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November 28, 2006

Announcement: Hot Chocolate Week

Ok, can somebody please do something about this weather? Here we are in Ohio in late November, the high temp is comfortably in the mid-60’s, and I’m sitting on top of an endless supply of hot chocolate that I want pretty badly to drink. It’s nearly December! Where is the cold? I need cold to drink hot chocolate! Well, assuming that the forecast is right, Friday will be down in the 30’s and this is just what I’ve been waiting for. With cold weather finally settling in for more than a day or two it is time! This Sunday will mark the beginning of the grand fiasco that will go down in history as the Chocolate Obsession Hot Chocolate Week! An entire week of hot chocolate and we’re not talking about Swiss Miss here, nosiree. Okay, maybe a little Swiss Miss, but for the most part it’s all going to be the good stuff. Seriously, check out the picture! There's some darn good stuff in there and that's not everything either. Anyway, for a whole week I’ll be drowning myself in hot chocolaty goodness and reporting back the results to the world. And to top it all off we’ll round out the week with an Aztec/Maya hot chocolate showdown. Gonna be a good time.

November 27, 2006

M&M's Pirate Pearls Revisited

mmspiratespearls.jpgThis past May M&M's, in a cross-brand promotion with Disney, introduced their first ever white chocolate product in the form of M&M's Pirate Pearls. The entire thing was wrapped up in piratey imagery to help promote the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. They seemed to be everywhere for a while but have since all but disappeared from stores leaving a lot of people wondering just how they can get their hands on some of these precious morsels. Today I'm sharing my thoughts on the continuing existence of the white chocolate M&M, where and when you can get your hands on more, and what to do to make sure that they don't disappear for good. I should warn you, though, that a lot of speculation follows.

First, the good news: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest comes out on DVD on December 5th here in the States. I'm betting that this will bring a surge of Pirates M&M's back into stores for at least a month or three. When Star Wars hit DVD last year another wave of dark chocolate Star Wars M&M's showed up in stores at the same time so I have no reason to expect that they'll break from pattern for this release. Both companies have an interest in having the product in stores so it's nearly guaranteed that there is more on the way. It only makes sense for them to bring them back, if only for a short while.

But just because they make it back to the stores doesn't mean they'll be easy to find. It took a lot of looking to find them when they first came out and I have a feeling that we'll see the same thing this time around. So, in the interest of uniting as many chocolate lovers with their confection of choice as possible, I'm providing the following hints on how to get your hands on some:


  • Look in more than the candy aisle. I found them in a variety of places I never would have expected, but never once did I find them in the candy aisle. I did find them on endcap displays, in the seasonal aisle, in the dead zone between the aisles and the registers, in between the U-Scan self serve registers, in the pharmacy - all over the place. The endcaps and seasonal aisle were the best bets for the most part though I found the small bags up near the checkout a lot. Not in the normal candy at each register, but in the separate displays where the limited edition candies often live.
  • The grocery store isn't the only place to find them. I did find my first ones at Krogers (one of our big grocery stores - they own a ton of chains nationwide including Ralph's out west) but I also found them at gas stations (in small bags), drug stores (small and large bags), mini-marts (small bags again) - all over. I even found them at the checkout at Best Buy in (if I recall correctly) a medium-sized bag. So keep your eyes open. If they sell groceries, candy, or DVDs then they might just have some.
  • Don't be afraid to network. If you can't find them locally check with the people you know and see if they can find them. Mailing a bag of M&M's isn't terribly cheap, but the price gets better as you pile more bags in. So ask friends, family, co-workers, and internet acquaintances. A team of people can cover a lot more ground than a single person.
  • Close outs are your friends! If your grocery store has a section where they put things that are being closed out or discontinued or are from a holiday that has just passed give it a look. These can be treasure troves of great stuff. I found the dark chocolate peanut M&M's in a couple of them. And the Odd Lots/Big Lots style of store gets some really good stuff in from time to time (as I discovered in college) and things like these have been known to make an appearance. Keep both your mind and your eyes open.
  • If all else fails turn to the power of the web. "Oh great and mighty Internet, I beseech you, reveal unto me where I may procure the tasty comestibles known as Pirate Pearls." Don't laugh - it works. You just have to phrase things a little differently and pose your question to the right site. Drop the words "pirate pearls" in at Amazon and you'll find you can order them by the case. As they reappear in stores they should start to show up more on search sites like Amazon, Froogle, Yahoo Shopping and Pricegrabber.

