Monthly Archives: August 2010

Chocolate Monday: Endangered Species Chocolate

One thing I really, really love about the organic fruit and veggie delivery service I subscribe to, is that each week they offer me tons of extra non-fruit and veggie items to add to my delivery. Some of these extras have become essential to my enjoyment of food (like their Asian vinaigrette, which is super scrumptious) and some, well, not so much. The cool thing about all the add ons is that they are all organic and much of it is even local. Oh, and they have chocolate. You have to love any place that will bring chocolate to your door. At least if you are me you do.

So, a few weeks ago, I decided to add a candy bar to my order. I thought I was ordering an organic dark chocolate raspberry bar from Endangered Species Chocolate, but when I took my first bite, I realized I must have hit the wrong button on the menu, because I wasn’t tasting raspberries. It took me a moment to figure out just what the fruit involved was, because at first, all my mouth thought was, “wow, this is definitely dark chocolate.” The first bite left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth and only an ever so slight hint of fruit. I had to look at the wrapper to see that the fruit was supposed to be cherries. I thought it was more of a tiny hint of cherries.

The chocolate itself was creamy, but had just a slight greasy feel to it. It left a film of sorts on the roof of my mouth, which I honestly found a bit off-putting. I did, however, like the fact that when I took the second bite, it was far less bitter, although it did have a coffee taste, and  it had a much more powerful cherry undertone. I also noticed that the chocolate had a faint pink sheen. Each bite I took made the flavor grown on me. By the time I’d finished the first square (there were three), I actually liked the flavor. Not my favorite candy bar ever, but I could definitely eat it slowly and savor the flavor.

When I bought the cherry one, I’d actually snagged a peanut butter one for my husband as well. I figured I’d get a taste or two for reviewing and then hand the rest over to him. I expected to bite into a chocolate bar with an inside pocket of peanut butter, much like you’d find in a PB Twix or a Reese’s Cup. I figured there’d be far more chocolate in this bar than on either of those, but I definitely thought I’d be getting peanut butter surrounded by chocolate. What I got once again threw me for a loop. The chocolate was infused with peanut butter flavor. The chocolate was really creamy, which totally reminded me of the texture of actual peanut butter. Oddly though, it wasn’t heavily peanut butter flavored. Once again, it was more of a hint, and that hint was a bit more straight peanut than peanut butter. Unlike the bitter aftertaste of the previous bar, this one had a kind of nice peanut butter aftertaste, which kind of made me crave some milk to wash it down with. Although I liked it fine, I was glad to pass it on to my husband. I think if I really get a craving for peanut butter and chocolate, I’ll stick to a Reese’s.

Since my first two experiences were ok and I was sort of craving raspberries, I figured I had to give Endangered Species one more shot and try the raspberry bar. This bar was even darker than it’s cherry cousin. I had to really let it melt in my mouth to get the raspberry flavor. It was subtle at first, but then a tartness hit me that made my mouth pucker a little at the end. There were actual raspberry seeds imbedded in the chocolate which accounted for the tartness, which, I should add, got stronger the longer I let it melt in my mouth. And to get the full flavor I did have to let it melt in my mouth. When I tried just biting in to it, the flavor was mild at best. This seemed to be a savoring chocolate.  I really liked the pockets of raspberry seeds, but the actual chocolate was just too dark for me. I found myself nibbling it very carefully to find the raspberry seeds, but ignoring the rest of the candy bar.

I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled with my Endangered Species experience. The chocolate bars were good, but there are lots of other chocolate companies out there with better chocolate (however, anyone who loves dark chocolate may really find some kindred taste but spirits here as they have a very dark line). One thing I really do like is the environmental message of each bar. Each bar is dedicated to an animal, and inside the bars there are facts and information about those animals. It was definitely the first chocolate that sought to educate me, and that really appealed to the teacher in me. I’m not sure I’m looking for intellectual chocolate though. I fear my mouth and my brain may be at war if I buy too many more of these bars.

Overall:

Taste: 6/10

Appearance: 7/10 (wrappers are pretty cool, although chocolate itself isn’t really special)

Value: 6.5/10

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I’ll Never Be That Girl

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but I think my treadmill may be trying to kill me.

