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July 27, 2009

Chocolate Everywhere

Well. It seems that I've started eating chocolate again. Not sure what flipped the switch, but I've tried a half dozen different things these last two weeks and it's nice.

The first thing I have to address is that the Coconut M&M's that I love so much have finally found their way to stores in Columbus (at least the stores I go to). Even better than their general availability is that they are every bit as good as I remember them being. Very lovely. I even got some more people to try them and they were very positive about them as well. I'm not sure how many bags I'm going to stockpile, but given it's Limited Edition nature I think I had better get some to slowly devour over an extended period of time. I'm digging these way more than I was digging the Dark Chocolate Peanut M&M's back in their Limited Edition days (I remember them as much better than they seem to be when I eat them now - so sad) so I want to make sure I have some to hold onto until they wise up and release these as a normal product (fingers crossed and all that).

But that's not the only thing I've run across in the stores lately, oh no. I found Dark Chocolate Reese's Peanut Butter Cups! I've been eager to get a big fat batch of them to try and was pleased to grab a bag at the store today when I was picking up my lunch. The short version is that there is something there that reminds me of something else and I don't know what. Until I get that weird deja vu taken care of I'm not in love. I really do love the original because I like the balance between the chocolate and the grainy peanut butter (not too sweet - the magic trick to working with peanut butter and chocolate). The peanut butter is the same, of course, but the chocolate is ringing a bell somewhere in my mind and as it's really cluttered in there it sometimes takes a bit to zero in on things.

I've been getting a little chocolate action with my beer lately, as well. I've decided that my favorite style of beer is the Impreial Stout and it's one of those styles of beer that have some lovely stray flavors going on. They quite often have a nice bit of chocolate and coffee as part of the natural flavor makeup and a number of them go that extra step and slip a little (or a lot) of chocolate into the mix. There have been a great number of chocolate stouts released in the past year and I've been enjoying the heck out of them. As one who loves stouts in the first place adding some extra chocolate to the mix just makes me a ridiculously happy camper. My most recent chocolate beer was a Chocolate Cherry Porter that they were serving up this past Friday at Barley's Smokehouse, my local favorite for beer and one of my top picks for BBQ as well. They gain bonus points in my book for recently having had Southern Tier Mokah on tap (so good).

What else? I know I've been eating chocolate like it's going out of style. Oh, yes. Amano. I was lucky enough to have a box of chocolaty love show up on my porch with a nice mix of the Limited Edition (oh, dear, am I going to capitalize that phrase all the time?) Montanya bar and a pair of milk chocolate bars of the Jembrana and Ocumare varieties. I've only taken one hit of the Montanya so far and I don't remember what my impressions were, but the milk chocolate bars? Well, I generally avoid milk chocolate because I've been exposed to so much bad milk chocolate, but this, I must say, is not in that category. These are some fabulously tasty bars. I've yet to sit down and think about them overly much, I've really just been happily chewing away at them. They are some darn fine stuff and a great addition to their line of bars. If they don't disappear before I manage to actually collect my thoughts on them I will try to do a review.

I've also been snacking a little on my Amedei stash. So far I'm prepared to state that I love all of the goodies I've got (Toscano Black, 9, and Porcelana). Beyond that I've got to say that while Porcelana is really exceptional and everything, but I prefer 9 to it and to their Chuao as well. Of course between the three you really are dealing with some of the best bars of chocolate in the world so it's all just degrees of awesome. I would like to do a review, but I want to do a full roundup of the three big dogs and I only have two right now so that will have to wait.

And speaking of awesome world-class chocolate I've been gnawing away at a couple of bars from Michel Cluizel. I may not be able to go to the amazing little store they had in New York any more (and my soul cries in agony at the loss), but I can still enjoy a bar of their chocolate. The bars I've been snacking on are the Hacienda Los Ancones and Vila Gracienda and they are both really excellent. I'm particularly in love with the Los Ancones. With the way I'm eating them (irresponsibly given the cost - they ain't cheap) I figure I should probably post a review at some point.

So that's what's going on in my little world o' chocolate. I'm eating chocolate again and am enjoying a nice variety of stuff ranging from candy to the finest bars of chocolate in the world. I'm still working on my thoughts on chocolate and wine and once I have that put together I want to take a look at what's going on in the chocolate world (like that low calorie non-melting Vulcano that Callebaut has in the works). And I hope to throw a review or three up as I go.

July 9, 2009

Thoughts: Snickers Nougabot

Heading into All Candy Expo I had already been looking for the M&M’s Mars limited edition products from their cross-promotion with the new Transformers movie, but while I was there I only managed to lay my hands on one of the two products. I came home with a bag of the Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M’s, but I hadn’t seen any hint of the Snickers Nougabot bar. It wasn’t long after the show that I found the M&M’s locally, but I was still having little luck finding the Snickers. The week before the movie came out there were bags of mini bars at the Kroger’s near work, but still no singles that I could find. Then, finally, the Monday after the movie was released I found a bounty of singles in the promo aisle. One went into my bag and came home with me. My curiosity would allow no less.

