Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bar of the Week: Askinosie's San Jose Del Tambo

We're kicking off Ecuador Month with Askinosie's San Jose Del Tambo bar, a 70% dark chocolate made from Ecuadorian Ariba beans.

Missouri-based Shawn Askinosie is a former criminal defense lawyer with a unique and uncompromising approach to making chocolate.  He eschews vanilla and emulsifiers, using organic cane sugar, goat milk, and cocoa butter pressed from the same cacao that goes into each bar. While not certified either fairtrade or organic, Askinosie works closely with farmers and discourages the use of pesticides.  The company only buys beans from farmers (not from brokers), pays above market prices, and has instituted a program through which a portion of profits are returned to individual farmers. 

For the choco-curious, Askinosie's products offer a lot of fascinating extras.  Each bar is stamped with a "Choc-o-lot" batch number; enter it into the website to get a dated synopsis of all of the steps that go into making a particular bar.  Each Askinosie bar's wrapper is also decorated with the photograph of a farmer who grew the cacao. The San Jose Del Tambo bar features Vitaliano Saravia, the lead farmer of this 200-year-old plantation in the Andean foothills.

Stop by on Saturday, May 1st, to sample some of this deliciously ethical dark chocolate.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bar of the Week: Michel Cluizel's Concepcion

This week we're wrapping up "Venezuela Month" with the Concepcion bar from Michel Cluizel.   

This "single estate" bar is made entirely from Caranero beans grown on the Concepcion plantation east of Caracas, where cacao has been processed the same way since 1902.  It's a 66% dark chocolate with a rich and complex flavor.  Cluizel's write-up describes top notes of "vanilla, honey spice cake, and caramel" with undertones of "mixed dried and black fruits".

Stop by on April 24th to taste Cluizel's Concepcion, and please keep in mind that even though Venezuela Month is ended, we'll continue to have plenty of great Venezuelan chocolates in stock!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bar of the Week: Domori's Porcelana

Our Venezuela Month continues with Domori's Porcelana bar, which many tasters consider to be the brand's best offering.  Porcelana is a rare heirloom variety of criollo that produces distinctive white pods and a delicately complex flavor.  Domori's label describes "notes of bread, butter and preserve" while a common thread among reviews is a simple but utterly satisfying sweetness that calls to mind strawberries, caramel, or honey.  The flavors are supported by Domori's characteristically creamy texture. 

Come by on Saturday, April 17th for a taste of Domori's Porcelana.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The "Perfect" Cookie?

If this mixed-up weather is getting you down, why not take advantage of it?  While it's still chilly but before summer swoops in, this is the perfect time to crank up the oven for a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies. 

Here at Chocolopolis we've been revisiting a 2008 New York Times article about the best chocolate chip cookies in NYC.  The accompanying recipe comes from star chocolatier Jacques Torres, who suggests skipping chips in favor of larger chocolate disks or fèves.

Fresh out of high quality fèves?  We know where you can find some!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bar of the Week: Amedei's Chuao

Throughout the month of April, we'll be highlighting chocolate made from Venezuelan cacao.  This week we're featuring the Chuao bar from Amedei, a 70% dark chocolate with an intense flavor and a fascinating backstory.

Writing in Food&Wine, Pete Wells tells the story of how this bar brought fame to a small Italian firm run by brother and sister, Alessio and Cecilia Tessieri. Following in their parents' footsteps, the Tessieri siblings began as confectioners, using pre-made chocolate couverture rather than raw cacao.  Their focus shifted after a visit to the French choclate maker Valrhona, where the Tessieris were denied access to the company's best products on the grounds that, "...Italy wasn't evolved enough to appreciate such extraordinary chocolate." 

From that moment, the Italian David resolved to cut the French Goliath off at the knees.  Cecilia immersed herself in learning to make artisanal chocolate while Alessio set off to find the world's finest cacao.   His quest took him to Venezuela's Chuao region, where ideal growing conditions make for amazing cacao--but in relatively small quantities.  For years, most of Chuao's output had been sold to Valrhona.  By offering above-market prices, Alessio secured the region's cacao for Amedei instead.
Most chocolate lovers say that the final product was worth all that trouble.  Will you agree?  Join us on Saturday, April 10th, for a taste of Amedei's Chuao bar.