Chocolate to the Max

When your kids have earned a family fun day, surprise them with a visit to chocolate paradise Max Brenner. The café’s central location near Union Square is a lot more convenient than tracking down Willy Wonka’s factory. It’s a feast for the senses, beginning with the sense of smell, as the sweet aroma of chocolate fills the room, exciting the kids for what’s in store.

Their eyes will pop when they see the menu and its chocolate crepes, chocolate bagels, and even chocolate pizzas. And where else can they order a chocolate syringe from a secret chocolate menu? Watch the smiles grow as a warm mud cake arrives, complete with its own chocolate swimming pool and whipped cream mountains. Or maybe you’re ready for some family quality time, with everyone pitching in to dip bananas and strawberries into a decadent pot of fondue. You’ll also find a full menu for mom and dad, with White Russians and Chocolate Martinis. They’ve earned a treat, too.

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[Photo: Tom Newby]

Kick & Play: Sneakers Go Camo

With all this snow on the east coast, let’s think warm. It’s time to start planning for spring footwear. And for starters, people love camo. The mixed patterned print has been a big hit for chinos and skinny jeans lately, while camouflage military jackets have always been a good go-to. But this blend of olive green, mocha brown, and black design needs to move downward – to our feet.

Here’s a couple looks that are good for the daily grind – snow and sand – or for that occasional dip in neutral colors.


Mercer by Thorocraft

Thorocraft is creative footwear company that aims to build bold pairs of shoes using classic designs with a little flare. The Mercer is a simple oxford that features a light combination sole, laser-cut ventilation, and full-grain woven leather. With an extra-cushioned sole and pig-skin inner lining, the Mercer is a very durable pair. In other words, they are just so pretty.

This camouflage oxford is definitely a rare design, but it gives off such a sleek, and unusual aesthetic that it can be used on jeans for casual wear or even on darker pants for a non-conventional formal look.

Available at the Thorocraft online store, $250.

Air Max 1 Camo Pack by atmos x Nike

Air Max 1 Camo Pack by atmos x Nike

Japanese sneaker company atmos has always put together incredible collaborations with Nike. This Air Max 1 just adds to that reputation. Using the 25-year-old silhouette of one of the most popular Nike sneaker designs, two creative color ways are set to come out this week. The shoe is dressed in a jungle camo print with black snakeskin (right) or a desert storm pattern blended with leopard detailing (left). 

For the hypebeasts, matching shirts and hats will also be available. A good look for dark jeans, but so good for shorts, browns, and those cargos making a comeback.

Available on February 13 at atmos or select Nike retailers, approx. $145 US.

Sahara Desert Basso Chukka Wingtip Sneaker by Del Toro

Sahara Desert Basso Chukka Wingtip Sneaker by Del Toro

In case you wanted more than a solid colored wingtip, Del Toro brings an all-over camo print in suede on a low-cut chukka sneaker. The amber-gum sole really gives this pair a great urban feel as opposed to many low-cuts with white soles. You get a carefully crafted leather lining, amber laces, and Italian-made suede and leather stitched on a wingtip design.

The Sahara Desert Basso Chukka Wingtip Sneaker is a name-full, but rightfully so. There are a lot of fine details built into this pair, and all serve good purpose for both aesthetic and comfort.

Chukkas are always a comfortable fit. If Air Maxes aren’t your thing, go with this.

Available at Del Toro’s online store, $325.


Max Brenner, New York, NY
An indulgent way to stay warm: hot chocolate. Obviously, the magical bald man that is Max Brenner is well known, but what is terribly forgotten on this menu of perfection is their ChocoPops. Scattered randomly on different menu items, these tiny pops are small, crispy wafer balls dipped in a very rich milk chocolate – miniscule in size but ridiculously filled with flavor. Max has a “noisy hot chocolate” filled with pops to the brim. Or get vanilla ice cream popsicles for fondue dipping with hot fudge, candied hazelnut, and of course, chocopops.  Plus, buy them in packs to take them home for those weekend dinner parties.

Syrup, Los Angeles, CA
For many in LA, an idea of a good Saturday night is a simple dinner followed by a space to just relax and hang out with friends without the loud music and crowded bars. And that’s where dessert + espresso bar Syrup comes in. While this place is open all day and has a breakfast menu full of Belgian waffles and crepes, the go-to here is the sugar-liege waffle – a decadent battercake dipped in caramelized pearl sugars followed by a multitude of delicious options – s’mores, caramel apples, mixed berries, or chocolate. A big win here is their hazelnut latte mixed with nutella. What makes this place even better is their lounge-style seating with couches, and larger tables for big parties.

Philz, San Francisco, CA
While the east coast is dealing with a blizzard, San Francisco regularly gets a glimmer of sunlight. So on the weekend or for an afternoon break during the week, find a Philz and pick up an iced mint mojito, one of the most refreshing coffee drinks you will ever have, and likely only find at Philz. The cold beverage consists of two shots of espresso, a plethora of mint leaves, two tablespoons of almond milk, a little foam, and some sweetener to bring together an amazingly refreshing drink. Philz is known for freshly brewing every cup of coffee individually, making each drink as it’s ordered. Pick a rare brew of your choice or get the mojito. Actually, get the mojito.

Walk fresh. Eat right. Be well.

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Chocolate, Chocolate Everywhere At The Salon Du Chocolat

This weekend marks the 15th Annual New York Chocolate Show, otherwise known as Salon du Chocolat, which features confectioners, pastry chefs, and food artists from around the world.

