50 States Collaboration – Nevada / Hexx Chocolate & Confexxions

Even though these chocolates have been in my stash since mid-April, I’ve been dragging my feet on tasting & posting them, partly because of the quantity (6 milk & 5 dark) and partly because I wasn’t sure how to execute my vision of a large tic-tac-toe game to pay tribute to the Xs that appear on each of the bite-sized morsels (maybe it’s just me, but the logo looks like a stylized, sideways hashtag). With the dwindling number of states “assigned” to me for this collaboration project, I could no longer procrastinate! So, apologies in advance since this set-up doesn’t really match my mental picture 🙁

When I discovered that an Instagram friend was visiting Las Vegas, I immediately jumped on the opportunity to request that he visit Nevada’s only bean-to-bar maker and purchase some chocolates on my behalf to save on warm weather shipping charges. Rather than choosing from the different countries of origin (or type of chocolate), he opted for one of each flavor that was available (NOTE: at that time, Venezuela was only available in milk chocolate in this 0.25 oz. “taster” size).

One of the things that I noticed about the mini heat-sealed pouches was that the milk chocolate ones (which were all 47% cacao content) had a “drippy” design while the dark chocolate ones (which varied in cacao percentage from 70-74%) had a solid rectangular color block. Also, the “forward slash” of each X matched the color coded wrapper.

Personally, I would have liked more information imprinted onto these wrappers, since it wasn’t until afterwards that I learned that the dark chocolates were made with just two ingredients: cocoa beans and palm sugar while the milk chocolates were made with five ingredients: cocoa beans, palm sugar, milk powder, ground vanilla beans and cocoa butter.

Overall, it seemed that the milk chocolate “traveled” better since there was less chocolate dust marring the surface vs. the dark chocolate. However, the milk chocolate all smelled very similar to each other: an industrial plastic-like aroma that reminded me of mass-produced candy rather than the bean-to-bar craft chocolates shown on their website. Speaking of which, this “tasting” size doesn’t appear on their website and all the bars available online are packaged in cardboard boxes, so maybe these issues have since been resolved.

If you haven’t noticed already, these small chocolates are all six-sided (hexagonal)…a visual representation of the company name, get it?! 😉 From what I’ve seen online, the mold for their full-size chocolate bars form a “honeycomb” shape composed of multiple hexagons.

In each case, I tried the milk chocolate first and then the corresponding dark chocolate (if there was one). I also tasted the dark chocolates in ascending order of cacao percentage. Below is a summary of my thoughts. Too bad I didn’t find this online “tasting menu” with descriptions of the flavor notes BEFORE my own sampling. Wonder why the Dominican Republic origin isn’t part of the online tasting menu!

Venezuela (Ocumare)

Some cosmetic defects, medium snap, grassy smell, creamy, reminded me of a milkshake, even melt, lightly grainy/almost “sticky” mouthfeel

Peru (Marañón Pure Nacional)

Milk: Minimal dust, soft snap, taste reminded me of a powdered hot cocoa mix, creamy yet sticky mouthfeel

Dark (70%): Some dust, sharp snap, slow to melt, bitter in comparison to the milk, roasted/earthy/fruity flavor, thick/not smooth mouthfeel

Tanzania (Kokoa Kamili)

Milk: Air bubbles & dust marring surface, medium snap, smelled like fresh baked brownies, yogurt-like tang, thick milky mouthfeel

Dark (70%): Lots of dust, dry/brittle snap, initially tasted like a hard cheese that changed to fruity/berry-like, astringent/chalky aftertaste

Dominican Republic (Oko Caribe)

Milk: Shinier/less dust than others, though still had air bubbles on the surface, sharp snap, dry appearance, tasted like a caramel or powdered hot cocoa mix, not smooth mouthfeel, back-of-the-throat acidity

Dark (71%): Also shinier/less dust than others, sharp snap, dry/chalky, tasted fruity/citrusy, astringent aftertaste on tongue

Ecuador (Camino Verde)

Milk: Shinier, less dust, some scuffing & air bubbles, brittle/crumbly snap sending shards flying everywhere, very sweet, caramel taste

Dark (73%): Minimal cosmetic defects, sharp snap, smelled fruity like plums, lightly roasted/nutty flavor [THIS WAS MY FAVORITE]

