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All Natural

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Four 99%-100% Chocolate

99-100% Chocolate BarsBefore I took on this challenge of the all-chocolate chocolate bars, I did take a test to find out if I’m a “supertaster”. People are divided into three categories: nontasters, regular tasters and supertasters.

Our tongues can detect five tastes: sweet, salt, bitter, sour & umami (savory). Nontasters (about 25% of the population) tend to enjoy more intensely flavor things such as super sours and liberally salted products, enjoy fatty & sweet foods while regular tasters (50%) shy away from intensity but sample liberally from all the major tastes & textures equally. Supertasters (25%) dislike stronger bitter & sour things and even high fat content foods. There are all sorts of scientific studies about evolution and how each of these types can be beneficial or detrimental to your ultimate longevity ... or enjoyment of that long life.

Although I have a very keen sense of smell, I am a regular taster. (I like coffee, super sours, broccoli & used to drink pickle juice - though I really like chocolate & cheese, I’m not that keen on other types of fatty foods.) So I figured I might be a good candidate for appreciating the more authentic tastes of the purest chocolate.

Dagoba Prima MateriaDagoba makes one of the few 100% chocolate bars and the only one that I could find that was organic. It’s called Prima Materia which means, literally, prime matter. It’s usually used to refer to alchemical ideas about the base matter that makes up the universe, that all matter can be changed back into and then reformed. Kind of like stem cells are for living creatures.

In this case, this is the essential chocolate - just beans from Madagascar, ground up and made into a bar.

At only $2.75 retail, it was about the same price as a baking bar (though smaller of course). I got this one as a sample at the Fancy Food Show in January.

Dagoba Prima Materia

The Prima Materia is a dark looking bar, nicely glossy with a solid snap.

The melt on this was a little sticky, I can’t really explain it. Whatever it is, it’s not terribly dry. The melt lets the flavors come out slowly. I taste a bit of cherries and raspberry at the very start, but once it melts a bit more it’s all about the dark mulch of the forest floor.

There’s a light yeasty note in there that reminds me of dark beer. The bitterness is noticeable, but not enough to keep me from eating more pieces. By far this is the most edible of the bars I tried. I wouldn’t say that I’ll be eating a lot of it, but with some almonds or cashews nearby, it’s an acceptable form of entertainment for a while.

It really doesn’t take much to satisfy my chocolate craving either. (Of course then I start craving something else, like a glass of water & some sweet caramels.)

2 ounces - 185 calories per ounce - Kosher
Rating: 5 out of 10

Ghirardelli 100% CacaoAfter Christmas this bar, Ghirardelli 100% Cacao Unsweetened Chocolate, was on sale for only $1.25, and found in with the baking products, I thought I’d throw it into the mix as a way to see if I was just being overly picky about what eating chocolate is in the first place (besides a fancy way to charge two or three times as much as chocolate chips).

The wrapper is very simple, but still quite compelling. The bar is large and flat, a little larger than the regular bars in the candy aisle, in this case it’s 4 ounces instead of 3.17 of the current Intense Dark line.

Ghirardelli 100% Cacao

To their credit, Ghirardelli is clear that this is a baking bar. So this is an off-label application of the confection.

As lovely as it was, and it is a lovely bar, nicely tempered, perhaps a bit stiff but a deep red-brown, they are correct in not promoting this as an eating bar.

The smell was quite woodsy, like cedar and a bit grassy. It tastes like olives and asparagus. Bitter, moisture-sucking, mulchy and green.

Looking at the nutrition label it’s easy to see why this is so chalky, it has less fat than the Prima Materia, a whopping 40 calories per ounce less fat. (Have i mentioned lately that I love cacao fat ... sometimes I wonder what it’d be like if donuts were made by frying them in cocoa butter.)

4 ounces - 145 calories per ounce - Kosher
Rating: 4 out of 10

Meiji 99% CacaoMeiji Chocolate Kolika Caca 99% Ita has a very short, but less “pure” list of ingredients: cacao, cocoa powder, soy lecithin & artificial flavor. (I’m guessing that’s vanillin.)

Meiji is a good consumer brand in Japan. They make all sorts of candy, not just chocolate products. (My favorites are their Gummy Choco and Chelsea.)

It’s a pretty bar with 15 nicely shaped scored pieces. The package is also good, an easy to open paperboard box that fits back together pretty well to hold the leftovers (and there’s gonna be leftovers, who eats the whole thing?). I was encouraged that it had a pretty high fat content, too.

