How Cocoa is Made

I just returned back from a trip in the Dominican Republic. My favorite part of the experience was learning how cocoa is made. I love learning how things are made! I snapped a few shots that I thought I’d share, along with a very simple step by step process of how cocoa is made.

Step 1
Identify the cocoa tree

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Step 2
Pick the cocoa pod.

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Cocoa Pod

Step 3
Open the pod to expose the cocoa beans.

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Step 4
Dry out the cocoa beans.

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Step 5
Take the dried cocoa beans (the lighter beans in the photo below) and peel off the thin outer shell. What will result are the darker beans.

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Step 6
Grind/mash the beans. What will result is a paste-like, gooey cocoa substance.

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Step 7
Mold the substance into a medium size mass and dry it out.

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Step 8
When you have a dry mass, you can grate the cocoa. This final product is what is used in making chocolate.

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And there you go! Cocoa like you see in the supermarket!

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Our tour guide mixed the grated cocoa with agave and bananas for us to try. The cocoa-agave covered bananas were excellent!

Where to Brunch on Easter in NYC

Easter Eggs Stock Photos

Easter is one of my favorite holidays because to me it represents the beginning of spring! I love the colors, the smiles on people’s faces and the connection it reminds me of to my family. I remember when I was young my mother would hide easter eggs filled with some candy and mostly money(!) (dollars, quarters, etc) around our back yard. I loved waking up in my pajamas and searching for the eggs.

I also vividly remember dyeing eggs with my mother in the kitchen, dunking each egg carefully into the cup of colored water, and putting it back in the crate to dry. I was a lucky kid to have those special moments growing up.

I am celebrating easter this year by entertaining a group of 12 at a NYC restaurant. I can’t wait. I am going to put on my own version of an easter egg hunt for my guests as well. Just because we aren’t kids anymore doesn’t mean we have to give up on all the fun!

Because I care passionately about my audience and BrunchCritic fans, I want you to save your time and money searching for the perfect brunch spot. Here are my six picks of where to go this Easter. Enjoy!

NARCISSA

Narcissa

Narcissa has a lot going for it. It’s upscale, cool, and hip and a great New York experience to impress out-of-towners with. I had my birthday dinner here last year, and it also happens to be where I’m taking a large group for Easter on the 5th. I cannot wait. The Easter Brunch menu will be a la carte with some special additions to the menu. I’m looking forward to the Crab Benedict, and French Toast Bites and Carrot fries, as sides. And, of course whatever the chef specialty is that day.

LITTLE PARK

Little Park Screen Shot 1

Little Park is an impressive restaurant with great food and impeccable service. It’s been one of my favorite fine-dining brunch experiences this year and it is a classy way to celebrate your Easter. I’ve already recommended it to a handful of friends for the holiday. Note, Little Park has a lot of booths that fit up to 6 people and it is great for a group of that size.

Easter Brunch will be a la carte with possible additions to the menu for the holiday.

BENOIT

Benoit

When I’m in Midtown and looking for something French, Benoit is my usual go to. It’s an Alain Ducasse restaurant, and I love the red banquettes, bright lights, painted clouds on the ceiling and French tunes in the the background.

Benoit is offering a special 3-course prix fixe for $55 on Easter.

THE GANDER

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The menu is a la carte with special Easter additions. On the menu you’ll see a Rack of Lamb, and Duck Confit Hash with port Béarnaise sauce as main entrees.

The price for the 3-courses has yet to be determined, but stay tuned. The Gander’s sister restaurant Recette is doing a $35 3-course prix fixe. Recette is also a great option for Easter too. It’s a small restaurant on a cozy West Village corner and the food is very high quality.

UPLAND

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If you read this newsletter you may have heard me rave about Upland last week. The interior is stunning. The aesthetic is warm, upscale and a little trendy. The decor is a mix of fine wood, forrest greet banquettes, navy and white checkered tablecloths (that also match the servers’ aprons), and the wooden walls are lined with bottles of wine and jars of lemons. Don’t leave without trying the Quiche, the Pancakes and the Salmon Pizza.

Upland will offer their regular menu for Easter.

PARK AVENUE SPRING

Park Avenue Winter

Park Avenue is one of my favorite restaurants. Every season the restaurant closes down for 48 hours and then it undergoes a complete interior design change to reflect the season. The restaurant will be changing over from winter to spring on March 31st, just in time for April 5th.