And what was there to be curious about? Well, the Snickers Nougabot isn’t quite the experiment that the Strawberried M&M’s are. It’s essentially a Snickers bar with the nougat colored to try and match the Autobot Bumblebee and some Transformers graphics on the wrapper. Not the most creative of limited editions, but I’ve seen worse so I’m not going to go off slagging it for not trying. But my mind just wasn’t liking the idea and was conjuring images of day-glow nougat that left me feeling more worried and less excited. Sadly, that’s just how my mind works. But whatever troubling thoughts I might have I was willing to let it go until I got to try the bar for myself before passing judgment.

So, now that I’ve tried it, just what is the official verdict? Well, it tastes just like a normal Snickers bar. I’ll be happy to give it that much. But the horrible visions of scary bright yellow nougat that haunted me? I hacked the bar in two with a knife so I could get a nice clean cut and a good look at the nougat. I found my fears well founded.

Is that cheese?

It looks like a layer of cheese in there! Excuse me while I quail in revulsion. Ewww! It looks so unnatural. I showed it around work just to make sure I wasn’t the only one that felt that it looked wrong and people were backing me up. It just looked bad, wrong and scary. But I’m not one to turn my nose up at something that looks unappetizing as long as it tastes good. If they sell any bars at all on the curiosity factor then it’s a win. They don’t taste a bit different from the normal ones that I can tell so it shouldn’t disappoint any Snickers fans on the taste front. I’m not scoring it or anything. Aside from the added dose of yellow coloring it’s a Snickers bar.

Now excuse me while I close my eyes and pretend I'm eating a normal non-yellow Snickers.

July 6, 2009

Summer Slump

Well, it's summer again and my tastes are wandering far afield from the chocolate that tends to hold their attention. As the days grow longer and hotter my mind turns to assorted other flavors like pistachio, apple, cherry, and citrus-y stuff. Last weekend I had a blondie and an apple marzipan square from the Suisse Shop and some Pistachio with Honey ice cream from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams (also tried their Kona Stout which is very tasty and right up my alley), but, aside from a tiny piece Friday night, no chocolate. This weekend I had a little chocolate birthday cake (from Resch's Bakery - a Columbus classic) and a bit of Black Raspberry Chip ice cream from Graeter’s, but neither of those really count. In general I'm roving far afield as a restless need for distraction from the anxiety of the day-to-day takes over. I think I have been for a while now. I've got a bucketful of anxiety going on and I want to occupy my time and mind with something diverting and distracting (or entertaining and engaging). With so much anxiety tied up in everyday life I send my mind and taste buds off on little excursions and expeditions by expanding my interests into wine and craft beer. And, of course I try and spin that into pairings with chocolate (largely successful with beer and enormously unsuccessful with wine so far – more on that soon). I'm cooking a lot more as well and having fun taking recipes for things I want to eat and stripping as much sodium from them as possible. I've started cooking different foods than I've ever tried and it's a great deal of fun. I do so love experimenting in the kitchen. On top of the general kitchen tinkering I'm thinking that I'm going to go out to a couple of the you-pick farms in the area and buy a bunch of stuff and try canning. I figure that since I can't grow my own (due to the condo and an amazing ability to kill plants which has somehow not managed to claim my flowers this year) the next best bet is to buy a bushel of fresh stuff from somebody else's field and reducing it into other stuff. I'm really wanting to make my own spaghetti sauce, salsa and hot sauce but will be happy to stray into fruit preserves and jams and stuff. Just for fun. It's something new and different (ooh, broke pattern there - how about new and nifty or delightful and different) and probably a lot cheaper than actually traveling somewhere (which is what I'd like to do). It's a diverting distraction or something.

But the general gist is that chocolate is getting ignored somewhat in favor of other stuff. I hate to say that I'm bored with chocolate, but I can say I'm bored and frustrated with a lot of things lately. Can't seem to find any movies that can catch my attention successfully (I am hopeful about one movie, though). No new or recent games have me too very interested (in fact I've gone back to Final Fantasy VII since I can now play it on the PSP - much yay). I'm having trouble finding books that I want to read (or rather I don’t feel like reading any of the books I want to read) and every time I try to write anything I either hate the voice I'm writing in or I'm writing something less familiar and utterly unplotted and, thus, frustrating. And chocolate is largely an afterthought.

So I’m sort of wandering as summer and stress take over. I’ve got some things going on chocolate-wise, but summer is difficult for me because I can’t order things without paying out the nose for quick shipping and dry ice. And I just feel like having something different. So I’ve got some more thoughtful things I’m working on as opposed to stuffing my face with chocolate and talking about it (like normal). So there is stuff in the works and there is at least one sort of non-review going up tomorrow. I’m just a little distracted from chocolate of late.