willandmegan

"Stuart rose from the ditch, climbed into his car, and started up the road that led toward the north…. As he peeked ahead into the great land that stretched before him, the way seemed long. But the sky was bright, and he somehow felt he was headed in the right direction." (from Stuart Little by E.B. White)


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Crack It Open – Coconut Chocolate Tasting

coconut full display edit

Last night we created one of the most elaborate tasting displays to date in our long awaited Coconut Chocolate Tasting. To gauge the level of my anticipation for said tasting, 4/5 of the bars shown were purchased a month in advance along with the coconut and coconut milk (for aesthetic purposes). The final installment is a brand called RitterSport and was purchased by Megan a week ago during her trip to Germany. Whoot for our first German brand chocolate included in the lineup! The first thing I noticed upon a quick overview of packaging is the occurrence of blue/turquoise as a color choice from brand to brand. Does blue indicate the cool refreshing feeling of a bite into raw coconut? Well this tasting is equally about the chocolate as it is the coconut. Which chocolate company effectively blends the flavor and texture of coconut with milk/dark chocolate?

*Note* I’d like to state that the bars we chose cover a variety of approaches to the inclusion of coconut. Our tastes may vary differently from yours. We felt that a broad spectrum of very simple additives to extremely complex spices/flavor would make the tasting more interesting. We hope you feel the same. Enjoy!

-w&m

alter eco coc edit

1.) Alter Eco Dark Coconut Toffee (47% cocoa) ~$3.88 2.82 oz.

This bar opens up with a bright warm flavor that has the crunch of toffee bits and sweetness of a frappucino. The overwhelming abundance of large organically shaped chunks of toffee removes any opportunity for coconut to shine through. However, the satisfying bite of salt, undertones of butter and oats make this bar hard to put down. Think of it like a dessert!

good cacao coc edit

2.) GOOD CACAO – Coconut Omega-3 (72% Dark Cacao) ~$4.89 1.5 oz.

The super dark tone of this bar is intriguing along with its bright white flecks of coconut on the underside. The flavors are slow to release, but gradually move from cool notes of floral to dried fruit and cinnamon. It has a very fine and fibrous texture throughout. Imagine the subtle aroma of good perfume and taste of apricot. By far one of the most complex bars we have tasted to date. Take one look at the list of ingredients such as Raw Lucuma and Nutri Plankton and you won’t feel guilty indulging on this bar.

ritter sport kokos edit

3.) Ritter SPORT KOKOS (45% Milch-Creme) ~$1.20  3.52 oz. (price conversion from Euros!)

Meg describes this German native bar close to the Almond Joy, but more specifically “Heaven On Crack”. It has a rich creamy outer layer with a coconut frosting-like inner layer. In my mind it tasted like someone took a box of Samoas Girl Scout Cookies and condensed them into one chocolate bar. If you aren’t a health freak with concerns for emulsifiers, corn syrup and the like, this bar is for you.

sweet riot kickin coc edit

4.) sweetriot KICKIN’ COCONUT (70% Dark Chocolate) ~$3.99 3.5 oz.

The use of texture in this bar is well done, however it doesn’t have much coconut flavor. The buttery notes of the chocolate itself stand out along with a hint of floral that wants to jump to your taste buds, but never quite makes it. A sweet tasting bar with great texture, but doesn’t deliver in overall flavor.

theo coc curry edit

5.) theo Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate (45% Cacao) ~$3.25 2 oz.

The first warning I heed is that this is not your mamas chocolate bar. The level of spices and fiery intensity that comes in this little package is quite delectable to some.  The oily consistency comes with a bitter twist of dried spice bits that bite your tongue periodically. Expect the cardamom to overcome your senses along with undertones of cayenne and mustard. From start to finish this bar delivers in flavor complexity, intensity and some level of texture, but no coconut flavor.


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Give Thanks for Chocolate – Cranberry Chocolate Tasting

Happy Thanksgiving chocolatiers, bloggers and consumers of delicious eats. Yesterday evening Megan and I ventured out into the city of Rochester for an ode to Thanksgiving chocolate tasting.

