Monthly Archives: April 2008

Lake Champlain — Triple Nut & Macadamias

Lake_champlain_nuts

Recently Lake Champlain Chocolates sent me a bunch of their bars to try out and I am slowly starting to work my way through them.  First up we have two nutty items — the Triple Nut Milk Chocolate bar and Milk Chocolate Macadamias.

The Triple Nut bar is sweet milk chocolate combined with salted almonds, pistachios and cashews.  The chocolate is very sweet, quite smooth and a little milky.  The nuts are chopped up into small pieces and while they are fresh and crunchy, I lost the individual taste of each nut.  Overall this bars was tasty — more of a dessert bar for me than chocolate.  I prefer darker chocolate and a single nut — bigger pieces are better. . .

Which brings me to the macadamia nuts — YUM!  These really hit the spot for me.  There is a thin, but substantial coating of what appears to be a slightly darker milk chocolate — just enough to give you a sweet, sugary hit before you bite into the salty, fresh, crunchy nut.  Perfect combo!  These were simply not safe in my drawer and I finished off an entire package of them before the week was up. 

I received my Lake Champlain chocoaltes from the company for review, but you can purchase them at their website and many stores.  More Lake Champlain Chocolate bar reviews to follow!

E. Guittard Ambanja Bittersweet 65% Cacao

Guittard_ambanja

Here is an example of how different two chocolates can be, even when made from beans from the same region.  Recently I tried Patric Chocolate’s 70% Madagascar Sambrino Valley bar which I found to be strongly citrus.  Here I am trying E. Guittard’s Ambanja Bittersweet 65% Cacao bar which is also made with beans that come from Madagascar’s Sambrino Valley, however Guittard states that the beans used in their bar are mostly Criollo (which some say are the finest cocoa beans). 

The Ambanja bar was much more delicate in it’s flavor — slightly spicy with a hint of pepper and citrusy with only a hint of lemon.  It is subtly complex with touches of dried fruit (raisin perhaps?)  The bar is sweet and melts smoothly and thickly on the tongue leaving little aftertaste.

(The bar did show some bloom, but that was really my fault since I’ve had it for a while and hadn’t gotten around to reviewing it until past its "best by" date.)

I purchased my bar through Chocosphere, but you can also purchase them through the Guittard website.

Taza Stone Ground Chocolate 70% Dark

Taza_stone_ground

If you want to try something really different — give Taza Stone Ground Chocolate a taste.  This dark chocolate which contains only cacao beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter & whole vanilla beans is made quite differently than European or American chocolate.  Instead of conching, this bar is simply ground between — you guessed it — stone tablets.  In addition, they believe in a light roast for their chocolate — so instead of a dark, bitter chocolate you get something light, fruity and pungent.

On first opening the package I was hit with a very strong, almost pungent aroma.  The bar is shiny and well tempered and it has a nice snap to it.  I popped a piece in my mouth and immediately noticed a grainy texture — not unpleasantly grainy as this chocolate is somewhat softer than many dark chocolates.  I would describe the mouthfeel as somewhat chalky.

The flavor is very fruity — ripe, sweet, tropical fruit.  The overwhelming flavor for me was banana followed by vanilla.  The chocolate is bright and tangy and lingers for a long time in the mouth.  The more I eat, the more I like it.

I received my bar from Taza Chocolate, but you can purchase them at the Taza website.

Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light

For my birthday I received a copy of Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum — a most excellent book about all things chocolate.  Rosenblum covers pretty much everything that you would want to know, starting with the history of chocolate and moving on to the current state of cacao production from the plantation to the factory (both large and small), finishing with a look into some of the finer (and not so fine) ways in which chocolate is used today.

Rosenblum draws you in with seductive passages which describe the smell and taste of chocolate, but is equally interesting while discussing cacao bean production.  He literally travels the world in order to explore this amazing bean and bring his knowledge to the reader. 

The book was so well written, that I had to ration it out — reading only 1-2 (or 3-4) chapters a night. And I’m not the only one who thought so — this book won the IACP Cookbook Award in 2006 for best literary food writing.   If you are interested in all things chocolate — from where and how it is grown, to what the French master chocolatier can do with it — read this book!

Omanhene 80% Dark Chocolate

Omanhene_80_dark_chocolate

The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company is a bit unusual in that not only do their cacao beans come from Africa, but their chocolate is also processed there.   So this is bean to bar — completely within Ghana which they say results in higher wages for not only factory workers, but also local farmers.

Upon opening the package, I found that there was significant bloom on the bar, as you can see from the photo.  In addition, when I broke off a piece it came away with a nice snap but as I bit down on it, it nearly shattered.  I think that I would have rated this chocolate higher if not for these characteristics.

The taste of the bar, however, was quite nice.  At first I was hit with the taste of pepper and spice.  This gave way to a hint of cinnamon which, as the chocolate very slowly began to melt, turned to a bit of sweet ripe fruit while still maintaining a background of spice.  The lingering flavor is coffee.  The chocolate was a bit dry, taking a long time to melt, on the tongue and not entirely creamy or smooth. 

Overall, I was impressed with the flavor of this bar, but not the texture.  As I was writing this review, I did a little web search on Omanhene and it appears that the cocoa — used to make hot cocoa and mochas is well regarded and used by quite a few respected coffee shops.  Perhaps I’ll have to give it a try one day.

I think Pete purchased my bar for me, but I have no idea where.  You can purchase the chocolate as well as cocoa mixes through the Omanhene website.

Where have I been?

The stomach flu has kept me from enjoying chocolate for the last couple weeks — in fact, I’m just getting my taste back. Soon I’ll have more reviews of some cool stuff including:

  • Taza Chocolate — an all organic, stone ground chocolate.
  • Omanhene Chocolate — a chocolate not only grown, but also produced in Africa.
  • Some candy bars from Japan — Lotte Rich Matcha Chocolate and KitKat Chestnut.
  • Theo Chocolate goodies — including their confections, enrobed nib brittle and their 2 new Phinney 3400 bars.

And that’s not all I have waiting in my chocolate drawer! Stay tuned for lots of good stuff!