Author: Lori (Page 1 of 21)

Christopher Elbow

Thank you to Chocolate Stars USA for recommending and sending me these Christopher Elbow bars! These bars are new and will be introduced during the Summer Fancy Food Show, though you can also view them on their website. Since I will not be able to attend the Summer Fancy Food Show this year, I am very grateful for the opportunity to experience a tiny part of it through these bars ūüôā

Christopher Elbow is an artisan chocolatier based out of Kansas City, MO, and though this is my first time trying his chocolate, he is well known and his chocolates are sold in a variety of stores across the country including my local Chocolate House in D.C. He uses his signature chocolate blend as the base for most of his products and you can see some behind the scenes pictures of the chocolate being prepared on this tour of his factory. To learn more about what brought Christopher into the world of chocolate, I recommend watching this YouTube video.

For some Q&A with Christopher, you can also watch this video where he mentioned his shop starting out at the size of 400 square feet and selling 21 flavors, which remain popular to this day. In the video they mention the minimalistic design of the shop, which translates into the packaging as well. I couldn’t help but admire the simplicity of the packaging. When I shared these bars with coworkers, one of them said it look fancy because of the packaging.

The bars below are part of Christopher’s Signature Artisan Gourmet Chocolate Bar Collection. Besides the ones I’ll be sharing below, there are six other bars that will be introduced during the Fancy Food Show.

We’re starting off with the simple but ever popular 70% Dark Chocolate bar. It had a deep chocolatey scent. The texture was very smooth as my bite melted on my tongue and the chocolate had a combination of nutty, slightly floral and fruity notes. The nuttiness lingered in the aftertaste.

The Dark Rocks bar was voted the best bar by the Food and Wine Magazine!¬†This bar I sampled with coworkers before I even started writing this post. My coworkers and I had previously been addicted to the Fireworks Oreos, which contained pop rocks. Because we could no longer find Fireworks Oreos, this bar helped make up for the loss. The chocolate seemed creamier in flavor compared to the 70% Dark Chocolate, and the light popping sensation filled my mouth almost immediately. This is a very fun bar, and if you let the chocolate melt on your tongue, the popping goes on for a long time! One of my coworkers said the sensation was “airy.”

The scent of lemon and ginger was very faint from this bar, but once a piece of chocolate was in my mouth, I immediately tasted tartness of lemon and that sharp bite of ginger. From the outside of the bar you can’t see the candied ginger pieces, but once the chocolate melted in my mouth a bit, I could munch on the crystalized ginger bits. As someone who is still getting used to ginger in their chocolate, this bar was not bad at all! The light texture of the ginger was pleasant as opposed to bars with chewy or hard ginger pieces. For the majority of my bite, the lemon and ginger became subtle flavors while the chocolate took the spotlight.

The spicy scent of cardamom was very obvious and upfront from the Coffee Cardamom bar. My bite started off with strong cardamom and subtle coffee and chocolatey flavors. There were very subtle crunchy bits from the ground coffee and cardamom. Halfway through my bite, the cardamom grew subtler but the back of my throat got some of that spicy kick. This chocolate melted quicker on my tongue than the others and the coffee and cardamom lingered in the aftertaste.

The Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter and Toasted Corn was a bit softer due to the warmer temperatures. The bar definitely smelled like peanut butter and I could see corn bits on the back. Once I bit into the bar, I immediately tasted the flavor of popcorn, salt, butter, and peanut butter. The texture was a mixture of smooth and crunchy from the milk chocolate and corn bits. Sometimes I get a craving for milk chocolate and peanut butter. This bar hit the spot for that craving ūüôā This reminded me of a Salazon bar I’ve tried before¬†that contained peanuts and popcorn.

Any leftovers from sampling these bars will definitely be shared with coworkers so they can experience these flavor combinations, especially since the Dark Rocks bar was popular! There’s a Blueberry Lavender Dark Chocolate bar by Christopher Elbow that I definitely would be interested in trying if I get the chance. Best of luck ¬†for the Christopher Elbow chocolates at the Summer Fancy Food Show! Definitely give them a try if you are able to attend the event, when you next visit Kansas City, or make an online order.

Christopher Elbow: Made in Kansas City, MO

Chocolate Stars USA

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. Website links to articles, companies and other sources of information directly related to the topic written within the posts were included during the time of writing and the writer will not be held responsible for future changes on such website links. All images are original and the property of Time To Eat Chocolate unless specifically stated otherwise.

50 States: Vermont – Blue Bandana/Lake Champlain

Exploring chocolate makers from as many of the 50 states as possible has been quite a journey! I’m grateful to have fellow blogger, Trish, by my side because tackling a project like this would have taken forever and it’s more fun experiencing a shared adventure ūüôā Thank you so much, Trish, for helping me, lending your time and ideas and for making this possible!

I’m kind of sad to wrap up this project but I’m also glad because my “side stash” of chocolate that I want to share on here has continued to pile up. The increase in temperatures has also discouraged me from making more online orders, which is a good thing because once I get through that stash I want to shift my focus back to what’s local to the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., area again.

Not only am I celebrating finishing up the 50 States project with Trish, but I’m also celebrating 200 blog posts on Time To Eat Chocolate! Thank you so much to those who have been reading and following my blog, who have been encouraging me on my journey and to the chocolate makers who I’ve had to chance to connect with. Time To Eat Chocolate is very much a personal journal of the chocolates I’ve tried, but it’s also been a wonderful way to connect with fellow chocolate lovers, bloggers and chocolate makers.

Let’s move on to the last chocolate maker I’ll be covering! To represent Vermont, I am trying Blue Bandana. I was surprised to find out that Blue Bandana is basically Lake Champlain! I’ve shared a few Lake Champlain bars on Time To Eat Chocolate before, and I had no idea at the time that they had another line of chocolate bars under the name Blue Bandana.

