Category Archives: chocolate sites

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Cacao Hunters

 

Founded in Popayan, Colombia by Carlos Velasco, Cacao Hunters is a sustainable development project designed to support Colombian farmers and their families. Another part of their mission is finding, preserving and promoting the production of varieties of regional cocoas. Unlike many chocolate companies, the chocolate is made in Colombia, keeping all of the profits in the country of origin.

I sampled three dark bars and one dark milk.

Magdalena 71% had a very marked coffee presence for me with a crisp temper.

Perla Negra 74% had a creamier consistency, woody caramel notes and a slightly dry, yet lingering finish.

Arhuacos 72% , from a 500 year old bean, was my favorite of the three dark bars. Its slight tobacco flavor melded beautifully with velvety texture.

I loved their 2016 gold medal award winning 53% Tumaco Leche dark milk. An incredibly well-rounded mix of rich chocolate flavor with butterscotch undertones made this an incredibly delicious chocolate.

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.

Askanya Haitian Chocolate

I am going to focus my review of the actual chocolate from Askanya as the following link will take you to an excellent write-up of the company, its founders, their history, and vision: http://kreyolicious.com/askanya-haitian-chocolate-industry/24851.

I sampled four 55 gram bars, all of which had a fairly fudgey consistency. The colorful wrappers are beautifully designed, as is the company logo: a profile of a Haitian woman with a large flower in her hair. The bars themselves sport a beautiful curvilinear design in bas relief with a hibiscus in the center.

I don’t usually gravitate towards milk chocolate, but Askanya’s Paradis 47% dark milk was so redolent of caramel it beckoned me. Unlike many milk bars, a small square left me totally satisfied.

Their other milk offering, 50% Wanga Nègès, was completely different. More rustic texturally (though not like a stone ground bar), it lent itself to the deeper, richer, raisin and plummy notes of the bean.

Next up was their 60% Minuet dark bar. A good choice for people who might not think they like dark chocolate as it had no discernible acidity, tobacco or edgy aspects to it. Easy to eat with a dry finish.

Askanya’s 90%: Perle Rare, brings you right to Haiti’s earthy doorstep. Intense without being bitter, it delivered a chocolate hit with a short finish.

SoChatti Chocolate

Jessica Halstead, the chocolate maker behind SoChatti, is truly innovative. I sampled her pourable chocolate this morning and it was an absolute delight to work with. At first, I must confess, I was daunted by the delivery system, an eight ounce pouch of hardened chocolate that I was supposed to soften in water at 110 degrees. The temperature was crucial and it was not to go above that mark. Being a bit of rebel I kept adding warmer water to keep it at 110 which meant it sometimes went a bit above that target. Apparently, there’s more wiggle room than I thought. After about 20 minutes and a few massages of the bag to evenly distribute its contents, I was ready to experiment. Since the chocolate was such high quality I didn’t want to over-adulterate it by adding too many ingredients, so I stuck to making mendiants and decorations.

I played with all sorts of free-form chocolate decorations on a piece of wax paper, just to test how user friendly the pouch delivery system would be. It’s incredibly easy to maneuver. I was able to get thick or thin strands of chocolate, curvilinear lines, and all sorts of shapes…even building up the chocolate for more 3D decorations.

The mendiants were a breeze: I put little dollops of chocolate on the wax paper and pressed either a lightly candied maple pecan on top, or a roasted pistachio with a freeze dried cherry or raspberry. All the chocolate began to harden at room temperature fairly quickly. (I stored it in the fridge as I have come to love the extra crisp temper of refrigerated chocolate.)

The batch from Ecuador and Tanzania (#18002) was a deliciously fruity chocolate with just the right amount of acidity to add complexity. SoChatti offers a variety of chocolates from Tanzania, Peru, and Madagascar. At $19.99 including shipping from Amazon they are also a very good value.

Not only is this a great way to unleash your own inner chocolatier it’s also a great project to do with children as the half pound pouch gives you plenty to play with. Your imagination is the only limitation. Not feeling particularly ambitious? Just empty the melted chocolate into a bowl, add your favorite ingredients, stir, and make a big slab chocolate bark. What could be easier or more fun when those chocolate cravings strike?

SoChatti is unique, delicious and versatile. If you follow the directions (and they will soon offer a warmer to make it even easier) you can create incredible chocolates without having to go through the more traditional and slower tempering process. If you are curious about making high quality, single origin chocolates at home, and don’t want to invest in an expensive tempering machine, try SoChatti and experiment to your heart’s (and palate’s) delight.

