Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Boston Visit: The Changing Chocolate Scene

 Last weekend, I got to go visit one of my favorite cities.


As I've written here a few times before, Boston has many, many opportunities for enjoying delicious chocolate treats. I was, however, saddened to learn that one of my favorites, JP Licks on Newbury Street, had closed.

 Shedding a few tears was an appropriate reaction.

Just like anger was an appropriate reaction to seeing much lower caliber shops open up on Newbury Street instead.

Apparently, they are spreading. Like a disease.

However, I was happy to see that some things weren't changing. For example, Teuscher is still opening their doors for everybody seeking high-quality Swiss chocolate, and I was able to pick up a 77% cacao bar, which is one of my favorite dark chocolates from their shop.

Just down the street, Hotel Chocolat beckoned, and I stepped in to grab a few single-origin bars, a nice orange dark chocolate bar, and some dark chocolate pistachio pieces.

The best thing I came away with was some insider information about potential Hotel Chocolat expansion plans in North America. They made me very, very happy.

Finally, I found one good change - a new storefront for LA Burdick, this one in the Back Bay, right near where I was staying.

Though I passed on the single origin hot chocolate this go-around, I did pick up their Brazilian dark chocolate bar out of curiosity, and will, of course, report back on how it turns out.

Such a short weekend. So many chocolate shops. So many delicious dark chocolate bars to nibble at until my next trip up north.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cocova: This Time, With Company

Yesterday was an outstanding day. Sure, I got to bike AND run in the morning, which always makes me happy, even in oppressive DC humidity. But even better, I got to meet this special lady.

Hannah! Here all the way from Australia. When I found out she was going to be in DC, I pestered her for an in-person meet up, and bribed her with a visit to Cocova with all its delightful chocolate offerings from the U.S. and around the globe.
Evidently, many European chocolates are harder to come by in Australia, so she and I both admired the Cluizel and Pralus, and I even sent her away with one of my favorite bars - the Virginia-made Potomac Chocolate Upala 82% cacao bar.

Come back soon, Hannah. We have more Vosges bars to dissect.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Delaviuda Yogu-Fresa

Earlier this summer, Cecelia, the queen of making beautiful homemade macarons, sent me some chocolate from Spain.

Yes, Spain. I’ve had plenty of French, German, and Italian chocolate. But never Spanish, which Cecelia thought was a shame, and she remedied the situation with this The Delaviuda Yogu-Fresa bar.

The strawberry-yogurt based bar from Toledo, Spain had a clear aroma of tart berry and cream, along with a very thin chocolate coating.

 That chocolate coating was smooth, with a strong dairy flavor, and was soft enough to break nicely alongside the interior.

Underneath that thin chocolate layer was a firm white-chocolate-like filling with a strong, tart yogurt flavor. Crumbled freeze dried berries are nicely distributed throughout the filling, and add a pleasing but slightly artificial berry flavor to the bar. The tart yogurt and berry dominate the flavor of this sweet bar, and there is little chocolate flavor notable given the thin chocolate shell, but it is a delightful treat nonetheless.

Thank you, Cecelia!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

August Cocova/Eclat Sample Event

Welcome back, fellow chocolate lovers! I've been consumed with many non-chocolate adventures this summer - namely, training to cross the finish line at Ironman Louisville last month. I'm happy to report that I did it, and you can read about it on my other blog, and am even happier to report that I have more time to talk about chocolate.

Just in time for an event at Cocova last Friday.

Intriguing? Turns out that Christopher Curtin of Eclat was there to sample and discuss some of his divine creations. 

I've had the opportunity to try some of the Eclat bars before, including their Milk Chocolate Pretzel Bar, and have generally been pleased. They had an intriguing toasted corn bar out for review, and I, of course, checked it out.

Though I wasn't very drawn to that bar, the sampling event was far from over, as Eclat provided caramels and truffles for enjoyment as well.

Christopher proudly showcased his Fortunato No.4 truffle, a simple ganache that allowed the distinct flavor of the rare Peruvian cacao to shine. 

It's good to be back with chocolate.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Lindt Excellence Coconut Bar

Although I was not very excited about the Lindt Excellence Caramel with a Touch of Sea Salt bar that I was sent as a member of the Lindt Excellence Influencers club, I wasn’t scared off. I mean, a Coconut dark chocolate bar still required evaluation.

This bar, with a 47% cacao chocolate base, has a clear coconut aroma, with bits of coconut that are well-distributed throughout the bar.

The base chocolate has a dominant coffee flavor, yet avoids a bitter bite that some coffee-centric dark chocolates put off. The melt is smooth and not at all dry.

The coconut is flavorful and well-toasted. Since I adore chocolate and coconut together, I do like this bar, but I think that other coconut bars, such as the Elbow No. 16 Dark Chocolate and Coconut bar, are much better. 

That said, this bar is much easier to find throughout the U.S. - I've even seen it at CVS, so it's a great solution for any and all chocolate-coconut emergencies.

