Everyday should be Valentine’s Day, L’Amourette

In year’s past, we’ve firmly established that Alyssa’s husband is Valentine’s Day savvy.  And mine, well, is not.  But whether I receive chocolate from my betrothed on V-Day, or I buy it for myself, there is nothing worse than spending Valentine’s Day sick in bed with a cold.

I once went to Niagara wine country for a day of wine tasting at the vineyards with a raging cold virus. In the end every vintage tasted like menthol.  Tasting good chocolate in that state is even worse.

So when the lovely folks at L’Amourette Chocolat invited us to try their incredible dark chocolate for Valentine’s Day, I was devastated that I couldn’t truly enjoy it while my taste buds were numbed with herbal cold drops.  I always say “better late than never” – and I am so glad that I waited to savour every last bite of the two stunning dark bars they sent us. So so glad.

L’Amourette Chocolate is an extraordinary San Francisco based artisan chocolatier who handcrafts chocolate that will transport you across the globe in one bite.  I always like to learn a little something about the chocolatier’s we are introduced to and the story behind L’Amourette’s inspiration is one of my very favourites …

As a young chocolatier, I’d been joyless for a long time; the woman of my dreams did not pay any attention to me, so I decided to travel the world to forget her. One day, while walking through Montmartre, I went to a used-book store and noticed the dusty spine of one of Papus’ works: Practical Magic. Something told me to buy the book, and I reluctantly went along with my urge. I read it from cover to cover in one evening, looking for aphrodisiac elixirs and magic rituals. For the next week I experimented with different recipes for chocolate, finally settling on the most intriguing. I brought a bouquet and a small bar of my chocolate to meet my heart throb, asking for her hand in marriage. She ate just one piece, and exclaimed in agreement to my proposal. Since then we’ve spent years together and always remember this recipe, keeping it in strictest confidentiality.

Every great love story should include chocolate as divine as L’Amourette. And their chocolate is, indeed, epic-love-story-worthy.

First, I tasted the Careno Superior bar with its romantic packaging and promise of an intricate flavour experience. It really is a special bar that speaks to the quality of the beans and the care with which it was made.  I enjoyed it with a fabulous full-bodied red wine (no menthol cough medicine!) and it was a perfect combination.  Best eaten slowly one square at a time, this was the perfect post-Valentine’s pick me up.  Andre V poured his heart into crafting such a lovely dark bar.

 

Next, I tried the 75% Cacao Rio Caribe Superior and it was my favourite. This bar has such a smooth, luxurious texture that I had to close my eyes to eat it. It has a balanced flavour that is both subtle and complex at the same time.  If you are not a dark chocolate lover, this will even appeal to you. It’s the kind of chocolate you want to leave to melt on your tongue so to enjoy every last delicious moment of it.  The beans for the Rio Caribe Superior bar are imported from Venezuela. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

L’Amourette Chocolat can be purchased online or throughout stores in California. Be sure to check it out because everyday should absolutely be Valentine’s Day with chocolate so romantically conceived and completely captivating.

Thank you L’Amourette for salvaging my Valentine’s week this year. xo

~ Sandra

 

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Ode to Newfoundland

As a proud Canadian, I have travelled to every one of our distinctly different provinces (our territories are still on my bucket list but I’ll get there some day!)  One of my very, very, VERY favourite corners of Canada is undoubtedly Newfoundland.

Whether your kissing a cod, taking in the stunning vistas or enjoying some unparalleled Newfoundland hospitality, I guarantee it’s a place that you will never forget.  You’ll leave a little piece of your heart behind and add some well earned laugh lines in the process.

So I must say, that it was with great delight that I recently discovered the Newfoundland Chocolate Company.

This gem of a chocolate company is made up of a group of dedicated local chocolatiers who hand craft every chocolate.  And each  one of those chocolates is as unique as  the breathtakingly beautiful shorelines, bluffs, mountains and meadows that make Newfoundland so incomparable.

The special thing about the Newfoundland Chocolate company is that their chocolates are as charming as the land from which they hail.

