Category Archives: Rating: 9

Caribou Coffee Drinking Chocolate

Caribou_drinking_chocolate

Recently Caribou Coffee switched from using a powdered chocolate for their mochas and hot chocolates to a pure chocolate by Guittard.  It was a good move.

First let me tell you about me and Caribou Coffee.  About a decade ago, I decided to quit working in a corporate/office environment and go back to grad school full time.  I started working at Caribou to make extra spending money.  I loved working there and loved their coffee. So, when Caribou contacted me about their new chocolate drinks, I was eager to try them.  They sent me a $5 gift card, which I quickly used.  My whole family tried the chocolate drinks — mochas and hot chocolates.  We all loved them and have been back for more several times despite the fact that there is no Caribou Coffee near where we live.

Then a few weeks later I received a box in the mail from Caribou containing all three varieties of their drinking chocolate to try at home.

Caribou_mini_chips

As you can see, it is basically little tiny chocolate chips.  I love this because I have used powdered drinking chocolates before and found them to be messy, but these little chips are small enough to melt quickly, but not messy at all.

Caribou_drinking_chocolate_ 

I have used these to make hot chocolates and mochas at home and they have worked beautifully.  I do confess that I have an espresso machine, so I was able to steam the chocolate and milk together just as they do in their stores, but you could easily make this on the stove or in a microwave.

My favorite for use in a mocha is the milk chocolate, however, the dark makes a lovely hot chocolate, and the white is equally good in both.

I know you can purchase the new chocolate drinks at any Caribou Coffee location, and I believe you can purchase the drinking chocolate for at home use at stores or online.

Valerie Confections

I was recently sent a package of goodies from Valerie Confections in LA. This is the good stuff — fresh, decadent and delicately flavored. Here's what I sampled:

Valerie_lemon

The Lemon Hazelnut Nougat — I knew I'd like this one as soon as I saw it — lemon, nuts, dark chocolate — all the things I like in one confection. The flavor was bright with a delicate lemon flavor and a subtle nutty flavor from the hazelnuts. The texture was slightly crunchy, yet smooth from the melt of the chocolate.Not only did they taste great, they also came in a cute box with a pretty little ribbon.

Valerie_toffee

The Almond Fleur de Sel Toffee — Oh boy was this good! Salt, butter, sugar, almonds & bittersweet chocolate in one delightful package. They shatter as you bite into them, releasing and mingling all the wonderful flavors at once. Wow!

Valerie_salt_and_pepper

Salt & Pepper Truffles — Here's something I haven't tried before and I wasn't sure what to expect. Surprisingly the pepper in these truffles lent a wonderfully subtle, fruity and spicy edge to these silky smooth confections. And the Fleur de Sel chocolate was wonderful — one of my favorite combinations — salt and chocolate.

Valerie_caramel

Liquid Caramel (square) — Intense liquid caramel with that rich, salty, burnt sugar flavor that you want in a caramel.

Bittersweet truffle — A pretty little molded dome filled with a fruity chocolate ganache that is wonderfully smooth and incredibly satisfying.

One of the things I loved about the Valerie confections was their subtlety. The lemon nougat wasn't too lemony and the pepper truffles weren't overwhelmingly peppery. Everything was balanced which allowed all the different flavors to shine through. Not to mention that all the chocolates were beautiful and beautifully presented.

I enjoyed all the confections that I tried from Valerie and will be keeping an eye on their website to see what new flavors they come up with in the future.

Fran’s Caramels

Frans_caramels

My husband knows they way to my heart — chocolate — more specifically chocolate with caramel and salt. This year he bought me a big box of Fran's Chocolates caramels and salted caramels.

The assortment included Fran's caramels covered in both milk and dark chocolate.  Some of the milk chocolate were topped with smoked salt while some of the dark were sprinkled with gray salt. The caramel itself is rich, soft, and buttery and the chocolate is smooth and only lightly coats each caramel so that you taste more caramel than chocolate. I have to say that the gray salt caramels are fantastic, but my favorite was the smoked salt caramels — just bursting with flavor!

You can see all of Fran's goodies and purchase the them through the online shop. I also want to mention that I've had their GoldBars in the past and they are really excellent.

Vosges Exotic Truffles

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If you are looking for an extra special treat for your valentine, I can't think of anything much better than Vosges Chocolates. I'm a huge fan of many of their bars, and I loved their caramels, so I was excited to try their 9 piece Exotic Truffle Collection.

The truffles are packaged beautifully in a signature purple box tied with a purple satin ribbon. The inner wrapping has 2 leaves — one with the name of the truffle and one with the description of the truffle. I love this as it makes it very easy to see what you are about to bite into.

All the truffles were fresh, pretty and well protected in their individual spots. All tastes are covered here, from spicy truffles including wasabi and curry powder, to the traditional caramel & pecan creation — Wink of the Rabbit. These truffles are the perfect size to pop into your mouth whole where they burst with flavor as the shell melts. Just wonderful.

Vosges chocolates can be purchased at any of their stores, or through their online shop.

