Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Eldora Chocolate: Goat Milk 70% Dark

Earlier this month, I described my visit to Eldora Chocolate in Albuquerque. I was impressed with the impression I got of the small batch, bean to bar, organic, and fair trade company. So I walked away with a truffle, four chocolate bars, two soaps, a lip balm, and a body butter. And did I forget to mention anything else? It's difficult when you're right there to not walk away with the whole store, but at least I got a few things. The one I was most eager to try was the 70% Dark Chocolate Goat Milk bar, so we'll begin there.

I recently wondered if anyone was making a milk chocolate with goat milk instead of cow's milk. I've had goat milk fudge, and there are plenty of dairy free milk chocolates. But I don't always like the dairy substitute they use--and for me at least goat milk is supposed to be better than cow's milk. So while this bar is a dark chocolate not a milk chocolate, the inclusion of goat milk is of great interest. 

The outer design of the packaging is in perfect balance. No clutter, and the white provides both a sleek base as well as a rustic, handcrafted charm. Depending on where it is displayed, either of the two angles might become more emphasized. So it hits the gourmet market but also settles into that New Mexico chic. And the goat drawing is cute with its subtle smile without being cartoony or otherwise overwhelming the look. 

Inside, the bar is sealed in clear wrap, which isn't my favorite option as it isn't the easiest the rewrap. But at least the envelope-style of the card box makes it easy to pack up anything you're saving for later. The squares come with the simple diamond design; its surface is dark with warm undertones. Smelling the chocolate, I do find a rich chocolate aroma along with a little something else. I probably wouldn't be able to put my finger on it otherwise, but knowing that there is goat milk that does seem to be the base of that extra aroma. 

There's a good snap to the chocolate, and then right away on the tongue I get that slight goaty taste that is familiar from goat milk and goat cheese. I broke up the bite just a bit to get the flavors going and found that there was indeed a definite goat milk taste along with the chocolate. It overpowers the flavors in the sense that lavender chocolates tastes primarily like lavender or orange chocolate like orange. The focal point here is the goat milk flavor--which can be an acquired taste. There's quite an animal quality to goat dairy, though being dairy it does also add a touch of creaminess. The finish perhaps is the creamiest. Overall, though, it remains still more like dark chocolate than milk chocolate in structure. So this isn't necessarily a replacement for the effect of milk chocolate--though it is just creamy enough that it could be an alternative if someone really needed it to be. 

Replacement possibilities aside, it's just nice on its own. Though I can't taste too much of its nuances, the chocolate is good; it's warm and rich. (This is Eldora's Domincan Republic Zorzal cocoa, by the way.) In fact, this is quite a puzzle for my senses because there is that almost creamy element from the goat milk, and yet the chocolate seems otherwise to almost be darker than 70%. It isn't sweet; you only get tricked perhaps into thinking of sweetness because of the goat milk. But think about it this way. Usually in a 70%, the rest of the percentage is made up with in sugar. Here it's made up with both sugar and powdered goat milk. So there is in fact less sugar here than you would normally find in a 70%. That must have been a tricky ratio to figure out, to get the right balance.

So it's good. It's different and yet simple. It's a nice luxury treat yourself bar but also a fun one to share just because it's different. A real foodie item in addition to a chocolate one, and though I love to bring up the idea of adding chocolate to appetizer or dessert boards, this bar begs to be on a cheese and fruit board. And given how well they balanced out the goat milk flavor, I'm a little disappointed that this was the only flavored chocolate bar I got from Eldora. There's always next time, eh?

Monday, September 27, 2021

The River Runs On

Water brings life and death as it flows along, and the seemingly ever-present river is always changing. (As Pocahontas put it, "you never step in the same river twice.") The river, in a sense, is change. And a drop of water will travel from one river to another and to another and down from one region into the next. Ever flowing, ever growing. 

The Salt River has long been a favorite Phoenix pastime, especially among the young. Yet I had avoided it as a college party zone. And also of course you can add to that any concerns about the unpredictability of said changing rivers of water and their rapids. Earlier this month, however, I found myself floating down that very same river which I had always avoided. I happened to be there on my thirtieth birthday, and it happened to be a good way to usher in the new decade. 

We visited mid week and after the tubing company had mostly finished its run for the season. So there were very few other people, neither any beer cans nor marshmallows. Instead there were ducks and a plethora of butterflies. The late summer rains brought an abundance of caterpillars that by this point had made their transformation into winged creatures that flew around us. One landed on my shorts and tried to suck nectar from the printed flower on the fabric. Sorry to disappoint you, little butterfly.

