Thursday, April 14, 2011

Las Vegas Chocolate Part 4 - Find a "Multi-Layered" Food & Chocolate Experience at Caesars Palace with Max Brenner and Payard

While I was in Las Vegas, I stopped by a Max Brenner cafe (at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace).  With four locations in the U.S.A., about 24 in Australia and locations in three other countries, this small chocolate retailer and restaurant chain is growing fast. At the Max Brenner shop, they claim their chocolate culture to be "...the chocolate bar which combines a bar and a shop allowing you to experience your shopping at the bar and shop for your experience at the chocolate shop." Interesting.  I really only experienced the "shopping" part of it.  My friends, who had spent too many late nights partying Las Vegas-style, were napping on a bench outside while waiting for me, so all I had time for was a quick browse of the shop and some purchases to take home.  The attached Max Brenner restaurant had a very yummy looking menu and I wished I could have stayed for a meal and a dessert. However, I simply browsed the shop, asked questions and left with only one box of 100% PURE dark chocolate thins, a small box of four chocolate truffles and a t-shirt that simply says "chocolate is good for you".  I never buy t-shirts while traveling, but this one did not have Max Brenner's name on it and the slogan was on the back, so I thought it would be a fun one to own.

I tried the 100% PURE chocolate thins first, in a 70g/2.45oz package. The artificial vanilla flavour was immediately noticeable.  However, with each piece that I ate, this chocolate grew on me little by little and I soon realized that even though artificial flavouring was used instead of real vanilla, the flavour was subtle and not overwhelming, and the chocolate taste really came through.  What I like most about this chocolate, is that each piece really is "thin" and breaks in your mouth but melts quickly. Each little piece feels like a perfect indulgence and a snack at the same time.

I do have an issue with the "100% PURE" statement that is front and centre on the package.  I feel that, since artificial flavouring is used, it should not be called "100% pure" because the term "pure" evokes the same idea as the term "natural" does. So it gives the buyer the idea that you are buying something made from pure (as in not-modified) ingredients.  Artificial flavouring just does not fall into that category.

Max Brenner's main slogan, "Chocolate by the Bald Man", is a funny one. However, it is just not appealing to me.  I don't mind if the man who makes the chocolate is bald, but since I am a visual person, I immediately pictured eating the chocolate off of this bald man's head.  Yes, I'm weird.  But we are all a little weird in some way, aren't we? I just happen to have instantaneous "Ally McBeal" style visions of everything I read and hear.  I may also have had this vision because there is an illustration on the package of just a bald man's head and some brown scribbles across the bald part of his head, which I think is supposed to be his signature, but it initially looked like streaks of chocolate to me, which only fueled my vision of licking the chocolate off his head. I know, I started with "eating" the chocolate off his head and now I am "licking" the chocolate off his head.  This article is really going downhill quickly, isn't it?

Anyway, moving on to other Max Brenner products....  I bought a small box of four Max Brenner bonbons: a 70% square truffle rolled in cocoa powder, a dark chocolate orange truffle, a raspberry dark chocolate truffle and a simple dark truffle (likely made from chocolate with 50 to 60% cocoa solids). They were all very good, with the 70% being the most interesting, as its centre was like a dense chocolate mousse, rather than a smooth and melty truffle.  The raspberry was a little strange, but the seeds indicated to me that it was made with real raspberries, which was a nice touch.

Overall, my Max Brenner experience was pretty good.  I like the concept of tying chocolate in with food, so you don't have to just buy chocolate there but you can experience it too. If I can ever figure out how to navigate their complicated website, I may be able to figure out how Max Brenner got started.  The chocolate thins package says they are made in Israel, but I found one article online that said Max Brenner started in Australia.  So I really have no idea where the business originated and the website is pretty confusing. But all that aside, if you are looking for a decent meal and a good desert, or chocolate and souvenirs to take home from Las Vegas, check out the Max Brenner at the Forum Shops in Caesars Palace.

A postcard picture of the giant
"truffle-inspired" clock and the
box that held the free truffle
that the machine spit out.
 Another way you can get a food and chocolate co-experience in Las Vegas is at Payard Patisserie & Bistro at Caesars Palace.  Unfortunately there was no one to serve people at the chocolate counter, and the line-up was long at the Payard food counter and my friends were again waiting, so I didn't have time to buy anything. However, we did get a single decadent truffle in a tiny box as a free sample, which came out of the giant egg-shaped machine in the centre of the shop, which, according to the free Payard post-card, is supposed to be a "13-foot tall, truffle inspired shaped Payard Chocolate Clock". To me it looked like a giant chocolate time machine with an Eastery flare. However, the truffle was decadent and traditional-looking (oddly shaped and with jagged edges - I like truffles that way!) and rolled in cocoa powder.  It was dark chocolate, rich and smooth.

The website info for Payard at Caesars Palace is, where you can find out why it is described as a "multi-layered" chocolate experience, also serving a gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The dessert menu sounds divine. The official Payard website is:

So while in Vegas, if you want an interesting food experience with a sweet-treat twist, check out Caesars Palace for Max Brenner or Payard Patisserie & Bistro.
Here are the details from the package of the Max Brenner 100% PURE chocolate thins that I tasted today:

Pure Dark Chocolate Thins, 70g/2.45oz
Manufactured by Max Brenner, Israel
Ingredients: Chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, artificial flavour. Dark chocolate contains cocoa solids 70% minimum. Allergy advice: Contains soya.  may contain peanuts, milk, nuts, wheat or eggs. Kosher Dairy under supervision of Bet-Shemesh Rabbinate.

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