Earlier this week I asked y'all to tell me your favorite books about chocolate, and boy, did y'all get into it! Some people even sent in photos of their own bookshelves. (By the way, the title of this post comes from my favorite chocolate pun, from Jessica Ferraro of Bar Cacao.) People overwhelmingly loved two of my faves: Mort Rosenblum's Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Light and Dark as well as Sophie and Michael Coe's The True History of Chocolate. So many other good ones to choose from, though:
I’ll publish a photo of my wine fridge full of chocolate another time, but today it’s all about my other chocolate library — you know, the one full of books.
Here’s a little pic of the shelf above my desk, with some classics like Maricel Presilla’s The New Taste of Chocolate and Sandra Boynton’s Chocolate: The Consuming Passion. I think I pick up The True History of Chocolate like once per week to remember what Sophie Coe has to say. Books have been even more on my mind lately because mine (about American craft chocolate) is finally coming out in August.
What’s on your chocolate bookshelf? And what’s your favorite book about chocolate?
A few weeks ago I traipsed around New York City, eating all my favorites and sharing some delicious-looking photos with Food Republic's followers. Here, for your drooling pleasure, are all of those posts, in one spot.
February 12, 2017
February 13, 2017
February 14, 2017
Ask any serious chocolate lover and they’ll say YES, both because it contains antioxidants and keeps them sane. Take Antidote, for example, a Brooklyn-based company that pioneered the raw/roasted combo that works so well.
“ANTI-STRESS, ANTIOXIDANTS, APPETITE SUPPRESSANT, APHRODISIAC, ANTIDEPRESSANT,” founder Red Thalhammer writes on her site.
Food for thought, and I’d love to hear what you think about this.
But the real reason I’m writing is that I’m fascinated by new chocolate maker K’ul Chocolate’s business model. Sure, they have some single-origin bars, but they focus on these superfood bars geared toward health nuts and athletes, like Endurance, a 70 percent dark chocolate with pumpkin seeds, protein, cranberries, and guarana. It contains 270 calories and 8 grams of protein; a cool mint chocolate Clif bar contains 250 calories and 9 grams of protein, with double the number of ingredients (including soy products). I don’t know about you, but I’d rather eat heirloom cacao and natural ingredients.
K’ul’s model is an interesting departure from the rest of the bean-to-bar crowd, and I’m curious to see if others follow suit.
Meanwhile there are a range of chocolatiers and confectioners who make “healthy” bars, such as Hu, which caters to the Paleo crowd. Compartes offers a vegan dark chocolate bar with kale, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds and Jcoco makes a milk chocolate bar with agave, quinoa, and sesame. I know kale and quinoa are trendy superfoods, but does adding them into chocolate make the resulting bar “healthy”?
For my book, I interviewed Dr. JoAnn Manson at Harvard, who is conducting the first extensive study on the powers of cocoa flavanols. Among other things, she said, ““Having chocolate in moderation is perfectly fine as a treat, but I don’t think it should be considered a health food.” I’m excited to share the rest of her thoughts with you in August, when my book finally (sigh) comes out!
Happy Valentine's Day! Today is all about taking a deep breath and enjoying love in all of its forms, especially the beauty of the cacao fruit. If you haven't been to origin to see cacao pods in person, I highly recommend it. The colors are stunning, and the cacao pulp inside (which encases the raw beans) tastes great (kind of like lychee). I highlighted all of these photos on my Instagram page as well as tons more, and I wanted to share them here because they come from particularly cool companies. Enjoy!
Bonbon. It’s a short, cute little word (and it sounds even better if you say it with a French accent). You can pop a bonbon in your mouth and — snarf! — like that it’s gone. But it turns out it takes a ton of skill, effort, and time to make one of those little guys.
That’s why Ecole Chocolat and I put together a four-part series called "The Life and Times of Chocolate.” So far we cartoonized how chocolate is born, how cocoa beans become chocolate, and what’s in a fine chocolate bar. This week we’re exploring the making of a bonbon. We hope to tell the story as simply as possible, and while we may not capture all of the nuances of the process, we hope people remember the image.
Since Valentine’s Day is upon us and we’re all buying chocolates for our loved ones (hint, hint), here are a couple things to consider about bonbons before we get to the cartoon.
What the Heck Are Bonbons?
