choccie choccie choccie starts with c

10 Feb

So lately, I’ve caught myself singing to my cat several times per day. That’s not so unusual, except that the song is always the same: “Kitty kitty kitty starts with C.”

My melodic genius, which excels at altering the Sesame Street standby from Cookie to Kitty, seems unable to realize that Kitty does not start with C.

But I know what does – chocolate! Considering that my new home has ample room for a chocolate-only drawer, and much of my chocolate is as old as the hills AKA covered in spidery bloom, it’s time to give the old choccie a heave-ho – into my stomach – to make room for some new delights.

Try and keep up – we have a fair bit of ground to cover.

  

Fine & Raw is a Brooklyn-based company that uses low-heat techniques to ‘save the world through silliness and chocolate.’ Kind of strange, but I was willing to give raw chef-turned-chocolatier Daniel Sklaar a chance. I’d had his mesquite bar before (featuring a cowgirl on the wrapper – how silly!), and enjoyed it. Their ingredients are organic, their cacao is fair-trade, and I like that they don’t capitalize their product names.

The bar featured here is the sea salt bar, featuring 70% cacao of Ecuador origin, and a well-mixed dose of sea salt, along with crystal palm sugars. If you aren’t a fan of grainy chocolate (like well-textured Taza bars), you probably won’t like Fine & Raw. The bars are very grainy, due to their ‘raw’ state.

The flavor is also a bit quizzical. At first taste, I would be inclined to say that the chocolate tastes… like nothing. How can this be? The flavors melt into being quickly, though, ushered in by a mild but steady stream of saltiness. Pretty interesting stuff. The chocolate flavor itself is light and fruity, but is well-masked by the salt. It’s definitely a bar to ponder over, but at only 2 ounces (54 g), it goes quickly.

 

With a website that looks straight out of 1997, The Tea Room is a bit of an odd duck, selling conceptual chocolate bars, loose leaf tea, and novelty pairings such as truffles and plush velour terry robes. Okay.

I bought this on a whim when I saw it (and three others of its ilk) in the cafeteria at the University of Maine. How it got there is a mystery that will likely remain unsolved. The Tea Room currently sells twelve organic chocolate bar ‘fusions,’ unifying their equal love of tea and chocolate. This particular offering is the Black Masala Chai, a 38% milk chocolate base that has been infused with black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, and clove.

It is reminiscent of the wonderful milk chocolate Masala bar from Les Chocolats de Chloé in Montréal, but not as well-made. The chocolate is good enough, but I’m still stuck trying to read all of the writing on the box – it’s crawling with different fonts and information. It’s a good thing you didn’t have to stand next to me when I spied these four Tea Room bars – – it was a long time before I made it to my lunch.

The milky base makes this a good snacking chocolate, but is heavily aromatic of masala chai, or ‘mixed-spice tea.’ There’s not much to say about the flavor profile of the chocolate, but that’s not the niche this chocolate is intended to fill. It is a tasty bar to store in a desk at work for an afternoon sugar craving… or for tea time.

  

TCHO is one of those interesting chocolate companies that I like to keep an eye on. Lurking concerns over the  accuracy of classifying their company as ‘bean to bar’ is just one of the reasons TCHO keeps making waves from its home base in San Francisco. Oprah is another reason. Their substantial amount of hype despite lackluster product innovation is yet another.

They have good marketing skills though, and I can’t help purchasing their products when I see them. I picked this bar up in Minnesota back in August (they have since changed their packaging a bit), and unlike some of my other bars, this shows no sign of bloom. This organic and fair-trade bar, Nutty 2.0, is another bar of Ecuadorian origin.

Silvia liked this one. So did Hannah, once Nutty got all growed up and made it to the 2.0 stage. So what did I think? I think the taste is why I continue to fall for TCHO products. Despite the hype that would normally make me cringe and avoid it, TCHO has some tasty offerings.

