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And the winner is…

Menu for Hope V logo

Thanks to everyone who donated to the fifth annual Menu for Hope campaign. We raised $62,000 to help feed children in Lesotho, Africa. That’s amazing, considering the economic climate.

The lucky winner of La Maison du Chocolat’s box of truffles is…Samantha Hanley. Samantha, come on down and claim your prize.

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Five More Days to Win La Maison du Chocolat!

The Menu for Hope campaign has been extended till Dec. 31! So far, we’ve raised $41,000 for the school lunch program in Lesotho. This is great, considering the state of the economy, but we still have a ways to go before matching last year’s $90,000. I know it’s difficult to give this year, but this is the time when people need help the most. You have the opportunity to make your donation go that much further!

If you’d like to win some of the best chocolates in the world from La Maison du Chocolat, bid on prize UE11.

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Menu for Hope V: Win La Maison Du Chocolat’s Shimmering Snowflake Coffret

Menu for Hope VLadies and gentlemen, start your bids. You can win some awesome prizes through the fifth annual Menu for Hope charity campaign. The premise is simple: for each $10 you donate, you’ll get one virtual raffle ticket toward the food-related prize of your choice. Last year, food bloggers from across the world raised more than $90,000 towards the UN World Food Programme‘s school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa.

This year, La Maison du Chocolat has graciously donated a shimmering snowflake coffret, filled with more than half a pound of chestnut, orange confit stick, dark ganache with banana, milk ganache with rosé Champagne, milk praliné feuilleté with hazelnuts and almonds, almond paste with citrus zest, and dark plain ganache confections. New York is the only place in the U.S. where you can buy these chocolates in person, but if you bid on prize UE11, you can get them at your door (provided you live in the U.S.). These are among the best chocolates in the world, and trust me, I’ve eaten a lot of other brands.

La Maison du Chocolat

If you don’t win, you can always make La Maison du Chocolat’s truffles at home, although it’ll never be as divine as the original. The company’s founder, Robert Linxe, sources his cream from an exclusive farm in France, and he married into the Valrhona family, so he works with a custom chocolate blend.

Also, my co-workers at Gourmet are giving away a copy of each month’s Cookbook Club selection for 2009. Every month, the magazine selects an extraordinary cookbook and features recipes, videos, and exclusive menus online. Past selections include The Art and Soul of Baking, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Sure, you can follow along online, but it’s even better if you get all the books sent to you for an entire year. Bid on prize UE16 if interested.

Here’s how to “play:”

  • Browse from the tempting list of prizes at Steamy Kitchen (prizes from the U.S. East Coast) and Chez Pim (worldwide).
  • Make a donation at First Giving.
  • Each $10 you donate will count towards one raffle ticket for a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for UE11 and 3 tickets for UE16. Please write, “2xUE11, 3xUE16.”
  • If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we can claim the corporate match.
  • Please allow us to see your e-mail address so that we can contact you if you win. Your e-mail address will not be shared with anyone.
  • Winners will be announced late Dec./early Jan. Good luck!

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Fun and Fancy Free

Although there’s thousands of free samples for the taking, it’s tough covering the New York Fancy Food Show each year. The corporate giants are always there, and finding a new product with an interesting story and a distinctive taste is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Plus, I’m saving the really good products for work, so I can’t share everything here. But I bet Gourmet‘s not interested in these foods. (No offense to these guys, but they just have a niche audience.)

I Swear it Tastes Better Than it Sounds

raw food bar

Raw Revolution is similar to Larabar, except with more interesting flavors and textures. Both brands pack their energy bars with ground nuts and puréed dates, but Raw Revolution leaves some nuts whole, so you’re not left with uniform, nubby bits. Raw Revolution also has a spirulina flavor, but I swear it doesn’t taste “green.” As a bonus, there’s flax seeds, which are high in omega-3s.

It’s a shame that Raw Revolution hasn’t caught on like Larabar. I suspect it’s the packaging, which has an anarchist-type feel. If you’ve ever opened a Nutrigrain bar and felt cheated by the tiny bar inside the big wrapper, you’re in for the same effect here. As an organic company, you’d think they’d cut down on wasteful packaging.

