Tag Archives: chocolate

The Bakery Review: A Daily Blog of the Macarons of Nice, France

You’ve come to expect nothing less of me. When I travel, wherever I travel, I seek out the best of sweetness, whatever it may be. And here in Nice, France, I shall do no less. My plan, whether possible, is to review the macarons from a different bakery every single day while I’m here. I don’t know whether I will pass by enough shops on my way to and from the WAPOR and ESOMAR conferences, but I’m willing to go slightly out of my way to make things happen. Instead of a new post everyday (which would drive some of you nuts!), I’ll just keeping adding to the top of this post. Come back every day to see what I eat!

Sept 10, 2014. May I simply start by saying YUM! I stopped by today’s shop a couple days ago but declined to buy any macarons because they were priced a fair bit more than other stores. I got used to paying 1.2EU each but this shop was 1.5 and 2EU each. Yes, both are exorbitant prices for a tiny little cookie when you could buy an entire box of packaged cookies for less. For my last evening in Nice, though, I broke down and shelled out the dough at a shop called Le Notre. For three! And I’m sure you can see why. The first macaron you see is Jasmine. And yes, it has gold flakes on it which stayed nicely attached instead of just blowing off. It tasted a bit like flowers which is to be expected given the flavour, but it wasn’t overwhelming as some floral treats are. It was crispy, creamy, and nicely done inside and out. The pink one is cherry and it was decorated with a thin chocolate coating in bright pink. Inside was purple cherry jam and it didn’t quite taste like cherry. It was gushy and it completely broke apart. But, even though I’m being very critical, it was still delicious. The last kitty macaron was flavoured badou. I asked what that meant and he said badou. So, I can’t tell you what flavour it was. But, it was crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside as expected. The inside was pink and white and kind of marshmallowey. I wish I could tell you the flavour as it was tastey. And awfully cute!

IMG_3472[1]Sept 9, 2014. My apologies for this belated post. Further apologies for the fact that the shop I went to was a repeat shop, Gosset Boulanger Patissier. But I wasn’t disappointed. I could see the label for the salted caramel macaron so I asked for it. It was a up to par in terms of crispy outside and nice instead. The second macaron made me try out my french because it was not labeled with a flavour and I knew I wouldn’t be able to understand a description of it. So, I ended up asking for the orange one with green on it. What a surprise! It turned out to be orange flavoured with a hint of chili to it. I know, I know. The chili macaron I had the other night was horrid but this one managed to get the flavours just right. Not too much chili and not some strange flavour combination. Besides that, they were shiny on the outside and chewy on the inside which was el perfecto! So, I’m pretty sure I’m forgiven since these were yum!

6macaronsSept 8, 2014. After yesterday’s horrid macarons, it seems strange that I yet again write about the macarons I ate at the Acropolis Congress. But, since they were so horrid yesterday, I thought today’s macarons earned them a chance on the blog again. What we were served today were your typical macarons – shiny on top, slightly crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, not too sweet. In order, they were pistachio (very nice flavour, mushy inside), chocolate (nice brownie flavour), coffee (i was hoping for praline and I’m not a coffee fan but I could see that people would like this one), vanilla (very nice flavour, not just a ‘plain’ macaron), lemon (great lemony flavour despite being crunched, but it was closer to lemon pudding inside), raspberry (i’m not a big fan of raspberry nor of jam but given that, this macaron was fine). Actually, this is a picture of the SECOND set of macarons, but these macarons made it back to my hotel room so I could write about them. Anyways, they weren’t SO delicious that I required 12 macarons, but a macaron on a table is a macaron that requires eating. Let the hating begin… “Oh, how do you stay so thin! I wish I could eat like that!”  Well, I don’t eat like that. It’s called conference eating and it stops the second I get on the plane. That’s how. 🙂

horrible awful macaronSept 7, 2014. Stop reading today’s update right now. I mean it. Stop. Well, I warned you. Today’s macaron was awful. Horrible. Can’t imagine anything worse.  So, the source of today’s atrocity is the Acropolis Congress which is hosting this week’s conference. I pretty much ran over to the table as soon as I realized there were macarons on it. Politely, I took just one. I’m always very polite when it comes to sweets. Anyways, with glee, I popped that little green baby into my mouth and nearly… well, let’s say I politely finished it. I just had to open it up to see what the double hockey sticks was in. Peanut butter? With chili? Well, the outside was soft and mushy and it smelled awful. Maybe this was a gourmet flavour that is far behind my unrefined palette. I don’t care. It was so bad I just had to check out the pink one too. Back to the table… Fortunately, the pink one was still a little crispy on the outside but I wisened up on my methodology. I DID NOT EAT THIS ONE. I opened that puppy up and it had some weird brown filling that ALSO SMELLED AWFUL.  In other words, I have no idea what flavour it was and I really don’t care. To give credit, I don’t know how you’re supposed to serve good quality, fresh macarons to 1000 people when a macaron only stays fresh for about ten minutes. So don’t even try.  Hey, is it inappropriate to whip the leftover macaron bits out my hotel window? Just curious. Not that I did. But I did do this.

