Category Archives: chocolate chips

Sugarfina

Rosie and Josh, the founders of Sugarfina, want you to know, “In case of emergency, candy can be used as a flotation device. Simply pop a piece in your mouth and forget all your troubles.” Perhaps, they mean an existential emergency, though I can certainly see how a few of these little parcels of sugary goodness might distract one from impending doom.

I sampled two of their tasting flights: Caramel Crush and Tall, Dark, and Rich.

Here’s a list of the contents so you have an idea of the variety.
Caramel Crush contained:
Dark Chocolate Sea Salt, English Toffee, Dark Chocolate Espresso, Matcha Green Tea, Mint Chip, Vanilla Honey, Pumpkin Pie, and Robin’s Egg.

Tall, Dark, and Rich contained:
Dark Chocolate Malt Balls, Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds, Dark Chocolate Blueberries, Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews, Danish Mocha Beans, Dark Chocolate Coffee Toffee, Dark Chocolate Mandarin Cordials, and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels.

The eight packets in each lovely Tiffany blue box with pretty patterned tissue paper were just right for one portion or sharing a tasting flight with seven friends, as the bags contained about eight pieces. This is a fun way to try many different candies without making a commitment to any one in particular.

In the Tall, Dark, and Rich category my favorites were the Mocha beans, just redolent with flavor in a well-tempered dark coffee bean shape, the crunchy, sweet Dark Chocolate Coffee Toffee, and the perky Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels.

In the Caramel Crush sampling, I found the Mint Chip an appealing bright flavor combo, Matcha Green Tea intriguing, English Toffee a firmer caramel, and the Espresso a classic caramel with a hint of coffee.

With a name like Sugarfina, it should come as no surprise that these are fairly sweet candies. Perfect for people who want a taste of everything, though you can buy larger quantities of any flavors you love. There are many different confections on their website in varying portions from 3.3 ounces to five pounds.

Endangered Species 48% Milk, 72% Dark with Sea Salt and Almonds, and 72% Dark with Cherries

As much as I adore dark chocolate, I am always on the lookout for great high cacao content milk bars. Endangered Species has a 48% rendition that offers up the same velvety texture you would expect from a high end milk chocolate with an edginess that makes it far more interesting than your typical bar. I only sampled the plain, but you will be happy to know it also comes with almonds or cherries. If you love milk chocolate, but want more dark chocolate health benefits, this is the answer. I must confess, I immediately went out and bought a few more of these, they were so delicious and desserty.

I also tried their other two new bars. The Dark Chocolate with Almonds and Sea Salt is infused with tiny bits of nut and crunchy salt crystals. The shiny, well tempered dark chocolate has an audible snap, while the tiny crunchy pieces of salt and almonds almost popped with texture. 72% Dark with Cherries was an excellent conflation of dried fruit, with its tangy sweetness and appealing chewy texture, in the same very adult dark base. Here, the coffee undertones in the chocolate danced a lovely pas de deux with the cherries, each enhancing its partner.

Though all three bars are worth trying, the 48% plain milk is truly a stand-out.

Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle

First of all, kudos to the marketing genius who thought of calling these super thin brownie crisps “brownie brittle.” Alliterative, alluring, and descriptive.

They are like a brittle, or a wonderfully chocolatey tuile; perhaps a cross between a brittle and a cookie. But why quibble over terms when all that matters is how incredibly light and crunchy they are?

I was immediately drawn to the Toffee Crunch variety with its toffee craters studding a chocolate lunar landscape. I often find toffee inclusions ramp up the sweet meter, but this iteration was balanced and had the same amount of sugar as the chocolate chip variety.

Traditional Walnut was delightfully nutty and extra crunchy, with that slightly bitter edge those nuts typically bring to the table.

Chocolate Chip intensified the deep cocoa bean experience, while adding little creamy textural notes.

Sheila claims there are six to a serving, but half that would probably satisfy a moderate sweet tooth.

You could easily make a simple dish of ice cream into a company-worthy dessert by drizzling it with Kahlua and artfully sinking a large piece of Brownie Brittle at a rakish angle off to the side. Actually, the flavor of these reminded me a bit of Famous Chocolate Wafers, which got me thinking about making them into a refrigerator cake with lots of freshly whipped, vanilla infused whipped cream. If you have never made this, it’s shockingly good.

