Annalisa Barbieri’s “Beat the January Blues”


Annalisa Barbieri, celebrated columnist and Chocolate Correspondent for The Observer, has chosen these five chocolates as a great pick-me-up during the dark winter months.


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    Annalisa Barbieri, celebrated columnist and Chocolate Correspondent for The Observer, has chosen these five chocolates as a great pick-me-up during the dark winter months.

    Disclaimer: Annalisa Barbieri is The Observer’s Chocolate Correspondent, where she writes the weekly Notes on Chocolate column. Neither Annalisa, nor The Observer, makes any money from this endeavour. 


    Pralus – Barre Infernale 

    “When first planning this second collaboration with Cocoa Runners I was entirely led by this bar and planned to put it in a Christmas box. Because it reminds me of the torrone we’d get in Italy at Christmas; the torrone morbido (soft nougat as opposed to the hard stuff I wasn’t so keen on) was highly sought after. But the real prize was chocolate covered soft nougat and we hardly ever had that: too posh, too expensive. So when I discovered this bar as an adult I was very happy.

    “(I later decided not to try to do a pre-Christmas box as December has all the treats and January has none, no wonder it’s such a mean month, thus I postponed the box to come out in January to try to cheer us all up.)

    “I first discovered this bar in Bon Marché in Paris, bought it for my husband and ate it on the way home on the Eurostar. Thank goodness Cocoa Runners was able to provide a replacement to hide my selfishness. Anyway the chocolate is a milky 45% and it surrounds sticky, messy, delicious honey-nougat with almonds and pistachios. It’s sweet and lends itself to overeating, so be careful.”

    BOHO – Milk Chocolate with Potato Chips

    “This instantly put me in a bad mood when I first saw it. It didn’t have the cocoa percentage written anywhere on it (this annoys me), and I thought it was gimmicky. So it had to overcome a lot of initial prejudice to impress and it didn’t fail. The chocolate (51% cocoa as it happens) is spot on superb and the crisps therein (yes this is an American bar hence chips = crisps) are crinkled. It just works. One of my fondest choc-related memories is lying tummy down in front of the fire like an eleven year old, head propped in hands reading Andrew Baker’s excellent Bean to Bar chocolate book (available separately) and discovering the joy that is this chocolate.”

    Believe it or not, the smooth creaminess of milk chocolate combines beautifully with the salt and delicate crunch of potato chips. The contrast in texture and the balance in flavour make for an extremely enjoyable bar, unlike anything else we’ve tried before.

    Dormouse – Madagascan Toasted White

    (unfortunately this bar is now out of stock – we have replaced it with a similarly delicious bar, Neary Nogs Toasted Oat)

    “I hate white chocolate. It’s sickly and sweet and wraps my teeth up in a sort of invisible cling film. When I taste it professionally I always say “ooh that’s interesting” meaning “yuk I will never taste this again if I can help it”. But in the privacy of my home I discovered this and what do you know, I ate the whole bar. I would say this is a rehabilitated white in that it’s still sweet but holds its own, the caramelisation gives it sweetness whilst still feeling classy. I included it here because a) it’s amazing b) if you hate white chocolate it’s a good way to give it another go and c) if you love white chocolate well, sit back and prepare to be made very happy.”

    Wrapped in Dormouse’s unique and varied handmade wrapping, this dark blonde bar has a soft and fudgy texture. We noted plenty of sweet caramel and touches of muscovado and malt. This bar is undoubtedly a sweet treat with a sophisticated caramac-like quality.

    Willie’s Cacao – Milk of the Stars

    “I’ve had many dark milk favourites over the years but this is now my consistent favourite. Even though I remember how good it is I’m still always suprised by how good it is. It’s a favourite in our house, everybody loves it and we all fight over it. The flavours develop slowly in the mouth (this is due to Willie using less cocoa butter), so it’s supremely satisfying.”

    Incredibly creamy, milky and delightfully sweet. This deliciously chocolatey bar’s wonderful flavours are completed by a rich note of caramel which is characteristic of beans from the tropical climes of Surabaya, Java.

    Cocoa Runners – Milk & Dark Chocolate Cooking Buttons

    “I insisted Cocoa Runners did a mixed bag of buttons. ‘Can’t you just have two smaller bags of each?’ they asked. No I foot-stamped. The reason for this was that, although ostensibly this is chocolate to cook with (or make hot chocolate with), I wanted you to lucky-dip your way through them, perhaps whilst watching a favourite film, not knowing if you’d get a dark or milk button. And in so doing it would ease you back into life, work, maybe even the world, because to me the milk buttons say ‘stay at home comfort’ and the dark ones are a bit more serious. Naturally you can – and I do – bake with it in anyway you please. Menakao makes excellent chocolate and these 44% are my absolute favourite buttons of all time now, whilst Original Beans makes chocolate so smooth that even at 75% these are still gorgeously comforting.”

    Please note: We are temporarily switching Menakao Milk buttons for Original Beans Esmeraldas 42% Milk. Please get in touch if you require detailed nutritional information.

    These buttons are perfect for cooking: they melt quickly and evenly, they’re so simple to work with, and they bring the best craft chocolate flavours to any chocolatey recipe. Head on over to the Cooking & Baking section for a curated selection of chocolate recipes and inspiration.

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