Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate Bars’

In Trivial Pursuit Of Chocolate

Friday, September 2nd, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

In writing my new book, Choclatique (Running Press, 2011), a lot of exploration went into searching out the facts and myths, past and present, about everything chocolate. I traveled to over one hundred, thirty countries to uncover all of the hidden secrets about chocolate. Since I was limited to only three hundred pages a lot of good research went on to the editor’s floor. That’s the great part about writing a weekly blog and doing a FoodCast on A Million Cooks, nothing ever goes to waste.

I always choose the chocolate category when playing Trivial Pursuit and I always win. So here’s a chance to improve your Chocolate IQ. Let me share with you the little know and uncelebrated facts that will make you a winner, too.

  • Chocolate is a psychoactive food. If it wasn’t an ancient food, it would probably be regulated or rationed by the US FDA.
  • Chocolate is made from the seeds of the tropical cacao tree, Theobroma cacao. The cacao tree was named by the 17th century Swedish naturalist, Linnaeus. The Greek term theobroma means literally “food of the gods.” Chocolate has also been called the food of the devil; but the theological basis of this claim is obscure unless you’re addicted to Devil’s Food Cake.
  • Cacao beans were used by the ancient Aztecs to prepare a hot, frothy beverage with stimulant and restorative properties. Chocolate itself was reserved for warriors, nobility and priests. The Aztecs esteemed its reputed ability to confer wisdom and vitality. Taken fermented as a drink, chocolate was also used in religious ceremonies. The sacred concoction was associated with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility. Emperor Montezuma allegedly drank fifty goblets a day.
  • Aztec taxation was levied in cacao beans. One hundred cacao beans could buy a slave. Twelve cacao beans bought the services of courtesan. I wish I could pay my taxes and bills. If our economy doesn’t improve quickly I may have to in Choclatique Chocolate Ingots.
  • The celebrated Italian libertine Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798) took chocolate before bedding his conquests on account of chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac. Who needs Viagra when there’s Choclatique Chocolate?
  • More recently, a study of eight thousand male Harvard graduates showed that chocoholics lived longer than abstainers. Their longevity may be explained by the high polyphenol levels in chocolate. Polyphenols reduce the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins and thereby protect against heart disease. Such theories are still somewhat speculative, but it’s still a good excuse to eat Choclatique Chocolate.
  • Placebo-controlled test trials suggest chocolate consumption may subtly enhance cognitive performance. As reported by Dr Bryan Raudenbush (2006), scores for verbal and visual memory are raised by eating chocolate. Impulse-control and reaction-time are also improved. Send an old person Choclatique Chocolate today… right now… what are you waiting for? Don’t tell me you forgot.
  • A “symposium” at the 2007 American Association for the Advancement of Science—hyped as a potentially “mind-altering experience”—presented evidence that chocolate consumption can be good for the brain. Experiments with chocolate-fed mice suggest that flavanol-rich cocoa stimulates neurovascular activity, enhancing memory and alertness. I think chocolate should be on the Medicare formulary list.
  • Coincidentally or otherwise, many of the world’s oldest super centenarians, e.g. Jeanne Calment (1875-1997) and Sarah Knauss (1880-1999), were passionately fond of chocolate. Jeanne Calment habitually ate two pounds of chocolate per week until her physician induced her to give up sweets at the age of 119 – three years before her death aged 122. Life-extensionists are best advised to eat dark chocolate like Choclatique Q-91 rather than the kinds of calorie-rich confectionery popular in the US.
  • In the UK, chocolate bars laced with cannabis are popular with many victims of multiple sclerosis. This treatment of psychoactive confectionery remains unlicensed. Yeah man, what the hell, it’s cool in California… anything goes.
  • Chocolate as we know it today dates to the inspired addition of triglyceride cocoa butter by Swiss confectioner Rodolphe Lindt in 1879. The advantage of a butter is that its addition to chocolate sets a bar so that it will readily snap and then melt on the tongue. Cocoa butter begins to soften at around 75º F; it melts at around 97º F. I wonder if anyone ever tried to inject it.
  • Today, chocolates of every description are legal, unscheduled and readily available over the counter. Don’t tell Congress they’ll screw this up, too.
  • Some 50% of women reportedly claim to prefer chocolate to sex, though this response may depend on the attributes of the interviewer. Oh, that explains it all.
  • In 2007, a UK study suggested that eating dark chocolate was more rewarding than passionate kissing. More research is needed to replicate this result. I’m waiting, Ladies. I’m still waiting.
  • More than 300 different constituent compounds in chocolate have been identified. Chocolate clearly delivers far more than a brief sugar high. Yet it’s cocktail of psychochemical effects in the central nervous system are poorly understood.

