When in Cacao Country

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You may have noticed it’s been pretty quiet around Chocolate Noise lately, and that’s because I was hanging out in South America for a few weeks. Obolo Chocolate in Santiago, Chile, invited me to visit their bean-to-bar factory and store to celebrate the launch of their new Chilean inclusion bars (an idea I’d mentioned at Chocolate Summer Camp last year), and I decided to throw in a little trip to Peru to eat everything in Lima and the rainforest.

Here are some photos from my trip, which, you’ll notice, is heavily slanted toward everything cacao and chocolate, even though I wasn’t there for “work.” Obolo is the first bean-to-bar maker in Chile, and I was pumped that because there’s such a strong wine culture there, people seemed to understand terroir, origin, and so on. (P.S., if you’re in NYC, they’re launching their bars on Saturday, August 24, at a party at the Meadow from 5-8 PM. See you there!) In Peru, I was particularly excited to see all of the craft chocolate made at origin, as well as how cacao fruit is being incorporated into fine dining there.

Obolo has created quite a community in the Barrio Italia neighborhood in Santiago, and does quite a bit to educate about bean-to-bar chocolate. Recently they started working with a hip new restaurant called La Mesa, which uses Obolo in all of their desserts, like this chocolate mousse “sandwich” with cacao nib cookies, coffee cream, and mushroom powder on top.

Here are two of my favorite bars from their new line of Chilean inclusion chocolates, one made with maqui berries from Patagonia and another made with a minty herb called Rica Rica from the Atacama Desert.

Obolo owner Mark Gerrits and I visited the desert to meet up with Patricia Perez, the owner of La Atacameña, who forages for herbs like Rica Rica in the desert. She and her mother, grandmother, and so on have done so for centuries. Because it was our first time to visit the desert, Patricia arranged a ceremony for us to honor the land. On the left, Mark is taking a moment to honor pachamama (the earth) and our ancestors.

After that life-changing experience, I flew to Lima, Peru, to meet my husband, Marcus. First stop, Central, one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, where they served a fresh cacao juice cocktail, cacao husk tea, copoazu dip (copoazu is genetically related to Theobroma cacao) and a dessert that they said focused on the cacao fruit more than chocolate. From left to right: fresh cacao pod display, house-made bean-to-bar chocolate with some sort of local nut syrup, cacao-husk infused ice cream, cacao fruit jelly. Below, milk chocolate mousse made with cacao pod skin, topped with coca leaves and herb granita

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Next stop: El Cacaotal, a Peruvian-focused bean-to-bar shop run by A.J. Wiley, an anthropologist who is possibly more obsessed with chocolate than I am. Her store in the Barranco neighborhood only sells bars made in Peru with Peruvian beans, and it’s divided by origin. Check out the flavor wheels divided by origin too! Her coffee barista made us a brilliant pour-over coffee and a latte made with toasted Theobroma bicolor, a relative of cacao, which kind of looks like a cracked white cocoa bean or weird almond. Roasty and delicious. The collection of bars on the table are all of the tree-to-bar brands available at El Cacaotal, which is quite a lot. And that last image is roasted cacao beans at the Surquillo Market.

I also met up with Carolina from Conciencia Chocolate, a Peruvian raw brand that works closely with farmers and oversees every step of the process. Here she is holding a very marked-up copy of my book! And on the right is a guy promoting the Choco Museo, a very disappointing store that’s included here because I LOVED his shirt. I hope the chocolate industry will start to be more playful with images of cacao pods, etc. like this.

Last but least on this non-chocolate-related part of the trip, Marcus and I flew to Puerto Maldonado in the rainforest to stay at InkaTerra Hacienda Concepcion. Of course we visited a cacao farm! Here we are, plus the grinder they use to make chocolate liquor, which InkaTerra bakes into its cacao bread and desserts. Last but not least, here’s my pile of chocolate to take home. Not pictured: the Marana bar we shared with our tour guide at the cacao farm, one of my favorite moments. And now, back to Brooklyn!

Cocoa Percentage Measures Quantity, Not Quality

And now, a public service announcement:

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Cocoa percentage simply measures the amount of the bar that comes from cocoa beans (including cocoa butter). It does not have anything to do with quality. I’ve tasted wonderful low-percentage bars and terrible high-percentage bars. Here are two bars with the exact same percentage (70 percent) that are a great example of this point. Craft makers like Dandelion Chocolate use the highest-quality cocoa beans (and other ingredients), while industrial chocolate like Lindt uses cheap beans and cover up the off flavors with sugar and vanilla. When you pay more for a craft bar, you’re paying for quality, regardless of the percentage.

