Yes, this is still a site wholly dedicated to chocolate.  And no, I haven’t temporarily gone insane and donned wading boots and gotten myself a panning bowl and taken a leave of absence to visit California or the Yukon.  (And, yes, I know I have a very romantic and antiquated view of where actual gold comes from now and how to go about finding it.  (I plead the 5th on how many novels I’ve read that were set in the 1800s.)  But if you’re curious about how to strike gold in 2016 when it comes to fine chocolate, look no further than this:

How To Strike Gold in 2016 - Amano Raspberry Rose Dark Chocolate Still Life Photo
This beauty is Amano Raspberry Rose Dark Chocolate.  But with a predominately pink-and-white wrapper and an ingredient list that doesn’t contain any edible gold leaf, you may be wondering, “Where does the gold come in?”

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If you would have asked me in the past (pre-2016) what Iceland was known for, I would have said, “Ice, naturally. Oh, and volcanoes.” (Such a contrast!) “And chess masters. Also, beautiful landscapes. Unless I’m mixing it up with Ireland. No, I’m pretty sure they’re both known for stunning landscapes.” Ask me now, and I’ll tell you a neat thing about Iceland: Omnom Chocolate

A Neat Thing About Iceland - Omnom Dark Milk Burned Sugar Chocolate

Intrigued by a number of factors (the novelty of bean-to-bar chocolate being made in Iceland, the reports of Omnom’s creative packaging, and the flavor “Dark Milk”), Omnom ended up very high on my list of must-try craft chocolates.

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How’s THAT for a title? It’s not likely you read about peeling an appealing Pacari bar every day. It’s not every day I get to do it. It may be a once-in-a-life-time-experience. Who knows.

The first step in the entire process was to actually obtain a Pacari bar, which is no small feat. They’re not available locally; budgeting and shipping are involved.  That, and deciding exactly *which* Pacari bar. Finally, I decided on Andean Lemon Verbena.

Pacari Andean Lemon Verbena Chocolate Still Life Photo

Upon arrival, I was a little alarmed to find a big round sticker smack dab on the front of the chocolate wrapper (stuck there by the third party seller, not by Amazon or Pacari), announcing some sort of discount. It was effectively ruining most photoshoot opportunities (aside from ones involving cover-ups or bizarre camera angles).  And it wasn’t one of those stickers that would just peel off with a little coaxing.  AND it was blocking the pretty little stamp announcing this bar to be an International Chocolate Awards 2014 World Gold Winner.

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Last Friday (May 20th) was Endangered Species Day.  To some, it meant a welcome spotlight on the efforts of organizations and individuals who work tirelessly to save endangered animals.  To others, Endangered Species Day was a reminder to eat more chocolate.  You see, there’s one chocolate company so passionate about
helping out that it is reflected in the name of their company, Endangered Species Chocolate.  10% of their net profits are donated to non-profit partners that protect and preserve wildlife.

(Eating a chocolate bar is definitely more my cup of tea than standing outside out on a street corner waving a sign “Save The Whales!” I’m actually shy.  Believe it or not.)

I’ve tasted quite a few flavors of Endangered Species chocolate over the years; the latest was Lemon Poppyseed.

Endangered Species Chocolate - Lemon Poppyseed

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Where has TCHO chocolate been all my life?  (Or, rather, since I’ve been around much longer than TCHO, let me rephrase: Where have I been all of TCHO’s life?)

Seriously, one bite of TCHO’s lush, creamy SeriousMilk Milk Chocolate “Cacao” was enough to make me realize that TCHO has done their homework on how to pair the few standard ingredients that make up milk chocolate, in order to come up with such an extraordinary bar.  I have been eating milk chocolate wrong all my life; THIS is how it’s done.Seriously TCHO Milk Chocolate Still Life Gallery Photo

Curiosity aroused, I discovered:

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I love lilies (the flowers).  I’m also pretty fond of Lily, the family dog.  Now I’ve just added another type of Lily to the collection of Lilys I like: Lily’s Crispy Rice Stevia Chocolate

gallery_photo_lilys_crispy_rice_stevia_chocolate

Stevia and I are old acquaintances .  If my memory serves me correctly, we first met in the 90’s.  While we don’t hang out every day, we get along fine when we do have a chance to spend time together.

