This Sea Salt Soiree bar is a new addition to Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark line. At least, I believed the corner label that said it was new – that’s what prompted me to buy it in the first place!
Turns out it’s been out for at least a year. It’s like those “Grand Opening” or “Closeout Sale” banners that hang in front of stores for years.
The outer box described it as, ” dark chocolate with sea salt and roasted almonds”. There’s also a milk chocolate counterpart in their Gourmet Milk line called Sea Salt Escape that I saw at Sweets and Snacks.
Inside, the bar was lightly scored into 8 logo-ed squares. The break along the scores was a nice, sharp snap.
Little bits of almonds were liberally mixed in and added a nice crunch factor. They also brought some astringency to the finish and not nearly enough roasted nutty flavor to the chocolate.
The flakes of sea salt brought occasional flashes of flavor that really picked up and brightened the flavor of the dark chocolate. The dark chocolate was lightly sweet, but alas, I felt that its flavor profile was lost in the astringency of the almonds.
I thought the bar was okay, but I wanted more almond nuttiness and more chocolate flavor. An O.
I found this Cabernet Matinee bar from Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark line at Cost Plus World Market. It was described as, “dark chocolate infused with a hint of natural blackberry and cabernet flavor”, which sounded awesome. I thought it would be wine-flavored chocolate, though it turns out cabernet could just refer to the grape.
Unfortunately, the execution did not live up to my expectations. For starters, the “natural blackberry” scent was overwhelming sweet and fruity as soon as I unwrapped the bar. It was akin to being attacked by a Bath & Bodyworks saleslady.
The chocolate had a nicely thick, tongue-coating melt that lingered in the finish with a light, boozy bitterness. I suppose that I was the cabernet component.
The rest of the bar’s flavor profile, however, was more attack of the awfully artificial berry sweetness. If I wanted potpourri flavored chocolate, well, I’d just eat potpourri.
My high hopes for this bar were dashed. A —. [editied 11/19/2012 per the comments to clarify: this bars gets a —, which is not a letter grade. It is a poopy grade]
Here are the other three Intense Dark bars that I got as free samples from Ghirardelli to help promote their Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign: the 60% Evening Dream, the 72% Twilight Delight, and the 86% Midnight Reverie.
I like the timely progression of the bars’ names. Very Mad Men of them. As pure chocolate bars are best reviewed in comparison, I thought I’d taste and cover these as a flight.
The 60% was nicely snappy. It had a smooth melt and a velvety mouthfeel. I got bright notes of cherry fruitness that yielded to a slightly chalky and astringent (but not unbearably so) finish.
The 72%, as expected by its higher cacao percentage, was even snappier than the 60%. It felt drier and didn’t exactly melt – it more dissolved in the mouth with a cool fattiness.
There was a hint of brightness to this bar, but it mostly tasted of pure cocoa, like the raw chocolate flavor of cacao nibs.
86% was the darkest of the bunch and was too dark for me. It was quite intense with no sweetness to it.
I found it reminiscent of dry cocoa powder in a more palatably-textured chocolate bar form. Moisture-sucking finish included. Chocolate adventurers would enjoy it, though!
An OM for the 60%. The 72% and 86% get an O. I’d reach for them when putting together a chocolate tasting flight, but the 60% is better suited for snacking.
This bar of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Toffee Interlude was a free sample from the manufacturer to help them promote their Breast Cancer Awareness campaign.
The back of the box lovingly described it as, “luxuriously deep and velvety dark chocolate … infused with crunchy toffee and caramelized almonds delivering unrivaled chocolate intensity.” They’ve got some stellar copywriters!
Like most Ghirardelli bars, this was lightly scored into 8 squares, each embossed with their distinctive soaring eagle logo. The chocolate smelled lightly woodsy and smoky.
It was crammed full of generous bits of toffee and slivers of almond that were clearly visible in the break. The toffee pieces were about as thick as the chocolate itself.
The chocolate was indeed decadent, with a smooth matte melt. I got light coffee notes and a sweet and slightly sour finish.
The toffee was the obvious star here. It was crunchy and cleanly cleaving, with a great buttery sweetness. Occasional bits of almond snuck through as well, adding a tinge of nutty praline.
I found it to be an addictively indulgent mix of creamy and crunchy and buttery and nutty. An OM.
The long-awaited continuation of my chocolate tasting quick hits from last week:
Frey’s Noir Authentique was the third of the three Frey bars I bought on sale at Target (the other two being their Tiramisu and Hot Chili Pepper). It had a nice nuttiness but a slightly bitter aftertaste, and its creamy melt gave way to an astringent finish. Altogether not bad, but there are better dark bars out there that are more interesting. Just an O.
Ghirardelli‘s dark and raspberry is another one of their new products, a molded and filled bar. The paperboard wrapper promises “delectably delicious raspberry filling made with real fruit surrounded by intense dark chocolate.” It’s actually kind of terrible. The filling is a horrifically unnatural shade of pink…
and it tastes as bright and artificial as it looks. It’s overly sweet and cloying, with a fake raspberry flavor that completely covers the dark chocolate flavor of the shell. A —.
I always like to end my tastings with a 100% bar to show that percentage isn’t everything. This time, I ended on a 99%, figuring what’s 1% between friends? The Lindt 99% bar was impressively packaged and heat sealed inside a gold tray. Despite the care, my bar was still somewhat bloomed.
As expected, the high percentage made it dry and chalky and bitter. It was so astringent that it sucked the moisture right out of my mouth. Underneath all that, there was an earthiness to the flavor. Still, I’ll never see extreme percentage bars as more than a fun tasting adventure; they’re just too intense for snacking. A —.