I used to call all round things made out of chocolate “truffles.” But if you want to be technical about it, most of these little round shapes are actually called bonbons. That distinguishes them from other confections like marshmallows, turtles, caramels that aren’t covered in chocolate—you get the idea.
A proper truffle is typically filled with ganache, a delicious mixture of cream and chocolate. Bonbons, on the other hand, can be filled with chocolate mixed with fruit puree, caramel, nut pastes, and so on.
What’s the Difference Between a Chocolatier and a Chocolate Maker?
Usually on Chocolate Noise I write about chocolate makers, people who buy whole cocoa beans and roast, grind, and smoothens them into bars in their own factory (or some variation of that process). Think of a chocolate maker as an engineer, creating chocolate from the raw materials. But most of the time, the people who make bonbons are called chocolatiers. Most of the time chocolatiers buy premade chocolate, melt it down, and use it to make their own bars and confections. Once in a while they make their own chocolate and use that to create confections. Think of a chocolatier as a chef who uses a premade ingredient to create his or her own masterpieces.
There are lots of ways to make bonbons, but we’ve highlighted how to make molded bonbons: First chocolatiers decorate molds with colored cocoa butter (many chocolatiers use a special gun that sprays colored cocoa butter into their chocolate molds). Then they pour in tempered chocolate to make a shell. Usually chocolatiers will fill a mold with chocolate and then tip it upside down so that all the excess chocolate runs out and you are left with a perfect outer shell that is not too thick or too thin. Next they add the filling (like ganache or caramel) and last close up the molds with more chocolate (called “bottoming”), making sure to scrape off the excess chocolate.
Like I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of different ways to make bonbons, and that’s where a chocolatier’s skill and artfulness come into play. Some chocolatiers choose not to decorate their bonbons at all, particularly if they have a really intricate and pretty mold. Or some chocolatiers decorate with something else, and there are almost endless possibilities, such as gold leaf, or edible flowers. But a good bonbon will always have a thin, even chocolate shell; balanced flavors; and no air pockets.
Okay, Okay, Enough Talking, More Eating
Here are a few tips for buying Valentine’s Day chocolate candies and confections:
- Buy locally made chocolates. This doesn’t always guarantee it’s better, but it’s nice to support our local communities, don’t you agree?
- Look for perfect pieces. You shouldn’t see any leaking fillings or air bubbles on the outer shell.
- Ask questions. Any chocolatier will be happy to talk to you about the type of chocolate they use, where it came from, and any other ingredients they use in their pieces.
(As always, thanks to Fernanda Frick for the amazing illustration!)
In the first LIVE, watch me tour Raaka’s factory, eat fresh cacao pulp and beans, and taste chocolate right out of the Cocoatown machine (mmmm!).
In the second LIVE, watch me lead a guided tasting, talk about how to taste chocolate and give the inside scoop on bean-to-bar chocolate, and use Hershey’s as a prop of something I’d rather not eat.
Ahem, is this thing on? I have an announcement to make: Season 2 of Chocolate Noise is starting on February 1!
When I asked y’all at the end of last year what you wanted to see from Chocolate Noise in 2017, so many people said they wanted more profiles. Luckily for all of us, I love writing longer stories about the best chocolate makers in America.
Starting February 1, look for one long-form story about a great chocolate maker per month for eight months. The stories will also be syndicated on Food Republic, one of my favorite sites, and I’ll be taking over their Instagram later this month to show their readers around New York’s most delicious chocolate.
Also look for the return of the Underground Chocolate Salon, more Chocolate Today blog posts, curated stories on Facebook, and a ton of pretty pictures on Instagram.
I can’t wait to share more chocolatey stories with you!
A few weeks ago I asked y’all a hard question: If you had to pick 5 makers (or bars) to represent American craft chocolate, who would they be? Seems a bit random, I know, but I was headed to Storey Publishing’s office to do a tasting for the team working on my book.
I’m excited to tell you how excited they were to taste all of this delicious craft chocolate. I didn’t actually bring anything, because Storey has something like 100 bars that they’re photographing for the book, a wide array of jewels that made my mouth water just thinking about them. We filled the room and then some with people eager to taste the best craft chocolate in America, and they loved it. LOVED IT! I’m not going to reveal exactly which bars we tasted (you’ll have to wait for the book for that one), but we ended the day buzzing with the energy of the craft chocolate movement.
But back to the question at hand. So many of you guys wrote me such great answers. Here they are, in no particular order. (P.S. In this case, America included Canada too!)
