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Small shop goes to the ICAs and brings home the gold

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.

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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.

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Posted by on August 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Chocolate Couverture: the website, not the product

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.
 

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