The bad news is that as of now the white chocolate M&M's are likely going to be extinct when the movie promotion is finished. The same thing happened last year with the dark chocolate M&M's from the Star Wars promotion and I don't expect this to go any different. So you may only have a three-month window in which to grab up what you can. The important thing is that after the movie promotion died and the dark chocolate disappeared they were brought back because the customers liked them (and because dark chocolate is a hot item in the consumer psyche of late). So when the Pirates promotion is finally gone there is a good chance that the fans of the white chocolate M&M's can convince them to keep the product alive. And this is what you need to do to try and keep your white chocolate hopes alive. TELL THEM YOU WANT THEM! Send them email. Call their 1-800 number. Make sure that they know, beyond a doubt, that there is consumer support for the product and that letting it die is a mistake.

Good hunting everybody.

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Chocolove's New Limited Edition Holiday Bar

Chocolove, a company I will always love for being one of my portal drugs to the wider world of chocolate, have a new product for the holiday season! The new Limited Edition Chocolove Holiday Bar combines 55% cocoa content chocolate with a wealth of fruits and nuts to make what I can only think of as the chocolate bar equivalent of a fruitcake. From their release:

The perfect holiday treat, the Limited Edition Chocolove Holiday Bar is a blend of sweet currants, tart cherries, zesty orange, spicy ginger, and a mix of crunchy pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts enrobed in smooth dark chocolate.
And all of this fruity, nutty goodness is wrapped up in a holiday variant of their trademark packaging complete with a poem inside the wrapper. Traditionally there is a love poem printed on the inside of their wrappers, but the art they are showing says "Poem inside" as opposed to their standard "love poem inside" so it might be a holiday poem this time around.

The new bar is available exclusively at Whole Foods Market (and I am hoping mine gets some in - I want to try it) through the holiday season or while supplies last. It may well be more of a "while supplies last" situation since they are indicating that each store will only be getting a few hundred bars. If it sounds at all interesting to you (and you have a Whole Foods in your neighborhood) then keep your eyes peeled for it!

Chocolove Home Page
Press Release

November 26, 2006

Review: Baileys Mint Chocolate Irish Cream

Earlier this year Baileys launched a pair of limited edition versions of their lovely Irish Cream liqueur: Caramel and Mint Chocolate. Since then I’ve seen the bottles in the store again and again and have sort of been waiting for them to go on clearance before giving them a try. Well, yesterday I was really in the mood for a little Baileys and I haven’t had any around the apartment for a few months so I wandered back to the boozahol section of the store and grabbed a bottle. Actually, I grabbed the wrong bottle. I had picked up a bottle of Mint Chocolate Baileys instead of the normal variety. I came really close to putting it back, but for some reason it just sounded really good right about then (possibly because I had just left the ice cream aisle where the mint chocolate chip had been trying to seduce me).

When it came time to try it I decided to go the direct route. I threw some ice in a rocks glass, poured in a healthy unmeasured quantity of liqueur, and topped it off with a splash of milk. Appearance wise it looks like normal Baileys but when you take a whiff you notice that there is a hint of mint to the aroma. Taste wise I’m not finding a ton of chocolate in the flavor, but there is definitely a nice subtle undercurrent of mint present. It’s quite good and I can see it being right at home in some form of chocolate martini. I’m not sure how exactly to assign a score to alcohol for the most part so I’ll say that if you like Baileys then you should enjoy this. It’s yummy stuff.

