Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chocri: (Untitled)

As a little early birthday present, Michael and Wonja ordered a couple of custom-designed chocolate bars to be sent to me at school. They used a company called Chocri, which is based in Germany and lets you design your own chocolate bars from over 100 toppings. This bar was Wonja's design -- it has strawberry, basil, pine nuts, and candied lilac (!) Also, they give you a bar code to re-order the same chocolate bar that was made for you -- so they keep every bar recipe on file.

Chocri: (Untitled)
Cocoa content: 64%
Notable ingredients: strawberry; basil; pine nuts; candied lilac
Origin: n/a

Everyone has to visit this website. It's amazing. I did a little trial run to see what toppings Chocri offers, and some of them are really out there: I could make a bar with chives, licorice, and a couple of marzipan carrots for instance. Chocri will also write things on the bar if you so desire, and you can order from a list of pre-designed bars with themes such as "Happy Graduation" and "Summer Fever." Wonja's design feels kind of like a summery salad atop a chocolate bar.

The strawberry and candied lilac were really interesting ingredients, and they nicely balanced the savory taste of the basil and the slight bitterness of pine nuts. You wouldn't normally think of pine nuts going on a chocolate bar, and while they fit in with the other ingredients, I would say that slivered almonds might have been more effective. Also, the pine nuts were so plentiful (as you can see) that they sort of overwhelmed the taste of the chocolate at times. I thought to break off two pieces and eat them like a little sandwich with the toppings on the inside, and it worked better that way because the chocolate had a chance to catch up with the pine nuts. The candied lilac was divine and original.

I think the chocolate itself was pretty good -- honestly, it was hard to tell because there was so much on top. But it definitely had a good, pure texture and an impressive snap. Overall, this whole concept is so cool and I like that Wonja got super creative with the toppings. Why order a custom chocolate bar if you're not going to take risks with flavor?

This grade represents the taste of the bar, my admiration of its concept, and my appreciation for the gift! A.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chuao: Firecracker

The other night I was relaxing in my chambers, watching Real Housewives (Danielle is a nutcase) when my mother shrieked in the other room because the dog got into the chocolate. See? A whole chunk was missing from the bottom left-hand corner before I even had a taste. Can you blame her? She just wants to do what I do! Unfortunately for her, though, dogs can't eat chocolate. She was ok in the end, but I have no doubt that this insane chocolate bar was a pretty weird trip for her. Read on.

Chuao: Firecracker
Cocoa content: 60%
Notable ingredients: chipotle; salt; popping candy
Origin: Venezuela

"A blooming, buzzing confusion" -- that's how William James characterized a baby's perception of the universe, and it aptly describes the experience of the Firecracker bar for a small, timid puppy such as my own. This bar was crazy, even for a human who's used to eating things like yogurt and whiskey encased in chocolate. I encountered popping candy (a.k.a. Pop Rocks) immediately in most bites, and they were the big pebbly kind that make an audible cracking noise. Each bite finished spicily with the chipotle, and the salt intensified everything -- as salt is want to do!

I'll never know how my dog experienced this bar because she doesn't blog. But I think it was a little too busy for my tastes. The chocolate is single origin but I could barely taste it amidst the chaos (the Chuaos?) Pop Rocks obliterate just about any other taste or texture, so they dominated the bar in an overwhelming way. Still, I had fun -- eating the bar and imagining what it might have been like for Wink.

I forgot to mention that I bought this bar at Food Emporium -- but I also received the same one from Dan days later. I want to assure all my readers that I now keep all my chocolate bars in a shoebox on my desk -- out of reach of all animals. All for me. B-.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

E. Guittard: Quetzalcoatl

Quetzalcoatl -- "feathered serpent," a Mesoamerican deity, a Nahuatl word. Also a delicious chocolate bar. This bar came from Margaret and Christopher in a time of plenty, to say the least -- the reason I decided to consume this one first is because I once took a Mesoamerican art history class and learned that the deity in question is believed to have been seduced into sleeping with a celibate priestess and then burned himself to death. His heart became the morning star. Yes, you can be on the blog.

E. Guittard: Quetzalcoatl
Cocoa content: 72%
Notable ingredients: n/a
Origin: n/a

E. Guittard is an old, classy company. It was started in 1868 in San Francisco by a man named Etienne Guittard who had just come from France. The SF factory was ruined in an earthquake in 1906, and Etienne moved the company to Burlingame, CA in the mid 1950's. The company is now run by grandson Gary Guittard -- they make single origin and cocoa blend bars as well as a bunch of other cocoa products.

We've previously discussed the 72% jackpot. What is it about this cocoa content? This bar was so rich and deep and chocolatey -- but also sweet. It melted at a good pace and never tasted bitter or dry. 16 grams of sugar in a 56.7 gram bar -- maybe I should compare that ratio (28%) with other 72% bars in the future to see if they have that in common (you should be impressed, by the way -- I'm usually pretty Guittarded when it comes to math.) I've rarely met a 72% chocolate bar I didn't like -- and when I did, it was usually because of some trifling intruders and not because of the chocolate itself. Yerba mate tea and -- horror of horrors -- caramel come to mind. The 72% chocolate bar usually wants not to be messed with unless you're a pleasant nut or a sweetly dried fruit.

Today marks the first day of summer for me, and I can promise that the next bar will be accordingly celebratory in nature. Until then, Quetzalcoatl gets a B+.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Vosges: Naga Bar

Most people know what Vosges is. The company is becoming one of the most well-known "luxury" chocolate makers in the country -- their flavor combinations are way more out-there than, say, Lindt's or Ghirardelli's, but they're sold in some of the same places. Anyone in the New York area who hasn't been to one of the Vosges shops -- SoHo or the Upper East Side -- should definitely go there to try truffles and hot chocolate. I don't often buy these because they're usually about $9, but Dave's of Somerville was having a sale: $6.25!

Vosges: Naga Bar
Cocoa content: 45%
Notable ingredients: sweet Indian curry powder; coconut flakes
Origin: n/a

I didn't treat this bar right. It's hard to even tell my readers. It has been unseasonably warm this past week, and my dorm room lacks not only an air conditioner, but a refrigerator as well. Furthermore, you're not even supposed to refrigerate chocolate -- so even if I had refrigerated the Naga bar, shit still wouldn't have been right. I kept it in my drawer, which seemed like the safest, coolest place in the room -- but it still got sweaty and a little soft. It didn't lose its shape, but it certainly lost its snap -- and with it, some of its style and panache.

Still, I could tell it was a good find. Texturally it was kind of a mess (my fault entirely,) but the flavors were still there and the pleasing chewiness of the coconut flakes was especially notable. Curry is an interesting alternative to chili for spicy inclusion: it gave the bar a little bit of a bite, but was also kind of sweet and flavorful in a way that hot spice isn't. The coconut was a nice way to balance out the curry, and a welcome crunchy interruption to the creamy, deep milk -- which was only made creamier by my shameful neglect.

On the back of the box, Vosges founder Katrina suggests to the taster that "you may experience nuances of caramel, dairy, vegetables, jasmine flowers, fruit, roasted tobacco, raw coffee, nuttiness, spiciness," etc. No -- this was not the case -- but still, the bar was delicious and the flavor concept unlike anything I've ever had. A-.