Tuesday, January 31, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 31, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Vosges Haut Chocolat

1.) Blood Orange Campari caramel - Good + - Very Good
Weight: .3 oz. (8.49 g.)/ 5.4 oz. (152.8 g.) total 18-piece assortment box (estimate)
Calories: 45 calories (estimate)
Cost: $29.00 for 18-piece box
Purchased from: Vosges.com (Chicago, IL)

2.) Barcelona Milagro Heart - Very Good
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.)
Calories: 150 calories (estimate)
Cost: $4.00 1 heart
Purchased from: Vosges.com (Chicago, IL)

Today's two treats from Vosges (Chicago, IL) reminded me of warmer times and places.

The Barcelona Milagro Heart of Love looked like it belonged in a Mediterranean jewelry box. This chocolate embraced hickory smoked almonds and grey sea salt in a base of 45% cacao "deep milk chocolate." I've liked this term since I first saw it in a Vosges catalog several years ago. And deep milk chocolate certainly mixes well with salt, smoked nuts, caramel/toffee, and savory items.

The second item was from a Vosges exotic caramel assortment; the tarte taste from the red hibiscus (flower) powder topping, Campari and blood orange made this dark chocolate-covered caramel more colorful and lively.

Today was Day #3 of Chocolate + Hearts and Flowers Theme Week.

Monday, January 30, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 30, 2012

Photo: Bouquet of Fruits, Inc.
Chocolate of the Day: 

Bouquet of Fruits, Inc.
Valentines Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
Weight: 2.7 oz. (75 g.) in 2 pieces
Calories: 274 calories
Cost: $44.95 total box of 12
Purchased from: drugstore.com

When you get home after a long day at work, and you don't have the energy to cook dinner -- I recommend chocolate dipped strawberries. Once a year, somewhere near Valentines Day. Take two, and call me in the morning.
Photo: My house; dinner

This particular assortment box of Valentines Chocolate Dipped Strawberries was from Bouquet of Fruits, Inc. (Fresno, CA), and contained 12 large, luscious heart-shaped berries dipped in different types of chocolate -- chocolate with pink and white icing; white chocolate and coconut; white chocolate and chocolate chips; chocolate with..... Well, you get the drift.

Today was Day #2 of Chocolate + Hearts and Flowers Theme Week.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 29, 2012

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Vosges Haut Chocolat
1.) Smoked Tomato milagro heart - Good + - Very Good
2.) Red Fire milagro heart - Very Good

Welcome to Day #1 of Chocolate + Hearts and Flowers Theme Week.

Nothing says Valentines Day is coming up in two weeks like flaming chocolate milagro (miracle) hearts.

Vosges (Chicago) offered three different flavored hearts this season. Featured today: the company's 1.) Smoked Tomato heart (smoked tomato, toffee and 62% cacao dark chocolate); and 2.) Red Fire heart with Mexican ancho and chipotle chillies, Ceylon cinnamon and 55% cacao dark chocolate.

I was very interested in trying the Smoked Tomato flavor. The best part: biting into pieces with smoked flavor, without too big a piece of tomato (think smoky sun-dried tomato fragments). Too much tomato in a bite may add a sharper, acidic element that may not appeal to everyone. Even better: alternating bites of Smoked Tomato and Red Fire hearts. Both hearts had a slightly uneven distribution of flavor spikes, which added interest and an element of surprise. Two hearts in one -- can't get more Valentinian than that.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 28, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Diamond Foods, Inc.
Cocoa Roast Almonds
Weight: .10 oz. (.28 g.) / 4.41 oz. (126 g.) box of 7 bags
Calories: 10 calories
Cost: $ unavailable
Purchased from: Target, Mountain View, CA

Today was Day #7 of Chocolate and Almond Marzipan Theme Week. I combined yet anther style of marzipan, with cocoa coated toasted almonds.

Calissons (diamond-shaped marzipan, honey and fruit confections) typically found in southern France or Italy - mai oui! Cocoa Roast Almonds (from Diamond Foods) sweetened with artificial sweetener Sucralose? Not so much.

Originally, I had planned to dip some gluten-free almond cookies (made from almond flour and sugar) in some melted chocolate. Alas, the cookies were past their freshness date. Thank you to The Chocolate Garage community for coming to the rescue and supplying the Calissons.