Despite it being a warm day, being on the water (and not even being in it) did keep us cool. It's quite a treat to be able to spend time outdoors in the sun during summer without melting. The rapids we floated over didn't cause any trouble except for when they brushed us over to the trees hanging over the edge, but even then there were no mishaps. There is certainly great wildness in rushing over rapids over which one has no control; it's a little different from the controlled environment of Disney's Grizzly River Run, where you have no fear of anything going wrong. 

Because of time constraints, we made the short distance between Points 1 and 2 before exiting. It was also nice to start small. The time passed quickly. While it is possible that the fear of the ever-changing, never again the same river will keep me from going again, yet it was such a pleasant float down the water that it would be nice to begin participating in this favorite pastime regularly. 

Do you fear change, do you fear the unknown? Maybe this is why I have a sometime fear concerning watery situations. The doers infected with wanderlust dive into the water. Whereas I stare into its foggy depths overwhelmed by the possibilities. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

New Mexico Part 7: Eldora Chocolate

Click here for Part 6.

At only three years old, Eldora Chocolate is a fairly new addition to Albuquerque. Steve and Andrea Prickett are committed to healthy and organic ingredients as well as fair trade practices, so there is a good foundation to the bean to bar company. You will find their shop behind a black metal sign on a rustic street. The storefront has that farm shop look with its white trim and wood beams. 

The farm touches continue on the inside decor, though you will also find a quite elegant cacao bean wallpaper. I wouldn't mind having some of that wallpaper myself. The shop is set up so that you can see into the production space. You can see machinery going on one side and the employees making chocolate products in the space behind the front counter. 

On the menu in front of that lovely wallpaper, you'll find drinking chocolate and coffee, as well as prices for the chocolate bars, truffles, energy bars, and creamers. The front case of course displays truffles, and there are also notes about ice cream and a French milkshake. 

Wander to the right for more shopping to find a beautiful display of body butter, lip balm, and soap. It's only so often that one comes across chocolate body care products that are made with cocoa instead of artificial chocolate. So this would already be an exciting find. Add the fact that heart soaps are gorgeous, and I was briefly a bit overwhelmed by my delight. 

Since I wasn't getting a cup of drinking chocolate at the time, maybe I ought to have brought home a bag of it. The Chai especially would have been nice to try. But there were so many chocolate bars for me to have to narrow down. I ended up with one flavored and three single origin. There was a variety of flavors, though, as well as some more unique origins in addition to the more common ones. 

I also appreciate the display of faux cocoa pods. You can have real, dry pods--but the faux ones captured the vibrant colors in pictures of freshly picked pods. And in any case, while I may have my own cocoa pod at home, most people have never seen one at all. Glass jars of cocoa beans beside the pods help complete the picture of what chocolate is as being made from fruit seeds. Because of the very casual, farm home/shop style of the decor, these elements of chocolate education are approachable rather than lofty. 

Speaking of approachable, while in the shop, we were offered a spoonful of chocolate straight out of the conching machine. While it might just look like a spoon of melted chocolate, I was thrilled to get a firsthand taste of the chocolate making process. 

I only got one truffle, the Lavender of course. It's made with lavender from Los Poblanos, which as I've already mentioned is unbeatably fresh and fragrant lavender. It is then easy to say that this is probably the best lavender truffle I've ever had. 

I walked away from Eldora Chocolate in quite a state of excitement despite having barely tasted any of their chocolate at that point. In the coming days, I'll be putting up my reviews of the four chocolate bars as well as the body care products. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

New Mexico Part 6: Campo

Click here for Part 5.

We are almost to the end of our journey. July's New Mexico travels brought us to Kakawa Chocolate House, Sazon, Canyon Road, and Los Poblanos. Now we'll take one final look at Los Poblanos, specifically at their restaurant, Campo. Because the ingredients are fresh, the menu changes seasonally, so the selection may vary from what was available when I was there. 

Campo hits that casual-chic New Mexico style. You can show up for breakfast in shorts or athletic clothes or a cotton dress. For dinner, the cotton dress would fit, too, though you can also dress up a bit more. I liked to go with the slightly dressed up angle paired with comfortable shoes. Seating is mainly outside, overlooking the gardens with the Sandia Mountains distant in the background. 

The first dinner there included the Lavender 99 cocktail, Grilled Squash appetizer, Carrot Cavatelli, and Chocolate Cherry dessert. As I've mentioned, lavender is the main product from Los Poblanos, so any chance you get to try out a new lavender product from them is a good idea. The lavender cocktail was fresh and light and floral--exactly my brand of cocktail. If you like floral cocktails or lavender, it's a don't miss. 