Meiji 99% Cacao

The bar wasn’t expensive ($1.99), which is probably a pretty good indication of what I should expect for a chocolate without any sugar. The scent is of the dark roasted cocoa flavors, a bit of charcoal. There’s a very abrupt high-note of the vanilla flavoring in there as well.

On the tongue it melts pretty nicely, but it’s quite bitter and dry. Keeping it further back on the tongue seems to help to recognize the other flavors that included a bit of a yeasty note of baking bread, wood smoke and burnt sugar.

I should note, in case you haven’t noticed so far, these are not low-calorie bars. In fact, this “sugarless chocolate” is some of the highest caloric density reviews I’ve ever done. (It’s the cocoa butter.)

But note that chocolate has a good amount of iron (10%), and about 3 grams of protein per ounce and 4 grams of fiber per ounce. That doesn’t even go into the positive effects that all those antioxidants have for your heart and circulatory system.

1.58 ounces - 161 calories per ounce (contains soy lecithin & artificial flavors)
Rating: 3 out of 10

Chocolat Bonnat 100%My passion for this bar can hardly be contained. The happiest part of this whole experience is that I know that once I’m done writing this, I don’t have to eat this bar any longer.

I was so excited when I bought the Chocolat Bonnat 100% Cacao. I’ve never had Bonnat before, the only experience I have with it is reading this exhaustive series at DallasFood.org about Noka and seeing the bars at several upscale stores. At $8 a bar (granted it is a big bar at 100 grams), I was hoping for some sort of miracle. I’ve come to realize there’s a reason that chocolate with sugar is so widely available ... it’s just better that way.

The wrapper, I admit, is lovely. The regular Bonnat bars have white wrappers with similar lettering, but the 100% gets the special brick red treatment, which should be a good indication that you should stop and think about it. 100% Cacao. No sugar, not even lecithin or vanilla. Stop. Hazard. Danger.

Chocolat Bonnat 100%

The bar was wonderfully tempered. (As wonderfully tempered as I was ill tempered when I was done.)

When I first unwrapped it, it smelled strongly of green olives. Later when I tasted it, I kept getting the strong, puckering flavor of green olives, grassy matcha and artichokes. These are all good things as far as vegetables go, but I don’t like them together and I don’t like them as the primary notes in my chocolate.

Here’s the thing, I hear my flavors. Well, not quite hear ... they have wavelengths in my head (and kind of colors that go along with them). Flavors create vibrations. And different kinds of flavor combinations create different combinations of these vibrations & wavelengths. It’s called synesthesia and many people have it to some degree.

So when I talk about things being harmonious, it’s not just a metaphor, it’s an actual description of my experience. In this case the bar was screechy. It was unripe, unrehearsed, stuttery, weak and tinny.

I’ve had the bar for a couple of months and have unwrapped it a few times to see if it was just that I’d had the flu, the lights in the house were at the wrong level, the moon was in the wrong phase or was in a bad mood. No, this is like Phillip Glass & Stephen Sondheim collaborating on some sort of atonal opera about database programmers performed by deaf alley cats in a poorly ventilated auditorium with squeaky chairs that pinch. It’s probably a wonderful intellectual experiment, but it’s not an enjoyable physical one. (But again, this may be an experience colored by the way that my brain processed certain things and might be just glorious to folks who don’t get the cacophony of wavelengths.)

3.53 ounces - unknown calories
Rating: 1 out of 10

The best news is that I have a deeper appreciation of my blended chocolates now and single origins even more so. As far as pure chocolate as being a “sugarless” alternative to regular sweetened chocolate, I think a very small quantity of sweetened chocolate will be more satisfying than a larger portion of one of these. But your mileage may vary. I definitely recommend the Dagoba if you’re itching to try just one. (The fact that it has a reasonable price is also a selling point.)

All of the remaining bits of these bars will be taken next door to the neighbors this evening where I will donate them to Amy in the hopes that she’ll create some awesome and rich brownies out of them so that I may love this chocolate again.

Casey at Chocolate Note has far more appreciation for the most concentrated chocolate bars. For other deeper appreciations for these bars try the Seventy Percent for: Michel Cluizel Noir Infini & forum discussion about Bonnat & Cluizel.

