There’s been lots of artisenal chocolate makers popping up in the United States the past couple of years. There has, in my opinion, been a great deficit of them and it’s so rewarding for me to see that many have caught the chocolate making “bug”. These newcomers to the chocolate making scene have helped shape the future of chocolate by adopting progressive practices on how they source, make and sell their products. None of them have gone as far as Askinosie chocolate, who have literally taken chocolate making into their own hands.
Shawn Askinosie, the founder of Askinosie chocolate, was a criminal defense lawyer before he was called away to pursue a passion of chocolate. Learning everything he could about the process, he’s taken great steps to make sure his product is the best that it can be. Not only that, but his background has given him the gift of great social responsibility and has created a new way to work with the farmers whom he sources all his cocoa beans. Aside from traveling to the cocoa plantations to meet the workers and taste the beans himself, Shawn also pays above Fair Trade prices to his farmers so that they can focus on making better cocoa beans from more sustainable farming techniques and enjoy higher living standards.
Another amazing thing about Askinosie is that they are the only small batch chocolate maker in the United States to press their own cocoa butter. They use all natural cane sugar and also refuse to use additives in the chocolate as they feel it messed with the chocolate’s flavor and texture. This results in a very short shelf life of these bars which is about 6 months. Oh, and did I mention that the chocolate is also organic?
With all the fanfare in regard to the practices and processes of Askinosie, the big questions still remains: Does the chocolate taste good? I can give you a very enthusiastic “Yes”.
70% San Jose Del Tambo Dark Chocolate Bar: Very beautiful bar to look at. It has a great dark color with a gorgeous temper and gloss. The blocks are so cute, each sporting a letter of the “Askinoise” name. The aroma is intense: fresh, bright, red, fruity and very alive.
The flavor starts off mild with notes of cream, caramel, raisins and vanilla. The middle blossoms into a bright bouquet of fruits, berries, tart cherries and citrus which is pleasantly tart and pure tasting. That flavor lasts and has good staying power for a bit before fading into the finish like a brilliant sunset. The aftertaste has clean notes of cocoa and orange.
San Jose Del Tambo 34% white chocolate: There are many special things about this bar, but the main one is that it’s the first small batch white chocolate bar. Another special thin about this is that it’s a non deodorized white chocolate, which means the aromas in the cocoa butter aren’t removed. Other than El Rey’s Icoa white chocolate which is also non deodorized, this is the only type of white chocolate you can find on the market. It’s amazing to look at too, as the bar isn’t white at all; but a soft caramel, beige color. It doesn’t have much aroma, other than a slight fatty cocoa scent. the break is soft, the chocolate feels smooth and has a subtle gloss.
Right away it’s very sweet, and the flavor slowly comes out after a moment of melting on the tongue. It’s has a sweet, dairy-like musk to it (from the goat’s milk I’m guessing) that plays with the subtle notes of cocoa in the non deorodized butter. There’s light notes of caramel too and I’m reminded of dulche de la leche. The mouthfeel is very rich, with a thick texture that’s smooth but not slippery. The finish is light and sweet, and I admit I want more of it when it’s done.
75% Soconusco Dark Chocolate Nibble Bar: This bar uses the prized cocoa beans from the Soconusco valley in Mexico, where there are great pains are taken to collect these beans since it’s such a remote location. The bar is a deep rich brown and turing it over you can see the nibble bits are generously studded into the backside of the bar. It smells birght and roasted: notes of coffee, red berries, cinnamon, cutrus, and vanilla.
The flavor is beautiful and starts off with mild vanilla and nutty flavors that then bloom into citrus, cream and cocoa. Those flavor longer a moment, then fade when a slight acidic notes of berries and sweet red fruits leave a clean, fresh finish with no aftertaste. Along with all this you get a constant, light nuttieness from the nibs as they deliver a slight chewy texture which goes beautifully with the chocolate. The nibb’s texture is not too soft to get lost in the chocolate or too hard to compete with it. Lovely.
I cannot help but gush about the Askinosie chocolate. The chocolate is top-notch in terms of appearance, texture and flavor. Not only that, but the thoughtfulness of the practices of the company in regard how it processes the chocolate at the factory (they’re as green as possible) and the huge social commitment they make to the cocoa farmers where they course their beans makes this company one I want to support. With retail value $8-$10.50 per 85 g bar, this many not be an everyday indulgence, but it’s something I’ll happily pay for frequently. It’s something sweet for my taste buds and the planet.
