Monday, February 23, 2009

Happenings: Ritz Carlton Chocolate Bar 2009

City Guy and I extended our Valentine's Day another weekend by attending the Ritz Carlton Battery Park Chocolate Bar 2009 on Saturday. For those of you who don't know, the Chocolate Bar is an annual event in the hotel's top floor lounge, Rise. I guess the pastry chef designs a few dozen chocolate desserts and for $75, you get to eat as many as you want. You also get a bottomless glass of champagne. Tip and tax included.

So, how was it? It wasn't quite what I expected. I expected a Willy Wonka-esque buffet of chocolatey goodness--everything from hot chocolate to cakes to pies to ice cream sundaes and everything in between. I was wrong.

The buffet consists of three stations--following this year's Carnival theme: ferris wheel, roller coaster and carousel--frighteningly lit, as you can see from the pictures. The ferris wheel and carousel featured the same dozen or so small plates of dense chocolate desserts. On the ferris wheel, the plated items go around in a circle. On the carousel, they're placed on the table. The roller coaster had lighter fare -- macarons and macaroons, chocolate popcorn, dipped apples and strawberries, marshmallow treats, truffles--and featured a soundtrack of roller coaster sounds and people screaming, which added to its spookiness (unintended, I think.)The fourth station - the waffle station - was the highlight of my night - freshly made waffles are drizzled in chocolate hazelnut sauce and topped with a banana ice cream. Yum.

The focus on confectionery meant no chocolate drinks, pastries or ice cream- unless I missed something. I would have loved a nice chocolate chip cookie or chocolate sundae. The buffet was in a small corner of the restaurant, so it didn't feel as grand as I expected. I applaud the pastry chef's ingenuity--the desserts looked great and reflected the theme well, but the chocolate itself was unmemorable--no tastier than chocolates found at any fine hotel's buffet.

Even my favorite items - the waffle and the chocolate-dipped macarons--can easily be bested by other chocolate purveyors around town. I can't clearly remember a single dessert from the ferris wheel. Other than the waffle and macaron, there were only a couple items I ate in their entirety and none I wanted seconds of. This event is clearly a money-maker for the Ritz.

With all that chocolate and champagne, we both felt sick by the end of the night and a bit underwhelmed. If you want chocolate overload, I'd recommend the annual Chocolate Show at the Metropolitan Pavillion instead.

The view from atop the Ritz is breath-taking - at night, you can see the Hudson River lined with lights. During the summer, this might be a really great place to meet someone for drinks.

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