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Archive for the ‘Chocolate’ Category

It’s been quite some time since I’ve reviewed a chocolate from my favourite one-woman local chocolate company, The Curious Chocolatier. The bar below is actually rather special, for two reasons. The first reason is that it’s not one of the standard, ever-present chocolates of The Curious Chocolatier line-up, but a seasonal (and hard-to-find) offering produced late last year.

The second reason relates not to the chocolate itself, but to how I came to have it in my hot little hands.

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Blueberries

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Blueberries

Do you remember when my family and I went out to lunch for my Grandma’s 81st birthday? Well, the entryway to Flint in the Vines is a bit of a shop, selling gorgeous crockery and a few local food products. Including, yes, chocolates by The Curious Chocolatier. I bet you can imagine my delight when I spotted this limited edition bar on the shelf, but I bet you can’t imagine how I came to own it.

(No, I didn’t steal it.)

What I did was (over the course of the lunch’s several hours) sporadically slip into any conversation involving my brother the fact that he should probably buy the chocolate for me, because he’d promised to bring me chocolate days earlier and hadn’t followed through. For example:

E.TeacherLord: I’m trying to decide between the barramundi and the beef. I think I’ll try the barramundi.

Hannah: Do you know what I think? I think you should buy me that chocolate. That would be fun for you.

Or:

E.TeacherLord: And then one of my students [did something amusing] and it made being at work for 10 hours bearable.

Hannah: Wait, what did you say? I didn’t quite catch it. Something about buying me that chocolate?

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Blueberries

The strange thing is I was really only doing this to amuse myself. (Boy, was I amusing myself.) So when I got up to visit the ladies and said to my brother that “now would be the perfect time to buy me that chocolate”, and he reached into his bag and pulled out the bar that he’d already snuck off to get for me, well…

I was ecstatic, grateful, and mindboggled that my ploy had worked. Apparently, I’m more persuasive than I thought, or else my brother loves me loads. Which I hope is true, because I think he’s awesome, and if he weren’t in another state, I would have shared this chocolate with him. Perhaps. Maybe.

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Blueberries

Now that we’ve got the back story out of the way, how did this chocolate rate in the Wayfaring Chocolate universe? Well, it certainly didn’t threaten my adoration of The Curious Chocolatier’s Dark Chocolate with Apricot and Rosemary bar, but it was pleasantly sweet and vanished all too quickly.

The bar is beautifully glossy and the freeze-dried blueberries clearly evident in their rounded glory, as seen in the photo above. The aroma was sweet and slightly fruity, and the snap quite crisp.

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Blueberries

Flavourwise, the chocolate base tasted like what I’ve come to expect from The Curious Chocolatier’s 54% blend, which means it was honey-sweet with strong vanilla and marshmallow tones, tempered with a nice jolt of chocolate richness.

The berries themselves provided a subtle fruity tang, although weren’t as strong in flavour as the apricots of the aforementioned Rosemary bar. I enjoyed the interplay of the honey and cream chocolate with the natural berry flavour of the blueberries, and have since realised that I seem to be conquering my anti-fruit-and-chocolate demons. Hurrah for widening chocolate tastes!

As a result, I feel comfortable recommending this bar as a pleasant, unaggressive, and refreshingly sweet-without-being-cloying chocolate treat.

Question Time: What fruit do you wish you could find embedded in a chocolate bar?

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I want to love raw chocolate. Really, I do. The only problem is that, in my experience, it simply isn’t as delicious as non-raw chocolate. However, as all my non-raw chocolate tasting took place pre-blog, I feel I ought to get right back on that raw horse again and see where it takes me. (Does anyone else now have the Rawhide theme song in their head?)

Rawganic Chocolate with Hibiscus and Lucuma

Rawganic chocolate with hibiscus and lucuma

First things first. Lucuma. What on earth is it? Those of you in the raw food world might already know, but I had to have a little chat with Mr. Google to find out. Apparently, lucuma is a subtropical fruit from Peru, and is high in fibre, carotene, and assorted vitamins and minerals. I couldn’t really find anything explaining what its flavour is like, though, and so I have to admit I couldn’t really pinpoint anything as “lucuma-y” in my tasting. But we’ll get to that.

Rawganic is an Australian raw chocolate company that produces organic and vegan treats, then donates a percentage of its profits to charities that help animals. So regardless of whether you think the chocolate tastes good, you can feel good eating it. Unless you hate animals, in which case you might feel terrible.

But if you hate animals, you should probably feel terrible anyway.

