3 Musketeers Hot Cocoa with Marshmallow

France, I love you, but you’re not exactly known for your strange candies and treats. While green tea pastries and a menagerie of macarons can be found almost anywhere, they lack spin-offs of classic American products a la Japan (with the ignoble exception of the Croque MacDo) and such, find me longing for Twix’s sugar cookie and caramel apple releases this fall.
Luckily, after reaching out to Mars, they sent an early release of their 3 Musketeers Hot Cocoa with Marshmallow minis, an exciting addition to their 2012 winter line. It’s definitely a candy I’ll be stocking up on before I’m surrounded by Haribo and Nestle Lion bars! And hopefully, gummy Eiffel Towers, too, if sixth grade memory serves me correctly.

The chilly confection comes in 25-calorie minis and will later be released in a regular sized 2.13 oz. bar as well. This tastes more like cocoa with marshmallows than you’d expect- the milk chocolate enhances the bittersweet flavors in the nougat, a puffier, airier example than the regular bar. In appearance, nothing differentiates it from the regular 3 Musketeers bar. I would have liked to see some marshmallow pieces or a stronger visual cue toward the wintry theme. The texture is squashy with a firmness and bounce to it suggestive of a marshmallow, but has a density more akin to marshmallow fluff. The flavor is creamy and satisfying, and even incorporates some of the powdery cornstarch and sugar notes of marshmallows melting into a mild bittersweet cocoa flavoring. One or two bites was really satisfying.

I wanted to test the integrity of the marshmallow filling, so I popped a few into the microwave to see if the texture was more than just the power of suggestion. Whoa! Within fifteen seconds in the microwave, one of my candies was obliterated and working its way down the side of the bowl. I’ve seen videos of the regular bars having similar results, but in these, the toasted marshmallow flavor was even more intense after it melted. It hardened up into a very crispy treat! I think this is a successful snack, even if it doesn’t radically reinvent the wheel, and offers a seasonal twist far better than differently colored packaging or the ubiquitous winter mint flavoring.

Taza Naranja y Canela Chocolate

Yum yum yum. The weather is hot outside but I’m snacking on the latest release from Taza, slated for a December introduction in time for the holidays. The Naranja y Canela dark chocolate wheel is delightful, just as nuanced as their other bars, with a distinctly wintry twist. Featuring vanilla bean, orange oils, cinnamon, cloves and other spices, each bite recalls the warm, spicy flavors of the holiday season.

The flavors in this bar are so nuanced! The banana-hinted chocolate base yields and transitions smoothly to the spices. While the orange isn’t as forward as some dark chocolate orange zest bars I’ve had, there’s a distinctly floral flavor that brings out the bittersweet flavors in the cinnamon bark. It’s delicious, and I love the grainy texture. It’s a very rustic bar, versatile for all functions and needs. I love using these in baking and making hot drinks out of them, too.

porcinipleasuresU: wats up
foodie8910: nm u
porcinipleasuresU: in brn rm of sex er lol confection…u like ur new macbook?
foodie8910: kewl
foodie8910: ya thanx its super
porcinipleasuresU: cummin up with new things 4 us 2 try……new kinds of shrooms
foodie8910: kewl
porcinipleasuresU: u dnt like shrooms ne more?
foodie8910: their okay i guess
foodie8910: cnt relly talk im with a friend
porcinipleasuresU: who r u with??
porcinipleasuresU: hellooooo??
porcinipleasuresU: where did u go???
— foodie8910 is away —
— foodie8910 is back —
— foodie8910 is away —
— foodie8910 is back —
porcinipleasuresU: hey what happened?
foodie8910: sry had 2 pee
foodie8910: with my friend taza naranja y canela
porcinipleasuresU: WHO
biotaza: u can call me orange and cinnamon :-{)D

porcinipleasuresU: wtf is that? and wtf r u doin here? this is a private chat hello!!!!
biotaza: it’s a smiley with a moustache and a beard lol
foodie8910: lol isn’t he funny?
porcinipleasuresU: ummmmmmm, we need to talk, who is this guy?!
biotaza: i’m made of orange oils, cinnamon, vanilla, and organic mexican chocolate. :/)~>
porcinipleasuresU: plz stop making those emoticons
foodie8910: met taza @ the ffs this summer…we totes hit it off n hes comin 2 visit in december to live here 4 good!!!
porcinipleasuresU: o
biotaza: i thi
biotaza: nk we cud all b friends :—D–B
foodie8910: hes all fairtrade organic n he lives in bostonnnnn too
porcinipleasuresU: wtf this is so screwed up
porcinipleasuresU: i bought u this new macbook iphone n blackberry so we cud IM not so u cud meet other chocolates!!!
foodie8910: w/e
porcinipleasuresU: laters baby
porcinipleasuresU: btw i hate u
porcinipleasuresU: btw my audi is a rental
porcinipleasuresU: btw im not really 100% dark chocolate i just said that so ud eat me
porcinipleasuresU: btw im seeing other chix
— porcinipleasuresU has signed off —
biotaza: so what do u wanna do today
biotaza: u wanna cyber?
biotaza: do u have to give back the macbook now?
foodie8910: no
foodie8910: maybe
foodie8910: so do u like to bake?
biotaza: yes ūüėČ

