19
Nov 09

Cheese and Chocolate in a Single Bite

You may be wondering how this is, in any way shape or form, the match made in heaven that it has turned out to be. Leave it to the daring chocolate mixologists at Vosges Haut-Chocolate to come through again with the Collezione Italiana. Featuring five exotic truffles that showcase ingredients that are Italian in origin and customary use, the collection is a surprise masterpiece. The most impressive of the selection are the truffles whose flavors morph during their time in your mouth. I mean that completely literally. The Balsamico (which features 12-year aged Balsamic vinegar, dark chocolate and sprinkled with Scicillian hazelnuts) starts off crunchy and nutty, then becomes fruity and rich with chocolate and finishes off with the slightly sour balsamic vinegar. The Rooster (Taleggio cheese, organic walnuts, Tahitian vanilla bean and bittersweet dark chocolate) is similar, although the experience begins with the bitter, creamy chocolate with the hint of vanilla, and finishes with the fruity cheese and smooth, buttery taste of walnuts.

Front and Center: The Balsamico leads the pack

Front and Center: The Balsamico leads the pack

Our least favorites of the collection were the Polline di Finocchio (Wild Tuscan fennel pollen with dark chocolate) simply because the fennel was overwhelming and the Olio d’Oliva (First press extra virgin olive oil with white chocolate and topped with dried kalamata olives) simply because white chocolate is not my favorite sweet. The Sale del Mare with Sicilian sea salt caramel,  milk chocolate and a pine nut is a classic, well done confection.

Overall the collection is an exercise in mind-opening when it comes to chocolate pairings. There is a small booklet that comes with the collection that has tasting recommendations, and what to pair the chocolate with. Be sure to restrain yourself and read the book before you begin tasting, to decide whether you want the “full” experience.

Share

03
Nov 09

Ultimate Bacon Chocolate Showdown Round 2: Candy Making

Bacon PB Cups 1

For those of you who have been following, my indecisive mind can’t determine which of the Vosges Mo’s Bacon Bars I like more: Milk or Dark chocolate. In an attempt to make a decision, I have put the bars through a series of side-by-side tests to see how they measure up. This week’s test was in the spirit of Halloween: Candy Making.

I wanted to see how each of the bars could be used to create other chocolate confections. After flipping through countless candy recipes, I decided on something simple, classic, and delicious: peanut butter cups. Continue reading →

Share

29
Oct 09

Sweet Dreams: A perfect end to National Chocolate Day

A chocolate-infused paradise

A chocolate-infused paradise

How an ultimate chocolate lover ended National Chocolate Day (yesterday!).

Featured Bars:

Vosges Haut Chocolate Peanut Butter BonBon Bar and Mo’s Dark Bacon Bar

Michel Cluizel

Fine and Raw (raspberry and vanilla)

Theo Ghana Dark Chocolate Bar (84%)

Mast Brothers Chocolate

Vosges Naga Bombalinas

Dolfin Tasting Squares

Amedei Chuao Bar

HEAVEN!

Share

28
Oct 09

Ultimate Bacon Chocolate Showdown: Round 1

screen-capture-2

The new Vosges Haut Chocolate Bar has come into my possession recently (due to the discovery of a store location near my office). The Mo’s Dark Bacon Bar is new from Haut Chocolatier Katrina Markoff, while her original Mo’s Bacon Bar done in milk chocolate has been around for a while. I fell in love with the Original Mo’s bar last winter, and now that the new one is out, I’m completely torn between my devotion to my first love, and its updated counterpart. The only way to decide: Ultimate Bacon Chocolate Showdown. Two bars, three rounds, three different challenges.

Round 1: Taste Test

mo_L

Mo’s Bacon Bar

Pros:

*Deliciously Creamy, well-tempered chocolate that melts in your mouth

*Salted perfectly–not overwhelming even though the bacon is salty and the bar has salt in it.

*The mild taste of the milk chocolate allows the  smokiness of the bacon to really come through in every bite.

Cons:

*Milk chocolate texture (slightly less crisp, melts easier)

*The extra cream makes the bar less refreshing. It sticks in your mouth a bit longer.

Mo’s Dark Bacon Bar

darbac_LPros:

*Dark chocolate is better for you! Dark chocolate contains a higher level of antioxidants.

*This bar has a bit more flavor complexity-the different flavors of the dark chocolate play off of the other ingredients in interesting ways.

