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Thursday, November 29, 2012

I Can't Believe I Never Made This Before

How was everyone's Thanksgiving?  Hope you all had too much to eat in the best way possible, surrounded by people you love.

My own Thanksgiving was nice, but low key.  I split cooking duties with Mom.  Even if I were willing to open my home up to 17 people again, I don't have the time off anymore to really spend a few days cooking.  I took care of the turkey, stuffing, gravy, homemade biscuits, and chocolate pie.  Mom did the other side dishes and a mushroom bisque for an appetizer.

We initially were going to have 14 people for dinner and I ordered an appropriately sized turkey.  Well, there were some cancellations.  Only 7 people ended up eating my turkey (there were 9 people at dinner, but two were vegetarians).  This photo shows half the turkey carved.  I ended up taking nearly the entire other half of the turkey home.

I made my cornbread, apple, and sausage stuffing, but I used too much bread and not enough flavorings, so it came out a bit bland and dry.  Hardly anyone ate that either.  At least we had plenty of gravy to pour over it.  I doubled the make-ahead turkey gravy recipe from Noble Pig.  There was also roasted root vegetables (new potatoes, carrots, parsnips), cranberry sauce, sweet potato pudding, corn pudding, and brussels sprouts. 
So what pie reigns supreme?  Here is the pumpkin pie.
Here is what was left of my chocolate pie.  No contest.
So now it's time to move on from Thanksgiving food.  I was eating turkey and stuffing leftovers for dinner until Monday night (not to mention stuffing nests are pretty good with eggs for breakfast).  I wanted something other than poultry.  I was looking for some good, old-fashioned BEEF.
I was dreaming of beef for two days.  What kind of beef did I want?  Should I make a nice beef roast?  How about a chipotle burger?  Maybe I should just get a good steak.  Decisions, decisions...

I had an inspiration.  How about a London Broil?  I had never made London Broil in my life ever.  Wasn't it time to make such a simple classic?

It's weird because I remember eating a lot of London Broil as a kid.  It's quick and easy to cook and it's an inexpensive cut, so it was easy for a single mother to feed two beef-loving kids with it.  It also grills well.  I can remember a few meals of London Broil on the grill from my childhood and teen years. 

I guess the main reason I never made it was that top rounds, although inexpensive, are huge, and that's a lot to eat myself when I know my husband won't eat it.

I decided to subject myself to a few days of leftovers (cheap lunch - a plus when you are in NYC and not wanting to pay Midtown prices for food) and make a London Broil this week.

I improvised a marinade with an Asian flair, marinated it overnight, and then broiled it 7 minutes per side.  I gave it a crusting of salt and pepper before it went into the oven.

I didn't let it rest long enough (it was late and my husband was getting hungry - I made fish for him that night, but he was kind enough to wait for me to eat it and I didn't want him to wait any longer) so it was a little dry, but it was perfectly cooked, and my marinade was perfect. 

I made out-of-season Peruvian asparagus to go with it.  Yes, I know that's very politically incorrect of me.


I am sure everyone reading this has his or her own recipe for a London Broil marinade, but since this is my first time making it, I am going to share my recipe anyway for posterity.

Short (dis)Order Cook's London Broil

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds top round steak, about 1-2 inches thick
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbl grated fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbl molasses
  • Few drops sriracha
  • Salt and pepper
Mix together all ingredients except for beef, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Place meat in marinade and allow to marinate several hours or overnight.  Remove steak from marinade and discard marinade.

Line a broiler pan with foil.  Heat broiler.  Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper on both side.  Broil 8 minutes on one side and 7 minutes on the other.

Let rest several minutes.  Slice against the grain and serve.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Eating in a Winter Wonderland

Well, it's not really winter.  It's November.  It's also not much of a wonderland.

Still, it's hard not to think cheezy thoughts like "winter wonderland" when Bryant Park has a skating rink in the middle of the green and is filled with kiosks of "holiday shops" and they just set up a Christmas tree that is awaiting lights.

Bryant Park is where I usually like to eat my lunch on work days.  I usually pick up a salad from one of NYC's many overpriced salad bars and enjoy the hour people-watching, reading, and avoiding lunch theft by pigeons.

