Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cocoa Paper Notebooks

Last week I revealed to many of you that I'm an author not just of this blog but also a published author who travels around a bit to conventions and sells her books.  This is good way to go beyond the markets my publishers have access to plus when people hear me read, they tend to buy.  In fact I'm at my biggest convention of the year as this post goes live so I thought this would be a great time to return to products from Cocoa Paper since one of the things I always need as a writer is something to write on.  While I love my computer, I grew up using notebooks and sketchbooks, sometimes scraps of paper, to jot down ideas, continue scenes or finish up stories and chapters of books.  So I thought today that I'd look at Cocoa Paper again and their notebooks that you can use to write in.  The question as always with homemade paper: Is it easy to write on?  They sent me a small note pad, a note cube, a notebook, and a leather bound journal that I and my family wrote on these all month long to assess them for you today, Sisters and Brothers.

You'll notice that both the small notebook and the note cube have the truffle theme on them but remember you can have products made with your own logo or select one they all ready offer.


The small notebook has 30 pages and is stab-bound along the top.  The binding means this won't stay open by itself, you have to hold it, but for such a small notepad it isn't a big deal.  The paper is surprisingly smooth to write on though pens work much better than pencils.  This is true for all four items I discovered as I used them.  This was easy to slip into my purse or a pocket to take with me in case I wanted to jot something down.  We also used it to keep a shopping list on during the week.

The note cube has a flip up cover and 160 3.25 X 3.25 inch sheets of paper.  The pieces of paper are loose and easy to remove, their texture surface actually makes them much simpler to grasp than the previous cube of paper we keep near our main telephone.  Yes, we still have telephones in our house not just cellphones because we like to have multiple ways of communicating with the outside world.  We us such stacks of small pieces of paper to write notes on whenever something happens that we need another member of the family to know about but not necessarily keep for any sort of important records.

The two journals are only two of five varieties of such products they offer.

The stab-bound journal has the truffle design on it again and has 30 pages to write on inside.  Just like the small notebook this also will not stay open on its own but I personally find that a bit of annoying for such a large notebook.  I don't write notes really in such books but instead I write stories, longhand reviews when I'm away from my computer.  Needing to put a hand over the other side or an elbow is uncomfortable.  Personally I wouldn't get this particular notebook myself for that reason.

The leather journal has a big button on the front with two cocoa pods etched on it. It has 50 pages inside of of it and is designed to lay flat for for easier writing.  The leather is cowhide and comes dyed in 10 different colors, this one is brown.  Unlike the previous notebook this journal is bound so that the pages lay almost flat, making a much nicer surface to write on.  The cover adds an air of luxury to it so that it makes a very good gift as well without being very expensive.

I had several people ask if they could smell these products as I had them out and about and mentioned they were made in part from cocoa leaves.  The answer is no, they do not smell like cocoa or chocolate in any way, if anything they have that recycled paper smell that tells you it has been cleaned as it was put together.

Cocoa Paper is a great idea that helps empower a community not just the chocolatier, the farm owner or the farmer but everyone touched at the ground level by cacao production.  Of these four products we've looked at today the leather journal is my favorite because the pages lay flatter than the two notebooks.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Wonka Candy is 31 years old!

Tomorrow will be the 31st anniversary of the release of the film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory but it is also the 31dt anniversary of The Willy Wonka Candy Company which has been releasing treats drawn from or inspired by the book and film.  So today in honor of that, I want to do a second review of some Wonka chocolate products I found on sale (and with coupons) at my local Kroger back in January 2012.

I bought three bars and one bag from the Wonka Exceptionals line of chocolates.  I've reviewed a few of the bars in the past because I received them as gifts or found them when they first appeared in my local stores back in 2011.  I've chosen other chocolate to review this time but you can find the previous posts by using our "Search" feature along the right hand column.


The first I want to focus on is the 9.5oz bag of Triple Dazzle Caramel Pieces.  These were individually wrapped chocolate with semi-liquid sweet caramel inside that oozed out a bit when I bit them in half.  Each is easily a two bite treat if you slow down and enjoy it.  Made with cocoa butter and chocolate, this also has a lot of added ingredients that you can taste as the sweetness is a bit overwhelming compared to the chocolate itself.  With sugar, corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk, and fructose in it, I'm not surprised by the sweet level.


