During the initial planning stages of the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet series, most people assumed that “X” would be a difficult letter to find. Thankfully in the Aztec language Nahuatl, “chocolate” is “Xocolatl”: the combination of the words “xococ” for sour or bitter and “atl” for water or drink, so while “X” chocolatiers and chocolate makers aren’t plentiful, it was a relatively easy letter for me!
After discovering that a friend of mine would be visiting Portland, Oregon, I immediately jumped on the opportunity to request that some Xocolatl de David bars return home with him. Knowing those bars were available at any Portland Salt and Straw artisanal ice cream shop location, I hoped that my request for 1-2 unusually flavored bars wouldn’t be too hard to accommodate. When asked to define “unusual,” I mentioned sourdough + olive oil or Parmigiano-Reggiano (in my heart, I really hoped for foie gras and would “settle” for hazelnut + black truffle or one with peppers!) Maybe those flavors weren’t available and these were the most “unusual” ones that could be obtained, though these seem pretty mainstream to me!
Bacon Caramel (72% Ecuador)
The packaging is fairly plain and simple on the front, with the company logo letterpressed toward the bottom third of the beige colored box. The informational sticker that keeps the envelope closure sealed in the back folds over the top of the box to announce the flavor, the phonetic pronunciation of “Xocolatl” + the percentage and country of origin of the cacao. My only complaint is that you can’t open the packaging without destroying the informational sticker (I’ll show you what I mean when I review the 2nd bar later in this post).
One of the ingredients that caught my eye was “invert sugar.” I looked on Wikipedia for a definition, but that only confused me more. Thank goodness for my trusty “Food Lover’s Companion” (a Barron’s Cooking Guide) for simplifying the explanation! From the Third Edition: “Invert sugar is created by combining a sugar syrup with a small amount of acid (such as cream of tartar or lemon juice) and heating. This inverts, or breaks down, the sucrose into its two components, glucose and fructose, thereby reducing the size of the sugar crystals. Because of its fine crystal structure, invert sugar produces a smoother product…” (and some say that it’s also sweeter tasting).
Removing the bar from the foil wrapping, I was surprised to see what looked like three large shapes rising from the back of the bar, which were cracked and oozing caramel on the front. Maybe, in retrospect, buying the bar in late March and having the “best by” date expired by a month by the time I tasted it wasn’t a great idea, despite storing the bar carefully?!
Honestly, I thought I might find a wide strip of smoked bacon underneath the chocolate at each of those square/rectangular shapes, but that wasn’t the case. The bar bends more than snaps when segmented and it would appear that there were “slots” in the bar where the bacon-infused caramel was inserted.
The caramel itself was a bit chewy and amongst the portions that I tasted, I didn’t find any of crunchy caramelized bacon bits that were described online. The caramel definitely had a salty and smoky flavor.
The chocolate pieces that didn’t have any caramel were smooth, but overwhelmingly flavored with vanilla so that I didn’t detect much else.
Salted Caramel (72% Ecuador)
The Salted Caramel packaging is very similar, but this one has a Good Food Awards winner sticker – though this award was received in 2011.
Above you see what I mean about the difficulty of opening the packaging while trying to keep the informational sticker intact. Other suggestions?
Delicately peeling back the thin foil inner wrapper, three whitish (bloomed) shapes appeared on the back of the bar, with caramel oozing from the cracks, making it difficult to remove the foil in places.
The front of the bar wasn’t bloomed, but the cracks were larger.
Overall this makes for a visually “messy” and inelegant bar.
The bar had a dull snap when being segmented and at the place where I bent the bar, there appeared even less caramel than in the previous bar.
So, I decided to segment the bar at a different section to see if there was more caramel elsewhere. Seems the middle of the bar was more plentiful.
Again, the caramel was chewy rather than gooey or liquidy and seemed to have been inserted into narrow rectangular “slots” in the chocolate. The chocolate itself had a more roasted/bitter flavor than the previous bar and though smooth, didn’t melt easily. Perhaps I shouldn’t have tried two caramel bars back-to-back, but this caramel was overly salty and almost had a “gamey” aftertaste.
Next time, I’ll shop for chocolates myself closer to when I plan to consume them (and probably skip the caramel ones). As you can probably tell, most of David Briggs’ creations are on the savory side rather than sweet. Personally, I’m really intrigued by the foie gras bar (which has a “foietella” chocolate spread). Has anyone tried that one yet besides Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods America?!
For more information on their line of products, check out: http://www.xocolatldedavid.com/#main