 I don’t say this merely because I am some sort of an exerphobe. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am definitely an exerphobe, but that is not what is fueling my fears of technological misconduct here. I am after all, a long time hater of anything and everything workout related, but I’ve never thought it was plotting my demise. This is different.

Now, you may think I’m taking a bit of an extreme viewpoint here. Hate, as my mother told me time and time again, is a strong word. As a child I was not even allowed to hate anyone. I could dislike them. A lot. A really, really awful, awful lot. As long as I didn’t hate them. But I do hate exercise.

My husband keeps trying to tell me that I’m just not giving it enough of a chance. Every time I sit down red-faced, out of breath and complaining about sore muscles, he cheerfully tells me that I’m going to grow to like it. He says this as if the concept of exercise is somehow new to me rather than something I’ve been battling my whole life. It seems he’s managed to forget that before I got pregnant with our two awesome children, I lost 50 lbs and not just by eating a ridiculously small amount of calories each day (1200-1300 to be exact). I visited our apartment gym several times a week. I kept charts of my routines. I peddled that elliptical machine, increasing my speed every few minutes until I could do 45 minutes no problem. I know what exercise feels like. And I want to be clear here: I don’t like it.

I get what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to encourage me. And I think he actually thinks that if I do it enough I’m going to become addicted and really like it. I understand that happens to some people. I have friends who do silly things like run every day for fun. Some do it to relieve stress. Some of them even get some sort of endorphin high from it. Not me. I find reading, watching movies and eating chocolate fun. Exercise not only doesn’t relieve stress, but causes me even more because I don’t like being all sweaty, and tired and smelly. And, I don’t get any sort of rush from it. Mostly I just feel sleepy.

I don’t exercise because I take any sort of pleasure in it. I don’t even do it because I know it’s good for me. I do know that, but as my mom also liked to point out, lima beans are good for me. I know it, but they taste like dirt and even though I had to eat every last one off my plate when I was a kid, I’m a grown up now and I don’t have to eat ’em, so there is no way in hell I will. I may know all the health benefits of exercise (and lima beans for that matter), but that’s not at all what motivates me to get back on the treadmill.

I do it because I have to. Years and years and some more years of dieting have taught me that if I want to drop this extra chub and get into my pre-pregnancy clothes, just cutting fat and calories alone won’t do it for me. I have to get somewhat active to boot.

But, I don’t have to like it. And I never, ever, ever will, no matter how many times my husband tries to tell me I will. He says the same thing about beer, and it’s been 17 years since I had my first taste and I haven’t developed that taste yet. And I’ve been trying to muddle through this exercise thing for even longer.

Nope, I am not that girl.

But my extensive loathing for exercising has nothing to do with my fear of my treadmill. And no, this is not some sort of rebellion against working out. Neither is it all in my mind. My treadmill really does have it in for me.

See, a few weeks ago when I started using it again, I noticed an odd little quirk. Suddenly, and for no reason I could figure out, as I was walking at a nice, easy 2.8 mph, it suddenly started speeding up. Now, the readout still clearly said 2.8 miles, but that is not what was going on under my feet. That thing was rolling like crazy and I found myself having to jog to keep up. When I tried to slow the speed down, it reported a slower speed, but didn’t actually slow down even a teeny, tiny bit. When I tried to pause it to catch my breath, it refused to pause. It just kept rolling, rolling, rolling. Hell, when I tried to stop it it was a no go. Only when I jumped off and pulled the emergency rope did it actually stop. And then it came to a near dead halt.

When I got back on, it seemed to work fine for a few minutes. Then, lo and behold, it started getting harder and harder to keep up because the belt started spinning at a crazy rate. I tried stopping it again, but no dice. I held the stop button in and it did reset the machine without the abrupt stop. When I tried to fire it up a third time, it was fine.

