“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.”
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.
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).
Best part, no Red40. Thank you TJ’s.
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.
Part 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.
I 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.
The 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
Afterthought: Hey, Nico, that is three posts since DragonCon, I want my Truffle Pig. 😉
I 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.
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.Each of these packages contained a wafer cone filled with chocolate, one dark, one milk.
The 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.
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.
This 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.
Taste 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.
When Level 257 opened, there was only the Power Pellets available for chocolate lovers, but in less than a month, the chefs have already started experimenting with other chocolate desserts. The newest one, and a breakout success, has been the Nutella Mousse cups.
These edible chocolate cups are filled with a Nutella mousse, topped with raspberries, a little more mousse, and a little chocolate slice and cashews as a garnish. If you want to split this, you have to put a little force into breaking the cup, but it is a delicious dessert item and already very popular.
Some of you may have already heard, but there is a new, Pac-man inspired restaurant in Schaumburg, Illinois. The food there is amazing in general, but of course I had to sample the few chocolate items featured on their dessert menu. First up, Power Pellets.
Power Pellets are balls of bittersweet chocolate ganache breaded in a funnel cake batter and fried three times, then covered in powdered sugar and pop rocks. The sauces on the plate are a chocolate sauce and coffee flavored creme anglaise. These little pellets are delicious, but dangerous. The process of heating up the encased chocolate melts the chocolate, and pressurizes it a little bit so that any puncture to the outer layers, causes a little bit of a chocolate explosion.
I cut into one of them (with an extremely sharp knife) for the purpose of showing the inside, but when you eat these, put them in your mouth whole, close your mouth entirely, and then, and ONLY THEN, bite into it. If you try to puncture them or take a bite out of one, chocolate will spray everywhere. Trust me, I have seen it.
These have already become a favorite on the Level 257 menu.