Quick. Think for a second about where great chocolate comes from? You probably thought to yourself “Belgium” or “Switzerland.” These places produce enviable chocolate, but they couldn’t be farther from chocolate’s origins. Chocolate, as many people know, hails from Latin America. It was a common food of the Mayans and Aztecs and even used as a currency. Of course, foods like Mexican hot chocolate (a hot chocolate drink made with cinnamon and/or chili powder) hark back to the ancient origins of cacao. Yet, for the most part, chocolate seems estranged from its pre-Colombian roots. Can chocolate be elevated to an art form and still express its Mesoamerican heritage?
Arcelia Gallardo is doing just this from her store Casa des Chocolates in Berkeley, CA. We stopped by her store last Sunday. As you enter through the front door, the intoxicating aroma of spices and melted cacao hits you. Beautiful boxes of truffles and wrapped bars with flavors from Peruvian espresso to cinnamon are on a center display. Approaching the glass case, one is quickly impressed by the range of different bonbons (chocolates with filling).
Arcelia’s mission is to express the heritage of chocolate through special ingredients and fillings while presenting them in an artful and creative way. Certainly, chocolate combinations like mole or chipotle caramel highlight the essence of this chocolate. We were impressed by the richness and dense quality of the truffles and the complex spiciness of the Mexican hot chocolate that came in the shape of a Mexican day of the dead image (right).
Also delicious, was the tres leches cake, which is soaked in three milks and cinnamon. If you are in the Bay Area, you can find Casa des Chocolates near the corner of Ashby and College Avenue in Berkeley or order online.