Monday, March 30, 2009

Bernard Castelain: Dark Chocolate w/ Almonds Splits

"Edelbitterschokolade mit mandelnsplittern"

Sometimes things just sound better in French -- like the first sentence in The Stranger. So we'll call this bar, which Michael got for me at Cardullo's in Cambridge, MA, "Chocolate Noir aux Eclats D'amandes," because "Almonds Splits" sounds dumb and doesn't even make sense. As you can see, this bar comes in an exceedingly pretty box. Here is the basic information:

Bernard Castelain: Chocolate Noir aux Eclats D'amandes
Cocoa content: 72%
Notable ingredients: almond slivers; bourbon vanilla
Origin: Made in France, blended

Castelain's chocolate has a good snap and a very attractive appearance, with little plantain bunches imprinted onto each square. I definitely prefer this bar to his Origin chocolate, Macaibo, made purely from South American beans. This bar avoids acidity and achieves a perfect level of sweetness for 72%. I was really happy with the size and concentration of the almond slivers, though I recognize that they may be responsible for the following problem: the bar refuses to break along the perforations. This interfered greatly with my attempts to share squares and to portion out tasting samples to myself.

Mostly this bar is pretty and reliable, and not that interesting, but I feel biased against it because I had a bar with almonds last week. Still, I will grant that this is a solid dark bar and that I had a good time with it. I promise to mix things up for the next installment: no more almonds for a spell, that's for sure. I give this bar a B+.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Flyer Chocolates: Milk Chocolate & Roasted Almonds

"Conched for days"
John Paris is the Swiss chocolatier of Flyer Chocolates, which is conservatively distributed out of Atlanta. I never see it anywhere. This I found at Eden Gourmet in South Orange, NJ. It's not often that I buy milk chocolate but to every cocoa content there is a season -- especially when roasted almonds are in the mix. This bar won out over the Vosges Goji bar I was considering, in part because I've already had Vosges a few times but also because goji berries taste of dirt. Here are the stats.

Flyer Chocolates: Milk Chocolate w/ Roasted Almonds
Cocoa content: I don't know because it's not listed on the wrapper or on the website.
Notable ingredients: Bourbon vanilla beans; roasted almonds
Origin: Swiss

I expected this to be really good because they talk about some weird "conching" technique in which the chocolate is kneaded and stirred for days to make it creamier. It's supposed to prevent the unpleasant aftertaste associated with sour-milk Hershey's-type chocolate. It's not that good though. The ratio of almonds the chocolate is really nice (read: heavy on almonds) but the chocolate is so devoid of an aftertaste that I feel like I didn't eat it at all. It's almost airy -- too light. It doesn't coat your mouth like a Dove or Lindt creamy milk does. It actually kind of tasted like a slightly sweeter version of the bland milk chocolate of which those Valentine's hearts are made -- the ones wrapped in pink foil. Or the chocolate that Raisinets are made of. Unimpressive, but still kind of tasty. Underwhelming is more accurate. B-.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nirvana: 72% w/ Sea Salt & Caramel

I started this bar last night. I have never tried this maker -- Nirvana -- before. I bought it at Whole Foods in West Orange, NJ. Here are the stats:

Nirvana: 72% w/ Sea Salt & Caramel
Cocoa content: 72%
Notable ingredients: sea salt; caramel
Origin: Belgium

My interest in this bar was entirely based on the inclusion of sea salt. Caramel is a vulgar, low-brow confection. It doesn't move me. But sea salt goes wonderfully with chocolate, as the Chicago-based chocolate maker Vosges knows.

Luckily this bar doesn't taste much like caramel; it is, however, remarkably salty. I would say it's almost too salty, insofar as the intense edge interferes with the pleasure of the melt. It had a great snap to it, though. I got the sense that Nirvana actually makes wonderful chocolate, and just added too much salt to this recipe. The packaging was not special. B-.

A note about the tags on this post: I am creating a new tag for Salt, and another called "Sugars" which will include the caramel in this bar as well as other added sugars. 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Avant le Blog pt. 4

Here is the list of what I ate in 2008 (in two parts.)
The best ones from this list (including the lower half, below) are: Phinney 3400: Bread & Chocolate; Blanxart: Chocolate Negro con Almendras; Zotter: Almonds & Roses; Vosges: Calindia; and Green & Blacks: Ginger.

Another one of note is the Michel Cluizel: Noir Infini bar, which is 99% cocoa. Unspeakably dense and muddy, not exactly tasty but a pleasurable, earthy experience.

Zotter and Blanxart are probably the most interesting brands I tried last year -- both of them I have only ever seen at the fancy Food Emporium Fine Chocolates Shop on 68th and 3rd. Zotter is Austrian and Blanxart is Spanish. I am looking to get my hands on more of both of these.  

