Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Vosges Haute Chocolat - Barcelona Bar

Oh Vosges - how I love your exotic chocolate bars...
The Barcelona Bar is a favourite of mine - I have gotten it many times before.

It lures me in with the grey sea salt and hickory smoked almonds and makes me forget that it is not actually dark chocolate but deep milk chocolate.

When I notice this little detail, I sometime hesitate and debate getting another bar, a higher percentage, but then inevitably I give in and buy this one. And every time, I am reminded of how much I love this bar. Vosges' deep milk is so deep that it can almost make you forget that it is milk at all, but then, the incredibly melty smooth creamy chocolate dissolves in your mouth, leaving you with tiny nuggets of almond, minute crunchy crystals of salt and little doubt that this is indeed a milk chocolate.

I love this bar and it may be my favourite of the Vosges Exotic Candy bar collection, but then again, I have yet to try them all.

Cacao power:
4.5 beans Meltiness: 5 beans Flavour Complexity: 5 beans

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mas (farmhouse)

We went to Mas this weekend, when I was in NYC for some work, at the suggestion of some lovely person on Clotilde's Readers' Guide to NYC, cross-referenced with Yelp. In the blog, Yuj, who'd recommended the place didn't say much about it:
West Village.
French-inspired American-interpreted cuisine until 4 am. (Yuj)
The yelp reviews were a bit more effusive, and most importantly, the use of seasonally grown, mostly local and organic were the tipping points.

The evening was lovely! We sat in a small round corner table. After we'd selected our meals (I chose their prix fixe, which conveniently lets you replace any item with any other item from the à la carte section), they brought us our cocktails and an amuse-bouche - a goat cheese frittata, I believe. It was heavenly and the drink was amazing! I had a ginger daiquiri (really more of a ginger martini).

Every dish of the meal was delicious, the wine recommended to us by our server was spectacular, the service was completely seamless.

These are the things that stood out, in my mind:

A chicken roulade, stuffed with mushrooms, on a bed of puréed eggplant with wee little Brussels sprouts. The caramelized flavour was addicting.

Delicate little goat cheese ravioli were like clouds in a sea of green pea purée. They were fantastic!

And finally, lovely little truffles served to us after our meals were finished. *sigh*

Friday, February 09, 2007

Schoc Chocolates - Sweet Basil in Rich Dark Chocate

Well, with a name like that, how could I not be intrigued? This was the second of my set of three Schoc chocolate bars from Raymundo and Kiwi and it definitely lived up to my expectations.

The word that caught my eye on the cover (which was identical to the last one, but different days see different things, I guess): trinitario. Now, my first search result on this word really confused me, but I guess I shouldn't expect the urban dictionary help me with my chocolate decoding. A better result found it to be a type of cacao, developed in Trinidad.

This chocolate was excellent! The dark chocolate Schoc uses is 53% cacao mass, and melts so smoothly! The sweet basil is an excellent flavour combination with the chocolate, and hints every so subtly at the liquorice that basil sometimes has. It was the perfect after dinner chocolate, sweet without being too sweet, complex, smooth and overall just plain delicious.

Schoc describes this bar as such:

Sweet Basil...for all of the reasons that you do fresh basil

Cacao power: 4.5 Meltiness: 4.5 beans Flavour Complexity: 5 beans

Oh how I wish that I could try their Olive bar... *sigh*

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ode to a Parsnip

How is it that I have only discovered this root so recently? I've seen them around, and usually imagined that they tasted a bit like turnips. Recently, a friend suggested that I use them in my veggie pot pie that I made, and among all the other veggies I used in this dish, the parsnip stood out far above the rest.

So I bought some more. What would I do with them this time? I hopped onto epicurious and found a rosemary parsnip risotto recipe. Seemed simple enough, and I've made carrot risotto in the past, so I figured this wouldn't be too far off.

Oh, but I was wrong!! The parsnip and rosemary flavours complemented each other so well! The parsnip tastes like what the carrot only hints at, and when slowly cooked for a while, becomes even sweeter than its shorter, more colourful cousin.

The most fascinating part of the recipe was the drizzle of Balsamic vinegar right before serving. Don't skip this step! It perfectly complements the sweet and strong herbal

Adapted from

I used Pacific Foods organic vegetable broth, which is orange in colour and gave the risotto a pretty orange hue. Otherwise, I'd imagine the risotto might turn a bit grey. This dish makes fabulous leftovers!

8 cups vegetable broth

5 tablespoons butter, divided
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 pounds parsnips (about 7 medium), peeled, trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
5 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided
1 1/2 cups (10 ounces) arborio rice
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Aged balsamic vinegar (for drizzling)

Bring broth to boil in medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and keep warm.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Stir in parsnips and 3 teaspoons chopped rosemary. Cook until parsnips begin to brown, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add rice and stir 2 minutes. Add enough warm broth to cover; simmer until almost all broth is absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add more broth, 1 cup at a time, and cook until rice and parsnips are tender, allowing each broth addition to be absorbed before adding next and stirring frequently, about 20 minutes total. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter, remaining 2 teaspoons rosemary, and cheese. Season risotto to taste with salt and pepper.

Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Schoc Chocolates - Lemon White

One of the best rewards from owning an I.B.O.C.* is that friends visiting from far away remember this and often bring treats to restock it. My latest discovery came from Raymundo and Kiwi Kate, who were back visiting from New Zealand and brought us not one but three fabulous chocolate bars from a brand I'd never heard of: Schoc Chocolates - Real chocolate for real people.

The three bars were all intriguing flavours, two of them in a dark chocolate base, one in white chocolate. I'll describe the other two once I've gotten around to tasting them but today's review is Lemon White. This normally wouldn't have been the first one I would taste, because while white chocolate was a favourite of mine when I was much much younger, these days I lean more towards the darkest. But Big E chose this one to taste first and I was very pleasantly surprised.

But first things first: the tablets come in pouches covered in a variety of chocolate-related words, such as Mayan, Xocolatl, sensuous and... physio-physiology. Huh?
I'd seen the pouches before on Dolfin Chocolat tablets, and am quite fond of that particular style of packaging. Why? I'm not sure. There's something satisfying about the smoothness of the exteriour and how well it reseals once a piece or two are taken.

The flavour was excellent! Unlike other lemon chocolates I'd had before (which tend to use lemon rind and lemon oil for flavouring) this one uses bits of dried lemon. This makes for a surprising and very pleasing tartness that is the perfect contrast to the sweet rich creaminess of the white chocolate.

Schoc describes this flavour thusly:
Lemon...our own dried lemon in creamy white chocolate
The Cacao Power category is a tough one for white chocolate, so I'm going to make it not apply. That is not to say that this tablet wasn't packed with delicious cocoa butter... it's just different. However, dreamy creamy meltiness is much more easily achieved with the white chocolate. Lastly, the surprise factor of the real lemon makes the flavour do well in the complexity category, though I'd imagine that their lemon and cracked black pepper in dark chocolate is even more complex.

I look forward to trying the next two tablets, as well as hopefully many more visits from Ray and Kate...

Cacao power: n/a Meltiness: 5 beans Flavour Complexity: 4 beans

*International Basket (or Bowl or Box) of Chocolate