Why was my dog this excited about a trip to the vet? Because chocolate is awesome. And it's versatile, rich, exotic qualities appeal to nearly everyone on God's green earth. And if you disagree with me, you should probably just stop reading right now.
Oh good! You're still here! Then you probably want to hear all about this past weekend's Chocolate Market, co-hosted by AUM and Sugar-Coated Radical!
The event was held Saturday, June 11th at Sweet Auburn Curb Market, the site of the original AUM. This month's Market differed from previous ones for two main reasons. First of all, each dish had to include chocolate (think Iron Chef). Secondly, there was booze.
Before making the rounds, we stopped by the Curb Market's coffee shop: Café Campesino. Since I work right next door, I'm able to frequently enjoy their 100% organic, 100% Fair Trade brews. But this time, I noticed something that I hadn't noticed before.
You know that little counter where coffeehouses keep sugars and creamers? Well, this café also had some simple syrup. As a former barista, I've seen what this stuff can do to a drink. Even amateur coffee drinkers know that you can't really mix sugar with iced drinks...not even confectioners sugar. For cool drinks on a hot summer day, this stuff is a must have. I'm glad Café Campesino realizes that, and I hope it becomes a standard throughout all coffeehouses!
Once we had charged up with some caffeine, we began our chocolate-themed tour. We started at the Curb Market's own Smoothie Blender Café, where we enjoyed some savory and creative chocolate dishes. First up, a chocolate chicken stir fry:
The chocolate and ginger was an exotic and delicious combination. The veggies were perfectly crisped, and the gentleman serving up this unique dish was a delight to chat with. Next, we tried the chocolate BBQ ribs.
I apologize that the preceding is such a terrible picture. When I get 300 followers on here and 1,000 followers on Twitter, I will buy a real camera. Until then, you get to deal with my Sony Cybershot. :)
I also got to sample a bite of their lemon basil white chocolate ice cream, which was very refreshing. 10 points for creativity at this place!
Next, we visited Sweet Auburn BBQ, where we had mole pork tacos.
I really liked this dish because it highlighted the chocolate, but allowed Sweet Auburn BBQ to stay true to their roots. The mole was delicious, but it complemented the pork, who was still the star of the show.
Next up, we visited Kushina Catering for some Ethiopian veggies. I sampled some delicious soup rich with cumin and undertones of cocoa. I also tried their salad, which featured heirloom tomatoes and a balsamic chocolate vinaigrette.
How gorgeous does that look?!
We finished our savory journey at Saucy Spirits. Saucy Spirits specializes in gourmet chocolate jellies, which they showcased beautifully on caprese and stuffed peppers.
I tried the chocolate mac & cheese. I know, I was skeptical about it at first, too. The jelly was indeed chocolate, but it primarily tasted of cabernet. The wine paired nicely with the sharp crumbles of cheese throughout the penne. I wish I had asked what kind of cheese it was!
We then began phase two of AUMing, and transitioned from savory to sweet. We started with the co-host Sugar-Coated Radical, where we sampled chocolate-covered cherries.
There was really earnest about their ingredients. They were fresh, pure, real. The gentleman serving up samples seemed very passionate about his creations, which is always nice to see. Plus, he looks kinda like Dave Grohl, and that's pretty cool.
We then visited Dr. Sweet's Cake Emporium, a bakery that specializes in gluten-free products. My friend, Jonathan, ordered one of these lovely spicy chocolate cupcakes.
As you can see from the look on his face, the heat came after the bite. What a twist!
We then visited one of my AUM favorites, Cake Balls by Nikki. I decided to follow Jonathan's lead and try something called the "Caliente."
The fiery-colored sprinkles say it all. Well, they say most of it. My friend Emily's face says the rest.
Please excuse my husband in the background. Yes, these pops were feisty! Again, the heat came as an aftertaste, but it went well with the moist chocolate cake.
We finished up our dessert course with Bear Maker Bakery. You may remember them from the second AUM, where they served Bananas Foster "lazy pops." These treats were cupcakes served in a push-pop container. Not only was it adorable, it was mess-free! The Bananas Foster lazy pops were good, but this month's dish completely topped it.
Flourless chocolate torte, Madagascar vanilla buttercream, an strawberries marinated in balsamic. It was even more flavorful than it sounds. The spicy sweetness of the strawberries married so well with the rich creaminess of the vanilla...and to top it off, there was chocolate. Perfect.
They also offered samples of bacon buttercream, which basically tasted like bacon coated in confectioners sugar (and that's a good thing). If patrons were craving more than just a sample, they offered more bacon buttercream sandwiched between two adorable cookies:
Between the cute piggy sandwiches and the flavor-packed torte, I think it's safe to say that Bear Baker Bakery won this round of AUM. I hope to see them again in the future.
Next, we ventured outside to sample some booze. Hooray booze!
Standing outside the Curb Market, I could see the floor where I work. This made drinking a little weird, but I got over it. Quickly.
We started with some wine from Chocolate Shop.
The wine was actually pretty good. Even though it had tones of chocolate in it, I think it was versatile enough to work with meals beyond dessert.
Next up, we visited Innis & Gunn, where we tried two different beers.
I especially liked the darker one, which was their rum cask brew. I thought it was interesting that the bottles were clear, when so many beer bottles are brown or green glass. Apparently, beer hates light, which is why darker glass is typically used. That being said, the part of the beer that reacts poorly with light is the hops. These beers had a very low hop-content, so the clear glass was fine!
Next, we tried Bakon vodka, a vodka infused with, well, bacon!
I liked the liquor on its own, but I didn't care for it mixed with chocolate milk. It wasn't the chocolate, it was more the milk that bothered me. Bacon and cream was good as a dessert earlier in the evening, but it didn't work for me as a cocktail. Perhaps Bakon with chocolate sans milk would be good? (Dear Bakon, if you make a new cocktail consisting of Bakon and Yoohoo, you must call it the Dr. Princess. Thanks.)
My husband disappeared momentarily, then snuck up behind me with this:
That's a chocolate-raspberry popsicle from The Pop Shop. I decided to join him, and I got a chocolate curry pop. It was really different, in a wonderfully exotic way! It was spicy, but not in the same way that our earlier spicy chocolate desserts had been.
Overall, I think these Markets just keep getting better and better. The vendors seem to really bring their best, and Michaela does a really great job of ensuring lots of variety. I really liked the fact that every dish revolved around one ingredient, and I'd love to see more "secret ingredients" in the future! What about the chick pea? Or pork? Or GOAT CHEESE?! Yum.
When I got home, my dog wouldn't stop sniffing my shoes, which I'm sure smelled like a chocolatier.
She had tasted the forbidden fruit before, and now could not stay away. Too bad she's a dog and chocolate is bad for her. Oh well, more for us!