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

Project Runway Candy Contest Entries

Quite characteristically, I forgot about attempting to enter Project Runway’s draw a design with candy contest. Oops. Only 3 people ended up entering (make sure you’re on Episode 6 in the drop down menu), but their designs are far better than anything my artistically challenged self could have submitted. Besides, what would I do with a 5 pound Hershey bar anyway? I don’t even like their milk chocolate bars.

January 17, 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

Help support ZOMG, Candy!

Hi dear readers,

I know many of y’all are about my age. As a new semester gets underway, bringing with it new courses and new textbooks, I’d like to remind you that shopping at Amazon.com through the link on my donation page would help me out greatly. I’m pretty much entirely self financed and could use all the extra financial support I can get to help offset my hosting and candy buying costs. Amazon.com purchases made through that link cost you nothing, but a small percentage of your purchase makes its way back to me through their Amazon Affiliates program.

So just click HERE before you do your online shopping, and help make me a less poor candy blogger!

Many thanks! And my apologies in advance, for after its initial posting, this post will be second on my front page through the month of January (as long I can remember to keep editing its timestamp).

~Rosa

January 15, 2008 at 5:20 pm 1 comment

Candy Find – Viva Chocolato in Austin, TX

I have a new candy find for when I’m home in Austin! Viva Chocolato, founded by Mark Adams and Nino DeFalcis, is a locally owned high-end chocolate shop that recently opened in The Domain shopping center. In addition to truffles, chocolate bars, and boxed chocolates from all over the world, they also serve gelato, chocolate-covered waffles and crepes, fine wines for truffle pairings, single-origin fondue, and more. I popped in to check out their truffle selection and chatted with Melissa Adams, one of the owners, about Viva Chocolato and its chocolate philosophy. I ended up buying a cup of their gelato, which arrived generously overflowing with creamy chipotle chocolate deliciousness, and the following truffles:

From left to right, they are a Michel Cluizel Renne Champignon (caramel and nougatine), a TexCru Jack Daniels, a Grand Sumatra (dark hazelnut), a Michel Cluizel 99% Marseille Cacaoforte, and what I believe is some sort of Italian tri-layered mocha truffle. I don’t know exactly what the last one is because my fifth truffle was originally a Grand Champagne until my dear friend Cassie accidentally dropped my bag of truffles, broke the champagne one, and slipped one of her own into my bag as a replacement when I wasn’t looking. Wasn’t that sweet of her? As Melissa told me, the only thing better than a good friend is a good friend with chocolate. Truffle reviews will come later.

Believe me, it was hard limiting myself to just five truffles from Viva Chocolato’s huge selection (at $2-3 apiece, they’re a bit of a decadent splurge). On the domestic end, they carry handmade truffles made by a local Austin chocolatier, a Texan chocolatier, and a truffle maker in New York. On the international end, there are handmade truffles from Italy, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and probably more countries that I missed. All of the truffles were carefully selected by the Adams and DeFalcis couples over the course of over a year through weekly taste tests that often lasted until the wee hours of the morning. I could think of worse ways to spend a Saturday night. If you’re not lucky enough to live in or visit Austin, Melissa tells me that they plan to add a mail-order component to the business, so just be patient.

My favorite part of Viva Chocolato was their wholehearted promotion of connecting and bonding over chocolate. The seating in the shop is cute and cozy, and there’s even a semi-private Chocolate Party Pod for, you guessed it, chocolate parties that include a guided chocolate tasting, chocolate pairings with wine or champagne, the aforementioned single-origin fondue, and dessert in the form of a handmade European chocolate truffle torte with coffee and tea. I think my girlfriends and I need to treat ourselves to a chocolate party next year to celebrate our college graduations.

Melissa was incredibly gracious in taking the time to chat with me and show me around Viva Chocolato. Her love of chocolate and the shop that she helped develop was easily apparent in the little details she pointed out (like the cacao pods on the gorgeous glass light fixtures and the custom made clock below) and in the way she spoke of Viva Chocolato’s development from idea to reality. As far as I’m concerned, Viva Chocolato will handily replace the coffeehouses, the cafes, and the gelato place where my friends and I used to gather for our Thanksgiving, winter, and summer break reunions. Clearly, this place deserves a ZOMG!, and I’ll definitely be back every time I’m back in Austin.

(I’m so mad that this picture turned out so fuzzy. I want a clock like that. Except mine would say ZOMG, Candy!, of course.)

January 15, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Candy Backlog #3: Gummy Googly Eyes

Back in October, my residential college had a fall festival. One of the events was Fear Factor, where contestant had to eat Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, a chili lollipop, snot on a stick (really fat pretzel sticks dipped in white chocolate dyed a nauseating shade of green), and gummy body parts, including teeth, tongues, and these, Googly Eyes. The Googly Eye I stole was cherry flavored.

The people on the packaging have some freaky looking eyes. I can see little kids grabbing two of these, sticking them on their faces, and scaring their little brothers and sisters. The packaging also reveals that these are made by the Foreign Candy Company! I have a special fondness for them, as they made the French Bon Bons I used to sell for French Club and National French Honor Society back in high school and middle school. And by sell, I mean I ended up eating half my bag myself and had to buy them myself because they were so deliciously addictive. I miss Bon Bons…

Sadly, the Gummy Googly Eyes were neither delicious nor addictive. In fact, I couldn’t even finish the one I had. The gummy was very soft, which could have been nice, except that it was also rather foamy and spongy. It also tasted bad: lightly, generically sweet, with no cherry that I could taste. The unflavorful taste combined with the terrible mouthfeel of the texture earned this an O.

January 14, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

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