T is for Turmeric

When fellow chocolate blogger Victoria Cooksey interviewed WKND Chocolate maker Lauren Heineck back in March, she asked: “When selecting a chocolate bar to try what influences your purchase?” If you’ve been following Eating the Chocolate Alphabet so far this year, you’ll realize that Lauren’s answer pretty much echoes my own sentiments:

Distinctiveness goes a long way, and even something oddball I may find endearing.

While turmeric has been widely used in Southeast Asia for thousands of years, this rhizomatous plant from the ginger family has only started to gain popularity here in the U.S. over the last couple of years. A quick Google search will yield page after page of articles tracking the rise in consumption based on the health benefits. Do you enjoy Indian curries? Then you are already familiar with its distinctive taste and color! Speaking of which, white chocolate bars that go beyond off-white and cream were once considered “oddball,” but seem to popping up more frequently these days. After I saw a photo of Lauren’s “Turmeric of a Goat Thing” bar that looked like “golden milk” in solid form, I knew I had to try this for myself. Many thanks to Lauren for her generosity in supplying me with not one but two variations to sample side-by-side.

Although I loved Lauren’s rustic paper sleeves, the new outer cardboard boxes decorated with botanical illustrations of the cacao plant protect the bars better during transit. I’m very glad she kept the personalized touch by handwriting the descriptions with her calligraphy-like cursive. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d like to see some additional information on the packaging like an ingredient list; though if you look on her website, she very creatively describes the bar in less traditional terms.

Unwrapping the 12-rectangle bar from the re-sealable plastic pouch, I could immediately smell chai tea spices like cinnamon and cloves. Lauren confirmed that white pepper, ginger and cardamom were also included. Despite some chocolate dust and air bubbles marring the matte finish, the ingredients were very well dispersed, producing a uniform golden-brown color with flecks of spices rising to the surface on the front and back as well as being suspended evenly within the bar as well.

At room temperature, there was a soft snap when segmenting the bar, sending tiny fragments flying everywhere (FYI: straight from the fridge, there was a sharp snap and no errant particles!) Popping a piece in my mouth and chomping enthusiastically, I encountered the unexpected…a back of the throat burn and inner ear tingles due to cayenne pepper! Yes, I read other people’s comments about this bar, but clearly I didn’t pay enough attention since I don’t want to be “pre-influenced” prior to my own tasting. When I make golden milk, I always add black pepper since that supposedly helps our body to absorb turmeric more effectively; but how did I miss the word “spicy” until now?! Luckily, the initial kick of heat faded fairly quickly, so that I could continue to sample the bar.

Letting a morsel melt on my tongue there was a thick mouthfeel and a grainy texture while the peppery heat built gradually and was offset by a pleasant tang from the goat’s milk powder that reminded me of a spreadable chèvre.

Until I opened the second bar, made with 40% cocoa butter from Camino Verde (Ecuador), I hadn’t thought about photographing the bars side by side, so I quickly remedied that:

You’ll notice that the row of three rectangles at the top (the “original” Turmeric of a Goat Thing) is slightly darker in color than the half bar (6 rectangles of the Camino Verde). It would appear that the same spice blend ratio absorbed differently in the presence of the Camino Verde cacao butter. Instead of smelling the chai like I did with the first bar, the primary aroma in this case was the powdered turmeric.

While there was the same amount of chocolate dust on the “top” of the bar, there were fewer air bubbles and the surface of the Camino Verde bar felt a little greasy and/or tacky (like a lotion). Maybe my tongue & palate were getting acclimated to the chili or more likely the different cocoa butter had an impact – the “burn” was still at the back of the throat, but this time the top of my palate tingled rather than my ears. Overall, this bar was creamier, smoother, with a silky mouthfeel and the peppery heat seemed less intense. Rather than goat’s cheese notes, this one was grassy and earthy. In my opinion, the turmeric and ginger were able to shine and the rest of the spices were like “backup” singers 😉

Of the two bars, I liked the Camino Verde one best…though to be honest, I have devoured half of each bar already! This is all in the name of “research” and also to prevent catching a cold after being on an airplane this past weekend…at least that’s my story & I’m sticking to it! 😉

I leave you with a favorite quote from Victoria’s interview with Lauren:

“I’m still finding my voice as a chocolate maker, but I do identify as an insatiable chef. Mangosteens from a Bangkok street vendor, baklava in Istanbul, chimichurri from Buenos Aires; I want my creations to be as peripatetic as I am.”

