Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Santosha Chocolate - Single Origin Peru bar - May 20, 2015

Chocolate of the Day:

Santosha Chocolate
Single Origin Peru bar
OK + - Good
Weight: .5 oz. (14.1 g.) / 1 oz. (29 g.) (per packaging)
Calories: 65 calories for 1/2 bar
Cost: $3.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Piazza's Fine Foods, Palo Alto, CA

Bienenidos a Day #1 of Chocolate and Organic Theme Week.

I'm continuing last week's Chocolate and Peru Week Theme with today's Organic, Single Origin Peru bar from Santosha* Chocolate (Asheville, NC).

A Word About Organic...
Back in 2006, when I started, it was harder to find organic chocolate. Now, happily, there are more organic offerings, even in large chocolate company product lines.

It should be noted that many craft chocolate bars may be made with organic cacao, but certifications are expensive, and some makers choose to do without -- meaning bars aren't labeled as organic; and no certification seals appear on packaging. It's good to ask about the maker's cacao sources if you have questions. Regardless of their answer, you'll learn more about their practices and their supply chain.

Back to today's bar...
The first bite of today's raw 85% cacao bar was relatively flavorful and smooth. It sweetened with organic, low-glycemic coconut palm sugar and was fairly sweet for an 85% dark bar. However, subsequent bites went a bit funny in terms of texture (a little grainier feel) and flavor (a bit of sourness). I'm not sure what caused this. When making chocolate (organic or not) from scratch, many things can happen during the dozen or more steps that are part of the process.

My hat is off to all chocolate-makers; it's a craft that's always as challenging as it is rewarding. Santosha founder, Don Rowe, started by selling his organic, raw bars in local farmers markets several years ago, and the business grew from there. His raw, vegan and certified organic bars are free of nuts, soy, dairy and gluten, and are made without emulsifiers.

*"Santosha" roughly translates as being content in the moment with what you have; not requiring more than you have in the moment to achieve contentment.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lillie Belle Farms - Sunshine Daydream 45% bar - May 19, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Lillie Belle Farms
Sunshine Daydream 45% Milk Chocolate bar
Good - Good +
Weight: 2.5 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 375 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $8.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Lillie Belle Farms, Central Point, OR

Welcome to "bonus" Day #8 of Chocolate and Peru Theme Week.

I celebrate chocolates in unique combinations with edible items. This Limited Edition Sunshine Daydream 45% Bean-To-Bar Milk Chocolate bar from Lillie Belle Farms (Central Point, OR) was made with powdered cultured buttermilk instead of "regular" powdered milk. This caught my attention.

The description on the packaging read as follows: "...Using extremely fruity (organic) cacao beans from Peru in combination with some organic sugar, powdered buttermilk, and a hint of (organic) vanilla bean, we created a rich and just a bit tangy (bar)."

I'd say this was accurately described. This rich, fairly creamy bar did indeed have a very subtle tangy flavor, and very mild, not unpleasant dark/sour fruit and bitter undertones (likely from the cacao and not the buttermilk). Short of a side-by-side tasting with a bar made from the same ingredients + regular powdered milk, it's hard to know. It was an interesting and fun bar to try.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Lillie Belle Farms - Perfect Illusion 65% bar - May 18, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Lillie Belle Farms
Perfect Illusion 65% bar
Weight: 2.06 oz. (57.75 g.) / 2.75 oz. (77 g.) in total bar
Calories: 309 calories (estimate) in 3/4 bar
Cost: $8.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Lillie Belle Farms, Central Point, OR

Today was Day #7 of Chocolate and Peru Theme Week.

Lillie Belle Farms' (Central Point, OR) makes bars and confections. The company's Perfect Illusion 65% Bean-to-Bar Dark Chocolate bar was crafted with just two ingredients (cocoa beans and sugar) using "rare White Beans from the remote valleys of Peru."

The maker description states that these mysterious (organic, fair trade) white beans "...are so special that we had to promise not to reveal exactly how we got them..."

The white beans have mild but complex flavor and seem to lack the bitter grapefruit twist that some other Peruvian beans seem to have. More cacao trees with fruit containing these white beans have been planted in the last several years; but it can take five years or more before harvests from trees become reliable/bountiful.

So, we may be seeing and tasting more of these beans in our chocolate in the future; but, in the meantime we can enjoy bars like this one.

So, how was it?

This very thick, gluten-free and vegan bar was well tempered and broke with a hard snap. It was smooth throughout the tasting experience, albeit with a slightly slower melt due to the bar's thickness. As the flavors were released they were varied and subtle -- with hints of dried fruit, cafe mocha/latte (there was no milk in this bar), and molasses. The bar was intriguingly complex; but no one flavor note jumped out as being too strong or visible. It all was unfolding slightly below the surface.

"Is it an illusion? Or is this just the best chocolate you have ever eaten?" the bar's packaging notes ask the reader? I don't know. You'll have to try this Good Food Awards winning bar to decide.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Patric Chocolate - Piura dark milk bar - May 17, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Patric Chocolate
Piura Dark Milk bar
Weight: 2.3 oz. (65 g.) in total bar
Calories: 348 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $13.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #6 of Chocolate and Peru Theme Week.

