Category Archives: chocolate and coffee

Brooklyn Born Chocolate

Brooklyn Born Chocolate has been around for ten years, which is no surprise as they cater to a wide variety of tastes, including special orders for businesses.

Before I regale you with a partial list of their wares and my tasting notes, let me tell you about their company values. Many members of their staff are given a second chance through community based programs such as Strive, Goodwill and The Fortune Society. Every Brooklyn Born Chocolate employee understands that he, she or they are an integral part of the business’s growth and success. A socially conscious company that makes a wide range of standards, riffs on classics and new concoctions. Sounds great, n’est-ce pas?

Executive Pastry Chef Jean-François Bonnet uses all natural ingredients and organic chocolate sourced from Agostoni Chocolate from beans harvested in Central and South America for their Paleo line.

Their non-organic chocolate bars use a custom blend of Ecuadorian and Peruvian beans from Republica de Cacao.

As you might imagine, I have sampled thousands of chocolate bars; so, it is always a delight to me to taste something utterly new and delicious. One of my favorite offerings from Brooklyn Born Chocolate is their PB & J bar: 72% dark chocolate covering peanut praline with a layer of raspberry pâté de fruit. This is an adult version of a classic combo. A thin layer of chocolate encases a thicker layer of peanut praline with the slightly chewy, ever so gently acidic raspberry pâté de fruit. A fabulous contrast of texture, taste and flavor…and not too sweet!

I was also quite enraptured with their Mint Crunch bar, 72% dark chocolate with peppermint oil and nibs. What a great blend of super smooth chocolate, perky mint and crunchy nibs.

Holy Molé combines 72% dark chocolate with toasted almonds, toffee, Molé spices, and fleur de sel. The add-ins are subtle, infusing every bite with different flavors and textures.

Though white chocolate is not my go-to, I especially liked their 35% Café Au Lait bar. With its finely ground coffee beans amalgamated so completely they actually colored this bar brown, it was redolent of mocha. A bit surprising visually, as I would have expected it to be a white bar with flecks of coffee. This was actually more appealing and somehow made the bar taste “darker.”

They also offer a range of 42% milk chocolate bars. The Sweet and Salty is a lovely mix of peanuts, pretzels and toffee. Dulce de Chile has a blend of toasted rice crisps, cascabel pepper and a hint of sea salt. The pepper here isn’t overly hot, yet it enhances and perks up the milk chocolate. Salted Peanut was a delicious filled bar of velvety peanut praline studded with bits of rice crispies.

I was intrigued by their Paleo Bars made of only four ingredients, the base of which are 70% organic cacao and coconut sugar. All of these are very adult and healthy. My two favorites were the Coconut Chia (all organic) with its crunchy/chewy texture and the Coffee Hazelnut, an inspired pairing of mocha favors with toasted nuts. Unique and delicious.

In addition, there is a creative assortment of nut butter cups, none of which was high in sugar. The Peanut Butter cups come in milk, dark and white chocolate; and, even though the sugar content was the same for all three, the white version tasted much sweeter to me, probably because of its extra creamy texture.

Brooklyn Born Chocolate creates a wide selection of chocolate treats made with nuts, pretzels, animal crackers, toffee and figs…though not all mixed together. My top picks were the Peppermint Pretzel Balls, lovely pink speckled orbs of white chocolate infused with peppermint oil surrounding a small salty pretzel. The juxtaposition of crunch, mint, and silky chocolate was delicious fun. Chocolate Toffee Peanut Rocher was a mound of milk chocolate mixed with lightly salted peanuts and caramelized rice crispies.

The bars are all packaged in reclosable envelopes that open at the top with a cellophane sleeve inside. This keeps everything neat and fresh.

I couldn’t possibly taste all their offerings, but you might enjoy their Nostalgia chocolates including S’mores, Chocolate Caramel with Créme Fraiche, Chocolate Caramel Pecan Pie, Chocolate Caramel Key Lime Pie, and Chocolate Covered Toffee Crisps.

