Notes From the Underground Chocolate Salon and a GIVEAWAY

Last week a big group of us gathered at Roni-Sue's Chocolates in Manhattan for another edition of the Underground Chocolate Salon. But before we get to the details, I have a giveaway to share for 10 lucky New Yorkers!

Giveaway!

Delicious dessert photos by Jody Horton, from my book!

This Monday I'll be leading a chocolate tasting at the 92Y with Michael Laiskonis, featuring the bean-to-bar chocolate he makes at the Institute of Culinary Education. We'll also be snacking on recipes from the book: triple chocolate chip cookies from Miro Uskokovic of Gramercy Tavern and white chocolate mousse in pineapple cups from my bud and chocolatier Kristofer Kalas, plus a bonus double chocolate fudge cookie from Miro. Kitchen Arts & Letters will also be there selling books, and I'll be signing. Tickets are $29, but we're giving away 10 starting now. Email me at megan@chocolatenoise.com NOW if you want to come!

Underground Chocolate Salon

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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 the theme was chocolate made at origin (i.e., where cacao grows, 20 degrees above and below the Equator). We started out tasting Moho Chocolate, a bean-to-bar maker in Belize. Rhonda Kave, the owner of Roni-Sue, is part owner of the company and uses the chocolate to make some of her confections. She had whole roasted beans for us to try as well as a dark milk straight out of the melangeur, plus a 69 percent, 72 percent, and raspberry bonbon, all made with the same beans. Pretty cool to trace it from bean to bonbon and taste the differences at each stage, like in this video that I made that was published on Saveur recently.

Moho 69% Single-Origin Belize

A little cinnamon or winter spicy, dried red fruit, pomegranate, winey, raisin

Moho 72% Single-Origin Belize

Roasty, cocoa, coffee, maple syrup, raspberry and pomegranate

Raspberry Bonbon Made With Moho Single-Origin Belize and Valrhona

Can taste the raspberry seeds, very berry, bright, sweet, crowd favorite

Tuanis 75% Single-Origin Talamanca, Costa Rica

Earthy, toasty, highly tannic, smooth mouthfeel, orange/kumquat finish; one particularly poetic attendee described the experience as "waiting for something to come that doesn't happen, like in love"

Ta.cho 71% Single-Origin Soconusco

Red wine, tannic, astringent, pepper, smoky, very smooth but doesn't melt smoothly in mouth

We also tried a brand-new maker's bar that used unfermented beans from Belize. Apparently after harvesting, the pulp is washed off the raw beans and then they are immediately dried (kind of like in coffee). It tasted like Turkish coffee, smoky espresso, and bacon. What do you think about using unfermented cacao to make chocolate?

New York Coffee Festival

On Sunday I headed to the New York Coffee Festival to talk about craft chocolate. They were expecting about 25 people at my talk (it was Sunday afternoon after three days of caffeine, after all) but had to pull up chairs to seat 60 to 70! I was surprised and excited to find that the audience was so well-informed about things like single origins, terroir, and more, and they loved the roasted cocoa beans and bars I shared. So much curiosity and good questions!

Do You Want a Poster of the Map From My Book?

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If you're a chocolate educator, run a cafe or shop, or would be able to use this map in any other way, email me your mailing address and my publisher will send you a poster for free! Email: megan@chocolatenoise.com. I'm sending them the final list next Friday, October 27, so be sure to reach out before then.

More Press and Upcoming Tour Dates

Photo by Jody Horton

Photo by Jody Horton

This past weekend was an incredible blur of fun events, delicious chocolate, and chatting with people about the craft movement. But before we get to that, I want to tell you about two upcoming events that I'm SUPER STOKED about!

On Saturday, October 21, I'll be celebrating Fruition's 6th annual open house and tasting at their shop and factory in Shokan, NY. I'll be signing books and feasting on chocolate as well as refreshments from Tuthilltown Spirits, Westkill Brewing, Irving Farm Coffee Roasters, Bread Alone, Cheese Louise, The Hudson Standard, and ImmuneSchein Ginger Elixers. Join us from 5 to 9 PM! RSVP here.

On Monday, October 23, I'll be teaming up with James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Laiskonis for a guided chocolate tasting and talk at the 92Y in NYC. We'll be tasting three bean-to-bar chocolate bars that Michael makes at his chocolate lab at the Institute of Culinary Education. Plus, we'll be sampling recipes from the book! Pastry chef Miro Uskokovic of Gramercy Tavern is making two types of chocolate-chip cookies, including his triple chocolate-chip cookie recipe from the book (pictured above), and pastry chef and chocolatier Kristofer Kalas is making his white chocolate mousse in pineapple cups from the book. Kitchen Arts and Letters will be selling books. 

Now here are some photos from the weekend's reveries. On Friday I spoke on the author panel at the Big Chocolate Show and hung out with Johnny Iuzzini, who is premiering his new bean-to-bar chocolate brand. Then on Saturday I was off to the New Atlantic Booksellers Association meeting, where I had a table and chocolate from Dandelion, Bar Au Chocolat, and Taza. People were so excited about bean to bar, and about the book! It was cool to get that information in people's hands.

And on Monday, I teamed up with Raaka and Threes Brewing for a chocolate-and-beer pairing. About 70 people came to enjoy the refreshments and the guided tastings. It was a blast!

The book has also been getting some great press! Here's the latest:

"Your Raw Cacao Isn't as Healthy as You Think: Debunking the Myths of the Chocolate Industry" (featured on MindBodyGreen, October 2017)

"Chocolate Snobs Don't Eat Milk Chocolate (And Other Myths Debunked)" (featured on the Refresh, October 2017)

"Fuhmentaboutit! Podcast: Episode 216" (featured on Fuhmentaboutit, October 2017)

"Chopped: Episode 145: Expand Your Audience by Going Niche" (featured on Chopped Academy, October 2017)

More Book Tour Events, Including the Underground Chocolate Salon

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Happy Thursday, y'all! In the past few weeks I've been hosting chocolate parties and tastings all over the place to celebrate my new book. Here are some photos, as well as details about next week's events.

Here I am in Boston at Porter Square Books, where a very engaged audience asked smart questions and tasted Taza Chocolate with me. The highlight of the trip: This drawing/notes from my talk from the talented author Marika McCoola!

On Sunday, October 1, I headed to the Meadow for coffee and chocolate pairings to celebrate more. We had a great crowd that filled up the store, and it was so much fun to hear directly from the chocolate makers themselves: Both Fruition Chocolate and Raaka Chocolate came and shared samples and their stories. Counter Culture Coffee poured some great drinks and told us all about their amazing sourcing practices and bold flavors.

I also have some fun things coming up in New York next week! 

Chocolate and Beer Pairing Party at Threes Brewing With Raaka Chocolate

We'll have free samples, a guided tasting, and plenty of hangout time. Buy your ticket ahead of time here and get a copy of the book and a pint of beer for $20! The list price of the book is $20, so this is a steal!

Underground Chocolate Salon

This one will be at Roni-Sue's Chocolates. It's free, but spaces are limited, so RSVP immediately by emailing me at megan@chocolatenoise.com.

Excited to see y'all soon!

