At the 2015 International Chocolate Awards Americas competition:
Two thousand entries.
Over 65 judges.
Four days of trying, tasting, selecting and deciding.
And it came down to three major awards for Stuart’s Castronovo Chocolate:
- A gold and silver award in a single category (Micro-batch – plain/origin milk chocolate bars; the gold for their Columbia, Sierra Nevada Dark Milk 63% and the silver for their Dominican Republic Dark Milk 50%).
- An overall gold award in the specialty category for their Rare Cacao Collection (Columbia, Sierra Nevada Dark Milk 63%).
Looking over the extensive list of gold, silver and bronze award winners, it’s obvious that Castronovo Chocolate is in an illustrious league with the world’s best: the winners’ list includes names like Soma (Canada), El Rey (Venezuela), Pacari (Ecuador), and many U.S. micro-batch chocolate makers, such as Amano, Rogue, TCHO, Chuao, Dick Taylor and Dandelion. It’s a big deal to get this far, and it’s the constant attention to the literally small details that bring a chocolate maker to the ICA: making 100-pound batches, using single-origin beans that are sorted by hand, a bean at a time, roasted in small amounts and crafted into bars and confections that are sold in their shop, online and in select stores in the area. And doing that every day, experimenting with different beans, different roasts, different flavor combinations and the hard part: painstakingly convincing the three-bars-for-a-buck crowd that your artisan product is not just better-tasting, it’s better quality and better for you. It’s going to greenmarkets, coffee bars, specialty markets and gourmet grocers and getting your product out there.
This achievement isn’t something done by the dilettante or the part-time candy hobbyist. To get to this prize-winning level, you have to live with and work at this far more than full-time. You have to love it, and want everyone you come in contact with to love it, too.
Oh, and there’s one more stop on the awards trail: the International Chocolate Awards’ World Finals, coming up in October and taking place in London. We’ll be watching.
Castronovo Chocolate, 555 Colorado Ave., Stuart, FL. Phone (561) 512-7236 . Hours: Mon-Sat 2:00 pm-8:00 pm.
Two bars from my stash, both from Italy, both from my Chicago trip:
La Baretta Di Golosi di Salute Luca Montersino 72%: It certainly deserves a salute! Creamy, buttery and sharp with notes of raisins and berries.It’s a lot of name for a chocolate bar, but worth the purchase.
Domori Morogoro-Tanzania 70%: Four squares of elegant, slightly smoky, roasty goodness. Neither sweet nor bitter, but somewhere in between. The kind of chocolate I want after a large meal.