Dude, Sweet Chocolate

Katherine Clapner is the mastermind of Dude, Sweet Chocolate.  She’s been referred to as Willy Wonka… not the Gene Wilder chocolatier, mind you, but  more like Johnny Depp: dark, complex and artfully delightful. She’s the Quentin Tarentino of chocolatiers: unconventional and gutsy… one B.A.M.F.

 She has the creativity to pair atypical flavors with chocolate and yet somehow it works: bleu cheese fudge, anyone? How about Louisiana tobacco or pine with your chocolate?  With such exotic flavors, it’s no surprise Katherine has won 2010 Best Chocolatier from both The Observer and D Magazine as well as 2010 Best Chocolate from WFAA.

Since the flavors are obscure, they let you sample an array of chocolates before you buy, ensuring that you leave a happy camper. The staff there is genuine.  It seems as if the employees enjoy watching you taste the chocolates as much as you enjoy tasting the chocolates.  But of course they do, they whole-heartedly love the chocolate concoctions. After all, sharing is caring. Big shout out to EZ Eddie for being my great chocolate guide!

 

Walking into DSC, you’re immediately greeted by the open kitchen. I felt like I had a backstage pass to the chocolate magic. This setting is perfect for inquisitive me to ask plenty of questions about the ingredients. DSC has a charming intimate warehouse feel with metal shelves full of chocolates carefully packaged in small cardboard boxes.

The only things missing from the shop are  “Dude” and “Sweet” edible chocolate tattoos. What’s mine say? Dude! What’s mine say? Sweet! … I’d buy ’em. On my first visit, I walked out an extremely happy camper with the Large Marge Bar and the box of 12-count artisan chocolates. And on my second visit, I walked out with chocolate-covered bacon and Vincotto.

This post is a bit lengthy as I retell all 12 flavors from the box of artisan chocolates so if you’re curious about the Vincotto or chocolate covered bacon, just scroll down to the bottom.

 I, by no means, am a professional chocolatier but was curious about the nuances of tasting dark chocolate so I concocted a little Cuisine 101 post over here.

Large Marge bar ($7.00)
Mixed origin South American 91% with brown rice crispies (front of bar – pictured right; back of bar – pictured left)

I recommend this for the ultimate dark chocolate lover as this may be an acquired taste for some, but of course, they’ll provide a sample so just taste this for yourself.
– With a cocoa content of a whopping 91% this is not for the faint of heart. I have to admit, since the cocoa content is so intense, my taste buds can’t wrap their brains around what’s “dark chocolate” any more. Everything else in comparison tastes so weak and 91% cocoa is difficult to find.
– Large Marge includes rice crispies, so think of this as your dark chocolate version of the beloved classic Crunch bar.
– Appearance: No blooms and really glossy, both indicators of quality chocolates. Although some chocolates have tints (red, orange, purple, etc.), this chocolate was so dark, I couldn’t distinguish any other colors.
– Smells: woody and earthy: like dirt that’s been soaked in fresh rain.
– Initial taste: My first reaction is that it doesn’t taste that dark. But as the chocolate sinks in between the groove of your taste buds and coats your mouth, the richness sets in and the tastes evolve. The flavors are robust and assertive, very bitter. The sweetness comes from the brown rice crispy treats which provide pockets for a slight sweet taste.
– Mid taste: Roasted extra dark burnt coffee grinds. Woodsy (maybe even oak?). Peppery with a hint of spice. 
– After taste: Cocoa/coffee flavors linger in the mouth.My mouth feels a bit dry afterwards.  {Did you know: A good chocolate has lingering cacao flavors for about 2 minutes. This one sure did!}
– Mouthfeel: Rich, luxurious piece of velvet.  Melts slowly in my mouth and sits between my roof and tongue for quite a while (a good sign of quality chocolate). It takes a really long time to fully dissolve which is great because it means more time to enjoy the taste!
– As it melts, it’s really thick, the consistency is reminescent of peanut butter stuck in your mouth. YUM!
– The chocolate is difficult to break and has a loud SNAP! to it when broken, both signs of quality chocolate.

{Did you know: When first picked, the beans have tropical flavors of lychee and pineapple; but in a few hours the sugars convert and they become bitter and inedible. Beans are then fermented, dried, roasted, ground and conched to create chocolate}

 Artisan Chocolates ($12.00 for a box of 6 Sweet flavors; $12 for a box of 6 Dude flavors, $20.00 for a box of all flavors)
Dude chocolates pictured left; Sweet chocolates pictured right

Being the Mastermind Katherine is, her concept for the chocolates is brilliant. You have your Sweet chocolates and your Dude chocolates. She describes the Sweets as “a little sensitive” while the Dudes are “completely rough around the edges, they don’t explain anything.”

