Hi! My name is Stephanie Zonis, and welcome to the December, 2002
edition of "For Chocolate Lovers Only". Each month, you'll
find recipes, tips, and recommendations on great chocolate specialties.
As 2002 draws to a close, I'd like to thank StarChefs, my readers,
and especially my family and friends for their never-failing support.
A Happy New Year to you all!
Chocolate Recommendation of the Month: Boxes and baskets
and ballotins, oh, my! Even if you think you have finished your
holiday shopping, you'll want to take a look at zChocolat,
this month's Chocolate Recommendation. The husband-and-wife owners
are chocolate brokers in Francethat means they act as intermediaries
between French chocolatiers and far-flung customers, who otherwise
wouldn't even know about these products. And that would be a shame,
as these are products worth a try, or perhaps two or three tries
(hey, it's important to conduct your chocolate evaluations thoroughly!).
You'll find an impressive selection of containers for these delicacies,
ranging from ballotins to luxurious mahogany "bureaus"
containing "drawers" filled with chocolates. There are
options for wrapping papers and, in some cases, you can even customize
But of the greatest importance, of course, are the chocolates themselves.
zChocolat gathers its products from four master chocolatiers,
and if you think these are mass-market chocolates you need only
click on the Chocolate Page to set you straight. I am a great fancier
of the Minerai Lorrain, as I'm a sucker for the combination of chocolate
and hazelnuts. But you'll find other intriguing combinations, too,
like the Lavande, a dark-chocolate-covered blend of soft nougatine,
lavender honey, and herbal tea. Or click on Riviera Treasures and
try the Portofino, Sicilian almonds dipped in caramel, then dark
chocolate, and finished with a light dusting of confectioners' sugar.
I invariably order ballotins from this company, because by doing
so you can select the chocolates to fill your box. Site navigation
and checkout are both hassle-free, and your satisfaction is guaranteed.
DHL is a reliable shipper, and my chocolates have always arrived
on time. Cocoa and chocolate bars, too. And since you've been astute
enough to finish your holiday shopping so early, how about a little
something for yourself? Joking aside, any of these choices would
make a lovely holiday gift for someone who is special to you. You
can find zChocolat at www.zChocolat.com, or call them toll-free
from North America at (800) 529-9512.
Chocolate Detour of the Month: The long-time reader of this
column will recall that I have had the good fortune to journey to
Europe, where sweets of all kinds are treated with a reverence often
lacking in this country. Even if you have never been there, you
can get some idea of that same attitude in, of all places, Cherry
Hill, NJ. Robert Bennett, former executive pastry chef at Le Bec-Fin
in Philadelphia, has ventured out on his own to open Miel Patisserie,
and his creations draw the eye toward them as though they were polished
jewels. Gorgeous desserts of all types shine with glazes, glisten
with fruits, or glow subtly with chocolate, proving the old adage
that it's possible to speak volumes without saying a single word.
There are good chocolates (try the one with the pistachio center),
preserves, ice creams and sorbets, breads, cookies-and everything
is made in-house! Large and individual sizes are available for many
of the pastries, and Mr. Bennett is also a specialist at wedding
and "occasion" cakes. One word of caution: this establishment
does not ship anything (that's the only reason this isn't
a Chocolate Recommendation). Shipping is often the bane of a chocolatier's
life, and shipping fresh pastry is close to impossible, so I respect
this decision. Miel Patisserie is located in The Village
Walk Shopping Center, 1990 Route 70 East, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003.
For more information, call them at (856) 424-6435. There is a minimalist
website at www.mielpastry.com, but the list of pastries, at least,
is not complete.
Two Last-Minute Gift Ideas for Foodies: Have you ever thought
of giving a gift of membership into a food organization? Two such
groups of which I am a member are Slow Food USA and The
American Cheese Society. The latter group, The American Cheese
Society, "encourages the understanding, appreciation, and
promotion of America's farmstead and natural specialty cheese".
I just attended my first ACS conference this summer, and it was
an eye-opening experience into the incredible cheeses now being
produced into the US and Canada. You can find their website at:
www.cheesesociety.org. Slow Food USA "supports and celebrates
the food traditions of North America"; their website can be
found at: www.slowfood.com. Both organizations are educational and
not-for-profit; Slow Food USA has many chapters (each called
a "convivium") throughout the US, and there are a good
number of local and regional events held throughout the year. It's
time to put the pleasure back into meals in this country, and both
of these organizations are helping to do just that.
Do you have a comment, question, or suggestion? You can reach me
at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Because
I receive too much junk e-mail, please specify that youre
writing about something chocolate. Thank you!