Tuesday, October 14, 2014

jcoco chocolates

all photographs ©
Ron Dunlap Photography
Jcoco knows, presentation isn't everything but when you have the whole nine yards going, from joyous, brightly colored packaging and velvety, dazzling flavors you have three 3 oz of pure joy in your hands.

Jcoco doesn't skimp on your pleasure. To start, their vivid packaging in bright greens, purples and fanciful designs brings to mind the same anticipation you have when unwrapping a package from you favorite luxury retailer. Jcoco, is the Tiffany of chocolates. The packaging is made from gorgeous thick board that just screams class - except when does class every have to scream? Inside each box is another surprise. Three mini-bars await you, delightfully wrapped with happy inspiring black and white photos. This makes these exquisite chocolate bars the perfect gift for your favorite chocoholics this upcoming gift-giving season. And if giving chocolate weren't enough - every purchase of jcoco gives back in the form of a fresh, healthy serving of food to someone who would otherwise go without. Affiliated with The Greater Boston Food Bank, Northwest Harvest,SF Marin Food Bank and Food Bank for New York City this is one chocolate that goes beyond delivering sensational couture flavors.

We might also add, many of these chocolate offerings are all-natural, non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, and Kosher so you can reduce your sweet tooth guilt factor too!

After being smitten with the presentation, my Argentine Tango classmates eagerly began our tasting. We started of course with Peanut Strawberry Baobab as it came in the brightest packaging, and we're all for shiny objects. If you still crave for PB&J in your lunchbox this chocolate has your name written all over it. Immersed in a rich, dark chocolate, you pick up nice crunch bits of peanuts and a surprisingly, satisfying rich, chewy strawberry pâté.

Our instructor demanded the Agave Quinoa Sesame next. This bar boasts little puffed pieces of quinoa that crunch delicately under your teeth, followed by a sexy honey (actually agave) flavor and then ending in that unique taste of toasted sesame. We were all silenced momentarily until she declared this was her favorite chocolate ever and promptly claimed the remaining bar and went to teach the Viennese Waltz.

One bar short but still rich with experience we tackled the Black Fig Pistachio next. Figs have a special place in my heart. We have a Black Mission Fig tree in our yard. This tree has become the watering hole for animals of every persuasion - red foxes, skunks, possoms, Red Cheeked Bulbuls, Mockingbirds, Western Jays and a squirrel named Oliver to name a few who get sloshed with fermented figs. But I digress. I have a soft spot for figs, pun intended. In this confection, the figs pair with a toasted, fresh pistachios so you have the complex, chewy chorus of figs paired with tasty, crispy nuts.

Our last bar was the Edamame Sea Salt. This had to be especially most excellent because it knocked the Black Fig Pistachio off my list for my favorite chocolate bar. The edamames are toasted, making them quite different that how you might usually enjoy them. As such they acquire a habit inducing nutty taste and with the touch of salt gives this a unique sophisticated flavor. A flavor, that creeps into your mind and soul and permanently into your dreams.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

An Indulgent Guide to Chocolate

A beautiful visual history of chocolate for you to enjoy created by MyChocolate, a specialist provider of chocolate making workshops in London, Manchester and Brighton.

Whether you're trying to sweeten an upcoming corporate event, celebrate a birthday or milestone or just looking for something to spice up your love life by learning to make irresistible chocolates yourself - MyChocolate is your cocoa partner! Doesn't chocolate just makes everything?

MyChocolate has served over 109,097 satistfied chocolate connoisseurs with their organic chocolate treats as of this post - will you be the lucky 109,098th?

A Guide to Chocolate InfographicProvided by MyChocolate

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Hedonist Chocolates 2014 Spring Truffle Collection

all photographs ©
Ron Dunlap Photography
Girls and boys, if it's your waistline you're worried about come this Easter debauchery, you would be well advised to stay clear of Hedonist Chocolates latest truffle creations. These truffles are so sinfully addictive it's not the one truffle you need be worried about, it is the entire box. And how you will be tested. Each truffle is a careful balance of unusual flavors and creamy, velvety, rich textures that will require you to reach into your most deepest, darkest reserves to prevent yourself from taking the box, and turning into Gollum.

