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.

5 comments:

Emilie Johnson said...

Wow. Those are some pretty exotic flavors. I love it that you have acolytes to help you taste things you don't like, it makes your blog so useful and interesting.

Sidhechaos said...

All of those flavors sound amazing, I would really love to try the lavender, and I love chili chocolate and boozy chocolates. Fig also caught my attention.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

Thank you both for reading and commenting.

I consider this blog to be a place where possibly buyers can get enough information to help them decide whether or not to try a product or a brand. To do that, I feel like we need to be good with our descriptions. If I don't like a key ingredient in a chocolate -- like tea or coffee -- or something am not knowledge enough, it would be a disservice to all of you to pretend I did. It would be unfair to the companies who send us the products. While we don't change for our reviews it still costs to send up an item.

Nuclear_Squigg said...

Your chocolates look delicious and exotic. I just wanted to mention that my sister brought me some chocolate a couple years ago from South America dark chocolate with chili and a touch of cinnamon, it was to die for

TammyJo Eckhart said...

Spicy chocolates are quite popular. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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