Monday, February 29, 2016

California SunGold - Double Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds - Feb. 29, 2016

Chocolate of the Day:

California SunGold Pistachios
Double Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds
Good - Good +
Weight: 2 oz. (56.6 g.) / 7 oz. (198 g.) in total package
Calories: 300 calories (estimate) in 2 oz. (56.6 g.) serving
Cost: $4.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: CVS/pharmacy, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate and Almond Theme Week.

Today's jumbo-sized Double Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds were from California SunGold Pistachios (Oakhurst, CA). They were a great blend of dark, sweet, nutty, and crunchy.

The U.S. currently produces more almonds than any other country in the world. California producers alone shipped more than a billion pounds of almonds in 2013.

I grew up in Northern California, in the Valley of Hearts Delight—or, what my colleagues back east used to call California, the land of fruit and nuts—in a pre-Silicon Valley world. (I attended Almond Elementary School on Almond Avenue.)

The San Francisco Bay Area later sprouted into a more urban world (after paving over some very productive farmland), but inland counties still produce huge quantities of almonds, walnuts, pistachios and fruit.

This week I've been featuring chocolate items with nuts from places like Oakhurst, CA (Merced County) and Chico, CA (Butte County). I feel fortunate to have been able to feature at least one Chocolate and Almond Theme Weeks, with at least seven new items, every year for over nine years.






Sunday, February 28, 2016

Nuttyness - Dark Chocolate Pure Almond Marzipan bar - Feb. 28, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Nuttyness
Dark Chocolate Pure Almond Marzipan bar
Good
Weight: 2.12 oz. (60 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 318 calories in 3/5 bar
Cost: $6.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Piazza's Fine Foods, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and Almond Theme Week.

The best marzipan has concentrated, natural almond flavor; and it contains enough sugar to elevate the flavor, without being cloyingly sweet.

Today's Dark Chocolate Pure Almond Marzipan bar from Nuttyness (Oakland, CA) does a good job of hitting this balance. The dark chocolate was dark enough to balance the sweet almond paste filling, but it was smooth enough to allow the pockets of marzipan to convey their own flavor.

The team at Nuttyness has been producing marzipan bars for several years in the classic European style, with a twist. In addition to Pure Marzipan bars made from California almonds and infused with "California flavors" (e.g. Lemon Ginger and Orange Cayenne* in the past), there are Nuttyness Pistachio Marzipan and Hazelnut Marzipan bars as well.

The first Nuttyness bars I tasted were more compact (smaller, chubbier) flavored marzipan bars. The marzipan was thicker than the chocolate coating. These bars are still available and can be sliced, much like a small stick of butter).

What's New?
In the future, I'm looking forward to trying the new Nuttyness "Marzibon" line of confections that was unveiled at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco in January 2016. These include "fruity" flavors and some of the flavors mentioned above* that first appeared in bar form.

That's the wonderful thing about chocolate, there's always something new.








Saturday, February 27, 2016

Maisie Jane's - Dark Chocolate Almonds - Feb. 27, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Maisie Jane's California Sunshine Products, Inc.
Dark Chocolate Almonds
Good++
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42.45 g.) / 3 oz. (84.9 g.) in total package
Calories: 225 calories (estimate) in 1/2 package
Cost: $N/A - gift from a beekeeper friend
Purchased from: N/A - part of a gift basket from a friend

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

Maisie Jane Hurtado is a real person. She is a founder and driving force behind Maisie Jane's California Sunshine Products, Inc. (Chico, CA).

Maisie Jane founded the company while still in high school, and is a fourth generation almond farmer. She and her husband farm almonds in the Chico area.

Natural almonds, flavored almonds, chocolate covered almonds, and nut butters are all Maisie Jane specialties.

Today I sampled the company's Dark Chocolate Almonds. At the heart of these glossy pieces were crunchy, lightly roasted California almonds. The nuts were covered in dark chocolate that had a nice fudge brownie aroma and smooth dark chocolate flavor.

These Dark Chocolate Almonds were gluten free, and Kosher certified.

The abundant supply of almonds, walnuts and honey from the Chico/Butte County area are available to us, in part, because of the hard work of many farmers, bees, and beekeepers. Thank you all!






