Here I present to you two vastly different chocolate bars, both of which I entered into with firmly-set expectations and both of which confounded these expectations just as firmly.
In the blue corner, we have…
Chuao Chocolatier Firecracker
Chuao Chocolatier makes one of my favourite flavoured dark chocolate bars, the Chinita Nibs with caramelised cacao nibs and nutmeg. I have also thoroughly enjoyed the Spicy Maya bar with pasilla chilli, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon. Consequently, when I saw this Firecracker bar in a Food Emporium store in New York, I did a little happy dance. I love chilli in chocolate, I love salt in chocolate, and popping candy? What fun!
My first impression of the chocolate was, indeed, of fun. It’s a 60% blend, so is quite sweet but with a nice chocolate flavour. The chipotle and pasilla chillis used in the bar assert themselves immediately through both a spicy, smoky fruitiness and a strong chilli heat at the back of the throat. The salt is integrated throughout the bar and ebbs and flows in strength, both highlighting the chocolate and contributing to its vaguely savoury edge. As for the poppng candy? Well, here’s a direct quote from my tasting notes: “AHHHHHHHHHH crazy AHHHHHHHHHH”. Ahem.
The popping candy is everywhere, both in the bar and in the mouth. Does anyone remember eating popping candy as a kid? It just doesn’t stop with the popping and the fizzling. At times I tried chewing the bar to avoid the crackling sensation, but then it just seemed like it was crackling in my throat. In the end, this was what put the nail in the proverbial chocolate coffin for me. The chilli I liked, the salt almost worked, but the popping sensation was just too intense and ended up making me feel a bit nauseous.
And in the red corner…
Valor 70% with Banana
Let’s be straight here. I don’t love bananas. Their texture is irksome, so I tend only to eat them cooked in oatmeal with a heaping spoon of peanut butter. I also go back and forth on the flavour itself, while absolutely detesting such artificial banana flavouring as is found in those styrofoam-ish banana-shaped lollies of yore.
So why did I buy a chocolate bar flavoured with banana? Because I’m me. And I live in hope (when it comes to chocolate).
Reader, I liked it. The banana – “all natural” banana pulp – comprised a mere 0.7% of the bar and as a result lent a subtle fruitiness that supported, without overpowering, the woodsy sweetness of the 70% chocolate blend.
I really liked the chocolate itself, for it tended towards an earthy rather than tangy flavour profile, and had a crisp snap, long melt, and notes of cream and cashew. There was a slight graininess to the chocolate that I assume came from the inclusion of banana pulp, but I didn’t mind this, as it just reinforced the fact that the banana flavour came from real banana rather than sickly artificial flavouring.
If this day of chocolate-eating has taught me anything, it’s that I must not judge a chocolate book by its chocolate cover.