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Good Food: Raaka Bourbon Cask Aged Chocolate

Good Food: Raaka Bourbon Cask Aged Chocolate

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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By Kate Malin

It took a rogue bag of cacao beans absorbing the tang of some BBQ sauce he was making for Raaka Chocolate co-founder and head chocolate maker Nate Hodge to realize that cacao beans would take on the flavors of their surroundings. Excited by the possibilities of the discovery, he quickly landed on bourbon as a natural complement to chocolate and set about aging some beans in Berkshire Mountain Distilling Bourbon Barrels at the Raaka factory in Brooklyn. The result of the experiment, Raaka’s Bourbon Cask Aged chocolate, is rich with flavors of caramel, vanilla, and hints of oak imparted from the barrels, and went on to win a Good Food Award in 2013 after its release.

Raaka’s unusual flavors are made more unique by their use of “virgin chocolate” to create all their bars. Unlike most chocolate makers, Raaka leaves their beans unroasted, which they believe allows the flavor of the bean to really come through. This nuanced approach to their craft is evident in the attention to quality and sustainability as they take the cacao from bean to bar. Raaka’s beans are purchased above market rate from farmers, their wrappers printed on recycled paper, and their leftover cacao husks donated to Edible Schoolyard NYC to use as mulch. An extra perk: cacao beans are rich in antioxidants, fiber, and naturally occurring chemicals (theobromine, phenylethylamine, and anandamide) that act as mood elevators, so pop a piece in your mouth, let it melt on your tongue, and savor.

Bourbon Cask Aged chocolate is available at raakachocolate.com and in stores across the country. Raaka Chocolate is part of the Good Food Awards, a project to honor food and drink producers making the sort of food we all want to eat – tasty, authentic and responsible, and a proud member of the Good Food Merchants Guild, national association uniting American craft food businesses to connect, convene and promote Good Food businesses of all sizes.

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From her grassroots work at the Good Food Awards to her continued education at NYU’s Food Studies Master’s Program, Kate Malin brings an unparalleled passion for great food and good people.

More Food Finds:


9 Mouthwatering Chocolate Bars For The Chocolate Lover In Your Life

Are you looking to surprise the chocolate lover in your life with a gift of chocolate? Do they have a birthday, anniversary or work promotion coming up? Don't surprise them with any ordinary chocolate. Take a look at these 9 mouthwatering chocolate bars for the chocolate lover in your life.

Amano Cardamom Black Pepper 60%

Amano Artisan Chocolate is a small-batch craft chocolate maker based in Orem, Utah. Amano is an award-winning maker, they make all their chocolate on vintage equipment. Their small batch process allows Amano to control and observe flavor development, making each batch of chocolate not only delicious but unique.

With the Amano Cardamom Black Pepper bar, you will encounter not just the famous flavors of their Guayas dark chocolate made with beans from the Dominican Republic. You'll also find the finest single estate black pepper with ground cardamom. Small bits of sugar crystals give a satisfying crunch in your mouth.

Tasting notes: Spice & Floral

Marou Wallpaper Tien Giang 80%

Marou was one of the first bean-to-bar makers in Asia. When Vincent Mourou left his advertising career in San Francisco, he moved to Vietnam to find himself. This is when Vincent met Samuel Maruta, a banker from France living in Saigon with his wife and two kids. The two had nothing but a blender, an oven, cake tins, and Sam's kitchen. Samuel and Vincent continue to work with a tight network of small farmers who they buy the best quality beans from.

This chocolate bar is high in spice, tobacco, and nutty flavours that showcases Marou’s dedication to exceptional design as recognized by London’s Wallpaper* magazine.

Tasting notes: Spice, Tobacco & Nutty

Manoa Mai'a Banana & Nibs 70%

Manoa is a Hawaiin based chocolate maker. Hawaii is the only state in the USA to grow cacao. The story of this maker began in the labs at the University of Hawaii in 2010 studying cacao as a crop for the state. Manoa started as college students with no money and bootstrapped their business with ingenuity and determination.

This inclusion bar is a new creation by Manoa. This bar features vibrant artwork by local artist Shar Tuiasoa of Punky Aloha and delicate molding inspired by Polynesian tattoo patterns. Together with historical tidbits about each inclusion ingredient, the complete package of flavor, art, and culture create three bars that do more than taste good: this is chocolate with a sense of place. A fruit brought by Polynesian settlers on their long voyage to Hawaii, banana is known as one of the canoe plants - crops essential for island living. Mai'a (banana), was used as sustenance, offerings to ali'i (ruling chiefs), and as medicine.

Tasting notes: Banana, Passion Fruit & Coconut

OmNom Tanzania 70%

Omnom is a small-batch, craft chocolate maker based in Reykjavík, Iceland. The company started as an experiment to see if the two friends could master how to make chocolate. From the start, they received positive tasting feedback. After receiving positive feedback, they set up a small chocolate-making lab inside a converted gas station and launched. Omnom's mission is to make the best chocolate possible using the highest quality of ingredients.

A pure dark single-origin bar from Tanzania cocoa. It features a dominance of stone fruits and roasted hazelnuts with hints of raisins and ripe apricots.

Tasting notes: Fruity & Nutty

Ranger Maple 66% Medium

Based on family recipes and named for founder George Domurot’s niece, a National Park Service Forest Ranger, Ranger Chocolate Company carefully handles each cacao bean to unlock nuance, regionality, and terroir-driven flavours in their chocolate.

Maple sugar is made by evaporating the water from maple sap, leaving behind pure maple sugar crystals. Maple sugar tends to have a sweeter taste. Paired with a bold fruit forward Trinitario cacao, the resulting chocolate bar has a unique flavor profile that we think you're going to love.

Tasting notes: Strawberry & Maple

Blanxart Congo Eco-Organic 82%

It was in April of 1954 when the master chocolatier Francesc Agrás embarked on a long journey through the best patisseries and confectioneries in Europe. His passion for excellence in artisan confectionery was the seed that led to the founding of one of the most renowned Catalan chocolate factories: Bombons Blanxart. It all started in a modest workshop in the neighborhood of Les Corts (Barcelona) and feeding a dream - bringing the best cocoa beans from Ghana, Congo, and Guayaquil to chocolate.

There has got to be a law against chocolate this good. Intense smoke and coffee flavor permeates the palate leaving its delectable mark on the unwary taste-traveler.

Tasting notes: Smokey & Coffee

Dick Taylor Jamaica, Bachelor's Hall 75% Limited Edition

Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor have always loved crafting. With a background in woodworking and boat building, they have always worked with their hands. Craft is a guiding principle in their lives. After hearing about the craft chocolate movement in the late '00s, they saw similarities in woodworking and craft chocolate making. They became fascinated with the idea of the chocolate experience and in 2010 bought their first chocolate-making equipment. Their chocolate captures and highlights the subtle flavour nuances in the cacao they source from around the world, with the goal to make an enjoyable chocolate experience for us.

Limited Release Single Origin from Bachelor's Hall Estate in South-Eastern Jamaica. With rich notes of apricot, graham cracker, and dates, this bar is unique and delicious! The perfect, unique gift for the chocolate connoisseur or dark chocolate lover.

Tasting notes: Apricot, Graham Cracker & Dates

Raaka Bourbon Cask Aged 82%

Raaka is devoted to making uncommonly delicious chocolate that captures the brighter, bolder, and fruitier side of cacao. They make every bar from scratch with unroasted cacao beans, sourced from growers they trust and admire. The unique flavour of their unroasted chocolate is part place, part process. They craft their bars in celebration of each cacao origin's unique character. Their chocolate making process values the community of growers, producers, and makers whose livelihoods depend on cacao and chocolate. All of their chocolate is made from scratch, bean-to-bar, in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

They age single origin Tanzanian cacao in bourbon casks for two months, creating a deeply nuanced bar with a cocktail-like vibe: oaky and smooth, with a hint of cherry cordial on the finish. It is their best selling bar and a 2013 Good Food Award Winner.

Tasting notes: Oaky & Cherry

Akesson's Madagascar Criollo 100%

Akesson's Organic Chocolate is the first "Tree-to-Bar" chocolate maker. The Akesson family started with a single plantation in Madagascar. Today, Bertil Akesson has expanded the company's cacao network with plantations in Madagascar, Brazil, and Indonesia. If you tried craft chocolate or world-famous chocolatier chocolate, it is likely that it came from one of Akesson's cacao plantations. Akesson's Organic Chocolate bars have won a multitude of awards and is regarded as one of the best craft chocolate bars on the market.

