On this drizzly Sunday, we wrap up the afternoon with some fabulous hot chocolate. This is from Vosges and their drinking chocolate collection.
Today’s selection is la Parisienne, made of vanilla bean pieces and dark chocolate. Normally I’d use milk or half and half, but today I felt like having steamed almond milk to make the chocolate.
Served up in my oldest demitasse, it was a decadent afternoon snack.
A co-worker who has recently returned from holiday in Italy brought back some lovely hazelnut chocolates, Gianduiotto. They are a well-known Piedmontese chocolate,and more specifically a specialty of Turin.
My point and shoot may be getting old, but it still does macro well!
We had it on good authority from one of T’s friends that the best espresso and gelato to be had in Vegas came from the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. Somewhere on the ground floor. Jean-Philippe’s seemed to fit the description, although we were not able to confirm it right at the time. Still, it was on the ground floor, it had espresso and it had gelato. We gave it a try.
The espresso was good. It was not amazing. Maybe it’s the best in Vegas, but I have had better espresso elsewhere. What wasn’t good was their flan. It was an impulse purchase and wholly regretted. It was dry and tasted stale, we threw most of it away.
But the gelato, now that was good! Worth the visit. We had a mixed cup, of chocolate and dulce de leche. Yum!
And do you know what else was amazing? Jean-Phillipe’s is home to the biggest chocolate fountain in the world!
That’s right. The biggest chocolate fountain in the world. It goes over your head. It’s funny, at standing height you initially walk past the display, thinking it’s some static show of platters of gooey chocolate behind glass. Then you realize it’s moving. Then you realize there’s a damn hell a lot of chocolate moving around on these platters and you wonder where it’s all coming from. So you look up. THEN you realize the chocolate is pouring down from the ceiling above you and you’ve been standing underneath this incredible cascading display of dark, milk and white chocolate flowing through runnels and platters and you’re like WHAAAAAAAAT???! It’s rad.
Photos by Ted Mills.
While some of the basics of Vosges can be bought in Santa Barbara, I most look forward to a business trip to Las Vegas because I can visit an actual store, where fresh truffles are available as well as a small bar for ordering ice cream and hot chocolate. This was the purpose of today’s visit.
Big ups for the lovely Moroccan style tea glasses we had for water glasses. The pink didn’t even threatened T’s masculinity because the glasses were so cool.
We shared a mug of Aztec hot chocolate. I’ve had the white chocolate lavendar before, and the plain chocolate, while good, is still plain. So the spicy chocolate was the way to go. They did not skimp at all on the chocolate and spices, it was thick and rich, practically a meal in itself.
We also had a serving of Naga ice cream, that’s a sweet curry coconut flavor. Tip from our helper: sometimes WholeFoods carries their Naga ice cream in the freezer section. I will check!
We also bought some truffles to bring home, all wrapped up in their pretty purple bows.
Photos by Ted Mills.
Our final meal at the convention, and this was not bad either.
There were a number of items available in the buffet, including a lot of salads, but my highlights were the cold prawns, and the chocolate dipped strawberries.
Overall, the food was good, better than expected. But I still like eating at restaurants of my choice than going to conventions. I was happy to be done for the day.
Out of a wee corner of my mind, I recalled hearing about some new line of ice cream by Häagen-Dazs, that contained just five ingredients: milk, cream, eggs, sugar and a flavoring. This implied simplicity and a “natural” ice cream. Corporate packaging has always been a suspicious element to me, and I had my doubts. I still do.
But while on a rare browse through Gelson’s grocery store this weekend, I spied the brand in the freezer aisle and they were on sale: 2 for $6. I bought the milk chocolate and the vanilla bean ice creams.
First observation: the containers are smaller than most others at the grocery store. To those not taking the time to read things over, you might feel cheated. But read – these are 14 ounce containers, not the larger 16 ounce. It’s okay, we eat too much. And if the quality is good, it’ll trump quantity any day.
