Saturday, February 27, 2010

Seattle Variety in 2.5 Ounce Bars

Last year Seattle Chocolate sent us several offerings, and today we'll be revealing the last of these, several varieties of their 2.5 ounce Truffle bars, to you as a full Chocolate Cult team with reports from your Chocolate Priestess, the Chocolate Coconut Acolyte and our Mocha Acolyte.  In total Seattle sent us 10 different flavors, one of each variety they sell, so you will find out today which bars may be the right one, or two, or three or more, for you.

Let's begin with our hard-working Chocolate Coconut Acolyte's review of the "Coconut Macaroon Dark Chocolate Truffle Bar with Coconut and Sea Salt" — WOW what a long name!

"The color is not quite as dark as I expected, though still much darker than the average milk chocolate bar would be. The cocoa aroma isn't revealed until the bar is out of its wrapper and a section is broken off. Then the scent is so powerful that it's almost overwhelming. The section begins to melt on my fingers fairly quickly, and there's no waxy feeling at all. I bite the first section and let the smaller piece melt in my mouth … except that it doesn't melt as quickly now that it's out of my hand. There's a lot of coconut in this bar, and it binds well with the chocolate.

The coconut is lightly toasted and adds more texture than flavor. Interestingly, I hear a slight crunching sound when I break off a section but none when I actually chew a piece. The chocolate is creamy and very rich in cocoa flavor. Brothers and Sisters, I wasn't expecting to like this candy, as I don't like mixing sweet and salty flavors. However, in this case the salt taste wasn't really apparent and only served to enhance the wonderful flavor of the chocolate. On whole I'd say that this is my favorite of all the offerings that I've been asked to reveal to you, and I'd highly recommend you get your hands on one of these chocolate bars."

Thank you for that report, mavido79.  Lets turn to the Mocha Acolyte's report next:

"Both of these bars from Seattle Chocolates come wrapped in colorful, eye-pleasing packaging. The bars feel somewhat substantial for their size, promising an admirable solidity. Upon opening them, I detect a wonderful aroma of cocoa wafting from each of them. The unwrapped bars bear an interesting textured pattern on the top, and each bar is sectioned into four pieces, each roughly the size of a domino.

The Pike Place Espresso bar is described as a dark chocolate truffle bar with espresso infusion. My attempt to break off a piece results in fair-sized chunks, each with a resounding snap. The texture begins as dense and toothsome, but as I chew it quickly assumes a thick velvety smoothness that is indeed reminiscent of a truffle in bar form. The chocolate flavor is strong and quite sweet. The coffee flavor is less prominent in the initial burst of flavor but rises nicely as a subtle aftertaste reminiscent of espresso beans. After several bites I feel a strong sugar rush and a moderate cocoa rush, though not much of a coffee buzz — it is good, but it might benefit from more of a coffee punch.  The wrapper indicates that this chocolate is 53% cacao dark chocolate and 33% cacao milk chocolate, as well as Turkish-ground decaffeinated coffee. It contains milk and soya, and is processed in a facility that processes peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and wheat products.

The Cappuccino Crunch bar is a milk chocolate truffle bar with toffee and almonds. Like the Pike Place bar, it resists breaking and snaps off into fair-sized chunks. The texture is slightly grainier than the Pike Place bar, but the contrast is distinct and appealing. The sugary toffee's slow dissolving and the sustained crunchiness of the almond slivers both provide wonderful counterpoint for the creamy chocolate truffle smoothness. Chocolate almond lovers will find a lot to enthuse about in this bar; the flavor balance of chocolate and almond is well realized, and the toffee note is a winning element as well. I did not, however, get much of a sense of coffee in this bar. I probably would not have guessed cappuccino was intended to be part of the flavor profile without reading it on the label.  The wrapper indicates this chocolate is 33% cacao milk chocolate and contains almonds, all natural toffee, and Turkish-ground decaffeinated coffee.  It contains milk, soya, and almonds, and is processed in a facility that processes peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and wheat products.

Pros: wonderfully sweet and tasty, incredible texture, cheerful flavor profiles.
Cons: coffee notes too subtle; may be too sweet for those used to darker cocoas.
While the coffee lover in me definitely wanted stronger coffee flavors, the chocolate lover in me was pleased. Both bars were delicious, especially the toffee almond crunch."

Thanks for that report, davebear_in.

Now your Chocolate Priestess can turn to the other seven varieties of 2.5 oz. bars from Seattle Chocolate. I've grouped these to get a clearer image on the photos, so there will be several during the Sacrament.  I'll start with the milk chocolate and work my way to the darker, from the solid, unfilled types to the filled or more complex flavor combinations.  I note that each bar is two servings, but I'm going to calculate the total nutritional values for the entire bar, since I know many of you may eat an entire bar in one day.  Each bar also measures 4.75 × 2 × 0.5 inches in dimensions, so I won't be repeating that information each time.  Each also has milk and soya in it as well as any allergens listed in the bar's title, and their plant processes wheat, nuts, and peanuts regularly, so be aware of that if you have severe allergies to any of these.

