Thursday, March 31, 2016

Core Foods - Cashew Cacao bar - Mar. 31, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Core Foods
Cashew Cacao bar
Good
Weight: 3 oz. (85 g.) in 1 package/bar
Calories: 370 calories for 1 package/bar
Cost: $ lost receipt
Purchased from: Country Sun Natural Foods, Palo Alto, CA

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

This Cashew Cacao Core Meal bar from Core Foods (Oakland, CA) had a substantial heft and texture to it.

It was (very credibly) billed as as a "hearty oatmeal on the go" meal. The vegan, organic and gluten-free bar contained: gluten-free oats, raw cashews, raisins, raw flaxseed, cacao mass, filtered water and vanilla beans.

Core Foods is a not-for-profit company, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, with a mission to support people with healthy, nourishing food.





Momotombo - Maranon (Cashews) Milk Chocolate bar - Mar. 30, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Chocolate Momotombo S.A.

Maranon (Cashews) Fine Milk Chocolate bar
Good ++
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) / 3.18 oz. (90 g.) in total bar
Calories: 160 calories (estimate) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $3.75 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Momotombo; Managua, Nicaragua

Maranon (Cashew) y Canela (Cinnamon) Chocolates
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) / 3.18 oz. (90 g.) in total box
Calories: 160 calories (estimate) in 5 pieces
Cost: $8.00 (estimate) for 1 box
Purchased from: Chocolate Momotombo, Managua, Nicaragua

Fresh Chocolate with Maranon y Ron (Cashew and Rum)
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: .5 oz. (14.1 g.) slice
Calories: 75 calories (estimate) in 1 small piece
Cost: $5.95 (estimate) for 1 package
Purchased from: Chocolate Momotombo, Managua, Nicaragua

Welcome to the first day of Chocolate and Cashew Theme Week.

I've come to equate Chocolate Momotombo (Managua, Nicaragua) with good chocolate. Happily, this bean-to-bar maker offers several chocolates that are blended with cashew (maranon, or anacardo, in Spanish), including today's Maranon (Cashews) fine milk chocolate bar; maranon (cashew) and canela (cinnamon) chocolates, and fresh chocolate with maranon (cashews) and ron (rum).

The company specializes in cacao from Nicaragua and local flavor additions (seeds, nuts, fruits). The fresh chocolate is more perishable than a bar, but is unique and worth trying. Looks like fudge, but a bit moister and more fresh tasting.

Read on if you'd like to know more about cacao and cashews...

More about Cacao and Cashews

Cashews




  • The cashew tree is a tropical evergreen tree that produces an edible cashew seed (nut), attached to the cashew "apple"
  • Cashew fruit (apples) look like an upside down reddish-orange bell pepper - with a greenish "comma" growing out of the bottom.
  • It can grow as high as 14 meters, but the dwarf cashew, growing up to 6 meters, has proved more profitable, with earlier maturity and higher yields.
Chocolate and cashews have several things in common; for example:

  • Cacao "beans" and cashew "nuts" are both, in fact, seeds. 
  • Both grow on trees, and are associated with a unique-looking fruit.
  • Cacao and cashews both grow on tropical evergreen trees within 20 or so degrees from the Equator. 
  • Cacao trees originally came from Central and South America. Cashew trees likely originated in Brazil. Both trees are now grown and processed in other countries—primarily in Africa and Southeast Asia/India.
  • Both seeds are rich (containing 45-50% fat) and delicious, if they are processed correctly.
  • Like many seeds, these two are both high in minerals, such as magnesium and iron. Per ounce*:
    • Cashew nuts = Magnesium (20% of daily value), and Iron (10% of daily value)
    • Dark chocolate = Magnesium (20% of daily value), and Iron (19% of daily value); dark chocolate is also high in Copper and Manganese.
  • Both fruits can be seen in a range of colors (yellow, orange, red, etc.). Cacao fruit starts from tiny 5-petal white flowers that grow directly off the trunk and branches of the tree. Cashew fruit starts with a slightly larger, 5-petal, pinkish-red flower.


