Monday, December 11, 2017

Ho Ho Ho Holiday Bark

I've made bark and we've tested numerous barks here on The Chocolate Cult but today I want to introduce you to the Ho Ho Ho Holiday Bark from Sugar Plum Chocolates. You met from Sugar Plum a few days ago in this interview but today I'm going to take your senses into this tin gift box and show you a treat you may still have time to get for your winter holiday celebrations or even a seasonal birthday for the chocolate and peppermint lovers in your life. I think the tin, bow, and gift tag on it are wintery but not  any particularly holiday so that gives this wider appeal and great potential gift-giving use. Sugar Plum Chocolates sent us this tin in exchange for our testing it out and writing about it; no other form of compensation was received for this article.

The bark is three slabs of bark each individually wrapped. Only one small section of one slab broke in transit. Other barks I've received to test and write about have been broken into pieces. You can see the unbroken bark as your chance to control how much you eat at any given time or your chance to have fun breaking it up. If you know you want to share this with a small group, portion control might appeal, if you sharing with a large group then you may need a lot of pieces. Each slab's wrapper has the product name on the label but the nutritional and ingredient information is on the bottom of the tin itself. The three slabs nutritionally have 16 servings. Using a knife to cut it doesn't work very well as is the case in general for barks and solid chocolates. The "White Chocolate" does not meet the FDA definition of that product but the "Dark Chocolate" for the drizzle is basic sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, and vanilla.

Note: I pointed out this problem with "white chocolate" to the folks at Sugar Plum Chocolates and they are working on fixing their labels. Hopefully they will also fix the information on their website. This is how responsible companies react you point out problems so I applaud them for doing so.

We used scissors to cut open the wrappers and the first fragrance was peppermint though not as much as you might expect. The bark broke into pieces easily with a snapping sound. the amount of dark chocolate drizzle and peppermint candies varied from slab to slab and piece to piece. The intensity of the peppermint was the strongest flavor followed by sweetness. Only letting the drizzled side melt against my tongue allowed that flavor to come out. The peppermint pieces and the cookies provided chunch without stickiness while the peppermint was a tingling coolness in our mouths. One tester described it as a "a bit too rich to eat much" but the others just thought it was the level of richness you expect from such a treat.

For us on The Chocolate Cult, earning Sacramental status is based in part upon the quality of chocolate and how well it stands up against other flavors. The chocolate in this Ho Ho Ho Holiday Bark is dark chocolate drizzle but it's flavor just could not power through the white candy, peppermint, and cookies. All three testers I had help me with this evaluation agreed on the dark chocolate flavor absence. However, we did all really like this product. We all love peppermint and this bark is really for the peppermint lovers in your life for Christmas, another winter holiday, or a birthday. Heck, I wouldn't offended to get this for Valentine's Day either.


Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Gingerbread Dark Chocolate? Yes!

Gingerbread Dark Chocolate from Askinosie
Askinosie sent us another bar to test out and let you all know about, another of their limited holiday collection. This one is truly made for winter: the Gingerbread Dark Chocolate bar! When I think winter holidays and flavors/fragrances, gingerbread is high on the list. This bar is made with single origin dark chocolate, cocoa butter, 5 savory spices (ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and clove), and unrefined cane sugar. This could either be a delight or the spices could over power it. I'm looking forward to trying this out and sharing the results with you all, but first, the legalities. We got this bar for free in exchange for a fair and honest review; no other form of compensation was received.





Gingerbread Dark Chocolate Askinosie, Unwrapped
The bar itself looks like most of the Askinosie bars we've tested and written about. It comes in a simple brown wrapper but with a tag that I'm going to highlight in the next paragraph. I cut open the clear plastic wrapper and as soon as I did my nose was hit by the delightful scent that reminded me of gingerbread. It really does! The scent made me want to gobble it down but I restrained myself and followed our testing procedures. I break the bar into the hashed squares and with each break it makes a sharp sound. I place one on my tongue and let it slowly melt. The first flavor is dark chocolate. It melts very slowly, almost two minutes just letting it melt on the top of my tongue. The five flavors can be tasted individually but also blend together as with gingerbread but without the bread component. The next square I chew and it makes only a soft sound. The initial flavor is still dark chocolate but the spices very quickly follow. The blend here is more spicy than letting it melt but the chocolate is always there. I think I preferred to let the chocolate melt for the most intense chocolate flavor but either way is excellent.

Gingerbread Dark Chocolate Gift Label
Let's talk about the label that is tied with a ribbon onto the brown wrapper. Normally I don't spend much time on packaging unless it is related to recyclable or organic matters or if it was particularly poorly packaged. But this label not only identifies the bar but also serves as a gift label. Do you see that in this photo? "To:" and "From" so you don't have to wrap the bar, you just write on the label itself. The back of this label has the nutritional information, true, but inside is a bit about the history of the bar and Askinosie itself. You might think the price is high when you check on this but really it isn't because of the quality of the ingredients and the treatment of the farmers and workers by the company. Plus with this label you save on wrapping and labeling it yourself.

Askinosie's Limited Holiday Collection Gingerbread Dark Chocolate Bar is Sacrament worthy! I think it would be a wonderful gift for any gingerbread and chocolate lover. So, are you going to order yours before they disappear?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Meet the Son behind Sugar Plum Chocolates

Neil Edley at Sugar Plum Chocolates Store
Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate, today I want to introduce you to Neil Edley, Chief Innovation Manager for Sugar Plum Chocolates whose holiday bark we'll be examining in a few days.  Neil, thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions for us.

Thank you. I’m always happy to get a chance to talk about chocolate.     

First, your mother, Frann Edley, is the candy maker and founder of Sugar Plum Chocolates but has she passed along her candy making and chocolate working secrets to you?