After my own little taste fest, I feel that the Sweets co-stars chocolate with a fruity pairing while the Dudes highlight the chocolate as the star ingredient with added secondary flavors to enhance the choclates’ nuances. The flavor combinations are paired well. Although you can’t taste every single flavor listed on the box, I think that’s the point. I mean, this is how I see it anyway… Chocolatiers are artists. Painters combine different colors to enhance a certain characteristic. For example, black is combined with grey for a darker grey. The color black doesn’t pop out, but it’s noticeable that black has been blended to enhance the grey to a darker shade. In the same way, Katherine uses garlic + chocolate. The garlic flavor doesn’t stand out but is used as a subtle flavor to enhance the earthiness in chocolate.

The beauty (and sometimes frustration) of a box of chocolate is that since the quantity of one flavor is so small, the taste is fleeting. It’s like a little kid who tries to capture a whole cloud of fireflies but only ends up with a few twinklers in the jar. My plan of attack for the chocolate tasting was to bite the bonbons in two pieces so that I would get an initial first impression and then have one last chance to savor the remaining flavors.  

My favorites in the box are: Marakesh, Sassy Frassy, Hill Country, and Black Gold.

Let’s start out our tasting with the girlier chocolates, ladies first! 

Lemon Chess
Fresh lemon, buttermilk
– I’m not a huge fan of lemon + sweet but I must say, this combo is executed nicely.
– Lots of contrasts: tangy lemon and buttermilk vs. earthy dark chocolate. Crack from biting into the shell vs. creamy interior.
– Lemon isn’t overpowering and compliments the bitterness well.
– Compared to the whole box, lemon chess is one of the least complex in flavors.

Sassy Frassy
sassafras, birch bark, banana
{C for Cuisine favorite}
– Sassa-wha? Sassafrass is a tree that is native to eastern North America and eastern Asia. Sassafras root extract is commonly used for teas and root beer.
– It’s subtly sweet, and woodsy…I love the flavors. It’s very complex and intriguing, especially the birch bark after taste.  
– There’s a slight taste of caramel, malt, and licorice (not as strong as anise) which may be coming from the sassafras, although I’m not 100% sure since I’ve never had sassafras by itself.
– A curious taste of liqueur can be found but the liqueur “bite” isn’t too strong.
– I can barely taste the banana flavor (but it’s not the artificial banana taste).

Baccus
red wine, sultana
– 
Sultana is a white seedless grape. Most raisins, including those with the typical dark brown color are made from sultana.
– The taste is reminiscent of a muscat chocolate Japanese candy called Meiji Gummy Choco.
– Think of this as your upscale chocolate covered raisin. There are small bits of raisins that act as a nice surprise of texture. The bits cut through the creamy rhythm of the chocolates, in a good way.
– The fruitiness of the raisins doesn’t overpower the chocolate but it does bring a tartness to the flavor profile which plays well with the bitterness and sweetness.
– There’s a slight alcoholic taste coming from the red wine. The red wine flavors are difficult to distinguish since they are so subtly blended in the chocolate. I assume they act more of a flavor enhancement.

Tahitian
Passion fruit, ginger salt
– The salt flavor hits first  and slowly the passion fruit is revealed.
– The saltiness definitely minimizes the bitterness and quite probably, many other flavors.
– Definitely the saltiest of the bunch. In fact, it’s so uncharacteristically aggressive compared to the rest that I wonder if I just got a one-off dude that wasn’t blended as well as the other Tahitians. My least favorite of the box BUT I’d like to try another one just to make sure I didn’t run into a mishap.

  

Indian Rose
rose petal jam, marzipan
{C for Cuisine favorite}
–  Since rose jam is used, it’s a bit floral and fruity but not overly sweet. Although the rose flavor is distinguishable, it doesn’t taste the way grandma’s perfume smells.
– It’s a bit tart at the start with a hint of liqueur taste.
– If I didn’t have the marzipan description, I wouldn’t know it’s there but you can taste it if you are aware… a sweet, almond-y taste.
– There are solid bits in the ganache which may be from rose petals or maybe marzipan?
– The flavor reminds me vaguely of a rose-water Turkish delight.

Hill Country
Zip Code honey, lavender, Dallas Mozz. Co. goat crema
{C for Chocolate favorite}
– OK, as difficult as it is to pick ONE favorite flavor, if you told me I could only have one flavor of chocolate my whole entire life and I had to choose from the box, I’d choose Hill Country.
– It’s a bite of the Chocolate Promise Land flowing of honey and goat milk!!!
– As odd as it may sound, you can definitely taste the mild goat cream cheese flavor which makes the texture creamier and lends a hand for a savory + sweet profile. So unique!!
– There’s a slight floral fore-front flavor although I can’t really tell if it’s produced by the lavender or honey (or both?).
– I’m guessing the sweetness is from the honey and not any additional sugars (?)
– It’s a small bite of chocolate but a big punch of goat cheese.
– All the flavors are really well-balanced: earthy bitterness from chocolate and floral note enhances the goat cream.

