Friday, March 5, 2021

The Oakland Chocolate Company - Caramel Bar - March 5, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

The Oakland Chocolate Company
Caramel Bar
Good ++ - +++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.35 g.) in total bar
Calories: 155 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $3.50 for 1 bar + shipping
Purchased from: The Oakland Chocolate Company, Oakland, CA

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

Today's Caramel Bar was made by Nancy Nadel owner and chief chocolate maker at The Oakland Chocolate Company (Oakland, CA). Nadel makes reasonably priced, high-end craft chocolate bars and confections, from scratch, using cacao grown in Jamaica.

This snack-sized, filled, dark chocolate Caramel Bar was a very satisfying take on a traditional dark chocolate and caramel filled confection. A thick covering of flavorful, rich dark chocolate elevated this bar to the next level. 

When I started Chocolate Banquet in 2006, most chocolate covered caramels had fragile, bland and sweet chocolate shells that collapsed (into a sweet, sticky mess) if not handled very carefully. The emphasis was on the sugar and not on the chocolate. 

This Oakland Chocolate Co. bar was an artful melding of single origin (Bachelors Hall Estate (farm), Jamaica) dark chocolate (with fudge brownie aroma and flavor notes) and soft, rich, buttery caramel--made with real cream and butter.*

The addition of the coconut palm sugar used to make the caramel filling increased flavor depth and helped reduce the sugar buzz** a little (thank you Nancy!). Yet, there was enough sweetness to be appealing to caramel fans as well.

Today's Caramel Bar was a satisfying and enjoyable high-end take on a confectionery classic.

*Ingredients: "Cocoa mass (direct source from farmer Desmond Jadusingh, Bachelors Hall, Jamaica), organic cane sugar, cocoa butter, cream (milk), butter, organic coconut palm sugar, rice syrup, vanilla, sea salt." 

** Coconut palm sugar is lower on the glycemic index than processed cane sugar. I noticed I wasn't experiencing as rapid a rise in blood sugar, i.e. a "hard" sugar buzz, with this sweetener many years ago when I started sampling chocolates made with coconut palm sugar. And as long as a sweetener (of any sort) doesn't interfere with tasting the chocolate, I am all for that. The stimulants in cacao (primarily theobromine, and a bit of caffeine) in chocolate are enough for me. 

Coconut palm sugar starts with people climbing high up in palm trees to gather coconut flower sap/nectar that is then made into the sugar we see in stores and in chocolates. After watching people collect this nectar in SE Asia, I have a great deal of respect for those engaged in this work.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Oakland Chocolate Co. - Raspberry Bar - March 4, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

The Oakland Chocolate Company
Raspberry Bar
Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.35 g.) in total bar
Calories: 155 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $3.50 for 1 bar + shipping
Purchased from: The Oakland Chocolate Company, Oakland, CA

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

Today's Raspberry Bar was made by Nancy Nadel owner and chief chocolate maker at The Oakland Chocolate Company (Oakland, CA). 

Nadel has been making her bean-to-bar (and bean-to-bonbon chocolates) from cacao beans grown in one country, Jamaica, for many years now. She was also the first woman craft chocolate maker I met in the U.S. when I started Chocolate Banquet in 2006.

She obtained cacao to make the three bars featured this week from Bachelors Hall Farm, Saint Thomas Parish, in eastern Jamaica, and practices Direct Trade. She knows the cacao farmer (Desmond Jadusingh at Bachelors Hall Estate) personally. 

Raspberries are one of my favorite items to pair with dark chocolate. This small (filled) Raspberry Bar was packed with great aroma (true (brownie) dark chocolate, red raspberries).

The dark chocolate had smooth, almost creamy, substantial texture and the same rich, true chocolate (brownie) flavor as the aroma, with faint earth and red fruit notes. 

The tart-sweet raspberry filling wasn't overly sweet or tart (thank you), allowing authentic fresh/ripe berry flavor to shine through. The filling contained real raspberries (with real seeds) that were delicately firmed into a soft jelly with judicious use of pectin and lemon juice. 

Ingredients: Cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter, raspberries, pectin, lemon juice  

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Pump Street Chocolate - Jamaica 90% Bachelor's Hall Estate (bar) - March 3, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Pump Street Chocolate
Jamaica 90% Bachelor's Hall Estate Limited Edition (bar)
Good ++
Weight: 1.23 oz. (35 g.) / 2.47 oz. (70 g.)  in total bar
Calories: 170 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $10.00 (plus shipping) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

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

Today's Limited Edition Jamaica Bachelor's Hall Estate 90% Limited Edition (bar) was from Pump Street Chocolate (Suffolk, England). The company produces a range of baked goods, and artisan chocolates. 

This ultra-dark, 90% cacao chocolate had an aroma with notes of dark chocolate, fruit (red apple), faint umami, and very faint fermented fruit. It had a slow, dense melt and a thick, smooth texture.

The flavor embodied rich, uniformly roasted cacao (think unsweetened fudge brownies), with faint, balanced charcoal roasted cacao, very faint, fleeting roasted nut (peanut butter*) and very faint roasted/baked banana notes. 

For such a high cacao percentage (90% cacao and only 10% sugar) bar the acidity and bitterness levels were relatively low, making it a bit more approachable for sensitive palettes. 

Pump Street Chocolate's tasting notes for this single estate (farm) Jamaican chocolate bar (Batch No. 02506, 2018 Crop) read as follows: "A rich, deep, high cocoa percentage bar which expresses the unique banana and rum character of the Bachelor's Hall Estate terroir." 

Ingredients: Cocoa beans, cane sugar and organic cocoa butter 

*Please note there were no peanut butter or nut ingredients listed for this bar. Although trace amounts of potential allergens can occur if chocolates are created in a place where shared spaces are used, tasting notes for chocolate, wine, beer, coffee, and many other foods and beverages often describe perceived flavor or aroma notes. 

If one drills down to the molecular level, similar substances can be created, e.g., in fermentation/oxidation or roasting processes, that may evoke (remind us of) other food or beverage items, even though no direct connection exists. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

A. Morin - Jamaique Marvia Noir 63% (bar) - March 1, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

A. Morin (SAS Chocolaterie A. Morin)
Jamaique Marvia Noir 63% (bar)
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) / 3.52 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 284 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $9.80 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

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

Today's single origin Jamaique Marvia* Noir 63% (bar) was from the French artisan chocolatier A. Morin (SAS Chocolaterie A. Morin, Donzere, France). The company's origins stretch back to 1884.

This relatively thick, generously sized French chocolate bar had a deep, dark chocolate flavor. A pleasing true chocolate (smooth, baked fudge brownie) note was accompanied by a slightly woodsy, loamy earth undercurrent and a very faint fruit (lightly spiced peach) note. These notes were consistent from start to finish. 

The chocolate was not too sweet (thank you). In fact, the 63% cacao content tasted darker, more like a 70% cacao chocolate.

Ingredients: Cocoa beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter, sunflower lecithin

*I am not sure about the "Marvia" name; but, if I had to guess, it may be a reference to Marvia Borrell, the Jamaican-born founder and CEO of Black River Chocolate in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, and cocoa ambassador. Her company also has a presence in Europe.


Sunday, February 28, 2021

Pump Street Chocolate - Jamaica 75% Bachelor's Hall Estate (bar) - March 2, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Pump Street Chocolate 
Jamaica 75% Bachelor's Hall Estate (bar)
Good ++
Weight: .706 oz. (20 g.) in 1 small bar
Calories: 97.6 calories in 1 small bar
Cost: $4.00 for 1 small bar + shipping
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

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

Today's Jamaica 75% Bachelor's Hall Estate (bar) was from Pump Street Chocolate--bakers and chocolate makers based in Suffolk, England.

Single origin chocolate bars have become more available in smaller sizes in the past few years. This conveniently sized (single serving) package is great for sampling/small group tastings. It was also well-sealed, allowing the chocolate's flavors to stay well preserved. And I could tuck this small bar into my pack for a solo hike without worrying about possible meltage issues. (Buy a larger size if you want to share with others.)

The aroma included rich dark chocolate and very faint, well-balanced umami/smoke, licorice, and green notes. 

The flavor had true dark chocolate (cake, brownie) flavor with faint fermented cream, concentrated fruit (cherry and honey fruitcake), and very faint earth notes.

Personal notes: Good choice on Pump Street's part to go with a darker percentage (75% vs. 70% cacao) for this cacao/chocolate. It helped showcase the cacao's abundance of natural flavor(s) and balanced the sugar/sweetness. Flavors were nicely balanced/managed. Can't wait to try the 90% version tomorrow.

Pump Street Chocolate's tasting notes read as follows: "Initially rich, a satisfying melt releases hints of sweet, juicy berries before rounding into a distinctive honeyed rum finish. Serendipitous for a Jamaican bar"..."Chocolate made in Suffolk with beans sourced from a single farm."

Ingredients: Cocoa beans, cane sugar, organic cocoa butter. 

Armstrong - Jamaica 70% (bar) - Feb. 28, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Armstrong Chocolate
Jamaica 70% (bar)
Good ++
Weight: 1.05 oz. (29.7 g.) / 2.1 oz. (59.4 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 167 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $13.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA 

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

Today's Jamaica 70% (bar) was made by Armstrong Chocolate (Chico, CA). Matthew Armstrong produced this bar, and other micro-batch, bean-to-bar, single origin bars as well as chocolates with flavor inclusions.*

This bar was made using cacao grown at Bachelors Hall Estate in Jamaica. The cacao beans used in this bar, and most of the other Jamaica single origin bars featured this week, came from the same estate/farm (and the same farmer)--located in St. Thomas Parish in eastern Jamaica. Armstrong describes the bar's origins this way:

"The beans are ethically sourced from Desmond Jadusingh and his 300 acre cacao estate in Jamaica. With exceptional post-harvest management, Desmond's cacao has gained high praise within the fine chocolate community. These exclusive beans are carefully roasted, refined and tempered for your enjoyment."

There are other examples of sought-after farmers/farms like this in the craft chocolate world. It's nice when makers give them public credit. Makers need great beans to make great chocolates. 

