Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Green & Black's: Cherry

I got this bar at Super Stop N' Shop in Yonkers, NY. It was in the organic section. I hadn't had a Green & Black's bar in a long time but 70% Dark was the very first bar I documented as one that I Had Known. I also recommend their Ginger, and Maya Gold. Here is the info:

Green & Black's: Cherry
Cocoa content: 60%
Notable ingredients: organic dried cherries
Blend: none, made in the US (and distributed from NJ!)

The other day I said to my friend that chocolate can never have too many mix-ins. I love to gobble up a variety of things, I said, and I like the texture change. I was wrong, but not VERY wrong. This bar is so cramped with dried cherries that it doesn't even break along the perforations. The cherries are gummy and sticky, each about the size of a dime. They are impossible to tear simply by snapping the chocolate, so I ended up with shards of chocolate with gummy nubs sticking out.

This was the first time I had wished there were fewer mix-ins. I could scarcely find a bite that wasn't interrupted by a thick chew, so I couldn't really assess the snap of the bar. It tasted more like a really chocolate-heavy trail mix, I think.

Of course, dried cherries are delicious and I enjoyed the tartness alongside the mild 60%. I just wanted more of a chocolate experience. For objective taste though, I give this bar a B.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Christopher Elbow: No. 6: Dark Rocks

This bar cost me a whopping $6.99 (before tax!) at Food Emporium, Union Sq. But since I don't spend money on anything else really, and because this bar has POP ROCKS in it, I thought: why not? Here is what this bar is all about:

Christopher Elbow: No. 6: Dark Rocks
Cocoa content: 61%
Notable ingredients: "popping candy (sugar)"
Origin: Not at all. Blend, American company

This bar is funny in a way that the Ritter Sport Cornflakes bar was not, because Christopher Elbow is one of the classier American chocolatiers. Elbow, who usually works with high-content Venezuelan beans and sensual spice blends, dips into the low-brow scene with this, his bar no. 6. 

Make no mistake: popping candy means Pop Rocks, those flaky little carbonated crackling candies that, if consumed with Coke, would kill you or give you an abortion or something -- I don't quite remember. Anyway, those were eaten out of a bag, and these have been mixed into some of the finest chocolate made in the country. The result is mixed. The pop rocks themselves were unevenly dispersed: in my first few bites, I felt only a subtle crackling post-chew. In some bites to follow, I heard and felt a loud, satisfying pop almost instantly upon biting into the chocolate.

I cannot tell a lie: it was mad fun. But the suspense that the popping candies created kind of distracted from the chocolate, and when I made a point of paying attention to the chocolate, I was still annoyed by the crackling: I've always been unusually sensitive to carbonation, but I feel like even those who enjoy fizzy soda would agree that the popping sensation is incompatible with fatty, thick, or melting things. 

That said, what I enjoyed about this bar is what I enjoyed last time I ate one of Christopher Elbow's creations, his no. 2. The snap is sharp and the beans fruity, sweet. The packaging is really beautiful and everyone I gave a piece to enjoyed it: fun times all around! I give it a B.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ritter Sport: Cornflakes

How do you think this bar was?

Ritter Sport is a fabulous thing that everyone seems to know about but no one ever talks about. It's easier to find at bodegas and delis than at gourmet markets or chocolate stores. I got this at a deli on Clark St. in Brooklyn Heights. Here is the basic information:

Ritter Sport: Cornflakes
Cocoa content: 30%
Notable ingredient: Cornflakes
Origin: Yeah right (blend, Germany)

I suggest using a visual. I remember when I discovered Ritter Sport, I was about 10 or 11 and I was visiting France. This is really popular in Europe. And when I was living in Boston I bought a lot of them at Cardullo's in Harvard Square. I went back to France in 2006 and lived with a host family -- and the children got Ritter Sport bars in their lunches. 

This is a hefty square of thick, unprecedentedly creamy milk chocolate divided into 16 squares and stuffed with cornflakes. It is like a Crunch bar except better because the chocolate is 100 times better than Nestle and because Cornflakes are vastly more interesting than crisped rice. There is little else to say here; having known this bar was a pleasure entirely mine.

