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April 28, 2006

Giant Chocolate Spill Closes Freeway

News.jpgThis is just one of those little things that catches my eye from time to time. I'm one of those people who love strange news items. One category I enjoy is when a trailer full of something unusual - beer, crawfish, whatever - overturns and spills out all over the freeway. Most of the things I wouldn't want to get involved with, but today's item.... well, I can think of worse things to crash my car into than 17,000 pounds of chocolate chips. I'd prefer not to crash into it, but if you gotta crash into something it may as well be chocolate. Or marshamallow (which would soften the impact).
Link

April 24, 2006

Mass Review: Equal Exchange Chocolate

I'm a big fan of both organic foods and the Fair Trade movement so when a company comes along that sells organic Fair Trade chocolate I tend to get a bit excited. Equal Exchange are a company dedicated to delivering gourmet quality organic Fair Trade foods (links at the bottom of the review) including coffee, tea, sugar, and (most importantly) chocolate and they were nice enough to send along some samples. So today we have their Milk Chocolate with Ground Hazelnuts bar, Dark Chocolate with Almonds bar, Very Dark Chocolate bar, and their Dark Chocolate Minis up for review.

Milk Chocolate with Ground Hazelnuts

First thing I noticed upon opening this bar was the organic chocolate smell. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't know what it is, but I can smell something different about organic chocolate and I've yet to find an organic chocolate without it. So the organic smell is there. The chocolate itself is very smooth and some of that organic smell is present in the taste. The hazelnuts are really not a major component of the taste, but you can tell that they're there. I'm not a big fan of milk chocolate but I really like this bar. The only other organic milk chocolate I've tried so far is Green and Black's and while I enjoyed it I definitely prefer this. I usually only get milk chocolate with stuff in and this is one I would go for even though it only has a hint of hazelnut to it.

Dark Chocolate with Almonds
Ok, this is more my speed. I do love dark chocolate and I do love almonds. The aroma is somewhat sweet and the organic smell is there along with a hint of berries. The taste is very nice. With the sweetness in the aroma I was worried it would be too sweet but the sweetness isn't too much. There is a nice tangy fruity note to it as well and just like the milk chocolate it is wonderfully smooth. And it is chock full of almonds. I really like this bar a lot and would definitely repeat.

Very Dark Chocolate
I anticipated this to be the main event. I love dark chocolate with a high cocoa mass. This bar clocks in with 71% and that is right in my favored range. The gloss on this one is beautiful and the snap is good with a clean break. The aroma is very nice. It has a spice to the aroma that I can't place. A dark and spicy sweetness. I can't figure out what beyond that (darn my undeveloped senses). Just like the other bars the chocolate in this is very smooth. It melts beautifully. The flavor starts off bright and acidic eventually giving way to a fruity tang. It’s not the most complex chocolate I’ve had but it is pleasant and not overly bitter and, as I said, it is very smooth.

Dark Chocolate Minis
It’s a pretty little thing. Well formed with a nice gloss. It doesn’t snap quite so nice as the Very Dark Chocolate, but it’s really tasty stuff. It’s sweet and smooth with a light fruity tang and a makes a nice two-bite treat. It isn’t overly complex connoisseur chocolate but it is really good and very enjoyable. Interestingly, I don’t taste the organic taste so much in these.

Thoughts

All three of the bars were good and the Minis are great little treats as well. I’d rate the Very Dark a 7.5, the Milk Chocolate an 8 and the Dark Chocolate with Almonds and the Minis an 8.5. They are all very good and you get the added bonus of buying Fair Trade Organic products. The only bad part is that I haven’t found them locally anywhere. Hopefully this will change. I’d really like to be able to get these at my local Whole Foods or Wild Oats but so far no dice (though I may have seen them at Jungle Jim's). Chocosphere doesn’t have them and the Equal Exchange web site only does wholesale quantities so this is one of those situations where if you want to try it you will probably need to pester your local retailers and see if they’ll start carrying their products.

What is Fairtrade?
Fair Trade at Equal Exchange
Equal Exchange

April 19, 2006

Scherffen Berger Jamaica ā l'ancienne Bar

scharffenberger.jpgWell, it seems that the people at Scharffen Berger are at it again, making wonderful new products that I terribly want to try. Actually it isn't a new product, but the return of a limited edition bar they produced three years ago, the Jamaica ā l'ancienne bar. By the sound of it this is really a unique work of art. It is made from - you guessed it - Jamaican beans which are ground with coarse sugar and, strangely enough, never conched. Because of it's unusual texture they have to hand-temper it. It's a very unusual bar and one I'm eager to try. Rather than search around trying to find the bars locally (unlikely) I'm placing an order to get this and the Kumasi Sambirano bar they released last month. The write-up for the bar is quite nice and worth the read so take a look.
Jamaica ā l'ancienne

April 16, 2006

A Chocolate Free Easter

Happy Easter!
I've always loved Easter. You get such great candy on Easter. Chocolate bunnies and Peeps were always the stars of the show for me. Anything with chocolate and marshmallow were also welcome. Everything else was apt to be ignored (I'd had some bad luck with jelly beans early on so I avoided them for years). Easter was the one day of the year when you were guaranteed good candy (you never knew what you would get on Halloween).