Related Candies

  1. Michel Cluizel 99%
  2. Guittard Quetzalcoatl
  3. Dagoba Single Origin
  4. E. Guittard Single Origin Tasting Kit
  5. Scharffen Berger - Cacao Nibs

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:24 am     All NaturalCandyReviewDagobaGhirardelliMeijiChocolateKosherOrganicSugar Free1-Inedible3-Unappealing4-Benign5-Pleasant

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Michel Cluizel 99%

Michel Cluizel Noir InfiniFor about six months I’ve been looking for the Michel Cluizel Noir Infini 99% bar. It’s not that it’s new, it just happened that the usual stores where I find Cluizel products were sold out of the bar.

I like the responsible size of it, it’s only 30 grams (1.05 ounces) instead of the usual 100 gram size for Cluizel’s large tablets.

Even though I declared this sugar free week, it wasn’t until I was prepping this post that I found out that there is sugar in this bar. The ingredients are: cacao (99%), cane sugar, spices, cocoa butter & Bourbon vanilla. Honestly, with a list like that, I can’t imagine it’s more than a pinch per pound. The wrapper also explains the bar further: This chocolate with its long kneading process and extremely high content of cocoas, reveals deep and dense strains for connoisseurs’ palate.

Michel Cluizel Noir Infini

It is a lovely little bar, with a rich and deep scent of chocolate.

On the tongue the thin bar melts pretty quickly. Overall it feels a bit like a clay slurry ... not quite chalky enough to call it, well, chalky or dry. The vanilla notes are pretty strong, as is a bit of a green wood and black tea note. By the end I was getting mulch, vanilla grass, pecans, burnt hazelnuts ... all wrapped up in smoke and charcoal.

Though it was bitter, there was very little puckeringly acrid acidity that I get with other high cacao bars (I’ll have a rundown of some of those tomorrow).

But not really a lot of fun. I was grateful that it was a small bar.

Michel Cluizel Cacao Forte

The other chocolate on my list of pursuits lately has been the Michel Cluizel Cacao Forte bonbon.

It’s amazing what a difference it makes when the intensity of the cacao is reduced by just a bit. While this truffle has no added sugar, it is a ganche and contains butter and/or heavy cream. So while the chocolate is 99%, the truffle itself is not.

The ganache is soft and melts quickly. The lighter berry & fruit notes come out much better, the bitterness is nearly gone and the finish, though dry is not acrid or acidic. But it feels thin in flavor, and I’ve tried quite a few Cluizel chocolates, so I know I can do better.

After eating the straight chocolate, the bonbon is a relief and seems almost sweet by comparison. But if you have this in a box and have been eating Champignon Caramel or Madagascar Dark Chocolate Ganache it will be jarring.

These pieces feel like exercises, like some single origin bars that give us the sense that it’s great that so many chocolate makers blend beans to give us a consistent and appealing flavor profile. I appreciate them, I grant that they have the right to exist, but I don’t care to eat them again.

As for the aspect that they’re free of added sugar (effectively), they’re not a low calorie food. Chocolate has oodles of fat in it and the bar comes in at 151 calories per ounce and less than a gram of carbs. (I don’t know what the bonbon is, but I’ll guess it’s even higher in fat.) However, if you’re looking for a chocolate punch that won’t raise your blood sugar level (and dark chocolate has been shown to lower insulin resistance, lower blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol levels, blah blah) this is an interesting “theraputic” option that’s probably cheaper than many other medical alternatives. It’s also just an interesting excercise all chocophiles should experience. The Noir Infini tasting square can be found in Cluizel assortments, so that’s probably the best way to experience this ... as part of an entire trip, not as the destination.

Related Candies

  1. The Alien Forehead Chocolate Collection
  2. Mori Ex Cacao Gift Set
  3. Recchiuti
  4. Michel Cluizel Les 1ers Crus de Plantation
  5. Pierre Marcolini Chocolates
Name: Noir Infini & Cacao Forte
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Michel Cluizel
Place Purchased: Mel & Rose Wine & Spirits (LA) + Chocolate Covered (SF)
Price: $3.25 & $4
Size: 1.05 ounces & unknown
Calories per ounce: 151 & unknown
Categories: Chocolate, France, Michel Cluizel, Sugar Free, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:07 am     Comments (6)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

XyliChew

XyliChewChewing gum is a logical product to make sugar free, and for many years there have been products that use Xylitol as an alternative (and better) gum sweetener.

I got a few samples at ExpoWest of their different flavors, but ended up opting for a full package of the Cinnamon XyliChew for this review.

