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!

The Americans – Portland

While Portland may only have one bean-to-bar manufacturer (Woodblock), the flavours going on in Oregon are pretty exciting, with the likes of Cocanú, Shagùn, Alma and Xocolatl de Davíd all in the mix. I couldn’t resist filling my suitcase with “a few” bars for Rachel and I to sample back at the shop. Here’s how it went:

Cocanú – Sebastián Cisneros does his best to keep his chocolate ‘weird’. Right on his website it says, “We tinker with chocolate couvertures (from Felchlin) and give them an alternative portrait.” Things like Pop Rocks, Palo Santo wood from Ecuador and Saigon cinnamon can all be found in his beautifully wrapped collection of nine bars. My favourite (and Rachel’s) is easily his ‘Holy Wood’ bar – Felchlin’s 68% Bolivian chocolate infused with incredibly floral, fresh Palo Santo wood.

Sahagún – Two bars from this chocolatier made it back to Edmonton – Oregon Bark and Palomitapapá. The former featured a dark Madagascan base which held rich hazelnuts and fruity sour cherries, both from Oregon. Beautiful. The latter was a bit more complex – Ecuadorian chocolate, exploded corn, chile and fleur de sel. We loved the layers of flavours, though in the end we still weren’t sure about the crunchy ‘exploded corn’.

Xocolatl de Davíd – I wish now, that I would have picked up a few more treats from this company that seems to focus heavily on that glorious salt + chocolate combo with ingredients like bacon, foie gras and Parmesan cheese. I ended up with two bars – 68% Bolivia with olive oil and 72% Ecuador with Parmigiano-Reggiano – as well as his ‘bacon caramel’ Raleigh Bar. Everything was excellent, but by far my favourite is the olive oil. The olive oil gives the bar a great fruitiness, while some smoked salt in the background gives some unexpected texture and savouriness.

Alma – I tracked down Alma at the Portland Farmers’ Market at PSU, after hearing wonders about their confections. I sampled a rose caramel and brought back ginger-almond toffee and Habanero caramel in my suitcase. By far the star was the toffee, consumed by Rachel and I in just one afternoon. Sharp and gingery with perfectly executed, flavourful caramel and a deep, dark chocolate base. I should have bought more.

Woodblock – As far as I understand, this is the only company doing ‘bean-to-bar’ in the area (I think Moonstruck imports chocolate for their bars and confections). Rachel and I cracked their 70% Dominican salt and nibs bar at the shop. While we wished there were more salt and nibs, their chocolate is undoubtedly beautiful, with lots of fruity notes throughout.

Two great sources for chocolate in town are Cacao Drink Chocolate in the downtown area, and The Meadow, a shop in the NE that also carries copious amounts of finishing salts, Oregon wines and bitters.

Cacao features drinking chocolate flights, an amazing selection of bars, confections and other chocolate related items. Plus they have a beautiful, rustic space that everything can be enjoyed in. Walking into The Meadow is quite the experience, and thankfully friendly staff are there to help you choose a bar from their wall of single origin chocolates or fill your container with a new sea salt. And I immediately fell in love with their copious selection of bitters, something so rarely encountered in Edmonton.

I recently chatted with some customers at the shop who said they’ve also tried some of Xocolatl de Davíd’s items; they were amazed at the savoury items he was including in his bars and confections (as was I). What about you? Any combos from American chocolatiers that have blown you away?

Say hello to Vosges (and more Domori, Zotter and Venchi)

We’re starting to run out of shelving space in the shop, but last week we happily made room for items from Vosges, Domori, Zotter and Venchi.

From Vosges we received Red Fire, Blood Orange Caramel and Black Salt Caramel bars, in addition to their famous Mo’s Bacon Bars in dark and milk. There’s also some of their Aztec and La Parisienne drinking chocolates, plus Peanut Butter Bonbons and their “Sweet and Salt Exotic Caramel Collection.” Tupelo honey + bee pollen + milk chocolate? We’re there.

