Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Will You Be My Eco-Chocolate Valentine?

For fans of chocolate, this approaching Valentine’s Day offers an ideal excuse to purchase a seasonal box of chocolates or to savor something special made with chocolate, that magical elixir the Aztecs prized as much as gold.

But chocolate might prompt heartburn if a person knew the damage it can do to the environment and how workers—including children—are often exploited in its production. In addition to promoting deforestation, commercial chocolate production often involves the use of pesticides, this in one of the world’s most life-abundant and diverse regions. Of course, using pesticides harms much of that life, causing considerable damage.

Maybe we don’t get warm and fuzzy feelings about saving all the creeping, flying and crawling bugs that abound in warm places, but if we thought about all the animals that rely on them for food, such as neon colored birds, monkeys, or even the aardvark, we might opt for organic or sustainably-grown chocolate.

Thankfully, as with so many food products these days, there are plenty of small-scale and artisan producers creating culinary works of art that offer a tantalizing array of flavors and combinations, while ensuring that workers and the earth aren’t exploited.

Herewith a sampling of earth-friendly edible gems that will warm your, er, heart:

Perhaps the greenest chocolate company in the States, haute chocolate creator Vosges, with boutiques in Chicago, New York and Las Vegas, uses 100% renewable energy—and that’s just for starters. From earth-friendly packaging to green shipping, the company takes seriously its commitment to the environment—and that’s even before it’s fired up the stove and begun crafting its prized confections.

It’s not everywhere a chocolate-hound can find organic peanut butter bonbons or Italian-inspired chocolates mixed with taleggio cheese or fennel pollen. To view the Vosges green policy, click here. Better yet, whether whimsical, hyper-creative creations for the new millennium or more traditional fare, click here to actually order the delectable stuff.

North of the Second City, Madison, Wisconsin, surrounded by scads of organic farms, boasts exalted chocolatier Gail Ambrosius and her luscious creations, including a dark chocolate salted caramel, raspberry truffle, and rose truffle, all featured at Chicago’s Eno, a wine, cheese and chocolate bar.

Ambrosius just returned from a trip to Costa Rica where she visited a 100% organic, fair trade chocolate farm. After tasting the chocolate, which possessed a fetching fruitiness, the confectioner brought back as much of the stuff as she could carry. And talk about your fresh: her latest batch was literally on the tree a week before she brought it home.

Acclaimed Terry’s Toffee protects the environment by offering Valentine’s toffee in beautiful, eminently reusable lacquer and fetching, sturdy hat-boxes. Handcrafted using traditional methods and quality ingredients, this delectable, buttery treat has been a favorite at the Academy Awards.

For those preferring their chocolate in liquid form, BREADBAR in Los Angeles offers a bowl of steamed hot organic chocolate, made using Master Chocolatier Patricia Tsai’s organic, single-estate cocoa beans. A second, seasonal enticement offers several slices of Cocoa Goji Berry Bread, Organic Hot Chocolate and a Chocolate spread.

A bit further north, San Luis Obispo’s Sweet Earth Chocolates views the environment and chocolate-making in much the same way as Vosges. The company provides ammunition for would-be cupids by offering a Vegan Heart Box containing chocolate hearts with peanut butter, vanilla caramel and chocolate caramel centers. Traditional heart-shaped boxes and a variety of other Valentine creations fly out of the fragrant kitchens of this ├╝ber Earth-friendly company.

Finally, for those fortunate enough to live in New York City, Spoon’s decadent chocolate cake can be personalized and delivered to your Valentine’s Gotham City lair. Click here to see Spoon’s chocolate cake.
 

About Me

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I write about food, travel & dining, as well as related topics. My first novel, The Gods of Venice, can be found on BarnesAndNoble.com & nearly everywhere else. My second novel, The Last American Buffalo, is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter or become a fan of The Gods of Venice on Facebook.

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Alan J. Shannon Copyright © 2010