Blue Bandana was started in 2012 by Eric Lampman, the head of R&D at Lake Champlain and son of the original founder of Lake Champlain Chocolates, Jim Lampman. Blue Bandana was created out of the¬†“desire to go deeper into the chocolate-making process.” Even though Eric grew up being very familiar with chocolate, he hadn’t gone to where his cacao originated from and at the time, he didn’t thoroughly understand the process that it went through before it came into his hands. He took a trip to the Dominican Republic to visit small farms and he came back with a greater appreciation for the work that went into preparing cacao.¬†The name Blue Bandana came about because Eric would wrap a bandana around his face to protect himself from the dust created when he was winnowing the beans. The wrappers used for these bars also have a bandana-like pattern. I like the simple and clean look!

All of the bars have the same mold and appearance.

The back of the bar has the same faded square pattern as the original Lake Champlain bars.

This bar smelled fruity, sweet and like toasted coconut. The flavor was definitely reminiscent of brownies but also astringent. Halfway through my bite I tasted toasted coconut and in the aftertaste I got some nutty notes. The astringency stayed throughout my entire bite from the beginning into the aftertaste.

It’s cool seeing a bar using cacao from the Akesson farm. Ever since I tried a couple of Akesson’s bars, I’ve been more aware of other chocolate makers who obtain their cacao from them. This bar smelled like cranberries, apple and basically like the fall season. It tasted a little earthy and tart, but just like cranberry and lemon. The tartness of lemon and cranberry stayed throughout the rest of my bite.

This is the first time I’ve seen “roasted cherry” as a flavor note. The bar smelled and tasted like cherry. Throughout my bite it tasted like cherries and chocolatey. Because this bar wasn’t as tart or astringent as the others, and the cherry flavor was smooth and pleasant, I liked this bar the best out of the three that I tried.

When I attended a Lake Champlain factory tour a couple of years ago, they said that Whole Foods was their largest customer. Even though Lake Champlain seems quite large compared to other bean-to-bar companies, all of their bars you see at Whole Foods come from their single factory in Burlington, VT. I’m glad to hear that Lake Champlain has ventured into bean-to-bar! I hope that in the future Blue Bandana will be available at Whole Foods along with the original Lake Champlain line. They could help introduce everyday consumers to craft chocolate.

Blue Bandana/Lake Champlain: Made in Burlington, VT

Make sure to head over to Eating the Chocolate Alphabet to see which state Trish will be closing this project with on her end!

Other chocolate makers in Vermont are:
Kerchner Artisan Chocolate
Middlebury Chocolates
Pinnacle Chocolate

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. I did not receive pay or any compensation for reviewing any products. Website links to articles, companies and other sources of information directly related to the topic written within the posts were included during the time of writing and the writer will not be held responsible for future changes on such website links. All images are original and the property of Time To Eat Chocolate unless specifically stated otherwise.

 

 

 

Hello Cocoa

Preston from Hello Cocoa took on the challenge of sending me these chocolates during the first heat wave that hit the mid-Atlantic area, and though he did an excellent job with packing everything, USPS decided to leave the perishable package in the sun. Sadly the truffles did not do so well. I did not want to sample the truffles because while I let them sit around room temperature to re-solidify, I’m guessing some condensation stayed in the packaging and caused the truffles to grow mold. Preston, please don’t worry because I definitely want to try your truffles but I will wait until fall rolls around again! In the meantime, you can find Hello Cocoa’s truffles here and here.

Despite the outcome of the truffles, the bars miraculously survived! Only the Mocha bar showed some blooming, but I’ve tried and enjoyed this bar before. Some blooming will not prevent me from demolishing this bar ūüėČ I’m going to taste the rest of the bars before I finish with my favorite Mocha bar.¬†¬†My boyfriend joined me in sampling these chocolates and I’ll include his thoughts. We usually taste different flavors in chocolate, which is great for getting two different views and feedback.

If you want to read a bit about Hello Cocoa’s story, you can find more about them here¬†from when I first tried a couple of their bars!

74% Venezuala

This bar smelled bright and fruity. I tasted citrus and with a touch of astringency. Midway through my bite the chocolate tasted floral along with the citrus flavor. These two flavors lasted through the aftertaste. The boyfriend tasted cherries and tartness. The Hello Cocoa website lists the tasting notes as gardenia, light apple, strawberries and cream.

70% Dominican Republic

This bar had a strong fruity scent that reminded me of mangos. Throughout my bite I enjoyed the tropical fruitiness that I’ve usually experienced when tasting chocolate made with cacao from the Dominican Republic. The boyfriend said this bar tasted “milkier and brighter,” and like raspberries and pear. The flavor description Hello Cocoa uses is “bold, fruity flavor.”

Ooh La Lavender – 64% Dominican Republic + Lavender + Honey + Vanilla

The back of the packaging says that each lavender bar purchase helps support the I’Mindful Gives Back Foundation, which in turn teaches veterans, firefighters, police officers and other non-profit organizations about “awareness, compassion, non-judgment and emotional intelligence through the practice of mindfulness.”

The scent of lavender was strong from this bar. I first tasted the sweetness of honey followed by the lavender. Every once in a while there was a crunch from the cocoa nibs. I didn’t taste the vanilla until the end of my bite. What’s nice is that though lavender was the dominant flavor, it wasn’t overpowering my taste buds. The boyfriend tasted lavender, honey and vanilla. Honey and vanilla were very subtle for him. He liked the lavender being the dominant flavor.

