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Archive for the ‘Chocolate’ Category

John and I are as choosy with our Italian desserts as we are with our entreés (like pizza). I happen to be a tiramisú snob, and have turned up my nose at quite a few slices, while John will down well-made panna cotta like an Electrolux that’s just had its filter cleaned.

But the cannoli….Ahh…the cannoli. A perfect cannoli is a study in contradictions, a perfect blend of opposites in flavor and texture. As the holding device, the shell represents a challenge: It must be crispy and ever-so-slightly sweet. NEVER chewy or dense. With lots of airy holes for extra crunch.

The cream presents another challenge. First, it has to be ricotta cream. I know….I know, you may be thinking, “Who would fill cannoli with anything else?” If you asked that question, you’re hired!

You might be surprised to learn how many whipped cream filled cannoli I have encountered. And put down after the first bite, because that’s just wrong, people. WRONG.

Assuming that the filling is ricotta based, it should also be rich, thick in consistency and have a definite sweetness that is not overpowering. Light and airy are not characteristics of the filling – those belong to the shell.

Now a final word of caution: NO PRE-FILLING the cannoli shells. If you walk into a bakery and there are a stack of filled cannoli in the glass display case, don’t order them. They could have been sitting there since the Dharma Project’s last food drop.

The shells should be lined up, empty awaiting your order. Then, and only then, do they get their ricotta cream piped into them. This is because cannoli filling will make the super crispy and light shell a soggy, dense mess. True story.

As for toppings or additions to the cream filling, these are traditional and definitely allowed. I’m not a huge fan of succade, or chopped, candied citrus peel, I find that they don’t add much in terms of flavor and are just interruptions in the cream filling. Like speed bumps. I do, however approve of mini chocolate chips, either integrated into the cream or sprinkled on top. These do add flavor, and because they are firm, but not crunchy, an extra layer of texture. Pistachios often make an appearance, as does a nice dark chocolate dip. However, prepping the chocolate dipped varieties usually means pre-filling, so I’m not the biggest fan of this option.

OK, I think I’m done with my pastry-related tirade. Are you still here? I hope so, because Rocco’s cannoli are definitely worth the trip. To the West Village. In the pouring rain. And John doesn’t walk very quickly. So, if you’re going with him, you should know that.

Rocco’s has a lot of other treats that we didn’t sample. We went straight for the cannoli. But you might like to try some of these:

They sure looked tasty.

After navigating the somewhat confusing line (it seems that people just queue up in no particular order, and there’s no number system), we noticed the empty cannoli shells lined up in the back awaiting their creamy centers – a very good sign. We ordered 2, and got them to go.

Probably we should have enjoyed them at on of Rocco’s cafe tables. Instead, we ventured out into the pouring rain (did I mention that John walks slowly?) and to the PATH train to head back to Hoboken.

Both John and I are very impatient when it comes to food. We want to eat it NOW. Whatever it is. Now works. The train unfortunately arrived immediately, even as I was unwinding the intricately-laced bakers twine on the box.

John: “I have never wanted the train to NOT arrive before….” This said as I reluctantly returned the white box to its plastic bag.

Once on the train, all bets were off. Especially the ones saying “No Eating or Drinking on Path Trains”. John dove into his cannoli as I attempted to take photos of them on the moving train. Please keep in mind that we are professionals. You shouldn’t try this at home. Or anywhere.

I held off on eating mine as I wanted to take a nice glamor shot of it once back at my apartment (see the first photo for evidence of self-restraint). But I was curious, so I asked John some questions.

Me: “How is it?”

John: “Great.” (You might not think it, but this is actually very high praise from John).

Me: “Ummm…Could you give me more details? How’s the filling?”

John: “Awesome, man.”

I see.

Once I could sample mine in the comfort and stability of my non-moving apartment, I could tell that John was correct. It was a great cannoli. The shell was fried to perfection, and I detected a hint of cinnamon in the mix that added a subtle flavor. The cream was indeed awesome: a ricotta cream with very tiny and sparingly applied succade and topped with mini chocolate chips. I may have wanted the cream a bit thicker, but the flavor was true to form. The shell even maintained its crispiness throughout our soggy walk home, shattering as I bit into it (this is supposed to happen).

Rocco’s: a great place for awesome cannoli. Man.

Pasticerria Rocco
243 Bleecker Street
New York
New York, 10014

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Hello, everyone! We have a special feature today over at Brooklyn Exposed. John and I run rampant through Brooklyn sampling chocolate from Mast Brothers and Nunu Chocolates. You can read about it here. Also included is a recipe for Spicy Hot Chocolate featuring a Mast Brothers chocolate bar.

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Today is the kick-off for City Bakery’s 19th Annual Hot Chocolate Festival: A month-long celebration of molten, drinkable chocolate featuring a different flavor every day. Every single day. Talk about reasons to get up in the morning.

This morning’s reason was Banana Peel Hot Chocolate. City Bakery’s hot chocolate is characterized by a thick consistency, and today’s blend was no exception. It wasn’t too thick – no spoons would be standing upright. I mean, you have to be able to drink it. The banana flavor was wonderfully integrated. It was like drinkable chocolate chip banana bread (need a recipe for that, because I have one). Not too strong, and very balanced. As an added bonus, my drink had a nice little froth at the top that gave the drink a light and fluffy quality.

