Archive for the 'Flavored Chocolate Bars' Category

Madecasse Sea Salt & Nibs

Cacao from Madagascar has inspired some of the great chocolate makers due to the unique combination of tree genetics, climate, and terrain. Perennial favorites like Patric Chocolate, Dick Taylor, Dandelion and Woodblock know this well, and use cocoa from Madagascar to create some of the most bright and satisfyingly lush chocolate on the market.

Yet one of the only companies committed to sourcing, making, and packing chocolate exclusively in Africa is Madecasse, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Madagascar. Roughly 70% of cocoa comes from Africa, yet only 1% of chocolate is made there. Fueled by their Peace Corps experiences in Madagascar, Madecasse founders Brett Beach and Tim McCollum set out to make chocolate on the island. What they discovered along the way was some of most flavorful cocoa, vanilla and spices, all hidden on the remote countryside of Madagascar.  By partnering with local farmers, chocolatiers, and package manufacturers, Madecasse created a sustainable model that benefits the local economy of Madagascar.

Each Madecasse Sea Salt & Nibs bar is made with cocoa from Madagascar, truly some of the best in the world made only better by heirloom ingredients, like cocoa, vanilla, and spices and sustainable farming techniques.  This is a complex, rich, and smooth 63% bar for lovers of dark chocolate with a crunch. A dusting of sea salt opens up the acid and fruity complexity, and the cocoa nibs add an intense crunch to an otherwise smooth finish. The bar is hand-packed in a 100% recyclable paper wrapper and finished off with a tie of raffia. A great tasting chocolate bar and a better life for those who make it.

 

A Sweet Note from Madecasse:

“No one made chocolate in Africa, they said it was too hot or no one was skilled enough locally. But living there, you realize it’s not true. You can make chocolate with love and energy, and Peace Corps helped us realize that. So, by making and packaging the chocolate in Madagascar, we go beyond Fair Trade and enter the realm of Equitrade.”

 

You can find Madecasse Sea Salt & Nibs and other Madecasse Chocolate at The Meadow’s online shop.

 

Patric Chocolate’s Red Coconut Curry

The basic rule of thumb is that a chocolate bar infused with flavors is not as impressive to serious chocolate lovers as a straight up dark chocolate.  Alan Patric McClure of Patric Chocolate disproved that rule some years ago when he introduced his first flavored “OMG” bars such as Mint Crunch and Mocha and PB&J (another rule of thumb is that blended chocolate bars are not as impressive as single origin chocolate bars.  McClure blew that rule out of the water as well with his immaculate  blended bar, but more on that another time).

McClure continues apace with his latest additions such as the limited edition oatmeal cookie chocolate, the most brilliant has of which is the Red Coconut Curry chocolate bar.  Marketed as “coconut, spice and everything nice” it is actually something more than that, not merely a goofy holiday treat. It is refined, complicated, subtle as hell despite the shavings of coconut on the back.

The chocolate bar is a blend of chiles de arbol, ginger, and lemongrass essence. Toasted Thai coconut “chips” lend a chewy crunchy salty fruity faintly umami sweetness.

Additional Info from Patric:

This palate-pleasing bar is made from smooth dark chocolate with chiles, ginger, sea salt, and hints of lemongrass and lime then topped with crunchy, salty-sweet toasted coconut that is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. It’s a one-of-a-kind bar that will make your taste buds sing and dance for more.

The idea for the Red Coconut Curry bar originated from the four hardworking, spice-loving folks that make up Patric Chocolate. This bar was originally formulated to be a limited-edition bar, which is a fun and delicious outlet that keeps our creativity flowing and continually challenges us to bring you the most exciting, new flavors. While chiles and spices aren’t exactly groundbreaking in the chocolate world these days, it’s a tried and true combination that we love, and it was time to take it to the next level.

It didn’t take long, after some serious rounds of taste testing, to decide that Red Coconut Curry was the winning combo. However, figuring out how to convey such complex and distinct flavors through chocolate took a lot of time. Part of the challenge of creating such delicious bars is sourcing the best ingredients that enhance and highlight our incredible chocolate (and lucky for you, we weren’t about to dump a bottle of fish sauce into our refiners).

