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Artisan Chocolate for Valentine’s Day – Share the Love

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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

WWoodblock 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!”

Potomac Chocolate: Upala, Costa Rica 85% – Woodbridge, Virginia

Potomac_Chocolate_Upala_Costa_Rica_85_lgBen 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!

Ritual Chocolate: Madagascar Sambirano 75% – Park City, Utah

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

Dick_Taylor_Chocolate_Fleur_de_Sel_lgAdam 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!

Somerville Chocolate: Lapsong Souchocolate 65% – Somerville, Massachusetts

Somerville_Chocolate_Lapsang_Souchong_lgPassionate 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…

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.

Chocolate Goat Cheese Bon Bons

This goat cheese bonbon recipe is a favorite of mine because the flavors work so well together and it is so easy to make! The filling is rich and creamy with the perfect balance of salty and sweet. You can even freeze the balls to have on hand for up to 6 months! Recipe: 2 cups fresh goat’s Continue Reading »

Formaggio Kitchen Fondue

The coldest months of the year inspire us to cook rich comfort food with cheese. From Eduardo’s macaroni and cheese to our house recipe for Fondue. We’ve tweaked this recipe over the years, but it has remained simple and delicious. The quality of the cheese really sets it apart – don’t skimp! Formaggio Kitchen Fondue 1 ½ Continue Reading »

2015 Staff Top Picks for Artisan Cheese, Small-Batch Jams and Other Specialty Foods!

2015 was a tough year in many ways, but our favorite products helped keep us going. The year started off with snow – and lots of it. We all felt some weird sense of schadenfreude when we surpassed the previous record of 108 inches of snowfall in a winter – like we deserved at least that recognition for dealing with mountains Continue Reading »

Eat More Artisan Cheese in 2016

With 2015 firmly in the rearview mirror and a new year stretching ahead, many people are making ambitious resolutions to get healthy and slim down. If your friends are anything like mine, you probably know more than a few people who are embarking on diets and cleanses this month, many of which forbid the consumption Continue Reading »

The World’s Second Cheesiest Pasta Dish: Pizzoccheri della Valtellina

During a cold January visit with winemaker Aldo Rainoldi a few years ago, I was first introduced to Pizzoccheri della Valtellina, a pasta dish second only to Macaroni and Cheese in gooey cheesiness. Aldo lives and makes wine in the Valtellina area of Lombardy, in northern Italy, which comprises a thin strip of the Adda Continue Reading »