So how does it work? That is the subject of next week exciting Choclatique blog.

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Simply The Best People In The World

Thursday, August 25th, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

Pigging Out at ChoclatiqueOne of the best things about working in the food and confection world is all of the wonderful people that cross your path. I love their personalities and their sense of humor. Some stay a little longer than others, but with few exceptions they all leave a positive imprint on our company and on our lives. Now I’ve been a part of this industry for more years than I care to admit. We have owned our own restaurants, been consultants to the Fortune 500 of food companies, and for the last 7 years we have been totally immersed in chocolate. I’m sure those conjure up some vivid images. People come and go and many come back again. We always try to leave our special imprint by way of establishing an honest work ethic and teaching our co-workers many tricks of the trade.

Last week one of our long distance co-workers showed up on our door step. Spencer Kells was our Executive Chef From 2001 through 2003 just when we began the research and development phase of Choclatique.

Spencer was plucked from the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok and transported to Los Angeles. As the number #2 there, he worked 100 to 120 hours a week cooking some of the best food in Thailand. I loved his food and his great personality and thought he would be perfect for our company. And he was looking for an improved quality of life. We worked on a variety of sweet and savory solutions that are still being served in our clients’ restaurants. He left for more excitement to go to the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC.

You see when you’re on the cooking line in a restaurant in the heat of the night, the adrenalin pulses through your veins and you get a tremendous rush. After two years, Spencer was missing that thrill. Spencer left us to cook for the glitterati of DC including current and past Presidents, Senators, Representatives, Supreme Court Judges and the Who’s Who of Washington. In fact, his first month there he cooked for George W’s second inauguration party.

Ed and FriendsSpencer moved back to Thailand to marry a wonderful lady, Katya, and they now have two beautiful little girls, Zoe and Chloe. For me and the girls, it was love at first bite. Little girls seem to really like me… or maybe it’s the chocolate.

Ed and Friends 2I have found that chocolate is a conversation opener for women of all ages. I make friends on planes with just the mere wave of a Choclatique Chocolate Bar. I get upgraded to first class, escorted through customs, breeze by security and treated to VIP star service with most airlines. I found that a well-placed piece of chocolate at the front desk of my hotel brings all sorts of amenities to my room. Chocolate is not only good for you physically, but fantastic for one’s ego. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to say I own the company. But even when not said, chocolate seems to forgive all sins.

I have one word of advice to all you guys out there—Chocolate. If you want to make friends, be forgiven for some unthinkable transgression or be the life of the party, give a little chocolate. And for you ladies… remember, guys like chocolate, too.

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How to Become an Official Choclatique Critical Gourmet Chocolate Taster

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

(A Chocoholic’s 10-Step Program)

The actual flavor compounds found in dark chocolate are more complex and extreme than those of red wine. Tasting and detecting all these flavor notes can be an extremely fun and educational endeavor. Let the following serve as a road map, so that you can extract the fullest flavor potential from dark chocolate.