And if you’re feeling frisky, top it all off with one of their homemade marshmallows. They are like white sugary sponges. In a really excellent way.

I feel like it might be my duty to sample all the flavors for you. So you know what to expect. Would you find that helpful? Ok, good. However, if you want to know the plan, you can check out the schedule of City Bakery’s hot chocolate offerings here.

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Fellas, we are one week closer to the Love Fest and I am making good on my promise to continue helping you. Did you think I would forget? Puh-lease.

Today’s suggestion: Kee’s Chocolates. Many people talk about “freshness” as it relates to veggies, fish and the like. But chocolate? YES. These little beauties are handmade daily in an eensy-weensy SoHo crevice of a shop. Biting into the outer shell of each truffle yields a delicate SNAP, uncovering a dense center that just moments before was cooling on a candy rack.

The chocolatey guts inside are deep and complex. The Thai Chili is darkness with a kick, the Hazelnut Praline a whipped fluffiness interspersed with minniscule hazlenut shards, the Mint Mocha is like the Ritz Carlton of Peppermint Patties…

The Champagne Truffle holds a special place in my taste bud’s heart: a pyramid shape that encases dark chocolate ganache infused with champagne. The Egyptians should take note.

Kee’s also offers other delicacies like their chocolate turtles with pecans sandwiched cozily between layers of chocolate by gooey caramel,

and macarons, French meringue sandwich cookies in a variety of flavors.

Kee’s is located at: 80 Thompson Street, NYC, NY 10012. They also have a midtown location at: 452 Fifth Avenue (inside HSBC), NYC, NY 10018.

You can check out their website here.

Now, before I let you off the hook for the day, I’m going to give you TWO flower suggestions. Remember what I said about roses? BORING. Try one of the following places offering unique, seasonal arrangements:

Saipua: This Red Hook, Brooklyn flower shop’s arrangements will blow your mind. Artsy, asymmetrical (yet balanced) and natural. Saipua also sells soap that smells really, really good. Pick some up for your lady if she likes that kind of thing.

* Photo from Saipua’s website.

Sobsey’s: This is Hoboken’s finest and freshest produce market. They also offer flower arrangements, daily assembled by a local floral artist. The arrangements are thoughtful, color-coordinated, and they come in JARS! I love stuff in jars. It’s just always way cuter. Woooo…sorry I went all 7th grade girl on you there. Here was last year’s arrangement:

Let’s sum up the suggestions so far:

Chocolates from:
Cocoa V
Kee’s

Flowers:
Saipua (BK)
Sobsey’s (The Jerz)
Or your own fabulous arrangement with gladiola and basil.

See you next week!

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GENTS! Do not let the swirly- girly pictures of chocolate and lace fool you – this post is for you. Ladies, this post is also for you, but we’ll get to that later.

As you are probably aware, a certain “holiday” is approaching. Valentine’s Day. I know…you are not a huge fan of the day. But instead of warming yourself by a bonfire of Hallmark cards or suggesting to Cupid where that pudgy bambino can stick his arrow, we must face reality: Valentine’s Day exists and  your significant other/partner in crime will most likely be disappointed if you overlook it.

What’s an upstanding gentleman like yourself to do? I’m going to tell you.

Even while working within the confines of traditional Valentine’s Day gifts (chocolate and flowers) you can be original. I have done the research for you (you can thank me later) and will be offering you suggestions during the weeks approaching the Grand Lovers’ Fest.

Suggestion the First: Chocolates from Cocoa V!

If I see a box of Russell Stover I’m going to have a fit. Cocoa V’s chocolates are legit. They are also vegan, if you care about stuff like that, and you might. Consequently, they are all dark chocolate. Dark, rich, intense, with an infusion of flavor…well, I’ll get right to it because I taste tested some of them, and have picked a few favorites.

First Up: The Creamy Peanut Butter:

This ain’t no Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. A dark chocolate outer shell encompasses a dense truffle center of chocolate and peanut butter whipped together into a frenzy of flavor. Proof of harmonious cohabitation!

The Salted Caramel:

Salted caramel is one of my new favorite flavor combinations. It falls into the “chocolate-covered-pretzel” food group. Sweet aaand salty. The only bittersweet thing about this bon-bon is realizing you ate them all. And it’s a work of art too! Look at that fabulous painted purple swirl wrapping around the diamond shape of the truffle.

Pecan Praline:

This rose-dusted, oblong beauty encases a smooth whipped center interspersed with chopped pecans. A hint of salt gives the usual praline flavor a tartness that adds a dimension of taste beyond the expected.

And now a word about flowers. The word is YES. But roses? No. This is just my opinion, but I find roses on Valentine’s Day a little….played out. Yeah, I said it. Try something like this instead:

Behold the Gladiolus (or Gladiola, whichever you prefer, Wikipedia seems to like both)! Dramatic, beautiful, colorful….just like your lady friend, yes?

Or perhaps your lady would prefer some Ocimum basilicum also known as Basil.

To me, no flower smells better than a bunch of fresh basil. Any man who brought me a bouquet would know what to expect that night. Pesto, that’s what. Yup.

So, my merry band of gentlemen readers (I’m assuming there are a few of you), heed my advice! You can feel free to hate on Valentine’s Day, but make the best of it. And Ladies, if you like what you read here, pass it on to your fellow. Maybe he will get the hint (if you drop it like a bowling ball on a concrete floor).

For more information on Cocoa V, check out their website here.

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