Saturday, January 23, 2021

Domori - Amarene - Sour Cherries Covered with Dark Chocolate; White Chocolate Berries (bar) - Jan. 23, 2021

Chocolate(s) of the Day

Amarene - Sour Cherries Covered with Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder 
Weight: .705 oz. (20 g.) / 1.41 oz. (40 g.) in total package
Calories: 190.6 calories in 1 package
Cost: $4.25 for 1 package
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order 

White Chocolate (with) Berries (bar)
Weight: .44 oz. (12.5 g.) / .88 oz. (25 g.) in total bar
Calories: 75 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $4.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate and ABCD Theme Week, where I've selected chocolates with flavor inclusions that start with the letters A, B, C or D.

Today's Dark Chocolate Covered Cherries, and White Chocolate with Berries were from Domori srl (None, Italy).

Amarene - Dark Chocolate Covered Cherries

At the heart of these confections were candied, sour (Amarene) cherries that had a soft chew and a sweet flavor. The dark chocolate coating and dusting in cocoa powder helped to moderate the sweetness a bit. 

Italian-grown Amarene cherries are small and dark in color and are prized for their tart-sweet flavor. They're typically packed in syrup and used as a topping for a chocolate desserts.

Ingredients: Dark chocolate 60% (cocoa minimum 72% pasta di cacao, cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier: soy lecithin), candied amarena cherries 39% (amarena cherries, glucose-fructose syrup, sucrose, colouring agent: E163, acidifying agent: E330, natural flavors), cocoa powder 0.6% dextrose. 

White Chocolate (with) Berries

Domori's petite, pink "White Chocolate Berries" dessert bar was made with real cocoa butter (from tree to bar) and flavored (and colored) with raspberry (powder) and strawberry (powder). 

This pretty bar will please those with a sweet tooth. (The number one ingredient was sugar.) Combined with a hint of vanilla, the aroma was similar to a dessert mousse or berry-flavored vanilla cake frosting.

Ingredients: Cane sugar, cocoa butter, milk powder, raspberry powder, strawberry powder, emulsifier: soy lecithin, vanilla extract. (Non GMO ingredients; made without gluten)

Friday, January 22, 2021

Domori - Dark Chocolate Apricot with Almond Grains (bar) - Jan. 22, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Dark Chocolate Apricot with Almond Grains (bar)
Good +
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.) in total bar
Calories: 148.5 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $4.00 for 1 package
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate and ABCD Theme Week, where I'm featuring flavor inclusions and forms of chocolate that start with the letter A, B, C or D. (Yesterday's chocolate pairing involved apple, banana, coconut and dark chocolate. Today the focus is on apricot, almond and dark chocolate.)

Today's Dark Chocolate Apricot with Almond "grains/nibs" bar was from Domori srl* (None, Italy). The company was founded by Gianluca Franzoni in 1997 (after he lived in Venezuela where he worked to help preserve Criollo cacao varieties). 

The smooth, 60% Cocoa (African blend) dark chocolate base had a robust flavor with a subtle earthiness. The apricot and crunchy almond bits added authentic, dried stone fruit (tart-sweet, lush, apricot scent) and pleasant nutty aroma and flavor notes that balanced the bold dark cocoa.

Chocolates with stone fruits (other than cherry), such as apricot, nectarine and/or peach, are difficult to find, so I was delighted to come across this one. A is for Apricot (or Albicocca in Italian.)

Ingredients: Dark chocolate (89%): cocoa paste, cane sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier (soy lecithin); almond nibs (10%) and apricot powder (1%).

*Domori became part of Grupo Illy (Illy SpA Group) in 2006. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Vosges Chocolate - Banana Coconut 72% Cacao (bar) - Jan. 21, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Vosges IP, LLC
Banana Coconut 72% Cacao (bar)
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42.5 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 210 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $9.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Vosges, online order 

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and Banana Theme Week, and Day #1 of Chocolate and ABCD* Theme Week.

Today's Banana Coconut 72% Cacao dark (bar) was from Vosges IP, LLC (Chicago, IL). 

I am so grateful to have witnessed (and enjoyed) the new wave of American chocolate makers and chocolatiers in the early 21st Century. 

In the late 1990s, several artisan chocolate makers (mostly men) were starting to develop bold, layered, complex bean-to-bar dark chocolates wrapped in brown wrappers in their kitchens and basements. And (with a few notable exceptions) there was a split between this more technical crowd--who loved the technical challenges of making chocolate from scratch--and existing chocolatiers and chefs who were making confections and bars from blocks of pre-made chocolate. 

