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Beer and Chocolate! Chocolate and Beer!

February 12, 2008

I know I’m late in the game, but now that I’ve had multiple and varied experiences at both new Asheville venues, I thought I would give my two cents. 

The French Broad Chocolate Lounge

The decor is nothing short of brilliant, in my opinion.  The earnest young couple who gave birth to the Chocolate Lounge (among other things, we’ll get to that later)  have an eye for design.  Chocolate brown and robin’s egg blue is one of my all-time favorite color combinations, and the brick and chrome accents all gracefully collide to create a chic urban haven of peaceful decadence.  The white-marbled tables and comfy leather chairs are adorable and cool, like the owners themselves, I suppose.  I did think it was too bright, and they could stand to remove half the spherical paper lanterns and create a more intimate atmosphere.  I hate to gush but I just really love being in this place.

I tried the truffles, which were high-quality, organic chocolate featuring odd and inventive flavor pairings: Indian kulfi was my favorite, then smoked salt and maple, etc.  But the texture of the truffles were not quite rich enough for me.  The flavors didn’t linger as I’d hoped they would, and I still would go to The Chocolate Fetish for the best truffles around.  Of course, the Chocolate Fetish has had plenty of time to perfect their craft, and I will defintely stick around to see if the FBCL improves their recipes.  I was particulary disappointed by the raspberry truffle, in which I hardly detected any raspberry flavor.  I prefer my truffles to offer more robust contrasts in flavoring, but instead I mostly just tasted the chocolate. 

The chocolate disks were more successful, simple chocolate mondiants with different flavor pairings: lime and coconut, pistachio and lavendar (I think), coffee bean and salt.  These mondiants were cheaper and slicker than the heavier truffles, and I had a lovely time letting them melt in my mouth while I sipped their exquisite french-pressed coffee.  The caramels are equally impressive, hard and buttery caramels engulfed by dark chocolate with a little salty zing to them. 

My biggest politically incorrect rant about the French Broad Chocolate Lounge: the screaming babies who were planting their flag when I arrived for the first time.  Let the record show:  I am a HUGE kid fan.  I work with children, I love kids, I have wonderful rapport with children of all ages, my niece and nephew are the lights of my life, and I anticipate the day I will bring home my own little future critics.  But when I want to escape to a pricey, urban, fancy, hip land of chocolate relaxation, I don’t want to do it with children.   When I shop for candy at Mast General Store, I expect the barrage of screaming babies, toddlers, and youth greedily digging in the voluptuous wooden barrels.  But with a glass of wine, a sip of cafe au lait and a dark chocolate Peruvian 75% cacao truffle, I would rather not have to navigate the babies on the floor around me, screaming endlessly and ruining the vibe and mojo of a pleasant atmosphere.  This may have been a one time occurance, and I can sympathize with the young working parents in the world, but I’m just saying.  If you’re trying to create something specific, then I think it’s a good idea to be thorough and precise.  Or maybe I’m just going through a phase, which is certainly a possibility.  I assume when I have children I will want to leave them at home occasionally, but I may be eating these words along with chocolate, wine, and other foods served at venues inappropriate for children. 

The Thirsty Monk

This is my new Cheers.  Well, it would be if it wasn’t so damn expensive.  Not only are the draft Belgian ales pricey ($4.5 or so), but the cheerful bartender uses his laid-back prowess to push the even more expensive bottled beers on less savvy customers.   But if you keep your guard up, you should close out the night with some money left in your wallet.  Maybe.  It just tastes so darn good.  Seriously, I am a wine drinker.   I haven’t enjoyed beer this much since I was living in Mexico, sipping a fresh Pacifico with fish tacos.  My current favorites at the Monk: The Double White, and the Frambois Lambic on tap.  The Chimay is also a good one to start of the night, and they have this unbelievable honey ale that brought squeals of delight to our table, until the bill showed up- $19 for a 30 oz. bottle!!!

The cheese plate is decent and fun for a happy hour splurge, and I have yet to sample the Belgian chocolate tasting plate.  Again, their interior designer got it exactly right, and I enjoy generally hanging in this well-lit bar.  Another detail I appreciate about The Monk, when the decibals of conversation rise to ear-ringing, they simply turn off the music rather than try to battle it out with their patrons.  Even though I love a great jukebox or band as much as the next girl, mostly I go to bars to talk with my friends, which I can’t do at the Westville Pub EVER, and I find it difficult in other venues. 

The Thirsty Monk is a happy, happy bar full of delicious and copious Belgian beer options, seemingly brewed by happy Trappist Monks who love us and want us to be happily toasting to them with their delicious yummy beer.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Pixiedyke permalink
    February 12, 2008 1:42 pm

    Have to try out the Chocolate Lounge. My only problem with the Monk is the attitude that only those ordering beer at that moment are important. Those wanting to ask questions or pay their tab are sub human, and shall be delayed, put off, forgotten, or otherwise ignored.

    Hint for bartenders: People using cards generally spend more than their cash-based peers, and they decide how much to tip when they’re tabbing out.

  2. February 12, 2008 3:44 pm

    I just wrote an article about the FBCL. It’ll be in Sunday’s AC-T. Of course, I didn’t get to review the chocolates, because it’s a biz article. I thought the truffles were excellent, but yes, not spectacular–except for the Mole Negra.

    But gourmet grrrl, did you try the liquid truffle? Four ounces of spiced, melted ganache. I had the Mexican flavor with cinnamon and cayenne. Blew me away. Public orgasm material.

    Loving the Monk as well, but not the crowds there. I know that’s a good sign, but the acoustics in there suck, and I’m getting middle-aged deafness.

  3. the dj permalink
    February 12, 2008 3:54 pm

    Good gravy that liquid chocolate is something else. I keep trying to make it at home but I don’t have the patience for the double boiler.
    Love the Monk!! Used to be my one of my favorite places to hear bands, “The Basement.” Nice crowd, late 20’s and up, not quite as Jack of the Woody. I agree with Edgy about the acoustics however, especially when music blasts over the middle of the room. Could use a better dart board too, one where you can actually see your chalk marks.

  4. Brian permalink
    February 13, 2008 2:54 pm

    Try using a microwave. Even some of the best cholatiers agree, that using a double boiler is more of an art form than a tool, and the microwave, while crude, gets the job done more efficiently.

  5. February 13, 2008 6:07 pm

    Does your fair town have a babysitting co-op? One of your roles as critic-at-large could be to post the babysitting co-op flyer in strategic adult-oriented locales. As a relatively new mother myself, I appreciate my child being welcomed at bookstores, coffee shops, etc. I couldn’t help breaking out in hysterical, non-funny laughter, though, when a family toting a newborn and a toddler settled in next to my husband & I at the fanciest downtown restaurant we’d been to in over a year.

  6. February 16, 2008 3:24 pm

    my report on the Chocolate Fetish:

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