However, there are some differences between the two:
  • A cashew is a seed that grows outside (hanging below) the cashew fruit (or "apple"); whereas cacao seeds are packed together inside a cacao pod.
  • Cacao fruit (pulp) and cashew fruit are both edible, although cashew fruit + nuts should be handled with care**. While cacao is protected by a tough, thick outer rind/shell, and slightly bitter seeds, the white pulpy fruit that envelopes the cacao seeds (beans) is both edible and delicious. 
*These are approximate values. Each dark chocolate bar, e.g., varies somewhat in nutritional content, depending on percentage and source.


** In India, cashew fruit is sometimes used to make jams and spreads. However, the material around the nut is quite unpleasant (caustic). The cashew nut covering (attached to the fruit) contains a thick oil/sap (also found in poison oak and poison ivy)—that can cause an itchy skin rash.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Palmer - "Bee Mine" - Milk Chocolate bee - Mar. 29, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

R.M. Palmer Company
"Bee Mine" Milk Chocolate
OK+
Weight: 1.16 oz. (33 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total package
Calories: 170 calories for 1/3 package
Cost: $2.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: Walgreens, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to the last day of a short, 4-day Spring Celebration Series, featuring different chocolate critters.

Today's "Bee Mine" hollow milk chocolate item was distributed by R.M. Palmer Company (Reading, PA). Originally created for Valentines Day, this holiday novelty item had been squirreled away in my chocolate vault just for such an occasion.

Loved the concept of having little honey-flavored bees inside a bigger chocolate bee. Very clever design. OK chocolate.

I hope that the abundance of rain, green grass and wildflowers we're receiving in California this year will be good for our (real, non-chocolate) honeybees, which seem to be having a rough go of it.




Monday, March 28, 2016

Palmer - "You Mooove Me" (Cow) - Mar. 28, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Distributed by R.M. Palmer Company
You Mooove Me - Milk Chocolate Cow
OK+
Weight: 1.16 oz. (33 g.) / 3.5 oz. (99 g.) in total package
Calories: 170 calories for 1/3 cow
Cost: $2.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: Walgreens, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to a spring celebration of chocolate animals this week.

The last few days featured chocolate Easter bunnies, in part inspired by real rabbits seen enjoying green grass* in the area. And, today, I'm moving on to other chocolate critters.

Today's "You Mooove Me" Hollow Milk Chocolate cow was distributed** by R.M. Palmer Company (Reading, PA). This item came from the chocolate vault, where chocolate animals from holidays past were hiding.


This well-rounded, slightly goofy-looking, foil-wrapped cow was not one you'd typically see in a pasture. And the chocolate is not super top quality. But the design was great. The cow was a traditional milk chocolate novelty candy item that included dextrose candy, and both natural and artificial chocolate flavors.

But wait, there's more. Inside this hollow milk chocolate cow, there was a whole herd of tiny "Chocolate Milk Flavored Candy Cows" that had a faint, hot cocoa confection flavor.

*I was inspired by the beautiful green grass we've been experiencing following actual rain...something we haven't seen for 4-5 years, due to a serious drought. And I get a kick out of chocsimiles (chocolate facsimiles) of animals and other nouns.

**"Dextrose candy made in Malaysia" -- I'm guessing this refers to the tiny candy cows in the middle.


Ghirardelli Chocolate - Milk Chocolate Bunny - Mar. 27, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Ghirardelli Chocolate Company
Milk Chocolate Bunny
Good
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in 1 bunny
Calories: 152 calories (estimate) in 1 oz. (28.3 g.) of bunny
Cost: $3.50 for 1 bunny
Purchased from: Safeway, Palo Alto, CA

Happy Easter to all who celebrate this Spring (and big chocolate) holiday.

Today I'm featuring Ghirardelli Chocolate Company's blue-ribbon-wearing, milk chocolate bunny named Noe—who was holding what appeared to be a gold Easter egg.

Poor Noe. I've always felt a little guilty biting into any chocolate animal, especially when it has a cute little smile.

To compound my crime, I ate some small, individually-wrapped caramel versions of Noe yesterday (pictured at right). And today we conducted a science experiment by leaving one bun in the sun to see if it would melt into fondue. (It did.)

This classic, hollow milk chocolate rabbit was shared with family and friends.