Domori also sent us some beautiful new bars from their “D-fusion” line. Favourites like white chocolate with mint and their milk chocolate lattesal are back on the shelf. Additionally we ordered their dark Peperoncino bar which has turned out to be a ‘must’ for heat lovers. Finally, we received two new milk bars – a soft cappuccino and a puffed amaranth.

The much loved “Bacon Bits” bar from Zotter is back on the shelf (yes bacon lovers, this is the time to come in), as is their “Strawberry” in-and-out bar. We also received new flavours like Arabian Date, Late Risers (a beautiful coffee bar) and a crunchy caramel nougat. And don’t forget their “Scotch Whisky” bar – a caramel-y scotch ganache, created with Highland Harvest’s Organic Scotch, all enrobed by dark chocolate.

Also new from Zotter are their solid Labooko bars in raspberry (“Himbeer”), milk chocolate made with Muscovado sugar (“Karamell”), and an all cocoa butter white chocolate with crunchy almond brittle (“Gelbe Shokolade mit Krokant”).

Finally, no fall would be complete without gianduja. Venchi sent us a beautifully soft version wrapped in gold. They also sent us some gianduja specially created for Christmas (I know, we thought it was a little early too). Keep an eye out at the end of November for the appearance of gianduja Nutcrackers.

We continue to receive new chocolate each week (very exciting – it’s like Christmas each time an order comes in!). We’re expecting new Theo bars and caramels in the next week or so, and Amedei should re-appear on the shelves near the end of the month. In the meantime, there’s lots of chocolate on the shelves waiting to be enjoyed.

Our October Pick: Michel Cluizel’s Maralumi Lait

We were originally wowed by Michel Cluizel’s handling of the Maralumi Noir, made up of beans from his Papua New Guinea plantation. But then he sent us Maralumi Lait.

Cluizel has an excellent record when it comes to dark-milks. Just taste the surprisingly bright and citrusy Mangaro Lait. His Maralumi milk keeps this trend going.

On the back of the bar, Cluizel suggests the following: “The characteristic notes of bananas, red berries and blueberries emanate progressively in an herbaceous harmony and then in salty caramel.” In short, we loved the soft, well balanced fruit notes in this bar that mingle throughout with rich caramel. And certainly at the end, the quick appearance of ‘salted caramel’ is quite endearing, and something much loved in all dark-milk chocolates.

For all these reasons, we chose the Maralumi Lait as this month’s pick. Drop by the shop and mention this post to receive 10% off Maralumi Lait bars throughout October.

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!

Visiting Theo

After scooping up their salted caramels and Phinney bars in our shop, I was quite eager to make a stop over at Theo‘s factory whilst in Seattle.

Walking through Fremont towards their brick building is quite something. You think you can smell chocolate when you walk through our door? We could smell the acids being released through the conching process nearly two blocks away. If you get lost on the way to the place, you can easily follow your nose.

For $6 we were able to tour the the factory with about a dozen others, and a guide describing each step of the bean to bar process. Though I discuss the steps of ‘bean to bar’ in tastings and with customers all the time, it was quite lovely to see it all being done.

And so, I give you our tour of Theo Chocolate:

The Roaster: First the beans are washed and then they end up here. This is where the beans begin to take on their final flavour.

The Winnowing Machine: From the roaster the beans go into this machine, where the husk is removed and the beans become nibs.

After the Winnowing machine things got a bit more complicated as machines began work within their green casings. In these machines it seemed that the cocoa butter was being separated from the solids, and then added back together before heading over to the ‘mixer’ just behind us. This was where flavourings were added. From there the chocolate worked its way through the water-heated pipes to the Conche, just on the other side of the tour guide, where the particles were refined and some of the acids released. This was the smell that filled the factory and beyond.

