I’m not a website snob by any means. I’ll read what everyone has to say about chocolate, whether I agree with them or not. In the case of the recently discovered Chocolate Couverture, I think it’s worth more than a read. It’s worth hitting the “Subscribe”button.
The website is described as “All About Fine Chocolate,” and the woman behind it is British food writer and chocolate lover Cat Black. She has been buying fine chocolate since learning the difference between the great, the good and the ghastly sorts, and has apprenticed with a master chocolatier to learn the technical aspects of what makes the best chocolate worth the money. Black doesn’t pretend to be an expert, though she aspires to continued expertise by traveling and tasting and even admitting to being a snob about such things as milk chocolate (like me, she’s found there are great ones). She’s also come to an understanding, as I finally have, that high cocoa percentage does not necessarily a great bar make.
Her site has interviews with people whose products you’ve heard of, recipes both classic and not (chocolate chip cookies and Russian pashka, anyone?) and book reviews on subjects ranging from gelato to a recipe collection from a world-traveling chef. It’s an easy yet serious read, and not at all intimidating. Lest you think that Black is a dilettante, consider this: she is one of the judges in this year’s International Chocolate Awards. The competition, begun by Martin Christy of Seventy% and Kate Johns of Chocolate Week, visits Italy, the UK and the USA, judges a variety of products, including unflavored and flavored (fruit, nut, ganaches, truffles and spreads). The Italian competition has already taken place; the U.S. competitors have their turn in September.
My next column will talk more about Black’s role as a judge. Tough job, but hey, someone has to do it. Meanwhile, two more bars from my NYC stash, that are as different as chocolate bars can be:
- Feu Fire, Jelina Chocolatier (Belgium): Note to consumers: if you don’t understand the language on the wrapper, get a translation before buying. Then again, the word “cayenne” on this wrapper is spelled the same in French as it is in English. Aside from the sting, rather than the heat, it’s a great bar. Not much sweetness, but the smooth, rich quality of the cocoa is undeniable.
- Pralus Le 100% Criollo: This is another one I should have checked out more carefully before buying. But there’s no Pralus here, unless you mail-order it. So I swooned and I bought. And considering it’s 100% cocoa paste, meaning no sugar added, it’s not as bitter as you would expect. In small doses, it’s actually a perfect little dessert: wood and mushroom undertones, satisfying in its cocoa-ness.