Where was I?

Rawganic chocolate with hibiscus and lucuma

This particular bar is made of raw organic cacao butter, raw organic cacao powder, raw organic agave nectar, raw organic lucuma powder, organic hibiscus flowers, and pink Himalayan crystal salt. If nothing else, this company displays a great commitment to devising interesting flavour combinations, which I’m always appreciative of.

The chocolate displayed the typical slightly-grainy texture of raw chocolate, but had a crisper snap than I’ve come to expect from its ilk. The aroma was more like cocoa powder than chocolate, and I was pleased to see a few fragments of hibiscus flower peeking out of the bar once I started breaking it apart.

Rawganic chocolate with hibiscus and lucuma

The texture was softer than normal chocolate but wasn’t mushy. (If it sounds like I’m reaching for positives, I guess I am, a little bit. Not mushy! Woot!) My main issue with this creation was that it simply didn’t taste strongly of much at all. It was hard to pinpoint anything definitively “chocolatey” in the taste, although there was a slight bitterness, a very subtle sweetness, and every now and again a tang from the hibiscus flowers.

I enjoyed the hibiscus tang, as it put me in mind of the dried sour cherries used in Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate with Cherry bar (which is the only Green & Black’s creation I’ve bought several times). I can’t help wondering if this chocolate would have had a stronger taste if it had used a different sweetener; as far as I know, agave is known for contributing sweetness without a distinctive flavour, and so I kept thinking that something like maple syrup might’ve helped. Of course, maple syrup isn’t raw (I’m not a die-hard Laura Ingalls Wilder “Quick girls, it’s graining!” fan for nothing!) so maybe that’s not a very good idea.

Rawganic chocolate with hibiscus and lucuma

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but there was one moment when the chocolate flavour in this amped up and I enjoyed it more. That was when I, um, microwaved it.

I’d love to know what someone who has been raw, and hasn’t had regular chocolate, for a long time would think of this.

And even though I didn’t love it myself, I still want to try the other flavours. I mean, there’s a chilli and lime bar! I have to see what that’s like, right?

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When I was younger, my family and I used to go to the coast for a week over the Christmas holidays. Of course, in my family, “going to the coast” meant staying in cabins a half hour drive from the beach and only venturing near sand and surf once in the seven days (if we were lucky). And, usually, that once was at the request of one of my grandmothers, who is over seventy years my senior.

What can I say? Apparently my dislike of water is genetic.

Anyhoodles, my favourite part of those holidays (apart from the Scrabble and tennis and trampoline-in-the-ground and annual expedition to the embroidery/cross-stitch store) was feeding the native birds and wallabies. There are stories relating to that which I’m tempted to delve into, but I shan’t, for I brought this holiday-anecdote up to explain that I now understand why the lorikeets, king parrots, cockatoos, and crimson rosellas were so into my seed mix. (Not a euphemism.)

It was because seeds can be like crack. See below for proof.

C’ôte d’Or Dark Chocolate with Roasted Seeds/Bloc Noir Graines Grillées

C'ote d'Or Bloc Noir Graines Grillées

There are two categories of Top Chocolates in my understanding of life. One category is high-quality, unadorned, pure chocolate, whereby the flavours and excitement emanate from the cacao beans (and perhaps the sugar and vanilla) alone. The other category is chocolates that are enjoyable not because of the chocolate itself, but because of what’s been added to the chocolate: nibs, herbs, salt, caramel, edamame… you name it, I’ll try it (unless “it” is orange).

This C’ôte d’Or Dark Chocolate with Roasted Seeds belongs to the latter category. The chocolate itself didn’t strike me as amazingly mind-boggling, but when combined with its plentiful sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seed inclusions, it became out of this world.

C'ote D'Or Bloc Noir Graines Grillées

I know that’s a big statement, but just think for a moment. These seeds haven’t been thrown into the mix plain and unadorned. No, these seeds are more like three fairytale women preparing for a prince’s ball; they’ve been pampered and they’ve preened and now they’re presenting themselves in their best possible light, all in the hopes of kissing a frog and landing a kingdom.

The sunflower seeds are roasted.

The pumpkin seeds and roasted and salted.

The sesame seeds are roasted and caramelised.

And in combination with the chocolate, which at 46% is honey-sweet yet undeniably richer in cocoa notes than, say, Lindt’s Excellence dark chocolate, these seeds make me feel like an addict, unable to resist going back for more even when I know all I’ll feel at the end is misery that the sensation/hit is over.

