Tag Archives: theo

Theo Chef Sessions limited edition confections

The idea of limited edition is kind of like eating seasonally. Something that’s limited edition is less likely to be taken for granted, though you run the risk of turning it into something precious. Or, worse, a marketing scheme.

Thankfully, in the case of limited edition things that are actually kick-ass and that, when they become available you need to snap one up immediately, there’s the Theo Chef Sessions limited edition confection collection. (Say that five times fast.) Featuring collaborations with some of the top chefs from Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, this might be the only opportunity you’ll have to try things like carrot caramel, pine resin ganache or candied beet pate de fruit.

Theo Chef Sessions limited edition confections

Standouts in the collection were the Chris Cosentino (Incanto) agro dolce brittle, a crispy crunchy brittle with pine nuts, capers and currants. Your brain expects sweet and it gets salty and savoury. I wanted more of the Maria Hines (Tilth) tamarind lime chili caramel, with its juicy, complex flavour profile. And, featuring the most traditional flavours of the bunch, the creation from Jerry Traumfeld (Poppy) didn’t disappoint with the huckleberry pate de fruit and cinnamon basil white ganache.

This limited edition (whee!) collection is only available for Valentine’s Day, so get ’em while you can.

Disclosure: The lovely team at Theo Chocolate sent me a box of these, gratis.

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Chocolopolis turns two

I don’t have kids, but my friends seem to be reproducing at an alarming rate. Most of the offspring are pretty young, but the first of the pack are nearing the exciting age of two. I think this means that their parents need to bolt down anything remotely breakable, protect all walls and fabrics with some eco-friendly replacement for Scotchguard, and generally prepare themselves for the Terrible Twos.

Can you tell how excited I am for this?

Well, Chocolopolis is turning two next week, and I’m pretty darn excited about that. Aside from being run by the lovely Lauren Adler (self-described Chief Chocophile), it’s a great place for chocolate bars, bonbons and education. It’s an accessible place to start learning about what makes good chocolate, where it comes from and why you should care where it comes from. And with the serious list of events that they’re hosting next week, you have ample opportunity to check out this store—for the first time or the nth time—and learn about great chocolate.

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

Chocolopolis anniversary week events

Events at the store are free and open to everyone.

Ongoing throughout the week:

Annual Golden Bar Giveaway

Somewhere on our shelves are three bars with golden tickets hidden inside.  Anyone who purchases a bar containing one of the golden tickets will receive a free bar of chocolate every week for a year. Who will be the lucky Charlie this time?

Chocolate Passport

Each day of our anniversary week will feature a different cacao-producing region (Madagascar, Venezuela, etc).  Purchase a bar from the region featured each day and earn a stamp in your “chocolate passport” (only one stamp per customer per day).  “World travelers” who earn 5 stamps by making purchases on five days will receive a free Chocolopolis tasting bar and a truffle.  Collect all 7 passport stamps and receive the bar and a truffle plus free entry to a future Chocolopolis chocolate class or event.  Luxury travel minus the jetlag!

Sunday, July 11

11am – 5pm:  Chocolopolis at the Chocolate Salon

Be sure to look for the Chocolopolis booth at Seattle’s third annual Luxury Chocolate Salon.  Save room for samples of our hand-made truffles and our mendiant bar, a delicious bar topped with dried fruit, nuts & vanilla-infused sea salt.  We’ll also be unveiling our talented confectioner’s latest creation. NOTE:  Tickets for the Chocolate Salon are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. The Seattle Chocolate Salon is held at the Bell Harbor Conference Center in downtown Seattle. Visit http://www.tastetv.com/sf-seasalon_tix.html to purchase tickets.

Monday, July 12

1pm – 3pm:  Hands-on Event for Kids

Everything is better when dipped in chocolate–even your kids!  At this fun event our younger customers will get to play chocolatier, dipping a variety of treats into melted chocolate, then enjoying the fruits of their labor.  Stop by any time between 1 and 3.

4:30pm – 6:30pm:  Meet the Chocolate Maker: Amano Chocolate Tasting

Award-winning bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Amano Chocolate, will be sampling their lineup of single-origin chocolate bars sourced from regions as diverse as Indonesia, Madagascar, and South America. Taste their passion for chocolate yourself.

7pm – 9pm:  The Inside Story on the Cacao Trade in Ghana

At this special presentation, Dr. Kristy Leissle will share the inside story of what it’s like to live on a cacao farm in Ghana. Sample chocolate while enjoying videos and photos taken by Dr. Leissle during her visits to Ghana. No reservations are required, but space is limited for this free event, so make sure to be there on time if you’d like to participate.

