I’ll be the first to admit that I do a lot of food shopping.
Not grocery shopping, per se; I keep that to a once a week chore. But I food shop almost every day. From corner stores to gourmet emporiums, I am always on the lookout for new chocolates. It would certainly explain why I came home from my New York trip last year with nineteen bars of chocolate.
But in my own South Florida, I am often disappointed. Even the gourmet shops don’t carry what I would consider a good selection from a variety of countries. Just an expected few, and while the expected are not bad by any means, it’s still just what I expect to find. And of those, most are not good, plain darks, but milks, fruits, nuts and marzipans. And if you like those combinations, that’s fine. Sometimes, I crave a good 72% with hazelnuts or almonds myself.
But on first try of any new product, I always go for a plain bar, usually in the 66% to 72% range. Why? Pure personal preference. I like to taste the chocolate, first and foremost, before I taste what the chocolatier can add to it. If I like it, I’ll expand my range to include a bar with nuts and a bar with fruit. In her book, The Chocolate Connoisseur, Chloé Doutre-Roussel likes orange and dark chocolate or lemon and milk chocolate as personal favorites; I concur that these combinations work well together, as long as the ingredients are all top-notch.
If you’re looking for the high-end chocolate producers and cannot find them locally, what options do you have? You can order online from the sources mentioned on this site (and you will pay the warm-weather shipping price, even if you live in a cold climate. It’s not about your weather; it’s about maintaining temperature stability for the duration of the package’s transport). Or you can simply ask local shops to order for you. Not enough demand, they respond? Get a group of like-minded choco-champions together. A large enough order might change the shop owner’s mind. But be serious about your quest. Fine chocolate is expensive and perishable. It’s usually the real reason stores don’t carry much or any of it; too much risk of losing high-end product.
And a few more I’ve sampled:
- Lake Champlain 54%: despite the low number, this is not as sweet as it sounds. It’s got a slight floral note, and the texture is very smooth.
- Chocolove 70%: the snap is a bit soft, and it chews more like candy than a chocolate bar on the higher end. Slightly bitter and even a little astringent, with a hint of coffee and mushroom.
- Perugina Dark Premium: creamy and very sweet, this would be excellent broken into bits and used to make chocolate chip cookies. As a straightforward eating chocolate – not so much. It’s what I would call a “fix,” for when you need a sugar hit in a hurry.