Madagascar (Sambirano Valley)

Milk: Dust, ghosting & air bubbles marring surface, dull snap, dry/chalky appearance but tasted creamy, too sweet & lightly “sticky” mouthfeel

Dark (74%): lots of air bubbles, smelled fruity (like ripe berries), tasted like burnt toast or lightly vegetal, chalky mouthfeel

Next time I visit the Las Vegas, I plan on taking a factory tour and re-sampling these small-batch, single origin bars to determine if the taste and smell were transit related. Besides, based on the side panel of their shopping bag, it looks like there is PLENTY to do, see & eat! 🙂

If you’d like to learn more about Hexx Chocolate & Confexxions, check out their website: http://www.hexxchocolate.com/

Remember to follow the Time to Eat Chocolate blog to hear about the next stop in the “50 States” project…we’re almost reaching the end!

NOTE: If you know of any other bean-to-bar makers in Nevada, please leave a comment or send an email…we like to keep our resource lists as up-to-date as possible!

M is for Miso

In case you haven’t heard…Mast Brothers recently shuttered their Arts District DTLA location less than a year after opening. Don’t judge me too harshly, but I’m glad that I was able to get several of their “Los Angeles Collection” bars before they disappeared.

If you’ve been following along on my Eating the Chocolate Alphabet adventure, you’ll know that I’ve been tasting some unique flavor combinations that one would never have expected to find with chocolate! Influenced by the tastes found in the Little Tokyo area of Los Angeles, is this Miso & Sesame bar.

The minimalist blue and cream packaging, artwork designed by Block Shop Textiles, calls to mind the noren (fabric curtains or dividers) you might find hanging outside or within a Japanese shop or restaurant.

Gently peeling back the rectangular informational sticker keeping the folds closed, reveals a reddish brown bar studded with black sesame seeds, with just the edges of the inner gold foil peeking out, almost like a hiyoku lining layer of a kimono.

Inhaling deeply, there is a smoky and earthy aroma. Turning the bar over, the 28-rectangle bar has a glossy, almost mirror-like shine. Segmenting tasting morsels produces a dull snap and I’m surprised by the creamy mouthfeel while melting a piece in my mouth (the additional cocoa butter must have helped). Closing my eyes, I can almost imagine gentle wisps of steam rising from a bowl of miso soup set before me; stirring the opaque dashi stock with chopsticks to uncover the seaweed, green onions and tofu that have settled to the bottom. This bar is savory and lightly salty, such that I would never have guessed that the base chocolate was made with Peruvian cacao beans (known to have natural citrus notes). The black sesame seeds provide an added texture and crunch element, though I’m wondering how it might have tasted with white sesame seeds instead.

Did you know that miso is a thick paste made traditionally from fermented soybeans as well as rice and barley? Though not specified on the packaging or website, I’m guessing that Mast utilized dehydrated white miso as it’s milder in flavor (due to being fermented for less time) and considered sweeter and lower in salt than yellow, red or black miso.

In the past, I haven’t been a fan of Mast Brothers’ chocolate bars; but this bar seems to capture the essence of flavor associated with Japanese cuisine. Have you tried miso with chocolate before? Let me know!

For more information on their variety of chocolate bars, check out: https://mastbrothers.com/

50 States Collaboration – Louisiana / Acalli Chocolate

Remember the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, that definitely applies in this case! While you might be tempted to dismiss the plain packaging with a mishmash of typefaces and fonts; if you did, you would be missing out on the anything but simple two-ingredient chocolate that awaits you inside.

I first learned about this bean-to-bar maker from Louisiana through fellow blogger and chocophile “37 Chocolates.” In October 2016, Estelle Tracy (aka 37 Chocolates) posted an interview with Carol Morse, the founder and maker of Acalli Chocolates in New Orleans. In that interview you’ll learn about the meaning behind the company’s name, how Carol got started down her chocolate path and the challenges she faces producing award-winning chocolates due to the heat and humidity in New Orleans. Lucky for me, through Instagram, I was able to discover that Honeycreeper Chocolate, who generally sells only through local to Birmingham (Alabama) pop-ups, was willing to sell and ship me a bar to California so that I could feature it here!