There are gift baskets, beautiful mosaic-like Fruit and Nut Bars, Bonbons, and Caramels. Check out their website for a full description.

 

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Goodnow Farms Chocolate: Three New Bars

 

If you read my previous review of Goodnow Farms chocolate, you know what a fan I am; especially, of their Esmeraldas bar.

Here are some tasting notes on two of their newest offerings:

77% Dark Chocolate with Las Palomas Coffee. These delicious beans hail from Guatemala. Their fruitiness pairs beautifully with the deeply satisfying George Howell coffee. Unlike many other coffee and chocolate bars, this one is as smooth as silk. Sometimes it’s fun to have the added crunch of tiny pieces of coffee beans and sometimes it’s celestial to have this uber-creamy experience. At Goodnow Farms they press their own single origin cocoa butters from the beans in each bar. This is a truly passionate endeavor that results in an incredibly velvety texture and the intense single origin flavor.

Their Special Reserve 77% Dark Chocolate with Lawley’s Rum from Boston Harbor Distillery is a slam dunk for those of you who, like me, love the combination of alcohol and chocolate. Here, the beans are from Ecuador. Their caramel-vanilla-molasses oakiness is sublime with the richness of the rum. As Goodnow Farms hasn’t added vanilla to these bars, the essence of the bean shines through.

Even though I have written about their 70% Ucayali Peruvian bar before, I wanted to let you know it has received numerous awards from the Academy of Chocolate and the International Chocolate Awards.

As I am always interested in packaging, let me remind you these come in hard cardboard envelopes to keep their lovely, perfectly tempered chocolate intact. Each bar rests in an inner reclosable cellophane sleeve that is a delight to use.

If you haven’t tried Goodnow Farms chocolate this is the time to start. Their shipping ensures your chocolate will arrive in pristine condition 12 months of the year. In addition, the box is adorned with a beautiful painting of their farm.

 

 

 

 

 

Lakrids Licorice with Chocolate

We all have a few strange food combinations we love. I used to adore peanut butter with sliced avocado and Sriracha, for example.

Similarly, the concept of black licorice with chocolate may seem a bit unlikely, but it works. I just sampled three different varieties of this combination from a Denmark confectionary called Lakrids.

Johan Bülow, the founder of Lakrids, always knew he wanted to create something original and delicious. He thought since Scandinavians have traditionally loved licorice, he would start with that. Together with production manager Tage, Johan developed the idea to coat the licorice with chocolate. They were told that it couldn’t be done…always an incentive for creative souls. By 2007 Johan was rolling out chocolate coated licorice.

To me, Johan’s concept of using licorice as a spice, like anise in five spice Chinese dishes, is quite ground breaking. That it works is even more exciting.

My favorite of the three I sampled was the dark with coffee. It was the least sweet and offered a trove of textures: chewy, crunchy, creamy; and flavors: mocha (the classic mix of coffee and chocolate) licorice, and 63% dark milk chocolate. The crunch came from tiny bits of ground coffee. Just fabulous. One orb was incredibly satisfying.

His Milk chocolate flavor is a bit misleading, as Johan uses a 63% dark milk to coat the licorice centers. I think it’s an excellent choice as the addition of milk adds a lovely rich flavor and velvety texture that makes the chewiness of the licorice really dance with the chocolate.

White chocolate infused with passion fruit was the sweetest of the three, though the white chocolate here is a 51% with vanilla, so it’s a much more complex animal. Creamy yet fully capable of awakening my taste buds with the juxtaposition of slightly acidic passion fruit and anise flavors. A very dessert-like treat.

There are many other flavors available, like salt and caramel, red currant, habanero, sea buckthorn, vanilla mango, and strawberry and cream. You can be sure Johan is devising new delights as I write this.

If you know a chocophile who is always looking to try a new rendition of their favorite food, this would make a great gift.