The package is a nice paperboard box with a blisterpack that holds 12 pieces inside. Two pieces are normal serving size (though sometimes I go for three pieces).

XyliChew boasts 70% of its content is xylitol, which is supposed to have many health benefits. Studies link lower incidences of dental caries (cavities) to consistent use of xylitol (either in gum or mouthwash) and others have said that it keeps teeth & bones strong as we age. But the amount needed for those more substantial positive effects are probably greater than would be consumed normally. A pair of pieces gives the chewer only 1.6 grams per serving. (Studies were using dosages of 20-40 grams per day.) You can read more of the features at their website.

But that aside, this is gum and most often we’re chewing it for other reasons, such as to freshen the breath, a boost of flavor, keep us from munching and just plain old enjoyment of chewing.

These are cool on the tongue immediately, which is one of the big appeals of xylitol as a confectionery sweetener. The cinnamon flavor is much more like the powdered spice or chewing on an actual stick of the bark than those “cinnamon flavors”, so it’s a bit deeper. It’s not at all spicy though, there’s no burning feeling to it. The chew lacks much grain to it like sugared gums have (well, there’s a little from the shell, but that dissipates quickly). The flavor remains for quite a while, I tracked it as still having a satisfactory amount of cinnamon flavor after 30 minutes, though the sweetness had abated.

It didn’t stick to my teeth, which is also a nice feature (yes, I have fillings - those old fashioned amalgam & those new fangled white composite ones).

As a sugar free product, I don’t feel like I’m missing a thing. Some folks may not like that cooling sensation and of course you have to get used to xylitol. I still prefer my good old Peppermint Chiclets, but I could get used to this, too.

XyliChew is all natural, even the gum base is from the sapodilla tree. It uses beeswax though, so may not be appropriate for all vegans.

Many stores like Whole Foods, Nature Mart and health food shops carry XyliChew, you can also order online through Nature Mart or Amazon. They retail for about $2 a package. It also comes in other flavors like: spearmint, peppermint, tropical fruit, licorice and chocolate.

UPDATE: Also, be aware that xylitol is dangerous to dogs, so be very careful to keep xylitol sweetened products away from pets.

Related Candies

  1. Gimbal’s Lavaballs
  2. Atomic Fireballs
  3. Tiny Size Chiclets
  4. Gold Mine Gum
  5. Razzles
  6. No Time & Black Black
Name: XyliChew
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Tundra Trading, Inc.
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $2.00 retail
Size: .47 ounces
Calories per ounce: 49 (if you chewed 25 pieces)
Categories: Gum, Cinnamon, Finland, Sugar Free, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:00 am     Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Choxie 3 Ounce Chocolate Bars

After Valentine’s Day I picked up some discounted items from Target. I haven’t re-visited much of the Choxie line since my initial tastes on their launch, so I figured it was time to see what else they had.

Choxie Chocolate BarsI got an assortment of four bars for 75% off, so each bar was $1.25 ... quite a deal for 3 ounces of “premium” chocolate.

The box they came in was a goofy flat affair, I think just this stack with a red ribbon is a fine gift (and I threw out that box pretty much as soon as I got home). The assortment contains two milk chocolate bars and two dark chocolate bars.

The one that interested me the most was the Milk Chocolate with Roasted Almonds & Sea Salt. True to its name, it was a nice dark milk chocolate with big almond pieces (they tasted buttery like Marcona almonds) and there were some pretty intense large pieces of sea salt in there (the picture on the box makes them look like little pieces of popcorn).

The milk chocolate is a very dark and smooth version, it goes really well with the crisp crunch of the almonds. The sea salt was quite apparent, but the mixing of it was a little off. Sometimes I’d arrive at whole reservoirs of the stuff, it’s a little offputting to get more than a few grains at once. But still, an addictive bar. Though I shared it, I ate most of it in a day and a half.

The second bar was the Milk Chocolate Cashew Almond Cherry Bar which I thought sounded terrible at first, especially when I saw that it also had salt in it.

However, it won me over. The cashews & almonds aren’t as plentiful in this bar and the salt is only a slight glimmer now and then. The cherries are soft and chewy with a bright tangy note that infuses those bites.