Check out more educational chocolate info here!



Try Breast-to-Bar Chocolate: One Day Only!

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You’ve heard of dark, milk, and white chocolate. And of goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, and even camel’s milk chocolate. But the world will never be the same, because today Callebaut and I are revealing the REAL fourth type of chocolate: breast milk chocolate!

Because we only created 200 of these nanobatch bars, they are only available for sale today.

We started with fine flavor cocoa beans sourced from a shaded area under Cerro Tres Tetas in Potosí, Bolivia.

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Then we added breast milk sourced from my local Brooklyn women’s collective after my most recent bean-to-bar event. If you taste carefully, you can pick out the distinct terroir of Madagascar beans that has been translated into the breast milk itself.

 You’ll also find notes of melons, grapefruit, and Almond Joy (or is it Mounds?) in this unique bar.





Here's What 7 Kids Thought of Bean-to-Bar Chocolate

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I’ve volunteered with kids for as long as I can remember, usually as a mentor or a tutor, and twice a week for the past three years, I’ve tutored children at READ718, a literacy nonprofit in Brooklyn. (Right now I work with a bright, dedicated girl named Khylie.)

But when I read Shawn and Lawren Askinosie’s book Meaningful Work: A Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul in 2017, I was inspired to bring chocolate into the picture. On February 19, READ718 and I hosted our second chocolate tasting for kids together, and it was a smashing success!

Our tasting crew, plus READ718 volunteer Ken Clinton

Our tasting crew, plus READ718 volunteer Ken Clinton

Me pointing out Madagascar on the map, because we tasted Ritual’s single-origin Madagascar bar

Me pointing out Madagascar on the map, because we tasted Ritual’s single-origin Madagascar bar

With a group of seven children aged 5-13, we focused on using the senses (sight, smell, sound, taste, touch) to evaluate roasted cocoa beans from Fruition and three different types of chocolate: Ritual’s 70 percent Madagascar, Divine’s milk chocolate, and Askinosie’s white chocolate. (Pretty fancy stuff across the board!)

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We played chocolate bingo for a break, and then the kids got to write their own food reviews of the chocolate they loved or hated the most. Everyone chose to write about their favorite bars (those optimists!), and today I’m publishing the finished reviews on my site, so that all of the kids are now published authors. ;)

About half of the kids liked the cocoa beans, and they described them as “chocolate peanut,” “coffee,” “tastes like something left in the fridge for a long time.” Another person said he liked the beans because “it didn’t make my lips pucker.” Watching these children think about and evaluate food in a different way than usual, especially with such a common ingredient as chocolate, was so rewarding and thought-provoking, and I hope they took something away from it too.

But I’ll let them tell you in their own words! Here are photos of a few of their reviews and typed versions of all of them (below).

“I like the dark chocolate because I like the texture of it and the taste of it because it tastes edible.”

—Ishmayel Antoine, age 7

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Justin Adams, 6th grade

“I love the milk chocolate because it had a creamy, sweet, smooth taste of the milk chocolate. It tastes different from other milk chocolate, I will give it 10 stars for the milk chocolate.”

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Ziting Zeng, age 8

“I like the milk chocolate because the chocolate is very, very, very good. I would recommend people eating milk chocolate because it is good. I will grade this chocolate a ten star.”

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Ariane Alcide, age 6

“My favorite was the white chocolate because it was sweet and tasty. I wish I can eat it everyday.” (Ariane drew 12 stars)

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“My favorite chocolate was the milk chocolate. I loved it because I liked the smooth texture that felt good when it melted. Another thing I liked about the milk chocolate was the taste because it tasted very sweet. One more reason I loved it is the smell the chocolate smelled like caramel and I enjoy caramel. I would recommend this to someone else because I like most of its quality. I would rate this a 9 out of 10.”

—Zion Dockery, age 12 (left)

“My favorite chocolate was the white chocolate. I loved it! I loved it because I liked the flavor. I also liked the texture, which was smooth. I also liked the way that it smelled!”

—Gezale Dockery, age 5 (center)

“There were 3 chocolates. #1 is dark, #2 is milk, and #3 is white, I loved the milk chocolate because one I always eat it so I’m used to it. It reminds me of chocolate milk, the texture and flavor of it is nice and also it feels really good. If I had to rate it I would give a 9/10 because it is not something that I would eat everyday it is like for an occasion.”

—Maeyel Dockery, age 13 (right)

Thanks so much to READ718’s Emily Kirven and Rachel Fucci, and READ718 volunteer Ken Clinton!