Grilled Squash are an easy win for me, too, because zucchini is a bit of a favorite of mine. The pasta at Campo is made in-house, so the Carrot Cavatelli was excellent. The pasta was the right texture, and the flavors of the sauce were nuanced. The Chocolate Cherry was nice but didn't stun me; I'm picky with desserts since I already have a couple of great chocolate recipes at home.

Breakfast brought another amazing lavender choice, the Lavender Latte. I've had three different lavender lattes this summer. One didn't taste strongly of lavender. The other had more of that peppery lavender flavor and was also somehow too creamy. Campo's was by far the best. Los Poblanos has the best lavender, so whatever type of food or beverage or beauty product they add it to receives such a fresh and potent burst of lavender that it's unbeatable. 

I also got the Monte Cristo because Disneyland. Monte Cristo sandwiches make me feel like I'm bringing a touch of Disney into my day.

Peacocks wander the grounds, and one came to visit our tables.

If you're on the go while visiting Los Poblanos but still need something to eat, there is also the Farm Shop. The gift shop area sells their lavender products as well as other sundries. The food counter sells coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and other grab and go items (like crackers, cheese, bottled beverages, honey, chips). We picked up sandwiches from there for lunch and took them to the Rose Greely Gardens to eat. Normally I don't eat ham, but do you see this ham and cheese? Do you see that bread? Talk about simple perfection. 

I also ended up with a Chocolate Lavender Gelato from the Farm Shop that was very good. 

And I got a Lavender Spritz from Campo to walk around with. If you find grapefruit a little strong on its own, lavender makes for a nice accompaniment. 

When dining at Campo for dinner, you will also receive an amuse bouche before your food. The first night it was pate on crackers. The second night was slices of cucumber. I guess you can tell which I was more excited for given that I have a picture of one but not the other.

This second night, I had the Campo Margarita, which is also made with lavender. As a margarita, it was very nice, but perhaps floral cocktails are more to my taste than margaritas, even with lavender. 

Appetizers were the Warm Potato Salad and Baked Goat Cheese, which was a lovely cheese with lovely bread. 

Because I had enjoyed the pasta the first night, I went with pasta again with the Spaghetti Carbonara. While it was still good, again I found that the Carrot Cavatelli had been more to my tastes, which moved it into the wonderful range. The spaghetti would appeal more to someone who likes bacon. 

Dessert this second night was the Sweet Tea Sorbet, which is a new way of interacting with green tea.

The final visit was breakfast again, which included the Chai and the Seasonal Omelette. 

While Campo is a welcome restaurant if you're staying on property (and very much enjoying being on property without wanting to leave just to eat), you can also dine there even if you're not staying. Either way, you'll find a delight in flavors and freshness. What makes food good is not just what happens after it arrives at the restaurant's kitchen; it's also everything that happened in the lifespan of the ingredients. Dine at Campo for that farm to table elegance. 

Click here for Part 7.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

New Mexico Part 5: Los Poblanos

 Click here for Part 4.

Last week, I exclaimed over the Afternoon Tea at La Quinta from Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm. Now let's spend some time on the inn itself, shall we? The inn itself is small with under fifty rooms (maybe 43?) scattered in four main sections. The grounds have a meandering quality to them that welcomes quiet wandering. You enter through a tree-lined lane, with the lavender fields to the right side. 

A walk around might bring you over to the alpacas, sheep, and chickens. You can also see vegetables growing nearby.

 By contrast, you can then go past the more formal La Quinta area. Near the new Hacienda Spa and the historic Meem rooms (the other guest rooms are newer constructions) are the Rose Greely Gardens. 

There is space to sit and enjoy, and there are hidden details like a trio of frogs by the pond and a pattern to the stones in the walkway. The aroma is of roses. 

As you walk, you might be greeted by the resident feral cat, Mouse. Mouse is a friendly host and will freely ask for cuddles. Kind of makes you feel like you're part of the family.

Because we were there during the lavender harvest, we were also able to see the distillation process taking place. While there isn't necessarily much to watch, it's special to get to see and may give you a new appreciation for essential oil and hydrosol. 

Oh, yes, and did I mention the lavender harvest? I did my part and shaved one lavender bush. So who knows, if you buy a lavender product from Los Poblanos, it might be made with some of the lavender I cut. 

Your wanderings will also bring you past peacocks and sunflowers (well, sunflowers depending on the time of year). 

And let's also not forget the Lotus Pond. If you are looking for natural elegance, Los Poblanos is the place. It has something of the feel of a place like the Huntington Library in California what with that combination of outdoor beauty as well as historical buildings. 

Next time we'll focus on their restaurant, Campo. 

Click here for Part 6.