I’m betting that when it comes to fine chocolate you’re looking for the best of the best, the most exclusive artisan creations you can lay hands on. Am I right?
How about chocolate so exclusive that you can’t have any?
I’m at Cacao, a retail shop in the West End neighborhood of Portland. Here I can lay hands on some of the finest chocolates in the country. I’m running my eyes over my favorites and since I’m in the town that bean-to-bar Woodblock Chocolates calls home, I ask for it.
“Can’t keep it on the shelves,” the proprietor tells me. “The moment we get it in, it’s gone.”
This might have something to do with Jessica and Charley Wheelock moving their manufacturing operations from a the small kitchen in their home to a storefront industrial kitchen.
I call Charley and he invites me to visit his new digs. It’s a lovely space, large, well-lit, with high ceilings. Charley proudly shows off a huge door leaning against the wall that he bought at a nearby recycling center.
“So people can watch the chocolate being made” he says delightedly. This man clearly loves what he does.
He hands me a sample of his latest creation, Ocumare, from Venezuela. This 70% bar has a creamy texture and a classic, rich taste surprisingly lacking in bitterness. It’s a delightfully easy ride, with a smooth and focused intensity. I make appreciative sounds until he hands me another sample.
At one end of the room is a spigot from which flows the liquid chocolate itself. I have to remind myself, firmly, that I’m an adult and it would be oh-so wrong to run over and stick my hands into the flow of lovely chocolate. But oh-so-tempting!
At the other end of the room is a stack of bags of cacao beans waiting for their turn in the roaster. These beans, Charley tells me, are from Madagascar, direct from the farmer. He’s eager to turn them into chocolate. A month, maybe two. He assures me he’s working as fast as he can.
I take some photos. Charley poses with some blocks of chocolate that are aging for few weeks before being tempered and poured into Woodblock’s long, thin molds. I ask how long Woodblock has been operational. A couple of years, he says. And why did he go into chocolate making?
“Chocolate has global implications,’ says Charley. “It’s dynamic. And it’s unbelievably cool.”
I can agree with that.
So where can you get some of this unobtainable chocolate? I wasn’t entirely serious when I said you couldn’t have any, but you might have to be patient during this transition. Check with your local chocolate shop and see if they have it in stock, or go to Woodblock’s website and order on-line. It’s reasonably priced for a bar of this quality, and it’s a ride worth taking.