08 Apr Please The Palate Pick of the Week: VOLO Chocolate
What I really love in the afternoon when I need a pick-me-up, or in the evening when I crave something sweet, is a delicious piece of dark chocolate. I love the richness with a touch of sweetness, matched by bitterness. On a visit to Sonoma recently, I was introduced to VOLO Chocolate and fell in love. Volo Chocolate is one of the best chocolates I have ever had and I brought a few bars home with me. And this week, VOLO Chocolate from Healdsburg is the Please The Palate pick of the week.
VOLO Chocolate is owned by chefs Susan and Jeff Mall. Susan and Jeff owned popular Healdsburg restaurant ZIN which they sold in 2014. They moved to Mexico where they were working as Executive Chefs at a small beach resort at the Southern tip of Baja California. It was in Mexico where they fell in love with Mexican chocolate. Jeff wondered, “how hard is it to make chocolate?” and they began experimenting. As they learned, they created their own chocolate recipe with a Mexican influence.
After a year in Mexico, they returned to California. They brought some of their bars to a party and it got picked up by the press who wrote about them. And from there, VOLO Chocolate was born.
VOLO Chocolate is “bean to bar”. To begin with, terroir is important. They work with Uncommon Cacao, who operate their business with Transparent Trade, to source ultra-premium grade organic beans. They source their cocoa beans from the Lachua region from farmers’ associations of growers in Guatemala and from another farmers’ association in Haiti. The cacao from Guatemala has flavors that are bright and fruity and was closest in taste, flavor, and nuance to the beans they enjoyed in Mexico. The cacao from Haiti has less acidity and notes of roasted coffee and toasted nuts. The cacao is harvested, fermented, and dried and then shipped in large burlap bags to the U.S.
Once Susan and Jeff have the cacao, they do everything else, beginning with roasting and ending with the packaging. They are sustainable and transparent and all ingredients are ethically sourced. The ingredients they use are organic, from the organic cocoa beans to the organic raw sugar and organic cocoa butter. And, they use cinnamon and sea salt in all of the chocolates to enrich the flavor, balance the sweetness, and cut some of the bitterness.
VOLO Chocolate offers 9 different chocolate bars.
- 73% DEEP DARK CHOCOLATE
- 73% CHOCOLATE ORANGE dark chocolate+ candied orange peel
- 70% Dark Chocolate Meyer Lemon & Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 62% DARK MILK CHOCOLATE with brown butter + caramelized milk
- 62% DARK MILK CHOCOLATE olive oil + roasted almonds
- 62% DARK MILK CHOCOLATE figs + hazelnuts
- 65% CHOCOLATE MOCHA WOLF coffee + cream
- 70% DARK CREAM CHOCOLATE CARAMEL CRUNCH salted toffee + cream
- 70% DARK CREAM CHOCOLATE MexiCali chiles + dried cherries
The Dark Milk Chocolate is made with caramelized milk and brown butter and the Dark Cream Chocolates have a little cream added to them.
Each chocolate bar is creamy, smooth, and rich and the flavors are pure. The 73% CHOCOLATE ORANGE dark chocolate+ candied orange peel has acidity with cherry notes and the candied orange adds a sweet and sour note. The 62% DARK MILK CHOCOLATE figs + hazelnuts has earthy flavors with some honey-raisin sweetness from the dried figs. The 62% DARK MILK CHOCOLATE with brown butter + caramelized milk is rich and creamy with a depth of flavor and the olive oil roasted almonds add complexity. The 70% DARK CREAM CHOCOLATE CARAMEL CRUNCH salted toffee + cream has coffee and caramel notes and a light crunch from the toffee. And the 65% CHOCOLATE MOCHA WOLF coffee + cream is a creamy, rich chocolate with lovely coffee notes.
VOLO Chocolate also offers Chocolate Salted Caramels and Bricka Peanut Butter Crunch covered in 73% Deep Dark Chocolate, as well as Solid 62% Dark Milk Chocolate Bunny.
In addition, each chocolate bar is wrapped horizontally in a cellulose film that is fully compostable and then placed in an eye-catching outer envelope. Each package showcases a photograph of quilts made by renowned textile artist Cathy Shanahan, who is also Jeff’s Aunt!
Susan and Jeff are lovely people who produce an ethically sourced, sustainably-minded delicious product. I loved everything about VOLO Chocolate. I know that I will be picking up more chocolates on my next trip up to Sonoma but if I cannot wait until then, I will be placing an order online!