Interview with John Nanci of Chocolate Alchemy with Victoria Cooksey

Most likely, if you have spent time in the craft/specialty chocolate world you have heard of, or often times had assistance, knowledge and overall mentoring from the one-and-only John Nanci of Chocolate Alchemy. John’s very first blog post on the Chocolate Alchemy website was posted on October 1, 2003.  Now that’s a lot of chocolate making, experimenting and experience! Back when it was thought that there was no way chocolate could be made at home John Nanci thankfully didn’t listen and instead paved the way for people to make both chocolate at home as well as start up their own craft/specialty chocolate business.  John continues to share his knowledge through his Ask The Alchemist posts. It  just so happens that John is also a FCIA 2017 Lifetime Achievement award winner.

And now for the interview.

John Nanci of Chocolate Alchemy Continue reading “Interview with John Nanci of Chocolate Alchemy with Victoria Cooksey”

Port and Chocolate Pairings with Victoria Cooksey

Around Valentine’s Day I often see the recommendation to have port with chocolate, but the question is: which specific chocolate with which specific port?  These two delights can dance together in lovely harmony, or quite frankly, the wrong two together can taste like crap.  Not the way to spend a romantic evening (or any evening)!

From an economical stand point a bottle of port goes a long way and as long as you keep the bottle closed, port will last a very long time (approx. six months) unlike a bottle of regular wine. Although with port there is a wide range of cost depending on what you are buying and if it is a vintage bottle.  Where I live, the Victoria Tawny Port is around $15 and the other ports I keep on hand go up from there.

Various Ports I Often Keep on Hand at Home

First, let’s go over a little information about the different styles of port followed by some port and chocolate pairing tasting notes with specific pairing recommendations. Continue reading “Port and Chocolate Pairings with Victoria Cooksey”

Interview with Domantas Užpalis of Chocolate Naive with Victoria Cooksey

Chocolate Naive is a specialty bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Vilnius, Lithuania.  Chocolate Naive has won several awards and Domantas was recently named 2017’s Chocolate Maker of the Year by Chocolate Uplift. After being a fan of Chocolate Naive’s bars, and communicating through direct messaging, I was pleased to met Domantas Užpalis in person at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA.  Domantas is great at giving complete, one- on-one, attention which is sometimes rare these days.  Even more recently I had the chance to interview him.

Domantas Užpalis of Chocolate Naive with Victoria Cooksey at the Northwest Chocolate Festival November 2017

Victoria Cooksey: How has your work with craft chocolate changed you?  What changes have you seen in the craft chocolate industry since you started Chocolate Naive?

Domantas Užpalis: My former background is with IT and urban city development – nothing to do with food.  So jumping into chocolate was quite a change and it did change everything.  I have no official culinary education although I was always interested in what we consume and where our food comes from.  I was and still am a proponent of the slow food movement and this is where it all started.  My first encounter with slow food concept was through the making and selling of fresh farm-made dairy products and then I slowly shifted towards more sophisticated produce – chocolate.  It has been  almost 8 years since I became fully engaged with this multilayered product.   Continue reading “Interview with Domantas Užpalis of Chocolate Naive with Victoria Cooksey”

Zotter Chocolate Labooko Vintage 2016 Dry Aged 75% Dark Chocolate Bar Review

In celebration of Zotter’s 30th anniversary they introduced this Vintage 2016 dry-aged dark chocolate bar which is described on their web site as “a superior cuvée made of dry-aged fine flavour cocoa, which we have aged for a year in order to mature its aroma. It is a blend of 5 fine cocoa varieties from 4 different countries, and of course the legendary Criollo is part of the mix”.

Zotter’s Labooko Vintage 2016 Continue reading “Zotter Chocolate Labooko Vintage 2016 Dry Aged 75% Dark Chocolate Bar Review”

Sirene Chocolate 100% Kokoa Kamili, Tanzania & Costa Esmeraldas, Ecuador Craft Chocolate Bar Review

Sirene Chocolate is a craft chocolate maker located in Victoria, B.C.,  that makes bean-to-bar bars with direct trade chocolate.

Their Pure Cacao Pur set features two 100% bars so you can compare Kokoa Kamili, Tanzania and Costa Esmeraldas, Ecuador in one sitting.  The bars are labeled in an easy to tell one bar from the other, in both written word and by the color of each bar’s foil wrapper (gold and silver).