Zotter Mitzi Blue Hemp Plantation Bar

Zotter! The holy grail of chocolate! You have no idea how excited I am to try this for the first time. This falls somewhere between the acquisition of our kitten and my 6th birthday party. A pony was involved. Shit got real pretty fast. It’s also worth noting that I basically have one week left before I officially have to start caring about politics. Many blogs, politically inclined or not, may be mentioning the Healthcare Reform Act, psychotic New York Elmo,¬†or the end of Stolen Valor. Not this guy. I have exactly one more week of blissful apathy. Once I get my LSAT scores, it’ll be time for me to become an informed adult. I’ve heard of those. And soon, I shall become one.
But for now, a little legal relaxation with the new Zotter Mitzi Blue Hemp Plantation Bar, courtesy of Newleaf Chocolates, with hemp nougat, hemp seeds, and milk chocolate. BYOIABADR, if you will, meaning, Bring Your Own Incense and Bong and Drug Rug, but the hemp is here, baby. Delicious, delicious hemp seed. This is also one of the most visually stunning bars I’ve seen in a while. It looks like a minimalist Kit-Kat with the way it’s arranged. I can’t decide if I want to frame it or take a bite out of it.

The flavor is also fantastic. While a little more muted than I anticipated, the milk chocolate provides a solid backup flavor. It’s very caramel-heavy, with a slightly, but not really detectably salty undertone and a distinct milkiness. Due to its richness, the nuttiness of the hemp tends to get lost if you’re not biting into a nougat circle, which happens roughly 2 out of every 3 bites. The circular composition of the bar also guarantees an uneven distribution of toppings. But damn, it’s pretty. The hemp nougat is my favorite part. It tastes like concentrated halvah candy.

Today, on Fifty Shades of Single Origin Hell…our heroine arises from a dark encounter with an even darker bar. No, not 100% from the deepest, darkest forests of Madagascar, but a bolder fear! Porcini mushroom truffles!

When I woke, Porcini was standing over me. I arose. Despite that I’d slept on a bed that felt as though it were made of unicorn feathers and the gently harvested tears of orphaned baby giraffes, my body ached from the trials I’d undergone the night before. Suddenly, it all came back to me. Mushrooms. The Brown Room. Oh, my god…

I rushed to my phone. Oh my god. I had no missed phone calls, and no missed texts. Nobody had called to see where I was for the last eight hours and why I didn’t come back to my cat-filled apartment. I furrowed my brow. Nobody had even commented to see why I didn’t add to my¬†20-part¬†feature, 30 Ways to Spice Up Your Relationship with Exotic Spices. (Tip 16: Pepper fight!) It was like they didn’t even care when I missed a day of blogging! I humphed. Suddenly, Porcini was behind me, a peculiar piece of chocolate in their hand.

“Here, try this,” they said, handing it to me. “I grow it in my backyard. I call it Merkwelt.” I took a piece anxiously. After what I’d experienced in the room last night,¬†I didn’t know what to expect. “Eat it,” they said, a domineering opnipotence thundering from their mouthhole. Their voice softened. “Its scientific name is¬†the Zotter Mitzi Blue Hemp Plantation, previously only available in Austria. But I know a guy.” I took some. It was soft, smoother than I’d expected. I coughed.

Porcini laughed. “There are a few seeds in this, but they’re harmless. Be careful, and take small bites.” I took a little more, my palate adjusting to the strange, yet smoky flavors. “It’s really strong,” I said. The chocolate was so intense and smooth, and so beautiful in design. The flavors culminated in a gentle, nutty aftertaste of smooth hemp nougat, delicate and almost grassy in flavor.

Suddenly, I felt a lot better. It was as though my brain had been replaced with a calming, centering oasis, and that oasis had been replaced with a placebo effect! I giggled like someone who had literally never taken anything stronger than a baby aspirin before.¬†Porcini would predictably find my naivete adorable!¬†“Is this bar…is this, like, the same as like, weed?” Porcini smiled broadly. “No, you’re just inexperienced. Hemp is harmless, with the exception that it contains more essential fatty acids than many foods. ” They were so smart! Possibly even the smartest, richest thing alive. They were like a rich, shroomy, young, baby supergenius.

