Visiting the Valrhona factory

I made sure to brief the kids before we toured the Valrhona factory. I was especially concerned that Ilona would do some damage so I explained to her that we would be visiting a chocolate factory kind of like Willie Wonka’s factory except that there would be no Oompa Loompas. To that she said, “I’ll be the Oompa Loompa”, which I thought was cute. I told the kids that this visit was very important to me and that in a way, I had won the golden ticket. This piece of information got their attention pretty quickly. I told them that they had to behave and reminded them of what happened to the kids in the story who didn’t follow Mr. Wonka’s rules. “Do you remember what happened to Violet Beauregard when she refused to stop chewing gum?” I asked. “She turned into a giant bubble and flew away” Ilona said. “And do you remember what happened to Charlie?”. “He got to keep the factory” Darius said. “Exactly” I said, “Except I don’t think we will be able to keep the factory, but you might get something good”. The next day, the kids put on their protective clothing not once, not twice, but three times and listened quietly as our guide, Luce, walked us along the gleaming factory floors explaining the functions of many different machines including roasters, conchers, and winnowers. I think their favorite machine was the robotic arm that picked up boxes and piled them neatly into stacks to be shipped. “I think that’s your Oompa Loompa”, I told them.
Here’s what Darius had to say about the visit:
Valhrona chocolate factory

I thought the Valhrona chocolate factory was very interesting. I still can’t believe the effort you need to put in to make good chocolate. After this tour it became obvious to me why Valhrona is so much better than the leading mass chocolate enterprises who value speed and money over quality and ethics.
From my point of view, there are four things Valhrona does that the leading brands of low-quality chocolate do not do, (among many other smaller things.)
1. Unlike other chocolate factories, Valhrona takes the time to make their chocolate perfect. It takes them 8 to 10 to days to get the finished product. Other bigger companies can make a bar of chocolate in only 1 or 2 days. But, if they really cherish quality other companies would take their time.
2. Valhrona staff will go straight to the producers to ensure good quality, safe working environments, and consistency in their chocolate. They also always get the cacao strait from the plantations and co-ops, rather than buying it from a cheap provider and not knowing where the chocolate is from. This is why Valhrona is much more ethical then the other large chocolate companies.
3. They education pastry chefs how to properly work with chocolate and improve their techniques. This is vital if you want the future generations to continue the chocolate legacy.
4. It tastes so darn good!!!!! Valhrona puts in so much quality that when ever you bite down on a piece of chocolate, you feel like you are in heaven! And the gianduja !!!!!




Paris chocolate tour with Chloe

The day after our visit to the Salon, Cyrus and I joined Chloe Doutre-Roussel‘s chocolate education/chocolate tour. It was pretty awesome. I’ve been wanting to meet her since I read her book, The Chocolate Connoisseur, several years ago. Her book helped me gain an understanding of fine chocolate and build a vocabulary to better explain what I was tasting.

We started the morning out by tasting some chocolate.  It was fascinating —  I learned to taste chocolate in a different way. Chloe suggested that instead of picking out various notes in the chocolate, we should take note of how the chocolate makes us feel. She used the metaphor of a symphony to describe tasting chocolate. There’s the beginning, the

crescendo and the end. You don’t dissect the piece while you listen, but every once in a while your ear picks out the piano or the violin. Overall you listen to music for the pleasure that it gives you. It’s should be like that with chocolate. I hadn’t thought of it, but she said that you choose a chocolate because of the way it makes you feel, and you do the same when you choose the music you want to listen to.

Afterwards we went to Rue St. Honore where we visited 2 chocolate shops: Michel Cluizel and Jean-Paul Hevin. We compared the difference between a fresh truffle and one that was made to last a long time. The fresh one from Hevin was as delicious as I remembered from a year ago. We concentrated on plain dark ganaches and a rocher made of praline (roasted hazelnuts and caramelized sugar). The difference between them was interesting.

