Sometimes it’s easier to decide when you have fewer options; however, in this case, I’m grateful that I had multiple choices available for the letter “T”! I was about to start playing “rock paper scissors” to pick between two bars, but then fate intervened and made the decision for me. Then again, maybe deep down, I really wanted to feature this bar from Southern California’s Bar Au Chocolat & the opportunity manifested itself perfectly!
Prior to tasting this bar, my most recent (yet tangential) experience with chocolate maker Nicole Trutanich was about 2 years ago when we used beans from her inventory during the bean-to-bar class taught by Ruth Kennison at Santa Monica’s The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories. During that two-day, hands-on class we used beans from Peru, Madagascar and the Dominican Republic.
When fellow chocolate blogger Max Gandy from Dame Cacao asked for bean-to-bar chocolates from Los Angeles, I knew I had to expand the scope to include hard-to-find-in-stores Bar au Chocolat (located in Manhattan Beach, which is considered part of the Greater LA area). So, I placed an order online: one bar for Max and another bar for me!
When I opened the box, I was mesmerized by Nicole’s shipping aesthetic! The two bars were artistically wrapped in a cloth napkin, in a style that called to mind furoshiki (Japanese cloth wrapping). This bundle had a stylish knot at the back and had been expertly folded to look like an envelope or satchel on the front with the company name and a tiny cacao flower at the edge of one corner.
The handmade paper wrapping the bar is so soft, it feels almost like suede. Is it bad that I enjoyed “petting” this bar?! I love the rustic touch of a handwritten “enjoy by” date underneath the embossed man on horseback, though I’m not certain what he is holding in his hand. It almost looks like a raptor (bird of prey) that might be used for hunting.
On the back of the outer wrapper, there is a wide, rectangular, custom embroidered informational ribbon positioned such that you can easily undo the folds and remove the foil wrapped bar from within.
It’s on the back of the bar that we learn the origin of the cacao beans: Turrialba, Cartago Province, Costa Rica. Since I’m not familiar with Costa Rica, I visited Bar au Chocolat’s website for more details. There I learned that the beans were “cultivated in rich, fertile soil against the romantic backdrop of the Turrialba volcano.” Ooh, now that sounds intriguing…time for further research!
According to Wikipedia, Turrialba is the easternmost and one of the largest of Costa Rica’s active volcanoes. Through a Google search, I discovered that Turrialba was quite active last year! Here is a link to an article from May 2017 featuring a photo + a short video of the ash produced by the eruption.
Removing the 2-ingredient, 72% dark chocolate bar from the foil inner wrapper was a little anticlimactic in comparison to the outer packaging. I noticed some “ghosting” and air bubbles marring the deep brown, matte finish of the 15-rectangle bar.
There was an initial roasted aroma, which then evolved to leather or tobacco once exposed to room temperature for a while. Breaking off a row of 3 rectangles from the larger bar produced a gentle snap, but there was a sharp snap when splitting a rectangle in half, revealing lots of nooks and crannies at the break point. Bringing the halved piece up to my nose, the smell reminded me of toasted and buttered whole wheat bread.
Smooth, slow/even melt with a delicate, but concentrated, berry/fruit flavor and some roasted nut notes. Initially the flavor didn’t seem to last long once the chocolate was gone from my mouth, but after the second or third bite, the flavor lingered pleasantly on the tip and back of my tongue. Chewing a piece intensified the fruit flavor with little to no astringency on the finish.
Hopefully Nicole’s atelier will open soon, the website says Spring of 2018!
To learn more about Bar au Chocolate, please visit: https://www.barauchocolat.com/