August 11, 2010

Sorbet You Say?

Well, the recipe I posted a link to seems to be lurking behind a paywall now so here is a link to the recipe at the Sun Sentinel. This past Sunday I was out shopping for some breakfasty type snackage and decided to wander over to the small appliances aisle to see what they might have that might be fun to play with. And leave it to Anderson's to have the ice cream maker I want.

So the ice cream maker came home with me and the freezer bowl went into the freezer to set up and I gathered my ingredients for making sorbet. I still had no Chambord (well, not enough) so I went with Grand Marnier instead as a compromise. The mixture comes out tasting heavily of the liqueur, but the taste slips into the background when it's properly set in the freezer. Aside from some texture issues it came out really nicely. It certainly tastes great.

Next recipe to make in the ice cream machine... Fresh Mint Chip ice cream a la David Lebovitz. The Man's got skills so I figure his recipe has to be a great one and I want to do fresh mint. So fresh mint should be happening sometime between now and Friday (dessert potluck thing at work or something so I need to bring something).

Cheers y'all!

July 27, 2010

Recipe: Chocolate-Chambord Sorbet

Recipe time! I see a lot of recipes flow through my inbox, but tonight's recipe just seemed like such a great thing given the heat of the season (and it has been yucky hot). The recipe du jour is for a Chocolate-Chambord Sorbet. That'll help you beat the heat. Well, it'll help ME beat the heat. At least once I get an ice cream maker. It does require one. But I've been dying to get the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchenaid stand mixer, so this could be just be the excuse I need.

Anyway, if you direct your browser toward the Grand Forks Herald you'll fine where Chef Jeff shares this piece of love alternate link at the Sun Sentinel to avoid some paywallage. I have a feeling that I might be making some of this in the near future. Not sure I have Chambord, though. I might need to try it with Grand Marnier instead. Which sounds just lovely to me.

June 27, 2010

Quick Hits: Pretzel M&M's

The last few years have seen some interesting experiments within the M&M's brand and they've generally been good with the odd exception along the way. The latest of these experiments is the Pretzel M&M. Simple concept - an M&M with a pretzel in the middle - like the Peanut M&M only different. Pretzels and chocolate go together like two things that go really well together so this really seems like a slam dunk.

The concept is a good one, but the proof is, as they say, in the pudding. So how does the Pretzel M&M deliver? Pretty good actually. The crunch is nice and the pretzel tastes like, well, pretzel which is, I suppose, exactly what one would hope. I'm not sure I like the pretzel crunch after the candy crunch on the outside, though. It's a little different than the crunch of the peanut in the Peanut M&M's and I guess I'm just unfairly comparing the two. The Peanut M&M's are near perfect so I'm biased toward them. But all that aside it's a nice combo in terms of taste. The little pretzel nuggets have a nice bit of salt to them which gives that wonderful sweet and salty combo that just hits the spot so well.

A simple concept combining two great tastes into one little bundle of candy-coated goodness. I'm actually curious as to why it took them so long to do this. It really seems to be a natural extension of the brand to me while some of the other ideas they've tried (PB&J anybody?) have been a bit of a stretch. Score-wise I'm going to have to give these a 8.75 out of 10 as they are pretty darn yummy. They make a nice alternative to the classic Peanut M&M's and are quite a nice addition to the brand.

Oh, and there are NO yellow Pretzel M&M's. What's up with that?

June 20, 2010

Mental Health Chocolate

I've gotta say, I've been pretty happy during this whole job search thing. I've been eating healthier and exercising more and have generally been really pretty happy and positive. One thing that has helped is chocolate. I've got rather a lot of chocolate lurking about my home - some of it candy some if it high quality bar chocolate - and I've been going back to my reserves and my experimental chocolate cellar for treats on a regular basis (tonight is Amedei Porcelana). I'll admit chocolate has been something of a nightly ritual for me, but I've always been picking up a lot of extra chocolate along the way. This last couple of months has been different in that I've only bought a couple of things (a few Godiva truffles, Pretzel M&M's and a Raspberry Zzang! bar). I will be reviewing these last two at some point soon, but things have been really pretty busy the last few weeks so I've been a trifle distracted from the blog yet again. I do think that things are settling down a little, though, and plan to get up a review of those darn M&M's this week and hopefully get to the Zzang! (with the obligatory exclamation point) next weekend. I don't think there are enough World Cup games to distract me from posting them.

But back to the original point regarding the whole nightly chocolate ritual. I found myself lucky enough to have a lot of excellent chocolate around so my desire to not spend money on unnecessary items (like chocolate) didn't end up leaving me dying for a good fix. I haven't had to go without and if I had to I could probably go a year or more on what I've got on hand. And after a long day of the this that and the other of job searching a little chocolate goes a long way toward making everything good. It hits my tongue and starts to melt and as it does so does any lingering stress. I've got to say that it's been no small help in keeping me happy. It's the little things that make life livable and a tiny bit of chocolate each night works wonders for me. And it's my obsessive chocolate searching that built up the amazing stash that sustains me.

So hurray for hoarding!

May 25, 2010

Review: Godiva Ice Cream Parlor Truffles

Summer is just under a month away and it's time to gear up for all the great tastes of the season. And what taste screams summer more than ice cream? Seriously. Since I was old enough to chase the ice cream man summer and ice cream have gone hand in hand. And to get into the spirit of the season Godiva has brought back their Ice Cream Parlor Truffles. They've even stepped up their summertime swing with new flavors. This year they're introducing Double Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, Lemon Sherbet, and Rocky Road. These are in addition to the existing flavors of Mint Chocolate Chip, Neapolitan, Hazelnut Gelato, Oranges and Crème, and Pecan Caramel Sundae. That's a pretty tasty sounding lineup. I was lucky enough to be sent a sampler of the new flavors in what is some of the coolest packaging I've seen in some time.

You see, they have these great little lidded cups that look like pint ice cream containers - awesome way to work with the theme, no? You can get pre-made pints or get a custom pint made at a boutique. Even cooler, if you do happen go to a Godiva boutique you can get an Ice Cream Truffle Cone - yep, they give the truffle a little dip and stick it in a mini-cone. And if that isn't already enough summertime fun they also have these cute Milk Chocolate Popsicle Lollipops. They look - surprise! - like a popsicle and are available in orange, green and brown tied with a pink satin ribbon. And that's still not all. They've gone whole hog on the ice cream with Ice Cream Parlor Truffle Bars! These are available in Oranges & Cream, Mint Chocolate Chip, Hazelnut Gelato and Vanilla Sundae. So if a single truffle isn't enough to satisfy your ice cream urge, they've got you covered. They've even stepped up availability by making the classic flavors available at department stores and online where last year they were boutique only. The new flavors are only available at Godiva boutiqes, though. But it may be worth it to go to an actual Godiva store so you can try those cool little mini-cones and get a custom packed pint container with your choice of flavors, old or new.

Love the theme and the killer packaging, but it's the taste that's important, right? Well, they've done some pretty impressive work on some of these. The Double Dark Chocolate is great - dark on dark is a sure winner in my book and this delivers. The Lemon Sherbet is nice and lemony, but I don't know that I've got any basis for comparison - I've had lots of orange and lime sherbet, but I don't know if I've ever had lemon. It's not my favorite, but it's still good. The rocky road is really nice and hits close to the mark of the classic ice cream flavor with a nice hit of marshmallowy vanilla along with the nuts and chocolate. And then there's Pistachio. I'm not sure how I managed to avoid the flavor for so long, but once I started on it I've been unable to stop and I love the combination of Pistachio and white chocolate. And that's what we've got here and it's really tasty.

As for the "old" flavors, well, I couldn't settle for just trying the new flavors, could I? So I nipped off to the mall and grabbed some of the classics to taste test. I haven't tried them all just yet, but the ones I have are some seriously good stuff. The Neapolitan is a home run - I just had Breyer's Strawberry Ice Cream on Saturday and the strawberry in the Neapolitan Truffle is close to a dead ringer for that natural strawberry ice cream flavor. Paired with some vanilla and all wrapped up in chocolate it really nails the flavor combination well. And good golly gosh the Mint Chocolate Chip.... dead on perfect and totally to die for. They are so wrong they're right. Gooshy, minty and chocolaty – they are a thing of beauty. Oh, and the Oranges and Crème matches up to a Orange Creamsicle pretty darn well, too. Then there is the Pecan Caramel Sundae. After the other truffles turned out to be so solid I had some pretty high expectations for this one. Luckily it lived up to expectations with some lovely gooey caramel and vanilla sections – with nuts even! Absolutely awesome.

So how do they all rate? I’d say they run from a low of 7 out of 10 for the Lemon Sherbet up to a good strong 9.25 out of 10 for the Mint Chocolate Chip and Pecan Caramel Sundae. Overall I’d probably drop an 8.5 for the whole line. Very tasty stuff and a fun change of pace. The prices aren’t terrible for Godiva either. A four-truffle pint will run you $10 and a three pint pack with Neapolitan, Mint Chocolate Chip and Pecan Caramel Sundae will run just $25 (they call it an Ice Cream Social – hee hee). And the cones will only set you back $3, the lollipops are $6 and it's only $2.95 for one of the Ice Cream Parlor Truffle Bars. It may be more economical to go with per pound pricing for your truffles, though. I love the packaging and all, but I tend to go that route because I don’t see a whole lot of reason to waste a box on chocolate that is just for me and my friends. But do what makes you happy. Just do it fast, because they're only here for a limited time!

May 16, 2010

Pseudo-Review: John & Kira's Chocolates

As much as I love John & Kira's Chocolates I'm really surprised to find that I've never really reviewed anything they make. I've been a big fan of their fabulous drunken pumpkin figs they do for the holiday season, but up until a few months ago I'd really not had anything else they make outside of the New York Chocolate Show. But this spring they were doing a bit of a half-off dealie on some of their stuff in the wake of Valentine's Day and I took that opportunity to try a few more of their treats. Doing so was a great move - I got to try two of the best pieces of chocolate I've had in the last year - maybe ever.

The first thing I got was a box of their tri-color Ladybugs (they're painted to look like little ladybugs). It comes with three bugs each in red (raspberry), yellow (honey lavender), and green (garden mint). Great write-ups on the ingredients at those links. Oh, and it comes in a really nice box. Totally love their packaging. When you pull a bug (or a bee - we'll get to those) from the box there are these lovely little facts about ladybugs and bees lurking in the spot vacated. Now, the flavors. The raspberry was good, but not over the top amazing - I may be jaded to raspberry as most raspberry things don't impress me any more. This one was relatively mild raspberry with nice chocolate and pretty balanced overall. The honey lavender was fantastic. You could really taste the honey and the lavender. This one was over the top amazing, but it still wasn't as over the top amazing as the garden mint. There are so many generic mint chocolates out there that finding one with a beautiful real fresh mint flavor is so nice. Absolutely incredible stuff.

And speaking of incredible stuff the other item I ordered was a box of their caramel chocolate bees. Like the ladybugs they're painted to look like cute little bees. They're salted caramel with a little honey all wrapped in chocolate and they are unbelievable good. I was expecting a nice salted caramel, but that touch of honey makes them - you guessed it - over the top amazing. Maybe even better than that. Killer stuff.

Let's see, did I miss anything? Oh, yeah. They use Valrhona for their chocolate. It's all good stuff on top of more good stuff. Of course it comes at a price. They are kinda expensive. But when you look at a, say, Godiva, you'll find that they're pretty competitive. It may not be for everyday consumption, but when you want something exceptional it fits the bill. It's been a while since I ate them so I feel a little bad about giving them a score from memory, but I don't remember them as anything but awesome. The ladybugs get a 9.25 out of 10 for being amazingly awesome and the bees get a 9.5 for being darn near perfect. Yummy yummy stuff.

May 12, 2010

Free Ice Cream! Häagen-Dazs Even!

Häagen-Dazs is celebrating their birthday and they want you to come out and celebrate with them. On Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 they're giving free scoops of their classic flavors (vanilla, chocolate and coffee) "at participating locations" between 4pm and 8pm. I do love the Häagen-Dazs and I do so love free chocolate so I'll be heading over to the mall next Tuesday in hopes that my local H-D will be participating. There's a little search thing on their site to find the store nearest you. Hopefully there's one near enough that you can take advantage.

Hmm... I wonder what flavor I'll be getting. Heh.

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.

June 10, 2009

Review: Milk Chocolate Fling

I've been toying with a few things of late, trying to find something worth writing about. And I've found things worth writing about, but I just don't know what the heck to say about them. One of those items that I should probably talk about is the Americanized Fling Chocolate. But what to say? I can go on about the ill-conceived marketing campaign, but I don't want to go there. My opinion of it would drag my little blog places I just don't want to take it. I'd rather focus on the candy, no matter what the marketing is like. I've only got the milk chocolate variety (apparently there are dark chocolate and hazelnut as well) so that's what I'm going to hit tonight. And, since I totally forgot when first posting this, I should say that I got it for free at the All Candy Expo.

And, you know, I like to focus on packaging because it catches the eye and builds some anticipation for what's to come and all that, but this is just a bit pink for my taste. But that's all part of the master plan (whatever the heck it might be) of the Mars marketing people. Inside you get two fingers (real industry term) of Fling which have a truffle layer on top of a crispy meringue style crunch layer all wrapped in "shimmering" chocolate. And they mean that shimmering thing quite literally. The pink on the package carries over to the bar with pink sparklies all over the thing. On the top of the bar it's subtle and you almost have to look for it. On the bottom it's super pink sparkle town or something. I had to start searching the web to make sure it was supposed to look like that and was safe to eat. I've seen similar, but this was a weird shimmery thing and it kind of worried me. From what I could find it's safe to eat so I took a bite. The crunch is nice, but not entirely what I had been expecting not knowing it was a meringue thing going on. But it's got a nice milky milk chocolate thing going on with a nice crunch and a nice bit of malt as well. It's not a bad combo. I'm not a fan of a whole ton of malt in my chocolate, but this gives enough to enjoy and is balanced by the milk chocolate. Overall it's a nice combo, but I'm not in love with the texture of the crunch. But that's just me being picky.

So we've got a decent crunch, a little malt, and some decent milk chocolate. It works well together so I'm going to give it a 7.75 out of 10. It's good, but not something I'll be going back for a whole lot. I don't care how pink and girly they want their product to be (I'm not about to turn my nose up at chocolate just because it's targeted toward women), I just want a different crunch in my chocolate. Same reason I don't do Twix - I don't dig the cookie in my chocolate and with Fling I just don't dig the meringue. But even if it ain't my cup of tea it still delivers some decent taste and crunch.

June 2, 2009

Review: Coconut M&M's

Going into All Candy Expo I already knew about the Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M's and was hoping to get my hands on them there. It took all of one minute of the opening session to shift my focus away from them and firmly onto the Coconut M&M's that they announced (coming later this summer - got mine in the swag bag at the Mars press conference). I'm a fan of coconut and love the texture (and miss the heck out of the Bounty bar). During a stop at the Mars booth I asked about them what they were like and the frightening answer was that they had no coconut texture. Just smooth milk chocolate and the characteristic candy crunch. So I was left to wonder: without the texture I love would I still dig the coconut action?

In a word YES! This could have ended up being a distressingly short review because I just want to say how much I love them, but we're going to go ahead and try and focus in and say something constructive about them. The basic idea is a slightly larger than normal M&M with dose of coconut flavor. Simple enough, right? And the concept is exactly what they delivered. It's an M&M chock full of great coconut flavor. And the really weird thing is this - it is dead on perfect coconut flavor with no nasty aftertaste, but nowhere in the ingredients do you find anything even close to coconut, not even natural flavor! They have a perfect artificial coconut flavor going on here! I was forced to share them around the office to make sure that I wasn't imagining things and everybody confirmed it. It tastes real. More than that, everybody liked them. People who hate the texture of coconut found them great. People who normally don't like coconut liked them (wha?). People who love the texture and taste of coconut like I do also loved them. It's a great implementation of a simple idea.

So, how great are they? Well, I'm tempted to give them a 10 just because I love the heck out of them. I consider Peanut M&M's a 9 and I like these better! So I'm going to give it a big ol' 9.5 out of 10 and call it nearly perfect. Why isn't it perfect? Because it's a limited edition. How unfair of me is that? I'm terrible. Anyway, I'm hoping that people love this is much as it deserves and it gets granted a position in the normal lineup. As far as I'm concerned this is a true winner. And all the people I've asked agree with me. Whether it is eventually adopted full-time or not, I have to give it to Mars. Bravo, people. Bravo.

June 1, 2009

Review: Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M's

I love to hunt for candy. Love to. I've been to more than a dozen places looking for the M&M's and Snickers limited edition Transformers tie-ins and after weeks of searching I have finally found the Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M's in a store. Of course I got some at the All Candy Expo a couple of weeks back, but after all of the searching I had to keep trying to find it in store. It was a point of pride or some such stupidity. Not to mention as I look for it I'm also looking for the Snickers Nougabot which I still have not found anywhere. But frustrations aside, tonight I'm going to address the M&M's.

I have to admit that when I first read about the Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M's my immediate reaction was a little confusion and horror. Strawberry and Peanut Butter? Seriously? It took a moment for it to click in my mind - it's peanut butter and jelly! I felt kind of stupid after that, but most people I've presented it to have the same mental block so I'm not the only person who can't see the obvious. Confusion aside, lets take a look at what we've got here. It's a peanut butter M&M with a hit of strawberry flavor to go along with the chocolate and peanut butter (yeah, I sort of failed to even mention the chocolate originally - oops!). It's a simple enough concept so it all comes down to execution and this is where it shines. I expected the peanut butter to taste like peanut butter, but wasn't sure what the strawberry would taste like. Strangely, it tastes like strawberry! With the odd exception the flavor is more peanut butter than strawberry and I'm really wanting just a little more strawberry than I'm getting, but the flavors are good and go well together. It tastes good.

So while it's a flavor combination I really didn't see coming, it's one that works on a very traditional level and one that they pull off very well. It isn't the ideal balance of flavors in my eyes, but I'm really one of those people who likes a little peanut butter with their jelly so I can forgive them. At the end of the day it's still good and different and a fun limited edition and as such I'm going to give it an 8 out of 10. I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Get 'em while you can or hit the bargain stores in a few months or look for it back in stores when the DVD hits.

May 27, 2009

Review: Cranberry Raisinets

I've been at a total loss as to where to begin with the pile of goodies I've brought back from the All Candy Expo. There is such a wealth of chocolates that it's hard to pick any single one. So I tossed a few different ones into my bag to take to work with me. When I needed a snack I would pick one of them and run with it. The winner today was Nestlé Cranberry Raisinets. The classic Raisinets remixed with the mighty cranberry instead of the humble raisin. I saw a number of cranberry products on the floor, but this is the only one with the power of the Raisinets brand behind it. I like cranberries so I was excited to give them a try.

The Cranberry Raisinets I have come in a 100 calorie pouch, which is nice for those who want to watch the caloric intake. Opening the pouch it feels like it isn't all that much. The individual pieces are pretty big, but there aren't a whole ton of them (one of the drawbacks of the 100 calorie pouch in general is that you sometimes feel shorted and want more which may lead to opening a second pouch to fill the craving). So how do the little cran bombs taste? The chocolate is nothing remarkable - decent, but it seems a sideshow to the cranberries which take over on the taste front pretty quickly. As soon as the cran flavor kicked in I had to reach for the bag to check the ingredients. I know cran and it's tart. I was hoping for some mouth-twisting tartness (the old sour candy junky in me as well as somebody who actually likes unsweetened cranberries) and what I found was a pleasant sweet tartness. So they've done the standard "make cranberry palatable for the average consumer" move of sweetening it. Well, as much as I do love the sour and tart flavor of a cranberry the sweetened cranberries are quite tasty and will certainly be more to the tastes of most people than unsweetened ones might be. So they deliver a little chocolate and a nice bit of cranberry in a reasonable serving size. I may be crazy, but that seems to be just what they were aiming for.

It's a decent new product in my opinion, but it's lacking a little something at the same time. It's one of those things where I quickly forgot the chocolate. It's like it wasn't able to stand up to the cranberries. But that might just be me and it's not like I didn't like them either. I'm giving it a 7.5 out of 10 - they're good, have some lovely health benefits via the cranberry (albeit with a dose of sat fat along for the ride), but they do have some room for improvement. Quibbles aside, they're good and tasty and I like them enough that I'll give them another shot down the road. Right now I'm a trifle overwhelmed candy-wise.

Coming Up: All Candy Expo: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. It's sort of a jumble of observations and mistakes made and lessons learned. The idea of a whole huge narrative of my time at the show just started feeling boring on the quick so I'm going to go for the Reader's Digest condensed version.

May 7, 2009

Mars Real Chocolate Relief Act

Economy got you down? Looking for a little relief? How about some free chocolate? Sound good? Well Mars has got your hookup. They have instituted their Real Chocolate Relief Act. What the heck is that you ask? Well, it's this thing where through the end of September they're giving away 250,000 "single-sized packages" of chocolate every Friday. If you visit the Real Chocolate site at 9:00am EST (6:00am PST) on Friday you can try to get your hands on one of them. They get passed out on a first-come-first-served basis so the earlier you try the better. The only catch is they mail you the coupon (well, you also can't win more than once per Friday and no more than four weeks in the period and it says to allow approximately six weeks to get your coupon). But we all know what they say about gift horses right? Oh, and you're not supposed to look them in the mouth, either.

So forget the economic mess and get your free choccie on!

It would appear that there was some underestimation of the fervor for free chocolate. I hit them at 9:03am EST and their site was down. I suppose millions of people wanting free chocolate is a lot to expect your servers to handle. Ah, they'll get it back together and I'll bet next week they'll be ready for the crush. We've got many weeks left to try for our freebies.

Happy Friday anyway!

**UPDATE 2**
Hey, I just checked and it's working now! Yay for free chocolate! All indications are that I actually got there in time to get my a coupon. So if you were frustrated with the non-functioning status of the site this morning things seem better now. Or, if it ends up being too late there's always next Friday - and a whole slew of Fridays after that.

May 6, 2009

Review: Amano Jembrana

I’m an Amano fan and the reason is simple: Art Pollard makes good chocolate. And when I say he “makes” good chocolate I do mean exactly that. For the unfamiliar, Amano is a bean-to-bar artisan chocolate maker. This particular bar, the Jembrana 70% cacao dark chocolate bar, is the first single-origin bar to use Balinese cacao beans which had me interested from the outset. I was quick to order some to try and they arrived, I believe, on the same day as some sample bars did (oh what a painful wealth of chocolate).

The bar comes in one of Amano’s great little boxes and, being a sucker for good packaging, I fell in love before I even opened it. But open it I did! And I’m glad I did - it’s an interesting bar. The bar itself comes wrapped in gold foil and is well formed (as expected) with a hint of red to the color. I didn’t find anything terribly exotic about the aroma - just some fresh cut wood/sawdust, leather, and a hint of some fruit I can't place - but my sinuses have been having problems and I think that I just can’t smell chocolate as well after wine. The taste has a good full dark chocolate flavor but it's also full of light nuts and blooms into a nice honey-nutty-buttery climax which fades – dryly – to a non-lingering mellow cocoa and honey. It’s really a gentle and accessible dark chocoloate bar with the slight dryness being the only possible issue I can see in winning others over to it. It’s very good and nicely different and I’m going to call it an 8.75 out of 10.

In other Amano news, they’ve started making milk chocolate versions of their Jembrana and Ocumare bars, they sell an array of nibs (and I’m working on finding the right recipe to try them in), and they have a new limited edition bar called Montanya featuring beans from the mountains of Venezuela. Which means, of course, that it’s time for me to order more chocolate.

On a final note, Kitchen Girl Jo made hot chocolate with the Jembrana and it sounds tasty to me (it uses heavy cream which I find makes a killer hot chocolate). Check it out!

Mini-Reviews: Berkshire Bark Bars

On my way through the checkout line at the store I noticed a new arrival to the local scene (or at least new to me – I don’t recall seeing them before locally) - Berkshire Bark. I’ve been getting a taste of them at the New York Chocolate Show, but have never brought any home with me (there’s a lot of stuff there and it’s hard to pick and choose). But since they’re conveniently placed for that impulse buy I’ve been picking them up as I go. Thus far I’ve hit two varieties: Pretzelogical and Midnight Harvest.

The Pretzelogical I grabbed because my brain misread it as Pretzelcoatl (the Aztec god of pretzels?) and I just loved it. Pretzelogical is still good, but the geek in my likes it the way my brain painted it. The bar itself was good, but not amazing. It had the right stuff: dark and milk chocolate, pretzels, sea salt caramel, and peanut butter. It’s a winning formula, but I liked it a lot more when I first opened it than I did when I went back to finish it. So it’s a 7.5 I suppose and I really need to go back and revisit to be sure that nothing bad happened to the bar between taste one and taste two.

The Midnight Harvest has dark chocolate, almonds, hazelnuts, cranberries, and orange zest and it hit the spot for me. I’ve been snacking on it at work (to avoid the wine/chocolate guilt) and it’s quite nice for a mid-afternoon snack. The nuts are big as are the cranberries and it’s a nice mix. Not much to say except “it’s good” and I recommend it. A strong 8.5 out of 10 and one I’ll definitely repeat on.

So the bits I've had in passing at the Chocolate Show have been good and these two bars I've tried have been good. They've got four more varieties for me to try and I'm thinking I'm going to have to give them a shot.

Mini-Review: Peeps Chocolate Mousse Bunnies

I love Peeps (LINK WARNING: JOLLY MUSIC). It’s a sickness. And when I got the announcement about the Chocolate Mousse flavored Peeps I set out to find me some. It took a few trips to find what I was after, but my favorite place for Easter candy, The Andersons (fabulous source for good food, beer, and wine), did not let me down. And I eagerly sampled my hard won Peepage. The long and short of it is this: if you don’t like Peeps you can stop reading here. I don’t have any gory pictures of melted Peeps this time around, just a brief description of the snackage. If you do like Peeps feel free to read on.

There isn’t a lot to say about them that I didn’t say when I reviewed and tormented the Peeps Cocoa Cats. They have a nice cocoa aroma and a nice cocoa + marshmallow taste thing going on. It’s simple, but that’s not to say it isn’t tasty and welcome. If I’m doing the Peeps Brulée thing then I really prefer the Chocolate Mousse/Cocoa version of the Peeps. Good and tasty if you like Peeps (and everybody has their stance on Peeps – some to a near religious fervor). But they hit the spot with me and I’m giving them a nice solid score of… hey, I never scored the Cocoa Cats. I just made messy Brulée with them and didn’t bother with a score. Oh, well. I’ll call them both a good 8.5 out of 10 (9.25 if they’re toasted/Bruléed). If you like Peeps they're worth a try.

On a related note I finished my last normal Peep of the Easter season just tonight and I’m trying to figure out when I’m going to be able to get my next fix. Maybe the closeout store will have some.

Also: what is with the colors? There are orange and green Peeps now and they bother me. It just feels wrong. It may be my childhood talking, but them ain't no proper colors for no Peeps. At least in my opinion. And my opinion probably doesn't count for much.

March 31, 2009

Recession Busting Brownie Deal

We all want chocolate (well, I assume that, but if you're reading Chocolate Obsession I'm betting the odds are in favor). The problem lately is that we don't want to pay for it. The recession is rough on us all, but tonight I bring you a chance to have some brownies, save some money, and help people out all at the same time!

'How' you ask? The folks at Greyston Bakery want to give you a chance to save 20% off of their Do-Goodie Brownies through FRIDAY (act fast y'all). ALL of the proceeds from the Do-Goodie sales are put back into the community helping those in need of jobs, shelter, healthcare, child care, and education so you can feel even better about your purchase. All you need to do to get your 20% off is enter "FOOLU" at checkout and voilá! Money is saved and lives improved.

I haven't tried them yet so I can't speak too much to the quality of the product, though I've had their mix-in brownies in Ben & Jerry's ice cream. It's been a while since I've had it, but I can definitely say that I've never had anything from B&J that I didn't enjoy. It's also earned a little write-up in O (as in the mighty Oprah) Magazine for their social mission which is pretty cool.

So, if you're of the mind to buy some chocolate snackies why not save some cash and help some folks while you're at it? I'm getting some.


March 8, 2009

Review: See's Chocolate Candy

Some times, when you’ve sort of come to accept something as a fact of life you tend to maybe take it for granted. And when I say “you” I of course mean me. There are some chocolate companies that are such a part of life that they’ve sort of faded into the background and now and then I start feeling guilty about it. Locally there is Anthony-Thomas Chocolates. A little further afield (except during the holidays when they set up in the malls), but no less a neglected fact of life, is See’s Chocolate Candy. We don’t have a See’s location locally, but I’ve seen them in the malls around the holidays and just sort of been blinded to them as a background piece of holiday tradition and it's been years since I had any (like pre-blog). Luckily I received an offer to give some of their chocolate a try. Feeling guilty (and curious) I couldn’t help but accept.

A few days later a box arrived with an assortment of milk and dark chocolates and a few bars of dark chocolate. When I get an assortment it’s time to get the people I work with involved with the review process so I packed them up and took them into the office. I didn’t get too much into them before I disappeared for vacation, but the consensus on what I did manage to share was very positive. And I liked the rest quite well. The bars were considered not too sweet, nicely creamy, and not to bitter - a good tasty balance. The assortment had a variety of pieces and everything in it was good. I tend to judge an assortment by how many pieces are in it that people are indifferent or negative on and nobody could say anything bad about what they tried (though there was some coconut action and I know a couple of people who don’t like coconut in their chocolate).

And now that the basics are out of the way I need to address one specific piece (of which there were three? I think it was three): the mighty Molasses Chip. It’s a crunchy strip of molasses covered in chocolate. And it is a wonderful and lovely thing. I need more. Tasty!

So I suppose its time for a score. If I were reviewing just the Molasses Chips I'd give them a 9.5 out of 10. They are some darn tasty little treats. And the rest of the box and the bars were all really good as well. I'll call it a nice big 8.75 all around. Lovely snackage all around.

Coming up: watch in amazement as I post something else in less than a week! Been on vacation and had a little chocolate along the way (funny how I don't post until the last night of the vacation) and I've gotta talk about it a bit. Found some fun stuff.


January 26, 2009

Quick Hits: The WILD THING

From the depths of the Bolivian jungle comes an untamed bean, daring the world to even try to work with it. And it turns out that the folks at Lillie Belle Farms were totally up to that challenge. They took wild criollo beans harvested the jungle and made this lovely 68% cacao content bar of chocolate out of them. They call it The Wild Thing. I saw it at the New York Chocolate Show in 2007 and ended up getting just about everything except for this. When I went back in 2008 I fully intended on making up for the omission and so I took one home with me (among other things).

I'm not going to over think this one. The bar is thick, well-formed with the logo on the face, and has a heckuva snap to it. The aroma is mellow and has a hint of spice hiding behind a nice front of cocoa. The taste is clean and bright. I don't know if I was expecting something raw and brutal - the chocolate equivalent of a slap in the face. What I found was bright and mellow and smooth as the day is long. It's good a good chocolate flavor with hints of some darker things I just can't figure out. They're hints. My taste might be off because I was having this with the last of my wine from dinner (a fruity pinot noir - lotsa berries), but I'm just finding smooth mellow chocolate with a few darker hints around the edges. I feel bad that I can't find more to talk about. Sometimes I just fail. But it's a really good chocolate.

So "really good" is my impression, but that's not a score. If I had to assign a number at this point in the game I'd run with a 8.75 out of 10. It's really good stuff and worth trying out.

Oh, and sorry about the picture quality. Sophie is an action rabbit. Well, when she isn't being an inaction rabbit. But in this case it was hard to get a shot of her with the label not being thrown about. The label was empty because I was eating the chocolate and I didn't want to post a boring picture of an empty label. So you get a sorta-blurry rabbit amidst the giant mess of hay she's made in her cage.

January 17, 2009

Good News, Everyone!

So I'm digging through a weeks worth of email that I had let pile up and what do I find lurking in the mess? Fabulous good product news regarding the 3 Musketeers bar. First, they're bringing a limited flavor back for Valentine's Day - Cherry! With dark chocolate even! I think I missed it last year, but it sounds like it could be a winner. And speaking of winners one of the best limited edition bars I've ever tried is coming back for Easter - Raspberry 3 Musketeers! Woo! I kept a bag of the Raspberry minis around for a long time so I could savor them even after they had disappeared from stores and now I at last have a chance to get more. This is good news of a yummy nature. Thank you Mars!

December 2, 2008

More Savings!

Cyber Monday may be behind us but the savings roll on! Romanicos Chocolate - the ones with those tasty 38 calorie truffles - are offering 25% off and free shipping on orders of $50 or more. Feed the site the code HappyHolidays while checking out and the savings are yours. The deal is for a "limited time" (expect something in the vicinity of a week maybe) so take advantage while you can.

November 30, 2008

Cyber Monday and Other Savings

Tomorrow is the theoretical non-event "Cyber Monday" and I just haven't been seeing many good chocolate sales cross my inbox. So I set out to see what I could find.

Tuesday, which to my knowledge has no special name, does bring us a coupon for big discounts at Dylan's Candy Bar. If you enter the code FRIENDS08 at checkout ON TUESDAY ONLY (and I mean this Tuesday - not like every one from here to Christmas) you will get a whopping huge 30% off! That's some nice savings there.

I also found Jade Chocolates (who I am unfamiliar with so I can offer no guidance) giving 20% off on all purchases through December 7th. All you have to do is throw down the code "recession" when you check out and the savings are yours.

John and Kira's has free ground shipping on a bunch of different items. No word on how long the deal stands, but free shipping is free shipping and there's some great stuff in the items that fall under the deal. Plus they're one of those great places that let you order for future delivery.

Charles Chocolates is offering free shipping on orders over $25 today and tomorrow if you enter the code FREESHIP08. I make no secret of my love for them and highly recommend their products.

Romanicos, the purveyors of the 38 calorie truffles (tasty but pricey) and Miami Sushi (which I haven't tried) have free shipping on orders over $50.

Godiva, the queen of the mall chocolate stores, has free standard shipping on orders of $75 or more with the code FREESHIP. That's a lot of chocolate you gotta buy to get the free shipping, but I suppose that the shipping on $75 worth of chocolate is enough to make it a decent bit of savings.

Vosges also has free ground shipping on orders of $75 or more and is good for up to 10 addresses per customer. The magic code in this case is 2812SHIP and is good through the 2nd.

Recchiuti is also in the free shipping crew with free shipping on orders over $125. No code mentioned and is good "for a limited time" so it could go any time.

Another deal I ran into while sifting through Cyber Monday articles is from our friends at Lindt! It's not a percentage discount or free shipping, but rather a bonus for spending with them. If you order $50 or more you'll get a 50 assorted Lindor Truffles for free. Not a bad little bonus. The deal is going on "for a limited time" so if it sounds good then you might want to jump on it fast.

Not a whole lot going on beyond a lot of free shipping deals (which are still good). Maybe that'll change tomorrow and I'll update, but right now this is what I've found after a bit of browsing about.

November 27, 2008

Black Friday Chocolate in NYC

If you happen to be in New York City tomorrow, Black Friday, if you wander over to one of the MarieBelle locations you can save 25% on Chocolate Nibs and Cacao Beans (double yum), Belle Hellene Bars, and the Duo Gift Set. They have two Duo Gift Sets and they don't say which it is so it might be either, but they both sound good.

Anyway, I'm not big on Black Friday because it usually means monster crowds and limited quantities, but this is the sort of Black Friday sale I could get into. So, yeah, it's not a lot of notice and it's only useful for those of you in the City, but I figured it was worth noting.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

November 11, 2008

The Haul

Hey, wow. That's a lot of chocolate. Friday I snuck off to New York City for the big New York Chocolate Show and the picture just above here? That's the resultant pile of joy I shipped back to myself. It's missing a few things I had hoped would be in there, but that's life I suppose.

So, the 2008 New York Chocolate show. This year they made a rather big move to Pier 94 which is a mixed blessing. It gives them a great big space in which to have the show which was wonderful, but it isn't quite so easily accessible as the old location was. The walk from Seventh Avenue seemed a lot longer than I expected. But I got there and the venue was big. They were disorganized and there was some annoyance with wristbands, but wristbands are a wonderful thing and allow for re-entry the lack of which was a big drawback of last year's show. So while I was irked at having to wait in the will-call line while I had my ticket in hand (got it weeks ago) the whole wristband thing was a big improvement.

And the vendors this year were pretty impressive. With both Amedei and Domori at the show it was difficult for me to keep from buying nothing but their goodies. I'll go into more detail in another post, but suffice to say that the lineup was great. I was told that John & Kira's had to cancel at the last minute which was a soul-crushing disappointment, but there was a lot of other fabulous stuff to try so I'll live. And place an online order for the goodies I missed.

After the chocolate show I managed to knock about Manhattan a bit and got to have a nice slice and bought some manga and some more chocolate (one of those boxes is from Kee's). There was one other little disappointment along the way, though. Seems that Cluizel isn't in their little nook in the ABC store any more. I was so dying for a Grand Marnier Thistle and was planning on sharing a bunch with some friends, but no dice. The website says they're still there, but I sure wasn't finding them and the ABC employee I asked said they'd left a couple of months ago. Very sad. I was dying to hit them again.

But aside from those two little disappointments the trip went off with very few hitches (like me underestimating how fast I can get around Manhattan and ending up back at the airport early). Sometime this week I will be posting a full writeup of the show, but I'm not sure whether the Holiday Gift Guide will be up before or after the writeup.

Anyway, it was a good show and a good time and it was quite a lovely way to spend my Friday.

November 1, 2008

Vosges Coupon Time!

What's better than good chocolate? Saving money on good chocolate! And the lovely people at Vosges Haut-Chocolat are going to help make that happen for you. They sent along a coupon for me to share with everybody for a nice fat 10% off all website purchases from November 1st through the 30th. That's an entire month! And oh, do they have some lovely stuff to save on. My favorites? Their Caramel Marshmallows and their Wink of the Rabbit Caramels. Oh and the Barcelona bar is terribly yummy. Mmmmm....

Magical Coupon Code: 2810WB1

Funny, I was thinking about them when I got their email. I was working on my Chocolate Gift Guide for this holiday season. They make the list and in a few days I'll reveal who else makes the cut.

October 8, 2008

Melamine Comes Closer to Home

By now most of you have probably heard some chocolate made in China was found to contain melamine. Last month there was a huge mess with melamine in milk in China which sickened tens of thousands and even killed four children so it's clearly not something you want in your chocolate. Well, now it seems that a lot of chocolate coins sold at Costco and some dollar and bulk stores across Canada are tainted as well. It was sold under the name Sherwood Brands Pirate's Gold Milk Chocolate Coins. Apparently this is the sixth recall for melamine in Chinese made products in Canada - yikes! The levels are supposedly not dangerous, but it's still worrisome. I try to keep things on happier subjects around here, but figure its worth posting a word of warning as it's getting to be more than a localized problem. Keep an eye on where your chocolate is from. In the Western Hemisphere probably all of the name brand chocolate (unless you consider Sherwood Brands to be name brand chocolate) will be fine. It's going to be the chocolate from companies you've never heard of that needs to be watched.

So the long and short of things is that there is bad chocolate from China as close to home (my home at least) as Canada and that would lead me to believe that there is probably bad chocolate in the US as well. If you buy a name brand chocolate you should probably be fine. If you buy from a chocolatier you should be fine. If you buy chocolate with no real name brand you had best make sure it's from someplace other than China. Just to be safe.

October 6, 2008

Credit Crunch Chocolate

This may just be too much for me. Honeycomb chunks covered in chocolate. Good chocolate, too! It's Valrhona. And the questionable combination is called Credit Crunch. Fabulous marketing, especially given that premium chocolate sales were up in spite of the real-world credit crunch. The perfect name at the perfect time. I'm just not sure it's the perfect confection, but I'm in no position to try it so I'm in no position to judge. I just find the concept interesting and the name and timing fantastic. Anyway, it's on the shelves at Selfridges in the UK now and available through that link a couple of scentences back. If anybody tries this I'd love to hear how it is.

