Sunday, March 27, 2011

Madecasse: Sea Salt & Nibs

Mama bought me this chocolate bar. This is a company that I've seen around for a long time but it hasn't been on the blog yet. They just recently launched this new flavor -- the sea salt & nibs bar -- and I'll try anything salt-flavored at least once.

Madecasse: Sea Salt & Nibs
Cocoa content: 63%
Notable ingredients: sea salt, nibs
Origin: Madagascar

Madecasse is different from other chocolate companies. Ok, reading that, I sound like the promotional copy on the company website, but I'm actually just going to explain what distinguishes this company from the others so bear with me. A lot of fancy chocolate companies source their cocoa from a particular region -- that's what makes a chocolate single-origin. And a lot of chocolate companies source their cocoa from Madagascar -- there have been plenty on this blog. But Madecasse actually makes the chocolate in Madagascar. Or rather, they hire people to make the chocolate and then sell it out of New York, where their company is based. This creates 4x the income for the Madagascar laborers than there would be if they were only harvesting cocoa beans, and not producing the finished product.

So it's a humanitarian bar and it's a delicious bar, too. The nibs are roasted, cut large, and clustered on the bottom surface of the bar. The sea salt is ground coarsely but is distributed sparsely enough so as not to overwhelm the texture of the chocolate or the roasted flavor of the nibs. 63% is pretty nice for a chocolate bar, but I think this bar could have gone darker to better accommodate the heft of the nibs. There was a bounty of nibs!

Finally, I love a package that you tie closed with a bit of raffia. This bar gets an A-.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Vosges: Black Pearl

Vosges has about a million bars, and this is one that I've not blogged about yet. Wonja got this bar for me at Dave's Fresh Pasta in Somerville, MA -- they sell the mini Vosges bars, which are only about 0.5 oz. Those provide a great way to taste the chocolate without paying $10 or whatever they're charging for the 3 oz. bars these days. Vosges bars are expensive but they're always good. Except when they're not.

Vosges: Black Pearl
Cocoa content: 55%
Notable ingredients: wasabi, ginger, black sesame seeds
Origin: n/a

Every Vosges bar has a little anecdote about the inspiration behind the bar's flavors. You can read these on the website. The inspiration for this bar is Japan -- wasabi is presented as the base flavor around which the rest of the bar is designed, but I actually thought the taste of ginger was most pervasive. The wasabi in this bar wasn't like the nostril-clearing hotness that you get with the actual wasabi mustard that accompanies sushi. But it had that hard-to-describe wasabi taste: vinegary and slightly sour, tasting of preservation and earthy like cabbage. Are people going to give me a hard time if I talk about umami? I'll give it a rest.

The black sesame seeds were a nice touch, too. They were left whole so they provided a little bit of toasted-tasting crunch to break up the already snappy chocolate. The only thing that I didn't love about this bar was the cocoa content. 55% seems so non-committal. Go milk or go dark -- or go home, because I shudder to think of how white chocolate would mix with wasabi.

I think the best Vosges bar I've had to date was the Naga bar, which is inspired by Indian spice combinations, or the Peanut Butter Bonbon bar (which clearly needs no inspiration, nor an explanation thereof.) Next up on my short list is the Black Salt Caramel bar, which marries black Hawaiian sea salt with burnt sugar caramel. This bar was delicious in terms of the flavors but could have used a more decisive proportion of cocoa, I think. It gets a B+.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Patric: PBJ OMG

I didn't take this picture. I don't lay my whole chocolate bar out on a plate like some kind of fool. But I left my own pictures of this beauty on my laptop, which is still is New York, and here I am in Boston. I got this bar at the Dean and Deluca on Broadway in Soho. I'm always hesitant to go in there because it's constantly packed, but I'm glad I did because they have some bars I've never seen before.

Patric: PBJ OMG
Cocoa content: Curiously unlisted* (I think 70%)
Notable ingredients: peanut butter
Origin: Unlisted, but might be Madagascar*

*The reason there is so little information about this bar is that it's a limited edition and it apparently sold out although Dean and Deluca still has them -- I may have gotten one of the last ones. I say Madagascar for the origin because that seems to be the typical base that Patric uses for bars with added ingredients.

Patric is a bean-to-bar chocolate company based in Missouri -- where, oddly, a bunch of chocolate companies live. The chocolatier is Patric McClure -- I assume he's the purple guy on the front of the bar. He only makes about 6 or 7 bars, most of which are single origin dark chocolate bars. This bar, the PBJ OMG, was released in October 2010. The concept is that the cocoa he uses has naturally occurring "jam-like" berry notes, so when the chocolate is combined with peanut butter it creates a peanut butter and jelly flavor.

But let me say one thing, if I might. For those chocolate eaters among us whose palates aren't subtle enough to pick up on these (allegedly "bursting") berry flavors, this chocolate bar was not so much a PBJ bar as a PB bar, and so it elicited not so much an OMG but rather an SMH. Compared with the Fresh Direct PBJ bar from 2 weeks ago, this bar had nothing really in common with the classic sandwich.

It was very good in its own way, though. The peanut butter is natural, the chocolate had a great, consistent texture (although it didn't have a great snap, but that might be due to the temperature in which I kept it,) and the bar had surprisingly little added sugar. Peanut butter and chocolate is always a successful combination, and the use of good ingredients here only helps the situation.

I have a few days to spend here, so my plan is to go out and find another bar we've never seen before. This one gets a B.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Wonka Exceptionals: Scrumdiddlyumptious Chocolate Bar

I'm not kidding about the name of this bar. It's called Scrumdiddlyumptious Chocolate Bar, and it's made by the Wonka company, and I got it at CVS. But when I bought this chocolate bar there was also a post-Valentine's Day sale at CVS, so I also bought a box of chocolate eggs filled with peanut butter. Those, to be honest, were initially more compelling than this chocolate bar, so I've only Known this bar for the past few days. But I've come to know it quite well.

Wonka Exceptionals: Scrumdiddlyumptious Chocolate Bar
Cocoa content: Unlisted (guess: 35%)
Notable ingredients: toffee; cookie bits; peanuts
Origin: please!

I was originally a little disappointed upon opening this bar, because I was expecting there would be some sort of golden ticket gimmick or at least some sparkly foil. As it turns out, there was a golden ticket promotion for the Wonka Exceptionals chocolate bars, but now apparently the promotion has ended (according to the Wonka website) and I don't know how the company even sells these bars anymore without some sort of Willy Wonka contest shtick. Anyway -- I guess I bought it.

The ingredients make this bar sound like a big mess, and in some ways it is. It broke in about 15 places before I even opened it, and there are crags of an unidentifiable biscuity substance peeking out on the surface of the bar. I have to tell you: I tasted toffee, I tasted cookies, and I didn't taste peanuts at all. But the cookies were actually pretty delightful -- they're like buttery animal crackers, crumbled and strewn throughout a sea of mediocre milk chocolate and dubious toffee-like bits. The bar could have benefited from a more deliberate design (and less false advertising -- where were the peanuts?) but I won't lie -- it was a treat nonetheless.

Next week, we give the candy sandwich treatment another go -- this time, handcrafted. B-.