If you’re in the NYC area and would like me to do a chocolate tasting with your group, email me at megan@chocolatenoise.com!

(Note: There are affiliate links in this post.)

Celebrate Valentine's Day With Me — And Chocolate!

Delicious melted chocolate from Map Chocolate

Delicious melted chocolate from Map Chocolate

Whether you love or hate Valentine’s Day, there’s no denying that it’s a super chocolatey holiday — which makes it top notch in my book. This year I’m writing a series of chocolate stories for Chowhound and hosting about a billion chocolate tastings in NYC.

The ones I might be most excited about? Fresh has asked me to help them put on three luxury chocolate tastings at their New York stores: Think champagne to start, followed by a guided tasting of five chocolates in an intimate setting (6-12 people, tops). The best part? IT’S BASICALLY FREE. Fresh is asking people to RSVP and reserve their spot by buying a $25 gift card, which I’m positive you’ll then use at the tasting to buy a mini mask, sugar treatment, or something else delectable.

Here’s the info; hope to see you there. It’s going to be delicious!

Saturday, 2/09/2019, 2-3 PM

159 Columbus Ave, New York, NY

RSVP to columbus@fresh.com

2/09/2019, 5-6 PM

872 Broadway, New York, NY

RSVP to union@fresh.com

2/10/2019, 4-5 PM

265 Lafayette St, New York, NY

RSVP to lafayette@fresh.com

And here are my chocolate stories for Chowhound so far!

What Is White Chocolate?

When It Comes to Chocolate, What Does Cocoa Percentage Actually Mean?


Take a Look at a Fresh Cacao Pod

What’s in a cacao pod? If you haven’t been to a place where cacao trees grow, that’s probably your first question. Here’s a little infographic I made using a gorgeous photo from T’oak Chocolate that provides an inside look. Have you tasted fresh cacao pulp before?

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4 Ethical Chocolates for Trick or Treaters This Halloween

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My friend’s house gets stampeded on Halloween. The entire neighborhood turns into an extended haunted house, and after spending weeks putting up elaborate fake cemeteries and brainstorming how to dress up as a crazy ghost with a chainsaw, my friend spends the evening handing out hundreds of pieces of candy to kids.

Seriously, like 300 pieces of candy.

The thing is, my friend is also an incredibly conscientious person. She’s not the kind of jerk who hands out raisins or floss on Halloween, but she also doesn’t want to perpetuate the status quo of cheap, unethical candy. There's a reason those chocolates are so cheap, and it's because farmers are paid pennies for their hard work (think 80 cents per pound of cocoa beans) , which means you'll find extreme poverty and sometimes even child slave labor behind those sweets.

But when my friend asked me earlier today where to buy ethical Halloween candy that won’t break the bank, I was stumped. Well, for a minute.

Here are four solutions I found for her that I thought you, as an awesomely conscientious person, might want to hand out too. Each is reasonably priced and kid-friendly, and the pieces come individually wrapped, perfect for trick or treaters on Halloween.

Askinosie Itty Bitty Bars

Owner Shawn Askinosie is hands down the most ethical person I know. He devotes almost all of his time to sourcing cocoa beans directly from farmers, working to improve living conditions in Tanzania and the Philippines, in particular. Think building schools, buying textbooks and computers, and so many other initiatives that I can't even keep track. The bean-to-bar chocolate is also as high quality and delicious as it gets.
$127.50 for 150 bars (7 grams/bar) $.85/bar

Raaka Chocolate Mini Bars

I love this new trend of bean-to-bar makers coming out with mini versions of their badass bars. These come in pink sea salt or coconut milk, perfect for those too-cool-for-school vegan children (or, really, all children). If you’re looking for true candy, spring for Eat Chic’s nut butter cups, made with Raaka Chocolate and pretty much irresistible, though they’re a bit more expensive.

$80 for a box of 100 mini bars (8 grams/bar) $.80/bar

TCHO Dark Chocolate Mini Bars

These lil' minis taste as cute as they look: Think an assortment of bean-to-bar maker TCHO's dark chocolate bars in "nutty" flavor, for the discerning trick or treater. There aren't any nuts in the bars; rather, the chocolate itself tastes nutty because of the cocoa beans' natural terroir. The Berkeley-based company practices direct trade, buying cocoa beans directly from farmers and investing time, money, and energy into improving their living conditions.

