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Archive for June, 2010

Vegan Linzer torte from Candle Cafe in-store line

After my recent revelation about how good vegan desserts can be (see the Vegan Divas review) I was on the lookout at the show for more exceptional vegan desserts.  Luckily, I found a new line to feature.  Surprisingly, it was from the veteran Upper East Side trailblazer, Candle Cafe, who is launching a new in-store line of vegan desserts.

Vegan peanut butter chocolate tart rom Candle Cafe NYC

Whenever possible, I like to find desserts I can recommend without qualification and I am happy to report that all five items I tasted were quite good.  You should feel safe serving any of them to your carnivorous and dairy-consuming friends without fear of feeding into whatever their worst stereotype of “vegan food” is.  In other words, none of these five taste materially different from their milk and egg-contianing counterparts.

Vegan chocolate mousse tart

That said, I did have my favorites.  The clear standout was the chocolate peanut butter tart.  This tart had plenty of peanut butter and chocolate flavor and also had just the right amount of sweetness.  I didn’t feel the urge to reach for my toothbrush after eating it like I might after consuming a Reeses Peanut butter cup.

Vanilla cheese cake

I also really liked the raspberry Linzer torte which had particularly flavorful raspberries inside and a  crust that was just superb, vegan or not.  The raspberry taste reminded me of those expensive preserves you get from Switzerland or France-very “high-end”.

Finally, the chocolate mousse tart was also excellent, especially in the sweetness category – not too sweet but with lots of chocolate flavor.  I would have liked it to be made with even darker chocolate but I know most people will find the cocoa content just right.

These should be available at Whole Foods shortly.

Candle Cafe (the parent restaurant of these items) is located at 1307 3rd Avenue

Candle Cafe’s web site is here.

Chocolate and healthy? Yup.

Question: What easy-to-consume breakfast has 110 calories, 10 grams of protein, and plenty of dark chocolate?  Answer: That’s right Oikos 0% fat chocolate Greek Yogurt.  If you said “four egg whites with a few tablespoons of 80% dark chocolate melted on top” that also would have been correct but not too many people would like it (except for maybe me).  Parents of picky eating kids take note:  This might be a good  “Trojan horse” to sneak in 10 grams of protein and some Calcium.  Parents might like it too since it’s not too sweet.  Organic as well.  Complete nutrition label is here.

So far, none of the other Greek yogurt purveyors , Fage, Chobani etc. are selling a chocolate flavor.

Available at Whole Foods.

Blue Moon Sorbet

Great desserts and sweet items from the 2010 Fancy Food show, all available in New York City – coming soon.

Given today’s heat I recommend Blue Moon Sorbet, the best, most flavorful sorbet I have tasted.   Available at Whole Foods.

Their website is here.

Strawberries and cream sorbet to go with the delicious bread pudding

I already wrote about the savory dishes at 508 a few months ago (read that post here).  On Saturday I returned with 3 companions and after another delicious savory meal we sampled a few desserts.   My favorite is still the churros with Valhrona dark chocolate sauce but I also liked the dark chocolate brownie and the new bread pudding which is made with parts of chocolate cake mixed in with the bread.

The dark chocolate brownie - not too sweet and very chocolatey

The good thing about the 508  chocolate brownie is that it’s more like a slice of dark chocolate cake.  It’s not too sweet and has a great dark chocolate flavor.  It comes with a scoop of Capo Giro gelato in this case vanilla bean.  You really can’t go wrong.

The new bread pudding with pieces of chocolate cake mixed in the with bread

Recommended: Dark chocolate brownie, Churros with Valhrona dark chocolate dipping sauce and the Capo Giro gelatos such as the goat’s milk rosemary honey or mexican chocolate or whatever the specialty flavor is the night you’re there.

The 508 Churros - served piping hot with Valhrona dark chocolate

Special savory Recommendations: Roasted duck with pine nuts, spinach, brussels sprouts, pancetta and olive oil tossed in spinach and egg fettuccini and the Celery Root Gnocci wit lamb, Italian sausage, mushrooms, smoked tomatoes, sage, light creamy parmesan sauce.

508 Restaurant and Bar is located at 508 Greenwich Street at Spring.  Their web site is here.

The best chocolate cake in the world: actually, no.

Posted by Niko on June 22nd, 2010

The best chocolate cake in the world?

Editor’s note: DessertBuzz dispatched their top team to Spring St. for opening weekend of The World’s Best Chocolate Cake to see if it could live up to it’s name.  And in an effort to offer as many informed opinions as possible this will be a “team” review, with a special guest writing the main copy and my comments in brackets.

