Monday, February 27, 2017

Cerreta - Olive Oil Dark Chocolate Bar - Feb. 27, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Cerreta Candy Company
Olive Oil Dark Chocolate Bar with Sea Salt
Good - Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $4.00 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Queen Creek Olive Mill store, Scottsdale, AZ

Welcome to Day #4 of LMNOPQR Theme Week. Today "O" stands for olive.

This Olive Oil Dark Chocolate Bar with Sea Salt was made by Cerreta Candy Company (Glendale, AZ) with/for Queen Creek Olive Mill (Queen Creek, AZ).

I bought this bar at a Queen Creek Olive Mill marketplace location at the Kierland Commons shopping area in Scottsdale, AZ, thanks to the help of a friend who lives nearby. (Thank you Joy!)

Cerreta included Queen Creek's cold pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) in this dark chocolate bar. The resulting chocolate had a thick and pleasant mouthfeel and melt. The EVOO and cocoa butter give the bar a rich, smooth texture and mellowed any harsh or acidic chocolate notes (of which there were none, from what I could tell).

About mid-way into the first bite, the sweetness kicked in and then the hint of sea salt. It was a fun and interesting bar to try.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Backyard Brew - Nutella Hot Chocolate; Barlovento Bars; Nuts, Nibs, Nice - Feb. 26, 2017

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Backyard Brew
Nutella Hot Chocolate
Weight: 10+ oz. (estimate) for 1 serving
Calories: 168 calories (estimate) in 1 serving
Cost: $4.00 for 1 serving
Purchased from: Backyard Brew, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #3 of LMNOPQR Theme Week. As we frolic through the alphabet, we arrive today at the letter "N."

Nuts, Nibs...Hmmm. How about Nutella Hot Chocolate? It just so happened I found such a thing at a new small business called Backyard Brew in Palo Alto, CA.

The duo I spoke to who were working there were thoughtful, bright, creative young men with a passion for creating community and a relaxing shared public space.

A place to relax and enjoy a coffee or tea...or a Nutella Mocha or Hot Chocolate; and perhaps one could do some creative doodling —on tables, chairs or walls too.

Accessible via alley from California Avenue—a street known for it's small businesses, restaurants and a thriving Sunday Farmers Market—Backyard Brew should do well.

And, speaking of the Farmers Market, today was Sunday. So I was also able to buy two bars from the Barlovento Chocolates booth (not far from Backyard Brew) at the Market:

1.) 80 percent Venezuelan Dark Chocolate Cacao Nibs bar
2.) 73 percent Venezuelan Dark Chocolate Fruits and Nuts (Pistachios, Dried Blueberries, Dried Cranberries) bar

Both bars were wrapped in gold foil and made from dark, slightly earthy but smooth, Venezuelan chocolate by the founder Peter Brydon/team at Barlovento Chocolates (Oakland, CA).

It was a very Nice morning indeed.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Moo Free Chocolates Minty Moo bar; NibMor Mint Squares - Feb. 25, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Moo Free Chocolates
Lily-Lu Lemur
Minty Moo Chocolate bar
Weight: .812 oz. (23 g.) for 1 bar
Calories: 130 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $5.50 for 1 box of 4 bars
Purchased from: Piazza's Fine Foods, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #2 of LMNOPQR Theme Week. Today the letter "M" is featured with two chocolate and mint offerings.

There are many different mints that might be blended with chocolate. However, the most popular seems to be peppermint (especially around the holidays). My guess is that, while not specified, one or both of today's mint chocolates do contain some peppermint.

Peppermint may have originated in the Middle East and Europe, but it's grown deep roots here in North America.*

Moo Free Mint

Today's Minty Moo bar was part of a holiday assortment package (of 4 different bars) from Moo Free Ltd./Moo Free Chocolates (Reading, UK).**

The Minty Moo bar was sweet, creamy (fooled me; I thought it contained dairy); and it had a natural minty flavor throughout. Pieces of crisp rice were perched around the border.

This bar was dairy free, gluten free, vegan and made without genetically modified (GM) ingredients.

And now on to the second mint chocolate of the day...

