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The Search for Italian Hot Chocolate

Where art thou, my cup wouldst runneth over with delight.

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October 30th, 2010

So the South Bank Max Brenner has been open for the best part of a month. Naturally I've been there twice.

Though I'd been recommended, I'd never made it to a Max Brenner shop. But I was not surprised to find the place choc-a-block (rockin' the puns) on both occasions, with a line out the door (though on the second occasion the wait included free chocolate samples). Time will tell if this continues when the novelty factor wears off, though the fact that it's open until 11pm weeknights and midnight Friday and Saturday will probably help it maintain its high level of custom. Plus it's right in the centre of South Bank, opposite the beach, which can't hurt.

So the wait in line was long. And on my first visit I put aside my order preferences to do the sharing thing with the whole group. This led to my first experience of Max Brenner being enjoyable but nothing to rave about.

Between the four of us we had the Chocolate Fondue for Two, a pleasant selection of strawberries, bananas, marshmallows and banana bread with a choice of milk or dark chocolate fondue. The dark chocolate was superior, but then I am not unbiased in this matter. I like my chocolate rich and dark (the same as I'd like to say I like my men, but it seems that would be a lie).

Max Brenner Chocolate Fondue

There was also the Choc-Banana pizza. This was... ok. I ate it, and it wasn't unpleasant. Which was more than I could say for my Danish Toffee Chocolate drink which was not to my taste at all. I also had a try of the Mexican Spicy Chocolate drink which was far too spicy for me. The Italian Thick Chocolate drink looked... exactly the same as all the others. I didn't bother. Interesting comments were also made by the group about the shape of the special "Hug Mug"...

Max Brenner Chocolate Banana Pizza

So it was with some trepidation and some anticipation that I approached my second visit to try the things I thought would be more to my taste.

And they were. I chose the chocolate sundae with chocolate brownies. It also had caramel sauce, chocolate crunchy things and chocolate Iscream (oddly named but smooth, rich and truly delicious). If you don't like rich chocolate, this is not for you. I got through it nicely but probably couldn't have eaten any more. When it arrived I was so excited that I started eating straight away, so my photo is a little... less about the presentation and more about the content.

Max Brenner Chocolate Sundae of doom

My co-conspirator had the banana waffle sundae. Just like it sounds, with banana, squares of waffle, crunchy chocolatey nutty things, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. It was tasty, but chocoholics won't quite be satisfied.

The drink we chose was also superb. The Pink Granita Icy Shake was a passionfruit and strawberry frappe - a great contrast to the sundaes. Sweet and tangy, it would be perfect on a hot day. It came in an Alice cup which says "Drink Me" and appeals to the classics geek in me.

My second Max Brenner experience had confirmed what I had been told - it's a worthwhile visit and there are some wonderful things. Still more I'd like to try too. But I won't say that you won't be disappointed. Taste is a very subjective thing.

Max Brenner empty

www.maxbrenner.com.au

June 6th, 2010

The Italian connection

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My former chocolate tasting coach is now residing in Europe, discovering new and exciting things that I will probably never get to taste. He lives in the The Electric oCean - misterocean.wordpress.com

So I don't entirely miss out - or potentially to make me quite jealous - he sent me a postcard from Italy where he recently holidayed. This is what it said:

"Let's get straight to the important stuff: San Gimignaro, in the Chianti region of Tuscany, us home to 4-year world champion gelato-makers. They are worthy. Silk dreams of being that smooth. Black Forest could have done with more fruit, but made up for that with creamy goodness, choc-chips and crunchy candy bits, and if I'd got the Bosco thing instead of the delightfully intense coffee one (that I needed) the fruit would have been there anyway. But the best of my selection was the chocolate Grand Marnier, which was melty-good Jaffa-filling action. Also great gelati in Castellina: dark choc' every bit as rich and creamy and good as IHC (ed: Italian Hot Chocolate), but ice-cold to temper the sugar-coma. Sour cherry is always a bit too cough-medicine for me, but its creamy taste and frictionlessness and chunks of black-forest-like cherry gave the combo a nice balance. Ricotta and pear cheesecake thing and icy shot of Limoncello also gold."

He writes small.

So yeah, maybe a little bit drooly about that. But closer to home I've been sampling delights of my own. And one of them was the special of the day when I went to Pane E Vino last week - caramel and macadamia pudding with vanilla bean ice-cream. It's as tasty as it sounds. Sweet, hot and cold. :)

Then there was the pineapple sorbet at lunch yesterday - Ajisen Ramen (ajisenramen.com.au). Not only was it cold with the subtle tang of pineapple, it was served in a tiny pineapple! So cool. Highly recommend Lychee iced tea as well.