From here we were taken to the confection kitchen, where all their caramels and ganaches are created. While we were visiting, they were prepping for Pear-Balsamic ganache while another person was creating the ‘jam’ part of PB&J truffles – the smell was amazing.

Finally, we took a peek at the bar makers before heading into the retail space again. The chocolate moves through the pipes and into bowls, where it is poured into the moulds. After that a machine vibrates the moulds to make sure no air bubbles make it into your bars.

And then back into their beautiful retail space.

Theo clearly has their bar and confection making down to a science, and they have become a well known chocolatier throughout the U.S. We saw their bars in grocery stores and in almost every chocolate shop we visited. Our tour guide said to keep up with the demand, they recently added a third shift to their lineup, which means they are making chocolate 24hrs. a day. Crazy, but it means more of their caramels and coconut curry bars for me… and you.

Eat, bake, repeat.

As Kerstin heads out of Edmonton, many of our bars and other treats have found their way to the shop. We promised to keep you all updated, so here’s a peek at what’s new on the shelves.


We love Taza‘s stone ground, organic chocolate in many forms, but particular favourites are drinking chocolate discs and chocolate covered almonds. In the former we’ve received cinnamon, chipotle chili, almond, coffee and one we are particularly excited about – ginger. There will certainly be some warm cups of that one as the weather cools. In addition, we’ve also ordered some chocolate covered cocoa nibs from Taza; you can find them right next to the almonds.

From far away ‘Maralumi’

Michel Cluizel’s use of beans from his Papua New Guinea ‘Maralumi’ plantation in a 64% bar had us wowed – fruity, spicy and just a little bit floral at the end (think honey), but these beans in a 47% dark-milk are even better. The milk brings forward all the caramel notes these beans have to offer and softens the tart fruit flavours for a smooth, luscious finish. Even Mike, one of our regular customers who rarely opts for anything but Cluizel’s Mangaro Lait, took one of these bars home yesterday instead. A definite stamp of approval.

In the ‘truffle’ case

Though we no longer carry truffles, we’ve stocked our case with some other lovelies – hand dipped orange and ginger pieces, mocha and mint Melt-Aways, milk and dark fruit barks, mushrooms and peanut butter cups. And just steps away, we’ve boxed up some beautiful Francois Doucet ‘Cherry Love’ pieces for easy and efficient enjoyment.

To bake

And finally, we have received some brand new, single origin baking chocolate from Switzerland’s Felchlin. You can find 500g blocks in the ‘Home Chef’ section in 38%, 65% and 72%.

38% Maracaibo – From Venezuela, you’ll find notes of caramel and honey in this milk chocolate.

65% Maracaibo – From the same plantation as the above milk, Felchlin’s dark treatment of this bean yields flavours of coffee, plum and orange. Use where “semi-sweet” chocolate is called for. May we suggest a flourless chocolate cake that allows this one to really shine?

72% Arriba – Felchlin has really taken the time (72 hours of conching) to refine the flavours of this chocolate. Your kitchen will quickly smell of coffee and liquorice, and your taste buds will be greeted with floral-berry notes. Beautiful.

We’ll be in shop this Saturday from 11-5 ready to assist you in eating and/or baking adventures. See you then!

