Sunday, March 31, 2013

Chocolate Macadamia ice cream - March 31, 2013

Chocolate of the Day:

Lappert's Ice Cream
Chocolate Macadamia ice cream
Good + - Very Good
Weight: 1/4 cup serving / 1 Pint container
Calories: 265 calories (estimate) in 1/4 cup serving
Cost: $7.99 (estimate) for 1 pint
Purchased from: Lappert's Ice Cream, Sausalito, CA

Today was Day #6 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week. It was also Easter Sunday, a holiday often celebrated with chocolate eggs, rabbits, and baby chickens.

However, instead of indulging in chocolate bunnies this year, my Easter egg (bowl) filled with Hawaiian chocolate ice cream. After a holiday meal with family and friends, I enjoyed a scoop of Chocolate Macadamia ice cream from Lappert's, a family owned business that started in Hawaii.

Like yesterday's Lappert's flavor (Kauai Pie), today's rich, creamy ice cream was chock full of good-sized macadamia nuts. Sometimes it's easy to forget, with so many exotic ice cream flavors available, just how good just plain chocolate ice cream can be. The soft crunch of the mac nuts complemented the chocolate nicely. No other additions were necessary.

Kauai Pie ice cream - March 30, 2013

Chocolate(s) of the Day:

Lappert's Ice Cream
Kauai Pie ice cream
Good + - Very Good
Weight: 1/4 cup in dish / 1 Pint container
Calories: 265 calories (estimate) in 1/4 cup
Cost: $7.99 (estimate)
Purchased from: Lappert's ice cream store, Sausalito, CA

Today was Day #5 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week, and time for some Kauai Pie ice cream from Lappert's (Sausalito, CA, location).

What is Kauai Pie ice cream you ask? At Lappert's ice cream shops, it is one of their most popular flavors, made with Kona coffee ice cream, macadamia nuts, shredded and lightly roasted coconut, and chocolate fudge. A winning combination.

I enjoyed pairing a small scoop of Kauai Pie ice cream with a small, sweet banana that had a light floral flavor note. (I saw more than a dozen different banana varieties being grown on the Big Island of Hawaii during a recent visit. I should have done more banana tastings while I was there, with chocolates. We're more limited in our choices of bananas here on the mainland.)

On a Mission: San Francisco
From Hawaii to San Francisco...All in a day's work.

This afternoon I took a field trip to the Mission district of San Francisco with a friend. In addition to gawking at murals and street art, we made numerous stops to shops, galleries and a park. But, let's talk chocolate.

After a stop to ogle Bi-Rite Market's impressive chocolate selection (not to mention cheeses, deli items, produce and other artisan items), we crossed the street to sample ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery (Hazelnut with Dandelion Chocolate Cocoa Nibs; Salted Caramel; Lemon Lavender; Chocolate; other). The Bi-Rite stops alone justified the entire trip, even though we arrived too early for the high-end, soft-serve ice cream. (Creme Fraiche + Chocolate anyone?)

Dandelion Chocolate
After walking off some of the sugar rush, we visited Dandelion Chocolate's new digs on Valencia Street. We appreciated samples of single origin Dandelion dark chocolate bars, cacao beans, and homemade marshmallows there and seeing glimpses of bean-to-bar chocolate making. It was also wonderful to try a smoothie made with the white pulpy cacao fruit -- difficult to find in the U.S.

Chocolate Skull Hunt
Later we stopped for a raclette and potato plate at Mission Cheese (we had to balance out some of that sugar with a salty, savory item). And we located a potential source of chocolate skulls (used to commemorate The Day of the Dead) in one of the traditional Latin shops in the neighborhood. Sugar candy skulls were out on display in another shop, as were candy skull molds. Perhaps I'll make some chocolate skeletons this fall.

San Francisco loves the off-beat. We missed the "hunky Jesus" contest by one day, but we did spot a unicorn, a jackalope and many odd little animal skeletons at one shop (Paxton Gate); vintage luggage made into boom boxes in another shop; and creatively recycled items in thrift shop windows. No sign of wooden molinillos (used to make hot chocolate). That will have to wait until next trip.