    1. Find a location free from background aromas and noise, such as television, music, a crying baby, road traffic, talkative friends, etc. Being able to concentrate as intently as possible will help facilitate flavor detection.
    2. Clear your palate. This means that your mouth should not contain residual flavors from a previous meal. Eat a wedge of apple, an unsalted cracker or piece of bread if necessary. This is crucial in order to taste the subtleties of a good dark chocolate’s complex flavor.
    3. Make sure that the piece of chocolate is large enough to allow for the blossoming of flavor. A piece too small may not allow you to detect every subtle nuance as the chocolate slowly melts in your mouth. With chocolate, the flavors gradually evolve and come alive on your tongue and mouth rather than opening up in one large burst. So remember, don’t think small here. A 1-ounce piece should be a minimum starting point.
    4. Allow the dark chocolate to rest at room temperature before tasting. Cold temperatures will hinder your ability to detect the flavors. At Choclatique, we always rub the dark chocolate briefly between our fingers to coax out the flavor. This is what a professional taster would do.
    5. Inspect the chocolate. The surface should be free of blemishes and chocolate bloom. Observe the color and the chocolatier’s skill at tempering and molding the chocolate. The bar should have a mirror-like shine. Chocolate comes in a variety of browns with various tints, such as rose, purples, reds, and oranges.
    6. Break the piece in half. It should resonate with a resounding “SNAP!” and exhibit a fine gradient along the broken edge. This is would be the hallmark of really good chocolate.
    7. Smell the chocolate, especially at the break point. Aroma is an important component of flavor. Inhaling will prime your taste buds for the incoming chocolate. It also gives you a chance to pick up the various nuances of the aroma.
    8. Place the chocolate on your tongue. Allow it melt slowly. Chew it only to break it into small enough pieces that it begins to melt on its own. This slow melt allows the cocoa butter to distribute evenly in the mouth, which mutes any astringencies or bitterness in the chocolate.
    9. Be conscience of the texture (well-conched chocolate) and the taste (well-balanced chocolate blend). Texture can be the most obvious clue about the quality of a chocolate. Low quality chocolates will have a grainy, almost dirty ash tray-like texture. As the chocolate melts in your mouth, concentrate on the flavors you are experiencing. Melting will release more volatile compounds for you to smell and taste. Close your eyes, take notes, enjoy this moment of bliss of the flavor thrills, and bask in contentment.
    10. Now the chocolate is nearing its finish. How has the flavor evolved? Is the chocolate bitter? Heavy? Light? Was the texture smooth or grainy? Do any changes in texture and flavor occur? Take note of how the chocolate leaves the palate. Is there a strong reminder lingering in your mouth, or does it quickly vanish? Note any metallic or unpleasant flavors in the finish. This can be the sign of poorly fermented, stale or lower quality chocolate. Let the after-taste develop and see if you are tempted to come back for more.
    11. Okay, now cleanse your palate and repeat the process with a different dark chocolate. Compare the highlights the subtle flavor notes in each succeeding dark chocolate taste.

Here is great place to start with Choclatique Dark Chocolates found on our website.

Single Origin Tablet

Venezuelan Single-Origin Dark Chocolate Tablet (55%)

Choclatique’s Venezuelan Origin is rich in chocolate aroma with exceptionally complex chocolate notes that are accented by subtle hints of red berry fruit. The cacao beans are sourced and harvested from trees of Criollo and Trinitario heritage in Venezuela’s Sur del Lago region.

Colombian Single-Origin Dark Chocolate Tablet (55%)

Choclatique’s Colombian Origin has penetrating deep, slow, long chocolate flavors that are accented by lovely hints of exotic peppery spice. This single-origin Colombian chocolate pairs beautifully with barista-made coffees and peppery Pinot Noirs from the California Napa Valley.

Ecuadoran Single-Origin Dark Chocolate Tablet (55%)

Choclatique’s Ecuadorean Origin is made from the centuries-old, Ecuadorean Nacional Arriba cacao beans grown solely in Ecuador. This single-origin chocolate offers a perfumed floral scent and traditional Nacional taste which is recognized by its complex accents of green mossy forest, rich black tea, subtle roasted nut after-tones, lingering tropical banana and light toasty caramelized buttery notes.