I like to do my Christmas shopping as early as possible.  I know that's a contradiction since I am one of those people who hates it when the season is rushed and homes and businesses start decorating and playing Christmas music as soon as Halloween is over.  It's a quirk of mine.  Once I feel ready to start enjoying the Christmas season, I like to do it stress-free.  I don't want to be thinking of how many gifts I still have to buy when I'm trying to enjoy a holiday party or admiring a light display or listening to a choir sing.  I spend all of the fall season making lists and buying gifts little by little so that by the time November is over, I'm finished.

When Bryant Park announced they would be having "holiday shops" in the beginning of November I was pretty excited.  I knew there would be booths full of useless tstchokes, but there would likely be some good buys among the junk.  It was as good a place as any to look for potential Christmas gifts before the real Christmas rush started.  Anyway, it might be junk, but it's local junk and it's always good to support small business.

Among the stores selling the endless supply of jewelry, knit hats and scarves, and presumably artsy photos of NYC, I noticed there were several specialty food kiosks.  They seemed more interesting than the overpriced salads I had been eating.  It seemed worth it to try one or two.  If nothing else I could save more time eating and buying my lunch in the park, rather than buying it elsewhere and taking it to the park.

I was halfway through eating an arepa one day when I decided I should throw dietary caution to the wind and eat at every food kiosk in the park and then blog about it.  My blog could serve as either a recommendation or a warning to tourists and B&Ts commuters alike.  It would also just be a fun blogging project. 

So with no further ado, here is my rundown of what happened to me while eating  lunch at the holiday shops in Bryant Park.

Day 1 - On my first day out I had already eaten my salad lunch and decided to have dessert in one of the kiosks.  I went to Dough, a doughnut stand.  I love doughnuts even though I'm constantly being told that they are the most unhealthful thing one can possibly eat.  The giant doughnuts looked very appealing.  I chose a raised doughnut with a chocolate and raspberry icing.
 
The main thing the doughnut had going for it was size.  Good doughnuts should taste rich and buttery.  I'll give the doughnut credit for being nice and fluffy and soft.  It just didn't "wow" me with the taste.  If I closed my eyes I don't think I would have noticed the difference from one from Dunkin Donuts.  It was a slightly disappointing introduction to the Holiday Shops.

Day 2 - Let's back up to that bit about Arepas from before. 

I'm not sure I ever ate an arepa before.  I thought I knew what to expect.  Arepas are corn cakes filled with mozarella.  The Top Arepa stand tops your arepa with a variety of toppings such as guacamole, goat cheese pesto, or even fruit and whipped cream.  I chose one topped with an egg and mushrooms.

 

I told you I was halfway through eating it when I decided to write a blog about the Bryant Park holiday food kiosks, so you get a half-eaten arepa photo.



I was surprised at how sweet the arepa was.  I was expecting something more savory.  This was like eating a grilled cheese sandwich made with cornbread.  It was also delicious.  I loved the sweet cake with the gooey cheese and the savory topping.  My early impressions of Bryant Park food were improving.

I moved on to a Le Churreria booth for dessert.  When I ordered my churros I realized they were not freshly made.  They were sitting on the counter and then the guy behind the counter warmed them up in a toaster oven.  I hoped they wouldn't taste overdone and dried out.

 

There were no issues with my churros.  They were warm, crispy, and delciously coated with cinnamon and sugar.  They were a better dessert than the doughnut.  Then again, I had higher expectations for the doughnut.

Day 3 - Who me, eat vegetarian?  I did say I would eat at every booth, and that meant Vegetarian Oasis. 

I would describe this as fusion vegetarian cuisine.  Most of what they served came in burrito wraps, but the fillings were a mix of traditional burrito fillings and cuisines of other cultures.  For example they had "Samosaritos" which were filled with potatoes and curried chickpeas. 

I had a "Falafelrito" which was falafel balls with all of the traditional burrito fillings of cheese, rice, and salsa.  They fried the falafel fresh at the stand.  I watched the guy behind the counter do it.

It was tasty, but almost overwhelming.  The burrito was huge and I was definitely full.