There are two milk chocolate varieties for me to try today, Sisters and Brothers.  The plain "Milk Chocolate" Truffle Bar will start me off.  The entire yellow wrapped bar contains 380 calories,  20 grams saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 70 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 4 g protein, and 4% of the calcium and 10% of the iron that an adult needs daily. Removing the paper wrapper lets the milk chocolate scent leak from the dark inner wrapper.  Opening it reveals the same four sections and wavy line pattern we saw in the Acolytes' reports.  The bar is cool and smooth to my fingers as I break off a section, but the molded wavy line pattern on top feels different, adding another sensation to the mix.  (Since this is true for every bar, I won't repeat this observation.)  The first bite breaks off with a dull snap because it is so thick, and inside I see two layers of chocolate, a fact that is reflected on the label, as davebear_in pointed out, with 33% and 53% chocolate in one bar.  This makes the milk chocolate bar more intense than most mass-produced candies you can buy, but still it is very creamy and smooth.  An excellent bar for the milk chocolate lover who can handle high cocoa content.

Next the "Meltaway Mint" is a truffle bar with a peppermint infusion.  Ah, peppermint — this is quite different from the more spearmint-type flavor I normally expect when I think of mint chocolates, so I am anticipating that what is hidden under the green patterned wrapper may be unique tasting.  One bar has 400 calories, 20 g saturated fat, < 10 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 32 g sugars, 4 g protein, 4% calcium and 12% iron.  The peppermint scent is strong after I remove the outer paper wrapper, and it gets stronger when the second wrapper is opened, so strong that it does overwhelm the cocoa scent.  In the photo you can't tell the difference between the two bars, but this mint one has a different heft to it when I pick it up.  The peppermint scent reminds me of Christmastime, something to keep in mind for the future, Sisters and Brothers.  This has a soft snap when I break off a section and take a bite, but the cocoa content spread between dark and milk is the same.  The peppermint remains very strong and is the primary flavor here, creating a tingling sensation through my mouth as I chew or let a bite melt in my mouth.  You must love peppermint to enjoy this bar, so if you prefer the other type of mint, then don't choose this variety.

There are two plain dark chocolate bars to look at next.  The 53% cacao has the blue wrapper, while the maroon wrapper marks the 65% cacao.  The 53% bar contains 380 calories, 18 g saturated fat, 120 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 30 g sugars, 4 g protein, 4% calcium, and 40% iron.  This has a strong cocoa scent to it as soon as the outer wrapper is removed.  Again this bar has two types of chocolate in it, 53% and 33% cocoa varieties.  It is more difficult to break off a section and also firmer to bite into but makes no sound when I do both.  The chocolate begins to melt in my mouth immediately, starting that lovely cocoa buzz we dark chocolate lovers desire.  I can taste the subtle difference between the two flavors of chocolate, but overall this is great for darker cocoa lovers.

The two dark chocolate bars are just barely different in color, though the scent is much stronger for this 65% dark chocolate bar.  It has different nutritional values in some areas compared to its lighter cousin, with 380 calories, 20 g saturated fat, 10 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 24 g sugars, 4 g protein, and 4% calcium and 12% iron an adult needs daily.  This has only one type of chocolate in it, the 65%, which explains the deeper and earthier intensity in scent. This is also a bit harder to break and bite into, but it makes a solid snap when I do so.  Inside is solid chocolate with an amazing creaminess that I was not expecting from a dark chocolate.  The sensations move from my mouth into my sinuses and into my head, and soon I'm floating from just two bites of half of one section of this incredible bar.  I highly recommend this as a Sacrament.

Finally I get to the three "dark chocolate plus something else" bars.  The first of these is "Perfect Peanut Butter," which boasts roasted peanuts.  The orange and maroon wrapper encases 400 calories, 12 g saturated fat, < 10 mg cholesterol, 90 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 28 g sugars, 8 g protein, 8% calcium, and 8% iron.  Normally I see peanuts and peanut butter paired with milk chocolate, but when I open the wrapper here the dark cocoa and the roasted peanut scents mix equally and pleasantly for me.  

This bar was broken when I opened it, sadly not along a section boundary, so I took a picture so you can see the peanut butter and the few nuts visible in it.  This has two levels of cocoa listed, but these are different from what we've seen before: 30% white chocolate and 53% dark chocolate.  I don't see the white chocolate, so I'm betting it's in the peanut butter, like a product I'll be reviewing later.  This has a very roasted flavor to it which makes the cocoa seem darker than the previous 53% bar, but it also has this sweet creamy flavor that I believe confirms the presence of the white chocolate in the filling.  There aren't many peanut pieces here, but they do crunch when I encounter them.  This is a unique peanut butter chocolate treat that reminds me of a more intense dark Reese's cup, so if you like that, I think you will really enjoy this.

