When I’m not talking to Robin at Now Smell This about perfume, we might be chatting about tea (in which she is the resident expert) or chocolate, a subject dear to our hearts. We’re doing a joint post on chocolate this weekend – citrus for her, nicely-textured chocolate for me — so be sure to stop by NST on Saturday.
Let’s start off with me stipulating: I know even less about chocolate than perfume. Everything I know about its manufacture I learned on the fake “factory” ride at Hersheypark. If you want to know about chocolate liquor and cocoa nibs and what represents quality in chocolate, I’m sure there are plenty of websites devoted to the topic.
Taste is key in chocolate, everyone’s got their favorite flavors, but texture’s important too. It can be too soft or too waxy. It can be grainy or chalky. Goo-filled chocolate bars (like with caramel, or mint crème) are mostly not my thing, nor are super-dark chocolate bars that veer too close to being unsweetened. I’ve had the best luck sampling chocolate bars in the way I have sampled perfumes – I buy five or ten bars at once and rip them open. In a household of six, I’m not stuck eating the whole thing, and no chocolate winds up in the trash here unless it’s essentially inedible (those Hungarian puffed-rice bars were pretty bad; so were the mini-bars from Seoul).
Here are random thoughts and a couple of personal favorites in the chocolate-with-an-appealing-texture category. Please add yours.
1) Chocolove Orange Peel in Dark Chocolate. (55% cocoa, orange peel). I am not a huge fan of the chocolate/orange dynamic, no doubt scarred for life by those orange-flavored, waxy segmented chocolate “oranges” from my childhood Christmas stocking. (I ate one recently and they are even worse than I remember.) The Chocolove bar, on the other hand, is brilliant. It has bits of freeze-dried orange peel, crisp and crunchy between the teeth, a bit like a crisped-rice bar, and the flavor is extraordinarily addictive. The Fendi Theorema of chocolate.
Runner up: The Dolfin crystallized orange peel one is nice (sticky little bits rather than crunchy), the same with their ginger bar.
2) Dolfin chocolate in Earl Grey (52% cocoa dark chocolate with Earl Grey Tea). Robin turned me on to Dolfin, they make a passel of seriously strange flavors. If you’re intrigued they also make a handy sample pack (scroll to the bottom for the sample sets). The Earl Grey bar is a medium dark bar, a little waxy and grainy, with the definite crunch of tea leaves between the teeth. It’s something of an acquired taste. Honesty demands that I admit to eating five or six Earl Grey bars without having decided whether I even liked it. By bar seven, one reaches the inevitable conclusion that there must be some attraction there, yes? It’s the Dior Dune of chocolate bars.
By the way the Dolfin Sencha (green tea) was a murky disappointment to me, anyway. The lavender was exceedingly strange, borderline unpleasant, I want to retry it … maybe that’s the Dune of chocolate, since Dune itself has that inedible lavender-chocolate element. Moving on to…
3) Mo’s Dark Bacon Bar by Vosges. (62% dark chocolate, applewood bacon, smoked salt). Until I can buy actual chocolate-dipped bacon — and if I looked around online I probably can — I will amuse myself with this. The milk chocolate version is very rich and the chocolate is creamy veering toward soft; I prefer the dark version, which isn’t terribly dark at all. If you can eat more than a quarter-bar in one sitting you’re made of sterner stuff than I am. Also I gave this bar to two people who gave it back to me, pronouncing it disgusting and inedible. They’re wrong. The Kolnisch Juchten of chocolate bars.
4) Goji bar by Vosges. (Tibetan goji berries + pink Himalayan salt + 45% deep milk chocolate). The goji berries add a great texture to the chocolate, a bit like minced dried cranberries, and are pleasantly tart, and then the salt cuts the sweetness further. I literally cannot stop eating once I’ve opened it.
5) Cadbury Fruit and Nut deserves a mention (raisins, almonds) as my go-to bar for years when I was young and had less money, and a $2.50 bar of chocolate represented a special treat (often smuggled into a theater.) In a pinch I’d still rather be nibbling my way through one of these than most of the other chocolate bars available at our nearby CVS.
6) Toblerone. Seriously, I can’t even say whether it’s any good, but I’ve been picking those little bits of … white stuff out of my molars for so long I have to include this. Is that white stuff nuts? Dryer lint? Just kidding, it’s torrone, an Italian nougat of honey, egg white, sugar and almonds. A staple of our household at Christmas, when Santa buys the hilariously large bars at Trader Joe’s and puts them in stockings.
I’ve ordered from Chocosphere, any other recommendations for chocolate dealers? By the way, at least locally, my Cost-Plus World Market has a better selection of chocolate bars than anyone else including Whole Foods. They have a website but you can’t order the bars online, sadly.
I’d love a go-to pepper bar, with peppercorns or hot red peppers. I like the Vosges hot-pepper ones, as well as the Lindt dark Chili bar, which is an excellent value ($2ish locally. But they all have heat rather than crunchy texture. Any out there with freeze-dried minced peppers or peppercorns? Looking online I see the Dolfin Poivre Rose – the pink peppercorn, which I think I need to re-try.
All right, your turn!!! If there’s a chocolate bar with a flavor and/or texture you find particularly wonderful, please chime in. Links are good for shopping purposes, use tinyurl if you’re worried about winding up in our spam filter. (You paste in some giant multi-line gobbledygook link and it translates it to a much shorter link, just copy and paste that.) Also if there’s a soft-filled bar you think I should try, because I clearly just haven’t found the right one, throw that out there. I like Belgian chocolates (filled with ganache etc.), not sure what my problem is with liquid-center bars (raspberry, caramel, etc.), but mostly they put me off.