Friday, December 30, 2011

Bacon-Flavoured Hot Chocolate...Seriously?

I will try anything when it comes to chocolate.  But seriously, bacon-flavoured hot chocolate? Even I think that is an odd combination.  So of course I tried it anyway. And somehow I convinced a room full of willing participants to try it too.

I like bacon-flavoured chocolate. Something about the salty and savoury bacon combined with the sweet chocolate, makes my mouth water for more.  Check out my post about the Vosges Bacon Bar, it really is delicious! And Vosges makes it work with small pieces of bacon ground up in a smooth milk chocolate (and also in a dark chocolate bar too!). However, bacon flavour in a hot chocolate beverage is somehow very odd.  But then again, that is the slogan written on the package of McSteven's Cocoa Combos:  "Oddly Delicious Flavor Combinations".  The flavours in this 'combination' are natural and artificial, plus a strange addition of chipotle pepper in the ingredients list.

The bacon flavour is there, but somewhat subtle.  However, it does not taste like bacon so much as it tastes like hickory smoke flavour. In fact, it tastes just like this bottle of liquid smoke flavour I bought a few years ago (see photo on right).  When I opened the bottle it made my stomach churn.  The hot chocolate did not, since that smoke flavour was subtle, but I am still not sure how much I liked it.  That also seemed to be the general reaction of the rest of the group who tasted it tonight.  No one seemed to like it, nor did they seem to dislike it.  I suppose for me it was interesting, but the reminder of the smell of the bottle of hickory smoke flavour was affecting my ability to really enjoy it.

If you like hickory smoke flavour, then you may like this product.  It is sort of like drinking a hot chocolate while eating something smoked....not so weird, right?  And if you don't like that flavour, still check out McSteven's Cocoa Combos, they have some other interesting hot chocolate flavour combinations that you may just like, such as Chocolate & Curry or Chocolate & Chipotle. I bought this Chocolate & Bacon Cocoa at HomeSense for $6.99 CAD.

Here are the product details from the package of the product that I tasted tonight:

McSteven's Cocoa Combos, Chocolate & Bacon cocoa mix, 198 g
McSteven's Inc. (Vancouver, WA, USA)
Ingredients: Sugar, whey, nonfat dry milk, cocoa powder (Dutch Process), non-dairy creamer (canola or coconut oil, corn syrup solids), natural & artificial flavors, chipotle pepper, guar gum, salt.  Contains milk.  May contain peanuts, tree nuts and wheat.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Patric American Handcrafted Chocolate: French-Inspired and In-NIB-itable-ly Delicious!

I have in my possession two Patric Chocolate bars and I have never been so excited to try a chocolate brand before! Well, that is probably not true, but right now it certainly feels like it because I have been following Patric Chocolate for more than a year, via the chocolate maker's e-newsletter, Twitter, and other media, but I had not yet tasted their chocolate.

I am also excited to try this chocolate because I have always felt like I would get along well with the chocolate maker, Alan "Patric" McClure (even though we have never met) because I have read on his website that he was forever changed by a year spent in France.  Apparently, the French chocolate tradition inspired him to begin making chocolate.  My story is also similar to his.  I too spent a year France (oddly enough in the same year as Mr. McClure) and decided that I would begin to work with chocolate in a way that I had not seen in Canada before. So since we have a shared inspiration, I feel the overwhelming need to buy his chocolate.

Why am I just getting around to tasting Patric Chocolate now? Well, I tried to buy some online a while back, and quickly learned that they did not ship to Canada.  Then after a few other unsuccessful attempts to get my hands on some, I guess I gave up.  However,  Patric Chocolate is now readily available in Canada through the "A Taste for Chocolate" website and can be shipped directly to poor little fine chocolate lovers like me who are isolated in the cold North. 

I tore in to the package and immediately chose to try the Patric Chocolate bars, despite the other amazing chocolate bars that came in the same shipment (i.e. Amedei, Bonnat, Amano, Michel Cluizel, and more).  I immediately liked the In-NIB-itable BAR. And when I finished that and opened the Patric Signature Blend 70% bar, I liked it too. The chocolate is oh-so-smooth, rich and deliciously full of flavour.  Each one offered me a unique chocolate experience in terms of flavours and texture, but yet a consistency in the smoothness of the chocolate.

The In-NIB-itable BAR is made of Madagascar cacao, which means an instantaneous burst of fruitiness. I'll be the first to admit that my sense of smell is better than my sense of taste, so I cannot always taste all the flavours that other people can, however, the fruitiness was very apparent in this chocolate bar.

The next interesting point about the In-NIB-itable bar was, strangely enough, the nibs.  Usually chocolate with nibs bothers my teeth, but in this case, the nibs were roasted to just the right point where they practically melted in my mouth, and yet still remained crunchy.  Also, there was a heavy 'roast' flavour, like the flavour of a perfectly roasted marshmallow (a tan-browned one, not a burnt one!) or like that roasted flavour of popcorn that has been cooked over an open fire.

And except for the nibs sprinkled on the back side of the chocolate bar, it was a surprise that the chocolate was so smooth, considering that Patric Chocolate is hand-crafted and it has no lecithin in the ingredients list (which helps to emulsify the chocolate and make it smoother).

I tasted the In-NIB-itable BAR against the Amano Madagascar Handcrafted Dark Chocolate bar (also a 70%) and I found them very similar in taste in terms of fruitiness and citrus overtones.  In fact, the smell is very much the same (the Island is not all that large, so one can assume the aromas of the cacao would be similar). However, the Amano bar is much lighter in colour and the flavour of the Patric In-NIB-itable BAR is influenced by the strong roasted flavour of the nibs.

The Patric Signature Blend bar is also very smooth and I liked the experience of eating it quite a lot. It tastes different from the In-NIB-itable BAR because it is made of a mix of beans from different origins, but again there is a strong flavour of "roasted" beans. Overall, it has a strong bold flavour like a robust red wine.

The only thing that I did not like is that - although the chocolate bar is beautiful - it is hard to break a piece off because it is a rather thick and not scored for individual pieces. But if that is the only downside, then it is clearly overshadowed by the wonderfulness of the chocolate.

I do hope that one day I can try the PBJ OMG chocolate bar by Patric, just because I love peanut butter and chocolate.

I just want to send out a big thank you to A Taste for Chocolate, who was able to ship such fine chocolate to a poor isolated Northern Ontario resident who loves the high end stuff. And, of course, to my husband who ordered and paid for the chocolate (it was not cheap, each Patric bar is about $9-$10 CAD + shipping) and gave it to me for Christmas!

