Tag Archives: Dominican Republic chocolate

David Bacco Chocolatier

Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.
Voltaire

As Voltaire said, “The best is the enemy of the good.” I usually agree; however, there are times when perfection alights. As fleeting as they are, their blissfulness reminds us of what it is to be human. The perfect kiss, most beautiful sunset, or heartfelt smile take us into realms of joy and awe that raise the quotidian to the extraordinary. Like many of you, I find chocolate a fairly reliable catalyst for gustatory nirvana. My latest fix is David Bacco’s Noisette Madagascar. It is a truly perfect 64% Trinitario/Criollo dark chocolate with roasted hazelnuts. The temper is incredible, the shine like a mirror, and the juxtaposition of insanely crunchy nuts against a backdrop of fruity chocolate, with mesmerizing tones of fig and wild berries, is not to be missed. In addition, the bar’s construction: a three ounce square divided into a mosaic of trapezoidal shapes of varying sizes, makes it visually interesting and wonderful for those times when you want a smaller or larger piece. In this case, god is in the details.

David’s background as a pastry chef and chocolatier of almost two decades is no surprise, nor is his award in 2011 for “TOP ARTISAN CHOCOLATIER” title at the LA International Chocolate Salon show and competition. One bite of that dark hazelnut bar and you will be convinced, too.

Another bar I found swoon-worthy was his Olive Oil and Sea Salt in 74% bittersweet chocolate. Here, organic Grand Cru Hacienda chocolate from the Dominican Republic tangoes with more than a hint of fleur de sel. In my experience, most chocolates with salt are on the mild side. While this is still gentle on the palate, it has enough salty presence to really arc the flavor, especially when it has been paired with the rich creaminess of fruity olive oil.

David’s Milk Chocolate 40% bar with smoked sea salt is a dark milk chocolate with a super creamy texture enhanced with fleur de sel cold smoked over Chardonnay oak chips. If you are an aficionado of dark milk bars you will want to add this to your repertoire.

I also had a chance to sample his 68% Fortunato #4. Dubbed the world’s rarest chocolate it is a white pure Nacional bean renowned throughout the chocolate community. It had disappeared in 1916 when struck by disease, and was recently rediscovered in a remote Peruvian area. I have mentioned this chocolate before and its extremely mellow layers of fruit and floral flavors that are complemented by a wonderfully rich, creamy texture.

David’s chocolate ganaches and bonbons are also noteworthy. Each little gem is unique and intensely flavored. I was completely enamored with his marzipan and apricot layered square enrobed in dark chocolate, the caramelized almonds and cinnamon in milk, Caribbean spices in bitter ganache, the exquisitely flavored lime, and the red dome of passionfruit infused ganache. (I always wonder why more chocolatiers don’t offer passionfruit chocolates, as the combination is simply celestial.)

These bonbons are packaged in a serene looking black cardboard box with a bright spring green silk ribbon. The chocolate bars come in minimalist white boxes that open neatly on the side and reveal a re-closable cello sleeve which keeps everything tidy.

Cacao Prieto Organic Bean to Bar Chocolate

In this day and age, when chocolate shops dot the landscape like poppy seeds on a bagel, it’s a huge challenge to create a new artisanal line that not only gets people’s attention, but also merits multiple return engagements. Daniel Prieto Preston has achieved both. The large bars he produces are lovely and delicious, with their scattering of fruits and nuts on a base of seductively glossy super dark chocolate.

The company was founded by Daniel, an inventor and aerospace engineer, whose family has been farming organic cacao in the Dominican Republic for more than 100 years. The Prieto family owns Coralina Farms with over 2000 hectares in the Nagua area of the Dominican Republic. They provide all the cacao for Cacao Prieto’s chocolates. Coralina Farms is also the center for long range experiments in self-sustainable and organic farming methods, and the repository and preservation center for Dominican Cacao biodiversity.

The five bars I sampled were all 72% cacao and weighed 4.2 ounces. Each came adorned with a lovely retro-looking postcard that could easily be removed for mailing.

