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Jacques Torres Chocolate, New York, NY, tasted on February 21, 2004 I'm a big fan of hot chocolate, and not just when it's snowing out. Frankly, I think hot chocolate should become a year round beverage. As someone who still hasn't found a way to like coffee (no matter how much sugar and cream I pour in there) I have another reason to want hot chocolate -something to drink when everyone else is drinking coffee. When I heard that there was a spot in Brooklyn, a self-styled "chocolate factory" created by Jacques Torres, former pastry chef at Le Cirque, I knew we had to make a stop there. Sure enough, our first stop that day was at Jacques Torres Chocolate.

While there were a zillion chocolate treats (I didn't see a chocolate river) we were there for one reason, and one reason alone. A perfect hot chocolate is almost like a heated chocolate milkshake. Thick, frothy, creamy, velvety smooth, with a chocolate depth that feels light because of the infusion of air and cream (whipped or otherwise). There are those that like their hot chocolate a little more rustic. I enjoy that as well, and Jacques Torres' hot chocolate fell more into that category. It was slightly bitter (in a good way) with consistent thickness and not overly thick or muddy. That said, it was still like drinking a bar of rich dark South American chocolate. I could have finished it with time, but it would have taken awhile. I'm usually a fan of a slightly sweeter hot chocolate, and this bordered on the Mexican. It was very very good.

We also got the spicy variety. At first you think the spices only make their presence felt in the aroma. But a few moments after you drink some then it sets a tiny faint fire in your mouth on the finish that lasts and lasts. A little late, but better than never we noticed a bowl of homemade marshmallows sitting on the counter. Homemade marshmallows. Who makes their own marshmallows? Jacques Torres does. Letting that melt into our drinks gave them a candied quality. They were so thick and rich that they didn't just disappear, they floated and melted for some time. Deep, rich hot chocolate, with complex flavors, and homemade marshmallows. Not a bad way to start our day in New York.

 

     
     
     
     
     
     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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