Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ghirardelli Choices for Valentine's Day

I'm sure my readers in the USA have heard of Ghirardelli chocolate.  You can find their bags of square treats throughout the year in candy aisles and their baking morsels in the baking section of any major grocery store and most chain discount stores like Target or Kmart.  During the holidays they put out decorated bags and special boxes and tins of the same chocolates.  They sent me, your Chocolate Priestess six — yes, six — different Valentine's Day offerings.  I checked, and I could find these in a half dozen stores within two miles of my house.  So if your week has been crazy busy and you are panicking this morning, read this and then go out to find a gift for your loved one.

I'm going to start with the smallest sample and work my way up to the biggest offering Ghirardelli sent.   When I first encounter a flavor of chocolate I'll reveal it in full sensory form, as you have come to expect.  After that I'll only mention that this flavor is in the package.  In total, I have 8 flavors to describe to you and six products.  To lay this out as neatly as I can, I'll do headers for the product along with a photo or two and then a paragraph per flavor review when I first reveal it to you.

The 2.12 oz. cardboard bag of "Milk & Caramel" squares is the smallest sample they sent, and it contains 4 individually wrapped pieces of chocolate.  As with most Ghirardelli squares, this is a two-flavor combination. Each square is 1.5 by 1.5 inches and has their seal on it.  Three squares equals one serving with 220 calories, 7 grams saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 60 mg sodium, 24 g sugars, and 2 g protein, along with 2% of the vitamin A, 8% of the calcium, and 4% of the iron an adult needs daily.  On the back of the bag it has a white label that says "Happy Valentine's Day!" and spaces to write "To" and "From" on.

When I unwrap the Milk Chocolate & Caramel I smell only light cocoa, then I try cutting it open; it makes a soft snap and divides fairly evenly.  The tart caramel scent hits my nose as the golden substance oozes out; it is very sticky on my fingers and our dish.  When I place half of it in my mouth at first, I taste just the tangy caramel and then the creamy milk chocolate until it finally mixes together into one sweet creamy cocoa pool on my tongue.  No buzz here — not enough cocoa for that — but then I rarely expect that with milk chocolate.  This is a great blend of two flavors in a two-bite morsel, so if your loved one likes this flavor combination and you want to get a lot of little things or just don't like spending a lot on gifts when you are going out to the movies or dinner, consider this 2.12 oz. bag.

The 3.70 oz. Pink Heart looks huge but contains 7 squares of chocolate in three flavors: 2 "Milk Chocolate & Caramel," which I've already revealed, along with 3 "Dark Chocolate with Raspberry Filling" and 2 "Milk Chocolate with Peanut Butter Filling."  Each piece must have slightly different nutritional values, but the box just labels them as 3 squares with 220 calories, 7 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 35 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 23 g sugars, 3 g protein, 2% vitamins A and C, 4% calcium, and 6% iron.  I wish we knew which flavor had the trans fat.  Perhaps I can sort that out during the entire Sacrament.  On one side there is a label for "To" and "From" to be written, but this box has a slippery sheen, so use a marker and not a pencil.

The "Dark Chocolate with Raspberry Filling" doesn't break as neatly as the milk chocolate varieties.  It feels softer, though, which is unexpected for darker chocolate, and this is much darker in color.  Inside a very bright pink filling oozes out and adds a fruity scent to the dark cocoa fragrance.  The primary essence remains the dark cocoa when I eat half the square, but there is that fruity sweet-sour flavor you expect from raspberry as well.  There are even little seedlike textures here, though the label lists powdered raspberry and not whole raspberries as an ingredient.

The "Milk Chocolate with Peanut Butter Filling" has a strong peanut butter scent when I just open the individual wrapping that covers each square in these offerings.  I just break this piece in half with my fingers, Sisters and Brothers, and it breaks a bit better than with a knife, so goodbye knife.  The peanut butter scent is even stronger with it broken up, but the filling is also very thick.  The overwhelming flavor is peanuts and peanut butter; the chocolate is too light to be really pleasing to the chocolate lover.  There are little pieces of peanuts right in the creamy filling, so that was a nice surprise.  Really more for the peanut lover than the cocoa lover, though.

The 5.32 oz. "Dark & Caramel" bag has only one flavor, the title one, but it has 10 squares inside, or 3.33 servings.  One serving has 210 calories, 7 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 22 g sugars, and 2 g protein, with 2% calcium and 8% iron.  The trans fat here suggests that for some reason Ghirardelli is adding it to the dark chocolate flavors, but wait until the end for my findings please.   These bags are what you normally see of Ghirardelli in the stores, but this one has a Valentine's Day decoration, though no label to write on.

This square breaks apart when I try to snap it in half because it is surprisingly soft.  But now you can see the golden caramel that oozed out onto my fingers.  The caramel is tart, and the dark chocolate is delightfully bitter when I take a section of it.  If you let it melt in your mouth you will get a buzz from this square, and that is very nice for the dark cocoa lover. 