My favorite rocher was the one I tried at La Maison du Chocolat. It nearly brought tears of joy to my eyes. During our morning discussion, Chloe told us that the French don’t forgive inconsistencies in quality. Once you’ve messed up, you don’t get another chance. Thank you La Maison for always delivering!

We stopped at Pierre Marcolini (who has partnered with Nestle since 2007 but is still making great chocolate as far as I can tell) before ending the tour at Gallery Lafayette where Chloe dropped us off at the chocolate section. She suggested we buy our gifts here because they have the best selection and best prices for gourmet bars in the city. Knowing I was planning a visit to the Valrhona and Bonnat factories, I decided against buying anything, but didn’t stop me from marveling at the selection (and prices!).

Chloe’s tour was a huge highlight of my trip to Paris (dare I say I enjoyed it even more than the Salon du Chocolat?). It was great to meet someone so influential in the chocolate world and to learn from her the secrets of enjoying chocolate even more (which I had thought  was impossible!). Once again I am in awe of how much there is to know about chocolate, and I am inspired after meeting people who are truly knowledgable.

Paris Salon du Chocolat (Grand Publique) 2011

At the Michel Cluizel booth.

The Salon du Chocolat was everything I expected and more. It seemed like every chocolate shop in France represented there and every type of chocolate imaginable was for sale. Next to the showcases popping with colorful bon bons, there were booths with mountains of chocolate barks, dipped marshmallows, and macarons, over which the French are obsessed. There were spreads, and pastes and creams and even some fois gras laced with chocolate for your baquette.

Painted Chocolate Sphere At the Pralus Booth

The chocolate came in many shapes from cocoa pods to hand painted spheres to penis shaped lollipops. People were crazy for those. At Chapon, they scooped single origin mousses with or without cocoa nibs into little paper cones which you could take with you while you wandered around. It dawned on me that perhaps I am more of a consumer of chocolate than than I am a maker.

We came pretty early with the kids and Cyrus’ folks. The plan was to see as much as we could together until Ilona got tired and then to separate. I think Ilona lasted about 45 minutes before refusing to visit any more booths. She did agree to watch the Peruvian dancers with her grandpa who also rejected our agenda of visiting and talking to anyone who would either facilitate a plantation or factory tour or who would dole out free samples.

Simone From Sabadi with his Sicilian Chocolate

There were a few bean to bar makers there who we spoke to about the former. One was Michel Cluizel whose rep was pretty positive about the likelihood of visiting the Maralumi plantation in Madagascar. The other was Bonnat who has a factory in Boiroin, France. We spoke to Stephen Bonnat’s sister and brother-in-law who were extremely nice and genuinely wanted to help us facilitate a factory visit.

Kerstin With Rasmus Bo Bojesen at the Oialla Chocolates Booth

Samples were everywhere but we bee-lined it to the good stuff: Pralus, Jean Paul Hevin, Pierre Marcolini. We bought some things that would travel well and make good presents (look out staff at Kerstin’s Chocolates- good things are doing your way!) and then of course, we also got treats for ourselves. I got a beautiful box of chocolates at Franc Kestener ( I tried them today and they are really incredible), some chocolate neapolitans from a Sicilian chocolate maker named Sabadi who makes unconched chocolate flavored with fruits and wild herbs found in Sicily, and a 100g bar of chocolate by a Danish chocolate maker who turns wild Amazonian beans into a masterpiece.

By late afternoon, the place was a mad house and the grandparents took the kids to the Eiffel tower so we could continue our shopping, I mean, our networking.

Chocolate Logs, a traditional treat.

We stopped briefly to listen to chocolate expert, Chloe Doutre Roussel speak about the differences between good and bad chocolate. I wanted to say hello because we were signed up for her chocolate tour the next day.

Macarons, Lovely Macarons

I was impressed with the information present at the salon. There were educational lectures, musicians and dancers from cocoa growing regions and other visual aids aimed at connecting the grower to the consumer. Some bean to bar makers brought machinery, and some brought beans in order to educate people chocolate origins.