The second is "Orange Appeal," which has a "candied orange peel" listed on the front label.  This bar, whose wrapper is decorated with orange rectangles, has 380 calories, 18 g saturated fat, 10 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 30 mg sugars, and 4 g protein, with 30% vitamin C, 4% calcium, and 8% iron.  This has a strong orange scent when I open it but only a few hints of orange peel, so I only took this one picture of the two last bars together.  Oddly, when I take a bite I encounter a lump of very chewy but hard orange something, but it is small, and I can't find it again to take a photo of it.  The flavor is a great combination of cocoa and orange sweetness, but this lump is just an odd texture to deal with.  The bar is not expired yet — the dates are on the back of each wrapper — and I maintain the products I'm sent in cool and dry conditions, so I'm not sure what is going on.

The very last one is "Rainier Cherry," which has "praline pecans and cherries," making it the most complex bar of the ones your Chocolate Priestess had to reveal today.  This comes in a two pattern purple label and has 380 calories, 18 g saturated fat, 30 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 28 g sugars, and 4 g protein, with 4% of the calcium and 12% of the iron you need daily.  This has a nutty fragrance but no cherry or fruity scent when I open it; cocoa is the strongest essence I smell.  Biting into it I see lots of little nuts, so I snap a picture for you.  The nut pieces create a continuous crunch while each bite is also a bit chewy.  I can taste the chocolate, the nuts, and the sweet glazing immediately, but if I didn't know the other very subtle taste was cherry, I couldn't name it as such.  Letting it melt brings out the cherry flavor more.  This is an example of how complexity may not be a great idea all the time, because I feel like there is just too much going on in this variety.

I'm sure among all of these varieties you could find something to love for yourself or as a gift.  The overall impression we three had was very positive, and thus The Chocolate Cult can declare that the 2.5 oz. bars from Seattle Chocolates are worthy Sacraments, with some flavor combinations more worthy than others.

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

Friday, February 26, 2010

Chocolate Shops in Illinois

In preparation for your Chocolate Priestess's long trip back to see family and for various trips she has to take this spring and summer, I'm looking for your knowledge about different chocolatiers and chocolate shops or bakeries or whatever might lay along our routes.

We'll be going through Illinois along I-74 for part of the trip.  If you know the addresses of any chocolatiers along that route, please leave me a comment with their name and as much address information as you can.

We'd love to stop at two or some places along the journey and then I'd share that with you with photographs and details like you all enjoyed last year when I did this a few times.

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

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Allergens in Chocolate: Voice Your Concerns

Your Chocolate Priestess always tries to include information about potential allergens in the chocolate and cocoa products she reviews.  There is a standard list of these allergens that companies as supposed to highlight on their nutritional information but sometimes I find potential allergens in the ingredients unhighlighted and I'll mention those.

Aside from those of you who have allergies to cocoa and chocolate proteins, what other allergy concerns do you cacao lovers worry about?  Perhaps it isn't you but a family member or loved one you have to worry about?  What complains for and advice to chocolatiers do you have?

I want to see a lot of comments about this.  Allergies can make life miserable, they can even be life threatening but unless numerous people speak out, those that work with our Sacred Substance will remain unaware there is a need to think about what they add to their candies, baked goods, and drinks.

Please leave your comments below.  While I know this may open the floodgate of emotions, try to keep your complaints and suggestions civil.  If I get enough comments, I'll send a notice of this post to those chocolatiers who have submitted products to us and maybe, just maybe, they might begin to make alternatives for those of you with allergies.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cinnamon Hot Cocoa

We tried another flavor of the Kroger Private Selection Cocoa Supreme variety of individual hot cocoa mixes last night.  This was the "Chocolate & Cinnamon" flavor.  I got these on sale for 50¢ versus their everyday price of 65¢ currently at my local Kroger.  As with the other flavors the biggest problem is the trans fat, 2g of it per envelop which is one serving.  It also has 150 calories, 1.5g saturated fat, 120mg sodium, less than a gram of fiber, 23g sugars, 3g protein, with 8% calcium nad 2% iron.

It mixed up well, frothing up a bit and stayed fairly well mixed in with the hot water I used.  I also used older mugs we had from relatives that are much smaller and actually hold the 6oz this mix makes.  There in lays a trick to control your portion size -- smaller plates and glasses/mugs make you feel like you are getting more because the serving feels the space up.  With our more modern mugs, 6oz was maybe half the mug and it seemed like we didn't have enough hot chocolate. When it involves trans fat, if you decide to use that at all, you want to control portion sizes.  The cinnamon was clearly there in the scent and taste but it never over powered the chocolate that was a good milk chocolate intensity.

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

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Muscle Building Chocolate?

I found this Muscle Milk Light "Chocolate Peanut Caramel" bar at Target on sale so I purchased one so I could reveal it to you.  Inside this white plastic-foil wrapper is a 3.25 X 1.25 X 1 inch bar with oozing caramel out of the sides.  It has a very caramel smell with a strong cocoa scent. Cocoa powder is low on the ingredients list however.  This 1.59oz bar has 170 calories composed of 4g saturated fat, 105mg sodium, 110mg potassium, 4g dietary fiber , 9g sugars, 15g protein, 2% iron and 8% calcium though it says on the wrapper “Zero Lactose” so I'm not completely sure where the calcium comes from unless it is purposely added.  Wrapper also says this is a “Smart Hunger Control” but I’m having it for breakfast myself and I'll see how long the hunger control lasts.

