love at fourth sight: rogue chocolatier’s rio caribe

I was recently surprised with the most wonderful, charming and beautiful craft that’s ever been given to me. Yes, it was for a craft exchange, and no, I have not yet made my half of the bargain. There are good reasons why I haven’t come through on my part, but they are unimportant, considering the beautiful new artwork adorning one of my large living room windows. Just take a look as this lovely thang:

I feel honored and grateful to have made such a wonderful friend. I’ll miss you when you move away, Martha. Who will motivate me to run long distances? Who will encourage me to embrace my love of The Bachelorette? Who will share in my love of fatteningly enjoyable cream sauces? Who will, when excited, respond to my Midwestern accent with one of equal caliber? I’m not sure, because you can’t be replaced. You represent everything that I have enjoyed about my time in Maine. Thank you.

But wait a minute, what’s that sneaky chocolate bar doing up there amidst the arty glass? Ah, I’ve got you hooked on sentimentality. This is actually a chocolate review in not much disguise!

Since I became cognizant of the at-times confusing world of craft chocolate cheer, I have done my part to observe, explore, and taste. In the case of Rogue Chocolatier, cheer is in fact a fitting choice, as I have applauded Rogue more, perhaps, than any other chocolate maker. For Rogue is more than a chocolatier. Founder and chocolate maker Colin Gasko sources the beans that he then works his magic on – roasting, winnowing, grinding, refining, conching, tempering, molding and packaging the chocolate himself.

Why do I love Rogue chocolate so much? On the surface, I am pleased that he pioneered craft chocolate for the Midwest, doncha know. And gosh, have I mentioned he was*** based out of Minneapolis?

Now you too can see how my Midwestern accent gets stronger as I get excited – – except I as a rule try to never say “doncha know” in serious (or lighthearted) conversation.

Back on task, I also love Rogue for, no surprise, the excellent quality of chocolate that Gasko purveys.

The 70% Rio Caribe bar comes to us from Venezuela’s eastern Paria Peninsula, off of a single estate’s Trinitario cacao. It contains only cocoa beans and cane sugar, a move from previous incarnations of the bar that contained cocoa butter and Tahitian vanilla as well. Gasko told me that he removed these additional ingredients to refine the presentation of the chocolate flavor, which I heartily respect. Eliminating the vanilla and cocoa butter allows Gasko to create a more interesting and challenging natural balance with the Trinitario beans, which he ironically suggests “has hints of vanilla notes to it depending on the batch.”

As he suggested, removing cocoa butter from the chocolate bar equation results in processing challenges (to put it lightly), but also in a more flavorful end product. I found this to be exactly the case – – this chocolate was worth the effort. How much effort, you may ask? I’m no chocolate maker (although I’d like to be), but Gasko told me that the Rio Caribe is the most challenging cacao that Rogue Chocolatier works with.

On to the chocolate itself. Upon opening the packaging’s hooked closure, and simple plastic wrapping, I was greeted by a cocoa aroma that deepened into a nutty earthiness. Breaking off a piece of the unscored rectangle, I was reminded of another Rogue characteristic that I respect: thin bars with crispy snaps.

You may interpret that sentence to refer to chocolate, or to once-underdog rappers such as Eminem. Either way, you’re right, I think.

I found the initial chocolate taste surprisingly reminiscent of the chocolate in the countless Keebler E.L. Fudge cookies I enjoyed as a rowdy youth. That fudgy taste slowly developed a bitterness that reminded me of roasted nuts. It was so smooth on the palate, and even seemed to possess a fudgy, or chewy, texture. Pretty good for no added cocoa butter.

The packaging steers tasters towards notes of coffee, blood orange, and nuts. I didn’t taste much citrus in this particular bar. Behind the mask of truly deep cocoa taste, I tried to discern any viable note of vanilla. The soft undertones accentuating the roasted darkness of this bar related much more to vanilla than they did to citrus, or even coffee. However, I’m not much of a coffee drinker, so my coffee-tasting palate is rather limited.

Batches come and go. For a three-day turnaround on chocolate bars, Gasko is doing his part to ensure Rogue’s success, and I see it working. I’ve seen quite a bit of Rogue Chocolatier-positive press in the past year, and I look forward to more. All of this means that there will (hopefully) be plenty more incarnations of Rio Caribe for me to try in the future. And sure enough, cacao beans recently made the trek to Massachusetts*** from Venezuela, meaning a 2011 batch of Rio Caribe bars is in the works.

While Rogue’s Piura bar remains my favorite of the quartet (or is it Sambirano? or Hispaniola? I can’t decide), this bar is more than worth it for those who enjoy bitter, deep, complex flavors. If you have access to Rogue products at a chocolate shop near you – I bought this bar when down in Asheville at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge – what are you waiting for?

Rogue Chocolatier

***Sadly, no longer based out of Minneapolis. What the Midwest once had…. the Midwest has lost. Gasko is now back home in Massachusetts: Maine’s natural-born enemy. Wah wah.

Follow Gasko’s ofttimes-fiery Twitter feed, if you feel up to it. I’m not a Tweedle-deedle-Twitter-der, but I find his witticisms top notch.

Rogue: now located in Three Rivers, MA. Read the following and weep, doncha know.

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22 thoughts on “love at fourth sight: rogue chocolatier’s rio caribe

  1. Heart. Crying. Because I. Left My. Askinosie. At Home. 2:30itis killing me… :P

    This is the chocolatier that I’ve been recommended on my blog! I shall ignore the professed orange notes on the packet and long for it anyway :)

    P.S. my mind first interepreted your *** not as “go look at the bottom for disclaimers” but as “deleted swear word”, and I was thinking “bum-based”? “ass-based”? I’m sorry!

