04_tasting notes: Chocovivo

I first discovered Chocovivo in the same way that I discover most everything in life: Yelp.
I couldn't believe that such a place should exist in my old stomping grounds of Culver City.  It really makes me wish I had never left.  I also couldn't believe I hadn't been yet!

Danny took me here for the first time for my birthday weekend.  The set up is great, it's meant for you taste the chocolates in sets of 3, 6, or all 13.  (do the full thing, for only $10, this is a steal, and is easily shared between 2 people)  While I enjoyed the tasting and am happy to share my tasting notes with you, at first I didn't know how to talk about the chocolate in comparison to the other bean to bars I have already talked about on the blog (Askinosie and Garden Island Chocolate)  Chocovivo's chocolate is gritty, more Mexican style and their varying percentages are no comparison in taste to Askinosie's single origin bars.  I have to be honest and say that my palate prefers the flavors of Askinosie and Garden Island.  What sets Chocovivo apart from the other two for me are their flavors, particularly that they have a new seasonal flavor every month.  For my birthday month (June) it was blood orange+EVOO+sea salt, and it was great!  This month it is Meyer Lemon and Rosemary, which is such a lovely, subtle, but delicious combination.

The other thing which makes me love Chocovivo are their drinking chocolates and the variety which they allow.  Today I tried their new vegan frozen hot chocolate.  They use coconut ice cream and the milk is their house-made hazelnut milk.  Of course, like all the other drinks on their menu, you get to choose your chocolate that you want in it: 100%, 85%, 65%, Mayan Traditional (spicy), or Coffee+vanilla.  I went with the 65%.  This is phenomenal.  Typically $7, the vegan one is $10 because of the substitutions of milk and ice cream, but I don't care.  I would gladly get this drink every time, no question about it.  The four others who I brought with me today agreed.  They talked about coming to Chocovivo for the frozen hot chocolate over going to bars and drinking alcohol.  Yes, please!  This should totally be a thing.

Finally, I love Chocovivo for it's monthly events that it brings to the community.  Today I went because for the 4th of July weekend they are doing s'mores.  It is a platter of 3 s'mores, each with house-made graham crackers and marshmallows.  The chocolate was 65%, Mayan Traditional, and Coffee+Vanilla and they gave us a little table side burner over which to toast the marshmallows.  Such a cute idea and a really fun thing to do with friends.  Later this month I am excited to attend their 1 year anniversary party! (July 18th).

Basically, I am obsessed with Chocovivo.

Now for my tasting notes:
1. 100% cacao: Just too bitter and chalky to be able to eat alone, at least for my palate.
2. 85% cacao: bready, gritty, yeasty (these are good things in my book!)
3. 75% cacao: sweet, berries, sugary grit
4. 65% cacao: tangy, definite citrus flavor
5. Nibby Bar--chocolate+raw nibs: grainy, sweet, graham, nutty (one of my favorites, I hope they make this a standard bar!)
6. Almonds+Sea salt: dry roasted, I liked that the almonds were actually ground up into the chocolate instead of being whole chunks inside, that was an interesting twist on a typical almond bar
7. Hazelnuts+Sea salt: more of a heavy roasted flavor than in a typical hazelnut bar, the smoothest texture of all the bars
8. Macadamia Nut+Coconut: sweet, sour, salty, smooth
9. Blood Orange+EVOO+Sea salt: intense orange flavor, turns gritty in your mouth and the flavor gets deeper as it melts
10. Shangri-La--black sesame and goji berries: subtle sesame flavor followed by herbiness, then sweetness
11. Cherries+Almonds+Black Peppercorn: chunks of sweet and sour cherries heavily accented by the peppercorn, one of my favorites
12. Mayan Traditional: spicy, intense, tasted exactly like the sipping chocolate
13. Coffee+Vanilla Bean: intense espresso flavor, the vanilla is just a background noise to accentuate the coffee taste


03_Tasting Notes: Askinosie single origin bars

To begin my birthday month, Daniel Bone--husband extraordinaire--bought me so much chocolate.

Like, so much.

Nine 3 oz bars and a canister of Mexican style sipping chocolate, to be exact.  They all came from Askinosie Chocolates, a charmingly magnificent company based out of Springfield, Missouri. (another tasting nod to my home state?  odd.)