Friday, January 27, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 27, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

Marzipan Bar
Very Good
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.)/ 3 oz. (85 g.) total bar
Calories: 165 calories
Cost: $7.50 total bar
Purchased from: Vosges, Chicago, IL

Vosges Haut Chocolat (Chicago) does lush and lovely photo shoots of their chocolates that I can only envy. My little blurry pics, stolen between work, sleep and commute hours this month certainly don't measure up. But, the images at right will give you a tiny inkling of what Vosges "designer" bars are all about: exotic flavor combinations blended with reasonably good chocolate.

Today's Marzipan dark chocolate (62% cacao) bar was filled with a sweet, Sicilian almond marzipan and amaretto center. The dark chocolate outside contrasted sharply with the light and translucent center, and took the sugar level down a peg or two.

A chocolate thought bubble lingered above my head: I wondered how a slightly less sweet center paired with a slightly less dark chocolate combination would have tasted.

I was impressed this week with the range of marzipan formulations. And I'd barely scratched the surface of what was available. I wasn't able to hunt down marzipan flavored with rose water, or orange blossom water in time. Maybe next year. Today was Day #6 of Chocolate and Marzipan Theme Week. Tomorrow, I'll experiment with gluten-free almond cookies and chocolate.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 26, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

Schluckwerder (Adendorf, Germany)
Qualitats - Marzipan bar
Very Good
Weight: .25 oz. (7 g.)/ 2 oz. (56 g.) total bar (estimate)
Calories: 32.5 calories (estimate)
Cost: $1.29 total bar
Purchased from: Crossroads Market, Palo Alto, CA

Day #5 of Chocolate and Almond Marzipan Theme Week dawned with a taste of another chocolate-coated, marzipan filled bar.

Wikipedia.org tells me that German marzipan is generally made by grinding whole almonds with sugar, and then partially drying the paste. (The French apparently combine their grounds almonds with sugar syrup.)
I also learned about an interesting tradition in Switzerland.

"In Geneva, a traditional part of the celebration of L'Escalade is the ritual smashing of a chocolate cauldron filled with marzipan vegetables, a reference to a Savoyarde siege of the city which was supposedly foiled by a housewife with a cauldron of boiling soup." Alas, I won't be able to fly to Switzerland to catch that tradition this year. I'll write that down in my 1,000 chocolate places/things to experience before I die book.

Today's marzipan bar was from Schluckwerder (Adendorf, Germany), a name I could barely pronounce. However, I had no trouble eating this bar, and the quality of the marzipan was quite good -- full of almond paste flavor, without being too sweet, or too dry. Perfect breakfast snack before dashing off to work. Unfortunately, it was still dark outside, and the pictures I took were a bit blurry. So, my apologies to the folks at Schluckwerder.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 25, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

1.) Almond Amaretto - Good +
2.) Spumoni - Very Good
Weight: .4 oz. (11.3 g.) (estimate) / 9 oz. (252 g.) total box of 18 pieces
Calories: 58 calories (estimate) for 1/2 of 2 pieces
Cost: $34.00 box of 18 pcs. (+ any S&H)
Purchased from: fleurir hand grown chocolates via foodzie

Today's two chocolates hailed from fleurir, in Washington, D.C. I worked my way through this 18-piece assortment box until I reached these two flavors: 1.) Almond Amaretto (containing an almond ganache with amaretto, topped with marzipan); and 2.) Spumoni (cherry ganache with a layer of pistachio marzipan). Both were good, but the Spumoni was more fun. Also, I hadn't tasted pistachio marzipan before. It paired well with the tart cherry and chocolate flavors, bundled into this same little sweet package.

Today was Day #4 of Chocolate and Almond Marzipan Theme Week.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 24, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Anthon Berg
Marzipan bar
Very Good
Weight: 1.41 oz. (40 g.) total bar
Calories: 220 calories
Cost: $1.49 total bar
Purchased from: Crossroads Market, Palo Alto, CA

For those who like marzipan, I recommend this mork chocolade (dark chocolate) bar filled with marzipan (almond paste), from Danish maker, Anthon Berg.

This half-round bar was covered with a thin layer of smooth dark chocolate, but the clear star here was the center -- not too sweet, not too dry, and lighter than expected.

