Why is it that some great bean-to-bar chocolates never make it west of the Mississippi River?! Southern California/Los Angeles might seem like the “wild west” to some, but we deserve to experience all the craft chocolates that are out there too! Fellow Angelenos, please talk to your local purveyors of fine chocolate & urge them to carry more diverse brands…who’s with me on this?!
One of those brands that I’d love to see out here on the West Coast is French Broad Chocolates run by husband and wife team, Dan & Jael Rattigan. Their Instagram feed is full of delectable goodies: truffles, ice cream, baked goods – not to mention their chocolate bars. Just look at their new packaging! Everything about it is so photogenic (and sustainable too)!
The outer box looks like a fancy cloth-bound / gold-leaf tooled hardcover book…similar to the kind that people once would buy to show off as an indication that they had “arrived” in terms of wealth & status. I love the detailed gold accents of berries, leaves and cacao pods, as well as the textured weave pattern. They thought about every detail in designing this box, since even the “spine” looks like something you would want to display on your library bookshelf. It’s hard to believe that this was made from 100% recycled paper. As you open the box, five more elements of the “story” are revealed on the inside panels as well as the folded insert. My favorite parts were learning about how Dan & Jael met and started their business, as well as the origin of the cacao beans that were used in the bar itself.
Personally, I like being able to see the bar upon opening the outer packaging. An added bonus is that the cellophane used is plant-based and compostable. The 20-rectangle bar has a rich/deep color and feels dense/substantial in your hands. Each of the rectangles have the company logo embossed into them and appear virtually imperfection free.
The aroma was so enticing as I was taking photos, I almost didn’t see the unique swirls on the back of the bar.
After looking more closely at this photo, I could almost see faces in the swirls (the phenomenon of seeing images where none actually exist is called pareidolia). I assume these were an unintentional, happy accident… but they have a natural beauty, nonetheless.
I’m always amazed when just two ingredients (cacao & sugar) can produce such a complex result. This is a 70% dark chocolate bar made by blending beans from 3 different partner cooperatives from Norandino, Peru. Norandino is in the upper Amazon basin, where it is believed that the Theobroma cacao originates from. This blend, which is greater than the sum of its individual parts, honors the unique characteristics of both the genetics of the beans themselves, as well as the post-harvest practices/techniques of the farmers.
Try as I might, I can never fully melt a piece of chocolate in my mouth – the urge to “chomp” always wins. For me, “chomping” is when the true essence/flavor of the chocolate comes through. What started as bright red berries, evolved into a pleasant tart cherry flavor for me. The texture was smooth and the flavor was rich and long-lasting.
With this introduction to French Broad Chocolates, I can’t wait to try more of their flavors! My mission now is to convince some of my local shops to try this wholesome and delicious chocolate so that it is more accessible to me than shipping from North Carolina 😉 As a side note, they seem to be experts at shipping to warm weather climates. My chocolates arrived in a “cocoon of coolness” (packed with multiple forms of insulated materials).
To learn more about French Broad Chocolates (including their commitment to the natural habitat of the French Broad River near them), check out: https://frenchbroadchocolates.com/