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

Bean to bar experiment #1

On Sunday I tried to make my first batch of chocolate from the bean. I got the whole family involved including my husband, my kids(plus a friend), my sister and my niece. The kids loved it. They thought it was really cool that chocolate came from these weird looking and bitter beans.
We started by roasting raw Mexican cococa beans in the oven. There’s a web site called “Chocolate Alchemy” that gives you step by step instruction on how to roast beans. We decided on the oven method, since that was really the only roasting tool we had on hand. The site suggests heating the oven to about 400 degrees and then slowly lowering the heat. The ideal temperature of the beans is 300 degrees. As soon as we hit that temperature we removed them. The beans smelled really good but they still tasted bitter. Some seemed to be darker and more roasted than others. We hoped that this bitterness would eventually be masked by sugar and conching.
After cooling the beans for about 1 hour, we took them outside to winnow them with our newly acquired “crankenstein”. That’s actually what the instrument is called. It’s basically a hand cranked apparatus that breaks the beans into nibs and separates them from the husks. You have to remove the husks altogether and we did that by blowing hot air on the bowl of nibs using a hair dryer. This simple technique worked surprisingly well and we blew off nearly all of the husks.
Next we needed to grind the nibs into a paste and we did that using a Champion juicer. We just poured all of the nibs into one end and pushed them down using the plunger. Much to my niece’s surprise what resulted was “Chocolate!”. We ran the chocolate liquor through the juicer another time to refine it further and flushed it out by pouring in some liquid cocoa butter. The final step in our home made chocolate experiment was to “conch” the chocolate. This step is important because it makes chocolate smooth and mellows out the flavor. To do this at home, we purchased a machine from “Chocolate Alchemy” that is used in India for making flours out of grains and legumes. It uses 2 stones to break up large particles into finer particles. It’s at this point that we added sugar and more cocoa butter to the chocolate liquor. We then conched it for a total of 24 hours. The result? Yuck!!! Sadly the bitterness never dissipated and tasting our chocolate was not unlike chewing on a couple of aspirins. I don’t know what we did wrong. I suspect that we did not roast the beans enough(is that why they looked green at times?). It may have also been the result of improper fermentation, which results in beans tasting astringent and bitter. In any case, this chocolate may have been the worst chocolate I’ve ever tasted. After tasting it tonight, I noticed a distinct note of rubber tires! I now have new respect for the art of chocolate making. There is so much mastery involved in coaxing out the delicate flavors that lie hidden in cocoa. How do they get it to taste of strawberry, almonds, coffee or honeysuckle? It must be a miracle. Plus a lot of talent.

Summer closure, sale and city market news!

Our annual summer closure is from August 18th to September 8th this year, but we will be open on Tuesday, August 16th for an end-of-summer sale. Check back for more details.

We will also be at the downtown farmer’s market on August 20th, August 27th and September 3rd. We will be selling pints of Valrhona chocolate ice cream and super chocolate-y ice cream sandwiches that make the perfect portable treat!

Chocolate Tastings on Sunday, August 21st

Many of you who purchased a Living Social coupon have been contacting us, eager to use your coupons before they expire. To accommodate everyone, we have decided to have a full day of tastings on Sunday, August 21st. You may have noticed that the dates for all chocolate tastings can be found on our online store, under tickets, and that you can book your spot through the website.

For this particular day, only the last tasting will be available online, so we ask that you either give us a call at 780-990-0011, or shoot us an e-mail at to reserve your spot. The tastings start at 1:30pm, 3pm, 4:30pm, and 6pm, and are approximately 1 hour in length. For those of you without a coupon, a spot can be purchased for $15. Hope to see you soon!

Kick Starting some great chocolate.

We are backing a project on KickStarter that we really like called “A Edible History of Chocolate“. They are almost there but they need more people in the next 4 days to jump in. If you are interested in tasting some cutting edge chocolate from Mexico by way of Hawaii, sign up!

Here is a little video from the folks at Madre Chocolate:

and the current status:

Ice cream party

We are having a party to celebrate our new ice cream this Wednesday, August 3rd from 3pm to 7pm. Come in to sample a flight of 3 different ice cream concoctions: A scoop of Valrhona chocolate ice cream, a thick and luscious chocolate milk shake and an ice cream float made from stout beer! The flight costs $7.00 and if you bring a friend the second one is only $3.50! There will also be ice cream sandwiches and pints of ice cream for sale. Put your name in the draw for 5 chances to win ice cream for a month.
See you on Wednesday!

