In February 2013, while Ihsan and I were visiting our friend Pere Planagumà (head chef at the restaurant Les Cols in Olot, Catalonia), we stopped in the ancient historic city of Girona for a food show and discovered chocolate maker Francisco Javier “Xavi” Rodriquez Perez. Actually, Xavi recognized us — he used to be the chocolatier for another Catalan chocolate company. It was a nice reunion seeing Xavi and to learn that he decided to open his own company Xocolates Aynouse l’Artesà in the town of Agramunt.
Xavi uses an old Spanish technique for stone grinding his chocolate, blending cacao beans sourced from Africa, Venezuela and Ecuador. His bars are, as he says, a little quirky. He uses all natural chocolate – no lecithin or additives such as vanilla or vanillin – resulting in an intensely flavored bar with a slightly gritty texture where the chocolate and sugar have a chance to truly shine. Aynouse chocolate bars are thick blocks of eight squares, making them easy to break up.
Two of my favorite bars that Xavi makes are the olive oil bar (the olive oil makes it slightly smoother in texture than the other bars) and the bitter orange bar – chunks of candied bitter orange stud this beautiful bar. If you like Seville orange marmalade, this is the bar for you!
Valerie Gurdal is the owner of Formaggio Kitchen South End in Boston, MA.