During our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, I had the pleasure to visit a little chocolate shop in the Zona Romantica – Xocodiva (pronouced sho-ko diva) and also talk to chocolatier and co-owner Carol who had opened the shop a couple of years ago with her partner, Charlotte. Carol and I chatted a bit while she busily rolled truffles by hand. Right way it was clear that the “artisan” designation was not just hype – the truffles were made by hand and in small batches, so that was enough for me.
She confirmed that they are using Belgian couverture for their chocolates. Of course, using Mexican-sourced chocolate would be impractical on many levels, not the least of which is that cacao production volume in Mexico is relatively low and mostly consumed to make a rustic style of chocolate used mainly for drinking.
The place is decorated with a clean, but romantic vibe. There’s a front seating area separate from the main shop that has a long bench and some separate two-top tables, enough space overall for 6 to 8 people. It looks like it would be a great place to stop by after dinner for a few luxurious treats. In the shop itself there’s a wide selection of truffles and other small confections, nut brittles, bars, gift assortments and hot chocolate. Overall I have to say I was very pleased. Why should fine chocolate surprise me in this town when I had already experienced some wonderful culinary skills in the restaurants of Puerto Vallarta?
I decided to get a sampling of chocolate treats so I could get a feel for the overall skill of the chocolatier and quality of the shop. I went for some hot chocolate, truffles and bars. The hot chocolate was all warm and ready to go and didn’t feel at all out of place in a beach town despite the early sun’s efforts to warm the air into the 80s. After all, people were drinking coffee and espresso all morning in the surrounding cafes as the chairs were being arranged on the beach and the sand was slowly drying from the high tide. Surely I could break from tradition and go with some hot chocolate.
Had it not been the last day of our trip, I would have made this a daily habit – great stuff! Thick, viscous and bold as serious drinking chocolate should be. Not too sweet but with enough sugar to power my climb back to our room on the hilly cobblestone streets of the Zona Romantica. I definitely recommend that you make their hot chocolate your new early morning or after dinner habit when you’re in the area.
Next came the bars. No need for a formal rating here, since it would be hard to buy these bars outside of Mexico. But if you’re in PV and trying to decide whether a visit to Xocodiva is worth while, this should give you some idea.
Ek Chuah – Dark Chocolate (Chocolate Obscuro) – Named after the Mayan god of Merchants. 50g bar. Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa powder and soya lecithin.
Aroma – Peanuts, peanut shells, neoprene
Initial / Mid taste – Green beans, almonds, a hint of strawberry in the middle, pancake
Finish – Honey, vanilla
Texture – A little crunchy. Benefits from first holding it in your cheek to melt it a bit.
Kukulkan – Dark Chocolate & Cacao Nibs (Chocolate Obscuro Y Granos de Cacao) – Named after the Mayan god of creation. 50g bar. Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa powder, soya lecithin and organic cacao nibs.
Aroma -Honey, cedar, burlap, oak, hay
Initial / Mid taste – Green beans, almonds, peanut, vanilla, cinnamon, oak.
Finish – Nice long finish with caramel, roasted rice, rice crisp, peanut.
Texture – Light on the nibs, but still had a nice crunch. I could go for more nibs myself. It seemed that one end of the bar had more than the other. On the other hand, the nibs were not overpowering, astringent and acidic as they can be if overdone. They added a nice texture and extra notes of wood and nuts.
Overall, these bars were a little one-dimensional, but not flawed in any way. Keep in mind, this is not bean-to-bar and doesn’t pretend to be. They are good, solid bars and probably your best option in PV if you’re craving straight chocolate. Ah, but then there are those truffles…
Back in our room, my wife and I sampled the truffles. Here are our combinded impressions:
Tequila– We caught a distinct tequila flavor – not sharp, but definitely present and a nice fit for both the chocolate and our Mexican surroundings. Combined with the sweetness of the truffle, the flavor was more reminiscent of a tequila liqueur than the biting yellowish liquid that I’ve learned to avoid, well… straight anyway. I’ve always felt that dry spirts such as scotch are a better match with chocolate than, say, wine, so I wasn’t surprised to find this pairing with tequila to work well. This one was my favorite.
Cherry – We tasted little surprise bits of what appears to be Bing cherries mixed throughout the center. I found the cherry flavor to be underwhelming at first (and these truffles were real fresh), but when I hit a bit of cherry, it all came into focus. The contrasting texture of the smooth ganache, chewy cherry bits and the harder chocolate shell was a real delight. This one was Genevieve’s favorite.
Dark Chocolate with Nibs on top – We first experienced a beautiful, intense chocolate aroma followed by a nice texture in the mouth – the chewy, crunch of the nibs the smoothness of the chocolate below. Just a hint of astringency and wood that you would expect from the nibs. Genevieve gave a thumbs up to the complexity – notes of caramel and deep smoky cocoa but found the wood notes a little more dominant than I did. Perhaps something like the space between aging hardwood split and stacked for the winter.
Speaking of winter, we are back home lamenting that it will be at least a year before we get back to Puerto Vallarta. In the mean time, I’ll be dreaming of a daily cup of thick drinking chocolate with truffles.
Xocodiva – open 10am to 10pm daily in the romantic zone next to the San Marino Hotel on Rodolfo Gomez 118. 322-113-0352.