The bar is very difficult to take a bite from, very thick, firm, and a bit chewy at the same time. You’ll build jaw muscles by chewing, it even sticks to my teeth.  It starts off sweet and chocolaty but as I keep chewing the tastes turns very bitter.   Inside is a very firm brownie like section which makes up maybe 85% of the bar, with a few peanuts and caramel on top. While it looks a lot like a candy bar, the taste turning so bitter isn’t candy like at all. This is unlikely to be something I’d buy again but I’m glad I tried it once for all of you, Sisters and Brothers.

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

Sunday, February 21, 2010

One Year in The Chocolate Cult

Sisters and Brothers, today marks the one year birthday of The Chocolate Cult.


This is our 325th post so I feel like I've give you all quite  bit to think about through the past 365 days.  We've looked at several types of products related to chocolate, mostly candy and fine chocolates but also drinks, books, tv shows, and news items.  Each time I try to present you with objective information infused with rational and logical questions to get you thinking.

In one year 48 companies have given us samples of their products to review and that has translated into 52 "Saturday Sacraments" and 11 "Special Sacramental Reviews".  I consider these the highlight of this blog and I hope you always come back to read them so that those chocolatiers and retailers who entrust us can see how much you want to learn about good and not so good products to spend your money and time on.

I always try to be fair in my reviews and my opinions but I know sometimes I must fail because I'm only human.  I would dearly love to see a lot more comments from you all in this coming year.  Please do send me a message about any companies you think that might be interested in sending us offerings and spread the word about us.  Remember at the bottom of the pages you can find a link to buying a bumper sticker with our information on it for a very small price.

If The Chocolate Cult has been useful or even simply a pleasure to read, please leave a comment and let me know.

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

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Healthy Chocolate Options

Sometimes you get things you aren't expecting here in The Chocolate Cult.  Fouts Family Chocolate seemed like a small chocolatier, and as you know I love to give those publicity here, especially when their chocolates rival or outshine mass-produced candy.  What they sent me were several Xocai products, as you can see in this photo.  Healthy chocolates are big business, but they are mostly sold through small family businesses, I've discovered, so Fouts fits in well.  I'm not opposed to testing claims about healthy chocolate, breakfast or workout bars, and dietary aids; it is just rare that we get those to do as Sacraments, but given that we are supposed to be eating The Sacred Substance in Moderation and with a Purpose, this could work for us in The Chocolate Cult.

The offering came in a lovely purple drawstring bag along with three flyers about health, chocolate and Xocai products.  As I always caution you, Sisters & Brothers, never forget to double check any medical claims with your doctor, or at least with medical sources that aren't trying to sell you anything.  Inside the reusable bag there were six different products.  All of these are supposed to replace meals or  help curb appetite, so instead of using them only on Saturday, your Chocolate Priestess used them during the week as directed to see if they affected her eating habits.

First, in place of breakfast I tried the Xocai Protein Bar — I exercise after breakfast, so I thought that would be a good test.  One bar has 140 calories with 2.4 g saturated fat, 175 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 7g  sugars, 10 g protein, 25% Vitamins A & C, 9% iron and 7% calcium.  This oblong bar is 3.75 inches long and 1.25 inches wide, with a height of just over half an inch.  When I open the label I immediately smell fruit — a very strong fruit scent that hides the chocolate until I bring it close to my nose and take a deep whiff of it.  Looking at the ingredients label I do see cocoa, but I primarily notice that this is an amazingly processed food with lots of "special mixtures" and "blends."  I see blueberry, grape, plum, and acai on there, so that must be the fruit fragrance I continue to smell long after opening the wrapper.  The label also reveals a lot of soy, so be aware of that if you have such an allergy.  A bite of this bar reveals a dry but brownie-like texture with a strong cocoa and fruit flavor.  This cannot compete with brownies in taste or texture, but then it's not supposed to, so how does this compare to other protein bars we've reviewed here on The Chocolate Cult?  It has a stronger cocoa flavor and is less crunchy, so it is easier to chew.  The fruit aftertaste is really strong, however, and eventually overwhelms the cocoa.  In terms of cocoa and bars I'd have for breakfast, this isn't the worst, but I'm not really pleased either.

Four of the samples are small pieces of chocolate that you are supposed to let melt in your mouth and then drink a glass of water about 30 minutes before a meal.   So I'll try these before two lunches and two dinners.  The first is the Xocai Nugget, which has 70 calories 3 g saturated fat, 10 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 3 g sugars and 1 g protein.  It is also worth 2 Weight Watchers points, if you are keeping track of that.  It is wrapped in gold foil and measures just over an inch by just under an inch, with a height of 0.75 inches.  You can see it in the photo to the left.  This has a dark, shiny color and a strong chocolaty scent when I unwrap it.  Per instructions, I place it in my mouth and let it melt; it is a mouthful!  A very intense cocoa flavor slowly fills my mouth, and a nice buzz builds up as I let this melt over the course of the four minutes it takes.  Then I drink a glass of water as instructed and wait 30 minutes to have lunch.  Does it make me feel less hungry?  Of course, because of the 70 calories and the tummyful of water.  Beyond that, this was a nice little piece of chocolate, but I can't say it curbed my appetite more than something else with the same number of calories might have.

