Friday, April 30, 2010

Chocolate Madness 2010

For the second year in a row, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts invited me to be a judge at their annual Chocolate Madness event. It wasn't even a possibility for me to say no.

I arrived just as the rest of the judges were sitting down at the tables in the center of the Cyclorama. The participating bakeries and restaurants had been split up into five groups, and five sets of judges worked their way through their candidates. I was on the "Down to Earth: Mother's Contemporary Candies" table, and we all carefully sampled our five offerings before debating their merits. One point that came up amongst us was that only one choice - Taza's chocolate - could actually be deemed a candy (although I thought Care's Bakery's Chocolate-Covered Caramel Waffles fit the bill as well because just about anything enrobed in chocolate can be considered a candy). We voted based on taste and originality, and when we were done, we were sent to look at all the table displays, to vote for our favorite.

The six (well, seven) winners:

Into the Aether: Sky High Layer Cakes
Canto 6 Bakery's Chocolate Whiskey Cake

Down to Earth: Mother’s Contemporary Candies
better batch/Cakes to Remember's Mini Chocolate Meringue Sandwiches

Flowing Water: Spoonfuls of Puddings, Ice Creams, and Sorbets

Christina’s Ice Cream's Ice Cream Surprise

Out of the Fire: Fresh from the Oven
South End Buttery's Bacon and Brooklyn Brown Ale Cupcakes with Espresso Smoothies

Light as Air: Served in a crust (A tie!)
Beacon Hill Bistro's Chocolate Custard Tartlets with Maple Sugar and Sel Gris
Petsi Pies' Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pies

Best Dessert Table Display
Canto 6 Bakery (picture at top of post)

My favorite desserts of the evening were:

  • Flourless Chocolate Cookies from Athan's Bakery - I've eaten dozens of this type of cookie over the years, but this was probably the best one I've ever had. The edges were crispy and the middle was chewy, almost brownie-like. The nut flavor didn't even bother me, although I'm usually adverse to nuts in cookies or brownies.

  • Mini Chocolate Meringue Sandwiches from better batch/Cakes to Remember - This was the ultimate winner at my table, although we argued over whether it could be considered a candy and that it was really more of a marshmallow than a meringue. Whatever - it still tasted damn good, with a crispy cookie base, chewy marshmallow middle, a hint of espresso, and a topping of chopped hazelnuts.

  • Chocolate Mignardises Trio from Peter Ungar's Dining Alternative - These three little bites are something like what Chef Ungar serves at the end of a meal, when you need something sweet but don't want to eat much. Each of these bites were filled with flavor. They were chocolate truffle cubes with yuzu and candied meyer lemon, marzipan and chocolate madeleines, and dark cocoa and peppermint meringues. They were just one bite each and yet immensely satisfying.

  • Chocolate Lavender-Ganache-Stuffed Cupcakes from the Regal Beagle - What seemed like a fairly normal chocolate cupcake (albeit moister than most that are out there) was filled with a delightful creamy lavender ganache. Lavender can often be overpowering of cloying, but this was mild while still imparting its flavor. I've enjoyed savory food at The Regal Beagle, and word is they're starting brunch soon. If they called this a muffin, I'd have one for breakfast ;)

  • Bacon and Ale Cupcakes from the South End Buttery - I enjoyed these last weekend at the Bacon and Beer Festival, and I'm glad more people got to try them.

  • Chocolate Lime Ice Cream with White Chocolate Chips from Christina's Ice Cream - Wow. This stuff was just amazing - chocolately and limey, with most of the sweetness coming from the white chocolate. It was refreshing while also being chocolatey, which I don't think I've ever had before. Christina's was also serving their Taza 80% ice cream, which I've had in their store before - if you like chocolate, you MUST try the Taza 80%.

There are a few more pictures of the event on Flickr.

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