Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ritter Sport: Marzipan

I received this bar -- a Ritter Sport bar that I'll admit I was not even aware of -- from my friend Katie. It was purchased in Livingston, NJ, I believe. You'll notice that the picture is kind of different from usual. That's because I enjoyed this bar in the midst of a picnic in Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn. Don't worry -- the details of said picnic will be revealed in full. First, the basic information:

Ritter Sport: Marzipan
Cocoa content: 50%
Notable ingredients: almonds
Origin: blend of cocoa from West Africa, Papua New Guinea, and Madagascar; made in Germany.

Ritter Sport calls marzipan* "the most delicious thing that can happen to an almond." I'm not so sure about that because, hello: biscotti; amaretto? But marzipan is definitely interesting and tasty, as far as nut pastes go. One thing can be sure: it appreciates the company of chocolate. It works better here than in the little fruit-shaped moldings you see behind the glass case at candy stores. 

Anyway, this bar came along on a picnic today. I had little squares of it wedged between slices of a french baguette, and Michael told me that he had never thought to eat chocolate that way. Attention: eat your chocolate with bread!! The salt in the bread brings out the cocoa flavors beautifully. Look at the pretty red wrapper. It was a delight to have known this bar.

One thing was strange: the bar was perforated normally, as all Ritter Sport bars are, but it felt really strange to break it because the marzipan was so soft and gooey. Thus the pieces broke off so easily that I thought the whole bar was melting. Luckily, it was not. Marzipan is a soft, soft confection. At the end of the day I really enjoyed this bar but I'm still not crazy about marzipan; furthermore, I think Ritter Sport can usually do better. I award this bar a B.

* Just in case anyone doesn't know what marzipan is: it's a sweet, grainy paste made up of almond meal and added sugar. I tagged it under "Nuts."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jacques Torres: Brulee Crunch - Milk Chocolate

Whole Foods just started selling Jacques Torres chocolate, it seems. Welcome to West Orange, Jacques!! My mom bought this bar for me. In fact, I should warn you -- I expect postings to speed up for a little while because I received a great deal of chocolate recently. Brace yourselves. Here's the info on this bar:

Jacques Torres: Brulee Crunch - Milk Chocolate
Cocoa content: unlisted; my guess is 35%
Notable ingredients: butter; sugar
Origin: What do you think? Should I get rid of this category? 

Inquiring minds want to know: what is brulee crunch? What exactly is creme brulee and what does it have to do with this bar of chocolate? What are butter crunch bits? The blurb about this bar on Torres's website refers to its "barely noticeable caramel crunch." What is caramel? This bar begs a lot of questions for a piece of candy! First of all, one thing should be clear: we are dealing with the crunchy top surface of a creme brulee here, and not the custardy interior. We'll call this crunchy top the "brulee crunch." This surface is made of burnt, buttered sugar -- also known as caramelized sugar -- also known as caramel. So, brulee crunch, caramel, butter crunch bits: SAME thing, same delicious thing. 

Creme brulee, that classic tawdry delicacy. I don't like it and I never order it. I've also expressed how I feel about its cousin caramel; see here. But if you take just about anything and make it very subtle, it will probably taste good in a sea of creamy milk chocolate. And this is seriously good milk chocolate. My only complaint would be that it was a little too buttery, almost like butterscotch -- it gave me that feeling in the back of my throat that I associate with ice cream, like I really need to drink water. 

An added point of interest: this is one of the best looking chocolate bars I've seen -- not the packaging, but the actual bar itself. It looks like it was poured into a mold in which Jacques Torres's name is spelled out in raised cursive letters. It was really pretty, and then I ate it. A-.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Theo: Ghana

Ask and you shall receive! I know -- no one asked, but I've felt guilty for avoiding single origin chocolates when I am supposed to be some sort of serious chocolate eater. It's hard because when I go to Whole Foods, or Eden Gourmet, or whatever health food store I go to, I am so enticed by the bars that have delicious things mixed in. I spend about a week with each bar of chocolate, so I tend to get tired of it unless it's infused with exciting things. But I promised a single origin, so here goes:

Theo: Ghana
Cocoa content: 84%
Notable ingredients: n/a
Origin: Ghana

Single origin means that the beans were harvested from only one region -- and sometimes one farm. Most bars that I've blogged about thus far are "blends," which means that they're made from beans from a variety of different regions, blended to the taste of the maker. Most bars are blends just because the maker isn't so serious about chocolate, or isn't choosing to emphasize the artisanal process of single origin harvesting -- but some chocolatiers do blends because they're really good at it, and they want to create a product that incorporates the best of different types of beans. Bernard Castelain is a good example: his Extreme, Intense, and Tradition are all good blended bars made from American, South American, and African beans. 

Single origin is interesting, though, because there are big differences between beans grown in different climates. Blah, blah, blah. Anyway, this bar by Theo is made from beans from a number of farms in the Kumasi region of Ghana. It has a loud, pleasing snap to it, and it is completely free of air bubbles and imperfections. 

