Saturday, September 29, 2012

Domori Cacao Criollo 70% Porcelana


0.88oz (25g) bar
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, cane sugar

Corporate Info: [Altered from 1/23/11] A Google search on Italy's Domori mostly finds retailers and the occasional layperson like me, not news articles or other credible sources of information. (One minor exception is a short blog post from 2005 by famed pastry chef David Lebovitz.) Domori is currently a subsidiary of gruppo illy, which also owns several other high-end brands including the obvious illycaffè. Otherwise I'll refrain from making any claims about Domori as a company and just point you to the areas of its website that talk about its plantation, the company today, its production process, and so on. It's not all that enlightening, but the focus (whether in reality or just marketing terms) seems to be on quality and flavor. The bars are very small and pricey, so they'd better be high quality!

This Bar: I received the Porcelana from a friend, who absolutely loves Domori and this bar in particular. It's made with prized criollo beans from Venezuela, which supposedly have a subtler, “finer” taste. Domori's website claims the Porcelana bar has “hints of bread, butter, and jam for an exhilarating round palate.” Hm, okay.

Appearance: Domori's thin, flat shape with a low-key sheen and orange undertone. (The photo above was taken some time after I received the bar, so my description is based on my having rubbed my thumb over the bloom evident there.)

Smell: Not strong, but earthy, bitter, and roasted.

Taste: Texture is super rich and creamy. Flavor is indeed subtle but with a thin, bitter edge and long finish. I'm getting earthy and dried, like dirt or mushrooms, plus there's that long-lasting but not especially tannic (as is often the case) bitterness that reminds me of the aftertaste of strong, dark-roasted coffee. Lots of complexity here.

Conclusion: Domori Cacao Criollo 70% Porcelana is smooth and subtly earthy, with a long-lasting bitter finish.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

B.T. McElrath Super Red Chocolate Bar


3oz (85g) bar
Ingredients: Chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, tart cherries, strawberries, raspberries
12g sugar/43g serving (27.9% by wt.)

Corporate Info: [Copied from 5/26/12] Minneapolis's B.T. McElrath was founded by a chef, and accordingly seems to focus on creating unusual flavored bars and interesting seasonal confections. No organic/fair trade here. B.T. McElrath's Chile Limón Bar is one of my favorites, and while I was less enamored with the seemingly popular Salty Dog, I'm always up for more of the company's fun flavor combos.

Today's Bar: 70% cacao with cherries, strawberries, and raspberries. I'm not hugely into berry bars, but that's just a matter of personal taste, and it's always interesting to see how different companies approach the fruit in terms of size, sweetness, consistency, etc.

Appearance: Semi-glossy with yellow undertones and, on the reverse, bumps from chocolate-covered fruit pieces.

Smell: Mild, though a broken bar reveals the scent of light, dried raspberries and strawberries, with the freshness of freeze dried fruit (a la Just Tomatoes) rather than than fruit that is sweet and moist or artificial and overpowering. I should note that I opened this bar long before I had a chance to review it, and sometimes that means a lot of the scent is lost.

Taste: The chocolate is B.T. McElrath's usual, mild and creamy (see the extra fat in the ingredients). The small, copious berry pieces add a punch of tart, fruity flavor and a slight crunch and chewiness, and the red flecks look nice in a broken bar, as you can see accurately on the box. As a co-taster said as he grabbed for another square, “This is such good chocolate!” Because berries aren't my thing I won't go out of my way to buy this bar again, but if the description sounds good to you, you probably won't be disappointed.

Conclusion: B.T. McElrath Super Red Chocolate Bar is mild and pleasant, with tiny punches of flavor from fresh-tasting fruit.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fearless 75% Dark as Midnight


2oz (56.7g) bar
Ingredients: Organic raw cacao, o. unrefined cane sugar
6g sugar/28.35g serving (21.2% by wt.)

Corporate Info: [Copied from 6/2/12] Fearless is totally new to me, but I spied its frankly adorable boxes (tiny elephant! lightning! cloud/bite out of corner! friendly font!) on sale and bought a couple boxes. The company was apparently founded in 2006 in California, uses recycled paper for the outer boxes, and makes bean-to-bar chocolate with organic ingredients and direct trade cacao from specific plantations in Brazil, with a special focus on raw cacao. All of this may or may not mean anything to you, but I think I can safely say that Fearless is full of good intentions, part of what I'm seeing as a young cohort trying to bring chocolate into the modern age more thoughtfully, with an eye toward (or blatant focus on) sustainability and treating growers well. The small-company, bean-to-bar model is one way of doing it (contrast with Divine, for example), and it's a fine option. Good for them. Oh, and Fearless currently produces only five items, a plain 75% bar and four 70% bars with interesting flavor combos.