Friday, February 26, 2016

Vintage Plantations - Dark Chocolate with Toasted Almonds bar - Feb. 26, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Vintage Plantations Chocolates
Dark Chocolate with Toasted Almonds
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.07 oz. (30 g.) / 3.2 oz. (90 g.) in total bar
Calories: 159 calories (estimate) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $6.95 for 1 bar
Purchased from: SweetE Organic, Mill Valley, CA

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

Today's Dark Chocolate with Toasted Almonds bar from Vintage Plantations Chocolates was enveloped in a work of art. Printed on the wrapper was an image of a beautiful cacao plantation (painting by Charlotta Janssen).

Vintage Plantations has been making chocolate since the 1990s. There is no specific origin specified for this bar, but the company has been working with "heirloom single estate cocoa beans" for many years.

This dark bar (no percentage listed) had a sweet, slightly nutty and roasted malt aroma, and a balanced bittersweet dark chocolate flavor.

There were four ingredients in this chocolate: ground organic cocoa beans, undeodorized* organic cocoa butter, organic evaporated cane sugar, and organic almonds; and the bar was gluten free and vegan.

*Cocoa beans are naturally high in fat (or cocoa butter) content. And extra cocoa butter is often added to bars to give it a richer flavor, or creamier texture and melt. Some chocolate makers use cocoa butter that has had some of the aroma and taste removed—in other words, it's been "deodorized." Other makers include the natural flavoring (undeodorized cocoa butter). Added cocoa butter may or may not come from the same batch of cocoa beans, or the same area of origin as the cocoa solids.




Thursday, February 25, 2016

Nii Foods - Almond Chocolate Chip bar - Feb. 25, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Nii Foods Inc.
Almond Chocolate Chip Bar
Good
Weight: 1.8 oz. (50 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 240 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $1.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Sprouts, Mountain View, CA

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

Shanais Pelka, the founder of Nii Foods Inc. (Carlsbad, CA) is a nutritionist, educator and mother. The company offers the Nii line of organic, gluten-free bars. Today's Almond Chocolate Chip bar was "Flav. No. 1."

The #1 ingredient in this certified organic, gluten free and kosher bar was raw almond butter. The #2 ingredient was organic dark chocolate. Good so far. Quality ingredients and appealing chew and texture.

Other ingredients in this health-oriented bar included organic dates, tapioca syrup, coconut nectar, sprouted quinoa, hemp seeds, and walnuts.

A Date Walks Into a Bar...
I have mixed feelings about dates. I love date milkshakes with a generous helping with freshly grated nutmeg and high-quality vanilla ice cream.

When it comes to dates in a bar...I'd much rather eat dates than, say corn syrup, in an energy or nutrition bar as a sweetener and a binding agent. Dates contribute a rich, fairly strong, dried fruit acidic sweet flavor, as well as fiber, minerals, and a soft, chewy texture that helps compressed bars hold their shape.

The date flavor helps balance the nut and chocolate flavors. But, I love "unbalanced," fairly strong nut and chocolate flavors; and they tend to be subdued by the all-powerful date.

NibMor - 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate with Almonds bar - Feb. 24, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

NibMor Inc.
72% Cacao Dark Chocolate with Almonds bar
Good+
Weight: 1.1 oz. (31 g.) / 2.2 oz. (62 g.) in total bar
Calories: 160 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $2.59 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Loop store, at Shell gas station, Pocket Road, Sacramento, CA

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

Today's 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate with Almonds bar was manufactured for NibMor Inc. (Great Neck, NY).

This bar had a malty, smooth dark chocolate taste, and a soft crunchy nut texture (from bits of almond).

Self-described "do-gooders," NibMor contributes to causes, such as disease prevention and fighting childhood obesity. The packaging for this "organic and ethically traded" bar was printed with the following certification-related symbols:

  • USDA Organic
  • Non-GMO Project Certified
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified Cocoa
  • Certified-Gluten Free
  • Kosher (U)D
  • Certified Vegan



Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Theo Chocolate - Kids' Almond Crunch bar - Feb. 23, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Theo Chocolate, Inc.
Kids' Whole Grain Crunch Almond 55% Dark chocolate bar
Good
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 140 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $2.19 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Country Sun Natural Foods, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate and Almond Theme Week.

Theo Chocolate, Inc. (Seattle, WA) has produced a family of Kids' Whole Grain Crunch bars—available in three different flavors: Banana (milk), Raspberry (dark), and today's Almond 55% Dark chocolate.

The crunch in this bar came from almond bits, puffed brown rice and puffed quinoa—that added interesting texture, without hiding the chocolate taste.

