I went to Whole Foods (Union, NJ) around Christmas time and was delighted to find that they've started carrying MarieBelle bars -- not just the standard Aztec bar (as previously reviewed here,) but also the entire Belle-Helene set, which includes such fruit-sweetened flavors as mango, peach, and blueberry. Whole Foods just keeps getting better in the chocolate department -- too bad the founder and CEO was revealed to be somewhat of a wanker in last week's New Yorker. Anyway, being that I'm a sucker for all things with my name on them, this bar was an easy sell -- even at a whopping $8.
MarieBelle: Apricot Belle-Helene
Cocoa content: 70%
Notable ingredients: apricot pieces
MarieBelle uses a standard recipe for what they call their "Hot Chocolate" bar; all variations on the theme, such as the Belle-Helene line, are just Hot Chocolate bars with added pieces of dried fruit. When I reviewed the Aztec Hot Chocolate bar last June, I expounded upon the virtues of this solid-form hot cocoa imitator -- as a reminder, MarieBelle uses a lot of added sugar and cocoa butter to smooth out the flavor and achieve the murky sweetness of hot cocoa residue. We have the same delicious bar of chocolate here, but with the addition of apricot pieces, sliced thin and sprinkled generously throughout.
I chose apricot as opposed to the other flavors because I feel like apricot is the tastiest dried fruit -- certainly more so than bananas and blueberries, which are also on offer. As it turned out, however, the apricot pieces didn't have the gummy, slightly moist texture that I usually associate with dried apricot. I think it was actually more akin to freeze-dried fruit, though the product listing on MarieBelle's website definitely doesn't call it that. I haven't messed around with freeze-dried fruit since Kellogg's came out with Special K Strawberry, so I felt a little bit misled. The apricot was dusty and crunchy -- exceedingly dry, and kind of devoid of any distinctive flavor other than plain sugar. The quality of this chocolate could override, I believe, pretty much any flavor blunder, so I can't really complain -- but I think in the future I'll stick to the standard Aztec bar.
It's worth mentioning that listed among the ingredients of the chocolate is potato starch -- this seems weird to me, but it's undoubtedly working for MarieBelle, so I'll trust their judgement. This bar gets a B.