Alan "Patric" McClure's painstaking hand-sorting, and careful slow-roasting, of cocoa beans pays off. His single origin, blended and flavored bars are some of the best in the U.S.

Blending cacao with milk, sugar, emulsifiers, vanilla and other added ingredients can dilute or dull cacao flavors substantially. But, today's Piura* Dark Milk chocolate bar from Patric Chocolate (Columbia, MO) was a good example of a milk chocolate bar that can maintain a great flavor profile.

This carefully crafted "dark milk chocolate" bar had even and consistent caramel and sea-salted toffee notes throughout, and was buttery smooth. The slightly bitter flavor that I seemed to taste in most of the dark chocolate Peru bars this week, was instead more similar to "ruby red grapefruit" in this bar, as the tasting notes indicated.

*Piura is a coastal region in northwest Peru, one of several areas of the country where cacao is grown. (The capital city of Piura was founded by Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro in 1532.) Prized, white Porcelana cacao beans come from a valley in the Piura region. These cacao trees/beans were "re-discovered" this century and are being replanted elsewhere in the past several years as demand for fine-flavored cacao has continued to increase.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Timothy Adams - Machu Picchu Sipping Chocolate - May 16, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Timothy Adams Chocolates
65% Machu Picchu Peru Sipping Chocolate
Very Good
Weight: 8 fl. oz. (estimate) for 1 serving
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) for 1 serving
Cost: $5.75 for 1 serving
Purchased from: Timothy Adams Chocolates, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #5 of Chocolate and Peru Theme Week.

Timothy Adams Chocolates (Palo Alto, CA) is a local Bay Area chocolate shop run by creative duo Timothy Woods and Adams Hollands.

Today I tried their drinking chocolate for the first time -- an iced, 65% Machu Picchu* Peru Sipping Chocolate made with non-fat milk that was served in a slender glass bottle with a straw over ice.

Customers select the milk of their choice for their chocolate beverage. I chose cow's milk over hazelnut "milk." The hazelnut did sound tempting, but I wanted to be able to taste the 65% Peruvian chocolate flavor.

It may have been my imagination, but I thought I detected the same slightly bitter (grapefruit?) note as I've been tasting all week with other chocolates made from Peruvian cacao beans. Unique and unpleasant, this characteristic was part of a nicely well-balanced complex flavor profile in each chilled sip. It was very good, and very satisfying.

I look forward to tasting more hand-crafted truffles and Sipping Chocolate flavors from Timothy Adams in the future.

*Machu Picchu is an impressive, ancient (Inca) city. Ruins of this city, located in the Andes mountains of Peru, attract a large number of visitors and/or tourists). 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Trader Joe's - Peru 60% bar - May 15, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Trader Joe's
Peru 60% cacao dark chocolate bar
Good - Good +
Weight: .4 oz. (11.25 g.) / 1.6 oz. (45 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 57.5 calories (estimate based on label) in 1/4 bar
Cost: $N/A - part of a larger single origin Chocolate Passport tasting pack
Purchased from: Trader Joe's, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #4 of Chocolate and Peru Theme Week.

The Chocolate Passport single origin tasting pack was this past year's collection of single origin bars from Trader Joe's (Monrovia, CA).

This sampler of 8 different bars was sold in local (California) Trader Joe's stores for a short time around the November-December holiday season. I hope the tasting pack concept will continue. These collections, with bars from different cacao-growing countries, have sold out quickly in the past year's that they've been offered. (Last May, I featured a similar Peru single origin bar from Trader Joe's that tasted slightly differently. Hard to tell whether the beans were the same plantation or not; but beans do vary from year to year, just like wine grapes do.)

Today's Peru 60% cacao dark chocolate bar was smooth, with a similar bitter note that I've tasted in other Peru single origin bars this week. But, the finish was clean, and the bitter note did not linger too long.  Tasting notes on the bar's packaging suggested an ideal pairing might be with a Cabernet Sauvignon (wine).

Lucuma ice cream
I did not have any Cabernet on hand. Instead I paired this chocolate with a small bowl of homemade Lucuma* ice cream, a dessert you might find served in Peru, with some Amazon-related toppings (dried golden berries, maca powder, chopped brazil nuts, etc.).

Gluten-free brownie
I also enjoyed a homemade gluten-free brownie from friend, Julie. Thank you Julie! Her cupcake shaped brownie were infused with very tasty ginger and lemon flavor. Yum.

*Lucuma is a fruiting plant that grows in Peru, Chile and Ecuador, and has a slight maple-butterscotch flavor.

Hageland - Peru 64 percent dark bar - May 14, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

(Made in Belgium by Kim's Chocolates)
Peru 64% dark chocolate bar
Good - Good +
Weight: .875 oz. (25 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 151 calories (estimate) in 1/4 bar
Cost: $1.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #3 of Chocolate and Peru Theme Week.

The Hageland Peru 64% dark chocolate bar was made in Belgium by Kim's Chocolates.

I agree with the tasting notes printed on the packaging: "An unmistakable hint of fruit, with a slightly bitter cocoa taste, creates a surprising first impression..."

There was some fruit/acid that gave this bar some oomph/interest, and a bitter flavor that, surprisingly, didn't linger too long or spoil the experience.

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