This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a list of the 100 dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of her personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston food-scape. It's a list to drool over.
I don't know who Uncle Daryl is or where he's from or why he has a cake named after him. But I don't really care. One bite of Uncle Daryl's Chocolate Cake from The Chocolate Bar, and I don't really care about anything anymore.
Student loans? Meh. Work deadlines? Psh. Cleaning the cat's litterbox? Sorry, bro. Right now, I'm living for cake, cake and only cake.
I've been living in Houston for almost two months now, and I hadn't been to the Chocolate Bar until last Sunday night. I'd spent the evening fighting with washing machines at the laundromat, watching telenovelas on TV and skipping dinner in the process. Though I had clean, wonderful smelling clothes, I was hungry and in a foul mood. I told myself that a run would help ease my tension. Instead, I drove to the Chocolate Bar.
Entering the Chocolate Bar for the first time can be overwhelming. I walked in to the store section of the Alabama Street shop as opposed to the deli section and was simultaneously bewildered and amused by the sheer variety of chocolate flavors and shapes. Need some shoe-shaped chocolate or a chocolate pizza? Of course you don't, but they've got it.
I wandered past the truffle counter and through the boxes upon boxes of novelty shapes trying to decide what I wanted to eat for dinner. I walked past the ice cream counter and marveled at all the different homemade chocolatey flavors. I glanced into the section where people were sitting at cafe tables and chatting over sundaes, then looked back behind me into the shop. Wait, where are the cakes? I'm in the right place, aren't I?
I stepped into the room with the tables and turned back toward the counter, and suddenly it was like a light from heaven shone down, illuminating the cold case full of cakes, beckoning me to come forth and partake of their glory. The woman behind the counter (who, full disclosure, also happens to be my neighbor, though I'd forgotten she worked there and was in such a chocolate haze that I temporarily didn't recognize her) steered me in the direction of Uncle Daryl's Cake, and I laughed when she held up the dinner plate-sized box that held one slice.
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"Hang on," I said, laughing. "That's one slice? That's huge! I'll take it!"
Before the cake is handed over, it's drizzled with extra chocolate ganache and sprinkled with toffee chips, which elevates it above its cousin (or wife?) Aunt Etta's Cake, which is straight up fudge. It's the toffee chips that really make it though.
I was pleased to find all four layers of cake were moist and rich, with a deep chocolatey flavor that likely comes from melted dark chocolate, rather than cocoa. The icing in between each layer is dotted with bits of toffee and semi-sweet chocolate chips, which give the cake some crunch and some more depth of flavor. The icing on the outside is a smooth, dreamy buttercream, drizzled with thick, almost bitter ganache. Then there's the extra chocolate sauce and toffee sprinkled on each individual slice. The combined effect is an extremely decadent chocolate cake that's neither too sweet nor too rich.
It's just right. Well done, Uncle Daryl, whoever you are. Well done.