D is for Donkey Milk

After tasting camel milk chocolate last week, I was expecting this week’s bar to be funky and gamey. I was in for a surprise!

Honestly, I have never really thought about donkey’s milk before aside from hearing that that Cleopatra used to bathe in it daily as part of her beauty regimen and that Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister also used the milk for skincare (as it was thought to remove wrinkles and make the skin whiter). However, did you know that donkey’s milk is the closest to human milk in nutritional value and is often used as a substitute around the world for infants to build their immune systems? Hippocrates, the “father” of medicine, was the first to write about the benefits in ancient Greece and would prescribe it to cure various ailments. According to the packaging, donkey’s milk is rich in lactose, but poor in whey protein.

Speaking of the packaging for this bar, it is nearly identical to last week’s bar, aside from the name of the product: Cioccolato al latte d’asina.

The classic Domori white, maroon and gold are used on the exterior with the interior foil repeating the color scheme and company logo design.

This particular bar wasn’t available locally, so I had to order it from Tony Caputo’s Market & Deli in Utah. Somewhere along the way, the thin bar became segmented in half and this might have caused some of the chocolate “dust” that slightly marred the overall surface of the square bar.

My initial sniffs of the chocolate resulted in an aroma I couldn’t really articulate. My scribbled notes say: salty? / smells like a grain or leaves or an herb. Later in the day, I read a review describing the scent as chamomile flowers and that sounds about right.

Perhaps due to the width of the bar, breaking one of the two mini squares in half resulted in a brittle snap. The flavor reminded me of hazelnuts and was sweet with notes of honey, caramel or butter. I found that the morsel melted evenly, though not too quickly, on the tongue. Overall, the mouthfeel wasn’t entirely smooth and felt a little abrasive after a couple of tastings. I noticed a lightly grassy, but not unpleasant, aftertaste that lingered briefly. For 22.5% donkey milk, this was a very mild and palatable chocolate, but perhaps that was also due to the intrinsic characteristics of the criollo cacao that was used.

Sources say that a lactating donkey typically produces less than 2 liters of milk per day (whereas a cow can produce 30-40 liters per day), so you can imagine that the market for this type of milk is small. I’m not sure where Domori sources their milk, but I’ve read that there is a donkey farm in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and that country was the first to put this milk on the market.

So, if you are ready for a taste adventure, but a little apprehensive about eating a non-cow’s milk chocolate, this might be the way to go!

To find out more about Domori, please check out: http://www.domori.com/en/

C is for Camel Milk

Forgive me, but I just couldn’t resist the pun of featuring camel milk chocolate bars on a “hump day”! 🙂

In the past I’ve tried sheep’s milk and goat’s milk chocolate bars, so when I saw a picture of Domori’s camel milk bar on Instagram, I knew I had to add that to my tasting repertoire! Luckily, I was able to find a bar at a local shop, but honestly I was a little hesitant to try it right away! Then, by chance a few months later, I read an article in the AAA Westways magazine about an upcoming opportunity to feed apples to camels during an open house day at a dairy farm in Ramona, CA, which also happened to sell chocolate bars from Dubai maker Al Nassma.

After interacting with these endearingly sweet animals and acquiring a couple of flavored bars, now I had the incentive to wait for “round 2” of the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project to feature this exotic “inclusion” ingredient.

Until researching the brand, I didn’t know that Al Nassma became the world’s first producer of camel milk chocolate in 2008, hoping to be the “Godiva of the Middle East” (making reference to the well-known Belgian chocolatier). At first, Al Nassma’s products were only available in Dubai; but, when they expanded their sales internationally in 2009, Chocolate Covered San Francisco was one of the only places in the United States that sold their chocolates. I’m not sure if the production process has changed since 2009, but articles from that year mentioned that freeze-dried camel milk was being airlifted from the Dubai Camelicious Farm to their Austrian chocolate maker partner (Manner AG) so that chocolate mass could be produced and shipped back to their Dubai facility where additional ingredients were mixed in before the bars were molded and packaged.

Speaking of the packaging, each of the Al Nassma bars depicts a camel standing on a sand dune with the sun in the background as well as a visual hint of the additional ingredients flavoring the bar. The brown and red earth tones blend nicely with spot embossing and the gold leaf accents.

First up is the “Arabia” bar. Though the packaging doesn’t specifically describe the “spice blend,” the graphic on the front appears to include green cardamom, cinnamon and cloves.