For a unique and interesting take on neighborhood information in the Mission District, check out this atlas/set of maps (e.g., "Mission: Gangs and Cupcakes") at

Friday, March 29, 2013

Madre - All Hawaiian Bar - March 29, 2013

Chocolate of the Day:

Madre Chocolate
70% Hawaiian Dark Chocolate bar
Weight: 1.5 oz. (43 g.) total bar
Calories: 225 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $8.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Madre Chocolate, Honolulu, HI (online)

I have many good things to say about Madre Chocolate (Honolulu, HI), and the company's founders, David Elliott and Dr. Nat Bletter. However, today I focused on their chocolate, specifically their 70% Hawaiian Dark Chocolate bar -- a 1st Place 2012 Winner at the Big Island Chocolate Festival.

This hand-crafted bar was smooth, with mild fruit and almost-floral notes. I wondered what the interesting string of glyphs/picture language imprinted across the bar meant. The Madre Chocolate logo image (a modified Maya glyph for cacao) is explained on Madre Chocolate's About page on their website. I'm sure there is an interesting history and origin story behind the characters on this bar.

Ingredients and Origins 
The origins of the four ingredients that made up this bar were close to home:
1.) Cacao from the Hamakua coast (on the Northeast side of the Big Island)
2.) Organic sugar
3.) Organic cocoa butter
4.) Hawaii whole vanilla bean from Kona (on the West side on the Big Island, with rich volcanic slopes known for high-quality Kona coffee)

I spoke to Nat Bletter when I was in Hawaii last month; we spoke about the direct connections with farmers made possible when making a unique bar like this with all Hawaiian ingredients.

Typically cacao and other ingredients are grown in tropical climates in countries outside the U.S., and chocolate makers have to fly great distances to connect with farmers in person. Likewise, farmers may never have an opportunity to taste a finished chocolate bar.

Hawaii is a unique location in the U.S. where both these worlds -- that of the grower and the manufacturer -- can overlap. More about this in an interview I'll publish shortly.

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

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Milk Chocolate Tiny Balls - March 28, 2013

Chocolate of the Day:

KRM Distributors, LLC
Milk Chocolate Tiny Balls - Donkey Balls
Good - Good+
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.) (estimate) for 4 balls / 4 oz. (114 g.) in total package
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 4 balls
Cost: $ N/A
Purchased from: Donkey Balls store, in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

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

You can't visit the Big Island of Hawaii without catching a glimpse of Donkey Balls. Sold in several stores, bags of these chocolate covered macadamia nuts were adorned with pictures of Keoki, the Hawaiian shirt clad cartoon donkey.

Donkey Balls can be immersed in 20 layers of chocolate, resulting in a softer, rich chocolate version of a large, round candy jaw-breaker.

Today's "Tiny Balls" were smaller than standard size Donkey Balls, and were covered with milk chocolate. (Donkey Balls were also available in at least a dozen other flavor variations, some with dark chocolate.) Made with fewer layers than their larger siblings, these tinier balls allowed easier access to crunchy macadamia nut centers.

I enjoyed a hint of malt flavor note in these diminutive Donkey Balls, and the relatively dark, rich milk chocolate -- happily, a higher quality of cacao than I've found in some other whimsical offerings, or tourist-friendly travel shops. And, who wouldn't want to take home an item that flattered potential buyers with this statement: "Chocolate People Sure Are Smart!"

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Elena - More Hawaiian truffles - March 27, 2013

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Elena Chocolate
1.) Hawaiian Chili Pepper Chinese Five Spice (truffle)
Very Good
Weight: .39 oz. (11 g.) (estimate) in 1 piece / 2.3 oz. (65 g.) (estimate) total 6-piece box
Calories: 58.5 calories (estimate) in 1 piece
Cost: Part of a $13.50 6-piece box - recorded yesterday
Purchased from: Elena Chocolate, Kailua-Kona, HI (Keauhou Farmers Market)

2.) Hawaiian Lavender (truffles)
Very Good
Weight: .77 oz. (21.7 g.) (estimate) in 2 pieces / 2.3 oz. (65 g.) (estimate) total 6-piece box
Calories: 115.5 calories (estimate) in 2 pieces
Cost: Part of a $13.50 6-piece box - recorded yesterday
Purchased from: Elena Chocolate, Kailua-Kona, HI (Keauhou Farmers Market)

Today was Day #2 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week.

After I celebrated my first salad made with fresh produce from the farm (that I started receiving this week), it was time for dessert. This salad reminded me of one of my favorite chocolatiers (Elena Garcia) that I've met recently (last month) at the Kaeauhou Farmers Market in Hawaii. Fresh, authentic ingredients really do matter.

Elena's Hawaiian Chili Pepper and Chinese Five Spice truffle was full of a thick, flavorful chocolate ganache. It was light on the Hawaiian Chili Pepper; and this was OK by me as this little pepper has a fiery reputation, and too much might have wiped out other more subtle flavors.