Moka Origins Chocolate

I wanted to share Moka Origins mission statement: “To create employment, heal the environment and reinvent the way consumers shop for chocolate and coffee. We strive for the betterment of farmers and their families around the world. By maintaining and investing into our own farm in Cameroon, and by uniting with farming partners around the world, we generate real social change.” I am 100% behind those values, which seem to be part of a larger trend in the craft chocolate bar community, and a welcome one. Of course, it helps when the chocolate is as delicious as these bars from Moka Origins. If you’re more deeply interested in their social impact you can view a beautiful short description here: https://mokaorigins.com/pages/social-impact.

I sampled eight of their 3.5 ounce bars. New varieties appear regularly and can sell out quickly, like the Strawberry White Chocolate. I’m reviewing it anyway, just in case it comes back into rotation, or they offer another white chocolate bar. Typically, I avoid white chocolate and think of it as an oxymoron. Luckily, I like to be wrong. This pretty pink bar was studded with cocoa nibs adding a surprisingly wonderful and unexpected texture that riffed off the uber-creaminess of the strawberry infused chocolate.

The Toffee Almond Chocolate (70%) made with Camino Verde beans from Equador, was another revelation. I expected something cloyingly sweet. What I got was an extraordinarily complex experience of flavors, textures, and aromas all in a visually enticing bar. The topping was a tad sticky, but it appealed to the three year old inside me. The chocolate was beautifully tempered with a glossy finish and nice snap. This was the most adult rendition of these flavors I could imagine…actually, it was beyond my imaginings and quite crave worthy. Despite that, it’s not addictive. Two squares truly sated my desire.

Another stunner was their Cherry Chocolate (72%) with Zorzal Cacao from the Dominican Republic. The earthy, satisfying almost-heavy tasting chocolate was a perfect partner to sweet, slightly acidic chewy dried cherries. The more I ate this, the more aware I became of the cherry undertones in the chocolate itself.

Lemon Ginger (73%) with Brazilian beans, was an incredible combination of textures, tastes, and visual beauty. Also a tad sticky, like the Toffee Almond bar, it was generously strewn with bits of chewy ginger and lemon. Again, I was thrilled with the overall sweetness level of this bar as it was clearly made for people who don’t want a sugar rush. Both this bar and the Toffee rendition are amazingly desserty and feel like a huge treat.

Their 72% plain dark bar from Brazilian beans is rich, dense with chocolate flavor and has a slightly dry finish. It also comes in a rendition with blueberries adding some extra acidity and chewiness from the fresh tasting dried fruit.

Even though it has the same 72% cacao content as the Brazilian beans, the Sea Salt tastes very different. The salt is imbedded on the surface of the chocolate, which looks lovely, and adds a slight crunch, while making the bar more complex and astringent.

Last but not least, is their 70% Espresso with Camino Verde beans from Ecuador. Finely ground coffee, from Moka Origins, is sprinkled generously across the surface of the bar adding both textural interest and a hint of caffeine.

I enjoyed the whole range, though the standouts were the Toffee, Lemon Ginger, Cherry, and White Chocolate with Strawberry and Nibs.

They offer a chocolate of the month club where you can get two bars for $20 including shipping.

UPDATE:
Looking for a wonderful rendition of Peppermint Bark? Moka Origins has one they only offer before Christmas. It has a slab of their marvelous white chocolate topped with a layer of 70% dark and sprinkled liberally with pieces of peppermint candy. Each piece is a desert unto itself.

Batch PDX Chocolates

The three most striking things about Batch PDX chocolates is their beauty, intensity, and originality. These chocolates wowed me with their explosions of taste and texture. In a world of options, it’s easy to develop a jaded palate. Batch PDX took me into undiscovered chocolate realms, each a little planet of delight.

Jeremy Karp, the mastermind behind Batch PDX, uses organic cream and butter for his unforgettable creations. He believes in “simplicity of design.” This puts the focus where I want it most, on the tastes and textures that hook and maintain my interest.

