Tag Archives: nuts and chocolate

David Bacco Chocolatier

Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.
Voltaire

As Voltaire said, “The best is the enemy of the good.” I usually agree; however, there are times when perfection alights. As fleeting as they are, their blissfulness reminds us of what it is to be human. The perfect kiss, most beautiful sunset, or heartfelt smile take us into realms of joy and awe that raise the quotidian to the extraordinary. Like many of you, I find chocolate a fairly reliable catalyst for gustatory nirvana. My latest fix is David Bacco’s Noisette Madagascar. It is a truly perfect 64% Trinitario/Criollo dark chocolate with roasted hazelnuts. The temper is incredible, the shine like a mirror, and the juxtaposition of insanely crunchy nuts against a backdrop of fruity chocolate, with mesmerizing tones of fig and wild berries, is not to be missed. In addition, the bar’s construction: a three ounce square divided into a mosaic of trapezoidal shapes of varying sizes, makes it visually interesting and wonderful for those times when you want a smaller or larger piece. In this case, god is in the details.

David’s background as a pastry chef and chocolatier of almost two decades is no surprise, nor is his award in 2011 for “TOP ARTISAN CHOCOLATIER” title at the LA International Chocolate Salon show and competition. One bite of that dark hazelnut bar and you will be convinced, too.

Another bar I found swoon-worthy was his Olive Oil and Sea Salt in 74% bittersweet chocolate. Here, organic Grand Cru Hacienda chocolate from the Dominican Republic tangoes with more than a hint of fleur de sel. In my experience, most chocolates with salt are on the mild side. While this is still gentle on the palate, it has enough salty presence to really arc the flavor, especially when it has been paired with the rich creaminess of fruity olive oil.

David’s Milk Chocolate 40% bar with smoked sea salt is a dark milk chocolate with a super creamy texture enhanced with fleur de sel cold smoked over Chardonnay oak chips. If you are an aficionado of dark milk bars you will want to add this to your repertoire.

I also had a chance to sample his 68% Fortunato #4. Dubbed the world’s rarest chocolate it is a white pure Nacional bean renowned throughout the chocolate community. It had disappeared in 1916 when struck by disease, and was recently rediscovered in a remote Peruvian area. I have mentioned this chocolate before and its extremely mellow layers of fruit and floral flavors that are complemented by a wonderfully rich, creamy texture.

David’s chocolate ganaches and bonbons are also noteworthy. Each little gem is unique and intensely flavored. I was completely enamored with his marzipan and apricot layered square enrobed in dark chocolate, the caramelized almonds and cinnamon in milk, Caribbean spices in bitter ganache, the exquisitely flavored lime, and the red dome of passionfruit infused ganache. (I always wonder why more chocolatiers don’t offer passionfruit chocolates, as the combination is simply celestial.)

These bonbons are packaged in a serene looking black cardboard box with a bright spring green silk ribbon. The chocolate bars come in minimalist white boxes that open neatly on the side and reveal a re-closable cello sleeve which keeps everything tidy.

Zazubean Organic Fair Trade Functional Chocolate

Zazubean’s design, amusing online photos, and funky niche market called to me all the way from British Columbia. Currently, six very different bars comprise their collection of functional chocolates. Both of the ones I sampled, the “Flirt” with raspberry, cherry, and acaí­, and the “Nutbar” with coconut, almonds, and camu camu were irresistible. The super rich, organic 70% chocolate was equally at home with fruits as it was with almonds and coconut, though it had a decidedly different texture. With the freeze dried raspberry bits it was snappier and crisper; whereas, with the nuts and coconut it was chewier. Both were eminently easy to scarf down.

Functional foods are also known as neutraceuticals or superfoods. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, “Canada has emerged as a leading world supplier in this growing market. The country boasts more than 300 companies – from small start-ups to multinational enterprises.” In the U.S., we are well aware of the plethora of enhanced foodstuffs, as they fill almost every aisle of the market. When it comes to chocolate, a natural for pairing with everything from fiber to probiotics, the potential nutritional benefits are an exciting development, but take second place to the taste, texture, and aroma of the final product; especially, since dark chocolate already contains over 300 phytochemicals.

For those who are wondering, acaí­ (pronounced ah-sigh-ee), is a berry-like fruit that grows on palm trees in the Brazilian Amazon. According to recent research, it has amazing disease-fighting antioxidant properties. “With a score of 6.58 on the oxygen radical absorption capacity (ORAC) test, acaí­ pulp has more antioxidant activity than blueberries, strawberries, and red wine combined,” says David Grotto, RD, LDN, author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. Acaí­ is particularly high in anthocyanins, potent pigments that give it its deep purple color and battle cancer, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, obesity, and other age-related illnesses.

Camu camu, a sour berry that grows from a bush in swampy and flooded areas of the Amazon, has the highest levels of vitamin C. Studies show camu camu to have strong anti-oxidant effects and contain minerals, amino acids, beta carotene, calcium, iron, niacin, phosphorus, riboflavin and thiamine.

Unfortunately for Americans, Zazubean’s products are only available in Canada. I hope that changes soon, as I would love to try their Cheeky bar with banana, salted toffee, and maca (another superfood).

Cocoa Dolce

The urge to experience something new seems to be built into our DNA. Whether it’s making a new friend, reading a new book, or eating something unfamiliar, novelty spices up life. We generally disdain the mundane and boring in favor of the unfamiliar and exciting.

As someone who devotes a fair amount of time to sampling chocolate, I am always delighted with creative packaging, beans sourced from new locales, or innovative combinations of ingredients. Of course, some of the most amazing chocolate is pure and simple, beguiling us with its essential nature. Luckily, there’s no need to choose since both satisfy in different ways.

