Sunday, November 30, 2014

Moose Tracks Ice Cream Recall at Multiple Grocery Stores


Consumer Contact:
800-KROGERS (800-576-4377)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 24, 2014 – CINCINNATI, OH – The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) said today it is recalling select containers of Private Selection Denali Extreme Moose Tracks Ice Cream sold in 13 states because it may contain peanuts not listed on the label.

Item Description: Private Selection Denali Extreme Moose Tracks Ice Cream sold in 48-ounce containers with a "sell by" date of April 16, 2015 under the following UPC Code: 11110-00456.


Customers should return the product to stores for a full refund or replacement. No customer illnesses have been reported to date.

People who are allergic to peanuts could have a serious or life-threatening reaction if they consume this product. For consumers who are not allergic to peanuts, there is no safety issue with the product.

Stores in the following states are included in this recall:
Bakers stores in Nebraska
Dillons stores located in Kansas and Missouri
Gerbes stores located in Missouri
Fred Meyer stores located in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington
Food 4 Less stores located in California and Nevada
King Soopers and City Market stores located in Colorado and Wyoming
Ralphs stores located in California
Smith’s stores located in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming
QFC stores located in Oregon and Washington.

NOT included in this recall are Kroger, Food 4 Less (Chicago), Fry’s stores and Smith’s stores located in Arizona and New Mexico.

Dillons, Fred Meyer, QFC, King Soopers, City Market, Ralphs, Food 4 Less (west coast), Bakers, Gerbes and Smith’s removed items from store shelves and initiated a customer recall notification system that alerts customers who may have purchased recalled Class 1 products through register receipt tape messages and phone calls.

Customers who have questions about this recall may contact Kroger toll-free at 800-KROGERS (800-576-4377). For more information, please visit www.kroger.com/recall_alerts.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Snowmen

We'll do our final of five features on Sjaak's Chocolate today right after Thanksgiving and hopefully just as many of you are thinking about Christmas or other winter holidays.  You don't have to go shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday to find great holiday deals and in fact you probably wouldn't want to do that for chocolate.  I assume you'd like to give quality chocolate for a gift or offer your guests delightful treats when they come visit. This gift box is a great winter holiday idea because snowmen are not religion or culture specific; they are just a fun, artistic way to express yourself in the snow.  Their crunchy peanut butter filled dark chocolate snowmen come in a winter decorated box (pattern available may be different, Sisters and Brothers).

The first thing to note about Sjaak's is that this is organic, certified by the USDA.  These snowmen are also certified vegan and recognized by The Rainforest Alliance as not harming the biodiversity of the world through the promotion of fair trade practices for the ingredients used.  These treats contain peanuts in case that is a allergen for you.  Every ingredient except the sea salt is organic on the label and there are no chemical names found on the list.  There is no dairy or animal byproducts in the entire thing.  So let's see how these little snowmen might thrill your senses.

The snowman gift box holds nine pieces or three recommended serving sizes. Each piece is wrapped in white foil that isn't really a specific form. Unwrapping it reveals a very cute little (1.5 inches tall) snowman with broom, big button on the belly, scarf, hat, eyes, nose, and a smile.  The top is shiny brown but the bottom is matte dark brown.  His scent has a sweet peanut with a dark cocoa undercurrent.  He is about an inch at his width part across his tummy and he's almost too adorable to eat... almost.  I bite off his hat and it makes a crunching sound. Inside is thick, crunchy peanut butter that keeps on crunchy with each bite.   The first flavor is the roasted, lightly sweet peanut then it builds to a sweet yet bitter chocolate. If you take a bite of just the center you get more of the peanut butter flavor and less balance; if you bite off the top or the bottom you get a very well balance of the two basic flavors.  Either way the final flavor in my mouth is the dark chocolate which is exactly as I like my filled dark chocolates to end.  I shared these with three other testers who

Obviously our readers in the southern hemisphere (hello everyone!) aren't currently having snow but you all could still order this Vegan Snowman Gift Box and used them as some wishful thinking for Christmas if you celebrate. As has been common to many of our features about Sjaak's creations, this one earns Sacrament Status for the product and the company's business philosophy and practices.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Chocolate Pudding Recall before Thanksgiving 2014

Oh the food industry was doing so well for a few weeks with no chocolate related recalls and then today we get another one, this one for chocolate pre-prepared shelf stable pudding.  I don't know how many of you might buy this product but I've seen it in stores so I know it is a widely available brand. Remember to follow the links for fuller information and to use the contact information if you have purchased the product.

