Saturday, September 24, 2011

Vosges Black Salt Caramel Bar

3oz (85g) bar
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, organic cream, corn syrup, soy lecithin, water, vanilla, sea salt
11g sugar/43g serving (25.6% by wt.)

Corporate Info: Vosges is based in Chicago and produces a pretty wide variety of adventurously flavored bars and confections, among them the famous bacon chocolate. The last time I sampled a Vosges bar I was annoyed by the pretentious copy on the back of the box, and it's silly here too, but the website keeps the flowery text off the front page, and of course it's not as important as the chocolate! This filled bar just sounded like fun.

Appearance: Wide, thin, and flat, nicely molded, very smooth, medium-dark, a bit ruddy. I'm impressed such a thin bar contains a filling!

Smell: Not particularly unusual, but tangy and creamy.

Taste: Very nice. The caramel's flavor is rich, creamy, and deep but relatively subtle and surprisingly not too sweet; I personally might like it more toasted, but this is just a matter of taste, and it's well-made as it is. Texture-wise, the soft caramel oozes but fortunately doesn't all flow out like water, so I can take a chunk off without losing the entire filling. The 70% cacao chocolate is just tart, sweet, and complex enough to hold its own against the filling, neither dwarfing nor being dwarfed by the low-key caramel. I've almost forgotten the salt, which as part of the caramel isn't a standout ingredient but rather an integral flavoring element. There's a lot going on here, though you'll have to pay attention if you want to taste the nuances.

Conclusion: Vosges Black Salt Caramel Bar is balanced, not too sweet, and won't shout to be heard, but if you like this sort of thing, it's worth your money and effort.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

World Market Chili & Lime Dark Chocolate 64% Cacao

3oz (85g) bar
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, chipotle powder, natural flavor
15g sugar/43g serving (34.9% by wt.)

Corporate Info: See last week.

Appearance: Lighter in color than the Sea Salt bar, smooth and thin, with a touch of red.

Smell: Almost none, very very slightly like cocoa beans, chili powder, and lime Tostitos.

Taste: Subtle, with a brief hint of lime, then just mild chocolate, then a slow, lasting, back-of-the-throat burn, then the lime Tostitos fade in and out, though they're pretty low-key. I'm not getting much actual chili flavor or lime, and I wonder if the chocolate maker uses that same powdered lime substance that Frito Lay does. Overall, I think this bar is too sweet and could use more flavor all around—lime, chili, and chocolate—but I bet it would make good hot cocoa. I'll try that tomorrow.

Conclusion: World Market Chili & Lime Dark Chocolate 64% Cacao is dull and too sweet, though the long afterburn is fun. As I said last week, I'm not sure I'd buy World Market's 64% cacao flavored chocolate again.

[Update the next day: It does indeed make good hot cocoa!]

Saturday, September 10, 2011

World Market Sea Salt Dark Chocolate 64% Cacao

3oz (85g) bar
Ingredients: Chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, sea salt
15g sugar/43g serving (34.9% by wt.)

Corporate Info: So I don't know who actually makes World Market's (a.k.a. Cost Plus World Market) chocolate, but I was there for other reasons and liked the sound of their flavored chocolates, including this week's Sea Salt and next week's Chili & Lime. None of it is listed on the site, so I guess there are two questions here. First, how well do the flavors work? And second, if you're at World Market buying beaded chair cushions or Finnish soda or something, should you throw in some of their store brand chocolate?

Appearance: I dunno, medium brown. Fairly dark, actually, darker than I would think for 64%. A big, thin bar, and you can just barely see the shapes of sea salt flakes under the chocolate.

Smell: Mild, sweet, fruity of the apricot/peach variety.

Taste: Woah. The chocolate is very mild and sweet and not especially fruity, and the texture is fairly creamy. What's weird is that the flakes of sea salt sneak up on you, because they're not super small but are incorporated into the chocolate, not on top where you know where they are and they'll start melting right away; you're chewing your mild, milky chocolate and then suddenly there's a tiny crunch and salinity comes out of nowhere. I like sweet and salt together, but I'm not sure this entirely appeals to me, plus the chocolate isn't all that great. Maybe less sugar would have worked better with this mild chocolate.

Conclusion: World Market Sea Salt Dark Chocolate 64% Cacao is mild and a bit too sweet for me, and the incorporated salt is kind of jarring. I'm not sure I'd buy World Market's 64% cacao flavored chocolate again.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Coppeneur Chuao 70% Dark Chocolate

50g (1.76oz) bar
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, cane sugar

Unbeknownst to me when I wrote this post, apparently I'd previously bought a Coppeneur product, this super-schmancy—which is to say expensive—Venezuelan bar (click on “English,” then “Products,” then “Cru de Cacao,” then “Chuao”) newly carried by Marie &Freres.

Corporate Info: Coppeneur is a German company based in a spa town (Bad Honnef), and the founders' last names are Coppeneur and Bernardini, so the whole brand feels thoroughly European. The company produces single-origin bars, the previously-discussed truffle bars, and confections. This bar comes from Chuao, where they grow a cacao varietal that is a crossbreed of the better-known Criollo and Trinitario. The box is sealed with a plastic imprint of the Coppeneur symbol, and inside there is not just the bar but also a little 39-page ad booklet, with color photos and both German and English text. Definitely schmancy.

Appearance: Thin and flat, reddish, with fancy molding of a cacao pod.

Smell: Quiet, sweet, light, dried fruit.

Taste: I splurged on this bar after tasting it in the store, and now I remember why. It's punchy and unusual, initially bitter like roasted coffee and vodka, but so, so creamy that the bitterness is super-clean and then quickly calms down, like sipping a good, smooth liquor. FYI, the website says “Flavors of plums and red fruits. Nuances of ginger and pepper.” Maybe...I can see red fruits rather than caramelly dried fruit or something tropical, I guess, but none of what they're claiming speaks to my overall experience. Nevertheless, it's a fun one.

Conclusion: Coppeneur Chuao 70% Dark Chocolate is initially bitter, then super smooth.