As Angie said here recently, we don’t normally stray far from the topic of perfume. But every so often we do, and it is a sad commentary on something-or-another that Angie was writing about AIDS, and I'm going to go off-topic, again, to talk about chocolate.
Today, six bars from four companies: Orange-a Go-Go by Chuao Chocolatier, Peppermint and Winter Spice by Madecasse, Riz Soufflé Caramélisé and Violette by Maison Bouche, and Lemon Ginger by Equal Exchange.
Chuao Orange-a Go-Go (60% cacao)
I've written before about my search for the perfect dark chocolate bar with candied orange, and so I was very excited when Chuao, one of my favorite chocolate brands (see reviews here and here and here) came out with the Orange-a-Go-Go bar, with bergamot and candied orange peel. But none of the stores near me ever started carrying it, so I was finally forced to take matters into my own hands and have one (plus a few other things, while I was at it) shipped to me directly from Chuao.
And it's a very good bar. Chuao's base chocolate, as always, is smooth, and perhaps a tad on the sweet side as dark chocolates go. Orange-a-Go-Go, as you'd expect, has a heavily orange flavor, but most of the flavor comes from orange and bergamot extracts, not from the candied orange peel, so it's not as tart as I'd like, and the pieces of orange peel are small, few, and far between — there's very little texture to the bar. It's enjoyable and I'd buy one again if I found one locally, but my search continues.
$6.00 for 2.8 oz
Madecasse Peppermint (63% cacao)
I'm a big fan of Madecasse — the company, founded by two former Peace Corps volunteers, does everything bean-to-bar right in Madagascar. Their base chocolate is delicious, with a fruity / citrus-y undertone that is nice enough plain,1 and even nicer in one of their flavored bars. And, I love mint chocolate bars. My own favorite is probably the Dolfin Noir Aux Feuilles de Menthe, but it's not so easy to get my hands on one. Divine's Mint Dark Chocolate is also darned good, and a lot easier (and cheaper) to find in the US.
Madecasse's bar is a holiday limited edition, and it isn't quite as heavy on the peppermint as those two — the peppermint doesn't stand out on the first bite until the aftertaste — but is given a nice twist by the "touch of nutmeg", and really, it is just a touch. You hardly notice it, but it provides a lingering warmth to the otherwise bright and cool flavors. Really a lovely bar, and hope it will join the regular collection.
$5.99 for 2.65 oz
Madecasse Winter Spice (63% cacao)
The Winter Spice bar is dark chocolate with ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg, described as "warm spice notes with a gingerbread kick", and that's accurate, although the above-mentioned fruity undertone of the base chocolate gives it a brighter and tangier finish than you'd otherwise expect — gingerbread with grapefruit-orange icing, maybe? Anyway, it's wonderful, and has displaced their Pink Pepper & Citrus bar as my favorite from the brand. If it had something adding texture or chewiness, it would be even better, but you can't, apparently, have everything. If you want something spicier than this, you could try their Cinnamon & Sakay bar, which I found way too hot; if you want texture, try their Sea Salt & Nibs (yummy) or Toasted Coconut (admit I did not love it) bars.
$5.99 for 2.65 oz
Maison Bouche Riz Soufflé Caramélisé (55% cacao)
Dark chocolate with plenty of crunch — it reminds me of a Nestle Crackle bar, all grown up. The caramelized baked rice has just enough of a charred edge to lend an unusual, almost coffee-ish flavor. Absolutely delicious, albeit expensive, especially since I have to pay to have it shipped to me. To my mind, this is a nice brand for an occasional chocolate splurge, and any perfumista interested in floral bars should check out their selection. But this particular bar, while delicious, is not quite unusual enough that I'd do an online order just to get another. Their Cardamome et Citron de Sanguine Glacée bar is another matter — that one I'd have shipped to me on a regular basis if I only had the funds.
$6.50 for 2.2 oz
Maison Bouche Violette (55% cacao)
I'm a huge fan of floral chocolates. I liked, but didn't quite adore, the Rococo Violet bar. This one has a stronger violet flavor...it's the perfect snack to go with Kusmi's Violette tea, and you could always put on L'Occitane's Subtle Violet hand cream to complete the effect. Seriously, I did this. Raise your hand if your perfumista-ness is maybe a little out of control?
$6.50 for 2.2 oz
Equal Exchange Lemon Ginger (55% Cacao)
In addition to the lemon and ginger, this bar features black pepper, and plenty of it. It's a nice mix of brightness from the lemon and heat from the spices, and the candied ginger provides just enough of a chewy texture. It's a new favorite of mine, and happily, it's reasonably easy to find, at least where I live. Plus, it's organic and fair trade, so you can pat yourself on the back while eating it, and extra bonus, it's reasonably priced.
$3.99 for 3.5 oz
Had any good chocolate bars lately? Do share in the comments.
1. I should note that serious chocolate people, the kind of serious chocolate people who write serious chocolate blogs, generally do not seem to care for this feature of Madecasse or of Madagascar-sourced chocolate in general — they find it too fruity. You already know I'm not serious chocolate people, right? Almost all of the bars I buy have added flavors, and I don't care for the cacao concentration to inch up much past 65%. My favorite bars are basically the celebrity fruity florals of the chocolate world.