While COVID-19 led to a number of changes across the globe, one thing that it didn’t stifle is human creativity. In fact, it spurred us to thinking outside of the proverbial box. That is the case with chocolate as well. Chocolate makers, who are already filled with incredible ideas for chocolate concoctions, seemed to have used this time to show their “playful” side by mixing various fruits, nuts, herbs, seasonings, flowers, alcoholic spirits, and anything edible in their bars. They have provided consumers with more flavor combinations to choose from than ever before.
Although I am a purist at heart, some of the most enticing flavor combinations are released during the Christmas season. Thus, I thought it would behoove me to take advantage of all the wonderful things associated with the season. I longed for traditional items that would go well with the festivities of the season, including obvious seasonal items like Mānoa Chocolate’s Pumpkin Pie Crunch. However, I also wanted to throw a few items into the mix that seemed out of the ordinary yet festive to me. This included Dick Taylor’s 72% Dark With Black Fig, and Mānoa Chocolate’s Mai’a Banana 70% Dark Chocolate.
Let me start with the least obvious of the bunch - the Mānoa Chocolate Mai’a Banana 70% Dark Chocolate bar. “Banana for the Christmas season?” you may be asking. Why, yes! The Hawaii Apple banana is a local favorite, and one of mine as well. So, I thought why not add a little bit of Hawaii to make it a Mele Kalikimaka. The bar has the sweet raisin-like scent that I find to be characteristic of most of the Mānoa Chocolate bars. But as I allowed the chocolate to melt on my tongue it was coated with a hint of banana that didn’t overwhelm the senses. Rather, it elicited pleasant memories of classic chocolate and banana combinations like the banana split and chocolate dipped bananas. Banana and rum is a popular pairing, thus it is not surprising that this bar paired well with Koloa Kauai Dark Rum.
Next, let’s talk about one of my favorite fruits, figs. Though the second season for figs ends in October, I thought why not continue to enjoy this delicious fruit into the winter? One way to intrigue your tastebuds is by pairing fig and chocolate, and Dick Taylor does it well with their 72% Dark With Black Fig bar. The chocolate had a mild cocoa scent with a mild creamy mouthfeel. The front of the bar treats your eyes to a stunningly ornate pattern, while the entire back is covered in small bits of fig, which gives it more textural substance and something delightful to chew on. The bar itself is not sweet, however some of the fig’s natural sweetness is revealed with each bite. What a distinctively pleasant way to celebrate Christmas! This bar paired well with port. The flavors didn’t compete with one another, but rather accentuated each of their unique essences.
Lastly, I tried a more traditional seasonal item - Mānoa Chocolate’s Pumpkin Pie Crunch bar. The description on the package says, “pumpkin white chocolate with candied pecans, walnuts & nibs.” This was a bit of a stretch for me as I am not a big fan of pumpkin pie. But, if pumpkin pie could taste like this bar, I’d want to eat it all throughout the season! The white chocolate was soft, melted quickly on the tongue and unveiled a sweet pumpkin flavor. The crunch of the pecans, walnuts, and nibs added some welcomed coarseness giving the bar a bit of heartiness. This was a wonderful reflection of the enticing flavors associated with the Christmas season. It also paired well with Calvados, an apple brandy, and I’m sure it would be delightful with most hot winter drinks (e.g., Mulled wine, Irish Coffee, etc.).
Whether you go the traditional or not so traditional route, these bars certainly helped to make the season bright and tasty!
Let’s give a round of applause to chocolate makers! I am truly grateful to you for using your creativity to help make the Christmas season even merrier with your enticing concoctions!