“My favorite bean-to-bar maker of 2016: Madre, Patric, Rogue, Dandelion, Potomac”
“So hard to pick 5. I have 17. Soma, Dick Taylor, Fruition, Amano, Map Chocolate”
— Pashmina Lalchandani, Choco Rush
“Please see my personal top five selection below. They are not listed in any particular order; I couldn't possible rank them as my favourites out of these change regularly! Rogue Jamaica 75%, Dick Taylor Guatemala 70%, Fruition Hudson Valley Bourbon Dark Milk 61%, Dandelion Mantuano Venezuela 70%, Ritual Belize 75%. If you are counting Canada in American Craft Chocolate the Palette De Bine Wild Bolivie 70% Bine À L'Érable would probably just edge out the Dandelion bar.”
— Rob Sledmere, Pump Street Bakery
“I’m happy to share the work of these makers who I see as some of the newest and most exciting innovators in the American craft chocolate revolution: Map, Acalli, Firefly, Letterpress, Somerville Chocolate CSA, and of course I must mention a 6th: Enna Chocolate.”
—Enna Grazier, Enna Chocolate
“Fresco, letterpress, French broad are three that I particularly enjoy.”
“Askinosie: one of the first. True career changer. Inspirational. Committed to sustainability, the environment, and the farmers.
“Patric: true small batch. Became know for fantastic tasting bars enhanced by Alan’s commitment to the science of chocolate.
“Raaka: young guys in Brooklyn with endless enthusiasm for educating ones palate to raw chocolate with great taste.
“Grenada: not in North America, but the extremely unique founder was American. Tragically passed too young, created an industry that did not exist to help those who needed help. Delicious bars at a good price point.
“Dick Taylor: one of the first small batch bean to bar chocolate I tried when I began my passion for educating my chocolate palate a number of years ago, so it always comes to mind when I think of American bean to bar. Beautiful packaging too.
“Honorable mention to Mast simply because they are probably the most well-known bean to bar brand for those who are not very familiar with smaller brands. Not my favorite by any means…too dry…but I enjoyed the educational tour when they offered it years ago and I do like the goat bar very much.”
“Somerville chocolates. And Taza. #newenglandrepresent”
“Dick Taylor. Fruition. Ritual. French Broad. Dandelion.”
“Guittard, Dandelion, Tcho, Amano, Dick Taylor”
—Janice Marie Foote
“Here are six that truly represent American Craft Chocolate: Chocolate Alchemist, Raaka, Map, Cacao Prieto Potomac, Violet Sky”
—Robert, Campbell, Chocolate Alchemist
“soma (CA), fruition, akesson, patric”
“Rogue, Patric, can Soma count as North America?, Dick Taylor, Amano?”
“Here are a few that show a nice cross section: Raaka, Amano, Cacao Prieto, Pitch Dark, Undone, Potomac.”
—Chocolate Bar Suppliers
“Patric, Askinosie, French Broad, Cacao Atlanta, Map. These were only American. Canada, Europe, South America and Asia get 5 each too. I chose some pioneers because they paved the way and I am always happy for their success! I have a special mention to Kakawa Chocolate House for their drinking chocolate.”
—Sophia Rea, Projet Chocolat
“Askinosie, French Broad, Patric, Maverick, Dick Taylor”
—Antonella Tromba, Foodensity
“1. Dick Taylor Vietnam Tien Giang Limited Release Bar. 2. Dick Taylor Solomon Islands Exclusive Release Bar 3. Dandelion Chocolate Cahabon, Guatemala Bar 4. Olive & Sinclair Co's Sea Salt Dominican Republic Bar 5. Endorphin Foods' Passion Bar”
—Bevin B. Cooper Farkas, BumbleBDesign
“Aside from my own bars (Endorfin Foods), I'd say: French Broad’s Cacao Verapaz bar, Fruition’s bourbon dark milk, Dick Taylor’s Alto Beni bar, Raaka’s Bananas Foster bar, Askinosie’s dark goat milk w/ licorice, and Firefly’s Bay Nut bar. All exceptional bars, made with skills on the edge of our craft.”
—Brian Wallace, Endorfin Foods
“My 5 American Chocolate Bars are Askinosie Tanzania & Zingermans collaboration bar; I also love Dick Taylor’s limited edition Bolivian bar, Marou (they are American, right) Treasure Island, Lastly I like my dark krispie bar from my local place Graham’s Chocolate [not sure how bean-to-bar it; but it's good!]...”