Now excuse me while I stray a little off topic.....

And while I'm not entirely sure of the idea of chocolate covered honeycomb chunks, I do have to wonder what else could you do that's at least semi-original and still fits the "crunch" in the name? All the standards (krispies, nuts, and to a lesser extent pretzels, potato chips, and corn flakes) are right out unless you combine them or change them up somehow (taking a cue from Charles Chocolates we could do the caramelized rice krispies and throw in some pistachios and a little salt maybe). But the idea is that it's getting harder to come up with something new and different. There are only so many possible combinations of chocolate and associated other bric-a-brac you can create. Admittedly, that represents a LOT of different combinations, but you get what I'm going for here, right? Or am I wrong?

Anyway, I'm tempted to grab a bit of honeycomb and whip up a batch of my own to see what it's like. I have to admit I'm curious.

Coverage From The Press Association

September 29, 2008

Charles Chocolates 4th Anniversary

This Wednesday, October the first, marks the fourth anniversary of the opening of Charles Chocolates! It's hard to believe that as big and polished as they are they're only four years old.

But birthdays and annivarsaries pass all the time and I don't post word one on them. For me to actually bring it up on the site it's got to offer some benefit for my readers even for one of the companies I like to cheerlead for. Having said that it should be no surprise that they are having a nice set of specials this week - Monday to Friday only - to celebrate! And the deals are good online or in-store.

  • Spend over $40 and receive a free jar of their handmade marmalade

  • Spend over $80 and receive a free jar of their handmade marmalade and two homemade s'mores

  • Place ANY ORDER on their birthday, Wednesday, October 1, and receive a "special present" (mysterious!)

So, now that October has rolled around and the weather has cooled enough that shipping chocolate isn't such a dicey proposition it's a really good opportunity to try some of the wonderful goods they offer. I'm a big fan of their Tea Collection, but everything I've been lucky enough to try has been great. So help celebrate and treat yourself or someone special to some fantastic chocolate!

Charles Chocolates Online Store

Happy Birthday Chuck and Company!

September 25, 2008

Review: Dogfish Head Theobroma

Being caught off-guard and left at something of a loss isn't too out of the ordinary for me. And I tend to end up in such a state most often at those times when I really am certain that I know just what is what. Tonight I again find myself in such a state because I thought I had a good idea what the subject of tonight's post had in store for me. But tonight's subject is a beer from Dogfish Head. They take what I like to consider a "left field" approach to beer a lot of the time. They say the make "Off centered ales for off centered people" which might explain why I'm always interested in what they've got brewing (of my five desert island beers I would place two Dogfish ales - the 90 Minute IPA and the Palo Santo Marron - in their ranks - as a side note the Palo Santo goes amazingly well with dark chocolate). What they've had brewing lately is called, fittingly enough, Theobroma (as in theobroma cacao - the cacao from which our favorite food comes).

Theobroma is based, at it's heart, on history and chemistry. The brew is based on the chemical analysis of bits of pottery from over 3000 years ago and is a direct tie to the first known use of cacao for human consumption (good lord, what else would you use it for?!). Interestingly it was an alcoholic cacao beverage. It would seem the obvious course of action would be to take this bit of chemical magic and make a modern interpretation of it. And that is just what the lovely people at Dogfish Head have done albeit with a little Aztec and Maya twist or two along the way (the most interesting departure - as I understand it - is that the meat of the pod was used long before the seeds were, but the beer is based on the seeds assumingly because that is what we think of as chocolate). The beer is brewed with honey, annatto (a spicy seed), ancho chile, and nibs and cocoa from Askinoise (who I will go into in more depth soon - they have been on my radar for a while now and it's getting to be time I address them). And it's nothing like what I was expecting.

I came into this having never seen chocolate used in anything but porters and stouts. So I expected a dark beer with a nice deep roasty flavor and tons of toasty chocolate mixed in. And was I ever wrong. Theobroma pours a beautiful copper with a good head and nice lace. And while there are hints of cocoa about the aroma there is more of an interplay of honey and spice going on to my nose (not that I'm a beer expert or anything, I'm just a beer explorer). And the taste is really very much an ale. There's more yeast at play than I expected, limited hops, a good bit of the honey, and a nice helping of the spice as it develops. And there is a definite hint of cocoa running through it, more prominent in the beginning so it sort of recedes from the chocolate to the spices. It is not at all what I was expecting, but Dogfish Head have a way of doing the unexpected (in my experience this ranks up there with Raison D'Extra - which I blind tried - for unexpected). The magic of Dogfish is that even when they defy expectations they manage to deliver something that is unarguably good if entirely unusual and unexpected.

So I am ill-prepared to review something like this, but feel some sort of duty to give it a try. It's good. It's different. If you're expecting tons of in your face chocolate flavor then you're bound to be surprised, but if you're like me you hopefully won't be disappointed. If you don't dig craft beers then you're probably better off sticking with more traditional fare. But the deal is I'm into craft beer. Not as much as I am chocolate, but I love good beer. And some of them can be very left field in nature. This one? VERY left field. But it's good. I can't argue with it, no matter how surprised I am by it. From my perspective this is a good 8 out of 10, but I'm one of those rare birds that dig chocolate and craft beer both. If you're a chocolate person with little interest in craft beer I hate to say it, but you're better off keeping clear. The Silver Bullet this is NOT. It's an "off-centered ale" that connects with this blog's "off-centered" author. It ain't for everybody, but if you're of the peculiar mindset that digs on both chocolate and craft beer you may be in for a tasty surprise.

August 18, 2008

Review: M&M's Premiums

Sometimes a product comes along that just leaves me unsure how to rate it. The latest of these products are the M&M's Premiums which I got to try recently. They're premium because they have special fancy flavor, special fancy paint jobs (they look amazingly cool), and none of that pedestrian candy shell (the thing that defines an M&M in my opinion). Oh, and they have a premium price attached to them as well. Really premium. How premium? We'll get to that later.

First I want to talk about the products themselves. I picked up two varieties when I was in the store: Triple Chocolate and Raspberry Almond (the other three in release are Chocolate Almond, Mocha, and Mint Chocolate). They come in curvy vertical cardboard boxes with resealable bags of candy within. The cartons are attractive and have a neat shape, but the resealable bags are the big win on the packaging front. I have a tendency to open a bag of something, eat some of it, and then transfer the rest to a zipper bag so being able to just reseal the bag they come in really works for me.

Triple Chocolate: The triple chocolate has white, milk, and dark chocolate in a swirly purple color scheme. The pieces are a bit bigger than a regular M&M much like a Peanut M&M and look really neat. They're really good on the taste front, too. It doesn't taste too cheap and the whole thing has a nice interplay of flavors. I do have one issue with it, but it's a personal preference/mental block sort of problem. There is no candy shell so there is no crunch and the entire M&M experience is missing. Without the shell it just doesn't feel like an M&M to me. Personal bugaboo sort of thing, but it's the defining characteristic of the classic as far as I'm concerned.

Raspberry Almond: The Raspberry Almond has white chocolate, a little dark chocolate, raspberry flavor, and an almond. As expected from a raspberry confection they went with a red color scheme on these and they're very cool looking. And they taste good, too. I don't know what is different between the raspberry flavor they use in these and the flavor they used in the Razzberry M&M's they did a while back (chock full of extreme Z's), but it tastes a lot better. The chocolate is good and having an almond in it gives it that crunch that I was missing so bad in the Triple Chocolate version. And I am currently addicted to these in a bad way. I won't say they're perfect or anything, but they hit the spot when I want a little treat.

Now we come to the ratings. I don't want to under-review the Triple Chocolate because it's lacking in the crunch I expect from an M&M. I don't want to over-review the Raspberry Almond either since my general addiction level isn't an indication of how good they are. I get addicted to less than perfect stuff all the time (Chewy SweeTart Minis). And then there is the issue of price. They retail for $3.99 for 6oz and that's a trifle pricey. This past weekend I found them for $4.49 at Giant Eagle and was floored. That's pretty steep for snooty M&M's. Is it worth it? That's a personal call. I'm not buying them unless I find them on sale. They look more premium than they taste and they cost more premium than they look. Ignoring the price I'll go as far as a 7.75 out of 10 for the Triple Chocolate and a 8.25 for the Raspberry Almond. Subtract for the premium price as you see fit.

At it's full retail I'm not rushing to buy more. At the inflated price Giant Eagle is selling them at you can forget me ever buying more. Hopefully they're still on sale at Kroger. I'll probably be there for lunch tomorrow and can check then. This might be one of those lucky product launches like the Starbucks Chocolate where the stores end up with way too much and put it on clearance. I'd love to pick these up for a buck a pack. Here's hoping!

August 9, 2008

Xeni and Pesco Visit With TCHO On BBTV

It is entirely possible that the title of this post will mean absolutely nothing to you. The short version explanation is as follows: Xeni Jardin is a journalist and blogger who I first became familiar with through her co-editor role at the superblog Boing Boing, Pesco (David Pescovitz) is another of the co-editors at Boing Boing, TCHO is one of the new bean to bar chocolate makers, and BBTV is the video end of Boing Boing. Putting it all together we have some BBTV videos featuring Xeni and David visiting with TCHO and getting to see some of the art and science (TCHO really seem to be into the science) behind chocolate and getting a taste of TCHO's philosophy and chocolate. It's fun and painlessly educational stuff.

I'm not going to go in depth about any of these parties. I could gush about Boing Boing (and Xeni and David) at some length (the blog is a mind-bender and mind-expander), but that just isn't fun. You can check it out for yourself and make your own mind up. I could talk about TCHO for a bit, but I hate to talk much about them without having actually tried their chocolate yet (when the weather cools down from this lovely summer heat I plan on ordering from them) so aside from pointing out the heavy use of words based on "obsess" at their website I'm going to let them speak for themselves.

Anyway, give them a watch and enjoy! Oh, and I hope this embedding works. I'm never sure whether these things will actually fly when I get my hands on them.

Part One - chocolate origins

Part Two - magical machines, mysterious molecules

Part Three - the taste test trip

In case the embedding action failed here are some direct links:
chocolate origins
magical machines, mysterious molecules
the taste test trip

Sometime this fall I'll follow this up with some taste testing of my own. There are a number of new players in the bean to bar world and I'm excited to see what they're all up to.

July 27, 2008

Review: York Peppermint Wafer Bars

Ok, more mystery health fun. Still bothering me on and off, but I'm tired of it being such a distraction. So it's review time!

This won't be a huge review because there isn't a whole ton to say. The York Peppermint Wafer Bars (in the 100 calorie packaging) are really simple little critters. There is a layer of York stuff between chocolate sugar wafery type wafers and the whole thing is covered in chocolate. There are two reasonable sized sticks per 100 calorie packet and seven packets to the box. They've been on sale at $2.50 per box since I've started buying them so that works out to about $.36 per serving which is pretty good if you look at a KitKat which is twice as much candy for somewhere in the neighborhood of twice the price.

So that's all well and good, but none of it matters if the product isn't great. Luckily these are just excellent. The wafer has that nice sugar wafer crunch and the mint stuff is properly Yorky and the chocolate is, well, candy-grade chocolate (Hershey's - can't have everything I guess). And it all comes together just beautifully. I'm really pretty in love with these. The mint is a little subdued compared to your normal York Pattie, but that's to be expected given there is more here than just York stuff and chocolate.

So, I'm sure you can guess I'm going to score this pretty high. It keeps me from shoving an absurd amount of candy into my face and what I do shove in is just lovely. They aren't fine cuisine or anything and they certainly represent little more than empty calories and fat, but they're tasty and a lot fewer empty calories than grabbing a candy bar from the vending machine. And the pricing doesn't seem too terrible (while it's on sale - not that I won't buy these when they're not on sale). I hate to give a "candy" product a really high score, but these are great enough that I'm going to give it a full 8.75 out of 10. I love 'em. I've bought three boxes so far and I'm sure there are more to come. They're my after lunch snacky item of choice for the moment.

Oh, and sorry there's no pic. I don't have any of them here at home and just wanted to get the review together. I might update tomorrow or something.

June 15, 2008

Review: Starbucks Chocolate Multiple Choice

Ok, I'm finally going to address these Starbuck's chocolates that I have yet to do and since there are five different items to cover I'm going to do a short little blurby bits for each one. That way I can (try and fail to ) keep from rambling and being at this all night and ignoring the rabbit (she gets fussy when I pay more attention to the computer than her). First up are the Chocolate and Tea Tasting Squares.

Chai Milk Chocolate: A combination of Tazo Chai tea and milk chocolate (as if the name didn't give it away). Chai sometimes turns me off when in chocolate because it can overwhelm the chocolate and leave you with nothing but the chai. In this case it turns out to work well. The whole thing smells lightly spicy and the taste delivers on the smell's promise. It's a nice comfortable spicy and balances with the chocolate nicely and the tea lends it a little texture (not quite grainy and not quite crunchy). This is by far my favorite piece out of today's items. 8.5 out of 10. Tasty.

Passion Dark Chocolate: While the Chai was my favorite, the Passion is my least favorite. I complain about what I perceive to be out of balance a lot and this - while I do like it - is way out of balance. The Passion tea is based around hibiscus with citrus, rose hips, mango, and passion fruit. I find the whole thing to be like flowers and strange fruit (I don't eat a lot of mango or passion fruit so to me it's all strange). The aroma is about half and half floral and citrus and the flavor is mostly floral with a little of the fruity twang around the edges and little explosions of fruit in the cruncy little bits in it. And talk about grainy. You'll note that I've yet to mention the chocolate. The chocolate is easy to miss in the whole overwhelming assault of flowers and fruit. I want to like it. I like the flavors. I don't mind the grain (I like different textures in my chocolate). I just think that the tea should be toned WAY back. It completely overpowers the chocolate. I can't go much above a 4.5 on this one. It's too one sided.

Citron Dark Chocolate: This is more like it. The Citron tea is based around ceylon leaves with lemon oil and pairs well with chocolate. The aroma is mostly a hint of lemon and not much else. The flavor is nice with the tea, lemon, and chocolate playing well together. The thing that had me scratching me head (and running to other blogs for confirmation) was the weird nature of the lemon flavor. It tastes like lemon, but with no twang. It's like a non-citrus lemon. I know they're doing the whole name brand thing here, but they would be better served to pair ceylong tea leaves and lemon zest in the chocolate (though that would probably limit shelf life in a big way compared to what you want in a mass market product moving primarily in the drug and grocery stores). Honestly, I'd rather see a ceylon and lemon zest truffle, but I'm just the consumer here. As might be expected there is a grain to this one as well, leaving me trying to lick my teeth clean afterward. It's not a terrible grain or anything, but it's a trifle annoying. Still, the piece does more right than wrong and I enjoy it to the tune of a 7.5 out of 10.

It's kind of funny. I was really up on these after first trying them and when I go back to actually evaluate them I find that I loved one, liked one, and was really disappointed with one, but it was the one I liked that made the lasting impression. Strange. Well, it's certainly worth a taste if you are so inclined, though the price might be a little high for 2.64oz of chocolate. I can't give it a wholehearted recommendation, but I think it's interesting. If you really like the idea of tea and chocolate then I have a couple of recommendations I'll make in the near future.

Now, on to the truffles!

Chai Truffles: Well, here we are again with the Tazo Chai, this time in a truffle. Well, given how much I liked the tasting square it seems like a foregone conclusion that I would be all about this. Well, I do like it a lot, but I really prefer the tasting square to the truffle. I think it's to do with the filling. It's a non-chocolate filling which, in theory, isn't necessarily a bad thing (I have a bugaboo about calling anything a truffle if it doesn't have a ganache filling), but in this case I just don't like it as much as I do with just the tea and chocolate. It's still pretty good, though. I'll call it a 7.5 out of 10. Good, and something I'm likely to try again (especially if I find it on overstock clearance again).

Caffè Mocha Truffles: These are pretty straightforward. The truffle itself is designed with a couple of raised bean shaped bits on it which is cute and even in the wrap I can tell from the aroma there is some coffee action going on it it. Flavor-wise, well, it's tastes like your standard café mocha confection. It's tasty. It could stand a little more punch to the flavor, but it's pretty good. I generally avoid coffee (caffeine issues and a general avoidance of hot beverages in anything but the coldest months), but when I indulge I want some serious flavor. This comes close. I like it enough to call it a 7 out of 10.

So I've gone through a number of the Starbucks pieces now and the trend is generally positive. I think that the choice to go with something more than just the straight-up Hershey's chocolate was a good one (the read-between-the-lines answer to the chocolate is that it's Scharffen Berger). I think that a number of these pieces would fall flat with the normal Hershey's and Special Dark (which I hate). So Starbuck's first excursion into the world of chocolate seems to be working to varying degrees. Of course it all comes down to personal taste and whether one is willing to support both Starbucks and Hershey's, but if you don't mind the source then you just might find something to you liking.

June 3, 2008

Vacation Chocolate

Hey, I'm back! Not that I really planned on going anywhere, but I had a nice little week of vacation during which I didn't do a whole lot of anything. Mostly I did some spring cleaning type stuff, got caught up on a TV series I missed out on when it ran, searched high and low for a specific size and style of cooling rack, and vegetated. It was a pretty quiet week and most of my chocolate consumption was in the form of pastries again (hit The Hills a lot).

There was a bit of interesting chocolate in there, though. I went to Philadelphia for a day and stopped into the Reading Terminal Market for lunch. It reminds me a lot of our North Market here in Columbus, only bigger and featuring lots of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking (oh so good). And it just happens to be home to an institution in the world of sweet stuff: Bassetts Ice Cream. They've been at it since 1861 and seem to know what they're doing. They're another one of those places that I first ran into on either Food Network or the Travel Channel (I have a habit of watching any show having to do with bbq, ice cream, and of course chocolate). And they seem to be worthy of the hype. Very good stuff in my opinion. I had a couple of scoops of Raspberry Truffle which was quite lovely.

Another place of interest in the RTM is Chocolate By Mueller. In addition to being known for good chocolate they have a couple of items that they offer that are a bit... interesting. The first is the anatomically correct chocolate heart. They have a lot of molds - some quite unusual - and one of the most interesting is the heart. The other item that really turned my head was the chocolate covered onion. Not a terribly appetizing combination, but it does make for a neat gag gift. I tend to be pretty open minded about combining things with my chocolate, but I think I draw the line at onions. I just ain't right. Nope. But it certainly does capture the imagination and makes people talk.

So, while it wasn't a chocolate vacation like New York was (and will be again) there was some tasty chocolate happening along the way. And now that I'm done with the whole organized laziness I can get back to the normal laziness. I have a couple of items on deck including the promised thoughts on pairing beer and chocolate and I should be getting to them this week.

May 17, 2008

Review: Snickers Adventure Bar

I never really know quite what to do when it comes time to review something that I dislike. It doesn't happen a lot. I'm disappointed and unimpressed on a regular basis, but for me to try something chocolate and just plain dislike it is rare. It always takes me by surprise and the reaction I have in real life is far from what I feel I can allow myself to post. If it isn't offensive then it generally channels something from one of my terrible and oft geeky loves. This reaction did amuse me, though. I can sum up my impression of the bar just as I did the first time: "Wicked nasty Snickers!" I'm not saying it's awful, I just don't want it in my mouth again. Ever.

So what is this bar to offend my delicate palate so? Simply put, it's a Snickers bar with some coconut flavor and supposedly some exotic spice. It's a limited edition affair put together as a tie in for the upcoming new Indiana Jones And The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The bar looks normal enough, but I could smell a whiff of coconut about it as soon as I cracked the wrap. The coconut took a moment or two to actually show up in the taste, though. And those exotic spices? I'm still waiting for them to show up and it's been a few days since I washed the taste of this thing out of my mouth.

So what's my problem with it? It's just a Snickers with a little coconut flavor along for the ride. What could be wrong with that? Well, call me an insane purist, but to me EVERYTHING is wrong with the concept. I do not want coconut in my Snickers. It has no place there thank you ever so much. I like chocolate and coconut together and even chocolate, caramel, and coconut together (as in those evil Samoa cookies the Girl Scouts are trying to kill me with), but I just can't reconcile nougat and coconut. It feels wrong. Taste-wise it isn't terrible or anything, it just isn't my bag. I like normal Snickers and the coconut, to me, ruins a good thing. I can't say it's bad, it just isn't an improvement or even as good as the normal one. It's a moderately interesting variant, but it does nothing for me.

So, falling back on the concept that this entire blog is a work of opinion, I present the score as I see it - how it rates on my personal scale. I consider a normal Snickers to be a good 7.5 out of 10. This isn't as good. I'm calling it a 5 out of 10. That's not to say that you won't like it. If you like the idea of coconut in your Snickers then it's a good bet you'll like it. Me, I'm just not liking it and am going to give away my remaining bar.

Tomorrow I'm going to discuss the Vosges Calindia bar in all it's cardamomiful glory (it's like a cardamomarama). After that I'm going to discuss my irrational love for the Starbucks Chocolate Chocolate And Tea Tasting Squares. Then maybe I'll hae some sort of coherent thoughts on the subject of beer and chocolate as opposed to just a couple of pairing that I like.


May 10, 2008

Quick Hits: Mint Crisp M&M's

Hey, I finally found some of the Mint Crisp M&M's action (more candy - real chocolate will be posted this week - I promise)! Packaging feels kind of busy with a background of some ruins and the logo and Green and Indy. For those who haven't had a chance to try them yet what you have is a batch of slightly larger than normal green and white M&M's with a single big rice crisp in the middle of each. Oh, and they're minty (like you couldn't guess). They have a nice minty aroma lurking about them and a nice mint flavor. There isn't a ton to say about them beyond they're being crispedy crunchedy M&M's with a nice hit of mint. Not mint like the York Sensation or anything, but a nice quality mintiness. My only gripe is that the chocolate is kind of backseat on this ride and when you go to the effort of trying to notice it it just doesn't seem all that remarkable. Still, not bad. And overall they're a nice snackedy snack kind of deal so I'm giving some decently high marks. Solid 8 out of 10. Tasty.

Coming up: More Indiana Jones promo limited edition chocolate! And then a little cardamom (and I'm having a tiny bit of trouble coming up with a good adjective to describe having the flavor or aroma of cardamom - cardamommy don't work - caramomacious? cardamomiful?).

May 5, 2008

Quick Hits: Starbucks Vanilla Bean Truffles

Ok, I'm taking a new tack on things. The mini-reviews that I have done in the past are now being sort of formalized into a regular sort of thing. It's not necessarily that I feel a product isn't worth a full review. Sometimes it might be, but sometimes I might just not have a lot to say about something. Or I might just be feeling lazy (most likely). Anyway, the idea is this: don't read too much into me giving something a Quick Hit as opposed to a full-blown review.

First of the quick hits is the first piece of the Starbucks Chocolate collection that I've sampled, their Vanilla Bean Truffles. The description from the label reads as follows:

Sweet and dreamy vanilla from Madagascar meets exquisite dark chocolate in a lovely pairing
Sounds like a winner. Packaging is a foldy cardboard affair made from at least 35% post-consumer waste (nice) and the individual truffles are wrapped in little wraps so you can have as few or many as you like.. A quick check on the label reveals that there is real vanilla in it, not just vanillin. And when you bite into one of them you will see loads of lovely vanilla bean specks running around in it. Taste wise the chocolate is not super intense, but is nice and pairs well with the vanilla. The "ganache" is white and there is no white chocolate along for the ride so I'm guessing that the palm oil listed in the ingredients plays it's role here. But it tastes good. Tasty, convenient, and not over-expensive. Seems we have a good start for my experience with the Starbucks line. 8.0 out of 10 is what I'm calling it and I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of the collection has to offer.

April 3, 2008

Review: Wildly Cherry M&M's

Ok, so I had been planning on writing up a formal review of the Wildly Cherry M&M's and had, on multiple occasions, promised that it was forthcoming. And then I sat down to write it and realized that I really didn't have a lot to say. There really isn't a lot to say about them.

So, tearing into the bag you are met by a slight cherry aroma. Not bad and not overpowering. The M&M's themselves are of both varying size and varying shades of red. Some are no bigger than a normal M&M and some are monstrous huge. Most are well above average size and most tend away from the really dark red. The darkest ones seem to be the biggest ones and I guess that was by design. Anyway, they are big so you get that much more chocolate in each one and that's a nice little bonus. The taste is really nice. The cherry flavor isn't super-strong, but more of a background flavor. And since it isn't quite so front-and-center you don't get any sense of it being overly fake. It doesn't come across as overly genuine either, but it doesn't scream FAKE at you and that's a good thing. And finally the aftertaste. The Razzberry M&M's had an aftertaste that I just couldn't stand. With these the only aftertaste I'm getting is of milk chocolate. The cherry fades and all that is left is a little hint of milk chocolate.

So they don't have any of the weaknesses that I found in the Razzberry M&M's and are quite enjoyable. Overally I'd be forced to call that a win. I don't really like to have more than a few at a time, but I do enjoy them. As they are a nice step up from the annoyance of the Razzberry I'm going to give them a 7.5 out of 10. They aren't perfect and are far from "fine chocolates", but they do the job and do it nicely.

Now I'm looking forward to trying the Mint Crisp M&M's that they are releasing in a Indiana Jones cross-promotion. Seems to me it's time to start hitting the drug stores again. I do love to hunt for chocolate.

March 29, 2008

Write Off Another Week

"The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley" Robert Burns
Well, this week has been quite the mess. I had high hopes of posting and then things... went wrong. I decided to upgrade my pc and ended up with a dead box for a few days. My allergies and a cold both teamed up on me to start making me miserable (you ever had a wire brush taken to your throat and sinus cavity? that's how it felt) and I spent most of Thursday asleep. I only just got sound working on my pc again this evening and the cold and allergies are still giving me problems. And the only thing that got me through it all was my container of Dufflet Crunchy Caramel Crusted Pistachios in Pure Milk Chocolate. Oh, they are snacktastic. Almost all gone, too.

But there's been stuff going on! All sorts of stuff all over the place. Stuff that needs addressed.

First up there is this study that was conducted by the University of Illinois in conjunction with Mars Inc. that shows that the CocoaVia brand chocolates can lower both your cholesterol and blood pressure due to them being fortified with plant sterols. Normally I'd sneer at any study conducted in conjunction with the manufacturer of the product being studied, but I doubt that the U of I is in the business of selling itself out. I've known whether to take the product seriously or not. I tried some (it was free) and found it ok, but I did like the idea that they guarantee a certain level of flavanols. Turns out that those plant sterols might be something special as well.
Medical News Today
Food Production Daily

What would you do with 20 tons of chocolate? That is the question facing the individual or individuals who stole a trailer full of Hershey's products this week. The theives made off with the trailer and ditched the tracking device. The trailer has since been recovered. The chocolate has not. 20 tons is a lot of chocolate. What the heck do you do with that much chocolate? I can't imagine you could sell it all to one buyer. If you did you would have to split it into separate lots and move them separately with appropriately forged paperwork in case the driver is stopped. Hmmm.... how do you move 20 tons of chocolate? I suppose there are a number of people on both sides of the law pondering that question about now. I suppose I'll leave them to it.

Hershey's is launching a new line of chocolate snacks called Hershey's Bliss which comes in three varieties: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Milk Chocolate Meltaway. They are apparently - and this is entirely the wording from the press release - "targeting female chocolate lovers" and letting them sign up to host one of ten thousand Bliss launch parties nationwide. You can sign up to get in on the free chocolate action by visiting this site. I'm impressed with the way that they're socializing the whole luanch. This is a neat experiment in marketing and social networking as they give you online tools to send invites and share pictures and stuff as well as giving you the snax and some host gifts (so, yeah, you want to be hosting the party). So sign up and give it a shot! Or not if Hershey's isn't your thing.
Press Release
Signup Page
Product Page

A lot of stuff that people send me seems to get caught in the old bulk mail bucket and the bits that don't, well, I'm not as diligent as I should be in answering all of my correspondence or addressing everything that happens across my inbox. One of those things that has floated by recently is Chocolate Expert, a site with a nice selection of reference articles and recipes on chocolate. Seems to be a pretty decent sort of place so I figure they are worth a mention.

Another of those things that showed up and wasn't given quite the interest it deserved was the site The Chocolate Life. It's a community-based site for those with a love for that most perfect of foods. It's one I'm going to have to give a closer look at. I like the community idea thang they have going. And I received a question in a recent email that would be a lovely topic for discussion over there.

I'm hoping that I'll get the M&M's review that I promised a few days ago up tomorrow and a review of the Amano Cuyagua bar if I can find the darn thing. It was on my desk and I was eating it just a few days ago. I can't figure out where the heck it's disappeared to. Of course the last week has been chaotic on my desk with all the computer work so its only natural that it would be a little harder to find. I think it's out on the kitchen table from when I was taking pictures of it. Anyway, I plan on finally reviewing it this week. Really I do! I also plan on talking about my painful experiences with extremely high cacao content chocolates and the potentially difficult combination of chocolate and beer. Assuming this cold goes away and I don't spend any more days in bed.

March 13, 2008

Review: 3 Musketeers Raspberry with Dark Chocolate

I've made a number of passes through the Easter candy aisle at the grocery store lately and I've generally come up with little or nothing to show for my efforts (aside from a few Peeps). This last trip to the store I finally noticed something different about one of the items that I had previously managed to ignore. One of those items I assumed was simply a holiday re-packaging job turned out to be a little bit more. It seems that they managed to sneak out another Limited Edition Three Musketeers and it had been right in front of my nose for weeks (maybe). Last time it was the Mint Three Musketeers which, frankly, didn't do much for me. This time they go the Raspberry Route which I, for some odd reason, had high hopes for. So into the basket it went (along with a mixed bag for the candy bowl at my desk at work).

Sadly, I can’t think of too much to say about these. They’re moderately unremarkable and that, I guess, is their biggest strength. The texture of the Mint Three Musketeers really bothered me. If the whippy fluff stuff isn’t properly whippy and fluffy then it shouldn’t say Three Musketeers on the package. The Mint was like that. The texture just felt wrong. It didn’t help that I didn’t find them that tasty either. These little Raspberry critters have a much better texture and the flavor isn’t bad either. There isn’t a whole lot of chocolate flavor to it, but that isn’t much of a surprise when you consider that there is a lot more of the fluff than there is chocolate. The raspberry fluff is really pretty decent. It does taste sort of artificial, but not to the point of being bad. The hint of chocolate and not-offensively-artificial raspberry flavor work together nicely.

So this turned out to click with me a lot better than the Mint variety did last year. It isn’t as good as a normal Three Musketeers, but better than the mint so I’m giving it a 7.5 out of 10, a score that sits it right between the two reference bars. It’s really not bad at all, but it’s also really not amazing. If you like raspberry candy these might go over well and I would say they’re worth a try, but I haven’t seen anything but Minis in this flavor and I know that I’m going to have to work to give away the rest of the bag I bought unless I find somebody who really likes them a lot.

March 6, 2008

Starbucks Chocolate

Well, now. I just don’t quite know what to think about this. Starbucks is stepping into the world of chocolate delivering tea and coffee flavored chocolates with the aid of (drum roll please)…. Hershey! Yeah, I’m being intentionally misleading. I can’t see Starbucks using anything as pedestrian as normal everyday Hershey chocolate (or Special Dark). Instead they are using an unspecified chocolate from the Hershey Artisan Confections collection of companies. And it appears to be one that is associated with bean-to-bar chocolate making. By my interpretation that would make it Sharffen Berger. Dagoba would also be possible, but if they were going organic I’m sure they would trumpet it. I’d guess they want quality without the additional cost that organic chocolate generally carries.

The flavors sound like they’ll be interesting. From the press release:

The collection includes: signature dark, mocha and milk chocolate bars and tasting squares; Tazo® Chai, Passion and Citron tea-infused chocolate tasting squares; Caffè Mocha, Chai, Espresso, Caramel Macchiato and Madagascar Vanilla Bean Truffles; and Milk Chocolate Covered Caffè Verona® Coffee Beans.

The most interesting thing about their whole foray into the world of chocolate is the fact that it will be available in grocery stores, drug stores, and the like, but it will not be available in Starbucks stores. I would be forced to wonder if this is because they’re using Hershey’s distribution channel and Starbucks stores aren’t a part of it. Whatever the reason, they’re supposed to be in stores now.

I’m curious to try some of what they are offering. I’m enjoying the whole tea and chocolate combination lately and I’ve always liked a little coffee with my chocolate so it should all be worth a taste. There is a link to the press release below and there is some neat stuff on it with product pictures and videos of chocolate tastings so check it out.

Press Release

March 3, 2008

Review: Hershey's Vanilla Creme Kisses

A lot of what I've been eating lately, in terms of chocolate at least, has been the stuff I was finding at the grocery store. Whatever bars they happened to have (more often than not it was just the Lindt Excellence bars) and whenever I saw something in the candy aisle that caught my eye I would make sure to take it along with me as well. And I really haven't eaten a lot at all.

But recently I was motivated and excited to dig through the Easter selection at the grocery store. I ended up rather disappointed. There was a lot of the sort of items that change their general shape and wrapping for each holiday and the same old stuff in a different wrap just isn't all that exciting to me. I did find one thing I was interested in, though. They had Hershey's Vanilla Creme Kisses and that seemed like something I couldn't pass up.

So the kisses come sitting flat in this triangular sleeve package which is a nice design. The kisses themselves are larger than the kisses I'm familiar with, but since they're filled this is a good thing. You get a better balance between the amount of chocolate shell and flavored stuff. The shell is standard Hershey's Kiss. Nothing all that special. It's the stuff inside that had me interested. The vanilla creme is thick stuff but softer than the shell. I suppose I expected it to be sweeter than I found it to be and was pleasantly surprised. The vanilla creme isn't overly sweet or overly strong and is a nice companion to the chocolate. They are good and don't have that aftertaste that I disliked so much with the Cherry Cordial Kisses (and it started so well, too).

So while I think that the kisses look a little strange compared to the normal ones, I do find them to be a tasty diversion. Not the sort of thing I'm going after on a normal basis (being more into the dark chocolate and less into the candy and milk chocolate), but it's pretty good stuff. I'm going to call it a 7.5 out of 10. It's some tasty snacky stuff.

January 22, 2008

Sugardaddy's Sweeties

So somehow Sugardaddy’s Sumptuous Sweeties was lurking just miles from my apartment and I was completely unaware of their presence. It wasn’t until after I had moved and I was looking for a Big Green Egg that I saw their little sign and realized that there was a place making lovely brownies less than a half mile from my door. **sigh** I disappoint myself sometimes. But I made up for it before haring off to NYC by stopping in and getting a fat pile of brownies to snack on.

For those who have yet to hear about the Sugardaddy action they are a company that makes gourmet brownies for whatever gifting, snacking, or entertaining occasion you may come up with and make them available over the web and phone. They are also available to those of us in Ohio at their humble factory store (where you get them really fresh). They have landed themselves all over the web and TV and have done battle with Bobby Flay on his Throwdown on Food Network and emerged victorious. They make good brownies.

The first thing you notice about a Sugardaddy’s brownie is that it’s round. They cut them round and package the edge bits as separate products (Pocket Change) for them as likes the edgy bits. Me, I prefer an edge free brownie so I’m all for the Sugardaddy approach. Next is the selection. My experience with brownies has generally involved the cardboard boxes from the grocery store so my vision of a brownie is that it’s a nice chocolaty brown and nuts are optional. Well, they have an array of “traditional” brownies (which they refer to as brunettes) and blondies (referred to as blondes) and the flavors run the gamut.

Auburn Original (brunette)
Bittersweet chocolate, espresso powder, and walnuts (it is also available without walnuts if you are the “no nuts in my brownies thank you” sort of person) make for a tasty combo. A nice dense brownie with a little coffee along for the ride. Very tasty.

American Beauty (brunette)
Chocolate and peanut butter with a nice layer of peanuts on top. Normally I avoid peanut butter with any sort of added sugar (I don’t like sweet peanut butter treats), but this is good. Not my favorite, but not something I’d turn my nose up at. Far from it.

Nutty (blonde)
Blonde brownie with a heaping load of – you guessed it – nuts (cashews, almonds, and pecans)! Of course, as a blondie, there is a distinct lack of chocolate. But it turns out that blondies are actually fantastic even without chocolate and they’re even better when they are loaded down with nuts. Good stuff.

Strawberry (blonde)
Blonde brownie with peanut butter and a nice strawberry swirl. I have not tried this one yet. I will correct this oversight soon.

Dark Berry (brunette)
An Auburn Original without nuts topped off with a nice little swirl of raspberry. I love me some raspberry and dark chocolate action and this delivers it just how I like it.

Cinnamon (blonde)
The coffee cake of blondies. Brown sugar, cinnamon, and a little nutmeg and ginger make this the perfect breakfast brownie and its available with or without pecans. I’ve had it without and was completely unaware that it was available with. This I also need to try. Without nuts it's fantastic. Probably my favorite of the batch.

Rich Mint (brunette)
Chocolate and mint is one of those perfectly natural combos and this brownie brings it into play in the form of a mint sandwich with mint buttercream icing between two brownie halves. I was expecting this to be my least favorite of the brunettes, but I came away very much in love with it.

Tahiti (blonde)
Tropical paradise in blondie form. Cashews and coconut, white and bittersweet chocolate chunks, and a little bit of pineapple. This really hit the spot, though I didn’t notice any pineapple while I was eating it. I guess I need to go back and revisit this one too.

Dark Citrus (brunette)
A seasonal selection featuring orange zest and extract in dark chocolate with some milk chocolate chunks thrown in for good measure. Quite the tasty combo.

To sum up, Sugardaddy makes a darn good brownie. Actually, they make nine darn good brownies some with optional nuts. If you’re on the north end of Columbus they’re a little west of the Polaris Fashion Place mall on the backside of a strip mall. If you’re in the area I highly suggest giving them a try. Odds are you won’t be disappointed. I’ve yet to be.

January 15, 2008

Pure Imagination Chocolatier

Well, I promised that I would get to Sugardaddy's this past weekend and what did I do? I went to Sugardaddy's! I followed through, really I did. It's just that they were already closed when I got there. Oops. But what I was up to before heading for my brownies was in the pursuit of chocolate as well! I needed chocolate and focaccia and beer and hot sauce so there was only one place for me to go: the North Market! I love the place to death and they had everything I needed. Grabbed some focaccia at Omega Artisan Baking, Some Scorch hot sauce from CaJohn's, a bottle of an interesting sounding holiday brew (with cocoa no less) at Grapes of Mirth, and a small assortment of truffles and a little bar from Pure Imagination Chocolatier.

Pure Imagination is Columbus' own artisan chocolatier and their chocolate is available at their little shop in the North Market as well as Whole Foods and Wild Oats. They do everything from chocolate covered potato chips to inventive truffles and according to their website they use only Fair Trade ingredients! My usual approach to them is to get an assortment of whatever sounds good at the time and this trip was no different. What I ended up with is (left to right top to bottom) a Jack Daniels Caramel truffle, a Grand Marnier truffle, a honey au chocolat truffle, a Midnight Extra Dark Bar, and a truffle that I want to say was Blueberry and Gouda. There is no doubt about the blueberry part, but I'm not sure what the cheese was and it isn't on their website so I can only take that stab at it.

So, yeah, they're attractive little critters, but how are they? Well, hmmm, where to begin? The Grand Marnier truffle was more subtle than many I've had (and the ones I've made) but nicely balanced all the same. The Blueberry and Gouda (maybe) was good. Blueberry and chocolate is my current favorite taste combination and the cheese just added an extra dimension to it. Very nice and inventive. This is my third round of cheese and chocolate and I've liked all three now. The Midnight Extra Dark Bar was good, but I have good chocolate bars all over the place and this wasn't a serious standout. Pretty and pretty good, but not amazing. The Jack Daniels Caramel, on the other hand, was borderline amazing. Very tasty. You get a nice undercurrent of the whiskey in the caramel and it goes quite nicely with the chocolate. And as good as that was, my favorite, as it has been every time I've gone there, is the Honey au Chocolat. There is just something special about the two flavors together. I don't know what it is or how to put it in words, but it just sings to me. Love it.

