Recently, I expressed my frustration (on eGullet) at the dearth of good chocolatiers and chocolate selections in my hometown, Kansas City. A fellow eGullet member, joiei, recommended that I return to area stores and pick out a few chocolates that I have dismissed as being sub-standard and try them – perhaps I’d discover a new favorite, or, at the very least, be pleasantly surprised.
joiei is quite right. I can’t bemoan a bad selection if I haven’t tried all of the offerings. So, I went, against my better (fiscally-minded) judgement, and paid a visit to The Better Cheddar on the Country Club Plaza. (I’ll gripe about them more in another post sometime.)
Among all the bars and chocolate candies they carried, I singled out the brands I hadn’t tried and decided on one to buy. That narrowed the field to three bars: Caley’s “Marching,” a British chocolate ($3); Feodores, a Spanish company; and Chocolat Bonnat – Belgian.
Mind you, I strongly prefer DARK chocolate. Thankfully, all three were dark, but I went with the darkest bars – the Chocolat Bonnat. Of course, they would be the most expensive at $8.99 for a 100 gram bar. *eye squint*
There were six bars, all “single-estate” oriented: Trinite, Puerto Cabello, Equateur, Madagascar, Ceylan and Hacienda El Rosario. The company makes two others: Chuao, and Cote D’Ivoire.
Here’s what the back of the label says, describing Chocolat Bonnat’s entire line:
“The Grand Crus of Cocoa: are selected by Stephane Bonnat, Maitre-Chocolatier of Voiron (France). All the cocoas used to make these unique samplers arrived at the Bonnat’s in Voiron in the form of unroasted beans from the best cocao plantations in the world. They were transformed into marvelous a chocolate that you are about to taste.”
Then the label describes each of the 8 single estates. I was most intrigued by the Chuao, which was described as: “From Venezuala reigning country of great cocoas, undedniably Nr. 1 in quality. The king of kings of cocoas with a powerful and warm flavor.” Of course, TBC didn’t carry this one. Of the six they did carry, I automatically nixed the Madagascar, Equateur and Trinite, as I tend to shy away from the fruitier, banana-y, or “sunshine” (as described by Bonnat) flavors. I prefer darker, deeper and more earthy chocolates – leaving the Venezuelan varietals.
I decided on the Hacienda el Rosario. It’s described as: “Suberb Venezuelan cocoa, with plenty of delicate perfumes, while powerful and sensible, it will designate the connoisseurs from the amateurs.” Well, now if that’s not throwing the gauntlet!”
I’ll report later on whether or not the chocolate was worth $8.99 and having to endure the painfully snobby and clueless service at The Better Cheddar.
[Okay, I’ll rant a little now: When I asked one of the staff members about their chocolates, specifically the Bonnat, he said that he was very familiar with them, in a not-so confident way. When I asked him what he thought about the Hacienda el Rosario, he said that I he wouldn’t recommend it because it was rose-flavored. I asked him what made him think it had a rose-infusion. He pointed out that the label clearly said (Hacienda el) “Rosario.”
As a dear acquaintence (from eGullet) once aptly put it, “I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.” Well, I almost did (just fall off the turnip truck) out of shock at his response.
I don’t know what possessed me to continue the nonesense, but I ventured to ask which Bonnats, since he had “tried them all,” he liked best. He hedged, then pointing seemingly randomly, his finger landing on the Equateur and the Trinite. When asked what he liked about them, he said they were the “most chocolate-y-tasting.” That was all he could give me… and that’s all I needed. *deadpan*
I paid for the bar and left.]
My report on the bar of Chocolat Bonnat “Hacidenda el Rosaria” will have to wait… in the few intervening days, I’ve managed to become distracted by two other chocolates that I found at Whole Foods a couple of days later.
Whole Foods’ selection is a bit better than I remember. I found a couple of different labels that intrigued me. I picked up two bars from the same company – Dolfin, a Belgian chocolatier. They make a number of different bars. I couldn’t decide between the Chocolat Noir à la Cannelle de Ceylan or the Chocolat Noir 88% Cacao, so I picked them both up. ($3.99 each. You can see their full line here. Whole Foods only carries a few of selections).
The Cannelle was such a surprise. At a depressingly low 52%, I must say, the grainy bits of cinnamon really intensifies the flavor and helps pull back the sugariness.
The texture was a surprise. The chocolate was very gritty from the roughly ground cinnamon, almost like sandpaper. But, I really liked it that texture. It was obvious that the rough texture wasn’t a matter of poor construction, but rather a calculated move by the chocolatier to remind the eater of the inherent rugged wildness of the spice. However, the sexy, sensual and alluring mysteriousness of the cinnamon’s resulting effect is what I remember most about this bar – the chocolate itself was completely unremarkable. The cinnamon is very aggressive, so if you’re not a fan of the spice, I would recommend you stay away.
The 88% was much darker and much more roasted and bitter. I was able to appreciate it more than the Cannelle in a more familiar dark chocolate way. Next to the Cannelle, it’s intensely dark – just a tad burnt-tasting, at the end, as dark chocolates too-often can be. But, to its credit, this chocolate was rich and had a very sexy mouthfeel, but the flavor was rather one dimensional. The 88% hints of coffee and has a touch earthiness. I enjoyed this bar, but it’s definitely not high-end chocolate.
I look forward to comparing the Chocolat Bonnart bar – which, at $8.99, cost more than the two Dolfin bars combined. *eyeshifts*
[Edited numerous times for various grammatical and clerical errors. I really need to stop blogging late late at night when my head is muddy, weak and sleepy… sorry! *le sigh* Thanks for being patient!]