“my 5: Amano Dos Rios, Solstice Bolivia, Cocanu Brass Bar, Durci Defiant, Patric PBJ OMG”
Recently Jael Rattigan, one half of the amazing French Broad Chocolates, took over my Instagram for a week, with some really gorgeous photos of the amazing bars, truffles, and baked goods that they offer at their cafe. If you're anything like me, you're probably not on all the social media channels (Periscope? Snapchat?), and so I want to share them here to make sure everyone gets an opportunity to enjoy them. Below each you'll see her description of the action in the photo. Read the original Chocolate Noise profile here!
Hi, y'all! We're Dan and Jael, coming at you from French Broad Chocolates in beautiful Asheville, NC. We're taking over Chocolate Noise's Instagram all week. What began 10 years ago as a new marriage and a farmers market stand, where we sold truffles and caramels using OPC (that's Other People's Chocolate), has grown to include a web store, a bustling dessert restaurant (French Broad Chocolate Lounge, est. 2008), a chocolate and coffee boutique (Chocolate+Milk, est. 2014), and a Chocolate Factory & Tasting Room (est. 2012), where we directly source cacao, roast, winnow, refine, and temper it into bean-to-bar chocolate. Phew, that run-on sentence is how my life feels.
Through our mountain town courses an ancient river, the French Broad. The water it carries is the same water that nourishes our cacao groves, thousands of miles away. The French Broad reminds us that we are all connected, and through our chocolate, we seek to honor that connection. This photo is from a cleanup we did of our namesake back in June!
Our bean-to-bar chocolate is transformed into our collection of chocolate bars. With our thoughtful, locally-crafted packaging, we hope to share the stories behind the chocolate we humbly offer: whether it's our own love story, a special relationship with a cacao farmer, or a brilliant local coffee roaster. There are so many hands involved in bringing you this beautiful chocolate, and we hope to honor their contributions by telling their stories.
Since 2013, all the chocolate we use in our pastries, ice cream, drinking chocolates and confections at the Chocolate Lounge is our own bean-to-bar chocolate. About 4-5,000 folks pass through the Chocolate Lounge in a busy week, and we are honored to share the story of chocolate with our guests, in a beautiful space that allows our community to come together and enjoy each other's company.
Before Asheville, Dan and I lived and worked in the cacao-rich rainforest of Costa Rica for two years. At the restaurant we opened, Bread and Chocolate, we were able to source local chocolate for our handmade desserts, sparking our passion for cacao and all things chocolate. We still have a little cacao farm of our own there, where we're able to get our hands dirty, and learn about the challenges of cacao cultivation firsthand. While its production is too small to provide a substantial source for us, we are working with other local farmers in the area to import Costa Rica cacao for our 80% bar. It's a pleasure to remain connected to this region, which will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Well, we did it! We crossed over into 2017, aka what's going to be a banner year for bean-to-bar chocolate. The forces are aligned; I can feel it.
I'm super pumped that my book about American craft chocolate comes out in August! Storey Publishing, my publisher, has been collecting quite an assortment of bars from every maker you can imagine to photograph for the book, but they haven't eaten a single one. Nope, they've been patient, and later this week I'm going to spend the day with them, leading several chocolate-tasting sessions. If you had to pick five bars to represent the American bean-to-bar movement, which would you pick? I have a rotating assortment, but I want to hear from you.
I'm also going to see the designed pages for the first time! I saw a sneak preview a few months ago and loved the playfulness of it, but this is going to be the real deal. I can't wait to share it with y'all in August!
Tell me your five bars at email@example.com or on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and I'll publish your comments in the next Chocolate Today!
Y’all, it’s been an awesome year here at Chocolate Noise. I’ve published stories about some of the best craft chocolate makers in the country on this site as well as places like Fortune and Saveur, hung out with chocolate lovers at my Underground Chocolate Salon, written a book (coming out fall 2017, sigh), and even compared Criollo cacao to Justin Timberlake. But my favorite part of each day is hearing from you and strengthening our community.
I’ll be pretty quiet over the next few weeks while I stuff my face full of Askinosie peppermint bark, Dick Taylor gingersnap chocolate, and other holiday goodies, as well as visit my family and do all of those other holiday-type things. But I’ll be thinking about you and how to make Chocolate Noise even better in 2017.
