1-800-Flowers Review

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My boyfriend knows too well how much of a chocolate lover I am, so for Valentines Day this year, he sent me a basket.  The intent was for a basket of Godiva chocolate, delivered in a basket with gold diamonds (to appeal to my Harley side), ordered through 1-800-Flowers/1-800-Baskets.  He knew I loved Godiva, and the whole point was to give me a basket of ALL CHOCOLATE.

Well, it appears 1-800-Flowers oversold on that particular product, and without notifying him and giving him any options as to a resolution, they instead sent me a completely different basket.  This basket had two things from Fannie May (Pralines and a Chocolate Bar), then the rest were various items from companies I know nothing about.  Harry & David popcorn, chocolate chip cookies, raspberry cookies, a heart shaped sugar cookie, and a few other things.  I have tried the popcorn…disappointing, I ended up throwing half of it out. The cookies were okay, but nothing special, I could get the same from a bag of Famous Amos.

Not only did the substitute a sub-par basket (I assume the prices were comparable, though I do not know how much he spent), they included a card in the box, stating that the order was for a Godiva basket.  So even had my boyfriend not said anything when I showed him a picture of what arrived, this card basically gave away the fact that I did not receive what was ordered.

My boyfriend has opened up a complaint about this, asking for his money back.  There was a card proclaiming 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed, but we have yet to see what their resolution for this problem is.  I would only be satisfied with either a 100% refund, or if they get the item back in stock soon, a re-delivery at a date of his choosing, but I believe it was a Valentines special, so I doubt that will happen.  Evidently, this is so common an occurrence that they have a drop down option on their online complaint form for “item not as pictured.”

I know my boyfriend is very upset about this, and very disappointed; and I feel terrible and angry on his behalf.  He tried to buy me something he knew I would love and that was messed up by the company.  I cannot speak to their flowers or other services, but from a chocolate lovers standpoint, I recommend avoiding this company, no matter how popular they are.  Much better to order directly from someplace like Godiva, or try another company.

National Doughnut Day

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Happy National Doughnut Day, US!!!

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I am one of the few who prefer chocolate glazed.

Mental Floss – 13 Things You Might Not Know About Hot Chocolate

That sweet, chocolaty treat you enjoy on cold days has a lot of history behind it. It’s been on the frontline of wars, stirred up controversy with the Catholic Church, and seen empires rise and fall. Here are a few tasty morsels about hot chocolate.

1. IT DATES BACK THOUSANDS OF YEARS.

Long before people nibbled on bars and brownies, chocolate was consumed in liquid form. Historians credit the Olmec civilization of southern Mexico as being the first to roast the fruit from the cacao tree, then grind it down and mix it with water and other ingredients. Archaeologists have discovered Olmec pottery with trace amounts of chocolate dating back to around 1700 BCE.

2. IT WASN’T ALWAYS HOT—OR SWEET.

The Mayans and Aztecs, who picked up the habit from the Olmecs, drank a bitter brew they called “xocoatl,” typically made with chilies, water and toasted corn, and served lukewarm and frothy. The Spanish, who were introduced to cacao drinks after conquistadors brought them home, sweetened things up by adding cinnamon, sugar and other spices to the mix. This, however, was still nothing like the sweet concoction that characterizes hot chocolate today.

3. IT WAS BELIEVED TO HAVE MEDICINAL PROPERTIES.

The pure cacao drink that early Mesoamericans crafted was high in calories and antioxidants, and delivered a jolt of caffeine. So naturally, they believed it had restorative properties. Aztec warriors would often drink cacao before going into battle, while Montezuma II was rumored to guzzle as many as 50 cups each day. The drink also gained a reputation as an aphrodisiac. After the recipe came to Spain in the 16th century, monks locked it away for a time to prevent widespread philandering.

