Bunch o’ random chocolate bars. No theme, no perfume, part 2

Chuao Orange-a Go-Go and Madecasse Winter Spice bars

As Angie said here recently, we don’t normally stray far from the topic of perfume. But every so often we do, and it is a sad commentary on something-or-another that Angie was writing about AIDS, and I'm going to go off-topic, again, to talk about chocolate.

Today, six bars from four companies:  Orange-a Go-Go by Chuao Chocolatier, Peppermint and Winter Spice by Madecasse, Riz Soufflé Caramélisé and Violette by Maison Bouche, and Lemon Ginger by Equal Exchange.

Chuao Orange-a Go-Go (60% cacao)

I've written before about my search for the perfect dark chocolate bar with candied orange, and so I was very excited when Chuao, one of my favorite chocolate brands (see reviews here and here and here) came out with the Orange-a-Go-Go bar, with bergamot and candied orange peel. But none of the stores near me ever started carrying it, so I was finally forced to take matters into my own hands and have one (plus a few other things, while I was at it) shipped to me directly from Chuao.

And it's a very good bar. Chuao's base chocolate, as always, is smooth, and perhaps a tad on the sweet side as dark chocolates go. Orange-a-Go-Go, as you'd expect, has a heavily orange flavor, but most of the flavor comes from orange and bergamot extracts, not from the candied orange peel, so it's not as tart as I'd like, and the pieces of orange peel are small, few, and far between — there's very little texture to the bar. It's enjoyable and I'd buy one again if I found one locally, but my search continues.

$6.00 for 2.8 oz

Madecasse Peppermint (63% cacao)

I'm a big fan of Madecasse — the company, founded by two former Peace Corps volunteers, does everything bean-to-bar right in Madagascar. Their base chocolate is delicious, with a fruity / citrus-y undertone that is nice enough plain,1 and even nicer in one of their flavored bars. And, I love mint chocolate bars. My own favorite is probably the Dolfin Noir Aux Feuilles de Menthe, but it's not so easy to get my hands on one. Divine's Mint Dark Chocolate is also darned good, and a lot easier (and cheaper) to find in the US.

Madecasse's bar is a holiday limited edition, and it isn't quite as heavy on the peppermint as those two — the peppermint doesn't stand out on the first bite until the aftertaste — but is given a nice twist by the "touch of nutmeg", and really, it is just a touch. You hardly notice it, but it provides a lingering warmth to the otherwise bright and cool flavors. Really a lovely bar, and hope it will join the regular collection.

$5.99 for 2.65 oz

Madecasse Winter Spice (63% cacao)

The Winter Spice bar is dark chocolate with ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg, described as "warm spice notes with a gingerbread kick", and that's accurate, although the above-mentioned fruity undertone of the base chocolate gives it a brighter and tangier finish than you'd otherwise expect — gingerbread with grapefruit-orange icing, maybe? Anyway, it's wonderful, and has displaced their Pink Pepper & Citrus bar as my favorite from the brand. If it had something adding texture or chewiness, it would be even better, but you can't, apparently, have everything. If you want something spicier than this, you could try their Cinnamon & Sakay bar, which I found way too hot; if you want texture, try their Sea Salt & Nibs (yummy) or Toasted Coconut (admit I did not love it) bars.

 $5.99 for 2.65 oz

Maison Bouche Riz Soufflé Caramélisé (55% cacao)

Dark chocolate with plenty of crunch — it reminds me of a Nestle Crackle bar, all grown up. The caramelized baked rice has just enough of a charred edge to lend an unusual, almost coffee-ish flavor. Absolutely delicious, albeit expensive, especially since I have to pay to have it shipped to me. To my mind, this is a nice brand for an occasional chocolate splurge, and any perfumista interested in floral bars should check out their selection. But this particular bar, while delicious, is not quite unusual enough that I'd do an online order just to get another. Their Cardamome et Citron de Sanguine Glacée bar is another matter — that one I'd have shipped to me on a regular basis if I only had the funds. 

$6.50 for 2.2 oz

Maison Bouche Violette (55% cacao)

I'm a huge fan of floral chocolates. I liked, but didn't quite adore, the Rococo Violet bar. This one has a stronger violet flavor...it's the perfect snack to go with Kusmi's Violette tea, and you could always put on L'Occitane's Subtle Violet hand cream to complete the effect. Seriously, I did this. Raise your hand if your perfumista-ness is maybe a little out of control?

