Friday, April 27, 2012

Heart Your Mother

Lauren Adler (Chief Chocophile) with her mother Marcie

Last Monday the Chocolopolis crew stayed late boxing for a very important cause- the American Heart Association. The lucky attendees of the Heart's Delight Wine Tasting in Washington DC will be receiving our Signature Truffle Box for their tasting delight.

Since our truffles will be attending a black tie event we gave them a little sprucing up and debuted our new label which will eventually adorn all of our boxes and bars.

Can't attend the event? Don't worry, you can do your part to help the cause from your very own computer. On May 7th we're hosting a special sales event on our website in advance of Mother's Day. 20% of all online product sales for one day (May 7th) will be donated to the American Heart Association. Heart your mom just in time for Mothers Day and give something back.

Special Programs Coordinator

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sacha by Kallari: Great Story, Great Chocolate

Cacao from the Kallari Association
We're excited to have a cacao farmer hosting Thursday night's free chocolate happy hour from 5-9pm. Felipe, a cacao farmer from the Kallari Association in Ecuador, will be here to sample Kallari's new line of Sacha chocolate and answer questions about life on a cacao farm. In anticipation of tonight's event I thought I'd share the Kallari Association's unique story.

What's so special about chocolate from the Kallari Association? The farmers who grow the cacao also make the chocolate. While this may not seem revolutionary, it's rare for cacao farmers to make chocolate. By shepherding the cacao from tree to bean to bar, these cacao farmers earn 4x what they would earn from selling their beans to a broker who would then sell them to a large chocolate company and make more money than the farmers.

While earning more money is certainly a boon to these farmers, there are other benefits that come from maintaining control of the final product. One important factor is quality and taste. As the farmers learn about consumer appreciation for fine chocolate and begin to see the profit potential of fine flavor cacao varietals, they have incentive to produce better quality. They understand the importance of focusing on heirloom varietals and proper fermentation. It encourages them to continually improve farming techniques and chocolate production.

For Thursday's happy hour we'll be tasting a new line of chocolate called Sacha. While Kallari farmers have been selling chocolate bars made with their cacao using a proprietary recipe for some time, they've been contracting out the chocolate making to a vendor in Ecuador. Sacha marks the first time that the Association itself is making chocolate. While Sacha uses the same recipe as Kallari chocolate, it is made in smaller batches using artisan techniques. This new process has brought improved texture and more complex flavor notes to the final product.

A little bit more about the people of Kallari. The Kallari Association is made up of indigenous Kichwa farmers and their families who live in the Upper Napo River Basin in the Ecuadorian rainforest. In addition to cacao, Kallari youth sell handicrafts, encouraging them to practice traditional harvesting, drying, weaving and carving techniques. These handicrafts have generated more income for Kallari families than any agricultural crop. Started in 1997 with fewer than 50 families, the Kallari Association now counts 850 farmer families among its membership.

Stop by any time between 5 and 9 Thursday night to meet Felipe and to sample tastes of three Sacha bars. We'll be trying the Sacha 85%, Sacha 75% and Sacha 71% with Ginger bars.

Happy chocolate tasting,
Chief Chocophile

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bar of the Week: Escazu Vanilla Chili

Vanilla and chocolate go together like white tie and a top hat.  It's a classic pairing, with vanilla's light perfume emphasizing chocolate's dark depths.  

Chili and chocolate are another classic combo, one that goes back even further and is currently enjoying renewed popularity. 

But chocolate AND vanilla AND chili?  That's a whole new level!  You can experience it in this bar of the week from Raleigh, North Carolina-based small batch chocolate maker, Escazu.  In this innovative bar, Escazu combines a74% dark chocolate blended from Venezuelan, Costa Rican, and Ecuadorian beans with smoky chipotle and heady vanilla for a rich flavor with a long, warm finish.  