4. IT WAS THE SOURCE OF RELIGIOUS CONTROVERSY.

As chocolate drinks became widely consumed during the 16th and 17th centuries, mainly amongst the moneyed class, a debate emerged: Was it a drink or was it food? The distinction would dictate whether Europe’s Roman Catholics could imbibe during religious fasting, which occurred numerous times throughout the year. The argument went all the way to Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1588), who decreed that drinkable chocolate was fine to consume while fasting. Future popes would agree. Yet the debate raged on, with many clerics banning chocolate drinks during fasting time.

5. IT WAS SERVED IN FANCY PITCHERS.

In 17th-century England, so-called “chocolate houses” became all the rage. Establishments like White’s, which is still in business today, served up hot chocolate to go along with the political banter, gambling and general debauchery. And they served the drink in pitchers made out of gold, silver and porcelain. Limoges porcelain, which was elegantly designed and often featured floral patterns, was a popular choice. Needless to say, these were very elite gatherings.

6. REVOLUTIONARY WAR SOLDIERS HAD IT IN THEIR RATIONS.

The belief in chocolate’s restorative qualities extended well past the reign of the Mayans and the Aztecs. During the Revolutionary War, medics would often dole out cups of hot chocolate to wounded and dying soldiers. Hot chocolate mixes were also given out monthly to soldiers, and sometimes offered in lieu of wages.

7. THOMAS JEFFERSON WAS A BIG FAN.

The diplomat and third U.S. president purchased his first batch of chocolate in 1775, and was immediately hooked. In 1785, Jefferson wrote to John Adams about the future he saw for hot chocolate in America. “The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the preference over tea and coffee.” Today, visitors to Monticello can sample hot chocolate made the way Jefferson liked: using stone-roasted cacao, sugar and spices.

8. THERE’S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HOT CHOCOLATE AND HOT COCOA.

In America, “hot chocolate” refers to any hot drink made with chocolate ingredients. What most people are actually drinking, in fact, is hot cocoa. What’s the difference? Cocoa powder is ground up cacao that’s had the fat stripped away, either through a natural process or a “Dutched” process that subjects the powder to potassium carbonate. Dutch chemist Coenraad J. Van Houten invented cocoa powder in 1827, and helped make hot chocolate widely available. Hot chocolate (also called “drinking chocolate”), meanwhile, is made with shaved or ground cacao that still has its full-fat, slightly acidic profile intact.

9. IT FUELED POLAR EXPLORERS.

British explorer Robert Falcon Scott and his men subsisted off hot cocoa and stew during their yearlong trek to the South Pole. The expedition made it to the pole in January 1912, only to find that a Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen, had gotten there a month prior. Tragically, Scott’s team ran out of provisions on the return journey and perished, while Amundsen, who had packed five times as much cocoa, returned a hero. Decades later, in 1989, the six members of a sled-dog expedition across Antarctica consumed nearly 2100 packets of Swiss Miss hot cocoa.

10. THE YMCA SERVED UP HOT COCOA TO WWI SOLDIERS.

To aid morale and keep soldiers energized during the war, the YMCA sent more than 25,000 volunteers to set up comfort stations all along the battlefront. The stations were always stocked with magazines, cigarettes and snacks, along with piping-hot pots of cocoa. They were called the “Red Triangle Men” in reference to the YMCA’s logo, and they could be found from Egypt to Russia, and often quite close to the fighting.

11. IT HAS SOME SURPRISING HEALTH BENEFITS.

Ad from 1929. Jamie via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

First, it must be said: Most packet mixes, which contain processed chocolate and a lot of filler ingredients, don’t offer much in the way of nutrition. But the closer you can get to real, unadulterated chocolate, the better. Studies have linked antioxidants, which chocolate contains in abundance, to everything from cancer prevention to lower blood pressure. Chocolate also contains theobromine, which is a known mood elevator. Adding milk can also boost the drink’s health benefits by adding calcium and vitamins added to the mix. The claim that chocolate is an aphrodisiac, meanwhile, is false.