(Note: This story contains affiliate links)

Bean-to-Bar Chocolate in the Press

Photo by Spencer Selvidge

Guys, my book, Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: America's Craft Chocolate Revolution, is getting some play in the press! From a feature in Bon Appetit to a Q&A in Saveur, here are 13 stories about the book. In other words, we're spreading the word about craft chocolate and how freaking great it is. 

Where would you like to see bean-to-bar chocolate featured? Tell me at megan@chocolatenoise.com or on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and I'll try my best to make it happen!

 

"How to Read a Chocolate Bar Label to Buy the Best Chocolate" (featured on BonAppetit.com, September 2017)

"The Future of $10 Chocolate" (featured on Saveur.com, September 2017)

"Why You Should Eat Chocolate in the Morning" (featured on Extra Crispy, September 2017)

"6 Ways Craft Chocolate Is Disrupting the Food Industry" (featured on Forbes, September 2017)

"People Are Aging Chocolate in Bourbon Barrels and We're Obsessed" (featured on VinePair, September 2017)

"The Top 50 Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers in the United States" (featured on Food Republic, September 2017)

"5 Essential Stops for Chocolate in Brooklyn" (featured in Edible Brooklyn, September 2017)

"How to Read Chocolate Bar Labels to Make Sure You're Getting the Best Stuff" (featured on Life Hacker, September 2017)

"Q&A With Megan Giller, Author of Bean-to-Bar Chocolate" (featured in The Boston Globe, September 2017)

"Chocolate for the Chocoholics" (featured in Illustration News, September 2017)

"How to Pick the Best Chocolate Bar Your Money Can Buy" (featured on Bloomberg, August 2017)

"The Biggest Cookbooks of Fall 2017" (featured on Eater, August 2017)

"What Do We Really Know About Chocolate's Health Benefits?" (featured on Food52, August 2017)

(Note: This story contains affiliate links)

Photos: My Book Tour Is a Big Chocolate Party

Chocolate and beer party at Hops & Grain, photo by Spencer Selvidge

Chocolate and beer party at Hops & Grain, photo by Spencer Selvidge

I've been partying it up in Dallas and Austin, celebrating the release of my book, Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: America's Craft Chocolate Revolution, over good chocolate, cheese, and beer. Plus my friend and photographer Spencer Selvidge came along for the treats in Austin. Here are photos of the festivities!

Dallas

Here I am signing books at the Dallas Chocolate Festival and hanging with the Dick Taylor guys.

Then it was on to a private tasting party (from the giveaway!) and a night of chocolate, cheese, and books at Scardello's Cheese, in Dallas.

Austin

I had the flu the night of the Underground Chocolate Salon at Chocolaterie Tessa, but Tessa Halstead, Bob Williamson of SRSLY Chocolate, and Professor Romi Burks held down the fort and delighted salon-goers with a bean-to-bar-to-bonbon tasting!

Saturday I was back! Lawren Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate and I partnered with Antonelli's Cheese for a sold-out chocolate-cheese pairing evening, with some seriously delicious pairings. The crowd favorite was white chocolate with manchego: They melded into one amazing mouthful.

Last but certainly not least, on Sunday I headed to Hops & Grain Brewing for chocolate, beer, and bands. Think two beer pairings, a coffee pairing, and live music from two bands. 

This weekend I'll be in Boston! On Friday night I'm teaming up with Taza Chocolate for a tasting and book signing at Porter Square Books, and on Saturday I'll be at the Let's Talk About Food festival, making Cocanu's recipe for Pop Rocks Chocolate Bark and signing books (my demo is at 10:40 AM). See you there!

(Photos of events at Chocolaterie Tessa, Antonelli's, and Hops & Grain by Spencer Selvidge)

(Note: This story contains affiliate links)

My Top 50 Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers in the United States

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My book, Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: America's Craft Chocolate Revolution, is now officially published! To celebrate, I'm releasing my list of the top 50 bean-to-bar chocolate makers in the United States from my book. Read on to see if your favorite maker made the cut!

Come on, admit it. I know you have a favorite chocolate maker. Everyone does, and opinions range widely. That’s why I’m calling this list “my top makers.” I’m not claiming that this is The Exclusive List of the best bean-to-bar makers ever; rather, they’re the ones that I personally think are worth trying and visiting (if they’re open to the public).

I’ve listed them in alphabetical order and divided them into tiny, small, medium, large, and giant — loose categories to give you a sense of whether they’re a one-person operation or a 200-person conglomerate. Tiny generally means it’s a one- or two-person shop without much distribution. Small- and medium-size makers have a few more employees as well as a retail location and/or café. Large makers have dozens of employees, a space where the public can visit, and good distribution. And giant makers have many employees (around 100), great distribution, and sometimes even wholesale or private-label businesses.

Find basic information about each maker below, and read more about many of them throughout the book.

Acalli Chocolate

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Year Founded: 2015

Founder: Carol Morse

Size: Tiny

Visit: No

Products: Small collection of two-ingredient bars. All beans are sourced from a co-op in northern Peru.

Amano Artisan Chocolate

Location: Orem, Utah

Year Founded: 2005

Founder: Art Pollard

Size: Small

Visit: No

Products: Single-origin bars, especially from Venezuela, and some inclusion bars. Made with added cocoa butter and vanilla. Some private-label products. Provides to restaurants like Chez Panisse.

Areté

Location: Milpitas, California

Year Founded: 2015

Founders: David and Leslie Senk

Size: Small

Visit: No

Products: Large collection of single-origin bars.

Askinosie Chocolate

Location: Springfield, Missouri

Year Founded: 2006

Founder: Shawn Askinosie

Size: Large

Visit: Yes! Check out the factory and shop.

Products: Single-origin (especially from Tanzania and the Philippines) and inclusion bars as well as collaboration bars made with other artisan makers. Milk chocolate and even white chocolate.

Bar Au Chocolat

Location: Manhattan Beach, California

Year Founded: 2010

Founder: Nicole Trutanich

Size: Tiny

Visit: Yes! Check out the café and factory tours.

Products: Two-ingredient single-origin bars, some milk chocolate, and chocolate-related products (granola!).

Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker

Location: Burlington, Vermont

Year Founded: 2012

Founder: Eric Lampman (father Jim Lampman founded Lake Champlain Chocolates)

Size: Tiny, but owned by giant chocolate manufacturer Lake Champlain

Visit: You can visit Lake Champlain’s factory but not Blue Bandana’s.

Products: Two-ingredient single-origin bars with a few inclusion bars, chocolate chips, and roasted nibs.

Brasstown Fine Artisan Chocolate

Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Year Founded: 2011

Founders: Rom Still and Barbara Price

Size: Tiny

Visit: Yes! Check out the factory and shop.

Products: Single-origin bars as well as inclusion bars with interesting ingredients like dried blueberries.

Cacao Prieto

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Year Founded: 2010

Founder: Daniel Prieto Preston

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! Check out the factory with antique machines and the small shop, as well as tours on the weekends and by appointment.

Products: Single-origin bars, inclusion bars, couverture, hot chocolate, and nibs, all using cocoa from the Dominican Republic.

Castronovo Chocolate

Location: Stuart, Florida

Year Founded: 2012

Founders: Denise and James Castronovo

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! Check out the shop.

Products: Focuses on rare heirloom beans and single-origin bars. If you visit the shop you can also try and buy truffles, cookies, drinking chocolate, and more.