Stop by on Saturday, April 28, to enjoy a taste of this new classic. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fermenting for flavor: Fortunato No. 4

Did you know that chocolate is a fermented food? That bar of deliciousness you're eating wouldn't taste so delicious without proper fermentation.

I recently watched a video posted by Marañon Chocolate that shows their fermentation process first hand. The video serves as a great jumping off point to explain the importance of fermentation and to tell you a bit about Marañon's very unique chocolate story.

Since fermentation happens at the point of harvest, artisan chocolate makers rely upon skilled farmers to properly ferment cacao. Under-fermented cacao may taste astringent, with notes that make your mouth pucker with bitter dryness, while over-fermented cacao may taste like mildewed gym socks. In the case of Marañon Chocolate proper fermentation was made doubly-difficult by the fact that their cacao varietal had 40% white seeds mixed with 60% purple seeds. More about that in a minute.

How does cacao ferment? When farmers harvest ripe cacao, they crack open the pods and remove the seeds. The seeds are covered in a citrusy-white pulp called mucilage. When mucilage is exposed to the elements it begins to ferment, in turn fermenting the seeds.

The video by Marañon Chocolate illustrates some of the key points of fermentation. You'll note that part way through the video Adam Pearson and his crew take the cacao out of the bins and stir it before putting it back into the bins for further fermentation. Stirring helps maintain an even ferment throughout all of the seeds. Not stirring the cacao would result in uneven fermentation, meaning that some of the seeds would be over-fermented, some under-fermented and some just right. As a chocolate maker, you don't want a selection of Golidlocks beans, you only want the ones that are just right (or as one of my chocolatiers would say, you want the "Baby Bear" beans).

So what about that mix of purple and white seeds? Purple seeds require longer fermentation, while the more delicate white seeds require less fermentation.

How do you ferment a batch of mixed purple and white seeds when you can't tell which kind they are without slicing (and ruining) the seeds? Dan Pearson, founder of Marañon, and his team spent 18 months and a lot of cacao trying to crack the fermentation puzzle. They've succeeded and hold their final solution very close to the vest. While I don't know the secret to the puzzle, I do know they make great chocolate.

Marañon Chocolate is an interesting story in the world of chocolate. In a nutshell, American Dan Pearson found cacao trees in a remote area of Peru while looking for fruits & vegetables to supply the mining operations he'd set up in the area. Dan submitted leaves from this cacao to the USDA as part of their cacao genome project to have its genetics typed. The USDA was excited to announce that Dan's varietal was a pure Nacional varietal thought to be extinct.

While Marañon farms cacao, it's not accurate to say they "make" great chocolate. They've left the chocolate making process up to an artisan in Switzerland, most likely Felchlin. This chocolate maker takes Marañon's beans and makes bulk chocolate to be sold to chocolatiers in minimums of 250lbs. Each chocolatier has an exclusive on Fortunato No. 4 in their particular geographic market. This means that you won't see a bar of Marañon Chocolate anywhere. What you will see is a bar of Fortunato No. 4 that's been melted and tempered by a chocolatier. At Chocolopolis, we offer a bar by Moonstruck that has been made with Fortunato No.4.

It makes it very difficult to tell the Maranon story with so many middlemen, but it's one worth telling because it's a great bar of chocolate. Stop by and get yourself a bar of Fortunato No. 4. You won't be disappointed.

Happy tasting,
Chief Chocophile

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Few of Your Favorite Things

Not surprisingly, one of the most common questions we get here at the store is "What's your most popular bar?" (right after "What's your favorite bar?" which can be difficult to answer and thus a question for another time). With a wall of artisan chocolate that boasts over 200 bars from more than 20 countries, choosing which one you want to try can be difficult for even the most seasoned chocolate lover. After all, they are all delicious!
Arranged by Origin
Chocolopolis Wall of Bars

Some take a systematic approach and work from one side of the wall to the other, trying each bar at least once. Some pick a bar they love and stick with it. Some go for what's new. While others steer clear of the whole problem entirely and choose to simply mainline their chocolate in the form of our delectable drinks.