And today I discovered something wonderful at, would you believe it, Coles. It has delicious Chocolate Mud Cookies in the bakery section which are rich and mouth-melty.

So much good food, so little time.

May 15th, 2010

Melbourne chocolate

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I actually did it. I actually bought chocolate things in Melbourne.

This is odd for me. I tend to wander around and look at the shops, think about how tasty each treat sounds and then walk away hands and stomach still empty. But on my recent trip I tested some things.

For some not chocolate fun, I tried a wonderful tempura zucchini flower at a restaurant on Chapel Street, Prahan. It was mouth-watering - even thinking back on it now - filled with some kind of cheese and deliciousness... if only I remembered I would try to replicated and be bitterly disappointed when I failed.

www.panasian.com.au

Brunetti is apparently quite an institution - given I visited at about 11pm on a bitter cold Melbourne night and it was full of people, I guess that's not overstating the case. It's a place to sit and be warm and refuel with sugar for heating. It's just off the Lygon Street and is full of tasty looking cakes, biscuits etc which I didn't eat. Instead I ordered an Italian Hot Chocolate - of course!

Sadly, the girl who took the order seemed to mishear over the raucous din of consumption, and served the hot chocolate in a takeaway cup. I think this lessened my enjoyment of it. It was rich and a lovely flavour, value for money ($4.40 for a standard size cup) and quite thick, but liquid enough to drink. That made me sad. Delicious, but I like my chocolate to pass the spoon test. I'll give it 8/10, but might give it a second chance when next I'm in the neighbourhood.

www.brunetti.com.au

On Lygon Street itself is a place called Mercadante. It's a woodfired pizzeria which boasts a chocolate pizza people rave about. Now I think it was because I wasn't very hungry at the time and I had recently discovered chocolate nachos, but the description and photo of the dish left me pretty cold. I didn't bother going back to try it.

That said, I will next time because people do rave about it. Apparently it is pastry with nutella inside served with cream or something. It doesn't sound much like a pizza, but it does sound interesting.

I also wandered through a Koko Black or two again, and again didn't order anything. I'll get there one day.

What I did do was go to San Churros and got three churros with dark chocolate for $7.90. Value for money? Yep. It was the perfect amount and the chocolate was rich and thick with a spanish twist, perfect for dipping. Definitely a good place for a hot dessert on a cold night.

Another place simply called Spanish Doughnuts on Elizabeth Street (across from Flinders Street station) sold churros filled with all sorts of things. I had a hot fresh one filled with peanut butter which was amazingly good. And later another filled with caramel and coated with chocolate. I have to say that one was less good, because wasn't as fresh, but still tasty.

Then on my last day in town I visited the Abbotsford Convent, which has been converted into a community space full of artists and natural therapists and friendly people. The bakery there had an array of tasty looking things, but I chose a chocolate filled cannoli. It was sweet in the middle and crunchy on the outside - just what I was looking for.

Later on I had an amazing meal at a place in Fitzroy called Birdman Eating.

There was haloumi, which I always love and an amazing lamb dish. But it was the Zucchini and Fetta Fritters that amazed me the most. They melted in my mouth and made me extraordinarily happy. Definitely good food. Go there.

www.birdmaneating.com.au

April 5th, 2010

Easter bits and pieces

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So the Easter long weekend has come and gone, and surprisingly I didn't eat much chocolate.

I did revisit Cactus Jacks to introduce some friends to those seriously addictive chocolate nachos. While I was there I checked out the Banana Chimichanga. It is a treat, with a banana and chocolate cooked into a tasty package and served with cream and ice cream. It's delicious, but doesn't compare to the nachos.

And in honour of Easter I made chocolate pancakes for breakfast. I used Green's chocolate Pancake Shake which proclaims on the packet it's made with real Belgian chocolate. I believe that claim because it tastes like real chocolate. Probably could have done with some vanilla ice cream to top it off, but even just with a sprinkle of vanilla bean dusting sugar it was the tastiest breakfast I've had in years. (Not exactly the healthiest though.)

And then for a non-chocolate treat, roasted plums. Why did I not think of that before?

So all chocolate consumption has been in moderation, and I've even included fruit. See, a totally healthy Easter!

March 29th, 2010

I don't mind Mexican food, but one of my favourite Mexican-style meals (snacks?) is Nachos. I love eating it with fingers, I love the melty cheese and I've even learnt to like sour cream.