Thanks to Megan and Jeff for the mini milk chocolate versions of this bunny.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ghirardelli - Milk Chocolate Caramel Bunny - Mar. 26, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Ghirardelli Chocolate
Milk Chocolate Caramel Bunny
Good
Weight: 2 pieces (20 g.) / 4.14 oz. (117.6 g.) in total package/bag
Calories: 80 calories in 2 pieces
Cost: $4.99 (estimate) for 1 package
Purchased from: Safeway, Palo Alto, CA

Happy Spring to all. And Happy Easter Weekend to those who celebrate this holiday.

Rain has brought green back to the San Francisco Bay Area. Green grassy hills as far as one can see (over all the buildings that is). Cows and horses are grazing on the green grass in pastures, and bees are buzzing around flowers in bloom.

Spring is a great time to celebrate life and being outdoors. And, as always, here at Chocolate Banquet, we celebrate with chocolate.

First, let's start with the quintessential Easter bunny. Recently, my mother spotted a rare bunny on her lawn. The mystery bunny returned several times and was finally captured on my brother's cell phone.

Rabbits are often considered yard pests in more rural settings. However, we live in such a developed area, it's highly unusual to have a visit from a real Easter bunny. (Easter squirrels maybe, but not bunnies.)

Today's Milk Chocolate Caramel Bunny is for you mom. The individually wrapped, Milk Chocolate Caramel Bunnies (package of 12) were from Ghirardelli Chocolate (San Leandro, CA).

Each diminutive Ghirardelli milk chocolate bunny (named Noe*) was filled with a soft caramel filling.

Tomorrow I'll be featuring Noe's bigger, 100% chocolate (caramel-less) sibling.

*Noe the bunny also has a back-story. See Ghirardelli website for more. 







Nada Moo! - Lotta Mint Chip Frozen Dessert - Mar. 25, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Nada Moo (aka Nada Moo!)
Lotta Mint Chip Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert
Good - Good +
Weight: 1/4 cup (37.5 g.) / 1 Pint (473 mL) in total container
Calories: 70 calories in 1/4 cup serving
Cost: $1.99 (estimate) for 1 container
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #9 of Chocolate and Coconut Theme Week.

Today's Lotta Mint Chip non-dairy frozen dessert was from Nada Moo (Austin, TX). The company's name roughly translates into nothing from a cow.

This organic, creamy, minty rendition of an ice cream classic was made with coconut milk. And the results were quite good. Cold flecks of chocolate balanced the creaminess with a slightly sharper, darker, and chewier accent flavor.

The contribution of coconut milk also contributed to this dessert's rich mouth feel and taste, making up for any lack of butter fat. At only 140 calories per 1/2 cup single serving, the coconut milk helped this frozen dessert taste a lot richer than I expected.

If you want to amp up the chocolate, I found it was good with homemade chocolate mint sauce too.






Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hawaiian Host - Tropical Fruit Bites - Coconut - Mar. 24, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Hawaiian Host, Inc.
Tropical Fruit Bites - Milk Chocolate Covered Coconut
Good+
Weight: 1/4 cup or 1.48 oz. (42 g.) / 6 oz. (170 g.) for total package
Calories: 190 calories in 1 serving, approx. 1/4 package
Cost: $2.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

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

Hawaiian Host, Inc. (Honolulu, HI) was started by candy maker, Mamoru Takitani. His chocolate-covered macadamia nuts were a hit in Hawaii (Maui); and eventually the family moved their business to Oahu, where the company is based today.

Today's "Creamy Milk Chocolate Covered Coconut" offering was part of the company's line of Tropical Fruit Bites.* These sweet orbs had a genuine coconut flavor and texture. Good choice if you like coconut and you're in the mood for milk chocolate.

*Tropical Fruit Bites are also available in pineapple and banana flavors.




Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lonohana - Coconut Milk 65% Dark bar - Mar. 23, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Lonohana Estate Chocolate
Coconut Milk 65% Dark bar
Good++
Weight: .766 oz. (21.6 g.) / 2.3 oz. (65 g.) in total bar
Calories: 120 calories (estimate) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $12.00 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Aloha, and welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and Coconut Theme Week.

