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THE BEST: NYC Value Chocolatier


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Does your brother approve of anyone's chocolate?

I could ask him later if you really want to know. I take it you think that Kee's chocolates are always 100% perfect and no criticism is ever reasonable? :hmmm::raz:

Never had the pleasure to taste Kee's (lots of See's but that's a whole different (and pedestrian) story - and thread.) I was just a bit amazed at the level of criticism and wondered if he had approved of any chocolates? If so, which so that others may have the benefit of his fine palate. I don't recall you referring to him in the many posts I've enjoyed from your hand - but I probably just missed those.

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No, you didn't miss them. My brother lives in California, so I don't see him that often. As a matter of fact, he went back there today. If he emails a response to your question, I'll relay it.

Sorry for reacting to your post as if it were snide.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I could ask him later if you really want to know. I take it you think that Kee's chocolates are always 100% perfect and no criticism is ever reasonable? :hmmm:  :raz:

PAN, A very cogent observation. The hardest thing to do as a chocolatier is to do consistently good work -- consistently. Not all of Kee's flavors work for me but that's as much where I am coming from as anything else. From an objective standpoint she does manage to get well-balanced flavors that harmonize with the taste of the chocolate she uses. That's not to say that each batch is identical and sometimes the balance of flavors varies.

I bought a fair amount of stuff from Kee for corporate gifting over the holidays and noticed a lot more pinholes in the molds than normal. This is no doubt due to the much higher than normal volume of production, but it's hitting everything dead on day in and day out that separates merely very good from the great. Kee is very good at what she does, but she's not in the company of people the likes of Hevin, Bernachon, and Linxe, among others.

:Clay

Clay Gordon

president, pureorigin

editor/publisher www.chocophile.com

founder, New World Chocolate Society

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[i bought a fair amount of stuff from Kee for corporate gifting over the holidays and noticed a lot more pinholes in the molds than normal. This is no doubt due to the much higher than normal volume of production, but it's hitting everything dead on day in and day out that separates merely very good from the great. Kee is very good at what she does, but she's not in the company of people the likes of Hevin, Bernachon, and Linxe, among others.

:Clay

the week of xmas, Kee was closed for retail, just filling holiday orders. of course, i would love nothing more than for the store to be tiny and all chocolates crafted personally by Kee with adequate time and attention but i imagine it's hard to make a living this way. i mean, how many $1.75 chocolates do you have to make--and sell-- to cover your business and living expenses? not to mention the fact that there is a constant traffic into the store, people chatting with her (i'm certainly guilty of that), etc., which takes time from her chocolate making. it's still just her and she still makes the chocolates herself. i know that it's been hard for her to find good help and it's only been in recent months that i have seen a steady presence of one or two assistants.

from what i've seen, holidays at Kee's are like Valentine's Day at a restaurant - totally packed, tripling or quadrupling regular business. i don't think she sacrifices much quality (although with volume vs. resources it's unavoidable) but there is also the element of exhaustion - one starts missing bits here and there. i have no doubt that she is overextended at high volume times but i think that it's part of growing pains - getting to the next step where she has adequate space and help to stay as close to perfection as she usually does. i hear she'll be closed mondays in January, good first step to recover.

and when she's not so overwhelmed with basic survival efforts, i hope she will have more time to experiment with new flavors. as i'm eating my Thai chili chocolate, i think she will continue to have something special to offer and grow as chocolatier. maybe having an investor would speed it up.

Alcohol is a misunderstood vitamin.

P.G. Wodehouse

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. . . .

So - where is the best chocolate in Manhattan? For my money, the best value in chocolate from a price/taste/experience standpoint is Kee's Chocolates down on 80 Thompson St just south of Spring. It's a tiny shop that allows lots of interaction with Kee herself and you can see the stuff being made right there. It's fresh. It's genuine. Pieces are under $2 each (they are not sold by the pound and I haven't weighed them out to get a price/pound) so you can pick up a pair for about the same price as the afternoon caffeine fix from the mega-chain. The lychee-pineapple, creme brulee, passion fruit heart, and praline are among my favorites. What's not over the top is the packaging, which is very understated, and definitely contributes to the relative low cost - you're not paying for a fancy box.

