September 26, 2008
Chocolate Necessities: SO necessary
You might think that it
is not a necessity
in life, but I do.
It can melt on your
tongue like butter, smooth and goo
like, white chocolate
It can sit in your
mouth, resist your teeth and then
slowly burst, so dark.
A truffle of fine
chocolate and ganache is to
die for, I tell you.
This is the story of how I became a chocolate snob. Recently, I had the privilege of visiting one of our locally owned businesses, Chocolate Necessities, with some of the moms in my moms group. One of the moms set it up for us to go to the shop after they closed one evening, for what we were told would be a tour. I expected that they'd show us around the kitchen, maybe show us how they make their chocolates, then we could buy stuff and leave. What I expected to be a simple, maybe an hour visit was so much more than I'd imagined.
Upon entering the shop, we were greeted by Kevin Buck, artisan chocolatier. Not a public speaker by nature, for us he became a tour guide through a wonderland of flavors and tastes. His love of chocolate was obvious, evidenced as well by the fact that there was no cost for this evening of education and amazing tastes. He taught us about chocolate.
I learned that 90% of the chocolates made in the U.S. are made with Peter's Chocolate, which is made by Nestle and not much different than the chocolate in an ordinary Crunch bar. That alone made me want to eat something BETTER! I learned what ingredients go into chocolate and how much of a difference it makes what order the ingredients are added in - in cheaper truffles or bars, sugar will be the highest ingredient. I learned what determines the lightness or darkness of a chocolate. I learned that yes, I would rather eat one GOOD, quality truffle than a whole bar of Hershey chocolate.
Chocolate Necessities makes most of their truffles using Callebaut chocolate, but throughout the evening, we tasted many chocolates from around the world. I never imagined that you could do a chocolate tasting the same way that you can do a wine tasting - in each mixture you could taste different hints of flavor, some fruity, some sweet, some bitter. Each mixture had it's own way of melting into your mouth, it's own aftertaste. It was amazing. We tasted chocolate ranging from white up to about 75% cocoa. I liked the ones in the middle best, my favorite was about 54% cocoa.
Kevin also let us taste a chocolate like I'd never tasted before. It was the Pralus Melissa bar from France. It was a milk chocolate, but at 45% it has a higher than average content of cocoa for a milk chocolate. Kevin said you have to try it twice. The first time to get used to it, and the second time to enjoy the flavor. And that flavor is hard to describe. A little nutty, a little bit toffee like, and a lot amazing. Not too sweet, but enough to satisfy that craving. Most of the women were unsure about this bar, but my Mom and I liked it. And yes, I bought an $8 bar of chocolate that day. I couldn't wait to have my friends taste this amazing thing I'd discovered.
During the tasting, Kevin was happy to answer any questions we had, from my questions about whether 'Fair Trade' means the same thing for chocolate as it does for coffee, and other people's questions about his own background, how he comes up with new flavors, his favorites, and much more. I find it incredibly interesting to listen to someone like Kevin share their passion for whatever business they're in. Listening to him talk about chocolate was no less inspiring than listening to a musician talk about the music they wrote, or an artist talk about their latest painting.
After tasting, Kevin took us to the kitchen where we saw how he makes chocolate and let us get a whiff of his special Amaretto Tequila, brought to him personally from Mexico by an acquaintance and not available around here. Amazing. I swear, if all tequila smelled like that, I would totally drink it. He let us see and sniff what real Grand Marnier from France is - incredibly orangey.
I bought a box of 8 truffles. My favorites were the Cappucino and the Hazelnut Wine. The chocolates they sell are amazing. If you live in or around Bellingham, you owe it to yourself to go there. They're pricier than buying a box at the drugstore, but so, so much better. A box of eight, or even four, would make a perfect gift for any chocolate lover. I asked how long they could be kept around, and they'll stay nice for about 3 weeks, so no hurry. My box of 8 only lasted about a week. Hehe. They also sell through their website, and have a gelato stand in the Bellingham Public Market. You can find everything from plain molded chocolates in the shape of hedgehogs (how adorable!) to prepackaged bars to raw Callibeaut chocolate you can use at home to bake or make hot chocolate or try your hand at the truffle thing.
I'm a big fan of supporting local businesses, and I think that this just became one of my favorites!