Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wilde Irish Chocolates: Hazelnut Duet

Just so everyone knows -- anyone who has ever doubted my technical capabilities -- I just learned enough HTML to put this image up WITHOUT use of the image button. Now that you know, let's get back on topic: Chocolates -- which ones have I known?

I bought this bar, pleasantly titled "Hazelnut Duet," in the gift shop at the Cliffs of Moher, in County Clare, Ireland. This is the height of artisan chocolate, people. Wilde Irish Chocolate's bars are entirely handmade, and they do it all right in County Clare! They even employ "decorators" who do things like sprinkle the hazelnut bits onto the chocolate bar. The company consists of but four full-time staff. We're lucky to have known their product.

Wilde Irish Chocolates: Hazelnut Duet
Cocoa content: 33%
Notable ingredients: chopped hazelnuts and hazelnut cream swirl
Origin: oddly, they won't say

So, as you can roughly make out, half of this bar was sprinkled with chopped roasted hazelnuts, and half was swirled with a hazelnutty cream, not unlike that found in the Kinder Bueno bar but perhaps a little paler. Let me tell you: I took immense pleasure in the chopped hazelnut half of the bar, and moderate pleasure in the other half.

Here's what I liked: the milk chocolate was extremely melty, so when I placed a square of the chopped hazelnut half of the bar in my mouth, the chocolate would melt and filter through the maze of hazelnut bits, which I would then savor. That was a delight heretofore unknown. The chocolate was good, but not out of this world. Frankly, a Cadbury Dairy Milk bar probably has better flavor and consistency. But the kind of hazelnut piece texture that I enjoyed here could never have been done by a machine in a Cadbury factory -- the pieces were literally dropped onto one side of the bar! Technology tries so hard to integrate ingredients with the distributive equality of a Jackson Pollock splatter painting. Maybe they're better left on the surface -- sometimes?

This bar's grade is slightly inflated for quaintness. B+.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blake's: Dark Truffle Chocolate w/ Cocoa Nibs

As you can probably tell, the Irish chocolate bars have been slowly trickling in as I familiarize myself with Galway and its offerings. I got this bar -- which is made by one of the original 14 tribes of Galway -- at a health food market called Evergreen. It's no Whole Foods (e.g. there's no ICELANDIC representation) or anything but they have some things that will keep my occupied in the coming weeks.

Blake's: Dark Truffle Chocolate w/ Cocoa Nibs
Cocoa content: 55%
Notable ingredients: roasted nibs
Origin: Dominican Republic

This bar was of immediate interest to me on three levels: its cocoa content is in the dark milk range, it has roasted cocoa nibs, which I love, and thirdly: it's made of truffle chocolate! I'd never had such a bar, and when I really think of it, I'm not too sure what truffle chocolate is. I know what chocolate truffles are, though, so we'll go from there.

Truffles are basically just chocolate ganache encased in hard chocolate. This was no truffle insofar as there was no distinct filling within the chocolate casing. But the inside was definitely kind of soft and creamy, much moreso than other chocolates with more than a 35% cocoa content. It tasted like a subtle, slightly firmer ganache, which melted easily but didn't explode with liquidy filling; nor did the ganache settle in one half of the chocolate casing, as truffle contents often do.

As for the roasted nibs, they were plentiful and provided a perfect crunchy accompaniment for the -- we'll call it ''ganache.'' Nibs are always great to have around unless they're too big, but these ones were perfectly small and crunchy, enhancing without overwhelming the creaminess. I thoroughly enjoyed this bar and hope to try more of Blake's chocolates.. this one gets an A-.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Butler's: Butterscotch

As you can probably tell, I did not take the above picture -- that's right, I did not arrange a cascading pile of Butler's butterscotch milk chocolate pieces in front of the box against a white backdrop. Basically, the internet in Ireland is a crap-shoot and I can't consistantly upload photographs onto this website -- unless they're from the internet? Go figure. Anyway, I got this bar from a Butlers chocolate shop in Galway. Let's discuss.

Butlers: Butterscotch
Cocoa content: Unlisted -- I'm guessing 30%
Notable ingredients: butterscotch pieces
Origin: n/a

The Irish -- actually, Europeans in general, I think -- are obsessed with butterscotch. It pops up everywhere -- even in a Green & Black's bar that isn't available in the States to my knowledge. It's been so interesting, spending enough time here to learn about the different kinds of flavors that do well in one part of the world and are (comparatively) unpopular in another. Like butterscotch, for instance -- I can't think of many popular candies in the states that make use of it. Even the butterfinger bar is more of a crispy butterscotch alternative than the real thing.

