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The Rise of Artisanal Chocolate

For the better part of the last century, chocolate culture in America had been suffering from something of an identity crisis. Americans have always loved chocolate, but until recently many of us have tended to favor quantity at the expense of quality. Mass produced chocolates distributed in king-sized packages, designed to be devoured rather than savored, have dominated the market – leaving consumers with a sweet, albeit somewhat unsatisfying taste lingering in their collective mouth.

Over the course of the past twenty years, however, a small, devoted group of chocolatiers has made it their mission to provide American consumers with a fresh, great-tasting alternative to supermarket chocolates. These enterprising souls treat chocolate making as a creative endeavor, a craft, even a calling. At The Chocolate Fetish, we’re proud to be part of this movement to bring the time-honored tradition of fine chocolate making to a new generation of sweet-tooths.

We always serve our chocolates with a smile.

We work closely with a network of chocolate makers in order to personally select the chocolates that comprise our truffles, bars, sea salt caramels, and other delectable delights. We choose each chocolate based on its unique flavor profile in order to produce confections of uncommon quality for our patrons. Then, we employ traditional chocolate-making techniques in order to infuse contemporary ideas with classic sensibilities.

Delving into the rich world of artisanal chocolate might seem intimidating to the uninitiated, but there are a few easily identifiable features to look for that are indicative of good-quality chocolate. The chocolate should be shiny rather than dull, and free of any streaks, spots, or residues. The chocolate should smell like chocolate, and it should have an audible snap when you break it in half. Finally, it should feel pleasantly smooth in your mouth; not dry or waxy. High-quality chocolates are also typically made with cocoa butter rather than vegetable oil substitutions.

Many people associate darker chocolate with high-quality chocolate, but this is not necessarily the case. You won’t have to look too far to find dark chocolates of inferior quality, and there are plenty of examples of exceptional milk chocolate out there as well. Likewise, it’s best to make these judgements on a case-by-case basis. In determining which kind of chocolate is better – extra dark, dark, or milk – we think it’s best to go with your proverbial gut. If it tastes good, enjoy it!

Stop in today, and find out just how delicious a box of chocolates can be. Want to learn more about our trade? Check out our chocolate facts page for more information.

 

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Spiceland’s Time Machine

“Samurai” on display at The Satellite Gallery until March 23rd.

Asheville is a city alive with the arts and The Chocolate Fetish is frequently blessed by the creative energies of local artists.  If you’ve been following our blog and Facebook pages then you have probably heard about talented artist Joshua Spiceland.  In addition to being an artist he is also an art teacher and part time chocolatier.  If you’ve eaten a Sea Salt Caramel from us in the last four years then chances are good his hand helped make it.  We frequently find doodles and works in progress tucked around the shop on there way to other places.


An exhibition of Spiceland’s work is on display at The Satellite Gallery in Asheville until March 23rd.  The show, titled “Time Machine,” features numerous paintings in Spiceland’s eclectic folk art inspired style. Spiceland draws inspiration form many things including art history and music and many works incorporate detailed geometric patterns.  Titles of pieces range from “Fishing for Inspiration”, “Killing Time”, and “These Rooms Have Seen It All.”   In the world of Asheville art this is a must see exhibition and a good chance to get a great deal on some fine art as Spiceland usually prices his art very affordably.  
You can see the show at The Satellite Gallery located at 5 Broadway Street in Downtown Asheville .  The gallery’s hours are 11am – 6 pm Tuesday – Saturday and 11 am – 5 pm on Sunday adn the show will be up until March 23rd.
If you would like to read more about the exhibition or about Spiceland’s art check out the following links:

The Continuing Adventures of a Chocoholic in Buffalo, NY. Final Installment

If you have been following my blog you know that I have spent the last week at a chocolate conference in Buffalo, New York.  It’s been a nice break from my everyday routine but I sure will happy to be back home in wonderful Asheville.

What does one do at a chocolate conference?  Of course I taste lots of delicious and sometimes not so delicious chocolates, and I also attend seminars about various topics including making candies and chocolates.  One of the seminars offered at this conference was titled, “Ganache Formulation for the Non-Food Scientist.”  During this seminar we learned how to formulate a ganache from a scientific perspective to be sure it has the ‘proper ratio’ of fats and sugars.  While this was interesting and useful information I think I’ll continue to make taste my number one priority.