“Come on,” said Porcini. “Let’s go grind in my Audi!” And off we went, unaware of the mortal¬†danger that awaited us in the luxury vehicle…

To be continued…

Bissinger’s Porcini Mushroom Truffles

Porcini mushroom truffles. They were handed to me at the show, five square inches of challenge and cojones wrapped up in brown fluted cups. I knew that if any company could make my arch nemesis, mushrooms, work, it would be Bissinger’s. Coincidentally, I received some porcini and pepita toffee in the mail around the same time, courtesy of Dude, Sweet Chocolate. It was then that I decided that a mushroom pairing was in order.

¬†The verdict? Absolutely delicious and too smooth for its own good. The chocolate is austere, a good thing as there’s plenty of rich ganache, dark chocolate coating, and bitter cacao nibs to enjoy. For all intents and purposes, it would seem like an average, exceptionally tasty and beguiling truffle. But it’s clearly not. Mid-bite, the earthiness, the dirt and smoke flavors of the mushroom kick in. It’s almost meaty, which is why these go so well with a red wine. However, it’s a mild flavor and isn’t overpowering. Trust me, I’d know. The fruitiness of the dark chocolate counters the more savory flavors. It’s a compact, if subtly-flavored treat with a great set of flavors.

 And now, onto the story! 

Porcini was cute, perhaps a little too cute. Square-jawed, with piercing brown eyes and cacao nib dimples when they smiled, which was far and few between. P spent most of the time hanging out with us, but at the last minute, had to leave on their private helicopter-jetski for an important business call, leaving us their good wishes to play nicely.

“Are you sure you’re okay with this?” P asked, pausing briefly before securing their helmet and stepping onto the launch pad. I shrugged, “The contract says that I, the chocoholic, must obey the wishes of the chocolate. And if you will it…” P smiled. “I do. Have a good time, and remember, Jessica Ruby Emerald Hermione Spiderman McCondoms, you must face your fears.” Smiling, P stepped into the chopper. “Breaker 6-4, Cacao to Pricy Airport, airplane lingo, over,” and that was the last I saw of them, the helicopter soaring into the night sky.

Porcini turned to me. “It’s cold out here, isn’t it?” I looked them deep in the eyes, not wanting to back down. Porcini laughed, “Jessica, I’m fully aware that this is a dark path, perhaps even a 72% path, to lead you down, but this is the way I am. It’s the only way we can have any sort of relationship.” Holy crow, I thought to myself. Was this really what I want? As if reading my mind, Porcini smiled. “Tell me what you want. For instance,” they said, shifting their fluted wrapper down a hair, “Right now, as you’re biting your lip, I’m imagining you biting down on me, on my shell.” Stepping closer, I could feel the protrusion of the chocolate pressing into me.

“No!” I stepped back. “I…I don’t know what I want.” Porcini smiled again, moving the fluted wrapper on and gesturing toward the door. “There’s no need to rush. Shall we head back to my place? We could enjoy my collection of Pouilly Fuisse. Or Sauvignon Blanc. Or Chardonnay. I’m a man of many white-wine-based tastes, you know.”

Back at his expansive, spacious lair, Porcini strode into the kitchen. “Jeeves von Stereotypen! A glass of the finest Sutter Home for my guest,” eyes twinkling. “Now, tell me,” they said, “In your contract, is there anything you won’t do with mushrooms? You can be honest.” I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. “I’ve…I’ve never had a mushroom before.” Trailing off, Porcini turned away from me, head in hands. Suddenly, they threw the box of Sutter Home across the room. I stared in horror as I watched $7.95 worth of wine crash on the floor.

Porcini grabbed my hand, leading me to the aforementioned Brown Room of Confection. “Come with me,” they growled, and hurled open the door. “I want to show you all of this.” I gasped. The room was filled with mushrooms and chocolate, from wall to ceiling. All the varieties- chanterelles, truffles, fluffy white puffballs, massive porcinis, were all there, a musky scent rising from the floor. “You want me to eat these?!” I said. It seemed so scary, so overwhelming.

“I want you to experience them,” said Porcini. “With me.” Rushing toward me, they plunged a truffle into my mouth, my tongue and teeth singing with sweet chocolate, an underlying muskiness, and the tang of sea salt and bitter cacao nibs echoing in my throat. “Let go, baby. Oh, you’re so responsive!” I moaned around the truffle, swirling it in my mouth and reaching my climax as I splintered into a million pieces under Porcini. I ran around the room, grabbing mushrooms and hunks of dark chocolate, cramming them in my mouth. Porcini’s words undid me. Shoving pieces of Dude Sweet Chocolate’s porcini and pumpkin seed toffee at one minute, moaning over Meiji’s mushroom-shaped chocolates in another. I was out of control. I was completely addicted to shrooms.