So what would you like to see from me in the new year? More in-depth profiles? More recommendations about chocolate bars? More quotes from readers?
I’m super excited to show you guys this video I made with Valrhona and Stick With Me Sweets, called “From Bean to Bonbon”! Saveur just published it on their site, along with a more detailed story I wrote on the entire chocolate-making process from start to finish, called, "Everything That Goes Into Making a Chocolate Truffle." As many of you know, it's a lot of work to make that delicious little morsel.
Chocolate and cheese make perfect bedfellows, as I discovered while researching my book (which features tons of pairings). That’s why I’m super excited to teach a chocolate-and-cheese-pairing class at Murray’s Cheese in NYC next week, on Dec. 14, with my friend and cheese expert Christine Clark.
Christine was part of my expert tasting panel and always has the best descriptions of what she’s eating (“cartoonishly umami” is one of my faves). There are only five tickets left, so make sure you get your spot asap!
I’m going to be stuffing my face with craft chocolate and artisan cheese, and I want you to get in on the action too!
Until a few years ago, I never thought about what was in a chocolate bar. Chocolate, right? Turns out there can be all sorts of ingredients, from cocoa beans to soy lecithin to nasty preservatives in the industrial stuff.
That’s why Ecole Chocolat and I put together a four-part series about where the heck chocolate comes from called "The Life and Times of Chocolate." So far we cartoonized how chocolate is born and how cocoa beans become chocolate, and this month we’re tackling what’s in a fine chocolate bar. We hope to tell the story as simply as possible, and while we may not capture all of the nuances of the bean-to-bar process, we hope people remember the image.
So without further ado, here it is! The primary ingredient in a fine flavor chocolate bar is cocoa beans. “Fine flavor” means high-quality cocoa with more nuanced flavors (usually from the Criollo and Trinitario families, if you want to get nerdy about it). Almost all craft chocolate fits into this category. Then to varying degrees there’s cocoa butter and sugar and, in some cases, vanilla, all skipping around like they’re in the most delicious musical ever.
As I hinted above, not all fine chocolate includes added cocoa butter and/or vanilla. In fact, the American craft chocolate revolution was founded on two-ingredient chocolate: chocolate made using only cocoa beans and sugar. Now many makers add cocoa butter and some even measure in some vanilla. There's also fine milk chocolate, fine white chocolate, and fine chocolate with inclusions like sea salt and almonds.
But rest assured that fine chocolate does not include anything beyond these ingredients in their base chocolate recipe: You won't find vegetable oil or additives like PGPR (yuck). That's part of what makes it stand out so much from the crowd as something delicious and worth eating.
Stay tuned for Part 4 of this cartoon series next month!
(Thanks to Fernanda Frick for the awesome illustration.)
A few weeks ago I visited Seattle for the Northwest Chocolate Festival and hung out with all the serious chocoholics, including feeding them bean-to-bar chocolate and confections made with that chocolate in my session on Sunday. While I was in town I figured I’d dust off the ol’ Underground Chocolate Salon, which is on a break for the next few months, for a very special session, at Chocolopolis.
If you haven’t heard of my Underground Chocolate Salons, you’re probably wondering what the heck they are. I’ve always been jealous of Paris in the 1920s, when artistic and literary luminaries gathered at Gertrude Stein’s house to talk and hang out: Picasso, Cézanne, Joyce, Eliot, Cocteau. Only one thing would have made it better: chocolate. That’s why I started what I’m calling the Underground Chocolate Salon, for like-minded (or not so like-minded) people to get together and talk chocolate, as well as enjoy one another’s company.
This time it was a packed house, with so many good palates that I didn’t know which way to turn. We also heard some great first memories of chocolate bars, including sneaking baking chocolate out of the cabinet — and liking it!
The selections, as you’ll see, were mixed. You might notice that I’m editorializing these comments more than usual, since the tasting went very differently than I’d expected.
Noir d'Ebene 55% Chuao
This bar came from a relatively new maker in Chicago and was completely untested ahead of time!
Tasting Notes: Looked bloomed, but it turned out to be luster dust or some other sort of gold dust; gritty, floral, burned; “hiding behind sweetness,” as a 55 percent Chuao is pretty unusual; “sweet maple aftertaste”; “coffee, like mocha”; “early attempt”
K’ul 70% Los Rios, Ecuador
A new company out of Minneapolis, K’ul uses heirloom cacao for its bars; this one is made with heirloom cacao from the Hacienda Limon estate.
