While my ability to discriminate between good and bad wine is still pretty weak, I am able to detect notes in chocolate with ease and confidence. Which, I suppose, reveals a bit about my vices, as the palate is much about experience and flavor memory, no?
In chocolate, the most common flavors I notice are similar to words you will hear to describe wine. In certain chocolates, like Vahlrona, I taste a lovely cherry note. In others, like Cadbury's, it is caramel. I've also noticed a burnt taste, smokiness, cinnamon, and sometimes coffee.
A few years back I hosted a wine and chocolate tasting party, asking guests to bring a bottle of their favorite red with the label hidden or their favorite chocolate. Everyone loved the party, and I thought the results were pretty interesting. However, since then I have learned I have broken a cardinal rule of chocolate OR wine tasting, which is that both have strong flavors and therefore should not be combined. Oh well. No one complained at the time. Since then, friends think of me when they think of chocolate, which of course I take as a compliment.
Yesterday, on a quest to buy shampoo for my sister for Christmas (her idea, not mine), I passed a new little corner store in the Westin Hotel near the Copley Mall. It was called something generic like "Gourmet Boutique" and I was ready to dismiss it as a standard overpriced venue for tourists, filled with Toblerone that you can buy at the grocery store and maybe some fancy crackers. But no, they did actually have some unusual items. And even, lo and behold when I was not even looking, they stocked a kind of chocolate bar I had only heard about on this lovely blog and had no hopes of finding here in Boston, the Marquise de Seveigne 70% Noir. I had to choose between one with candied orange peel and another with chocolate nibs. I went with the nibs because I wanted the chocolate flavor to be as unadulterated as possible, although once I tasted it, I have to say the nib action adds more grit than I like. And after I finished at the shop, I proceeded to pass by the new Richart Chocolates in the mall, an odd set-up that looks like some sort of drug store selling colorful jewels. I like their idea of their flavors: balsamic, floral, citrus, herbal, roasted ... As they weren't willing to sell individual chocolates and the smallest box was $20, I decided to wait for a time when I wasn't already feeling a bit overwhelmed with holiday flavors.
So now at home I have three exotic high level chocolate bars, a justly earned pleasure after all of that hunting. The Marquise, an Italian bar from Formaggio's whose name is currently escaping me, and a Green and Black Organic 70%. Personally, the Green and Back is the most pleasant of the three for eating straight.
I know I'm probably a little odd, but if it really good chocolate, I am even happy to eat it unsweetened, as King Arthur Flour sells it. Then I know I'm getting nuthin' but chocolate.
And did I mention my favorite local chocolatier, the very, very fine Burdick's in Harvard Square? The best hot chocolate AND the best truffles I've had, all in one tiny shop.
Whew. Apparently, I could talk about this subject for a long time. I'll stop now but it may have to come up again!