With distinctive “oddball” flavors such as those, I’ll be keeping a close eye on what Lauren creates next! To learn more and to hear episodes of Lauren’s chocolate community building podcast entitled “Well Tempered,” where she highlights other women in chocolate, please visit her website: http://wkndchocolate.com/

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/

How I Counted Down the Days Until Christmas

Remember those “what I did on my summer vacation” back-to-school essays when you were a kid? This is just like that, only different 😉

A couple of posts back (wow, has it really been more than a month already?!), I mentioned that I had purchased a Zotter mini hand-scooped bar advent calendar. Here is a shot of the pristine, just opened box.

In case you weren’t following my daily Instagram “story” posts, below is a recap of all 24 flavors that helped me count down the days until Christmas! Just a disclaimer (lest you think I was a little piggy for most of the month), each day I only ate half of the 20g bar so that my boyfriend could enjoy the other half on the weekends! [Feel sorry for him, he *had* to eat 5 or more half bars in a day, whereas I could space them out!]

But before I get to the chocolates, I wanted to share a couple of things that I learned on this project:

  • Cutting the bars with a knife seemed to “smoosh” the layers together and leave odd serration marks, so at some point I started breaking the bars by hand for a more “rustic” look.
  • Winter daylight is fleeting (if the sun appears at all), so if I wasn’t able to take a picture during the morning to early afternoon, photos under artificial light didn’t turn out as well.
  • More people liked when I described the bars “by voice” as part of a video instead of simply taking a photo & writing the ingredients as a caption. I can’t say that I’m a fan of the Insta-stories format, personally I think it’s a good thing the “episodes” disappear after 24 hours!
  • A couple of times I was so obsessed with crafting the perfect 15-second sound bite that I forgot to also keep an actual photo of the chocolate 🙁
  • In many cases, the advent calendar’s outer cardboard sleeve described the bars differently than the individually numbered, decorated paper wrapper.
  • Photographing the bar WITH the wrapper that had the date on it makes it SO much easier to later match up photos to handwritten tasting notes!

December 1 – Dark Milk Chocolate filled with hazelnut nougat and brittles

Since this was the first bar from the advent calendar, I had some learning to do! You’ll notice that I photographed it without the date wrapper and cut it with a plain edge knife. Fortunately I took the photo with natural sunlight, so I had that going for me!

I appreciate that Zotter provides exact percentages for most of the major ingredient components. For instance, this one is listed as: hazelnut nougat (29%) and brittles (22%). According to the paper label, the brittle was made with almonds. This bar was called “Thousand Layer Nougat” on the box and the website describes it as having two different layers of nougat (one almond & another hazelnut) with brittle layers in between. Honestly, I’m not certain that there were 3 distinct layers. Overall, it was crunchy, creamy and had a nice nut flavor. Two unusual ingredients that were used, but that I didn’t taste, were cardamom and star anise.

December 2 – Noble Bitter Chocolate filled with whisky cream (55%)

Note to self, if something is called “Scotch Whisky” on the outer packaging, then it’s probably boozy & might not be the best thing to taste first thing in the morning! Especially given the ratio of thin chocolate couverture to creamy filling.

