Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Farewell to Our Biggest Fan


David Adler

My wonderful and supportive father, David Adler, passed away unexpectedly two weeks ago just as we were celebrating the opening of our new store at The Bravern in Bellevue.  Dad’s passions in life were good food, good conversation, me and my mom and, more recently, Chocolopolis.  I’m incredibly fortunate to have been able to share Chocolopolis with him for 3 years. While my father was always proud of me, this was the first time we shared a passion for my career choice. As our biggest fan and supporter, I thought Dad deserved a chocolate-covered send off.

Mom and Dad moved to the Seattle area from Washington, DC three years ago just as I was signing a lease for our Queen Anne location and beginning the build out of Chocolopolis. He was very concerned about this undertaking of mine, trying to discourage me at every turn from moving forward. It’s not that he didn’t believe in me, it was his way of trying to protect his only child from a risky venture. As a retailer himself, he knew how hard the retail business could be, and he was concerned I wouldn’t have enough customers to support a chocolate store. He kept saying to me, “I think you should open a corned beef and pastrami stand. Now that would do really well.” It just goes to show you that you can take the boy out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take Brooklyn out of the boy.

When I finally opened the store, Dad was pleasantly surprised that I had customers and that I wouldn’t be going out of business. He quickly became Chocolopolis’ biggest supporter. He would lay awake at night coming up with marketing and product ideas. He’d try to tell me these ideas on a rare day off, when all I wanted to do was relax and not talk about business. Lucky for him my wonderful husband was kind enough to listen to his ideas and to share them with me later when I was ready to hear them. My mother eventually trained Dad to write his ideas down, and then he’d bring them to the store when I was working and share them with me. While some of the ideas would be more appropriate for 1940’s Brooklyn, other ideas were truly inspired and showed a deep understanding of the business, modern technology and my skill set.
The Adlers at Chocolopolis

Dad was Chocolopolis’ biggest promoter. He would sit with a cup of drinking chocolate at our window counter and tell anyone who came near the counter that the drinking chocolate was fantastic. If we tried to approach him and talk to him while he was doing this, he’d shoo us away and pretend not to know us so we wouldn’t blow his cover. On more than one occasion when my husband walked down Queen Anne Avenue with Dad, he would tell people in passing that there was a fantastic chocolate shop just down the street that had great figs or drinking chocolate. Those items, along with our chocolate-covered marshmallows, were his favorites, and he talked about them often.

My father is living testament to the idea that anyone can become a dark chocolate eater. He and I both ate almost exclusively mass-market milk chocolate for most of our lives. One of our all-time favorites was the Cadbury Fruit & Nut bar, which was usually in our fridge (yes, we put chocolate in the fridge). For a time when I was a teenager, he worked as a merchandiser for Hershey, and we’d get all the out-of-code chocolate to eat – I loved that job.  When I opened Chocolopolis I began introducing him to good dark chocolate. While I’ve seen a lot of customers’ palates adapt, including my own, I never expected his to change. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that shortly after I opened the store, he would no longer touch the mass market chocolate, and he’d come to prefer dark chocolate. I’m proud to say I never saw another bar of Cadbury Fruit & Nut in the house again. He only wanted the good stuff.

Many of my staff got to know Dad well, and they took great care of him. They’d immediately offer him a cup of drinking chocolate when he arrived at the store. If they were experimenting with a new product, they’d bring out a sample just for him. He usually loved whatever they were working on. He liked to see the sales totals, so they’d print out a sales report as soon as he arrived. He was very fond of my wonderful team of young ladies. I have to say a special thanks to those he got to know particularly well. My heartfelt thanks to Stacey, who has known Dad since I opened the store, and who calls herself an “honorary Adler”. Many warm thanks also to Emily, Roxanne, Julia, Candace, Robin and Sarah. He loved talking to all of you, and he constantly told me how nice you were to him.

Dad passed away the second day of our grand opening at The Bravern. He had not been to see the store since we’d opened because he wanted to wait for the grand opening when he knew it would be packed with customers. We had very good sales on our first day of grand opening, and I was able to tell him the sales total. He smiled and tried to say something. We could tell he was pleased. Sales on day two of the grand opening were even better, but this time Dad was gone and I couldn’t share it with him. While it was hard to swallow, I take comfort that he knew our first day was an excellent one.

Davy making Egg Creams @ Chocolopolis

I’d like to offer a chocolate-covered toast to Dad. We’ll think of you every time we sip drinking chocolate, eat a Chocolopolis fig or savor a chocolate-covered marshmallow. You’ll be with us every night we have a good sales report. We’ll remember you fondly whenever we make a Brooklyn egg cream. It’s because of you that we know the proper ratio of chocolate to seltzer to milk, and we won’t forget to stir at each step. And most importantly, I’ll call it “chewauklet” with a Brooklyn accent every once in awhile just so I can hear your voice.

I’ve enjoyed every minute of these past 3 years sharing Chocolopolis with you. I love you, Dad.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bar of the Week: Amedei's Toscano Blond

Our bar of the week is so good we're featuring it for a second time: it's Toscano Blond from Amedei.  Here's what I had to say about the Blond bar in a previous post:

"We're celebrating the launch of Amedei's pretty new packaging by featuring the Tosacano Blond inclusion bar.  It's a smooth, bittersweet blend of 63% dark chocolate, studded with tiny pieces of sweet/tart dried apricots and peaches--like little flashes of sunshine on a cloudy day."

If you you're in need of a little sunshine, stop by for a sample of Amedei's Blond on Saturday, December 4. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bar of the Week: Claudio Corallo's Gengibre

Feeling under the weather?  Need a throat-soothing, tummy-taming, soul-warming treat?  Then come try our bar of the week:  Claudio Corallo's Gengibre. 