This truffle, decorated with red spots, did have the best tasting Chinese five spice flavor blend with chocolate that I've tasted.

The Hawaiian Lavender truffles had a similar, authentic tasting, thick creamy, dark center. A few seconds after my first bite, a warm wave of lavender (with its unique, warm menthol spice, herbal, floral notes) swept through my senses. Another winner from Elena Garcia.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Elena Chocolate - Hawaii - March 26, 2013

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Elena Chocolate

1.) Ginger Cappuccino
Very Good
Weight: .4 oz. (11.32 g.) (estimate) for 1 piece
Calories: 60 calories (estimate) in 1 piece
Cost: $13.50 for a 6-piece box (add shipping for online orders)
Purchased from: Elena Chocolate, Keauhou Farmers Market, Hawaii

2.) Raspberry
Very Good
Weight: .38 oz. (10.7 g.) (estimate) in 1 piece
Calories: 57 calories (estimate) in 1 piece
Cost: $13.50 for a 6-piece box (add shipping for online orders)
Purchased from: Elena Chocolate, Keauhou Farmers Market, Hawaii

Aloha and welcome to Day #1 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week.

My thoughts returned to Hawaii this week. I couldn't be there in person; however, I enjoyed two Elena Chocolate chocolates in a 6-piece box from the Big Island. I discovered Elena's chocolates when friends took me to the Keauhou Farmers Market, near Kona, where Elena Garcia had a table, near stands with exotic island-grown fruits; macadamia nuts; Hawaiian fruit jams, jellies and butters; and other treasures.

Both today's chocolates were very good, and were made with high quality chocolate, and fresh fruits, coffee, and other local ingredients from Hawaii. I was impressed with Elena's knowledge of chocolate and her talent for combining flavors.

If you like ginger, you won't mind that the fresh ginger in the Ginger Cappuccino chocolate overshadowed the Kona coffee flavor in this flavorful piece that was topped with a dab of white chocolate and ginger.

The Raspberry truffle was delicious and fresh tasting as well. It was a version of this heart-shaped beauty that grabbed my attention when I stopped at the Elena booth at the Farmers Market in Hawaii last month. It contained a skillfull blend of fresh raspberry and passion fruit (liliko'i). What a great combination, although this may have been a seasonal item for Valentines Day.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Peet's Chocolate Espresso Beans - March 25, 2013

Chocolate of the Day: 

Peet's Coffee and Tea
Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans
Good - Good +
Weight: .28 oz. (8 g.) / 8 oz. (226 g.) total bag
Calories: 36 calories in 5 pieces
Cost: $6.50 for 1 bag
Purchased from: Peet's Coffee and Tea, Tiburon, CA

Nothing better to fuel a hike than chocolate covered espresso beans from Peet's Coffee and Tea (Berkeley, CA).

A tiny handful (5 pieces) was enough to satisfy. These espresso-colored, dark, shiny pearls (a little butter oil and confectioner's glaze never hurts) held their shape well -- doing so without a hard candy shell, making them a great easy-to-share, portable pick-me-up snack.

A slightly fudgey, dark chocolate coating provided a rich, mellow counterpoint to a crunchy, aromatic coffee bean center.

Today was Day #9 of Chocolate and Espresso Theme Week. 

SF Chocolate Salon - March 24, 2013

Chocolate Salon - San Francisco
March 24, 2013

Good fun was had today at the annual Chocolate Salon, held at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, CA. I enjoyed saying hello to local favorites (Socola, Neo Cocoa, Jade Chocolates, Clarine's Florentines, and many others) as well as discovering new bars, truffles and flavor combinations.

Trends, What's New
New chocolatiers in this year's group of exhibitors included Marco Paolo Chocolates, Mission Blue Confections, Nosh This, Fab. At least one chocolate maker was missing who'd been attending in recent years, Dandelion Chocolate (the company was likely focusing on ramping up their new place on Valencia, in the Mission district of SF).

There also seemed to be more wine and spirits vendors this year. The first table in the hall was occupied by a sparkling wine vendor from Los Angeles. And TV host Leslie Sbrocco ("Check Please! Bay Area" on KQED/PBS Channel 9) gave a lively presentation with suggestions for wine pairings with Toffee Talk, Poco Dolce, and Marich chocolates. The audience enjoyed samples as well.