Park Avenue Spring is offering a special menu on Easter with 3-courses for $69.

The Brunch Table with Topher Gaylord

In the 3rd episode of The Brunch Table, I brunch with Topher Gaylord in Marin County, California. Topher is the CEO of Mountain Hardware, the outdoor performance apparel company. And, he’s also an ultra-marathoner which means he runs hundreds of miles at one time! Topher is definitely someone I admire for his business sense and his athleticism. Before Mountain Hardware, he was the CEO of 7 Jeans, North America.

For brunch we went to M.H. Bread & Butter in Marin County, CA. Our dishes included Monkey Bread, Baked Eggs, Toast with Beans and an Egg, a Fried Egg Sandwich and more.

At The Brunch Table I take awesome people out to brunch and get to know them. It was definitely and honor to brunch with Topher Gaylord.

The Brunch Table with Adam Garone

For the 2nd episode of The Brunch Table, I was lucky enough to take Adam Garone out to brunch. He’s the Co-Founder of Movember, a global movement where in the month of Movember– renamed from November, men grow a mustache (or a ‘Mo’) to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, and specifically prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health.

Movember has engaged over 4 million people worldwide, funds over 830 programs, and has raised over 550 million dollars. I am so impressed with the growth of the organization and the difference Movember is making to transform the conversation men have about their health.

For brunch we went to Bluestone Lane Collective Cafe in the West Village. It is an Australian beach cafe where you can find great service, fresh food, and some good Australian accents! Adam had a Flat White (basically a latte in Australian) and I had an Long Black (basically an Americano) to start. Our entries includes Avocado Smash on Balthazar toast, Coconut Quinoa Porridge, and Buckwheat Banana Bread.

At The Brunch Table I take awesome people out to brunch and get to know them. It was definitely and honor to brunch with Adam Garone.

 

Introducing The Brunch Table

It’s a very exciting day here at BrunchCritic as I announce my newest addition to the site, The Brunch Table.  At The Brunch Table I take awesome people out to brunch and get to know them.

My first guest is Allison Patel, the Founder of Brenne Whisky.  I wanted to take Allison out to brunch and get to know the full story behind how she started Brenne. I think it’s pretty amazing for anyone to start a whisky company and I am so happy for Allison and all the success she has had. Allison is a former ballerina and is an incredibly dynamic and bright soul. As I’ll tell you in the video, I simply adore her.

Brenne Whisky is especially unique because it is made in Cognac, France (a non-traditional whisky making country) and aged in Cognac barrels.

For brunch we went to The Marrow in the West Village of NYC. We had the Corned Beef Hash and Blueberry Almond Pancakes, along with Aperol Spritzes.

Brunch Highlights

Hi Brunchies! Here’s where to go the Week of September 14th (as reposted from our ONE & ONE newsletter.) This week, ONE Downtown and ONE Uptown.
CHICANE
http://brunchcritic.com/chicane/
Brunch Hours: 12pm -5pm Sat. & Sun.
Address: SoHo – 430 Broome St. (At Crosby St.)
Brunch Reservation Policy: Brunch reservations are accepted for parties of two or more.
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The Place:
While there are a lot of French restaurants in town, Chicane is the closest thing you’ll get to the French Riviera without actually going there. The region is reflected in everything from the bright interior to the ”cuisine du soleil” (food of the sun). Bonus: the chairs and booths were designed to remind you of race car seats. It’s like brunching during your own Monaco Grand Prix. 
What to Eat:
Go for the La Trouchia, a South of France specialty, that includes Eggs, Swiss Chard, Tender Onion, and Parmesan. For you hollandaise lovers, a Maryland Crab Cake Benedict is also served here for your pleasure. 
What to Drink: 
Chicane will definitely serve the brunch classics, but also provides their full cocktail list too. There’s nothing I want more than to go back to summer vacation, so I’m opting for the Grace Kelly to temporarily transport me there. It’s vodka, strawberry, mint and fresh lemon. 

Reservation Policy:
Brunch reservations are accepted for parties as small as two.