If you think this kid-sized bar contained down-sized or watered down dark chocolate flavor, you'd be incorrect. The chocolate was fairly rich, with balanced fruit acidity.

Today's Kids' Crunch Almond bar was "Gluten Free, Soy Free, Kosher, Vegan;" and it bore three certification-related symbols: 1.) fair for life (Fair for Life Social and Fair Trade Certification Programme); 2.) USDA Organic; and 3.) Non-GMO Project Verified.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Bobo's Oat Bars - Gluten Free Chocolate Almond - Feb. 22, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Bobo's Oat Bars
Gluten Free Chocolate Almond bar
Good
Weight: 3 oz. (85 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 380 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $3.19 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Country Sun Natural Foods, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #1 of Chocolate and Almond Theme Week.

Today's first entrant in this nut-themed chocolate week was a generously sized snack bar from Bobo's Oat Bars (Boulder, CO).

This relatively soft, chewy bar was made from gluten free oats, organic dark chocolate chips, and dry roasted almonds. (The almond flavor was amped up a bit with a hint of almond extract.)

The company offers a line of individually-wrapped "Regular Bars." They also offer several "Gluten Free Bars" in different flavors*, such as their only chocolate entry: today's Chocolate Almond bar. These bars are "gluten free, vegan, kosher and non-GMO."

They'd be a good snack for a hike or bike ride.

Bobo's Oat Bars was founded by Beryl Stafford in 2005 in Boulder. (Bobo was/is an affectionate nickname for her eldest daughter.)

*Bobo's Oat Bars Gluten Free flavors listed on their site included: Peach, Maple Pecan, Lemon Poppyseed, Chocolate Almond, Apple Pie and Peanut Butter and Jelly.




Sunday, February 21, 2016

Endorfin Foods - Madagascar 80% Cacao bar - Feb. 21, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Endorfin Foods
Madagascar Single Origin Dark Chocolate bar
Good
Weight: .7 oz. (20 g.) / 1.4 oz. (40 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 105 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $5.00 (was one of 9-bar box for $45.00)
Purchased from: Endorfin Foods table at Fall Chocolate Salon, San Francisco, CA

Today we say good-bye to Madagascar Theme Week, after we enjoy one last bar from this island nation from Endorfin Foods (Oakland, CA).

The company's ultra-dark, 80% cacao, Madagascar Single Origin Dark Chocolate bar was made with organic unroasted cacao and organic coconut sugar. It had a subtle, pleasing aroma, with notes of red fruit, raisin, and faint brown sugar and spice.

Like many bars with a high percent of cocoa solids, the aroma can be "sweeter" or milder than the actual taste.

The Tasting Notes/Profile information printed on the package mentioned: "Raspberry, kumquat, red wine tannin." This bar did have a dark, acidic "tannic" bite to it, but the throat-grabbing quality diminished after the first bite, increasingly allowing other flavors to come to the fore with each subsequent bite.

As they say in Malagasy: Mazotoa homana! Rahampitso indray ary e*—when we'll move on to a Chocolate and Almond theme week.

*This Malagasy phrase roughly translates to: Bon apetit! See you tomorrow.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Arete - Madagascar Sambirano Valley 70% bar - Feb. 20, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Arete Fine Chocolate
Madagascar Sambirano Valley 70% Dark Chocolate bar
Very Good
Weight: 1.15 oz. (32.5 g.) / 2.3 oz. (65 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 172.5 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $12.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and Madagascar Theme Week.

Arete Fine Chocolate, located in the San Francisco Bay Area (Milpitas, CA), is a relatively recent entrant to the chocolate making world. They "went public" in late 2014, and began taking orders in January 2015.

Founders, David and Leslie Senk, spent time honing their craft before opening. And it shows in their line of single origin bars made with just cocoa beans and (organic) cane sugar. I have yet to taste one that wasn't well executed.

Today's Madagascar Sambirano Valley 70% Dark Chocolate bar had a pleasing aroma and broke with a hard, well-tempered snap. It had a nice melt, and uniformly sweet, well-balanced acidic, light citrus fruit flavor—with hints of dried plum, golden raisin and mild pistachio/nutty notes. The bar had a pleasant, lingering finish.

My advice: take the time to really savor this bar. When I re-tasted this deceptively subtle and flavorful bar, over the course of several minutes, new flavors revealed themselves—all of them good. On the last bite, I got a hit of delicious chocolate brownie batter.

