As some of you might have read from my previous post, I have gone crazy for upscale chocolates for some reason for the past week. Possibly I blame the upcoming Christmas holidays for their marketing or just because I’m a chocolate hedonist. Sometimes it’s good to live in New York City just because there is so many different chocolate shops and boutiques that one can check out.
My chocolate trek started with Max Brenner’s in Union Square. I have passed this chocolate shop/restaurant countless times and I went in their shop once during opening day. For some reason, I have hesitated to buy anything from there. Even though it’s gives you a chocolate sensory overload, something about this place tells me I should stay away from here. I can’t explain why, but something about it being so promiscuous with the chocolate machines stirring large pools of melted chocolate and the decor is kind of scaring me. So, on Tuesday morning I finally brought myself to Max and ate breakfast there of their Italian Dark Hot Chocolate and a S’mores Crepe. It cost me $12.35 with tax from the take-out section.
It’s not cheap for sure. I have somewhat high expectations for their hot chocolate since I have read some good things about it. I just don’t know for the crepe, I just bought it because I was starving and I never had a crepe before so I just went for it.
After I ordered my stuff, I asked the staff if I could take a few pictures, just because I have faced a few tiffs with other food establishments with people and cameras, so I just asked for the courtesy. The strange reactions from multiple staff members replying to me and their co-workers at the bar was, “Can you take pictures?” “I’m not sure.” So eventually, one waiter who wasn’t doing anything intervened and said, “I’ll ask for you.” Eventually he came back after a few moments and said I can. Boy, who knew asking to take photos was such a hassle? As much as I respect some places preventing me from taking photos, at least the establishment could tell their staff whether or not anyone could take photos ahead of time. Here’s a few photos of the bar.
After snapping these pics, they called my order.
So, here’s the food:
My first impressions about the crepe was that it doesn’t look very appetizing to me. The odd, white frothiness from the crepe is kind of turning me off. It looks like one warm mess with a pancake-like object topped with scribbles of melted chocolate. At least the hot chocolate looks like a pool of gooey cup of chocolate syrup – a good thing.
The crepe, seen below:
It still looks like a mess. I’m still persuading myself that it would be a good tasting mess, since looks can be deceiving. After cutting it up and masticating the crepe, I found it to be decent at most. The crepe was a bit too tough, the miniature marshmallows (not homemade) were unevenly distributed, the chocolate that is filled in there had a slight chalky texture, and I still don’t know what is the origin of that frothy, clear liquid that is exuding from this crepe. Here’s the cut up version of the crepe:
So, this visual is not exactly pretty (I think) and I don’t really like this crepe. But their Italian Hot Chocolate saved my breakfast from a total bust. It was smooth, thick yet silky, and dark chocolate. It has the texture of chocolate pudding really, not ganache-like. This is fine hot chocolate, not the best in my book but it’s pretty good. I agree with what NY Metro calls this place a “Wonka wannabe.” If you want my input about this place; skip the food but get their hot chocolate.
As the week goes on, I ended up going to three different chocolate boutiques. The first was La Maison du Chocolat at Rockefeller Center. I don’t have any photos of this place because the staff there are a bit cold and ever since I entered the store, a woman offered me a sample of their praline and after I accepted one, she practically stalked me wherever I pondered of what the heck I want to buy. So, screw the thought of even trying to take a pic and I just ordered The Cube. I just bought the 8 piece Cube ($24 plus tax) just because it was a limited edition thing for Christmas and the box looks cute.
It’s like a toy, sort of, that makes it fun instead of the typical box. Possibly it explains the average cost of a piece of chocolate is a little more than $3 because of the box. Anyways, all the chocolates were delicious. They were smooth, creamy, subtly flavored, and not very sweet. My favorite was the w
inter spiced praline because of the way the dark chocolate melds with the slightly warm spices that gives it a feeling of Christmas…I don’t know if I put that idea correctly, but you get my point. The chocolate and spices are perfectly balanced.
The next day, I went to the Upper East Side to Pierre Marcolini. I have read about this place a few times in Chowhound but I never got a chance to see the chocolate itself nor read a blog post or article about it. After reading Robyn’s post in Parisist about Marcolini, I’m sold. So, I looked at Pierre Marcolini’s website and try to think what flavors I should pick. Anyways, once I got to the boutique there wasn’t much to go for photograph-wise. It’s basically a marble and mahogany storefront that is divided in half. One half is dedicated to the sales and the holding of all the precious chocolates and the other half has 4 large rectangular, tables and chairs with large glossy fashion magazines opened, with a few television screens along the wall. The store is simple elegance but the televisions make it feel odd. The woman who helped me was detachedly attentive. She knew I was there but she let me have my space and time to decide what do I want. She told me that they sell chocolate by the piece, the truffles were about ten cents more than the chocolate bonbons (the chocolate pieces with ganache) and the minimum to get a box was a seven piece. So, I settled for a 7 piece assortment, seen below (cost $17.88, including tax):
The list of what I chose (most of the descriptions are from their website):
- Pierre Marcolini – named after the man himself, it contains 72% cocoa content, combination of beans from the Venezuelan regions Sur de Lago, Carenero and Rio Caraibe.