And did it taste good? Why, yes, it did. The vanilla bean was indeed flecked with bits of vanilla bean. The chocolate, while nothing will *ever* beat the chocolate I had in Paris, was very smooth and creamy. So much that I remained suspicious on how they did it. Maybe it’s this “alkali” that’s part of the cocoa ingredient. Anyway, I do wish the ice cream would be made with a creamy chocolate rather than cocoa, but regardless, it’s perfectly acceptable.
My vanilla with homegrown peaches was a treat.
There were other flavors available, like burnt sugar, or mint, but for this first dabble I thought I’d go with more mainstream flavors.
Ooooh, look what one co-worker made for another co-worker.
Chocolate chipotle cupcake!
Jealous? You should be. I ate two. I’m feeling golden.
Stop #3 on our Progressive Dinner Tour, and time for dessert.
I originally picked Petit Valentien because we could have gone towards the cheese plate, or a sweet dessert, and Donivan perked up at the mention of creme brulee.
But once we arrived, and the waiter tested me on the complete dessert menu (I did not pass), and Donivan gravitated towards the lemon cheesecake, while I got the chocolate marquise. At one time in the past, Risa sold me on the idea that the chocolate marquise went well with blue cheese, and I recall sampling the combination and liking it. Our waiter was skeptical, but offered up a little piece of roquefort from the kitchen. Super nice of him!
This was the first time I’d received the marquise as a molded scoop, normally it’s a flat piece cut from a terrine. Tastes the same, though: good. The owner asked how the chocolate and cheese combination went, and I had to admit it was more the combination of the salt in the cheese with the chocolate, rather than probably the cheese itself, that made the pairing. He looked vindicated.
Here is Donivan’s prized lemon cheesecake, and fancier plating than usual. No leftovers on our desserts. These, and a coffee, wrapped up the night.
Half an hour to spare before catching the Hangover with some girlie peeps, I popped into Square One for a little morsel. As luck would have it, the girlies were able to join on the short notice and we shared two desserts.
But doesn’t the menu look fabulous? I had hoped to be able to share one of the savory dishes, but there was not enough time and not enough stomach real estate to go around. Next time, I am very eager to try the kobe burger, and the raviolo of crab with uni broth, $14 and $12 respectively.
Left: strawberry shortcake with a buttermilk biscuit, whipped cream, mint, and farmers market strawberries, $8.
Right: Vahlrona chocolate pot de creme with pistachio cream and biscotti biscuits, $7.
Nicky and Sue shared a glass of sauvignon blanc, but I passed on the vino.
Update: 25 June
I could not get that kobe burger out of my head. So I grabbed Brian the beef eater and scooted on back to Square One the next night.
We started with two charcuterie items, the foie gras torchon and sopressa. It came with the usual, and always delicious, accompaniments of arugala, fennel and blood orange salad, fried garlic and capers, brined capers, pickled shallots, wholegrain mustard and mayonnaise.
The charcuterie also came with lightly warm and toasted baguette, and sweet butter sprinkled with salt. I love butter served this way, and often do it at home for my own bread. There’s a slight crunch to the butter, and the tongue tastes the salt that much quicker. Try it!
We ordered two mains.
I’d say the chicken, while wonderfully tender and flavorful, was slightly salty considering the fries were already a strong source of salt. Also, I certainly appreciate the flavor of dark meat, but we in America have been brainwashed into thinking white meat is superior, and that school of thought isn’t changing for a while. A combination of some dark and white meat could have made the dish even better, and perhaps once people taste the two side-by-side, begin to realize that dark meat should be considered sub par.
No dessert this time. We were stuffed and had to walk off some of the meal.
I finally made it to Vosges Chocolates at the tail end of a biznas conference in Vegas, and it made the trip worth it.
Some of the more interesting chocolate combinations:
Now, I can get the bar chocolate in my own city, but only the fresh truffles can be acquired at the source.
I spent the rest of my evening hauling around my purple beribboned bag and garnered so much respect from people. It was more effective than a Prada bag.
I am kicking myself for not trying the Naga ice cream, though. I guess I need to return.