Speaking of presentations, this year's show had at least one, conveniently located separate break-out room (off the floor) for some sessions/talks -- an improvement from earlier years. And a well-done presentation schedule was posted at the entrance in a few places from the start. Hurray!

Presentations, Demos, Talks
I wasn't able to attend every event, but in addition to exhibitors, the show included a variety of talks and presentations, including a...
- Talk about orchids, vanilla and chocolate by Bruce Rogers (author of "The Orchid Whisperer," Chronicle Books), that included whiffs of lovely chocolate-smelling orchids, and vanilla beans
- Chocolate Meetup featuring a talk, given by Marcia Gagliardi of tablehopper, about great chocolate desserts in San Francisco, accompanied by mouth-watering photos
- Demonstration on how to make a world class chocolate mousse (on-site) from a distinguished chef and teacher, Stephen Durfee
- Panel discussion about where chocolate comes from, from farm to bar, with Art Pollard of Amano Chocolate (Orem, UT), and Gary Guittard of Guittard Chocolate (South San Francisco, CA), moderated by food writer, cookbook author and chocolate fan, Amy Sherman.

Location, Location
San Francisco was a great place for this show. When we needed a break from too much sugar and chocolate, we needed only to look out the window, or to step outside, to catch a little breeze, and to see sailboats scudding by on the San Francisco Bay, on a day so clear that Mt. Tamalpais (across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County) was visible in the distance.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Marco Paolo - Espresso truffle - March 24, 2013

Chocolate of the Day:

Marco Paolo Chocolates, LLC
Espresso with Anise Marzipan (truffle)
Good +
Weight: .5 oz. (14.1 g.) (estimate) in 1 piece / 4.3 oz. (127 g.) (estimate) 9-piece box
Calories: 75 calories (estimate) in 1 piece
Cost: $25.00 for 9-piece box
Purchased from: Marco Paolo Chocolates, Van Nuys, CA

The annual Chocolate Salon was held in San Francisco today. This show offered a dazzling display of chocolate wares from a long list of chocolatiers, confectioners, chocolate makers -- and an opportunity to discover new chocolates. (I left the show with two full bags.)

Today's Espresso with Anise Marzipan truffle was part of a beautifully designed, 9-piece box of colorful gems (the "Sense Venture" collection) from Marco Paolo Chocolates (Van Nuys, CA). I sampled a tiny tasting truffle at the Marco Paolo table at the show, before buying a box. (These 1/2 bite sized truffles are a great, economical way to sample flavors for exhibitors and attendees alike.)

Each of the 9 pieces in this collection contained bold combinations of layered flavors. Today's piece contained espresso mocha ganache on top of a layer of anise infused marzipan; and these flavors were encased in a dark chocolate shell (fair trade from Kallari), decorated with strokes of colored cocoa butter.

I Love Layers
I'm a big fan of filled chocolates and truffles containing flavor parfaits like today's collection.  These separate layers can add to the complexity and richness of the tasting experience, in the same way that a sandwich allows one to taste all the ingredients -- separately, and together. I wouldn't put a sandwich into a blender first before eating it, particularly if it were made with fine ingredients that I wanted to savor one flavor bite at a time. The same is true for certain flavor combinations.

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

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cary's dark espresso toffee - March 23, 2013

Chocolate of the Day:

Cary's of Oregon, LLC
Good - Good +
Weight: .636 oz. (18 g.) in 3 pieces / 8 oz. (227 g.) in 1 package
Calories: 90 calories for 3 pieces
Cost: $9.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: Paradise Foods, Corte Madera, CA

Cary's of Oregon (Grants Pass, OR) makes several flavored English-style toffees. Today, Day #7 of Chocolate and Espresso Theme Week, I tasted Cary's dark chocolate espresso flavor.

The toffee was shaped into bite-sized pieces of crunchy, buttery English toffee (made with real butter and pure vanilla) and almond bits. These hearty square nuggets were enveloped in dark chocolate, and drizzled with ground coffee.

I liked the bite-sized pieces. Great for sharing with others and packaging for snacks. And I appreciated the higher-quality ingredients.

