Sunday, September 25, 2016

Valrhona - Noir Guanaja Nibs bar - Sept. 24, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Valrhona
Noir Guanaja Eclats de Cacao (Cocoa Nibs) bar
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.) / 2.99 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 168 calories in 1/3 bar
Cost: $8.95 for one bar
Purchased from: Fog City News, San Francisco, CA

Bonjour, and welcome to the last day of Nibs Theme Week, and Day #1 of French Chocolate Theme Week.

Today's Noir Guanaja* Eclats de Cacao (Dark Cocoa Nibs) bar was from Valrhona (Tain l'Hermitage, France). This 70 percent cacao bar was smooth in taste and texture, and had a faint, intriguing aroma with subtle hints of chocolate, smoke, fruit, earth. The melt and mouthfeel were luscious and delightful, and the nibs added contrasting texture.

Today I also had a great time celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Chocolate Banquet with a group of friends by having a "bring your own item to dip in solar chocolate fondue" party. Very fun! Thank you all for bringing such a perfect selection of items. Sliced plums and fruit fresh from a farmers market, homemade peanut butter cookies, bacon slices, gluten-free pretzels, banana slices, raspberries and strawberries, corn chips...all good.

Tomorrow I'll try some toasted squares of pumpkin bread with the leftover fondue; or I could just eat French-inspired truffles.

*Guanaja is an island off the (Caribbean) coast of Honduras.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Taza - Organic 55% Chocolate Covered Nibs - Sept. 23, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Taza Chocolate
Organic 55 percent Dark Chocolate Covered Nibs
Good ++
Weight: .8 oz. (22.4 g.) / 2 oz. (56 g.) in total package
Calories: 128 calories in .8 oz. (22.4 g.)
Cost: $5.50 for 1 package
Purchased from: SweetE Organic, Mill Valley, CA

Welcome to Day #10 of Nibs Theme Week.

Taza Chocolate (Somerville, MA) was an early player in this century's new wave of American chocolate makers.

Not insignificantly, the founders also sought to build relationships directly with farmers and co-ops to bring organic chocolates to the market, including more "rustic" stone-ground chocolate (and drinking chocolate). The less processed style is more flavorful and granular, and was new for many people in the U.S. (except perhaps those who had spent time in Mexico and Central America).

Today's 55% dark chocolate covered nibs from Taza were a bit sweeter than their 67% dark chocolate covered nibs I remember tasting in 2012. They were still good, but I'd love to taste an even darker 70+ percent version.

The challenge with more added sugar (which reduces the percentage of cacao) is that it's harder to taste the subtle cacao flavors in the nib (pieces of cacao bean). Some may like the sweetness. (Today's nibs were far better than some overly sweet, commercial dark chocolate offerings.)

Thank you to SweetE Organic for providing a range of organic sweets and chocolates such as the Taza line (as well as expertly-curated gifts).


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

ChocXO - Organic Milk Chocolate 37% Cocoa Nibs bar - Sept. 21, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

ChocXO
Organic Milk Chocolate 37% Cocoa Nibs bar
Good ++
Weight: 1.4 oz. (40 g.) in total bar
Calories: 230 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #8 of Nibs Theme Week.

Today's Organic Milk Chocolate 37% Cacao + Cocoa Nibs bar was from ChocXO (Irvine, CA*) was a milk chocolate version of yesterday's ChocXO Organic Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao + Cocoa Nibs bar.

The dark bar had a great nutty flavor that (assuming the cacao in the two bars was the same) seemed to fade with the addition of milk powder in today's bar. However, this wasn't bad for milk chocolate. The nibs added from texture and cacao flavor and helped balance the sweetness.

*The company's Irvine Chocolate Factory works with a sister company in British Columbia (Canada) to encompass all the steps in bean-to-bar chocolate making. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

ChocXO - Organic Dark 70% bar with nibs - Sept. 20, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

ChocXO
Organic Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao + Cocoa Nibs bar
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: .7 oz. (20 g.) / 1.4 oz. (40 g.) in total bar
Calories: 122.5 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #7 of Nibs Theme Week.

This Organic Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao + Cocoa Nibs bar was made "from the bean" by ChocXO (Irvine, CA).

The aroma was a complex blend of earthy, nutty, fruity, and floral, and something pleasant that I couldn't pin down. The bar was relatively thick, and had a smooth texture with some crunchiness from the embedded cocoa nibs.

The flavor was pleasant, even, and less acidic than I expected from the aroma (not a bad thing). It had a pleasing earthy nut butter flavor to it.

The finish was mild, with only one very tiny hint of ammonia from one nib. And here I must leap to the chocolate makers defense. This ChocXO bar did not suffer from this tiny offender, but other bars occasionally do.

Nibs - The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

When a chocolate maker, or chocolatier, includes nibs in a bar, the homogenized chocolate in the bar might be wonderful, but it is very difficult to isolate every possible nib that might be less than stellar. It's a bit like buying a gigantic sack of peanuts in the shell. There is bound to be one or two that you end up tossing aside. When peanuts are processed into peanut butter or when nibs are all ground up together and made into chocolate, it may be impossible to taste one "off" nut or nib. But, unprocessed or a la carte nuts or nibs are a different story.