As with all my posts, below are the details from the packages of the three chocolate bars that I tasted today. Please note that all three chocolate bars do not contain lecithin (i.e. soy) although Amano specifies that it is made on the same equipment as chocolate made with soy lecithin.

Patric American Handcrafted Chocolate "In-NIB-itable BAR", 2.3 oz (65g)
Handcrafted by: Patric Chocolate, Columbia, MO (USA)
Ingredients: Cacao, cane sugar, cocoa butter.  Made in facility that processes dairy products, peanuts and/or tree nuts.

Patric American Handcrafted Chocolate Signature 70% Blend dark chocolate, 2.3 oz (65g)
Handcrafted by: Patric Chocolate, Columbia, MO (USA)
Ingredients: Cacao, cane sugar, cocoa butter.  Made in facility that processes dairy products, peanuts and/or tree nuts.

Amano Madagascar 70%, 2 oz (56g)
Amano Chocolate, Orem, UT (U.S.A.)
Ingredients: Cocoa beans, pure cane sugar, cocoa butter, whole vanilla beans. "Our vintage equipment is used to process milk chocolate and chocolate containing tree nuts, peanuts and soy lecithin (an emulsifier)".

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Last minute stocking stuffers....fill them up with chocolate while you grocery shop!

This year, President's Choice added some new chocolate to their line-up of goodies available at your nearest Independent Grocer, SuperStore, Loblaws or other grocers that sell President's Choice products in Canada. Well, "new" is not exactly the correct term for it, it is actually the same chocolate that has always been available in those giant 300 gram sizes (which are great for home baking) and is repackaged in 100 gram bars (at least, I think it is the same chocolate, the packaging is the same only smaller). So if you know someone who is a fan of PC chocolate, now you can fill their stocking with more than one chocolate bar (let's face it, the 300 gram bars were just too big to be stocking stuffers, even if they were the right shape!).

The chocolate is flavoured with natural vanilla (not the artificial stuff), it has canola lecithin instead of soy (great for people who cannot have soy lecithin) and the price is always right with President's Choice.

I bought and tasted the 70% Dark Chocolate bar for myself, and I picked up the Milk Chocolate bar as a stocking stuffer.  The chocolate was good, albeit not really flavourful in the same way as single origin chocolate, but great for people who like a regular 70% dark chocolate bar with a lot of vanilla. It was also very smooth and compares well to Lindt's 70% dark chocolate.

So while you are out grocery shopping today, you can kill two birds with one stone (what a horrible saying!) and get your last minute food shopping done while filling up your family's stockings.

As per usual, here are the details from the package of the chocolate that I tasted today:

President's Choice Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa Solids, 100 grams
Loblaws Inc. (Toronto, ON)
Chocolate is a "Product of France"
Ingredients: Unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, low fat cocoa, canola lecithin, natural vanilla extract.  May contain tree nuts, milk, egg, soy and/or wheat.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O Canadiana....Canadian chocolate that will make you sing!

Imagine an organic 70% dark chocolate with the flavour of maple syrup, the chewy texture and sweetness of sundried apples and the savoury taste of alder smoked salt.

Well you can stop imagining now...because it does exist in one wonderful little chocolate bar! It is called the Canadiana chocolate bar by Organic Fair Inc. in Cobble Hill, B.C.  The only thing it is missing to be truly Canadian is some Back Bacon.  But no matter, it is still delicious and I am officialy in LOVE with this chocolate bar.

I am not sure how I found this brand of somehow or other....but I am glad that I did.  Organic Fair Inc. has one of the most interesting range of chocolate bar flavours that I have ever seen (well, next to Vosges).  For instance, one of the chocolate bars on their web site is a dark chocolate bar (60% cacao) with cinnamon, raisins and bananas.  Another one, called the "talamanca organic dark chocolate" has pinneapple, coconut, banana and lime in a 70% dark chocolate. Check out the other flavours at:  Each and every chocolate bar sounds so interesting that I wanted to taste all of them.  So I filled my online Shopping Cart last week with chocolate (I bought several of the Canadiana chocolate bars for stocking stuffers!) and a few other things, like some Saffron and organic dark roast coffee beans. The package arrived in no time at all and I ripped into the Canadiana bar immediately. The chocolate had a raw, organic taste to it and the maple syrup and salt were sublte - as they should be - leaving the slight aftertaste of apple in your mouth. And the bar was perfectly portioned to leave you feeling good about your chocolate experience, rather than guilty.

Now that I have tasted Organic Fair's Canadiana chocolate bar, I can't wait to try their other flavours of chocolate. Stay tuned for more posts on this unique brand of organic and fair trade chocolate as I taste my way through "The Consumate Connoisseur's Chocolate Gift Box", an awesome buy for the chocoholic in your life with 12 perfectly-portion-sized chocolate bars in a great range of flavours (in case you are wondering, I do not get paid, nor do I get free chocolate to write about this...I'm just really excited about this chocolate gift box that I bought myself for Christmas! Ya you heard me, I bought myself a Christmas present).

Here are the package details from the Canadiana bar:

Canadiana 70% Dark Chocolate with Maple Syrup, Sundried Apples & Alder Smoked Salt, 44g (1.5 oz)
Handmade by Organic Fair Inc. (Cobble Hill, B.C.)
Ingredients: cocoa liquor*, raw cane sugar*, cocoa butter*, ground vanilla beans*, sundried apples*, maple syrup flakes*, alder smoked salt. Minimum 70% cacao. *Certified Organic by Pro-Cert Organic: reg #247. May contain traces of nuts, peanuts, wheat & dairy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chocolate from Romania? Cranberries and Dark Chocolate by HEIDI

When I think of chocolate bar manufacturers, I do not think of Romania as being a country that would have many. I would think of Switzerland, France, Belgium...and the U.S.A. now more and more. But Romania? Then again, I would not normally think of Canada, but people are making it here too, so why not Romania?

The reason why I am talking about Romanian chocolate today is because last week I found HEIDI, a brand of chocolate bars made in Romania.  The company employs 300 people and they claim to be existent in "35 markets throughout six continents" around the world, so they have actually taken their Romanian chocolate rather far. And although this chocolate is made in Romania, the company was started by a "Swiss chocolate visionary" and "Swiss imported ingredients" were used to create their first chocolate products. But regardless, their company origins are in Romania, and they were actually one of the top four players in the Romanian chocolate market (source: in 2005, which was a limited - but growing - market (at least it was in 2005; it looks like some of the other top players have been purchased or merged). So although the Romanian chocolate manufacturing market is not large, it does exist and there are a few chocolate brands, including HEIDI, working hard to put it on the map.

