Shameless Self-Promotion III

Thanks to those of you who took the time to nominate me for a Food Blog Award! I’m now in the running for Best Food Blog – New, and I’d greatly appreciate if y’all could take a second to go vote for me. I didn’t even realize I’d been nominated until I read Cybele’s Candy Blog, which is up for Best Food Blog – Theme. Hooray for candy getting respect as food! Voting ends at midnight tonight, Friday, December 14th.

To those of you who noticed that Shameless Self-Promotion III was identical to Shameless Self-Promotion II, bravo!

Dagoba Organic Chocolate – Chai and Roseberry

Today marks the finale of Dagoba Chocolate (BUY!) Week, and I’ve saved the most interesting for last!

The Dagoba Chai is 37% milk chocolate, crystallized ginger, and spices. That last “spices” bit is annoyingly generic, and the ingredients list isn’t much help. There “spices” is replaced with “essential oils.”

When I ate this bar, I couldn’t figure out what the spices were because the ginger taste was incredibly strong. It overpowered everything. I like the essence of ginger in cooking, but I can’t stand ginger itself, probably because as a kid I accidentally ate too many slices of ginger out of our family stir fries (always an unexpected and unpleasant taste sensation).

Still, there was something about this bar that was intriguing, and it kept me reaching for more pieces. I never actually enjoyed it, however, so it only gets an O. At the chocolate party, this came in 12th (out of 13) with a score of 2.57/5. It was interestingly polarizing. Lots of 1s and 2s, but also a raving 5 and a few 4s. Comments ranged from “wtf funny flavor,” to “niceish – strange” to “can’t really describe it.” A few called it medicinal, which is understandable (anyone else forced to drink ginger root tea as a kid?).

The roseberry was the one I was most excited to taste. A dark bar (59% cacao) with raspberries and rosehips – sounds delicious! And it was pretty good. I loved how pretty the bar was. The pink bits of raspberry looked gorgeous against the dark, glossy bar.

I didn’t taste any rose notes when I sampled this bar, but the floral scent is definitely there. The raspberries add a gentle fruitiness that I wish was a little more noticeable. They also added a slight grit to the bar that I could have done without. An OM from me, and a tie for 5th with 3.533/5 from my friends.

Overall, I really enjoyed these Dagoba bars, even if none got a review above an OM. I think their ratings may have been skewed a little low because I tasted them with a bunch of other bars, some of which were less subtle and more interesting. The dark 59%, the hazelnut, and the roseberry were all on the brink of earning that extra G, but I pulled back because Dagoba bars are so pricey. The ones I bought cost $3.29 at the overpriced campus convenience store, but even online they’re $3.00 a bar.

I liked the Dagoba chocolate bars enough to want to eat my way through all the different varieties, though that would quickly get expensive. Dagoba will definitely make another appearance at my next chocolate party.

Dagoba Organic Chocolate – Milk and Hazelnut

Dagoba Chocolate (BUY!) Week continues with the milk and hazelnut bars!

The milk bar is pretty straightforward. Milk chocolate, 37% cacao solids. According to Wikipedia, anything over 35% cacao can be called dark chocolate, so I appreciate that Dagoba still called this milk.

It’s a European/Cadbury-style milk chocolate with a yogurty finish (as opposed to the sour finish Hershey’s milk chocolate has). “Feels British,” wrote one of my friends. Others felt that the milkiness was too overpowering.

Like all Dagoba bars, the texture is smooth and creamy and wonderful. It’s good but unremarkable and a little too sweet (I’m a dark chocolate lover). An O for the Dagoba milk. A wonderful milk chocolate bar that suffered from my dark-bias. If you like milk chocolate, European-style, you’ll love this. It took 8th place with a 3.33/5.

The hazelnut bar was made from 37% cacao milk chocolate, roasted hazelnuts, and rice crisps.

Really, it’s hard to go wrong with hazelnut and chocolate, This bar was well studded with pieces of hazelnut, and it was wonderfully – you guessed it – hazelnutty. I found it a little too sweet, but most chocolate/hazelnut candies skew towards the sweet side, so it’s understandable.

I didn’t notice any rice crisps, and because it was a blind tasting, I didn’t know to taste carefully and seek the crisps out. Cybele’s review complained of too few crisps, so I’m going to agree with her. I give this bar an OM. Good, but uninspiring. This came in first at my chocolate party with a score of 3.96/5. I think it was so well liked because of the near universal appeal of chocolate and hazelnut.

Shameless Self-promotion II + Chow’s Winter Gift Guide + Professional Gum Tasting

Thanks to those of you who took the time to nominate me for a Food Blog Award! I’m now in the running for Best Food Blog – New, and I’d greatly appreciate if y’all could take a second to go vote for me. I didn’t even realize I’d been nominated until I read Cybele’s Candy Blog, which is up for Best Food Blog – Theme. Hooray for candy getting respect as food! Voting ends at midnight on Friday, December 14th.