Absolutely. She taught me a lot about the craft. She always emphasized using integrity in everything you do. To us that means always using the finest ingredients. Our products are only as good as what we put into them so we utilize quality all around.    

Would you tell us what a Chief Innovation Manager does?

I do a little of everything. As Chief Innovation Manager I create new ideas for different types of confections we can make but I'm also open to ideas from my kitchen staff. We want to think of things that are a little bit different but that are just delicious. We want to combine other flavors with chocolate like we’ve done with our chocolate bar collections.     

Sugar Plum Chocolates Christmas Display
How often does Sugar Plum Chocolates come out with new products?

We come out with new products all the time! We have a bunch of new seasonal products which are just incredible. For the fall we came out with a pumpkin bark box that contains pumpkin peanut butter, pumpkin cheesecake, and pumpkin spice latte bark. For the winter we have a white chocolate peppermint cookie bark and a gingerbread latte bark that are both new this year. We're currently planning some fun new goodies for Valentine’s Day and the spring.     

Without giving away trade secrets, is there a standard process Sugar Plum Chocolates follows when creating new products and how involved in that process are you personally?

Sometimes I get an idea or sometimes a member of our kitchen staff thinks it’d be fun to try something. We usually discuss it then we’ll make a prototype. We sample it then make any changes as needed. If it’s something we really like, we think how we can package and sell it. Basically, what product do I wish existed? What do I think the customer might want? I try to answer these questions with a uniquely flavored chocolate treat.     

For all the different products that Sugar Plum makes, what are your best sellers? Does that change from season to season?

Seasonal gifts are becoming more and more popular. Our pumpkin-inspired options are popular in the fall and our gift trays and our peppermint items are more popular around the holidays. It’s tough to ship chocolate in the summer months so we try to focus more on our flavor-infused nuts during the warmer months.      

What is your favorite candy or chocolate that Sugar Plum makes?

My personal favorite is our bourbon toffee bark. The taste of boozy chocolate is something we’ve been playing around with for a while and I really feel we hit this one out of the park. I like how the smoothness of the chocolate mixes with the nutty taste of the toffee bits with the overall oakiness of the bourbon flavor. It’s a really well-blended group of flavors and textures that all complement each other.    

Sugar Plum Chocolates Ribbon Cutting
Sugar Plum not only sells online but also has a retail store. Do you sell items in the physical store that you do not offer via online orders?

Everything we sell online we also have in our store. Sometimes shipping chocolate is tricky in the summertime though because of the heat.      
Sugar Plum has been in business for over 20. What is the secret to your success?

We offer a premium product. People will always flock toward quality. We make something you'd want to buy. We’re also always innovating and thinking of fun new things we can do with chocolate. Our chocolate bar collections on our website really exemplify how creative we can be.     

Finally, is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about Sugar Plum Chocolates?

We’ve been around for over 22 years. Our product is outstanding and we ship worldwide. If you want really good chocolate, we’ve got you covered.     

Thank you, Neil, for speaking with us today.

Thank you. It was my pleasure.     

Readers, if you have follow-up questions or comments please do leave them for us and Neil to check out.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

No Plastic in Chocolate Products, Please

I tried a more eye-catching article title this time because I want you all to be safe.

-------------------- Recalls --------------------

Fit and Active Chocolatey Chip Protein Meal Bars Recalled

Leclerc Foods has initiated a limited voluntary recall of a single lot of Fit and Active Chocolatey Chip Protein Meal Bars packages with UPC Code 41498-18695 and only affected products with a “best by” date of May 24, 2018.

The recall was initiated as a precautionary measure after a small piece of yellow plastic was discovered by a consumer. No illness or injury has been reported.

The product is available in 9.5 oz. boxes containing 6 bars per box. The date code can be found printed in white on the top of the box. The “best by” date of May 24, 2018 is the only date code affected by the recall.

This product was distributed in ALDI stores in 21 states (Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, District of Columbia (DC), New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia).

No other ALDI product is involved in this recall.

All stores that sell Fit andActive Chocolatey Chip Protein Meal Bars packages immediately removed the affected product (UPC Code 41498-18695) with a “best by” date of May 24, 2018 from their shelves.

Consumers with additional questions on the recall may contact Leclerc Foods Customer Service at 1-800-463-6144 between the hours of 8:30am and 4:30pm EST.
-------------------
Farrell Farms Dark Chocolate Nuts
Farrell Farms Recall

Farrell Farms, Inc. of Goldsboro, NC is recalling 7 oz Dark Chocolate Almonds, 7 oz Dark Chocolate Cashews, and 7 oz Dark Chocolate Pecans, because these products may contain undeclared milk. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

The Dark Chocolate Almonds, Cashews, and Pecans were distributed in NC. Product was sold at fairs and festivals and via our website www.farrellfarms.com from October 16th, 2017 until November 17th, 2017.

The individual retail units are in a clear cellophane heat sealed package. The product is labeled as Farrell Farms with the address 200 Gin Road, Goldsboro, NC 27530 on the label. Format of labels on retail units are similar for almonds, cashews, and pecan products.

No reports of illnesses have been reported to date.

The recall was initiated after the supplier, Dutch Valley Food Distributors, Inc. of Myerstown, PA notified Farrell farms on November 18th, 2017 that the product was being recalled due to undeclared milk in the chocolate raw material used to coat the various nut products.

Consumers who have purchased these products are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-919-583-4366, Mon-Sat, 8am to 5pm EST.
-------------------
Virginia Diner Issues Recall

Virginia Diner, Inc. is voluntarily issuing a recall of 10 oz. cans of Plow & Hearth Chocolate Covered Cashews at Plow & Hearth’s locations and nationwide (Mail Order) as a precaution because they may contain peanuts and peanut allergens. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.  A label mix up was discovered by a consumer who received and opened a Cashew Tower Set (3 individual cashew cans) of which one can, the 10 oz. Chocolate Covered Cashews, were found to have Salted Peanuts.