HEIDI is considered a "premium" brand within its market, as opposed to other Swiss manufacturers who target the budget/low cost segment.  And based on its packaging, communications program and flavours of chocolate, they are certainly positioning themselves that way. 

So how does this Romanian chocolate stack up to other chocolate? Well, I purchased two HEIDI bars last week and finally got around to opening and tasting one today, which was their Dark Cranberry chocolate bar with 50% cocoa solids. I like the delicate nature of the bar.  The pieces that you can break apart are all very thin, which makes it great for tasting the chocolate because each piece melts quicker in your mouth. The only problem I find with this is: because the bar is so thin, you are actually getting only 80 grams of chocolate in a package that is the same size as most 100 gram chocolate bars. So it seems to me like it is a bit of a fooler.

As for the flavour, although I am not usually a fan of chocolate bars with berries or fruit in it (unless the berry is raspberry, or the fruit or berry is mixed with chocolate in a pie, which is a whole other story!), the cranberry flavour is subtle and the pieces are small, so it is actually quite nice.  You taste the cranberry with the first bite, then the chocolate flavour comes on more as you continue to eat.

WARNING TO THOSE WHO READ LABELS: Vanilla extract is listed on the ingredients list, but so is artificial flavour.  What's confusing is: the HEIDI website specifically states that the chocolate bars are made with "100% natural ingredients". So I peeled back the sticky nutrition label that was placed on the product (I am assuming by the company that imported the product) to meet Canadian labelling standards, and it does not say "artificial flavour" in the English ingredients list.  It says: "flavors: natural vanilla extract and cranberry".  So always be warned that an additional label stuck over top of the one originally printed on the package may not be listing the same ingredients as the original. I have found this to be the case on many occasions.

Overall, I personally felt the chocolate bar was "okay".  BUT that is my personal opinion based on my own likes/dislikes of specific flavours. If you are the type of person who likes cranberry and other berry flavoured chocolate, you might really like this chocolate bar.  And somehow I still ate half the bar in a matter of minutes, so it must have been better than 'okay'. It was those thin, delicate pieces that got me!

I also bought a HEIDI Extreme Dark 85% bar that I plan to taste in January.  It does not list artificial flavour, and it too is 80 grams, so the pieces are just as fine and thin, so I am looking forward to tasting it.

I bought both chocolate bars at an Ontario Bulk Barn for $2.99 (CAD).  If you are looking for details on where to buy a HEIDI chocolate bar in your area, check out their website and the details I took from the packaging below:
HEIDI Dark Cranberry, 80g
Made in Romania (Imported to Canada by Euro-Excellence Inc., Quebec, Canada)
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, cranberry pieces 1.5%, soya lecithin, vanilla extract, artificial flavour. Cocoa solids 50% minimum in chocolate.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Enjoy life by eating soy-free and nut-free chocolate!

One year ago I wrote an article about chocolate with no soy lecithin and it has since become one of my most popular blog posts. And I, along with several readers, have been adding to the list of soy-free chocolate on a regular basis ever since I  first wrote the post.  Now I find myself always checking the labels of chocolate bars and baking chocolate to discover if it is soy-free, peanut-free or tree-nut free so that I can help people with allergies find chocolate that they can eat (I am, after all, all about connecting more people to fine chocolate!). 

Recently a reader suggested that Enjoy Life brand of chocolate chips (a brand that I had never heard of before) was a soy-free product. Oddly enough, the very next day I was shopping and just happened upon two Enjoy Life products. So I bought a bag of each of the Mega Chunks and the Mini Chips.  Both came in 283 gram bags and both make claims about being not only soy-free, but also gluten-free, and free of the following: milk, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, wheat, mustard, sulfites, shellfish, crustaceans, sesame and soy. The package specifically claims that they make their products in a "dedicated nut and gluten free facility", which is important to ensure that the products are completely free of any traces of nuts, soy or gluten.

What is great about these little nuggets of chocolate is that they only have three ingredients: brown sugar, cocoa mass and  cocoa butter.  So you get the added bonus of no bleached sugar in this product and no artificial flavours or colours.

Both taste great, although my bag of the Mega Chunks were slightly older than the Mini Chips (according to the expiry date) and did taste a little less fresh than the Mini Chips, but tasted great once baked into a cake. The Mini Chips are so yummy that I just couldn't stop eating them.  My three-year old daughter also loved them because they were so tiny.  She kept calling them her "baby" chocolate chips and was handling them like they were cute little baby birds. Overall, I find no difference in taste or texture than regular chocolate chips with soy lecithin, which is great because Enjoy Life brand is better for us with no artificial flavour, hydrogenated oils or refined sugar.

Because these chocolate chips are meant for baking, I thought I would test them out in a cake (see picture to the left).  It is a chocolate cake with the Enjoy Life Mega Chunks baked right into the cake layers and it is surrounded in Enjoy Life Mini Chips.  It is easier to use mini chocolate chips on the outside of a cake, rather than regular or large-sized ones, because you can get a more even coating and the cake will be easier to slice. I also used Camino milk chocolate to make the ganache that was poured on top and between the layers. (Camino couverture also does not have soy in it), and I topped the cake with a peanut butter buttercream.  So although it is not a peanut-free cake, it is a soy-free cake. And it was an all-yummy cake too...if you are like me and love cake with ridiculous amounts of chocolate in each serving!

 To make a similar cake, just throw a cup of Mega Chunks into your favourite chocolate cake recipe (I won't give away my chocolate cake recipe! Use a cake mix if you have no other recipe) and bake three 8" layers of cake. Make a chocolate ganache (see below for ganache recipe) and pour 1/3 of it over the first layer, then place second layer on top, spread another 1/3 of ganache over it and let more run down the sides, then place the last layer of cake on top. Pour the last 1/3 of chocolate ganache over the top of cake and spread out evenly, allowing more chocolate to run down the sides.  Use your offset spatula to smooth out all the chocolate on the sides of the cake until you have an even coating about 1/8" thick.  Open a pack of Mini Chips and press into sides of cake.  Top with your favourite flavour of buttercream icing and - voila! - you will have a cake that is exploding with chocolate.

Easy Ganache Recipe: Bring 1 cup cream to a boil and immediately pour over 16 oz of milk or semi-sweet chocolate, stir slowly until smooth.

So there you have it, another great chocolate product for people who need to bake chocolate-chip cookies, cakes and pastries (or make truffles!) that are soy-free.