Choxie - 62% Ghana

I was grateful to try my first Choxie single origin bar with the 62% Ghana Cocoa. I recently had another Ghana bar from Tcho, which I found to be a little too gritty for my tastes. This bar is smooth. The flavors are spot on “chocolatey” with some vanilla notes and a little cedar & tobacco. It’s a tasty bar, though not quite buttery enough for me if it’s going to be on the low end of the cacao percentage. But it’s also pretty sweet, so a nice started bar for those who don’t like the intensity of some of the higher cacao.

The box for the Dark Chocolate Espresso Bar showed the bar, like the one above, surrounded by coffee beans. I didn’t know if that meant whole coffee beans or fine grounds when I bought the assortment (I could only see the fronts of the boxes). The ingredients say “ground coffee” but I was still afraid that I was going to get coffee grounds in my chocolate.

The package smelled like the coffee aisle at the A&P where we used to grind our own 8 O’Clock coffee when I was a teen. Mostly coffee but also slight wafts of tea, cocoa and sweet sugary General Foods International Coffee flavors.

The grounds are palpable as the chocolate melts. The coffee flavor is mellow, not burnt or caramelized tasting, just a medium roasted vibe. And of course all those coffee beans integrated in. The chocolate has a good melt to it, is pretty smooth otherwise and stands up rather well to the otherwise overwhelming coffee. (Nicole at Baking Bites has a nice review of this bar, too.)

At the reduced price (expiration isn’t anywhere to be found on the packages, maybe I shouldn’t have thrown out the box), these were a great deal. I’m not sure if I would pay $4-5 for one of these in the future (well, maybe the almond & sea salt bar), but keep an eye out for their assortments (perhaps after Mother’s day?). The ingredients are all-natural and the dark chocolates have no added butterfat. They are not, however, Kosher.

Other recent reviews: The Girl Tastes has a lot of more recent Choxie introductions, Rosa tried the Key Lime Truffle Bar, Candy Snob tried the Espresso Truffle Bar, Secret Hideout thinks Choxie is better than Godiva (and I don’t disagree) and OffBeatEating tried the Coconut Truffle Bar.

Related Candies

  1. Starbucks Chocolate
  2. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
  3. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels
  4. Choxies in Boxies
  5. Choxie Champagne Truffles
  6. Cha-Cha-Cha Choxie
Name: Milk & Dark Chocolate Bars
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Choxie (Target)
Place Purchased: Target (Harbor City)
Price: $5.00 for set of 4 (post Valentine's clearance)
Size: 3 ounces
Calories per ounce: 153
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, Coffee, United States, Choxie, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:39 am     Comments (4)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tcho: Beta Batch No. C Ghana 0.7 AH

Mmm, what a tasty name! Yes, I got my hands on a lovely and pristine Tcho Beta Batch No. C Ghana 0.7 AH bar.

       Tcho Ghana

Tcho is one of the newest American chocolate factories, this one located in the Bay Area, which has no lack of chocolate factories as it is. They proudly state that they’re the only chocolate factory in San Francisco.

Instead of making a package that accommodates a 12 section bar, they make the long bars, snap them in half, stack them and then insert them into these waxed kraft paper square packets.

It makes for a unique look, but makes me wonder why they don’t just make the chocolate that size to begin with. Or design the package to fit the bar.

Tcho eschews things like cacao percentages, varietal & origin, instead focusing on easily understood classifications for their chocolates. This one is called C - which stands for Chocolatey. According to the flavor wheel included, it might have been citrusy, fruity, floral, nutty or earthy. (I’m not sure what the letters for those are ... that would make two possible Cs and two possible Fs.)

The ingredients are simple:

Ingredients: cocoa beans, cane sugar, vanilla beans, soy lecithin and possibly traces of milk and nuts from processing equipment.

The bars are 50 grams (1.76 ounces) ... though you wouldn’t know that once you got a hold of it. It’s not on the package, just on the website.

The chocolate smells sweet, a bit woodsy and a lot like bourbon vanilla.

It’s very dark, very brown (no hint of red or caramel tones here).

It’s only mildly sweet on the tongue, as it melts it’s a bit rough ... not quite chalky as it does have a good level of cocoa butter, but the particle size is a bit big for my texture preference. I was pleased with the deep rich flavors. There are dark cedars, tobacco and a bit of a mulchy note that almost pushes it into the earthy realm except for the consistent feeling that I’m eating hot chocolate.

The finish continues with a lingering woodsy note and a rather parching dryness. Overall, it’s a satisfying bar. After four squares, I didn’t feel like I wanted more for quite a while.