Charm School Chocolate

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Year Founded: 2012

Founder: Joshua Rosen

Size: Tiny

Visit: No

Products: Vegan bars with lots of fun inclusions and other products (think toffee almond bites).

Chequessett Chocolate

Location: North Truro, Massachusetts

Year Founded: 2014

Founders: Katie Reed and Josiah Mayo

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! Check out the café with plenty of special desserts and confections.

Products: Single-origin and inclusion bars and bonbons as well as drinking chocolate, nibs, and beans.

Cocanú Chocolate

Location: Portland, Oregon

Year Founded: 2009

Founder: Sebastián Cisneros

Size: Tiny

Visit: No

Products: Inclusion bars with creative ingredients like bee pollen, Palo Santo wood, and Pop Rocks (see page 189 for a recipe).

Dandelion Chocolate

Location: San Francisco, California

Year Founded: 2010

Founders: Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring

Size: Large

Visit: Yes! Check out the factory and café.

Products: Two-ingredient single-origin bars. If you visit the café you can also try brownies, cookies, and drinking chocolates.

Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate

Location: Eureka, California

Year Founded: 2010

Founders: Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor

Size: Large

Visit: Yes! Check out the shop and factory for tours.

Products: Two-ingredient single-origin bars and some inclusion bars, as well as drinking chocolate and baking chocolate.

Durci

Location: Wasatch
Range, Utah

Year Founded: 2015

Founder: Eric Durtschi, founder of Crio Bru (a cocoa drink brewed like coffee)

Size: Tiny, but owned by large company Crio Bru

Visit: No, but you can check out Crio Bru, its parent company, at its shop in Lindon and take tours there.

Products: Single-origin bars made with added cocoa butter.

Escazu Artisan Chocolates

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

Year Founded: 2008

Founders: Hallot Parson and Danielle Centeno

Size: Medium

Visit: Yes! Check out the café.

Products: Single-origin bars, inclusion bars, and bonbons. If you visit the store, you’ll also find ice cream, drinking chocolate, and more.

Ethereal Confections

Location: Woodstock, Illinois

Year Founded: 2011

Founders: Mary Ervin, Sara Miller, and Michael Ervin

Size: Medium

Visit: Yes! Check out the café.

Products: Single-origin and inclusion bars, plus many confections, baking mixes, cookies, and more, available online and at the café.

French Broad Chocolates

Location: Asheville, North Carolina

Year Founded: Café concept founded 2008, chocolate factory founded 2012

Founders: Dan and Jael Rattigan

Size: Large

Visit: Yes! Check out their lounge, factory, and boutique with a huge collection of bars from other makers too.

Products: Two-ingredient single-origin bars and some inclusion bars with ingredients like coffee and malted milk, as well truffles, brownies, toffee, and drinking and baking chocolate online, plus cakes, cookies, and more in the lounge.

Fresco

Location: Lynden, Washington

Year Founded: 2008

Founder: Rob Anderson

Size: Tiny

Visit: No

Products: Single-origin bars that specify their roasting style and conching style, so you can get super nerdy about it.

Fresh Coast Chocolate Co. (formerly Just Good Chocolate)

Location: Traverse City, Michigan

Year Founded: 2011

Founders: Nichole Warner and Justin Manning

Size: Tiny

Visit: Yes! Check out the production area as well as café and coffee bar.

Products: Small selection of two-ingredient single-origin bars, drinking chocolate, and brownie mix.

Fruition Chocolate

Location: Shokan, New York

Year Founded: 2011

Founders: Bryan and Dahlia Graham

Size: Medium

Visit: Yes! Check out the big store in Shokan and satellite store in Woodstock.

Products: Single-origin and inclusion bars with creative ingredients like corn, as well as hot chocolate, bonbons, caramels, and other confections. They also make milk chocolate and even white chocolate.

Guittard Chocolate

Location: Burlingame, California

Year Founded: 1868

Founder: Etienne Guittard; run by his great-grandson Gary Guittard

Size: Giant

Visit: No

Products: Single-origin and blended dark and milk chocolate bars as well as dark, milk, and white baking chocolate, drinking chocolate, cocoa powders, and couverture chocolate for professional chefs. Used by many food manufacturers, restaurants, and chocolatiers around the country (and internationally), including See’s Candies.

Harper Macaw

Location: Washington, D.C.

Year Founded: 2015

Founders: Sarah and Colin Hartman

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! Check out the factory and store.

Products: Uses beans from Brazil’s Atlantic and Amazon rain forests in blends and inclusion bars with ingredients like Earl Grey tea and peanuts and pretzels.

K’ul Chocolate

Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Year Founded: 2015

Founder: Peter Kelsey

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! Check out their factory and shop.

Products: Single-origin bars and bars with superfood inclusions like pumpkin seeds and maca.

LetterPress Chocolate

Location: Los Angeles, California

Year Founded: 2014

Founders: David and Corey Menkes

Size: Tiny

Visit: No

Products: Single-origin bars.

Lillie Belle Farms

Location: Central Point, Oregon

Founders: Jeff Shepherd

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! Check out the shop.

Products: Single-origin and inclusion bars as well as tons of confections.

Lonohana Hawaiian Estate Chocolate

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii

Year Founded: 2009

Founder: Seneca Klassen

Size: Tiny

Visit: Yes! Call ahead for farm tours and factory visits.

Products: Single-origin and inclusion bars made in Hawaii from tree to bar. Mostly available through a subscription chocolate club, but any leftover bars can be bought online.

Madre Chocolate

Location: O’ahu, Hawaii

Year Founded: 2010

Founders: Nat Bletter and David Elliott

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! Check out the shops in Honolulu and Kailua.

Products: Vegan single-origin Hawaiian bars as well as bars from other origins and with inclusions.

Manoa Chocolate

Location: Kailua, Hawaii

Year Founded: 2010

Founder: Dylan Butterbaugh

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! Check out the factory.

Products: Single-origin Hawaiian bars as well as bars of other origins and with inclusions, plus brewing chocolate, nibs, and more.

Map Chocolate Co.

Location: Willamette Valley, Oregon

Year Founded: 2014

Founder: Mackenzie Rivers

Size: Tiny

Visit: No

Products: Custom couverture and single-origin and inclusion bars as well as hot chocolate, cold-brew chocolate, baking chocolate, and single-origin cocoa powder.

Maverick Chocolate Co.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Year Founded: 2014

Founders: Paul and Marlene Picton

Size: Medium

Visit: Yes! Check out the store.

Products: Single-origin bars as well as milk and white bars, inclusion bars, drinking chocolate, and cocoa nibs.

Middlebury Chocolates

Location: Middlebury, Vermont

Year Founded: 2010

Founders: Stephanie and Andy Jackson

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! Check out the café with house-roasted coffee drinks, milk shakes, hot chocolate, and bonbons, as well as special-release bars.

Products: Single-origin bars and a few bars with basic inclusions like salt.

Nathan Miller Chocolate

Location: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

Year Founded: 2010

Founder: Nathan Miller

Size: Large

Visit: Yes! Check out the factory as well as the on-site coffeehouse with chocolate and coffee drinks as well as savory entrées.

Products: Single-origin and inclusion bars as well as confections.

