Thursday, December 22, 2005
Name: Dolfin Chocolat: Noir au Gingembre Frais, Au Lait au The Vert Sencha du Japon, Noir aux Fuelles de Menthe
I thought on the eve of the start of Whalewatch Season here in Southern California it was appropriate to review something under the brand name Dolfin (we see more dolphins on whale watching trips than whales anyway). The Man bought these bars for me recently at a wine & spirits store in our neighborhood. The gentrification of our little ‘hood means that the former liquor store now carries a wider selection of wines, beers and of course Belgian chocolate.
What drew him to the bars wasn’t the reviews but the fact that the bars are packaged in these plastic cloaked paper envelopes that reminded him of tobacco pouches. It’s actually a pretty simple and successful idea, a long bag that you fold over several times to keep a good seal. The bars inside are additionally sealed in little plastic sleeves but at 2.47 ounces, I wasn’t going to eat them all in one sitting and I appreciated having a clean and crisp way of carrying them around until I do.
Noir aux Fuelles de Menthe (Dark with Mint Leaves): Instead of being your common dark chocolate bar with mint oils in it, this bar contains real spearmint leaves. This was the least successful bar for me. The mint was nice and it being spearmint was a nice change from the more common peppermint, but the bar seemed a bit more chalky than the others. At first I thought it had bloomed, but the sheen was right and the snap looked good. I can only assume that it’s the interaction of the real mint leaves in there. They also make the bar kind of grainy. The sugar balance is good though and the mint is smooth and has some good tannins in it that mix well with the rich dark chocolate.
Noir au Gingembre Frais (Dark with Fresh Ginger): I’m a ginger nut and many of the ginger/chocolate combinations that I find are with milk chocolate, so finding one that was in dark chocolate is exciting. The bar had a good woodsy mix of scents - the spicy ginger and smoky chocolate. The dark chocolate is only 52% cacao (as is the mint one) but it just felt really rich and dense. It was a little grainy but had a lot of flavors in the mix with a good buttery base to help the ginger and chocolate mingle.
Au Lait au The Vert Sencha du Japon (Milk with Sencha Green Tea from Japan): Wow, this bar smells like green tea ice cream. The wonderful lightly floral and woodsy tea blends wonderfully with the delicately dairy tasting milk chocolate. The bar is smooth and very sweet except for the green tea bits. It makes the bar better for doing a bit of chewing before letting it melt on the tongue instead of leaving a tab of it on the tongue first. This is definitely a bar that I could eat a lot of and I’m hoping that even though it only has 32% cacao, the benefits of both the green tea and chocolate will bring me good health in the new year.
Dolfin has a huge line of these “creation” bars, including Masala (hot spices), aniseed, pink peppercorn and Earl Grey tea. They have boxes with tasting squares that look like they would make for a fun evening.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Monday, September 26, 2005
I’ve seen these tins at Trader Joe’s for about a year. While I was fond of the idea of a tin of chocolate instead of a foil wrapped bar, I just didn’t get a good feeling from the package. I was worried that the chocolate would taste tinny or perhaps be chalky.
Happily, as you can see from photo the wedges are shiny dark chocolate with a good snap to them. They’re simply bittersweet Belgian chocolate that’s been repackaged here in the states in Chinese made tins.
The chocolate is 70% cocoa solids but it’s still rather sweet for bittersweet. The sugar is most apparent upon first resting a bit on the tongue. Then it melts pretty easily with only a slightly uneven grain to it. It’s got good chocolate notes, mostly in the lower, earthy range without the higher acidic and fruit notes. The smoky quality is there as are the woodsy tones. The cocoa butter is really nice and light and allows the flavor to spread easily, there is only a slightly dry finish to it.
The grain is a little distracting and the sugar a little too apparent. However, I did just what the package shows, I traveled with this chocolate, putting it in my bag and taking it on a humongous two-day road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back and it not only weathered it well, it was a welcome treat.
Rating - 7 out of 10 (I’m keen on trying the flavored chocolate wedges, too)
Monday, June 20, 2005
Name: New Tree Chocolates: Vigor, Forgiveness & Tranquility
I reviewed another of these bars, called Renew a few weeks ago and I wanted to try other flavors. I found these little boxes with tasting bars at the Farmer’s Market and picked up an assortment. The one that had me most intrigued was Tranquility which bills itself as soothing. It’s milk chocolate with Lime Blossom and Lavender in it.
The packaging, first of all, is delightful. I put a quarter in the photo so you could see how tiny these bars are. New Tree extols itself as all natural, healthful chocolate what eschews genetically modified organisms (I’m not sure if Monsanto has gotten around to modifying the cocoa plant) and infuses their Belgian made chocolate with sometimes incongruous flavors and extra fiber. Turns out the no GMO part applies to the soya lecithin.
The Tranquility bar was very nice. It’s not terribly smooth, which is often what happens when you put dried stuff in chocolate. For Belgian milk chocolate it’s a bit sweet, but it doesn’t have that milky taste. The lavender notes come through loud and clear and leave a pleasantly fragrant note on the tongue long after the chocolate has dissolved. I wasn’t able to detect the lime blossom, but I’ve never eaten lime blossoms before and they might taste just like lavender for all I know.
