Posts Tagged ‘Gourmet Chocolate’
Thursday, April 1st, 2010
— Joan Vieweger, Co-Founder of Choclatique
This Sunday, April 4th, is Easter Sunday. Beyond the religious significance to the faithful, Easter has become one of the candy and chocolate industries’ biggest holidays. From jelly beans and marshmallow chicks to foil-wrapped chocolate eggs and hollow bunnies, Easter gives kids of all ages an excuse to indulge a little. Perhaps it’s the effect of the particularly long, cold, wet and snowy winter, but the fact that the holiday arrives ten days earlier than last year hasn’t dampened expectations for a banner year in sales. The National Retail Foundation reports that total Easter spending is expected to reach over $13 billion! Of course that total includes food, flowers, decorations, greeting cards, clothing and yes, candy and chocolate.
Easter was a major holiday in my childhood. I remember that my Great Uncle Tony, a pharmacist and proprietor of a local drug store (similar to the one shown), always brought me a taste of the newest seasonal candy when it came into the store. I wasn’t very discriminating back then—if it had sugar and/or milk chocolate, I was game.
As a young child an over-sized hollow bunny or extra large bag of jelly beans did the trick. But as I got a little older, nothing brought me the excitement as the newest seasonal chocolate assortment did. The ritual of removing the outer wrapper, sliding open the lid and breathing in the sweet aroma of chocolate… there was—and is—nothing like it. Were it not for my Granny interceding at just the right moment, I’m certain I could have polished off that one-pounder in no time flat. She helped me to appreciate those chocolate moments.
She allowed me to have just two in that first moment, so selection was critical. Not being a big fan of the coconut back then (I used to refer to it as eating hair), nor having yet acquired the appreciation for the richness of a solid piece of gourmet chocolate, I ultimately learned to look before I leaped.
There wasn’t much color used back then and the fillings and designs were very simple relative to today’s offerings, so I looked for the subtle differences in size, shape, the twist of the drizzle, the hint of a possible nut… all were clues to treasure inside. Even shaking the chocolate could even be rewarding if one was in pursuit of the elusive chocolate covered cherry. My favorite was the nutty caramel.
I’m happy to say that I still have that childlike excitement whenever I open up a box of assorted truffles—whether ours or another artisans’. I still stop and take in with full measure the chocolate aroma when I open the box, and then I let my eyes dance from piece to piece to piece, struggling to decide which one to try first. Fortunately, I went from candy store kid to chocolate studio owner, so I don’t have to choose just one or two and I don’t have to wait for a holiday to enjoy our chocolates… neither do you. But there is still something special about savoring Easter memories of my Granny and Uncle Tony and those special boxes of chocolate.
Create your own holiday memories with Choclatique…
Monday, January 25th, 2010
— Joan Vieweger, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Twice a year the artisans and merchants of “fancy” foods gather in New York and San Francisco for the Summer and Winter Fancy Food Shows, sponsored by the NASFT—National Association for the Specialty Food Trade. Some 45,000 buyers walk aisle after aisle after aisle perusing, sniffing, nibbling and evaluating a mind-boggling 250,000 products from all around the world, including gourmet chocolates, handmade chocolate, chocolate truffles and fine chocolate.
Just prior to the start of the Fancy Food Show, our own talented group of artisans gathers for our semi-annual meeting of the FCIA—Fine Chocolate Industry Association. It’s a fun and fascinating group that includes professionals from all around the country involved in chocolate from blossom to bean to bonbon and bar: growers/producers, chocolatiers, chocolate makers, pastry chefs, chocolate manufacturers, marketers, writers, educators and specialty retailers.
The winter confluence of these groups took place January 16th-19th in San Francisco, so I grabbed my umbrella, trench coat and Wellies (have you seen our California weather lately?) and hit the road (or the airport and train station anyway).
Our FCIA program this year included a new feature called the Gallery Showcase in which members were given a small presentation space to “showcase” some of their latest and greatest or soon-to-be-released products. This was the first time that our fun and flavorful new Easter Chicks made their public debut. Chicks officially “hatch” on March 1st; they make wonderful chocolate gifts. Chicks make an excellent companion chocolate to our 24-karat gold Spring assortments.