Nuance Chocolate

Location: Fort Collins, Colorado

Year Founded: 2014

Founders: Toby and Alix Gadd

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! Check out the café.

Products: Single-origin and some inclusion bars. At the café you’ll also find confections, hot chocolate, and more.

Olive & Sinclair Chocolate

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Year Founded: 2007

Founder: Scott Witherow

Size: Medium

Visit: Yes! Check out the factory.

Products: Stone-ground chocolate using brown sugar. Mostly produces inclusion bars and confections like caramels and chocolate charcuterie.

Parliament Chocolate

Location: Redlands, California

Year Founded: 2013

Founders: Ryan and Cassi Berk

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! Check out their store.

Products: Two-ingredient single-origin chocolates as well as chocolate syrup and drinking chocolate. Visit the store for all sorts of confections.

Patric Chocolate

Location: Columbia, Missouri

Year Founded: 2006

Founder: Alan McClure

Size: Tiny

Visit: No

Products: Single-origin, blended, and inclusion bars like triple ginger and licorice.

Potomac Chocolate

Location: Woodbridge, Virginia

Year Founded: 2010

Founder: Ben Rasmussen

Size: Tiny

Visit: No

Products: Two-ingredient single-origin bars as well as a few inclusion bars.

Raaka

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Year Founded: 2010

Founders: Nate Hodge and Ryan Cheney

Size: Large

Visit: Yes! Check out the factory and store.

Products: Vegan unroasted (not raw) chocolate. Mostly produces inclusion bars with unusual ingredients like ghost chiles and methods like steaming cocoa over simmering wine.

Ritual Chocolate

Location: Park City, Utah

Year Founded: 2010

Founders: Robbie Stout and Anna Davies

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! Check out the café with chocolate, coffee drinks, and pastries.

Products: Single-origin and inclusion bars, plus drinking chocolate, granola, and more.

Rogue

Location: Three Rivers, Massachusetts

Year Founded: 2007

Founder: Colin Gasko

Size: Tiny

Visit: No

Products: Two-ingredient single-origin bars.

Solstice Chocolate

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Year Founded: 2013

Founders: Scott Query and DeAnn Wallin

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! But make sure you call ahead.

Products: Single-origin and blended bars as well as milk chocolate and drinking chocolate.

Starchild Chocolate

Location: Willits, California

Year Founded: 2013

Founders: Ash and Brittany Maki

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! Check out their shop for bars, truffles, and special treats.

Products: Single-origin and flavored bars made exclusively with coconut sugar.

Taza Chocolate

Location: Somerville, Massachusetts

Year Founded: 2005

Founders: Alex Whitmore and Kathleen Fulton

Size: Large

Visit: Yes! Check out the factory and store.

Products: Organic stone-ground chocolate in single-origin bars as well as inclusion bars and confections like chocolate-
covered nuts and nibs.

TCHO

Location: Berkeley, California

Year Founded: 2007

Founders: NASA giant Timothy Childs and Karl Bittong; formerly run by Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe, the founders of Wired magazine; chocolate is made by Brad Kintzer

Size: Giant

Visit: No

Products: Bars characterized by flavor notes instead of origin or percentage; tons of inclusion bars in flavors like astronaut ice cream.

Tejas Chocolate

Location: Tomball, Texas

Year Founded: 2010

Founders: Scott Moore Jr. and Michelle Holland

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! In addition to chocolate bars and bonbons, they make barbecue, so come hungry.

Products: Single-origin choco-late bars and unusual bonbons (think Parmesan cheese).

Terroir Chocolate

Location: Fergus Falls, Minnesota

Year Founded: 2013

Founders: Josh and Kristin Mohagen

Size: Tiny

Visit: No

Products: A few single-origin bars but mostly inclusion bars.

Theo

Location: Seattle, Washington

Year Founded: 2006

Founders: Joseph Whinney and Debra Music

Size: Giant

Visit: Yes! Check out the factory and store.

Products: Blends and inclusion bars in flavors like coconut curry and cherry almond.

Videri Chocolate Factory

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

Year Founded: 2011

Founders: Sam and Starr Ratto and Chris Heavener

Size: Medium

Visit: Yes! Check out the factory and store.

Products: Dark and milk bars as well as confections and baking chocolate.

Woodblock Chocolate Manufactory

Location: Portland, Oregon

Year Founded: 2010

Founders: Charley and Jessica Wheelock

Size: Small

Visit: Yes! Visit the factory.

Products: Two-ingredient single-origin bars as well as a few inclusion bars and drinking chocolate. Used by Stumptown Coffee Roasters and many other restaurants and confectioners.

Excerpted from Bean-to-Bar Chocolate, © by Megan Giller, used with permission from Storey Publishing

(Note: This story contains affiliate links.)

The 6 Best Chocolate Shops in Texas, and My Texas Book Tour Schedule

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On Friday I’m headed to my home state of Texas for more than a week of over-the-top chocolatey events to celebrate my book launch, and I can’t wait to see y’all. Here they are! (Scroll down for six of my favorite chocolate shops across the state.)

Dallas

“Strangely Delicious” Pairings at the Dallas Chocolate Festival

Saturday, September 9, 2017, noon-1 PM

Cheese, chilis, vegetables: who knows?! I’ll walk you through a guided tasting of some of the best bean-to-bar chocolate in the country, paired with unusual and delicious accompaniments. My book will be available for sale at the talk, and afterward I will be signing copies.

Free with admission to the festival; buy tickets here

 

Chocolate and Cheese Pairings at Scardello Cheese

Monday, September 11, 2017, 6-8 PM

While researching the pairing portion of my book, I found some delicious flavors when you eat chocolate with cheese: banana split with peanuts and hot fudge, pot roast and mashed potatoes, and buttered toast with jam and honey. Scardello is offering a special chocolate-cheese plate featuring four pairings and two wines, and I’ll be hanging out, talking about the pairings and signing books.

$15 for the pairings; $30 for the pairings and book, RSVP here

 

Austin

 

Healthy Chocolate Tasting at Redbird Pilates and Fitness

Tuesday, September 12, 2017, 7:30-8:45 PM

This is my favorite Pilates studio in the world, and I’m excited to taste vegan dark chocolates from bean-to-bar companies that emphasize health, use pure and sustainable ingredients, and taste great too.

Free, RSVP here

 

Underground Chocolate Salon at Chocolaterie Tessa

Thursday, September 14, 2017, 6:30-8 PM

We'll be tasting bars from Amano Artisan ChocolateAskinosie Chocolate,Fresco Chocolate, and Srsly chocolate as well as single-origin bonbons made with some of those chocolates by Chocolaterie Tessa. Space is limited to 30 people, so reserve your spot immediately!

Free with a preorder of my book. Here’s how to RSVP:
1. Preorder the book here: http://amzn.to/2vLYQgY
2. Send me an email with a copy of your receipt for the book at megan@chocolatenoise.com.

 

Cheese and Chocolate Pairing Class at Antonelli’s Cheese

Saturday, September 16, 2017, 4-6 PM

Enjoy learning about bean-to-bar chocolate making while we taste our way through five cheeses and five fantastic Askinosie chocolates. Olives, almonds and Easy Tiger bread provided as well. Special guest: Lawren Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate!

