Celebrate National Ice Cream Sandwich Day the Artisan Way!

Horiz Final National Ice Cream Sandwich Day

Celebrate National Ice Cream Sandwich Day on Tuesday, August 2nd with a special treat!

Remember the ice cream sandwiches you ate as a kid? The rectangular ones with the holes in the soft cookie, holding a brick of ice cream that looked like it was sliced out of a box? We think it’s time you traded in those plain, artificially-flavored sandwiches for something better. Something already topped with real chocolate and salted caramel…like a handheld special sundae. Something that’s all natural and free from preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilizers, and other hard-to-pronounce ingredients. After all, your mouth will be too full of ice cream to talk much!

GREENWICH POLO LUXXELLESEnter Luxxelles Artisan Ice Cream Sandwiches created by Luxx Chocolat. They’re handcrafted with only the highest quality ingredients. Award-winning Chef and Master Chocolatier Lisa Mecray Rogers has created a fresh twist on the old ice cream sandwich that’s decadently different. Instead of a mushy cookie, Lisa designed a thin, crunchy wafer covered in award-winning caramel, kissed with Sicilian Trapani sea salt and slathered in a single origin (cacao Venezuela) 72% deep dark chocolate. Her ice cream is silky smooth, handmade in small batches using local milk, cream, and seasonal fruit. Flavors include Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean, Black Raspberry Chip, ChocoChocoChip, Cinnamon Caramel, Local Strawberry, Local Blueberry, Local Black CherryChip, Matcha Mint and Chambord with fresh raspberries. She’s always introducing a new flavor! Customers often say that it’s the best ice cream sandwich they’ve ever had! They show up to see her at the farmer’s markets she attends with their own coolers to stock their freezers. Can you say ice cream sandwich stalkers?

Luxx Chocolat 6 Star Master Award 2016What makes Luxx Chocolat different? Well, they’re definitely not your average box of chocolates! Based in Ridgewood, Luxx Chocolat was just voted one of 2016 BEST Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America for the 4th year in a row. This year, it also reached the highest possible ranking of 6-Star Grand Master. The International Chocolate Salon and TasteTV also awarded Luxx Chocolat 28 new awards so far this year. In the Luxury Caramel Competition: 5 Gold, 5 Silver, 6 Bronze, including Most Unique, Best Ingredient Combinations, Best Taste, Best Overall Chocolate Artistry, and Best Exterior Design. In the Top Chocolate Bar Competition: 1 Silver, 3 Bronze, including Best Mixed Chocolate Bar, Best Ingredient Combinations, and Best Product Name. In the Luxury Bridal Competition: 2 Gold, 4 Silver, 2 Bronze, including Best Presentation and Packaging, Most Artistic Designs, Most Luxurious Chocolate Experience, Best for Wedding Reception, and Best Dark Chocolate. With Luxx Chocolat, you know that you’re getting the best and most beautiful creations.

So on National Ice Cream Sandwich Day, and for the whole week, get dazzled with an unforgettable ice cream sandwich! To celebrate, Luxx Chocolat is offering $1 off each Luxxelles purchased between 8/2-8/7!

Order online for pickup in Ridgewood or see them at next weekend’s farmer’s markets. It’s a treat the whole family will love! Experience the sweet, crunchy, smooth and refreshingly cool Luxxelles Artisan Ice Cream Sandwich for yourself.

For more information, please visit http://luxxchocolat.com/ . For upcoming events and farmers’ markets, see https://www.facebook.com/luxxchocolat/events/

Article written by Tracy Nieradka, a healthy-living advocate with a passion for food, fitness and teaching

Tis’ the Season for Hot Chocolate!

Temperatures have dropped and the snow has moved in. Not sure about you but having a hot chocolate is on my mind! Nothing better to warm you up after a cold day at work or running around with the kids.

kid with hot chocHot chocolate often takes us back to our childhood. I can just picture sitting at the edge of our frozen pond in a snow bank with my ice skates on sipping away on the chocolaty warmth. But back then and still today, many still buy a box and rip open a packet called “Hot Cocoa” or “Hot Chocolate”. But what’s the difference?  And do the ones we like even contain chocolate? The powders may seem to be an easy option, but are they really the best option given all of the artificial ingredients and the mass of sugar chock full in these products?