Next I tried the Xocai X Power Square, which, while small at only 1 inch square, has 100 calories with 5 g saturated fat, 9 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 7 g sugars, and 2 g protein.  The amount of saturated fat is very worrisome to me, because I try to limit the amount of that type of fat in my diet to less than 30 g a day.  It smells very dark, and it has a diagonal line pattern on top — you can see that the piece had broken in transport in the photo.  It has a very dark flavor as well and is a bit grainy as I let it melt in my mouth; I don't like it as much as the Nugget.  Because of the thinness of this square it only takes a minute to melt.  I have a glass of water and then wait at least a half hour before dinner.

The next morning for breakfast I try the "X Power Cookie," which you see to the left.  This measures 2.75 × 3.5 × 0.5 inches, though as you can see it's a bit irregularly shaped, so the shape may vary slightly from cookie to cookie.  It has a very cocoay and sweet scent when I open the foil wrapper.  One cookie has 220 calories, 1 g saturated fat, 104 mg sodium, 7 g fiber (which I like a lot), 20 g sugars, 3 g protein, 5% calcium and 9% iron.  Cocoa and cocoa butter are part of the fourth ingredient on the label.  For allergies you should be aware that this has both wheat and soy.  The cookie is soft and slightly chewy.  The first flavors are cocoa and sugars; I think I detect the tanginess of brown sugar.  Then the fruit flavors kick in and leave a strangely bitter aftertaste.  Now I discovered you can avoid part of this aftertaste by drinking something quickly, but it is disappointing given the appearance, nutritional values and initial tastes.  So far this is my favorite product from Fouts Family Chocolate, however.

The "Xocai Omega Square" I have before lunch.  This 1.25 × 1.75 × 0.5 inch piece has 64 calories, 2.3 g saturated fat, 8.3 mg sodium, 1.3 g fiber, 2.7 g sugars, and 1 g protein, with 402 mg flavonoids.  Dark chocolate is the very first ingredient listed for this square, and orange and blueberry are also listed; I can smell them along with the cocoa.  Inside are little bits of what the label identifies as orange peel. The tang of the orange mixes well with the bitter chocolate as well as providing a nice crunch.  The intensity of the cocoa must be high, because I feel a buzz beginning as I continue to enjoy this.  Yes, I am enjoying this, and this sample easily replaces the previous as my favorite so far.

Finally I save the "XoBiotic" square until the next morning, since that is when I normally take probiotic supplements.  This 1.75 × 1.25 × 0.25 inch rectangle isn't really a square, is it?  One piece also isn't a serving; that is 3 pieces, so let me do some math for you, Sisters & Brothers.  This one piece has 57 calories, 2.34 g saturated fat, 5 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, and less than a gram of protein.  The nutritional information also says this has flavonoids and probiotics in it.  The piece is very dark in color and has a strong dark cocoa scent.  It tastes very dark, though it does not feel dry and has an almost baking chocolate flavor, very bitter and intense.  This does provide a serious cocoa rush before I even finish it, intensified by letting it melt in my mouth for one bite.

When you visit the website, you have to click on the little "shop" bar, which is actually a bit difficult to find — look in the lower right hand side of the page.   The prices are nothing like what I imagined they would be when I think in terms of price per serving (well under 50¢ for the smaller chocolates) but it does seem as if you have to purchase in large quantities.  I hope in the future Fouts Family Chocolate will redo the website and make it more user friendly.

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chocolate near Cincinnati/Sharonville Ohio?

Sisters & Brothers, your Chocolate Priestess will be at a science fiction and fantasy convention at the Holiday Inn I-275 at 3855 Hauck Road in Sharonville, Ohio, the third weekend in March.  Yes, we will have a Saturday Sacrament then I'll just post from the hotel or set it up ahead of time.

This is a shout out to any of my readers in that area.  While we probably won't venture much into the city proper, are there any chocolatiers you recommend between this hotel and Indiana?

If you know of any please leave a comment with their address including zip and I'll see if I can check them out with the Milk Chocolate Acolyte or the Coconut Acolyte both of whom will be at the convention.

Thank you all for your help.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chocolate & Fat Tuesday

Sisters and Brothers, for some of you today is Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras which means tomorrow starts Lent, 40 days you may feel you need to give up chocolate. I don't follow religious practices where I have to give up things, especially things I use in Moderation and with a Purpose all ready. But I will remind you that reading and commenting on the blog is not breaking any rules so please do keep reading. In fact, I think curbing your cocoa cravings by participating might do you a world of good.

Today you can indulge in whatever you plan to give up for Lent.