El Platanal Chulucanas, Peru 70%

One thing you don’t notice, until you start taking photos and zooming in, is that the light aqua/turquoise background color of the outer box is made up of tiny pixels/dots, such that it creates a sort of moiré pattern depending on the angle of the camera shot. This picture below, gives you an example of what I mean by a moiré pattern (start at the top left hand corner of the box and you should be able to see some yellowish wavy lines cascading down at a diagonal until about the Good Food Awards sticker):

While, the pattern has seemingly disappeared in this photo, when placed side-by-side the 15-rectangle unwrapped bar:

Unwrapping the bar from the thick heat crimped plastic pouch, the matte finish is marred by some chocolate dust and a single “ghosting” dot at the exact center of the bar.

I also noticed an unusual swirl pattern on the back of the bar (ignore the fingerprints, please!)

As I was taking photos, deep fruity aromas kept wafting to my nose and that gave me a good idea of what the bar would ultimately taste like. Segmenting tasting morsels, there was a medium sharp snap to the bar and tiny chocolate “crumbs” tended to fly everywhere in the process.

The smooth and creamy mouthfeel was punctuated with vibrant bursts of tart fruit which mellowed to a raisin-like sweetness and ended with a lightly astringent aftertaste. I’d like to think that my impressions aren’t too far off from the tasting notes that mention plum and tangerine. 😉

From the back of the packaging: Acalli believes that they are the final stewards on cacao’s journey from a tropical fruit to artisan bar. The growers and farmers develop flavor and acidity through fermentation and drying, while the chocolate makers are responsible for highlighting the array of flavors unique to each origin. There is nothing flashy or gimmicky about this bar, but I’d say that Carol accomplished her goal since the natural citrus notes from this Peruvian cacao were able to shine through with the simplicity of only adding organic cane sugar to the beans!

To read more about Acalli and discover their other flavors and drinking chocolate mixes, check out their website: http://www.acallichocolate.com/

Remember to follow the Time to Eat Chocolate blog to hear about the next stop in the “50 States” project!

NOTE: If you know of any other bean-to-bar makers in Louisiana, please leave a comment or send an email…we like to keep our resource lists as up-to-date as possible!

Bonus G – Goat Milk

So far I’ve tried camel milk and donkey milk, so when fellow blogger and chocophile Estelle Tracy from 37 Chocolates suggested a cross-country swap, I jumped at the opportunity to try a goat milk bar from Philly’s own Chocolate Alchemist!

I had heard that Robert Campbell (aka the “Chocolate Alchemist”) uses hand-stitched wrappers made from re-usable Nepalese lokta paper, so I took the time to carefully unstitch one side of the packaging…

only to later realize that I merely needed to lift the round sticker from the back of the packaging to release the foil wrapped bar from the envelope enclosure…DOH! Face palm! :0

The bar had broken in half during transit to California, but that made it easier for me to compare “back” and “front” at the same time:

The “back” looks a little mottled, full of swirls and tiny dots; while the “front” is shinier despite a slightly grainy/flecked appearance with some “ghosting” marring the finish.

Segmenting the rectangles to create tasting morsels, there is a soft/dull snap and the pieces are a little crumbly. I really shouldn’t have been surprised by the amount of nooks and crannies at the break, since that’s the texture you get when cacao beans are minimally processed.

Robert strongly believes in creating blends instead of single origins, using only all-natural, unrefined sweeteners and eschewing the “standard” 70% bar; so this 65% bar is a blend of Dominican and Peruvian beans, sweetened with local maple sugar.

There is a musty, earthy aroma to the bar; but I was completely unprepared for the intense sour, tangy goat cheese flavor. This was sharp, almost like a blue or Roquefort cheese or a yogurt on the edge of going past the expiration date! Honestly, a little goes a long way & this is not a bar that I would recommend eating all in one sitting!

As you might know, if you follow the Chocolate Alchemist on Instagram, he is fiercely outspoken and un-apologetically direct when speaking his mind about subjects near and dear to his heart. While I’ve not had the opportunity to meet him, based on what I’ve seen of his interactions with others online, he is very generous and supportive of his friends and family. Where other chocolate makers might try to tone down or tame the “wild” flavors of cacao to be more universally palatable or accessible to everyone, he unabashedly embraces the brash tastes for what they are.

Melting a piece on my tongue (yes, I was “brave” enough to do so), I felt the abrasiveness from tiny errant pieces of cacao nibs; though, overall, it wasn’t as grainy or gritty as some stone ground chocolate bars that I’ve tried in the past.

