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Good inexpensive eating chocolate?

Peripatetic Mar 16, 2009 03:05 PM

My all-time favorite eating chocolates are:

- Amedei Porcelana
- Amedei Chuao
- Domori Porcelana
- Valrhona Ampamakia
- Michel Cluizel 1er Cru d'Hacienda `Concepcion'

Unfortunately these are a bit too expensive for everyday consumption.

Until recently my everyday eating bar was Valrhona Madagascar Manjari 64%. Our local Whole Foods carried them for $3.39 per 75g bar, but, sadly, they recently discontinued it.

I've looked everywhere for a similarly priced replacement. Online retailers carry the Manjari bar, but for $5.65 each (at Chocosphere). I've tried other well-regarded inexpensive products, such as Dagoba 59% and Chocolove Rich Dark, as well as Valrhona's Noir Amer and Noir Cacao, but these just seem to have off-flavors and lack the refinement of the Manjari.

So, my question is: can anyone recommend a good inexpensive eating chocolate that's comparable to Valrhona's Manjari?

  1. Peripatetic Apr 18, 2009 02:48 PM

    So Valrhona Manjari 64% is back at our local Whole Foods. Same product, same weight (70g), but new packaging and, well, new price: $5.39 instead of $3.39 per bar (~ 60% increase!). So the search for "inexpensive + good" continues . . .

    1 Reply
    1. re: Peripatetic
      buttertart Apr 19, 2009 10:39 AM

      I think the price increase is perhaps in part due to a recennt rise in the Customs duty assessed on chocolate and other "luxury" foods.

    2. alwayscooking Apr 18, 2009 11:49 AM

      For those living in the NE, Ocean State has a 5lb sack of Scharffen Berger for $10.

      1. l
        lgss Apr 2, 2009 03:42 PM

        TJ's semisweet chocolate chips. We eat them by the handful with crystallized ginger.

        1. jo_jo_ba Mar 25, 2009 08:58 PM

          Totally doesn't answer your question, but I got sidetracked by your mention of Amedei Porcelana... I've been savouring a bar of the 70% Noir myself...

          1 Reply
          1. re: jo_jo_ba
            Peripatetic Mar 29, 2009 03:12 PM

            If you like their noir, you'll love their Porcelana and and Chuao. Just be warned that it ruins you for nearly anything else. That's my predicament.

          2. mcf Mar 22, 2009 12:11 PM

            I'm a lover of very dark chocolates and Chocolove, Cluizel and various artisanal single origin bars, etc (don't like Lindt or Dagoba at all). My favorite bargain bar is the large gold Godiva bars, especially the 75% dark with cocoa nibs. I also like the 85% bar. Godiva is better than it used to be, ingredient wise. Some folks I know swear by Hershey's special dark, but 60% is way too sweet for me.

            16 Replies
            1. re: mcf
              Peripatetic Mar 25, 2009 08:19 PM

              I've never even thought to try the Godiva bars because of Godiva's poor reputation among chocolate obsessives, but if you can love Cluizel and like Godiva, I think it's something I have to try.

              1. re: Peripatetic
                alkapal Mar 25, 2009 08:30 PM

                the godivas i got in brussels were superb.

                1. re: Peripatetic
                  mcf Mar 26, 2009 09:25 AM

                  I didn't eat Godiva for years for quality reasons, but they reformulated a couple of years ago, removed hydrogenated fats and introduced some wonderful high cocoa content bars. Of those, I love the 75% with nibs and the 85% when I'm buying on the cheap.

                  1. re: Peripatetic
                    mcf Mar 29, 2009 12:47 PM

                    I forgot to mention Ghirardelli 72% chocoloate chips; I like their dark bars, too, though not as much as the Godiva with nibs. But the chips cannot be beat for recipes or small bites.

                    1. re: mcf
                      Peripatetic Mar 29, 2009 03:09 PM

                      Thanks. I like the chips for cooking, but I've yet to find any Ghirardelli chocolate I enjoy eating on its own. The flavor is okay but the chocolate is hard and seemingly low in cocoa butter.

                      1. re: Peripatetic
                        mcf Mar 31, 2009 03:30 PM

                        The texture (extra cocoa butter) is what I love about Chocolove and its tongue feel. Hardness is what I don't like about Lindt, Valhrona, Black and Green, etc... But you asked about cheap chocolate with decent taste, so I tossed it in.
                        :-)

                        1. re: mcf
                          Peripatetic Apr 2, 2009 01:13 AM

                          I think I need to give Chocolove another try, along with the Godiva 75% you recommended. Which is your favorite: the Rich Dark or the Extra Strong Dark?

