Category Archives: Gourmet chocolate

Single Origin Chocolate bars: 35%, 65% and 75% At Aldi

Just a quick heads up…at least, for my American readers…Aldi is now experimenting with selling their single origin bars as a regular item. Of course, if no one buys them they will quickly disappear. If you love truly fantastic chocolate I strongly suggest hightailing it over to your local Aldi store and loading up on their 65% and 75% single origin bars. The 75% from the Dominican Republic is delicious. All are UTZ certified, and only $2.49 for a five bar pack so you can scarf them down with a clear conscience.

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Batch PDX Chocolates

The three most striking things about Batch PDX chocolates is their beauty, intensity, and originality. These chocolates wowed me with their explosions of taste and texture. In a world of options, it’s easy to develop a jaded palate. Batch PDX took me into undiscovered chocolate realms, each a little planet of delight.

Jeremy Karp, the mastermind behind Batch PDX, uses organic cream and butter for his unforgettable creations. He believes in “simplicity of design.” This puts the focus where I want it most, on the tastes and textures that hook and maintain my interest.

Think you’ve tasted a passion fruit truffle? Think again. Jeremy’s Spicy Passion is composed of two layers housed in a white chocolate shell whose sculptural top looks like an origami fold. While I am not a fan of white chocolate, it is the perfect foil of creaminess to balance the spicy acidity of ghost pepper and passion fruit. A hint of orangey Cointreau adds a subtle subtext.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee has a dark chocolate exterior containing one of the most deeply flavored coffee ganaches I have ever sampled.

Nutty Crunchy has Paillete Feuilletine (French for crepes dentelles, lovely little shards of nanosphere thin crunchy wafers) with the added super crunch of chopped hazelnuts and almonds. Jeremy’s rendition of the classic combination of chocolate and hazelnuts is blissfully textural but not too sweet.

Almond n Coconut is a dark chocolate carapace enclosing a filling reminiscent of marzipan, but with far more chewy depth from bits of coconut strewn throughout.

Dulce de Leche comes in a lovely marbleized shell. Its creamy caramel colored interior is beautifully balanced between the sweetness of Dulce de Leche and rum.

Yuzu Gimlet is a divine combo of gin, chocolate and yuzu puree. The yuzu stands in for lime and the result is another coup: slightly acidic, juniper berry-ish from the gin, in a lovely dark, velvety ganache.

Earl Grey creates more subtle joy with its bergamot scented tea infused ganache in a dark shell.

Almond Crisp has an interior both creamy and crunchy with ground almonds and crispy rice.

(If you were wondering, as I was, what PDX stands for, it’s the Portland, Oregon airport code.)

Edwart Chocolatier

There is something really irresistible about chocolates that come in a beautiful black box with a copper coat of arms. It’s not actually a coat of arms, but it’s a fabulous rendition of a ship sailing under a sky of cocoa pods. Add to that the magnetic closure and you have a presentation that sates your aesthetic senses before you even taste one of the little gems inside.

These are chocolates to savor slowly, each a mini-meditation on perfectly tempered couverture, sublimely wrought ganaches, and lovely visuals.

If you seek novel flavors, like mascarpone with Dominican dark chocolate, but also covet the classics, like a mint ganache enrobed in Venezuelan dark chocolate, Edwart is for you. Each square is a well-thought out pairing of interior and exterior. The Criollo with almond praline and Yoichi (Japanese whiskey) with a fruity chocolate from the Dominican Republic are only two examples of their creativity. Of course, it’s also nice to have some old favorites, like feuilletine…those delightfully crunchy bits of crêpe dentelle. The ginger, gianduja, sesame, curry, and mini rocher completed a lovely selection fit for your most discerning chocolate connoisseur.

Looking for wonderfully whimsical and beautiful chocolates for Easter, or any other holiday? Check out their website: http://www.edwart.fr.

If you plan to be in Paris consider taking one of their workshops. Trip Advisor has reams of glowing reviews for the plethora of chocolate offerings beyond the ganaches I sampled.

Wise Sons Chocolate Babka

What makes for an exquisitely delicious chocolate Babka? To start, the flavors and proportion of chocolate to dough have to be perfectly balanced. Not too sweet, not too bready; not simply a dense mass of chocolate, but enough to sate your cravings.

Over the past holiday season I let it be known I was on the hunt for a great chocolate Babka and my family did not disappoint. I will not name all the loaves I tried in the vain hope of finding something reminiscent of my grandmother’s sublime version. Suffice it to say: Nine of the ten I sampled shall remain nameless.