Tasting Notes: “Apple Jolly Rancher,” coffee grounds, ash, banana; high astringency at the start but a good melt; fatty, fruity finish; “slick mouth”
Lonohana 70% O’ahu, Hawaii
Maker Seneca Klassen grows cacao himself on his estate in Haleiwa, O’ahu, and then ferments, dries, roasts, and turns the beans into chocolate all by hand. (The bar’s official name is Kanahiku, by the way.)
Tasting Notes: Smells like licorice, nice aftertaste; “sour coffee bitterness,” “like a young Cabernet,” smooth texture, especially for a bar with no added cocoa butter; woody at the start, green walnut/grapefruit peel astringency at end
GoodNow Farms 77% Nicaragua
This brand-new company out of Massachusetts just launched its first bars, and we got to try one!
Tasting Notes: Smells like hay or leather; sandpapery on the tongue, like it hasn’t been conched at all; “feels like a pumice stone”; bitter, moldy, sour, lots of people making bad faces while tasting it
Chocolarder 80% Madagascar
This brand stole the show at a past salon, with even super experienced tasters going crazy for it. But this time around, something else happened…The curious thing is that the beans come from Akesson’s Estate, which many makers use to create delicious bars.
Tasting Notes: Black licorice, slow melt, plastic, tires, possibly due to improper storage?
Domori 45% Camel Milk
Yes, you read that right. Domori has started making milk chocolate using unusual milks, like camel.
Tasting Notes: “Tastes like a camel;” gamey, grassy, caramel, great melt, “like buffalo”; “like I’ve been invited into a hut to taste the local beverage and sipped it out of politeness”
Chocolaterie Tessa Single-Origin Truffle
Leftovers from my talk at the Northwest Chocolate Festival! This Austin-based chocolatier uses bean-to-bar chocolate to make confections. This one was made with Fresco’s Madagascar chocolate.
Tasting Notes: fruity, caramel, sumptuous, “hint of Easter chocolate”
Psst! This week French Broad Chocolates is taking over Chocolate Noise’s Instagram! That means you’re in for a treat: Think everything from making delicious bars to scrumptious truffles and cookies, all in some of the most beautiful packaging in the industry.
Tune in to my Instagram here to check it out through this Saturday!
This might get me in trouble, but I never really like turkey. It's all dry and cardboard-y and scratches my throat. That’s why this Thanksgiving, I’m celebrating with an all-chocolate dinner starring some of my favorite treats in the world.
The centerpiece, obviously, is a 2.2-pound hand-molded turkey made of 64 percent dark chocolate, dusted with edible gold, from who other than Fran’s Chocolates, in Seattle.
Now for the side dishes. You won’t miss mashed potatoes when you bite into the Needhams I’ve been saving all year for this occasion: The traditional Maine treat is made of mashed potatoes and coconut, then dipped in chocolate. And who needs can-shaped cranberry sauce when you can eat K’ul Chocolate’s Stamina bar, loaded with cranberries, cherries, pomegranate, raspberries, and maca root?
Even though Thanksgiving is about eating as many carbs as possible in a short amount of time, I figured I’d better throw in some vegetables. Two, in fact! Take your pick from George Bernardini’s imminent broccoli chocolate or Chocolate Naïve’s porcini bar. I’ll be having second helpings of the mushrooms for sure.
Now for my favorite part of the meal: dessert! Instead of boring pumpkin pie, I’ll be eating the ginger spice bar from Patric. And even though pecan pie is one of my favorites, I’m leaving the corn syrup at the store this year and digging in to Fruition’s cinnamon-toffee pecans instead.
Oh, one more thing: Thanksgiving usually spells families, which usually translates to a big ol’ drink. This year I’m gulping a Raaka Cabernet Sauvignon bar, followed by a snifter of whiskey dark chocolate from Askinosie. I hope you’ll join me.
A few weeks ago I asked you guys to tell me about the first time you tried a craft chocolate bar, and wow, did you! I’ll be publishing one response per week as a new part of Chocolate Today called Voices, so you can see what your fellow chocolate-obsessed peeps think.
Today’s story comes from Ron Barshop.
“If you've ever had an egg on the farm the morning it was collected, you know fresh. I was expecting the same when we stopped at an artisan chocolate factory in Belize. You could see every step of the process -made the same way for generations.
