I am a total sucker for artisanal chocolates and salts, and I am on a perpetual hunt for both. Imagine my pleasure at discovering a shop in NYC’s West Village that specializes in both (plus artisanal bitters and fresh flowers, just to round off that sensory experience). My regular chocolate store here in DC (Cocova, formerly known as Biagio Fine Chocolate) has only chocolates (a whole sea of chocolates, to be precise), and The Spice and Tea Exchange in Georgetown has only salts (which I supplement with online purchases from SaltWorks). The Meadows has few but well-chosen items in both categories.
The recent excursion prompted me to share my salt & chocolate favorites of 2012: a few new discoveries and well forgotten oldies:
Fleur de Sel de l’Île de Ré has a phenomenal silken texture; it is funky and briny, with a slightly floral nose reminiscent of lavender and violets. It is my personal favorite out of the three salt-making villages in Western France (Noirmoutier, Guérande, and Ré). The ultimate finishing salt…
Pangasinan Star fleur de sel (also called Ilocano Asin Philippine Sea Salt). Some say it is like tasting Fleur de sel on steroids, as it is certainly more rich, lush, and intense than its French cousins. But, even though this is a full-bodied salt, it wears its weight very gracefully. If the Cat in the Hat were a chef, he would use Pangasinan salt :-).
Indian black salt (Kala Namak): it is a unique salt with a strong sulfurous aroma (similar to a hard-boiled egg smell).Despite its name, it actually looks pink when finely ground. Chances are, you will love it or hate it. I have found it works best when sprinkled on mango, or in a raita or salty lassi (to make it, just blend plain yogurt, water, cumin, black salt, and cayenne in a blender). Putting it on an egg dish is an interesting experience…
Incidentally, Indian black salt is NOT the same thing as the Himalayan black lava salt, which is very easy to like, and which is amazing on good quality chocolate and caramel.
By the way, for a while now I have been admiring beautiful Himalayan salt slabs from afar. But I am very tempted to take one out for a spin to lightly cure carpaccio or sashimi. I should add that Himalayan pink salt is my everyday cooking salt of choice, as Trader Joe’s $2 containers with a built-in grinder are absolutely brilliant.
Artisan du Chocolat Jamaica 72% cocoa (Kent, UK). Super aromatic, with notes of jasmine, licorice, wood, and red fruit, it is undoubtedly one of my favorite origins (along with Vietnam, which this chocolatier also makes). It is hard to describe its incredible balance and complexity, as it is simply lovely!
Coppeneur is a great micro-batch bean-to-bar chocolate maker from Germany. I am quite fond of their single origin bars, especially Republique de Madagascar 70% Cocoa with Ginger and Fig (made with Trinitario beans). It is a real fruit bomb, with a slightly oriental note. Sometimes it is fun to have a more brainless but still refined chocolate bar :-). Purists can have the same bar sans ginger and fig (Republique de Madagascar PURistique).
Fresco Jamaica Recipe 209 70% cocoa, subtle conche (Lynden, WA). Beautiful and elegant like a fine Burgundy. Wet earth and mushrooms aromas are so beguiling… I cannot ask for more from a chocolate bar or a wine, for that matter. One can only improve upon the experience by pairing it with a Burgundy.
By the way, for anybody curious about the subject of cocoa origin, varietals, and terroir, I came across an interesting article the other day:
It occurred to me as I was finishing up my post that many of the chocolates and salts I was describing had a strong floral component to them, which also echoes the new perfume offerings we were investigating last Saturday (Jasminora from Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria series, with notes of galbanum, bergamot and cyclamen; London Blooms collection from Jo Malone (comprised of Peony & Moss, White Lilac & Rhubarb and Iris & Lady Moore; and a few others).
Even though I prefer the more balanced and subtle floral expressions in salt and chocolate, I do agree with the parfumeurs’ philosophy which states that floral compositions promote “feelings of happiness, romance and good mood”. I think spring is officially here!