Supremely Great Chocolate… from Springfield, MO

Shawn Askinosie Scores Big with Two Sweet Treats!

1. Dark Chocolate from TanzaniaCommunity Project Puts Out an Amazing Chocolate

This is one delicious and very special chocolate bar which is made by Shawn Askinosie, unquestionably one of the country’s best chocolate makers, who’s working directly with cacao growers in east Africa to bring these beans to North America. I love it. It’s a bit lighter, slightly softer in flavor than most of Shawn’s other offerings. It’s definitely more cocoa-y than most of our other dark chocolate bars, with a slight hint of cinnamon with a slight bit of some other specific spice that I can’t put my finger on. Shawn himself says it has “hints of tobacco” but I quit smoking so long ago I can’t really remember what that means. It’s definitely kind of creamy on the tongue. Allen Leibowitz, founder of Zingerman’s Coffee Company, is adamant that he tastes banana, and I agree. The main thing is, it’s complex and well balanced with a nice finish and it really doesn’t taste like any other chocolate that I’ve had. All of which, I’d say, makes it well worth checking out. Without getting too simple on you, it’s just sort of downright delicious. Mouth watering. Clean finish. Makes me want to eat more every time I taste it.

2. El Rustico BarsChocolate and Chewy Bits of Organic Vanilla Bean

It’s been I think four years since Shawn Askinosie started making this special bar specifically for us. I loved it then and the truth is that I love it still, a few years further down the road. Dark chocolate that starts with the cacao that Shawn has personally sourced (in its current incarnation, the El Rustico features cacao from Davao, Philippines) and hand chopped bits of organic vanilla bean laced into it. Shawn has worked with Deli Chocolate Lady Margot Miller to adjust the recipe of this bar and the biggest change is the quantity of hand-chopped vanilla bean. The new bar now has three times the amount of vanilla bean than the original El Rustico. This bar boasts a texture triple threat—rich chocolate, crunchy sugar crystals, and vanilla bean pieces! Where most bars that use vanilla have it in there like background vocals, when the El Rustico goes on stage the chocolate and vanilla are singing a strong, well-balanced duet with full flavor, good balance, and a nice long finish. Sounds like a good recipe for living life now that I think about it. Buy a bar. Eat a square. Appreciate the work that Shawn and his staff in Missouri have made happen.

This post is part of a series of Ari’s Best Foods of 2011.