Next we tried a Fantabulous Fudge Bar which came in a 3.5oz bar. Inside were 10 squares in a bar with some funky swirls on the top I hope you can make out in our photo.  It was very difficult to break and share out, the pieces didn't snap apart very well but it did reveal the thin slices of fudge inside each square.   Again this is real chocolate and cocoa but also a lot of added sweeteners and other ingredients.  It had a very strong vanilla scent over the chocolate fragrance.  The chocolate shell made a soft snap but the inside was very sweet and soft, very strongly vanilla as well.  You know, a lot like fudge should taste so it lived up to the name well.

The Scrumdiddlyumptious Chocolate Bar has quite a name, doesn't it?  This 3.oz bar is marked in uneven sections making it difficult to break into pieces fairly so you can control portions easily.  This has peanuts in it so be wary if you have peanut allergies please but the toffee is not made with almonds. It also has cookie pieces in it which makes it very crunchy.   Primarily this has a light cocoa scent.  The creamy milk chocolate is very creamy and the different crunchy pieces all seemed to blend together well creating a very sweet but cookie flavor.  I wish the cocoa flavor had been dark and less creamy because with the sweetness it was a bit overwhelming and quickly created a sugar rush.

Finally let's look at the Chocolate Waterfall Bar that is also one of the Wonka Exceptionals in a 3.5oz bar.  This is milk chocolate and white chocolate -- indeed it is white chocolate, not some palm oil concoction so it gets a plus for that.  It has 10 easy to break apart sections but that still isn't an easy division since four pieces equal one serving.  Why can't food be packaged in a why that is easily divided into the nutritional units?  The strongest flavor and scent is the creamy white chocolate and I don't particularly like that.  The flavors blend too much and the milk chocolate is mostly lost.  I'd love to have them do a dark with white chocolate version of this because I think the contrast would be much better.

What fun Wonka candy memories do you all have, Sisters and Brothers?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chocolate in Indianapolis 3: Best Chocolate in Town

When you name your business The Best Chocolate in Town several things should be true.  First, you better had darned good chocolate.  Second, you need confidence to promote your products.  Third, your chocolate better stand on equal footing to if not surpass all the other chocolate shops in town. For small towns with one candy or chocolate shop, that's easy but we found and visited three such places in Indianapolis and there were three more we didn't visit this time not to mention the ones in the mall I talked about a few years back.  We visited Elizabeth Garber's shop on Massachusetts Avenue on Saturday morning but we didn't drive this time, too tired from days of walking on our anniversary trip.

Mass Avenue is known for quirky shops and artistic flare but getting there can be a bit of a trick given the layout of Indy in that eastern section of downtown.  We parked across the street and made sure to have at least half an hour in our meter so we could meet Elizabeth and see her shop.  While she bagged up a bunch of goodies you saw half of in last weekend's Saturday Sacrament, we talked about the shop and looked around.

The first thing you see is the checkout counter where you can also see one candy making area to the left, ice cream to the immediate right and a bit into their onsite kitchen.  Their ice cream comes from a local Indy company but we didn't try any that day.   We had a museum to get to that morning when it opened.




The onsite kitchen is back here and I met one of the folks who help Elizabeth make the candy as well as process any online orders they get.  On this morning when we visited, two employees were with Elizabeth and she was able to give us her attention.






The main display is for their unique truffles as well as speciality treats.  I was told the color schemes we see are going to be changed as the company rebrands but I really like this, don't you?







They also have a display for boxed and bagged treats you can buy just in case you want it to look more traditional or you have limited time and know what you want.








One of the things that caught my eye was this area for book donations.  This shop collects books for the Indianapolis community reading program, Indy Reads.  We never discriminate here on The Chocolate Cult, if you make chocolate, big or small, local or across the world, we give everyone a fair chance.  But those companies that put back into their communities either by getting their supplies or extra products from other local or regional communities always get a shout out and this charity support goes one step further.  So bring a book you don't want anymore when you visit and drop it off then get some chocolate.

