A few years ago, I went to a chocolate buffet in Paris right before summer. It was the last time the chef and avid chocolate fan, Hughes Pouget, would host it since the new summer season would be calling for fruit. Chocolate, after all, was for the cooler months. The idea I extracted from that was “well, of course that makes sense. After all, summer was hot, and the chocolate would melt.” I just accepted it as fact, and moved on.
But wait just a minute. I can understand cooking with chocolate might be a little messy during the warmer months, but what about all of us chocolate fanatics out there? If everyone’s heading to berry land, where do we go for a little cacao fix? Well, lucky for us, not all chocolatiers must give in to monsieur soleil.
I remember a couple of years ago hosting a chocolate tour during the Fancy Food Show in NYC. What a blast it was going from shop to shop sampling sweets and savories along the way. One of my favorite spots was Vosges because of their variations and marriage of sweet and savory. My latest trip brought me right back to the SoHo confectionary connection for take-home gifts plus a tiny treat for me. The Chicago-based organic manufacturing facility specializes in gourmet chocolates for the ultimate cacao adventure. Mixing hickory smoked almonds and grey sea salt with 41% cacao deep milk chocolate in the Barcelona Bar is at first unusual. But as you allow the chocolate to melt on your tongue, you are soothingly transported to the Mediterranean. Who hasn’t enjoyed chocolate-chip pancakes with buttery syrup and a side of crispy bacon? Well owner/chocolatier Katrina Markoff employs her childhood breakfast experience into Mo’s Bacon Bar with applewood-smoked bacon, Alder wood-smoked salt, and deep milk chocolate. An interesting combination that I couldn’t wait to sample, this delight did not disappoint. Shop online or in your nearest Whole Foods.
Also combining sweet and savory is California’s My Chocolate Affair. Owners Jamie Carota and Elizabeth Overton present their signature treat… chocolate-caramel dipped pretzels. If anyone’s ever tried buttery salted caramels or chocolate covered potato chips, then you’re in for a very pleasant experience. “Crispy sourdough pretzels dipped in buttery caramel, creamy milk chocolate and adorned with rich white chocolate,” they won’t stay around for long. Sharing them with a couple of colleagues, I realized I was creating chaos when the next day they came around begging for more. Sorry, all gone. The look on their faces was heartbreaking. Why can’t we go right out and buy some? Well, because boys & girls, we must realize they are gourmet, fun, and a real treat. So, luckily we can’t scarf them down like mere beer snacks at a moment’s notice. Fine foods are meant to be savored slowly. Well, if you don’t have the option of jumping on your private jet for a chocolate shopping spree, and can’t wait until your next vacation to California, New York, or Chicago, shop online. Definitely worth it.
My Chocolate Affair also offers gift baskets for birthdays, corporate functions, weddings and other special occasions, and includes beautiful packaging catered to each event.
Sweet & savory is genius. Bon appétit!