So tell me how you plan to indulge please. I promise not to tell your Priest. Is there a family or regional recipe you plan to make or just a candy bar or truffle you are going to buy?

If you plan to give up chocolate, please let us know how you choose this and how you plan to follow through. Let us offer you support here in The Chocolate Cult.

While we must continue to explore our Sacred Substance here, I want to remind all of us who do not follow Lent traditions of this sort that when you find out what someone is giving up, it is exceptionally rude to eat or drink that in front of them. Offer your support by choosing something else when you go out to eat with your friend who has cut out caffeine or chocolate or red meat. You can eat what you want with other friends or at home but offer your support as you'd hope they'd offer it to you.

I hope to see some comments today and learn more about how Mardi Gras, Lent & Chocolate all connect together for some of our readers.

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

Monday, February 15, 2010

Does Chocolate Decrease or Increase Stress?

Another health claim for chocolate has appeared in the mass media.  This one reported briefly on a study that showed eating 1.4oz of dark chocolate a day for two weeks changed the brain's biochemistry, reducing stress levels.  This was earlier reported on a medical website, too, with more details.  This website had even more details.  With Valentine's Day passed, I wanted to turn to other considerations of chocolate this week with a review of "healthy chocolate" this approaching Saturday Sacrament.

A few points about this study.

First, the participants were healthy adults but only 30 of them.  By healthy they seem to mean body mass index of 18-25.  However, BMI is only one measure of health and I have  concern about calling people with "high levels of stress" also a requirement for the subjects "healthy".

Second, the subjects of this study all had "high levels of stress" but what that means is unspecified.  Was it self-reported?  Were objective tests used?  What types of stress are we talking about, what was causing it?

Third, the dosage was controlled, these people weren't chowing down on large amounts of chocolate.

Finally, one of the most annoying parts of this media stream of reports, the cocoa content is not reported.  Is this so-called dark chocolate with 50% or 60% or 70% or 80%?  It is actually quite important otherwise how do you know what to buy.  The "dark" category of chocolate is pretty wide in terms of cocoa content.  Was it pure chocolate or did it have additives?

Mass media reports of this nature fuel the frenzy about chocolate and cocoa as a healthy food.  I don't doubt that our Sacred Substance can be health as well as healthier, Sisters and Brothers.  But I dislike misleading reports and the resulting business push to try and generate greater sales.  Chocolate shouldn't need health claims to sell it.  I mean, just follow the Path and you will experience great pleasures with little risk every day.

Please, please, please, do not play doctor with yourself and your loved ones.  Consult before consuming in large quantities and do your research.  Otherwise, use cocoa in moderation and with a purpose and just enjoy what the Divine and Human ingenuity have created.


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

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.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day around the World

Sunday, Sisters and Brothers, is Valentine's Day here in the USA.  In terms of the focus, while mass marketing would have you believe this is a day that men are supposed to go out of their way to court or remind women that they love them, a closer examination of what you can buy from gifts to cards reveals it is a holiday for everyone.  Children give each other cards in school, women give gifts to men, couples make plans, and even singles might band together to celebrate or comfort each other.

This got your Chocolate Priestess wondering about Valentine's Day and how it is celebrated around the world.  I used a few websites to gather some knowledge as well and as things I picked up from pop.  A list of website is at the bottom of this post.

I know that in Japan, Valentine's Day is when women give gifts to men while White Day one month later is when men return, sometimes threefold gifts to women.  On Valentine's Day, a homemade gift for one's lover/partner, called "hon-mei" is valued more than a store bought ones you give to friends and co-workers called "giri-choco" and yet the stores sell out annually.  Generally this is a holiday for young adults it seems.

Canada's traditions seem identical to the USA as far as I can tell.

In Australia, surveys reveal that the extravagant traditions of the 19th and early 20th centuries have given way to mostly cards and flowers with men doing most of the gift giving.  Other surveys in that country suggest that men are more likely to be romantic in their gestures and words than women.

Britain has a long tradition of Valentine's Day and one unique part of it is the children's songs that earn them treats.  That sort of reminds me of Halloween in a way.  Apparently poetry is still quite popular as well though store bought cards, chocolates and gifts are gaining ground.

Folklore reports that Valentine's Day cards originated in France.  There lovers exchange cards, flowers and gifts but I didn't find a mention of chocolate for this holiday.

In Italy there is a long tradition of couples announcing their engagements on Valentine's Day.  Celebrations as we have in the USA are widely seen as an import but it is still celebrated with dinners out, cards, and a variety of gifts including chocolates as I can attest from my year living in Rome.

Valentine's Day is also an import to India but stores go all out to encouraged consumers to buy gifts.  It has also become a time for younger people to propose marriage though I think we need to be wary of such information given traditions about marriage in India where the family is likely far more involved than most Americans would be comfortable with.

In Denmark young adults observe three traditions on February 14th.  Giving cards, giving white flowers called "snowdrops" and giving  "gaekkebrev"
or love poems where the sender is not listed; if the woman or girl who receives it, guesses correctly, she'll get another gift later in the year from the same man/boy.