$42.99 for 120 bars (8 grams/bar), $.35/bar

Equal Exchange Minis

Honestly I don't know that much about this company, but what I do know impresses me. The chocolate is not bean to bar, but it is fair trade and comes from a worker-owned co-op. Plus Equal Exchange worked with TCHO to create chocolate-making labs near cocoa farmer communities so that farmers can see how their beans taste, and make them taste even better. Try the minis with a hint of hazelnut, reminiscent of Nutella. $60 for 150 pieces.

$43.75 for 1 pack of 150 bars (4.25 grams/bar), $.29/bar

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.)

Notes From the Underground Chocolate Salon

 

Last week a colony of chocolate lovers gathered in the private room at Voila Chocolat for a very special 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.

This was a different sort of salon, because I’m trying out a new format. Rather than leading a guided tasting, I set up three different tasting areas with lots of goodies. (Of course, I ended up talking for most of the time, but in the future I’d like to change this. Send me ideas if you have ‘em.)

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One table featured Wilbur Buds, a gift from the folks in Lititz, PA, from when I visited on my book tour. Legend has it that these bites of dark and milk chocolate predate the Hershey kiss — and that when Milton Hershey visited Wilbur Chocolate, he had a Eureka moment. He created chocolate bites that looked similar, added a few other fats and ingredients to keep them from melting naturally, and packaged them individually. Behold, the birth of the Hershey kiss! 

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The other two tables featured the exact opposite of this industrial chocolate: On one, three types of Mestico Chocolate from Brazil interested (and in some cases, confused) our taste buds. In general we tasted a strong roast and a little bit of fruitiness, but possibly some Brazilian funk as well. Read my recent story about the trials and tribulations of Brazilian cacao here.

And then we had a table with Dandelion’s new Sierra Leone bar and Ara Chocolate’s Tolita, Colombia, bar. The color difference between the two staggered us: Ara’s bar looked as light as milk chocolate while Dandelion’s was the darkest brown. (Check it out at the top of this post!) Both makers most likely roasted the beans lightly, so in this case we were really noticing the difference between the cocoa beans. The tastes were opposite as well: Ara’s Tolita bar tasted like tropical fruit while Dandelion’s Sierra Leone bar tasted like fudge fudge fudge.

The Sierra Leone bar is especially worth noting because it’s the first bar made with these beans, sourced with the help of Professor Kristy Leissle and Meridian Cacao. I hope that now more American makers will venture beyond Tanzania in terms of using African beans. 

Then Voila chef Christophe Toury showed us how he’s been making chocolate from scratch — Crankenstein, blow dryer, and all. We tried three of his bars, and my favorite by far was the single-origin Peru, which had a distinct raisin and prune fruitiness that differed from other single-origin Peruvian chocolates I’ve tasted. 

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The evening ended with a cup of hot Ruby chocolate, thanks to the packaged mix I picked up in London from Fortnum & Mason. It was a treat to try this ahead of the U.S. launch, though I’m still convinced Ruby chocolate is all marketing. It tasted super sweet and milky (since it was made with milk, obviously), with a stronger note of raspberries than cocoa. “Would you call this chocolate?” Chef Christophe asked me. What do you think?

The Underground Chocolate Salon will not be held at regular intervals, but if you’d like to put your name in the lottery to attend, please email me at megan@chocolatenoise.com and tell me about the best chocolate you’ve ever tasted.

What Women Ate: CHOCOLATE!

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Hello, chocolate lovers!

As you might have guessed, in 2018 I’m working on some BIG projects, like this 5,000 word feature about the conspiracy behind Brazilian cacao’s demise.

I’m super excited to share a little bit about another big project I’m working on, called What Women Ate! It’s a series of short, funny videos where a comedienne and I cook — and eat — the food of the past and look at the lives of the WOMEN of every race and creed and culture who made it.

First up? CHOCOLATE, OF COURSE. Here’s a still of me with some of my enormous chocolate supply. I’ll be posting more photos from our shoots as well as other historical and hilarious material on Instagram, under @whatwomenate.

Can’t wait to share more with you soon!

Chocolate, Bioterrorism, and the Birth of Brazilian Funk

Healthy pods at Vale Potumuju, photo by Greg D'Alesandre

Healthy pods at Vale Potumuju, photo by Greg D'Alesandre

You may have noticed that it’s been a little quiet around Chocolate Noise lately, and that’s because I’ve spent the past six months or so working on an enormous story about Brazilian cacao and the conspiracy behind its demise in the early '90s. Engadget published it on Friday, and I’m super excited to share it with you here.

I’ve rounded up some photos of Brazilian beans, chocolate makers, and farms that Engadget didn’t use in the story, which means you can exclusively view them here.

