Have I mentioned before how much I love being the Chocolate Apprentice?
It means I get to plan wonderful trips to local and distant chocolate shops, to sample their wares and broaden my knowledge of fabulous chocolates, new flavours and innovations.
It is, of course, a tough job, but I am happy to shoulder the burden.
This week, I was delighted to hear from Gemma at Chocolate Arts, here in Vancouver, of a new line of chocolate bars they have just launched.
I am a huge fan of the bar form. It makes the chocolate perfectly transportable and the divisions in the bar mean it is a very sociable, easy to share with your friends or someone who really needs a treat, sort of thing. Much easier than carving a hunk off a slab, and generally not as squishy and fragile as a bonbon.
This enjoyment dates back to my school days, when it was also imperative to have sections small enough to pop entirely in the mouth, on the tongue, and therefore completely concealed from any potential awkwardness with teachers – infinitely superior to gum that way, as the chocolate could just lie there and melt, while my friends and I looked completely wrapt in the lecture on quadratic equations. Even swallowing, after the chocolate had melted, would be perceived by the onlooker as thoughtfully digesting the information.
I have eight bars to sample. Gemma says they are keen to find out which flavours appeal to their customers, and will be introducing new flavours in months to come, rotating the selection, seasonally.
They have been partnering with some fine local food businesses, such as les amis du FROMAGE, just a short walk down the road from Chocolate Arts’ headquarters.
I almost feel a bit guilty, diving into them while the boys are at school, but I assuage my conscience by telling myself that there will be plenty of leftovers for them to try at 3 o’clock, if I sample very small pieces.
The bars are divided into four generous “ fingers”. I actually cut these in half (to make eight pieces), and still found these to be more than ample in size, allowing for sharing among us all.
My partner really likes the wax paper envelopes each bar comes in. They remind me of the “sweetie bags” you get in British sweet shops.
The boys with their clearly defined and very opinionated palates, were able to offer their reviews, and as I was attending a performance of a play last night, I was able to call into service the advice and taste buds of four of my highly respected, chocolate loving friends.
Here are our completely unscientific, but enthusiastically compiled tasting notes:
Jasmine tea – 50% dark milk chocolate:
- I love that bit of crunch (tea bits), lovely aroma
- I adore this one, a warm spiciness
- I always think of jasmine tea as being incompatible with milk, but this is terrific
- Really brings the flavour of the tea out. You know how tea can smell wonderful, and then when you take a sip, it is disappointing and doesn’t taste like much of anything? The milk chocolate really helps to bring out the Jasmine flavour
- I think I need another bite
Curried coconut – 61% dark chocolate:
- Big flakes of coconut, almost the size of oatmeal flakes. I heartily approve as an avowed coconut-nut
- Coconut is coated in curry, which has a mild, pleasing spicy aroma, very subtle on the taste buds, not there to begin with, but a small hint as the chocolate melts, almost a granola-like crunchiness
- Can definitely taste the curry, but not the coconut
- Definitely not a sweet coconut, which I like because I am not a coconut lover!
Salted toffee – 50% dark milk chocolate:
- Mmmm, delicious. I love that the pieces of sated toffee are small, just enough to add a nice texture, not a tooth breaker.
- The saltiness is” juste un soupcon”, which adds a nice bite to the smoothness of the chocolate
- And the toffee is a perfect, crunchy balance to the smoothness of the milk chocolate
- Milky, salty, crunchy, good, reminds me of peanut brittle … without the peanuts, of course!
Pecan Fruit Crisp – 61% dark chocolate:
- Reminds me of good trail mix
- The chewy fruitiness complements the chocolate
- I can really taste the cherries and raisins
- Big pieces of crisp evident in the bar, takes up almost the whole middle
Himalayan Salt – 50% dark milk chocolate:
- Wow, that’s a really interesting sensation, as the taste buds are in a zingy competition, sorting out the smooth sweetness of the milk chocolate, and the salt tang, which dances up the sides of my tongue, makes me want to roll my tongue up over the chocolate. I like this in small tastes
- Ooh, that’s nice, not too salty, just enough
- I’m surprised because I’m more of a dark chocolate person, but the balance between salt and milk chocolate creaminess is really tasty
Crisp Parmesan – 61% dark chocolate:
- Okay, it’s a strange combination, but I love it. The tangy baked les amis du Fromage parmesan tastes sooooo good with the dark chocolate
- Lovely, crispy bites of the parmesan, almost biscuit-like, goes well with the dark chocolate
- In a weird but good way, it reminds me of chocolate cheesecake
- Cheesy, chocolatey, surprisingly, that’s a good thing!
Fresh Parmesan – 61% dark chocolate:
- Big visible pieces of les amis du Fromage fresh parmesan cheese in the centre of this bar.
- Very pungent, cheesy flavour
- Both textures of parmesan and chocolate very smooth, they melt together on the tongue
- Interesting, pungent aroma
Fleur de Sel – 61% dark chocolate:
- Pronounced saltiness
- Sharp flavour contrasts of salt to dark chocolate
There are some delightful taste and texture sensations among this selection of bars, and I appreciate the way Chocolate Arts is partnering with other local artisan food companies to create something unique.
I have always appreciated the way they rotate their selections of bonbons to reflect the season – and this is also very clever, because it keeps me on my toes, knowing I can only get my husband’s favorite Cherry Bomb in December, or the rich and autumnal Pumpkin Spice in October.
From their website:
“Chocolate Arts has always been committed to sustainable & organic agriculture. Most produce we add is locally grown, nurtured by organic growers who approach their craft with the same passion as we do ours. This ensures you’ll enjoy only the most succulent chocolates – made with natural and delicious temptations like wild blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, blueberries, hazelnuts, pears, pumpkins, and peaches. We strive to create chocolates that truly do capture the spirit and flavor of British Columbia & the Pacific West Coast.”
Gemma has hinted at a couple of seasonal chocolate flavours to come, including a partnership with Hazelmere Organic Farm’s rhubarb.
And I, for one will be waiting outside the doors of Chocolate Arts, the day my favorite, soon to be arriving flavour is launched: the lavender.
Mmm. Yes it is a tough job – and a delicious one.
1620 W 3rd Avenue
Vancouver BC Canada