Sadly, like many small batch, bean-to-bar chocolates, Arete Fine Chocolate bars may only be available for limited periods of time. (By the time I wrote this, the Madagascar Sambirano bar was sold out on the Arete website, at least for now.)

Thank you to Sunita at The Chocolate Garage (Palo Alto, CA), and other chocolate specialty retailers who bring us great, curated chocolate like this.





Friday, February 19, 2016

Amano Artisan Chocolate - Madagascar Sambirano 70% bar - Feb. 19, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Amano Artisan Chocolate
Madagascar Sambirano Valley 70% Cocoa bar
Very Good
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $8.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Amano table at Fall Chocolate Salon, San Francisco, CA

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

Today's Madagascar Sambirano Valley Dark Chocolate bar was made by Amano Artisan Chocolate (Orem, UT).

"It is for good reason that this (Madagascar bar) is the very first chocolate we released. It tastes incredible and has won numerous awards..." stated notes from Amano founder and chocolate maker, Art Pollard." He's right. Today's bar (labeled: Lot No.: 3/5002) was like picking and eating your first berries as a child. Delicious.

This highly edible 70% dark bar was made with cacao from the Sambirano River Valley area of Madagascar; and it had the most wonderful raspberry fruit aroma and flavor that I've experienced in a very long while. This is the kind of bar that people will taste and then ask what fruit was added. No fruit added. Just four ingredients were listed: "Cocoa Beans, Pure Cane Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Whole Vanilla Beans."

To make a flavorful bar like this, one needs to start with great cacao beans, and then be very skilled at preserving and enhancing the flavor profile. Ask any chocolate maker, it's easy to mess up even great beans if you're not very precise and very careful.

My own tasting notes: homemade raspberry jam, honey, chocolate brownies, with a kiss of sweet orange.

Amano tasting notes read as follows: "This chocolate has a gentle chocolate flavor with notes of raspberries, cherry, raisin and citrus."

This would be a good bar for someone who doesn't like dark chocolate bars that are overly strong or harsh, and enjoys great flavors.




Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hageland - Madagascar 32% Milk Chocolate bar - Feb. 18, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Hageland
Limited Selection
Madagascar 32% Milk Chocolate bar
Good - Good +
Weight: .858 oz. (25.08 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 152 calories in 2 squares of bar
Cost: $1.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

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

Today's Hageland (Belgium) single origin, milk chocolate bar was made with a blend of Criollo, Trinitario and Forastero cacao beans* from Madagascar—the fourth largest island in the world, located off the southeastern coast of Africa.

On the Hageland package was a silhouette of a baobab (Adansonia) tree**—found in Madagascar (Africa and Northern Australia).

The bar had a sweet, caramel fudge aroma, and a smooth, rich, slightly gummy melt. It did have a caramel taste and texture as well.

Tasting notes: honey and caramel -- "rounded off by subtle acid cocoa notes, vanilla and butter."

"Ingredients: sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, cocoa mass, vanilla (nat. flavor). Milk chocolate: cocoa solids min. 32% -- milk solids min. 26%"

This bar was imported into the U.S. by: SCO Koladen, LLC (Hayward, CA).

Other interesting information on the packaging: "Made with 100% renewable energy, ca. 20% from our own solar panels." Go solar.

*It's possible that the same cacao fruit (pod) may contain more than one of these three varieties. In fact, there has been enough intermingling that it's often difficult to find 100% pure genetic strains that are related to geographic origins.

** Baobab fruit in powdered form is a pleasant sweet-tart inclusion in chocolate as well.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Valrhona - Ampamakia, Madagascar bar - Feb. 17, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Valrhona
Millesime* 2013
Ampamakia, Madagascar bar
(Chocolat Noir de Domaine/Estate Grown Dark Chocolate)
Good++ - Very Good
Weight: 1.23 oz. (35 g.) / 2.46 oz. (69.6 g.) in total bar
Calories: 209 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $7.60 for 1 bar (sale price)
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

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

Many of the bars featured this week were made with cacao from a single region in northwest Madagascar (Ambanja District, Sambirano River Valley)—often from one of a few farms, including today's bar.

Today's Ampamakia, Madagascar 64% (cocoa solids) bar from Valrhona (Tain l'Hermitage, France) was made with beans from the Ampamakia farm in the Sambirano River Valley.

