Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Dark Forest Chocolate; a Delicious Surprise Delivery

Dark Forest Chocolate bars just arrived in my mailbox, thanks to my wonderful always-traveling Kerry (aka The Chocolate Doctor). Kerry must know what I like by now, because I loved all three chocolate bars that came in the package. I liked them so much that I wanted to mention them here on this blog. 

The chocolate bar I started (and finished) first was a delicious 82% dark blend bar made from cocoa beans from both Costa Rica and Ecuador mixed together, to create something both fruity and nutty. This chocolate captivated me and I couldn't stop myself from going back for more until it was all gone.

The second one that I tackled was the 50% Milk Chocolate - a dark-milk bar with both a creaminess and bitterness that appealed to me. It is made from Trinitario-type Costa Rica origin beans, and it won a bunch of awards this year. If you read this blog often, you'll definitely know that I love dark-milk chocolates, and this one certainly stood out. It was lovely, and a chocolate that I would eat again.

The third - a Salted Malted milk chocolate bar - was so yummy that I had to hide it in the cupboard from myself. Reminiscent of malted milk chocolate eggs from the Easters of my childhood, but with a dark-milk component. The salt added a lovely kick in the aftertaste. Truly an addictive chocolate for any kind of chocolate lover. New packaging was just launched for bar, and if you look at Dark Forest Chocolate's website, you'll see that it is super cool and colourful.

Dark Forest Chocolate makes their chocolate from bean-to-bar in Lancaster, New York. You can buy their craft chocolate bars in their storefront at 11 W Main Street, or online. They have over a dozen different flavours. Check them out today!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Secret Chocolate Maker's Tasting at Soma was the BEST DAY EVER

I often feel a little stuck on an island. I suppose that is because I live and work on beautiful Manitoulin Island, and am usually tucked away in my commercial kitchen, to busy to get out and see the world. But a few weeks ago, I zipped off to Toronto (and by zipped off, I mean I drove for 7 hours straight) because I needed to get away. AND because Soma Chocolatemaker was hosting a 'Secret' tasting at their closed-to-the-public chocolate factory. Sure, I'd been to both Soma retail locations before - in the Distillery District  and on King St. in Toronto - but I had not yet seen where the chocolate-making magic happens. So I decided to get off this island, and get my butt down to Toronto to meet my chocolate super-heroes.

A cacao pod, a cocoa bean 'guillotine' for cut tests
of sample beans, plus Soma's Mango Chili bar! See below for
more details on that deliciously fruity bar.

Magical, it was.

I want every person that I know to experience Soma chocolate. David Castellan and Cynthia Leung, the company owners, have created many unique chocolates over the years, with quality and taste in mind. And they continue to seek out new cocoa beans with distinct flavours, and beautiful stories, as well as dream up innovative new chocolate experiences.

David Castellan placing cocoa beans in the 'guillotine' in preparation
for the cut test to check fermentation and quality of the beans.
David is one of the original North American masters of bean to bear chocolate.

During the presentation, David led us through a cut test to test new cocoa bean samples they had received from India, Peru and other far-off destinations. We passed around cocoa beans to smell, taste and learn about. And he lead us through the process of chocolate making within the context of their factory. The vintage winnower, originally from the Lindt factory, was about the biggest thing I've ever seen, although the additional tour I had through the factory showed me just how much room can be needed for chocolate moulding machines. It seemed like a dream, since I still mould all of mine by hand and from a rather small bowl. Ahem, we'll say the moulder was larger than my entire commercial kitchen.

Soma's chocolate moulds loaded into the
monster-of-a-moulding machine.

While at the tasting, I was not disappointed. In fact, I am even more in awe of how Soma has organically grown and become this amazing, world-renown chocolate maker over the years. A chocolate maker can grow but become stale over the years, as we've seen with commercial grocery-store chocolate, where you can't look at their products in stores anymore because you've already tried every flavour a million times before. But not Soma - they keep us chocolate tasters on our toes, always anticipating their next new origin, or newest chocolate innovation.

Aging blocks of chocolate in Soma's factory.

So once the new factory is up and running, I think more tastings will be possible. Which is an experience everyone should have. Follow Soma on social media now and follow their story as they grow further and move into their new factory space!

Cynthia Leung with me at the tasting!
This amazing and beautiful lady (her, not me) is full of
innovative ideas when it comes to chocolate treats.
Her passion about chocolate and using real ingredients
is clear in everything she says and does.

So What About the Chocolate?

Of course I brought back several chocolate bars from the factory. A mini pop-up shop was available at the end of the tasting, and while I shared my chocolate and talked 'beans' with Cynthia and David, my best friend made my purchases for me (I paid her back of course!).

The New Fiji Bar is a creamy chocolate, and very complex with layers of flavour.  It has the aroma of a sweetened iced latte and plums, but in terms of flavour there is an earthy 'green' flavour, perhaps a little olive and the slightlest dryness of the outer part of a nut, like a walnut, but not quite that strong - perhaps a pecan - which lingers.  The lovely earthy taste also lingers for a bit with a bit of plum fruit taste, then ends suddenly, but leaves your mouth watering for more.  Soma may have entirely different tasting notes on their package, but I didn't see them since my bar was freshly sealed into its inner package only. My interpretation was that the Fiji bar is complex and delicious.

Soma's new Fiji bar, soon to be released!
Amazing new packaging also coming with it,
so keep your eyes peeled for this new Soma offering.

The recently introduced Soma Colombia 'Arauca' chocolate bar is also a 70% dark chocolate, and has a lovely immediate bright flavour of honey and mild fruit in the form of nectarines, perhaps mandarin. I have been receiving a lot of samples of Colombian cacao recently, and there seems to be a very common theme of honey notes in the chocolate. This bean by far is the most complex I've tasted out of Colombia and quite unique. It is delicious.

I also picked up the 2016 Gold-winning Soma Porcelana chocolate bar. This is a very limited edition bar made from the very rare cacao grown a region south of Lake Maracaibo in North-West Venezuela. I've now purchased a good percentage of the limited number available, and I still never mind paying the $18 retail price. The chocolate is so mild and delicate, creamy with the actual taste of light coffee cream, and very mild roasted nuts, that it continually surprises me at how opposite-to-bitter this dark chocolate is. The beans would make a beautiful 100% dark chocolate, but with sugar they certainly can have a greater reach.  Get one while you can because this may be the last of the batch, and with the situation in Venezuela, this may be the ONLY batch!

The BEST new creation, or should I say 'innovation' by Soma is the Mango Chili bar, with a hint of lime and sea salt. I have told you about Soma's beautiful Raspberry bar before, but the Mango bar is relatively new and just as full of fruit flavour. The Chili and salt cuts a little of the sweetness, making a perfect balance of sweet and savoury. This chocolate bar also has no milk in it, so lactose intolerant folks can rejoice! All I can say is: you MUST try this chocolate bar.

I brought home other treats as well, like some delicious cocoa nibs tumbled in dark chocolate and the milk chocolate version of the oh-so-crunchy Soma Old School bar, which I always love to enjoy. 

Haven't experienced Soma's amazing chocolate yet?
If you haven't had the opportunity to experience Soma, it is time you do! You can buy online, or find Soma around the world now in all sorts of specialty retail shops. Check my list for shops, or any retailer of bean-to-bar chocolate near you.