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

Monday, January 23, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 23, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

Mink Chocolates
1.) Queen Cake bar - Good+
Weight: .176 oz. (5 g.) / 1.76 oz. (50 g.) total bar
Calories: 24 calories
Cost: $7.00
Purchased from: Mink Chocolates, Vancouver, BC, Canada

2.) Pas de Deux bar - Very Good
Weight: .176 oz. (5 g.) / 1.76 oz. (50 g.) total bar
Calories: 23 calories
Cost: $7.00
Purchased from: Mink Chocolates, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Today was Day #2 of Chocolate and Almond Marzipan Theme Week.

I'm working my way through the last of several cleverly named Mink Chocolates bars from Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada). Both of today's filled bars were covered with 70% cacao dark chocolate.

The Queen Cake bar was stuffed with marzipan almond paste, and the Pas de Deux bar, my favorite of the two, contained Amaretto and dried cherries in a chocolate ganache base.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 22, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

Vosges Haut Chocolat
Plum Pudding Truffles
Good + - Very Good
Weight: .4 oz. (11.3 g.)/ 6.4 oz. (181 g.) total 16-pc. assortment box
Calories: 60 calories (estimate)
Cost: $43.00 cost of larger holiday box
Purchased from: Vosges.com

Did you get your fill of plum pudding, or sugar plum fairies, over the Christmas holidays last month? If you missed out...Today's Plum Pudding truffles from Vosges (Chicago) would be a great choice. These kicked off Day #1 of Chocolate and Almond Marzipan Theme Week.

These truffles were constructed with layers of flavor - including plum, Armignac and marzipan, and were coated in 65% dark chocolate, and decorated with a shred of silver.

My apologies for the photo (at right). When I bit into these truffles, they didn't hold together, so this pic will give you only a rough idea about the tasty flavor combination within.

ChocolateBet: January 21, 2012

Sea Link Cafe
Chocolate of the Day:
Premier Nutrition, Inc.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein bar
Good - Good +
Weight: 2.5 oz. (72 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 280 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $don't have info
Purchased from: Sea Link Cafe, Redwood Shores library branch, Redwood Shores, CA

Some days are more chocolate-full than others.

Today was Day #7 of Chocolate and Nut Butter Theme Week. After a walk, I stopped at the Sea Link Cafe that recently opened inside the local Redwood Shores, CA, branch of the public library, and had some great, Organic rose and jasmine flower tea, and this protein bar. This offering (one of several flavors) from Premier Nutrition (Carlsbad, CA) contained 30 grams of protein; so I felt I could skip having a meat entree today. It was filling and satisfying, but had a hint of an artificial sweetener taste to it -- perhaps because they were using sweeteners other than sugar (like Sucralose).

Madre Chocolate
Nat from Madre Chocolate
On the way home, I visited The Chocolate Garage in downtown Palo Alto,  and enjoyed sampling a few more chocolates, and meeting ethnobotanist Nat Bletter from Madre Chocolate (Hawaii). Nat was speaking and talking about his newest Rosita bar at the Garage, and brought a sample of beans from a "white chocolate" relative of the traditional cacao plant with its own unique taste. Very interesting to hear what he's doing. The company's Triple Cacao bar (with cacao fruit, nibs, and dark chocolate) is still my favorite.

Friday, January 20, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 20, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

The Hershey Company
Reese's Select Peanut Butter Cremes
Good +
Weight: .424 oz. (12 g.) 1 piece / 8 oz. (226 g.) total package
Calories: 63 calories in 1 piece
Cost: $ 2.00 (estimate) (Clearance item)
Purchased from: Safeway

Today was Day #6 of Chocolate and Nut Butter Theme Week. I opened a bag of Reese's Select Peanut Butter Cremes, individually wrapped "Signature Chocolates" that contained milk chocolate covered bite-sized pieces, embossed with an "R" for Reese's.

These small squares, filled with smooth peanut butter filling, had been in my chocolate vault for awhile; but they tasted fresher than I imagined they would, in part due to preservatives.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 19, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

The J.M. Smucker Company
Jif To Go Chocolate Silk - Peanut Butter & Chocolate Flavored Spread
Weight: 1.5 oz. (43 g.) 1 cup serving / 12 oz. (344 g.) total package of 8 cups
Calories: 250 calories in 1 cup
Cost: $2.99 (sale price) total package
Purchased from: Safeway, Rivermark Plaza, Santa Clara, CA

Today was Day #5 of Chocolate and Nut Butter Theme Week.

From peanut butter maker, Jif, comes Jif To Go Chocolate Silk -- a package of individually sealed, small cups of peanut butter and chocolate flavored spread. Does chocolate flavored spread count as real chocolate? I think so.