It’s interesting to see that even when there are consumer studies ranking the best “hot chocolate” in America they include products that don’t even contain chocolate or cocoa. Hmmm, makes you think….  But let’s also not lose focus on the fact that even though some products do have real chocolate in it or that it’s organic chocolate, doesn’t mean it’s going to taste good!

What’s the difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa? There apparently isn’t always a distinction. You’d think hot cocoa should contain cocoa powder of some sort and hot chocolate should contain chocolate (ground, shavings, chunks). Doesn’t sound hard yet many products that contain cocoa powder call themselves hot chocolate and products that contain real chocolate call themselves hot cocoa?? Then there is drinking chocolate, which is a European term…defined as a beverage made with chocolate.  And then there are those that don’t contain cocoa or chocolate and call themselves hot cocoa and hot chocolate. Seems there should be some sort of rule or regulation, no?

Some interesting facts to know about these hot “chocolaty” beverages:

  • Historically, chocolate was sipped, not nibbled, until 1847 when the first solid chocolate bar was developedchocolate no sign
  • Many “hot chocolate” and “hot cocoa” brands are chocolate flavored and don’t contain chocolate at all or contain the tiniest amount. Doesn’t seem to make sense. But oftentimes we never find much information because most products don’t list how much chocolate or cocoa is really in there. Keep in mind what we’ve learned about other mass produced chocolate brands…they use the minimum the FDA will allow (10%) because cacao is expensive and using real chocolate requires special handling and technique = $$. If it doesn’t say how much is in there, assume it’s the minimum, especially when it says “artificial favor” on the label. See the Swiss Miss label below
  • Star Bucks Hot Chocolate contains no real chocolate! It’s only flavored… “Steamed milk with vanilla- and mocha-flavored syrups”
  • Hot chocolate made with real chocolate offers health benefits. Research continues to show us that antioxidants help prevent cancer, heart disease, age-related macular degeneration and aging in general because they fight free radicals in the body
  • Many “hot cocoa” and “hot chocolate” products can contain artificial additives and lots of sugar, including ingredients not acceptable to a gluten-free lifestyle. Read the labels. I personally try to stay away from artificial ingredients and labels that list the first ingredient as sugar. A great resource to learn about product ingredients is http://www.foodfacts.com/. Here is one label from Swiss Miss.

Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix Ingredients: sugar, modified whey, cocoa (processed with alkali), hydrogenated coconut oil, nonfat milk, calcium carbonate, less than 2% of: salt, dipotassium phosphate, mono- and diglycerides, artificial flavor, carrageenan. Contains milk.

  • The reason why some cocoa powders are Dutched or processed with alkali is because the manufacturer wants to makes the cocoa powder a richer brown color, have less acidity, a milder taste and easier to blend into liquids
  • Dutch process chocolate contains lower amounts of flavonols which are antioxidants than chocolate. Dark chocolate is an antioxidant super food. Some studies show that 60-90% of the antioxidants are destroyed by Dutching
  • Chocolate milk (with real chocolate) is effective in promoting muscle recovery following endurance exercise. More than 20 studies support the benefits of recovering with the high-quality protein and nutrients in chocolate milk after a tough workout. Hot chocolate is hot chocolate milkHot Choxx fire boots

So how to get all of the health benefits without the sugar or anything artificial and still experience the purest enjoyment that hot chocolate can bring? Just keep it simple… Scald milk, throw in good 64% or higher % dark chocolate that you would enjoy all by itself and any natural flavoring like cinnamon. Stir and enjoy! And if you’re looking for a fun experiment at home, try making some homemade marshmallows! Great for a snowy afternoon in with the kids. The kids can watch you make it (it gets hot!) and then once you spread in a pan, they can help you punch out different shapes with cookie cutters.

