Miss you! Been just over a year since the last newsletter. Decided to take a break. We prefer something to say rather than just saying something. There’s no sign of life / it’s just the power to talk. Distracted by some therapy for OCD (Occupational Chocolate Decadence or Debauchery, Delinquence or whatever the DSM is calling it these days).
Our obsession cured by – as any good addict understands – plunging right back in.
Re-launch: the C-spot® 2.0
The site just got a facelift. Check it & hit us with feedback, as well as please report bugs so our chief exterminator / webdev can eliminate them.
In the News
A roundup of the more prominent press coverage on the C-spot® in 2015:
In this venerable grand dame of weekly mags, journalist Jessica Firger leaned on the C-spot® for answers in search of the question: Why Does Your Chocolate Taste so Bad?
The Rosengarten Report
We agree to few interview requests because media often twists statements to fit agendas and bias.
So when the office of David Rosengarten called – one of the original darlings of the FoodNetwork — we thought to decline. The rep impressed us with their width & depth of chocolate. Had done their homework. Ate it in fact, along with what seemed every word of the C-spot® – now up to 3,700 indexable pages – alongside keen tasting sessions to substantiate their research.
We agreed to meet, & sat with the man & staff over several hours & bars.
The result: a trenchant overview.
It convinces us that David Rosengarten, whose appetite is free-ranging & intellect equally expansive, is the beast of everything to eat; by comparison, others amount to mere grazers.
Scott of DallasFood.org cited the C-spot® in the seminal, underlying 4-part series that blew the cover on the Mast deception of 2 bros in Brooklyn. Perhaps they’re fanboys of cyberpunk Neal Stephenson who points out how it’s nigh impossible to have virtue without hypocrisy.
C-spotters sniffed years ago that something’s up.
Scott utilized The Chocolate Census, & old-fashion gumshoe journalism, which led to a trail and connected dots.
His investigative report went viral, culminating in a quid-pro-quo piece of damage control in the NY Times.
Like it not, the bros crest on the rising tide that lifts the craft. They are savvy businessmen… indeed, the kings of branding for the micro-niche. Nobody’s in their rear-view.
Flashback 2015: Bars of the Year
(Our Xmas tree stays up ’til the Superbowl too)
Chocolate bars paired below with the choicest tracks released in ’15 in conjunction with singer-songwriter, bassist, audiophile, musicologist + more – Dusty Wright – because the C-spot® is the original Chocolate DJ (part of our bio since 2010 along with ‘Chocolate Bigmouth’) so naturally we mix & mash like that.
Note the global reach of premium chocolate in the 21st century:
1. TRACK: Rock & Roll Is Cold by Matthew E. White; a delicate take on Delaney & Bonnie. Great production too.
BAR: Santa Caterina by Bessone; 66% cacáo-content from Jamaica. Silvio Bessone solfèges on chocolate, makes music with bars like this.
An all-too-rare Jamaican – just over a dozen or so entered The Chocolate Census.
This one spans the spectrum from an intense chocolate attack to a super-subtle notch of florals & a begging sweetness at the tail. A bar that riffs warmly off the island’s culture to show that rock ‘n roll indeed is cold.
2. TRACK: Speed Trap Town by Jason Isbell; roots-folk homage, gut wrenching & devastatingly beautiful.
BARS: Venezuelan Trio by Rózsavölgyi
At the top of the chocolate game. Zsolt Szabad of Rózsavölgyi joins the elite class of barsmiths currently forging modern craft chocolate by highlighting intrinsic sweetness of cacáorather than dumping in sugar loads.
Big, grand chocolate yet so kind / generous; so soft / sensuous most will not want to swallow for fear of postpartum depression when it’s be gone. You’ll wanna slow down & pull over.
3. TRACK: King Kunta by Kendrick Lamar; pound for pound, the fiercest rapper on the planet next to Marshall Mathers. Sure it’s lyrically about cake & yams – hey, that’s hip-hop today – still, his tracks, built on jazz & electro, will keep it on repeat.
BAR: Just about any bar from Minimal (Japan). Opts out of the conventional kit ‘n kaboodle of barsmiths. Few of its bars undergo refining, let alone conching. The results are primal & brave; a rapper’s anime leaving cacáo closer to its original state, with textures that erode more than melt.
4. BAR: Ditto practically every Vietnamese by A. Morin. In the annals & origins of chocolate, Vietnam’s flavor journeys along a trippy-sorcery route. The manner with which the Frenchman Franck Morin approaches cacáo from this SE Asia country pays heed to Rimbaud’s “rational derangement of all the senses”.
Beautiful expositions from scent to meltdown…. superb lengths which elongate the euphorics. Pure pleasure-craft.
TRACK: Rose Mary y Yo by Carlos Timón; The Spanish version of Belle & Sebastian-meets-Jobim!… Latin flair to further spice up Indochine-Fusion cuisine.
5. TRACK: The Blade by Ashley Monroe; think young Dolly Parton turning out timeless classics.
BAR: Madagascar by Palette de Bine Meticulous on the surface; intricate beneath it.
Christine Blais cuts an ensemble of tags so rife / ripe with undercutting complexities that re-open the eyes, or dilate the taste-buds ; after having reviewed over a 100+ bars from Madagascar, thinking that none could possibly stand out & astound anymore… wow. Good to be wrong.
6. TRACK: Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton; He & Sturgill Simpson the new go-to country dudes. Perfect for roadtrips… like out to Area 51 in Roswell, NM. Outlaw badass for real.