                          1. re: Peripatetic
                            mcf Apr 2, 2009 07:08 AM

                            I like the strong dark, 70%. Under 70 always tastes too sugary to me (I don't eat sugar, period, so I'm really sensitive to the taste). If you hold it on your tongue, it has a great spreading, melty texture due to the extra fat content. I also like the 77%, which is closer to my usual (75-85% range).

                            1. re: mcf
                              Peripatetic Apr 16, 2009 02:54 PM

                              So I tried Chocolove (extra strong dark) again (I'm eating some right now) and my impressions are the same as my initial ones: it's economical with cocoa butter and has some harsh flavors. It's got a bitter, slightly burnt, gritty quality. I beginning to think this is a distinctively American style of chocolate, especially as "bittersweet" is traditionally used to describe dark chocolate here.

                              1. re: Peripatetic
                                mcf Apr 17, 2009 03:57 PM

                                Wow, that has never been my experience of it! In fact, unless they've changed the recipe, it's always had extra cocoa butter, hence a wonderful mouth feel. It's amazing how different our experiences are with the same chocolate.

                                1. re: mcf
                                  Peripatetic Apr 17, 2009 10:56 PM

                                  Maybe it's just by comparison? Have you tried any of the chocolate I mentioned in my original post, and if so, what did you think?

                                  It might just be me, too. I'm not a born dark chocolate lover . . . that changed only when I discovered Valrhona, Amedei, and Domori. I _have_ found one American producer I really like, though: TCHO. Unfortunately their bars are as expensive as good imported ones.

                  2. re: mcf
                    b
                    bulavinaka Apr 18, 2009 07:51 AM

                    Have you tried Michel Cluizel 99% yet?

                    1. re: bulavinaka
                      Peripatetic Apr 18, 2009 11:15 AM

                      Yes, and wow, is _that_ an experience! I wish he did a version without the added flavorings, though.

                      1. re: Peripatetic
                        b
                        bulavinaka Apr 18, 2009 01:31 PM

                        I like it because a little goes a long way. And most of all, my kids (who really dark chocolate) won't touch the stuff. :)

                        1. re: bulavinaka
                          Peripatetic Apr 18, 2009 02:38 PM

                          Yes, it's very child-proof (and, for many, adult-proof).

                          It's always entertaining to see the look on people's faces when you give them some -- it's not at all what they're expecting. Some co-workers have never forgiven me. :)

                          1. re: Peripatetic
                            b
                            bulavinaka Apr 18, 2009 03:30 PM

                            It's definitely not for the casual chocolate eater. Biting into a piece without knowing what to expect is like thinking you're going for a casual snorkle only to be plunged down to the benthic zone. As I type, my last piece of 99% sits on the desk with no takers but me...

                  3. c
                    comestible Mar 21, 2009 09:55 PM

                    Lately our local Waldbaum's supermarket has various Lindt 3-oz. bars at $2 each, so that's my current fave. We also have local Albanian bodegas with cheaper East European chocolate bars, but I must admit they aren't nearly as good.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: comestible
                      Peripatetic Mar 25, 2009 08:21 PM

                      What's your favorite Lindt bar?

                    2. p
                      Pete S Mar 21, 2009 07:21 AM

                      Have you tried Green and Blacks organic?. A UK brand but I'm sure i've seen it on sale in the US. They make several different bars or what we call "plain" chocolate (but which I think you would call Semi Sweet or Bitter Sweet in the US - they do a 70 and 85 cocoa solids (and a 72 blend for cooking) - They also have milk and white chocolate varieties and various flavoured ones too. - it's mid-priced in the UK (about 3 to 4 dollars a bar) and I think they are excellent.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Pete S
                        Peripatetic Mar 25, 2009 08:15 PM

                        I lived in the UK for over ten years and really never understood the popularity of G&B, other than it's organic designation. I actually do like some of the flavo(u)red bars, especially the blackcurrent and hazelnut (it's like a premium Chunky!) and the caramel bar, but I found the straight chocolate to be too over-roasted and bitter.

                      2. u
                        umbushi plum Mar 18, 2009 01:27 AM

                        well i dont know if its comparable but i like it better than any other inexpensive brand lindt 85% dark chocoate very nice to have a square at night (i don't have a sweet tooth though and it has proven too dark for some people i have shared it with) but i like it more than the 70% lindt for some reason it seems to have a nicer mouth feel and its smoother, i highly reccomend it ;-)

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: umbushi plum
                          Peripatetic Mar 19, 2009 11:51 AM

                          I like Lindt's milk chocolate but have been disappointed with the 70% and 85% bars, which, like the entry-level Valrhona, taste harsh to me. When it comes down to it, I guess I prefer dark chocolate that is closer in style (lighter roast, higher cocoa butter content) to milk chocolate.

