Monday, December 18, 2006

An Edible Upgrade

I have not been subtle about my praises for Chocolate Fenix's grand cru line, named after the family behind the company, Salgado.

While I am not suggesting that the Salgado grand cru bars are comparable to the handsome tavolette (Italian for chocolate bars) of Tuscan Amedei or the most sought after Valrhona, they are a great choice within Argentina; I would rather support an Argentine company which is doing great things for the local chocolate industry and pay A$9 for a 100g of their superlative Carenero Superior or their dark-horse favourite* Esmeralda than fork out an inflated A$14 (or more) for the equal weight in Lindt.

When choices of what should have been classified as vegelates (one of the many offenders is bon-o-bon) are chock-a-block in this town, A$9 for a bar of chocolate is probably pricey for many peso-earners. Of course, this money gets one a taste of real chocolate with 70% cocoa solids rather than an exotic mix of hydrogenated vegetable oils, sugar, milk powder, cocoa powder and flavourings which doesn't even warrant a A$2 peso retail price.

I buy good chocolate judiciously; Guillermo and I occasionally have a dark square each with an after dinner coffee. We would rather eat less chocolate less frequently than sacrifice on taste.

Baking for my cake business, however, is a slightly more delicate matter of margins. If I'm making a chocolate cake, you can bet your life on it that I use chocolate rather than cocoa powder. This is the only trade secret I have: I do not skimp on ingredients. I wouldn't sell a cake which I wouldn't be proud to present to my own family and friends. I can't bring myself to make a dry brown cake, douse it with syrup, and then call it a torta de chocolate.

I had been using chocolate with 60% cocoa solids to keep the retail prices accessible. On the other hand, I kept looking into bulk buying, not to improve margin but to upgrade the quality my products. No, I'm not running a charity; I just believe that top quality products would attract appreciative customers who wouldn't mind paying a justified premium, eventually.

My search effort has not been futile after all. I'm really excited to announce that from 2007, La Otra Dimensión will offer chocolate goodies baked only with Salgado's Esmeralda or Bahia Superior (single origin from Brazil and Ecuador respectively, each with 70% cocoa solids). I'll also be incorporating cocoa nibs in some products. The structure of my cooking course would also change to reflect clients' requests. Watch out for an exciting make-over of the web-site in early 2007!

*After much tasting and testing, a number of chocoholics have agreed that the top 3 Salgado chocolates do not necessarily correspond to their slight variances in price. They are Carenero Superior, Esmeralda and Bahia Superior.

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