Tell people you're going to a wine or cheese tasting and they might be interested. Tell them you are going to a chocolate tasting and they are downright fascinated!
Ginger Elizabeth is a petite, brunette spitfire of a woman (pictured above with a photo from her own web site at gingerelizabeth.com ) who has a passion for chocolate, and the talent and drive to offer her own superbly crafted artisinal chocolate confections in a highly competetive market. When my pal Garrett from Vanilla Garlic invited a small group of us Sacramento and Davis area food bloggers to a chocolate tasting with Ginger, I was quick to get my name on the list.
I am not one of those people (of which there are legion) who is a fanatic about chocolate. I do enjoy the occasional chocolate extravagance however, and I do have strong opinions on the quality of the chocolate I am eating. Nothing is more disappointing than biting into a piece of chocolate that is waxy, oily or tasteless.
Ginger Elizabeth's chocolates make me understand why people go out of their way to track down The Good Stuff. She works with the finest raw, fresh ingredients using the traditional methods of European chocolatiers, bringing her own keen taste and experience to the party. Her youthful appearance and years belie the amount of actual training and experience she has under her belt-- experience and craft that becomes fully apparent the moment one of her confections begins to melt on your tongue.
Lest you think the chocolate tasting was merely an excuse to sample generously from Ginger's truffles, (which we did), the experience was also educational. Ginger explained where chocolate comes from, how it is cultivated and processed, and the complex chemistry involved to transform cocoa beans into world class chocolate. From mixing and grinding, to tempering and blending and adding fresh fruit and other flavors, Ginger gave us an overview of the combination of science and magic that go into her art.
We ate our way around that little white plate of chocolates, starting with the tiny chocolate nibs--the purest and unrefined essence of chocolate. Often we broke apart the pieces and saved tender morsels in a little plastic bag for later indulgence. This is heady stuff: Dense, creamy, the essence of luscious ganache. The textures were voluptuous, the flavors intense and surprising.
Ginger encouraged us to compare each uniquely crafted bite. After the nibs, we tasted two different "plain" chocolates from manufacturers who used different chocolate beans, so we could begin to discern the differences in the taste due to the "terroir" of the beans themselves (much as one does with coffee beans from different parts of the world). We also tasted a bit of pure cocoa butter, which, while not tasty of itself, gave us a sense of the richness it offers a quality chocolate (as opposed to the insipid taste of oil or wax in the cheap stuff).
Then we moved eagerly to the confections Ginger creates with her own unique blend of these chocolates and flavorings:
First we tasted the traditional European style Palet D'Or, with it's signature glint of gold on it's glossy surface. Found all over Europe, this is the purest essence of a chocolate ganache, without further elaboration wanted. Sublime.
Then we sampled Ginger's signature offerings: First her Meyer Lemon truffle-- her current best seller for good reason. She uses every part of the lemon--the zest, the juice--and it's wonderful-- a lovely twist on the more common chocolate and orange combination that is so popular.
Then my personal favorite (so far)-- her Olmec Spice, which features notes of vanilla, chiles, ginger and cinnamon. Rich, with a seductive burning finish. Spectacular!
The Passion Fruit was the only milk chocolate based truffle we sampled, and it was a little miracle the way the fruit sang through the chocolate in perfect harmony, neither too loud nor too soft.
Some of us donned a hair net so we could inspect the tiny but efficient kitchen where Ginger performs her alchemy. Here's a few snaps:
There are truffles aplenty, sixteen different types alone named in the helpful illustrated guide that comes in each box of chocolates you can buy. I bought a sampler of six truffles to take home to my family for our own little tasting party, and there are sampler boxes available in quantities of six, twelve, twenty-four or forty-eight pieces. Ginger also makes fabulous cakes, bars, and a frozen treat that is sure to be a big hit here in Sacramento when the summer temperatures soar.
Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates is located in mid town Sacramento at 1801 L Street, Suite 60. Stroll on in for a little indulgence or a gift for that special someone. Or visit her web site at gingerelizabeth.com and have decadence delivered to your door.