Lonohana Estate Chocolate is based in Hawai'i (Oahu), where chocolate maker Seneca Klassen produces unique batches of limited edition bars from Hawaiian-grown ingredients, like those found in today's Coconut Milk 65% Dark chocolate bar.

Today's Coconut Milk small batch bar was created from 100% Hawaiian cacao (Big Island Cacao, from the Hawaiian Crown farm in Hilo, HI); Maui cane sugar; roasted coconut; and organic cocoa butter.

The bar had a rich chocolate and coconut aroma. Added cocoa butter and the presence of coconut oil/fat gave this bar a creamy mouth feel and melt. And what a difference fresh, authentic coconut made. A lilting fresh three-dimensional coconut flavor unfolded with each bite.

This Batch #1 August 2015 bar was unique and won't be repeated. Although you can visit the Lonohana website for news of other upcoming bars. (Most bars are available to members of the company's club, that is similar to a CSA.*) The Chocolate Garage (Palo Alto, CA), where I purchased this bar, carries a small number of Lonohana bars.

Hats off to Seneca Klassen, who is a "vertically integrated" chocolate maker—growing cacao and making chocolate himself (from tree-to-bar).

However, having control of more of the process doesn't always equate with certainty or ease of success. Klassen also sources ingredients from other farms, and has to work with the ups and downs of seasonal weather and the business cycles of others.

For example, in early 2016, Alexander and Baldwin Inc.'s Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Co. announced they were winding down operations, marking the end of the last sugar plantation in the state of Hawaii. Having met Seneca Klassen, he's probably already working with other quality suppliers, but this kind of local news has to be a little disappointing.

*CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, a model that allows customers to buy produce/locally grown products directly from farmers.








Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Caven Creations - Coconut Meat and Sweet bar - Mar. 22, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Caven Creations
Coconut Meat and Sweet bar
Good
Weight: .5 oz. (14 g.) / 1 oz. (28 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 90 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $4.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Country Sun Natural Foods, Palo Alto, CA

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

Today's 78% raw dark chocolate Coconut Meat and Sweet bar was created by Caven Creations (Santa Cruz, CA).

The vegan, gluten-free and fair trade bar had a slight green coconut aroma, and a crunchy, slightly bitter flavor, with a tiny bit of ferment funk.

The raw dark chocolate and coconut flavors were uniform and consistent throughout the bar.

This bar was (refreshingly) very lightly sweetened with coconut palm sugar, making it lower on the glycemic index than a sugar-filled bar.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Scharffen Berger - Coconut and Macadamia bar - Mar. 21, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Sharffen Berger
Coconut and Macadamia Milk Chocolate bar
Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $0.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet, Palo Alto, CA

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

Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, a division of Hershey (Robinson, IL) made this Coconut and Macadamia Milk Chocolate bar.

The sweet, creamy, 33% cacao milk chocolate bar (sugar and cocoa butter were the first two ingredients) contained bits of toasted coconut and macadamia nuts. This bar was very edible; it was easy to eat more than one.

The Coconut and Macadamia bar was gluten free and made with Rainforest Alliance Certified Cacao.




Chocolate Quetzalcoatl - Soppexcca Chocolate - Mar. 20, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Fabrica de Chocolate Quetzalcoatl
Soppexcca Chocolate - Puro bar
Good - Good +
Weight: .939 oz. (26.6 g.) in 4 squares / 4.24 oz. (120 g.) in total (18-square) bar 
Calories: calories unknown
Cost: $5.00 USD (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Vendor at Augusto C. Sandino Airport, Managua, Nicaragua

Today was the last day of Nicaragua chocolate field trip week, and a continuation of Chocolate and Coconut Theme Week. Back to "just" one chocolate a day after this.

Chocolate Quetzalcoatl (Jinotega, Nicaragua) was a chocolate maker that I missed while on a chocolate field trip in Nicaragua.

However, the beauty of airports is that you can occasionally find local chocolates for sale that you might have missed otherwise.

The packaging on today's bar bore the Soppexcca name—loosely translated, it stands for the Society of Small Exporters of Quality Coffee. It's a network of agricultural coffee co-operatives in Jinotega, with a plant near Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Interestingly this coffee is cited as having cacao flavor notes.

