Since I was knee-high to a grasshopper (I've always wanted to say though I don't know why. Do grasshoppers even have knees? And are there some freakishly large grasshoppers in the jungle that would make this size reference even remotely relevant?).
Um, let's start this again (you're welcome).
Since I was a small child, Christmas and chocolate have been inextricably linked. (That's better).
I was born a chocoholic and my mom (and Santa) were sure to fill my stocking with chocolatey treats and wrap a substantial box of chocolates up each year. The highlight of my holiday season for sure. They were always drug store chocolates - nothing fancy - but as a kid growing up in the country, they were fancy schmancy to me.
For years there were After Eights (which really were not such a kid chocolate). Those little sleeves they were individually packaged in could be found all over the floor of my powder blue girly room for days.
I was also terribly fond of Toffifee (and how do you pronounce that? Looks like Toffee-fee but I always said Toffee-fay. A quandary of epic proportions to an 11-year-old.) Though they did have a propensity to stick to your teeth like nothing else, there is no denying that they were deeeeelish.
And of course, what would the holiday season be with out the good ol' staple ... Turtles. "Turtles, turtles, rah, rah, rah. Turtles, turtles, ha, ha, ha. Ahhhhh I love turtllllllllessss."
Yes, I just spontaneously belted out a bad ad jingle from 1980. Because this is where I reveal that as an eight-year-old girl I daydreamed of one day becoming THIS woman:
Sad but true. Sad but true.
I wonder what chocolate selection my mom Santa will wrap up for me this year?
For some, dark chocolate can be an acquired taste. It isn't the sweet, creamy comfort food that we enjoyed as kids with milk chocolate. It has some substance. A bite.
I often liken it to drinking red wine. The more you try it, the more you like it and the more you are able to discern the subtle differences in taste.
Amano Artisan Chocolate (with the help of their PR firm) recently launched the latest in their line of one-of-a-kind, single-origin chocolate. They were kind enough to sent me this one to savour:
The Jembrana bar is made from beans grown only in Bali. While not "fair trade" certified, Amano claims to pay even more than fair-trade regulations to their farmers. The package is pretty and sophisticated like a great vintage wine bottle.
It's a 70% cocoa bar, which in my world means "health food" (also known as guilt-free-eat-as-much-as-you-want-chocolate). It has a really lovely taste. They describe it as having a "rich chocolate flavor with nice fruit notes that are also a little nutty." I would agree. It's subtle. I liked it.
But what I liked even more than the chocolate was a fantastic post I discovered on their blog. It is one of the best "How to Taste Chocolate" articles I've read. Take a peek if you are interested in a more high-brow approach to chocolate tasting ... which should not be confused with chocolate eating. It's serious, serious business my friends. I, personally, am more partial to eating rather than tasting chocolate. It's the same way I love my wine. But this chocolate is worth savoring slowly and with all the palate pleasing sophistication you can muster.
I have recently become a fan of the lovely state of New Mexico when two of the most fabulous women I know moved there. They had given me a peek inside their local chocolate industry with a gift of the most incredible drinking chocolate elixir. It was like a spiritual experience. Ommmmmm.
So I wasn't the least bit surprised to fall head-over heels with another chocolatier that hailed from Santa Fe.
The artisans from The ChocolateSmith sent me some of their incredibly unique and delicious selections to try last week.
They were generous sized morsels of sweet and savory and salty surprises bathed in really high quality dark chocolate. I brought this one to my office to share and it was met with reactions reminiscent to that scene in "When Harry Met Sally". That good.
But what I really enjoyed was the chocolate ganache covered in cheese wax. They are so unusual and colourful. When the hand-dipped chocolate pate's wax is unraveled, you find a soft, fresh and decadent dark bit of heaven. The festive holiday tree was a creamy dark chocolate that rivaled the texture of newly made fudge. But better. Even my husband, who is not a chocolate fan (shocking I know), was all over this.
But despite my enthusiasm for their other creations, the clear winner for me was the wax-wrapped Chili-Pate. They describe it as: "Dark Chocolate Orange Ganache infused with Smokey Chipotle Chili & Cool Tones of Cinnamon. This Mildly Spicy Treat will surely suggest Southwest." It was the most mouth pleasing experience imaginable. It might be because flavours of chili and cinnamon are tastes I love ... but combining with dark chocolate ... now that was brilliant.
The ChocolateSmith claims to produce "honest" chocolate which isn't a term I'd heard before but it appeals to me. They make their chocolates in full view of their patrons and support local and organic traditions and the living wage principle. That get's my vote.
I had only one problem with the chocolates they sent me to review: they are now gone.
So, I have been apparently living under a rock for my entire life because I've not once tasted a See's Chocolate. Well, actually, I've been living in Canada and although See's is in lots of groovy international locations, the great white north is not one of them.
I have to admit that at first I was a little apprehensive because I was flying blind with the absence of one of those handy "which chocolate has which filling" guides. I love those guides as I plot my way through a box of chocolatey goodness. But it turned out that was half the fun because the first one I tasted was insane. Insane. In a good way. I was hooked and sat and devoured the entire package in one sitting. Not a single miss in the box.
I know you've been worried about what to get me for a stocking stuffer or hostess gift this season. Fret no more ... problem solved my friends ... a few dozen of these and I'll be smilin.
I poked around their website and they have a terrific selection of business gifts and (my personal favourite given I run a national charity when I am not busy devouring free chocolate for the laborious work of this blog) is their fantabulous fund-raising program.