Tuesday, July 13

1pm – 2pm:  Tasting for Moms

Calling all moms!  Chocolopolis would like to thank you for all you do.  If you have 15 free minutes, stop by today for a complimentary guided tasting of 3 chocolates, offered at 1:00, 1:15, 1:30, and 1:45.

6pm-8pm:  Meet the Chocolate Maker: Claudio Corallo Chocolate Tasting

From his base on the island of Sao Tome off the west coast of Africa, Claudio Corallo grows heirloom cacao and crafts it into a range of outstanding products. Enjoy samples of Corallo’s unconched chocolate as Claudio’s representative, Marie-Françoise, shares the story of this fascinating artisan.

Wednesday, July 14 – Bastille Day

1pm – 2pm:  Book Reading for Kids

Our mouth-watering story hour will feature a dramatic reading of Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory. Curious George introduces kids ages 4-8 to the joys of monkeying around with chocolate.  Kid-friendly chocolate samples will be provided during the reading.

2pm – 5pm:  French Chocolate Tasting
Celebrate Bastille Day in an appropriately delicious way.  Throughout the day we’ll be screening a video on lauded French chocolate maker Michel Cluizel (in both French and English). While watching, enjoy samples of rich, creamy chocolate from a variety of French makers.  Feel free to BYOB (bring your own baguette) and improvise a celebratory pain au chocolat.

6pm-8pm:  Meet the Chocolate Maker: Pralus Chocolate Tasting

Later in the evening we’ll narrow our focus to master chocolate maker François Pralus.  A company representative will share the story of the venerable François Pralus and his ongoing quest for perfection.  Put the story into context with samples from Pralus’ vast range of smooth, intense chocolate bars.

Thursday, July 15

6pm-9pm:  Customer Appreciation Party

Enjoy cheese, crackers and chocolate, and enter a drawing to win a visit to our “Chocolate Surplus Room”.  As a special treat, sample our mysterious, luxurious Egg Cream soda –a delicious chocolate drink that contains neither eggs nor cream — expertly made by a genuine soda jerk from Brooklyn.

Friday, July 16

6pm – 9pm:  Chocolate That’s Good for the Cacao Farmer

Taste chocolate by chocolate makers who purchase cacao directly from the farmer. A delicious way to learn a bit about Fair Trade certified, direct trade and profit-sharing programs that benefit the farmers and result in better-quality cacao (and tastier chocolate!).

Saturday, July 17

11am – 5pm:  Frozen Chocolate Tasting

Beat the heat (fingers crossed!) with samples of our frozen drinking chocolate.  And if you’re feeling lucky, join the search for any Golden Tickets that remain.

6pm – 9pm:  Guess-the-Ganache Challenge

Take the truffle challenge and put your taste buds to the test! Step up and see if you can distinguish the origin of the chocolates used in three of our single-origin truffles in a blind tasting. Enter your answers on a ballot to be eligible to win a box of truffles.

Sunday, July 18

3pm – 6pm:  Meet the Chocolate Maker: Theo Chocolate Tasting

Learn more about Seattle’s very own bean-to-bar artisan chocolate maker as a representative from Theo Chocolate shares the lowdown on their production process.  Sample Theo chocolate and ask any questions about Theo’s products and progressive trade policies.

Guilty pleasure: fun chocolate for grownups

Everyone needs a guilty pleasure. Most people’s guilty pleasure is chocolate. So what’s a chocolate connoisseur to do? If your everyday pleasure is chocolate, how can it possibly get any guiltier?

I know some chocolate snobs who swear by milk chocolate with almonds. There’s something comforting about the crunchiness. Milk chocolate with hazelnuts, too. The fact that it’s milk chocolate is pretty telling; it’s a break from the analytical chocolate tasting that we usually do.

Let’s be clear. I’m not talking about a complete departure from good taste. I’m still not eating anything with waxy fillers or oils masquerading as cocoa butter. But take a decent foundation chocolate, one without too many distinct flavours, and throw some fun stuff in it? Yesssss. Here are three wacky bars that are high on my list for the fun factor.

Theo Chocolate Bread & Chocolate

I loved the Theo Chocolate Bread & Chocolate bar two years ago when I first tried it, and it’s still one of my favourites. You could call it a deconstructed pain au chocolat, or you could just eat the damn thing.

If I were to make this at home, I would buy a baguette and leave it on the counter for a week until every last bit of moisture was gone. Then, I would bash it to pieces, collect the bread crumbs and coat them with melted, unsalted butter. Then, I would take the buttered bread bits and add them to tempered dark chocolate.