Ritter Sport takes cereal seriously, and by that I am moved. I am entering a phase of chocolate eating called Hedonism. This bar gets an A.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lindt: Chili

My friend Robert bought this bar for me -- somewhere in Newton, MA, I believe. It is part of Lindt's Excellence collection, which does some origin bars and other fruity things. More on that later. Here are the statistics:

Lindt: Chili
Cocoa content: This is another bar that doesn't list cocoa content. I will say more about this. Suffice it to say (actually don't, because I'm going to say more,) that I am irked.
Notable ingredients: chili extract (premium red)
Origin: blend, made in Switzerland 

I've had a bunch of chili bars before (among them: Dagoba's Xocolotl, Christopher Elbow's no. 2, Dolfin's Dark Pink Peppercorns, Organic Meltdown's Cinnamon & Chili) and I've always felt like the spice was too strong, or that it wasn't balanced out by enough sweetness. I recently really enjoyed the Dolfin peppercorn bar because that was 59% cocoa, and was thus sweet enough to cut the sharpness of the chili. I wasn't sure how to approach this bar though because Lindt doesn't tell you the cocoa content. I've encountered this problem with Flyer Chocolates (just a few weeks ago) and it's really irksome. I think what's going on here is that it's not actually DARK chocolate as advertised. I think I wrote here that I would classify all cocoa contents above 60% as some sort of dark. This Lindt bar literally tastes like creamy, milk chocolate. I would probably put it at about 50%. It's frustrating that I can't confirm that anywhere, even on their website.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with milk chocolate. Lindt has always done milk better than dark. And to this bar's credit, I have never seen chili used this well. The melt here takes precedence over the edge of the chili, so you only encounter the spice's bite after the piece has melted in your mouth. It's subtle, basically, which reminds me of the Taza Mexican chocolate that I used to buy at the Farmers' Market in Lexington, MA. No appeal to chocolate extremists, but entirely delicious.

I said before that I wouldn't take points away for misleading packaging, because the main objective here is to know chocolates -- and to remember them fondly. I'll remember that this bar was a tasty treat, courtesy of a good pal. B+.

The last thing on the agenda: I want to address the issue of Origins. Obviously I have not eaten much origin chocolate (beans harvested from a single source) recently. I am not so interested in origins right now purely because there are so many whacky mix-ins out there -- how can I pass them up? The next two entries will be silly, but I'm going to try to keep my eye out for some interesting origins in the next few weeks. 

Friday, April 3, 2009

Endangered Species: Dark Chocolate w/ Goji Berries, Pecans, & Maca

Firstly, let me just say: I got my comeuppance when I dissed goji berries a couple weeks ago. My mom bought me this bar (again, Eden Gourmet in South Orange, NJ) and -- what could I say? 

The deal with Endangered Species Chocolate is that it gives 10% of profits to nonprofit organizations in support of "species, habitat, and humanity" -- they change their partners every two years or so. The inside wrapper gives you information about how to support endangered species and sustainable forest farmland, and humane working conditions for farmers, etc.

It also teaches you a thing or two about the spider monkey -- at least this bar does. "Acrobatic and swift, spider monkeys travel in foraging groups seeking tasty seeds and fruits." I guess the idea is that the spider monkey would like this particular bar, which sort of has some of that stuff in it. I would never feed an animal chocolate. Here are some stats:

Endangered Species: Dark Chocolate w/ Goji Berries, Pecans, and Maca
Cocoa content: 70%
Notable ingredients: goji berries, pecans, maca, organic chocolate liquor
Origin: Blend, made in USA

Maca is an herb -- or maybe a root -- harvested in the Andes. Endangered Species says it enhances your energy and stress-handling abilities; Wikipedia says maybe it improves libido and semen quality. Goji berries, in case you've never had them, are little red puckered things that grow in China and appeal to health food people. Pecans are pecans.

What's funny about this bar is that I can hardly detect ANY of the aforementioned ingredients in it. If I break off pieces I can kind of make out flecks of pecan, but I neither see nor taste the goji or the maca. ES doesn't talk about how it mixes in the ingredients, but I suspect some sort of infusion thing is going on. The chocolate itself is great -- snappy, consistent texture, sweet, and finally, thick. I am sick of thin, pointy bars of chocolate that hurt the roof of my mouth. So I feel that this is a wonderful bar of chocolate that I could easily mistake for being solid dark. I'm choosing not to detract points for that because at the end of the day, I just want to HAVE KNOWN good chocolates. A-.

NB: I tagged goji under fruit.