Chocolates El Rey in Stonewall provides a short seminar in the production of chocolate from the bean to the bar with every tasting. The information adds depth to the nuances of the chocolates, and makes it taste even more exotic.
The instruction begins with a cocoa pod, which is the shape of a football and the size of a softball. The discovery of making chocolate from the bitter nibs inside the pod is a gift from the gods.
The company in Stonewall imports El Rey chocolates from Venezuela. Since 1929, the South American manufacturer has worked with individual growers to produce creamy delights with distinct characteristics like a fine wine. Most of their business is to cooks and confectionaries. The rest of us get to savor their decadent wares in the tasting room.
On the tasting room shelves are about 10 different chocolates – dark, milk, and white – at different percentages of cocoa. The candy (it seems disrespectful and a gross understatement to call this chocolate "candy") comes in blocks or bags of discs about the size of a quarter, the perfect snack size.
"The genetics of the trees produces the unique profile of the cocoa beans," says Mary Ellen McKenzie, the tasting room guide. The Venezuelan company identifies its chocolates by the grower, rather than mixing the beans. The result is chocolates with flavors based on their terroir.
Chocolates El Rey is on the eastern edge of Stonewall at the intersection of RR 1623 and Highway 290 in the wine district between Johnson City and Fredericksburg. The tasting room is open Wed.-Fri., 10am-5pm; Sat., 10am-6pm; and Sun., noon-5pm. For more info: 800/357-3999 or www.chocolates-elrey.com.
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