Expressive with naturally sweet, citrusy, red fruit notes. The Criollo beans for this bar are harvested in limited batches among other bountiful world-renowned cacao. Akesson's nearly 5,000 acres is located in the Sambirano Valley of Madagascar. Broken up into many smaller plantations, it produces cacao used by chefs and chocolate makers around the world. On the Ambolikapiky plantation, only 2 tons of Criollo beans are grown each year while the rest of the plantation produces 300 tons of Trinitario per year. Certified organic.

Award: 2016 Academy of Chocolate Gold Winner

Tasting notes: Citrusy, Aromatic, Sweet and Tart Red Fruits

To get started with craft chocolate, start with our Kekao Box . We search the world for the finest chocolate bars and bring them right to your doorstep monthly.

From rich dark Peruvian chocolate bars to new start-up chocolate bars on the come up, you never know what you’ll get inside the box!

Each month we will curate 4 to 5 premium specialty crafted chocolate bars.

Have someone who you appreciate? It also makes as a great gift !

If you want to just try a couple of bars, check out our online chocolate shop . It's a selection of what we have curated in our past boxes.

If you have any questions regarding this blog, our Kekao Box , or premium specialty crafted chocolate bars, feel free to contact us! Keep up with us by subscribing to our newsletter or following us on Facebook , Twitter , and Instagram .


Mintel Analysis: What’s Next for Confectionery Flavors?

According to Mintel, “31% of US consumers are interested in interesting flavors, which should inspire companies to innovate around new flavor profiles.”

There are a growing number of ways to sate your sweet tooth in the confectionery category. Whether you prefer chocolate or non-chocolate, sugar or sugar-free, the goal remains the same: indulgence. According to Mintel, 82% of U.S. adults eat non-chocolate confectionery, while chocolate confectionery sales have risen 15% since 2012. Year over year, the same flavors have ranked highest in the category, including chocolate, sugar and gum confectionery. What does that mean for retailers and brands? Essentially, there’s a big opportunity to draw more appeal and capitalize on the monotony by bringing new, bolder flavors to the aisle.

According to Mintel, caramel is a promising flavor to expand and experiment with. Caramel has remained one of the top three chocolate confectionery flavors over the last five years, tantalizing consumer taste buds with various mixtures of sweet and salty flavors. But the fun’s just begun. “Expanding caramel’s flavor horizon has been a popular subject in social media, with recipes for everything from sriracha caramel to chocolate-covered bacon and caramel candies suggested for the adventuresome home cook. Other caramel-compatible ingredients include blood orange, bourbon, and rose water, and the popularity of burnt caramel has also been promoted over the past year,” states Mintel.

The innovation is going far beyond caramel, however, as the days of light and dark chocolate are giving way to complex flavor profiles and exotic ingredients. Look at Raaka’s Bourbon Cask Aged Unroasted Dark Chocolate Bar, or Jcoco’s Middle Eastern Spice Chocolate Bars, described as black peppercorn, cumin, cinnamon and cloves in dark chocolate. According to Mintel, “31% of US consumers are interested in interesting flavors, which should inspire companies to innovate around new flavor profiles.”

Flavor profiles aside, a growing number of consumers are interested in vegan chocolate confectionery, meaning chocolates made without the use of dairy or other animal ingredients are on the rise. Mintel reports that global launches of vegan chocolate confectionery have increased 12% between 2017 and 2018. Dardenne 100% Vegetable Chocolate from Morocco, for example, claims to have replaced milk with an almond-based preparation that maintains the same taste and smoothness of a good milk chocolate.

As food and beverage items continue to grow as popular gifts throughout the holiday season, there’s an opportunity for brands to reach consumers interested in new confectionery flavor profiles.


Win a Supply of Chocolate with Brooklyn’s Raaka Chocolate

Calling all chocolate lovers! Have you every tried virgin, unroasted chocolate? Now is your chance. Brooklyn’s small-batch gives us the scoop and the opportunity to enter to win a six-month supply of chocolate.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Made with integrity in Brooklyn, New York, Raaka Chocolate is redefining the chocolate bar experience. Using virgin, unroasted cocoa beans the Raaka duo has been creating the sweet since 2010. The unroasted cocoa bean chocolate bars are as complex and interesting as an unusual bottle of wine. Not only do they make chocolate, but they pride themselves on having a creative, collaborative work environment to inspire their employees and the community around them.

Check out our interview with founders Ryan Cheney and Nate Hodge and enter to win a six month subscription to their First Nibs program. Each month you will receive a selection of seasonal chocolate bars and unique flavors you can’t find anywhere else. Also, check our their First Nibs program as a delicious holiday gift idea for your favorite chocolate fiend.

What are the main flavor and texture differences between traditional roasted chocolates and your virgin unroasted cacao?

Nate Hodge: We love the flavor of the unroasted cocoa beans. I view the flavors of the bean as almost an unharnessed energy. What we’re trying to do as a chocolate company is harness the bold flavors of the cocoa beans, without altering their flavors. When chocolate companies roast cocoa beans, they’re developing flavor, but they are also altering it. This is definitely the main thing that makes Raaka different from other craft chocolate makers, but we also like to be a bit more playful and/or experimental with our flavored chocolate bars.

Is there an unusual bar flavor that you are especially excited about in your limited edition series? What is your favorite classic flavor?

NH: We’re doing a series of hardwood infused bars Cherrywood, Applewood, Maple. I’m super surprised by how much flavor cherrywood contains. I’m really excited for people to taste the bar. When I learn something from making First Nibs (our limited edition series) series and I can convey that new knowledge to our subscribers, that’s when I feel the program is really working and doing something special. My favorite Raaka standard is probably our Bourbon Cask Aged bar. It’s 82% dark chocolate, which is one of the darkest bars you can pick up on a Whole Foods’ shelf, but the cask aging gives the chocolate this awesome mystery sweetness that gives the illusion that the bar is much sweeter than it actually is.

Is there a bar you would recommend specifically for fall?

NH: Definitely our Maple and Nibs bar. Maple is my absolute favorite cold weather ingredient. This bar is crunchy and uniquely sweet. The Alto Beni Cocoa Company had to overcome a lot of obstacles to get their beans out of Bolivia this year, so we’re also really proud of them and how good the beans taste in this bar.

You offer tours of your chocolate making facility in Brooklyn. It sounds delicious, tell us more!

NH: We give tours to share knowledge. We’re a pretty open and transparent place at Raaka. Anything our customers want to know about our chocolate or our cocoa beans, or the culture here, we want to share. We want our customers to leave the Raaka factory with the knowledge they need to think consciously not only about where their chocolate comes from, but also about where their salt comes from, or their coffee, or their bananas. We also want them to leave thinking that business can be fun, respectful and collaborative. If we convey those messages, we hope our customers will want to support the brand and tell others about it.

What was the inspiration behind the your First Nibs subscriptions?

NH: The collective creative energy of our team. We just have so many ideas for chocolate bars, and first nibs grew out of our desire to find a way to share those ideas. We ultimately want to be seen as innovators in the way we approach chocolate and being able to constantly experiment with an engaged set of subscribers is an amazing opportunity for us.

How do you win over someone who does not consider themselves to be a chocolate lover?

NH: Give them different cocoa beans to taste and describe to them that terroir and genetics effect chocolate in the same way they shape wines or coffees. I’ve found that most people that aren’t ‘chocolate lovers’ don’t know about the vast array of flavors that can be contained within a single chocolate bar. For generations we’ve been given chocolate that’s been stripped of it’s uniqueness, in favor of something ‘chocolatey’ and mild. Once more people learn about chocolate and cocoa, there will be more and more ‘chocolate lovers’.

What is your favorite thing you have learned about chocolate making since opening five years ago?

Red Prawn Ceviche, Avocado, and Corn by Chef Antonio Romero

NH: That regardless of income or social class, there are people all over the globe that want to get better at their jobs and improve their craft. The craft chocolate movement was started by inquisitive artists and culinary enthusiasts in the US and Europe, but it’s really going to take off because of cocoa farmers that are bettering themselves and their families by learning more about growing, harvesting and processing cocoa beans. Whether it’s in Belize or Peru or Tanzania, there are cocoa farmer’s that don’t just want to supply the craft chocolate movement, but want to be a part of it. I’m inspired most by collaboration, and the fact that I can collaborate with a farmer in Peru is an immensely inspiring thing.

