Monday, March 1, 2021

Home Eat & Drink Chocolate


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

Even in the exploration boom of the 1800s, nobody dared to explore the terrain flowing through the Green and the Colorado Rivers.⁠

That is, nobody until Major John W. Powell said the 19th Century equivalent of “Hey man, hold my beer while I try this.”⁠

Read more about his dangerous expedition at the link in our bio!⁠

Photo of Powell’s expedition courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division⁠

A brand new issue of Salt Lake magazine is coming your way! ⁠

We can't wait to share these stories with you. This issue includes our annual Blue Plate Awards celebrating those surviving and thriving in the restaurant biz. Plus, we take a road trip to Wyoming and ask why the only Utah passenger on the Titanic didn’t survive her journey.⁠

A note from our editor Jeremy Pugh, including beautiful tributes to Mary Brown Malouf from our friends in the community, is online now. Read more at the link in our bio ❤️⁠

Subscribers: Look for this issue in your mailbox soon. The magazine will be on newsstands March 1! 📬

Today, we are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2021 Blue Plate Awards! ⁠🎉⁠

These prizes honor the growers, food evangelists, grocers, servers, bakers, chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs who do more than put good food on the table—they make our community a better place to live. This year, just surviving as a local business deserves an award, but each of our Blue Plate winners did more than that. They made us grateful for every person involved in the essential act of feeding us.⁠ 🍽⁠

At the link in our bio, we have the full list of winners, a celebration of feats of COVID creativity and a tribute to restaurants we lost this year. If you’re hungry for more, pick up a copy on newsstands March 1! Plus, check out our Instagram for spotlights on some of the Blue Plate winners. ⁠

This year’s Blue Plate Awards are the first without our beloved Executive Editor Mary Brown Malouf. We dedicate them to her, our town’s biggest food fan, critic and champion. xoxomm⁠ 💙

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @ricobrandut for Staying in Beansness⁠

Last summer, it seemed that Rico would be another victim of rapid gentrification in Salt Lake. Luckily, Rico was able to find a new home in Poplar Grove and now plans to add even more employees. It’s a last-minute happy ending for a community leader who literally wears his mission on his sleeve, courtesy a tattoo in bright red block letters: “pay it forward.” 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award Winner: @spicekitchenincubator for Keeping the Spice Flowing⁠

This year Spice Kitchen Incubator, already an essential resource for refugees, became, well, even more essential. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @thestore_utah for Special Deliveries ⁠

As grocery delivery becomes the new norm, The Store offers a personal touch that only an independent grocer can provide. Last March, high-risk and elderly customers began calling in their grocery lists over the phone, and The Store’s general managers personally delivered food to their homes. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @cucinaslc for Preserving Neighborhood Connection⁠

Cucina’s outdoor spaces became a place where the neighborhood could gather safely. Owner Dean Pierose offered free coffee in the mornings and encouraged his regulars to linger and commiserate together, preserving a semblance of society during a socially distanced time. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @oquirrhslc for Betting the Bottom Dollar⁠

When COVID-19 hit Salt Lake City, Oquirrh co-owners Andrew and Angelena Fullers' dream was seriously damaged. But the Fullers keep trying to follow the rules. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @hearth_and_hill for Opening Doors⁠

As the pandemic ravages independent restaurants, Hearth and Hill has reaffirmed its commitment to small businesses in Park City and used its large dining room as an informal gathering space for the city. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @fisherbrewing for Creative Canning⁠

This year, Fisher found ways to utilize their beer, taproom space and canning capabilities for good. They created special lines of limited edition beers in custom cans to help raise funds for local businesses struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic. 💙⁠

A wind storm #tbt for your feed today. 🌬️🛹⁠

2020 was a long, long, loooong year, so we asked local photographers to share what the new normal looked like through their eyes. The link is in our bio!

Just hours after being sworn in, President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling for a review of the boundaries for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. The monuments—designated by Barack Obama in 2016 and Bill Clinton in 1996—were reduced by roughly 2 million acres by former president Donald Trump, and the executive order is seen as move towards restoring the original boundaries.⁠

Read the full story through the link in bio.⁠

📸Bears Ears National Monument: Courtesy of Utah Office of Tourism

What’s your favorite park in Utah? ...