THE EAST POLE
www.brunchcritic.com/theeastpole
Brunch Hours: 10:30am – 3:30pm Sat. & Sun.
Address: UES – 133 East 65th.,  (between Park & Lexington)
Brunch Reservation Policy: Brunch Reservations accepted for parties as small as two.
EastPoleBlog
The Place:
The East Pole is well worth the trip even if you don’t live in the neighborhood. Its name is a playful contrast to the North Pole, and also a nod to how they source local ingredients from Eastern New York. Inside you’ll find modern, minimalist decor, and navy colored booths set against light-colored wood. Pro Tip: if you are a group of six, try to score the big round table in the back, perfectly situated under the skylight. If you are a larger group celebrating a special occasion, the upstairs space is great for a private event like a birthday, bridal or baby shower.
What to Eat:
Go for the Dutch Apple Pancake with Bourbon Maple Syrup, and for a side order the Scotch Egg & Mustard Seed. Most places over-fry their Scotch Eggs, but The East Pole nails it. There is also a Macro Plate if you are into something uber healthy. 
What to Drink: 
The cocktails at The East Pole are excellent. A few of our favorites include: The Spiced Pear Bellini (house cinnamon infused vodka, Lillet, and ginger), the Pass The Dutch (Bols Genever, fresh lemon, egg white and a red wine float), and the Spiced Apple (house cinnamon infused vodka, Baentzen Apple and fresh lemon).

Reservation Policy:
Brunch reservations are accepted for parties as small as two.

Cheers Brunchies!

Brunch at Atrium & GMT, and a friend

In this weeks newsletter I highlighted Atrium and GMT. Obviously both are excellent because two of the best spots are recommended each week in the Newsletter, “One & One.”

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Atrium

GMT

GMT

The restaurants have completely different atmospheres, but will provide two great experiences. Atrium was selected because I hadn’t covered a Dumbo spot in a while, and after trying it just the week before, I knew I had to share it via the newsletter. GMT was selected because timing is perfect– the World Cup launched on Friday, and I knew that on Saturday and Sunday of this weekend, games would be playing non-stop. GMT is one of the best places to watch a game and eat your brunch in the city.

For a description of each place, what to eat, and what to drink, check out this week’s One & One.

But first, here’s a little more about my experience at each Atrium.

When I went to Atrium, I went with my friend Lucas. I met Lucas fairly recently. We were at a scotch & cigars event and I was telling him that I loved meeting new people and needed a Brooklyn brunch wingman. He said yes in a New York minute, and he also lives down the road from Atrium. He hadn’t been either.

Lucas is a principal at the venture capital firm Gotham Ventures.  I’m of course really interested in what’s happening in the NYC tech scene (and all tech and startups across the US right now) so it was really great to be able to sit down and brunch with him. We are living in a unique time where companies are being started at an incredibly fast pace, and there is a lot going on at the angel investing and venture capital levels. I really enjoyed getting together with Lucas, and brunch made it possible.

AtriumLucas&I

Here’s a shot of us together. We both agreed my cocktail was the better of the two– the Herbs & Peppers (Fords London Dry Gin, Yellow Bell Pepper, Agave, Tajin Spice, and a Cayenne Pepper Rim).

Cheers Brunchies™!

Andrea

 

Best Mother’s Day Brunch in New York

So you’re looking for a NYC brunch spot to take mom on Sunday? And perhaps you’ve procrastinated a little as well. (Don’t worry, she still loves you…hopefully!) Here’s 4 spots to take mom and I’ve highlighted the type of mom that would like each one.

1. FOR THE CLASSIC, TRADITIONAL MOM
Clement - Clement is going to be the Mother’s Day brunch with a polished and sophisticated vibe. It will be a more traditional, upscale experience for the more classic mom.
(Midtown, 700 5th Ave At 55th St., (in the Penninsula Hotel)

2. FOR THE MOM THAT LOVES NEW YORK
The Gander -The Gander is one of New York’s newest brunch spots. This is where you’d take a mom who’s excited by all things New York, and appreciates how New York has new places popping up all the time. She wants to be on the pulse and would love to check out this recently opened brunch destination.
(Chelsea/Flatiron, 15 West 18th St., Between 5th and 6th Ave)

3. FOR THE HARD TO PLEASE MOM
MaialinoMaialino is for the mom that is perhaps the most picky, the mom who may be hard to please and wants all around quality in atmosphere and food. Maialino has been competing at the brunch game for a while and is a true winner.
(Gramercy, 2 Lexington Ave., At 21st St., in the Gramercy Park Hotel)

4. FOR THE HIP MOM
Locanda Verde - Locande Verde will be for the mom who’s a woman about town, the mom that is hip and trendy and wants her dining experiences to match.
(Tribeca, 377 Greenwich St., at N. Moore St.)

