What was I most excited to find while perusing the chocolate selection at French Broad Chocolate Lounge in Asheville, North Carolina? Yes. That’s right. The elusive Fortunate No. 4, put out by Moonstruck. No, not the cheesy Cher / Nic Cage specimen of a film. Rather, Moonstruck Chocolate Co., out of Portland, Oregon.
I’ve discussed one Moonstruck bar before, their Dark Chocolate Chile Variado. But if there’s one chocolate bar that I’ve seen hyped To The Max on the interweb as of late, it’s Fortunato No. 4. Not 2, not 3, but 4. Perhaps the bulk of the advertising has been by Moonstruck itself, but still, I’ve been curious.
And what better to match up with an elusive chocolate bar than misty scenes of the fog found in Grayson Highlands State Park, located in southwest Virginia near the North Carolina border – in a town named Mouth of Wilson, no less.
First of all, I’d like to share a few things that are pretty cool about Grayson Highlands:
- The Appalachian Trail goes through the park. Upon this earth I did tread for the first time on a (brief) segment of the AT.
- On days when the fog isn’t as thick as pea soup, one might see ponies running free across the land. Ponies! Last week, I watched all 22 episodes available to me on Netflix of Heartland, a Canadian teen drama about ranching, horses, and young love on the bleak, rocky slopes of Alberta. This show has tugged and yanked on, and successfully stolen my heartstrings.
- The campground host knew where Bangor, Maine was, and strove to pronounce it correctly.
Despite the heavy fog’s persistence during our stay, this was a beautiful landscape to nestle into for the night, and walk on during the day. The woods were filled with a wealth of understory plants, including copious amounts of blue cohosh. I even found a (lost) Swiss Army knife which has since made its way into my albeit-quite-small knife collection.
But on to the chocolate, no?
There was a heap of hype about this chocolate earlier on in the year. Made from thought-to-be-extinct Pure Nacional cacao indigenous to Peru, the beans are sourced from Marañón Chocolate, a business cleverly built around those who discovered the valuable crop. Why is Pure Nacional considered special? Although I wasn’t around in the early 1900′s, Pure Nacional was apparently the go-to cacao for anyone who was someone, or who made chocolate for many someones. It was found, at this time, in Ecuador. And it was the go-to, before a 1916 disease epidemic killed off the majority of trees, leaving some disease-resistant and hybrid trees of comparably poor value.
The refugia recently found in Peru, in the Marañón River valley, are a curious mix of white and purple beans. Now cultivated in a nursery, the mother and daughter trees from which seeds were harvested are located on property belonging to the farmer Fortunato. Aha! And so we delve into this old-turned-new tasting experience.
Opening the much-anticipated package (which in person, at 2 oz., is much smaller than the larger-than-life proclamations over its tastiness led me to expect), the chocolate breaks apart in crisp, but unringing, snaps. Oh snaps.
A complex aroma greets me; scents are bitter, deep and floral in tone. I consider the possibility that the aroma is that of a rich forest floor, in chocolate-form. The chocolate warms quickly, perhaps quicker than a heavily-shaded forest floor would do.
At first bite, letting the chocolate melt on the palate, it tastes somewhat nutty. Letting it melt further, the flavor progresses deeper and deeper. It is tart, yes, but interestingly, not bitter. It is rich, smooth and buttery. So buttery… texture-wise. While not butter-flavored, the overall sense of flavor is, to me, buttery smooth.
A tangy aftertaste lingers, mingling with hints of sweetness. This bar may contain the most flavors I’ve progressed through in a chocolate, all the while maintaining the same overtone (buttery!). I believe this chocolate has lived up to its hype.
Marañón’s cocoa beans are sourced to several chocolatiers around the globe. To learn more about Marañón’s successful business endeavors, visit:
For those outside the US, see if their is a chocolatier near you who has sourced Pure Nacional cacao. But for those that are within the boundaries of America the Beautiful, please patronize:
6600 N. Baltimore Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97203
You can also follow Moonstruck’s interweb escapades via their Facebook page, if that sort of thing interests you.
If you harbor burning desires to visit Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, then Grayson Highlands is the place for you. But for real, it was a truly gorgeous place, where memories were made and Swiss Army knives were snatched. I half-expected Duncan MacLeod to come striding out of the mist, sword in hand:
829 Grayson Highland Lane
Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363
And finally (this is starting to feel awfully familiar), pick some of these delicious and unique chocolate bars up if you a) happen to be in Asheville, North Carolina, and b) happen to stop at:
10 S. Lexington Ave.
Asheville, NC 28801
And what do you know, French Broad has a Facebook page too. Have at it (because I sure won’t).
If you have grown sick of these chocolate ramblings – hopefully from chowing down on chocolate alongside me, rather than from boredom of said topic – fear not. Next up will feature a brief deviation from the subject!