Is this chocolate for everyone?! No…but I think that’s OK. If everything was homogeneous, then how could you appreciate or realize when something stands out as being different or unique?

You’ll also enjoy reading Estelle’s article from Edible Philly where she dedicates several paragraphs to describe Chocolate Alchemist chocolate bars, as well as Robert himself…you’ll need to scroll down toward the bottom of that article for the section called “Bean-to-Bar Chocolate in Philadelphia.” Make sure you don’t miss the lead-in photo at the top of the webpage since it shows what a block of un-tempered, aged goat maple chocolate looks like when it is dappled with fat “bloom.”

In the spirit of blending, I just sampled a piece of the goat milk bar with last week’s foie gras bar and discovered it’s a surprisingly well-balanced combination! Dare to be different & stay curious! ;-p

For more information about the Chocolate Alchemist and to order his products online, check out: https://www.chocolatephilly.com/

50 States Collaboration – Ohio / Maverick Chocolate

Little did I know when I selected Ohio for this week’s blog post that there would be a tangential connection to Lori’s Missouri post from yesterday…read on for more details!

I always find it fascinating to hear stories about what leads people to become involved with chocolate. When Paul Picton would travel internationally as an aviation engineer and executive for Comair (a subsidiary of Delta Airlines), he would seek out chocolates to bring back to his wife Marlene. When that job ended in 2013, their stash of fine chocolate quickly became depleted. Paul & Marlene were looking for a business venture in which they could both contribute equally; so, after a visit to the Askinosie Chocolate factory in Missouri, the Pictons decided that entering the craft chocolate movement was a viable option. It’s become a family affair, since their sons Scott and Benjamin are also involved in the company’s operations.

One thing that you will notice when you access Maverick’s website is that each of their bar labels depicts a different 20th Century “flying machine” which pays homage to Paul’s former aviation career. The vintage/historic theme continues at their Findlay Market storefront in Cincinnati, Ohio since that space once housed the Hong Kong Tea & Coffee Company in the 1800s. A “maverick” is defined as an unorthodox or independent person and this bean-to-bar chocolate maker seeks to emulate its namesake by pushing the envelope and trying new things to please those with an adventurous palate.

63% Morropón Dark Chocolate

Immediately upon opening the tab keeping the outer textured cardboard packaging closed, you see a list of things to consider when tasting chocolate (which I try to touch upon in each of my posts).

To feel more connected to the people behind the chocolate, be sure to read the inner middle panel of the packaging which provides the details of Paul & Marlene’s chocolate journey.

Upon removing the reddish brown bar from the clear plastic pouch, my first smell was of roasted coffee. Sadly, many of the shiny faceted squares were marred by chocolate “dust” due to transit to California.

It took me a little bit of effort to split off a rectangle (2 squares) from the thick bar. There was a slightly brittle snap to the chocolate when segmenting the two squares from each other and I noticed several air bubbles at the breaking point, which yielded a nutty aroma.

Each of the 10 squares of their mold comes to a raised point in the center & this extra thickness made it a little difficult to bite into or segment into smaller tasting morsels. Chomping a piece, the initial flavor I experienced was sweet raisins. Then, while slowly melting a piece on my tongue, I could taste tart cherry and citrus (Peruvian chocolate is known to have natural citrus notes). I’m not sure if the additional cocoa butter contributes to the thick (but smooth) mouthfeel; personally, I would have liked the flavors to last longer and for the chocolate to melt more easily.

While researching Maverick Chocolate online, I enjoyed reading this 2015 article and was especially pleased to see a picture of a jute bag stamped with Morropón, Peru, the exact origin of the beans from the bar that I just sampled above! Additionally, from the bar’s packaging: “The Norandino Co-Op in Morropón, Peru unites small farmers with a common goal – to preserve the Piura White Criollo Cacao and to improve the quality of life for their farming community.”

Even though I’m generally a dark chocolate fan, I’d love to try their “Prohibition” milk chocolate with Kentucky bourbon, which won a silver medal from the International Chocolate Awards in 2015. Additionally, within a few months of opening Maverick Chocolate in 2014, they submitted their spicy Fahrenheit 513 bar and won a Good Foods Awards in 2015 (FYI, “513” is the area code of Cincinnati).

