Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Smooth Chocolator - 70% Vietnam Tien Giang bar - Mar. 28, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

The Smooth Chocolator
70% Cacao Vietnam Tien Giang bar
Good ++
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) / 2.12 oz. (60 g.) total bar
Calories: 144.3 calories (604 kJ per label) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $10.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate and Vietnam Theme Week.

What a pleasure to sample chocolate created half-way around the globe. Today's Vietnam Tien Giang 70 percent bar was from small batch, bean-to-bar maker The Smooth Chocolator (Geelong, Australia; SE of Melbourne on Port Phillip Bay).

The cacao beans used to make this bar traveled over 6,437 km (4,000+ miles) from southern Vietnam to Geelong, Australia (to be crafted into chocolate). They then traveled (in finished form) an additional 12,176 km or 7,901 miles to Palo Alto, CA. Amazing.

Tasting chocolates made in other countries can be a wonderful form of virtual travel and education. My appreciation has only grown for the chocolate makers, their craft, and the abundance of good things in the world.

Speaking of people, Yoon Kim, a pastry chef and chocolatier, founded The Smooth Chocolator in 2015, after taking a course in bean-to-bar chocolate making. Her husband, an engineer, provides valuable technical design and support. In 2016, the company won an International Chocolate Award for one of their bars.

Recently, (early 2017) renowned chocolate expert and judge Sunita de Tourreill was impressed with Kim's efforts and began to offer her bars to customers at the exclusive The Chocolate Garage (Palo Alto, CA)—where I bought today's bar.

How did this well-traveled bar in the simple, elegant, black and tan, sealed package taste? The bar, like the packaging, focused on important basics and was well-executed. The three-ingredient bar (cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter) had a dried fruit (figs, dark raisins and goji berries) aroma with a faint roasted coffee note; and the chocolate had uniform, bright, sweet and concentrated fruit flavor.

The thin bar, with an attractive botanical design, yielded a quick and even melt and allowed ready access to unfolding flavor. There were no off notes; however, there was a very slight graininess in one bite. The finish was pleasant and clean.

The maker's notes printed on the package included: "Tasting Note: Honey, brown dried fruits" (i.e. brown fruits such as sultanas, currants).


Monday, March 27, 2017

Frederic Blondeel - Vietnam 80% bar - Mar. 27, 2017

Chocolate of the Day:

Frederic Blondeel
IX Tablette (Bar) - Vietnam 80% Chocolat Noir (Dark Chocolate)
Good - Good +
Weight: .636 oz. (18 g.) / 1.59 oz. (45 g.) in total bar
Calories: 60 calories (per label) in 2/5 bar
Cost: $6.99 (free shipping on large order) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Stars USA, online order

Bienvenue a (Welcome to) Day #2 of Chocolate and Vietnam Theme Week.

This 80% Vietnam bar was made from bean-to-bar in Belgium by Frederic Blondeel (Veurne, Belgium).

Blondeel, who produces bars and confections,* has created a series of ten different single origin bars. The roman numeral on today's tablette (bar) indicated that today's Vietnam bar was number IX (9) in this series.

This 80 percent bar also had one of the highest percentage of cacao solids in the Frederic Blondeel line.

A high-quality eighty or even ninety percent bar may have as fine an aroma as any seventy percent bar. This bar had a warm spice aroma (like smelling cinnamon raisin toast with melted chocolate from a few rooms away).

As happens with many ultra-dark bars, there was a step down in taste after the first bite, due to the lack of conventional use of sugar to buoy things up. Suddenly I was in deeper, darker territory than I might have expected (after days of eating much sweeter chocolates).

The only minor quibble was with the texture. The bar was mostly smooth, but had a few very tiny hard bits. The melt was a bit slow and very slightly uneven (not enough to be annoying). As each bite melted other flavor notes unfolded. The chocolate and mild spice notes were joined and/or replaced by mild hints of green wood, citrus, and earth.

