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Requesting suggestions for chocolate bars
December 27, 2008
6:03 pm
chocbloc
laurel, USA
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I have been a member here for 2-3 yrs, but I mostly lurk. I don’t know nearly as much about fine chocolate as most of you. I am impressed with the depth of some of your knowledge. So, for those that do respond, if you go too deep into the roasting styles and such, I probably won’t be able to understand it all.

For background, I have tried many of the major brands, but I haven’t plumbed the depths of any one them. I really like Amedei, Valrhona, and Michel Cluizel. I have tried bars above 75%, but my tastes lean heavily in the 65% to 75% range. I did try Pierre Marcolini’s 85% Fleur de Cacao, and LOVED it. However, that isn’t available online anymore, except through their website and it is very expensive.

I made the mistake of placing too big of an order once or twice and by the time I got around to some of the bars, they had turned bitter and pasty. However, it is expensive to order online, so I try to get the most value out of each order. Ok, so if you guys wouldn’t mind, it would help a lot if you could give me some suggestions for some bars that you think I would like. I like truffles as well, and I am going to try those salt caramels from Fran’s I have heard about.
As for the bars, I don’t usually like ones that are flavored, or have nuts, coffee nibs, or anything like that. I also don’t want to go too high, like those Porcelanas from Bonnat. 21.95 a bar? Wow. Thanks in advance for your help.

Mike

Mike (restin’ on my laurels and my hardys too)

Mike (restin' on my laurels and my hardys too)
December 29, 2008
4:39 pm
Eshra
Southgate, USA
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Mike,

I am actually surprised you have not gotten a more prompt reply to your query. Suggestions for chocolate bars? Where can I even begin. Tell you what…you seem a lot like myself in that you want fine chocolate, but you do not want to pay a ridiculous amount of money, i.e. 20+ for a Bonnat bar, which, by the way, is laden with cocoa butter and not worth the time, anyway.

I will list my current favorites, which are in no particular order with a short reason as to why I like them. None of the listed bars are out of reach, financially speaking.

1. Grenada Chocolate Company’s 71% Bar: A perennial favorite of mine, this bar continues to amaze me–unique, wild, untamed, intense, and improved texture.
2. Amedei’s 70% Toscano Black: Amedei’s most accessible bar in terms of price. This bar offers an intensity that is likened to an intense buttery, raisiny cocoa flavor that is characteristic of the Amedei brand. I don’t agree with some of the descriptions of this bar as per the official reviews. This is not a bitter bar.
3. Valrhona’s Palmira 64%: I know this is a bit out of your range, but the 2008 vintage is absolutely wonderful. I have tested this bar out with several non-chocophiles, and they thought it was a milk chocolate, The beans are very delicate and worth trying.
4. Something Domori: Try Domori. The cacao coming from Domori is simply of a different philosophy. If you like fermenty flavors, like I do and long for the untamed and often surprising flavors that accompany Domori, I say go for it. I like their madagascans…notes of sour cream and citrus…very nice.

Well, there you go.

Sean

December 29, 2008
10:45 pm
chocbloc
laurel, USA
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Tks for the suggestions. I haven’t tried anything from the GCC before. I think I have seen them available at Whole Foods, so if I see them again I will check one out. As for Domori, I have tried a little bit of their stuff. As I recall, it was pretty fruity. Actually, Domori is the brand I tried to go higher with, and even tried their 100% to see if I could hang with the big boys. I couldn’t. I need some sweetness to cut the strong, bitterness. Thanks again.

Mike (restin’ on my laurels and my hardys too)

Mike (restin' on my laurels and my hardys too)
December 30, 2008
1:17 am
Alex Rast
Manchester, United Kingdom
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quote:


Originally posted by chocbloc

I have been a member here for 2-3 yrs, but I mostly lurk. I don’t know nearly as much about fine chocolate as most of you. I am impressed with the depth of some of your knowledge. So, for those that do respond, if you go too deep into the roasting styles and such, I probably won’t be able to understand it all.