To check out the rest of their product line, which also includes nibs and a drinking chocolate mix, visit: http://maverickchocolate.com/

Remember to follow the Time to Eat Chocolate blog to hear about the next stop in the “50 States” project!

Other chocolate makers in Ohio:

fincaChocolate grows their own cacao in Puerto Rico & then makes small batch chocolate in Central Ohio. While their website doesn’t have too many details, they also have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/fincachocolate/

Ohiyo

NOTE: If you know of any other bean-to-bar makers in Ohio that aren’t mentioned above, please leave a comment or send an email so that we can keep this list as up-to-date as possible!

Q is for Q’uma Chocolate

It wasn’t until I started putting together the “wish list” for Eating the Chocolate Alphabet that I discovered that some letters were much less readily available than others. Many people assume that “X” and “Z” would be problems…but really “Q” and “Y” were what stumped me!

Back in late May (at least a week before publishing my first blog post), while I was sitting in my friend’s kitchen savoring Belgian chocolates & treats he had acquired on his recent trip to that country, I mentioned how impossible it was to find a “Q” chocolate. Unbeknownst to me during that tasting, he surreptitiously located and purchased some “Q” chocolate bars online! (Have you ever noticed that sometimes the best way of getting something done is to say that it can’t be done?) A little later, the secret purchase was revealed to me, but I had to curb my enthusiasm since I knew that my friend would be traveling overseas again soon for more than a month. Visions of melted chocolate languishing in a neglected box in the brutal summer sun plagued my thoughts. For months, I heard nothing about the status of the shipment and then one day I received a text message from my friend letting me know that the Peruvian “Q” chocolates had been delivered safely! He had intentionally delayed the shipment/delivery until someone would be at his house to receive the package 🙂 (Did I mention that I have the most supportive friends ever?!)

Stay tuned later in the week to hear the story about another “Q” chocolate “miracle”!

Q’uma Chocolate – Quinoa 70%

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I don’t know about you, but Q’uma quinoa is a “double word score” in my book!

According to their website, q’uma comes from the Quechua word q’umara, which means “healthy.” Quechua was the official language of the Inca Empire (1438 through 1533 – source: Wikipedia), but is still used by a little more than 10% of the population of Peru today. I really wasn’t able to corroborate this definition with online translation services, but I did find that q’uma translates to “crime” in English. Also, interestingly, in K’iche (the indigenous language of mesoamerican Maya peoples in Guatemala), the word q’uma’r translates to “rotten” – maybe the more accurate word is “fermented” since that is a major step in converting cacao beans into edible chocolate? I’ll leave it up to you to decide which meaning to accept.

One thing that caught my eye on the outer box was what appeared to be an iguana at the bottom left corner. Its spiral design reminds me of Maori tribal tattoos. However, I’m sure that this graphic pays homage to the animals that live in the Peruvian rainforests, where the single origin, Criollo varietal cacao beans for this bar are grown.

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Inside the colorful outer box, is a sealed black foil pouch – the front mimics the design elements of the outer package and the back provides information about Q’uma in both English & Spanish.

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Upon opening the inner pouch, I stuck my nose into the opening and detected a raisin or dried fruit aroma. Unfortunately, the bar itself (comprised of 8 squares) wasn’t glossy/shiny and had a few blemishes + almost looked a little bloomed – probably due to the summer heat endured during shipping.

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There was a medium snap when segmenting the bar & a slightly “industrial” smell. This chocolate doesn’t melt in the mouth easily, despite having cacao butter as an ingredient; besides, in my opinion, the crunchy/nutty quinoa begs for the chocolate to be “chomped.”

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While tasting the chocolate, there was no raisin or dried fruit notes. I was overwhelmed by a bitter roasted flavor and an astringent/funny after taste – I wasn’t sure if this was attributable to the added quinoa or the chocolate itself…so, as they say, there is only one way to find out!

Q’uma Chocolate – Extra Dark 70%

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One thing that I didn’t notice as much on the quinoa packaging, is that there is a tree in the background behind the logo – probably since Q’uma refers to themselves as a “tree-to-bar” chocolate company (which, I suppose is a step beyond just bean-to-bar). It was fun to discover the variety of animals hiding amongst the branches.