In other news, has their annual winter gift guide up. Two worthy chocolate appearances. I’ll look for the Vosges set when I visit their store in Vegas over winter break. They also just posted a The Ten on holiday mail-order chocolates for last minute gifts. I’ve reviewed the Fran’s salted caramels (they got a ZOMG!), and I tried the Kaka’wa beans about a year ago (they’re made in my hometown) and found them good but overrated and severely overpriced.

And did you know that Cadbury has a Gum Center of Excellence? If the whole trying-to-be-a-psychologist thing doesn’t work out, I know where I’m looking for a job.

Dagoba Organic Chocolate – Dark and Lime

Welcome to Dagoba Week! This week’s 6 Dagoba bars were blindly tasted by 14 of my friends (and me!) at my chocolate party along with 7 other non-Dagoba chocolate bars. I had my friends rate every chocolate that they tasted on a scale of 1-5.

The New Yorker ran an excellent piece on Dagoba Chocolate in their Halloween issue this year. I read the fascinating article after tasting my way through the half a dozen Dagoba bars (BUY!) (they offer 18 classic bars plus 3 single origin bars on their website; I have a lot more tasting left to do!), and it only made the company more impressive in hindsight. Even if Hershey’s does now own it.

The Dagoba dark 59% is a dark bar with 59% percent cacao (duh). The ingredients list is pretty incredible: Organic Dark Chocolate (organic cacao beans, organic evaporated cane juice, organic cacao butter, 0.5% non-GMO soy lecithin). Impressive, no?

The bar had a strong snap and a beautifully dark gloss. The melt and mouthfeel were incredible – soooo creamy and smooth – and it had a great finish. I thought the mild sweetness was perfect, though one of my friends, an admitted dark chocolate hater, found it too bitter. Others loved it. A couple found rum or alcohol notes, which surprised me, as I didn’t notice any.

I give it an OM. It’s delicious and the best plain dark chocolate bar I’ve yet to taste, but there’s no gimmick to the bar to make it special enough to really stand out. Still, it is now my go-to dark bar for slow savoring, provided that I have a little extra to spend (Dagoba bars are expensive!). The Dark 59% tied for 5th at the chocolate party with a 3.533 out of 5.

The Dagoba Lime bar is dark chocolate (59% cacao), lime, and macadamia nuts. The chocolate is smooth and creamy, which is unsurprising. I expect it’s the same chocolate base as the dark 59% bar.

I broke up the bars into small pieces for tasting. The piece I got must have not had any macadamia nut pieces in it because I have no macadamia nut related notes on this bar. I can’t imagine they would have made a huge taste difference, and macadamia nuts are pretty bland, though buttery. The lime component of this bar is subtle but definitely present. Overall, the bar was good, but I personally didn’t care for the limey finish. Another OM from me. This placed 10th in my friends’ ratings with a score of 3.133/5.

Emily’s Chocolates Wrap Up

Dear Emily’s Chocolates,

I am terribly sorry it took me so long to write this review. You were generous enough to mail me soooo many delicious chocolate covered things, and though I immediately got up a review of the cookies (OMG and ZOMG!), that was nearly two weeks ago, and I still haven’t written about your limited edition gift boxes. In my defense, the last two weeks of class are always hectic, and now I’m smack in the middle of reading period trying to write final papers and study for final exams. But now I’m procrastinating starting my 20-pager music cognition paper, so here’s the long overdue review. Photos of the packaging are from Emily’s Chocolates’ website.


Dark Chocolate Mixed Berry Box

Dried strawberries, blueberries, and cranberries covered in dark chocolate. The biggest ones are the strawberries, while the blueberries and cranberries are visually identical, as far as I can tell.

Because the strawberries are the biggest, they have the brightest fruit flavor. The blueberries were also surprisingly sweet. Only the cranberries, I felt , weren’t assertive enough to stand out against the sweetness of the dark chocolate coating. They were listed in the ingredients as “sweetened” while the strawberries and blueberries were not. I wish they had been a little more tart, which may have kept them from being overwhelmed by the chocolate.

Overall a nice fruit assortment. Nothing groundbreakingly delicious but good, and incredibly addictive. An OM.

2pc_giftbox_cranalmond.jpgLimited Edition Chocolate Covered Cranberry Almond Holiday Mix

Dark chocolate covered cranberries and almonds. In case you couldn’t guess that from the name.

The cranberries were the same as those of the previously reviewed mix. What made this stand out was the almonds. They had a wonderful roasted almond flavor, and almonds are strong nuts that balance well with chocolate. You can see from the picture how generous that chocolate coating is.

Like all the stuff Emily’s sent me, these guys were addictive. An OM.

Dark Chocolate Covered Cashews

These came inside an adorable snowman. He’s no longer on the website, but a penguin version of him is. I think cashews are to bland to balance dark chocolate, so I just gave these an O. My least favorite of the group. But the adorable snowman gets props.