C'ote D'or Dark Chocolate with Roasted Seeds

Each seed in this chocolate stands out, both in terms of its different preparation and its nutty essence. There is no bland, musty nuttiness to be found here, only the savoury, almost-bitter burst of sunflower seeds, the incredibly crisp and intense snap of salted pumpkin seeds, and the burnt-sugar halvah-like crackle of the caramelised sesame seeds. As you can see, this chocolate is bursting with seeds, and the flavour is a testament to such [ingredient] generosity.

I absolutely adored this, and it hurts my heart that this is not a C’ôte d’Or that I’ve ever seen in Australia. Please, if someone in a position of chocolate power is reading this, please swap out the caramel milk chocolate C’ôte d’Or or the raspberry one for this slab of heaven.

200g was simply not enough. I must needs get have tasty eats nom nom more.

C'ote d'Or Dark Chocolate with Roasted Seeds

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Theo’s 3400 Phinney range has fared rather well on this blog. The Hazelnut Crunch and Coconut Curry bars are up there* with my favourite milk chocolates of all time, I absolutely adored the vegan Fig, Fennel and Almond dark chocolate, and Theo’s gorgeous packaging designs make me smile and say “Aw!” every time I look at them.

I figured it was about time I chatted about another of Theo’s dark chocolates. Sadly, this one ain’t vegan, for those of you of a mind to know such things. You see, thar’s butter in that thar sweetie, me hearties**!

Theo Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate

Theo Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate

The more I look at the lady on this packaging, the more I’m inclined to think she’s a bit of a tramp. Look at that cleavage! And that sideways glance! You can almost see, in her eyes and bowl of rocks, her devious plan to steal that Llama from its Llama girlfriend. Hmm. And now I can’t stop thinking about how if you say “nib brittle” really fast, it starts to sound like a part of human anatomy.

Wait, isn’t this meant to be a chocolate review? Someone tell me to get my mind out of the gutter. Surely it doesn’t matter that the female mascot is an illicit llama-lover, if the chocolate itself tastes good?

Theo Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate

This chocolate is comprised of cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa nibs, butter, corn syrup, water, salt, and ground vanilla bean. The majority of these ingredients are organic and almost all are fair-trade, which means you can indulge with a clear conscious (so long as you don’t mind a bit of llama-lovin’). (Hannah, seriously. Stop it.)

The aroma of this chocolate is pleasantly chocolatey with red fruit notes, although it isn’t as intense as, say, Valrhona or Amadei. Aesthetically-speaking, the bar is a lovely dark black-brown with a plethora of caramelised nibs peeking out at all times.

When I took my first bite, the first thing I noticed was the incredible crispiness of the nibs, which comes from their crackly, sugary, salt-and-vanilla-flecked caramelised coating. The flavour of the brittle often seems more caramel-sugar than earthy, assertive nibs, but there are certainly moments when the nibs’ woodsy coffee notes push through.

Theo Nib Brittle Dark Chocolate

At first this chocolate bar seems rather tentative in flavour, yet if you give it a moment to gather its confidence, you’ll be rewarded with a taste that draws hot fudge sauce, molasses, honey, red plums, earthy cocoa and caramel into a cohesive and delicious whole.

Oh, and sometimes this Nib Brittle chocolate tastes like a piece of toast that’s been topped with butter and sugar and caramelised under the grill. Which, I have to say, is a far pleasanter mental image to hold onto than that of a female floozy eloping with a llama.

* Where is up there? Saying something is “up there” (in order to proclaim its amazingness) is rather a strange turn of phrase, don’t you think? Or perhaps I am simply confuddled from marking essays. I wish I could talk about that on this blog, but I can’t, even though I’m marking for another university. Strangled noise.

** In case you can’t tell, I do an awesome pirate.

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As you’ve probably guessed by now, I don’t tend to go in for mass-market candy-esque chocolates. Sure, I once bought supermarket-brand Mars Bars to make bonza bubble truffles, but that was the exception, not the rule.

Picnics? Meh. The wafer always seems stale.

Snickers? At least they have peanuts.

Bounty bars? Too much coconut.

Boost bars? Ick.

Cherry Ripes? Only if I’m buying them for my dad.

Violet Crumbles? Keep those styrofoam logs of terror away from me.

There is, however, one candy-style chocolate bar that I willingly buy once every, oh, say, three years.