Madagascar Single-Origin Dark Chocolate Tablet (55%)

Choclatique’s Madagascar Origin is made from the rare Criollo cacao beans that are carefully handcrafted into this delicious tasting, exotic chocolate. It has just enough sugar to bring out the natural richness and fruity flavor of the Madagascar cocoa bean. With flavor notes of tart citrus and the fresh essence of raspberry, these beans from Madagascar create some of the world’s most flavorful chocolate with one-of-a-kind, up-front, deep, rich chocolate flavor. It is light, smooth, mild, and easy to eat.

Peruvian Single-Origin Dark Chocolate Tablet (55%)

Choclatique’s Peruvian Single Origin comes from many tiny plantations producing cocoa beans near Rio Apurimac in the Amazonas region of Peru and the San Martin and Huanuco regions to the east of the Andes in the tropical lowlands. The cacao grown in these regions has an upfront sweetness and hint of the bananas and orchids that grow in the area.

Private Reserve Dark Chocolate Tablets (64%)

Choclatique’s Private Reserve 64% Dark Chocolate is made from 17 equatorial beans grown from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn. They are fermented, dried and roasted to perfection. Our chocolate is conched (blended) to an ultra-smooth texture for 72 hours at precise temperatures to bring out the natural dark fruity flavor of the cacao bean.

Q-91 Functional Dark Chocolate Tablets (91%)

Chocolate Ingot

Choclatique Q-91 is our super-dark, premium functional chocolate very high in cacao mass. It is a unique and complex blend of many different premium beans from each of the three major cacao-growing regions—Central and South America, Africa and Asia. You will taste the essence of ripe cherry and deep chocolate over complex layers of tart citrus, red fruit and roasted nutty notes help up by a solid, deep chocolate base. This high cacao content, medium-bodied, very intense chocolate is smooth on the palate with a long, bittersweet finish.

Congratulations! You are now a professional Choclatique Gourmet chocolate taster.

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It’s All About The Numbers

Thursday, September 24th, 2009
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

Eat More Chocolate!

I like to go to Hooters… strictly for the food, of course. Okay, I do like to look at the beautiful ladies as well. If you’ve ever been there you must have admired the fact that all the ladies manage to fit into a size 4 or smaller.

Yesterday, they handed me a menu and their new state-mandated nutritional guide. While I have always been very conscious about reading the labels on packaged goods I have now been forced to study the amount of calories I am consuming in restaurants. It seems unfair that everything I love has more calories than I can afford. In fact, every place I go these days I am assaulted by the nutritionals of all the menu items. While it’s hard to believe that a Hooters Cobb Salad without dressing is nearly 700 calories—add a little blue cheese dressing and it takes it up to almost 1000 calories. A plate of un-breaded wings is also about the same; add an additional 180 calories for the mild wing sauce. So after seeing these numbers, my first thought is where do the Hooter’s “girls” go for lunch?

No wonder I have had a weight problem! I love foods that are fattening. If I asked you which has more calories?… a Western BBQ burger, a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich or Sloppy Pulled Pork Sandwich… what would your answer be? Wrong! It’s the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich at a whopping 1551 calories. My lunch guest originally ordered that, but then quickly switched to the Pulled Pork Sandwich with less than half the calories unless you add in the Curly Fries at 809 calories, of course.

I noticed that even what I thought was a modest salad at IHOP was nearly 1400 calories—that’s higher than a Chicken-Fried Steak platter. Next time I’ll pass on the salad and eat the steak. It was even worse at my favorite Cheesecake Factory in Marina del Rey. As I was being seated, I had to walk by the display case of desserts and saw the required posted calorie counts of 900 calories for a slice of sugar-free cheesecake to 1700 calories for a piece of their signature chocolate cheesecakes.