The Valrhona packaging for this Ampamakia bar describes the region of origin this way:

"On the island of Madagascar, at the heart of the fertile Sambirano river valley, lies one of the island's celebrated plantations, the Ampamakia farm. Amidst these lush surroundings where delicate fragrances mingle with the colors of the vanilla and ylang-ylang** fields, Trinitario and Criollo cocoa beans have been cultivated for more than 100 years. Their acid yellow fruit freshness and roasted notes will transport your senses."

This bar had a rich, pleasant aroma; a gradual melt; and a well-rounded, uniform taste with mild, acidic fruit flavor.

The bar's five ingredients: cocoa beans from Madagascar, sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier (soya lecithin), vanilla.

*Millesime refers to a vintage year, or harvest year for a given crop—often used to describe a vintage wine grape year—and, in this case, it refers to cacao.

**Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) refers to sweet-smelling yellow flowers that grow on the Cananga tree in tropical climates. The essential oil from the flowers is used in perfumes, fragrances and aromatherapy.




Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Dandelion Chocolate - 70% Ambanja Madagascar bar - Feb. 16, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Dandelion Chocolate
Madagascar bar
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (56 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $8.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Dandelion Chocolate, San Francisco, CA

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

Today's 70% Ambanja, Madagascar bar was made by Dandelion Chocolate (San Francisco, CA).

If you're in San Francisco and you like chocolate, look into a trip to Dandelion Chocolate—a small-batch chocolate maker located in the Mission District.

The two co-founders, Todd Masonis and Cam Ring, came from the tech industry, a helpful background for bean-to-bar makers given the need for precision with machinery and the many steps involved in making chocolate.

The company has maintained a sense of transparency about cacao origin, and a focus on educating the public about cacao (through tours, classes, lectures). Their two-ingredient (cacao beans and cane sugar), single origin bars each come with a backstory.

For example, today's Ambanja, Madagascar 70% bar contained information about the bar's journey. Organic beans from this bar (Batch No. 2), came from the Akesson farm (in NW Madagascar), and were "sourced by Cam." This 2014 harvest was the fourth harvest that Dandelion had used beans from this farm.

This bar had an aroma with hints of green wood/coconut and brown sugar. I found the flavor was close to the tasting notes printed on the bar's packaging: "...a combination of citrus and tangy red fruits—like raspberry and Meyer lemonade."

These tasting notes were from the bar's batch-maker "BW" (Becky W.), whose initials also appeared on the back of the wrapper. And, lest I forget, each bar was carefully wrapped in foil, and then clothed in an attractive ivory and gold printed paper outer wrapper.

Thanks to Dandelion founders and early employees who worked to launch their company, after experimenting for a few years (trying to grow cacao in an apartment) and then making chocolate in an initial space in Dogpatch. The co-founders renovated an old garage space in the Mission, and this can't have been inexpensive.




Monday, February 15, 2016

Chocolaterie Robert - Organic 70% Madagascar bar - Feb. 15, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Chocolaterie Robert
Chocolat Madagascar Organic 70% Cocoa bar
Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $N/A - part of a larger subscription box
Purchased from: Cocoa Runners (online order)

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

This Chocolat Madagascar Organic 70% Cocoa bar was made by Chocolaterie Robert ("Malagasy cocoa farmers and chocolatier" based in Antananarivo, Madagascar).

Cocoa beans are often shipped to Europe or North America for processing into chocolate. However, this company makes their chocolate in the same country as the beans of origin.

This particular 70% organic bar contained two ingredients: Madagascar cocoa beans and Madagascar organic cane sugar.

The bar was flavorful—with characteristic fruity Madagascar (citrus, red fruit) acidity, and a touch of balanced bitterness and earthiness.

Nutrition Facts - Theobromine
Another unique thing about this bar was the "Nutrition Facts" information posted on the back of the packaging. In addition to info about carbohydrate, protein and fat percentages—and certain mineral content (Magnesium and Phosphorus)—the amount of theobromine was listed.

Theobromine is a stimulant (similar to caffeine) found in cacao (Theobroma cacao) and chocolate. Today's (entire) bar contained 680 mg. of Theobromine (800 mg per 100 g.). For those sensitive to Theobromine, information about levels would be useful. Hats off to Chocolaterie Robert for including this.



Pump Street Bakery - Madagascar 72% bar - Feb. 14, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Pump Street Bakery Chocolate
Madagascar 72% Ambanja 2014 bar
Very Good - Very Good +
Weight: 1.23 oz. (35 g.) / 2.45 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 184 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $13.95 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Zombie Runner, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #1 of Chocolate and Madagascar Theme Week.