BAR: Bourbon Barrel Aged by Fruition.
Milk Chocolate; 61% cacáo-content; Batch 1. Absolutely over-the-falls, yet survives the tumble. Aged for 3 months in bourbon barrels to recall similar experiments by Raaka & Soma. Those worked off of pedigreed seeds; this enhances & elevates humble stock.
Beyond ingrained influences. Hardly any Milk Chocolate handles here at all. More akin to a cherry-almond reduction; that’s how amalgamated Fruition makes it.
Deserves a spot in the pantheon of the gods’ dessert trolley alongside Corallo’s Grand Kru.
7. TRACK: Re Run Home by Kamasi Washington. He sessioned on Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly & hails from ‘smooth jazz’ L.A. but Kamasi blows the sax hard in the tradition of Bird, Trane, & Ornette.
BAR: Sourdough & Salt by Pump Street Bakery. Oscar-winning chocolate from a bakery.
This bakery-chocolate hook-up makes perfect sense. Chris Brennan makes fascinating the flavors produced by fermentation in bread as well as cacáo. Together they shape-shift one another, essentially to a match, lighting each other up for some real flavor engineering. Daring high-chocolate; almost incomprehensibly good. A masterwork.
8. BAR: 100% Criollo by Åkesson — a killdozer of an unsweetened 100%. Represents a peak achievement. Tame though by no means timid. Judging categories based on taste, not on sugar load, this has the mannerisms of as a Semi-Dark where most inhabit Dark and Brut territory. Includes stretches when the pal (for palate) loses track of the fact that this is 100%… so accessible and inviting. Enticing.
Uncanny too. Genuine chocolate flavor, almost unprecedented for an unsweetened. Moreover, by midstream it flirts with Milk Chocolate!
TRACK: Blackstar – The Thin White Duke says ‘goodbye’… may God’s love be with you… you’ve really made the grade.
HCP added a couple more designations:
VIII. Nicaliso – from the Ingemann collection of Nicaraguan cultivars, all rooted in Amelonado gene stock with varying ratios of Criollo + a smattering of other genotypes. Though few are available commercially, no one so far has made a bad bar with Nicaliso – a sign of its solid pedigree & sound post-harvesting.
IX. Piedra de Plata / To’ak
Carl Schweizer & Jerry Toth, the principles behind Piedra de Plata & the brand To’ak, could not attend the announcement last week, so they asked Mark Christian of the C-spot® to accept on their behalf. He prepared these remarks:
“Pity the poor rich… they’re always getting ripped off.
What’s a Toyota Avalon but a Lexus with a $50,000 rebate? Or a $100,000 bridal gown not woven by some endangered silkworm, that turns out to be 100% polyester. Sheesh.
When Jerry & Carl handed me their $260 bar, people muttered, ‘These guys have some awfully BIG PODS to charge that much.’
Tonight diners will spend hundreds on teaspoons of caviar & drop thousands on bubbles in a bottle—and think nothing of it. But chocolate at $10 a bar, ooh now we’ve got sticker shock.
Jerry & Carl’s first bar—ensconced in a handcrafted slide-top Spanish elm box, a collectible, complete with a storybook about their venture. Plus, get this!, tongs carved from the same wood used for the fermentation, so that nothing gets between you & your tongue.
Their guide: an ethos that chocolate itself embody their values. They’ve pledged to the Jama-Coque Eco-Reserve, a threatened stretch along Ecuador’s Pacific coast, of which only 2% survives.
To’ak’s recent release literally shows the fruits of this labor.
Abundant with that over-arching, transcendent criteria: quality.
To paraphrase the Supreme Court definition of pornography, you know it when you taste it. Even at 81% cacao content, it pings sweetly; rippling, yet never leaving the stream, to echo David Bowie, of warm impermanence.
This all-in attitude extends to their romances.
Carl met Dennise Valencia of Ecuador whose vast social capital helps navigate the countryside with all of its local dialects & customs, where their cacao is sourced.
And it was through chocolate that Jerry was introduced to Victoria Nicodemus—his future wife & mother of their children. They got close fast: within a few minutes of meeting. They’d been together ever since.
She followed Jerry to Ecuador to help make To’ak’s latest iteration.
On December 6, 2015, just 40 days ago, Jerry & Victoria were walking arm-in-arm along a Brooklyn sidewalk talking about Christmas lights for their children, when an SUV jumped the curb & struck both of them. Jerry survived. Tragically, Victoria did not.
In full bloom, age 30.
The brutal flash of a car crash reminds of how fragile & delicate life is; why we should be responsible, considerate, magnanimous. It brings it all back… home.
That shared tingle of desire, for quintessential truths, which draws the small circle of our chocolate community.
Heirlooms are timeless & enduring. That is their true measure.
Ripe with innate beauty, quality & content.
Done right, their essential ‘character’ ennobles all of us.
No doubt someday soon there will be a tree in the Piedra de Plata forest bearing the name Victoria. She will take root & bear fruit, & become a salve for grief, for these heart-sick tremors. The cycle of life shall renew itself.
Because Jerry, & Carl & Dennise stand for creation & vitality over destruction & apathy, they’ll turn a bitter seed in ferment into a legacy.
I encourage us all to raise the bar… literally, figuratively — and exorbitantly – so that consumers everywhere will get it when over the PA system comes: ATTENTION Bargain Shoppers: chocolate now on sale… for just $260 a bar!
Congratulations, Jerry & Carl, on attaining Heirloom IX.”