Seeing as how I am not about to clean up the mess that the bread bashing would cause, I’m happy to let Theo Chocolate do the work and put it in a cute little wrapper with cats on it.

The crunchiness is like no other; it has a very distinct crispness to it that perfectly complements the melting chocolate. And the buttery finish is completely unexpected, lending a surprising savouriness to the experience. (And psst, the chocolate is certified organic and fair trade.)

Komforte Chockolate French Toast

I bought the Komforte Chockolates French Toast bar because of the label. I love it. As it turns out, the chocolate bar inside is pretty kick-ass, too.

As soon as I opened the foil wrapper, a cloud of syrupy vanilla wafted toward me. The bar itself is milk chocolate with chunks of crispy French toast inside. The French toast is the texture of very thin croutons, and the first taste provides a heady mixture of nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. A second later, there’s a decidedly confident saltiness at the back of the palate. The finish is all salt. The milk chocolate is the perfect sweetness and is, really, just a vehicle for crunchy, spiced, salty French toast. The entire experience is highly addictive.

Komforte also makes a Ramen Noodle bar and a Tortilla Lime Salt bar. The Ramen Noodle bar sounds cool but was rather disappointing. I didn’t buy the Tortilla Lime Chip bar, but you’d better believe I will the next opportunity that I get.

Chuao Chocolatier Firecracker Bar

This bar from Chuao Chocolatier boasts chipotle, salt and popping candy, which you might remember as Pop Rocks.

As a kid, I loved Pop Rocks, but they made me uncomfortable. The entire experience of buying and eating Pop Rocks gave me weird tummy rumblings. In retrospect, I think it was the anticipation of the popping: one part nervousness, one part excitement, and one part brain thinking that exploding candy is really quite bizarre.

Well, not much has changed. The first few pieces of this chocolate made me really uncomfortable. That familiar tummy rumbling was back. I put the bar down, only to be inexplicably drawn to it. I tried again. This time, less rumbly. And the third time, I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough.

It’s not all about the popping candy, though. The salt draws out the cocoa notes in the chocolate, and the chipotle provides a sweet smokiness up front, followed by a slow burn on the finish. The slow burn is just distracting enough to fill the gap in time between finishing one piece and putting the next one in your mouth.

It’s really sad when you realize you’ve eaten the entire bar in one sitting, though. Not out of some guilty complex that you’ve eaten an entire chocolate bar, but the simple fact that there isn’t any more.

Unless you’re me, and you bought three of them. Mwahaha.

A Night with Theo Chocolate – schedule

There are only five days before the chocolate event of the year hits Vancouver! Are you ready for artisan chocolate, fine wine, hand-crafted cocktails, and stories?

Tickets are only $40. Get yours here.

This is the schedule of events:

5:30 – 6:15 p.m. Savoury canapes from The Refinery’s Chef Mike Carter, incorporating Theo Chocolate. Paired with a custom cocktail from Lauren Mote, incorporating Vista d’Oro walnut wine and garnished with shavings of Theo Chocolate.

6:15 – 6:30 p.m. Welcome and introductions. Joe Whinney, CEO of Theo Chocolate, will tell us about the company he founded.

6:30 – 7:10 p.m. Guided chocolate and beverage pairing. Hear stories about where the chocolate comes from, and who made the beverage that it’s paired with.

We’re featuring four chocolates from the Theo Chocolate line:

Paired with those, we have gorgeous selections from Farmstead Wines and Vista d’Oro:

7:10 – 7:30 p.m. Sweet canapes from Chef Mike Carter, plus confections from Theo Chocolate. Here’s your opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the artisan products that you just enjoyed.

This event would not be possible without the generous support of the event’s sponsors. Theo_Banner4

A Night with Theo Chocolate

Artisan chocolate meets wine, beer, cocktails and canapes

Theo_Banner4

Mark your calendars: Friday, November 20th will be the chocolate event of the year. Joe Whinney, CEO and founder of Theo Chocolate, will make a rare appearance in Vancouver for this special event.

Theo Chocolate is a fair-trade, certified organic bean-to-bar chocolate producer in Seattle. They were one of the first to create organic chocolate that didn’t taste like dirt. In fact, it tasted amazing. The company’s values, philosophy and transparency is matched only by the passion of the people who work there.

The night will feature Theo Chocolate in some surprising ways: as savoury canapes, in cocktails, and paired with artisan wine and beer. Joe Whinney will talk about the company that he founded, and entertain us with stories about the trials and tribulations of being an artisan chocolate maker.

This unique event will feature canapes from the Refinery, the mixology stylings of Lauren Mote, fine wines selected from the Farmstead Wines collection, and the opportunity to taste some amazing chocolate. And that’s not all. There’s more stuff coming down the pipe, so stay tuned.

