Category Archives: chocolate and nougat

Mystery Chocolate Box

Mystery Chocolate Box is the brainchild of Peter Messmer. When Peter was growing up, his family had a tradition where one of them would buy a bunch of chocolate bars, remove the outer label, and try to guess what was in each bar. Then, they read out their guesses and the person who brought the chocolates revealed the answers. They found the guessing and the eating a ton of fun, not to mention having a great time together as a family.

Peter and his family found out how different it was to taste what was in a chocolate bar once they already knew the ingredients, from trying to blindly figure out add-ins without any clues. As someone who eats chocolate daily, I can attest to his assertion.

If you aren’t already intrigued and need a bit more incentive, you can win a prize if you guess correctly on their website within a specified amount of time.

The three large bars (each monthly delivery including shipping is $30) arrived in perfect condition with ice packs. Each was labeled Mystery Bar A, B, or C. There was a guessing card, and information on allergies. I have decided not to post my guesses, just in case you are interested in procuring your own Mystery Chocolate Box. Suffice it to say, I am not even 100% sure I guessed correctly, and that’s even after visiting the three websites the bars came from (two of the names were printed on the bars themselves, while for the third nameless one, I did a little sleuthing).

Peter focuses on this as a family activity, which is a great way to do something different and fun with the kids. I can think of plenty of teens, and adults who would love it, too. It could also be a great fund-raiser for your favorite charity if done in small groups.


Desiderio Chocolates

Artisan, gluten free, organic, local, fair-traded, and vegan chocolates from a great new chocolatier in Grand Rapids, Michigan: Vanessa Metalli Dionne.

Vanessa grew up in Rome, studied Industrial Design, and apprenticed at her parent’s Italian restaurant making desserts and breads. That’s the kind of credibility I find appealing: the interplay between modern with ancient, and discipline with creativity. All of which allows Vanessa to explore every aspect of the chocolate kingdom that piques her interest.

Her sleek looking chocolates, pure little rectangular bars or square caramels presented in the simplest wrappings, beguile you with their unadorned clean lines. Vanessa wants the focus on her delicious treats, not their trappings.

I sampled four small bars from her collection and the Salted Caramels. All are enrobed in a well-balanced dark couverture, and sport two layers: an infused ganache with a topping of gooey caramel. There is no discernible olive oil or coconut milk flavor, though their richness is easily detected.

Whiskey & Smoked Caramel Bar has a marked whiskey taste offset beautifully with textural interest from both the ganache and caramel. Of the four bars, this one has the most pronounced alcohol flavor.

Stout Caramel Ganache is simply divine, as its beery presence mixes with a hint of whiskey. Little bursts of Celtic Grey Sea Salt sprinkled on top provide a perfect gustatory counterpoint to the velvety interior.

Gourmellow :: Vegan Marshmallow Bar has a heaping layer of home made super-fluffy marshmallow on top of that incredibly chocolatey ganache.

Pumpkin Pie Caramel Truffle is a real gem. Redolent of pumpkin, spices, caramel, with a taste that bursts out of its chocolate confines, a truly memorable treat.

Salted Caramels :: Vegan Caramella with Himalayan pink sea salt is a rich dessert in two bites. Fabulous with tea or espresso, they come in a box of six and would make a great stocking stuffer.

Jean-Marie Auboine Chocolatier

If you are looking for culinary cred with your bonbons, Master Chocolatier Jean-Marie Auboine has it in abundance. His curriculum vitae includes Alain Ducasse’s famous restaurant Le Louis XV where he assisted in earning them Michelin’s highest honor: three stars. Chef Auboine continued his distinguished career at several other Michelin-starred restaurants which included Chateau de Mercues in France, Hotel Beau Rivage in Geneva, and La Pyramide Vienne in France.

So, it was not a shock to find Jean-Marie’s confections sublime in their purity, packaging, and, most importantly, gustatory appeal.

Two of his newer confections are called Chocolate Fingers. These dark chocolate enrobed ganache rectangles, each about four inches long, are supremely delicious. The mint variety was redolent of fresh mint, while the banana nutmeg with crunchy bits under its couverture, was like a chocolate meditation. In my experience, banana can be a very tricky flavor because of its inherent sweetness. Here, however, the nutmeg added complexity and piquancy to the fruit’s richness. A truly memorable experience.