Let’s introduce the Dudes now…
 

Puro
74% San Dominican, black olive salt
– The chocolate itself is the star ingredient here. I can’t taste the “black olive” from the salt but I think it highlights a drop of earthy, fruity, sweetness in the chocolate. It’s definitely saltier than sweet, but not as salty as Tahitian.
– This is the “Little Black Dress” of the box… (Or I guess since it’s a “Dude” flavor, it’s your “Sexy Black Button Up?”)… it’s a “safer” flavor than the others without bells and whistles but it’s still tasty and nicely done.

  

Marakesh
Medjool dates, raz al hanout
{C for Cuisine favorite}
– Raz al hanout is literally translated as “top of the shop,” referring to the best combination of spices a seller has to offer. There isn’t a definitive recipe as each shop has their own secret mixture containing sometimes of over a dozen (sometimes even 100s) spices. Common spices include:  cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chile peppers, cumin, turmeric, etc.
– The flavors unfold as so: salty –> sweet dates –>flavorful spices. Although the chocolate contains dates, I wouldn’t classify it as a “fruity” chocolate; hence probably why it’s a Dude and not a Sweet.
– One of the most complex chocolates in the box due to its obscure combination of spices.
– There isn’t any heat that results from the spices. I can taste (or I think I can?) a hint of cinnamon, maybe nutmeg, and maybe turmeric?
– None of the flavors compete with one another. Again, a lovely medley of flavors well executed!

Miso Happy
red miso, tahini, black sesame
– Aptly named, Miso Happy makes me so happy! Salty, earthy, and chocolate is the star ingredient.
– I assume most of the saltiness comes from the miso which along with the tahini and black sesame, enhances the earthy profile
– The miso, tahini, and black sesame flavors aren’t very strong initially but develop and bloom over time.
– I enjoy letting all the other chocolates in the box melt in my mouth, but for Miso Happy, I recommend that you bite the chocolate a few times to break a few of the sesame seeds. This releases the sesame oils and flavors and intenses your tasting experience.
Parique
Louisiana tobacco, cognac
– I was really curious as to how tobacco pans out with chocolate.  I’ve never had tobacco so I’m not sure how it tastes but I imagined that it would taste similar to how your clothes smell after walking out of a cigar shop. That was not the case, I didn’t taste any smokey tobacco aromas, but then again, I’ve never smoked, so I can only assume.  
– I assume the tobacco brings out the earthiness of Parique.
– There’s a tiny liqueur taste to the concoction. The cognac flavor itself is stronger than the tobacco (from what I can tell).

 

Irish Channel
Laphroaig Irish whisky, pine
 Sweetest of the whole box.
– The pine flavor is pretty strong and you can taste the whiskey throughout the whole experience.
– There’s a bit of a bitter note at the end.
– I can appreciate the pine and whisky notes but this is probably my least favorite of the box since it’s too sweet for me.

Black Gold
black garlic, wild mushroom
{C for Cuisine favorite}
– Salty, earthy, chocolate is the star
– I can’t really taste the mushroom and the garlic isn’t poignant but they enhance the earthy sweet flavors of the chocolate
– Another set of complex flavors, it’s a bit smokey. The smokey taste reminds me of the sweet smokey smell of birthday cake candles being blown out. How intriguing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vincotto ($11.00)
{C for Cuisine favorite}
70% Venezuelan, Argon Oil, Fig, and Lucy Layla Toffee (5 oz)
– I sampled this on my first visit and couldn’t stop dreaming about it so I just had to come back for my own box! It’s a gift I’d love to give and receive.
 Vincotto is a red wine vinegar aged in oak barrels with a caramel finish.
– Argon oil, as my boy Alton Brown, explains, is oil produced from a Moroccan tree with nutty flavor profiles.
– This is a toffee fudge covered with a thin layer of Venezuelan chocolate and very addictive.
– The fudge is a bit gritty laced with pieces of fig and sparing pieces of toffee, although the toffee flavor is quite strong.
– It’s fun to bite into on the occassions where the seeds from the figs pop out. The figs also give a nice chewy texture to the fudge.
– The toffee, chocolate, and figs compliment each other extremely well.
– It’s sweet but not as shockingly sweet as most fudges.
– The toffee and chocolate intermingle with each other to enhance a strong coffee flavor.
– I. AM. ADDICTED. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Covered Bacon ($3.00 a slice)
– Again, sampled this the first time and suffered buyer’s remorse when I walked out bacon-less. So, naturally I came back.
– I’ve had chocolate bars with bits of bacon but never had chocolate covered bacon.
– I feel like Pavlov’s dog. Every time I think chocolate covered bacon, I start to salivate… it’s kind of embarassing.
– The proportion of chocolate and bacon is just perfect… about 1:1.
– It’s thin an crunchy from the bacon yet creamy from the chocolate. It’s sweet and savory… it hits all the right spots!
– The smokey bacon pairs SO well with the coffee flavor from the chocolate.
– The bacon isn’t fatty at all and it’s all caramelized, like the burnt ends of a good BBQ pork shoulder. Sometimes you get a chewy piece and it tastes like chocolate covered beef jerky.

“Did you know” facts c/o thenibble.com

C for Cuisine visit: February 22, 2011; March 5, 2011
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