*Salt is better on dark chocolate. It just is. You rarely find salted caramels covered in milk chocolate that are as good as the ones encased in a darker envelope.

Cons:

*The richness of the chocolate can sometimes overwhelm the bacon, although you still get that smoky taste every time you hit a crunchy bit.

The next round for both of these bars: how well they integrate into recipes. Help us with Round 2 by posting your recipes using your favorite Mo’s Bar!

Tell us which bar you prefer!

(Btw, please excuse the cheesy graphic…just a goofy rainy day…all images courtesy of Vosges Haut Chocolate)

Share

23
Oct 09

A long time coming: Mast Brothers Chocolate

Mast Bros Choc 2Since my foray into the world of quality chocolate, I have been jonesing for a bar of Mast Brothers Chocolate. The Brooklyn based chocolatiers are set up in an old factory and are masters of single-origin mixology–pairing beautifully tempered chocolate with high quality and local ingredients. Since, for a very long time, the Mast Brothers had been out of my vicinity (and with shipping through a certain vendor coming into the picture recently) I never had the opportunity to taste one of their amazing creations. It had been a long time since I had quality chocolate, and I had almost forgotten my love of the bold and fruity beans of Madagascar when I came across a Mast Brothers bar at a local grocery store. I picked up two: The Maple Pecan (floral pattern) and the Black Truffle and Fleur de sel (bright colors). The wrapping of each bar matches the character–the maple pecan’s gentle colored small flowers follow the creamy, nutty, gentle flavors of maple and pecan, while the bright colors, gold lacing and bold pattern are a perfect fit for the black truffle, which bursts with decadent richness the moment it hits the tongue. While I once touted the Amedei Chuao bar as being my favorite bar of all time, throughout the day I find myself glancing over at the bars on my desk and wondering if I shouldn’t allow myself just another heaven-inducing bite. I usually do.

Mast Bros Choc

The Mast brothers are truly artisans. The two bars I have enjoyed so far have been 72% Madagascar single-origin, which makes them very fruity, bright and bitter. The Mast cure for a common Madagascar bean? Fleur de sel. I’m not surprised that almost all of their bars are gently laced with this ingredient–it does a great deal to compliment the flavors of the bean and to create a multi-dimensional flavor experience. It is interesting, and addicting. Bravo.

Share

05
May 09

Imagine a world where chocolate waste could run your car…

It is closer than you think: Eco-Racecar

480-vegetable-f1

Share

02
May 09

A Chocolate Hit-or-Miss

dsc010051This pretty box of chocolates came from Knipschildt chocolatier out of Norwalk, CT. A few weeks ago I took a trip down to their flagship store, Chocopologie  to see what they were all about. 

Their store is a good size, and their cafe seems a bit darker, but comfortable. I wanted to purchase a box of their chocolates, and I picked up some fun hollow easter eggs for my family for Easter. I also wanted a hot drink for the ride home, and the woman at the desk represented their nakesake drink: the chocolpologie. It was a dark hot chocolate espresso drink with lavender foam, and it was heavenly.

The Chocopologie Bar that I bought, the Burnt Caramel and Sea Salt bar, was also very good. I’m usually not a fan of filled chocolate bars, because the centers are usually too sugary and gooey–to the point where they make your teeth hurt. But the caramel filling in this bar was thicker, and not gooey at all, but had a fantastic sweet flavor with a little bitterness from the burn. 

I had very mixed feelings about the box of chocolate. First of all, I didn’t get to select what came in the box. The store only sells their chocolates individually, and so when you buy a box you are at the mercy of whoever put that box together. Some of the pieces were very nice, like the dark chocolate with raspberry and pink peppercorns, or the lemon marzipan (again, I’m not a big fan of marzipan, but this tasted more like bright sour lemons), but others really missed the mark. The pistachio was bland, as was the coconut truffle. 

A few weeks later, I found Knipschildt chocolate at my local Dean & Deluca, and was excited to try some of the pieces that I had seen in the store, but had not come in my box. The tangerine white chocolate cone was delicious, as was their caramel with pink himalayan sea salt. I also purchased a green tea truffle (I’m a fan of tea in chocolate, and loved the Blanxart green tea bar!), however after the first bite of this truffle, I spit it out and threw the rest away. Again, Hit-or-Miss seems to be the theme for Knipschildt. 

Overall, I would probably go back for the chocopologie bar, but other than that I would be very cautious when selecting which chocolates you are going to buy, and ALWAYS buy just a few, and pick them out yourself.