Today, I present to you: tasting notes of Askinosie's four single origin bars.

We work our way up from 70% San Jose Del Tambo, Ecuador bar, the most "commercial" tasting of the four.  This is much purer, but it still maintains a more familiar taste on the tongue.  It has an herby quality to it initially, then it become a bit more moderate in flavor, with a smooth finish.

Here's what the bar says you should taste: red fruit, bergamot orange, honey, jasmine, and hints of tobacco

Next up is the 70% Cortes, Honduras bar.  Very citrusy initially, a little bit liquory later, but finishes with a deep intense chocolate flavor.  That's the only way I can describe it.

Here's what the bar says you should taste: citrus, molasses, and sharp stone fruit

Moving up a little to 72% Tenende, Tanzania bar.  This bar is from their Chocolate University program.  I love a company that really gives back in such a great way.  The chocolate has a natural sweetness, like honey.  Not too much of a bite, but leaves a little bit of a sour after flavor.  It has the most velvety mouth feel of the four bars.

Here's what the bar says you should taste: strawberry, blueberry, graham, and velvet

Finally, the darkest of the single origin bars that Askinosie offers, the 77% Davao, Philippines bar.  This one has the grittiest mouth feel of the four bars--to be clear, this is not a bad thing.  I like a good gritty chocolate (their El Rustico collaBARation flavor is my absolute favorite, and it's super gritty)

Here's what the bar says you should taste: brown sugar, earthy tannins, and lavender

Below is Askinosie's tasting notes about each chocolate.  Give me another year and perhaps I will have this chocolate tasting thing figured out.  For now, you can laugh at my initial reactions to the flavors (what I wrote above was after a second tasting,) written beside the more adept offerings from long-time connoisseurs and chocolatiers.


02_Tasting Notes: A latte to remember

Well, I finally did it.  After a year of hype, I finally tried the best coffee place in LA? The country?  The world?  No, it's too hard to make that claim.  What with a new coffee shop opening every day, and that's just in my neighborhood (the arts district/little tokyo)

That's right, I'm talking about you G&B Coffee.

I, like thousands of others, read the New York Times review claiming G&B to have the best iced latte in the country.  But where the article reeled me in was with the house made macadamia-almond milk.

"Yes. I will go to there. ASAP."

And I did.  I went within 24 hours of reading the article.

Was it worth the hype?  Yes.  I shall return, G&B.  Next time I will try the Business and Pleasure drink(s), and next time I expect the chilled mason jar!


01_Tasting Notes: Coffee is the new cupcake

Have you noticed the influx of coffee in your world?  It's definitely there.  Every other day Eater LA tells me about a new coffee shop opening in my neighborhood.  Of the past four yelp elite events that I have attended, two revolved around coffee.  "Cupping" has become a household term.  Just the smell of Folgers is sickening.  Similar to the first taste of sprinkles bringing a new meaning to cupcakes, the taste of coffee has evolved into something to be tasted, like fine wines.

As an architecture student, it may sound strange, but I'm no coffee addict.  I am somehow responsible for turning my two best friends into addicts of the black gold, but I mostly only drink it only for the taste (and on rare occasion, for the pick me up.)  In other words: I like good coffee.

Yesterday I tasted a coffee roasted in Kansas City Missouri, Oddly Correct Coffee Roasters.  My home state.  Woo.
The coffee was very full bodied, deep flavored, with a nice chocolatey finish.  No bitterness or bite here.  This coffee finishes clean, with just a hint of smokey aftertaste.  There is a slight fruity sweetness to it when it hits the tongue. Like apricots maybe.  I enjoyed another cup today and so should you.


Clean Eating Challenge: Day 14

Finally.  Like all good things, this too must end.  (In case you are just now joining me, I have been doing Buzzfeed's Clean Eating Challenge, and this is the final day.)

Some things about this plan overall:
1. It's not so "clean..."  Eggs?  I love them, but many people have food sensitivities to them.
2. Yogurt and Cheese?  Ever heard of lactose intolerance? Tons of people have it.  Not "clean!"
3. So much meat and fish.  Way too much if you ask me.

