenson highlights a bit of history and science and while most of it is how an individual can be healthier, the overall theme is that if all individuals are healthier then the entire planet will be better as well. (For another Ted Talk on how chocolate consumption perfects the person, see the earlier post Choco-Hype, Healthily Speaking, highlighting the claims of David Wolfe.)

Chocolate and Cheese, If It Please

chocolate & cheese adIt seems there is a day to celebrate nearly everything chocolate (Thursday was National Chocolate Chip Day; see the Almanac for more). But ’tis untrue. There are still chocolate and cheese combos to honor.

Actually, there are a host of chocolatish delectables more , but this particular un-embraced celebration is brought to the forefront by the recent announcement from British grocerpalooza Tesco that they are expanding their chocolate-cheese offerings. The first thought is “why?” The taste of a good chocolate is distinct with undertones and subtle aroma notes. That taste of heaven makes for an unlikely fit with a delicious bit of cheese, often a standout highlighted by esters and overtones on display like the new girl trying to stand out and drum up a bit of business in Amsterdam’s Rossebuurt. Of course, the answer turn is easily discovered with a quick Google (as most answers are): lots of folks love this sort of thing — whether it is the idea or actual flavor will not be argued here, today.

Particularly when you are trying to steer a few piastres into the till it seems worthwhile to accept that since people like chocolate and people like cheese — not necessarily the same people for both categories, but with enough overlap — there will be experimentation. Folks with enough biz-smart will pimp some of the results despite a culinary natural selection process un-guaranteed to bring about best in breed(ing). Consider, for example Philadelphia Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese spread courtesy of Junk Food Guy.

There will be Frankencheeses you can make at home like the chocolate cheese ball or outlier indulgences such as Paula Deen’s chocolate cheese fudge or Trader Joe’s chocolate cheddar, which appeal to some tastes or others.

Anyway, while it isn’t our cup of cocoa, kudos to everyone who embraces the idea of chocolate and cheese (and that other “c,” Capitalism), with a particular shout out to the Wisconsin dairy industry. On the soft-sell side they offer a a guide to chocolate/cheese pairings and for the harder sell they market their Valentine’s Day chocolate cheese delights (?!).

Back to Tesco’s announcement. We sympathize with why you might not want publicly to own up to such taste. However, for those at home with tastebuds stirred to the point of yearning, consider tossing together a chocolate cheese sandwich or batch of parmesan chocolate cheese crisps to quiet them down.

Choco-Click Here

no pregnancy - chocolateChoco click bait. Chocolate porn. It’s not the only thing driving traffic to Huffington Post (or as enormous as sin such as not paying writers even as they rake in enough Benjamins that they could without sweat put one in a writer’s g-string instead of so many more stuffing into Arianna’s designer bags.

It’s admittedly a small and personal crusade. And not that we’re necessarily jealous (okay, we would like the traffic), but what the Cupid Alley Chocolatieres website probably needs is a regular series of posts featuring lol cats with Hitler mustaches explaining how eating chocolate guarantees eternal fabulous love and sex, while [stereotype alert!] ladies lose weight in the wrong places and gents gain muscle in the right ones.
Maybe it would help to regulary add some Justin Bieber and Amor de Chocolat

or info on One Direction like news of their Candy Bar

or some food porn with a celebrity spin like a chocolate almond cherry cake coated in a cherry cream cheese buttercream added to an almond cake with a toasted almond cream cheese buttercream slathered in white chocolate fondant that was hung upside down for Kaley Cuoco’s wedding to tennis pro Ryan Sweeting.

Anyway, we’re working through ideas. Suggestions welcome.

Choco-Hype, Healthily Speaking

darkThere is joyous screeching again about dark chocolate as the panacea for whatever ails you. It includes excitement about how dark chocolate promotes healthy teeth. Hyperventilating is also encouraged by headlines howling the news of a study sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and Mars (not that there is necessarily an undue amount of self-interest here in how taking a couple high-concetrate flavanol-extracted dark chocolate pills (or fake) a day will buck up the old ticker, which follows up a report on dark chocolate helping to restore flexibility to arteries for 44 Dutch fathertubbies by preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels.

Not to diminish any unfettered joy with some ick, but the key seems to be something about how gut bacteria feast on dark chocolate and (better living through chemistry) how that produces burgeoning good microbes.

Speaking of “good microbes,” this might be as good a place as any to place to throw in a note about a Washington Post hemp brownie recipe (oh, how far the one-time president slayershave fallen) as well as a shoutout to the new Hershey Psychic, which would be a pretty fun job even if it isn’t quite what the title indicates.

Anyway, if inspired by headlines and dreams, and think runaway chocolate proseletyzing could be your thing, you could do a lot worse (financially speaking, at least) than to take at least a few lessons from David Wolfe, author of Naked Chocolate

It’s all almost enough to get one to forget about the importance of taste. Almost …