Saturday, September 26, 2020

Compartes: Apple Pie White Chocolate

While I gave a less than stellar review of the Superfood Dark Chocolate from Compartes back in August, I decided to look at another Compartes bar for three reasons. One, this Apple Pie White Chocolate represents the second style of chocolate bars, the ones with sugary sweet things, that Compartes makes. Two, I do enjoy trying white chocolate. And three, I thought Apple Pie sounded like a good way to transition into the seasonal, fall offerings (there are so many this year that even with my stricter standards, I already have four of them to share). (Actually there were four reasons, not three. The fourth reason was that it was on sale. Now you know.)

Again, nothing on here says anything about this being fair trade cocoa butter, so I'll probably be staying away from Compartes after this. I just really wanted a look at the other side of their chocolate styles. Visually, I prefer the plainer look of this packaging. The chocolate bar is in the same mold and the wrapper is the same, but the card box has just a simple geometric pattern to it in neutral colors. It's more to my style. Even though an Apple Pie White Chocolate sounds a bit eccentric, the simpler approach to packaging implies that the flavors will be approached tastefully.

And you know, the ingredients are pretty good for such a product. Things like sugar, apples, cinnamon, brown sugar, flour, honey, whole grain rolled oats, butter, baking soda, and salt accompany the usual white chocolate ingredients. Whole ingredients like these rather than a pile of artificial flavorings and colors are definitely preferable, even if none of it is organic. 

The front of the bar allows you to see some darker shapes beneath the white surface. It's a fun teaser. But it's the back that really shows all the chunks of pie sticking out. Exciting. Except that I would describe the aroma as sickly sweet white chocolate--with cinnamon. Maybe I've just been spoiled with the fantastically unique and rich white chocolate from Zak's; perhaps I ought to buy a Green & Black's white chocolate one of these days just to remind myself of a what a good, basic white chocolate is like. 

On my first bite, I found some dried apple. Not exactly the chunks of apple pie I was anticipating. Then I did get more of a cookie crunch, which I supposed was the pie crust element; this came with cinnamon flavor. Each bite does vary greatly on what it contains. That's always to be expected when something is sprinkled into chocolate, but the case is even more so here because there are different types of sprinkles. The description makes a distinction between crust and streusel, in addition to the apples. 

So sometimes there are crispy crunches. Sometimes there are dried apples. Sometimes it's more like cinnamon clusters, which I suppose would be the streusel. Cinnamon is the strongest added flavor: the apples give more texture than flavor, and dried fruit texture isn't exactly something I associate with apple pie. On my first approach to this chocolate, I had to keep eating away at it just to understand what was going on with the different elements and to make sure I wasn't missing anything. But I wouldn't generally want to eat much of it at a time: the white chocolate is extremely sweet and buttery. 

Often when I have a sweeter chocolate bar, like a milk chocolate or something like that, I eat it much quicker than normal. But this one is too much for me. If this were my only experience with white chocolate, I would understand why it isn't very popular. With that being said, this bar isn't overall bad (not amazing either, but not bad). It isn't terribly like eating apple pie, but the addition of cinnamon in white chocolate is pleasant. I find I enjoy it more with a cup of tea to balance it out. Or if you're crafty like that, I suppose it might make a nice dessert topping.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Telling Stories

 I sat and told myself a story,

until the stories became all I saw.

Then you came and sat beside me,

and you became my story.

Reality once trickled away into pages to hide.

Now reality dances in the air around me. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Zak's Chocolate: Double Silver Latte Bar

Take the Coffee Break Bar from Zak's Chocolate and take their Belize White Chocolate and put them together and what do you get? The Double Silver Latte Bar. Two favorites in one must surely mean a third favorite, right? 

The Coffee Break Bar, you'll recall, is a 55% dark chocolate that also contains coffee (from Bergie's) and milk. And the White Chocolate has a greater cocoa flavor than is generally found in white chocolate while still also maintaining that intense creaminess. In this Latte Bar, the two chocolate bars are literally layered on top of each other. I only rarely get to expound on how much I love layering different type of chocolates because it is done so rarely. Whether it's milk chocolate and dark chocolate or white chocolate and milky dark chocolate, the effect is strikingly pleasing.

You can see a little bit of the dark chocolate peeking around the edges of the white chocolate. I'll here make a reminder that the white chocolate does in fact have a darker color than is typical of white chocolate; the camera picked that up accurately. If you do, though, see any fingerprints or slight muddling of the smooth surface it's because I keep my apartment too warm for chocolate, so it was bound to get slightly marred. (I don't recommend putting chocolate in the refrigerator unless you have no other option. Once upon a time I used to keep an insulated bag with an ice pack for my chocolate stash, but that was too much hassle.) So that's my fault. 