I had the great pleasure of tasting two special boxes of gourmet chocolate.  The “Jigs n’ Reels Series” is inspired by the music that is inextricably linked to experiencing Newfoundland and features chocolates with fun song names like “I’se the B’y” and “Jack Was Every Inch a Sailor”.  I especially loved savouring the “Cliffs of Baccalieu” which was smooth milk chocolate with Newfoundland berries and “I Had a Hat” – one of the best creamy caramel chocolates you’ll find from coast to coast to coast.

Their “Smiling Land Series” box is equally as charming and doubly good.   Each chocolate creation, named for a spectacular Newfoundland destination, features dark, milk or white chocolate combined with Newfoundland wild berries.  This is a chocolatier who proudly knows their roots and expertly combines the local bounty for something truly spectacular and different.  There were many delicious options among this mix, but nothing came even close to the perfection of the chocolates that featured partridgeberries – most notably the “Gros Morne” and the “Lake Melville”.  I’d never tasted partridgeberry with chocolate before today and I leaves me wanting stomp a jig and raise a glass!

If it’s ever been a dream of yours to visit Newfoundland (and if it hasn’t – it should be!) – please be sure to drop by one of the many spots throughout Newfoundland and Labrador that are proudly selling goodies from the Newfoundland Chocolate Company – you can find them in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Fort McMurray too!

~ Sandra

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All you need is love (and Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut chocolate)

We have discovered exquisite chocolate from every corner of the globe.  But Alyssa and I resolve to share more of the very best chocolate that our own Canada has to offer. It must be revealed that we Canucks have chocolatiers that can compete on the world-stage and who proudly make some of best melt-in-your-mouth-and-send-you-over-the-edge-kinda-chocolate.

What better place to start our Valentine chocolate count down than with the artisan chocolate from Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut originating in beautiful Calgary, Alberta.

Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut creates gorgeous handcrafted chocolates using only natural, preservative-free ingredients. They are creative and passionate about their chocolate creations and have developed chocolate so extraordinary that will make Canadians from coast to coast to coast proud.

Chocolate Heart

Filled with either 12, 20 or 45 individual chocolates for sharing. Or not:)

I had the great pleasure of trying two of their most popular Valentine’s Day chocolate treats. The Chocolate Heart is not only the prettiest v-day gift you could ever possibly receive, but it is loaded full of unbelievable individual chocolates that rival any chocolate variety mix you’ve tasted.

Each chocolate is more interesting than the next. I especially love the La Flamme, which is a delicate and smooth combination of orange and soft caramel. I could eat an entire box of the Honey chocolate, which is light and perfect. But the most special of all is the Cinnamon Ginger chocolate filled with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and bittersweet ganache. Wow.

Even the exterior dark chocolate shell was deeeeelicious. The heart shell is also available in milk chocolate for those who haven’t come to realize that dark chocolate is always the best choice. (She says with a coy grin)

"12 Reasons I Love You"The second Valentine’s Day chocolate tasted is a box of  “12 Reasons I Love You”  chocolates that was recently developed by their Maitre Chocolatier Derrick Tu Tan Pho.  It included 12 really unexpected and ingenious flavours that looked like miniature art pieces. I was almost afraid to take a bite because they were so stunning. But even I am not that reverent – because take a bite is exactly what I did. In a word: phenomenal.  The Almond Baileys flavour is subtle and fabulous.  The Mango Peppercorn has the most beautiful presentation of all and the flavour combination explode in your mouth – amazing. Really amazing. The Black Currant chocolate blends black currant with Creme de cassis and wraps it in milk chocolate for a taste that is beyond perfection.  All 12 were unbelievable – there wasn’t a single one I disliked.  I can sincerely say that I have not enjoyed a box of chocolate this much in a long time.  What a fantastic discovery. I am smitten.

Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut is apparently a veritable institution in Calgary and I can see why. But you don’t have to be an Albertan to enjoy their beautiful chocolate because they have 30 stores across Canada, 2 in the US and even distribute to Japan. And you can always shop on their website (which I will – again and again).

