Belú Cacao: [video] the sweet side of El Salvador

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Bite-sized sunshine: Belú Cacao minis!

When you hear “El Salvador,” what do you think? If you take a look at this wonderful new 1-minute-23-second video from Belú Cacao of El Salvador, on which I was thrilled to do a bit of remote behind-the-scenes consulting, you might think “gorgeous, clean, nature, cacao, chocolate, women in business!”

Belú Cacao is a woman-owned craft chocolate company, and I am thrilled to work with amazing founder Emily de Urías in getting her bars ready for and now successful in the US market! Her chocolate of course meets my 5 Ss of first-class craft chocolate, in that it is

Should we revive the Chocolate Travel Club and visit El Salvador?

 

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I’ve arranged the 3 sizes: “skinny,” full, and mini!
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The chocolate is made from cacao and sugar — all you need! The ingredients are grown in El Salvador, and the chocolate is made in El Salvador; the in-country trend in craft chocolate is very exciting. Click for a video about this special brand made in a beautiful place.

By the way, the business is called Belú because that is founder Emily’s young daughter’s nickname. Emily’s husband Carlos is super supportive of the business, and they are a fabulous family, using their education and professionalism to boost their community and nation and our world. (In case you’re wondering, Emily speaks perfect English, as my Spanish is known to be awful, especially as it gets tangled up with my French, German, and bad Italian!)

Find Belú products at US retailers including:

Avondale Coffee Club, Chicago

Foodease Market, Chicago

Rare Bird Preserves, Oak Park

Spilt Milk Market, Chicago

Totto’s Market, Chicago

Yahara Chocolate, Stoughton, WI

You can often find the brand’s cacao nibs on my grapefruit; I add them to my breakfast for their nutty flavor and healthy deliciousness!

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Enjoy the video!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

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Here I am with Belú Cacao founder Emily de Urías and her husband Carlos, in Chicago

Valerie Beck

Chocolate Uplift

Craft Chocolate Talks, Tastings, Distribution, Consulting

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

 

 

Sweet NYC: Heavenly Chocolate in Hell’s Kitchen and Beyond

by Valerie Beck, Chocolate Expert

View from Ink48, looking out over Hell's Kitchen toward Times Square
New York by night: view from the roofdeck at Ink48, looking out over Hell’s Kitchen toward Times Square.

My most recent trip to New York City – which I think of as not the Big Apple but the Big Truffle because of the abundance of chocolate deliciousness – was quick but scrumptious.

I was in town for the annual Fancy Food Show this summer (click here for my blog post on the 3 main trends I tracked there!), and in between Show visits, I took the opportunity to visit some of my favorite chocolate spots and other venues, while also scouting some new ones.

Since my time on this short trip was quite limited, I focused mainly on Manhattan’s much-transformed Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, one of my favorites in NYC, because its central location west of the Theatre District and Times Square, and along the Hudson River, makes it easy to get downtown or uptown; it’s filled with wonderful bakeries and restaurants; and the Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center is within walking distance.This once-gritty neighborhood was the setting of the original Law & Order TV shows (that sound effect!). Today the neighborhood is part “gayborhood,” part chocolate and pastry paradise, and all delight.

Scroll for the deliciousness!

It's not a visit to NYC without a classic black-and-white cookie. My favorites are at Amy's Bread.
It’s not a visit to NYC without a classic black-and-white cookie. My favorites are at Amy’s Bread; her Hell’s Kitchen bakery is her original location of three.
Accidentally photobombed Sullivan Street Bakery owner/chef Jim Fahey when he was being taped for a French-Canadian tv show. His bomboloni are just so good. Afterward we had a good chat about cocoa nibs!
I accidentally photobombed Sullivan Street Bakery chef/owner/star Jim Lahey while he was being taped for a French-Canadian tv show. His bomboloni / Italian doughnuts are just so good; I have a chocolate one for breakfast every day I’m in the neighborhood. After he finished taping, we had a good chat about cocoa nibs.
You might say I “hailed a cookie” at Donna Bell’s Bake Shop, a Southern-inspired bakery co-owned by NCIS actress Pauley Perrette and named after her late mother. Actually I snapped this photo around the corner from the bakery, against a taxi-themed window, while a little cluster of (other) tourists gathered to watch!

