The Spirit of Cacao Tasting

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This past Saturday was a bit cold and gloomy, but not inside Back Label Wine Merchants cozy back room. That is where 25 curious chocolate and spirits enthusiasts gathered to taste 8 new experiences from around the world. Mark Christian of the C-Spot and the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund spoke about the chocolates and what makes them heirloom designation, Natasha Soto-Albors of BLWM explained her spirit choice pairings then I discussed the importance of packaging and its effects on why you purchase what you do and showcased the Heirloom Chocolate Series package Mark and I worked together on.

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Our line up was:

#1 Designation VII

Spirit — Tuthilltown Cassis Liqueur (NY)

Chocolate —  Origin: Maya Mountain, Belize / Barsmith: Brasstown (USA) / Cacáo-content: 70%

#2 Designation IX

Spirit — Bittermen’s Citron Sauvage (OR)

Chocolate —  Origin: Piedra de Plata, Ecuador / Barsmith: TO’aK (Ecuador) / Cacáo-content: 73%

#3 Designation II

Spirit — Catskills Provisions NY Honey Rye (NY)

Chocolate —  Origin: Beníano, Bolivia / Barsmith: Oialla (Denmark) / Cacáo-content: 78%

#4 Designation Preliminary

Spirit — Old New Orleans Cajun Spice Rum (LA)

Chocolate —  Origin: Purús, Brazil / Barsmith: Luisa Abram (Brazil) / Cacáo-content: 81%

My fave pairings in order were 3, 1, 4, 2.

One of the highlights was the chance to try the TO’aK sample disks from Ecuador. This bar at $300 a pop is the most expensive in the world. I was very curious to find out what makes it so special. I did like its very mature, grown up flavor, but as discussed earlier much of the hoopla is the cost of wonderful packaging and store presentation of the bar. Well done.

As a bonus, one of the guests, Glenn Petriello of Glennmade Craft Chocolates  gave out samples of his two heirloom chocolate bars whose beans originate from Belize and Ecuador. Glenn is a new bean to bar producer in Hoboken “yeah” and has 6 single origin dark chocolates in his line.

There were many lively questions and discussions and was so much fun that when it was over no one wanted to leave, but eventually we had to go ;-(

The quote of the day from our package “Save the Earth: It’s the only planet with chocolate”.

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The Search for the 1% of 100% Chocolate

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It was about 15 years ago when I was first introduced to dark chocolate. Like most of the world I thought a Hershey’s bars was chocolate, and once tried their “Dark” version to see how it tasted — not so good. I started calling myself a chocoholic and everyone knew I loved and ate some every day, expounding that because of the flavonoids, it was health food.

Time went on and I tried darker and darker, higher cocoa content bars up to 80% and began to recognize that there were flavor differences. I started to hear the term “single origin” beans and understand there were many varieties of cocoa trees, pods and that the taste depended on where the beans were sourced from around the world. An 80% chocolate bar means that 20% of the make up is sugar and possibly other fillers, 70% has 30% sugar — you can figure the rest.

Then 3 years ago I began to struggle with eating white sugar and cut all manufactured sweets out of my system, along with my beloved chocolate. I never thought I could live without it. To compensate, I started making shakes incorporating 100% cocoa and fruit juice for breakfast each morning, keeping chocolate and its health benefits in my life.

Oh joy, I recently started eating chocolate again, but mostly 85% cocoa content and above. So thus began my quest to find 100% chocolate bars that were truly edible and enjoyable, joining the ranks of the 1% who like it.

I’ve only been at this a short while — guided by experts like Mark Christian of the C-Spot and Lisa Ainbinder of 2 Beans and my current picks of 80% + I’ll share with you …

Oialla 100% by Bojesen, Akesson’s 100%, Pralus 100%, Taza Wicked Dark 95%, Guittard Nocturne 91%, Cacao Sampaka 91%, Du Rhone 85%, Madecasse 80%

I’m also including a sugarless frozen dessert made with an optional drizzle of mixed 85-100% chocolates on top — a treat for the senses.

Sugarless Macadamia Nut Frozen Bars

  • 1 cup of unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups raw, unsalted, macadamia nuts
  • 3/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • Pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 3500 F

Toast the coconut flakes till lightly browned for 4 minutes.

Line 8×8″ pan with parchment paper. (If you use a plastic container you do not need the parchment paper.)

Process the macadamia nuts and coconut oil in a food processor or blender until very smooth. Add coconut and chia seeds and pulse a few times.

Pour the batter into pan and sprinkle with the salt.

Place pan in freezer for at least 30 minutes. (I make initial cut marks after 15 minutes while it’s still pliable.)

Cut into bars.

Store in freezer.

Chocoholic version

Melt a few pieces of a mix of 75, 85 and 90-100% chocolate and drizzle over squares. Yum!!!