The Best Chocolate in Town has a cute shop that you should go check out if you are on Mass Avenue in Indy, even if you aren't, still try to find it and pop in and say "hi" and I'm sure you'll see a lot of wonderful treats to tempt you.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

National Pralines Day 2012

Ah, today, Sisters and Brothers, is National Pralines Day so I thought it was a good time to look at another gift I received... well, I used a gift certificate to buy these but it was a gift certificate back on my birthday  Since it was I didn't just buy chocolates on sale, you know, my normal way of finding products to do regular reviews of for you all.  Nope, I knew I like GuyLian so I bought this little 2.3oz box of their Extra Dark praliné chocolates.  This way I got fresh chocolate, dark chocolate, hazelnuts, and the cute little shapes, too -- sea shells and seahorses.

Yup these cuties are filled with a chocolate and hazelnut cream under a dark shell. These are molded chocolates, what GuyLian is known for, and their higher cocoa content makes them just perfect for me, a darker chocolate lover.  Healthy?  No!  We've had this conversation before, Sisters and Brothers, healthy chocolate is high cacao content dark chocolate with no extras so these are healthy but they could be worse like made with milk or white chocolate.

Sometimes I get a craving for hazelnuts and these hit the spot over the course of two afternoons -- there are two servings in this little box.   I know I complain a lot about hazelnuts, they can be easily overdone, but these are very well balanced and I think darker chocolate can compete much better with the hazelnut cream than many milk chocolate pralines I've had in the past.  This was a great way to spend some of my birthday money.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Abbott's Also Candy Store Milk Chocolates

The first chocolate place I visited on my 2012 20th wedding anniversary trip was Abbott's Also Candy Shop in NW Indianapolis.  I've all ready shared the shop with you all as one of our "On the Road" posts so today we're going to look at the milk chocolates from the 1/2 pound box they gave us for review.  There were no labels for the pieces so I'm just going to call these Milks 1-5 and describe every thing in full sensory fashion.  I spread out the enjoyment of these over the course of a week, Moderation, remember, but you get to feast your eyes on these right now.

Milk 1 has an odd shape to it, I can see several pieces of something underneath the milk chocolate layer that has a cocoa and vanilla fragrance to it but nothing to give me a hint by smell of what I can see.   I think I make out a pecan shape there, do you?  But I also see several smaller and more rounded shapes as well.  I take a crunching bite into the pecan shape and discover it is a pecan that has a very sweet flavor as though it has been glazed.  Another crunch into a rounded shape isn't as sweet, but I can't quite place the nut, though these tone down the sweetness of the pecans letting the more natural nuttiness out.  There are no layers of caramel or nougat here, just nuts and milk chocolate, so I think this is a mixed nut milk chocolate treat.  The various nuts are all crunchy, some sweet, others not, but the milk chocolate has vanilla a creaminess to it that is the first and final flavor meaning this is a well-balanced piece.

Milk 2 looks similar but not identical to the one above, clearly there are nuts somewhere underneath the milk chocolate but this has more heft to it and also a tangy caramel smell.   One of the specialities from Abbott's Also is their Gismos, a type of turtle candy with pecans and their famous caramel all covered in milk chocolate.  I'm betting this is one of these but let me take a bite to find out.  There is a soft crunch as I take a bite to find a bottom layer of thick caramel and a top layer of several pecan pieces, yup, I guessed correctly.  The nuts are not sweet like in the previous candy and the caramel has a strong tang to it, both of these flavors almost outstrip the milk chocolate but at the end it's thickness and creaminess remind the final essence in my mouth.

Milk 3 reminds me of a peanut butter cup in terms of the shape and the way the paper cut sticks to it, suggesting the chocolate was poured directly into it and just placed in it after it was formed.  It also has a roasted peanut and milk chocolate fragrance so with two senses I'm fairly certain of my identification. I take a bite and the bottom makes a snap sound.  I didn't guess right this time.  On the bottom is something white and sweet, I think it might be coconut, but the top is several half peanuts all covered in perhaps caramel and of course milk chocolate.  If I'd known I could have given it to our Fruit Acolyte who can also handle coconut for us when that particular assistant is unavailable.  I can say that it isn't a strong coconut flavor but also that this like some of bars we covered from different decades like the Mallo Cup or the Cup O'Gold but in a two bite size.