Thanks. Although I live in the neighborhood, and that puts me in proximity several relatively new and high end shops, my skepticism has led me to avoid them all. this thread arrived just in time to put a fine finish to our quiet little new year's even dinner. I selected some chocolates and my wife selected one less, although somehow that's not exactly how it worked after dinner. Life is full of little disappointments, I suppose. Next time, I'll add a few for emergencies and people whose stomachs are gibber than their eyes. The selection was very small, at least late in the afternoon of the day before the new year. All were excellent. The passion fruit was not out of balance to my tastes, but the passion fruit was forward with the chocolate playing a more supporting role. I didn't have a problem with that, but it's worth knowing in advance. For what it's worth, Mrs. B felt it was a bit our of balance, but it was higher on her list than mine of chocolates she'd buy again, which may prove that balance is subjective, or that its importance is subjective. The orange was very subtle. I'm not sure I could really taste the orange in the chocolate filling. The yuzu, on the other hand was bright, far more subltle than the passion fruit, but the effect on the palate was similar for me. It was the creaminess of the filling, if not the flavor of the fruit that put the chocolate in the background. For all that, I think they all shared a great delicacy. That delicacy extended to the chilli chocolate, which was something else in terms of chocolates, candies, bonbons, pralines, etc. I thought it was delcate, but I should also warn that there was a long after taste or sense of the hot pepper and that it was perhaps better suited to just one chocolate after dinner, that to a medley of chocolates. It was quite interesting and definitely pleasing, if a bit oddly so. It's well worth trying, but it's not an expected sensation.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Oh, and you're right about the packaging. Our chocolates were placed in a little clear plastic bar.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I visited Kee's today. She and an assistant were in the midst of making truffles for an order when I arrived. The assistant had to stop, remove her gloves and wash her hands before tending to me.

I picked up 6 different pieces. Thus far I've only tried the black sesame truffle, which I loved. Dark chocolate and sesame isn't a combination I'm familiar with, but I loved the smoothness of the ganache with the texture of the sesame.

The packaging was a small box and tied with a raffia ribbon. It looked like a something jewelry would come in.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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  • 2 weeks later...

I visited Kee's when I was visiting Manhattan last November. Unfortunately, she didn't have very many flavors available that morning (and a lot of the flavors listed here that I find intriguing were not available). I tried the sesame, and, I believe, a white chocolate-coconut and perhaps a green tea flavor. I wasn't terribly excited about the flavor combinations I tried (although they were good -- just not as tasty as my favorites at Chuao Chocolatier) -- what struck me the most, though, was how fresh-tasting and soft the chocolates tasted, which was wonderful. Definitely tasted like they had just been made that morning, which I'm sure they were. Vosges, in comparison, tasted like the chocolates could have been made a week ago or more.

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So - I'd like to try and get some of the Pierr Hermé for Wegmans chocolates this weekend, and was wondering if anyone knew the easiest Wegmans to get to from NYC via mass transit. According to the Wegmans website - these three locations carry the Hermé products: Bridgewater, Manalapan, Princeton.

Are any of these accessible easily by train, or train/bus?

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  • 2 months later...
  • 6 months later...
  • 4 months later...

I have been scoping out the chocolatiers in New York for an upcoming visit. I would like to know and hear more about:

1. Debauve and Gallais - why are they so gosh darn expensive?

2. Richert

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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1. What kind of couveture does Richert affect? What kind of chocolate?

2. Re: Debauve et Gallais. Any clue as to how their chocolates are processed, or what goes into them? When I called, they were dodgy (unable?) about answering my questions... simply telling me that, "they're imported from France - they make them there."

u.e.

[edit to add: While I"m thinking about it - any just honest to goodness hand-dipped truffles with terribly wicked crisp couvetures in the city?]