This bar was entirely distinct in a way that I think blended bars aren't -- I mean to say that it had a totally coherent flavor profile; it tasted floral and woody -- almost a little bit acidic. Fruity. It also was incredibly lightweight, probably because there was virtually no added sugar or cocoa butter. It didn't melt and coat my tongue -- it was almost chalky. So, on the one hand I thought this bar achieved what a single origin bar is supposed to, and on the other hand it didn't taste nearly as delicious as, say, Lindt: Wafer. Maybe that it obvious. I will no longer be ashamed to indulge in excessively sweet blended chocolate, whimsical in concept and busy with mix-ins. I give this bar a B.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lindt: Wafer

This is the creamiest delight I've known since Ritter Sport's Cornflakes bar. I bought it because I was at an A&P in Bronxville, NY and I needed a new bar and they only carry things like Lindt and Hershey's and Ghirardelli. I'm drawn to hazelnut candy bars -- especially those containing hazelnut cream (as opposed to whole nuts.) I recommend Kinder's Kinder Bueno bar. This was not half bad either. Stats:

Lindt: Wafer
Cocoa content: Unlisted. My guess: 35%
Notable ingredients: thin wafer cookie; hazelnut cream
Origin: Blend, obviously, made in Germany. I promise a single origin for my next post.

Obviously this was delicious. What can I say? I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but embedded in each square is a sweet, crispy wafer cookie, adhered to the chocolate by hazelnut cream. I think this cream is actually a chocolate/hazelnut blend, which makes it comparable to Nutella. This bar was like a cookie, chocolate, and Nutella sandwich. 

So, needless to say, I liked it. I wouldn't mind if the only milk chocolate I had for the rest of my life was made by Lindt. It is a special day for Switzerland. A.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chocolove: Crystallized Ginger

My friend Codey bought this bar for me -- somewhere in Bronxville or Yonkers, I'm guessing. There IS a poem inside, and it's by Shakespeare. I've had a lot of Chocolove bars in my day, but I don't think I've reviewed one on this blog yet. Here it begins -- some stats:

Chocolove: Ginger Crystallized in Dark Chocolate
Cocoa content: 65%
Notable ingredients: crystallized ginger
Origin: Should I discontinue this category? Blend, Belgian chocolate, made in Colorado

What is up with the name of this chocolate? Why is it called Ginger Crystallized in Dark Chocolate? What would that even mean? There is definitely crystallized ginger in here, but it was already like that when it went into the blend. I'm guessing. The packaging is, otherwise, cute and green, and there is a little stamp in the upper right-hand corner (can you make it out?) with a picture of a ginger root.

I have long been a fan of ginger. I like crystallized ginger and ginger hard candies and ginger tea and raw ginger root -- the only thing I don't like is pickled ginger. Ginger is good with chocolate the same way chili is good with chocolate -- the spice is mitigated by the fullness of dark, but the warmth adds a lot to the taste. Padma Lakshmi would call this the "flavor profile."

And Chocolove does the crystallized ginger thing really well. Not quite as well as Green & Blacks, maybe, which uses a sweeter 60%, but in some ways better because the ginger is chunkier and thus more sticky. I know, I know: I was singing a different tune when I ate Green & Blacks Cherry a few weeks ago. But the ginger in this bar doesn't interfere with the perforations at all, nor does it overwhelm the taste of the chocolate in any way. I like this bar very much. I award it an A-.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dolfin: Noir au Poivre Rose

"Zartbitterschokolade Mit Rosa Pfeffer"

I know I kind of already reviewed this bar; I wrote a little blurb about Dolfin's Dark Pink Peppercorns a few weeks back. That bar was 59% though, and this bar is 52%. Also that bar tasted completely different and was wrapped completely differently. Also the other bar was totally normal and this bar is not. More on that later. Stats follow:

Dolfin: Noir au Poivre Rose
Cocoa content: 52%
Notable ingredients: pink peppercorns
Origin: none (Dolfin practices "the art of blending,") made in Belgium

This is a really beautiful bar that Michael bought at Cardullo's in Cambridge, MA. It is wrapped in plastic, which is nestled in a plastic-encased paper pouch. The sensibility of its perforations are unmatched: it has about seven or eight perforated bars cut widthwise, each about the same dimensions as a domino, or a stick of Wrigley's gum. 

But this bar is a freak. I always thought peppercorns were more or less the same thing as chili when chocolate was concerned, but now I know that peppercorns are a whole nother animal. There is nothing sharp, or sweet, or hot about peppercorns. They are the fullest, most savory, earthiest things I know. This is the same thing I grind over pasta or soup, except the dark pink variety is a little more floral. This spice wants not for chocolate, and I think the fact that Dolfin has used 52% here exacerbates the situation. It would make more sense with a much darker, fuller cocoa. I give this bar a C+.