Kozy Shack Enterprises, LLC Issues Allergen Alert on Unlabeled Foodservice Chocolate Pudding Cups


Consumer Contact: 855-716-1555

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 21, 2014 – Kozy Shack Enterprises, LLC is voluntarily recalling certain items of its Foodservice Kozy Shack® Simply Well® Chocolate Pudding 4 oz. cups because they contain undeclared milk and lack product labeling. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

The recalled product was distributed through foodservice distribution channels and not sold in retail stores. Product was distributed to 20 states: Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The product comes in a small, clear 4 oz. plastic container and contains a yellow lid with the Kozy Shack logo on it. The carton in which the product was shipped is identified with the following information:

Lot Number: 31637681
Item Code: 00050000073491
USE BY:31 DEC 14

There have been no illnesses reported, and there are no quality issues with the product.
The recall was initiated after it was discovered that the milk-containing product was distributed without complete labeling.

Customers who have purchased this product are urged to discontinue use of the item and return it to the place of purchase. Kozy Shack will work with customers to collect the product.

Foodservice customers can contact Consumer Affairs at 855-716-1555, Monday 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Central Time and Tuesday – Friday 8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Central Time.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Chocolate Spoons from Chocion

We've looked at chocolate spoons in the past here on The Chocolate Cult but these chocolate spoons from Chocion are quite different.  These are plastic (or you can get them wooden) spoons are inserted into chunks of chocolate that you put into your mug of hot chocolate.  According to the head of Chocion, you then stir for a while, lift the chunk of chocolate to lick at it, return to stirring and continue until you've turned your average mug of hot cocoa into something amazing with the melted chocolate on the spoon.  Let's see how these four varieties make our average milk chocolate hot cocoa taste.



Let's start simple with the White Chocolate which is made only with cocoa butter and no other added oils or fats exactly as white chocolate should be made. By itself this has a creamy, buttery fragrance. It made the hot cocoa very creamy and sweet; our tester really loved it a lot.



Next was the variety your Chocolate Priestess tried -- Chocolate Caramel which has a slightly tangy chocolate scent. The caramel flavor is wonderfully sweet and adds a good kick to the average cocoa as well as a bit of stickiness.  I really loved it for the combination of flavors and the fact that it melted quickly and thoroughly.


Then we had Chocolate Macchiato which is a common coffee drink but I don't see coffee listed in the ingredients. It doesn't smell like coffee, just simple milk chocolate really. You can see that it is half white and half milk chocolate. Our tester who has had coffee that was macchiato in flavor said this was very much what he expected and he really loved it.


Finally the Cappuccino which does have coffee as an ingredient and it has a strong coffee and cocoa fragrance. The white chocolate part has flecks of the ground coffee beans in it. The coffee flavor is light so if you aren't a huge coffee fan don't worry, you might still like this one, our tester said.  She really loved how this chocolate spoon added more chocolate to the hot cocoa and then the after current of coffee.





Not only are these spoons delicious but the are the surprise star of this amazingly beautiful video from Chocion that we've been asked to share.


Das Schokoladen-Universum der Film from CHOCION - Finest Chocolate on Vimeo.

Wonderful creations from Chocion you could have with hot coffee or even hot tea but it really does need to be a hot drink to get the chocolate on the spoon melting.  The spoons are hearty and can be washed and reused numerous times by the way. You could also just eat the chocolate but Chocion has bars, pralines, and other creations if you want that. As this feature goes live they are revamping their website so I don't have links to the specific items we looked at today.  Add the main website that we've linked to in this article to your bookmarks and check back in the future because these chunks of chocolate were excellent enough to earn Sacrament Status here on The Chocolate Cult.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Meet the Fudge Doctor from Baltimore

In honor of National Peanut Butter Fudge Day (today!) we're publishing an interview with the "Fudge Doctor" from Baltimore, Seth Weinstein.  Sisters and Brothers, please read and leave him some comments or questions afterwards.

Seth Weinstein in Kilwins

Seth, would you tell us about Kilwins and your role in it?

Kilwins is a Michigan-based ice cream and candy company that's been in operation since 1947. We focus on old-fashioned standbys: fudge, toffee, brittles, caramel apples, and other traditional American candies. Trends come and go, but dipping an apple in caramel has been a candy staple for decades, and we see no reason to mess with a good thing!

Which particular Kilwins shop is yours?

I work at our Fells Point location in Baltimore, MD. You can find us at 1625 Thames St.

Is the ice cream and chocolate business in Baltimore good?  Is there a lot of competition and if so what makes your shop unique?

If your town has deep American history and it's located on the water, chances are you're gonna find a handful of candy and ice cream stores. Baltimore is no exception, but we're lucky enough that we don't have a ton of direct competition. The other candy stores are located far enough away from us, and have a different enough selection, that we don't see a lot of overlap. On the ice cream front, our only competition comes from a gelato place, which really isn't ice cream, and a certain other franchise location of questionable quality that shall go unnamed.

How did you get into the chocolate and ice cream shop business?