In Scotland, the celebrations are done in more modest fashion with small gathering and often anonymous cards.  Apparently during these small parties there are some traditional games that are played as well and it is not unusual for marriages to result from pairings at these events.

Finally I found information about South Africa but I couldn't determine if this was for everyone in the country or only certain groups.  Given the strict history of segregation, I wouldn't be surprised if there are racial and ethnic differences so please give me more information, Sisters and Brothers.  Apparently Valentine's Day isn't so much of a day event as a holiday that turns into romantic vacations at least on the beaches of the country.

If you have more knowledge about Valentine's Day around World, please leave a comment and let us all know.  Or tell me how you plan to celebrate. Tomorrow is our last Valentine's Day Sacrament for 2010 so be sure to stop in and look it over.

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

St. Valentine's Day
Novareinna
St.Valentine'sNet

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cookies for Valentine's Day

Your Chocolate Priestess received a nice cashback bonus from one of her credit cards in the form of a double gift certificate to Mrs. Fields.  They primarily sell cookies, if you are unfamiliar with them, Sisters & Brothers.  Mrs. Fields is not just available online; you can find them in malls around the USA, so I thought it was fine to reveal one of their Valentine's Day offerings fairly close to this holiday so you can run out and buy it if you like.  Using this gift certificate I ordered the "Open Your Heart to Me" present and ended up paying some of the shipping costs.  Therefore, I'm counting this as a Sacrament, though I won't repeat the website links as I normally do when a company or chocolatier entrusts me with their treats.  If you don't mind the "Mrs. Fields" label on the side, you can reuse this box for future Valentine's Days.

Inside, a small magnet holds the right flap closed; I found the cookies and brownie bites all wrapped in plastic and nestled in red crinkled paper.  Not as pretty as it looks on the website, but then if you are shipping it to someone you don't want the cookies slipping around and getting broken.  One downside to this gift is that you can't choose which cookies you send, so only some of these are chocolate.  The non-chocolate cookies in this box include: 2 heart-shaped sugar cookies with a ton of red sprinkles on them; a butterscotch blondie; 6 Debra's Special, which are oatmeal, raisins, and walnuts cookies; and 6 Cinnamon Sugar cookies.  In terms of chocolate there were three types of treats here I'll reveal to you as I always do, Sisters & Brothers, in full sensory glory. 

The "Double Fudge" brownie bites are 1 by 1 by 3/4 inches in dimensions.  They come in blocks of six bites, and two blocks were in this box.  The bites break off and become two-bite treats with a very chocolaty scent.  The chocolate chips are readily available on the top, while the bottom looks a little gooey, as wonderful brownies should be.  It tastes just like you'd want such a brownie to taste; I'm satisfied with them and the mild buzz one bite provides, though they are a bit sugary.

The "White Chunk and Macadamia Nuts" cookies came in a six pack as well and have a 1.75 inch diameter.  Primarily these smell very much like brown sugar and butter.  The cookie is nice and soft; your Chocolate Priestess prefers softer cookies.  Inside are crisp nuts and very creamy white chocolate chips.  This is a good combination of flavors, but the buzz is strictly sugar based, not unusual for white chocolate.

Another six count of cookies in this box is the "Semi-Sweet Chocolate without Nuts."  Again the scent of these is mostly brown sugar and butter, but there is that sharp, bitter cocoa fragrance as well.  This tastes less thoroughly cooked and more doughy than the previous cookies, but the nice dark chips are great.  While no ingredients list was included, I think I sense a hint of vanilla here as well. 

If you do decide to go to a Mrs. Fields outlet for your Valentine's Day gifts, please do mention The Chocolate Cult to them and let them know you read this review.  We'll have one more Sacrament before Valentine's Day on the 13th, so if you still haven't made up your mind to get some of the Sacred Substance to celebrate, you'll have one more review to help you.

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Chocolate Cult Valentine's Day 2010

Your Chocolate Priestess shares bits and pieces with you about her personal life outside of chocolate from time to time.  I don't want to devolve into topics that do not relate to our Sacred Substance.  But I will share what my Valentine's Day weekend plans are and in return I want to hear about yours -- both as they relate to chocolate.

Have you been reading The Chocolate Cult for the past few weeks?  Have you seen the number of Saturday Sacraments and Special Sacramental Reviews I've been doing?  Because of all of this, I asked my guys, the White and Milk Chocolate Acolytes as you know them, to not get me chocolate except as part of a meal.

This is a big change for me.  I used to always want chocolate, the darker the better on Valentine's Day, as well as a stuffed animal.  Being on the Path with you means I control those cravings and I now know that getting chocolate is not the same as getting love.  To be blunt there are just too many stuffed animals in my house right now, too.


The White Chocolate Acolyte and I are spending the 13th together.  We've ordered a heart shaped pizza from a local favorite called Mother Bear's with their regular sauce, pepperoni, cheddar cheese and apple sausage along with their bread sticks.  That will be delivered around Noon. Before then I have a Saturday Sacrament to do for those of you who have put off your gift and treat buying until the last minute.  So there is my chocolate for that day unless I feel like something else by the evening.

