Milse, Auckland

May 14, 2017


When i learned that there was a dessert-only restaurant in Auckland, i knew i had to visit it. Finding the place was a bit tricky — i passed by it a couple of times, without noticing the small plaque by the entrance. (It is located in a red brick building in Britomart, next to cafes and clothing stores — but the entrance is not from the little “boulevard” in the center of the group of stores, but from a grey and narrow alley-like street on the other side).

Inside, there is a long counter with all sorts of goodies under glass — and a passage along it, that is very narrow; so that only one person can comfortably stand in front of the counter at a time.  Then it widens into a decent-size and more-airy-feeling space with tables — so don’t be scared off by the narrow corridor at the entrance!

And in glass cases along that counter were some of the most beautiful-looking treats i have ever seen! (Milse’s website gallery actually doesn’t do them justice, in my opinion.) Colorful morsels of red, green or purple, some translucent, with interesting flavor combinations to match! I bought 6 to go, because i was pressed for time at that point.

I dug into them on my flight back from New Zealand — so the plane’s recirculated air did the flavors no favors. So the varied additives didn’t come across very strongly to me.

These chocolates were more expensive than the ones i got in Wellington — but they make a gorgeous gift for someone who appreciates both the look and the taste of sweet treats!



Bohemein, Wellington

May 14, 2017


On a rainy day in Wellington, i made one more stop for chocolates (besides those mentioned here , here, and here ) — i simply couldn’t pass by the warm glow of the cozy store in the cold rain! The giant chocolate Easter bunny  on the counter looked enticing, too! I got a small bag of handmade chocolates for around NZ10 . These were not as pretty to look at as the items in the other stores, but they were definitely fresh and very tasty, about the level of sweetness that i like (not too sweet), truffles soft and creamy. And in my opinion, these may be tied with De Spa Chocolatier, Wellington  in terms of best quality for the price.

Hi! Prosecco

April 30, 2017

Hi! Prosecco

I was feeling in need of something bubbly, and saw this Prosecco for about $9 at World Market. The orange lettering on the bottle caught my eye, and that the label said it was Extra Dry, made in the Veneto, and that the winemaker was female, meant that i wanted to check it out. I opened it last night at a party: it was straw-colored; fresh and dry, as promised; and full of festive bubbles. It went well by itself, or as an accompaniment to proscuitto, or chicken-and-sausage gumbo, or seared scallops. Overall, very pleased with it, and will continue buying it.

Schoc Chocolates, Wellington

April 15, 2017

Schoc Chocolates

As part of my chocolate tour of Wellington (described here ,  here  and here), I also happened to stumble across Schoc. I swear, i was just looking for a place to have dinner, when i saw the door to their store. The space is bright and light-filled, with display cases full of truffles in the center, and shelves with packages chocolate goodies along three sides of the room. I got several of the beautiful, colorful pre-packaged chocolates (including the white and dark chocolate turtles with yellow and red shells — they looked almost too pretty to eat!) The chocolate was good quality, and the right level of sweetness in the dark chocolate for my taste. With the cute packaging, these would be a winning whimsical gift for any chocolate lover on your list, for around NZD 2.20!


Jade Chocolates, San Francisco

April 15, 2017

Jade Chocolates

An exquisite-looking small store on Geary Blvd. A tempting display with over 12 types of beautiful-looking truffles is out in front (seriously, all of them look perfect, and very colorful), and the side wall is lined with packaged bars, tea drops (small packages of organic tea, around $2 each, that you drop into hot water instead of tea bags), and small crushed samples of some of the bars, with flavors like lemongrass and black pepper, and red chile, lapsang suchong tea and sesame seeds. They also have hot chocolate — several flavors (ginger, red pepper, bittersweet, etc); as well as hot chocolate with tea leaves added to it during the preparation process (with varieties like Lychee Rose Green tea, Jasmine Green tea and Chai Black tea). Those mixtures sounded interesting — but per my rule, i don’t drink caffeinated tea after 3 pm, so i had to pass on them.

Instead, i got a Tumeric / Black pepper hot chocolate ($5.75) and a gift set with 6 tea drops and 7 chocolate bar squares ($17), with a pretty green ribbon and a red seal. One improvement i would suggest is better labeling for the gift sets, describing which flavors are inside — it seems that there is one of each flavor in there, but that’s not clear without opening up the package.

My hot chocolate was very rich, flavorful, a bit spicy. I felt it would be even better served in a regular cup with a spoon for stirring — because the black pepper tended to settle on the bottom and provide all its punch in the last few sips. Overall, a decadent treat, in a choice of decadent varieties! And i am looking forward to trying those tea drops and chocolate bars.

