Notes From the Underground Chocolate Salon

Yesterday a small group of us chocolate lovers gathered together at the Chocolate Room in Brooklyn to taste some bars and gab about craft chocolate.

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.

If you want a spot at the next one, in New York on August 15 from 6:30 to 8 PM, email me immediately at to let me know and I’ll send you the details and location.

In the meantime here are some notes from last week’s salon.

Raaka 70% Amazon Basin Blend

About: This bar was part of Brooklyn maker Raaka’s First Nibs program, where they send subscribers new flavors and small batches, and it was their first time making a blend. (That pack also included a blended bar with African cacao.) This one combined three different types of Peruvian cacao: San Martin, Pangoa, and Nacional.

Tasting Notes: Balanced, “like the fruitiness in wine,” not too bitter, sweet, snackable; third favorite of the evening

Dulcinea 70% Guatemala

About: Small female maker Laurie Rice crafts her bars in Beaver, Pennsylvania. She sent me three to try, a single origin from Tanzania, a single origin from Guatemala, and a single-origin from Guatemala with candied orange peel. I brought the second one because I’m not super familiar with Guatemalan cacao and wanted to try it! Everyone was excited to see that Dulcinea is so small that she writes the country of origin, cacao content, and batch number by hand in red pen on each label.

Tasting Notes: Fruity, acidic, a little astringent, more prominent aftertaste than Raaka’s bar; second favorite of the evening

Dick Taylor Black Fig Bar

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About: I wasn’t planning to pull this bar out, but after two somewhat fruity chocolates, I thought it would be fun to try the king of fruit, Madagascar cacao. It’s a little hard to navigate with bits of black fig in there, but this bar from the California-based maker uses Madagascar. It ended up being the favorite of the evening!

Tasting Notes: Bright, fruity; beautiful design on the bar; favorite of the evening

Manoa 72% Papua New Guinea

About: Manoa is based in Hawaii, the only place in the U.S. where cacao can grow. But in addition to making chocolate with Hawaiian cacao, Manoa branches out to other types as well. Papua New Guinea is known for smoky cacao: It rains quite a bit there, and so farmers dry their beans over a wood fire and the smoke seeps into the cacao. I’d bought this bar looking for a super smoky PNG, but to me, it was much more balanced than others I’ve tried. Others didn’t think so…

Tasting Notes: Smells smoky, tastes like burnt marshmallow; “it’s interesting but maybe not in a good way”

Dalloway 72% Dominican Republic

About: This bar came from a brand-new duo of female chocolate makers in Brooklyn — so new, in fact, that the bars aren’t going to be for sale until fall 2016. They gave me a sneak peek, which I promptly brought to the salon to see what was up. (With the warning that the salon doesn’t always have positive things to say about bars…)

Tasting Notes: Confused, plastic or artificial tasting, “like Diet Coke,” possibly spent too much time in the wet grinder, coats mouth in an unpleasant way

Pralus 100%

About: While Chocolate Noise focuses on American makers at the moment, I like to bring chocolate from all over the world to the salons. Pralus is a French master and one of my all-time favorites. One-hundred percent bars contain all cacao and absolutely nothing else: no sugar, no other additives, nada. So they’re pretty intense. Diehard dark chocolate fans love it, as do health nuts (Paleo, anyone?).

Tasting Notes: Bitter, just need a small bite of it, fruity underneath the intensity; one chocoholic remarked that this could be good for her to keep around, since she usually goes through bars very quickly

As I mentioned above, the next salon is August 15 from 6:30 to 8 PM in New York. Email me at to reserve your spot!

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