Before anyone even tasted it, there was considerable buzz surrounding the release of the limited edition Good & Evil chocolate bar this fall from Christopher Curtin’s Éclat Chocolate. Much of this was because Curtin’s two partners in the project were globetrotting culinary TV star Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert, owner of the renowned Le Bernardin in New York City. (The chocolate represents the “good” in food loved by Ripert, while bad-boy Bourdain embraces the “evil” of the nibs.)
But there was also buzz surrounding the price tag, which stunned many in the media: $18 for 2.6 ounces. $18?! For a chocolate bar? Even the well-heeled patrons of Ripert’s Le Bernadin had to have some sticker shock. After all, few, if any, bars on the market – even the fine flavor ones some of them might know — matched that price. Everyone from Time to the Philadelphia Enquirer to Eater.com posed some version of this question: Was this a case of marketing and paying for the names on the bar more than quality, craftsmanship, and flavor?
Those of us in the FCIA and at the HCP already knew the answer that the media soon arrived at too: Like the finest bottles of wine, this bar was worth it.
In this case the 72% cacao in Good & Evil came from some Pure Nacional cacao from Peru, a bean once thought to be extinct until re-discovered by one of the HCP founders, Dan Pearson. His story has been told before but to refresh your memory: In 2009, the USDA-ARS tested a sample of the pure white beans that Dan and his partner, Brian Horsley, had stumbled upon on the Fortunato Farm in the Marañón Canyon of Peru. Dr. Lyndel Meinhardt compared them to the existing genetic database and confirmed that the beans were Pure Nacional cacaoundefineda variety thought to have disappeared in 1919.
In January 2011, a New York Times food writer tasted Marañón’s chocolate and started writing a great review when she became as interested in his discovery as the chocolate. The result was the first national newspaper story to link flavor and genetics for consumers. Lyndel was quoted in the article explaining how Marañón’s white beans were genetic mutations that happen when trees are left undisturbed for hundreds of years. In April 2012, Ripert and Curtin traveled to the Marañón Canyon and hand-selected the best beans for the Good & Evil bar — no small feat that required two plane rides, some rough roads, and a car accident involving a local dog to make it to where the beans are grown and hand sorted….
That’s how the story of Good & Evil begins and continues on the bar’s wrapper and in videos with Bourdain and Ripert. For those of us in the fine flavor world, it is a familiar tale. But with Ripert and Bourdain telling it, the hope is not just that this bar will sell but that it will help sell more fine flavor bars to consumers willing to pay the price and are pay attention to something they just do not think about all that often: Chocolate grows on trees.
“We” in the FCIA all know we must savor the amazing cacaos we have and try to appreciate how precious they are, how very labor intensive it all is, and how difficult it is to make money for the farmer and even ourselves. We need more people to say, “This is worth it,” especially when the beans are such high quality and have been processed beautifully and fairly compensate the people responsible for growing and handling those beans long before the chocolate making begins. If Ripert and Bourdain’s celebrity enhances the star power of those beans and helps this happen for farmers, great!
Cheap chocolate should be an oxymoron for ALL creations from candy to Criollo, but most consumers flinch at expensive fine chocolate (even those that do not flinch at expensive fine wine). They think of it as candy. They do not see all the work being done from the ground up. Bars like Good & Evil help immensely in this regard. We need people to support the fine chocolate industry and vote with their taste buds. We don’t just want them to pay more — we want them to see the value in supporting artisan and traditional chocolate makers as they find new and direct ways to work with the farmers to make growing and manufacturing fine flavor cacao a financial success.
This is one of the goals of Good & Evil and the HCP.