Archive for the ‘Chocolate Corner’ Category

Food, Fashion and Fun in Dubai: At The Address Downtown

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

In the second of this trio of blogs for The Huffington Post, I got to catch up with another magical chef, and admire (but also taste of course) his creation.

The Red Velvet Side of Life in Dubai

The Dubai Fountain and neighboring hotel, The Address Downtown
Don’t know about you but hearing the words “red velvet” always makes me think of those wondrous events where mere mortals are kept away from the celebrities by velvet ropes. In the United Arab Emirates, there is no lack of premieres or celebrities, as highlighted by recent sightings that ranged from Jackie Chan to Brad Pitt (plus Angelina), Dennis Quaid, Malala and the entire Star Trek Beyond cast. Things are only bound to get steamier once the Dubai International Film Festival kicks off in early December.

Yet when I asked three Dubai-based master chefs to draw inspiration from the fashion exhibited as part of the Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience and create their own gourmet creations, I never expected that this style and taste experiment would turn into a kind of metaphor for life. And I definitely did not anticipate that a red mesh dress by Singaporean designer Max.Tan would be turned into an edible study in deconstructing, and then re-assembling, the perfect red velvet cake.

I started out knowing full well that I would be awed by the wonderful ambiance of Downtown Dubai, now a must-visit tourist destination but also a gourmet and fashion mecca for any self-respecting jet-setting world traveler, and that the chefs’ creations would remind me why I love food — and those who prepare it with passion — so much. But what I didn’t expect was to find such distinct interpretations by three men who each represent the best the world has to offer. As chefs of course but also, most importantly, as human beings.

While seafood was conquered by chef Steve in part one of this series, dessert undeniably belonged to chef Abel Vieilleville, the Executive Pastry Chef for The Address Downtown. The wonderfully soft-spoken, Cannes native explained that when he went through the collections by the various designers, the red-mesh dress creation by Max.Tan, a design house based in Singapore, “inspired freedom in me.” And what a beautiful word that is, freedom. Chef Abel continued, “the design is really wide, the dress is made out of mesh, it is beautiful, and although like a structure that looks really fabricated, it’s really light.”

Chef Abel has worked in the food industry for the past 24 years, after studying in the South of France. His parents owned a restaurant for 26 years and so, chef Abel explained, “I was brought into the business at an early age, always focused on dessert.” His first move away from French kitchens was to England, where he worked with Michelin-star chefs, and after working with Chinese-French fusion cuisine in the UK, decided to move to China, which he called, “a fantastic experience.”


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Sometimes a Little is a Lot (of Chocolate)

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Honestly, my cravings for chocolate run nonstop during the day. But I don’t need a lot of it to appease my desire. Last week I discovered Trader Joe’s Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds, which are just small enough to possess none of the guilt, and chocolate-y enough to knock out all of the cravings. And they are pretty low cal too, for such a delicious treat.

So next time you feel that need for a chocolate pick-me-up try these. They’ll do the trick, guaranteed.

And, I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for some extra antioxidants in my life… In NYC, they cost $2.99, a bargain for such yumminess!

Image courtesy of Club Trader Joe’s

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It’s Puddin’ Time

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

The menu at Puddin’
I’ve got a brand new crush. He’s smooth, sweet and delicious and no, he’s not Ryan Gosling. OK, yes, I like him too, but this new love of mine is served in a cup. I’m talking about pudding from Puddin’ in NYC, in the East Village. DIVINE.

I discovered this new storefront of deliciousness on a wonderful outing with some new friends this past Friday. Everyone was raving about Puddin’, got me into a silly state (doesn’t take much of course) where I kept calling everyone “Puddin’” in my best Southern accent, which just ain’t that good. Anyway, pudding from Puddin’ is that good.

So what sets this freshly made nirvana of desserts apart from, say, Jello pudding? Well, for one, the dark chocolate is really dark, made from single source 70% chocolate from Icelandic confectioner Nói Síríus. The rice pudding is dusted with Vietnamese cinnamon and for their vanilla they use Madagascar beans. For those who may still be doubtin’, they offer toppings like Salted Caramel Sauce and Brownie Bits, as well as Coconut Lime Cake and good old fashioned whipped cream. Yeah, you get it now, don’t you?!

All puddings come in mini, regular and large, which can fit all pocketbooks as well as all diets. A mini is the kind of indulgence that will satisfy a sweet tooth just enough to leave you wanting for more. And leave you feeling light on your feet.

Puddin’ is located at 102 St. Marks Place (between First Ave & Ave A), in the East Village. Check out their website for more info, a full menu and directions.

Top image courtesy of Puddin’

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Bomboloni = Heaven in NYC!