Personally I prefer a butterier bar, a nuttier set of notes. But this tops some of my experiences with the very dark bars from Theo (which I haven’t written up) but does not beat out the Amano or Chocovic Ocumare (okay, not American-made) or Guittard Chucuri.

I’m hoping Tcho has figured out their shipping problems. (More on that history here.) Just a note, they shipped my replacement bars on a Friday over a holiday weekend, not really a good tactic either, they arrived on Tuesday and though everything turned out fine, unless the USPS made it overnight, the package was guaranteed to sit around for at least two days. (I’ve talked to many candy shippers, I don’t know many that would ship chocolate products on a Friday, and certainly not when Monday was a mail holiday.) A note went out to the folks on their email marketing list that they were implementing hot weather shipping. My second package didn’t have any warm weather protection, it was the exact same metallic bubble wrap envelop folded tightly over and taped. If you’ve ordered from them more recently than February, maybe you can chime in with how yours arrived.

Clay Gordon has an extensive article about Tcho on The Chocolate Life. I was sure to not read through it until after I’d done my tasting notes.

I might try this again, but I’m much keener on trying other bars from companies that I’ve either developed an affinity for or some of the other new chocolate makers like DeVries, Taza, Rogue Chocolatier or Askinosie (I have one of those already in my hands). The price is a bit steep as well, they’re now $5 on the site and with the shipping, that’s a steep price for less than two ounces that are still in beta. It was supposed to feel like a fun experiment, like I was part of something, but I think I’ll leave it to others to work out the kinks.

Related Candies

  1. Amano Single Origin Bars: Madagascar & Ocumare
  2. Dagoba Single Origin
  3. E. Guittard Single Origin Tasting Kit
  4. Equal Exchange Chocolate
  5. Single Origin Chocolate
Name: C Ghana 0.7 AH
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: TCHO
Place Purchased: ordered online from Tcho
Price: $4.00 plus shipping (another $5.00)
Size: 1.76 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, United States, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:16 am     Comments (3)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Malie Kai: Waialua Estate Chocolate

Malie Kai ChocolateMalie Kai introduced their single origin American chocolate a couple of years ago, which uses only beans from the Waialua Estate on the north shore of Oahu.

The orchard where the cacao grows was planted in 1997 years ago by Dole, who wanted to diversify their agriculture in the area. However, around 2000 they abandoned the orchards, which became overrun with weeds (but the cacao & coffee trees were still there) and of course weren’t irrigated or fertilized. Later in 2004 the orchards were restored and only in the past three years have the fruits of their labor become available to the public. In this case the bar is by Malie Kai.

The farm has only about 17-20 acres devoted to cacao (about 650 trees per acre) so don’t expect huge quantities of these to flood the market. The trees are mixed varieties of Trinitario and Forestero. They’re grown pesticide free (though not certified organic as I believe they use non-organic fertilizers).

One of their bars is the Single Origin Waialua Estate bar featuring 55% cacao. It’s a petite bar at only 1.5 ounces, but a good size to give me a bit of the flavor and profile of this national chocolate. 

Malie Kai Chocolate

The bar comes in a smart little box, that protects it well. Inside it’s in an airtight mylar pouch to further enhance freshness.

It has a pleasant fruity-raisin chocolate aroma. The melt is nice, but is very sweet, almost overwhelming the more delicate flavors at first. After it settles in on the tongue and melts I was able to tease notes like molasses, toffee and raisins.

The texture is smooth, with only the slightest sugary grain to it. There’s no trace of bitterness and though there’s a light finish, it’s not at all acidic or dry.

I found it too sweet to satisfy my desire for rich dark chocolate, but the texture and size is great. I don’t see myself buying it again just for the taste, but I think it’s an interesting demonstration piece. I’m interested to try some of their other bars, especially the milk chocolate. (I tasted it on the floor at the Fancy Food Show ... but I tasted a lot of things that day.)

The bars are available in Hawaii quite readily. On the mainland

In the States

you’ll have to look sharp at upscale chocolate shops or order from a Hawaiian specialty shop. The bar also comes in a 38% Milk Chocolate version. (It’s not common to see single origin milk chocolate.)

Malie Kai also makes a line of flavored & inclusion bars: Kona Coffee & Roasted Almonds (dark &  milk), Kona Coffee Cappuccino (milk), Kona Coffee Espresso (dark), Lemon Macadamia Nut (dark) and Orange Macadamia Nut (milk).

Guittard is also making a 70% cacao content chocolate from the same Waialua Estate beans.