Here are the details from the packages of the chocolate that I tasted today:

Enjoy Life chocolate Mini Chips, 283 g
"free of milk, peanuts, tree nuts and soy"
Manufactured for: Enjoy Life Natural Brands, LLC
Schiller Park, IL (USA)
Ingredients: brown sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter.
Made in a dedicated nut and gluten free facility. Certified Gluten-free.

Enjoy Life chocolate Mega Chunks, 283 g
"free of milk, peanuts, tree nuts and soy"
Manufactured for: Enjoy Life Natural Brands, LLC
Schiller Park, IL (USA)
Ingredients: brown sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter.
Made in a dedicated nut and gluten free facility. Certified Gluten-free.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Three (Well, Four) Kinds of White Chocolate Couverture

... for chocolatiers and for the general population, if you can get your hands on them!

Callebaut White Chocolate Callets
I remember the first time I tasted white chocolate.  Real white chocolate, that is. Not the grocery store kind, like "white chocolate chips" made of oils instead of cocoa butter, or solid white chocolate bunnies at Easter that are bleached white and super sweet so kids will like them.  I mean the real stuff that is so ivory it is almost yellow because it is made mostly of cocoa butter and real vanilla. The stuff that melts in your mouth faster than you can say “white chocolate” and tastes rich and buttery instead of like a block of refined sugar.

Since I was first exposed to good white chocolate, I cannot believe how my opinion of it has changed.  I used to turn my nose up at any white chocolate bar on the shelf of any retailer, but now I pick it up and turn it over curiously to read the ingredients.  If the ingredients are acceptable to me, I buy it. If it is filled with artificial ingredients or anything hydrogenated, I put it back on the shelf.

However, because I tend to like darker chocolate, I always question whether or not I have the ability to evaluate and comment on white chocolate. I often find myself asking other people to taste it and give me their opinion.  So last week, when I finally had a good collection of white chocolate couverture (the best kind of chocolate for chocolatiers to work with), and I could not decide which one was best, I decided to hold an impromptu tasting with my sister and brother-in-law. So once again, like at another tasting recently, the kids played while the adults tasted chocolate. But instead of dark chocolate, it was three kinds of white chocolate couverture that included:
  • Valrhona "Ivoire" White Chocolate Discs (Ivory Coast)
  • Callebaut White Chocolate Callets
  • El Rey Icoa Solid White Chocolate Block (100% Venezuelan)
I asked the others to tell me their favourites in order of first to third. My brother-in-law chose El Rey as his favourite (thought it tasted mellow, smooth and refreshing), Valrhona as his second-favourite and Callebaut third.  My sister chose Callebaut as her favourite, then Valrhona and El Rey third.  Although she admitted that she liked the Callebaut because it smelled and tasted like nutmeg, which we all agreed that it did.  I have tasted this type of Callebaut white chocolate before and it never tasted like nutmeg in the past, but the smell and flavour of the spice in this batch of chocolate was  so apparent that it clearly had been stored open at the wholesaler and certainly was store next to some nutmeg and other spices.

My personal favourite was the El Rey.  It is very dark in colour compared to the other chocolate and just has that look (and taste) of something with a lot of real vanilla added to it.  It is smooth and buttery and oh so good.  The only downside is that you have to chop up the massive block, which is time consuming for a chocolatier.

Valrhona White Chocolate Ivoire Discs

The Valrhona Ivoire is my second-favourite; it has a wonderful taste and is easy to work with. 
The Callebaut is sweeter and has less distinct flavours and is likely preferred by a more general consumer.  It is, however, very easy to melt and to work with; it makes beautiful shiny confections.

So clearly each chocolate is unique and will find fans among any group of tasters.  However, for chocolatiers, it depends on what they prefer in terms of workability, flavour and access to the product. Given that I am in Northern Ontario, I have the easiest access to Callebaut and to Camino white chocolate couverture.  The others are more difficult (and expensive) to ship in. Although Vanilla Food Company can help you get our hands on Callebaut and Valrhona couvertures. 

My only regret is that I did not have my Camino white chocolate couverture on hand.  I am curious how my sister and her husband would have rated it compared to the other three couvertures that we tasted.  The unique differences are that Camino`s white couverture is certified organic and Fair Trade, but also it has only three ingredient`s: cacao butter, sugar and milk.  So it has NO vanilla and NO soy lecithin.  Because there is no lecithin, I find it a bit more difficult to temper, but it is wonderful in white chocolate ganaches and cheesecakes. Also, with no vanilla added, it is very interesting in a tasting session to taste the difference to other chocolates with vanilla.

It`s funny, a few days after that white chocolate tasting I attended a party and overheard some ladies talking about white chocolate.  They said they did not think it was "real" chocolate and find it too sweet. I wished I had my supply of the 'good stuff' there so that they could try it.  I think they might have changed their mind about it once they tasted that cocoa buttery taste, real vanilla and real milk...instead of that artificially flavoured grocery store stuff.

I encourage everyone to get their hands on the `real` stuff and hold a tasting of your own.  Once you compare it to the grocery store white chocolate, I am sure you will have a new appreciation for white chocolate!

Here are the full details from the packages of the products I tasted and discussed today:

Valrhona White Chocolate Discs, Ivoire 35% Cocoa Solids, 453 g (1 lb) bag (repacked by Vanilla Food Co.)
Product of France
Sold in Canada by Vanilla Food Company
Ingredients: sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, emulsifier: soya lecithin, natural vanilla extract

Callebaut White Chocolate Callets (W2NV) 28% Cocoa Solids, 1 lb bag (repacked by Vanilla Food Co.)
Product of Belgium
Sold in Canada by Vanilla Food Company
Ingredients:  sugar, cocoa fat, dry whole milk, soy lecithin added as emulsifier, natural vanilla flavour.

El Rey White Chocolate “Carenero Superior® Icoa”, 3kg (6.6 lb) box
Chocolates El Rey , C.A.
100% Venezuelan Cacao (U.S.A. website)
Ingredients: refined sugar, cacao butter, whole and skim milk powder, soy lecithin as an emulsifier, flavoured with natural vanilla.  Contains milk. May contain traces of peanuts, nuts, soybeans.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Oh the wonderful things you can do with good quality chocolate...

On Friday I used several kinds of chocolate to make a large Holiday Pine Cone Wreath Cake.  The cake was a 14" round four-layered GingerSnap Buttercream cake with one half in chocolate and the other in vanilla.  The chocolate cake was made with Camino Organic and Fair Trade cocoa powder and doused in a glaze made of cream and semi-sweet Camino couverture.  The truffles were Espresso Truffles made with Camino Espresso-flavoured dark chocolate bars and rolled in Camino white chocolate couverture and shredded coconut. 