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

My favorite treat as a child was, on my way to ballet class, stopping into Bar Maioli on Via Guicciardini in Florence and having a “bombolone”, a kind of ultra delicious cousin to the American doughnut. A bombolone, to a child, feels a lot like a little doughy pillow of heaven, filled with cream or apricot marmalade and dusted with crunchy white sugar on top.

Recently, I was watching a documentary, filmed by a favorite filmmaker, where he treated his crew to some Krapfen — the German version — near Rome, and it got my mouth salivating to the old tunes of sweets from my childhood.

Lucky for me, and you reading this now in the Big Apple, there is a spot for these delights in NYC and it’s called, suprise surprise, BOMBOLONI. They offer a wide variety of these little morsels of fun, with fillings running the gamut from Nutella, to Toasted Chocolate Marshmallow, all the way to Blood Orange and Passion Fruit. At $2 a pop, I think I can have as many as I wish… No diets allowed.

For more info, check out the BOMBOLONI website or visit them at 187 Columbus Avenue, bet. 68 & 69. I’m on my way.


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Kanwal’s Healthy Corner — Tollhouse Cookies

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

By Kanwal Ullah

Christmas is less than a week away and I hope you all finished your shopping and are preparing for a fun holiday evening. I love Christmas. I especially love Christmas in New York. It’s the one time of the year where everything seems to go together. The cold weather, hustle and bustle of crowds, the lights on 5th avenue, the Macy’s display and please, lets not forget about the tree at Rockefeller center! Yes, Christmas time in New York is where it all comes together!

One of my favorite things about this time of year is baking gifts for friends. I think there is no more personal gift you can give a loved one than a gift you’ve made yourself. There are a ton of ways to get creative, make your own baked goods and package them. Not only is this a personal touch, but it is also very economical.

Every year, for my friends I make a batch of homemade baked goods. This year I took the chocolate chip cookie route and kept it very simple. There’s no better tasting chocolate chip cookie than a Tollhouse cookie. Onto the Nestlé website I went and got the original recipe. I made a batch of these cookies and packaged them in a holiday tin ($1.50). Now, I used regular chocolate chips but you can certainly be more festive and use red and green M&Ms, although I do like he simplicity of plain chocolate chips. Baking your gifts for loved ones opens up an array of things that could be made: cookies, brownies, cup cakes, mini cakes, brittle, chocolate bark etc.

I hope you will take time to make a personal gift for a loved one this year! Please see below for the Tollhouse cookie recipe.


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts


PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

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Nanni Moretti’s We Have a Pope Is WAY More Than Just a Comedy

Thursday, December 1st, 2011


“I remember the shirts that said ‘Thank God I’m an atheist’. Funny. But I do not think so. I’m not a believer and I’m sorry.” Nanni Moretti, 2011

I watched Nanni Moretti’s latest film, We Have a Pope (Habemus Papam), at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival back in October. What a weird place, the Middle East, to watch a film about a reluctant Catholic leader who just cannot bring himself to accept the great responsibility laid on his shoulders, one would think… And yet, I now cannot imagine a better place to watch such an inspiring, strong, thought-provoking film delving deeply into the dogmas of blind faith and the acceptance of power by a true leader.

Unadulterated by the savvy smirks of my fellow Italians (had I watched the film in, say, Rome) and the inappropriate laughter of the typical American audiences, which would have grabbed onto Moretti’s more humorous takes and as a result, completely missed the depth of his message, my geographical location allowed me to be completely hypnotized by this deeply spiritual movie. Surrounded by a multinational audience swaying concurrently to each emotion dished out by Moretti and his cast, ADFF turned out to be the ideal setting for a most perfect film.

For some screenings, I find myself constantly scribbling newfound wisdoms in the notebook I keep on my lap. For We Have a Pope, I was so spellbound, from the first images of the cardinals walking up the incline of the Vatican chanting their sing-song ora pro nobis, to the last shot, which is guaranteed to surprise, I forgot to write a single word in my Moleskine. That’s because We Have a Pope is thoughtful, deep and insightful. A thoroughly mystical film by modern-day philosopher Moretti who masterfully creates a beautifully shot environment of closeups and true to life emotions. It is a film that still lives deeply in my heart, more than a month later…

Watch the trailer below and then read the ENTIRE PIECE on the Huffington Post UK.


Top image courtesy of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, used with permission

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Melt Chocolates, When When When!

Monday, November 14th, 2011

On a trip to London, I was in the mood for a little treat. Something I could prepare in my hotel room, using the simple hot water kettle they provided, without making a grand mess of it and myself. Well, one fine afternoon, I walked into Harrods Food Hall, which BTW is like heaven on earth, only more fragrant and delicious, and after battling the scores of tourists and window shoppers there (incredible, some don’t buy as single thing but ogle like it’s going out of style) I found it!

