Thursday, July 31, 2014

Endangered Species - Sea Salt and Almonds bar - July 31, 2014

Chocolate of the Day: 

Endangered Species Chocolate
Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almonds bar
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: .6 oz. (17 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 100 calories (per label)
Cost: $2.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: New Leaf Community Markets, Santa Cruz, CA

Today was the final day (Day #7) of Smoke and Savory Theme Week, and the last day of July. Farewell July, I hardly knew ye. Summer does seem to evaporate all too quickly.

This Smoke and Savory week has been a great way to capture the flavor of outdoor barbecues and summer cook-outs, even if I can't always enjoy a lingering picnic myself.

Today's Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almonds bar from Endangered Species Chocolate (Indianapolis, IN) provided just the chocolate I needed for eating enjoyment, and for a key ingredient in a miniature, smokey chocolate almond cake (see below).

The smooth tasting, bittersweet dark chocolate (72% cocoa) had visible bits of almonds embedded into the bar, and contained just a hint of sea salt. This bar was Certified Gluten-Free, NonGMO Verified and Rainforest Certified.

Endangered Species donates 10 percent of their net profits to species conservation efforts. Each of their bars features a bird or animal that has been impacted (generally by humans). Today's Sea Salt and Almonds bar features a Eurasian Eagle Owl, one of the largest owls in the world. Thankfully populations of these owls, after experiencing a significant decline, have rebounded somewhat, in part due to better forest management and greater awareness around pesticide use.

Smokey Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

How does one infuse smoke into chocolate cake or brownies? One excellent way to do so is to add "Smoke Infused Extra Virgin California Olive Oil" made with early harvest Arbequina olives grown in the Capay Valley.

This flavorful "Turbo" olive oil from enFuso (purchased at The Olive Press in Sonoma, CA) was the closest thing to barbecue by the spoonful I've tasted (outside of liquid smoke or smoked salts. It was a wonderful replacement for butter/oil in a miniature (gluten-free) chocolate cake. I grated part of today's Endangered Species Sea Salt and Almonds bar into this single-serving cake, and topped the cake with almonds and a sprinkle of smoked sea salt. Done, and eaten in short order.

Francois Pralus - Vanuatu bar - July 30, 2014

Chocolate of the Day:

Francois Pralus
Vanuatu Amelonado bar
Very Good
Weight: .875 oz. (25 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 130 calories (estimate) in 1/4 bar
Cost: $11.00 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #6 of Smoke and Savory Theme Week.

Smokey Dark Bar
Today's Vanuatu Amelonado single origin, dark chocolate (75%) bar from Francois Pralus (Roanne, France), was made with cacao grown in the South Pacific.

The bar was rich, dark and velvety smooth, with a smokey finish. According to notes on the bar's wrapper, the hint of smokey flavor comes from drying cacao beans on copra mats.

I love the opportunity that chocolate has given me to learn new things about the world. This chocolate was made from cacao beans grown on the West Coast of the island of Epi. (Epi is part of the island nation of Vanuatu, about 1,000 miles east of Northern Australia and west of Fiji.) I enjoyed learning a bit more about Vanuatu and Epi when researching today's post. Apparently "85 farmers produce 3 tonnes of cacao per year, primarily Amelonado."(Amelonado is a variety of Forastero cacao.)

Savory Milkshake
And, for a savory addition to today's smokey Vanuatu dark bar, I sipped a chilled chocolate + salted caramel milkshake, that = quite good, at The Fremont Diner in the Sonoma-Napa countryside, north of San Francisco. It was so country, that I found myself illegally feeding a chicken some cornbread under the patio table. (It's hard to resist a begging chicken.)



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Taza - Chipotle Chili, Salted Almond Discs - July 29, 2014

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Taza Chocolate

1.) Chipotle Chili - Chocolate Mexicano
Good ++
Weight: .75 oz. (21.2 g.) / 2.7 oz. (77 g.) total package
Calories: 112 calories (estimate)
Cost: $4.95 for 1 package
Purchased from: SweetE Organic, Mill Valley, CA

2.) Salted Almond - Chocolate Mexicano
Good+ - Very Good
Weight: .75 oz. (21.2 g.) / 2.7 oz. (77 g.) total package
Calories: 112 calories (estimate)
Cost: $4.95 (estimate) for 1 package
Purchased from: SweetE Organic, Mill Valley, CA

Today was Day #5 of Smoke and Savory Theme Week on Chocolate Banquet.

This Mexican Chocolate double header from Taza Chocolate (Somerville, MA) featured the sultry smokiness of Chipotle Chili and the savory goodness of salted almonds. The month of July may be drawing to a close, but I'm determined to enjoy summer while it lasts, with all the outdoor living, picnics, and smoke and savory flavors I can manage.

Taza stonegrinds (with hand-carved, Oaxacan granite millstones no less) their rustic, Mexican style chocolate that is packaged in discs that break off into smaller wedge-shaped segments for hot chocolate or other uses (e.g. incorporate a wedge or two into a mole or a barbecue sauce; or grate it into (or melt and pour over) Mexican Chocolate ice cream or vanilla yogurt).

The "rougher" stoneground texture resulted in fresher, less processed/homogenized flavors. It may take some getting used to if you favor buttery smooth chocolate, but I recommend giving these organic, kosher, gluten-, dairy- and soy-free Taza chocolates a try.

