Tag Archives: norman-love

Chocolate vocabulary lesson

I throw a lot of terms around, like “bean-to-bar” and “confection,” and I’ve never really sat down and defined what I mean by those terms. I’ve defined three words: chocolate makers, chocolate blenders, and chocolate confectioners, to the best of my ability. I’ve also listed some of my favourites in each category. These are not exhaustive lists, and I know that I’ve forgotten (or simply don’t know about) some great stuff out there. If I’ve offended you…well, that’s just too bad.

Anyway. Here we go.

Chocolate makers

Also called bean-to-bar producers, chocolate makers actually make chocolate. They start with cacao beans and process them into the delectable thing that we know as chocolate. Typically, the chocolate comes in the form of chocolate bars, or chocolate pistoles (giant, flat chips). This chocolate is sometimes sold to consumers, while some is sold exclusively to industry folks.

Chocolate makers buy dried, fermented cocao beans from farmers, though their level of involvement in the growing, fermenting and drying process can vary. Some chocolate makers work very closely with farmers, while others deal exclusively with bean brokers and never meet the growers.

Chocolate makers are one part agricultural expert, one part production engineer, and one part artisan. They need to understand cacao (an agricultural product), be able to transform it through a series of steps (that’s the engineering part) and create something delicious, nuanced and distinctive at the end (definitely an artistic pursuit).

Some of my favourite small-batch producers: Amano Artisan Chocolate, Soma Chocolatemaker, Claudio Corallo, Theo Chocolate, and Askinosie Chocolate. I’ll also admit that I’m partial to working with Valrhona chocolate, thought they’re far from small-batch.

Chocolate blenders

Chocolate blenders don’t make chocolate, but they buy chocolate and blend it. This is less lame than it sounds. It’s not quite bean-to-bar, but there’s still a fine art to blending a chocolate mixture that is delicious and distinct. Think about an artist’s palette; while the colours come in a tube, the right mixture of colours can express something that stock colours can’t.

I don’t taste as much blended chocolate as I do bean-to-bar chocolate, but I was impressed with Chocolove’s 73% organic dark chocolate bar. You can read about it here.

Chocolate confectioners

Chocolate confectioners are what most people think of when you say chocolatier: someone who takes chocolate and creates bonbons, pralines and truffles. Way back when, the term chocolatier meant someone who took chocolate from bean to confection, but not anymore.

Chocolatiers don’t typically make their own chocolate. It’s partly economic, and partly because the two tasks are so very different. The equipment required is completely different, and it really doesn’t make sense to have the equipment to process chocolate and turn it into bonbons. (Two exceptions: Soma Chocolatemaker and Theo Chocolates are both bean-to-bar producers and chocolatiers.)

Quality confectioners work with quality ingredients: chocolate, but also with cream, sugar, spices, fruits, nuts, and liquor. Beware of fondant, corn syrup, or – to quote Michael Pollan – “anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize.” The lack of preservatives in quality confections means that these treats have a limited shelf life: 3 weeks, at most.

There are a lot of folks out there masquerading as top-end chocolatiers. Some of them are pretty good – say, an 8 out of 10. And then, there are some whose attention to detail, flavour profiles and execution are all there. If you want to impress me, bring me something from Thomas Haas, Christopher Elbow, Norman Love, Kee’s Chocolates, Vosges, or La Maison du Chocolat.

P.S. Thomas Haas is opening a new location in Vancouver, next to Lumiere. Boss-man says that it’ll be open in mid-October. Wheee!

Happy birthday, Chocolopolis!

Hey Seattle folks, you should make your way down to Chocolopolis lickety split. As in, sometime in the next week or so. They’re celebrating their first birthday today (wheee!) and are saying thank you with a whole week’s worth of great tastings and events.

They’re featuring Norman Love, Christopher Elbow, Lillie Belle Farms and Michel Cluziel treats in the confection case. They’ve also just re-formulated their in-house single-origin truffles. And did I mention the deliciousness that is their chocolate-covered vanilla and strawberry marshmallow?

Their anniversary week events are posted on their homepage.

Chocolopolis
1527 Queen Anne Avenue North
Seattle, WA
(206) 282-0776.

Passionate strawberries

I have to hand it to Norman Love, he managed to make me like white chocolate. Normally, I turn my nose up at white chocolate. Oh, there’s nothing wrong with it in principle, but it’s all milky and cloying, and doesn’t actually have any cacao in it. White “chocolate,” pshaw.

His key lime chocolate, for instance. It’s a white chocolate shell (shaped like a conch shell, lightly sprayed with green-tinted cocoa butter) that contains a white chocolate ganache with nice tartness, slight nuttiness, and perfectly smooth texture.