On the other hand, Lily’s Chocolate and I just met for the first time.

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Once in a while, a chocolate comes along and manages a statistical improbability: winning over every single member of my family after the first bite.  This isn’t exactly an easy task. If it is too dark, 2/5s lose all interest. 1/5 of us do not eat white chocolate at all. (“What is white chocolate even made out of?”)  Peanuts in chocolate are a welcome addition (if you ask 3 out of 5) and not-so-welcome (if you interview the other two).  Coffee in chocolate…well, that’s a story for another day.

The most recent chocolate to be unanimously approved? Alter Eco Truffles.

Alter Eco Truffles - Velvet

Words fail me.  These truffles – made with coconut oil, whole milk powder, cane sugar, cocoa butter, cacao beans, caramel flavor, & vanilla beans – are incredibly silky and decadent.  They melt in your mouth.   I wouldn’t be surprised if these truffles have inspired people to write poetry about them.

(In case Alter Eco is new to you, visit their website for more info.    Fair trade and organic ingredients?  Check.  Compostable packaging?  Check.  Dark chocolate with flavors such as burnt caramel, quinoa, and brown butter?  Check check check.)

Words may have failed me, but, if I remember correctly, everyone else had this to say:

“They’re SO creamy!”
“I remember you got the purple ones a long time ago.  They’re both really good.”
“I think these are my favorite.”
“Are there any more of those?”

There weren’t.   Be warned: Alter Eco Truffles (in Velvet) disappear.  Fast.

Because they’re really good.

Alter Eco Truffles - Coconut Oil + Cocoa Powder(This is proof I haven’t mastered the art of making coconut oil photogenic yet…)

Confession time: I just ate the Equator.

Either that, or part of an ocean.  I didn’t pay too much attention to whether it was the Atlantic or the Pacific; my eyes had been a little glazed over ever since opening the wrapper of my first bar of Salazon chocolate.   No boring square shapes for them!  Instead, I discovered the world, intricately molded in chocolate.

Salazon Caramel Sea Salt Chocolate, unwrapped:

Salazon Caramel Sea Salt Chocolate Map

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Picture this:

  • Traveling the world (Trindad. New York. Istanbul. Hong Kong.)
  • Making chocolates (Mint chocolate bars.  Hazelnut vanilla chocolate squares.  Mahajanga cherry chocolate infusions.  Coffee Cinnamon Truffles.)
  • Purchasing ingredients at local markets  (Macadamia nuts.  Caramel.  Raspberries.)
  • Completing quests (Finding recipes.  Delivering chocolates.  Manufacturing new products.)

…All from the comfort of your chair (or couch/desk/bed or wherever you park your computer/laptop/device).

Sound like fun?  It is!  Allow me to show you a brief glimpse of the Chocolatier Game:

Chocolatier Game

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70%. 60%. 51%.

No, I’m not watching the battery on my phone being drained at an alarming rate of speed.

Instead, those are just a few of the many cocoa percentages of the dark chocolate bars that have found their way to my house recently.  (I’d name names, but the safety of future posts would be put at risk.  There are chocolates counting on me for their own special moment in the spotlight.)

Dark chocolate is delicious.  It is also touted as being healthy (in small amounts).  The varieties available are practically endless, due to both the varying flavor of the cacao beans being used and the creative use of inclusions.  (Chocolate with lavender, anyone?)  We’ve sampled several new dark chocolates, but, in the midst of it all, it was a welcome change to try something lighter: The Tea Room Black Masala Chai Chocolate

gallery_photo_black_masala_chai_tea_room_chocolate

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