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.

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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).

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

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Chocolate Momotombo
Caramelo y Sal de Mar
(Sea Salt Caramel) chocolate
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).

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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.

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