The Virginia Diner, Inc. is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in administering this voluntary recall.  The Virginia Diner has not received any reports of illness or injury to date regarding this product.

Only the following PRODUCT and LOT CODE is affected, found on the bottom of each can:

UPC Code:  085582089193
Weight: 10 oz
Package Type:  Can
Label:  Plow and Hearth Chocolate Covered Cashews
Lot Code:  100917 XLSP
BEST BY:  10 04 18

This recall does not apply to any other Virginia Diner or Plow and Hearth branded products.

The Chocolate Covered Cashews, used in Cashew Towers (item #89291) were sold to and distributed from Plow and Hearth catalogs, www.PlowHearth.com website, and Plow and Hearth Retail Stores between October 25, 2017 and November 17, 2017.  Customers purchased Cashew Towers, from the Plow and Hearth Catalog, or purchased the Cashew Tower from a Plow and Hearth Store.  Virginia Diner and Plow and Hearth are requesting return of cans with the Lot Code of 100917 XLSP to a Plow and Hearth store, or to Plow and Hearth’s corporate office in Madison, VA for a replacement.

Consumers who have questions or concerns should contact the Virginia Diner at 866-296-6887, Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm EDT.

Within the Cashew Tower is a can of Plow and Hearth Chocolate Covered Cashews (UPC Code: 0 85582 0919 3).  This one product may contain salted peanuts instead of chocolate cashews (the other two items in the tower are correct).

If the can of chocolate cashews has the following information printed on the bottom of the can, it is subject to this recall (see photo).

If the can does not contain this information but instead has a CCC printed at the end of the second line of the lot information, then it is not subject to this recall and is fine for sale in the store.  This is the only item within the tower that may be mislabeled, therefore a (CCC) on the bottom of the chocolate covered cashews verifies that the item is correct.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Recipe: Gluten-Free Cereal Bars Plus Coupons for Readers

Rice Bitz Cereal from Kroger
As part of the MyMagazine Sharing Network I received a book of Kroger brand cereal. I'm not a big cereal eater but that was okay because the group wanted me to try out the cereal in a recipe as well as on it's own. Today I'm going to talk about the Gluten-Free Rice Bitz and then share with you how I used them when I'm currently limited in what I can eat (and when) with necessary dental work that will be continuing until 2019. I just have to be more creative with my recipes, right? No marshmallows or caramel with be allowed and I have to be careful to use ingredients that won't harden up too much yet will help the bars maintain their shape. It was a challenge but I think I was up to it. If you try this recipe out let me know how it worked for you, please. I was sent this 12 oz box of cereal for from from MyMagazine Sharing Network in exchange for recipe creation and sharing my results on Twitter and Facebook; this blog post is a bonus. I was also sent coupons varying from 40¢ to 50¢ off of other Kroger brand boxed breakfast products for myself and some of you. Read to the end of this review to learn how to get one of these coupons for yourself.

Kroger Gluten-Free Rice Bitz Cereal
Gluten isn't an issue in our household but I know that some of you who read The Chocolate Cult regularly have gluten intolerances or even allergies. Therefore I checked my ingredients to make sure I am offering you a safe recipe. For the rest of us, not having gluten won't hurt you. Before the recipe, how was the product on it's own? It was fine, it tastes a lot like a popular rice cereal that I've sure that many of you are familiar with. It soaks up both milk and the candy coating you'll see in my recipe below so eat quickly when you have it alone or know that you'll need to put in some elbow grease to stir it all thoroughly together.

But now, the recipe!

Gluten-Free Peanut Buttery Chocolatey Cereal Treats
by: TammyJo Eckhart

Ingredients:
16 oz jar white chocolate peanut butter
1 stick margarine
8 oz chocolate
1 12 oz box Kroger Gluten-Free Rice Bitz
11 oz of mini candy covered chocolates

Directions:

1. Line a metal muffin pan with paper liners; you'll need about 36 muffin cups in all depending on the size of them, mine were average size. Or you can lightly grease or spray two 9 X 13 X 2 inch pans.

2. Break up the chocolate and cup up the margarine into smaller pieces. Add these pieces to large sauce pan and melt them over low heat on your stove top. Keep stirring it from time to time so the chocolate doesn't scorch.

Margarine and German's 48% Chocolate Melting
2. Add in the jar of white chocolate peanut butter and melt it into the chocolate. Watch and stir it often so it does not burn. Be wary of any sticking to the bottom of your sauce pan, make sure you keep it all blending together.

White Chocolate Peanut plus Melted Chocolate
3. Slowly stir in your cereal until all of the pieces are coated.

Mix Cereal into Melted Chocolate Peanut Butter
4. Turn off the heat and quickly stir in the mini candy pieces until well spread throughout the cereal mixture.
Mini Candies Added to Cereal Mixture
5. Spoon cereal mixture into muffin cups or spread into the baking pans. At this point, it had been 45 minutes since I got out my ingredients so this isn't a quick treat unless you want to eat it straight from the saucepan.
Cereal Mixture into Muffin Cups
6. Let mixture set up until treats can be taken from the muffin pan without the paper cups losing their shape. If you used the baking pans, you should be able to cut out a bar and it will not lose it shape easily. You can speed up the set up by placing the treats in the refrigerator but that will make them harder to eat as well.
Cereal Treats in Baking Pan
7. Place in a sealing container and store in cool conditions until you are really to enjoy.