The resulting 70% cacao Armstrong bar offered true chocolate (fudge brownie) and bright, red fruit (red cherry, sweet red banana, lightly fermented cacao fruit/pulp**) aroma and flavor notes. The same balanced, chocolate brownie batter + tart-sweet fruit flavor lingered a bit into the finish.

Ingredients: Organic cacao, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter.

*Unfortunately, it appears that Armstrong paused or ceased production last year (2020). We hope that he decides to return to chocolate-making in the future.

**Cacao fruit (or more accurately pulp) surrounds a core of large cacao seeds (aka the cacao beans) in cacao fruit (pods). Once pods are harvested and split open, the ivory-colored fruit pulp starts to ferment very quickly, making it tough to transport. And so (unless flash frozen on-site) few people will get to taste this lovely fruit with tangy citrus, floral and fruit candy notes. 

I've tasted cacao pulp that was a dead ringer for watermelon Jolly Rancher candy, while other cacao fruit pulp had decidedly milder citrus (tangerine), lighter mango-melon, and/or citrus-floral notes. Flavors vary with cacao variety and origin.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Letterpress Chocolate - Bachelor's Hall Jamaica 70% Dark Chocolate (bar) - Feb. 27, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Letterpress Chocolate LLC
Bachelor's Hall Jamaica 70% Dark Chocolate (bar)
Good ++
Weight: 2.1 oz. (60 g.) in total bar
Calories: 330 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information

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

This Bachelor's Hall Jamaica 70% Dark Chocolate (bar) was made by LetterPress Chocolate LLC (Los Angeles, CA). 

This 70% chocolate bar had a smooth dark chocolate (brownie) aroma, with an almost creamy melt and texture. It had uniform chocolate brownie flavor with tangy (mildly acidic) red fruit (pomegranate, red berry) notes.

The maker's tasting notes read as follows: "Starfruit, mocha, spice."

Ingredients: Cacao beans, organic unrefined cane sugar, organic cocoa butter

Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate - Jamaica Bachelor's Hall Limited Release 75% (bar) - Feb. 26, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate
Jamaica Bachelor's Hall Limited Release 75% (bar)
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42.4 g.) / 2 oz. (57 g.) in total bar
Calories: 240 calories in 3/4 bar
Cost: $12.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from:  Dick Taylor, online order

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

Today's Jamaica Bachelor's Hall Limited Release 75% (bar) was handcrafted by the makers at Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate in Eureka, California. The cacao used to make this bar was grown on an estate (farm) in eastern Jamaica.

This attractively-packaged, Limited Release (Batch No. 70072) dark chocolate bar started with a dark, complex aroma with balanced earthy and dark chocolate notes. After the inner, sealed packaging had been open for a minute, the earthiness receded and concentrated fruit (dried apricot, prune) and very faint spice notes came to the fore. A minute later, traces of green appeared. 

And after tasting the bar, and going back to just smelling the chocolate to revisit the lovely bouquet of aroma notes, a faint, freshly baked rye bread note appeared and disappeared. I gave this bar an A for Aroma.* 

The flavor in this well-executed,** two ingredient bar was more uniform than the aroma, with deep, dark and very satisfying with a slow, creamy melt. Think very high-end, ultra dark brownies with a small side of fresh, cold cream or whole milk. (There was no milk or dairy in this bar.) This deep chocolate flavor lingered into the finish.

The maker's tasting notes read as follows: "apricot, graham cracker, dates"

Ingredients: Cacao, organic cane sugar

*Smell is an essential part of taste; but we perceive the differences and/or separation between these two senses. In some chocolates, the aroma and flavor notes are almost one and the same. And in other cases, the aroma is different from what we can taste. These variations can be understood via many long and technical explanations; but sometimes it's best to just sit back and take the time to notice and enjoy the overall sensory experience and how it unfolds-- especially if you're on a voyage with a great chocolate maker at the helm. Today was one of those days.

**I use the words attractively packaged, well executed, and two-ingredient bar in almost every review I've written about Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate bars. Here are a few more words: Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor have been very consistently producing well crafted, very high-quality chocolate for years now, and we are very grateful.


Thursday, February 25, 2021

Soklet - Hibiscus and Pumpkin Seeds 70% (bar) - Feb. 25, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Soklet
Hibiscus and Pumpkin Seeds 70% (bar)
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 254 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $9.00 for 1 bar + shipping
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

Welcome to Day #10 of Chocolate and EFGHI Theme Week, where chocolate items with flavor inclusions beginning with the letters E, F, G, H and/or I have been featured. Today's chocolate is infused with floral flavor.

Todays Soklet Hibiscus* and Pumpkin Seeds 70% (bar) was made from tree-to-bar in India, and was manufactured by Regal Foods and Beverages (Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, India). The cacao used to make this chocolate was grown in the foothills of the Anamalais (also known as the Elephant mountains) in southern India.

The sweet, complex aroma of this bar included green, spice (saffron), and light floral notes. The chocolate had well-balanced, tangy fruit (sweet, ripe pink grapefruit) and hibiscus acidity (both are rich in Vitamin C). A sprinkle of whole, lightly roasted, pumpkin seeds on one side of the bar added a little crunchiness. The smooth 70% cacao chocolate base had true chocolate flavor, and very faint malt/oxidized cereal notes in the finish.

Next week, we'll be virtually visiting the Caribbean. Chocolate and Jamaica Theme Week will feature chocolates made from cacao grown in Jamaica. Hope you'll join Chocolate Banquet on this free, virtual tasting tour. 

Ingredients: Cacao beans, cane sugar, cacao butter, dried hibiscus flowers, roasted pumpkin seeds, spices.

* The Hibiscus is a beautiful showy flower that can be found not only in China, Japan and the Pacific Islands (including Hawaii), but in many other semi-tropical countries/islands as well. The flowers are quite flavorful and rich in Vitamin C, and are often brewed to make a vivid, magenta colored beverage (served cold, as an agua"fresca"). The dried flowers are often called "flor de Jamaica" in Mexico (and in markets in the Americas). These flowers infused in hot water make a great, tangy, brightly fuschia-colored herbal tea; and hibiscus adds vibrant, rosy color to any herbal tea blends.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Hemp Yeah! - Dark Chocolate, Almond, Sea Salt Protein Bar - Feb. 24, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Hemp Yeah!
Dark Chocolate, Almond, Sea Salt Protein Bar
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.59 oz. (45 g.) / 19.08 oz. (540 g.) in total box of 12 bars
Calories: 230 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $ missing information/receipt 
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #9 of Chocolate and EFGHI Theme Week, featuring chocolate items with flavor inclusions that begin with the letters E, F, G, H and/or I, for example, hemp seeds.

Today's Hemp Yeah! Dark Chocolate, Almond and Sea Salt Protein Bars with hemp seeds were manufactured for Fresh Hemp Foods Ltd. (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada).*

The aroma of this protein bar was bright, green, sweet, seedy and chocolatey. It had a soft chew, and hemp seed, pea protein, coconut, nut, and mellow dark chocolate flavor notes. (And the hemp seeds did not contain psycho-active ingredients if some of you were wondering.)*

I enjoyed that fact that I was eating a grain-free, gluten-free, soy-free, vegan protein bar with 10 grams of plant protein. (Hemp seeds are quite high in protein, and "pea protein crisps," almonds and pumpkin seeds boosted the protein content even higher.) Protein bars with a smidge of balanced fat (Omega-3 and Omega-6) seem to forestall cravings later in the day if I'm exercising. (Today was a hike day for me.)

Also the flavor of the hemp seeds was nicely off-set with chocolate, nut, seed, coconut and other flavors. (Even hulled hemp seeds can take some getting used to, but their flavor was not at all objectionable in this bar.)

While not gooey sweet, this bar was a little sweet for me. (It contained three different sweeteners.) But, the sweetness level will probably be perfectly fine for most people trying this protein/snack bar.

Ingredients: Shelled hemp seeds, fair trade dark chocolate (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sunflower lecithin, vanilla extract), PEA protein crisps (pea protein, tapioca starch, tapioca syrup, agave syrup, toasted coconut, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sea salt, coconut oil, cocoa powder, almond extract, natural flavor. 

*Note: Hemp plants used to be grown in the U.S. for fiber and seeds before hemp production became illegal in the 1900s. 

Federal laws were targeting the use and sale of marijuana. However, industrial hemp products that did not contain psycho-active ingredients (THC), such as hemp seeds, hemp rope, hemp paper, plastic and cloth, and other products made from hemp plants, also were effectively banned by these anti-drug laws. 

Hemp seeds, such as those contained in today's protein bar, have come primarily from Canada, because it has not been possible to grow hemp plants in the U.S. (It became legal to cultivate industrial hemp in Canada more than 20 years ago.) 

However, the laws concerning hemp seeds and industrial hemp production in the U.S. are starting to change, which may help bring down hemp seed prices, and expand the use of these seeds in future protein powder/flour, snack, cereal, animal feed, chocolate and other offerings.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Raaka Chocolate - Green Tea Crunch Unroasted Dark Chocolate 66% (bar) - Feb. 23, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Raaka Chocolate
Green Tea Crunch Unroasted Dark Chocolate 66% (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.8 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 238 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $6.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Raaka Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate and EFGHI Theme Week, where I am featuring chocolate items with flavor inclusions that begin with the letters E, F, G, H and/or I.

Today's Green Tea Crunch Unroasted Dark Chocolate 66% (bar) was made by Raaka Chocolate (Brooklyn, NY).

Tea and chocolate blends can be wonderful. Today's vegan and gluten-free bar incorporated genmaicha* green tea. 

This well-tempered and skillfully-executed chocolate had a dark, faintly green, aroma. 

The base dark chocolate was smooth with tiny crunchy bits from puffed quinoa. Adding a grain of any type (rice, oats, quinoa, etc.) tends to mellow/complement sharp, bitter or earthy notes sometimes found in ultra-dark or bolder chocolates. This bar contained both brown rice* and quinoa.