When I woke up, it was dark. Melted chocolate was smeared all over my mouth, the taste of fungus still rank on my breath. I smelled like a drug dealer’s basement. I floated downstairs, beckoned by the sound of a wistful piano solo. Porcini sat by the piano, softly playing Yellow Submarine and transitioning to Terrapin Station. It was beautiful. “How long have you been playing?” Porcini smiled sadly. “Since I was six.” I imagined Porcini as an adorable, chocolate-smudged spore, and smiled. “Now, Miss McCondoms, we have a big day ahead of us, so sleep…sleep and dream of mushrooms. And me.” My subconscious, swiftly falling asleep with me, toked up to Harold and Kumar as I drifted to sleep…

To be continued…

Justin’s Nut Butter Peanut Candy Bar

According to my fantastic, made-up demographics, some of you like pie with your coffee, some of you like coffee with your pie, but you don’t like coffee-flavored pie. Likewise, some of you like romance novels, and some of you like food blogging, but some of you also don’t like erotic food-blogging. In the interest of satisfying the tastes all of my dear readers, I have elected to cut down Fifty Shades of Chocolate to a one-week serial. Rest assured, fans, Jessica McLovin’ McDesire McDestiny’s Child McWunderbar will find a partner to call her own. Haters, I’m modifying the chocolate week posts to have the rating before the story. SFW for all and if you want to read it, you can, and if you don’t, you don’t have to.

Today we’re trying Justin’s Nut Butter Candy Bars, a playful counterpart to their take on peanut butter cups. Now they’re getting into Snickers bars, too, and in a pretty decent way. I first tried these at the Fancy Food Show and am now tasting them again. The nice folks at Justin’s gave me a sample of their Milk Chocolate Peanut bar to review, the one I thought would be best as a comparative taster. The bar is advertised as having 25% less sugar, 25% more protein, and 100% more fiber than the leading bar and it tastes that way on all counts.¬†

The bar itself has a less indulgent mouthfeel, but a wholesome, tasty set of ingredients. The marshmallow nougat holds the bar together well but there seems to be a lack of proportion between the caramel and nougat. It has a crumbly texture with a more solid, chewy caramel base. I’m also confused as to where the peanuts come in. The ingredients list both peanut butter and peanuts, but neither showed up very well within the bar’s flavor. It was just sort of bland. For a company whose nut butter is notoriously indulgent, delicious, and savory, I was surprised that this was formulated with such a restrained flavor. It’s straightforward, but unfortunately, crumbles beneath the competition. Perhaps a little more eclectic usage of ingredients would save this one.

“No! Not the FCC requirements and giveaway runoff!” I screamed, running down the hall of infinite darkness. “I don’t want to use stock photos!” As I ran, a large figure came before me, stopping the mommy bloggers and social networking affiliates in their tracks. Was he wearing Timberlands and carrying a Camelbak? Who was this hiking-garbed savior of mine, this creature of light and Luna bars?

I woke up. It was just a dream! After my night with P, it would seem that I was descending into madness. P was dark…perhaps a little too dark. I needed something to refresh myself, a break from all of this sin and desire. Although, I thought to myself, it had been a long time since I’d felt the satisfaction of such a bar. P and I had made plans to see their friend Porcini tomorrow night, an experience I was told I wouldn’t soon forget.

I shivered at the thought. Shortly after we’d consummated our appetites, P had made me sign a contract, a nondisclosure agreement stating that I would never eat another non-organic candy bar, or eat empty calories when I could be pleasuring and receiving pleasure from a delicious, organic, all-natural piece of chocolate. It was all so new and scary to me. I needed a break, a walk in the fresh air.

Walking along the hallways of my local Whole Foods, I breathed in the heady aroma of roasted chicken, salad bars, and hippie musk. It was so perfect here, and the last place I knew P would find me. Turning a corner, I collided with a buff, stout bar, nearly knocking it off the shelf. Taking a glance at its ingredients, I jerked my hand back, as though burnt. Snickers. The child-labor ambiguity, the fairtrade contracts…it was forbidden on the contract, the chocolate sauce signature fresh in my mind on the piece of luxurious paper. Sadly, I turned, walking to brighter pastures of quinoa and Puffin cereal.

“I’m not a Snickers, you know,” I whirled around, looking at the bar beneath me. “I’m made by Justin’s Nut Butter. They call me Peanut…I’m similar to a Snickers, but without all that junk.” I gasped. It was the bar from my dreams last night! “You’re…organic?” I whispered, not daring to believe what I saw in front of me. “I’m organic, ethically sourced, and I’m really delicious, too. Plus, I have 25% more protein than the leading bar,” it said, lowering its tone. “For more energy where it counts.” I almost swooned. It was too good to be true. Surely P wouldn’t mind or notice?

