Sunday, January 31, 2010

Win Wonderfully Unique Chocolates

Yesterday, January 30, 2010, I reviewed a wonderful box of unique chocolates.  There was a mix up with the shipping and I received two identical boxes of these great butter cups from Ococoa.  I would like to give the other box to one of you, Sisters and Brothers.

Here is what you do to get a chance to win.

1. Be a follower on The Chocolate Cult.
     You can find three ways to become a follower on the left hand bar.  Through Blogspot, through Facebook, or through Networked Blogs. 

2. Read the review of these chocolates HERE.

3. Make a comment here about which of the nine flavor combinations I described you think would be the best to try.

4. Make an announcement about this contest on another networking site such as Twitter or Facebook and @thetammyjo or tag me when you do.

Since I do not charge money for my reviews and indeed have never made money from this project, I can't ship outside of the lower 48 USA states.  So make sure you live in one of these lower 48 states.

Make sure the information that is listed for your names or handle includes an email address so I can write to you if you win.  I have to be able to contact you in order to get your address.

Winner will be chosen from those who did all that is required by random drawing and announced Wednesday morning, February 3, 2010.  This could be a good treat for you or for your Valentine.

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

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Unique, Delicious Butter Cup

When I first saw this company, your Chocolate Priestess thought "What an adorable name for a chocolatier!"  Ococoa is based in Los Angeles and run by an incredibly friendly lady named Diana.  Not only did she send this lovely box of 9 flavors of her Butter Cups — think of these like sophisticated peanut butter cups — but she also wants to offer you, Sisters and Brothers, a special discount on orders.  I'll include those details at the end of today's Sacrament as well as at the bottom of The Chocolate Cult for future reference.

Inside this box were 9 of these unique Butter Cups, along with a black and white photo list of the varieties inside. You can also find color photos of the various flavors on the website itself.  I will try to cut these in half so you can see the layering inside each, but if that fails, please go to the website.  Each cup is 1inch tall and 1.5 inches across on the top.  The box had a list of ingredients but no nutritional information, so just keep practicing moderation and enjoy these slowly, and you should be fine.  There are no artificial ingredients in these, and the principal component is 61% dark chocolate.  There are also no animal products here — no dairy, no lard, no added oils beyond what comes from the Sacred Substance itself — so this is good for a wide range of people with allergies or philosophical beliefs that might otherwise curb their enjoyment of Chocolate.  Each chocolate shell is shiny, cool and smooth to the touch, so I won't repeat this observation over and over in the paragraphs below.

I'm going to reveal these in the order on the photo list, so we begin with "Macadamia Guava," which has a slice of nut on top of it. This has a good dark cocoa scent to it plus something else I'm not so familiar with.  Inside there are two layers, with the nut butter on top and the fruit layer on the bottom.  Once I cut the cup open, the primary scent is the guava.  The cup breaks when I take a bite, and after a burst of cocoa and macadamia, the fruit's sweetness takes over until the cocoa's bitterness rears up to be the final flavor in my mouth.  Very good, very unique flavor that makes me want to try some more guava in the future.

The "Sunflower Honey" cup has yellow edible ink on the top in a design of flowers and bees, which makes it just so cute I almost don't want to eat it — "almost" being the key word, Sisters and Brothers.  Inside is a semi-solid center with a nice balance of cocoa and honey scents.  It does not break when I take a bite, and my mouth is filled with sweetness that turns to the earthy sunflower flavor and again ends with the cocoa itself.  This, too, is an excellent and unique flavor.

A piece of sugared apricot tops the "Cashew Apricot" cup.  When I cut it in half, the apricot jelly on the bottom half oozes out.  The apricot has a subtle scent that blends well into the cocoa.  This has a complex flavor and texture.  The sugared fruit on top is chewy, the butter top is a bit salty, and the apricot jelly is a bit tart, but it all works well together.  There is probably more pleasure here to be had from sorting through these differences than just the flavors themselves.  Not a chocolate to be eaten quickly.

What would make more sense on the "Sesame Fig" cup than a dash of the tiny sesame seeds on top?  Inside, the fig jelly is in the center of the semi-solid butter filling, which is different from some cups we have seen so far in this revelation.  Sisters and Brothers, this impresses me, because it means that Ococoa is thinking about what their chocolates look like inside and out, appealing to more of our senses than simply smell and taste.  The scents are cocoa, a fruity fragrance, and a lot of sesame.  The cup breaks when I take a bite, and the principal flavor is the sesame, followed by the chocolate and the fig.  The fig jelly is a bit chewy, while the rest is quite creamy.  Another great combination of flavors.

When you think "chocolate cup," you probably think "peanut butter," and the next chocolate is Ococoa's version of this, coupled with sea salt on top.  This has a good peanut butter scent, but the cocoa is certainly there.  The center is semi-solid and looks like a combination of chocolate and peanut butter.  The salt overpowers both flavors immediately but then fades to let the creamy butter and the cocoa come out more.  The salt crystals are scattered across the top, so different bites will have different amounts of salt, and I think that bites with less salt have a better taste.  Overall this is a good peanut butter cup flavor that is not too sweet, as often happens with this flavor combination.

The "Marzipan Truffle" has a sliver of almond on top along with a few strips of chocolate.  Inside are three layers, a top creamy-looking white layer, a chocolate layer, and a bottom layer that looks like coconut to me.  Oddly I can't smell anything other than a light cocoa scent from this cup, even when I cut it open.  The marzipan upper layer is very sweet, and the coconut is crispy. The bitter cocoa competes well, but in the end it can't completely overcome the other two flavors.  I'm sure the Chocolate Coconut Acolyte would be pleased by the combination of flavors and textures, and if you like almonds this would be a great flavor for you to try.

A fairly large hazelnut sinks into the top of the "Hazelnut Chocolate" cup.  This breaks apart in a haphazzard fashion because the inside is fairly solid, with two layers — hazelnut butter on top and more chocolate on the bottom.  It has a very strong hazelnut fragrance, but surprisingly the chocolate competes very well when I eat it.  There is a rougher texture to the butter part than with the previous cups, making this worth lingering over and exploring.  Ultimately, though, the nut overwhelms the cocoa as the final flavor in my mouth.

More edible ink, this time in the form of white and dusky pink flowers, graces the top of the "Almond Cherry" cup.  Cutting this in half was fairly easy, since the inside two layers are relatively firm.  The fragrance is a nice cherry with cocoa and almonds.  The bottom cherry layer has a reddish coloration, as you might expect.  The cherry is tart, very tart, but that fades quickly when I take a bite.  The almond butter is gritty and has a strong essence that blends well with the dark chocolate, making this a very earthy flavor with a kick from the fruit.  Very intriguing; I like it.

Finally we get to the "Pistachio Date" cup, with a nut on top along with a  dusting of something.  In the photo you can't quite see the dusky green of the top pistachio layer but you can certainly see that it has two layers inside a hard chocolate shell.  The date layer on the bottom is a more solid gel than the the other fruit layers we've seen.  The scents all mix together when I cut this cup open, and this reflects the initial flavors when I take a bite.  However, the pistachio definitely becomes the primary flavor as I continue chewing, letting the cocoa fall behind.  Good for this particular nut lover.

