Monday, January 28, 2013

Morinaga Dars Bitter Chocolate

The way in which our tastes develop is something I've expounded upon on multiple occasions. I do this because I get royally fatigued at the notion that the tastes of one nation are somehow more evolved than those of another. Since I spent 23 years in Japan, I had more than my share of dietary comparisons based on the perceived American diet (burgers, shakes, fries, Coke, hot dogs, and pizza) and the perceived Japanese one (sushi, rice, miso soup, fish, vegetables). 

The reality of the former is that it's not as dire and destructive as people think and that of the latter is that it's not nearly the nutritional Superman that people seem to think it is. The truth rests somewhere in the middle, of course, and any individual's diet will vary. I know that I had to say again and again to my students that, NO, I do not like hamburgers or steak, and, NO, I do not eat fast food. I hate fast food. The truth is that I didn't grow up eating fast food since my family was so poor. That was back in the old days when fast food actually cost more than food that was considered healthy.

Since I grew up with so little fast food, I never developed a strong taste for it. And, after all, as I've said far too many times before (and I'm sorry to bore my audience who deserves better), we like what we grew up with and what we become acclimated to. That's probably why some of my lovely readers will sample something I liked and hate it. My tastes got rewired in Japan to some extent.

When it comes to the training of the taste buds, the Japanese are much more acclimated to bitter flavors. I'm guessing this is because their cuisine incorporates more of them and this gets their palates accustomed to them earlier and with greater frequency than the average 'merkan. This is one way to explain the popularity of goya and various dishes prepared with it.

This also explains why Dars would release a "bitter" chocolate variety. I'm sampling it not because I like bitter flavors (as I'm a sissy American), but because it is Dars, the darling of the Japanese chocolate industry in my eyes. Frankly, as I've gotten older, I've also learned to enjoy darker chocolate and stronger flavors more. I'm guessing this is because of neurological diseases or wilting of my once perceptive taste buds or some such age-related decay. It's best to simply accept that you're going with grace and just be glad that you have a higher chance of enjoying food that you wouldn't have found palatable when you were young and full of yourself.

When I first tried this, I wasn't entirely keen, but the second round (delivered in two-square bursts) hit me a lot more favorably. The chocolate isn't intensely bitter, but it definitely has an edge to it and is a bit strong. It's not really proper dark chocolate, but it's closer to it than most consumer-level offerings of such. The main benefit, as is always the case with Dars, is its creamy, fatty nature which will unfold if you are patient enough to hold one of these little squares on your tongue and allow it to slowly melt. If you just gobble it down, well, then you're missing half of the reason to have these instead of some other dark chocolate.

I liked this because it was potent without being unpleasantly intense. There is just enough sweetness for a dark chocolate sissy like me to enjoy it and the texture, as always, was creamy when warmed in the mouth, but had a nice snap when I bit into it. Each square is about 20 calories, and you get 12 servings (Dars = doz, as in dozen). I paid about $2.20 for this at Nijiya Supermarket, and I think it was well worth it. If you're hardcore about dark chocolate, this probably won't do the trick for you and if you are strictly a milk chocolate devotee, this may also fall short. If you're somewhere in the middle, you can come join me on the bitter dark side of Dars. 

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