Another warning: That bar has as many calories as a small meal, but it’s nutrient-dense too. ($1.99 for a 2.2-oz bar)

raw food bar

BranTreats and Flaxmax sound more like bird food than desserts, but these are delicious. A hybrid between biscotti and crackers, these cookies’ only source of fat is the almonds. Delicate and crisp, you don’t need to soften them in a cup of coffee, although they certainly go together. If you still don’t believe me, Almondina, the parent brand, swept four awards at past Fancy Food Shows. ($4.49 for a 4-oz bag)

But it’s Just…

granola
Photo: Fox & Obel

Granola-Kingslake & Crane has chunky clusters with an astoundingly light texture. Normally, nuts are an afterthought in granola, but these ones are perfectly toasted and fresh-tasting. There’s also tart cherries to complement the brown sugar-covered oats. This was so tasty that I assumed it was soaked in oil. Surprise, it was dry toasted. Although oats are dirt cheap, I don’t think you can replicate this recipe at home.

I make my own granola, and I’ve never been able to get those coveted clusters, toasted flavor, and light texture without adding oil. The best taste comes from Alton Brown’s recipe, but it has 1/4 cup oil. Deborah Madison‘s no-fat-added, apple juice granola is tough and bland, and The Traveler’s Lunchbox’s granola is light, but I’m not fond of the flavor. Maybe if I combine all three recipes, I’ll come close to Kingslake & Crane. ($9.95 for a 1-lb bag)

peanut butter

Peanut butter-Sunland/Peanut Better makes all their peanut butters from Valencias, which are naturally sweet. The sweetness is disconcerting for the plain butters, but they’re perfect for their chocolate and praline butters. Too bad they don’t make hazelnut butter, because they could outdo Nutella. ($5 for 10 oz)

Where Have You Been All my Life?

Bonnat Chocolate

Bonnat is not new, nor does it have a flashy backstory, but their Chuao bar is amazing. Normally, Venezuelan chocolate has notes of soil and raisin, but this chocolate is different. Sadly, I don’t remember what it actually tastes like, because it was one of the last things I ate at the show, and my taste buds were spent. ($8.25 for a 3.5 oz bar)

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Hello, winner!

cupcakes Congratulations to Jessica, who won an advance reading copy of Hello Cupcake! What a craftster. When she was 12, she made her sister a farm/bug cake with gummy fish and swirly blue-green icing. I enjoyed reading all of your comments. You are a creative bunch!

Photo: Hello Cupcake! blog

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Happy Nutella Day

World Nutella Day Today is World Nutella Day, my favorite food holiday of the year! It’s a day to cook with, eat and fantasize about chocolate-hazelnut spread. Try making your own or putting some in babka. Don’t forget to vote for my chocolate-hazelnut butter in Culinate’s Death by Chocolate contest. Everyone who votes can win a free trip for two to Napa’s Chocolate Festival on Feb. 23.

For more Nutella recipes, see the roundups, part one and two.

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Menu for Hope Winners

Menu for Hope

Wow, this year’s Menu for Hope raffle raised $91,188 to feed schoolchildren in Lesotho, Africa! That’s 50% more than last year. Many thanks to the following:

  • Chez Pim for conceiving and organizing this annual charity event
  • Serious Eats for coordinating the East Coast prizes
  • Prize donors for giving away thousands of dollars’ worth of goodies
  • Bloggers for hosting the prizes
  • YOU for donating!

Without any further ado, congratulations to Eric for winning the Wild Sweets Chocolate cookbook and Yunlin for snagging my homemade nut butters. For the full winners’ list, check Chez Pim’s site.

I won Charles’ Chocolates deluxe box assortment from Dessert First, Roni Sue chocolate buttercrunch and seasonal truffle subscription from Serious Eats, L.A. Burdick Chocolate Mice from Breadchick and Rancho Gordo beans to make it sort of healthy. Yowzers, that’s like a lifetime supply of chocolate.

Forgive me for being away so long. This blog has been broken, with viruses, post spam (yes, someone found a way to tack on info about male enhancement), and funny formatting. I restored my databases from backup and reinstalled WordPress about five times. Hopefully, there will be no more fixes!