$60, including a copy of the book; purchase tickets here

 

Chocolate, Beer, and Bands Book Release Party

Sunday, September 17, 2017, 1-5 PM

We'll have free from Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate, Guittard Chocolate Company, and local Austinite Srsly chocolate, as well as $3 beer pairings and Tweed Coffee Roasters coffee pairings. Plus, live music from Dan Goebel and the Boleys!

Free; RSVP here

 

The 6 Best Chocolate Shops in Texas

Bonbons from Chocolaterie Tessa, in Austin

Bonbons from Chocolaterie Tessa, in Austin

Without further ado, here they are! Keep in mind that these are mainly chocolatiers, with a few chocolate makers thrown in there for good measure.

Tejas Chocolate Craftory

Spoiler alert: This Houston-area barbecue joint and bean-to-bar maker is in my book, on my list of the top 50 makers in the country! (Stay tuned for the full list, coming soon.)

Chocolaterie Tessa

Find single-origin truffles made with American bean-to-bar chocolate as well as specialty bonbons at this delightful shop in Austin.

Kate Weiser Chocolate

Gorgeous truffles and treats (think upscale candy bars) delight the eyes and the mouth at this Dallas chocolatier; visit the shop for homemade ice cream and drinking chocolate.

Cacao and Cardamom

Colorful bonbons and chocolate high heels are the name of the game at this Houston chocolatier.

Crave Artisan Chocolate

Creative flavor combinations and chocolate bark with pretty patterns distinguish Austin-based Crave. Look for a chocolate display at owner Krystal Craig’s new restaurant, Intero, opening soon.

Dude, Sweet Chocolate

Find creative treats like chocolate “salami” and One-Night Stand Potion (agave nectar, tequila, dark chocolate) at this whimsical Dallas chocolatier.

(Note: This story contains affiliate links.)

Notes From the Underground Chocolate Salon

UndergroundChocolateSalonAugust2017.JPG

Last week at the Underground Chocolate Salon at the Meadow, our tasting of six bars from Castronovo Chocolate turned into a full-fledged party, with music, laughter, and at least one manager of the Meadow unbuttoning his shirt.

What’s an Underground Chocolate Salon? 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.

Speaking of like-minded people, yesterday Cacao Review and I discovered that we both started clubs with similar names. As you know, mine is called the Underground Chocolate Salon. Cacao Review is about to launch a collection of microbatch bars from its favorite makers called the Underground Chocolate Club. Cacao Review has kindly decided to switch its name after its first collection is out (they are all ready to be shipped) and is even including a little teaser about my upcoming book in that first collection. I’m very happy that we managed to work this out in a friendly way and are being supportive of each other’s goals and progression. Yay for craft chocolate!

Now back to the salon.

I profiled Castronovo on my site recently, and I wanted to celebrate that profile with a tasting. This was not a sales pitch but a collaboration and exchange of ideas.

Here are our notes, minus the debauchery:

 Sierra Nevada, Colombia, 72 Percent

Fruity, bright, apricot perhaps, long finish

Amazonas 72 Percent

Still fruity but much more chocolatey, not as bright

Patanemo, Venezuela, 70 Percent

Nutty, malty, chocolatey through and through

Tumaco, Colombia 85 Percent

One of the attendees is so into craft chocolate that she had independently ordered a bunch of Castronovo’s bars and shared this one with us. We found it earthy, maybe a little chalky, surprisingly not bitter for an 85 percent

Sierra Nevada, Colombia, Dark Milk 63 Percent

Caramel, slightly fruity but much more mild, addictive, gone immediately

Dominican Republic, 55 Percent

A true milk chocolate, super sweet

The tasting concluded with a phone call with Denise Castronovo, the owner and chocolate maker behind the brand. Picture us huddled around my phone as she answered our questions and chatted about chocolate. A nice treat!

Then we hung out with patrons of the Meadow for a few hours, gushing over chocolate bars and telling stories of our favorite foods from around the world.

Note: There is an affiliate link in this post, for my book!

Come to My Underground Chocolate Salon on Aug. 24

Happy Friday, chocolate lovers! I’m super excited to announce that I’m bringing back the Underground Chocolate Salon!

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.

Join me in New York City at the Meadow on August 24 from 6 to 7:30 PM for a special Underground Chocolate Salon completely dedicated to Castronovo Chocolate. We’ll taste most of Denise Castronovo’s line, including her many award-winning dark milk chocolates, and learn more about what makes her chocolate so special. We’ll also be treated to the musical stylings of the Meadow’s Nick Cardoni, who will be playing bluesy live piano for us.

To come to the salon, preorder my book here and email me your RSVP and the receipt. Admission is limited to 20 people. Hope to see you there!

Giveaway: I’m Throwing a Chocolate Tasting for You and Your Friends!

Hey, New York City chocaholics! In honor of my book, Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: America’s Craft Chocolate Revolution, coming out in September, I want to throw a chocolate tasting for you and four of your closest friends. The only cost? Five preorders of my book, one for each of your chocolate-loving friends, and one for you!

What’s a chocolate tasting? Think of the wine tastings or cheese tastings you’ve been to, and then replace the main ingredient with a better one: chocolate. I’ll bring five delicious craft chocolates, palate cleansers like crackers and green apples, and whole cocoa beans to your house (or a fun café or store, your choice), and we’ll spend about an hour and a half tasting and chatting about chocolate. You’ll learn how bean-to-bar chocolate is made, discover the fascinating and sometimes hilarious stories of these artisanal companies, and compare and contrast chocolates the way you would fine wines. Plus, you get to take home the leftovers!

How to enter:

1. Preorder 5 copies of the book. (Or more, if you'd like!)

2. Send a copy of your receipt and some dates that work for your tasting to megan@chocolatenoise.com.

3. We’ll get it on the calendar!

The giveaway starts today (Wednesday, 7/26) and ends in two weeks (Wednesday, 8/9), so let’s get started!

Not in New York? Let’s Skype! The same deal applies if you’re in another city. The only difference is that you’ll see my pretty little face on the computer screen rather than in real life.

Check Out the Advance Copy of My Book!

It arrived on my doorstep over the weekend, and I'm super excited to share this with y'all in a few short months! I'll be posting sneak peeks of it each week, like the following photo: mouthwatering cocoa nib ice cream, a recipe that Alice Medrich kindly shared with me from her book.

Photo by Jody Horton

Photo by Jody Horton

Note: There's an affiliate link to my book in this post!

 

A Modern-Day Willie Wonka: Chocolate River Craft Chocolate

Photo by William Mullan

When Billie Bonkers tweets at 2 AM, we listen. That’s because the eccentric Portland resident makes the most exquisite chocolate in the world, using a process he invented in 2015 called bean to bar. The recluse hasn't been seen by anyone since that year, and amid his stream-of-consciousness tweets, once per month you’ll find him revealing an order form for new bars. But act quick: He sells out immediately, and then you’re out of luck until 30 days later, too long to live without chocolate.

But let’s step back a second. Bean to bar? In 2015, after making a fortune in the tech world, Bonkers decided that he wanted to revolutionize chocolate by making it from scratch. (It took Bonkers a few paces to find chocolate: He first experimented with pickles, kombucha, and gluten-free crackers before landing on the dark stuff.)

