I’ve been to many a wine tasting, but never a chocolate tasting. So when I learned that Robin and some friends were headed to Kakao Chocolate in Maplewood for just such a treat, I was ready lickety-split. When we arrived, store owner Brian Pelletier had the table set for eight with an array of books on chocolate scattered down the table.
Right away you recognize that Bryan is as enjoyable as the chocolate he sells. The adventuresome entrepreneur left his job ten years ago at Fleishman-Hillard and went into fashioning sweets without knowing a thing about the business.
Today he’s well-versed on chocolate and presented an amusing and fascinating narration on the ancient food, beginning with its origin among the Mayan Indians more than 2000 years ago. They didn’t make candy bars back then, but they did create a ritual drink made from ground cacao beans mixed with water, black pepper, vanilla and spices.
Today Brian has twenty-some employees and two stores: one in Maplewood and the another in Clayton. At Christmas, the bustling shop sells 40,000 hand-crafted chocolate caramels.
We sampled a hand-dipped lavender truffle and a semi-sweet, passion fruit chocolate with lime, salt and chili. Other taste treats included marshmallow pie made with dark chocolate and toasted pecans; bacon brittle; a cinnamon-cardamon milk chocolate and, the store’s most popular, sea salt caramel. All are made using natural ingredients, many of them organic and local. Chocolate is imported from Belgium.
How to Taste Chocolate
We learned the correct way to eat chocolate. Not in one gulp, but in two precise bites, during which you place the remaining piece on your plate while savoring the first bite.
The Food of Love
10 Things You Might Not Know about Chocolate
- The Spanish brought chocolate to Europe after their conquest of Mexico. They discovered that the bitter liquid improved by adding sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.
- The Mayans used the cacao beans as currency. A horse could be purchased for ten beans. Heroes were rewarded with chocolate beans.
- Chocolate grows only in the tropics—70% of it in West Africa.
- Pods grow on trees.
- Chocolate tastes best at room temperature
- It’s the #1 food craved by women.
- Chocolate has less caffeine than decaf coffee. A 1.5 oz. bar contains 9 mg; a regular 5-oz. coffee between 110-164 mg., and decaf, 3 mg.
- Dark chocolate is the top antioxidant containing food, followed by milk chocolate, prunes, and raisins.
- Like wine, the nuances of aroma and flavor are influenced by the area in which the chocolate is grown.
- The mood benefits (caused by the release of endorphins and serotonin in the brain) are best achieved with a chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa.
And speaking of chocolate, who can ever forget this episode. (There are no conveyor belts at Kakao.)
Kakao Chocolate. Two locations: Maplewood, 7272 Manchester Rd. Open: Mon-Sat 10a-7p, Sun noon-5p. Clayton, 7720 Forsyth. Open Mon-Fri 10a-7p, Sat-Sun noon-5p. Owner: Brian Pelletier.