For this particular bar, the gold foil inner wrapper was folded with the outer paper wrapper such that you couldn’t slip the bar out easily.

This gave me the opportunity to fully remove the bar and admire the inside of the paper wrapper which sported offset rows of the company logo: the silhouette of a camel standing under a single palm tree.

The bar is quite dense and thick, so segmenting the pieces took a little effort, resulting in a woody snap. The image embossed into 5 of the bar’s rectangles calls to mind a wind swept desert floor. According to the company’s website, “al nassma” refers to a seasonal cooling breeze which provides respite to the people of the desert.

You can see tiny black flecks throughout the bar, which makes me think that black pepper might have been used as one of the spices. Overall, the aroma reminded me of sweet cream or butter caramel. The morsel melted slowly on the tongue and produced a thick, not smooth, almost waxy mouthfeel. Despite there being 21% camel milk in this bar, I couldn’t tell that this was made with an unusual milk product. Disappointingly, this bar lacked depth of flavor and was a little too sweet for my taste. Of the three, this was my least favorite.

Next was the “Macadamia-Orange” bar, which slipped out nicely from the outer sleeve. Similar to the inside of the paper wrapper, the gold foil has rows upon rows of embossed camel logos.

Here is a close up of the gold foil:

Removing the thick bar from the packaging, you could already see the inclusion ingredients bursting out from the back of the bar.

While it was equally difficult to segment, this bar had an enticing orange oil aroma which reminded me of marmalade.

With a brittle snap, you could immediately see medium sized chunks of macadamia nuts and candied orange zest. This bar was not as sweet as the Arabia bar and was also slow on the melt, though it was more creamy than waxy. Again, despite 19% camel milk, I could not tell that this was made with an exotic milk. It is the most palatable of the three bars that I tried. With this bar you can brag about eating camel milk chocolate without it tasting that way!

Last, but not least, is a limited edition Cacao Criollo 45% bar (with 22% camel milk) – cioccolato al latte di dromedaria

I’m not sure where Italian bean-to-bar chocolate maker Domori sources their camel milk since this bar is no longer listed on their website and the packaging doesn’t list the origin.

Domori’s elegantly simple square box has gold embossed accents on all six surfaces and textured thick cardboard. The gold and maroon color theme extends even to the sealed pouch inside the box.

Inside the pouch is a thin bar made up of 4 easily segmentable squares that produced a sharp snap.

Upon opening the packaging, I could immediately smell a grassy, tangy (almost sour milk) aroma. This chocolate is silky smooth, creamy, lightly salty with a touch of caramel sweetness…but it tastes like it smells and there is no mistaking that this is not cow’s milk! This one also has a thicker mouthfeel on the melt, but it was not waxy like the Al Nassma bars.

Special note: During my initial taste yesterday, I sampled the bars in reverse order than how I listed them above: I started with the most intensely “camel” flavored bar and progressed to the least flavored one. So, this morning, I went through a “second pass” (re-tasting all three bars) in the order listed in this post, while palate cleansing between bars with stale corn tortilla chips. In case you were curious, my first impressions didn’t change the second time around.

On a whim, just now I decided to taste this bar side-by-side with the Mast Brothers’ goat and sheep milk bars. If it helps, I’d say that camel tastes more like sheep than it does goat. I have to confess that this wasn’t the first time for me trying the Domori camel milk bar. My first time was as part of Chocolate Noise’s underground chocolate salon in Seattle after the Northwest Chocolate Festival in November. Here is a link to Megan’s post describing the tasting (scroll down toward the end of the article for the camel bar): http://www.chocolatenoise.com/chocolate-today/#/notes-from-the-underground-chocolate-salon-4/

Stay tuned next week when I try Domori’s donkey milk bar for “D” week! I’ve heard that the FDA classified milk to include reindeer, moose, llama and even buffalo…wonder if I can find any of those for this project?! :0

For more information on the chocolates I tried, check out:

Al Nassma http://www.al-nassma.com/

Domori http://www.domori.com/en/

Bonus B – Black Sesame

Thanks to fellow blogger “Time to Eat Chocolate” for making me aware of this bar. When I attended the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle a week after her blog post was published, I knew I had to pick up one of these bars for myself. Little did I know then that this bar was a “limited edition,” otherwise I would have picked up more of them!