IMG_3115[1]Sept 6, 2014. I’ve never chaired a conference session before and today was my first time. The speakers were kind as pie and intrigued the audience enough to generate lots of questions. They made my job easy! But, I’ll take that as another reason to celebrate which of course means…. the daily macaron! I think I went to heaven! Today’s macarons are brought to you by the number OMG and the letter I NEED MORE! I believe the name of the shop was Serain Cappe and I will have to find it again. I know the macarons look unassuming. The same smooth outside, filling peeking out in the middle. They were both very fat which makes me think they were made at the store instead of shipped in from elsewhere. The brown one is praline and it caused me to literally “OMG YUM” over my notebook. It was a little sweeter than maybe it should have been but it was otherwise perfect. The meringue stayed crispy, the inside was chewy, the filling didn’t completely soak into the meringue. Serious oh yeah! The vanilla macaron was also smooth, crispy, and quite nice. Not sure why I asked for vanilla since I’ve already had a vanilla macaron and I’d say they’re generally boring, but such is life. The most popular ice cream flavour is vanilla and that just might be true with macarons too.

IMG_3112[1]Sept 5, 2015. Today was presentation day at WAPOR and the audience had lots of great questions for me. Naturally, a celebration of the blessed event was in order.  So here goes. I stopped at a place called Mimosa, which was actually a very nice candy store. I’ve seen a number of candy stores here and they are NOTHING like what we have at home. I’ll have to take a bunch of pictures. Anyways, the macarons obviously weren’t made there but they had a bunch of different, interesting flavours. The unappetizing grey macaron is licorice! It was a little sparkly, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It wasn’t the best licorice flavour, it was a little odd, but the sweetness was good. And, the filling didn’t melt into the meringue. The second macaron was lime & cactus. Despite the picture, it’s actually kind of green on the outside and very pink on the inside. It too was crispy on the outside but it was mushy and wet on the inside. The lime was a nice flavour, a good sweet and sour mix with the cactus. I’m already looking forward to tomorrow!

macarons, gossetSept 4, 2014. I didn’t manage to find any macarons between the hotel I’m staying at and the conference hotel but have no fear.  To compensate for hours of sitting on my butt, a little exercise was in order. Aaaaaaaand, that included Gosset Boulanger Patissier. Sadly, they didn’t label the flavours so I simply practiced my stunning french (Deux macarons s’il vous plait) and pointed at two – the two most boring ones I could see. I think the white one was vanilla and the light brown one was caramel. Both macaroons had the traditional smooth shiny outside. They were crispy on the outside and smooshy on the inside. You could actually see the filling inside as opposed to the filling having been completely absorbed by the meringue. They were nicely sweet, just like the three bears. However, and this a big one, I do believe that these macaroons were not made in the store. They were set in plastic trays, there were only about 8 kinds, and they really looked like they just got dropped off at the store every few days. So, while they were good, I prefer to patronize 100% self-sufficient bakeries. Which means I won’t be going back for a second look.

macaron, nice, france, wapor, esomar, L'Art GourmandSept 3, 2014. Today my mission was simply to arrive before the conference started (first plane was late, but I caught the second plane because it too was late, hence I succeeded!). The second priority was to find the conference hotel and some dinner. Which means I had to walk by a bakery. Today I found L’Art Gourmand which is a STUNNING candy shop. They had many kinds of homemade style candy from jelly to nougat to chocolate and, yes, macarons. I chose a chocolate and an almond macaron. Both macarons looked very homemade and lacked the typical shiny smooth appearance you may be used to. But, they were the right size and shape, though not machine perfect as i suspect many are. They were also hefty and had a heavy filling. The chocolate macaron didn’t seem quite sweet enough and tasted more like chocolate powder. The almond macaron had a light taste, very nice. I wouldn’t go back for the macarons, given that there are likely to be many many other choices but if I can find the shop again, I will fork out a wad of dough for a one time ever nougat treat ($5 per 100 grams!).

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Eating and Drinking Colombia

I’m a picky eater so you may be surprised to hear that of all these things, only thing garnered a 1 out of 5 rating and that was the Pony malta. Everthing else was a 3 or higher, most things were 4 or 5. Colombia can be officially described as delicious!

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best hot chocolate ever! made with a chunk of chocolate, not powder

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yuck. barf. disgusting.

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Ajiaco soup. very very yum!

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Bandeja paisa. Yum! Except the little piece of bread was massively salty and the little piece of meat was the driest toughest meat ever. Otherwise!