Share

27
Apr 09

What NOT to buy

So far I have made this a forum for all things that I like and want to share. And when it comes to food and other fun stuff, there isn’t much I wouldn’t share. 

I find myself in a very different place, writing my first “Buyer Beware” post. But I think it’s equally important for me to share the things that aren’t quite as good as the others, so even if you decide you simply MUST try it for yourself, you have been warned. 

Previously, I hailed the Theo 3400 Phinney Bread and Chocolate bar as a surprisingly pleasant; reminiscent of my childhood Nestle Crunch Bar experiences. When faced with the decision to buy another such bar or to dive into another culinary adventure with a different bar, naturally I had to sample all of the possible offerings before coming back to the B&C that I had enjoyed so much. 

My second selection from the 3400 Phinney line was the Fig, Fennel, and Almond bar, and it was highly disappointing. 

The name drew me in, and I was excited about it. I had never seen a combination like that before. These were all ingredients that I liked, and flavors that had satisfied me in the past. However, when combined together in this bar, the overall taste and experience is off-putting. 

The flavors are potent, and slightly overwhelming. While I normally find textural and flavor variety  interesting and thought-provoking, this bar did not seem well thought out. Some of the fig pieces are grainy, and the fennel pieces are stronger in certain areas of the bar. The chocolate is bitter but slightly nutty itself. All of these flavors together are too much. I would normally write more in-depth about the actual bar itself, but quite frankly, it was just bad, and I don’t really want to talk about it. 

After about 20 minutes, the tastes still clung to my tongue, and instead of wanting more, I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of the bar. 

3400-phinney-fig-fennel-almond

 

Share

25
Apr 09

Just one more bite…

amedei-chuao

I have been eating good chocolate for a few months now. Each time I find a new bar that I like, I have a few squares of it, and then I am satisfied. I put the rest of it on the shelf for another day when I have a chocolate craving. Even for the bars that I like, I don’t usually buy that bar again, just because I’m always looking for something new. 

The next time I return to my favorite chocolate shop in D.C., Biagio Fine Chocolate, I will be buying one, or maybe two, of the Amedei Chuao special edition bar. 

When you first unwrap the bright gold paper surrounding the bar, a warm chocolate aroma wafts into the air, and you’re presented with a smooth, dark, shiny bar, that looks as though it has been perfectly tempered. The chocolate breaks with a resounding “pop”, a sign that what you’re about to put in your mouth is going to be remarkable. 

The chocolate is earthy and smooth with subtle hints of fruit. It is slightly bitter, but creamy. It is chocolate the way I have always dreamed it should be. The taste resonates on your tongue for a few minutes after you have finished eating. Your mouth feels satisfied without feeling overwhelmed or stained by the chocolate. After this taste fades, all you want is another bite. 

As an explorer and adventurer, I don’t like buying the same bar twice. But this is a special edition bar, and I’m going to keep buying it until Amedei stops making it. It’s simply the best.

Share

21
Apr 09

A New Crunchy Vice

3400-phinney-bread-chocolate

One might wonder how chocolate maker Theo created a bar that perfectly marries the subtle flavor of bread and butter with bold, perfectly tempered 70% dark chocolate, while still maintaining the texture of the crumbs of artisan French bread. 

I have been wondering this myself, and I’m still searching for answers. But damn, is it delicious. 

When I first came across this bar, the combination struck me as bizarre. But when I considered all of the classical pairings of bread and chocolate (fondue, chocolate chip muffins, chocolate croissants, and any piece of toast that you spread Nutella on) I simply had to try it. 

It is fantastic. The breadcrumbs are buttery and crunchy, as if they had just been broken off a fresh-baked loaf.  The chocolate is rich, bitter, and slightly sour; the perfectly decadent counterpart to the light and creamy crumbs. While the chocolate will begin to melt slightly in your mouth, one of my favorite things about this bar is that it is a bit thicker, making chewing both a necessity and delightfully fun sensation that harkens back to classic crunchy candy bars. It is finished with a touch of sea salt, leaving your tongue thirsty for more.

With it’s rich taste and crunchy texture, the Bread and Chocolate bar has stolen my heart.  It brought me back to the days when I would enjoy a Nestle Crunch bar with my mother, a devout fan, straight out of the freezer. The fun texture and pop of the chocolate was what we both loved so much.

I’m going to have to introduce her to what is sure to be her newest vice.

Share