The bar had a faint pleasant almost floral, grassy, green tea flavor with medium fruit (mild, citrus/tangerine with honey) acidity. The finish had a light, lingering malt/grain flavor, and a relatively long tail with a fleeting, faint uptick of green tea.

The deep, dark, unroasted cacao used to make this bar was from Reserva Zorzal, a cacao-producing private reserve, located in the mountains of Duarte Province in northeastern Dominican Republic.

Ingredients: Organic cacao beans, organic cane sugar, organic cacao butter, organic puffed quinoa, organic genmaicha* green tea.

*This bar was made with genmaicha green tea. Genmaicha ("brown rice tea", also known as roasted rice tea or popcorn tea) is popular in Japan, and is made with green tea and roasted, popped brown rice.

Bear Naked - Cacao and Cashew Granola - Feb. 22, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Bear Naked Granola, Inc.
Cacao and Cashew Butter Granola with fair trade chocolate
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1.9 oz. (54 g.) / 11 oz. (311 g.) in total package
Calories: 250 calories in 1/2 cup serving
Cost: $3.78 for 1 package
Purchased from: Walmart, Mountain View, CA (see receipt for price)

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and EFGHI Theme Week, where I'm featuring chocolates that include flavors, or foods that contain chocolate, that begin with the letters E, F, G, H and/or I. 

Today's Cacao and Cashew Butter Granola with pepitas, sea salt and fair trade chocolate was "distributed for" Bear Naked Granola, Inc. (Solana Beach, CA).

There are now many packaged granola cereals that contain bits of chocolate or cocoa. Some of these are so sweet, they taste like broken oat chocolate chip cookie pieces. Others hew closer to the 1960s take on European oat cereals (muesli + brown sugar, etc. with chocolate chunks).  And a delightful few, like today's granola, add a few new elements to arrive at something new and improved.

Today's Cocoa and Cashew granola had a traditional pleasing oat-y aroma and flavor. It also had just the right amount of crunchiness, enhanced by rice crisps. Pepitas (pumpkin seed kernels) added nutritional content (protein, vitamins and minerals), natural color and a soft crunchy chew. The cashew butter and cashew bits added a satisfying, light nutty flavor. And a faint hint of ginger added some warm spice.

And last, but not least, fair trade and semi-sweet chocolate pieces provided rich hints of dark chocolate flavor.

The added sugars were balanced by almost all the other ingredients, oats, rice, semi-sweet "dark" chocolate pieces, nuts, seeds and a touch of sea salt. The resulting sweetness level seemed just right.

I enjoyed this granola three different ways: by itself, with just a little water, and with a little  Genius Mocha Coconut beverage (instead of milk). 

Ingredients: Whole grain oats, semi-sweet chocolate (cane sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla extract), invert cane syrup, rice crisps (rice flour, cane sugar, salt), cashew butter, expeller pressed sunflower oil, cashews, pepitas, whole oat flour, brown rice syrup, cane sugar, sea salt, ginger, rosemary extract for freshness.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Domori - Dark Chocolate Ginger (bar) - Feb. 21, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Domori
Dark Chocolate Ginger (bar)
Good - Good +
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.) in total bar
Calories: 137.8 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $4.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate and EFGHI Theme Week, where flavor inclusions and cacao origins that start with the letters E, F, G, H and/or I are being featured.

Today's Dark Chocolate Ginger (bar) was from Domori (None, Italy).* 

This vegan and gluten-free bar had a smooth dark chocolate aroma, and a dark, deep chocolate flavor with slight bitter and earthy notes. It tasted slightly darker and more bitter (less sweet) than many other 70% craft dark chocolate bars, in part because the underlying cacao seemed to be more robust (Forastero variety cacao blend perhaps?) and low in bright fruit notes. 

The ginger (powder) was uniformly infused into the 70% dark chocolate, and added an authentic (unsweetened), ginger warmth and spiciness. For those used to candied ginger confections, this bar will taste less sparkly and slightly more bright-bitter (imagine ginger in savory dishes) and intense, especially in combination with the very robust and earthy dark chocolate.**

Please do savor this smaller, snack-size dark bar slowly. "Snacks to go" are often full of sugar and salt. Thankfully, this chocolate is not. Take one bite and set the bar down for a moment. And repeat this process as you go. This is important for slow bloomers and delightfully layered, complex bars. You'll miss half the fun if you eat these chocolates too quickly.

With today's bar I experienced (and enjoyed) a growing, natural sweetness and mellowing of the flavors, as the cocoa butter coated my tongue and the bitter earthy notes diminished and a faint nuttiness crept in. This bar may grow on you more than you might think.

Ingredients: Cocoa mass, cane sugar, ginger powder (1%).

*Since 2006, Domori has been part of Gruppo Illy, a company known for their coffee--and, it seems from tasting the results, a business with an understanding of what it takes to grow, ferment, roast and transform a seed/bean into a final high-quality product.

**Full disclosure: I like dark chocolates that are less sweet, and bold, deep, dark flavors as long as they are balanced. I appreciate interesting, complex flavor rides. For those who have a sweet tooth and prefer milk chocolates, you may prefer a tamer chocolate with more sugar.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Essential Living Foods - Organic Mediterranean Mix - Dark Chocolate, Figs, Almonds - Feb. 20, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Essential Living Foods
Organic Mediterranean Mix - Dark Chocolate + Figs + Almonds
Good +
Weight: 2 oz. (56.6 g.) / 14 oz. (396 g.) in total package
Calories: 280 calories in 2 servings
Cost: $9.99 for 1 large package
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate and EFGHI, an alphabetic theme week featuring chocolates with flavor inclusions that start with the letters E, F, G, H and I.

Today's chocolate was a mix of elements. Essential Living Foods* Mediterranean Mix was a blend of Dark Chocolate + Figs + Almonds. 

Figs were one of the first fruits cultivated by humans. The figs we eat now are often descendants of trees with Mediterranean and Asian origins--seemingly a world away from cacao tree roots in South America and Central America.** 

However, native fig trees in the Americas do exist, in a range that overlaps cacao origins, and as far north as Florida and as far south as Paraguay. 

Regardless, fig fruit(s) and chocolate seem to have been made for each other. (It's similar to the natural affinity between dark chocolate and ginger, chocolate and raspberry, and chocolate and certain spirits.) 

It was exciting to find and enjoy an authentic-tasting, "gourmet trail mix" with dark chocolate, figs and almonds...that wasn't too sweet or salty. I was even happier to find pumpkin seeds, white mulberries (a fig relative), hazelnuts and Brazil nuts were included in this crunchy, chewy mix. 

Yes, I heartily agree with the marketing tagline. This was truly a deluxe, haut trail mix. Only a sprinkle of gold dust and/or golden berries*** would have made it more high-end.

This trail mix would be good eaten a la carte on a hike; intermingled with oatmeal or granola-type cereals; baked into muffins or baked apples; or sprinkled on vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients: Organic dark chocolate chips (chocolate liquor, cane sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla extract), diced figs, roasted pumpkin kernels (pumpkin kernels, salt), white mulberries, Brazil nut pieces, almonds, hazelnuts (Note: Except for salt, all ingredients above were listed as Organic.)

*Essential Living Foods trail mix blends are distributed by Terrafertil US, LLC (Torrance, CA), a producer of natural, organic and plant-based foods. (Terrafertil was founded in Ecuador in 2005.) In 2018, Nestle (Vevey, Switzerland) bought a majority stake in Terrafertil.

**Ficus is the Latin name for fig. European (Spanish "Black Mission") figs (Ficus carica) arrived in the Americas centuries ago (likely in the 1500s). Franciscan missionaries later cultivated them in Mexico and Southern California (in the San Diego area) in the early 1700s. 

However, banyan-related fig trees (Ficus citrifolia) are native in the Americas (Southern Florida, Mexico, Caribbean islands, Central America and northern South America); and they bear sweet, edible fruits as well. (The red mulberry tree, a fig relative, is also native to the Americas.)

***Golden berries (Physalis peruviana), are bright yellow, cherry tomato (or tomatillo) sized fruits from South America (Peru, Colombia), in the nightshade family. They are also grown in Ecuador and Chile.

Terrafertil (Ecuador) is one of the largest suppliers of Golden Berries, also known as Inca(n) berries and Cape Gooseberries. 


Friday, February 19, 2021

Rowe of Venice - Espresso organic gourmet snack - Feb. 19, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Rowe of Venice
Espresso organic gourmet snack
Good - Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28.1 g.) / 1.5 oz. (42.45 g.) in total package
Calories: 160 calories in 2/3 package
Cost: $5.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: FarmFresh to You CSA box delivery service, add-on order item

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate and EFGHI Theme Week, where flavor ingredients and concepts beginning with the letters E, F, G, H and I are featured.

Cocoa and coffee are a time-honored pairing, and today's snack contained the unadulterated essence of both of these flavors. Finely ground Espresso coffee and raw cocoa powder offered some extra bean goodness and oomph without being overpowering.

Today's Espresso organic gourmet snack pieces were from Rowe of Venice (Los Angeles, CA). The company offers a line of refrigerated, raw, superfood snack offerings and flourless SOL bread mini loafs.

The small package of snack pieces were gluten-free, dairy-free, plant-based, and made from raw ingredients.

These petite snack squares had aroma and flavor notes of ground espresso, authentic coconut, nuttiness (almonds) and dark cocoa. The shredded coconut and ground raw almonds contributed a slightly soft, chewy crunchiness. 

Pre-packaged snacks often have a slightly addictive level of sugar and salt. Happily, these snacks contained low levels of both. The sweetness (raw agave nectar) level was just right for my taste, which is to say not too sweet. The Himalayan pink salt was barely detectable. 

Like many enjoyable nutrient-dense foods, one or two squares was enough. The almonds provided protein, slowing cravings that have led to snack gobbling  (more rapid consumption).

Ingredients: "Love, organic raw almonds, organic espresso, organic raw blue agave nectar, organic raw cacao powder, unsweetened shredded coconut, organic cold-pressed virgin coconut oil, Himalayan pink salt, Gratitude."

