Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Clif Bar - Kit's Organic Fruit + Nut - Dark Chocolate Walnut bar - May 31, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Clif Bar
Kit's Organic Fruit + Nut bar - Dark Chocolate Walnut bar
Good
Weight: 1.62 oz. (46 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 180 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #9 of Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Theme Week.

Clif Bar and Company offers several types of bars now, beyond the original Clif Bar, including organic bar options. Today's Dark Chocolate Walnut bar was part of the Kit's* Organic Fruit + Nut bar line.

Described as "rich dark chocolate combined with crunchy organic walnuts," the fruit in this slightly chewy compressed bar came from the #1 ingredient listed: organic dates.

And speaking of ingredients, the list was short: six items. And fewer ingredients often means less processing and higher-quality ingredients.

This Dark Chocolate Walnut bar was "USDA Organic, Gluten Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free."

*Kit's Organic is named for Kit Crawford, co-owner of Clif Bar and Company. In addition to Kit's Organic Fruit + Nut bars, the company also offers a line of Kit's Organic Fruit + Seed bars.




Monday, May 30, 2016

Scharffen Berger - Raspberry and Almond bar - May 30, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day:

Scharffen Berger (Hershey)
Raspberry and Almond bar
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.) in 1 small bar
Calories: 160 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $0.99 for 1 small bar
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Theme Week.

This Dark Chocolate with Raspberries and Sea Salted Almonds bar had a pleasing, complex aroma, with fruit and smokey notes.

Flecks of organic raspberries (and almonds) added some crunchy texture in a sea of smooth, 72% cacao dark chocolate. (And yes, you may even end up with an occasional, authentic raspberry seed in your teeth.)

Scharffen Berger also offered a 41% cacao Milk Chocolate with Sea Salted Almonds bar (in the blue wrapper, shown at right). Both bars were made with Rainforest Alliance Certified Cacao, and were available in both larger 3 oz. (85 g.) size, and smaller 1 oz. (28 g.) size.

*Apologies for poor quality photos this month, necessitated by switching issues associated with moving to a new set-up.




Sunday, May 29, 2016

Mars - Apple Almond and Peanut Dark Chocolate bar - May 29, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Mars, Incorporated
Goodness Knows - Apple Almond and Peanut Dark Chocolate bar
Good
Weight: 1.2 oz. (34 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 150 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $0.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Theme Week.

Today I tried Goodness Knows Apple Almond and Peanut Dark Chocolate snack squares from Mars, Incorporated (Hackettstown, NJ).

These pieces had a similar malty, sweet and crunchy flavor and texture as yesterday's Goodness Knows Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate flavor.

However, instead of cranberry, these 4 fruit and nut snack squares had a dried apple flavor, and very subtle increase in peanut flavor in the nut, oat and rice crisp mix.

The smooth dark chocolate base provided some color and texture balance, and a hint of chocolate.

*Apologies for poor quality photo. This week I've been transitioning to new systems. And on days like today, I'm really missing my old set-up.







Mars - Goodness Knows Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate squares - May 28, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Mars, Incorporated
Goodness Knows - Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate
Good
Weight: 1.2 oz. (34 g.) in 1 package (4 pieces)
Calories: 150 calories in 1 package (4 pieces)
Cost: $0.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Theme Week.

Today's package of Goodness Knows Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate (4 small squares) was from Mars (Hackettstown, NJ).

Yes, fooled me, this was not a "bar," but rather the bar-shaped package contained 4 neatly segmented crunchy, malty and sweet "snack squares" that made for easier eating and sharing.

Each attractive piece had tart sweet (mostly the latter) ruby-colored, dried cranberry fruit bits and crispy hunks of golden almonds, peanuts, toasted oats + brown rice crisps, with a dark chocolate bottom layer. The dark chocolate was more of an accent flavor.

While not explicitly gluten-free, there were no wheat ingredients listed.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Nature's Path - Qi'a Dark Chocolate Cranberry Almond bar - May 27, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Nature's Path Foods
Qi'a Dark Chocolate Cranberry Almond bar
Good
Weight: 1.3 oz. (38 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 180 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $2.19 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Country Sun Natural Foods, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Theme Week.

Today's Qi'a Dark Chocolate Cranberry Almond bar from Nature's Path Foods (Blaine, WA) contained both fruit and nuts.