The Crunchie Bar. Sometimes its tooth-aching sweetness, honey notes, and melts-upon-contact honeycomb filling is just what the doctor ordered. (My doctor has, in fact, told me to eat chocolate, find a job I like, and go to parties and kiss boys. Seriously, she said that. It all had something to do with her decreeing that I should have fun occasionally. She’s a pretty awesome doctor, really, even if she does make me buy ugg boots.)

I can’t remember the last time I bought a Crunchie Bar, but I can tell you the last time I bought a Crunchie-branded product.

That would be three days ago.

Cadbury Crunchie Rocks

Cadbury Crunchie Rocks

According to the packaging/marketing blurb, “Crunchie Rocks™ bitesize pieces are the ideal way to rock-out in your own special way and get that Crunchie™ feeling”.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds suspiciously euphemistic to me. Perhaps because I’ve grown up in an era when “getting your rocks off” doesn’t mean brushing quartz crystals off your lap? Being told to “rock-out” in my “special way” to “get that … feeling” makes me want to cover my ears and think of a more innocent time when chocolate was simply associated with birthday parties and teddy bears’ picnics.

Oh, and a time when I didn’t have to feel guilty about spending my grocery money on non-artisan chocolate instead of, say, potatoes*.

Cadbury Crunchie Rocks

These Crunchie Rocks are made with Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate, crunchie bits, and cornflakes. In other words, these chocolate clusters are comprised of Sweet plus Sweet plus Slightly Malty and Salty. Surprisingly, that all equals Not Too Bad.

Sure, these “rocks” are crazy sweet, but I’ve honestly had worse. There were discernible caramel notes in the milk chocolate that were quite pleasant, and the cornflakes did, on occasion, cut through the chocolate’s sweetness with a hint of savoury malt, corn, and salt.

Cadbury Crunchie Rocks

The Crunchie bits in this chocolate did provide the familiar honey sweetness of a full-size Crunchie bar, but they lacked the mystical dissolving property that real Crunchie bars have. You know, the way the honeycomb melts away into nothingness once you’ve placed it in your mouth? Those of you who have eaten Crunchies might recall that one side of honeycomb plank never dissolves like the rest of it does, and instead stays brutally hard. That’s what the Crunchie bits in these rocks were like. Brutally hard, as if waging war on your teeth.

In all honesty, I was expecting these Crunchie Rocks to taste far worse than they did. That said, I wouldn’t buy them again unless I was suffering from a serious sugar deficiency (unlikely, taking into consideration the aforementioned doctor’s orders). I’m far more likely, in the future, to walk past these chocolates in the confectionary aisle whilst sniffing dismissively and muttering “keep it in your pants, fellas”.

Take that, “special feeling”.

 * Who am I kidding? I’ll always choose chocolate over potatoes. Except when I’m planning to make shepherd’s pie, of course, because even I know that chocolate doesn’t make a good topping for savoury pie.

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I’ve written about a few chilli chocolates on this blog, and I tend to make one of two statements at the close of such reviews. I either say that I think the chilli is mild enough to be enjoyed by those who profess sensitivity to heat, or I posit that the chilli level might be better suited to those who truly enjoy a spicy kick in the mouth. (A metaphorical kick in the mouth, that is. I’ve just finished watching a rather gruesome episode of True Blood*, which has proved to be more than enough violence for me.)

However, after making my way through the following sweet creation, I have a new closing statement about/category for chilli chocolate.

It goes something like this:

Oh dear holy pickle on a paddlepop stick, only eat this if you really and truly know that you love the sensation of burning in your throat. BURNING.

(NB: I do.)

Verē Organic Single Origin Dark Chocolate with Cayenne and Cacao Nibs

Vere dark chocolate cayenne cacao nibs

This vegan chocolate bar is made of naught but four ingredients, which are organic cacao mass, organic raw cane sugar, organic cacao nibs, and organic cayenne. Verē prides itself on using less sugar in its bars than do other chocolate makers, with the aim of creating an overall flavour that is more intense and “dark” than might otherwise be the case for a 75% blend.

I tried quite a few Verē chocolates during my 2007-8 American exchange year, and I feel sad that such tastings were pre-blog. The taste truly is dark and intense, which I love. Verē’s chocolate is earthy, bitter without being acrid, slightly-smoky, and punchy (again with the violence… sorry, folks).

vere dark chocolate cayenne cacao nibs

The colour of the bar is a deep brown-black, and the aroma is equally deeply chocolatey. There’s also a hint of fruity cayenne lurking in the background, which somewhat fooled me into thinking the cayenne would be subtle here.

Not quite. What was that I said about a pickle on a paddlepop stick?

