la fée verte: absinthe-flavored chocolate

I recently celebrated a birthday. It was a glorious day that included many things.

A broken oven (not mine). A pannukakku – my favorite breakfast treat since reading about it over at Mélanger. A three-hour ferry ride in Casco Bay with a minor amount of seasickness (mine), a lost earring that soon became found, but only after a mild panic attack (again, mine), an epically-proportioned meal of Lobster Diavolo for two (and hence, partially mine). And of course, a few thoughtful and wonderful gifts.

 

Although my favorite gift may have been a bracelet and earrings set made out of flat, grey Lake Superior stones (thanks mum and dad!), a close runner-up was a gift card to an excellent kitchenwares store in Portland: Le Roux.

I have been buying chocolate at Le Roux since I moved to Maine, as they have one of the region’s best selections. And sure enough, the remainder of my gift card (after purchasing a metal bowl and a butter dish) was spent on a strange, but intriguing, bar of chocolate.

Enter La Fabbrica di Cioccolato Leone (the Leone Chocolate Factory), which has been producing chocolate since 1857. Located in Torino, this company makes all sorts of confections, and also creates chocolate bars, overseeing their production from the roasting stage onward.

I picked up their Absinthe Dark Chocolate 74% bar, not knowing what to expect.

 

There was a lot to read on the bar’s box. Not knowing a speck of Italian, I referred to educated guesses, and an online translator, to let me know what this chocolate was trying to tell me.

To refuse the imitations. To demand marks. With cocoa beans roasted by us. Concave hollow flat. And my favorite: The deep notes of the mysterious elixir of Green Fairy.

My translation might be hit or miss. But there’s no mistaking that this Assenzio, or wormwood, bar was venturing into new chocolate heights. Or perhaps concave hollow flats.

 

So, absinthe. The anise-flavored spirit that has been villainized as an addictive psychoactive drug has also been memorializd in the work of Degas, Manet and van Gogh, among many others.

It’s mind-altering effects have long been promoted by its drinkers, as well as its opponents. However, it’s apparently perfectly safe. Surprised? I find it surprising. Take that, lame Moulin Rouge movie.

Oh yes, except for the minor footnote that too much pure wormwood oil can cause seizures and acute renal failure. But don’t worry, that would likely only happen were you to make a batch of phony absinthe at home, and not know what you were doing. Or how to measure.

So was the chocolate an addictive and pyschoactive experience?

Well no, not really. Science was right once again.

The chocolate has a strong anise aroma, but also hints at coffee and bitter chocolate. Here’s the thing – I can’t stand the flavor of anise. Licorice repulses me. I eat fennel only because it looks cool on the produce shelf at the grocery store. And star anise looks nice in a pot of mulled cider, but that’s about it.

Why did I buy this, you ask? Absinthe invokes Art Nouveau imagery in my mind, which I’m a fan of. Mucha, Klimt, Gaudí. I like plants and flowers. I like curved lines. I agree with the mindset that art should be a way of life. Aside from the decorative arts, this chocolate is just so strange. How could I resist?

Moving on to the taste, which I just successfully postponed with a short paragraph about the youth style philosophy and style movement of 1890 – 1910. Allowing the chocolate to melt on the palate, a bitter sense of absinthe and spirits pervades my senses. It reminds me of cough medicine, until the chocolate kicks in. Still, slow is not the way to eat this chocolate. When eaten more quickly, it tastes a bit less like Vicks VapoRub, and a bit more like well-herbed chocolate. A strange but thrilling experience, even though no green fairies appeared near my head during tasting.

An aftertaste of bitter herbs and chocolate lasts, lasts, lasts.

I want to recommend this bar, but I can’t. It made me feel a bit ill, as I imagine the real deal would as well. Fortunately, absinthe is now legal in the US, so perhaps I’ll verify that statement in the near future. Meanwhile, if you try this chocolate, I wish you the best. If you like it, you have a stronger stomach than I do.

