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.