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Reminder: 2 days left to win chocolate-related prizes!

cocoa nibs nougatine

Did you ever think you could make this? In Wild Sweets Chocolate, you’ll get a breakdown of the components (chocolate nut cream, chocolate sucree and cocoa nibs nougatine), plus these tempting recipes:

  • Parsnip white chocolate milk/coffee mousseline/chana cake
  • Peanut butter milk chocolate/soft peanut meringue/peanut tuile
  • Ancho truffle/balsamic cherries/crispy bacon
  • Mahi mahi with cocoa oatmeal granola, red swiss chard and cumin crunch

You have until this Friday, Dec. 21, to win this book in the Menu for Hope campaign. To refresh your memory, every $10 donation (which will feed school children in Lesotho, Africa) gives you a virtual raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. As of writing, only two tickets have been sold for this book. You have a very good chance of winning if you donate and specify prize code UE26. Did I mention that it’s valued at $40 and comes all the way from Canada?

Don’t forget, I’m also giving away all-natural, homemade nut butters (prize UE27). If you like Nutella, you’ll love my chocolate-hazelnut, cashew, walnut and peanut butters.

There’s two days left to win “free” prizes and fight world hunger. Last year, Menu for Hope raised more than $60,000 for the U.N. World Food Programme. This year, founder Chez Pim wants to raise $100,000. We’ve got $48,000 so far. We can do better than that!

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Serving chocolate on a Menu for Hope

homemade chocolate-hazelnut butterIf you lost out in my chocolate-hazelnut butter giveaway, here’s your second chance. I’m throwing in the aforementioned spread, plus all-natural peanut, cashew and walnut butters. Each variety is full of freshly roasted nuts and has no trans fats. How do you use them? You can make a deluxe PB&J, rich walnut pesto, pumpkin hummus or a fragrant swirl-in for coffee. Of course, you can always dip your finger in the jar, too. Don’t forget, the chocolate-hazelnut butter has a new caramelized sugar base with three times the nuts of commercial Nutella.

Wild Sweets Chocolate cookbookBecause it’s the holidays, I’m also offering another gift, the Wild Sweets Chocolate cookbook, by Dominique and Cindy Duby. These Vancouver pastry chefs are renowned for using chocolate in both the savory and sweet realm. Fueled by imagination and science, their recipes include slow-roasted salmon with cocoa muscovado consommé and milk chocolate caramel confit. The book’s stunning photography and detailed steps guide you through more than 150 recipes. It’s a must for anyone interested in unusual flavor combinations and molecular gastronomy. The Dubys’ first book, Wild Sweets: Exotic Dessert and Wine Pairings, won Best Book in the World for Food and Wine Matching from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

Menu for Hope runs from Dec 10-21One or both of these prizes can be yours if you participate in Menu for Hope, an online charity campaign that Pim Techamuanvivit (of Chez Pim) organizes every year. Five years ago, the tsunami in Southeast Asia moved her so much that she had to help. She rounded up bloggers around the world and asked them to contribute food-related prizes for an online fundraiser. Every year, the prizes get bigger and better. Last year’s Menu for Hope raised $60,925 for the U.N. World Food Programme, which seeks to fight hunger worldwide.

This might be wishful thinking, but let’s see if we can raise $100,000 this year. For every $10 you donate online, you get one virtual raffle ticket toward the prize of your choice. Please remember to specify prize code UE27 for the nut butters and UE26 for the Wild Sweets Chocolate cookbook. Here’s more detailed instructions.

How to Enter the Menu for Hope Raffle

  1. Pick a fabulous prize from this list. I recommend my homemade nut butters (prize code UE27) and the Wild Sweets Chocolate cookbook (prize code UE26). 🙂
  2. Go to First Giving and make a donation from Dec. 10-21.
  3. Specify which prize you’d like in the “Personal Message” section on the confirmation page. You must write in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code. For example, if you want one chance at chocolate-hazelnut butter, enter “1xUE27.” Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. You can also split up your choices, so a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for UE27 and 3 tickets for UE26. You would write, “2xUE27, 3xUE26.”
  4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information.
  5. Please check the box that says, “I’m happy for the page owner to see my email address…” so that we can contact you if you win. Your address will not be shared with anyone.