As a side note, in order keep the mini bars looking as photogenic as possible, I tended to flip them over & cut from the bottom to the top (rather than from the top to the bottom). I found it difficult to cut this particular bar with a knife, but I did notice that there were interesting amoeba-like shapes on the bottom. Sadly, no photographic evidence remains of the odd shapes, but I’m glad that I remembered to take (and keep) another photo of the shapes on the 12th bar! The above photo is an example of what happened to the bars when using a serrated knife; however, it took me a few more days to decide to cut them by hand.

December 3 – White Chocolate filled with almond hazelnut brittle

For a white chocolate, this was fairly beige in color (probably due to the cinnamon) and the couverture’s color wasn’t visually different from the filling. Even though this was cut with a knife, it wasn’t as glaringly obvious that I had done so. The bar’s wrapper lists the percentages as almond (14%) and hazelnut (5%), while the outer packaging listed it as almond hazelnut brittle (12%) – not sure which one to believe. The crunch reminded me of granola rather than brittle. Overall, this was very buttery and a little too sweet for my taste.

December 4 – Coconut Milk Couverture with raspberry coconut filling (60%)

You’ll see that this bar was cut with both a serrated knife and a plain edge knife for comparison purposes. I’m not sure why I was expecting the coconut milk couverture to be white-ish in color since I’ve had coconut milk chocolates before that looked quite brown. The filling was tart, yet sweet + I liked the tropical touch from the coconut flakes. Honestly, I wouldn’t have guessed coconut milk if it had been a blind taste test. Looking at the ingredient list right now, I’m surprised to see dried blueberries listed?!

December 5 – Mountain Milk Chocolate filled with white chocolate ganache (54%) & caramelised blue poppyseed (6%)

This was one of my favorites from the whole collection! Finally I “wised up” and cut this bar by hand. Overall, it had a creamy mouthfeel + it was nutty & crunchy due to the caramelized seeds. The ganache had a slightly yogurt-like tang. I’m definitely going to buy a full-sized bar of this soon!

December 6 – Mountain Milk Chocolate filled with orange cream (50%)

Sorry that the photo is slightly blurry, but I think it’s the ONLY photo I have of this bar! While the filling color isn’t visually distinct from the outer couverture, the creamy, mousse-like ganache was slightly boozy due to the blood orange brandy.

December 7 – Mountain Milk Chocolate with apple, honey and cinnamon filling

This one was my second favorite of the bunch. According to the ingredient list, this bar contained dried apples (14%), apple juice (8%), honey (3%), hazelnuts, apple brandy (2%), cranberries and cinnamon (0.4%). The moist layer of filling was like eating a chocolate covered apple pie. I couldn’t taste the alcohol. Sorry about the serration marks 🙁 – this one was a little gooey, so I had to use a knife in this instance!

December 8 – Dark Milk Chocolate filled with nuts

This one was called “Nut Delight” on the outer packaging sleeve since it contains hazelnuts (18%), almonds (5%) & cashews (5%). Again, this one had cardamom & anise seeds even though I didn’t taste them. Creamy and hazelnut was the stand-out flavor for me.

December 9 – Noble Bitter Chocolate with plum brandy (55%)

The chocolate “shell” on this bar cracked easily when I tried to break off a chunk, so that the filling came away from the couverture rather than staying together as a cohesive unit like the other bars. The ganache was creamy/mousse-like, but not too boozy.

December 10 – Mountain Milk Chocolate filled butter caramel cream (45%)

When I broke this apart, the caramel was stretchy (as shown below):

This time it was useful to cut the bar with a knife to reveal all the layers!

You can see the top layer was a chewy caramel and the next (thicker) layer was buttery and creamy as well as crunchy due to the caramel crisps (brittle) and almonds. One unusual ingredient was rose petals, though I didn’t taste them.

December 11 – Noble Bitter Chocolate filled with chocolate-red wine ganache (55%) and raisins (2%)

Also called “Red Wine Rush.” This one was creamy and tasted of red wine; however, I would not have guessed that there were raisins included. The alcohol used was Olivin Red Wine and Olivin pomace brandy. Just now, I discovered that “pomace” is a liquor distilled from the discarded seeds, stems and skins of grapes that were pressed for juice or oil. This type of brandy will make another appearance later in the calendar.