A Chocolate Hedgehog

A Chocolate Hedgehog

My favorite moment was speaking to a man who runs the chocolate museum we visited in Paris (the very same museum where Ilona spilled her hot chocolate on the man). He told me about an ethnic group in Panama who consume cocoa daily and use it for ceremonies not unlike the ancient mayas would have hundreds of years ago. I was happy discover that there are others who share my passion about discovering other cacao cultures.

The Salon du Chocolat is a huge spectacle that speaks to our passions: for pleasure (chocolate), for knowledge (about chocolate) and for great skill (the chocolatiers).

Darius And Ilona trying some of the confections.

Michel Cluizel Bars

Day One at the Salon Du Chocolat

We went up to Paris to see the opening day of the Salon Du Chocolat at the Porte De Versailles expo center. After a long subway ride, we arrived and excitedly went in!

We left the kids back in Fontainebleau with Grandma and Grandpa. Don’t worry! They will come back to the Salon over the weekend (when it is open to the public.) First, here is a short video that shows some of our impressions of the Salon and the World Chocolate Masters competition.


The French member of the jury was one of our chocolate heroes, Patrick Roger. As you may remember, Kerstin went to his store in Paris this March, as reported in this blog posting. It was great to see him evaluate all the the sculptures with an expert’s eye.

One of our early favorites was the Japanese entrant, Umezaki. Like everyone else, he only had 3 hours to assemble his sculpture. He had a very complex delicate design, and he executed it with ease.

We saw that the Canadian entrant was a woman, Veronique Rousseau, from Quebec. She was the first woman to ever represent Canada, and she came out blazing. She was the only one of the 19 finalists to use a carving technique instead of molds. This meant that her scuplture weighed over 60kg, but it looked uniquely artistic. Watch the video above for some action shots of Veronique working!

The Dutch contestant won the WCM title, and his sculpture was large and scary! I think the shock value was what pushed him ahead of the pack. I hope Veronique comes back next year to try again!

At the end of our day we had a great chat with our Japanese chocolate hero, Koji Tsuchiya of Theobroma Cacao, a pioneer of fine cacao in Japan.

Stay tuned for our report from the “Grand Public” Salon, coming in a few days!




World Chocolate Masters 2011 (preview)

We made it to the Salon du Chocolat! The chocolate masters are currently underway. Some of The best pastry chefs in the world are competing for the title of world chocolate master. They are making wild and wonderful chocolate sculptures and there’s a huddle of judges observing and calculating including my favorite Parisian chocolatier, Patrik Roger! We haven’t made it to the public salon yet. We must pace ourselves.


Meeting Herr Mohr

Me and Mr. Mohr, the man who made Puffreis.

I had an interesting meeting with a man who used to own a chocolate factory in the town of Maechtersheim where I lived as a child. His name is Mr. Mohr and he and his family once made chocolate in the region including a certain confection called “puffreis schokolade” which simply means chocolate and puffed rice. For some strange reason, this confection is adored by Germans and supposedly, Mr. Mohr made the best around.

A mass-produced Puffreis that is very popular in Germany.

I’ve wanted to make it commercially for a while but I didn’t know how to make it without the chocolate hardening too quickly before it got into the molds. I mentioned this to my aunt and she arranged a meeting with Mr. Mohr at her house on the evening that we would have our family gathering. When we arrived a bunch of us (my aunts are as into making food as I am) grilled him on the proper puffreis making technique. What’s the proper ratio of chocolate to rice? How do you put the mixture into the molds? How do you scrape the lumpy chocolate to get it smooth on top? Most importantly, how do you keep the stuff from hardening? The trick, Mr. Mohr explained is to use a water bath with 2 compartments and to have the rice chocolate in one and tempered chocolate in the other. You then add more chocolate as the mixture runs low. This was not groundbreaking information and I probably would have figured it out myself had I made it on a regular basis. I suppose I was hoping there would be some magic piece of machinery that would make the job easier. It’s tedious work, hand making bars of chocolate, but alas, no new miracles were made. Nevertheless, it was nice to get a description of the full process from someone who made it commercially. I did however, discover something upon speaking to Mr. Mohr. The best way to learn how to do something is through trial and error. If I spend too much time researching and don’t spend the time on doing, I won’t make any discoveries. The making is the research.