Despite being full, I wanted to warm up on a cool day with some hot chocolate. I had enough options for that in the park.  Along with the a few cocoa-vending holiday Kiosks, 'Whichcraft (Tom Colicchio's chain of sandwich shops) has permanent booths in Bryant Park and one of them is a hot chocolate stand.  I decided to try my hot chocolate from there.


The hot chocolate was thick and rich.  It was almost like drinking warm chocolate pudding. Unfortunately, it had been sitting around too long and the milk had been scalded.  I had little scalded milk curds in my hot chocolate.

Day 4- There is nothing like soup on a cold November day.  You can get plenty of that at Two Tablespoons, another hippie-crunchy vegetarian joint (and I mean that in the nicest way possible).  They serve mostly vegan soups and stews and vegan desserts.
 Their sweet potato-chipotle soup sounded particularly good.  I ordered a cup of that.

 

This was disappointing.  It was more like vegetarian chili with a few chunks of sweet potato. It was a bit spicy, but it didn't taste like chipotle to me.  Chipotle is distinctively smoky, which this soup was not.  I tasted more bean and tomato than anything else.  That was too bad.  I make a Thai-style, vegan sweet potato soup that is smooth, full of sweet potato flavor, and has quite a kick.

Rather than a sweet dessert I went for a pretzel at Sweet and Savory. This booth serves a variety of hot pretzel flavors.  I thought the cheddar jalapeno looked particularly good, although I was tempted by the sample of the "Nutella Toastie" they offered me.

 

This pretzel was soft and buttery.  The only issue I had with it was that I like a flavored pretzel to have actual flavor.  The cheddar jalapeno was just sprinkled over the outside and I really didn't taste it.  I think it might have been better if the cheese were inside the pretzel.  Another option would have been to have a dipping sauce like they do at Auntie Anne's.  (Let me clarify these were definitely better pretzels than Auntie Anne's and I love Auntie Anne's.)  I would definitely come back here for a plain pretzel or a Nutella toastie.



Day 5 - I love crepes.  Seeing the Crepe Cafe in the park made me think of Paris where crepe stands are as ubiquitous as the the halal carts in New York.  I was very excited to try this place.

The stand is the biggest food stand in the whole park.  While crepes are their main draw, they also have bubble tea and Asian noodle soups.  It was almost as if an Asian restaurant decided to branch out into a completely different continent just for the fun of it.

They didn't have a huge variety of cheeses for their crepes.  Mozzarella was the only cheese option.  They did have a wide variety of meats and vegetables.  I ordered a chicken, mozzarella, and mushroom.

The crepe itself was fine.  The filling wasn't too good.  The chicken was not very high quality.  It had that weird processed flavor you get from cheap cold cuts.  The cheese was also not melted enough.  This definitely did not transport me to Paris. 

I decided to move on to a specialty of another European country for dessert at Wafels and Dinges.  This booth had homemade waffles with "dinges" which is the Belgian equivalent word for "watchamacalit".  In other words, a vast assortment of toppings.  This was the first time I had ever heard of Belgian "lige" waffles, which they claim is Belgium's best-kept secret. I watched them make the waffles and these were definitely the yeast-risen, doughy kind rather than the batter-based kind you make yourself at the breakfast buffet in major hotel chains.

Wafels and Dinges when not in the park, is a very popular food truck that was featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay

One topping on your waffle is free.  Two is $1.  Three or more is $2.  I decided to go all out and have three toppings.  I went for spekoolus spread, whipped cream, and strawberries. They are very into their spekoolus spread.  So many of my blogging friends rave about cookie butter/Biscoff spread, so I decided this was the perfect time to try it. 


The waffle itself was wonderful.  I could have eaten it just with butter and jam for breakfast and been happy.  It had a perfect crispy-on-the-outside-soft-and-fluffy-on-the-inside consistency.  I wasn't in love with the spekoolus spread.  I don't know what I was expecting.  It reminded me a phase I went through in high school where I would eat peanut butter spread on graham crackers for breakfast every morning.  That's what it felt like in my mouth - cinnamon peanut butter.  I wished I had gone for the Nutella.  Also, the whipped cream came from a can.  I don't know why I expected homemade, and I don't mind canned whipped cream, but homemade would have been a nice touch.