Upon opening the silver foil inner packaging, I was immediately mesmerized by the plump jewel-like dried cherries, the sprinkling of white and black sesame seeds, the glinting crystals of French sea salt and oh my…the COLOR of the bar itself!!


I cannot get over the unique charcoal grey color that is achieved by combining ground black sesame seeds and non-dairy white chocolate (cocoa butter). Based on my experience with Charm School Chocolate as part of last year’s Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project, I knew that they produced exclusively vegan chocolate bars using coconut milk. What I didn’t realize is that this particular bar isn’t “traditional” in the sense that there aren’t any cocoa solids; black sesame seeds were truly the “star” providing both the flavor and the color for this bar!

Here is a photo of the bar against a black background so you can see the unique shade of grey, as well as the generous sprinkling of inclusions!

After several minutes of trying to capture the perfect angle (the bar is so photogenic, it was hard to decide on what to concentrate while taking pictures), it was finally time to taste the bar!

Surprisingly, there was a sharp snap to the bar; with only 40% cacao, I was expecting a softer snap and, to me, the primary aroma was coconut. The chocolate morsel melted slowly on my tongue, allowing me to enjoy the buttery, lightly salty, nutty and not-too-sweet flavor. Depending on the piece, I either experienced crunchy toasted (or maybe they were air puffed?) sesame seeds or tart, sour Michigan-grown Montmorency cherries or both! My personal preference is to “chomp” (rather than melt), so I enjoyed the juicy bursts of mouth-puckering cherries that counterbalanced the nutty sweetness of the sesame white chocolate.

I’ve heard of Montmorency cherries before, but didn’t know much about them. They take their name from a valley in France and are currently grown in Canada, France and the U.S. (particularly in Michigan and Wisconsin). According to Wikipedia, these cherries are said to date back to Ancient Rome. The trees were planted along the roads and soldiers would use the fruit for food and the wood to build weapons or repair equipment.

Also, did you know that black sesame seeds and white sesame seeds are basically the same? Black sesame seeds still have their hull (shell), while white sesame seeds have the hull removed. Some people say that black seeds are nuttier and smokier, while the white seeds are sweeter. I’m not sure that I could identify one over the other in a blind taste test and the flavors are so similar to me that I certainly can’t pick a favorite.

Long after I finished tasting this bar, a pleasant nutty aftertaste lingered in my mouth, making me want yet another piece. For someone who is not a fan of white chocolate, this bar just might have won me over! 🙂

To learn more about Charm School Chocolate, check out: https://www.charmschoolchocolate.com/

B is for Bay Nut

Setting yourself a goal within specific parameters may seem limiting, but I’ve found it to be an eye-opening and fun challenge! Last year I wanted to alphabetically feature new-to-me chocolate brands & I succeeded even though “Q” and “Y” were the most difficult to obtain. This year, I’m featuring unusual and/or unique inclusion ingredients in alphabetical order. If it wasn’t for this project, I don’t think I would have ever known about the existence of bay nuts and that they were edible!

When I visited the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle last November, I wasn’t really on the lookout for unusual inclusion ingredients quite yet (I was just toying with the idea of that theme at that point; but by the time I left the festival, I knew that I had stumbled upon a great idea…still need to find “U” or “X” – so let me know if there are any makers I should try!)

If you’re like me, you like to chat with other festival attendees to compare notes on interesting finds and “not-to-miss” goodies! My ears perked up when I heard someone mention a bay nut bar from Firefly Chocolate. My next stop was to their booth to taste this for myself. I remember it being creamy and unusual; but after eating chocolate for a couple of days, I had a bit of “palate fatigue” (yeah, it’s a thing), so “B” week on Eating the Chocolate Alphabet was the ideal way to savor and fully appreciate it!

One of the first things that you notice about the packaging is the precise percentages and origins of the three (and only) ingredients used in this bar: 40% cacao beans from Belize / 30% bay nuts from Mendocino (California) / 30% coconut sugar from Indonesia.

From their website: Firefly Chocolate buys cacao primarily from Maya Mountain Cacao (MMC) in Southern Belize. MMC works directly with 309 indigenous Maya farming families in 31 communities located in the foothills of the Mayan Mountain Range. Firefly roasts and conches the beans at the lowest temperatures possible, inspired by the raw foods movement. While California Bay Laurel trees are plentiful, they are not cultivated, so all the nuts used in this bar were wild harvested. Traditionally the nuts are roasted in ashes which produces an aroma like popcorn. To learn more, check out this link: https://fireflychocolate.com/product/wild-harvested-bay-nut-chocolate-bar/

After reading that bay nuts are related to avocados, I did some research & found this photo. It wasn’t until recently that I learned you can roast and eat avocado seeds (pits) – maybe other chocolate makers will be inspired?