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Fjak Chocolate - Dark Chocolate 68% India (bar) - Feb. 18, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Fjak Chocolate
Single Origin, Organic 68% Mork (Dark) Chocolate (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.87 oz. (53 g.) in total bar
Calories: 302 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $9.50 for 1 bar + shipping
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order  

Welcome to Day #10 of Chocolate and India Theme Week, and Day #2 of EFGHI Theme Week, where words and phrases beginning with the letters E, F, G, H and I are highlighted.

Today's single origin 68% Mork (Dark Chocolate) India (bar) was hand-crafted at Fjak Chocolate (at their factory in Hardangerfjord, Norway). 

The two founding partners, Igurtxane Concellon and Siv Hereid, make single origin craft chocolate offerings, like today's India bar--as well as chocolates with Norway-inspired flavor inclusions (e.g., reindeer moss and lingonberry).

The cacao used to make this single origin bar was grown in the Idukki region, in the State of Kerala in southern India. 

This chocolate had a relatively sweet, mild, dark chocolate aroma and a bright, sweet-tart fruit (tart cherry, tart red berry, candied orange peel) acidity, and was low in bitterness. It also had very slight spice and malt notes.

Ingredients: Cocoa beans, cane sugar and cocoa butter

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Hasnaa Chocolats Grands Crus La Feverie - India Idduki 71% bar - Feb. 17, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

La Feverie - Hasnaa Chocolats Grands Crus
India Idduki 71% Dark Chocolate (bar)
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (56.6 g.) in total bar
Calories: 160 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $9.50 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

Bonjour and Welcome to Day #9 of Chocolate and India Theme Week, and Day #1 of EFGHI Theme Week, where you'll see words like Idduki, India, and Hasnaa's La Feverie, and floral flavor elements, featured.

Today's Idduki India 71% (bar) was created by Hasnaa's Chocolats Grand Crus La Feverie bean-to-bar workshop (in Bordeaux, France). It was made using (2019 Harvest) organic cacao grown in Idukki, Kerala, in southern India. 

Hasnaa, her husband and team make confections and bars in a celebrated red wine region of France. In borrowing some of the language of wine that refers to high-value ingredients and sources, the "Chocolats Grand Crus" label says to me they make great single origin chocolates. (La Feverie is Hasnaa's bean-to-bar workshop.) 

This 71% India bar had an aroma with a sequence of interesting elements: the first bite had a refreshing, but subtle and well-balanced green floral (rose) note which dissipated after the package was open for a while.*

The second bite had an aroma and flavor with a faint fermented red fruit (red grape, cherry and cacao fruit) note. Both were followed by dark chocolate flavors with light, tart-sweet, tropical fruit (ripe pineapple, mango, mangosteen, and cacao fruit/pulp) notes. 

Maker's tasting notes on Bar and Cocoa (U.S. chocolate distributor) site: "Plump notes of cherry, slight flowery rose on a final of pineapple and candied exotic fruits."

Ingredients: Organic cacao beans, organic cane sugar

*Floral notes are a bit shy. They will escape out a window as soon as possible, presumably to return to the gods or the garden. And, once gone, they rarely return. In more scientific terms, floral notes tend to be more volatile; and heavily roasted/processed chocolate will typically have far less of these flavor elements left.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Soklet - Desi Rabdi - Milk Chocolate with Pistachios, Saffron (bar) - Feb. 16, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Desi Rabdi - 45% Toasted Milk Chocolate (with) Pistachio, Saffron (bar)
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 283.5 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $8.00 for 1 bar + shipping
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

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

Today's Soklet Caramelized Milk Chocolate with Pistachios and Saffron (bar)* was manufactured by Regal Foods and Beverages (Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, India).

This Desi Rabdi bar was inspired by traditional Indian sweets. It contained cocoa butter, but no cocoa solids.* But, I wouldn't call this "white chocolate." The bar had a rich golden brown hue that was achieved by careful caramelization of sugar and milk. Cocoa butter or fat (which can be half of the content of cocoa beans) contributed a creamy, but firm (at room temperature) chocolate bar texture.

Happily, this confectionery homage did not taste overly sweet (cane sugar was the third ingredient). And there were enjoyable, milky hints of pistachio nut--and a fleeting, delicate and uplifting floral saffron spice note.

Ingredients: Cacao butter, skimmed milk powder, cane sugar, roasted pistachio, saffron 

*Note: A white chocolate work-around was used today.

To "count" as a chocolate on Chocolate Banquet, a bar, confection, beverage or other chocolate item needs to contain some form of cocoa solids. Today's Desi Rabdi bar contained a generous amount of cocoa butter (it was the number one ingredient), but no cocoa solids.

This should not have been a surprise, as traditional Indian desserts aren't typically loaded up with dark chocolate.

So, even though this bar was perfectly fine on its own, I drizzled a fine thread of very smooth/mild dark chocolate (melted dark chocolate with a few drops of date syrup and rose water) across a piece of this bar. 

I used a small amount of dark chocolate so I wouldn't "suffocate" the more delicate saffron and pistachio flavors in this bar. The goal of this "topping" was to create a layering of flavors rather than a forced flavor fusion. It was a successful pairing.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Soklet - Candied Ginger 60% Dark Chocolate (bar) - Feb. 15, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Soklet
Candied Ginger 60% Dark Chocolate (bar)
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total 
Calories: 264 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $8.00 for 1 bar + shipping
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

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

Today's Soklet Candied Ginger, 60% Dark Chocolate Glazed Ginger bar was manufactured by Regal Foods and Beverages (Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, India). 

This vegan chocolate bar had an inviting, smooth, relatively subtle, semi-sweet chocolate aroma suffused with warm, sweet ginger spice notes. It was a judicious and well-balanced blend of these two relatively strong flavors. 

As with other Soklet bars sampled this week, this one was an authentic-tasting,* Indian Origin chocolate--made with cacao grown on plantations in the foothills of the Anamalais, in Tamil Nadu in southern India. The chocolate was not too sweet, not too bitter, and not too heavy on flavor inclusions; and there were no sharp or "off" notes. 

Ingredients: Cacao beans, cacao butter, cane sugar, crystallized ginger

*Authentic-tasting to me means that I can taste and recognize the whole food ingredients used to make the chocolate. 

Over-processing and attempts to boost or sweeten certain flavors, can make it difficult to taste nuanced, natural flavors. Ironically, in the U.S. (and elsewhere), the addition of "Natural Flavors" (from animal or plant sources and often processed with chemical additives)--and other not so natural added ingredients--can taste artificial and obscure the original flavors. 


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Happy Valentines Day! Go To Chocolate - filled chocolate assortment - Feb. 14, 2021

Valentines Day Chocolate(s)

Go To Chocolate
Valentines Day filled chocolate assortment
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.15 oz. (32.5 g.) (estimate) in 3 piece box
Calories: 170 calories (estimate) in 3 pieces
Cost: $ N/A - gift from a friend (thank you Toni)
Purchased from: N/A - from Go To Chocolate, San Carlos, CA

Note: This holiday-related chocolate entry is a bonus entry, gratefully wedged into Chocolate and India Theme Week. 

Happy Valentines Day to all who celebrate! Heartfelt thanks to my friend and neighbor Toni for the gift of filled chocolates, in heart and flower form. A seasoned world traveler, she has contributed many new chocolates to Chocolate Banquet in the past decade. 

Today's 3-piece assortment in a petite, purple, heart-shaped box were from Go To Chocolate (San Carlos, CA). Chef and chocolatier Michael Hohenthal has been creating his own small-batch chocolates (filled chocolates and bars) since 2005, and sells them at local farmers markets (a good source for finding new chocolates).

Collectively, the three glossy pieces in this box had a sweet dark chocolate with a very faint coconut aroma. 

  • The first heart-shaped filled chocolate had a light, fluffy marshmallow filling with a light citrus-sweet tang.
  • The second (also heart-shaped) piece contained a sweet, dark chocolate ganache filling with fudge brownie flavor notes.
  • The third, flower shaped, filled chocolate had an intriguing caramelized flavor, with very light floral and fruit notes.

Ingredients: unknown (gift box was not labeled) 

Soklet - Dark Milk Chocolate with Ghee 55% (bar) - Feb. 14, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Soklet
Dark Milk Chocolate with Ghee 55% (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 251.5 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $8.00 for 1 bar + shipping
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

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

Today's Soklet Dark Milk Chocolate with Ghee 55% (bar) was manufactured by Regal Foods and Beverages (Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, India).

The aroma of this 55% dark milk chocolate bar had chocolate, malt, cereal, brown sugar, very faint green, rice, fruit (goji berry, mango), butter oil and spice notes, and most of these notes carried over into the flavor as well.

The texture of this chocolate was smooth with a creamy melt, thanks in part due to the ghee* and skim milk powder.

The flavor notes included brown sugar, chocolate, cereal and fruit (goji berry, mango, mangosteen, tropical fruit), and these lightly lingered into the finish along with a sustained cocoa note at the end. 

This tree-to-bar Soklet chocolate was created from cacao grown on plantations in the foothills of the Anamalais in Tamil Nadu, in Southern India. The chocolate was quite low in bitterness, and the fruit acidity that was present was balanced and sweet.

Ingredients: Cacao beans, cacao butter, sugar, ghee, skimmed milk powder

*Ghee is clarified butter made from cow or buffalo milk that may have a faint nutty flavor. The heating and clarifying process reduces the milk protein(s), whey/lactose and water in the butter making it potentially easier to digest for some. Ghee is often used in cooking in South Asia, as it has a higher smoke point (it doesn't burn/smoke as easily once the proteins have been skimmed off).


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Soklet - 100% Dark Chocolate India Origin (bar) - Feb. 13, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Soklet
Dark Chocolate 100% India Origin (bar)
Good ++
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.) / 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 272.5 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $8.00 for 1 bar + shipping
Purchased from: Bar and Cacao, online order

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

Today's Soklet 100% Dark Chocolate India Origin (bar) was manufactured by Regal Foods and Beverages (Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, India).

This complex, ultra-dark chocolate was also very approachable for a 100% cacao bar, with no sharp spikes or "off" notes. 

