It looks as though I have developed a small reputation as knowing a thing or two about chocolate. Not just because I have eaten so much of it, but also because I have trained in specialty chocolate work and European style chocolate candies. Now, being that I am this so-called expert, I tend to look at the various tomes about chocolate swith a jaundiced eye. The authors all claim to be experts and their books the end all, be all of chocolate. Therefore I have to do my darndest to read these books objectively.
That's how I started out reading "Discover Chocolate". For some reason I got it into my head that this was a book on how to judge chocolate like you would judge wine. I fought with myself for half the book trying to keep an open mind.
Somewhere about halfway through it dawned on me that the book was about learning to appreciate chocolate for yourself. When I realized that this book was not about tasting chocolate like you would wine, I reread it and actually learned a couple of things.
I do not have statistics backing this up, but I feel comfortable guessing the majority of Americans would not know truly good chocolate if it came up and introduced itself. Most American consumption of chocolate is in the guise of candy bars. Don't get me wrong, I love a 3 Musketeers or Reese's Cup as much as the next person, but that is far from a gourmet experience. Do the names "Fannie Farmer" and "Whitmans Sampler" ring a bell? This is probably the extent of knowledge that most people have about chocolate. Is it really so important they know what a Criollo bean is? Of course not! But have you ever eaten something very familiar, and then somebody tells you something about that item that you didn't know? It adds another dimension to your eating pleasure.
Americans are starting to discover there is some fine chocolate being made and eaten out there. People are learning that chocolate can be quite complex in its taste and composition. Some people like wineâ€¦well "just because"â€¦ and some make the effort to understand its complexities and nuances,
What "Discover Chocolate" does is to bring the complexities and nuances of fine chocolate to the average person and teaches them what makes a good chocolate. How it's grown, where it comes from, how it works on your taste buds, and what to do with it once it's there!
I personally thought "Discover Chocolate" started out a little backward. It begins by explaining how to really taste chocolate. The exercises show you how you can train your palette to understand the differences in various chocolates, but more important, how to figure out what you really like, as an individual. If it's enough for you to say "I just like chocolate!" That's fine. But if you want to really find out which of the different types you like, this will help you along. I think it just makes more sense to have this info at the end but hey, that's just me nitpicking again.
Next you get a lesson on where and how cocoa beans are grown and the different types there are. I learned a few fascinating things I didn't know about the cacao pod. It's really an interesting process.
The next section deals with "How to buy Chocolate," a very useful section on how to discern what's fresh and what might not be so fresh. Gordon also includes info on to how to store your chocolates for maximum shelf life and quality retention.
The book continues with a section about how to pair chocolate with various spirits and foods. It is a great way to spend an evening with friends, or even alone. At the end is a variety of maps, a glossary and ratings to round out your chocolate education. Also included is a large listing of chocolate brands, and chocolatiers with their quality ratings and websites.
That's it. Bottom line, "Discover Chocolate" in my opinion is "not" the "Ultimate guide", but ultimately it is a very useful, entertaining, and informative one.