57% Uganda

This bar had a cocoa-ey and earthy scent. I was pleasantly surprised that it tasted like coffee and cream! At the end of my bite it tasted a little nutty as well. The boyfriend said it tasted like a cappuccino to him. Coffee + chocolate are one of my favorite combinations, so this will be a contender with the Mocha bar as my favorite by Hello Cocoa. I won’t be surprised if after the tasting we finish the rest of this bar! Hello Cocoa’s tasting notes for this bar are coffee, toasted coconut and blackberry.

Spring Fever – 57% Ugandan Cocoa + Dried Apricots + Basil

I remember the first time I tried this bar was when we went to the first D.C. Chocolate Festival. My boyfriend and I sampled this bar and we were both amazed by the combination. The scent of basil was light.  I first tasted coffee (due to the Ugandan cocoa) before I detected basil. The basil started off subtle but increased in strength as my bite melted. It never overwhelmed my taste buds. The dried apricots gave a nice chewy texture and bits of fruity flavor. The boyfriend also liked the combination of apricot with basil.

Mocha – 52% Dark Milk Chocolate + Mama Carmen’s Black Apple Espresso

I’m finishing with what I usually refer to as my favorite bar by Hello Cocoa! It had an apple and deep espresso scent. The chocolate had creamy, strong espresso and subtle apple flavors. According to Hello Cocoa’s website, Mama Carmen’s is a local coffee shop and the chocolate is from the Dominican Republic. The boyfriend also liked this bar and said, “It tastes like real coffee rather than imaginary coffee” (referring to the Ugandan bar) ūüôā

Will the Mocha bar remain as my favorite Hello Cocoa bar? I’m kind of torn now between the 57% Uganda, Spring Fever and Mocha bar. If I absolutely had to choose just one bar, though, I’m staying with the Mocha bar. I liked that it combined fruity, coffee and creamy flavors.

Thank you again, Preston, for the chance to try all of the Hello Cocoa bars! I will return for the truffles later in the year!

Hello Cocoa: Made in Fayetteville, AR

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. Website links to articles, companies and other sources of information directly related to the topic written within the posts were included during the time of writing and the writer will not be held responsible for future changes on such website links. All images are original and the property of Time To Eat Chocolate unless specifically stated otherwise.

50 States: Texas – SRSLY Chocolate

When I’m picking which chocolate maker to feature for a state, it’s really hard to choose just one or two because I want to try all of them! The main factor that helps narrow down the list of who I should order chocolate from comes down to whether that chocolate maker has bars to sell (as not all chocolate makers produce bars full time, such as Patric), and if they do have bars to sell, some don’t ship their products. SRSLY was the only chocolate maker I was able to order bars from.

Bob Williamson, the founder of SRSLY Chocolate, had earlier tried his hand at cheese and beer making, though it was while making chocolate croissants that he was inspired to make his own chocolate.¬†Even though SRSLY is currently based out of Austin, it was first established¬†in Tallahassee, Florida. Since the food scene in Tallahassee at the time didn’t seem as receptive to craft chocolate, Bob and his wife moved the company to Austin where their chocolate started being sold at the Wheatsville Food Co-op. The challenge Bob had to face due to the move was increasing his tempering time (keeping the chocolate at a cool 70 degrees) for a longer period of time due to the warmer climate in Texas.

The cocoa Bob uses in his bars comes from the¬†CONACADO cooperative in the Dominican Republic. I knew that during the refining stage of chocolate the chocolate becomes fluid as the friction and heat melts the natural fat of the cocoa bean, but it was nice to hear the description of allowing¬†“contact” between the sugar and cocoa during this step to “commingle” their flavors. This wordage gives a nice visual picture of what’s happening.

You can watch a video of Bob speaking on a local news channel about his bean to bar process. I like how he describes roasting the cocoa beans as “low and slow like barbecue.”

The interior of the packaging lists instructions on how to savor chocolate.

84% Dark Oko Caribe Dominican Republic

This bar had a deep cocoa and light raspberry scent. I first tasted tangy citrus with earthiness. The texture was slightly gritty. The tanginess mellowed out midway through my bite and I tasted light raspberry with earthy flavors. At the end it tasted more like fresh raspberries while cocoa and earthiness were subtle flavors. On the back of the packaging the tasting notes are listed as “raspberry and dark stone fruit, bright acidity and a big chocolate body.” The cacao came from farmers in the San Francisco de Macoris region of the Dominican Repbulic (just east of Santiago).

70% Sal De Rey

The scent of the bar was reminiscent of mangos. The salt didn’t have the same “saltiness” as table salt. It was a little subdued and brought out bright fruitiness and astringency in the chocolate. After the salt wore off, the chocolate had a fudgy texture and tasted earthy mixed with the astringency. The packaging says that the salt comes from the Sal De Rey salt river in the rio Grande Valley. It’s combined with their 70% dark chocolate, which is described as having “bright fruit notes.” Their flavor description was accurate with what I experienced!

70% Oaxacan Espresso

The bar smelled spicy, earthy and smoky. Spiciness and the espresso flavor hit my taste buds first. The texture was a little gritty, as I’ve usually experienced with chocolate bars with coffee inclusions. The spiciness hit me in the back of the throat but it wasn’t crazy strong. The texture was also fudgy. Midway through my bite, a chocolatey flavor developed with the spice and coffee. The spiciness stuck with me the entire time and into the aftertaste. The chocolate’s earthy and chocolatey notes stayed through the aftertaste as well.¬†The back of the package listed chipotle pepper and coffee from Third Coast Coffee (an Austin based coffee roaster) as ingredients. The tasting notes are listed as smoky and fruity with a “warm, complex coffee and chocolate middle note.”

