Posts filed under ‘chocolate’

Vosges Haut Chocolat Truffles

The Vosges Haut Chocolat boutique was at the top of my list of candy places to hit up in Vegas (though it was a short list; Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge was the only other place on there). The flagship Whole Foods in Austin carries several Vosges bars (BUY!) and small prepicked boxes of their truffles, but I wanted to see an actual Vosges boutique in all of its chocolate glory. I visited the one in Caesar’s Palace’s Forum Shops with my mother on Christmas day, and she generously offered to buy me whatever I wanted as my Christmas gift.

The boutique was prettily laid out, with lots of clean spaces, glass shelving, and accented displays. There’s also a chocolate bar in the back, where you can buy sipping chocolate and giant cookies the size of my outstretched hand. I chose the assortment of mini-bars seen above in the top right corner (I’d known I wanted to buy those since I started planning my trip to the boutique) and picked out two of their truffles, the Tlan Nacu (below photo, left) and the Lion (below photo, right), for my Christmas present. The Vosges employee helping me put them in a pretty white box that he then tied with a purple satin ribbon (like the ones in this photo). I appreciated the decorative touch, as later chocolatiers I visited put my individually purchased truffles in paper or cellophane bags, which were far less pretty.

The Tlan Nacu, described by Vosges as Mexican vanilla bean + dark chocolate, had an incredibly creamy ganache with a sweet tinge to its aftertaste. Otherwise, though, it pretty much tasted like a softened dark chocolate, which is basically what you get when you add vanilla to chocolate.

I couldn’t remember what was in the Lion truffle, so the ingredient list couldn’t influence my tasting notes. I got a very slight chili heat that reminded me of a chocolate chipotle gelato I had a Viva Chocolato. In the truffle, it’s more of a suggestion of that peppery, spicy heat without any actual fire. I also got some slight fruity notes in the aftertaste. Revisiting my photos reveals that the Lion is allspice berry, calabaza, dark chocolate, and pumpkin seed. The pumpkin seed didn’t add much in the way of taste, probably because I picked it off and ate it on its own. Whoops. The allspice berry was probably the source of the chili almost-heat I couldn’t describe while the calabaza, a type of lightly sweet squash, accounted for the slight sweetness in the finish.

These truffles have the smoothest ganache I have ever had the pleasure to experience, and their spherical shapes are gorgeous in a minimalist manner. I wish I’d picked something more adventurous than the Tlan Nacu, which turned out to be pretty tame, but the most of the other interesting truffles overlapped with the mini chocolate bars. At $3 a pop, the Vosges truffles tie with the imported truffles at Viva Chocolato for the most expensive truffles I’ve ever bought. I’d give them a hearty ZOMG! for being decadent, interesting, and well made, but I’m demoting them to an OMG because of the exorbitant price. I probably wouldn’t buy them again for myself, but I wouldn’t turn them down if I got a chance to pick out more next Christmas.

You can also check out Cybele’s take on the Vosges brand at her site.

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January 30, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Cadbury Crunchie

I found the British Cadbury Crunchie (BUY!) at Coco Moka in Houston’s airport.

The wrapper promised “milk chocolate with a golden honeycomb centre,” so I expected that it would be something similar to the Violet Crumble, and I was right. However, I liked the Cadbury Crunchie more. The honeycomb center (or centre) of the Cadbury Crunchie was darker and had a more complex burnt sugar flavor. It was also less styrofoamy than the Violet Crumble, so it was less dry on the tongue.

Despite being better than the Violet Crumble, the Cadbury Crunchie still falls far short of the chocolate/honeycomb perfection attained by the Dark Sponge of Economy Candy because its honeycomb center is that fake foamy thing. My first two bites made me want to give it an OMG, but a third bite put me in sweetness overload, so I demoted its ranking to an OM. Perhaps if I’d tasted the treat sized version (BUY!), I would’ve let it keep that higher rating. Even the nice touch of the decorated bottom couldn’t change the fact that the sweet milk chocolate plus the dense and sweet honeycomb adds up to an overly cloying bar.

January 28, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

3400 Phinney Chai Tea Milk Chocolate

The last bar of 3400 Phinney (BUY!) Week is Chai Tea Milk Chocolate with a 40% cacao content. Theo’s website describes this one as “milk chocolate with a warming blend of chai spices and black tea.”

I love, love, loved this bar. I don’t drink chai tea because I usually find it too sweet, but this bar was just right. Because I don’t drink chai tea, I had a hard time naming the spice flavor I got from this bar in my blind tasting. My notes say “great cinnamon-y(?) notes. Not sugary cinnamon; genuine, real cinnamon spice,” which is the best way I could describe that chai spice essence. Another friend mused that the flavor was like cinnamon but not quite and wondered if the bar had cloves. A little research revealed that chai spices can include cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and star anise. So we were close-ish.

Many of my friends didn’t really like this bar, and several of them felt the “weird” spice flavor overwhelmed the chocolate. I found the flavor intriguing, and it kept me reaching for more pieces. Like all the 3400 Phinney bars, this too was smooth and creamy. A ZOMG! from me because I couldn’t stop eating it. It was my favorite of the 3400 Phinney bars and probably the only one that I would regularly buy for snacking (if I could afford it; at $3.25 a bar, these don’t come cheap). Amongst my friends, this came in 11th out of 13 (just one spot above the Dagoba Chai) with a score of 2.67/5, so it’s not for everyone.

I was quite impressed with Theo’s 3400 Phinney line, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re all made with organic and fair trade ingredients, though that does drive up the price. I’d love to taste the other 3 varieties. Cybele from Candy Blog reviewed all 6.