I have 15 coupons to share with people from Kroger for their boxed breakfast items. I'm going to split them up as follows -- 8 coupons for the first 8 people to leave and comment here tell me if you have tried this recipe or if you have a recipe idea of your own for this product. Make sure you live in a Kroger grocery store and that you are willing to give me your mailing address so I can send them out to you. You have to hurry because the coupons expire at the end of this month and I want to get them to you as fast as possible. The other 7 coupons will be sent to people sharing The Chocolate Cult post around Facebook. Make sure your FB shares are set to "Public" so I can see them.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The 3 Rs for the Holidays

Thank you for letting us use this www.ccPixs.com
In holiday seasons and during gift giving we often toss away more recyclable and reusable materials than we do generally, but remember Earth is the only planet we know of that can grow cacao trees and they only grow in a narrow band of land. Save the future chocoolate and think about how you can  reduce, reuse, or recycle even during the holidays. Let me share some of my tips with you. This advice is not just for the consumer but also for the brands that send us products because in almost 10 years, we've see where improvements could be made.At the end, I've love to see your comments about the ways you reduce, reuse, and recycle through the holidays.

One of largest problems I see time and again in the chocolate, candy, bakery industry is over packaging. I'll get a box larger than the largest Priority Mail box from the post office and there will be 2 bars of chocolate inside surrounded by packing material and sometimes packs to help keep it cooler in the summer. Some companies do use recycled, recyclable, or even biodegradable packing materials which helps. But let's stop and think for a moment. Why do you need that much packing materials? You want to keep your products in good shape especially if you are sending them to a reviewer. I get that. But instead of sending just one product why not send several at a time. Any decent food reviewer should have facilities to keep the products they are send in temperature and humidity controlled conditions.

For huge chocolate and candy makers, they should think about sending coupons for free products instead of the products themselves. The companies should know what stores carry their products in the reviewers city or town and they can always ask us to check in stores first to see if we have access to the product. This cuts down on packaging and the added expenses associated with shipping as well. Plus it gives the blogger something else to highlight in text and/or image -- where the average reader could find them. Only a small number of the nearly 300 brands that have sent us products to review since 2009 send out coupons.

I like to reuse containers whenever I can. The labels can be removed from tins but it does take a bit of time and then cleaning. The metal that candy and cookie tins are made from can also be recycled where I live. If the festive design itself cannot be removed I've used tins to hold treats at parties or to hold treats that I give out as gifts. Heck, you could even skip wrapping paper and just put other items into the tins.

Paper boxes and bags often have labels that you can't remove without ripping them or they are printed right on the container. Depending on the material, sometimes I create labels or use stickers to cover that information up. Paper of all types can be recycled where I live but you can also use extra paper wrappers and boxes to ship items or as protective filler; I've done both!

From pixabay.com

Styrofoam is tricky. Some places recycle it, some do not. If the item was a food one that left stains in the package it can be a challenge to clean. If you can clean the styrofoam or it was stained you can use it in similar ways as you could the paper boxes. Stickers do not adhere very well to styrofoam but you can use permanent markers to make designs. Styrofoam peanuts can be reused and reused. Some of the peanuts these day are made of biodegradable or water soluble materials so you may not need to throw them away depending on your city and county laws.

The trickiest packing material to reuse is plastic. Most of the time you have to cut it off and labels are nearly impossible to remove. Even if you have resealable plastic it can hold onto the scents that were trapped inside for a long time. Which plastics you can recycle varies widely. If I'm making treats I try to use resealable bags that can be washed or aluminum foil that is recyclable where I live.

Education me! Leave me your examples of how to reduce, reuse, and recycle during the holidays.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Making Your Own Real Chocolate

If you have been reading The Chocolate Cult for a long time, you may recall that years back in 2010 we tested a chocolate making kit from Glee Gum. Normally we will not retest a product unless it has substantially changed but Glee Gum told that their kit had new information as well as a new artistic design. To be blunt, there is only one way to make chocolate from the basic ingredients of chocolate liquor/mass, cocoa butter, and vanilla. I think this sort of gift deserves coverage every few years so I hope you will indulgence us as we tested this kit again and bring it to your attention as the 2017 Winter Holidays approach. We received this free kit in exchange for a fair and honest review; no other form of compensation was received.

Enjoy the video and please share it around.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

More November 2017 Chocolate Related Recalls

No rest from Recalls this month, Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate. I'm trying to stay on top of these for us all. Please follow the links back and check your pantries!

-------------------- Recalls and Allergen Alerts --------------------

Figi's Issues Recall Alert 

Figi’s Companies, Inc of Marshfield, WI is recalling the following 2 products that are related to the GKI FOODS LLC Dark Chocolate Products recall because it may contain undeclared milk allergen.  People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of serious or life- threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

Figi’s Gift #0368 Christmas Gingersnap Variety – The tin contains 5.5oz of the dark chocolate gingersnaps (all lots are being recalled).

Figi's Gift #0368 Christmas Gingersnap Variety Tin

Bulk dark chocolate gingersnaps are packaged in a plastic bulk bag with approximately 8-12 ounces of product (all lots are being recalled).

Figi's Dark Chocolate Gingersnaps Bulk
The recalled dark chocolate gingersnaps were distributed nationwide through mail orders.  The mail order gifts are Figi’s Gift #0368 packed in a gold tin with an old-time winter scene on the lid.  It contains a variety of gingersnaps and were distributed nationwide through a distributor who sold directly to consumers. The bulk dark chocolate gingersnaps in clear plastic bags were only distributed through Figi’s Outlet Store located in Marshfield, WI.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

Figi’s was notified by our supplier that there is a potential for the undeclared milk allergen.

Consumers who have purchased (or received) Gift #0368 Christmas Gingersnap Variety containing 5.5oz of the dark chocolate gingersnaps (all lot numbers) or the bulk-packaged dark chocolate gingersnaps from our Outlet Store are urged to return them to Figi’s for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact Figi’s Companies, Inc. Monday – Saturday, 9am-5pm CST at 1-800-437-3817.