Limited Edition Chocolate Covered Cherry Hazelnut Holiday Mix

I saved the best for last. Dark chocolate covered dried cherries and roasted hazelnuts. Soooooo good! The cherries were perfectly tart and super bright against the chocolate. They’re listed as “dried red sour cherries”. Good choice on letting them be sour! And the hazelnuts! Whole roasted hazelnuts covered in shiny dark chocolate – it really doesn’t get any better than that. I shared the rest of these mixes with my friends (mostly to keep myself from eating them all), but the hazelnuts and cherries I hoarded for myself. An enthusiastic ZOMG!

Emily’s Chocolates does good work. As I said before, I was surprised at how affordable their products are, and they’re prettily wrapped for convenient gift giving. Order by December 10 and get free ground shipping if you spend at least $40. I’d stock up for gift-giving to teachers, coworkers, bosses, and to bring as hostess gifts.

Gigi’s assorted caramels

After being impressed by Lula’s Chocolates’ Aloha Rocky Road, I was eager to dig into my sample of their assorted (and handmade!) caramels. Whoever writes their product descriptions really knows their way around food adjectives.

“I start with small batches of premium butter and fresh, heavy cream, which I slow cook in heavy, copper pots. We offer plain caramels, and, for nut lovers, we add fresh, whole almonds, cashews, or macadamia nuts.”

I can definitely taste the quality of the ingredients in these generously sized caramels. They’re super, super buttery and creamy – so much so that I almost expected them to literally melt away in my mouth. The plain caramels are almost too rich and buttery, if that’s possible. They don’t stick in your teeth at all because they’re so greasy. The caramel is sweet and light without any dark notes, and the intense creaminess is almost overwhelming in the plain version.

The addition of nuts helps a lot. It’s nice to have the contrast between the soft caramel and the crunchy, grainy nut. The macadamia (left) helped texturally but didn’t add much in terms of flavor, as macadamia nuts are pretty buttery tasting and high fat too. The almond ones (right) were a taste revelation. The smoky almond flavor balanced out the caramel and broke up the texture better than the macadamia nuts did. I wish there were more almond caramels in my assortment. As far as I could tell, my bag had no cashew ones, though it’s possible I may have eaten one thinking it was macadamia nut.

These caramels are a delicious and decadent treat. Because they’re so rich, you can only eat one or two at a time, but that just means you can savor them for a longer time. My only complaint is that the wax paper was sometimes a little embedded in the caramel and impossible to remove before eating. I take that little foible as further proof that these caramels are truly handmade. An OMG for the almond ones; an OM for everything else.

Winter break trip

For winter break, my parents and I will be spending a few days in Vegas and a few days in California (San Francisco, maybe LA, claims my father). I’ve already made a huge list of places I want to visit. It’s impossible to hit them all, but the Jelly Belly Factory must happen. I was in San Francisco with friends last spring break, and no one would go with me then, but I’m sure Mom and Dad will be happy to go along.

  • Jelly Belly Factory tour
  • Scharffen Berger tour
  • Vosges chocolates
  • Charles Chocolates
  • LA Farmer’s Market
  • Joseph Schmidt
  • Cocoa Bella
  • Citizen Cake
  • Lotta’s Bakery
  • Munchies
  • Chocolates a la Carte
  • Chuao Chocolatiers

I think my parents underestimated how long it takes to drive from place to place. LA to San Francisco should be a day-long drive on its own, and we’re only going to be away for a week total.

Oh well. I’ll be happy if we manage to hit just a few of the places on my list. Hopefully Mom and Dad will never realize that their idea of a nice family vacation will actually become “Rosa tries to get Mom and Dad to buy her lots of expensive candy”.

List of places gleaned from David Lebovitz and Cybele from Candy Blog.

Asian Candies IV

More Asian candy, including one actually bought in Asia. Oooh!

Japanese Money Chocolate

This chocolate bar was given to me by my suitemate’s Japanese friends who came all the way from Japan to visit her. I have no clue what it’s called; I’ve chosen to dub it Japanese Money Chocolate because it came wrapped up to look like a piece of Japanese paper money and had a fake paperboard piece inside as well. I didn’t get a picture of it before I unwrapped it, but here’s a terrible shot of the wrapper, if you want to take a look.

The bar was quite prettily imprinted with playing card suits. Why, I don’t know, but why not? It was darker and smokier tasting than what I expected, and it was filled with rice crispies, giving it a nice toastiness. It looks rather greasy in the photo (and it was greasy in person), but the chocolate was actually pretty nice, smooth and not at all oily. I ate the whole bar (about the size of a credit card) in one sitting. An OM.

Sanrio Bubble Gum

This bubble gum found me via my friend Cassie, who bought them on a Sanrio store shopping spree. Aren’t the wrappers adorable? I tasted the green one: Chibimaru kiwi fruit. The gum also comes in other flavors (raspberry, lemon, orange), which I didn’t taste.

The gum came in three attached but breakable segments and was snow white. I expected it to be green like the wrapper or like kiwis, but whatever. It was lightly sweet and fruity with a velvety texture, almost fuzzy on my tongue. An interesting textural sensation with a nice, light flavor. I’d give this gum an O. The flavor lasted for an annoying short time, and because the gum came from the Sanrio store, it was probably overpriced.