The miniature Pine Cone Cakes were made of chocolate cake carved into oval shapes and dipped in chocolate ganache, then were covered with Callebaut dark chocolate chips that I bought at Bulk Barn. I used Callebaut because they had a flatter shape which made the pine cones look more realistic. They taste wonderful, but the only downside of these chocolate chips is that they have artificial flavour, which is obvious as soon as you taste them (it is also listed on the ingredients list at Bulk Barn). However, these little pine cone cakes are really packed with chocolate and are essentially chocolate heaven for the chocolate fanatic.

The golden-wrapped truffles are eggnog-infused milk chocolate truffles made with fresh eggnog and cream and Camino organic milk chocolate couverture.  The branches are made from chocolate toffee, the same as in my chocolate TOFFLE's (a 70% organic dark chocolate is used for this toffee).  I also tossed a few TOFFLE's around the sides of the cake for additional decoration. The leaves and ribbon (as on the picture above) are made of fondant icing.

So as you can see, many fun things can be done with chocolate!  Just this one cake includes extra dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate - nearly all of which is Fair Trade and organic.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Truffle Love...Belgian Style and Ready to Make Your Christmas Entertaining a Success

Are you looking for just the perfect box of chocolate truffles at just the right price to meet all your entertaining needs this Christmas? My fantastic find last weekend was at Costco in Sudbury, Ontario. Packaged in a lovely large red, brown and gold box is a perfect mix of Gavarny milk and dark chocolate Belgian truffles that will leave your mouth watering for more.

For truffles that are made with oil (rather than cream), I was surprised by how good these were and how I could not taste the distinct flavour of coconut oil, nor could I tell the difference in texture - which I usually can with oil-based truffles. The flakes of real chocolate on the outside also added a chocolaty kick to the flavour.

What I like about the box - and the reason I think this is great for holiday entertaining - is that the truffles are wrapped in six packs of seven truffles.  So you can open one to eat immediately, then save the others as the holiday season approaches to add to dessert trays or to pull out with coffee when those pesky unexpected guests arrive at your door. And do not forget to save one package for Christmas morning to snack on while opening gifts and sipping a latte!

Also, you can choose which package to open depending on who is eating it.  If your household is like mine and split between milk and dark chocoholics, then this box offers the perfect combination.

If you are planning to visit Gavarny's website, you may be surprised to find that the website listed on the chocolate packaging is actually for a company called Gudrun Group who packages, markets and commercializes Belgian chocolates.  From a business perspective, this is a great idea for both the manufacturer and for Gudrun Group because it helps Gavarny increase sales on an international level. 

If you are interested in other products by Gavarny, here is the link to the Gavarny products page on the Gudrun Group web site:

To check out chocolates and whatever else you can buy at Costco in Canada, go to, although you won't find the box that I bought on their web site.  You'll just have to go to the store for yourself!  And if Costco is sold out on the day that you go shopping, do not stress! There is a lot of other chocolate for sale at Costco right now that is just right for Christmas entertaining.

Here are the package details from the chocolate truffles that I tasted and reviewed today:

Gavarny Belgian Truffles, "Milk Chocolate & Dark Chocolate Flaked Truffles Assortment", 1lb, 2.5oz (525g)
Gudrun Commercial N.V. (Made in Belgium)
Ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, milk, unsweetened chocolate, emulsifier: soybean lecithin, natural vanilla flavour), vegetable oil (coconut, palm kernel), sugar, nonfat milk, lactose, reduced fat cocoa powder, emulsifier: soybean lecithin, natural vanilla flavour.  Contains milk, soy (lecithin). Made in a facility that uses wheat, eggs, pistachio nuts, walnuts and almonds.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dick Taylor Chocolate...for the DARK chocoholic and for those who appreciate single-origin hand-crafted chocolate

A few weeks ago I had placed an order for Dick Taylor chocolate, which is handcrafted chocolate made in California. They make four very dark chocolate bars in the over 70% cacao range. Each chocolate bar is made from different single-origin beans from the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Venezuela (Dick Taylor's Fleur de Sel bar is made from the same beans as their Dominican  Republic chocolate bar).
I was so excited when I finally received my package at the post office that I took photos of the packaging as fast as I could because I just wanted to tear into it and taste the chocolate. So unfortunately, my photos do not really do the product packaging any justice. The chocolate bar wrapping really took my breath away. I'm not sure that I've seen many chocolate bars wrapped in white paper before. Usually chocolate is wrapped in brown or tan-coloured paper or other colours, so I was surprised when I opened the package.  The white instantly caused me to think that the chocolate might be sunny-flavoured and refreshing.  It also, for some reason I cannot explain, seemed to be the epitome of craft chocolate.
A wonderfully rustic wrap around four exquisite chocolate bars. 
This extra attention to detail really made me excited
about the chocolate bars inside the package!
Since I did not have my laptop with me while traveling last week, and was too busy to blog the week before, I had a lot of time to taste, savour and enjoy this chocolate before writing about it. This is a good thing because it is the type of very flavourful chocolate that can taste different each time you taste it, so you need to keep coming back to it time and time again to really understand the flavours and determine which is your favourite.

Unfortunately, I tasted all four bars so many times that I could no longer determine which I liked best. And each day I had a new favourite. Finally, I just got so confused, that I brought the remaining chocolate  (except for the Venezuela because I managed to finish the whole thing myself) over to my brother- and sister-in-laws house one evening last week. While the kids played, we tasted and compared chocolate! 

My sister-in-law, "K" as I'll call her, is my go-to person when I need someone to taste some dark chocolate and give me an honest opinion about it. She has a great palate for chocolate tasting, and enjoys it just as much as I do.  And it is always much more fun to taste chocolate with someone who also likes the same kinds as I do!  Her husband, my brother-in-law (we'll call him "C"), has also grown fond of dark chocolate recently so we had a nice small group for a dark chocolate tasting.

Everyone agreed that the Dominican Republic bar was the best. It was full of robust fruity, or more like, bitter berry, flavour.  The Ecuador had a lot of earthy flavour, but also industrial in some way.  We both tasted that "industrial" sort of flavour, like gasoline and automobiles, mixed in with earthiness. K thought the after taste was not great.  I found the flavour strong and a bit off-putting at first, but at the same time I liked all the complex and strong flavours in the Ecuador bar.

