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Chocolate: A Love Story    by Max Brenner & Yonatan Factor order for
by Max Brenner
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2009 (2009)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Max Brenner's Chocolate: A Love Story is a tribute by a man who loves to write as much as he loves chocolate. Brenner manages to do both well as he pens his recipes while undoubtedly thinking of the pleasure he had from preparing and consuming the desserts on each page. His collaborator, Yonaton Factor, has illustrated an artistic page to accompany each of these scrumptious recipes.

Brenner feels that 'Chocolate, much more than other food, is associated with different aspects of life. It is a symbol of contradictory emotions and sensations.' The reader can fully understand Brenner when he discourses on chocolate in one of the front pages of this unusual and fascinating cookbook.

But let me tell you of some of these 65 masterpieces from Max Brenner's private collection. How does Dependable Banana Cupcakes - with dark chocolate chunks and a moody coconut sugar glaze - sound to you? It almost brings me to my knees. As does Bohemian French Toast Chocolate Sandwiches made from classic honey butter brioches and painted with morning colors of Creme Fraiche and Deep-Berry Red. I've moved on to drooling.

I am going to have to try the Intimate Scones with tender milk chocolate chips and romantic winter's strawberry confiture. By now, when you've gotten this far into the goodies, you'll understand what I mean when I say this book is difficult to classify. Colorful and imaginative works by Factor reside side by side with these extremely tempting recipes, along with brief, lyrical essays on how Brenner was thinking as he contemplated each one.

There's Modest Carrot Cake with snobbish ginger confit, poetic medjool dates and sophisticated wildflower honey. What fun this book must have been to put together. Hard work, I know but whimsy is also evident. As in Moncheri Chocolate Cherry Pie with mascarpone dollops and mint-leaf youth memories. Kinky Pavlova with contradicting characteristics of emotional red berries and late-night sexy dark chocolate cream proves my point.

This is the season for gift-giving. What a perfect present Chocolate: A Love Story makes for a chocolate lover. Or for someone who enjoys short essays. Or maybe for someone interested in art. Or perhaps for the most important person not on your list. For yourself.

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