In a post I wrote last year, I revealed that I eat a small piece of extra dark chocolate (un pezzetto di cioccolato) every day as part of my breakfast. I should add that I eat at least another small piece later on in the day as well. My piece of chocolate comes from a chocolate bar (in Italian: tavoletta di cioccolato). (The expression fair trade chocolate in Italian is cioccolato del commercio equo e solidale.)
Chocolate has been part of my diet for as long as I remember. Being born in Perugia, a city with a renowned chocolate factory, Perugina, had definite advantages: chocolate was very much part of life. (If you are interested, in this article there are a few tidbits about Perugina and its famous Baci.) [The photo on the left shows a chocolate rendition of the griffin, one of the symbols of the city, displayed in the window of a pastry shops in downtown Perugia.]
The passion for chocolate, born early, has stayed with me: I am always eager to try a new bar of chocolate, provided it contains at least 70% cocoa (cacao) and only natural ingredients. I may go as low as 68%, if I become convinced that the reward will justify making an exception. I am usually not enthusiastic about added flavored ingredients. In any case, when I try a new brand, I go for plain chocolate.
Last March, I visited the San Francisco Chocolate Salon at Fort Mason, hoping to find hitherto unknown bars to add to my list of favorites. I was interested in the so-called bean-to-bar manufacturers, i.e., chocolate makers that buy cocoa beans (chicchi di cacao or fave di cacao) and process them to make chocolate bars, cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, etc.
At the Salon, a lot of the exhibitors offered cioccolatini (chocolates), some beautifully crafted and decorated, some that included interesting ingredients. I admired them without tasting, as they are not really what I like. Laura of Tiramisù was there as well, and she wrote a nice report on some of the products. (We didn't know each other back then, we have since met in person.)
What I look for in a morsel of chocolate is an intense, interesting and pleasant flavor that develops as the chocolate melts in my mouth and then stays with me for a little while afterward. I left the Salon with no new addition to my shortlist, a couple of Neo Cocoa truffles (tartufi) for my husband and a gorgeous antique book on cocoa, a temptation I was not able to resist. In fact, Omnivore Books on Food had a table with chocolate-related books, both new and from the past.
The chocolate bars in the photo come from my current little stash and are: Ezca bar (78% cocoa) from Escazu, a manufacturer in North Carolina that hand writes the batch number on each bar [bottom], and Tcho "Fruity" (68% cocoa, one of the exceptions I mentioned above) from Tcho, a manufacturer in San Francisco, whose factory store I am planning to visit soon. A bar of Apamate (73.5% cocoa from Venezuelan Caranero beans) from Chocolates El Rey, a manufacturer in Venezuela was nearby, but it was still unopened and I decided to leave it that way and not include it in the photo.