                          1. re: Peripatetic
                            u
                            umbushi plum Mar 21, 2009 11:04 PM

                            i found that with the 70% but not the 85% i don't know what the difference is but i always melt it a for ten seconds in the microwave if its winter because its always better slightly warm maybe try it like that you might change your mind you never know ;-)

                            1. re: umbushi plum
                              Peripatetic Mar 25, 2009 08:10 PM

                              I'll try it that way!

                              1. re: Peripatetic
                                u
                                umbushi plum Mar 26, 2009 12:21 PM

                                cool!

                        2. ipsedixit Mar 17, 2009 11:15 PM

                          Certainly not gourmet, but the Ikea chocolate bars definitely fit your criteria of "good" (sweet, buttery and just a tad bitter) and "inexpensive" (only $0.99 for a single 100g bar).

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            Peripatetic Mar 18, 2009 01:05 AM

                            I don't get to my local Ikea very often (Burbank), but I'll give it a try on the next visit. I do like their Swedish specialties, like Lingonberry jam . . .

                          2. kattyeyes Mar 17, 2009 02:11 PM

                            Have you tried Chocolove? Their chocolate with raspberries bar is quite nice and they have many other varieties.
                            http://www.chocolove.com/raspberries.htm

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: kattyeyes
                              Peripatetic Mar 17, 2009 07:24 PM

                              I did try Chocolove's Rich Dark on the basis of these reviews at Seventypercent.com:

                              http://www.seventypercent.com/chocop/...

                              I liked the taste but the texture is pretty hard. I like chocolate with a higher cocoa butter content.

                              1. re: Peripatetic
                                kattyeyes Mar 17, 2009 07:43 PM

                                Well, hey, you've gotta keep trying (you poor thing, the things we do to find just the right food--HA HA). It's a fun and tasty quest, I'm sure!

                                1. re: kattyeyes
                                  Peripatetic Mar 17, 2009 10:48 PM

                                  I guess there are worse things in life than trying lots of different chocolate. :)

                            2. Phoo_d Mar 17, 2009 12:06 PM

                              The Valrhona with a black wrapper and dark red lines is our favorite eating bar. I can't remember the name but think it is around 75% dark chocolate for $3-$4 a bar. We can often find it at TJ's and are very happy with the notes of berry and wine that linger in the finish.
                              Phoo-D
                              http://www.phoo-d.com

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Phoo_d
                                Peripatetic Mar 17, 2009 07:03 PM

                                I tried that one (I think it's the Noir Amer 71% you're referring to). In fact I still have some left, which I'm eating as I write this to remind me what it's like. I like it more than Valrhona's other "industrial" offerings (Noir Cacao and Noir Amer Extra), but to me it still seems harsh with too many off-flavors. It makes very decent hot chocolate, though.

                              2. a
                                andieb Mar 17, 2009 11:45 AM

                                The Trader Joe's Pound Plus bars are great and a great value, and they are available in a variety of %

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: andieb
                                  p
                                  phantomdoc Mar 17, 2009 11:50 AM

                                  Yes andieb the TJ pound plus bars are 500 gram Belgian chocolate in a variety of cocoa concentration and with or without nuts. As I remember they were $4 or $5 for 1/2 kilo.

                                  1. re: andieb
                                    buttertart Mar 18, 2009 09:56 AM

                                    The 72% dark is my idea of cooking and eating semisweet chocolate at a very good price.

                                  2. c
                                    CocoaNut Mar 17, 2009 10:54 AM

                                    If you can find Sarotti Grand Chocolates (200g/7oz bars), it's relatively inexpensive.

                                    1. mcsheridan Mar 16, 2009 06:53 PM

                                      WorldWideChocolate has your bar at $3.99 each, or $17.99 per 5-pack. :)
                                      http://worldwidechocolate.com/shop_va...

                                      That is, of course, before shipping charges.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mcsheridan
                                        Peripatetic Mar 17, 2009 10:29 AM

                                        Thanks! Shipping is rather high, but it works out to close to $4 per bar if you order 25 of them. That's not too bad.

                                      2. Ruth Lafler Mar 16, 2009 04:13 PM

                                        You might want to check out Cost Plus/World Market. They have a good selection of premium chocolate bars at good prices, and they also have some of their own private label bars that are pretty good (especially the sea salt) and very reasonable.

