Monday, February 15, 2010

Day 14 - Love Potion

Day 13 was Milk Chocolate, and I had just had a Starbucks hot chocolate the night before, so I decided to skip another day at City Bakery.

Love Potion Hot Chocolate was probably the most disappointing flavor so far. It had so much potential; Valentine's Day, the mystical sound of "love potion," the association with Love Potion No. 9:

But actually it was just the regular hot chocolate with a bit of hot fudge poured on top in a shape like a tic tac toe box. It was pretty for about 5 seconds, and by the time I got to a seat to take a picture, the fudge had sunk to the bottom and it was gone. It tasted pretty good at first, but nothing special, and when I got to the bottom of the cup, there was this syrupy, sickly sweet layer of chocolate just lying there, waiting for me. I feared for my teeth. I threw it away and went to Daffy's.

The next flavor: Vietnamese Hot Chocolate! I'm super excited for this one, and the upcoming week has some great-looking flavors -- Hi Ho Pistachio and Creamy Stout!

Day 12 - Bourbon

I took a snow day on Thursday and skipped Tropical Hot Chocolate. Wednesday night was just so miserable, I had to do it!

When I think of the South, drinking seems a pretty fair part of the culture. We created Jack Daniels and mint juleps. One of the tastiest drinks I've had, hailing from SC, is sweet tea with Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka. And bourbon is actually a kind of whiskey named for the county in Kentucky that it was originally made in. Even the US government knows what sort of legacy we have on our hands, and bourbon was declared a "distinctive product of the United States" in 1964. The Federal Standards of Identity says that for an alcohol to be considered 'bourbon,' it has to meet these requirements:

  • Bourbon must be made of a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn.[1]
  • Bourbon must be distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume).
  • Bourbon must contain no caramel coloring (E-150)
  • Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak aging barrels[1]
  • Bourbon may not be entered into the barrel at higher than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume).
  • Bourbon, like other whiskeys, may not be bottled at less than 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume.)
  • Bourbon which meets the above requirements and has been aged for a minimum of two years, may (but is not required to) be called Straight Bourbon.[2]
  • Bourbon aged for a period less than four years must be labeled with the duration of its aging.
  • If an age is stated on the label, it must be the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle.

So how did City Bakery's Bourbon Hot Chocolate hold up?

It didn't really have much bourbon flavor per se, but when I took a larger gulp of it, I could feel a slight burning sensation in my sinuses like I just took a particularly harsh shot. It was kind of nice on a cold winter day! There was a slight aftertaste of bourbon as well, but nothing as clear as the Moulin Rouge flavor.

Stay tuned for: Love Potion!

Day 10 - Moulin Rouge

Jealousy.... will drive you... MAAAAAAAAAD!!!!!

I didn't know what to expect from Moulin Rouge, but this one was my favorite to try so far! I don't think I'd like to drink a whole cup of it, but I loved tasting it because the flavor was so bright and loud, unlike the subtlety of the others (ahem, Vanilla, I'm looking at you). I drank most of the shot trying to figure out what the flavors were. It was fairly easy to guess, but I was off on one major ingredient. My guess was lemon, coffee, and maybe raspberry, except the raspberry flavor wasn't quite right. It was like raspberry without the berry. Like all the brightness of rasp without the fruity grounding of berry.

I finished half and then saved the second half to try after getting a full explanation of the flavors, and I'm glad I did! They said Moulin Rouge is a combination of lemon, espresso, and... pomegranate! I've never really known pomegranate to have such a strong flavor, and I never would have guessed it in the chocolate, but it was good! Again, I wouldn't drink a whole cup of this flavor, but it's for the same reasons it was so fun to taste. The flavor did not hide itself at all. I couldn't smell it, but as soon as I tasted even the smallest bit, the pom and lemon were jumping out at me. The espresso flavor held them down a little and made them meld better with the chocolate than the previous day's Lemon flavor.

All in all, it's not something I would order again, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! And let me point out that I braved this to get it:

Next up: Bourbon!

Day 9 - Earl Grey Tea

Well, this day was sort of a disappointment. I was most excited for the Earl Grey Tea flavor, and I even practiced for it by switching my morning's English Breakfast for Earl Grey. I did research and found out that Earl Grey Tea is basically just black tea with a bit of citrus flavor, usually from bergamot. It was actually often of lower quality than other teas; the citrus was probably combined with the tea to mask the flavor of the below-standard tea leaves. Now it's just another flavor, and in the grocery store it's probably all the same anyway. Only an expert like Jean Luc Picard would know the difference.