One stood out high above the rest: Wise Sons of San Francisco. The ingredients alone tell you how fabulous this Babka will be: organic wheat flour, chocolate, milk, butter, sugar, cage-free eggs, brown sugar, water, cream, cocoa powder, vanilla, yeast, cinnamon, and salt. The loaf is beautifully adorned with a streusel topping that is somehow not too sweet. The interior is marbled with deep fissures of dark chocolate. The dough is like a breadier brioche, but that description doesn’t do it justice. My daughter, who went to culinary school, thought it was like a combination of brioche and puff pastry. Indescribable? Perhaps. But definitely capable of satisfying the most jaded Babka palate.

When I was growing up in NYC I used to have a hard time limiting my Babka intake as I found it very addicting. Probably because it was too sweet and I was a kid. This version is so satisfying that a modest portion is enough to sate even a major Babka jones.

If you’re not lucky enough to live near the Wise Sons bakery you can mail order this through Goldbely.com. It’s definitely a splurge, but each Babka will give you tons of gustatory joy and it freezes beautifully.

Hexx Chocolate

When I was in high school I had a short period of fascination with witchcraft. Pretty quickly, I discovered it was mostly a mind game. Spells, hexes, and voodoo all seemed to rely on the intended subject knowing what good or evil was being created for them with dolls, potions, or boiling cauldrons. Chocolate is partially a mind game, too, but of a very different nature. Great chocolate casts its spell by creating an altered state of consciousness where your five senses collaborate to take you somewhere captivating, delicious, and new.

Hexx bewitches its customers with their wide array of single origin dark and dark milk bars. All of which are sure to carry you into a chocolate reverie and away from whatever harshes your mellow.

The look of these bars is also entrancing. Each is shaped into many little, flat hexagons with the double X design in bas relief.

All are sweetened with raw palm sugar, made from nectar found in the flower buds of the coconut palm tree. This nectar is then air-dried to form a crystalline sugar that’s naturally brown in color and rich in a number of key vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including potassium, zinc, iron, and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6. Palm sugar has a low-glycemic index. It tastes and acts almost exactly like sugar, but it is unrefined.

I sampled four of their eight bars:

47% Camino Verde (Ecuador) dark milk is reminiscent of vanilla, caramel, fruit and cream. Easy to eat, but also very rich and satisfying in small amounts.

47% Sambirano Valley (Madagascar) dark milk is lighter in color and more gentle on the palate. A great choice for people who are afraid to up their cocoa content and want a milky, soothing bar.

70% Kokoa Kamili (Tanzania) is a very assertive offering with coffee, raisin, and a little astringency. It has a lingering, slightly dry finish.

70% Maranon Pue Nacional (Peru) is redolent of fruity biscuits, deep chocolate flavor, and fruity undertones. This is a classic in the chocolate pantheon and deserves attention from anyone who loves cacao.

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.

Dark Forest Chocolate Two New Dark Milk Bars

Dark milk chocolate is the perfect choice for people who say they don’t like dark chocolate but want to eat it for its health benefits. They get a more intense cacao experience without any of the bitterness, acidity, tobacco, coffee, or terroir flavors often associated with a 70% bar. In addition, I have also found friends will try a dark milk and be more open minded about tasting a truly dark chocolate. For me, a lover of dark bars, these dark milks provide a dessert-like interlude with their incredibly creamy texture and slightly higher sugar content.

I just sampled two great dark milk bars from Dark Forest Chocolate, a bean to bar maker in Lancaster, NY. I first reviewed their wares in 2015 and was enraptured by a Goat Milk 50% chocolate. Luckily for those of you who love it, or haven’t tried it yet, it’s still in their repertoire. (See the review here: https://chocolateratings.wordpress.com/2015/07/25/dark-forest-single-origin-bean-to-bar-chocolate/)

It takes great skill to add just the right amount of heat to chocolate so it accentuates the properties of the bean while providing something new and exciting. Dark Forest Chocolate has achieved that elusive balance. Their 50% dark milk Cinnamon Pepper bar has no black pepper, just cocoa beans, sugar, cacao butter, whole milk powder, Ceylon cinnamon, and cayenne. It was delicious and satisfyingly complex. I also love the 24 little rectangles the bar neatly breaks into. Each piece provides the perfect morsel to savor this luscious combination of velvety textured chocolate and heat.

I also sampled their Salted Malted Milk Chocolate bar, another dark milk offering with unique malted milk undertones that triggered memories of malted milk balls…though at a far more adult level. Barley malt (the main component of malted milk powder) adds an retro flavor reminiscent of old fashioned soda fountains where malted milk, egg creams, and ice cream sodas were the coin of the realm.