Category Archives: chocolate and peanut butter

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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Dave’s Sweet Tooth Toffee

Everyone has a little child inside them. No matter how mature or sophisticated you become that little child will always crave a certain amount of attention. One delicious way to give your inner child the chocolate attention they so rightly deserve is with Dave’s Toffee. In one fell swoop, it sates your adult cravings for something handmade with real ingredients and your inner child’s desire for a crunchy, slightly sweet, nutty, chocolate treat.

When I was younger, I used to love dessert. Ice cream, cheesecake, chocolate mousse cake, and this amazing peanut butter brownie bombe draped in a dark chocolate ganache. It ticked all the boxes of my sybaritic self. Now, I find architect Mies van der Rohe was right: less really can be more.

It’s amazing how a smaller amount of something truly satisfying can feel so decadent and enough.

Dave’s Toffee is affordable, but it feels incredibly luxurious. It’s visually attractive, super fresh and would appeal to almost anyone of any age. So, not only does it make a beautiful gift, but it is also something you can enjoy on a regular basis.

While I can still appreciate the most amazing handmade passion fruit truffle enrobed in 73% Vietnamese chocolate; luckily, I haven’t lost my ability to enjoy something classic and perfectly executed.

I sampled five of their offerings.

The uber-crunchy coffee toffee infused with little bits of coffee bean was amazing. What a great way to get a bit of extra energy in the afternoon.

The dark chocolate with cherry was a delicious combination enhanced by the lovely counterpoint of tart sweetness from the cherries.

Plain milk and dark versions are anything but plain, as the generous portion of nuts makes them texturally craveable.

The peanut toffee was also delicious, and a great choice for people who can’t get enough of that peanut/chocolate combo.

All Dave’s Toffees have an incredible texture that is perfectly friable in your mouth. In other words, it starts out crunchy and then in the most amazing alchemical way becomes tiny shards…I know that doesn’t sound appealing, but believe me it’s a wonderful experience…as those delicate fragments of toffee somehow melt in your mouth.

Vivra Chocolate

I may eat chocolate all day, but I usually don’t start until mid morning, at the earliest. When I wake up thinking of a particular bar with anticipation I know it’s a stellar offering. Vivra’s 70% Alto Beni Bolivian bar is worth an early morning reverie. Wild harvested in 2015 this chocolate boasts an incredible blend of flavors: sweet ripe fruit and green olives which beautifully rounds out all the fruitiness with a hint of acidity.

The next bean to bar offering is a 70% from Haiti. PISA is a new bean cooperative located in the Acul de Nord region of Haiti. PISA works with an association of 1,489 smallholder farmers, 476 of whom are female. I have come to deeply appreciate Haitian beans and this Trinitario is no exception. Also harvested in 2015, it’s organic, direct trade, and has a drier finish. Not too sweet fruity flavors predominate.

Last up in this category is their OKO Caribe from the Dominican Republic. OKO Caribe has perfected the art of working with small holder farmers in the San Francisco de Macoris region. Also organic and made with beans harvested in 2015, it is creamier than the Pisa bar and beckons with notes of dark fruits, honey, and roasted peanut.

Their 31% milk chocolate offerings are delicious and fun. Take the Chili Crunch with toasted tortilla bits, sea salt and red Naga chili. It won a ton of awards, most recently the 2016 gold medal for best milk chocolate with inclusions. The heat is subtle, the crunch unlike anything else out there, and the chocolate decadently rich. I also loved their milk chocolate PB & Pretzel bar. Generously studded with bits of peanuts and pretzels it gives every bite crunch and nutty flavor. Too easy to eat with abandon. The last milk bar I sampled was the Curry Cashew. Another creative melding of flavors and textures. The curry somehow warms up the richness of the cashews and the milk base just makes it all taste remarkably luxurious.

The three 65% dark bars with inclusions were: Sienna Fig with Dottato figs, salted Sicilian pistachios, and pignoli. Here, the ingredients were added with a lighter hand which gives the finished product more of a choral effect than a solo performance. Orange Passion, with orange zest, passion fruit powder, and sea salt has an alluring orange scent right out of the package. The zest is not chewy as the pieces are fully amalgamated into the chocolate. I liked how the passion fruit gave this bar an extra edginess. English Garden is another multi-award winner, including the 2016 gold medal for best mixed chocolate bar. This unique and complex offering sports sweet basil, thyme, Meyer lemon, olive oil, and bits of French candied violets.