December 12 – Mountain Milk Chocolate filled with chocolate cream (55%)

While this one was visually boring, I finally remembered to capture a photo of the amoeba-like underside that I mentioned on the December 2nd bar. The ganache was creamy & mousse-like, though I could swear that alcohol was added even though it wasn’t listed as an ingredient. Just now I discovered some ingredients that I certainly didn’t taste: honey, caramel powder, almonds, cinnamon, rose petals & lemon powder.

December 13 – Dark Milk Chocolate filled with almond and hazelnut nougat (55%)

As I mentioned earlier, some days I was so focused on perfecting my Insta-story that I forgot to retain a picture of my half of the bar before I ate it, so I ended up taking a screen shot showing the day’s caption.

Days later, before giving the other half to my boyfriend, I snapped a picture where you can again see evidence of serrated knife marks.

This one was called “Nougat Variation” on the back of the packaging. There seemed to be two layers to this bar: a slightly powdery layer of crunchy nut nougat with bits of brittle and a creamy mousse layer. Honestly, I can’t tell which was almonds (12%) and which was hazelnuts (11%), though I suspect that the almond one was the darker layer. This one also had cinnamon, rose petals and lemon powder, although I don’t remember tasting them.

December 14 – Smart Bitter Chocolate filled with coffee cream (60%)

This one was called Zotter Espresso “so dark” on the packaging. If you look closely at the morsel in the foreground (at the red arrow), it almost seems like there is a little face. I say he’s making a grimace since I’m not a fan of coffee flavors. The ganache was fluffy and the coffee was STRONG! Needless to say, my boyfriend received three-quarters of this bar instead of the usual half! I’m not sure what makes a “smart” bitter instead of a “noble” bitter – hopefully someone reading this can tell me!

December 15 – Dark Milk Chocolate filled with marzipan and amaretto

I really enjoyed the moist marzipan layer & didn’t taste any alcohol in this bar. Possibly this was due to the ratios: marzipan (23%) made with almonds and bitter almond oil vs. 3% of Amaretto. This had some ginger powder, which I didn’t taste. If you look closely at the thick top chocolate couverture toward the middle of the morsel in the foreground, I swear there is another tiny face…this one with a happy smile!

December 16 – Mountain Milk Chocolate filled with wild berries (9%) and vanilla (0.3%)

Even though it was many days ago that I posted this bar on Insta-stories, I still remember struggling to recite ALL the ingredients within the allotted 15 seconds! Visually it looked a lot like day number 4, but this one had so many berries that none of the flavors really stood out. It had strawberries, blueberries, dried raspberries, currant concentrate & cranberry concentrate. Additionally there were almonds, rose petals, lemon powder & cinnamon, though I didn’t taste those.

December 17 – White Chocolate filled with dark chocolate ganache (55%)

This one was called “Black and White” on the outer packaging. I’m generally not a fan of white chocolate, so the white to dark ratio was just perfect. Also, the couverture had more of a beige tinge, so I’m thinking that either the vanilla or the cinnamon added to the coloring. Cane sugar brandy must be mild, since the creamy mousse filling had only a slight hint of alcohol. Re-reading the ingredient list right now, I’m surprised to see Bird’s Eye chili listed!

December 18 – Mountain Milk Chocolate with hazelnut filling (55%)

If you look at the top portion of the bar in this photo (above the 18), it almost looks like there are two separate layers: a thin moist layer at the top with more coarsely ground nuts and a larger smoother and drier layer at the bottom. I wonder if the Muscat Ottonel wine contributed to the top layer’s taste and appearance. I am surprised to again see several un-tasted spices listed: cinnamon, star anise, cardamom & cloves.