Anyone claiming, let alone branding their store , “The Best Chocolate Cake in the World.” is inviting assessment.  Maybe even criticism.  It’s hard to imagine something, anything, being the ‘Best Chocolate Cake in the World”; with all the various tastes, preferences, options, moods and moments in life, how could anything be so?  The truth is that it can’t, and to assess or criticize “The Best Chocolate Cake in the World” using this standard seems not only unfair but misplaced.  [Misplaced or not, we’re going to criticize if criticism is warranted.  This is New York City and people want to know if they should drop $6.50 on this thing].

The 70% version

Let start with the good:

The store is tasteful and considered – ‘styled’ – and perhaps a bit self conscious.  The staff is nice, if a bit overwhelmed by the small footprint.  The clientele, curious and expectant  [the customers were tourists and recent transplants – basically the same people who line up for the Magnolia Bakery].  The cake, in two varieties, 55% cocoa, semi sweet ‘traditional’ and 70% cocoa bittersweet can only be visually differentiated by the fact that the ‘traditional’ slightly shinier and maybe a bit lighter in color [They both looked identical to me. I bet if we distracted the servers and switched the cakes like the drinking contest episode of Gilligan’s Island they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.]

Both cakes are nice looking and inviting; chocolate ganache overflowing and dripping over layers of flaky meringue. In between the layers of meringue is a mousse that is darker and soft.- I was salivating at the sight of them.    Maybe this thing has potential after all?


The flourless vegan coconut macaroon

Yesterday I wrote about my two favorite sweets from the Vegan Divas line, the brownie and the chocolate frosted cupcake.   However, there were more creations to try – all with no milk, dairy or eggs.

The cookies were fine but were not in the class of the brownie, mousse or roll

The item that got the most raves during the sample give-away at Butterfield Market was definitely the rich chocolate mousse.  This is a mousse with the texture of chocolate pudding.  It’s made with copious amounts of dark chocolate and contains raw cocoa beans.  It was so silky smooth it reminded me of a panna cotta.

If I served this at a party I wouldn’t even need to tell my guests that it was vegan because they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.  Again, as with the brownie and the cupcake, this dessert is competitive not just against other vegan desserts but with full dairy desserts as  well.

Rich chocolate mousse (made with raw cocoa beans) $4.49

Raspberry coconut roll

The raspberry coconut roll was one item that the Dessertbuzz team spilt on.  I thought this was a very solid dessert item worthy of  recommendation.  The other half of the dessertbuzz team on this day, a highly experienced baker, thought the “roll” was superb and worthy of a DessertBuzz “rave”. (more…)

One of the best brownies I have had in NYC - Vegan or not

Since starting Dessert Buzz 4 years ago I have learned that one of the most difficult things to do is to get people to believe that a vegan dessert can be really good.  One problem is that most people don’t know what the word “vegan” actually means.   Usually, they have a vague understanding that it means “healthy” or “has no meat in it”.  Some believe it refers to foods that are made only from cardboard packing materials.

Sometimes, a person will know what vegan means (contains no animal products) but doesn’t understand what impact that should have on food taste.  This is all pretty funny when you consider how many kids were born and raised on a 90% peanut butter and jelly diet.   Guess what?  It’s vegan!   To learn what makes peanut butter and a million other foods taste so good, keep reading, otherwise just skip to the reviews.

The frosting on the gold leaf cupcake

Flavor delivery 101:

In desserts and in baked goods (and most savory items too) the single best ingredient to deliver a flavor, like chocolate, to your palate is through fat.   Somehow our tongues detect a flavor more deeply when it’s accompanied by a high fat content.  Our brains seem to like it that way too.  That’s why chocolate croissants are awesome, bacon is currently bigger than the Beatles and premium ice cream like Ben and Jerry’s or Grom gelato rocks our world.

So what does this have to do with vegan desserts?  Well, we now know “vegan” only means “contains no animal products”.   So a vegan food can contain copious amounts of fat (or sugar or chocolate for that matter) as long as it doesn’t come from animals.  So, in theory, there is nothing inherent about something being vegan that should keep it from tasting really good.  The challenge with vegan baking is that it’s relatively new and everything hasn’t be figured out yet.  Some chefs however, like Camillo Sabella from Vegan Divas have started to figure it all out and have produced some really superb results.

I recently tasted 8 products from the 20-item Vegan Divas line of vegan desserts and baked items at Butterfield Market.   Overall this line really impressed me.  At least 4 of the items deserve to be compared to best-in-class non-vegan baked goods.

The star of the show was the brownie.  To me, this brownie had it all.  Deep, rich cocoa flavor?  Check.  Extremely fresh and moist? Not too sweet?  Check and check.  Connoisseurs (there is such a thing and they read this site) will note the dark color of the brownie (see picture).  I have found that nine times out-of-ten the darker the brownie the better the brownie.  If you like your brownies to taste like a flowerless chocolate cake from a fancy restaurant then you will love this brownie.  If you like a very sweet brownie like Fat Witch this might not be for you.  $4.49 .

The macaroon