Archive for the 'chocolate' Category

17
Aug
13

Blame Max Brenner for all those sugar-buzzed kids in Bethesda

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Max Brenner Chocolate Bar opened up earlier this month right next to Jaleo in downtown Bethesda. The only reason I knew is that my friend The Chicken sent me some photos of the s’mores pizza and crepes she’d shared with her kids. Their verdict? Pretty good but stomach-ache inducing. I decided to check it out, with bottle of Pepto at the ready.
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This part of Bethesda’s generally overrun with harried parents chasing small children, strolling small children, and wrangling small children. Not surprisingly, many of those families are taking their kids here. At one point during my last visit, I got worried about the safety of their fondue grills. Open flames and kids amped up on sugar/caffeine–hmmm. Here’s to hoping that the tables aren’t wobbly.
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Despite the high prices, small portions, and long lines, this place will likely succeed in this location. Here’s why:
  • It’s family-friendly, although some kids may be asking their parents what a “chocolate syringe” is. See photo #2 above.
  • Although you can eat-in, you’re not paying for a waiter. You order at the counter, then they bring your goodies to you.
  • There was a gap in the market for a dessert bar in Bethesda. Sure, there’s Georgetown Cupcake, Tout de Sweet, Fancy Cakes by Leslie, and various froyo options. But none of them offer a proper sit-down experience. No wonder Washingtonians (Bethesdans?) are lining up for $15 crepes and $8 milkshakes.
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Although I did manage to avoid a gastrointestinal fail on both visits, I can’t see myself returning here often. There’s a big novelty factor that wears off fast. The first time I went was to check it out. The second time was to take an out-of-town guest. Everything that I ordered was good (lava cake combo the first visit; milk chocolate fondue the second). Nothing that I ordered was to-die-for. But if you’re a kid, it’s probably heaven.
09
May
13

Michel Richard knows his way around a dessert

Napoleon a la Michel

Now that’s a napoleon (mille-feuille)!

A while back, I had the good fortune of stuffing my face at a work lunch at Central in downtown DC, a Michel Richard joint. The chef’s known for his playful turn with foods (as well as looking a lot like Santa Claus).

A profile of Richard that ran in The Washington Post many years ago revealed one of his culinary inspirations: KFC’s fried chicken. Yup, his haute cuisine is inspired by the Colonel. That gives you some insight into why his creations, sweet or savory, are big on contrasting textures and often have a crispy element.

Michel's crunch bar from Central

Those of us who didn’t order Michel’s crunch bar were jealous of those who did.

Without further ado, here’s a rundown of the 3 Central desserts we tried.

The restaurant’s best-known treat is Michel’s chocolate bar, the chef’s Kit Kat-inspired happy ending. This was chocolate-y without being cloying, and had a nice crispy texture. If you’re unsure which dessert to try, go with this one. It was the all-around favorite.

The gimungous size and presentation of my napoleon made for some envious looks around the table. But the layered pastry and cream, while delicious, needed a little kick. A drizzle of chocolate or fruit puree, or even the traditional napoleon icing, would’ve made for less monotonous eating. It’s unusual that I don’t finish a dessert, but I left some of this on the plate.

The disappointing lemon bar from Central.

The lemon tart didn’t find many fans at our table.

My comrades in gustatory indulgence who ordered this lemon tart weren’t super happy with it. It’s a layer of shortbread topped with bland lemon mousse topped with meringue. Next to the more showstopping dessert options, this one’s a dud.

A peek at Central DC's kitchen.

Central’s kitchen, where the pastry magic happens.

03
May
13

3 products that baffle and delight

Mast Brothers teamed up with Shake Shack for no apprent reason except that they're both based in NYC.

This Mast Brothers-Shake Shack bar (available at the cash registers at the Dupont Circle Shake Shack) perplexed me. Was there burger or bacon in the bar? No, it’s just dark chocolate. Apparently the only connection is that they’re both based in NYC.

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The copy on the back of this ginger & chilli biscuit tin (really spicy gingersnaps from Fortnum & Mason) is as good as the cookies themselves. In fact, these were so tasty, they made Mr. X-sXe admit that maybe not all British sweets suck. (“Biscuits” courtesy of Ms. & Mr. Pie, who schlepped them across the pond.)

Red velvet fudge from Reading Terminal Market

Beware your bowels, screams the label on the back of this chunk of red velvet fudge. Ms. Pie brought this gem back from Reading Terminal Market. Noteworthy because (1) it’s telling diabetics to talk to their doctor about incorporating it into their diet–like, reach for red velvet fudge when your blood sugar’s low? Dubious marketing. (2) I’ve never seen a diarrhea warning on candy that didn’t have artificial sweeteners. But I appreciate the heads up.

18
Feb
13

Meet the world’s most dangerous cake

Your diet is doomed: the world's most dangeous cake.

The dry ingredients, left to right: flour, cocoa powder, sugar, chocolate chips, and a pinch of salt.

According to Mr. x-sXe, it’s right around this time every year that gym attendance starts tapering off. So if you’ve already wavered on your diet-and-exercise resolutions, this cake’s for you.

It’s called dangerous for good reason: you probably have all the ingredients in the pantry, and it takes less than 10 minutes to prep/bake. Plus, cleanup just requires washing a whisk, spoon, and mug. Recipe here.

The cake texture reminds me of Ethiopian bread.

