The first big holiday shopping week is behind us and so is Cyber Monday. ...
Chocolate reviews online are sparse, so we supplemented with our own chocolate review. We organized blind tastings that involved two to six panelists and randomly queried about 25 consumers who were shopping for chocolate and collected responses to a question on Facebook that asked friends to name their favorite chocolate bar.
Cheap Variety Chocolates.Because Hershey's Milk Chocolate with Almonds was frequently named the favorite in our unscientific poll (and before our panel actually tasted any chocolates), we decided to add variety chocolate bars to the chocolate reviews mix. Variety chocolates contain other flavors or add-ins, from almonds or dried fruit to savory delights such as bacon, lavender, or chili. We didn't rank the few we tasted, but solicited opinions and scoped out reviews.
High nostalgia value attaches to Hershey's Milk Chocolate with Almonds (starting at $2.19/4.25 oz., Amazon) that fizzled quickly in today's real world. Chocolate reviews posted on Amazon lament that the bar is devoid of whole almonds, and the almond pieces present seem mushy and lack the satisfying crunch and roasted flavor that Hershey's fanciers remember from days gone by. Our panelists were likewise disappointed and declared the milk chocolate to be very sweet and a bit waxy.
Then there's Chocolove's Almonds & Sea Salt in Dark Chocolate (starting at $2.32/3.2 oz., Amazon). Consumers who posted chocolate reviews on Amazon and Vitacost consider this bar addictive. Bloggers and our tasters agreed, saying it delivers the sort of deliciousness that makes you swoon: The salt crystals accent the chocolate flavor and the almonds present a full-on almond taste and satisfying crunch.
The Cadbury Fruit & Nut Bar (starting at $2.25/2.4 oz., Amazon) is the familiar Cadbury milk chocolate bar with lots of raisin, cashew, and almond pieces. A British favorite that's replicated in the U.S. in slightly altered form, this is a chunky bar with a mellow chocolate flavor and creamy texture. The American version is quite sweet, but as one inexpensive chocolates review on Amazon notes, the combination of textures and tastes delivers a mouthful of joy.
Two other variety chocolate bars bear mention. Green & Black Organic Chocolate is known for its fair trade practices and interesting flavor mix-ins. The Maya Gold (starting at $3.99/3.5 oz., Amazon) is an orange-spice flavored treat for serious dark chocolate lovers. The deep chocolate flavor marries well with the orange, and the overall effect is a rich chocolate taste that's just bitter enough. One of our panelists thought the spice should dominate, but a chocolates review on Amazon deemed the spice too heavy-handed. Valrhona Manjari Orange (starting at $5.50/3.5 oz., Amazon) is beyond our price range, but reviews indicate it gets the flavor balance just right. With bits of orange peel blended in, the citrus doesn't overwhelm the chocolate, which is slightly bitter. Although one blogger declared the orange chocolate bar falls short of the standard set by the unadulterated Valrhona bar, another blogger found the texture to be smoother and creamier than other bars.
Whitman's Sampler Review
Dove Silky Smooth Dark Chocolate Review
Trader Joe's Box of Chocolates Review
Cadbury Royal Dark Chocolate Review
Lindt Lindor Truffles Review
Good cheap wine sounds like an oxymoron but we found five reds and five whites to enjoy this holiday season -- and year-round.
Give the gift of a holiday basket filled with low-cost items the recipient will enjoy. We have suggestions for shopping online or creating your own.