I knew that chocolate could be fudgy in texture, but this was the first time I truly felt like I experienced that, which was nice! When I made my order from SRSLY, I had originally ordered the 70% Dark Chocolate bar. When I received my package, a kind note was left by Bob saying he had ran out of the 70% bar, but he replaced it with the 84% Oko Caribe and 70% Sal De Rey bars. It was very generous of him!

As much as I liked the 84% bar, I found myself returning to and eating almost the rest of the 70% Sal De Rey bar. That’s kind of rare for me because I feel like almost every chocolate maker, brand and store has dark chocolate + salt. I know it’s a popular combo, but I sometimes blow over it as an option because of how common it is. But this is an exception! I think because the salt in the Sal De Rey bar is¬†present yet subtle, it¬†doesn’t attempt to compete flavor-wise with the chocolate itself, and truly compliments the natural flavor notes in the chocolate so I can appreciate both elements¬†without being overwhelmed with saltiness. Since this bar is made using the 70% Dark Chocolate bar, it makes me believe that I would have enjoyed that bar on it’s own if SRSLY continues to make it.

SRSLY Chocolate: Made in Austin, Texas

Don’t forget to check out Eating the Chocolate Alphabet to see which state Trish will be covering next!

Other chocolate makers in Texas:

Affinity Craft Chocolate
Ceda Chocolate
ISIDRO Chocolate
Kiskadee Chocolates
Mahogany Chocolate
SiriuS Chocolate
Sublime
Tejas Chocolate
Xocolla

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. I did not receive pay or any compensation for reviewing any products. Website links to articles, companies and other sources of information directly related to the topic written within the posts were included during the time of writing and the writer will not be held responsible for future changes on such website links. All images are original and the property of Time To Eat Chocolate unless specifically stated otherwise.

Dancing Lion Chocolate – Kukicha Green Tea and Strawberry Nougat

¬†Everything happened within an hour. Fellow blogger, Trish, from Eating the Chocolate Alphabet and Janice, another fellow chocoholic, tagged me in a post on Instagram by Dancing Lion about these green tea and strawberry nougats. Rich from Dancing Lion reached out with contact info, and an order was placed. Thank you, Rich, for working with us and for making it possible for the three of us ladies to try these nuggets of deliciousness! I still find it funny how quickly everything happened and I’m reminded of how amazing the chocolate community is with spreading news and getting connected ūüôā

We took the opportunity to place an order for these nougats ASAP as Dancing Lion creates multiple flavors of nougats, but batches are never repeated. So if you see something on their Instagram account that you want to get, reach out to Dancing Lion and place your order right away. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Before I go into my experience trying these nougats, I want to mention that Dancing Lion is a well known name despite being in the upper corner of the United States in New Hampshire. They’re known as one of the top 10 chocolatiers in our country and I’ve seen their name in connection with Ecole Chocolat as Rich studied with them in the pas. I believe the first time I heard about Dancing Lion was when I watched a video of a Skype conversation between Megan Giller, Rich/Dancing Lion and others (this was a couple of years ago, so my memory is fuzzy on the details).

I had the chance to attend a friend’s wedding in New Hampshire last fall and I was disappointed that my boyfriend and I didn’t get the chance to stop by their store. Once cooler temperatures return, I definitely want to try some of Rich’s chocolate, so this is the first time I’m trying any kind of Rich’s products!

While placing my order over the phone, Rich informed me that kukicha green tea is sweeter than matcha. I’m a fan of green tea, but apparently not big enough as I hadn’t heard of kukicha before. Kukicha is made from a blend of leaves and stems gathered during the production of matcha and sencha green tea. It has a savory-sweet¬†and sometimes nutty flavor. Rich also told me that the strawberries used in this nougat came all the way from California and that they use 2-day shipping to get the berries out to New Hampshire. These strawberries were at the peak of their season when they were used to make the nougat.

The nougat had a berry and slightly grassy aroma as I usually experience from green tea. The texture was very chewy though soft. Extra chewy texture came from the strawberry bits inside and crunchiness from strawberry seeds. The flavor was a mixture of savory, sweet and tartness from the strawberries. The grassy flavor of kukicha was very subtle. The flavor of strawberry lingered for a long time in the aftertaste. I liked the balance of savory and sweet, and the berry flavoring was refreshing.¬†The boyfriend also got to try these and he also liked them. I don’t consume nougat very often, but after experiencing these, I’ll be turning to nougats more often when I have a craving for a sweet, chewy confection!

Dancing Lion Chocolate: Made in Manchester, New Hampshire

50 States: New Hampshire – Enna Chocolate

Enna Chocolate was named after it’s creator and owner, Enna Grazier. Her background was in anthropology and photography, but she always liked chocolate and she had a great interest in the flavor profiles and economy behind chocolate. I like how she says in this article that the flavor profiles in a bar can reveal the chocolate maker’s preference for how they roast their beans. Also that chocolate is like apples because in the grocery store you can find a variety of apples with a variety of flavors due to different seeds and trees the apples come from.

The cacao for this bar came from the municipality Wampusirpi in Honduras. This sounds very familiar… Oh yeah! Wm. Chocolate also made a bar with cacao from this area!

The wrapper looked like an envelope. A very nice look!

Instructions on how to savor chocolate included with the bar.

The bar smelled earthy and nutty. For the majority of my bite the bar tasted earthy, though midway some nutty notes developed along with a touch of astringency. Toward the end it tasted roasted. The texture was relatively smooth though a bit chalky. According to Enna’s website, the tasting notes are “toasted sweet biscuits, tobacco, milk, and a tantalizingly subtle tannin aftertaste.” I¬†think the bloomed condition of the bar didn’t help.

I’m glad I finally tried a bar from a New Hampshire based chocolate maker! There don’t seem to be many chocolate makers in the New England part of the United States. Hopefully that number will change over time.