K also had the same reaction to the Fleur de Sel Dominican bar as I did.  Initially it seemed like it was too salty, or it did not pair well with the bitterness of the chocolate.  We both thought that it might have been better if the chocolate had been a bit sweeter.  But then we just kept coming back to it over and over again.  So although our initial reaction was not great, we could not stop eating it and it grew on us with each bite. At the end, we both agreed that we liked the Dominican Rep. Fleur de Sel bar by Dick Taylor.

C liked the Dominican chocolate bar the best, and also seemed a bit confused at first about the taste of the Fleur de Sel bar.  Overall, I think C and K (as I like to call them!), both enjoyed the Dick Taylor chocolate that they tasted that evening, just as I did. Even their two-year old daughter stole a piece off the counter and seemed to really enjoy it.

My only regret is that I had not eaten all of the Venezuela chocolate bar, so that the others could have tasted it. However, I liked it the first time I tried it and at subsequent tastings.  I found it milder than the other chocolate bars with a well-rounded flavour that could be enjoyed by anyone who likes dark chocolate.

My recommendation is to definitely buy and try all four of Dick-Taylor's chocolate bars and just taste each individuallly, one day at a time.  Then perhaps, after you have reflected on each flavour, save a piece from each chocolate bar and compare them all at once.  There is so much flavour in the beans used to make each bar that you will surely notice a difference.  This will also give you time to determine which one is your favourite.

The front and back-side of the Fleur de Sel bar.
My  poor photo does not do the beauty
of the chocolate mold used by Dick Taylor
any justice. Just trust me, it's gorgeous chocolate.
 Overall, I liked Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate - the flavour,the texture, the look of the chocolate and most definitely the packaging. If you are curious, check it out at .  And they ship to Canada!

Here are the stats from the pacakging of each of Dick Taylor's chocolate bars:

Dick Taylor Chocolate
Arcata, CA (U.S.A.)

75% Venezuela chocolate bar, + 2 oz
Ingredients: organic cacao, organic cane sugar

74% Dominican Republic chocolate bar, + 2 oz
Ingredients: organic cacao, organic cane sugar

70% Ecuador chocolate bar, + 2 oz
Ingredients: organic cacao, organic cane sugar

74% Dominican Republic & Fleur de Sel chocolate bar, + 2 oz
Ingredients: organic cacao, organic cane sugar, fleur de sel

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas shopping for the chocolate connoisseur in your family? A review of three of Lindt's newest products... and advice on where to shop for the chocolate connoisseur.

Got a chocolate lover in your family and don't know what to buy them?  Are they into dark chocolate, rich truffles or the gourmet stuff and you have no idea where to start?  My general advice would be to look online for Valrhona chocolate, Michel Cluizel chocolate or chocolate made by small bean-to-bar manufacturers (like Potomac, Dick-Taylor, Patric Chocolate or other craft chocolate bar makers).  Alternately, truffles and filled chocolates with all sorts of wonderful ingredients, like Balsamic vinegar, basil, soft cheeses, vintage wine, sea salt or other unique flavours made by true artisan chocolatiers would be appreciated by any true chocolate lover. Try Soma in Toronto for some interesting flavour combinations or look online other for artisan chocolatiers who ship fresh-made filled chocolates to your door. 

What if you don't have time to seek out just the perfect gift online? In that case, look at your local department store, pharmacy or grocer because you likely have a large range of Lindt products nearby and some of them may just satisfy that chocolate lover's cravings. Just the other day, I found three new products by Lindt: the Lindt PASSION chocolate bar with Caramel & Sea Salt, a box of four Lindt Gourmet Truffles and the "new" Lindt Excellence 50% Cacao Smooth Dark 100 gram chocolate bar. I bought all three from Christmas chocolate displays at Sears Canada to taste and to share my review of them here on this blog.

I am not completely sure that the Lindt Gourmet Truffles box is a new product. It was, however, the first time I had seen it in the stores. The four truffles in the box weigh 63 grams (2.2oz) and there was one dark chocolate truffle, two milk chocolate truffles and one white chocolate truffle. I tasted the dark chocolate, and for a truffle with a long shelf life (i.e. made with oils rather than cream), I really liked it.  I generally find dark chocolate commercialized truffles too sweet, like the Lindor dark chocolate truffles, but this one was quite good.  I could taste the distinct flavour and texture of the coconut oil, but it was still good, smooth and melted in my mouth.  I also liked the rough outer edge. The milk chocolate was absolutely mouth-watering.  They even had fork marks on the bottom, showing that they were hand dipped in chocolate. The white chocolate also surprised me - I liked it - it was not overly sweet and had a full rich flavour.

The only real down-side of these Lindt "Gourmet" truffles is that artificial flavour is used instead of real flavour. And although it is very subtle in the flavour of this product, my personal opinion is if you are going to call something "gourmet", just use real flavouring.  I know it costs more from a manufacturing perspective, but customers like me just appreciate the extra effort.

The other Lindt product which is definitely new, according to the Lindt website, is the Lindt PASSION bar with Caramel & Sea Salt.  I think the taste is superb. The salt and caramel pieces pair with the dark chocolate perfectly and one side of the bar is smooth and melts on your tongue, while the other side offers a fun crunchy texture. It is a beautiful chocolate and overall, quite tasty. I highly recommend it as a stocking stuffer for any dark chocolate lover.  Just be aware that it has the same downside as the Gourmet Truffles: artificial flavour. But if your chocolate lover is not too picky about that sort of thing, they may really like this product.

The last product is the Lindt 50% bar. I know this is a new product because of the red "NEW" splashed across the front of the package. It tastes great and the chocolate is just as smooth as all other Lindt Excellence bars are. However, the ingredients list includes additives like butter fat and glucose syrup, so if you are looking for a healthier product, you are best to stick with Lindt Excellence 70% which has less ingredients and is much healthier for you. Unlike the truffles, the 50% cacao bar does have natural flavouring by way of Bourbon vanilla bean.

For me, I would prefer high-end products from craft chocolate makers, as mentioned above, but if one of my family members just does not know where to start shopping for me, I would be happy to see a LINDT PASSION bar or Lindt Gourmet Truffles under my Christmas tree. After all, I still have not tried the Lindt PASSION Orange & Pistachio bar (hint, hint to any family member that may be reading this!). As for the 50% cacao dark chocolate bar, use it for chocolate shavings on a cake or to melt down and enrobe a home-made chocolate truffle, but don't bother buying it for the chocolate connoisseur in your family.

Here are the stats from the packages of the three Lindt products that I tried this week:

Lindt Excellence 50% Cacao Smooth Dark, 100 g
Manufactured by: Lindt & Sprungli SAS (France)
Ingredients: sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, butter fat, soya lecithin, glucose syrup, natural bourbon vanilla bean.  May contain traces of peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds.

