May 152014
Vegan Cheesecake | Eli's Cheesecake

Yum as far as the eye can see.

This week Eli’s Cheesecake introduced two new Vegan flavors to the company lineup — Belgian Chocolate and Carrot Cake. The desserts are available starting this week at Chicago-area Mariano’s stores only. I popped in to the Ravenswood Mariano’s for the big announcement, and, more importantly, get a taste.

Vegan Cheesecake | Eli's Cheesecake

The tofu comes from Chicago’s Phoenix Bean

My track record with vegan desserts hasn’t always been great. I find consistency to be a huge issue and flavors, particularly chocolate, always seem to suffer. Eli’s partnered with Chicago tofu-maker Jenny Yang of Phoenix Bean to develop an artisan tofu to use in the recipes. The combination of tofu and dairy-free cheescake to build the consistency and carry the flavor worked well.

I think it’s a stretch to call either of these cheesecake, more of layered cake with cheesecake-esque topping. Still, each is an excellent alternative to other vegan desserts I’ve tried. The texture was great and each had a satisfying feel in the mouth. I loved the lightness of the carrot cheesecake, and they were able to bring out fruity notes in the Belgian chocolate.

If I tasted these without knowing they were vegan, I would never have guessed.

Vegan Cheesecake | Eli's Cheesecake

Available at Chicago-area Mariano’s stores.

The vegan cheesecakes are much lower in fat and cholesterol than other choices, and, most obviously these have fewer calories than traditional cheesecake. I believe each slice weighed in at less than 200 calories. That means there’s more to love, right?

Want to hear more about Eli’s vegan cheeseake? Watch the video from Wednesday’s announcement.

I was not financially compensated for this post. Access was provided to me as a member of the media. The opinions are completely my own, based on my experience.


May 082014

Crave Bar

Spring has finally arrived and that means it’s time for ice cream! I love ice cream. It’s ridiculous how much of it I eat. So when Scott Holstein, one of the founders of Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels, stopped by with samples of their Crave Bars, I got greedy. It was hard not to be.

What are Crave Bars? They’re squared hunks of ice-cream coated in chocolate and pretzel bits, then sprinkled with sea salt. Instead of a stick, these dessert geniuses use a caramel-filled, chocolate-dipped pretzel rod that’s completely edible. Not a bite is wasted.

There are three different varieties of Crave Bars designed to satisfy your particular craving.

Crave Bar

I started with the Dark Chocolate Decadence, an artisan vanilla ice cream sealed with a super-thick coating of dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt. This combination of sweet and salty flavors with creamy and crunchy textures fit my definition of decadence perfectly. The pretzel rod with chewy caramel, more chocolate, and salty goodness was almost a dessert by itself.

The Milk Chocolate Madness doubled down on the chocolate with a mix of smooth chocolate ice cream and milk chocolate coating. I saved this madness for the first warm day of Spring, and the chocolate overload was worth the wait. Truly, there’s nothing better than sitting in the sun, eating delicious ice cream.

Crave Bar

I didn’t get to try the Cappuccino Craze, a coffee ice cream covered in dark chocolate and dusted with ground organic coffee, but all the flavors are available Mariano’s, Goddess & Grocer, and a few other locations. If you’re at Ravinia this Summer, look for Scott and his ice cream cart. Crave Bars are worth the splurge on a hot night.

Despite my best efforts, I didn’t get a bite of ice cream and the pretzel rod at the same time. It’s probably because I have years of popsicle training to unlearn. Now that warm weather is finally here, I’m ready to train hard and crave on!

I was not financially compensated for this post. Product was provided to me for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.


Apr 272014
Pop-up Chocolate Bar

Confections, pâtisseries, and snacks await at NoMI.

Love chocolate? Make plans to pop into the Park Hyatt (800 North Michigan) to experience the desserts featured in the Boutique Chocolate pop-up. The temporary shop is the brainchild of NoMI pastry chef, Chef Meg Galus, who clearly loves sweets, “Chocolate is something I’m passionate about. I think it speaks to our guests and is something we could produce in an upscale way. I want to showcase the art of chocolate. I’ll be down here working and showing guests the process that we go through.”

Among the items to tempt chocolate fiends are five mousses that use the same recipe but change out the type of chocolate. Chef Galus hopes the vertical will illustrate differences beyond percentage of chocolate and demonstrate how terrior influences taste. She went the distance to find the best too, “I normally have 12-15 chocolates in my kitchen, but right now I have 45. I have some from Africa and Boliva and some that are a mix. I have stacks of chocolate everywhere.”

I personally enjoyed the Meyer Lemon Lollipops that backed the delicate citrus flavors with a satisfying creamy chocolate. The Chocolate Chip cookies, the gold standard of childhood chocolate consumption, also scored well with large dark chocolate hunks. The final measure of decadence were the chocolate-chewy pistachio nougats that I couldn’t seem to stop sampling.

NoMI’s Boutique Chocolate will be at the Park Hyatt Chicago Library between April 26 through May 11 from 1-8pm. Items are available for sale by the piece, though personalized gift packages are available.

Pop-up Chocolate Bar

Get a chocolate fix in a range of sizes.

I was not financially compensated for this post. Access was provided to me for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.