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I went to Kee's in SoHo a few weeks ago, and as others have posted, there were very few varieties to choose from and I was only looking to buy six pieces. Very disappointing. I guess it's hit or miss?

I sampled an orange confit chocolate that Kee was nice enough to offer me in the store. I gave the box I bought as a gift. Was told they were very good.

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I gave the box I bought as a gift. Was told they were very good.

Hardly a consolation prize for your thoughtfulness!! :laugh:

How many is "not very many selections?" 6 different kinds? 10? 20? I have no idea what Kee does - have only been to her very simple website.

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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There were about 7 or 8 varieties of chocolate bon bons, and of those 7 or 8, there were only a few pieces of each.

As for the gift, I gave to someone from another state. Had I been around when he opened it I have no doubt there would have been sharing.

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  • 2 weeks later...

1. Didn't make it to Kee's or Pierre Marcolini... but I'm having some of the latter's truffles sent to me... I've heard their origins are particularly good. I'm mostly intruigued by the fact that he makes his own couvertures. Can't wait to try his Champagne truffles as well!

2. La Maison was pretty good... I was especially disheartened on both visits that they were out of Champagne truffles... On the other hand, the Canelle and the Othello were stand-out favorites. Service ranged from personable and kind to affected and impatient... and the store was empty!! :hmmm:

One big winning point for La Maison is that they let (me) customers try their truffles... which I thought was rather generous. I think their prices were reasonable too - about $1.40 per piece. They're small, but I would argue, perfectly sized.

Oh boy, and they had fresh macarons!! :raz:

3. I visited Richart as well. The service was nice, but a little affected - very knowledgeable. The prices were steep - $2.30 per piece - but they're bigger than La Maison's. I have a few waiting to be eaten... will probably break into them either tonight or tomorrow... will report back later... hopefully P.M.'s will arrive soon!

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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  • 2 years later...

Anyone have any thoughts to share now, in 2008? I'm thinking of buying a box of chocolates for my fiancé for the holidays; his parents used to buy him and his sister each a box of Leonidas chocolates for Christmas when they were young, and I know he's always interested in chocolate.

I just was wondering how Kee's has been since the last post, or if there's anywhere else I should investigate.. I can't complain about the idea of having to go out and eat some myself. :wink:

Related questions: Is there a preferred method of storage for the chocolates if I buy them a little in advance? What's the maximum amount of time I should buy them ahead of time (sorry if that question is totally sacreligious)?

"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

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Anyone have any thoughts to share now, in 2008? I'm thinking of buying a box of chocolates for my fiancé for the holidays; his parents used to buy him and his sister each a box of Leonidas chocolates for Christmas when they were young, and I know he's always interested in chocolate.

I just was wondering how Kee's has been since the last post, or if there's anywhere else I should investigate.. I can't complain about the idea of having to go out and eat some myself.  :wink:

Related questions: Is there a preferred method of storage for the chocolates if I buy them a little in advance? What's the maximum amount of time I should buy them ahead of time (sorry if that question is totally sacreligious)?

Check out Vosges, in Soho. Their chocolates are beautiful and unusual- also expensive, but they make lovely gifts. If nothing else, you can get a really nice mug of hot cocoa while you're considering their selection. I plan to get my dad their chocolate pig with bacon bits!

Vosges suggests storing chocolates in the fridge for not more than two to three weeks ahead of time.

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Check out Vosges, in Soho. Their chocolates are beautiful and unusual- also expensive, but they make lovely gifts. If nothing else, you can get a really nice mug of hot cocoa while you're considering their selection. I plan to get my dad their chocolate pig with bacon bits!

Vosges suggests storing chocolates in the fridge for not more than two to three weeks ahead of time.

Actually, I'm fairly certain he received some of their chocolates for Christmas 2 winters ago. I think his mother bought some for him. He wasn't really all that impressed with what he tried, so I wanted to try a different chocolatier this time around.

Also, I know he doesn't want bars, so the bacon chocolate is probably out of the question for him. Not for me, though. :raz:

"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

eG Ethics Signatory

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