Lindt PASSION Caramel & Sea Salt 'Dark Chocolate with Caramel and Sea Salt', 97g
Manufactured by: Lindt & Sprungli (Shweiz) AG
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, butterfat, skim milk powder, soya and rapeseed lecithin, lactose, natural flavour, artificial flavour, sea salt.  May contain traces of peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds.

Lindt Gourmet Truffles "Assorted Fine Chocolates", 2.2oz (63g)
Lindt & Sprungli AG, Switzerland
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa butter, milk ingredients, coconut oil, cocoa mass, soya lecithin, barley malt extract, artificial flavour.  May contain traces of peanuts, almonds and hazelnuts.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Super Simple Chocolate Truffles: Espresso Flavoured and Oh So Good

For a coffee and chocolate lover, there is nothing better than lounging at a quaint little cafe and drinking a strong espresso while savouring a single decadent dark chocolate truffle.  If you don't have an espresso maker at home, nor an espresso café or gourmet chocolate shop nearby, then I have an easy way for you to recreate the experience and the flavours in one delectable home-made truffle.

This is Camino's former packaging. 
To see their new branding and
packaging colours, click here.
The simplest way to make a tasty espresso-flavoured chocolate truffle is by using a similarly flavoured chocolate bar in your recipe.  It saves you from the added steps of soaking espresso beans in cream and from pairing just the right espresso beans with the chocolate you are using. 

My favourite espresso-flavoured chocolate bar is the Camino Espresso Dark Chocolate bar with 55% cacao. And it is great for making decadent chocolate truffles with a real coffee kick.  It comes in 100 gram format and is a solid, smooth dark chocolate that has no crunchy bits of espresso or coffee beans in it, so it is perfect for making a smooth truffle. It is also Fair Trade certified and made with organic ingredients, and its flavour reminds me of a very dark roast coffee from Starbucks (or Bridgehead Coffee House in Ottawa, known for their very dark fair trade and organic coffee - love them!). I am often looking for that strong dark roast coffee experience when I eat flavoured chocolate and Camino`s Espresso bar is the closest thing to it that I have found.  It is the perfect pairing of coffee and chocolate in my view, and with 55% cacao, it has just the right sweetness.

So once you have tasted a piece or two of the chocolate, you can break it all up and make some truffles. Coat the truffles in white chocolate and you'll have a real coffee and cream experience. Here is my super-easy recipe...

Lisabeth's Super Simple 'Café au Lait' Truffles:

  • 3 100 gram Camino Espresso 55% Dark Chocolate bars (approx 10.5 oz) - or your preferred brand of smooth espresso-flavoured 100 gram chocolate bars
  • 1 cup whipping cream
Step 1 Break up all three Espresso chocolate bars in small pieces and place in a stainless steel or glass bowl.

Step 2 Heat cream in a small saucepan on the stove top just until boiling point is reached.  Pour three-quarters over bowl of chocolate and begin to stir.  Once the cream is mixed in and looks smooth (don't worry if there are still some larger chunks of chocolate), add the remaining hot cream and stir until full mixture is smooth (The reason why it is best to pour 3/4 of cream at first is because too much hot cream all at once can cause the chocolate mixture to become grainy and it would take a lot of cooling an reheating to turn it smooth again).

Step 3 Place a lid over the bowl or place cellophane wrap directly on chocolate mixture and let set overnight on the counter (or for 6-8 hours if you are doing Step 1 in the morning and rolling your truffles in the evening). Once set, place in refrigerator and refrigerate for at least one-to-two hours.

Step 4 With a spoon, scoop out truffle and roll in the palm of your hands to create balls.  If your hands are melting the chocolate and it is difficult to create round truffle balls, wear some thin clean kitchen gloves.  The gloves will prevent the heat of your hands from melting the chocolate.  Roll truffles in any size that you prefer, depending how large you want your truffles to be.  Place each ball on wax paper on a pan and put back in the fridge while you prepare your chocolate for dipping.

Step 5  Melt 100 grams (3.5 oz) of white chocolate (see tip below for choosing a white chocolate).  To melt and temper quickly, place chopped or broken white chocolate in a microwave-safe bow and microwave on HALF power (level 5) for TWO minutes. Take out and stir until smooth.  If there are still large chunks, microwave for only 5 seconds at a time and stir each time to check if chocolate is melted (DO NOT OVERHEAT OR CHOCOLATE WILL BURN).  If chocolate becomes grainy, it is burnt or water has gotten into it and you will need to start over.  So ensure that your hands, bowl and spoon are dry and no droplets of water get in.

Step 6  Take truffle balls out of fridge.  Place a new clean sheet of wax paper on a cookie sheet.  Place one truffle ball in melted chocolate at a time and coat with chocolate.  Spear with a fork or skewer (or chocolate dipping fork if you have one) and lift out carefully and place on wax paper.  For coconut-covered truffle balls, immediately roll the truffle in a dish of sweetened, shredded coconut while the white chocolate coating is still warm and melty.

Step 7 Chill in refrigerator and store in an airtight container for up to 10 days.  If you wish, freeze immediately and pull them out as you need them - they make a great addition to a dessert tray during the holidays.  The coconut-white chocolate covered truffles look like snowballs and make for a perfect winter treat display.

Tips for choosing White Chocolate: I used Camino organic white chocolate couverture, however you could use Valrhona or Callebaut or just white baking chocolate from the grocery store, if you have nothing else.  A 100 gram Green & Black's white chocolate bar would do as well if you want to stick to all organic chocolate.

With seven steps above, it may seem complicated, but it really is a very simple recipe and once you've made truffles a few times, you'll be able to do it with your eyes closed!

Here are the details on the Camino Espresso Dark Chocolate bar that I was sampling today (who doesn't sample the chocolate while making truffles?!?):

Camino Espresso Dark Chocolate, 55% cacao, 100 g
La Siembra Co-operative, Ottawa, Canada
Organic Ingredients: cacao mass*, golden cane sugar*, cacao butter*, whole cane sugar*, ground coffee*, ground vanilla beans*.  *FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED. May contain traces of nuts, peanuts, soy and dairy products.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Canadian-Made All Natural Chocolate Truffle Bars

Yesterday it was American chocolate, but today it is distinctly Canadian.