12. RESTAURANTS HAVE GONE GOURMET (AND BOOZY) WITH IT.

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As sales of high-end chocolate have increased over the past few years, restaurants have gone back to hot chocolate’s roots with premium drinks infused with spices. New York City’s RedFarm serves hot cocoa made with honey blossom, Asian ginger, and a dose of ginger liqueur, while Ellie’s Bakery in Providence, Rhode Island serves a spicy hot chocolate made with chili-infused chocolate and steamed milk. DW Bistro in Las Vegas, meanwhile, offers a Carribean Créme de Hot Chocolate that features spiced rum, coffee liqueur, dark chocolate and crème de menthe topped with frothed milk.

13. THE LARGEST CUP EVER MADE WAS 880 GALLONS.

And fittingly, children made it happen. In 2013 at Tampa Bay’s Museum of Science and Industry, 300 local students worked with teachers to produce the pool-sized brew, which included 1100 pounds of cocoa and 87 gallons of powdered milk. At the unveiling ceremony, kids shot marshmallows into the hot chocolate using homemade catapults.

(Original Post: http://www.mentalfloss.com/article/72909/13-things-you-might-not-know-about-hot-chocolate)

Mental Floss – Why Does Advent Calendar Chocolate Taste Different?

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“If there’s one thing that can make a dark, cold, miserable December morning more bearable, it’s chocolate. Specifically, a tiny square of chocolate that you’ve had to spend five minutes prying out of the grip of the plastic mold inside your Advent calendar. Somehow, there’s something different about advent calendar chocolate. Technically, you could just break off a chunk of Dairy Milk every day, but the ritual of finding the right door, carefully opening it, and savoring your prize makes Advent calendar chocolate special.

Is it actually different from normal chocolate, though? Turns out, that depends on the calendar.

If you buy a branded calendar from a chocolate manufacturer, like Cadbury or Lindt, then you can expect the chocolate to taste pretty similar to their regular fare. The size and shape of the treat might be different, but the way you eat it certainly will be.

Advent calendar chocolate is usually pretty thin, and generally comes as a square with rounded corners and an embossed shape on its surface. That means it will melt quickly when you put it on your tongue, and the relatively large surface area means your tastebuds are getting a pretty intense chocolate hit. And while you might typically take another bite or reach for another sweet quite quickly, with Advent calendar chocolate you know you only get one piece per day, so most people will take their time to savor it a little longer.

It tastes different because you’re paying more attention to it, basically.

If you’ve got a more generic calendar, though, you might be getting a kind of chocolate you don’t often eat.

Cheap chocolate often isn’t ‘real’ chocolate at all: it’s something called compound chocolate, which means that instead of being made with cocoa butter, it’s made with cheaper fats. In all likelihood, it’s made with palm kernel oil, or possibly coconut oil. That gives it a different flavor than true chocolate, and can also give it a slightly different texture, making it seem slightly waxy or a bit oily. Compound chocolate is actually easier to work with and to mold into shapes, and that, along with the lower price point, means it is ideal for Advent calendars.

So yes, you might find that the chocolate in your Advent calendar tastes nothing like the chocolate you plan on serving at your holiday party. Whether you prefer it or not comes down to your own personal taste—plus a healthy dose of nostalgia. If you have fond memories of tucking into Advent calendar chocolate in the lead-up to idyllic childhood Christmases, it probably tastes like pure joy.”

Source:  (http://www.mentalfloss.com/article/72357/why-does-advent-calendar-chocolate-taste-different)

Trader Joe’s Candy Coated Chocolate

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I swear, every time I go to Trader Joe’s right now I find more and more items that they have added for the holidays.  The latest are these M&M/Smartie look-a-likes that I could not pass up.  I think the bottle was $6, but it is a pretty cool bottle, and comes with a decent amount of pieces.

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The candies come in red, green, and white for the holidays, and have all of these images on them (these are all of the color/image variations).

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Best part, no Red40.  Thank you TJ’s.

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The taste is somewhere between M&M’s and Smarties (being better than M&M’s made in the US but not as good as Smarties), but these are a nice alternative for when I cannot acquire any Smarties.  Only problem, I have never seen these outside of the holiday season, and who knows if they will be back in future years.

