Most often I taste and rate chocolate bars in the morning before I’ve had anything to eat or drink besides water. This way, I start off fresh with a clean palate. But this time, it just didn’t seem right to be eating such luxurious little works of art so early in the morning. It would be like whipping out a bottle of vintage port and pouring a healthy glass at 7:30 AM. So, I asked my wife to join me on a Friday night and we went through a six-piece assortment of fine filled chocolates together. Even thought these are closer to European sized truffles (smaller than the gargantuan American standard – usually called bonbons), they were still big enough to cut in half and share. I’m not providing a numerical rating for these chocolates since they can’t be compared to plain bars, but we did vote for our favorites – and our pick for number one was unanimous.
Aequare Fine Chocolates was created by classically trained American Chef Jeffrey Stern who is now living and making fine chocolates in Quito, Ecuador. Aequare makes single origin bars and ganache-filled confections in small batches using ingredients sourced almost entirely in Ecuador. Aequare also follows a fair trade model that provides fair wages for cacao farmers. Jeff has developed personal relationships with his growers and frequently visits the farms in Los Rios province that produce the beans. I’ll write more about Aequare’s story when I taste and rate their single origin bars in a later post.
What: Aequare Fine Chocolates Six Piece Assortment. Filled single origin chocolate confections from Ecuador. 66g (2.4oz). Price – about $14.
These were our impressions, in order of tasting. Next to each name is the description provided by Aequare in the mini-booklet included with each assortment to help you identify each piece. I took more notes on my own comments than Genevieve’s, so her comments here are more terse.
Ecuador – Pure 70% single origin ganache with Tahitian vanilla, enrobed in dark chocolate.
Genevieve: Apricot jam notes, rich buttery ganache.
Me: A light buttery fudge texture on the inside, hints of whipped crème. The chocolate is not as intense as I thought it might be, probably because there is more filling than “shell.”
Mocha – The finest Ecuadorian coffee in a milk chocolate ganache, covered in dark chocolate.
Genevieve: “Oh that’s good.” Velvety smoothness. The coffee is not very intense.
Me: The coffee flavor rises up fast and early but is not overwhelming. Very creamy. Mocha on a buttery, milky backdrop.
Amazon – Dark chocolate ganache with Ishpingo, a unique flavor from the Amazon, and a hint of cinnamon.
Genevieve: Nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, brown sugar. Not overpowering, silky, round, and luscious. These flavors were more exotic and Genevieve is real good at picking these things out – she caught the nutmeg notes before I did. It’s hard to find familiar comparisons to Ishpingo, but the nutmeg and cardamom comes pretty close.
Me: A very interesting flavor combination. Ishpingo came through as aromatic nutmeg notes that really paired well with the dark Chocolate.
Salted Caramel – The finest caramel ganache with specks of French fleur d’sel.
Genevieve: If just lick the ganache, you can taste more salt, but if you chew the whole thing, the flavors mix into a fine balance.
Me: A very satisfying combination. Again, subtle use of salt provides a nice complement to the chocolate. Do you see a trend here?
Blackberry Cobbler – Pure blackberry puree, almond praline, and semi-sweet chocolate enrobed in 70% single origin chocolate.
Genevieve (just enjoying herself despite my seriousness): Wow! What is this?
Me: The acid of the berries was a nice, clean contrast to the chocolate. The flavoring in the filling was definitely more pronounced in this case, but if you’re expecting blackberries, you want them to come through. These were made from the real thing as evidenced by the tiny bits of blackberry seeds.
Le Citroen – Meyer Lemon infused semi-sweet chocolate ganache, enrobed in dark chocolate.
Genevieve: Not my favorite combination. Maybe at this point in the tasting we were blown away by the rest of the chocolates, so whichever one we tasted last was doomed to be judged in the shadow of the previous five.
Me: Not my favorite either. Something doesn’t work well for me, but the citrus is a nice clean note against the chocolate. This is a matter of taste, of course, and you may totally love this one. Enjoyable yes, but it comes in at #6 for both of us.
Me: It seems that Chef Sterm is not at all heavy handed with the flavorings. Rather, he achieves this subtle balance necessary to let this special single-origin chocolate shine through like a conductor that draws out the flutes and the French horns at just the right volume while making sure the rest of the orchestra doesn’t drown them out. I think this is critical if you are going to call something “fine” chocolates – you can’t be clumsy with the flavorings or use them to mask inferior chocolate. Clearly Chef Stern gets this and has only the highest respect for the Arriba chocolate that is the basis for all these confections.
Genevieve: “That’s really *&%^in’ good chocolate!” The kids are asleep; she can use whatever colorful descriptors she wants!
Here’s our vote for top three:
Genevieve: #1 Amazon, #2 Salted Caramel, #3 Blackberry Cobbler
Me: #1 Amazon, #2 Blackberry Cobbler, #3 Salted Caramel
Update: To our Aequare Fine Chocolates are no longer available. It was fun while it lasted.
Disclosures: I paid for these chocolates myself.