Witches' broom in Bahia, photo by Greg D'Alesandre

Witches' broom in Bahia, photo by Greg D'Alesandre

Pods with witches' broom at Vale Potumuju, photo by Baiani Chocolate

Beans infected with witches' broom being fermented, photo by Baiani Chocolate

Beans infected with witches' broom being fermented, photo by Baiani Chocolate

Farmers at Vale Potumuju opening healthy pods, photo by Baiani Chocolate

Farmers at Vale Potumuju opening healthy pods, photo by Baiani Chocolate

Brazilian bean-to-bar makers Juliana and Tuta Aquino consulted cacao whisperer Dan O'Doherty of Cacao Services to improve their growing and processing methods, including transforming their traditional drying area into a solar drying tunnel. Here's a cool video that Tuta made about it.

The schoolroom at Vale Potumuju, photo by Baiani Chocolate

The schoolroom at Vale Potumuju, photo by Baiani Chocolate

Juliana choosing beans at Vale Potumuju, photo by Baiani Chocolate

Juliana choosing beans at Vale Potumuju, photo by Baiani Chocolate

Baiani's pretty molds, photo by Baiani Chocolate

Baiani's pretty molds, photo by Baiani Chocolate

Brazil swept the Academy of Chocolate Awards this year. Baiani Chocolate, the Aquinos' brand, won silver in the tree-to-bar category, and here are all the other Brazilian brands that won awards!

From left: Mission Chocolate (available at these places in the U.S.), Luisa Abram Chocolate (available here), and Mestico Chocolate (available here)

It’s exciting to see Brazil’s bean-to-bar movement blossoming, and to see American makers start to use their beans.

What country do you think is next? Tell me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!

Listen To This Music From Chocolate Supergroup the Cocoatowns

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Bean-to-bar chocolate bars have always been music to my mouth, and now I’m excited to announce that it will be music to my ears! American chocolate makers have formed a musical supergroup called the Cocoatowns and are releasing their first album! The band consists of Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor of Dick Taylor Chocolate on guitar and vocals, Greg D’Alesandre of Dandelion Chocolate on bass, and Mackenzie Rivers of Map Chocolate on drums.

The first album includes the following cover songs, with a chocolate twist:

You Can’t Always Get (the Chocolate) You Want (Rolling Stones)

Eight Tonnes A Week (the Beatles meets a scathing commentary on how much big chocolate produces)

Sweet Chocolate Bar of Mine (Guns N Roses)

Papa’s Got a Brand New Origin Bar (James Brown)

Sultans of Sweets (Dire Straits)

Winnow ‘n Grind (R. Kelly)

My Kind of Cocoatown (Frank Sinatra)

Chocolate Maker’s Paradise (Snoop Dog)

(Cocoa) Beans for Breakfast (Johnny Cash)

Melangeur Rhapsody (Queen)

Total Eclipse of the 100% Bar (Whitney Houston)

All of My Valentine's Day Stories in One Place

Stick With Me's fabulous bonbons (image courtesy the Kitchn)

Stick With Me's fabulous bonbons (image courtesy the Kitchn)

This year the mainstream media has wholeheartedly embraced bean-to-bar chocolate, which has made this an extra-special Valentine’s Day for me. In fact, I’m going to let their stories speak for themselves. Here they are!

Stories I Wrote

The Best Milk Chocolate Treats for Grown-Ups (The Kitchn)

How Chocolate Gendered Packaging (Print Magazine)

A Beginner’s Guide to Craft Chocolate (Wine Enthusiast)

How to Build the Ultimate Chocolate Tasting Plate (Tasting Table)

Chocolate Truffle Torte (Tasting Table)

 

Stories That Feature My Book and Me

Bean-to-Bar Trivia Everyone with a Sweet Tooth Should Know (America’s Test Kitchen)

These Local Bean-to-Bar Makers Have You Covered for Valentine’s Day (Los Angeles Magazine)

Book Giveaway (Edible Nashville)

Caramelized White Chocolate Is for People Who Hate White Chocolate (Eater)

‘I get so tired of pink’: female chocolatiers turn to death for Valentine’s day (The Guardian)

Chocolate Pairings: Tips from a Fine Cacao Expert (Perfect Daily Grind)

8 High-Quality Chocolates You Should Buy for Valentine’s Day (Men’s Journal)

Episode 27: I Love You So Much Podcast (Austin American-Statesman)
Stephen Fries: Show your love with fine chocolate (Middletown Press)

Surprise your valentine with homemade truffles (Bucks Local News)

Visions of (Chocolate-Coated) Sugar Plums

People keep sending me photos of their babies reading my book, and I love it! This is from Arcelia Gallardo, the founder of Mission Chocolate. She says she's been carrying my book around in her diaper bag for easy access.