This Valentines Day I am declaring my chocolatey crush on Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut.  I fell in love them even more when I learned they are big charitable supporters in their community donating especially towards charities that support children and women’s health and educational programs. It’s just like an amazing Canadian chocolatier to have a heart too…

~ Sandra

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What is your favourite “everyday” chocolate?

Alyssa and I have the great pleasure of tasting many incredible chocolate creations from all over that are sent to us by gifted chocolatiers. We love nothing more than to savour every morsel and write about our favourite new finds.

But in the eagerness to share exciting chocolaty discoveries, we sometimes neglect our old favourites. I’ve never taken the time to really think about what is my tried-and-true chocolate companion.

When I sat down to consider the options for my number one favourite chocolate it was an impossible task. If I am thinking of handcrafted, artisan chocolate then I sincerely could never narrow it down. I’d have a list long enough to make the Oscars a 14 day long broadcast. But if I take more of a “People’s Choice Awards” approach to  picking my go-to-every-day-easy-accessible-affordable-standby and, if I am really honest, then it’s no contest at all.

My secret guilty pleasure is Lindt’s Sea Salt Dark Chocolate bar.

While the Swiss are known best for their mass-produced milk chocolate – their dark chocolate is definitely worth writing home about too.

Before salted chocolate became trendy and was being added to every confectioner’s line up, years ago Lindt introduced their incredible Sea Salt bar.

It’s the perfect combination of bitter and salt and sweet. It is smooth – but not too smooth and has an unexpected finish.

I have been responsible for getting more than one friend addicted to this bar. I am a bit of a sea salt pusher it would seem. What I love most is that it’s the perfect impulse purchase because I can spot it in nearly every grocery store or drug store in Canada.

It’s also the kind of chocolate you can take your time eating while still feeling like you’ve had an indulgent fix.  I’ll nibble on a square and then tuck away the rest for later. It’s a bit strong for my 10-year-old so I never need to share. I don’t think it gets any more perfect than that.

It’s not my only impulse chocolate but it has admittedly been my consistent choice for a long time.  In fact, I think I’ll run out and get one now ….

What is your fav everyday chocolate?

~ Sandra 

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Documentary – “Chocolate’s Child Slaves”

As chocolate ambassadors and enthusiasts, we love to share with you all of the extraordinary things we love about chocolate.

But we also know that we have a responsibility shine a light on some of the less “fun” sides of chocolate. Like many industries, chocolate production can be plagued with complex issues and practices that we shouldn’t ignore.

At Blog Chocolate we’ve not yet spoken at length about one of the most important, ugly, hidden truths about the chocolate industry – child slavery. We wanted to change that and share with you that CNN has produced what looks like a stirring documentary that premiers tonight (Friday, January 20th, 2012). It will make us all think carefully about our chocolate consumption and consider how we can be part of the solution.

Check out a short clip from this thought- provoking documentary about 10-year-old Abdul (who is the same age as my son) … Chocolate’s Child Slaves

I plan to tune in tonight. And I hope you will too.

~Sandra

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Apple, meet Tree.

Well howdy there stranger! It’s been a while. I could go into a whole long explanation of why we’ve been AWOL for the last little while, but why? We’re back, and ready to greet the new year in chocolatey style!

To that end, let me share with you my super chocolate-filled weekend. It was my eldest son’s 7th birthday and we held a party for him with his closest friends. Now, he’s not your average sport-o type boy child. He didn’t want to play laser tag, hockey or go sledding. He’s not old enough for video games and too scared to watch most movies. He’d much rather have something like a cooking party, but we’ve “done that before” and we can’t do that again (God forbid).