Beyond the unique flavors of these wonderful little cups, Ococoa is offering all of the Sisters and Brothers here in The Chocolate Cult a 15% discount on purchases from now until December 31, 2010. Yes, until the end of the year! To claim this special offer, enter code CPR10 in the coupon section when you check out on their website. This applies only to the purchase price, not shipping and handling.

I was asked to review this for Valentine's Day, but given the simplicity of the box, I think that you could give this for all sorts of occasions.   On the website you can find five collections of these butter cups to choose from, so if only a few of these flavors appealed to you, you can probably find a selection of them here.

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

Friday, January 29, 2010

Rush to Valentine's Day

So we've revealed Van's Chocolates to you as possible Valentine's gifts and then we received products from Ococoa, FTD, Mrs Fields, Astor, and have a few things still on the way I'm told.

I wish more companies had done as Van's and Ococoa did sending me offerings earlier so I could place things out and schedule them fairly.  But now that they realize that one of their big selling days is approaching fast, they want me to squeeze them in.

Your Chocolate Priestess will try but she will NOT leave the Path to do so, I not misuse our Sacrament Substance nor my body to get reviews done for them or for you.  So expect some "Special Sacraments" to supplement the "Saturday Sacraments" for the next two weeks.

You want to check in because some chocolatiers are also offering special discounts for the Sisters and Brothers in The Chocolate Cult.

Chocolate Theme Parks

Hopefully, Sisters and Brothers, you've seen the news now that there is a new chocolate theme park which opened in Beijing, China.  This over 200,000 square feet exhibit in three temperature and moisture controlled halls includes art such as a replica of the Great Wall and copies of Qin Shihuang's (China’s first emperor) famous terra cotta warriors made in chocolate as well as displays and demonstrations about making chocolate.

This got your Chocolate Priestess thinking about other theme parks and chocolate.  Earlier this week I provided some links to some museums around the world dedicated to the Sacred Substance so let's see what I can find in terms of theme parks.

There is, of course, Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which I've been to many, many years ago.  As I recall there were a few different parts to it.  One was an amusement park with roller coasters and rides.  Another part was a trip through a mock up of their factory which ended in a huge room with tons of Hershey products you could buy for wholesale prices.  This was back before I was on the Path and I'll tell you what we bought didn't last long between my parents and I.  

But this is very focused on one company's products so not really in line with what opened in Beijing.  Are there any theme parks or amusement parks more like the one there?

Some of the museums I linked to before have amusement like displays so I think they are early examples of this chocolate theme park idea.  But I can't find another that compares in scoop or subject.

According to my map which tracks where my readers are dialing in from, I see some readers in Asia but none as close as China.  If anyone should know someone in China who has visited this theme park and who has decent English, I'd love to read their thoughts on the place and I bet you would as well, Sisters and Brothers.

Tomorrow will be another "Saturday Sacrament" and it will be a product I've never heard of before so I'm looking forward to learning more about it and sharing my experience with you in all five senses.  Remember Valentine's Day is approaching fast so keep checking in frequently this coming week and next Saturday for several sacramental specials as well as coupon offers for chocolate to give to your loved ones.

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

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chocolate Holidays in February

In the USA when we think Chocolate and Holidays we primarily think of Valentine's Day, February 14th.  It is a big event for chocolate sells though Christmas, Easter and Halloween all see bigger expenditures on the Sacred Substance nationwide according to several news reports I've seen this past year.

Your Chocolate Priestess has all ready covered a few possible outlets for you to find your chocolate for Valentine's Day and other forthcoming holidays.  Just look though the "Saturday Sacraments" and the "Special Sacrament" categories over in the left column on this site to see these revelations.  I'll do a few more before Valentine's Day as well to help you sort out the good buys from the not so good to the down right poor products you could give your loved one.

There is one other potential "chocolate holiday" I know about in February.  This will be "National Chocolate Mint Day" on February 19th.  If you know of any other days we can turn into chocolate holidays in February, 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.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chocolate Supreme Cocoa Mix

Sisters and Brothers, it's Wednesday and with this time of year it means time for another review of a hot chocolate drink.  Your Chocolate Priestess tried the second flavor from the Kroger Private Selection line of Cocoa Supreme dry mixes: "Chocolate Supreme" flavor.  I bought this during the same sale for 50¢ versus the normal 65¢ price though with the rates the prices seem to be rising at Kroger I wouldn't be surprised if you find it for 70¢ or higher very soon.  Again this has trans fat so if my description sounds delicious to you exercise careful control over how much and how often you have this product.

One 1.25oz envelop = one serving when mixed with 6oz of water.  This does have cocoa in it along with milk but the very first ingredient listed is sugar while the last ingredient is artificial flavor.  This packet has 150 calories, 1g saturated fat, 1.5g trans fat, 115mg sodium, 1g fiber, 23g sugars, 3g protein, 6% Calcium and 2% Iron. 

The cup on this photo to the left must be a very small one because as you will see below what I consider our fairly normal sized mugs, including a Nestle™ bunny mug from my childhood, didn't get very full even though I prepared three packets.  The mix frothed up very nicely when I first mixed it in and the product stayed well mixed as we drank it.  It tasted very milk chocolaty and very creamy at the same time.  I just really wish it didn't have the trans fat.

You have to make your own health choices, Sisters and Brothers, but I won't be buying this brand again after I finish the last two reviews of this product for you all.

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ironic Chocolate Mints

Yesterday after her class, your Chocolate Priestess went to the gift shop of the university museum where I've seen some chocolate related products for sale.  I got two things.  One of this is in this little box you see below.  These are "Irony Chocolate" by Hint Mint.

This weights only 0.33oz and has 9 servings of tiny 0.25in diameter mints for a grand total of 22.5 calories in the entire box.  Cocoa Powder is the second ingredient on the list but there are also two artificial sweetners: Sorbitol and Sucralose in here along with menthol, calcium stearate, and natural flavors.  As you can see below these are tiny mints and 6 of them make one of the 9 servings.  The little metal box slides open with some effort to reveal the inside that has a open square you can shake the mints from.  Be careful because it is very easy to get too many at once.

These weren't cheap, nothing in the art museum gift shop is but since they don't charge money to go into the museum, they make some of their funds from the gift shop.  This tiny box was $2.19.   The mints start off very cocoay but then turn very minty quickly especially if you suck on more than one at a time.  This may be a fairly new product since their website is under development but they are a division of Hint Mint which has been in business a decade.  These were a nice very mouth cooling guilt free treat.

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

Monday, January 25, 2010

Museums of Chocolate

Some time back I read this article from Reuters India about museums around the world which are focused on the Sacred Substance: Chocolate.  Sadly your Chocolate Priestess hasn't been to any of these, I don't charge money for my reviews so so far The Chocolate Cult is pure fun and outreach to all of you.  But I tried to find out more about these museums so I could share some information with you.  I could find websites for 8 of the 10 museums mentioned in this article; two of them are branches of the same franchise so I'll give just one link which includes them all.

Below are the Museums with links to online information about them.  Sisters and Brothers, if you have been to any of these please leave a comments and tell us about your experience. In the future, if I get the money and can visit some of them, I'd share a detailed report with you all right here on The Chocolate Cult.