My only quibble: the tagline on the package that described the English toffee: "unique soft crunch recipe." I found biting down on these chunky little squares a bit tough. The cracking crunch was not quite ringing-in-your-ears rattling, but close to it. However, given a choice, I'd prefer a heartier crunch over a sticky, grab-your-fillings texture.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Marini's Espresso Bark - March 22, 2013

Chocolate of the Day:

Marini's Candies
Espresso Bark
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.2 oz. (33.9 g.) serving
Calories: 178 calories (estimate) for 1.2 oz. (33.9 g.) serving
Cost: $2.30 (estimate) for 2 pieces
Purchased from: Marini's Candies, Santa Cruz, CA

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

These broad, relatively thin strips of dark, Espresso chocolate bark from Marini's Candies (Santa Cruz, CA) contained crunchy bits of coffee and had a slight malted milk taste. Not too bitter, and not too sweet, the chocolate and espresso/coffee flavors were uniform and balanced. While others may like a stronger, grittier coffee bean flavor, I've had a little too much strong coffee this week, and felt like tasting more of the chocolate again.

Coracao Espresso Truffle - March 21, 2013

Chocolate(s) of the Day:

Coracao Confections
Espresso Truffle
Good - Good +
Weight: .66 oz. (18.6 g.) (estimate) for 1 truffle/ 3.29 oz. (93 g.) in 1 box
Calories: 99 calories (estimate)
Cost: $11.19 (sale) for 1 5-piece Collection box
Purchased from: Coracao Confections (online)

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

For a lunchtime treat, I enjoyed an Espresso truffle from Coracao Confections (Emeryville, CA). At the center of this plump, dark cream puff of a chocolate was a whipped bouffant of dark chocolate ganache. Coated with dark chocolate, and topped with a coffee bean, this truffle was creamy soft and delivered its espresso payload with a naughty, yet virtuous, smile. Coracao used healthy, high-quality ingredients (coconut palm sugar helped defuse the sugar bomb) in their 5-piece Collection box.

Because of a 6-mile hike in the hills this afternoon filled with deer, bunnies, and spring wildflowers, I managed to justify a second chocolate item. For an after-dinner dessert, I consumed an entire slice of flourless (gluten free) chocolate cake at Aqui restaurant (in Cupertino, CA). On top of this rich, coffee-flavored cake sat a very generous, fluffy mound of coffee-flavored whipped cream.

Summary of today's espresso flavored chocolates. I was wired. And now I'm tired. Best to all, and good night.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Espresso Bits bar - March 20, 2013

Chocolate of the Day: 

Sprouts Farmers Market
Espresso Bits bar
Good +
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42.5 g.) in 1/2 bar / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 210 calories for 1/2 bar
Cost: $1.99 (sale) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Sprouts Farmers Market, Mountain View, CA

I bought this Espresso Bits 54% dark chocolate bar from the local Sprouts Farmer Market. Sprouts is a chain based in (Phoenix, AZ). At $1.99 a bar, it was certainly very competitively priced.

The ground coffee in this Espresso Bits bar was not as overpowering or gritty as I expected, which was a plus. The chocolate did taste a bit darker and more complex than 54%. The coffee likely added some rich, roasted flavor to the chocolate. I thought I tasted a slight hint of cinnamon in one bite, although there were no added spices listed in the ingredients. There were also no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, another plus.

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Neo Cocoa Espresso Truffles - March 19, 2013

Chocolate of the Day:

Neo Cocoa
Espresso Dark Chocolate Marshmallow Truffles
Very Good
Weight: .625 (17.75 g.) in 2 truffles / 2.5 oz. (71 g.) in box of 8 truffles
Calories: 87 calories (estimate)
Cost: $12.00 for 1 box of 8 truffles
Purchased from: Neo Cocoa

Today was Day #7 of Chocolate and Vanilla Theme Week, and Day #3 of Chocolate and Espresso Theme Week.

Earlier today I visited the Lookout Cafe at Land's End in San Francisco with a friend. In addition to a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean, I was buoyed up by a decaf mocha latte with a shot of vanilla syrup. And even though the espresso in this drink was decaffeinated, I felt pretty wired. (Why I'm so coffee sensitive, when I can eat all the chocolate I want, is a puzzle.)

So, I waited a few hours before opening a box of today's chocolates with espresso. These Espresso Dark Chocolate Marshmallow Truffles from Neo Cocoa (Belmont, CA) were wonderful.

Neo Cocoa founder, Christine Doerr, began to create her "hearts of chocolate truffles" several years ago. (I first featured them here on in 2009.) Her silky smooth truffle centers, or hearts, stand on their own without a hard chocolate shell to surround them.

These soft creamy chocolates were assembled with great care. Sandwiched in the middle of dark chocolate espresso ganache layers, was a vanilla bean flavored marshmallow strata. And the finished product was dusted with cocoa powder. You will never go wrong serving these for dessert.