He traveled to Venezuela, where he found an expert farmer who mysteriously only goes by the initials “O.L.” With O.L., he imported dozens of cacao trees to a steam room he built in his enormous factory on the outskirts of the city. There, he apparently grows cacao onsite and ferments and dries the beans himself (well, with the help of O.L and his wife). He’s vehement that this part of the process is better than his “imposters’ attempts” at direct trade: He calls it no trade.

Then, using prized machinery that he invented himself or bought in Europe, he roasts the beans (in a modified clothes dryer), grinds (in an enormous machine from 1940s Germany), and smoothens the beans himself, using the aid of his most prized invention: a chocolate waterfall and river, which he uses instead of a conche. It’s rumored that the bearded twentysomething apparently takes boat rides down the river in his spare time. That’s how Bonkers ingeniously arrived at the name for his artisan company: Chocolate River Craft Chocolate.

Photo courtesy Flickr user CEBImagery

Then, after painstakingly making the paper for his packaging from scratch and letterpressing his own design onto that paper, he and O.L. hand-wrap each and every bar, then send it by carrier pigeon to its destination.

Of course, all of this is, as we said, rumor. Bonkers hasn’t been seen since he started the factory, in 2015, and only communicates through elusive Twitter rants—though his wife, who runs the books, marketing, and social media, responds to emails. We learned most of what you’re reading here after talking with a spy from Big Chocolate who preferred to remain anonymous; One big company, you see, is interested in acquiring the company and taking it national.

O.L. before he came to Portland (left); the only known image of Billy Bonkers (center); a carrier pigeon from Bonkers' factory (he only shoots on black and white film, right); images courtesy Flickr users Nathan RupertCass Anaya, and jwyg, respectively

Most of what we definitively know about Bonkers is the chocolate itself, which is all single origin and made with only two ingredients: cacao and sugar. Well, except for two bars that were recently released: coconut milk and infused bourbon.

But yesterday Bonkers himself reached out to me via Twitter private message and said that he will be opening the factory doors, to five lucky souls who find a golden ticket in one of his bars. Since he only produces about 500 bars per year, this gives us all pretty good odds, if we start buying today! Good luck to all: The factory tour will take place on April Fool’s Day.

Read More Stories!

Why Ritual Chocolate Uses Vintage Machinery

Patric Chocolate: The Chemistry of Flavor

Some Really Badass Female Chocolate Makers

Why Ritual Chocolate Uses Vintage Machinery

At the beginning of March I profiled one of my favorite American chocolate makers, Ritual Chocolate. I’d wanted to include some of the fascinating story that co-founder Robbie Stout told me about their conche, but, well, I wanted it in his dynamic words. So for the first time, I’m publishing a guest post on Chocolate Noise. Robbie, take it away!

In 2014 we bought a rusty, dismantled, four-pot longitudinal conche from Steve DeVries [one of the first American bean-to-bar makers, who now acts as an adviser and legend in the industry]. According to Steve, the conche was used by Swiss chocolate company Suchard for around 80 years and then had been hanging out in a barn in Hamburg, Germany, for the past 20 to 30 years. Even when we got it, it was still full of Swiss hay.

When we bought the conche, there was no guarantee that we’d ever be able to get it running, that all the pieces were still there, or that it would even produce good chocolate. So the endeavor to refurbish this conche was a leap of faith—one that was supported by all the old books we read about processing chocolate using turn-of-the-century machines.

For context, here’s a little history. Prior to 1879, there probably wasn’t any great chocolate for eating. Before then, it all would have been a little crude for eating chocolate and was better suited for making hot chocolate drinks. Then, in 1879, Rudolf Sprüngli-Ammann, the founder of Lindt Chocolate, discovered the process of conching after buying an Italian-made machine that looked much like our longitudinal conche. Lindt found that processing chocolate for multiple days in this mixer achieved better texture and better flavor. From then on, Lindt conched all of its chocolate for eating. From about 1879 until about 1900, no one knew how Lindt made its chocolate so smooth, and this is part of where the reputation for smooth, Swiss quality chocolate was born.

As for our conche, we have a theory that ties into the Lindt conche origin story. Since the early 1800s, there has been a machinery company called Ammann in Langenthal, Switzerland. Originally it was called U. Ammann, and it mostly made farm equipment. Our theory is that when Rudolf Sprüngli-Ammann discovered the conching process, he went to his relative Ulrich Ammann and asked him to secretly produce conches for Lindt. There is no evidence of this, but the time period and the last names align. Also, when Lindt’s secret of conching made it to the light of day, around 1900, U. Ammann was one of the first manufacturers to make conches available to other chocolate makers at the time. Our conche still has the “U. Ammann, Langenthal” insignia.

We had to make several adjustments and changes to get the rusty, old machine to work again. Using old photographs and drawings as our references, we made a stainless steel frame to support all four pots of the conche (back in the day they used brick). We also enlisted the help of Dairy Engineering, a company in Colorado that specializes in “sanitary liquid engineering,” meaning they build a lot of equipment for the dairy and beer brewing industries. The German motor and gear box were built to be operated at a different voltage and electrical frequency, which Dairy Engineering solved by using a variable frequency drive (VFD). Controlling the heat on these machines was also tricky: The engineers used glue-on heaters to heat the outside of each pot and installed a temperature control panel for each individual pot (which is handy for processing different batches of chocolate at a specific temperature).

Initially, they said the refurbishment would take about three months. Instead, it took a full year. This forced us to get creative with our process, but it all worked out okay. Also, when we relocated from Denver to Park City, Utah, we had to move this 15,000-pound, 15-foot-by-8-foot machine with us (an eight-hour drive). We had to hire a trucker to dedicate his entire load to this one delivery (that was expensive). And then to get it off the truck we had to hire a crane, a forklift, and a team to help navigate the conche into our factory.

Once it was in place, electrical installation was easy. The big task was to clean out each pot before use. This took a solid three weeks of elbow grease and a full batch of throwaway chocolate. Last, we had a lot of trouble with the heaters. After burning them all out, we ended up replacing and reinstalling all of them.

Finally, in March 2016, we ran our first batch in the refurbished Swiss conche. That was by far our most stressful batch. There had been so much thought and preparation leading up to this moment, and there was no guarantee things would work out. Per tradition, the first batch would run for three full days. As we had never left the machine alone to do its business, we had to babysit it for the first three nights. This meant setting an alarm for every two hours during the night, walking to the factory (we live close by), and checking temperatures and listening for mechanical problems. Things were mostly fine, except the belt was too loose, so we had to apply a belt dressing during every checkup to silence its screeching.

After three days, it came time to temper and mold our first batch of chocolate from the conche. What we tasted was definitely the best chocolate we’d ever made. The texture was smoother. The flavor was more delicate, yet it lingered longer than it had in the past. And the overall texture of the chocolate felt finer and more consistent. Needless to say, we were greatly relieved. After all the time, effort, and money that went into getting the conche running, imagine how disappointing it would have been if the results had been mediocre!

Since then, we’ve run about twenty 1,000-pound batches. We’ve had to make a few small repairs, but so far it’s running well. If anything, the quality has improved as we’ve been able to perfect the speed and temperature of the conching. Occasionally it can be a little messy, but that’s part of being old fashioned. With the current condition of the granite in each pot, we see no reason why this conche won’t be able to run for another 100 years (or more). And this is why we love old equipment—because it’s built to last.