A large part of our ingredient search was for the coconut. First we tried toasting our own. Then we ordered a bunch (emphasis on the bunch) from other companies. We ordered shredded coconut, coconut chips, raw coconut, toasted coconut, sweetened and unsweetened coconut – we even tried blending coconut oil into the chocolate. Nothing excited us. But then, we struck gold: coconut from a company called, “Dang.”

We went with Dang coconut, because it was the tastiest coconut we had ever put into our mouths. “Dang” is a new company based in San Francisco, and also happens to be the name of the owner’s mother, who grew up in Thailand. This flavorful Thai coconut is gluten-free, perfectly sweet, and has a wonderful crunchy texture from its light roast with just a hint of salt. The crunch of this coconut is the perfect match for the bite of this bar.

We know that you’ll enjoy our latest blend of dark chocolate, Dang coconut, spicy chiles, ginger, and pure lemongrass and lime essences in this chocolaty version of a Thai favorite. When tasting our Red Coconut Curry bar, you’ll probably even exclaim, “Dang!”, yourself.

You can find this and all other Patric Chocolate bars for sale at The Meadow’s online store.

 

Product Feature – Askinosie Davao White Chocolate + Pistachios

In some circles, white chocolate has a reputation of being something other than chocolate. In defense of white chocolate’s chocolate nature, I present exhibit A – Askinosie’s Davao White Chocolate with Pistachios, a must-try for any chocolate enthusiast.

In the United States, white chocolate must be at least 20% cocoa butter. But that’s all. As a result, the first ingredient in most white chocolate isn’t chocolate, but sugar. In Askinosie Chocolate’s white chocolate, cocoa butter is the first ingredient. “We have a 34% cocoa butter content, which is one of the highest and is what makes the white chocolate actually ‘chocolate,’” says Lawren Askinosie, the company’s Director of Sales. The cocoa butters used in other white chocolate are also deodorized, a process that removes the natural flavor and aromas from the butter. Askinosie skips this step to preserve the full, rich flavor of the butter.

Askinosie’s Davao chocolate is the first Philippine chocolate the Untied States has seen in a long time. “We wanted to go to the Philippines because it was historic on the cocoa bean trail from the 1600′s, but they had not exported in 30 years so we took that as a challenge,” explains Lawren.

To make chocolate, raw cacao is fermented, dried, roasted and the cacao nibs are separated from their hulls. These nibs are then ground into cocoa liquor, which is composed of approximately 50% cocoa solids and 50% cocoa butter. Cocoa liquor, mixed with sugar, is the primary ingredient in dark chocolate.

If you want to make a white chocolate, however, you need to do something radically different – press the cocoa butter out of the liquor. “We were the first small batch chocolate makers in North America to make a white chocolate from scratch,” explains Lawren. “We press our own cocoa butter and that is the main ingredient in the bar.”

Pressing cocoa butter is long and difficult task. “Our white chocolate bars are some of our most labor intensive products because when pressing the cocoa butter, it can take several days to press enough for just one batch,” said Lawren. After pressing out the cocoa butter, Askinosie is left with press cake that is ground into cocoa powder.

The cocoa butter is put in an 85-year old German melanguer, combined with organic cane juice and goat’s milk powder, and mixed for several days. “We use goat’s milk as opposed to a cow’s milk,” says Lawren. “We did this primarily for flavor. We really thought it fit better with our white chocolate than cow’s milk, but also because of sensitivities to dairy.” After the chocolate has reached the right consistency, its poured into molds and salted pistachios, grown on a single farm in Santa Barbara, California, are sprinkled on top.

The bar snaps softly, unlike the crisp snap of a dark chocolate. Askinosie’s non-deodorized cocoa butter combined with the goat’s milk gives this chocolate a buttery and rich flavor, with a tanginess from the goat milk that keeps it from being too heavy. The bits of pistachio strewn on top extenuate the earth, nutty, wheat-y flavor, and have a beautiful color contrast with the white chocolate. Sunrise meets sunset.

Meet a Chocolate Maker: Byrne and Carlson

At the Meadow we are mesmerized by anyone with the audacity and alchemical craft required to turn a humble cocoa bean into a noble chocolate bar, which is why the bulk of our chocolate collection focuses on the work of chocolate producers, rather than chocolatiers. And with good reason. Producing bean-to-bar chocolate gives the artisan the greatest ability to control the taste and texture of his or her chocolate. But there is also skill and craft in confectioneering – the art of combining chocolate made by others with new ingredients. Then through tempering, mixing, shaping and coating a brilliant chocolatier may produce something truly transformative.

