sultry ‘cacao’ sets hotlanta ablaze

I’ve been excited to share this tale for roughly 1.5 months. 1.5 months! That’s how long it has taken me to ponder the magical world that is Cacao Atlanta. Why has it taken so long? To be honest, it’s because I’ve been telling tales of my trip to the American South in a timely fashion. And by timely, I mean in order. Sequentially. Nothing but chronological correctness to be found here.

And so it was that on May 21st, we emerged from the shadow of the Appalachians, which we had followed for one week’s time from Massachusetts to the southern terminus of the AT, took a dip in everyone’s favorite northern Georgia swimmin’ hole The Devil’s Elbow (sadly, not pictured here), and made our way down to hot hot Atlanta. And Hotlanta welcomed us in its sweaty city arms, and gave us the delights offered up by Cacao Atlanta‘s Buckhead location.

Driving south towards town on an endlessly long stoplight-filled road first seemed like a good idea to bypass a potential toll, but soon stress was in the air, along with too much air conditioning. The goal was to reach Cacao’s Inman Park boutique – headquarters. Suddenly, unexpectedly, I looked left, and there was Cacao, miles before we expected to reach it, like a glistening beacon shining through the white heat of mid day. While not Inman Park, this was the Buckhead shop, their second location, an inviting shopfront located adjacent to some other hip joints.

Between craft chocolate, fancy schmancy bicycles and a pizza place where people happily chose to eat outside despite the 612° heat, this one block had everything to fill my happenin’ needs. As I’m happy with the bicycle I have, and I don’t like pizza, I chose to focus my efforts solely on the chocolate.

But who am I kidding, I’d been secretly planning a visit to Cacao for months.

Somehow I left Cacao spending only $49.06 – this was probably a combination of spending quite a bit more at French Broad Chocolate Lounge a mere two days before, and having very little space in the cooler for which to tote haute couture chocolate across the country. Prices were steep for chocolate bars at Cacao: $8 to $13.80 per 1.5 oz (50g) bar. High indeed, if not a bit outlandish. Still, I and many others (I assume) are willing to meet these prices. Considering I had already paid the gasoline equivalent of 1,470 miles of driving to get to Atlanta, I was okay with forking over roughly 1.3 tanks of fuel for some amazing chocolate.

For amazing – yes, truly amazing – it was.

First up: the Domino Bar – shown directly above. {Distance before eating: roughly 150 yards – we made it to the parking lot before diving into this one} 75% dark cacao (a common theme that will be repeated throughout) is combined with marshmallow, caramel and shortbread to create a flavorfully dark chocolate cookie crunch of wow. Maybe I was delusional from doing the first crazy thing in my life (swinging off a rope from high upon a dead tree alongside The Devil’s Elbow), mayhaps I was only hungry, but the Domino Bar was a fantastic introduction to Cacao’s offerings. Bonus: it was scored on top to look like a domino. Bonus2: It was eaten, and found to taste much better than a domino.

Next: Dark chocolate truffles and a pâte de fruit – shown in order above. {Distance before eating: a few hundred miles. We made it to a rest stop several hours south of Atlanta, where the light was poor, and the confection eating was great} All truffles at Cacao are made with 75% dark chocolate.

Their Blueberry Beet truffle offering was very smooth, and not overly sweet. Yet while not seeming sweet, it was far from savory – a puzzle that could perhaps be solved… if only I could obtain more to sample.

The Fig & Balsamic truffle was nearly savory, and had the meaty flavor of something nutty. Neither fig nor balsamic stood out in my mind here, but I could see figs taking on a nutty characteristic quite nicely. This was well-crafted.

Their version of a Strawberry Basil truffle was my largest disappointment. It was described as the big guns to me in-store, but after saving it for last – my anticipated pièce de résistance – I was letdown. The taste was overwhelmingly strawberry. It went down smooth, and it was a well-made strawberry truffle. But where was the basil? If you find it, let me know. I’m still searching.

Flirting briefly with the notion of a Beet Pâte de Fruit was oddly exciting for me. This treat led me to write “Ooh!” in my tasting notes while admiring the strange southern tree species planted near me at the rest stop. This little jellied sweetheart had a wonderful beet flavor that tasted smoky and full-bodied. It had a good sugar crunch that was just right, proportion-wise. And unlike some other pâtes de fruits purchased later in the trip, it had no cloying aftertase.

Finally, we reach the chocolate bars – all three shown in the pictures above. {Distance before eating: roughly 2,600 miles. The chocolate traveled south with us, to the Everglades, and then back up the East Coast to Maine} All chocolate bars are 75% cacao single origin bean to bar creations.

The Love Bar Patanemo Straight Up hails from Venezuela. It has a fruity and earthy aroma that fades to a “dark” chocolate taste after some time on the palate. The fruitiness develops again, becoming stronger; on my second taste I noticed a well-rounded caramel earthiness as well. This was a smooth, wonderful tasting experience. I was very glad to have bought a ‘plain’ bar to taste the chocolate that Cacao founder Kristen Hard has worked diligently to source.

