Wednesday, October 31, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 31, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

Unreal Brands, Inc.
Unreal 54 - Candy Coated Chocolates with Peanuts
Good +
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42 g.) total package
Calories: 200 calories in 1 package/bag
Cost: $1.00
Purchased from: CVS Pharmacy, Mountain View, CA

Trick or Treat. This week has been filled with treats. If you're going to eat Halloween candy, may I suggest "unjunked" chocolate candy choices from Unreal Brands (Boston, MA).

Today I enjoyed Unreal's Candy Coated Chocolates with Peanuts, No. 54 in their candy series. What does unjunked mean? Answer: Among other things, it means: "no artificials, no hydrogenateds, no corn syrups, no preservatives, no GMOs." Unreal, and much appreciated.

I also enjoyed a pumpkin sundae with Double Rainbow Pumpkin and Dulce de Leche ice creams, topped with a chopped Unreal caramel bar, that I'll write about later.

This week was brought to you by the color Orange. This was the last day of Chocolate and Pumpkin week (lots of orange and brown, and piles of pumpkins from everywhere in town).

San Francisco buildings have been lit up orange; and today the city held a welcome home parade for the San Francisco Giants baseball team (orange and black) to celebrate their World Series Championship win -- on Halloween day (more orange and black), no less.

I've added a skeleton, and a few flowers and candles today to celebrate this great Orange day. Happy Halloween to all who celebrate pumpkin day, and a great day for chocolates as well.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lake Champlain - Caramel Pumpkins, Pumpkin Pop - Oct. 30, 2012

Chocolate(s) of the Day:

Lake Champlain Chocolates

1.) Dark Chocolate Caramel Pumpkins
Very Good
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.) / 5 oz. (141 g.) total package/bag
Calories: 118.8 calories in 2 caramel pumpkins
Cost: $8.99 for 1 bag
Purchased from: Piazza's Fine Foods, Palo Alto, CA

2.) Pumpkin Pop
Good +
Weight: 1.4 oz. (39 g.) in 1 pop
Calories: 220 calories in 1 pop
Cost: $5.99 for 1 pop
Purchased from: Piazza's Fine Foods, Palo Alto, CA

I found two different pumpkin-shaped offerings from Lake Champlain Chocolates at my local grocery store. What's scarier than a dark chocolate pumpkin oozing with caramel? Maybe a milk chocolate pumpkin with a few bites out of its jack-o-lantern face?

Today was Day #7 of Chocolate and Pumpkin Theme Week. Happy day before Halloween to you all.

Monday, October 29, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 29, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

Trader Joe's
Milk Chocolate (filled with) Caramel bar
Good + - Very Good
Weight: 1.5 oz. (41 g.) in 1 bar
Cost: $0.99 in 1 bar
Purchased from: Trader Joe's, Menlo Park, CA

Today was a chocolate-for-breakfast day -- with four products from Trader Joe's (Monrovia, CA). Fortunately, Trader Joe's offers a variety of interesting chocolates and gluten-free foods. I started with a small container of Pumpkin, 0% fat, Greek yogurt, a seasonal speciality item, and loaded it up with pumpkin seeds, diced almonds, and pieces of roughly chopped Milk Chocolate (filled with) Caramel bar.

This bar, made with Belgian chocolate, was smooth, sweet and very satisfying, with caramel that had just the right texture and taste. The milk chocolate and the sweet caramel blended well with the yogurt.

I later finished the remaining bar during a hike on Mt. Diablo -- literally Devil Mountain, located east of, and across the Bay from, San Francisco -- a fitting location for a week that includes Halloween and Day of the Dead celebrations.

Day #6 of Chocolate and Pumpkin Theme Week.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 28, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Trader Joe's
Ultra Chocolate Ice Cream
Good - Good +
Weight: 1/4 cup (52.5 g.)/ 1 Quart (946 mL) total container
Calories: 125 calories in 1/4 cup; (210 cals. total with 1/6 cup Pumpkin ice cream)
Cost: $
Purchased from: Trader Joe's, Menlo Park, CA

A mixture of two "Super Premium" ice creams from Trader Joe's (Monrovia, CA) -- Ultra Chocolate and Pumpkin -- tasted slightly better than the two flavors did separately. The Pumpkin ice cream by itself was a bit sweet and unremarkable, but when used in moderation with a larger scoop of Ultra Chocolate ice cream, the resulting spicy chocolate flavor was quite nice.