Cheers Brunchies™

Andrea

New Brunch Offering at DBGB

DBGB in the East Village just announced a revamping of their brunch menu. While I always wanted to love the place, I always thought something was missing. I could never really put my finger on it. I liked their prix fixe concept, but never felt satisfied with the food and overall experience.

I have doubts about their new menu too, and don’t think it’s going to solve their problem.

DBGB is going from a $27 prix fixe that included 3-courses (appetizer, entree and dessert) to a $30 family style menu.

This means large plates of food thrown on the table for everyone to pick off of. Family style I think is code for mini-buffet. And if you know me well, you know I think buffets suck. They’re  gross.

It seems to me that DBGB’s new offering really only means fewer options to select from, the same mediocre food, and for more money and no desert. Oh, and for less service. Presenting family style large plates on a table requires less work by restaurant staff, and we’ll all be paying more for it.

I just don’t think DBGB is taking the correct approach. My opinion could change after trying it this upcoming weekend, but I am pessimistic. Also, did I mention that for an extra $50 you can get carafes of drinks. Hmm, doesn’t seem worth it when there are plenty of better value brunches around, especially in that area.

And that’s what’s new in the world of East Village brunch.

You can read more about DBGB’s new menu here and see a short video they put out as well. The video doesn’t do the food any justice, and I think shows why buffets, I mean family style, suck http://ny.eater.com/archives/2014/03/a_glimpse_of_the_new_familystyle_brunch_at_dbgb.php .

Till the next review,

Cheers, Brunchies™

Andrea

This is Why I Love Brunch

and it might not be why you think.

This weekend I was at Bleecker Kitchen & Co for brunch.

bleecker kitchen interior

I was with my friend Mark and we wanted to try a NoHo spot as we would be continuing on into SoHo after brunch. I also wanted to check it out because they serve brunch everyday, Monday through Sunday, and I wanted to assess if it’s a place I should recommend to our users for “Weekday Brunch.”

Our brunch– the food & the service, was great. But this weekend’s Brunch at Bleecker Kitchen & Co. was one of my most favorite in a long time and I’ll tell you why.

It wasn’t the great service that made this my favorite.

It wasn’t the excellent Steak & Eggs or the fantastic, crispy, Corn Flake Encrusted French Toast.

It was what happened during our brunch.

Mark and I leaned over to to the table next to us to ask them what they were eating. A group of three were mid-meal and their dishes looked quite good. We wanted their feedback as we were just about to order ourselves. But the next thing you know, we were all talking together, and about way more than our food.

A true conversation had emerged. Our conversation continued throughout the entire meal, and this is what made our meal a true brunch experience, not just a meal. Brunch is about comfort. It’s about relaxation, and it’s about fun. Brunch is a vehicle to arrive at a conversation with the people you are with around the table, and in this case– the table next to you. The bonds we created with the table next to us never would have happened at dinner because restaurants are more dimly lit at dinner, and dinner just has a more serious tone to it.

Here is a photo of all of us– Mark & I at our table, and our brand new 3 friends at the table next to us.

Bleecker Kitchen Crew

It turns out that Alison (the blonde) is an incredibly dynamic and hilarious person, who by day is a news reporter for Connecticut’s local Fox station.  Her husband Scott works for Alternative Apparel, a very cool apparel company, and their cousin is about to leave New York and depart on a new life adventure in San Francisco. She is in her 20′s, and the rest of us in our 30′s & 40′s, so we had plenty of thoughts and advice to share.

The conversation between our two tables was one of shared interests, lots of laughs, coincidences, learnings about one another, and we even shared some of that crispy, Corn Flake Encrusted French Toast I mentioned. As a result of brunch on Saturday, I can say I have three new friends, and the connections made over brunch would not have happened at dinner. And that is why I love brunch.

Cheers Brunchies™

Andrea