Okay, I'm back from the chocolate tasting marathon and I am hiiiiiiiiigh. If my typing peters out, it's because I've collapsed onto the floor in a monumental sugar crash, so just wait a few minutes and I should come to....
First of all, I'm glad I got there early. It's imperative to experience the staff while they are still fresh and amiable. Later in the day, after hours and hours of reciting the same information over and over to hordes of hungry, impatient cocoa-happy customers, they get snippy and petulant. Hell, I would. So far, crowd control seemed to be going well; no one had to bring out the fire hoses. But then, there's always tomorrow.
Here's how it works. The customers mob the twelve-foot-long, multi-tiered display of chocolate bars shoulder to shoulder and three deep. You stand in the back and wait for an opening, then pounce on it like a New York subway patron looking for a seat. When you manage to work your way up to the front, you hold up the chocolate bar you want to sample and the frenetic staff quickly grabs a labeled Ziploc baggie of pre-cut squares and hands you a small chunk. You roll it around in your mouth and swallow while you eyeball the next one you want to try. You've got to try all the ones you want while you've got a spot because once you leave the counter, you'll never get back in. At least six other customers are doing the same thing on either side of you. It's humorous and death defying at the same time. I'm not sure why they couldn't have split up the merchandise into stations and positioned them around the store. Perhaps logic doesn't apply to chocolate.
So, here's what I learned, good and bad.
Dagoba is darned tasty when it comes to added flavors, they don't skimp on the fruit and spices. As a matter of fact, the chili pepper one was so hot my nose almost began to run. I recommend the lavender & blueberry for an exotic taste adventure. The lemon & ginger flavor tied for my favorite overall.
Chocolove is very smooth and has the added sweetness of containing love poems printed on the inside of each wrapper, so if you're looking for a high-impact Valentine's Day gift, this would be a good item to pair with flowers. Their raspberry one was intensely berry-fied while the peach & pecan was silky and sweet, like a sundae. My favorite bar all day was their dark chocolate mint. I'm a sucker for mint and this one brought on flashbacks of chocolate peppermint bark at Christmas.
Theo had been described to me as the best chocolate on the planet but it didn't send me: too bland and chalky. They had a coconut & curry flavor that left an unpleasantly potent and lingering aftertaste in my mouth. The 91% dark was surprisingly smooth, though.
Other brands included Scharffenberger, Equal Exchange, Vivian (sp?), Endangered Species, etc. but I didn't bother to try them all. When it comes right down to it, I'm just not a chocolate addict. I'd rather wait all year for something I really like than settle, kind of like with furniture, vacations, and men.
This was a golden opportunity to add a few names to my list. But I'm all cocoaed-out until summer. Bring on the hot guys and chifferobes.