Nuttyness - Coffee Vanilla bar - March 18, 2013

Chocolate of the Day:

Nuttyness, LLC
Coffee Vanilla - chocolate covered marzipan bar
Good - Good +
Weight: .83 oz. (23.6 g.) in 1/3 bar / 2.5 oz. (71 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 107 calories in 1/3 bar
Cost: $ N/A - sample (retail price is approximately $5.99)
Purchased from: N/A - sample

Today was Day #6 of Chocolate and Vanilla Theme Week, and Day #2 of Chocolate and Espresso Theme Week.

Marzipan is a paste or dough made with finely ground almonds and sugar. The best marzipan confections are neither too syrupy sweet nor too dry and coarse. This marzipan bar was just right for my taste.

But, what elevated this dark chocolate covered bar to a new level wasn't just the marzipan; it was the lovely, layered dark complex tasting experience. Nutty, almost floral, notes shifted to the bold taste of roasted coffee beans and sweet flavor of Madagascar vanilla -- all the while mixing with rich dark chocolate.

The vanilla aroma of this bar reminded me of the best vanilla frosting, or the best vanilla ice cream. In short, using high quality ingredients really does matter.

Origin Stories
The cacao, coffee and vanilla flavors in this bar got their start with fermented seeds and pods, from tropical plants with beautiful fruits and flowers. The almonds to make the marzipan in this bar came from California. The idea for flavored "marzipan with a twist" came from Kristian Salvesen at Nuttyness (Oakland, CA). A childhood Norwegian Christmas (marzipan) tradition melded with life in California and proximity to fresh almonds and ingredients.

Where was the espresso you ask? I enjoyed this Coffee Vanilla marzipan bar with an iced "dirty chai" -- spicy sweet vanilla chai tea with coconut milk and a shot of espresso.

What is espresso? The definition of espresso involves a high pressure brewing style with very hot water and finely ground, compacted coffee. The "expressed" coffee does seem to have a thicker, darker, richer roasted flavor. Coffee that has been roasted longer, and made with a shorter brewing time also has slightly less (not more) caffeine than brewed or drip filtered coffee.

The term espresso roast, however, is apparently a misnomer. Southern Italians may start with a darker roast, but people in other parts of the globe may prefer slightly lighter roasts. In the end, apparently, if coffee is finely ground and made in the espresso brewing style, typically with a machine, anyone can enjoy a cup of beautiful, dark, almost creamy, espresso.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Vanilla Espresso Caramels - March 17, 2013

Chocolate of the Day:

Her Coconess Confections
Vanilla Espresso Caramels
Good - Good +
Weight: .375 oz. (10.6 g.) in 1 piece / 1.5 oz. (42.45 g.) total package of 4
Calories: 56 calories (estimate) in 1 piece
Cost: $not available
Purchased from: Serendipity, San Carlos, CA

There was a lot going on today, Sunday, March 17th. It was a sunny, St. Patrick's Day* with green grass and flowers on display. This beautiful day caused me to immediately postpone all other activities, in favor of taking a hike and searching for wildflowers.

A good hike starts with a good breakfast. Along with protein, fruit and vegetables, I included a (gluten free) Vanilla Espresso Caramel from Her Coconess Confections (Belmont, CA), to help kick-start the day.

This fairly intense vanilla bean salt caramel with just a hint of butter, was infused with Italian espresso and covered in 72% cacao dark chocolate. Each piece was topped with a mix of Australian pink flake salt crystals and caramelized cacao nibs. When bitten into, the caramel had just the right "gooey" factor.

Just like today, this caramel had a lot going on. You'd be forgiven if you missed the vanilla, but it did seem to help blend together this group of strong flavors. Sweet, mellow, tropical vanilla, ever the diplomat.

Today was Day #5 of Chocolate and Vanilla Theme Week, and Day #1 of Chocolate and Espresso Theme Week. Vanilla, chocolate and coffee seem to play well together, although the vanilla is often relegated to a supporting role when these three are combined.

*St. Patrick's Day and Chocolate
Saint Patrick's Day is not one of the top chocolate holidays in the U.S. The holy chocolate trinity of Halloween, Easter and Valentines Day all rank ahead of this Irish- and emerald green-themed holiday in chocolate sales and consumption, as do Christmas holidays.

However, chocsimiles (chocolate facsimiles) of four-leafed clovers, pots-of-gold, and leprechauns do exist if you hunt for them -- along with St. Patrick's Day staples such as green beer and  corned beef, cabbage and potatoes.

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