The latest fruit that has captured my taste buds is cranberries (although nothing can beat a good slice of a sweet, perfectly ripe pineapple).  If shipping weren’t so expensive I’d be temped by the cranberries in the 64oz size.

So naturally I was eager to try the Pacari Cranberry bar…

Pacari Cranberry Chocolate - The Chocolate Website Photo

Pacari Chocolate (made in Ecuador) was once again a World Final Winner (in multiple categories!) at the International Chocolate Awards this year.

Their bars seem to be widely popular everywhere (in the U.S. and Europe especially).

The chocolate itself was delicious (yes, I know, I’m going to have to start being more specific than that…2018 is going to involve taking notes while staring at a tasting chart!) but I had a hard time finding many cranberries in my particular bar.  You can never have enough cranberries!

Note: I purchased my Pacari Cranberry bar from an online store called Noje.  While this particular bar is not currently in stock (and their selection is admittedly not as large as other online craft chocolate stores), I am extremely pleased with their shipping policy (shipping is free on orders of $30 or more, while other stores only offer free shipping with orders of $50 or $75 or more) AND the amazing customer service.   My chocolate was wrapped up exactly as requested in order to have the best chance of making the journey unscathed.  Save

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Seems to me I’ve written about this exact chocolate before.  No matter… it’s good enough to repeat!

Equal Exchange Mint Crunch Chocolate

I plunked this Mint Crunch bar by Equal Exchange down next to a basket, took a photo, and said, “OK, let’s eat it!”  (Well, almost.  Those mint leaves didn’t exactly wash and arrange themselves.)

The reason I was in such a hurry?  To open it, of course.   I’d had the pleasure of trying this mint chocolate before and remembered it as having just the right amount of crunch and just the right amount of mint.

I remembered correctly.

Mmmmmmmmm!

Alter Eco Deep Dark Sea Salt Chocolate

This is Alter Eco Deep Dark Sea Salt Chocolate; isn’t it pretty?

Let me take a deep breath and tell you all about it: It’s a rich, bold, salty, sweet, deep, dark, organic, gluten free, vegan, non-gmo, fairtrade, sea salt studded chocolate.  Whew.

Yes, I absconded with some pink sea salt for decoration purposes, but for the record, I put it back.  Sort of.  There might have been trouble if somebody found I put it back directly into the salt shaker, so I put it in a little bowl on the counter, intending to use it on my food.  Somebody found the little bowl.  “What’s this?”  “Salt, leftover from my photoshoot.  I didn’t want to waste it so I’m keeping it.”  “Ewwww!”  “What?! I used a clean spoon and I wiped my white background first and I’ll be the one eating it.”  “Ewwwww!”

How does this chocolate taste?  Good question. You’ll have to get it and let me know.  🙂  This is one of the rare chocolates I photographed and then gave away without tasting it.   (I’d have to recall who I gave it to and then ask them if they recall what it tasted like!)

That’s all for now…

Months ago, when the araguaney flowers were in bloom, I held my breath as I opened a special chocolate,
the Dick Taylor Northerner Blend bar. Would it be broken? Would it be bloomed? (Neither would be anybody’s fault but mine.  Anybody crazy enough to subject her chocolate to a week-long many-stops journey is just *asking* for bloomed chocolate.)

I needn’t have worried.

Dick Taylor Northener Blend Chocolate Stilllife Photo

It was perfect.

Dick Taylor easily makes everyone’s list (including mine) of the prettiest, most intricate, and most recognizable chocolate molds. (They could even remove the logo in the middle and people from Australia to France would still have no trouble naming the maker!)

I could take photos of Dick Taylor for hours. In fact, I DID take photos of this Dick Taylor Northener Blend bar for hours.  By the time I was done with the poor thing it was rather hard to pick up, but it was exactly the right consistency for tasting.

(Sorry, no more sneak peaks, aside from the ones below. Let’s just say it looks just as stunning with purple and with blue as it does with yellow!)

But these bars are not just for looks. They’re meant to be enjoyed (as reluctant as we all are to mar that gorgeous design).

That back includes the story of how the Northerner bar got its name. The packaging also includes the tasting notes: Dried Apricot / Honey / Cocoa

Dick Taylor Northerner Blend Chocolate Bar (Back of Wrapper)

Cool, no?