I threw a chocolate tasting party ages ago and have been sitting on these tasting notes since then. Today, some quick hits for the last Friday (alas!) of my spring break. Part II will come Monday, when I’m back (boo!) in class.
Ghirardelli Duet, from their new line of Luxe Milk chocolates, pairs “creamy milk chocolate” with “rich dark chocolate”. It’s divided along it’s heighth axis so that it looks like a milk chocolate bar with a thin dark chocolate backing.
It had a woodsy smell with some tobacco notes to it. I found it surprisingly smoky. Its thick and creamy melt combined with its complex flavor earned it high praise at my party and from me. An OMG.
Lindt Madagascar is a single-origin 65% dark chocolate bar from their Excellence line. It has a cool melt with a fatty feel to it. The finish was quite enjoyably fruity. Another party favorite; another OMG.
The Cafe Tasse 77% was a holiday gift from my friend Steve. It’s a higher cacao percentage than the 60% noir bar I previously reviewed. It had a sharp snap and was unusually thick – in this case, a reference to its physical dimensions, not its melt – with an arid finish. An O.
More quick hits to come on Monday. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to eke out one last weekend of fun in Albany as our men’s hockey team takes on the ECAC championship playoffs.
As I readied to write this post, I discovered that I’ve never formally reviewed any Ghirardelli chocolates on this blog, though I’ve eaten lots of Ghirardelli chocolates in my life. To remedy that, here’s a review of their Intense Dark Assortment.
First up, the Mint Bliss, a 60% cacao. It had a great snap and a creamy and smooth melt. There was just enough mint to make its presence known but not so much that it overwhelmed. And it was a nicely genuine mint flavor, not too toothpastey. The mint did, however, mostly cover any nuance to the chocolate, but I was okay with that.
The other 60% in the collection was Espresso Escape, dark chocolate with finely ground espresso beans. So finely ground, in fact, that they didn’t affect the texture of the bar at all. I expected dark chocolate with a nice coffee finish. Instead, the chocolate was much more bitter than I thought it would be, and I loved it. It was like eating a dark chocolate espresso bean in smooth chocolate bar form.
Last but not least was a 72% pure chocolate billed as Twilight Delight. It had a dry but smooth melt without any creaminess with a lovely sweet finish.
Overall, I’d give this assortment an OMG, with the Mint and the Espresso as my favorites. Ghirardelli does a great job of making delicious chocolate at affordable prices. And Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco is fun if you ever have the chance to visit – their ice cream sundaes with Ghirardelli chocolate sauce are decadent and divine.
After the success of my first chocolate tasting (notes here), I held a second one with the extra bars. Unfortunately, by the time the second tasting rolled around, most of the bars had bloomed thanks to New Haven humidity and temperature fluctuations and a lack of air conditioning. The Vosges chocolate bars were the only ones that survived because their wrappers are airtight. We tasted them anyway, and all the flavors were there; it’s just that the textures were all wrong. Sadness. Here’s what we tasted, with my notes:
- Green and Black’s milk, 34% – sweet, yogurty flavor; tastes like a Cadbury mini-egg. Thick texture.
- Dagoba milk, 37% – slightly fruitier than the Green and Black’s with a dusky finish.
- Vosges Macha (Japanese macha green tea in 41% deep milk) – woodsy dirt flavor, brittle texture. Tastes like green tea, as it should. I don’t like the taste of green tea, but if you do, this bar is true to its name.
- Vosges Woolloomooloo (roasted and salted macadamia nuts, Indonesian coconut, hemp seeds in 41% deep chocolate) – I’ve reviewed the truffle version of this bar. Nicely nutty, smells of coconut.
- Vosges Goji (Tibetan goji berries, pink Himalayan salt in 41% deep milk) – fruitiness to the bar; goji berries just taste like red berries. Saltiness works, I think.
- Vosges Mo’s Bacon Bar (applewood smoked bacon, alderwood smoked salt in 41% deep milk chocolate) – I bought another one of these bars because it’s such a great conversation piece for tastings.
- Chocolove dark chocolate, 55% – nuttiness to the flavor, which starts off sweet and has a long finish. Vanilla notes? Thick texture.
- Nirvana Single Origin Granada, 60% – fairly straightforward cocoa flavor with a strong roasted taste.
- Scharffen Berger 62% semisweet – fruity notes, sweet finish
- Vosges Calindia (Indian green cardamom, organic California walnuts, dried plums in 65% Venezualan dark chocolate) – strong spice flavor. Can taste the sweetness of the plums and feel where it adds texture.
- Nirvana Single Origin Santa Domingo, 67% – strong earthiness, dirt flavor. Not at all well received (the wrapper promised herbal tones, which must have been the dirt flavor people complained about).
- Green and Black’s Maya Gold (orange and spices) – on first taste, strong notes of pepper with a light orange finish. On second taste, orange flavor stronger. Many people said the bar tasted like marmalade.
- Scharffen Berger 70% bittersweet – super fruity with a cocoa finish
- Dagoba Conacado, 73% – nutty
- Dagoba New Moon, 74% – sweeter than the Conacado with a dark fruitiness
- Dagoba Xocolatl, 74% with chilies and nibs – slight fruitiness to the chocolate. STRONG chili flavor that wallops your taste buds on first impact. Not the way I like my chili chocolate.
- Endangered Species 88% Extreme Dark (panther) – vanilla scent with a nice smoky flavor.
- Ghirardelli 100% baking chocolate – completely dries up the mouth. Worse than the 100% La Maison du Chocolat bar.