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Sarah Hart, Alma Chocolates

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#1 ExtraMSG

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Posted 21 May 2006 - 09:52 PM

Who I am, why I make chocolate, and what I want it to be

A few weeks ago a woman came into my shop, Alma Chocolate, and tried a sample of a bittersweet truffle I’d made for the Indie Wine Festival. It was simple: 72% Peruvian chocolate, cream and cocoa powder. She put it in her mouth. “Oh my God,” she said, and for a moment I couldn’t tell what she meant. “Oh my God,” she said again. I wondered, Is she going to spit that out?

“This,” she finally said, “is sooooo good.”

That is why I do what I do.

In my favorite picture of me as a child I’m sitting in my highchair -- both hands clutching the remains of a chocolate Easter bunny, and chocolate handprints are everywhere.

In elementary school I blew my whole allowance every week at Hunter’s five and dime on Reese’s, Marathon bars or Andes mints. When we’d make s’mores at the river, I’d beg for my share of the chocolate bar “plain, no marshmallow or graham cracker, please.”

I was perfectly happy with the chocolate status quo until I was 23 and a man I loved came around with a really dark bar of Belgian chocolate. It was a revelation. I had never had anything so bitter and so sweet, so earthy and so elegant, melting on my tongue.

That is why I do what I do.

I have followed an eclectic path. I left college to work with Cesar Chavez at the United Farm Workers headquarters in Southern California. After my daughter was born when I was 22, I got a graduate degree in English and taught literature to college students. I waited tables in a storied French restaurant. I worked in outreach and fundraising for a child abuse and domestic violence prevention program. I did PR for producers of fine food and wine. All of these things were in their own way satisfying and meaningful. But chocolate kept calling me and calling me, and wouldn’t let me be.

Once I set out to learn about chocolate, I fell in love with its temperamental nature. I love that every chocolate is a little different – in flavor, in texture, in what tastes good with it, and so on. I love that it is imbued with historical and cultural meaning, that people eat it or give it as an expression of love or passion. And I love that it is experiential -- it can be subtle, or it can be nuanced, or it can hit over the head.

So this is why I do what I do: I want to create that sense of discovery and wonder for others that chocolate has always provided for me.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's