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August 23, 2006

Mini-Review: Vosges Black Pearl Bar

Things have been a might hectic of late and, as a result, not a lot of chocolate has been consumed around my little chocolate-obsessed home. Things have started to calm down a bit so Sunday night I opened up some chocolate. I grabbed a Vosges Black Pearl bar (ginger, wasabi, and black sesame seeds in a 55% cacao dark chocolate) and gave it a shot.

The packaging is standard Vosges fare which is to say a lovely little box with a friendly little “How To Eat An Exotic Candy Bar” section on the back. The bar itself has a nice gloss, is well formed, and has a serious snap to it. The aroma is… spicy? I can’t get my head around the aroma beyond spice and a definite whiff of ginger. The taste is interesting. It’s spicy and the ginger, sesame seeds, and wasabi are all present. I’d probably like it more without the wasabi, but it’s still quite nice. The only real negative I can find is the texture. The sesame seeds are sort of chewy and I’m not exactly in love with that chewiness.

Good bar but not quite my cup of tea. I’ll call it a 6.5 out of 10 but there is probably a lot of personal taste involved in that number. Not something I’d want on a regular basis and with it’s price as high as it is ($7 – ow!) I will probably go for something I like more before I try this again.

That said, I'm VERY interested in the Black Pearl Layer Cake created by Katrina Markoff, the CEO of Vosges. I have a feeling I'd like the combination of flavors in a cake more than I do inn a bar. If anybody is interested the recipe can be found on Epicurious.

August 14, 2006

Surprises

The past few days have held some surprises for me, not all good.

First, one of the local grocery stores - part of a major chain but an older store in a less than prime location - is undergoing a major renovation. It's kind of funny because there is another store from the same chain just a mile away and it's much newer, but that's not important. What is important is that while going in for a some dietary staples (diet soda and microwave popcorn) I wandered down the candy aisle to see what they had going on in terms of chocolate. A bit less than half of the marked section for chocolate actually had chocolate in it, but what was there was interesting. What was there was the majority of the Dagoba line, the majority of the Valrhona line, about half of the Vosges bars, four or five Choco-Lina bars, and a good selection of Perugina bars. The empty space, judging by the shelf tags, is going to be loaded with even more items of interest, with names like Lake Champlain, Lindt, Droste, and the perennial grocery store staple Ghirardelli. Pretty amazing for something of a neighborhood grocery store. I'm wondering if the chain is making this move or if it is just this store. I also wonder when the rest of the section is going to be filled in. Judging by what I've seen I might not have much reason to go to Jungle Jim's for chocolate any more. It's shaping up nicely. My only worry is that the last time I bought chocolate from a major chain grocery it was not in the best of conditions. Time, I suppose, will tell.

The other surprise of note was finding the my rabbit has a couple of nasty illnesses. On top of it her digestion seems to be shutting down and odds are dealing with rabbit issues will keep me away from the blog for a few days (though with the way I post it might go completely unnoticed). Hopefully it won't be long and I'll have a rabbit at the end of it all, but there are no guarantees.

So, as of now, I am on a temporary hiatus while I try to take care of my bunny.

August 8, 2006

Review: Choco-Lina

I am such a sucker for nice packaging and tonight’s chocolate bars have some absolutely lovely packaging. The bars in question are both from Choco-Lina who produce sheep’s milk chocolate exclusively. The varieties I came home with are Bourbon Vanille and Dark Chocolate with Pumpkinseeds, both with sheep’s milk. And while the packaging caught my eye and I was intrigued by the sheep’s milk it was the pumpkinseeds that guaranteed that these would come home with me.

The packaging features nice gold trim and the company’s trademark sheep surrounding a gold foil wrap which is stamped with the company logo and sheep. The branding doesn’t end there, either. The bars themselves are imprinted with the logo and sheep and are very nice to look at.

Dark Chocolate with Pumpkinseeds
I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this bar. Beyond, you know, dark chocolate and pumpkinseeds. I kind of figured that there would be big whole seeds running around in the chocolate but they appear to be chopped pretty finely and are spread throughout the entire bar. The chocolate itself smells lightly bitter and somewhat sweeter than I expected. The chocolate is nice if not exceptional and the seeds add a nice texture like chopped nuts but I’m not sure they are adding anything to the flavor of the bar. It’s a good bar, but not great.

