Saturday, October 22, 2016

Zayna Dates; Sesame Items - Oct. 22, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Signature Snacks LLC
Zayna Dates (Milk Chocolate)
Good +++
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) / 3.53 oz. (100 g.) total package of 10 pieces
Calories: 132 calories in 3 pieces
Cost: $1.99 for 1 package of 10 pieces
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #3 of A Series of Sesame Chocolates.

Today's Zayna Dates (Milk Chocolate) were made by Signature Snacks LLC (Dubai, United Arab Emirates), and were one of several dessert tapas arranged on small plates.

Zayna Dates were created, according to the description on the packaging, after "world-renowned Suisse Chocolatiers visited Mediterranean regions" in the 1990s. Long story short, sweet, rich, hand-picked dates were stuffed with a roasted almond and covered in milk chocolate. I have to agree, after tasting today's dates, this is a winning combination.

And, consistent with a Mediterranean dessert tapas theme, other items included sesames seeds, nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios), pieces of sesame rice cakes, and Joyva Sesame Crunch candies, and melted chocolate (fondue).

What chocolate paired best with sesame items? I tried pairing sesame candies and seeds with two very different chocolates: one bright, fruity and complex Venezuelan chocolate, and one deeper, darker, slightly earthier and African chocolate.

The Venezuelan choice was a great chocolate, but was a little too acidic and bright for this pairing. And the latter African chocolate was a little too dark (78 percent cacao) and "dull."

A nuttier 70 percent chocolate that was in between these two extremes, or perhaps a 65 percent dark milk bar with chopped almonds might be a good fit.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Chosen Foods - Chocolate Bites with Chia - Oct. 21, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Chosen Foods
Chocolate Bites with Chia!
Good +
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) in 1 packet
Calories: 190 calories in 1 packet
Cost: $5.99 for 1 box of 12 packets
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #2 of A Series of Sesame Chocolates.

This week people are watching the World Series (baseball play-off) games. However, I'm focused on a series of a different sort: 4-5 chocolate items with sesame seeds.

Today's Chocolate Bites with Chia! were made in Mexico and distributed by Chosen Foods, LLC (San Diego, CA).  The small, crunchy, gluten-free cubes, or bites, inside each packet were made with nuts (pecans and almonds), chia (organic chia seeds), and cacao nibs. However, the first ingredient listed was organic sesame seeds.

These bites were relatively high in protein (5 g.) and fiber (4 g.), and were very lightly sweetened (cane sugar (3 g.) was number five on the ingredient list), making them a relatively healthy snack choice.

Neo Cocoa - Black Sesame Seed Brittle - Oct. 20, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Neo Cocoa
Black Sesame Seed Brittle
Very Good
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42.5 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total package
Calories: 225 calories (estimate) in 1/2 package
Cost: $8.00 for 1 package of brittle pieces
Purchased from: Neo Cocoa table at Palo Alto Farmers Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #1 of A Series of Sesame Chocolates.

Another great blend of flavors and textures from Neo Cocoa.

One of the joys of the modern world is the melding of food items from different continents over time by creative chefs of every kind: cacao from Central and South America, made into chocolate in North America; and flavor inclusions from around the world.

Today's chocolate contained sesame seeds (originally from Asia and East Africa). Rich in flavor and crunchy texture, sesame can go sweet or savory, and can pair nicely with chocolate.

Neo Cocoa Black Sesame Seed Brittle
Beware. Today's Black Sesame Toffee Brittle from Neo Cocoa (Belmont, CA) would be a spookily addictive Halloween treat. It will disappear before your very eyes.

Upon opening the sealed pouch of brittle, I detected a promising light sesame and chocolate aroma.

At the heart of this carefully crafted brittle was a thin* layer of light, crunchy sweet toffee brittle riddled with toasted black sesame seeds. The brittle was covered (on both sides) with a thin* coating of 72 percent dark chocolate and then sprinkled with white sesame seeds. The results: an intoxicating, crunchy sweet and slightly salty treat.

*I'm not sure how they managed such delicately thin layers, but I'm glad I didn't have to attempt making this at home.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Neo Cocoa - Dark Chocolate Mustache; Teaspoon - Oct. 19, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Neo Cocoa
Dark Chocolate Mustache with Pistachios
Good +++
Weight: 1.1 oz. (31.1 g.) (estimate) for 1 mustache
Calories: 165 calories (estimate) in 1 piece/mustache
Cost: $5.00 for 1 chocolate mustache
Purchased from: Neo Cocoa table/booth (at Palo Alto Farmers Market, Palo Alto, CA)

Welcome to Day #7 of And Now for Something Completely Different Theme Week.

Today's Dark Chocolate Mustache from Neo Cocoa (Belmont, CA) was studded with green, pistachio nut pieces and was quite delicious.

I imagine the Minister of Silly Walks, and others who love fun and chocolate might also approve.

hank you very much dear readers for accompanying us on this week filled with unique and unusual chocolates. We will be returning to more conventional programming tomorrow with a series of sesame chocolates.

In other green + chocolate news...

Later today, I also tried a California Snow Ice special with avocado snow, almonds, mochi, condensed milk and a drizzle of chocolate sauce at Teaspoon (Los Altos, CA location). The large "Husky" cup serving size looked quite large, but this shaved snow style frozen dessert was lighter and less overly sweet than it looked, and was a refreshing late afternoon treat.

"Serving the most unique bubble tea and snow ice desserts" is the Teaspoon (company) motto. And I couldn't I resist one last unique item this week.

Lindt - Lychee Dark Chocolate bar - Oct. 18, 2016

Chocolate of the Day:

Lychee Dark Chocolate bar
Weight: .7 oz. (20 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 105 calories in 2 squares
Cost: $2.99 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Lucky Supermarkets, El Cerrito, CA

Welcome to Day #6 of And Now for Something Completely Different Theme Week.

Lychee fruit has a unique, delicate, floral flavor. But, it's rare to see this fruit in U.S. supermarket produce sections, or in chocolate.

So, I was excited to find today's Lychee Dark Chocolate bar from Lindt and Sprungli AG (Kilchberg, Switzerland). This bar was part of the company's Exotic Fruit Collection. (Earlier this year I featured their Pineapple bar.)

I wondered whether the dark chocolate would overwhelm the delicate, complex flavors of this tropical fruit. However, it was the added flavoring that almost overwhelmed the relatively neutral dark chocolate.

The bar had a very sweet and almost artificial perfume aroma. The dark chocolate was smooth, sweet, and uniform in texture and flavor. Happily, a more natural lychee fruit flavor became more evident with the second or third bite. (The bar was made with lychee fruit pieces, as well as other natural and artificial flavors.)

I enjoyed being able to try this flavor blend; although I think I prefer lychee fruit a la carte.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Xocolatl de David - Foie Gras 68% Bolivia bar - Oct. 17, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Xocolatl de David
Foie Gras Chocolate 68 percent cacao Bolivia bar
Good ++
Weight: .55 oz. (15.5 g.) / 2.2 oz. (62 g.) in total bar
Calories: 82.5 calories (estimate) in 1/4 bar
Cost: $ for 1/4 bar
Purchased from: Fog City News, San Francisco, CA

Welcome to Day #5 of And Now for Something Completely Different Theme Week.

Today I tried a Foie Gras 68 percent Bolivia chocolate bar from Xocolatl de David (Portland, OR).

This bar had a very slight foie gras aroma, and a creamy melt. The texture was smooth. The bar had a slightly salty, savory flavor; but the actual flavor inclusion (foie gras) may be difficult to guess for tasters.

Xocolatl de David, known for its creative stable of savory bars, also offers a "Foietella" spread with chocolate.

Thank you to Adam and the team at Fog City News (San Francisco, CA) for their curated selection of chocolates and for their help in finding unique bars for this week.

*Foie gras is a savory spread made from goose or duck liver and sometimes includes chopped pistachio nuts. Foie gras made by traditional methods (that involve "force-feeding" birds to fatten up their liver) is outlawed in California.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Nathan Miller Chocolate - 45% Buttermilk bar - Oct. 16, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Nathan Miller Chocolate
45 percent Buttermilk bar
Good +++ - Very Good
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (56.6 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $9.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA

Greetings and Welcome to Day #4 of And Now for Something Completely Different Theme Week.

Today's unique twist on a milk chocolate bar was the incorporation of buttermilk.

Nathan Miller, a successful pastry and dessert chef, started making chocolate in Boulder, and later set up shop in the Amish country of Pennsylvania. Miller and team have been busy producing chocolate bars from single origin cacao beans. Some of his award winning bars contain flavor inclusions, and some don't.

The 45 percent Buttermilk Chocolate bar from Nathan Miller Chocolate (Chambersburg, PA), was a flavorful blend of pleasant surprises.

Swaddled in bright pink lokta paper from Nepal and light blue foil, this bar smelled like chocolate brownie with very subtle hints of salt and smoke.* And at one point, I thought I tasted a slightly floral note. The chocolate had more complex, bold character and flavor than most milk chocolate bars—which I liked. The base chocolate was made from Oko Caribe Direct Trade, Organic Hispaniola cacao (from the Dominican Republic).

The organic buttermilk brought out a richer, bolder flavor with a slightly salty tang, that I enjoyed.

I really like brownies, salt, smokey* umami flavors and buttermilk. So, I'll likely appreciate this bar more than most. Most critics consider any smokey flavor in cacao to be a defect.

*A smokey flavor can come about in a few different ways. Following fermentation, cacao beans are spread out to dry on flats, or on the ground. In case of rain, beans might be in (or moved to) a covered area, and a fire might be used to help heat and dry cacao. Or smoke may waft in from a nearby cooking fire. In some cases, smoke may cover up less desirable flavors.

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