Tropical Paradise

Tropical Paradise
"Tropical Paradise", watercolor, by Roye Jan Myers

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dark, Darker, Darkest

There's dark chocolate -- 60%, 70%, 80% -- even 90%.  What all of them in this range have in common is at least a small amount of sugar. They can be insanely, intoxicatingly delicious. That little bit of sugar, that smallest touch of sweetness, completely changes the game.

And then there is 100% dark chocolate. Just pure, straight-up, roasted, ground, refined, conched and molded cacao. There is no sugar flying cover for even the slightest of off-flavors. Everything the bean has to offer, for better or for worse, is on full display.

Fine 100% darks are NOTHING like the baking chocolate that you may have had the misfortune of tasting at some point along the way (aside from being 100% cacao). When made well, these unsweetened bars are works of art. They can be as smooth and creamy as some of the better milk chocolates. The taste is not bitter or astringent (nor is it sweet), but rather complex and rich -- each one in its own distinct way.

100% darks aren't for everyone, but if you want to experience chocolate full-on, without decoration or embelishment, find a bar of Pralus 100% Madagascar, Domori IL100%, Granada Chocolate Company 100% organic, Zotter 100% Peru (my personal favorite) or Bonnat 100% Cacao. Find a quiet place to sit down. Cleanse your pallate. Break off a small corner of the bar. Let it melt on your tongue...and let it take you to that special place that only a truly great chocolate can...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

From Bean to Bar

In addition to offering our flagship Fortunato No. 4 chocolate and (soon) other fine single-origin dark chocolates on our website (, making our own line of vegan white chocolates, biscotti, bon-bons, and the like, we’ve been quietly and diligently working on learning how to make our own chocolate ‘bean-to-bar’ from raw cocoa beans. We’ve read we’ve studied, we’ve made test batches, we’ve waited with great anticipation for the finished chocolate to come out of the molds, we’ve tasted the results – and we’ve gone back to the drawing board a couple of notches wiser more times than we can count. What we’ve really learned most from all of this so far is that there are a lot more ways to make bad or so-so chocolate than good, and that making truly fine chocolate is an art form that can (and probably will) take a lifetime to master – and even then it’s still a journey, not a destination.

We don’t know at the moment whether we’re weeks, months or even years from a process that will result in a chocolate good enough for us to want to put our name on. What we’re making today is worlds better than what we were making six months ago, but it still isn’t that insanely, deliriously, gloriously, intoxicatingly other-worldly great chocolate experience that we’re after. So until then…

…so until then, we’d like to start sharing our bean-to-bar journey with you, play-by-play, in our blog (we’ll let you know on Facebook when we add a new post to our blog) – the trials, the tribulations, the successes and the inevitable ‘learning experiences’.  We’d also like to invite anyone that’s seriously interested in being a part of this chocolate making adventure to join us on the journey and to help us evaluate and refine our chocolate. Our test batches are typically very small – about one to two pounds. We save some out for comparison with other batches, so that doesn’t translate into very many 'extra' bars, but for anyone willing to provide constructive feedback on our blog, we’ll send you small bars or tasting squares (and a description of what you’re getting) on a first-come, first-served basis until we run out – the only requirements are that you cover any insulated shipping if you want to participate in the warmer months (we’ll cover standard shipping in the cooler months of the year), and that in order to get your next bar you have to have left some thoughtful feedback on the previous one you received. Our eventual inaugural bar will be the world’s first ‘crowd-sourced’ chocolate bar, and you will have been part of it!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Jackfruit Heaven

Had a great day in the kitchen today after a wonderfully productive trip to Berkeley and the Pleasanton farmer’s market this morning to fill up the fridge(es) for the week. In addition to all of the mouthwatering, spectacular seasonal organic produce that we find this time of year around here, Monterey Market (in Berkeley) had piles of the most beautiful Morel mushrooms. I filled up two small paper bags -- and then emptied my wallet shortly thereafter. From there it was a short jaunt over to Berkeley Bowl West where I found (among too many other things to mention) the biggest, baddest, most beautiful pieces of Jackfruit I’ve ever seen (see the picture below from from a year or so ago when we bought a smallish whole jackfruit to know why I am compelled to seek out ‘pieces’ these days…). 

Leslie holding the reason we only by sliced jackfruit now.

I also saw some nice looking durian, but I’m under strict orders not to bring the stuff anywhere near home. Ever smell durian?

After getting home and valiantly attempting to find places to stow the bounty (my eyes are bigger than my available fridge space), it was time to cut up the jackfruit. There are two fruits for me that run neck-and-neck for the title most delicious fruit in the world – jackfruit is one, and mangosteen is the other (and when I find some mangosteen again that will be another entry on this page). Jackfruit comes with a bonus – in the center of every little section of fruit there is a seed – a ‘bean’ of sorts. It’s not really a bean, of course, but it looks like a large (more than an inch long) pinto bean. You cook it like a bean – throw it in boiling water and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. The texture is very much bean-like, as is the taste – but with its own unique characteristics.