During this same time, a young chocolate brand pioneer, Katrina Markoff at Vosges, following a prestigious apprenticeship in Spain, at El Bulli with Ferran Adria, was channeling a different spirit, engaging the senses, and creating and conveying her experiences and stories around chocolate in bold, creative ways. 

Markoff continues to incorporate exotic flavor inclusions from far-away places into an impressive array of attractively-packaged bars and confections--with occasional musical references, spices, flower petals and gold flakes along the way. She gained early fame from her Mo's bacon bars, but she pioneered (and continues to create) an amazing variety of flavors. (I remember trying a Vosges pandan** flavored confection years ago. It was a flavor revelation--virtual travel through chocolate.

In the last decade, the chocolate maker and chocolatier camps have converged a bit. Craft chocolate makers have become more sophisticated in their sourcing/supply chains, production techniques, packaging and marketing. Some chefs/chocolatiers even became chocolate makers.

Markoff and her team at Vosges have faced the challenges associated with cacao sourcing, as the company ramped up to become a high volume company. (Can one have high-quality cacao/chocolate with a range of ever-changing, cacao origin flavors that vary from harvest to harvest, when consistency is paramount with high volume sales?) 

Back to today's Banana Coconut Dark Chocolate Bar...

Today's Banana Coconut bar had a pleasant, balanced aroma and flavor that was a skillful meld of bold, dark chocolate (with a fleeting hint of earthiness) with authentic banana and light coconut, with light green banana, floral (vanilla) notes. Tiny bits of dried banana created a light crispiness and chewiness in the texture.

The maker's notes read: " bananas, (and their) peels, and Sri Lankan coconut permeate our dark chocolate with husky, tropical notes."

Ingredients: Bittersweet chocolate (Fair Trade unsweetened chocolate, Fair Trade sugar, Fair Trade cocoa butter, Fair Trade natural vanilla flavor), dried bananas (sic) pieces, bananas, natural flavor coconut extract.

*ABCD Theme Week highlights items that start with the letters ABC or D that also include some building blocks of chocolate. There are so many chocolates, and there is such a bounty of chocolate additions, that it seemed a pity to ignore this opportunity for absolute, crazy fun. Today's Banana Coconut bar was paired with a colorful, Arkansas Black Apple.

**The Pandan plant (Pandanus amaryllifolius) grows in SE Asia. The plant's long green leaves are mildly sweet and aromatic. Their unique flavor has been described as grassy with hints of rose, almond, vanilla and mild coconut. It's used to flavor a variety of foods, including desserts, beverages and rice. The leaves themselves are also used to wrap around small bundles of rice and savory foods.

Solely, Inc. - Banana with Cacao Jerky - Jan. 20, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Solely, Inc.
Banana with Cacao Jerky
Weight: .812 oz. (23 g.) in 1 strip/package
Calories: 80 calories in 1 strip/package
Cost: $0.99 (estimate) for 1 package/serving
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA 

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

Today's Banana with Cacao Jerky was from Solely, Inc. (La Jolla, CA).

Solely produces fruit jerky snacks using "one whole fruit" in each serving. They did not add any sugar to today's banana jerky with cacao, relying instead on the fruit's own natural sweetness. And that was wonderfully sufficient.

This banana fruit jerky had a soft chewy texture; and the aroma and flavor included earthy, dried banana, cacao, and faint, fleeting savory olive and green floral notes. 

The concentrated, rich and sweet flavor nuances in this strip were banana-forward; however, the seamless blend of the banana and the ground cacao nibs, together, was greater than the individual flavors by themselves, resulting in more flavor depth.

The company's banana fruit jerky was made with just two ingredients: 1 whole organic banana and cacao nibs. 

Ingredients: Organic banana, organic cacao nibs 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Chloe's Fruit - (Frozen) Banana Dipped Pops - Jan. 19, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Chloe's Fruit 
Frozen Banana Dipped Pops
Good - Good +
Weight: 2.5 fl. oz. (74 mL) (76 g.) / 10 fl. oz. (295 mL) in total box of 4 pops
Calories: 120 calories in 1 pop
Cost: $2.99 (estimate) for 1 package of 4 pops
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA 

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

Today's frozen Banana Dipped Pop was from Chloe's Fruit (New York City, NY). 

The company makes a line of 3-ingredient frozen fruit pops, chocolate dipped pops (and oat milk pops), and also offers soft serve fruit. (The pops are dairy free, gluten free, vegan and Kosher.)