Schokoladenmuseum Köln

Musée les Secrets du Chocolat

Phillip Island Chocolate Factory

Choco-Story, The Chocolate Museum

Museu de la Xocolata

The Chocolate Museum

Candy Americana Museum

Chocolate Castle

So take a look and have  a few hours of fun at these sites.  Most have a lot of information and can be translated into a few languages.  Most have a good selection of photographs but a few have virtual tours as well.  If you have been to any of these, please leave a comment and let us all know.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Four Wonderful 2-oz. Chocolate Bars from Astor

Astor Chocolate has sent several offering to us here in The Chocolate Cult.  Today we will look at four of their 2-ounce Belgian chocolate bars, which come in seven regular varieties and then some seasonal packaging as well, such as their Valentine's Day bars of "heart healthy" dark chocolate.  These bars are simple — chocolate plus a filling if required, no artificial ingredients.  The nutritional information varies greatly between bars, so I'll highlight that for each bar as you take this full-sensory journey with me today, Sisters and Brothers.  Each bar does have soy in it along with milk, if those are dietary concerns for you.

The "Milk Chocolate" bar is wrapped in a shiny blue and black wrapper over a silver wrapper that each bar has.  The bar is one serving with 290 calories, 10 grams of saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium, < 1 g fiber, 33 g sugars, 3 g protein, 4% of your daily iron requirement, and 8% of your daily calcium.  A mild chocolate scent wafted up as soon as I opened the bar.  Inside was a light colored bar divided into six sections, decorated with a crosshatch pattern.  The chocolate is cool and slick to my fingers, and it starts to melt if I hold it too long, a strong indication of its purity.  Biting into it, I taste creamy milk chocolate with a hint of vanilla that almost melts as fast as I chew.  Letting a bite melt allows the creaminess to increase in my mouth, leaving me feeling very full and creating a gentle buzz that I don't normally expect from a milk chocolate; this buzz is from both sugar and cocoa, by the way.  This is a great milk chocolate bar, and for those of you who want to use milk chocolate as a Sacrament, consider this one.

The gold and black wrapper contains the "Almond Pieces Milk Chocolate" bar.  This has 300 calories, 9 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 30 g sugars, 4 g protein, 4% iron and 8% calcium. When opened, this bar has a strange lack of fragrance to it; I had to get very close to the bar to smell it, and then the scent was a very mild almond one.  Inside were tiny pieces of the nuts, which I hope will show up in my photograph, and when I break the bar into pieces the almond scent slightly increases, and some of the milk chocolate is revealed to my nose as well.  I can tell from their slightly darker flavor that these are indeed roasted almonds, as the ingredients say.  The milk chocolate is creamy and really highlights the nuts.  This is a good milky chocolate with a solid almond flavor, on the sweeter end of cocoa products if you prefer sweet over bitter.

The third bar, the "Caramel Filled Milk Chocolate" variety, comes in a wrapper that is copper and black over silver foil.  It has 290 calories, 11 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 100 mg sodium, < 1 g fiber, 28 g sugars, and 3 g protein, with 8% calcium, making this the least "healthy" of the group, I think. When I open this bar up it is the only one that hasn't broken during shipment in some fashion, and it seems to have more heft to it in my hand, even though the bars are identical in weight.  It has both a caramel and a milk chocolate scent to it, and the six sections have a line pattern on them, not the crosshatch pattern of the two previous bars.  Inside is a gooey golden filling, and it is a bit more difficult to snap apart the sections, because the chocolate feels stronger.  With one bite I discover another variety of milk chocolate in these bars.  This one starts off more bitter and ends more creamy with each bite.  The caramel is very tangy and not so sweet, which gives a nice little nudge to the cocoa.  Lovely balance of flavors, and a good blend of creamy sensations on my tongue.

The fourth bar is "Raspberry Dark Chocolate," which comes in a shiny raspberry and black wrapper over silver.  In terms of nutrition, this one is the best of these four, and not surprisingly, since it is the only dark chocolate variety your Chocolate Priestess was sent in this group.  It has 240 calories, 8 g saturated fat, 4 g fiber, 27 g sugars, and 2 g protein, with 8% daily iron.  The nice dark scent of chocolate rises up immediately after I open the wrapper.  Inside, I hope you can see the jelly-like center, which has a strong raspberry scent.  The six sections are not marked by a crosshatch pattern on top, but simply lines.  It is actually a bit difficult to cleanly break off these sections, since the tops are a bit softer due to the semi-liquid filling, causing the top to squash and the filling to ooze out a bit.  The raspberry is a smooth gel that tastes both sweet and tart, but it just can't compete with the bitterness of the chocolate, instead highlighting it and making a wonderful combination of three flavors and two textures in my mouth.  This is perhaps the best raspberry chocolate I've had in bar form, so I recommend it.

These four flavors are all excellent and would make wonderful gifts for any occasion from Astor.   They offer holiday versions of some flavors of these bars throughout the year, so keep checking back in with them for your next special event.  If these sounded good to you, Sisters and Brothers, then consider adding them to your own weekly Chocolate Sacrament.

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

Friday, January 22, 2010

National Pie Day in The Chocolate Cult

And the winner is Black Bottom Pie!

Here is my first ever attempt to make this treat using the next cookbook I have to review.

Attempts to find chocolate curls -- fail.

Attempts to follow vague directions about making them -- fail.

Used chocolate jimmies instead.

Layers are perfectly matched but I think I did an OK job here.  The top layer of whipped cream, again vague directions, not as good as just using Cool Whip I think.  The middle layer of custard is too much rum in my opinion but I put in what the directions said.  The chocolate layer was great.  The crust was plain but pretty good -- plain directions didn't ask for any fancy work on the pie edges so I didn't do any.

Over all fairly decent pie but not a very good set of instructions. I'll talk more about when I do the full book review.

What Pie Should I Make for National Pie Day?

Tomorrow, January 23, 2010, is another fun holiday you can use to help you enjoy the Sacred Substance.  "National Pie Day."  Now why this is not specific to chocolate you can, of course, make pies with chocolate in them.  In preparation for tomorrow I'm going to make a pie today. 

The question is: What type of pie will I make?

I have another cookbook to review and I was looking a few days ago.

This is what I need from you, Sisters and Brothers.

By 6pm Eastern Time, I need to see a lot of comments telling me which of the following pies I should try to make this evening.  I'll make it then post about it so you can see how it turned out.

Here are the choices:

Mississippi Mud Pie

Black Bottom Pie

Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Pie

I have never made any of these so this will be an honest test of this cookbook's ability to give good directions.

Which pie should I make?  Remember vote before 6pm Eastern Time.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Delicious Raspberry Hot Cocoa

On a very recent trip to my local Kroger, I found two brands of hot cocoa mix on sale. One of these was the store's own Private Selection brand of products.  These "Cocoa Supreme" hot cocoa mixes come in single serve bags and normally cost 65¢ but were on sale for 50¢.  So I got a few in each of the four varieties they had.  Last night we tried the "Chocolate & Raspberry" flavor with 150 calories, 1.5g saturated fat, 2g transfat (use this rarely!), 120mg sodium, 1g fiber, 23g sugars, 3g protein, with 2% iron and 8% calcium.  You should mix it with 6oz of hot water.

