Why I love Chocolate
Go ahead, call me a chocolate snob; at my age, I really do not care what others think. I certainly will admit I am one and have seriously considered joining a 12-step chocoholics program to rid myself of the tasty addiction that seems to be overtaking my life lately. There is something special in the sweet treat—something so unbelievable that satisfies all my senses.
While some prefer milk chocolate that contains 20-25% percent of dry cocoa solids, others like me are dependent on the dark indulgence that has a minimum of 35% or higher cocoa solids. Dark chocolate is produced by adding fat and sugar to the cacao mixture; the higher percentage indicates more bitterness, which some may or may not enjoy. Others (which I succumb willingly to occasionally) may fancy white chocolate, which contains no cocoa solids but cocoa butter, sugar, and milk. Of course, due to my ongoing addiction to the delightful necessity, I will not turn any of the three kinds down when graciously offered those of high-quality and impeccable taste.
As children of the 1960’s repeatedly reprimanded by our parents, we were told chocolate was supposedly bad for us; it made us put on unneeded pounds of wasted calories and cause us to break out in horrible acne if we ate too much of it. However, this concept has been further investigated to show the delicacy has a long list of warranted healthy benefits.
The Medical Benefits of Chocolates
Chocolate, especially dark, is loaded with nutrients, soluble fiber, and minerals, and the dark kind is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet. The highly-refined type can improve your health and lower the risk of heart disease, while its flavanols help improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, reduce insulin resistance, unexpectedly protect the skin against skin damage, and possibly improve brain function. Be aware, though, that all chocolate is not created equally as a lot of it on the market today is not healthy. One should choose high-quality dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content to take advantage of its medical benefits.
To let you know, I partially blame my ongoing chocoholic tendencies on my aunt who lives in New York City. She recently had hip surgery, so I ordered online an Oh Nuts! First Aid Candy Care Package Gift Set that came nicely boxed with dark chocolate edible bandages, a chocolate shot with plunger, reusable weekly pill case with seven types of jelly beans, and a fun prescription pad. Being a retired nurse who is not as fixated on the flavorful obsession as I am, my aunt greatly enjoyed the fun-filled package that brightened her spirits. Unfortunately, days later her daughter who was taking care of her fell, breaking several ribs, so I was sequestered to become a caregiver to both for a few weeks.
Hurriedly, I dropped my dog off at the sitters and booked a flight in the friendly skies to visit my relatives in New York. In my rushed and frantic state, I had a cocoa-craving before boarding the plane at LAX and stopped by the See’s Candies kiosk (not my first choice but acceptable in an emergency) to grab a quick pick-me-upper since I had no on-hand candies with me. I purchased a Dark Chocolate Chip Truffle and Walnut Square that held me over until I could get to the Big Apple.
While flying and munching on the candies, I made an important decision to search for the best high-quality delectables I could find while visiting my dear family. As a proactive individual, I figured that if I have such a strong addiction, why not make sure I was giving my body the best instead of imitations that lacked flavor and taste.
Max Brenner’s Chocolate Shop
One day after arriving in the city, I was walking down Broadway in New York City near Union Square Park and literally stumbled upon Max Brenner Chocolate Bar & Restaurant. I guess I would admit the distinct chocolate smells that waffled from the building, tickling my olfactory glands and softly calling my name, enticed me to pass through its hallowed doors.
Upon entering the establishment, I was beyond words of explanation. The ambiance and appeal encompassed me in warmth as I walked around the store to inspect myriads of milk, dark, and white chocolate with and without nuts, liquors, and unique favors. Hoping I would not pass out from ecstasy, tears of joy glistened my eyes when I glanced at the menu that included chocolate pizza, melting chocolate cake & shake, and creamy fondues. Walls of rows after rows graced too many choices that tantalized my taste buds.
Please understand, I have had a long history with chocolate since my teens. From the common low-grade Hershey candy bar at Halloween and Cadbury eggs at Easter to graduating to Lindt and Sprungli and exploring the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in Seattle, Washington, I arrogantly believe I am somewhat of a chocolate aficionado. I know I can depend in a clutch on a Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Bar that contains 85% cocoa and that Godiva’s fine Belgian chocolate comes elegantly packaged. But this artisan chocolate shop seemed to surpass my expectations as it encompassed the core of my eating habits before I had the opportunity to sample anything.
Immediately, my eyes were drawn to the First Aid Chocolate Box. Similar to the recently ordered Oh Nuts! product of being a chocolate cure-all for any medical issue, this Max Brenner collection included four designer chocolates in a reusable metal case with latch, as if it was an emergency kit for those like me with a chronic chocolate addiction. The set had Cooki Max (cocoa cookies rolled in dark chocolate and hazelnut praline), Nuts (caramelized pecans rolled in hazelnut praline and fine cocoa powder), Pure Milk (melt in the mouth milk chocolate thins), and Addiction Chocolate Cubes (milk chocolate cubes with hazelnut praline and caramelized pecan bits). Of course, I quickly grabbed a metal case to give to my cousin to help her rapidly recover from her injury.
Perusing the store, I viewed oblong ceramic hot chocolate mugs, tall milkshake containers, and personal white fondues along with display cases that made me think of diamond jewelry, with systematic rows of flat chocolate bars lined up like gold in Fort Knox. I felt like a magnet unable to be separated from one shelf that contained bagged and boxed Marbles, miniature round cereal balls dipped in milk, white, and dark chocolate layers with powdered cocoa. Picking up several packages, I knew I would have to hypnotically come back for more.
When I headed to the counter to pay for my motherload of sweet tooth satisfaction, I spotted an eye-catching Yes to Max gift set collection. This designer box with a ribbon contained Peanut Chocolate Cubes (milk chocolate cubes filled with peanut butter and roasted peanut bits) as well as the Nuts and Pure Milk mentioned previously. Not even considering my credit card balance, I ordered one to be sent to my dog sitter back in Los Angeles for lovingly taking care of my beloved two-year-old beagle.
After heading back to my aunt’s flat, I shared the news that I had found the answer to my chocolate prayers and fulfilled my courageous quest in locating a marvelous store to conquer my luscious passion.
For the next several days, my aunt, cousin, and I heartily ate the crunchy Cooki Max cookies, finding them very satisfying with a cup of coffee. The Caramelized Pecans surpassed all other sugar-coated nuts we have tasted as the nut flavor lasts while the thick dark 70% cocoa chocolate envelopes your entire mouth. My aunt thoroughly enjoyed nibbling on a Pure Milk every evening with a small glass of red wine. Surprisingly, my favorite became the aptly named Addiction Chocolate Cubes; although they are made of milk chocolate, they are truly decadent and delicious.
Before I returned to California, I revisited my now-favorite store not once, but twice, to stock up on more goodies. I also learned there are Max Brenner Chocolate Bars not only in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia but also in Australia, Israel, Japan, and Russia. Now I have more reasons to travel worldwide to feed my addiction!
On my flight home, I had a sense of accomplishment knowing I had not only helped my aunt and cousin heal and rehabilitate, but I also tasted excellent chocolate. My dog sitter did get the gift box and mentioned she was impressed with the Peanut Cubes as they had a flavorful peanut taste that contained the perfect amount of salt without overwhelming the chocolate.
Finally, remember, you too can experience the new chocolate culture with Max Brenner. Made in Israel and kosher, it may become your chocolate fascination too. The next time you are visiting New York City and need your chocolate fix resolved, locate this store and be amazed in what you taste, learn, and appreciate when it comes to high-quality chocolate.