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 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.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the cioccolato audio file [mp3].
have you been to scharffen berger chocolate factory in berkeley? fantastic dark chocolate - the best i've tasted in america.
i love the idea of chocolate at breakfast. and lunch. and dinner. :D
Posted by: bee | May 11, 2009 at 12:51 PM
Hi Bee. I was thinking of talking about Scharffen Berger after I visit Tcho. I have been to the factory in Berkeley. You may or may not know about this development: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/01/28/BU2F15I9DV.DTL&tsp=1
Posted by: Simona Carini | May 11, 2009 at 01:03 PM
Posted by: Paz | May 11, 2009 at 03:43 PM
I used to buy very pretty chocolates like the beautifully decorated ones in the picture from a seller in Scotland. He went bankrupt, unfortunately. Personally I love chocolate up to and including 70%, but the higher concentrations are at most risk from my husband - he loves the Lindt 85%.
Posted by: foodycat | May 13, 2009 at 06:29 AM
Ciao, Paz :-)
Sad story about your beloved chocolatier. The first time I tasted 90% chocolate I did not like it, but then started to go up from 70% and now I sometimes eat 85%. I think it is goo that you like different kinds, though, so there is no territorial dispute, so to speak.
Posted by: Simona Carini | May 13, 2009 at 09:44 AM
Lovely post Simona. You know so much about chocolate.
Posted by: Ivy | May 13, 2009 at 01:05 PM
Ho sempre amato il cioccolato bianco e quello al latte, ma ultimamnete ho imparato ad apprezzare il vero cioccolato: il fondente!
Ottimo quello di Modica, il Venchi ed il Domori ;-D
Posted by: lenny | May 14, 2009 at 01:54 AM
mmmmmm chocolate! definitely the ultimate treat!And oh yes..how could I have forgotten..BACI is from Perugia! You must be a lucky gal growing up with so much baci within reach!I had quite a share of those myself...but today I agree,I like a good dark bitter chocolate,with maybe the only thing I like added is Orange peels!I actually adore that combination.and yes,I remember one chocolate I liked very much while living in France,though I think its swiss-it`s FRIGOR,by Cailler,do you know it?
Posted by: mia | May 15, 2009 at 11:02 AM
Thanks, Ivy. It's a favorite food of mine and I like to explore it.
Ciao Lenny. Mi fa piacere che ti sia avvicinata al cioccolato fondente. Devo assaggiare il Domori. Il Venchi lo conosco e infatti me ne sono portata un po' dall'Italia. Di fatto, lo trovo anche qui e anche quello di Modica. A parte mangiarlo al naturale, mi piace utilizzarlo in alcune ricette.
Ciao Mia. Indeed, I know Frigor. I don't think I have ever seen it here.
Posted by: Simona Carini | May 15, 2009 at 10:12 PM
mmmmmm cioccolato...parola magica per me!!! ^_^
Hai mai assaggiato il cacao al 100%? in italia abbiamo comprato "cuorenero" ed è straordinario..ora lo fa anche la Lindt al 100%, ma quello di cuorenero è decisamente migliore! dovresti provarlo!
Posted by: fabdo | May 23, 2009 at 02:07 PM
Grazie del consiglio, lo provero' la prossima volta che vado in Italia (spero in autunno). Bachocolatoso back ;)
Posted by: Simona Carini | May 23, 2009 at 10:38 PM