For those of you who haven't settled on a system of chocolate eating I've compiled a list of our most popular bars this year to help guide your decision making.

Top 10 Bars 2012 (so far)

1Francois Pralus Le 100% Dark Chocolate Francois Pralus Le 100% Dark Chocolate
2. Chocolopolis Dark Orchard Bar Chocolopolis Dark Orchard Bar

3. Dandelion Madagascar 70% Dark Chocolate Dandelion Madagascar 70% Dark Chocolate

4.Chocolopolis Salty Dark Bar Chocolopolis Salty Dark Bar
5. Rogue Sambirano 70% Dark Chocolate Rogue Sambirano 70% Dark Chocolate
6. Chocolopolis Spicy Aztec Dark Bar Chocolopolis Spicy Aztec Dark Bar
7. E. Guittard Nocturne 91% Dark Chocolate E. Guittard Nocturne 91% Dark Chocolate
8. Chocolat Moderne Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Bar Chocolat Moderne Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Bar
9. Rogue Hispaniola 70% Dark Chocolate Rogue Hispaniola 70% Dark Chocolate
10. Valrhona Palmira 64% Dark Chocolate Valrhona Palmira 64% Dark Chocolate

It may come as a surprise to some that a 100% bar would be our most popular but don't knock it 'till you've tried it. While this is no means a guarantee you will love all of the bars on our list, you may feel emboldened to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. For full descriptions and online buying click the links.

What are your favorites? Did we hit them on this list or is there something just spectacular that you think everyone should try? Tell me, what is your favorite bar and why?


P.S. Check back with us Thursday on Facebook or Twitter for a special treat just for our Thursday Happy Hour. 

P.P.S. Don't forget to get your tickets for Arcade Lights this Friday. We'd love to see you there! 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bar of the Week: Olive and Sinclair's Mexican Chocolate

The "Mexican Style" inclusion bar from Nashville, TN chocolate makers Olive and Sinclair is as warm, rich, and unforgettably catchy as a classic country ballad.  They start with stone ground chocolate, its earthiness amplified by a touch of salt.  O and S then ratchets up the heat a generous amount of aromatic Ceylon cinnamon and a two-star helping of chili, resulting in a bar that seems to smolder before it even touches your tongue.  The melt is slowed by a satisfyingly complex and full-bodied texture; grains of cacao, sugar, salt, and spice gradually disintegrate between your teeth. 

Is this one of those bars you'll never be able to get out of your head?  Stop by on Saturday, April 21st to find out!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Gearing Up

Here at Chocolopolis we are busily getting ready for our next foodie event, Arcade Lights.

Arcade Lights

Friday night April 20, Pike Place Market will transform itself into a mecca for foodies both near and far. From sweet to savory, over 60 local artisan food and drink makers will be showing off the best of what they have to offer. Each booth will be offering up small plates and pours for your tokens (you receive 10 tokens with the purchase of your ticket which you can do either at Brown Paper Tickets for $25 or at the door for $30).

Can't decide on just 10? You can always purchase more tickets at the event (don't worry, we wont tell).

Delicious bites of our Orchard Bar
What will we have? After much tasting and deliberation (it's a hard life right?) Dominica, our chocolatier, picked a selection of our favorites made just for you. For a token each you get to chose from our Award-winning Anise Ganache Fig, Spicy Aztec truffle, as well as half sized portions of our Orchard Bar. Don't forget to stop by and pick up something tasty. We hope to see you there!


P.S. Not 21? No worries, you can always stop by the store every Thursday from 5-9 for our free chocolate Happy Hour. This week satisfy your sweet (and savory) tooth by trying our inclusion bars with savory additions like pepper and Parmesan. Remember, you can always see what our upcoming Happy Hours are on our Events page on our website.