So now is the part where I normally assign a score, but I'm a little reticent to do so tonight mainly because I didn't have a wide enough variety of their pieces to offer a blanket endorsement. In the past, though, I have had nearly every one of their truffles. But I can't base it on those because something invariably went wrong with those (I'm not sure if it was my fault or theirs, but there was a renegade flavor in the truffles when I got to them). So I'm going to offer a score based on the few pieces I've got here. And I'm going to ignore the bar when I do it, too. The truffles are the main attraction so I'm going to focus on them. Every piece was well executed and some were standouts in terms of composition. Taking that and the fact that it's a local joint I've got to go with an 8.75 out of 10. I'm biased toward them because they're local, but the truffles are good. So there you go.

I'll get the brownies this weekend. I know when they close so as long as I remember to go before then it'll all work out.

January 9, 2008

Leftover Holiday Chocolate

Throughout the holiday season I tried a few seasonal items here and there to see how they were and in general I was really pretty disappointed. I think it’s a matter of my tastes not lining up with what I was trying, but things just didn’t click for me on some things.

First up on the hate parade of holiday chocolate goodies is the Christmas Cocoa Jones Soda (which I can't find any links to aside from a review or two). I had high hopes that this might live up to my beloved Whooppee (that I can’t find any more). Something in the taste just didn’t sit right with me. It’s not that it was bad – it hit cocoa from a packet on the head pretty well – there was just something in it that I didn’t really like. So I poured the rest of my bottle down the drain and gave the remainders to my family to try. Hopefully they liked it better than I did.

The next item that didn’t live up to my high expectation was the Lindt Excellence Holiday Spice bar (which I can find no links to anywhere at all) I found at Target. Based on the ingredients they seem to have chosen cinnamon and coriander as their holiday spices. I can agree with the cinnamon, but coriander? Maybe it’s just beyond my experience. Anyway, something in the flavor was just off. Everybody I gave a piece of this bar to panned it, so I’m not alone. I think that if they had a different set of holiday spices that it could have been really good. I love their normal Excellence dark chocolate bars so I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be good with the right spices.

Not all was disappointing, though. I had a really nice Raspberry Hot Chocolate from Nordstrom of all places. And the horrifying mess I made trying to make liqueur filled chocolates was absolutely wonderful stuff. I got some chocolate covered pretzel sticks and some buckeyes from my sister’s family (my nephews make some good chocolate treats) and these are always a nice thing. I also had some really nice brownie action from Sugardaddy's, but that's a topic for another day. Probably Sunday since I won't be able to get back there until Saturday.

January 1, 2008

Return To My Roots

Once upon a time chocolate, to me, was an afterthought. It was something in ice cream (and as far as ice cream is concerned I really prefer vanilla bean), the occasional York Peppermint Pattie, or possibly a (box of) cherry cordial(s) if I was in the mood. And then one day I found myself watching a show on chocolate on Food Network and somehow my curiosity was piqued. I needed to find out more about these truffle things they were talking about on the show. Well, one of the places featured on the show was Betsy Ann Chocolates which was in the Pittsburgh area. It turned out that I was heading to the Pittsburgh Comicon and there was a Betsy Ann in the mall right next to the show so I figured I would stop in and get some truffles.

And that was how it all began. The world of chocolate opened before me and I quickly became enamored of it. I sought to stretch my chocolate horizons and began trying chocolates from all over. But each time I hit the comicon after that I would go to the mall for more Betsy Ann truffles. They were the go-to chocolate for me. They make those offensively large truffles similar to the beasts you get at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and the ganache is always wonderfully smooth and nicely flavored. Lovely stuff.

With the shuffling of jobs last year and general life chaos I've managed to miss the Comicon two years running and so I never really have the opportunity to get back to the place that started it all for me. Each time I missed the show I sort of shrugged over the show - I can live without the comics - but I always sighed a little sigh that I wasn't going to get my truffles.

And out of the blue the week I was madly preparing to go to New York I arrive home to find a big and completely unexpected box on my front porch. I checked and lo and behold it was from Betsy Ann. This is the blessing and curse of blogging about chocolate. Stuff sometimes just shows up with no warning. I didn't start this blog to get free chocolate and I always feel guilty receiving it, but sometimes it's a real joy to find a little surprise on the front porch.

And, true to form, I took the bounty of chocolate goodness to work with me. I believe that the best way to make the experience of eating chocolate better is to share it with others and whenever I would go to Betsy Ann I would always bring it all in to work with me to chop up and share around. Anyway, as they had been in prior years at the prior employer, the chocolate was a hit. The big and flavorful truffles are a wonderful experience and it was nice to seef my initial wonder over them reflected in others.

I tried to avoid the truffles myself and stick to the other items in the assortment. The truffles had opened my eyes to the wider world of chocolate and so I always consider them my gateway drug so I wanted others to try the them as much as possible. But I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to have a raspberry truffle (and a couple of others - sharing can be hard sometimes). It was the one that opened the door for me and I really wanted to go back to that first special bite. And it was as good as the first time - rich and creamy and a perfect marriage of flavors.

Betsy Ann may not be a high-end super-fancy chocolatier, but they are that most special of breeds - the local chocolate company. They turn out wonderful quality products for the local market (and further through the power of the web). I love to find these little(ish) semi-regional chocolate makers as they make chocolate without pretension and simply load up on flavor and love.

There isn't a whole lot of point to this post and I'm sure it sounds like a bit of a shill, but to me chocolate is an experience and going back to the beginning was just a lovely experience for me. I suppose the only other thing I really wanted to say was to seek out and support your local chocolate shops. There are some real gems out there.

December 28, 2007

Michael Recchiuti Making Truffles....

In an elevator? And that's Michael Recchiuti as in Recchiuti Confections and the frabnabulous cookbook (with the wonderful name) Chocolate Obsession. And he's teaching you how to make truffles. In an elevator.

I have to wonder what series of events brought The Man (and he deserves the capitals on that) to be teaching how to make truffles in an elevator, but that really is somewhat beside the point because the whole thing is up on YouTube for everybody to enjoy!

You can follow this lovely link to get to the videos (two parts) or you can view them here on the front page (assuming the embed thing works right).

As a total aside I just realized he has a blog! Cool!


December 8, 2007

Safari Report Part Six

Here it is, the wrap-up I promised some days ago. I’ve gotten caught up in holiday stuff and life in general and just haven’t had the time to put it together. Until now.

After Monday I had class for the rest of the week so my only real option for getting more chocolate was the two hours between when class ended and most places closed. I planned to use those two hours as best as I could. So Tuesday when class finished up I jumped on the subway and headed down to Union Square to visit Max Brenner and Michel Cluizel.

Max Brenner is an actual restaurant with a bit of a chocolate shop in the front. They were giving out samples of some fabulously evil nuts that they did something to (looking at the website I think it’s “Caramelized pecan rolled in praline cream and fine cocoa powder”) and I could easily eat all day. With that in me I decided it was time to get something more inside of me and see how other things are there. The restaurant was pretty crowded so I just ordered a Dark Chocolate Granita (a frappe) at the drink bar and then grabbed some chocolate from the shop. I don’t remember much of what I got beyond what I think was a blueberry truffle. I do know I enjoyed everything I tried and the Granita was great as well.

With my chocolates secured and my drink in hand I walked the short distance to ABC Carpet & Home where the Michel Cluizel store is located. Lurking in the back of the store and down a few stairs is the only Michel Cluizel store in the US. And to me it’s like some sort of magical paradise. I didn’t know it at the time, but the chocolates I picked up there were some of the best I would get during my trip. The highlights were a number of excellent liqueur bonbons, a Grand Marnier Thistle (white chocolate filled with Grand Marnier – has a wonderful crunch to it and a lovely liqueur hit), and the mighty Cacaoforte which is a 99% cacao mass slab of goodness that has to be tried to be believed. I tried the Cacaoforte that night back at the hotel and fell in love with it on the spot. I really wish I had tried more of the pieces while I was there so I could have bought more to bring home, but I was really eating a lot of chocolate from a lot of places and I figured I would cut things short and not overdose.

Wednesday night I went to see Young Frankenstein the Musical (one of the few shows not shut down by the stagehands strike) and didn’t really have a lot of time for chocolate. The show, being a adaptation of one of my favorite movies, was great fun for me. I love the energy of a Broadway show and this one was ideal for me.

Thursday night, my last night in the city, I had been planning to go up and hit Serendipity3 for the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate since I had missed it earlier in the week, but, as I had mentioned earlier, they got closed down for some vermin issues. I had planned on hitting Dylan’s Candy Bar and Bloomingdale’s while I was up there and when I realized that Serendipity3 was off the menu I just forgot about the other places and changed my plans to going back to Cluizel for some more Cacaoforte for my rabbit sitters and myself and then tracking down some dinner. I rather overdid dinner with some fish and chips from A Salt And Battery down in the Village (best meal of the trip) and picked up some beers at Whole Foods to enjoy with that night’s big football game back at the hotel.

The next morning I got hauled off to the airport and headed home.

And immediately started to miss New York.

Anyway, the summary is what we’re after tonight. The places I really wanted to hit and didn’t get around to actually visiting:

  • Bloomingdale’s (so I could try some Martine’s)
  • Dylan’s Candy Bar
  • Chocolate Bar NYC
  • Economy Candy (forgot about it entirely in the rush of planning)
  • The Chocolate Room
  • Bierkraft (they have chocolate as well as beer)
  • Cocoa Bar
  • Christopher Norman Chocolates
  • Room 4 Dessert
  • Shake Shack
  • Varsano’s Chocolates
  • Lombardi’s Pizza
  • All the museums

Things I learned:

  • The Chocolate Show is very crowded on Sunday. Friday may be the best option.
  • There are no ATMs at the Chocolate Show and there is no re-entry once you leave.
  • Some of the exhibitors at the show are set up for credit cards. This is good.
  • The Subway is awesome.
  • New York City has an amazing array of chocolate to sample.
  • Being in New York City during both a writers strike and a stagehands strike is a terrible thing.
  • Even if everybody is on strike it is easy to have a great time in New York City.

Can’t wait to go back.

December 3, 2007

Safari Report Part Five

Well, I lost what I had started on the final full day of freedom in the big city, but I will not allow this to stop me! Starting over!

Day two was looking pretty ambitious as far as what all I wanted to get done. I had three Japanese bookstores to hit in addition to Nintendo World (to try Mario Galaxy out), Saks, Rockefeller Center and, oh yeah, there were about a dozen chocolate destinations I wanted to hit as well. I had this great plan all laid out with my subway directions and where and when to break for lunch and hauling stuff back to the hotel and I actually followed through on a lot of it.

The first stops of the morning were at Kinokuniya and Book-Off for some manga. The opportunity to get my hands on some of the manga I was missing was too much to resist so I had to go. But once I was done with them it was off to find chocolate! After going to Nintendo World (they actually had wii in stock - I so should have bought one or three and mailed them back to myself). I figured I'm a big kid at heart and a minor Nintendo fanboy so I more or less had to go. They had just had their big Mario Galaxy premiere party the previous night (which I had considered attending) and I figured that they would have it out for play and they did. Messed around with it a little and decided that it was time to move on.

My next stop was one of the places I had really been looking forward to visiting - La Maison du Chocolat. They have quite the reputation going for them so I really wanted to stop in while I was in town. After a bit of really confused searching (I came close to walking into Godiva and asking for directions to their competition - that would have been awkward) I finally found the place and sat down for (what else) some hot chocolate. They have a more bitter European style and a sweeter American style and I immediately opted for the European and turned down the cream on the side. I wanted it straight up and was really glad I got it that way. It was good strong stuff. After a few minutes of watching them shuffle around the new shipment (they get weekly shipments from the home office) I decided that the remaining half of my hot chocolate would really go nicely with a macaron. So I got a raspberry macaron and enjoyed it with the rest of my hot chocolate. The good, "bitter" (I didn't consider it bitter so much as just not overly sweetened) hot chocolate was really good with the nice sweet macaron. Having blown a good bit of money on chocolate the prior day and on manga that same morning I decided to limit myself to no more than $10 per chocolatier and my hot chocolate and macaron put me up to the limit for La Maison. I had decided, though, that at some point in the future I would have to go back to work over their selection of chocolates. This time around I was more there just to be there and try a little something. And having done so I moved on.

Next on the list was a side trip to another Kinokuniya just to see if they had anything different that I wanted but once done there I quickly moved on to Saks. And while Saks may sound like a normal touristy shopping destination I was there for more than just the enormous Jhane Barnes section (not that it wasn't worth the trip - I love Jhane's clothes). I was there for Charbonnel et Walker who lurk on the top floor of the store. They have a nice bright café with this cool single strip chandelier thing going around the counter area and a conveyor belt of chocolate dessert fun to boot. Of course they also have the all-important chocolates. I got a Pink Champagne Truffle and a Buck Fizz Truffle and pushed on. Both were excellent. I’ll definitely go back next time I’m in town.

The next stop had me sort of backtracking across the street to visit Teuscher. Their store was quite friendly and fun with lots of neat stuff to check out on the way to the counter where the real fun happens (at least to me). I’m pretty sure that they had a good bit of holiday action going on, but I sure can’t tell you if it was Thanksgiving, Christmas, or both. I was really mainly worried about picking just a few pieces of chocolate from the case. This actually turned out to be pretty easy. I just went with what sounded good to me. A Champagne Truffle, a Zebra Gianduja, and some raspberry log thing (I think it was). All were tasty.

Next on the list was Richart, another place I had been looking forward to visiting. They have a really nice relatively simple store with a few pieces from a couple of artists adorning the walls opposite the counter. They state on the website that the stores are minimally designed so the focus is naturally on the chocolate. I really don’t remember at all what I got there, but I know that I picked up three different pieces and I’m betting money one of them had raspberry happening in it somewhere. I remember liking them, but can’t for the life of me say what they were. Sorry, it’s been too long and I’ve had too much going on.

I can tell you exactly what I got from my next stop, though. The final pre-late-lunch stop was Pierre Marcolini, where I ended up talking OSU vs Michigan while trying to decide what I wanted in the way of chocolate. I ended up with a Coeuer Framboise (bitter chocolate raspberry ganache in white chocolate all in the shape of a heart), a Citron (Earl Grey with lemon and lime zest coated in dark chocolate), and a Thym Orange (with thyme and orange peel). All were very good, especially the Citron.

At this point I wanted some lunch and I figured it was enough past the lunch rush that I could get a seat at Serendipity3, home of the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate and some insano expensive desserts with gold spoons and the like (I try to ignore that sort of thing – I’m more about the food than the money). I’d heard good things about the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate and so I figured it was worth a stop. I got seated immediately (they had a little table fit for one so I got right in) and started looking over the menu. Figuring that I’d been eating mostly chocolate all day I figured it was time to order a sandwich so I settled in on a spicy black bean and salsa burger and figured I’d chase it with the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. And then I saw another table get served their FHC (tired of typing it again and again). The thing was huge. It was a dessert fit for four and I really wasn’t ready to face it down so I just ran with my sammich (which was pretty good and satisfying). Sadly (or not?), I was going to go back for the FHC on Thursday after class, but stopping in my room first I saw on the news that they had been shut down due to flies, mice, and roaches. I’d seen nothing when I was there, but my eye was sort of caught by the lovely décor (decked out for the holidays) and the crazy big desserts they were serving up. I hope they can get their stuff together. I like the style of the place with all it’s Tiffany Lamps. The worst things I could really say (given the limited tasting of their menu that I had) was that the place was super crowded and cramped and seemed pricey to me, but most of New York seemed pricey to me so what do I know. Anyway, I had my lunch and left.

After that I walked right past Dylan’s Candy Bar and Bloomingdale's and started to head downtown to unload my stuff back at the hotel. Bloomie's and Dylan’s could wait. I had three more nights in the city and would, in theory, make it in. If you’ve been reading this whole travesty then you’ll have spotted the pattern. I did not make it back. I didn’t make it in due to a combination of Serendipity3’s infestations and my love of Michel Cluizel who I’ll talk about more in the wrap-up sometime in the next couple of days.

December 1, 2007

Safari Report Part Four

I really wasn't entirely sure how to proceed with the next part of this. After the Chocolate Show I cut back on what I was spending at each individual chocolatier to the point where I only picked up a couple of pieces from each one (with certain exceptions). And I made my way through the city at a pretty quick pace so some of the places sort of jumble together in my mind. I figure the best I can do is to try and just give my impressions of each place as best I can and call it good enough.

When the Chocolate Show got to the point where it was just too crowded for me to enjoy myself any more I decided it was time to head back to the hotel to unload my haul of chocolate. Once I had unloaded everything I figured that I might as well take the opportunity to head down to SoHo since I had missed out the previous night.

So it was time for me to finally face the subway. I had read all sorts of things about the subway, both positive and negative, and therefore had no idea really what to expect. But I bought my MetroCard, swiped through the turnstyle and jumped on the train as it pulled up all quite painlessly.

A few minutes later I emerged from the Houston Street station and started hoofing it over to Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven. The place feels really comfortable and relaxed while at the same time maintaining a casual class about itself. I had been partaking of chocolate all day (and was planning on having a hot chocolate at my next stop) so I only bought some pieces to go as opposed to kicking back and having a Wicked Hot Chocolate (which I love). I figured I'd have all week to head back for one so why rush to do it all on day one? Of course I didn't make it back. In the end I had a few pieces from the case and a package of dark chocolate covered marshmallows (which I could eat all day).

After a bit of routing trouble with the entrance to the Holland Tunnel I managed to make my way over to MarieBelle (who just opened a new place up on Madison Avenue - cool). I'd say it's a bit more elegant than Chocolate Haven, but still manages to be relaxed and comfortable. In the back of the store, behind the main counter, is their Cacao Bar and Tea Salon, which is where I had been planning on having a cup of their Spicy Hot Chocolate or at least a cup of their Dark Obsession Chocolate Rose Tea (ooh, that sounds all kinds of tasty), but they were crowded. Lots of people in the store and full up in the Cacao Bar. So I added it to the list of places I would return to later in the week (and the list of places I would fail to return to) and pushed on empty handed (noooo!). I wanted to take pictures, but the place was pretty crowded and while it's one thing to take pictures of a business and the people working there it's quite another to take a picture of the place and all the customers as well. At least to me it is. So I didn't even bother asking if photos were ok because even if they were I would have been unhappy taking pictures with lots of innocent people who have nothing to do with my blog.

The next stop was, in theory, Kee's Chocolates, but I got sidetracked by the art vendors along the street and ended up buying a piece (which was brutalized in my luggage on the way back home - the glass in the frame was shattered and there is a small dent in the picture itself which is a watercolor of a bunny - decor for Sophie's room). Alas. In the course of buying it I needed to get some cash (since the chocolate show had taken it all away) and some lunch so I stopped by Famous Ben's Pizza of SoHo and got a slice of white pizza (which was good - not great, just good - but not the way I like my white - I like garlic and fresh basil on top and this was bare) and hit the atm.

So, full of pizza and loaded with street art and a bit of cash, I turned my attention to finding Kee's. The shop itself is really simple as I remember it. Brick walls leading back to a small case where the chocolate is. And the chocolate looks fabulous of course. This was one of my primary destinations for my trip so I got a box of a dozen assorted pieces from the case (somehow I missed the macaroons - I don't remember seeing any at all and I would have probably bought some if they had registered in my brain at all). Everything I've had from it was really good, but the standout piece for me was the Pistachio (a white chocolate and pistachio truffle). I need to go back at some point and get a selection for tasting with a eye toward time and careful thought as opposed to the grabbing a piece from the box when the fancy takes me (which is how the box I bought went). Very pleased that I got to visit.

The final stop on my quick run through the streets of SoHo was Vosges Haut-Chocolat. At this point I was ready for that hot chocolate that I had missed out on back at MarieBelle so I ordered their Aztec Elixir which is the hot chocolate that I managed to forget to order for hot chocolate week last winter. Quite good. Drinkable (as opposed to some of the thicker hot chocolates out there) and nicely spicy. And, since I had been dying of curiosity (however it's spelled), I bought a box of the Itialiano Collection to try out. After seeing how well the combination of cheese and chocolate could be from the Smokey Blue Truffle I was really looking forward to trying the Rooster. At that point I still had the strange misconception that it was a chunk of cheese covered in chocolate (they show those spikes of cheese and a rooster next to it and my mind rushes to the wrong conclusion). After I let one get up to room temperature back at the hotel I was pleased to find that it's a truffle and a really neat tasting experience.

At this point my rush of planning fell apart. I had planned a good bit of what to do when I made my SoHo run, but since I had planned for it to be my first night in the city I had also added onto the end of it some optional places to go to top off the night and one of them was Alison Nelson's Chocolate Bar NYC. I had every intention of going there the first night and once I got past the first night and out and about town I forgot it entirely. So that's one more place I missed.

It was late afternoon at this point and I had a full load of stuff again so I hopped the train back to the hotel and went in search of dinner and found my way to Whole Foods for some dinner (where I skipped the chocolates in the case - Knipschildt I believe - I just don't trust that they'll be fresh from a display case like that). And then I settled in to relax a little (with a little chocolate) before setting out to wander the city a little more on foot (I did this a lot - it's a fun place for people who like to walk). And that's pretty much where day one ended.

Most of the write-up for day two is done so it should show up tomorrow. Then I can wrap up the whole mess and turn my attention to some items that have been happening since I got back. Not to mention holiday chocolate.

November 26, 2007

Safari Report Part Three

Two long posts and I still have things I need to address. Here goes.

First, in the first part of the show report I mentioned the artist doing collages who I couldn’t figure out who was. Finally got it! She is Christina Stahr and her chocolate work is called (ready for this) Chocolate Obsession Collages! I love the name (of course). But I love the idea and it's well executed too. So glad I actually looked at the program for the show or I'd never have figured it out. Couldn't remember the Chocolate Obsession connection. I'm bad.

Movin’ on!

I was glad to see Dagoba had a booth and I was especially glad to see that they had a number of bars that I had read about but never had a chance to try yet. So I took a stack of bars home with me (the classic Xocolatl, Lemon Ginger, Seeds, Superfruit, and Prima Materia with 100% cacao content!). I was tempted by the Xocolatl Nibs, but will try them later (I can’t get everything all at once).

Another company in attendance that I was familiar with was Theo Chocolate. I’d only had one of their bars before and they had a pack of their five Origin bars so I grabbed one to give it a shot (I was going to buy just a couple of bars until they realized that with the price they had posted it was cheaper to buy the bars individually – glad the mistake was caught and I was able to get more for less). As I said, I haven’t tried a lot of their chocolate, so I’m interested in how these bars are.

Bits and pieces….

Picked up a Nocturne bar from E. Guittard which I don't think I had never seen before. 91% cacao content on this one so it should be interesting.

Got to pick up one of Amano’s new limited edition Cuyagua bars. I love the small batch producers because they have the ability to take a small batch of really special beans and make a small run bar. There may be variance between individual bars and individual batches, but that’s one of the charms of the small batch. Each bar is an adventure.

Oliver Kita had some really great looking chocolate Buddhas. Very cool. And sadly that’s about all I remember from that booth.

Coppeneur had a really nice booth and I swear that they were talking up a brand new NYC location but I can’t seem to find any evidence of it. This bothers me. Anyway, I tried a bar with ginger and banana and it was pretty darn tasty.

After researching Coppeneur I find myself wanting to visit Fog City News in San Francisco.

Capital One? You can’t go anywhere these days without somebody trying to get you to accept a credit card. And Marriot Vacation Club. Why? I realize that they’re paying for space, but can we focus please? This is the New York CHOCOLATE Show.

Mad Mac! Macarons and Madeleins by the box. The looked lovely and I need to look into them in the future. I like macarons. They is yummy. And the Mad Mac ones looked very pretty and very tasty.

The chocolates from Anna Shea Chocolates were beautiful. I should have bought some.

Chocolate Bar NYC. I was planning on visiting so I just sort of looked at the pretty bars and shirts and stuff and moved on. I never got to the store/café so it’s on my list of things left undone (to be handled on my next trip to the city).

Cosmic Chocolate had some very attractive chocolate hearts (hand painted) and I grabbed some since I had never heard of them and would likely never have another shot to try them before Chocolate Show 2008. Their other big deal item was a small set with celebrity faces on them. A uber-gimmicky product like that makes me worry for the quality of the hearts, but they get the benefit of the doubt for now.

Mars had Java Twix samples, but they weren’t passing them out while I was in the area and the show got to be too crowded for me to be happy there any more so I went without.

There are a number of places I don’t even remember seeing (and some I know I saw and just can't remember) and I’ve got to get some of their chocolates at some point. No rush, I suppose, but I feel like I may have missed out on something somewhere.

Ok, I think that will do for now. Next up is a quick rundown of my quick tour of the city's chocolatiers. The ones I managed to hit.

November 25, 2007

Safari Report Part Two

Ok now, where was I?

Ah, yes. I had just partaken of the goodness that is the Smokey Blue Truffle. A pretty amazing little treat. Just a few short feet away was the booth from the lovely people from SweetRiot who make chocolate covered nibs in varying levels of dark chocolate and packaged in those little art covered tins. I had been hoping that the cinnamon version that they had for the holidays last year might be back, but no such luck. Still, it was nice to get a taste of an old friend.

Across the way from them was the booth for Chocolate Moderne, one of the chocolatiers I had been hoping to get a taste of while I was in the city. They make some very attractive chocolates with some very good sounding flavors. I didn’t pay them quite the attention that I felt they were due as I was planning to grab something from them later in the week as I worked the city over. In retrospect I really wish I had given them some more time as I never got around to finding any of their collections around town. Ah, hindsight.

I knew I was planning on hitting Cluizel and Torres actual stores while I was in town so I kind of breezed past them as well. Lindt kind of falls into that category as well, though I did spend some time talking cookbooks there (I need to add their cookbook to my collection). And on the subject of cookbooks the Barnes and Noble booth had a pretty impressive collection of them including a lot that I had never even seen and one that I had been trying to find a good copy of for a long while - La Maison du Chocolat. I’d seen a copy or two before, but they always tended to be in less than wonderful shape and now I finally got my hands on a nice clean copy.

Back around the corner, in the booth next to Lillie Belle was Fairytale brownies and I had a nice sample from them. They do a good brownie and are somebody I need to look at again in the future. Before I get to them, though, I have some local brownie action I need to address.

Chuao had a nice booth with samples of their bars. There are a couple of their bars that I hadn’t had the pleasure of trying before and this was a nice opportunity to remedy that. The Earl Grey was good, but the bar I was most surprised by was the Spicy Maya. I had tried the Spicy Maya hot chocolate last year and loved it and the bar was (at least to my memory) exactly the same as the hot chocolate. They are both fantastic. I’m looking forward to trying more from them.

Another “old favorite” I got to visit with was Charles Chocolates. Prior to this I had only had the opportunity to try their bars, but this time I had the opportunity to try a couple of their other pieces. First up was a Mojito Heart which, like it sounds, is a mojito chocolate in the shape of a heart. Quite tasty if you like mojitos. The crowd seemed to have a very mixed reaction to my eyes, but I enjoyed it. I also got to try one of their Orange Twigs which are, frankly, awesome. I missed out on the Caramel Almond Sticks, but I’ll get to try them, and the Tea Collection (tea and chocolate is my latest love) later on. Oh, I also got to say hi to Chuck Siegel, the man behind it all. Seems a nice guy.

The next of the places that I really fell hard for was John and Kira’s, from Philly. I feel bad that my attention was so easily captured by their cute ladybug (in mint, raspberry, and honey lavender) and honey caramel bee chocolates. My attention shifted quickly, though, and it was the figs that finally caught my eye. Their normal fig is filled with ganache and dipped in chocolate and look and sound great. The one I got to try was their Fig “Pumpkin” Bonbons. They have a whiskey clove ganache and a (orange colored) white chocolate coating. The coating and the stem protruding from the top make them look just like little pumpkins. And they taste amazing. One of my very favorite items from my trip. I’ve got to order more. They’re just fantastic.

The last place I’ll cover today is Mary’s Chocolate. They make the trip from Japan for the show and do I ever feel blessed for their attendance. First, their booth was one of the cooler booths at the show. They were actually coating and decorating chocolates in the booth and, even better, they were very accommodating to people who wanted to take pictures. And they were generous with the samples. They were handing out their Green Tea, Dark Sesame, and (apparently) Passion Fruit ganaches. The Green Tea is another of my favorites from the show. Fantastically smooth and tasty. The Dark Sesame is also great. While I was there I got (what I think was) a Toasted Sesame Truffle which was also very good.

Tomorrow I’ll finish yapping about the show itself with some talk about the booths that I sort of breezed through and some of the things I need to address next time I go (hopefully 2008). Then I’ll talk a little about the chocolatiers I visited in the city and wrap up the trip with some of the items I need to address next time I head for the big city.

November 21, 2007

Safari Report Part One

First off - I added some more pictures to the set - they're all in the same set as the previous entry and are tagged with "round2" for easy filing (a sad workaround for not being willing to go pro on Flickr just yet). The whole mess is found here as before or you can go down to the prior entry and use the cool little PictoBrowser thangaroo. There are no descriptions or real titles yet, but hopefully that will change in short order.

And on to the content!.

Sadly things weren’t timed quite as well as I would have liked them to be and I didn’t get to New York until Saturday evening so my only shot at the chocolate show was Sunday. So, after rambling about the city on foot Saturday evening, I got up bright and early and started my walk down to 18th to where the show was. I figured it would be nice to start things off with a bagel so I stopped at a place I had noticed the night before and got a shmear and sat and enjoyed it for a bit. When I had finished with my bagel I turned my nose back toward 18th and pushed on. Ended up getting there with more than a half hour to spare so I decided that I would switch gears to my original breakfast plan of hitting City Bakery, which, I had heard, had some of the best hot chocolate in the city. Got a cup with a fresh marshmallow and enjoyed that while killing time. Got to say it was one of the better cups I’ve had (and if you were around for hot chocolate week last winter you’ll know I’ve had a few). Not too thick to drink, not so hot it burns. It was pretty darn good and as the marshmallow slowly shrank it added a little extra sweet creamy something that was quite the nice addition.

But a cup of hot chocolate just can’t last forever and when it was gone I decided to add myself to the queue for tickets to the show. I hadn’t bothered with getting my tickets ahead of time so I was forced to wait in line. The line moved pretty quickly, though, and they gave out these little Valrhona chocolate stick things (and who doesn’t love free chocolate - good chocolate at that) so I wasn’t too worried about the line. Getting in to the ticket desk brought up one of my major complaints about the show. Tickets were cash only. And guess how many atm machines there were to help out those who found themselves short of cash during the day. ZERO. Bad form. Tsk. Cash only tickets aren't so much a problem if there are ample atms around, but that, alas, was not the case.

So, with ticket in hand I was able to finally get into the chocolate show, just a year later than planned. The first thing that greeted me was a nice little art exhibit of something I had been thinking of doing myself: sort of collages made of chocolate bar wrappers. I love the art and style that goes into a lot of the packaging and these showcased some very nice wrappers in a nice classy manner. I wish they had the appropriate info on the Chocolate Show website, but they don’t have it filled in so I can’t give props where due and that disappoints me. I’ll keep trying to figure it out.

She is Christina Stahr and her chocolate work is called (ready for this) Chocolate Obsession Collages! I love the name (of course). But I love the idea and it's well executed too. So glad I actually looked at the program for the show or I'd never have figured it out. Couldn't remember the Chocolate Obsession connection. I'm bad.

Anyway, after that we had some more chocolate art, which I took a couple of shots of. It’s nice. Reminds me of Ikebana which I quite like. I afforded it less time than I really should have, though. I was in a hurry to get into the show and make sure I managed to get my hands on a certain something before it disappeared.

After trying a generic mass-produced truffle (the kind you can buy a jillion of in a little box at the grocery) from someplace I will never remember the name of I quickly made my way to the Lillie Belle Farms booth where I got to chat a bit and try the award winning Smokey Blue Truffle. For those who are unfamiliar they took the award winning Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue Cheese and made a truffle with it and toasted almonds. It is pretty amazing that chocolate and blue cheese could go so well together, but it really works beautifully. It’s smokey, creamy, tangy and all around wonderful. One of the two best things I tried at the show. And one of the three best I tried while in New York. I bought a package of the truffles and a package of chocolate covered dried pears (I love dried pears) and when these are gone I’m going to have to order some more. They are one of those items that are just too good not to share.

More to come..... tomorrow most likely. I've been a bit busy baking today.

November 19, 2007

There's No Place Like Home

Friday evening I finally returned home and Saturday morning I had recovered the rabbit and settled in for a bit of rest and the big game on the tube (OSU v Michigan of course). I've got to admit I was (and still am) exhausted. It wasn't until yesterday before I even tried to get my thoughts organized as to how to address the whole adventure. The only thing that makes sense to me is to break it all up into smaller more digestible pieces. There is a lot of ground to cover and a lot to organize and I even have a lot of pictures yet to take. But I need to get started at some point, so this is it.

The first thing I'm going to do is to get the initial batch of photos uploaded. A lot of them didn't turn out as well as I'd like so a good number of them just didn't make the final cut. I really wish I had more decent shots from the Chocolate Show, but things were getting too painful there for me to stick around. But I did manage to get some worthwhile pictures and have shuffled them off to Flickr and into a new set for the whole Concrete Jungle Chocolate Safari (I do like the whole safari thing I've been doing with Jungle Jim's so why no carry it over to NYC). I'll be adding comments as I go, but for now the least messy of my pictures are up for perusal. The actual show report will follow shortly and will likely be spread over a couple of nights followed by the SoHo report and the Midtown and Union Square trips. And somewhere along the line I need to do some sort of basic wrap-up report.

Anyway, I'm back and finally getting started on getting it all out of my head (and camera) and onto the blog.

Here is an experimental PictoBrowser for you to play with or you can go to the actual set right here.

November 11, 2007

Of Sore Feet and Empty Wallets

Got into my hotel a little later than I had hoped and my plans of heading do SoHo to hit the big four down there kind of hit the skids. So I went for a walk instead. Up almost to Central Park and then down to 18th to check out where the chocolate show is and then back up to my hotel at 34th. I like the ability to walk all over the place. It works for me. But I wasn't wearing my walking shoes or socks so my feets were less than thrilled when I got back to the hotel. Eh, who cares. No pain no gain. And no blisters to speak of either, which is great.

So the only chocolate I managed on my first night in town was a Chocolixir from Godiva.

I think I made up for it today. There was, of course, the chocolate show. But even before than I headed over to City Bakery for a hot chocolate. Once I was done there I headed in to the show and was floored by some of the amazing chocolates (more on them in the big wrap-up post in a few days). Got to try the Smoky Blue Truffle (amazing) before they sold out and that was my big goal for the show. My other goal was to get over to Mary's Chocolates (from Japan) and give them a try and am I ever glad I did. I left with a lot of chocolate. And I headed back to the hotel.

And then, like the nutjob I am, I jumped onto the 1 Train down to SoHo so I could get into the places I missed out on yesterday. Hit Torres' Chocolate Haven, MarieBelle (which was insano-slammed - no space in the chocolate bar at all), Kee's Chocolates, and finally Vosges. And I even had time for a slice from Famous Ben's Pizza while I was at it.

So I got off to a good start. Had hot chocolate twice, a proper bagel once (reminds me of my favorite bagels from home), pizza twice, Whole Foods salad bar once (I gotta eat at least a little healthy here and there), Godiva once, bought a little bit of street art, and hit four Chocolatiers ignoring the ones I hit at the show itself.

Not a bad 24 hours.

And guess what: I was a good little blogger and took pictures! I got back to the hotel and took more pictures of my loot. And then I realized: I forgot my usb cable. Unless I buy an sd reader of a cable my pictures are trapped on my camera. le sigh.

I'll post pictures later. I promise nothing in terms of quality and not huge numbers when it comes to quantity, but I did take pictures where and when it seemed prudent (I didn't in Vosges and MarieBelle because they were super crowded and I wasn't allowed at Kee's but I got some nice pics at Torres Chocolate Haven and some nice shots at the Chocolate Show).

Gotta run. My salad is getting warm.

November 1, 2007

Post-Halloween Chocolate

Halloween is the one chocolate holiday that I don’t really need to go shopping after (though that won't likely stop me). In general I’ll have bought a bag or two of candy on the off chance that somebody shows up at my door on beggar’s night and in general I’ll still have that same bag or two of chocolate the morning of November 1st. What can you do? I don’t want to be that guy who has kids show up at the door and has nothing to offer them. So it’s the day after Halloween and here I am with my expected two bags of leftover chocolate. There aren’t a lot of kids in the neighborhood (there are more dogs than kids so they had trick or treat for the dogs which I thought was nice), but there are neighborhoods that butt up against mine that do have kids so I figured I'd better be prepared. The total count for the evening: three dogs, no children. Ah, well. Such is life. Now I have candy for my candy bowl at work.

The nice thing about having all this leftover candy is that when I grabbed my candy I picked up some things that I had never tried (in miniature form, of course). In the mix were Milky Way Midnight (the dark chocolate vanilla nougat Milky Way) and Dark Chocolate Snickers. The Dark Chocolate Snickers didn’t strike me as too much different than the normal one. Snickers tends to be about the nougat, caramel, and peanuts (which, they assure us, it is “packed with”) and the chocolate is just along for the ride. The dark chocolate adds a little something extra, but it's still got all the things that make Snickers great. Good stuff. The Milky Way Midnight I can’t comment on as far as differences are concerned. I’m not a big Milky Way eater (I tend to grab a 3 Musketeers instead for some reason – not sure why because I do love the Milky Way action) so I can’t say if it’s all that different from the base model. I can say I really liked the Midnight. It was quite tasty and all of the remaining ones have been added to my personal candy stash rather than the candy bowl.

I know I haven’t been posting a whole ton, but I have been eating other chocolate. I’m slowly nibbling my way through my Godiva spoils (and just got another card in the mail for more free chocolate – they’re out of control!) and have had a few interesting items at work one of which provided a painful learning experience. If you have an office or cube with a southern-exposed window (in the northern hemisphere) then your chocolate may be at risk. I have black cabinets in my cube and I had a whole bag of Harry and David truffles in it and after returning from the weekend I found them to have merged into one monstrous truffle beast. An entire bag of truffles I won’t be able to share (and will be forced to eat myself – naturally). I’ve got to figure out where and how to store my chocolate for the weekends so this doesn’t happen again.

As for the other things I’ve been eating, well, they’re going to get a separate post of their own rather than bulk this one up further.

And if you’re into the bargain chocolate thing I suggest you act fast! They need to clear shelf space for the Christmas chocolate so the remaining Halloween goodies are probably going to disappear very quickly. I know at the store I go to for lunch they already have Christmas chocolate on an end-cap so I’m betting that they’ll have the whole Halloween aisle cleared out sometime today and fully replaced with Christmas swag. Good luck shopping!

October 22, 2007

Back to Godiva

I'll admit I have mixed feelings about Godiva. Most of the problems I have with them are philosophical and stylistic and not worth going into. The thing is that no matter what problems I may have with them I always end up going back for more.

The first thing I love about Godiva is a biggie: free chocolate. I’m not a cheapskate or anything, but I do love getting something for nothing and Godiva are always there to supply me with a fix. Having signed up on both the website and in the store I get notices of free tastings and other in-store events and sales but more importantly I get coupons. Coupons for some serious free chocolate. This month I’ve had a coupon for three free pieces of their Chocoiste collection and another for either a can of cocoa, a box of biscuits, or a bag of coffee. Makin’ out like a bandit. And the best part of it all? It’s consistently good stuff. People can fault Godiva all they like (and believe me, I do), but they are very consistent and really pretty good. It may not be as good as your favorite chocolatier (nowhere near mine), but my favorite chocolatier isn’t in the mall. They have that convenience factor going for them. When I’m out shopping and I want a chocolate fix I know I can swing in for a marzipan heart or raspberry cordial and leave happy. Convenience, consistency, and quality. They may not be the best, but they’re solid all around.