The Ultra Chocolate might be a good mix with cherry ice cream and other flavors as well.

Top this ice cream with some caramelized nibs and chopped almonds, and you have yourself a tasty fall-themed ice cream treat.

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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 27, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

Le Grand Confectionary
Pumpkin Pie truffle
Good +
Weight: .6 oz. (16.9 g.) (estimate) for 1 truffle
Calories: 90 calories (estimate) for 1 truffle
Cost: $1.75 (estimate) for 1 truffle
Purchased from: The Candy Store, in Tiburon, CA

I was drawn to these Pumpkin Pie truffles from Le Grand Confectionary (Sacramento, CA), when I visited The Candy Store in Tiburon, CA, while on a walk by San Francisco Bay.

These generously sized, seasonal pumpkin-shaped chocolates tasted fresh (always a plus with filled chocolates/confections), and they were filled with a smooth, sweet milk chocolate ganache infused with pumpkin pie spices -- cinnamon, cloves, perhaps some allspice.

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

Friday, October 26, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 26, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Trader Joe's
Dark Chocolate Coconut Caramel bar
Good - Good +
Weight: .75 oz. (21.2 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) total bar
Calories: 112 calories in 1/4 bar
Cost: $1.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Trader Joe's, Menlo Park, CA

I enjoyed today's Dark Chocolate Coconut Caramel bar from Trader Joe's (Monrovia, CA) -- both plain and with a pumpkin dessert.

The answer to the question you didn't know you were asking: Can you cook a cake in a pumpkin? The answer is yes you can! I made a gluten-free pumpkin spice cake, poured the batter into a pumpkin, cooked it, and then carved out a face on said pumpkin. Serve this cake, if you dare, with chunks of cooked sweet pumpkin carvings and pieces of this dark (70% cacao) bar. The caramel complemented the pumpkin spice flavors nicely.

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 25, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Jo's Candies
Pumpkin Spice Bark
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.)
Calories: 160 calories
Cost: $1.34 (sale)
Purchased from: World Market/Cost Plus, Reno, NV

Today was Day #2 of Chocolate and Pumpkin Theme Week, and this Pumpkin Spice Bark from Jo's Candies (Torrance, CA), with swirls of chocolate and redolent of pumpkin pie-style spices, fit the theme. The smooth bark was made with pumpkin-flavored white orange chocolate, decorated with milk chocolate. A little sweet, but perfectly seasonal.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 24, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Pamplemousse Patisserie et Cafe
1.) Mexican Chocolate macaron - Good - Good +
2.) Pumpkin macaron - Good - Good +
3.) Pistachio macaron - Good - Good +
4.) Salted Caramel macaron - Good
5.) Pamplemousse macaron - Good
Weight: 2.2 oz. total (estimate)
Calories: not known
Cost: $1.95 per macaron x 5
Purchased from: Pamplemousse Patisserie et Cafe, Redwood City, CA

Today was Day #1 of Chocolate and Pumpkin Theme Week, and I enjoyed a selection of autumn-colored macarons at the Pamplemousse Patisserie et Cafe (Redwood City, CA), where they also serve a variety of cakes, pastries, coffee, tea and savory dishes.

We arrived at the Cafe early. It was nice and quiet, and we were able to take a leisurely look at the rows of colorful macarons in the large, glass display case.

I sampled these a few at a time. My favorite pairing: Mexican Chocolate and Pumpkin. The other macaron flavors were interesting as well, including the cafe namesake, Pamplemousse, a yellow macaron with a slight bittersweet grapefruit taste.

