// Craft chocolate pairs so well with beverages of the same caliber. //
There are some off-the-charts chocolate makers in this country, yet most don't get anywhere near the attention we see with craft beer, or specialty coffee. We've been fortunate to work closely with 20 or more through Caffeine Crawls. Living in Missouri also has an odd advantage because in the early days of American craft chocolate, you know, a whole seven years ago, the Show-Me State had powerhouses with Askinosie Chocolate, Patric Chocolate, Bissinger's Handcrafted Chocolatier, and Elbow Chocolates, who is included in this piece. Per state capita it might have been the top craft chocolate producing state at the time. That's up for debate, but we learned from our tours, chats, and teaming up together for Crawls that these artisans appreciate their craft beverages, too. Plus, we noticed all of them crossed over and started teaming up with all types of producers in the beverage industry.
We asked a few about their most memorable collaborations, go-to pairings when chilling, and local favorite drinking holes. See what these three had to say.
Image provided by Dandelion Chocolate.
Jennifer Roy of San Francisco's Dandelion Chocolate recalls an early collaboration they did. "Right when we were starting out we were making our chocolate in a small commissary kitchen in the Dogpatch neighborhood. Jesse from Almanac Beer knocked on our door to talk about a beer and chocolate collaboration. He created the Biere de Chocolat using our beans from Madagascar and Rio Caribe, Venezuela," she says. Jennifer shares that the flavor was, "bursting with cocoa flavors and aromas - balancing sweet and savory - to create a complex, but quaffable chocolate brew." Since those early years, Dandelion has collaborated with a few other local breweries, including Harmonic Brewing, a variety of craft cocktail bartenders from local restaurants and bars, and even a local kombucha company. "Almanac beer will always stand out," to her, Jennifer says.
I asked Jennifer when it's time to relax what is her favorite chocolate and drink combo. She replied back, "that's easy - alcohol! Tequila Ocho with any of our chocolates." For non-alcohol, "Our frozen hot chocolate is the most delicious drink on our menu." When the weather turns colder, "the Mission Mocha is amazing as well as our European drinking chocolate." That sounds delicious, and I miss my Bay Area trips even more now.
As the seasons change to warmer weather Jennifer's go-to drinking spot in town is Four Barrel Coffee. She says, also, "There's a great bar close to Dandelion called ABV that serves incredible drinks."
Image provided by Nuance Chocolate.
Nestled in Ft. Collins, Colorado, Toby Gadd is President and Co-Founder of Nuance Chocolate. Toby worked with Feisty Spirits on a chocolate and whiskey pairing. Toby recalls, "popping a piece of our dark goat milk bar into my mouth, and chased it with (Feisty Spirits) rye whiskey. Utterly amazing! Still one of my favorite pairings." Nuance ended up making a truffle based on this experience.
I like Toby's honesty with liquor. He says, "until rather recently, I didn’t really understand hard liquor. Like many people, I mostly drank it mixed, or as shots. Once I discovered high-quality craft spirits, I found that few things are as wonderful as sipping them with different types of single-origin chocolate." Can't argue that. I'd love to see more local chocolate and beverage event pairings.
Toby confesses with all of the incredible beer spots in Ft. Collins, it's really difficult picking a favorite go-to spot.
Image from Elbow Chocolates Facebook page.
I started working in the beverage industry in late 2004, and the craft, or specialty, world was really young. I met this rising star in 2006 named Christopher Elbow who was making chocolates in my hometown. It didn't take long for Chris's Elbow Chocolates to end up in many high-profile magazines and even receive some praise from Oprah.
I asked Chris what has been a beverage collaboration using his chocolate that you are the proudest of, and he said, "the Boulevard Chocolate Ale was the most fun to work on because, well, it's beer!" It took on a life of its own, too, as I personally recall buying extra bottles when available for friends out of distribution range. Chris hopes to have an opportunity in the future to create different kinds of beer using cocao beans that he roasts in the shop. "There are a lot of new great breweries in town that would be great to work with," Chris says.
Knowing Chris, I'm aware of some of his hobbies, but I was curious finding out when he kicks back and chocolate is involved what his favorite pairing is. "I love pairing our chocolates and other really good dark chocolate with spirits. I'm really into rum right now, and am finding some really good experiences with high-quality aged rums." Chris says.
As the seasons change to warmer weather Chris's go-to drinking spot in town lately is Lifted Spirits in the (Kansas City) Crossroads District. "Great cocktails, and I love how the garage door opens up to the outdoors." Chris says.
Don't forget spring is here, which means chocolate-friendly holidays, graduations and weddings are filling the weekends. Treat your friends to your best local sources, and don't forget to add a little something for yourself with a morning cup of coffee, or late night glass of Chardonnay, or bourbon. - Jason