So while I was out getting my free chocolate action going I decided to take the plunge and try their new Dark Chocolate Raspberry Chocolixir. So we have their standard dark chocolate blended icy beverage but with an added shot of raspberry syrupy stuff. It’s icy and chocolaty and not quite as sweet as I had expected, but really quite tasty. I’m not sure I dig the little grains of actual chocolate running around in it (gives it a grainy feeling beyond the normal grain of the ice), but it sure is tasty. I usually don’t hit things like this very fast, but I ended up with a solid brainfreeze while working on this one. Good stuff. Expensive, but good. I'll probably have another some time, but for now I'm looking forward to hot chocolate season. It's about time to get my cocoa on.

October 16, 2007

Review: Starbucks Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino

You know, I’m just not much of a coffee person. I like a cup on a cold morning now and then, but we’re talking a couple of times a year. I’ll take tea or juice over coffee any day and even over hot chocolate most days (I prefer to eat my chocolate). What I do occasionally enjoy are iced coffee drinks. On a hot day a nice icy coffee drink hits the spot like few other things. And if you like that kind of thing you eventually are forced to turn to Starbucks.

I’m not going to go on about the good or evil of Starbucks. This isn't the place for it. They’re everywhere and there are a lot of places where if you want a cold coffee drink of some sort they are your only option.

So they have these bottled Frappuccino drinks you can get pretty much everywhere. They’re essentially coffee, milk, sugar, and flavor (chocolate for preference) with a handful of other stuff along for the ride. And they’re not bad in a pinch. Well, they have a new limited edition for the winter season in the form of the Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino.

So what’s new here? Well, they switch up the normal chocolate in your mocha for a little of the dark stuff and add some extra peppermint to the mix. Sounds tasty, right? Well, it is. It’s sweet and creamy and minty. The mint is a nice addition to the whole thing and of course chocolate is always a wonderful thing. There could be more chocolate, though. And I really am not getting any sort of dark chocolate vibe from it either. But it’s still pretty darn good.

So, while I’d prefer not to get a bottled coffee product at all this is a pretty good stuff. It’s not something I’ll drink every day, but when I need a quick fix it’s a good option. I’ll give it a 7.5 out of 10. It’s good. I wouldn’t go quite so far as great, but, as I said, I’m not a coffee person. It will take me quite a while to finish off the rest of the four-pack in my fridge.

Speaking of the fridge.... I looked all over creation for a single bottle of this that I could buy and it just wasn't happening. But every grocery store I've looked at had them in the four-pack. I really didn't want four of them, but sometimes sacrifices must be made in the name of chocolate.

October 8, 2007

Review: Lindt Excellence 85%

Every so often I’ll grab a bar of chocolate at the grocery store to snack on at work and usually I don’t think twice about it and just eat my way through it. Now and then, though, I end up eating something that surprises me. The most recent bar to do this was the Lindt Excellence 85% bar.

Now I have had Lindt before and usually not thought twice about it. This is probably because I tend to consider them one of those dependable chocolate you can just munch on and enjoy. That and I might sort of hold those Lindor Truffles against them (they're actually good - I just know what I want in a truffle and they just aren't quite it). Whatever the reason, I wasn’t really thinking about the bar as a possible review target. It was just something I was going to chase my lunch with.

After a couple of days of snacking on the bar, though, I found myself impressed and interested. The bar is expectedly strong. It is also somewhat simple. There is an earthy element to it and some hints of red fruit, but mainly it offers a pure chocolate flavor and lots of it. What really impresses is that for an 85% bar it has no bitterness at all (not like the other bar I’ve been eating lately which is really bitter) and is very smooth. I’ve found a lot of high percentage bars to be rough on the mouth and this isn’t like that. This is pure chocolate flavor, start to finish and there are no negatives to mar the experience.

So what’s the bottom line? It hits a strong chocolate flavor, isn’t bitter, and is really smooth. What’s not to like? It earns a solid 9 out of 10. I can find this bar in most of the big groceries in town and it kind of floors me that I never gave it a try before now.

September 25, 2007

Chocolate and Cheese?

Chocolate used to be simple. The most exotic thing you'd find in it was a bit of fruit or a nut. Oh, how times have changed. Spices are everywhere and the old school fruits have given way to the superfood fruits like goji and people are adding things like olives and bacon into the mix.

And now cheese.

Yes, cheese. On a certain level it makes sense. Milk and chocolate are a natural combination. And what is cheese but old milk? Ok, it's a lot more than just old milk - theres rennet and stuff and I don't know hardly a thing about how they make it but at the beginning of it's life it's a dairy product, right? So in some ways it's not that far a stretch. In others.... well, it cheese for goodness sake! I mean, yes, there are cheeses that work with chocolate after some effort - nothing wrong with chocolate cheesecake - but in general it just isn't the sort of combination I would come up with myself.

All confusion aside it should come as no surprise that Vosges Haut-Chocolat, the people who brought us the fabulous Mo's Bacon Bar, are behind this new taste sensation. They have a nice Italian themed box of chocolates including the following:

  • rooster: Dark chocolate with taleggio cheese, walnuts, and Tahitian vanilla beans (cheese!)
  • olio d'oliva: Dried olives and extra virgin olive oil in white chocolate (this one frightens me somewhat)
  • balsamico: Balsamic vinegar, roasted hazelnuts, and dark chocolate (this sounds great to me)
  • sale del mare: Pine nuts, burnt sugar caramel, and sea salt in milk chocolate (also sounds fantastic)
  • finocchio: Fennel pollen, anise, and dark chocolate (this sounds like it could be really good - maybe)

There is a lot there that sounds great and a lot there that I'm not sure of just yet, but am more than willing to try. And, seeing as I'll be visiting Vosges in New York, I should be able to give them a try (and finally get that drinking chocolate I've yet to try). That's five more things to look forward to when I make the big trip in November.

September 18, 2007

Review: Razzberry M&M's

Here we go again. Another limited edition candy. This time it’s the new Razzberry M&M’s. I finally got tired of fooling around looking for them at the grocery and drug stores so after securing my lunch one day I went to the gas station to try and get my candy on. And, of course, it was there in great numbers in a not so obvious place (back with the hot dog rollers if I recall right). So I grabbed a pack of Elvis Reese’s Cups to share at work and a couple of bags of M&M’s and headed back to the office.

Tearing into the bag one is met with a strong raspberry aroma with a little milk chocolate around the edges. Looking in the bag the first time I thought I had made a mistake: nearly all the M&M’s are significantly larger than normal ones. And they’re kind of pink in color. Not a neon pink, but something darker and deeper. Think Pepto Bismol only more to the red end of the spectrum than the pink. Not the prettiest color and when you’re dealing with candy colors are important. Taste is, of course, more important, so I should probably move on to that subject. The taste is… not bad, but not very chocolaty (in my opinion) and sort of artificially raspberry. I had some high hopes for these, but in the end I don’t think that they live up to the promise on either the chocolate or raspberry front. At the same time a co-worker of mine seemed to like them just fine. They seemed to get an even better reception from him than the Chocolate Pop Rocks did. So everything here is my opinion and your mileage may vary.

It’s not a bad attempt, but it’s not something I expect to see coming back after it’s limited edition runs out. It’s just not that great. I’m going to give it a generous 6 out of 10 because my friend liked it. I’d probably go with a 5 on my own. It’s not that they’re bad, it’s just that they aren’t that good.

September 10, 2007

Review: 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate

Well, there has once again been a longer period between posts than I would like. It seems that most of my posts start like this now, but sometimes you just have to deal with what normal life is throwing your way and let the online thing slide. The nice thing is that I’ve been turning to chocolate to help me deal with the real life things. As I mentioned in the last post I had a chance to try the 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate and, while I had been planning on doing both it and the Razzberry M&M’s in one post, I just haven’t found the M&M’s so it they'll have to wait for another day.

Before we go any further I have to say that I love the normal 3 Musketeers bar. The fluff stuff in it is just wonderful as far as I’m concerned. It isn’t too airy and it isn’t too dense. The way it just sort of dissolves on the tongue is something I love. It is my go-to bar when I want a little chocolate snack and I've only got the vending machine to lean on.

Moving on. The new 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate is an immediate departure from the classic in terms of form. The normal bar is big and has a really substantial feel to it. The Mint bar is separated into two separate mini-bars. The two of them combined are a good bit smaller than the normal bar, but they are a nice size. It works out to two nice small snack size servings or one nice big serving. I like the choice it imparts. I have a tendency to tear chocolate bars to pieces and eat them a little at a time and this bar with its two pieces allows me to hold one back for later and I like that.

Taking a whiff of the bar you can tell it’s got some mint going on. It has quite a nice aroma with a little chocolate and a little mint hinting at good things to come. Tearing into it (I normally just break an end off in my mouth, but I wanted a look at it first) you find the center to be white as opposed to the normal light brown. The center is soft like the normal one, but it doesn’t feel quite the same in the mouth. Close, but not quite. But the important thing is taste, right? And on this point it definitely delivers. The mint flavor is light and nice. I tend to favor a stronger mint flavor, but this is really quite nice as it is. The chocolate isn’t as strong as I would like it, but that’s forgivable. What may not be forgivable is the slight saltiness it has. Having read Cybele’s review where she encountered the salty edge I was looking for it. It might not be as noticeable if you aren’t expecting it (I didn't the first time I tried it), but it was there (when I was looking for it) and it might turn some off of the bar.

So in the end we have a pretty good bar that honors the original and brings a nice soft hit of mint to the party. I didn’t like the texture quite as much, but it was still pretty close to the fluffiness I’m so fond of. On my standard 10 point scale I would give the normal 3 Musketeers bar a solid 8 out of 10. The 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate scores a respectable 7 out of 10.

As a final note I keep finding them on sale so it’s nice and cheap to give them a try (always a good thing).

Beyond this bar I’m very happy to say we are heading rapidly for Halloween so there is some more candy on the horizon and Christmas not far behind. Chocolate season is almost upon us again and I could not be happier.

August 9, 2007

Review: Charles Chocolates x 2

A while back I mentioned my Charles Chocolates Hazelnut and Candied Orange Peel bar and the horrible mishap that removed it from its box and rendered it a mystery bar. At the time I said I was looking to get my hands on another bar of theirs (Milk Chocolate With Caramelized Rice Krispies) before reviewing the first and now I have both and have eaten a good bit of each as well.

Both Bars: Charles Chocolates come wrapped in foil and further encased in a nice snug-fitting box. I really like box packaging for chocolate and these are nice boxes. They’re simple and attractive and protect the chocolaty goodness lurking within (the box managed to save one of my bars from a horrible spill of shower gel). Once you get past the wrap you find a somewhat unusual bar waiting for you. Most of the added goodies are lurking right at the top of the bar. It looks like the stuff goes into the mold before they pour the chocolate so there are places where there are divots among the crunchy bits where the chocolate never got to the bottom of the mold (top of the bar). It gives it a neat look. Different.

Hazelnut and Candied Orange Peel: The nuts and orange peel are resting on top of a nice chunky layer of 65% dark chocolate. And it’s good chocolate too. It’s creamy and really smooth. A very laid back dark chocolate and a very nice complement to the orange peel. The bite starts off with nuts and chocolate and blooms into orange and it all comes together quite nicely. It’s an excellent bar for snacking on and as such gets a solid 9 out of 10. This is one I’ll be getting more of in the future.

Milk Chocolate Caramelized Rice Krispie Bar: As the name implies this bar is milk chocolate, though there is a dark chocolate version available as well. I figured with the rice krispie action I would go for the milk chocolate variety. It just felt right. And it tasted right, too. I’m not the biggest fan of milk chocolate – most of my milk chocolate experience has been with the cheaper candy bar kind of chocolate and not the good stuff. This is good milk chocolate. The chocolate is creamy and the caramelized krispies have a nice rich flavor and they fit really well together. It’s not quite as good as the Hazelnut and Orange Peel, but still earns an 8 out of 10.

Now that I’ve gotten a taste I’m looking forward to trying some more of their chocolate. At some point I want to get my hands on their Tea Collection and their Orange Twigs. Both sound good. And of course they have a couple more bars I want to try (Ginger – which I love – and Mocha Java – which I might love). Getting to try new things like this is one of my favorite things about chocolate. There are so many things to taste and new ideas all the time.

August 5, 2007

Still Here + 2 Mini-Reviews

Yeah, it’s been a while since I last updated. I feel guilty and stuff. Sorry. I got sidetracked when my new nephew hit the scene and did some family stuff and on the tail end of that I ended up with more health problems. And life has been somewhat less than wonderful for a couple of weeks.

But somewhere in there I ate some chocolate. Not a lot, but I did eat a couple of things of note.

Elvis Reese’s Cup: Finally found some Elvis action at the grocery store while picking up some lunch. And it was good. The banana wasn’t too sweet and actually tasted like banana and not the fake banana you get in some candy either. It was good. Somewhat related to my all time favorite sandwich – the peanut butter, banana, and chocolate chip sammich (I was going to fry one up in honor of The King, but I’m not frying things right now or eating large amounts of peanut butter so It’s kinda indefinitely on hold). Such the perfect combination of flavors. Anyway, I’ll give the Elvis Reese’s Cup an 8 out of 10. It’s not fine fine chocolate or anything, but it’s top-notch snacky stuff. And I would not be at all surprised to see it return as a non-limited-edition. It’s too good to go away permanently.

Nestlé 100 Grand with Coconut: For some reason this showed up in the vending machine at work and I really couldn’t help myself. And you know what? I’m glad I couldn’t help myself. I love the normal 100 Grand and I love coconut so I figured this would be something fun. And it was pretty good. Not sure I like what it does to the texture of the original, but I like the addition of coconut to the taste. And I can’t help but think about Samoa Girl Scout Cookies, which are about the greatest thing in the universe (at least as far as cookies are concerned). Good stuff. Lets say…. 6.5 out of 10. It’s yummy, but not a religious experience.

I’m actually going to try and start posting again, but there may be more of a shift back to the early days of the blog where it will be more about news and recipes and new products than reviews. There will still be reviews, but probably not a ton or anything. I’m cutting back on chocolate intake. Not that it was all that much to begin with, but I’m cutting even the little bit I was eating back to just a tiny bit a day.

So, next up will be a review of the pair of bars I have from Charles Chocolates. They’re some good stuff.

July 11, 2007

wow. just.... wow.

wlk-small.jpgIf you've been paying any attention over the life of this (poorly updated) blog you'll probably have picked up on the fact that I really love the big, crazy, mind-bogglingly huge things that people make out of chocolate. Normall it's a clock, or a christmas tree, or an Igloo, or an alpine village or something of the like. Something with small parts that is as impressive in its intricacy as it is stunning in it's size. This isn't quite one of those. It's a bit simpler in design than a lot of the giant chocolate items, but it doesn't fail to impress. It is a giant Hershey®'s Kiss® made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the tiny treat (and if you've already read about it make sure you didn't miss the video - it's very cool). As a kid I was always impressed with the giant kisses you'd always find running around at Christmas. They were like a whole pound of chocolate. For a kid that was really impressive (now the thought of trying to eat a whole pound of chocolate makes me a little ill), but the giant Kiss we're talking about today is on a whole other scale. It's 12 feet tall and made of - get this - 30,540 pounds of chocolate. That's fifteen tons (and change). That is BIG. It is, in fact, World Record big.

And if you can't see it in person you sometimes have a hard time comprehending just how big a thing like this is. And that's why it's so nice that there is a video taken over the nine day build. It really illustrates just how much chocolate that actually is.

And, yeah, I'm late posting this. I was eventually going to put it in a mass post, but when I finally realized there was a video (!) I decided it deserved it's own post. So check out the video and the pictures and maybe have a Kiss (or three) to celebrate 100 years of sweet history (the history itself being a great read).

Press Release

June 25, 2007

Review: Vosges Caramel Marshmallows

I’ve had my eye on the Caramel Marshmallows from Vosges Haut-Chocolat for a while now. I’m not sure when I first ran across them, but every time I did I wanted to try them just a little more. But I prefer not to order my chocolate online. I like to go out and buy it myself and, sadly, I haven’t been back to Chicago since I started the blog. So I just haven’t had an opportunity to try them yet. And then they came out with Mo’s Bacon Bar and I had a lot more reason to place an order with them. I was still torn due to the high cost of shipping chocolate in the summer, but I got an unexpected check in the mail and decided that I may as well use it on a little chocolate. And I couldn’t order something from Vosges without getting the marshmallows.

First things first: these are no ordinary marshmallows. You have a marshmallow (made with real vanilla) topped with caramel mixed with walnut and pecan bits, which is then coated in chocolate and topped with caramel toffee. Yep, they are anything but ordinary. The packaging is lovely (as is always the case with Vosges) with a nice outer wrap surrounding a silver-stamped box.

Yes, it has attractive packaging (which I always focus on for some reason), but it’s what’s inside that really matters, right? Well, inside that nice package are nine chunky caramel marshmallows, each about an inch tall and an inch and a half square. They’re not one-bite marshmallows, not by a long shot. The chocolate has a good solid snap and is thick enough to give the whole thing a nice structure. I don’t know what really to say about the taste. It’s definitely greater than the sum of its parts and everything plays really well together. I’ve certainly torn through the box pretty fast.

These are flat-out awesome and well worth the seemingly high price of $27. For somebody like me with the full trio of weaknesses for chocolate, marshmallow, and caramel it’s a fantastic and addictive treat. I’m giving it a solid 9.25 out of 10. I was planning on having my sister bring me a box of truffles when she comes back to town next month, but now I might have to have her bring these instead (or, more likely, in addition to).

But we’re not done! Returning to the packaging that I was so enamored with there is a little section on the top that reads as follows:

Sandwich 1 caramel marshmallow between 2 fresh potato chips and bite … bite 1 caramel marshmallow following a foamy sip of a Belgian wheat beer … place 1 caramel marshmallow on 2 strips of sizzling bacon, slice and savor.
No, you didn’t misread it. The first two seem so simple and reasonable (and tasty), but the third… that is maybe a little out there. But when I see a recommendation like that I can’t help but take it as a challenge.

So, for the second time in a week, Chocolate Obsession is venturing into the realm of smoked pork products. I didn’t want a whole package of bacon (I don’t cook meat much because it scares the rabbit) so I swung by Whole Foods on the way home and grabbed a few slices from the butcher counter and headed home to give it a shot.

I will not eat bacon without trying to swab off as much of the grease as possible with paper towels and I think it lost a bit of heat in the process because the caramel relaxed, but didn’t quite melt.

Not terribly melty. Hmm...

So I shoved it in the microwave for a couple of seconds and pulled it back out. Now we had some good meltage going on.


And the smell was fantastic. I love the smell of bacon and this added a little something extra to the whole thing. I was a trifle worried, but I cut in and took a bite. And it was good. Not something I’m going to eat every day for a number of reasons, but the sweet marshmallow and caramel and mellow chocolate go so well with the smoky bacon. I liked the Bacon Bar I tried a few nights ago, but this is a definite step above that and one heck of an indulgence.

June 22, 2007

Review: Vosges Bacon Bar

In the past after eating a chocolate bar I have found myself with fruit or nuts stuck in my teeth. It’s quite a different experience to come away with from chocolate with meat stuck in your teeth. Yes, I took the plunge and ordered myself one of Vosges Haut Chocolat’s new Mo’s Bacon Bar. To be honest I really had no idea what to expect. Would it be just a general smokiness with some salt along for the ride? Or would it be just straightforward in-your-face bacon?

The bar is made with applewood smoked bacon, alder wood smoked salt, and deep milk chocolate (41% cacao). You could swap any of a number of things for the bacon and I’d be totally on board. I have got to admit I wasn’t entirely sold on the bacon. But it wasn’t a horrifying concept so I figured I had to give it a try.

The first thing I do with any chocolate is to pop it open and just smell it the way it is before breaking it to release a little more of the aroma. From the first whiff of this bar there was absolutely no way for me to mistake it for anything but bacon. Breaking the bar just released more bacon aroma. There is a nice milk chocolate aroma hiding behind the bacon smell, but the bacon definitely hogs the spotlight aroma-wise.

And then it was time for the moment of truth: tasting it. The first thing you notice is a general smokiness through the whole thing. And then you get the nice crunch and bite of the salt. And, in direct opposition to the aroma, the bacon kind of lurks in the background. It’s stronger than the chocolate, but takes a back seat to the smoke and salt. After smelling the bar I was kind of expecting some sort of explosion of pork flavor and it turned out to be just a general undercurrent to the flavor.

So, we’ve reached that part of the review where I sort of sum things up and assign a score. I’ve been trying to decide what to do with this for a couple of days now because I just don’t know entirely what to say about it. The bottom line is this: it’s good. It really is good. They have taken salt, bacon, and chocolate and combined them and the result is really quite good. This is an impressive feat. At the same time, this is one of those bars that I’m not going to be snapping into on a weekly basis. I’m going to call it an even 8 out of 10. It’s good and I’d happily eat it again. Just not on a weekly basis.

Coming up: how could I place an order with Vosges and only get the bacon bar? That’s right, I couldn’t. I’ve been seeing their caramel marshmallows in my email for months now and since I needed to get my bacon on I figured I’d go ahead and order some marshmallows while I was at it. And, because of one of their recommendations, I’m probably not done with the bacon either.

June 13, 2007

Review: Nestlé Crunch Crisp

I had to go to the grocery yesterday to look just in case there was a slip up and the Elvis Reese's Cups had made their appearance early (it's happened before) and while I did not find the prize I was after I did leave with a Nestlé Crunch Crisp bar which promises crispy wafers and chocolate crème. I figured it was new, I wanted chocolate (when do I not?), why not give it a shot? So it went back to work with me for an after-lunch snack (and, as I had no camera with me, I was unable to take a picture of it to share).

I hate to harp on ingredients, but I don't know if there is anything here that qualifies as chocolate. There is sugar, oil, cocoa, milk, lecithin, and fake vanilla, but no cocoa butter. Just lots of oil. A regular Crunch lists milk chocolate as it's number one ingredient (and includes cocoa butter in the sub-ingredients). But no chocolate on this label. Don't know what to make of that. Moving on.

The bar, in theory, is the horrific love child of a Nestlé Crunch and Kit Kat. In structure we have rice crispies on top of wafers layered with chocolate crème. It smells moderately chocolaty in the sweet candy bar kind of way. Kind of like a Kit Kat. It smells chocolaty, but not like chocolate. Texture wise it is all crunch all the time with this bar. The crunch is nicely satisfying, but the taste isn't anything amazing. It's not bad, mind you; it's just not as good as I had hoped. It doesn't have any real chocolate kick to it, just sort of a vague chocolate flavor.

Bottom line? Not bad, but I'll take a regular Kit Kat or Crunch bar over this just about any day. I'll call it a 5 out of 10. The catch is that while it's all new and exciting they've got them on sale for a quarter a pop at Kroger (don't know if this carries over to all of the other million and a half grocery chains that Kroger owns - Ralph’s, Fry’s, Smith’s, Fred Meyer, etc.- or if the "Plus Card" that we Krogerites are saddled with was required or not). At $.67 I'm not about to go buying another one any time soon. At $.25.... well, that's a price point I might roll over for.

June 9, 2007

Review: Amano Artisan Chocolate

A lot of things got lost in the shuffle of moving and tonight I’m finally getting around to addressing a pair of them. A while back I got an email from Art Pollard of Amano Artisan Chocolate (followed shortly by the samples I'm reviewing). In it he described how things were falling into place for them and the entire thing impressed me to no end. Amano is one of a small group chocolate companies in the US that make their own chocolate from bean to bar. Normally that would be enough to set them apart from the crowd, but they go that special one step further. They are doing things the old fashioned way with vintage equipment and processes and that speaks volumes to me. There are simpler and cheaper ways to do things but Amano are taking no shortcuts with their chocolate. And it shows in the end product.

Amano currently offers two varieties: Ocumare and Madagascar, both at 70% minimum cacao content. They both have a good temper and a nice snap to them and come in a small, attractive box and a layer of gold foil wrap. Both are nicely smooth (though the Ocumare isn’t quite as smooth as the Madagascar). When it comes to flavor, though, you have two very different bars.

The Madagascar has a slightly fruity and slightly smoky aroma but nothing specific is standing out to my untrained nose. The taste starts with the expected light smoke and gives way to a strong fruity note. It immediately brought berries, raisins, and some sort of citrus to mind. There is some apple in there as well, I think. It makes me think of preserves of some sort, but not overly sweet. The fruit carries through the long lasting close and is joined, interestingly enough, by a hint of anise/licorice flavor (though this may just be me).

The Ocumare has a stronger aroma with a good bit of forest and leather in it and just a hint of cherry. The flavor opens with a good solid chocolate and some of the leather from the aroma. There’s something else strong and dark in there that I can’t put a name to. The initial flavors give way to soft floral hints floating over a ménage of mellow fruit flavors I’m calling black cherry, plum, and possibly dried strawberries. It isn’t a really intense fruit flavor, but a nice companion to the base chocolate flavor. The close is interesting. A lot of the fruit fades to the background bringing out the floral notes.

It’s a really impressive start. In their first offering they have managed to bring to market two world-class bars. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the future holds for them. Both bars get a 9.5 and a spot on my short list. You can get Amano from their own website or from Chocosphere.

One final thing: Joseph Hall took the Ocumare and made ice cream with it! And it sounds excellent.

May 30, 2007

Chocolate and... Bacon?

Chocolate goes so well with so many things and there really seems to be no end to the interesting and surprising combinations of flavors that people come up with. Sometimes, though, a combination comes along that just leaves you wondering if it's really a good idea. A couple of years back Kevin (of Kevin's Tech Ramblings) decided to experiment with the combination of chocolate and bacon and created Chocolate Covered Bacon. I've been wondering ever since if there wasn't something to the idea. Sweet stuff like syrup goes great with bacon, so why not chocolate? Interested I was, but I never had the nerve to give it a shot.

Well today an email landed in my inbox that had me checking the date to make absolutely sure that it wasn't April Fools Day (it wasn't). It seems that the esteemed Vosges Haut-Chocolat has come up with a new bar featuring - you guessed it - bacon. The new Mo's Bacon Bar features smoked bacon, smoked salt and deep milk chocolate. That is a daring combination, but coming from Vosges, who are quite good at coming up with very tasty products, I have to believe that no matter how daring it sounds it's probably some excellent stuff. It may have a bit of a limited audience, though. Some people might have trouble wrapping their head around the concept. I'm certainly game to give it a try. And it gives me an excuse to order that hot chocolate I keep forgetting to order.

May 17, 2007

New Home & New Chocolate

I've managed to unload a few boxes and have cut the tape on a bunch more and found chocolate! Not my stash of the best I had, but still a good array of bars. So, tonight I opened my first new chocolate bar in my new condo. The bar of the night was a Jacques Torres Milk Chocolate Brulée bar. Very tasty bar. Smooth and creamy with crunchy little caramel bits running through it. I'm really not giving this one a lot of thought. It's a good chocolate for snacking and as such gets a good solid 8.25 out of 10.

Somewhere in all of the boxes that are scattered through the condo are a ton more chocolate and I'm talking good stuff. I'm starting to get into more of the boxes and I'm hoping I'll find it this weekend. There's also a chance I'll head for Jungle Jim's and grab some new chocolate so hopefully I'll be posting some more.

While I'm actually posting I had a really tasty sounding recipe hit my inbox recently and figured I would share. Epicurious has a recipe for a Bittersweet Chocolate Irish Whiskey Cake! This would have been a good recipe for Saint Patrick's Day, but it might be a nice first recipe for the new kitchen.

May 14, 2007

Chocolate Frustrations + Mini-Review

This lull has gone on too long. I’ve got a mess of things demanding my attention, but I can’t keep ignoring the blog like I’ve been doing. But I don’t have a whole lot to post about right now. Most of my chocolate is lost somewhere in the multitude of boxes scattered around the condo and as I’ve been ordered a number of times to try and stay off my feet and to not do any moving of boxes or unpacking. And there is stuff in there I’m dying to try and it’s driving me nuts knowing it’s somewhere in there and I just can’t have it. I really hope it’s not out in the garage. I think I would have seen the spreading chocolate puddle if it were, but until I get my hands on it I’ll keep worrying.

On to happier subjects. Well, maybe not so happy. I said a while back that the Pirate Pearls were back. Well, I think I may well have lied. Sure I saw a few hundred pounds of them at the store recently, but I haven’t seen a single one at any other store anywhere else. And to make things worse M&Ms are running a Shrek The Third promotion now and the M&Ms Pirate’s site hasn’t been updated for the new movie either. Things are looking kinda bleak especially since M&Ms have a promotion going on with Dreamworks now instead of Disney (oooh, Disney can't be happy). So things aren’t looking too hopeful for a return of white chocolate M&M’s in the form of Pirate Pearls. Hopefully they’ll launch them as a normal product this summer like they did the dark chocolate last year, but until they do it looks like it’s back to being a lost cause.

Next is definitely a happier subject. I’ve been slowly tearing apart a Vosges Haut-Chocolat Goji Bar which has goji berries and pink salt in dark milk chocolate. I’ve been eating it even slower than I usually eat a bar because I can’t tell whether chocolate is making my semi-mystery ailment worse or not. But I’ve been eating it bit by bit and I gotta say, it’s good stuff. The goji berries are nice and tasty and the salt is a nice contrasting flavor. I’d like it a little less salty than it seemed to be, but it’s still a really tasty bar. While I’m not really doing a full review I’m still gonna give it it’s score – an 8.25 – just because I deserves some praise.

On Mondays at Whole Foods they have a thing where they give out samples of all sorts of stuff and it’s good fun to just browse through the store (pun very much intended) trying different things. Well, the Monday prior to Valentine’s Day they did chocolate and lots of it. That was a nice night. And they even brought out the special limited edition Chocolove Chilies and Cherries in Dark Chocolate bar for the occasion. I had been looking for it since it was announced and was happy to get to try it (the cherries weren’t too sweet and the chilies weren’t too hot – nice bar) and asked for a bar to take with so I could do a proper review. They reached down behind the table and fished out a bar and I went happily on my way. The next night I pulled the bar out to review and discovered that they had handed me a Cherries and Almonds in Dark Chocolate. It’s a nice bar, but I was really pretty disappointed. I went back to the store and there were none to be found. And it was that way for over a month. Finally the bar reappeared! Only now I think it’s gone from being a limited edition to being a regular offering. On their website they show it with the standard Chocolove seal and not the Limited Edition mark and no longer mention the fact that it was a limited edition Whole Foods only affair. So if you weren’t able to get it in the Valentine’s window take a look around and you might get lucky (and I know that Chocosphere has it now). I know they have a lot of them at Whole Foods these days.

That’s all I’ve got in me for tonight. I’ll try to start posting a bit more even if I can’t be eating a lot of chocolate right now (I promise!). Maybe I’ll bake something. I know where my baking chocolate is so I can at least make something tasty.


May 3, 2007

Fake Chocolate?

Well, I'm back. I'm moved out and somewhat moved in. Somewhere in all the mess of moving I managed to end up with a medical issue that I think I now have under control. The medical issue seemed to be made worse by consumption of chocolate so I've been avoiding it for a couple of weeks, but now I'm back in the saddle again and the chocolate life may resume.

First order of business: FDA Proposed Changes to Chocolate
I've been kind of distant from chocolate and haven't spoken up on the subject and feel like I've really been shirking my duties because of it. It's been all over the internet and on the network news and in the papers and you can't avoid it. I'm talking about the scary attempt to re-define just what chocolate actually is from a legal standpoint. The main thrust is the ability to swap out the good and wonderful cocoa butter for vegetable fat (think Crisco) and still be able to legally call the product chocolate. All because vegetable oil is super-cheap compared to cocoa butter.

The long and short of it is this: they want the right to legally pass off an inferior product as chocolate.

You can guess my feelings on this whole mess. My one consolation is that as long as they don't get bought out by one of the monsters of the chocolate and candy world we should still be able to get our quality real chocolate from those companies that are dedicated to the art of chocolate.

If you aren't up to speed on the subject or want to know how to make your voice on the subject heard by the powers that be, you should head over to Candy Blog and check out Cybele's coverage of the subject. She's all over it and it would be silly of me to try and repost all of the content and repeat what she's already said so well so I'm just going to point you toward everything she has on the subject. She's leading the charge and bless her for doing so.

And Boo! on the FDA for even considering this stupidity.

FDA on Candy Blog

April 4, 2007

Mini-Review: Ben & Jerry's Americone Dream

After hitting over a dozen grocery stores I finally found two pints of the elusive Ben & Jerry's Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream ice cream (yay!). I've looked all over but wasn't finding it anywhere. I used the Ben & Jerry's Flavor Locator and maps generated by the Colbert Nation and still had no luck. I've been dying to try it since it was first announced in February but at long last I finally have my hands on (and spoon in) some.

Americone Dream is vanilla ice cream with fudge-covered waffle cone pieces and a caramel swirl all wrapped up in a lovely package with the highly amusing Mr. Colbert's face on the label. Oh, and all of Colbert's proceeds are going to charity! As I love ice cream, waffle cones, chocolate, and caramel it sounded like a natural fit for me. Like I do with most ice creams I left the fat-bomb on the counter to warm for a ten or fifteen minutes to soften and then popped the lid. First impression is that it is FULL of caramel and cone bits. This is a good thing. Second impression arrived via spoon and was equally as good as the first impression. Tasty tasty stuff. The caramel is soft and flowing and the waffle cone bits are plentiful and chocolaty and it's all quite tasty. The third impression came after another four or five bites and wasn't quite as good as the first two impressions. I like it a lot, but I do have one minor complaint. The waffle cone bits are a soft crunch. I'd like one more texture in there with a crunchier crunch like nuts of some sort. But that's just me and I'm picky like that. Heck, the nuts (or whatever) might have a detrimental effect on the flavor combination so I could be totally off base. Just seemed to me that it would be nice to have a more solid crunch.

So, what's the bottom line here? Well, I'm not going to give it a score. I don't generally review ice cream and this doesn't have a ton of chocolate going on in it so I'm going to just sort of generalize. If you like Ben & Jerry's ice cream (some don't - especially those who don't dig the superfat style of ice cream) and you like waffle cones and you like chocolate and you like caramel.... well it's hard to go wrong with this. It's darn good stuff if you happen to like this sort of thing.

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 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.

January 20, 2007

Comfort Chocolate and a Mini-Review

I always feel guilty when I ignore the blog for a few days, but this time I have a more valid excuse than usual. I’ve managed to pick up my annual winter cold and when I’m sick I just don’t really eat a lot of chocolate. It just isn’t on my list of comfort foods. And the more I think about it (and I’ve been thinking about it a lot the past couple of days as I’ve been dealing with this stupid cold) the more I’m sure that I couldn’t fit anything but chocolate confections or candy on the list. My sense of smell is poor at best and right now it’s non-existent. Over the past year I’ve come to expect more from chocolate and I don’t think that I could really appreciate good chocolate right now with my sense of smell more impaired than usual. A brownie or a chocolate chip cookie (fresh and hot – mmmm…. I think I need to bake) I could work with but really good chocolate would be totally lost on me right now. It’s kind of sad that as important as chocolate is to my daily life I can’t seem to fit it in while I’m sick. The only chocolate I’ve had since the cold set in has been some Mint Dark Chocolate Kit Kat Minis. Which brings me to a mini-review! One without a picture. Sorry about that.

Mint Dark Chocolate Kit Kat Minis
It’s interesting; Kit Kat is apparently spelled with a space in the US and without a space in the UK. This is based entirely on observation of the US and UK Kit Kat sites. I just noticed when I was trying to figure out whether I should stick a space in there or not. Anyway, on to the candy. These are cute! I haven’t tried any Mini Kit Kats before but I like the size of them. It’s a good two-bite snack size. The wrappers aren’t anything terribly special or anything, but it’s what’s inside that counts. The actual Kit Kat is, of course, darker than the standard milk chocolate variety and it has a nice minty smell to it. With the minty aroma I was worried these would be overly minty (or worse; overly sweet!) but while it is fairly strong it isn’t too strong (or too sweet!). The mint chocolate on the outside is nice and plentiful but kind of distracts from the cookie a little, though not enough to make me dislike it. I still prefer the original – it is one of my perennial faves – but this is a very good limited edition. I’ll score it a 7.75 out of 10. This may be a bit hard to find now (I waited until the holiday clearance and paid a whopping 75¢ for a bag) but if you hit the bargain stores you might find some being closed out.

January 9, 2007

Review: Bubble Chocolate

Bubble ChocolateOne of the great things about the chocolate market right now is that there is a lot of new and interesting product finding it’s way onto store shelves. One of those products is Bubble Chocolate, an new line of aerated chocolate bars which helps to catch us in the US up with our friends in other parts of the world. They’ve had Aero for a long time but we in the States were left without aerated chocolate until now (at least I haven't found any). Bubble chocolate is bringing us the aerated love in three varieties: Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, and Coffee Milk Chocolate. Tonight I’m going to tear into some samples I got in the mail and see just how they stack up.

Aerated Chocolate
So just what is the deal here? The simplest way I can think of to describe aerated chocolate is to say that it’s bubbly. You take a mass of tiny chocolate bubbles and somehow make them into a bar (and oh, how I would LOVE to see how they do it – I love seeing how things are made and this just has me curious). It’s sort of like pumice. Full of tiny little holes. As such it has a really interesting texture to it. It sort of collapses under your teeth and on your tongue. It’s quite nice.

Dark Chocolate

Once glance inside the wrapper and it’s clear that this is, indeed, dark chocolate. It’s a pretty dark chocolate color and smells nice. Flavor-wise it isn’t terribly complex. It is light and sweet for a dark chocolate with a light bright note to it but what really stands out is how creamy it is for a dark chocolate (Cybele noticed the same thing so I’m not imagining things here). Given its sweetness and the fact that it isn’t overly bitter or sour it is a very accessible dark chocolate and in spite of my tending away from those sorts of things I found myself really enjoying it. It’s a solid 8.25 out of 10 as far as I’m concerned.

Milk Chocolate

As one might expect this one is a fair bit sweeter than the dark chocolate bar and has a safely non-sour, milk chocolate flavor. It’s quite creamy and extremely smooth. I snuck a bite of an Aero for comparison and I think I like this better. As far as milk chocolate goes I like this a lot and, of course, it has the whole texture thing going for it. I’ll call it an 8 out of 10 and something I certainly wouldn’t turn my nose up at in the future.

Coffee Milk Chocolate
Now I have a love/hate relationship with coffee chocolates. They all sound so good to me but a lot of them are just too strong for me (which is strange since I adore chocolate covered espresso beans). This, however, is just right for me. The aroma is light, but all coffee. Taste-wise it has a really nice balance between a reasonably sweet and creamy milk chocolate and a nice mellow coffee and the combination is really nice. Very yummy stuff worth a nice 8.25 out of 10.

So what we have is a product that has not only a nice gimmick but some good chocolate as well. Bubble Chocolate is available nationwide, though I can say I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in a store. Anyway, it’s a neat texture and the chocolate is tasty stuff and it’s cheap to boot so if you run into it it’s definitely worth giving it a shot.

Cybele at Candy Blog Reviewed these back in July and you can read her review here.

December 27, 2006

Chocolate Holidays

Happy belated holidays!

For the past week I’ve either been scrambling to get ready for Christmas, celebrating with the family, or recovering from all the scrambling and celebrating. The whole time I was trying to figure out just where chocolate fit into the whole mess. It really doesn’t feel like there is a whole lot of chocolate in our holiday tradition. There are cookies and candy canes and eggnog (even eggnog soda) but aside from the odd cookie there really isn’t a lot of chocolate in the mix. We have never had a yule log so any chocolate that gets involved (usually lurking in a cookie, as a present, or in the form of Hershey’s Kisses in stockings) is lucky to do so. The biggest role chocolate plays in our tradition is the presence of York Peppermint Patties which have been a part of Christmas in our family for as long as I can remember. In my experience Christmas just isn’t much of a chocolate holiday.