Probably because candy is the greatest! The very first job I ever loved was at a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and it was there that I cut my teeth on making caramel apples and fudge and tempering chocolate at the delicate age of 15. I worked there until I was 18, and then served as an assistant manager at Giffords Candy & Ice Cream while I was in college. I've dipped my toes into other industries, but candy keeps pulling me back, and I'm more than happy to let it.

Mud Fudge
You have a nickname, "The Fudge Doctor," would you tell us how you got that name?

Because my fudge is sick! Honestly, I completely forget the specifics of how I ended up with that nickname. I suppose it doesn't hurt that I've done a bunch of research into the delicate system that is fudge, so my coworkers will occasionally catch me "diagnosing" a less-than-perfect batch.

We've interviewed people in several roles of the chocolate industry but I believe you are our first franchise owner.  How much of what you sell in your shop is based on Kilwins recipes and directives and how much is created in house or unique to your shop?

Whoa now, I'm just the chef! My store is owned by David and Karen Gilmore, and managed by Eric Gonzalez, and all three of them are wonderful people, hard workers, and extremely dedicated to the business. No way I could do this without them. To answer your other question, I'd say the ratio is about 70/30. The Kilwins franchise has had years to explore and perfect recipes, and they've come up with a multitude of solid ones. I'll find myself designing my own products, however, if we have a Kilwins item that isn't selling as well as we'd like, or we have a holiday coming up that demands a seasonal touch to our products, or there's a particularly delicious idea that we have to explore. Something that I deeply appreciate about my employers is the freedom they give me in the kitchen. As long as I keep the shelves stocked and the snacking to a minimum, they pretty much let me run wild as far as custom creations are concerned. Plus, customers will often come in with unique custom orders, which I'm more than happy to fill.

Kilwins Pralines
What is your favorite treat to create?  Is it fudge?

Oh wow, that's a difficult question. Fudge is great because I work in front of huge windows overlooking the sidewalk, and I'll often find that a crowd gathers to watch me paddle the fudge on our marble table. But I think my absolute favorite item to produce is pecan pralines. They might actually be the perfect candy. They're simply the best, whether you're talking about the taste, the ease of production, the time required, or complexity of the ingredients. Pralines are so great they almost feel like cheating. How can a candy this good be this effortless?!

Are there seasonal ups and downs in your business?

Oh sure, and they're about what you would expect. Summers are huge, as is Christmas and Valentines' Day, but we definitely do experience a lull after New Years'. We serve all manner of hot drinks in addition to our ice cream and candy, but I suppose people don't consider those as much. Summers more than make up for it though; this is only our second summer, but we've completely blown away our numbers from last year.

What is your favorite product that you sell?

My mind immediately went to our Peanut Butter Pretzel Clusters. We mix together pretzel pieces and peanut butter, shape them into balls, freeze them, and enrobe them in milk chocolate with dark chocolate decoration on top. We came up with the idea when we were trying to find a use for all the broken pretzels we can't enrobe in chocolate, and this item has been an extraordinarily elegant solution. They're a bit labor-intensive, but the end product is immeasurably decadent. The fact that we cut down on ingredient waste is a plus.

Is there anything else you'd like us to know about your work at Kilwins?

I know I work in front of a big glass window, but please don't tap on it to get my attention! I'm not much smarter than a fish, and it startles me.

Thank you, Seth, for talking with us today.

You're very welcome! Thanks for featuring me!

Sisters and Brothers, please do leave comments and questions for Seth to let him know that you read our interview today. In honor of "National Peanut Butter Fudge Day", go out and find some or make some.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Balls

Tomorrow we have an interview in however of National Peanut Butter Fudge Day but today, because of your votes on our November Calendar article I'm going to reveal the results of my testing making tackling Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge that the majority of voters chose.

I used this recipe found at allrecipes.com as my starting point.

I use more of the raw cocoa we were sent to test since the type of cocoa used was not specified in this recipe. I used some leftover cereal that is too bland for my family's taste on it's own to turn the simple fudge into a candy that I can save and use at our holiday party.

Let's see how this worked out.

Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Balls
By TammyJo Eckhart, PhD

Ingredients:

2.25 C White Granulated Sugar
3/4 cup Zero Cal Sugar Substitute
12 oz Can of Evaporated Milk
1/2 C Raw Cocoa Powder
1 C Creamy Peanut Butter
1 T Margarine
300g Total Cereal

Directions:

1. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Measure out your margarine, peanut butter, and cereal and set these aside within easy reach of your stovetop.



2. Combine sugar, sugar sub, evaporated milk in a large saucepan and start to heat on medium. Add in the cocoa powder a bit at a time.  It will take a bit of work to get the cocoa to combine but only when it has should you turn up the heat.



3.  Raise the heat and stir until you get a rolling boil.  Lower the heat to medium then clip a candy thermometer set to soft boil on the sauce pan. Keep stirring until your thermometer beats at you.  If you don't have a thermometer heat until it reaches the soft boil stage.