I get it, this was supposed to be for people who maybe have never tried to eat healthy in any way before.  This is not really for people, like myself, who have read pretty extensively about nutrition and eating right, are obsessed with their health, and have watched every single food documentary that exists.  But, this is a much healthier way to eat if you are someone who looks at the recipes and thinks "I would never think of that" or "what's bok choy/fennel/overnight oats?" or something along those lines.  It's also really handy that the plan gives you everything to eat/buy/cook daily.  That was the main reason that I did it to begin with.

Breakfast: Scallion Omelet
Same as one day last week sans goat cheese…because SOMEBODY ate all my goat cheese (Danny!)
Still good without the cheese.

Lunch: Portobello Mushrooms with Tomato and Mint
Surprisingly tasty and filling.

Snack 1: ??
I think that I had a pear with almond butter…but I can't be certain because I didn't take a picture, I am writing this two days later, and everything went downhill after this….

Dinner: Not was I was supposed to have at all
I got to the end and I just could not bring myself to finish it.  Danny asked what was for dinner.  I grumpily told him it was the last day of the eating plan.  I proceeded to pull out the snap peas, mushrooms, and tofu from the fridge.  I looked at it and it made me feel depressed.  So we went to Fickle for Happy Hour instead.  It was amazing.  I was so over this plan.

farmer's crostini

heirloom tomato salad (with burrata)

black cod with summer squash agnoloti

Snack 2: Pinkberry
Whoops.  Total fail on my final day.  Oh well.  Ce la vie.


Clean Eating Challenge: Day 13

Wow.  This Slate article is a bit intense.  I think making an analogy between people who like to eat "clean" and religious zealots who declare that promiscuous women are like a "stick of dirty gum" really misses the point entirely and just tries to incite more anger from average eating people toward people who treat food as an important aspect of life.

I do agree that the term "clean food" has no true meaning.  I was introduced to Clean Food via the Terry Walters cookbook of the same title.  Nowhere on it does it say vegan, but when you start looking through the recipes, you see that they all are.  Therefore, I always took clean eating to be plant-based and home-cooking from fresh, local, seasonal produce.  I still stick by this claim for what I consider to be "clean eating," especially the all homemade part.

That said, I am more than ready to be done with this challenge.  I'm drifting away from it slowly every day.  See below for my transgressions.

(In Case you are just now joining me.  I am doing Buzzfeed's Clean Eating Challenge, and this is Day 13.

Breakfast: Strawberry Chia Overnight Oats
YUM!  This was so good, I ate it while walking to school and it was all gone before I got there (I live two blocks from school)  I did not use yogurt and prove that it is not needed. Just put 1 cup of almond milk instead.  I will be eating this again.

Lunch: Snap Pea, Mint, Arugula Salad
I didn't have any leftover quinoa since I didn't make the dinner that required it a few days ago (that was my wine tasting night on Day 9)  So in place of quinoa I used chickpeas.  Yum.

Snack 1: Half of a lavender strawberry Pocket Pie and a coffee from Pie Hole
Transgression #1.
I was sitting at my computer, hard at work, dreaming of a pocket pie and a coffee.  Moments later, with perfect timing, as usual, Danny gchats me "wanna get a snack somewhere?"  My response?  Not so responsible.  "YESSSSSSSS.  Pie Hole.  Now!!!"
I tried to eat the carrots later, but they were pretty stale anyway, so there it is.

Dinner: Tofu Lettuce "wraps"
I don't eat shrimp, so I replaced that with tofu.  These were really good, or I was really hungry.  Either way.
Transgression #2: I had a little beer with dinner

Snack 2….and 3: Apple with Honey… 
and some freaking amazing nuts from Hawaii.  Just like, 1 or 2 or 3…..


Clean Eating Challenge: Day 12

The finish line is in sight!  I am not following this thing to a tee anymore.  Truthfully, I wasn't originally going to do the second week, but I enjoyed the first one so much, I thought I would give it a try.  Plus some things carried over anyway, so why not?  In case you are just joining me, I am doing Buzzfeed's Clean Eating Challenge and this is Day 12.

