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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Chocolate

Valentine's Day Chocolate Taste Test

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© Alessandra Bulow

When a new batch of chocolates arrives at Food & Wine's office for taste-testing, the staff goes into a frenzy. For Valentine's Day, our editors had the difficult task of sampling traditional heart-shape-boxed chocolates that you can find right in your neighborhood drugstore. It wasn't all pretty, but here are some of the top picks. While boxed chocolates are a no-brainer for the holiday, the judges also revealed some of their favorite unique bars that can be tied with a ribbon for a more personalized gift--from gorgeously-wrapped single-origin chocolate to potato-chip-filled bars, which are perfect for Valentines who love candy that's salty and sweet.

DRUGSTORE/SUPERMARKET
Dove Silky Smooth Select Chocolates Heart Box
Description: Milk chocolate and peanut butter truffle hearts, dark chocolate hearts, caramel hearts
Staff comments: "I think these are really good. The peanut butter truffle hearts are yummy. The shell-to-filling ratio and textures are perfect. Good balance between chocolate and peanut buttery goodness. Crowd-pleasing. Nice and creamy chocolate with a good mouth feel." $15 for 8.13 oz. heart-shaped tin, dovechocolate.com

Hershey's Pot of Gold Premium Collection Red Pillow Pattern Heart Box
Description: Assorted truffles, nut clusters and caramels
Staff comments: "Caramel texture is nice and smooth. The almond crème is sweet, creamy and pleasant. Pecan caramel cluster is good too-caramel is very soft but nice if you like very sweet chocolate." $10 for 8.9 oz heart-shaped box; hersheys.com.

Green & Black's Organic Ginger Bar

Description: Dark chocolate bar with organic crystallized ginger
Staff comments: "The thick slices of crystallized ginger add zing." $3.50 for 3.5 oz; greenandblacks.com.

MID-PRICED
Godiva Nut and Caramel Gift Box
Description: Assorted chocolate-covered caramel and nut pieces
Staff comments: "I especially like the gooey caramels. The praline fillings are delicious, creamy and nutty. Chocolate is creamy and has nice depth of flavor." $32 for 10.6 oz; godiva.com.

Chuao Chocolatier's Potato Chips in Chocolate Bar
Description: Milk chocolate bar with kettle cooked potato chips
Staff comments: "This is a brilliant idea. Two of my favorite things: the salty, crunchy chips contrasted with creamy milk chocolate." $6 for 2.82 oz; chuaochocolatier.com.

Scharffen Berger 62% Cacao Dark Chocolate Nibby
Description: Dark chocolate bar with roasted cacao beans
Staff comments: "The cacao nibs add an awesome crunch." $5 for 3 oz; scharffenberger.com.

ARTISAN

Veruca Chocolates Box
Description: Handmade filled-chocolate truffles in assorted flavors like hazelnut-cinnamon, lavender-vanilla, burnt caramel ganache and dulce de leche
Staff comments: "Wow these are terrific. The flavors are strong and straightforward. Lavender-vanilla is floral but subtle enough." $40 for 18 piece box; verucachocolates.com.

Mast Brothers Chocolates, Assorted Bars
Description: Gift-paper wrapped single-origin dark chocolate bars named after the sources of the cacao beans like Papua New Guinea, Moho River, Sambirano Valley, and La Red de Guaconejo
Staff comments: "These are for the intrepid chocolate taster who really, really likes dark chocolate. They're interesting and certainly showcase the tangy, tropical, jungle-y, terroir-driven flavors of chocolate. They are all so distinct! La Red is really tobacco-y, but good, and the Papua New Guinea is so smoky-like whiskey!" $8 for 2.5 oz; mastbrothers.com.

Suzanne's Chocolaterie's Chocolate Bars
Description: Elegant slim dark chocolate bars filled with caramel crunch, hazelnut praline and coconut crème
Staff comments: "The caramel crunch bar is amazing and so smart with the super light, airy honeycomb--love it. The delicate chocolate shell is smooth, has a deep, rich flavor, a nice snap and a great bitter finish." $5.50 for 1.5 oz; suzanneschocolaterie.com.

More from Food & Wine:
Best Hot Chocolate in the U.S.
Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.
Valentine's Day Recipes

Recipes

Ludacris’ Kung Pao Drumsticks

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Kung Pao Drumsticks

© John Kernick
Kung Pao Drumsticks

While we know you're consumed by our inaugural race to name the People's Best New Pastry Chef in America (vote here through February 14!), music aficionados will tune in to another competition this Sunday: the Grammy Awards. These party-friendly Kung Pao Chicken Drumsticks are Grammy Award–winning rapper Ludacris’s favorite dish from his Atlanta restaurant, Straits. Though his restaurant recently closed, the Szechuan-inspired dish is still a hot take-away. "The sauce is so well-spiced, and the meat just falls off the bone," Ludacris says.