I have a great deal of respect for chocolate makers that cultivate good relationships with farmers; they need to be able to trust they'll receive great beans from them. This usually helps diminish the time, but does not avoid the process of, having to spend hours inspecting trays of tiny nibs trying to hand pick out lower grade pieces.

Thank you all who are providing nibs in bars and confections. It's worth the risk!





Monday, September 19, 2016

Cocanu - Nibs, Pop Rocks bar - Sept. 19, 2016

Chocolate of the Day:

Cocanu Chocolate
Moonwalk - Dark chocolate, cacao nibs, Pop Rocks(R) bar
Good +++
Weight: .4 oz. (12.5 g.) / .8 oz. (25 g.) in total bar
Calories: 60 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $5.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Meadow (Mississippi location), Portland, OR

Welcome to Day #6 of Nibs Theme Week.

Today's Moonwalk bar from Cocanu Chocolate (Portland, OR) was a dark chocolate bar with cacao nibs "dreaming of walking on the moon." A few days ago we had a gorgeous full, pumpkin-colored moonrise, that a friend and I observed from a hilltop in San Francisco, so this Moonwalk bar had special appeal.

Normally, nibs pep up a bar all by themselves. However, the Nacional nibs from Ecuador in this 65% dark bar received a subtle boost from some embedded Pop Rocks. The tiny edible bursts were not enough to break out of earth's orbit, but provided a bit of subtle concept fun.

The bar's dark chocolate base was crafted from Venezuelan Criollo cacao and had a complex, balanced and subtly sweet, almost smoky, earthy, fruity aroma and flavor. The chocolate had an even melt and relatively creamy texture. There was one tiny off note, perhaps from a nib.

The Pop Rocks yielded a few small sweet, crunchy bits, but may have lost some of these sizzle during the long flight to the moon.

The finish lingered in a pleasant way for about 20-30 seconds after the last bite. And now, thanks to this Moonwalk bar, I'm leaving for a chocolate-powered walk, here on Earth.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Ritual Chocolate - The Nibs Bar 75% cacao - Sept. 18, 2016

Chocolate of the Day:

Ritual Chocolate
"The Nibs Bar" 75% Cacao
Good
Weight: .53 oz. (15 g.) / 2.12 oz. (60 g.) in total bar
Calories: 79 calories (estimate) in 1/4 bar
Cost: $7.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: SweetE Organic, Mill Valley, CA

Welcome to Day #5 of Nibs Theme Week.

Today's dark chocolate bar was made with cacao beans from the Toledo district of Southern Belize. "The Nibs Bar" from Ritual Chocolate (Park City, UT) had a faintly sweet, earthy dark chocolate and coffee aroma, and a fairly strong coffee flavor with a hint of dried and/or citrus fruit.

This two-ingredient bar was made from cacao and organic cane sugar. I knew this, and yet I found myself re-checking the ingredients, to make sure the cacao nibs weren't coffee nibs. If you like coffee, you'll like this bar.

The bar's packaging (and bar) were very well designed. Every side and surface contributed to the company's story, from the mountain peak motif and the sparkly stars above*, to the cacao pod nestled in the middle of a diamond shape.

*The company crafts their chocolate in the mountains at 7,000 feet (2,133 meters). While it can be difficult to make chocolate in a hot climate, making chocolate in the snowy mountains (despite a temperature-controlled inside) must also require some re-calibrations for altitude, relative dryness, and weather. Fortunately, the team at Ritual has had practice. They moved to Park City, UT from Denver, CO.


Creo Chocolate - Ecuador Arriba Nacional Cacao Nibs - Sept. 17, 2016

Chocolate of the Day:

Creo Chocolate
Ecuador Arriba Nacional Cacao Nibs
Good +++ - Very Good
Weight: 2 TB, 1 oz. (28 g.) / 8 oz. (226 g.) in total package
Calories: 125 calories (estimate) for a 2 TB serving
Cost: $10.00 (estimate) for 1 package
Purchased from: Creo Chocolate, Portland, OR

Welcome to Day #13 of Ecuador Chocolate, and Day #4 of Nibs Theme Week.

Sometimes it pays to go back to basics with foods and sweets.

Chocolate is made from fermented and dried cacao (or cocoa) beans. In almost all cases*, these beans are then roasted, winnowed and then ground into smaller pieces called cocoa nibs. And, nibs are the basic component of chocolate that we're focused on this week.

Today, my chocolate of the day is...a handful of Ecuador Arriba Nacional Cacao Nibs from Creo Chocolate (Portland, OR) eaten plain, and over vanilla ice cream and other items.

These nibs were smooth and even, with no off flavors. They had a nice soft crunch with earth, chocolate, fruit, and wine flavor notes.

These were eaten straight out of the bag, over vanilla ice cream and over Nutella brownies. I can highly recommend all three choices. (Thank you to Julie for the tasting help!)

*In some cases, chocolate makers and chocolatiers are using unroasted or partially roasted beans either to make "raw" chocolate or chocolate with a different nutritional/flavor profile.


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