Saturday, April 29, 2017

New Barn - Banana Chocolate Chip AlmondCreme - April 29, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

New Barn
Banana Chocolate Chip AlmondCreme
Good +
Weight: 1/4 cup (59 g.) / 14 fl. oz. (414 mL) in total container
Calories: 80 calories in 1/4 cup serving
Cost: $missing information for 1 container
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate and Banana Theme Week.

A few years ago, New Barn (Healdsburg, CA) introduced organic "Almondmilk," a non-dairy almond-based beverage, without all the flavorings, preservatives and carrageenan found in most other almond "milks."

Sounds good. Most people where I live enjoy food items with a shorter, healthier ingredients list. But, did they have offerings with chocolate?

The company followed that up by introducing a line of AlmondCreme frozen desserts. This non-dairy alternative to ice cream takes their Almondmilk story one step further.

They took their Almondmilk and added organic sugar and egg. And, to today's Banana Chocolate Chip flavor, they also added organic banana and chocolate chips. (They also have a chocolate flavor made with TCHO chocolate.)

Today's frozen dessert had subtle natural banana flavor with tiny hints of chocolate. Garnish with a few nuts, and bon appetit.

Or, use this AlmondCreme as a basis for cold smoothie drinks or shakes. One can amp up the creaminess and fruit flavor by throwing a scoop of this AlmondCreme in the blender with a real banana or two and a few nuts and cocoa nibs.

Sprouts - Dark Chocolate Covered Bananas - April 28, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Sprouts Farmers Market
Dark Chocolate Covered Bananas
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.51 oz. (43 g.) / 8 oz. (227 g.) in total package
Calories: 120 calories in 4 pieces
Cost: $missing information for 1 package/box
Purchased from: Sprouts Farmers Market, Mountain View, CA

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate and Banana Theme Week.

It's spring; and it's getting warmer by the day. After a few hot days, thoughts turn to cold chocolate desserts, such as today's Dark Chocolate Covered Bananas from Sprouts Farmers Market (Phoenix, AZ).

Slices of real, frozen banana were covered in dark chocolate; and the dark chocolate shell had just the right firmness. It wasn't so flimsy that chocolate shards broke off in your lap (or on your new shirt). But it wasn't too thick either.
These refreshing and rich bites could be enjoyed a la carte—or, if you're feeling fancy, paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a dash of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey and some toasted walnuts.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

WholeMe - Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters - April 27, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters
Good ++
Weight: 2 oz. (56.6 g.) / 8 oz. (226 g.) in total package
Calories: 260 calories in 2 servings
Cost: $7.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: Draeger's, Los Altos, CA

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate and Banana Theme Week.

I'm tempted to say that today's grain-free Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters from WholeMe (Minneapolis, MN) were similar to a granola or cereal, but even the words granola and cereal are associated with grain-based food items.

These paleo clusters looked a bit like natural "cookie" pieces and were made with bananas (chips, dried), coconut ("meat" and oil), honey, nuts (pecans, almonds), sunflower seeds, pure maple syrup, cocoa nibs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt and maca.

One or two handfuls of this mix could serve as a breakfast, snack, dessert, or meal on the go.

There was no added processed sugar, preservatives, soy or gluten in this Non GMO offering. The chocolate was also in less processed form. The cocoa came from pieces of cocoa beans or nibs. One could add a few more cocoa nibs to this blend if you wanted to add more cocoa flavor and crunchy texture.

Bare Foods - Cocoa Banana Chips - April 26, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Bare Foods Co.
Baked Crunchy Cocoa Banana Chips
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.35 oz. (38.5 g.) / 2.7 oz. (77 g.) in total package
Calories: 150 calories (per label) in 1/2 package
Cost: $2.95 (estimate) for 1 package
Purchased from: missing information

Fruits blend so successfully with chocolate that most fruits merit their own chocolate theme week.* And bananas certainly deserve to be near the top of the list as they are, by many estimates, the most popular fruit in the world.

Welcome to the first day of Chocolate and Banana Theme Week.

Naturally Bare Co. (San Francisco, CA) offers a large lineup of healthy, simple snacks, including three flavors of banana chips. Today's two-ingredient Cocoa Banana Chips (bananas, organic unsweetened cocoa) had no added sugar and were, light, baked, crunchy, fat free and gluten free.

When I lightly shook the unopened bag, these cocoa-colored chips made a sound like impossibly weightless, other-worldly glass shards in the package. However, they were very edible and tasty.

The chips were refreshingly natural and light, with light cocoa flavor. The primary taste and texture, once gently reconstituted in your mouth, was one of natural banana.