Related: More Recipes for Chicken Drumsticks
Cocktail Party Dishes
Celebrity Food Products

Restaurants

Mario Batali’s Pang Charity Sandwich

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© Alexander Jorgensen
First Look at the Batali Pang at Num Pang.

By now you must know that F&W loves when chefs work to change the world through charity programs. We also happen to love Mario Batali. And sandwiches. Add that all up, and here’s what you’ve got: Batali creating a limited-edition sandwich for charity at the excellent Cambodian sandwich shop Num Pang in Manhattan’s East Village. It’s the inaugural sandwich for Num Pang’s Guest Chefs Give Back. The program was created by Num Pang owners Ben Daitz and Ratha Chaupoly; look for new big-name cooks and their sandwiches in the coming month.
 
First up, the Batali Pang. It’s an awesome combo of Brooklyn-made cotecchino sausage, balsamic pickled onions and sheep’s milk cheese, mixed with more traditional Num Pang ingredients (homemade chili mayo, pickled carrots, cucumber, cilantro), served on a toasted semolina baguette. On sale from February 15-March 15, it’s going for $9.75; proceeds will be split between The Food Bank for New York City (one of my personal favorites) and The Cambodian Children’s Fund.
 
For more details and a cute pic of the principal players, go to Midtownlunch.com.

Cocktails

The New Vegetable Cocktails

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Garden Variety Margarita

© Courtesy of The Wayland
Garden Variety Margarita

While fresh-squeezed fruit juices have become common on serious cocktail menus, some of America’s best bartenders are turning to vegetables to incorporate seasonal and bitter components into their drinks.

A new spot with creative, vegetable-heavy cocktails is The Wayland in New York City’s East Village. “Most of the drinks I make come from the kitchen,” says owner-mixologist Jason Mendenhall. His refreshing Garden Variety Margarita was inspired by a cold remedy he creates at home, featuring kale and ginger juice.

For the bar’s version, he added smooth silver tequila, lime juice and agave; he serves the cocktail on the rocks with a rim of smoked sea salt. “I wanted to capture that vegetal component without scaring people away,” he says. Five days after opening, the vivid green drink became the bar’s most popular cocktail. Next up on The Wayland’s rotating drink list is a beet-juice-and-mezcal concoction, and Mendenhall is working on radish bitters as well as umami-packed mushroom bitters.

But The Wayland is not alone in trying to integrate fresh vegetables into cocktails. Here are some bars serving savory drinks to look for across the country.

Urban Union, Chicago: Recently opened, Urban Union makes a Celery Gimlet that goes down like “a cold cup of vegetable juice,” according to co-owner Jason Chan. It’s a little more complex than that, of course, and features house-made celery bitters, Hendrick’s gin, green chartreuse, St. Germaine, fresh lime juice, verjus (acidic, unripe grape juice) and a fresh celery stalk. 1421 W. Taylor St.

The Bent Brick; Portland, OR: This upscale neighborhood tavern is aggressively local, with all products, including spirits, coming from the Pacific Northwest. The Border Crossing cocktail combines a beet-based “shrub”—syrup typically made with fruit juice or vinegar—with apple brandy, smoked tea and black pepper.

Bar Congress, Austin: The Miso Mule is a Japanese take on a Moscow Mule that’s served in copper mug with crushed ice. Created by Portland transplant and bar manager Adam Bryan, the salty-smoky drink has 12-year-old Yamazaki whiskey, miso paste muddled with chunks of radish and honey, and tart Italian lemon soda.

Mateo’s Cocina Latina; Healdsburg, CA: This Mexican spot offers a seasonal Martini de Calabaza made with spiced organic pumpkin puree, cream and Reposado tequila.

Related: America's 50 Best Bars
Beautiful Cocktail Recipes
Garden-to-Glass Cocktails

Recipes

Onions are a Surprise Superfood

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Sauteed Chicken Breasts

© Lucy Schaeffer
Sauteed Chicken Breasts

According to Chris Kilham, Fox News' “Medicine Hunter,” the onion is much more than a kitchen staple. The underappreciated superfood deserves to be ranked with powerhouse foods like pomegranates and green tea, as onions help boost immunity, protect against heart disease and even have anticarcinogenic properties. While eating a raw onion every day is the most efficient way to benefit from the vegetable's healthful properties, it’s not the most appealing. Instead, take a suggestion from Melissa Rubel Jacobson, who uses diced onions in this fast recipe for Chicken Breasts with Apricot-Onion Pan Sauce.

Related: Great Chicken Breast Recipes
Heart-Healthy Foods
More Recipes for Onions

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