Cookie Masterpiece

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Chicago PSA: the MCA has a permanent interactive “exhibit,” Marisol, and you don’t even need tickets.

Pictured above (and below) is the pièce de résistance simply titled, “Chocolate Cookies,” and copies of the work are for sale at the exhibit counter for a mere $3.

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The visionary crispy chewy base provides an impeccable canvas for the boundless melted chocolate and complementary smattering of flaked sea salt.

Displayed originally on paper with ink, I’ve found the cookie “looks” best when reframed in mouth.

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National Dessert Day 2017 recap: don’t worry, I celebrated

I awoke this past Saturday (better known as National Dessert Day), to the sound of thunder shaking the walls. Stormy days do not always motivate desserty travel adventures, but the bakery magnetism forcefield is strong in my family, and so along with torrential rain, I also awoke to a platter full of kolacky from the Oak Park Bakery. Perfect start to this all-important national holiday. #thanksdad

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Luckily, the destination planned for the day’s celebration is as well-known for their hot drinking chocolate as they are for their expansive collection of artisinal chocolate bars from around the world: Cocoa + Co, located in Chicago’s Old Town.

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Cocoa + Co has six different versions of drinking chocolate, and on this day I chose Abuela’s Elixir – a rich chocolate spiked with citrus, spices and molasses and then topped with homemade whipped cream and cocoa powder. But, alas, I don’t really believe that a beverage counts as a dessert. I mean, it’s a drink and frankly you need fluids to stay alive, so therefore it’s more of a necessity than a sweet luxury. Plus, during a rainstorm, it is a requirement for hygge maintenance.

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And so, for dessert(s), I ordered: a dark chocolate s’mores bite (fluffy marshmallow, crisp graham, chocolate ganache center),

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a milk chocolate peanut butter bomb (thick gourmet peanut butter cup with the perf amount of crunch and salt),

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and a slice of their signature inside-out German chocolate cake (BEST GERMAN CHOCOLATE EVER – bittersweet buttercream frosting – like a truffle was hugging this cake, non-cloying filling packed with fresh coconut and pecans, layers of moist dark chocolate cake).

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Because that’s what you do on National Dessert Day ( / any other day of the year).

Cocoa + Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WLW: Dessert Charcuterie FTW

Obviously dessert is my fave course. But running a *close so close it’s almost nearly a tie” second, is a cheese/charcuterie board. So when I heard about such a thing as a DESSERT CHARCUTERIE BOARD, wellllll I just had to take a Wish List Wednesday trip on over to Montclair, NJ to see for myself. (just a quickie trip up from Newark!)

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I’ve been gazing at Vanillamore Dessert Kitchen‘s IG pics of chocolate salami for awhile now. Like A.WHILE. Little did I realize that this sweet (non-meat) salami was the main attraction on their bountiful dessert charcuterie boards. The salami (dark: almonds, cranberries, apricots, orange zest; milk: hazelnuts, cherries, shortbread cookies; or white: white chocolate, almonds, apricots) is sliced up and paired with just a delightful, delectable assortment featuring ginger molasses cookies, espresso caramel, honey poached pears, vanilla cream filled brioche doughnuts, red wine cherries, coffee hazelnut mousse, candied lemons, candied orange, banana bread, thyme marinated strawberries, olive oil cake…….the list just goes on and on and on.

Like Willy Wonka took a step up from fizzy lifting drink and had a proper soirée.

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Vanillamore is now serving lunch and dinner in addition to dessert, and while everything looks pos scrummy, I am still most pumped about the salami…..

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….aaaaand the s’mores bars. I mean, I’m not blind. COME. ON.

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ps: the s’mores bars hang out next to seasonal dessert kebabs, milk and cookies, and house-made gelato, on the section of the menu called “Dessert Tapas,” which is just above the “Dessert Flights” section. Perfect for when you want a little taste of everything, which I always do.

This place. They really get me.

