Tree-to-bar basics

Recently I finally visited the small factory of the Chocolatemakers in Amsterdam, where delicious chocolate bars are handmade from bean to bar. Funny enough I had seen the facilities in the US (Mast Brothers in Brooklyn, NYC and Taza near Boston), but never the one closest to where I live. Naturally, I wanted to post something about my impressions at the Chocolatemakers as well, but suddenly realized that I never spend a single minute on explaining what ‘bean-to-bar’ actually means… do you know how chocolate is made?

Where does the magic happen in the making of chocolate? Where does the magic happen in the making of chocolate?

Defending chocolate: Askinosie

This might sound like a random pick. I didn’t do many chocolate reviews so far, so why elaborate on chocolates made by Askinosie? Partly, it’s random indeed, but Askinosie is also a great chocolate maker that is still far less known than many of the ‘classic’ bean-to-bar chocolate makers.

One of Askinosie's chocolate bars that's definitely worth a try: the dark goat milk! One of Askinosie’s chocolate bars that’s definitely worth a try: the dark goat milk!

Amsterdam chocolate metrics

Finally I created one single page to give a brief overview of the Amsterdam chocolate scene. Not without some super-objective quantification of course. After all, I’m still a scientist… but have a look yourself.

Amsterdam chocolatier have finally been quantified Amsterdam chocolatiers have finally been quantified according to internationally accepted sweet matter units.

Tasting is better than shopping: Chocolátl

To make a short story long: there are two types of people, the one that live in (or close to) Amsterdam and the ones who don’t. I have good news if you belong to the first category, but be prepared to be devastated if you are a non-Amsterdammer. If you at least visit the city regularly, or have some friends here, you might be fine (dear others, better get something to dry your tears).

Best chocolate shop in (and beyond) Amsterdam: Chocolátl. Best chocolate shop in (and beyond) Amsterdam: Chocolátl.

Good or Gooey?

When I converted into a 99% vegetarian many, many years ago most people around me expected I’d be challenged by all those fantastic, delicious meet dishes. As a matter of fact, I am more tempted by the trashiest of all candies: wine gum! Unfortunately, most of them are based on gelatin as gelling agent.

Goody good stuff makes gooey vegan wine gums Goody good stuff makes vegan wine gums – but are they really good?

Food Film Festival

May 9-11, Amsterdam will host the fourth edition of the Food Film Festival! Ticket sales is open since yesterday, and its program is definitely worth a closer look.

Food Film Festival 2014 in Amsterdam
Program of the Food Film Festival 2014 in Amsterdam

Sweet spot: Metropolitan

When I started writing about chocolate places in Amsterdam I already had my two favorite spots. Until now, two things kept me from featuring them in full detail. I didn’t want to start with the greatest Amsterdam highlights. And I wanted to make sure that I spend enough time with all the other places Amsterdam has to offer (some of which I also liked a lot!). Still there’s always personal favorites. And if it comes to pralines/bonbons/chocolates, my favorite is: Metropolitan.

 Sweet spot in Amsterdam: Metropolitan
Sweet spot in Amsterdam: Metropolitan

German artisan-Mafia: Handwerkskammer

During a week in East Germany I had my fears of German regulations for artisan production confirmed. Unfortunately :cry: .

Handwerkskammer advertisement

Smells like…

Researchers find that we can distinguish more than one trillion odors. Now, is that much or not?

Testing mixtures of odorsOut of a set of 128 basic odors (I only depicted 100 boxes here), 10 (as shown here), 20 or 30 were mixed so that test persons could compare the smell of different mixtures. Two entirely different sets of flavor compounds were easy to distinguish (left), but if a substantial part of the compounds were identical (violet squares) it quickly becomes difficult to sense a difference (middle) or at about 90% overlap mixtures can not even be distinguished at all (right). Figure inspired by figures made in Bushdid et al. (Science, 2014).

Not fancy. Not bad! Holtkamp.

The patisserie Holtkamp is another well-established Amsterdam location. In particular their pastries and –very Dutch- their “croquetten” can be found in many cafés and restaurants in Amsterdam, but also their handmade chocolates enjoy great popularity.

Patisserie Holtkamp in AmsterdamPatisserie Holtkamp in Amsterdam