Saturday, October 16, 2021
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Fine chocolate is one of Utah’s secrets—along with powder snow, great microbrews and a vibrant gay culture. But, it’s time to let the cat out of the reusable shopping bag. Forget what you’ve heard about Utah’s low-brow sweet tooth—Salt Lake City is all about making and appreciating exceptional chocolate.

Amano Chocolate of Orem was the first local chocolate-maker to hit the big time. Founded in 2006 by Art Pollard and Clark Goble, within three years it was named one of the top eight bean-to-bar chocolate companies in the world by Martin Christy, founder of both and the Academy of Chocolate. Before it burst onto the American fine-chocolate scene, Amano Chocolate debuted on Caputo Market’s shelves in downtown SLC.

Founding chocolate artisan Pollard is a bit of savant when it comes to beans and sourcing. His were the first American-made bars to be taken seriously, outranking (and ruffling the feathers of) French, Belgian and Italian powerhouses in competitions. It’s because of that single-minded dedication that Pollard has produced some of the most talked about bars in the chocolate world, including Dos Rios (Dominican Republic beans)–a chocolate taste that hits the tongue with blueberries and cream, some woodsy spices, and a wallop of white blossoms like honeysuckle. He just says, “Utah always has had an affinity for chocolate. When we started we were the only bean-to-bar company but now there’s a couple new small ones. We’re honored to be the ones who paved the way.”

Now, Utah also has Mill Creek Cacao, coffee roaster turned cacao roaster; The Chocolate Conspiracy, makers of organic raw chocolate; Mezzo Chocolate, which takes it from beans to brew, and, most recently, Solstice Chocolate, a single-origin producer. To celebrate these and fine international chocolate, Caputo’s hosts a Chocolate Festival every year, inviting local pastry chefs to dream up desserts inspired by chocolate.

But we’re not talking Mars Bars here.

Art Pollard of Amano Chocolate

What’s the diff?

“Chocolate” on the label doesn’t always mean chocolate–one of the major points of enlightenment on the road to becoming a chocolate snob. The snob’s term for what we grew up thinking was chocolate is “mockolate,” meaning candy products made with cocoa solids, but no cocoa butter. Instead, this stuff is made with vegetable oil or some other fat. Legally, it can’t even be called “chocolate;” it has to be labeled “chocolate candy.” When a cacao bean is crushed, the butter and solids are separated. In fine chocolate, they’re mixed back together, along with sugar and vanilla. And even though you may like the flavor of mockolate just fine, remember it doesn’t have any of the health properties associated with true theobroma.

Genuine fine chocolate is made with cocoa solids and cocoa butter from beans from a single country, district or even farm. Depending on its origin and who makes it, the same high-quality bean can yield vastly different flavors.

Yes, we’re talking terroir, a concept fundamental to the wine business and equally important to chocolate.

One of the growing concerns of fine chocolatiers is the chocolate plant itself. As the Fine Chocolate Industry Association says on its website, “The best tasting chocolates in the world are poised for extinction.” Their point is, growers are removing and replacing rare cacao trees with higher-yielding, disease resistant but less flavorful hybrids. When he first started Amano, Pollard says, “Bad cocoa was everywhere. But there was great cacao to be had–fine quality stuff. To get it and use it you had to pay way more than even fair trade and have a personal relationship with the farmers. We always try to have that personal relationship and to be involved. Most of these farmers who make great cacao have never tasted the final product, so I make it a point to bring the finished bar to these producers and have them taste it.”

Pollard recalls, “After working side by side all day with these farmers, I had a bunch gathered and I had them taste the Amano Cuyagua farm. One crusty old farmer came up and told me one of the most profound things. He said, ‘This chocolate is like a river–the flavor of the chocolate goes on and on, it take you to all these wild and wonderful places.’”

The chocolate makers transform the raw beans into gorgeous bars through tricks of science, sweat and possibly, alchemy. It’s usually dark (no milk products, 50-100 percent cocoa), but never bitter. The texture is usually fine (with some exceptions, especially among raw chocolate makers). The chocolate section at Caputo’s Market dazzles emerging chocolate snobs and is a key source for established ones. It’s also the headquarters from which Matt Caputo conducts chocolate-tasting classes and hosts meetings for the Chocolate Society. Here, you can browse, taste and be bowled over by the flavor of something as simple as ground cocoa beans, sugar and vanilla. The young staff is freakishly knowledgeable. Caputo has curated one of the foremost fine chocolate selections in the world according to his peers, i.e. national chocolate experts and the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade which cited Caputo’s chocolate as one of the reasons they named the store one of its “Outstanding Retailers” in 2009.

Utah is also forging ahead in another category: drinking chocolate. Topher and Shannon Webb of Mezzo Chocolate have created a luscious, rich drinking chocolate that puts the insipid instant stuff to shame. Their secret: They make shavings from single-origin bars they’ve crafted themselves. The result is drinking chocolate that is as interesting and fruity as a well-made Spanish Rioja wine.

Like other fresh foods, chocolate has a season, and we are in the middle of it. Granted, the season doesn’t have to do with Mother Nature. It’s determined by human appetite and the mail. From Halloween through Easter is chocolate season, from cool to cool. When the weather warms, chocolate melts quickly and quality is compromised. Of course, the zenith of chocolate season is February 14.