Mint - Daily Dose of Dark
Good ++
Weight: .35 oz. (9.9 g.) / 2.45 oz. (70 g.) in box of 7 squares
Calories: 50 calories for 1 packet
Cost: $1.99 (estimate) for 1 box of 7 packets
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

These Mint Daily Dose of Dark, individually-wrapped squares were manufactured for NibMor Inc. (Great Neck, NY). The individually-wrapped squares were, in fact, a perfect and portable daily dose of dark chocolate.

The chocolate was well balanced (the right amount of mint, not too sweet), with crunchy texture from cacao nibs (a treat). (There was no mention if the organic mint was peppermint and/or spearmint.) The dark chocolate was, from what I could tell under the mint, smooth, dark and balanced; and nothing seemed amiss.

These 72% Cacao chocolates were made from USDA Organic, ethically traded, and Rainforest Alliance Certified cacao. They also were Non GMO Project Verified.

*Re: overall mint production in the U.S.: Oregon and Washington supply much of the mint and mint oil on the Western U.S., with Washington claiming the largest number of mint growers (150+ in 2012) and the largest quantity mint oil produced. Oregon claims approximately 35% of U.S. production. 

Michigan claims it has the most acres in production in the U.S. And it also grows in the NE from Indiana to New York, and into Southern Canada.

** Re: UK -- The English fancy their peppermint oil to be some of the best there is. (You'll often hear references that most of what is grown in the U.S. is "black" peppermint. And the "white" peppermint oil from the UK and France is superior. I can't comment; but I'm inspired to do a side-by-side tasting in the future.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Patti's Lemon and Chocolate Cupcakes - LMNOPQR Week - Feb. 24, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Patti's Perfect Pantry
  1. Lemon Curd Cupcake
  2. Lemon Cheesecake Cupcake
  3. Chocolate Fudge Cupcake
  4. Chocolate Chip Cupcake

Welcome to the first day (Day #1) of LMNOPQR Theme Week. We'll be continuing to work our way through the chocolate alphabet this week, starting with the letter "L."

What starts with "L" that blends well with chocolate? Answer: Lemon. I've always enjoyed bars and confections made with dark (or dark milk) chocolate and lemon.

Limoncello, lemon custard or lemon curd in a dark chocolate shell is like a little black dress in a woman's wardrobe that's simple, elegant, and always in fashion.

Today's find of the day was Patti's Perfect Pantry (Morgan Hill, CA). Their bakery, cafe and take-out offerings were all made in a dedicated gluten-free kitchen. It's not every day I can enjoy a "Mad Hatter" sandwich (honey ham, Swiss cheese and pineapple) on gluten-free pumpernickel bread. (Thank you Don for finding this place.)

Chef Patti has created a series of gluten-free cupcakes, including ones with lemon and and chocolate. The two made with lemon curd were particularly delicious. I wouldn't suggest eating four whole cupcakes at one sitting. But, I did have a slice of all four mentioned above, for scientific research purposes.

I'll likely go back to Patti's to try other gluten-free chocolate cupcake flavors: brownie, chocolate peanut butter and Boston cream cupcakes, to name a few.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Godiva Dark Chocolate Almond bar; Endangered Species Chocolate Bark - Feb. 23, 2017

Chocolate(s) of the Day:

Godiva Chocolatier, Inc.
Dark Chocolate Almond bar
Good - Good +
Weight: 3 blocks (22.5 g.) / 3.1 oz. (90 g.) in total bar
Calories: 115 calories in 3 blocks of bar
Cost: $2.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Walgreens, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and Almonds Theme Week.

People often ask me if I eat the same chocolate twice. I've tried very hard not to; for example, I use spreadsheets to track and avoid duplicates.

Today's Dark Chocolate Almond bar from Godiva Chocolatier, Inc. (New York, NY) was marked as "New/Nouveau" on the packaging.

This bar had a dark chocolatey, almost earthy brownie flavor that was also smooth and appealing. It didn't taste overly sweet, and that was great as far as I was concerned.

However, it appeared the Dark Chocolate Almond bar from Godiva might be similar to the Godiva 72% cacao bar with almonds I had years earlier, perhaps a re-packaged version, or perhaps with different cacao sources too.

Occasionally chocolate is re-introduced as new with different packaging or a slight tweak in ingredients. So, to be on the safe side, I chose a second chocolate today (below).

Godiva has been producing chocolate since 1926. Any business that's been around that long earns my respect. One can imagine the changes the owners have experienced over the past 90+ years.