People keep sending me photos of their babies reading my book, and I love it! This is from Arcelia Gallardo, the founder of Mission Chocolate. She says she's been carrying my book around in her diaper bag for easy access.

This has been a fantastic year for bean-to-bar chocolate, and I can’t wait to see what next year brings. But before I peace out for the holidays, I wanted to share a couple fun things with you.

Collaboration with Zingerman’s

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Zingerman’s calls my book "the definitive guide to American craft chocolate making," which is such a nice compliment! We've put together a delicious bundle of my book with three of my favorite chocolate bars, Fruition’s Brown Butter bar, Askinosie’s Single-Origin 72% Tanzania bar, and Dick Taylor’s 72% Single-Origin Belize bar. It’s a perfect gift for the holidays and will be available through Valentine’s Day as well.

Bean-to-Bar Chocolate in the Press

My book has been getting more great press!

"Sweet Move for Chocolate Maker" (featured in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 2017)

"Drinking Chocolates for Winter" (featured in Imbibe magazine, December 2017)

Small Bites — Episode 71 (featured on Small Bites radio show, at 43:50 mark, December 2017)

"Have an Interest in Craft Chocolate? Join the Revolution" (featured in The Daily Herald, November 2017)

"New Book Highlights Craft Chocolate, Shops, Makers" (featured in Luxury Travel Review, November 2017)

"Bean-to-Bar Chocolate" (featured on KATU morning show in Portland, November, 2017)

"Bean-to-Bar Chocolate" (featured on 9News morning show in Denver, November 2017)

"Author Visits Winston-Salem to Promote Craft Chocolate" (featured in Winston-Salem Journal, November 2017)

"The Ultimate 2017 Holiday Product Gift Guide" (featured on BuzzFeed, October 2017)

"'Bean-to-Bar Chocolate' author shares her favorite NYC chocolatiers" (featured on amNew York, October 2017)

"Fruition, All About the Flavor" and "Fruition's Olive Oil Sourdough Truffles" (featured in Edible Hudson Valley, October 2017)

"The Most Delicious Chocolates to Buy Now, According to America's Best Craft Chocolate Makers" (featured on Forbes.com, October 2017)

"Woodstock Radio: Episode 158" (featured on Woodstock Booktalk Radio with Jennifer Egan and Dermot Meagher, October 2017)

Meanwhile I’ve been writing about chocolate makers, their obsession with technology, and the fantastic books they publish for Engadget and Forbes.

"Geeks Are Using Science to Make the Best Chocolate Ever" (Engadget, about Dandelion, Amano, Fresco, Patric, and more!)

“4 Lessons for Entrepreneurs to Make Work Meaningful — and Profitable” (Forbes, about Shawn Askinosie’s new book)

“Here’s How to Change Your Industry With a Branded Book” (Forbes, about Dandelion’s new book)

Results From the Chocolate Quiz

The talented folks at Storey Publishing put together this fun quiz based on my new book, Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: America’s Craft Chocolate Revolutionto help you find your favorite type of craft chocolate bar. 

I’m pleased to say that everyone has found it pretty dang accurate so far; here are some results that people sent me:

Deborah Kwan (Guittard’s PR rep): “Dark Milk Chocolate, which is surprisingly accurate!”

Morgan Reed: “This was a nice surprise to see in my email inbox and the thought of quizzes take me back to my middle school days when all I wanted to do was answer fantasy or animal Quizilla quizzes and find out more about myself. Baha. I love it. Anyway! The quiz results told me I love nutty chocolate and I cannot say that is wrong. :) Though I’m also curious what the other craft chocolate results were. I’m really looking forward to the chocolate bar recommendations (Amano Chocolate’s Ocumare Village bar and Dandelion Chocolate’s Mantuano, Venezuela bar). The chocolate suggestions were very appreciated. I wonder if The Meadow will have these…”

WKND Chocolate: “She's @MeganGiller outed me! I got milk chocolate :) What's yours?”

Dormouse Chocolates: “Karen got dark milks and I got nutty darks, pretty accurate!”

Charmaine McFarlane: dark milk chocolate; “...Collecting and tasting chocolate is becoming my new pastime.”

And to All, a Good Night

I hope you are all able to take some time off this season and enjoy what you’ve accomplished. I for one am going to take a week-long nap. I’m brainstorming my next season/series on Chocolate Noise, and you may notice that it’s a little quieter than usual around here in the beginning of 2018. Rest assured that something fun is coming.

See you next year!