December 19 – Noble Bitter Chocolate filled with mango ganache (42%) and maces (0.1%)

Here you can again see, side-by-side, what a hand broken piece looks like vs. a knife cut piece. The moist ganache certainly had a tropical fruit taste due to the dried mangos and mango puree, I’m glad that the mace was not overpowering. Some surprising ingredients (since I didn’t taste them) were: skimmed milk yoghurt powder, cashews, caramel powder, almonds, lemon juice concentrate, cinnamon & rose petals. I wonder if the turmeric added to the orange color of the ganache.

December 20 – White Caramel Chocolate filled with almond nougat (54%) and caramel crisps (6%)

Despite my not liking white chocolate, this one was another favorite. The nougat filling had the texture of a Nestle Butterfinger bar, but was much less sweet. The couverture tasted a bit like butterscotch and, again, I didn’t taste the cinnamon, rose petals or lemon powder. Maybe it’s just me, but there seemed to be an ultra thin layer between the couverture and the filling, I wonder if that was caramel!

December 21 – Noble Bitter Chocolate with Marc de Champagne (6%) filling

Marc de Champagne is a brandy made from byproducts of the winemaking process, using discarded seeds & skins (similar to the bar on day 11). The couverture was a little crumbly, but the ganache was sweet like raisins and there was a slight “bite” from the alcohol. Wish the star anise & cinnamon were more vibrant in this bar.

December 22 – Mountain Milk Chocolate with Marzipan (25%) and pistachios (7%)

Another favorite! The pistachio layer was moist, nutty & chewy, while the marzipan was light & fluffy. It said it contained alcohol (cherry brandy), but I hardly tasted it. I also didn’t taste the anise, rose petals, cinnamon or lemon powder — seems that many bars contained these same spices.

December 23 – Coffee Couverture filled with cognac cream (55%)

This was another one with a crumbly couverture and odd shapes at the bottom of the bar. While this contained coffee, it was actually more boozy than coffee flavored since ground coffee beans and coffee powder only accounted for 1.1% of the ingredients.

December 24 – Noble Bitter Chocolate with spiced filling

Last, but not least, was what could be considered a gingerbread filling made with rye flour, lemon peel, orange peel, eggs, honey, hazelnuts, walnuts, cinnamon, pimento, nutmeg, marzipan, coconut crisps, cardamom, star anise and almonds. The ingredient list was a mouthful to recite on Insta-stories, so much so that I had to post it in two “installments.” Overall, it was like having a chewy, moist fruit cake in a chocolate shell with just a hint of alcohol.

This was my very first advent calendar & based on the enjoyable experience I’m sure it will be a tradition to maintain in years to come, whether from this chocolate company or others. Let me know in the comments if there are any calendars I should try next year!

On another note, it’s hard to believe that the year is almost over. Thanks to all who have been following me on this adventure. I hope that you will stick around for the blog’s “round 2” that will be starting in early January!

Best wishes for a Happy & Healthy New Year! See you soon in 2017! 🙂

Bonus “W” bar – WKND Chocolate

Since the beginning of my Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project, I’ve had the privilege of “meeting” (through the virtual worlds of Instagram and Facebook) so many passionate, welcoming and thoughtful people who are either makers or fellow consumers/chocophiles.

Lauren Heineck, founder and chocolate maker at WKND Chocolate, is one of those people! In addition to being skilled at transforming cacao beans into uniquely flavored bars, she hosts “Well Tempered” (a SoundCloud podcast) where she is both storyteller and community builder to elevate the smart, creative and crafty women within the chocolate industry.

I feel very honored to have been gifted a couple of her bars and to be among the first people to taste some of her creations. By the way, it was a GREAT idea to use a strip of a jute bag that once contained cacao beans as shipping “padding” (it made for some great photos too)! Hope you don’t mind that I enjoy the “weekend” despite what the calendar says.