The passionfruit heart is lovely. It’s a milk shell decorated with white- and yellow-tinted cocoa butter, and it’s almost too pretty to eat. Passionfruit is usually quite a tart, punchy flavour. In Norman Love’s hands, it’s subtle and gentle. The passionfruit flavour mixes so well with the bitterness of the ganache, and somehow enhances the fruitiness of the passionfruit. The chocolate and the passionfruit help each other out and it’s delicious. And fantastically smooth.

And the strawberry heart? It’s dark chocolate with splashes of red. And it smells – smells! – like a strawberry patch in the height of summer. I’ve never smelled anything like it, at least not in chocolate form. The ganache is smooth and lovely, with just a kick of something boozy. Strawberry liqueur? It tastes almost like strawberry Pocky, but infinitely better.

Raspberry love

Chocolate and raspberry is a classic flavour combination, for the simple reason that it works. It’s quite easy to make something chocolatey and raspberry and have it work, but it’s something else to make the combination stand out in the sea of mediocrity.

Not only does Norman Love make the chocolate-raspberry combination sing, he does it twice.

His raspberry heart is gorgeous. It’s a white chocolate shell decorated with red cocoa butter. The key here is that the cocoa butter spray isn’t opaque. It’s sprayed in a gradient, so you can still see the white chocolate peeking out and it’s visually interesting – almost 3D.

And inside? Inside is a perfectly smooth, white chocolate-based ganache that is fruity and buttery. The white chocolate compliments the raspberry perfectly without being heavy or cloying, and through some crazy miracle, there is only the faintest milky aftertaste from the white chocolate.

And then there’s the raspberry dome. The shell is absolutely perfect: a thin layer of dark chocolate that is a thing of beauty. It’s decorated with swirls of red and white cocoa butter, and it’s stunning. Inside is a positively juicy raspberry ganache. First, you taste the punch of raspberry, which mellows to the bitterness of the dark chocolate, and finishes with the cocoa notes of the dark chocolate.

Put another way, the raspberry dome is like the love child of dark chocolate and dark raspberry. And when I say raspberry, I don’t mean a light, pink, frou-frou raspberry. I mean a late season raspberry that you want to squish between your fingers.

And this love child? It’s wearing a red dress and stilettos and it’s going to break your heart.

Love for Norman Love

I’ve never been to Florida, though I think it would be entertaining to visit Miami. I have visions of beaches, svelte bodies, and skin as far as the eye can see. It’s decidedly hot and sexy. And, let’s be honest, that’s not really an aesthetic that goes well with chocolate. After all, hot + chocolate = melty mess. Sexy + chocolate…well, that one works. Now that you mention it, maybe melty mess isn’t so terrible after all.

Ahem.

I don’t think you can get Norman Love chocolates in Canada. That is, I’ve never seen them (and I would love to be wrong). You should have seen my face when I found them at Chocolopolis. I bought one of everything.

There are a lot of heart-shaped chocolates (Norman Love, get it?) but each one is perfectly, impeccably molded. It’s a chocolatier’s dream: impossibly thin shells that yield just so to expose the hidden gem inside.

Technique aside, these are decidedly sexy chocolates. If I didn’t know that Norman Love was based out of Florida, the chocolates would have told me. They’re brightly coloured, they’re flamboyant, they’re fun. They’re almost – but not quite – brash.

And the taste? Oh, lordy. Divine.

Chocolopolis

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a culinary tourist. I know most people head to new places with lists of museums, sights, or shopping districts. I prefer to arm myself with lists of restaurants, bakeries and chocolate shops.

Well, when I was in Seattle last month, I headed straight for Chocolopolis. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed. Not only did I get to speak to the lovely Lauren Adler, but she told me about the artisan chocolate makers that she gets to work with. The store is stocked with artisan chocolate bars that I’ve never even heard of, much less tasted. And the confectionary case is stocked with a rotating selection of offerings from top-notch chocolatiers. When I was there, they had Theo Chocolates, Norman Love Confections, and Christopher Elbow Chocolates.

Christopher Elbow was in the store the previous day, doing a tasting and demonstration. I missed him by 18 hours.

I drowned my sorrows in a mug of warm drinking chocolate, served with a homemade vanilla-strawberry marshmallow. A double-layered marshmallow that tasted like fragrant vanilla and juicy strawberry, dunked in thick, luxurious drinking chocolate: it was like a warm, adult version of neopolitan ice cream, eaten straight from the bucket.

And then I carted home a bag stuffed to the brim with artisan chocolate bars.

Chocolopolis
1527 Queen Anne Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 282-0776