Chocolate is medicine for the heart, the soul, and the tongue. How else could it bring a smile to the face of anyone from the age of 2 to 102? But let's admit it, a pure 100% cacao bar experience might be a bit too much on the prescriptive side of the coin. Enter the Vanilla 84% bar by Antidote Chocolate. This bar plays Mary Poppins by adding a spoonful of sugar to brighten up your daily dose: just a little, just enough, just right. Just have a bite.
Vanilla and chocolate together have a long history, even though they seem to run in opposition, in a way. Chocolate is dark and sophisticated, sometimes bitter. Vanilla is light, delicate, almost blushingly mild. On the surface you wouldn't think they should be combined. But they are. And they should be. It's a rare chocolate recipe that doesn't contain vanilla as a bright accent. And who can forget the delight of a bowl of vanilla ice cream covered in a tsunami of fudge sauce? Truly, they belong together. And that's this bar, bringing not only chocolate and vanilla into harmony, but raw and roasted cacao, as well.
According to Antidote, this 84% bar, studded with nibs and spashed with vanilla essence, is both "potent and pure: bold & balanced dark chocolate rounded with pure vanilla bean and crunchy cacao nibs of 84% raw + roasted cacao with a delicate fruity and nutty cacao aroma."
According to you and me and the chocosphere, the bar is the epitome of sophistication. Dark, dark chocolate with a nudge of sweet to bring on a smile and that backbeat of vanilla, followed by the occasional crunch from a roasted cacao nib. Just one little piece? No way. Who has that kind of restraint?
Open the lovely packaging and see the convex bump of each section, reinforcing the notion that these buttons are pills to both cope with and enjoy life. Turn over the bar and see the rough bumpy nibs, strewn about in as random textural intrigue.
Each bite of this aromatic bar will remind you that, like coffee, truly excellent chocolate is sophisticated, with layers of nuance and experience from tongue to belly. Complex flavors will unfold as a piece melts on your tongue - these can include cinnamon, berries, even flowers. Crunching down on a nib punctuates the taste and adds just a hint of bitter against the mildly sweet bar. Meanwhile, your brain is smartly anticipating the gentle lift from cacao's micronutrients.
You might say to yourself, “one piece”, and you, being moderate and sensible, might stop after one piece. If you do not, I assure you there is nothing the matter. It is only that you are eating wonderful chocolate.
This bar is one of the many in the Antidote lineup that is a 50/50 blend of roasted and raw, stone-ground, with all of the goodness that is present is both types of cacao. Win-win! According to Antidote, this formula is the bar to pick up if you are on a healthy diet. Why? Perhaps the grounding of deeply dark chocolate and the simplicity of ingredients keeps sugar cravings to a minimum. I concur. Hand me a chocolate bar with lots of crazy flavors and chunks of fruit or candy, and I'll inhale the whole thing and look for something else. With Antidote, the experience is calming. That's a nice change of pace.
Guess what amazing things are in cacao? A whole bunch. Here's a brief list:
ANTIOXIDANTS – shields free radicals to protect against aging. Cocoa has by far the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food in the world. Raw cocoa has an antioxidant value that is four times that of the Acai berry, which is known for being extremely high.
MAGNESIUM – for heart, brain power, strong bones
IRON – critical mineral for nutrition
CHROMIUM – to balance blood sugar
MANGANESE – an essential trace mineral
ZINC – for immune support
COPPER – for healthy blood
VITAMIN C – contains antioxidants, especially in raw cocoa
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS – especially in raw cocoa
PHENYLETHYLAMINE PEA – for focus and alertness
ANANDAMIDE – the bliss chemical
TRYPTOPHAN – regulates the appetite, for better sleep, helps with relaxation
SEROTONIN – mood enhancing, our feel-good hormone
FIBER – for a good digestive system
First, just to clarify, “raw” chocolate has actually been fermented, which is a very good thing nutritionally. Fermentation makes foods a lot more digestible, activating compounds that you want to be eating, and neutralizing those you don’t. So all so-called raw chocolate is actually fermented. No, it doesn’t have a funky taste like kimchi or sauerkraut, but you can definitely taste a tangy tannic quality in good dark chocolate, not dissimilar from wine.
The benefits of raw chocolate (compared to roasted, also present in this bar) include: higher levels of antioxidants (oligomeric procynanidins, resveratrol and the polyphenols: catechin and epicatechin) as well as the preservation of vitamin C, phenethylamine (PEA, the feel-good neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of love), Omega 6 fatty acids (which when heated can go rancid and cause inflammation), tryptophan (a commonly deficient amino acid in those who consume a diet of mostly cooked food) and serotonin (a neurotransmitter that makes us feel goooood.)
For starters, it's Red Thalhammer herself. She is a force to be reckoned with in the world of sustainable health foods. Her rigorous testing before putting Antidote on the market speaks to her tenacity, and the physical techniques used in production ensure a great bar every time.
Back in 2009, Red was in a toxic mood one day and, spurred on by a friend, began to ponder the notion of an "antidote" to her blues. Could there be something real, something natural, that would help? What heals the spirit and brightens the palate with warrior strength? Cacao is what. She set to work creating a new kind of chocolate, one to be sustaining for the body and sustainable for the producers. One that used formulas to temper the tantrums, soothe the sulks. Her chocolate had another twist - the smoothness of traditionally roasted and tempered beans and the health benefits of raw ground cacao - no one was making a 50/50 bar, so that's exactly what Red did.
Bolstered by additions like spices and herbs for mood and pleasure, these bars are meant to be food in addition to an indulgence. It's now been 5 years and Red has found lots of other people who are and were in need of chocolate antidotes to their daily lives, as well.
Here is what she says about why Antidote is unique:
Stone-grinding is used by only a few bean-to-bar manufacturers in the world. Why? It is slow and difficult, for starters. Batch sizes must be kept manageable, and the whole process must be monitored rather than the “set it and forget it” model of large chocolate factories – even when those factories are making wonderful, sustainable and ethical chocolate.
Antidote uses an ancient method known as stone-grinding in the production of their chocolate. Originally used for turning olives into luscious and delicious olive oil, stone-grinding applies pressure with powerful, perfectly smooth granite wheels. Although "old world" in its approach, it is revolutionary in terms of preserving and activating nutrients and flavor. This natural preservation is accomplished by maintaining a consistently low temperature throughout the entire process.