Or check out Luxx Chocolat Hot Choxx artisan hot chocolate on a stick. Just won 12 awards in the 2015 BEST Hot Cocoa & Drinking Chocolate Competition given by the International Chocolate Salon and TasteTV!

Enjoy!  HotChocolate2014-4star

Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced. Now served at Memoire restaurant in Ridgewood!

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

New Year’s Resolution…go to the dark side!

Are you a milk chocolate fan? What about your kids? Sometimes that’s all kids want because that’s all they’ve ever really experienced.  Or do they claim they don’t like the bitterness of dark chocolate?  It’s time you all come to the dark side. Why? Because all dark chocolate is NOT the same.  Time to rock the boat and add moving to dark chocolate as a part of your health-related New Year’s resolutions. Yes…it’s good for you!

As Americans, we have not had the privileged exposure to fine chocolate like those in Europe. We all grew up with Hershey and Nestle and it was pretty much all milk chocolate…which doesn’t have much real chocolate in it!  The facts are, chocolate is NOT sweet and it can be expensive. So chocolate makers add loads of sugar, anywhere from 80-90% of the product, and artificial flavorings to make it taste like real chocolate to save money. A Hershey’s® Bar is about 11% cacao (and it is probably because the U.S. FDA REQUIRES a minimum of 10% cacao solids). And Snickers® is less than 2%!  So is it the chocolate or the sugar everyone likes? Eating food high in sugar boosts your odds of tooth decay, heart disease, and diabetes, not to mention weight gain.

10659368_10202660763781212_5334588376119262189_nBy moving over to dark chocolate in 2015, you and your kids can slash sugar intake in a big way!  And dark chocolate has proven health benefits. It’s a superfood!But of course, keep it in moderation. Here are some interesting facts:

  • All dark chocolate is NOT the same. That’s like saying every Cabernet Sauvignon from every vineyard is the same. Each chocolate maker, like a wine maker, is an artist in their own way. They have their own processes, proprietary recipes, use different amounts of quality or low quality ingredients grown in various places in the world under distinct climate conditions and in different soils, blend in flavorings or not etc. With chocolate, even how it is processed (ie: conching) can impact the mouthfeel (smoothness, creaminess), flavor and even perceived bitterness. High quality chocolate makers tend to conche longer…which makes their dark chocolates NOT bitter. In chocolate, you get what you pay for. Try the finer chocolate maker’s products. Even chocolates within a maker will be different. Don’t generalize. Experience everything. You will find the ones you will love!  (ask me!)
  • Look for chocolate labels that say 64%, 72% and other percentages over 60%. The % cacao that you see on chocolate labels basically indicates the % of real chocolate vs sugar. So the higher the %, the darker the chocolate and the less sugar, the more the chocolate flavor…and the healthier it is for you!  If it doesn’t have a percentage…stay away
  • Dark chocolate is natural and nutritious. It contains a decent amount of soluble fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, seleniumBenefits of choc
  • Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids which are antioxidants that have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and boost overall heart health. There are also studies in cancer, diabetes and many other disease states. Choose chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao or cocoa to optimize the antioxidant power and health benefits
  • Dark chocolate can have more than five times the flavonoids of an apple
  • Dark chocolate may reduce the risk of a heart attack. Research found that blood platelets clotted more slowly in people who had eaten chocolate than in those who had not. This is significant because when platelets clump, a clot can form, and when the clot blocks a blood vessel, it can lead to a heart attack
  • Some studies suggest that dark chocolate can offset Type 2 diabetes
  • Researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that dark chocolate is far more filling, offering more of a feeling of satiety than its lighter-colored sibling. That is, dark chocolate lessens cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods
  • Dark chocolate can boost your mood! It contains several psychoactive chemicals that act as stimulants and mood elevators… and may induce same feelings that love does. Key for stress reduction. Dark chocolate also influences serotonin which may provide an energizing effect. This increased energy may also improve longevity and stamina…which in turn has a perceived effect of increasing libido. It’s also seen to have an effect in Chronic Fatigue Syndromeeca871d11ff47a2735c44fae9ccf3446
  • Women who ate chocolate daily during their pregnancy reported that they were better able to handle stress than mothers-to-be who abstained. Also, a Finnish study found their babies were happier and smiled more
  • Dark chocolate can improve your skins ability for UVA/UVB sun protection (read one of my earlier blogs)
  • Not only will dark chocolate help your body ward off the effects of stress, but may boost your brain power. Researchers from Oxford University and Norway studied chocolate’s long-term effects on the brain by analyzing the diets of more than 2,000 people over age 70. They found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine, or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t

There is so much more to learn about the health benefits of dark chocolate, so stay tuned! Make the commitment today to go to the dark side of chocolate for you and your family.