 

 

 

(Note: This story contains affiliate links.)

New Chocolate Books for the Holidays!

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Hello, chocolate lovers. I’ve missed you! I finished up my book tour in November in Seattle and Portland, but I’ve been sleeping for a couple of weeks (eating chocolate is hard work) and haven’t posted. But before I tell y’all how the rest of the cross-country tour went, I have an announcement…

While I Was Sleeping… Three New Chocolate Books!

This is a joyous moment, because 2017 is officially the Year of the Craft Chocolate Book. In addition to my book, MORE chocolate books have been published, each unique and quite different in its focus.

Dandelion Chocolate’s book, Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S’more, is a gorgeous glimpse into the Dandelion process. It reveals in exacting detail just how to make chocolate, the Dandelion way, and will be immensely useful for all of you nascent chocolate makers out there. (For example: There are plans for how to build your own winnower with PVC pipe.) Also don’t miss the section on sourcing as well as mouthwatering recipes from their café.

Dandelion celebrated its opening in New York with a one-week pop-up featuring hot chocolate, baked goods, and books, and it was truly delicious.

Askinosie Chocolate also just published a book. Called Meaningful Work: A Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul, by Shawn Askinosie with Lawren Askinosie, it details Shawn’s journey to create a business that changes the world for the better and shapes his life in a positive way. The best part: Shawn teaches you along the way how to create this kind of life for yourself, with advice that rings true and exercises to help you get there. It’s about the chocolate, but so much more.

Meanwhile Professor Kristy Leissle (aka the Doc of Chocolate) is publishing a book called Cocoa that examines chocolate from a sociopolitical point of view. It’s part of Wiley’s Polity Resources Series (other titles include Cotton and Oil), and I cannot wait to read it. It comes out in the spring and promises to be a game-changer.

The Northwest Junction of the Cross-Country Tour

A few weeks ago at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, I chatted about those chocolate books on a panel with Greg D’Alesandre of Dandelion Chocolate, Lawren Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate, and Professor Kristy Leissle. Jael Rattigan of French Broad Chocolates was the best moderator any of us had ever seen and asked us smart, informed questions about our new books.

We also hung out with the whole industry at Indi Chocolate, where Dandelion and I had a joint book release party. So much good food and conversation!

Then in Portland it was a party, with a chocolate and beer pairing night at Ex Novo Brewing featuring Cocanú and BatchPDX with some kickass beers and a fun open house with chocolate and coffee at Ranger Chocolate with Trailhead Coffee Roasters (of course he served his coffee off of his bike).

The three-week extravaganza ended with a bang at Creo, with an Underground Chocolate Salon featuring every Portland chocolate maker and a full house.

Now I’m back in New York, hosting a few more events and hanging in until the holidays.

Speaking of the Holidays: Get Your Chocolate + Book Bundle

Bar & Cocoa has packaged my book with some of my favorite bars, which obviously makes a perfect holiday present. Think Askinosie Dark Chocolate w/ Crunchy Sugar & Vanilla, Amano Dos Rios, Dick Taylor Madagascar, Dandelion Mantuano Venezuela, Fruition Maranon Canyon Dark Milk, and Raaka Ghost Pepper.

(Note: This story contains affiliate links.)

 

 

Watch Me on TV, and More Book Tour Dates

Me, the open road, and lots of chocolate: That pretty much sums up the past week or so, as long as "lots of chocolate" also includes all the people who have been helping me eat it along the way. 

First I indulged in a three-course chocolate dinner in Richmond, Virginia, at Camden's Dogtown Market, co-hosted by Fountain Books: Think a chocolate and cheese course featuring Harper Macaw and Point Reyes blue cheese, pasta in a chocolate-lamb ragu, and a single-origin brownie trio (recipe from Dandelion, in the book!). Then I was off to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for a chocolate and spirit pairing evening with Black Mountain Chocolate and Broad Branch Distilling, including tours of both factories.

Next I visited Videri in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a quick tour and to sign some books (get your copies at their cafe!), then moved on to Asheville. French Broad Chocolates rolled out the red carpet with me for a jumpin' open house at their factory with cupcakes, hot chocolate, savory treats from the Rhu, and guided chocolate tastings by yours truly. After that FBC and I walked over to Catawba Brewing for a night of chocolate and beer pairings, featuring their gorgeous bonbons.

I capped off my tour of the South with a four-course chocolate dinner at Asheville's James Beard Award-winning restaurant Rhubarb, featuring French Broad Chocolates. We devoured rye bread made with cocoa nibs and 100% chocolate, smeared in cocoa nib butter; delectable cocoa-nib-crusted bison in a light but hearty mole sauce; and Nicaraguan chocolate budino under a shiitake mushroom cake with candied shiitakes and brown butter ice cream, to name a few dishes.