The flavors were: Hazelnut and Raisin, Cashew and Cranberry, Almond and Salt, Pistachio and Apricots, and Pecan and Sour Cherry. At first glance, I thought the chocolate had more sugar than other dark bars with a similar cocoa content; then, I read the label more carefully, and saw it was for a 55 gram portion. Most bars suggest a 40 gram portion and their sugar content would be about 12 grams. Here, it’s 16 grams for a heftier amount. The sugar is organic and also sourced from the Dominican Republic.

I loved all their flavor combinations. The super fresh crunchy nuts and slightly chewy fruits married beautifully with the perfectly balanced intensity of their chocolate. This is a refined intensity with fruity notes, a touch of terroir, enough edge on the finish to keep your interest, and a captivating shiny crisp temper.

They also create a lovely array of 72% Criollo bars from various vintages starting with June 2010 through December 2012. Apparently, these are produced from some of the oldest and finest criollo strains on their farm, the genetics of which date back to those brought to the island by Christopher Columbus.

Cocoa Loco Organic, Fair Trade, Single Origin chocolates

Just as some dishes become classics, along with tried and true presentations (think of Coquilles St. Jacques served in half a large scallop shell), some chocolate shapes have stood the test of time. Take the 100 gram bar, for example. It is ubiquitous worldwide because it allows for portion control, fairly neat division of pieces, and great portability. As fond as I am of that design, especially when it is scored into many small rectangles, something alchemical happens when that same chocolate is formed into discs. Whether paper thin flat spheres, or thicker, smaller rounds, each shape changes the chocolate’s melting time, thereby altering your experience.

I was recently reminded of this as I tucked into Cocoa Loco’s organic dark chocolate buttons made with luscious 73% fairly traded beans from the Dominican Republic. Each one inch disc delivers an immensely satisfying earthy, yet sophisticated experience. Rich, dense, slow to melt, with a creamy lingering finish, these are simply divine. The user-friendly shape makes them easy to share, eat at a movie, stash in your briefcase, or savor piece by delicious piece as you meander through a great book.

Christmas Pudding Truffles come in a clear, long rectangular box that shows off their lovely design: dark chocolate orbs capped with white chocolate and a piece of dried cranberry. Inside you will find a yuletide blend of citrus, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Each is double dipped in the aforementioned 73% single origin chocolate.

I also sampled two of their 100 gram bars. One, a 37% milk, is topped with honeyed sesame seed crunch. The combination of flavors and textures (chewy, crunchy, creamy) is memorable. Their 73% Sunflower Seeds and Sea Salt bar is a mini-revelation of intense sunflower flavor enhanced with sea salt and vanilla. The lovely crunch against snapppily tempered Dominican chocolate is positively addictive.

As always, I am delighted when bars are wrapped in resealable sleeves. It may seem like a small thing, but it keeps the chocolate fresh and neat. On the subject of packaging, I was smitten with the pure design and retro color palette of their logo.

A last little treat was a whimsical offering of a milk chocolate mustache on a stick. What a perfect gift for little boys eager to grow up, as well as new fathers seeking an amusing non-cigar post-baby celebratory token.

There are a plethora of other treats on their website; and, if you are lucky enough to live in the U.K., you can enjoy their bakery offerings.

Mana Chocolate

As those of you who read this site know, bean to bar chocolatiers are proliferating like yeast bubbles in injera.

Mana Chocolate, in Portland, Oregon, does all their sorting, roasting, cracking, winnowing, conching, tempering, molding, and wrapping. And they do it to perfection. I sampled the 74% Conacado from the Dominican Republic. A beautifully tempered, shiny, two ounce slab that is one of the most well-rounded chocolates I have tasted. Holly Hukill, the mastermind behind this balanced bar, cites flavor notes of caramel, malt, cherry, and cashew. I might add a very slight earthy tanginess that brings extra complexity and interest. The dryish finish is a great counterpoint to the creamy, rich texture.

Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate from Ecuador and The Dominican Republic; Organic and Fair Trade

If you are looking to sate your chocolate cravings with single origin bars, Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate has a few you will love. Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor who previously used their talents making furniture and building boats, bring that same attention to detail to their bean to bar chocolates.