The aroma is enticingly deep and earthy. The chocolate melts softly on the palate, and the nuttiness that the bar takes its name from is off somewhere to the upper left of my jaw (or rather, a background note). The taste is fudge forward, with a well-rounded cocoa flavor. It exhibits none of the bitterness that its earthy aroma suggested. A welcome darkness for its 65% cacao content, and one of the only bars that I have successfully been able to re-wrap for future enjoyment.

  

One bar remains, and I hope you’re still with me. I’m powering through the review with the help of Slayer’s live disc Decade of Aggression. But hopefully the depth and length of this review have not felt like a decade of aggression to you.

We turn lastly to Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates out of Kansas City, Missouri. I’m all for Midwesterners making it big in the chocolate word. This once-pastry chef now produces an innovative line of truffles, chocolate bars, pâte de fruit and luxury candies, of which I sampled the No. 2 Dark Spice chocolate bar. A 63% cacao content (labeled 61% on my bar) is infused with Ancho chilis, Chipotle chilis, cinnamon, and additional spices, to give a deeply-flavored tasting experience.

My bar had bloomed severely since its purchase last summer, but the aroma sent nice flavor chills down my spine. This sounds painful, but was in fact quite exciting. The aroma was evocative of lazy evenings spent grilling spicy meats out of doors, and of a hot summer sun heating up the pavement in the street.

Unfortunately, the initial taste was a bit of a let-down, proving nearly identical to the aroma, but much more muted. Within a few seconds, the spice of the chilis kicked in, and I was able to appreciate the well-integrated chili heat mingling with bright, fruity flavored chocolate. I enjoyed the chocolate and its aftertaste, but found the initial taste disappointing, and enough to make the chocolate seem a bit second-rate. In addition, its texture was a bit chalky, despite having a clean snap. Not terrific, but a good effort by Christopher Elbow.

Learn more about these chocolate companies:

Fine & Raw

Check out their occasional blog, or buy chocolate here.

The Tea Room

Find them on the twitters and Facebook. If you can handle the ugly website, learn where to buy bars here.

TCHO

Take a tour if in SF, peruse their tweetaroos, or look for them in Oprah’s cupboard. Purchase bars here.

Christopher Elbow

Follow Elbow on twitter and Facebook.  Purchase products here.

About these ads

32 Responses to “choccie choccie choccie starts with c”

  1. Silvia 2012/02/10 at 13:42 #

    Interesting collection of bars you have here… the only one I heard from was the Nutty one! ;)
    But Schoggi is so written with S ;)

  2. Hannah 2012/02/10 at 20:33 #

    Cowgirl starts with a C!!!!!! Exclamation mark.

    Teehee, your review of the raw chocolate reminds me of a post I wrote once about a raw chocolate, wherein I admitted that I liked the taste more after I microwaved it and made it melty-like. :P

    And wheee, The Tea Room! I’ve had a few of those. Oh wait! I just went through my blog and found that I blogged this particular Chai milk chocolate! Waaaaaay back in the early stages of the blog, though, so I haven’t even yet built up the courage to read my review or look at the (sure to be terrible) photos.

    I’m totally doing the whole desperately-eat-much-expired-chocolate thing myself right now. Speaking of, gotta go finish the Chocolove Sea Salt and Almond with its April 2011 Best Before date…

    • emma schultz 2012/02/11 at 07:58 #

      Hannah, yes I suppose a good over-conching could be in order, hmm? I like the raw chocolate though. I think.

      I have one other Tea Room bar, but I chose to tackle the milk chocolate first to save what I assumed would be my preferred bar for second. An interesting company. I’m sure your photos are FINE!

      I would never let Chocolove sit around for so long. Although maybe actually I would. Or I would sneak it back onto any grocery store shelf in America, where its compadres can be found. :)

  3. leaf (the indolent cook) 2012/02/10 at 20:35 #

    I like that you have a chocolate-only drawer. And I like the sound of that nutty one. :D

    • emma schultz 2012/02/11 at 08:00 #

      leaf, I like my chocolate drawer quite a bit! It’s nothing spectacular, but it gets the job done:) The nutty bar was very tasty – I recommend it.