Askinosie Chocolate Website
There’s been word floating about the candy-sphere that there were new DOTS to be released sometime this year. I really hadn’t paid it much attention since I’m not an avid DOT eater, but when I spied them in a Vons on a recent trip to LA, well, I decided to change my mind. New candy is always worthy of attention.
I almost passed these boxes by on the shelf, since their design is so different from most other candy packages out there, it just didn’t read as “candy” to me right away. With colors that are predominately dark completed with a black backdrop, overall it feels very masculine and I wanted to move them next to all the energy drinks.
The boxes are big too as they’re the giant theater sized boxes with about 2 1/2 servings in them. Thankfully I was able to share my find with Cybele who shared her thoughts on these last week. I admit I couldn’t even finish them even after Cybele took a share of them.
Earth (Pomegranate): A pretty, deep, berry purple color. The most similar of the bunch to the regular DOTS line, as it’s fruit flavored. It tastes very fruity with accents of grape and cherry. Sweet, yet tangy and it reminds me of red licorice a little. The flavor doesn’t really read as “pomegranate” to me, but I forgive them since it’s a difficult essence to peg since it’s not very iconic.
Air (Wintergreen): The color of these is so bright and it immediately reminds me of toothpaste. The wintergreen flavor is mellow, which I love becaue it doesn’t feel like I’m eating a mint. It has a subtle herbal edge to it, with notes of root beer and licorice that I find very pleasing.
Fire (Cinnamon): A very intense bright semi-opaque red, it almost comes across as neon to me. The cinnamon flavor is medium intensity, not fully sweet but not “hot” either. It has subtle woodsy notes and a bit ofcherry flavor to it.
Water (Green Tea): This combination I found amusing, since I drink green tea so often it might as well be water. The color is an odd, delicate yellow green which doesn’t read as “watery” or like “green tea” at all. The flavor is full of very floral and light soapy notes. The “plantiness” of it is reminiscent of green tea but so very, very removed. On top of that it’s lightly sweet and the whole thing just comes off as gross to me.
I liked the fact that Tootsie took the daring step with trying more unconventional flavors for DOTS. In theory I would have loved to eat green tea and wintergreen DOTS, it’s something I’d see myself buying often. However, the flavors didn’t strike home with me, so DOTS Elements just come across as a wasted opportunity. I just hope these don’t scare away ideas of any new and better attempts, because I’d love for candy to branch more in this direction.
Rating: Not Worth It
I love trying new chocolate, which I’m sure comes as no surprise at all. It’s really interesting for me to taste what each individual chocolate maker and chocolatier does with it. No two chocolates can taste the same, even if crafted by the same hand. It’s like a visit to an art museum, but for you taste buds.
Chocolove is one of the my favorite recent chocolate discoveries. I got my first taste of them at The New York Chocolate Show last November. I got to sample most of their line of chocolate bars and immediately fell in love with their Toffee & Almonds in 33% Milk Chocolate bar. Once you taste something utterly addictive, it’s only a matter of time until you go back for more. So the next trip to the store I found myself perusing the Chocolove selection and decided on trying the 65% Rich Dark chocolate, since I find bittersweet a good base for judging.
I love the red wrapper as it’s such an appealing color (not to mention my favorite). According to the front, you also get a love note along with the bar of chocolate, so I immediately think this would be a really cute gift for a special someone. The overall design is really cute, meant to look like a piece of mail sent especially to you.
Once the chocolate is free from the paper, you immediately notice the rich dark brown color and a gloss. The bar had a good hard snap to it and the break clean aside from a few pink prick sized air bubble holes. The molded domes of the chocolate have a little embossed curly heart on them and it’s really, really cute. The flavor is very mild and sweet with no notes of frutiness or acidity, which is common in darker chocolates. Instead I get a lot of roasted notes of coffee and cocoa, and accents of earthiness with coconut and some lingering vanilla. The mouthfeel is very rich, the chocolate is smooth and creamy and almost has a “thick” feeling on your tongue. It was especially nice a to savor this and let melt slowly in my mouth.
The Chocolove 65% Rich Dark is a really beautiful tasting bar and it’s been added to my list of chocolates I must have on hand at all times. The flavor and rich mouthfeel makes it feel really indulgent for times when I feel I need to treat myself. You know, so I can show myself some Chocolove!