Day 6 -Mmm...Enfes.  Enfes is "delicious" in Turkish.  They serve various Turkish pastries and wraps.  I love the food of this region, so I was excited for this one.  Of course I was learning to keep my expectations low by this point.

I chose a gozleme, which is a wrap made from flatbread.  It was a tough decision as I was tempted by one or two of the pastries filled with chicken or spinach and goat cheese.  I had mine with chicken, mushrooms and herbs.

This was really delicious.  The chicken was decent quality and everything was well-seasoned.  This was a flavorful and filling lunch.

I moved on to Macarons and Cookies by Woops for dessert.

The macaron assortment was beautiful and very tempting.  I just couldn't justify $2.75 for a little cookie.  I know they take a lot of work to make, but I still wanted more bang for my buck.  I went for one of the giant double-chocolate cookies instead.  The woman behind the counter warmed one up for me.


Am I getting too picky?  I thought this cookie was a little flat tasting.  It was soft with a beautiful cakey consistency and was certainly chocolately, but it lacked something.  Maybe it just needed another pinch of salt or extra splash of vanilla.  Maybe a spoonful of coffee granules would have done it.  I just felt the flavor could be richer.

Day 7 - It took a while for me to get excited about Strudels and Pies by Hans.  It seemed the booth had mostly mini apple pies (which I can get anywhere) and mini pumpkin pies (yuck).  I do like strudel though and figured I would get around to trying it.  Then one day I noticed that they sell more than just mini pie and apple strudel.  They serve spiced wine (non-alcoholic), homemade soup, and savory strudel.  A savory strudel would be a perfect, indulgent lunch.
Hans offered a filet mignon and mushroom option and a chicken vegetable option along with hot dogs and pigs in blankets wrapped in strudel pastry.  The chicken and beef studels both came with salad.  Both options sounded delicious, but I went with chicken vegetable since I wasn't sure how good the filet would be sitting around a kiosk all day and behind reheated.

I started my meal with great anticipation.

Unfortunately, I learned a painful lesson that day. When you order something filled with "vegetables", it's a good idea to inquire what kind of vegetables.  I cut open my strudel to discover it was filled with peas.  It had so many peas in it that once I had made the painstaking effort to pick them all out, I didn't have much else left. 

At least the pastry was good.  The salad was good too.  If I had had the money, I would have gone back for the filet, or at least a hot dog strudel or a half dozen pigs in blankets.

I consoled myself with yet another sampling of the many hot chocolate options in the park.  This time I went to Max Brenner chocolates.  I had been in the kiosk a couple of times since the holiday shops opened and sampled some of the chocolates and thought they were really good.  I had high hopes for the hot chocolate, which they described as Italian Style made from homemade vanilla cream and ganache.

The drink was rich and thick, which was a plus, but it was painfully, tooth-achingly sweet.  It had a weird flavor to it as well.  It was almost a caramel taste, or maybe it was just vanilla overdose. It would have been fine in moderation, but that flavor on top of all of that sugar was just too much. 

I was still determined to try one of their cookies though and I knew I'd be buying a box or two of candies before Christmas season ended.

Day 8 - Today's lunch was Daisy's Grits.  I don't know why my northern family loves grits so much, but grits are a huge part of many holidays in my family.   We like them baked with lots of cheese and garlic.  I have a particular fondness for Paula Deen's cheese grits recipe.  I was really looking forward to my grits lunch. 

There were several meat-based grits, several cheese-based grits, and a few sweet grits.  I went with chorizo grits and asked them to add some cheddar to it.  All grits are additionally topped with pecorino, scallions, some herbs and spices, and bacon. 

I had to really stir the cheese and the toppings into the grits because they were really bland.  I think the base grits needed both more salt and more butter (of course this is from someone who piles both on when eating plain, non-cheese grits).  I just couldn't get enough flavor into them.  The chorizo was kind of lackluster too.  I think chorizo should be spicier.  I guess the grits vendor was erring on the side of caution and making sure his sausage wasn't too spicy.  Not bad, but not as mind-blowing as I had hoped.

I took a chance back at the crepe booth for dessert.  Even though I was kicking myself for not having Nutella on my waffle previously, I didn't get the Nutella crepe.  I went for dulce de leche, coconut and banana.  It tasted like banana mostly.  They overpowered the dulce de leche.  As for the coconut, I almost never tasted it.  This was not worth the nearly $10 I paid for it.

