Chocolate Dragon Food · 4 April 2007
I may have set myself up for the worst sort of culinary torture. Last week, when I was outlining the articles that would relate to His Majesty's Dragon, I went shopping at Chuao. I’d recently heard of Chauo (appropriately pronounced chew-WOW) chocolate through the blog of Alice Q. Foodie and had been looking for an excuse to go visit it.
When my Google search for "dragon food" brought an entry in The Urban Dictionary, I clicked it with trepidation. The Urban Dictionary includes just about every gross, obscene, or just plain profane description for words that you thought were perfectly innocent. Not imagining that I'd find a good lead for an article, I was surprised to read that according to The Urban Dictionary, Dragon Food is “chocolate bought for one’s better half to smooth over a situation.” Jackpot; chocolate and dragons contained in just one (PG rated) entry.
Just like the partners in any relationship, Temeraire and Laurence have their misunderstandings. According to Novik, dragons are fonder of bright shiny objects than chocolate, but this blog is focused on the food of books. Laurence first buys Temeraire gold chain to assuage his guilt at taking the dragon for granted, then later a beautiful pearl plaque as token of his affection. I didn’t have anyone to make up to, but I decided to treat myself to chocolate anyway.
The Chuao storefront I visited was located in a new shopping center in southern Carlsbad. Nestled in a row of culinary temptations such as Cold Stone Creamery and The Coffee Bean, the Chauo chocolate café stood out as a unique boutique in the midst of the chains. The café had a distinct "serious" feel to it, the same type of hushed atmosphere that you find in libraries, banks, and wine cellars. The chocolate display case, filled with bonbons and truffles was given the place of honor in the café, and took up the entire front half of the store. In the rear there was a bakery counter at which you could order a variety of pastries and drinks, a wine shelf, and shelves with pre-boxed chocolates.
When I entered, a couple was dithering over their selection and the clerk at the counter greeted me letting me know that he’d be with me shortly. I took the time to peruse the offerings in the rear of the store. As to be expected, there were chocolate bunnies, chocolate bars, and chocolate paraphernalia of all types. The owners of Chauo are passionate about their chocolate and display the enthusiasm of sharing their knowledge with others that makes for a great retail experience. The shelves were stocked with books about making and eating chocolate, so I wasn’t bored as the couple in front of me selected their offerings.
When it was my turn at the counter, I splurged. Originally intending only to purchase a small sample of the chocolates, I walked out with the nine piece sampler box in my hands and a complimentary Framboise in my belly. Unlike some of the more familiar brands, Chauo had several varieties of chocolate that were unique to my experience. How could I turn these down?
Top Row - Left to right
- Cardamom - cardamom infused dark chocolate ganache
- Gianduja - Hazelnut paste with fresh vanilla and raw coffee topped with a roasted hazelnut
- Cinco de Mayo - Lemon tequila dark chocolate ganache topped with preserved lemon chip
Middle Row - Left to right
- Cambur - Soft banana and brown sugar caramel
- Wild truffle - Rich dark chocolate ganache rolled in cocoa powder
- Framboise - Layered hazelnut almond praline and raspberry "pâte de fruit"
Bottom Row - Left to right
- Zen - Green tea infused with ginger ganache
- Honey truffle - Orange blossom honey ganache, coated in dark chocolate and rolled in powdered sugar
- Modena - Strawberry caramel with balsamic vinegar from Modena
These are not your everyday chocolate flavors. If I were a dragon (or a hot sauce lover) I would have tried the Candela, a spicy Hawaiian macadamia praline paired with smoky chipotle. Since I’m not, I passed it up.
At this point you may be wondering where the torture is. It was last Monday that I bought the chocolate. Let me repeat, last Monday, nine full days ago. For nine days, the chocolate sat next to my computer desk, in its pretty box, not being eaten!
For reasons that seem a bit crazy, even to me, I decided to sign up for an accelerated class that started last week and has a lot of classwork. Then a new employee started at my work on Tuesday, rather unannounced, and I was assigned to train her, adding a few hours a day to my already full workload.
I didn't get much sleep last week, in fact so little that I missed an engagement on Saturday because I honestly thought it was on Sunday. (This was after re-reading the e-mail out loud and commenting on how amazing it is that Google's new calendar program can grab unrelated strings of words and still add the event correctly to your calendar. Yes, Google was more alert than I was.)
So why didn't I eat the much needed chocolate during this time of stress? I didn't have time to photograph it. I've been meaning to set up a lighting system to correct the darkness that I've noticed in my photos. I even bought the lights, but I haven't set them up. This morning I broke down and decided that the article was going forward, high quality pictures or no, and I ate the Cambur. After waiting over a week, I took my time with it.
First I smelled the box. I picked a variety of flavors and they all mingled together to create an irresistible aroma. Unlike many chocolates, where the overwhelming smell is one of sugar, the dominate smell with the Chuao box I selected was of spiced cocoa powder. You could pick out the cardamom and the ginger. It was early, so I decided on the Cambur because I wanted something soothing, not shocking as my breakfast selection. The Cambur was buttery smooth. It smelled almost exactly like freshly baked chocolate banana bread, and tasted similar too. After biting into the chocolate I could feel the texture of the banana in the filling. The milk chocolate covering melted in my mouth and left a caramel brown sugar aftertaste. I followed it up with the more traditional hazelnut Gianduja. Again, the texture was incredibly smooth and while I was expecting the traditional hazelnut flavor of a Ferrero Rocher, this was incredibly subtle and natural. The fresh vanilla was equally present as a flavor, and the crunch of the raw coffee added pizzazz to this unassuming bonbon.
Be you human, dragon, or other, Chauo is a great way to earn your way back into the affection of your significant others if you’ve gotten under their scales.
Chuao bonbons are available for purchase online at what look to be the same prices as at their stores. I bought the nine piece selection in person for $17.00, which is favorably comparable to Godiva's eight piece box set at $15.50.