And yes, there is a real "Chloe" behind the brand name. Co-founder of the company, Chloe Epstein, used to be an Assistant District Attorney; and she wanted to create simple, healthy frozen treat without artificial ingredients.

The banana pop on a stick was attractive (it matched the photo), and tasted authentic with real banana flavor. The dark chocolate coating was smooth and it added a bit of rich chocolate flavor on the upper half of the pop. 

The overall consistency/texture made it uniformly easy to eat. It had enough cohesion* that there was minimal danger of it falling apart; and it wasn't overly sweet and gooey like some other frozen treats. (Thank you to Chloe's for that, and for making a frozen dessert with no vegetable gums, or other less desirable additives.)

The chocolate in the dark chocolate coating was made from Ecuadorian cacao beans (according to FAQ on the Chloe's Fruit website).

Ingredients: banana puree, water, cane sugar; chocolate coating (cane sugar, coconut oil, cocoa processed with alkali, chocolate liquor, sunflower lecithin, natural vanilla flavor)

*Sugar lowers the freezing point of a frozen fruit pop, allowing them to exist in the frozen treat "Goldilocks"** zone. Just the right amount of sugar is needed for a successful state. Not enough sugar and the pops may be too rock hard (more like fruit ice cubes), and too much will result in a too soft, fall-apart quality. Just the right amount...and you're in the Goldilocks zone.

**For those readers outside the U.S. The Goldilocks term comes from the story of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," a fairy tale with origins in England more than 183 years ago. Goldilocks--who in subsequent re-tellings of the story morphed from an old woman to a little girl--enters a home that belongs to a family of three bears, who are not home. Goldilocks tries out different sized chairs, bowls of porridge and beds, until she finds items that are not too big or too small; not too hot or not too cold...but rather the one(s) that are just right for her.


Monday, January 18, 2021

Larabar - Banana Chocolate Chip bar - Jan. 18, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

(Distributed by Small Planet Foods, Inc.)
Banana Chocolate Chip bar
Good - Good + 
Weight: 1.6 oz. (45 g.) in 1 bar / 8 oz. (226 g.) in total box of 5 bars
Calories: 190 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $2.99 for 1 box of 5 bars
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

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

Today's Larabar Banana Chocolate Chip bar was distributed by Small Planet Foods, Inc.--a division of General Mills, (Minneapolis, MN). Larabar fruit and nut snack bars were created by Denver, CO, native Lara Merriken. 

These bars had a soft chewy texture with natural-tasting fruit (date, banana) and nuts (almonds). Chocolate chips contributed subtle chocolate flavor, and helped round out this blend. There was no need for added sugars and, thankfully, none were added. Dates and bananas both have plenty of concentrated sweetness.

Non-GMO Project Verified, gluten free, vegan and dairy-free, this bar had no preservatives* and "just four ingredients." Not bad for a mass-produced snack bar, especially when compared with similar packaged snack bar offerings a few decades ago.

*Ingredients: dates, almonds, unsweetened bananas, semisweet chocolate chips (unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla extract).

Manoa Chocolate - Flavors of Hawaii, Mai'a Banana Dark Chocolate 70% (bar) - Jan. 17, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Manoa Chocolate
Flavors of Hawaii - Mai'a Banana Dark Chocolate 70% (bar)
Good ++
Weight: 2.1 oz. (60 g.) in total bar (check this)
Calories: 360 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $9.50 for 1 bar - part of a 3-bar Flavors of Hawaii set for $28.50 (+ discount)
Purchased from: Manoa Chocolate, online order

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

Today's Mai'a Banana Dark Chocolate 70% (bar) was made by Manoa Chocolate (Kailua (Oahu), Hawaii), and was part of a "Flavors of Hawaii" Collection. (I will be featuring the Haupia coconut 60% bar from this 3-bar set in the near future.)

This dark chocolate had an aroma with green chocolate, green banana and sugar cane notes.
The well-tempered bar broke with a snap and had a creamy melt and mouthfeel. 

The flavor was very similar to the aroma notes mentioned above, with luxe 70% dark chocolate flavor and authentic green (banana) notes; a natural sweetness (organic cane sugar, freeze-dried banana powder); and a lightly perfumed banana floral finish.

Manoa (a Hawaiian word that translates to mean "solid, vast, depth") suggestions for beverage pairings read as follows: wine: beaujolais; liquor: rye whiskey; beer: nitro stout.

Ingredients: Cacao, organic sugar, organic cocoa butter, freeze-dried banana powder

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