Dick Taylor Website: https://dicktaylorchocolate.com/
Dick Taylor On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dicktaylorchocolate/
More Original Chocolate Photography (by yours truly):  https://www.instagram.com/thechocolatewebsite

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There are those who say “stevia” like it’s something awful and won’t touch it with a ten foot pool, and then there are those who won’t go anywhere without it and start getting worried when their supply of vanilla creme (or hazelnut or English toffee) starts running low.

Me? I don’t hate stevia, and then again I’m not crazy about it.   I’ve not tried many chocolates sweetened with stevia, but there is one brand I have tried and can recommend:

Lily's Creamy Milk Chocolate - Sweetened with Stevia

Lily’s Chocolate (Pictured: Creamy Milk 40% Chocolate)

I’ll readily admit that the lack of sugar makes this chocolate less sweet than many other chocolates I have tried, but it allows the actual chocolate flavor to “shine”.

Lily’s seem to be a popular sugarfree chocolate option; I keep seeing some tasty baked goods/breakfasts featuring this chocolate.

Chocolate for breakfast?  Yes please! 🙂

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You know when you say a word so many times you start thinking it makes no sense or perhaps you even imagined it being a real word?  Today smorgasbord (“a wide range of something”; “a variety”) is the word that just sent me scurrying to Google to make sure it was real.  And that I was spelling it right.  (For the record: I wasn’t.)  (Side note: If I remember looking things up in an actual dictionary, does that make me old?)

Here is a smorgasbord of chocolate I’d like to share with you:

Sol Cacao Ecuador 70% Craft Chocolate (I purchased mine online at The Meadow.)

Made in Harlem by three brothers who grew up in Trinidad and Tobago, this bar is one of the many epitomes of fine craft chocolate: amazing flavor and stunning packaging.

Also, this is one of the first photos that finally convinced me to keep practicing with a new, unfamiliar-to-me-lens, because it might be worth the effort.  (Note to self: Try new things!  New things aren’t as scary as they look!)

Chocolove Cherries & Almonds in Dark Chocolate

I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of people who prefer plain dark chocolate.  Nothing wrong with that. I like plain dark chocolate.  But I’m also big on inclusions.  And dark chocolate with cherries and almonds?  Yes, please!

Francois Pralus Melissa Milk Chocolate

This was my first Francois Pralus bar (and hopefully not my last).  The tasting notes are “vanilla, caramel, and milky spices”.  I remember it as rich and creamy but specific notes still mostly elude me, especially because by the time I’ve finished dressing up my chocolate in three different poses, I’m just ready for a piece (without being too scientific about the taste). Some day maybe I’ll get a few bars just to savor and just to focus on the flavor without photographing them first.  (Why is everyone who knows me laughing right now?!)

Cacao Sampaka White Chocolate with Ceylon Cinnamon

Fact 1: White chocolate with cinnamon is AMAZING.

Fact 2: Rarely does a bar surprise me as much as this one did.  I was pretty sure it was going to be amazing, so the taste was no surprise.  The surprise was that instead of being a thick chocolate bar, it ended up being two thin bars (easily separated, thanks to a liner between them).  This made it a lot easier to portion and share with more people.

Raaka Apple Pie Chocolate (I purchased mine online via Noje.)

I hoarded this bar for a long time.  The very month I decided to give up and go ahead and find a way to take photos without apple pie, apples appeared.  (They don’t grow on trees around here.)

Wait until you hear the impressive list of flours used for the gluten-free graham cracker crust, which crumbles adorn this chocolate: Brown rice flour, whole grain quinoa flakes, tapioca starch, coconut flour, sweet potato flour, mesquite flour, potato four, potato starch, amaranth flour, and sorghum flour.  No kidding.

The apple pie flavor in this chocolate was a little elusive, but it was quite an entertaining bar.

It was also a limited edition, which might make it difficult or impossible to find.

(Thankfully Raaka makes certain flavors regularly.  The two I’d like to try most are Maple & Nibs and Coconut Milk.)

Alter Eco Dark Salted Brown Butter Chocolate

Alter Eco Dark Salted Brown Butter Chocolate  (I purchased mine online via Iherb.)

