Saturday, May 19, 2018

Sheila G Expands to Cookies

Sheila G's Thindulgent Cookie Boxes
You all remember Sheila G's Brownie Brittle, right? I'm sure you do and I'm sure that many of you have had those treats. We've looked at several flavors of their brittle in the past but today we want to share our experiences with a brand new type of product from them: sandwich cookies! They call theirs Thindulgent Sandwich Cookies. They aren't thin so much in terms of their thickness, though as you'll learn they vary between the variety. 2 cookies at 130 calories is in line with a lot of other sandwich cookies for a serving size. We'll have to check them out and see if they taste "thin" or if they taste decadent and indulgent or if they taste somewhere in-between. Sheila G sent us these two boxes of their new cookies for free in exchange for a fair and honest feature article; no other form of compensation was received.

Toasted Coconut Thindulgent Cookies
Our Coconut Acolyte helped test out the Toasted Coconut Thindulgent Sandwich Cookies so everything you read will be her words in italics. (takes a quarter bite and her eyes roll as she make yummy noises) That is a coconut cookie! The cookie is really crisp, buttery cookie with a lot of coconut flavor. I'd eat this cookie on its own without the fudgy chocolate. You don't really taste the chocolate until after you've chewed it for a while. The butter and coconut are the first flavors. It is an excellent cookie for coconut lovers maybe not chocolate lovers. I'll need to have my husband limit me to one a day. 4 thumbs up! This is one of the best things I've had in our 10 years of testing on The Chocolate Cult. 

Salted Caramel Thindulgent Cookies
The other type of Thindulgent Sandwich Cookies we tried was the Salted Caramel variety. I shared these with our Coconut Acolyte so her words are in italics. I can smell the caramel, a burnt caramel smell, as soon as I take off the silver foil inner package. These look much different which surprised us. These are much thinner, they broke into several pieces even though both boxes were sent to me at the same time in the same shipping container. The edges do not seem to have been dipped in as much chocolate. Bringing the cookie to my nose I can smell a hint of the chocolate and the caramel is more tangy, not burnt in scent. Barely smell the chocolate. Very crispy and crunchy with each but bite but easy to take a bite of. The sweet yet tangy caramel is the first and final flavor I get, the chocolate is a middle flavor. The chocolate is more dark than I'd call fudge but for me that's good. I don't get the chocolate as much in this one. It is there just very lightly sweet. Getting the caramel, a sort of burnt taste but still good.  I liked the coconut one much better, better balance of flavors. I did like this but I feel satisfied with just one because of the degree of caramel and salt versus chocolate.

Sheila G has two very different cookies with their new Thindulgent line. The Toasted Coconut (the top image to the left) was a big winner for our expert but neither of us were thrilled by the Salted Caramel (the bottom image to the left). In both cookies, the chocolate was more a hidden flavor than we expected. These are good cookies, possible great cookies depending on the flavors you are looking for, unless the dominant flavor needs to be chocolate.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Give Your Mom "Wildflowers" to Eat for Mother's Day

Hedonist Wildflower Truffle Collection
Mother's Day is tomorrow in the USA and for many of our American readers this means gifts of flowers, chocolates, other candies, and cards for their mothers. But what if you could combine two of those -- flowers and chocolates -- into one gift? Today we are going to look at Hedonist Chocolates Wildflower Collection just in time for Mother's Day. While it may be too late for you to order this, this is one of their eight truffle collections so you can order it for any special date or just for yourself. Hedonist Artisan Chocolates sent us this free box with 2 of each 5 flavors of wildflower truffles to test out and write about on our blog; no other form of compensation was received in exchange for our honest review.

Lavender stands out in the collection because it is the only truffle wrapped in foil, light pink in color that reminded me of the color and the flower by its name. Unwrapping it I discovered a French style of truffle, hand rolled and then rolled in powdered cocoa as well. This has a strong lavender and cocoa scent to it. Be careful if you take the time (as you should) to give your nose a chance to check this one out because you might get the cocoa on you if you were to sneeze. When I take a bite I am surprised to discover this is not French style, there is a hard shell underneath the cocoa powder. Inside is a very sweet white chocolate ganache. The powder and the dark chocolate shell are very strong, they remain the primary flavors which I loved. The lavender comes out well with the center and then blends into the darker chocolates.

Hedonist Lavender Truffle
Clover Honey is topped with organic bee pollen -- I have never seen this on or in chocolate before. The cubic piece is covered in dark chocolate that has a strong fragrance as well as a hint of caramel and honey. The shell makes no sound when I bite it in half and I get a burst of dark chocolate that quickly turned into an intense smokey caramel flavor with a hint of honey and salt before turning back toward the chocolate. This variety turned out to be delightfully more complex than I thought it might be.