*all pics by @vanillamore

 

Royce: how Japan does chocolate

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After a lamentable streak of snappy, cold, bloomy, old chocolate bars (ugh what a waste), popping into the Royce pop-up in Chicago was a welcome treat. There, I was welcomed to a complimentary tasting (don’t mind if I do) of their most popular items: Nama chocolates in both matcha and bitter chocolate, as well as white chocolate caramel covered potato chips. Everything was SO GOOD. (do not be put off by the efficient shop vibe, that’s just how they do in Japan)

White chocolate caramel potato chips explain themselves: crunchy, salty, sweet, craveable, so let’s chat about Nama. Nama probably means “mind blowing” in Japanese, bc that’s what happened here. The Nama chocolates are made using fresh Hokkaido cream and come (with a baby knife!) in a little tray similar to Turkish delight. They are kept cool and are dusted in cocoa (or matcha) for that fresh pow appeal, and have a hint of liquor to help enhance the cocoa (or matcha) flavor. These little cubes are so soft, super flavorful, smooth, melt-in-your-mouth whoa. Like you know when you get a cold pat of butter at a restaurant and it won’t spread and it doesn’t taste like anything? This is the opposite of that. It is chocolate magic, defying the laws of temperature logic.

Although it was approx 10 degrees outside when I visited Royce, they were sure to protect my chocolates from any possible danger of melting. How? Well they wrapped my purchase in an insulated pocket and added a mini ice pack. Gasp! For real. Royce isn’t messing around.

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Unfortunately, there was one chocolate that wasn’t available to taste – the Fruit Bar Chocolate. Imagine if Carebears made KitKats: slim pink chocolate bars made with strawberry, mango, cranberry, banana and almond puff – sans wafers but avec crispies. (something to keep in mind: Chinese New Year is January 28 and according to Royce insider trading, basically everything will be sampleable during the weekend celebration – cockadoodledoo!)

Royce has about 70 locations throughout Asia, but if your schedule is too busy for international flight (same), you can hopefully get over to one of their US shops: a few in NY, one in Vegas, the Chicago pop-up at 520 N. Michigan, or their location in the Mitsuwa Marketplace.

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Why can’t I get a legit chocolate shake?

Dear Dessert Oasis,

Last night, all I wanted for dinner was a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate milkshake, so I went to a local diner and ordered exactly that. But when I sipped my shake, it was too sweet and not very chocolatey at all. I asked the waitress about it, and she said they use vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup to make their chocolate shakes.

So my question is: why don’t places use chocolate ice cream to make chocolate shakes?

Sincerely,
No Nilla

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Dearest No Nilla,

You are a treat-seeker after my own heart.

Why, indeed, don’t places use chocolate ice cream to make chocolate shakes?? Why is vanilla always the default base? Shakes, donuts, marshmallows, you name it, it’s always vanilla first and chocolate as an afterthought.

I’ll tell you why. It’s because 40% of the population prefers vanilla. (These are the people you hear saying, “Oh, I judge an ice cream shop by their vanilla.” Why not judge by their chocolate? It’s difficult to get a soft chocolate ice cream using real cocoa, and a crappy, artificial chocolate should make you walk right back out the door. Judgement complete.) And the other 60% aren’t only chocoholics. Maybe chocolate gets 30% and the rest is made up of strawberry, coffee, mint, maple, tutti-frutti, peanut butter, whatevs. Restaurants want to minimize their unused inventory and hence try to use vanilla + flavor/add-in for EVERYTHING.

Now for a coffee milkshake, let’s say, this works. It’s just like an overly creamed coffee. For peanut butter, fine, no one can drink a straight glass of peanut butter anyway. But for chocolate? Forget about it. Real chocolate lovers can sniff out a fake with half a sip. It would be more aptly named a “chocolate flavored milkshake,” and then I would know right off the bat not to order it. Also, don’t tell me a strawberry milkshake wouldn’t be better using strawberry ice cream too….

If I ruled the world, I’d have both chocolate AND vanilla options always. That’s right, I wouldn’t banish vanilla completely, but I wouldn’t allow it to carry on with its “my way or the highway” forceful antics either. I’d make the world a harmonious swirl and everyone would be treated equally in their dessert quests. But since I don’t reign supreme, here are some tips when trying to order a chocolate milkshake:

1. don’t get your hopes up – go in expecting the worst: vanilla base only.

2. look at the dessert menu – if you only see apple pie à la mode with vanilla bean, hot fudge sundae made with vanilla ice cream and nuts, brownie with a scoop of vanilla (like that’s some extra treat)….chances are they don’t have chocolate ice cream in the kitchen.