And this 80% Vietnam chocolate had a unique aftertaste with a trace of espresso-like, roasted bitterness and acidity (good if you like coffee).

*Frederic Blondeel produces chocolate bars, including a series of single origin bars, confections, couvertures and other items—including "Gladiators" small single origin bars with inclusions.

Dick-Taylor - 78% Vietnam Tien Giang bar - Mar. 26, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Dick-Taylor
78 percent Vietnam Tien Giang bar
Very Good
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (57 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $11.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #1 of Chocolate and Vietnam Theme Week.

Cacao growing regions in Vietnam lie to the south, in the Meking River Delta area. The cacao beans for today's single origin bar were grown in the Tien Giang Province, just north of the Mekong.

The Limited Release 78 percent Vietnam Tien Giang 78 percent dark bar from Dick Taylor was a 2017 Good Food Awards Finalist; and it contained a well-balanced, delicious mix of flavors.

Adam Dick (Owner and Head Chocolate Maker) described this bar has having a "complex blend of spice and nuts notes. " Tasting Notes printed on the packaging listed: spice cake, apricot and almond butter.

I also smelled and tasted spice cake—the kind of rich buttery spice cake that had been baked until it was caramelized around the edges. There was a mix of bright, tart, sweet-sour fruit (apricots, golden raisins, sour cherry yogurt and orange marmalade). I also noted a very faint hint of well-balanced earthiness and a faint, pleasant green note.

This bar was delightfully complex and very well executed with a pleasing, lingering finish.

With all these flavors, it may surprise some to read that there were only two ingredients in this bar: cacao and organic cane sugar.





Saturday, March 25, 2017

Julie's - Organic Vanilla Ice Cream, Almonds, Dark Chocolate bar - Mar. 25, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Julie's Organic Ice Cream
(Distributed by Oregon Ice Cream, Eugene, OR)
Organic Vanilla Ice Cream, Almonds and Dark Chocolate
Good
Weight: 3 fl. oz. (89 mL) / 9 fl. oz. (266 mL) in total box of 3 bars
Calories: 250 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $3.99 (estimate) for 1 box of 3 bars
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and Ice Cream Bar Theme Week.

Today's Julie's Organic Ice Cream bar was made with "Organic Vanilla Ice Cream, Almonds and Dark Chocolate" and distributed by Oregon Ice Cream (Eugene, OR)*.

Happily the ingredients list for these bars was a bit shorter than most other mass produced ice cream bars.

Although the organic vanilla ice cream still contained vegetable gums (organic guar gum and organic locust bean gum), even the additives used to stabilize, thicken or emulsify seemed to be of a higher quality than found elsewhere.

This sweet, light-tasting bar was an organic, high-end take on a a classic, chocolate-covered, vanilla ice cream bar with bits of almonds adding some crunchy texture. The thin chocolate shell was authentic tasting, although a bit gummy after a few chews.

Frozen chocolate, by definition, won't taste like a dark chocolate bar; so it's unfair to expect this. But on a hot day it can be refreshing.

*Oregon Ice Cream brands include Julie's Organic, Alden's Organic and Cascade Glacier. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Magnum - Double Chocolate ice cream bars - Mar. 24, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Unilever
Magnum Double Chocolate ice cream bars
Good+
Weight: 3.38 fl. oz. (100 mL) / 10.14 fl. oz. (300 mL) total box of 3 bars
Calories: 310 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $3.99 (estimate) for 1 box of 3 bars
Purchased from: Safeway, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate and Ice Cream Bar Theme Week.

Today we're sampling one more ice cream bar flavor from the Magnum ice cream bar line from Unilever (Englewood Cliffs, NJ): The Magnum Double Chocolate ice cream bar.

What is double chocolate? "Answer: Chocolate ice cream dipped in a chocolatey coating, chocolatey sauce and milk chocolate."

I enjoyed this rich chocolate bar, especially its incorporation of chocolate sauce into the bar (a tidy but extravagant layer sandwiched between the chocolate ice cream and the chocolatey coating). It made this bar seem a little decadent.