$6.50 for 2.2 oz

Equal Exchange Lemon Ginger (55% Cacao)

In addition to the lemon and ginger, this bar features black pepper, and plenty of it. It's a nice mix of brightness from the lemon and heat from the spices, and the candied ginger provides just enough of a chewy texture. It's a new favorite of mine, and happily, it's reasonably easy to find, at least where I live.  Plus, it's organic and fair trade, so you can pat yourself on the back while eating it, and extra bonus, it's reasonably priced.

$3.99 for 3.5 oz

Had any good chocolate bars lately? Do share in the comments.

1. I should note that serious chocolate people, the kind of serious chocolate people who write serious chocolate blogs, generally do not seem to care for this feature of Madecasse or of Madagascar-sourced chocolate in general — they find it too fruity. You already know I'm not serious chocolate people, right? Almost all of the bars I buy have added flavors, and I don't care for the cacao concentration to inch up much past 65%. My favorite bars are basically the celebrity fruity florals of the chocolate world.

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  1. TheSnailsPajamas says:

    My kind of post! When I want plain dark, I usually go for the Bonnat range – I like my 75%! I mentioned the other day the Rococo Arabian Spice and Almond Rosemary Sea Salt bars, and I haven’t found my perfect candied orange bar – I go straight for the real thing and buy Confiserie Florian’s chocolate covered candied peels (they also do choc lemon peel, choc covered slices of candied orange and sugared peels too). When I’m getting my fix at the supermarket, I get Lindt dark sea salt, Waitrose pistachio almond and Green & Black’s almond (which is a lovely caramelised almond), or mint Aero.

    • Robin says:

      75% is over my head…too bitter! And 60 is sometimes a bit too sweet…I have a very narrow range of perfection, right around 65%. So I guess I’m picky :-)

      Chuao also makes chocolate-covered candied orange peels, but they’re pricier than they should be.

      Will have to look at that Green & Black, I do like the brand but have never tried that bar, thanks!

  2. Erin says:

    Well, I normally do like very dark chocolate, and can indeed eat the 97% stuff with the texture of chalk, like a good, serious chocolate hipster, but I’m glad you posted on these bars, because it made me realize that the one you sent me before that I loved (and could never remember the name of) was the Madecasse Pink Pepper & Citrus. I can’t help but love the fruity notes in Madagascar chocolate. Please take away my food snob cred card.

    And dear lord, gingerbread with grapefruit-orange icing sounds good!

    • Robin says:

      Erin, ack, 97%. Even 70% makes me unhappy. But do admit I think it is iffy when companies call 55% “dark” chocolate, although perhaps there is some rule I am not aware of.

      I do like Madecasse, and they do make plain 70% and 80% bars that my dad thought were quite good — I didn’t so much as taste them. I don’t know if they are easy to find there, but I can buy them in Whole Foods. For some reason, really did not care for their new Toasted Coconut bar, now I can’t remember why.

      • Erin says:

        I shall hie myself to Whole Foods, then. Too bad about the Toasted Coconut, because while not a huge fan of shredded or dessicated (indeed) coconut, the description on the website of that one did sound appealing to me. Hopefully, WF will have the Winter Spice.

        Yes, and I am particularly confused by the term “deep milk chocolate”, or occasionally “dark milk chocolate” used by some companies. Well, which is it? Perfume companies sometimes do this, too, like “EdT Intense” — although I forgive Andy Tauer, because it’s pure description in his case. L’air du desert marocain wears for eight weeks, if you let it.

        • Robin says:

          Yes…turns out I don’t like even deep milk chocolate, unless 55% qualifies. Don’t think I’ve noticed “dark milk chocolate” yet, that’s just silly.

          My WF (I have learned that they do buy by region, so your mileage may vary) just picked up Chuao, but unfortunately they only have 4 bars, none of which are my favorites.

  3. ceciliat says:

    For those who like the idea of raw cacao nibs, but find them a little too much, Navitas makes Cacao Sweet Nibs, which are nibs coated with organic cacao liquid and cane juice. I eat them straight but they can be added to the usual cereal, yogurt, smoothies, etc. Not as sweet as the typical chocolate covered nibs but I love them as a ‘healthy’ treat.

    • Robin says:

      Good to know, thanks! I have tried several nibs bars but have never eaten them “plain” so to speak.

  4. AnnieA says:

    Generally I don’t get much fancier than Green&Black. Did have a handmade truffle recently (’tis the season) and it was pretty nice.