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
Chocolatrium.us
marketing@noble-ingredientscom
575 N, 73 Route, Building D,
West Berlin, 08091, NJ
Ph: (856) 486-9292

Michel Cluizel 66% Mokaya

If you love single origin high end chocolate, you are already familiar with Michel Cluizel. His new estate bar, Mokaya, is made with Mexican beans from the Chiapas region and differs from others in his range in that it has an earthier presence. Earthy is a relative term that can span something tasting of soil to chocolate with a soupçon of terroir. Since this is a Cluizel bar, you can rest assured the earthiness is subtle, adding an extra layer of interest and complexity.

If you read about cacao plantations and chocolatiers it quickly becomes apparent how a good relationship between them helps procure the best beans. Luckily for consumers, the Cluizel family cares about all aspects of their business, not just the finished product. This means they are able to get the best cacao from the best part of the plantation.

Mokaya offers an elegant balance of coffee and licorice notes beautifully enhanced with a perfect amount of sweetness. Its smooth, creamy texture carries everything off to a lingering, slightly dry finish.

If you are hosting a chocolate tasting, all of Cluizel’s Premier Cru Single Origin bars would make for a lively discussion and a delicious chocolate trip around the equator.

Idilio Origins Premium Swiss Chocolate

The people at Idilio Origins are incredibly passionate about their chocolate; but, passion without talent and vision can fall flat on its face. Luckily, all three qualities are evident in every morsel from this new company that is taking the world chocolate market by storm.

The company’s name, Idilio, comes from the Spanish word meaning a short poem celebrating the romance of living at one with nature, a sweet experience, or small treasure. Each of these bars, with its simple, elegant, white packaging, fits that description perfectly.

If you are a regular reader of this site, you know that when it comes to dark chocolate, the bean’s provenance is paramount. As with wine, the variety, location, microclimate and soil composition are decisive factors for an excellent single-origin cacao. Swiss manufacturers are renowned for their long conching process, which gives the finished bar a super silky texture and highlights the essence of each particular variety.

Joint Managing Directors Pascal Wirth and Niklaus Blumer have specialized in pure designated-origin chocolate and use nothing but cacao and cane sugar for their ten bar range, each weighing in at 80 grams. As you chocophiles know, this allows the true essence of the bean’s characteristics to shine. They determine the roasting, cacao proportion and conching method with Sepp Schönbächler, Managing Director and Head of Development at Felchlin. Felchlin is one of the most highly regarded chocolate companies on earth. (I will be reviewing their wares in a few months.)

The 2011 Academy of Chocolate Gold Medal winner is their Number 2 bar, 72% Selección Amiari Merideña. Sur de Lago beans from Venezuela, an area south of Lake Maracaibo, make up this excellent bar. The texture is creamy, the flavor gentle and fruity, and the finish lingers. Number 6 is the same chocolate with the addition of roasted cocoa nibs, which adds a wonderful texture and extra caramelized flavor. I enjoyed both bars immensely, though I liked the number 6 a bit better for its lovely subtle crunch, as the nibs are finely ground.

I have been smitten with the Criollo bean from my first taste years ago. Its rich, round, developed flavor is evident in Idilio’s Porcelana Criollo Puro, 74%, which won the bronze medal from the Academy of Chocolate this year, and deservedly so. This excellent example of Criollo’s superbly balanced flavor profile is attributed to beans hailing from the Zulia area at the foot of the Andes. Idilio takes the entire year’s harvest from this last remaining traditional small-scale growing area. The mix of earth, fruit, and nutty flavors is so harmonious that each blends seamlessly with the next. A long, satisfying finish adds to its appeal.

Tempered to a beautiful, glossy shine are bars number 3 and 7, Selección Cata Ocumare, 72%. Number 7 is enhanced with the aforementioned caramelized nibs. Intense coffee and spice flavors abound in this delicious chocolate made with beans from the village of Ocumare de la Costa located on the Atlantic coast of Venezuela, not far from the well-known village of Chuao. The finish is a little dryer and lightly astringent, which marries beautifully with the bar’s creamy texture. This cooperative farm in the rain forest is cut off from an arid hinterland by a protective mountain chain. It is known for the tremendous diversity of its flora and fauna. The Hacienda Cata in Ocumare de la Costa produces organic cocoa in mixed cultivation with other tropical fruits.