Do you cook or bake with your chocolates? Or are they best enjoyed in their bar form?

NH: Definitely. When I’m not experimenting at the factory, I’m experimenting at home. I’ve made mole, chocolate pecan pie, chocolate chip blondies, traditional Mayan chocolate drink, flourless chocolate cake, to name a few. At the factory, we’re pretty big fans of Raaka chocolate s’mores. With that said, our bars are developed to be enjoyed in bar form, but you can do whatever you want with them. The possibilities are infinite as far as I’m concerned

What health benefits of your chocolates are you most proud of?

NH: We can make delicious and varied chocolates that all contain very little sugar. Sugar is one of those things that is delicious, but best in moderation, and eating Raaka over commercial chocolate is a way to moderate your sugar intake without giving up anything in the way of deliciousness.

How has starting a chocolate company changed the way you eat, if at all?

NH:It’s made me much more conscious about where things like bananas, coffee, salt, and nuts come from. These are all commodities that have been effected by exploitive business practices. The more we think about and talk about these practices, the further along we can get in attempting to change the way we source our food, and the way we treat people, who like us, are just trying to get by as humans on this planet.

Be sure to stop by Raaka for an eye-opening and delicious tour the next time you are in Brooklyn. Until then, enter to win a six-month First Nibs subscription and check out their selection available for purchase online here.

The Honest Cooking editorial team handpicks inspiring culinary stories to share with you that we think are beautiful. As an international online culinary magazine with the ambition to truly change the face of online food media we hope to create an inspiring place for serious culinary debate, salivating recipes, interesting food news and international food-fun.


3. Family Pajamas from Hanna Anderrson

What is cuter than a matching family on CHRISTMAS morning?! I love these family pajama sets from Hanna Anderrson! Now the real challenge is trying to get your husband to wear them and take a picture…maybe if Travis sees enough of our friends wear theses he will too…


Chocolate and Cheese Pairing

The French Cheese Board hosted a unique chocolate and cheese pairing, on September 24, 2015 for select media. We paired during this food experience:

Raaka’s Virgin Chocolate Coconut Milk – Whipped Cheese

Raaka’s Virgin Chocolate Madagascar – Mimolette

Raaka’s Virgin Chocolate Sea Salt – Epoisses

Raaka’s Virgin Chocolate Bourbon – Bleu d’Auvergne

Raaka’s Virgin Chocolate Vanilla Rooibos – Ossau-Iraty

Suggested Pairings

ChocolateCheese
Coconut Milk, 60% cacao (Origin: Dominican Republic)Raaka developed the Coconut Milk bar to satisfy the desire for a creamy, milky chocolate dairy-free. Coconut milk creates a great alternative to whole milk, while providing an undeniably creamy mouthfeel reminiscent of traditional milk chocolate.Tasting Note: Caramel, Strawberry, and Coconut.Whipped Cheese, Brittany – On the road to Plancoët, Madame Loïk created a delicate recipe made of the freshest spreadable whipped cheese with sea salt from Guérande. With its unique texture, taste and story, the whipped cheese has a unique and easy to spread mousse-like texture.Tasting Note: Freshness, which melts in your mouth.
Madagascar, 75% cacao (Origin: Madagascar) The only chocolate bar un the world made from unroasted beans from the Ambanja region of Madagascar’s esteemed Sambirano Valley, on Aesson’s Organic Farm. It’s just organic cacao beans, with a little organic sugar cane to let the chocolate’s own distinct flavor profile shine through.Tasting Note: Golden plum, rice wine, and pistachio.Mimolette, Northern France – Mimolette is a cheese traditionally produced around the city of Lille. It was originally made at the request of Louis XIV, who was looking for a native French product to replace the then very popular Edam. To make it distinct from Edam he colored it with annatto to give it a sweet and nutty flavor and a distinct orange color. It normally weighs about 4.5 pounds and is made from cow’s milk. The greyish crust of aged Mimolette is the result of cheese mites intentionally introduced to add flavor by their actions on the surface of the cheese.Tasting Notes: Sharp, nutty, fruity taste which also includes sweet hints of butterscotch.
Sea Salt, 71% cacao (Origin: Bolivia)A one of a kind chocolate displaying sparkling citrus notes and warm hints of berry. Unroasted, stoneground cocoa beans present a totally unique flavor profile. Topped with Peruvian Pink Sea Salt to exalt the flavors.Tasting Note: Raspberry, citrus, clove.Epoisses, PDO Burgundy– Although this cow’s milk cheese has a pungent aroma, its taste is perfectly well balanced and very savory on the palate. Originally made by Cistercian monks who passed on the recipe. Marc de Bourgogne is used to wash the rind and give it its red-orange color. Napoleon was a particular fan of this cheese.Tasting Note: An aromatic smooth and silky cheese with a unique slightly salty taste.
Bourbon, 82% cacao (Origin: Belize)The first chocolate featuring cask-aged cocoa bean. The aging process enhances the virgin chocolate with strong caramel, vanilla, and oaky deliciousness. Matured in Berkshire Mountain distilled bourbon barrels, the finest chocolate deserves to be associated with the finest bourbon.Tasting Note: Caramel, Vanilla.Bleu d’Auvergne, PDO Auvergne– A creamy cow’s milk blue from France’s volcanic rich south-central area. It is a PDO with a strong and pungent taste, but to a lesser extent than other blue cheeses it is less salty, with a creamy and moist texture and a buttery taste.Tasting Note: Bleu d’Auvergne has a salty and spicy taste.
Vanilla Rooibos, 67% cacao (Origin: Bolivia & Dominican Republic)Premium unfermented rooibos tea brings warm, fruity notes and a hint of toasted marshmallow to lush, unroasted chocolate.Tasting Note: Cherry, toasted marshmallow.Ossau-Iraty, PDO, Basque Country– Ossau-Iraty is probably the less known PDO cheese. It unites two regions of France in the Western Pyrénées: Ossau in the valley of the Bearn, and Iraty in the beech forests of the Pays Basque. Ossau-Iraty is full of delicious, nutty, robust taste if it is produced during the period from June to September when the herds move up to the high mountain meadows. Covered by a thick orange to grey rind, the paste is white, supple and creamy. It becomes firmer as it matures.Tasting Notes: Creamy and buttery in the mouth with flavors of nuts, fruits and herbs.

Commonalities:

Rich, bold, robust, nutty and creamy – chocolate and cheese share some of the same qualities, and offer unexpected flavorful pairings. Even if there are no standard rules when it comes to pairing, in general, light cheeses complement light flavors, while full-flavored cheeses balance flavors that are more complex.

Styles of chocolatePairing suggestions
DarkBitter chocolates pair well with aged complex cheeses
Milk ChocolateMilk chocolate pairs well with fresh cheeses like chèvre or buttery semi-soft cheese like brie.
Chocolate with Dried Fruits or NutsChocolate with roasted nuts and dried fruits pairs well with creamier semi-soft cheeses and also aged cheeses that have more complexity.
Spicy chocolatesChocolates containing chili and other peppers pair well with sharp cheeses that are not overly salty.

In the past decade, there has been a surge of small batch, bean-to-bar chocolate-makers like Raaka, who take care of sourcing cacao beans from single origins and tailoring roasting profiles to bring out their natural flavors. In cheese, the PDO specifications need to be exact for Protected Designation of Origin cheeses to carry their names. Specifications include the cow breed, its feed, the size and shape of the cheese and the minimum amount of affinage or maturation required.

The land where the cacao bean grows, like the land where the cows feed, impart characteristics to the flavor and aromas of the final product. Soil, climate, altitude, and latitude have a profound and direct influence. Norman cows that produce milk to make Camembert feed on lush meadows drenched in salty dew from the English Channel. Raaka’s sources it beans grown and produced in the tropics like the Maya Mountain of Belize or San Francisco de Macoris region of the Dominican Republic, for example. Likewise, the milk from cows feeding on Alpine mountainsides lends its flavors to certain cheeses.

