Tonight's tasting was attended by sixteen members of the club and was presided over by Adam Smith, owner of Fog City News in San Francisco, located at Market at First. Another guest tonight was Louis Dolinsky, for many years a journalist at the San Francisco Chronicle, now working on an article about the club he hopes to get published in the paper.
|Adam presenting two bars of Hachez
Adam opened Fog City News in 1999 and began as a classic newsstand featuring an array of newspapers and magazines along with an assortment of pick-up items like tobacco, candy, peanuts, and other munchies.
Once Adam noticed the brisk sales in chocolate he began stocking more, and today has an entire section of the store devoted to chocolate. Today Fog City boasts over 200 different varieties of chocolate bars and confections imported from around the world and has the well-earned a reputation as one of San Francisco's main purveyors of chocolate. A must-visit for any choco lover.
Chocolate has become so central to Fog City that it now holds regular chocolate events open to the public. To get on their email list one must visit the store to sign up. See Fog City's shameless plug below. In must be stated that in compliance with our Club ethics, no club member has any financial relationship with Fog City. See Club Ethics.
Adam has led hundreds of tastings and under his guidance tonight's chocolate club experience, aside from being raucously fun, was most informative. He brought a selection of six bars to submit to the group's palate. These included two bars from the German chocolatier Hachez, one bar at 88%, the other with orange at 77%. Next were the French Bonnat (75%), Dagoba Los Rios (68%), Plantations Arriba from Ecuador (90%) and lastly, Gorenjka from Slovenia (70%).
First of all, sez Adam, chocolate should be tasted from the highest cacoa percentage to the lowest. This is most interesting since we always thought it was the opposite, and in fact there is some debate on this point among chocolate aficionados.
An important part of the chocolate experience is to take a whiff of the chocolate before popping it into your mouth. Even we at BCC know this. But Adam gives new meaning to "taking a whiff." In fact, the phrase "taking a whiff" trivializes this experience for him.
To watch Adam langorously smell a small piece of chocolate, first on all sides, then break it open, smell it again and again, and slowly deliver a list of scents he recognizes, is to watch him become one with chocolate. Give him a goatee and a turban and you would swear he was having a transcendental experience.
Personally, my whiff lasts only a few seconds. Adam's can go on for four or five minutes. "Hmm," he says with dreamy eyes, "very fruity . . . strawberry, cherry, a little pineapple . . . peach." Then a long pause as his olfactory experience deepens. "Ollalieberry, kiwi. A hint of honey. But very earthy, too." Now his eyes roll back, his head sways slightly from side to side. "Hmmm, tobacco, grassy, woodland meadowish . . ." Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but not much.
Once all the tasting was done Adam pulled out one more bar for the group to taste, if we were interested, that is. Sure! To our shock and consternation he pulls out a bar of . . . a bar of . . . I can hardly bring myself to write this . . . he pulls out a bar of, uh, erg . . . gulp . . . milk chocolate!! That's right, MILK CHOCOLATE! Sacré Bleu! A hub-bub ensued as the table lit up with laughter, giggles, bulging eyes, and looks of disdain as well as delight.
The bar, Hachez Maracaibo, 55%, from Venezuela, was broken up, passed around, and to my surprise a majority of those at the table enjoyed the experience. I personally did not and would much prefer a good Snickers or Mars bar if I wanted the sugary sweet chocolate fix. This reflection found no resonance among other members who sat there with Cheshire cat smiles enjoying the aftertaste of their milk chocolate experience. Despite the success of Adam's stealth chocolate there was no outcry for introducing milk chocolate into our club tastings.
P. R. plug directly from Fog City News sanctioned by the Club:
Fog City News has now been voted "Best Newsstand" and "Best Candy Store" in the Bay Area! We carry more magazines than any other local newsstand (over 700 in the foreign section alone) and, with over 200 premium bars, we have the largest selection of imported chocolate in Northern California! Our inventory is completely computerized so we can provide detailed editorial and shipping information for thousands of magazines. Want to know what a chocolate item actually tastes like? We have compiled tasting notes on every bite-size item and bar we carry! Oh, and we also have on hand hundreds of rather distinctive greeting cards and the largest collection of nostalgic and imported glass bottled soda pop in the Financial District.