Friday, October 23, 2009

Tesco Finest: 70% with Ginger

You'll notice that I uploaded my own (low quality) picture of this bar. That's because I found the Cairns Building for Business and Economics on campus here in Galway! Non-arts students always keep a clean facility, not to mention the highest internet speed known to Ireland. I got this bar at Tesco which is a huge European supermarket chain. This is their house-brand chocolate line, most all of which is single origin.

Tesco Finest: 70% with Ginger
Cocoa content: 70%
Notable ingredients: crystalized ginger
Origin: Dominican Republic

Imagine my surprise when I found, a couple of weeks ago, that Tesco carries its own line of single origin chocolate. Who else does that! I don't think even Whole Foods does, although of course their chocolate selection is far better than Tesco's when it comes to non-house brand. They had a few interesting options but I chose this one because I love ginger and I haven't had any in a while.

This is really the bottom of the barrel when it comes to ginger chocolates. I mean, surely it's not, but it doesn't even approach the level of other ginger bars I've tasted. On this blog so far we've seen examples from Dagoba, New Tree, and most notably, Chocolove (if you want to see the selection, it's tagged under "spice.") I tried to remember what I loved so much about the Chocolove ginger bar -- the dark chocolate was enlivened by the ginger's spice, sugar, and warmth. It was a warmth sensation, tempered by the earthy, semi-sweet chocolate. Chocolove just works with really great ingredients and makes a delicious chocolate, add-ins aside.

So the problems here were twofold: the chocolate was not that good -- stale, dry, dusty -- and the ginger was dead -- no chew, no spice to speak of, no warmth. It was like freeze-dried papaya or something. Tasteless. Not disgusting at all, just tasteless -- utterly boring. It's worth noting actually that I quit eating this bar halfway through and turned instead to my multi-pack of Kinder Buenos. I award this bar a C-.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hanf Natur: Canalade Hemp Chocolate

The theme of this week's bar is "Other Things We Have Known, and Liked." No, not really: a botanist may have to set me straight on this one, but I think the marijuana leaf is a little misleading; hemp is the fiber that is cultivated from the stem of certain cannabis plants -- but not the psychoactive variant. That's why chewing on your hemp bracelet at summer camp never got you high -- and this bar won't, either.

Hanf Natur: Canalade Hemp Chocolate
Cocoa content: 33%
Notable ingredients: hempseed (peeled and roasted)
Origin: n/a

Where to begin? Let's start with: since when do people eat hemp? Apparently health-food people eat it all the time. It contains all the amino acids, plus some calcium and iron. It gets ground up into meal, and incorporated into soy products, milk alternatives, and nut butters. And apparently, the hemp food market is big enough that there is such a thing as "Europe's biggest hempfood producer" -- and, guess what -- it's Hanf Natur.

It's a German company that, I gather from their website, also makes cosmetics and accessories from hemp. They distribute primarily in Germany, the UK, and Ireland -- I got this bar at Evergreen in Galway, Ireland. Some of the company's food products are hard to imagine -- hemp pasta? Hemp marzipan? But after trying this bar, I would probably venture to try all those things.

It took me a couple days to figure out what I tasted in this bar. First, let me suggest its constitution. It's a thick, chewy, melty bar of milk chocolate -- no snap to speak of, which is excused if the chocolate is sufficiently creamy -- with peeled, roasted hempseeds distributed evenly and plentifully throughout. You can see them with your naked eye, and you can feel them on your tongue as soon as the chocolate begins to melt. They're pleasant to eat -- small and soft and chewy, but not crunchy.

But back to the taste. I thought at first that I tasted almonds, but I knew there was more to it than that. I realized later that they reminded me actually of these little sesame candies that I used to buy at a Japanese market in Porter Sq. -- Cambridge, MA. They were these little neat bricks of sesame seeds adhered with something sweet, maybe honey. They had a sweet but distinctly earthy, roasted taste, which is exactly how this bar tasted. It was entirely delicious and novel.

I haven't the energy to go looking for the links between sesame and hempseeds, but I will note that Hanf Natur, on its website, advertises a black sesame product. For its uniqueness but even moreso for its delicious flavor, I award this bar an A.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lindt: Irish Coffee

The reason -- the sole reason -- I bought this bar was because I'm not sure if you can find it in the United States. In any case, it's distinctly Irish! I didn't even really know what Irish coffee was until after I bought the bar. Someone I was with ordered one this past weekend. It's basically just hot coffee mixed with Irish whiskey and a bunch of sugar and cream. It's a dessert cocktail, I think. I had no expectation that I would like this bar, and that lack of expectation was sadly confirmed -- it was nasty! But it merits discussion, as all bars do.

Lindt: Irish Coffee
Cocoa content: 30%
Notable ingredients: whiskey and coffee
Origin: n/a

I'm not sure if I've ever blogged about a Lindt bar with fillings before. I don't just mean ingredients, but rather liquid fillings that are actually poured into and contained by the chocolate casings. These bars are usually too sweet and messy for me, and the actual quality of the chocolate is totally immeasurable. Still, I've found that Ghirardelli does a pretty good job with it -- mostly because they don't use very much filling.

The Lindt bars are not composed merely of squares containing fillings -- the squares are more like capsules, flimsy chocolate edges around a bulging, dome-like chocolate container. There's really not much chocolate to be had here, and a whole lot of Irish coffee. You couldn't even bite halfway through one of the pieces without releasing globs of the filling that would then slide down your chin.

And as for the filling, it was just as you'd expect -- sickly sweet, unpleasant in texture, and overflowing with some weird, unidentifiable gelling agent. This was all very disgusting but, as I said, expected. Curse you, McCambridge's of Galway! D+.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cocoa Bean Chocolate Co.: Sea Salt

Lol lol lol yes, all laughs aside, obviously I did not take this picture because I'm not one to waste money on the cuteness of little/big pairs. I could complain more about the internet in Ireland but you know how that goes. Instead, let's talk about the wonders of chocolate bars. This week's theme: Under the Sea.

Cocoa Bean Chocolate Co.: Sea Salt
Cocoa content: 53%
Notable ingredients: flaked Maldon sea salt
Origin: n/a

Cocoa Bean Chocolate Co. is a pretty adorable-looking company run by two sisters from Limerick. They started making this stuff in their kitchen, basically, a few years ago, and have since set up in County Kerry (southern Ireland) to manufacture. They have some really wacky flavor combinations, which we'll hopefully see more of in the coming months. I got this bar at McCambridge's in Galway, which is a terrific specialty foods store comparable to Formaggio and Cardullo's, both in Cambridge, MA.

I've had varying degrees of luck with my sea salt bars on this blog: Nirvana was way too salty, Vosges was just right (see salt entries here.) It's a tricky balance to achieve and it can taste like a supermarket cookie if the cocoa content is too low. I think this bar did a fabulous job and could even have been a few shades milkier, as Vosges's salt bar was. The snap here was really great, and the bar broke smoothly and cleanly -- no air bubbly inconsistencies here, which is impressive for such a small company.

You'll be seeing a lot more chocolate from McCambridge's on this blog -- they have a great selection of local things. I may have been wrong about Ireland's chocolate skills after all! This bar gets an A-.