Check back on Chez Pim on Wednesday, January 9 for the results of the raffle.

Thanks for your participation, and good luck in the raffle!

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Chocolate Show Gripes

Bloomsberry chocolate

It’s hard to believe that chocolate can make someone grumpy, but that was the case at New York’s 10th annual Chocolate Show last Friday. The show has declined in recent years, with cheap-o brands slowly taking over the artisan booths. Of course there were stand-outs, but do you really need another cliche “chocolate is delicious” wrap-up? Instead, I’m going with the more entertaining (and arguably more useful) Worst in Show.

Greedy if you ask me!

$2 water
Photo: Niko/Dessert Buzz

When the Chocolate Show first began, it only cost $5 to get in and sample chocolates from all over the world. Two years ago, the admission ballooned to $25, and this year, it again rose to $28. In the words of a fellow chocolate lover: “Greedy if you ask me!” Upon entering, the coat check costs $2 (you can’t really skip out on this in chilly NY), and water costs another $2 (you need something to wash all that chocolate down). You’ve just spent $32 without eating a single piece of chocolate.

Sample Snobbery

A note to the booths: please stop hiding your samples. Visitors just spent $28 on admission and are entitled to a taste. They don’t enjoy inquiring about a possible sample, hearing a long sales pitch and then getting their requisite treat at the end. Ironically, the more the vendors gushed about their chocolate, the worse the product tended to be.

cacao beans
Photo: Robyn Lee/The Girl Who Ate Everything

Some vendors offered samples up front, but they came with tweezers and little spoons. I understand we’re all concerned about cleanliness, but when there’s 20 people waiting in line, using chopsticks to pick up pebble-sized chocolates is hardly efficient. At the very least, please offer more than one spoon per bowl. And when vendors slice a piece of a truffle and insist on handing it to me, I just think, “I’m perfectly capable of picking up my own chocolate!” True, there are some people who horde samples in plastic containers, but it’s not fair for the rest of us.

matcha truffles
Shiki Matcha Crunch truffles, why must I pay $2 to sample you?

The worst policy is not even offering samples at all. I think the chocolates should sell themselves, and if I can’t try them, I won’t buy them.

The Bad and the Irrelevant

Being a chocolate show, you’d think that every booth sold something related to chocolate. Let’s just say that this year’s show offered one-stop shopping, so you could get a Capitol One Visa card, a subscription to the NY Times and book a Marriott vacation.

so-called French truffles
Photo: Robyn Lee/The Girl Who Ate Everything

Two booths sold cocoa-rolled truffles that were ostensibly from France and had hydrogrenated vegetable oil. The French would roll in their graves if they had to eat these!

Mars chocolate
Photo: Niko/Dessert Buzz

Mars also had their own booth. Not only were they out of place, but they pretended to be up to par with the prestige chocolatiers. They bragged about selling 100% real chocolate, but did you know that they’re part of the Chocolate Manufacturer’s Association, the same trade group that wanted to replace cacao butter with shortening in chocolate? Last month, Mars turned around and said they’d only sell chocolate with 100% cocoa butter, as they always have. That’s not true. Dove dark chocolate (which I admit tastes pretty good) has milk fat and technically isn’t pure chocolate.

Bueller, Bueller, anyone?

The same chocolate lover above reported that some exhibitors had no idea where their cacao beans came from or whether they were bought for a fair price. Call me a snob, but how and where cacao is grown makes a world of difference in the finished product. When vendors don’t know their product, it’s unattractive to the consumer.

Gobo's vegan chocolate cake

In another puzzling case, Gobo restaurant demoed a vegan chocolate cake, which called for vegan flour and vegan cocoa powder. It pains me to say this, since Gobo and its sister restaurant, Zen Palate, are among my favorites in the city (and the owners are really nice), but I almost laughed at those ingredients. Flour comes from a plant. Cocoa comes from a plant. When are animals involved? If you can find me animal-derived cocoa, I’ll give you a lifetime supply of vegan cocoa as a consolation.

For the Chocolate Show highlights, visit Dessert Buzz and NYCnosh.

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