Tuesday, February 9, 2010

guittard chocolates - the motherlode- part II

As you read these new posts, many of your may exclaim "Wow! Your photography has improved! These pictures look great!" However, as much as I would like to take credit for the amazing photos you will see in my next two blogs I can't. First because I didn't take them. And second, it is unlikely I could get away with it. These are all the work of Ron Dunlap. You can read more about Ron Dunlap, Doglight Studios and Ron's adventures at the end of this blog.

If you've read my last post, "Guittard chocolates, The Motherlode - Part I", you will already know that I received an eleven pound box of Guittard chocolates a week ago and have basically been in a chocolate coma ever since. This week I decided to tackle their chocolate bars, which all feature single origin cacao beans.

I already know your next question. "What is a single origin cacao bean and how can I use this new information to make my cocktail conversation more scintillating and make myself appear more knowledgeable and wordly?" Well, like like grapes or coffee, cacao beans have different nuances depending on where they were harvested as well as their post-harvest process. And that's it. It is as simple as that. Waving your hands around a lot helps for dramatic effect as well.

In my insane eleven pound box, Guittard included eight (8) bars. Because of the quantity, (yes even I can only eat so much chocolate), I had to assemble an impromptu, rag-tag, tasting group which included our enthusiastic neighbors, a foodie who has been hanging around ever since she saw my box of chocolates, and a few friends from the gym. None of us are trained connoisseurs, but the taste test was revealing and surprisingly entertaining. The more we ate, the more giddy we got and the more giddy we got, the more enthusiastic the proclamations. Honestly, a chocolate tasting ala E Guittard would be a great party theme, and you could introduce wine too, though might have to peel a few people off the ceiling afterwards. But, I digress. Back to the bars.

The eight bars we tested were: Ambanja, Chuchuri, Nocturne, Orinco, Quevedo, Quetzalcoatl, Sur del Lago and Tsaratana.

Guittard Chocolate Ambanja

E. Guittard Ambanja 65% Cacao Bar
"Fruity and wonderful"
We started with Ambanja which is a city in northern Madagascar. This bar was a favorite among all of us and my personal favorite. It had a taste of fruit and the chocolate was rich and creamy. I could eat several bars of this in a row and I liked that I also liked that I could pronounce the name with some flourish.

E. Guittard Chucuri 65% Cacao Bar
These beans are harvested in the San Vicente de Chucuri Valley of Santander in Colombia. The chocolate has a sweet, honeyish taste. We all felt it was mellow and delicate and what a connoisseur would enjoy. I could imagine curling up on a cool summer evening with a good book and nibbling this chocolate.

E. Guittard Nocturne 91% Cacao Bar
This bar is for serious dark chocolate lovers only. I imagine this is the kind of chocolate that the Mayans would have eaten. It has a primitive, exotic taste, wonderfully sour and bitter at the same time. It's the kind of chocolate a real chocoholic worth his/her cacao bean enjoys -- a tough chocoholic, not a dandified sophisticate, the kind of chocoholic who would eat the bar and then might grunt at the end to show you that he (or she) can take real chocolate and not just sissy chocolate.

E. Guittard Orinco 38% Cacao Bar
This bar vanished within moments of its unwrapping. It had the best of the best milk chocolate qualities: creamy, nutty, buttery and subtle and silky. And to me it has all the hallmarks of being an excellent "I feel sorry for myself" chocolate. The kind of chocolate you eat when nothing is going your way and it really should because you know, you're a good person and what happened to karma anyway? For wallowing in self pity, I recommend six bars (adjust as necessary and grab a box of tissues.

E. Guittard Quetzalcoatl 72% Cacao Bar
Legend surrounds this bar. It is named after the Mayan god Quetzalcoatl who traveled to earth with a cacao tree imported from paradise and, as the legend implies, this chocolate is paradise for a dark chocolate aficionado. It has a dark, rich powerful taste that starts off nutty and ends with a satisfying bitter aftertaste. It does the Mayans, who worshiped cacao and the legend of Quetzalcoatl, the justice they deserve. A terrific bar that gets it just right so that despite the high cacao content, all the milk chocolate fans in our taste group gravitated to this bar.

E. Guittard Quevedo 65% Cacao Bar
"I don't know why, I just like it."
What makes this quote stand out is that it is from a taste tester who reluctantly admits he generally only consumes mass chocolates. Still, this was his favorite bar. The chocolate was mellow, smokey and nutty with a creamy texture. It is an excellent bar to introduce someone to the joys of dark chocolate -- unless of course your philosophy is thatif someone doesn't like it, there is more for you.

E. Guittard Sur del Lago 65% Cacao Bar
These beans are harvested from Venenzuela's Sur Del Lago region. We all felt there was an interesting complexity to this bar - a slight nutty and berry taste -- that made us keep coming back to this bar, over and over.

E. Tsaratana 61% Cacao Bar
We ended our chocolate odyssey on the Tsaratana bar and it was a wonderful. It was sweet like a flower and had a taste of vanilla. How to describe it? Does "mmmm, mmmm, yummy" work? It is the kind of bar that delivers on that abstract idea you have in your mind about the promise and experience of chocolate. This chocolate would work well both as a good "Sweetheart I Love (or Seriously Like) You" or "I am Really Sorry, Will You Please Forgive Me" chocolate, however in the latter case you I recommend at least two bars.

All the wonderful photos you see here are the work from Ron Dunlap who happens to be a hero of mine. At 60 he got his masters in Archeology and now every year travels to Egypt to photograph objects that we will not see in our lifetime from the ongoing pyramid excavations, as photographs that document his travels to the far east which you can enjoy at RGD Travels.

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