Ellen Byrne and Christopher Carlson are such artists. “Everything we make is hand-produced in small quantities,” says Byrne and Carlson co-founder Ellen Byrne. “Each chocolate is hand-dipped, each chocolate bar is produced and decorated by hand. This is a method rooted in the elegant chocolate houses of Europe, and American seaside candy shops alike.”

Ellen founded the company along with confectioner Christopher Carlson in 1999 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Christopher makes Byrne and Carlson’s line of Pates des Fruits, caramels, and chocolates. Ellen, a French-trained chocolatier, creates the designs and hand-decorates the chocolate bars. In Ellen’s hands, the chocolate bar becomes a blank canvas for calligraphic designs inspired by art nouveau botanical motifs.

Because they aren’t wedded to any single method of chocolate production, Byrne & Carlson can take advantage of the many different styles of chocolate produced by bean-to-bar manufacturers. “The couvertures we use are incredibly diverse. We use many different cacao percentages, matching the chocolate with each recipe we are creating.” Byrne and Carlson uses couvertures made by many Meadow favorites, including Valrhona, Michel Cluizel, and El Rey. Their ingredients are sourced from around the world. Cocoa beans in their couvertures come from Central and South America, Madagascar, the Dominican Republic, and West Africa. Other ingredients include Australian glacé fruits, crystallized pansy flowers, Italian hazelnut paste, and mint from their own garden.

Buy Byrne and Carlson chocolate at The Meadow.

Åkesson’s Chocolate Sweeps Up at the Academy of Chocolate Awards

At his family’s plantation in Madagascar, Bertil Åkesson of Åkesson’s chocolate grows cacao and pepper and turns them both into delightful chocolate. Three of his bars recently won awards at the Academy of Chocolate Awards in London. He faced some of the world’s greatest chocolatiers and came away with a hat trick. Congratulations to Bertil! Here are the descriptions for his winning bars.

Brazil 75%

Our Brazil 75% bar  is made with an astonishing forastero variety of cocoa called “parasinho” that grows in Brazil’s Mata Atlântica – the wild forest with the highest biodiversity on earth – where we purchased a 120-hectare plantation. This chocolate is very smooth and has very expressive notes that evoke wood, autumn scents, and the local pitanga fruit.

Bali 45% milk chocolate & fleur de sel

Our 45% milk chocolate bar is the first Balinese single-origin bar ever made in Europe. This chocolate holds a caramelized flavor resulting from the use of natural sugar produced from the juice of coconut blossoms, harvested by gently slicing the flower. Once collected, the nectar is kettle-boiled into a thick caramel and ground to a fine crystal. With a very low glycemic index, this sugar is a great and healthy match for our Balinese fleur de sel. The cocoa is produced by the Sukrama family on seven hectares in the Melaya area in the western part of the island.

Madagascar 75% Criollo cocoa

Our Madagascar 75% bar has a very expressive cocoa aroma with subtle fruity-sweet tartness and pleasant flavor notes that evoke citrus and red berries, the true taste of the very best cocoa beans from Madagascar. Our 2,300-hectare family estate in the Sambirano Valley in northwestern Madagascar has produced world-famous aromatic cocoa since 1920. Besides 300 tons per year of trinitario cocoa, a very limited production of criollo cocoa – two tons per year -is harvested separately

Åkesson’s produces several other bars, including one with voatsiperifery pepper, a wild pepper that grows on creeping vines up to 20 meters (that’s 65 feet!) up in the tree canopy. All of Åkesson’s chocolates are available online from the Meadow and in both of our shops.

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Amedei Chocolate Takes the “Golden Bean” Best Bean to Bar Award

Amedei’s Tuscan BarsAfter an examination by a committee of experts of the London Academy of Chocolate, Amedei (Tuscany, Italy) has won the Golden Bean award for “the best bean to bar chocolate in the world.” That has a nice ring to it. Once someone told me my Cassoulet de Castelnaudary was “the best cassoulet in the world,” my chest still gets puffy when I think of it (it is puffy now).