--------------------
Germack Dark Chocolate Almond Bark
Germack Roasting Co Recalls  Dark Chocolate Almond Bark

Germack Roasting Co, is recalling its 5 ounce and 1lb packages of Germack Dark Chocolate Almond Bark because they may contain undeclared milk. People who have allergies to milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

The recalled Dark Chocolate Almond Bark was distributed to the retail store at Eastern Market in Detroit, MI and through mail orders.

The product comes in a 5 oz and 1 lb, clear plastic packages and was sold between 9/20/2016 and 10/30/2017 with the UPC codes 088401520105 and 11681398.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

Germack was notified by supplier (GKI) on October 30, 2017 via email for this recall. Since then the production of the product has been suspended until FDA and the company are certain that the problem has been corrected.

Consumers who have purchased Dark Chocolate Almond Bark are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 313-784-9484, Monday- Friday between 8:00am- 3:00pm EST.
--------------------

Dilettante Espresso Blend Recall Label

Seattle Gourmet Foods of Kent, Washington is recalling 127 cases of Costco item # 2335, Dilettante Chocolates Espresso Blend, Espresso Beans in Semisweet, Milk and White Chocolate, because it may contain undeclared almonds.  People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to almonds run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

Dilettante Chocolates Espresso Blend was distributed to Costco Business Centers located in Lynnwood, Washington and Tukwila, Washington, and Costco Northwest located in Salt Lake City, Utah between August 22, 2017 and November 9, 2017.

The product is packaged in a clear plastic bag, net weight 5-pounds and has the UPC 37041 05211.  The affected product is labeled as Dilettante Chocolates Espresso Blend, Item# 2335, Lot Code 12287, and has the Best By 021619.

There have been no any illnesses or deaths reported to date in consumption of the recalled product. No other Dilettante packaged products are affected.

The recall was initiated after the firm discovered the chocolate covered almonds were mixed and packaged with the Dilettante Espresso Blend.  Product was distributed in packaging that did not reveal the presence of almonds.

Seattle Gourmet Foods is deeply sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused to our customers and has implemented a more standardized control of blending procedures to avoid errors like this in the future.

This recall is being made with the knowledge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to almonds should not consume the recalled product and should return Dilettante Chocolates Espresso Blend to the place of purchase for a full refund.  Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-206-957-9834 from 5:00am to 3:30pm PST on Monday to Friday.
--------------------

Weis Dark Chocolate Bark
Lipari Foods, LLC. Recalls

Lipari Foods, LLC has issued a voluntary recall of specific dark chocolate products packaged by sister company JLM due to an undeclared milk allergen. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products. The products are safe for consumption by those who do not have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk.

The products were distributed to retail stores throughout Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

Products were distributed under the Weis and All Natural brand names or as generic product without branding.

The affected products can be identified by: checking this link because the chart is too large to copy and paste here.

The brands are:

"All Natural"

"Generic"

"Weis"

There are no reported illnesses in connection with these products to date.

This was brought to our attention by our sister company, JLM after they received an initial recall notification due to undeclared milk allergen within the ingredients labels for select dark chocolate bulk product from our  manufacturer, GKI Foods. As a precaution, Lipari Foods private label and non-branded products are being recalled as they are mislabeled. We are working closely with the FDA to ensure that all affected product has been pulled from commerce.

Consumers who have purchased this recalled product should not consume it. They should return it to the point of purchase. Consumers with questions should call Customer Service at 800-729-3354, 8:15 am – 4:30 pm, EST, Monday through Friday.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Farm Fresh Chocolates Take Roots

Earlier this week I introduced you all to Lisa Nelson, the owner and force beyond Roots Chocolates in Wisconsin. Today I'm going to take you all along with me as I tried her 15-piece chocolate box. I didn't just sit down and stuff my face with these chocolates, I followed our standard testing procedures and spread the testing out over several days writing about each chocolate flavor as I tested it. I worked my way through the box as you will see in this article -- starting at the upper left and going row by row. Aren't these squares of chocolate lovely to just look at? I'll include close-ups of each one as you are introduced to them. The label that was wrapped around this box hide a wonderful surprise -- it has a photo list and brief description of several flavors that Roots Chocolates makes. As you may recall in the past I've bemoaned not knowing what a flavor might be not so much for the flavor but for fear of allergens which I know many chocolate lovers struggle with. Roots Chocolates sent me this box of chocolate free in exchange for a fair and honest review; no other form of compensation was received.

Tart Cherry, Roots Chocolates
Tart Cherry has a gentle wave pattern in shades of red and pink. I cut the square in half (I'm going through dental treatments that do not affect my ability to taste but I do need bite sized foods now). The inside is a fudgy looking center that has a strong dark chocolate and light cherry fragrance. I let one half melt on my tongue. The first flavor is the chocolate, not bitter to me but then I love darker chocolates as you all know. Then the cherry essence appeared getting more tart yet remaining sweet until the truffle finally melted away. The other half I chewed. The shell made a light sound and the chocolate flavor was immediately joined with the cherry on my tongue. The tartness didn't build as strongly enjoying this piece in this fashion and it allowed the chocolate to blend better with it. I really liked this truffle.

Lavender Honey, Roots Chocolates
Lavender Honey is rather plain looking, only a small tick of chocolate on the top identifies it. Even before cutting this square open I could smell the lavender. The inside looks very similar to the previous piece of chocolate; the lavender scent is about the same. Letting half of this piece melt in my mouth revealed that the lavender and chocolate is well balanced. A touch of sweet honey slowly was revealed but the chocolate remained strong as it melted. When I chewed other half I found it was a bit firmer than the previous flavor. The chocolate was the dominant flavor, the lavender and honey secondary but clearly there. I liked this flavor both ways though I got more of a cocoa rush form letting it melt on my tongue.