It’s been a while since I checked out the calorie counts on our Choclatique Chocolate. What a pleasant surprise when I walked into the Chocolate Studio this morning to read our labels—an entire-8 piece box of Choclatique Decadent Desserts is only 480 calories. That’s one third the calories of a chicken sandwich. A full box of Bubbly—Champagne Truffles— “weighed” in at only 400 calories. If you’re looking for a solid hit of chocolate, a large bar (we call them tablets in Dark, Milk and White) ranges from 510 to 540 calories.

Pure Power BarI have been watching my weight all my life and have been on the Choclatique Q-91 Diet since June and have lost about 25 pounds. I indulge in a just a couple of Q-91 pieces a day at just about 28 calories; plus moderate exercise and I watch my carbs. I also manage to fit in a Choclatique Pure Power Protein bar when I feel the urge to snack (240 calories and 9.5 grams of protein).

Even better than the low calories are the facts regarding the health benefits of chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the richer it is in flavanols which many health professionals say are beneficial to your well-being and looks. Research has linked the antioxidants found in dark chocolate to decreases in blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol. Chocolate has also been shown to reduce cavities. Chocolate is a known stimulant and is also thought to be an aphrodisiac—so kiss your Viagra good-bye.

The small amount of caffeine found in chocolate (1.4 oz of chocolate = 1 cup of decaf coffee) combined with Theobromine, a weak stimulant also present in chocolate, provides the “lift” that chocolate eaters experience which many believe to be a mood elevator and an anti-depressant.

So there you have it. Chocolate is luscious and tastes fantastic; makes you feel great and has fewer calories than a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich at Hooters. Here is what I propose: Buy an 8-piece box of your favorite Choclatique Chocolate, take it to the nearest Hooters, order a glass of water and look at the ladies. This is guaranteed to elevate your mood to new heights.

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Congress Is Out for the Summer

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

Not A Moment To Soon

After months of debates over the Wall Street bailouts, the stimulus bill, the government take-over of the automobile industry, cash for clunkers and health care reform, Congress finally adjourned for their summer recess. Just in the nick of time. I’m not sure if they needed a vacation from all the long hours at work or we needed a vacation from them.

While I like to think I’m well informed (compared to the people I see on Jaywalking on the old Leno “Tonight Show”), I am not a particularly political person. I have never had the urge to run for any elected office. After all, in today’s world who would ever want to put themselves or their families through that tortuous process? I was once appointed as a County Commissioner overseeing the botanical gardens, parks and arboretums in Los Angeles; not a particularly challenging position. I have been in the media spotlight with my “10 minutes of fame” on ABC both in the news and entertainment divisions, the latter with a series of food shows—not exactly controversial. I am not anywhere near as glib as Bill O’Reilly, as good looking as Keith Olbermann, or as wise as the late Walter Cronkite.

I am fairly well-educated; I keep up on current affairs; I work my butt off in both of my small businesses where we still believe in the strength of the American work ethic. I have voted for both Republicans and Democrats if I thought they made sense and shared my views on America. I have written a letter to every incoming president (since I could vote) Republican and Democrat—wishing them the best of luck and offering them my prayers for success. After all, whether or not I voted for them they are my president. If I don’t seem to be anyone special, you’re right; I’m not. I’m a lot like you—a middle of the road, moderate American.

I am quite disturbed over many of the events going on in Washington and in other like-minded Western European capitals today with proposed legislation leading us down the path of a “Nanny State” where the government is all-knowing, all-ruling and where we citizens take virtually no responsibility for our own actions.

I saw an article from London this week where Parliament is trying to regulate the size of soda cans and candy bars. I don’t see any reason to reduce the size of a chocolate bar from 58 grams to 50 grams all in the name of obesity and weight control. If one is so inclined to eat chocolate (which I hope most of you are), what’s to keep you from eating a second, third or fourth bar or drink a second can of pop? Government has a place in our lives, but it should be limited—not in our business, doctor’s office, bedrooms or our kitchens.

Over our 233 year history, government hasn’t run the most successful of enterprises. Most have failed to be cost effective or have neglected to deliver the programs as promised—are all fraught with fraud and abuse hurting the very citizens they were created to help.