Then I moved on to Colorado, where I popped in to 9News to hang out on Colorado and Company, the video you watched up at the top of the post.

I had a great time with WKND Chocolate and Cultura Craft Chocolate at my talk and tasting at Tattered Cover in Denver, and a blast with Nuance Chocolate at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins.

Now I'm in Seattle for an over-the-top chocolatey weekend, aka the Northwest Chocolate Festival and other fun plans in Emerald City. Then I'll be finishing up this leg of the tour in Portland. Here are some upcoming events!

11/11/2017, 12 PM: Panel at Northwest Chocolate Festival: "Hot Off the Presses: 4 New Must-Read Chocolate Books" (Seattle, WA)

11/13/2017, 5-7 PM: Chocolate Tasting and Book Signing at Indi Chocolate (Seattle, WA)

11/14/2017, 11 AM-12:30 PM: Guided Chocolate Tasting at Fran's Chocolates (Seattle, WA)

11/16/2017, 7-9 PM: Chocolate and Beer Pairing at Ex Novo Brewing (Portland, OR)

11/17/2017, 5-7 PM: Book Signing at Serra Dispensary (Portland, OR)

11/18/2017, 1-3 PM: Book Release Party With Chocolate and Coffee at Ranger Chocolate (Portland, OR)

11/18/2017, 7-9 PM: Underground Chocolate Salon Featuring Portland Chocolate Makers at Creo (Portland, OR)

 

Decadent Chocolate Photos, Babies With My Book, and Upcoming Events

The past two weeks have been filled with delicious chocolate and fun conversations as I travel the country on my book tour.

Over the weekend I partied with Fruition Chocolate in upstate New York at their sixth anniversary party and ate more than my fair share of their special ice cream sandwiches: Think single-origin Marañon milk chocolate ice cream sandwiched between two house-made chocolate chip cookies (made with their brown butter milk chocolate and Hispaniola).

Then it was off to the 92Y for a chocolate talk and tasting with Michael Laiskonis, who brought bean-to-bar samples from the Chocolate Lab at the Institute of Culinary Education.

We also indulged in recipes from the book, plus some: triple chocolate chip cookies and double fudge cookies from Miro Uskokovic at Gramercy Tavern and white chocolate hazelnut mousse in pineapple cups and hazelnut-praline + honey caramel candy bars from pastry chef and chocolatier Kristofer Kalas.

Also this week, Chocolopolis premiered two bundles featuring my book: The Assorted Chocolate Bundle comes with a copy of my book and six chocolate bars:

  • Fresco Madagascar 100% Dark Chocolate
  • Askinosie Tanzanie 70% Dark Chocolate
  • Dandelion Mantuano, Venezuela 70% Dark Chocolate
  • Madre Triple Cacao (Guatemala) 70% Dark Chocolate with Cacao Fruit Pulp and Cacao Nibs
  • Fruition Brown Butter 43% Milk Chocolate
  • Patric Habenero Sea Salt (Madagascar) 67% Dark Chocolate

And the Serious Dark Chocolate Bundle comes with my book and six intense dark chocolates:

  • Grenada 100% Dark Chocolate 
  • Soma Crazy 88 (Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru) 88% Dark Chocolate 
  • Amano Dos Rios (Dominican Republic) 70% Dark Chocolate 
  • Askinosie San Jose del Tambo, Ecuador 70% Dark Chocolate 
  • Madre Nine Fine Mynah Estates (Wailua, Oahu, Hawaii) 70% Dark Chocolate 
  • Patric Madagascar 75% Dark Chocolate 

And now for an unexpected trend: People are sending me photos of their babies reading my book!

That cutie in the middle is actually Zoey Graham, the latest addition to Fruition Chocolate!

Last but not least, I’m traveling to the South and have some fun events coming up in the next week or so.

Upcoming Events

Sunday, Oct. 29: Three-Course Chocolate Dinner (Richmond, VA)

Monday, Oct. 30: Spirits and Chocolate Pairing With Black Mountain Chocolate (Winston-Salem, NC)

Thursday, Nov. 2: Open House at French Broad Chocolates (Asheville, NC)

Thursday, Nov. 2: Beer and Chocolate Pairing With French Broad Chocolates (Asheville, NC)

Sunday, Nov. 5: Four-Course Chocolate Sunday Supper at Rhubarb (Asheville, NC)

See you there!

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)