Cultura Chocolate

Cultura Chocolate

Cultura Chocolate

Need some stocking stuffers for the chocoholic in your life? Look no further than Cultura Chocolate‘s small single origin bars. At only 23g a pop, they pack a punch. They are small but mighty, some might say.

Cultura is a company out of Denver, Colorado, producing bean-to-bar chocolate with cacao sourced from Belize, Guatemala, and Haiti.

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The 75% Belize bar is figgy and rich, with hints of smoky tobacco. It’s definitely best suited for that dark, mysterious friend who you never know what to buy for.

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Cultura offers two Haitian bars, one at 70% and the other at 85%. Both have nostalgic notes of malt that evoke memories of childhood chocolate consumption. Such qualities make them ideal for anyone you know who’s a kid at heart (go for the 85% if they’re an especially mature kid with a well developed palette).

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Last but not least, the 70% Guatemala is probably the fruitiest of the bunch, with notes of raisin and citrus. For lovers of the acidity of Madagascar cacao, this is definitely a bar to broaden their horizons. It’s for that person in your life who can be a bit sour at times, but is really a sweetie deep down.

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Cultura has single origin bars for the entire spectrum of chocolate loving people in your life, but let’s face it, the best gift is getting to taste-test all of them.

*Cultura graciously provided the chocolate for this review but the opinions here are my own.

Cello Chocolate

Cello Chocolate

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Even within the realm of handcrafted, bean-to-bar chocolate, there’s quite a lot of variation when it comes to the size of different operations. The more commercial they get, the more I start to question the legitimacy of what they are doing (yes I’m talking about you Mast Brothers). Rather I love finding the hidden gems of the bean-to-bar world. The brands you may have never heard of before, but definitely deserve the recognition.

Cello Chocolate is just that. They only make about 15 pounds of chocolate a day, but they are using beans from origins I’m pretty sure I’ve never tasted before. And if this site is any indication, I’ve tasted a lot of chocolate.

Ned and Debi Russell own Cello (they named it as such because Ned actually plays the Cello and draws similarities between the way good music and good chocolate can resonate with a person), and are producing their chocolate out of Nevada City, California. With Ned’s background in chocolate product development and Debi’s background in sales, they’ve brought their experiences together to bring bean-to-bar chocolate to the world. Having taken several trips to Belize, Trinidad, Ecuador, and the Dominican, they’ve spent time hand-picking the beans they want to use, and learning traditional, local methods of chocolate production to bring back to the US.

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Cello makes 6 different bars that I was fortunately enough to get to taste test recently. They were all unique, but one of the especially standout ones was their Trinidad bourbon barrel aged bar. They actually brought bourbon barrels back to California with them from Kentucky in order to make these chocolate. You very much get honey and sweet corn notes from the aging process in the bourbon barrels. I can’t say I’ve ever tasted chocolate like it.

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Another one of my favourites was the Ghana with sea salt. My love for salted chocolate is definitely not unknown, and combining this with an origin I had never tried before made for a win win. It had a richly chocolate flavour but also a fruitiness to it, which was brought out even more so by the salt.

The Costa Rica bar was also notable, largely due to its smoothness, and the nutty, coffee-like notes it offered. But honestly, if you’re looking to try any origins that are lesser known than your typical Madagascar or Dominican Republic bars, Cello has you covered.

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If you want to try the bars for yourself, you can order them online here. The set would also make a great gift for the chocolate aficionado in your life!

*The chocolate for this article was graciously provided by Cello, however the opinions here are my own.

Starchild Chocolate

Starchild Chocolate

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I’m typically a purist when it comes to chocolate, but sometimes you stumble upon a product that has managed to find a balance between letting the chocolate itself shine through, while adding additional ingredients that elevate the characteristics and nuances that are already present. Enter Starchild chocolate, a company producing single origin and fine flavoured bars out of Willits, California. Their chocolate contains a minimal number of ingredients, namely cacao and cacao butter, with the kicker being that it is all sweetened by coconut sugar. As founder of Starchild chocolate, Ash Maki, puts it, “the most noticeable difference that I taste anyways is that when you bite into a piece of chocolate made with regular sugar you taste the sweetness first for ten or so seconds then the chocolate flavors develop. When biting into a piece of ours you taste the chocolate first thing and the sweetness is very even through the entire flavor development process.” While you don’t necessary notice the flavour of the coconut sugar itself, it’s an excellent complement to the chocolate, which it lets shine through more so than normal sugar does.

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I was fortunate to get to try 4 of Starchild‘s bars: Ecuador Wild and Raw, Tanzania Kokoa Kamili, Rio Tuma Nicaragua, and Salted Caramel Almond. All are 70% bars but tasting them side by side, the spectrum of flavour profiles is quite astounding. The Ecuador Wild and Raw is made from unroasted cacao beans, so it really is just the fermentation process that contributes to the flavour profile. In contrast, the Rio Tuma Nicaragua bar is richly chocolatey, with alkaline flavours of cocoa powder coming through, very reminiscent of a homestyle chocolate cake, or batch of brownies, without that excessive sweetness. Then there’s the Tanzanian bar, which recently took home bronze in the Americas category and silver in the USA category at the International Chocolate Awards. For me, the standout aspect of this bar is its texture. It’s lusciously smooth and creamy, so much so that it could easily trick you into thinking it’s milk chocolate. The flavour is soft, subtle, slightly fruity, and not surprisingly, very easy to eat. Last but not least, the Salted Caramel Almond is made from Ecuadorian cacao, sprinkled with chopped salted caramel almonds. Salt and chocolate with the additional of crunchy almonds? This one is especially munchable!

Want to try some for yourself? Check out Starchild’s online store and order yourself some coconut-sugar sweetened chocolate today!

*The chocolate for this review was kindly supplied by Starchild, however the opinions here are my own.

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Introducing Mionetto Prosecco!

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Photo credit (for all images): Laura AMINI

Bubbles typically get reserved for special occasions, but there’s really no reason you can’t drink them anytime, especially with Mionetto Prosecco’s recent launch into the Canadian market.

If you’re not familiar with it, Mionetto has been around since 1887 and is one of the leading brands of prosecco in Italy, as well as the States. They use only the best grapes, which makes for a light, easy drinking glass of bubbles. Fun fact (because if you know me at all, you know my love for obscure, nerdy facts) – the Mionetto label actually sits at a 27 degree angle to pay homage to the grade of their vineyards.

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Mionetto Canada recently had their launch party into the SAQ in Quebec. Held at Fiorellino, it was a night filled with fun entertainment, tasty bites, and of course, the Mionetto Prosecco poured freely.

I really appreciate that Mionetto is not too sweet. The Prestige Prosecco Treviso AOC Brut “Orange Label” has a fruitiness to it, but it’s also crisp and clean. It’s perfect for sipping on its own, but also paired wonderfully with Fiorellino’s succulent porchetta and handmade gnocchi.

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The evening was also supplemented by entertainment, including a live DJ, photobooth, and what I found especially unique, the opportunity to contribute to an abstract painting that represented the Mionetto brand’s colours.

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It’s difficult to say what was more memorable, the event, the prosecco, or the combination of both. I would say it’s likely the latter but regardless, I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself reaching for a bottle of Mionetto the next time I feel the need for prosecco.

*Mionetto is available at the SAQ in Quebec ($18.95).

Jakeman’s Maple Syrup

Jakeman’s Maple Syrup

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If there is one way in which living in Montreal has changed me, it’s through the development of an undying love for maple syrup. I’ve always liked the stuff, but now it’s pushing the boundaries of an obsession. I put maple syrup on everything. It’s my coffee-sweetener of choice, I use it to flavour oats, and most recently, I discovered that it blends superbly with tomatoes, peaches, and duck confit.

It’s no surprise that when I was offered a sample of Jakeman’s maple syrup, I jumped pounced on it.

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Before using it in any specific application, a taste test was in order. A spoonful of maple syrup helps the medicine go down as they say, right? Voted Canada’s best tasting maple syrup, Jakeman’s tastes like what you’d expect maple syrup to taste like. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it tastes like pure maple. There are no notes of burned sugar, or caramelization, rather it’s light, and sweet, with just the right balance of mapleness (making up words here, I’m sorry). It makes Jakeman’s especially versatile because you don’t have to worry about the maple syrup over-powering other ingredients in whatever recipe you are making. Or, you can just pour it onto fresh, piping hot pancakes, crepes, or waffles and call it a day.

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I opted for a somewhat eclectic Saturday brunch comprised of a Dutch baby pancake, topped with Quebec heirloom tomatoes, Ontario peaches, duck confit, and of course, Jakeman’s maple syrup. I didn’t think I was going to want the additional sweetness on top of the already candy-like tomatoes and peaches, but it brought everything together with salty, savoury duck confit. Sometimes weird can be good.

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So whether you are looking for an everyday sweetener that’s a bit more decadent than sugar, or you want to experiment with maple syrup in your sweet and savoury recipes, try Jakeman’s the next time you want to celebrate some pure Canadiana.

**The maple syrup reviewed in this post was suppled by Canada the Store, however the opinions expressed here are my own.