And then I heard about a way to make them even better. Chocolate Nachos.

It's been at least a year, possibly two, since I heard about this amazing sounding meal. I even tracked it down to a location close to a friend's house. Then I promptly forgot about it. And today, months later and two weeks before said friend is due to move to the other side of town, I stumble across the holy grail of Mexican inspired chocolate cuisine.

Cactus Jacks also has banana chimichangas, but it was the chocolate nachos that excited me.

The corn chips were replaced with chocolate tortilla chips that melted in my mouth. The sour cream was replaced by whipped cream, and the guacamole was vanilla ice cream. Then it was all covered with melted chocolate sauce and icing sugar to garnish. Brilliant!



It didn't take us long to demolish the $10 share plate (value for money = very good) and sit back to examine why we'd almost had people say "I'll have what she's having".



The dish was a wonderful mixture of textures with the chips, sauce and cream, and the warmth of the chips offset the cold of the ice cream beautifully. The only improvement we could suggest was to make the chocolate sauce thicker to better emulate the cheese experience.

I will be going there again - possibly taking everyone I know one by one to maximise my excuses. :) Now for some chocolate tacos...

March 8th, 2010

Extremes

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I have been very lazy of late, not pursuing my reason for being. I have a mission - to find chocolaty goodness and tell people about it. And what have I done? Nothing. But then...

Speedpoets, which is a wonderfully tasty collection of words spoken by talented all sorts, has moved to a new home - InSpire Gallery and Bar at West End (www.inspiregallerybar.com.au). It is across from the Cupcake Parlour on Vulture Street, which I have not been to. Very remiss of me. I must try the cupcakes. After the bliss of MySweetopia, I have become a cupcake convert.

Anyway, back to InSpire. There is Italian hot chocolate on the menu, so being a vigilant reviewer (for the first time in six months) I tried the beverage. It was smooth, hot, had a good flavour and totally failed the spoon test. Yes, it was hot chocolate I could drink. A sad day for all. I have considered offering coaching but I don't wish to offend the operators, they seem lovely.

After the glut of words, we wandered down to Boundary Street to sample the delights of Ice Cream Mania. I like gelati, and ice cream, but I also like a shop that gives you options on what to do with them. This one does. I sampled their most amazing gelati flavour, Dragonfruit and Rosewater, which was rich and sweet and beautifully coloured. I chose a waffle cone of chocolate and chilli gelati, which had the uniquely appealing ability to cool and sear my throat at the same time. I would highly recommend it for the more adventurous of us who are able to handle their cool treats biting back.

But they also have waffles (which I will try on my next visit), fudge, and banana splits. Nemo amazed onlookers by eating an entire banana split, made with the traditional cream, nuts, chocolate sauce and three scoops of ice cream. The special part was he could, and did, choose three different flavours to sample as part of the dish. Caramel, coconutty and vanilla added a different dimension to a family favourite. And it was reasonably priced too.

I shall definitely be going back to explore more of the flavours at Ice Cream Mania. And I'll make an effort to find some new chocolate joy to share. Who knows what wonders shall be uncovered...

October 3rd, 2009

31 ways to gorge yourself

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Oh my sweetest of deadly sins... this evening I experienced bliss.

Whoever invented the chocolate buffet has my undying gratitude. And possibly love. This is what it looks like:

http://mirvac-hotels.assets1.blockshome.com/assets/zs8kkL735DoOwCu/31-days-of-chocolate-2009.pdf

My favourites:

Mango White Chocolate Mousse - melt in your mouth goodness, more mango than anything, but so beautiful.

Double Caramel Chocolate Tarts - richer than a Saudi oil baron.

Italian Coffee & Kahlua Cups - oooohhh...

Strawberries under the chocolate fountain.

Best $20 meal ever.

June 23rd, 2009

There have been some amazing new discoveries in the world of Brisbane chocolate. I have a new Brisbane-based co-conspirator, who has accompanied me on various excursions of deliciousness lately.

One of the places I need to explore further is 16th on Park (Road that is) Dessert Cafe (www.16onpark.com.au). It has a delicious range of flavoured hot chocolates which are melt in your mouth smooth. While I can't say I was blown away by the Death by Chocolate, it was very tasty. The other was peanut and cinnamon, very distinct and unusual taste. There are a number of other hot chocolate flavours and desserts that I haven't tried, so I'll be checking it out again.

