What's my ideal Tuesday night? Probably sipping on a creamy, dark hot chocolate while snow falls outside and recklessly tearing into multiple perfectly packaged bars of hand poured chocolate and bark in various flavors, all topped off with a hazelnut and frangelico truffle. Well, it happened to me this week and it was glorious- thanks to Hank and Allison Rose of Saratoga Chocolate Co.
The Saratoga Chocolate Co. recently caught my eye on social media when a friend of mine posted a picture of their bars at Putnam Market, beautifully packaged in white paper with their logo stamped at the top in perfect black lettering. Little did I know that this friend, Anna Bowers who runs the exquisite Bar Vino in North Creek, gave Saratoga Chocolate Co. their first sale by offering their decadent truffles on the restaurant's dessert menu. Trusting Anna's knowledge of good food, I knew I had to find out more about this chocolate business with the excellent packaging. This is how the magical Tuesday happened.
Hank, Allison and I cozied up at a table at Hamlet & Ghost and quickly got to know each other, conversation coming naturally because of our mutual friends but also because these two are just so personable and genuine, exuding an infectious excitement for their product. Hank and Allison first met while Allison was ski patrolling at Gore Mountain and Hank was a local skier living in North Creek; aNorth Country love story. Fast forward to today and the couple, who also have a 3 year old daughter, balance work, parenthood, and their fledging new venture into the chocolate business, which launched just three months ago. Although new to the business itself, chocolate has been a passion of Allison's for years (13 to be exact), a side hobby that she has cultivated and perfected into serious knowledge of the art, ingredients and consistency that go into creating a quality product.
When Hank and Allison decided to take their chocolate to the next level, they began the arduous task of taste-testing any and all chocolate they could get their hands on and noting the taste, texture, quality, source, ingredients, packaging and detail of each one. While this effort may seem dream-like, the couple's research was a serious endeavor as they worked to perfect their own goods as best they could. And perfected they did.
With 6 different chocolate bar flavors, two flavors of bark and 18 available flavors of made-to-order truffles, this small business bustles as they hand-pour, hand-temper and hand-package each and every creation. In addition, Allison works hard to responsibly and thoughtfully source her chocolate from unique locales such as Colombia, Guatemala, Ghana and beyond to create the perfect single-origin bars as well as blends. She notes the importance of terroir in chocolate as just as crucial as it would be in a fine wine, with location and environment imparting specific flavor notes and character in the product. While the terroir brings varying flavor to each 4 oz. bar, Saratoga Chocolate Co. also adds their own combinations to enhance the experience.
The company offers two “plain” dark chocolate options, The 70% and Velvet, which are anything but plain and are smooth, decadent and rich, the latter with only a slightly lighter cacao content. The third dark chocolate and one of my favorites, the Fleur de Sel, is lightly sprinkled with French fleur de sel (from Saratoga Olive Oil Company) on the bottom of the bar, which can be tasted before the chocolate itself and adds a slight crunch to each bite.
The next three bars are each so unique, I'm going to twist your arm and urge you to sample them yourself. The first is the Latte, a white chocolate bar mixed with tiny granules of dark roast coffee. If you're like me and you wave your hand and think, “white chocolate is too cloyingly sweet, I probably won't like this one,” you'll be surprised by the mild sweetness of the bar, which is balanced by the the rich, roasted coffee and melts in your mouth. The second is the Hawaiian which consists of perfectly smooth milk chocolate blended with tangy passionfruit and crunchy but mild macadamia nuts, a sweet and fruity and incomparable combination. The third is the Toasted Sesame, milk chocolate blended with the tiny, toasty nuts- sweet meets savory. If only this bar wasn't so popular that Allison and Hank ran out before I was able to try it... this one is left to my imagination for now. And that image continued to make me drool after Allison explained her ideal pairing combination as the Toasted Sesame with a Nine Pin ginger cider and a nice sharp cheddar. Yes, please! Allison offers some other delectable and mouth-watering pairing notes on her blog, The Daily Nib, on the company's website including the Hawaiian + Prosecco and The Velvet + Port...
The next treat that I was given were samples of the chocolate bark- something that I grew up tocharacterize as a baking sheet of saltines topped with melted butter and sugar, chocolate and sliced almonds. While this combo is still a winner in my book, Saratoga Chocolate Co.'s bark is something different- thicker, crunchier and with wilder flavors. The two on offer right now are Strawberry Hazelnut and Georgia Peach Pistachio, both of which utilize freeze-dried fruit which adds tart flavor and also a unique crunch to each chunky bite.
Now came time for the final masterpiece, which I mentioned earlier, the truffle. Truffles were Allison's first foray into chocolate making and to say she has mastered it is an understatement. These preservative-free truffles are made to order in 18 varying flavors and can be ordered in bulk- the perfect edible favor and added detail for weddings, showers and any special or even not-so-special everyday occasion. Tonight's sample was a milk chocolate shell encasing a velvety frangelico and hazelnut ganache, topped with a whole hazelnut: satisfying, rich and oh, so creamy. Keep these in mind for Valentine's Day guys.
Oh and did I mention they also sell hot chocolate?? Right now, you can find Saratoga Chocolate Co. products at various locations across the North Country including The Iron Roost in Ballston Spa, Putnam Market, Roma Foods, Oscars in Warrensburg, Izzy's Market in North Creek, and online at www.saratogachocolateco.com. Big things are coming for this small business with big heart, including hopefully, a downtown storefront to increase business and build exposure. However busy though, this couple made it clear that they will never compromise quality for quantity, a promise that they take great pride in. Chocolate lovers rejoice- yay!