Enna Chocolate: Made in Exeter, New Hampshire

Don’t forget to head over to Eating the Chocolate Alphabet to see which state Trish will be covering next out of the 50 states!

Other chocolate makers in New Hampshire:

Dancing Lion
Source Chocolates
Vicuna

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. I did not receive pay or any compensation for reviewing any products. Website links to articles, companies and other sources of information directly related to the topic written within the posts were included during the time of writing and the writer will not be held responsible for future changes on such website links. All images are original and the property of Time To Eat Chocolate unless specifically stated otherwise.

Chocotenango Bonbons

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A huge¬†thanks to Islamel, who is the founder of Chocotenango, for letting me try these bonbons, including some new flavors that aren’t a part of his regular line of bonbon flavors!¬†

If you love eating chocolate, especially if the chocolate comes from a chocolate maker or store near you, I highly recommend reaching out and saying hello to them, even if you just want to say that you enjoy their products. I’m usually a pretty shy person, but lately I’ve begun to reach out to local chocolate makers and it’s been amazing and so encouraging to receive responses from them!

I had the chance to briefly meet up with Ismael at a farmer’s market in Bethesda, MD (he also attends the Old Town Alexandria, VA, farmer’s market on Saturdays) since I saw his Instagram posts on his bonbons in preparation for Mother’s Day.¬†It was a great opportunity to see Ismael in person again and to grab some last minute gifts.

Ismael was excited to be working with some new flavor combinations for his bonbons and asked me to try a few out and let him know my thoughts. I wanted to share them on Time To Eat Chocolate because if any of these new flavors becomes a regular in Ismael’s line, then you could get a glimpse of what you’ll experience.

Before diving into these bonbons, I do want to note that they are made using Domincan cacao, which is the same that Ismael uses for his chocolate bars. If you want to learn more about Ismael and the story behind Chocotenango, you can read my Q&A with him here.

The praline filling of this rosewater bonbon had a cocoa-ey and light floral scent. Once it was melting in my mouth, that light floral scent blossomed and filled my mouth. The flavor reminded me of the scent of my favorite floral perfume. The rosewater flavor was light and refreshing, and it was never overwhelming. The praline itself was also airy and light. I really liked this bonbon and it’s perfect for spring/summer weather! If this becomes a regular flavor, I’ll want to get a box of these next time!

I see the little poppy seeds and thick caramel filling in this lemon poppy seed bonbon. I could definitely smell the sweet caramel inside, but my taste buds first tasted lemon. The lemon was a bit strong as though I had taken a sip of lemonade. The poppy seeds gave a nice light crunch. I wasn’t able to really taste the caramel inside due to the strong lemon flavor, but toward the end of my bite I was able to taste the toasted flavor of the poppy seeds once the lemon mellowed out.

The scent of mangoes greeted me as well as in flavor in this tropical bonbon. Unlike the lemon poppy seed bonbon, I was able to taste some of what looked like caramel filling alongside the mango. I could also taste the deep cocoa and fruity Dominican chocolate shell. The flavor of the shell reminded me of the El Puro bar I’ve tried by Ismael/Chocotenango. This was a nice marriage of naturally fruity cacao with added tropical fruity flavors!

The scent of coffee was strong in what looked like caramel filling in this coffee and cardamom bonbon. The flavor of coffee with the sweet caramel reminded me of a caramel latte. The coffee flavor was deep but the bitterness of the coffee was balanced out by the sweetness of the caramel. The hint of cardamom lingered in the background and was more obvious toward the end of my bite, along with a touch of fruitiness from the Dominican chocolate shell. I really liked the rich flavor story that unfolded! Very nice!

I could definitely smell ginger and sweetness of caramel from this yuzu and ginger bonbon. Yuzu is a Japanese fruit that looks sort of like a grapefruit. This would be the first time I’d be trying yuzu in chocolate and I was very excited as I enjoy trying new ingredients in chocolate. My bite started out with tasting mostly ginger and the bright yuzu. The ginger was a little sharp at first but then it dissipated along with the yuzu flavor. My bite ended with the cocoa flavor of the chocolate shell with some lingering fruitiness. I definitely liked the yuzu being present, and normally I don’t like ginger in chocolate, but this was very enjoyable!

If you don’t get the chance to see Ismael at the Old Town Alexandria or Bethesda farmer’s markets, you can also order his chocolate online here. You could also purchase his bars through Amazon. If you’ve tried his chocolate before, drop him an email or message on Instagram and let him know your thoughts!

Chocotenango: Made in Washington, D.C.

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. Website links to articles, companies and other sources of information directly related to the topic written within the posts were included during the time of writing and the writer will not be held responsible for future changes on such website links. All images are original and the property of Time To Eat Chocolate unless specifically stated otherwise.

 

50 States: Kentucky – Cellar Door Chocolates

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The ONLY chocolate maker in Kentucky is Cellar Door Chocolates, and though they’ve been there since 2007, they began as a confectionary shop. Their bean-to-bar line is very new and at the time of my writing this post, those bars aren’t available for ordering online yet. Thank you to Tara from Cellar Door who through a phone call helped me place an order for a couple of their bean-to-bar chocolate!

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I originally ordered a two of what I thought were their bean-to-bar products, but maybe these bars were only released for a short time and might have been a test batch as most of their single origin bars are listed as sold out on their website and Tara told me they had their brand new bean-to-bar line coming out.

While speaking with Tara, she informed me that Cellar Door is hoping to host the first ever chocolate festival in their part of our country! It will take place in October if all goes well. They plan on featuring local coffee shops/roasters and local chocolatiers. Wish them luck and attend the festival if you are able to!