Lindt Excellence: Caramel with a Touch of Sea Salt

One of the cool things about being selected as a member of the 150-person Lindt Excellence Influencers Club is that they ask us what we think about their new bars.

Most importantly, that means that in the process of gathering our thoughts, they send us free chocolate.


Since I'm in the middle of heavy triathlon training right now, salt is always on my mind. I lose of a lot of it sweating through 3-hour runs and 6-hour bike rides, so I naturally went for the Caramel with a Touch of Sea Salt first.

The bar has a brown sugar aroma, accented with a hint of woodiness, and the base chocolate has a smooth, creamy melt.

This bar is very strong on salt, which starts dissolving immediately and obscures most flavor from the chocolate. A few hints of coffee and mint accent a cream-heavy flavor, but it is the salt that is most apparent.

And that caramel?

Hard crunchy bits that stick to your teeth. Not ideal.

Overall, unbalanced and a bit disappointing. If I think it has too much salt, it’s very salt heavy.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Perfect Fuel Chocolate

Chocolate review time again! As I've said before, I'm busy training for Ironman Louisville this summer, and you can read about that over on my triathlon blog. Sadly, this means less time for chocolate reviews.

Less time, but still some time. Which is why when the folks at Perfect Fuel Chocolate asked me if I'd be willing to review their goods, I  was quite gleeful.

Three 14 gram pieces of 74% cacao raw chocolate, enhanced with ginseng, showed up for my evaluation. 

These bars are supposed to be just perfect 30 minutes before a workout, and the antioxidants in the chocolate are beneficial for cellular repair following exercise.

Obviously the only reason I ever eat chocolate. Obviously.

I'll be eating one of these before my big bike-run workout this Saturday, and will report back on the effect it has on my training day over on my triathlon blog. So here, I'll focus on the chocolate itself.

The  chocolate has floral and coffee aromas, and has a coarse texture similar to that of Taza’s chocolate. It melts nicely and is not at all dry despite the coarse texture.

Red fruits emerge as the first flavor, and then earthy and coffee flavors come forth later. The finish includes a bit of floral and citrus flavors, and the overall flavor profile is intense and complex . The bar is not sweet at all, and though slightly bitter, the floral notes prevent the bitterness from becoming overwhelming.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Vegan, Gluten-Free Brownie Bottom Peanut Butter Pie

Well hello there. Guess you haven’t really seen me here, have you? I’ve been busy, like we all are, and anticipate that this will be the case for most of the summer, because I’m training for a little race at the end of August. Given that, most of my blogging is happening over on my triathlon blog, which you should go check out for some good giggles.

There probably won’t be any regularly scheduled blogging over here for a while, but I will be posting now and then when I find a very delicious chocolate bar to share with you, or when I have a great recipe to show off, or maybe even when I have news from a chocolate-related event to share.

This weekend, I was at such an event, a ladies’ potluck dinner hosted by the lovely Gena, who makes truly delicious things with kale and eggplant.

And how is that a chocolate related event? Because my contribution was, of course, chocolate: Vegan, Gluten-Free Brownie Bottom Peanut Butter Pie.

This is a very simple recipe that doesn’t require any baking, which should make it a relatively appealing endeavor during the summer months here.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Brownie Bottom Peanut Butter Pie (makes one 9" pie)

18 ounces pitted dates
8 ounces peanuts
2/3 cup cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½  teaspons vanilla
9” tart pan, lightly coated with vegetable or coconut oil

Run peanuts through food processor until finely ground, set aside. Run dates through food processor until a paste forms, add peanuts and remaining ingredients and run through food processor until a uniform mixture forms. Press into the bottom and sides of the prepared tart pan, freeze 1-2 hours. 

4 bananas, sliced
1 cup peanut flour (available from Southern Grace Farms – and no, they do not pay me, they just have the best stuff for the best price)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Freeze banana slices 1-2 hours, then run through a food processor until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and process until combined. 

Spread evenly into prepared crust, then freeze until set. Remove from freezer 30-60 minutes before serving.

Be sure to serve in very thin slices, it is quite rich.

Especially if consumed after a delightful, veggie-filled dinner with friends like Gena, Valerie, Andrea, Dasha, and Anne. You just won’t have much room left after enjoying lots of bountiful summer vegetables.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bruno's Chocolate Creations: Nutty Pieces

The box of chocolates that my boyfriend got me from Bruno’sChocolate Creations down in Florida had a pretty nice variety of pieces in it, and fortunately, that variety included the all-important nutty pieces. One simple but delicious piece was the chocolate covered cashew.

The piece has a faint aroma of nuts and coffee, and the couverture offers flavors of vanilla and coffee with just a hint of sugar. The density is just perfect for the cashew, and there isn’t any messy breakage to deal with. 

The cashew inside is a tiny bit under-roasted, but is by no means raw, and is quite flavorful. It is also nicely salted, and blend well with the mild chocolate.