Amano Jembrana 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate Bar

Amano_jembrana

A while back I reviewed some of Amano’s other chocolate bars and liked them quite well, so I was happy to hear that Amano wanted to send me their new Jembrana Bar — a 70% cacao chocolate bar made with beans form the island of Bali. Now, I can’t recall ever having had chocolate from Bali before, so this was a new experience for me.

The chocolate is well tempered and breaks off with a nice snap. The smell is warm, earthy and cozy. The pieces are the perfect size — something I really appreciate. Upon placing it on my tongue, I taste a brightness — somewhat fruity — and it starts to melt beautifully. This chocolate is not too dry, and not too thick and creamy — quite balanced. In the finish I taste pure chocolate with no bitterness and a pleasing sweetness.

Once again, a wonderful bar from Amano. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

Vosges Habana Bar

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This past week our family went on its annual holiday shopping trip in downtown Chicago.  Maddie loves going to the Lego and Sanrio stores and I always have to take a peek inside Vosges (luckily all in the same shopping center!)  There is always something new and promising at the Vosges shop and the people who work there are super friendly and helpful. 

This time I picked up one of the new Habana chocolate bars.  It's one of their organic bars and is made with deep milk chocolate (45% cacao) and Ecudorian plaintain chips.  Quite a nice combination of flavor and texture.

Upon first breaking off a square you get the fragrance of tobacco and spice.  Then placing it on your tongue you are hit with a myriad of flavors — banana and fruit, salt, caramel and a lingering earthiness — it really wakes up your tongue!  After letting it melt a bit and beginning to chew, there is an amazing texture — crisp and delicately crunchy. 

Another amazing bar from Vosges!  This is at the top of my list along with the Barcelona Bar.  A must try for all you chocolate & salt fans.

Vosges Organic Dominica Noir

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Sometimes things that are organic fall short of the original — and I’ve had some bad experiences with organic chocolate in the past — then there are times when organic is spectacular. The Vosges Organic Dominica Noir is one of those bars that proves high end organic chocolate can also be excellent chocolate.

The Dominica Noir bar is 74% cacao — quite dark, but surprisingly sweet. In fact, it is incredibly fruity at first with banana flavors and a bit of red wine. Fruit gives may to an earthy dryness. Quite lovely.

This bar is pure chocolate — composed of only cocoa mass, sugar and cocoa butter. The beans used are Grand Cru Criollo and Trinitario. It is a joy to taste.

Don’t forget — the coupon for 10% off Vosges is still good — treat your self to some decadent treats, I’m sure you won’t regret it! (Use code 2810WB1 at their website.)

Lake Champlain — Triple Nut & Macadamias

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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!

Amano Chocolate

Amano_chocolate

I recently had the good fortune to have been contacted by Amano Chocolate, who wanted to know if I’d like to sample their bars.  I took a quick look at their website and liked what I saw, so I I emailed them back and a short time later samples of their Madagascar and Ocumare chocolate arrived in my mailbox.

First a little about Amano Chocolate — they are bean to bar which gives their chocolate a truly unique flavor.  They use vintage equipment to manufacture their chocolate, which I think is awesome.  And they also work directly with the growers.  All of this reminds me of my favorite coffee company — Intelligentsia Coffee.

Now for the bars. . .

Amano Madagascar — This bar is pictured above, but both bars were quite pretty — glossy, dark and aromatic.  The chocolate is 70% cacao (as is the Ocumare).  On first bite, the chocolate has a lovely snap, but melts quickly and is nice and smooth on the tongue.  It’s a very bright bar — fruity with a touch of citrus tempered by a slight coffee flavored bitterness.  I loved this bar!  It’s one that I could see eating every day. 

Amano Ocumare — This bar is equally as beautiful and has the same cacao percentage as the Madagascar, but it is a completely different bar.  At first smell, you are inundated with a intense spiciness.  As you place the chocolate on your tongue and allow it to melt, the intense and complex flavor is really lovely.  I tasted tobacco, leather and pepper as well as a touch of ripe fruit.  Overall there was a prevailing smokiness.  Wow — if you are looking to try some single origin chocolates, give this grand cru a taste!

The thing I like about Amano is that even someone who hasn’t tasted a lot of different chocolate will immediately be able to see how unique two chocolates can be after tasting these bars.  I look forward to seeing what other bars they come up with in the future!

I received my bars from Amano to sample, but you can purchase them at their website.

Amedei — Chuao

Amedei_chuao

Amedei Chuao is a 70% cacao chocolate made from Venezuelan beans. It is intense and complex — not to mention smooth. At first you taste a touch of ripe fruit, followed by a hint of spice — I tasted cinnamon — then raisins. Overall, the chocolate is dry on the tongue with a lingering sweetness.

Amedei is proving to be a winner — I also loved the Amedei Cioccolato Al Latte Bianco Con Pistacchi which I tried last year.

This was a gift from a co-worker of my husband, but as usual Amedei is available at Chocosphere .