Moving on over to the Dominican Republic, we find the Love Bar Hispaniola Maple Candied Pecans. This bar had such a strong pecan scent that it was hard to pick up any chocolate aroma, whatsoever. Even though the pecans appeared to only be sunk into the chocolate surface, they permeated the taste. I secondarily, with much time spent coolin’ [on the corner on a hot summer’s day] with some choc on my palate – waiting – noted tones of tobacco, and something oh-so-faintly fruity. Although the packaging suggested I’d note raspberries, I didn’t taste it… …  …until two minutes after I’d finished the chocolate. I’m not kidding. But I am glad I waited.

I was confused here by the mention of maple candied pecans. Nowhere in the ingredient list was there any mention of maple. Maybe this is an oversight on my part, but I believe the sugary addition here is simply cane sugar. Having tasted the Patanemo bar already, it crossed my mind that the pecans could work more favorably if incorporated into the Venezuelan chocolate, rather than that of the Dominican Republic.

Lastly, the Love Bar Hispaniola Aphrodisia Spice Blend. Oh la la. This bar smelled amazing, although after smelling too closely spices clung to my nose, prolonging the experience. These dry sprinkled spices seemed awkward on the tongue, but dissolved quickly to deepen and mix with the Dominican Republic-origin cacao. In my mind, this was a great pairing. Now, if I could only figure out what was in the secret spice blend… Since it’s labeled Aphrodisia, and interweb information points to “six chiles and spices,” I’m guessing that along with the chiles, there may be spices such as allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger or nutmeg. Whatever is in this bar makes for a wonderful and delicious guessing game.

I hope that I can make it back to Atlanta someday, if only to visit this classy company’s Inman Park location, where their Cacao Laboratoire can be found. It sounds like the stuff of dreams, no? Special thanks to the wonderful women working at the Buckhead location on the day I visited – you were helpful, informative, and fun to talk with.

Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Co. {Buckhead Location}

2817 Peachtree Road N
Atlanta, GA 30305

Monday-Saturday 10h00 – 20h00
Sunday 11h00 – 18h00

{Inman Park location}

312 C N. Highland Ave.
Atlanta, GA 30307

Tuesday-Saturday 11h00 – 19h00
Sunday 12h00 – 18h00

Stay connected always: follow Cacao on facebook and twitter.


9 thoughts on “sultry ‘cacao’ sets hotlanta ablaze

  1. Ohhhhhhh….. *whimpers* I just ate a third of a block of Michel Cluizel that I found in the depths of my chocolate stash, and yet reading this has negated everything currently in my tummy and made it grumble loudly! Beet truffles! Maple candied pecans! Daredevil swinging from trees! No wonder the memory of this day makes you smile. It sure makes me gleeful on your behalf!

  2. …the chocolate of dreams, for sure…I could never have imagined chocolates such as these. Wow.

  3. Maris: I sure did have a wonderful time. I hope you got that chocolate, and STAT!

    Hannah: From one daredevil to another! – diving deep into the chocolate bar drawer could have mixed results, I know. Cacao’s truffles were the teeny tiniest things I’ve ever eaten. While delicious, they could have used some reinforcements, size-wise. So all the more amazing that they could make your tummy grumbly and negateful:)

    Mum: Ah yes, dream chocolate! Now if only I would dream about chocolate. I seem to dream about everything else… why not this?!

    I wish you could have been there, tasting these things with me:) In the store though, not in the parking lot, because it was really really (really really) hot out there. Really!

  4. I love that you plotted out so many places to stop for chocolate on your trip, and I’m genuinely pleased that they all turned out so well for you! I’m in awe of the fact that so much of that chocolate made it through all that heat before coming back to Maine–although the recent temperatures here make me wonder why I live in these northern latitudes.

  5. WOW. Now I’m very pissed that you hid this from us for 1.5 months! Haha, just kidding, but seriously, what a find. My eyes cannot be torn away from that Love Bar Hispaniola Maple Candied Pecans that is just calling out to my soul….

  6. Erin: Heavenly is just what Cacao was, if in part because it was a cool and muted retreat from the hot hot heat outdoors. Unusual combinations indeed. Looking at my handy dandy illustrated truffle guide (which you can see under my truffles in the above pictures), there are many more I’d go for if I had another chance: Orange Marmalade, Coconut Dulce de Leche, Coffee Cardamom, Lemond Curd….. Ooh, and Lavender Apricot. Heavenly.

    Brianne: The only reason we went through Atlanta was so that I could stop at Cacao – it was worth over an hour of both tedious and frightening driving, I think. I’m glad these planned stops turned out as well, probably partially because I sunk so much cash into them. We were really cautious about the cooler overheating, and I had all my bars in a plastic bag. Somehow a bit of water did leak in, but all it harmed was the cardboard on a Vosges bar that I have not yet featured…

    And yeah, it’s hella hot this week huh?? I love it.

    sophia: Hah! Aww, I’m sorry… I do have a legit excuse – – since getting home I’ve had quite the allergies. They’ve gotten in the way of my chocolate tasting adventures, as it’s hard to review something when you can’t taste it! But as the allergies aren’t diminishing, I’m now working around them. Just for you, to keep you not pissed:)

    That maple candied pecan bar does look good, doesn’t it? What if I told you Cacao also makes a Maple Pecan Truffle?…

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