Chocolate. This could have been my first word.
My mother was a remarkably good cook and baker. I grew up baking with her, mostly delicacies containing chocolate. As an adult, I continued in this noble vocation and baked brownies for Balducci’s, a specialty store in New York City, using my mother’s recipe, of course. In 2004, on my honeymoon in the south of France, I discovered a chocolatier named Joel Durand who created wonderful things with chocolate. My first thought was “why don’t we have chocolate like this in the USA?” My second thought was “I can do this.” Upon my return to the states I began working with chocolate in a whole new way. Thus, here, in the Chelsea district of New York City, Chocolate in Chelsea was born.
What does "only the finest chocolate" mean? We hear this claim from almost everyone using chocolate, sometimes it is bolstered with place of origin, or percent of cocoa. Yet we are rarely told what makes great chocolate and how we are to judge it. Chloe Doutre-Roussel, considered the foremost chocolate sommelier, tells us what actually makes a fine chocolate and how we can know it. I will briefly attempt to explain her wisdom.
Chocolate comes from cocoa beans which grows on trees within 20 degrees latitude either side of the equator. There are three main varieties, Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario. The Criollo, comprising one percent of beans grown, is the best and most fragrant bean. Sadly, it is also the most fragile. Forastero, comprising eighty-five percent of beans grown, is the least fragrant but the hardiest and by far the most plentiful, and the least expensive. Trinitario is a high quality hybrid bean of Criollo and Forastero, very fragrant and not as fragile as the Criollo. It comprises fourteen percent of beans grown. Because the Criollo is fragile and rare, today what is called Criollo is actually a cross between Trinitario and Criollo. (A few premium chocolate companies are attempting to find ways to revive and increase the Criollo bean.)
Most of the beans used in producing chocolate today are of the Forastero variety. Some manufacturers also add artificial ingredients to extend shelf life and flavor of the Forastero. The Criollo and Trinitario are exquisite on their own. How the beans are processed is also important to the finished product. So it is choice of bean and the processing that make a great chocolate.
Taste is ultimately what will tell you what a fine chocolate is; we hope you will join us in this delicious adventure. A few companies are taking the time and expense to produce truly wonderful chocolate from the Trinitario and Criollo bean. Some of them are Valrhona, Michel Cluizel, Bonnat, Amedei, Pralus, Domori, and Felchin, available in premium specialty food stores and online.
At Chocolate In Chelsea we use only the finest chocolate from Valrhona and Michel Cluizel. Because chocolate can transport you from the ordinary to the extraordinary!
With kindest regards,
Chocolatiere and Owner
Chocolate In Chelsea