For background, I have tried many of the major brands, but I haven’t plumbed the depths of any one them. I really like Amedei, Valrhona, and Michel Cluizel. I have tried bars above 75%, but my tastes lean heavily in the 65% to 75% range. I did try Pierre Marcolini’s 85% Fleur de Cacao, and LOVED it. However, that isn’t available online anymore, except through their website and it is very expensive.


If you particularly liked Marcolini 85%, this suggests you probably prefer the mild taste and a fairly nutty overall profile. I can see why above 75% would be problematic – too intense on the whole. Nonetheless it’d be worth trying Cuba Venchi, who Dutch their chocolate which gives it a milder flavour and whose overall profile leans heavily towards the nutty as one befitting a company whose real specialty is gianduja : chocolate/hazelnut blend.

Also an interesting company is Coppeneur – his chocolates are on the whole somewhat bolder but still, I’d try some starting with Tsachila. Avoid the Ocumare though (at least until I can confirm reports that newer batches of this bar have been improved.)

quote:


I made the mistake of placing too big of an order once or twice and by the time I got around to some of the bars, they had turned bitter and pasty.


Just how much time was this? Unless we’re talking YEARS, in general that shouldn’t have had much impact unless the bars were far from fresh to begin with.

Alex Rast
Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com

Alex Rast Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com
December 30, 2008
8:03 am
chocbloc
laurel, USA
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Tks for the tips Alex. I had not heard of Coppeneur before. It looks like they have some good assortments of truffles as well. Are you familiar with them? By the way, I thought the $22 Porcelana from Bonnat was bad, but this company has a Porcelana for $30! No chocolate is THAT good is it?

As for the Venchi suggestion, I thought dutching basically undercut the whole point of dark chocolate, i.e. – a true chocolate experience. I very well could have that wrong though.

Mike (restin’ on my laurels and my hardys too)

Mike (restin' on my laurels and my hardys too)
January 2, 2009
3:01 am
Kevin67
USA
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Aloha Mike – I know you will receive many suggestions about which bars to try. My advice, such as it is, is to try every bar you think you may like. However, please do not be overly influenced by the opinions of others. I never read the reviews on this site, before I try a new bar; only afterwards. Many times I mostly agree with the review, but there are times when I wonder if the reviewer and I tasted the same bar. Also, when I taste a new bar, I do not even read the tasting notes on the bar. The best advice I can give you is to form your own opinions.

That said, my top four companies are below. I tend to prefer only single origin bars. Of course, Askinosie and Amano only offer SO bars.

Amedei – Porcelana, Chuao, and 9
Cluizel – Los Ancones, Maralumi, and Concepcion
Askinosie – Soconusco
Amano – Ocumare and Jembrana

Grenada – I will have to try their bars again. I did not like the ‘hurricane’ bar I tried in late 2006. It seemed bland compare to their previous offerings.

Coppeneur – I tried all of their bars a couple of years ago, when I visited Germany. I bought all of the bars in two separate Metro stores (Kind of like a Sam’s Club.), and the bars were from different batches. I felt that a couple of the origins suffered consistency problems between the two lots, especially the Ocumare. I tried several once again in San Francisco last month, and maybe the lot I did not like was just an abberation.

Coppeneur Porcelana (Peru) – There is a 1.75oz (50g) bar of each percentage (62 & 72) in the presentation box. I must say that I was disappointed with this offering. The bars, particularly the 72%, seemed very bitter and had a peculiar taste. Including shipping, the price was comparable to Amedei’s Porcelana. To me, the Amedei is a much better chocolate.