Rating: Will Buy Again
Tootsie Pops are one of the many overlooked classic candies in my opinion. They’re something that’s always available in my candy stash for many reasons: tasty, portable, long-lasting, satisfying, interactive…..oh, I could go on. For me, Toostie Pops are delicious the Swiss army knife of the candy world.
Imagine my delight when I was in my local Wawa convenience store pawing through the box of loose Tootsie Pop to satisfy a 4pm sugar craving, to find a Tootsie Pop in a wrapper that looked new. Puzzled, I picked out one and examined it to find “Pomegranate” written on the outside. I proceeded to grin like the Cheshire Cat as I grabbed a few and ran to the checkout. A tasty new treasure, I could hardly wait.
I admit, I am a little puzzled by this new flavor choice for a Tootsie Pop. Pomegranate has been getting lots of attention in the past few years because of its health benefits, and some candies tried to cash in on that craze. I don’t really understand the appeal of the actual flavor of a Pomegranate. Don’t get me wrong because they taste great, but I’m more often interested in the fun way to eat them by plucking them seed by seed, than for the actual taste. Considering that the past new flavors to the Tootsie line were strawberry, watermelon, blue raspberry and lime; I figured Pomegranate would be more of a trendy name to drop into the assortment.
The wrapper is the same design as the other traditional Tootsie Pop’s, expect the color scheme is a bit different. The white has been replaced with a dark maroon, so even though this newbie looks different in essence it’s the same as the classics.
The pop itself is bright red and looks like the Cherry flavor, but you can tell the difference one you pop it into your mouth. The flavor is different and much, much better. It’s fruity with berry flavors, notes of grape and a “tartness” that reminds me of pineapple. Overall it’s very “red” tasting, but it’s lacking that fake medicinal flavor that makes the cherry one so unappealing to some. Think of this as Cherry’s more awesome twin brother. As for the Tootsie center? Yeah, the flavors meshed well with that.
My skepticism aside, I really, really like this flavor. It covered all the flavors sensations I require in a good hard candy and resulted in some fun, saliva-inducing consumption for my mid afternoon break. Tomorrow I’m going back for more and buying every last one in that loose Tootise Pop box.
Like most every American kid, I grew up on Hershey’s chocolate. It was the chocolate bar to have with its iconic wrapper and powerful sweetness. It was the only chocolate acceptable to make S’mores with. Despite how my tastes have changed since the days of my youth, Hershey’s chocolate is still ingrained deeply into my sweets psyche. It plays an important role as a basis for all the chocolate I’ll experience for the rest of my life, whether I like it or not.
Chocolate is a thriving business and there’s always a demand to somehow re-invent it to increase sales. That is essentially what Hershey’s is doing here with their new line of Bliss chocolates. Not only are they trying to grab attention with a new brand and re-packaged look but they’re also trying to compete with the Dove Chocolate line. This move of Hershey’s to try and make a “premium” chocolate line is interesting to me, especially after their stance on changing the definition of chocolate.
The new Bliss chocolate come in large bags with the little individually foil-wrapped squares inside, very similar to how the Kisses are packaged. Depending on where you shop, you can find other flavors in the line. I recall seeing a Raspberry flavor in Target last week. I was lucky and stumbled across these mini packets in my grocery store so I could sample just a few without much risk.
Milk Chocolate: Immediately very soft and sweet. It’s creamy, light milky and caramel notes to it. Thankfully it doesn’t come across as waxy to me at all.
Milk Chocolate Meltaway: The texture is noticeable “fudgier” than the other milk chocolate; it feels thicker and more slippery in the mouth. There isn’t a “center” per se, like in a Lindt Lindor. I got no shell/creamy center separation as the chocolate just overall seemed softer. There’s more caramel notes here and a salty touch, but other than that there’s not much else that appears different to me from the regular milk chocolate.
Dark Chocolate: Pretty flavorless and waxy. There’s light chocolately notes, but they have an odd muskiness about them that’s very off-putting. That problem was all fixed when I paired it with a cup of coffee.
Considering what is trying to be accomplished, it’s a decent attempt on Hershey’s behalf. It’s still far from good enough to get me to buy it over something much better, such as Droste, Chocolove or Michel Cluizel (just to name a few!). The funny thing with chocolate is it’s really such an individual thing, so even though it’s not my chocolate Bliss, it might be yours.
Rating: Not Worth It