After listening to the congressional debates this week, I read a “New York Times” article about Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez and his continuing interference in the commerce of his nation’s cacao industry (cacao from which chocolate is made). A great example why governments should stick to those powers granted to them by their constitutions.

The article, In Venezuela, Plantations of Cacao Stir Bitterness by Simon Romero, talks about Kai Rosenberg who owns a cacao plantation in Venezuela. In the years since President Chávez has come to office, he has for all intents and purposes, nationalized the cacao growers. In that time, squatters have tried to control Rosenberg’s plantation, a fungus nearly wiped out his entire crop, government inspectors and export officials have solicited bribes and officials have created a mountain of red tape and the requirement for endless permits.

Cacao from Venezuela is so desirable that European chocolate makers sometimes engage in cut-throat competition to gain access to it. Chocolatiers talk of the unique factors on the Caribbean’s edge in a way that resembles the goût de terroir, or taste of the earth, so crucial to fine wines. My friend and quality California chocolate maker, Gary Guittard, says, “Venezuela is in a league of its own [when it comes to chocolate]. It takes years to develop the uniqueness of the best cacao, maybe 20 or 30 years, maybe 100.” It is a Venezuelan natural treasure and shouldn’t be wasted.

President Chávez, usually obsessed with selling his country’s oil reserves and making derogatory comments about the United States, recently challenged the reasons why chocolate made from Venezuelan cacao should fetch such high sums in United State and Europe. He singled out cacao grower William Harcourt-Cooze, a plantation owner for particularly harsh comments.

President Chávez said after listening to residents’ complaints about Mr. Harcourt-Cooze’s farm. “…that he is getting rich while the workers are living in poverty.” Following these comments government inspectors began an investigation into Harcourt-Cooze’s alleged labor and land violations. While later vindicated, it was a distraction from the commerce of Venezuelan cacao.

Other growers have not been so fortunate. After partnering with Chávez and the government in a cacao venture in Barinas, the El Rey Chocolate Company, one of the leading companies in Venezuela’s gourmet chocolate industry, is still unable to stop squatters who invaded the farm earlier this decade and who inhibit the successful growing of cacao. “[Venezuela] could be a world leader with cacao, what beef is for Argentina or rice for Thailand,” said Jorge Redmond, Chocolates El Rey’s chief executive, reflecting on the industry’s upheaval. “Instead we’re faced with 52 different permits to export a single container of our chocolate, compared with four steps to export before Mr. Chávez came to power.”

This is exactly what happens when uninformed and/or greedy politicians interfere in areas that they know little about. The government bureaucrats have created a monopoly over the industry which has eroded incentives to produce high-quality cacao. Yields have continued drop. Today, Venezuela only produces about the same amount of cacao as it did three centuries ago: 15,000 tons a year, less than 1 percent of global cacao output.

Venezuela, once a thriving democracy, rich in oil, cacao and people resources has become one of the most difficult places to do business due to government interference in commerce. Cacao yields have languished; even though cooperatives employ triple the number of workers it would if owned by a private company.

But Venezuela still produces what most chocolate makers consider the world’s best cacao. When the Venezuelan oil reserves are depleted and the current oppressive government is replaced with a more democratic bureaucracy, they’ll be doing what they have done for centuries; relying on cacao for their survival.

Choclatique's Venezualan Single Origin TabletIf you want to taste this special Venezualan Cacao before it disappears from the marketplace entirely, go to Choclatique is having a special sale on our single-origin, Growers-Reserve Venezuelan Chocolate 100 g bar. Choclatique’s Venezuelan single-origin is rich in chocolate aroma with complex chocolate notes accented by subtle hints of red berry fruit. The cacao beans are sourced and harvested from trees of Criollo and Trinitario heritage in Venezuela’s Sur del Lago region. Here in these lush tropical forests in the shade of the giant trees, pink cocoa pods ripen ready for the next harvest in early November.

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