- Trianon Fondant – Nougat in a crunchy caramel shell coated in dark chocolate.
- Violette – Dark chocolate ganache infused with flowery violette
- Thym Orange – self explanatory; dark chocolate ganache infused with fresh thyme and orange peels
- Java Fondant – Dark chocolate ganache infused Java coffee
- Pistachio Marizpan – Paste of ground almonds and pistachios with a powdered sugar in dark chocolate
- Coeur Framboise – Dark chocolate raspberry infused ganache in a white chocolate shell
My favorite out of the bunch is the Violette. The Violette had the initial dark chocolate flavor but as you keep on letting it melt on the tongue, it gently releases the wonderful floral violet flavor. It was a nice contrast of the dark chocolate that the spring-like floral flavors of violet flowers. It’s not overwhelmingly flowery but it’s noticeable. It’s a different flavor but all of the chocolates were tasty.
When I paid my chocolates, I read near the registers that they’re offering samples of their new “Chocolate Molecule” collection yesterday, December 1st, that Robyn also had talked about. As I read on, every first Saturday of the month they offer some sampling of their chocolates. Darn. I don’t live close enough to try their stuff. But also, it’s a good thing before I’ll be visiting this store at least once a week.
As the week goes on, my final chocolate shop that I went to was Kee’s Chocolate in SoHo. I know I’ve spoken very briefly on my previous post with my outing with Kim.
The store itself, is very small – think like a shoebox size apartment that is pretty common in Manhattan. It’s very home-y, welcoming place that they would greet you with a warm “Hi.” They work in a very small kitchen in the back that takes up half the space. Honestly, I don’t call their kitchen a kitchen. It basically a small burner, a few pots, lots of trays, chocolate molds, and a few pastry bags that occupies a few counters that is their kitchen. The magic is all in that tiny little space and it’s a wonder to me how they can concoct such extraordinary chocolate in such diminutive space. I forever bow at Ms. Kee’s presence; she’s the chocolate creator.
The assortment I chose for this box is (cost $10.50 + tax):
- Creme Brulee (the signature flavor) – read on about my thoughts about this flavor
- Orange Confit – I dunno…my friend Eno ate it and I haven’t tried it before. But obviously, it should be something with dark chocolate and orange…beyond that; it’s beyond my intuition.
- Lemongrass – self explanatory name; I don’t know how to explain the flavor of lemongrass but to me, it tastes like an herbal (almost basil-like) flavor with a lemony tang. Nice and subtle, not pungent at all; a lovely flavor.
- Lemon Basil – You first taste the lemon flavor in the filling but then a few milliseconds later, the basil flavor starts to slowly tickle your taste buds.
- Champagne – Champagne infused truffles; no, there’s no real alcohol content but the flavor’s there and you can almost feel the effervescence of the Champagne on your tongue as the ganache slowly melts on your tongue.
- Pignoli – It’s pine nuts covering a ball of dark ganache. If you want flavor description: it’s almost a Ferrero Rocher sans the thin wafer and hazelnut cream filling. Just basically a ball dark chocolate ganache with the nuts.
Yes, I LOVE the creme brulee. If I could just pick one flavor to live off of from Kee’s, creme brulee would be it. It’s one damn sexy chocolate, man. The perfectly tempered, thin dark chocolate shell filled with a rich vanilla custard-like filling that explodes in your mouth. Ahh…the chocolate of love. I guess a guy could seduce me with that type of chocolate. HAHAHA…! The other flavors are very good but not as knock-your-socks-off and orgasmic as the creme brulee.
Anyways, as I have said in the previous post, if you’re interested in having the creme brulee, you have to reserve them, so Kee will put some aside for you or get in the store by 10:30 – 11 AM to get first dibs before it’s sold out for the day. Even though it’s quite frivolous to mention this, but the creme brulee must be eaten within 2 days from purchase. (Please, if I had that chocolate it won’t even go past a day.) And it is $1.75 a piece, h
onestly I think it’s one of the best deals in the city to get great chocolate without the pretension or the hefty price tag.
37 W 17th Street (on Broadway)
New York, NY
There’s also an East Village location that opened recently at 141 2nd Avenue
La Maison du Chocolat
30 Rockefeller Plaza (between 5th & 6th Aves on 49th St.)
New York, NY
There’s an Upper East Side location (a lot more posh than the Rock’s, in my opinion) at 1018 Madison Avenue (between 78 & 79th Streets)
485 Park Avenue (between 58th & 59th Streets)
New York, NY
80 Thompson Street (near Spring Street)
New York, NY