One last observation about this bar...

Reading labels is a hobby for me. I was interested to read on this Godiva bar packaging: "Partially produced by genetic engineering." This is one of the first times I've seen this.

I'm all for transparency, so I appreciated this heads up. Meanwhile, as I pondered this, our squirrel* chocolate thief, who loves chocolate with nuts, enjoyed a small piece of today's bar. It, apparently, could give a hoot about GMOs.

Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Bark with Almonds and Peanuts

Endangered Species Chocolate, LLC
Chocolate Bark - Dark Chocolate Almonds and Peanuts
Good +
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42 g.) / 4.7 oz. (133 g.) in total package
Calories: 240 calories in 1 serving
Cost: $5.99 for 1 package (3-4 servings)
Purchased from: Country Sun Natural Foods, Palo Alto, CA

I've been featuring Endangered Species Chocolate bars for 10 years here on Chocolate Banquet. Each different bar has featured a new animal or bird that is under threat, and may need help. The picture of the chosen species is depicted on the packaging.

Today I'm trying the company's Chocolate Bark with Almonds and Peanuts and Dark Chocolate. The featured endangered species (animal) was the Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi). So, I was indulging for a cause. A percent of the proceeds go toward helping wildlife and habitats that support them.

Each piece of today's bittersweet 60% cacao chocolate bark was filled with bits and chunks of almond and peanuts—the latter providing a peanut brittle flavor note (although without all the sugar). The result was a very tasty combination that wasn't overly sweet.

This dark bark was Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Gluten Free, Vegan, and made with fair trade ingredients.

*Note: squirrels (agouti, rats, woodpeckers and other critters) eat cacao in the wild, and are not afflicted with the same intolerance of theobromine as other animals, such as dogs and cats, other living things and some people (who lack the ability to process this chemical stimulant found in chocolate). I like chocolate, but I don't advocate feeding large quantities of chocolate to anyone. 

As for the squirrel thieves, they've occasionally gotten into the house (when doors/windows were left open) and stolen chocolate, and they've broken into packages of chocolate left on my doorstep. At first I was annoyed, and worried it would kill the thieves; but the squirrels have suffered no ill effects. Their hardy constitution is perhaps one reason we don't see them on any Endangered Species chocolate wrappers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Clif Bar - Dark Chocolate Almond Coconut bar - Feb. 22, 2017

Chocolate of the Day:

Clif Bar and Company
Dark Chocolate Almond Coconut bar
(Mojo Trail Mix bars)
Weight: 1.59 oz. (45 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 210 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $2.39 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Safeway, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate and Almonds Theme Week.

Today I enjoyed a Mojo Dark Chocolate Almond Coconut bar from Clif Bar and Company (Emeryville, CA).

This relatively "low glycemic*" bar was studded with organic dark chocolate pieces/chips, made with Non-GMO ingredients, and contained 8 grams of protein.

The Clif Bar Mojo Sweet and Salty Trail Mix Bar was part of an ever-expanding family of individually wrapped energy bars, snacks and beverages that includes Clif, Mojo, Kit, Luna, Nut Butter Filled and other bar brand variations. (Luna bars seem to cater more toward women. Kit Bars are designed by co-owneer Kit Crawford.)

*This bar contained 20 grams Carbohydrates, including fiber. Only 10 grams are considered sugars.

**The company was founded in 1992, and Gary Erickson named the company after his inspirational dad named Clif. The original Clif Bar was apparently created in the early 1990s, after a 175-mile bike ride. Yup, that would do it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Neo Cocoa - Almond Chocolate Caramels - Feb. 21, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Neo Cocoa
Almond Chocolate Caramel
Good +
Weight: .8 oz.  (22.6 g.) (estimate) in 2 pieces
Calories: 119 calories (estimate) in 2 pieces
Cost: $2.00 for 2 pieces
Purchased from: La Cocina table, Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate and Almonds Theme Week.

I picked up these two individually wrapped almond chocolate caramels from Neo Cocoa in San Francisco. They were being sold by the piece at the La Cocina* table at the Ferry Building.

These confections were sweet, rich and chewy with chocolate caramel flavor, and an almond in the center to create visual interest and textural crunch.

*La Cocina ("The Kitchen" in English) is a non-profit organization in San Francisco that supports food-related startups.

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