My Search for the Very Best Chocolate
When you have food cravings, are you pondering salty or sweet foods? Basically, there are two kinds of people in the world; those who are drawn to salty foods and those who crave sweets. I am, as far as I can remember, and have always been, a lover of sweets, particularly chocolate. I am a “chocoholic”. But my search for really good chocolate hasn’t always been easy.
Over the years my palate for good chocolate has changed. When I was a child I craved milk chocolate probably because fine dark chocolate was not readily available. But now my tastes have become refined to the point that my cravings for the mahogany confection are satisfied only with the finest quality varieties. I have become a connoisseur of fine chocolate. Although the dark variety is my preferred choice, even the best quality dark milk chocolate can quash my yearnings.
There are a multitude of confectionery companies out there all claiming to be the best. Whether they are famous for being the “chocolatier to the queen”, Jackie O’s favorite shop, or come in an exotic looking box at a high-end store, I have had many disappointments. I can’t tell you how many times I have paid high prices for chocolate confections with the hopes of having a satisfying gastronomic experience only to be let down yearning for something better.
In my quest for the best, I finally I discovered a small confectionary shop in town with exceptional French style chocolates. Though very small these pricey little morsels packed the punch I was looking for. My favorite was a Scotch Bonnet bon bon with a surprisingly stealth creamy dark chocolate ganache. The chocolate notes hit first leaving a pleasant floral bouquet until the heat of the infamous pepper hit the palate. It was spicy without being obnoxious. I finally found chocolates that satisfied my yearning.
My ascent into chocolate bliss didn’t last very long. After a few short months that small confectionary had to close its doors. I presumed the city wasn’t ready to pay for good quality chocolate when consumers are used to paying for inexpensive chocolate flavored substitutes. Don’t get me wrong, some of the better companies that use chocolate coating produce a nice product, but a chocolate with most of the cocoa butter replaced with other oils is not considered to be real chocolate. It doesn’t have the nuanced lingering flavor notes that make different varieties of chocolate, with cocoa butter, unique.
The key to really good chocolate isn’t always listed in the ingredients, either. It is the quality of those ingredients that make all the difference. Fine chocolate, whether it is a bar, bon bon, or truffle, starts with superior quality real chocolate. The more I have discovered about Theobroma cacao and the myriad of products produced from its pods, such as single origin, regional, and varietal, the more I appreciate the effort it takes to produce fine quality chocolate.
After the loss of my favorite shop, it wasn’t long before my cravings for good chocolate returned, but where was I to go? There were single origin bars available, but I wanted more. I was looking for a chocolate bon bon, praline, or truffle as it is more commonly called in the US. Then an idea began to brew in my mind. I have worked in restaurants most of my life and have a strong culinary background. Why not try to make the spicy chocolate truffles myself? Soon, I began to read everything I could about chocolate.
My first attempt at making spicy chocolate truffles was good, and the results improved with each trial. It wasn’t long before I was creating a variety of molded bon bons. After many successes and a few failures working with chocolate and formulating recipes, I took a series of classes at the famed Chocolate Academy in Chicago with well-known French chocolatiers. There my previous trials and tribulations permitted me to soak up the knowledge and techniques instantly.
When I returned home, I wanted to re-create some of the fabulous two-layered chocolate pralines we prepared in Chicago, but was unable to afford the special equipment necessary to make them. I then decided to layer two different ganaches in molded chocolate shells. Thus, I became one of the few chocolatiers to do this.
Then I became intrigued with choosing flavors that were unique and complimentary using natural ingredients such as exotic fruits, herbs, savories and spices. In the process of pairing these ingredients, I discovered that if the two ganaches were not only complimentary but contrasting as well, they enhanced and extended the tasting experience. Not only had I learned how to quench my own appetite for chocolate, but also learned to elevate my own tasting experience. A tasting adventure that utilizes all of one’s senses which I call a sense-venture.
Now, I can proudly say that my search for the very best chocolate ended with the formation of my own company called Marco Paolo Chocolates. No greater compliment could have paid me, when at my first artisanal show, a fellow chocolatier exclaimed, “Sir, you have really done something with chocolate!” However, we don’t claim to be the very best, for that is a matter of personal preference. But we use only the finest ingredients and are considered by many to be one of the best chocolate truffles (or bon bons) available.
You don’t have to make your own chocolate confections to enjoy the best like I did. But, start with your local chocolate shop or peruse our online store at MarcoPaoloChocolates.com. Keep in mind, however, just like the best of anything, fine quality chocolate is costly to produce.