    1. Askinosie-less Hannah, I feel for ya. I’m curious to know what heart-crying looks like, perhaps you could demonstrate it visually somehow? Make a youtube video, perhaps?

      Indeed, this is the chocolate maker you’ve been recommended. I will continue to repeat this dire message until you take it to heart and try some. It may soothe your heart-crying, after all.

      Sorry about the ‘***’ misinterp. I was really quite upset to admit Minneapolis’ defeat in the loss of craft chocolate, and felt that only one ‘*’ would not do. It wouldnae do! However, if Rogue was bum-based out of MPLS, I’d feel free to say he should get that bum back there. That’s not up to me though. Heck, I don’t even live there anymore:)

      1. People have tried to encourage me to make a video for my blog before.

        1. I have no idea how.
        2. I have no video camera.
        3. Me no likey seeing myself like that.
        4. Heartcrying is not very pretty. See Point 3.

        1. Oh, see, I thought it would be some sort of emanating inner presence, similar, in respect, to throat singing. A sonogram would have worked as well as (or better than) a video.

          Nev minds.

    1. Silvia: Yes! It is interesting. I like the wrapping too, it’s rather nifty to unlatch the closure on the package’s backside. Here I go, talking about backsides again…

      I’ve heard a lot of vocalized preference for Rogue’s Sambirano bar – overall, folks seem like like this one best – so, that may be the one to go for if you ever have a chance. But I love them all, all are standalone hits for me.

  2. That stained glass is amazing. That’s on my list of things to learn to do.
    I need to open my world of chocolate. Or, maybe not because then I’d need to open my wallet more and why do I need something else? I’ll just come here and read about it.

    1. sarah: Isn’t it crazy? I was so impressed. And a bit overwhelmed as well – what a wonderful gift!

      I’ll let you in on a wee secret: while I may buy large quantities of chocolate on occasion, I am quite slow at making my way through them. The darker the chocolate, the slower I go, and the more I savor. It’s quite affordable, really. …Almost.

      I say you should learn to make some glass of your own, with a soldering iron in one hand, and a chocolate bar in the other!

  3. What a lovely crafty gift. The sort of thing that would go missing if I were around! ;) Just jokes.

    I just love reading your posts, I don’t even know your voice but feels like I can hear it in the words you choose.

    I recently read that Australia only has two chocolate producers that make chocolate directly from beans – versus just imported chocolate. I’m shocked. I just love the artisan feel of all these smaller producers. We need more in this country!

    Three Rivers, MA. Isn’t that where Emeril Lagasse grew up? Oh, hang on, I think that was Fall River, MA. :)

    1. Julia, haha! I would sticky fingers it right back if it went missing:D But, that makes me think, many mini squares of this glass strung up into a mobile would make a lovely decoration for someone’s room… Itty Bitty Mélanger, perhaps?

      Thank you for the comment on voice – that’s a wonderful thing to hear:)

      Only TWO bean to bar producers in Australia? That’s not nearly enough! You most definitely need more artisan chocolate makers. I bet it will happen; it’s been a veritable explosion of new producers in just the past few years here.

      Oh, and I know absolutely nothing about Emeril! BAM?!

  4. Lots of things to say!

    – That stained glass is really beautiful! It reminds me of the ocean.
    – I say things like “Ohhh, ya?” and “Uffda” ALL THE TIME, and my friends think it’s funny when I say boat. And I’m not even from Minnesota! (They laugh when I say that, too.)
    – Do you buy any of your chocolate locally? I want some. Can you hook me up?
    – Lastly, Hennepin Ave?!?! I’ve only been downtown MPLS a couple of times, but they were good times. You’re pullin’ at my heartstrings, girl.

    1. Brianne: Lots of replies to make!

      – I like that the glass reminds you of the ocean. I think that’s perfect, given my love of the sea.
      – I’m sad the Louisiana contingent has departed from Nutting Hall. Now all I have is my own accent to muse over….. although I did eat at Johnny’s last week, and boy, those locals had me confused. I couldn’t understand a thing they were saying!
      – I buy chocolate locally when I am in need… which hasn’t been for a while, honestly. But yes, from time to time I’ll pick something up at the NLC. Heck yes I can hook you up! Just pick your poison;)
      – Ah, MPLS. Ah Hennepin. However, this stretch of Hennepin, from where the chocolate hails, is actually not downtown. Rather, it is a few short blocks from where I used to live…

      …yep, I’m cursing myself for not knowing more about chocolate back then.

  5. oh Emma, what a sweet, sweet post!! Martha sounds absolutely wonderful. The stained glass is just so gorgeous.

    I had no idea the Mid-west had their share of amazing chocolates. I ignorantly think of SF and LA as the gourmet artisan chocolate-manufacturing cities in America. Glad there’s more of them out there!

    1. sophia: Yes, I think Martha is the best. You have a Mimi, I have a Martha:)

      I do have a sort-of-idea of the artisan chocolate makers in SF and LA, but my mind doesn’t jump to them first when thinking of chocolate. That’s just my geographically-bound mind spatially mapping out the parts of the country I’ve frequented, chocolate in hand. I’ve only been out to your part of California once, and it was a whirlwind. One day, I will return, and pay more attention to what I’m eating!

And now I'd like to pass the mic / So you c'mon and do anything you like ...aka, Leave your reply.

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