And don’t forget, giving your sweetie chocolate for Valentine’s Day may show you care for their health as well as their heart!

cropped Lisa press photoLisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced. Now served at Memoire restaurant in Ridgewood!

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

Like fairy tales? Not when it comes to wine or chocolate… Fairy tales Dispelled Part One

fairy-tales-002

Just when you think you have a good handle on something, surprise! Well, it’s time to dispel some common tales and partial truths associated with wine and chocolate. And since there are SO many, this is only the first part you’ll be reading. Knowledge is the key to better experiences and offering proper guidance to your family members. And you’ll also look even more brilliant at your next event or dinner party.

Better wines are sealed with a cork?

CorksNot necessarily. Screw capped wines can age just as well as a cork. And times are changing. Traditional cork is becoming a limited natural supply and has ongoing quality issues which impacts the ability to preserve wines from the negative effects of oxygenation on aging and wine preservation and even cork spoilage. Many wineries have been experimenting with plastic and plant-based polymer alternatives and screw caps and can attest that quality control is much easier and in many situations can improve wine aging. The use of these alternatives though are associated with cheap wine, right?

That image started to change about a decade ago, when commercial winemakers in New Zealand and Australia started using the enclosures much more widely for all kinds of wine, including some higher-end bottles. The fact is, screw caps have topped bottles from some of the world’s best wineries for about a decade, and even the most reputable wine critics openly acknowledge that there’s nothing wrong with sealing a wine bottle with a screw cap in lieu of a cork. New Zealand is leading the wine industry with the majority of wineries converting from cork to cap. Wineries in Australia, Spain, South Africa, South America, Canada, the U.S. and France are all testing the capping trend as well.

But even with many advantages over cork, expanded cap adoption really comes down to wine industry marketing reservations due to wine drinkers’ attachment to the pomp and circumstance of opening a bottle elegantly with a cork screw. What matters is what’s in the bottle, no?

Wine critics are always right?

winesnobWine criticism is a very particular thing. Everyone has a different palate although some wine reviewers may have fallen in line with your particular taste on an occasion or two. In order to be exactly in step with a wine critic, your expectations from any particular bottle of wine need to be shared. How do you really know you share the same taste? Our noses, mouths and brains vary in performance from one individual to the next. What it comes down to is learning what traits you like in different types of wines and to trust your palate. Ultimately, you are the one that counts.

Sweet wines pair best with chocolate?

cropped 90s beautySweet dessert, sweeter wine? Why? Forget those who think this is the only way to go. Remember, it’s about your palate, not a narrow-minded view on what makes a great experience. Please…no…  Don’t get caught in the sweet trap as it will limit your chocolate and wine pairing pleasure! Dessert wines, like Sauternes and Ports can make way for too much sweet going on. Occasionally a nice Port and a very dark high percentage and more bitter chocolate, ok. But how often do you really drink dessert wines? Your goal should be to compliment or provide a nice contrast with the actual flavors that exist in the many wines you enjoy normally…like smokiness, pepper, black berry, earth, cherry, honey etc. and not to overpower or compete on a sweetness level. It should be about flavors, scents and aromas! Note though that not every wine does go with chocolate, especially very dry tannic wines, so we’ll be discussing those principles as we go forward. It’s not a simple as it appears.

Stay tuned for the next fairy tale installment of wine and chocolate!

cropped Lisa press photoLisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.

www.luxxchocolat.com, luxxchocolat@optonline.net, 201-312-7936

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