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

Image 1

Step 2
Pick the cocoa pod.


Cocoa Pod

Step 3
Open the pod to expose the cocoa beans.


Step 4
Dry out the cocoa beans.


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.


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




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

Mounds Dry 4

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


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


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

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.
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.
chicane-1009_for edit BLOG
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.

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.
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!

Best New Year’s Day Brunch NYC

New Year’s Day this year falls on a Wednesday. And, since most of us have the day off, and will be recovering from the night before, the perfect New Year’s Day Brunch is in high demand. Our advice: use BrunchCritic and select “HOLIDAY BRUNCH” under mood. That filter under the Mood Search tool has all the places identified as being open on holidays, like New Year’s Day, (or the day after Christmas, Christmas Day, the day after Thanksgiving, MLK Day, etc etc.)

I’m an advocate of BrunchCritic. OBVIOUSLY! It’s a bit frustrating to see resources like Zagats and others publish what they call brunch “lists.” Almost every time I see one of them, I think to myself what a disservice they are doing to their community. And, we we don’t have a partnership.  Zagats  just released their short list of where to go tomorrow. You can view it here. But in my opinion, it’s no different than many of their other lists. And, it’s quite weak. Most brunchies™ already know of the Sarabeth’s. All Zagat’s did was list every location they have. There are thousands of restaurants in New York. Trust me, Sarabeth’s isn’t the only place serving New Year’s Day brunch. And the lines are going to be ridiculous. And I am shocked to see Egg in Brooklyn on there. I think it’s great Egg is open for brunch on New Year’s Day, but come on Zagat’s, next to Sarabeth’s everyone already knows about Egg. And that means they know about their LINE. Now I don’t want to spend the first day of the year waiting in line. Do you?

Dear Zagats–  I’ve put this out there before, but why don’t we work on a partnership. Let the brunch experts help you out, and you do what you to best, dinner. (And frankly that’s what your guide and rating are based on anyways. Not brunch and the brunch experience.)

So to our readers, it might help your New Year’s Day brunch search to search Holiday Brunch on the homepage, and dine at one of our recommendations. Here is the direct link to those search results: Holiday Brunch

My top picks? Here’s where I’d go:

Commerce (west village), GOOD (greenwich village) Asellina (Flatiron/Kips Bay), Riverpark – (East 29th st.).

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me directly.

I sincerely wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.

Cheers Brunchies™




What to Consider When Choosing a Brunch Location

As Brunch Critics, we’re constantly getting asked, “Where should I go to brunch today?” by friends, family, social media connections, and even our doorman. We love giving recos, and there are several things to consider when choosing a brunch location. Next time you’re in a bind, keep these in mind.

1. Location
What neighborhood/area do you want to brunch in? You may be one of those “I don’t leave Brooklyn on the weekends” kind of person, or the East Village might be the most central location for your brunch crew. That’s why on BrunchCritic, you can discover new brunch spots by neighborhood.

2. Reservations
If you have a large party or an impatient group, the two and a half hour wait at Clinton Street Baking Company isn’t going to work for you. We know that if we have a special occasion or our parents are in town, we’re not taking any chances on a crazy brunch crowd. Look for a spot that takes brunch reservations like Seersucker or Cork Buzz Wine Studio.

 3. Vibe
This one is important, and one of the most crucial things to consider. Are you looking for a party brunch? A trendy spot? A quiet place? Romantic for a date? Casual and quaint? The restaurant that is good for a dance party is much different than the place that you should take your kids, although the food could be equally good. Our recommendations give you a report on what you can expect.

4. Menu
Can everyone in your group find something on the menu that they’ll like? We like to scout out the menu before we make any decisions because there may be a dish that beckons us, like the Pork Rillete Eggs Benedict at Jeffrey’s Grocery, for example. You might also have a pancake craving or a need for a tall bloody Mary.

Ask if you need help choosing!

Cheers Brunchies™

Caitlin Heikkila


Swedish Rekorderlig Cider is now in New York

Rekorderlig Launches in the United States

Today I went to a launch event for Rekorderlig Hard Cider, (pronounced rek-order-lig). The are currently launching the their Hard Cider in the US. photo-43

Truthfully, I had no idea what to expect. Cider’s never been a priority of mine. But here’s the thing– I learned I am a HUGE fan. Maybe it’s Rekorderling, maybe it’s just cider, but I am a fan. I really think this brand has legs. The only other hard cider I can think of by name is Woodchuck cider, and I’m only in the mood for it very occasionally.

Rekorderlig is a Swedish company. The word is a Swedish adjective that means reliable, trustworthy and down to earth. This name is fitting. Every bottle of Rekorderlig is made with pure Swedish spring water. And that’s important to them, as it’s printed on every bottle’s label. It might be one reason why I loved it so much too. The drinks is refreshing, crisp and absolutely delightful. Both the men and the women in the room liked it equally.

Here’s a shot of the three flavors I had. Pear, Strawberry-Lime and Wild Berries.


At first taste the “Wild Berries” was great, but it was the “Pear” that had me at Hello. As Dr. Seuss would say, I’d drink this outside, I’d drink this inside, I’d drink it on a boat, I’d drink it on a goat… you get the idea.  But really, I’m not exaggerating. It’s quite good.

Is it brunch-time worthy?