Upon opening the tri-fold cardboard packaging, the copper embossed sticker on the narrow rectangular glassine pouch caught my eye. Initially I thought it was a bee, but I’m now pretty sure that it’s a firefly (though I’ve never seen one in person, during daylight with their wings outstretched). 😉

Removing the 12-rectangle bar from the inner packaging, I noticed that my fingerprints were easily transferrable to the surface, so I had to be careful not to mar the otherwise pristine finish. I wonder if the low percentage of cacao caused the bar to melt easily in my hands.

The aroma reminds me of roasted coffee, but the taste is reminiscent of slightly burnt popcorn kernels. One thing that really surprised me was the instant refreshing/cooling sensation I get when I put a piece in my mouth. It’s like menthol without the menthol flavor. There is a nice sharp snap to the bar and the mouthfeel is creamy, though a little grainy probably due to the beans being stone ground and the use of coconut sugar. Coconut blossom sugar is a natural sweetener with a low glycemic index that is gaining popularity for those trying to avoid refined sugars.

For years, I’ve been seasoning soups and stews with California bay leaves (though I like Turkish bay leaves too), but I never realized that this tree also produced nuts. I knew about acorns, but bay nuts was something completely new to me. So, as I was taking photos of this bar, I decided to “stage” the chocolate amongst some dried leaves waiting to fulfill their destiny in some culinary creation.

Just this morning, I posted a “teaser” photo to Instagram letting people guess today’s unique ingredient. One person immediately guessed bay leaves, but I don’t think anyone has guessed the bay nut yet!

To learn more about Jonas Ketterle’s mission of “inspiring awe and wonder,” as well as the vision and values for this first bean-to-bar chocolate company in Sonoma County (California), I encourage you to visit: https://fireflychocolate.com/ I certainly like learning something new & hope you do too!

Bonus A – Anzac Crunch

From the moment I saw the packaging on Instagram, I knew I *had* to have “The Great War” bar from Wellington Chocolate Factory! The flavor didn’t matter to me since the hand-painted illustration of the soldier eating a chocolate bar from his ration pack while hunkered down in the trenches with his buddy and some animal friends had captured my heart.

Thanks to Josh Rubin from Chocexchange in Canada for being the intermediary between New Zealand and Southern California to make my dream a reality! [Originally I was going to feature this bar during “round 1” of the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet blog during “W” week, which would have coincided closely with Canadian Remembrance day in November; however, fate intervened so that I could instead showcase it as a bonus “A” bar for “round 2” of the blog!]

The top surface of the outer paper wrapper must somehow be lightly coated because the informational label & Cuisine Artisan Award Winner sticker were easily removed to reveal a ~200mm x ~250mm image.

Each time I look at the artwork by Auckland-based Misery (aka Tanja Jade), I see some new detail that I had previously overlooked: the mountain in the distance that is crying, the birds wearing tiny helmets dodging cannon fire to carry ration packs to the soldiers on the front lines, the serene faces in the poppies. Despite the folds and creases, this will soon be framed and displayed proudly in my home!

On the 25th of April each year, Anzac Day commemorates the anniversary of the 1915 landing at the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, where thousands of Australian and New Zealander soldiers fought and died during World War I. In case you’re unfamiliar, Anzac stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Like Veterans’ Day in the US and Remembrance Day in Canada, Anzac Day honors past and present AUS & NZ servicemen and women from all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. Though some believe that Anzac biscuits were sent to the soldiers on the front lines in Europe, the truth is that Anzac cakes were sold at the “homefront” to raise money for the war effort. Anzac biscuits are traditionally made with rolled oats, flour, sugar, butter, golden syrup, baking soda, boiling water and (optionally) desiccated coconut. The “Anzac crunch” used for this bar was inspired by those ingredients, with some modern-day updates.

The “back” of the bar is completely covered in crispy, crunchy, toasted rolled oats and coconut chips that it’s easy to forget that there is a smooth and creamy 52% coconut milk chocolate hiding underneath.