The main drag in my home town of Speyer. We have a 950 year old basilica too!

One night in Paris…

On route to visit my hometown in Germany, we stayed one night in Paris to catch up on some sleep and to try to overcome our jet lag. Our hotel was situated near the Gar de L’Est where we would catch our train to Mannheim the following day. We decided to do some sight seeing in the neighborhood and came upon a chocolate museum. We paid our 8 euros to get in plus a couple more for some hot chocolate that we received upon finishing the tour. The museum was very interesting and contained many artifacts such as ancient Mayan drinking vessels and silver hot chocolate pots from the 17th century. There were antique winnowing and conching machines on display and a chocolatier demonstrated proper tempering techniques.  The museum was excellent but I was severely fatigued and couldn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.  We finished our tour early and went to the lobby for our hot chocolate.

One word of warning: do not give your child hot chocolate when she is over tired and jet lagged because something bad will happen! We had the not so brilliant idea of letting our kids sit on a bench next to another guest while we looked over some of the displays that we missed. Just as we began to walk away, we heard a splash and to our horror, our daughter Ilona had spilled her entire drink on the man sitting beside her including his briefcase! The man calmly stood up and said goodbye to the person he was speaking to on the phone saying “I have to go, a girl just doused me with hot chocolate”.   Cyrus and I began frantically dabbing at him with paper towels and apologizing profusely. To make matters worse he told us that the suit he was wearing was brand new. We offered to pay for dry-cleaning. He explained that it needed to be pressed too. I gave him 50 euros and we got out of there as quickly as we could. It wasn’t funny until much later when we realized that our 5 year old had just had the most expensive hot chocolate in the world!

New York: The beginning of the beginning

Clay Gordon with Kerstin and the Family outside Roberta's in Bushwick, Brooklyn

Clay Gordon with Kerstin and the Family outside Roberta's in Bushwick, Brooklyn

It’s our last day in New York and this evening we fly to Paris. We’ve spent the last few days here sorting ourselves out and getting mentally prepared for what will probably be the biggest trip of our lives. I’ve discovered that there isn’t much one can do in terms of preparations except to just dive right into the great unknown.
I have done a bit of research regarding what plantations to visit and where. In Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, I’ve scouted some good bean to bar chocolate companies who I will try to contact to set up a visit. I’m impressed with a company called “El Ceibo” who makes their bars right in Bolivia with the help of Chloe Doutre-Roussel – the chocolate expert and former buyer for Fortnum and Mason. I’ve been impressed with chocolate that uses Bolivian cocoa beans such as Felchlin’s Cru Sauvage and a visit might be in the cards.

Clay chats with Ilona at Roberta's

Clay chats with Ilona at Roberta's

On Tuesday we met up with Clay Gordon from The Chocolate Life in Brooklyn. Clay has a web site and social network called The Chocolate Life where chocolate makers and chocolate affecionadoes can congregate to discuss all things chocolate. We will be posting updates to his new blog, The Chocolate Chronicles as our way to share our experiences during our travels, our discoveries and our insights. (We highly recommend that you take look at this site if you are passionate about chocolate.) Clay gave us many good contacts for bean to bar makers in various countries such as Brazil, Guatamala, Mexico and Ecuador. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to visit all of these countries, but we will try. It will probably depend on the kids and how much more schlepping they can endure by the time we reach Central and South America. I personally hope to spend a lot of time in Chiapas and in Mexico as I’ve developed a bit of a love affair with the culture of this country.
I suppose the best way to organize the trip is to take one continent at a time. Our first stop is Europe where we hope to meet as many chocolate makers as we can at the Salon du Chocolat to set up plantation visits and possibly visit a few factories as well. The kids will have fun going to some of my favorite chocolate shops and patisseries in Paris (Jaques Genin, Patrick Roger, Jean-Paul Hevin!). I’m excited to go to my home town of Speyer near Heidelberg, Germany to revisit the places of my childhood and share these memories with my kids. We’ll probably gorge on the chocolates that I loved as a kid, the ones I found in the candy aisle of the Supermarket. I’ll consume many cakes plied upon us by aunts and long lost relatives. I hope I make it out the same dress size!