December 26th, however, is all about chocolate. I don’t know a thing about Boxing Day beyond what I just read over at Wikipedia, but I do know for fact that it is one of MY chocolate holidays. In stores and on websites all across the country all that lovely holiday chocolate is put on sale at half off! That, my friends, is a reason to celebrate. And it only takes a day or two more for the chocolate to drop to 75% off! What could be better than cheap chocolate? Ok, I’ll admit that cheap good chocolate and free chocolate are both better, but sometimes you have to take what you can get. Most of the time, actually.

So in the end while Christmas itself isn’t that much of a chocolate holiday (in my experience), it does usher in one of the biggest chocolate holidays of the year in my book. Go forth and partake of the great bargains. I know I will.

Anyway, I hope everybody had a good holiday, whatever it may have been. I’m still working on a little gift for my readers that may or may not happen. It requires equal parts luck, skill, and memory and I’m sorely lacking in all three.

December 21, 2006

Go Forth And Read!

I'm trying to get my thoughts on holiday chocolate collected (and they are turning out to be few and to the point) but in the meantime I absolutely HAD to share this. I was over at Luxist (looking at things I could never afford ever) and they had a link to this series of looks into a Dallas-area chocolatier and their high-priced single origin chocolates. It's a really interesting piece of investigative journalism and I don't want to spoil the punchline for anybody so I'll keep it at that. Just give it a read.

December 14, 2006

Hot Chocolate Week: Day Twelve

It’s day twelve of Hot Chocolate “Week” and I’m taking the night off from doing reviews and looking back at the Aztec/Maya hot chocolates I’ve covered this week. And the first thing I notice is that there is at least one important contender missing from the lineup: Vosges Haut-Chocolat. The have their own take on Aztec hot chocolate with their Aztec Elixir and it sounds like it’s another winner. They appear to take the thick approach like Jacques Torres and Marie Belle do but they use “maize powder” (which they say is cornmeal) instead of the cornstarch that the others use. I really feel like the entire showdown is incomplete without their offering and I have a suspicion that there are more excellent contenders out there that have just managed to slip below my somewhat limited radar.

Ignoring the shortcomings of my selection I have got to say that I have gotten to try some fabulous hot chocolates and these Aztec and Maya styled ones have been some of the very best I’ve had to date. But now I’ve got a problem. I promised a “showdown” and I’m therefore somewhat obliged to deliver on that promise in at least some manner. Honestly, each of the Aztec and Maya hot chocolates that I tried are excellent in their own way. The Green & Black’s Maya Gold, Dagoba Xocolatl, and Lake Champlain Spicy Aztec are all easy to make and the Chuao Spicy Maya, Marie Belle Aztec, and Jacques Torres Wicked deliver serious chocolate. In the end, though, I have to give Jacqus Torres the top spot in the showdown. All of the hot chocolates I’ve tried have been great, but Wicked is an experience.

So my Hot Chocolate Week has run twelve days now. I think that this late in the game it would be a crime to not take it out to a full two weeks. I’ve got a few things held in reserve that are deserving of my time (and it’s not like I wasn’t going to drink them anyway).

December 13, 2006

Hot Chocolate Week: Day Eleven

At long last I’ve reached the end of the list of Aztec/Maya hot chocolates that I had foolishly thought to review over the course of a single day. This last one is another that I’ve had around the apartment since last winter and have enjoyed on more than one occasion. Up for review tonight is the Aztec Spicy Hot Chocolate from Lake Champlain Chocolates.

Lake Champlain take a reasonably traditional approach to the Aztec hot chocolate with the inclusion of hot peppers but taking a look at the ingredients we find it strays a little by being the only one of the hot chocolates in the showdown that has no chocolate in it. This one is made of sugar, cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. No chocolate, but do I love a nice, simple list of ingredients like that. You always know exactly what you’re dealing with. And what we’re dealing with tonight is a hot chocolate that is very easy to make. Since there is no chocolate to melt microwave preparation is very reasonable and they do include instructions for it. Not that I used them. No, I opted for the stovetop again. I followed the normal instructions and put 8 ounces of milk and a heaping tablespoon of mix in a pan and started heating it up. It mixed up to a very attractive deep, dark brown and held a good bit of froth when attacked with a whisk. Flavor-wise it’s pretty mellow. The cocoa is nice and not overly sweet and doesn't seem to suffer from not having actual chocolate in it. The spices are nice and the cayenne adds flavor but no heat. It makes for a really nice, comfortable hot cocoa that is great to just sit down and enjoy at the end of the day. It’s quite good and easy to make and as such it earns a 8.75 out of 10. It also goes great with a couple of snickerdoodles.

Woo hoo! That’s the end of the long list of Aztec/Maya hot chocolates (excluding the other Marie Belle I have yet to try). Now all that remains is a nice wrap-up post. And once that’s finished I have another couple of hot chocolates to push things out to a full two weeks.

December 12, 2006

More Hot Chocolate Fun!

Well, it looks like the Oregonian has got the hot chocolate spirit going today. They have a series of six separate articles on hot chocolate including recipes from The Essence of Chocolate (by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg) and the best-named cookbook ever, Chocolate Obsession (by Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage). Loads of great content to be read so head on over and check it out.

Hot Chocolate Week: Day Ten

At long last the end is in sight. I am pleased to say that tonight is the next to last review in the Aztec/Maya showdown. Tonight’s selection is Maya Gold Hot Chocolate from Green & Black's Organic. I bought this last winter and have been enjoying it since then when the weather allowed. I’m not sure I have another hot chocolate review in me, but I’m going to give it a shot.

Green and Black’s take a less spicy route than some of the Aztec/Maya hot chocolates I’ve sampled but they bring a nice shot of orange to the mix and wrap the whole thing up in organic and Fair Trade certifications. On top of that it’s an easy one to prepare (put 4 teaspoons of mix in 9 ounces of hot milk) and one that can reasonably be made in the microwave. And the ingredients are almost as simple as the preparation: cocoa, chocolate, powdered orange peel, orange flavoring, cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper. The first thing I noticed is that there are no chilies in it like the other Aztec/Maya style hot chocolates I’ve tried this week which is a nice change. To prepare it I opted for heating the milk on the stovetop (of course) and soon had a steaming cup of lightly orange scented, mellow brown hot chocolate. The chocolate is smooth, creamy, and easily drinkable and has a nice current of orange flavor lurking just beneath the surface. The cinnamon and nutmeg are more background notes to the flavor, but they’re there and a nice complement to the chocolate and orange. It’s a very mellow and relaxing hot chocolate that is a nice treat after a long day. I’ll give it a 8.75 out of 10 and put this review to bed.

These reviews are getting progressively more difficult to do. You have no idea how glad I am that I only have one left before I can wrap things up. Of course I’ll probably have to find something else to post to stretch it to complete the second week.

December 11, 2006

Hot Chocolate Week: Day Nine

I’m getting close to the end of the long list of hot chocolates I set out to try just over a week ago and I’m beginning to feel a little bit burned out. Or maybe it’s just my throat. Tonight, to continue the woefully prolonged Aztec/Maya showdown, I mixed up a cup of Dagoba’s Xocolatl Hot Chocolate - and it’s some potent stuff! Not only is it potent, but it’s organic and Fair Trade Certified - bonus!

Unlike the hot chocolates of the last couple of days that are almost entirely chocolate this one has cocoa and chocolate. The full list of ingredients is evaporated cane juice, cacao powder, unsweetened chocolate, chilies, cinnamon, and of course, love (their words, but I take them at their word). The cane juice, cacao, and chocolate are all certified organic (their website says that the chilies are as well – my canister is a little old so it may have changed). Now I have to say up front that I did NOT have instructions for this. There might have been instructions in the Limited Edition canister when I got it but if there were then I've somehow managed to lose them (it's the sort of thing I'd do). I did, however, find the right proportions on the mighty interweb. So I heated up a cup of milk and added three tablespoons of the Xocolatl mix. It looks beautiful and doesn’t smell too spicy, but there is a bit of bite to the taste when you take a sip and when you go to swallow… well, it steps up to be more than just a bit of bite. You feel every sip in the throat. But between each toasty swallow there is a lot of very nice flavor. The chilies are more the stars than the spice in this one but both are wrapped up in a lovely chocolate flavor that can't help but steal the show. It’s a very nice combination and earns the Xocolatl a 9.25 out of 10. You just have to watch out for that burn.

One more down and only two more to go. Odds are that triple-overtime won’t get it done, but I'm thinking that quadruple-overtime should get us there. It’s beginning to look a lot more like a Hot Chocolate Fortnight than of a mere Hot Chocolate Week.

December 10, 2006

Hot Chocolate Week: Day Eight!?

Ok, so Hot Chocolate Week is moving into overtime. I have a pretty decent array of Aztec style hot chocolates still waiting for my attention and I’m finding I can’t handle trying all of them in one day – it’s just too much. Even I have limits. But tonight I am going to manage sampling two of them. I had to do both of these at the same time if only because the cans are so similar. The two hot chocolates on deck are Chuao Chocolatier’s Spicy Maya Hot Chocolate and Marie Belle’s Aztec Hot Chocolate.

Chuao: Chuao is a SoCal chocolatier that I was unaware of until my most recent trip to Jungle Jim’s (yeah, I’ve been lax in posting the Safari info – there were a couple that were really pretty much non-events). I was checking out the hot chocolate section to see if there was anything that would be a good fit for Hot Chocolate Week and there was their Aztec hot chocolate begging me to buy it. I’m weak willed so into the cart it went. All that background stuff aside, lets get to the review. The ingredients are simple enough: chocolate, sugar, dehydrated milk, chilies, and spices. You put three tablespoons of mix (they give you a little spoon for it - thoughtful!) into a half cup of boiling water, get it back to a boil and whisk it for 30 seconds. It’s thick, but liquid enough to drink without the need of a spoon. And it’s spicy. The chilies give it a nice kick of serious heat and help balance the other spices. Overall it’s really good though some might find it a little on the hot side. I’ll give it a 9 out of 10 and have to say I am looking forward to trying some more of their products (I have a bar of their chocolate waiting for me on the kitchen counter).

Marie Belle: Like Jacques Torres, Marie Belle is one of the places I really wanted to visit in New York (I’ll get there eventually) so when it came time for me to do the whole Hot Chocolate Week thing it was a natural for me to order some from them. The ingredients are, like most of these hot chocolates in the endgame, relatively simple (and multi-purpose – they use one can for their various Aztec hot chocolates). It’s got chocolate, cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, milk, cornstarch, soy lecithin, and natural flavorings (which may include coffee, chipotle, ancho chile, cinnamon, and nutmeg). The primary instructions (there are two alternate preparations on the can) call for you to add one cup of mix to one cup of boiling water. Yes, that’s a full 1:1 water to chocolate ratio. Even without the cornstarch in it this would be thick stuff. And it is thick stuff. Very like the Jacques Torres (which also had cornstarch) in terms of thickness so it was more suited to eating with a spoon than drinking. Any spices in it are much more subtle than the Chuao or Torres offerings so the experience is more chocolate with maybe some spices along for the ride. It’s excellent stuff and a more laid back approach to Aztec hot chocolate than some others. It’s wonderful enough to also get a 9 out of 10 and has me looking forward to trying the dark chocolate version of their hot chocolate (which I happen to have as well).

So that’s two more down and only three left (four if I include the other Marie Belle and don’t try any alternate preparation methods). Luckily the remaining hot chocolates should all be a little thinner than what I’ve had these last two nights and I should be able to tackle them in short order.

December 9, 2006

Hot Chocolate Week: Day Seven

All right, I can admit when I’m wrong. I bit off more than I could chew.

I decided that I would give up my aim of hitting all six (seven actually – nine if you count different preparation methods I wanted to try) of the Aztec/Maya hot chocolates I have lined up and shoot for three. I could do two separate rounds of tasting and then write up a separate post summing things up. It was a nice simple plan and like most simple plans it was doomed to get complicated.

The first hot chocolate I picked to try was one that doesn’t declare itself as Aztec or Maya but falls firmly into that same group based on the spices involved: Jacques Torres Wicked Hot Chocolate. This is one of the things I most wanted to try in New York. I’ll allow the description from the Jacques Torres web site to speak for the chocolate and it’s ingredients:

Try the Wicked Hot Chocolate that features allspice, cinnamon, ground, sweet ancho chili peppers, and smoked, ground chipotle chili peppers!
You will notice that cocoa is not mentioned and the simple reason for that is that Jacques Torres hot chocolate “is made with real chocolate – never cocoa powder.” This is serious stuff. The instructions make the seriousness of the product all the more clear. They call for a half-cup of milk and a heaping quarter-cup of chocolate. It sounds like a small serving, but it's like a meal. It mixes up THICK. It’s the sort of hot chocolate that you eat with a spoon. The chilies don't add a ton of burn but do impart a good bit of heat and flavor and the spices are a nice addition as well. It even stands up to my usual standard of balance. All of the spices add something to the chocolate but nothing overpowers anything else. But, like I said, it’s somewhat like a meal. I might, in a few hours, be able to manage another hot chocolate, but this has me satiated for now. I’ve hit my chocolate limit. So much so that I nearly forgot to try and rate it I was so overwhelmed. So, ummm... yeah. It’s excellent stuff and quite a fine treat. So fine a treat that I’m calling it a full 9.5 out of 10 and it only misses a 10 because I'd have trouble eating cookies with it (I like a little snackage with my hot chocolate).

So, where does this leave the rest of the showdown? I’m not sure. I’ll add more as I can, but I don’t quite know how long it will take. A number of these look like they’re similar to this one so it could take a while.

Aztec/Maya Showdown Round 1 Results – Jacques Torres: 1 - Me: 0

December 8, 2006

Hot Chocolate Week: Day Six

It’s night six of Hot Chocolate Week! Only one more day to go and… I don’t know if I’m going to be able to pull off tomorrow’s big finish. But that’s something for me to worry about tomorrow. Tonight I have Williams-Sonoma Hot Chocolate to hold my attention and let me tell you – it is very worth the attention.

So I went to the mall to get some Godiva hot chocolate mix. I wanted something to round out the week and figured that would fit the bill nicely. But I can’t go to the mall without sticking my nose into Williams-Sonoma to look at all the pretty toys I would so love to have in my kitchen. And what do I see as I walk in the store? Hot chocolate of course. It was about then that I remembered that I had been carrying around a W-S gift card since my birthday and just never got around to using it. Well, that changed quickly enough. A big can of hot chocolate mix and Gale Gand’s new cookbook, Chocolate & Vanilla, went home with me and I ended up not setting foot one in the Godiva.

Not that it wouldn’t have gone home with me without the gift card. One look at the ingredients is all it would have taken. They are, in their entirety: bittersweet Guittard chocolate, soya lecithin, and pure vanilla. Oh, my. It’s virtually all chocolate. How wrong is that? There’s no hope for microwave instructions for this one. The can says to heat a cup of milk and whisk in 5 tablespoons of chocolate mix and stir until it’s all dissolved. What you are left with is a beautiful deep brown with a nice chocolate aroma with not a hint of sweetness. The taste is, as one would expect, deep chocolate. The milk softens the bittersweet chocolate a little and makes it very smooth and mellow without making it any less rich. This is some darn good hot chocolate and I’m calling it an 8.75 out of 10. I have a suspicion that if I substitute cream for some of the milk it could be even better.

That’s six nights of hot chocolate down and one BIG night left. I have six hot chocolates on deck for the grand finale. I’m not really sure I can manage to knock off six hot chocolates in one day. Time will tell, I suppose.

December 7, 2006

Hot Chocolate Week: Day Five

Wow, this week is just flying by! It’s already day five of Hot Chocolate Week – a mere two days left after this! I’ve only got a limited amount of time to kick up the chocolate content and see just how chocolaty things can get. So tonight I’m going to be trying King’s Cupboard Dark Chocolate Chunk Hot Chocolate, another one that the nice people at Cocoa Connoisseur sent my way, and it is loaded with big fat chunks of chocolate.

The ingredients are pretty attractive featuring lots of chocolate and cocoa and when you tear in you find that they really weren’t kidding about the chocolate chunks. This mix is chock full of big fat chunks of chocolate. In spite of that it still has microwave instructions on the can. All you have to do is heat six ounces of milk and add two and a half tablespoons of mix and blend until the chunks are melted. It sounds so simple! And, for the most part, it is. I nuked my milk until it was too hot to touch and dumped in my hot chocolate mix (which was kind of difficult to measure because of the chunks) and started stirring. And I kept stirring. A whole five minutes I stirred and still the chocolate chunks weren’t all melted. This is why I use the stovetop. My issues with the microwave aside this was absolutely excellent stuff. It’s dark and chocolaty without being too sweet and is excellent without needing any extra whipped cream or marshmallows. It’s smooth and tasty and tastes like chocolate. What more could I ask for? It gets a healthy 8.5 out of 10 points. Darn good stuff and definitely worth a taste.

Tonight’s hot chocolate had a lot of chocolate in it, but it still had its fair share of cocoa. Tomorrow night I’m cracking the can on one that has but three ingredients, and none of them are cocoa.

December 6, 2006

Hot Chocolate Week: Day Four

It’s day four of Hot Chocolate Week and up until now I’ve only had “hot chocolate” that really wasn’t much more than cocoa and sugar. Tonight that changes as we turn our sights to one of the most well established brands of premium chocolate in America, Ghirardelli, and their Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa.

Yep, tonight’s selection has real chocolate in it. The full list is sugar, cocoa, unsweetened chocolate, soy lecithin, and vanilla. So we get both cocoa and chocolate. While I’m looking at the back of the packet it’s a good time to check the instructions. It turns out that this is another hot chocolate that’s easy to make. The instructions tell you to add the contents of the packet (it’s also available in big cans) to six ounces of hot milk. Easy peasy, no? As usual I put the milk on the stovetop (the old standby) and got it good and hot then ripped open the packet. The contents smelled a bit sweet, but I was pleased to see that the chocolate in it is in little bitty bits that are perfect for melting in the hot milk. As expected they dissolved almost instantly and I ended up with a half-mug of nicely dark hot chocolate. The finished product is smooth and tasty, though a little sweet. Personally I like to add sweetness in the form of whipped cream or marshmallow but that would probably be too much for me in this. Sweetness aside, though, this has the taste of real chocolate to it and is a nice addition to the cocoa I’ve been trying so far. It’s still not the homemade stuff I made on Saturday, but it’s got a touch of the good stuff to it. Pretty good hot chocolate to the tune of an 8 out of 10. The serving size was a little small (note: the serving size for the big can of the same product is eight ounces) but the hot chocolate was pretty good stuff.

Tomorrow night we get to see what happens when you take big chunks of chocolate and try and melt them in a cup of hot milk. If my previous experience is any indication it’s going to be an argument against microwave hot chocolate preparation.

December 5, 2006

Hot Chocolate Week: Day Three

It’s kind of funny that I’m up to day three of Hot Chocolate Week and none of the products I’ve tried so far have contained actual chocolate – just cocoa, sugar, and assorted other things. Tonight won’t change that much. But tonight’s selection does bring something new to the table that the others didn’t have: mint! Tonight I’m trying some all-natural Omanhene Peppermint Hot Cocoa that was sent my way by the nice people at Cocoa Connisseur (who have a really impressive selection of hot chocolate and drinking chocolate).

This is another product that is simple to make and includes microwave instructions that are reasonable to use. Preparation calls for putting two tablespoons of the mix in eight ounces of hot milk. When I cracked open the can on this one I was hit in the face with a nice cocoa aroma with strong minty overtones. When you get it all mixed you have a very light brown cocoa that is pretty easy to froth (froth is fun). It’s interesting that with as strong a mint aroma its flavor is very light – neither the mint nor the chocolate is very strong but the two are perfectly balanced with each other and the milk. It was very smooth and went down quickly. Overall another good and easy selection, but one that is maybe more suited to a specific mood or those who like their cocoa a little less chocolaty. I’m typically pretty open minded to varying levels of chocolate so I still enjoyed it a lot. I’ll give it a solid 7.5 out of 10. It’s some tasty stuff and well suited to the holiday season with its lightly minty flavor. I think I'm going to give this another try with a little Chocolate Mint Baileys in it (yum!).

And with that we reach the end of the products that are strictly cocoa. Starting tomorrow the hot chocolates will contain actual chocolate (what a concept). Most have a combination of cocoa and chocolate but some have little more than pure chocolate in them. This is where things start to get interesting.

December 4, 2006

Hot Chocolate Week: Day Two

For day two I decided we’d take a step up in terms of quality and a small step back in terms of convenience. But any losses in terms of convenience are completely made up for by the fact that tonight’s selection is both organic and Fair Trade certified! Tonight we take a taste of Lake Champlain Organic Hot Chocolate!

Preparing the Bellagio cocoa from yesterday was as simple as adding hot water. Tonight’s hot chocolate calls for hot milk but includes microwave instructions so it really isn’t any more difficult to make (I still opted for the stovetop instructions). Even better, the ingredients list is brief and beautiful. All that’s in the can is sugar and cocoa and, of course, it’s all organic.

When you peel back the silver freshness seal on the top of the can you are greeted with a very nice chocolate aroma. The instructions say to add one heaping tablespoon of the mix to 8 oz of milk and heat until it’s hot. The mix dissolved completely with no nasty lumps to deal with and yielded a nice mellow brown hot chocolate. The taste is nice and chocolaty, lightly creamy and not too sweet. It smells darn good, too. It’s nice and smooth without having a grainy mouth feel. It’s quality stuff, easy to make, and comes with the added benefits of being organic and Fair Trade certified. As such, it earns a big fat 8 out of 10. Very nice stuff.

We’ll look at more Lake Champlain in our Azetc/Maya hot chocolate showdown at the end of the week. Tomorrow: things get minty!

December 3, 2006

Hot Chocolate Week: Day One

We’re going to kick off Hot Chocolate Week with the ultimate in convenience: instant hot cocoa. And for our instant hot cocoa selection we have Bellagio Chocolate Truffle Gourmet Hot Cocoa. All you have to do is add the contents of the little packet to six ounces of hot water and mix well. What could be simpler?

So what do Bellagio bring to the table? Well, opening the packet it smells sort of like cocoa, but sweet and with a strange edge to it. It might be the non-dairy creamer that is the first ingredient in the list that gives it that edge, but I have no way of being sure. Mixing is easy. It dissolves easily and completely in the water with no sludge in the bottom of the mug and no lumps floating around in it. Taste is pretty decent. It reminds me a lot of the hot cocoa I had as a child but a bit more chocolaty. And it's really pretty smooth which you don't always get with these mixes. Considering how simple it is to make it really is pretty decent. I'll give it a 6.5 out of 10. It’s definitely not my first choice, but if I only had water and a microwave (and no tea) then I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it. It sure doesn't hurt that it takes all of a minute to make.

Not a bad way to start things but I'm looking forward to what the rest of the week holds. The quality goes way way up from here.

December 2, 2006

Hot Chocolate Week Prep Work

I figured that before I went and reviewed a stack of hot chocolate mixes I should first establish a standard for comparison. My belief is that most things are better homemade so I figured I would make a quick and simple hot chocolate myself and use it for my benchmark. This is the recipe I used for a basic hot chocolate and a little fresh whipped cream to top it off with.

Continue reading "Hot Chocolate Week Prep Work" »

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.

Continue reading "M&M's Pirate Pearls Revisited" »

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 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.

October 25, 2006

The Chocolate Life

Lately I've been a mite stressed out due to a number of problems and as a result I've been rather rudely ignoring my blogging obligations. That's not to say that I haven't been thinking about chocolate. After last weeks painful Dagobombshell (which might not be as bad as I feared - David Lebovitz got the scoop from Frederick Schilling of Dagoba) I really couldn't help but be thinking about chocolate. This is a bit of a roundup of what's been going on in my life and my head regarding my favorite food.

Dagoba, as I hinted in my post about them being bought by Hershey (*sigh*), has two new bars that they're bringing to market and they sound pretty interesting. The first one is their Prima Materia which is a 100%(!) cacao content bar. They put special effort into getting the perfect blend to keep the astringency down to a reasonable level. Normally I would shy away from a 100% bar, but I think that if anybody can make a good one it's got to be Dagoba. The second new bar is the Sambirano 65% sigle origin bar made with nothing but trinitario beans from the Sambirano region of Madagascar. This one I'm dying to try. An organic, single origin bar made with Madagascar sourced trinitario beans is one I don't want to miss. I'm quite curious about the one and eager to try the other so I think they are both going on my shopping list.

Speaking of my shopping list, I keep buying (and of course eating) chocolate, whether I blog about it or not. This past week I've been gnawing away at a Ghirardelli Intense Dark Citrus Sunset which has little orange and caramel bits running through it. Not a world-class tasting chocolate, but a nice thing to absent mindedly gnaw at while getting things done. The other thing I've opened and started to enjoy is a Valrhona Organic Dark Bar. Very nice stuff (not that I'd expect anything less from Valrhona). I'm probably going to work up a review of it (if I don't eat it too quickly - oh, that would be a sin) when I have a chance. Other than that I've not really eaten anything too special lately.

I have had something special to drink, though. Hot chocolate season is upon us again! Autumn seems to have given up early and winter is setting in (at least around here) and nothing chases the chill away like hot chocolate. Last winter disappointed and I didn't feel the need for hot chocolate nearly as much as I hoped. As a result I have a pantry full of leftovers (I need to check and see if any of it is still good - my Green & Black's and Dagoba are actual chocolate as opposed to cocoa and might have a limited shelf life). Hopefully I won't have the same problem this year (or at least I'll not buy quite so much as last year).

Hey, that's right! It's nearly November. I have a flight to New York scheduled for two weeks from today. Sadly, I think I'm going to have to cancel. My rabbit's health isn't what I would like it to be and I'm afraid that the stress of me taking off could make it significantly worse. While I want to go on this vacation I don't want to risk my bunny. I can cancel my vacation and only be out the cost of the plane ticket and use a portion of the money I'll save on hotel and food and shows and whatnot to put in a big fat order in at Chocosphere. It won't be the same thing as five days in Manhattan, but I'll be able to spend those days eating chocolate and spoiling my rabbit so it's a pretty fair trade.

I say that 'I think' I'm going to have to cancel but I've really been resigned to this for weeks and just haven't gotten around to posting about it. I put a lot of time and effort and thought into planning this trip and I hate to just put it aside, but the way I see it both I and New York will probably still be around next year and the city will probably still be crawling with fantastic chocolate. I figure that the baseball mantra of "There's always next year" will do me just fine for now.

Ok, lets put the unhappiness aside and close things up with a couple of recipes that have popped up in the last couple of days! First up the Kansas City Star have a recipe for Chocolate Chip Strawberry Muffins. I love muffins, chocolate, and strawberries so I might be giving this one a try. The Seattle Times have a muffin recipe up this week as well. They are offering up Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins which sound interesting. I haven't had many things combining chocolate and pumpkin, but those I've had have been pretty good so I might break down and give these a try.

All I got for you today!

October 19, 2006

Hersheygoba? Hershey Buys Dagoba!

dagoba.jpgOh, damn.

I was getting ready to do a post on the new single origin bars from Dagoba (I'll get to those later I guess) and then this lands in my inbox. It seems that buying Scharffen Berger wasn't enough for them and now Hershey has bought Dagoba. They don't seem to have ruined Scharffen Berger, but I'm not sure if a giant corporate beast can help but change a small-batch artisanal chocolate maker like Dagoba.

Let the FUD begin.

Press Release

October 16, 2006

Chocolate Skyscraper?

Funny that the same day I get the news of a massive chocolate igloo I also get news of a massive chocolate skyscraper. A French chef who works at the Hyatt in Chicago has built a giant chocolate skyscraper at FAO Schwartz in New York. The skyscraper, almost 21 feet tall, isn't a replica of any single building but instead is a hodge-podge of New York architecture. I'm hoping for a more detailed article in the future. The articles I've seen are small and don't offer a lot of detail so I'd like a little something more on this one but at least there are some good pictures. Check 'em out!

Chocolate Igloo?

Any time somebody builds something big and impressive out of chocolate I tend to be amused and enthralled. The inventiveness and scale they achieve in their creations always leaves me floored, and this is no exception. At the Eurochocolate fair in Italy (now added to the list of events I want to attend) they have built a full-sized igloo out of chocolate. That's over 3 tons of chocolate (if I'm converting from metric correctly). I'm torn between the shocking waste of 3 tons of chocolate and the cool absurdity of a chocoalte igloo. Neat stuff. The gallery at the Eurochocolate site is excellent (though their site is a little slow) so check it out.
News Article
Eurochocolate Igloo Gallery
Eurochocolate Non-Igloo Gallery

October 9, 2006

Review: sweetriot flavor 65

I always have trouble starting to write a review (almost as much as taking decent pictures). There are only so many ways you can say, “Hey, I bought some chocolate!” Eventually you just don’t know what else to say. You just don’t quite know how to open things up.

So, umm... guess what? I bought some chocolate!

The selection of treats at Whole Foods Market doesn’t seem to change a whole lot and around here it’s about the best thing going (that I’m aware of) so when something new shows up on the shelf I tend to get a little excited. So, when I found the lovely products of sweetriot (lower case intentional) waiting for me on a recent trip to the store I was quite a happy camper.

sweetriot make nibs (which they describe as cocoa ‘peaces’) covered in chocolate in one of three cacao percentages: a mellow 50% semi-dark, a more intense 65% dark (which I bought), and one more step up to 70% dark. All this nibby goodness is delivered in a small metal tin that reminds me of the metal boxes we used to get Band-Aids in (do they still make those metal boxes?) only smaller. And with a cooler lid. And cool art gracing the label on the tin. And lovely chocolate-covered nibs inside. And little cacao facts on a strip of paper (much like that in a fortune cookie) lurking among the nibs. It’s a miracle of marketing. Compact and attractive and filled with chocolaty goodness.

And speaking of chocolaty goodness (transitions are easier than openings I guess) their nibs are coated with a lot of chocolate. In the past I might have considered this a bad thing (I like nibs – a lot) but these really feel like a great amount of chocolate per nib. It makes for a nice balance between the chocolate and the nib. It’s good chocolate, too. I feel a hair guilty because I didn’t really give the chocolate a lot of thought and can’t even begin to describe it. It was good and plentiful. It was the sort of chocolate you eat and eat and then wonder where it all went. As there is only one serving per tin (and a paltry 140 calories) it is easy to eat them all before you know what happened to them. I had to hide them from myself so I would have a few left for the picture.

But wait, there’s more! Not only do they make great chocolate covered nibs in lovely tins with cool art and cacao factoids hidden within, but they do it all in a all natural and ethical fashion! Their product is all natural, kosher, dairy-free, gluten-free, GMO-free and produced in accord with the principles of Fair Trade (they are working on getting their Fair Trade certification). At first I found all of this horribly out of sync with the little tin that they were using for their packaging. I felt that if they insist on using these admittedly cool tins that they should be either recyclable or they should at least give you the option of sending the tin back to them. Well, guess what? A quick trip to their site shows that they are indeed recyclable and they do indeed allow you to send you tins back in and they also give you some nice hints for how to reuse the tins!

Great chocolate, great packaging, and great attitude. All this for the low, low price of only $6.00 (though Cybele has seen them in the wild for $5.00). Wait a tic. The tin only contains 1oz. A quick check on the old calculator would tend to put the price of these nibs at $96/lb ($80/lb if you buy at $5/tin). Yee-OUCH! That is not cheap. Cybele noted this as well in her review. Dagoba’s nibs run $36/lb, Scharffen Berger nibs run about $28.50, and Santander’s nibs run under $22/lb (darn, I have to try these now).

The price differential is kind of extreme, but only sweetriot comes in such a convenient, snack-sized tin of unsurpassed loveliness. At the end of the day it’s a great product with beautiful, convenient packaging in a prefect single serving size and whether it’s for you depends on what price you place on convenience. I loved these nibs a lot and was absolutely planning on buying more prior to thinking about the price. Even after thinking about the price I still want to buy more, but I’m also looking at alternatives (and feeling bad for doing so). Ignoring price this is a solid 9 out of 10. What effect the price has on that number is up to you. And whatever you think of the price, check their site out. Even if the price is a little steep for your blood they have very cool t-shirts.

Ok, so I love the product and think the price is more than a little high, but I see some potential options here. The tins are lovely and I could easily see them selling a more collectible style tin with more of the art on them. A sweetriot art pack (or at least some extra stickers with just the art on them). I also think that given their stance on reuse/recycling they should offer a big bag so you can refill your own tin. If you do an even cooler tin and give us the option to refill it with more sweetriot nibs bought in bulk for a (hopefully much) lower price then that would be spectacular. Not that they don’t have a great product, I just look for potential and, honestly, was thinking how great it would be to buy a big bag of Dagoba Xocolatl nibs and drag them around in my sweetriot tin – which I’m sure isn’t the type of reuse that they want to encourage. The availability of a big fat bag of sweetriot nibs would help keep thoughts like that out of my mind. That's my two cents for what it’s worth (not much, I'm sure).

September 28, 2006

World’s Largest Ice Cream Social

coldstone.gifTONIGHT (September 28, 2006) Cold Stone Creamery is holding its fifth annual World’s Largest Ice Cream Social, a special fundraising event that benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Between 5:00 and 8:00 tonight customers attending the event at any of their locations in the US, Guam, and Puerto Rico will receive a free 3oz Cole’s Creation (chocolate ice cream, yellow cake, chocolate chips, and rainbow sprinkles) and are encouraged to donate to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Chocolate, ice cream, charity – what’s not to love?

Sorry about the short notice, but the press release came out two days ago and I missed it! If I hadn’t been cruising my favorite deals site I wouldn’t have known about it at all.

Press Release

September 27, 2006

Godiva's Golden Friday

godivalogo.gifI love mailing lists. Ok, I love good mailing lists. Chocolate makers and chocolatiers tend to have some nice mailing lists and one of my favorites is Godiva. They aren't my number one choice for chocolate, but they are great at letting you try their new products when they come out. Well, this Friday, September 29th, they are celebrating their "new" Gold Collection and true to form they are giving us a chance to try their new goodies for free.

Last week Lauren Young with Business Week was kind enough to let me know that she had an article up on the reinvention of the Gold Collection. I won't go into the depth she does in her article (which is a good read with some company history, the scoop on the new look and flavors and some amusing reader comments) but what I want to go into is the goodness that they are sharing with us.

First off, if you stop in on Friday or Saturday you can get free samples. On top of that they are having a contest that can win you a year worth of Godiva chocolate. I know that Godiva isn't everybody's favorite, but even those who don't love them aren't likely to turn down that much free chocolate. And the odds aren't nearly as long as you might think. They are giving away a year of chocolate to ten winners - PER BOUTIQUE! I know it sounds crazy but that is what the mailing says (and who knows, it could be wrong). If it is right then I like those odds a lot. And even if you can't get in to a boutique on Friday or Saturday you can enter online. The online sweepstakes looks like it is separate from the one referenced in the mailing and there are only 10 winners so it would seem to thin your odds a LOT compared to the in store odds. But it gives you a shot. And don't worry that you'll miss out on free chocolate if you can't make it in. They are having free samples of the Gold Collection from 9/29 - 10/1, 10/6 - 10/8, and 11/10 - 11/12. That's a lot of opportunities for some free chocolate.

Now the last thing I need to do is nudge people to think about these little mailing lists. Not only do you get the lowdown on the free chocolate events and the news about contests and new products but now and then you get some extra free stuff that only those on the mailing list get. Earlier this year I got a free Chocolixir and this time around I got a little certificate for a free four-piece Gold Collection Ballotin. Some of these mailing lists really pay off.

September 26, 2006

Review: Flippin' Fudge!

For me fudge has always been a special thing that I generally associate with summer. Fudge was something we could only get on vacation or at the fair. As such I tend to consider it synonymous with good times. Fudge and good times go hand in hand so what better to give as a gift than fudge? Well, Tim and Liz Young are ready to help you give that gift with their new Flippin’ Fudge.

Tim contacted me a few weeks ago to introduce me to Flippin’ Fudge and ask if I wouldn’t like to try some. I do try to discourage people from sending me free chocolate (I know – it sounds crazy), but this is one product I decided (somewhat selfishly) that I wasn’t going to refuse. I’m glad I didn’t.

There are a couple of things that set Flippin’ Fudge apart from the traditional fudge and the first one is the packaging. The packaging is bright, colorful and fun. The box it arrives in has the logo on it and when you open it up you find that the fudge itself is swimming in a sea of lovely stringy colorful paper packing material. The colors for some reason remind me of a piñata, but I make strange associations all the time. Anyway, once you get inside the box-within-a-box you find neat little squares of fudge in attractive purple wrapping, all clearly labeled with the logo and the name of the flavor. From start to finish it’s all bright and colorful and, above all, fun.

The next thing that sets Flippin’ Fudge apart is the flavor variety. Some of the flavors are rather traditional fudge flavors (though all with a twist) and some would be perfectly at home in a truffle from a fine chocolatier. Here’s the rundown:

Dark Secret:
This helps to set a theme for the fudge to come. This is a dark chocolate fudge and breaking away from tradition it isn’t the super sweet affair your standard fudge tends to be. This is focused on the chocolate and is nicely dark and very chocolaty. The texture (which is pretty consistent across all the flavors) is thick and smooth. I’m a traditional grainy crumbly fudge person at heart but this is really nice too.

Skippy’s Surprise:
I expected this to be a standard peanut butter fudge and boy was I wrong. This is a big fat fudge sandwich with chocolate fudge as the bread and peanut butter fudge in the middle. I’ve always found peanut butter fudge by itself to be only worth a bite or two (just a question of taste – I don’t do peanut butter pie or ice cream either) but this is the fudge equivalent of a Reece’s Cup. Even better the peanut butter fudge tastes like good peanut butter with a nice hit of salt.

Fuzzy Bubble:
Stepping away from the traditional fudge flavors we come to the Fuzzy Bubble which is a peach champagne fudge. This is a flavor combination I cannot believe I have not seen in a truffle. It’s a natural if you ask me. As a fudge I found it a bit overwhelming. Not bad, but strong. If you love peach then this may be more up your alley, but I’ll tend to try and share this piece of the selection out so I can focus on other flavors.

Island Retreat:
This is a coconut fudge and much more to my liking. You can smell the coconut in it as soon as you peel the wrap. It’s a pretty strong coconut flavor and at first seems almost too strong, but you are left with a mouthful of lovely perfect chocolate and coconut flavor.

Citrus Shot:
This time we get orange and just the right amount. The coconut was a hair strong for me but this was just right as far as my tastes go. I like a nice balance between the chocolate and whatever flavor is in with it and this hits my sweet spot. Your mileage may vary depending on how you feel about citrus in your chocolate.

Wake-Up Call:
Espresso! A pretty nice combination of coffee and chocolate. It’s got a nice deep coffee flavor but doesn’t stike me as being quite as strong as espresso. That said, I sometimes find espresso a little much and this works just fine for me so again, your mileage may vary. Those expecting the strength of espresso might be a little let down, but to me it has a wonderful deep coffee flavor that is nicely balanced to the chocolate.

Toffee Crunch:
This was pretty nice. A nice fudge with sweet and salty toffee running through it. I’m not a huge toffee fan but this works quite nicely for me. Very very nice.

Berry Nuts:
As usual it’s the raspberries that get me. Berry Nuts has raspberry and walnuts in lovely fudge and it’s really nice. Very good. I love walnuts and I love raspberry and I love fudge, especially with nuts in it so this is the no-brainer of the bunch.

If I had to sum up Flippin’ Fudge in a single word that word would be “fun.” Their website and the products are all bright and colorful and dripping with fun. When you get a package from Flippin’ Fudge it is a good and exciting thing. It’s certainly a gift you’ll remember. It’s good stuff and I’m calling it an 8 out of 10.

The bottom line is that they have a good fun product on their hands and hopefully a bright future. Stop by their site and take a look around. Be sure to check out the about page – it’s a good read and gives the story behind the name.

Alternate Takes:
Candy Blog
Candy Yum Yum!