Sirene Pure Cacao Pur  Continue reading “Sirene Chocolate 100% Kokoa Kamili, Tanzania & Costa Esmeraldas, Ecuador Craft Chocolate Bar Review”

Dark Matters Craft Chocolate Awards 2017

I can’t believe another amazing craft chocolate tasting year has past!  That means it’s time for the 2nd annual Dark Matters Craft Chocolate Awards.

I have only included bars I have purchased myself.  I’m also only including bars that I tried in 2017, so some of these bars might be new creations and some may be part of a maker’s permanent collection.

Full reviews of the winning bars are available on this blog or on my IG account.

And the winners are……drum roll….. Continue reading “Dark Matters Craft Chocolate Awards 2017”

Dark Matter’s Craft Chocolate Holiday Gift Guide 2017

What’s that sound?  Oh, yes…the fast pace sound of the holidays approaching!  No worries!  Dark Matters has you covered with some craft chocolate holiday gift ideas.

Chocolate Subscription Boxes

Subscription boxes are the way to go if you are unsure which bars a person has already tried, to introduce someone to the world of craft chocolate, or to give the gift that continues delivering throughout the year.  I tend to look for ones that feature their newest collections or subscription only limited edition bars.  Here are some of the ones I love:

Map Chocolate’s Quarterly Subscription box delivers 4 bars from the newest collection four times a year.   Dormouse Chocolate’s offers 3, 6, and 12 month subscriptions that feature one limited edition bar a month.  Endorfin Food’s monthly 3 bar subscription box, that features one bar from their current line, plus two made-only-for-subscribers (Endorfin Foods also carries larger subscription boxes too).

Pic of Dormouse Chocolates and Map Chocolate Subscription Boxes Continue reading “Dark Matter’s Craft Chocolate Holiday Gift Guide 2017”

Mission Chocolate 75% Cupuaçu Brazil Chocolate Bar Review

I first tried this bar during Hazel Lee’s Taste with Colour workshop in November at the NW Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA.  Luckily there were some for sale at the show.  (This bar is the reason why bubble gum is listed as a tasting note on her flavour map).

Mission Chocolate is a small batch craft chocolate maker located in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This inclusion bar has the dried pulp of cupuaçu scattered generously on the back of the bar.   Cupuaçu (Theobroma grandiflorum) is related to cacao.  The three ingredients in this Brazil 2016 harvest bar are cacao, sugar and the cupuaçu.

Mission Chocolate 75% Cupuaçu Bar (Pic taken in Port Townsend, WA) Continue reading “Mission Chocolate 75% Cupuaçu Brazil Chocolate Bar Review”

Violet Sky Chocolate: Pierce The Veil Dark Chocolate Bar Review

Violet Sky Chocolate is a bean-to-bar maker located in South Bend, IN.  I’ve had some of their bars in the past, so I was especially happy to see them at last weekend’s NW Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA so I could buy some more!

I love Violet Sky Chocolate wrappers but one in particular really caught my eye.  Their Pierce The Veil bar has this lovely shimmery wrapper with the label actually on the back of the bar.

Violet Sky Chocolate Pierce The Veil Continue reading “Violet Sky Chocolate: Pierce The Veil Dark Chocolate Bar Review”

NW Chocolate Festival Seattle, WA Craft Chocolate Trends 2017

The 9th Annual Northwest Chocolate Festival took place this year on Nov. 11 -12th, 2017 in Seattle, WA. This was my third year to attend ( I live in Port Townsend, WA so I drive to the Bainbridge Ferry to get over to Seattle.  So grateful to live this close to an event like this!).

The NW Chocolate Festival is a fantastic place to try 100+ craft chocolate makers from both the U.S. and international locations.  Plus, there are several educational talks, presentations, and workshops throughout both days.  There is something for everyone!

For example, Hazel Lee presented a workshop that involved tasting chocolate while utilizing her lovely Taste with Colour Flavour Map and then the participants painted what colors or pictures they envisioned while savoring the craft chocolate.  It was enjoyable to listen to what attendees tasted and the colors the envisioned.  Especially people who weren’t overly familiar with craft chocolate flavors.  (Want a Taste with Colour for your own?  Check it out here:  Taste with Colour). I’ve had her flavour map for a few months now and didn’t even know I associated colors with flavors until then.  (Find out more about Hazel in my interview with her:  Hazel Lee ).

Hazel Lee Taste with Colour Workshop at The NW Chocolate Festival 2017 Continue reading “NW Chocolate Festival Seattle, WA Craft Chocolate Trends 2017”