Think you’ve tasted a passion fruit truffle? Think again. Jeremy’s Spicy Passion is composed of two layers housed in a white chocolate shell whose sculptural top looks like an origami fold. While I am not a fan of white chocolate, it is the perfect foil of creaminess to balance the spicy acidity of ghost pepper and passion fruit. A hint of orangey Cointreau adds a subtle subtext.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee has a dark chocolate exterior containing one of the most deeply flavored coffee ganaches I have ever sampled.

Nutty Crunchy has Paillete Feuilletine (French for crepes dentelles, lovely little shards of nanosphere thin crunchy wafers) with the added super crunch of chopped hazelnuts and almonds. Jeremy’s rendition of the classic combination of chocolate and hazelnuts is blissfully textural but not too sweet.

Almond n Coconut is a dark chocolate carapace enclosing a filling reminiscent of marzipan, but with far more chewy depth from bits of coconut strewn throughout.

Dulce de Leche comes in a lovely marbleized shell. Its creamy caramel colored interior is beautifully balanced between the sweetness of Dulce de Leche and rum.

Yuzu Gimlet is a divine combo of gin, chocolate and yuzu puree. The yuzu stands in for lime and the result is another coup: slightly acidic, juniper berry-ish from the gin, in a lovely dark, velvety ganache.

Earl Grey creates more subtle joy with its bergamot scented tea infused ganache in a dark shell.

Almond Crisp has an interior both creamy and crunchy with ground almonds and crispy rice.

(If you were wondering, as I was, what PDX stands for, it’s the Portland, Oregon airport code.)

K’UL Chocolate: 4 New Bars

I was delighted to see K’UL Chocolate has four new bars, and even happier to sample them. Their product development is our collective joy.

The most intriguing of the four is 70% Golden Spice with Turmeric (600mg per 1.45 ounce bar), Ginger, Ginseng, and Goldenberries. As someone who adds turmeric to my vinaigrette, rice, and morning porridge I was already a convert to its health benefits. Here, it adds extra depth to an already great base chocolate. The ginger and ginseng are delivered with a light hand, and the goldenberries add a delightfully chewy texture. Another winner, especially if you have been wondering how to get more turmeric into your diet.

70% Espresso Crunch with nibs is aptly named, as the crunch is evident in every bite. Looking for an afternoon shot of energy with only 9 gams of sugar in 1.23 ounce bar? Well, here’s a great option.

70% Matcha Mint with matcha green tea and peppermint is for those who want a pick-me-up from a little caffeine but aren’t in the market for an espresso buzz. Enlivened by mint, this bar is creamy, dark, and refreshing.

85% Dark is a blend of Caribbean and Latin American beans. With only 5 grams of sugar in a 1.23 ounce bar it has a very silky texture, balanced flavor profile with only a hint of acidity, and plummy/raisin notes. In addition, it offers a nutritional powerhouse of 30% of your iron, 4 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber. If you love super dark bars I wouldn’t miss this one.

If, like me, your love of chocolate extends to its manufacture, you might want to check out this great video of the K’UL factory tour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uV-Vd3Q-sY

Nuance Chocolate

Nuance. What a great name for a chocolate company. After all, nuance celebrates the subtle differences between similar things. Isn’t the awareness of different aspects of chocolate what we seek to discern and appreciate? What accounts for those differences that we gradually train our senses to notice? Is it the terroir, the bean’s handling, the phase of the moon when the beans were harvested (thank you, Rudolph Steiner for biodynamic farming), fermentation conditions, storage, shipping, conching, the addition or omission of vanilla, packaging, and other multifarious causes and conditions? Clearly, all contribute to the ultimate arbiter of taste: one’s own body-mind state when eating chocolate. Your internal conditions are affected by externals, like: climate, whether you’re tasting solo or in company, the aesthetics of your surroundings, ambient sounds, aromas, darkness, light, time of day, etc.