Carmato, Roots Chocolates
Carmato is the one flavor that gave me hesitation. In the letter Lisa Nelson sent me she states that the flavor is made using her "heirloom tomatoes" that are made into a caramel. I didn't even know you could make caramel from tomatoes! I'm curious but still this is unique flavor and I want to be fair so I try to maintain no expectations beyond chocolate. I think the red on the top of this square looks a bit like tomato sauce spread over it. This has a strong chocolate scent and something I can't quite place. Once cut in half, the inside has a look and consistency of caramel and there is a tomato scent that isn't unpleasant but it overwhelms the chocolate. Letting the first half melt on my tongue makes the chocolate primary flavor; it melts I get a sweet light tomato taste then a tart caramel flavor.  The caramel is sticky and I hope I can test the second half fairly. Chewing it makes the caramel not as sticky and blends the chocolate, tomato, and sweet flavors together. In this case, I like this piece best when chewed.

Lapsang Souchong, Roots Chocolates 
Lapsang Souchong is a tea flavor so I turned to our Tea Acolyte for his expertise but he had never had this type of tea before. Still he is far more familiar with tea and love many types so he can be more objective than I can be. This is rather plain looking but is that a tea leaf on the top? What did our tea lover think? He starts with chewing one half of the piece first. The initial flavor was WOW, it tastes like delicious smoke, the type you'd want for an aromatic BBQ. The next thing I thought I'd taste would be bacon but no, it is chocolate, darker but not bitter chocolate. The inside is truffle consistency, the ganache makes a snapping sound when I bit into it. He lets the next half melt in his mouth. The chocolate is the first flavor and the smoky flavor is more subtle, the two flavors blend very well together. I want this type of tea now! Tasting the thing on top reveals it is mostly likely a piece of the tea leaf. This was cool, I'd eat more of these!

Mint Basil, Roots Chocolates
Chocolate Mint Basil has green circles of various shades and sizes on the top of it. Since green is one of my favorite colors, this one appealed to me visually the best of the 15 pieces. Prior to cutting it in half it has a very strong, dark chocolate scent but once opened the mint was certainly there, too. I let the first half melt on my tongue. The first flavor was the chocolate followed closely by basil; I use basil a lot in my cooking. The mint is more of a cooling sensation until the half has melted the ganache coat off then the basil and mint kicked in strongly. Chewing the second half brings out the mint and the basil more but they blend very well with the chocolate. I loved this piece and enjoyed the cool feeling in my mouth after I enjoyed it.


Sea Salt Sugar Baby, Roots Chocolates
Sea Salt Sugar Baby appears to have both seas salt and sugar crystals on the top of it. When I cut it in half I gasp in surprise -- this is a caramel, a very firm not gooey caramel. That's a problem right now with my dental work that I'll be dealing with for 16-24 months. I let one melt on my tongue but the other I give to my partner to try out for you all. The sea salt is in the crystal, the saltiness doesn't extend to the caramel (tangy) or the chocolate ganache. It takes several minutes for the caramel to melt. First flavor was the salt followed by the caramel which dissolved quickly on tongue. Finally the dark chocolate. It all mixed together very nicely. We each liked this but I'm sad I couldn't try it by chewing, too.



Holy Mole, Roots Chocolates
Hole Mole is molé as in the Mexican sauce not as in the animal that is digging tunnels all over our bad year. As I'd expect from a Mexican style chocolate, the red peppers on the top hint that this will be spicy hot. To me, peppers and spice doesn't really have a scent, it is more a tingle when I breath them in and I got that tingle when I cut this piece in half. Are you familiar with my pattern now, Sisters and Brothers? Yes, I let the first half melt on my tongue. The dark chocolate quickly channels the heat through the ganache. Then I discover a more solid center that has texture and a hint of tartness... Interesting. Chewing the second half blends the chocolate and heat more uniformly but I lose the textural differences. This is a warm sensation in my mouth, not too hot and I'm very sensitive to spicy heat so this is a pleasant surprise for me.

Ol Fashion, Roots Chocolates
Ol Fashion names comes from the alcoholic drink so I turned to one of our alcohol specialists for her opinion. The Old Fashioned drink is made muddling sugar with bitters, then adding alcohol, such as whiskey or brandy, and a twist of citrus rind -- I think the sugared piece on top may be the citrus rind but I wonder if that flavor is also in the chocolate. What did our specialist think? It's good. The first flavor is the dark chocolate and the top piece is a wonderful candied orange piece. It all blends just like an Old Fashioned should. Can't smell the whisky but it is strong to her taste buds. The whiskey is every stronger when she let it melt on her tongue. Can I have more? Compared to previous wine, liquor, and beer truffles, I've had this is on point in terms of blended flavors.

Ms. Figgy, Roots Chocolates
Ms. Figgy is topped with purple flower designs, the color may refer to the fig's not yet ripe coloration and the fake that the flower is inside the pod that later becomes what we eat. (I had to do research to figure that out myself.) I wish my camera was good enough to show you the inside, there are little pieces of something, maybe figs. There is supposed to be a port wine and I've had that so I'm not out of my element to test this one. The port is a stronger fragrance than I expected. I switch things up and chew the first half -- there is a cracking sound and I'm biting into something but it isn't hard, the port flavor is very strong threatening to overpower the dark chocolate. Letting the second half melt in my mouth lets the dark chocolate out first but the port follows quickly. I can feel the little pieces and as I work them with my tongue I get the sweet fig flavor. Interesting flavor and I wonder how it would pair with a glass of port.