Instantly on unwrapping, you get a nice coffee smell. On tasting, the coffee hit comes at the same time as that creamy, milky flavor. The white chocolate gives a super soft and creamy texture. In fact, examining the bar would suggest that the white chocolate takes up just a tad more than half the thickness, which is in keeping with the latte effect. There is then more of a cocoa butter flavor than a straight cocoa flavor. There is some chocolate richness, but primarily this is a sweet and creamy concoction. Also it's probably milder on the coffee flavor than the plain Coffee Break Bar itself is; again, though, that's consistent with the latte comparison. 

For more coffee flavor, bite in dark chocolate side down. For less coffee during the bite but more of a coffee aftertaste, try it white chocolate down. Or to mingle coffee and sugar and milk, just mix them up as they melt in your mouth. The white chocolate that Zak's makes is already quite unique. Pair that with such a delightful concept as layered white and dark with coffee and it's an undeniable winner, something to add to the foodie lists. One thing I do not recommend: sharing this chocolate bar. You will want your own, so buy a separate one per person.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Household Essentials Anyone?

I don't really have anything to post about, but I bought something new lately that is very exciting and entirely random and yet also I think entirely worth sharing. So here it is along with another handy little item. You can get both of these at Joann's Fabric in the mending and washing and ironing section. The sweater comb I've had for years; it's about four dollars. The snag nab-it tool is three dollars and it's my new and exciting purchase. 

The sweater comb is for when you have a sweater (or other wool/wool-type product) that is getting pilling. You just brush it gently with the comb and all of that loose wool will gather onto the comb; you can then remove it and your sweater is new and nice again. A must have. It's not only great for your favorite sweater at home but also for that 100% cashmere sweater in the thrift store that is just right except that it's covered in pilling so no one wants it. Granted, if a sweater is really bad, it might take a little bit of time to clean it up, but it's worth it.

The snag tool came in two different styles. The other one had a little hook on the end to grab the end with, but I thought that this slimmer tool would be better for finer materials (versus bulky, coarse sweaters). It's basically a thick needle; instead of an eye, it has a rough tip. You poke the tool through the middle of a snag and push it through and the rough end will grab the snag and pull it along. Amazing. If you have a sweater, you can usually push the snag back through with just a regular needle or something. But I've also used this one on a silk/cotton knit blouse (my bearded dragon was responsible for that snag), and it pushed the snag back in easily without damaging the more delicate fabric. It also worked great on my heavy cotton bedspread. Super fast and simple.

Again, I'm just rambling about random products because I had nothing to post about today. But they do both go with the concepts I often repeat: buy to keep and take care of what you buy and buy things that can be repaired before replaced. And these two tools will help in the care and keeping of your clothing and scarves and blankets. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The New Era of David Copperfield

I wondered whether or not I would post about The Personal History of David Copperfield. To do so would be to admit to everyone that I went to a movie theatre, so I thought that perhaps I should only post if I had worthwhile comments on the film. It turns out that I do, but you know what? I also decided/realized that I don't need to be hiding anything I'm doing. Yes, I went to a movie theatre. And I was literally the only person watching the movie. There is no need for me to try and defend myself and my choices against hypothetical criticism. 

So David Copperfield, eh? Although there have been many film adaptations of the story, I have not seen any of them. I rather think that, though once one of the most popular Charles Dickens books, this book has fallen out of the modern consciousness a bit. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like people basically know Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol and then maybe Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities. So there is already a degree of freshness to the story for those of us unfamiliar with it.

But there is much more freshness to this adaptation, isn't there? Sure, there is the way in which it subtly uses CG to help tell the story, like when Mr. Murdstone's hand reaches into David's happy memories. Nicely done effects. The big topic, though, of course, is the color blind casting. That is, it isn't really color blind per se. It's more that it isn't constrained by color. 

The great thing about this of course is that it allows more actors to have access to more types of roles. You only see non-white actors in certain historical settings if they're lower class characters (usually slaves or "wild natives" or one-dimensional guides or some combination of the three). So it's always nice in semi-fantasy settings like Beauty and the Beast or Cinderella to have a black family also trying on the slipper or what have you. David Copperfield asks, why limit things like that to fantasy? If film adaptations of historical novels already take liberties with historical facts, why not do the same with color? Is it really such a big deal or disturbance to the telling of the story?