Last but not least, allow me to introduce Alter Eco’s gluten free, non-GMO, salted brown butter chocolate (an organic chocolate made with sweet pastured butter).

It’s like mixing popcorn and chocolate, only without the corn.  Mmmmmmmm.  Tangy and delicious.  Salted chocolate is growing on me, as long as it is done right.  I think Alter Eco found the perfect balance with this bar.


Organic.  Gluten. Pastured.  These are all words that would have sent me scurrying to the dictionary when I was a little girl.  Unfortunately, when I read our voluminous inches-thick red hardcover dictionary from cover to cover, I wasn’t quite able to memorize everything.

The word that stuck with me the most?  You’d think it might be ganache or gianduia or eclairs or mousse.  But no.  It was actually a French word (in an English dictionary, go figure).  Rechauffe.  Pronounced “ray-show-FAY” (if I remember correctly) it basically means heated leftovers.

Because heated leftovers are always more fun if they have a fancy sounding name.

Now my chocolate has fancy sounding names, but the problem is:  There is never any leftover!Save

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Whenever articles are written about the 5 or 10 or however-many best bean-to-bar/craft/artisan chocolates, I’ve noticed that Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco always makes the cut. Photos of their bars encased in thick gold-embossed paper wrappers often show up in my Instagram/Twitter feeds, and, not long ago, Dandelion expanded and opened several locations in Japan.

It was high time to pick a Dandelion to see what the fuss was all about.

Dandelion Chocolate Still Life Photo

Dandelion’s two-ingredient bars feature beans from different origins. I picked their Mantuano bar because the beans are grown in Venezuela, and I happen to be partial to Venezuelan beans.

Having a Dandelion bar in-house was exciting, but even the good press didn’t guarantee it VP treatment.  In the end, it dutifully waited its turn just like all the other chocolate at my house until it got its moment in the sun. Correction: Half an hour in the sun (by the time I was done with it).  By then it was the *perfect* tasting consistency.

My first bite certainly didn’t evoke any memories of chocolate consumed long ago during my childhood, because I don’t recall ever eating fine dark chocolate until a few years ago.  (The normal chocolates of my youth was Hersheys, an occasional box of Russel Stover, and chocolate chips (dipped out from a 5lb bag from Sam’s Club!). Instead, the taste on my tongue was a subtle twist on the “new normal”; what I call “grown up” chocolate, the knock-your-socks-off vibrancy of beans that have different flavor profiles instead of always tasting the same.

Found on the wrapper: “In this bar, we taste notes of classic dark chocolate, roasted almonds, and espresso.” My untrained tongue did not pick up on any of the roasted almond notes, but there were most definitely hints of espresso.  (It is actually quite amazing how many dark chocolates have coffee notes, despite not containing any coffee.)

High Time to Pick a Dandelion Chocolate

This is CHOCOLATE.  No flavorings, no emulsifiers.   All it takes to be an awesome chocolate is cocoa beans & sugar, carefully selected and ground and conched and tempered and packaged.

I understand the hype now.

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I’ve managed to (temporarily) pull myself away from reading about chocolate, photographing chocolate, and trying new chocolate (like Durci and Pump Street Bakery), to actually write about & show you a chocolate… namely Escazu’s Goat Milk bar.

I had the pleasure of trying this a few months ago.  (Yes, I’m that behind on my writing.)  (And yes, it is still true that nothing inside or outside my house is safe from my camera.  Including cactus.)

Escazu Goat Milk Chocolate

This bar is a 60% dark chocolate with goats milk, and, as with most bars of Venezuelan origin, it ended up making me giggle whenever I introduced it to my friends.  Why?  It just strikes me as funny that the beans went all the way from Venezuela to North Carolina to be made into chocolate bars, and then the chocolate bars went all the way to Oregon (among other places) to be sold, and then this particular bar came all the way back to Venezuela (albeit not the Carenero region) to be eaten.

Taste: Slightly tangy with a luxurious mouthfeel.  This was my first taste of goats milk chocolate and I liked it.