Shortly after 5pm we strolled into a quaint wine bar by the name of Veritas. Both decked out in our Columbia winter jackets, I carried a plastic bag with mystery goodies and Meg carried her satchel like purse filled with writing utensils and remnants of church notes. Before unwrapping the three trusted brands (all featuring cranberries as an ingredient throughout) we both picked out a glass of wine suited to our personal taste: A hard meaty tasting red for Meg and a floral oily tasting white for myself. Shortly after sipping and conversing about the bars atmosphere I pulled out an awkward arrangement of organic cranberries and spread them across the table top. The results from the image above demonstrate how playing still-life paparazzi in a public wine bar can feel a bit odd.

While each tasting we do aims to be both conclusive and consistent, this time around one of the bars was milk chocolate and the other two were dark. To be honest the list of ingredients we found didn’t seem very compliant to previous standards as well. However, what can be said that is true is the fact that we agreed with flavors and ratings across the board.

1.) DAGOBA (beaucoup berries) – rich dark chocolate, cranberries, cherries & vanilla [74% cacao dark chocolate]

2.) Dan’s Chocolates (Trail Hound) – CRANBERRIES, RAISINS, HAZELNUTS [Milk]

3.) endangered species Chocolate – natural DARK CHOCOLATE WITH CRANBERRIES & ALMONDS [72% cocoa]

Our Top Pick

1. DAGOBA

-> The texture of this bar can be described as the grainy, pulpiness of the cranberries and cherries within it. For a dark bar it is moderately             creamy, but not overwhelming. Some crystallized granules are dispersed throughout.

This bar is bright in flavor with a smooth balance of bitterness and sweetness. Fruit, mild citrus and an overtone of beets can be tasted. The combination of flavors and texture remind Megan of “Fruit by the Foot”.

The aromas are similar to mild caramel and a sweet Belgian ale.

Our Second Pick

2.) endangered species

-> The textures of this bar is characterized by a variety of nut edges, granules and gooey cranberries.

     While we were hoping the cranberry flavor would act as a primary contributor it seems the majority is overpowered by almond. There are              some simple earthy flavors and undertones of coffee as well.

     This bar seems more aromatic. Described like brownies and a hint of leather.

Our Third Pick

3.) Dan’s

-> It should be noted the Dan’s bars are smaller more “fun size”. The texture is characterized by semi-crunchy nuts and fine granules.

     Flavors that stand out are syrup from the crystallized raisins, taffy, creaminess and undertones of cotton candy.

     Much like the taste, aroma is artificial smelling: Between descriptions of holiday fruitcake, the corn syrup they use to make cordial cherries and some questionable tropical fruit drink.

While our previous two choices had a smooth finish or little aftertaste this bar leaves an oily mouth feel. Remaining molasses-like taste, dryness you would experience from consuming too many Christmas cookies or pure frosting.


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Orange you glad we did another chocolate tasting?

On Friday September 14th we decided to challenge our taste buds and indulge in another chocolate tasting. Upon selecting a consistent theme for flavor and style, orange stood out as an incorporated element that could easily improve or blanket the superior quality of a well made bar. With a similar approach to our previous mint chocolate engagement we started by selecting a high quality assortment from the local natural foods store. USDA Organic, Fair Trade  and a cocoa content of 60-70%were also a concern as we support the proper care for international workers, the ingredients found in high quality products and ultimately the origin of cacao beans.

We discussed some factors before hearing that satisfying snap of a well tempered chocolate bar. How would each company represent an ideal level of orange. With chocolate already existing as a perfect combination of naturally sweet and bitter flavors would the inclusion of citrus and tang be obtrusive. Would the flavor profiles emerge as subtle or harsh? Orange is used for its abundant vitamin c content, zesty flavored peel and sweet satiating juice. Will it succeed within the finely crafted bars of origins ranging from Latin America to Africa?

So what is a chocolate tasting without results? Here is a conclusive series of notes for each brand broken up by TEXTURE, FLAVOR and OVERALL EXPERIENCE.

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Alter Eco – Dark Twist, crystallized orange peel VIBRANT AND TANGY

Texture: Well tempered snap, quickly melts, smooth, chunks of crystallized peel throughout, peel similar to consistency of raisins

Flavor: Primary flavor mild citrus with undertone of bitter nut oil. Vibrant warm secondary flavors, bright clear “Sunny D” punch,

Overall: This bar contains the complexity of odd textured orange peel that leaves a raisin like feel in the mouth. It’s bright bold sweetness is enjoyable, but to us it seemed that too much was going on and it obstructed many of the flavor characteristics of the raw chocolate.

