In keeping the theme of this blog around design and technology, it was feeling a bit too narrow of late. So I decided to expose yet another passion of mine: chocolate, or more specifically: chocolate brownies. A couple of months ago I decided to use this blog as a platform to launch a Brownie Olympics of sorts. The kind folks at Cold Mud offered to co-sponsor this extravaganza of deliciousness and thus, The 2008 Cold Mud Brownie Olympics were under way.
Today, we’re going to run through the various participating brownies that are up for this most prestigious award, as well as our assessment of how tasty their brownies were. Before getting into the various brownies we tried (and we tried many), a brief summary of the ground rules:
- Our primary focus was taste, but we also factored in texture, presentation and other less-scientific factors like how good it makes us feel for the rest of the day.
- We’re all about chocolate. We avoided brownie with nuts, raspberry sauce or anything else that would taint the pure chocolate flavor we were going after. Chocolate chunks are OK. Chocolate chunks are always OK.
- No fudge. I repeat: no fudge.
And now, on to the…err…athletes!
Dancing Dear – Chocolate Chunk
Dancing Dear products can be found in many gourmet/higher-end markets. Their stuff is generally of very good quality. Their Chocolate Chunk is a solid, rich brownie. If you’re looking for decadent, you won’t be disappointed here. If anything, the Dancing Dear leans on the butter a bit too much, leaving little room for subtlety. Butter in brownies is sort of like Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. Yeh, it’s important to the story, but it’s not the star. Chocolate is the star. As to texture, one of our judges found it a bit “spongy” for a brownie, though I found its density just fine. Overall, a very good brownie.
Mari’s NY (Classic)
Mari’s NY heralds itself as a whole other level of brownie experience. The packaging is nothing short of stunning. It’s the equivalent of confectionary lingerie. As I unwrapped the box (oh so gently), I couldn’t help but think I was in for some sort of insane chocolate experience. Lord knows we paid for it. Mari’s brownies were far-and-away the most expensive of the bunch. As soon as I got to the actual brownie, I knew it wasn’t going to live up to the hype. It’s really not a brownie. It’s more like fudge. And calling fudge a brownie in these Olympics is the equivalent of taking anabolic steroids before the 100M. This was a real disappointment. It lacked the complexity of texture (flaky to dense and moist) we would expect in a quality brownie. Instead it was just one big block of chocolate mud. Pretty disappointing.
Schmerty’s Blazer (no it does not contain marijuana, despite the name) is a very interesting brownie. It’s texture is a bit too crumbly but it somehow does come through in terms of flavor. It is a salty brownie, but not to the point of repulsion (think chocolate-covered pretzels). You can taste the quality ingredients within. The blazer clearly stands on its own as the most unique of the contestants.
Geoff & Drew’s (Chocolate Chip)
There’s something very likable about Geoff & Drew’s brownies. They came in an old-school tin casserole and you had to cut them up yourself. They could have easily been mistaken for being bought at a church bake sale. So right out of the gate, we felt a nice, homemade vibe. Once we tasted them though, things got a little weird. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a pretty good brownie. They just sort of lacked that chocolate punch we want in a brownie. They were a bit too…bready. Still, you’ve got to give them points for that homemade feeling. They just don’t have that close-your-eyes-once-you-bite-in-and-make-that-stupid-face quality.
New York Brownies (Original)
We’ll try to put our New York bias aside as we assess our next contestant: New York Brownies. The package lacked the seductive qualities of Mari’s nor the homemade qualities of Geoff & Drew’s. It was all business. A big box with two packs of dry ice to ensure quality. As soon as you get to the brownies, the first thing you’ll notice is how big they are. This is a large brownie. Once we unwrapped it and took a bite, we knew this guy was special. Nice, dense texture. Strong cocoa flavor. And above all else, it tasted fresh. This was a serious brownie.
Pret A Manger Brownie
For posterity’s sake, we wanted to include a more, umm, pedestrian brownie. Pret A Manger is cropping up all over New York City these days. Pret prides itself on its quality lunch menu. As you step up to a Pret counter to pay, you’re alwa
ys confronted with all sorts of tasty treats, including their brownies. The Pret brownie is an average brownie. It’s tasty, fairly dense and has an agreeable chocolate flavor. If you’re grabbing a sandwich and drink for lunch, you’re going to do just fine with one of Pret’s brownies. It isn’t as bad as a Lil’ Debbie’s brownie, but still falls short of gourmet.
And that’s it folks! In the next couple of days, we will announce the winner of the 2008 Cold Mud Brownie Olympics!