Gearing up for our first leg, preparing for Paris!

We leave for Europe on October 6th and our preparations for our departure are reaching a fever pitch. We will be visiting some family in Germany for a week, and then we go to Paris and prepare for the Salon du Chocolat. We might even get to go to the famous Chocolate Fashion Show (Click this photo for more images.)

To give you an idea of what we do to prepare, we are reading the list of exhibitors and figuring out who we want to see and what chocolate we want to taste.

(NOTE TO OUR BLOG READERS: If you have any booths that you would like us to check out while we are at the show, please leave your requests in the comments below. We will do our best to blog about it here!)

We have also arranged a visit to Valrhona headquarters in the town of Tain-l’Hermitage which is located in the wine-growing district of Hermitage, near Lyon. We hope to find out how they develop all of  that wonderful chocolate that they make there!

In other news we have been in contact with the folks at Madecasse Chocolate, and they have agreed to set up a visit to their location in Madagascar when we go there in mid November. We hope to give you more details about our plans soon.

We will be blogging regularly from now on, so keep your eyes glued to this blog!

September 2011: Trips and Changes

September 2011 Newsletter

We were going to start this month’s newsletter by wishing you all a happy fall, complete with scarves, jackets and copious amounts of chocolate. But instead we’d like to help everyone enjoy the summery weather (that has finally arrived in Edmonton) by continuing to offer our Valrhona chocolate ice cream. We’ve got pints ready to go in the shop, and Rachel will be creating milkshakes and her lovely ice cream sandwiches over the next couple weeks. Is there really any better way to cool down than with Valrhona’s 80% Coeur de Guanaja in ice cream form?

Whirlwind adventures

After years of planning and preparation, Kerstin and her family are departing this month for a one year trek around the world to explore the world of cacao production. The voyage will take them from the Salon Du Chocolat in Paris to the cacao fields of Madagascar and the ancient cacao cultures of Meso-America. A rough map of Kerstin’s path around the world shows her stops in Europe, Madagascar, Indonesia, Mexico, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. Kerstin will be blogging and posting on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so stay tuned!

Your chocolate shop afficionados

While Kerstin tracks down chocolate in its raw form, Marianne Stover and Rachel Pereira will be heading up things at the Edmonton shop. Expect more great chocolate tastings, events and of course, great chocolate on the shelves. Marianne is off to Portland and Seattle over the next couple weeks, so keep an eye on the blog for details on her trips to Cacao Drink Chocolate in PDX, and to Theo and Marie and Frères in Seattle.

More shop news

After a quick summer break we’re back at the shop working on Christmas details and dreaming up new bark flavours. We’re still waiting on many of our European beauties, but bars from Cluizel are back in stock. On our side of the world, bars from Madécasse, Askinosie, Patric and Taza have arrived and the shelves are full. We are, however, anxiously awaiting new bars from Theo. Keep an eye on the blogour Facebook page and Twitter for news on arrivals.


A new tasting has been scheduled for Thursday, September 29th. This is the original – an hour and a half of chocolate history, bean to bar discovery and sampling. The perfect intro to the world of fine chocolate. Tickets can be found here or can be purchased in shop or via phone.

As always, we will continue to offer private tasting events at the shop for up to twelve people. Feel free to call or e-mail us for available dates.