This was a lot of sugar for breakfast, but it was worth it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 23, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Vosges Haut Chocolat
1.) Sage Honey truffles (2) - Good
2.) Field Songs truffles (2) - Good + - Very Good

Chocolate and Banana Theme Week was fun this past week. Now it's time to move into the flavors of autumn. Today's Sage Honey and Field Songs truffles were part of a 9-piece "Harvest Moon" truffle collection from Vosges.

The 65% dark chocolate Sage Honey truffle was made with sage honey, and was decorated with a sprinkle of bee pollen. The sage honey notes were fairly muted in this mix. The yellow-dusted grains of bee pollen added some nice texture and faint, pleasant beehive flavor notes.

The second truffle, Field Songs, contained roasted yam puree and maple syrup in a 45% cacao deep milk chocolate base. And, these truffles were topped with -- my favorite part of the tasting experience: African grains of paradise (Afromomum melegueta); these grains lit up my palette with floral, pepper and jungle flavor notes.

Note: The third flavor in this Harvest Moon truffle collection was a Fig (with Armagnac) truffle, which was featured on this blog a few weeks ago, as part of Chocolate and Fig Theme Week. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 22, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Jelly Belly Candy Company
Bean Boozled jelly beans - 2nd Edition

First Pairing (Chocolate)
1.) Chocolate Pudding jelly bean (1) - OK
2.) Canned Dog Food jelly beans (3) - Awful

Second Pairing (Banana)
3.) Top Banana jelly bean (1) - OK
4.) Pencil Shavings jelly beans (3) - Awful

Weight: .177 oz. (8 g.) for 8 beans / 1.6 oz. (45 g.) total box of about 45 jelly beans
Cost: $ N/A - gift
Purchased from: N/A - gift - Thank you Megan

People ask me if I only eat craft (higher end) chocolate. They seem disappointed when I tell them I do love artisan-made dark chocolate, but I sample a wide variety of items made with cacao.

These same people might be particularly offended by the pile of 45 jelly beans that I lined up in pairs today -- beans with flavors like diaper wipe vs. coconut; skunk vs. licorice; and centipede vs. strawberry.

The diabolical creators of these "Bean Boozled" jelly beans (look-alike pairs of beans that are anything but) at Jelly Belly Candy Company must chuckle when they see people gagging and choking on the "wrong" jelly bean. Thanks Megan for this box of jelly beans, filled with promise and peril. The toothpaste jelly beans weren't too bad, but the rotten egg ones were hastily spat out. I could go on; however, since today was Day #8 of Chocolate and Banana Theme Week, I'll focus on these two flavors, and their evil twins in this 2nd Edition collection.

There were four brown beans in this box that were the same color. The Chocolate Pudding jelly bean(s) looked just like the Canned Dog Food jelly bean(s). Unfortunately, the first three brown beans tasted like puppy dog chow (or what I imagine canned pet food might taste like). Thank goodness, the fourth bean was the Chocolate Pudding flavor. Hurray! It certainly tasted much better than the dog food flavor.

I had the same thing happen when I was trying/hoping for the banana flavored bean. Three failures, followed by a final success. The first 3 beans were an amalgam of artificial flavors in addition to a hint of old No. 2 pencil. Biting into the last bean and finding the (one and only) Top Banana bean was a relief.

The success of these odd-flavored beans shows how curious we humans are. The timing is, however, perfect (the week before Halloween) for a truly frightening treat.

ChocolateBet: October 21, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Gelato Classico
1.) Banana Walnut - Light - Very Good
2.) Caffe Moca - Good +
1 small cup with two flavors
Calories: 200 calories (estimate)
Cost: $3.50 (estimate)
Purchased from: Gelato Classico, downtown Palo Alto, CA

Even though temperatures were dropping, gelato beckoned this evening at the local Gelato Classico (Concord, CA) shop.

I lapped up every bit of my small cup with two flavors: Banana Walnut Light (93% fat free), and Caffe Moca -- with some help from the little plastic shovel-shaped spoon. The banana was quite good -- my favorite of the two flavors; and, the nut bits did indeed taste like freshly chopped walnuts. If this was low fat version, you could have fooled me. I would happily try more low-fat versions of other flavors in the future.

