In preparation for Valentine's Day, I painstakingly taste-tested several of the artisan chocolate bars sold at Formaggio Kitchen. Hard work indeed! When buying for myself, I gravitate toward the smaller bars, which easily slip into the pockets of my purse so that I'm never without a chocolaty fix. Valentine's Day is a day for sharing, however, and calls for more than a selfish stash. With this in mind, I have selected bars from a few of our favorite domestic producers, offering variety of flavors and textures.
Woodblock Chocolate: House Blend 70% - Portland, Oregon
Woodblock Chocolate is the result of years of rigorous, artistic endeavors by wife and husband team Jessica and Charley Wheelock, in Portland, Oregon. Their house blend bar, recognized by its stunning packaging celebrates Portland as the City of Roses. It's pocket sized and perfect for a mid day pick-me-up. Nutty and smooth, this bar is balanced with a pleasant finish.
From Charley the Maker: "We married our Ecuadorian cacao (from Balao) with the Peruvian cacao (Cajamarca). The two together make a chocolate reminiscent of chocolate you grew up eating, but with much more complexity and concentration of flavors with a long glorious finish. I love this chocolate with coffee and kisses from my beautiful wife!"
Ben Rasmussen is the chocolate maker behind Potomac Chocolate, recognizable by the whimsical fish on all of the packages, colored differently to reflect each chocolate bar's origin. In his tiny Woodbridge, Virginia workshop, Ben coaxes out beautiful flavors from the cacao bean in every step of the process—from roasting, cracking and winnowing the cacao beans, refining and conching, to tempering and molding the final bars.
His 85 % Costa Rican chocolate bar from Upala is rich and nutty, with notes of tart cherry, caramel, tobacco, and leather. It's totally complex and unique!
Since 2010, Robbie Stout and Anna Davies have been making small batch chocolate crafted at an altitude of 7,000 feet in the mountains of Utah. They define their particular bean-to-bar chocolate making style as a meld of old European traditions and their modern American lifestyle.
This particular bar is made with organic cacao from the Somia Plantation in the lower Sambirano Valley of Northern Madagascar. Lightly fruity with an emphasis on citrus notes, this is the bar I want to nibble in between bites of my favorite kishu clementines.
Dick Taylor: Fleur De Sel 74% - Eureka, California
Adam Dick & Dustin Taylor source some of the finest fairly-traded cacao and perform all of the steps needed to turn their raw ingredients into delicious and gorgeous chocolate bars in their small California factory. The process, they say, takes about three weeks and is well worth the wait. Each bar is poured into stunningly designed molds and is foiled and wrapped by hand in packaging they print themselves.
The Fleur de Sel bar is made using 74% Dominican chocolate flavored with delicate sea salt. Bitter and lightly salty, this bar is perfectly balanced, and totally snackable!
Passionate chocolatier and architect Eric Parkes is the man behind Somerville Chocolate. We found him early in his chocolate-making career and signed up for his Chocolate CSA, receiving monthly deliveries of chocolate experiments and learning alongside him the tricks of the bean-to-bar chocolate making trade. Now perfected, Formaggio Kitchen carries many of his bars regularly.
The Lapsang Souchocolate bar is undeniably smokey and glorious. The chocolate is first lightly fruity with a strong and lasting smoked Souchong tea finish. And somehow, suddenly I'm craving BBQ...
Author - Beth Wittenstein is a cheesemonger at Formaggio South End and Online Media Manager for Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge. When she isn't taking photos of cheese, you can find her making intricate confections in her kitchen.