  4. Y 2012/02/13 at 07:02 #

    Mmm chocolate.. Must say, I really love Tcho. And I really wanted to like Fine & Raw when I bought it but it just didn’t quite do it for me unfortunately. How funny that you now have room for a whole drawer dedicated to chocolate. Once you consume those free turkeys in the freezer, you might have room for storing excess chocolate baked goods too :)

    • emma schultz 2012/02/13 at 14:02 #

      Y, I do like TCHO as well, and I wish they’d get on the flavor wheel train and make some of those colors yet to be explored!

      I don’t think the texture of raw chocolate is for everyone. For some reason I really like grainy chocolate, so even though this Fine & Raw bar had a bit peculiar of a flavor profile, I enjoyed it.

      Oh my gosh, I’m going to have soooo much (excess) room for (excessive) chocolate baked goods!

  5. kale @ tastes good to me! 2012/02/13 at 13:36 #

    I am really enjoying perusing your blog! The design is fun and unique and your photos are really lovely. You photographed these chocolates beautifully. Looking forward to more posts!

    • emma schultz 2012/02/13 at 14:04 #

      kale, and I am so glad you found me! And also appreciative of the kind words – – it’s so difficult sometimes to hide the bloom when photographing old chocolate.

      I enjoyed your blog as well, will definitely be back:)

  6. Carol Olyphant 2012/02/13 at 13:52 #

    This caused me to drool on my keyboard! You are such a treat Ms. Emma!

    • emma schultz 2012/02/13 at 14:06 #

      Carol, there you are! I’ve found you out! Ooh, and I am a treat:)

      Now I must treat you to some sort of cloth or napkin device in the hopes of saving your keyboard!

  7. Mary at n00bcakes 2012/02/13 at 14:22 #

    I like the idea of eating chocolate while wearing a terrycloth robe. I picture it also including a bubble pipe.

    Interesting chocolates you’ve picked up….I have no talent for identifying subtle flavors in chocolate (not, I suppose, that I’ve tried very hard), so I’m glad people like you exist to do the work for me. I’ve been wanting to try more raw varieties for some textural variation in my snacky times.

    • emma schultz 2012/02/13 at 15:32 #

      Mary, and perhaps a brandy snifter, too? I ate a restaurant the other night where the napkins were like clothes for cleaning glasses or lenses. That was about as weird as eating chocolate while wearing terrycloth.

      I am happy to do chocolatey work for you. Send me cupcakes, and I’ll send you a typed set of notecards on chocolate tasting:)

      Oh snaps, I’m on my third snacky times of the day!

      • Mary at n00bcakes 2012/02/16 at 17:32 #

        YOU ATE A RESTAURANT THE OTHER NIGHT?
        wow. that is some hardcore business.
        just sayin’.

        • emma schultz 2012/02/16 at 17:49 #

          Ack. I want to go change it, but then it would make you look foolish when I’m the dumbass here.

          Instead I will complain about our new Mac Book, and how much I hate that it auto changes words on me left and right. And if I type in a space where I shouldn’t it will just delete words I’m typing, randomly. WTF, mate? Example A: just read through my comment, and dumbass had been changed to dumbs.

          I’ve always been on your side, Apple. Why you gotta do me like that?

  8. erin @ yummy supper 2012/02/13 at 15:18 #

    Emma, I’ve been wondering about this whole “raw” chocolate thing…. The other day I bought a fancy raw bar and took one bite and had to spit it out. I think raw chocolate just isn’t my thing. Give me the good old school rich stuff and I’m happy.

    I was just thinking how cool it would be if you had a chocolate favorites list on your blog. You are a wealth of chocolate knowledge!