Next, I sampled the assortment of boxed chocolates, each in a perfectly tempered thin chocolate carapace.

Torroncino Praliné, adorned with a micro dot of pale yellow fondant on its almost black shell, was a delicately crunchy delight.
The Raspberry & Jasmin Tea’s flavors were seamlessly balanced, with the fruit’s acidity playing off the tea’s fruity edge.
Organic Vanilla, also enrobed in dark chocolate, was a purist’s dream in a super dark ganache.
Unique and immensely satisfying, the Coffee and Mascarpone Cream had two layers of filling. With its contrasting colors, slightly different textures of ganache and cream, and faint cheese undertones, it was a decadent surprise.
The sweetest and most subtle morsel in this group was the Accacia Honey dark chocolate ganache in a milk chocolate couverture.
Kalamansi Jelly and Earl Grey Tea Ganache was another layered affair, perfectly chewy, yet melt-in-your-mouth jelly played against a velvety dark ganache.

(Kalamansi Jelly is made with a fruit called Calamondin or Calamansi, native to the Philippine Islands. It is also known as the calamondin, golden lime, panama orange, chinese orange, acid orange, calamonding, or calamandarin in English. It is believed to originate from China and has spread throughout Southeast Asia, India, Hawaii, the West Indies, Central and North America. The plant is characterized by wing-like appendages on the leaf stalks and white or purplish flowers. Its fruit has either a spongy or leathery rind with a juicy pulp that is divided into sections.The fruit is available year round in the Philippines and is usually seen in its unripened dark green state, but if left to ripen it turns a tangerine orange color. Calamansi is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.)

The Dark Chocolate Double Sea Salt Caramels were unlike anything I have ever had. A chocolate caramel square sat on top of a buttery one, both bathed in dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt. The texture was a little chewy and a little soft, with just the right amount of sweetness and salty presence. Immensely satisfying.

Blueberry Pearls came in a pretty red box with a window on top revealing red and white spheres with a luminescent sheen. If you love white chocolate and berries, this is for you.

I also tried an adorable slightly free-form Dark Chocolate Marshmallow Teddy Bear, and a cornucopia of other non-chocolate treats including:

Assorted Caramels which contained an absolutely divine Vanilla Hazelnut with large pieces of super crunchy, roasted nuts in a creamy-chewy caramel with smokey undertones.

The Strawberry and Vanilla Marshmallow Bar was a long rectangle of pink and cream colored marshmallow that reminded me of cotton candy with its airy texture and innocent sweetness.

Soft Honey Nougat was studded with candied orange, almonds, hazelnuts and infused with organic honey.

The chocolate covered caramels and ganaches were boxed in lovely brown and orange hard cardboard jewelry-type boxes with magnetic closures, just adding to the elegant Jean-Marie experience.

Michel Cluizel opens Chocolatrium in New Jersey

I thought this press release might be of interest.

This year, Michel Cluizel has decided to unveil the secrets of chocolate and open his facilities to the public. After the French Chocolatrium opened a few years ago in Normandy, it was high time to offer this opportunity to American chocolate lovers. Based in West Berlin (NJ), the Museum, outlet store and café create a chocolate environment for the delight of all.

Michel Cluizel is one of the few Cacaoféviers (processing beans into chocolate) in the world. For more than 15 years, Michel Cluizel Premium chocolate has been sold in the USA. In August 2004, Michel Cluizel opened Noble Ingredients, the American branch of the company now based in West Berlin (NJ). A Kosher Parve (OU certified) line of chocolate and pastries locally produced was launched last year to answer a growing demand. Eager to share his vast knowledge and his love of chocolate, the Chocolatrium is Michel Cluizel’s latest project for U.S. chocolate lovers.

The Museum, created as a 3-step exhibition, is an initiation to chocolate making. Visitors start by getting acquainted with Michel Cluizel’s family-owned company through a panel gallery and learn about the amazing history of chocolate from Aztecs to Europeans. Within the Gallery, a surprise welcomes visitors: behind a big rectangular window the Pastry Chef is working, cooking, baking to create pastries and chocolate right before your eyes.

Now aware of the history of chocolate, visitors go into the creation of chocolate “From Beans to Bars.” From the harvesting to the pressing and the conching, they experience every step of this marvelous transformation through a series of explanations, but most of all by tasting, touching and looking at the machines. Cocoa beans are roasted, and crushed, cocoa paste is pressed and mixed.