YES!! Rekorderlig Hard Cider is going to be a great brunch-time drink. I always encourage people to think beyond the mimosa and imagine a lot of men and women would go for this. I can envision people ordering pitchers of it. Some would like how “light” it is, and those that think mimosas are too sweet would probably love this. It’s got a 4.5% alcohol content, so for those that don’t want to get too crazy boozy at brunch might find this the perfect beverage. A little alcohol, but not a lot. The flavors are subtle and wouldn’t overpower great brunch food.

I admire the two founders and their entrepreneurial drive. This is a picture of me with one of them, Gareth Whittle.


I wish him and the Rekorderlig US team the best. In fact I think it’s very probably that I will seek them out to partner on a couple BrunchCritic events. I look forward to those conversations!

Cheers Brunchies™



Brunch of the Week (2 of 2) (9/14/13)

Our popular newsletter, One & One, is distributed once weekly, and highlights two of the best brunch spots we recommend for that weekend. Here’s a recap of this week’s One & One.

One French – Artisanal Fromagerie & Bistro

 Murray Hill – 2 Park Avenue (Between Park & Madison Avenues, entrance on 32nd Street)

Brunch Hours: 10:30am to 4:45pm Sat. & Sun.

The Place:
Artisanal feels like a cross between old New York and a Paris Bistro. This large space has high ceilings, white tablecloths, and hints of French flare… and lots of cheese. Brunchers bustle in each weekend, dining on beignets and massive meat and cheese plates.

What to Eat:
Artisanal’s take on Crepes Suzette, filled with bananas and chocolate sauce. The dish is rich, decadent, and irresistible. And since they are a fromagerie, you really can’t go wrong with the fondue served with freshly baked country bread. The prices are a bit above average and we miss their $25 prix fixe. But Artisanal is still an experience to be had.

What to Drink: 
The sparkling wine pairs best with your crepes. Or, go all out with the “Sparkling Brunch for Two,” at $110 which includes a bottle of Methode Champenoise sparkling wine, one entree, and one dessert.  

Reservation Policy:
Reservations are accepted for parties of two or more.

Tip: There are some large round tables for groups of 8 that are perfect for a nice birthday celebration.

Happy Brunching :)



Brunch of the Week (1 of 2) (9/14/13)

Our popular newsletter, One & One, is distributed once weekly, and highlights two of the best brunch spots we recommend for that weekend. Here’s a recap of this week’s One & One.

One American – 44 & X 

Hells Kitchen –  622 10th Avenue (corner of 44th Street)
Brunch Hours: 11:30am – 3pm Sat. & Sun.

 The Place: 44 & X has always been a gem. It’s one of the reasons we started BrunchCritic. People had to know about it. This must-go spot in Hell’s Kitchen is consistently delicious. It’s very bright and clean, while maintaining an unpretentious and laid-back atmosphere. The staff is always on their game, and it’s fun to read the quirky sayings on their t-shirts.

What to eat:
The pancakes, obviously. We love that the plate comes with breakfast sausage and fresh fruit too. It’s sometimes so annoying to have to order those things as sides at other places. Really though, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, like the crab cake or classic bendicts. While these standard brunch items can be found elsewhere and often average, 44 & X prepares their food with quality and care. They know what they are doing.

What to Drink:
Get the bloody Mary. We love that it is garnished properly, and served with celery and a skewer of three olives.

Reservation Policy:
Reservations are accepted for parties of two or more.

Happy Brunching! :)

Brunch of the Week – (2 of 2) (9/7/13)

Five Leaves

Greenpoint – 18 Bedford Avenue (Between Lorimer Street & Manhattan Avenue)
Brunch Hours: 8am – 3:30pm Mon. through Sun.

The Place:
A fan favorite, Five Leave packs the people in. They’re serving hearty brunch fare that will leave you thinking about it weeks later. Five Leaves as a whole is a place that is just really cool. Despite it’s casual vibes though, you’ll almost always have a long wait.

What to Eat:
The Mushroom Toast makes us swoon. The dish has sautéed mushrooms and broccoli rabe served over 7-grain toast with verbena cream and a poached egg. Also, don’t miss the Ricotta Pancakes served with honeycomb butter, berries, and maple syrup. (Yes, that’s honeycomb butter and it’s an incredible topping.)

What to Drink: 
I had one of the best cups of coffee here, and um hello, cocktail menu. We love the “Marv-a-rita,” a mix of blanco tequila, Campari, lime, Combier Elixer, agave and bitters.

Reservation Policy:
First come, first served. No reservations accepted.

Happy Brunching, :)

Brunch of the Week (1 of 2) (9/7/13)

Foragers City Table

 Chelsea - 300 West 22nd Street (corner of 8th Avenue),

Brunch Hours: 10:30am – 2:30pm Sat. & Sun.

The Place:
Foragers represents quality. They are all about local, sustainable, fresh, good food. Their small grocery is on the street corner, and the restaurant is attached next door.
We love this bright, medium sized restaurant with minimalist decor. The exposed steel beams and huge floor to ceiling window are symbolic of their transparency about their ingredients– many of which are grown on their farm upstate. Some of those items include their eggs, sausages, bacon, and fruit. We think Foragers is one of the best brunches this quarter!

 What to Eat:
Get the Housemade Crepinette with pastured pork, sunnyside up Foragers Farm egg, sweet and sour apple, and herbed potatoes. The Salmon Tartine is very good too, and the homemade bacon slabs are thick, juicy, and easily devoured.

What to drink: 
The orange juice is freshly squeezed, the coffee is their own blend of beans, and the cocktails are just right.

Reservation Policy:
Reservations are accepted for parties of two or more.

Happy Brunching! :)