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meat. lots of meat

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arepas at Andres (a must go restaurant)

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interesting bread with a slightly odd taste, sold everywhere.

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meat. and more meat. at andres

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so very very yum!

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Hornitos bread

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Hornitos bread

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traditional candies. tasted like a big pile of sugar with a fruit flavour. interesting but i’ll take some bread instead.

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traditional treats of “chips” and sweets. none made it to my YAY list.

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interesting candies but no thank you

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tastes like cream soda. yum 🙂

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more cookies and bread. yum!

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yes please!

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Dissecting the Bulgarian Chocolate Bar

My name is Annie and I have a weird habit. Whenever I travel to another country, I like to collect up as many chocolate bars that I don’t recognize as possible. I don’t collect Mars Bars or Snicker Bars or M&Ms. The more unpronounceable the name, the better. And with my recent trip to Bulgaria to speak at the ESOMAR BAMOR event, did I ever get a lot of unpronounceable names!

In Canada and the US, the range of chocolate bars is crazy. Peanut this, caramel that,  nouget over there. The combinations of ingredients never end. The interesting thing though is that in Bulgaria, there is definitely a checklist of to-dos when creating a chocolate bar. The flavours may be oh so slightly different, but the general design is identical. And here it is.

  • Bulgarian chocolate barsMost are more accurately described as wafer bars, not chocolate or candy bars
  • In between the wafers are thin layers of filling, perhaps icing or jam
  • Most bars remain crispy though the jam styles are completely soft
  • The bars are very lightly sweetened
  • Some have a very thin chocolate coating, thin enough that you can easily see the wafers through the chocolate
  • The chocolate coating melts extremely quickly in your fingers
  • If the underside is dipped in chocolate, it remains rough and untidy as opposed to glossy smooth

Out of the 19 chocolate bars I managed to find, most of them scored 3 or 4 on a five point scale. Two of them scored 2 out of 5, and the worst worst worst of all, was the one you see pictured below. 1 out of 5 is me just being polite.  But, you can see every essential feature of a Bulgarian chocolate bar in this image.

If you ever go to Bulgaria, buy every chocolate bar… but this one. 🙂
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A Halloween chocolate lesson in nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio data #MRX

If you want to choose the right statistic for the numbers in your dataset, you need to know what kind of numbers you’re dealing with. This handy table will help you differentiate between nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio data. Enjoy, but don’t lick the screen!
Nominal Ordinal Interval Ratio Data

2012 CNE Food Venn Diagram featuring the Deep Fried Bacon Wrapped Mars Bar

2012 CNE Food Venn DiagramI have to admit it.

I’m pretty proud of my CNE eating accomplishments this year. Unlike previous years where I managed to fill out all sections of the Venn diagram, this year I was able to avoid those boring and overly simplistic sections that fulfill only one requirement. This year, I focused entire on “food” that incorporated at least two of the circles.

My favourite, of course, was the magically delicious, deep fried, bacon wrapped Mars Bar. Massively gooey and chewy goodness.

Enjoy!

Hotdog Eclair 2012 CNE

Hotdog Chocolate Eclair – One bite and it gushes all over. Yum.

Deep Fried Bacon Wrapped Mars Bar

Deep fried Bacon Wrapped Mars Bar – Deliciously gooey

Inside the Deep Fried Bacon Wrapped Mars Bar

Inside the Magically Delicious Deep Fried Bacon Wrapped Mars Bar

Deep Fried Brownie and Deep Fried Rice Krispie Square

Deep Fried Brownie and Deep Fried Rice Krispie Square – Try and guess which is which

Deep Fried Oreos

Deep Fried Oreos – Good but not extraordinary

Chicken with Waffles and Syrup

Chicken with Waffles and Syrup

Deep Fried Cheesecake

Massively Giant Deep Fried Cheesecake mmmm

Pogo

Pogo

The Drought is Upon Us

A whole and split Cadbury Creme Egg.
.

The last marshmallow bunny is gone.
The last bad tasting red jelly bean is gone.
The last Easter cream egg is gone.

You know it. The drought has begun.

With the arrival of Halloween, we enjoyed all incarnations of mini treats from chocolate bars to licorice to rockets and laffy taffy and suckers. We then waited for Christmas, for candy canes and candied nuts and chocolate santas. With that sugar looked after, we hung in there for Valentine’s day to enjoy heart shaped boxes of chocolate and gold foil hearts that proudly proclaimed Lindt. Easter brought an abundance of chocolate eggs and chicks and the glorious gold foil covered bunny. And that brings us to today.

The drought has begun. Unless you’re a mom or dad, your chocolate days are now on hold until the very last day of October. There will be no more chocolate gifts for six more months. But don’t worry. I feel your pain and I’m there for. Hold my hand.