Another similarity we found interesting was Raaka’s Bourbon chocolate bar. The cacao beans are cask-aged in Berkshire Mountain Distilling Bourbon barrels, which impart the flavors of caramel and vanilla. Traditionally, PDO Feta cheese is also aged in wooden barrels to give the cheese a unique flavor. The aging process for cheese is extremely important and defines the characteristics of the rind, flavor, body and texture of the cheese. A maître affineur is a highly skilled profession in France they ensure the cheeses are age to perfection.

Health benefits

Cheese is a great source of protein and calcium. Since protein, curbs hunger and keeps you feeling satisfied after meals, cheese can help you to lose weight. As part of a well-rounded nutrition plan, the protein in cheese can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates eaten at the same meal and therefore help balance your blood-sugar levels and improve mood as well.

Unlike processed dark chocolate, antioxidants are preserved in raw cacao. Benefits from keeping organic chocolate unheated include much higher levels of the famous antioxidants as well as the preservation of Vitamin C and phenethylamine: the feel good neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of love!

In addition to being a great source of energy, cheese contains additional nutriments like zinc and biotin. Zinc has several functions in the body: it aids in tissue growth and repair, prevents and treats macular degeneration, protects your skin, and helps keep your nails strong. Both zinc and biotin are also important for hair health.

Raaka’s Virgin Chocolate is dairy-free product. Aged cheese has very little lactose or can be lactose-free. The older the cheese the less lactose it contains. Lactose is in the whey not the curd. The whey drains during the cheeses drying process. Like Raaka’s Virgin Chocolates, French cheese is gluten-free, in most cases, and all natural.

About Raaka Virgin Chocolate

Raaka (http://www.raakachocolate.com) crafts bean-to-bar chocolate from unroasted, USDA Certified Organic cacao in Brooklyn, New York. While nearly all chocolate is made by roasting cacao beans, Raaka’s unique low temperature process preserves the wild flavor profiles innate to each origin, offering a rare and delicious chocolate experience that brings people closer to the bean.

About the French Cheese Board

Financed by the French Dairy Board (CNIEL*) the French Cheese Board (www.frenchcheeseboard.com) is a studio devoted to all things French cheese. Conceived as an idea lab, it is a space for consumers & trade members to discover the diversity & richness that France has to offer through a series of interactive showings and events.

The new home of French Cheese in New York blends the culinary arts with contemporary art installations, meshing lifestyle, art, cheese & more. We put art & design at the forefront of modernity, development & innovation. We invite artists, designers, chefs & researchers to work together on projects related to French cheese & the nutrition of today & tomorrow. The French Cheese Board provides a platform for the exchange of ideas – for education & for the celebration of French cheese.


Ethically Sourced

Early last year at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, I tried a new line of chocolate cups from the confectioners at Vosges. These sets of mini peanut butter cups are from the Wild Ophelia line of chocolates and come in a few varieties. The first one I picked up at the store, when I finally found them last month at Whole Foods are the Wild Ophelia Caramelized Bananas Peanut Butter Cups.

The packages look like a regular twin set of chocolate cups (though they’re actually 2.1 ounces) but inside is actually a try that holds a set of six little cups.

I call them cups, but there’s actually no paper fluting on them, just the cups on a tray inside a wrapper.

The cups are made from 41% cacao milk chocolate, which is from fair trade certified beans (the sugar is also fair trade). The bananas are not the typical Cavendish most of us eat, but a varietal grown on Kauai known as Williams. The bananas are actually caramelized with some cream and sugar and sprinkled on top of the cups. The filling is peanut butter, and as far as I can tell, more chocolate.

They’re almost savory. The milk chocolate has a good dairy flavor without tasting like powdered milk. The melt is smooth and buttery with a little toffee note. Once I bit into the cups the peanut butter is pretty evident as a scent, but the texture of the peanut butter is barely there, it’s quite smooth and mixed in. The banana notes were hard to tease out sometimes, it wasn’t a lot of banana and often just a little fresh caramelized and honey note.

Some cups had more banana bits, and some of the banana bits were a little toothsticky.

I liked the cups better than the bar version that I tired a few years ago. Part of is that I like the format of cups, and the ability to have a teensy but full-featured portion. They’re expensive, but the package holds more than a Justin’s or Theo PB cup, though it’s still more per ounce. I liked the inventive combinations and I welcome more products that play with these formats.

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Theo Coconut Salted Almond Bites

I have often desired a better version of the Almond Joy. I love the combination of chocolate and almonds and coconut, but the classic Almond Joy is just a little too sweet and well, has a lot of unnecessary ingredients.

Theo Chocolate of Seattle has been making organic and ethically sourced chocolate for quite a while, and even make one of my favorite bars, their Salted Almond Dark Chocolate. Their newest product expansion has been in the arena of traditional candy bars made with better ingredients (liked their peanut butter cups). The newest is Theo Coconut Salted Almond Bites. They’re part of a full line of coconut bites that come in milk or dark chocolate as well, but the twist here that combined an already well-loved bar was too enticing to resist, even at $2.39 for a scant 1.3 ounce package.

The ingredients are non-GMO, fair trade, palm oil free, soy free and organic. It’s also vegan (but made on shared equipment, so not necessarily for folks with dairy or egg allergies.)

The little squares do not look like Almond Joy. The almonds are actually little slivers and chips within the coconut filling, not a couple of whole almonds on top with the chocolate coating.

The smell is comforting, a clean coconut scent, but not quite as sweet and perfumey as suntan oil. The bite is soft, the filling is chewy but not at all sticky. The coconut is moist and distinct. The best part of the whole thing though is the dark touch of the chocolate shell. It’s deep and has a light sweetness that really isn’t found in the coconut. The salt really isn’t evident as a discrete element, but the whole thing isn’t sweet or cloying. The almond provide a different crunch over the chewy coconut.

It’s a very light treat, with really strong flavors and textures. This could become a regular habit . actually, it has, this is the third bar I’ve purchased since they came out. It took me a while to control myself long enough to take photos.

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    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE

Willie’s Cacao - Venezuelan Gold 72%

While in London last year, I picked up quite a few chocolate bars. One brand that I noticed had good distribution and prices, was Willie’s Cacao. The company direct sources their cocoa beans and manufacturers their chocolate in England. For a small company they make a wide array of chocolate products, like the bars I picked up in single origin varieties like Madagascar, Peru, Indonesia and two different sourcings from Venezuela. In addition they also have a line of single origin cocoas, chocolate pearls and bars with flavors and inclusions.

I picked up the Venezuela Gold Las Trincheras 72% at Waitrose. The package is two little 40 gram bars that are wrapped separately for £2.99, or about $4.50. A lot of other single origin bars are priced at twice that, so it was a gamble that this was going to be passable stuff. The box is quite elegant, dark brown with orange, creamy yellow and gold foiled lettering. The package states that the single estate cacao comes from Hacienda Las Trincheras in northern Venezuela.

The flavor profile is described as smooth nutty notes, which is exactly why I like Venezuelan origin cacao.

The box helpfully gave me both the bar’s origin date and the best by date. It was produced in November 2013 and good until May 2015. I ate one of the bars after I returned from my trip last year, and saved the other in my climate controlled chocolate fridge until last month.

The bars are lovely, the mold, which says Willie’s Delectable Cacao gives the otherwise ordinary 2.75 inch square a bit more flair. The tempering is very nice, there’s a good snap to the bar and no bubbles or voids. The color is a little on the red side of dark brown.

The melt is easy but not too quick. The ingredients are very simple, no emulsifiers. Just cacao, raw cane sugar and cocoa butter. There’s a little dryness early on, and some bright fruit notes. The overwhelming flavor I get is not nutty but raisins. I usually associate strong raisin flavors with Peruvian chocolate. There are some other notes of rosemary, roses and plums, but I didn’t catch more than a fleeting cashew note. It’s a bit bitter at times as well, but not so much that it distracted from the other flavors, just enough to keep it from getting too sweet.

For the price, I think they’re very well done bars, and I appreciate the packaging style that allows me to actually eat some now and really save some for later, as I did here. However, I didn’t love this particular bar enough that I would import it. I am interested enough in the brand that I would pick it up again, especially some of the other origins.

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    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE

Raaka Bourbon Cask Aged 82% Chocolate

There are now dozens of small-batch chocolate makers scattered around North America. One that caught my eye a couple of years ago won the Good Food Award in 2013. Raaka Chocolate is based in Brooklyn, New York and was founded in 2010.