Chocolit: Your Favorite Books About Chocolate

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:

Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Light and Dark by Mort Rosenblum and Chocolate Wars: The 150 Year Rivalry between the Worlds Greatest Chocolate Makers by Deborah Cadbury.
— John Cunin
My absolute favorite book about chocolate is Chocolat by Joanne Harris. It is the novel that was made into the movie.
— Carol Lang
A photo of my bookshelf. I’m French, so mostly are french, but there are some good American and English.
— Clément Gillot
“Your book is coming out in August!??! I want a copy!!! Yay!!!!! Art of the Chocolatier.”
— Amy Dubin, Janam Tea
I’m inviting you to pop onto my website and read my book review of Chocolatour. It’s a lovely read with pictures and descriptions that immerse you in the travels of the world of chocolate. Doreen Pendgracs is a smooth, deep writer.
— RoseMary Griffiths, Musings From a Redhead
Your shelf looks like my shelf! Mine is also scattered with ‘science of chocolate’ books though for the confection side of my business. My new favourite is Dom Ramsey’s book called “Chocolate, Indulge Your Inner Chocoholic, Become a Bean-to-Bar Expert”, published in September. It not only teaches the process of bean-to-bar chocolate making, it offers a great overview of several cacao-growing regions. And there are several delicious recipes in the book provided by chocolate professionals from around the globe. You’ll have to look through those to find out why it is my favourite. :-)
— Lisbeth Flanagan, Ultimately Chocolate
I love The True History of Chocolate by Sophie and Michael Coe.
— Lydia Studier-Tarzia, chocolatier
My fave book about chocolate is “Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light” by Mort Rosenblum
— Adam Burke
We are big fans of Los Guardianes Del Cacao, by Astrid Gutsche.
— Raaka Chocolate
Marcy Norton’s Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures for nuanced study of early European adoption (TY Carla Martin). The Essence of Chocolate by Sharffenberger & Steinburg encapsulates the beginnings of new chocolate. Some good recipes too, but for confectionary Jean-Pierre Wybauw’s books are indispensable.
— Bisou Chocolate
Bitter Chocolate by Carol Off should be required reading & The True History of Chocolate by Sophie & Michael Coe is brilliant (but we’re also big fans of Sandra Boynton).
— CocoaRunners
Chocolat by Joanne Harris every time!
— Andrew Baker, The Telegraph

Did we miss your favorite book? Tell me at megan@chocolatenoise.com or on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and I'll include your comments in the next Chocolate Today!

 

 

 

 

What's Your Favorite Book About Chocolate?

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?

Tell at megan@chocolatenoise.com or on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter and I’ll include your comments in the next Chocolate Today!

Chocolate Noise Took Over Food Republic's Instagram

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

Hey, Food Republic! I’m Megan Giller, the food writer and chocolate expert behind Chocolate Noise, and I’m so excited to take over @foodrepublic for the next three days! I’ll be showing you the best places in NYC to find the most delicious chocolate in the world—and I’ll probably eat more than my fair share. First up: chocolate for breakfast. I like to taste chocolate first thing in the morning, when my palate is fresh, before I’ve eaten anything else, especially chocolate from some of my favorite bean-to-bar makers. 

Hey, Food Republic! I’m Megan Giller, the food writer and chocolate expert behind Chocolate Noise, and I’m so excited to take over @foodrepublic for the next three days! I’ll be showing you the best places in NYC to find the most delicious chocolate in the world—and I’ll probably eat more than my fair share. First up: chocolate for breakfast. I like to taste chocolate first thing in the morning, when my palate is fresh, before I’ve eaten anything else, especially chocolate from some of my favorite bean-to-bar makers. 

I pretty much visit Raaka Chocolate's factory once a week. The first thing you see when you walk in the door is their tasting room, with tons of chocolate samples. But the best thing is watching the Cocoatown machines grind and refine cocoa nibs into chocolate. Sometimes they let me taste a spoonful straight out of the machine. This batch is their limited-edition strawberry basil flavor. 

I pretty much visit Raaka Chocolate's factory once a week. The first thing you see when you walk in the door is their tasting room, with tons of chocolate samples. But the best thing is watching the Cocoatown machines grind and refine cocoa nibs into chocolate. Sometimes they let me taste a spoonful straight out of the machine. This batch is their limited-edition strawberry basil flavor. 

Raaka makes bean-to-bar chocolate, which means they start with whole beans and grind and smoothen them into chocolate from scratch. Ten years ago there were only a few people in the country doing this; now there are around 200 American bean-to-bar chocolate makers. My site Chocolate Noise is all about this craft chocolate revolution. Raaka is a little different than most, because they don’t roast their beans; instead they focus on creative infusions rooted in the terroir of cacao (yep, cacao has terroir, like wine!). Here are big bags of beans from Tanzania, which is known for earthy and slightly fruity cacao. 

Raaka makes bean-to-bar chocolate, which means they start with whole beans and grind and smoothen them into chocolate from scratch. Ten years ago there were only a few people in the country doing this; now there are around 200 American bean-to-bar chocolate makers. My site Chocolate Noise is all about this craft chocolate revolution. Raaka is a little different than most, because they don’t roast their beans; instead they focus on creative infusions rooted in the terroir of cacao (yep, cacao has terroir, like wine!). Here are big bags of beans from Tanzania, which is known for earthy and slightly fruity cacao. 

Down the street from @raakachocolate is Cacao Prieto, another bean-to-bar chocolate factory. I love looking at this Victorian-era cocoa bean roaster: It’s enormous and impressive, and even a few hundred years later, it still roasts beans like a champ. And yes, they let me stand on a really tall ladder to get this shot! 

Down the street from @raakachocolate is Cacao Prieto, another bean-to-bar chocolate factory. I love looking at this Victorian-era cocoa bean roaster: It’s enormous and impressive, and even a few hundred years later, it still roasts beans like a champ. And yes, they let me stand on a really tall ladder to get this shot! 

Because I clearly haven’t had enough chocolate today, my last stop is Liddabit Sweets at Industry City. Liddabit makes handmade, locally and ethically sourced versions of the candy bars and desserts you loved as a kid, with their own whimsical twist, using @valrhonausa and @tazachocolate. So many chocolate-covered caramels with sea salt for the taking!

Because I clearly haven’t had enough chocolate today, my last stop is Liddabit Sweets at Industry City. Liddabit makes handmade, locally and ethically sourced versions of the candy bars and desserts you loved as a kid, with their own whimsical twist, using @valrhonausa and @tazachocolate. So many chocolate-covered caramels with sea salt for the taking!

February 13, 2017

Today's breakfast is this triple-chocolate cookie at Untitled at the Whitney, which blows my mind every time. Pastry chef Miro Uskokovic uses @guittardchocolate, an American bean-to-bar brand that’s been around since the late 1800s, and Chef Thomas Keller's gluten-free flour Cup4Cup. 

Today's breakfast is this triple-chocolate cookie at Untitled at the Whitney, which blows my mind every time. Pastry chef Miro Uskokovic uses @guittardchocolate, an American bean-to-bar brand that’s been around since the late 1800s, and Chef Thomas Keller's gluten-free flour Cup4Cup. 