Now, every time I get on it’s a crap shoot of sorts. I could probably take odds in Vegas for how many resets I have to do before I get the speeds I actually want (or I think I want, for all I know even though it’s slowed a bit, it could still be lying to me). My husband has a theory that it might be due to all the little brown outs we have. Our power switches off for just a millisecond and then comes back up. He thinks it may have fried the “brain” of the machine a little. And I’ll be honest, when he uses the term “brain” to describe the machine, it creeps me out. Because now all I can imagine is it sitting down there, lying in wait for me, plotting, oh ever so cleverly plotting my demise.

I’m really quite afraid to get on it. I fear for my safety, but I know it’s one of those risks I have to take if I want to get back in my cute khaki’s before Christmas break.

See, I told you my treadmill was trying to kill me.

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Chocolate Monday: Gigi’s Cupcakes

Oh no, I’m in big trouble once again. I found another cupcake place. It’s close to my house. And, well, I really, really like them. This does not bode well for the diet I really need to be on in order to lose that baby weight. The baby is four months old, so it’s probably time to shed more than the 10 non-baby pounds I’ve gotten rid of so far. But man, people keep putting me right in the path of chocolate, and my will power has never been what you might call strong.

I blame this particular event on my BFF. My son was staying with my folks and she thought it would be a good day to visit a cafe we both love, but is way too small to handle my son’s boisterous personality. After a delicious lunch, she just happened to mention there was a new cupcake place in the shopping center right across the street. Despite the delicious cinnamony potato bread we’d just consumed, I knew we just had to drop in. Neither of us planned to eat anything right away, so it would just be a look and maybe one cupcake, right?

I should know myself better. When we got inside Gigi’s Cupcakes, there were a dozen cupcakes on display. The store itself was small, but cute and the cupcake trays were filled to the hilt. Like all fancy shmancy cupcakes these days, they had cutesy names and frosting piled a mile high. Actually, these cakes had frosting piled way higher than any other place I’ve visited: at least two miles high. To me, this was an instant drawback, but being the cake lover I am, I figured I could take one for the blogging team, scrape the extra frosting off and just savor the cake.

I wasn’t too thrilled about several of the flavors being offered that day. I was even more disappointed when I picked up the really pretty full color brochure to see what flavors they rotated during the week. Turns out the very next day had about ten flavors I wanted to try, but at the moment I was a bit stuck. So I picked a few from the case and figured I’d give ’em a whirl. I was kind of happy to see that they did have some with what I considered “normal” heaps of  frosting, so I grabbed a turtle (not on the regular menu) and a Southern Comfort. I also snagged a Peanut Butter Cup for my husband. My final one was tough since I wasn’t thrilled about any of the others, but since it’s a chocolate blog, I asked for a Midnight Magic in chocolate.

Turns out I tried a cupcake sooner than I thought I would. I got several pieces of bad news later that day and figured I deserved a cupcake to help me cope (this is why I am bad with diets). The Midnight Magic was the one I grabbed since it was the biggest and most decadent looking. If I was going off the diet reservation, I was going way the hell off. At first I was a little concerned about how to eat it. There was no way I could take an actual bite of it. I know I’ve been told I have a big mouth (usually followed by some hint to shut it), but I would have to have a snake-like ability to unhinge my jaw to actually get a bite of this monster in my mouth. So, I scraped the frosting off and decided to eat it with a fork.

First I tried the cake. I like to eat them separately (even when I don’t have to), so I can get a feel for the actual cake. It was fairly moist, although just a hint chewy. It also wasn’t overly chocolate, despite being touted as a devil’s food. It was a sort of mellow chocolate, but it was perfectly good. Just not great. However, when I bit into the frosting, I understood why the chocolate of the cake was understated. I was expecting the coarse sugary consistency of most decorative buttercreams. What I actually got was a rich, fudge like cream. I was expecting to scrap 99% of the frosting, but I ended up shoveling it in my mouth until I felt almost sick. When I got a bite of cake with the frosting, it was full of chocolatey goodness.

My thoughts about frosting had started to turn a bit.

Because I needed to do something nice as a pick me up for a friend, I went back to Gigi’s the next day. Some people console with flowers or balloons; I do it with chocolate. I brought a sick friend four cupcakes and since I was there, I figured I’d pick up a few more for me to try. Turns out Thursday had a whole bunch of flavors I thought looked pretty damn tasty.