*Over the last 10+ years Chocolate Banquet has featured many chocolate theme weeks dedicated to chocolate and...cherries, oranges, berries, pomegranates, limes, strawberries, lemons, raspberries, blueberries, figs, bananas, mangos, grapes/raisins, goji berries, and a few fruit salad and fruit cocktail theme weeks.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Stone Grindz Chocolate - Mint and Cashew 60% bar - April 25, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Stone Grindz Chocolate
Mint and Cashew 60 percent cacao bar
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (56.6 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $7.95 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Stone Grindz Chocolate (Scottsdale, AZ) online order

Bienvenidos a (welcome to) Day #7 of Chocolate and Bolivia Theme Week, and we're ending Bolivia week with the closest facsimile to a Bolivian brunch that we could find.

The menu included fresh fruits sweetened with honey and topped with nuts; Amazon popping corn; potatoes; beans; egg and rice; cunape (South American cheese bread); and, last but certainly not least, a chocolate from Stone Grindz Chocolate (Scottsdale, AZ)—the company that produced a Wild Bolivia* bar featured earlier this week.

Today's Stone Grindz Chocolate Mint and Cashew bar was made with the company's house blend cacao*, so it wasn't clear whether that included Bolivian cacao or not. However, I decided this bar might pair nicely with today's Bolivian-inspired food.

This 60 percent cacao chocolate was relatively sweet and had rich caramel and chocolate brownie notes with natural, fresh tasting mint flavor. The texture was smooth; and small pieces of cashew added mild nut flavor and texture.

*In April 2017, Stone Grindz Chocolate was offering single origin bars from Bolivia and Ecuador.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Mama Ganache - Tasting Kit - Bolivia - Apr. 24, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Mama Ganache Chocolates
Single Origin Tasting Kit - Bolivia
Good+++ - Very Good
Weight: .4 oz. (11.32 g.) / 2.5 oz. (75 g.) in 1 tasting kit
Calories: 60 calories (estimate) in 5 pieces
Cost: $N/A gift from family member (Thank you David!) ($8.95)
Purchased from: N/A - gift purchased from Mama Ganache, San Luis Obispo, CA

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate and Bolivia Theme Week.

Today's single origin chocolate made with Bolivian cacao was part of a single origin tasting kit, that contained chocolate "tasting bits" from five different origins, from Mama Ganache Chocolates (San Luis Obispo, CA).

Inside the tasting kit box were instructions for how to taste chocolates, with a beverage: water, hot tea, hot coffee or wine (including which wines might work best with chocolates).

The bean-shaped, Bolivian chocolate tasting bits (pieces) were made from Bolivian cocoa nibs, organic sugar and organic cocoa butter. Each piece was tasted slowly and carefully with room temperature water, first thing in the morning.

Tasting notes for Bolivia: red plum, caramel

And below are my tasting notes:

  • Aroma: dark chocolate, coffee, red fruit
  • Melt, texture: buttery melt and relatively smooth, buttery texture
  • Taste: dark chocolate malt with chocolate ice cream, light caramel
  • Finish: pleasant, smooth

*The Mama Ganache Tasting Kit contained tasting pieces from: Bali, Belize, Bolivia, Peru and Uganda.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Arete - Bolivia Wild Harvest 70% bar - April 23, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Arete Fine Chocolate
Bolivia Wild Harvest 70% Dark Chocolate bar
Good+++-Very Good
Weight: 1.15 oz. (32.5 g.) / 2.3 oz. (65 g.) in total bar
Calories: 172.5 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $12.00 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate and Bolivia Theme Week.

Today's Bolivia 70 percent Dark Chocolate bar from Arete Fine Chocolate (Milpitas, CA) was crafted from wild harvest cacao.

This Arete Bolivia bar had true chocolate (brownie, chocolate malt) flavor, like other Bolivia cacao-based bars this week. However, the Arete two-ingredient bar (wild harvest Bolivia cocoa beans and organic cane sugar) had aroma and flavor with a bit more breadth and depth.

Don't get me wrong, many people will love (or prefer) the smoothness of 100 percent true chocolate flavor. However, for me, having a little extra mystery warm green in the aroma and concentrated dried fruit acidity and some mysterious baked good flavors (leaning toward raisin spice cake/hot cereal) made this bar more interesting.

There were no off notes, just intriguing and multi-dimensional ones. And that says something about the methods of the maker (thank you David Senk)—to be able tease out and develop the maximum potential of a particular batch of beans (on a remarkably consistent basis) without having anything go sideways.

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