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February 26, 2007

Review: Scharffen Berger Las Islas

With as much emphasis as there is on single origin chocolate these days it’s nice to see a product like the one I’m gnawing on tonight: Scharffen Berger’s Las Islas. Rather than highlight a small region or single plantation they’ve created a special Caribbean blend with beans from Trinidad, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic.

The bar itself is well formed and has a really attractive deep brown color with a little red in it. The aroma is strong and a little sharp with a hint of citrus on a grassy and slightly woody base with a little tobacco thrown in. Keeping with the citrus in the aroma the first touch to the tongue reveals a bright profile. The flavor quickly develops to a bright and fruity mix of orange and berries but it isn’t too sweet. There is something else offsetting the fruit, cutting the sweetness and adding a little astringency, and I can’t put my finger on a flavor. The nearest I can come up with is cider or grapes or wine – something with some tannins. It finishes smooth with the bright fruit fading to a little jam balanced with a nutty undertone. Even after it’s faded there is a lingering hint of fruit that just won’t go away.

Overall it’s a pretty good bar. Not one I’d be in the mood for on a regular basis, but a good bar no less. I’m going to call it an 7.75 out of 10 and something I’m glad I got to try.

February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

So, yeah. It's Valentine's Day. Whether or not you are a fan of the holiday I think we can all get behind the sales that follow in it's wake. I think that with the rapid-fire nature of the Christmas-Valentine's-Easter candy crush it adds an urgency to the sales between them. Once Christmas is over they want that candy off the shelves fast to make room for the Valentine's candy. And once that's over they need shelf space for Easter candy. And so you get some serious sales prices. That's my theory, at least.

I'm not sure how well that theory will hold up this Valentine's Day, though. At least here in the wake of a couple of days of nasty weather. The snow has been hitting hard and there are a lot of people who are just plain staying off the roads. The city closed down early on Tuesday in anticipation of the freezing rain that was on the way and this morning everything was just a mess. The county to the north of me was in a "Level 3 Snow Emergency" and it was actually illegal to be out driving. There really didn't seem to be a lot of people out today. So Valentine's Day candy probably didn't sell anywhere near as well as businesses may have hoped. If they sold less than anticipated and discount everything they have too far they'll be taking some serious losses so they might not be cutting prices quite as hard as they usually do. Or they could cut it harder than usual to get rid of it all. I guess we'll see over the next couple of days.

Anyway, Happy Valentines Day and keep your eyes open for the inevitable sales!

February 7, 2007

Recipe Rundown

I'm a big fan of customized newsfeeds. They can save a person a lot of time and effort by putting just the news that they want in their inbox on a nicely regular basis. I have one set up to drop, what else, chocolate news in my inbox. One of the nicest things this does is drop a lot of recipes in my inbox and if there is one thing I can't get enough of it's recipes. This is a little rundown of some of the recipes that have shown up in my inbox lately.

First up we have a few recipes posted on the Daily Dispatch from the recently released cookbook "The Essence of Chocolate", by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg, the two men behind Scharffenberger Chocolate. The first, Scotch Truffle Hearts, sounds a little iffy to me. I don't much care for Scotch. The Chocolate Liqueur recipe, however, is right up my alley and they even tell you how to make a martini with it.

Next up we have Morton's Legendary Hot Chocolate Cake. This is from the famous Morton's Steakhouse chain and it is their number one dessert (chocolate popular for dessert? really?). This recipe has popped up in quite a few places lately but the one I'm linking to is at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Why theirs and not another one? This one has some nice background and a few bonus recipes. Not dessert recipes, but still, a bonus is a bonus (especially when it's crab cakes).

The next item, from the Mercury News, sounds a little scary to me, but it's not so scary that I wouldn't give it a shot. It's a Chocolate Macadamia Nut Pie and it packs in a whole two and a half cups of macadamias. That's a whole lot of nuts. Is it too much? I'm can't say without trying it. But, hey, if pecan pie works then why not macadamia?

Rum-Soaked Chocolate Truffles is a recipe that doesn't throw too much of any one thing at you, but rum and chocolate and coffee all together sounds like it's at least a potent combination. It's a pretty unusual recipe and I might be forced to give it a shot at some point. I mean, how many truffles have you tried with gingersnap cookie crumbs in them? I'm pretty sure I've never had one.

Last up we have one of my recent obsessions combined with my longstanding chocolate obsession. Over at the Star Tribune is a recipe for Chocolate Chunk Challah which is also from "The Essence of Chocolate". It's a combination that really piques my curiosity and I can't help but want to try it out. I'm beginning to think that I'm going to be spending a lot of time with this cookbook. I keep seeing more and more recipes like this one that just grab my attention and get me hungry for more chocolate.

February 5, 2007

Comfort Chocolate Round Two

Woo! I’ve almost kicked this stupid cold (and whatever the other mystery ailment was that was bugging me) and I’m finally feeling up to the task of blogging again. Now that I can taste properly again the chocolate is calling my name in a big way. Not that I didn’t finally find ways to enjoy some chocolate while I was sick. I found my chocolate comfort foods: CoCo Wheats and hot chocolate! It was staring me in the face the whole time (literally - they were sitting on top of the microwave. I wanted something good and hot and chocolaty and between the millions of hot chocolates I still have lurking around the kitchen and the half-dozen boxes of CoCo Wheats I always have on hand I was – sickness aside – a pretty happy camper. Others may like their chicken noodle soup, but me, I’ll take some CoCo Wheats. Not that I didn’t have chicken noodle soup, but the old standby, Campbells, is on the list of foods I really dislike. It just isn’t very good. Progresso, on the other hand, hits the spot.

Ok, so what’s been going on while I’ve been hiding beneath the covers trying to get better? Chocolove came out with a new limited edition bar for Valentines Day: Chilis & Cherries in Dark Chocolate. Like their Christmas limited edition this one is only available at Whole Foods Market. The Christmas one never made an appearance at my local Whole Foods and I’m kind of doubting this one will either. Not that I’m terribly enthused by the cherries in it. I’m really not that big into cherries (of the non-maraschino variety). Cybele of CandyBlog got to try it when she was at the Fancy Food Show and she found it pretty good. You can check out the press release here.

Yeah, Valentines Day. There’s a subject that needs addressing. My inbox has been flooded with tons of ads for Valentines chocolate and, while a lot of it looks really nice (some of the fine wine and fine chocolate packages look especially nice), you're not likely to see me ordering any of it. At least until after February 14th has come and gone. February 15th is one of my personal chocolate holidays when the heavy duty post-Valentines sales kick in. And the money I would spend on the Valentines chocolate needs to be kept aside for ordering a few more hot chocolates (I still need to get the Vosges – I’m dying to try it). But when there is chocolate at a deep discount in the offing odds are I’ll take at least a little home with me. And as a general note, if you do have an SO you are feeling like buying some chocolate for then go for quality. A box of chocolate from the grocery store just isn't the same thing as going out of your way to get something special. And in the internet age "out of your way" is just a few clicks away.

Also, just in time for Valentines Day, this week is Covered in Chocolate Week on Food Network. I don’t watch a lot on there these days that isn’t Unwrapped, Good Eats, or some competition special, but there is bound to be some good stuff to see. It runs every night this week starting with Good Eats at 7:00pm eastern and all day Sunday so set the vcr or dvr and get ready for some good TV.

That’s about it for tonight, but tomorrow I should have a roundup of recipes that have cruised past my screen recently and I’m working on a review of one of my favorite chocolate treats.

Night all!