January 2, 2009
12:04 pm
alex_h
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Hi Mike,
Have you tried Valrhona’s Plantation bar Ampamakia. It’s pretty much the bar that started it all for me and I still love it after all these years. It is a bit more expensive than their normal range, but not horrendously so.
I agree with not wanting to pay large sums for chocolate, but nevertheless I like to try every bar that comes my way at least once. $20+ is a lot for Bonnat though and their bars are laden with cocoa butter, as Eshra mentions.
I agree with Kevin’s opinion on Coppeneur’s Ocumare and Porcelana. The consistency varies much in the Ocumare, but it is worth a try. Could be pricey in the States though. I wouldn’t fork out the cash for their Porcelana. I was lucky enough to be able to taste both bars in that box and they are not really worth it to me. Amedei and Domori are much better here, even if Amedei is the most expensive chocolate I know of (aside from no-go Noka).
You’ve already struck it right with Cluizel.
Go for some US bars, as Kevin further suggests: Amano, Guittard and Theo have much to offer and should be cheaper in the States.
When it comes to truffles and chocolates I would go as local as possible because freshness counts. I haven’t tried many in the States, but Recchiutti of SF is excellent! In NY you have Marcolini and Maison du Chocolat – not local but tops. In Santa Cruz, CA, check out Richard Donnelly Chocolates, said to be great (I haven’t tried anything there – yet).
Happy hunting!

January 2, 2009
8:19 pm
chocbloc
laurel, USA
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Tks Alex for the response. I have had the Ampamakia, possibly two, I can’t remember. I would love to live in NY and be able to stop by the Marcolini shop from time to time. BTW, I happen to have found a nice little local chocolate shop that has a small, but interesting selection. I didn’t ask them who they used to make their stuff, but I may the next time. One of the ones I tried had a ganache suffused with habanero. Ouch. I won’t make that mistake again. Uusally whenever I step out of my comfort zone, I get burned. I did pick up a dozen assorted pieces, and if I like them I will definitely be going back.

Mike (restin’ on my laurels and my hardys too)

Mike (restin' on my laurels and my hardys too)
January 8, 2009
2:43 pm
alex_h
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I would probably be curious enough to try habanero with my chocolate, but I dunno.

January 16, 2009
4:41 pm
wineandfoodscamp
Madison, USA
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Perhaps this belongs to a another thread, but what is a reasonable shelf life for a chocolate bar? (I’m talking real chocolate, the seventypercent.com chocolate-is-a-real-food kind of chocolate, not the stuff primed and pumped with manmade crap to last for fourty years in a meal-ready-to-eat pack for a soldier.) How long should we expect a good chocolate bar, just plain chocolate, to show off its best?

Rachel A. Dahl

Rachel A. Dahl
January 16, 2009
11:07 pm
aguynamedrobert
California, USA
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Usually when it comes to the FDA and labeling expirations dates on chocolate a chocolate company will give 1 1/2 to 2 years life span on their chocolate. Chocolate can last years and years but the thing that will for sure change first is the cocoa butter. You will notice after a while that the cocoa butter will get harder and will have a slower melt. Now if you store it in perfect conditions the cocoa butter can remain very nice for a good amount of time but in a normal household the cocoa butter will harden up on you quicker.

If you are just storing chocolate at your house and it is a chocolate meant for eating I would give it no more than 1 year. If it is meant for baking then you can have it for a few years actually because you are just going to melt it back down again.

Hope this helps!

http://www.chocolateguild.com

Some Chocolate Guy http://www.chocolateguild.com
January 17, 2009
10:27 am
Marcellus
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I found a bag of Callebaut standard dark buttons in my garden shed a couple of years ago. It had been opened but closed again with a clip and was dated 2002 as I recall. I had no problem tempering with it and was perfectly palatable.

January 17, 2009
10:10 pm
Alex Rast
Manchester, United Kingdom
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quote:


Originally posted by wineandfoodscamp

Perhaps this belongs to a another thread, but what is a reasonable shelf life for a chocolate bar? …
Rachel A. Dahl


2 years I think is almost certainly safe. I have a chocolate fridge which maintains ideal temp/humidity, extending the shelf life to probably about 5 years. Eventually chocolate does start to lose flavour. As others have mentioned, the cocoa butter hardens a little with time, although with a fridge or other climate-controlled storage, this is much less of a problem.

Milk chocolate has a lower shelf life than dark – I’d keep it for perhaps a year in ordinary conditions, 3 in perfect conditions.