Clearly Vivra offers a wide selection catering to every taste, which makes it an excellent one stop destination for all your chocoholics.

Chocolate Naive: Peanut, Tahini, Spices, Dark with Berries, Dark with Hops, Dark Milk with Porcini, and Nicaragua Nicaliso

Lithuanians love their beer; especially, unfiltered, raw beers. Hence, this pairing of dark (67%) chocolate and hops, a very different experience from any other I have ever tasted. The initial leathery flavor reminded me of a stout or porter with their characteristic bitterness and lingering dry aftertaste. A definite roasted flavor of hops and malt predominate. Very interesting. The bar, based on Trinitario beans, is thin, beautifully tempered, and sports that lovely Chocolate Naive logo of a man on a huge unicycle.

Dark Chocolate with Berries (65%) is almost a polar opposite to the one with hops. It is based on a Madagascar Criollo, the perfect choice with blueberries, strawberries, and black currants (all freeze-dried, powdered, and fully amalgamated into the chocolate). This thin, snappy bar with the sweetness of fruit and the fetching tartness of berries delivers a series of exciting berry fireworks in each bite. A real jewel.

Another bar in this range is their Nicaragua Nicaliso (70%), a predominantly Criollo bean. Unlike other Criollos, this has a bit of an acidic edge, nothing harsh, just there to add another dimension to this typically gentle chocolate. The addition of clarified butter is ingenious as it enhances all the inherent flavors of this Central American cacao while adding an extra-velvety texture. Immensely satisfying and more complex than most Criollos.

I sampled three bars in their new organic range: Mulate. Tahini is a dark milk (45%) with tahini and a stage whisper of sesame seeds. A great marriage of super creamy chocolate and slightly chewy-crunchy, roasted sesame seeds, it won the Northwest Chocolate Festival’s Bronze Medal. Unique and delicious.

Their Mulate Peanut with Sea Salt (45%) combines smooth peanut butter with clarified butter to produce a subtle, but still noticeable, peanut taste in a velvety chocolate.

Spices is the name of the third bar in this trinity. On reading the ingredients: dark chocolate (65%) with cinnamon, vanilla, and cayenne, it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that cayenne steals the show. Not so, it was the vanilla that hit me first, then a bit of cinnamon, with the cayenne’s heat and spice finishing everything off and lingering. Since all bars with hot spices have varying intensities, I would rank this heat level as medium. Not so in-your-face that your mouth is burning, and not so mild you don’t notice it. A perfect amount to allow the other flavors, and the creaminess of their dark chocolate (enhanced with clarified butter), to shine.

Design has always been important to Chocolate Naive and they have gone in a completely different direction with this range. Typically, their bar packaging is a clean-looking cardboard envelope with a re-closable plastic sleeve inside. The Mulate bars come in a glossy, stiffer cardboard adorned with fantastical images in a rich palette of colors, with a foil inner wrapper.

In its own category is their Dark Milk (67%) “Back to the Origins” bar with Porcini. Wow. What a surprise. The approachable earthiness of freeze-dried wild porcini mushrooms with clarified butter in this luxuriously silky dark milk chocolate is far from what I would have expected. Not only do the flavors mesh perfectly, they complement each other. Here, 2 + 2 = 10. The woodsy porcini and complex chocolate flavors blend seamlessly to produce something unpredictably lush. You just have to experience it for yourself.

Seattle Chocolates Truffled Bars

If you have been reading this site for years, you already know about Seattle Chocolates. I recently had a chance to sample some of their new bars and want to share my gustatory adventure with you.

Frankly, it was hard to taste all ten as once I tried the Peanut Praline with Glazed Quinoa I just wanted to focus on that crunchy, dark bar for as long as it lasted.

The thing about all of them is they are incredibly satisfying and seem to give you more chocolate in their 2.5 ounce bars than many other choices out there. How does that work? The flavors are complex, but accessible. Take this Peanut Praline bar, for example. There is so much textural interest between the roasted peanuts and the crunchy quinoa, it’s easy to lose sight of the firm dark praline they call home. As there are only 12 grams of sugar in half a bar, it’s a pretty guilt-free treat to scarf down.

The Salted Almond Dark Truffle bar with sea salt has whole almonds generously sprinkled throughout. The salt is subtle, and, like its sibling, the low sugar content makes for an adult flavor profile.