    -Erin

    • emma schultz 2012/02/13 at 15:34 #

      Erin, I wonder about the raw business too… perhaps it is in the same vein that companies add green to their products to make them look environmentally friendly? Proponents say raw choc is healthier, but I guess I don’t understand why. Just because chocolate is conched at higher heats does not necessitate the addition of sugar…

      You’re a clever one. A chocolate favorites list, eh? Sounds right up my alley! Stay tuned…

      • erin @ yummy supper 2012/02/14 at 12:09 #

        I guess I’ll just stick to non-raw chocolate. For me, I need chocolate to be a little treat, and not necessarily too healthy;)

        Oooooh, I look forward to your favorite list… maybe even in categories? Very exciting!

        Have a great Valentine’s Day!
        xo
        E

        • emma schultz 2012/02/14 at 12:20 #

          Categories, yes! Your design genius is welcome here any time:) …I have some work to do, and some chocolate bar wrappers to pore over. Sounds like the perfect Valentine’s!

          I wish the same for you, filled with the perfect amount of possibly unhealthy chocolate:)

          xo

  9. hungryandfrozen 2012/02/14 at 04:03 #

    I’ve enjoyed this journey through your chocolate drawer, although bloom or not, I’m so jealous you have one!

    Based on name alone, I think Christopher Elbow has my vote – he’s someone I’d want to get to know.

    • emma schultz 2012/02/14 at 06:59 #

      Laura, it is a rather small drawer, so there isn’t much room for frivolity, frolicking, or romping about. It’s the perfect size, however, as it keeps me in check with what I need to devour:)

      Christopher Elbow is a neat name. He could be cool and aloof, wearing slightly baggy trousers, and having tousled hair and be really good at chess. That’s what the name implies to me, anyway:P

  10. leftylimbo 2012/02/15 at 05:21 #

    Geez. As someone whose palate has hardly ventured past the likes of Lindt Truffles or Perugina’s Baci, this post lets me know there’s quite a vast universe of chocolatey possibilities out there. Impressed indeed. Keep up the great photography and writing. =)

    • emma schultz 2012/02/16 at 10:30 #

      leftylimbo, hey, I’ve never even had Perugina before, so you’ve got me one-upped there:)

      There’s such a great big chocolatey world out there… but it’s a very expensive place to be!

      • leftylimbo 2012/02/16 at 15:03 #

        emma ..say it ain’t so! Perugina makes some good chocolate. Then there’s the Ferrero Rocher Hazelnut chocolates that remind me of ’50s B-movie meteor props or something. Tell me you’ve had those!

        • emma schultz 2012/02/16 at 15:19 #

          I’ve seen the Perugina products, I’ve just never bought any. But it’s not super common that I see them out here.

          Oh ya, I’ve had those B-movie meteor props – – sometimes they taste like they’ve been left sitting around since then. Something from MST3K the movie, perhaps. Or Track of the Moon Beast. Or The Giant Spider Invasion. Or Crash of the Moons. Or Fire Maidens of Outer Space. Or Teenagers from Outer Space.

          It seems I have a lot of space-based MST3K episodes left to watch !

          • leftylimbo 2012/02/16 at 16:23 #

            LoL. That just reminded me of a day in junior high (7th Grade) when my friend’s Drama class was moving around furniture…they found an old, unopened pack of M&M’s from the ’60s which had fallen behind a file cabinet. Don’t know whatever happened to it, but back then in all my goofy adolescent nerdiness I remember saying, “Dood, did you eat it??”

  11. Mum 2012/02/17 at 17:50 #

    Ha, ha, speed chocolate…love the concept…And that is a great name: Christopher Elbow!

    • emma schultz 2012/02/24 at 07:44 #

      Mum, most definitely, speedily eating the chocolate, square by square and bar by bar! Not right now though, but hopefully in a day or two I’ll be back at it full steam:)

And now I'd like to pass the mic / So you c'mon and do anything you like ...aka, Leave your reply.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,270 other followers

%d bloggers like this: