Friday, February 12, 2016

Pura Delizia - Vietnam 75% bar - Feb. 12, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Pura Delizia Packint srl
Vietnam 75% bar
Weight: 1.17 oz. (33.3 g.) / 3.53 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 170.6 calories in 1/3 bar
Cost: $8.95 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere, online order

Don Khach (welcome in Vietnamese) – to Day #10 of Chocolate and Some Enchanted Islands Theme Week.

Today's Vietnam 75% dark chocolate bar was from Pura Delizia Packint srl (Borgo Priolo, Italy). This Italian chocolate maker produces bean-to-bar, single origin bars, and chocolate confections (including chocolate and coffee creams and chocolate truffles with Piedmont hazelnuts and other flavor inclusions).

This Vietnam bar broke with a hard snap, and had a faint dark-roast aroma. It had a slow melt, smooth texture, and an even, dark, woodsy flavor.

Tomorrow, we celebrate our last day of Chocolate and Some Enchanted Islands Theme Week, with one last bar from Vietnam.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Artisan du Chocolat - Vietnam bar - Feb. 11, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Artisan du Chocolat
Vietnam bar
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1.59 oz. (45 g.) in total bar
Calories: 238 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $ lost info
Purchased from: Artisan du Chocolat (online order)

Welcome to Day #9 of Chocolate and Some Enchanted Islands Theme Week.

Today we move to Vietnam—not technically an island* nation, but a country with islands, and a very long coastline bordering on The South China Sea.

I'm including three Vietnam single origin bars in this theme week, because an someone once insisted to me that Vietnam was an island. That is more than some people know about geography.

I like using chocolate to help us all learn more about the world. And, I've virtually traveled to more countries than I've actually visited; so I'm including myself in that "us".

Some of the most well-known islands off Vietnam might be in the Ha Long Bay area in the north. However, most of the cacao grown in Vietnam comes from warmer, inland South Vietnam, near the Mekong River and/or Mekong River Delta.

Artisan du Chocolat - Vietnam bar

Artisan du Chocolat (London) makes a series of bars with great flavor inclusions (e.g., Masala Chai, Orchid and Orange Blossom, Ginger and Lemongrass, Buffalo Milk, etc.) in addition to single origin bars -- such as today's Vietnam dark chocolate limited edition - 72% Cocoa bar.

The Trinitario cacao beans used to make this Vietnam dark bar were grown in the Ba Ria - Vung Tau Province, a coastal province, East of the Mekong Delta.

The bar had a pleasant sweet cocoa, spice and light fruit aroma, and flavor.

Tasting notes printed on the bar's packaging: "...Surprisingly mellow at the start, this chocolate melts with a long and slightly peppery bitter finish."

Note: Like many single origin, limited edition bars, this one may no longer be available.

*Vietnamese islands include the 2,000 limestone islets that jut up from the sea in the Ha Long Bay area; Phu Quoc; Bach Long Vi; Cat Ba; the Can Dao islands; and others. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Akesson's - Bali Sukrama Farms 75% bar - Feb. 10, 2016

Chocolate of the Day:

Akesson's Organic, Ltd.
(Single Plantation Chocolate)
Bali - Sukrama Farms, 75% Trinitario Cocoa
Good ++
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) / 2.12 oz. (60 g.) in total bar
Calories:  172.5 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $N/A - part of a subscription 
Purchased from: Cocoa Runners (subscription)

Today was Day #8 of Chocolate and Some Enchanted Islands Theme Week. As often happens when we have too many chocolates to fit into a seven-day week, we're including a few bonus days. Chocolate weeks are just more abundant.

All of our island bars featured this week have been single origin bars. Akesson's Organic, Ltd. (Notting Hill, London) goes one step further with single plantation bars.

Akesson's relationships they've built with individual plantations (such as those owned by the Sukrama family in Bali)*, help to assure desired characteristics from tree to bar.

This award-winning** 75% Trinitario Cocoa dark chocolate bar had a subtle aroma, smooth melt and texture, bold but well-balanced and even dark chocolate flavor, a very faint five-spice blend note, and a relatively clean finish.

Tasting notes: "...This bar has a masculine bitterness and expressive notes of spices."

And now we say Selamat tinggal (goodbye in Indonesian) to Bali. Next stop will be: Vietnam.

*Akesson's also has an ownership stake in plantations in Madagascar and Brazil.

**This Akesson's Bali bar was a Bronze 2014 European Chocolate Awards and Great Taste 2014 award winner.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Scharffen Berger - Papua New Guinea bar - Feb. 9 , 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Scharffen Berger
Chocolate Maker Series
Limited Edition - Papua New Guinea bar
Good - Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 140 calories in 1/3 bar
Cost: $5.95 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Scharffen Berger store (now closed) in Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA

Today was Day #7 of Chocolate and Some Enchanted Islands Theme Week; and we're enjoying a second day in Papua New Guinea.

Cacao was introduced to islands in the South Pacific, directly and indirectly, by European explorers and those seeking claim new land areas, in part to grow crops, such as tobacco, sugar and cacao.

Fast forwarding a few centuries...There was a renewed interest in making bean-to-bar chocolate by small artisan makers in the Americas. Cacao was growing on many island nations (within 20 degrees of the Equator), making some interesting single origin bars possible. Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker (founded in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1997) was an early entrant into this new market.

Later Scharffen Berger became part of Artisan Confections Company (Hershey). And, while the Bay Area Scharffen Berger factory (with excellent tour) closed, for awhile there was a small Scharffen Berger store in San Francisco's Ferry Building**—where I bought this bar a few years ago.