Related Candies

  1. Amano Single Origin Bars: Madagascar & Ocumare
  2. Big Island Chocolates
  3. Michel Cluizel Les 1ers Crus de Plantation
  4. E. Guittard Single Origin Tasting Kit
  5. Single Origin Chocolate
Name: Single Origin Waialua Estate 55% Cacao
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Malie Kai
Place Purchased: sample from Fancy Food Show
Price: unknown
Size: 1.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 143
Categories: Chocolate, United States, All Natural, Single Origin

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:37 am     Comments (4)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Crispy Cat

Crispy Cat Organic BarsIt’s often puzzled me why there aren’t more organic candy bars out there. For the most part candy bars are made (or can be made) with all natural/organic ingredients pretty easily. Why no one does this is beyond me, so for the most part candy fiends with an eco bent have to eat just chocolate (sometimes flavored) or hard candies or pay for bars to be flown from far away places and pay ridiculous prices for kinky combinations ... in reality all I want is the tried and true candy bar, only made with pure ingredients.

Crispy Cat Toasted AlmondCrispy Cat has a nice line of candy bars that seem to defy that notion that candy bars have to be made with sub-par ingredients. Their bars are also dairy free, gluten free, non GMO and use a large proportion of organic ingredients (70-90% organic, depending on the bar). In fact, their ingredients list only looks long because they put things like “organic” or “made with gmo” all over it.

They come in three varieties: Toasted Almond, Roasted Peanut and Mint Coconut ... all with dark chocolate.

Here’s what Joel, the founder of Crispy Cat has to say:

Growing up ... I loved candy. Over the years .... I learned to love my body. This candy bar is the result of trying to satisfy both cravings. I now live happily ever after. I hope you will too. P.S. Try ‘em cold.

Crispy Cat Toasted Almond

The Toasted Almond features dark chocolate, crispy rice & toasted almonds.

It has a wonderful dark, woodsy and chocolatey aroma. The bite is a bit stiff, it’s not quite crunchy and certainly not chewy. It’s just lumpy.

Once I got used to the complex center, I was pleased with the combination of flavors and textures. It’s part crisped rice, a little bit of a caramel-like chew to hold it together, a toasted sugar flavor and some pieces of almonds for an added crunch. I would have preferred a lighter crunch to it, something easier to chew (either crispier or softer).

Crispy Cat Mint CoconutI admit, I thought Mint Coconut is a weird combo. I love mint, I love coconut but I don’t put them together. (Well, partly because it probably never occured to me.)

This bar also has a crisped rice center. In this case it’s a bit fluffier and softer than the others, with a light peppermint scent.

Instead of the firm and chewy center, this one was a bit crumblier and has big pieces of naturally sweet coconut in it. It’s an interesting flavor combo, very tropical and fresh, a bit of a grassy note to the whole thing.

I can’t say that I loved this one, in fact it was my least favorite of the three. But I can’t help but be pleased that someone is paying attention to coconut these days. I love the stuff.

Crispy Cat Roasted PeanutThe Roasted Peanut bar was much softer (and a little flatter) than the Toasted Almond.

The center felt fattier though had the same number of calories as the Toasted Almond at 220 it has 10 grams of fat (TA has only 9).

The dark chocolate is rather bitter but has a decent melty texture. The crunchy rice, peanut butter and peanut chunk center is tasty. It’s dark and nutty, a bit salty and only lightly sweet. This one hits it out of the park as far as a peanut candy bar can go.

It definitely tasted like a candy bar, not one of those nutrition bars.

I was kind of surprised to see that they weighed only 1.75 ounces, it’s actually bigger than a Snickers bar, which gives the perception of a much larger mass of satisfaction.

Overall, these are fun and have very few compromises. And what’s the biggest one? Price. These retail for $2.50 ... that’s three times the price you’d pay for a non-organic bar. Pretty startling. But compared to other premium meal replacement bars, they can hold their own. The two nut varieties have 4 grams of protein (not from soy, though they do use soy lecithin so they’re not soy free) and 2 grams of fiber. They also clock in at 220 calories, which is a decent snack. I’d probably prefer these in a smaller variety though ... they’d make an awesome Halloween Treat if they came in snack size.

The Roasted Peanut bar is the one most likely to appeal to kids but none are too mature to miss with a true candy bar fiend.

