While wandering throughout historic Ouro Preto you will see stores selling Doces Caseiros, but you will also find them selling the one thing we like even better: chocolates. We visited a couple of chocolate shops while we were in Ouro Preto, and were surprised by the quality of the chocolates and the extensive menus. If you have a sweet tooth, you will never go hungry in Ouro Preto.
Puro Cacau (Rua Conde de Bobadela, 162) stands out on the street due to the large chocolate fountain in the window. That was surely enough to draw us in. A trip to the chocolate fountain (with a skewer of strawberries) cost a mere R$ 5. We were also pleased to find they had milkshakes, which were excellent (we went with cookies and cream). The menu also had a selection of paninis and wraps, which were good, but nothing to write home about.
However, as the name would imply, the main reason to visit Puro Cacau is for the chocolate-related offerings. The entire front of the store is given over to selling jars of doce de leite, homemade bon bons and alfajors (Argentine sandwich cookies filled with dulce de leche). You can also buy simple candies and truffles by weight out of glass jars. There was something deliciously retro about filling a paper bag with little chocolate candies. Even beyond chocolates there was an unusually extensive selection of bottled drinks and beers from around the world.
Chocolates Ouro Preto (Praça Tiradentes, 111)
Chocolates Ouro Preto became our go-to lunch and coffee spot when we were in Ouro Preto, not to mention the fact that we had many a sweet treat there. For those of you that are always plugged in (guilty here) there is also free Wifi.
Chocolates Ouro Preto – right on Praca Tiradentes!
In the front of the store you can buy their chocolate items, including a huge amount of chocolate bars and very delicious truffles (R$ 2.50). We particularly enjoyed the passionfruit filled dark chocolate variety. We also appreciated the amazing selection of coffee drinks and other juices for those who are trying to be caffeine-free. There was also a large assortment of ice cream flavors.
For those with a bigger appetite, there were other savory treats, including full entrees soups and breads. We had one particularly delicious soup: creamy mandioquinha. Kind of like cheesy cream of potato soup, but better! There were also various salgados, pão de queijo and pão patate.
In the USA, Easter is associated in pop culture with rabbits and bunnies. However, in Australia, you are also likely to see a bilby alongside the bunnies. Bilbies are native, endagered Australian marsupials that have floppy ears and a long snout. Rabbits are considered an invasive species in Australia, so it makes sense that they might prefer Bilbies at Easter time. The campaign for the Easter Bilbies was popularized by the Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia, and the concept has taken off since, with children’s books and chocolate Bilbies galore.
We absolutely love Easter candy, a particular favorite being Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. However, in Brazil we have discovered a new Easter obsession that dwarfs Reese’s Eggs in every sense: giant chocolate eggs! In the US we have seen chocolate rabbits, chicks, and miniature eggs but the chocolate Ovos de Páscoa (Easter Eggs) in Brazil put them all to shame. We saw these big chocolate eggs all around town, including grocery stores, newsstands and chocolate shops (such as the chain Cacau Show).
A large Ovo de Pascoa – filled with Ferrero Rocher truffles
In the grocery store, in preparation for Easter, trellises were set up and were completely covered with wrapped eggs from different brands. Sizes of the Ovos ranged from a few inches to over a foot tall – with some costing as much as US$50. These eggs are not just solid (or hollow) chocolate – they are filled with other chocolates or creams. For example, the egg in the photo above is stuffed with truffles. Check out some of these exotic Chocolate Easter Eggs varieties (in Portuguese, but the pictures say it all).
A trellis of Ovos de Pascoa at Zona Sul Supermarket in Rio de Janeiro
Much like Wafysugar, a watered-down version of Salame de Chocolate (“Chocolate Salami”) is found in typical Portuguese vending machines alongside staples like gum and soda. The name does truly sounds unappetizing, but despite its homely look, the dessert packed a delicious chocolate punch. Basically, chocolate salami is dark chocolate fudge filled with broken cookie pieces, and when the roll of fudge is sliced it resembles “real” salami. M likened the taste to a chocolate doughnut, but L thought the taste was more fudgy than cakelike. However, true to Portuguese nature, it is SWEET, and relatively simple to make. As it turns out this is not a truly Portuguese dish, it is originally an Italian confection that caught on in Portugal. Though I’m sure M would prefer chouriço, my sweet tooth will take anything made of chocolate.