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“Spanish Gaucho” (experimental bar with Mate & Saffron)

What a daring move to create a fusion of Argentina and Spain through the use of two ingredients that are the embodiment of those countries!

The 12-rectangle bar is wrapped in a thin, clear, re-closable plastic pouch & inserted into a faux wood grain paper sleeve that is held closed by a small round sticker with an interlocked square pattern.

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While I like the prototypes of the stylish new packaging as seen on Instagram recently, I’ll definitely miss the rustic touch of the handwritten description below the rubber stamped company logo.

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Sliding the bar from the outer wrapper, I was immediately surprised by both the bar’s olive green color and the generous sprinkling of saffron threads on the “inclusion” side. My initial guess was that the saffron was only included on the outside (otherwise the bar might have been more yellowish) and that dried yerba mate leaves were ground into a powder before being combined with the cocoa butter to create that unique color. To satisfy my curiosity, I put a call in to Lauren to get more information. Thanks for letting me know that whole mate leaves were added to the grinder to help infuse the white chocolate…I’m surprised that adding some saffron during the melanging phase didn’t affect the green hue.

Once removed from the wrapper, there was no mistaking the sweet herbal/grassy aroma of the mate. This transported me back to childhood summers when my grandparents would visit. The smell of the brewing mate would waft from the kitchen in the morning & I would watch their curious ritual of slowly sipping mate from small hollowed out gourds with metal bombillas (straws) dipped first in sugar to take away some of the bitterness of the tea. The gourd has intricate carvings on all sides.

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Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world and its complex flavor can be difficult to explain. Words like pungent, bitter, funky and medicinal come to mind; though I’ve seen others describe it as reminiscent of plastic and latex. Given that, I was both intrigued and apprehensive about tasting this bar; additionally I tend to stay away from caffeine and mate has moderate levels compared to coffee.

Biting into a rectangle (which had produced a nice snap when segmented from the rest of the bar), the morsel was a little grainy rather than completely smooth.

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It tasted very much like it smelled, but was also surprisingly creamy/buttery during the melt. Overall, it was the right amount of sweetness vs. bitterness and the flavors were not as overwhelming as I thought they might be; however both “main” ingredients are considered acquired tastes and probably won’t appeal to most palates.

In the spirit of brainstorming, I wondered if another traditional Spanish spice might be substituted for saffron…so with apologies to Lauren, I paired it with Pimentón de la Vera (a sweet smoked paprika).

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Personally, the smoky, sweet chili worked a little better than the bitter saffron…besides smokiness made me think of the parrilladas (barbecues) that the gauchos (Argentinian cowboys) are known for 😉

72% Cacao Fiji

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The image on this bar’s wrapper reminds me of high school biology and looking at substances under a high powered microscope…I wonder if this one depicts dissolved salt crystals? One nice feature is the “wrapped up” (date stamp) on the reverse, letting me know the freshness this chocolate.

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This would be my first taste of Fiji chocolate, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Removing the bar from the plastic inner wrapper, I noticed the glossy/shiny finish despite some air bubbles and “ghosting” that can occur when removing a tempered bar from its mold. Overall, the surface was a deep, dark brown with reddish flecks at some corners.

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Is it a “cop out” to describe the taste and aroma as “chocolatey”?! Upon opening the wrapper, there was an enticing sweet (and chocolatey) aroma. Each bite produced a thick, creamy, velvety mouthfeel while melting the slightly grainy morsel. To me, the flavor was the perfect combination of fruity and nutty, with a lightly astringent, roasted bitter aftertaste.

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Must seek out more Fiji chocolate soon 🙂

If you’re headed to the NW Chocolate Makers UnConference or the NW Chocolate Festival in Seattle next week, hopefully you’ll have the chance to meet Lauren in person…I know I’m looking forward to it!

For more information, check out: http://wkndchocolate.com/

O is for Only Child Chocolate Co.

