GroupOn deals are another theme of this blog, as will soon become apparent if it is not already. So, for Christmas, I bought Dan a GroupOn for a chocolate tasting at Alegio Chocolate‘s Palo Alto Branch. Okay, okay. This was really more of a gift for me disguised as a fun date night gift for Dan. Having nearly hit the expiration date on the certificate, we booked an evening tasting to sneak our deal in before the deadline. Little did we know how kind and customer-oriented the ownership is at Alegio Chocolate — another couple with a coupon were past the expiration date, but the proprietor declared it didn’t matter. What they wanted were happy customers.
Going into this experience, I anticipated the following series of events:
- Dan and I show up at Alegio Chocolate (possibly on time, more likely a few minutes late)
- We receive 4-5 samples of different chocolates over the course of 20 minutes
- We browse the store out of politeness
- We leave, having enjoyed a bit of chocolate and a nice date night
That’s not how it went.
We arrived about 15 minutes early, enough time to have a lovely discussion with the employee and connect over our youths in the Midwest (and Mideast, for Dan). We didn’t just jump right in to the tasting. Instead, we learned about the history of chocolate in a way I’ve never actually heard before. This was not your standard, “Cacao comes from Mexico, history happens, now we have it in America! Isn’t chocolate great?” We also learned about Claudio Corallo’s history and journey to San Tome and Principe, the small island where he grows and produces his chocolate. After picking, the cacao is fermented, dried, and roasted. Claudio has very specific formulas.
Then, in a process called cracking and winnowing, the tiny nib is removed from the bean. In Claudio’s case, this is done by hand by workers at his farm. We had a chance to try this, after which I felt a bit like Buddy making toys in “Elf.” I really wanted to do well, but my skills didn’t quite match my desire. Dan was a champ and found the nib, which tastes a bit like a tiny, crunchy coffee bean with a hint of chocolate. I identified my “nib” and ate it, but am still unclear whether I was successful in actuality or only convinced myself I was successful.
After learning the history and Claudio’s unique story, it was time for the chocolate. We started with 100% chocolate, something I’ve never tasted before. It has a bitter taste and made me glad that someone thought to add a little suga’ to it.We worked down from 100% chocolate, finding my own personal sweet spots between 67-83%. We also tried unique flavors such as chocolate with orange, salt and pepper chocolate, and chocolate with alcohol-infused grapes. After tasting maybe eight flavors (I lost count, there were so many), we had an opportunity to go back to “revisit” some of the flavors we had already tried. As many as we needed to “refresh our tastebuds.” So we freshed on several flavors in an attempt to pick our absolute favorite.
At the end of the night, we couldn’t resist purchasing a bar to enjoy later. I would recommend a visit, especially if you can snag a 50% off GroupOn!