My 31st (?!) birthday was a few days ago, and I told my husband that I did not want a cake or big dessert. David is very sweet and thoughtful, tries to keep up with the specific ingredients I am comfortable with at any given time, and wouldn’t want to disappoint me by skipping the traditional birthday treat. But, there are only two of us, so we certainly do not need an entire cake around the apartment for a weekend. Between a celebratory dinner at Epiphany Cafe and Valentine’s Day festivities at work, there are already more than enough opportunities to go into refined sugar shock around my birthday if anyone is so inclined.
Of course, I also told David that I wouldn’t be disappointed if he avoided the typical candy gifts for Valentine’s Day as well. Then he got that husbandly look on his face that says “Uh oh, do I tell her now, or tell her later?” So when I picked up this particularly heavy birthday gift to open it, he said “Now remember, you can keep these around and work on them little by little… they will last a while.” Here are the new treats we added to our cabinets, in case you are shopping for any chocolate fiends in your life.
Nicobella Vegan Organic Dark Chocolate Truffles: $13.50 for 6. These are something I can see myself giving as a gift or buying again for us, especially if I come across specials or discounts. They are small, soft squares made with organic, fair trade, 70% dark chocolate. There is cane sugar in the chocolate, but either brown rice syrup or agave nectar is used to sweeten the pieces the rest of the way, and oat milk is used in place of butter and cream. Nicobella also uses antioxidant rich “superfoods” to fill the truffles (like green tea, blueberries, and ginger) and creates unique flavor combinations (such as pumpkin chai and walnut flaxseed). The candies are not overly sweet or overly rich, and have an understated, dry, cocoa-y flavor. One or two of these little guys satisfies a chocolate craving nicely, and I love that they are made with carefully chosen, health-conscious ingredients.
Chocolate Cabernet Wine Sauce: $23 from Dean and Deluca. It’s thinner and less rich than I thought it would be, and pleasing on vanilla coconut milk ice cream. I enjoyed trying it, but wouldn’t say that it changed my life, and probably would not reorder it. However, I love how it is listed under the “pantry staples” category on the Dean and Deluca website. I would jump at the chance to see any pantry in which this is considered a staple. Suddenly my canned beans, millet, and sunflower seeds seem quite drab.
Theo Sipping Chocolates: $10 each. These make a very rich, flavorful, smooth cup of hot chocolate. They melted into my almond milk quickly and easily, and were definitely a completely different experience than your average mug of cocoa. They are made with 70% organic and fair trade dark chocolate, and are gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free/vegan. However, they do have sugar in them, and the nutrition facts put them in the special treat/dessert category for me: 9 grams of fat (6 saturated) per half-cup of drink. Now, please believe that I am not normally a half-cup of cocoa type of person, but these were so rich that even I regretted using the full cup of milk. My mom used to call that type of thing having “big eyes and little belly.” :) I look forward to sharing these with friends, or turning to them when I really feel like good hot cocoa.
Another nice source for unique, high-quality drinking chocolate (not pictured above) is the Flying Bird Botanicals shop on Etsy. My sister discovered them in time for Christmas 2010, and some of my lavender-mint canister is still in our pantry awaiting special occasions. Like when I sat down to do our taxes the other day, or any time I try to “rebalance” our Roth IRA allocations.
Theo “Taste of Washington” Caramel Collection: $26.40 for 12. You may want to take my opinions of these with a grain of salt, because I am much more of a chocolate person than a caramel person. These are nice and satisfying little bites after dinner, but I probably would not reorder them, especially at more than $2 a caramel. They are sugary, creamy, pleasingly chewy, and lightly flavored, but none of them really wowed me. Thanks to a long-standing tradition in which Nuts and Chews boxes are the prized dessert for most every holiday, I suppose I left my heart in San Francisco with the super chewy, family-favorite See’s Candies caramels.