This Qi'a bar also contained seeds (chia and hemp); the soft chew was balanced by tiny, mildly crunchy chia seeds. The dark chocolate added a very subtle hint of rich chocolate flavor.

And the first ingredient listed (and dominant flavor/texture) came from shreds of coconut—a "fibrous one-seeded drupe," that people have called a fruit, a nut and a seed. So, the coconut's versatility earns it a guest appearance in this week's fruit and nut combination week.











Thursday, May 26, 2016

Oregon - Hazelnut and Huckleberry bars - May 26, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Candy Basket - A Taste of Oregon
Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts bar
Good
Weight: 2.5 oz. (71 g.) in total bar
Calories: 375 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $2.49 for 1 bar
Purchased from: (Gift Shop) Multnomah Falls Company, Bridal Veil, OR

(Made for Multnomah Falls)
Wild Huckleberry Bar
OK
Weight: .565 oz. (15.8 g.) / 4.5 oz. (127 g.) in total bar
Calories: 85 calories (estimate) in 1/8 bar
Cost: $5.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: (Gift Shop) Multnomah Falls Company, Bridal Veil, OR

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Theme Week.

Today's double header was made possible by the gift shop at Multnomah Falls, in Bridal Veil, OR, (east of Portland, near the Columbia River) where artistic renderings of Oregon landscapes and waterfalls adorned chocolates and other gifts.

The Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts bar was my favorite of the two bars. And the wrapper was printed with the image of a watercolor painting of the Oregon coast by Ted Haines, Gresham, OR.

The Wild Huckleberry Bar (Dark Chocolate Infused with Huckleberry Essence) was made for Multnomah Falls), depicted a colorful image of Multnomah Falls Lodge with Falls in the background.

I didn't buy this Huckleberry bar for the chocolate (made with hydrogenated vegetable oils vs. cocoa butter; and infused with artificial berry flavor). However, it was worth taking home a souvenir chocolate package with beautiful artwork of the Multnomah Lodge and Falls* (and an origin story of the Falls on the back) to remember the trip.

*Included in this post are two photos I took of the Multnomah Falls area.






Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Moonstruck - Caramelized Hazelnuts and Summer Fruits - May 25, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Moonstruck Chocolate Co.
Caramelized Hazelnuts Tumbled in Milk Chocolate
Good
Weight: 1.41 oz. (40 g.) / 4 oz. (113.4 g.) in total package
Calories: 220 calories in 1 serving (about 13 pieces)
Cost: $5.00 for 1 package
Purchased from: Moonstruck, Portland, OR

Moonstruck Chocolate Co.
Summer Fruits Collection
Dark Chocolate Strawberry Truffles + Peach Truffles
OK +
Weight: 1.41 oz. (40.2 g.) / 2.83 oz. (80.4 g.) in total package of 4 pieces
Calories: 210 calories in 2 pieces
Cost: $10.00 for 1 package of 4 pieces
Purchased from: Moonstruck, Portland, OR

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Theme Week. This week includes fruit and nut chocolates confections from the Portland, OR, area, purchased during a visit last weekend.

Today's chocolates were bought at Moonstruck Chocolate Co. (Portland, OR). Their tiny gem of a chocolate shop (in downtown Portland) was at capacity with 5 or 6 people inside; but it contained a dazzling display of sugary confections, filled chocolates and a few bars.

Today's Caramelized Hazelnuts Tumbled in Milk Chocolate were sweet and crunchy with a smooth, almost velvety jacket of 31% cacao milk chocolate. These were too sweet for me, but might be perfect for someone who has a sweet tooth, and appreciates the company's use of local foods and flavors (local distilled spirits, beers, hazelnuts, fruits, etc.)

I paired these with two different kinds of fruit-shaped truffles from Moonstruck's Summer Fruits Collection. They seemed like a good visual match or pairing with the hazelnuts. And, it just seemed like a Chocolate Banquet thing to do. The dark chocolate filled strawberry and the lighter-colored peach were also too sweet for me but, visually, they looked great, rivaling the traditional small whole "fruits" crafted from marzipan (sweet almond paste).

Moonstruck has been producing chocolates in the Portland area for more than 20 years. Thank you to the young woman in the shop who provided great counter help.