Beer Naked, Roots Chocolates
Beer Naked required our alcohol specialist's attention but she was happy to help. Has a dark chocolate scent and she bites into it eagerly. The center is more solid than she expected, not as creamy. No beer flavor or buzz, only chocoolate when chewing it. Hopefully the beer will come out when she lets the next half melt in her mouth. The dominant flavor is dark chocolate, after several moments there was a subtle lighter beer flavor, not hops and not malts as she was expecting from the description. The pretzel pieces on top did nothing as far as our tester was concerned. At the end, our testers wonders if part of her disappointment was that she was hoping for a beer she is familiar with from Wisconsin called Totally Naked.


Pumpkinator, Roots Chocolates
Pumpkinator has orange stripes and given the layout of the guides I think they are supposed to be horizontal stripes. If I didn't know the name of this piece I'd still guess pumpkin spice because that traditional scent came through the ganache very strongly and only increased after I cut it in half. The dark chocolate is the first flavor when I let it melt in my mouth but the sweet pumpkin and a kick of spices builds up by the moment. Once the ganache has melted the inside is quick to follow but the chocolate flavor is constantly there. Chewing it makes the pumpkin and the spices come out more and I'm left with a little tingle in my mouth but the chocolate was still there. Great blending of the flavors for this piece that makes me want a chocolate pumpkin pie. Who can give me one of those for Thanksgiving?

Aronia, Roots Chocolates
Aronia has more chocolate drizzled on the top. The aronia berry is not something I've had before but the pictorial guide warns that it is astringent and bitter so this may pack a punch. The inside is very dark, nearly black and has a fudgy texture. I'm not sure what Aronia is supposed to smell like, but the dark chocolate has a gentle smoky fruit scent to it particularly after I cut it in half. The chocolate tastes very dark as it melt on my mouth. As it melts I get a similar texture to the Ms. Figgy then a burst of fruit that is not very sweet but definitely not tart or sour either.





Espresso, Roots Chocolates
Espresso is clearly a coffee flavor. If you have doubts, note the yellow coffee bean designs on the top. As with tea, I'm not a fan, so I turn to our Mocha Acolyte's palate. She can smell coffee immediately. She chews one half of the square and her face makes a pleased but surprised look. That's good. Again with a very good balance of dark chocolate and deep espresso coffee. Sometimes the coffee chocolate taste burnt or bitter but this one is very balanced with a strong espresso and a strong dark chocolate flavor that blends beautifully. Both chewing and letting it melt created the same flavor balance. Loved it!




Pechuga Mezcal, Roots Chocolates
Pechuga Mezcal is an agave distilled alcohol so I turned again to one of our alcohol specialists for help with this one. Smells only like dark chocolate. She makes a face when chewing the first half, trying to sort out the flavors. There is an initial smokiness to the dark chocolate, no tequila flavor but then the smoky flavors hits hard at the end; the dark chocolate flavor is strong throughout. Letting it melt in her mouth revealed more of the tequila flavor versus the smokiness until the end though it is smoother than when chewing. Letting it melt was her prefered method but both tasted well balanced.






Raspberry, Roots Chocolates
Raspberry is a flavor I can tolerate but as pretty as the red top is on this piece, I decided to give it to one of our Acolytes who loves raspberries above almost any other type of fruit. The raspberry is a light fragrance. Chewing it reveals a vinegary edge to the raspberry that is shocking, it tastes like a balsamic vinegar so maybe that was added? There seeds but they are tiny, they don't get stuck in my teeth. Oddly the chocolate does not make it through when I chew this half piece. Letting it melt in my mouth the first flavor is the vinegary raspberry but now the chocolate starts to come through because the vinegar flavor is not as strong. It is much better to enjoy this by letting it melt in your mouth if you want a chocolate and not a vinegar flavor. Yet, I still like it because the vinegar enhances the raspberry flavor and this was a good balance of tart not sour which can happen with raspberry.

Beyond these 15 flavors, Roots Chocolates offers even more, often seasonal because they use farm fresh ingredients whenever they can right from Lisa Nelson's farm. To me, these chocolates are a lot like truffles but since Roots Chocolates does not use that word, I've tried to avoid it. All three testers loved most of the pieces we tried and agree they were delightful to try. The use of fresh ingredients and are a woman-owned business are a plus here on The Chocolate Cult. The box of Roots Chocolates earn a Sacramental Status for pleasing our five senses and for those reasons, too.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Meet the Woman Behind Roots Chocolates

Lisa Nelson of Roots Chocolates
Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate, please help me welcome Lisa Nelson of Roots Chocolates. Welcome to The Chocolate Cult, Lisa.

Thank you for contacting me to talk about Roots Chocolates!

You have a long family history in agriculture that ties directly into Roots Chocolates. If you don't mind let's talk a bit about that history and we'll get into chocolate in a few questions. How many generations of farmers are in your family?

I am the fourth generation owner of my family farm.  I grew up milking cows, baling hay and just being a normal farm kid. No one in my family was a confectioner. I got the baking bug from watching my mother bake cookies and desserts. I was always there to taste test!

You mentioned how that family history is incorporated into the marketing of your chocolate. On the label of the 15-piece box you sent us, your family is right there front and center. Would you tell our readers who that farmer is and why you honored him on the label?

The first part of my brand name, Roots, comes from being the fourth generation owner of my family farm. The picture you see on my box label is of my father on my farm in the 1930's. They were to poor to afford horses to pull equipment, so they used the cattle on the farm for it. My father isn't around any longer, but I loved spending time with him. I gained so many of my work ethics and values from him. It just seemed fitting to include him in my branding.

You mention on the Roots Chocolates website that you loved sweets as a child. Were chocolates a big part of that love or did you have other flavors you preferred?

I've always loved chocolate and desserts. I learned allot from watching my Mom make desserts during the holidays.  However, I've always had an affinity for chocolate.  When I started working with chocolate professionally, I really learned how different the mass produced products you find on store shelves are from making my own chocolates with chocolate or cacao beans that I have a direct decision in purchasing and using.

