Friday, December 2, 2016

SOMA - Birch branch filled with hazelnuts, cherry jam - Dec. 2, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

SOMA Chocolate
Birch Branch with Hazelnut Crunch, Montmorency Cherry Jam
Very Good
Weight: .25 oz. (7 g.) / 11.3 oz. (320 g.) in total box
Calories: 37.5 calories (estimate) in 1 small piece
Purchased from: N/A - gift from Megan (Thank you!)

Welcome to hazelnut heaven, and Day #7 of Chocolate, Almond and Hazelnut Theme Week.

Today's chocsimile* of a birch branch from SOMA Chocolatemaker (Toronto) looked very much like the real thing, because it was carefully crafted from a real birch branch.

A mold was made from a special branch, and the mold is carefully "lined" with chocolate, and stuffed with a soft hazelnut crunch filling with Montmorency Cherry Jam in the center.

The result was magical—the envy of every squirrel and snowman in the forest I'm sure. And it tasted as wonderful as it looked. This very special treat would be great for a holiday party or sharing with others. It's likely to be seasonal, so check with SOMA (and/or their website) about availability.

Where's the Almond you say?
Funny you should ask. I also enjoyed another slice of heaven found in a Barre Infernal (Dark) from Francois Pralus** (France). I tasted the first of these Infernale bars (there's a milk and a dark version, and the dark version has hazelnuts and almonds) five years ago in 2011 at The Chocolate Garage (Palo Alto, CA).

This substantial Pralus bar reminded me of today's hazelnut Birch Branch from SOMA. This dark Pralus bar was large enough to be sliced and contained a hazelnut (and almond) filling. (Picture of bar at right is from the Francois Pralus website.)

*Chocolate facsimile
** Francois Pralus is a Master Chocolatier and chocolate maker based in France who makes single origin and bean-to-bar chocolate.
***Note: This item was not gluten-free. There was some flour involved in making the hazelnut filling crunchy. And while the type of flour was not specified, I'm assuming it was conventional (wheat) flour. 

SOMA - tumbled Hazelnuts - Dec. 1, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

SOMA Chocolatemaker
tumbled Hazelnuts
Good++ - Very Good
Weight: 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total package
Calories: 525 calories (estimate) in 1 package
Cost: $10.00 for 1 package
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate, Almonds and Hazelnuts Theme Week.

More hazelnut goodness today. These tumbled Hazelnuts—Slow Roasted Hazelnuts tumbled in Dark Chocolate—from SOMA Chocolatemaker (Toronto, CA), were crunchy and covered with just the right amount of chocolate/cocoa coating. Enough so that you knew you were tasting high-quality chocolate, but not enough cacao to mask the genuine flavor of perfectly roasted hazelnuts.

Justin's - Chocolate Hazelnut Butter - Nov. 30, 2016

Chocolate of the Day:

Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Blend
Good ++
Weight: 1.15 oz. (32 g.) in 1 total packet
Calories: 180 calories in 1 packet
Cost: $1.29 for 1 packet
Purchased from: Lucky, Union City, CA

Today I enjoyed packets of Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Blend (made with roasted hazelnuts and almonds)—and Justin's Classic Almond Butter— on thin slices* of toasted white bread from Arise Gluten Free Bakery (Arcata, CA).

Justin Gold founded Justin's (Boulder, CO), a successful nut butter business when he moved west; and over time expanded the number of offerings to include today's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Blend in jar and packet form—as well as other nut butter snack items.

Made without artificial flavor or preservatives or extra sugar and salt (thank you), this butter/spread was gluten free and packed with natural nut (roasted hazelnuts and almonds) and chocolate flavor.

*Those used to eating gluten-free bread may appreciate how thinly sliced gluten-free (or conventional) breads can be a crumbly challenge. Not so here. This was good bread.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Trader Joe's - Crunchy Toffeed Hazelnuts - Nov. 29, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Trader Joe's
Crunchy Toffeed Hazelnuts
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 170 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $7.99 for 1 pack of 12 mini bars
Purchased from: Trader Joe's, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate, Almonds and Hazelnuts Theme Week.

For those who like to sink their teeth into crunchy, nutty toffee-like items, today's Crunchy Toffeed Hazelnuts mini bar from Trader Joe's (Monrovia, CA) might be of interest.

This milk chocolate mini bar was thick; and it contained crunchy bits of caramelized hazelnuts (hazelnuts, sugar).

I paired this bar with some True North small, lightly sweetened, Almond Pecan Crunch clusters to enhance the nuttiness.