A Non-Vending Machine Version of Salame de Chocolate in Lisbon
We spent a wonderful weekend in Paris last December with our friends T & I, where we determined the best macarons in Paris. Though our international paths are nearly missing each other again, we were lucky enough to see them before we left for Portugal. We were so grateful and surprised when they gave us Macarolats from Michel Cluizel as a going-away present, and it was a wonderful reminder of our time in Paris. So you’re probably thinking, “What on earth is a Macrolat?” It is basically a filled chocolate in the shape of the iconic macaron.
The flavors included in our box of 5 Macrolats were: Dark chocolate ganache, Caramel ganache, Coffee ganache, and Crunchy hazelnut praline. All of the flavors were absolutely delicious! Our favorites were the caramel and hazelnut varieties, which were impossibly rich. What’s more, Macrolats are more transportable than the delicate Macarons (they made the journey across the Atlantic unscathed) – practical and delicious!
In honor of Memorial Day, I found this patriotic chocolate-themed ad from World War II-era Nestle. Hershey chocolate bars were part of the soldiers’ rations, however, they were made in special formulas specifically for nutritional needs and to withstand heat (meaning they didn’t taste as good). For example, the first military chocolate bar was called the “D. Ration” and was required to:
- Weigh 4 ounces (112 g)
- Be high in food energy value
- Be able to withstand high temperature
- Taste “a little better than a boiled potato”
World War II Magazine has an extensive feature about the wartime chocolate bars, including the fact that by the end of WWII, Hershey produced 40.2 million D Ration bars, and 380 million Tropical Chocolate Bars.
O Melhor Bolo de Chocolate do Mundo
Av. Tancredo Neves, 148,
Caminho das Árvores – Salvador – Bahia
A cake shop calling itself the “Best Chocolate Cake in the World” is a pretty gutsy move. With a name like that, they would HAVE to deliver. Intrigued by the bombastic name as well as our never-ending appreciation of chocolate confections, we set out to sample the chocolate cake from MBCDM. When we arrived at the store location in Shopping Iguatemi– we were surprised to discover it was a kiosk in the mall instead of a proper store. The offerings were unsurprisingly chocolate cakes sold by the slice (about 5 dollars), along with coffee and other cake accompaniments. Two varieties of cake were offered by the slice: Bolo Meio Amargo (70% bittersweet chocolate) and Tradicional Doce (53% chocolate). There was also a sugar-free version of the traditional cake on offer. We went for the dark chocolate cake: the texture was that of a flourless cake. The flourless chocolate was interspersed with layers of chocolate cake crust and chocolate ganache on top. The filling was dense and uber-chocolately, but unfortunately the cake layers all but fell apart when we began to eat. As you can see below, it is already starting to lose its structural integrity – even before the first bite. Final verdict: the cake was very good, but perhaps a bit oversold. Sorry, we’re tough cake critics!
Thank goodness for the internet. I recently was the recipient of an assortment of snack-sized Israeli chocolate bars, and none of them, and I mean none had any sort of roman letters. Since I don’t read any Hebrew, and I was curious as to what type of log-like confection I was eating, I turned to Google. All I typed into Google was “Israeli candy” “chocolate” and “log” – but somehow I still got directed to the right place! The candy I had was Mekupelet, a famous Israeli candy similar to the Cadbury Flake bar – milk chocolate specifically extruded in a flaky form to look like a log. Markos Kirsch attempted to compare the two, but they were pretty much running neck and neck, with no clear winner.
We recently found a news story about a firm in the United Arab Emirates that makes Camel’s milk chocolates, and they are hoping to expand worldwide- the possible venues being Harrod’s department stores and a San Francisco-chain of chocolate shops. Apparently camel’s milk has more Vitamin C and less fat than cow’s milk, but we can only speculate as to how it tastes… though we’re guessing it’s probably not bad.
International candy is so wonderfully random and varied, you can’t help but love it. At the top of my list of fun international candies from my youth has to be Aero, made by Nestle. Aero is a UK creation, and was first made by the Rowntree Mackintosh company in 1935 (Nestle bought Rowntree Mackintosh in 1988). Above all else, Aero is a novelty bar, and not some extraordinarily fine bittersweet chocolate.