4. Turn off the heat and add in the margarine and the peanut butter stirring vigorously until blended.

5. Add in the cereal until it is all coated with the fudgey mixture.

6. Spoon or scoop out balls and place these on the parchment paper on the cookie sheets, forming the balls with your hands if necessary.  Be careful these are hot for a few minutes.

7. Please the cookie sheets in the refrigerator for at least an hour before eating.

This made 38 large balls for me but you can make the balls as large or as small as you like.  Each of the treats I made has 143 calories in it.

Did you like the power of being able to vote on what fun food holiday recipe I might try this month?  Is it something You'd like me to continue to do? I want my readers to feel they can contribute more than just reading and I hope this is one way you can participate even if you are too shy to leave a comment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Daniel's Crazy Chocolate Party Book Review


Today we have a book about chocolate, the love of chocolate, children, and family. Yesterday you had the opportunity to learn more about the author, Lisabeth Protherough in our interview so today I'm actually doing a book review. The photo to the right is what the book I was sent looks like on the front cover.  I'll include a few more photos with the review.  This is a book published in the UK by a UK author so there may be a few phrases that are not as common in the USA as they are in the UK but I didn't find it a problem at all for understanding and sharing the book with a test child that I read to.

The book has 26 story pages along with a front page you can add your child's name to and back pages with publication and the chocco party company information. The story is by Lisabeth Protherough while the illustrations are by Jon Burgess.  You can buy Daniel's Crazy Chocco Party
 on Amazon here in the USA.

The story is fairly simple.  5 year old Daniel is a huge chocolate fan.  I really like that both text and pictures show the types of chocolate that we also cover here as chocolate -- white, milk, dark.  Here on the back cover of the book he is holding a milk chocolate bar.  His parents have to hold tightly to their dark chocolate bars because contrary to popular opinion, Daniel loves that, too.  Daniel loves chocolate in a variety of forms -- candy bars, cereal, ice cream, and milk are listed but we can imagine that if it is made of chocolate, this boy might eat or drink it.

The bulk of the story revolves around Daniel's 6th birthday party which his mother calls a Crazy Chocco PartyTM.  I really liked that we see Daniel help plan the party so he is an active participant.  Then we get to the party itself and it is indeed crazy messy and fun.  The children do all sorts of silly things with chocolate beyond just eating or drinking it.  This photo is from the center of the book where they are dipping food into chocolate and licking their plates clean.  I don't want to go into all of the activities because that would ruin the book for you.  We get a good sense of the fun the children are having from the language and the illustrations.  I particularly love the complex reactions on the parents faces when the kids are done and are a chocolate mess to behold.

This was a fun book to read to the test child though I am going to warn you that you'll want to have a bit of chocolate on hand to soothe them and you because reading this and seeing the different chocolate shades will make you hungry. If you live in the UK you can get help with your own chocco party by going to the website listed in the back.  No reason you couldn't think of the ideas in the book and visit the website to try this in other parts of the world either. Enjoy the book, enjoy your chocolate.



I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Meet the Author behind Daniel's Crazy Chocco Party

Sisters and Brothers, this week is busy -- two interviews, two features, and even recipe testing.  Tomorrow we will feature an adorable children's book as a Special Sacramental Review, so today I wanted to introduce you to the author, Lisabeth Protherough.

Lis, welcome to The Chocolate Cult.

Thank you for inviting me TammyJo.

Lis, is this your first children's book?

Yes, it is my first children's book. I previously authored a book for teenagers and their parents called "The Book on Successful Teens".  However, I have had ideas for young children's stories for around 6 or 7 years now. And earlier this year I just thought if I don't do it now, I probably never will and I will almost certainly regret it.  So I just took the plunge and did it. It was a pretty steep learning curve actually. It was harder to write and publish this picture book than it was producing a print book. You would think that when the language is simple and the words are few that it would be easy, but the requirements for picture books are very stringent. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process and will definitely do it again.

How did you get into writing children's books?

Well, I have 3 young (ish) boys and I love reading to them.  I noticed that there are often characters and themes that they resonate with and that children love things which are a little odd or sometimes a little naughty. Well, my boys do anyway. Some children's books are so mind numbingly bland and boring, whilst others really stimulate and excite or have interesting or quirky characters. I wanted to have a go at writing a book that would appeal to children and capture their sense of fun.

Is "Daniel's Crazy Chocco Party" drawn from real-life experiences you've have?

Yes it is. My youngest son, the real Daniel, is autistic and he has always had sensory issues especially with food. We found that paying messy games with his food helped to give him a better relationship with the food and to eat more, even though I was really against the idea at the start. Then a couple of years ago on vacation, Daniel and his middle brother went to a party at the on-site Kids Club and they got very messy with chocolate. They both delighted in how wild they looked when I collected them and took them back to our holiday apartment to shower it all off. I knew then that I had the germ of an idea for a story, and so over the course of a few months I just had lots of conversations with my boys to refine the idea.