Day 9 - I regressed to my childhood today with Jammin Nut.

This is what foodieism has come to. The humblest of sandwiches, the PBJ, has been elevated to gourmet status.  At this booth they offer several types of jam along with a few different types of nut butters.  I was very serious about it and tasted them all before making a decision about what I wanted on my sandwich (they do have a set selection of specialty combinations for those who lack PBJ creativity).  I was in love with the raspberry, pear, and peach jams.  I eliminated the raspberry because that's one you can get anywhere.  I decided on peach jam with almond butter on 7-grain bread.

Grilling a PBJ sounds like a good idea, but it's not necessary.  I don't think the grilled flavor added anything to the sandwich. I also would have liked a bit more jam.  The bread and almond butter overwhelmed that unique flavor of the peaches that caused me to choose that jam in the first place.

Note what I had on the side. I went to Big Apple Cider for a nice cup of hot cider with cinnamon sticks.  A few of the food kiosks offered hot cider, but this vendor specialized in it, so I thought it would be better than the others.  It was good.  I love hot cider, but this one wasn't terribly special.  There are some really remarkable ciders sold at Hudson Valley farmer's markets and I don't think they used any of them at Big Apple Cider.
 


Day 10 - Last day before Thanksgiving break and my last outing.  I had tried every booth but the kettle corn and the other chocolate trufffle booth (whose hot chocolate I do intend to sample at some point).  I decided to give the crepe booth one more try.  Am I crazy?  I wasn't going to have their crepes.  The place seemed to be more about Asian food than crepes, so I would try that.

I ordered pork dumpling noodle soup.  Before they added the (somewhat bland) broth to my big cup, they added a generous portion of noodles, fresh vegetables, and a pile of dumplings.  The noodles weren't mushy and the dumplings were very tasty.  The folks who run crepe cafe should stick to what they are good at.  Also, I noticed here large succulent chicken breasts being cooked fresh.  They are using much better chicken on this side of the stand than they are on the crepe side.
 
I returned to Max Brenner for dessert.  I wanted to try their big chocolate chip cookies. 

It was served warm, but it was perhaps a bit two warm at the edges had become crunchier than I normally like my cookies.  The inside was still soft though and the chips were all nice and gooey and melty.

I was still disappointed in the flavor.  It wasn't rich enough.  It lacked something. 

I started wondering why I had become so picky about my cookies lately.  Then it dawned on me. These days whenever I make chocolate chip cookies, I use Emily's recipe with the browned butter. The flavor difference really is noticeable when you brown the butter before using it in your cookie recipe and I have become so used to it that I have come to expect it.  I need to readjust my taste buds or I may never enjoy a chocolate chip cookie again!

I will return to Bryant Park for a snack or a gift now and then, but the weather is becoming too cold to eat lunch outside in the park these days.  I have eaten at every lunch kiosk, so my park adventure has come to an end.

The Holiday Shops are open until January 6, so if you are in the city or visiting any time before then, check out these food shops yourself and see what you think of them.

Recommended lunch: Top Arepa, Vegetarian Oasis, Mmm...Enfes
Recommended dessert/Snack: Wafels and Dinges, Sweet & Savory

Thursday, November 15, 2012

About That Extra Bottle of Wine...

In my last post I told you how I ended up with two bottles of pinor noir at the Chocolate World Expo.  I didn't want two pinot noirs.  I wanted one pinot noir and one Riesling.  I bought the wine for Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving dinner will be small this year.  I doubt my family will go through two bottles of pinot noir in one meal.  Since my husband doesn't generally drink red wine, I wasn't about to drink the extra bottle all by myself.  What to do with it?

The answer is, "Cook with it!" of course.  Pinot noir is fruity and light-bodied, but also can pack quite a flavor punch.  I often drink it with duck.  I decided to try it with something else this time.  Since pork is sweet and rich, I thought pinot noir would go perfectly.

I made my sauce very simple with the wine as the main flavor.  Unlike many dishes I have been featuring here over the past few months, there was nothing sweet about it.  I wanted the sauce to be purely savory. 

