Category Archives: chocolate

Pascati Chocolate

All of Pascati’s chocolates are organic and made with ethically sourced Idukki beans from India’s Kerala region. Pascati’s mission is to support the local cacao farmers. Through Fair-trade, they pay a premium for the cacao which goes back to the Kerala farming community. This also supports several community initiatives to sustain the ecosystem, and ensures that no child labor is used.

Kerala, a state on India’s tropical Malabar Coast, covers part of the southwest portion of the continent with nearly 600km of Arabian Sea shoreline. It’s known for its palm-lined beaches and backwaters. Inland are the Western Ghats, mountains whose slopes support tea, coffee and spice plantations as well as wildlife.

One of my favorite chemicals in chocolate, anandamide, comes from the Sanskrit ananda, meaning bliss. ˜Pascati” is derived from a Sanskrit word ˜Pascat Parivesya” which translates to a sweet meal.

I sampled eight of their bars. All are 75 grams, have 24 bite-size sections, and boast a snappy temper. Seven of them were 60% and one, the Dark Idukki, was 72%.

The 72% Dark Idukki bar is different from all the other chocolates I have ever sampled. It has a lingering, slightly dry finish, licorice notes, a definite earthy-woodsyness and a silky texture.

The 60% Sea Salt Dark was quite different. The salt perked everything up, as it often does, and played with the extra creaminess of this lower cocoa content bar. Slightly sweeter, it delivered a very rounded cocoa flavor with enough acidity to keep it interesting.

Raspberry and Hibiscus is a delicious combination of fruitiness and floral notes. Subtle, nuanced flavors point up the bean’s depth and making it intriguing.

While we’re on the subject of flowers, Rose Almond Dark is another interesting combination. The almonds are finely sprinkled throughout the bar and the rose gives it that classic Indian culinary rosewater presence.

Saffron Pistachio Dark has a slightly crunchy texture from the nuts, but they don’t dominate. The saffron’s dryness accentuates the bean’s dry finish, all of which is gentled by its creaminess.

Orange Cinnamon Hazelnut Dark is a deft mix of those three warming flavors, not one of which is pronounced. All three work in concert with the chocolate to create another nuanced bar that deeply satisfies.

Lemon Ginger Dark, a classic tea combination at my house, was perfect. Just the right amount of lemon and ginger perked up the chocolate without overpowering it.

Mango dark, with pieces of freeze dried mango embedded on its underside was unique and a bit addictive. Again, in a counter-intuitive way, the dryness of the mango accentuated the dry finish of the bean, which was enhanced by its velvety texture.

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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.

 

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.

Potomac Chocolate

Res ipsa loquitor is a Latin phrase used in legal parlance to mean the thing speaks for itself. Potomac’s chocolate bars truly speak for themselves, each in its own chocolate lexicon.

Ben Rasmussen, Potomac’s founder, is a truly gifted chocolatier. I first reviewed his bars in 2011. I loved them then and I’m even more smitten now. Each has its own personality, yet you could do a seamless tasting with any or all of them.

The beans must be in chocolate heaven as Ben has managed to deftly coax them into beautifully tempered, silky textured, bars. Each has a charming little school of fish etched on its surface, with one little straggler trying to catch up from the bottom. So whimsical, poetic and enchanting.

Packaging is important to me and these reclosable envelopes ensure freshness, even after opening, while keeping all the little fishies safe and sound.

The Duarte bar, 70%, made with Dominican Republic beans is luxurious in every way. Its velvety texture releases beautifully balanced fruity flavors with low acidity. This allowed me to concentrate on the more subtle nuances of this eminently addictive chocolate.

The 70% San Martin bar from Peruvian beans melts a bit more slowly, sports a slightly dryer finish and has an edgier vibe of banana, raisin and berries.

Tumaco, 70%, is a limited release from Colombia. I tasted dark fruits with floral notes in a texture of fudgy chocolate.

The above three bars are made with only two ingredients: beans and sugar. No vanilla to distract you from the beans releasing their true nature and personality.

The two milk bars I tried were as different as chalk and cheese. The 65% Dark Milk with Peruvian beans from San Martin has a distinctly caramel presence. The Toasted Milk, 49%, made with beans from Peru and the Dominican Republic, is creamier, even more redolent of caramel, with the added complexity of toasted whole milk powder.

Upala 85%, from Costa Rica is super rich, chocolaty, and earthy. Coffee and roasted nut flavors predominated.

The limited release 70% Peppermint bar is made with Doscher’s Old-Fashioned Peppermint Candy Canes. (Doscher’s has been making these candy canes using the same recipe and equipment since they opened in 1871.) I adored this perfectly balanced bar…a little sweetness, deep chocolate flavor and perky, crunchy bits of peppermint candy. Totally addictive.

70% Dark with Coconut was another favorite. This is a combination of beans from Peru and the Dominican Republic. Crunchy, chewy coconut was balanced by velvety textured chocolate.

The 70% with Sea Salt bar has a piquancy that points up the chocolate in a different way, highlighting the bean’s bright citrus notes. These beans are from the Amazonian highlands of San Martín, Peru.

Spice, 70%, with the same Dominican Republic beans as the Duarte bar, is spiced with cinnamon, sea salt, and aleppo chili pepper. A heady mix that simultaneously gives you warmth, spiciness, and that slightly salty edge. If you love Mexican hot chocolate this is for you.

Bread, 70%, made with those delicious Duarte bar beans, was unique and craveable. Ben uses his homemade, lightly toasted sourdough breadcrumbs to add a wonderful delicate crunch, and perks up the flavors with a hint of sea salt.

These are all the work of a very talented and creative soul. I could taste the love, creativity and attention to detail in each bite.

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.

Aldi Choceur Dark Hazelnut bar

Another delicious UTZ certified chocolate bar from Aldi at a bargain price.

Actually, I had completely forgotten about this bar, but on a whim bought one the other day. What a delightful surprise! So texturally balanced and satisfying.

Weighing in at 7.05 ounces it has 7 generous servings. The 50% dark chocolate is a little sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, with 10 grams of added sugar per portion.

Not only is this super crunchy and chock full of roasted fresh hazelnuts, it’s very attractive to look at. The velvety texture of the chocolate provides a perfect foil for the nuts.

Over the years, I have found most dark bars, even dark milk bars, last well past their expiration date; however, when it comes to bars with nuts it’s best to adhere to the dates as the nuts can get rancid. Thankfully, most Aldi chocolates have an expiration date that’s, at least, six months into the future.

Not only is this a really yummy treat but it provides 10% of your iron, 4 grams of fiber with 160 calories. Considering it’s a chocolate bar, that’s fairly healthy.