This word "chocco" is not really something I've come across before. Is this common slang in the UK and if so could you tell our readers just how common it is?

It is certainly widely understood in the UK, though it is slang that is most likely to be used by young children. There was also a pop song a few years ago - one of those annoying ones that you can't get out of your head, which was called Chocco Latte and one of the back tracks to the chorus is a man singing “Chocco Chocco”.  We now use that annoying song at our Chocco Parties. There is a fun dance that goes with it too.

You also have a business where you help organize chocco parties. Could you tell us about that?

When I wrote the first draft of the book, I never even thought about running Chocco Parties myself. A friend who read the draft just said are you going to have one of these in real life? I then decided to run one for my son's 8th birthday and the concept was born. I decided that if I didn't do it then someone else would. So I set about copyrighting it and have established a franchise system for the parties, which I am managing. I have a background in small business marketing, and so I offer the whole business development package with it.

What is the greatest challenge in throwing a chocco party?

The biggest challenge is keeping the children's excitement at a manageable level. They start off all curious and unsure about touching the chocolate - although they always want to eat it!!  By the end some of them go really crazy with it on their faces, hands and in their hair!  Another challenge is managing the expectations of the parents if they do not stay for the duration of the party. I find that warning them in advance that their children will get VERY messy works well enough. The only other challenge of course, would be children with allergies.  I always check with the parents for nut and dairy allergies.

The book focuses on a children's party but could adults enjoy a chocco party without kids?

I'm pretty sure that adults could enjoy a Chocco Party too. I've had a number of people asking me if I had plans to do this. I guess it depends if you wanted it to be a sophisticated party where the adults were making and tasting exquisite chocolate or if they would prefer to indulge their inner child and get messy with melted chocolate.

Finally do you have another children's book in the works?

Yes I do, although this one is not about chocolate. It is called "Ribbit's Tune" about a toy frog called Ribbit and his child owner who are searching for ... well, you’ll have to wait for it to be published.   I have had the story and the illustrations in my head for about 5 years now and just never got around to writing it. I've simply been too busy with other priorities. However, it is a story that could easily become a series, so I think I just need to get on and do it. I have been asked if there will be a follow up to Daniel's Crazy Chocco Party, but I have said probably not. The story is so self contained that I think a sequel would spoil what we have.

Thank you, Lis, for speaking with us today.

Thanks.

I finished editing my mother's children's stories after her death so children's books currently hold a special place in my heart. Tomorrow check back in for a review of her book, Daniel's Crazy Chocco Party, and see if you and your child might like both the book and the idea of your own crazy event.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Celebrate French Chocolate History

Image 1
To give you a bit of time to plan, on Monday, November 24, marks the introduction of chocolate to France by Anne of Austria when she married Louis XIII of France in 1615.  By many accounts her marriage was not particularly pleasant.  While we don't have any paintings of her and chocolate, perhaps bringing this treat, most likely consumed in the form of a drink at that time, offered her some brief pleasure from time to time.  To help us mark this date on our Chocolate Calendar, let's look at some of the samples that French chocolatier Michel Cluizel sent us this summer in this 16 piece dark chocolate box made from cacao ground on five different plantations.

Half a box or eight pieces is one serving but I only sampled one square of each of the three varieties I tested for this review. Mokaya, in the red wrapper, and Los Ancones, in the green, are both varieties we've looked at in a previous post so I won't repeat that information here. The plantations are not equally represented, they can't be with a 16 piece box from only five locations but oddly three plantations -- Los Ancones, Mangaro, and Maralumi -- each have four pieces while two -- Mokaya and Vila Gracinda -- had only two pieces. These are all dark chocolate but they vary slightly in the amount of cacao in each so I'll note that where it applies.

In a pink wrapper we have chocolate made with cacao from Maralumi on Papua New Guinea and it has 64% cacao.  The first thing I notice is a spiciness to the dark cocoa fragrance with a hint of fruit. It makes a snap when I take a bite and immediately I get a much smoother chocolate than the scent suggested.  The spiciness isn't in the flavor but instead the fruitness is very well balanced with the cocoa so that neither overpowers the other.  Letting it melt in my mouth increases the fruity and creamy flavors. If you are afraid of dark chocolate I highly recommend trying this one because it has none of the bitter or acidic essence that you might have experienced with other darker chocolates.

Yellow wrapper marks chocolate made with cacao from Mangaro on Madagascar, famous for both vanilla and cacao this little bar has 65% of it. This has a kick of ginger and citrus in the scent blended into the dark cocoa. Taking a bite makes an equally loud snap as the previous variety and the first flavor is a smooth dark cocoa that turns to a light ginger and a fruity taste.  Letting a bite rest on my tongue I get a light cocoa taste then a building of ginger with a citrus underlay that returns to the ginger and cocoa by the end.  In this case I really liked just letting it melt in my mouth.  This is also very smooth so again don't be afraid of it if you haven't like darker chocolate in the past.