Cafe Coco, San Francisco

April 15, 2017

Cafe Coco on Facebook

Was passing by after a long day exploring the area, and felt like i really needed a hot beverage. The sign for this cafe at the corner of 7th and Geary Blvd seemed like an answer to my prayers. Inside, the cafe was spacious, and a couple of people were drinking something and studying/ reading / working. I ordered a 16 oz hot chocolate for $3.75 (they also have a selection of Mighty Leaf teas, and all the requisite coffee drinks).  My hot chocolate was good — slightly bitter-sweet, and very restorative (not as fancy or as gourmet as at Jade Chocolates, San Francisco 2 doors down — but also $2 cheaper). A nice touch was the phone-charging station by the counter — I had been using my phone all day, and it’s been running low; unfortunately, none of the cables fit it (3 out of 4 options seemed to be for the iPhone), but i appreciate the thought.

Beanstalk Cafe, San Francisco

April 15, 2017

Beanstalk Cafe on Facebook

There aren’t many reasonably-priced and good places to eat around Union Square in San Francisco, and that by itself makes Beanstalk Cafe worth the short walk from the square (warning: it’s uphill, though). I was passing by shortly before 9 am on a weekend morning, and decided to stop in. There were several people in line, and all the table in the small place were taken — but there were still 2 spaces at the bar.  I got a Toast Cup — $3.95 before 9:30 am, and a hot chocolate. The items were ready within minutes. The toast cup was an egg wrapped in bacon and then wrapped in dough that became crispy and crunchy in the toaster. The hot chocolate was OK as far as hot chocolates go, nothing exceptional (not too sweet, but not bitter-sweet either; really, just a neutral-tasting hot chocolate, if you can imagine such a thing). And for $7.50 combined before tip, these 2 items provided adequate sustenance for me till after 1 pm.

So: good, quick, and cheap. Well worth visiting!

De Spa Chocolatier, Wellington

March 13, 2017

De Spa

As an intermediate stop on my chocolate mini-tour of Wellington , I happened across the De Spa Store downstairs in the Old Bank Arcade shopping center. The small space, choc- (ha!)  -ful of varied treats, seemed right at home in the old-fashioned glamour of the Old Bank. The shop was busy, with a couple in front of me selecting about 4 pieces each, and a lady coming in behind me.

I got a chocolate truffle, and, since it was priced by weight and not by piece, that came to NZ $ 1.50. Stepping outside, I decided that I needed the treat to fortify me against the rain, so I wasted no time in eating my treat. It was very good, if not particularly remarkable — a nice quick inexpensive treat on a rainy day. The verdict: the shop and its environs in the historic Old Bank Arcade make for a pleasant diversion, and I would stop in again!

Butlers Chocolate Cafe, Wellington

March 13, 2017

Butlers Chocolates

Recently, I was fortunate enough to conduct a self-guided chocolate mini-tour of Wellington. It wasn’t planned that way — rather, chocolate shops would magically appear on my path through the city, and it being a rainy and windy day, I had nothing better to do than stop in each one.

One of them was Butlers Chocolate Cafe, 103 Willis Str, Wellington. The space  was cheerful, with chocolates, treats and some solid food displayed in the case upfront, and several tables occupied in the back of the room. I was running low on calories, and decided to get a Dark Hot Chocolate. At NZ $ 6/7,  for regular / large, the hot chocolate was NZ$ 1 more expensive than other places — but they do offer you a selection of a truffle from their case to go with it. I picked the Chili chocolate truffle.

After a short wait, my drink was ready, and I grabbed it and headed out the door. But it as disappointing: it didn’t taste chocolatey (never mind like Dark chocolate), and was not thick and rick, but about the consistency of warm milk (although light-brown in color).

The chili chocolate that I got to go with it was much better — good-quality chocolate, not too sweet, with a bit of a spicy kick (not a lot, but enough to let you know it’s there).

The verdict: there are better places in Wellington to get hot chocolate, and the hot chocolates at Butlers Chocolate Cafe are not worth the money; but if you are passing by and want to try a truffle out of the case — go for it!

The Nibbley Pig Cafe, Woodville

March 10, 2017

The Nibbley Pig Cafe on Facebook

Driving from Napier to Wellington, was looking for a place to stop and get a quick lunch. The “flying pigs” in the cafe window attracted my attention.  The cafe is housed in a Victorian building with “old-fashioned” decor inside — which translates into a bunch of cute clutter (a lot of dishes with blue-and-white patterns, pig statues, paintings). The place apparently used to be an antique store, and it shows in the decor — while pleasant, there is a lot of it, and so it may not be your “cup of tea”. The food was good (a sandwich and a bite of a lemon cake), and my hot chocolate was rich and not too sweet. The service was fast, even though they got busy shortly after we arrived. Overall, a quaint and memorable stop, especially recommended if you like to have your tea while looking at cabinets of little dishes and bric-o-brac.