Today's Bar: Fearless's plain chocolate, in 75% cacao rather than the 70% they use in flavored bars.

Appearance: Fearless's usual fairly matte bar with the great mold, though I'd venture (without having the others in front of me) that the 75% chocolate is slightly glossier and has a richer, redder hue than its fairly grey 70% base.

Smell: Fresh, raw but rounded, earthy.

Taste: Like Fearless's other bars, this one crunches before melting into something smooth and thick. The flavor is tart and beany, like cacao nibs with a super-creamy texture; there are undertones of something fragrant and tropical, maybe banana, but the predominant flavor is sour and somewhat tannic without being seriously bitter or harsh.

Conclusion: Fearless 75% Dark as Midnight has a creamy texture and a bright and raw but tempered flavor. It's wild cacao that's been tamed for your palate.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fearless 70% Super Seeds Crunch! Hemp Chia Flax


2oz (56.7g) bar
Ingredients: Organic raw cacao, o. unrefined cane sugar, o. flax seed, o. hemp seed, o. chia seed
7g sugar/28.35g serving (24.7% by wt.)

Corporate Info: [Copied from 6/2/12] Fearless is totally new to me, but I spied its frankly adorable boxes (tiny elephant! lightning! cloud/bite out of corner! friendly font!) on sale and bought a couple boxes. The company was apparently founded in 2006 in California, uses recycled paper for the outer boxes, and makes bean-to-bar chocolate with organic ingredients and direct trade cacao from specific plantations in Brazil, with a special focus on raw cacao. All of this may or may not mean anything to you, but I think I can safely say that Fearless is full of good intentions, part of what I'm seeing as a young cohort trying to bring chocolate into the modern age more thoughtfully, with an eye toward (or blatant focus on) sustainability and treating growers well. The small-company, bean-to-bar model is one way of doing it (contrast with Divine, for example), and it's a fine option. Good for them. Oh, and Fearless currently produces only five items, a plain 75% bar and four 70% bars with interesting flavor combos.

Today's Bar: One of Fearless's flavored bars, 70% cacao enrobing small, nutritious flax, hemp, and chia seeds.

Appearance: Like Fearless's other bars, this one is matte and greyish, in Fearless's delightful mold of elephants, stars, and a bite or cloud cut out of the corner.

Smell: Raw, beany, rich, but not sharp or strong.

Taste: Texture starts crunchy and melts smooth and thick, with the small seeds adding a popping crunch that makes the mouthfeel more complex—you have to chew this bar. Flavor is earthy, chocolatey, balanced in a close-to-the-tree way, with some sour and bitter notes but nothing harsh or separated from the other flavors, and the seeds contribute a slight nuttiness (and, yes, stick in your teeth a little). I'm a fan of Fearless!

Conclusion: Fearless 70% Super Seeds Crunch! Hemp Chia Flax is Fearless's thick, raw chocolate flavor with some nutty notes and the added texture of crunchy, popping seeds.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Chocolate Shops: Grendelsweets


I'd been meaning to visit Grendelsweets since I wrote up my posts on tasting chocolate in Seattle, but I rarely make it to the area where the shop is located. The other day I had an appointment nearby, so I stopped in the shop and bought several confections, though I have yet to try the hyped (and tasty sounding) hot chocolate. Here's a brief review.

Grendelsweets is a small shop inside Crossroads Mall, just a confection counter to the left of the door and a prep area in the back. The woman who helped me was positive and patient, but more importantly, the chocolates are made in-house with many organic, fair trade (etc.) ingredients and in interesting flavors. I chose a half dozen, which I came home and split with my co-taster. We were both pleasantly surprised by the smoothness of the ganaches and coatings and the complex, balanced flavors, but I was most impressed by the fact that none of my selections turned out to be too sweet—even potentially cloying dipped marzipan and buttercream-filled orange cream, the latter of which was flavored with spicy, rich orange oil.

So okay, this is just another confection store, not one of our local bar shops or bean-to-bar producers, but in the end I decided to review the shop because it deserves it: For those in the area, Grendelsweets is a worthy destination for high quality confections.