With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I’m thinking about chocolate. And I don’t mean Hershey’s Kisses! These days chocolate comes in exciting flavor combinations that make it an adventure. I’ve seen many of these gourmet versions in stores such as Whole Foods and upscale supermarkets. I’ve also had the opportunity to sample many unusual forms of chocolate at the Natural Products Expo, which takes place in Anaheim, CA each March.
By now, we all know that dark chocolate is truly FoodTrient-worthy. It’s loaded with vitamins, antioxidants and even some fiber. The flavor, texture and nuances of dark chocolate, like fine wine, are determined by where the beans are grown and how they’re processed.
A 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains:
Dark chocolate has many other properties that are beneficial to your body and soul:
Here are some chocolate companies that are doing some really interesting things with everyone’s favorite flavor.
Chocxo is a company in Orange County that uses top-quality cacao beans from Central and South American growers and roasts and processes them in their own facility here in Southern California. From the chocolate liquor they create bars made from single origin beans from farms in Ecuador and Venezuela. ‘Single origin’ means the cacao beans are grown within a single known geographic origin. Sometimes this is a single farm. The chocolate bars range from 68%-80% cacao (the only other ingredient in the dark chocolate is cane sugar) and, like fine wine, are described as ‘fruity’, ‘balanced’ and ‘floral.’ Compare several bars together—that’s what I call a tasting!
Endangered Species Chocolate company’s milk and dark chocolate bars and bites are made with ethically traded, shade grown cacao and natural ingredients. Each 3oz. bar wrapper explains about endangered species and 10% of the company’s net profits are donated to support conservation efforts. Enjoy for a cause!
Askinosie Chocolate, based in the Ozark Mountains, is another artisan chocolate company that offers ‘single source’ chocolate with beans from the Philippines, Ecuador, Tanzania and Honduras. Their mission is to craft exceptional chocolate while “Serving farmers, our customers, our neighborhood, and one another, striving in all we do to leave whatever part of the world we touch better for the encounter.” They make chocolate bars flavored with gingerbread, pistachio, ancho chile, coconut plus other traditional combinations. They even make goat’s milk chocolate!
When I want to give a special gift, I go to Compartés Chocolatier. These ultra gourmet chocolates are hand-made from scratch every day by a small team of chocolate artists, using fresh natural ingredients from local farmers’ markets, in their Los Angeles chocolate kitchen and shops. I don’t know how they do it, but these chocolate truffles have colorful designs and come in unique flavors such as honey rum, tequila lime, smoked salt caramel, balsamic and pear cardamom.
For a do-it-yourself chocolate treat try these Brownie Bites. Look for more delicious chocolate recipes in my cookbook, The Age Beautifully Cookbook, which won the national award for innovation from the Gourmand International Cookbook Awards.
You won’t believe these brownie bites are completely raw and fruit-based! Dates blended with walnuts and cocoa powder create a rich, chocolate morsel perfect for a special treat, party or holiday.
Yields approximately 24 one-inch pieces
2 cups Medjool dates, pits removed
2 cups raw walnut pieces
¾ cup pure cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt, finely ground
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
Place pitted dates, walnuts, cocoa powder and salt in a food processor and pulse until moist, crumb-like dough has formed. Add water in small amounts until mixture sticks together easily, one Tablespoon at a time, scraping down sides as needed. Pour coconut flakes into a shallow bowl and roll small 1 inch balls of brownie dough until they are covered with coconut. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes and serve cold.