Chocolate Slabs at Roots Chocolates
You have had a varied career ranging from food to computers. Which industry does you enjoy working in most?

Chocolate of course! I enjoyed the ever changing world of technology, but not the corporate environment. When I lost my job in technology, the first person I called was my sister. She said, "I'm so sorry you lost your job."

I said, "I'm so happy I lost my job! It's the push I needed to really focus on what I feel is important in life. I'm going to launch a chocolate business!"   

I think my sister thought I was crazy. I'm just glad that I don't have to work for in the corporate arena any longer. I love making a product that is interesting and unique.  When I started, I figured I'd give it a shot. If people didn't like my chocolates, then it wasn't meant to be.  That hasn't been the case!  I'm going on nine years in business as a Farmer and Chocolatier. I love it!

Do you think that having such varied professional experiences has helped you create and run Roots Chocolates?

I do! Having a background in technology has helped me understand the workings of a website and social media. Being a farmer gives me the opportunity to experiment with growing things that would taste great in chocolate. 

Let's talk chocolate now. Do you personally prefer white, milk, or darker chocolates?

Dark, single origin.  I make chocolate bars from the bean as well.  There is definitely and art to it. Getting beans from different countries, and even regions in countries, affects the flavor of cacao beans. I'm like a little kid when it comes to experimenting with flavor profiles, both cacao beans and the chocolate I use for my truffles.  

While I prefer dark chocolate, I'm all about the flavor profile when developing a truffle flavor.  If the flavor I'm working on calls for white or milk chocolate, then that is what I use.

When you were a personal chef did you work with chocolate very often?

My focus as a personal chef was mainly to make prepared dinners for my customers. Desserts were secondary, so I didn't make them as often because my customers didn't request dessert.

You use a lot of fresh ingredients that you grow on your own farm. Does this mean that you have a lot of seasonal flavors?

Roots Packed Boxes
Yes! Having seasonal selections is great because customers get excited anticipating a chocolate to be released.  For example, my Chocolate Mint Basil is available as long as the mint and basil are growing on the farm.  The Aronia berry isn't ready until later in the fall, so it is released later.  And our Quince are the last fruit that we pick, so it is the last seasonal I have the opportunity to make before the snow flies.  However, I do have a raspberry chocolate in my collection available year around.  The raspberries are plentiful on the farm, so I get so many that I freeze them over, It provides me with a year-around chocolate!

We have about 40 different things growing on the farm from fruits to herbs.  Not all of them are ready for prime time yet. It takes allot of care and patience to wait five years for a tree to bear fruit to use in a chocolate. I take great pride in the end product.

We have already tested your chocolates so I have a few specific questions from our testers. Without giving away any trade secrets I hope you are willing to answer them. How did the idea of making caramel from tomatoes occur to you for your Carmato flavor?

I tell people I dream in chocolate. And it's true!  I grow heirloom tomatoes in my strawbale garden each year. When they are at perfect ripeness, I pick them and process them for the Carmato (heirloom tomato caramel).  I figured a tomato is a fruit, so why not highlight those beautiful tangy, sweet notes in a caramel?

Our tea expert was very impressed by the Lapsang Souchong but he was curious. Is the tea smoked when you get it or is that a process you do when you make the chocolate?

I buy the organic Lapsang smoked all ready. I tried many samples from various vendors before settling on the one I use. I love the flavor! It is the truffle that won me an International Chocolate Award this summer in New York.

Our alcohol specialist thought that your Beer Naked flavor might be made with one of of the Wisconsin beers she loves but it didn't taste like that. Do you use a particular brand of beer for that chocolate?

Wisconsin has a very large craft beer market.  I'm partnered with a local brewery in Waunakee, WI that is little over a year old. They have my chocolates on their menu to pair up with their beers. 

Finally, which flavor is your favorite of all of those that you make?

In my standard collection, which are the chocolates I always have available, the Ol' Fashion is my favorite.  It has lots of Wisconsin in it. Wisconsin distillery, Wisconsin bitters, and muddled cherry juice from my farm cherry trees. I candy my own orange rind for the decoration because I'm too picky and can't find a candied orange rind on the market that suits my tastes.

Of the seasonals, I'd have to say the SassSquash is my favorite. It's local farm squash with our farm grown ginger.  I tell people there are sightings of the SassSquash on the farm. It makes people smile.

Thank you, Lisa, for answering our questions.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

1 More Brand Caught Up in the GKI Foods Chocolate Recall

The mislabeled fallout from last week continues. Read the text and follow the links, do not assume the only products are those I managed to get photos of please.

--------------------Recalls and Allergy Alerts ------------------

DSD Merchandisers Dark Chocolate Almonds
DSD Merchandisers, Inc. Recalls

In cooperation with the GKI Foods LLC recall of Dark Chocolate Almonds due to an undeclared milk allergen, DSD Merchandisers, Inc., Livermore, CA, is voluntarily recalling bulk Dark Chocolate Almonds and pre-packaged Dark Chocolate Almonds. All lot numbers are affected. This recall is an extension of the GKI Foods LLC recall announced on October 27, 2017.

People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of a serious or life threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.



The products were sold at:

Safeway, Pak N’ Save and Vons stores in Northern California, Hawaii and Nevada.

Safeway and Albertsons stores in Oregon and Washington.

Nugget Stores, North State Grocery-Holiday / SavMor, Top’s Market, Murphy’s Markets, Andy’s Markets, NorCal Produce.

DSD Merchandisers, Inc. is voluntarily recalling the products with the following UPC’s and PLU numbers:



There have been no illnesses reported to date.

Consumers who have purchased this product should discontinue use immediately and return the product to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions regarding this recall should contact DSD Merchandisers, Inc. at (925) 449-2044, Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, PST. Consumers with questions or concerns about their health should contact their physician.

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