Milk 4 looks like Abbott's Toffee, English variety covered with milk chocolate.  This has a toffee scent to it through the milk chocolate layer so by two senses now I believe this is indeed the Toffee.  These are big at 1.25 square with over a quarter an inch thickness to them and they feel heavy but then toffee is dense.  A snap can be heard when I take a bite.  This is the solid form of toffee and inside I can see almond slivers so if you have tree nut allergies be aware of this.  The initial flavor is the milk chocolate but that melts leaving behind the crunchy toffee with its tangy sweetness and almond buttery essence as the dominant feature.

Milk 5 has a oblong shape to it that might suggest another nut and it isn't the round shape that Abbott's creams generally are.  It has a primarily creamy chocolate scent to it and when I take a bite it makes no sound because the center is soft and fluffy.  A burst of chocolate then a coolness of mint fill my mouth then these fade to a chocolaty cool cream flavor with the mint only in the tingle in my mouth.  So this is a mint milk chocolate then with the mint as part of the creamy chocolate center.  That's interesting because the shape completely fooled me into thinking this was something entirely different.  I think chocolate lovers who like mint will find this a nice comparison when normally we think of dark chocolate and mint together.

Abbott's Also Candy Shop has two locations in Indianapolis run by the same family so if you visit either, mention this review to them.  Milk chocolate fades more quickly than dark so it isn't surprising that one of these candies ended up being less chocolate than we would hope.  But four out of the five were very well balanced in terms of the chocolate and you should give them a try.  Taking this into account plus the desire to support more state business and family owned and operated companies, Abbott's Also milk chocolate gets an OK in terms of Sacrament status but I'm betting their darker chocolates will be even better so come back later this summer to see that feature.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chocolate In Indianapolis 2: The Chocolate Cafe

The second chocolate shop we found on our anniversary trip to Indianapolis was the Chocolate Cafe on the Monument Circle; an area of Indy that looks much bigger on TV than in person.  We walked there from our hotel and the weather had radically changed in the course of our trip.  On Monday it had been in the low 90s, insane for the end of May, but by Friday afternoon when we visited here it was in the mid 60s.  The photos you'll see are taken with my camera phone and I can't use all I took simply because one or two didn't turn out very well.  Having a camera on my phone is very convenient but not as high quality as lugging my other camera around.

We went inside and immediately to our left is this bear that the regional and store managers told us that everyone loves to touch.  Yes, we were lucky to meet both the store manager and the regional manager for The South Bend Chocolate Company, the Chocolate Cafe is one of their storefronts.  If you live in Indiana the gold packets and the boxes may look familiar to you.




Next to this display is another with all of their gift baskets as you can see in this next photography.







The managers also gave us a gift basket and we'll be revealing all of those goodies to you in the months ahead on three different Saturday Sacraments.  I'll have a better photo when we do the feature with these.





They don't only have chocolates for sale at this shop. They also have ice cream, not made by them but also from a state manufacturer and you know that when we can support smaller businesses we love to do that here so we also love companies that turn to other local or regional businesses as well. The chairs and tables you see are throughout the shop not just here or outside as you saw in the first photo.

But if you go to a chocolate shop you want something to eat that is chocolate, right, made right there on premises or by the company.  I had to take this photo because their chocolate dipped strawberries looked like the best I'd ever seen even though I didn't try one.




We did try two of their hot chocolates with cream and cherries that were whipped up right there in the shop.  Remember when I said it was a bit chilly, we drank these for a bit at the cafe tables near the front door then continued to sip on our walk back.  These were great -- the chocolate was very deep and intense, so much that the cocoa flavor came through the heat.  Once outside it cooled down a bit and we could really taste the chocolate, barely dulled down at all by the melted cream.



You can choose from their chocolate individually at this main display case in the front where there are also a few cafe tables and chairs.






When you go to check out there are, as in all chocolate and candy shops, more things to attract your attention before you ring up the bill.  Of course here you can pay for your drinks or you ice cream at other cashiers as well.  This is good because as large as the place is inside, while we were there it got a bit crowded in the front area a few times.