Also weighing in with lower sugar content is the Coconut Macaroon. Here, the truffle center is a bit more noticeable as your taste buds hop between the chewy bits of coconut and the sumptuousness of a dark chocolate truffle infused with coconut oil. I know you have already read about the health benefits of coconut oil, so I will not belabor them. Suffice it to say, Seattle Chocolates uses non-hydrogenated coconut oil.

Just in time for Christmas is Kris Kringle Crackle, with its dark truffle center studded with popcorn.

Perfect Peanut Butter has a peanut butter truffle center scattered with bits of roasted peanut bits. Delicious.

The following bars are a bit sweeter for those of you who prefer chocolates to taste more dessert-like.

Birthday Cake Batter Milk Chocolate Truffle Bar with Confetti Cake Mix was far simpler to experience than to type. It’s a sweeter milk chocolate with a velvety white chocolate truffle center punctuated with tiny pieces of cake. Perfect for children or the child in you.

Their San Juan Sea Salt Milk Chocolate Truffle bar with Toffee, was chock-ful of sugary toffee pieces in a silky truffle center. Addictive.

Total Toffee was even more caramelly. This is also available in a pretty wrapper with “Thank You, You’re The Best, Awesome, Gratitude,” etc. written all over it.

Meltaway Mint is a peppermint infused milk chocolate. A wonderfully rich and creamy, yet perky combination.

Jean Thompson, the owner of Seattle Chocolates, has a vision of ending hunger in America. On November 1, 2014 through the end of the year, for every item purchased and every post of #chocolategives they will donate a serving of fresh food to someone in need. Donations will be made through four major locations on both coasts.

jcoco

Many years ago, there was an ice cream store in Boston that had huge marble slabs where they mixed in all sorts of various candies, cookies, fruits, nuts, etc. into your choice of ice cream. It was such a great idea that it has since been copied in a big way by Cold Stone Creamery and others. The real skill with adding ingredients to a base, whether ice cream or chocolate, is knowing what works with what and when to leave well enough alone.

Jean Thompson, the owner of jcoco, knows her chocolate; especially, when it comes to add-ins. She has a knack for discerning which textures and flavors enhance each other, all of which is evident in her new line: jcoco.

Before we get to the chocolate, let me say I love a business with a mission statement; especially, one that has a humanitarian bent. Here’s a quote from Jean herself:

“We love tasting chocolate and inventing unique flavors, but what’s most important to us at jcoco is the way that food connects us. Giving back to our community is at the heart of jcoco’s mission. To that end, every time you purchase a jcoco product, we will give a fresh, healthy serving of food to someone who would otherwise go hungry. Your everyday indulgence makes a vital difference to someone in your community! Our current partners are Northwest Harvest, the Food Bank of New York, SF-Marin Food Bank, and The Greater Boston Food Bank. We are looking to establish partnerships wherever our products are sold, from Seattle to Los Angeles, and Chicago to New York.”

Of course, no amount of generosity makes a product good. Luckily, jcoco’s chocolates are really delicious. But, even before you tuck into them, there’s the packaging. They offer two different ways of indulging: the jcoco mini gift set with all their flavors, or larger envelopes housing three one ounce separately wrapped bars. The chocolate is wrapped in a shiny, copper colored foil and then in a glossy cheerful paper. Either would make a great gift.

Here’s a run-down on the flavors:

Peanut strawberry baobab in dark chocolate. This luscious bar has only 10 grams of sugar yet feels very indulgent as your palate goes from crunchy peanuts to little chewy jewels of baobab, strawberry, apple, plum, and black carrot juice. It may sound exotic, but the flavors and textures come together in a crave-worthy way.

Black fig pistachio is loaded with nuts and organic fig pieces in dark chocolate.

Vanuatu coconut pecan offers another lower sugar choice, though this time in milk chocolate. Shaved coconut flakes party with toasted pecans for an indulgent ride. Jean’s milk chocolate hails from the tiny island nation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific and is terrific.

Edamame sea salt in milk chocolate allows the crunch of roasted edamame to languish in a super creamy chocolate.

Agave quinoa sesame really pops with glazed quinoa and sesame in milk chocolate. I loved the two different textures riding shotgun with that lovely, desserty chocolate.

Cayenne veracruz orange really stopped me in my tracks, as white chocolate is not my go-to choice. Here, though, the orange oil and chili really spice up the chocolate, leaving you with a creamy, citrus, slightly heat-filled experience.

Noble Dark is a 72% Belgian chocolate studded with chocolate covered nibs. Once again, the texture is marvelous.

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.