My second cupcake encounter was the Cherry Cordial. Now, as a kid I adored the candy version. As an adult, they make my teeth hurt and I can’t stomach them. This cupcake version intrigued me because it looked like an ice cream sundae. The chocolate ganache covered frosting was too cool sounding to pass up. I am so glad my inner child won out. This was awesome. Instead of a buttercream, this one had a cream cheese frosting, and it was creamy. Not quite as creamy as the ice cream it looked like, but I didn’t care. Once again, the cake seemed to be lacking a bit. It wasn’t overly cherry, but when I mixed it with the taste of the frosting, I was hooked. The ganache dip was subtle and mixed really well. It reminded me of a DQ dipped cone and I vowed I would get another, soon.

Next, I tried the Turtle one. I am a huge fan of most things turtle. This one had appealed to me initially because it had normal sized frosting. When I tried to eat it, I encountered a problem. My hands were immediately sticky from the caramel. The frosting had definite nice, rich caramel flavor and I liked the lacey pattern of the frosting. The cake was very dense and a little dry. Not full of chocolate flavor like I thought it would be, but it was creamy when combined with the frosting. It was a nice homage to the candy, but the candies are still the best way to eat this treat.

Scarlett’s Red Velvet was next on my list. As a rule of thumb, I always try a red velvet everywhere I go. I think it’s a true test of a company’s baking prowess. This one had that two mile high thick cream cheese frosting I’d already fallen in love with. It also had a few surprises. The candy sprinkles on top gave it a fun crunch which I don’t usually associate with red velvet. The cake was moist with a small, and I do mean small hint of cocoa. It also had the second twist, a vanilla cream center, which makes the cake taste really creamy. It was good. I definitely like it, but I’ll have to admit, I keep waiting for any cupcake place to really wow me with a red velvet. My husband, however, said it was the best cake he thought he’d ever eaten (and as the baker of his last 8 birthday cakes or so, I was only a tad bit hurt).

The Coconut Snowball had extra creamy frosting. I loved the coconut mixed not only in the frosting, but also in the cake. It made it moist and creamy like Southern coconut icebox cake. The cake had a rich vanilla taste to it. Since this one had so little frosting (in comparison), it was important for the cake to be good, and it was.

The last one I tried was the Mellow Cream. It looked like a designer Hostess Cupcake. And to be quite honest, that’s what it tasted like. Instead of that almost plastic chocolate “frosting” Hostess makes, this one had a rich ganache (which was much better). Instead of the sometimes dry cake Hostess delivers, this one was moist and had a good cocoa flavor. Instead of the also sort of plasticky cream that someone once joked was one ingredient shy of polyester, this one had a rich, creamy marshmallow center (although it tasted a bit vanillay to me). It was the grown up, mature version, even though it left my hands just as messy as the Hostess ones did when I was a kid. I loved every second of it.

So, overall, I am quite impressed with Gigi’s. I am assuming that because the consistency of everything is so uniform, they are making their cakes and frostings from a mix, but I don’t care. They’ve gotten me to really, really like cake frosting, and that is great. I actually find myself willing to make myself a little ill from all the sugar just because I don’t want to stop eating the frosting. In fact, I found cutting them in half was the only way I could not go into a sugar coma after eating one, but it was well worth it.

Overall:

Taste: 9/10

Appearance: 9/10

Value: 9/10

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Chocolate Monday: Godiva Truffles

A few weeks ago, my BFF and I realized we’d been missing out on free chocolate. When we signed up for the Godiva rewards card months ago, one of the most exciting perks was that we could go in once a month and they’d give us a free piece of candy, just for having the little plastic rectangle, even if we didn’t buy anything else. Heck, we didn’t even have to have our cards on us since they could look us up in the system. Yeah, I know, computer systems of big companies are tracking me, but they are also giving me free chocolate, so I’m ok with it.

For the first several months we were diligent. We went in and got our free chocolate booty no matter what. But for some reason we got all caught up in life and missed a few months. Sure, I might have been recovering from giving birth, but I’m not sure that is a good enough excuse for missing free chocolate.

