Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fatty Crab: Fatty Bar Milk

A recent meal at Fatty Crab on the Upper West Side concluded with this exciting treat, created exclusively for Fatty Crab by Tumbador Chocolates. Fatty's dessert menu consists of this and one other Fatty Bar, the dark variety, made with roasted almonds, chili, and sea salt. Somehow, after hot pickles, steamed pork buns, and soft-shell crab, dark chocolate just seemed too conservative a choice with which to cap off the meal. Although I almost changed my mind when our waiter mentioned that the chocolate/chili combo was "a little out there, but surprisingly good!" DOES HE KNOW WHO I AM.

Fatty Crab: Fatty Bar Milk
Cocoa content: unknown
Notable ingredients: candied ginger; puffed rice
Origin: n/a

Puffed rice: welcome! You are always welcome here! And that's part of why I ordered this bar. But my waiter didn't even mention ginger, and, judging from the prevalence of said spice on this blog, I would say that was a pretty welcome addition, too. The bar was thick and dense like a candy bar, with a much more complicated flavor profile and an interesting textural experience what with the chewy ginger sharing space with crispy rice.

Also, I wish you could see the wrapper more clearly because it's adorable: there are little crabs and prawns all over it. If I remember correctly, it came on a little plate and looked positively blog-worthy; alas, all who have been to this restaurant know that it is too dark to take photos, especially with a cheap phone camera.

At the restaurant, we ate about 2/3 of the bar and I wrapped the rest of it back up for enjoying later, and we didn't even notice that our waiter took it back to the kitchen with him when he went to run my credit card! Luckily, he was back a moment later when he realized the wrapper still contained chocolate. For the meal and the bar, A-.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lake Champlain: Tanzania

Lately, I've been having some trouble finding the time to really get to Know my bars. I Know not, and I have too little time to report -- what I don't Know. But thank God, some bars aren't really worth Knowing. I never waste too much time getting to Know those bars. Is that a sin?

It's not a sin, per say. But it's certainly an afront to Lake Champlain Chocolates, a company that deems its product worth Knowing.

Lake Champlain: Tanzania
Cocoa content: 75%
Notable ingredients: n/a
Origin: Tanzania

Who is responsible for this blunder: Lake Champlain, or the Tanzanians? I'm going to go with Lake Champlain, because not only did they produce this bar, but they also totally misrepresented it online: intense and creamy? Fruity and floral?

Readers, this bar tasting like nothing. It tasted like not a single thing under the sun. Granted, it wasn't exactly new, but having sat in a box for a few months is no excuse for the stunning lack of flavor. It was like -- no, it was not like anything -- but the experience of eating it recalled cardboard; cheap whole-wheat bread; the casing of a Reese's Cup, if there were not a trace of peanut butter involved.

So, what's worse, for a chocolate to taste distinctively bad, or to taste of nothing? I'm going to go the neutral road on this one because I've Known far, far worse than this boring misstep. C.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chocolat Moderne: Kashmir Spice

Readers: Is Whole Foods taunting you with gorgeous chocolate displays? My local Whole Foods has set up this nice little table by the coffee counter and on it they've artfully displayed some of the most beautiful chocolate bars I've ever seen, along with some other special treats like Herrell's chocolate fudge (of Boston!) And this is in addition to the quarter aisle that is already devoted entirely to chocolate -- which, in some towns, offers the best selection around. I've been taunted - and enticed - by this bar for weeks, so I finally decided to shell out $8 for it. Actually -- make that $40, when you take into account the other 4 that I needed to complete this photo. Just kidding -- camera is on the fritz.

Chocolat Moderne: Kashmir Spice
Cocoa content: 51%
Notable ingredients: toffee; cardamom; cinnamon; cloves
Origin: n/a

What is with me and chai spices recently? I feel like I am forever trying to relive the wonder that was that Montezuma's Nutmeg bar -- but, alas, none of these more recent chai bars contain nutmeg. This Chocolat Moderne bar was in fact a little different because it included toffee, too. Actually, the toffee itself may have been infused with the chai spices, which would mean this was a chai toffee chocolate bar.

At first, I didn't respect this bar. I left it on my desk during one of the hottest days of the summer when my AC wasn't on, and when I tried it for the first time it was obviously soft and chewy. Then I stuck it in the fridge for a few days, and when I tried it again the whole bar had shifted a bit, such that squares were no longer squares and the toffee stuck out in parts where the chocolate had thinned, crag-like.

So I felt like there was something wrong with the texture of this bar, but that might have been entirely my fault. I thought the toffee stood out too much from the other flavors, that it was too tough and hard for the consistency of the chocolate, and that eating it was a separate experience from tasting the chai spices. The chocolate tasted more or less like those Le Pain Quotidien and Dolfin bars -- the remains of which, by the way, I crumbled into a bowl of dough so as to make Chai Chocolate Chip cookies.

So I might have missed my chance to sample this bar in its prime, but as we've seen before on this blog, there are other spiced bars in the sea. B.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mast Brothers Chocolate: Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Nibs

Ok, so I've more or less failed in the "no repeats" department. But when I first Knew the Mast Brothers they were just a couple of bearded hipsters who quoted Walt Whitman -- and look at them now! Appearing on the Cooking Channel and supplying major eateries. Just last month Shake Shack used Mast Brothers Chocolate in a special Independence Day concrete. I figured these brothers had earned themselves a bit more attention. And plus, I had one leftover Mast Brothers bar from my birthday.

Mast Brothers: Dark Chocolate + Cocoa Nibs
Cocoa content: 72%
Notable ingredients: cocoa nibs
Origin: Madagascar

Mast Brothers basically gets right to the point, zeroing in on the 72% cocoa jackpot that I've talked about previously -- most of their bars use that proportion of cocoa solids but they end up all tasting pretty different -- and having varying levels of sweetness, even -- as a result of the mix-ins. This bar, for instance, was made earthier and less sweet due to the addition of roasted cocoa nibs. These were some really fun nibs. They were cracked and pulverized and scattered across the underside of the bar to create a jagged, brittle texture. They looked almost like shards of nut shell.

And thank God those nibs were fun, because the Mast Brothers need to have more fun and need to blend more of it into their chocolates. This task I give myself to Know all chocolates that cross my path, it's hard enough; the least these apron-wearing goofballs could do is lighten the single-origin mood a little bit. Honestly, I find the chocolate slightly too bitter on its own and this is why I question Mast Brothers's ever-increasing popularity -- it's no chocolate of the people, yet. Nibs are fun, salted almonds are fun, Stumptown coffee beans are fun if a bit pretentious, but I'm waiting for a bit of sugar or a dried fruit or a less intimidating bean.

This bar's grade is very slightly elevated for the packaging, beautiful as always: B+.