September 18, 2006

Review: Ritter Sport Milk Chocolate With Rum, Raisins & Hazelnuts

It’s funny. You would think that when stressed out a chocolate fiend like me would start hitting it hard. But for some reason I’m eating less and less chocolate and what I eat is often whatever I see at the grocery store that catches my eye. Luckily I still grab items like this Ritter Sport Milk Chocolate with Rum, Raisins & Hazelnuts (wow - long name) and absent-mindedly gnaw away. In the case of this “bar” (it’s hard for me to call Ritter’s neat squares bars) I opened the package and was floored by the strong scent of rum. There was no way to absent-mindedly eat something like this. I did, however, get most of the way through it before I thought to grab a picture. Oops.

First, I love the way Ritter Sport wrap their chocolate. It is so easy to open. There is a really nice seam that’s easy to split and allows you to quickly and neatly access the chocolate goodness sealed within. Yeah, I’m easily amused. As I alluded to earlier the bar smells like rum. Rum and chocolate. It really sort of hits you in the face with the whole rumminess of it all. I checked the ingredients and was surprised to find that rum – not rum flavoring or rum extract or anything like that – is an actual ingredient.

The bar… block… series of blocks?… is well formed as expected and just one look at the underside shows it studded with raisins and hazelnuts. One bite confirms what the bottom hints at: the bar is loaded with raisins and hazelnuts. I’m of the school of thought that if you are going to put things in your chocolate don’t skimp – do it up right and leave no bite lacking. This bar is chock full of the good stuff. And it tastes great too! It’s got a very strong rum flavor to it but it fit my mood to a t. Long story short I call it an 8.75 out of 10.

It should be noted that they have a version of the same…. err… not a bar… product sans the rum. I grabbed one at lunch today and it’s good too!

Cybele of Candy Blog reviewed this one too! Head on over and check out her review!

September 11, 2006

Peeps Cocoa Cats

Today was pretty Mondayish right up until I went to the store. I needed lights for the kitchen and while I was there I figured I’d look and see if there was anything interesting and chocolaty to be found. Ritter Sport found it’s way into my grubby hands but the true catch of the day was a package of Peeps Cocoa Cats.

Yes, I am one of those sick-headed individuals that actually enjoys Peeps. I’ve loved them all my life and look forward to each of the Peep holidays of the year. I tend to get one package each holiday and usually wait until they are 75% off to buy them and slowly eat them over a few months, but I really really wanted some Cocoa Cats. I’ve had a hard time finding chocolate that I’m excited about lately and this had me excited on the spot.

So just how are these little critters? Well, the rule I’m going to run with is this: if you like Peeps and like instant hot chocolate then give them a shot. It’s a good shot you’ll like them. If you don’t like Peeps then don’t expect these to change your attitude toward them in any way. They smell like a freshly opened packet of instant hot chocolate (not the good real hot chocolate, but the stuff that comes with those crunchy little mini-marshmallows in it). They taste like a Peep with cocoa in it. Really, that’s the best description I can offer. Sorry!

So, yeah, they’re good and Peep-elicious and all, but there is more to the humble Peep than just a painfully sweet sugar coated marshmallow critter. There is potential. Over the past couple of years we have seen a number of recipes for Peeps the most popular of them being Peeps Brûlée. The proper way to do Peeps Brûlée is to let the Peeps air cure for a week or two and get good and stale and then kill on an open flame. Me, I’m impatient. And I can’t do the open flame thing in my apartment (the rabbit is afraid of smoke and my smoke detector is supernaturally powerful and unbelievably LOUD). But I refuse to allow that to ruin my fun! I set the back burner on high and impaled a Peep on a dipping fork and let the poor little critter burn!


Without an open flame you get some very…. scary results. But the important thing is how they are to eat! The inside is like marshmallow foam - cocoa flavored marshmallow foam. The inside is great. The outside is moderately caramelized but super sweet and chewy and doesn’t do it for me like the insides.

What have I done?!

Ok, not perfect Brûlée but pretty tasty stuff. I'm going to let the extras sit and stale for a few days and see if I can't get my hands on a proper crème brûlée torch and try it again. Yes, I will make this sacrifice for you, my dear readers.

After two rounds of brûlée and one raw I had one spare Peep. Rather than allowing it to escape unscathed I decided to see what happens when you put one of them in the microwave (I've seen pictures on the great and powerful internet so I had a good idea what would happen). I wish I could get a good picture of the monstrosity in my microwave because a nuclear Peep at the height of it’s power is a sight to behold. It grows HUGE – like six times it’s normal volume or more. I pulled it from the nuke-o-matic and tried to capture the majestic mutation, but it deflates pretty quickly and becomes a horrible puddle of inedible (yes, I tried to eat it) goo.

Inedible Goo!

Okay, bottom line of the whole Cocoa Cat experience is as I stated before: If you like Peeps then give them a shot. If you don’t like Peeps then it’s pretty safe to say you won’t be enjoying these a whole lot.

September 4, 2006

Review: Valrhona Guanaja

guanaja.jpgToday I’m going to be tasting Valrhona’s Guanaja, a bar of chocolate that frightens and intimidates me in a horrible way. This is a far cry from the Chocolove that got me eating bars of chocolate again and light years from the chocolate I grew up with. It’s a chocolate so fine that I doubt my ability to properly appreciate it. I’m normally anything but shy about inflicting my ignorance on the world (with sledgehammer subtlety no less), but I generally don’t feel at all qualified to even discuss something as good as Valrhona. Today, though, I’m not going to let that stop me.

This is the first of Valrhona’s Grands Crus that I’ve tried. Previously I’ve had some of their more normal offerings (normal being a very relative term) and found them to be excellent and they left me eager to try what Valrhona considers a cut above. The Guanaja is a 70% cocoa dark chocolate made with Criollos and Trinitarios beans (85% of chocolate is made with Forastero beans which are considered somewhat inferior). The chocolate is, as expected, well formed with a nice light gloss, no imperfections, and no bubbles that I can discern. The aroma, to me, is nice with a both a subtle fruity note and a slightly sour burnt coffee note. The mouth feel is fabulous. It melts beautifully, isn’t astringent, and is very very smooth. The taste opens brightly with strong fruit notes – I’m tasting some kind of berries and melon maybe. The fruit note just gets stronger in the middle and is joined by some darker notes of molasses, coffee, and tobacco as well as some acidity, more fruits (raspberry and cherry?), and a sour note (sour cream or cream cheese? – strange, but I stand by it – that is what I taste). Lurking behind it all from the first taste is a very subtle floral note that really shines in the finish. The taste lingers forever and the floral and fruit notes are the last to fade.

I almost feel like I’m cheating by reviewing this bar. It is well known for the intensity of it’s flavors and that makes it ideal for somebody like me who often has trouble nailing down the flavor notes in a chocolate. In Guanaja Valrhona have built a bar that has amazingly intense flavors that all play together. Some are subtle, but none are overpowered and even with all of its intensity it doesn’t come across as heavy-handed at all. I would like to kid myself and think that my tastes are developing, but I think that the art involved in this bar just made things easy for me.

In the end I found this to be a wonderfully complex and balanced bar (which is amazing considering the incredible range of flavors present) that lives up to reputation and expectations alike. This is unlike anything I’ve enjoyed before and makes it very clear to me why Valrhona have the amazing reputation they do. I’d like to give it a 10, but I’ve been led to believe that Valrhona have even better and I’ve yet to try any Amedei so I have to leave at least some space for true perfection. So I’m giving it a 9.9 out of 10. This is an absolutely fantastic chocolate that has supplanted Scharffen Berger’s Jamaica á l'ancienne as my new favorite.

Oh, and sorry the picture is awful. I can't seem to get a good shot of the box and eventually just gave up. I may try again later, but for now that's as good as it gets.

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 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.

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

July 29, 2006

Review: Godiva Dark Chocolate Decadence Chocolixir

chocolixir.jpgI like to put myself on mailing lists because you never know what sort of neat stuff you’ll get in the mail. Every so often Godiva sends out notices of free tastings and the like and recently they sent out a coupon for a free Chocolixir.

Chocolixir is a frozen chocolate drink similar I suppose to a frozen hot chocolate in many ways. I don’t know what’s in it, but there is definitely ice and chocolate. Maybe milk. If CalorieKing is to be believed the 12oz drink clocks in at 660 calories (!) so there has to be something more than ice and chocolate in there. My money says milk and sugar and it wouldn’t surprise me to find there is Godiva cocoa mix in it either.

Speaking of money, this is not a cheap drink. You get 12oz for the low low price of $4.50. That price tag is why I’ve not tried it until I got me a coupon for a freebie. That is not a cheap drink. Compared to coffee drinks it is really expensive for the amount you get. Keep in mind that it has actual Godiva chocolate in it and you can somewhat understand the high price, but I still have an issue with it.

The drink itself is available in six varieties now: the original three - Dark Chocolate Decadence, Milk Chocolate Latte and White Chocolate Raspberry – and three new flavors – Milk Chocolate Caramel, Dark Chocolate Caramel, and White Chocolate Caramel. Each comes with the option of whipped cream and either chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, or raspberry syrup depending on which one you get.

I opted for the Dark Chocolate Decadence because I’m a fool for Dark chocolate and I figured that it would be the least sweet of the flavors. Frozen coffee drinks are painfully sweet so I figured that frozen chocolate drinks would be at least as bad. The Dark Chocolate Decadence was sweet, but not as sweet as I feared. I’d like it to have been less sweet to heighten the dark chocolate flavor, but it wasn’t so sweet I didn’t like it. Overall the flavor was sweet and light. The ice in it was blended into oblivion so it was just enough to grind between your teeth without there being actual chunks of it. And all throughout it there are bits of chocolate. Best of all you don’t end up with a big pile of ground ice in the bottom of the cup like you do with some frozen coffee drinks.

The drink was quite tasty. I’d say it was better than most frozen coffees I’ve had but I’m not convinced that it’s worth the $4.50 price tag. And the calorie load! I want to know just what is in there that it manages 660 calories. That’s as many calories as in an average 3.5oz chocolate bar which clocks in at 2.5 servings. Ok, calories and price aside the drink is good - good enough to earn an 8 out of 10 score - but not good enough that I’m going to rush out for another any time soon. And, while it isn’t perfect, on a hot day like today, it is a nice treat. Especially when it's free.

July 24, 2006

Review: Kit Kat Editions Golden Caramel

I like to try new and different things so I love to see all of the special edition candy bars that they have been flooding the market with. Mostly I won’t try them. There are only a few of them that really interest me enough to come home with me. Now and then, though, something truly special comes along. This time it’s an import – the Kit Kat Editions Golden Caramel bar.

It looks like a giant Kit Kat stick. Smells just like one too. But over the wafer there is a small reservoir of caramel. And it really is small. I was kind of disappointed at first, having expected a lot more caramel than I was finding. But then I took the time to taste what I was about to complain about and my mind was quickly changed. The caramel, as little as there was, added just enough to the taste and experience of the bar to elevate it above the norm (not that normal Kit Kats aren’t normally excellent).

I love Kit Kats and I love caramel so I wasn’t surprised to find myself liking this bar a lot. The caramel adds that little something extra that makes the bar special. If you have access to this (which is a UK import and is also supposed to be just like the Kit Kat Chunky Caramel which was released in Canada and the UK according to the mighty Wikipedia) and like Kit Kat and caramel then it’s worth a try. I’m giving it a 8.5 out of 10 and I’m hoping I can get another before they disappear.

July 19, 2006

Mass Review: Equal Exchange Chocolate

A few months back I reviewed a trio of bars from Equal Exchange, a company that is dedicated to Fair Trade sugar, coffee, and (joy of joys) chocolate. They deliver a product of the highest quality and they adhere to high principles. And they have new chocolate in the pipeline for everybody! Coming this fall there are three new bars of organic, fair trade chocolate coming our way and I (through their unending kindness) am lucky enough to have the opportunity to try them early! The new varieties are Organic Dark Chocolate with Pure Cocoa Nibs, Organic Chocolate Espresso Bean, and Organic Mint Chocolate. Their first three bars were very nice so I’ve got high hopes for these new ones.

Organic Dark Chocolate with Pure Cocoa Nibs

This is a no-brainer for me. I love dark chocolate and I love nibby dark chocolate even more. The bar smells sweet. It is a sweet lightly fruity cocoa aroma and is very nice. The taste is sweet and not very bitter and the 68% cocoa chocolate itself is very smooth (which is equally true of all of the Equal Exchange chocolate I’ve tried). It is sweet and bright with a slight sour note and a smoky finish and a wonderful crunch from the nibs. Very nice, though not as bitter as I like my dark chocolate.

Organic Chocolate Espresso Bean
Another bar with a crunch! For a company that does both coffee and chocolate this is a natural choice. It’s studded with espresso beans and boy oh boy does it pack a punch. It even smells strong. The chocolate – with a 55% cocoa content - almost takes a back seat to the espresso but it’s there and it mellows the coffee edge. I can’t comment much on the chocolate because this bar really is all about the espresso and from the first whiff of the aroma to the finish and lingering on even after that it’s all espresso with some chocolate along for the ride.

Organic Mint Chocolate
Leaving the bars with the crunchy stuff in them behind we move on to our final treat. You open the package and you know you are dealing with mint. The smell reminds me of one of those Andes mints you get after dinner or on your pillow at a hotel. The first bite brought with it lots of minty flavor and a big surprise – more crunch! A quick look at the ingredients makes it clear that the name of the bar doesn’t tell the whole story. The mint comes in the form of “peppermint crisps” – basically sugar and peppermint oil. It adds a sugar grain and crunch to the bar that is fantastic (I love the crunch of sugary candies). And the mint is strong without being overpowering. The chocolate – a 67% cocoa dark –is very nice and is a perfect complement to the sweet mint crisps. This bar is another winner in my book with a great texture and a great flavor.

The second round of bars from Equal Exchange have turned out to be just as nice as the first round and are a great expansion to their product line. I’ll go on record as giving the Dark Chocolate with Cocoa Nibs an 8.5, the Chocolate Espresso Bean an 8.25, and the Mint Chocolate an 8.75. And that is ignoring the Fair Trade aspect and the fact that they’re all organic. If you are interested in trying their products and don't have a local source they have a page set up with info on convincing a local business to carry their products. Finally, I want to thank Equal Exchange for the samples - I'm enjoying them greatly.

July 15, 2006

Chocolate That Doesn't Melt?

News.jpgOk, I have a pair of articles here on this new chocolate they managed to make that doesn't melt. First the articles, then my feelings on the subject.

Fox News

So, chocolate that won't melt. Gotta give it to the scientists, that's a neat trick. And I have got to say that I hope I NEVER have to eat the stuff. I can see that it has uses, but one of the great charms of chocolate is how it melts. I don't want chewy chocolate. I like melty chocolate. The melt is important to the entire experience and without it I won't enjoy it near as much. I know, I know, if I don't want to eat it I don't have to and I should stop kvetching about nothing. I just don't like the concept is all.

July 12, 2006

Mini-Review: Diva Chocolates Mocha Java Steak Rub

divachocolates.jpgDon't you just love it when something completely unexpected and unutterably wonderful shows up in the mail? Absolutely wonderful feeling. And let me tell you it's even better when you find unexpected chocolate in the mail. The other day I had the happy surprise of finding some grilling rubs from the ladies at Diva Chocolates (thank you!). I've been keeping my eyes open for this for a while now and so far have had no luck finding any. Imagine my surprise when it showed up in my mailbox!

So far I've only managed to try one of the four rubs I received and it's going to be a little while before I have a shot at trying any of the others (I can't grill at home any more - long story). The one I did get to try is the Mocha Java Steak Rub: "A rich blend of espresso and dark chocolate, with a hint of cinnamon." The instructions are simple enough. You apply your rub, wrap the steak in plastic and pop it in the firdge for at least a half hour before grilling. I can't tell what's in it by smell, but I can say it does smell great. It smells even better when it hits the grill. The taste is great and unlike any other steak I've had. You can tell there is chocolate in it and it fits very well with the steak. I'm sorry I can't describe it very well. I can say it was one of the best steaks I've had. Sadly, I can't really give it a score - I don't have much of a basis for comparison. In lieu of score I will say that it is darn tasty stuff and I'm going to try to find someplace else where I can grill up some of the other varieties.

July 7, 2006

Giant Chocolate Cuckoo Clock

cuckoo3.jpgToday we have yet another example of something spectacularly cool made out of that most precious of foodstuffs (chocolate of course). Most of the items I've seen made from chocolate are pretty cool and all, but this has the added bonus cool factor of being a cuckoo clock made of chocolate with marzipan trim on a wood frame. The Halloren Chocolate Factory (the oldest in Germany) and the Harz Clock Factory collaborated on this new Guinness World Record clock which is over nine feet tall and weighs in at over 250lbs! And the artistry involved in the creation of this beast is impressive as well. Just check out the detail work being done in these pictures. Absolutely lovely work. All the beautiful detail work was sold off in pieces for charity. Attached are a few articles on the endeavor including some excellent pictures. Most of the articles are in German so I've included the (painful to attempt to read) Google translations.

Yahoo News Article (In English)

These next two feature nice galleries (especially the first one) - link is at the top of the article
Halloren 2nd Press Release - Translated
Halloren 1st Press Release - Translated

The rest are various media outlets and each has a single picture
Super Sonntag - Translation
Mitteldeutsche Zeitung - Translation

July 6, 2006

Review: Ritter Sport Cornflakes and Crème de Cacao

So I’ve seen these little Ritter Sport critters running around the Trader Joe’s and have been curious as to whether they’re worth my time and money. Running low on other chocolates I haven’t tried I figured it was time I grabbed some. So I did! I ran with the Cornflakes and Crème de cacao varieties. How could I say no to something as unusual as Cornflakes?

At a glance they really don’t look like much – a smallish square - but they are really pretty substantial. They are pretty thick so you end up with a lot of chocolate. The chocolate, while not amazing or complex, is quite nice. It’s a good creamy milk chocolate.

But, as nice as the chocolate is, these bars are all about the goodness hidden within. First up is the Crème de cacao/Chocolate Crème variety. I can’t help but describe this in terms of a 3 Musketeers bar. It is more chocolaty to start but the taste quickly becomes familiar. The big difference is in the chocolate crème. In a 3 Musketeers you get whippy aerated chocolate nougat fluffage. The chocolate crème in this Ritter critter is thick stuff. It has an almost ganache consistency. So, what you have is something like a very high quality 3 Musketeers bar – and this is a good thing. I love 3 Musketeers and this has everything I love about it with a different texture and feel.

Moving on to the cornflakes! How many chocolate products have crispy rice in them? More than I’d care to count. How many have cornflakes? This is the only one I know of. And I really have to wonder why nobody else is doing it. Both are breakfast cereal staples and they’re staples because they have that spectacular crunch. The only real difference between the two is that there is so little flavor to crispy rice and with corn flakes you get good solid corn flavor. And it really shines through in this chocolate. It’s got that familiar cereal crunch but the taste is something utterly new to my experience. It’s really nice. Hmmm…. I seem to say that a lot. But it’s true!

So my first round of Ritter Sport turned out to be some really nice stuff. I figure that the Crème de cacao gets a good solid 8 of 10 and the Cornflakes bar gets an 8.5. I’ll probably try something else before I go back for the Crème de cacao but it will eventually get some repeat action. The Cornflakes bar is likely to get some frequent repeat action.

July 5, 2006

Wendy's Frosty Goes Vanilla

frosty.jpgMy love of the combination of sweet and salty things can be traced directly to the stellar combination of Wendy's french fries and a Frosty. Well, now Wendy's is taking the Frosty and stripping it of it's lovely chocolate-osity and releasing a new Vanilla Frosty. One might expect that I would just ignore such an item or be shocked at the blasphemy of taking a chocolate product and making a non-chocolate version of it but to be honest I'm quite excited. I love chocolate but I also love vanilla nearly as much (there just isn't as much of an audience for Vanilla Obsession and I can't see a vanilla shop flying in any but the biggest of cities - and would that be a vanillatier?). When it comes right down to it if I'm offered a choice between a chocolate milkshake and a vanilla milkshake I'll take vanilla probably 8 of 10 times so long as it's really vanilla and not some generic white sweet flavorless "vanilla" non-dairy frozen treat. Vanilla and chocolate are two sides of the same coin and nothing complements the one like the other. So I'm really pretty excited about the Vanilla Frosty. If it has a good vanilla flavor to it and isn't just a general creamy non-flavor I'll probably be right on board with it.
Press Release

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Chocolate Obsession.

June 30, 2006

Chocolate Safari Goes Super-Sized

For a couple of weeks now I've been putting in some work on planning a Chocolate Safari on an extravagant scale. Barring unforseen mishaps I will be heading for New York City this November to visit the big Chocolate Show. And the Chocolate Show is only the tip of the chocolate iceberg (ooooh, that's a good image). New York City is home to more than a few shops that carry fine imported chocolate and I plan to get myself a nice variety of bars I haven't tried yet. But even better is the array of top notch chocolatiers and candy shops and restaurants that are scattered across the city. And I plan to hit a lot.

Continue reading "Chocolate Safari Goes Super-Sized" »

June 29, 2006

Review: Chocolove Organic 73% Dark Chocolate

Every week I make the rounds of all of the stores around me that have anything that even resembles chocolate in hopes of finding something new and special to try. Usually it’s just more of the same old same old (not that there is anything wrong with lots of Chocolove, Dagoba, and Green & Black’s). This past week Wild Oats gave me a big surprise in the form of the new(ish) Chocolove Organic bars! I’ve been searching high and low for these for weeks now and finally I have them in my possession (do I sound obsessive?). Up for review tonight is the Chocolove Organic 73% Dark Chocolate bar.

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June 22, 2006

Review: NewTree Sexy

I’ve been curious about Newtree since I first read about them a few months back. They do what you could call “mood chocolate”. Each of the all natural bars has a sort of theme to it and (with the exception of Pleasure which is straight dark chocolate) a little something extra to make it special. There were three varieties at the store and I really only felt like having the Sexy bar because I was in the mood for ginger (though I'm not too sure about the guarana in it). Their description of the Sexy bar from their site:

SEXY is chocolate in stilettos. Spice up your day with dark chocolate, warmed by the taste of ginger. Naturally stimulating guarana extract adds an extra perk for a seductive treat. Chocolate and spice and everything nice!

Sounds like a winner to me (so long as I avoid eating it too late). Spicy, gingery, and energizing chocolate just sounds good to me. I like that sort of thing.

At first whiff you can tell it is going to live up to the promise of the description when it comes to being spicy. There is ginger in the smell but there is something more. Something like an orange spiced cider going on in there. There is a citrus thing, but it’s spicy. The bar is well formed and snaps nicely.

Upon tasting I found a slow start that wasn’t as spicy as the aroma promised. The chocolate is smooth but it isn’t very strong. It’s like it’s a delivery medium for the spice. The spice makes the scene shortly after the initial light cocoa wave and it’s pretty nice. The ginger isn’t overly sweet and the entire thing is sort of warm in the mouth. It remains spicy with a hint of citrus (sort of orange, but not as sweet) coming in at the finish and then lingering on.

I have mixed feelings about this bar. The chocolate takes a back seat to the other elements and I feel it could have been better with a stronger chocolate. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy it. The bar is tasty and warm and nice, just not really chocolaty. I’ll call it a 7 out of 10.

June 17, 2006

Chocolate Safari - 2nd Quarter 2006 Edition

A couple of weeks back I turned the car south and headed for my quarterly pilgrimage to Jungle Jim's. For those who haven't been around for prior safaris Jungle Jim's is a grocery store on insane steroids. They have a produce section larger than my local Trader Joe's store - the entire store. The cheese section is huge as is the deli. The beer and wine selection is amazing. They have an enormous meat section and the seafood section features live fish (a few varieties including some very pretty rainbow trout), crab, and lobster. The international foods section is as big if not bigger than most of the local grocery stores. Their hot sauce selection has over 1300 sauces and is the largest retail selection in the US. They have an enormous array of sodas from smaller companies, bottled product from some of the bigger companies including Dublin Dr. Pepper (original recipe - real sugar), and some imports like Dutch and Mexican Coke (real sugar - no corn syrup). And then there is the chocolate. There are chocolate and chocolate products sprinkled throughout the international sections. The array of Cadbury products in the Great Britain section is almost frightening and they have local color in the French, Italian, Irish, Dutch, German, and other sections. But for me it's all about the chocolate aisle.

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June 10, 2006

Sweet and Salty Satiation

As I've rambled on about in a couple of posts now I have lately had a desire for things that are both sweet and salty. I've tried the Vosges Barcelona bar and the Choxie Peanut Butter Pretzel bar with great success and the Hershey's Sweet and Salty Granola bar with somewhat less success. After the three of them I was left still wanting something else. I loved the pretzels in them and in a random Take 5 I grabbed at the gas station before heading for Cinci but I wanted something that was substantial and not overly sweet. I took a look at some chocolate covered pretzels at the store but wasn't thrilled with either the brand or the price and found myself wondering why you couldn't get chocolate covered pretzels made with good chocolate for a reasonable price. It's not like pretzels are all that expensive and as long as they don't double the pretzel's mass with chocolate that shouldn't add too much to the price either. Heck, I thought to myself, I could make these for nothing.

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June 7, 2006

Review: Hershey's Sweet & Salty Granola Bar

On the Trail of the Sweet and salty that I've been jonesing for lately I picked up this Hershey's Sweet & Salty Granola Bar thing. It says it has pretzels on the label and that's usually enough to get me interested so I grabbed it. I was on safari and like to get a couple of more candy-ish products to go along with the finer chocolate and this was filling that role in my cart. Plus I was curious as to when and why Hershey's decided that it needed to start making granola bars. I can see selling their chocolate and or name to an established company and getting some co-branding but to take the plunge and do it on their own is an interesting move.

On to the product. I love the Take 5 bar so I figured that this would be good stuff as well. First stop: ingredients! Is it a bad sign that the first ingredient in a chocolate and granola bar is high maltose corn syrup? I'm not sure I've even heard of high maltose corn syrup. Another interesting item is PGPR which I'm pretty sure I've never heard of. There are a number of interesting items in there: vanillin, PGPR, soy lecithin, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, high maltose corn syrup, and two vegetable oils. A little on the frightening side of things, but I'll try just about anything once.

Moving on, it smells pretty nice - sweet with a hint of chocolate. The granola has a sugar-gloss shine to it (no surprise given the slurry of corn syrups) and there is a small layer of chocolate underneath it all. The taste isn't quite what I expected. It isn't nearly as sweet as I thought a "Sweet and Salty" bar would be. And I can barely taste the chocolate which for a product with the name "Hershey's" on the label is a bit of a puzzler. The granola - a mix of peanuts, oats, crisped rice, and pretzel bits - has a nice texture to it but is more salty than I would like. It's not a very strong saltiness, it's just sort of everywhere. It's pervasive ($5 word!). The whole "salt everywhere" thing doesn't bother me in other products (like a Payday) but here it just isn't really offset by anything and leaves me with a sting in my throat and the corners of my mouth. And I was disappointed that while they show a lovely pretzel on the packaging you get itty bitty smashed up pretzel bits mixed in it as opposed to the more satisfying crunch of a whole pretzel.

The bar, which was brimming with potential, left me a bit cold. It wasn't quite the sweet and salty that I was hoping for. To be honest I threw half of it away. I just didn't want any more of it. Some may like it with it's salty approach to things, but it isn't working for me. Not at all. 4 out of 10 stars. Bleah.

June 5, 2006

Review: Vosges Barcelona Bar - PLUS NEWS!

Some days life just smiles on you in unexpected ways. I recently took a little detour on my way to the mall and found that a little gourmet market (that I never really thought of as a gourmet market) just a short distance from my apartment has Vosges bars! Of course it was a day after taking a trip to Cincinnati to find chocolate - a day that saw me come home with one of their bars in my bag. A day late or not, I'm just happy that I have easy access to tasty chocolate. Variety is a good thing.

Lately I've been in the mood for sweet and salty stuff so the Barcelona Bar was an easy choice for me. The Barcelona is a nice 40% cacao dark milk chocolate with gray sea salt and smoked almonds. With big grains of salt and nuts it fit both my love of chocolate with crunchy bits and my need for something salty. The chocolate is a nice milk chocolate that isn't overly sweet and has a nice caramel note to it and on it's own is reasonably nice. Vosges were pretty generous with the nuts in the chocolate so you get a bit of nut in every bite which is wonderful, but the star of the show is the sea salt. Since they use nice big grain sea salt you don't taste salt all the time, but you'll bite down and there will be a little crunch and a small explosion of salt. I really like that it is spread throughout the bar just like the nuts and not a constant factor. And the distribution of salt and nuts is very even. There was never a bite that was overpowered by three or four salt crystals and never a bite that was just overloaded with nuts. I tend to look for balance and this bar achieves it.

In the end we have another nice bar from our friends at Vosges sporting their trademark packaging and a nice mix of smoky almonds and salt. If you don't like the sweet and salty flavor combination then this isn't the bar for you. If, however, you're like me you'll find a very snack-worthy bar. The only problem with it is price. Retail is supposed to be $7.00 (though I think they were selling for $5.99 where I bought this one) which is a bit steep but I tend to feel that it's worth it now an then to get a bar that's a cut above the standard grocery store and mini-mart fare. I'll give this one an 8.5 out of 10 and will definitely repeat when the need hits me. Not every day, mind, but when the mood takes me I'll be back for more.

New Vosges incoming!
A look at the chocolate bars page on the Vosges site had me scratching my head for a minute. I was positive that I hadn't seen some of these bars before and - sure enough - I hadn't. On the way are the Goji, Calindia, Gianduja (mega-yay!), and d'Olivia bars. I'm not too sure about the d'Olivia (neither white chocolate nor olives do a lot for me) but all of the others have me at least curious. Gonna have to try them all. And I still have one other on deck not to mention the other varieties I haven't tried. So much good chocolate to look forward to!

June 1, 2006

Review: Scharffen Berger Kumasi Sambirano

After the wonder that is the Scharffen Berger Jamaica á l'ancienne bar I had high high hopes for their other limited edition offering of the moment: the 68% cacao Kumasi Sambirano. The bar is made with beans from Madagascar and Ghana to show the diversity of African chocolate. Reading the write-up from Scharffen Berger (which can’t decide where Madagascar is) I knew what they think I’m supposed to find from the bar. I had my own opinion. Having read previously that Madagascar is characterized by a delicate citrus flavor I was expecting the Ghana to overpower the Madagascar. I was looking forward to seeing if I was right or about to be proven wrong in a pleasant manner.

The packaging is relatively dark – green and leafy with mostly black text - but attractive. Popping it open you find a bar with a beautiful medium-dark brown color and clean molding and the snap is all you expect from a high quality bar. The aroma… tells me that I might have judged the bar too early. The aroma is bright and carries citrus and floral notes on a earthy base. It smells nice and the aroma hints that they might have succeeded in marrying the two beans well.

Before I talk about the taste I have to say that I do not know, beyond reading about it, what Ghana or Madagascar chocolate tastes like. I can’t say whether one overpowers the other or if there is any sort of balance. Add to that my inexperience at tasting chocolate and my horribly undeveloped palate and you may find yourself disagreeing with every word that follows. All I can offer is my ignorant opinion of the experience.

And what I find is a lovely flavor with a bright citrus note (lemon to my taste buds) and an earthy background. It is not at all sour and only lightly acidic. The flavor moves from a light, slightly earthy cocoa opening to citrus in the middle and on to a lingering floral finish. From what I’ve read regarding Ghana and Madagascar they seem to have succeeded in making a bar that shows off elements of both.

I really enjoyed the bar a lot (Do I say this in every review? I think I do. It feels like I do.). It was quite tasty and offered a different experience than any I’ve had to date. I would like to have it on a more regular basis if it weren’t for the price. Of course if it weren’t a limited edition it probably wouldn’t cost $8.00 a bar. Anyway, I enjoyed it a lot and I can recommend it to any who are curious about the combination and don’t mind the hefty price tag. Overall I’ll give it a 8.75 out of 10.

Also, the name is fun to say. Kumasi!

May 27, 2006

Review: Choxie Peanut Butter Pretzel Bar

Found this little nugget of joy at the checkout at Target. This is the first time I've run into Choxie at the checkout and really, if they want to push the brand, they need it there to make it more visible. Anyway, the Choxie Peanut Butter Pretzel bar promises “creamy peanut butter, pretzel twists and roasted peanuts, inside pure mile chocolate". I can’t really argue with that description. The peanut butter is creamy and plentiful. There are pretzels and peanuts running around in it. The whole thing is wrapped in milk chocolate. Not a bit of it can be argued with.

But…. while it does deliver everything promised it does raise a few questions. The first question is regarding the first ingredient: WHITE chocolate. Excuse me? White chocolate? Nowhere in the description at all. Is it a typo? I’m not seeing white chocolate anyplace. Or is there something more to this than meets the eye. As far as I can tell the only thing in the bar that there is more of than milk chocolate is the peanut butter. Is there white chocolate hiding in there? I can’t think so, but it’s the number one ingredient. I guess I'll just have to keep wondering about this one. Sticking with the ingredients we move on to our next question: “peanut praline”. So, not just plain old peanut butter, but something a step up made with praline? Interesting. I suppose that the concept is you make peanut butter out of peanut praline which in theory will be sweet and tasty stuff.

Honestly, I find the ingredients in this bar an interesting and educational read. The short version goes like this: White chocolate, milk chocolate, peanut praline, palm kernel oil, pretzel, and peanut. That’s it. On top of the simplicity of the ingredients there is a quality that must be noted. Both of the chocolates have simple ingredients most noticeable of which is pure vanilla. No vanillin here, just the real thing. The only thing in the ingredients I take issue with is the palm kernel oil, which I suppose is there for texturing the praline butter.

Ok, moving on beyond the ingredients to the bar itself. It smells like – you’ll be shocked here – milk chocolate and peanut butter. Isn’t that a stunner? It is a great smell, though. The top is well molded and clean but the bottom shows some minor gaps at the edges where you get a hint of the peanut butter showing through. Ripping into it we find a very light colored peanut butter. It’s not the brown of a Jif or Skippy, but more the light brown of, say, a peanut butter pie. I’d show you a picture but I usually end up with chocolate in my mouth before I think to take a picture of the innards. But it is barely brown and looks very creamy. And it tastes as creamy as it looks. This is not the same class of peanut butter you find in a Reece’s cup. That is brown and grainy and kind of sharp. This is creamy and smooth and very nice. The milk chocolate is nice though I can’t really say it’s extraordinary. I will say this for it: there isn’t a thick slab of chocolate making up the base of the bar like a lot of filled bars I’ve tried. There is enough chocolate to give shape and coating and flavor. A very nice surprise.

Next up we have the peanuts and pretzels. This is where the third question comes in. Why are there so few peanuts and pretzels?! I really kind of expected more of them. This isn’t the scarcity you get in a Dagoba bar, but it sure isn’t the same layer of pretzel you get in a Take 5 bar (though this bar isn't tall enough for there to be a separate layer of them). You will get the occasionl bite without peanut or pretzel but they’re in there and nice when you get them. It would really be nicer if there were more of them, though. Based on past experience I actually expected it to be crawling with them. Their Aztec Thin is buried in nibs so I kind of figured that Choxie was one of those brands that are generous with the extra bits.

So, at the end of the day how did this bar perform? It’s not quite what I expected and they could use more peanut and pretzel in it but I think it’s a great bar. I enjoyed it and think it’s worth the $2.00 it cost. It’s not one I’m going to go for every day – I’m not the biggest peanut butter fan – but I can see myself grabbing one at the register some time. I’d really prefer if they were to break the skinny form factor and toss a layer of nuts and pretzels on top of the peanut butter so you get more crunch out of it, but that’s just my preference. I’m going to score it a 7.5 out of 10. It is very good but could be even better if they would be more generous with the crunchy bits.

May 24, 2006

m&m's Limited Edition My Flavors

mnmsmyflavors.jpgThe m&m's online store offers a number of interesting products allowing the user to get some customization in terms of color and printing. Today they announce that they're adding something new to the mix: 8 new, limited edition, online-only flavors. The new flavors feature some interesting combinations of chocolate and flavored shell.
The new flavors are:

  • All That Razz - White and milk chocolate in a raspberry shell
  • Eat, Drink & Be Cherry - White and milk chocolate in a black cherry shell
  • A Day At The Peach - White and milk chocolate in a peach shell
  • Orange-You-Glad - White and milk chocolate in a orange shell
  • AlmonDee-licious - White chocolate and an almond in a normal shell
  • Mint Condition - White and milk chocolate in a mint shell
  • Nut What You Think - White chocolate and a peanut in a normal shell
  • Cookie Minister - Dark chocolate with a crispy center in a speckled mint shell

They are available in a custom tin or in a big collectible tin (pictured here). I can't find a way to order smaller amounts than a tin and the tin runs a painful $60.

I find it interesting that there is so much white chocolate in the mix. Most of them have white and milk chocolate but only one of the bunch has dark chocolate and none are only milk chocolate. Of the bunch I think that the Cookie Minister interests me the most, though the orange, cherry, peach, and raspberry ones all sound like they might be good as well.

These limited edition products will be the death of me both physically and financially. As befits a chump chocolate blogger like myself I'm ordering the sampler. My curiosity is getting the better of me on this one.

Check it out.

May 22, 2006

Around the Web

As I have a tendency to slack off when it comes to posting I figure I’ll heap a few items I’ve run across lately into one post.

First up is a nice article about John Nanci, who may be known to some of my readers for his website Chocolate Alchemy. The site is dedicated to the idea of making your own chocolate. Take note that I’m not talking about rolling your own truffles or caramels, but the actual creation of chocolate from cacao beans. It’s an idea that has held a certain fascination for me and one that one of these days I will try my hand at. But his site is dedicated to this art and the article is all about him, his business, and his art.

This next bit I’m stealing from Robyn. It’s a little “how to eat chocolate” guide which is one of those things that just isn’t as well known as it should be. It’s a nice little read and more than a little useful.

Next we have a few statistics from Kiplingers. Not a news source I would usually go to for chocolate, but I think people are starting to take notice of the growth potential for the chocolate market and start talking numbers. I always find these things fun. I Like numbers. They help to add shape to things, or in this case size.

Next up we have a company that popped up in my email and I was intrigued by what I read. They are called Diva Chocolates and they make chocolate spice blends and grilling rubs. It’s an interesting idea that really has merit. In it’s unsweetened state chocolate is a fantastic flavoring for food and they base the business around that idea. Their site not only has their products, but some recipes as well. It’s a good idea and it sounds like they’ve put some thought into it. And they definitely have the right attitude. I’m quite liking the sound of a chocolate steak right about now.

Next up is an item that isn’t strictly chocolate, but still interesting and does feature a little of the good stuff. There is a new business in Bellevue, Washington that wants to become the Starbucks of green tea. I love green tea so I’m all on board with it so far but what happens when you toss some white chocolate in the mix? One of their teas has white chocolate and whipped cream. I’m not sure about it, but I’d definitely give it a try. I’ve got to try and find somebody to give it a try for me.

This next item I’m including just because it’s the shortest news story I’ve seen in a long time. It is all of one sentence and is about chocolate french fries. I can’t really say more without giving the whole article away.

Last on our round-up is a recipe for chocolate soup. Yes, I meant to type soup. Curious? I was. Read on!

Chocolate Sunday

Some days you just feel the need to go out and do something just for you. Yesterday I felt that need and instead of heading for Jungle Jim’s like I might normally do I decided to stay local and look for some more sources of premium chocolate (among other things). I figured I would hit a bookstore that I had never been to before and look for some good chocolate cookbooks (they had some good ones, but I already owned them all) so I pushed on to a little gourmet food emporium figuring that they simply had to have some real chocolate. Well, they had Hachez and some Scharffen Berger but I wanted something I couldn’t get anywhere else. The did have some Koppers Chocolate Espresso Beans, though, so I grabbed some and turned back toward the North Market.

