Oded Brenner is a modern-day Willy Wonka. In the 1990s, he co-created an international chocolate empire, Max Brenner Chocolate, that includes a 7,000-square-foot emporium on Broadway in New York City.
Brenner left that venture in 2012, and a few years later began exploring a different side of chocolate. A trip to Jamaica in 2015 ignited a passion for cacao, which is more than just the beans that are turned into chocolate. Brenner saw people making juice, liquor and flour from the cacao fruit and using the whole pod instead of just the beans. He was amazed at how little he knew about cacao, despite having worked in chocolate for 20 years.
“It is the most unknown fruit behind the most known fruit,” summed up Brenner.
Brenner told me that traditional chocolate production wastes most of the fruit. By contrast, he said, in Ecuador, they drink cacao water and eat the dried fruit of the pods.
“In fact, the entire pod is edible, but in our quest for the traditional chocolate, all of the other parts of the fruit are wasted,” he said.
Brenner now promotes the unsweetened fruit as having high antioxidant properties. The cacao fruit, he says, is packed with potassium, magnesium, iron and thiamine B1, among other things. The water is full of natural electrolytes.
Brenner has created Blue Stripes Urban Cacao, with an online shop and a store in New York’s Union Square neighborhood, to tell both sides of the chocolate story. On one hand, you have the decadent, luxurious, refined experience of chocolate truffles and bonbons from fine chocolatiers. On the other hand, you have the rustic, unrefined, jungle experience of the colorful cacao fruit.
When I first met Brenner and was introduced to his line of sustainable and farmer-equitable cacao products, I started with the fruit itself. It was the first time I had ever held a cacao pod. It was deep red, about 10 inches long and shaped like a football with ridges. I cracked it open and tasted it. It is full of white sacks that hold cacao seeds, and around the seeds is the pulp or fruit. The fruit is slightly sweet and slightly sour, and has a pleasing, thick texture kind of like passionfruit. The seed inside, of course, is the cacao bean, which is traditionally fermented and roasted to make chocolate.
Next, I drank the cacao water, and I was in; I felt hydrated and refreshed.
I fell in love with Blue Stripes’ Cacao and Tahini Bars. With Brenner’s help, I created my own recipe for Dark Chocolate Tahini Cups, inspired by his focus on the whole cacao fruit.
DARK CHOCOLATE TAHINI CUPS
These homemade chocolates were inspired by Oded Brenner and his focus on the whole cacao fruit. They are satisfying and delicious like a good cup of espresso. Slightly bitter, creamy and exploding with dark, dark chocolate flavor. Remember to have all your ingredients are at room temperature before mixing, or the chocolate will cool down too quickly and you won’t be able to pour it. Makes 24 small “cups”
‧ 1 cup 100 percent cacao chocolate chips
‧ half cup plus 2 tablespoons room temperature tahini (not salted)
‧ 3 tablespoons date syrup (to sweeten)
‧ 1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste, like Nielsen-Massey
‧ 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
‧ Fresh grated nutmeg, about 1/16th teaspoon
‧ Pinch of fine-grain sea salt
‧ Maldon sea salt Candied ginger, cut into slivers (optional)
‧ Unsalted pistachios (optional)
‧ Set a mini-cupcake tin with mini-cupcake papers. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or on the chocolate-melting setting of a microwave. Meanwhile, mix the tahini, date syrup, vanilla paste, cardamom, nutmeg and salt. Add the melted chocolate slowly, and mix well until completely combined. Divide mixture among the 24 mini-cupcake papers. Immediately sprinkle each with a bit of Maldon sea salt. You can stop there or add the candied ginger and nuts. If adding, place a couple of pistachio nuts on top of each chocolate cup, and then a sliver or two of the candied ginger.
‧ Place the cups uncovered in the refrigerator to set. Remove when hard, and place in an airtight container, separating the layers with parchment paper.
‧ Serve cold or at room temperature.
In Normal Accidents, Charles Perrow’s classic analysis of technological systems and the accidents they foster, Perrow observes that “when we have interactive systems that are tightly coupled, it is ‘normal’ for them to have this kind of accident, even though it is infrequent.” Such accidents are an “inherent property” of technological systems, and we have them because our industrial society is full of tightly coupled, interactive systems with great potential for catastrophe. Here in Taiwan the omnipresence of tightly coupled systems — systems in which a failure in one leads to failure in another — operating in an atmosphere of
April 12 to April 18 Hsieh Hsueh-hung (謝雪紅) stuffed her suitcase with Japanese toys and celebrity photos as she departed from Tokyo in February 1928. She knew she would be inspected by Japanese custom officials upon arrival in Shanghai, and hoped that the items would distract them from the papers hidden in her clothes. Penned with invisible ink on thin sheets, it was the charter of the Taiwanese Communist Party (台灣共產黨, TCP), which Hsieh and her companions would launch on April 15 under the directive of the Soviet-led Communist International with the support of their Chinese, Japanese
Well that wasn’t a particularly auspicious start. The town of Dawu deep in southern Taitung County is not, it turns out, the gateway to Dawu Mountain (大武山) Nature Reserve. From their reaction, it seemed that nobody in this tiny collection of indigenous-styled wooden houses and its post office had ever heard of the mountain. So I headed out of town on my rented scooter and followed a road that appeared to lead into the interior. Rice fields, power stations, pretty mountain roads and birds, but no Dawu Mountain. Heading back north on Provincial Highway 9, the views of radiant blue Pacific
Listen Before You Sing (聽見歌再唱) employs almost every device from the handbook of heartwarming and inspirational drama. While it works — as evidenced from the sniffles in the theater — it also results in a cliched and predictable production, albeit one that is hard to dislike. It’s even more moving that the plot is based on the true story of Aboriginal Bunun educator Bukut Tasvaluan and his Vox Nativa choir, which went from a ragtag group to a highly acclaimed outfit showcasing Aboriginal culture and singing techniques while fostering pride and confidence in its members. They have won numerous awards, and