This bar, made from a house blend of Criollo and Trinitario beans, is as delicious as it is photogenic. Modernizing the traditional recipe, coconut flour and coconut sugar were used (though raw sugar and golden syrup still added to the sweetness of the bar). There is an unusual, almost sour, tang to the chocolate itself. I assume this is from the golden syrup since I just now tasted coconut flour and coconut sugar from my kitchen pantry and the flavor note does not seem to originate from those ingredients. Upon research, I discovered that golden syrup is an acidic sugar solution that adds a smoky warmth. I was also fascinated to learn that golden syrup was used as a “binder” (getting ingredients to stick together) when there was a shortage of eggs during wartime.

Honestly, it was impossible not to “chomp” this bar and quickly has become one of my new favorites. As I sit here with only a few morsels left, a trip to New Zealand to get more in person (and avoid winter) seems like a perfectly reasonable solution! 😉

From the label: A portion of the profit from this bar of chocolate will be donated to the Great War Exhibition to assist with making the compelling history of the First World War available to all.

To learn more about their entire line of organic ethically traded bean-to-bar chocolates, check out: http://www.wcf.co.nz/

A is for Amaranth

With the New Year comes a new “theme” for the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet blog. In 2017, I plan to alphabetically feature unusual or unique “inclusion” ingredients (meaning stuff that gets included with the chocolate). Last year I limited myself to only new-to-me chocolatiers and chocolate makers, but this year all brands are fair game! While I might not be able to stick to the “one post a week” schedule due to the availability of some letters (I’m currently stumped with “X” – so let me know if you have any recommendations), I’ll still try to post as often as possible.

To start off the alphabet, I’m featuring an Amaranth Crunch 70% La Red Dominican Republic dark chocolate bar made by LetterPress Chocolate from my hometown of Los Angeles, California.

According to Wikipedia, it is thought that amaranth represented 80% the Aztecs’ caloric consumption prior to the Spanish conquest. Even though this seed has been around for thousands of years, it’s only started to recently gain popularity since it can be eaten by those with gluten intolerance. Additionally, it’s an excellent source of protein, vitamin C, calcium, fiber, iron and more.

David and Corey Menkes started a chocolate blog in 2012 called “Little Brown Squares” where they would feature bean-to-bar makers. According to their website, after they attended the Northwest Chocolate Festival and discovered that there were no bean-to-bar makers in the Los Angeles area, they made it their mission to change that and founded LetterPress Chocolate in 2014. Since they launched their company, I’ve had the opportunity to meet them at different pop-up events + at the 2016 Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA. They are passionate about sourcing the best cacao beans from around the world and are very friendly and knowledgeable. Here is an article from April 2016 that provides more information about their small batch production set-up at that time: http://www.laweekly.com/restaurants/some-of-las-best-chocolate-comes-from-a-living-room-in-beverlywood-6806732

One of the first things that you notice about their bars is the distinctive logo which was inspired by vintage air mail stamps.

Their custom-designed logo features an airplane and some cacao pods.

This particular paper label is an older version since they have recently switched to a much more eye-catching gold foil stamped and letterpress embossed thicker packaging. My only complaint was that the paper “sleeve” seemed to be affixed to the silver foil and I was unable to simply slip the hand-wrapped bar out easily…akin to being thwarted in quickly opening a present due to the item being taped to the wrapping paper. I’m glad that the adhesive was minimal and flexible so that I could open the wrapper without damaging the label or the foil.

Even before fully unwrapping the bar, I could already smell the darkly roasted cacao which made me think of coffee, which isn’t a flavor that I particularly enjoy.

The 24-rectangle bar had a flawless finish on the front, neither shiny/glossy nor dull matte (not sure if the correct term for that would be “satin”?)

Flipping the bar over, you can see that the entire back surface is covered in tiny bumps from the air-puffed amaranth seeds.

Segmenting a couple of tasting morsels, there is a sharp snap and an earthy aroma.


While most people suggest savoring chocolate by melting it on your tongue, I’m a proponent of “chomping” (chewing) this bar, otherwise you would completely miss the fun and enjoyment of hearing the crackling of the amaranth and the crunch of the delicate fleur de sel!

However, if you do choose to melt, you will be rewarded with a creamy mouthfeel and red berry sweetness with a slight back-of-the-throat tangy aftertaste. According to their website, it’s a grown up (and healthier) version of that certain crunch bar remembered from childhood.

To learn more and find where you can locate some of their bars for yourself, check out: http://www.letterpresschocolate.com/