Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chocolate Stories

I have loved chocolate all my life, starting with Hershey bars when I was a kid. And though I've long since moved on from milk chocolate, a Hershey bar is the only approved chocolate bar in s'mores as far as I'm concerned.

A couple of years ago I read an article in one of my food magazines about Ameidi Chocolate. It seems a brother and sister in Italy wanted to start making fabulous chocolate and approached Vahlrona (in France) as a source. Evidently the Frenchies looked down their noses at those Italian bumpkins who couldn't possibly know squat. So the bumpkins went around Vahlrona and snagged some great cacao from the farmers in Venezuela, and aced Vahlrona out in the process.

The author of the article whose name I don't recall, but who was Always Hungry, actually went to Italy to meet and eat chocolate. I wasn't willing to go that far but my curiosity was stimulated. So when Paul and I tried a Thai-ish restaurant on College Ave. in Oakland called Soi Four, we noticed a little place called Bittersweet, as in chocolate. That place is all chocolate all the time. I tried a cup of hot chocolate that was so rich I couldn't finish it but as I was browsing the chocolate bars I clapped eyes on a sampler pack of...Ameidi Chocolate! Including the prized Venezuelan goods. So in spite of the high $13-ish price for a tiny sampler, I figured what the heck and went for it. I nibbled on those little bits for days and yes, it was excellent. However, I am conflicted about eating intense dark chocolate straight up; I really prefer to bake with it and change the taste and texture with dairy and possibly sugar and flour. Of course dark chocolate purists like to take it straight.

When Copia, a former educational center in Napa was still open, I went to quite a few of their events. Death by Chocolate was probably the most decadent, except for maybe the Picnic in Provence where my friend Carol and I flirted shamelessly with Henri the pate purveyor so he would keep plying us with that wonderful artery clogging spread. I'm sure washing it down with French wine made all the difference.

Back to the Death by Chocolate, I was excited about going because Karina Vosges of Vosges Haut Chocolat was going to speak. I was totally disappointed when she had to cancel and I was stuck there with all that chocolate. So last weekend when I was in the checkout line of Dean & Deluca in St. Helena and saw the Vosges bars I was really jazzed. Since I am currently liking chocolate
and chili I grabbed the Red Fire Bar with Mexican ancho and chipotle chillies, Ceylon cinnamon and dark chocolate. Since the bar was 55% cacao it was luxurious and kind of creamy tasting, with a chili bite that isn't burning hot but does leave a pleasant warm and chocolatey sensation in your mouth. Rapture. I want more.

Oh, and there is more. Today I went to World Market here in Stockton and decided to browse the chocolate section; I was surprised and pleased to see some Vosges Haut Chocolat. No Red Fire Bar, but I picked up Mo's Dark Bacon Bar. It has little bits of applewood smoked bacon in it and considering the cost was $5.99 versus $8.50 at Dean & Deluca, well that pushed me over the edge. It is simply delicious with 62% cacao. Three squares will cost you 4 Weight Watchers points as with the Red Fire Bar. Totally worth it on an occasional basis. I've come to realize you can enjoy the foods you love, in moderation, just not every damn day!

There's another chocolate I want to try - Mast Brothers Chocolate. They bill it as American Craft Chocolate and it looked mighty good on the chocolate episode of Foodology on the Food Channel. They're in New York, so you either have to order online or buy it at a store. Luckily, Bardessono, a luxury resort in Yountville carries it so next time I'm passing through I'm going to march right in like I belong there and get me some by golly chocolate. The Masts have a chili choco bar so I probably won't be able to resist. When I finally get my hands on it I'll let you know. You'll be the first. Honest.


  1. I always enjoy reading this blog. The writer describes everything so well that it feels like I'm there. I can almost taste the chocolate and chili!

  2. I love Vosge chocolates too and was elated to find them at Cost Plus! I still haven't found a replacement for my beloved Moonstruck dark chocolate chile variado bar since they closed my local store :(