The aroma of this chocolate took me on a whirl around the chocolate tasting wheel. It started with a fleeting floral note, quickly evolved to spice blend, followed by brown sugar, nutty, and then green floral perfume and green coconut notes. 

The texture was thick and hearty, a satisfying thick cacao mass (think stiff, freshly ground peanut butter with less oil and no sugar).

The flavor of this one-ingredient (100% cacao beans) bar, like most unsweetened chocolate bars, was a bit different than the aroma. Deep, concentrated cacao flavor notes with very balanced (fruit) acidity and bitterness, with fleeting malt and green rice notes.

Ingredients: Cacao beans

Friday, February 12, 2021

Soklet - Peanut Butter Crunch 60% Dark (bar) - Feb. 12, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Soklet
Peanut Butter Crunch - 60% Dark Chocolate (bar)
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 271 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $8.00 for 1 bar + shipping
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

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

Today's Soklet Peanut Butter Crunch - 60% Dark Chocolate (bar) was manufactured by Regal Foods and Beverages (Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, India).

This vegan bar had smooth dark chocolate aroma and flavor with balanced nutty notes; creamy texture; and a pleasing finish. It was not too sweet (thank you!). 

The cacao was grown in the green hills of the Anamalais in Tamil Nadu, India. The resulting tree-to-bar Soklet, Indian Origin, chocolate in this bar was low in acidity and bitterness, made even more so by a perfectly balanced amount (subtle touch) of roasted peanuts and sea salt. Loved the subtlety of the flavor accents. This is my favorite Soklet bar so far.

Ingredients: Cacao beans, cane sugar, roasted peanuts, cacao butter, sea salt


Thursday, February 11, 2021

Soklet - Filter Kaapi 55% Dark Milk Coffee and Chicory Root (bar) - Feb. 11, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Soklet
"Filter Kaapi" 55% Dark Milk Chocolate Arabica Coffee and Chicory Root (bar)
Good 
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 261 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $9.00 (+ shipping) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order 

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

Today's Soklet Filter Kaapi 55% Dark Milk Chocolate Arabica Coffee (and) Chicory Root (bar) was manufactured by Regal Food and Beverages (Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, India).

We can thank Soklet co-founders, Harish Manoj Kumar (farmer, fermenter) and Karthi (Karthikeyan Palaniswamy) for the array of tree-to-bar Indian Origin chocolate bars featured on Chocolate Banquet this week (as well as small chocolate shops and distributors now carrying more bars from India).

Today's chocolate was inspired by South Indian filter coffee (filter kaapi/kappi).* It contained a rich, complex blend of aromas and flavors, with dark chocolate, green (spiced lentils, green coconut, green nut), spices (aromatic black pepper, black cardamom, licorice), chicory (with roasted root with slightly woodsy notes), and coffee, browned butter, and faint charcoal and  oxidized malted cocoa notes.

The sweetness level was subtle and not too sweet (thank you!)--allowing the full spectrum of flavors listed above to shine through.

The melt and mouthfeel were fairly smooth and creamy, enabled by judicious, well-balanced, amounts of cacao butter, ghee, and skim milk powder. 

The finish mellowed into a long tail of softer, flavorful cacao and sweet coffee.

The cacao used to make this bar was grown in plantations in the foothills of the Anamalais (hills), where cacao is intercropped with (grown with/under) coconut palm trees.

Ingredients: Cacao beans, cacao butter, cane sugar, ghee, skimmed milk powder, Arabica coffee, chicory root powder.

*Today's bar contained "Chickmagalur" (Arabica) coffee (presumably from Chikmagalur in the neighboring State of Karnataka (formerly Mysore), often considered the birthplace of coffee in India, with cultivation beginning in the early 1600s). (Cacao arrived in Tamil Nadu in 1798.)

Filter coffee in India is made with a blend of ground coffee and chicory root powder, that may be left to filter overnight and with hot, full fat milk and sugar added.

Chicory (a dandelion relative) is sometimes known as "coffeeweed." The roots are roasted and ground and used as a coffee supplement and/or substitute. It has also been used as a medicinal plant.

The French helped popularize and spread coffee with chicory blends worldwide. (In the U.S., we see this influence with Cafe du Monde chicory coffee in New Orleans typically served with hot milk.) An added bonus in India, 90% of cow (and buffalo) milk there contains A2 beta casein (milk protein) vs. milk in most of the U.S., Europe and Australia containing A1 beta casein protein. The A2 milk is thought to be easier to digest.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Soklet - Spiced Chocolate Bar 60% Limited Edition (bar)

Chocolate of the Day

Soklet
Spiced Chocolate Bar 60% Limited Edition (bar)
Good 
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 239 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $9.00 (+ shipping) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

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

Today's Soklet Limited Edition Spiced Chocolate 60% (bar) was manufactured by Regal Foods and Beverages (Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, India).

When I think of culinary India, I think of spices and bold flavors. However, in the two tree-to-bar Soklet chocolates I have tried so far this week, there is a mastery of nuances. Today's Indian Origin 60% chocolate bar contained a warm, subtle spice blend that included cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, clove, nutmeg and mace.

The base chocolate had a relatively mild chocolately flavor with a low level of tart fruit acidity, almost no bitterness, and a slightly oxidized, malted cereal note. The level of sweetness was just right, not too sweet (thank you).

The light, lingering chocolate finish was relatively delicate with very faint traces of charcoal and wood ash notes that somehow conjured romantic notions of an artisan chocolate forge on the edge of a lush green forest.

Ingredients: "cacao beans, cacao butter, unrefined cane sugar, a blend of Indian spices" 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Soklet - Coconut Crunch - 60% Coconut Milk Chocolate (bar) - Feb. 9, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Soklet 
Coconut Crunch - 60% Coconut Milk Chocolate (bar)
Good 
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 270 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $8.00 (+ shipping) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

Welcome to Day #11 of Chocolate and Coconut Theme Week, and Day #1 of Chocolate and India Theme Week. 

Today's Soklet (pronounced 'sohk let) Coconut Crunch 60% Coconut Milk Chocolate bar was made from tree to bar in India, manufactured by Regal Foods and Beverages (Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, India). 

Happily, in the past decade more single origin bars made with Indian cacao have become available in the U.S., including a series of Soklet bars featured this week. 

Cacao is grown in four southern states in India: Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala--typically with other crops (e.g. palm and coconut trees) that can provide the smaller cacao trees with some shade. The cacao used to make this bar was grown in the foothills of the Anamalai(s) (also known as the Elephant Mountains) in Tamil Nadu.

This vegan milk chocolate bar had a pleasant aroma with coconut rice pudding, light sweet (coconut palm sugar/brown sugar/light molasses) and chocolate notes. 

It was a polite 60% chocolate, very low in fruit acidity and bitterness. And the bar was not overly sweet (thank you). 

This chocolate had a bit of an oxidized, cereal box/malt flavor--a taste that can develop during the cacao fermentation process--with sweet chocolate, faint floral honey, light coconut milk, nutty, and barely detectable spice notes (whispers of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and saffron).

I'm guessing the maker(s) either used a mild cacao variety, or the coconut milk (and the constellation of tiny, embedded coconut flakes) effectively neutralized any strong cacao flavors.* (There was, however, a slight uptick of nutty cocoa flavor a minute or two into the finish.)

Ingredients: Cacao beans, cacao butter, coconut sugar, dehydrated coconut milk powder.

*In fairness to all concerned, when I opened the well-sealed inner gold packaging, it looked like there may have been some exposure to heat at some point during the shipping process, something that can influence the flavor a bit.



Monday, February 8, 2021

Nature's Path Foods - Love Crunch - Organic Dark Chocolate Macaroon granola bar - Feb. 8, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Nature's Path Foods
Love Crunch Premium Organic Granola Bars - Dark Chocolate Macaroon
Good
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) / 6.35 oz. (180 g.) in total box of 6 bars 
Calories: 150 calories in 1 granola bar
Cost: $0.99 for 1 box of 6 granola bars 
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #10 of Chocolate and Coconut Theme Week.

Today's Love Crunch Organic Granola Bars Dark Chocolate Macaroon (bar) was distributed by Nature's Path Foods (Blaine, WA). 

The company offers a variety of cereals, granolas, oatmeals and snack bars including a Love Crunch granola and granola bar(s) with chocolate. (Happy Valentines Day month to you all.)

Today's individually-wrapped, Love Crunch Dark Chocolate Macaroon granola bar (that came in a box of 6 bars) was light, crunchy and conveniently portable with a sweet, oat-y aroma and flavor with coconut and chocolate accents (drizzle, chunks). 

The overall sugar level of this bar was a bit sweet for me; but I appreciated the bar's lighter, crunchy texture (think freshly baked oat granola), and the organic ingredients.*

This Organic bar had the satisfying texture of a crunchy cookie without the heavy, corn syrup-like sweetness of a chocolate drizzled coconut macaroon, or the excess butter or oils found in some cookies.

Ingredients: Whole grain rolled oats,* cane sugar,* sunflower oil,* Fair Trade dark chocolate chunks* (cane sugar,* unsweetened chocolate,* cocoa butter,* vanilla*), dark cocoa coating* (cane sugar,* palm kernel oil,* Fair Trade cocoa powder* (processed with alkali), sunflower lecithin,* vanilla,* milk), dried coconut,* invert cane syrup,* honey,* Fair Trade cocoa powder,* oat fiber,* oat syrup solids* (oat syrup solids,* tocopherols (Vitamin E), sea salt, coconut flavor,* tocopherols (Vitamin E).

*An asterisk above indicated Organic ingredients.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Nature to Go - Dark Chocolate Covered Coconut - Feb. 7, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Nature to Go
Dark Chocolate Covered Coconut 
Good  - Good +
Weight: 2 oz. (56.6 g.) / 6 oz. (170 g.) in total package
Calories: 260 calories in 2 servings
Cost: $2.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #9 of Chocolate and Coconut Theme Week. Happy Super Bowl Sunday to football fans in the U.S. This day is often celebrated with beer, guacamole (avocado) dip, and an assortment of savory snacks and desserts.