Breakfast: Blueberry Oats with Cacao nibs and honey
So….This is very different from a blackberry yogurt parfait.  Well, after trying to last week, I decided that my lactose-intolerance now includes yogurt too, which sucks, but it is what it is.  So I ran 5.5 miles this morning, pre-breakfast and I knew I needed something substantial, so I went for oatmeal.  Here's there recipe:

3/4 c almond milk
1/4 c water
pinch of salt
1/2 c oats
1/2 c blueberries
1 T cacao nibs
1 t honey
dash of vanilla

1. Bring the almond milk, water, and salt to a boil in a small pot.
2. Add oats and stir, reducing heat to low and simmer, covered, for 3-4 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and place in a bowl.
4. Top with blueberries, honey, and nibs and stir before devouring.

Easy Peasy Breezy

Lunch: Reheated Veggie Stew with Avocado
This was from last week and we put half in the freezer, remember?  It was not as good this time around.  I didn't have carrot like it told me to, and I replaced the yogurt with 1/2 of an avocado.  It definitely needs something cold like this in it if you don't do the yogurt.

Snack: Pear with Almond Butter
Is there anything in the world more delicious than a perfectly ripened pear when you are starving?  Try one topped with a tablespoon of almond butter.  Oh yeah!

I also had a little cheat with a special drink from Demitasse. Salted Rosemary Maple Latte.  It was only kind of worth it.

Dinner: Not-So-Asian-Style Dover Sole with Asparagus and Zucchini
Ok, so I have changed up most everything on today's menu.  For this one, I just really really hate bok choy.  I've tried to cook it every possible way, so many times, and every time I am disappointed, so I decided not to even try.  Luckily the asparagus and zucchini were perfect with this tender, light fish.  Another mistake occurred when I saw "tamari" and thought "tahini"  I was all ready to complain on here about the buzzfeed grocery list not including tahini, etc.  I decided to use the rest of my hummus in place of what I thought was supposed to be tahini.  Makes sense, right?  About half way through dinner it occurred to me that this fish was supposed to have a very different flavor!  However, the hummus sauce I made was just fine.  It was very tasty.  And I suppose I will be using the rest of it for my not-so-lettuce-cup's tomorrow night.  Haha.  Also, parchment paper is my new best friend.

Snack 2: Hot Chocolate


Clean Eating Challenge: Day 11

In case you are just joining me, this is Day 11 of Buzzfeed's Clean Eating Challenge.  Today was not so hard.  Usually if I begin the day with an intense workout (in today's case, a fast 2 mile run) I will have a clementine about 30 minutes before so I can have a tiny bit of energy at least.

Breakfast: Kale Banana Smoothie
The same as last week. I am still loving this flavor, but more so, the intense green color!

Lunch: Healthy Tuna Salad
Let me begin with an anecdote.  Tuna salad used to be my favorite thing growing up.  I was one of the only kids I knew who willingly ate fish.  I was a pescetarian in the making for sure.  One time when I was quite young, I was home alone and couldn't find anything to eat, so I decided to make tuna salad!
No hard boiled eggs…hmm, that's ok, I can go without.
No mayonnaise.  Well, it just needs something wet to hold it all together.  Ok, ketchup!
No pickles or relish.  It just needs something chunky in it.  Cheese!
Yes.  I made myself a delicious tuna salad with ketchup and cheese.  I'm sure it was amazing and I ate it all.  My mom thought it was hilarious.

This tuna salad that buzz feed made me eat restored my faith in tuna salads.  You don't need mayonnaise!  The dijon and olive oil were enough, mixed with the soft texture of the egg.  In my case, I also added two scallions.  I can't remember what the lady at the farmer's market called this particular lettuce, but it wasn't exactly big enough or strong enough to make cups out of, so I ate it mostly with a fork and picked up the last remnants with the baby lettuce pieces.  As much as I try to stay away from canned foods and the fact that I haven't had tuna salad in years, I think I will add this to my lunch rotation, maybe once a month or so.

Snack 1: Banana Avocado "Pudding"
Ok.  First things first, This is more like a smoothie than a pudding.  Mine had no pudding consistency whatsoever.  I could have easily drank it through a straw.  That said, it did sort of taste like pudding, if that makes any sense.  I probably wouldn't make this again, but it wasn't bad.