“There’s a loading elevator in the back, near the goat cheese and salted butter. Let’s go. We don’t have long.” I grabbed Peanut, feeling the weight and warmth in my hands, as we descended the aisle to the elevator. It smelled like air freshener and patchouli, but it didn’t matter. Unsheathing Peanut from its white hemp wrapper, I raised it to my lips. Peanut yielded quickly, but it was too late. “You’re…where are your peanuts?” I couldn’t seem to find the huge, globular roasted pieces of peanut I knew and loved. Peanut snarled at me, rearing back and crinkling the wrapper over its chocolate shell. “What do you mean, where are the peanuts? Not all chocolate bars have huge nuts, you know. Haven’t you ever had a Butterfinger? It’s about the flavor. Whatever.” I reared back. Peanut had an attitude. “Well, your caramel is crumbly and you’re not sweet at all!” I shouted, but it was gone, back to the freezer aisle, yelling behind it, “I’m going back to Nutella…they know how to treat nuts!”

I knew that straying from P was the wrong thing to do, and that they would find out in short notice. I couldn’t let that cloud my judgment, though, and I walked out of the Whole Foods, brushing chocolate off my hands and lips. Only P could satisfy me now, and I would have to trust them to deliver. I shivered to myself, thinking about Porcini. What would become of me in their Brown Room of Confection?

To be continued…

SNACKDOWN: Chocolove Pretzel in Milk Chocolate vs. Zoe’s Pretzel Bar

Fifty Shades of Single Origin Hell (Part 2 of 13) 
Erotic chick-on-choc action in the style of E.L James
By Winterbottom Foodeater

¬†They were on my table, unwrapped. In my dreams, it was like eating a Snickers bar, but better. I didn’t quite know how to express it, but it was more wholesome, more elevating. The deep, thick milk chocolate coating a barely contained layer of silky, chewy nougat, caramel, and crunchy roasted peanuts. It was almost too much for me to bear. I picked the bar up and turned it around in my hands, admiring the contours and weight of it, before I lifted it to my lips and–

A knock rapped at the door, urgently, interrupting me from my thoughts. Who could that be? I wasn’t expecting any guests. My dear, wonderful father lived a few states away, fishing and grunting in his endearing, monosyllabic way after mom died last year. And as an internet famous, notoriously funny food blogger, my company was spent with only my cats and my computer as companionship.

I opened the door to find Chocolove, the pretzel candy bar I’d been lusting over for the last few weeks! Oh my god…they looked so lost, so vulnerable, the chocolate coating slightly melting in the sun. I just wanted to hug it like I hugged and cuddled my best gay friends.(AN: Love you Zack and Ross! Let’s get married tomorrow.)

“Chocolove…what are you doing here?” I put my hands on my hips to convey the impression that maybe I was a little mad, but I mainly wasn’t, because seeing Chocolove in a place like this was so awe-inspiring, so beautiful, so jaw-dropping. It was like seeing a Monet in a gas station bathroom.

“I came to tell you that I…I…” Chocolove, so normally composed and brilliant, always handy with a note or love poem, was at a loss for words. “I love you, Jessica Jasmine Isabella Marysue Hershey Omnipotent McProm-Wedding!” For a moment, I paused, struggling to comprehend the gravity of those eleven incredible words. America’s most eligible, romantic, wealthy, pretzel-studded bachelor loved…me!? But we couldn’t be any more different! I, the lowly food blogger, and Chocolove…a household name!

It was almost too much to bear, so I stopped thinking and started doing, my inner goddess cheering and grinding against my temporal lobe, and I let Chocolove enrobe me. “Chocolove, your pretzel pieces are rock-hard!” Chocolove murmured against my ear, “And they’re salted, too.” I groaned and took another bite. The pieces, so small and yet, so infused with the salinity and crunch of tinny pretzels, were melting within me, overpowered by the sweet, sweet chocolate.

“Jessica…you shouldn’t,” Chocolove said, pulling away with a tortured glance. “I’m no good for you.” I gasped. “Chocolove, don’t say that…I’ve seen the articles and the reviews. You’re made with premium beans- you’re even certified kosher by the Scroll K Kashruth! You’re completely free of GMO’s! Please, don’t say that…I love you, too.” My lips shuddering and my stomach growling- damn it, I needed Chocolove now to satisfy my hunger, I moved closer, caressing the delicately embossed milk chocolate as we…

“Am I interrupting something?” Chocolove and I tore apart, breaking off like pieces of a Kit-Kat and turned to face my neighbor, Zoe’s Pretzel Bar. Zoe and I had been neighbors in the apartment complex for years, and I’d always sensed a tantric connection, a chemistry, between us. Life was so hard! Wasn’t there anyone around here who didn’t want me to eat them!? YOLO, I thought to myself sadly, YOLO. Chocolove backed away, the milk chocolate darkening at least 15% as they left in the elevator.