Today's Nature to Go Dark Chocolate Covered Coconut was produced in Vernon, CA, and distributed by Food Castle Inc. (Los Angeles, CA).*   

These large pieces had a fudgey dark chocolate aroma and smooth dark chocolate flavor. A relatively thick chocolate coating surrounded a generously-sized, chewy, dried coconut piece. I enjoy chewy and crunchy foods. (Just ask my dentist.) And I appreciated the texture of this less processed coconut.

The sweetness level was balanced and not overly sweet (thank you). This chocolate and coconut offering also had a more authentic taste than some of its chocolate-covered confection peers. 

For those with food sensitivities, today's product did have a shorter ingredients list than many comparable offerings. There was one reference to a "natural flavor" (in the chocolate), but no gluten, and no artificial flavors or artificial colors. (The coconut was treated with sulfur dioxide.)

Ingredients: Dark chocolate (sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, butter fat, cocoa powder processed with alkali, soy lecithin, salt, natural flavor). Dried coconut (coconut, cane sugar, sulfur dioxide (for freshness)). 

*Food Castle, Inc., part of the "Food Wholesalers Industry," has specialized in dried fruits and nuts. Today's Nature To Go offering was processed/packaged in Vernon, California--an industrial area located south of downtown Los Angeles, CA. (The company's headquarters offices are located in Los Angeles, CA.)

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Lamontagne Chocolate - Coconut Almonds Dark Chocolate - Feb. 6, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Lamontagne Chocolate
Coconut Almonds Dark Chocolate
Good
Weight: 1.41 oz. (40 g.) / 7 oz. (200 g.) in total package
Calories: 220 calories in 1 serving 
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, where I'm featuring a mix of bean-to-bar chocolate bars as well as coconut and chocolate coconut snacks. 

Today's Coconut Almonds Dark Chocolate pieces were created by the Lamontagne family at Lamontagne Chocolate Inc. (Sherbrooke (QC) Canada). 

The aroma of this sweet coconut chocolate candy immediately took me to memories of a summer day at the beach redolent of coconut-scented suntan oil, and coconut vanilla cake bought at the store. My first thought was, I'll need to eat a lot of green vegetables today to balance out all this sugary goodness.

At the heart of each glossy round was a whole roasted almond. Said almond was surrounded by a layer of sweet white chocolate and coconut flakes, covered with a dark chocolate outer layer and finished with confectioners glaze.

And, yes, these pieces were quite sweet and enhanced by "natural flavors" and preservatives. The sugars eclipsed any subtleties of flavor that might have been there with the cacao in the dark chocolate, but that wasn't really the point with this sandwich of confectionery ingredients. These were meant to be fun, to satisfy a sweet tooth. 

The after-taste was one of coconut cake.

Ingredients: White chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, soy lecithin (an emulsifier), natural vanilla extract), dark chocolate (sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, soy lecithin (emulsifier), salt, natural vanilla extract), whole roasted almonds, coconut (sugar, dextrose, salt), water, corn syrup, sugar, gum arabic, potassium sorbate (preservative), citric acid, confectioner's glaze, vegetable oil, natural flavor.


Friday, February 5, 2021

Marou - Coconut Milk and 55% Ben Tre Single Origin Vietnam (bar) - Feb. 5, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat
(Marou Chocolate Makers)
Coconut Milk and 55% Ben Tre Single Origin Vietnamese Chocolate (bar)
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1.4 oz. (40 g.) / 2.8 oz. (80 g.) in total bar
Calories: 225 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $9.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order 

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

Today's Coconut Milk and 55% Ben Tre Single Origin Vietnamese Chocolate (bar) was created by Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat,* chocolate makers (based in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam, and with a presence further north in Hanoi as well). This chocolate bar was imported into the U.S. by A Priori Specialty Food (Salt Lake City, UT).

Marou makes single province/region chocolate from cacao grown in southern Vietnam. The cacao in today's bar was grown in Ben Tre--a province known for coconut farming--where the great Mekong River delta has created rich soil for agriculture in general.

Like other dark milk chocolate and coconut milk bars featured this week, this one had a silken texture, with a slow, increasingly creamy melt. The only potential down side to this lovely coconut milk attribute is that (like dairy milk) and sugar, coconut milk can obscure cacao flavors. I generally have preferred slightly higher cacao percentage (60%+ cacao) coconut dark milk chocolates for this reason.

Thankfully, today's Vietnam 55% chocolate (made with Trinitario cacao) did have more detectable cacao flavor. Some balanced, acidic/fruit cacao flavor notes managed to shine through. It helped that cacao nibs were the first ingredient listed (see below for complete ingredients list).

Ingredients: cacao nibs, sugar, coconut powder, cacao powder. 

*Marou Chocolate Makers was co-founded in 2010 by Sam Maruta and Vincent Mourou, who had banking and advertising backgrounds (but, they're much more 3D than this), respectively. 

The company name "Marou" appears to be a melding of the two co-founders last names; and there is also a reference that points to its translation as meaning "gift of God." 

Well, either way, their chocolate bars that I've seen in the last ten years have been beautifully packaged and have offered a great tasting experience. Today's 55% dark milk coconut bar was swathed in an outer wrapper with a spring green and ivory background pattern, stamped shiny gold cacao pod, flower and cloud design elements. Suitable for framing.




Thursday, February 4, 2021

Mirzam Chocolate - 52% Dark Milk Chocolate with Coconut (bar) - Feb. 4, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Mirzam Chocolate 
52% Dark Milk Chocolate with Coconut (bar)
Good +
Weight: 2.47 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 352.8 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $11.25 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

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

Today's Mirzam Chocolate Makers* 52% Dark Milk Chocolate with Coconut (bar) was made in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), produced by Kakaw Manufacturing, LLC.

The aroma of this chocolate was redolent with cocoa and coconut. The texture was uniformly laced with a tiny, quiet riot of coconut bits, providing a satisfying chewy, crunchy texture--in the same way that certain sesame and coconut candies satisfy a craving for something sweet and crunchy.

Many of the artisan chocolate and coconut bars featured this week were a very finely ground mind meld of these two flavors, resulting in bars with silken, creamy coconut milk texture, often using coconut milk as a vegan replacement for dairy milk. 

Today's 52% cacao bar differed in at least two significant ways: 1.) the "milk" in the "dark milk" name was dairy milk powder; and 2.) the more intact coconut bits yielded a stone-ground-like melt, with layers of flavor and texture. 

This week's line-up has shown that multiple approaches to blending cacao and coconut can, and do, result in successful, high-end, flavorful chocolate bars. 

While I initially felt that today's bar might be too sweet (it was a bit harder to detect any subtle flavor nuances in the cacao), I managed to consume the entire bar with no trouble whatsoever.

Ingredients: Cocoa beans, skim milk powder, sugar, cocoa butter, coconut, organic coconut extract.

*Mirzam is the name of a bright star (in the southern constellation of Canis Major) that helped Arab traders navigate to far-away lands as they searched for/traded in exotic spices and other goods. Mirzam Chocolate Makers honors this history, and specializes in high-end bean-to-bar chocolates, confections and desserts that feature dates, coffee, cardamom, sesame seeds and other flavor blends from the Arab world.

Equal Exchange Chocolates - Organic Chocolate with Coconut Milk 55% (bar) - Feb. 3, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Equal Exchange Chocolates
Organic, Fairly Traded Chocolate with Coconut Milk 55% Cacao (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.4 oz. (40 g.) / 2.8 oz. (80 g.) in total bar
Calories: 225 calories (per label) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $3.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: FarmFresh CSA box inclusion, online order

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

Today's Organic, Fairly Traded Chocolate with Coconut Milk and Coconut Palm Sugar 55% (bar) was from Equal Exchange Chocolates (West Bridgewater, MA).* 

This bar had a sweet, rich milk chocolate aroma with a subtle coconut note. Like many of the best coconut chocolate bars, the melt was rich and creamy, and the texture was smooth.

The chocolate flavor was similar to drinking a warm cup of velvety, rich milk chocolate (drinking chocolate) melded with authentic, real coconut. The 55% cacao blend was a bit too sweet for me; but the drinking chocolate-like experience was a good match for a winter day.

The hot chocolate richness lingered and was accompanied by a faint, tangy/tart-sweet, fermented milk with raw coconut note.

Ingredients: Organic coconut palm sugar, organic chocolate liquor, organic cocoa butter, organic coconut flakes, organic coconut milk powder (organic coconut milk, organic tapioca maltodextrin)

*Equal Exchange, founded in 1986, is one of the largest democratic worker co-ops in the U.S. The organization, involved early on in fair trade efforts, began working with coffee and tea farmers in the 1980s, and in 2001 cocoa and chocolate relationships were forged.

This alternative for-profit organization structure mirrors the approximately 40 farmer organizations (co-ops) that Equal Exchange works with--in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the U.S.--that produce cacao, coffee, tea, sugar and other crops. And one hopes that this shared organizational trait facilitates understanding of co-op operations and needs as a result. Equal Exchange has been offering bean-to-bar chocolate bars for many years.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Manoa Chocolate - Haupia Coconut 60% Vegan Milk Chocolate (bar) - Feb. 2, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Manoa Chocolate|
Haupia Coconut 60% Vegan Milk Chocolate (bar)
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight: 1.05 oz. (30 g.) / 2.1 oz. (60 g.) in total bar
Calories: 180 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $9.50 for 1 bar / $28.50 (with 15% discount) for set of 3 bars 
Purchased from: Manoa Chocolate, online order 

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

Today's Haupia* Coconut 60% Vegan Milk Chocolate bar was part of a "Flavors of Hawaii" collection from Manoa Chocolate (Kailua, HI). The two other bars in this Manoa 3-bar set--Liliko'i (passion fruit) and Mai'a (banana)--were previously featured.

This 60% chocolate bar had a lightly-roasted, lush green jungle aroma fused with green coconut, very faint sugar cane/molasses and floral (vanilla) notes and a very balanced, subtle bitter/dark chocolate element.

The mouthfeel was a treat: a melt with a cascading creaminess and an overall silken texture. 

