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October 15, 2003|Mary Ellen Rae;Donna Deane

An old favorite reinvented

Pastry Chef Evelina Valenzuela, formerly of Sweet Lady Jane, now is in residence at Lido Bakery di Manhattan, where we found this inside-out German chocolate cake that hides its coconut layer within. It is made with Callebaut bittersweet chocolate, iced with chocolate ganache and decorated with bittersweet chocolate ribbons. The 9-inch cakes serve 12 to 15 people. $45. Lido Bakery di Manhattan, 3001 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach. (310) 545-8955.

Mary Ellen Rae

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The dark side of decadence

These not-too-sweet but decidedly decadent chocolate bars -- in varieties such as hazelnut and extra-bitter -- come from the northwestern Piemonte region of Italy. The Nocciolato is a wonderful combination of hazelnut chocolate with whole hazelnuts. Extra-bitter bars come in 70% and 50% cacao versions, and there's a milk-chocolate version for wimps. Baratti Italian chocolate bars, $3.50 for each 3.5-ounce bar. Isola Ceramics, 1012 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena. (626) 799-2077.

Donna Deane

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The new champ among chips

Hershey's new darker chocolate chip has a higher level of cocoa butter than its predecessor; it also has been enriched with Dutch-processed cocoa.

In a Times Test Kitchen tasting, the chips beat Hershey's semi-sweet chips and Nestle's Toll House semi-sweet chocolate chips hands down. They have a richer flavor with a better mouth feel; they're also less sugary.

Hershey's Special Dark Chips, $2.29 per 12-ounce package at major supermarkets.

-- Donna Deane

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