The bar was made with Belgian chocolate. And, according to the packaging, the cocoa used in these bars came from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Unilever - Magnum Chocolate Infinity, Double Raspberry ice cream bars - Mar. 23, 2017

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Unilever

Magnum Chocolate Infinity ice cream bars
Good - Good +
Weight: 3.38 fl. oz. (82 g.) / 10.14 fl. oz. (300 mL) in total box of 3 bars
Calories: 260 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $3.99 (estimate) for 1 box of 3 bars
Purchased from: Safeway, Palo Alto, CA

Magnum Double Raspberry ice cream bars
Good +
Weight: 3.04 fl. oz. (75 g.) / 9.12 fl. oz. (270 mL) in total box of 3 bars
Calories: 260 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $3.00 (sale) for 1 box of 3 bars
Purchased from: Safeway, Mountain View, CA

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate and Ice Cream Bar Theme Week.

Today we have a double feature with two different Magnum ice cream bars from the growing family of Magnum ice cream bars from Unilever.

Yesterday, Magnum's Dark Chocolate ice cream bar, and today the Magnum Chocolate Infinity and Magnum Double Raspberry ice cream bars.

First, thank you to the person who came up with the title "Chocolate Infinity." What a great concept.

At the core of these Infinity bars, was dark chocolate ice cream with a chocolate swirl that was covered in dark chocolate and cocoa bean nibs. It was very satisfying as ice cream bars go; the bar was creamy and smooth, with layers of smooth, rich chocolatey flavors, with a slight crunch from the tiny nib pieces.

The relatively new Magnum Double Raspberry ice cream bars were a bit more brash, in a good way—bursting with sweet, authentic raspberry and milk chocolate flavors from the first bite. Much as I like to avoid too much sugar, I really liked this bar.

The Double Raspberry bar had the concentrated flavor of a darker chocolate confection with raspberry jam, but with some ice cream to cool things down and balance the sugar a bit. If you like raspberries, this is the bar for you.

If you're interested in a combination of today's two different flavors, you might seek out the Magnum Chocolate Infinity and Raspberry ice cream bars featured last year (on March 2, 2016).


Unilever - Magnum Dark Chocolate ice cream bars - Mar. 22, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Unilever
Magnum Dark ice cream bars
Good+
Weight: 3.38 fl. oz. (100 mL) / 10.14 fl. oz. (300 mL) in total box of 3 bars
Calories: 240 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $3.99 (estimate) for 1 box of 3 bars
Purchased from: Safeway, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate and Ice Cream Bar theme week.

This week the focus is on ice cream bars from larger companies. (Smaller production run ice cream bars and paletas from local artisans will have their own week later this year.)

Large or small, companies need to make bars that won't fall apart, and that also taste good. The chocolate coating on an ice cream bar needs to be not too hard or stiff, but not too soft either. Ice cream needs to stay creamy and flavorful and not become granular if temperatures fluctuate.

Unilever (Englewood Cliffs, NJ) now owns several large ice cream brands (including Magnum) in the U.S., and has experience with these challenges. Today's Magnum Dark Chocolate bar was one of the original member of an expanding family of Magnum ice cream bars.

One can almost see and taste the evolution of this line of ice cream bars. For example, at some point several years ago, someone must have been asking: How do you take a plain, standard vanilla ice cream bar vanilla bean ice cream dipped in chocolate and make it more appealing to higher-end consumers?

Today's bar, enveloped in a golden wrapper, uses quality vanilla and chocolate: 60% cacao Belgian Chocolate, and Rainforest Certified cocoa and vanilla—not something you'd see with less expensive bars. The chocolate tasted a bit better than most chocolatey coatings  out there and the vanilla ice cream did as well.

Natural flavors and coloring agents have improved. Now, if there was a way to magically get rid of some of the additives* that seem to be in most ice cream bars, that would be a true leap forward.

*Additives include mono and diglycerides, locust bean gum, guar gum, carrageenan, and PGPR (emulsifiers).




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