First came Man-Catcher Brownies. Now choco-lounge Co Co. Sala has combined talents with food writer Monica Bhide to sell designer chocolates to spice up your Valentine's Day. Their SpiceSutra Chocolate Bar collection features such randy ingredients as gulkand rose petals, saffron, cinnamon, candied ginger and green cardamom.
"I wanted to use spices that are known for their aphrodisiac qualities," e-mailed Bhide, the author of "Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen." "Spices like saffron, cardamom and cinnamon and others. I am a big believer in the simplicity of food so I wanted to stay away from complicated spice mixes. I wanted a person to bite into the bar and say, 'Oh, yes, I can taste the saffron in this. Or, yes, the cardamom just shines through.'"
The cookbook author can personally attest to the power of cardamom. Years ago, she swears her future husband, Sameer, rang the doorbell at her grad-school house, attracted by the aroma of freshly toasted cardamom for Bhide's homemade kheer, a siren song in a pan.
"Over the warm scent of cardamom, we talked. He made me laugh. He missed his class that evening. And, yes, he loved my kheer," Bhide writes in a short story about the allure the spice had on Sameer. "Here is where my kids usually chime in: And that is how you met Daddy!"
Working with Co Co. Sala owner/chocolate expert Nisha Sidhu and chef Santosh Tiptur, Bhide developed the chocolate with the idea to improve upon some of the spiced bars already on the market.
"When I first tasted Co Co. Sala's chocolate, I just loved the flavors and wondered how well they would pair with spices," Bhide notes. "My current issue with some of the spiced chocolates in the market is that they leave some sort of a weird aftertaste in your mouth. With these chocolates, the aftertaste is just the taste of the spice and the sweetness of the chocolate. "
The SpiceSutra line will feature four different chocolate bars: Kesar (milk chocolate, saffron, cinnamon, toasted almonds); Adrak (dark chocolate, candied ginger, fennel seeds); Elaichi (white chocolate, green cardamom); and gulaab (milk chocolate, gulkand rose preserves, toasted cashews). The chocolates will sell for $30 a box and will be available for three days only, Feb. 4-6, on the Co Co. Sala Web site.
Aphrodisiac qualities aside, here's what I'm curious about: How much weight do you gain trying to design chocolate bars?
"Well, let's just say," Bhide notes, "that I had to double up my gym time!"