Now I’m off to replenish my chocolate stash at Chelsea Market Baskets, which has an impressive selection of hard-to-find brands. I’m loading up on Ritual Chocolate and Amano Chocolate, two of the best makers in the country. 

Now I’m off to replenish my chocolate stash at Chelsea Market Baskets, which has an impressive selection of hard-to-find brands. I’m loading up on Ritual Chocolate and Amano Chocolate, two of the best makers in the country. 

I teach chocolate-and-cheese-pairing classes at Murray's Cheese from time to time, but today I’m here to grab a few chocolate bars and cheeses to satisfy a personal craving. The two seem like an unlikely combination, but if done right, it can be incredible, creating a mashup experience that transforms two great foods into the sublime. Murray’s is one of the only places in town to buy Pralus’ Infernale bars, a massive chocolate bar filled with praliné (read: the best fancy candy bar in the world), which I’m going to devour later. 

I teach chocolate-and-cheese-pairing classes at Murray's Cheese from time to time, but today I’m here to grab a few chocolate bars and cheeses to satisfy a personal craving. The two seem like an unlikely combination, but if done right, it can be incredible, creating a mashup experience that transforms two great foods into the sublime. Murray’s is one of the only places in town to buy Pralus’ Infernale bars, a massive chocolate bar filled with praliné (read: the best fancy candy bar in the world), which I’m going to devour later. 

Detour! I was headed home with all sorts of goodies for a late lunch, but Murray's is so close to Grom Gelato that I had to stop. Their chocolate gelato is extra rich and delicious because it’s made with Domori Chocolate, from Italy. On top of my hazelnut and pistachio, check out the single-origin Peruvian chocolate in all of its glory. 

Detour! I was headed home with all sorts of goodies for a late lunch, but Murray's is so close to Grom Gelato that I had to stop. Their chocolate gelato is extra rich and delicious because it’s made with Domori Chocolate, from Italy. On top of my hazelnut and pistachio, check out the single-origin Peruvian chocolate in all of its glory. 

Feast time! It’s all about the combinations, which I discovered while doing extensive research for my book (poor me, right?). I’m pairing Fruition Chocolate's dark milk chocolate with sea salt with Challerhocker cheese and that Pralus Infernale bar I mentioned earlier with Point Reyes Cheese's Original Blue. Both chocolates also pair well with this Nepalese oolong tea from Serendipitea. I threw in a baguette to pair with some single-origin Madagascar chocolate from Patric too, because why not? The fruitiness of the Madagascar chocolate with the buttery nuttiness of the baguette makes it taste like a fantastic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Feast time! It’s all about the combinations, which I discovered while doing extensive research for my book (poor me, right?). I’m pairing Fruition Chocolate's dark milk chocolate with sea salt with Challerhocker cheese and that Pralus Infernale bar I mentioned earlier with Point Reyes Cheese's Original Blue. Both chocolates also pair well with this Nepalese oolong tea from Serendipitea. I threw in a baguette to pair with some single-origin Madagascar chocolate from Patric too, because why not? The fruitiness of the Madagascar chocolate with the buttery nuttiness of the baguette makes it taste like a fantastic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

February 14, 2017

I have a meeting this morning at French bean-to-bar maker Valrhona’s Brooklyn offices. Fortunately for me, they always have plenty of chocolatey treats: This morning the chef is making heart-shaped raspberry and white chocolate macarons. In other words, breakfast! There’s not a storefront here, but L’Ecole Valrhona offers professional classes in its huge onsite kitchen, with superstar chefs like Ginger Elizabeth bakery and Lincoln Carson. 

I have a meeting this morning at French bean-to-bar maker Valrhona’s Brooklyn offices. Fortunately for me, they always have plenty of chocolatey treats: This morning the chef is making heart-shaped raspberry and white chocolate macarons. In other words, breakfast! There’s not a storefront here, but L’Ecole Valrhona offers professional classes in its huge onsite kitchen, with superstar chefs like Ginger Elizabeth bakery and Lincoln Carson. 

Now I’m off to learn more tricks of the trade from Michael Laiskonis, who runs the Institute of Culinary Education’s bean-to-bar chocolate lab. You’ll find him making chocolate from scratch pretty much all day and all night here, with plenty of samples to taste. All pastry students have to learn how to make chocolate as part of their program, and ICE offers classes for us mere laymen too. Here’s Michael pouring a freshly made batch onto marble to demonstrate tempering by hand.

After learning so much about how to make chocolate, I’m ready to ingest more of it, this time in liquid form. LA Burdick makes my favorite drinking chocolate in town, a rich, creamy concoction that doesn’t bear any resemblance to hot cocoa. I’m a sucker for single origin, like this cup of melted Venezuela. Also lots and lots of hand-dipped truffles, out of focus but delicious!

After learning so much about how to make chocolate, I’m ready to ingest more of it, this time in liquid form. LA Burdick makes my favorite drinking chocolate in town, a rich, creamy concoction that doesn’t bear any resemblance to hot cocoa. I’m a sucker for single origin, like this cup of melted Venezuela. Also lots and lots of hand-dipped truffles, out of focus but delicious!

I have a hard time not going to Stick With Me Sweets every day. Usually I live by the rule that the prettiest desserts taste the worst, and vice versa, but Susanna Yoon’s work is stunning and scrumptious. No surprise that she uses Valrhona. Liquid salted caramel pouring onto marble, get in my mouth.

I have a hard time not going to Stick With Me Sweets every day. Usually I live by the rule that the prettiest desserts taste the worst, and vice versa, but Susanna Yoon’s work is stunning and scrumptious. No surprise that she uses Valrhona. Liquid salted caramel pouring onto marble, get in my mouth.

Back at home, I’m making my husband’s favorite dessert for Valentine’s Day: chocolate-covered Rice Krispie Treats. Except I’m using Fruition marshmallows and Guittard chocolate. Want to lick the bowl?

Thanks, Food Republic, for letting me hang out with y’all as I ate my weight in chocolate over the past few days! It’s one of the dangers of the job, as you can see from the wine fridge I’ve turned into a chocolate fridge to the right of my desk. Now I better get back to editing the first pages of my book about American bean-to-bar chocolate (coming out in August)! 

Thanks, Food Republic, for letting me hang out with y’all as I ate my weight in chocolate over the past few days! It’s one of the dangers of the job, as you can see from the wine fridge I’ve turned into a chocolate fridge to the right of my desk. Now I better get back to editing the first pages of my book about American bean-to-bar chocolate (coming out in August)! 


Did I leave out one of your favorite places in NYC? Tell me at megan@chocolatenoise.com or on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and I'll include your comments in the next Chocolate Today!

Is Chocolate a Health Food?

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!

What do you think? Tell at megan@chocolatenoise.com or on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter and I’ll include your comments in the next Chocolate Today!

Pretty Pictures of Cacao Pods

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!

Have a photo you'd like to share? Send it to me at megan@chocolatenoise.com or on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter and I'll include it in the next Chocolate Today!

The Life and Times of CHOCOLATE, Part 4

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If you missed them, check out Part 1: How Chocolate Is Born, Part 2: How Cocoa Beans Become Chocolateand Part 3: Anatomy of a Fine Chocolate Bar.

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 bornhow 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.

The Cartoon

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!)