Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Chocolate Connoisseur's Desert Island List

Some of the winners at the awards ceremony.
Three-and-a-half years ago, inspired by the book The Chocolate ConneisseurI made a list of my Top Ten Desert Island Chocolate Bars. The concept of the Desert Island Question is one usually reserved to subjects not known to melt in the sun--a person*, top albums**, books***--but any opportunity to make a list is a good one. 

In the years, since my original list, I've eaten a wider range of fine chocolate, thanks to the continued rise of foodie culture and increasing popularity surrounding bean-to-bar production. (Hard to believe nowadays that back in 2007, Theo Chocolate in Seattle described themselves as the only 100% organic, 100% Fair Trade bean-to-bar production facility in the U.S.) 

My Desert Island Chocolate Bar List:
  • Amedei (Pontedera, Italy) - Cioccolato al Latte Bianco con Pistachio. White chocolate with pistachio. In its purest form, white chocolate is cocoa butter with sugar. This is the only one to wow me as much as standard chocolate.
  • Amedei (Pontedera, Italy) - Toscano Blond. 63% dark chocolate with peach and apricot. This is my all-time favorite chocolate bar. Amedei has a gift for creating a bold chocolate that has numerous flavor notes in each taste.
  • Fran's Chocolates (Seattle, WA) - Almond Gold Bar. Dark chocolate, almonds and the best caramel ever. To call this a "chocolate bar" rather than a "caramel" is a stretch, but I doubt anyone will deny me this on my hypothetical desert island. 
  • Kinder (Alba, Italy) - Bueno. Chocolate, hazelnut cream, wafer. Probably more of a candy bar than a chocolate bar. Dang, is it good, though.
  • Mast Brothers (Brooklyn, NY) - Goat. This isn't the only company to explore using goat's milk instead of cow's milk, but theirs is the best I've had.
  • Nathan Miller (Chambersburg, PA) - Gingerbread Bar. 55% buttermilk chocolate with spiced gingerbread. This bar is my latest obsession, thanks to the awakening that is buttermilk chocolate.
  • Patric (Columbia, MO) - Browned-Butter Bar. Brown sugar and browned butter make for an instant rush of happy chemicals to the brain.
  • Pump Street Bakery (Oxford, England) - Sourdough & Sea Salt 66%. Crunchy bread pieces and a touch of salt combine with rich chocolate for a unique and memorable flavor in experience.
  • Ritter Sport (Waldenbuch, Germany) - Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts. Whole hazelnuts in a heavy, square bar.
  • Theo / 3400 Phinney (Seattle, WA) - Milk Chocolate Coconut Curry Bar. As unusual and intriguing as the first time I tried it back in 2007.
Honorable Mention:
  • Cocanu (Portland, OR) - Holy Wood. Subtle and aromatic, this bar is infused with Palo Santo wood.
  • TCHO (San Francisco, CA) - Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. I would have huge expectations for any chocolate bar featuring rhubarb puree and this one rises to the task.
  • Amedei (Pontedera, Italy) - Chuao. 70% dark chocolate. If you choose one pure chocolate Amedei bar, start here.
  • Ferrero (Alba, Italy) - Rondnoir (aka Duplo Cuore Fondente). Dark chocolate, dark chocolate cream, wafer. Take away the hazelnut of the more popular Ferrero Rocher and swap out milk for dark chocolate. Good luck eating just one.
  • Ghirardelli (San Francisco, CA) - Peppermint Bark. A seasonal must-have.
  • Perugina (Perugia, Italy) - Baci. Dark chocolate, gianduja and hazelnut. One bite of perfection.
  • Ritter Sport (Waldenbuch, Germany) - Coconut Macaroon. Melty milk chocolate with crystally coconut filling.
  • Theo (Seattle, WA) - Jasmine Truffle. A seasonal item I ate once, it has taken on legendary status with me. I remember it tasting like fairy dust.
Breakdown: While I do enjoy pure unadulterated chocolate--only two of the items on the main list are pure chocolate (Patric and Mast Brothers)--the majority of the bars are bold chocolate featuring texturally diverse mix-ins. This may account for the high number of American brands, since some of the leading European chocolate makers stick to pure chocolate. The two pure chocolate bars on the main list are both bold twists, one using goat's milk and the other using browned butter. A few items on the three lists are mass market chocolate that isn't the highest quality but are still regular cravings for me (Kinder, Ferrero, Ghirardelli, Ritter Sport).

* Most people choose what is known as a "fox" (i.e. Keira Knightley or Ryan Gosling), I usually go the practical route, choosing an Eagle Scout. As of this writing, I think I'd choose J.J. Abrams, though, because turnabout is fair play.
** An ever-changing list: The Helio Sequence's Keep Your Eyes Ahead, Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and, because I think it'd be nice in a tropical setting, The Ruby Suns' Sea Lion.
*** You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers, my favorite, and the complete Anton Chekhov short stories, because I may actually have time to read them whilst marooned.


BT said...

The Fran's Chocolate "Gold Almond Bar is one of the best! Have to disagree with the Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark. While I LOVE peppermint and chocolate, I find theirs a bit waxy.

Brad @ IceCreamUScream said...

I will agree that it's a bit waxy. I can't explain my craving for it, but I'm honest that it's there...just like every couple years I need a caramel sundae from McDonald's. I know it's not even ice cream, but nostalgia is a helluva drug.