Jackfruit seeds ready to be boiled

So far we’ve only eaten them plain with a little bit of salt, but I really want to try them in chili along with a mix of other beans – and oddly enough with jackfruit in another form – baby green jackfruit in brine, which turns out to be a pretty exceptional meat substitute from what I hear in recipes like chili where meat is either ground or shredded and mixed with other ingredients (probably not so great on its own as a filet, however). And there is another future blog entry…

Jackfruit piece with fruit sections and seeds

Jackfruit sections after being removed from them fruit.

This jackfruit was simply amazing – perfect degree of ripeness, and the largest individual sections I’ve ever seen. Jackfruit is as much about the texture as it is about the taste, and this one had both. Sad that the internet doesn’t let you share that part of the story directly – words fall short. That being said, if you ever have the opportunity to try good jackfruit, I think you’ll be most pleasantly surprised – and you may come away with a new favorite fruit.

: )

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Texture of a ripe avocado, shaped like a mango, feels like tree bark, tastes like flan…what is it?

It’s a wonderful fruit called Mamey Sapote – and one of my very favorites. It is sweet, creamy, rich and just basically delicious when you find a good one and let it ripen fully. Personally, I think that the flavor is like that of flan, but describes it as “a combination of sweet potato and pumpkin with undertones of almond, chocolate, honey, and vanilla”. Either one sounds pretty good to me.

The part of the Sapote that you eat is the pink-orange flesh – the skin isn’t edible, and while the (fairly huge) seeds can be used for their oil (in cosmetics), they aren’t edible either.

If you're lucky enough to find Mamey Sapotes at the store, look for one that doesn’t have any obvious dents or cuts, and no mushy or depressed spots. Ideally, look for one that is uniformly firm or even a little bit hard. Don’t cut your Sapote, though, until it softens up and gives when you push your thumb into it just like a ripe avocado would.

When it is ripe, wash it well, cut it in half lengthwise (you can’t cut through the seed) and twist it apart like an avocado. At this point it’s up to you what to do – scoop it out or cut it up. I prefer to cut it into about eight wedges, as shown above, then slice the skin off. If you want to try a Sapote but can’t find one where you are, let me know and we’ll see if we can pick one up for you and put it in the mail…


Monday, May 28, 2012

Vegan White Chocolate

We've been working on our vegan white chocolate recipe for months now -- there have been a lot of 'almost there' versions, and quite a few 'wow, not even close to there' versions (we call those lessons learned...).Yesterday, though, we molded up our latest version, and I have to say, I think we're there -- or at least very close to 'there'.

What we would love more than anything right now, though, is to get some feedback from someone that isn't us. Judging our own (chocolate) creation is a little like telling other people how cute our kids are -- there's a built in bias that kind of taints the proclamation. If you're a white chocolate fan that's been looking for a high quality vegan option, we have a dozen or so small bars that we'd be happy to share in exchange for some candid (and hopefully constructive!) feedback. Just send your address to us at and we'll get a bar off in the mail to you.

David and Leslie

Sunday, May 27, 2012

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ”— Albert Einstein

Saturday, May 26, 2012

About Our Flagship Chocolate -- Fortunato No. 4

                                  The World's Rarest Chocolate

Fortunato No. 4, the rarest chocolate in the world. In a remote Marañón River Canyon of Peru, mother nature or an ancient civilization has hidden this chocolate treasure. For centuries these trees, growing in an isolated micro-climate at twice the normal altitude, have been creating beans with flavors which no one has ever tasted.......Until Now.

These recently discovered trees had ancestral relatives, which once grew on the flat plains near the Pacific Ocean, in Ecuador.  The natives called these all dark brown beans, Pure Nacional. In the 1820's a Swiss chocolate maker discovered these remarkable beans and took them to Europe and America. Within a decade, chocolate made from Pure Nacional beans, dominated the gourmet chocolate market in Europe and the US. The chocolate was famous for the aromas and flavors of delicate flowers and fruits. Suddenly diseases struck the trees and by 1919, Pure Nacional chocolate disappeared.

Nearly 100 years later, these thought-to-be-extinct trees were rediscovered, near where the Marañón River forms the headwaters of the mighty Amazon River.  During the centuries of growing in isolation, these rare beans evolved. To the amazement of the scientists, pure white beans are now growing in the same pods with the dark brown beans. This creates an entirely new flavor profile. The pure white beans add a nutty flavor to the traditional flower and fruit flavors, which had made the chocolate famous, nearly 100 years ago.

The United States Department of Agriculture performed genetic testing of these trees and reported, “This Pure Nacional variety is genetically identical to its Ecuadorian ancestors. However, the white beans growing in the same pods with the dark brown beans is an unprecedented discovery. This combination of Pure Nacional beans exists nowhere else on the planet.” 

The limited number of trees grow on small farms in this remote canyon, which has no infrastructure.  Once harvested, the beans are brought out by foot, by burro and by motorcycle to a location within this Marañón Canyon. There the beans are fermented and dried with a special process developed to protect these rare delicate aromas and flavors.

The Pure Nacional white and dark brown beans then travel to Switzerland, where old world chocolate machines built in 1879, make the chocolate. These ancient machines protect the delicate nut, flower and fruit flavors, as they slowly turn the beans into the chocolate, you hold in your hands.

The chocolate is named after Don Fortunato, the farmer where the purest trees were found. Enjoy the  aromas and flavors of the rarest chocolate in the world, which no one has ever tasted....... Until Now.