The product smelled very fruity when I opened the bag, which had to be cut with scissors.  I beat a few bags in with hot water using a whisk and it frothed up very  nicely and remained frothy and thoroughly mixed throughout drinking it.  The raspberry scent and flavor lessened when the water hit the powdery mixture and the chocolate essences was released.  The result was a very balanced drink that was certainly cocoay but also had a hint of raspberry.  6oz does fill up much of our mugs, each of these is actually 9oz of the drink so be aware of that.

Because of the transfat issue, I can't in good conscious recommend you have this more than once a week with this in the product and I will be sending an email to the company letting them know about this serious criticism.  Be careful what you eat and drink, Sisters and Brothers.  Your Chocolate Priestess tries things so you don't have to but given the transfat, I won't be buying this for my family or self in the future.

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Triple Chocolate Mousse Candy

A while back at Kroger they were have a clearance sale on this product from Russell Stover, their "Private Reserves: Triple Chocolate Mousse" with 70% dark chocolate plus white chocolate and between them milk chocolate.  Something for every chocolate taste. This 4.5oz bag was $1.09, a dollar less than it's normal price the clearance label claimed but I'm fairly certain the regular price was greater than $3 when I'd seen it originally on the shelves.  Inside were individually wrapped pieces of chocolate squares about 1inch across.  This was in spite the fact that two pieces equaled a serving according to the nutritional label.   Your Chocolate Priestess really wishes companies would package by the serving size if they must add extra packaging at all.

Each serving then has 180 calories, 10g saturated fat, <5mg cholesterol, 20mg sodium, 1g fiber, 13g sugars, 2g protein, with 4% Calcium and 10% Iron and adult needs daily.  You can see, Sisters and Brothers, that I'm showing you the full serving, two pieces, which nicely displays the dark chocolate over the top and sides then the white chocolate bottom.  Between then is a nice creamy, very mousse-like milk chocolate.  This was an interesting candy to eat slowly or allow to melt in my mouth, both let me taste all three distinct and pleasing flavors.  Not a single person I shared these with disliked them probably because they offer something for everyone.  I can highly recommend these as delightful additions to The Chocolate Cult.

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Post Christmas Chocolate at Sam's Club Part 3

The final thing your Chocolate Priestess found in Sam's after the Christmas holidays was this box of Cocoa Dor Grand Truffles, Belgian Collection.  This was nicely wrapped with a lot of little extra decorations on the top as you can see.  The extras didn't last the unwrapping even though I tried to do it very carefully.  The autumnal colors made this more a fall and winter gift than Christmas specific which is why I choose it over the green, red and white decorated ones.

Under the paper wrapping, it was simply a rather thick paper, was another box.  This is plain and gold as you can see.  Such an inside box makes it very easy to rewrap and use this as a gift before May 15, 2010, the "Best Before" date on booklette you saw in the first photograph.  Wrap it with other paper or remove the decorations or simply give it in this gold box and there you have a Valentine's Day or another occasion gift.  As long as you store it in a cool, dry place, it will be fine until May 2010.

Inside were four trays of seven truffles, you can see the top tray to the left.  I liked how these were arranged in the plastic trays but those trays did not have  recycling symbol on them.  The little booklette gave ingredients and general nutritional value.  2 truffles equaled one serving for a total of 14 servings in this 15oz box.  Each has 170 calories, 6g saturated fat, <5mg cholesterol, 20mg sodium, 14g sugars, 2g protein, with 4% calcium and iron an adult needs daily.  The booklette also has a photo of each truffle with their flavor listed, two were difficult to discern because while the picture looks distinct the actual truffles were basically identical until you bit into them.  The flavors included: Pomegranate, Chocolate Mousse, Peanut Butter, French Vanilla, Lemon, Caramel, and Mississippi Mud.

All of these tasted great, very chocolaty and very much like the flavor listed.  If you think this is too many truffles for one person and you worry about them controlling themselves, this is a great variety for a group to try together.  Get four to eight people together and see who likes which flavor best.  Overall I was very pleased and for less than $5 this was an great buy.

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

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Week of Chocolate" Charity Event

Several years ago, your Chocolate Priestess remembers a fairly small, maybe 250-300 people, event in downtown Bloomington, Indiana, that used chocolate to raise money for a local charity.  I remember it in part because a friend entered a pie she'd made in the contest and she won third place in that category.  I also remember tasting dozens of homemade treats from other entrants.  Over the years, this evening event has turned into a "Week of Chocolate" here in B-town and that original festive atmosphere grew from a few hundred to thousands trying to sample both homemade and professional treats.

This year there is also a "Week of Chocolate" and the link will provide you with some of the information.  My attempts to volunteer to help resulted in only one invitation to a meeting I couldn't schedule into my life and no other information.  I have to say that while there is much going on, overall I'm disappointed by the week this year.

First, the entire original sampling evening is gone from the schedule of events.  I understand that numbers may have made it overwhelming but you can curb that by having only a certain number of tickets.  At $15-20 each, those tickets were a good investment in a few hours of fun, music and chocolate.  It also allowed both the professional and the everyday chocolatier to compete in several categories including both kids and adults, thereby making the event really a community experience.

Second, while the events being spread out, one at least each evening, I don't like that different charities are benefiting it seems.  I have to wonder how this all came about.  Yes, many charities need help but does the Red Cross have enough events?  Why not stay focused on one group, the group which started this?  I have to further wonder if spreading it out is leading to a higher level of disorganization because inquiries about the event and attempts to volunteer are haphazard at best.  Each group beyond the weblink seems responsible for promoting itself making this less  a "Week of Chocolate" and more a "week of chocolate" if you get my meaning.

Finally some of the events are very reasonably price but others, such as "The Art of Chocolate" is outrageously priced at $45 a person -- I love the IU Museum, this is not an attack on them.  Even the Tudor Room "5 Acts" of chocolate and music, "Ebony and Ivory" is $45 per couple!  Some one might chose to go to a different event or two if they can't afford these two big events but again this means there is no single event that defines and highlights the week that is affordable to most folks in town.  If we want to pull together as a community, shouldn't we have an event that is more affordable to more people as the highlight of the week?  I'm not even clear which event now qualifies for that position even though "The Art of Chocolate" is highlighted on the main page.

Since I feel it is important to use the Sacred Substance for good reasons, I will find one or two events to go to during "The Week of Chocolate" but I fear I may feel less a part of a community this year than in past years because of the pricing and charity spread.  I'll report in February how things went.  The Week starts January 30 and runs through February 6, 2010.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

4 Organic Chocolate Bars

The Chocolate Cult's retail friends at Taraluna have another offering for us to reveal to you all today.  These are four of the Sjaak's 1.6-ounce organic chocolate bars.  In total, Taraluna offers eight flavors from Sjaak's, but we have the "Milk Chocolate with Almond Butter," "Chocolate Green Tea," "Chocolate Mint," and "Dark Chocolate Raspberry" varieties to review today.  Each bar has a paper wrapper with a unique image on it that is attached with a very strong glue.  Then they have an inner gold and silver foil wrapper that is quite easy to open and reclose to save parts of the bar if you like.  Each bar is about 4.5 by 1.25 by 0.5 inches in dimensions and is divided into 6 sections you can snap apart with ease, making a very soft snap.

