L is for Loma Quita Espuela

Originally I was going to avoid inclusion bars this round (unless absolutely necessary) since “Round 2” was dedicated to them. However, once I saw this bar as part of Chocswap 2.0 with Lilla from Little Beetle Chocolates, I knew I couldn’t find a better (or more unique sounding) “L” origin!

The highest elevation within the city of San Francisco de Macorís in the North Region of the Dominican Republic is at Loma Quita Espuela. In case you’re curious about the name, here is what I found on Wikipedia:

“This name allegedly comes from the time when the Spaniards were exploring the island, since the hill was too steep to ride their horses, they had to dismount and remove their spurs and undertake the ascent on foot.”

It certainly sounds like an amazing place to experience nature, based on what I’ve seen from this website!

Now for the chocolate itself: Kilian & Close 52% D.R. with Périgord walnuts

Love the simplicity of this sturdy cardboard packaging with interlocking folds that remind me of a modified “dovetail joint” or “tongue and groove” assembly. There is a single triangular notched tab keeping the box closed and the plastic-wrapped bar tightly nestled within. In retrospect, the bar might have been too secure since the inner wrapper clung to the chocolate in places, leaving several shiny spots.

Honestly, I was NOT expecting there to be several candied walnut halves adhered to the back of the bar, though I should have guessed there might be visible inclusions when the package felt thick in my hand.

As if to alleviate my conscience (about only using non-inclusion, single origin bars for this round of the Alphabet), there were several spots sans walnuts so that I could taste the chocolate on its own!! 💕

The bar segmented easily with a sharp snap and there were hardly any air bubbles at the breaking point.

Handling the tasting morsels with my fingers, I noticed that the chocolate had an ultra-smooth, plastic-like texture to the touch. Perhaps this explains why it was difficult to melt on the tongue? Switching to chewing, creamy, nutty, caramel notes emerged. The flavor remained consistent throughout the tasting, until I got to a piece with the candied walnuts. Chomping on a walnut, there were earthy and lightly bitter notes relegating the slow roasted Dominican Republic cocoa beans to “second fiddle.”

Speaking of the walnuts, these come from Périgord (the old name for the former province in southwestern France) which, as of September 30, 2016, has a new name: Nouvelle-Aquitaine. In 2002, these walnuts were awarded PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status even though they have been in the area since the Middle Ages!

Since Lilla purchased this bar in Germany during her summer road trip, the label is entirely in German.

It wasn’t until AFTER my tasting that I decided to translate the ingredient list. I was surprised to see coconut blossom sugar as the first ingredient and that there was also coconut milk powder at the end of the list! The flavor notes all make much more sense now! Not sure why I didn’t originally make the connection that there would be an alternate milk to retain its vegan certification! 😲

I’m slowly learning to embrace serendipity since not knowing all the information in advance allows you to taste without prejudice and pre-conceptions. 🙂 This was certainly a delicious journey of discovery!

To learn more about Kilian & Close, please visit their website: http://www.kilian-close.com/en.htm

Bonus W – Water Buffalo Milk

For a couple of weeks running, I’ve posted some “fun food Friday” posts on Instagram. After skipping a week, I’m back with a bonus post since how could I resist tasting TWO different buffalo milk chocolate bars from the UK, especially after tasting camel milk, donkey milk and goat milk earlier in the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project?!

I’m sure you’re thinking, wait a minute…shouldn’t this be featured under “B” for “Buffalo”?

Since Damson’s website mentioned Laverstoke Park Farm in Hampshire as the source of their buffalo milk, I did a little research on their website to confirm that when you hear “buffalo” related to milk or cheese, the animal in question is really the WATER BUFFALO, not the American Bison (which is commonly referred to simply as buffalo)! In the wild, water buffalo can be found in swampy, wet areas which is how they got their name. Did you know that water buffalo are quieter and easier to milk than most cows?! I didn’t either until I started reading up on them!

Anyway, back to the chocolate!

Thanks to fellow chocolate blogger Victoria Cooksey for sending me this Damson 55% Buffalo Milk bar!

When I saw the Cocoa Runners logo on the front of the package, I was equally intrigued and confused. Turns out that before Dom Ramsey started Damson in early 2015, he was a founding member of Cocoa Runners (a company that curates bean-to-bar chocolate subscription boxes in the UK, among other things). You can read more about Dom through this link.

Tearing open the re-sealable, foil-lined, brown Kraft paper pouch, I could immediately smell dried fruit, like raisins or currants. The small bar adorned with images of cacao leaves and pods had a matte finish despite the visible air bubbles. The surface of the bar felt smooth and lightly oily to the touch which reminded me of the sensation of rubbing rose petals between my fingers or the supple skin of a ripe plum.

There was a medium snap when segmenting tasting morsels and I was fascinated to see the delineation of smooth and porous surfaces at the juncture of the “puzzle pieces” that form the mold.

The small piece didn’t seem dense in weight and I found it easy to bite through the piece, like a thick piece of fudge.

During the slow and even melt, there was a milky/creamy mouthfeel and a lightly grassy (yet also fruity), caramel taste. In my opinion, this animal milk is mild in comparison to goat and camel, but less mild than donkey. Unfortunately, no country of origin was listed for the chocolate, so I’m not sure if this was a blend or a single origin. If someone knows more about batch 297, please let me know!

When I had arranged a chocswap with Lilla from Little Beetle Chocolates, I had no idea what to expect, so I was thrilled to receive this Rare & Vintage Hotel Chocolat 65% Buffalo Milk bar!