Of course all this goes out the window if your storage environment is poor – if you have strong temperature or moisture cycling the bar will start to deteriorate upon the first major change in temperature/humidity. Odours as you probably also know are a no-no: stored near onions, spices, cheese, garlic, or vinegar-containing foods (most condiments, salad dressings, dips, and various other things) the shelf life drops to near-zero. One to watch out for is plastic – with only a few exceptions (top-quality polycarbonate, teflon, a few others), the plastic flavour gets into the chocolate. Sadly, a lot of chocolate manufacturers either don’t seem to recognise this or have succumbed to the temptation to save money, and wrap their chocolate in plastic. So avoid storing in plastic, Styrofoam, etc.

Valrhona has recently switched, it would seem – in fact their whole packaging has taken on a very Domori feel. I have no criticisms of the quality of Domori’s chocolate but their packaging and bar format has always been the worst of the quality chocolate manufacturers, and it’s depressing to see Valrhona likewise succumbing. If there are any Valrhona representatives reading this thread I urge you STRONGLY to reconsider. The whole switch sends a very negative message about your company – that you no longer wish to position yourself as a top-end company but rather as a quality chocolate manufacturer who aspires to mainstream viability. Domori’s packaging notwithstanding, generally the thin-square-in-plastic format is a bad idea. The packaging reps may tell you that any difference in flavour is undetectable, but take in from me: those of us in the high end market can, and will, notice.

Alex Rast
Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com

Alex Rast Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com
February 2, 2009
8:11 pm
pixelpaws
USA
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Have you tried Patric? Patric chocolate is single source from Madagascar; bars available in 67%, 70% and 75%. (I favor the 75%.) I believe Patric is running some online specials if you can’t find it locally. (They have an online store, newsletter and a well-written blog: http://www.patric-chocolate.com/).

It is really terrific if you like dark, pure, distinctive chocolate and is packaged nicely…doesn’t degrade. I have tried a lot of different chocolates and always come back to Patric as my favorite.

Jean

February 2, 2009
8:20 pm
ChemicalMachine
USA
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Regarding shelf life, Chocosphere is still selling 2002 Valrhona Chuao. I ordered a bar last year and it was still good.

February 3, 2009
10:44 am
alex_h
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Alex, are you sure the plastic used by Domori and Valrhona is not a “good” plastic that won’t cause the chocolate to taste funny?
I am asking because I have not yet noticed any plastic taste in Domori or Valrhona. But Domori does often have a taste that is indescribable, somewhat “chemical”. Maybe this is from the plastic wrapper, maybe not?
I’ve heard Italians are particular about what they pack their food in and the quality of Italian food packaging is better than what is used in Germany, for example.
However, I prefer aluminum foil wrappers as well. And I like Valrhona’s older format better than the new too. Thank goodness Ampamakia has the old form and the aluminum wrapper.

February 3, 2009
12:44 pm
Marcellus
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You hear of bottles of wine or spirits which are still potable after 50 or 100 years or longer. I found this on Google http://www.yumsugar.com/2411830 but it doesn’t look particularly appetizing!

February 15, 2009
12:57 pm
Nicholas Zukin
Vancouver, WA, USA
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Brans aren’t really that helpful in determining what you might like. I’d suggest grabbing a Cluizel or Pralus origins sampler and taking notes on each one and seeing what you like. Do you like your chocolate tart and bright? Earthy or nutty? Coffee bitter or grapefruit astringent? What about the funkier flavors — something leathery, woody, yeasty, or moldy like blue cheese? Do you like the floral tones of vanilla? What about mouthfeel?

February 18, 2009
1:45 am
Dazeal
Ashland, USA
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I sell more http://www.michaelmischerchocolates.com than I do Cluizel, Pralus, Domori, etc.. – The visual sells to the common person. His bars are made with Criollo, so they taste great too. Good Luck.

----------------------- www.poshcircle.com where businesses meet with their customers online Ashland, Oregon USA
February 19, 2009
3:22 am
Scott--DFW
Dallas, USA
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quote:


Originally posted by Dazeal

I sell more http://www.michaelmischerchocolates.com than I do Cluizel, Pralus, Domori, etc..


Do you happen to know whose chocolate(s) he remelts for his bars?

Scott