But along the way I had to make a little stopoff at a little shop I had not previously been aware of. Somehow they snuck a Schakolad store into the Short North and kept it a secret from me! People need to tell me this stuff! Anyway, any day I find a new chocolatier to try out is a good day. I can’t say too much about it yet (I’ve only had one so far) but the store smelled great, their selection is very good, and at only $28/lb it isn’t near as expensive as some other places (yes, I know $28/lb sounds horrifically expensive, but I’ve seen chocolate pushing up into the $150/lb range so this is cheap by comparison). I grabbed a small selection of truffles, a caramel, and a little chocolate-covered marzipan. A nice little haul.

But the fun didn’t stop there, oh no. I figured I couldn’t leave the North Market without getting something fun to munch on. I figured I would end up with some pocky, but instead ended up with a fat wedge of cake and a big slab of focaccia from the fantastic Omega Artisan Bakery. The cake, sadly, didn’t last long enough for pictures, but it was darn good. Almost as good as the focaccia (which I could eat all day).

Rounded the whole day out with a trip to Target looking for a lamp and came home with a bit of Choxie. It's one of those things where I feel guilty if I go into a Target and don't leave with Choxie. Can't really say why that is, but it's like not getting chocolate while it's right there in front of me is letting myself down or something. Yeah, it's a sickness, but one I don't mind too much. Anyway, I got the peanut butter pretzel bar which, to appearances, is one ingredient shy of being a Take 5. Hopefully, it's appropriately better. If a $2.00 Choxie bar isn't as good as a 50¢ candy bar I can get at the gas station then I've got a problem.

A good choclate Sunday. Still, I’m a bit frustrated that I cannot find more variety in Columbus (so far – it might be out there). Ah, but such is my lot in life.

May 18, 2006

Review: Scharffen Berger Jamaica á l'ancienne

After reading the description of the new Scharffen Berger limited edition Jamaica á l'ancienne bar I didn’t waste a lot of time ordering a couple to give them a try. It sounded like something I needed to try. The chocolate is ground with coarse sugar and is never conched (you can read the full description in their newsletter). I’ve been slowly eating one for the past week and a half and I’m finally ready to give up my thoughts on it.

First off, I like the packaging (click the pic for a better look). The outer wrap is just a pattern of repeating logos on a field of yellow (kind of a French’s mustard yellow) wrapped with a paper band with the bar’s vitals. Turning it over things get wonderfully interesting. The description from the back reads

Jamaica á l'ancienne melds the rustic textures of stone-ground Jamaican cacao nibs and coarse sugar cane to the deep flavor of Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Chocolate. It evokes chocolate’s Caribbean roots.

Sounds like my kind of bar. I love nibs and the crunch of sugar crystals and it sounds like that is exactly what I can expect here. Below the description are the ingredients and nutritional information. The ingredients are amusing in their simplicity. They are cacao beans, sugar, and whole vanilla beans. A normal bar would probably include lecithin (an emulsifier *chuckle*) but this is about as simple as it gets.

After carefully removing the band (it’s too pretty to just rip apart – at least on your first bar) the package opens up to reveal a very rough bottom. The bar is absolutely crawling with nibs. And while wondering at the texture of the bar the aroma hits me, strong and darkly sweet. It’s kind of woody and fruity at the same time and the sweetness is kind of a mellow sweetness like actual sugar cane or molasses. It makes me think of apricot preserves.

The taste is wonderful. The citrus notes are there but the flavor is more berry than citrus. I was also really surprised to find that it’s really not very bitter at all. The only problem with the flavor is you can’t savor it because you have to start chawing at the nibs. But that is not a bad thing at all. This bar is a miracle of texture. The coarse sugar adds so much to the texture. I love the texture nibs give a bar but the sugar adds that special something extra that I absolutely love. And the flavor is still nice when you start to work on the nibs, but they tend to dominate the taste somewhat. And the finish is all nib. The mouth-feel is rough, but that’s really to be expected and, honestly, most of the nibby bars I’ve had leave my mouth feeling cut to shreds and this doesn’t.

In normal circumstances I would hesitate to buy a $8.00 chocolate bar. If it’s any indicator of how much I like this bar I’m thinking about ordering a pile of them in spite of the price. It is fantastic chocolate with a unique texture and wonderful flavor. With it’s all-nibs and sugar texture it isn’t a tasting chocolate, though if it were refined it could easily be one. I hesitate to pick favorites among chocolates, but I’m willing to make an exception for this bar. Top notch stuff. Even with it’s horrifying price I’m giving it a 9.5 out of 10. I can’t guarantee everybody will feel the same way about this bar, but I highly recommend it. It’s a very different experience from most bars and, as a limited edition, won’t be around for long.

May 13, 2006

Mini Review: m&m's Pirate Pearls

It took me most of the day and trips to 8 different stores, but I finally found a bag of m&m's Pirate Pearls. I had a lot of errands to run though, so it wasn't like I spent the entire day searching for them, only about an hour or so and it was a fun day shopping around town. Not a big deal, I got what I was after in the end. So, now that I've got them it's time to see if they deliver the goods.

These weren't quite what I expected. The white chocolate flavor isn't as strong as I expected and I don't know if that's what I like about them or not. As mild as the white chocolate is I think it would be lost without the shell, but with the shell it is pretty nice. I have to agree with David at Candy Addict on this one: you can taste the shell and the candy is better for it. Not entirely to my taste (white chocolate is a hit or miss thing with me), but still not bad at all. If forced to give it a score I'd give it a solid 7. Not something I'll eat every day, but when the mood takes me it's not a bad way to snack.

May 9, 2006

Review: Vosges Creole Bar

Today I'm going to share my thoughts and impressions of the Vosges Creole bar. I've been waiting to try this for a while, saving it for a rainy day kind of thing. Well, I recently broke down and am finally ready to give up my review. According to the box we have espresso, nibs, chicory (as used in the coffee at the Café Du Monde in New Orleans), and 70% cacao Sao Thome chocolate. Sounds to me like a combination made in someplace too sinfully good to be heaven.

First off is the packaging. Vosges really know how to package a chocolate bar. Their packaging - with the mostly white box adorned with chocolate goodness - is absolutely beautiful. It catches the eye and makes you take a second look. As always the back of the box features their "How to Enjoy an Exotic Candy Bar" instructions which is a nice thing for those who are new to the high-end chocolate world. It's packaging really sets it apart from the crowd and I, for one, love it.

Moving on to the bar itself. Taking a whiff it has a strong smell to it. For some reason I can't pick any single aroma out of the smell, not even the Sao Thome chocolate (which I can spot by taste or smell most of the time). The espresso and chocolate combination is just very strong and distinct. It's a nice aroma, I just don't have the nose to dissect it.

The bar is, of course, well molded and has a great snap to it. No less than I'd expect. The taste is, just like the smell, very intense. And, just like the smell, it's kind of overwhelming and hard for me to differentiate the separate flavors. I can't tell how balanced it is because it's all so strong. Don't confuse overwhelming and intense with bad, though. I expect a bar with espresso to be overwhelming if anything and the fact that it's the entire thing that's overwhelming and not just the espresso is very nice. Beyond the taste the nibs add some nice crunch to the texture.

Now, as mystified as I was left by the bar I have to say that it didn't last long at all. I really enjoyed it a lot and couldn't get enough. At $6.00 it ain't cheap, but it is a tasty bar of chocolate and one that - given the right mood - I will try again. I suppose I should rate it at this point. I'll go with a 8.5 I think. It's darn good, but expensive.

One final note: 10% of the proceeds from the Creole bar will be donated to the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.


May 4, 2006

Mini Review: Truffle Pig Milk Chocolate Bar

Didn't expect to see this when I stopped in at Wild Oats this past weekend. I like to go there just in case something new and interesting has shown up on the shelf and - lucky me - they got Hagensborg Chocolate Truffle Pig bars! I grabbed the milk chocolate bar which is a nice thick ganache log coated in milk chocolate. That much I was able to figure out from the name. What I didn't expect was the bar's appearance. It's got pigs on!

I'm as big a sucker for gimmicky products as I am for chocolate and chocolate with a gimmick is just great! The pigs are cute (and hard to photograph) and the chocolate is good. It's not the ganache you get in a fresh, high end truffle, but it is nice and tasty. It certainly didn't last long. It didn't leave much more impression with me than the fact that it was good and cute. I prefer dark chocolate most of the time, but this was good enough that I'm going to give another Truffle Pig a try. A solid 7.5 out of 10 (and I'm resisting the temptation to give bonus piggy points).

May 2, 2006

White Chocolate M&M's

mmspiratespearls.jpgM&M's are going pirate! In one of those massive promotional deals M&M's is going to be offering pirate themed M&M products in conjunction with the forthcoming Disney release Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Now that's news in itself, if only because it means that those Star Wars M&M's might finally disappear from stores (they're still there - I saw 'em this weekend) but the thing that is new and interesting is the introduction of a first in the M&M world: white chocolate M&M's. The variety pictured here (hopefully to be replaced with a better pic) is the White Chocolate Pirate Pearls. You'd think with that name they'd all be white (or at least pearl) but there are a few different light colors of them. They also have little piratey symbols on them that, naturally, incorporate the letter "M" so they don't stray too far from their established branding. In addition to the Pirate Pearls they will also be releasing Captain's Gold - Peanut M&M's in gold hues - and Jack's Gems - Milk Chocolate M&M's in "gemstone colors" (red, blue, green, and purple). There is also a M&M Minis Shipwreck Treasure Mix that changes color in your mouth from green to gold.

Star Wars brought us Dark Chocolate M&M's (the Peanut Dark Chocolate M&M's being one of my favorite things in life) and now Pirates of the Caribbean brings us White Chocolate. I'm not sure I really like the sound of them (I'm not really a white chocolate person) but I'll be sure to get a bag or two and give them a shot.

The new pirate-style M&M's will be available in stores May 12th. The M&M's Pirates website is up and is very nice. Some of the content is yet to come, but there are already games and good info to be found so check it out.

Press Release
Official Website

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).

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.


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.

March 27, 2006

Shopping for Chocolate

fun.jpgShopping for chocolate is, at best, a challenge. At least for me it is. I really don't know all that many places to get good chocolate so when I set out on a shopping expedition it is always some sort of crazy crap-shoot as to what I'll end up finding. More often than not the thing I'm looking for is not to be found, but instead I'll run across some other cocoa-infused wonder that I can't pass up. It's great stuff that I'm pleased as punch (as the phrase goes - personally I question how pleased punch actually is - it is a beverage after all) to have found such treats but it isn't that one special, magical, chocolate artifact that I had set out to find.

Yesterday is a good example of this. I was in need of a roadtrip to kill off some lingering stress so I jumped in the car and headed down to Cincinnatti and, of course, Jungle Jim's. I had high hopes of finding if not the new Kumasi Sambirano from Scharffen Berger then at least some of their chocolate-dipped matzos. I was also hoping for the organic Chocolove bars and an E. Guittard single origin tasting box but, alas, such items were not to be found. Of course this was a trip to Jungle Jim's and there are always interesting items to try there. I can always find something to buy.

I entered the store planning to resist temptation and not buy a dozen chocolate bars like when I'm on safari and I stuck to it pretty well. I was there for the trip and some power-browsing, not to buy up all the chocolate in the store. So, at the end of the day I walked out with some Mexican Coke (theoretically made with sugar and not corn syrup), some Moxie, an organic Valrhona bar (which I've been curious about for a while - the price has kind of kept me away from it - and for some reason I can't find it on their site), some dark chocolate covered ginger from Scharffen Berger, and - the grand prize of my little trip - a Dolfin Pink Pepporcorn bar! They had a lot of other wonderful things that I resisted the temptation to buy (a cache of Chocolatour bars, the entire selection of Dolfin bars, more Vosges bars) and I left the store having spent less than $40, which, for me, is a rarity.

Anyway, a trip like this illustrates a problem I have. I love to shop for chocolate. In town, out of town, it doesn't matter so long as I can get out and put my hands on some bars. The problem is that I have yet to find a good source of chocolate that I can count on to have pure gold on every trip (Jungle Jim's comes close and delivers on many other fronts in addition to chocolate). Without the ability to simply run out to the store and buy whatever I want I'm beginning to think that I'll have to start ordering my chocolate online which really isn't the same experience. I might never have tried Dolfin if I hadn't been able to see the pouch-style packaging first-hand. I'm very much a hands-on type of shopper and buying things online takes so much away from the experience. Of course you end up with exactly what you set out to get but that leaves out the option of the pleasant surprises you find on the way in the course of shopping.

This is having an effect on my long-term plans. I had been planning on a chocolatier/cafe style of business, similar to the chocolate lounge concept that Ethel's and Vosges have. The original (and long since changed) plan was to have a store with an wide assortment of chocolate nick-nacks and books. Now I'm thinking that maybe I want to add the store back in and carry an array of third party chocolate products, especially bars. A chocolate lover's candy store and cafe. It's still a few years off and will probably see more changes along the way, but I really like the idea of carrying a nice wide array of fine chocolate bars along with my own creations. Of course somebody else will probably do it before me, but that's my happy little vision.

March 23, 2006

Happenings at Scharffen Berger

scharffenberger.jpgThe Scharffen Berger email newsletter has come around again and this time it is packed with wonderful things.

First up, and most important in my eyes, is the introduction of a new limited edition chocolate bar: the Kumasi Sambirano. The bar is made with specially matched beans from the Ashanti region of Ghana and the Sambirano Valley in Madagascar. The combination of the two brings both earthy notes from the Ghana beans and citrus notes from the Madagascar beans. The bar has a 68% cocoa content and is limited to 1500 cases. I'm not sure how many bars that translates into, but I'm going to try and lay my hands on one before they disappear.

The rest of the newsletter is full of little wonders. First, they've brought back their Semisweet Dipped Matzo for Passover. I love matzo for some reason and I like the idea of it dipped in chocolate. Sounds darn tasty to me. Almost as tasty as chocolate dipped macaroons, which they share a recipe for. Rounding things out is a recipe for a flourless chocolate cake.

March 18, 2006

Mini-Review: Chocolove Toffee & Almonds in Milk Chocolate

I love a good chocolate bar that has stuff in it. I don't feel so much pressure to think about the chocolate, I just get to enjoy it. It's more of a eating bar than a tasting bar. Bars of this variety are pretty much guaranteed to yield short short reviews but short reviews are easy to write!

So, the bar with stuff in that I'm reviewing tonight is the lovely Chocolove Toffee & Almonds in Milk Chocolate and is it ever a treat. The bar features 33% cocoa milk chocolate full of toffee chunks and toasted almonds. The chocolate is nice and creamy and the toffee and almonds are excellent and quite plentiful. The toffee is nice and buttery and the almonds are tasty and the chocolate is good. Everything fits together perfectly. It's a simple eating bar and delivers a great experience you don't have to analyze - just enjoy. I've never really liked toffee a whole lot but this is just excellent stuff. It gets a 9 out of 10 and a spot on my short list.

March 14, 2006

Make Mine Chocolate

I've kind of been debating with myself over whether I should post this or not. It's not entirely chocolate oriented, but in the end I don't think that it hurts to do so and if it makes a difference at all or even just increases awareness of the problem then I suppose it's worth the effort. I don't want to be preachy, but as a rabbit owner and chocolate lover it's a cause I can easily get behind.

Make Mine Chocolate is a campaign organized by the House Rabbit Society against the giving of live rabbits as Easter gifts. People equate rabbits with Easter so what would be a more appropriate gift to give on Easter morning than a rabbit? It may fit the theme, but it really does an enormous amount of harm. People are often unprepared for the ten-year commitment of caring for a rabbit and the initial interest in a pet rabbit can dry up quickly. So, shortly after Easter, rabbits start to make their way from being Easter gifts to being unwanted and abandoned. Humane Societies and shelters see a huge influx of rabbits after Easter and it's not like they don't already have too many to handle. People adopt dogs and cats at an amazing rate compared to rabbits and rabbits come in right behind dogs and cats as the most abandoned animals to find their way into shelters. Right now there are more than twenty rabbits at the Capital Area Humane Society here in Columbus and many more in foster care.

The message of the Make Mine Chocolate campaign is that rather than dooming more rabbits to shelters (often leading to euthanasia) or abandonment in the wild (which is a death sentence) people should consider giving a traditional chocolate bunny for Easter instead. And if somebody absolutely has to buy a live rabbit as a gift then for goodness sake adopt one.

Give chocolate and save a life.

Make Mine Chocolate
House Rabbit Society Easter Message

March 12, 2006

Recipe Roundup

recipes.jpgThis week has produced a bumper crop of chocolate recipes so I figured I would put up a quick rundown of them. They're pretty much all on news sites so be sure to get them before they disappear. This site has only been around a few months and already I've got batches of dead links, so grab 'em while you can!

First up we have a stack of recipes from the Idaho Statesman including a tasty sounding Grand Marnier Chocolate Mousse which just sounds awesome to me. Mmmm… orange and chocolate go so very well together.

Next we get a lovely pair of recipes from Delaware Online which, strangely enough, includes an Chocolate-Orange Mousse recipe using Grand Mariner! What were the odds of that?

The Sun-Sentinal offer up a recipe for Brenda's Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake. Can you ever have too many cheesecake recipes? As long as it’s good I’m always ready for one more.

CBS news gives us Bobby Flay's Triple Chocolate Cookie recipe which, in addition to using three kinds of chocolate (though I'm counting four), uses instant espresso powder to give them that extra zing. I love using instant espresso in cookies but I find it’s really important to eat them while they’re still warm – preferably with some ice cream melting all over them.

Finally my local paper, The Columbus Dispatch, dress up an old classic in some interesting new clothes with a recipe for Chocolate Crepes with Oranges in Grenadine-Orange Sauce.

Now if I just had more time for baking. I've got a lovely Kitchenaid stand mixer that I've only used like eight times sitting on top of my fridge and tons and tons of bakeware, some of which hasn't even been used. Not to mention a fat stack of chocolate cookbooks that I've only made maybe 15 or 20 things out of. It doesn't help that when I set foot in the kitchen I have to dodge a rabbit that believes that the only reason I go in there is to feed her.

March 8, 2006

Endangered Species Chocolate New Logo

endangeredspecieslogo.jpgEndangered Species Chocolate - makers of fine ethically traded (and sometimes Fair Trade Certified) chocolates supporting endangered species - has a new logo and a redesigned website! The animal imagery on the product packaging doesn't appear to have changed much but the overall look of the packaging has changed to match the new logo. Aside from the logo and website, though, the company remains the same delivering excellent chocolate while spreading awareness for and financially supporting conservation efforts.
The new site looks nice and is worth checking out.
Endangered Species Chocolate
Press Release

March 5, 2006

Melt Chocolates

melt.jpgThere is a great article in the Independent today about a new London chocolatier called Melt which is headed by a man who seems to be well and truly chocolate obsessed. Chef Damian Allsop works in an open kitchen in the store creating what sounds like some amazing works of chocolate art - like jasmine tea truffles (which I think sound fantastic) - using only the finest ingredients. He has some very interesting ideas (using water instead of cream – I cannot imagine that to be easy) and a true passion for chocolate that should make Melt a very fun place to visit. The open kitchen sounds like real a treat to me because I would love to watch a true artisan chocolatier at work. The article is a nice read and, even better, has recipes! The fresh mint truffle recipe sounds like a winner to me and I’m at least curious regarding the chocolate soup.
Article Link
Melt Chocolates

February 28, 2006

Review: Vosges Woolloomooloo Bar

Reaching deep into the pantry I came up with a Vosges Haut Chocolate Woolloomooloo bar. They describe it as having "Roasted & salted macadamia nuts, Indonesian coconut, hemp seed and dark milk chocolate." I got the bar because I loved the idea of salted macadamia nuts in a chocolate bar and I love the combination of macadamia and coconut. The hemp seed I wasn't entirely sold on. I have zero clue what hemp seed is supposed to taste like but the rest of the bar sounded right up my alley so it came home with me.

The packaging needs to be touched on before I move on to the bar itself. The bar comes in a nice box with a little section on "how to enjoy an exotic candy bar" on the back. Inside the box the bar is sealed away in a foil wrapper. Absolutely lovely packaging and I would not expect anything less from a $6.00 chocolate bar.

Now, the chocolate. The bar has a decent gloss and has the Vosges logo and little pictures of some rather lifeless looking women with Vosges bags on it's eight squares. The bar smells very nice. It is clearly milk chocolate and you can smell the macadamia nuts very easily. It has a nice milk chocolate taste and there are absolutely tons of nuts in it. The coconut doesn't seem to offer much to the flavor. It's there but it takes a back seat to the chocolate and the nuts. There is a little edge to it but I'm not sure if it's the salt on the nuts or the hemp seed (which I still don't know what tastes like).

The bar is very nice and I found it hard not to eat more of it in one sitting (a very rare thing for me - I usually take five or six sittings to finish off a bar and I was tempted to eat the entire thing). I really enjoyed it, but is it really worth six dollars? I'm pretty sure I can find a better chocolate fix for the money. Still, it does leave me looking forward to the Creole bar that still lurks in my pantry. Ignoring the price I'll give the bar an 8.5 out of 10. I'll probably try their other varieties and their truffles, but I'm not sure I'll repeat.

February 24, 2006

Chocolove Organic Bars!

Ack! Chocolove need a mailing list! They have added a pair of organic bars to their lineup of excellent bars and I didn't know about it. They have 61% and 73% cocoa content offerings made with chocolate from "a Caribbean Island" (oooh, mysterious) and I cannot wait to try them. Chocolove was one of my gateway drugs and I love them quite dearly so to me this is big big news. I'm going to cross my fingers and head over to Wild Oats this weekend and see if I can't score my a pair of these along with the cookie I like there.

Big big thanks to Adam for letting me know about them. If you cruise along to the comments on my first safari you can read his impressions of the bar.

61% Bar Link
73% Bar Link

February 22, 2006

Review: Dagoba Xocolatl Bar

After trying the Choxie Aztec Thin I was wondering how the fabled Dagoba Xocolatl would compare. The Choxie had some spice to it but no burn and was an all around nice bar. The Dagoba bar (75% cacao content) brings chilis, nibs, maca (more on this mysterious substance later), vanilla and nutmeg to the table all wrapped up in organic goodness.

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February 18, 2006

Review: Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock

Today I'm taking a little step out of my normal role and doing a little semi-review of a product that is only slightly chocolate in nature. The product in question is Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock beer. Samuel Adams comes out with a lot of seasonal varieties in addition to their normal beers but this is an even rarer breed - it is from their special "Extreme Beer" line, which is really all about pushing the boundaries of beer. Special stuff and usually quite limited edition in nature.

Normally I might skip an item like this. I almost did. But, out of curiosity, I took a look at the little tag that hung around the bottle's neck. I don't remember any other words from the label but "Scharffen Berger" and, really, seeing one of the best chocolate makers in the world teamed up with an excellent brewer I had to take a bottle home with me, no matter how expensive it was (and it was really expensive - $12.99 and that was on sale). The beer is brewed in the normal Sam Adams fashion and then aged over a bed of nibs from Ghana that were specially selected for the beer by Scharffen Berger. From the description on the Samuel Adams site:

    The chocolatiers at Scharffen Berger crafted an exclusive blend of chocolate for Samuel Adams® made with cocoa beans from Ghana called forastero. Samuel Adams® Chocolate Bock was aged on a bed of this chocolate to create its unique layers of flavor. As the beer matured, the fruity, tart, earthy and chocolate aromas were infused into the liquid to give the brew a complex, full-bodied taste with a velvety finish. A hint of vanilla was added to meld the symphony of flavors together.

First thing to note: the bottle looks really cool. The beer itself is very dark in appearance with very little head. The taste is dark but not super-strong or overly bitter. Very smooth with a light and not unpleasant aftertaste. Don't expect a massive explosion of chocolate flavor from it, though. This is a beer and the chocolate is there in the flavor but it's a lot like how you can taste different flavors in a chocolate based on where it was grown. There is a definite chocolate note there and it's nice, but the chocolate is just along for the ride. This is a beer. I have to say right now that I don't like beer very much. I am extremely picky about beer and drink it rarely. If I am drinking it then it's usually Guinness and the first glass goes down with a bit of a grimace. I need at least one beer to warm up to the taste. This was different. I warmed up to the taste on the first sip. Don't know why but that's just the way it is. I really like this beer.

Of course it would be a sin if I weren't to try this with some chocolate. If I'm drinking a chocolate beer then why not see how a little chocolate goes down with it? Since they use a special bean blend that isn't the Scharffen Berger norm I didn't worry too much about what brand of chocolate I was going to use. Since it was lurking in my pantry (saving it for a special occasion - this rates I think) and was a nice mid-point in terms of cocoa mass I went with a little of the Chocolove Chocolatour Grenada: a 60% cocoa single origin dark chocolate. I wanted something dark but somewhat sweet and this fits the bill nicely (I'll get a review up eventually). The beer is still very nice with the chocolate and the chocolate is very nice with the beer. If I'm going to sit around drinking expensive beer and good chocolate then these two are a good combo. I won't say that the two of them together are greater than the sum of their parts, but the sum of their parts is pretty high.

So, I'm not really in the business of reviewing beer. It isn't my thing and I don't know much about it. So, speaking out of ignorance and a very limited taste range (I like the darker coffee like beers) I'll give this a good 8.75 out of 10. It's darn good for a beer. If you consider the price then it's really more of a 6 or so. It is far from cheap.

February 17, 2006

Bite the (chocolate) Bullet

I like the idea of chocolate being a social food, much like coffee. You sit down with friends and enjoy some chocolate (and maybe some coffee while you're at it). Today Candy Addict posted up a lovely new product that brings a smile to my face (I ran into it at but Brian had it first). It certainly brings a social aspect to chocolate but more like a drinking game then sitting around nibbling and chatting. It is Chocolate Roulette. It is a set of 12 chocolate bullets 11 of which contain a nice creamy center. The twelfth, well, that's where the fun comes in. Lurking inside number twelve is a hot pepper. So you get all the fun (?) of Russian Roulette and nobody gets hurt too badly and you get to enjoy some chocolate at the same time! I just wonder how good the chocolate is (uh oh, signs of chocolate snobbery). I have to worry about a site that also carries Chocolate Covered Queen Leafcutter Ants.

Article Link
Product Link

February 16, 2006

Post Valentines Day Sales

News.jpgI've been so preoccupied with other matters (life is messy like that) that I entirely missed the fact that yesterday was Candy Sale Day! While most people track the normal holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Valentines I tend to focus on the aftermath. It was a sort of tradition. If I got to visit my Grandma for Easter we would head over to the Ben Franklins store and hit the leftovers. I was thrilled with the idea of buying twice as much candy with the same amount of money. Now, with my tastes running toward more expensive treats, the post-holiday sales are a Godsend. So, with Valentines Day behind us we can celebrate consumerism with half-price chocolates galore. Keep your eyes open for beautiful bargains, I know I will.

February 13, 2006

ethel's chocolate Lounges

ethels.jpgI love the ethel's chocolates concept - taking goumet chocolate and making it accessible to everybody. And even better than that is the concept of the chocolate lounge. This article from likens the chocolate lounge to coffee shops and I like the comparison. It is a place to go and experience chocolate in a relaxed setting (and is very close in concept to what I hope to someday open). It is approachable and fun and seems a great place to go with one's friends. With chocolate having so many percieved health benefits this would seem to be a great opportunity for concepts like ethel's lounges. Hot chocolate instead of coffee and some decadent truffles instead of a scone. What's not to love? Just one more great things Chicago has going for it. There are 10 ethel's lounges in the Greater Chicago Area and I hope to find my way to one this year. Worst case is I'll order a box from their website.

February 10, 2006

Review: Green & Black's Organic Ginger Bar

The last handful of weeks has been busy and stressful. I have a dozen irons in the fire and just haven't been able to find the time to take care of some of the 'less important' things like blogging. And while I haven't been writing about chocolate as much chocolate has helped me deal with all of the stress and confusion. Well, tonight I reached into my review stack (which I found buried under a pile of literature on rabbits while trying to restore some sense of order to my horribly messy world) and pulled out something I can't believe I haven't taken the time to try yet: the Green & Black's Organic Ginger bar.

The idea of ginger and chocolate playing together is really rather a new one for me. I had seen the Chocolove Crystallized Ginger in Dark Chocolate bar at Wild Oats but had never bothered to pick one up, sticking instead to the straight dark chocolate bars. It wasn't until Whole Foods opened up almost next door to me that I gave the bar a try. There were a pair of people from Chocolove in the store on opening day handing out samples and I'm really not one to shy away from free chocolate, especially when it's from a company I love. They gave me a piece of the crystallized ginger bar and it blew me away. The bar has been one of my favorites ever since. Okay, yeah, it's only been a few months, but it's still one of my favorites. So when I saw that Green & Black's had a ginger bar as well I resolved to give it a try.

The first impression Ithe bar gives is in the aroma - you can smell the ginger in it. The taste opens up with what I consider the Green & Black taste. There is something about Green & Black's chocolate that - at least to me - is unique to them and very easy to spot. I don't really know how to describe it other than that it's an earthy organic flavor (oh, that sounds like a cop out - saying "boy that organic chocolate tastes organic" ^^). This bar has that characteristic taste to it and it takes a moment for the ginger to make it's presence known. Once it does it's nice and tangy and spicy. It's really a very balanced bar. It isn't overly sweet and the ginger isn't overpowering and between the earthy chocolate and the warm spicy ginger you get a really nice chocolate experience. I think that the ginger not being too sweet really makes it a good match to the chocolate.

It's funny - when I first tasted the bar I mentally compared it to the Chocolove bar that I so enjoy and thought to myself that I just didn't like it. It wasn't as sweet and mellow. It was darker and spicier and it just didn't sit well with me at first. Once I got past the comparison and started to just absent-mindedly eat the bar I found it to be very enjoyable. It's different from the bar I love but different isn't to be confused with bad (oops, that's just what I did). I think this is a bar that I'll have to be in the mood for, but it's one I know I'll be in the mood for again. The only complaint I have about the bar is that it sort of stings my throat a little. Don't know why that is or what precisely it means, but if I have something to drink along with it or have small enough servings of it (and that is easy for me - a 3.5oz bar like this one lasts me a week) I won't have any problems. I'm running with a solid 8.75 out of 10. Good stuff. It's one of the flavors of ice cream they offer as well. Not that I can get their ice cream or anything, but I can dream.

February 6, 2006

Dangerous Dessert

dead.gifChef Antony Worrall Thompson may have just created the world's most dangerous dessert. His creation is called a Snickers Pie and it manages to pack over 1200 calories in a single slice. The recipe starts with Snickers bars and then adds on more goodness in the form of sugar and mascarpone and puff pastry. I'm not convinced that it would be good, but I'm one of those adventuresome souls who believe in trying new things so I would not be above trying a bite or three. There is a great article at that details the creation and the horror it has provoked. And, as I believe in giving the benefit of the doubt, I will present the recipe (with a little minor editorializing).

    Snickers Pie
    Kills - I mean SERVES - 4.
    Preparation time less than 30 minutes.
    Cooking time 30 minutes to one hour.
    Recovery time incalculable.

    1 packet puff pastry
    140g/5oz mascarpone
    110g/4oz soft cheese
    50g/2oz caster sugar
    3 eggs
    5 Snickers bars, chopped

    Preheat oven to 200C/400/Gas 6.
    Roll pastry to 3-4mm thick and use to line a 20cm/8in fluted tart tin.
    Beat the mascarpone, soft cheese and sugar together in a large bowl, until smooth.
    Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add the Snickers bars and fold in.
    Pour into lined tart tin, and spread to the edges.
    Place in the oven for 10 minutes, then lower to 180C/350/Gas 4 for a further 25 minutes until golden and set.
    Allow to cool before serving.

February 5, 2006

Review: Nestlé Toll House Rich Brownie Candy Bar

I love brownies. I love cake-like brownies. I love dense moist brownies. I just plain love brownies. I could go on about brownies all day. Really, I could. Brownies just take me way back. They are one of those wonder-foods that always seems to be good no matter who made it or how and they always make a day better. And the smell of a fresh pan of brownies coming out of the oven? Mmmmm.... If you ever see me passing up a brownie you can be assured that I am sick or dying. Or maybe brainwashed.

So, with my love of brownies in mind, it should be no surprise that when I saw the Nestlé Toll House Rich Brownie Candy Bar (another long name) with it's label touting (deep breath) "Rich, Chewy Brownies, Caramel & Morsels Covered in Creamy Nestlé Chocolate" I had to try it. How could it be anything but good? Brownies smothered in Nestlé! It's not Valrhona or anything, but I don't really expect to find Valrhona in a mini-mart. Brownies! And chocolate!

In the package are two nuggets of brownie covered in chocolate. Tearing one in two reveals a thin layer of caramel on top of the brownie. Upon tasting the bar I found it to be a mixed bag. I like the chocolate and the caramel. They give it a nice candy bar flair. The morsels are kind of lost in the brownie which, honestly, I did not like. The brownie has a texture that makes me think of the worst things about some of the energy bars I've been unfortunate enough to have tried. It brings to mind things like sawdust and glue. In this case the glue is some horrible mix of something sugary and something chocolatey. I've had convenient store brownies that are actually quite tasty for being all of $1.00 (Little Debbie comes to mind) but this is not even in their class. The brownie was just not good. I can't give this bar more than a 6 our of 10. The brownie was supposed to be the star of the show and it was not star quality. The potential was there for something really good, but they just did not deliver. Odds are I will not repeat.

February 1, 2006

Impulse Buy: Choxie Aztec Thin

This is not a review. Not to say I'm not going to award a score to the bar in question, but this is something I've been absent mindedly nibbling for a few days and haven't really given a whole lot of thought to. The bar that I'm not reviewing today is the Aztec Thin from Choxie.

Choxie is a line of premium chocolate products from the Target department stores here in the United States. They are on the cheap end of premium chocolates and are packaged in colorful patterns that catch the eye. Since their introduction last fall I'd been meaning to go and give them a try but up until this weekend I had never seen any. And it's not like I hadn't tried. Apparently they had the Choxie hidden away someplace other than where the normal candy and mints were in the foods section. I finally found some adjacent to the Valentine's Day chocolates as I was wandering the store in an aimless fashion this weekend looking for ideas for a project that I'm working on (the reason I haven't been diligently blogging this past week). I had an itch for a little chocolate and this would fit the bill just perfect.

With Choxie the idea seems to be to make more premium quality chocolates accessible to the general public. So my question is this: why hide it way off in the depths of the store where unless you are looking for chocolate you aren't going to find it? Shouldn't they be sticking Choxie at every last register in the front of the store? Or at least big island displays near the checkout. When I go to the grocery store all of the limited edition candy products are right there at the register on a huge display that is, frankly, in the way and hard to ignore. Don't they want people to buy Choxie instead of, say, Hershey or Kit Kat? And while I'm talking about Hershey and Kit Kat limited editions why is it that when I went to find some this week at the UDF I had to comb the store before I found them back by the hot dog rollers? I went through the candy aisle, through the checkout candy display and found not a one limited edition. No, they were hidden in the far recesses of the (admittedly small) store. Isn't the idea behind the limited edition bars for them to be an impulse buy? I believe I'm supposed to see a Raspberry Hershey's White Chocolate bar and say to myself "Wow, self, that looks good and since it's a limited edition I better buy it now if I want to try it."

Ok, aside from my trouble finding the chocolate I want to buy in a place that makes sense to me how was the Choxie? Well, the packaging says that it has ancho chiles and cinnamon. I was really surprised at how low key both of the flavors were. There was a background spiciness to the bar as opposed to it coming out and hitting you in the face with it. It was nice. I liked the chocolate - it wasn't too sweet for me though there was something a little strange in the texture. Might have been my imagination. The nibs on the top of the bar were nice too. Two out of four of the nibby bars I've had up until now have torn up the roof of my mouth pretty badly but this one I had no problems with and I love nibs. They add a little something darker to a milk chocolate bar like this and I like that. And on top of it all the bar only costs $1.80 - pretty nice price, no? So, if I had actually been paying attention instead of dealing with other issues I would probably be forced to give it, say, an 8.5 or so.

January 27, 2006

Review: Dagoba New Moon

I've been struggling with this review for about a week now (about the length of time it has taken me to eat the whole thing) and I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and post what I've got. The bar in question is the New Moon bar from Dagoba. It's a straight-up 74% cacao organic dark chocolate bar with no other fruits, nuts, or flowers along for the ride and I'd been looking forward to trying it for a while. I've enjoyed the Dagoba bars I've had so far and figured that this falls right in my preferred range of cacao mass and should be a nice easy review.

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January 26, 2006

Recipe: Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake

scharffenberger.jpgUpon seeing the words "Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake" on the screen in front of me I just didn't know what to think. The very concept of combining something as sublime as chocolate with something as strange as sauerkraut left me stunned and more than a little nauseous. But this recipe didn't come from just any old source, it was in the Scharffen Berger e-mail newsletter. If it comes from one of the best chocolate makers in the world I'm really forced to give it a little consideration before I close the page in knee-jerk revulsion. According to the recipe you can't taste the kraut and it just adds an interesting texture to the cake. And it's low in fat, too, which people seem to think is important these days. Being one of those people who will try most things at least once (just in case I'm missing something good) I figure I might be forced to give it a shot. I'm just not sure who is going to be willing to eat the rest of the cake.

January 23, 2006

Event: For the Love of Chocolate

forthelove.gifChocolate is not my only weakness. I also roll over for charities very easily (which I really don't feel is such a bad thing) and try to be as generous as possible with each one that calls (and they all call - I think they share their lists or something). Anyway, one of those rare opportunities to combine my giving nature with my love of chocolate has come around.

On Saturday, February 11, at the South Shore Cultural Center in Chicago, they are holding a charity event they are calling For the Love of Chocolate. The proceeds from the event will be split between the Children's Memorial Hospital and the Children’s Organ Transplant Association Fund for Abigail Wodrich. Abigail, daughter of area chef David Wodrich, was born 9 weeks early and with only 5% kidney function. Her father has been screened as a donor and was determined to be a match. Abigail is scheduled to receive her new kidney this April.

This is a good opportunity to support a pair of worthwhile causes and enjoy some chocolate at the same time. The event will be a treat for all the senses and will feature work from some of the best chefs in the city as well as a make your own truffle bar, desserts and cocktails from Chicago restaurants, live music (on three stages no less), chocolate fashion and wearable chocolate art, and a silent auction. The event sounds like fun and you get to help people at the same time: a complete win/win. It will run from 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm and tickets are $45 per person.

Event Site
Press Release

January 19, 2006

Scientists Move Closer to Understanding Health Benefits of Chocolate

Caduceus.gifScientists have finally isolated one of the flavanols that are responsible for the cardiovascular benefits of chocolate! A study by a group of University scientists from around the world and chocolate manufacturer Mars Inc. has shown evidence that the flavanol (-)epicatechin has a blood vessel relaxation effect. The study had both laboratory and field study portions which both support their findings all of which is covered (with some promotional fluff thrown in for good measure) in this press release.

I try hard to ignore the cheerleaders touting chocolate as a health food but at the same time I can't ignore that there are health benefits to be gained from moderate chocolate intake (moderation being the key). As I've said before: chocolate is a snack food, not a health food.

And, while we're at it, just how does one pronounce (-)epicatechin anyway? Anybody?

January 18, 2006

Free Hot Chocolate!

godivalogo.gifGodiva is having another in store event and you all know what that means: FREE CHOCOLATE! Ooooh, that is my favorite phrase in the English language. Okay, maybe not my favorite, but it's in the top ten for sure.

Last year Godiva introduced their Chocolixir frozen chocolate drinks and true to form they offered free samples. Now they are bringing us Hot Chocolixir! It seems everybody wants on board the hot chocolate train and Godiva is clearly no exception. Tomorrow and Friday, January the 19th and 20th, they will be giving free samples of their new hot chocolate product in select locations. Of course supplies are limited so there are no guarantees that even if you find a store that is offering samples that you can get one. Call your store before you go.

Chocolate Booze and D is For Death By Chocolate

BAILEYS.jpgThis may all be old news to some but there are some interesting and relatively new products from a couple of big names that I have just now become aware of and figured they deserved reporting on.