The rich green + green coconut flavor mirrored the bar's aroma notes noted above. It was a very satisfying, flavorful 60% vegan milk chocolate bar. The maker allowed the underlying cacao (perfectly matched with the coconut) in this not-too-sweet bar to shine (thank you!). 

To refer to this skillfully executed bar as merely a flavored "sub-70" chocolate bar would be an injustice. This "felt"/tasted more like a 70%+ dark bar with VIP benefits than a coconut flavored dark milk offering. (It also gave me a bit of a theobromine and cane sugar lift.)

Thank you to Manoa Chocolate founder and chief chocolate maker, Dylan Butterbaugh, and team, for the virtual culinary trip to the Hawaiian islands in the middle of our winter here! The maker's pairings (below) sound right on target. I could almost taste these in my head, especially the first two.

Pairing suggestions from the maker: wine: chenin blanc, liquor: white caribbean-style rum, beer: IPA 

Ingredients: cacao, organic cane sugar, cocoa butter, organic dehydrated coconut milk.

*The title of this bar "Haupia," also known as Hawaiian coconut pudding, refers to a cold dessert made using coconut milk/cream, sugar, arrowroot (or, more recently, corn) starch and water, that is chilled and cut into square/rectangular pieces. Polynesian settlers brought coconuts to Hawaii; and cacao was brought over from Central/South America. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Metiisto Chocolate - Coconut 58% Mylk (bar) - Feb. 1, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Metiisto Artisan Chocolate
Coconut 58% Mylk (bar)
Good ++
Weight: 1.32 oz. (37.5 g.) / 2.65 oz. (75 g.) in total bar
Calories: 227.5 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $10.00 (+ shipping) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

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

Today's Coconut 58% Mylk bar was made from scratch by Metiisto Artisan Chocolate in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia.

This bar was a great example of how far "dark milk" chocolate as well as alternative "milk" chocolates have come. 

Early coconut milk bars* were often geared toward vegans and those who wanted to avoid dairy milk, but who still wanted the creamy sweetness of a milk chocolate bar. They were usually gratefully received by those wanting these options. In the past decade, craft chocolate bars have up-leveled the quality of coconut milk bars.

Today's 58% Coconut Mylk bar was beautifully complex, and comparable to some of the best dark milk chocolate bars available today. 

The aroma of this bar had dark chocolate milk (the good kind you remember as a child) and coconut notes. And this well-tempered bar had a creamy, luscious melt and texture. 

An array of flavor notes were enjoyed while tasting this mylk bar. There was a sweet, tartness, light and bright dried fruit (raisin, light cherry), very faint, light spice (spice cake, molasses stirred into milk, a faint fleeting cardamom note), coconut milkshake, and a flicker of balanced earthy coconut. The chocolate had a clean, light, elegant cocoa and coconut finish.

Like many**Australian chocolate makers, Metiisto is using cacao grown by farmers in (the relatively nearby) Pacific island nations. This Metiisto Coconut bar was made with Tenaru*** cacao from the Solomon Islands.

Ingredients: Cocoa beans, coconut blossom sugar, cocoa butter, shredded coconut 

*Charm School Chocolate (Hunt Valley, MD, in the U.S.) created an early bean-to-bar, fine chocolate coconut milk bar that showed people what was possible. Charm School chief chocolate maker and founder, Joshua Rosen, trained as a chef and engineer (perfect training for small-batch chocolate making) has since created several more coconut milk chocolate bars with flavor inclusions.

**Yes, happily, there are many bean-to-bar, craft/small-batch chocolate makers in Australia now, including Atypic Chocolate, Daintree Estates, Hunted and Gathered, Jasper + Myrtle, Metiisto Chocolate, the Smooth Chocolator, Spencer Cocoa, and Zokoko.

*** The Tenaru region lies on Guadalcanal Island, the largest of the Solomon Islands--an island nation (country) located in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. Guadalcanal exports a variety of agricultural goods, including coconuts and cacao, crops made possible by a mix of latitude, climate, rich, volcanic soils, and the hard work of farmers.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Rowe of Venice - Coconut Organic Gourmet Super Snacks - Jan. 31, 2021

Chocolate(s) of the Day

Rowe of Venice
Coconut Organic Gourmet Super Snacks
Good +
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42 g.) in total package
Calories: 240 calories in 1 package
Cost: $5.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: Farm Fresh To You CSA box delivery service, online order

Welcome to Day #11 of Chocolate and ABCD Theme Week, and Day #2 of Chocolate and Coconut Theme Week.

Covid-19 has made travel to chocolate shops and destinations more challenging. So, I was happy to learn that my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm-to-home delivery service offered chocolate items, including craft (bean-to-bar) chocolate (from Theo Chocolate, Cru Chocolate and others) that I've featured previously, as well as several chocolate-related snacks.

Today's first of two chocolate and coconut snacks was from Rowe of Venice Super Snacks (Venice, CA/Los Angeles, CA). Rowe of Venice is the "nutritional love child" of Rowe Samieian, who, inspired by autoimmune issues, consulted with Ayurvedic, Chinese and other medical practitioners to create a series of natural snack offerings.

Today's Rowe of Venice's Organic Coconut Gourmet Super Snacks were vegan dairy free and gluten free. They had a refreshingly authentic, real coconut and almond aroma, flavor and chew with a rich carob flavor note, accented with a faint hint of Himalayan sea salt. Coconut oil and blue agave nectar provided cohesiveness, a touch of healthy fat (satiation) and bit of sweetness. (Note: do watch for nut shell fragments.)

There was one "missing" ingredient here...cacao or cocoa! 

Carob can be a good substitute for people wanting to avoid cacao. Understood. But clearly, Chocolate Banquet welcomes all things cacao. And, more to the point, to qualify for a daily chocolate entry on this site, an item must include some form cocoa solids. 

Thankfully, I'd ordered a second snack item from Farm Fresh To You (with cocoa solids). Both were from the L.A. area. And I've added this item (below). Close call. Cacao withdrawals avoided.

Ingredients: Organic raw almonds, Organic carob powder, Organic unsweetened shredded coconut, Organic raw blue agave nectar, Organic cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil, Himalayan Pink Salt. 

Foodstirs Keto Chocolate Chip Cookies

Foodstirs
Keto Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
Good 
Weight: Portion: 2 small baked cookies / 7.94 oz. (225 g.) in total package of dry mix
Calories: Approximately 110 calories in 2 small cookies
Cost: $7.00 (estimate) for 1 package of mix + cost of additional, required ingredients
Purchased from: Farm Fresh to You, CSA box delivery service, online add-on

The second item sampled today was a finished cookie made from a Keto Chocolate Chip Cookie mix created by Foodstirs (Santa Monica, CA). The company, founded in 2015, sells baking kits, mixes and baked goods. One of the three founders was actress Sarah Michelle Gellar.

I added the required ingredients to this gluten-free cookie dry mix: a generous, lump of butter, almond milk and vanilla extract, and baked them in the oven. 

The resulting cookies didn't taste too sugary sweet which was a plus. There was, however, a noticeable non-sugar, sweetener flavor--from the erythritol used as a sugar replacement, that made the Keto label possible. (The mix also contained stevia, and a bit of organic cane sugar in the chocolate chips.)

The small chocolate chip cookies hung together and browned up fairly nicely (thank you butter). A cookie fresh out of the oven is a pleasure on a cold wintery day.

Ingredients: Organic almond flour, organic erythritol, organic pea protein flour, organic chocolate chips (organic cane sugar, organic cocoa liquor, organic cocoa butter), organic coconut flour, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), sea salt, organic cacao powder, organic stevia extract, organic chocolate extract, organic vanilla extract.

Sahale Snacks - Cherry Cocoa Almond Coconut Snack Mix - Jan. 30, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Sahale Snacks 
Cherry Cocoa Almond Coconut Snack Mix
Good
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42.5 g.) / 10.5 oz. (297 g.) in total box of 7 bags
Calories: 240 calories in 1 bag of snack mix
Cost: $3.99 for 1 box of 7 bags
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #10 of Chocolate and ABCD Theme Week, where I've been featuring chocolate items with flavor inclusions starting with the letters A, B, C and/or D.

Today's Cherry Cocoa Almond Coconut snack item from Sahale Snacks, Inc.* (Seattle, WA) served as an alphabetic trifecta, and provided a lead-in to Day #1 of Chocolate and Coconut Week.

In recent years, chocolate and coconut snack items have multiplied and are easy to find in California. Many of these offerings reflect current food trends (organic, less refined sugar, keto, paleo, grain free, "healthier" snacks with simplified ingredients lists, fewer/no artificial ingredients, etc.). 

Sahale Snacks is known for trail mixes with "nuts, fruits and spices." Many of these, like today's mix, are glazed with a light layer of extra sweetness and flavor (e.g. cashews with a pomegranate coating, or a nut mix with a maple glaze).

Today's glossy snack clusters had a coconut candy aroma and a texture with uniform, optimal crunchiness--from the larger toasted coconut and almond pieces. 

Tiny cacao nibs provided a soft chewy crunch and faint rich flavor accent (although their cocoa flavor was all but eclipsed by other elements). And dried cherry bits added tart sweet fruit sweetness with a softer chew.
 
The flavors were fresh-tasting, sugar-sparkled, and naturally brightened further by a faint hint of citrus and vanilla. The ingredients were relatively high-end and thoughtful. (There were no artificial ingredients and preservatives.) 

However, the glaze that welded small bite-sized confection clusters together contained at least three sweeteners (cane sugar, organic invert sugar and tapioca syrup). The end result was too sweet for me, but this snack mix may appeal to those with a sweet tooth.

Ingredients: Toasted coconut, almonds, organic cane sugar, organic invert sugar, dried cherries (cherries, sugar, sunflower oil), organic tapioca syrup, cacao nibs, sea salt, cocoa, organic extra virgin coconut oil, dried orange peel, natural vanilla extract, pure ground vanilla beans.