Quetzalcoatl is an Aztec god (of air, wind, and learning/wisdom), depicted as a plumed serpent and sometimes credited for gifting cacao (or cacao seeds) to earth's people. Legends vary; it's also been suggested that eating/drinking cacao could give one greater powers of learning. (Don't quote me on any of this. More research is needed.)

Today's bar was a dark chocolate "Puro" bar, with three ingredients: cacao, sugar, and soy lecithin.

This chocolate had an intriguing, complex aroma. I picked up a small piece and smelled it three times during a five-minute period. It had different aromas each time: a not unpleasant, lightly bitter, roasted cereal aroma; a faint, almost coffee-like note; and a slightly bitter, earthy, green (spice, herb, young plant stalks), dark chocolate note. It was consistently interesting throughout.

The texture was in the traditional stoneground, rustic style common in Mexico and many Latin American countries. But, less grinding and processing can result in more flavor, and I think this bar exemplified this fact. (If you want to a buttery smooth bar, buy chocolate that's been ground down (conched*) in a big stainless steel machine for days.)

A Welcome Home Beverage

And, when I got home, to celebrate getting home safe and sound, I made a tiny cup of drinking chocolate with two squares of grated from this bar—melted, mixed with some coconut palm sugar, hot water and a splash of milk...and stir. The coconut palm sugar added some spice and coconut molasses flavor to the mix.

Now matter how wonderful the field trip, it's always great to be home.

*Quetzalcoatl also is often seen wearing a "wind breastplate jewel" made in the shape of a modified conch shell. 

On a quasi-related note, a conching machine used in chocolate-making is called that because of its similar shape to a conch shell (that goes round and round inside a large stainless pot until the particle size is smaller and the mixture is smoother).




Sea Salt Caramels + Coconut Seaweed - Mar. 19, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Chocolate Momotombo
Caramelo y Sal de Mar
(Sea Salt Caramel) chocolate
Good
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) in 5 pieces / 3.18 oz. (90 g.) in total box of 15 pieces
Calories: 129 calories (estimate) in 5 pieces
Cost: $8.00 (estimate) for one 15-piece (90 g.) box
Purchased from: Chocolate Momotombo, Managua, Nicaragua


Today I started my journey home from Nicaragua. I'll take with me memories of mountains and water: mountain lakes, huge inland lakes, lakes inside volcanoes and waterfalls.

It was also easy to imagine the water that, during wet season, helped to nourish plants (like cacao trees) before running off to join rivers moving toward the sea.

So, I'm focusing on flavors from the sea today, lightly salted. After all, without water we wouldn't have sea salt, sea salt caramel and chocolate, or coconut roasted seaweed (see below).

I'll also remember the many good chocolate and food items from the Momotombo Chocolate Factory in Managua, Nicaragua, so let's start there.

Dulce de Leche Caramel and Sea Salt + Chocolate

The primary chocolate of the day was a sea salt caramel-filled chocolate from Chocolate Momotombo (Managua, Nicaragua). Each bean or seed-shaped, rich dark milk chocolate, contained a small, slightly chewy nugget of dulce de leche caramel with sea salt.

Dulce de leche is a popular style of cooked milk and sugar caramel/confection commonly found in Latin American countries.

These Momotombo caramel chocolates are very satisfying just by themselves, or with vanilla ice cream. Or, if you like more adventurous pairings, see below.

Coconut Oil Roasted, Seaweed + Chocolate


If you're not a mad food scientist, please stop reading here...

Now, how about some slightly sweet, small sheets of coconut oil roasted seaweed? Anyone? I like salt and umami* flavors with chocolate. And you can't get much more "umami" than seaweed (besides bacon, cheese or mushrooms perhaps).

In the U.S. might people enjoy thin sheets of dark green seaweed around sushi. This Coconut Oil Roasted Seaweed, with a hint of sea salt, from Seaweed Love (a product of Korea)—distributed by Hong Hae USA Inc. (Hayward, CA)—was also very lightly sweetened with coconut sugar.