The Caffe Moca was quite pleasant with rich sections of cold, creamy chocolate.

Today was Day #8 of Chocolate and Banana Theme Week.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 20, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Concord Foods
Banana Pops!
Good - Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28.2 g.) / 4 oz. (113 g.) total box
Calories: 180 calories for 2 pieces/1 banana
Cost: $1.25 total box/kit
Purchased from: Raley's, in Newark, CA

Today was Day #7 of Chocolate and Banana Theme Week. Not coincidentally, my Bananagrams (crossword-style word) game letter tiles suggested another chocolate + banana combination.

And today's chocolate choice was: a Freeze 'n Dip chocolate flavored coating kit from Concord Foods (Brockton, MA).

The Banana Pops! kit provided something between a ready-to-eat chocolate items and a make-it-from-scratch effort. I provided the fresh banana, that I peeled and cut in half first. I then impaled each banana half on a popsicle stick (included in the box).

After freezing the bananas on sticks for an hour, I took them out and dipped them slowly in the chocolate coating that I'd put in a glass.

The chocolate coating -- made with coconut and soybean oil, sugar, cocoa, and a dash of vanilla -- was slowly transformed from a thick chocolatey sauce dunk to a velvety solid coat, as the frosty fruit cooled it down.

The resulting banana and chocolate treats were quite tasty. The Banana Pops! kit made 8 pops total from 4 bananas.

Friday, October 19, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 19, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

Vosges Haut Chocolat
Smoked Banana Caramel Bar
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42.5 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) total bar
Calories: 200 calories in 4 squares
Cost: $7.50 total bar (+ any relevant shipping-related costs)
Purchased from: Vosges (online), Chicago, IL

I really enjoyed the smoky, sweet caramelized filling in this bar. It was made with mesquite smoked bananas and Alderwood smoked salt caramel. It was quite good and left me wanting more.

However, the dark chocolate (72% cacao) exterior didn't quite measure up to the wonderful filling. The base chocolate was smooth, but seemed a bit dull and lacking in flavor.

A more complex, single origin dark chocolate might be a better match for Vosges's creative and original flavors. I was excited to read about Vosges involvement in a cacao plantation in Belize, and look forward to hearing more about how this cacao will be incorporated in the future.

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

Thursday, October 18, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 18, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

World Market
Banana Chocolate Spread
Weight: .67 oz. (19 g.) / 14 oz. (400 g.) total jar
Calories: 105 calories in 1 Tablespoon
Cost: $3.14 (sale price) for 1 jar
Purchased from: World Market, in Reno, NV

There are many ways to combine chocolate and banana. Today, I simply topped a bowl of sliced, fresh bananas with nuts, a cherry, and a small dollop of Banana Chocolate Spread from World Market (Cost Plus, Inc. of Oakland, CA).

A light layer of this banana chocolate spread would also be a sweet addition to a peanut butter and banana sandwich on gluten-free toast.

ChocolateBet: October 17, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Banana Chocolate Swirl
Good - Good +
Weight: 1/2 cup serving/ 1 Pint (473 mL) total container
Calories: 200 calories in 1/2 cup serving
Cost: $ 5.99 total container
Purchased from: New Leaf Community Markets, Santa Cruz, CA

Talenti (Dallas, TX) makes tasty gelato and sorbetto. Richer tasting than ice cream, but with up to a third fewer calories, the company's gelato (with flavors like today's Banana Chocolate Swirl) somehow tastes more satisfying as well. It's hard to explain why. Maybe it's the slightly denser, richer texture.

The banana, and a touch of lemon, added a tangy tropical fruit taste to this dessert, almost edging out the light chocolate swirl. However, all the flavors harmonized fairly well, especially given that banana can be a tougher flavor to work with. A caramelized nut topping might also be good with this gelato; I enjoyed mine plain.