It was a bitter and deeply earthy thickness.
I'm sad to say the fresh egg spoiled me. I missed the sweetness. The melt in your mouth gooey yumminess. It's freshness was not noticeable like those eggs.
But deep in my soul the satisfaction of paying no middleman more than made up for it. It all went to the farmer who shucked the shells, ground the beans on a volcanic plate then turned the pasty concoction for hours in a warm vat mixed with local cane sugar and other ingredients from the farm then cooled into dark chocolate bars.
So it was the bucket list experience. And I'll trade that for a happy sweet tooth any time. Well. Most anytime."
If you haven’t already sent me your story, please do! And if you have something to say in response to another story, send it along as well. Tell me at megan@chocolatenoise or on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and I’ll include your comments in the next Chocolate Today.
Watch out, Seattle. This Thursday craft chocolate is descending on the city like a delicious brown cloud, for the Northwest Chocolate Festival and Northwest’s UnConference. I’ll be there until Monday, hanging out and tasting chocolate with the best of them, as well as talking about bonbons made with bean-to-bar chocolate with Fresco Chocolate and French Broad during my session at the festival (at 3 PM on Sunday, hope you can make it!).
Since it's almost Thursday, I know you have your schedule all planned out. What you might not have thought about? Things to do outside Pier 91. Here are a few chocolate-focused ideas, as well as what to do when you need a little break from the brown stuff.
A break?! I know what you're thinking. Hell, no! Obviously there’s going to be a lot of great chocolate. But as so often happens at these events, it’s easy to get chocolate-ed out. Here are five places near the festival to relax away from the sweetness of it all. Better yet, bring your stash of chocolate and pair a piece with a beer or a coffee.
See you soon!
(P.S. If you want to hang out while you’re in Seattle, hit me up at megan@chocolatenoise or Twitter!!)
Must-Try Chocolate-Related Things
Of course I can't help myself: Bring on the chocolate!
It’s NORTHWEST CHOCOLATE WEEK! That means the places below as well as tons more restaurants, cafes, and shops are having special chocolate-related events and featuring great chocolate on menus. Check out the full listings for maximum sugar overload.
Come to this adorable store for a stellar collection of craft chocolate as well as house-made truffles, drinks, and more. I’m especially excited to feature two of owner Lauren Adler’s recipes in my upcoming book.
1527 Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle, WA
Tour a big bean-to-bar maker and see what it’s all about!
3400 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA
(Can't come to Seattle? Get a taste at home with classic Theo dark chocolate.)
One of the most respected names in chocolate (for a reason), Fran Bigelow has been creating some of the best confections in the country for decades. Her hilarious story of America’s reaction to their first taste of sweet + salt still makes me laugh.
(Can't come to Seattle? Get a taste at home with Fran's caramel sauce!)
1325 1st Ave, Seattle, WA
Ever since I wrote about this place in “10 Bean-to-Bar Desserts You Need to Try” for Zagat, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the ooey-gooey goodness of these molten cakes. (P.S. They use Theo Chocolate!)
5427 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA
And now for some un-chocolatey things...
Located just steps from Pier 91, this microbrewery boasts some serious beers and a constantly changing menu. In June 2016 Eater called it “the most exciting brewery in the city.”
1421 Elliott Ave W, Seattle, WA
This new microbrewery just opened in September, so you’ll be hipper than most locals if you hang out here. Figurehead focuses on Belgian-style beers, which I’ve found pair particularly well with chocolate (stay tuned for specific pairings in my book, coming out in fall 2017!).
4001 21st Ave W b, Seattle, WA
If you’re looking for a good meal and a good brew, hit up this fancy new space a few miles from the festival. It has a solid if quirky list of beers that will keep your palate guessing.
803 Dexter Ave N, Seattle, WA
Every coffee shop worth its salt (or, um, sugar) has a La Marzocco machine, and now you can visit the 89-year-old company’s first public café and showroom. Also check out the historical archives and machines on display. And if for some reason you have extra time, they’ve created an espresso lab where you can learn more about the equipment and even take classes.
472 1st Ave N, Seattle, WA
This cute coffee shop boasts a rotating menu of beans from microroasters in the Pacific Northwest, as well as cold brew and nitro on tap for a smooth hipster experience. Eater Seattle calls it an “educational coffee drinking experience.”
110 Republican St, Seattle, WA
(Psst: I'm trying a new blog format with affiliated links!)