Tag Archives: new chocolate bars

Artisana Organics Criollo Chocolates

Artisana chocolate has a history that goes back to 1700. The family has been farming cacao in Venezuela for over three hundred years, long before we even conceptualized an “organic” food label. It was always organic and still is, though now it’s USDA certified, Non-GMO, vegan, and gluten free.

I happen to have an on-going love affair with criollo beans and all three of their bars are made with this complex, yet mellow chocolate. There are three iterations: 65%, 75%, and 85%. Each 50 gram bar comes in a pretty cardboard envelope with a foil liner. The bars themselves are divided into six rectangles with a lovely bas relief of a cacao pod. Each rectangle has raised sides and an indented middle. For the life of me I don’t know why this design is so satisfying. Perhaps, because it accentuates the beautiful shiny, crisp temper?

Fifty gram bars are not typical, and unlike so many other companies that use small portion sizes to make nutritional information seem healthier, Artisana deems that one portion. It’s certainly not out of the question that you would eat the whole bar in one sitting; however, two large pieces are quite satisfying.

If you do decide to scarf down a whole bar you will get a whopping amount of iron. The 65% has 40% of your daily requirement, the 75% has 50%, and the 85% has 60%. For comparison, 135 grams of tenderloin has 9% of your daily iron needs.

Even though the bars sport the same criollo bean, they are vastly different in flavor. The 65% is sweet, but not too sweet. There is a tantalizingly dry edge that appears just as it melts in your mouth and continues through the finish. The combination of silkiness with that hint of dryness is deliciously balanced.

The 75% bar has an earthiness complemented by its creamy texture. Dark fruits, plum, cherry, and raisin round out its profile.

Not for the faint of heart is the 85% bar. An intense bittersweet chocolate with just 7 grams of sugar in a 50 gram portion. The dry edge is most pronounced here. If Carl Jung were a chocophile he would talk about this being the shadow side of criollo, as its sweeter incarnations look so innocent, while this super dark version challenges you with its intensity. It’s designed for those of you who want the full metal jacket of cacao’s chemical bounty.

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.

Askinosie: Salt Flakes & Pistachio with Ancho Chile in 62% Dark Goat’s Milk Chocolate

With Valentine’s day approaching, you may want to send a message that your love is not just sweet but spicy, not merely pretty to look at but provocatively complex. What better vehicle than chocolate to make your point? The name of Askinosie’s new bar is almost long enough to be a poem: Salt Flakes & Pistachio Play Hopscotch on the Dark Goat’s Milk Chocolate Ancho Chile Altar.

Shawn Askinosie is always on the cutting edge of fanciful combinations. What’s notable about this bar, aside from the 68% cocoa with goat’s milk, is how the variety of textures and flavors work so harmoniously. The edgy astringency of Maldon sea salt with its oceanic subtext, a well-tempered yet creamy texture, wonderfully crunchy pistachios, all set ablaze with Ancho chile. The bar’s heat and spiciness is quite perfectly calibrated.

As those of you who gravitate towards chile and chocolate know, this combination can be very finicky. Too much heat and the crucial balance is lost, too little and you’re left dissatisfied, yearning for more.

Askinosie’s new bar is beautiful. Scattered with chartreuse nuts and little flakes of salt, it delivers aesthetically as well as providing a fantastically different experience from everything else on the market.

So, if you are looking for some exciting chocolate to rattle your cage, try this new bar. It will have your taste buds rocking with depth, crunch, sweetness, creaminess, heat, and a pinch of salt.

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.