Over the past few years, a relatively quiet (ha!) trend has developed in the chocolate world, mostly as a collaboration between chocolatiers and indie electronica/industrial rock/experimental pop musicians: chocolate LPs.
These are vinyl records, minus the vinyl, made out of chocolate. They’d be sorta neat on their own (there’s something so irreverent about biting into a fragile object in which much great art has been encoded), but what makes these chocolate records really special is that they actually play music. As in, you can place them on a record player, drop the needle, and then hear sound. Now that is awesome!
Here’s one example, from a charming maker in Berlin, Germany:
And here’s another, where a Fife, Scotland-based chocolatier, Ben Milne, prepared a chocolate LP single for his friends in the band FOUND. The single is “Anti Climb Paint,” and the chocolatey end result plays the song recognizably:
A gem of a quote from Ben: “I heard that vinyl is on the increase and that CDs are on their way out, so chocolate records could be part of a resurgence and people getting their record players out of their attics.” From his lips to God’s ears! (Or Brooklyn!) Also, don’t miss the dreamy video for the song, performed in the Fisher & Donaldson Bakery where Ben works, and depicting a stylized (fictional) making of the chocolate single.
Finally, a team of skeptics from Kerrang! Podcasts went from naysayers to yaysayers when American band Innerpartysystem sent them a chocolate single to try out. Turns out, these records do best when fresh from the refrigerator.
Personally, I’d love a chocolate single of “In a Gadda da Vida,” from Iron Butterfly. My dad, who has the baddest music taste of anyone I know, taught me how to rock out with this song blasting on his record player, way back before the days of cassette tapes, CDs, mp3s, and YouTube. The original version of the song is a little over 17 minutes long, by which point we would most definitely need a snack. Yes, please.
It’s the tail end of strawberry season here in New England, one of my absolute favorite times of the year. The season is fleeting. The first local strawberries appear in early June, with crops peaking mid-month, then gradually tapering off as the 4th of July holiday weekend approaches. Growing strawberries is hard work, and almost before you know it, they’re gone, and summer crops are in full swing.
During late spring and early summer visits to local farmers markets only recently reopened for the growing season, strawberries are one of the first bright spots of color in a sea of hardy leafy greens. They play a part in bringing the New England area fully back to life, with countless strawberry-related activities: strawberry plant sales at garden stores, pick your own days and festivals at local farms, and the always delicious Mass Farmers Markets Strawberry Dessert Festival.
This year, we are especially lucky to have enjoyed the large and tasty local crop. The weather has not cooperated by following any sort of pattern (although really, what else is new?); rather it has been a study in extremes – a mixture of chilly, rainy days with sweltering heat and sun. We’ve sort of stumbled into summer, but thankfully the fragile fruit made it along with us in all its sweet, juicy glory.
On Saturday, a group of friends and I made our way to the Verrill Farm Strawberry Festival in Concord, Massachusetts. It was another gray, drizzly day in a week of grayer, drizzlier days, and just warm enough to make everything feel sort of sticky. A number of rugged folks picked their own in raincoats and mud boots, sloshing through the mucky fields to find the best berries. We were landlubbers and enjoyed the festival on solid ground, partaking of the fantastic strawberry shortcake made on site (strawberries served with a buttery biscuit and real whipped cream, the classic New England way; biscuit recipe here [pdf]), fun music, and the excellent farm stand. The Boy and I couldn’t stop ourselves – we bought several quarts of perfectly ripe strawberries and proceeded to eat them for the rest of the weekend. Because while strawberry lovers can freeze, dry, and can the fruit to preserve as much of the early summer joy as possible, there is really nothing like eating a perfectly ripe, local strawberry, fresh from the vine. And what better to eat strawberries with than chocolate?
Here’s a simple, refreshing recipe that highlights the finest qualities of ripe, seasonal strawberries paired with dark chocolate. It’s a novel take on a classic combination.
No-Bake Strawberry Pie with Dark Chocolate Chunks and Pecan Crumble Crust
Adapted from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking (a must-own cookbook, in my humble opinion).
- 2 C raw pecans (or almonds, if you prefer)
- 3/4 C to 1 C pitted dates
- 1/4 t salt
- canola oil cooking spray (to coat pan)
- 5 C ripe strawberries
- 5 pitted dates
- 2 t fresh lemon juice
- dark chocolate chunks in a quantity of your choosing/craving
- Prepare an 8- or 9-inch circular tart or springform pan by very lightly coating with canola oil cooking spray.
- Grind nuts in a food processor or blender until they resemble a coarse meal.
- Add dates and salt into nut mixture, then process or blend until thoroughly combined.
- Pour mixture into pan, then press into the shape of a crust. Set pan aside.
- Soak 5 pitted dates in warm water for 10 minutes, then drain water and gently dry dates on towel.
- Separate 1 C of whole strawberries and set aside.
- Slice 4 C of strawberries, then arrange sliced strawberries on the crust, reserving a small number to adorn top of pie. Set pan aside.
- Place the reserved 1 C of whole strawberries in a food processor or blender and process until pureed.
