food 03.24.04

Ortrud Münch Carstens Chocolates

Ortrud Münch Carstens says about her way with chocolate: "I try to distill everything down to the vital components and to get to the top of the taste." It is perhaps her years working at an architectural firm that contributes a purist component to her sweets. This is no rococo cocoa—it's the most elegant chocolate imaginable.

She accomplishes this by making chocolate as if she were a 19th century chocolatier, using machines to cool and dehumidify the room but none in the making of the chocolate. When she makes a coffee-flavored ganache, she doesn't grind the beans, but crushes them with a rolling pin. Her hands are always covered in surgeon's gloves to keep the chocolate pure. And Ms. Carstens takes enormous care selecting all of her ingredients, using organic dairy, arisanal cognacs, coffees, and teas, and low quantities of sugar to preserve the star quality of the cocoa beans (Trinitarios and Criollos, grand-crus of the chocolate world).

One of her signature items is a small wooden box of rusty tools (some of the tools are pictured), which she created for her father, who asked if she couldn't do something "more masculine." Originally, she cut each tool by hand from the block of chocolate; now she uses a mold for them and spends "ten times the molding time creating the 'rust.'"

The only place in town you can score the amazing results of Ms. Carstens' fanatical handiwork is at Gotham Gardens, 325 Amst [75th] 212.877.8908. But call ahead: Ms. Carstens will then fill your order, organic ingredients, rolling pin, and surgical gloves at the ready. The wooden tools are $65, a box of 16 truffles are $75. While we love the visual of the tools, we'd go for the truffles every time.
Suing Crunch
We've never had a good word to say about The Bally Total Fitness Company, which owns and operates the Bally and Crunch health clubs. In fact, New Yorkers have been complaining about Bally's business practices for over a decade. But the New Yorker suing Crunch for $1 million in damages for training him too hard during a workout? Come on. No one forced him to stay on the treadmill, just as no one forced the overweight litigants into supersizing themselves by eating at McDonald's. Holy moly, what's wrong with these people?

Our Window Boxes article yesterday had an incorrect address for Chelsea Garden Center. It is 455 W. 16th [9th/10th] 212.929.2477—the other location is closed. MUG's error, our apologies. (Hmm, could we sue Chelsea Garden Center for this?)

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