Everything is made in their small factory in Arcata, California, with only two ingredients: organic cacao and organic cane sugar. They don’t add vanilla or cocoa butter, so the unique flavor of each bean comes through.

Their attention to detail is obvious from your first look at the bar. A beautiful fleur-de-lis inspired pattern greets you, along with a heady chocolate scent. The outer wrapping is adorned with a black and white sketch of the wooden frame of a boat’s hull, while the inner gold foil keeps everything fresh. The chocolate is tempered to a perfect glossy snap. Unlike other stone ground bars, theirs has a smooth, creamy texture that doesn’t miss the addition of cocoa butter.

I was immediately smitten with their 70% Ecuadorian bar. Its rich, complex, slightly acid notes, enhanced with soft, rounded fruit flavors, and nuances of soil conspire to make this a super-satisfying chocolate that will never bore you. I had to stop myself from eating it on auto-pilot it was so addictive.

Their 74% Dominican Republic bar is dark and in your face. Its quintessentially mature flavor profile: astringent, with slightly sharp citrus notes, a hit of tobacco, and dried plum, will make dark chocolate lovers swoon.

The 74% Dominican bar with Fleur de Sel is a little startling. Salty notes heighten a very intense chocolate. Perfect for those of you who love taking things up a few notches. I found it held my interest with its bold, take no prisoners attitude.

In short, these are all sophisticated, beautiful, and supremely satisfying bars from two creative souls. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Aldi Choceur Santo Domingo 70% Fair Trade & Organic

In my chocolate universe, there’s a special galaxy for Fair Trade and Organic products; so, when something new appears I am psyched to try it.

Aldi, an international discount grocery chain, just came out with a Santo Domingo 70% Dark bar that is both Fair Trade and Organic. In addition, it’s a great bargain. The 3.52 ounce bar only set me back $1.79. For this quality, that’s a steal. Aldi has an amazing guarantee: if you are unhappy with any product you can bring it back with the receipt for a replacement and a refund.

This is another easy-to-eat high cacao content bar. Beans from the Dominican Republic are delightfully fruity. I could eat the whole bar on auto-pilot, as the texture is creamy, perfectly tempered, and the aftertaste has an addictive edge.

I’ve been noticing how many milder bars in the 70% and higher range have recently flooded the market. Apparently, a large swath of people want a high cacao content bar with fewer gustatory challenges. This chocolate is a mid-range choice: there’s enough complexity to keep it interesting, while not so much acidity, bitterness, or intensity to make it daunting.

If you are experimenting with tempering, Choceur’s Santo Domingo would make a great bar for barks. Especially, if you included maple glazed nuts that had a bit of smoked paprika or chipotle chile powder. It would also lend itself to cardamom, dates, and toasted walnuts.

Equal Exchange Organic, Fair Trade 67% Mint Chocolate

 

Disclaimer: I love mint and chocolate, so I’m predisposed to liking all but the worst renditions of this combo.  I’m not sure what’s so alluring about mint, though herbal lore says it’s a refreshing pick-me-up, enhances concentration, focus, and attention. I think it just tastes great, especially with chocolate as a foil.

The chocolate buyer at my local food co-op recommended this organic, fair trade bar with chocolate sourced from the Dominican Republic.  It is very good.  My only quibble is with the tempering: not as snappy as I like it.  But, that’s probably because of all the little crunchy mint bits.  Regardless, the bar is delicious enough to make me forget about the tempering as I sit here scarfing down one square after another.

Equal Exchange’s Mint Chocolate is sweeter than my usual picks, with 17 grams of sugar in a 40 g portion. That would ordinarily be a deterrent; but, here it adds to the experience.  If you’ve tried Pure Dark’s bar with nibs and sugar crystals, you have some idea of the texture here: crunchy, almost chewy, and very earthy.

It’s easily available everywhere, and from the people at Equal Exchange for fundraising purposes.  I would buy it again in a minute.