What I found is a brand of chocolate, Melt, that is simply divine and makes these lovely “lollipop” looking things one dips in hot milk to create the most incredibly delicious hot chocolate this side of… Well, you get the drift. So I went back to Harrods to get more and now that I’ve run out, I’m dying to find a reason to go back across the pond… Anyone?

Anyway, jokes aside, if you do figure out that they sell this cocoa nectar of the gods here in the US, do let me know. Meanwhile, I’ll keep surfing the Melt website, which is visually delicious as well.

Image courtesy of Melt

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Addicted to… Dates!

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Alright, so I’ve found a new addiction to add to my many ones which cannot be satisfied in NYC. It’s from Saudi Arabia and I can only find my new lust in the malls of Dubai and Abu Dhabi or on Bond Street in London… Now, before you go thinking that I’m talking about a Sheikh to marry, I’m actually speaking dates. Nope, not the human kind, which come with way too many expectations. Rather, the fruity, chocolate kind, care of Bateel, a Saudi company, which makes date chocolates to die for! If I’m raising your expectations on this one, trust me, they are worth all that and more.

The luxurious tastes of dates and chocolate go perfectly together. Yet, even with the large Middle Eastern population inhabiting the US, Ramadan now upon us, no one makes a decent chocolate-covered date here. Or even sells one! There are one or two date farms in California that offer a seasonal selection of milk chocolate dates, but they’re hardly the gourmet delight of Bateel.

If you can think crystallized ginger bits nestled in a gooey date, covered in milk chocolate, or chopped candied orange peel blended with date pieces, all covered in dark single origin chocolate, then you have the right idea. Lets see if we can start a “Date Revolution” and bring the deliciousness of Bateel to our shores. I’m writing to their people right after I post this. I suggest you do the same. Barneys and Bergorf need a little sweetness these days.

Interestingly, Bateel in Arabic refers to the young branch of the date palm, which is used to create a new tree. I say they use one of those branches to import this delight to the US. So sing it with me: “All we are saying… Is give dates a chance!”

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Confessions of a (New) Red Mango Addict

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Being Italian — and a Florentine, food loving woman to boot — I’m big on gelato, the Italian version of ice cream which has converted many a visitor to our way of doing frozen dessert. But on an unusually balmy NYC evening last week, I found a new passion: Red Mango frozen yogurt.

Last Thursday, when I met our resident food blogger Kanwal in Koreatown — as the stretch of 32nd Street that runs from Broadway to Fifth Avenue is known to international foodies and Korean nationals looking for a taste of home away from home alike — I did not know our little dinner meeting would change the way I look at chocolate desserts. But one taste of the Red Mango limited edition Dark Chocolate frozen yogurt, with some chocolate candy bar crumbles and chocolate fudge sauce to top it off, and I was officially converted to a Red Mango junkie. Now, even my gourmet Italian gelato sits in the freezer, unused, unloved and forsaken…

But the secret to the Red Mango craze that is taking over the land lies not only in their super inexpensive price — a large cup with all the fixings ran us less than $2.00! — their cool locations and their even cooler customers; the real proof is actually in the pudding. Red Mango frozen yogurt is 100% all natural, has natural probiotics, is sweetened with Stevia and their fruit toppings are always fresh, never frozen. And don’t even get me started on the Mochi topping…

So, while we wait for Kanwal’s Healthy Corner to be updated with a delicious review of our journey through Koreatown, grab yourselves a nice cup of Red Mango and, as their motto goes, “Treat Yourself Well”!

Images courtesy of Red Mango®

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Kanwal’s Healthy Corner: Chocolate Cookies, in the Raw

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

By Kanwal Ullah

I do not write many raw food recipes but lately I’ve been experimenting a lot with raw snacks. Especially since I love my Larabars so much, I thought it would probably be much cheaper to start making my own. I’m very close to perfecting a couple of the snack bars, but during this time I also came up with a few of my own concoctions. My recipe below is my raw version of chocolate cookies. Notice there is no added sugar in this recipe. The cookies are sweetened with the banana and dates. Enjoy my recipe below for Chocolate Cookies. These are pretty healthy and make for a great snack!


  • 1 1/2c of unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 banana cut in half
  • 1/4c of cocoa powder or raw carob powder
  • Teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 4 dates, sliced


Place all ingredients in a food processor and process for a minute. Once combined, take ‘dough’ and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Take the chilled dough and with two tablespoons worth form into a ball and then lightly pat to shape a round cookie. Place on a plate and repeat with the remainder of the dough.

Tip: make a batch of these cookies and freeze them up for a quick treat anytime!

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