A Hershey bar might taste like manna from heaven in a prison cell, while the most beautifully packaged, carefully sourced, and perfectly tempered chocolate could taste like ashes if eaten after bad news.

The nuances are where it’s at. Kudos to Toby and Alix Gadd, creators of Nuance Chocolate, for coming up with such a fitting and inspirational name. Their bars are worth the time it takes to cultivate discernment. To eat this chocolate mindlessly would be sacrilegious.

Toby and Alix use premium cacao beans from ethical sources, which they roast in small batches and grind for up to three days. The dark bars I sampled had no added vanilla. If you’re looking for a super luxurious mouth feel it’s necessary to grind the beans a long time.

They have a huge assortment of bars on their website (www.nuancechocolate.com). Here are the ones I sampled:

Marañón 70% Peruvian bar, made from rare cacao from the Marañón River Canyon. I have tasted this bean on numerous occasions. It’s highly touted because of the fruity, slightly floral notes and gentle presence on your palate. Nuance’s rendition is velvety and full of those subtle layers of flavor that distinguish this bean from many others. When tasting something so refined I like a thinner bar, and that’s exactly how they made it.

Toby sent me a tasting flight of 16 gram batons with six squares each. I followed his suggestion for the order in which to try them:

Uganda 70% Dark, Forestero. Astonishingly good, I was struck with it’s creamy texture, beautiful temper, no acidity, and rounded flavor. If you’re searching for a 70% bar that doesn’t scream of soil, earthiness, coffee, or leather, this is it.

Next up was the 90% bar from Ghana, another Forastero, but far more intense with a much drier finish. If you’re exploring super dark chocolates I would suggest you give this a try. It had a definite presence from a long fermentation, and plenty of depth. I found the finish lasted for minutes and left me quite sated.

Number three was the 70% Fiji bar from Mataswalevu farm. Also Forestero beans, this one was fruitier with definite caramel notes and a very round finish. No bite or acidity.

Their 70% Criollo bean bar from the Ocumare Valley in Venezuela had a creamy texture, nuttiness balanced with floral notes, and finished with a soupçon of acidic edginess.

The bar from Papua New Guinea, a Forestero, has beans that were dried over an open fire. This is quite unusual, as most beans are dried in the sun or on racks. I definitely tasted the smokiness, which surprised my senses but not to the point where I missed the ultra-creamy texture or complex layers of dark fruitiness and terroir.

The 70% from Cuyagua, Venezuela is a more assertive Criollo. It intermingles acidity, dark fruits, earthiness (atypical for a Criollo), and hints of nutmeg for a complex, intriguing experience.

The 70% Moho Valley, Belize Criollo/Trinitarion bar is fascinating. It’s full of cherry, lychee, and walnut. The lovely dry finish is perfect against the chocolate’s creaminess.

Dark Milk bars are the darlings of the current chocolate scene and for good reason. They take milk chocolate into adult realms. Nuance’s 55% Chantilly Cream bar with Forestero beans from Ghana, is made with heavy cream, not milk, and the result is just ambrosial. Lush, rich, balanced, and satisfying, it’s different from every other dark milk I have ever sampled. If you love dark milks, this will vastly expand your repertoire.

Nuance’s 55% Dark Zurich Milk bar, also a Forestero from Ghana, evokes Dulce de Leche with its creamy caramel flavors and soothing finish. Here, the milk is full-fat from Holland. Both these dark milk bars have vanilla beans added for an extra layer of interest.

For you mocha lovers, they offer Bean Cycle #1, a collaboration bar of Ethiopian coffee beans and Trinitarian cacao from Madagascar. Unlike many other coffee and chocolate combos, Nuance’s rendition is smooth as silk. Coffee here is a presence, not a crunch. Different and delicious.

This is a company to watch. Their exacting standards, ability to coax a bean’s personality from its natural state, and know when to mix things up, makes them respectful of nature but also creative chocolatiers.