Hedonist Clover Honey Truffle
My brother used to make Dandelion Wine at home so I'm curious to check out this truffle. It is shaped as a butterfly and is clearly has milk chocolate shell. When I looked closely at the shell I see flecks of color in it -- light greens, reds, and blues. It has a sweet fragrance to it with just a touch of chocolate. Taking a bite makes a soft sound and inside is a huge amount of very sweet chocolate cream. The dandelion flavor quickly grows in intensity. I do not get an alcoholic burn but yes this does remind me of my brothers forays into dandelion wine.

Hedonist Dandelion Wine Truffle
The Violet truffle is supposed to be milk chocolate shell but it looks darker to me.  There are purplish crystals on top of it that should be candied violets. This has a balanced dark chocolate and violet fragrance to it. The shell makes light cracking sound when I take a bite. My mouth is immediately flooded by a dark chocolate that immediately triggers a cocoa buzz reaction in me -- my pupils dilate so I can see more light and a touch lightheaded. YUM! I have to pull my senses back as that first bite melts so I can figure out if there is a violet flavor. The second bite reveals that yes indeed the violet is there but it blends very well into the dark chocolate. Of all of the flavors this one is my favorite because of the strength of the chocolate.

Hedonist Violet Truffle
Rosebud is the half dome with the red and pink wave on the top. That wave is hand-painted colored white chocolate on top of the white chocolate half dome. It has a strong rose fragrance to it with hints of creaminess. Biting it in half makes no sound but inside I discover a dark chocolate ganache enter that is smooth and creamy. The sweetness of the white chocolate is the first flavor I taste followed by rose, and then the darker center that lingers the longest turning just pleasantly bitter right at the end.

Hedonist Rosebud Truffle
If my mother were still alive I think she would love it. For the quality and balance, for the handcrafted nature of the truffles, these earn Sacramental Status.

Is there a mother or mother-figure in your life who might like this Wildflower Collection?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Meet the Woman Behind Hedonist Chocolates

Jen Posey of Hedonist Artisan Chocolates
Sisters and Brother on The Chocolate Cult. Please help me welcome Jennifer Posey, the owner of Hedonist Artisan Chocolates, to our blog today. She has kindly taken time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions and talk to us about her business and chocolate preferences.

Welcome, Jen, to The Chocolate Cult.

You co-founded Hedonist Artisan Chocolates back in 2007. What was your experience in the chocolate business or the food industry prior to that?

Growing up our family would make confections, cookies, and all kinds of treats for holidays and special occasions. I have fond memories of being with my mom, grandmother, and sisters making caramels, fudge, and popcorn balls. My first real introduction to the world of chocolate came when I was in college. I worked for Chocolatier Richard Donnelly in Santa Cruz, California. It was there that I was introduced to fine chocolate, where it came from, and why it was so special.

2007 was the start of a big economic downturn in the USA and the world. What were some of your early struggles with a new chocolate business?

Fortunately I didn’t realize the world was in a downturn, I just thought business was hard. I started Hedonist with $300 and a credit card. I worked long hours alone for a few years, saying yes to everything and everyone. 

I loved working hard, and still do. Difficulties are all around if you want to see them, but I like to think of difficulties as challenges: challenges that I’m going to conquer, or games I need to figure out and win.

We first tested your chocolate creations on The Chocolate Cult back in 2011, seven years ago. A lot can change in that time, but I note that a big change for your business was you becoming sole owner in 2013. What prompted you take on that role in Hedonist?

Divorce. LOL. Being a small business owner was always my idea and dream. Hedonist was started so I would have a long-term project. Until Hedonist, I would change jobs every 2-3 years, so I wanted to be a part of something that I could take care of, watch grow, and see results. 

Hedonist Valentine's Truffles
Your chocolate creations are small batch but has Hedonist grown since 2011 in terms of locations and/or number of employees?

Hedonist is always slowly growing. Currently we have about 15 employees, 6 summer interns, and a variety of contractors. We have added an Ice Cream Shop and a Letterpress Studio. We have increased our online sales, walk-up traffic, wholesale relationships, and business networking. We also run or help run several community events! Basically, we are always busy doing something.

Jen, do you still personally craft some of the treats that Hedonist makes? If so, what is your favorite type of product to make?

Nowadays I typically am the cheerleader on the side of the kitchen, rooting on the chocolate makers. However, I do still get my hands dirty when there is time, an emergency, or I just can’t help myself. I love making everything, but what I really find joy in is crafting our themed collections. An example of this is our Wildflower chocolates, one of our newest collections, inspired and made with parts of natural wildflowers. It forces me to research, discover, and assemble flavors together that are interesting as well as delicious. Then, I also get to design them to be beautiful, inside and out. That’s my favorite.

Hedonist Bacon Salted Caramels
Hedonist has seasonal and holiday products but also your stable types of treats and flavors. What are some of your best sellers?

After being on the cover of the New York Times, our Salted Caramels is our best boxed chocolate seller. We also have a very popular Classic Collection that we keep year-round and is a perfect gift for anyone, regardless of their chocolate experience.  We also create a number of awesome chocolate barks that we have year-round. Many wineries around New York pair their products with ours, and the most popular varieties are: Sesame Milk Chocolate, Ginger Pistachio, Curry Coconut and Ancho Chile Pumpkin Seed.