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Avant le Blog pt. 3

This is a list of what I've been eating so far in 2009. If you can read this, you'll see that the only wrapper I didn't manage to save was Frans: Roasted Nib (65%). Nibs are nice; this bar was boring. I ended up letting a bunch of other people eat it for me. 2008's list to come -- soon.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Avant le Blog pt. 2

Here are some more bars from the last few weeks, with notes below.
Le Pain Quotidien: Noir Extra. LPQ is a Belgian chain of cafes -- they have a dozen locations in NYC. I got this at the one on 63rd and Lexington. If you go there for lunch, get the black bean hummus tartine. Their chocolate is nice but not as nice as their pastry. B.
Amattler: Extrafino Con 70% Cacao. My boyfriend got this for me -- I think it is from Cardullo's in Cambridge, MA. This bar was ridiculously good and far sweeter than your average 70%. It spoke to me. The list of ingredients lists "vanillin," which I don't usually see and which may explain the sweetness. This was out of control. A.
NewTree: SEXY. This is also from Michael, from Cardullo's. NewTree has names for all of its bars: SEXY is the ginger one. I mean to say that it is infused with ginger, not that it has red hair. I am almost as obsessed with ginger as I am with chocolate, so this is a special combo, but it is by no means rare. I've had a lot of ginger chocolate bars and I think Green & Blacks does it best, with the chewy chunks of crystallized ginger. This was still tasty, but not incredibly so. B.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Avant le Blog pt. 1

I ate a lot of chocolate before I started this blog, and I want to document some of that. Unfortunately, I have only been pressing and saving my wrappers for a short time. Here are a few that I have salvaged from this semester, with minimal notes below the pictures. There will be more to come in the next few days.

Dagoba: Lavender. I bought this bar in the organic section at Stop & Shop in Yonkers, NY. I am interested in lavender flavored candies because my mother eats them and to me they taste like soap. This bar didn't taste like soap -- it was divine, Dagoba at its (near) best. A-.
Taza: Stone Ground 70%. My friend Hannah brought this to me -- she got it at Whole Foods. I dig Taza -- I think they are based in Somerville, MA, and I used to buy their chocolate at the farmers' market in Lexington, Mass. This was delicious, solid dark chocolate with an almost gritty consistency. B+.

Dolfin: Dark Pink Peppercorns. This bar is wrapped beautifully. I bought it at Eden Gourmet in South Orange, NJ. Dolfin is not super special chocolate but I was interested in this because it combined hot spice (pink peppercorn) with a cocoa content in my "dark milk" range. That is unusual. This was not fantastic chocolate, but I enjoyed it and the packaging is tight. B.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Organic Meltdown: Cinnamon & Chili

This is what I just started eating last night. I bought it at Chelsea Organic on 7th Ave at 18th St. It's actually a brand that I haven't seen before although I buy most of my chocolate at organic markets like Whole Foods and Eden Gourmet. Some stats:

Organic Meltdown: Cinnamon & Chili
Cocoa content: 71%
Notable ingredients: cinnamon; chili
Chocolate source: Switzerland

What's cute about this bar is that there is a code on the inside of the wrapper that you can register on some website and save/dedicate a tree. There is a little note under the code that says "Any unclaimed trees will still be saved. Forever!" So I think maybe it is more about dedication and I don't do that. 

The cinnamon in this bar is kind of hard to taste; with every bite I get it for like 5 seconds before the chili overpowers it. The chili in this bar is definitely spicier than most other chili bars I've tasted, including a Dolfin bar that I had a few weeks ago. That is badass but it didn't really make the bar taste any better. The Organic Meltdown has great melting potential but is almost gummy upon chewing. I didn't get immense pleasure from tasting this bar. The block perforations are sensible and I like the wrapping. B.

Just a note about milk/dark labels. The system I'm working with right now is this: any cocoa content up to 35% is MILK. Between 35% and 60% is DARK MILK. Between 60% and 85% is DARK. Above 85% is EXTRA DARK. I will maybe include a notation if the bar calls itself "Semisweet," but most makers don't talk about that. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dagoba: Lime

This is my first entry. It is a test entry, I guess. The bar of chocolate that I have most recently finished is this, a Dagoba bar. I hope to improve the resolutions of my photos; right now I'm only using my cell phone. Anyhow, some stats:

Dagoba: Lime
Cocoa content: 59%
Notable ingredients: lime; macadamia nuts
Chocolate source: USA

I dig this bar but it is not my favorite of Dagoba's products. Lime does not belong in chocolate; citrus in general does not really belong in chocolate unless it is candied, like orange peel. Dagoba doesn't indicate how the chocolate was infused with lime, but I think what I taste (granted, very subtly) is essence of lime or lime zest rather than lime peel. Chocolate wants for peel, not for citric oils. Other complaints: the macadamia nuts are too big for the delicate, narrow perforation pattern that Dagoba uses. I cannot easily break the bar along the lines without a nut getting in the way. Also, I can't get this chocolate to melt in my mouth. 

I may later switch to percentage values or scale-of-ten ratings, but for now I will issue a B-