So when we decided to turn our Saturday afternoon into a shopping trip too, I knew a trip to Godiva was long, long overdue. In fact, I’d been thinking about going, especially after I ordered my sister’s birthday present online and saw they had a new line of chocolate bars, centered around their ice cream line AND a line of large bars with fun new flavors.

Imagine my extreme delight when not only did they have the large bars on sale, but they also had three truffles I’d never tried before. Within moments, I’d grabbed one of each bar I wanted to try, and made my way up to the counter to put my claim on some new truffle goodness.

Or at least that is what I was hoping would happen. The three new truffles are pistachio, lemon chiffon and rocky road. I wasn’t nearly as excited about the pistachio as my BFF was, but I knew my husband would kill me if I didn’t at least get one for him to try (he adores pistachios–they are his favorite nut), and if I was going to get one for him, I knew I had to get one for me too. I was far more interested in the lemon chiffon, as I’ve been heartily impressed with all the lemon pieces I’ve had from Godiva. They know how to get a really great mix of chocolate and tart that just puckers my mouth slightly and reminds me of childhood when I would get my mom to buy me lemons at the store so that I could peel them like an orange and pop the slices in my mouth. I was also kind of jazzed about the rocky road one since one of the first candies I learned to make was a rocky road variety.

When I brought the bag of goodies home and handed my husband his pistachio treat, he beamed at me. Since our son was still napping, my husband decided to pop it in his mouth right away. I was planning to save mine for later, but his happy cries from the living room made me rethink my plan. He kept calling to me, “babe, this is awesome. You have to try it. Seriously, this is the best truffle I’ve ever eaten.” So, I tried it.

Now, my husband is no chocolate expert, but I think he might be right on the money here. I was a bit wary of the bright green exterior. It reminded me of the pistachio nuts my step-dad used to get at the store that had those dyed red shells. True, this one was green and not red, but it was an unnatural minty green that just looked fake. The taste though, was anything but. The filling tasted so light and airy, it almost seemed to be whipped. The creamy texture was undeniable. It had a rich, slightly salty taste (thanks to the nuts on top, which also provided a nice slight crunch to the texture). It tasted like it had been filled with pistachio mousse. It was amazing. I think this is my new favorite Godiva truffle, and that’s saying a lot since I practically worship the spring raspberry, strawberry and cream and cranberry ones.

This made me super excited to try the lemon chiffon. When they did their “foreign” truffle line last year, they had a lemon that was exquisite and I expected a bright, lemon..something akin to the filling in a lemon meringue pie. What I got was a truffle with a slight hint of lemon. There was no tartness, no crispy lemon bite. It was creamy, but that was due to the white chocolate, and it had a faint hint of citrus, but I’m not sure it was even a lemony citrus. It really just sort of tasted like creamy white chocolate in a pretty yellow white chocolate shell. Disappointed is not a strong enough word.

I was a bit reluctant to try the rocky road. I didn’t want to get let down again. I was hoping that it would surprise me like the pistachio did, but I felt it was more in line with the lemon chiffon truffle. Don’t get me wrong, it was tasty, but it was hard to place the flavor exactly. I know, you’re thinking, well, duh, it’s rocky road, but it didn’t really  have a marshmallow flavor. It just tasted like chocolate, maybe with a hint of hazelnut, but certainly not the peanuts I’m used to in rocky road. It was very creamy (as are just about all their truffles), and the nuts did add a nice crunch, but I just felt sort of warm to it. Not excited about it, that’s for sure. It was the chocolate equivalent of one of those 5 minute chair massages at the mall. Sure, it’s good while it lasts, but all you can think about afterwards is how good a real massage would be.

Overall, I was a little unhappy with the new truffles. Not that I’ve always liked everything Godiva has put out, but I wanted to like the flavors here so badly. They should have been direct hits, but aside from the pistachio, they didn’t make their marks. But that pistachio one, man, bullseye!

Taste: 5/10 (except for pistachio, which is a clear 10/10)

Appearance: 7/10

Value: 6/10 (again, pistachio excepted, which is a 10/10)

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