From Hell’s Kitchen, I started heading uptown:

Had a blast at the Gap x Big Gay Ice Cream collaboration at the clothing brand's Fifth Avenue flagship store. It was a hot day, so I ate that delicious ice cream sandwich fast. What happened to my new collab tshirt, shown here as the background? Click to find out!
Had a blast at the Gap x Big Gay Ice Cream collaboration at the clothing brand’s Fifth Avenue flagship store. It was a hot day, so I ate that delicious ice cream sandwich fast. What happened to my new collab tshirt, shown here as the background, after I returned to Chicago? Click to find out!
Enjoyed a bite or two of new in-development Dutch brand Johnny Doodle Chocolate, which a Dutch executive brought to the Fancy Food Show for me, while planning my visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
While planning my visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I enjoyed a bite or two of delicious new in-development Dutch brand Johnny Doodle Chocolate – this was the fudge brownie flavor – which a company executive was kind enough to bring from The Netherlands to the NYC Fancy Food Show for me to try, since we were both in town.
Across from the Met. I walked to the Upper East Side from Hell's Kitchen, and took an Uber back!
The Upper East Side, near the Met Museum. I walked the 2.5 miles to the UES from Hell’s Kitchen, and took an Uber back.

Can’t get enough New York? Same here! Click for my previous posts on Sweet Soho, and 3 Chocolatey NYC Neighborhoods.

Secret community garden, Hell's Kitchen. See you next time, NYC!
Secret community garden, Hell’s Kitchen.
Sweet souvenir: this extremely chocolatey croissant from Sullivan Street Bakery sneaked home with me.
Sweet souvenir: this extremely chocolatey croissant from Sullivan Street Bakery sneaked home with me.

“Keep eating real chocolate!”

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck, The Chocolate Queen

CEO/Founder Chocolate Uplift

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

Instagram: @chocolateuplift

Sweet NYC: Fancy Food Show

by Valerie Beck, Chocolate Expert and Chocolate Broker

Fresh new business cards from moo arrived just in time
Fresh new business cards from moo arrived just in time for my trip to the Fancy Food Show.

New York City – the “Big Apple” – turns into what I call the “Big Truffle” every summer during the Fancy Food Show. Chefs, brands, and chocolate makers from across the country and around the world set up displays, so that retailers, the media, and brokers can come see and sample what’s new.

As a chocolate consultant and broker, who never misses a chance to visit friends, clients, and my favorite shops and museums in NYC, the Fancy Food Show is a joy every year.

Good morning, NYC and Freedom Tower, from the Queensboro Bridge
Good morning, NYC and Freedom Tower, from the Queensboro Bridge.

The trends I focused on at the Show this year were craft chocolate (small-batch chocolate made from fair trade or direct trade cacao), fine chocolate (made with premium ingredients for chefs and consumers), and fine pastry and dessert (made with premium ingredients).

While in NYC I also received a special delivery of a new Dutch chocolate brand not yet sold in the States, attended a mini college reunion for classmates who live in or near New York or who like me were traveling there, and did some chocolate scouting (click here for the separate blog post on the heavenly chocolate and pastry I scouted) – scroll on for Fancy Food Show deliciousness!

Starting with standouts in craft chocolate:

One of the best chocolate bars I have tasted in some time: Madagascar by Willie's Cacao
One of the absolute best chocolate bars I have tasted in some time: Madagascar by Willie’s Cacao of England. Exquisitely smooth, pure, flavorful craft chocolate, with a fruity zing.
Raw craft chocolate by Raaka, Belize origin, aged in bourbon casks, for a rich and appealing intensity
Raw organic craft chocolate by Raaka of Brooklyn, Belize origin, aged in bourbon casks, for a rich and appealing intensity.
Blue Bandana craft chocolate, part of Lake Champlain Chocolate
Blue Bandana craft chocolate, a promising new brand that is part of Lake Champlain Chocolates of Vermont.

Some favorites in the fine chocolate category, also organic of course:

Having fun with Pacari founder Santiago Peralta and Team Pacari
Having fun with Pacari founder Santiago Peralta and Team Pacari, who came all the way from enchanting Ecuador with some enchanting new flavors such as rose chocolate, and my favorite lemongrass chocolate!
Made in Switzerland, finished in Brooklyn, organic and accessible Milkboy Chocolate
Made in Switzerland, finished in Brooklyn, organic and accessible Milkboy Chocolate.