So when I got to City Bakery and found out that Earl Grey Tea had been sold out and only Lemon was left, I was intensely disappointed. It's just as well, since I missed Lemon on the first day of the festival, but I'm really sad I didn't get to try Earl Grey. I'm hoping that something else will run out soon and they'll replace it with Earl Grey.

The Lemon Hot Chocolate was pretty odd. I remembered the TONY review calling it overly sweet and cloying, but I thought it seemed more like someone had poured some sort of bathroom cleaner into the mix accidentally. I could barely drink more than half of the shot-sized cup. The Lemon flavor wasn't overpowering, but it definitely did not mesh with the chocolate. It felt like something should be curdling in my mouth. You can even see that it looks kind of suspect from the photo. I don't know why the pic is so yellow, but can you see the bubbles on top? They're rainbow! They're iridescent! It's a bad sign when your hot chocolate looks like bubble-blowing mix.

Coming up: the first of the ambiguously named - Moulin Rouge!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day 8 - Vanilla Bean

I had this whole thing sort of halfway planned about vanilla and the time I realized it came from a bean instead of a little brown plastic bottle with crust under the lid (sort of reminiscent of my mom's hilariously told story of the first time she ate cheese), but since I have almost nothing to say as far as the actual review, I feel like it'd be silly to go too far into detail.

Maybe they accidentally gave me the regular and not the Vanilla? Because I tasted nothing. I suppose it might have been a tad sweeter than the regular, and it's possible there was less of a dark chocolate bite, but I finished the whole thing and was still not sure whether or not I got the Vanilla or regular. I ordered it from the girl that ladled it out, and she came back with it and said, "One Vanilla shot!" but I'm still not convinced.

TONY loved it and said vanilla was the first note to stand out in the flavor, but then again they didn't seem to think the caramel tasted like a burned marshmallow either. I wonder if it depends on what time in the day you get it? I've been going after work, maybe the final batches take on a different flavor? I assume Time Out gets it in the morning since their reviews go up early and they don't get the same background info from the baristas as I do.

Gah, so frustrating! Anyway I'm pumped about Earl Gray Tea tomorrow. I think I'm going to prepare by substituting Earl Gray for my normal English Breakfast at work. I'll be just like Jean Luc Picard!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day 6 - Banana Peel, Day 7 - Caramel

Saturday's flavor was supposed to be Banana Peel, but according to the girl ladling out the chocolate, there were some "technical difficulties" that morning and when they all got there, the chef came out of the kitchen with one small batch of Banana Peel and told them they're going with Plan B. But as far as they know, they'll still serve Banana Peel on its scheduled day later in the month.

Luckily Plan B is the Caramel Hot Chocolate! (Do you say car-a-mel or car-mel?) And luckily that was Sunday's flavor as well, making this both Day 6 and Day 7.

I truly loved the Caramel flavor, and I think it's my favorite so far! If I'd had it without knowing the flavor's name, I wouldn't have connected it to this kind of caramel:

because it had a very distinct burned sugar flavor that made it taste like the most delectable toasted marshmallow, with a hot, gooey middle and lightly crispy, blackened outer shell.

It was amazing! From what I hear, caramel might be one of their year-round special flavors, and I'd definitely go back for more. I might even be able to drink a full-size cup!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Day 5 - Ginger Hot Chocolate

I love ginger drinks. People in China drink ginger boiled in Coke. There was Sprite on Fire (which I just read was also referred to as Sprite Finger Lemon???). And to me, the purpose of adding ginger to a drink is so you get a kick of spicy flavor that burns the back of your throat. It's great for when you're sick.

Don't drink the City Bakery's Ginger Hot Chocolate if you're sick. It might even be a tad hard to stomach when you're well. The ginger flavor was so understated that I wouldn't even say that I "tasted" it. It was more like one of those flavors that you smell, that hangs around in your mouth and in your nose but never quite makes an impact on your taste buds. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being faint smell and 10 being overwhelming taste, it was 3.5. I would have liked a little more power behind the ginger. Rosa didn't even taste it.

On the other hand, the City Bakery Pretzel Croissant is AMAZING. It was far more croissant than pretzel (90/10) but it did combine the best feature of croissants - buttery, flaky layers - with the saltiness of pretzels. I was expecting it to be more hard, like a pretzel, but was pleasantly surprised. I find pretzels very dry and unappetizing, like what I imagine silica gel tastes like.



After I accidentally pulled out the middle:

Final answer: Meh. 

Coming up: Banana Peel!