This bar from the past was stored in my chocolate vault until today. While plain dark bars (without flavor inclusions or preservatives) that are well-tempered can last up to two years, generally it's better to eat chocolate sooner rather than later.

Scharffen Berger Papua New Guinea bar

This Scharffen Berger semisweet 68% cacao dark bar was part of a "Chocolate Maker's Series"—a Limited Edition bar. The cacao beans used to make it were from the Markham Valley in Papua New Guinea. The company also had a Vietnam single origin bar...where we'll be traveling to the day after tomorrow. (I'm not sure if either bar is still available.)

Tasting notes: "Pleasantly creamy, notes of red fruit, cherry and raisin, with a hint of vanilla." I would add that this bar had a rich chocolate (almost fudgey) flavor, not unlike yesterday's PNG bar. "Chocolatey" is one flavor that can be more pronounced in some beans/origins than others.

*My understanding is that crops grown in Papua New Guinea today include introduced crops such as cacao, palm oil, coffee, cassava and sweet potato, as well as traditional taro, banana, sago and yam.

**This retail location/store in the Ferry Building was later closed.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Ritter - Dark Chocolate Papua New Guinea bar - Feb. 8, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Alfred Ritter GmbH and Co.
Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate - 50% Papua New Guinea bar
Weight: 1.15 oz. (32.5 g.) / 2.3 oz. (65 g.) in total bar
Calories: 200 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $9.99 for 1 box of 14 bars
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #6 of Chocolate and Some Enchanted Islands Theme Week.

This Papua New Guinea single origin dark bar was from European chocolatier Ritter (Waldenbuch, Germany). The familiar square-ish, individually wrapped Ritter bars come in many flavors—the company's dark hazelnut chocolate bar being my favorite flavor I've tried so far. In most of these bars the country of origin (for the cacao) is not listed or specified.

It can be challenging for a high-volume company to create a single origin bar, as their needs might easily exceed the output of a single plantation. They may need to blend and balance cacao from multiple growers in a region or country. And, unlike smaller makers, larger makers often need to have more consistent (and less unique) flavor over a longer period of time.

Today's 50% cacao bar might be perfect if you have a craving for chocolate sweets. This bar smelled like a fresh batch of marshmallow chocolate fudge, and had that intense sweet, cocoa flavor as well.

There was a very subtle earthy and slightly artificial* flavor at the finish; but otherwise it was enjoyable. Ingredients: "sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, natural flavor*"

Stay tuned, tomorrow we'll continue our virtual island voyage with another Papua New Guinea bar.

*It should be noted that the packaging for this bar stated that it was made with "natural ingredients."
I don't really know what "natural flavor" means in this case. Unfortunately, the broad phrases "all natural" and "natural ingredients" have been so over-used, they don't mean much if they're meant to reassure people looking to either include or exclude certain substances in food items. 

Chocolat Bonnat - Trinite 75% dark bar - Feb. 7, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Chocolat Bonnat
Trinite dark chocolate bar
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: 1.16 oz. (33.3 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 176 calories (estimate) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $8.95 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere (online order)

Today was Day #5 of Chocolate and Some Enchanted Islands Theme Week.

Today's bar was made with cacao grown in Trinidad (of Trinidad and Tobago). We're still in the Caribbean, but this two-island nation is located southeast of the DR (where we were yesterday)—closer to South America

Trinite is the French translation of Trinidad. The Trinite 75% Cacao bar was from French chocolatemaker, Chocolat Bonnat (Voiron, France).

I ordered this bar from Chocosphere. Their tasting notes for this bar included: "Bonnat Trinite 75% Bittersweet Chocolate bar... Bursting with the Antilles sunshine..., its flavor becomes more and more pronounced as the chocolate melts in your mouth. A "must" in the line of great cocoas. Kosher pareve..."

This Bonnat Trinite bar had a very pleasing chocolate aroma—with well-integrated cocoa, fruit, and island spice notes. The first taste was slightly "darker" than I expected, given the relatively light, sweet aroma, but gradually unfolded to have rounder, rich notes. Added cocoa butter gave the bar a slow, thick, creamy melt that may have made this unfolding more gradual.

Our next stop in our island-themed tour will be a few thousand miles west. So, imagine if you will that we're boarding a virtual private jet to fly over the Panama Canal, and across the great, wide Pacific Ocean, to taste two bars from Papua New Guinea over the next few days.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Endorfin Foods - Dominican Republic 80% bar - Feb. 6, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Endorfin Foods
Dominican Republic Single Origin Dark Chocolate 80% Cacao bar
Good - Good +
Weight: .7 oz. (20 g.) / 1.4 oz. (40 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 105 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $5.00 — when purchased as part of a 9-bar box
Purchased from: Endorfin Foods table at Fall Chocolate Salon, San Francisco, CA

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate and Some Enchanted Islands Theme Week. Today we move from Jamaica (yesterday's stop) back to the Dominican Republic (DR), to taste one last DR bar.

Today's Dominican Republic Single Origin bar was from Endorfin Foods (Oakland, CA). Endorfin uses unroasted cacao in their attractively packaged bars.

The 80% cacao dark bar was made with unroasted and ethically traded cacao from one or more farms in the DR, and contained just two ingredients: organic cacao beans and organic coconut sugar. (There was no dairy, soy, gluten or refined sugar in the bar.)

This ultra-dark bar had a subtle aroma, a good snap, and uniform, slightly bitter, dark flavor with a hint of earthiness. The coconut sugar gave the bar a light touch of brown sugar sweetness.

The next stop on the enchanted islands cacao tour...Trinidad.

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