Last but not least, the tasting. Loving chocolate is necessary but not enough to be considered as a chocolate connoisseur! Learning to taste chocolate, discover its flavors, its first and second hints, its texture by letting the chocolate melt slowly on one’s tongue, is the last step of this chocolate initiation. The “Premiers Crus de Plantation” (“Single Estate Chocolate”) coming from all over the world amaze by their differences and the richness of their flavors of olives, exotic fruits or caramel.

A family-friendly museum, the exhibition is created as an interactive visit for adults as well as for children. All 5 senses are required to fully experience this initiation: looking at the process, touching the pods, listening to explanations, recognizing the smell of cocoa, tasting the chocolates. Fun activity booklets designed according to children’s ages are available on request to accompany them through this journey.

Thought of as the epitome of the initiatory route of chocolate making, the Café is open to visitors and others to discover more flavors from Michel Cluizel. The hot beverage of the typically French Café Gourmand and Chocolat Gourmand reveal the delicacy of flavors of assorted chocolate truffles. Those more turned on by cakes and pastries are seduced by the warm chocolate or hazelnut cakes whose melted heart makes theirs melt.

After the Store on the Fifth Avenue in New York, a new one is now opened as the last part of this Chocolatrium. Michel Cluizel’s selection of handcrafted French Pastries as well as chocolate creations is presented at Outlet Prices. Macaroons, éclairs, Opéra, chocolate bars from around the world, and a rotating weekly selection of products are now available–perfect for Thanksgiving and Holiday presents!

Opening Hours start on Friday, November 16.
Museum – Group appointment
Store – Order by phone and come and pick it up (all products featured on their website)
Private events are now available!

For more information, contact
575 N, 73 Route, Building D,
West Berlin, 08091, NJ
Ph: (856) 486-9292

Unreal 8 Chocolate, Caramel, Peanut, Nougat bar

Let’s just cut to the chase. How does this self-proclaimed “unjunked” candy bar compare to its classic and revered counterpart—Snickers? Fairly well. The chocolate appears to be a darker milk and is applied in a thinner layer, the peanut quotient is a bit lower, the caramel a tad chewier, and the nougat a little less of a presence. All those factors notwithstanding, it is an excellent option for those of you who want to avoid hydrogenated oils, GMOs, corn syrup, or artificial ingredients.

There are 80 fewer calories, about half the sugar, 10 fewer grams of carbs, four more grams of fiber, and one more gram of protein, all significant revisions, especially when added together.

To my palate, the bar was definitely sweet enough. I never missed the extra 13 grams of sugar. It is its own confection, and as such delivers crunch, chewiness, creamy chocolate, and the unique nougat texture that catalyzes all the others to a new plane. I thoroughly enjoyed it and like knowing there is a healthier candy option right at CVS whenever the urge strikes.

Bees & Beans Candy Bars

While there are many talented chocolatiers working with truffles and bonbons, there are only a few creating new candy bars. Faith Dionne, the spark behind Bees & Beans, uses native Oregon products, like local honey, butter, cream, coffee, berries, walnuts and filberts to create original, delicious treats that she humbly calls candy bars.

I tried all three, and each was a keeper.

Her Honey bar has a center of honey caramel, crunchy salted filberts and chewy honey nougat, with a sprinkling of sea salt, all wrapped in dark chocolate.

The Bert bar is a fascinating blend of textures and flavors. Inside the 70% dark chocolate couverture are crunchy filberts, milk chocolate, peanut butter, and crispy rice.

The coffee bar was a real revelation. Organic Sumatran coffee caramel is studded with toasted Oregon walnuts, and hand dipped in dark chocolate.

Faith should really patent her chocolates, as they are unique, memorable, and incredibly satisfying.

If those three weren’t enough, she will be launching a Malt Bar this Winter, with malted nougat, and a layer of chocolate malt crunch, all hand dipped in milk chocolate.

Apparently, I missed the Berry Bar. Raspberry caramel and honey nougat with dried blueberries nestled in dark chocolate. But, if I can wait, it will be reissued in June of 2012.

All three bars I sampled were excellent, and the quality and care that went into each was apparent from the first bite.

I will keep you posted on further confectionary developments from Faith, as she is clearly a talent to watch.