The team at Raaka says,”We make virgin chocolate from unroasted cacao beans. Our unique process preserves each region’s wild flavors, bringing you closer to the bean.

The unique style of their bars means that they use organic beans that have been naturally fermented and dried but not roasted. The result is a bar that is like the chocolate that we all know, but with some differences . not necessarily things that make it better or worse, just different. The cacao is direct sourced while the sugar is organic and fair trade certified. Most of their bars are just beans and evaporated cane juice (no vanilla, no emulsifiers) but the bar I picked out for review was the Raaka Virgin Chocolate Bourbon Cask Aged - Belize 82%. This bar also has some maple sugar in it.

As you can guess from the name, the notable thing about this cacao is that it is first aged in oak bourbon casks from Berkshire Mountain Distilling. I’ve had chocolate that’s been aged in barrels before, but never chocolate made from beans that have been aged in barrels. For roasted cacao that wouldn’t work, because the roasting would probably remove the flavors the casks introduce, but remember Raaka is working with unroasted beans, the way the beans are treated before grinding will definitely affect flavor.

The bar mold is dead simple, just a 1.8 ounce plank with no scoring, no design. There’s a great snap to it, and glossy sheen on the outside, but a little rough looking inside.

The bar smells, well, a little like bourbon. There’s a vanilla note and some light peat along with some other more yeasty bread notes. The melt of the chocolate is not quite as creamy as some bars I’ve had, but certainly not gritty. It’s smoother than Taza, which is also stone ground. The yeasty notes are very strong along with an acidic bite and a light coffee and maple note. It’s undeniably chocolate, but with a kick that is a little more unformed, a little less refined. The bar also changed, as I nibbled on it over several weeks. The bitterness dissipated (oxidation can do that) and I found a few more berry jam notes to it.

For an 82% bar, it’s not as dense as you might expect. I’ve certainly had 70% bars that are more intense. This may be because there’s some extra cocoa butter added in, which counts towards the cacao percentage, but does help mellow its severity.

I appreciate the bar, and enjoyed it quite a bit. I kept in my purse for several weeks, but never felt the need for more than a little half inch square at a time. The rustic melt was not as decadent as bars I usually prefer, so sometimes this felt like it demanded more attention to enjoy, like the different between classic sonnets and some free verse.

Their facility and bars are vegan, nut free, soy free, gluten free and made from all organic ingredients.

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    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE

Theo My Cherry Baby

It’s hard to resist a pretty bit of packaging, especially when, as I mentioned in last week’s review of the Theo’s Love Crunch, a chocolate bar is far better than a greeting card. The bubbly design in reds and pinks is a bit feminine, but the flavors should suit anyone who likes their milk chocolate on the deeper side of the pool.

This Theo bar delivers on the promise of the package, for me. The wrapper for the Theo Chocolate My Cherry Baby bar says, Fall in love with cherries in dreamy 45% milk chocolate - tangy, sweet and yummy.

The bars are made in Seattle with ethically sourced, non GMO, no soy, gluten free, Kosher and in this case, at a darn affordable price. For some reason they weren’t $4 a bar, which Theo is usually priced, but I got mine for $1.50 each.

The bar is a dark milk, which is a nice place to start for a high end bar. The flavor is quite deep with rich coffee notes, but also quite a bit of malt and even a hint of yeast in there. The cherry pieces are tiny and a bit on the leathery side. They’re tangy and chewy, but not freeze dried crispy bits either. The flavor combines well, though both seem to bring out bitter notes in each other - I got the cherry skin bitterness on one hand and the roasted acrid notes from the chocolate.

It’s a tasty bar, easy to eat, but I felt no need to eat more than a large square at a time, even though a half of a bar is the recommended dose.

I do enjoy Theo Chocolate’s seasonal bars quite a bit, much more than their standard just-chocolate. The gold standard for them will probably always be the Dark Chocolate Salted Almond . but toss in a few cherries for a holiday version, and I might be inclined to revise my opinion.

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    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE

Seely Dark Chocolate Mint Patties

I’ve reviewed quite a few mint patties here on Candy Blog over the years. It’s a good candy category and allows for a different variations in size, ratios and fondant/filling styles as well as ingredients.

Today I have the Seely Dark Chocolate Mint Patties which are made by hand with Fair Trade certified 70% chocolate and locally harvested mint.

I first tried some Seely products at the Fancy Food Show last month. The family run farm grows peppermint and spearmint in Oregon. They sell both packaged dried mint for tea and a few confectionery specialties made with their mint oils.

The patties are made by hand. It’s a curious little process, because they’re made like a sandwich, one side at a time. So the bottom is created by creating a puddle of dark chocolate and allowing it to set, then it’s flipped over and a mint cream center is deposited on top of it, then another layer of dark chocolate. Like an Oreo that has a flat unmarked inside and an embossed outside, this pattie has the swirls of the chocolate on both sides.

The box holds only 5 patties, which are one ounce each and packaged in an ordinary thick cellophane sleeve. They’re expensive, the box was $7.99, so each pattie works out to about $1.60 each.

The dark chocolate is creamy and well tempered, it has a good snap but no real flavor of its own in combination with the peppermint center. The cream center is made from confectioners sugar (which contains corn starch), tapioca syrup and egg whites along with their own peppermint oil for flavor.

The center has a wonderful melt. It’s smooth and creamy, not dry but not moist or sticky like a York Peppermint Pattie. The pattie is mostly filling, only the thinnest of chocolate on either side. It’s not an overwhelming mint, but it is quite sweet. Though the chocolate is bittersweet, it could be just a little thicker or a little less sweet on its own. Otherwise, this is a true peppermint pattie.

The patties contain egg whites and soy. There are no other allergen statements on the list.

The other item I tried, but don’t have a photo for, are their Ivory Mint Melts. I’ve been curious about these, conceptually, for a long time. The Ivory Mint Melts are just little white chocolate disks flavored with box peppermint and spearmint. Peppermint and white chocolate is quite common, but the use of spearmint is pretty rare. Spearmint is easy to grow, and the most common mint found at the grocery store in the produce aisle. But when it comes to confectionery, nearly everything mint is going to be peppermint. The Ivory Mint Melts are a combination of white chocolate, made with real cocoa butter, and both peppermint and spearmint flavors.

The white chocolate has its own milky flavor, so it’s an interesting combination because its not a blank canvas. The melt is quite good, very smooth and with an immediate hit of the spearmint notes. It’s peppery and has a grassy note to it, then there’s the peppermint in the background. It’s really refreshing but took some getting used to as it is just so unusual. I would definitely buy these, though they’re expensive and I’d prefer to find them in a store instead of paying both the high price (it’s artisan) and the shipping.

    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE

Theo Red Hot Cinnamon Love Crunch

Valentine’s Day candy is disappointing because it’s usually about the packaging. So, I was pleased at Whole Foods when I spotted two limited edition varieties from Theo Chocolate for Valentine’s Day . and on sale at 2 bars for $3 (they’re usually $4 each). I’ve often said that a fine chocolate bar is better than a greeting card and in this case, far cheaper. There’s even a “To” and “From” spot on the back of the bar. (But the ideal touch would be to include at least a personalized post it note.)

It’s called Theo Red Hot Cinnamon Love Crunch. The description on the back said: The red-hot crunch of cinnamon brittle in smooth, rich, 70% dark chocolate - spicy and sweet.

Sounds amazing: for $1.50, I was getting a unique bar that combined cinnamon and chocolate, that was also fair trade certified, non-GMO, organic, vegan, soy-free, Kosher and made here in the USA. Goodbye, ordinary candy in a heart shaped package! (The other bar I picked up was the milk chocolate My Cherry Baby.)

On the tongue at first it’s a little tangy. The melt is a little grainy, I wasn’t sure if it was the crunchy bits or not at first, but it seems that some of it is spices. It became apparent very quickly that this was not just a cinnamon and chocolate bar. My bad for not reading the label fully.

Here’s the deal: the package is pink, the printing on the back is brown. In full light and my reading glasses, I can read it. But not in the dim light and glassesless state I was in at Whole Foods. (My usual trick when I don’t have my glasses and the print is tiny is to take a photo with my phone and then blow it up, but I read the description and thought that was the extent of the flavors.)