Vila Gracinda is located in Sao Tomé, an island of Africa lying on the Equator; it's chocolate representative is wrapped in turquoise blue.  It has 67% cacao and is the darkest of the three varieties I'll look at today. This has a very intense spicy fragrance blended into a darker cocoa scent. A bite makes a snap and the first flavor is smooth chocolate then gets more and more spicy with each chew and then finally reveals a sort of licorice flavor yet throughout is that smooth chocolate  This licorice flavor is the stronger when you let a piece melt on your tongue but the chocolate remains strong while the spice is dulled a bit.  Eating this either way is great so it really depends on if you want spicy or licorice -- heads up, readers in Finland and Iceland, this might be the French chocolate you'd enjoy most!

There you have it, some of the single origin chocolate created by Michel Cluizel not only to celebrate French chocolate history but also for you to consider this fast approaching holiday season, Sisters and Brothers. The quality of and the philosophy behind it earns Sacrament Status once more for this company. This 16 piece box is one of many that they offer. This one is great if you just want a little chocolate at a time or you'd like to introduce your loved one to single origin chocolate.

Citations:
Image 1: http://www.historicalnovels.info/images/AnneOfAustria.jpg

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

You Know You Want an Exotic Chocolate Tasting Experience!

There are many ways to enjoy chocolate -- solo, with friends and family, and for professional events. Planning such a thing can seem daunting so today I want to introduce you to a woman whose career is planning events where chocolate is the focus.  Please welcome Roxanne Browning from Exotic Chocolate Tasting.

Roxanne, you describe yourself as a chocolate sommelier. Could you define that for our readers?

Like a wine sommelier who is an expert on wines, for instance regions, terroir, vintages, varietals, wine makers, tasting, etc. I too, find that this is a description of what I do. 

How did you train to be a chocolate sommelier?

Taste, taste, and taste chocolate. The more I taste, compare, explore the depth of chocolate, the more I learn and know what to look for. I’ve had a passion for chocolate since childhood, and as time passed, my taste became more refined. 

Would you tell us a bit about your business, Exotic Chocolate Tasting?

Exotic Chocolate Tasting started by focusing just on chocolate tastings, it then morphed into chocolate and wine pairings. My other passion is wine, experimenting with pairing many bars of single origin to wines of all types, reds, whites, sparkling,  and sometimes dessert wines. Wine and chocolate pairing is the most challenging to pair as opposed to whiskery or beer. After much trial and error I’ve developed a methodology that enables me match the wine with it’s chocolate mate. I’m hired to present chocolate and wine pairings for business socials, private and fundraisers for NFP.  It’s new, unique, entertaining, educational and of course, it’s fun.  The companies that I works with have told me, guests are still talking out their experience, that reflex back onto the company. A thoughtful way to appreciate clients, associates and colleagues. 

Do you host more business or private events?

Mostly business events. Perfect for client or associate appreciations, networking, women’s initiative groups and team building. The financial, law, insurance and construction industries have embraced chocolate and wine pairings, also country clubs. 

You're approaching your fifth anniversary of business in 2015.  What has surprised you most about your clients over the years?

Most consumers of chocolate still don’t know much about it. They think by choosing bars in a supermarket that may be a $1.00 more will put them in the stratosphere as a connoisseur fine chocolate. That’s like going into a wine shop for the Yellow Tail Reserve.  Ugh! However, the guests at my events have been educated and they don’t go back to industrial chocolate. Once they taste the difference, they make an effort to seek out craft chocolate.  No other luxury product will cost just a few dollars more than its common counterpart. A comparison would be, a fine imported aged cheese will cost $20-40 per pound, on the other hand you can buy processed American cheese for less than $5. 

What are some of challenging aspects of preparing for one of your events?  Do you limit how many you do a week or month?

I’m passionate about what I do, it is evident at my events. There’s a lot of preparation and have to be “on” at each event. Doing more than two a week would be draining and I would not be able to maintain that cacao high. 

We love that cacao high!

Are you limited to events in NYC or do you arrange events in other locations?

NY Metro is my primary area of focus, however, I’ve done events out-of-state on occasion.  New York is my home and it’s a big city, I love the people that attend my chocolate and wine pairings,  sophisticated and worldly, they identify with the chocolate’s sustainability, its positive affect on the rainforest and the farmer to plate movement. 

Do you have employees who help you out?

I have assistants that help hand out the chocolate, pour the wine and set up and break down when needed. 

Thanksgiving and Christmas aren't far away.  Is your calendar already booked with events or could our readers still contact you?

I’m booking through to March now, but have availability in the upcoming months. Contact me for dates. 

Readers, if you have booked an event through Exotic Chocolate Tasting, leave a comment and tell us all about your experiences. It sounds wonderful and I wish I lived in NYC still so I could check it out first hand.