We'll start with the "Milk Chocolate with Almond Butter" bar, which equals one serving, so you don't have to worry about breaking it up to know what you are getting.  What you are getting is 280 calories, 10 grams saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 23 g sugars, and 4 g protein, with 8% of your daily calcium and 4% of your daily iron.   The milk chocolate scent wafts up as soon as I start to open the foil, but once completely unwrapped the almond fragrance becomes powerful.  Inside I can see a small sliver of something light, so I break one section apart with some effort to reveal a filled center, which I hope this photo can display.  The milk chocolate is very slick to my fingertips and very creamy tasting on my tongue.  This lighter colored center is a bit grainy feeling and has a very light almond flavor.  So in this bar's case, scent is stronger than flavor, and the chocolate remains the primary essence, resulting in a much tastier bar than I had suspected when I first opened it.

Your Chocolate Priestess turns to the "Dark Chocolate Raspberry Bar" next.  This has a very dark cocoa and deep raspberry scent to it when I open the foil.  I snap off a piece and see a very dark, sticky looking substance with a powerful fruity scent; I cannot get my camera to show you this in detail, so here is the bar broken up a bit to entice you.  The filling here makes the top layer of chocolate crack into several pieces when I bite one section in half.  What raspberry I taste isn't sour, as that fruit often tastes to me, and it is completely submerged into the dark cocoa flavor.  I get tired of raspberry and chocolate, so I'm glad this is less intense, though with the second bite the fruitiness builds up.  Each bar has 250 calories, 9 g saturated fat, 203 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 26 g sugars, 3 g protein, 2% calcium and 16% iron -- Ah, a good source of iron, then!

"Chocolate Mint" is a flavor that everyone in my household enjoys generally, so I'll tackle this bar next, knowing I have people just waiting to get their share.  Please note, Sisters and Brothers, that when I do these Sacraments and reviews, I never eat the entire amount of a product I'm sent unless it is one single bite-sized piece -- Moderation and Purposefulness in all things.  An entire bar of this variety has 302 calories, 14 g saturated fat, 26 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 22 g sugars, 2 g protein, 6% of your daily vitamin A requirement, 45% calcium and 8% iron.  The coolness of mint and the intensity of dark chocolate drift up to my nose when I open the foil wrapper on this bar.  At first this appears to be a solid bar, but when I take a bite and look at the half melting in my fingers I see another lighter center.  This center has a very crisp minty twang to it that blends with the chocolate, which seems darker than the almond butter bar but lighter than the raspberry bar.  The mint leaves my mouth tingling, but so far there is no real cocoa buzz from these bars, perhaps because the pieces are fairly small, about 0.26 oz. each.

Finally I turn to the "Chocolate Green Tea" bar.  Now I recently had a conversation where a friend confessed that her attempt to eat healthier chocolate wasn't quite working since she found it hard to tolerate anything more than about 60% cocoa; remember that the health benefits start to solidly outweigh the negatives for chocolate at the 70% and above range.  But, she countered, "I also drink green tea."  I'll have to see if this bar can offer her a good alternative.  This bar has 302 calories with 14 g saturated fat, 26 mg cholesterol, 16 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 22 g sugars, 2 g protein, with 6% of your daily vitamin A, 4% calcium and 8% iron.  It has an almost coffeelike scent when I unwrap it.  I break a piece off and immediately see a very light green filling inside.  I don't taste any tea here, only lighter chocolate than what I expected with a grainy texture.  Of these four bars, this is my least favorite, but maybe my friend who likes green tea would have a different opinion.

Remember, Taraluna is a woman-owned business that offers fair-trade and organic products only.  If that fits with your social, economic and political leanings, please check them out.  If this revelation today intrigued you, check out the chocolate section on their website for several other products.  When we get closer to Easter, we'll have another Sacrament from Taraluna, featuring a chocolate bunny that they will be offering again this season.

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

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Chocolate" from the Masters of Horror Series

Last night your Chocolate Priestess caught an episode of the 2005-7 series Masters of Horror created and airing originally on Showtime for two seasons with 26 episodes.  The Syfy Channel was airing several of these episodes last night, some of which I'd seen before but I had never seen this one.  This particular 7pm Eastern time episode was entitled "Chocolate" so, of course, I had to check it out to see how much of a role and what type of a role our Sacred Substance played in a one hour horror show.

This was the fifth episode from the first season and was directed by series creator, Mick Garris who is probably best known for his adaptation of Stephen King stories and his work on Amazing Stories.  It stars Henry Thomas, the star of E.T. all grown up.

This is a basic summary of the movie from my watching it last night, I'll try not to spoil it if you have not seen it.  It begins with a man who looks fairly beaten up talking to someone about his life these past few months.  Thomas plays a scientist, Jamie, who creates artificial flavors trying to remake his life after a divorce.  His knowledge of flavors is first tested he gets a mystery sensation of eating very fine chocolate, "bittersweet with a hint of jasmine tea" I believe he said.  Then he starts having audio and visual flashes as well until he believes he is experiencing a woman's life.  These flashes become longer and more sensory intense almost causing a car accident  and utterly ruining any shot he has with a wonderful woman he met at a grocery store.  He does some investigation based on what he sees and is able to track down the woman, Catherine, whose experiences he is sharing.  He knows a terrible secret about her and basically becomes stalker like in his approach.  It ends in tragedy for both of them.

Chocolate shows up several times in this episode.  With his job, Jamie must know a good deal about tastes and scents both.  His first contact with Catherine is through her enjoyment of a fine and expensive piece of chocolate.  In the grocery store he meets a woman, whose name I think is Elaine or something, and they begin talking about unhealthy foods including a few types of chocolate which they end up indulging in together as well as a good evening of sex.  Finally, Jamie attempts to use Catherine's favorite chocolate shop as a way to get her to talk to him by bringing her a box of it.

In this episode chocolate is the vehicle by which Jamie becomes entangled in several relationships and loses himself to them.  This may be because he has gone on a diet and has been denying himself wonderful food as well as the companionship he felt he got with his wife.  Chocolate then seems to symbolize his need for affection and sadly it often substitutes for us in the same way.  This show was more mystery than horror in my opinion though there is violence and blood but I never felt afraid, something quality horror needs to stir up in the audience.

If anyone else watched it, please leave a comment and tell me what you think.

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

Thursday, January 14, 2010

DeMet's Turtles Revealed

Back on World Chocolate Day in September, one of the products I found in my local Kroger was DeMet's Turtles which this red box says is a product of Canada.  If you look at the various companies involved in getting this into the store though you see an example of the international nature of chocolate today.  Made in Canada, DeMet's is part of Nestlé which is a Swiss company and it is distributed by a USA  company.  This would work then in any country as a part of celebrating World or International Chocolate days in 2010, both happening in September by the way.