You could also use this product as smooth, sweet frosting for your cupcakes.  I dunked fresh apple and tangerine slices into my Jif spread. (The tangerine came out ahead in terms of most desirable pairing.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 18, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Amazing Grass
Green SuperFood Chocolate Peanut Butter protein bar
Weight: 2.2 oz. (63 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 270 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $2.49 total bar
Purchased from: Whole Foods, in Los Altos, CA

Eating chocolate covered wheat grass, barley grass and alfalfa for breakfast didn't sound that exciting, as I don't eat wheat. However, this bar, distributed by Amazing Grass (San Francisco), was marked gluten free, so I gave it a try. Oh, and did I mention it had peanut butter and nuts in it? That helped. This Fair Trade bar was also made with whey protein, and contained higher levels of vitamins and minerals than most chocolate items. It gave me a little bit of a sniffly nose, but then grasses sometimes do that to me. Otherwise, it was a good, healthy way to start the day.

Today was Day #5 of Chocolate and Nut Butter Theme Week.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 17, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

Scream Sorbet
Hazelnut Chocolate sorbet
Very Good +
Weight: 3 oz. serving / 12 oz. total container
Calories: 160 calories (estimate)
Cost: $8.00 (estimate)
Purchased from: Scream Sorbet, Oakland, CA

Today was Day #3 of Chocolate and Nut Butter Theme Week.

Scream Sorbet's (Oakland, CA) Hazelnut Chocolate sorbet contained just five lovely ingredients: water, Inzana Ranch hazelnuts, Askinosie San Jose del Tambo cocoa powder, sugar, and sea salt. The rich, creamy texture and high quality flavors may fool you into thinking you're savoring some very fine ice cream. Worth every penny.

Monday, January 16, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 16, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Scream Sorbet
Chocolate Peanut Butter sorbet
Very Good - Very Good +
Weight: 3 oz. serving/ 12 oz. container
Calories: 160 calories (estimate)
Cost: $8.00 (estimate)
Purchased from: Scream Sorbet, in Oakland, CA

Today was Day #2 of Chocolate and Nut Butter Theme Week.  It was freezing cold outside this morning; had to de-ice my car before heading off to work. Perfect day for something frozen, like Scream Sorbet's Chocolate Peanut Butter Sorbet. This local (Oakland, CA) company makes some of the finest sorbet I've ever tasted; you'll swear you're eating high end gelato or ice cream. I skipped over the Peanut Brittle and Peanut Vanilla to go right for the chocolate flavors. (All the flavors I tasted were exceptional.)

The store's shop on Telegraph Ave. in Oakland was decorated with a curtain in the window made from tiny white plastic spoons. Very creative.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 15, 2012

Chocolate(s) of the Day:

Milkshake Werks
1.) Coconut ice cream gluten-free cupcake
Weight: 1/2 ice cream cupcake
Calories: 290 calories (guesstimate)
Cost: $3.49 for 1 cupcake
Purchased from: Milkshake Werks, Redwood City, CA

2.) Nutella ice cream
Very Good
Weight: 3 oz. /1 Pint container
Calories: 200 calories (estimate)
Cost: $5.99 for 1 hand-packed pint
Purchased from Milkshake Werks, Redwood City, CA

Today was Day #8 of Chocolate and Licorice Theme Week, and Day #1 of Chocolate and Nut Theme Week -- with a focus on frozen desserts.

It's January, and I'm fighting fire with fire -- or, more accurately, ice with ice cream. Or, if life gives you ice, make ice cream. But, why waste time with bad puns and analogies when we could be talking about chocolate...

Milkshake Werks makes their own ice cream. And I stopped by their shop (in a shopping center off Redwood Shores Parkway, in Redwood City, CA) after a walk; and picked up two items to go.

The first item I tried was their Coconut ice cream cupcake. There wasn't actually any cake in this cupcake. Their gluten-free version, packed in a plastic cup to go, was made with a chocolate cup was filled with coconut ice cream and topped with vanilla and coconut flavored icing -- which looked to me like a blank canvas for other additions. I topped mine with a Gimbal's (San Francisco) gluten-free licorice scottie dog (shown), made with licorice and anise; and some almonds (not shown).