I was at my local IDA on Saturday and spotted a new set of chocolate bars that I had not seen there before: Barkleys Chocolate Truffle Bars made in Richmond, British Columbia.  What had caught my eye was the large "All Natural" written on the package.  I am all about "all natural" when it comes to chocolate, so I was excited to see a truffle bar collection claiming to be made of only natural ingredients. You see, it is rare to find all-natural packaged chocolate truffle on store shelves because traditional truffle is made from chocolate mixed with cream and/or butter, two ingredients that have a limited shelf life (my own chocolate TOFFLE is made with real cream, and therefore only has a 10 day shelf life).  So commercial manufacturers will usually replace these ingredients with hydrogenated oils and all sorts of unnatural ingredients in order to recreate the smooth texture of truffle that lasts long enough to sit on store shelves for months.

So I bought all three Barkleys Truffle bars: "Double Dark", "Mint" and "Hazelnut".  I have to say, I liked all three chocolate bars.  The Double Dark Truffle Bar had a smooth centre and melted in your mouth.  It definitely tasted different than a truffle made with cream and butter. Truffle made with coconut oil tends to be a little stiffer, but melts faster when heated, which is why they melt so nicely in our mouths (think Lindt/Lindor Chocolate Truffles which are made with coconut oil and palm kernel oil). The Hazelnut had an added mouth-watering quality, as all chocolate with hazelnut butter tends to have. I found that it was difficult for me not to eat the entire bar in one sitting.

My favourite of the three was the Mint. It is incredibly minty flavoured and just melts in your mouth.  It is similar to the Double Dark, but the sweet mint flavour just makes you keep coming back for more.  It sort of tastes like those little individually wrapped Alpine chocolates with the mint centre, only it is made with all natural ingredients and is much healthier.

So what have I taken away from this tasting experience?  Good tasting chocolate truffle that is both all natural and long-lasting is available, and it is made in Canada!  It is also very accessible to the general population, since I found it at my local I.D.A. pharmacy.  If you are looking for more all-natural chocolate truffle with a long shelf life, check out my review of Truffle Pigs, another all natural chocolate truffle that is made in British Columbia.

Below are the details from the packages of the three chocolate bars that I tasted today. Although the web site was not listed on the package, I found it online:  and is worth a visit if you are into all natural confections; they have a few other products that may be of interest, including a brand of organic chocolate truffle bars.

Barkleys Chocolate Truffle Bar "Double Dark", 50g/1.76oz
Barkleys Canada, Richmond, B.C.
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, coconut oil, butter oil, soy lecithin, natural vanilla. This product contains soy ingredient and may contain milk, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, and wheat.

Barkleys Chocolate Truffle Bar "Hazelnut", 50g/1.76oz
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, hazelnuts, cocoa mass, coconut oil, soy lecithin, natural vanilla. This product contains  milk, tree nuts, soy ingredient, and may contain peanuts, eggs, and wheat.

Barkleys Chocolate Truffle Bar "Mint", 50g/1.76oz
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass*, cocoa butter*, coconut oil,butter oil, soy lecithin, natural flavours. *Contains 49% min cocoa solids. This product contains milk and soy ingredients. May contain peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and wheat.

Sunday, November 6, 2011's PUH-TOH-MUHK! No matter how you say it, it is good chocolate.

Please forgive me, I am Canadian. I have never heard of Potomac, the river or the city of the same name, until now (despite having visited Washington, D.C. and the surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia several times). So when I first saw the POTOMAC CHOCOLATE logo, I could not understand what the name meant, how to pronounce it, or why there was a fish on the chocolate wrapper.  But now that I've researched Potomac a little, I finally get it.

A few days ago I received my first shipment of Potomac chocolate. It was an exciting day. First of all, I was super excited that this American hand-crafted chocolate company was willing to ship their chocolate to Canada (I have been a bit hesitant  lately about ordering from American bean-to-bar manufacturers ever since one company's owner told me that he would not ship to me because the paperwork wasn`t worth it). And not only were they willing, but they were fast about it too. I received the shipment in a few short days.

The second reason for my excitement was because of Potomac's limited product line. They only have three chocolate bars available for purchase on their website: Upala 70%, Upala 70% Nibs and Upala 82%.  Maybe it sounds strange that I like it when a chocolate manufacturer has a limited product offering, but to me, it means that the company is focusing its efforts on its signature products. I am not a fan of those companies that branch out to quickly by introducing a whole bunch of chocolate products in the beginning, without really focusing on the taste and flavour profiles of their key products. So although they have a limited range of products, it is clear to me that Potomac pays attention to the required details, so I can see that they have immense passion for their craft.

After tasting them, both the 70% and the 82% are full of rich flavour and very intense. I might be able to explain flavour notes a little better if I didn't have a cold (I tried to wait out my cold before tasting the Potomac chocolate bars, but this virus seems to be settling in for the long haul and I finally could not resist the chocolate any longer). Potomac's chocolate is made from single-origin beans from Upala, located in northern Costa Rica, so there is a lot of intense flavours in the beans. With my cold, the best I can say is that the 70% is bitter, but has just the right balance of sugar. And the 82% is like drinking a really dry glass of well-aged Cabernet. Hmmm...this is making me want wine with my chocolate.

The Upala 70% Nibs bar is awesome. The nibs are only on the back side of the chocolate bar, as though they were lightly sprinkled over the chocolate just as it began to set. For that reason, this nibs bar has entered my top favourites list.  Since I have issues with my teeth  (yes, admittedly I have too many fillings), chocolate with too many cocao nibs do bother them.  Also, when chocolate has too many nibs mixed in, it is difficult to really taste the chocolate (you are too busy crunching through the darn nibs!). But with this Potomac nibs bar, you can flip it upside down so the nib-free side is on your tongue, and really taste the chocolate before you get to the point of chewing any nibs. That way, you get to taste and savour the chocolate first, then experience a little crunch since the nibs are only lightly sprinkled on the back side of the bar.

Another cool aspect of Potomac's chocolate bars are the lists of ingredients.  Check it out in the package details that I've included below.  You will see that the ingredients are limited and no vanilla or other flavourings have been added to affect the real flavour of the cacao beans.  And you know what?  You don't miss vanilla and other added flavourings when the chocolate is so full of intense flavour.

So overall, my first tasting experience with Potomac handcrafted chocolate was fantastic: flavourful chocolate of a single origin, fast and efficient service and just the right ingredients and attention to detail.

As always, here are the package details from the chocolates that I tasted today:

Potomac Chocolate
Handgcrafted in Woodbridge, VA, U.S.A.

Chocolate Bars:

Upala 82%, 2 oz (57g)
Ingredients: cacao, sugar

Upala 70%, 2 oz (57g)
Ingredients: cacao, sugar

Upala 70% Nibs, 2 oz (57g)
Ingredients: cacao, sugar