Valentine's Day Chocolates Review -Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate

2bean Chocolate on a Spoon


 

This is the story of The Wonderful World of Chocolate.

 

 

A few years ago, I visited Salem, Mass., a town best known for mass hysteria and infamous witch trials in the late 1700’s. My trip took me to pleasant surroundings, the candy-making plant which produces Harbor Sweets, a line of upscale chocolate products. Tasting these goodies, and taste I did, I was able to appreciate how different they were from the candies I had been nurtured on, such as Hershey bars, and mass produced chocolates from Loft’s and Barton’s and Barricini, familiar names on store shelves.

 

Handmade

I saw about two dozen people  shaping chocolate into varied  forms at the Harbor Sweets plant. It’s largely hand labor, so we can   call Harbor Sweets a craft chocolate, rather  than industrial like Hershey.  At this point in our calendar year  Harbor Sweets has been working all out on gifts for Valentine’s Day, one of its major selling periods.

Preparing the chocolate


Behind the scenes

I made my latest foray into fine chocolate recently at 2Beans,   a mini-chain which has created new standards for fine chocolates and pastries in New York City. 2Beans also serves lunch, snacks, and coffee to its knowledgeable neighbors in the Grand Central Station area and at all four of its Manhattan locations.  Chocolates here wear the names of their makers and often tell the story of their origin, from farms in equatorial climates to beautifully wrapped packages in elegant surroundings.  

 

There are people, I learned, who seek out the very best and rarest of chocolates in the same way dedicated wine collectors search for hard-to-find bottles. That sort of passion inspires an image of fans lining up at 2Beans for the arrival of a rare chocolate, just as the sports fans jam  the streets in front of a store offering the latest Michael Jordan or Labron James  sneakers.

2beans premium subscription

And like wine, which is something I never considered before, vintages enter into the picture. Industrial chocolates are made to be consistent, to deliver the same taste year after year. Craft chocolate is more of an agricultural product which depends on the whims of mother nature, so that the chocolate which you liked so much when you first experienced it, may be quite different on the next go-round. Knowing how the weather went in the growing regions can shape a choice if  you fancy fine chocolate. The whole process stars in equatorial regions where farmers harvest  seeds (beans) which   are transformed into cocoa butter and eventually into a base chocolate. Producers add chocolate to that base to make a dark chocolate.  They make milk  chocolate by adding milk powder.  Add nuts, flavors such as mint and pistachio, and you enter a whole new world of chocolate sensations.  

2beans Bars

 

                      

Clay Gordon, a chocolate enthusiast who turned his passion for chocolate into a new career as an authority on sweets, guided us through a class in Chocolate 101  at the 2Beans store near Grand Central Station in Manhattan.  We tasted miniscule samples of white and dark chocolate by themselves and then saw how adding wine to the mix changed our perceptions. 

 

Pink Satin Heart

White chocolate, he told us, serves as a flavor vehicle for many creative chocolate bars. Gordon  made his point with a Sampaka Matcha Green Tea bar, a gourmet example. It worked well for me with a white Sauvignon Blanc   Tablands, and was a bit off kilter when matched with an Italian rose’, Rosalba. Working with tiny bits, we sampled an Italian milk chocolate, Amedei, sniffing and crunching to explore how the chocolate taste changed as we tasted it alone and then paired it with a red or white wine. On my palate, the milk chocolate became most flavorful when matched with a red wine.

 

Piggie Boxes

Working with two reds, a Primitivo and a Rioja, we tested two elegant dark chocolates, quantifying how the wines elevated their flavor profile. Our chocolates were Pralus and Marou. The differences, as our palate and senses became better trained, were easier to identify. My only regret was that our sample portions were so limited.

The Sloop, Orogonal Harbor Sweets Design


Fine chocolate producers and retailers have inaugurated a sweet version of the farm to table movement which brings fresh agricultural produce to consumers. It’s called beans to bar, exemplified by  2Beans  and other fine chocolate shops . Harbor Sweets, which it sells on line and through retailers  is part of that movement. 2Beans provides a showcase for some 50 brands from 18 countries. Notable among the nation’s fine chocolate purveyors are Torres in New York, Patric in Columbia, Missouri, Askinoise in Springfield,  Missouri, and Mast Brothers in Brooklyn.

 

Ivory Rose Ribbon Box

Photos are Courtesy of:

HARBOR SWEETS, INC. - Handmade, distinctive New England gift chocolates - celebrating 40 years. Please visit the Harbor Sweets website

Rau Chocolate is blazing the way of healthy beverages, and is excited to announce their tasty line of organic superfood drinking chocolates loaded with antioxidants, healthy fats and simple nature-inspired ingredients. Rau Chocolate’s process starts with hand picking single origin, fair trade, organic cacao beans straight from the tree, infusing them with pure organic ingredients; creating clean/healthy blends inspired by the Mayans. Rau Chocolate is naturally organic, dairy free, gluten free, vegan friendly, Non GMO and naked of all refined sugars. Their organic, cold-pressured drinking chocolate is packed with healthy fats and antioxidants that offer up mental clarity, metabolic support and sustained energy. Rau Chocolate comes in five delicious gluten free, dairy free and vegan friendly flavors that are sure to tantalize your taste buds! These flavors include: Bold Original which balances bitter and sweet, Cold Brew Mocha which contains decadent cold brewed coffee, Mint with refreshing organic mint leaf, Coconut crafted with organic virgin coconut oil, and Semi-Sweet with unrefined organic/fair trade coconut palm sugar. Shake vigorously and indulge in a healthy pleasure like no other.

Rau Chocolate

To Whom it May Chocolates are great tasting bonbons and truffles that are hand-produced and packaged by The Art of Edibles Cannabis Collective. The chocolates are all handcrafted, they contain no preservatives, processed sugars, corn, soy or other ingredients that contain no medicinal or nutritional value. To Whom It May come in 4 doses (2.5, 5, 15, and 45mg), as well as a non medicated 0-mg. The chocolates can be purchased for delivery in the Los Angeles area on the website, which still requires a doctor's recommendation letter. Everything is hand-crafted – including our THC-infused organic coconut oil, and the nut butters inside our truffles – in a dedicated (non-shared) facility without heavy machinery, and made without any hidden ingredients. The ingredients are always premium in quality, and organic when possible.

To Whom It May Chocolates


 

 

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