The beginning in this case starts with Hedonist's beautiful packaging, perfect as a gift for you, a friend, a lover - and did we mention for you?

Inside we found this devastating, array of truffles: Tarragon Carrot, Cardamom Rosewater, Hibiscus Cordial, Strawberry Rhubarb, Earl Grey Caramel and Strawberry Rhubarb.

We started out chocolate bender with Tarragon Carrot because it sounded so unusual. The truffle itself is a work of art with a beautiful little candied piece of carrot on it. Still, we did wonder - would we like it? Who knew chocolate, carrot and tarragon was a match made in heaven? This is so good you feel like you want to get an entire vat of the filling and just crawl into it. The earthy sweet carrot flavor blends perfectly with the chocolate and the Tarragon leaves just a perfect - almost minty after taste. And so for all of you who love to try something different we highly recommend this jewel. This truffle was my personal favorite.

Next, we forced ourselves to sample the Cardamom Rosewater. I am a sucker for the spice Cardamom and this chocolate did not disappoint. Wonderful and rich with the gingery, cinnamony taste of Cardomom with a light ribbon of Rosewater to dance on your tastebuds after the chocolate has melted deliciously away. We made short order of this Truffle and we think a box of these chocolates would be de rigueur if you're hoping to get lucky or needing to get out of the doghouse.

The Hibiscus Cordial attracted us next. This is the truffle with the elegant hibiscus petal perched on top. A word to the wise - do not cut or attempt to share this chocolate. Instructions: pop into your bouche, bite down and as the cordial bursts, close your eyes and enjoy the burst of flowery flavor. Delicious and if you are a Chocolate covered cherry fanatic - this most certainly needs to be added to your chocolate bucket list.

For tea and salted caramel lovers, Hedonist Chocolates presents the Earl Grey Caramel. And just like every confection in this collection - it is just enough unique - not unique for unique's sake mind you, but unique in that it's a sensation of taste, flavor and texture. So good.

The last chocolate we tried was the Strawberry Rhubarb. This one was my husband's favorite. When sliced open, the truffle revealed a tiny layer of strawberry and rhubarb jelly and underneath rich velvety truffle. Simply divine and the most perfect way to end our Hedonist chocolate tasting.

hedonist chocolates contact information

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Sweetly Demented

Sweetly Demented White Chocolate Skullall photographs ©
Ron Dunlap Photography
If the recent holidays, Valentines and Easter has taken you overboard with saccharine sweetness in the form of hearts with velvet ribbons and cute bunnies then a visit to Sweetly Demented is clearly in order.

Sivonne Imnotelling's vision is a slightly maleovolent, more sinister twist of the dark side of chocolate (although she uses white and milk chocolate too). Inspired by Tim Burton who Sivonne claims to have "watched too much of..." (as if you could ever watch too much of Tim Burton), Sweetly Demented seems to be the lovechild of Tim Burton, Edward Gorey with a sprinkle of some Victorian malfeasance mixed in.

The chocolate is all cleverly designed: Bird Skulls, your strange relatives wooden souvenir, a dissident candy rose in a ornate chocolate frame - all perfect for the a slightly twisted, gothic love - or better, an unrequited love. Hunger Games anyone?

Bird Skulls

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Amore Chocolates

Assorted Amore Chocolate TrufflesAll photographs ©
Ron Dunlap Photography
Like love, Amore Chocolates has something for everyone. Decadent. opulent truffles? Check. Filled with made from scratch buttercream fillings, ganache and homemade caramel? Check. The classics just as you remember them in your best dreams? Check. Adventurous fillings made with ingredients that would please even a Portlandia foodie? Check.

