Thursday, August 25, 2011

Would you like Curry Chicken or Sushi for dessert?

I have chosen two chocolate bars today with two very distinct flavour profiles. And once again, I am tasting Vosges Haut Chocolat, made by a company from Chicago.  I realize that I have been blogging way too often about Vosges chocolate, but that is only because I bought almost every one of their flavours and now I am just trying to get through that stack of chocolate bars before the summer completely melts them away. But don’t get me wrong; getting through the stack is NOT a punishment because I have yet to be disappointed in Vosges’ chocolate flavours. In fact, nearly every one of Vosges chocolate bars have provided me with an unforgettable flavour experience. And most often, that flavour experience is reminiscent of a familiar savoury food experience.

The first chocolate bar that I tasted is Vosges’ ‘Naga Bar’ with sweet Indian curry, coconut and milk chocolate.  The coconut flavour is very subtle, although I think there were small flecks of coconut to add a little texture.  To me, this chocolate tastes like curry chicken with a milk chocolate aftertaste. There is a high percentage of cacao in this milk chocolate and so it is not very sweet; a good thing because if it were sweet, it might be weird with the curry flavour. Overall, the spice is paired well with the type of chocolate.

The second chocolate bar is Vosges’ ‘Black Pearl Bar’ with ginger, wasabi and black sesame seeds in a semi-sweet dark chocolate (55% cacao) . The Wasabi instantly makes me think of sushi. The sesame seeds are slightly ground up and they don't add a lot of flavour, but they are very noticeable and give the chocolate an interesting texture.  The ginger is subtle in this chocolate compared to the wasabi, but I think the balance of ginger to wasabi flavour is making me crave sushi. In fact, now the only thing I want to eat are some California rolls and some raw tuna on sticky rice. Isn't it wonderful what chocolate can make you crave?  It’s funny because chocolate is normally the 'what' that I crave.

If you are interested in spicing up your chocolate tasting and eating chocolate that tastes like dinner, here are the details on the two chocolate bars that I tasted today:

Vosges Haut Chocolat Naga Bar, 45% cacao, 0.5 oz (14g)
Vosges IP, LLC, Chicago, IL, USA
Ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, dry whole milk powder, soy lecithin-an emulsifier, vanilla), 2% desiccated coconut, sweet curry.  Chocolate bar contains: 40% cocoa solids minimum, 15% milk solids minimum.  Contains: Soy, milk, coconut.  Manufactured in a facility that handles tree nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, milk, eggs, wheat, shellfish and soy.

Vosges Haut Chocolat Black Pearl Bar, 55% cacao, 0.5 oz (14g)
Vosges IP, LLC, Chicago, IL, USA
Ingredients: Dark Chocolate (cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin-an emulsifier, vanilla), 2% black sesame seeds, wasabi, ginger.  Dark chocolate (55%) contains: 53% cocoa solids minimum. Contains: Soy, sesame seeds. Manufactured in a facility that handles tree nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, milk, eggs, wheat, shellfish and soy.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

High percentage milk chocolate and tropical island cacao make a great chocolate bar

I love milk chocolate made with very high percentages of cocoa solids.  Here's one of my new favourites:  Cachet Limited Selection 'Vanuatu' 44% Milk Chocolate. It is rich and to me, it has a nice mild tobacco flavour and thick cocoa butter texture. 

Given that the U.S. Government requires a 10% concentration of chocolate liquor and the European Union requires a minimum of 25% cocoa solids (ref:, then a milk chocolate bar with 44% cocoa solids is rather high.

The good thing about eating milk chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids is that you know exactly what you are eating.  With 44% cocoa solids, and 20% milk solids (as specified on the package of the Vanuatu bar), there is not much room for any other unnatural or unhealthy ingredients, like the hydrogenated oils or food colourings added into commercial milk chocolate bars.  You also know that it will not be as sweet as commercial chocolate, so you instantly reduce the sugar that you are consuming, but you are still getting a milky chocolate taste.

The other good thing about a high cocoa percentage in milk chocolate is the flavour.  Regional flavours in the beans are not masked when the chocolate is made of beans from a specific origin.  High amounts of sugar and vanilla flavour will mask the uniqueness of origin chocolate.

The Vanuatu chocolate bar by Cachet is
made with forastero beans from Vanuatu, a nation of 83 Islands in the South Pacific Ocean.  Just knowing they have cocoa beans and islands in the South Pacific Ocean made me instantly want to place Vanuatu on my "bucket list" of places to go during my lifetime. Then again, Vanuatu just experienced an undersea earthquake on July 31st that hit a magnitude of 6.1 on the Richter scale. And that was the second earthquake this year.  Yikes, I'll maybe rethink my bucket list entry. But I can still enjoy their cocoa beans thanks to Cachet.

CACHET LIMITED SELECTION 'Vanuatu', 44% Milk Chocolate, forastero, 100g (3.5oz)
Made in Belgium by:  Kim's Chocolates, Belgium.
Ingredients:  sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, cocoa mass, vanilla (nat. flavour).  Milk chocolate:  cocoa solids min. 44% - milk solids min. 20%.  Contains: milk.  May contain traces of nuts, peanuts, soybeans, eggs and gluten.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Extra Dark and Extra Minty Chocolate to help with Women's "Monthly Madness"

I am a big fan of mint-flavoured chocolate - particularly mint dark chocolate. So I have been developing a small collection of mint dark chocolate bars and have been meaning to have a tasting party.  But with my long and somewhat difficult pregnancy and now the arrival of my son, I just haven't had the energy to throw a tasting party.  Since the hot weather is beginning to affect my chocolate supply, I thought I'd hurry up and taste some of the mint chocolate.