Inside were a dozen plus individually wrapped candies.  While I can appreciate the desire to have pieces wrapped for hygiene concerns it really increases the amount of non-recyclable materials used here. The box itself is just paper so I will recycle this right after this review for you all, Sisters and Brothers.  But these slick, plastic wrappers can't be recycled anywhere as far as I know.  What is truly odd is that each of these is simply one candy though there are two candies per serving according to the nutritional label on the box.  Each serving has 170 calories, 4g saturated fat, 30mg sodium, 1g fiber, 15g sugars, 2g protein with 4% daily calcium and iron.

Inside the wrappers are these fairly mundane looking candies. Some turtles, which are basically what we call caramel, pecan/nut and chocolate covered treats that are sort of disc or turtle like in shape, had the nuts sticking out.  Most are fully encased in chocolate as these are.  The chocolate is real though only the fifth and sixth ingredients on the list, but there are artificial flavors and colors listed as well.  They taste like caramel, chocolate and pecans, exactly what you expect.  Nothing particularly amazing or worthy of your notice however so if they are on sale and you have a craving these are a good choice but I wouldn't go out of my way to purchase them with so many other choices for chocolate and for international treats.

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Post Christmas Chocolate at Sam's Club Part 2

The second Post Christmas buy in Chocolate I found at Sam's a week or so after the holiday was this green bag with a tag reading "Sweet Treats Gift Bag".  This nice, shiny darker green is not just good for Christmas, in fact that holiday isn't what I thought of when I first saw this bag.  I thought St. Patrick's Day which is very big in some parts of the USA and was a small part of my personal family history -- your Chocolate Priestess is part Irish on her mother's side.  I also just happen to love the color green in almost all shades so such a bag would be a great choice to give me a gift for example.  The bag is sturdy and I saved it and the ribbon for future gift giving.  Remember every thing you reuse or recycle may save more land for cacao growth in another part of the world.

Inside this 16oz bag were two different chocolate covered treats.  8oz of "Chocolate Flavored Fudge Covered Marshmallows" and 8oz of "Chocolate Flavored Fudge Dipped Cookies".  It is interesting that both say "chocolate flavored" when the ingredients lists show cocoa and cocoa powder for each, I don't see any artificial cocoa flavor here, only Vanillin.  These two treats were packed in two tightly sealed plastic sleeves that were slipped between tissue paper into the bag and separated by the ribbon wrapped lengthwise around it.

The marshmallows were very good. Soft and sweet inside, a decent darker chocolate with white drizzle over them.  3 of them equaled one serving with 170 calories, 5g saturated fat, 45mg sodium, 1g fiber, 25g sugars, 1g protein but only 2% calcium and iron, not that I was expecting any vitamins or minerals to be blunt.  Last night was family night in my household and we watched a movie and had hot cocoa, varieties we had before and which I've reviewed on here.  I and the Milk Chocolate Acolyte added a couple of these marshmallows to see what they would do.  The chocolate coating took a while to melt but the marshmallow was nice and soft.  Over all it was a nice addition to the large mug I had.

The cookies are 5 to a serving but they require a warning because that serving has 1g of transfat which  you really need to seriously limit in your diet.  That serving also has 150 calories, 4.5g saturated fat, 55mg sodium, 1g fiber, 14g sugars, 2g protein, and 2% of the iron you need daily.  To be blunt these also taste far more like vanilla than chocolate so not eating many of them was no struggle for me since I look for a solid cocoa component.  These are about the size of a poker chip of triple thickness and also had white drizzle on the top.

I'd have been more happy if this had been nothing but the marshmallows in terms of chocolaty taste and nutritional worries.  But for $3 at post-holiday sales prices, this was still a good deal.  Who knows?  Maybe you can find it still in your local Sam's either in this green or another color of reusable bag.

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

Monday, January 11, 2010

Everyday Chocolatier & Recipe: Bridget's Mole

Sisters and Brothers, with a new year I want to start offering you ever more.  I hope to do at least monthly interviews with chocolatiers that I know starting with some friends I have who are skilled cooks who can apply their skills to the area of Chocolate.  Please give me feedback and let me know what you think of this new category for The Chocolate Cult.

First on our list is a wonderful friend of mine I have known for a few years whose name you should learn because I think she is going to become well-known in the future as a professional cook, perhaps owning her own business after she finishes school.  This is Bridget Kennedy.  Currently she is a pursuing a degree at a University and plans to go culinary school in the fall.  In the future, using both her small business knowledge, her innate talent for cooking and a fearless approach to trying anything in the kitchen, I think she'll have great success in the future.  I'm going to let her speak for herself for the most part today.

How long have you been cooking and baking? 

I've been experimenting in the kitchen probably since I was 5.  

How did you learn to be as skilled and creative in the kitchen as I know you to be?

Survival mechanism.  Neither of my parents were good cooks, but they loved good food.  Needless to say we ate out a lot.  Eventually, I took to trying things out in the kitchen.  I also watched a ton of cooking shows when I was little.  I followed those recipes and the ones in cookbooks around the house.  Eventually I learned how to experiment.  One day a friend said, "Oh I really don't follow recipes." And I was like, "that's possible?" After that it occurred to me that there were plenty of things I knew how to make by heart and that plenty of techniques could transfer to different recipes.   Really it was a trial and error process.  Now I read food news and blogs, and of course I still watch cooking shows on TV.  

How long have you been working with chocolate and cocoa products in the kitchen?  

Probably since I could move around in the kitchen.  Despite my mother's lack of cooking skills.  She tends to be a good baker.  She has made ~100 dozen cookies every Christmas since she was in college.  And I have memories of dropping tons of chocolate chip cookies on to cookie sheets and attempting to eat the dough when she wasn't looking.  

Given all the mass media concerns about weight and other health issues, it isn’t too surprising that chocolate is often in the middle of the debates, cited as an ingredient to avoid to or use .  Have any health concerns affected how you use chocolate in your own kitchen?  Why or why not?  If so, how has it affected things?

Chocolate is full of antioxidants and isn't bad for you.  What's bad for you is excessive amounts of sugar.  When I make hot chocolate, I sweeten it with splenda.  And when I want a treat, I eat a small amount of dark chocolate which is wonderfully complex and bitter so you really can't eat that much.  In general, I don't eat dessert that often though.  I probably have a dessert about once every two weeks.  So when I do make one, I throw caution to the wind and make it as decadent as possible.  

Are there any particular challenges you’ve encountered when using chocolate or cocoa?  

I'm sure this has happened to everyone, but I tried making a ganache to dip cookies in back in high school.  I washed out the pot, but didn't dry it and of course the chocolate seized.  Lesson learned there.  Although I wasn't really sure what happened until I snooped on the internet for like an hour.

Also I've burned white chocolate even when it was in a double boiler before.  However that only contains cocoa butter and no cocoa solids so I'm not sure if that counts for your purposes.    

How do you overcome those challenges?

Make sure water gets nowhere near the chocolate when you're melting it!  And don't turn your back on it either.  It can burn pretty easily.  

Have you ever had a failure with chocolate?  

I've had momentary setbacks, but I'm hard-pressed to think of an actual failure.   I work hard to block failures from my memory.  

What is your greatest success with using chocolate?  

Mole!  I love mole.  It's a very complex sauce, and it's hard to get it right. 

Could The Chocolate Cult have a photo of this success or another chocolate creation you are proud of? 

Would you be willing to share that recipe with our Followers?  (Doesn't this photo look delicious?)