Date: Friday, November 20th, 2009
Time: 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Location: The Refinery, 1115 Granville Street, Vancouver
Tickets: $50.00 $40.00 | Buy tickets

UPDATE, November 5, 2009:

We’ll be featuring two single-origin dark chocolates. One’s from Madagascar, the other from Ghana. We’ll also try the fig, fennel and almond bar from the 3400 Phinney line.

I’m not usually a fan of milk chocolate, but I’m not one to argue with the London Academy of Chocolate. In 2009, they awarded the Theo Jane Goodall milk chocolate bar with a silver medal for best milk chocolate bar. Not only is the chocolate good, the company was just awarded the Jane Goodall Institute award for Excellence in Corporate Responsibility.

Wine-wise, we’ll be tasting two gems from the Farmstead Wines collection: the Agricola Marrone Arnies 2007, and the Claus Preisinger Basic. We’ve got some tricks up our sleeves for more pairings, so stay tuned.

Throughout the night, we’ll hear stories about each product: where it comes from, who produced it, and the craft that went into it.

What are you waiting for? Buy tickets here. Tickets are only $50, but the actual value of the experience is well over $75.

This event is proudly sponsored by Sheraton Wall Centre, Foodists, and Industrial Brand, with a fabulous door prize donated by Xoxolat.

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!

Mexican chocolate fudgesicles

I was all a-twitter (get it? get it?) last week about Mexican chocolate fudgesicles. It started with an insatiable craving for fudgesicles, and then my pastry brain kicked in and wondered how I could turn something lovely into something stupidly extravagant.

Now, I haven’t done any market research. Heck, I haven’t even googled the term. But I’m going to say that in my humble kitchen, on Thursday August 30th, when I was supposed to be writing a proposal, Mexican chocolate fudgesicles were born.

I started with Alton Brown’s fudge pop recipe (thanks to Lorna for the link), but made a few changes. To make it Mexican, I infused the cream/milk mixture with cinnamon and ancho chiles. I also tried it with two kinds of chocolate. The first batch used a mixture of chocolate (mostly dark, but some milk) that made me sad: samples that I picked up that just weren’t tasty or subtle or, if you’ll excuse the snobbery, worth my time eating. The second batch used one bar of Theo 84% Ghana chocolate.

Also, I added a pinch of salt – because salt makes everything taste perkier and happier.

Observation 1. The recipe, which calls for mostly cream and a little bit of milk, is too rich for my liking. When I think of fudgesicles, I think of melty, slightly icy popsicles. The high proportion of cream in this recipe means that you get a really rich, full-flavoured popsicle that isn’t very icy. I’m going to repeat this with more milk, which has less fat and more water than cream – and thus, should result in an icier fudgesicle.

Observation 2. The mixture of sad chocolate actually produced a nicer, meltier fudgesicle. The final mixture was probably about 60% cacao content, which qualifies as dark (and perhaps as bittersweet, depending on who’s doing the marketing).

The 84% chocolate was just too much for this recipe, and I should have known it. Chocolate with more than 70% cacao content usually isn’t good for putting in recipes, because it’s just too much cacao. The actual reason depends on what you’re making, but in this case the high cacao content made the end product less melty. Which is fine, but isn’t what I was going for.

Observation 3. Work-in-progress fudgesicles are delicious. As far as starting points go, this is a good one.

Alton Brown’s Fudgepops recipe (reproduced from the Food Network website)

[My edits are in square brackets.]

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) heavy cream
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • [2 cinnamon sticks]
  • [1 dried ancho chile, seeded and lightly toasted]
  • [1 pinch of salt]
Directions
Special Equipment: Icepop molds

Place chopped chocolate into a medium glass mixing bowl. Set aside.

[Take the heavy cream and milk and heat in a medium saucepan over medium heat with two sticks of cinnamon and one dried ancho chile that you have seeded and lightly toasted. Bring just to the boil, pop a lid on it, and let it sit at room temperature for 20-60 minutes.]

Combine heavy cream, milk, and cocoa powder [and a pinch of salt] in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk constantly until cocoa is dissolved and mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from the heat [then strain out the cinnamon and ancho goodies] and pour over the chocolate.

Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes and then whisk gently until all chocolate is melted. Whisk in the vanilla extract.

Divide the mixture evenly among the molds and place in the freezer. Freeze for at least 4 hours or until solid. Fudgepops can be held in the freezer for up to 1 week in an airtight container.

[Yeah right, one week in the freezer. I dare you to make these and leave them for one week. DARE YOU.]