Friday, April 28, 2006

Best Regards: Craves

Every once in a while I get an email with an offer for stuff to review. As much as I want to just accept every offer of free goodies, I had to develop a standard for freebies/samples. They have to offer something no one else does. Robert at Best Regards had me at “Cranberry Orange Craves.”

His line of chocolate barks feature his custom blend of chocolate and he recounts the discussion with his wife during his development of the treats this way:

Her actual statement was, “If you are so smart, why don’t you make a chocolate that we both love?”  We have always been total opposites in our taste for chocolate.  I love Dark, hated milk because it had no taste.  She loved Milk, hated Dark because of the aftertaste.  After about 3 months of much testing and trial and error, I finally came up with our own custom blend of chocolate.  As you will taste, it has the flavor profile of a Dark, but without the aftertaste.

I’ve never really considered dark chocolate to have an “aftertaste”, I always considered the dry, astringent or bitter carryover notes to be part of the experience.  But I can see how the mellowness of milk chocolate alleviates both the good and bad lingering flavors.

Best Regards is located in the Kansas City, Kansas area, which is really one of the last places I would have expected good, distinctive chocolate to come from. Though the bulk of his edibles and gift baskets features cookies, the basket he sent has a large assortment of chocolate barks (called Craves) and even a fun variety of chocolate covered Oreos. So let’s dig in!

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This is the star, the Cranberry Orange Craves - smooth dark chocolate flavored with orange essence and generously studded with dried cranberries. It’s an incredible combination and amazingly, I’ve never had it before. The zesty orange goes so naturally with the cranberry’s tart chewy bite and the smooth and mellow chocolate just brings it all together.

The best way for me to judge these sorts of things is to keep track of which package I finish first. This one was gone in the first weekend.

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Orange and Oreo Chocolate Craves - the dark chocolate is smooth and creamy, but does lack some of the more subtle chocolate nuances. However, this is a combination bar, with orange essence added into the chocolate, so the rather homogenized background is actually pretty good as a foundation. Inside this thick bar are crushed Oreo cookies, which give it a nice crunch. Personally, I wasn’t fond of coming across the Oreo cream but the chocolate crunch was a good combo. My second favorite.

Premium Raspberry Chocolate - plain dark chocolate bark with raspberry essence in it. It’s not too sweet, ultra creamy and smooth. The raspberry has a good balance of floral nuances and there are bits of raspberry in there (including the seeds) which gives a little tartness and fruitiness to the whole bar.

Margarita White Chocolate - this was the only white chocolate offering and it was really good. I know, I’ve said I don’t like white chocolate and then I keep recommending white chocolate things. This was white chocolate that wasn’t too sweet and had lime essence in it. I would have called it Key Lime, because that’s what it tasted like to me. My third favorite.

Mint Chocolate Cookie - I’ve raved about Harry London Mint Cookie Joys before, and these are essentially the same. Minted dark chocolate with chocolate cookie bits in it. Heaven.

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The final set in the basket were these two different kinds of chocolate covered Oreos, chocolate and mint chocolate. The plain chocolate ones had little sprinkles on them, and I have to say, as cute as they are, they’re not really that tasty. It’s fine for cake where you might want a little crunchy texture, but they just interfered with the chocolate and cookies here. The mint ones worked much better - a good, classic combo.

On the whole, the chocolate Craves were top notch. It’s hard to evaluate the whole custom blended chocolate part, because I never tasted the pure chocolate in any of these items, it was always in combination with other flavors and textures. While I really like a good dark chocolate, often the harsher bitterness can overshadow some of the more delicate flavors and textures. Of course that sort of intense flavor also keeps me from eating piece after piece. Maybe it’s the difference between fine wine and a good fruity sangria. Both have their place. So Robert at Best Regards has stumbled upon something - a really addictive dark chocolate that’s more “munchable.” Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I can assure you, it’ll be good for Best Regard’s business.

If I lived in the Kansas City area and needed a gift for someone, I’d absolutely take advantage of the gift basket idea (especially the mixed baskets of cookies) with local delivery and he has lots of options that are more on the savory side (and feature some of the local barbeque themes). If I had one suggestion for the sale of these, it’d be the ability to get a tin of them, maybe even a mixed variety. The packaging in the crunchy clear plastic bags wasn’t as resealable as I’d like. (I know, I rail against companies that have too much packaging, now I want more!) A tin of chocolate barks seems like it’d ship better anyway. However, he does offer some of the chocolate varieties as 8 ounce bars.

UPDATE: Wow! Robert is offering a special sampler package based on the products I reviewed here - at a huge discount off the regular $26.00 price, he’s offering it at only $15.99. Just go to the Sweets & Treats page and scroll down to see the “Cybele Special.”

Name: Craves and Chocolate Covered Oreos
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Best Regards
Place Purchased: samples from maker
Price: varies - ~$22 per pound
Size: varies
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Cookie, Mint, White Chocolate, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:45 am Tracker Pixel for Entry    

Comments
  1. Sounds yummy! Did you notice they have a “Cybele Special” on their webpage because of your lovely review? smile It’s on the sweets and treats page.

    I’m tempted! :D

    Comment by Sera on 4/28/06 at 5:17 pm #
  2. These sound so yummy!

    (at Thanksgiving & Christmas I make a cranberry bread using the recipe on the package of whole cranberries - Ocean Spray?. The recipe includes orange juice and I add zest. Fantastic!)

    Comment by desertwind on 4/30/06 at 7:41 am #
  3. The Cybele special…how cool is that.  I think it is just a matter of time before you are a special guest on the “Today” show.  Congrats I think its great!

    Crispin

    Comment by crispin on 5/01/06 at 2:17 am #
  4. i was so inspired by your review, i ordered 3 cybele specials and a pound of cookies! i ordered 2 for gifts and i reserve for myself just in case. wow! the bark is great, cookies are buttery and lemony zingy, and my sister was swooning over the orange chocolate covered oreos. customer service is excellent! i would love to see these people on oprah’s favorite things! fran’s caramels in seattle made oprah’s list. thanks for the tip.

    Comment by nani on 5/08/06 at 3:39 am #
  5. Cybele's avatar

    nani - I’m so happy you were pleased! Wow, the cookies sound fabulous. How do we get them on Oprah?

    desertwind - I make a cranberry salsa for Thanksgiving like that. Sassy!

    Crispin - hmm, the Today show ... Oprah ... I think I could be a candy scout. Travel the country like they do for sports teams spotting new talent.

    Comment by Cybele on 5/08/06 at 11:12 am #
  6. Is there a place here in Wichita where I can buy a drink called xocoatl that is made from roasted chocolate beans??

    Comment by gloria miller on 1/07/10 at 7:05 am #

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