Friday, March 18, 2016

Coconut Beach - Dark Chocolate Coconut Chips - Mar. 17, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Coconut Beach Food and Beverage LLC
Dark Chocolate Coated Coconut Chips
Good +
Weight: 1.26 oz. (36 g.) in 1 package
Calories: 180 calories in 1 package
Cost: $0.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Today marked the fourth day of Nicaraguan chocolate field trip-related entries. However, this chocolate had more to do with Nicaraguan scenery than chocolate from Nicaragua.

Specifically, our travel group was staying next to a Nicaraguan beach, and today's Coconut Beach Dark Chocolate Coated Coconut Chips seemed like a good fit.

The Isle of Ometepe was formed by two large volcanoes. It lies in the middle of a lake in Nicaragua that's so large that you forget you're not by the ocean. You can hear the waves wash against a large sandy beach day and night; see shorebirds and seabirds skittering about near the surf-line; and you can't see anything but water on the horizon. Oh, and did I mention there were coconut palms and cacao trees not that far away?

Coconut Beach is a distributor based in San Diego, CA; and the company's crunchy coconut chips (a product of Thailand) covered with dark chocolate were satisfying, gluten free, and relatively low in fat and sodium.

Today was also the first day of Chocolate and Coconut Theme Week.

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Nicaragua Cacao Pulp + Seeds - Mar. 17, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Nicaraguan Farms
Cacao pulp (fruit) + seeds (beans)
Very Good
Weight: N/A
Calories: N/A
Cost: N/A
Purchased from: N/A - included in farm tours

No Nicaraguan chocolate field trip would be complete without a quick mention of the edible cacao fruit (pulp) fresh from the pod, that surrounds the seeds (beans) that are used to make chocolate.

The pulpy white fruit is a delicious tropical fruit. And this past week in Nicaragua, our group tasted fresh cacao from four different farms.

To eat the pulp, first you have to cut the thick, outer "shell" with a machete (or on a hard rock If you'd prefer). Then you scoop up the insides, and basically suck the white-ish fruit pulp off the seed/bean, which may not appeal to everyone.

But, the flavor is unique and refreshing. It can be zesty and citrus-like, or it can taste like tart-sweet and/or floral bananas, raspberries, or mangos. More than once, I've been reminded of watermelon Jolly Rancher candies.

While eating the cacao fruit isn't the same as eating finished chocolate, I couldn't resist giving a shout out to Henry Haslem's Farm, Cacao Bisiesto, and other Nicaraguan farms (or fincas) outside of Matagalpa, in the Nicaraguan highlands.

*Note: Fresh, frozen cacao fruit/pulp can also be ordered online.

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El Castillo del Cacao - Chocolate with Roasted Cacao Nibs bar - Mar. 16, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

El Castillo del Cacao
Chocolate with Roasted Cacao Nibs bar
(Chocolate con Trozos de Cacao)
Good +
Weight: .7 oz. (20 g.) / 1.4 oz. (40 g.) in total bar
Calories: 105 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $37 (Cordobas), or approx. $1.35 (USD) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Hotel San Jose, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

This Chocolate with Roasted Cacao Nibs bar from El Castillo del Cacao (Matagalpa, Nicaragua) was the second Nicaraguan chocolate of the day, part of a chocolate field trip in Central America.

This small but substantial, 100% organic dark bar tasted relatively smooth and interesting, although the texture was somewhat rustic (in the traditional manner, where cacao is slightly more coarse).

Cacao nibs added extra crunch. The cacao beans used were local—grown and/or obtained within a few hours from El Castillo del Cacao.

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Chocolate Momotombo - Naranja y Cafe Chocolates - Mar. 16, 2016

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Chocolate Momotombo
1.) Naranja Chocolate
2.) Cafe Chocolate
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: .424 oz. (12 g.) for 2 pieces (out of 3-piece box)
Calories: 64 calories (estimate) in two pieces
Cost: N/A - gift from hotel (where I was staying)
Purchased from: N/A - gift for guests at Hotel Los Robles, Managua, Nicaragua

Today was a continuation of a special Nicaraguan chocolate field trip.* This Central American country has a rich history of cacao-cultivation and consumption, dating back thousands of years.

Chocolate Momotombo is located in the capital city of Nicaragua (Managua). Our group stayed a few blocks from the Momotombo Chocolate Factory (at Hotel Los Robles) -- where last night we enjoyed a Pre-Colombian feast prepared by Momotombo founder and head chocolatemaker, Carlos Mann (see previous post).

Happily, the Hotel Los Robles supplied guests with a small, 3-piece gift box of Momotombo chocolates. So, I unwrapped and sampled the Naranja (Orange)** and Cafe (Coffee) flavors today as my first chocolates of the day. (That's right, there will be more chocolate today. See next post for the second Nicaraguan chocolate, eaten later in the day.)

There's nothing like Momotombo's slightly earthy, full-bodied dark chocolate flavor. The orange and coffee flavor additions were natural-tasting and well balanced in these individually-wrapped, cocoa bean-shaped chocolates.

*This trip was organized by The Chocolate Garage (Palo Alto, CA). Just as this retail operation offers a carefully curated collection of high-quality, "happy chocolate," the trip offered an expert view into the cacao in Nicaragua, with visits to local cacao farms and a fermentary, as well as meetings with chocolatemakers, and more.

** I featured the Momotombo Orange chocolate a few years ago, but am mentioning it again with the company's Coffee chocolate. The two flavors complemented each other nicely.

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