There is a secret world behind the making of chocolate bars that the average chocolate bar consumer doesn’t consider. If that chocolate bar consumer happens to be consuming a bar by Fresco Chocolate, however, they are likely much more keyed in to the happenings of chocolate production.
Why? Fresco, a company out of Lynden, Washington, creates micro snippets of chocolate with varying roasting and conching levels, aka prototype small batches. I was lucky enough to find some Fresco bars while at Sugar Sugar in Minneapolis in late August; as Joni had only been carrying the Fresco line for a few weeks, I felt extra lucky. As this bar, the 217 prototype Chuao with 70% cocoa, had only been available to the public for roughly the same amount of time, I felt uber duper super extra lucky.
To celebrate Fresco, but more so my findings at Sugar Sugar, and Minneapolis by proxy, I find it appropriate to share a few more images of my August visit to Minnesota. There are some lovely sights to see in summer in a metropolitan region host to over 3 million city-folk; despite my love of the woods, I miss life in an urban setting.
A perennial favorite of trendsetters, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and adjoining Walker Art Center provide the perfect retreat from the urban jungle. Where to better mingle with your 5,000 closest friends, while watching a silent film no one has ever heard of, eating baguettes with various brown spreads (plus if its homemade, double plus if it was purchased at the co-op), and listening to the movie’s soundtrack, provided by a live band with talented musicians and a less-talented “choral” group? No where better, I say. The movie was Fritz Lang’s Spies (1928), the band was Dark Dark Dark (DDD), and the baguettes were not mine.
However, this chocolate is.
Chuao is of esteemed Venezuelan origins, the beans making their way into Valrhona, Hotel Chocolat, Amano and Mast Brothers bars, among countless others (actually just more than I wish to count right now). There is also Chuao Chocolatier, out of San Diego. Chuao, Venezuela, so it seems, is like the baguette of the chocolate world.
And in fact, it seems that “Chuao” is applied as an umbrella term, with more finished chocolate sold as such around the world than is produced on-site. I choose to have faith that Fresco, although they provide little information about their cacao beans, is sourcing chocolate honestly. If this was not the case, would this puny 1.4 oz (40 g) bar cost so much? Maybe, but I hope not.
Wood-Rill Scientific Natural Area, managed by the Minnesota DNR, is a short drive from the Twin Cities, and provides visitors with a glimpse of the “Big Woods,” an ecosystem of large hardwood trees that once stretched across the state. Now, this old-growth forest only remains in small fragments, such as the 150 acres here.
This version of Chuao has a dark roast and medium conching level. Fresco indicates that a dark roast is “full bodied, bold, [and] intense,” and that new flavors may develop while others may be subdued. Medium conching – heating, mixing, and aerating the chocolate for a medium amount of time – allows for a “balance between aggressive and subdued, mellow.” Having not purchased the 218 Chuao as well, which has a medium roast and subtle conche, it was difficult to know where the effects of roasting ended.
Initial aromas of bitter fudge, smoky wood and earthy coffee greeted my eager to be Chuao-ed sniffer (pronounced Chu-WOW-ed, har har). The chocolate took on a smooth-as-velvet texture as it melted on the palate, and the darkness of the roast intensified each flavor that I had initially only caught aromatic glimpses of. The chocolate’s bold flavor was mellowed by the aforementioned smoothness, which can be attributed to the “medium” conching duration.
With further nibbley nibblekins, I noticed mild but dark sour notes – again, mellowed by the conching – that were fruity in tone. The fruit flavors tended more towards red fruits than citrus, with especial hints of raisin and currants. I couldn’t seek out the fig notes that Fresco suggests, but I’ve spent much more time growing my fruit-less Ficus tree than I have eating fresh figs.
Fresco 217 Chuao (I feel like I’m writing in secret code!) finished light and fruity with a slight mellow sourness. The depth of flavors, combined with the soft way it had of winging its way to my taste buds, was a winning combination. I would love to see what a milder roast, and lesser conche, could do for these beans.
100 Springview Dr
Lynden, WA 98264