Well, all I can say is thank goodness for Google. I did a search on kids cooking parties and came across Chocolate Tales – a company that does chocolate making parties. A party where you get to make – and eat – chocolate? My sweet-toothed kid was all over it. (What can I say? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)

The owner, David Levy, worked with me to adapt his regular birthday party program to the shorter attention-span and higher energy levels of a group of boys made up of 6 and 7 year olds. They got a short history of chocolate, made chocolate shavings, chocolate lollipops in fun animal shapes, and “tie-dyed” marshmallows. They had a truffle making contest, and learned how to shape chocolate cups with balloons. They even made chocolate lava cakes. The kids, naturally, got to “test” all the chocolate as they went. (I tested it too – afterwards – and everything was ridiculously good. High quality Belgium Chocolate. Nut-free. I *may* have eaten an embarrassing amount of leftover lava cakes all by myself…)

Sound fun, but kind of like a recipe for disaster? Nothing could have been easier. Our chocolatier arrived 45 minutes prior to the party to set up. She put down tarps and several layers of plastic tablecloths. The kids all had disposable aprons and gloves. Not a drop of chocolate got anywhere that it wasn’t supposed to (other than a few unfortunate kids’ sleeves) – and I own a couple of cream armchairs that were perilously close to the party. And at the end of it all, she cleaned up and took everything away. Easy peasy.

My experience with Chocolate Tales was seamless. They were courteous, prompt, professional and engaging. And they didn’t have the easiest crowd to please in terms of age. I would recommend them without hesitation. My son had the Chocolate Party of his dreams. And I had a lot of chocolate left over.

Really. Good. Chocolate. WIN!

~ Alyssa

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I Run for Chocolate

I am a runner. It’s a part of me that can’t be denied. I want to run. I need to run. There are many reasons that get me out the door. Exercise is a healthy and very necessary part of life. It helps regulate my stress and anger levels tremendously. It helps keep the weight off. It challenges me to push myself to the limit. But when it comes right down to it, the most basic reason I run is that I like the freedom to eat what I want. I don’t like dieting. I love to eat chocolate.

Once you get into running, it’s kind of impossible not to do a race. If you’re currently running, and have never done a race, I highly recommend it. Races give your training focus and motivation. And the excitement on race day is undeniable. Races are hard, but they’re fun. The hard is what makes them good. So, you might be able to imagine my excitement when I found out there was an event that married my two favourite things: running and chocolate.

Yes, chocolate.

The Chocolate Race is held in Port Dalhousie every year at the end of August. You can do a 5K, 10K or 16.1K (10miles) run. And the aid stations provide chocolate, of course! The 5K station has a Fruit & Marshmallow Dipping Station. The 10 mile station has soft-serve ice cream. The post-race station has chocolate milk*, butter croissants with chocolate chunks, truffles and salty chocolate caramels – because “bagels are for non-believers”.

On top of the (chocolate) prizes for the winners, they have prizes for the people who finish last too. All racers get swag – this year it’s armies with the “i run 4 chocolate” logo. I’ve never tried them personally, but I think they’d be great as an extra layer in the winter, and they have a small pocket for carrying media. Plus, they have draws at the end of the race! And man, the stuff is sweet: a chocolate and white diamond heart necklace, a stainless steel heart pendant, and a year’s membership in the chocolate-a-month club.

This is my kind of race.

The only drawback to this event, is that it conflicts with my yearly “girls’ weekend”. If it wasn’t for that, I’d be signing up for this race in a heartbeat. But nothing (NOTHING!) gets in the way of the awesomest weekend with the bestest gal pals a chocolate-lovin’ gal could ever wish for. I look forward to it all year. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

So, if you’re planning on sitting on the couch this weekend eating bonbons (Um, isn’t that what everyone else does on the weekend? It’s just me?…uh..), why not get your butt to Port Dalhousie for The Chocolate Race? And while you’re at it, eat a chocolate for me, will ya? I’ll be sitting this one out. Because the only thing better than running and chocolate, are good friends.

*Pro Tip: Post race or run, forget the expensive protein drinks from the sports stores. Chocolate milk has a carb-to-protein ratio that makes it the ideal recovery drink to help rebuild and repair muscles.

~Alyssa

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