A chocolate-crazed friend reported breathlessly that Max Brenner, a chocolate lover's emporium, recently opened an outpost at the Garden State Plaza in NJ. Ugh, Jersey? Seriously? A sophisticated artisanal chocolateria way west of the Hudson?" My friend insisted we make the pilgrimage to pay homage to this venerable chocolate destination.
I deferred to my chocoholic partner in crime. She never steers me wrong. Though it meant venturing to the Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus, NJ, the vision of a chocolate fantasy overrode all. Max Brenner, an artisanal Israeli chocolatier, was founded in the late 90s.
Originally, a small shop selling hand crafted chocolates, it evolved into a Chocolate Bar concept. Max Brenner, Chocolates by the Bald Man, became wildly successful with emporiums in the US, Australia, Israel, Japan, Singapore and Russia.
My friend's world revolves around chocolate just as mine is about cheese and fashion. Over the past two decades, there has been a foodie explosion across the globe, as free markets have brought every imaginable food product to our table. Max Brenner is part of this movement and delivers the best in chocolate for our indulgence. The conceptualization is witty, fun and cheeky making the visit a true chocolate experience.
Our lunch-date would turn out to be "a day of chocolate-mania for all the senses." The Chocolate Bar exterior made me salivate from the get-go. As a graphic designer, I am very particular about fonts, color choices and composition which a business chooses to represent the brand. As soon as I entered Max Brenner, I fell in love with the inviting atmosphere and was wowed by the warm color palette of browns, oranges and tans. From the logo design to the layering of rich brown hues, the luxury of chocolate was celebrated.
The employees welcomed us warmly and tempted us with savory samples from the chocolate retail section. Beautifully designed tins of chocolates and artfully crafted recycled satin ribboned boxes awaited us. The milk chocolate covered pecan sample I popped into my mouth made me proclaim "Oh my God, did I arrive in heaven? How can you tempt me with something this good the minute I walk in? STOP!" I wanted to grab the jar from her hands and pour its entire content into my mouth in one fell swoop. I needed to get a grip.
With such an introduction, what could be next? I turned around and saw three vats of churning, percolating, glossy chocolate--milk, dark and white chocolate. My first thought was "How do I pull out a vat, strap it to the back of my wheelchair and roll out of here unnoticed? If arrested, I'd plead "not guilty by reason of chocolate induced insanity." I wouldn't survive one day in prison, wearing head to toe orange and cheap plastic flip flops that can be found at the bottom of a bin at Old Navy. Time to snap out of it!
I was then introduced to the lovely and warm general manager, Alesia, who enthusiastically gave me a tour. She inquired about my blog, seeing that I was photographing non-stop.
I asked Alesia, "is there an ambulance on stand-by since I am sure I will need to have my stomach pumped in about an hour?" The visual merchandising conveys chocolate indulgence in a playful yet sophisticated manner. Judging by the lusciously photographed offerings on their huge hovering menu, I knew I was in trouble.
Max has the right idea here. He filled syringes with milk chocolate and designed little boxes that resemble a cigarette pack to succor a chocolate addict's relapse. Forget the heroin people. We have chocolate.
Restaurants which offer too many options are overwhelming. Luckily, Max Brenner is not one of those places. The menu is concise, yet there is something for every chocoholic. This location is devoted to desserts and breakfast items, while the NYC location also serves quiche, sandwiches, beer, wine and cocktails.
I go crazy over fondue of any kind, so my first choice was to sample their chocolate fondue. But then when my eyes focused on CHOCOLATE PIZZA, I forgot about the fondue. I'll save it for the next foray to Max Brenner!
I was pleasantly surprised that sliced bananas were offered as a topping, since it meant I could add this meal to my daily USDA required dietary "fruit" group. Damn, if only I could get a vegetable on here, I would make my halfway goal of wise food decisions according to the US government.
My friend's menu choice: The "Suckao" - A concentrated shot of hot white chocolate. The cup has a cut out where a votive keeps your milk warm as you ladle pieces of white chocolate into the cup with a parfait spoon that has a dual purpose--stir and then sip from the opening at the top of the handle.
With my first bite I was expecting a chewy crispy crust, but instead it was more like taking a bite out of a Bisquick biscuit which crumbles in your mouth. The gooey marshmallow, melted milk chocolate and bananas had just the right amount of sweetness without being cloyingly sweet. No more than three bites were necessary to finish the meal.
What is it about chocolate that makes me resort to acting like a child and break out gleefully into song in public? It took me two seconds to compose this song, which I am sure will get the attention of a Grammy-winning producer. Give it time.
Click and watch the song that will have you dancing in the street.
@maxBrennerUSA. What is better than pizza? Chocolate pizza and singing with my mouth full. Wont grow up.//-->
There is no way to escape the world of chocolate when you are at Max Brenner. Even the ceilings have pipes painted in dark brown with the words "100% chocolate" scrawled on them. In a world that uses pure gimmick successfully to draw in crowds, what better way to bring in families, singles on date night or people who are looking to unwind after a long day at work? Best of all, the offerings are affordable and prepared quickly.
We finished our meal without overdoing it. Even though I don't have a sweet tooth and would rather kick back with a pound of cheese and crusty bread, I am going back to Max Brenner to enjoy the sweetest symphony of all, chocolate fondue and a tin of chocolates. Hopefully, I won't need to be wheeled out by paramedics.
I came prepared with baby wipes, which I keep in my back pack since, I didn't know whether they serve cloths to wipe down their customers. NOTE TO MAX: design some bibs and wet wipes. You know, the kind they serve up in BBQ joints.
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