Butterscotch is pretty tasty, if a bit low-brow. It's made mostly with brown sugar and butter -- nothing wrong with that -- but it gets very sticky and gummy pretty fast once in your mouth, and it hardens onto your teeth like no other. Taste and texture-wise, it's pretty similar to honeycomb, which is another popular flavor over here.

Butlers is a nice chocolate company, and one of the few purely Irish chocolate companies I've come across. They started in Dublin in 1932, as I gleaned from their website. Anyway, this is a really nice tasting milk chocolate, sort of on par with a Ghirardelli bar with filling -- only slightly better than Cadbury, which has a Hershey-like monopoly here on bars. The butterscotch chunks, however, I took a slight issue with. This is really the kind of candy that needs to be subtly integrated into a chocolate, or else it overwhelms the milk texture. The pieces were big enough to get all stuck in my teeth, which made the overall bite more difficult to enjoy. Still, the prevalence of butterscotch flavoring in this country intrigues me, and I'm sure I'll be back for more -- probably to sample the Green & Black's bar soon. I give this bar a B.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cadbury: (Dairy Milk) Turkish

I'm approaching my third week spent in Europe (this time around, at least) and I'm wondering why I didn't pounce upon all the chocolate I saw in France and Germany. It's not that Ireland doesn't have chocolate, and it's not that I've exactly looked hard yet, either, but in my limited search I have found little other than Cadbury.

It's not really a bad thing, because Cadbury is delicious. But it might mean that this blog will see a lot of Cadbury in the coming months. That, and Nestle, too. And maybe once I get my bearings about me, I'll find a health food store or a more upscale food shop where they sell more unusual things. For now, I'll just have to deal with same old delicious Cadbury bars.

Cadbury: (Dairy Milk) Turkish
Cocoa content: 21%
Notable ingredients: Turkish delight jelly*
Origin: n/a

*Turkish delight jelly. What is it? Well, we'll start with: what is Turkish delight? Turkish delight is (usually) small cubes of thick, firm, sugary jelly, dusted with sugar and often flavored with lemon or nut flavors. It does indeed come from Turkey, but is now equally popular throughout all of continental Europe. If you've eaten it before, you probably ate it out of a tin.

Now this chocolate filling, of course, is not the same dense jelly dusted with sugar. This is a softer, more melty jelly that is engineered as a filling for the chocolate casing as opposed to a stand-alone confection to be held between the fingers and bitten into. And basically, I've determined that the jelly here is entirely sugar and emulsifiers. It's just gooey, pink sugar. It has a slightly medicinal taste, like the good cough syrup -- the light pink one?

And the chocolate is delicious. It's creamy, thick, and melty -- never chalky or stale. I have to give this bar a mediocre grade because of the creepiness of the Turkish jelly, but for a bar of this ambition the chocolate sure is good. B-.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ritter Sport: Voll Erdnuss

Oh my goodness, FINALLY. You have no idea how long it took me to get this janky Galwegian computer to upload my image of this beautiful German candy bar. I know that there is plenty of interesting, unique chocolate in Germany but I thought it would be fitting to choose a Ritter bar for two reasons:
1. Ritter Sport is German!
2. Voll Erdnuss -- peanuts -- is not sold in the US to my knowledge!
Here is the basic info.. and by the way, I'm so glad to be back on Chocolates I Have Known:

Ritter Sport: Voll Erdnuss
Cocoa content: 30%
Notable ingredients: peanuts
Origin: n/a

Peanuts, I think, are a really American thing to add to your candy bar. I might venture to say, actually, that peanuts are a very American thing in general -- is that right? Ritter seems to think so, since the description on this bar reads ''with American peanuts.'' See how much crazy German I picked up while in Berlin last week?

So I'm guessing the reason that this bar hasn't extended to the American Ritter market is that there are already so many divine, remarkably well-engineered peanut candy bars out there already: Snickers, Reese's Cups -- you know.

So from my perspective as someone who enjoys peanuty American candy bars on the reg, this was sort of nothing special. Of course the chocolate here was better than usual -- a Lindtesque, creamy mid-percentage milk, but the peanuts didn't blow my mind. Of course, I enjoyed it very much as I always do a Ritter bar. It has such a delightful, thick, snacky quality to it, and they don't skimp on the mix-ins.

As many of you know, I'm now in Ireland. My internet situation is improving by the day and should be completely restored by the time the term starts -- Monday! And, just so you know, I've already bought and tasted something else, something totally wacky. Await it! In the meantime, I award this fair bar a B.