The ingredients of interest here are (after you get through the chocolate stuff): cayenne, cinnamon leaf essential oil, black pepper essential oil, nutmeg essential oil and clove essential oil.

I actually like spicy things (curry, cinnamon, black pepper and ginger), but the one I can’t do is red pepper. Capsascin is one of those compounds that people experience differently because of genetic differences. For me, cayenne isn’t fun, there’s a lot of heat that doesn’t seem to dissipate and in higher concentrations it just induces nausea. So, I avoid anything other than mild chili items. While there’s a proliferation of chili peppers in confection, and for the most part they’re tolerable, though not always enjoyable for me.

This was freakishly hot for me. I got the different sensations from the various spices, I could actually discern the difference between the black pepper and the cayenne and the cinnamon. (Clove actually has a bit of a numbing effect.) The cinnamon really only came in at the beginning as a scent. The tangy bite of the chocolate did help to mellow the pepper at first, but once it hit my throat, the one-two punch of black and red pepper was too much. The little brittle crunch pieces were supposed to be cinnamon, and maybe some of them were, but other larger bits seemed flavorless.

I tried this bar twice, eating only one of the large squares each time in small bits. The warming effect from the spices lasts a long time, well over a half an hour. Though it didn’t upset my stomach, it really didn’t please me either and I don’t plan on finishing the bar.

If your loved one is partial to the extremely spicy side of things, this might be a good option, especially if you’re looking for something without dairy or soy (the Lindt dark chocolate products contain milk and soy ingredients). The bar is made in a facility that also handles peanuts, wheat, milk, eggs and soy.

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    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE

Marabou Oreo Bar

One of my contacts at Swede Sweets offered to send me this Swedish bar from Marabou which features Oreo cookie pieces.

Marabou is now owned by Kraft/Mondelez, so they can use real Oreo cookies and call them that on the package. I’ve had quite a few bars over the years that have Oreos in them, as Kraft also owns Cadbury, Toberlone, Terry’s and Milka. (Well, I’ve had the Cadbury and Milka Oreo bars, I’d love to try a Terry’s Chocolate Oreo-orange, once they invent that.) The bars that I’ve had were cream filled bars, that is, they were milk chocolate bars with a palm oil cream center with cookie bits mixed in. This bar is just what you’d think a cookies & chocolate bar should be.

The bar is made with Rainforest Alliance certified cacao, and contains at least 30% cacao. As a European “family chocolate” it also contains whey, which is considered a filler in the US, but then again, the US products with far less cacao mass to be called milk chocolate. Whey is just milk protein, it adds bulk without sweetness or extra fat, so as additives go, it’s not detrimental, though it can make the texture a bit more gummy.

It’s a big bar, at 185 grams, which is 6.53 ounces . about twice the size of the usual large tablet bar.

The look of the bar is good, it’s large, so it was broken in a couple of places, but along the segmentation lines. The bar isn’t particularly thick, which means that the inclusions weren’t going to be very dense.

The segments aren’t quite square, they’re about 1 inch on the longest side. There really aren’t that many big pieces of cookies, but a bit of cookie crumb/grit to the whole bar. Marabou chocolate is quite milky, though some of it’s flavor has that powdered milk note to it, but it’s also marked by some good notes of malt and a generic sweetness.

The cookie bits are good, less sweet than the overall milk chocolate. The bits aren’t numerous enough for me, which led to a moreish quality that kept me eating it . hoping I’d stumble upon the piece where all the cookies were.

I think a single serve, thicker bar, might mean better proportions if they continue with this. The Hershey’s density of cookie bits in their Cookies N Creme bars is a good target (it’s easy to see how much is in there because it’s a white confection with dark cookie bits). I wouldn’t pay the premium to import this if I were ordering on the internet, but if I stumbled upon this in an airport, in a regular size, I might pick it up again.

As near as I can figure, this bar contains milk, soy and wheat (but your Google Translate experience will vary, as will your ability to find the umlaut key). There’s no statement about peanuts or tree nuts.


6. Lily’s Sweets Extra Dark Chocolate

Lily’s Sweets Extra Dark Chocolate bars contain all the indulgence you crave but with a lot more nutrition and way fewer calories. They’re made of Fair Trade certified cocoa, non-GMO ingredients, and cocoa butter. Since they’re sweetened with stevia, they contain less than 1g of sugar, which is all we could ask for! They come in Extra Dark, Sea Salt, Blood Orange and Salted Almond flavors, all which are totally vegan and super creamy.

Amazon reviewer Arizona1010 said, “Great taste, all vegan, the only fat is from cocoa butter. Tastes even better than regular sugar-sweetened chocolate!” Sounds good to us! You can buy these a pack of 12 for $47.49.


28 of the Best Food Products Made in Brooklyn

What hot sauce is to southern tables or mayo to the midwest, achaar is to India. Hindi for pickled, the pantry staple of the sub-continent is a sweet-spicy-tart-aromatic mix of veggies and fruits, spices and chili peppers. It’s ubiquitous there, but rare here, and Brooklyn Delhi’s founder had to stock her home kitchen with a suitcase full of street-swiped jars jars gleaned on trips back home to India — until she made her own. Swimming with savory roasted tomatoes and sparkling sweet tamarind, it’s the perfect compliment to a traditional lamb pita: quickly char a slab of rump roast, slice it thin, and pile on grill-warmed bread with a scoop of yogurt and sprinkle of parsley.

Char Grilled Lamb Wraps With Tomato Achaar Recipe Here

Cavatelli with Tomato ‘Nduja & Pecorino Recipe Here

Tomato ‘Nduja // City Saucery // Brooklyn, NY

The best food is fleeting. A good tomato — we mean a *really* good tomato — is at its best for a sun-warmed second, before it fades. And that’s, of course, as it should be. That’s as nature intended. But grandma had other plans. Hence the deep tradition of home-canned sauces to keep Calabrian pastas and casseroles bathed in the summer’s harvest all year long. The most famous of them all is a spicy spread called ‘nduja. The old way is heavy on the pork, but this one is deliciously vegan — all the savory roasted pepper and tomatoes, none of the pig parts. Toast a few tablespoons in a bit of olive oil, then add in your pasta’s cooking water and simmer. Top your favorite noodles and warm up winter with a burst of summer sun.

Cavatelli // Sfoglini Pasta Shop // Brooklyn, NY

The secret to perfect pasta is easy. The water — salty as the sea! The sauce — fresh as summer morning! The pasta — well, for most, that’s where the secret ends. Raid even the best home cook’s pantry, and you’ll find store-bought boxes and plastic bags of brittle shells and snapped spaghetti. Not so in the kitchens of spots like Hearth, Roberta’s, or Frankie’s Sputino, where chewy semolina flour is hand-rolled into perfect shapes. And that is where these hail from: traditional priest’s ears, perfect for cupping the rich sauces of southern Italy. No need for a confession that you didn’t make them yourself.

Blackened Chicken Tacos With Tango Sauce Recipe Here

Carrot Chile Sauce // Tango // Brooklyn, NY

Carrots get no love. As the can of spinach needs its Popeye, carrots get their Bugs, animated incentive for kids to munch. (Let no one mention the baby carrot, those shorn and cutesy lap dogs of the veggie world.) But picky eaters don’t know what they’re missing. With a little spice, the tuber turns transcendent — what’s up doc is the heat level. We love those pickled escabeche cups tossed on taco plates, and most trucks worth their masa have ’em. We wish they had this sauce too. Here, carrots give more than crunch and color, but become a perfect vehicle for the extra spice, adding a nice, creamy body to an already perfect hot sauce. Drizzle it on tacos, grilled shrimp, or seared chicken, and eat your vegetables.

Grady’s Cold Brew Creamsicle

Cold Brew Bean Bags // Grady’s Cold Brew // Brooklyn, NY

The only thing better than coffee is iced coffee — and the only thing better than iced coffee is New-Orleans-style cold brew, perfected, as only Brooklyn coffee snobs can do, by the folks at Grady’s. Steep this spicy-smooth mix of chicory and dark-roasted beans overnight and pour over ice the morning after, or better yet, mix in a few ounces of bourbon, some heavy cream, and a bit of sugar — bourbon-smoked, naturally — and freeze into grown-up creamsicles.

