by Analiese Paik
In New York City, a chocophile can get their fix of fine chocolate at Michel Cluizel’s shop, the newly opened Amedei store, and La Maison du Chocolat, but in Connecticut it’s pretty tricky to find chocolate from the highest quality European makers. By all means, don’t skimp on the artisan chocolate bars from the Americas and micro-batch US producers. You’ll find some gems there and they should be part of your regular stock (you eat chocolate every day, don’t you?). But sometimes, like Valentine’s day, a really special chocolate from an esteemed European bean to bar producer is what’s needed to tickle your loved one’s palate, and heart. Luckily, Olivette in Darien has started carrying bars from some of the world’s top names in chocolate.
Pralus and Bonnat are luxury, French bean t0 bar chocolate manufacturers who make what is unquestionably some of the finest chocolate in the world. Both companies start with single origin beans from the places in the world where the most flavorful cacao is grown. Think legendary cacao-producing countries like Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Madagascar and Indonesia. In fact, with Pralus’ tasting pyramids (the stacks of bars in the photo above), you can take a trip to 5 (in the organic pyramid) or 10 (in the grand crus pyramid) different countries without leaving your home.
If you’re married to a true chocophile, buy her or him a Bonnat Porcelana bar or Pralus Chuao. Porcelana is a legendary variety of Criollo cacao native to the Lake Maracaibo region of Venezuela, and due to the nationalization of all cacao plantations in the country in the 1960’s, was almost lost forever. Efforts have been made to clone and replant Porcelana, which means this rare and historic cacao is back in production. To the East, near Caracas, lies the legendary and remote Chuao cooperative, also a grower of fine Criollo. Pralus makes a deeply roasted bar, their signature style, that tastes of dark chocolate with notes of figs and tobacco and finishes with a hint of tannin.
The Fairfield Green Food Guide is holding monthly chocolate tasting workshops at Olivette, beginning February 14, 2014, with a fine Venezuelan chocolate event. A talk and tasting of 5 Pralus single origin chocolates is scheduled for March 24 and a Porcelana talk and tasting (4-5 bars depending upon availability) will be held on April 25. RSVP to email@example.com; $30 per person.