In the 1600s, cocoa paste arrived in Italy, and chefs did some pretty strange stuff with it. The fashion in the fashion-forward country was for ever-more fanciful – and foolish – chocolate cooking, ranging from using it as a coating for liver to popping it into polenta. Indeed, calamitous cocoa creations became so commonplace that poet Franceso Arisi was driven to pen some scornful stanzas in ‘Il Cioccolato’.
Thankfully, the times they have a’changed. Chocolate has retained its popularity, but is now recognised as excellent eating in its own right rather than merely a key ingredient in rather ridiculous preparations. Although, arguably, chocolate maker Domori has retained that ingrained Italian ingenuity when it comes to innovation – evidenced in the flavours forming the brand’s D.Fusion collection.
Ever-evolving D.Fusion fusions might include buttery white chocolate and piquant, treacly licorice, or fruity Teyuna chocolate and chilli pepper. ‘Javagrey’ is somewhat subtler, pairing products from markedly different destinations – the smoky-hot cocoa of Java and milk from Tirol cows of the cool-climate Alps.
But sometimes something simpler is in order, in order to simply savour the cocoa’s own character. And, on those occasions, Domori does not disappoint. Self-titled ‘servant to chocolate’ Gianluca Franzoni is obsessed not only with the beautiful brown stuff, but also with the preservation of the fine Criollo cocoas he came across in Venezuela. The passion that place planted in him led to the purchase of a plantation – Domori’s Hacienda San José.
It might yield some very lovely chocolate, but the Hacienda has more to offer – including acting as a centre for ongoing work into ensuring and furthering the recovery of Criollo cocoa biodiversity. You’d be spot-on to say that biting into a bar of Criollo chocolate is ‘a rare treat’ – the cocoa accounts for just 0.001% of global production.
Whilst I don’t wish to make a proper production of it, Domori’s Criollo chocolate is well-worth making a rather raucous song and dance over. The purity of each strain produces fine, fulsome flavours that announce themselves with crystal clarity and won’t be easily silenced. It’s not unusual to still be savouring the flavours long after the last morsel has melted in your mouth.
Put simply, Domori’s Criollo chocolate doesn’t half pack a punch. But that iron fist is slipped inside a velvet glove, delicately caressing your senses even as it smacks you in the chops.
Guasare Criollo 70%
Domori describes this as ‘the Mother of all Criollos’, and I’d be inclined to agree. It’s a beauty that’s full of woody, fruity flavour – specifically, sun-dried fruit made mellifluous with honey and dashed with cream. It may strike you as silly and simplistic to say that it tastes intensely of chocolate – but that clear cocoa clarity is as rare as the Criollo itself.
Canoabo Criollo 70%
Starts slowly, builds, and just won’t bugger off. Not that you’d wish it to, of course. There’s a little more grip, but the light tannin compliments the Morello cherry and rounded nutty flavours that roll around the mouth, much in the manner of the skin of an almond. To my mind, Canoabo has a plummy accent – and not just because it’s a posh choc.
Il 100% Criollo
100% chocolate can be cracking, or a car crash. No prizes for guessing which category Domori’s falls into. A key characteristic of Criollo is low levels of acidity, which will always make for an mellow eating experience. The melt is smooth; the flavours bold, yet nuanced. Only a subtle palate-coating pasting quality and a drying finish indicate that Il is chocolate in its purest form.
The second Il incarnation is a balanced, blended bar, with a rounder flavour profile and a softer, sweeter character. The melt is super-silky, the impression far creamier than you’d ever expect from 100% chocolate. The flavours are fine, if flatter than Il’s Criollo counterpart- but little matter when it offers such a pleasant, approachable introduction to the genre.
- To read about more fine 100% chocolate, click here.
- To read a mega-guide to over 50 high-cocoa chocolate bars, click here.