Gary Whitehouse Review: Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark Blood Orange Sunset Bar

Review By Gary Whitehouse: This bar is part of a line of Intense Dark chocolate bars from Ghirardelli. Others include Sea Salt Soiree, Raspberry Radiance, Hazelnut Heaven and Salted Caramel Cascade. This one is relatively new, having been introduced in 2019.

The bar is scored into eight squares that you can pretty easily break off for a serving, which is two squares. The chocolate is very smooth and at 86 percent cocoa has a mildly bitter flavor — mostly in the aftertaste. The initial taste is dominated by sugar, common with chocolate of this type, and it’s listed as the first ingredient, before unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter and milk fat. I assume some of the sweetness comes from the couverture.

This is a good one to let melt a bit on the tongue before chewing any. Once you do that, the sweetness fades away some, replaced by a pleasant tartness. It’s a little hard to tell how much of the tartness comes from the chocolate and how much from the bits of crystallized blood orange. Yes, it’s crystallized or candied, so it comes in little crunchy bits. Like the bar itself, those bits start with a little pop of sweetness that opens up into tartness. My favorite part is the occasional bit of orange peel, tiny grated slivers that have a delicate chewiness and a slight bitterness to them. As the sweetness and tartness fade, they’re replaced by that delicate bitterness of the chocolate, which lasts quite a while. I wouldn’t call this dark chocolate exactly intense, although the average American consumer may find it so. And I’m just a tiny bit skeptical about the provenance of the “blood” orange bits, because of the presence of beet juice as coloring listed in the ingredients. Most likely it’s used because the blood orange color fades during processing and people are going to expect some red color in the bits. Studies have shown that our perception of taste can be highly influenced by color or lack of it.

Ghirardelli is what passes for quality chocolate at the grocery or drug store. That’s not intended as a put-down. It’s pretty darn good chocolate compared to much of what you get in mass-produced chocolate products, but several steps below what I’d call premium chocolate. This bar with its crispy bits, chewy bits and pleasant blend of tart and bitter flavors, is pretty good for what it is. Decent chocolate with a fun mix of flavor and texture.

Gary Whitehouse (he, him), a lifelong resident of the U.S. Pacific Northwest, is a retired reporter, editor, and government communicator. He’s also a lifelong lover of books and music, which he has been writing about online for nearly a quarter of a century. His other passions include birding, standard poodles, chocolate, coffee, and craft ales.

10 thoughts on “Gary Whitehouse Review: Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark Blood Orange Sunset Bar

  1. So, having reviewed the chocolate reviews here, they all seem to be of grocery-store type chocolate. I’d like some examples of what Mr Whitehouse does consider to be premium chocolate. (I have my own ideas, but I’d like to know his.)

  2. @ Orange Mike: Thank you for that information on Blood Oranges. I did not know they contained a substance like that in grapefruits. I will be on the alert for friends on medications. –I am guessing the new genetically engineered red limes may have that substance as well. I don’t know if the red finger limes from Australia have it, but would be interested to find out.
    Thanks again!
    PS: I first learned about Blood Oranges from Avram Davidson. Their current popularity stem in part from the fact that you can grow them in a colder climate than most oranges.

  3. Dan’l Danehy-Oakes says So, having reviewed the chocolate reviews here, they all seem to be of grocery-store type chocolate. I’d like some examples of what Mr Whitehouse does consider to be premium chocolate. (I have my own ideas, but I’d like to know his.)

    Why don’t you tell what you consider premium chocolate.

    Now keep in mind that I’m not sure where you’re shopping for such chocolate as I’ve never encountered a source for really premium chocolate beyond small batch local made chocolate but I’d really like to know as I’d order some for review here.

  4. I just looked them up. The amount of blood orange extract in those bars isn’t an issue for anyone as all that’s left is the flavor as the active ingredient is rendered safe by the heating process.

    Now if it still bothers you, than you shouldn’t be eating leafy veggies, apple juices, any oranges, bananas and yes grapefruit.

    (I can’t eat or drink grapefruit because of my anti-seizure meds, so I don’t.)

    But you should not be asking for medical advice from a chocolate review anyways, should you? So expecting it to be addressed in the review is a bit much.

  5. Cat Eldridge asks:
    Why don’t you tell what you consider premium chocolate.

    I was asking Mr Whitehouse that because I’m still learning. But since you asked…

    Ideally, single-sourced, ideally fair trade, certainly high cocoa content and certainly no strange chemicals in. Some brands that I have liked include Choquiero, Mandala, Jcoco, Zotter, and Theo & Philo. There’s a place in Carmel called “The Xocolatl Garden” that I get to whenever I can (alas, only every couple of years…). Last time I was there they had a bourbon chocolate bar that was extraordinary, but I didn’t write down the brand.

    Mind you, I’m not immune to Ghirardelli, or Lindt or See’s for that matter, but I don’t consider them premium.

  6. Dan’l, Gary didn’t consider that chocolate premium. In fact, he said “several steps below what I’d call premium chocolate.” We’re not reviewing premium chocolate because most folks just don’t consume it as a) it’s expensive, and b) damn hard to acquire.

    Everything that gets reviewed here is easy to acquire if a Filer here decides they want it. There’s no sense to review a limited edition chapbook that de Lint did as a solstice gift (though they are very nice) as no one can purchase it. Now a dragon hand puppet from Folkmanis, that’s worth reviewing.

  7. Cat, I did not say that he did say it was premium; I was agreeing with him that Ghirardelli was not.

    Good to know about the “general availability” policy.

  8. Dan’l Danehy-Oakes says Good to know about the “general availability” policy..

    There’s no sense to review anything if y’all can’t buy it if you want to. Everything we review is readily available, be it books, chocolate, graphic novels, or the toys Filer Iain Delaney will be reviewing for us. Oh and Folkmanis puppets as well.

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