Bourbon Vanille White Chocolate
White chocolate and I generally don’t have a lot to do with each other. I had some waxy white choclate bunnies for Easter as a child and it didn’t leave a good impression on me. I’ve tended to avoid it since. I’m happy to say that there is very little in common between this bar and the cheap white chocolate of my youth. The first thing that distinguishes this is the appearance. It isn't the bright white I was expecting. It is a deep, almost dark creamy color and is speckled with vanilla throughout. I find it smells more like chocolate than I expect from white chocolate but very creamy. It’s surprisingly soft as well. I’m used to chocolate with a snap to it and this is somewhere between normal chocolate and fudge. There is a firmness to it, but it doesn’t precisely snap. The taste reminded me a lot of vanilla ice cream – it is sweet and very creamy and has a good vanilla flavor to it. I’m not a good judge of white chocolate, but this I like. A lot.

The Dark Chocolate with Pumpkinseeds was nice, but not overly special. TheBourbon Vanille White Chocolate, on the other hand, I liked a lot. Score wise I’ll call the Dark bar a 7 out of 10 and the White bar an 8.5 out of 10. I probably won’t repeat on the Dark bar, but I’m sure I’m going to go back for more of the White bar. And now that I’ve had it I’m curious as to how the Green & Black’s White Chocolate stacks up to it. I’ve heard that it is very good and loaded with vanilla and I’m wondering if I might not enjoy it as well.

August 5, 2006

Dagoba on the Today Show!

dagoba.jpgThis Monday morning NBC's Today Show will be airing a feature on a group of companies who are dedicated to sustainable production - a feature that will include Dagoba. It should offer a nice behind the scenes look at one of the finest producers of organic chocolate and how they do business. The segment is scheduled to air between 7:30 and 8:00 this Monday, the 7th. It is possible the segment may be pushed to later in the week, but if you miss it they will be posting a clip on their site sometime after it airs.

UPDATE
Their site now says FRIDAY between 7:30 and 8:00 so it seems to have slid a few more days.

To celebrate their opportunity to spread their vision of Full Circle Sustainability they are offering a special in their online store. From 8/7 to 8/14 they will be giving a free Single Origin 10-Piece Tasting Square Sampler with every order! Quite a nice deal. You can order some of their new Chocolate Covered Nibs or Xocolatl Nibs and get some bonus chocolate.

Tune in Monday morning if you can and if you can't then make sure you stop by their site later this week to see the clip there.
Dagoba Enews



Totally Unrelated!
Phase one of the chocolate obsession re-design is complete! I'm pretty pleased with how things have turned out! There is still a lot of clean-up to do, but things are looking pretty good (if I do say so myself).

August 1, 2006

Chocolate ZOOM Walking Chocolate Tour of New York

chocolatezoom.jpgIs this a case of great minds thinking alike or just random serendipity? Chocolate ZOOM, an online magazine for chocolate lovers and, in their own words, “the premier chocolate guide for New York City,” is now offering walking tours of New York that take in some of the very best chocolate the city has to offer. I had been tossing the idea of organized tours around in my head for a couple of months so it is no surprise to me that others have been thinking the same thing.

The tour is split into two separate walks – the SoHo stoll and the Uptown stroll – and takes you to eight of the very best chocolatiers the city has to offer. In SoHo you get to visit MarieBelle, Vosges Haut Chocolat, and Kee’s Chocolates and the Uptown stroll features stops at Martine’s Chocolates, La Maison du Chocolat, Debauve & Gallais, Pierre Marcolini, and Richart. The best part of it is that the tour has a relationship with the stores that gets you more than just the shopping experience. You get to learn about the store and the chocolate and get a few samples along the way.

The list really covers a lot of the important stops on my planned New York Chocolate Crawl (Debauve & Gallais isn’t on my list and that is mainly due to their location and some horrified sticker shock from visiting their website) and for a paltry $50 it sounds like a great way to get an introduction to what New York has to offer in terms of fine chocolate. If you don’t have the time or desire to put together your own tour then this is a great service. Tours run each Saturday at 1:00pm and take approximately 3.5 hours.

Now, I just need to figure out how Chocolate ZOOM slipped under my radar until now. They seem to have a very similar attitude to my own when it comes to chocolate:

Have you ever vowed to "just nibble" on a square of rich dark chocolate, only to find yourself handsomely stuffed by a bar of available flavors?
If so, then you’re like us: obsessed with chocolate.
Obsessed with chocolate? That sounds familiar somehow. /grin

Anyway, they've spotted a good niche in the tour market in New York and they have the cooperation of some excellent chocolatiers. Combined with a reasonable price it really sounds like they have a winning formula. Be sure to read the press release and pay their site a visit.

Press Release
Chocolate ZOOM
Chocolate ZOOM Walking Tours