La Fabbrica di Cioccolato Leone

Pastiglie Leone srl
Via Italia, 46
10093 Collegno (Torino) – Italy

Note: I would easily fall for another of Leone’s products. They adhere to an Art Nouveau script on their packaging, and on their website. I believe that art should be a way of life – and of chocolate.

 

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18 thoughts on “la fée verte: absinthe-flavored chocolate

  1. Happy happy birthday!
    I’m sorry the bar wasn’t so great.
    I had the chance to try absinthe not long ago, and as intriguing as it seems, I was sure it would taste really icky. I wish magic green fairy elixirs tasted better!

    1. Sarah, thank you:)

      I didn’t expect to like it, so at least I wasn’t disappointed. I don’t know if I could try the real thing. I could see myself starting an absinthe spoon collection, though…

      I know of one magic green fairy elixir that is delicious – Green River Phosphates ! I can’t find any aesthetically-pleasing websites to link to, but perhaps you’ve had one before. I love them, so sweet and syrupy:)

  2. Don’t you cast aspersions on Moulin Rouge, you lady you! Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!

    :P Teehee, no, go ahead. I just can’t hate it myself because, well, Ewan’s smile. And yes, he and I are on a first name basis.

    My only experience with absinthe has been the hardcore real burning-sugar-on-a-spoon dripping absinthe version, and let me tell you something for nothing: not going to be doing that again. Ugh!

    1. Hannah, don’t fret, dear. We all have a favorite Ewan movie, I’m sure. Mine, for example, is Velvet Goldmine. What is yours?

      As much as I like certain musicals, there are many others that I hate with a fiery passion. Moulin Rouge, sadly for you, has all my hate:P

      What’s with all the people and their absinthe drinking? I didn’t even know it was legal until I looked it up yesterday! Although I also learned that it’s never been illegal in Australia, which could perhaps account for your better knowledge on the matter?

      I don’t see you being one for the strong spirits, that’s for sure:)

      1. Ack gee!! Before I go any further, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! That was originally what my comment was going to be all about but then I got distracted by Ewan’s smile! His fault, his fault!

        Happy birthday beautiful! Just think, you’re now one year closer to the magical time when we’ll get to meet and hughughug and dancedancedance and dream about owning ponies and doing round-offs all day! Hurrah for birthdays!

        Oooh, I didn’t know it had never been illegal here! Oh, we’re such wily convict folk. My knowledge was more to do with a late night party by the lake years and years ago, although most of my memories of that night are of being cold and bored and just wanting to go home. Party animal me, yah! You’re definitely right about the spirits :)

        1. Thanks for the birthday wishes:)

          I will work on perfecting my round-offs, although the ground is frozen right now, so it may be a bit difficult and/or painful to accomplish at this time. But I’ll perfect them IN MY MIND.

          I know how it is, I’ve spent many a social occasion being [cold and] bored and just wanting to go home. Yah yah, convict folk!

  3. The last time I went to Woodman’s, it was with a friend who ordered absinthe (with the fire and the sugar spoon, you know they’re legit), then told the bartender it was too watered down. She was kind of an extreme person…in a scary sort of way. Hence, I have a slight fear of absinthe. I thought perhaps mixing it with chocolate would assuage my fear.

    Nope, absinthe still freaks me out.

    Also: that lobster diavolo is so on my list of things to eat in this state. YUM.

    1. Brianne, okay, that’s three for three who have a much more thorough knowledge on absinthe than I do. What gives?!

      I had a terrible watered-down Old Fashioned at Woodman’s once. I wrote it off as New Englanders failing at making a Midwestern drink. Come to think of it, though, Ian ordered a Sazerac there once (first mistake, since he wasn’t in New Orleans) and found it to be watery and wrong in all ways. So maybe they just aren’t very good drink makers.

      Errr I mean maybe your friend is extreme and scary ! If your friend is absinthe, that is. Cause I’m scared of it too.

      If Portland doesn’t make you too nervous to go back, celebrate something special with that Lobster Diavolo. Man, it was frickin amazing.

