You can drink it hot or cold, eat it as cookies, cakes, brownies, mousse, or fudge, drizzle it over ice cream, or just bite into a solid bar of it. We’re talking about chocolate, of course, the world’s most addictive edible. It’s a romantic gift, a soothing taste of childhood, an indulgence after a hard day, the perfect bite after a delicious dinner, and it can be good for you, too.
But What Is Chocolate?
Chocolate’s origins date back more than 4,000 years to present-day southern Mexico and Central America. The Mayans used chocolate as a beverage, a condiment, and even as currency. Although it was sometimes combined with vanilla, other spices, or even wine, chocolate was a bitter drink. Eventually, the explorer Cortés brought cacao beans back to Spain with him in 1519 and someone thought to add sugar to the mixture.
Chocolate begins life inside a fruit called a pod, on a delicate flower-covered tree grown primarily in remote areas of West Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America. Most cacao is nurtured by hand on small, family-run farms. Seedlings take up to five years to mature before their pods are filled with the beans that will become the chocolate we know. Just like coffee beans and grapes for wine, the qualities of the cacao vary with the area in which they’re grown.
Within the beans are the cacao nibs, the bitter essence of chocolate. Nibs are roasted and then ground into a thick paste called chocolate liquor. To make most chocolate, the liquor is sweetened and then mixed and mashed and swirled for up to a week to give it that smooth, silky texture. After that, it’s tempered by repeatedly heating and cooling it to give it a beautiful, glossy finish and help it melt properly.
White chocolate, which isn’t technically chocolate at all, is made from the cocoa butter removed during the powder process, with the addition of milk and sugar. Cocoa butter is also used in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals and has been known since earliest times as a sunscreen.
What’s New in Chocolate?
The old standby chocolate Whitman’s Sampler has been with us since 1842, and Hershey, Nestlé, Ghirardelli, and Guittard chocolates, among others, have been around since the late 1800s. Local favorite See’s Candies has been making handmade chocolates in Los Angeles since 1921. But recent years have seen an explosion in “single origin” chocolate bars and handmade artisan chocolates. Almost every grocery store has a display of bars with chocolate sourced as specifically as vintage wines, and the Los Angeles area is home to dozens of shops specializing in exquisite specialty chocolates made on the premises and sometimes to your personal order.
From Malibu, through Brentwood, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Silver Lake, Echo Park, Pasadena and Glendale, artisan chocolatiers are creating stunning morsels as elaborate as jewels, with hand-painted designs or patterns of gold leaf. Walking into one of their shops is a lot like entering an art gallery. And the flavors! Meyer lemon lavender, ginger with lime sea salt, chili pepper, Earl Grey, Greek Kalamata olive, Korean garlic, Japanese red bean, tiramisu, Cuban mojito, olive oil rosemary, mango saffron, pineapple habanero, strawberry rhubarb, raspberry pink pepper, huckleberry balsamic, pear cardamom, rose pistachio… there’s a chocolate-enrobed truffle to suit every palate and then some.
If the exotic doesn’t suit your fancy, the classics still abound. Nothing speaks to our shared memories as much as heart-shaped red boxes for Valentine’s Day, chocolate Easter bunnies, and silver-wrapped kisses.
Celebrate With a Chocolate Fountain
What’s more glorious than a fountain of chocolate? It’s the kind of thing you may have dreamed of before you knew such a thing existed. Most catering services in Glendale CA can provide a specialty chocolate fountain for your guests. This way, your guests can sample different ways that chocolate combines with other flavors. A chocolate fountain with fruit and bites of cake to dip in its cascading deliciousness is the perfect addition to a dessert table at a wedding or another celebration for people of any age.
Try a Chocolate-Tasting Party
Everyone’s done the wine-tasting thing. How about a party where chocolate is the guest of honor? Here’s how to do it:
Buy an array of what they call “single bean” or “bean to bar” chocolates made from cacao grown in one specific region or even one specific plantation. Look for names like Criollo, Forastero, Trinitario, and Arriba Nacional. Mix it up with chocolates made with varying percentages of cacao; the more cacao the darker the chocolate. Add some milk chocolate (made with cacao and dry milk solids to lighten the flavor), and white chocolate.
Begin with the lightest chocolates and move along to the darkest. Inhale each one’s aroma. Just like wine, depending upon where it’s from, a chocolate may have underlying scents that are fruity, earthy, woody, grassy, nutty, or smoky.
Now taste it. Bite off a small amount and let it melt on your tongue. Then take another small bite and take your time chewing it. Notice how it feels in your mouth and whether you can taste more flavors than you could smell.
Refresh your palate with a thin slice of apple or a sip of sparkling water, and try the next one.
When everyone has tasted all the samples, compare notes. And if there are leftovers… What? Leftovers? When it comes to chocolate, there’s usually no such thing as a leftover. For all your catering and banquet halls in Glendale CA needs, be sure to check out Anouhs for your next chocolate event