Monthly Archives: March 2008

Chocolate in Numbers

We held our chocolate tasting last night. It was an absolute delight! We became better acquainted with different chocolatiers and really tried to unpack which bars had notes of honey, currant, or even verbena. We also jumped right into the standards for fine chocolate: aroma, look/snap, taste, melt, length/lingering aftertaste. By the end of the evening, some of us were already specializing in snapping, smelling, or melting. I can’t wait to post the photos and tallied ratings (forthcoming). I also can’t wait to host another tasting!

Also, this comment was made on my photoblog and I thought I’d include it here. It’s insightful for those who are taking up the dark chocolate daily health challenge. Thanks, Cheryl:

Hi Nancy,
I loved your thoughts on chocolate and your experience and pictures at the tasting. What fun!! Bob and I have been into a daily dark chocolate habit for years now-ever since they came out and said it was good for you! We were into our daily Divine Fairtrade 70% until a few months ago and then 70% started to bother me on an empty stomach-pain! I few other women friends mentioned they had the same problem, it must be old age! Of course, it doesn’t bother Bob! We now eat Chocolove Organic 61% daily. I just read that dark chocolate with ginger would be fantastic for my arthritis, so I’ll add that to my daily routine. I wish I was this enthusiastic about exercise! Love, Cheryl

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What the Flavonoid?

So we’ve all heard it: Dark chocolate has health benefits. Now there’s a silver lining to your, well, silver lining. A recent study indicates that daily dark-chocolate intake can help you fight off certain diseases because your blood is full of flavonoids. Let’s hear it in Dr. Mary Engler’s words from a WebMD article:

“This is the longest clinical trial to date to show improvement in blood vessel function from consuming flavonoid-rich dark chocolate daily over an extended period of time,” Engler says. “It is likely that the elevated blood levels of epicatechin triggered the release of active substances that … increase blood flow in the artery. Better blood flow is good for your heart.”

Not all chocolate is created equal. Dark chocolate contains a lot more cocoa than other forms of chocolate. And standard chocolate manufacturing destroys up to half of the flavonoids. But chocolate companies have now learned to make dark chocolate that keeps up to 95% of its flavonoids.

Sure, this seems like a scam. Can’t you get more and better flavonoids from other foods? Surprisingly, the answer is “not really,” Engler says. “Many people don’t realize that chocolate is plant-derived, as are the fruits and vegetables recommended for a healthy heart.”

Another aspect that I’m crazy about in d. chocolate is that it often has 4-5 ingredients only, and I can recognize each one. In fact, Patric Chocolate, a fledgling micro-batch chocolate company, uses only three ingredients. Most of you health food junkies have read The Omnivore’s Dilemma; I thought it made a straightforward case for taking a second look at all the outer space-sounding language we find on our food labels. Thankfully, we can rely on d. chocolate to take us back to provincial days of whole food.

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Cacao Coast to Coast

My girl, Robin, brings up a very good point in her comment to my last entry. Seattle is a great place for artisan chocolate. This very morning I read about a Seattle chocolate factory called Theo. It gives daily tours. Awesome!! Watch this video. Are you sold? I am! I’ve not yet sampled their goodies, but I would love to try one of their Venezuela Limited Edition 91% or Ivory Coast 75%. If you’ve tasted either, send me a note and rating. In the meantime, here is a list of Theo vendors. Game on, Seattle!

theo-chocolate-top.jpg 

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Charmed by Chocolate

This Sunday I am hosting a small chocolate bar tasting at my place, and last night I purchased the chocolate for the party from Biagio (my favorite chocolate shop near Adams Morgan). I brought a list of the top ten bars from seventypercent.com, but I also asked the shop guys what their favorites were. I ended up buying some of their favs, my favs, and some tops from seventypercent.com. I also bought several small sample sizes for my guests’ favors. Oh, and the people at Biagio were fantastic, offering me complimentary samples so I knew more about the bars I was purchasing. From that mini tasting, I discovered a new favorite of mine is Michel Cluizel’s Maralumi. It’s so smooth! Below are the bars I purchased in large or sample sizes for this weekend’s get-together. Can’t wait!

Maker: Bar Name

Amano: Madagascar

Amedei: Trinidad, Madagascar, 9, and Chuao (voted all-time #1 for the last two years)

Michel Cluizel: Maralumi, Vila Gracienda, and Los Anconès

Domori: Apurimac

Malagasy: Sambirano

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Free Chocolate

Today, I flew by the free food area on the seventh floor of my office. Urrrr! I screeched to a halt, though. What was an entire bar of wrapped chocolate doing in the “Take Me, I’m Free” discard pile? We have a countertop—it’s actually the top surface of a filing cabinet near the kitchenette—which is dedicated to freebies. It’s the home of leftover catering, or even half-empty bags of chips, for example. I guess those are abandoned because someone falls into the I’m-on-a-new-diet or I-can’t-stand-to-eat-another-one categories. A whole chocolate bar of this caliber cast off without even a sampling, though? Rejecter of this bar must have: a) not had her/his morning pick-me-up yet, or b) seeks no adventure in life. Yeah, yeah, so you don’t like chocolate with almonds, or you don’t like dark chocolate. But wait a minute; let’s take a different approach here. This bar includes:

A seal authenticating its make and approval by Equal Exchange
Fair Trade certification
Dark chocolate
Almonds (Pick them out if you’re not into nuts.)
Organic
55% cacao content
Cacao beans from the Dominican Republic and Peru
Production by a small-farm co-op

Those are a lot of promises made in just one chocolate bar. No takers? I snatched it up immediately and will let you know how it turns out. I’ll dive in at home when I have time to learn, sample, and think about the pros and cons/likes and dislikes of the orphaned bar. Chocolate is a complicated issue. There are worlds to discover! The rejecter could have at least peeled back the wrapper and snapped a corner off to make it look like s/he gave it the old college try.

p.s. Welcome to my new blog!

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