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Upon opening this inner packaging, the bar smelled heavily roasted + almost a bit ashy. Like the quinoa bar, this Extra Dark 70% bar also had some blemishes + a matte finish. Thankfully, this bar appeared less bloomed.

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Even though both bars are 70% cacao content, the quinoa one appears to be lighter in color…is that because of the inclusions?

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Like the quinoa bar, it had a medium snap & was slow to melt. I noticed a slightly gritty mouthfeel, though not like one attributed to stoneground cacao (aka Taza or Olive & Sinclair).

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There was no odd after taste & this bar was much less astringent, so my guess is that the quinoa had somehow compromised the taste of the chocolate. While I admire that Q’uma strives to maintain the original taste of the beans through minimal processing and that their bars usually have only 4 ingredients, free from artificial flavors and/or emulsifiers, neither of these bars were complex and both lacked the bright fruity notes that are typically a characteristic of Peruvian chocolate. My friend kept 2 chocolates for himself (a milk chocolate + a 70% dark Maras salt chocolate), so hopefully his results will be better than mine!

If you’d like to purchase bars for yourself, here is the link to a U.S. company that imports and distributes these chocolates: http://www.makigourmetorganic.com/

To learn more about the Q’uma product line & philosophy, check out: http://www.qumachocolate.com/

P is for Patric Chocolate

Alan “Patric” McClure started his bean-to-bar chocolate company just a decade ago after spending a year in France. Since 2011, his chocolates have annually garnered prestigious Good Food Awards; and since 2013, he has received three or more Awards each year! With 15 Good Food Awards in total, sources say that “this makes Patric Chocolate the all-time winner of more Good Food Awards than any other company nationwide, in any category.”

With a pedigree like that, it’s no wonder that his chocolates are elusive! When you finally find one at a local store, there is no question about whether or not to purchase it, you just do. Then you notice that the label says “Limited Edition” – well, now you feel that you should go out & buy lottery tickets…there’s no stopping your winning streak! 🙂

If you’ll allow me the “artistic license” of re-ordering the words slightly, this bar’s name becomes a bit of an alliterative tongue twister: Patric Peru Piura (I wish I could figure out a few more appropriate words to add so that we can complete the Pa, Pe, Pi syllabic series!) But I digress…

The easy-to-open cream colored packaging made from 30% recycled post-consumer fiber & printed with soy ink sports a large eye-catching fleur de lis on the front.

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Ingeniously, this packaging can be used for multiple bars since the specific bar’s information is simply added with a clear sticker in the appropriate spot on the front.

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Before getting to the bar itself, you can read some history about the company, as well as the 10 steps that were taken to produce each bar.

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The first thing you see when opening the outer packaging, is a pristine matte rectangle wrapped in plastic, with a stylized embossed “signature” facing you. For a 67% bar, the color is a deep, rich brown.

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Maybe it’s me, but the “P” almost looks like a ballet dancer or an ice skater in an arabesque position.

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Unwrapping the bar, there was no mistaking that the carefully selected, rare Criollo beans from the high-altitude Piura region of Peru had been roasted. After precise roasting at a low temperature to bring out the fruity notes, the ground nibs underwent a long conching (refining) time to ensure a smooth mouth feel. Instead of breaking a bar apart with my fingers (since fingerprints tend to make the bar less photogenic), I generally use a knife. I was surprised that slicing through the bar proved to be a bit difficult since it was denser than I expected.

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Despite this, there was a satisfying sharp snap when creating bite sized tasting morsels. The slow melting, not-too-sweet chocolate started out with bright fruit notes that made me think of both citrus and berries. During the melt, it was as if there were little effervescent bursts of flavor and it finished like a warming port or dessert wine for me.

You can be sure that the next time I find Patric Chocolates in a local store, I’ll be stocking up on more flavors…especially the Triple-Ginger and Red Coconut Curry which won awards in 2016!

Even though the online store is closed until the next chocolate bar release, check out http://patric-chocolate.com/ for more information about the 10 year history of the company + their philosophy on sustainability practices. As a respected leader in the burgeoning craft chocolate movement, Alan also provides chocolate consultation services!

F is for French Broad Chocolates

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)!

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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.

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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.

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The aroma was so enticing as I was taking photos, I almost didn’t see the unique swirls on the back of the bar.

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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.

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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/