Chocolate’s Wild Side

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I’m so excited to be working with Mark Christian on the logo for his new chocolate venture, the Landmark Wild Chocolate Reserve. This his organization finds, preserves and exports the wildest chocolate on earth — harvesting pockets of wild beans with exceptional chocolate flavor from the Amazon rain forest — where cacao originated. Sustainable harvesting saves this exceptional cacao from extinction and before it disappears.

The first two chocolates are from the Beni River Valley in northern Bolivia and the Purus River Valley in northwestern Brazil.

Our initial brainstorming led us to our target base: gourmands and connoisseurs, the 5% of the chocolate loving public who want the rare and unattainable — adventurers who believe in sustainable economics, Harley rider wannabes.

We are in the creative process now and would love your feedback on some of the concepts for the brand we’ve developed. Let us know your faves.

Go to my FB page to comment. @sharonkleinGD

Read the Washington Post article about Mark and the project.

Sharon Klein Graphic Design, LLC | Portfolio | 212.645.8163 | FB

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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”.

A Taste for Chocolate

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I recently attended my first Underground Chocolate Salon by Megan Giller of Chocolate Noise at Voilà Chocolat. Voilà is a unique experience on the Upper West Side where you can make your own truffles, bars and mendiants, etc. in dark, milk or white chocolate and get creative with toppings.

Megan is a food/chocolate writer I met at the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund (HCP) tasting a few months ago. She has fallen in love with chocolate and invited a group of eleven of us to sample some dark chocolates from around the world made with beans from either Peru or the Dominican Republic. She also recommended a book, Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum, which ended up on my tasting notes near the roasted beans and the caramelized cocoa nib.

The interesting part of the evening for me was that numerous attendees photographed my tasting notes, which consisted of two small napkins side by side with scribbles and a bite of each chocolate.

I was told that my set up was unique and very organized. The designer in me always comes out in mysterious ways.

After an hour and a half of laughing, tasting and discussing we unanimously chose:

Chocolarder of Cornwall, England – Asháninka 70% from Ene River Valley, Peru

Confusing name for a terrific bar, lucky for them I don’t care what they are called. You can see in the photo their bar has the ultimate glossy shine to it.

Our unanimous loser was:

Hexx – 70% Marañon Peru, made in Las Vegas

And squarely in the middle:

Valrhona – 70% Noir Andoa Peru, made in France

The other makers were:

Wellington Chocolate Factory – 70% Dominican Republic, made in New Zealand

Maraná – 70% Piura Peru, made in Peru

Cool to compare the lighter color of this bar against the Dominican Republic bars.

Dandelion Chocolate – 70% Zorzal, Dominican Republic, made in San Francisco

Fresco – 72% Dominican Republic, made in Washington State

ChocoMuseo – Caramelized Cocoa Nibs, made in Peru

 

Over-the-Top Chocolate Experience

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Starting last Friday afternoon I had a chocolate tour de force. It began with a press event and Heirloom chocolate tasting with Chocolate Noise food writer Megan Giller and the Heirloom Cocoa Preservation Fund (HCP), the organization whose logo and re-brand I recently created.

HCP is the link between farmers growing cacao and those working with the chocolate. Most cacao trees today are planted to resist infection, mold and produce as much fruit as possible. With that comes a loss of taste. Many of the large chocolate companies then use sugar, flavoring and fillers to make candy that you would want to eat. We learned about the genetics of fine cacao and how the HCP is designating trees and beans from around the world to bring back flavor for the best tasting chocolate. This in turn helps farmers by allowing them to charge more for their beans and improve their lives.

The beans are sent to the HCP from growers to be blind processed by Guittard Chocolate, analyzed by the 9 Member—international panel and possibly selected for the honor of being designated heirloom.

We tasted four bars, and my favorite was #8 from Ingemann Cacao Fino of Nicaragua.

The next day and evening were at the Fine Chocolate Industry Association’s (FCIA) Elevate Chocolate where I was able to hobnob with the rock stars of chocolate makers and growers. There were six educational table talks. I attended “Cacao Before the Chocolate Maker” with Emily Stone and Maya Granit of Uncommon Cacao, we tried four kinds of chocolate liquor, which is cacao beans roasted and ground (no sugar added). Amazing to clearly taste the differences between the types of beans.

The new logo for the HCP was presented along with a conversation with veteran chocolate maker Fran Bigelow of Seattle whose specialties are served in the White House. Fran was one of the innovators to first add salt to chocolate caramels as a garnish.

Of course I got to taste dark chocolate all night from companies like Guittard, Casa Luker, Dandelion, Mesocacao and Dancing Lion.

Finally, Monday evening after the Summer Fancy Food Show, I hopped on the Path to Hoboken for the International Chocolate Awards at Cucharamama and mingled with North and South America’s growers, chocolatiers and chocolate makers. There was great food, and of course “the best” chocolate out of 600 submissions. For the second year my pick was Palette de Bine of Montreal who won for three of her submissions. Congratulations to all of the chocolatiers! I am so happy to be a part of this creative community 🙂