Goodnow Farms Chocolate

I must confess, when I look back on my life and whatever joys I’ve been lucky enough to have savored, chocolate is among them. While it doesn’t compare to motherhood or connecting deeply with a loved one, it’s far more reliable. I know, because I have been eating dark chocolate for decades. It has been with me through thick and thin, a gustatory anchor in a constantly ebbing and flowing world.

These days, you can find very good chocolate pretty easily. Excellent, even exquisite, chocolate is less ubiquitous.

As one’s palate gets increasingly educated it becomes ever more exciting to discover new chocolates with their different flavor profiles and unique characteristics.

Goodnow Farms Chocolate has a range to please all your chocolate proclivities while broadening your discernment of subtle differences between percentages and beans.

I usually don’t quote from people’s websites, but the descriptions by owners Tom and Monica Rogan are so evocative I am going to include some. Let’s start with the farmers who grow the Asochivite bean.

“The remote Guatemalan village of San Juan Chivite is perched on the side of a mountain, reachable only by foot. Part of the journey requires crossing a long, narrow wooden and steel cable footbridge across which all harvested cacao is carried by hand.

At the start of the Guatemalan civil war the village was part of a coffee farm, but when coffee prices declined the owner sold the farm and the land ended up in the hands of 64 indigenous Maya families who had been displaced by the war. They began by growing both coffee and cacao but switched entirely to cacao in 2002.

There are now 125 families living in San Juan Chivite, all of whom are descendants of the original 64 families.

When we first visited the village in 2015 the villagers told us one of their most pressing needs was to replace their old and inadequate fermentation and drying area with a new facility that would allow them to improve their post harvest capabilities. We were impressed with the villagers’ commitment to producing high quality cacao and Goodnow Farms agreed to fund the construction of a new fermentation and drying area. The villagers built the new facility themselves, with technical advice from Cacao Verapaz, and began using it for the 2016 harvest.”

The Asochivite 70% bar with maple sugar has only one more gram of sugar than it’s sibling, Asochivite 77%, yet that extra gram, as well as the slightly lower cacao percentage, gives it a beautifully rounded taste. In contrast, the higher chocolate intensity of the 77% lights up the bean’s fruitiness, slight acidity and long finish. I loved both.

The El Carmen bean hails from a Nicaragua farm just outside the town of Matagalpa in Nicaragua’s Central Highlands about an hour’s drive northeast from Matagalpa.

I tasted both bars made with El Carmen beans: the 77% and a 69% with finely ground coffee. The former delivered a real taste of the Nicaraguan terroir without being too earthy. The luxurious, silky texture (something highlighted by the thinness of all their bars) carried notes of dark fruit and raisin to my deliriously happy taste buds. The bar with coffee seamlessly matched the chocolate’s richness with single origin lightly roasted coffee (also sourced from Nicaragua). Sheer delight for those of you who love mocha.

Their Esmeraldas 70% comes from the Salazar farm in Southern Ecuador. The bean is a hybrid of the now-famous Nacional, known for its mellow, fruity flavor. One of the most satisfying chocolate experiences you could ever hope to have. Not surprisingly, it won a Good Food award in 2018.

The 70% Ucayali bar comes from an area at the headwaters of the Amazon in Peru. The beans are sourced from small cocoa farms whose trees line the river’s banks.

I thought this was worth noting: “The Ucayali region is on Peru’s east coast and has long been known for growing coca. While many farmers there once grew coca they have increasingly been turning to fine flavor cacao as an alternative. Part of the reason for this change is the increased price that craft makers like us are paying for premium cacao, and another is an initiative being undertaken by the Peruvian government to eradicate coca crops and thereby reduce the endemic crime it brings.”

The Ucayali bar is beautifully tempered, as are all Goodnow Farms’chocolates I sampled, I was struck by the way its sweeter, fruity presence was punctuated by herbal and slightly acidic notes. Complex and very satisfying.

Almendra Blanca bars, a 60% with almonds and a 77%, look like milk chocolate at first glance, but they aren’t. It’s the lighter color of the “White Almond” beans that threw me off for a second. Tom and Monica give these beans a short, gentle roast which allows the naturally bright, fruity flavor to shine.

The beans are sourced from an 80-year-old family farm in the Mexican state of Tabasco run by Vicente Alberto Gutierrez Cacep. He strongly supports community initiatives and local businesses, including those owned by women.

The Almond bar is creamy, rich, and slightly crunchy as the nuts are finely ground and evenly infiltrate the chocolate. The 77% bar is also velvety, though the intensity of higher cocoa content allows the bean’s natural complexity to sparkle.

If you are seeking a superb chocolate experience, even if you have tasted some of the finest bars out there, I suggest you try Goodnow Farms’ bars. And, while you’re at it, enjoy the beautiful watercolors on their website.

If you sign up for their newsletter you get 10% off your first order.