My Christmas holiday in 1996 passed without any new chocolate discoveries, so I was pleasantly surprised one winter morning in 1997 when some Cub Scouts knocked on my door selling chocolate bars. I think they knew that they had an easy mark when I was reaching for my wallet before they could even open their boxes. I bought a couple bars of both types that they were selling.
The first bar was a milk chocolate bar with almonds.
This bar was awful. AWFUL! It was so light colored as to be almost tan in color. I thought it had bloomed, but when I broke it open, the tan color went right through to the center of the bar. It tasted of salt and fat, and I couldn’t finish it.
I didn’t expect much from the next bar.
And I was not surprised to find it just as awful as the first one. I ate barely enough to justify adding the label to my collection and threw the rest away.And a big thumbs down to the Cub Scouts for selling such inferior candy. I wish I had had some Thin Mints to wash away the aftertaste. Those Girl Scouts sell a good cookie!
Life is too short for bad chocolate.
I am not a fan of milk chocolate, and I am quite vocal about this. I find most milk chocolate to be bland, chalky and overly salty. I am surprised when people offer me milk chocolate, but I appreciate the kindness, and their labels do expand my collection.
On the other hand, my favorite chocolates tend to be bars with nuts in them, with almonds and hazelnuts at the front of the pack. I think nuts just pair well with chocolate, and I have often taken plain chocolate bars that I wasn’t eating or that had bloomed and melted them with almonds to make almond bark. Hmm, that’s delicious stuff right there.
So I was surprised to come across some chocolate nut bars that I didn’t like. The first was a gift from a co-worker, Kurt.
Kurt got this bar from a friend, and I thought “cool, my first Swedish chocolate”! But one bite into it and my thought changed to “this is kinda gross”. The chocolate was very light-colored and not very chocolatey, and despite having a lot of crushed hazelnuts mixed into it, the bar was too bland for my liking. Sorry Sweden…but thanks Kurt.
The next bar is one I bought from another co-worker, Sharon. I think she was selling these to help her sister in high school.
This unbranded “Premium” chocolate was terrible. It was dry and crumbly, and the whole bar had maybe three almonds in it. I hope my money went to a good cause, but I wasn’t about to buy another one of these, much less eat one.
My boss Tom took a business trip to Australia in the fall, and he returned with this bar.
This bar was very good, very smooth and rich tasting! But I was surprised that Nestle would be the manufacturer, because state side I was used to seeing Crunch and 100 Grand bars and Quik milk drink, all of which was very bland milk chocolate. I didn’t know they made anything dark chocolate, and while I was happy the dark Nestle bar was good, I was dismayed that I couldn’t buy any here in the States.
My co-worker Chris took a vacation to San Francisco in the fall of 1996 with his wife, and they brought me back a bag of these Ghirardelli dark chocolate squares.
These were great! I kept the bag on my desk for a couple weeks, limiting myself to just a few every day when I really just wanted to cram them all into my mouth, with the office door closed to hide my shame. But my will was strong, and I spread out the awesome for as long as I could. Years later, I would visit the Ghirardelli factory in San Francisco, where I discovered that they would hand one of these squares to anyone entering the gift shop at the end of the tour. I circled around and re-entered that gift shop five times, and I got another square every time. The employee handing them out was either too polite or too bored to say anything, and by then, I didn’t care about shaming myself in public. I was a known chocoholic by then.
In the spring of 1996, one of my co-workers (Mark) returned from lunch and gave me this bar.
I was used to those pathetic Whitman chocolate samplers, which contained the saltiest, grossest milk chocolate imaginable. But this bar was really quite good, and I picked some more bars up later after work. They were very inexpensive as well: 3 for 99 cents!
I don’t know what the “super extra dark” on the label means. Being the mid-90’s, chocolate bars were not labeled as to the percentage of cacao in them. That would come about a decade later. I would guess this bar was 60-70% cacao. I suppose that means an 80% bar would be “ultra dark” and a 90% would be “super ultra crazy dark”.
Oddly, I never saw another Whitman’s bar after this year. I don’t know what happened to them. Maybe they were discontinued. Too bad.
Another Christmas chocolate that I received and ate the following January were these little chocolates from Germany, another gift from Sabina:
The little figure on the front of each label is based on a character from a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. I recognize The Snow Queen and Puss In Boots, but I am not familiar with the other three characters. But I must admit that I never read many fairy tales when I little. You can click on the picture to zoom in, so maybe you can figure out the other three.
The chocolate inside these wrappers was milk chocolate (vollmilch is German for “whole milk”) and I didn’t really care for it, but I loved the gift and the look of these wrappers.
We are now up to 1995 in my collection, and in January of that year I received some really great and some really awful chocolate. First, the good.
One of my co-workers, Chris, gave me these for Christmas, but I didn’t open them until after the New Year. They were fantastic! Very dark and almost astringent in its bitterness, but very good nonetheless. And I found them at Trader Joe’s later, so I could get more when I wanted. Yum.
Then there was this chocolate:
Another co-worker, Kurt, gave me these chocolate. He was fully aware that I was collecting labels and that I had to eat any chocolate before I could add the label to my collection. But this hideous chocolate was filled with spicy jalapeno jam, a nasty hot and sweet paste that overpowered the weak chocolate coating. To make it worse, the back of the package had a story of how they made this “treat”.
I think the Pepper Princess should have beheaded the Taste Teaser Guru and left his corpse on the battlements as a warning to anyone else who would ruin dark chocolate by pairing it with a nasty filling. But that’s just me.
By the way, this isn’t even the worse chocolate bar in my collection. That would come along a few years later.