Friday, May 27, 2011

Fire and Ice - Vosges uses chili and chocolate to create two chocolate bars that will appeal to both the fire and ice in you

It is a spicy sort of day - sunny and chilly outside -  so it is a great day for tasting and comparing two chocolate bars with chili peppers.  And among the large stash of Vosges chocolate bars that I have on hand, two of them happen to be spicy.

The first that I tasted today was the Vosges Haut Chocolat Red Fire Bar with 55% cacao. Although this comes in a larger size, I have the tiny 14 gram version of this chocolate bar.  It is just the right size for a tasting, or an afternoon chocolate treat when you're at the office.  In other words, it is the perfect size when you want portion control.

As the chocolate began to melt in my mouth, I immediately tasted the cinnamon. That was followed by the burning sensation - this chocolate definitely has a kick to it. It is the perfect balance of cacao percentage to spices. No single flavour takes control; the chocolate just blends from cocoa flavour to cinnamon to chillies seamlessly.

I'd say that the name "Red Fire Bar" is absolutely perfect for it. It is a little reminiscent of those traditional Valentine's Day cinnamon heart candies, but not quite as strong or so unnaturally flavoured as cinnamon hearts. I think that for anyone who likes spicy chocolate or "Mayan"-style flavoured chocolate, this chocolate would be popular with them.

The second Vosges chocolate bar I tasted today was the Oaxaca Bar (pronounced waa-haa-kah bar, according to the package). This has Oaxacan (Mexican) guajillo y pasilla chillies and is made with single-origin Tanzanian bittersweet chocolate. When I opened the tiny package, it had that strong smell of origin chocolate with notes of tobacco. However, the immediate taste and texture was of improperly stored or tempered chocolate.  A noticeable lack of shine to the chocolate was also telling.

When the flavour took over, it was a little sweeter than I expected, especially since it is a 75% bar. The chillies (guajillo chili peppers and pasilla) are not nearly as spicy as the Red Fire Bar.  I much prefer the balance of cacao solids to the spice and flavour in the Red Fire Bar.  The Oaxaca Bar is too bitter-sweet for me.  In fact, it is a little on the sickeningly sweet side.

So I guess it is up to you which to choose...if you prefer a smooth combination of heat and sweet spice with a lingering cinnamon burn then you will like the Red Fire Bar by Vosges.  If you like your bitter chocolate to taste really sweet and mildly spicy, then the Oaxaca Bar is for you. I guess the real question is: do you like fire or ice?

As a side note: the packages of both chocolate bars state that they are "Vegan" and "Gluten-free", although it does say that it is manufactured in a facility that handles wheat...which may mean that you do not have a gluten-free guarantee.

Here are the package details of the two bars that I tasted today:

Vosges Haut Chocolat Red Fire Bar, 55% cacao, 0.5oz (14g)
Vosges IP, LLC, Chicago, IL (USA)
Ingredients: Dark chocolate (cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin-an emulsifier, vanilla), ancho and chipotle chili peppers, cinnamon. Chocolate bar contains: 53% cocoa solids minimum. Contains: Soy.  Manufactured in a facility that handles tree nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, milk, eggs, wheat, shellfish and soy. Vegan. Gluten-free.

Vosges Haut Chocolat Oaxaca Bar, 75% cacao, 0.5oz (14g)
Vosges IP, LLC, Chicago, IL (USA)
Ingredients:  Select origin dark chocolate (cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin-an emulsifier, vanilla) guajillo and pasilla chili peppers. Chocolate bar contains: 73% cocoa solids minimum. Contains: Soy.  Manufactured in a facility that handles tree nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, milk, eggs, wheat, shellfish and soy. Vegan. Gluten-free.

Would you like to read more about Vosges' chocolate?  I have their full range of chocolate bars at home and have been tasting them and blogging about them slowly.  Read more here:

Monday, May 23, 2011

White Chocolate for a White Sky Kind of Day....Green & Black's vs Ghirardelli Vanilla Dream

It is a gloomy day on Manitoulin Island.  It has stopped raining and the sky has changed to a depressing shade of solid white. And I thought, why not celebrate this white day with a little white chocolate?  So I am sweetening up this glum day by tasting a 35 gram Green & Black's organic White Chocolate bar and a large 90 gram Ghirardelli "Sublime White Vanilla Dream" chocolate bar.

I have tasted the Green & Black's white chocolate bar before.  White chocolate bars are not as easy to find as milk or dark chocolate around here, but Green & Black`s has a great distribution strategy and as a result, are readily available in large grocery stores as well as health food stores. After re-tasting it today, it tastes sweet but cocoa buttery to me.  Its texture is hard and it requires a little more time to melt in the mouth than the Ghirardelli. The vanilla flavour is noticeable and little black pieces of vanilla bean are visible, which I love. I can taste the cocoa butter even more than the vanilla, which makes me feel like I am still eating chocolate, rather than a candy bar.