And then yesterday - oh sweet yesterday... it was bursting with chocolate goodness. Gelatissimo in the CBD (www.gelatissimo.com.au/stores/storeDetail.php?store=3) is one of the many amazing gelato places feeding my addiction. Between us we tried four flavours (www.gelatissimo.com.au/menu/flavourDetail.html) - not including the ones we just had a sample of, like the rich and slightly bitter Belgium Chocolate - and they were all amazing. The passionfruit was rich and tart and blended beautifully with the Berry Pavlova which was smooth and creamy and sweet. The Honey Toffee Malt was the perfect partner for the Chocolate Truffle, which is totally amazing! I'm not going to describe it, I'm going to suggest you go there and try it. We spent at least 15 minutes oohing and aahhing and trying different flavour combinations. Bliss.

Finally, but certainly not without both forward planning and anticipation, we gorged on Chocolate, Sour Cherry and Date loaf. This is the best bread ever created. Best. Ever. Totally worth the trip to the Flour Power bakery on the corner of Gladstone St and Dornoch Tce at Highgate Hill. The trick is to toast it, smother it in butter and eat it while the chocolate oozes through your fingers. I seriously could not stop eating it, so the other trick is to make sure there are two other people to help you eat it. Between two it was just a touch too much... I had to finish the loaf but the last slice was a struggle. Delicious enough that I didn't care...

I'm looking forward to some more chocolate based excursions soon!

March 31st, 2009

I have been silent, yes, but not for want of chocolate. It has been a very busy couple of months, but I have still found time to discover the chocolate delights of Brisbane with some new co-conspirators.

So instead of a detailed blow by blow account, I shall outline my highlights.

Cupcakes - A place called MySweetopia at South Bank (Grey St) has decadent cupcakes - it took me at least 15 minutes to work out what to order. I had the Espresso cupcake, which was amazing. These cupcakes have been proven to soothe the nerves of even the most frazzled traveller.
They also have chocolate mousse and fondue which I have not yet tried, but I will be back there.
www.mysweetopia.com.au

Espresso Cupcake

Chocolates - Chocolate to Die For on Adelaide St. I pass it all the time, and only went there in honour of the coach's birthday. Tasty tasty goodness. Another place that took me a great deal of decision making time. Was particularly enamoured with something caramel/cinnamony, the name of which escapes me.

Chocolate of WIN

Then there was another italian hot chocolate discovery - good taste, good value and passed the spoon test. Here is proof.

Passing the spoon test

It can be found at Pandemonium Cafe, Given Tce, Paddington. Nice place. They also claim to do fondue for dessert on Thursday and Friday nights, but are not open on these nights until further notice. I shall have to find my fondue elsewhere.
http://pandemoniumcafe.com.au/

The old favourite haunts have not been without delights. I was very very pleased with the Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake at the Three Monkeys (West End). So much so I went back for more. It was melt in your mouth and just the right rich.

And I cannot forget the most amazing chocolate brownies EVER! They were made by Grub St Cafe, Gaythorne, and were so amazingly rich that a small square was enough to make any chocolate lover do a happy dance. I shall certainly be visiting this place in person.
http://www.grubst.com/

Here's to more chocolate adventures to come.

January 9th, 2009

Hot chocolate. My solace.

This week I needed it, so it was with great pleasure the coach and I checked out a newly discovered place on Brunswick St.

The place was Zafron (www.zafrononbrunswick.com), and they have insanely good head explody food. But the hot chocolate wasn't quite up to my exacting standards.

It looks great. Somewhat small, but rich enough to make up for it. Nice colour, fantastic smell.

However it failed the spoon test and was drinkable. This is a great sadness.

The texture was what got me. OMG, I don't think I've ever had hot chocolate so silky smooth. You could make lingerie out of it.

It was great. It was tasty. It was not, to my mind, Italian Hot Chocolate but it was a good after dinner drop. Tasty tasty tasty.

In other news:
I am ashamed to report I yet again went to Melbourne and failed to sample the delicacies of one of the many boutique chocolate shops. Slap my hand and send me back, I dare you.


In (other) other news:

Monsoon's fantastic chocolate spring rolls are far less fantastic since the messy divorce of the orange from the chill sauce. Or the chilli from the orange sauce, I don't recall which.

Chocolate Spring Rolls

They have replaced the sauce, which was the icing on the mouth-watering cake, with some stupid spearmint garbage. As a sworn anti-mint protestor I am considering taking drastic action (in the form of writing a letter and getting everyone I know to sign it).

Who's with me?
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