What’s neat is that since Cellar Door is in Kentucky, they get to be involved in the festivities that surround the Derby. We’re past that time now, but you can read an¬†article about Cellar Door’s partnership with a local artist for the packaging of their chocolates this year in celebration of the event. You can also browse Derby themed chocolates by Cellar Door¬†here.

Along with my order of these bars, I also added their 16 piece bourbon ball Museum Box as a surprise gift for my boyfriend, which you could order online here. I ended up later making a second order for a friend who’s originally from Kentucky and also enjoys bourbon truffles.

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I’ll go over their most recent bean-to-bar products that I ordered first. I was informed by Tara that these bars are all made up of blend of cacao from Nicaragua, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and Ecuador. What makes the bars different from each other are the cocoa percentages: 55%, 60%, 65%, 75%, 80% and 90%. For trying these out for the first time, I stuck within my comfort range and bought the 65% and 75% bars.

Cellar Door was very kind to wait to mail my package until they received dry ice to ship with their products. Sadly, the chocolate did not hold up because a heat wave happened to hit my area and the chocolate took a beating. Thanks to Cellar Door for making the effort, though!

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The 75% bar smelled earthy and astringent. The flavor was also earthy, though not as strongly as it smelled. Mellow astringency kicked in as my bite melted. I ended up having to “chomp” on this bar since it was taking a while to melt on my tongue. Strong nutty flavors developed toward the end and their flavor reminded me of roasted almonds.

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Despite my best efforts, I was not able to get all of the foil wrapping out of this bar. It was very brittle when broken apart due to the bad blooming, but I’m thinking I’ll save this bar by smashing it up and sprinkling it on top of gelato. This 65% bar had a subtle cocoa and sweet scent. It was a little tart, chocolatey, fruity and had a touch of creaminess.

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I’m intrigued why the most recent bean-to-bar line includes sunflower lecithin but these bars either have no lecithin or soy lecithin.

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The Fortunato Number 4 bar and the Kokoleka Hawaiian bars looked like bricks! They were hard to break apart because of their density.

The Fortunato bar had a bright fruity scent and flavor. The fruitiness turned into a strong nutty flavor and a touch of astringency developed toward the end. I liked the smooth texture!

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The description for the Kokoleka Hawaiian 55% bar on Cellar Door’s website was, “Refreshing and smooth like a fruit smoothie. It’s wild fruitiness is tamed by the intense creaminess of the milk.” I could see¬†creamy swirls on the outside of the bar. It had a strong creamy and light fruity scent. I tasted chocolatey and creamy flavors, like a chocolate milkshake. It wasn’t until the end of my bite that I tasted light fruity flavors.

Hopefully when cooler weather returns I can revisit Cellar Door’s chocolate. Maybe by then we’ll have word about how their first chocolate festival went and their new bean-to-bar line will be further established!

Cellar Door Chocolates: Made in Louisville, KY

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. I did not receive pay or any compensation for reviewing any products. Website links to articles, companies and other sources of information directly related to the topic written within the posts were included during the time of writing and the writer will not be held responsible for future changes on such website links. All images are original and the property of Time To Eat Chocolate unless specifically stated otherwise.

 

La Naya

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Since I wasn’t able to make it to this year’s D.C. Chocolate Festival, some of my coworkers attended in my place. They sent me pictures and told me what events they attended. It was awesome hearing and seeing their excitement over trying new chocolates, hearing about chocolate makers they weren’t familiar with, and sharing all of the new information they learned about chocolate. I firmly believe in sharing my chocolate with others to share the joy and love for chocolate. In turn, it helps broaden the world of chocolate for others and… they are likely to share their chocolate with you, as my coworkers did with me after the Festival ūüėČ

Through the pictures my coworkers took while at the Festival and when I later saw their haul in person, I noticed one name that kept showing up: La Naya. Apparently they were crazy popular! Practically everyone who sent me pictures of what bars they took home with them included one or two La Naya bars. When I asked them what they thought was special about La Naya, the main response was that La Naya is from Lithuania.

This blog post is sponsored by La Naya since they kindly mailed me some bars to try since they are not currently selling their products near my location,¬†but they are working on being able to sell their bars at The Chocolate House! If you are interested in trying La Naya and you haven’t seen their bars at any stores near you, they can also be ordered off of www.lithuanianpride.com.

Many thanks to Asta Plankiene who represents Rotarum (an American distributor of Lithuanian foods) and Jovita SlapŇ°inskaitńó from La Naya who provided these bars! Thank you to Jovita for taking time to answer some questions so we could learn more about La Naya as well! Every time Jovita responded to my emails, she always started with a cheerful, “Greetings from sunny Vilnius :)”

I think it’s very unique and new that La Naya focuses on using chocolate to connect to our emotions. What inspired the founders of La Naya to use this as their focus for their chocolate?

“We are small company based in Lithuania. Common dreams connect people. This is why we gathered together and every day we do our best to produce highest quality bean to bar chocolate. We are really happy to share our passion with all chocolate lovers all around. Appreciation of chocolate lovers is the most powerful motive to keep on improving.

“While other chocolatiers work their way from bean to bars, we go one step further. At La Naya, our production processes are all about purifying emotions and expressing them through outstanding chocolate.”

What inspired the mountain shape for the mold of the La Naya bars?
“Unique, exceptional design of La Naya bars is portraying the mountains and valleys of La Naya village, full of unexpected tastes and aromas. Really long ago this village was in Guatemala.”

Where does La Naya source their cacao and why?
“We source cocoa beans from Panama, Vietnam, Tanzania, Costa Rica and other locations.”

Where does La Naya get inspiration for the flavors used in the bars, such as using strawberries with chili and cinnamon? I have not seen berries mixed with hot spices before, which is unique and I’m excited to try sometime.

