Monday, May 14, 2012

What is a Cacao Pod?

What is a Cacao Pod?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

20°N & 20°S Presents: The Top 10 List for 2011-2012

20°N & 20°S Presents: The Top 10 List for 2011-2012:


I am doing things a little bit different this time around. Last year's Top Ten was based on the top ten chocolate makers. This year's list is based solely on the individual bars I have tasted to date. There are some chocolate makers whom I haven't gotten to yet for tasting like Potomac Chocolate or Soma Chocolate. A lot of my fellow chocolate aficionados have been waiting for those reviews on my blog, but I haven't had a chance to taste them yet. This list is only about what has been tasted thus far.
Having said that, I make this my official pledge to taste as many new products as I can. I have many new reviews on the way. The rest of 2012 will be an exciting year for me in regards to reviewing.
Without further ado, I present the Top Ten List for 2011-2012.

1. Amano Cuyagua
Once again, Amano takes the top spot for the best bar of chocolate I had all year. Limited edition bar made of coastal Venezuelan cacao with an amazing aroma and flavor profile. Fantastic bar of chocolate.
Aroma: Very complex. Slightly roasted aroma, sweet candy, tobacco leaves, mild smoky hints, oak wood, berries, mild hints of pen ink, light almonds.
Score: 97
Taste: Sweet sugars up front, deep and bold bitter cacao, tar, wood, mild coffee notes, complex berries, pen ink, soft and subtle flowery notes, and buttery toast notes on the finish with retro-olfaction.
Score: 96

2. Patric Chocolate Salty Signature Seventy
Just barely made it on to the list with this one. I reviewed this one over the weekend and was blown away with how good it was. I am so glad I managed to review it before the top ten list. I would have been upset to wait another year just to tell you about how good this bar was.
A wonderfully bold blended bar of chocolate with different origin cacao's and flavored with exotic salts. A truly incredible flavor profile and balance of intense flavors. Patric is really killing it with simplicity and true understanding of how to coax the best potential out cacao beans.

3. Ritual Chocolate Costa Rica 75%
A new bean-to-bar producer on the American chocolate scene. They sent me a sample of their 2009 vintage cacao bar. A big bold bar of chocolate with some floral flavors and an amazing aroma and flavor of Blackstrap molasses.
Very cool bar of chocolate and cool people behind the company. Passionate and talented. You will be hearing more and more about them as the progress with their range of bars.

4. Rogue Chocolatier Sambirano 70%
Aside from being a temperamental chocolatier and difficult to talk to about chocolate sometimes, Colin Gasko's Sambirano bar is by far and away one of the best in the world. He has released newer origin bars from Peru and Bolivia, but in my opinion they fail to cast a shadow on the greatness of his Sambirano bar. It was in my top ten last year, and continues it's dominance again for being one of the best bars I have tasted period. Although Mr. Gasko complains incessantly about how hard it is making chocolate, and how difficult it is to maintain a solid profile of spectacular chocolate in this business, and often discouraging others to make chocolate, his products nonetheless, prove to be some of the best chocolate in the world, not just the United States.

5. Mitzi Blue Mit Liebe
Gorgeous white chocolate with pretty flower petals sprinkled on top for that extra special appearance. Incredibly flavorful and creamy white chocolate. It was meant to be a gift from my friend Angelo Scarnera and his lovely sister Simone. But it ended up being amazing white chocolate worthy of changing the minds of those who swear they hate white chocolate. It was simply fantastic.

6. L'Artisan du Chocolat Limited Edition Bali 72%
This wasn't the absolute best bar of chocolate I have ever had, but it was certainly one of the coolest bars with a great natural flavor profile of bananas. An insanely good aroma and very interesting flavor profile. This bar really took a big step outside of the norm.
Aroma: Big sweet aroma of ripened bananas, spicy, peppery, smoky, almonds, wood, earthy, inky.
Score: 96
Taste: Sweet, cocoa-y like powdered hot chocolate, mellow and mild, lightly bitter, tiny hints of acidity, fruity, peanuts, lingering banana flavors, and coffee grinds. Way later in the finish were mild hints of cinnamon toast.
Score: 92

7. Slitti Super Novanta Amazzonia 90%
An excellent example of bold and deeply bitter cacao with zero bitterness and astringency. A hallmark of Italian chocolatiers that I have come to love. They just know how to tame cacao and really master the bolder stronger cacao percentage bars without kicking you in the face and allowing you to actually enjoy something so strong and bitter. I haven't been a big fan of 100% bars or uber high percentages like this. Sometimes it's just too much and too raw. But this was handled so well that you could actually taste good flavor profiles in it. It wasn't dominated by pure bitterness.

8. Zotter "Hand-Scooped" Scotch Whisky
Filled bar with a scotch whisky center and chocolate dipped in 70% cacao. Though this is more of a candy bar, this was a really cool bar to eat. I am not a fan of scotch at all, but this was handled real well and tasted quite amazing. I wanted to remind my readers that it's not always about the dark bars of chocolate.

9. Xocolatl de David Country Ham
A special bar made for Cochon 555, this bar of chocolate proves that you don't have to be stingy with pork products in your bars. Big bold chocolate and salty ham makes for the perfect sweet and salty combination. Nothing soft about this bar at all in terms of flavors. And what's not to love about having Benton's Ham in your chocolate?

10. Durand Madagascar Criollo 70%
I didn't want to like this bar, but I ended up loving it. I get pissy about the term Criollo being branded and labeled on everything now. Generally it's false, and means the price of the bar just went up at least $3 more dollars. But this bar really did have good flavor. The aroma could have been more had it not been poorly packaged, but at the end of the day, this bar ended up being very sophisticated chocolate.

Honorable Mentions:
Dick Taylor Black Fig
Mast Brothers Papua New Guinea 71%
Chocolat Bonnat for texture.

Best Hot Chocolate: William Curley House Blend
Honorable Mentions:
       Whole Food's Allegro Peru 68%
       ErĂ­co Tanzanie 75%
Best Dairy-free: Zotter Lobooko Soya & Green Tea
Best Caramel: William Curley Assam Caramel Mou
Best Truffle/Bon Bon: Amano Dos Rios Palet D'Or
Best Chocolate Covered: Elaine Hsieh Pecan Clusters
Best Brownies: Homemade French Fleur de Sel Caramel Brownies with TCHO Baking Drops
Best Flavored Bar: Patric Chocolate PBJ OMG
Best Filled: Chuao Potato Chips in Milk Chocolate
Best Baking Chocolate: TCHO Baking Drops
Best White Chocolate: Askinosie White Chocolate with Davao Cocoa Nibs
Most Creative Use Of Chocolate: Hungry Mother's Lard Ice Cream with Smoked Chocolate Sauce, Toasted Sorghum Marshmallow, and Pork Rind for Cochon 555 in Boston.

Biggest Disappointments:
Pralus Chuao 75%
Mast Brothers Crown Maple
Zotter "Hand-Scooped" Bacon Bits