“I have to go,” I tore myself from my computer, pausing the episode of Grey’s Anatomy I’d been watching. “Chocolove, no!” But it was too late, and I could see the doors shut on the bronze-wrapped demigod I had loved for so long, too late, but too sweet for my affections. I turned to Zoe, or P, as I called them. “P, you shouldn’t have done that,” I said. P came toward me, dark chocolate up front and bold in my face.

“Don’t you see? I had to. That Chocolove is no good. Jessica, you could do better. I’m artisanal. I’m sophisticated. I locally source my pretzels.” P’s aromatic dark chocolate glistened in the sun as they lowered their voice. “Do you know how Chocolove gets those pretzels?” Smiling, they turned toward me. “I’m more cost-effective and I’m wrapped in an aesthetically pleasing, brown paper casing.” I took another look at P, realizing that its dark chocolate was alluring. It did have more pretzels per bite than Chocolove, and a slightly saltier, much darker flavor, an exotic flair hinting of smoke and lavender wrapped up in its imported dark chocolate. Turning once back to see Chocolove leave, I gazed into the dark soul of P, realizing that I never really did like Robert Browning’s poetry anyway, and my lips fell open in arousal as I licked the chocolate slowly, but surely. P was the winner, sure as I was of anything in my life, including my love of romance novels and baby squirrels.

“Come,” said P, “I can show you things far darker than that,” and we turned, entering the apartment to explore places heretofore unknown, and I knew my 120 days of chocolate were to commence…

To be continued…

Chuao Ravishing Rocky Road Bar

Fifty Shades of Single Origin Hell (Part 1 of 13) 
Erotic chick-on-choc action in the style of E.L James
By Winterbottom Foodeater

I’m not perfect. Far from it, in fact. I scowl at myself in the mirror daily. Damn my hair. Damn my life. Both so omnipresent, so flowing and golden, and yet, so unruly and stubborn at the same time. It was like my hair was trying to tell me not to meet with Chuao that day.

“But hair, I have to,” I said, trying to tame the tangled, golden locks of gossamer silk unicorn hair with a unicorn-bone hairbrush. “Don’t you know that Chuao has a new chocolate bar out today? Chuao, the impossibly young, successful company taking the world by storm?” I could do little to quell my anticipation, the rise of anxiety in my stomach. There were rumors about Chuao. That they dabbled in…different flavors, like bacon and maple, and toasted breadcrumbs. But there was no time for that. I had to interview Chuao for my scrappy, up-and-coming food blog, and this was my only chance to do so. Chuao’s time was so very, very precious.

I glanced around the office. I didn’t belong here, I thought to myself as I looked at the polished, recently redesigned white labels. White, white, everything was white, with a bold typeface and the sensual oozing of ordinary foods on the packages. “Raising ordinary to the…unordinary,” I murmured to myself.

“Isn’t it?” I gasped. I had hardly heard Chuao step into the room, so soft was its footfall. Turning around, I was surprised to see an impeccably clad bar, head-to-toe in steel grey, my favorite color, with only a white tie to break the single-colored harmony of the entire outfit. “Chuao,” I said, stepping forward, my world tilting and my voice cracking. How did it have such a power over me? How was it able to make me swoon like this? It was almost as though they’d conducted extensive marketing research, discovering the ways to make girls like me fall under their power.

“Please,” they said, “Call me Rocky. Ravishing Rocky Road, but just Rocky is fine,” they said, slipping off the grey suit and tie to reveal an intricate milk chocolate base, studded with marshmallows and salted, caramelized almonds. I could barely look away. It was so attractive…so…appetizing.

“Well, then,” I said, trying to ignore the tingling in my stomach. They were so attractive! “Let’s get started with our interview. I read in your press release that you have all-natural, vegan marshmallows. Why vegan?” Chuao smiled, and it was then that I noticed how glossy and smooth its milk chocolate base was, tightly coating the toppings with an elaborate, leafy pattern on top. It must have cost a fortune. “Well, Miss…may I call you Jessica?” The way they pronounced my name was so much more exotic than I’d ever heard it before. I was dying to hear them say my full name, Jessica Miraculous Sexy Bootylicious Diana Artemis Snookie God McJesuserson, just so that I could hear them pronounce all of those words, too. Hearing them speak was like music to my ears.