I want to thank the regional and store managers for showing us around, letting us take photos, answering our questions, and giving us the gift basket.  Stay tuned, Sisters and Brothers for three featured reviews starting in July on the goodies from said basket.  If you are near Monument Circle or have visited before, let us know what you think of the Chocolate Cafe.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Meet Candy Artist Heather Hilbrink

A lot of people just like looking around the Web.  We find one site that interests and they mention a product or event or person we then check out.  Isn't that in part why we call it the Web because it connects things together not in a linear fashion but in a multi-layered, multi-pronged way?  I found candy artist, Heather Hilbrink, one day just looking around and she was kind enough to answer some questions for us, Sisters and Brothers.  We've talked with painters who have worked with chocolate before but this is our first candy artist.  Enjoy this interview and leave our guest some comments please.


Heather, do you consider art to be your primary career?

I hope to, soon, consider my candy art as part of my primary career.

How long have you been an artist?

I created my first candy art piece in Spring 2008.

What is your training in the arts?

My BA is in Media/Communications and Art with a Digital Art minor.  Although there isn't a class where I learned how to make artwork out of candy, I can definitely say that the classes I took allowed me to pursue it.

How did you get started in using candy as a material for your work?

I have always loved candy (who doesn't!?)  In college I began doing digital candy collages for a digital design class.  In 2008, during my junior year I had to create my own artwork to appear in a group art show at school.  Knowing that my pieces would involve candy, my cousin helped me brainstorm the idea of taking my digital candy collages and creating actual candy pieces.  That year I created life-size James Dean and Marilyn Monroe completely out of candy.  Since then my unique hobby has become something I am very passionate about.

Does chocolate pose any particular difficulties to work with compared to other types of candy?

The only difficulty when using chocolate in my pieces is the fact that it melts when not covered with a candy shell (like M&Ms).

Is chocolate better for some works of art than for others?  

Chocolate is a perfect addition to edible pieces.  It is delicious and due to the time sensitivity of the edible piece, melting is not a concern.

Do you consider your works to be edible or visual or both?

Absolutely both!  I make pieces of all shapes and sizes, framed and unframed, edible and non-edible.  I mostly make non-edible for show pieces but I am always happy to make an edible piece for a show or special event.

Where could our readers check out more of your work online?

My website (is the best place) but my work can also be found on deviantART (username: HeatherHilbrink) and on Facebook

Thank you, Heather, for talking with us today.  Sisters and Brothers, go and check out Heather's work.  Think about her the next time you want to do something more unique as an edible gift.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Unique Collection of Truffles

Even though I haven't taken you "On the Road" to this shop yet in Indianapolis, we just accepted two more Acolytes here on The Chocolate, both working with alcohol products.  Since I wanted to walk through through the process one more time and since the nice lady who owns and operates The Best Chocolate in Town gave us a few truffles with alcohol, I thought this was a good time to introduce both of our new volunteers and this chocolatier to you all, Sisters and Brothers.

In all we were given 9 truffles to sample, you can see 8 here in the box but there was a separately wrapped one as well in the box of other chocolate items.  Note that all of these truffles were at least 3-4 bites (measuring around 1 to 1.5 inches at their base) so we wrote this review over the course of an entire week.  There is a mixture of white, milk, and dark chocolate is this selection though dark is most common.  Three of them contain alcohol as well so let's begin with those and our introduction to one of our new Acolytes focusing on Alcohol and Chocolate, Spanish Bubbles, whom you may remember from way back during the first few months of our Cult when she competed for the role of Coconut Acolyte.  Remember that the words of others are in Italics.

Tiramisu traditionally has coffee but this version also has kahlúa in the milk and white chocolate center though the entire truffle is covered in dark chocolate.  Spanish Bubbles says: This is a lusturous dark chocolate with the delicate stripes of milk chocolate, it feels very smooth, like it could melt.  There is mostly a chocolate scent, maybe a very slight coffee and alcohol scent once I took a bite.  It crackles then crunches a bit as I chew.  Delicious!  It's remarkable just how well this chocolate captures the flavor of tiramisu!  Creamy, coffee, and a liquor tang, very chewy indeed. A marvelous balance of flavors with an inside that almost melts in our mouth.