The second item I sampled today: a tiny cup of Milkshake Werks's Nutella ice cream. Nutella (a chocolate and hazelnut spread) is finally getting its due here in California, after years of peanut butter hogging the chocolate and nut butter spotlight. This shop also listed an ice cream called Peanut Butter Explosion that I would've happily tried as well; but, they were out of this flavor when I was there. The Nutella was sweet (a little too sweet for me), but this very creamy, frozen treat really nailed Nutella's essence.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 14, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Absinthe Originale Cocktail w/ Chocolates

1.) Bensons Fine Candies 
(Distributed by Heritage Candy Company)
Absinthe Cordials
Good + - Very Good
Weight: .4 oz. (11.32 g.) (estimate)/ 5.0 oz. (141.7 g.) total container
Calories: 55 calories (estimate)
Cost: $ not available 
Purchased from: BevMo, in Mountain View, CA

2.) The Cholive Company
Cholive Cocktail Chocolates
Good - Good+
Weight: .32 oz. (9 g.) / 2.54 oz. (72 g.)
    total package of 8 dark chocolate truffles + cocktail skewers
Calories: 45 calories
Cost: $ not available
Purchased from: BevMo, in Mountain View, CA

Today was Day #7 of Chocolate and Licorice Theme Week. Absinthe is an herbal concoction made infamous (and illegal) for a time by alleged ill effects, largely caused by bad batches of wormwood (one of many ingredients in this largely French recipe). Other ingredients commonly used to make absinthe include: star anise, licorice, fennel seed, anise seed, hyssop, angelica, mint.

I tempered this little green cocktail with two chocolates: 1.) a Benson Fine Candies Absinthe Cordial* (an absinthe/anise flavored chocolate covered in a round, green candy shell); and one Cholive (a 55% dark chocolate truffle in the shape of a cocktail olive** -- that came packaged with its own black plastic cocktail pick). Sadly The Cholive Company (Milwaukee, WI) was no longer in business when I checked last.

Despite the chocolates, one tiny sip of this 138 proof liquor was all I needed. Too strong for me.

*Note: For those who can't have wheat -- The Bensons Absinthe Cordials contain some wheat starch.
**This was a perfect example of a chocsimile, a chocolate facsimile of an object or living thing -- in this case a cocktail olive.

Friday, January 13, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 13, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

Orgran Natural Foods

1.) itsy bitsy bears biscuits (cookies) 
Good +
Weight: 3.0 oz. (84.9 g.)/ 6.2 oz. (175 g.) total box
Calories: 345 calories
Cost: $4.19 for 1 box
Purchased from: drugstore.com

2.) Molasses Licorice
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.)/ 7 oz. (200 g.) total bag
Calories: 80 calories
Cost: $5.39 for 1 bag
Purchased from: drugstore.com

This 5th day of Chocolate and Licorice Theme Week featured a snack plate of items from Orgran Natural Foods (Australia). Both the company's "itsy bitsy bears" and the Molasses Licorice pieces shown here were gluten, wheat, dairy, egg and yeast free -- and were also vegan.

The crunchy, oven-baked, miniature bear-shaped vanilla biscuits (cookies) were flecked with "choc flavoured bits." And, since I rarely have cookies (due to a wheat-free diet), I enjoyed munching on these sweet ursine bits, interspersed with a few chews of Orgran's dark, robust licorice that contained both licorice powder and aniseseed oil, and had a strong molasses taste (great, if you like molasses).

I can't help but remember that one possible side effect (from eating too much licorice) was a potential drop in one's potassium levels; and molasses is chock-full of potassium. I'm all for a well balanced meal -- even if that meal is just dessert.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

ChocolateBet: January 12, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

Bittersweet Chocolate bar
Good - Good +
Weight: .5 oz. (14.1 g.)/ 3.5 oz. (99.2 g.) total bar
Calories: 73 calories
Cost: $ lost info
Purchased from: lost info (store/deli), San Francisco, CA

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

I took a nibble of this Perugina (Nestle) Bittersweet Chocolate bar; and I melted the rest to make Perugina chocolate fondue -- flavored with Metaxa Ouzo, a bit of tangerine rind, and a tiny pinch of salt caramel. The hint of salt helped cut/balance this 60% cocoa bittersweet bar that seemed to be more sweet than bitter.

The warm, velvety smooth fondue was an easy to make (microwave and stir) dip for fresh fruit, and a good cold weather treat. I believe this Metaxa Ouzo (a licorice-flavored Greek apertif) was made from anise, licorice and fennel -- in addition to grapes, herbs, berries, mint, wintergreen and hazelnut.

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