  4. Happy belated birthday, Emma! What a bad friend for me not to have remembered. I can say that I have tasted the real absinthe in the Czech Republic previous to its increased legalization. I actually found a small shop that specialized in absinthe and I excitedly puchased a high end bottle in anticipation of the colorful visions I would hopefully experience. Alas, the youth hostel in which I was staying had no ice or electricity for that matter. I was forced to pour the green liquer into my blue, metal camping cup with tepid tap water. The flavor was less than desirable and I could not ingest enough to determine if the rumors were true. I planned to sneak the bottle back to the US for a further in-depth experiment with friends, but I can say I chickened out in the Warsaw airport after a night’s long departure wait filled with thoughts of paranoia, arrest and fines. Shoot! I still hope to try it again, but I think it’s really wormwood wine that touts the reputation for inducing hallucinations.

    1. Martha, no no, you are busy building garden plans extraordinaire, and eating pork, and learning about cheese buttons. You are leading a productive and busy life, and besides, my birthday lands at a forgetful time of year.

      I love picturing you running through the streets of, I’m guessing Praha?, and buying a bottle of overly-priced absinthe with a clever twinkle in your eye. Unfortunately I can also picture your hostel, which sounds a bit grotty. As with your absinthe drinking, I don’t think I’ll be able to consume enough of this chocolate bar to determine any of the aforementioned ill effects.

      It was neat reading about the history of wormwood. In line with wormwood wine, I found out that wormwood was at one point used in lieu of hops for beer. Yuck, I say:)

  5. Oh, sweetie, your kitty is soooooooo cute!!! Thanks for the tour of your birthday day…I’ve been puzzling over the illustration on the front of the chocolate bar…very interesting. Yeah, licorice is really bleahhh(shiver), isn’t it; tho I do enjoy fennel. Somehow that isn’t so intense.

    1. Mum, she was all wrapped up in the ribbon from one of my birthday gifts – that I later wore in my hair. What a cuuuuutie!!

      It is a neat illustration, isn’t it? I like the one on the back even better, which you can see above although it’s small, with a stinky scary-faced fume cloud rising up, all judgmental and stuff.

      Icky licorice. I can’t stand it. I like fennel okay too… it goes nicely with grapefruit in salads. It’s still kind of intense though:)

    1. El, I should know, I was starting to feel a mild addiction to the VapoRub this fall. I couldn’t get enough! I never wanted to ingest it, though. Bleh.

  6. Happiest of happy birthdays! I’m with Hannah, totally pro-Moulin Rouge (Pro-Mo-Ro?) but these days more in a fond way, as I realise it’s not quiiite the flawless work of cinematic perfection I thought it to be in my teens.

    Absinthe chocolate makes me a bit nervous, I’m not a licorice fan but it sounds intriguing – I absolutely love the packaging too though :)

    1. Laura, I am happy that you are Pro-Mo-Ro, as I just cannot be and am therefore happy to pass off the MoRo torch to others who enjoy it.

      However, I’m sure I could look on it fondly too, as it represents such a distinct era of my life. Back when theater and music were all that mattered:)

      It was a very intriguing chocolate bar. I actually had to think about purchasing it for a whole day and come back to the store, that’s how intriguing/nervous-making it was to me. And yeah, I totes bought it for the packaging:)

  7. Happy Belated Birthday, Emma!! I tried straight-up absinthe (actually, I think it first passed through sugar cubes while being poured..which is normal..?) a few years ago. GROSS, but I’m also not a fan of licorice or Moulin Rouge. :) So yeah, I’ll steer clear of this bar if it ever crosses my path. It sure is pretty, though! My favorite of the translations: With cocoa beans roasted by us.

    1. Jessica, thank you:)

      Damn, everyone HAS tried absinthe the legit way except for me, apparently. I am so behind!

      That’s okay, I know to stay at home and remained chained to my chocolate drawer, slaving away at sampling and taking tasting notes. Kidding – I’m just unaware !

      My favorite might actually be To demand marks. I can’t figure that one out…

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