The kind-hearted people who proclaim on their Tweet feeds and Facebook statuses that they are backhandedly spontaneous 'cause they "dance in the rain when noones watchin" are morons. Either that, or they've never had the privilege of sitting through a New England summer storm. My point is, the weather was dismal tonight and we spent the night inside grousing and eating chocolate while watching South Park. When I picked up this Taza bar at the Fancy Food Show, I never anticipated a situation where I'd be using it to make a hot chocolate in the middle of August. And yet, it warmed us up and did so much more.
Taza makes some of the more aesthetically pleasing, minimally designed bars on the market, with a South American inspired typeface and a wax-paper wrapped circle scored into wedges. It also comes in flavors more eclectic than the average Hershey bar, like the salt and pepper flavor we tried today. Salt is staid at this stage in the game, but pepper is the new caramel, and they make a phenomenal pairing, but are difficult to combine correctly. The disc shape makes it entertaining to eat and break, and instead of one large, heavy piece, each package contains two thin circles. You will eat both. It's inevitable. However attractive this bar is, it could resemble the afterproduct of an elephant's lunch and still bowl us over.
The bar is made from 55% dark chocolate, which is fruity and smooth on its own with a slightly bitter, sweet flavor. The snap is classically waxy and clean. Combined with the sea salt and cracked peppercorns, it is pleasantly grainy, like cold cookie dough, with a gritty melt to each bite. It was incorporated into the entire bar rather than being sprinkled lavishly on top, an extra step that really benefited the bar's unique texture. It was a genuinely harmonious set of flavors and textures, laid out in a format that was easy to eat and cook with. We also experimented with it in a drink format, and paired with olive oil.
Pairing hard, dark chocolate with olive oil is a pairing that I've considered but have always been somewhat indifferent to. With this bar, that game is forever changed. The natural sweetness in the olive oil coaxed out some of the chocolate's riper, robust organic notes, and the salt and pepper obviously paired well with the savory drizzle. Because the chocolate was not too creamy, the fats in the oil cradled, rather than curdled, the melting confection. It was messy, gooey, and subtly sweet. We've given it a permanent place on our imaginary ten course dessert tasting menu.
As a drink, this was also incredibly smooth and rich, but the unanimous decision was that it fared better as a solid chocolate. The bar had an unusually high melting point and shaved into gorgeous curls that had a hard time melting as they hit the warm milk. Eventually, they faded away in waxy brown whorls on the surface. The resulting flavor was chocolatey, but inconsistent in texture. It was smooth for the most part but with that damning Hershey's syrup effect on the bottom, proving it to be mainly insoluble in the milk.
Cold and eventually frozen, it was embarrassingly better than most chocolate ice creams I've had. The salt and pepper flavors were subdued, but still tangy enough to provide a distinct depth to the flavor. It was the best testimony of all to know that at 11:30 at night, we were researching 24 hour bodegas and groceries in the tri-state area to find some more of these bars, as we'd completely decimated our sample. This was a phenomenal example of how to do salt and pepper correctly and in a graceful, bold manner.
Labels: 10, chocolate, dessert