I’d also recommend a bit of a change in the design of the package. I’m not sure who it’s supposed to appeal to, but it’s not grabbing me. They call themselves “tree huggin’ treats” and have the image of a couple of arms around a tree on the left size of each wrapper. (I’m not sure where the cat comes in.) The website looks completely different and inconsistent from this (but I’m not keen on the web’s cartoon designs either).

I’m not quite sure about them, they’re definitely on the right track and I’d be most inclined to eat the Roasted Peanut again, but if I were faced with eating one of these or a Lara Bar, I’d probably go for the Lara Bar.

Want to win some? Check out Crispy Cat Chronicles, if you can guess Ann’s new baby’s height, weight & birthdate you can win three cases of the bars of your very own.

Related Candies

  1. Theo 3400 Phinney Bars
  2. Organic Surf Sweets
  3. Russell Stover Organic Pecan Delight
  4. 100 Grand Coconut
  5. Pure Fun Candy Floss
  6. Coffee Beat
Name: Crispy Cat Bars: Toasted Almond, Mint Coconut & Roasted Peanut
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Crispy Cat
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $2.50 retail
Size: 1.75 ounces
Calories per ounce: 126
Categories: Chocolate, Cookie, Nuts, Peanuts, Mint, Coconut, Canada, All Natural, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:06 am     Comments (5)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

3400 Phinney: Fig, Fennel & Almond and Hazelnut Crunch

Theo 3400 Phinney - New BarsTheo Chocolate, the only all Fair Trade and Organic chocolate company that makes their confections from bean to bar in the United States is growing. This year they added two new bars to their 3400 Phinney line, bringing the total to four milk chocolate bars and four dark chocolate bars.

They are all a standard format of two ounces in four sections and feature artwork on the wrapper by Kitten Chops.

3400 Phinney - Fig, Fennel & Almond in 65% Dark

I picked my full-sized samples of the new bars at the Natural Products Expo last month. The Fig, Fennel & Almond in 65% Dark was the one I was most looking forward to.

Let’s see, favorite things:

Figs? I never knew fig love until I had my own tree. Check!

Fennel? Love it in salads, prefer licorice in candy. Check!

Almonds? I eat them every day. Check!

65% Dark Chocolate? Not too dark, not too dry is the way I like it. Check!

Upon first bite this was too dark, too complex, kind of a mess. But like some Philip Glass piece, the spareness of each note eventually started making music.

It took about half the bar, but I started liking it more and more. The fennel stands out in the scent of the bar, a light and grassy licorice or anise note. Upon letting a bite melt it becomes a bit acidic, a little tangy and rather like raisins, but fresher. Not quite figgy but the seeds help. Later the little bits of crushed almonds pull it all back together.

The chocolate is dry and not quite as buttery as I’d like for a “candy bar” but for a chocolate bar, it has a nice bitter component that keeps the figs from feeling to sticky sweet. Still, it requires a bit too much effort for me to just eat the bar.

Rating: 6 out of 10

3400 Phinney Hazelnut Crunch in Milk Chocolate

I had a very hard time with this bar ... I have a very hard time not eating it all before I finished writing this review.

It’s simply called Hazelnut Crunch Milk Chocolate.

It smells hazelnutty, and has little bits of crushed hazelnuts and a toffee crunch mixed into the creamy and rather dark milk chocolate.

The toffee bits are what makes this really fabulous. They’re very salty (in fact, there’s a lot of salt in this bar: 140 mgs) but man, each little milligram makes a little jolt of electrical energy delivering those flavors right to the pleasure centers of my brain.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Where I had trouble with the FF&A, the Hazelnut Crunch was one I couldn’t believe I ate the whole thing when it was gone. It’s a perfect afternoon bar, not too filling, not too sickly sweet and the little dose of nuts makes it feel very satisfying. In fact, I’d probably eat it anytime, anywhere ... but the Fig, Fennel & Almond would definitely need to be the kind of bar where I’d need to be in the mood.

Theo’s 3400 Phinney line is now Kosher (dairy).

Related Candies

  1. Zotter Candy Bars
  2. Theo Confections
  3. Vosges Haut-Chocolate
  4. Figamajigs
Name: 3400 Phinney: Fig, Fennel & Almond and Hazelnut Crunch
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Theo Chocolate
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $3.25 retail
Size: 2 ounces
Calories per ounce: 140 & 165
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, Toffee, United States, Theo, Kosher, Fair Trade, Organic, All-Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:22 am     Comments (10)

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Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.

 

 

 

 

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