A&B Pepper Sauce // A&B American Style // Brooklyn, NY

There’s a hot sauce arms race on, and your local supermarket condiments aisle can feel like a bio-war munitions lab. Bottles come with warnings — better fit for stripping paint and clearing drains just reading the labels makes our eyes water. But not A&B’s. They don’t call it hot sauce, because it’s not about the heat, it’s about the flavor: Fresnos, carrots, onions, vinegar, and salt. Forget your Ghost Peppers and Carolina Reapers — Fresnos are perfect for sauce, a bit spicier than jalapeños, but with tons more citrusy, fruity flavor. Finally, a hot sauce fit for civilians.

Granola Lab // Brooklyn, NY

Granola is no stranger to the usual suspects of birkenstocks, brown sugar, maple syrup and dried fruit. But Granola Lab stirs things up with vreative flavors like Gingersnap. We recommend topping off a dollop of greek yoghurt with granola, pistachios, fresh grapefruit and a drizzle of honey.

Morris Kitchen // Ginger Spice Syrup // Brooklyn, NY

Enjoying a well crafted cocktail doesn’t have to mean paying 15$ in a pretentious bar. Morris Kitchen’s handcrafted ginger syrup reminds us quality cocktails at home can be cheaper than coors light. Go for the Dark & Stormy, just fill a glass with ice, add 3 oz seltzer, ½ oz Ginger Syrup and lime. Slowly pour 2oz rum on top to keep color separate, garnish with a lime. Make a round of these and we promise nobody will care you may not have the proper glassware…

Drunken Monkey Jam // The Jam Stand // Brooklyn, NY

Stranded on a desert island with nothing but a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich sounds like something out of a *New Yorker* cartoon — or it could be the inspiration behind Jam Stand’s tropical spread. Other jellies are syrupy slimes of chemicals and artificial sweeteners Drunken Monkey is a boozy mix of rich brown sugar, real pectin, and the all-natural sweetness of bananas, lime, and a spirited dose of rum. Use it to top your morning pastry, make a PB&J that turns snack time into an oasis worth lingering at, or even spoon a dollop onto your after dinner — er, breakfast — ice cream dessert.

Liddabit Sweet // Sea Salt Caramels // Brooklyn, NY

In a little nook in Brooklyn, a hustlin’ team are measuring, cooking, dipping, and wrapping at one of the coolest treat shops in America. Churning out everything from chewy candy bars that would have you snickering at a snickers to lollipops hand poured on bamboo sticks (which means no little sludgy bits of paper in your mouth). For these flavor hits, pure ocean sea salt is stirred into buttery caramel made with locally sourced Ronnybrook Dairy Cream.

Bacon, Beer Jelly & Brie Sandwich

Anarchy In A Jar // Spiced Beer Jelly // Brooklyn, NY

Two things Brooklyn is really good at right now: beer and canning. Laena McCarthy packs both under one lid starting with Sixpoint Craft Ale and local apples from Terhune Orchards in Jersey, finishing things off by infusing the mix with exotic spices like grains of paradise and black cardamom. Revel in this smearable beer by swiping some on a Beer Flat with a hunk of aged cheddar or enjoy the only PB & Jelly sandwich that mom wouldn’t have snuck in your school lunch box.

Biltong // Brooklyn Biltong // Brooklyn, NY

In South Africa, biltong is a way of life. Everyone makes the salty sweet meat treats, but Brooklyn Biltong’s founder Ben was lucky: his Granddad’s was the best in town, and he spent his childhood filling paper bags with handfuls at his family’s Pretoria butcher shop. While you and your buddies suffered through Slim Jims, Ben snacked on juicy, rich strips of air-dried goodness. He still makes it the old way: marinated with spices and slowly cured, not dehydrated, and never heated so it stays supple and chewy, even though it’s built to last, staying fresh on pantry shelves or stuffed in saddlebags for a long road ahead — as if you can wait to dig in.

Bourbon Cask Aged Chocolate Bar // Raaka Chocolate // Brooklyn, NY

The high-end, organic, flavor-grade cacao featured here makes one delicious detour from specially sourced Belize-grown bean to Brooklyn-made bar: It stops off for a drink. Bourbon, to be exact: resting in Berkshire Mountain Distillery barrels, where the nibs soak up the now-drained spirit’s spirit for a full month before being ground, melted, sweetened, and shaped. All of which means your after-dinner indulgence can get right to the point: a tipple, a treat, or both at once.

T Bone Spice Grilled Steak

T Bone Spice// Greenpoint Trading Co. // Brooklyn, NY

But if you’d rather cook the cow yourself, we have you covered. Or at least the steak. Greenpoint Trading’s blending warehouse on the industrial outskirts of Brooklyn is an incongruously fragrant portal to paradise: baskets and barrels of paprika and cayenne, coffee and turmeric awaiting hand-mixing into rubs like this. A life-changing replacement for your plain table salt, it also makes a perfect rub for any meat, not just the eponymous cut. We like skirt steak, a half-inch thick, brought to room temperature, rubbed, and quickly grilled.

Ultimate Thanksgiving Turkey Club Sandwich

Spicy Maple Bourbon Pickles // Brooklyn Brine // Brooklyn, NY

Fresh green discs, perfectly crinkle-cut, afloat in an onion-and-spice-packed brine: It looks like a pickle, it sounds like a pickle (crunch), but it tastes nothing like the sour dills you know, thanks to a swirl of organic New York State maple syrup and a shot of Finger Lakes Distilling’s spicy McKenzie rye. Like a pre-made pickle back, try ’em in a sandwich and we promise you’ll reach for the whole jar next.

Smoke Shack Split Pea Crunch // North River Dry Goods // Brooklyn

A picky eating toddler and her parents’ search for better-tasting peas led yes, to improved baby food, but more important, to a treat for mom and dad as well. What’s in it? Potassium, iron, fiber and protein — necessary nutrients for all ages, wrapped in snack-friendly flavors like this rich and smoky barbecue. What’s not? GMOs, sugar, soy, and chubby babies on the label. Eat your veggies like a grown-up.

Char Grilled Seafood with Salsa Verde

Fresca Salsa // La Fundidora // Brooklyn, NY

Salsa is a grill-side staple these days, but those neon red jars of store-bought extra-chunky are as authentic as your shrink-wrapped buns are bakery-fresh. Grow up, hombre. Simple and fresh and bursting with flavors bright as beachside sun, La Fundadora makes the real deal: spicy serranos and tangy tomatillos, hot as sand, cooling as the waves. Give your fresh-grilled fish the dressing it deserves.

Hickory Syrup Glazed Apple & Bacon Oatmeal

Organic Apple Raisin Oatmeal // Farm To Table Foods // Brooklyn, NY

Some cereals tempt by excess: in a bowl of yogurt and honey, seeds and nuts, powders and fruits, chia-this and coconut-that, the granola is garnish at best. Here, grain reclaims the throne. But your bowl is far from boring: all-organic oats, rye, wheat, spelt, barley, and flax rattle and hum in farm-grown glory. A dash of apples and raisins gives just enough natural sweetness a topping of bacon turns granola into gold.

Salty Mango Lassi Taffy // Salty Road // Brooklyn, NY

Our first taste of street food is, in some ways, its psychedelic, carnivalesque epitome: summertime delights on boardwalks and county fairs, technicolor sno-cones, ephemeral candy floss, and the king of it all, saltwater taffy. But today’s reality is a far cry from that sunny childhood dream — most modern taffy doesn’t even use sea salt! Not so, Salty Road. These hand-stretched morsels, made first for a friend’s beachside stand on the Rockaways and now available to you, use all natural ingredients, from real vanilla beans down to the large-grain sea salt. Bonus: this particular batch was inspired by another street eat, the Punjabi summertime (hell, anytime) yogurt mango shake.

Hazelnut Whiskey Cookies // Whimsy & Spice // Brooklyn, NY

A husband and wife team — he a pastry chef, she a designer — so you know their treats will look as good as they taste. And vice versa. This little bit of edible art sandwiches Scotch whisky-infused Madagascar chocolate between two crunchy, hazelnut- and chocolate-chip-studded cookies. It’s not bourbon, and it’s not (necessarily) breakfast, but we couldn’t resist. On their own or dunked in a cup of coffee (Irish or otherwise), if the rest of this breakfast box won’t get you out of bed in the morning, a cookie sure as hell will.