I imagine Alessio and Cecilia Tessieri, the brother and sister founders of Amedei, were drowning in Champagne on the night of the announcement. Nonetheless, they managed to comment: “We are very proud of this award. Our objective shall always remain that of producing the best chocolate in the world, dedicating it to all our supporters. We thank the Academy of Chocolate for this award, and for the seriousness and passion it puts in its worldwide work in search of good quality chocolate.”

Here is their announcement, edited slightly, because while I respect their palates, “harbouring” all those “colourful” extra ‘u’s hogs up RAM on my “computour.”

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Vosges Mo’s Bacon Chocolate Bar

Peter Cook’s famous priest expresses my deepest feelings for the new Vosges Mo’s Bacon Chocolate BarBacon and Chocolate. To explore the latest Vosges entry, Mo’s Milk Bacon Bar, my mind drifts, my soul swells, nostalgia and the unrequited passions of my youth swim in the deep glittery motes of my doe-like eyes. “Love, sweet love.” These most beautiful words, the plaintiff yet serene voice, the cap and robe, taken together, emblematize the luscious serenity of our most sacred of emotions. The also expose the lurking absurdity of it all, especially when you are incapably of ever uttering them, or any close derivative, without flashing back to the brilliant priest played by Peter Cook in The Princess Bride, who intones: “And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva.”

Vosges Bacon Chocolate BarWith these words ripe on the tongue, bite into the Vosges Bacon Chocolate Bar, officially known as Mo’s Bacon Bar. The bacon bar is a dark milk chocolate, combined with applewood smoked bacon, alder smoked salt, and 41% deep milk chocolate.

Vosges Haut-Chocolat is rightly famed for the witty and trendy blends concocted by Vosges founder Katrina Markoff, who possesses that rare blend of skills that ranges from concocting to packaging to marketing chocolate. As the list of chocolate candy bars grows (and I will always take off my hat to Katrina for making flavored chocolate bars and calling them “candy bars.” Humility? Playfulness?), the genesis and of ever-more daring and bold entries seems inevitable. My personal feelings toward the incessant perfection of the Vosges candy bar has gone from weariness to resignation to acceptance to embrace to enthusiasm. Vosges candy bars exhibit the clarity of purpose and democratic elegance of a backyard chicken coop.

So what does it taste like?

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Salted Chocolate by The Meadow

There is so much to say about the combination of salt and chocolate that I will just stare, paralyzed, at the computer screen for three hours of insect brain-deadness… Salt and dark chocolate, salt and milk chocolate, salted chocolate, chocolated salt (I actually do have both).

But as with everything in life, the devil is in the detail. Salted 80% dark Italian blended chocolate (Salinae bar by Antica Dolceria Bonajuto) has nothing to do with 80% dark Italian Ecuadorian chocolate a chocolate (Blacksal by Domori), which in turn has virtually nothing in common with a 74% dark Italian blended chocolate served up side by side with Trapani and Cervia sea salts (Cioccolato Fondente al Sale di Cervia by Cioccolato di BruCo).

meadow_salted_chocolate_pangasinan_web.jpgThe power of salt to coax out, elucidate, and expand on the flavor of food does not stop with the savory. Actually, the idea that sweet and savory are somehow opposite is strange, and actually at odds with our natural affinity for diversity and complexity in food. Eat Ethiopian and you will find your fingers plunged in sugar on lamb with tamarind; eat dim sum and half the time you are eating donuts and pork. My grandpa was in love with apple pie with cheddar cheese. At any rate, chocolate is not even a sweet until after it is sweetened, and that can be done with much more deftness than is common.

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Caffe Acapella Coffee Bars

The French Business ManQuestion: What looks like a chocolate bar, has the same mouthfeel as a chocolate bar, and satisfies many of the same senses as a chocolate bar, but is not a chocolate bar?

Answer: A coffee bar.

Caffe Acapella has created a bar replacing chocolate solids with coffee solids. Or to be precise, they blend cocoa butter coffee mass to create a chocolate/coffee bar. Caffe Acapella makes a Caffe Acapella espresso bar called the Espresso Serenade (just plain espresso blend (of three arabica beans) and a Caffe Acapella cappuccino bar called the Cappuccino Connoisseur. I met the folks at Caffe Acapella in New York a few months ago. They had the zealous rabid glow of belief in what they were doing that is agreeable in anyone working in food.

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