Chocolate, Vultures, and Glowsticks oh my #eso3d #mrx

Day 2 of Esomar 3d brought many wonders. As expected, every dessert was a wonderful treat – chocolates and cakes and oh my, I ate as much as I possibly could. This conference had the best desserts of any conference I’ve been to. And with more glow sticks and coloured voting cards, there was fun to be had too.

Day 2 also brought animal delights. A flock of hundreds of turkey vultures floated effortlessly in the sky, a pelican landed 15 feet away from me as I swam in the ocean, jellyfish at my feet, jellyfish stinging my arm, and far too many sea shells and coral to pack in my carry on.

Day 2 brought tears to my eyes with a presentation by Koki Uchiyama and Michio Mutoh who spoke about The Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan. It was an inspiring case study about using research for good, not just to sell more soap. It was a wake up call to remember what really matters in life.

As with any conference, I hated the last hour. It’s a sad hour that marks the end of inspirational talks that remind us why we’re in market research to begin with. Two days of chatting with like-minded passionate people is a hard thing to leave behind but once again, I’m refreshed and newly inspired and eager to take on all that comes my way.

I say good-bye to you Esomar, but I look forward to seeing you in Atlanta.

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A Sampling of London Chocolate Bars

london chocolate bars

What are holidays for? Holidays are your chance to experience life from an entirely new perspective. As a market researcher, it means I get to combine a couple of things that are extremely important to me: research and chocolate.

So, in this n=1 research (I am only a sample of 1), my recent trip to speak on a panel at the Research Live social media research conference in London meant that I had an additional important task ahead of me. I took the opportunity to carefully evaluate a number of chocolate bars found in London with which I am unfamiliar. From nougat to nuts, and grastolicious to gross, I hope these ratings will help you in your future chocolate decisions.

For each of the following brands of candy bars, please indicate your overall level of satisfaction on a scale from 1 (Very Dissatisfied) to 5 (Very Satisfied).

Brand Very Dissatisfied Somewhat Dissatisfied Neutral Somewhat Satisfied Very Satisfied
Boost X
Caramac  X
Cote X
Daim X
Double Decker X
Flyte X
Galaxy Caramel X
Galaxy Chocolate X
Galaxy Cookie X
Galaxy Orange X
Milka X
Milky Bar X
Munchies X
My Purple Bar X
Riesen X
Ripple X
Snack X
Starbar X
Toffee Crisp X
Topic Melted goo
Vanilla Fudge X
Wispa X

Really Simple Statistics: What is Ratio Data #MRX

Welcome to Really Simple Statistics (RSS). There are lots of places online where you can ponder over the minute details of complicated equations but very few places that make statistics understandable to everyone. I won’t explain exceptions to the rule or special cases here. Let’s just get comfortable with the fundamentals.

Last in the series of 4 types of data is ratio data. Ratio numbers have all the features of the previous numbers we’ve talked about plus one more. So, with ratio numbers, we know that certain numbers are bigger than other numbers (ordinal), and we know that the difference between numbers is meaningful (interval). The single feature that separates ratio numbers from the other numbers is that the number zero is relevant. Here are some examples.

  • I bought 5 chocolate bars today. That’s two chocolate bars plus three chocolate bars. Five chocolate bars is five times as many as 1 chocolate bar.
  • My buddy Justin Bieber had 1 chocolate bar but he gave it to me. He now has zero chocolate bars and I have six.
  • 100% of the treats in my hand are chocolate bars. If I give two of them to Justin, Justin has forty percent of the chocolate bars. And, if I give all six of them to Justin, I now have 0% of the chocolate bars and he has 100% of them.

So here are the important distinctions:

  1. Most importantly, the zero makes sense. It is an absence of all things chocolate. It’s not less chocolate or smaller chocolate. It’s zero chocolate. 😦
  2. The spaces between the numbers make sense. 4 bars is exactly 1 more than 3 bars.
  3. We can tell when I have more bars than Justin. If i can hold bars in both of my hands and Justin only has a bar in one hand, I obviously have more than he does.

It’s that simple!

Easy Ways to Make People Click on Your Links

Display of Lindt chocolate bunnies

Image via Wikipedia

Here are two straightforward options to choose from.
1. Bribe them with US dollars or Lindt chocolate.
2. Threaten their life or their livelihood.

I recommend the bribe over the threat but that’s really a question of personal taste and what suits your lifestyle better.

But let me ask, do you REALLY want to know how to make people click on your links or share/buzz/retweet your message? Is forcing people to like your brand the best way to grow your company? I’m going to suggest not.

Hidden under the facade of forcing people is the real question. Do you know how to communicate a message that resonates so deeply with people that they develop a need to share it? That is a far more difficult question and one which achieves the real end goal which is brand love, admiration, and ultimately purchase.

If we’d all just stop trying to figure out how to make people ‘click here’ and instead figure out how make ‘messages that resonate,’ everyone would be much happier.

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