*J.M. Smucker Company, a large food company, agreed to purchase Sahale Snacks, Inc. in 2014. The two men who founded Sahale were/(are) outdoor enthusiasts and mountain hikers/climbers who worked at NBC--and who, after an outing on Mount Rainier (a large mountain in Washington State), felt inspired to create a better trail mix.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Thrive Tribe - Cacao Nib Paleo Bites (with nuts + seeds) - Jan. 29, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Thrive Tribe (1908 Brands)
Cacao Nib Paleo Bites  
Good
Weight: 1.5 oz. (43 g.) / 6 oz. (170 g.) in total container
Calories: 220 calories in 1 serving
Cost: $2.99 for 1 container
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

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

Today's container of Cacao Nib Paleo Bites with nuts + seeds was from 1908 Brands (Boulder, CO).

These tasty, ebony-colored, cork-shaped bites had an aroma with coconut, dark chocolate (cacao nibs and cocoa powder), nut and seed notes--and a hard, but satisfying chew. 

Each piece was condensed chewy coconut, crunchy nut (almond) and seed (pumpkin and flax) flavor, texture and goodness. They would be great trail snacks, or snacks on the go. (Less likely to melt than a chocolate bar.)

The Paleo Bites were sweetened with a judicious amount of honey, date paste and vanilla powder. The cacao nibs and other ingredients helped to balance the sweetness, so they weren't cloyingly (overly) sweet. (Thank you!) 

Ingredients: coconut chips, honey, pumpkin seeds, almonds, ground flax, date paste, coconut oil, cacao nibs, cocoa (processed with alkali), water, vanilla powder (sugar, maltodextrin, natural flavor), salt.


Thursday, January 28, 2021

Cacaoteca - Dark Chocolate 84% El Arca Dominican Republic (bar) - Jan. 28, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Cacaoteca SRL
Dark Chocolate 84% Al Arca Dominican Republic (bar)
Good + - Good ++
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.) / 1.75 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 112.5 calories in 1/2 of bar
Cost: $7.50 (+ shipping) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cacao, online order

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate and ABCD Theme Week, an alphabetic showcase of chocolate terms that begin with the letters A, B, C and D, including cacao destinations and origins.

Today's Chocolate Negro (Dark Chocolate) 84% cacao en apoyo a la comunidad (in support of the community of) El Arca* de la Republica Dominica (El Arca, Dominican Republic) was from Cacaoteca SRL, a tree-to-bar chocolate maker from Miches (a northeast coastal town), with a presence in Gascue DN (Santa Domingo), in the Dominican Republic.

This ultra-dark bar had an aroma of dark chocolate with light incense floral, and very faint green spice (saffron) notes. The flavor was beautifully and deliciously approachable for an 80+% cacao chocolate. The dark chocolate flavor arc also included very light, pleasant loamy and subtle umami/savory notes. I adore skillfully preserved floral and umami flavors, and well-balanced bitterness and acidity, so I was happy.

Ingredients: grue de cacao (roasted and ground cacao nibs/cacao mass), azucar de cana (cane sugar)

* El Arca in English translates to "the rainbow." This Santa Domingo "community of peace and hope" that "embraces individuals with mental incapacities." This bar was a collaboration between this community and Cacaoteca.


Al Nassma - Camel Milk Chocolate 70% with Almonds (bar) - Jan. 27, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Al Nassma Chocolate
Camel Milk Chocolate 70% Cocoa with Almonds (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.23 oz. (35 g.) / 2.46 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 212.45 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $10.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

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

Today's Camel's Dark Milk 70% Cocoa with Almonds bar was produced by Al Nassma Chocolate (Dubai, United Arab Emirates). The company was, as far as I know, the first to offer fine Arabian (Dromedary)* camel milk chocolate.

The theme this week is: chocolates with flavor inclusions that begin with the letters A, B, C and D. While there are dozens of flavor inclusions that start with "c" (cardamom, cherry, cinnamon and curry spices, to name a few), camel's milk offered the chance for a little virtual culinary travel. Blend this drome-dairy milk with dark chocolate and almonds?  All the better.

This bar had an aroma with sweet chocolate (dark chocolate cake/frosting, fresh baked cookie) notes; and after taking a bite, the chocolate aroma was joined by faint coconut, almond and brown sugar flavor notes. A hint of floral vanilla flavor--and a very faint malt/oxidized note possibly from the almonds--also helped explain the association with baked goods in the aroma. 

The whole almonds embedded in the dark milk chocolate provided crunchy texture, and the bar's finish had balanced, smooth dark chocolate flavor with a faint whisper of earthy/smokey vanilla. 

What about the camel's milk? Since I have never tasted camel's milk (by itself) it was difficult to detect any unique, or dairy-like, flavor in the small amount that was present (2%) in this chocolate. 

Too much milk and sugar can obscure the underlying cacao flavors in milk chocolate bars (particularly mass produced/large batch offerings). However, the cacao** flavor nuances were able to shine through with this 70% dark milk bar, in large part because there was not too much milk or sugar (and honey); and the makers chose to go with a relatively high percent of cacao (for a milk chocolate bar). Thank you!

It's unusual to find dark milk bars above 68% cacao. There are a few 70%-ers produced by European and U.S. makers. However, generally speaking, milk chocolate bars--even dark milk ones--cater to those with more of a sweet tooth. The best makers learn to harness the alchemy involved with different cacao varieties and milks and sweeteners of different sorts.

Ingredients: cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, almonds (15%), camel milk powder (2%), honey, bourbon vanilla

* Of the species of camels alive today, Dromedary camels (Camelus Dromedarius), generally found in the drier areas (deserts) of Saudia Arabian peninsula and Africa, are the most numerous. They have a single hump vs. the Asian Bactrian camels that have two humps. As with cattle, cow camels give milk, bull camels do not. 

Camel milk is an important staple in certain countries, and approximately 3 million tons of camel milk is produced for consumption each year worldwide. (Approximately 600 million metric tons of cattle/cow's milk is produced worldwide.)

**I'm guessing the cacao variety used to make this chocolate bar might have been Forastero or a Trinitario-Forastero blend from Africa.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Chamisa Chocolate - Cardamom Coffee bar - Jan. 26, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Chamisa Chocolate
Cardamom Coffee bar
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (30 g.) / 2 oz. (60 g.) in total bar
Calories: 155 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $10.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chamisa Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate and ABCD Theme Week. If you're just tuning in, you may be wondering, what does this alphabetic nonsense all about? This week, I'm featuring chocolates with flavor inclusions that start with the letters A, B, C and/or D.

Today's Cardamom Coffee 65% dark chocolate bar was from organic, micro-batch chocolate maker Amanda Hatherly at Chamisa Chocolate (Santa Fe, NM).  

The cardamom* used to infuse this chocolate was allowed to be the star flavor, with coffee and dark chocolate playing important supporting roles. Great choice. 

Who ever said "three's a crowd," never experienced these three flavors making magic together. Each of these bold flavors can hold their own and are amiable companions. Anything but boring, and deeply satisfying.

The skillful flavor blend in this well-tempered, organic and vegan bar allowed me to fully appreciate and savor cardamom's deep complexity. The aroma and flavor had subtle herby, minty, caraway, anise, bubble gum, fragrant black pepper, very light sweet, smoked mustard, and other notes) during the tasting experience. And the blend of cardamom and the coffee helped to create a long, pleasing, flavorful finish.

We can thank culinary pioneers and spice traders in Arab countries, centuries ago, for being the first to blend coffee with cardamom. This flavor duo was adopted by neighboring countries; and, more recently, it can be found in chocolate bars and confections/desserts in the U.S. 

Ingredients: Organic cacao beans, organic sugar, organic cacao butter, organic coffee, organic cardamom.

*Cardamom has it's origins in Asia. Black (also known as brown) cardamom is from Bhutan, Nepal, and India. Green cardamom has its origins further south, in the lush forests of India and across parts of Malaysia.

While not specified in the ingredients list, I'm assuming the cardamom in this bar was predominantly black/brown cardamom (vs. green cardamom); but it could have been a mix of both. 

I have seen people using black cardamom and green cardamom with their coffee (and chocolate). And some people do use a mix of both types. Green cardamom has more upbeat notes: bubble gum/tropical spice and green vanilla/nutmeg; whereas black cardamom is a bit less zingy, but subtley complex, and sometimes almost smoky.


Monday, January 25, 2021

Chamisa Chocolate - Strawberry Basil bar - Jan. 25, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Chamisa Chocolate
Strawberry Basil bar
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (30 g.) / 2 oz. (60 g.) in total bar
Calories: 155 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $10.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chamisa Chocolate, online order

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

Today's Strawberry Basil bar was created by Amanda Hatherly at Chamisa Chocolate (Santa Fe, NM).

Amanda's organic, rich, dark sweet chocolate (65% cacao) bar sparkled with bright, fresh summer flavors: tart-sweet strawberry and authentic fresh basil. (I also caught a barely detectable whiff of very faint roasted coffee in the initial aroma.) The finish was light and lingering with sweet chocolate, red berry and subtle herbal (basil) notes.

This chocolate was the perfect antidote for a blustery, cold day in January.

The scent of basil did create a bit of a brain surprise when I took the first bite of chocolate. My palette/brain was anticipating a savory Mediterranean dish with tomato sauce and cheese, or a savory basil fruit salad...since this herb is rarely used in sweet dishes. A pity really. 

Basil is a member of the mint family. And while it's possible to use sweet* basil to make basil chocolate chip ice cream, lemon and basil sorbet, or sweet basil tea--most of us are so used to peppermint (and more occasionally spearmint) being wedded to sweet items that basil blended with sugar and chocolate may take some getting used to. (Peppermint also has a stronger mint (menthol) punch per bunch, making it a potentially less expensive flavoring in large scale production.)

Ingredients: Organic cacao beans, organic sugar, organic cacao butter, organic strawberries, organic basil.

*There are many types of basil, including Thai, Lemon, Greek and Cinnamon--each with their own flavor nuances--but the most common variety found in U.S. grocery stores is "sweet" basil (Ocimum basilicum) or cultivars of this common basil, such as Genovese basil (Ocimum basilicum 'Genovese'). 

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