Rooibos Tea // Teapigs // Brooklyn, NY

We’ve sung the glories of green we’ve praised the pleasures of pu-erh but what do you know about rooibos? Naturally caffeine-free with all the nutty, vanilla-and-honey richness of the sweetest full-leaf blacks, often mixed into herbal chais but a rarer sight solo. Stateside, at least — in South Africa, though, where rooibos grows wild in shrubby coastal forests called fynbos, it’s been drunk for centuries, by local tribes and colonizers alike. Sustainably sourced by this Brooklyn duo, rooibos is smooth and satisfying hot, rich and refreshing iced: a perfect start or finish to your African feast.

Spicy Maple Glazed Bratwurst

Trees Knees Spicy Syrup // Bushwick Kitchen // Brooklyn, NY

While the “hot” in your go-to hot sauce might come from an honest-to-goodness pepper, the “sauce” part is often a slurry of vinegar, salt, and water, resigning it, if not to the processed foods aisle, then at least to the savory side of things. But thanks to a base of Catskill-harvested maple syrup, Trees Knees is a spicy-sweet switch hitter. Eggs? Pizza? Of course. But why not morning oatmeal? Iced coffee? Cocktails? Or, our favorite, a perfect bath for pan-fried brats, just pour over and simmer to glaze.

Filfil Garlic Sauce // Filfil Foods // Brooklyn, NY

Based on a North-African staple called filfel chuma, what began as a secret family recipe in Filfil Foods founder’s private pantry can now drench your own home cooking in piquant, pungent goodness: a smoky, spicy, and — of course — garlicky blend of paprika, garlic, oils, and spices. If your make-out partner blanches as you ladle it on (and trust us, you’ll be using your largest scooping spoon), you can woo them back with garlic’s heart-healthy bonafides like lowering blood pressure and cholesterol — or just offer a taste.

Maple BBQ Jerky // Field Trip Jerky // Brooklyn, NY

Barbecue is site-specific. Hot coals aren’t exactly TSA-approved. But jerky is a moveable feast: have meat, will travel. Field Trip is made for carnivores on the go. Started by three ski bums looking for a healthier, heartier fuel pre-, post- (and during) long days on the slopes, where mountain lodge sustenance is scarce, and usually covered in nacho cheese. Grass-fed beef, a kiss of smoke, a sprinkle of sugar, and no MSG or preservatives make this a perfect way to sate your grill cravings anywhere you go. Good luck passing the 3-ounce rule, though.

Alderwood Smoked Chocolate Bar // Fine & Raw // Brooklyn, NY

Fine and Raw grew fast, from a bonbons-by-bike-delivery service to sustainably sourced bean-to-bar chocolate evangelists, and their little treats tell stories just as big. As if quality chocolate wasn’t enough — and this blend of raw chocolate for smoothness and roasted for bite surely is — they’re sprinkled with salt and kissed with the sultry smoke of alderwood. Chocolate salves all sores. Smoked and salted chocolate doubles down on the comfort.

Cereal + Milk // Fatty Sundays // Brooklyn, NY

These Brooklyn sisters named their company in honor of the weekly day of family feasting, based around mom’s deliciously decadent baking. Days that often started early, ended late, and bristled throughout with mom’s special chocolate-dipped pretzels, an anytime indulgence, morning or night. The family recipe book now bursts with more than two dozen flavors, including our favorite, this breakfast-themed masterpiece of white chocolate and cinnamon corn flakes, meant to taste like the delicious dregs of morning cereal. Because slurping the milk from your plain old shredded wheat might be fine on a Monday morning, but Sunday is about fun.

100% Organic White Truffle Oil // Regalis // Brooklyn, NY

Almost every Michelin-starred New York restaurant worth its chef’s whites has truffles somewhere, somehow, on its menu — and almost every one buys them from Regalis. Want to savor those luscious Perigords with a three-figure Pinot? Get a reservation. We like our fanciest fungi lowest-brow: that is, fried. Cut up a few pounds of russet potatoes, drizzle with this white-truffle-infused cold-pressed Californian oil, and bake at 400 for an hour, flipping halfway through. Top with parmesan, serve without pretension.

Mustard Spiced Wings with Smoked Honey Recipe Here

Mustard Spice // Tin Mustard // Brooklyn, NY

Gorging our guts on fats and salts, we often need a wake-up call, even before the food coma hits — a repentant slap, a reminder that good things come with a cost. That’s why God invented heartburn. But that’s also why man invented mustard, that spicy, vinegary spark that brightens burgers and heightens tastebuds. Instead of that neon squirt or beige smear, this time try a jolt with some maturity. Like a slap from a manicured hand, this sexy sprinkling of custom-ground mustard powder is cutting but classy, spicy but deep. So better that burger, and dress up those chicken wings: toss them in a few tablespoons of spice, brush on olive oil, splash on lemon, drizzle with honey, and bake for 45 minutes, flipping once.

You might like Mantry because we scour American cities (like Brooklyn) to discover and send the best food products.


The Best Vegan Chocolate Bars – Listed and Reviewed

If you want one good reason to find the best vegan chocolate, I can give you a never-ending list!

Apart from the delicately sweet and bitter taste, which instantly uplifts your mood, chocolates are known to have multiple health benefits. From protecting the beauty of your skin to stimulating your brain for improved alertness, chocolates additionally have phytonutrients known as flavonoids- a plant chemical that acts as an antioxidant for your overall wellness. But despite cacao being a plant product, not all commercial chocolates are vegan!

You can find the reason on the ingredients label. Several brands add milk, or fillers developed from dairies, such as milk fat for improving the texture and sweetness. But being vegan shouldn’t restrict you from eating these amazing foods to your heart’s content! Dairy-free chocolate bars with higher cacao percentages or vegan alternatives like nut milk could be an excellent fit for vegans but where to find them?

Fret not! We have compiled the 10 best organic vegan chocolate bars in the market, for you to enjoy cacao’s delicious savor without exploiting innocent animals or buying commodities that promote unsustainable farming.


The Ultimate Chocolate Blog

Since today is the first day of February, I am now free to taste any chocolate that I want, in any flavour and sweetness level. And the chocolate that I wanted most was a Raaka virgin chocolate bar.

I have been waiting to taste Raaka's 70% Chile chocolate bar for quite some time. I ordered and received a shipment from Raaka in December, but had too many chocolate bars to taste at the time to open the Chile bar. Then came January, a month devoted to going "dark and bitter", and so I had to wait yet another month to try Raaka's Chile bar. And since I had thought that their Dominican Republic 87% chocolate bar was so good, and their Bourbon Cask-Aged chocolate bar was so interesting, I was excited to try yet another of Raaka's creations. So I was happy when I woke up this morning because I knew it was finally the day to try it!

In tasting it, I'd have to say that the spice is mild. I like that you can taste the chocolate first, then the chile spice. The heat just sort of creeps in after the chocolate has melted away. The peppers creating the heat, as stated on Raaka's chocolate bar wrapper, are guajillo chile and aji amarillo chile. According to Wikipedia, a guajillo chili is "mild in flavor, with only a small amount of heat." Interestingly, Wikipedia also says it has "a green tea flavor with berry overtones". I do not taste green tea, but I agree that it has a mild heat. The aji amarillo chili is a South American hot yellow chili pepper and, according to About.com on South American Food, is the most important ingredient in Peruvian cooking. These peppers are called "yellow", but actually turn orange when they mature. So together, there is a bit of Mexican and a bit of Peruvian heat in Raaka's chocolate bar.

The spice is definitely mild, so the two peppers work well together to create a spiced chocolate that lets the cocoa flavours come first. Some chili chocolate bars are so spicy and bitter that they become an appetizer, not a dessert. However, Raaka's bar has just the right amount of mild heat and sweetness for it to still be a dessert. Overall, I love it.

As for the other spices in the ingredients list? Well, there is black pepper and I taste that slightly in the aftertaste, but I do not taste the cinnamon, although I am sure it is adding to my overall flavour experience.

This chocolate bar is smoother than I remember Raaka's other chocolate bars to be. I enjoyed it so much that I ate the whole thing in one sitting. Of course, it is only 1.25 oz so it is a great portion-controlled size for chocolate tasting!

Below are the package details from Raaka Virgin Chocolate's 70% Chile bar. It cost me $5 (US) plus shipping because I ordered online.


Watch the video: Raaka Chocolate - Bourbon Cask Aged Unroasted Dark Chocolate Bar Review (November 2021).