Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Appearance/Pedigree versus Taste (Chocolate)

I admit to being a taste-snob. I like my food to taste good; better yet – great; better yet – sublime. While many would think that this would make me an expensive friend, this is most emphatically not the case. Some of the best meals I’ve ever had had cost less than $5 (some, substantially less). Money lets you try a wider variety of options, but as we all know, it’s no guarantee of quality.

My life has been an evolution of taste (as a child I found white bread and plastic American cheese at my neighbor’s exotic and compelling because my mom did not allow such things in her home. While this fascination with the ‘rare’ definitely still exists, I hope that I have moderated it at this point to the extent that something actually needs to be good (or at least non-cringe-worthy) before I am intrigued by it, though realistically, sometimes that cringe is what makes something compelling, but I digress).

One food/flavor that will always make it to the top of my favorites list is chocolate. I love chocolate. It’s taken me years to not automatically exclude all desserts that do not have chocolate in them (my somewhat recent obsession with crème brulee is another story and one that I will share at another time). There’s something about the flavor of chocolate that is just good. Now, this is not to say that all chocolate is good (and for the record, white chocolate isn’t chocolate, so we’re most emphatically not talking about that), there is plenty of chocolate out there that just tastes mediocre (often waxy) or just bad.

I look for good chocolate. I take recommendations. I try samples. I buy big bars and ‘waste’ the rest if it’s not good. It’s an ongoing search, but one that I enjoy (so I really don’t complain – too much). For me, it’s about the taste (texture matters too). It’s about the flavor of the cocoa ingredient, of course, but also about the proportions and the process (not that I even pretend to know anything about that in any detail). Because of all of this, I was intrigued by this article in the NY Times:

No Golden Ticket, but More Than Candy

where people are divided into 2 categories: 1. Those who choose by cocoa content (going for purity), 2. Those who choose by packaging (going for emotion or fun). Does flavor not even matter? Is chocolate not something that hits your tongue to make your taste buds sing? I suppose that some would try to argue that #1 and flavor are the same thing. They would be wrong. I have had high cocoa content chocolate that doesn’t taste as good as some with lower content. Taste is not just about purity (there’s got to be a virginal white chocolate joke in there somewhere, but I can’t quite make it happen).

So we have people judging by pedigree (#1) and by appearance (#2) and as with chocolate and many things in life, neither is a guarantee of good taste.


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