Not sure if the 3D mold design has changed recently, but my bar with accordion-like folds doesn’t look exactly like the photo on the company website! Check it out for yourself & let me know what you think!

Despite the chocolate dust and damage sustained in transit from the UK, the bar was free from air bubbles and had a glossy shine when viewed at just the correct angle!

This would be my first time tasting chocolate made with Saint Lucian beans, so I didn’t know what to expect (note: Saint Lucia is an island country in the Eastern Caribbean).

There was a brittle snap to the bar and the aroma reminded me of olives, while the flavor was earthy with what I can only describe as minerality, like smoked salt. Not surprisingly, the bar itself had the same tactile characteristics (like stroking a soft rose petal) as the previous buffalo milk bar. While there was a smooth mouthfeel, this chocolate felt denser and was more difficult to melt in my mouth (not as creamy as the Damson bar, I wonder if this is because Damson uses “whole buffalo milk powder” vs. Hotel Chocolat’s “dried buffalo milk”). However, I noticed that the Hotel Chocolat tasting morsel seemed to disintegrate more quickly when “chomped.” The overall flavor of the Hotel Chocolat bar was more “gamey” (intense) than Damson’s buffalo milk bar, even though I’m guessing that the same buffalo milk source was used…how many biodynamic and organic buffalo milk farms are there in Britain?!

For more information on either of these companies, please see their respective websites:

https://damsonchocolate.com/

http://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk

As this project is nearing the end of the alphabet, I’m still holding out hope for a zebra milk chocolate bar! Maybe I should have renamed this series “Eating the Chocolate Zoo” 😉

50 States Collaboration – New York / Fruition Chocolate

Usually Lori (from Time to Eat Chocolate) and I trade off featuring different states and chocolate makers in our respective blogs, but this week we are both featuring “The Big Apple.” It wasn’t until this project that I discovered that New York is second to California in terms of the number of bean-to-bar makers! In case you’re wondering…Oregon and Texas tie for 3rd with ten B2B makers in each of those states, while California has a whopping 36 and New York has 12!

Back in 2014, Fruition hired the All Good NYC creative team to revamp their packaging and I wish I knew if there was a term (mathematical or otherwise) to describe the kaleidoscopic / repeating stylized flower petal pattern that features prominently on these thick, notched closure cardboard boxes. I don’t know about you, but the stark contrast between these two Fruition bars makes me think of “Ebony and Ivory”…

Viewing the outer packaging at a certain angle, with the right lighting really makes the pearlized stamping and embossing sparkle and shine, such that this design is both distinctive and eye-catching.

Brown Butter Milk Chocolate (43% Dominican Republic cacao)

Removing the bar from the sealed clear plastic sleeve, you’ll notice the symmetrical motif is repeated, but this time with a single tilted “F” within a square inside of a circle near the top. Some chocolate dust along the left side of the bar and a few air bubbles mar the overall matte finish.

As you would expect from a brown butter bar, caramel is the primary aroma. Straight out of wine fridge storage, there is a crisp snap when segmenting morsels and a semi-crisp snap at room temperature (granted it’s in the high 60s/low 70s here at the moment). If only I had taken Physics, I might understand what causes the random “shear” pattern when breaking off pieces for tasting.

The mouthfeel is thick and dense during the slow and even melt. Overall, this not-too-sweet bar is smooth, creamy and milky; which makes sense since locally churned Ronnybrook Farm Dairy browned butter was used in this interpretation of a classic milk chocolate bar. The caramel flavor is intensified when chomped rather than melted, leaving a pleasant lingering toasted nut aftertaste at the finish.

Hudson Valley Bourbon Dark Milk (61% Dominican Republic cacao)

Over the years, this bar has won several awards; however, the sticker here (from Batch no. 3 packaging) only reflects the World Silver from the 2015 International Chocolate Awards. (According to their website, they won World Silver again in 2016!) Since I’m familiar with bourbon barrel aged beers, I was especially intrigued to find out how “oaky” the results would be in this dark milk chocolate bar since the roasted Dominican Republic nibs were aged with Tuthilltown Spirits bourbon barrel staves.

Similar to the last bar, this one had some chocolate dust and air bubble cosmetic defects as well.

There was a sharp snap and a woody aroma when segmenting pieces of this bar. As I’ve come to expect from Fruition bars, there was a slow even melt and a smooth and creamy mouthfeel. Initially, I tasted caramel, though different than the last bar; but a second tasting produced a woody fruit flavor which I’m guessing comes from the bourbon barrel aging process. Thankfully the oak notes were muted.

Side-by-side, you can see the differences in the chocolate brown color between a milk and dark milk.

Which one would you select if you had the choice?!

To learn more about chocolate maker Bryan Graham and the extensive Fruition product line, visit: https://www.tastefruition.com/

Be sure to also follow the Time to Eat Chocolate blog so you don’t miss next week’s stop in the “50 States” project!

Other chocolate makers in New York:

Antidote Chocolate

Bronx Grrl Chocolate

Cacao Prieto

Dalloway Chocolate

Dark Forest Chocolate Makers

Fine & Raw Chocolate

Madécasse

Mast Brothers

Raaka Virgin Chocolate

Raw Chocolate Love

Sol Cacao

NOTE: If you know of any other bean-to-bar makers in New York that aren’t mentioned above, please leave a comment or send an email so that we can keep this list as up-to-date as possible!