Sure, if you were making Uncle Tom's Cabin, it would get a little confusing and wouldn't suit the purposes of the story if you casted color blind. But most of the books aren't like that. I don't think the 2011 Wuthering Heights got enough recognition for casting a black Heathcliff (though it was based on the book's description of Heathcliff, one might still consider it a liberal interpretation of phrasing). Still, that was an instance where casting went with story. This brings up an interesting point. If anyone were against color blind casting Victorian movies, why not at least cast the "lower class" characters more diversely? The popular Oliver Twist, for instance. What's to prevent casting a non-white actor to play the Artful Dodger or Nancy? (And just because there were less non-white upper class people at the time doesn't mean there were none, so maybe the occasional character in the background at the bookshop or something, too?)

This of course isn't what David Copperfield did. David Copperfield said hey, these are the people here and now when we are all getting together and putting on clothing and getting out our little cameras to play out this story and so these are the characters they're going to play. There are no rules to it. While you could believe that David has a white mother because we never see his father, his white friend has a black mother and his future wife Rosalind Wickfield doesn't look much like her father, either. So the casting, like I mentioned, is not really color blind. It is aware that our eyes are not blind to color; it just says that sticking to "realistic" casting doesn't matter in this context. That's why the casting is done in pairs like this; we are meant to notice it and see that it is fine and doesn't disrupt the story at all. We already know that they're actors playing roles and not actually related to one another. 

And in a way, it adds to the story. This story is all about class and how people rise and fall within their worldly circumstances and sometimes try to be something a little different from what they are (whether that means striving for self-improvement, lying like Mr. Micawber does, or conniving like Uriah Heep does). The story exposes many of the pretenses of society. David is the son of a lady one minute, a low class factory worker the next, then a gentleman, then low class again, and back up. It's all a bit of pretense: he is still David no matter where he is or what other people think of him at the moment. It's not entirely unlike how all of the actors who play characters are still people, no matter how they might be considered differently as far as casting goes at different points in time (the times when they would cast white actors even in ethnic roles because there are only white actors, the times when non-white actors got a great role because they had the physical look for it, the times when they found they could get lots of great roles but really wished they could play Jane Eyre or Oliver Twist or Elizabeth Bennett or Ebenezer Scrooge). 

Okay, yes, the casting affected the film enough that it's all I've talked about for my whole post. But I wouldn't have bothered talking about it if I hadn't enjoyed the movie and thought that it was well-done as far as pacing and theme and costumes and acting and everything. And because such a nice, well-rounded, likable movie had this type of casting, it does indeed suggest the beginning of a new era. I love Victorian novels, but they're, well, old. Filmmakers are always looking for ways to freshen up the favorites especially when they've been adapted a dozen times already. So why not do so with the casting? 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Super Chunks & Zak's Chocolate: Guatemala Chocolate Ice Cream

You know, sometimes I just love living in Scottsdale. Among its charms are the many small businesses. I've been going heavy on Zak's Chocolate products this year, and the one I have today is another collaboration. This is Guatemala Chocolate Ice Cream made by Super Chunks Sweets & Treats with chocolate from Zak's. Super Chunks is in Old Town (conveniently placed for locals and tourists alike). While I have not visited their shop yet, I have read about them (their desserts are quite photogenic). They're a husband and wife team just like Zak's is, which is cool. 

I purchased this ice cream from Zak's (it recently came back in stock after a short time away); I'm not sure if it's something that Super Chunks keeps on hand, too, or not. Point being that you may or may not have to plan ahead a big to get it. It came in a simple white container. And yes, this is a small, pint size. That works for me as this is normally the size I get on those occasions when I am buying ice cream. 

The color is lighter than I had expected; it's a soft, milky brown. I served some up in a little condiment bowl in my attempt to get a photo. Ice cream is one of the products I've had the most trouble photographing over the years--although I think the chocolate pasta was worse. Staging is the difficult part, you know? (And you can see here that I don't have a nice, rounded ice cream scoop. That would have given it a more even look in the bowl.)

The chocolate here is the Guatemala Lachua 70% (click here for that review). I was struck instantly by how genuine the chocolate flavor is in the ice cream. It isn't that it's super dark or deep, as you can tell from the light color. You can taste the creamy milkiness, though the chocolate flavor is still in the center. It is excellent chocolate flavor despite not being a "super dark" chocolate ice cream. Because after all, "super dark" isn't the definition of good, anyway. I'm a big proponent of classics, or of letting each product be the best version of itself. So I usually choose vanilla ice cream over chocolate because when I want good chocolate flavor, I reach for a chocolate bar rather than ice cream. So I like that this ice cream still retains that creamy feel that is specific to ice cream. 