The small sealed package of seaweed was light (in weight and calories) and perfect to bring along for a longer chocolate field trip to conduct experimental pairings with leftover chocolates. (This seaweed is also a great snack by itself, or cut up and sprinkled over rice and vegetables.)

So, I found myself at an airport, with no vegetable choices for miles around, and with 19 hours to kill. I enjoyed this seaweed snack, with and without different Nicaraguan and leftover chocolates. Coconut oil and sea salt helped tie the best combinations together. Some chocolates worked better than others. Ginger and/or wasabi chocolates might work too. I expect I'll do more experimenting with this seaweed roasted in coconut oil in the future.

*Umami is a flavor or taste associated with savory (high glutamate) foods. While many umami foods may also be salty, umami is considered a fifth sense, one of five that our taste buds can detect: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami).





Chocolate Momotombo - Aphrodisiac Chocolates - Mar. 18-19, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Chocolate Momotombo
Afrodisiaco (Aphrodisiac) Chocolates - Good ++
Weight: 1.52 oz. (43 g.) (estimate) for 4 pieces
Calories: 228 calories (estimate) for 4 pieces
Cost: $3.75 (estimate) for part of two different packages
Purchased from:  Chocolate Momotombo, Managua, Nicaragua

Welcome to Nicaragua Week, and a continuation of Chocolate and Coconut Theme Week. (See second post that will follow this one.)

What do you do if you're looking forward to a 19-hour layover at an airport?

You can read a novel or book from cover-to-cover, and/or you can buy chocolates to eat. I did both.

I enjoyed Momotombo Chocolate purchases made during a recent factory visit in Nicaragua,*—where I tasted (and bought) some flavorful and tasty "Aphrodisiac" chocolates. Nut (almond) and maiz added a roasted, crunchy texture and flavor, that was paired with rich cardamom spice notes. Even one piece was quite satisfying.

Don't worry, there were no unexpected side effects from this chocolate; so don't let the name fool you.

These chocolates were made in the same, oval, bean-shaped form. Note: These chocolates may or may not be available outside Nicaragua,

*Momotombo also has two stores in the Nicaragua (Sandino) airport in Managua.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Wildway - Java Chip Grain Free Hot Cereal - Mar. 18, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day:

Wildway, LLC
Grain Free Instant Hot Cereal
Good
Weight: unknown (1 sample packet)
Calories: 250 calories (estimate) for 1 serving
Cost: N/A - sample
Purchased from: N/A - sample

Today I continued to transition from a Nicaragua special edition (chocolate field trip) week to a Chocolate and Coconut Theme Week.

This sample packet of Wildway, LLC (San Antonio, TX) Java Chip instant hotel cereal was certified gluten free (made in a dedicated facility) and paleo friendly—good for those who want a breakfast cereal without the carbs or added sugar. This packet was also a perfect travel size for this week's Nicaragua trip.

In addition to walnuts, ground flaxseed, cashews and pecans, dates, cocoa nibs and espresso, this hot cereal (which I also enjoyed cold) contained coconut flour and vanilla bean. Add hot water (or cold coconut milk), and stir.

Enjoying Small Batch Bars in Nicaragua

This past week's chocolate field trip through Nicaragua was filled with visits to cacao farms, chocolate tastings, and discussions with chocolatemakers.

We were also traveling with two North American chocolatemakers on our Nicaragua trip. We enjoyed the fruits of their labor -- in bar form.

The first bar was a Sura Dominican Republic 68% dark bar, (bio and equitable) crafted by Christine Sura (Montreal). Alas, these great bars are only made a few times a year, but keep an eye out for her small batch bars.

The other two bars we enjoyed tasting were Lonohona (Hawaii) bars, made by Seneca Klassen -- who also farms single estate cacao.*

The Lonohana Pina Colada bar with two kinds of fat, cacao butter and coconut oil, and was extra creamy. We also enjoyed a second delicious Lonohana bar with cacao nibs.

To buy Lonohana bars like this, you may need to be a member of the company's Lonohana Chocolate Club (similar to a CSA). Or, visit the website to see what's available (or the factory if you're in Oahu).

*Vertical integration like this is relatively unusual, and involves a lot of work. Hats off to Seneca and team.


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