This is a Rick Bayless recipe.

"Simple Red Mole Enchiladas with Shredded Chicken"

Serves 6 to 9 w about 6 cups of sauce

For 1 cup sweet-and-spicy ancho seasoning paste:
8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
8 medium dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded (about 4 oz)
1.5 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
½ tsp black pepper
a scant 1/4 tsp cloves, preferably freshly ground
a big pinch of cumin
about 6 c chicken broth

For rest:
3 Tb vegetable oil
2 oz whole almonds (about ½ c)
1 medium white onion, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/4 c raisins
5 oz ripe tomatoes (1 small round or 2-3 plum)
scant ½ tsp cinnamon, preferably mexican canela ground
1/4 c roughly chopped Mexican chocolate (about 1.5 oz)
2 slices firm white bread, toasted (or ½ mexican bolillo)
sugar, about 1 Tb
Salt, about 2.5 tsp, depending on broth saltiness
18 corn tortillas
A spoonful or two sesame seeds
3 c cooked and shredded chicken

1. Making paste:
Roast unpeeled garlic on ungreased skilled over medium heat until soft and blackened in spots, about 15 min; cool and peel. While garlic roasting, toast chiles on another side of skillet: 1 or 2 at a time, open them flat and press firmly on hot surface w a spatula. When they crackle, flip them and press down to toast on other side. In bowl, cover chiles with hot water and rehydrate 30 minutes, stirring to ensure even soaking. Drain and discard water.

Combine oregano, black pepper, cumin, cloves in a food processor along with chiles, garlic and 2/3 c of broth. Process. Add a little more liquid if needed to make a paste that goes through blender blades. Press through strainer into a bowl.

2. For mole:
In Dutch oven, heat 1.5 Tb oil. Add almonds and toast about 3 min. Using slotted spoon, remove almonds to a blender or food processor. Add half of the onion to the pan and cook until brown, about 10 minutes. Scoop into food processor with almonds. Add raisins, stir, then scoop in with almonds.

Roast tomatoes on baking sheet 4 inches below hot broiler until blackened on one side, about 6 minutes, then flip and roast the other side. Cool, peel, and add to the almond mixture along with the cinnamon, chocolate, and bread. Add 1 cup of broth and blend

Return the pot to medium high and add oil if needed. Add ancho mixture and cook, stirring until darker and very thick, about 5 minutes. Add almond mixture and cook until very thick again. Stir in rest of 4 1/3 cups broth, simmer over med-low 45 min

Taste and season with salt and sugar

Set up steamer; heat to a boil. Wrap tortillas in 2 stacks in heavy kitchen towels, lay in the steamer, and cover tightly. Boil 1 min, turn off heat. Let stand 15 min.
Turn on oven to lowest setting and warm 6-9 plates. Toast sesame seeds in small skillet 2-3 min.

In med-size saucepan, combine chicken w 1.5 c mole and warm over medium heat. Bring remaining mole to a simmer

Make enchiladas by putting 2 Tb chicken into a tortilla, rolling, and placing on a warm dinner plate. Put 2-3 per plate and douse with hot mole. Strew with onion and sesame seeds

You can leave out the sesame seeds if they're not around.  And don't' freak out about the raisins they just add a nice sweetness.  Oh and you can get away with cooking the tortillas in a damp towel in the microwave :).

To cook the chicken poach chicken legs in water with salt, an onion sliced, some garlic, and a bay leaf.  When it's done, shred the chicken off the bones and discard the skin.  This will probably take 25 minutes.  Skim off any foam that arises.  

Finally, do you have a favorite cookbook of chocolate recipes, or do you prefer family recipes?  

I don't have a favorite specifically chocolate cookbook.  For cookies, I do tollhouse.  An d otherwise I like Cook's Illustrated for reliable recipes; sometimes they're a bit fussy though.  When I need brownies though, they're a great resource.  They have a cookbook that's just on baking that has some really great reviews.  

Thank you so much for speaking with The Chocolate Cult today, Bridget.

Thank you, Sisters and Brothers for reading this interview today. Let me know what you think and I hope we can do more in the future. 

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

Saturday, January 9, 2010

15 Amazing Truffles to Try

Van's Chocolates from North Carolina sent in two offerings for The Chocolate Cult this past week, our first new offering of 2010, so I wanted to get to one of their offerings right away.  They sent two identical boxes that had different assortments inside.  The boxes were packed in a fair amount of Styroform peanuts, which I saved to be reused or donated to a charity that can use these.  Today your Chocolate Priestess will look at the "Truffle" assortment they sent.  Since there are only five weeks until Valentine's Day, you should start thinking about whether Chocolate is going to be part of your plans or gifts.

Inside one of the the simple black boxes with golden seals on the top lay 15 of the 20 flavors of truffles they offer.  These were not labeled, which is not uncommon for chocolatiers, but it does make things more difficult if you have allergy concerns for things like tree nuts or peanuts, and it requires that each of you, Sisters and Brothers, embarks on this mysterious taste journey with me today.  From just looking at them I can guess that one is French style, one is white chocolate, and three are milk chocolate, and that leaves 10 that are dark chocolate, at least on the outside.  The website gives more information about the milk chocolate truffles, so I'll start with those.

The truffles are all approximately an inch across on the bottom and dome up to just over an inch tall, making each one a good 2-4 bites, depending on how much you want to eat and how big your mouth is.  Each is cool to the touch and does not feel waxy at all.  The dark truffles all smell darker than the milk chocolates, and the white chocolate — well, we'll talk about that below when I reveal it fully.  Based on the website and some logical deductions, I'm guessing at the start that these are, in order from left to right in the photograph I took, the "Triple," the "Irish Cream," and the "Caramel Temptation."  Let's see if I'm right.

The first piece with the dark and then milk chocolate lines over it smells very milk chocolate with just a hint of darker scent.  The outer shell is thick, and it covers another hard shell of dark chocolate and then a softer layer of a bittersweet flavor of chocolate.  These three flavors — thus I'm right that this must be the "Triple Truffle" — combine to make an explosion of flavor in my mouth, and they start to create that wonderful chocolate rush that high quality chocolate or higher cocoa content can cause.  Letting the second bite melt releases each chocolate more fully and then melds it into the next until it is overpowered only to flow into the final flavor.  Excellent truffle, well deserving of Sacrament title.

The second piece has white and milk chocolate lines across it and smells very much like milk chocolate.  Inside a thinner outer shell I find a nice soft truffle with a strong Irish Cream flavor that blends well with the cocoa.  Personally I think that the Irish cream and hazelnut flavors blend the best with milk chocolate, though quality chocolate can come in almost any variety one can imagine.  The second bite reveals that the center is also a bit chewy and sticky, which makes for more interesting eating than I was expecting. Another excellent chocolate, though it offered no Cocoa Buzz.

The final milk chocolate truffle has sort of tan lines drizzled over the top of it and has a hint of sweetness to its scent when I take a nice deep whiff of it.  The outer shell is a milk chocolate that hides a huge, soft inner truffle with a definite caramel flavor.  The caramel starts to overpower the cocoa in a few bites and leaves behind a cool tingle in my mouth that I normally associate with mint flavors.  More for a caramel lover than a chocolate lover, and certainly very tangy sweet.