I tried all of these "uses" for these two Taza (smokey and savory) Mexican Chocolates today. Que rico. The Chipotle Chili chocolate had some earthy, smoky fire to it, balanced nicely with a rich, dark chocolate (70% dark) flavor. I loved the Salted Almond ("40% Dark"), and had no trouble eating a wedge of this chocolate all by itself. All four flavors: 1.) sweet (organic cane sugar), 2.) salt (kosher salt), 3.) nutty (organic roasted California almonds), and of course 4.) chocolate (organic cacao beans) were well balanced and really sang together.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Vosges - Smoky Tellicherry Bar - July 28, 2014

Chocolate of the Day: 

Vosges Haut-Chocolat
Smoky Tellicherry Bar
Good ++
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42.5 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 240 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $5.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Fresh Market, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #4 of Smoke and Savory Theme Week.

The Smoky Tellicherry Bar from Vosges Haut-Chocolat (Chicago, IL) had both smoke and savory elements, and a black peppery kick from coarsely ground Tellicherry* peppercorns and bits of uncured peppercorn bacon.

Vosges founder Katrina Markhoff and team have elevated the art of bacon and chocolate over the past decade. The company offers one of the largest "libraries" of bacon bars and products around. The slightly earthy, dark chocolate (72%) bar base eclipsed some of the more subtle savory and bacon flavor nuances in this bar, but overall it was quite good.

At $5.99 this bar was reasonably priced, given the relatively high quality of the flavor additions.

For those who would like to try this particular Vosges bar, you may be in luck if you live in a city with a "The Fresh Market" (a chain of markets with more than 150 locations in the U.S.). This bar was a limited edition made especially for The Fresh Market.

*Charcoal colored and flavorful, dried Tellicherry peppercorns are considered some of the best in the world. According to the packaging, the peppercorns in this bar came from the Malabar Coast of India.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lillie Belle Farms - Blue Cheese and Whiskey bars - July 27, 2014

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Lillie Belle Farms

1.) Whiskey In The Bar
Good ++
Weight: .5 oz. (14 g.) / 2.5 oz. (70 g.) total bar
Calories: 75 calories (estimate) for 1/5 bar
Cost: $8.00 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Lillie Belle Farms, Central Point, OR

2.) Stella Blue bar
Good +
Weight: .416 oz. (11.6 g.) / 2.5 oz. (70 g.) total bar
Calories: 63 calories (estimate) for 1/6 bar
Cost: $8.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Lillie Belle Farms, Central Point, OR

Today was Day #3 of Smoke and Savory Theme Week.

Both of today's Limited Edition bars from Lillie Belle Farms (Central Point, OR) were infused with relatively subtle flavor, given that Blue Cheese and Whiskey have a strong taste.

The "Whiskey In The Bar" dark chocolate (65%) bar was charred-oak smokey, dark and slightly bittersweet. I liked its relatively complex, barrel aged flavor.

The Lillie Belle Farms "Stella Blue" bar was made with bean-to-bar, (50%) milk chocolate. It had a slight savory taste to it; however, I think most people would be hard pressed to identify this flavor as blue cheese, from Lillie Belle next door neighbor Rogue Creamery (Central Point, OR).



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lillie Belle Farms - Almond and Smoked Sea Salt Bark - July 26, 2014

Chocolate of the Day:

Lillie Belle Farms
Caramelized Almond and Smoked Sea Salt Bark
Good - Good +
Weight: .5 oz. (14.1 g.) / 4 oz. (112 g.) total bag
Calories: 75 calories (estimate) in 1 piece
Cost: $ 6.00 (guesstimate) for 1 bag
Purchased from: Lillie Belle Farms, Central Point, OR

Today was Day #2 of Chocolate, Smoke and Savory Theme Week.

It wouldn't be right to discuss Lillie Belle Farms (Central Point, OR) and savory flavors without mentioning the company's Smokey Blue Truffles, made with Rogue Creamery blue cheese from next door.

I've already featured these blue foil wrapped beauties, with their uniquely appealing, slightly salty, tangy and savory flavor, way back in 2008. But, I couldn't resist re-tasting them again today, along with a piece of Lillie Belle Caramelized Almond and Smoked Sea Salt Bark. The blue cheese truffles were just as good as I remembered them to be.

The almond bark had a very subtle smoked sea salt flavor. (Disclaimer: I adore smoked sea salt, so I'm easily seduced by any item that contains it. It also helps balance sweet and acidic flavors as well.) The "secret" ingredient in this bark was a very subtle hint of peppermint oil. I might have missed it if I hadn't seen it in the ingredient list. The mint gave the slightly smokey nuts and chocolate a tiny hint of uplifting zing. Any more mint, and it might have battled with the other flavors, but this micro-accent amount worked.






Friday, July 25, 2014

Hagensborg - Italy bar - July 25, 2014

Chocolate of the Day: 

Hagensborg Chocolates
Wild B(o)ar - Italy bar
Good ++
Weight: 2.3 oz. (65 g.) total bar
Calories: 380 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $7.95 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Jacksonville Mercantile, Jacksonville, OR

Today was Day #7 of Chocolate and Italy Theme Week, and Day #1 of Chocolate, Smoky and Savory Theme Week.

This Wild B(o)ar "Italy" bar from Hagensborg Chocolates (Burnaby, BC, Canada) was the perfect chocolate to straddle the fence between these two theme weeks. A happy convergence indeed.

The reference to Italy came from the Ritrovo rare black truffle salt (i.e. Italian black truffle, salt and olive oil), sprinkled on roasted pieces of (California) almonds, that were incorporated into an organic* milk chocolate (39% cocoa) bar base.

However, as yummy and authentically truffle-flavored this chocolate was, what really made me smile was the bar's design. A satisfied cartoon pig reclined with a full belly, and above the pig floated words such as "chomp gobble munch" Also a few "bites" were taken from the edges as part of the design.

This Wild Boar Hagensborg Italy bar was made with "85% organic ingredients."



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