Today I am tasting two chocolate bars: a NewTree "Eternity" dark chocolate bar with mint flavour and the "lunatic" chocolate bar with mint and cocoa nibs by Zazubean.

The "lunatic" chocolate bar has a unique selling feature in that it is advertised on the package as the "Women's Monthly MADNESS" bar. On the back of the package it says that it "provides hormonal balancing for women and takes the edge off of premenstrual tension in a sweet and natural way." 

So I don't know why - particularly given the "hormonal balancing" statement on the package - I hadn't noticed that there were "medicinal ingredients" in the chocolate. When I scanned the ingredients list, I hadn't noticed that it said "non-medicinal ingredients", which were pretty straightforward, so of course I hadn't looked to see what the "medicinal" ingredients were or the warning on the package that said "Cautions: Not recommended for use during pregnancy, during lactation or for children." Yikes, I opened the chocolate to taste in the last week of my pregnancy and have slowly been finishing this chocolate bar since I got home from the hospital while nursing the baby!  So I guess I better look up these medicinal ingredients and find out how big my mistake was in eating this chocolate bar.

The "medicinal ingredients" are: Dong quai (angelica sinensis), Chaste tree berry (vitex agnus-castus) and Maca root. According to various Internet sources, Dong quai is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat women's reproductive problems and to relieve menstrual disorders such as cramps, irregular menstrual cycles, infrequent periods, PMS, and menopausal symptoms (reference: So I can see why that ingredient was added to this chocolate in order to help control women's "monthly madness".
The second ingredient, chaste tree berry, is used to relieve menstrual pain and control hormones. But be warned, it was supposedly used in previous centuries for suppression of sexual desire, so perhaps use this sparingly if you want to maintain an active sex life! (reference:

The last 'medicinal' ingredient is Maca root.  Apparently Maca root helps rebuild weak immune systems, re-mineralize poorly nourished bodies, and increase energy and endurance (  It contains chemicals that include important "hormonal precursors". It has "hormone-normalizing effects" and can heighten libido in men and improve semen quality (reference:  Perhaps it was added to offset the effects of the chaste tree berry.  Although Zazubean does make another chocolate bar that covers this area of heightening libido. I recently tasted and blogged about the Zazubean "Flirt" chocolate bar that was intended to heighten libido and it also contained Maca root.

So now that we've learned about all the ingredients and how they can help women with their "monthly madness", you are probably wondering: "So how does it taste?" Well, the Zazubean "lunatic" chocolate bar is dark, bitter, slightly minty and crunchy all at the same time.  The texture is perfect and melts in your mouth nicely. If you like a bitter-tasting chocolate, you will like this chocolate bar.  If you prefer your chocolate and mint combination on the sweeter side, then this probably is not for you.

The NewTree "Eternity" dark chocolate bar with mint flavour isn't as fancy, nor is it filled with medicinal herbs. It is, however, slightly sweeter than the Zazubean "lunatic" bar, but the texture is not so smooth and luxurious.  I like that they have added green tea extract, which gives the chocolate eater a double-whammy of antioxidants from both the cacao and the grean tea. Unfortunately, this NewTree chocolate bar was improperly stored in the sunshine and the texture is not great.  It is slightly chalky, so I guess it would be unfair of me to comment on the texture.  I bought a few flavours at a little artisan store in Ottawa and I think they all sat in the direct sunlight.  I will have to try to get me\y hands on some other NewTree chocolate bars some day soon so I can fairly rate their taste and texture.

So what have I learned today?  Read the entire ingredients list before eating any chocolate with a funky name, especially while pregnant and nursing a baby.  Also, don't buy chocolate at a store where they have it on display in the direct sunlight!

Here are the package details from the two chocolate bars that I tasted today:

Zazubean "lunatic" Mint & Cocoa Nibs Organic Dark Chocolate bar, 72% Cacao, 56g
Formulated in Canada, made in the USA for Zazubean Organic Chocolates, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
Medicinal Ingredients:  Dong quai (angelica sinensis), Chaste tree berry (vitex agnus-castus) and Maca root. Non-medicinal ingredients: Cocoa beans*+, evaporated cane juice*+, cocoa butter*+, cocoa nibs*+, glycerin, honey*, vanilla*, peppermint oil*. +Fair Trade certified(TM). *Certified Organic. Made on shared equipment with products containing wheat, eggs, milk, peanuts and other nuts. Cautions: NOT RECOMMENDED FOR USE DURING PREGNANCY, DURING LACTATION OR FOR CHILDREN.

NewTree MINT ETERNITY, 73% Cocoa, 2.82 oz
NEWTREE America Inc., San Anselmo, CA, USA.
Ingredients: unsweetened chocolate, sugar, pure cocoa butter, cocoa powder, peppermint with other natural flavors, natural green tea extract, emulsifier: soy lecithin.  Cocoa solids: 73% minimum.  May contain traces of gluten and milk.  Made in a facility that also uses hazelnuts.