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Theo – Orange, DARK CHOCOLATE

Texture: Light/airy seeming, matte finish, sharp snap, well tempered

Flavor: Mild tang, slight bitterness, hint of citrus, secondary flavors intensify, flavors dissipate quickly

Overall: The composition and structure of this bar screams quality chocolate while the flavor experience says basic. In the initial moments expect very little flavor with the primary being standard dark chocolate. Citrus can be detected, but ultimately only intensifies in the final seconds of consumption.

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Equal Exchange – Orange Dark Chocolate

Texture: Oily, softer snap, dense, smooth, slow melting rate

Flavor: Essence of fruit from start to finish, balance of oils and added ingredients with natural chocolate flavor, undertones of vanilla

Overall: The simplicity and quality of this bar allowed for the pairing of orange and chocolate flavors to shine. A consistent fresh fruitiness with less elements of tang seemed to make the whole tasting experience enjoyable.


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Upcycled Burlap Beanie

Burlap, flannel shirt scraps, thread, plastic co2 filter “button”

If you’re into upcycled clothing and fashion, consider burlap the next time you start a new project. Many of these plant based fibers contain rich, unique text and designs embedded in the material. Jute and hemp (often the woven material that makes up a burlap sack) are also naturally biodegradable. Check out our TEXTILES, WOOD AND RECLAIMED CRAFT section for more burlap projects like this one.


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A Tuesday “Engage-mint” (Chocolate Tasting For Two)

Yesterday night (August 28, 2012) Meg and I extracted our stash of heavenly cocoa from the fridge in a long awaited mint chocolate tasting event. After allowing the three bars to reach an adequate temperature (room-temp, ideally) we splayed them out on the table and took note of packaging graphics, appearance and any major notable variables. Before our tasting took place, Megan very intentionally selected three quality brands with as many of the same constant variables as possible. These variables include: 60-70% cocoa content, organic, fair trade, dark – high levels of flavonoids/cocoa liqueur, and containing mint as a contributing primary flavor.

In a manic, but connoisseur-like approach we carried out a series of consistent tasting techniques throughout the event. We started by taking note of the wrapping quality and appearance. Then we proceeded to observe the dimensions and finish of the chocolate bar. Is the piece matte or shiny? Does it break with a snap or feel more pliable? Is it somewhat resistant to body heat or does it melt like the wicked witch of the west?

Using our fingers we increased the temperature of each segment, releasing aromas and flavor qualities for ten seconds. Then we transferred the chunks to the surface of our tongues to be shifted at mouth temp for another ten seconds. The final flavors were released as we started to chew, exposing a variety of decadent, rich, bitter tones coupled with moments of salivation. Water was used as a palette cleansing device after the completion of every brand.

So what is a chocolate tasting without results? Here is a conclusive series of notes for each brand broken up by TEXTURE, FLAVOR and OVERALL EXPERIENCE.

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Divine – Mint Dark Chocolate

Texture: Hard, snaps, high concentration of crystallized chunks distributed throughout, medium matte, low sheen

Flavor: Subtle (almost unnoticeable) mint, zest, earth

Overall: While this brand excels in crunchy texture and mouth feel, it severely lacks in overall and lasting flavor

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Green & Black’s – Dark Chocolate infused with peppermint oil for an intense mint taste

Texture: Soft, smooth, creamy, pliable, less snap, medium sheen, low matte

Flavor: Mint, sweet, clean mouth feel

Overall: Clean mouth feel, lasting flavor of mint from start to finish, quality in packaging and taste is evident

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Alter Eco – Dark Mint, cool crispy mint BOLD AND BRISK

Texture: Fine mint crystals, grit/sand feel, less snap (and subsequently more pliable)

Flavor: Subtle, permeating mint, high level of sweetness

Overall: Best overall mint experience, this bar successfully accomplishes what both other bars separately could not: A combination of finely distributed mint flavor in both bar and crystallized chunks, texture and creamy mouth feel from start to finish.

Grab yourselves some of these and try!

Let us know if you have different brand/bar recommendations…