Memories of Oaxaca

It’s been about 3 weeks since I got back from Oaxaca and the memory of the city with it’s beautiful streets, colorful zocalo and delicious food is beginning to fade. In order to revivie it, I will make and serve Tajate this week at the shop. If you’re unfamiliar with Tejate, I wrote about it in one of my first blog entries during my visit to Oaxaca. Basically it’s a mixture of corn, cacao, flowers and water. Isn’t that lovely? If you would like to try it, drop by on Thursday, Friday or Saturday for a free sample.


A trip to a chocolate factory

I’ve been meaning to post all week about my trip to a local cooperative that makes chocolate from the bean to bar, but somehow I’ve just been too busy relaxing. Now, on this rainy day, I’m finally getting a chance to post some pictures and write a brief description of the visit.
Everyone that I spoke to has assured me that there’s no cocoa growing in Oaxaca, that it grows in Chiapas and Tabasco only. But last week I visited a little cocoa processing operation that makes chocolate from trees grown right here in Oaxaca. The place is called Toltepec and you can check out a cool video on U-tube if you google “Chocolate Toltepec”.

Ilona and I hired a taxi to take us there and after a 2 hour ride, we discovered the place was closed! Luckily our taxi driver found one of the members of the collective and asked him to show us around the facility. To be honest, there wasn’t much to look at. Operations seemed to be on hold. When I asked the man giving us the tour how often they made chocolate, he explained that the chocolate is made on demand. I can imagine that without some marketing, there is a huge disconnect between this little chocolate manufacturing facility in the mountains
and the markets of Oaxaca or elsewhere.
Even though there wasn’t much to see in terms of chocolate being made, it was still cool to be surrounded by cocoa trees. We asked to try the fruit fresh off the tree and it was delicious! Quite sweet and a little tangy at the end. That tanginess must be what gives chocolate its acidity. I asked what type of bean they use in their chocolate (which is really good, by the way) and the man said that they use criollo beans. That must be why it’s so good! I bought a bag of the chocolate and a bag of raw cocoa beans to experiment with when I get home. I have yet to try roasting my own beans-now I have the perfect excuse.






Ice Cream Sandwiches!

We have just debuted our new-and-improved ice cream sandwich for the summer! The ice cream has been made  for us by the lovely folks at Pinocchio – we gave them a special 80% Valrhona chocolate, and the result is a rich, silky, not-too-sweet ice cream.

But the cookies are definitely not an afterthought – soft and chewy with plenty of cocoa, they recall the texture of a classic chocolate wafer; but with a true chocolate flavour and a pleasing thickness, they are tempting to eat all by themselves. Paired with the ice cream, they are elevated to new heights. A roll in some crunchy cocoa nibs, and the result is an intense chocolate treat to enjoy in the warm weather.

For those of you with hardier constitutions (than me), we sell them whole, but we are also selling them in halves. If you can afford to slip into a chocolate coma for a few hours, though, there is something deeply satisfying about holding an ice cream sandwich potentially larger than your fist!

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!




We’ve set up a couple of sale tables to make way for new stock – come in soon to get a great deal.Also, any purchase over $100 is discounted 15% this month!

We have beautiful teapots and drinking glasses from Bodum, with a unique design to keep your beverage warm (and stylish):

Along with assorted bars, all at a discounted price:

We’ve also started selling slabs of Felchlin chocolate in milk and dark:

And some books and chocolate molds, for those eager to try their hand at baking/chocolate making in their own kitchen!

Father’s Day Truffles

Here is Rebecca’s truffle collection for Father’s Day this year (Blueberry Ale, not pictured):

Mojito - Dark chocolate with organic mint, lime and spiced rum

Canadian Whisky - Dark milk chocolate with Gibson's Finest whisky

Orange Martini - Dark chocolate with organic orange juice, Cointreau and vodka

Piña Colada - Organic milk chocolate with caramelized pineapple

If you have tasted any of these flavours and would like give us any feedback, please feel free to post comments below!

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.