One of the givens of the food world is that no matter what you’re eating, someone will come along and tell you there’s something better, and unfortunately they will be right. I eat pretty good chocolate–Valrhona Le Noir Amer is the bar I try to keep in my backpack at all times–but then I read Mort Rosenblum’s book Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Light and Dark, and he was talking about boutique chocolate makers I’d never even heard of, French and Italian geniuses who make my Valrhona look like 3 Musketeers.
Luckily, I had an excuse to get some of the good stuff (Christmas) and knew where to get it: Chocosphere, a mail order house conveniently located in Portland. I bought four bars, two from the Italian maker Amadei and two from the French maker Pralus. This was a total of ten ounces of chocolate for $40. I stuffed it in Laurie’s stocking and recalled the scene in Carol Ryrie Brink’s book Family Grandstand where George opens a birthday present from his sister and says, “It’s Susan’s favorite candy!”
We cracked open the Pralus bars today. They’re both single-origin criollo bars. I have no idea whether either of these qualities really means a better product, but you can’t argue with the results. The Madagascar bar is a smooth and well-rounded chocolate that, honestly, I don’t think I could distinguish from my favorite Valrhona in a blind tasting.
But the Indonésie bar is something else. It tastes like there might be a bit of roasted coffee in the mix, even though there is none, and there’s also a faint flavor of dried porcini mushrooms. I swear I was thinking this even before I noticed that it mentioned wild mushrooms in the tasting notes on the label. There is nothing fruity about this chocolate–it’s like a powerful aged red wine, when all of the youthful flavors are gone and all that’s left is weird, dark, and wonderful. This bar is currently out of stock at Chocosphere, so if you want to taste any, you’ll have to come over to my place. Bring offerings.
Rosenblum’s still way ahead of me, though, because the other thing I learned from his book is that when you crack open a cacao pod, this milky liquid oozes out, and he says it’s one of the greatest things you will ever taste, and you have to slurp it up right away because there’s no way to preserve it. Although, if I remember right you can ferment it and get a buzz. Some people want to climb Mount Everest; my life goal is to get high on chocolate juice.