Crystals + Sea Salt Raw Chocolate Bar,
Fine & Raw, $7.99
In the past year and a half, I've tasted something like 200 different kinds of chocolate. Call it palate education, or snobbery, or whatever, but the simple fact is that many treats that once stoked my chocolate-loving furnace now leave me lukewarm. Worn down by all that chocolate, my tastes have been honed to a fine--and totally subjective--point.
It's very possible that if I had tried Fine & Raw eighteen months ago I might not have cared for it much; today it's one of the few chocolates I just can't get enough of.
Based in Brooklyn, Fine & Raw uses organic Ecuadorian cacao to make a range of raw chocolate bars and confections. "Raw" chocolate, as I discussed in a previous post, is manufactured using specialized techniques that don't allow it to get too hot, the idea being that high temperatures drive off many of cacao's natural nutrients. It's a fast-growing subset of the luxury chocolate industry, and, as trail-blazing pioneers are wont to do, many raw chocolate makers wander off into the wilderness, delivering a mealy, mucky product that I could just bring myself to gnaw on if I were snowbound and had already eaten the lint from my pockets.
I have no idea how they manage it, but Fine & Raw consistently makes raw chocolate that is buttery-smooth, flavorful but balanced, and a joy to eat. My favorite of the range is the Crystals + Sea Salt bar, a 70% dark chocolate. The bar is sweetened with crystals of palm sugar (derived from palm tree flowers) and made savory with a pinch of sea salt; this combination gives the chocolate a nicely gritty texture and a lively flavor, enhancing the fruity-earthy flavor of the cacao.