The only thing is, if you don't like rich, silky, decadent chocolates, then Amore Chocolates is not for you. Thankfully, that's not me.

Amore chocolates arrived on my doorstep in a unassuming box. But when the lid was removed, it revealed a center chock full of tempting truffles and a rapturous chocolate aroma filled the room. Amore Chocolates sells by the pound and they don't skimp when they are packing. The box was literally packed to it's gills. And so when they say a 1, 2 or 3lb box they really mean it.

Amore Chocolate Box
As an homage to Jeremy Lin we devoured the Chinese 5
Spice first. Chinese 5 Spice is a combination of star anise, fennel, cinnamon, Szechuan Peppercorns, and Cloves. It is used in many dishes including interestingly Mao Tse Tung's favorite pork dish (which incidentally is also my husband's favorite pork dish). But for those who might worry this spice may be more compatable with savory than sweet - fear not. It is works perfectly with chocolate. And, for any of you chocolate lovers who were early adapters to gourmet Chocolate with Chili - this is the Chocolate with Chili, Chocolate and you would must try it!

I fell off the wagon with Amore Chocolates'truffles filled with beer, wine and spirit ganaches. The Balsamic Cabernet, Bourbon and German Wheat Beer were simply divine. The dark, velvety and complex ganache mingled with the snappy chocolate exterior perfectly. After they were all imbibed, I felt like belting out "Baby Please Don't Go" but everyone was glad when I didn't.

Amore Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Chiffon

After slipping into a chocolate coma for a few hours, we decided to tackle the white chocolates next: Eggnog and Pumpkin Spice. Each center was especially creamy and sinfully rich - probably because their secret ingredient is butter. The Pumpkin Spice was absolutely, irrevocably delicious. It's the kind of truffle you can eat all day and all night until you need to invest in some "I've been eating too much chocolate" jeans - not that anyone is suggesting you can ever eat too much chocolate.

Amore Chocolate Coconut
For purists, there is a wonderful selection as well. Dark chocolate lovers, make sure you include at least one Seriously Dark, Amore Chocolates' most popular truffle and a Mudslide in Dark in your box. And for those who have a sweeter tooth, Mudslide comes in Mud (milk chocolate as well) and be sure to ask for a Coconut Chiffon.

I would be remiss not mentioning the Cinnamon Espresso. This chocolate was developed by a reknowned surgeon and very, very serious chocoholic, known to horrify his dinner companions by downing four pot de crème in one sitting, Dr. Alan Rothblatt. It is a perfectly balanced little treasure of a chocolate and a superb example on how Amore Chocolates collaborates with their customers. So if you have a special diet; require a gluten free, vegan or kosher chocolate, Amore Chocolates can work with you to create gems of your own.

Amore Chocolate Box

amore chocolates contact information

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Enstrom's Milk Chocolate Almond Toffee

Enstroms Milk Chocolate Covered ToffeePhotograph ©
Ron Dunlap/Doglight Studios
On the eve of Thursday, December 1, I had one of those days. It started off with one of those nights where you knew you had to go to be early on account the next day was a big day, with lots of important things to do. Where you knew that from the minute you got up your heart would be racing in order to finish these important things which of course in retrospect aren’t that important but that’s another entirely different story.

In this particular case, I had to organize my menagerie of doves, finches and one grey cat with white feet so I go see Elizabeth Taylor’s auction preview at Christie’s in New York, and be on a marketing panel that I had agreed to months ago. Problem was, that night was the night of the Santa Ana winds. For those of you in states that have “weather” let me tell you – in California, we’re not prepared for it – especially Southern California. These said winds started around 11pm and lasted to about 4am. The winds rocked our houses, uprooted full-grown trees, blew out windows, eliminated any hope for sleep and horrors shut off our electricity. No electricity meant – my cell phone started running out of juice halfway through the day, I couldn’t get to my car in the garage to drive to Home Depot to get some wood to nail down a blown out window or run a my thousand other errands and worst – I couldn’t get on my desk top computer to email my presentation for my talk onto my portable computer.

Enstroms Almond Toffee
What we did without electricity? While pondering this great thought, I heard the postman (rain or shine as you know) leave a nondescript cardboard shipping box at my doorstep. Upon opening it, I found an elegant luminescent gift box labeled World Famous Enstrom’s Milk Chocolate Almond Toffee – the kind of gift box that you would be perfectly at home on a table decked out with tea, cakes and white gloves. Each layer is carefully crafted from the pearly exterior to the carefully tissued interior that opens to reveal a heaping, generous layer of delectable, chocolate covered toffee.

Enstrom's Toffee Box
For toffee aficionados, toffee is the combination of all the things that are destined to prevent you from ever achieving that enviable six-pack - sorry Tony Horton. We’re talking about sweet cream butter, sugar, salt and of course chocolate and crushed almonds and honestly if that’s what we’re talking about – who cares about that six pack – right? But what makes this toffee extra special is that their recipe which was perfected by Chet Enstrom three generations ago. The result is a rich, crispy, buttery, silky and salty toffee that is coated with milky chocolate creamy goodness and liberally dotted and sprinkled with toasted, crushed almonds. Each bite feel joyous and the joy doesn't have to end there my friends. Enstrom also carries a Dark Chocolate Almond Toffee, Gourmet Chocolates, Turtles and Truffles as well - so you can satisfy your sweet tooth in a myriad of ways.

After savoring a luxurious piece – OK more than one piece - like a proverbial rainbow - Enstrom's made my day turn around. My neighbors who could get into their garage, came by boarded up my broken window, friends brought over dove food and took me and my computer to a power source - and throughout we broke toffee together. And, the day turned around - such is the power of Enstrom’s World Famous Milk Chocolate Almond Toffee and the power of friends.

enstrom contact information


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sweet Moments Bite Sized Brownies by Pillsbury

Sweet Moments PillsburyI normally don't write reviews for anything other than artisan chocolatiers but, I had to make an exception for Pillsbury as I have happened to love the Pillsbury Doughboy since I was a little girl. I could never get enough of watching him get the poked in the belly and then giggling afterwards a much awaited event that occurred at the end of every commercial. My obsession with him was such that my mom saved the box tops and got me my very own stuffed Pillsbury Doughboy. When he first arrived, I was horribly disappointed as honestly, he looked nothing like the Pillsbury Doughboy I saw on TV - but my mom told me he had dried out a bit in the mail and that was good enough explanation for me. He was my favorite toy - gracing my bed up until I went to college. I still have him. So when I was contacted by Pillsbury, I couldn't say no - and I was glad I didn't.

Besides some other non-chocolaty goodies like Grands, Crescents and Pillsbury Turnovers (why doesn't Ralphs carry these?), Pillsbury has just introduced SweetMoments Bite Sized Brownies. This is not a completely apt description because they are so much more than just brownies. True, they are bite sized and have a brownie in them, but there is no mention of the silky cheesecake, the layer of caramel or raspberry and the fact they are frozen. Somehow you just know if you take some brownie, raspberry, cheesecake and coat it with chocolate and then freeze it - you know how all the ingredients together are just better - and they are.

Each bite packs a big flavorful and decadent punch - perfect for after a meal when you're craving something sweet. The cheesecake is silky, the brownie has a nice chew to it and the caramel or raspberry filling is satisfying but not overpowering. After you bite into these little morsels, you can enjoy seeing the layers of goodness which somehow always makes it more pleasurable in much the same way there is a big difference between a slice of cake and a heap of icing versus the cake being nicely layered. But the best part of the deal is it's only 190 calories for three. The only problem is - how to limit yourself to three? Thankfully there are 12 in a bag - and a steal at about $3.00/bag.

Found in the refrigerated section of discerning grocery stores.

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