A Chocolate Tour of New York

How many times have you dreamed of eating and drinking your weigh in chocolate? Just think of chocolate as that sweet, creamy, smooth, rich, and yes, American taste. Do you like it white? Dark? Sweet? Semi-sweet? Bittersweet? Unsweetened? Milky? With caramel and tons of nuts? Melted on a velvety scoop of ice cream? On your favorite crunchy pretzels? If your mouth is watering by now, you should take my Chocolate Tour of New York.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Sweetness of the Temple

Opened in April in the sizzling meatpacking neighborhood,
Buddha Bar seems to take the saying “one can’t make a first impression twice” seriously. The entrance in the restaurant is made through a round shaped “tunnel,” made of stripes of exposed bricks, and dark shiny wood. It feels like an underground passage to a different world. And Buddha Bar is a different world. Designed by the same people who created the sister restaurants in Paris and Beirut, Buddha Bar is the most authentic Japanese restaurant I’ve ever seen in the city. The imposing statue of Buddha, overseeing the whole place, the pond with colorful fish, the beauty of the wooden architecture, and the magic lights provide the peaceful and spacious atmosphere of a pagoda. The design of the three large dining rooms has the exclusive structure and balance of a Buddhist temple. All this and more, topped with a glass DJ booth and a cross shaped skylight, is the modern vision of the rising sun’s land.
I was so anxious to find out if their desserts are as fancy and decadent as the place itself. The menu looked promising. I ordered the Warm Fudge Cake. They brought me a chocolaty tower cake (like the one in the picture) with a solid disc of vanilla ice cream on top. The ice cream started melting as soon as I cracked the cake’s crust with the spoon. The cake has the consistency of a brownie on the outside, with a rich, warm, and creamy inside. The ice cream balances perfectly the unsweetened rich chocolate flavor, and adds a new dimension to the whole presentation. Guilty as charged: I’ve finished the cake before even thinking at taking a picture. Oh well, it was irresistible. And there are even more deserts waiting to be discovered. Buddha Bar is the place you want to return to over and over again, and try “everything on the menu.”

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The opening of a new restaurant is one of the happenings you don’t want to miss in the city. That’s why last night I decided to have dinner in the brand new Craftsteak restaurant that chef Tom Colicchio opened in the meatpacking district. Two things that intrigued me right away: not only that the chef chose the trendiest neighborhood, chock full of hip restaurants, but he had some guts to actually place his new venue across from Morimoto and right next door to Del Posto , Mario Batali’s newest restaurant. One thing's for sure: Colicchio doesn't fear fierce competition.
I decided to go there with no expectations. The truth is that I was overly impressed by the whole experience. The place is immense, almost trying to intimidate with its grandiosity. The designer though did a great job on picking the right colors, very comfortable furniture (from the red fancy chairs in the lounge to the elegant earthy leather couches in the dining room), and nonetheless the poignant bottles glass display that separates the lounge from the dining room. The funny thing about having a drink at the bar before dinner is that you’ll get to see the chef Colicchio having drinks with Lee Anne Wong
, one of the Top Chef participants. (for some of you who are not familiar with the mentioned TV show, Tom Colicchio is one of the judges).

Back to nos moutons, let me tell you how the Chocolate Tart With Milk Chocolate Ganache and Caramel Ice Cream was. I’ll start with the bottom and sides of the tart which were very crispy and chocolaty. It had the texture of a flourless cake, only crispier. Well, this thing was topped with a rich paste of chocolate, made of semisweet chocolate and cream, called ganache. Not only that the consistency will seduce you on the spot, but the velvety consistency and its sweetness are brought up by a touch of salt. You have to try it, believe me. Have I mentioned the caramel ice cream yet? Mmm, you’re going to love it. If I were you I’d make a reservation right away.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

La crème de la crème

Today we’ll play a quick trivia game. Just one question. The winner takes it all :-) Ready? Go!

Q: It was first attested in France, in Massialot’s cookbook, at the end of the seventeen century. In the early eighteen century, Trinity College (Cambridge, UK) claims the invention of this revolutionary dessert.
Hint: It’s been called burnt cream, caramel cream, and crema catalana. What is the name of the finest delicacy?

A: Oeuf corse (like a friend of mine would say), it's crème brûlée.

I don’t know about you or the police, but I love crème brûlée, regardless of the heritage. The traditional recipe is made with just three basic ingredients: eggs, sugar, and heavy cream, topped with a fine crust of caramelized sugar. If you combine all that with chocolate, you’ve got one of the most exquisite desserts (of all times!). OK so you think I’m using big words? Then you have to experience it yourself. The downtown address is: 6th Avenue and 9th Street. Of course, you can find it at all Citarella
locations in the city. Get in, take a sharp right, and another right. There you are, in front of the desserts counter. Don’t even bother to decipher the products’ names, it would be a waist of time, believe me. Just ask the person behind the counter for the chocolate crème brûlée cake. It comes in three sizes. I started with the small one, thinking that the mushy inside will not be quite what I care for. When I got home, I had to fight with my mom over it; it’s one of those things that you just can’t share with anyone. The melt-in-your-mouth texture, combined with the rich, chocolaty taste, and the crunchy topping, make this cake more than a scrumptious dessert. It’s an indisputable winner.

~Piment et Chocolat

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The ultimate in chocolate indulgence

Last night, the monthly union of Moon and Mars packed in me a wallop of desire for a White Chocolate Martini. What’s the best place to get one? Easy answer: Pravda. Located on the edge of Soho, this underground lounge is the witness of countless amazing nights. I just love its intimate Soviet-chic ambiance, insanely good food, and nonetheless great cocktails. Apparently I’m not the only one who’d rather spend the night at Pravda instead of the glamorous APT for instance. Last night I landed in the middle of an author event. Gary Shteyngart launched his new novel Absurdistan in a blissful atmosphere, surrounded by the press and friends. At the end of his speech, he invited everyone to experience the unique, smooth Pravda vodka. I immediately took his advice and ordered a devastating White Chocolate Martini.

Also called Love Potion No. 3 by the connoisseurs, Pravda’s White Chocolate Martini has a unique taste and an exceptional flavor. The bartender dipped the rim of the martini glass into maraschino cherry juice, shook off excess, and dipped it into cocoa powder. Then, he combined the above-mentioned vodka, white chocolate Godiva liqueur, crème de cocoa, and crème de banana in a shaker. At that point, he just became my favorite bartender. He poured the magic potion into my glass, and added a strawberry on its rim. Needles to say I was anxious to taste the tempting mixture. It was mesmerizing. Cheers!

~Piment et Chocolat