I had to try the Vigor bar early in the day, as eating a full ounce of this is the equivalent of one cup of coffee (and I’ve already had a cup of coffee). At 73% cocoa, this bar smells unabashedly like pure chocolate. But upon putting it in my mouth, it melted quickly and I tasted only slight hints of rich coffee flavors. Naked coffee and chocolate are a great combo, as they both are roasted and smoky and contain lots of alkaloids. This is a barely sweetened bar that also boasts that it contains extracts of guarana. I’ve had more mocha tasting bars in the past and to be honest, I don’t want a caffienated chocolate bar, because I’d be tempted to eat it later in the day and then curse it as I couldn’t sleep later in the evening. But if you’re good with caffeine at all hours, maybe this is the bar for you. I don’t recommend pairing it with Red Bull or other energy drinks unless you enjoy heart palpitations.
The last bar, Forgiveness, was in the yellow box and was flavored with lemon and said that it helps metabolism. Again, a very dark bar with 73% cocoa. This bar also smells suspicously like chocolate with a slight lemon essence to it that’s more obvious after eating. It’s not a zesty taste, like a lemon bar or anything, just a hint of it. It’s actually very nice, a big difference from the heavily flavored bars from BruCo (don’t get me wrong, I liked those, too). The “helps metabolism” part got me curious though. There are “natural extracts of cactus” in it. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but there are a lot of cactus out there ... that’s like saying something vague like has “natural nuts” in it. The website says that the cactus is Opuntia ficus-indica. A quick google search reveals that this is a prickly pear, and looks a lot like one I have in my back yard. Further searching reveals that this particular cactus also contains mescaline. I’m sure that my teensy bar that’s less than a third of an ounce does not contain any measurable amounts.
I guess this is where I can get into the topic of candy for snacking and candy for savoring. There are some folks who enjoy wine and drink it for the joy of drinking. Then there are some folks who enjoy wine for all its nuances and savor every sip. I’m somewhere in the middle there when it comes to candy. I love consumer candy, stuff you just eat, that you put in your mouth and you finish and you want more. This New Tree stuff and many of the other gourmet bars are not meant for munching. They’re more complex, like a fine cheese or something. As a reference, I still have a little bit of the Renew bar left and it’s been weeks. This is not candy that calls out to me to be eaten. (Yes, sometimes I hear the candy calling me ... mostly things like maltballs and I can also hear smarties calling from several hundred yards.) Maybe some will accuse me of not being sophisticated enough and I’d be inclined to agree with them. You can dress up my vitamins in gumballs or chewables, but that doesn’t make them candy. Candy is a treat, not a chore.
I feel kind of bad for not liking these bars more, like I’m not sophisticated or stylish. I also feel bad because they’re so hugely expensive. Which I guess goes to prove that good quality candy does not have to be expensive. And expensive candy is not neccesarily great.
I think over the past few months as I’ve been trying more of these bars, my favorite fancy flavored bar has been the Dagoba Milk Chocolate Chai. I ate that, it tasted good and I wanted more. That’s what I want in my candy ... one that gets me addicted.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
From the back of the package:
This is fine Belgian dark chocolate (73% cocoa) infused with black currant and grape flavors. Instead of just candy or a sweet treat, New Tree seems to be pushing the health benefits of chocolate, because it contains more antioxidants than a glass of red wine and 10% of your daily vaulue of vitamin D and phosphorous, 6% of the RDA for zinc and E, 15% of your iron and 20% of your magnesium. In addition, there’s a whopping 5 grams of fiber - 22% of the daily requirement!
But health benefits and nutrition aside, unless you want to call these chewable vitamins and make them a chore (and expensive vitamins at that!), taste is what it’s all about…
The scent of black currant and grape is quite evident upon opening the inner mylar pouch. The chocolate was a dense, glossy black and heavy for its size. While the scent of the currants is there, the taste isn’t. The taste is all chocolate. A strong bitter start with a good melt on the tongue yields a slighly grainy feeling to the chocolate, but not an unpleasant one. Then the grape essence returns as the sweetness develops. It has a very dry finish, much like wine, but sometimes (not always) a bitter lingering note.
The snackability of such a rich combination of flavors isn’t really there. I can’t see myself munching on this bar, but definitely sampling it, probably in combination with some nuts or pretzels. It would probably go well with an after dinner plate of cheese and dried fruits as well (and wine or cognac).
The New Tree site heralds the other versions of their chocolate, all with enigmatic power names and functions. Pleasure is just pure chocolate. Vigor is chocolate with a boost of coffee and caffeine with guarana. Forgiveness is chocolate with lemon essence and added fiber and purports to halt absorption of fat. Tranquility is milk chocolate (more sugar than the other chocolates) with lime and lavender. Rejoice is milk chocolate flavored with orange and lime and crisped rice added.
They sell these in 2.8 oz bars or in little boxes with 3 x .9 oz bars of the same flavor. What I’d like to see is one box that has one of each for tasting. You can’t buy from their website and I haven’t seen them anywhere in the stores yet, but I’ll keep my eyes open. If you’re interested you can email them from the website about availability.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.