Perfect gift experience for a NYC Chocolate Lover? (Recc. classes, tastings,etc?)
My Brother looooves chocolate, and so do I, and okay many do. Anyway I was hoping you Chowhound foodie experts could recommend something fabulous to do that's chocolate related-- A class, a tasting, a chocolate brunch, maybe even a chocolate of the month club, etc. This would be a Birthday gift for my Brother. I haven't found much in the way of classes or tastings so I come to you for advice. It should be an experience in the NYC area or something that can be ordered nationally online.
The only ideas I've come up with so far are--
--tickets to the annual NYC chocolate Show (worth it?),
--Seppi's Chocolate buffet brunch (is it worth it?? I saw some old reviews that were mixed, wondering what the current thought is on the place),
--And something called a giftybox--a sort of a gift certificate that enables you to pick a chocolate experience (except that from what I saw it's a big thumbs DOWN since the actual restaurants/events etc. listed are cheaper to go on one's one rather than utilize the suprisingly much more expensive giftybox.)
Any thoughts on these experiences, or some other fabulous chocolate experience--class, tasting, etc. you would like to recommend?
Would appreciate your insight on this.
You're welcome! I love my chocolate and I claim myself as a chocolate hedonist.
Anyways, the La Maison's tasting (attended last March) took place in their Upper East Side location; the tasting/class I attended was about the pastry. When you enter their tearoom/salon in the back of their store, they've already set up the mini desserts that you're going to taste that day. While you're waiting, they've let you drink demitasse cups of their rich hot chocolate; might I say it was the richest, chocolatey drink I ever had in my life! After a couple of minutes, their pastry chef, who flew in from France, entered the room and talked about La Maison's chocolate; how they make their chocolate, what type of beans they use, etc. After his lecture, he walked with us what's on the plates set in front of us (minature tarts of various chocolate and fruit fillings, mini cake slices, etc. that they sell in their store). After that experience of euphoria, the chef demonstrated on how to make a ganache. (I forgot to mention, Q&A is opened throughout the entire tasting/lecture). The nice thing was that he distributed the ganache to the entire audience as a take home gift. Towards the end of this tasting, the staff lets us have a preview of their two new truffles that hasn't been released yet, a truffle that has a ganache of rose wine and the other has a champagne ganache. Both were delicious! It melts on your tongue and it has the delicate flavors of the alcohol. At the end of the tasting, they have distributed small gift bags filled with a box of their chocolates (about 1/4 lb. or less), a few recipes and a few other things that I can't recall now.
Overall, I would rate this experience as a "very good." I haven't been able to attend their recent tastings but I would go back if I had the time.
Another place I would recommend is Chocolat Michel Cluizel, a French chocolate company, in ABC Carpet & Home in Union Square. They have a "guided tasting from the resident chocolate sommelier. It's $35 for a 25-minute, seven chocolate tasting, or $100 for a 50-minute, 10 chocolate tasting that's paired with eight spirits." - CitySearch. Even though I haven't attended to their tastings, I have purchased and eaten their chocolate and it's deliciously, superb chocolate.
I don't know if you're interested in Chocolate Bar, located in West Village. This place is more retro themed and they do have tastings available but I don't know how much it costs. Their url: http://www.chocolatebarnyc.com/ Go to the "Made to Order" section and they have a tab for tastings. You do have to make a call or email them for an inquiry.
If I have to recommend my three top choices, it would be La Maison du Chocolat (love their chocolate and pastries, it's classy but expensive), Michel Cluizel (haven't attended but love their chocolates), and probably the Chocolate Show (but be advised I haven't attended the latter).
Thanks for responding with all your wealth of info. You certainly know your chocolate!
Yeah, I was afraid of that with giftybox. And you confirmed my theory about it. I don't understand the blatant overpricing of items that seem to be a 1/3 of the price. All I needed to do was check some of the places listed. I thought I must be missing something that they give in addition...alas appears not.
The La Maison du Chocolat class/tasting sounds interesting. Can you tell me more about what they did in the 2 hours you attended? You seemed to enjoy it but would you say it's well worth the price? I suppose it's within my price range if it's worth it. I checked the site but will have to call as I couldn't find any listing of classes.
Appreciate all the great ideas. I welcome more of your suggestions. Budget tops around $80.
The Giftybox is what you have said earlier, you pay more than what you would normally pay for that certain merchandise (the possible exception is the private class with Payard's chef). The only plus is that after you use that certificate, you can use the booklet for some sort of freebie or discount depending upon what is the requirement is.
For an expensive chocolate tasting is from La Maison du Chocolat (2 locations: Rockefeller Plaza & Upper East Side on Madison & the 80s) where it runs from $60-$75 depending upon which tasting you choose and the classes are available on certain times of the year that you have to reserve. I went there once last year, it lasted for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours and the chocolate was divine! If you want to purchase a box or their other confections, it's pricey as well. But in defense, it's absolutely divine French chocolate; it's stately, classy and chic.
Their url: http://www.lamaisonduchocolat.com/
I would certainly recommend Jacques Torres' chocolates by the month. Starting at $120 for 3 months. His chocolates are great and it's relatively affordable for what he makes.
If you want more info, the url: http://www.mrchocolate.com
The Institute of Culinary Education has the "Truffles, Truffles, Truffles" class where you create a variety of chocolate truffles. The only available class is on Tues. 7/25/06 at 6:00 PM-11:00 PM for $86. There are other classes offered; just look around that list.
I hope you'll find something useful out from this. Good luck on your search!