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.

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