How often does Hedonist introduce new types of products or new flavors?

We offer new “limited edition” chocolates often and regularly. In our shop you can see and taste our most recent inventions. In addition, we commission two different artists each year to create the art that will be transferred on to our Valentines and Halloween Collections. We introduce a new Spring or Fall Collection each year. If we have a graduating intern, they will also release a collection. We are always making new custom products for Wineries, Brew Houses, gift shops and business customers, so there’s something new almost every month!

Thinking ahead, what are your hopes and goals for Hedonist by 2025?

Seven years from now I hope Hedonist will have a stronger online presence. Our goal is to have half of our sales come from folks that live further away than Rochester. We will always keep our quality high and our products fun and unique. Our challenge will be having the rest of the world taste our creations so they know what they are missing and where to get the good stuff.

Finally is there anything else you'd like us to know about Hedonist Artisan Chocolates that I haven't asked about?

We’re always learning and always changing: from our seasonal products to our packaging. We’re always looking for the best solution and best experience for our chocolate-loving customers. We love our customers and we love our communities, from our neighborhood, to our long-time supporters, to our online fans who may have just found us! We absolutely love what we do at Hedonist, and we hope other people will try our chocolates and they bring them as much joy as they bring us.

Thank you, Jen, for talking with us. Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate, do you have any other questions about Hedonist Artisan Chocolates? If some please leave a comment. Or just leave a comment and let us know that you read this interview today.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

National Fitness Day 2018 and Chocolate?

Animal SNAK Double Chocolate Brownie 12
Today is National Fitness Day so were looking at a high protein food bar that is spun as the "best" for folks who are working out or who have a high activity lifestyle. Your Chocolate Priestess can't claim those titles but she does exercise regularly and for longer than the recommended 3 times a week for 30 or so. I work out 5 days a week for 30+ minutes at least depending on the week and my schedule but I do not work out 7 days a week. I learned that is too much for me and tends to make me want to quit instead of maintain a healthy regimen. I received this 12 bar pack of Double Chocolate Brownie Animal SNAK from Universal Nutrition via the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a fair and honest review on Amazon; this feature is an unexpected bonus for both Amazon and Universal Nutrition. No other form of compensation was received.

Website Label, Animal SNAK Double Chocolate Brownie, 3.3 oz bar
Let me begin by saying that I really wish the box had full nutritional values on it. The side of the box has "Who We Are" and a list of ingredients: "milk, soy, wheat, peanuts, almonds, coconut" that does not come close to matching the list on the bar's wrapper. The wrapper's nutritional information is black on a brown background making it difficult to read. Not cool for a company that wants us to believe that it is promoting health and fitness. I had to go online to make sure I could see all the information that I needed. This 3.3 ounce bar is 350 calories and that isn't far off from a real chocolate bar in terms of calories. It does have protein, 25g, but also 25g of sugars, the same amount making this more almost a candy bar in terms of nutritional balance. I love that it has 6g of fiber. It has a milk chocolate coating that is candy, it has whey protein crisp made with cocoa processed with alkali, surprisingly it has real chocolate chips made with chocolate liquor and cocoa butter and not added oils or fats, and finally more cocoa and chocolate flavors.

While I was sent this product to review via Amazon you can't buy this flavor there! They have two other flavors at this same link maybe that will change in the future. If you use this link to purchase, remember that you are also helping to support The Chocolate Cult so that we can go to visit chocolate locations and share those experiences with you all.

Inside Animal SNAK Double Chocolate Brownie
Aside from nutritional labels and weirdness of not being on sale from the place that sent it to me, how does this bar taste and did it fill me up after a workout? The bar is large and thick about 1 inch thick, yet each to break in half. It has a strong peanut butter scent to it, no chocolate at all. Inside I can see the pieces of various ingredients including the little chocolate chips. In terms of taste it has a strong coating flavor meaning that I taste and feel the palm oil but the cocoa and chocolate is nearly impossible to detect and the peanut butter which was the fragrance is also barely discernible. In what way does this qualify as double chocolate? Certainly not in flavor. In terms of texture it is soft but chewy so it is a bit like a cakey brownie. Overall, disappointing but at least the whey and soy was not the primary flavors as happens in so many other protein bars we've tried. Because the flavor is so disappointing, I didn't want to eat more than one bite of this bar so this is not a good choice of protein bar for me, post or pre-workout.  But I shared it with a friend she loved it so remember, what we describe is merely our testers' opinions and they may not match your own.

Animal SNAK are a Universal Nutrition brand, one of three brands I can find under the Universal Nutrition umbrella. In general their products are geared toward weigh lifters but they have expanded into other types of products. I'd like try out some of their baking mixes frankly to see if they can make anything chocolate that actually tastes like chocolate!

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