November 20, 2006

Review: Valrhona Caraïbe

From the stash of lost chocolates comes a bar from Valrhona, a company that is nearly synonymous with fine chocolate. After the extremely positive experience I had with the last Valrhona Grands Crus bar I tried I decided that I needed to see what else they had to offer and so on a recent trip to the store a Caraïbe bar found its way into my cart.

The Caraïbe bar is a 65% cacao content bar made from trinitarios beans and comes in a lovely, glossy box that is horribly hard to photograph. Inside the box the bar hides in a basic gold foil wrap. Upon opening the foil you find a bar that is absolutely beautiful. It’s cleanly molded with a light gloss and a nice deep chocolate color. It has a beautiful, clean snap which helps release it’s faint aroma of cocoa with some nice citrus to it. It’s a very light chocolate aroma, but very nice.

The description on the box says it has a “delicate flavor of almonds and roasted coffee” but that only begins to describe what I’m finding. There is some coffee there, but overall I find it to be lightly woody with a little coffee coming in on the front and giving way to a hint of vanilla riding above some light fruit notes that I’m interpreting as mandarin orange and a little apricot. It closes with a faintly bitter fruity note that I can’t place. It might just be the fading fruit overtop of the woody base, but I can’t say for sure. Confusion aside, the entire thing is carried off with an amazing smoothness that seems to be a Valrhona trademark.

There are a couple of interesting things about this bar. First, the fruit flavors in it are sweet flavors, but the chocolate itself isn’t sweet, which is kind of interesting. The other interesting thing to me was that the flavors are all very light. Nothing in it is really all that strong. It’s mellow and laid back and doesn't force itself on you. It's a wonderful chocolate to sit back and enjoy, but it doesn't leave a huge impression.

But how does it stack up? It's an excellent bar, but it doesn't quite measure up to the high standard that the Guanaja bar set. It's easily one of the best bars I've tried to date and as such I'm giving it a 9 out of 10. It's not perfect, but it's an excellent bar that doesn't take an effort to appreciate.

November 16, 2006

Review: Dolfin Dark Chocolate with Pink Peppercorn

I’m starting to look into cleaning up some of the stray bars of chocolate that are lurking around my place (there are soooo many) and the bar that caught my eye tonight was Dolfin’s Dark Chocolate With Pink Peppercorn. Dolfin are a Belgian company that produce some very nice bars of chocolate in both pure chocolate bars and bars of chocolate blended with other natural ingredients ranging from fresh ginger to masala to the pink peppercorn in tonight’s bar. And they wrap the whole thing up in this lovely little plastic pouch with a nice sticky label on it so you can reseal it and store your leftovers in style.

Inside the pouch the bar hides in a basic white wrapper. Before tearing into it you can smell a hint of the chocolate. Once you tear the wrap you smell chocolate and a nice strong aroma of pepper. The bar is well formed a nice light gloss and snaps beautifully. And when you break it you are welcomed by another strong whiff of pepper. What I find funny is that the pepper wasn’t that strong in the taste – at first. Once it kicked in it was strong and offset the strong chocolate nicely. And you get little bursts of the pepper as you hit the crunchy little peppercorn bits. The flavor is warm and nice, but may be too powerful for some especially if they don’t like a strong pepper flavor (of course if you don’t like a strong pepper flavor I can’t imagine you’d really be in a hurry to try this bar). It seemed like it was going to finish with all pepper but after a minute it backed off and became more chocolaty with the pepper fading to a background hint. And it lingers forever.

Overall I found the bar to be very nice. I’ve enjoyed each of the bars I’ve tried from Dolfin and this one is no exception but I do find that a little bit goes a long way. This bar will take me weeks to finish because a small bite delivers so much. I’m going to call it an 8.25 out of 10. Powerful stuff.

November 13, 2006

Year Two : Post One

One year ago today chocolate obsession opened it's proverbial doors to the world and somehow it's still here (SHOCK)! Generally my follow through is spotty at best, but in this case I've actually managed to keep blogging at least sporadically for a whole year! I guess blogging about something you love helps.