                                        However, I think you're going to have to resign yourself to the fact that the bars you listed are the creme de la creme, and there's a reason they're so expensive! You're simply not going to find that quality at a much lower price.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                          Peripatetic Mar 16, 2009 06:32 PM

                                          You're right about World Market, I will check them out again.

                                          I know I won't find Amedei/Domori/Cluizel at low prices, but until recently I was able to get Valrhona Manjari bars (which are very good but not ultra-premium) for a good price ($3.39 for a 75g bar) from Whole Foods. I was hoping someone could recommend something else on a par with Valrhona Manjari at a comparable price.

                                        2. c
                                          cstr Mar 16, 2009 04:09 PM

                                          M&M's dark chocolate, yumm....

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: cstr
                                            Peripatetic Mar 16, 2009 06:40 PM

                                            I love M&Ms, but I can't control myself around them! With good chocolate I can eat just a little and be happy.

                                            1. re: Peripatetic
                                              c
                                              cstr Mar 17, 2009 03:13 PM

                                              Good point, they are addicting.

                                          2. s
                                            sdnosh Mar 16, 2009 03:44 PM

                                            This may sound unsofisticated in the chocolate world, but have you tried Trader Joes chocolates? I usually get the milk chocolate (my favorite type), and enjoy it more than any other variety I have tried, which admittedly does not include any of those listed above.

                                            11 Replies
                                            1. re: sdnosh
                                              Peripatetic Mar 16, 2009 06:41 PM

                                              I'll try it and report back!

                                              1. re: Peripatetic
                                                Peripatetic Mar 17, 2009 06:46 PM

                                                I went to my local TJ and bought the three-pack of the TJ's milk chocolate (the one with the yellow wrapper -- is that the one you were referring to?) and . . . it's not bad! It has a slightly odd caramel flavor, but I like caramel and could live with it.

                                              2. re: sdnosh
                                                limster Mar 17, 2009 06:12 AM

                                                I've always liked TJ's chocovic line.

                                                1. re: sdnosh
                                                  val ann c Mar 17, 2009 10:43 AM

                                                  I agree that Trader Joe's has many good well-priced chocolate bars. Some taste better than others...

                                                  I like TJ's Swiss dark chocolate - in a green cardboard wrapper.
                                                  The best value... the 3-pack of 47 gram Belgian chocolate bars. Great quality at a very reasonable price.

                                                  I did not like the 100 calorie dark chocolate bars.

                                                  1. re: val ann c
                                                    Caitlin McGrath Mar 17, 2009 02:13 PM

                                                    val ann c, those three-packs are Callebaut - at least, I bought one (bittersweet) a couple years ago that had Callebaut stamped in the chocolate. Usually, the chocolate is without an imprint, so I figured it must have been an error that "outed" the maker.

                                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                                      alkapal Mar 21, 2009 06:45 AM

                                                      good to know!

                                                      btw, i don't know the chocolate referenced by the o.p., but i like those little dove individually-wrapped dark chocolates called "promises". http://www.dovechocolate.com/products...

                                                      if the o.p. is talking about bittersweet, like the "green and black" organics mentioned by pete s, below, then my little "dove" suggestion is so off-base. mr. alka brought those back from u.k. recently, and they're too bitter for me.

                                                      1. re: alkapal
                                                        q
                                                        queencru Mar 21, 2009 08:10 AM

                                                        Oh I like the promises too. I can't really eat dark/bittersweet chocolate because it triggers migraines, so most of what is listed here really doesn't work for me.

                                                        1. re: queencru
                                                          alkapal Mar 21, 2009 08:20 AM

                                                          the promises are the silkiest chocolates i've had since i ate superb chocolates in brussels.

                                                        2. re: alkapal
                                                          Peripatetic Mar 25, 2009 08:09 PM

                                                          I agree about Green and Black's . . . I lived in the UK for over ten years and never understood their popularity, other than the British following among a certain demographic for all things organic.

                                                          I tried Dove Promises and thought they didn't seem to have enough cocoa butter content. Non-premium producers remove some butter fat and sell it separately because they make more in total than if they kept it in and sold it as premium. Mass market producers remove almost all of it and replace it with cheaper vegetable oil. I forget which category Dove falls into.

                                                          1. re: Peripatetic
                                                            alkapal Mar 25, 2009 08:33 PM

                                                            dove promises don't use vegetable oil https://www.wegmans.com/webapp/wcs/st...

                                                            did you try the dark?

                                                            1. re: Peripatetic
                                                              Caitlin McGrath Mar 26, 2009 11:30 AM

                                                              In the US, it cannot be labeled "chocolate" if it contains vegetable oil, it must be labeled "chocolate flavored."

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