The 5.32 oz. "Assorted Flavor" bag also has a Valentine's Day theme.  It has three flavors.  The 3 "Raspberry" and 3 "Milk & Caramel" squares I've already revealed, so I won't repeat those.  The other flavor is "Dark & Mint," which I will describe below, and there were 4 of these.  3 squares have 210 calories, 6 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 20 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 24 g sugars, 2 g protein, 2% vitamin C, 4% calcium, and 8% iron.  Are you following the trans fat trend with me, Sisters and Brothers?

The "Dark & Mint" square is broken before I have it fully open, the white filling slowly leaking out and flooding my senses with cool, sharp mint that blends well with the dark cocoa.  The filling is very thick; the pieces stick together even though they are clearly broken.  It has an intense flavor that cools off my mouth when I take a bite, but it does not overwhelm the cocoa until the second bite.  Is it the flavor or the cooling sensation that I'm feeling that makes the cocoa fade, though?  I'm not sure, but the intensity of the mint can be countered by simply slowing down when you eat it.

The 6.17 oz. White Heart Box is probably the prettiest of the selections that Ghirardelli sent to your Chocolate Priestess.  It looks very romantic with the coloring, and it looks large, as if there are a ton of chocolate squares inside.   And there are 14 pieces inside, all of the "Luxe Milk" variety, so I'll reveal each in full glory.  4 pieces equal a serving here, so that is a difference from the other offerings.  Each serving has 210 calories, 7 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 35 mg sodium, 21 g sugars, 3 g protein, 2% vitamin A, 8% calcium, and 4% iron.  Now don't let the numbers confuse you. These are smaller squares of only 0.36 oz. apiece, versus 0.56 oz. for the others.  The result is that for the same amount of product you'll get more calories here, but for individual pieces, which is really how we eat Ghirardelli, this is a better choice.  The ingredients list says that the "Luxe" varieties are much freer of artificial and added materials, so these are a purer chocolate.  If that is important to you, then this is the gift for you to go out and find today.

The plain "Luxe Milk" has a white and blue wrapper.  This has a very creamy scent when I open the wrapper.  The texture, too, is very creamy, very milky and pushed back on the cocoa bitterness, making it taste a lot like chocolate milk.  The chocolate is very solid and makes a soft snap when I take a bite.  Ideal for the milk chocolate lover.

The "Luxe Milk Crisp" square has visible poofy rice pieces on the back side, once freed from the white and yellow wrapper.  The scent is identical to the plain milk chocolate variety.  There are quite a few crisps in this square, and they make a loud crunch with each chew.  This has an airy sort of quality from the crisp that adds an interesting twist to the creaminess.  Again a great piece for milk chocolate, but be wary of rice allergies, which are not terribly common, but they do exist.

Finally we have the "Luxe Milk Almond" square, which has a white and red wrapper covering it.  This also has visible nut pieces on the back side of the square but not as many as the rice crisps.  As always be very wary of tree nut allergies; the Milk Chocolate Acolyte has this, and it can be very dangerous.  The almonds give off a definite scent when I open the wrapper, but that fades, so the milk chocolate dominates.  There is a slight crunch when I bite and chew but not nearly as much as with the crisp flavor.  The almond's earthy sweetness blends well with the cocoa and makes this a very balanced variety.

The 7.45 oz. Red Tin is the biggest gift option by weight, though it can't be by chocolate weight, since it has as many pieces as the White Heart-shaped box did, 14 pieces.  These flavors don't require full reviews, though, because they are no different from the other collections.  There are 14 pieces of flavors I've already fully revealed to you: 4 Raspberry, 5 Milk Chocolate & Caramel, and 5 Dark & Mint.   This has basically the same flavor selection as the assorted bag I looked a few paragraphs above, so the nutritional values are the same, too.  Consider this if you want to give your beloved a bit more chocolate and the heart-shaped box, which is good if you have to travel a bit of a distance.

One note about the trans fat in some of these flavors.  Based on the combinations of each Valentine's Day container, I think the flavors you might want to think a bit longer about before eating are the dark chocolate ones.  I love dark chocolate, and you know at 60-70% cocoa and up (studies are saying different things) it can be healthy.  Trans fat is never healthy, so I can't recommend the dark chocolate varieties beyond their flavor.  As with all chocolate, remember: Moderation and Purposefulness.  Considering all the factors for Valentine's Day, I'd personally go with the White Heart box of Luxe variety.

It isn't too late to find quality and decently priced mass produced chocolate for your sweetheart.  You can find that in any of these Ghirardelli products if you go today, because tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and then it may be too late.  Or if the dates doesn't matter so much, be on the lookout for their products throughout the year. 

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

1 comment:

mavido79 said...

I've always been fond of Ghirardelli chocolate but didn't realize they had quite so much variety. Now I must go out and do my own exploration.

Happy Valentines Day wishes to all the followers of the cult.