First off we have Godiva Cappuccino Liqueur. This new variety joins the original Godiva Liqueur and the Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur and offers some interesting new options for drink mixing. I've never partaken of their liqueurs before but this one sounds pretty tasty. They even have a few recipes making use of it up on their site.

Next up we have two new limited edition offerings from one of the companies I love: Baileys. For a while now they have been offering Caramel and Mint Chocolate Irish Cream in the Arizona market and starting in March they will be sharing the love nationwide as part of a Saint Patrick's Day promotion. I'm not entirely sure about the mint chocolate variety, but the caramel one really sounds good. I already have a couple of ideas for what to do with it.

So, continuing with Slashfood D-Day I figure I will share one of those little ideas with you in the form of an old recipe (starting with the letter D of course) with a new twist in the form of a little Caramel Baileys. Other options would be to use the Mint Chocolate Baileys or to use Godiva Cappuccino instead of the creme de cacao. Anyway...

D is for Death by Chocolate (Revised)
1/2 oz Brown Creme de Cacao
1/2 oz vodka
1 oz Baileys Caramel Irish Cream
1 Scoop Chocolate Ice Cream

Combine in a blender with a cup of crushed ice. Blend well and top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings or a little cocoa powder. If using the Mint Chocolate Baileys then a sprig of mint would make a cute garnish as well.

D Is For Dark Chocolate Dipped Cookies with Peppermint Creme

Today, in honor of Slashfood's D-Day, we have the York Dark Chocolate Dipped Cookies with Peppermint Creme up for review. Whew! That is one l-o-n-g name. I bought these out of curiosity and an eternal love of York Peppermint Patties while on safari this weekend and I just had to bust into them last night. My initial thought is that this is the York/Hershey answer to the Girl Scout's Thin Mints. Take a chocolate cookie, layer on some York gunk and coat the entire mess in dark chocolate and this cookie is the result. So just how good are they?

The cookies smell great. The aroma reminds me of Thin Mints, which isn't surprising in the least. The cookie inside is crisp and the chocolate is passably decent and the York stuff is York stuff and therefore good. All together i's pretty darn good. Just not quite Thin Mint good. Close though. The next cookie went into the freezer. I love frozen Thin Mints with a passion so I figure if I'm going to use them as the gold standard I should really test the York cookie the same way I enjoy my Thin Mints. I have to say that they are really good frozen, nearly as good as a Thin Mint and not as tooth-breakingly hard as a frozen York Peppermint Patty. But again, it still comes in behind the mighty Thin Mint.

So in the end, what do we have? We have something that is almost as good as a Thin Mint and theoretically available all year round. In terms of taste the Thin Mint wins, but I can't go out and buy a box of Thin Mints any time I feel like it (though they do lurk in my freezer about six months out of the year). I can go out and buy a box of York cookies at the grocery store and that counts for a lot. But the one thing I think that makes me really prefer the Thin Mints is serving size, and it's really a mental thing for me. The serving size is almost identical in terms of weight, but the York cookies are twice the size of a Thin Mint so you only get two in a serving as opposed to four Thin Mints. The York also has twenty extra calories, all in the form of fat (horror!). While I'm not one to shy away from a little fat, it is one more minor mark against the York cookies.

One final annoyance I find with them is on their website. They say that they are available in "2 oz. single serve packages of four cookies" but when you go to look at the nutritional information you find that the serving size is two cookies and there are two servings in their so-called "single serve package". That sort of thing just bugs me. So wonderfully consistent. I'm not going to hold it against them in their score, though. I just find it annoying.

Overall the cookies are good. I can't argue with taste and I like these cookies. The "smaller" portion size and higher fat content when compared to Thin Mints are disappointing. I'd rather eat 4 smaller cookies than 2 larger ones. I have to go with a score of 7.5 for these. They are good cookies, but I want more and I still prefer Thin Mints (which, for comparison's sake I would probably rate an 8.5).

January 16, 2006

Chocolate Safari - 1st Quarter 2006 Edition

Yesterday I found myself in need of a mental health break and that usually calls for a drive. Instead of just driving until I felt like turning back I decided to head for Jungle Jim's for a bit of a reprise of my November chocolate safari. I think that I am going to have to make the chocolate safari a quarterly event. The variety of products I find at Jungle Jim's is beyond amazing. Items from all about the world and an array of chocolate that makes my head spin. It could take me years to eat my way through all the chocolate they have and I look forward to giving it my best shot.

Continue reading "Chocolate Safari - 1st Quarter 2006 Edition" »

January 13, 2006

Chocolate on the Cheap

Due to some personal and work issues I've been feeling a little down the last couple of days so I decided to stop off at Whole Foods Market on the way home to get a little sushi to cheer me up. I figured an evening with sushi, chocolate, and a bad movie would be just the cure for what ails me. As I do every time I enter the store I swung by the chocolate aisle to see if they had anything new in stock. Most of the time it seems that their selection is poor and when something new shows up it is best to grab it before it disappears. I was happy to see a few more items had hit the shelves (though I have yet to see the elusive Chocolove Toffee & Almonds in Milk Chocolate that I was really hoping for) and was about to make due with a single bar when I noticed the bundles of bars on top of the display. They had been bundling bars together for holiday gifts for a while and I was suddenly hopeful that they might be discounted. On closer inspection I found them to have a Valentine's Day ribbon on them. Disappointed that I wouldn't score a bundle of chocolate at half off I nearly put it down without checking the tag. But curiousity compels and I enswervingly obey so I took a look, just to see how bad the mark-up for a little ribbon would be. My jaw nearly hit the floor when I read the price: $13.99! I carefully counted the bars and did a little mental math and then double checked the tag. I had eight bars of Green & Black's Organic Chocolate in my hand at $1.75/bar and 5 of them were varieties that I almost never see in stock. That's 40% off by my math! Now, this may have been a fluke. There were smaller bundles at the same price. The weird thing is that the other bundles at that price all had a different number of bars. There were 8, 6, and 5 bar bundles all at $13.99 for some bizarre reason. The 4 bar bundle was $8.99 (still a healthy 25% off). I feel guilty for getting such a good deal, but I would think that whoever prices these things out did it all for a reason.

So what I'm getting at here is to always check for deals while shopping. You never know when you are going to run into an amazing bargain. And who wouldn't appreciate a big fat stack of high quality chocolate for Valentine's Day, aside from those people who just plain don't like chocolate (the poor poor souls)? I'm actually glad I don't have an SO right now or I would feel compelled to hide this away for Valentine's Day. Now I get to enjoy them all myself and report the results of my enjoyment here.

January 12, 2006

Snapshot Chocolate Greeting Cards

I ran into this a couple of days ago and have been rolling it around in my mind trying to figure out what to think about it. Snapshot Chocolate is in the business of putting digicam photos on chocolate. They specialize in commemorative items in all shapes and sizes - for births, baptisms, holidays or anything else you can think of - and chocolate picture parties. A quick trip to their site shows that they are quite adept at it. They print the photos with FDA approved food coloring inks and the results look fabulous. And now, according to a Tuesday press release, they will be offering personalized chocolate greeting cards. The cards will be housed in a CD case and will be available over the web or in traditional brick and mortar stores. It appears that the customization options are limited to names and dates but it is still a very neat idea and probably a lot cheaper than the photo printed chocolate offerings.

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Review: São Tomé Showdown!

Today we have something fun on deck. Dating back to the chocolate safari I have a Chocolatour São Tomé 70% cocoa single origin bar from Chocolove that has been awaiting my attention. It seems I also have a Lake Champlain Sao Thome 70% cocoa single origin bar that found it's way into my basket at Whole Foods today. And so I thought it might be fun to pit the two bars against each other in a grand São Tomé showdown!

I've said before that I am no connoisseur. I don't know if I have good enough senses of taste and smell to be a proper connoisseur. Today's showdown is an experiment of sorts. Comparing two bars of similar origin and cocoa content should hopefully help me spot nuances that I might not otherwise notice. That's my theory at least. We'll see how it plays out. On with the review!

Continue reading "Review: São Tomé Showdown!" »

January 9, 2006

Review: Godiva Platinum Collection 8 Piece Box

godivalogo.gifClocking in at an impressive $65 per pound I found myself in no hurry to try out Godiva's Platinum Collection. If it were not for the big post-holiday sale I would still not have taken the plunge. But with the 8 piece box down to a mere $7.50 I decided that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see if they had indeed produced something worthy of the name 'Platinum Collection' so I brought a box home with me. What I found was interesting to say the least. But $65 a pound interesting?

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January 3, 2006

Review: Green & Black's Organic Maya Gold

Up on the review block today we have Green & Black's Organic Maya Gold chocolate bar. The first time I had tried Green & Black's chocolate I tried their Espresso bar and found it a bit too strong for my tastes but not being a big coffee person I figured that it was my fault and they were due a second chance. I must say that this bar is much more to my liking than the last.

I don't have the developed nose of a chocolate connoisseur and won't pretend I do. I will say that upon opening the bar I was greeted with a variation on the slightly sour, earthy chocolate aroma I have come to associate with organic chocolate. The aroma was a little spicy and had just a hint of citrus about it. The taste is very nice. The orange flavor that was hinted at in the aroma really comes through without being overpowering and the spices complement it and the chocolate nicely. The chocolate itself is a nice dark chocolate - smooth, not very bitter and pleasantly sweet. The spices keep me scratching my head, though. Tasting the chocolate and smelling the bar I keep thinking of making pumpkin pie cake - I come back to nutmeg and cinnamon. Green & Black's describe the bar having nutmeg, cinnamon and a hint of vanilla (which I missed entirely) so I'm apparently not too far off the mark. I think a little ginger in the mix would be amazing, but that's just me. Possibly the nicest thing about the bar is the fact that while it has the orange flavor it doesn't have a strong orange aftertaste.

Both the spices and orange are a nice complement to the chocolate and don't overpower it. The bar, like all good flavored bars, is very well balanced. The flavors are all complementary of each other and not overwhelming. On top of it all the bar is organic and Fair Trade certified - both important selling points for me. I have to say I really like this bar a lot and figure it to be about an 9 out of 10. Highly recommended.

Chocolate Motherlode Cake

I hate to simply steal somebody else's great find, but now and then something comes along that I feel I just have to share. Once again Slashfood (much love) have one of those astounding items that I just can't read and not pass on. I'll not repeat everything they have to say, but try to add a little something of my own to the mix so be sure to read the original.

It is a cake. A cake like no other. It comes in three or, for those special occasions, six layers. The six layer version is nearly a foot tall and a single slice weighs in at three pounds and is divided into 10 servings. And it's beautiful. Some spectacular food porn. The cake comes from a California based restaurant chain called Claim Jumper (why don't these items ever show up at Ohio based restaurants I ask you) and is available for all occasions. Claim Jumper appear to be pushing ever eastward and I might stop in their Lombard, IL (really close to Chicago) location next time I'm up to visit my sister.

Being the ever-inquisitive web nerd I stuck chocolate motherlode into my favorite image searches and found some very interesting little items. First is a recipe for the beast (*EDIT* the recipe I first posted has disappeared - such is the net - here is another recipe for it that hopefully is still accurate *EDIT*). The recipe is attributed to Claim Jumper so it may even be real. Next up is one more porntastic shot of a slice of the cake that is floating in limbo on the AZ Central site with no story to be found to go along with it. Rather than spit in the face of Copyright I'm posting a link to the poor orphaned picture. Check it out!

It occurs to me that you only ever really see these utterly out of control desserts involving chocolate. There is no vanilla motherlode or strawberry avalanche. There are occasionally out of control ice cream dishes but you pour chocolate all over them so they don't count. What is it about chocolate that makes it such a perfect food for over the top presentation? I'll personally go with the concept that if the implied decadence of chocolate on it's own is off the chart then multiplying it a hundred-fold can only make it more amazing. Just a thought.

Slashfood Article
Claim Jumper Restaurants
Pure Food Porn

December 29, 2005

Cold Weather and Hot Chocolate

lakechamplaincocoa.jpgOf all the wonders of winter that we enjoyed growing up in Ohio hot chocolate has to be one of the best. Coming in from the freezing cold to find a steaming cup of cocoa waiting for you is a wonderful feeling. Today we find hot chocolate becoming a bit of a trend among adults with an emphasis on quality that we didn't get when I was a kid. Hot chocolate came out of a packet with crunchy little marshmallows in it and more often than not was made with hot water and maybe - if you were lucky - a dash of milk as an afterthought. Today we are talking about real hot chocolate full of - pinch me - real chocolate and actual milk. Ah, heavenly.

I have a handful of articles to share today on the subject of the trendiness of hot chocolate and even an alternative to it.

Continue reading "Cold Weather and Hot Chocolate" »

Sweet Savings

godivalogo.gifJust a quick update on the post-holiday sale front. Godiva have started to heavily discount some of their Christmas collection to the tune of 50% off. This is a great way to get some great chocolate at an amazing price so be sure to check it out. I'm probably going to grab the Holiday Cocoa Collection (since I can't recall seeing either Dagoba or Green & Black cocoa locally) and maybe a box of truffles. Yum!
Chocolate Covered Sale

December 27, 2005

Post-Holiday Bargain Hunting

lakechamplain.gifA belated 'Happy Holidays' to everybody! Now that the madness is behind us - both of the big day itself and the big shopping day yesterday - we can get on with more important things. Things like chasing down holiday packaged chocolates at 50% or more off! A quick wandering through a few stores yesterday yielded a beautiful variety of good to excellent chocolates at steep discounts. Even the most pedestrian of grocery stores probably has some Dove chocolates in Christmas-colored wrappings and if you have a store close by with a more tasteful selection you can find great deals on brands like Lake Champlain.

Those who wish to skip fighting the mobs in the stores and having to hunt for their bargains can go the online route. Lake Champlain has a big sale selection on their website where they are doing as much as 66% off of their holiday products (the small package of Gelt - chocolate coins - is 1/3 it's normal price) making for some easy bargains without quite so much effort. A quick check of Godiva's site yields no sales yet (and they also "can no longer guarantee delivery by Christmas" - hee!) but they are sure to come soon enough.

Lake Champlain Chocolates on Sale

December 23, 2005

Choctail Recipes

News.jpgPRNewswire has up a post with recipes for 10 different chocolate cocktails - or "choctails" as they call them - and they sound nice. They go relatively light on the alcohol focusing instead on the milk but the flavor combinations are nice. In fact, looking over the recipes I actually found two that I make for myself - the Irish Cream and Seattle Spiked Mocha. As I love those two recipes I'm apt to give a few more of these a try.

Keystone Chocolate Village Revised

Last week I reported on the 10th annual Keystone Chocolate Village being on display at the Keystone resort in Keystone Colorado. I was disappointed when posting that there were no pictures to share. 2500 pounds of chocolate sounds great but it's a little difficult to get a good picture of just how much chocolate that really is. Two different mountain news sources have now released pictures of the village and, more importantly, the press center for Keystone has released video of the village. It really is amazing to look at. There is a chocolate train, chocolate gondolas, mountains - really impressive work. Chef Ned Archibald deserves a lot of credit for this impressive piece of chocolate art.

One last thing: look carefully at the big white christmas tree in the first article and in the video. Remember what I said in my prior posting? It's white chocolate with blown sugar ornaments. And is it ever beautiful.

On the Snow Article with Photo

Summit Daily Article with Photo
Keystone News Release with Video Link

December 21, 2005

Chocolate and Your Health

News.jpgIt's pretty frightening how many articles I see on a daily basis touting dark chocolate as a 'health food'. I've stated my personal views on the subject and because of those views I try not to post all of these articles unless there is something that really catches my eye. Today I have found an article on Confectionery News that actually represents the voice of reason. It summarizes a slew of the findings on ways chocolate is good for us but it quickly turns it around and brings us all back to reality discussing the physical and ethical issues surrounding chocolate.

I like to think that chocolate is a treat and not a cure all. It is good for us emotioanally and dark chocolate in particular carries a lot of beneficial substances, but it is still just a treat - not a health food. The good news is that, in small doses, our treat is at least as good for us as it is bad.

December 19, 2005

Review: Dagoba Lime

Had an itch to try something new and this time it was the Dagoba Lime bar that received the nod. So far I have had good luck with Dagoba's products (aside from one bar I bought at a standard grocery that was covered in bloom). This is one of the bars I picked up on the Chocolate Safari and I've been saving it while I try other things. The bar is, according to the label, "forest grown organic dark chocolate infused with lime essence and macadamia nuts" and lists a cacao content of 59%. The bar sounds great so lets see whether it delivers the goods in terms of taste.

Continue reading "Review: Dagoba Lime" »

December 16, 2005

Keystone Chocolate Village

News.jpgI really wish I had a picture to go along with this. There is a tradition at the Keystone Resort in Keystone Colorado to build a chocolate village for display in the lobby for the holiday season. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the annual display and features 2500 pounds of chocolate including a six foot white chocolate Christmas tree with blown sugar ornaments. It took 10 months (!) for Keystone chef Ned Archibald to build the display which runs through January 2nd. Hopefully they'll post some photos of it so I can actualy see (and share) this marvel but for now it's just up to my imagination.
Press Release
Keystone Resort

December 13, 2005

17 Foot Tall Chocolate Christmas Tree

440 pounds of chocolate. Just think about that for a moment. Think about just how much chocolate that is. A whole lot, right? Well, at a hotel in Bangkok they are using that much chocolate to make a giant chocolate Christmas tree over 17 feet tall. There isn't a whole lot more information than that which is kind of disappointing. I want more details! Anyway, it's cool and it's chocolate so I figured I had to post it. The article here on Hospitality Net shows another good shot of it being built so if this sort of thing floats your boat like it does mine then check it out.
Photo: REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

December 12, 2005

Rumor: Godiva Ready-to-Drink Coffees

godivalogo.gifRumors circulating as far as CNN/Money would have us believe that Coca-Cola will be helping to bring a line of ready-to-drink coffees to stores under the Godiva brand. If I go to the grocery store I can buy Godiva ice cream. In some stores I can buy their cocoa. As they already have their own coffees available through their retail outlets I don't see it as too much of a stretch of the imagination that they would see to put it in cans and in stores. With Coke as a partner they could end up in every grocery and convenience store in the country in short order. The rumor feels pretty much right. Godiva have been seeking to expand their brand in the last year and this would be a natural extension of what they are already doing. As yet, it remains a rumor only. Nobody has confirmed anything to anybody. If it does turn out to be true I'll be certain to give it a try. I have a decent respect for Godiva and have only rarely been disappointed with their products.

House of Brussels Releases ChocoMed Bars

brussels.jpgHouse of Brussels Chocolates announced recently the release of the first of it's new line of ChocoMed fortified chocolate bars. With more than two years of research going into their creation the ChocoMed Pure Chocolate brand marries nutritional supplements with fine chocolate. The inial six varieties are Anti-Aging, Stress Free, Strong Bones, Pre-Natal, Sweet Dreams And Vitamin Bars.
With two years research and real doctors involved in the poject - as well as a quality company like Brussels - I have higher hopes for this product than I do for most of it's sort. If I find any of them I'll see about giving the Stress Free, Sweet Dreams, and Vitamin bars a try. I'm curious as to how well they have managed to 'marry' chocolate and nutraceuticals.
ChocoMed Site
House of Brussels Site
Press Release

Britains Going for the Good Stuff

News.jpgAccording to an article on Yahoo! News the people of Great Britain are beginning to shift their tastes from more generic 'candy' chocolates and over to more quality chocolate. Sales of dark chocolate are up 30% and the increase is thought to be because of - what else - the potential health benefits of chocolate. A small article but interesting news.

December 10, 2005

Santander Gift Pack

While perusing the holiday goodies at the Anderson's General Store just up the road I ran into a pair of gift packs of Santander single origin chocolate bars - a product of Compañía Nacional de Chocolates. One set was all 70% cacao dark chocolate, one straight bar and one each with coffee bits and espresso. The other gift pack contained a 36% milk chocolate bar, a 53% semi-dark bar, and a 65% dark chocolate bar. Both came in a nice plastic sleeve wrapped up in a gold ribbon and were priced at an absurd $4.99. Paying that little for three single origin chocolate bars is something that doesn't happen all that often and one of these sets would make a great gift for a chocolate lover this holiday season. A small but simple gift idea.

December 9, 2005

Review: Irish Coffee Truffle Bar from Butlers Irish

Today we at last unwrapped the bundle of joy that is the Butler's Irish Coffee Truffle Bar from the good people at Butler's Irish Handmade Chocolates. The bar is made with real Jameson Irish whiskey, a product near and dear to my heart, and sounds absolutely lovely. Chocolate. Coffee. Irish Cream made with Jameson Whiskey.
I consider it my sacred duty to review this product.

Continue reading "Review: Irish Coffee Truffle Bar from Butlers Irish" »

Opinion: Healthy Chocolate

fun.jpgThe idea of chocolate being a health food has really taken root in people’s imaginations. It isn’t terribly surprising that the concept of a decadent treat being good for you has people excited and in the modern world of consumerism that means It will be in your face, every day, as more studies are completed and new products are announced. I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the topic.

Continue reading "Opinion: Healthy Chocolate" »

Free Chocolate Reminder!

godivalogo.gifJust a quick reminder that through tomorrow, December 10th, Godiva will be offering free samples of their Pop Chocolates. The Pop Chocolates are truffles with an effervescent kick to them and come in two flavors: CranOrange Dark Chocolate Dazzler and White Chocolate Raspberry Sparkler. As is always the case, quantities are limited, only one per customer, and not all locations will be participating. Me, I'm going to head out. I can't pass up the offering of free truffles and the effervescence twist to it has me curious.

December 7, 2005

ChocolateChocolate in the News

I'm a chocolate cookbook junkie and Lisa Yockelson's new book, ChocolateChocolate, is sitting high on the list of books I want to get this winter. The Chicago Sun-Times has posted an article on the book and the author which even features a few recipes. If you're like me and always on the prowl for recipes (and good cookbooks) then give the article a read, it's worth your time. The book sounds like it is right up my alley with a lot of the author's personality showing through - like in Alice Medrich's books - and it really sounds like the author has an exuberance for the subject. Hopefully I'll be laying my hands on a copy before long so I can write up my own review.

December 6, 2005

Lake Champlain Spring Gifts

lakechamplain.gifLake Champlain Chocolates, one of the many companies I love, has announced their upcoming new gifts for spring. They have an amazing array of new and returning products to cover the Valentine's Day to Mother's Day season and a batch of specialties for Easter as well. Among the new items my eye settled in on the dark chocolate java filled chocolate egg which sounds excellent and is being added to my list of things I have to try. All the details are available in their press release so head over and take a look.

December 5, 2005

Chocolate Overkill

Lindt, maker of those little Lindor Truffles and the much better Lindt Excellence line, are now bringing us a bar of chocolate with 99% cocoa mass. I had always thought that such high content was only to be found in baking chocolate. To date, the highest percentage I have had is the 85% Valrhona (which I made truffles with) and it was probably as high as I'm ready to go on a normal basis. Still, I'm curious about this and will probably give it a try at some point.
Via CalorieLab

December 1, 2005

More Potential Chocolate Health Benefits

barrycallebaut.jpgBarry Callebaut - parent company of Callebaut, Brachs, Cocoa Barry and many more - have announced new findings with regards to chocolate and your health. What's more, this time it isn't all about the flavonoids. This time we get to hear about the wonders of polyphenols and how they can help fight cancer and aging. Somehow these polyphenols managed to slip beneath my radar but apparently they are the next wave of marketing and will probably be as big as flavonoids. Barry Callebaut already have a special premium brand of chocolate rich in polyphenols called Acticoa which this news can only help. The article is a good read and I recommend it.

It does raise a few questions for me, however. First, if consumers preceive chocolate as healthy what effect will it have on prices and production methods? I can't help but think in terms of supply and demand and the price would have to rise accordingly. Additionally there would be pressure to increase production which could hurt the Fair Trade movement. And would this have an effect on the role of the small plantations, the sort from which we get single origin chocolate? I would imagine that there would be an effort by large producers to get as much land for cultivation as possible and that could mean the acquisition of smaller plantations. Just a few thoughts. And these all assume that all of this craziness regarding chocolate and your health actually pans out. I think it has a shot at being legitimate, but there are other health concerns that go along with chocolate (fat anybody?) that need to be considered along with the potential benefits.


November 30, 2005

Review: Dagoba Brasilia

The other day I stopped in at Whole Foods Market to get some Chocolove and ended up coming home with this instead. This was the first time I remember seeing this variety at the store and I really liked the sound of it so I decided to pick it up. Well, that and they were out of the Chocolove bar I wanted, but that doesn't matter. What matters is I bought an Organic Dagoba Brasilia bar and it was very good.

Continue reading "Review: Dagoba Brasilia" »

November 29, 2005

Recipe: Dolce Torinese

recipes.jpgBella Online have posted a new recipe on their site for a Dolce Torinese (chocolate terrine). Ok, the name may not have clicked for me right away but when I saw the words "rum-soaked chocolate terrine" I was sold. The sixteen tablespoons of butter (2 sticks) don't even give me pause given everything else this recipe is offering. One more recipe to add to the ever-growing list of things I need to try. It sounds absolutely sinful, but in a good way.

Chocolate Spa Treatments

fun.jpgEver since I saw a feature on Food Network about the Chocolate Spa at the Hotel Hershey I've been curious about the whole chocolate spa experience. Today an article posted at the Japan Times Online prompted me to do some sniffing around. The article documents the writer's trip to the spa and the cocoa bean scrub she received there and is an interesting and amusing read.

Of course chocolate spas will, if Spa Claudia Aoyama and the Hershey Chocolate Spa are any indication, use cocoa and cocoa butter as opposed to chocolate. That doesn't in any way make them any less attractive. You are going for the spa and some chocolate immersion and when it comes down to it chocolate is really all about the cocoa.

The article and a quick perusal of the Hershey Chocolate Spa site have got my curiosity piqued. I've been thinking about a trip to Hershey and I might just have to consider a trip to the spa there as well. In the end, the way I figure it is this: if spa services are good and chocolate is good then mixing the two has to be spectacular.

Article Link
Hershey Chocolate Spa

November 28, 2005

Sugar Prices On the Rise

News.jpgThis could be bad news for chocolate lovers. Sugar prices are climbing rapidly due to refineries being hit by 2005's particularly nasty hurricane season and those price increases will be flowing through the producers and out to the consumers in the form of higher retail prices. Columbus Business First has an article talking about how the price hit is being felt at local favorite Anthony-Thomas Candy Co. and at Pure Imagination Chocolatier (of the North Market and available at Whole Foods Market on 161 for the locals). Unless the companies we buy our chocolate from are willing to take it in the bottom line for their customers then it looks like we will be paying more for chocolate. Personally, I'll be focusing on quality as opposed to quantity, but I am a bit of a chocolate snob these days anyway (albeit an ignorant chocolate snob).

November 27, 2005

Review: Whooppee Cocoa Cream Soda

On my first ever visit to Jungle Jim's I hit the small company soda aisle pretty hard. I bought a wide variety of things to try but the true stand-out of the batch came to me as a total surprise: Whooppee Cocoa Creme Soda.

I had very low expectations for the drink. I had never thought that chocolate had any place in soda pop. So I was a bit shocked when I found this drink to be absolutely wonderful. At first you don't taste the cocoa at all, just creme soda. I love creme soda and this was a soft and refreshing one. The cocoa made it's presence known just after my first swallow. The cocoa flavor is very subtle and complements the creme soda very nicely. I had gone into things expecting the cocoa to be overpowering but I found it to be anything but. It lurks in the background and takes you by surprise.

Overall the drink is very refreshing, not overly sweet, and has only a subtle, pleasant cocoa aftertaste and I recommend it without hesitation.


November 26, 2005

Godiva In-Store Event

godiva_logo.gifOur friends at Godiva are constantly offering in-store events ranging from demonstrations to tastings. December 1-3 and 8-10 they will be having a tasting event featuring their 'Pop Chocolates' - truffles with an effervescent zing to them. I've had fizzy chocolate beverages before, but not fizzy truffles so I'm looking forward to giving these a try, especially for free. The two flavors are CranOrange Dark Chocolate Dazzler and White Chocolate Raspberry Sparkler. I'm not sure if I'm up for cranberry in my chocolate so I'll probably go for the raspberry if I have to choose between the two. Be sure to stop by for the tasting, though you might want to check with the store ahead of time since it is, like all of their events, at 'select locations' only.

Recipe: Cinnamon Chocolate Brownies

recipes.jpgI love the combination of cinnamon and chocolate. The two flavors are so different but complement each other so well. AZCentral has posted up a recipe that combines these two flavors into one of my favorite types of food: the brownie. I'm considering trying these. Sounds good. My only issue is the name. Isn't 'chocolate brownie' redundant? I'm just picky.

Washington Post on Premium Chocolate

News.jpgThe Washington Post have up a nice article discussing the growth of premium chocolate in the marketplace. They compare premium chocolate to coffee via what they call the 'Starbucks Effect'. It's an interesting read and its nice to see that people are beginning to recognize that there is more to chocolate than candy bars you can get at the gas station and dime a dozen assortments from the grocery store. And, of course, there is mention of the potential health benefits. Can't talk chocolate these days without the desperate hope that it could actually be good for you (personally, I feel that it doesn't matter - it's chocolate for gosh sakes - you don't need an excuse).

I have locked comments on this post due to incessant comment spam. Sorry for any inconvenience.

November 25, 2005

Newtree Chocolats

newtree.jpgThere has been a lot of news in the past year about how chocolate is actually (maybe) good for you. Well, Newtree is taking the concept one step further by combining the miracle food that is chocolate with other beneficial all-natural ingredients to make what I would tend to think of as holistic health chocolate. For instance their Serenity bar uses bitter orange for it's soothing effect and their Vivacity bar is overflowing with naturally occurring caffeine and other stimulants (creating the chocolate bar equivalent of an energy drink). An interesting concept. Their bars are divided into categories based on their effect: Stimulating, Harmony, Relaxing, Pleasure, Digestion, and Antioxidant. I like the concept but would like to see them take it one step further and go with Fair Trade chocolate. It would be good for you and for the people who work the plantations as well. That little quibble won't stop me from trying their chocolate if I see it, though.

Ovidias Belgian Chocolates in the Freshpack

This is a new one on me. Ovidias, a maker of fine Belgian chocolates, has a special "freshpack" can that you can buy their chocolates in. The can seals in the chocolate and seals out light and prevents condensation and delivers perfect chocolate to the consumer. It's pretty neat, it looks like a soda pop can except the entire lid pulls off with a pull-tab. To make a neat idea even better you can get your company logo printed on the can.

I found out about the product in a press release announcing that Hospitality Confections LLC is bringing the product to (presumably) the hospitality industry in the United States. Seems like a good fit. A can of chocolates in the mini-bar would be a neat thing. I'm mentioning the press release because it has some really nice pictures attached to it that you should check out if you have any interest at all in this product.

Ovidias Home Page
Press Release

November 22, 2005

Manager Assaulted with Chocolate Cake

News.jpgStrange and unusual news is a little hobby of mine and this news item falls firmly into the chocolate arena as well as the weird news pool!
When a Raley's store manager and store security approached a woman attempting to shoplift from their store the woman struck out, attacking the manager with a German Chocolate Cake. Not a lot more to report than that. I will say that if I have to be assaulted I would prefer that it be with chocolate cake.

Fairmont San Francisco to Install Massive Gingerbread Village

News.jpgFirst let me say that I am aware that gingerbread is not chocolate. I'm posting about this because the gingerbread village they are building will be using 265 pounds of chocolate. So long as there is chocolate involved it's news to me. Plus, at 16 feet by 6 feet it's guaranteed to be an impressive sight. I can't wait to see the photos from this one. You can read the press release at the link below.

November 20, 2005

Photos: Chocolate Safari Review

It's been a while since I posted about the safari (see this post here) and I promised to post a quick selection of pictures of all the chocolate I bought. It's time I made good and posted some of the fun stuff I bought. Also, it's Sunday and there isn't anything newsworthy to post. So, in absence of real news I'll make some up. Just like the real media!

Continue reading "Photos: Chocolate Safari Review" »

November 19, 2005

Recipe: Chocolate Pecan Pie

recipes.jpgThe Seattle Post-Intelligencer (big name) has posted an article that combines two of my favorite pie types in one evil confection, a Chocolate Pecan Pie. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of chocolate in it, but it still sounds absolutely scrumptious to a chocolate fiend like me. Somehow I see this, warm, with some fresh whipped cream, as being just a spectacular way to end a meal (or, if you're ambitious like me, it could be a meal in itself).

Exhibit: The Amazing Chocolate Tree

chocolatetree.gifFranklin Park Conservatory, here in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, has a new exhibition called "The Amazing Chocolate Tree" running now through February 20. The exhibit looks at the history, cultivation, and manufacture of chocolate and ends in what they describe as a "life-size chocolate factory" so you can roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. The exhibition sounds like a treat for kids of all ages and I'm going to see if I can't talk my family into going either Thanksgiving weekend or maybe Christmas weekend.

There is a nice write-up about the exhibit in one of our community papers at this location. The site for the exhibition is located here.

One last item of note: while there you should check out the Dale Chihuly Glass Exhibition which is permanently housed at the Conservatory. Chihuly is a wonderfully talented artist and it is a great chance to see some of his work and enjoy a little chocolate edutainment at the same time.

Recipe: Chocolate Pie

recipes.jpgJamie Dexter of the Marshall County, Kentucky Tribune-Courier has posted a recipe for Chocolate Pie. It's an old family recipe and I have great faith in old family recipes. When a recipe is good enough to be handed down through the family I tend to think that it's got to be good.

Recipe: Best Chocolate Cake Ever

recipes.jpgTammy Page, Bella Online's Chocolate Editor, has posted her recipe for the "Best Chocolate Cake Ever" and it looks like it is worth giving it a try. The mocha icing recipe that she posted along with it also sounds great!

November 18, 2005

Coupon: Mrs. Fields Chiller

mrsfields.jpgMrs. Fields Cookies has a new product! Like Godiva and Krispy Kreme before them, they are now offering a blended drink featuring their lovley products, the Mrs. Fields Chiller. And, through the end of the year, you can get a dollar off of one of these interesting confectionary beverages by paying a visit to (and registering at) their special promotional site. While you are there play with the cookies - it's fun to make a few million fly around the screen all at once. I have a feeling that I might be 'forced' to give one of these a try before long (I've stayed away from the Krispy Kreme one so far but the cookies might win me over). They look too tasty to pass up.

New Hershey's Product Announcement

hersheys.gifThe Hershey Company announced yesterday that they will be bringing to market a new variation on their ever-popular Hershey's Kisses: Hershey's Kissables. The Kissables are miniature, candy-coated versions of the familiar Kisses we all know and love. The candies - colored in blue, red, yellow, green, and orange - will be available in single serving packages though there is no mention as of yet as to when they will be available.
Would I be wrong in assuming that these are aimed to directly compete with M&Ms?

They have a picture up over at Junk Food Blog (another site I love)

November 17, 2005

Truffles at 20,000 Feet

News.jpgUnited Airlines is offering fine chocolate truffles for business and first class customers of it's transcontinental service. The Chicago Tribune reports that Gayety's Chocolates & Ice Cream Co. of South Lansing was chosen from confectioners from around the world. It's a nice service from the airline and it's been good for Gayety's business so it seems to be a win-win. Unless you don't fly first class in which case you have to bring your own truffles.

Recipe: Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

recipes.jpgFarm & Ranch Guide have posted an interesting recipe that I might throw together for Thanksgiving. It's for Chocolate Pumpkin Cake and it sounds like an interesting combination to me. Chocolate and pumpkin is one of those combinations that I just can't help but be curious about. I've seen recipes before but I've never gone so far as to bake anything. This might be a nice opportunity to broaden my horizons a little.

Recipe: Homemade Marshmallows

godiva_logo.gifThe Idaho Statesman have up a nice little article singing the praises of Godiva's Cocoa (which deserves to have it's praises sung) and include a nice looking recipe for homemade marshmallows with a candy cane twist. Sounds good to me and I've been meaning to try to make my own marshmallows for some time now. I think this is probably the recipe I'm going to try out first.

Recipe: Chocolate Ganache Tart

everydayfood.gifEveryday Food, one of the family of Martha Stewart magazines, has some of it's November issue's recipes on their web site and this one caught my eye. It's for a Chocolate Ganache Tart and it looks quite good. I figured that since Martha was spreading the chocolate wealth as it were that I could do no less. And while you're there you can get a free trial issue of the magazine if you are so inclined. Double score!

Quaker Oats Holiday Recipe Collection

quakeroats.jpgI read over at Slashfood that Quaker Oats has their Holiday Recipe Collection online for everybody to enjoy. Of course I had to check it out and it turns out there is some great looking stuff in there. Things like Raspberry-Topped Chocolate Oat Torte and Mocha Chip Cheesecake Bars. And it's all made with the goodness of Quaker Oats so it isn't quite as terribly unhealthy as it might otherwise be. Be sure to check it out, there is bound to be something to your liking in there.

Godiva's G Collection

godiva_logo.gifGodiva has sent out the announcements that their limited edition G Collection is now available (it became available on the first of November). The G Collection is made up of 15 true artisan quality chocolates designed by their exceptional pastry chef, Norman Love, and will be available through February 14, 2006. The pieces in the collection are beautiful and the flavors all sound wonderful.

In addition to announcing the G Collection, their e-mail gives notice that you can try free samples (while they last) of their Candy Cane Bark in stores November 21-23 (limit one per customer, of course). Be sure to head out to your local Godiva for your free chocolate and while you are there take a look at the beautiful pieces in the G Collection. They a truly gorgeous.


New Häagen-Dazs® Newsletter

haagendazs3.jpgHäagen-Dazs® have sent out the holiday edition of their newsletter and it is crawling with chocolatey goodness. First item of note is the return of their ever popular German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream. In response to consumer demand they are bringing it back as a limited edition flavor this January. Also coming in January is a new flavor: Mayan Chocolate. It features dark chocolate and a tinge of cinammon in honor of chcolate's Mayan roots.

Also of note, though not chocolate, is the introduction of their limited edition Bailey's Irish Cream® ice cream.

I plan on trying all three.


November 16, 2005

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Opens 300th Store

rmcf.jpgRocky Mountain Chocolate Company announced in a press release yesterday that they have opened their 300th store. I have a soft spot in my heart for them since they have those lovely dark chocolate coated marshmallows and I can't help but be happy to see their success. You can read the press release here.
Congratulations RMCF!

November 15, 2005

Dark Chocolate M&Ms Return!

darkside.jpgWhen Star Wars: Episode III came out earlier this year M&Ms had a little promotion where they slapped Star Wars all over every product they made. But they did something else. They made dark chocolate M&Ms. And oh, were they good. The problem was that you couldn't find the darn things anywhere to save your life. I managed to find a store that had a big box and kept going back for more until they finally disappeared. Disappointed, I thought that the love was gone and I would never again enjoy my dark chocolate peanut M&Ms (they are like crack I tell you).

I was wrong. They're back! Revenge of the Sith indeed. I was under the impression that they were bringing them back for the holiday's but it's the same packaging as before so I guess it's all for the big Episode III dvd.

Whatever the reason, I'm just glad they're back.

Chocolate Booze In the News

The Lansing State Journal have put up a nice article about the lovely marriage of alcohol and chocolate. For some of us the cocept of chocolate and alcohol is old hat, but the article treats it as if it were something new and interesting. Whether it is familiar or new and exciting is beside the point as they include some really nice sounding recipes. Check it out!

November 14, 2005

Chocolate Safari

chocolatour_200.jpgI had a little vaation Thursday and Friday last week and since I hadn't been there in ages I decided it was time to take a little trip down to Jungle Jim's International Market, a monster grocery store with nearly anything you can imagine (and more than a few that you can't). Knowing that I was getting ready to open the doors on chocolateobsession I decided to go overboard and buy a bunch of chocolate. This post is a little write-up of my expedition.

Continue reading "Chocolate Safari" »