And yet even in doing so, it delivers that wonderful chocolate flavor. You could almost, then, call this more of a milk chocolate (after all, it is chocolate plus cream). I don't taste all the flavor notes I listed in the chocolate bar, but there is still more nuanced flavor here than is typical for ice cream. And I'll also add this note. One of the best-tasting chocolate ice creams I can remember having had (I don't recall who made it) unfortunately had a slightly grainy texture, perhaps from cocoa powder. So I will add that the texture here is perfectly normal.

This is an excellent collaboration (as well as a reminder that I do need to give Super Chunks Sweets & Treats a visit sometime). How you approach it is of course entirely up to you. Maybe you'll serve it up in condiment bowls like I did or maybe you'll just cuddle up to the pint with a spoon. Or maybe it'll be an accent to a special occasion dessert--some birthday or anniversary cake, perhaps? 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Zak's Chocolate: Truffle Selection

 In celebration of a chocolate blogger's birthday, today I have an extra review. I treated myself to some truffles from Zak's Chocolate. One of the advantages of having to do curbside pickup right now is that they can add extra prep to your selection. Their website lists the flavors available for each day, so you just write in the notes of your order which ones you would like. 

Normally when you're choosing from the glass case in store, that's that. But when I went to pick up my box, it came with this handy label on the inside. The pretty pink background with vines would seem to be selected especially for my box of floral truffles, no? And because I was celebrating and therefore especially admiring of beauty, I didn't cut open these truffles to take pictures of their insides. Let them be this time. Their look is classic, with minimal embellishments.

Rose Caramel - This is the soft square with some pink sugar crystals on the corner. It smells fragrant like rose even before tasting. The caramel here is a chewy caramel, which I was enjoying when I was (gently, in a ladylike manner) hit with the rose flavor. Since the thicker caramel lingers in your mouth more than a liquid caramel would, it gives you a chance to linger on the rose flavor.  It reminds me more specifically of rose petals than of rose candy. Glancing back at the flavor descriptions, I saw that the caramel is infused with rose petals, so of course that would be why; ingredients and process do make quite a difference to the final product. This is fantastic, a treat for the rose-lover. While the caramel is chewy caramel, it isn't stiff, so it is still soft and flavorful and elegant. The rose flavor lingers in the mouth, too, which is nice. Because of the stronger rose flavor, I enjoyed this caramel more than the rose truffle that came in the Valentine's Day box I chose a couple years ago.

Peach Blossom - This would be the rounded dome with the pale color swirls. Here the aroma is chocolate, and inside is a deep ganache inside. First I simply tasted the ganache and then the peach. It is sweet but also slightly tart but all with the rich chocolate to act as a grounded base. The taste is fresh peach that also lingers a bit, though not so much as the rose. The effect is somehow quite decadent, though that isn't what I would have predicted from a peach truffle. I wasn't expecting to dislike it, but I'm liking it more than I'd expected.

Raspberry Rose - On that Valentine's Day selection, I had skipped the Raspberry Rose because I usually skip raspberries. But I'm giving berries a chance these days and expanding my flavor ranges. This truffle is the elegant square with the pink print. I can smell the raspberry. The bite in is soft as the chocolate isn't too thick. So you go right to ganache, which tastes of chocolate and raspberries. Like fresh, ripe raspberries in their prime and best flavor, not sour or bitter. The berry flavor goes excellent with the rich chocolate. Perhaps when I specifically seek the rose flavor, I can find it, but it's more of an accent. The raspberry is the main event, blended with the chocolate. Compared with the two previous truffles, the chocolate is most prominent in this one so far. So this truffle is also quite nice and indulgent and I'm glad I didn't keep shunning it. It was well worth the venture.

Hazelnut Crunch - I went a little off for the floral bundle by throwing a nut in there, but it was what I wanted, so there. And why not add a twist to the flowers by including a nut? Hazelnuts are a little bit of a favorite of mine. The geometric dome has a funky one next to the other more feminine truffles. Its texture is lightly crispy/crunchy accompanied by the flavor of chocolate and fresh hazelnuts. I was starting to get a certain texture in my teeth that seemed different when I once again glanced back at the flavor descriptions and saw that these are lightly caramelized hazelnuts. Interesting, I don't know if I've ever had that before. The texture is halfway between a ganache and a praline. It's a welcome effect, adding a slightly different angle to a familiar type of chocolate.

In fact, this selection is probably one of my favorites. Usually when you choose a few truffles, you'll have your stand outs and the ones you didn't love as much. But I greatly enjoyed all four of these.