I don’t do commercial work very often, but when I do, I choose them well! Who doesn’t want to go behind the scenes with a chocolatier? Haven’t we all been dreaming about this opportunity since we first saw Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and envisioned ourselves swimming in a chocolate river (but NOT getting sucked up into the tube)? Sadly, there was no chocolate river at Black Star Chocolates, or edible wallpaper, or strange orange miniature slaves, but there was a LOT of chocolate, and I got to eat plenty of it!
I came to know Andrew and Jennifer at a local coffee shop (apparently how I meet most people I know). When we first met, the company had not been officially launched and Drew regularly brought in chocolate prototypes for our review. Listen, these chocolates are amazing. I don’t even really like chocolate, I mean, I can get down with some chocolate cake or a brownie, but I’m not so into chocolate candy. I make an exception for these chocolates. One of the best things I like about them is that they are little, they aren’t huge wads of overly-sweet candy that you have to shove in your mouth and spend the next thirty seconds chewing. No, you can keep popping these delicious morsels in until all of the sudden you have eaten 15 of them. Perfect. They come in shameless-salivation-inducing flavors like basil lemon, salted caramel, chai, grapefruit, lavender, jasmine, and a million more. It’s been a while since I sampled these guys; the last beta-phase creation I tasted was a mint cherry cordial with homemade brandy-soaked cherries. You read correctly. It blew my mind. I think the brilliance of these chocolates is that the flavors don’t sucker-punch you in palette. Their subtle, yet notable flavor comes from a meticulous selection of all natural ingredients; they downright laugh in the face overly-concentrated artificial flavors. If you are anything like me, you take this to mean they are pretty much a health snack, like candied bacon, and anything made with real butter (no matter how much.) If you could pick chocolates in a chocolate field like that one short cartoon from when we were young where the kids have a dream that they walk through their mirror into a land of earth-grown sugary edibles, these would be the chocolates sprouting from the ground, trees, and raining from the sky. And on a side-note, lets not pretend whoever wrote and illustrated that cartoon wasn’t on a cocktail of drugs. And lets also not pretend we aren’t interested in finding out who his dealer is. Just kidding. Kinda. But I digress. Moving on, Andrew is an INCREDIBLE chef. For a while there a group of friends and I would get together at Andrew’s house once or twice a week to drink wine, listen to music, and eat fancy creations from the Silver Spoon cookbook, which he was trying to cook his way through. Sometimes the dessert was chocolate, sometimes it was grilled doughnuts with ice cream and such. Most recently it was plum cake in a cream sauce. Every time it was the gift of getting fatter, but it feels so right at the time, right? Right.
Each little individual chocolate is made with love by hand. Cooked, dipped, decorated, packaged, and every other step in the process, completely by the careful hands of Jennifer and Andrew. I had no idea how temperamental chocolate is. Chocolate, apparently, has an attitude. It’s like that one vegan pal you begrudgingly invite to a steakhouse dinner with friends so as not to make them feel left out. Everyone wishes they would just be more cooperative. The temperature of chocolate during the cooking phase has to be kept so specific that a rise or fall of just a few degrees could alter the batch. A drop or two of water could change the whole texture. Humidity, ambient temperature, all of these things matter gravely. I did a brief stint at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory over Valentines Day weekend, dipping strawberries and making the caramel apples, and let me tell you, the difference between mass marketed chocolate and REAL chocolate is so intense that I feel they should have different names, where Black Star chocolate can stay “chocolate” and grocery story/mall chocolate can be called “mockolate” (anyone get the reference? Internet hi- five if you do). Their awesome work is not going unnoticed, either. In their opening year the Westword wrote a big feature about them, the opening line of which was “Andrew Starr is a choc-tease.” Epic. And factual. And the awards keep coming; not only did their Saffron Rose Cream chocolate win both Grand Champion and Best Non-Traditional Truffle at the 2012 Colorado Chocolate Festival, they obtained Westword’s “Denver’s Best Chocolate” recognition for 2013. The 2012 Holiday Chocolate Festival awarded their Pear Cinnamon Chocolate third place for “Best Non-Traditional Truffle,” following their first place win the previous year for their Pomegranate Raspberry Rose truffle. My personal favorite is the Basil Lemon, and I’m not alone, it too won first place in 2011’s Colorado Chocolate Festival for “Best Non-Traditional Truffle.” Their Lemongrass Kaffir Lime Coconut (whaaaat?!!) has also taken home the esteemed award. So….I pretty much know famous people. Check out my journey into every child’s (and honest adult’s) wildest dreams, and when you’re done, go buy some Black Star chocolate:
What we have here is the beginnings of a pomegranate-raspberry-rose truffle. Don’t worry, worriers, that spray is edible:
Look at these happy chocolate masters. With a job like this, who wouldn’t smile?!
The makings of a caramel:
At the end of the day, you have a box full of hand made, one by one, delicious chocolates. The process isn’t the fastest, but you can taste the quality and the love going into these little guys. Hey-what an excellent gift idea, eh?! If you missed it last time, take the hint and go buy them here.