To celebrate the bloggy anniversary (and to make me feel a little less unhappy about missing the Chocolate Show in NYC) I put in an order at Chocosphere for a little bit of chocolaty goodness that I can't get locally and have wanted to try. Got a bar of Amedei Chuau, a sampler of the Domori Crus, the new E. Guittard Quevedo bar, a Venezuela bar from Pralus, and a Cluizel Cru de Plantation Los Ancones and I am quite looking forward to giving them all a try. There is nothing quite like having an array of fantastic chocolates waiting for one's attention.

So, um... w00t!

November 9, 2006

Review: Godiva Belgian Blends Dark Chocolate Mocha

Since I first heard that Godiva and Coke were going to try and muscle in on Starbucks territory with their own blended coffee drinks (Godiva Belgian Blends) I’ve been looking forward to giving them a try. My shopping habits, however, tend not to take me to the coffee aisle in the grocery store that often (and not to a “traditional” grocery store very often either) so even though they launched the product this past summer I just saw them for the first time this week. And of course I bought one and it should be no shock that I went for the Dark Chocolate Mocha.

The bottle is moderately attractive with a nice wraparound label. Following the label to the back of the bottle we get to the ingredients, which I was curious about. The chocolate in it is in the form of cocoa powder (and sugar for sweetness) which surprised me. I sort of expected actual chocolate, but good cocoa can be a fine thing. What surprised me most about the ingredients is the fact that they added caffeine when they already have coffee and chocolate. Maybe people have a certain “kick” expectation of these drinks that I just don’t have and they’re catering to that, but to me it just doesn’t seem necessary.

Ok, ingredients aside, how does it taste? I can sum it up in three words: smooth, sweet, and mild. When I drink a coffee drink I expect some strength and there’s nowhere near enough coffee to this. And there certainly isn’t a lot of chocolate to it either and as milky as the drink is I consider the “dark chocolate” label laughable. It’s a flavored milk drink if you ask me. Milk is the main ingredient and it shows in the flavor. It was nice in a sort of chocolate milk way, but it really doesn’t deliver very well on the promise of the product.

If you have the Godiva name on the label you should deliver some chocolate flavor. This fails to deliver much chocolate or coffee. It’s probably made that way to be accessible to as wide an audience as possible, but I think if you are making a drink that is supposed to be “more decadent than just plain coffee” it needs to be more than milk with a little coffee and chocolate along for the ride. It wasn’t bad, but I expect something more than this. Six out of ten. Color me disappointed.

November 6, 2006

Review: York Limited Edition Vanilla Mint Patties

One of my all time favorite candies is the venerable York Peppermint Pattie. It’s one of those special candies that have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and I could honestly eat an entire bag if I let myself. So whenever I see a new limited edition variety I feel the need to grab a bag and give them a try. Today I ran into a new one: the York Limited Edition Vanilla Mint Patties.

The first thing the new edition brings to the table is new packaging! The bag itself is nice in a vanilla way but the individual patties are in neat little sealed wraps as opposed to the normal fold/crumple style wrapper we’ve come to know (and love). They look quite nice. The patties themselves look pretty much like they normally do and they really don’t smell much different from normal, at least to my nose. But the taste, ah, there’s where things get changed up. It doesn’t take long for the vanilla to assert itself in the flavor. It gives the whole thing kind of a mint chocolate chip ice cream kind of flavor, only not terribly minty.

And that is where things went wrong (for me at least). The traditional “sensation” just isn’t there. York are characterized by that strong intense mint flavor and these just don’t have it. I’m not saying they’re bad, because they’re not. They just don't quite live up to the York name. I really like these, but if I’m offered the choice I’ll go with the original. If, however, there are none of the original about then I’ll be more than happy to eat a few of these. Not perfect, but still pretty tasty. I’ll give it a 7 out of 10. If it sounds interesting they’ll probably be here at least through New Year’s but beyond that might be a bit iffy.