I do it for the kids, Jessica. The vegan kids without parents. Let’s just put it this way. Squeeze my marshmallow.” I reeled back, caught off guard. “Wh…what?” “Squeeze it, right there. Feel how soft and plush it is. It’s all natural, Jessica.” I put my hand out and felt the plush, chewy candy, a boozy vanilla scent emanating from its core. It felt so smooth, so luxurious, that I couldn’t help but delicately brush my fingers over the craggy, toned almonds, jutting from the bar like perfectly exercised muscles. They were so salty and masculine, so rugged in comparison to the smooth, silky mallows and chocolate, pausing at a jagged crack. “You’re broken,” I whispered. “Who did this to you?” Chuao’s eyes darkened and they pushed back the chair, our eyes blazing in tandem, each refusing to back down. The ultimate contrast. The ultimate surrender.

“I…I have to go!” I rose from my chair and sprinted out of the factory, my thoughts lightyears and miles ahead of me. The bar was so well-composed, but so deep in its flavors and salted nuances. Could it be that Chuao had a darker side? A troubled, more deep, darker side, like in the ocean with sharks and anglerfish? I knew I couldn’t find out, for fear that I’d fall in love with Chuao- no! with Rocky any longer…

To be continued…

Hagensborg Truffle Pig Bubble Gum Bar

Fifty Shades of Single Origin Chocolate Hell! Shameless fanfiction! Well-written reviews! All of these are things you can not expect to see during our two-week chocolate feature here on Foodette Reviews. However, these things are all superfluous. Who says you need to write well to have a blog, anyway? Let’s get this show on the road, or as they say in America’s current one-handed read of choice, let’s step right into the Red Room of Pain.

I’d seen them from across the room. Every time our eyes met, I could feel my heart stop, not unlike a person having a heart attack, and the blood would rush to my face as I nervously brushed my tongue across my dry, quivering lips.


The very name evoked exoticism, power, and Canadian excellence in chocolate manufacturing. When they spoke, I could feel my body light aflame. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine they’d approach me, unassuming, naive, blogger Jessica Anastasia Me’er Sapphire Push McDonough Potter, a blogger raised on the suburban comforts of Ghiradelli and Lindt.

“Have you ever tasted bubblegum chocolate?” I could feel my hands start to shake as I processed each individual word they said, a smile radiating in the inner core of my brain. I think it was the Lady Antebellum part, near the frontal lobe. I don’t know, I’m a modest English major. Have I ever tasted bubblegum chocolate? To even assume so would be to imply a more worldly palate, impossible as evidenced by my bookish manner and plaintive gaze.

“No,” I said, my inner goddess taking a cold chicken leg from the refrigerator, gnawing on it to her satisfaction and belching loudly, “I’ve…never really had flavored chocolate before.” Hagensborg reared up, its winsome, yet regal logo proud and taught across its package…ing. I could feel it unwrapping before my eyes, trusting me, unveiling itself, a creamy, white thickness emblazoned with little pigs, proud and tall, waiting to reveal the pink fondant goo inside.

“Wait…the bubblegum…the bar,” I faltered, teetering on the precipice of my old life, a life condemned to flavors bound by the constraints of sugar-free and cacao percentages, and this extension of grace from Hagensborg. Peanut butter and jelly in a chocolate? Mint chocolate chip? How did that even work? There were so many things I was an infant to, and yet, so much to risk. “Is it dangerous?”

Hagensborg snorted, the magnificent bar between us like a vast, sweet landscape. “No, my love, it’s a confection. It can’t hurt you.” And with that, I plunged the truffle pig into my mouth, white chocolate and gummy fondant trickling down my chin. It was sweeter than I expected, but not overly sweet. I groaned in pleasure as I felt the creaminess of the chocolate mingling with the sweet, citrus-tinged sensuality of the bubblegum.

I gazed at Hagensborg with pleading eyes as my tongue encountered something small, a foreign object, and Hagensborg chuckled as I discovered what it was. Bubblegum! This powerful company, this misunderstood genius had placed bubblegum inside the bar for it was the intention of Hagensborg to woo me all along, to take me back to a blissful, carefree childhood with bubblegum, bubbles, My Little Pony, and the 90’s, am I right, guys? They really did love me! Providing a sweet crunch and brilliant contrast to the smooth, seductive chocolate base, I chewed and swallowed, dazed with satisfaction and internalized validation. Such a masterful technique, such precise textures and flavors.
The bar was so sweet and vibrant, a lush pink, that I had to ask something that had been nagging at me since I’d laid eyes on Hagensborg. “Is it…” I stumbled, and they answered for me, “Yes, my sweet, it’s all natural,” gazing at the bar between us, and I groaned in ecstasy. It was at that very moment that I knew I would be back to sample more of Hagensborg, more of this tortured and intelligent figure in my life, and I could sense that my fate and future would be inextricably changed for the better…no…for the chocolate….

