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With the release of Tim Burton’s remake of the movie classic “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” chocomania has hit an all time high. Sumptuous images of chocolate palaces and waterfalls sprinkled throughout the film have sent millions’ taste buds into overdrive. Adults and children alike have a new found excuse (as if they needed any) to indulge in the chocolaty goodness of cocoa. But chocolate is hardly a new comer on the delectable delicacy scene. The discovery of this treat’s luscious decadence dates back 2000 years. The ancient peoples of Mesoamerica, like the Aztecs and Maya, mixed ground cocoa beans with chili peppers, cornmeal, and other ingredients to concoct a spicy froth. They regarded this luxurious beverage as a sacred brew and indulged in its ecstasy during royal and religious events. To them chocolate was holy, blessed, and divine.

The conquest of Mexico in 1521 facilitated the Spaniards’ first contact with chocolate. Soon after their big win against Mochtezuma (the last king of Tenochtitlan), the colonizers recognized the central role the cacao seed played in the new world and decided to ship the scrumptious treasure back to the old continent. Surprisingly, for a hundred years the Spanish elite managed to keep the mouth-watering secret straight from the Americas hidden from others. But once the rest of Europe discovered what they had been missing, coco addiction spread like wildfire.

Initially, only the insanely rich could afford to indulge in the cocoa-licious extravagance of chocolate. In Fact, the French kept the delicious treat under state monopoly, decreeing that only members of the royal court could enjoy it. At the time, the love of chocolate among the French was so intense that in 1962 Dr. Bachot wrote, “So noble a confection, more than nectar and ambrosia, the true foods of the gods”. Today, the French no longer have the ability to hoard the sweet bliss of cacao from the masses, but they remain devoted connoisseurs, even awarding the Ordre du Merite Agricole Medal of Honor to those who create the best chocolates.

The advent of technology has made chocolate available to masses. By the same token the proliferation of affordable chocolate candy set off nostalgia for the handmade exquisiteness of old school delights. Now, while one can pick up a Hershey bar for $2.50 at the corner grocery store (or even gas station) she or he can also find costly, yet unique, alternatives in high-end stores. This new breed of chocolates, aptly named Haut Chocolat, is hand crafted from the finest quality ingredients by master chocolatiers. Each one of these creations is a palatable piece of art. Combining time honored traditions with exotic ingredients and world inspirations, new-age chocolates put a new twist on an all time favorite.

The Vosges truffles influenced by an ‘East meets West’ theme are infused with revolutionary aromas like Indian curry, Japanese ginger and wasabi. For example, a popular selection from the Vosges collection named the “Absinthe” is inspired by the infamous French cocktail. Made from the finest dark chocolate, infused with fennel, a splash of Pastis and a smidgen of Chinese star anise, this delicacy is an inspired reinvention of chocolate.

Similarly, the heavenly ganaches handmade by La Maison du Chocolat are expressly formulated to “allow each vintage cocoa bean to express itself freely”. ‘House’ specialties like caramelized butter mousse, raspberry pulp, and citrus fruit ganaches simply melt in the mouth after igniting an explosion of flavor.

Finally, it is imperative to note that with the help of imagination and creativity chocolate has long transcended the confines of a mere food product. These days, master designers team up with confectionary experts to produce the best piece of CacaoCouture for the annual Chocolate Show in New York. Fashioned with a stunning attention to detail, these creations mimic Couture clothes with one difference--they taste heavenly. It is hard to think of a better example of having your cake and eating it too. First wear, and then indulge.




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