Creo Chocolate - Portland, OR - May 2016

Creo Chocolate, Portland, OR
May 2016

When you eat a lot of chocolate, every trip seems to become a chocolate field trip. And while the same could be said of any hobby or passion, it's been my good fortune to meet others who have turned their passion for chocolate into a business across the globe.

During a recent trip to Portland, Oregon, I was able to stop at at several (although not all) chocolate hot spots in this city of roses. The Portland area has a fairly high chocolate IQ, with lots of chocolate makers and chocolatiers.

Coming from further south, one of the first things about Portland I noticed was how green everything was. The trees, grass and plants were shades of radiant jade and emerald. And when the sun showed through to dazzle on occasion, it was easy to believe how everyone might want to live in the Pacific Northwest, in Portland or Seattle, or other cities.

Creo Chocolate, a family-founded and run bean-to-bar chocolate business, was my first stop. The founders (Tim and Janet Straub) experimented with roasting beans and making chocolate from scratch for several years, before selling their own family farm (where they'd grown raspberries for 16 years), and getting into the business of making craft chocolate.

The company name "creo" means "I believe" in Spanish, and "I create" in Latin. Co-founder, Janet Straub, says she felt she made a "heart connection" when they met with other family farmers in Ecuador and other cacao-growing countries. They felt they could make a difference when they used the farmers' cacao to make into great chocolate, and to bring to others in the cities to enjoy.

Creo Chocolate (located in the Lloyd District, east of the Willamette River) is a factory and cafe, a place where tours are given and chocolate is sold.

The May Saturday when I stopped by, the shop was full of browsers and buyers, but Kevin Straub (described on the Creo website as the family's "chocolate maker and maintenance geek") made time to speak with me about their bars and confections (that were made by someone else).

I sampled a Yuzu Gimlet from the glass display case. The fresh gin and yuzu (citrus-like) fruit flavors, infused into a chocolate truffle format, tasted vibrant and clear and were well balanced.

Today I also tried two other Creo filled chocolates: a mystery sample (white chocolate with a spicy kick) that Kevin provided; and a maple cream-filled dark square. The maple caramel filling was light, almost silky and creamy.

I'm saving the Creo (bean-to-bar) chocolate(s) and cacao nibs for upcoming theme weeks.



Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Betty Lou's - Nuts about Chocolate Hazelnut - May 24, 2016

Chocolate of the Day:

Betty Lou's Inc.
Nuts about Chocolate and Hazelnut - Vegan Protein Balls
Good
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42 g.) in one package/ball
Calories: 160 calories in 1 ball
Cost: $1.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: Vista Point, OR

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Theme Week.

I recently made a trip up to Portland, OR, and picked up a few fruit and nut items. Many of them contained, as you might expect from the Pacific Northwest, berries and hazelnuts--such as today's Nuts about Chocolate and Hazelnut energy ball, from Betty Lou's Inc. (McMinnville, OR).

This round patty-shaped energy bar had a slightly fudgey center (with ground nuts, seeds and a vegan (brown rice and pea) protein blend, and a subtle fruity sweetness (from fruit juice and dates).

And the entire exterior was coated with chopped hazelnut pieces.

The result was an energy ball with slightly chewy and nutty flavor. The added protein helped cut the sweetness found in many energy bar offerings.

This energy ball was "Non-GMO, Gluten Free, (and contained) 4 G Fiber, 8 G Protein."

This Betty Lou's product was bought at the very scenic Vista Point, Oregon.


Mackenzies - Milk and Dark Caramel Apples - May 23, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Mackenzies Chocolates
Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Caramel Apples
Good - Good +
Weight: unknown in 2 caramel apples (1 dark, 1 milk)
Calories: unknown
Cost: unknown
Purchased from: Mackenzies, Santa Cruz, CA

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate and Caramel Theme Week, and Day #1 of Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Theme Week.

Each of these two diminutive caramel-filled chocolate apples—one milk chocolate and one dark chocolate, from Mackenzies Chocolates (Santa Cruz, CA)—was filled with generous, golden pockets of caramel.

These apples were a fitting tribute to the end of chocolate and caramel theme week.

