I've been studying chocolate this last year. That's not (merely) a euphemism for gobbling it down, I assure you; I've also been studying the history, process, economics, and sustainability. I've been doing a lot of critical tasting and last year I even judged the dessert contest at the NW Chocolate Festival (see my review here and other reviews here).
Lately I've been consulting to an exciting soon-to-launch business that will offer locally some of the best artisan chocolate in the country. (I can't tell you more than that yet, but stay tuned and I assure you I'll spill the beans the moment I can.) That'll be a blast when it hits the ground but in the meantime good or even great chocolate is only a click away. if you can get something in Seattle, you can get it in New York or LA or Union City.
People have started to ask me, as though I'm an expert or something, "what's the best chocolate?" In some ways my answer hasn't changed over the last year, and it's "it depends".
It depends on what I'm in the mood for. Do I want subtle? A chocolate that challenges me? Something uncomplicated and sustaining? High cocoa content? Milk chocolate? (And yes, a "serious" milk chocolate is worth it.)
And how much do I want to spend? Fact is, top-notch chocolate costs more, but something costing more doesn't make it top-notch.
Where do I get it? How patient am I feeling? Am i willing to wait to have it shipped or take a trip to a specialty shop, or do I want it quick from my local market?
So it all depends. I have my special chocolates and I have my "day" chocolate. I consume a range of chocolates that includes bars you can find at the market and bars you can't find at all.
In the last year I've learned to say things about fine (and not so fine) chocolate, such as "creamy mouth-feel" or "complex taste" or "nice finish." Last week a chocolate bar hit my tongue that rode right over all my other considerations and all I could manage was "oh, wow."
This particular chocolate maker currently stocks only four bars, one of which is a limited edition and one of which isn't even in stock. They're all good, but I have two favorites of the four and I'm going to tell you what they are and how to get them.
As with all chocolate, your mileage may vary. Taste is individual and depends on all kinds of things, including your mood and what else you've been eating. Add in that the chocolate itself changes as beans and manufacturing practices change. It's a snapshot, and a very personal one at that.
But caveats aside, this chocolate is complicated but intriguing, deep and smooth. The texture and mouth-feel are lovely. It's taste does not compromise a whit when it goes adventuring across my tongue. It challenges me but it's the sort of challenge that makes me want more.
And so I recommend to you my current favorite bars, from Rogue Chocolates: the Hispaniola and Rio Caribe at 70%. Check your local chocolate specialty shop, too, in case they have some. And if you get some, be sure to let me know what you think.