- Add soaked pitted dates and 2 t lemon juice to strawberry puree and process until smooth.
- Pour strawberry puree mixture over the sliced strawberries in the pan. Decorate the top of the pie with reserved sliced strawberries.
- Prepare chocolate chunks (I chopped up leftover bits of several different dark chocolate bars) and sprinkle over top of pie.
- Refrigerate entire pie for 1 hour before serving.
Yield: Approximately 8 servings.
Storage: This super fresh dessert is best when eaten right from the refrigerator after the 1 hour setting time. If you somehow manage to maniacally restrain yourself from finishing it, however, it can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated overnight.
Cocoa shortage by 2020 unless industry acts now, warns Mars
Mars Chocolate, which currently purchases only 5 percent of its total supply from certified sustainable cocoa producers, pledged to use 100 percent certified sustainable chocolate by 2020. The company also predicted a major cocoa shortage (of more than one million tons) by that time if sustainable measures are not significantly increased. Here’s hoping that “technology transfer that puts farmers first; innovations in agricultural science; and rigorous certification standards” (Mars’ words) will be meaningful.
Ghana’s former President John Kufuor, was awarded the World Food Prize for his “zero hunger” program, which cut hunger levels in Ghana by half over his eight years in office. “His government achieved this by modernising and commercialising cocoa farming, Mr Kufuor said.”
Ferrero has received the “Golden Windbag” award for the “most misleading advertising” by a food manufacturer this year. It won the award for deceptive advertising of its Milch-Schnitte brand, sold in Germany with the slogan “Tastes light. Doesn’t weigh you down. Ideal for in between,” and portrayed in ads featuring figures from extreme sports. The awarding group, Foodwatch, argued that the advertising does not properly inform shoppers about the product’s sugar and fat content and suggests that it is instead sporty and light. Ferrero has refused to accept the award. This is not the first time that Ferrero has been accused of using misleading advertising — only a few years ago, its brand Nutella caused global uproar when it was marketed as part of a healthy breakfast for children. You can watch an Australian version of a Nutella ad advising on children’s nutrition here.
Some chocolate products and attractions that have piqued my interest of late:
Billed as “brewed chocolate,” or a chocolate drink for coffee lovers, Choffy also looks interesting. I’m excited (with a healthy side of skepticism) to try it. Just check out the branding! It is so intensely organic, green, antioxidant and theobromine rich, foreign yet single origin… the company is pushing all the right buttons for the Whole Foods crowd.
Then there’s Nestle’s limited edition Alpino packaging, where the chocolates are laid out just like Peg Solitaire. It’s all fun and games until it gets eaten.
A vacation might be in order once the £2m Sweet History of York confectionery exhibit is complete.
A couple of chocolate recipes:
Chili with Chocolate from David Lebovitz
This involves dropping chocolate into the chili to melt. Yum.
Food culture and politics news
You don’t want fries with that
An infographic from the Washington Post displaying information from three Harvard studies on foods eaten and pounds gained or avoided. Sweets and desserts (ahem, chocolate lovers) are implicated.
Where the Farm Subsidies Go
Another informative infographic from the Washington Post.
Artist Perrin Ireland live-draws conference sessions. This one, entitled “Scents and Sensibilities: The Invisible Language of Smell” is just fabulous. (via @sciam)
This debate between Tomatoland author Barry Estabrook and critics presents fascinating viewpoints on American tomato growing and agriculture more generally.
A moving autobiographical portrait of journalist Jose Antonio Vargas’ life as an undocumented immigrant. Given the essential labor provided by many undocumented immigrants to US food production, this story’s critique of immigration policy is directly relevant to US food policy.
For a product like chocolate that can only be grown outside of the US, attention to FDA policies and politics is essential. What FDA is up against with imported foods, by Marion Nestle.
Just for fun
“You’re the most annoying dude I’ve ever SEEN brah…
Could you PLEASE move? You’re RIGHT in front of the Quinoa.”
I’ve got several posts in the works right now. They will be published here over the next few weeks. Truth be told, I spend most days typing away at my dissertation (on a totally different topic, though with eerily similar theoretical underpinnings…), and after filling up those pages I’m plum outta words. Combine that with the excitement of spring and summer in New England, and there are never ending excuses for putting off blogging!
Delays, shmelays. Here’s something fun:
Each Wednesday, I plan to post something neat from our beloved wacky world of choc, something that makes me go “Whoa!” This week, I was struck by a post in Juxtapoz Magazine (also covered by HuffPost), featuring a video art piece by artist Martynka Wawrzyniak. In the video, Wawrzyniak lies face up on a white background, visible only from her shoulders to the top of her head. Over the course of a crawling, intense nine minutes and twenty two seconds, a stream of liquid chocolate pours down over her until she is submerged.
The end result:
I wish that there was a video feed to show visceral audience reactions.
HuffPost asked some great questions about the piece: “Is it gross? Is it suggestive? Is it political? Is it poignant?”
I am wondering, of course, is it about chocolate? What if, instead of chocolate it were water, or milk, or glue, or motor oil? [shudder] What do you think?