Next your Chocolate Priestess will turn her attention to the white and French truffles.  The first is probably a "French style," which most often means a simple truffle covered not in a hard shell or ganache but a dusting of cocoa powder.  The other is clearly white chocolate with a light green drizzle over it that has a lime scent.  (Guess whose camera's batteries were starting to go low?)

The "French Style" turns out to have a very thin outer shell under the cocoa.  Inside is a very soft dark chocolate which within moments of biting reveals this is not simply what I thought.  This has a very spicy kick to it that burns back in my mouth and throat but manages not to overpower the chocolate itself if you eat it slowly.  This was a huge surprise, and I was both "heated up" as well as tickled by it, since this is a quality spicy truffle.  Which spice is responsible I can't honestly say, but it leaves a mark on the back of my tongue and lingers at the top of my throat for several minutes if that helps some of you, Sisters and Brothers, who are more familiar with spices of a wider variety.  If you have a guess as to which spice this is, please leave a comment and let me know.  I have to clear out my mouth and throat for a while before trying the next truffle.

The white truffle has a thicker outer shell, and inside is a semi-soft white chocolate truffle. Yup, this is lime, and it mixes very well with the very creamy and buttery tasting white chocolate.  The lime provides a nice cooling tingle to my mouth in a few chews.  A true delight for anyone who likes lime and white chocolate, this one gets a grin of approval from the White Chocolate Acolyte.

Now I can turn my attention to the 10 dark truffles in this assortment.  Again I'll turn to the website to see how many I can match up, but then it's going to be a guessing game for us all, Sisters and Brothers.    I don't want to do 5 at a time; I think that separates the photo from the paragraphs describing each truffle too much, so how should I divide this?  I'll start with these three, which I think I can identify right away from their pictures or descriptions: "Bittersweet," "Cappuccino," and "Pomegranate."

The sixth truffle from this selection, then, has a swirl of dark chocolate on top of its dark chocolate covering and a nice, strong dark scent.  The coating isn't very thick, and it bites easily to reveal a semi-soft dark chocolate, or to be more precise, bittersweet chocolate.  This is smooth, melting in my mouth, and by the end it has started to conjure a nice little cocoa rush.

The seventh truffle is probably the "Cappuccino," so I'll send it to our Mocha Acolyte for him to review in the future, then I'll go back and add his opinions to this post or the book we hope to pull together some time this year.

That makes the eighth piece the one with light purple drizzle on the top, which I think will be the "Pomegranate" flavor.  I take several smells of this piece but only get chocolate fragrance.  This has a very thick dark shell that makes a very soft snap when I take a bite.  Inside is a firm dark truffle with fruity flavor that gets stronger but never overwhelms with each bite.  It's a sweet but tangy flavor that must be the pomegranate, though I can't say I've ever had only the fruit to compare it with.  I'm trying to recall, Sisters and Brothers, but I don't believe I've had this flavor combination before.  It is very interesting, though not one of my favorites, and I recommend you give it a try.

These next three have a "Tiramisu" I'll pass on to the Mocha Acolyte, a "Grand Marnier," and "Amaretto" flavors, I think as I compare pictures and descriptions from the website with what is in the box.  The "Tiramisu" is the first piece and has a line of milk chocolate on top of the darker coating.

Both of the other two truffles are liquor flavors, so if that is a concern for you, you are now forewarned.   The first, "Grand Marnier," is topped with this red crystal substance that does not have a flavor; yes, I licked it to find out.  The scent of this 10th flavor from this box of truffles is pure dark chocolate.  Inside the rather thick coating is a creamy center with a strong citrus essence and a hint of alcohol.  It blends nicely as it melts in my mouth and ends with the cocoa aftertaste of slight bitterness.  Makes me want to try a drink with this type of liquor in it or at least have a piece of chocolate cake with such a drink.

"Amaretto" has almonds in it, so if you are allergic to tree nuts, this next chocolate is not for you.  It is topped with a sliver of the almonds itself under dark chocolate drizzle over the same full coating, and the only fragrance I can pick up is the cocoa itself.  When I bite I notice I have to snap through two layers of hard coating, a dark outer shell, and what tastes like a slightly more bittersweet (or less dark) inner shell before I get to the semi-soft truffle inside  The truffle itself is very Amaretto flavored and has some tiny, tiny bits of nuts in it.  With so much chocolate, though, that delightful bitterness wins out in the end.

The next pair I believe starts with the "European Butter," but I note that the visible description of the "Honey Rum" is very similar to the "Orange Pepper," so we'll have to see what is what when I eat it after cleansing my palate from the previous trio of truffles.  Luckily once I have this piece to review it should take either smell or one bite to tell the different between sweet alcoholic or citrus spice.

So what would make it European as opposed to just butter in flavor, I ask myself as I consider this dark truffle with the yellow drizzle over it. It doesn't smell particularly buttery, and when I bite through the medium thickness dark chocolate shell into the soft dark truffle center the scent doesn't change.  The taste changes a little bit with a definite buttery tang and creaminess that curbs the bitterness of the cocoa.  A really nice truffle is the result, and it provides a slight rush of cocoa by the end, Sisters and Brothers.

So is this truffle with both milk and dark drizzle on it the "Honey Rum" or the "Orange Pepper?"  Taking a deep whiff I sense a bit of pepperiness, I think.  Taking a bite through the thick shell I get a rush of orange flavor that turns a bit hot and peppery as I chew and it melts in my mouth.  For those who love spice this is likely either the perfect amount or too little; for those who don't like spice this is quickly going to become too much as the pepper quickly overpowers the chocolate and orange at the end of the second bite.  Very different from any chocolate I've had before.

The final pair, then, may be the "Raspberry," since the only piece listed on the website with simple milk chocolate drizzle is this flavor, and then a completely unlisted one with a strip of white and flecks of yellow sugar or something on the top.

The potential "Raspberry" piece smells only like chocolate even after I take a bite through the fairly thick shell.  Inside is a semi-firm dark truffle with a definite but not intense raspberry tang to it.  This is a welcomed difference, since it seems every assortment I find or am sent these days has raspberry as a flavor.  No little seeds, just smooth creaminess in this truffle, so if you like raspberry flavor but not the seeds this may be the candy you've been looking for.

The "Mystery" piece smells just like dark chocolate, so I lick the little yellow crystals; they have a light flavor, perhaps citrus in nature, but it's too subtle to be certain.  This has a brandy flavor to it as I bite through the thin shell and into the softer dark truffle center.  Sweet with a definite alcoholic edge to it, I can't guess further what type of alcohol might be in this piece.  It is interesting, and the chocolate holds its own, becoming the final flavor in my mouth and on my tongue.

Overall I was very pleased by the balance between cocoa and the other flavors in these truffles from Van's Chocolates.  It is so easy to let one flavor dominate, but as you read above, in the majority of these candies the cocoa was the primary essence, as well it should be.  If you go their website you can order truffles by particular flavor in 8, 15, and 30 piece boxes, or you can get an assortment, though I didn't see a way to select individual flavors for that.  I didn't try all of their flavors, but this large portion makes me suspect they will be great.

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

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