Yesterday, my family and I went on the Chocolate Decadence Tour, one of many tour offerings from Portland Walking Tours. It was a gorgeous experience, as you might imagine, so I thought I’d give you a little peek. If I could beam all these treats directly to you with my mind, I’d do that, too.
This is an educational tour as well as an eating-of-the-chocolate tour. We learned about chocolate’s origins in the cacao nut, how it’s grown, harvested, dried, roasted and groud. In Mom’s and my hands here are cacao nibs, which are the roasted, ground nuts. They’re chocolatey, but not sweet. They’re actually very tasty, though not a flavor everyone bonds with, perhaps. I’d put them in a sweet cookie recipe, or use them in a mole sauce.
We started with some drinking chocolate from Cacao, which was so thick and rich and knock-your-socks-off chocolatey, I completely forgot to photograph it. I even had a dream about it last night.
Then, we visited Benessere, which sells all kinds of balsamic vinegars and oils. Up above there is a little bit of dark chocolate balsamic vinegar with a little swirl of walnut oil. It’s a heady experience – kind of like a combination of wine and brownies. We also had a little of this vinegar swirled with a blood orange-infused oil. Oh, lordy.
By then, of course, it was time to eat some candy, and we had some lovely samples at Moonstruck, which is a local institution. They make beautiful chocolates of all kinds. This is a sea salt caramel, and we also had some dark chocolate bark with dried blueberries and apricots in it.
We went from locally-made chocolates to Swiss ones by visiting Teuscher, where we had one of their signature Dom Perignon truffles and a little layered hazelnut-paste confection.
…By this point in the tour, I should add, you are feeling intensely happy and thankful to reside in your own life on this planet earth. Our excellent guide, Sarah, explained that this isn’t because chocolate contains a lot of caffeine. Instead, it contains a compound called theobromine, which gives you far more sustained energy than caffeine. Yes, please.
We journeyed from Swiss chocolate to Belgian then, and hit Leonidas for a dark chocolate truffle and a coffee buttercream truffle robed in white chocolate. Sarah pointed out the differences between Swiss ganache and Belgian, and we discussed whether white chocolate can actually be considered chocolate (yes, when it contains actual cocoa butter).
I should add: you can see Leonidas’ display case in the top photo of this post.
All in all, our group covered about a mile and a half, which used up at least a portion of our calorie intake. You can see our guide Sarah there in the pink backpack. Between stops, she regaled us with details on the emerging artisan chocolate industry, quizzed us on the top five candy bars in the world according to sales, and shared the history of chocolate from its origin as a drink for nobles to bars for the masses.
We stopped off at the Benson hotel for a chocolate/Creme de Menthe martini. That’s cocoa rimming the glass. Delicious in the extreme.
Lastly, we stopped at Cacao‘s main location for a tasting of several single-origin artisanal chocolates. Beans from different parts of the world impart different flavor notes, and any bar can contain a whole range of tastes.
…Although I have to admit to you that I couldn’t participate in the tasting. Since I don’t usually eat sugar, by this point in the tour I realized that I should probably sit down and contemplate proteins instead of tasting more chocolate. Luckily, though, Cacao does tastings all the time, so I’ll go back.
This was a seriously fun way to spend a few hours, and I learned a ton about chocolate. If you’re in town, you can get in on this tour most weekends.