Port Wine & Fig with a dark center and shell just sounds like a dessert truffle, doesn't it?  Spanish Bubbles first commented on the shape, too:  Usually shape, like the tip of an airplane with almond shards on top, tightly grouped together.  The tip has obviously been lifted to fill it with the center.  It feels very smooth, even the nut shards.  It has slightly fruity overtones to the dark chocolate scent.  This outer shell makes a louder crackle when I take a bite and it crunches consistently.  The wine shines through immediately. The fig is really only present in terms of texture, there are bits of fig in the center, and this with the wine creates a sort of fruit compote filling.  The wine flavor is very dramatic and was enhanced when I had a bite with the almonds.  If I really focused I can almost taste the fig but it blends in so well with the wine and dark chocolate it is difficult to distinguish it alone.

Sun King Wee Mac is created from a local beer brewery; I love it when local or statewide small companies support each other.  This is a dark truffle both inside and out.  Spanish Bubbles has a good grounding in alcoholic drinks of a wide variety but she hadn't heard of this brand. She reports: A standard chocolate look with a swirl of what I assume is white chocolate. A nice luster but after taking a bite it looks like a basic truffle.  It feels like it might melt in your fingertips because it is very smooth.  It has a rich and chocolaty scent with a slight hint of beer.  It makes a slight crackle when I take a bite and continues to crunch a bit in my mouth.  The inside is a bit dry but not unpleasant.  The beer is subtle, if you didn't know beer was the extra ingredient it might take a while to identify it.  Over all very nice, quite rich, you really wouldn't want more than one of these at a time.

Our new Tea Acolyte, True Flint, who has really been helping me for a few years now in a more general way, tried the Earl Grey Tea Truffle himself.  He got to try this milk chocolate center with a dark shell and revealed the following: Meant to have purple stripes, but has sky blue, (they look less blue in the photo but still blue).  Ample size and weight.  Inside cream seems fluffy, as if whipped, tastes mostly of chocolate, but with a strong hint of bergamot, the spice that gives Earl Grey Tea its signature flavor, far from overwhelming however, as the chocolate soon returns to center stage.

Then I turned to the other five truffles which we got from The Best Chocolate in Town.  I began with the Cinnamon Basil in a milk and white chocolate center covered by white chocolate because is the only white chocolate shell in the collection and I thought it would be good to start with something smoother.  There is a definite hint of cinnamon in the scent with a creamy edge.  It makes a soft snap when I take a bite, surprising since white chocolate generally is quite soft.  There is a nice contrast between the milk chocolate center and shell in terms of texture, the inside is firm but not dry, and in terms of flavor, the inside is definitely cocoa powered.  The basil scent comes through once I have bitten into it and the first flavor to hit my mouth is also the sweet basil followed by creamy milk chocolate then it builds up to a slightly hot cinnamon before returning to the creamy white chocolate of the shell.  This is a very interesting truffle that I think many white chocolate fans might be pleasantly surprised by and that milk chocolate fans should give a try.

Then to counter that smooth yet spicy experience,  I turned to the Fiery Pepper which is dark chocolate all the way through. Primarily there is a dark cocoa scent with just a hint of heat to it.  The shell is so thick that it is difficult to get a bite but when I do it makes a very loud snap.  At first there is a dark cocoa then a creamier cocoa flavor that builds up along with the spice with each chew.   The spice does it a bit intense since it is both Ancho and Chipotle pepper fueled so take smaller bites if you aren't a spicy chocolate lover.  The spice is basically limited to the ganache center that is firm but not dry; peeling off a bite of the shell alone demonstrates this because there is almost no heat then.  After two bites I could feel my face start to flush a bit so while I really liked this because the chocolate also built up, this is more of spice lovers than just dark chocolate lovers.

Their Chocolate Chip Cheesecake has a whited chocolate center and a milk chocolate shell with a few mini chocolate chips on top.  Since I've had this type of dessert before outside a truffle I wanted to see how it compared.  The scent is very creamy with just a hint of cocoa but the shell is also very cool in my fingers.  I take a bite from the top and find a very thick, cheeselike center with more mini chips inside.  At first the chocolate fades into the tangy flavor I associate with cheesecake but the chips add tiny bursts of chocolate to the mix.  The chips are darker than the shell I think and they certainly compete well with the cheesecake.  This is exactly what the name says it should be and it is very good.