While Kerstin is away from the shop, we have decided to discontinue our in store truffle line. This will allow us to focus on our single origin and Chocophilia collections, as well as our tasting workshops and other events. We will still be offering Melt-a-ways, our Chocophilia line, coconut, dulce de leche and peanut butter cups in addition to monthly bark flavours all made in house. If only truffles will do, please contact us via e-mail or phone, and we will forward the request to our chocolatier.

Did you say Vosges?

Many of you have been calling and e-mailing us about Vosges chocolate and their incredible Mo’s Bacon Bars (Applewood bacon + alderwood salt). We’re happy to say we’ve placed an order and are keeping an eye out for their arrival. We’ll be sure to keep you all updated. Along with the much loved milk and dark bacon bars, expect Black Salt Caramel (black Hawaiian Sea salt + burnt caramel), Red Fire (Ancho + Chipotle chiles + Ceylon cinnamon) and Blood Orange Caramel (blood orange + campari + caramel + hibiscus flowers) along with minis of the Amalfi (white chocolate with lemon and pink peppercorn) and Creole bars.


Throughout September the shop will continue to operate Thursdays and Fridays from 10-6 and on Saturdays from 11-5. Look for new fall hours in October with extended hours in December.

See you soon for ice cream!

The Kerstin’s Chocolates Team

Oaxacan chocolate brownies

You can buy a lot of interesting things on the beach here in Huatulco. Besides the ubiquitous shell jewelry and tie dyed sarongs, you can buy things like photos of yourself with a python or bags of organic coffee. Yesterday I bought a pound of freshly ground chocolate that a woman makes in the local town of Crucecita. Even though I’m surrounded by chocolate here in Oaxaca, I’m having some serious cravings for something intensely chocolatey. Most of the chocolate here comes in the form of a drink, which is great, but sometimes you just want to eat the stuff. Thus, Ilona and I decided to make brownies to put the local chocolate to the test.
We spent a good part of the afternoon in our rented condo looking for a good recipe and getting the ingredients together for our brownies. We found this recipe on Chowhound:
The result, I think, is pretty good. The brownies have a nice consistency and good chocolatey flavor. The chocolate we used, like all chocolate here, isn’t conched, which means that it’s fairly gritty and course. You get a bit of that grit in the texture but it’s mostly masked by the other ingredients. When they grind it, they almost always add cinnamon to the beans so the brownies came out tasting pretty strongly of cinnamon, which isn’t unpleasant at all, but I must say that I’m getting a little tired of that cinnamon flavor. Sometimes you just want that pure unadulterated flavor of cocoa, you know? Anyway, the brownies are tasty but now we’ve got a whole pan of them that we have to try to get rid of. Perhaps I can trade them in for a nutella crepe at the creperie next door…



Aqua Miel

Before Ilona and I left Oaxaca last week, we took a trip with our B&B host Alvin to a village to meet a family who makes Pulque. Pulque is an alcoholic drink made by fermenting the juice of the agave plant. You can drink that juice fresh as well and it’s known as “aqua miel”. I was really interested in how the juice is collected so Alvin arranged a tour with a family who we met earlier that week at the market. We got to their house around 5pm to watch them harvest the juice. The process begins first thing in the morning when a family member goes to the field to carve a well into the agave plant. As the day progresses, the juice collects into the well until it is harvested at around 5pm. We were there to witness the harvesting, which is a pretty simple process consisting of a person sticking a tube into the well and then sucking it’s contents into a container. The farmer-whose name I have forgotten gave us a taste of the liquid which was served in a gourd. It was quite sweet with an interesting after taste which I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Ilona said it tasted like honey, which is quite a fitting description since the name of the drink translates to “honey water”. She proceeded to drink the entire contents of the gourd-so I guess she thought it was pretty good. I ended up drinking the pulque which the farmer’s wife had brought along for us to compare. To me pulque tastes a bit like new wine-or slightly fermented juice. Kind of sweet with a little sourness. You can taste pulque in different stages of fermentation. I preferred the first stage which was still quite sweet. I felt that the second and third stage or the 2nd or 3rd day of fermentation made it taste rather like vinegar. By the way, pulque is really a rural drink-you wouldn’t find it at a restaurant, for example. So if you want to try it, you have to come to Mexico!