I started with lots of minced sauteed shallots.  I added a cup of the wine and let the pork chops simmer in it.  I removed the chops, added some butter and then some thyme and parsley.  I thought the sauce could handle some strong herbs.

I served it along with spinach sauteed with mushrooms and garlic.  I didn't add any garlic to the pinot noir sauce because of the garlic I used in the spinach.

Flavors here were simple and tasty.  Just part of the lesson I've learned as a cook that you don't need an ingredient overload to make a delicious dish.  I might make it again before the pinot noir runs out.

Or I just might drink the rest.

Pinot Noir Pork Chops

Ingredients
  • 2-3 pounds thick-cut pork chops
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 shallots, minced
  • 1 cup pinot noir
  • 1 Tbl chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 2 Tbl butter
Sprinkle chops on both sides with salt and pepper.  In a large pan over medium heat, brown chops well on both sides, about 5 minutes per side.  Remove from pan and keep warm.

Cook shallots in the pan until soft and fragrant.  Add wine to the pan and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Reduce to simmer and return chops to the pan.  Cook an additional 15-20 minutes (depending on thickness).  Remove from pan.  Add butter, sage, and thyme to the sauce.  Cook another minute and serve over chops.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Morning in Paradise

For years I have wanted to attend the Chocolate World Expo.  Unfortunately, Sundays are hard to spare for activities like this.  My horses live too far away for me to attend the expo and still see them.  I'm afraid if I choose between my horses and chocolate, then chocolate, believe it or not, is going to lose. 

If there are any advantages to Hurricane Sandy is that it kind of forced me to stay home this weekend.  I am very lucky that my power never went out.  Roads are pretty clear in my neighborhood (and where they aren't clear, it's easy to get around).  There were no floods in our garage or trees on our building. 

The only problem is gas.  With mile-long lines and day-long waits to fill up at the few gas stations that actually have gas in their pumps, I am trying to drive as little as possible.  I am hoping to save the tankful I had in the car before the storm.  (Thank goodness I no longer have to drive to work.)  This weekend a short drive to White Plains was far easier on my gas tank than a 70-mile drive to New Jersey.  I miss my horses terribly, but chocolate is a nice consolation.  Since Mom was as stranded as I was, she opted to join me.

I got there the minute the door opened.  I didn't take any pictures.  I suppose I should have, but I didn't know what the policies were about photography in the exhibition hall. 

 Mom and I decided our strategy would be to walk through all exhibits and then return to the ones we wanted to investigate further or make purchases from. 

I had eaten a light breakfast and hit the gym prior to the expo in preparation for the onslaught of samples.  One of my first stops was The Melting Pot restaurant.  They were selling $3 plates of fruit and cake with a cup of chocolate dipping sauce.  All proceeds would go to St. Jude's.  They were also selling $20 gift certificates to the restaurant itself for $10 with all proceeds going to St. Judes.  I bought the fruit plate.  I would love a cheap meal at The Melting Pot, but SPP has no interest in fondue.  He thinks it's pretty gross. I enjoyed my plate and moved on. 

I hit a stand called Fretzels.  These were pretzels coated in chocolate and just about every other kind of candy.  I am a sweet-salty nut.  Chocolate pretzels are right up my alley.  I was tempted to buy some right then and there, but decided to budget my appetite and my money.  As it turned out, I decided not to go back.

Another sweet-salty treat was at Bacon Bites, which sold chocolate-covered bacon.  I love sweet-salty.  I love chocolate.  I love bacon.  I can't get into bacon chocolate.  I just don't think they work together.  Bacon is good covered in syrup or brown sugar, but it's not so great in chocolate.  They were selling these adorable stuffed pigs at the booth though, with ears you could make wiggle.  A guy dressed in a cuddly pig costume walked around holding one of the stuffed pigs.  My mother kept saying, "These pigs are too cute to be made into bacon."