This bar was part of a Trader Joe's "Milk Chocolate Portfolio*" assortment box—with five other milk chocolate, individually-wrapped mini bar flavors (Butterscotch, Cocoa Nibs, Coffee, Caramelized Sunflower and Sesame Seeds, and Orange).

*The milk chocolate bars were manufactured in England and distributed and sold exclusively by Trader Joe's. All appeared to to gluten-free except the Butterscotch flavor which contained glucose (wheat).

Monday, November 28, 2016

Nirvana - Crispy Almonds bar + SOMA Gianduja drinking chocolate - Nov. 28, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Nirvana Belgian Chocolates
Organic Belgian Dark Chocolate
Crispy Almonds bar
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42.5 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 230 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $5.95 for 1 bar
Purchased from: SweetE Organic, Mill Valley, CA

SOMA Chocolatemaker
Gianduja Roasted Hazelnut drinking chocolate
Good ++
Weight: 1.325 oz. (37.5 g.) / 2.65 oz. (75 g.) in total package
Calories: 188 calories (estimate per label) in 1/2 package
Cost: $8.00 for 1 package
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate, Almonds and Hazelnuts Theme Week.

Squirrel haters should stop reading here; because I've dedicated today to these furry, nut-loving balls of mischief. Happily I may not be the only one who enjoys them. Both of today's chocolates have illustrations of squirrels on their packaging.

The first chocolate was a Crispy Almonds bar from Nirvana Belgium Chocolate (product of Belgium). The 72% cacao Organic dark chocolate base was sprinkled with a sea of caramelized almond bits. Thankfully, this well-tempered dark bar was smooth and rich, without being too sweet. The illustrated red squirrel with tufted ears in the branches of an almond tree (due to clever packaging design and cut-out above the bar) appeared to be dreaming of the chocolate and nuts inside.

SOMA Chocolatemaker (Toronto) goes one step farther, by stating its yummy Gianduja Roasted Hazelnut drinking chocolate was "approved by squirrels everywhere." That's good enough for me.

Mix a little hot water with the rich contents of this SOMA packet and you'll get a highly edible, velvety paste with concentrated chocolate hazelnut flavor that's worth sampling a la carte. And, if you must dilute it further to make a traditional cocoa, you might add some milk or cream.

However, I like the more concentrated version myself, and it's pictured here in a tiny, Italian-themed espresso cup with a Tasmanian Devil—the closest animal I had on hand that might convey a squirrel's crazy passion for almonds and hazelnuts (and chocolate* too if the truth be known).

*Rats, mice and squirrels are known to nibble on cacao pods, and chocolate and nuts if they can find them. They seem to have less trouble digesting/processing the theobromine in cacao/chocolate that upsets dogs, cats and other animals. Theobromine is an alkaloid that's a close cousin to caffeine.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Yves Thuries - Milk Chocolate Almonds, Hazelnuts - Nov. 27, 2016

Chocolate of the Day:

Yves Thuries
Milk Chocolate with Almonds, Hazelnuts (and more) bar
Weight: 1.75 oz. (50 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) total bar
Calories: 270 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $2.49 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate, Almonds and Hazelnuts Theme Week.

Today's 34% cacao milk chocolate bar, designed by a French chef (Chef Yves Thuries)* and made with Ecuadorian cacao, was sweet enough to be a confection on a dessert tray.

In fact, the bar's clever packaging contained 12 separate compartment spaces, each filled with a separate milk chocolate rectangular segment, or bite. Each bite was an attractive tiny bar that could be lifted out and eaten (or displayed neatly on a plate if desired).

Each bite was garnished with nuts (almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios) and pastel-colored fruit gems (raspberries, blueberries, oranges). The end result was a mix of nut, fruit and almost floral flavors. A most pleasant and high-class chocolate candy.

*This bar was a Product of France, and was distributed by SALPA Inc. (Greenwich, CT).

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Kind - Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Spice bar - Nov. 26, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Nuts and Spices
Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Spice bar
Good ++
Weight: 1.4 oz. (40 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 200 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $1.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Whole Foods, Redwood City, CA

Welcome to the kick-off day (Day #1) of Chocolate, Almond and Hazelnut Theme Week.

I enjoyed today's Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Spice "Limited Batch" Nuts and Spices bar from Kind LLC (New York, NY). Most of Kind's gluten-free snack bars* are guaranteed to be packed with crunchy nuts, and not too much sodium or sugar. A dark chocolate backing and drizzle (and a dash of cocoa nibs in today's case) added chocolatey rich flavor.

This Hazelnut Spice bar contained (no surprise) hazelnuts—as well as almonds, cashews and peanuts. The hint of holiday spice was provided by nutmeg and vanilla.

*Particularly Kind's Fruits and Nuts and Nuts and Spices bars.

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