We're landing on this large island nation just in time to celebrate a big chocolate holiday—Valentines Day.

Madagascar is located off the Eastern coast of Africa. Most of the cacao grown here comes from the Northwest part of the island, near the Sambirano Valley, part of (or near) the district and city of Ambanja.

Today's Madagascar 72% Ambanja 2014 bar was crafted, from bean-to-bar*, by makers at Pump Street Bakery (Orford, Suffolk, UK). They make baked goods, bread and chocolate.

More specifically, this bar represents Batch No. 5201—from the Pump Street chocolate makers. I mention this, because if you taste a bar you really like, a batch number helps you find the same bar again (if it's still available). Or, making notes on various batches can help you to request a bar with similar flavor characteristics.

I'd like to re-order this three-ingredient bar (cocoa beans, cane sugar, and cocoa butter). It was a great bar for Valentines Day, with or without hearts and flowers.

  • My tasting notes: "Broke with a hard snap. Aroma and flavor: Green coconut and papaya, spice, shading into grapefruit (nicely balanced acidity) and deep but warm spice (cinnamon) finish. Interesting and enjoyable flavor arc. Not one "off" note in the bar."
  • Pump Street notes: "A dark chocolate packed with flavour (sic) brought out of the fruity Madagascan beans. This chocolate has high notes of citrus mellowing intro tropical fruits and ending with balanced acidity."

*"Each bar is made from beans imported directly from farms or cooperatives in the country of origin. We then clean, roast in our bread ovens, grind and conch at our bakery in Orford, Suffolk."


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Marou - Treasure Island 3/4 Dark Chocolate bar - Feb. 13, 2016

www.marouchocolate.com
Chocolate of the Day: 

Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat
Treasure Island 3/4 Cacao Limited Edition Dark Chocolate bar
Good ++
Weight: .93 oz. (26.6 g.) / 2.8 oz. (80 g.) in total bar
Calories: 140 calories (estimate) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $10.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to the final day of Chocolate and Some Enchanted Islands Theme Week. Today's "island" was located in the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam.

Historic tales, like Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, feature pirate-filled quests for treasure chests of gold, coins and ill-gotten gains, often buried on exotic islands.

Island treasures also can include fragrant spices, exotic fruits—and flavorful cacao wrapped in beautifully designed packaging.

The image (upper right -- from Marou Chocolate website) is one I love. It shows the range of colors in cacao fruit (pods), and correlates these colors with some of the company's bars.

Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat is a bean-to-bar chocolate maker based in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam. The two founders, Samuel Mourou and Vincent Maruta, have been making chocolate from Vietnam cacao since 2011.

Tasting notes: (from Marou website): "...subtle notes of liquorice (sic) and spice in this extremely delicate 75% chocolate made with cacao growing in very small quantities on Tan Phu Dong Island in the middle of the Mekong River." I also picked up a hint of raisin cinnamon toast in the aroma and flavor associated with this bar.

Unlike many chocolate bars made in North America and Europe, today's bar was made "in-country"—i.e., the chocolate was made in the same country where the cacao was grown (Vietnam in this case).

Today's Marou bar was soy, gluten and dairy free. The bar was imported into the U.S. by Dark Chocolate Imports LLC (Bloomfield Hill, MI), and sold in specialty chocolate stores (The Chocolate Garage (Palo Alto, CA) in this case).

Tomorrow we travel to Madagascar, a large island nation that's big enough to merit its own theme week.









Friday, February 12, 2016

Pura Delizia - Vietnam 75% bar - Feb. 12, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Pura Delizia Packint srl
Vietnam 75% bar
Good
Weight: 1.17 oz. (33.3 g.) / 3.53 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 170.6 calories in 1/3 bar
Cost: $8.95 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere, online order

Don Khach (welcome in Vietnamese) – to Day #10 of Chocolate and Some Enchanted Islands Theme Week.

Today's Vietnam 75% dark chocolate bar was from Pura Delizia Packint srl (Borgo Priolo, Italy). This Italian chocolate maker produces bean-to-bar, single origin bars, and chocolate confections (including chocolate and coffee creams and chocolate truffles with Piedmont hazelnuts and other flavor inclusions).

This Vietnam bar broke with a hard snap, and had a faint dark-roast aroma. It had a slow melt, smooth texture, and an even, dark, woodsy flavor.

Tomorrow, we celebrate our last day of Chocolate and Some Enchanted Islands Theme Week, with one last bar from Vietnam.











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