I went to Fog City News yesterday to meet Gary Guittard of Guittard Chocolate, and to see what new varieties of artisan chocolate Adam Smith was stocking. Neither aspect of the trip was disappointing in any way! Guittard drew quite a crowd, with 10-15 people asking him questions at most points during the time he was there. As a bonus, he was handing out samples of two E. Guittard bars, the Nocturne and the Quetzalcoatl. The Nocturne is a super-dark 91% cacao bar made from primarily Latin American beans, and surprisingly mellow for such a concentrated chocolate. The Quetzalcoatl is a 72% bar made from a blend of primarily African beans. On first impression, the strongest impression these bars make is of the degree of control Guittard has over these chocolates. They don’t have the wild blasts of flavor or aroma that some other artisan bars have, but everything in the bar works together.
I’ll have a deeper review of the Guittard chocolate soon, and hope to publish a short interview with Gary Guittard at some point in the future. As a company, Guittard has devoted significant resources to producing artisan chocolate, and also to educating people about chocolate. Two of their development scientists work with Terry Richardson on the Chocolate Technology course at UC Davis, and they have sponsored the “Don’t Mess With My Chocolate” effort to keep the FDA from allowing “fake” chocolate to be sold as the real thing.
Guittard is a fourth-generation chocolate maker, and has a longer term perspective on the high-end market. He clearly believes in artisan chocolate, and wondered aloud if makers will continue down the road of single-origin products, or if blends will become more prevalent. He also talked about the difficulty of working with smaller growers. Many of them market through cooperatives and also do fermentation at a cooperative facility. This means that beans may sit on a farm for a number of days before going into “official” fermentation at the facility. This makes controlling the overall fermentation time difficult to control across batches. I sincerely hope that I can publish more information from Gary soon.
The other part of the trip was talking with Adam Smith, the owner of Fog City News. He’s one of the leading proponents of artisan chocolate in San Francisco, and carries a wide variety of carefully selected chocolate as his store. I bought a few interesting bars that I’ll be reviewing over the next week:
- Amano Chocolate Ocumare, and Madagascar, two 70% single origin cacao bars from a Utah maker.
- Amadei Porcelana, a 70% bar made from the fabled rare Venezuelan Porcelana bean. This bar is hand-numbered and limited to 20,000 bars.
- Copperneur Hacienda Iara, a very unusual high cacao content (62%) milk chocolate with some giant fruity flavors.
- Rococo Sea Salt Milk Chocolate, a salt-infused bar from an English micro producer.
- Domori Puro, a wickedly potent 100% single origin bar. The single-malt scotch of chocolate.
- Michel Cluizel Noir Infini, a similarly evil 99% bar. Cluizel is the chocolate good enough to make it into the Chez Panisse pastry kitchen.