The aww-factor was pretty high as my fellow association members considered the amount of painstaking detail involved in creating these hand-made chocolates. Each Chick is carefully hand-painted (eyes, beak, face/body, shell top and bottom), then cast in Private Reserve Premium Dark Chocolate (64% cacao), creamy Prestige Milk Chocolate (32%) or Snowy White Chocolate (33%), and filled with layers of flavors including Bumble Berry, Cherries Jubilee, Orange Orchard, Sticky Almond and Sweet Sesame Seed Crunch, among others.
The educational portion of the evening focused on an informative—and surprisingly entertaining—panel discussion focusing on the mystery, myths and facts around the health benefits of chocolate. An impressive panel of scientists and experts were assembled to explore the topic. They included: David Stuart, Director Natural Product Sciences for The Hershey Company; Catherine Kwik-Uribe, PhD Research Scientist for Mars; Joan Steuer, President of Chocolate Marketing and Founding Editor of Chocolatier (now Dessert Professional); and Clay Gordon, Founder of The Chocolate Life (online community).
The scientists presented data from research studies suggesting that chocolate does in fact yield beneficial effects from consumption including improvement in blood flow within 20 minutes of consumption and a reduction in blood pressure with daily consumption of small amounts (more studies are underway to further validate these findings). Clay discussed the benefits associated with cocoa and chocolate’s exceedingly high ORAC values (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity, one of the primary methods for measuring and comparing antioxidant properties in foods), and Joan Steuer reminded us all that even if chocolate is ultimately determined to be a “health food” by any scientific standard, we should all remember the primary reason to consume is for the pure pleasure of the chocolate-eating experience.
The following day I put on my walking shoes and traversed over 180,000 square feet of exhibits at Moscone Center. I must admit to being a little myopic, focusing on the wonderful world of gourmet chocolate and our wonderful supporting vendors (packaging and specialty ingredients), but I did “slow my roll” a bit around the dozens of cheese booths (hey, I grew up in Wisconsin and now live in California… there’s whey in my blood) I encountered, not to mention artisan sausages and charcuterie producers. Of course, the What’s New/What’s Hot section is not to be missed, either. Lots of “green” offerings this year, and gluten-free was all the rage… none quite as good our gluten-free PurePower Peanut Bars.
Every style of specialty food is represented in a demonstration of America’s seemingly unlimited entrepreneurial spirit that drives artisans of every style to “take the plunge” and bring their craft to market. It’s only too bad that they don’t add a day for the public, allowing the vast community of foodies to come through to “try and buy.” It would definitely be a finger-lickin’ win/win for all concerned!
Friday, October 30th, 2009
— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Does dark chocolate have a more positive impact on women than on men? We’ve know for a long time that women have in some way compared sex to chocolate, or vice a versa. Finally doctors have discovered the missing link between the two.
According to Italian researchers (you’ve got to love the Italians when it come to amore or chocolate), women who eat chocolate have a better sex life than those who don’t. Women who enjoy chocolate have higher levels of desire, arousal and satisfaction from sex.
Learning from the clinical side, a group of urologists from San Raffaele hospital in Milan questioned 163 women about their consumption of chocolate as well as their experience of sexual fulfillment. The study found that women who have a daily intake of chocolate showed higher levels of desire than women who didn’t indulge. The hypothesis is that chocolate has a positive physiological impact on a woman’s sexuality.” The study was funded from a grant from a university, not from Choclatique, another confection company, or the candy industry.
Dr. Andrea Salonia, author of the study, discovered that women who have a low libido could even become more amorous after eating chocolate. The good doctor believes chocolate could be particularly medicinal for women who shun sex because they are suffering from premenstrual tension.
It was further discovered that chocolate is not like a food, but reacts more like a drug. Women who suffer mood swings as a result of their menstrual cycle may also suffer a dip in their sexual function. Dr. Salonia believes eating chocolate may improve a woman’s sexual functions and attitude.
The research looked at the lifestyle habits that affect women’s sex lives. It also looked at smoking and coffee consumption but found no links with sexual enjoyment. Some might argue, however, that women who like chocolate are simply more sensually attuned.
Whatever the reasons, it appears that there something more than just satisfying your “sweetie’s” sweet tooth with a box of chocolate. So take it from me, the Chocolate Doctor, the best thing you can do for your love life this coming year is to join the club—the Chocolates of the Month—the subscription purchase that delivers a box of Choclatique the second week of each month. This will guarantee that you… well you know where I’m going with this—C H O C O L A T I Q U E C H O C O L A T E and the Chocolates of the Month. Membership has its privileges.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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%)
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.