Canadian Chocolate – Rogers Chocolates: 54% Peppermint in Dark Chocolate

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20150909_145630Part of my Canadian Chocolate haul from DragonCon last month (holy damn, it has been a month already‽‽‽)  My friends know how much I love mint chocolate, and this bar is super minty.  There was something else that my British friend had brought to the con that was full on mint, and he made a comment about American’s not being big on strong mint flavors, and for a moment, I thought he may be correct, but I think it is more that we are just not used to it.  The first few bits of this bar, I did not really like it, the mint was too strong, but it has grown on me.

20150909_145717I noticed a strong smell of peppermint the moment I opened up the black wrapper.  I have to say, the black wrapper did appeal to my goth side.  😉 The first taste threatens to be overwhelming, but it is not bad at all.

20150909_145803The thing that is hardest to adjust to with stronger mint flavors, I think, is the slightly bitter aftertaste that it leaves.  Mint chocolate in the US is usually overpowered by sugar, so you do not really experience that taste.

Packaging:  4/5 – Standard, but appealing
Chocolate Presentation:  4/5 – I like the symbols on the chocolate, and I like the bite sized pieces.
Taste:  3/5 – Still strong, but still growing on me.
Extra Points:  0

Total:  11/15

Afterthought:  Hey, Nico, that is three posts since DragonCon, I want my Truffle Pig. 😉

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Trader Joe’s – Joe-Joe’s

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20150821_064843I swear, the more I shop at Trader Joe’s, the more I am obsessed.  I will not deny that I have spent hours at a time before, watching people’s Trader Joe haul videos, looking for ideas on what to try next.  Whereas I used to do most of my grocery shopping at Whole Foods, I now am almost exclusively at Trader Joe’s, and only go to Whole Foods for certain items I cannot find at Trader Joe’s.

One of my favorite sections of the store, of course, is the candy and cookie aisle, that is over the frozen section (at least it is at the ones around here).  I have tried several of the items already, but there are still so many to try.

I first heard about Joe-Joe’s in a haul video.  Basically, they are Trader Joe’s version of Oreo’s, and they come in various flavors.  There are the traditional white cream in the chocolate cookie (that I have yet to try, but really need to), but I jumped straight into the double chocolate versions and they are too good for me to buy them regularly.  I will eat a whole box of these in mere days and feel horribly guilty afterwards (though not as guilty as if they had been Oreo’s).  The supposedly come in a peppermint version too over the holidays, so I will have to pick those up to try as well.

Packaging:  3/5 – Nothing unusual, just a standard box with rows of cookies inside.
Chocolate Presentation:  3/5 – They are docked for lack of creativity, I mean, I love them, but it HAS been done before.
Taste:  5/5 – DELICIOUS
Extra Points:  1 – For being a slightly healthier alternative to a staple favorite.

Total:  12/15

Caffarel Cones

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While I was in the hospital after having my surgery, two of my very good friends brought me a huge bag of Lindor Truffles.  It took me about a month to eat them all, and I actually would not be surprised to find one or two still hiding in my desk drawer at work.  Along with the truffles, they bought me these two little conical Caffarellino items that I had never seen before, but I recognized Caffarel as an Italian chocolate brand.8054_largeEach of these packages contained a wafer cone filled with chocolate, one dark, one milk.

20150813_135701-1The chocolate does tend to come off a bit from the top, despite the tailored packaging.

20150820_165529 20150813_135800-1Here are each of the wrappers.

20150820_165534The chocolate in each of these is very rich and strong.  Even with as much as a chocoholic as I am, I found it a bit much until the cone was paired with the chocolate, which gave it a nicer balance.  I think if these were cylindrical, with equal amount of cone at all times, it would be perfection, but these were still rather good.

Packaging:  2/5 – It emphasized the shape, but gave little information.
Chocolate Presentation:  5/5 – I found the shape cute, like little ice cream cones.
Taste:  3/5 – A little on the bitter side.
Extra Points:  1 – Cause I am a sucker for Italian things.