If somebody gave me 30 of these, they’d last about 30 minutes.

Maybe. 15 is probably more like it.

But instead of a pound of chocolate covered cashews, my box had variety, so I moved along to another nutty piece, a peanut butter cream.
This piece has a distinct peanut aroma, and the chocolate has a smooth melt with a distinct vanilla flavor – nothing notable, but nothing offensive either.

The interior is very dense and smooth with an intense roasted nut flavor and a hint of salt. The texture is creamy and well-matched to the chocolate to minimize breakage with each bite. As a whole, the piece is completely delightful, and almost as good as the Recchiuti peanut butter pucks.

Perhaps I need some more of each piece for comparison purposes. Perhaps.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bruno's Chocolate Creations: Tropical-Inspired Chocolates

Even though that box of chocolate that my boyfriend got me from Bruno’s Chocolate Creations down in Florida was huge, I only reviewed two pieces. Is it because I ate the rest so quickly that I couldn't review them?


But really, I did want to stretch it out rather than write 18 pages about one box of chocolates in one post. So, continuing along, I’ll go over some of Bruno’s tropical-inspired flavors. First up, the pineapple pate de fruit.

The piece has a mild coffee and vanilla aroma, and the couverture has a smooth melt with a mild earthy flavor. There’s a bit of a sweet edge to it, but the earthy flavor dominates.

The pineapple interior is sweet, not tart, in nature. It is smooth, with an easy-to-chew texture, and the density matches up perfectly with the couverture such that the interior and exterior don’t break apart. The pate de fruit makes up the majority of the piece, and I would have preferred a bit more chocolate to balance out the sweet pineapple, but overall, it was an enjoyable piece

Moving right along to another tropical-themed treat: a coconut-filled piece.

The piece has an aroma of strong vanilla and weak coconut ; the couverture has a strong coffee flavor along with hints of cream and berry.

The coconut inside is where this piece really shines; the coconut is nicely toasted to bring out the flavor, and is neither dry nor gummy. There is just a touch of sugar to enhance the flavor of the coconut, which allows you to enjoy the coconut flavor rather than a coconut-flavored sugary center. It’s really perfectly spot on. If I got another box of these (HINT), I would love several of these coconut pieces.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bruno's Chocolate Creations: Cherry and Citrus Creams

 I get gifts that look like this often.

When you blog about chocolate, people know what to get you. My boyfriend figured this out soon after he started dating me, and decided to get me some chocolates from Bruno’s Chocolate Creations in Fort Pierce, FL, which is near his hometown.

He also sent a cute note.

It was obvious who it was from, right?

Since this was a large box of chocolates, reviewing them all is going to take a while. With that in mind, let’s go ahead with the fruity chocolates, starting with the cherry cream.

The piece has a clear cherry aroma immediately, and the dark chocolate couverture has a smooth melt with a strong coffee flavor accented with hints of vanilla.

 The cream inside is quite sweet, with a hint of cherry flavor. The texture is fudge-like, though a bit dry, and overall…it is sweet. Very, very sweet. The dark chocolate tempers the sugar overload a bit, but it’s still a bit overwhelming.

Moving along to another fruity piece: the orange cream, which featured an orange aroma from the start.
Again, Bruno’s has used a dark chocolate couverture; it is again smooth, with noticeable coffee and earthy flavors. 

The interior features cream and orange flavors reminiscent of an orange creamsicle.  This is not a bad thing. The flavors are pleasing and cut back on the sugary base of the center, and complement the dark chocolate nicely.

If given the choice in picking my own box, I’d leave out the cherry and replace it with an orange. But that may just be because of my fond childhood memories of creamsicles.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ritter Sport: Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts

I consider Ritter Sport to be one of the better mainstream chocolates out there in the U.S. – you can’t find Pralus or Amedei in very many cities here, but you can find Ritter Sport in several drugstores and the like. A nice, accessible chocolate of relatively high quality. But, it’s important to know which of those bars you should pick up on your trips to CVS and Target, which is where a review comes in. Today, the bar up for discussion is the Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts.

As you probably know, I do not like chocolate bars large nuts (are you done laughing yet? OK good). I prefer well-chopped, evenly distributed nuts that lead to a more uniform chocolate enjoyment experience. But I’ll also try anything. Especially anything chocolate.

The bar had a nutty aroma, with hints of vanilla and cream. And of course, big hazelnuts visible from the back of the bar.

Those hazelnuts have a sweet roast, with a hint of vanilla, and are flavorful and crunchy. They are still too big, and I found myself getting a few bites that were almost all nut, and others that were all chocolate. The chocolate itself had a creamy melt, with mint and vanilla flavors and caramel and nutty undertones. The texture contrast of the creamy chocolate and crunchy hazelnuts is nice, and the flavor, though mild and standard, is pleasing.

The nuts are still too big for me.