P is for Parmigiano-Reggiano

Have you been seeing lots of pairing events popping up lately like beer and chocolate, tea and chocolate, whiskey and chocolate or even cheese and chocolate? But what about cheese IN chocolate? Well, David Briggs from Xocolatl de David in Portland, Oregon has done just that by combining 72% Ecuadorian chocolate with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese :0

What seems like a lifetime ago, but was really only back in February, I tried another one of his savory bars and I now wish I had some left over to be able to pair with this unique flavor combination.

Using a knife to slice apart the informational sticker that keeps the outer cardboard packaging closed and removing the bar from the thin aluminum foil, you can immediately see that both sides of the bar are dimpled with a generous amount of the cheese inclusion.

The top is flatter, shinier and has some evidence of scuffing and ghosting:

While the bottom has uneven lumps and is not as reddish brown in color:

The thin bar breaks apart easily with a dull snap, releasing a musty, aged cheese aroma. A cross section of the tasting morsel looks almost like a lunar landscape: nooks and crannies created by air bubbles and the rest of the non-chocolate space occupied by tiny chunks of shaved cheese.

The flavor is very savory, almost meaty, and seems to overwhelm the overall chocolate taste. As if Parmigiano-Reggiano isn’t already salty enough on its own, this bar also has fleur de sel as an ingredient. While it’s generally recommended to “melt” chocolate in your mouth, this particular bar is abrasive during the melt due to the amount of hard cheese that was added. The chocolate melts away easily and quickly, but then you are left with a mouthful of clumped, partially dissolved cheese particles. However, “chomping” the chocolate will intensify the overall flavor and a couple of nibbles go a long way! I’m thinking of pairing this with some toasted bread just to see if that will tone down the taste.

Have you tried chocolate with cheese blended into it? Do you think that chocolate and cheese should be left separate? Let me know your thoughts!

In case you’re curious, next on my “wish list” from Xocolatl de David are the hazelnut + black truffle, the Black River caviar, the Mole Negro or the “Swiss Picnic” collaboration with Olympia Provisions. You know me, when it comes to chocolate, I’m ready for a taste adventure 😉  

To see their entire line up of savory bars as well as sweet ones that have less unusual ingredients, check out their website: http://www.xocolatldedavid.com/#main

F is for Foie Gras

Last year, after trying a couple of David Briggs’ Xocolatl de David caramel bars, I really wanted to get my hands on his unconventional foie gras bar which had been seen on Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern. Lucky for me, I was able to find one on a recent trip out of town.

Before you turn up your nose at the idea of combining fatty duck liver with chocolate, hear me out! It’s completely understandable that this bar isn’t for everyone; but if you give it a chance, the taste might very much surprise you (in a good way!)

Removing the bar from the cardboard outer packaging and the thin aluminum foil, I noticed some slight scuffing marring the overall near mirror shine of the bar. I had to handle the bar carefully since it was very easy to leave fingerprints everywhere on the room temperature chocolate.

The aroma of the bar is sweet and fruity, making me think of a dessert wine or even plum sauce. Honestly, I was a little surprised that there was a very dull, soft snap to the bar. The first couple of tasting morsels were fairly salty to me and there was even a slight crunch from the fleur de sel.

Letting a section of chocolate melt on my tongue, the mouthfeel was umami, creamy and velvety despite the slightly grainy look to the pieces.

There is an earthy, mushroom-like flavor to the bar, which I assume comes mostly from the unusual inclusion ingredient; though from my experience, Bolivian chocolate tends to inherently have buttery and earthy notes. When I’ve eaten pan seared foie gras in the past, the taste was bit oily to me, so this was a much more pleasant experience!

Based on the other Xocolatl de David bars that I tasted last year, I was expecting this bar to be filled with their “Foietella” spread rather than having the foie gras infused and tempered into the chocolate itself. Based on other online sources (since neither the packaging nor the company website really describes these products in great detail), the trademarked “Foietella” spread is made with cream, Hudson Valley foie gras, 68% cacao from Bolivia, Valhrona natural cocoa powder, fleur de sel, Sherry wine vinegar and local piment d’Espelette for a little heat. Researching things a little further, I learned that Hudson Valley Foie Gras in Ferndale, New York in the Catskill Mountains is the premier producer of foie gras, Moulard duck and organic chicken in the United States. Their website has several short documentary videos about their production process and how they care for their animals.

On a whim this morning, I added a chunk of chocolate to a piece of freshly toasted Boudin Bakery San Francisco sourdough bread. It melted evenly, but unfortunately the tang of the bread overpowered the chocolate. It was an interesting experiment nonetheless, though I wonder if French bread would have been better.

I’ve also been wanting to try pairing this chocolate with a cheese, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know!

As a side note, I served a piece of this chocolate to my boyfriend without telling him about the unusual ingredient and he only thought this was a salty and nutty chocolate, so hopefully you will be daring enough to give this chocolate a chance for yourself!

To learn more about their other chocolates, confections and more, please visit: http://www.xocolatldedavid.com/#main

X is for Xocolatl de David

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