Friday, May 27, 2016

Nature's Path - Qi'a Dark Chocolate Cranberry Almond bar - May 27, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Nature's Path Foods
Qi'a Dark Chocolate Cranberry Almond bar
Weight: 1.3 oz. (38 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 180 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $2.19 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Country Sun Natural Foods, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Theme Week.

Today's Qi'a Dark Chocolate Cranberry Almond bar from Nature's Path Foods (Blaine, WA) contained both fruit and nuts.

This Qi'a bar also contained seeds (chia and hemp); the soft chew was balanced by tiny, mildly crunchy chia seeds. The dark chocolate added a very subtle hint of rich chocolate flavor.

And the first ingredient listed (and dominant flavor/texture) came from shreds of coconut—a "fibrous one-seeded drupe," that people have called a fruit, a nut and a seed. So, the coconut's versatility earns it a guest appearance in this week's fruit and nut combination week.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Oregon - Hazelnut and Huckleberry bars - May 26, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Candy Basket - A Taste of Oregon
Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts bar
Weight: 2.5 oz. (71 g.) in total bar
Calories: 375 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $2.49 for 1 bar
Purchased from: (Gift Shop) Multnomah Falls Company, Bridal Veil, OR

(Made for Multnomah Falls)
Wild Huckleberry Bar
Weight: .565 oz. (15.8 g.) / 4.5 oz. (127 g.) in total bar
Calories: 85 calories (estimate) in 1/8 bar
Cost: $5.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: (Gift Shop) Multnomah Falls Company, Bridal Veil, OR

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Theme Week.

Today's double header was made possible by the gift shop at Multnomah Falls, in Bridal Veil, OR, (east of Portland, near the Columbia River) where artistic renderings of Oregon landscapes and waterfalls adorned chocolates and other gifts.

The Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts bar was my favorite of the two bars. And the wrapper was printed with the image of a watercolor painting of the Oregon coast by Ted Haines, Gresham, OR.

The Wild Huckleberry Bar (Dark Chocolate Infused with Huckleberry Essence) was made for Multnomah Falls), depicted a colorful image of Multnomah Falls Lodge with Falls in the background.

I didn't buy this Huckleberry bar for the chocolate (made with hydrogenated vegetable oils vs. cocoa butter; and infused with artificial berry flavor). However, it was worth taking home a souvenir chocolate package with beautiful artwork of the Multnomah Lodge and Falls* (and an origin story of the Falls on the back) to remember the trip.

*Included in this post are two photos I took of the Multnomah Falls area.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Moonstruck - Caramelized Hazelnuts and Summer Fruits - May 25, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Moonstruck Chocolate Co.
Caramelized Hazelnuts Tumbled in Milk Chocolate
Weight: 1.41 oz. (40 g.) / 4 oz. (113.4 g.) in total package
Calories: 220 calories in 1 serving (about 13 pieces)
Cost: $5.00 for 1 package
Purchased from: Moonstruck, Portland, OR

Moonstruck Chocolate Co.
Summer Fruits Collection
Dark Chocolate Strawberry Truffles + Peach Truffles
OK +
Weight: 1.41 oz. (40.2 g.) / 2.83 oz. (80.4 g.) in total package of 4 pieces
Calories: 210 calories in 2 pieces
Cost: $10.00 for 1 package of 4 pieces
Purchased from: Moonstruck, Portland, OR

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Theme Week. This week includes fruit and nut chocolates confections from the Portland, OR, area, purchased during a visit last weekend.

Today's chocolates were bought at Moonstruck Chocolate Co. (Portland, OR). Their tiny gem of a chocolate shop (in downtown Portland) was at capacity with 5 or 6 people inside; but it contained a dazzling display of sugary confections, filled chocolates and a few bars.

Today's Caramelized Hazelnuts Tumbled in Milk Chocolate were sweet and crunchy with a smooth, almost velvety jacket of 31% cacao milk chocolate. These were too sweet for me, but might be perfect for someone who has a sweet tooth, and appreciates the company's use of local foods and flavors (local distilled spirits, beers, hazelnuts, fruits, etc.)

I paired these with two different kinds of fruit-shaped truffles from Moonstruck's Summer Fruits Collection. They seemed like a good visual match or pairing with the hazelnuts. And, it just seemed like a Chocolate Banquet thing to do. The dark chocolate filled strawberry and the lighter-colored peach were also too sweet for me but, visually, they looked great, rivaling the traditional small whole "fruits" crafted from marzipan (sweet almond paste).

Moonstruck has been producing chocolates in the Portland area for more than 20 years. Thank you to the young woman in the shop who provided great counter help.

Creo Chocolate - Portland, OR - May 2016

Creo Chocolate, Portland, OR
May 2016

When you eat a lot of chocolate, every trip seems to become a chocolate field trip. And while the same could be said of any hobby or passion, it's been my good fortune to meet others who have turned their passion for chocolate into a business across the globe.