The Ghirardelli melts in your mouth instantly. It is smooth and soft and cravable for the texture alone. The flavour is a sweet vanilla and cocoa butter. The vanilla bean specks are also visible in the chocolate, proving that real vanilla was actually used.  It is much sweeter than the Green & Black's, and because of the organic nature of their chocolate, I wish I could say that I liked Green & Black's more, but I can't.  In this tasting, Ghirardelli wins for me.  I was going to take a great product shot of the chocolate bar, but my husband liked it so much that he ate the rest before I could get a picture.  So I guess it won him over as well.

I love that Green & Black's is so upfront about how much cocoa butter, milk, and vanilla pod is in their chocolate (see ingredients list below). And I normally am not a fan of Ghriardelli, because some of their other chocolate bar flavours use artificial ingredients and colourings.  However, their "Sublime" white chocolate bar ingredients are not too bad, and it truly tastes sublime.  Check out the ingredients list below and see for yourself.

Well, the sun is finally peaking out of the clouds. If you are having a gloomy day wherever you are, I highly recommend that you sweeten it up with a little white chocolate.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Sublime White Vanilla Dream, 90g (3.17 oz)
Manufactured by Girardelli Chocolate Company, San Leandro, CA (USA)
Ingredients: White chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, nonfat dry milk, soy lecithin - an emulsifier, vanilla, natural flavor, ground vanilla beans. Manufactured on the same equipment that also makes products containing peanuts and tree nuts.

Green & Black's Organic White Chocolate, 30% Cocoa, 35 g
Green & Black's Ltd., London, England
Ingredients: organic raw cane sugar, organic cocoa butter (30%), organic whole milk powder (27%), Emulsifier: soya lecithin, organic vanilla pod (0.08%), organic vanilla extract (0.07%). Contains Milk and Soy ingredients.  May contain traces of nuts and cereal.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mmmmm...a Minty Manitoulin Afternoon

I was just making a peppermint tea and was thinking about the kind of chocolate that I might have with it, when I suddenly remembered that I had a Manitoulin Chocolate Works Dark Mint Meltaway Bar in my chocolate tasting cupboard.  It is basically a truffle but bigger, square and enrobed in a perfectly tasty dark chocolate couverture.  Yum.  It was smooth and rich and very minty (but the mint is not overpowering) and matched perfectly with the President's Choice Organics(TM) Peppermint tea that I was drinking.  I am still enjoying the lingering minty flavour.  I got my chocolate fix and some fantastic breath at the same time!

If you are curious about the Dark Mint Meltaway Bar by Manitoulin Chocolate Works, you will probably need to travel to Manitoulin Island to get one, but here are the details anyway:

Dark Mint Meltaway Bar, 0.055 kg
Manitoulin Chocolate Works
Ingredients: chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla, lecithin, coconut oil, peppermint. (May contain peanuts).

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Are you a fan of raspberry-flavoured chocolate? Or how about a Mom with a love of truffles? Whichever you are, today is the perfect day to treat yourself...

Since it is Mother's Day, I thought today was a great day to indulge in chocolate truffles.  Or more specifically, gorge on dark chocolate and raspberry truffles first thing in the morning before my daughter wakes up and while I still have quiet time to myself.  Hey, I'm a mother (who's expecting another), so why not?