“We do our best to create unique and unforgettable taste. If you could taste our single origin Vietnam bars (we have 2 at the moment) you could see how we can make different taste profile by using same cacao beans with no inclusions. It is really magic.”

 

For tasting these bars, I wanted to make sure some of my coworkers were able to join me in sharing the experience. Some of my coworkers had a free moment to find a quiet room to sample the bars. One of them likes to make loud happy sounds (“MMMM!”) whenever he eats something he likes, which is not only amusing for the rest of us, but also tells us that he’s really enjoying what he’s eating. If I ever start a YouTube channel, I want to make a video with him reviewing chocolate so you could hear when he’s enjoying chocolate ūüôā The others were very new to tasting chocolate, and it was very helpful to receive their feedback.

In a pamphlet that La Naya sent with the bars, it shows at the end that all five of the bars sit together and form one big picture. I neglected to look through the pamphlet ahead of time, so it was actually one of my coworkers who pointed this out. After some rearranging, and though I normally taste from dark chocolate to milk or white chocolate, we decided to taste the bars in the order that they formed the picture. We also noticed a correlation between each of the individual bars and the portion of the picture it held:

Pistachio + Cocoa Nibs had a pistachio tree on it.

Honey + Bread Crumbs held a picture of a field of wheat and possibly bee hives.

Orange + Juniper depicted an orange tree.

Raspberries + Pineapple showed a field of raspberries being picked.

Strawberries + Cinnamon + Chili showed a woman holding a basket full of strawberries, chilies and cinnamon sticks.

I really like the creativity of the packaging!

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Coworker rearranging the bars into one large picture.

Before I summarize my coworkers’ thoughts on all 5 of the bars since tasting with a group is fun though chaotic at times, I’m going to¬†go over my personal thoughts.

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Pistachio + Cocoa Nibs

The pamphlet that came with the chocolate described this particular bar as the “Peninsula of Egoism,” saying that we must “stubborn and brave,” and that the bar is “infused with the emotion of pure self-love.” Other descriptors (otherwise called “emotional structure”) for this bar were “satisfaction, queen’s laughter, trip to the centre of the universe.” Very creative ways to describe how this bar will make you feel and not just taste!

This bar had a strong nutty and creamy scent. It’s a sweet and savory scent that is absolutely delicious! I might want to keep the wrapper at my desk to sniff when I’m feeling stressed out. My mouth was filled with nutty and creamy flavors. There seemed to be a caramel-like sweetness to the chocolate as well. The cocoa nibs gave a nice crunchy texture while the chocolate quickly melted away. I could literally eat the rest of this bar on my own. I might just do that.

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Honey + Bread Crumbs

The pamphlet labels the experience of this bar as “Making Out With Nostalgia.” La Naya’s description of nostalgia is as a lady with no face, who’s always nearby, but when you eat this bar you will “feel her breath again.” Other descriptors include “soft wind, days gone by.”

I could detect the scent of honey and dried bread from this bar. With the inclusion side on my tongue, I tasted the dried honey and bread first followed by the sweetness and creaminess of milk chocolate. The bread crumbs also gave a pleasant crunchy texture. This reminds me of a good breakfast chocolate since it has a nice level of sweetness that balances out the dryness of the rye bread.

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Orange + Juniper

This bar is described as “Ecstasy in Vatican,” and that true joy can’t be hidden while your heart is beating like the bells in Vatican. Other descriptors list “Easter morning in Vatican, sunlight, imminent victory.”

The scent of oranges smacks you in the face upon opening this bar. The flavor of orange is subtler than the scent as the creaminess of the milk chocolate and sharp juniper flavors help balance out the bright citrus. The texture of this bar was amazingly smooth! The juniper lingered longer in the aftertaste.

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Raspberries + Pineapple

This bar is described as “Love At The End of Times.” The pamphlet says that though red means negative things, such as chaos and pain, red also symbolizes love and sunsets. “Love will be discovered at the end of times,” even after hardships. Other descriptions include “apocalypse, dead mountains, eternal flame.”

I was able to smell and taste raspberries and pineapple. The raspberry flavor might seem obvious at first, but then the tartness of pineapple pierces through. I was still able to taste the earthiness of dark chocolate underneath the bright fruity flavors. That earthiness remained in the aftertaste. The texture of this bar was also very smooth. I hadn’t tasted a mixture of berry with tropical fruits in chocolate before!

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Strawberries + Cinnamon + Chili

Last but not least, we have what is described as the “Coast of Solitude.” It’s interesting that La Naya points out in their description that “a common feature of superficial people is the avoidance of solitude,” and that “a desert island may have more life in it than a crowded cruise ship.” They made this bar to represent perfect solitude saying that lonely moments should be freeing. Other descriptions include “the journey of a tiger, songs of angels.”

I could smell all three of the featured items for this bar. This bar took a little longer to melt and I first tasted the strawberries followed by cinnamon, and then the slow burn of chili. The chili was very subtle but grew in strength at the end of my bite. This was an interesting flavor story of all three flavors gradually introducing themselves to my taste buds.

 

Alright, now I’ll share what my coworkers thought. One coworker (the one that goes “MMMM!”) had the loudest, happiest sounds when he savored the Pistachio + Cocoa Nibs bar, and also liked Orange + Juniper. One coworker liked the Honey + Bread Crumbs bar the best, while another said they couldn’t taste the chocolate itself very well. A third coworker like the middle three bars the best, while a fourth coworker liked all of the bars.

I have to agree with the fourth coworker. I liked all of the bars because all of them were so unique even though they worked together to form one big picture (literally). The “emotional structure” for each bar was also very different, so it was like all of the bars combined made for a well rounded experience.¬†I highly recommend reading the rest of the descriptions for these bars on La Naya’s website (the link is below when you click on their name) or if you purchase their bars, you can find these descriptions on the back of the packaging. I will be looking forward to when La Naya will be sold at The Chocolate House so I can experience their bars again!