The Gorg is named for the gorgonzola cheese in the milk chocolate center but it is covered with dark chocolate walnut pieces.  I have to confess that I was a bit nervous to try this one but it is my duty as your Chocolate Priestess to try as much as I can with an open mind.  It has a dark chocolate scent with a smokiness underneath it.  The tiny pieces of walnuts on the top didn't stick well, I found them throughout the box.  I love walnuts, I like gorgonzola cheese, and you know I love dark chocolate but I hesitate when I bring it to my lips, the smoothness of the shell actually melting a bit on my fingertips.  I bite from the top to get the full experience of flavors and it makes a soft crunch.  Inside is a firm and slightly dry dark chocolate center with a clear smoky cheese flavor that blends really well with the crunches of earthy nuts and the bitter darker chocolate.  I am shocked at how well this all works together.  The second, third, and fourth bites aren't as balanced, the cheese comes through more strongly, I think the walnuts were a good counter.  I like it a lot but I think it might be even better with the nuts mixed into the ganache as well.

The Nocturne is extra dark with a 61% center, a dark shell, and 91% shavings on top of it.  You can tell the difference between percentages of cacao once you get some experience with a lot of single origin and a ranger of bars or pieces of dark chocolate.  You can tell by taste by also by scent and look.  While the photo isn't great to show this, I apologize for that, the shavings are a lighter color only because they are shavings, the edges do not have the shine but normally I can see a shade of difference.  The fragrance is stronger, darker from the top with the shavings than the on the bottom.  This makes me hopeful for a variation in flavors before I take a bite.  The shell makes far softer of a snap when I bite than I had expected given the higher cacao content and basically nothing but chocolate in this truffle.  The ganache is a touch dry but then it immediately melts in my mouth, it has a creamy texture as it melts not surprising given how ganache centers are made for truffles but I think it might be darker than the shell even if the color is ligher.  The shavings add an edge to it all when I take a bite from the top.  Cocoa rush happens within seconds and I start to drift in chocolate bliss.

The truffles from The Best Chocolate in Town were an amazing assortment of flavors may unique.  Unique can get you into trouble because too many flavors and too strong can overpower the chocolate, our main concern.  That never happened with this and whether white, milk, or darker, the chocolate shone through.  Combine this fact with their woman-owned small business status and their interest in the community, I'll touch upon that in our On the Road look at the shop, and these truffles earn Sacrament status.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chocolate in Indianapolis Part 1

Your Chocolate Priestess rarely gets a vacation.  By vacation I mean going away from home with a loved one (I don't like traveling alone) without the obligations to see family or sell books.  I don't believe I've had a vacation in well over five years, probably seven years.  We used to get away right after Christmas and go somewhere for a few days for our wedding anniversary but since changing my profession from academic to full-time author, I've had to do conventions and promote my books.  Not the last week of May and the beginning of June this year, nope we went on a vacation to celebrate 20 years of marriage.  We went to Indianapolis that is an easy day trip for us but we stayed there for six nights and seven days and got to explore that section of Indiana.

But let me be honest, I can't just stop working period.  I'd go crazy.  No laptop of my own meant I couldn't write but I did find some chocolate shops in Indy and we visited three of them.  So for the next three weeks, one day a week, I'm going to take you "On the Road" with me to visit these three locations.  Later throughout the rest of the year we'll do some Saturday Sacraments with them as well since every shop gave us some samples to bring home.

Our first stop was in northwest Indy as we traveled from the Children's Museum toward our second B&B.  Out in a commercial district with other little shops we found Abbott's Also Candy Shop, opened in 1993.  The name Abbott's may be familiar to you all if you remember The Chocolate Trail we traveled last year as a group with four other members of our cult.  This shop is located at 3744 E. 82nd Street, Indianapolis, IN 46240 in the Clearwater Crossing Shopping Plaza.  As you can see there is a retail space next to them available, wouldn't be great to have a shop and be able to drop in every day to buy one piece of chocolate?