But how does it taste? The cake’s very moist, light, and spongy. The texture isn’t for everyone—it reminded me remotely of Ethiopian bread (it tastes nothing like that, of course). But it’s a good go-to for a chocolate fix when you don’t want to bake an entire cake. I recommend a heartier sprinkling of chocolate chips than the recipe calls for. Maybe a dollop of cream whipped with vanilla, amaretto, or Grand Marnier. Hey, if you’re gonna do it, do it right.

28
Nov
12

Sweet streets of NY, Day 1 Spoils

Some regard San Francisco as the gastronomy capital of America. But a recent trip to NYC affirmed for me that it takes the culinary crown—at least, when it comes to sweets (and yeah, that’s despite its lack of a Tartine). The thing is, whatever your obsession, NYC probably has a store dedicated to it. Take this place that sells only rice pudding. Or giant French macarons. That’s not even factoring in the dessert trucks.

Given the plethora of food oases, it’s easy to overdo it. Luckily we walked a lot during our visit, which helped alleviate the post-binge bloat. We managed to consume a plantation’s worth of sugar during our mere 4 days there. Here’s a rundown of our Day 1 intake.

Fat Witch brownies, Chelsea Market

These brownies didn’t strike me as anything special in the store—more like a gift-giving idea than anything. But I had a change of heart after we tried them back at our hotel. They’re rich yet not dense, so you don’t feel like you’re eating a chocolate brick. They’re probably my second-favorite brownies after the ones at Pret a Manger, which seem to have a tad more chocolate. The caramel was better than the red (dried cherry) flavor. BTW, I noticed on Fat Witch’s website that they’re one of Oprah’s Favorite Things, official seal of things the hoi polloi should aspire to blow their monetary and caloric budgets on.

Ronnybrook Farm apple pie milkshake, Chelsea Market

We stopped by for an apple pie shake, which even between my and Mr. x-sXe’s hearty appetites, we couldn’t finish. This thick apple-caramel concoction needed something to offset the treacly sweetness (and a wider, bubble-tea-sized straw to suck it up with). A side of salty pie crust to scoop it up would’ve been welcome. It felt like a sin to toss about a third of it away, but we wanted to reserve some pancreatic juices for post-dinner goodies.

Stand Burger toasted marshmallow milkshake, East 12th Street

Undeterred by our Ronnybrook fail, we headed to Stand Burger a few hours later. Mr. X-sXe has a thing for toasted marshmallow shakes, after being spoiled by the one at Good Stuff in DC. We got the small and polished off the whole thing quickly. Unlike Ronnybrook, Stand gets that you need a supersized straw for a thick shake. (Minor gripe: the actual marshmallow on top was stale.)

Related posts:

NYC, Day 2: a cornucopia of goodies at Doughnut Plant and Momofuku Milk Bar

NYC, Day 3: donut gluttony and a Hostess-inspired treat

10
Nov
12

A couple do-it-yourself Trader Joe’s treats

This chocolate-peppermint loaf certainly doesn't taste like it came out of a box.

Around this time of year, my grocery bill at Trader Joe’s usually doubles because there are so many seasonal goodies to try. One of them is this chocolate-peppermint loaf mix, which I may have to stock up on because it’s that good.

This loaf (I wish they’d call it something else) certainly doesn’t taste like anything you’d typically get out of a box. My only disappointment with this mix is that they skimped on the mint-chocolate chips. So I added an additional 3 ounces of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips before baking. The final result is a rich, dark-chocolatey loaf with a pound-cake consistency.

The almond croissants from Trader Joe's take minimal effort--and give many patisseries a run for their money.

These almond croissants were even easier to make than the mix. You lay them out on a baking sheet the night before so they can rise at room temperate into fluffy pillows, then stick them in the oven in the morning. That’s it. These were tastier than many almond croissants I’ve had at bakeries (although nowhere near the gold standard of the genre from Tout de Sweet in downtown Bethesda). Generously filled with almond paste and fresh from the oven, they make a tasty breakfast. Not a healthy one, but might as well eat the rich stuff earlier in the day to kick start your metabolism, right?

You leave these Trader Joe's almond croissants out overnight at room temperature to rise.

From frozen, these almond croissants quadruple in size overnight.

18
Oct
12

Journey to the Center of the Cookie with Trader Joe’s

Journey to the Center of the Cookie, and you might suffer sugar shock.

These cookies, they of the sci-fi name, remind me a lot of the cookie cups from Mrs. Fields (one of my food court guilty pleasures). But even more rich. As if Trader Joe’s hired Emeril Lagasse or Paula Deen to have their way with the chocolate chip cookie.

Seriously, JTTCOTC cookies are delicious, but you can physically feel the 49 grams of sugar. Maybe I ate it too fast, but I was nearly shaking from sugar shock (for someone who consumes as much sugar as I do, that’s saying something). Why have a can of Coke when you can take this journey and get the same jolt?

Close up of Trader Joe's "Journey to the Center of the Cookie"

Be conservative with the amount of time you keep these in the microwave, or the cookie part at the edges will dry out into tooth-chipping toughness. After making that mistake with the first cookie, I nuked the second one for 45 seconds. The molten center got soft but didn’t liquify, and the cookie stayed moist. If you want the center to melt completely, try wrapping a damp paper towel around these before you stick them in the microwave.