And, being that these were (sort of) fruits, they also ushered in the first day of a chocolate, fruit and nut week. I paired these two caramel apples with a small handful of walnut halves, not shown here.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Perugina - Dark Chocolate with Caramelized Almonds bar - May 22, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Perugina
Dark Chocolate with Almonds bar
Good
Weight: 1.4 oz. (39.6 g.) / 3.5 oz. (99.2 g.) in total bar
Calories: 210 calories in 2/5 bar (4 squares)
Cost: $3.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Greedy Ant, Belmont, CA

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate, Caramel and Toffee Theme Week.

Rather than flowing caramel, today's bar had flecks of caramelized nuts. This Dark Chocolate with Caramelized Almonds bar was from Perugina* (Perugia, Italy). The bar had a slightly nutty, malty candy aroma and flavor.

Previously, I'd tried Perugina's milk chocolate version of this bar. In both bars, bits of toasted, caramelized almond added mild flavor and a hint of crunchy texture.

*Perugina has been making Baci chocolates for more than 100 years in Italy. The company also produces a line of chocolate bars, and is now owned by Nestle.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

IKEA - Chokladkrokant Bredbar spread - May 21, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

IKEA Food Services AB
Chokladkrokant Bredbar spread
Good
Weight: 1 TB oz. (17 g.) / Net Wt.: 14.1 oz. (400 g.) in total jar
Calories: 90 calories in 1 Tablespoon
Cost: $0.99 for 1 jar
Purchased from: Ikea, East Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate, Caramel and Toffee Theme Week.

What is Chokladkrokant Bredbar you might ask?

It's a spread from Ikea Food Services AB (Helsingborg, Sweden).

This "chocolate flavor spread with caramel candy pieces" tasted just like the description.

#1 ingredient: sugar
#2 ingredient: vegetable oil (rapeseed, palm)
#3 ingredient: caramel candy pieces

Neuhaus - Milk Caramel bar - May 20, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Neuhaus
Milk Caramel bar
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.59 oz. (45 g.) in total bar
Calories: 240 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $0.99 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate, Caramel and Toffee Theme Week.

This Milk Caramel bar from Neuhaus (Brussels, Belgium) had a smooth, creamy, almost fudgey milk chocolate exterior, with a thick but soft caramel center.

The bar was scored into sections, and could be cut into pieces without too much caramel seepage which was convenient.

And despite being made with both milk chocolate and caramel, it wasn't overly sweet.

This bar also had a very slight, but not unpleasant, playdough texture and aroma/taste—perhaps the result of thickeners or additives.








Thursday, May 19, 2016

Divine - Milk Chocolate with Toffee and Espresso bar - May 19, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Divine Chocolate Inc.
Milk Chocolate with Toffee and Espresso bar
Good+ - Good++
Weight: 1.16 oz. (33.3 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 184 calories in 8 blocks of bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information

Today was Day #5 of Chocolate, Caramel and Toffee Theme Week. And, today we land back in toffee-land, with this Milk Chocolate with Toffee and Espresso bar from Divine Chocolate.

I liked the combination of sweet, but not too sweet, milk chocolate (38% cacao) tempered by crunchy bits of toffee and ground, espresso roast coffee beans (coffee nibs) in this well-balanced bar.

Divine Chocolate's cacao origin story is somewhat unique. Cacao beans for its line of bars comes from the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers co-operative in Ghana. (Co-op members voted to create their own farmer-owned Fairtrade chocolate company, and this became "the heart of Divine.")

The bar's brightly colored wrapper (packaging) was adorned with Adrinkra symbols—"traditional West African motifs, often used on hand-made crafts." Each symbol has its own meaning.

This bar was made in Germany and distributed by Divine Chocolate Inc. (Washington, D.C.).

Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa butter, skimmed milk powder, cocoa mass, toffee 10% (sugar, glucose syrup, butterfat (milk), salt), butterfat (milk), coffee nibs 3%, sunflower lecithin (emulsifier), vanilla.








Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Lovely Candy Co. - Chocolate Swirl Caramels - May 18, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

The Lovely Candy Company, LLC
Chocolate Swirl Caramels
Good
Weight: 1.41 oz. (40 g.) / 6 oz. (170 g.) in total package
Calories: 150 calories in 4 pieces
Cost: $2.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: Marshalls (store), Mountain View, CA

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate, Caramel and Toffee Theme Week.

Today's Chocolate Swirl Caramels were from The Lovely Candy Company, LLC (Woodstock, IL).

These individually-wrapped, chewy chocolate and caramel candies were more similar to taffy than chocolate—good, if you're hankering for something sweet.