Some fine pastry and dessert hits:

Loved the vegan chocolate gelato and more by star chef Nancy at Nancy's Fancy
Loved the ultra-premium vegan chocolate gelato and more by James Beard award-winning chef Nancy Silverton of Nancy’s Fancy.
The new macaron kits from Dana's Bakery grabbed a lot of fun attention.
The new macaron kits from Dana’s Bakery grabbed a lot of fun attention.
In my
In my “not chocolate but still delicious” category: Liege waffles by newcomer The Belgian Kitchen. #dipitinchocolate
Always love tasting what's new from Grey Ghost Bakery.
I always love tasting what’s new from Grey Ghost Bakery, and was delighted to experience some spiciness in the new Chocolate Cayenne cookie. #aztecrevivalism
Creative cookie-mix-in-a-jar by Sisters Gourmet
Creative cookie-mix-in-a-jar by Sisters Gourmet.

I love placing great artisan brands into great upscale stores, and am already looking forward to the next Fancy Food Show.

“Keep eating real chocolate!”

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Met up with my college reunion class for a New York mini reunion while in town, wearing my very first baseball cap ever, which I purchased a month earlier at our full reunion on campus!
I met up with my Harvard College reunion class for a New York mini reunion while in town, wearing my very first baseball cap ever, which I purchased a month earlier at our full reunion on campus. We had a blast, and one classmate had a way of snapping fun semi-candids!
I sampled this secret new in-development Dutch brand to my mini reunion gathering, which I had just received from a brand executive who brought it to me at the Show from The Netherlands. Everyone loved the milk chocolate with speculoos (waffle cookie), with one taste tester/classmate proclaiming that it tasted like an upscale twix bar!
I sampled this tasty new in-development Dutch brand Johnny Doodle – organic, of course – to my mini reunion gathering, which I had just received from a brand executive who brought it to me at the Show in NYC from The Netherlands. Everyone loved the milk chocolate with speculoos (waffle cookie), with one taste tester/classmate proclaiming that it tasted like an upscale twix bar!

Valerie Beck, The Chocolate Queen

CEO/Founder Chocolate Uplift

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

Instagram: @chocolateuplift

Chocolatasm: Light Touch, Strong Success

by Valerie Beck, Chocolate Expert and Chocolate Broker

Artisan chocolate by Chocolatasm
Artisan chocolate by Chocolatasm

As soon as I saw the chocolates by Chocolatasm on Instagram, I knew they were something special. When I tasted them, I was impressed with their exquisite subtlety and delicate yet impactful flavor combinations. And when I spoke with the chocolatier behind the brand, I knew he was a true professional.

Sweet innovation
Sweet innovation

Chef/chocolatier Paul Kearins was born in London, worked as a pastry chef and chocolatier in Amsterdam, and now lives and creates in Blue Ridge, Georgia.

When I asked him how he develops his unique flavor combinations such as white chocolate with lime and muscovado sugar, or milk chocolate with honey and blueberries, or dark chocolate with lemon and Ethopian coffee, he told me that ever since childhood he’s had the ability to remember smells and to combine them in his mind with other smells.

His olfactory creativity plus his skills as a professional chef and chocolatier come together magnificently in his brand Chocolatasm.

Light touch, big impact
Light touch, big impact

To taste Chef Paul’s delicious creations is to experience a gentle and pure poetry of chocolate and other flavors. His chocolate doesn’t overwhelm, it delights. Chocolatasm is available at beloved upscale lunch spot and market Foodease inside Chicago’s Water Tower Place (a popular Chicago Chocolate Tours spot back when I operated the original Chocolate Tours as founder/CEO), and I’m thrilled to have brokered the relationship between such a special brand of artisan chocolate, and such a fabulous seller of artisan foods.

On the shelf at Foodease in Chicago
On the shelf at Foodease in Chicago
Before they got to the shelf at Foodease: in the kitchen at Chocolatasm
Before they got to the shelf at Foodease: in the kitchen at Chocolatasm
Valentine's Day every day
Valentine’s Day every day

For a peek behind the scenes, enjoy this Chocolatasm video.

Keep eating chocolate!

Come see me on Instagram too! Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck, The Chocolate Queen

CEO/Founder Chocolate Uplift

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

Social media: @chocolateuplift