Dinner: Snap Pea, Radish, and Mint Salad
I put this over a bed of spinach because once it was all cooked, I realized that I didn't use quite enough snap peas.  Of course I used goat cheese instead of feta. (See my previous postings) The radishes are from the same lady from the Arts District Farmer's Market from whom I bought the little lettuce from lunch.  This salad was really good.

Snack 2: 1/2 cup of blackberries, 1/2 oz of chocolate, green tea
To make up for last night of not eating the 1 cup of blackberries, I ate them tonight.  But I didn't have a full cup.  So I just helped Danny finish off the rest of this delicious chocolate that we bought from Monoa Chocolates in Kailua, Hawaii.


Clean Eating Challenge: Day 10

In case you are just joining me, this is Day 10 of Buzzfeed's Clean Eating Challenge.  I've been eating clean for over a week now. This is not a stretch from how I normally eat, as eating fresh, organic produce has been crucial to me for quite a few years now.  I just did this as a challenge to myself, and because it was laid out really simply with grocery lists and a day to day recipe guide.  Despite eating healthy before doing this, this plan is teaching me some new simple ways of cooking and some great snack ideas that I will keep with me when it's over.

Breakfast: Cauliflower Hash with Fried Eggs
The hot sauce is a must.  I use Frank's Buffalo Sauce because it's awesome.

Lunch: Roasted Chickpea and Eggplant Arugula Salad
A great tasting salad.  I like this because it uses the ingredients from the other day in a very different way.

Snack 1: Red Pepper slices with Hummus
I almost didn't eat this, but I'm glad I did.  It fulfilled the sweet that I was craving and filled me up until dinner.

Dinner: Mushroom, Tofu, and Kale Bowl
I don't eat shrimp.  When I was trying to decide what protein would take the place of the shrimp, I looked at the other ingredients and it was obvious.  This is similar to a typical bowl that you would find in a vegan joint.  Danny really liked this dish too.

Snack 2: Chocolate and Tea
We went to see "Cold in July" at Sundance Sunset Theater.  I brought what we had left of our Garden Island Mint and Cacao Nib Chocolate Bar.  I also ordered a lemon ginger tea.


Clean Eating Challenge: Day 9

If you are just joining me, this is Day 9 of Buzzfeed's Clean Eating Challenge.  Warning: I did not complete today's challenge!

Breakfast: Apple Omelet
This sounds really weird, and despite the buzz feed writer's warning that it is good, I was still skeptical. But I think this is going to be a new favorite.  Again, vanilla is key to this tasting so good.   I had trouble with it holding together as an omelet though, as you can tell from the photo.

Lunch: Tempeh Ball Spinach Salad
I really switched this one up.  I didn't buy collard greens because last week they went bad and I think they are gross.  But I had spinach leftover from last week.  I broke up the tempeh balls and tossed them into the salad with the tomato and avocado.  For the dressing, I just added a tiny bit of olive oil to the mustard and drizzled it on.  It was a bit too mustardy, but other than that it was really delicious.

Snack 1: Raspberries and Pistachios
Yeah, I switched it up again.  I don't know why raspberries aren't on the plan, because they are my favorite fruit!  The blackberries last week were better mixed with the pistachios though, maybe raspberries just need to be on their own.

Dinner: Wine Tasting at the Los Angeles Athletic Club
Thanks to my friend Scotty who invited me to the wine tasting.  Of course I had a tasting of each of the six Argentinian wines that were available.  I also gorged myself full of sugar.  They had macarons, come on!  Here's what I cheated with:
1. tasting of Chardonney, Merlot, 2 Malbec's, and 2 Cabernet Sauvignons
2. 6 macarons (pistachio, raspberry, chocolate, and vanilla)
3. a bite of cheddar, gouda, and some other smokey white cheese
4. 2 veggie potstickers with a little soy ginger sauce
5. a veggie mini pizza
6. some of the best guacamole I've ever had with a few chips
7. A chocolate chip cookie

Not so bad, overall.  A ton of sugar, sure.  Low in nutrients, probably.  But totally worth it!
I'll probably make the Fried Quinoa Bowl sometime next week once this challenge is over.