Finally, Roxanne, do you see Exotic Chocolate Tasting expanding further in the future? Perhaps into crafting and selling chocolates or franchising?

Possibly, everyday brings new opportunities. Real chocolate is a growing trend and this small segment of the market will change in the future. This should bring awareness to mainstream consumers that there are better choices that also help the farmers that grow cacao and the environment. I’m glad to be part of such a worthy and tasty cause. 

Sisters and Brothers, if you have questions for Roxanne please leave them in a comment.  And if you live in the NY Metro Area or nearby check her business out.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

5 Huge Chocolate Bars with a Conscious for the Holidays

I'm sure that many of you will be making treats between now and the end of 2014 for various holidays.  I'm sure many of you will be using chocolate so let's look at some of the different chocolate bars from Equal Exchange that you could just enjoy as it. Please note that 2.5 servings make up each bar. I'm focusing on the bars that I had help testing for these feature since I just made a halloween themed treat with Equal Exchange in October.  I received so many bars that we will only look at a few today and then more in 2015. Today we'll look at those bars that I turned over to an Acolyte or which had tree nuts: Organic Dark Chocolate with Coconut, Chocolate Espresso Bean, Milk Chocolate with a Hint of Hazelnut, Dark Chocolate with Almonds, and Dark Chocolate with Raspberry.

We'll start with the Organic Dark Chocolate with Coconut Bar that our Coconut Acolyte tested for us; her words are in italics and the photo was taken by her. The first thing I notice is that this bar has a two-piece wrapper.  The outer wrapper not only tells you what it is, but if you look on the inside, it also gives you more information about Equal Exchange and where some of the ingredients come from.  (Note: all of the wrappers on Equal Exchange Products include similar information) It also gives you a suggested pairing with one of their coffees.  I’m not a coffee fan but if I were, I’d definitely want to try the two together. The bar breaks in half easily and with a snap. The chocolate scent is subtle and not really detectable until I get it close to my nose.  Sadly, I don’t smell the coconut at all. As is my habit, I let the first bite melt on my tongue. The chocolate is smooth in texture and definitely a darker more alkaline flavor. It’s slightly sweet, just enough to provide a balance with the darker flavors but doesn’t try to completely mask it.  Almost instantly the chocolate melts away and reveal lots and lots of toasted coconut. In this type of confection, I prefer the toasted coconut because it adds such a nice textural counterpoint to the creamy chocolate. It also brings out the coconut flavor and when the bite  is down to just enough chocolate to hold the coconut together. then the coconut flavor is outstanding.  Sweet and yet slightly nutty.  It’s nice to to see that they take just as much care with their coconut as they do their chocolate. The second (sample) I immediately start to chew. Mashing (both samples) together the chocolate is further sweetened by the coconut but that does tend to mask the coconut’s flavor and in this case, it’s there just as a textural counterpoint. While I can’t say this is the best chocolate and coconut bar I’ve had, it’s definitely worth space in my pantry.

Speaking of coffee let's look at the coffee variety of their bars, the Chocolate Espresso Bean made with 55% cacao in a brown-tone wrapper. As soon as I unwrapped it for the testers there was a strong coffee fragrance so let's see how the testers felt this did in terms of their other senses. A really good espresso smell, not really chocolaty.  Hard to break into pieces but melts quickly in his fingers.  Lots of crushed beans with a variety of textures, makes audible crunching sounds. The flavor is very balanced -- first the coffee then the chocolate -- resulting in a very mocha coffee drink.  Very much what I expect from an espresso coffee chocolate bar. Definitely for coffee lovers because this lives up to its name.

The Milk Chocolate with a Hint of Hazelnut has 38% cacao is covered in a two-tone blue wrapper. When I bring it to my nose I get that hazelnut and cocoa scent and a light reddish tone to the chocolate.  The chocolate is cool and a little soft when I break off a few pieces to try.  The first bite reveals an immediate roasted hazelnut, chocolate, creaminess, and that unique sweetness I associate with Equal Exchange.  Letting a piece melt in my mouth spreads out the hazelnut and cocoa flavor as well as decreasing the sweetness and allowing the creaminess to built up in my mouth.  Personally I really loved letting the pieces melt in my mouth slowly most but how did the others who helped me test it enjoy this bar?

The Dark Chocolate with Almonds bar has 55% cacao and comes in a buttercup yellow wrapper. The back of the bar has large pieces of almonds showing just under the chocolate but not a almond scent, only a dark cocoa fragrance. This is a harder bar, it takes a bit of effort to break the pieces off and with each snap more of the dark chocolate scent is released.  After taking a bite the first flavor is dark chocolate, then the sweetness, and the earthy almonds before returning to the sweetness and finally the dark cocoa essence.  This isn't the sort of chocolate bar you can let melt in your mouth so you need to chew it.  In this case I didn't really like the sweetness with the dark chocolate, I thought it tasted a bit sour but what did others who helped me test think?