I need to publicly go on the record that I am NEVER TOUCHING CACTUSES CACTI AGAIN.  Maybe that will help me to remember.  I keep thinking that somehow *this time* I will manage not to touch the certain strategic spots that shed microscopic spiny hairs that so easily burrow into fingers and feet (don’t ask). Yet, every time, without fail, my promise to be very very careful always ends up with tears and tweezers involved.  Well, at least tweezers.

Don’t even get me started on the time I was 14 and somebody informed me that if the ripe cactus fruit was peeled properly that none of aforementioned microscopic hairs would end up in my mouth.  Either they were very wrong or the fruit was very incorrectly peeled.   While this particular cactus fruit is rather tasty, it was certainly not worth the evening of trying to get pricklies out.of.my.tongue.

We also have cacti that reach out and jump and attach themselves to any part of you that gets too close (Really!  I am practically not making this up), barrel cacti that have the cutest smooth-skinned pink fruits that taste sort of like kiwi (which are safe to eat, even if you don’t own tweezers), and…

Wait.  This is not a site about cactus.  It is about chocolate.

Escazu Goat Milk Chocolate Unwrapped

Escazu bars are available on multiple sites that sell craft chocolate.  I purchased mine via Chocolopolis. Come to think of it, Escazu chocolate more than likely available …let me check….yep…directly from the Escazu website.  Of course, if you happen to be in Raleigh, North Carolina, it might be easier (and lots more fun!) to visit the Escazu store itself.  Judging by their Instagram/Twitter feeds, there are also truffles and confections.

And ICE CREAM.

#notapaidadvertisement #justlovedtheirchocolate #andapparentlyIloverattlingonaboutcactusestoo

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This, my friends, is the reigning champion of white chocolate in the entire world. Bar none.  Pun intended.

‘Icoa’ by El Rey.  (Here I go making chocolate sound like fine perfume again…)

Voted the best plain/origin white chocolate bar five times in a row by the International Chocolate Awards and very recently listed as one of the best white chocolates by Saveur, it ended up being a real treat to have this bar in my possession.

Obtaining it wasn’t the piece of cake I thought it was going to be.  Chocolates El Rey is local.  Pop into any large bodegon and there El Rey is.  Which is technically true.  That is, if you’re looking for 41% Caoba.  Or 58.5% Bucare.  Or 61% “Mijao, 70% Gran Saman, or 73.5% Apamate.  (I kid you not with the extra five tenths of a percent. I’m not making them up.)

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These wolves with the almost chocolate-brown-colored eyes posed beautifully.

Endanged Species Cranberry Almond Chocolate

However, there were still some hiccups when it came to getting this photo taken.

First, the cranberries kept disappearing.  It must have been the wolves’ fault.  Nobody else was around, yet I guarantee you the bowl of cranberries was noticeably less full at the end of the photoshoot than it was at the beginning.

Second, let it be known that glitter and fans do.not.play.nice.together.  (I certainly remembered in a hurry after turning the fan on!)

On the plus side, everything was sparkly by the end of the day and there was an abundance of Endangered Species Cranberry Almond Chocolate to savor.

And in my opinion, you can’t go wrong with sparkly and plenty of chocolate!

Alter Eco Quinoa Dark Chocolate

What’s gluten free, fair trade, organic, and very tasty? Alter Eco Quinoa Dark Chocolate.

Am I the only one that has pronounced quinoa wrong all their life?  I grew up thinking it was “quinn-NO-ah”.  Then recently I started hearing about this new gluten-free super-seed food called “keen-wah” and, lo and behold, it turns out they’re the same thing.

Most people associate quinoa with “health foods” and therefore may automatically assume it doesn’t taste very good, but there’s good news.    Quinoa is not one of those “pinch-your-nose-and-swallow-fast” foods.   I find it easily adaptable to many dishes, and toasted quinoa adds a perfect crunch to this 60% dark chocolate.

I absconded with a few spoonfuls of quinoa from the fridge for the purpose of taking this photograph.  A month later, I was still finding quinoa in my room.  (My sister would say that that would tell you how well I do…or do not…clean my room, but I am telling you, a few pieces of that quinoa had terrific hiding skills.  Because I DID sweep.  I’m almost positive every time I swept I could hear the quinoa running behind the furniture giggling at their skill at avoiding me.)

Me? Have a vivid imagination?  What gives you that idea?

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