This is an antique tin chocolate mold.  These days most chocolatiers use plastic, silicon, or polycarbonate molds.

This is an antique tin chocolate mold. These days most chocolatiers use plastic, silicon, or polycarbonate molds.

Another seminar I attended was titled “History & Use of Confectionery Molds around the World.”  During this seminar, presented by the author of a couple of fabulous books about chocolate and candy including Chocolate: the Sweet History, we learned all sorts of interesting tidbits about the development and use of molds for chocolate making.  Did you know that molding chocolates became popular as early as the 1830s and that early chocolateirs often hammered their own tin molds?

The best part of a chocolate conference is always the tours to various candy shops and manufactures.  On this tour we visited a number of family owned candy businesses some of whom have been in business for generations.

One of the companies we visited, Fowler’s, is credited with inventing sponge candy.  So what is Sponge Candy?  Sponge candy is made with caramelized sugar and has a honeycomb like texture.  It is sweet and crunchy but sort of melts in your mouth at the same time.  One of our hosts on the tour said they call it Sponge Candy because it acts like a sponge and absorbs moisture in the air.  In fact many of the places around here don’t even make it in the summer because it absorbs the humidity in the air so rapidly that it ruins the delicious crunchy texture.  We sell Sponge Candy covered in chocolate although we leave the making of the sponge to the experts and just do the chocolate covering part.  On this trip I learned that while Sponge Candy originated in Buffalo, variations of it are made in many areas of the United States and boast different names wherever you go; Fairy Food, Sponge Taffy, Cinderblock, Sea Foam, Molasses Puffs, and Honeycomb are all names you may see.

So did I fulfill my desire to find some really tasty chocolate while I was in Buffalo?  Sadly, no.  I know I am a bit biased but while I tasted some well made chocolate confections I never tasted anything I liked nearly as much as a decadent Chocolate Fetish truffle.   It’s always good to get away if only to remind us how good we have it back at home.  Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

The continuing adventures of a chocoholic foodie in Buffalo, NY.
Buffalo's Art Deco City Hall.  Reminds me a lot of Asheville's City Hall... on steroids.

Buffalo’s Art Deco City Hall. Reminds me a lot of Asheville’s City Hall… on steroids.

I am definitely a foodie.  The first thing I look for in any town is where to eat, and where the locals eat.  I justify it as being part of my job but let’s face it, if it’s not dessert it probably isn’t work related.  

On my second night in Buffalo I had the pleasure of going to E.B. Greene’s Steakhouse.  This highly rated steakhouse happened to be the conference hotel’s restaurant so it was convenient and very delicious.  The steak was cooked perfectly… melt in your mouth delicious.  I am a self described customer service guru and E.B.Greene’s delivered with impeccable service, and I do not use the word impeccable lightly.  I was tempted with dessert but was saving room for my next adventure, in retrospect I wish I hadn’t.

My next stop, The Chocolate Bar left a lot to be desired.  Some may say I am a chocolate snob…. They may be right.  I do have the pleasure of eating really high quality chocolate on a regular basis but I don’t think it’s too much to ask to make your own desserts when your name is The Chocolate Bar.  When I called ahead I was told that everything was made in house or locally but when I pressed the bartender for information about the desserts he informed me that while they used to make all their desserts in house they are franchising now so they just can’t do both.  Too often quality places make the decision to forsake the thing that they built their reputation on.  It is always disappointing to see a place like this with a great name and a great concept ship in frozen desserts.  I was having a craving so I ordered the Belgian chocolate pyramid which was a dark chocolate pyramid filled with chocolate mousse.  It wasn’t very good but I still ate nearly the whole thing because I’m just that much of a chocoholic.

Every time I leave Asheville I am reminded just how special home is.  Our vibrant and bustling downtown is really something to be proud of, and the amount of support for local businesses like The Chocolate Fetish is heartwarming.  So far the most important thing I have learned on this trip is how important it is to support local independent businesses everywhere you go and especially at home.  Hopefully as my adventures in Buffalo continue I will find some quality chocolate that lives up to my expectations.  With tours to 5 different family owned candy and chocolate shops coming up I have high hopes.  Stay tuned to hear all about them and the rest of my adventures in Buffalo.