Popping a square in my mouth, I started writing “not too sweet, almost bitter, I can taste the fruitiness of cayenne” in my tasting notes before, suddenly, the letters morphed into capitals and this appeared: “HELLO BURNING WOW WOW STRONG HEAT THROAT BURNING HEAT HEAT”. Yep. Keepin’ it real.

vere dark chocolate cayenne cacao nibs

Now, I’ve had spicy chocolate before, but this Verē cayenne chocolate was nigh on painful. In fact, I believe this would be unpleasantly burn-y for anyone who isn’t dedicated to spiciness. For my part, I was able to pick out occasional woodsy flavours from the nibs and some molasses notes in the chocolate itself but, in truth, this bar is all about heat.

vere dark chocolate cayenne cacao nibs

Which is probably what a lot of ladies would say about Eric Northman, but there’s a time and a place for that kind of talk, and it usually involves more wine than (I assume) any of us has on hand at the moment.

* Anyone else reading the books and watching the HBO show at the same time? I’m endlessly fascinated by where the two meet and where they diverge. Sometimes I think I know what’s about to happen, and then it turns I don’t, but I kind of do. Crazy town.

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Amadei Chuao

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve opened up a word document to write this review and then, well, haven’t. I don’t know for sure why I’m finding it so hard, but I have a few ideas:

  1. I ate this chocolate four months ago, and it’s usually easier to write about something I tasted yesterday than something I nibbled on a third of a year ago.
  2. This chocolate has been called the best in the world, and I somewhat dread admitting that I didn’t love it above and beyond all others.
  3. This is the very last chocolate I’ll be reviewing that was eaten on my travels, and I hate feeling like I’m closing the book on that part of my life. Thank heavens I still have travel photos to eke posts out of…

Amadei Chuao

Amadei Chuao
What a lovely Italian-hotel-room-chair-fabric backdrop!

(Because I feel you should know, I just ran away from this post by playing my online Scrabble games, writing a Facebook message to my brother, and staring intently at my Gmail account whilst wishing I could will an email from someone into existence. It didn’t work. So I’m back here, having realised that I once more procrastinated from writing the review.)

(Oh, and just then I spent ten minutes choosing the photos for this review, then I checked my online Scrabble games again, and then I stared into space while singing No Rain by Blind Melon, then I started singing On My Own from Les Miserables, then I realised I was making myself feel sad, so I’m back here again.)

Amadei Chuao

Shiny!

Look! Chocolate! Fancy uber-expensive Italian chocolate, bought and eaten on my last day in Florence! Lookee the chocolate!

Okay. Let’s do this thing.

Amadei’s 70% Chuao dark chocolate definitely lived up to its reputation of awesomeness in terms of the aroma. A rich, tempting, deeply chocolatey aroma burst forth as soon as I unwrapped the bar, so that the whole time I was taking photos, I was slapping my own thieving hand away.

The chocolate had one of the crispest snaps I’ve encountered in my few years of chocolate tasting, which indicates some pretty masterful tempering (particularly factoring in how thin the bar was). And did I mention the aroma? So, so, so chocolatey. Really. Don’t believe me? Your loss.

Amadei Chuao

Shinier!

When I took my first bite, a strong fruitiness became apparent as an undercurrent to the otherwise rich and sweet chocolate flavour. (I always feel silly when I say that a chocolate tastes like chocolate, but those of you who’ve experience high quality, unctuous, fills-your-senses-with-happiness dark chocolate should know what I mean.) I thought I detected a faint hint of cream and earth, but this was soon swept away by a strong tanginess, reminiscent of red currants, pineapple, cedar, lime juice and (bear with me) even a hint of parmesan.

Okay, I almost deleted what I wrote about parmesan. It’s definitely in my tasting notes, but now I feel like a crazy lady.

Oh well. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you get the Real Hannah here.

Amadei Chuao

Eated!

There were times when the tanginess of this chocolate became too much for me. I picked up on lemon and sour raspberries and olives repeatedly, which is not to say that this chocolate didn’t also taste of high-quality, smooth, and delicious chocolate. It’s simply that, for me, the red-fruit spectrum isn’t ideal, although I know it tends to highly regarded by chocolate connoisseur folk. As my personal tastes tend more towards earthy, smoky, cream-and-molasses flavours, I’d be unlikely to make the (enormous) splurge on Amadei’s Chuao again.

It is lovely chocolate, though, and it’s probably just as well that I can’t get it in Canberra. I know I’d end up buying it again to check my first thoughts, and then I’d spend another four months avoiding writing about it…

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