The novelty, in this case, is that Aero bars have a bubbly, aerated chocolate filling, which creates a pretty unique texture. Tellingly, the tagline of Aero is “have you felt the bubbles melt?”If you cut the bars open you can really see the bubbly interior – check it out below. Though we searched the web for how the bubbles in Aero form, it seems to be a closely guarded and much-speculated secret. Aero bars also come in dark chocolate and mint varieties – check out the awesome green color below! Aero is available at Cost Plus infrequently, and any respectable British Market.
1747 N. Damen Ave.
This ultra-modern chocolate bar has the feel of sitting inside of a chocolate bar itself! Done in deep browns and creams, Mindy Segal’s restaurant has a full dinner menu, as well as the featured deserts and chocolate drinks. We weren’t really in the mood for another large meal, so we stayed in the lounge section at the front of the restaurant and sampled some of the chocolate drinks and dessert creations instead. As dessert bars usually are, this one was a bit on the pricey side. However, the delectable deserts were worth it.
We sampled a vanilla crème brûlée with summer berries ($11) and a “Shot of Hot Chocolate” which was a tiny, rich brownie with a shot glass of chilled hot chocolate ($4). Each was delicious, and an inventive take on a dessert classic. Other unique menu items included a platter of doughnuts with a hot chocolate dipping sauce. We also had a good sampling of chocolate-flavored alcoholic drinks such as the Chocolate Martini, with Stoli vanilla, Kahlua, Baileys and chocolate milk ($12). In this case, the alcohol tended to overpower the chocolate. Not bad, of course, if that what you’re going for. All in all, sampling the treats at Hot Chocolate is a great way to end the night and satisfy your sweet tooth. Maybe next time we will even saple some of the savory items. If you’re ever in the Wicker Park area, we recommend stopping by to at least check out the unique ambiance and delicious deserts.
When the World Market by me was going out of business *sniff* I stopped by one last time to scavenge. I picked up a mug and tea strainer, a tiffin box and a 70% Cacao & Espresso Coffee chocolate bar by Chocolate Santander. I am glad I did, though of course how can you go too wrong by combing two delicious flavors: dark chocolate and Colombian coffee. The dark chocolate was very smooth, and not bitter, and the coffee was not overpowering, and turned out to be a great compliment.
These artisinal bars are made in Colombia of 100% Colombian coffee and specific origin chocolate of the “Criollo” and “Trinitarian” varieties. Little did I know that Santander chocolates are made at the factory of Compañía Nacional de Chocolates, a company established in 1920. The company produces other varieties as well. Hopefully I will be able to find them elsewhere (RIP World Market)!
Chocolate and tea are probably two of our favorites foods, so when we found a product that combined both we were more than happy. The Dolfin Green Tea Bar, or more properly Au Lait au The Vert Sencha du Japon (Milk with Sencha Green Tea from Japan) is a 32% milk chocolate bar with 5% green tea (about $4 for an 9 oz. bar). We usually prefer dark chocolate, but can understand why they went with milk chocolate – to counter the natural bitterness of green tea. You can really taste the tea flavor, sweet and woodsy, but unfortunately the chocolate itself is a little gritty. We did not love the whole texture of this bar, especially since it is not very cheap. Overall, a little disappointed. We know there are other chocolate/tea bars, though, perhaps they will execute this concept better.
Every time I go into a Vosges Haut Chocolate store I get really scared. First, because the counter staff usually stares me down in an intimidating way, like I am a hobo who wandered in off the street. And second, because everything is delicious and expensive and I want to buy it all.
Vosges is known is for its unique ingredients, and their candy bars include anything from curry powder to bacon. However, one of my favorites is slightly less ‘out there’, the Oaxaca Bar ($6.95). The Oaxaca bar is bittersweet chocolate (75%), blended with guajillo and pasilla chile peppers. There’s definitely some heat to this bar, and you can really tell in the finish. The chocolate is dark, but not bitter and is a nod to the bitter and spicy Xocolatl, an Aztec chocolate drink. If you’re a fan of dark chocolate you will find this bar completely addictive. You can find Vosges chocolate bars at Whole Foods or at other retailers like World Market.