February 2002

1901 Avenue of the Stars
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Tel: 310 277 0401
Fax: 310 277 4092
www.valrhona.com (Order at www.chocosphere.com.)

Single-bean chocolate has suddenly become as desirable as single-bean coffee or single-grape wine, but Valrhona has been making its three distinctive Grand Crus--Manjari, from criollo beans, Caraibe, from trinitario beans, and Guanaja (from both, therefore not, strictly speaking, a single bean variety)--for years. Now they're making a single-bean variety (trinitario) that comes from a single plantation and a single year: Gran Couva from the plantation of the same name in Trindad. Vintage 2001.

Other single bean varieties worth mentioning come from previously mentioned El Rey (see below), who make the only milk chocolate worth eating. On the other hand, ScharffenBerger (see below) believes that blending beans produces the most complex flavor.

January 2001


Jeannette no longer makes these chocolates, but the people who do make them were trained by her. Strictly speaking, they aren't chocolates; they are filled with fruit or nuts not ganache. But they are made with organic couverture and organic beet sugar, more of the former than the latter. So they are, as all things even partly chocolate should be, bittersweet.

September 2000

Unit 25, Elbourne Trading Estate
Crabtree Manorway South
Kent DA17 6AW
Tel/Fax: 011 44 181 311 3337

Gerard Colman is one of the very few world-class chocolate makers in Britain, but the name of his company is the first clue that these are not English chocolates. (French chocolates really are the best, whether they are made in France or Kent or New Hampshire.)

Before he started L'Atelier, Colman worked for Chantal Coady, author of Chocolate, Food of the Gods and owner of Rococo, the only chocolate shop of note in London. His House Truffles are almost identical to, and just as astonishing as, Rococo's, but Colman mixes the ganache after it sets. He says it makes the texture less gritty and more like mousse. In any case, they are brilliant. My other choices are the caramels, which are made with four different sugars and sea salt, Tonca Bean, made with chocolate of a small black Venezuelan bean I'd never heard of, and Lemon-Thyme, which manages to be both refreshing and intense. There are about fifteen others, some of them unusual, like Feuilletine with Gingerbread Spice and Banana-Thyme.

July 2000

114 Ridge Langley
Tel/Fax: 44 181 405 4996

England's answer to Belgian chocolates, in particular, the crème-fraiche-filled, as well as its own old-fashioned chocolate creams. Made with fresh cream (if not crème fraiche) and fruit, without fondant. Some nice, subtle English flavours. Like Blackcurrant.

PO Box 853
Fredericksburg, TX 78624
Tel: 830 997 2200
Orders: 800 357 3999

Cacao trees have grown in Venezuela since the 16th century, and have always produced beans of depth and complexity. But they were always exported and blended with lesser beans, to make lesser chocolate. Until recently.

El Rey is a chocolate maker whose couverture is made from single-bean regional Venezuelan varieties like Caranero and Porcelana, and, though chocolate is a far cry from cacao, even after fermenting, drying, roasting, grinding, conching and tempering, you can taste their singularity. Four degrees of bittersweetness-58.5%, 61%, 70%, and 73.5%.

June 2000

2104-3 Gilliam Lane
Tallahassee, FL 32308
Tel: 800-368-4882

M. Vivier is the real thing, and so are his chocolates. Small, subtle, complex, sophisticated. Delicious. As always, it takes both the couverture (Valrhona, mostly) and the chocolatier to make chocolates this good. Not as always: the absence of plain, dark ganache, and the fairly ubiquitous presence of milk, even white, chocolate, and many added (excellent) ingredients. Somehow, Vivier makes even chocolate covered cherries interesting. And somehow, it all melts gorgeously on the tongue.

January 2000

PO Box 5551 Petaluma, CA 94952
Tel: 707-781-9866

Another example of the Belgian style, made in California. Veronica Bowers is the chocolatier who has come up with some lovely, subtly flavored truffles, especially Mocha, a whipped ganache (Cinnamon Honey), a pair of caramels (Pear and Vanilla Bean), and a tasting wafer (Meyer Lemon).

250 South Maple Avenue
South San Francisco, California 94090
Tel: 800 930 4528

I met Robert Steinberg and John Scharffenberger at the American equivalent of Eurochocolate-The Chocolate Show in New York. Like Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate, ScharffenBerger is made in the USA. Unlike HVC, they don't grow their own beans, but they do use very good ones. Their chocolate is beautifully complex and beautifully packaged, and available in several sizes for eating and baking, and several variations on the theme of dark chocolate. Dark (62% cocoa) and darker (70%). Some have infusions of Peet's coffee and beans. I like the former very much; it is the quintessence of the flavors of chocolate and coffee in collaboration.

San Francisco, California
Tel: 800 500 3396

I haven't met Michael & Jaclyne Recchiuti, but their Key Lime Infused Pears-pear sliced paper thin, soaked in Key Lime juice for a week, then dried, and, finally, enrobed in ScharffenBerger darkest chocolate--are extraordinary. I also like their dark ganache filled chocolates-Force Noir, Pearl Tea With Mint, Tarragon Grapefruit, Lemon Verbena.

520 Columbus Avenue (85th Street) New York, NY 10024

Avenue is a rare thing-a sophisticated, casual, reasonable, sometimes remarkable neighborhood restaurant. Its Hot Chocolate is worth a remark. It is "as thick as pudding and as rich as a chocolate truffle." The recipe is slightly more complicated than Angelina's in Paris, but in both cases, the predominant ingredients are very good bittersweet chocolate (in Avenue's case, Valrhona) and whole milk. Eat it with a spoon.

December 1999

1509 Mission Street
Santa Cruz, California 95060
Tel: 831 458 4214
Fax: 425 0678

I met Richard Donnelly and Kelly McKinley at Eurochocolate, a ten day total chocolate immersion in Perugia. On the tenth day, we were ready to forsake the darkness of chocolate for the light of Assissi, and shared a cab to the Umbrian hill town of my dreams. But not before I had tried their truffles, which are just as they should be and a little more. Excellent bittersweet chocolate-Valrhona-with fresh butter, cream, and the subtle but true and sometimes unexpected flavors of fresh spices, herbs, coffee, tea or fruit. Like lemongrass or Tahitian vanilla, studded with tiny, hard bits of beans. Coming attractions: pepper, rose, star anise. The shells are thin, so you don't have to bite hard to get to the good part. Richard and Kelly also infuse solid chocolate with flavors like ginger, five spice, French roast, cinnamon and mint and wrap them in Japanese rice paper.



| The Journey in Brief | Chapter One | The Author | Reviews | Reader Comments | The Chocolate | New Chocolate | Forum | Links | To Order |