To be continued…¬†

2012 Summer Fancy Food Show, Day 1

We’re back in DC again! It’s our third year (WHAT) at the NASFT Summer Fancy Food Show and boy, have we got a lot of things to show you. We arrived in DC bright and early yesterday, and after an ass-kicking molecular gastronomy dinner with Junk Food Guy at RJ Cooper’s Rogue24, here we are at the convention center.

We tackled the show this morning, starting in the larger of the two convention halls. There we met vendors old and new, sweet and savory, and all delicious. 

Starting with this year’s Taste of the Union: predicted trends for the 2012-2013 cycle include aloe drinks, using ice cream as a flavor carrier and base, dessert-flavored desserts, and desserts utilizing different types of flour (rye, rice, etc.) Sauces have also made a comeback- we definitely saw more this year than in the past two, many of them with celebrity endorsement or variations from well-loved companies.

I was also pleased to discover that there seemed to be an increase in the number of small business distributors and stores at the show. It was very crowded, but it’s a sure sign of the times that things are turning around for small businesses if they’re this interested and involved in the specialty food industry once more.¬†

Guy Fieri’s sauce (/doubletake), surprisingly neither as offensive or eye-rolling as we’d expected. Clean, tangy flavors.

We ate many sweet treats…

And plenty of meat treats. 

2012 Fancy Food Show by the Numbers:

Food trucks and food buses: 4

Total whole ham legs: 16

Banana-encrusted people: 3

Gorgeously terrifying (terrifyingly gorgeous?) mushroom displays: 3

Carved fruit displays: 2

Duff Goldman cakes: 3

Duff Goldmans: 0

Atari-playing soda machines: 1

Turtle bread: 2

Today was an awesome kick-off to the convention, thanks to Chuao, Honest Tea, Madecasse, Hagensborg, First Field Ketchup, Sauces ‘n’ Love, Chozen, Gagne Foods, the guy who screamed, “yuh don’t need no scotch no more, brother,” at the iChill representative, and of course, the NASFT press team.
Tomorrow we’ll be seeing some of our favorite companies- Vosges, Cypress Grove, Bissinger’s, and Taza, I’m talking to you! And we’ll be hanging out at some awesome after-show media events.

Until then, eat well!

Jif Chocolate Hazelnut and Mocha Cappuccino Hazelnut Spread

Pro tip: You can measure a company’s branding success in two easy steps. I call this test the NOCRUS exam, or the Nutella or Coconut Runoff Usage Simulation. It can be implemented by asking this question: does your product successfully utilize either Nutella-based, i.e., chocolate and hazelnut, or coconut-water/coconut inspired flavoring? If so, it’s likely that it’ll catch on like hotcakes and iPods. If not, it’ll be as successful as hotcake-flavored iPods. Terrible idea. Syrup everywhere. My point is, these two components are the new Jonas Bieber Anistons of the food world and companies everywhere are vying to get in on the action.

In Jif’s case, we have two new heavy hitters in the spread market, Chocolate and Mocha Cappuccino hazelnut-based spread. Both flavors are smooth and creamy, almost pudding-like and thick in texture. Of the two, the chocolate hazelnut is definitely the more classic example. It’s less muted in scent than Nutella (I had a jar on hand- strictly for comparative purposes) and has a stronger, more cocoa and vanilla-forward flavor.¬†

As much as it pains me to say it, having been practically weaned on Nutella as an infant, this is superior. It lacks the gummy elasticity of the former, and offers a bolder, less saccharine flavor.

The mocha cappuccino has some issues. Not quite to the level of product abomination parent issues, but just mild stuff. It just wants to talk. Conceptually, it seems like it would work. It follows a correct conditional proof. A, hazelnut, and B, chocolate, go together. B, chocolate, and C, coffee, also go together very well. So it logically follows that A, hazelnut, and C, coffee, go together. Which they do. But unfortunately, you can’t eat logic, and that’s why A, B, and C, together, taste pretty strange. The coffee is the dominant flavor, but hazelnut follows closely behind, unfortunately more reminiscent of coffee flavoring than the plain chocolate flavor. It has a similarly beguiling texture, but falls short of expectations and leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Not unlike formal logic.

Overall, though, the branding is successful and catchy enough that I could definitely see the original flavor catching on. With Nutella’s various lawsuits and health finger-pointing, as well as its notorious reputation as an ex-pen-seeeef European brand, this might just be the campaign to sway America to the Jif side. And based on the quality and flavor of these products, it’s not a bad side to be on.