chocolate....the darker the better, or so they say
Who doesn't love chocolate!! Well, me for one. I take that back, sort of. I like chocolate, it is just not my go to when I want a sweet treat. And here I'm talking chocolate bars and such and not say, chocolate cake or a chocolate donut, those are entirely different things. We all know I can consume cakes and pastries of most any sort with ease. Chocolate itself, however, is more of a last resort for me if I can't find anything else. Over the last few years, researchers have found foods rich in antioxidants can be healthy for you--in moderation of course. Chocolate is one of those foods, meaning I need to readjust my feelings about chocolate and start looking at it as something to have a little bit of each day, "for health reasons."
Originally it was red wine, but I just can't do the tannins it has--makes my face flush and screws up the sinuses. Since chocolate doesn't have that problem, looks like dark chocolate is my way to get an antioxidant fix. Usually something higher than 70% and sometimes the darker the better. They also have lots of fiber, iron and magnesium in the really dark stuff too. You can read about the benefits here if you are so inclined. I figure if I gotta choose one I may as well pick the chocolate.
In order to give this a whirl I needed to find a dark bar I could stomach enough in small portions, to be able to have a square or two a day without totally offending my taste buds. Fortunately, we live in a town obsessed with both healthy foods and chocolate, and you can find a pretty wide array of choices in many stores like Rainbow Grocery, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. I made a pass through these places to see what they had and made choices on a couple of criteria. The bar had to be 85% or higher and it had to run me less than $5 or so a bar. Though even that price point is pushing it to me. As for the %, most of what I've read says the darker the better and to try and get as dark as you can stand.
I went through a fair number of bars, with some feedback from the SO too, and below is the first batch I was able to get through with varying degrees of difficulty. Plus, I threw in my own additional test--would it taste better with peanut butter! I like salty sweet and this seems to be a way to get that and a bonus of a little protein. It's a win win right? We'll see. (Note: servings are based on 1/2 a bar)
I guess if I'm going all in, may as well jump into the 100% deep end first. Point of note for folks: 100% really is just baking chocolate. Remember those chunks of chocolate you found in grandma's cabinet and thought you'd be sneaky and eat one only to find you couldn't spit it out quick enough? That's 100%, meaning no sugar or milk added whatsoever. I sometimes here people ask for sugar-free chocolate at some places. I get the feeling they either don't know what that means or really want something made with Splenda or something. Otherwise they'd know you could go to the baking section of ANY grocery store and get 100%. It is the purest and bitterest of chocolate you can get. This bar is all that along with a chalky dry taste and chemical after taste. They can say small notes of frutit all they want but neither of us could taste it. Two bites of this and I was done. It's just toooo much of bitter. So much so, it even failed the PB test. It ended up in garbage as we just couldn't. 7.5gms Fiber 6gms protein $4.95 Good luck with this one.
Have to say, this one was kind of one of my faves. At 88% it is dark, but not so much so as to come across bitter. There are about 4gms of sugar in a serving and seems there is also cocoa liquor in the mix here and that helps fend off and chalkiness with it's addition of cocoa butter. I was surprised how it was able to taste dark with only the fairest hint of bitter offset by tiny fruit notes of cherry mixed with raisin. It had a nice shiny look and came across with some smooth almost creaminess for such a dark bar. Tasted good by itself and with PB. I was more than content to have it without the PB too, which should tell you something. Well done on both counts. 6gms fiber 4.5gms protein $2.79 Good price, good taste, good choice.
Made with beans from Madagascar, this is the darkest bar they produce. Usually beans from this region have tart cherry notes due to the soil they are grown in. Well, you do get some of that and other fruity bits, but it buts up against the kind of dry, chalk like flavor you'd get in a 100% bar. Yes, there is some sugar and cocoa butter in here, but they don't seem to be doing much to help level out the bitter. Overall, I wasn't really a fan though the SO didn't hate this as much as the Grenada bar. I got through at least 4 bites and the PB was only a marginal help in this case. The SO did finish the rest at least. One odd anomaly, the fiber count here is only 1gram a serving which is strange considering the higher cocoa content, thought might be a misprint on label but a search online shows the same. Does have 5gms protein $4.99 Yours may be different but, a little too costly and bitter for my taste.
Made right here in San Francisco it says! And from all beans of Venezuela! Does mean it should, in theory, have small notes of nut and caramel. Click here for their description which seems a little haughty, but they are trying to sell a bar that is essentially baker's chocolate. I will say it was not as bad as the first 100% we tried. It was at least a modicum of a bit more palatable. You didn't get the real hard core bitter taste right off the bat, it comes through on the end, which I'm not sure is always better. There is a bit of vanilla bean mixed in to probably regulate the bitter levels and it helps--like a whisper, but better than nothing I guess. I never did taste nut or caramel anywhere in it though. I suppose if you really wanna do a full on 100% this could work for you. The SO said it was better-ish too. PB only slightly helped, but I personally couldn't do a whole bar of this. Their website says it's $8 a bar but I'm pretty sure I paid $5.99, either way, pricey. 7gms of fiber and 5 gms of protein
I love how these bars say gluten free. Point of note--all chocolate is gluten free! Only time it isn't is if it's covering malt or some other flour based product, that's your fun fact for the day. Alter Eco makes lots of organic food products and chocolate is just one of them. When you search them online, they seem to get pretty favorable ratings from most folks for their chocolate bars including this one. And they are also seemingly based in SF too! For this bar, it definitely has that. It was also surprisingly more bitter tasting than the 88% bar above. Both bitter and fruit are in equal amounts here and I'm not gonna say I was the biggest overall fan, though I did have hopes based on others reviews. I wanted to like it, but it didn't come across with the smooth, creamy finish it promised. Did PB help? Eh, the overwhelming fruity and PB really aren't the best of combos. Kind of why you never see PB covered strawberries anywhere. The SO didn't love it, but was okay with eating it. 5gms fiber 3gms protein and at $3.99 a pop, you could do worse in a bitter bar.
That is round one of the great dark chocolate off, and yes, I did taste all these in one sitting, but did make sure to cleanse my pallet after each tasting. Particularly the extremely bitter chalk like ones. You kind of have to, otherwise some bars may come off sweeter than they really are after eating a bitter one. Not by much, but still not the true flavor of the bar you'd be looking for. Right now, Chocolove has got my love, but I have more to go and need a break before the next batch of bitter darkness. Till then, enjoy your own search for "healthy" chocolate by trying these or others and let's see how much dark and bitter YOU can stand. Hmmm...maybe some red wine would be a good addition to get through these after all.