This is one of their satellite locations but there the manager Jay is also a chocolatier so they make products onsite.  While everyone at the other shops was a bit camera shy I convinced Jay to let us take his photo.  I wanted you all to see what a nice guy he is. I thought I had been corresponding with him on email, yes I did give every shop we hoped to visit a warning we were headed their way, but it was really his wife.  I didn't get to meet her but Jay was very nice and very professional.

We talked about having chocolate shop in this location and the challenges to small candy shops.  Jay told me that most of their sales are doing the late fall to early spring, especially around major holidays but they are open year round.  In this photo you can see the area near the front door where they keep the fresh chocolates and candies; they are primarily famous for their caramels but they don't have a chocolate variety of that so we won't discussing that much other than to say that it melts in your mouth.

The motto for the business is "Abbott's Also, as good as candy gets" which I think is very sweet.  They also have a Greenwood shop (opened in 1999) that I've been to a year or so ago, I just happened upon it as I was helping a friend clothes shop at a nearby place she loves that I'd never heard of before.  In this photo you see the other side of the store with more of the gift items, other candies, and containers you can purchase to wrap up or supplement your main candy purchase.

The shop is larger than you might imagine from the outside.  Along the back before you'd go into the kitchen where Jay does his creating and where they have their office for shipping out orders, there are more candies to choose from and more gift items.  Chocolate or other candies and stuffed animals seem like common themes in most candy shops I've visited.  Perhaps the idea is something sweet for now and something cute for later.  If you don't want to pick individual pieces of chocolate out from the main displays you can find prepacked boxes to as well throughout the store.

The shop wasn't difficult to find with our GPS and I'm sure folks who live up in northern Indy could find it easily. But if you live and Indianapolis or nearby and haven't discovered Abbott's Also, you need to go check it out this summer and give them some off-season business.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

DOVE Dark Chocolate Promises Revealed

How good are your memories, Sisters and Brothers?  Do you recall how we started off 2012 with a video/phone interview with a famous chef from the Cooking Network?  Do you remember the giveaway of DOVE chocolate?  No?  I'm disappointed yet I'll still do today's Sacrament with the DOVE Dark Chocolate Promises that were part of that giveaway.  You can see that interview still so don't be afraid to go back and watch it.

Soon, very soon I'll be doing my first public appearance as The Chocolate Priestess at a convention.  See normally I attend 3-6 science fiction or alternative lifestyle conventions as an author and educator, not a chocolate lover.  I always make a little space on my table though to promote The Chocolate Cult and last year I had people walking up to me, looking out the promotional material and saying "You're the Chocolate Priestess?  I love that blog!"  So now I'm doing my first presentation at a convention which should pull in 7500+ attendees at the end of June 2012. I'm nervous but I'm going with help from a few companies who we have featured in the past. One of these will be DOVE and it will be with this product.  I'll report on the convention afterwards and tell you all about it.

DOVE Promises are easily found in stores USA-wide so you don't need to order them online or have them delivered or visit a speciality store.  Currently there are seven varieties of these and the Dark Silky Smooth is one of these.  5 pieces make up a serving with 210 calories, 8g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 3g fiber, 19g sugar, 2g protein, and 6% of your daily iron.  However you can chose to eat only one of these or two or 20 if you really like so just keep it all in mind as I try just one for today's featured review. Each piece is about 1 X 1 X 5/16 inches with the Dove name on the top.  As you can see these have a red and gold wrapper though the probably changes a bit depending on any holiday promotion.  Inside the wrapper is always a positive message, this one said "Life is Good. Love, Dove" and I'll tell that life got more busy for me recently but in a good way.  This has a sweet dark scent to it, so this is probably on the lower end of the range of what qualifies as dark chocolate.  It has shine and is smooth to my fingertips.  Even though it is thick it does not make a sound when I take a bite again testifying to a lower cacao percentage in it.  It has a slightly bitten edge but primarily it is very smooth, semi-sweet, with a thickness that builds up over your tongue if you let it melt instead of chewing.  A good moment or two of just chocolate for our body and soul.

A Sacrament focused on one simple piece of chocolate is great for my waistline and quick to do.  I hope it wasn't too short or too boring for you all to read.  Please let me and DOVE know in a comment.


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