The idea behind this chocolate tasting is that there's a special plantation off the coast of Africa on the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe that has been growing cacao for hundreds of years, but due to the fact that the plantation was abandoned for many years the plants have not been genetically manipulated in the same way other cocoa plantations have modified their trees. This gives the cacao beans a richer flavor and original taste. To preserve the chocolate's unique characteristics, the chocolatier Claudio Corallo doesn't use vanilla or soy lecithin in his products.
As our hostess was telling us about the plantation, she gave us a roasted cacao bean to smash open, and told us to eat the nibs inside so that we could experience chocolate in a raw state before she started giving us pieces of chocolate. That started with a 100% pure dark chocolate, and was followed by delicious 80% dark chocolate that had a pleasant grittiness thanks to the inclusion of sugar crystals. Next was a 75% dark chocolate, which was very smooth, and then a series of 73.5% chocolates that had a variety of different inclusions. We were told to guess what they were, and met with mixed success. The first bar had chocolate nibs, then orange peel, then one with ginger, and salt and pepper. The nibs stumped both of us, but we were able to identify the others. The best chocolate we were given to taste was a 70% chocolate with raisins and white muscat distillate; it was creamy and soft, with a heavy wine flavor that really complimented the chocolate. I'm not a wine drinker but even I thought it tasted fantastic. The last thing we were given, to cleanse the palate, was a chocolate-dipped espresso bean.
The chocolate tasted great, but at $12.50 for a single chocolate bar and $26.00 for a 160g box, it was pretty pricey.
Our hostess was the only employee in the shop, which meant that every time a customer came in, she had to sort of half ignore them to continue with the tasting. I felt badly for her - there wasn't a single sale made while we were there, and I imagine that was because she wasn't available to talk to the customers and help create interest in the chocolate. There was a video that she kept playing clips from, a BBC documentary that happened to visit the São Tomé plantation, and she could have just told us to watch it while she went to help the customers. Oh well.
After the tasting was over, Kero and I decided to see what else is in downtown Palo Alto. It's not that far from San Jose, but for some reason we've never really explored it. I was disappointed to see that the University Art closed - now where will the Stanford students get their art supplies? But there were a lot of cute shops.
We had dinner at Umami Burger. They have the tastiest french fries that are drenched in cheese and shoestring onions and tasty chunks of bacon. I'm not talking about those crummy little bacon bits, these are legit 1" square pieces of meaty goodness. Delicious! We followed that up with truffle burgers, which are decadent and rich and oh-so-good. They're a bit on the small side, so we had plenty of room for dessert when we exited the restaurant.
Luckily, an ice cream sandwich shop was right next door. Cream is awesome - you pick two cookies, pick an ice cream flavor, and voila! You have a massive ice cream sandwich. With twenty flavors of ice cream and ten different cookies, the variety is endless. I decided to go with chocolate-chocolate chip cookies and green tea ice cream, but it was a tough choice.
Like an idiot, I didn't think to take pictures during the chocolate tastings, but I did manage to get the phone out for the rest of our food adventures:
Ice cream sandwich
Same general shape, but completely different experiences!
After the ice cream, we were mostly done with food, but we had one last stop - Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop. Kero wanted to pick up some peach soda that her husband is fond of, and I just like weird soda flavors so I grabbed a blackberry one and a different brand of peach soda to try. Then we went home to our husbands, who were playing video games and talking about work (they're both tech. journalists).