Organic Chocolate, a Little Taste of Heaven

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Updated 2/12/2012:

What is the 8th wonder of the world?  Chocolate, no doubt.  At the 11th annual New York Chocolate Show, I was a pig in mud being around hundreds of some of best chocolate makers, all in the same room, giving out free samples of the best chocolate I ever tasted.

My husband has always wanted to go to this show thinking it would be fun for the kids to sample a variety of chocolate. Like father like son, they love chocolate.  Who doesn’t?

Benefits of Chocolate

According to an article by the University of Michigan Integrated Medicine, there are health benefits associated with eating dark chocolate. Some of the benefits are as follows:

  • Contains flavonoids called procyanidins & epicatechins; flavonoids are part of a group of antioxidants known as polyphenols and are found in a variety of foods including tea, red wine, and various fruits and vegetables
  • Decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol oxidation
  • Reduces the risk of blood clots
  • Increases blood flow in arteries
  • May lower high blood pressure
  • May improve mood and pleasure by boosting serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain “

Now I know why chocolate makes me so happy! I would be remiss if I did not mention there are health concerns as pointed out in the above article.   Kidney stones, migraine headaches, and caffeine issues associates with eating chocolate.  With any food, moderation is the key.

Welcome to the Chocolate Show

Here we were amongst all of these fabulous chocolate vendors giving out free samples. I bypassed the brownie booth and pushed myself beyond the peanut butter and chocolate booth so that I could concentrated on the organic vendors for Green Talk. (Do you see the sacrifices I make in the name of being green?)

Not all of the chocolate listed below are 100% organic but are making strives in local sourcing and/or using organic ingredients.

A Foodie’s Chocolate

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Christopher Michael with one of his delicious chocolates

Owner and Chef, Christopher Michael describes himself as a savory chef and a definite foodie when it comes to creating his Christopher Michael Artisan Chocolates.  He uses locally sourced herbs, such as rosemary and mint, and fresh cream and butter from a local certified organic dairy.  The oranges and citrus in his chocolates are from the family orchard.  Even his single origin beans from Venezuela are fair trade.

Michael told me that he sources beans from Venezuela because the flavor is second to none.  It contains 61% cacao.  However, the beans are not certified organic, but according to Michael, they are grown without pesticides.

Two of the chocolates that he seems to be most proud of were his Rosemary/Caramel and Spicy Pomegranate/Lime.  Ordinarily I would not have associated rosemary with chocolate and turned my nose up at him when he suggested that I try it.  After he insisted, I tried it, and was pleasantly surprised how refreshing it tasted.  It really added a terrific flavor to the chocolate.  The pomegranate/lime chocolate had a real kick to it which was unusual, but worked well together.

With such combinations as  spicy chipotle peppers and honey in a dark chocolate ganache (Chipotle and Honey), and Strawberry & Balsamic Caramel how can you not want to be adventurous?

Michael created numerous different types of artistic bonbons for everyone’s pallet. Assortments of 12 chocolates ($24) and 24 chocolates ($45) can be ordered online.

Michael’s creations were my favorite in the show because I loved his concept of mixing herbs or other food with chocolate.

Sinfully Sweet and Salty Create a Winning Combo

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Bob Sendall with his Toffee Tabboo

Toffee Tabboo is a mixture of Belgian dark chocolate topped with organic cashews and almonds that have been coated in a toffee mixture with white chocolate drizzled overtop.

Founder, Bob Sendall, the chef extraordinaire of All in Good Taste Productions, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania started serving Toffee Tabboo at the end of his events twelve years ago. In 2004, Sendall Chocolates was founded.

I enjoyed the combination of the sweet and salty taste. Toffee Tabboo is offered in various size boxes and can be purchased on the Company’s website or at selected stores.   A 4 ounce box of Tabboo is $11.00.

The Husband Award Goes to…

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One of the founders at Berkshire Bark

Berkshire Bark’s chocolate was my husband’s favorite. The Company sells five different barks:

Midnight Harvest (Belgian dark chocolate with roasted nuts, dried cranberries, and fresh zest), Tropical Heat (Belgium dark chocolate and tropical fruits, macadamia nuts, Chile powder, and cayenne pepper), Mocha Buzz (Belgian milk chocolate, roasted almonds, caramel, Cocoa nibs, and crushed espresso beans,  Pretzellogical (Belgian dark and milk chocolate, pretzels, peanut butter, and caramel), White Lightening (Belgian white chocolate, roasted cashews, ginger, lemon zest, and sea salt) and Jumpin’ Java (Belgian dark chocolate, roasted almonds, espresso toffee, caramelized chocolate nibs, and crushed coffee beans)

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Midnight Harvest was my favorite, but my husband loved each one of the barks.

The Bark is made in the Berkshires without any preservatives.   According to the Company, many of the small farmers they source from grow organically, but do not have the certification. However, the Company obtains its ingredients as much as possible from local sources.

The beans come from Barrington Coffee Roasters, a local vendor, and the cream and butter used in the caramel comes from a Jersey farm, one of the founders, David, used to work at.  They zest all of their citrus fruit by hand, and roast all of their nuts themselves.  In addition, none of their dried fruits contain sulfites.

The bark comes in 2.8 ounce bars at $5.99 a bar.  Bars can be purchased online or at selected retailers.  Their products are available via Amazon.

Making Chocolate the Old Fashion Way

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Francois Pralus is one the three remaining French bean to bar chocolate makers.  He makes his own chocolate rather than uses ready-coated chocolate.  He is known as an expert in discerning the finest beans and the best characteristics of each bean.  As one of the women at the booth explained to me, he lets the beans speak for themselves.

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The Pyramide Biologique is comprised of 5 different 75% cacao single origin bars, which are AB organic certified.  The Pyramide includes Ghana (bold taste with wonderful spice. Woodsy and peppery,) Equateur (strong hint of fig and citrus,) Republic of Domnicaine, Tanzanie (sweet), and Madagascar (fruity) The Pyramide can be purchased online or certain shops.  All prices were in Euros.

My favorite bar (although not organic) was the Pralus Papouasie Dark Chocolate made out of 75% cacao.  It was rich and had a distinctive taste.

For chocolate purists, the Company offers a 100% cacao bar without any sugar.  I thought the pure chocolate bar was dry and tasteless. What was it missing? Sugar, of course. The American diet staple.

There were so many wonderful chocolate companies at the show that I have broken this article down into two parts. See “Organic Chocolates Never Tasted So Good,” for more organic chocolate choices.

Join the Conversation

  • Do you love dark chocolate?
  • What are your favorite dark chocolate bars?
  • Have you tried any of the above bars?
  • How do you feel about combining different foods with chocolate?

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