Being the novelty loving sybarite that I am, I was immediately intrigued with Coco Dolce’s line of bars and bonbons. Their beautiful pyramidal Mallomars were a riff on this childhood classic. A thin dark chocolate shell housed a light-as-air homemade marshmallow in one of three flavors: Tahitian Vanilla, Chocolate with Caramel, and Cinnamon with Sour Cherry. I enjoyed all of them, though the Cinnamon and Sour Cherry was an especially wonderful combination.

Cocoa Dolce’s Caramel Collection contains three different types of dark chocolate coated caramels: Chocolate, a little baton of chewy dark caramel, Classic Walnut, a tall rectangle of slightly softer (but still chewy) walnut studded caramel half dipped in dark chocolate, and two large squares of Applewood Smoked Bacon Caramel in dark chocolate. Each was uniquely delicious and it was fun having such variety.

I happen to love alcohol with chocolate, and was interested in their Chocolate and Fine Spirits collection. Tequila, Rum, Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey were separately housed in a crunchy sugar crust and enrobed in dark couverture. Quite decadent and satisfying.

Cocoa Dolce’s Tavalozza bars (5.5 ounces) were very generously topped with various fruits and nuts. I sampled the 57% Berry Bar laden with succulent blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Technically, these are dried fruit, but they were as fresh and moist as could be, lending a lovely chewiness to their snappily tempered base. I also tried the White Tavalozza bar with Fruit and Nut, a beautiful piece of edible art festooned with cranberries, pistachios, and dried orange peel.

Clearly, Cocoa Dolce is a very creative company. There are many other tempting products on their website including wine infused truffles, sugar free bars, single origin bars, grey salt caramels, peanut butter creams, and turtles.

Chick Bars

Seattle Chocolates has a new line of five Chick Bars with snappy names and some wildly creative flavors. All have firm centers, unlike their truffles. At first, I found the firm centers a little confusing; after all, fillings are usually softer than couverture, but, after a few tastes, I came to love the texture since it made each bite last longer.

Strong Chick was a dark bar with acai berries, dried edamame, almonds, and cranberries. The standout ingredient here were the edamame (crunchy soy beans). I loved their assertive texture, slight saltiness, and the way the flavor stood up to the dark chocolate.

Nutty Chick was milk chocolate with toffee and almonds. It was sweet, crunchy, buttery, and nutty. If you’e in the mood for something sweeter, this is the bar for you.

Extreme Chick was dark with roasted cocoa nibs. The nibs are not crushed too finely, so they are great for those who like a strong nib presence.

Survivor Chick was a dark bar with a center of white chocolate, raspberries and a hint of lemon. The accent of lemon really enhanced the raspberry flavor, and the pink color was feminine and pretty. 100% of the profits from this confection go to fight breast cancer.

Power Chick is Espresso infused dark chocolate. I was delighted to see they use decaffeinated beans. The bar was full of mocha flavor and had a highly tempered snap.

All five bars are adorned with funky, stylized drawings of women with attitude to spare. While I know many adults who would be grateful to get a box of five of these bars, there are also some sophisticated teens who would adore the look, taste, and concept of these chocolates.

Chocolate Inspirations: Vegan Toffees with Dark Chocolate & Vegan Fudge

A little over a year ago I discovered Purely Decadent’s Coconut Milk ice cream, an incredibly creamy, mousse-like dessert that went fabulously with my Fallen Chocolate Cake. Around the same time, I began experimenting with coconut oil in baked goods, and was very happy with the results. So, it was with great glee I opened a package of toffees and fudge from Chocolate Inspirations as they are all made with coconut oil or milk.

Their Vegan Gourmet English Toffee was rich, crunchy with pecans, and thickly coated in dark chocolate (Felchlin’s 58% couverture, a creamy, adult dark that doesn’t interfere with the toffee’s flavors). I was an immediate fan. My problem with most toffee is the dearth of chocolate and the unctuous, over-the-top butter flavor. This offered exactly what I had been craving for but didn’t know existed.

Gourmet Vegan Cinnamon Toast Toffee was different in that it is an elegant thin shard of toffee coated with dark chocolate and topped with sugar crystals. They added just the right amount of cinnamon to complement a unique toffee-chocolate combo.

Vegan Gourmet Coconut Brittle is like the English toffee but with toasted coconut.

Vegan Gourmet Coffee Toffee is a creative treat satisfying your desire for mocha, nuts, toffee and dark chocolate. It may sound as if too many things are going on here, but they all blend beautifully, just like the last movement of a Mozart symphony.

Chocolate Inspirations also makes a Gourmet Vegan Fudge Sensation Bar that I was skeptical about until I read the ingredients: dark chocolate, purified water, almonds, cashews, sodium bicarbonate, rice starch, non iodized salt, sugar, corn syrup, and organic coconut oil. It has a good creamy, fudgey texture, not too sweet, and covered in dark chocolate.

They also make Vegan Gourmet Cocoa Pecans, Vegan Cashew Brittle, Caramel Nut Cups, Cinnamon Toast Toffee with Almonds, and Vegan Cinnamon Sugared Pecans.

Another wonderful thing about Chocolate Inspirations is their willingness to sell in bulk.  The minimum bulk amount is one pound, with a typical price of $20.50. When you consider what high end confections cost, this is a great bargain. You can always repackage your toffee in a lovely tin or box. (I use boxes from note cards as they’re often the right size and have great designs.)