Mole Negro

I had my first taste of mole negro which is the mole sauce they make here using chocolate. It was slathered onto a chicken leg and served with rice and beans. It was pretty yummy, I thought. More sweet than spicy. The flavors definitely evolved as I continued to eat the dish. I started noticing a subtle smokiness which was really nice-I suppose it is created by roasting the chilies. Yesterday I was supposed to learn how to make mole negro from a local chef, name Pilar Carbrera who owns a restaurant in Oaxaca named “La Olla”. I woke up feeling pretty crummy but I thought it was the effects of the Mescal I had the night before. I decided to go ahead with the class anyway figuring i would start to feel better. Ilona and I got to Pilar’s house around 9:30 to begin the first part of the class which was the market tour. At the market she showed us the different ingredients used in Mexican cooking and pointed out what was in season now(herbs, guanabana or soursop). She took us to the “food court” inside the market and showed me the stand where she likes to buy “atole” which is a drink made of corn, water and unrefined cane sugar. Pilar purchased 2 cups of chocolate atole for us, which the woman made by frothing a chocolate liquid which she spooned out of a jug and adding some of the thick atole to it. It was delicious. Like a thickened hot chocolate with bits of corn but not as sweet as the hot chocolate that I had at Majordomo. I find it interesting that people still froth their hot chocolate-a tradition that dates back to the mayans and aztecs. Perhaps there’s something to be learned from that. After the market tour we went back to chef Pilar’s house to begin our class. By now I was feeling worse and could hardly stand up. Sadly I had to cancel the remainder of the class and reschedule it for a later date. I hope to make my mole negro with chef Pilar when I return to Oaxaca at the end of the month.





On Sunday Ilona and I went to a market in the town of Tlacolula just outside of Oaxaca. There were lots of interesting things there but nothing more interesting than my first taste of Tejate. Tejate is a drink made of ground corn, cocoa beans, ground mammey seed (a fruit) and rosita de cacao flowers-which are not actually flowers from the tree but called thus because they are used in this specific drink. I found tejate to be extremely refreshing and tasty on a super hot day. Kind of like an ice cream shake but not as heavy. It is has a slightly starchy texture and a subtle but distinctive cocoa flavor. The best part was the cocoa butter “scum” on top which gave it just enough richness to make the drink both refreshing and pleasurable.


Oaxaca with Ilona

Ilona and I went to Mayordomo today and tried their hot chocolate. First we watched them grind the beans and cinnamon into a paste. Pretty simple process really. They just dumped the whole lot into the grinder and mixed it with sugar once it was turned into paste. The smell was most delicious! The hot chocolate was good too. Sweet but very very fresh tasting.


California Dreaming

I always look for a chocolate shop or two whenever I travel to a new city.  On our family trip to L.A. over the holidays, I had no luck getting inspired by the local chocolate scene.  The shops I did try to visit were either closed for the holidays or had moved to a new location.  You can’t always trust the internet to have accurate information.  I decided to switch my focus and try something that I knew I could only find in the southern part of the U.S. or in Mexico-Moles!

I tried 2 different ones in 2 different restaurants.  The first one I tried was at  Red O in L.A. which is a high end Mexican restaurant that’s somehow connected to Rick Bayless,  the famous chef at Topolobampo in Chicago.  I had the chicken with Mole sauce.  It was good, but I had nothing to compare it to so I really had no idea what I should be looking for.  The second one I tried was at a restaurant in San Diego called “El Agave”.  This was also a pretty nice restaurant with some pretty nice prices too.  They served excellent margaritas though,  which made the prices easier to swallow.

