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Taste-testing unusual chocolate products: Bacon, beer, vodka, vinegar and more

There's a reason the Aztecs used chocolate as currency: It is truly a miracle product. Delicious both milky and molten, in hues from white to inky-dark, it possesses the astounding ability to make almost everything taste more delicious. Today, it's possible to consume chocolate in ways the Aztecs never imagined, from breakfast to high tea to happy hour. Don't believe us? Check out these 10 nontraditional chocolate products available around Tampa Bay. — Jay Cridlin cridlin@tampabay.com

Chocolate cereal

Did you beg to eat Count Chocula as a child, only to be turned down by your health-conscious parents? Us, too. Indulge your inner child's sweet tooth at Fresh in downtown Tampa. Among the cereal bar's sweetest concoctions are the "Sticky," a bowl of Cookie Crisp, Oreo cookies and chocolate syrup topped with gummy worms; and the "Bouncer," which blends Kix, Cocoa Puffs, marshmallows, chocolate chips and chocolate milk. You'll be bouncing off your cubicle walls all morning. Bowls start at $3.69 at Fresh, 507 N Franklin St., Tampa. eatfreshdaily.com.

Chocolate beer

Thick, heavy and tinged with a cocoa-like flavor, chocolate stout is a popular style of craft beer, and labels like Young's Double Chocolate Stout are available at beer-friendly bars like New World Brewery. World of Beer on Fourth Street in St. Pete has Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout on tap, and the Independent Tampa, which features a rotating beer menu, recently tapped kegs of Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence and Bison Organic Chocolate Stout. Call your local beer bar to see what they've got in stock; you never know what seasonal brews might turn up.

Chocolate vodka

No, not chocolate babka. Chocolate vodka. As in Three Olives Vodka, which makes a chocolate-infused vodka that sells for $17.29 at Total Wine. Real men drink their chocolate vodka straight, of course, but for something sweeter, visit Blue Martini at International Plaza, where you can order a Three Chocolates — that's Three Olives Chocolate Vodka and Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur served in a martini glass swirled with white chocolate — for $12.

Chocolate wine

Produced and bottled in Auburndale, How Now Brown Cow Chocolate Wine barely seems to qualify as a grape wine. Open a bottle, and it's a thick, milky, almost syrupy concoction that tastes like someone spiked your Nesquik. If only it came in juice-box form. Get it for $8.99 at Total Wine, or try a more widely available Dutch brand, ChocoVine, for about the same price.

CHOCOLATE PASTA

Pappardelle's makes a handful of chocolate pastas, including Dark Chocolate Linguini and Chocolate Hazelnut Dessert Ravioli. They start at $8 per pack, and when topped with whipped cream or fruit, they become an intriguing dessert. Buy Pappardelle's at St. Petersburg's Saturday Morning Market and occasionally the Tampa Downtown Market on Fridays. pappardellesonline.com.

CHOCOLATE BACON

If you're not yet hip to the deliciousness that is chocolate-dipped bacon, know that it's not just for carnies anymore. Just visit Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe, which offers chilled, dark-chocolate-dipped bacon slices as a dessert option for $5. 5119 N Nebraska Ave., Tampa; ellasfolkartcafe.com.

Chocolate salt

The Spice and Tea Exchange, which has shops at International Plaza in Tampa, the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks and John's Pass in Madeira Beach, sells Chocolate Sea Salt ($4.89 for a 1.5-oz. bag), smoked and blended with dark chocolate. It's strong stuff; the saltiness tends to overwhelm the chocolate flavor. But a dusting of it can work atop cupcakes or ice cream. Order it at spiceandtea.com.

Chocolate tea

While you're at the Spice and Tea Exchange, pick up some Black Chocolate Tea ($4.89 for a 1-oz. bag). British traditionalists may cringe, but they can't deny that the smell is intoxicating, and the brewed tea is rich, robust and invigorating. It may taste different from your daily cafe mocha, but it's got an identical kick.

CHOCOLATE VINEGAR

It sounds disgusting, we know. But Kalamazoo Olive Company's Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar is actually tart, dark and quite tasty. The shop recommends drizzling it on vanilla gelato, tossing it with berries or mixing it with its Blood Orange Olive Oil for a unique taste. It's $15.75 for a 375-mL bottle at Kalamazoo, 449 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. kalamazooolive.com.

Chocolate hookah

Yep, you can literally smokie your cocoa. Blue Lizard Hookah in Tampa offers a wide array of flavored tobaccos, including butterscotch, pumpkin pie and chocolate. Hookah enthusiasts say the taste is good, but the smell is even better — imagine holding your head over a pan of baking brownies. Mmmm. 5025 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. bluelizardhookah.com.

Taste-testing unusual chocolate products: Bacon, beer, vodka, vinegar and more 01/13/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 13, 2011 3:30am]

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