Somehow I didn't get any chocolate for Easter this year. I kind of expected at least a small Anthony Thomas chocolate bunny and a Peep or three, but there was no basket in the offing. And, strangely, I really didn't mind. I have a lot of chocolate in my life already so it really isn't a big deal. I got to spend some quality time with my family and my rabbit so it was all good. Not to mention tomorrow is the biggest shopping day of the year.

Oh, yes. Forget the day after Thanksgiving. That's the worst shopping day of the year. The day after Easter, however, is magic. As a kid the concept of getting all this Easter candy I had been seeing in the store for weeks at half-price was like some kind of crazy dream come true. I still get that feeling. Even if I'm only taking home some Peeps and chocolate covered marshmallow eggs I love it. Reminds me of when I was a kid. It's a great thing. I highly recommend it. Seriously, what is better than half-price chocolate (and marshmallow critters)?

Happy Easter! Eat some chocolate.

April 11, 2006

Bunny Crafting

fun.jpgNo matter what religion you prescribe to, as long as you love chocolate you can find a reason to love Easter (or at the very least the sales following). Most ubiquitous of all Easter confections is the chocolate bunny (I don't consider an Easter egg a confection - but really, when it comes down to it, when you think Easter the food front is dominated by eggs and bunnies). It has become one of the great symbols of the holiday and the store shelves are crowded with a million different variations on this most simple of themes. The bunnies are everywhere, but did you ever stop to wonder what goes into the creation of these tasty treats? Turns out it's a lot of work (huh, go figure). Rachel Forrest got an education in what creating something as simple as a chocolate bunny entails and was kind enough to share her experience in the Exeter News-Letter. It may sound like work to some, but I love to play with chocolate and it just sounds like fun to me.

Counting down to sale day!

April 3, 2006

Dagoba Recall

dagoba.jpgI don't like to post negative stories. This one I figure I should, just because I'm a Dagoba cheerleader and talk about them a good bit around here. During routine testing they discovered high levels of lead in some of their bars and as a result are doing a recall. According to their site it seems that the problem lies on the supply end and is not attributable to their production process. They are working to determine why it happened and to ensure that it does not happen again. The bars effected are the Eclipse, Los Rios, and Prima Materia. There is an extensive FAQ on the Dagoba site and lot numbers are available at both of the links below.
Dagoba's Recall Page
FDA Recall Information

Review: Trader Joe's Sao Tome Varietal

Sorry for not posting as often as I should, but life was getting in the way of blogging for a bit. It will probably continue to do so somewhat, but I'm going to try to get back into the swing of things.

The first step to getting things back to normal and posting back to more than a once-a-week affair is tonight's brief review. I went to Trader Joe's looking for something to munch on but wasn't finding much that caught my eye. I almost left without chocolate entirely but I caught the words "Sao Tome" out of the corner of my eye and my curiosity forced me to take a better look. It seems that Trader Joe's has slipped into the world of single origin chocolate without my noticing. Having already tried out two Sao Tome bars I decided that I would give this one a shot and see how it compared.

The first thing I need to mention is the size of this beast. It is a 7oz bar, which is well above the norm. Most of the bars I see are around 3oz. This is just huge. It's been a week since I first opened it so I can't say much for the aroma. Snapping a piece doesn't reveal much to me, but I think there is a little coffee to it. The bar is well formed and moderately glossy and seems to have a snap to it. It's kind of hard to tell the snap given how thick it is. The taste is really a strange mixed bag. I can tell it's Sao Tome. I was really surprised to taste it and be able to say, "Yep, that's some Sao Tome there." but for some reason I could tell. Beyond that it is strong and bitter and once the bitterness lets up it starts in with sour. Kind of a spoiled milk kind of thing going on in there and I really didn't like it. Add to that the fact that it is really pretty astringent, sort of grainy, and hurts my mouth and I really didn't have that positive an experience. I want to like it, but it really doesn't do much for me.

I was surprised that I found the bar to be so disappointing and decided to go back to my Sao Tome standard and grabbed one of the Lake Champlain bars to compare the two. It really was like night and day. The Lake Champlain was very smooth and much more enjoyable. The Trader Joe's bar just wasn't up to snuff as far as I'm concerned. I just can't bring myself to like it. It may just be a matter of taste, but for me this just didn't do it. I'll give it a six out of ten. It wasn't horrible, but you won't see me buying it again either.