For Easter, I was given a box of Godiva Truffles from one family member, and a box of Harry & David Raspberry Truffles from another family member.  Since the Godiva box contained one raspberry-flavoured truffle, I thought it was a good one to save for a comparison to taste against the Harry & David Truffles. And since today is my special day, it was a great day for this comparison tasting.
The first thing I noticed was: there is no strong raspberry smell when you unwrap the Godiva truffle. Its raspberry flavour is not in your face, like the strong (artificial) flavour of the Harry & David truffle.  Godiva's offers a subtle flavour created from real raspberries. With Harry David's, the artificial flavouring wears off as you start to eat the truffle, so by the time you finish one, you are ready for a second.  But later, long after the  truffle has melted away, that artificial raspberry flavour still lingers in your mouth.
The Godiva is smoother and creamier, but there are noticeable raspberry seeds in it.  The heavy cream listed in the ingredients gives it that softer centre.  I believe the coconut oil used for the Harry & David truffle is why it is nearly solidified, similar to the centre of a Lindor (by Lindt) truffle. Godiva also has a thicker shell (it is a double-coated truffle) in comparison to the single coating of the Harry & David truffle.  That makes Harry & David's the easier one to bite into to enjoy the truffle centre without chunks of chocolate in the way, as is the case with the Godiva shell.
Neither truffle is made completely with natural ingredients: the Harry & David Truffles use artificial flavouring and the Godiva Truffles use partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil and some artificial colour.  So I guess it is up to you:  if you like smooth, dense truffles (like Lindor) that are seedless and have strong (artificial) raspberry flavour, then you will like the Harry & David.  If you prefer real raspberries with subtle flavour, a creamier centre, a thicker shell and you don’t mind the seeds, then you will like the Godiva raspberry truffles better.  I am not sure which one I like better.  I am just happy to be blissfully eating truffles in peace!
Well, I've eaten enough truffles for one Mother's Day.  If you are a Mother, I hope you enjoying a similar indulgence today. After all, you spend every other day thinking about how you can treat your kids with snacks that they love, so today just think about the snacks that you love and enjoy!
Here are the details on the Harry & David Truffles that I tasted today:
Harry and David, Medford, OR (USA)
Ingredients: Dark Chocolate (chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, vanillin, milk ingredients), coconut oil, white chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, milk, vanillin) natural and artificial flavours with canola oil, cocoa butter, soy lecithin.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chuao Caracas - a dark chocolate with nuts to satisfy the snacker in you

I have been on a snacking binge lately.  I don't know if it is simple pregnancy cravings or that this little guy inside my belly is just screaming out "feed me!" and causing me to be hungrier than usual. Regardless, it is affecting my chocolate cravings by making me want to eat chocolate that satisfies this need to snack, rather than eating solid chocolate that requires a proper "tasting".

So when I looked in my chocolate cabinet today, I found the "Caracas" bar by Chuao Chocolatier, which is a 100 gram dark chocolate bar with whole almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios. Since it wasn't too bitter, and one of my recent snack cravings has been nuts, I thought it was perfect for the snacker in me.
I shared this chocolate bar with my husband (a rare occurrence). My husband, who is a milk chocolate eater through and through, actually really liked this chocolate bar.  I think the sweetness of the 60% cacao  chocolate was just right for even a milk chocolate lover.  It was also just right for me.  I initially found it a bit sweet, but the whole nuts in this Chuao bar appealed to my need to snack on something crunchy.

It had a nice crunch and good flavour from the toasted almonds and hazelnuts. I did not really notice the pistachios, but I am sure they were there.  In fact, I ate half the bar at once, which I normally try not to do, since I think 50 grams of chocolate in one sitting can be a bit too much sometimes.  Now do NOT get me wrong, I am not saying 50 grams of chocolate is too much to eat in one day, just at one particular moment in the day.

Overall, there was no real flavour to the chocolate itself, just cocoa and a hint of vanilla, with a high quality chocolate chip-style bitter sweetness.

I thought the packaging was appealing and in fact, stood out among the other chocolate bars in my chocolate stash, but my husband did not like the packaging.  Funny, I guess we just have a different idea of what chocolate packaging should look like.  Dark browns and earthy tones are the wrappers that I gravitate to when buying chocolate.  I have a feeling that my husband likes the bright colours (yellows, oranges, etc.) of the chocolate bars that he grew up with, which are likely Hershey's, Mars, Oh Henry, etc.

One last and cool point about this chocolate bar: Chuao is dedicated to using Venezuelan cacao.  In fact, they make a very specific statement on their packaging in regards to Venezuela and the importance of preservation of the genetic integrity of cacao beans and "building a sustainable future for cacao".  Venezuela is known for producing quality cacao, and I like that this company has dedicated themselves to a specific origin of chocolate.  It essentially allows them to become experts in one bean source, so they can maximize the flavour of those beans that they use.

I bought this chocolate bar somewhere in the United States last month, but cannot recall where (it was either in Las Vegas or in an airport in Chicago or Newark).  However, the Chuao website has a locator to help you find a retailer near you. Here are further package details (i.e ingredients, manufacturer) from the chocolate bar that I "snacked" on today:
CHUAO Chocolatier Caracas (Dark Chocolate Bar wtih Almonds, Hazelnuts and Pistachios), 60% cacao, 100 g (3.5 oz)
Manufactured by: Chuao Chocolatier, Carlsbad, CA (USA)
Ingredients: Premium dark chocolate (60% cacao, sugar, cacao butter, soy lecithin (as an emulsifier), natural vanilla), pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts. Non GMO Ingredients. Contains: Nuts, Soy. Manufactured in a facility that uses tree nuts, milk and wheat in other products.