The waiter brought me a small dish of the Mole Poblano to have alongside the fish that I had ordered.  Mole Poblano is the most typical of Mexican moles and uses chocolate as an ingredient.  I tried it with some of my husband’s pork and I instantly fell in love.  The beauty of a mole I think(though I’m hardly an expert having only tried it twice in my life) is the complexity of the dish.  It contains over 20 ingredients including lots of different spices and chilies.   I loved it so much that I started spooning it into my mouth on its own.  Then an amazing thing happened.  The heat of the chilies started releasing and a slow warming sensation began building inside my mouth.  It was the perfect amount of fire and it spread through my entire mouth-not just in my throat or on my tongue.   It was a perfectly balanced heat.  I had never experienced such a sensation before and I instantly understood that Moles are at the heart of mexican cooking and they are Mexico’s soul food.

Big news: We are going to give back in a big way.

Press Release from Nov 30th, 2010.

Check out our press release about our new profit sharing plan with Change For Children!

Get tickets here for the event on Dec 16th.

Media Release

November 30th, 2010

Kerstin’s Chocolates announces a sharing of its profits with Edmonton-based Change for Children.

Buy local, act global.

Kerstin Roos, Edmonton-based artisan chocolatier and owner of Kerstin’s Chocolates, announced today that, beginning immediately, her company will be donating 10% of its net profits to the Change for Children Association (CFCA).
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Two Exciting New Additions!

Exciting things have been happening lately at Kerstin’s! After much recipe-testing, we are finally ready to debut two new additions to our ‘menu’ – a Valrhona chocolate brownie and a rich flourless chocolate cake.

The brownie is made from 2 kinds of Valrhona chocolate, wih bits of dark chocolat ganache studded throughout the batter. It is intense and fudgy, but light enough that you don’t need a truckload of milk after. In other words – perfect.

The flourless chocolate cake, made with 72% Valrhona chocolate, literally melts in your mouth.

Whether you need a little pick-me-up or a last-minute dessert for a dinner party, these new offerings are sure to fit the bill – come on in and try them!

A summary of our tour of the Paris chocolate world.

(For the previous installments about Kerstin’s trip, and lots more photos, please see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of the series.)

Debauve and Galais

Debauve and Galais

Now that my stash is nearly all gone and I have had time to reflect and compare all the different chocolate from each chocolatier, it’s time to share my overall impressions(since I can’t share the chocolate). There is no way that I can chose a favorite chocolate shop because the good ones were so good in their own way.

I loved La Maison du Chocolat for it’s quality, simplicity and purity. I loved Pierre Marcolini for his ability to surprise me by layering flavors and textures in his bon bons. I loved Patric Roger for his boldness and authenticity-everything I had of his exploded with flavor in my mouth.

There were some surprise winners among the stash that I brought home. I had absentmindedly picked up a couple of bars and some marron glace (candied chestnuts) at Debauve and Galais not expecting too much since my experience in their New York shop had underwhelmed me. Their milk chocolate and sesame bar, however was probably one of the best milk chocolate bars I’ve ever tasted; so simple with just a hint of crunchy sesame. The marron glace too were a revelation- sweet, creamy, and unbelievably delicate in flavor and texture.

Posing with Jacques Genin.

Posing with Jacques Genin.

Tasting the drinking chocolate at Genin.

Tasting the drinking chocolate at Genin.

The drinking chocolate....
The drinking chocolate….

And the winner of the best drinking chocolate is….Jacques Genin.

Oh my God! It was so good!

The spoils ready for the trip back to Edmonton.

The spoils ready for the trip back to Edmonton.

Three things I learned:

1. Chocolate tastes better in Paris(I’ve been to some of these chocolatiers in their New York shops, but they weren’t as good). Which leads me to my second point:

2. Freshness is key, so always buy one piece to try before buying a whole box.

3. Just because you walk off all the calories you consume in Paris doesn’t mean you’ll do the same when you get back home. So the best way to keep off the weight when you return from a chocolate tour is to hit the gym big time, or to share your spoils-which is the best way to enjoy chocolate anyway.