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 16, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

18 Rabbits
Bunny Bar - Rocco Choco Banana, organic granola bars
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.05 oz. (30 g.) / 6.3 oz. (180 g.) total box of 6 bars
Calories: 130 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $2.99 total box of 6 bars
Purchased from: Piazza's Fine Foods, Palo Alto, CA

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

Normally, I eat chocolates that are gluten and oat-free -- and that means saying no to several items with wheat and other grains. Today I made an exception when I ate a Bunny Bar ("rocco, choco, banana" -- one of four flavors of organic granola bars) from the company 18 Rabbits (San Francisco, CA).

There were oats, but no wheat (or nut) ingredients in this bar. The individually-wrapped, snack-size granola bars were made with Felicitas Granola (rolled oats); 4 different types of seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and chia); chocolate chips; dates and bits of dried banana. The bar I nibbled on was relatively moist and chewy, and not too dry -- just about right for a granola bar. It was also sweet, but not too sweet. The chocolate chips were pleasantly present, but played a backseat role to the overall granola bar blend.

Monday, October 15, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 15, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Safeway Kitchens
Cocoa Nuggets (cereal)
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.1 oz. (32 g.) / 11.6 oz. (329 g.) total box
Calories: 130 calories in 3/4 cup serving
Cost: $ N/A
Purchased from: Safeway, Palo Alto, CA

Continuing to explore the convergence chocolate, rice and banana, I ate a bowl of cereal that incorporated all three of these ingredients. Today's chocolate came in the form Cocoa Nuggets (sweetened rice with cocoa) cereal from Safeway Kitchens, with fresh banana slices.

Great fuel for a 7-8 mile hike this morning. Just ask the maniacal little monkey on the front of the Cocoa Nuggets box, who looks up for anything.

Today was Day #7 Chocolate and Rice Theme Week, and Day #2 Chocolate and Banana Theme Week.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 14, 2012

Chocolate of the Day: 

Dean Foods Company (distrib.)
TruMoo lowfat chocolate milk
Good - Good +
Weight: 1/2 cup / 1 Pint (473 mL) total bottle
Calories: 90 calories in 1/2 cup serving
Cost: $ N/A
Purchased from: Raley's, Incline Village, NV

Today I enjoyed a bowl of Nature's Path Organic, Sunrise Crunchy Maple (gluten free) cereal -- that contained whole grains: corn, quinoa, brown rice (flour) and buckwheat. I topped this small bowl with TruMoo 1 percent lowfat chocolate milk (distributed by Dean Foods Company, Dallas, TX). After adding slices of fresh banana, I was ready to take on the world -- or at least I was fueled for an early wake-up and start time this morning.

Today was Day #6 of Chocolate and Rice Theme Week, and Day #1 of Chocolate and Bananas Theme Week.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 13, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

Enjoy Life Natural Brands, LLC
boomCHOCOboom Bar - Ricemilk Crunch
Weight: 1.12 oz. (32 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 170 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $ N/A
Purchased from: N/A

Yesterday I had a boomCHOCOboom - Ricemilk Chocolate bar from Enjoy Life (Schiller Park, IL). Today's bar, from the same maker, was a close cousin -- only with the addition of rice crisps sweetened with raisin juice and honey. I would have liked a little less cane sugar in the base ricemilk chocolate that formed the bar; however, this gluten, dairy and soy-free offering was a good alternative to similar chocolate bars on the market that are made with milk, barley malt and/or soy lecithin.

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

Friday, October 12, 2012

ChocolateBet: October 12, 2012

Chocolate of the Day:

Enjoy Life
boomCHOCOboom Ricemilk Crunch (bar)
Weight: 1.12 oz. (32 g.) total bar
Calories: 170 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $2.09 total bar
Purchased from: Raley's, in Incline Village, NV

Today was Day #4 of Chocolate and Rice Theme Week. The "rice" in this chocolate bar came in the form of rice milk powder. There were no rice cows involved. This milk was derived from a blend of rice syrup powder, rice starch and rice flour.

This gluten free bar from Enjoy Life, was wheat, dairy, peanut, tree nut and soy free. The chocolate broke with a relatively hard snap, and the texture was a bit different, but otherwise it tasted like other chocolate bars. Good news for those avoiding dairy.
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