Saturday, November 14, 2015

Shop the Season: "Virgin Chocolate" by Raaka

Dan F. from the exec office conducts a tasting exercise with Raaka Chocolate (kiosk C5) at Bank of America Winter Village Holiday Shops

At Winter Village chocolate is everywhere. It’s ladled onto churros, crepes, chimney cakes and wafels; poured warm into mugs; baked into macarons and rugelach; mixed in with holiday teas; and shaped into truffles.

It’s an abundance of riches, and over the past couple seasons I have tried almost all of the chocolate options in the park. The chocolate babka from Breads Bakery beats my Jewish family’s traditional recipe by a wide margin. The hot chocolate from Max Brenner – milk chocolate ganache mixed with warm milk and vanilla – is about as good as it gets.

Raaka is one of several excellent chocolate vendors. 

My favorite, however, is the chocolate from Raaka. The award-winning upstart chocolatiers from Red Hook, Brooklyn make the chocolate bar into a true culinary luxury. Using unroasted cacao beans, ground and then heated at a much lower-than-normal cooking temperature, Raaka creates something they call “virgin chocolate.” Its taste is stronger and more subtle than almost any chocolate I’ve had.

To celebrate this wonderful vendor, I walked around the Bryant Park offices with three of Raaka’s bars. Hiding the names of the chocolates, I asked six staff members to describe each chocolate’s flavor and pick a favorite. Here are some of their comments (and a tally of which ones my coworkers preferred):

Chocolate A –  preferred by 4 of 6

“Raisin-y,” “some nice acidity to it,” “finish is just a bit sweet, which is very nice,” “there’s an herbal element, almost a leafy-ness,” “bitter, but not overly so,” “floral," “reminds me of Africa. Madagascar even.”

Chocolate B – preferred by 1 of 6 

“Subtler,” “hazelnut flavor almost,” “smokiness,” “smoky, yeah, some smoke there,” “almond-y,”  “fruit,” “Ceylon tea kind of flavor,” “a bit of salt.”

Chocolate C – preferred by 1 of 6 

“Coconut, definitely,” “macaroons,” “reminds me of Passover,” “smoother,” “meltier,” “almost like milk chocolate,” “tropical,” “dairy feel, even though it’s dark chocolate,” “malty-ness,” “sweeter.”

Raaka sells more than just chocolate bars. Next time, I'm buying those tahini squares.
And – drumroll please! – here is how Raaka describes them:

Chocolate A – Madagascar. The only chocolate bar in the world made from unroasted cocoa beans from the Ambanja region of Madagascar’s esteemed Sambirano Valley. It's just organic cacao beans, with a little organic sugar cane.

Chocolate B – Cask Aged Bourbon. The first chocolate featuring cask-aged cocoa beans. The aging process enhances our virgin chocolate with strong caramel, vanilla, and oaky deliciousness.

Chocolate C – Coconut Milk. We developed the Coconut Milk bar to satisfy our desire for a creamy, milky chocolate made without dairy.

But like Levar Burton says, you don't have to take my word for it. Try them all yourself; which was your favorite?

There are so many more chocolate bars to try.
Holiday Shops at Bank of America Winter Village
Weekdays, 11am - 8pm
Saturdays, 10am - 9pm
Sundays, 10am - 6pm

1 comment:

  1. I've been a fan of Raaka ever since a grocery store I worked at upstate began carrying it. It's virgin chocolate, and some of the best I've ever had.

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