Idilio No 4, Carenero Urrutia Superior, 70%, and its fraternal twin, number 8, with caramelized nibs, comes from the Hacienda Urrutia in Barlovento to the east of Caracas. An exceptionally fruity Trinitario bean whose sweetness makes it easy to scarf down, the hint of earthiness in its finish allows you to savor, rather than inhale, this addictive bar.

Idilio 72% bars number 5 and 9 are made with beans from the Cooperativa Amazonas in the Orinoco area of the Venezuelan Amazon, an area is regarded as the birthplace of the Criollo varieties. The forerunner plant appears to have spread from there along the Venezuelan coast into the Andes and on to the Mesoamerican civilisations. In the Orinoco source region, a wild-growing, highly aromatic cocoa is collected, expertly fermented and sun-dried by an indigenous cooperative. There is a bit of folklore about this bean being a particular favorite among women. I guess women prefer more complex, deeper, darker flavors than men, since these beans seem more complex to my palate than any of the previous ones. After finding the other nib-enhanced bars generally sweeter than their plain counterparts, I was surprised that in this rendition, the nibs seemed to accentuate edgier coffee notes. Both bars are redolent of dried fruit and Amazonian soil. The fragrance is fresh and dewy.

The last bar, Number 12, Finca Torres, 72%, was discovered by Idilio about three years ago. Both Wirth and Blumer were struck by the remarkable potential of this single-origin cocoa growing on the slopes of the national park on the Caribbean coast of Venezuela. The owner, Vicente Fuentes, is passionately interested in producing a top-class bean. Idilio, in conjunction with Vicente and the local organic food organization Tierra Viva, has perfected the care of the cocoa, its fermentation and sun-drying. The texture is very gentrified, while the predominant flavors are earthy, which makes for a fascinating juxtaposition of elegance and sauciness. This unlikely combination of wildness and refinement makes Number 12 supremely seductive. One minute it hypnotizes you with its earthiness and the next you’re luxuriating in its sophistication. (Not surprisingly, it won the Silver medal in 2011 from the Academy of Chocolate in London. Here’s a link to their site, http://www.academyofchocolate.org.uk/academy/Awards/2011.html,
if you would like to see more results from their judges.)

Pascal Wirth and Niklaus Blumer have created an extraordinary line of compelling chocolates. Check out their website for other delicious offerings including a 200 gram bag of tiny chocolate discs, Idilio Number 4, that can be swirled into hot milk for a cup of chocolate bliss.

Chocbite: Create Your Own Bar

Are you a secret wannabe chocolatier? If so, I have a way for you to create almost any kind of chocolate bar without having to learn how to temper your couverture at home. Chocbite, an Austin Texas company started by Adeline “Adz” Rem, offers four basic bars, ranging from a very dark 72% to white chocolate. Toppings are grouped by type into five categories: sweet, savory, nut, fruit and decorative. I loved the option to double up on my favorite ingredients.

Adeline let me create four bars, and I enjoyed them all. The first was a 56% dark base with double spicy BBQ almonds and double dried mango. The almonds were extremely fresh and crunchy, and the mango was high quality and supple. I liked the way the slightly sweet chocolate complemented the nuts and chewy fruit.

The following three were all based on Chocbite’s 72% dark chocolate. One bar had caramel bits, chipotle powder and salted peanuts. A lovely mix of textures: chewy, crunchy and smooth, with a little fire from the smokey chipotle. The next one was adorned with double salted pistachios and double crystallized ginger. Once again, the fruit was very fresh (with no strings marring its texture) and the pistachios were crunchy. I specifically ordered something with pistachios because I often find them stale and almost chewy. These were perfect. My last combo was honey pecans, salted pecans and lemon salt. A funky chocolate riff on lemon pecan pie bars.

The site is very user-friendly, and offers everything from 24 karat gold flakes to saffron. How about salted hazelnuts with fig, or cantaloupe and roasted, salted macadamias? For the child in you, or as a great, fun gift to a teen, they offer an abundance of fanciful choices like Teddy Grahams, marshmallow bunnies, and Popping Rocks.

If making one more decision is just too daunting, Adeline has come up with some tried and true combinations in every category from nutty to sweet, to love-themed bars. (Remember them for Valentine’s Day and anniversaries.)

The clear packaging is very appealing and each 3 ounce bar has what appears to be a bite taken out of its northwest corner. A lovely, whimsical touch that fits the fun vibe you get from creating your own chocolate.