Finally the Dark Chocolate with Raspberry bar is 60% cacao and has a raspberry colored wrapper.  Our Fruit Acolyte tried this one out while I asked questions and took notes so the feedback is hers with specific wording in italics.  The bar is hard to break and makes a loud snap; as you can see in the photo it was difficult to get it to break into the pieces laid out for you on each bar.  The initial flavor is just dark chocolate, not sweet and not buttery then the tart raspberry bursts out as you chew.  The raspberries are crunchy, dry, with seeds, too, but good; sometimes chocolate with raspberry seeds are very annoying but this one was not.  You can see the pieces of raspberry in the photo as well. Letting a piece melt in your mouth actually increases the raspberry flavor and blends the dark chocolate and raspberry better than just chewing but then you also feel more seeds. Rene declared it very good for raspberry lovers who like them tart not sweet.

More thoughtfully created chocolates from Equal Exchange to for you to consider this 2014 Winter Holiday season.  Their thoughtfulness is not just in the chocolate, how they treat farmers, or the ingredients but also the wrappers themselves are biodegradable and come from sustainable tree farming only. With all of this in mind we can say that these five bars earned Sacrament Status.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Romance Candle Gift Giveaway


Usually we test food or drink products here on The Chocolate Cult but today I want to tell you about the Old Factory Candle Romance Trio that we received and tested.  We're also hosting a GIVEAWAY of a candle trio that might just be what you need for the upcoming gift giving season.  More on the giveaway after I tell you about how we tested these candles and the results. As you can see in the photo, the romance set has rose petals, champagne, and dark chocolate scented candles though you may also note that all of them are white not dyed as you may be used to with other scented candles.  I choose this set over the Winter Time set which had hot cocoa as a choice because I've smelled that before in candles but dark chocolate is more rare.  Let's see if I could get

There are three moments when you want your scented candles to give off their scent -- before you light, while they burn, and after you blow them out.  So we tested the Dark Chocolate candle this way. Since this is also a set we tested the Dark Chocolate along with both and then with only one of the other fragrances to see how it affected the overall atmosphere of the room.



Unlit Candles: Each one has a light fragrance that matches what the name is even though they are all identical, white , soy wax candles in a glass jar. Dark Chocolate has a light cocoa scent to it.

Lit Dark Chocolate Candle: Takes about five minutes for a scent to start releasing.  I recommend turning off any fans and air currents that you can in the house or room to maximize the fragrance which remains fairly light. The smaller the space, the more intense the scent.  In my bedroom, door closed, fans off, the entire room was dark scented within 20 minutes.

Lit Dark Chocolate + Champagne Candles: The champagne variety had a lighter unlit scent so I wanted to see if it would complement the dark chocolate.  Again I tried this in my closed bedroom and gave them 20 minutes to burn. This time when I got in the bedroom there is a light fruity edge to the chocolate scent in the room.  This is good because it complements not overpowers the chocolate but the champagne essence comes out as well.


Lit Dark Chocolate + Rose Petals Candles: The rose petals were the strongest unlit scent so I saved those to test last using the same formula. The rose is fairly strong after 20 minutes but the dark chocolate was also still there in the room. The two fragrances complemented each other very well.


Lit Trio of Candles: Finally I lit the champagne candle again and set it between the other two, just as the trio came in their box. I let them burn for 20 minutes in the closed bedroom then went back to check them out. The first scent was the rose petal with a slight cocoa edge and a little fruit underneath. The three fragrances together were very pleasant, soothing, and that can be a good thing if you are trying to help someone get into or maintain a romantic mood.

Blown Out Dark Chocolate Candle: All I get is burnt cotton wick.  Didn't expect much because in general I find that candles smell like that when you blow them out.  Afterwards when the wick stopped glowing though there was a deeper chocolate scent if you got an inch or two away from the candle.

The GIVEAWAY starts NOW and ends on FRIDAY at Midnight Eastern Time.  Just follow the directions below to enter.  Note: You must live in the USA and you must use Amazon since the gift code to get your own trio of candles from Old Factory Candle will be sent to your email to use on Amazon; shipping will be redeemable by the company as well as the wrapping fee if you want to send these as a gift to someone. NOTE: you wouldn't have to get the same trio I was sent, the company have many different themes for the gift trio.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We had 86 entries from 16 readers and our winner is: Joshua Robertson!

The Old Factory Candle Romance Trio was as good as I had hoped it would be. Use as you would all candles, with caution, and enjoy them! I did not burn them for 20 hours to test that claim simply because I'd like to enjoy them later, too. I can't tell if the dark chocolate was made with actual cocoa oils or not so I can't really give this our highest honor but I can say that if you win and pick the Romance variety you will enjoy it.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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