    • Robin says:

      Hey, Green & Black makes some very nice bars — I love their Maya Gold.

  5. Bejoux says:

    I do love very dark chocolate and both the Spicy & the Orange a Go Go sound just my cup of tea. I adore actual candied strips of orange peel covered in dark chocolate – my favourite Xmas treat!

    • Robin says:

      So what brand of chocolate covered orange peel do you buy?

      • Bejoux says:

        I buy them from a little independent shop in Chiswick, West London but Fortnum & Mason do a very pretty box of them – as do Prestat.

  6. galbanumgal says:

    Recently had the best orange peel dark chocolates…at Maison du Chocolat, unfortunately! Unfortunate because I don’t currently reside near Madison Ave and all their offerings, though superb, are quite expensive. Got there at the right moment, though–had free samples of chocolate and a chocolate hazelnut macaron. Heaven.

    • Robin says:

      Ha, that really is most unfortunate for me. I bet the macaron possibilities in NYC are amazing now….used to be basically Fauchon & that was it.

  7. Aparatchick says:

    Your favorite chocolate is “celebrity fruity florals”? Well, mine is in the dime store Jean Nate category! Give me mint or raspberry M&Ms, or Sees or Ghirardelli’s dark chocolate peppermint bark and I’m happy. ;-)

    Thanks for saving me money on the Chuao orange bar; I saw it the other day at World Market and was seriously tempted, but I like my chocolate and orange packed with orange.

    • Robin says:

      I love that we can compete on who has the most low brow taste in chocolate….and speaking of m&ms, WHERE are the cherry m&ms this year? I am pretty pissed that they have not appeared. Last year I bought about 8 bags and they lasted us well into the summer, but now they’re long gone.

      I hope you won’t misunderstand…the Chuao is reasonably well packed with orange flavor. I just want it packed with actual orange peel.

      • hajusuuri says:

        Speaking of low brow chocolate, although I wouldn’t go near them myself, would you go for dollar store no brand chocolate?

        • Robin says:

          Well gosh. Probably not. But I do like a number of mass market chocolates: Peanut Chews, M&Ms. A Mounds bar once in a blue moon, or a Heath bar. My main complaint about most mass market chocolates is that they’re not as good as they used to be — most companies have cut way back on the amount of cacao they use.

    • Marjorie Rose says:

      Oh, hallelujah, someone else said it before me! I love Sees–especially the milk chocolate with buttercream filling, or mocha, or maybe the brown sugar filling? :P Can’t do dark chocolate–gives me migraines, so I’m REALLY low brow!

  8. hajusuuri says:

    I’ll count myself as a “chocolate people” person :-) – the darker the chocolate, the better.

    For chocolate covered orange peel, I like the ones from Godiva. By the way, since I am a sucker for free stuff, did you know that you can get one free bottom shelf truffle per month if you join the Godiva Club?

    • Robin says:

      Hey, I’ve never even tried the ones from Godiva, I’ll have to peek next I’m in the mall. And no!

  9. Marjorie Rose says:

    Thanks for the chocolate post, Robin! Fun reading, even if I can’t do dark chocolate (migraines!!).

    I make my own candied orange peel often this time of year. Maybe I need to dip some into some chocolate next time?

    • Robin says:

      Oh, do try it! Then send me some ;-)

      • Marjorie Rose says:

        I would be happy to share! Should ship nicely. Send me an address and it’s yours! :)

        • Robin says:

          Oh no no, was kidding!! And I could, presumably, make them myself! In fact, pretty darned sure we have a recipe from Alyssa floating around here, I remember she did a post on making candied citrus.

          • Robin says:

            And then, on top of BEGGING FOR FOOD on my own blog, I failed to even say thank you!! Thank you for the kind offer.

          • Marjorie Rose says:

            No worries! I knew you didn’t expect an offer! But as over-generous sample swapping is part of perfumista culture, so is over-generous kitchen goodies sharing a part of baking culture–pretty sure, anyway! That we can play in the kitchen but don’t have to eat it all ourselves.

            And you’re welcome!

  10. Mary Carol says:

    I am definitely a dark chocolate person (but there are many other not-so-dark- selections that are enjoyable, too). Appreciated learning about a lot of new chocolate offerings. I’ve eaten Madecasse, but didn’t know they had some new flavors.

    • Robin says:

      Don’t know how widely available they are, but Madecasse does do free online shipping from time to time!

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