Grown and processed on an island off the west coast of Africa, Corallo's unconched chocolate is deliciously earthy and cool, full of flavors you just won't find in any other chocolate.  For his Gengibre bar, Corallo adds spicy crystallized ginger to his 75% dark chocolate, creating an appealing balance of contrasting textures, tastes, and temperatures.

Come by on Saturday, November 27, for a sample of Claudio Corallo's Gengibre bar.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bar of the Week: Patric's Rio Caribe

Although American micro-batch chocolate maker Patric is best known for a line of Madagascar bars, they've also made one successful foray into Venezuela.  Our bar of the Week is Patric's Rio Caribe, a 70% dark chocolate from cacao grown on Venezuela's Paria Penninsula.  This is a full-bodied and complex chocolate with creamy, nutty base notes and flashes of bright fruit and flowers.

We'll be serving up samples of Patric's Rio Caribe on Saturday, November 20.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bar of the Week: Valrhona's Guanaja

Our bar of the week is Valrhona's Guanaja, the first of this major chocolate producer's line of "grand cru" chocolates.  This 70% dark chocolate is mix of criollo, trinitario, and forastero cacaos named for the island in the Bay of Honduras where the beans were farmed. Valrhona's tagline for the bar is "bittersweet and elegant"; it features a pared-down flavor profile, with floral and fruity notes anchored by a pleasant bitterness reminiscent of coffee or nuts. 

Come by and try Valrhona's Guanaja on Saturday, November 13th.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Chocolate Makers Have Arrived!

There’s a lot going on at Chocolopolis right now, including the addition of three new fantastic chocolate makers to our carefully-curated collection of bean-to-bar chocolate.  Each one has an interesting story and fantastic chocolate. Without further ado, I introduce Fine + Raw, Fresco and El Ceibo.

Fine + Raw

I have to give credit for this find to Julia Harrison, who works at Chocolopolis on the weekends. Julia has been looking for good raw chocolate, and found Fine + Raw online shortly before I left for the Fancy Food Show in New York.

It was about 90 degrees outside when I dragged my mother to Greenpoint in Brooklyn for a meeting with Fine + Raw. I sat down with Daniel Sklaar, the founder of Fine + Raw, and his partner Georgie Castle. We proceeded to taste all of their chocolate, and all of it was delicious.  Since we were already in the heat of summer, it wasn’t a good time to ship their chocolate to Seattle. So I’ve been anxiously awaiting Fine + Raw’s arrival for months. It’s finally here!

What is raw chocolate? It’s chocolate made from cacao that is neither roasted nor heated above 116⁰ at any point during processing. The idea is that it keeps more of the nutrients and antioxidants intact. Raw or not, this chocolate is delicious. Daniel uses Ecuadorian cacao to make his final product, and he offers more than just solid chocolate.

Fine + Raw’s bonbon bars have a very thin layer of plain chocolate bonbon or chipotle bonbon running through the center of the bar. Their Chunky Bonbon bars are filled with vegan truffles made with either almond praline or coconut milk and chocolate. They’re addictive.

Fresco Chocolate
We’re very excited to be one of the first retailers in the country to carry Fresco Chocolate, originating right up the road in Bellingham, WA. Founder and chocolate maker Rob Anderson has been bringing us prototype samples for over a year, and he finally launched his bean-to-bar chocolate in the last 2 weeks. Rob didn’t start slowly. He jumped right in with 4 bars from three origins. One of the coolest things about Fresco is that Rob provides information about roasting and conching styles on each box of chocolate. He offers 2 Jamaica 70% bars, one with a dark roast and subtle conch, and one with a dark roast and medium (longer) conch. It’s a great way to compare the difference conching makes when other variables are kept the same. He also has a Ghana bar with a medium roast and a medium conch and a Dominican Republic bar with a light roast and a subtle conch. Rob has agreed to come to Chocolopolis to sample his chocolate. Stay tuned for a date, which we hope will be soon.

Our free chocolate happy hour in Queen Anne this Thursday (11/4) features Fresco chocolate. Stop by for a chance to taste this great new chocolate.

El Ceibo
I received a phone call this summer from a Bolivian gentleman named Pastor Payllo who represents El Ceibo, a coop of Bolivian cacao growers who make their own chocolate. Pastor called me at the recommendation of Biaggio Abbatiello, the owner of Biaggio Chocolate in DC. So thanks to Biaggio, we’ve got El Ceibo. Now that's a mouthful!

Not only is this chocolate delicious, it’s great for the farmer. As the bar label says, “From the trees to the chocolate, we do not collaborate with the producers, we are the producers.” El Ceibo grows organic cacao in the low-altitude, tropical, northern part of Bolivia called Alto Beni. They transport their cacao to a chocolate factory in the Andes to process it into chocolate. El Ceibo chocolate packs a wonderful flavor profile with a bit of texture. You may notice that the bar is a bit rustic-looking with an uneven temper. To me that’s part of its charm. Ultimately the flavor of the cacao shines through.

There are 2 El Ceibo bars, a 75% bar that you'll find in our Central & South America regional section and a 77% bar with Cacao Nibs & Uyuni Salt, located in our inculsion section. The salt for the inclusion bar comes from the largest salt flat in the world, located in southwest Bolivia near the crest of the Andes.  For those of you familiar with Chloe Doutre-Roussel, author of The Chocolate Connoisseur, this chocolate even has her seal of approval on the box. We have boxes of single-origin Bolivian cocoa powder at our Queen Anne store, and we expect a delivery of El Ceibo’s traditional drinking chocolate disks in the next month.