Several months ago, I saw a “flat lay” of a variety of chocolate bars on someone’s Instagram feed and was captivated by the endearing hedgehog graphic of an unknown-to-me bar. Luckily, the post hash-tagged that chocolate by name so that I could search them out for myself! After reading the “backstory” of each bar on Only Child Chocolate’s website, I knew I had to try their trio of inclusion bars with adorable graphics & even cuter, pun-inspired names!

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Since this purchase was made during the summer heat, owner Yana Yakhnes sent me a sweet, detailed email to ensure that I was aware of all the caveats of shipping from Portland, Oregon to Southern California. I assured her that I would be home to greet the mail carrier and that the chocolates would be well cared for once they arrived to me. What a thrill to receive the chocolates just a couple of days later…she had thoughtfully included a few bonus nib-topped solid chocolate heart bonbons + a colorful fringed, party paper blowout (think of a vintage noisemaker toy that doesn’t actually make noise!) Receiving that package brightened my day & was the perfect way to start the weekend 🙂

Hedgehog in the Fog (34% white choc with bergamot & black pepper)

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This bar was named after a Russian cartoon where the two animal characters (a hedgehog and bear) would search for each other in a misty forest so that they can have tea together. This particular hedgehog must be drinking an Earl Grey tea since bergamot oil is what gives Earl Grey its distinctive taste.

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The thick plain brown cardboard outer box is completely wrapped by a sticker with the eye-catching graphic on one side and the ingredients/informational details on the other. Since that sticker covers the flaps of the box, I needed a knife or letter opener to slice open the package so as to preserve the sticker intact…a minor inconvenience that most people probably wouldn’t notice or care about.

The four rectangle bar is wrapped in a re-sealable plastic sleeve and upon opening that, lemon was the predominant aroma (I’m so surprised that I didn’t sneeze when sniffing the cracked black pepper inclusion side!)

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I always thought of bergamot as an orange-y flavor, so I decided to do some research on this citrus fruit. In case you’re interested too, here is a link to an article with more information.

Ordinarily I’m not a fan of white chocolate…this not-too-sweet bar was creamy & smooth, with just the right amount of cracked black pepper to provide a gentle back-of-the-throat lingering heat. While taking photos, I had to remind myself that this was not a savory white cheddar cheese 😉

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Rosemary and Ginger Walk Into a Bar (38% milk chocolate with rosemary & candied ginger)

How can you not smile when looking at the slender sprig of rosemary and the ginger rhizome enjoying a cocktail together on the front of this packaging?

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Like the white chocolate bar, the inclusion side of this bar is so photogenic, with its mostly evenly distributed clusters of crumbled candied ginger sitting atop rosemary-infused milk chocolate.

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During the first couple of bites, I tasted and smelled mostly rosemary (which is a pleasant aromatherapy experience in itself!) The distinctive tangy “bite” of the candied ginger seemed to be cumulative & made itself known soon enough. While ginger might be a divisive ingredient, it is personally one of my favorite flavors. In my opinion, the creamy, smooth milk chocolate flecked with earthy rosemary paired well with the savory candied ginger. There are so many culinary and herbal benefits to rosemary and ginger…maybe this bar should be considered a “health food”?! ;-p

The Sun and the Sea (70% Venezuelan dark chocolate with sunflower seeds & sea salt)

Saving the best for last!

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Upon removing the bar from the packaging, it was obvious why sunflower seeds were listed as the first ingredient 🙂 This bar reminded me more of a thin Rice Krispies treat than an inclusion bar!

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It seems like generous handfuls of unsalted roasted sunflower seeds were coated with dark chocolate, formed into a bark/slab and dotted with quick melting large sea salt crystals.

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I didn’t really notice olive oil, though it’s listed as an ingredient. Maybe this helped to keep the bar shiny and smooth? While it was hard to isolate the chocolate from the seeds themselves, I certainly didn’t mind as I munched away blissfully and tried hard not to eat the entire bar in one sitting!

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