I visited the exhibit for the Rose Randolph Cookie Company.  I was almost on autopilot. I just grabbed a brownie bite and ate it.  The intense chocolate flavor hit me like a ton of chocolate bricks.  I told my mother (who was abstaining from samples because she hadn't eaten such a light breakfast), "This is the best brownie I have ever eaten."  I don't even think I was exaggerating.  I did go back later and purchase a container of brownies and let the two lovely ladies manning the booth how good I thought they were.  They had several other kinds of cookies on display for samples and purchase and they all sounded wonderful, but I decided not to overload my brain and my taste buds and stuck with just buying the brownies. 

I passed by a booth boasting of its rum cakes.  I wanted to try one, but ended up with a sample of a macaroon instead.  It was one of the better macaroons in this world.  Sometimes they tend to be just too-sweet blobs of coconut.  This one was rich and buttery.  I thought rum cakes would make a nice gift for someone, but I'm not sure the cakes would keep until Christmas and I have no immediate gift occasions coming up.

There were a few familiar faces.  One exhibitor was Auntie El's.  They are a farm market and bakery in Sloatsburg, NY and I often pass through that area on weekends and shop at Auntie El's.  I don't really think of them as a chocolate store though.  They have all sorts of baked goods.  Kevin is a HUGE fan of their pies (says they're the best next to mine) so I did buy him a personal apple crumb pie there.  Another exhibitor was Aigner Chocolates in Forest Hills, NY, where my mother-in-law resides.  One of our close family friends works for Aigner.  They have gorgeous, decorative, European-style bonbons and truffles.  They had some very pretty ones for Thanksgiving.  We opted not to buy any that day considering our friend will be coming over for Thanksgiving and will likely have some of those chocolates in tow. 

A few faces were a bit too familiar.  Pika's Farm Table and Dutch Desserts show up every week at my local farmer's markets.  I am always tempted by the rich chocolate tarts and pecan tarts of the latter, but I figured I can buy them any time.  Screme Espresso and Gelato Bar is right in the neighborhood of my office.  I had no real need to spend time at these booths.  There was even a Dove chocolate booth.  I can get Dove chocolate anywhere (although I was intrigued by the chocolate martini mixes they were selling).

There were plenty of savory options for those who needed a balance against the chocolate.  There were savory tarts and quiches abound.  Had I stayed long enough for lunch, I might have made some purchases of that type.  There were also pickles and dips and breads.

The expo also encouraged more than one vice.  Wineries and breweries also showed off their wares.  Although I am often in the neighborhood of Warwick Valley winery, I had never visited it before.  I didn't sample their ciders or wines, but I did try their cordials.  I brought home a nice blackcurrant cordial that will taste wonderful in glass of Proseco.  I also tried Americana Winery for the first time.  I like their wines, but ended up a little irritated with them.  Mom and I were looking for some good Thanksgiving wines.  I learned from Noble Pig that the best wines for Thanksgiving are Pinot Noir and Reisling.  Americana had a delicious semi-dry Reisling and a very interesting Pinot Noir.  I thought I had purchased a bottle of each, but when I came home, I discovered they had sold me two bottles of the Pinot. 

The expo had many many more offerings from gluten-free stuff (should have really spent more time at this booth) to vegan (chocolate wasn't that good) to weird health food products (better than the vegan, but not nearly as good as the "bad" chocolate).  It really became overwhelming.  I saw so many beautiful chocolates and tasted so many delicious chocolates.  One would think I'd have come home with my weight in chocolate.  After a while, you do sort of experience a chocolate overload.  You can't buy it all and you can't eat it all.  It becomes rather hard to make a decision.  Eventually indecision becomes the norm.  Do I like it enough to buy it?  Will I eat it or give it away?  Do I need to buy all of this and shove more calories down my gullet?  Thanksgiving is coming and some of the weight I lost has crept back on (I went from having lost 15 pounds to having lost 11-12).  If I can't make up my mind about what I want, I tend to reject all options.

When I came home and Kevin saw my purchases, he commented that I had purchased very little actual chocolate.  I had a box of brownies, a mini apple pie, and bottles of booze. 

It was a fun experience and I think it was worth seeing once.  Would I go again?  Possibly.  Maybe the exhibitors I bypassed due to overload were as good as, or better, than the ones I paid attention to. Maybe next year I'll try them.  It could be worth it to stay longer and enjoy some lunchtime savories.  I might buy more chocolate the next time. 

The world will not end if I miss it next year though.