La Naya: Made in Vilnius, Lithuania

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. Website links to articles, companies and other sources of information directly related to the topic written within the posts were included during the time of writing and the writer will not be held responsible for future changes on such website links. All images are original and the property of Time To Eat Chocolate unless specifically stated otherwise.

50 States: Wisconsin – Wm Chocolate

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It’s great when you’re craving chocolate and have some bars to try out for the first time! I chose Wm Chocolate to represent Wisconsin because admittedly I was attracted to the minimalist-looking name. Even though I know most consumers are attracted to colorful packaging and fancy looking writing, I sometimes prefer the minimalist approach. I found out later that “Wm” stands for the initials of the chocolate maker, William Marx, who started making his own chocolate when he wasn’t satisfied with the chocolate he was finding and decided to make his own that would fit within his personal standards.

Thank you so much to Will for answering some questions about Wm Chocolate and for being patient with me as we went back and forth over email discussing making chocolate!

Why did you choose Madison as your base for Wm Chocolate?

Madison has been home for most of my life, and it’s where I was living when I fell in love with chocolate making. Most importantly, it’s where I have supportive people helping me get my business off the ground.

If your journey began looking for (and eventually making) chocolate that you would like to eat yourself, were you a huge fan of chocolate beforehand and what kind of chocolate products were you trying at the time that pushed you to start making your own chocolate?

The journey actually began with a total rejection of chocolate. About five years ago, when I was first living in my own place and doing all the cooking for myself, I did a ton of reading and thinking about our food system and nutrition–and I did a ton of kitchen experiments. I came out of those experiences with a strong belief in eating whole foods produced using traditional techniques. That meant I quit eating products with refined sugar and other refined additives, so pretty much everything on the chocolate shelf was out for me, and what was left usually wasn’t worth eating–like grocery-store 100% bars and cocoa powder. After a couple years, though, I needed to bring chocolate back into my life. That’s when I started experimenting with homemade concoctions made from cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and honey. They were okay but left something to be desired from a flavor and texture standpoint, so I decided to look deeper into processing chocolate myself, with the unrefined cane sugar I was using elsewhere in my kitchen.

How did you go about first learning how to make chocolate? Were there websites that you were able to turn to for help or other resources?

For the basic process, I owe a lot to Chocolate Alchemy’s website. Then and now, I don’t think there is a better resource out there for getting started. Most other books and resources describe large industrial versions of the process, which isn’t all that useful for small-batch production.

What were your biggest challenges when you first began making chocolate? Do you have any current challenges that you are working through?

I think I’m not alone in saying I had a lot of trouble with tempering at first. That and figuring out how to use unrefined cane sugar, which behaves a little differently than refined crystal sugar. These days the biggest challenge is space–I don’t have much, meaning I still work with very small equipment and put in a lot of manual labor.

What helps you determine what kind or origin of cacao you will be using to make your chocolate? Does your purchasing through Uncommon Cocoa or Chocolate Alchemy have any affect on your choice(s)?

I have some fundamental requirements for ethics and sustainability, and beyond that it’s largely about flavor. The great thing about working through either of those companies is I know they care about ethics and sustainability too, so the origin-selection process begins with making test batches of whatever they have and determining what is the best fit for the flavor categories I’m trying to fill. My general aim is to stock origins in the classic, fruity, and nutty broad flavor categories, plus an origin or two I just find really compelling. If I’m on the fence, I definitely favor origins that go above and beyond in terms of ethics and sustainability, and that bring geographical diversity to my lineup. That being said, one limiting factor from purchasing through these companies is that most of what they offer is from Central & South America.

Do you have any exciting news or upcoming events for Wm. Chocolate?

I have plans to expand my production space later this year. In the meantime, I’ll be doing lots of markets and events in the Madison area to continue introducing my city to craft chocolate.

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This bar looked really shiny and had a nice sharp snap when broken apart. The tasting notes are listed as blackberry, custard, and candied pineapple. The chocolate definitely had a fruity scent to it. I definitely tasted pineapple and what could remind me of custard as a secondary flavor along with some light berry notes. The chocolate melted evenly, slowly and was very smooth in texture. I really liked this bar!

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I could see the Hawaiian red sea salt on the back of this bar. The tasting notes are listed as malted milk, banana and caramel. It definitely had a malty, caramel, sweet and salty scent. With the salt side down, I tasted the salt first followed by malt flavoring, then caramel sweetness. Toward the end of my bite I was able to taste that banana flavor with the caramel. I liked that this bar didn’t have a strong malt flavor since I’m not a huge malt fan.

For both of these bars, neither of the flavors were too overwhelming or dominant throughout my bites, which provided nice flavor stories. I would get both of these bars again, but I do want to try other bars by¬†Will since I imagine by the time I get around to making another order (when cooler weather returns), he might have completely different bars in stock. I’m very excited to see what flavors and types of bars Will makes next and I will definitely be shooting him some emails when I read up more on the science of chocolate!

Wm Chocolate: Made in Madison, WI

Don’t forget to check out Eating the Chocolate Alphabet to see which state Trish will be covering next!

Other chocolate makers in Wisconsin:

Del Sol Chocolate
Omanehe Cocoa Bean Co.
Sjolinds Chocolate House
Tabal Chocolate

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. I did not receive pay or any compensation for reviewing any products. Website links to articles, companies and other sources of information directly related to the topic written within the posts were included during the time of writing and the writer will not be held responsible for future changes on such website links. All images are original and the property of Time To Eat Chocolate unless specifically stated otherwise.

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