Starting tomorrow, November 9, and through November 11, you can hit up The Metropolitan Pavilion in the Flatiron District and see demonstrations by chocolatier Fritz Knipschlldt on how to make chocolate truffles at home, and Zac Young from David Burke Kitchen shows guests how to make a white chocolate crème brulee with bourbon and pumpkin.

Aside from the 35 demos, there are also displays and sample stations. Even though Hurricane Sandy hindered some of the vendors, 45 companies and individuals still made it, including Gnosis Chocolate from Queens, John & Kira’s Chocolate from Philadelphia, Truffly Made from California, and Chocolate Shop Wine from Washington.

If you can’t go this weekend, or prefer your chocolate one bite at time, New York is a great place to indulge. True, there is always aGodiva shop somewhere or Max Brenner’s cacao empire to go to, but plenty of smaller shops also have amazing chocolate goods. Take Jacques Torres, their Wicked Hot Chocolate is spicy, sweet, and so rich, one cup is enough. Not to knock their truffles, those are definitely worth it too.

Kee Ling Tong has truffles in the bag too, and since 2002 she has run Kee’s Chocolates in SoHo. Each truffle is handmade in small batches, and when she runs out of the Earl Grey or passion fruit flavors, it could be a few days before there are more.

For incredibly high-end confections, Maison du Chocolate, MarieBelle New York, and Vosges Haut-Chocolat are the places to go. The latter boosts their Black Pearl truffle and the famous Mo’s Bacon Bar. If bacon is your thing, you can literally pig out on the Pig Candy, whole pieces of bacon dipped in chocolate, atRonnie Sue’s in the Essex Market.

Hunting for some artisanal chocolate made from single-origin beans? Where else would you go but to Brooklyn, and from there the Mast Brothers brick and mortar shop in Williamsburg. There they sell handcrafted bars named after their source. No matter what kind of chocolate suits you, there is something for everyone both at the New York Chocolate Show and on the streets of the city. And, if all else fails, you can always satisfy your sweet tooth at Dylan’s Candy Bar where they have not only retro confections, but every kind of candy you didn’t know you wanted.

Studio XXI, Beauty & Essex, & Other NYC Happenings

I’m sated on leftover turkey and stale pies, which somehow remain delicious and undeniable. Yet another leftover being offered to me seems less palatable. I received an invite to Studio XXI (or SXXI to the in-the-know crowd). The space will be at the 59 West 21st Street spot that was formerly Citrine, and before that, Snitch. While Snitch had a bunch of rock and roll hootchie-coo moments, Citrine was an abomination. I think I referred to it as Latrine back in its heyday, which was just short of an Andy Warhol 15 minutes of lame. Citrine was everything wrong with nightlife and its passing wasn’t mourned.

StudioXXI approached me through a publicist, and except for this brief analysis, I’m going to ignore it. In nightlife, calling something ‘Studio Anything’ is blasphemy. Studio 54 retired that usage. To top it off, the invite sent to me says “This invite is for you and a guest and is non-transferable.” To me, that’s the equivalent of “No shoes, no shirt, no service” on a restaurant door. Unless I’m on a boardwalk, I won’t eat there.

The invite also has “New York, New York 10010” after the address, as if the crowd being invited might get confused and head to some similar address in Jersey. The space is upstairs on an awkward block, and in my mind, there’s always been a question about its legality. It seemed to have only one treacherous staircase as an egress, and a supporting fire escape, which I don’t think is a legal exit for patrons. Maybe I missed something, but I never understood how they got a legal occupancy of more than 75. Maybe they worked it out. 59 West 21st Street had some charm when rockers spilled beer on the floor, tables, and each other, as a band played on Snitch’s makeshift stage. I don’t know the players involved now, but it seems to be a secret or designed as a mystery. Maybe at some other time of year I’d be interested, but this week I’m really tired of re-heated leftovers.

I have been honored once again by being appointed a judge for the Nightlife and Bar Awards. The awards will be held sometime in March in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada, at the Nightclub and Bar Convention and Trade Show. Voting is due in this week and I can’t talk much about it. It’s all super hush-hush and serious. This year, I am only voting on categories relevant to my expertise. In previous years, I found myself scrambling to talk with tech guys to vote intelligently for best mixer or microphone or speaker categories. It’s best that the tech guys vote on that stuff. I will cast my ballot for the following categories: Mega Club of the Year, Ultra Lounge of the Year, Las Vegas Dayclub of the Year, and Las Vegas Nightclub of the Year.

Veranda, that 7th Avenue joint run in part by my pal Mino Habib, is celebrating it’s first anniversary. I have never been in the joint, but I do occasionally walk my dogs past it on warm nights. It seems like a nice enough place and Mino should be congratulated on the year.

I am excited about the new restaurant Beauty and Essex, brought to you by the fellas who gave us The Stanton Social: Rich Wolf, Peter Kane, and Chris Santos. I love Stanton Social. I think the Avroko design is beautiful and has stood the test of time. Avroko is also doing Beauty and Essex, which is located in the old M. Katz and Sons furniture store at 146 Essex street. That space has been the envy of countless operators throughout the years, and I’m just dying to see what they have done with it.

Word comes that Oded Brenner, who gave us those fabulous Max Brenner chocolate restaurants, will be opening a new spot called Little Brown Chocolate. Alas, the 2nd Avenue location didn’t survive due to a diabetic conspiracy, but Union Square still thrives. I often stop in to have a hot chocolate this time of year. It’s a relaxing respite from the cold Christmas hustle. February seems to be the target. Sometime around Valentine’s Day, I bet. I’m going over to talk to them soon and will tell you all about it.