Next>>>Where to get your local chocolate, and why to be a chocolate snob

Does the first snow mean that it’s officially time to say goodbye to fall? Not if we have anything to say about it.

Stay warm out there SLC! 🌨

📸: @mjmorgan72 courtesy @visitutah

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@thepines.slc is a new but familiar face in the former Tinwell space. Read more about The Pines at the link in our bio!⁠

Photo: Adam Finkle

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In 2016, @dlocke09 already had his dream job as the voice of the @utahjazz. But, hungry for a new challenge, he created the media empire Locked On during his summer vacation. Less than five years later, the network produces 170 daily podcasts which are listened to nine million times each month. 🏀⁠

Read more about David Locke at the link in our bio!⁠

Photo by Adam Finkle⁠

#utahjazz #utahsports #davidlocke #lockedon #lockedonjazz

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One year ago today: Utahns mourn at a vigil for Breonna Taylor. Taylor was shot and killed by a police officer in March 2020, inspiring worldwide protests and calls for racial justice. ...

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Gayle Dowdle as Queen Elizabeth I of England ⁠

@dowdledesign is the queen of renaissance fairs and comic conventions. Dowdle began cosplaying six years ago and has been planning to recreate Queen Elizabeth I ever since. She spent as many as 700 hours constructing the ensemble. She entered her cosplay into the @fanxsaltlake 2019 cosplay contest, winning first prize. Since, she has continued to make upgrades to the royal cosplay she has created. “My dress will never be finished,” she says. 👑⁠

The wig is actually made of Dowdle’s own hair, which she cut off before beginning chemotherapy treatments last year. She says, “When I wear this wig, I don’t feel like Gayle with cancer, I just feel like Gayle again.” ⁠

See more portraits of Utah cosplayers at the link in our bio! ⁠

Photo by Adam Finkle⁠

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Missy Moody as Giselle from "Enchanted"⁠

@madamemoodycosplay has competed on the stage at comic conventions from Salt Lake City to New York in Giselle’s massive wedding gown from Disney’s "Enchanted." The self-taught seamstress has remade the dress five times over the course of four years, eventually wearing it to her very own nuptials. ⁠✨⁠

While Moody’s Giselle cosplay has been hailed as screen accurate, Moody advises, “Just have fun with cosplay. Don’t worry too much about accuracy. It’s OK to take some shortcuts.”⁠

See more portraits of Utah cosplayers at the link in our bio! ⁠

Photo by Adam Finkle⁠

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Ryan Bielik as Caleb Widogast from "Critical Role"⁠

“It was a demanding mistress,” @moody_kittens says of his Caleb cosplay, his take on a character from the Dungeons & Dragons live-streaming sensation turned multimedia empire "Critical Role." Bielik started cosplaying in 2013 and typically attends three conventions per year. After the pandemic, his Caleb cosplay represents a return to form: an obsessive attention to detail. Bielik plans to publicly debut his Caleb cosplay this year at @fanxsaltlake, where he will also enter the cosplay contest. 🪶

“I wanted something elegant to do—flashy, colorful. Something with a lot of grace in the costume,” says Bielik. ⁠

See more portraits of Utah cosplayers at the link in our bio! ⁠

Photo by Adam Finkle

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Kimber Gabryszak as Brienne of Tarth from "Game of Thrones"⁠

@kimber.and.connie.cosplay sets a high bar for herself. “I love to be as screen-accurate as possible,” she says. Gabryszak has always loved costuming, “I was cosplaying before I realized what cosplaying was.” But she did not attend her first comic convention until 2015. She says, “Brienne is the most ambitious character I have ever cosplayed.” Gabryszak had to learn leatherworking, for example, but by far the most difficult undertaking was constructing the chainmail. ⚔️ ⁠

"I like doing villains or people with a unique appearance who might not be as conventionally pretty,” she says. “Brienne is this tough, badass, giant, imposing woman.”⁠

See more portraits of Utah cosplayers at the link in our bio! ⁠

Photo by Adam Finkle

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We're teaming up with @gotbeautydotcom and @goodthingsutah to offer a $150 beauty package. Got Beauty is celebrating 30 years of business locally owned and operated by women. ❤️⁠

Here's how you can win: ⁠
✨ Like this post and tag three friends in the comments.⁠
✨ Follow @slmag, @gotbeautydotcom and @goodthingsutah.⁠
✨ Enter by 5 p.m. Friday for a chance to win!⁠

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Get ready to explore a city of secrets⚡👁️⁠

In a brand new issue of @slmag, we're uncovering the strange, obscure and unexplained stories and lore from Salt Lake City’s history, from a lost Mormon colony to a rampaging royal elephant to a sphinx with the face of Joseph Smith.⁠ Plus, we highlight outdoor gear trailblazers and continue our 2021 Travel Series in the Big Sky State.

Subscribers: look for this issue in your inbox soon. The magazine will be on newsstands Sept. 1! 📪⁠

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If you’re wondering if it’s worth the trip to a certified Dark Sky Park to view the Perseids, the short answer is “yes.” The long answer is “heck yes.” 🌠⁠

It's not too late to see the yearly Perseids meteor shower light up the night sky. Learn more at the link in our bio!⁠

Photo: Gates of Lodore in Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal; Credit: @miahwatt courtesy @visitutah

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Check out more of our favorite Idaho destinations at the link in our bio!

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