3. ask before ordering – make double sure or be double disappointed when you are served a light tan shake.

My advice today would be to go grab a pint of chocolate and make your own milkshake to help erase last night’s bad taste.

The more chocolatey the better,
Dessert Oasis

ps: here was my bfast today: the so simple but so rare maple glazed chocolate donut. think about it: why is maple glaze almost always only on a vanilla donut? why is strawberry glaze only on a vanilla donut? haven’t donut makers heard of chocolate covered strawberries? why isn’t anyone making chocolate raised donuts??!?!?! what is the world waiting for?????

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Have a dessert question?  Email me at courtneysconza@gmail.com – from funnel cakes to fondue fountains, if it has sugar, I’ve probably eaten it.

treats for all seasons, treats for all moods

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What to do when it’s technically fall but it still feels like summer? What to do when it’s cold when you leave your house but hot by the time you get to your car? What to do when you want chocolate but your friend wants caramel and your other friend wants marshmallows? If ever there were first world problems…..I’m here to solve them! Or rather, Katherine Anne Confections to the rescue!!

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This tiny Logan Square shop has got you covered. Literally. Entering the shop, you’re basically enrobed by the chocolate cloud that fills the air. They are famous for their drinking chocolate – hot or cold. We’re not talking hersheysnesquikswissmiss. At Katherine Anne, you actually choose your chocolate strength (40% milk, 58% semisweet, 72% bittersweet, or 85% super dark) to be topped with a scoop of whipped cream and floating chocolate pearls. (I know that looks like ice cream – nope, it’s fresh Kilgus Farm whipped cream buoyed by frothy liquid chocolate!)

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Ok, on to the hand-dipped truffles. They focus on local and organic ingredients and adapt their menu to the seasons. On my last visit I had: a pomegranate/blueberry/basil (tart and fruity but with a savory basil twist – perfect summer flavor), a goat cheese and walnut (the cheesecake of truffles), and a Manhattan (an elevated whisky ball). On my last visit I also wanted: a peanut butter coconut curry, a passionfruit ginger, and a raspberry elderflower, but alas I had to save room for caramels. Caramels like orange tarragon hazelnut – why has this not been done before? Caramels like apple cider caraway that tasted like crème brûléed rye bread. Caramels like salted bacon that was all at once smoky and buttery, salty but sweet, smooth with bits of crisp bacon. HOW DID THEY DO IT???

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And finally the marshmallows, which truth be told I didn’t have bc I wasn’t in a marshmallowy mood bc it was too sticky outside and also I don’t normally get crazy excited about eating marshmallows because there are far too many overly gelatinous disappointments out there in the confectionary world that just blop around in your stomach all day. However, I WILL be returning for Katherine Anne’s version because no doubt they are wonderful (vanilla bean w black pepper?) and obvs the best topping for a flight of hot chocolates (hot chocolate marshmallow ON TOP of hot chocolate? Wut.) *side note: why hasn’t anyone made a marshmallow mattress yet? THAT I could get excited about.

 

Sunday Sundae: National Ice Cream Day!!!

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I awoke this morning all dressed up with no place to go. To be honest, I was lying in bed scrolling through pics of ice creams past and wondering where the f I would go to celebrate National Ice Cream Day since I’m in an astoundingly under-ice creamed area of the country and also it was pouring rain.

Fast forward some hours, some naps, and a movie matinee, the rain stopped and the heat returned, and I was walking into a jam-packed Marble Slab Creamery basically next to the movie theater – how convenient! Similar to a Cold Stone but with fewer locations and unlimited mix-ins, I opted for a swirl of amaretto and dark chocolate ice creams chunked up with pecans, walnuts and almonds, made into a hot fudgey waffle bowl sundae. Yassss.

Thanks to the inquiring 3yr old outside, I know that everyone else got: birthday cake, peanut butter cup/cookie dough, blueberry, strawberry and lemon. Def going back (but not tonight, even though it is a holiday…..so maybe I should go back tonight??!) for a blueberry/lemon combo….maybe mixed with gummy bears…..

Happy National Ice Cream Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Marble Slab Creamery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato