Dandelion Chocolate

Dandelion Chocolate

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I’ve been meaning to try Dandelion chocolate for what feels like forever now, so when they sent me three of their bars to sample last week, I was thrilled to finally get to do some taste testing.

All 3 bars were 70% cocoa of different origins, so it was quite interesting to line them up side by side and evaluate the differences between the bars.

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We started with the Madagascar, which as expected, was quite acidic and citrusy. There were also lingering notes of raspberry jam, which I found not dissimilar to Swedish berries.

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Next came the Dominican bar (made with beans harvested from the same Zorzal bird sanctuary as the Hummingbird bar I also tried recently). Not surprisingly, it was much less acidic than the Madagascar bar. Rather, I tasted smoky, tobacco-like chocolate with nuances of raisin and walnut.

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Last but not least was the Venezuelan bar, which after reading the tasting notes, I was most excited to try. When it first hits your palette, it tastes like cocoa power melting in your mouth. This bar is chocolate that tastes like chocolate – fudgy and rich. There’s also a pleasant hint of roasted almonds to finish. As I expected, it was my favourite for its full-on chocolate profile.

If chocolate tasting is something you want to get into, I honestly think this is the best way to do it. Buy yourself 3 or 4 different bars around the same cocoa percentage but from completely different origins, sit down, and compare them. Close your eyes, let the chocolate melt in your mouth, and take notes about what you taste. Then have some fun tasting them blind to see if you can pick out which is which. It’s a great way to train your palette; it’s educational and it tastes good!

**Thanks to Dandelion for supplying the chocolate for this post. The opinions shared here are exclusively my own.

A little of my lately – April 2016 edition

A little of my lately – April 2016 edition

It’s hard to believe my first year of classes at McGill are over, just like that. Some might question whether I’m getting my Ph.D. in clinical psychology, or in eating my way through the city, but either way I’d call it a successful past 7 months or so. Here are some snaps of what I’ve been up to lately.

As you may of seen via Instagram, a few weeks ago J and I made it our mission to check out all of the top doughnut contenders in Montreal during #mtldonutcrawl2016. There may have only been us 2 participants, but I think we made a decent dent in the city’s doughnut stock over the course of the afternoon.

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Cremy Patisserie had absolutely massive (and massively delicious) offerings like this fleur de sel caramel number.

Trou de Beignes

Trou de Beigne had mini doughnuts which meant we got to sample more of them. My favourite was the Matcha one with Rice Krispies.

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The cronuts at La Cornetteria were a bit of a letdown – basically just mouthfuls of grease. But you can’t win ’em all.

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We ended on a high note with fresh, warm cinnamon and cocoa sugar donuts from Chez Boris. I later found out that if you go there before 10AM on weekdays, you get free doughnuts with your coffee. Now that’s a deal! #mtldonutcrawl2016 was a roaring success if you ask me. You can read more about some of Canada’s best doughnuts over at Eat North where I’ve been continuing to write up a storm.

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Last weekend J’s parents were in town for a visit. Needless to say, a lot of eating was involved. We headed out to the country to experience the shock and awe of a cabane a sucre for an evening (for those who have yet to be initiated into this Quebecois tradition, it’s an over-the-top feast to celebrate the maple sugaring off season). I knew it was going to be a lot of food, but I still managed to underestimate just how ridiculous it would in fact be. I’m not sure I’ve ever consumed that much pork and maple syrup in a single sitting before. They put a little baggy of cracklings on each table and I aimlessly munched on them all night, in between bites of sausage, ham, pancakes, and of course, tarte au sucre and jack wax.

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The next morning we went for brunch at Cirkus back in Montreal, and somehow managed to consume even more food. Look, there were greens involved though!

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I inadvertently did a detox by signing up for dental surgery a few days later that limited me to eating soft foods only. Ok, well maybe not that much of a detox. I got bored of mashed sweet potatoes after about a day and a half and decided that ice cream was in order. I’m not sure it was worth the 45 minutes I waited in line for it at La Diperie but soft serve on a hot day tends to hit the spot.

La Diperie

Other food related finds as of late:

Another stellar meal at Le Mousso. This take on borscht was stunning.

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Tacos and some killer shrimp and grits at Fortune.

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Pretty chocolates from Divine.

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My favourite dish in Montreal, J’s scallops and white miso at Arts Cafe.

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The ooziest chevre you ever did see.

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My secret partner in crime. Stay tuned to see what trouble we get up to next. Once my mouth is healed I’m feeling like a really greasy burger is in order. Maybe one kinda like this…we shall see. In the meantime, happy weekend!

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Hummingbird Chocolate

Hummingbird Chocolate

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I’ve said it before and I will probably say it again; Canada has an incredible selection of bean-to-bar chocolate. For a country that is too cold to ever stand a chance of actually producing cacao beans, chocolate makers here sure know how to source the optimal product, and have the skills to pump out bars that can hold their own against any others around the globe. Take for example Hummingbird chocolate out of Almonte, Ontario. They cleaned up at the 2015 International Chocolate Awards, receiving acclaim for both their flavoured and single origin bars. I was fortunate to get to sample their many offerings recently and tended to agree with the verdict from the awards; they’re good, really good.

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Let’s start with a bar I knew I would en”joy” the second I read the description. As the name suggests, Hummingbird’s PB & Joy bar combines the ever-popular flavour pairing of chocolate and peanut butter. But get rid of any preconceptions you have of sugar-laden chocolate peanut butter cups. With this bar you taste both the chocolate and the peanuts to their fullest potential. Not tooth-achingly sweet, it’s a grown-up version of a chocolate pb treat.

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Their Hispaniola bar made from beans sourced from the Dominican Republic is also worth noting. I always like cacao from this region because I love the combined fruitiness and tobacco notes you get when it melts in your mouth. It’s a winner, literally and figuratively.

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The Zorzal bar is particularly interesting, not only because of its lingering notes of apricot and pecan, but because a portion of the proceeds from the bar’s sales go towards supporting a bird sanctuary in the Dominican Republic. The Zorzal is a songbird that spends its summers in Canada, and its winters in the Dominican. It is threatened with extinction so the sanctuary in the Dominican helps to protect it’s habitat.

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I also really liked Hummingbird’s fleur de sel bar (so much so that I devoured it before remembering to take a picture), with salt sourced from Vancouver Island Salt Co. Their other flavours include the spicy Mayan bar, as well as the honey lavender bar, both of which ingredients are sourced locally.

To try Hummingbird’s bars for yourself, check out their online store, or see where you can find their chocolate near you!

Erithaj Chocolate

Erithaj Chocolate

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The more I taste single origin bars from Vietnam, the more I fall in love with chocolate from this country. The beans have such a distinct flavour, unlike those from anywhere else. Compared to say, Madagascar, whose chocolate is characteristically acidic and citrusy, Vietnamese chocolate is spicy and rich, as if wisps of cinnamon, nutmeg, and other spices have been delicately infused into it.

Needless to say, when I heard about Erithaj and their line of exclusively Vietnamese chocolate, I had to try it.

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Erithaj is a company that operates out of Strasbourg, France. However, all of their chocolate comes from Southern Vietnam, specifically the region around the Mekong Delta. Interestingly, the cacao plants are grown in and amongst coconut trees, lending to the unique terroir of Erithaj’s products.

Their bars range all the way from 40% milk to 80% dark. Despite the fact that they are all of Vietnamese origin, each has its own flavour profile, which really comes out when you taste them side by side.

Take the 40% milk and 70% dark Ben Tre bars for example. While the milk has hints of caramel and coffee, the dark is much more fruity, and also carries a slight acidity.

One of my favourites was the 58% Mo Cay dark milk bar. Right off the bat you get notes of banana, which mellow into soft caramel. It’s the perfect balance if you want to satisfy your craving for sweet, milk chocolate while still savouring and appreciating the taste of the cacao itself.

The limited edition 70% Chu Lam bar is also worth taking note of. The beans for this bar were fermented differently from the others, such that they have taken on an intense, chocolate flavour. I know it seems redundant and not overly informative to describe chocolate as tasting like chocolate, but when you try bars like this, it all makes sense. The Chu Lam bar tastes the way you want and expect chocolate to taste.

In addition to its bars, Erithaj also offers couverture chocolate and cocoa powder, for all of your baking needs. Baking with good chocolate makes such a difference in the quality of the final product, even if it’s something as simple as a batch of fudgy brownies.

Find out where you can buy Erithaj chocolate here, or order online.

*Thanks to Erithaj for supplying the chocolate for this review. Although the chocolate was provided to me, the opinions here are exclusively my own.

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French Broad Chocolate

French Broad Chocolate

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I tend to have a soft spot for any company with a good origin story and in that regard, French Broad chocolate is about as good as it gets. In a nutshell (or in a cacao bean pod perhaps?), owners Dan and Jael met at a wedding, hit it off, planned a trip to Costa Rica together, loved it so much that they decided to move there, opened up a cafe/dessert shop, and starting learning all about chocolate. After gathering as much knowledge as they could about chocolate, they eventually moved back to the US and started making their own. Thus French Broad was born. The name itself is probably not what you would assume at first glance. It in fact comes from the French Broad River, which runs through Asheville, North Carolina where French Broad chocolate is located.

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I was fortunate enough to sample the bars in French Broad’s line up recently. There are 8 in total, half of which are single origin bars from countries like Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, and of course, Costa Rica. The 73% bar from Guatemala was one of my favourites with notes of concord grape that almost came through as a piney-ness, akin to maple sap. French Broad also offers a 100% bar, which is a blend of beans from 6 different origins. Melted down it makes for the perfect addition to homemade Nutella.

Finally, they make 3 flavoured bars: coffee, sea salt, and malted milk. Unlike the single origin bars which almost force you to taste and savour them, these bars make for easy (almost too easy) snacking. The malted milk was probably my favourite, and also the most unique. The malts (which they get from a local grain miller) add flavours of cinnamon and nutmeg that remind me of the frozen swirl ice cream malts I love so much. And what can I say, the coffee bar isn’t half bad either, especially when baked into a pan of uber fudgy brownies.

To find out where you can get your hands on some French Broad bars to taste as-is, or add into your favourite chocolate recipes, check here.

**Thanks to French Broad for supplying the chocolate for this review. Although the chocolate was provided to me, the opinions here are exclusively my own.

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