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Home / Doug's Chocolate Republic  /   Review: Ghirardelli Toffee Interlude

Ghirardelli Toffee Interlude 
Posted: 11 October 2011    6.5 
Ghirardelli Toffee Interlude This a tasty bar, no doubt, and I'd leave it at that. It's tasty in the same way Snicker's and M & M's are tasty. Superb chocolate isn't needed; it's the combination of the chocolate with the fillings (plus the cheap price) that yields the addiction. The best way to put it is that Ghirardelli's Toffee Interlude is a premium version of Snicker's or M & M's. It's better made average-quality chocolate.    
Avg price/gram: USD 0.043   Cocoa %: 60  Size: 100g   

Last week, an old, old friend I hadn't seen in almost 17 years showed up in Thailand.  We'll call him Burma Mike because Burma is where I met him, in December 1994.   Burma Mike and I traveled together throughout a Burmese police state today's travelers to Burma can merely fantasize about.  We kept in touch via snail mail during those pre-internet days.  He invited me to his wedding in 1997, with his return address on the top lefthand corner of the envelope.   I was sorting through 3 years' worth of mail upon my return to the US in 1997, and this envelope got tossed inadvertently.  Burma Mike's surname is among the most common in the U.S., and Mike isn't exactly a rare name either.  It looked like this contact was buried in the sands.

Until Burma Mike got in touch with me via Facebook a year-and-a-half ago.  Got in touch is more like he sent me a friendship request.  Thereafter, we exchanged almost zero personal contacts.  We were, according to my article on friendship, just virtual friends and may have remained so ad infinitum if Burma Mike hadn't written me at the end of September that he was headed to Thailand from his home state of Washington and wanted to get together.  Yes, it's possible for virtual friends to resume the status of real friendships if personal contact is actually resumed, something becoming ever rarer in this age of smartphones and superficial social networks.

Burma Mike asked if he could bring over anything.  I mentioned the formation of the Chocolate Republic and hinted that he may bring a few American-made bars over with him.  A few bars turned out to be 29, all from U.S. West Coast states (California, Washington, and Oregon) plus 5 packs of fruit covered chocolates and miniatures.  He also brought over 9 packs of Seattle roasted coffees, but I don't yet run a Coffee Republic to rate those.

A number of bars in the package were Ghirardelli.   When I left the U.S. in 2005, I was not all that fond of Ghirardelli.  To the uneducated chocolate-loving masses, Ghirardelli is considered a premium brand.  I had seen Ghirardelli in the mid Noughties use hydrogenated oils and vegetable fats.  No real premium brand would try to sneak these inferior ingredients in.  I disliked Ghirardelli because I considered it a poseur, acting chic and elite without putting forth the efforts to deserve it.  

The company has a lot of cachet value in the United States.  San Francisco, its home base, worships it.   There is a Ghirardelli Hotel and a Ghirardelli Square.  Ghirardelli is the USA's second oldest chocolate operation.  Whitman's is the oldest.  Ghirardelli's history has the European touch.   The company was founded by Italian chocolatier Domingo Ghirardelli.   It has history.  It's been around since 1852.  The story has romance. Ghirardelli sailed to Uruguay while young to work in coffee and chocolate businesses there before showing up at the Gold Rush in the late 1840's. 

Plenty of fans chime Ghirardelli's praises, as if the company is an innovator.  Perhaps it was when Domingo was in charge.  Sorry, mates.  It ain't now.  Ghirardelli hasn't been an independent operator since 1963.  Golden Grain Macaroni Company, makers of rice a roni ("a San Francisco treat"), bought them out in the year the James Bond flick  From Russia With Love came out.  In 1986, Quaker Oats took control of Golden Grain.  In 1992, Quaker dumped Ghirardelli onto a private investment group.  For 30 years, it didn't look like anyone valued quality chocolate making, just the Ghirardelli brand name.  In 1998. Lindt, the multinational Swiss-based choco-maker, slurped up Ghirardelli and has owned them since. 

Ghirardelli wasn't manufacturing unique combination bars like the Toffee Interlude back in my chocolate exploratory phase in the early 2000's.  I can only surmise that parent Lindt has tried to position Ghirardelli higher on the pecking order of American chocolate manufacturers with the boom in artisan chocolate manufacturing in the mid Noughties.  There are actually taster notes on the back of this bar, European style, which read "This slightly sweeter dark chocolate is blended with abundant crunchy toffee and caramelized almonds, both adding buttery, rich caramel notes and flavor and textural highlights.  With a seductive, yet soothing aroma, this bar has a complex texture and blends the perfect balance of sweet and salty flavors."

Let's call the taster notes a cheap grab at credibility in the elite range.  Think of the taster notes in the way you'd think of a trailer trash couple trying to use words in conversation they'd just memorized out of the thesaurus. This a tasty bar, no doubt, and I'd leave it at that.  It's tasty in the same way Snicker's and M & M's are tasty.   Superb chocolate isn't needed; it's the combination of the chocolate with the fillings (plus the cheap price) that yields the addiction.  The best way to put it is that Ghirardelli's Toffee Interlude is a premium version of Snicker's or M & M's.  It's better made average-quality chocolate.  Sorry, Ghirardelli groupies.  We call a spade a spade in this Republic.

The bar is composed of 60% cocoa solids, but the chocolate itself, divested of its "crunchy toffee and caramelized almonds", isn't all that complex, and the only thing seductive and soothing about it was that my wife loved it; and when she loves something, her mood improves and she becomes seductive and soothing.  

Would I eat this bar again?  Absolutely.  Would I tell others it was some of the finest chocolate on the planet?  Only if I were being paid off handsomely by Ghirardelli.   

If you liked reading this, consider savoring these reviews:
 Coles Belgian Fruit and Nut from Australia -- 26% cocoa solids
 Madecasse 70% Cocoa from Madagascar -- 70% cocoa solids
 The Complete Chocolate Republic Index

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  chocolate from San Francisco means Ghirardelli. Want to try their succulent toffee interlude, which is American chocolate at its unfinest? This is dark chocolate put out by a company owned by Lindt.