taza chocolate

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Cheese and Chocolate Galore!

My birthday was earlier this month, and my husband was determined to make this a great one for me.   (Last year’s was, well…lacking, due to many extraneous circumstances…) 

So what does a nice guy get for his wife to make her birthday special?  Flowers?  Jewelry?  New clothes?  All great presents, no doubt about it.  My husband’s gift was a gesture that shows he understands the things I just can’t live without , though (besides him).  Great cheese and great chocolate.

The cheese was mail-ordered from a wonderful place in Utah that we discovered while watching the Food Network one night.  The Beehive Cheese Company has several cheeses that you can have shipped across the country and I can attest to it arriving cool and fresh.  I received the standard Box-O-Cheese, but there are other boxed arrangements as well.  I couldn’t open all of the cheeses at once, due to a fear of some of them growing moldy before I could eat them, but so far I have tasted, and enjoyed, three of the cheeses.

I was especially excited to try cheese curds, more specifically the Squeaky Bee Curds, for the first time – as an avid cheese-lover I somehow had missed the experience of eating curds.  The curds are wonderful and taste like a mild cheese, similar to mozzarella.  My curds pull apart into bite size pieces and remind me of a gourmet version of string cheese.  They are simple and delicious.

The SeaHive cheese (a fun play on words) is rubbed with sea salt and wildflower honey.  I’m not a big salt lover, so I worried that I might not like this variety.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  So far, it is my favorite of the Box-O-Cheese.  It doesn’t taste overly salty at all, instead the salt seems to bring out all the wonderful inherent flavors of the cheese and the honey.  This cheese has a full spectrum of flavors.  It starts out mild, turns pleasantly sharp and a little tangy and finishes with a light, sweet flavor.  I could eat it by the pound – but I won’t.

Finally, I have also tried the Apple Walnut Smoked Promontory Cheddar.  This cheese has been smoked with walnut shells and apples.  It is my least favorite of the three cheeses that I’ve tasted but is still wonderful.  I cannot detect any hints of walnut or apple, it does have a strong smoked flavor that lends itself well to being melted in sandwiches of all sorts.

I have a few cheeses yet to open and taste, so keep your eyes out for another cheese-related blog in the not too distant future!

As for the chocolate, wow!  I was reading a recent issue of Gourmet magazine and came across an article on Taza chocolate.  Not only was this a fascinating article about a new style of chocolate, but I discovered that the company is based locally, in Somerville, MA.   I love trying new chocolates, and I love supporting local businesses.  This chocolate is unique because the chocolate is stone ground and their whole chocolate-making process is special.  They ethically trade directly with farmers in Central and South America to obtain organic beans.  There are several steps of the chocolate-making process (see their website for a full explanation) but the key component is that they stone grind their chocolate so that the beans are mininmally processed and, thus, they retain more of their inherent flavors.  Most chocolate companies conch their chocolate which is a much more agressive way of processing the beans, from what I understand.  The process may be slightly lost on me, but the taste is not.  My husband bought me two bars: 70% dark and 80% dark.  When I first bit into the 70% dark I was disasppointed – it seemed dry on the palate and very hard.  As soon as you start chewing, however, the most intense flavors are released and it no longer seems too dry or hard.  I keep breaking off small pieces in an attempt to find a fitting way to describe this chocolate (ok, my dedication to my blog isn’t the only reason I keep compulsively eating this chocolate).  The best I can do is to describe the taste as a mix of a deep, dark chocolate mixed with wonderful fruity, berry flavors like I’ve never tasted before.  It’s like discovering a new fruit and chocolate all at once.  It is possibly the best dark chocolate I’ve ever eaten.  The 80% dark is also quite good, and, not surprsingly, more bitter.  I find this bar has less intricate flavors.  The texture is still unique, but the taste is more similar to other dark chocolates that I’ve had. 

I can’t recommend the 70% dark highly enough to anyone who enjoys dark chocolate.  We all need our antioxidants, after all!

Happy cheese and chocolate eating!