The first candy in the company's line-up resulted from the founders' (Jackie and her husband Mike) search for a "consciously crafted" gluten-free licorice. (Most licorice contains wheat or wheat flour.)

The company's gluten free and GMO free candy business now includes: several different caramels and fruit chews, as well as Chocolaty Fudgey Rolls (plain and raspberry), today's Chocolate Swirl Caramels*, Hula Chews (chocolate and coconut), and three flavors of gluten-free licorice.

*Chocolate Swirl Caramel ingredients included: brown rice syrup, sweetened condensed whole milk (rBST free milk, sugar), butter, dried cane syrup, palm oil, chocolate liquor, molasses, vanilla, sunflower lecithin.






Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bartons - Milk Chocolate Toffee Sea Salt bar - May 17, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Bartons Confections
Milk Chocolate Toffee with Sea Salt bar
Good
Weight: 2.5 oz. (71 g.) in total bar
Calories: 350 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $0.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate, Caramel and Toffee Theme Week.

This Milk Chocolate Toffee with Sea Salt bar was made by Bartons Confections (Allentown, PA).

The bar's gold toffee center had a uniform, soft crunchy texture. The buttery toffee core was covered in milk chocolate, and sprinkled with small crystals of sea salt. Sweet, but I liked the tiny bursts of salt, which helped to balance out all the sugar—the number one ingredient of many toffee and caramel chocolate confections.

As I say goodbye to salt in chocolates today, at least for awhile, I believe I'll be taking smaller bites of items this week's sweet line-up.




Unilever Magnum Gold?! ice cream bars - May 16, 2016

Chocolate of the Day: 

Unilever
Magnum Gold?! ice cream bars
Good
Weight: 3.38 fl. oz. (86 g./100 mL) / 10.14 fl. oz. (300 mL) in box of 3 ice cream bars
Calories: 290 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $missing info
Purchased from: Safeway


Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate, Caramel and Toffee Week, as I transition away from three weeks of chocolate items with salt.

We start this week with an echo from last week's salted caramel series, with today's Magnum Gold!? ice cream bar swathed in a bright, shiny gold wrapper.

Today's box of 3 Magnum frozen ice cream bars was from Unilever (Englewood Cliffs, NJ).

These almost amber-colored bars were described as "vanilla bean ice cream with sea salt caramel swirl, dipped in a golden chocolatey coating."

The (Belgian) chocolate,* the inner coating layer, was relegated to a colorful decorative accent color in these stylish bars.

Unilever's Magnum line includes several flavors. One of the first Magnum ice cream bars I had was a "Double Caramel" ice cream bars. The company also offers a Sea Salt Caramel ice cream bar.


*These bars were made with Rainforest Alliance Certified Cocoa and Vanilla.


Ghirardelli - Dark & Sea Salt Caramel squares - May 15, 2016

Chocolate of the Day:

Ghirardelli Chocolate Company
Dark and Sea Salt Caramel - Squares
Good
Weight: .53 oz. (15 g.) / Net Wt.: 5.32 oz. (151 g.) total package/bag
Calories: 70 calories for 1 square
Cost: $0 (coupon for 1 free package); $5.29 for 1 package/bag of 10 squares
Purchased from: Safeway, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate and Salted Caramel Week, and Day #1 of Chocolate, Caramel and Toffee Theme Week.

I thought I might have tried every flavor of individually-wrapped squares from Ghirardelli Chocolate Company (San Leandro, CA).

However, not today's Dark and Sea Salt Caramel. These squares were advertised as "rich, slow-melting dark chocolate and buttery caramel filling enhanced by a touch of sea salt."

Despite the soy lecithin, TBHQ - preservatives, and other extras, I believe this was my favorite flavor in the Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares line so far.

Coincidentally, I was able to share these squares with others at a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of a restored salt marsh area on the shores of San Francisco Bay. *

What I liked about the packaging is that even on a hot day, these were securely wrapped so that people didn't have melted chocolate and caramel everywhere later.


*When Ghirardelli first started making chocolate in the mid-1800s, there were dozens of active sea salt producers still left in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Like many industries that start out with many smaller operations, there was consolidation in salt. Now Cargill is the last company to operate a large-scale sea salt works on San Francisco Bay—one of only two such operations left in the U.S. I believe.


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