During a recent trip to Portland, Oregon, I was able to stop at at several (although not all) chocolate hot spots in this city of roses. The Portland area has a fairly high chocolate IQ, with lots of chocolate makers and chocolatiers.

Coming from further south, one of the first things about Portland I noticed was how green everything was. The trees, grass and plants were shades of radiant jade and emerald. And when the sun showed through to dazzle on occasion, it was easy to believe how everyone might want to live in the Pacific Northwest, in Portland or Seattle, or other cities.

Creo Chocolate, a family-founded and run bean-to-bar chocolate business, was my first stop. The founders (Tim and Janet Straub) experimented with roasting beans and making chocolate from scratch for several years, before selling their own family farm (where they'd grown raspberries for 16 years), and getting into the business of making craft chocolate.

The company name "creo" means "I believe" in Spanish, and "I create" in Latin. Co-founder, Janet Straub, says she felt she made a "heart connection" when they met with other family farmers in Ecuador and other cacao-growing countries. They felt they could make a difference when they used the farmers' cacao to make into great chocolate, and to bring to others in the cities to enjoy.

Creo Chocolate (located in the Lloyd District, east of the Willamette River) is a factory and cafe, a place where tours are given and chocolate is sold.

The May Saturday when I stopped by, the shop was full of browsers and buyers, but Kevin Straub (described on the Creo website as the family's "chocolate maker and maintenance geek") made time to speak with me about their bars and confections (that were made by someone else).

I sampled a Yuzu Gimlet from the glass display case. The fresh gin and yuzu (citrus-like) fruit flavors, infused into a chocolate truffle format, tasted vibrant and clear and were well balanced.

Today I also tried two other Creo filled chocolates: a mystery sample (white chocolate with a spicy kick) that Kevin provided; and a maple cream-filled dark square. The maple caramel filling was light, almost silky and creamy.

I'm saving the Creo (bean-to-bar) chocolate(s) and cacao nibs for upcoming theme weeks.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Betty Lou's - Nuts about Chocolate Hazelnut - May 24, 2016

Chocolate of the Day:

Betty Lou's Inc.
Nuts about Chocolate and Hazelnut - Vegan Protein Balls
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42 g.) in one package/ball
Calories: 160 calories in 1 ball
Cost: $1.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: Vista Point, OR

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Theme Week.

I recently made a trip up to Portland, OR, and picked up a few fruit and nut items. Many of them contained, as you might expect from the Pacific Northwest, berries and hazelnuts--such as today's Nuts about Chocolate and Hazelnut energy ball, from Betty Lou's Inc. (McMinnville, OR).

This round patty-shaped energy bar had a slightly fudgey center (with ground nuts, seeds and a vegan (brown rice and pea) protein blend, and a subtle fruity sweetness (from fruit juice and dates).

And the entire exterior was coated with chopped hazelnut pieces.

The result was an energy ball with slightly chewy and nutty flavor. The added protein helped cut the sweetness found in many energy bar offerings.

This energy ball was "Non-GMO, Gluten Free, (and contained) 4 G Fiber, 8 G Protein."

This Betty Lou's product was bought at the very scenic Vista Point, Oregon.

Mackenzies - Milk and Dark Caramel Apples - May 23, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Mackenzies Chocolates
Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Caramel Apples
Good - Good +
Weight: unknown in 2 caramel apples (1 dark, 1 milk)
Calories: unknown
Cost: unknown
Purchased from: Mackenzies, Santa Cruz, CA

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate and Caramel Theme Week, and Day #1 of Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Theme Week.

Each of these two diminutive caramel-filled chocolate apples—one milk chocolate and one dark chocolate, from Mackenzies Chocolates (Santa Cruz, CA)—was filled with generous, golden pockets of caramel.

These apples were a fitting tribute to the end of chocolate and caramel theme week.

And, being that these were (sort of) fruits, they also ushered in the first day of a chocolate, fruit and nut week. I paired these two caramel apples with a small handful of walnut halves, not shown here.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Perugina - Dark Chocolate with Caramelized Almonds bar - May 22, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Dark Chocolate with Almonds bar
Weight: 1.4 oz. (39.6 g.) / 3.5 oz. (99.2 g.) in total bar
Calories: 210 calories in 2/5 bar (4 squares)
Cost: $3.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Greedy Ant, Belmont, CA

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate, Caramel and Toffee Theme Week.

Rather than flowing caramel, today's bar had flecks of caramelized nuts. This Dark Chocolate with Caramelized Almonds bar was from Perugina* (Perugia, Italy). The bar had a slightly nutty, malty candy aroma and flavor.

Previously, I'd tried Perugina's milk chocolate version of this bar. In both bars, bits of toasted, caramelized almond added mild flavor and a hint of crunchy texture.

*Perugina has been making Baci chocolates for more than 100 years in Italy. The company also produces a line of chocolate bars, and is now owned by Nestle.

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