January 25, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

3400 Phinney Vanilla Milk Chocolate

Theo 3400 Phinney Week (BUY!) continues with the Vanilla Milk Chocolate with a 40% cacao content. The Theo website calls this one “a harmonious blend of finely ground Madagascar vanilla bean and milk chocolate.”

This milk bar had a European/Cadbury-finish which I found to be quite good. The melt is smooth and the mouthfeel creamy. I thought I tasted hints of bread or toast, but my palate is untrained, and it also may have just been the power of suggestion (I knew one of the bars would be the bread & chocolate).

The bar looks pretty dark in the photo, and it’s not just a trick of the light. 40% is a high cacao content for a milk bar, and many lesser chocolate companies would try to pass that off as a semisweet. I thought this bar was wonderful for a “milk” bar, and I thought the sweetness level was just right. An OMG from me, and a 3.71/5 from my friends, making it good enough for 4th place at my chocolate tasting party.

January 23, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

3400 Phinney Bread and Chocolate

Theo’s 3400 Phinney bars (BUY!) are named after the chocolate factory’s address (3400 Phinney Ave. in Seattle, Washington). Someday, I hope to make a Theo pilgrimage. Theo makes 6 varieties of 3400 Phinney bars; all are organic and fair trade certified. I managed to get 3 of them for my chocolate party. Welcome to 3400 Phinney Week!

First up is the Bread & Chocolate, a dark 65% cacao. The website description (there’s none on the wrapper) called this “an innovative twist on a traditional pairing, featuring dark chocolate with buttery, toasted artisan breadcrumbs and the perfect amount of salt.” The ingredients? Cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, French bread (wheat flour, water, yeast, sea salt), butter, sea salt. Impressively simple.

This bar came in last out of 13 at my chocolate party with an average of 2.04/5. Many friends complained that it was too salty and too bitter. A few people, myself included, didn’t like the texture of the bar. The bread crumbs, which I mistook for rice crisps that wouldn’t dissolve properly, added an unpleasant grit and also made the bar quite dry. With a high 65% cacao content, this bar is on the bitter side and definitely not for everyone. I got a strong coffee finish. An OM from me. I liked it, but it’s too sophisticated to be a frequent indulgence.

January 21, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Choxie Key Lime Pie Truffle Bar

Choxie is Target’s house brand of chocolate. While Target purports to sell stylish clothes for less, Choxie promises fancy chocolate for cheap. The back of the box sums up their philosophy nicely: “crafted with the finest and purest ingredients, it’s intended for the most sophisticated of chocolate palates. we suggest you keep it hidden from mere amateurs.” Sorry, Choxie, but you can’t fool me with your fake trendiness and refusal to use capital letters. But I do like the bright and vaguely retro packaging. Great color scheme!

The key lime pie truffle bar is “key lime-flavored white chocolate and graham biscotti bits enrobed in dark chocolate.” What I got was a way too sweet bar with a strong limey finish. I swear I tasted grains of sugar in the filling along with the scattered chunks of graham cracker.

The graham “biscotti” (I guess that’s fancier-sounding than graham cracker) bits were just crumbs. I think the bar could have benefited from slightly larger bits of the graham to make the texture more interesting and to balance out the sweet white chocolate.

The filling was too sugary, and the dark chocolate enrobing was too bland or too weak to balance it out. My bar had bloomed, which was unfortunate, and it gave the chocolate a greasy feel and an unappetizing look (though bloomed chocolate is perfectly safe to eat). The dark chocolate didn’t have a great melt – it was nowhere near as smooth or as creamy as the Dagoba and Theo bars – and the snap was rather weak and brittle.

Some of my friends liked the flavor combination (many of them thought it was lemon) but found fault with the texture. Others were not fans of the citrus addition and thought it was too weird. It did fairly well in the taste ratings: 9th place out of 13 with a score 3.17/5, placing it higher than many fancier, more expensive bars. From me, an O. I may have been too hard on Choxie because I was tasting it alongside other, nicer bars, so I haven’t completely written off the brand yet. I’d like to try some of their other truffle bars and see if they can redeem themselves.

January 18, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Cranberries & Almonds

It’s been a while since I posted a chocolate party review. I’m going to finish up the chocolate party posts next week so I can move on to covering my winter break candy tour. Consider these part of cleaning out my candy backlog.

Endangered Species Chocolate (BUY!) donates 10% of their profits”to help support species, habitat and humanity,” and they use their chocolate bar wrappers to raise awareness about endangered species. Some bars are organic, and I think all are fair trade. My bar was all about the wolf, and it was delicious.

Even though this dark bar boasts a high cacao content of 70 percent, it wasn’t bitter at all. If anything, I’d deem it bittersweet, and I found it surprisingly sweet for dark chocolate. The bar had an exceptional, heavy snap and a great dark finish. The almonds (in tiny pieces) added another smoky component to the bar, which worked nicely. Finally, the bar was visually gorgeous, with a deep, dark, rich color and a lovely gloss.

The bits of cranberry inside the bar were quite noticeable. You can see a piece of one poking out in the photo. They were dried pieces of cranberry, like raisins (or craisins, I guess). Usually the cranberry pieces melded nicely with the dark finish, but every once in a while a chunk of cranberry would be too big, too sweet, and too distracting.

At first I didn’t find this bar to be too exceptional. Sure, it was great dark chocolate, but so what? Yet I found myself reaching for more… and more… and more… It turned out to be quite addictive, enough so to earn a ZOMG! rating from me. Many thanks to my friend Katie for buying it for me. My friends’ ratings placed it 7th with a score of 3.5/5. I should note that the people who liked it really liked it.

My bar was just one of 15 varieties. I can’t wait to taste my way through more.

January 16, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

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