The Milk Chocolate Acolyte is going to make us a romantic dinner on the 14th. OK, not really make so much as heat up and lay out food we're going to pick out tomorrow evening at the huge grocery store near us.  I do most of the cooking here and while he wants to "treat me" and I don't want to go to a crowded restaurant with an expensive and limited "special menu" I also didn't want to eat burnt or undercooked food.  We will get something from the bakery or a bakery to go with that meal as well as some wine.

So am I crazy to not want a box of chocolates?  No, no, no, not if you have been reading.  To stay on this Path I have to remain moderate and eat with a purpose.  That purpose has been to help you all assess which chocolate goodies you might want to spend your money on this year.  I hope it's been helpful, please let me know if it has or has not so I can keep improving.

Tomorrow will be another Special Sacramental Review for Valentine's Day so make sure you come back and check it out.

I really want to hear how you are incorporating chocolate into your Valentine's Day whether you are single, coupled, casually dating, or part of a bigger household.

This morning I also received offerings from Island Angel Chocolates and Life So Sweet. We'll get to these wonderful offering in the forthcoming months.

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

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tower of Sweets

FTD is primarily known for flowers and their delivery around the world, but they also offer other gifts, including a decent selection of chocolates they retail.  Your Chocolate Priestess received a double value gift certificate from one of her credit cards and used it to buy one such gift from FTD.  This was the "Red Roses Tower of Sweets," which is three boxes of four types of chocolate treats plus a photo frame.  This arrived exactly as scheduled, but you should know that shipping costs are outrageous from FTD.  Instead of being based on weight or cost of the gift, these are just flat fees depending on if you want it delivered during the week or on a weekend.  This meant that I spent about 2/3 of the what this tower cost on postage.

Let's get the non-chocolate out of the way for this gift.  The box on the side is the almost 6 by 7 inch picture frame.  This was quite disappointing because it is made of sturdy cardboard and plastic.  OK for putting a photo in but, not a terribly wonderful gift, certainly not one you'd want to give as a separate gift.  In fact, the the boxes the treats come in seem to be made of the same material, which makes them sturdy reusable boxes that stack inside one another, but not a high-class frame.

Let's start with the top box, the smallest, and see what is inside.  Buried in crinkled white paper are six red foil wrapped milk chocolate hearts which measure 3/8" deep and about 1.25" in length.  These have a chocolaty but also a waxy smell to them, and since there are no nutritional or ingredients lists, I can only guess this means this chocolate has artificial additives.  In terms of tastes, it has that mass-produced Easter Bunny flavor to it, but it does melt and coat your mouth in creamy chocolate flavor.

In the middle box are two types of treats.  First, four little 60% Dark Chocolate squares from Ghirardelli, who are sending us something to review next week right before Valentine's Day, so I won't review them here.  Second there is a box of four "French Chocolate Truffles" made with cocoa (far down on the list of ingredients) but also a lot of artificial flavors and colors, and they contain 0.3 g of trans fat.  The truffles are also individually wrapped in gold foil bags, which you see in this photo along with an unwrapped one.  The truffle has a cocoa scent and is rather pinched looking, like it was grasped at the top and squeezed a bit when it was made  There is a dusting of cocoa on the outside of the chocolate, which has a 1 inch diameter.  This is a semi-soft treat which melts in my mouth.  The rush I get, though, is really more sugar, moving downward from my mouth into my bloodstream.  This just does not compare well at all with other French style truffles we've seen on The Chocolate Cult.

An 8 oz. bag of "Chocolate Covered Pretzels" is packed in the biggest box along with more of the white crinkled paper.  This also contains the ingredients and nutritional information; it has more chocolate than the truffles, frankly.  One ounce, or 1/8th of the bag, has 150 calories, 3.5 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 135 mg sodium, less than 1 g fiber, 12 g sugars, 2 g protein, and 2% of the calcium and iron an adult needs daily.  Each pretzel is about 1.5 inches across and has raised lines of chocolate over it.  These appear to have suffered some damage in transport, since they have scuff marks and some are broken. This is just a normal risk when you get something delivered instead of delivering it yourself.  These have a very strong cocoa scent to them, but they feel sort of waxy, probably from the added vegetable oil listed in the ingredients.  The pretzel has a good crunch to it, and the chocolate is about average tasting for this type of treat, but the salt becomes overwhelmingly the primarily flavor.  Not as good as other pretzels we've had here on The Chocolate Cult.

I'm just not impressed by this particular gift option from FTD, Sisters &  Brothers.  For the price the quality is just not good enough.  While there were plenty of pretzels, the other chocolates didn't have enough to really be worth their share of the cost.  The frame was disappointing, but I do like the reusable and stackable boxes.  Add in an incredibly high shipping & handling cost, and I think you can find a better deal out there for your Valentine's Day gifts.  Look through our "Saturday Sacraments" and "Special Sacraments" sections to find some of these other options.

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