Total:  11/15

Trader Joe’s 72% Dark Chocolate

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For the past year, I was forced to resort to a fallback job, serving.  Being a server is very difficult work.  You’re schedule is all over the place and you generally do not receive it until a few days before the work week begins so forget making advance plans, you are on your feet all day, running around at your guests whim, handling their half-eaten food, and at the end of the day, they determine your income, not your boss, your guests (If you are misinformed in anyway, servers make nearly half of the legal minimum wage in the U.S., in Illinois, the minimum wage is currently $8.25, as a server I make $4.95.  We also do not keep 100% of your tip, a percentage (generally around 5% OF YOUR BILL) is given to the support staff.  We cannot falsify this, the computer keeps track.).

Anyhow, I do not mean to be on a soapbox here, serving can have benefits as well.  If there are things you need to do during regular business hours, you are not always tied to a desk job, you CAN make some good money, and you meet a lot of interesting people.  With my tables, the fact that I am a chocoholic comes up, and I will add weight to the title by telling people that I have this blog.  Occasionally because of this, people will also make recommendations for me.  One of my recent recommendations was Trader Joe’s 72% Dark Chocolate.

traderjoes01This came from a table that also knew about my desire to be healthy, which obviously, Trader Joe’s excels at.  I had told them my current favorite chocolate bar, Chocolove, and they suggested this.  I was a little hesitant to begin with because it is 5% less cacao than Chocolove, but I decided to give it a try, because it is still above my cacao minimum.

traderjoes02Trader Joe’s 72% comes in either a very large block that you can find on the candy shelves over the frozen aisles, or in smaller bars (pictured) found with the candy around the cash wraps.

traderjoes03Taste wise, this is actually a little more bitter tasting than the Chocolove 77%, which is disappointing considering the lower content.  I could eat this as a mid-day fix just the same, but it is not quite as enticing.  Still, if unable to purchase Chocolove, this would be an acceptable substitute.

“What is your favorite kind of chocolate?”

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Right now, I am sitting in the hospital, recovering from my recent surgery.  Or, at least, I think I am.  As I am typing this, it is the Friday before my surgery and I have one last shift at the restaurant before I start prepping to go into the hospital.  I have some wonderful friends all around the world who are either bringing me, or sending me chocolate for my post-op recovery, because I am a chocoholic, and nothing makes me feel better than chocolate…except when it makes me feel sick (because I am technically allergic to it).

One thing I keep being asked though, throughout my life, but especially now as several people are thinking to bring me chocolate, is “What is [my] favorite chocolate?”

To a non-chocoholic, this is an easy question.  They may state a candy bar, like Hershey’s or Kit-Kat.  A person my specify a brand, like Godiva or Dove.  Yet another person may have a specific flavor mixture, such as mint chocolate or chocolate filled with caramel.  The list goes on.

To a chocoholic like me though, this question is very difficult to answer.  I may love the extra dark chocolate Lindor Truffles, but I cannot stand another brands.  Likewise, I could absolutely hate Lindor’s salted caramel truffles.  There also comes the difficulty of not really liking any common chocolate bar that you would pick up at your local impulse aisle.  These items are typically less exciting after eating the higher quality chocolates, but you do not want to tell your friends that you only want the expensive brands.  It is dangerous to say you like dark chocolate, because dark chocolate is dependent on percentage and brand.

I am never sure what to say when people ask me what my favorite chocolate is, but for the sake of the future times I am asked, I will try to compile a list.

My favorite chocolate:
*Lindor Truffles – Mint, Extra Dark Chocolate
*Godiva – Chocolate Lava Truffle, Cookie Dough Truffle, Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Cookie Dough….there are a lot… (I also love trying their flights)
*Truffle Pig – Mint
*Nutella – made in Italy or Germany, not made in Canada
*Smarties
*Sweet Steam – Mint Chocolate
*Chocolove 77%
*World’s Finest Chocolates Meltaways
*Frango Mints

This is all I could think of for now, but I am sure there are many more.  I will endeavor to update this post as I think of or discover more.