I placed a huge order with the Guittard chocolate company just a couple of weeks ago. For those of you who aren't terribly familiar with them, Guittard makes amazing chocolate. We've tried several good quality brands of chocolate (all in the interest of science, of course) and Guittard is our favorite. El Rey is also nice.
Anyhow, I'm going to just cut-and-paste from Wikipedia to tell you more about the history of Guittard, because it's very interesting and I couldn't say it better than someone else already did. Forgive me.
"The Guittard Chocolate Company is an American-based chocolate maker which produces high-quality couverture chocolate using original formulas and traditional French methods. The chocolate is produced in syrups, blocks, large chips, and powders for pastry chefs, home cooks, and wholesale customers like See's Candies, Kellogg's and Baskin-Robbins, as well as chocolatiers like Recchiuti Confections and Garrison Confections. The company has been family-owned for more than four generations. Gary Guittard took over as company president and CEO in 1989.
"The company was started by Étienne Guittard, who emigrated from Lyon, France, during the California Gold Rush. In 1868, ten years after the gold rush had ended, Guittard founded the company on Sansome Street on the San Francisco waterfront. Horace C. Guittard, Étienne's grandson, was in charge when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed the city, but the factory survived. In the aftermath of the quake, a new plant was built on Commercial Street, and later Main Street. In 1955, the Embarcadero freeway led the company to relocate to a 75,000-square-foot facility at the corner of Guittard and Rollins road in Burlingame, California, where it remains to this day."
So while they're in Burlingame, California, they have warehouses in a very few select cities across the U.S., including Salt Lake City, which we visited over the Thanksgiving holiday. We extended our stay until Monday so that we could pick up our order at the warehouse and avoid shipping. I highly recommend doing the same thing if you have the opportunity, but the minimum order is 500 lbs. Yes, I said 500 lbs. No, we didn't keep 500 lbs. of chocolate (but it would be nice). I gathered as many chocolate lovers as I could to pull together enough orders to reach the minimum, and then Mark picked it up and helped me divide it up. Some of it - 135 lbs. - stayed in Utah, and the rest we brought back in the back of Mark's pickup, which we drove down specifically for this reason. Below is a picture of the chocolate that returned to Idaho.
Why did we go to all this trouble? Guittard chocolate is amazing. (I already said that, I know.) Oh, and you get a screaming deal if you order chocolate this way. Ridiculous, really.
It's difficult to say how this chocolate is different than others, including Ghirardelli, which we generally like.* While there are clearly differences in cacao levels amongst the chocolate varieties, one thing is clear: their chocolate sources, roasting process, and creative methods are highly successful. Let me briefly discuss three of the chocolates I sampled and tell you what is so lovely about them.
First, the Oro Bittersweet Ribbon, which has a cacao content of 67%. (Cacao content is just a measurement that indicates what percentage of the chocolate is made up of chocolate liquor** and cocoa butter, though it can be in any makeup they wish, like 40% chocolate liquor and 27% cocoa butter, or 30% chocolate liquor and 37% cocoa butter. I really have no idea, I'm just making numbers up, but you get the point.) We've actually had the Oro Bittersweet before, when a friend of a friend placed an order and we got in on it about 4 years ago, so we knew just what we were getting. Typically, this dark of a chocolate does not have a lot of flavor nuance and is mainly used for baking, but we enjoy it for snacking as well. It has a slightly mellow, sweet flavor that is followed by a deeper, intense chocolate flavor, but without a harsh bitterness that some bittersweets have. It's fantastic in baking, of course, because it can be diluted in a ganache or used with excellent results nearly at full strength due to these qualities. It comes in ribbon form, which means it is in small rectangular chunks that don't need to be chopped for melting and are just small enough to be used as large chunks in cookies or brownies.
The Gourmet Bittersweet (pictured at top), 63% cacao. We hadn't had this variety before, so this was a bit of a gamble (though they're probably all safe bets), but the catalog indicated it has a low viscosity (it's quite thin when melted), which makes it great for dipping chocolates, something I like to do around Christmastime if I have good chocolate around. I absolutely love this chocolate. Slightly milder than the Oro, it fills your mouth at first with warm honey tones, then the deep chocolate flavor sets in, and the two flavors really linger and blend. Mark and I have decided it is our favorite chocolate ever. Ever. (Although we still really like the El Rey bittersweet.) This only comes in 10-lb. blocks, 5 to a box. We split the box. I would have kept it all had I known how good it is, but I honestly can't use all this chocolate over the next year or year and a half, and I can place another order down the road.
Belmont milk chocolate. I don't have the cacao level for this, but according to the Guittard catalog, it's their darkest milk chocolate with "a full milk and full strength chocolate flavor, yet with a mellow finish." Well put. After tasting the dark chocolates, it tastes amazingly milky, but in the best of ways. It has a strong caramel taste to it, and the chocolate flavor is full and rich and so delicious. If I hadn't turned to dark chocolate 8 years ago, this would have been my favorite. Among milks, this may be the finest I've tasted. It also comes in 10-lb. blocks, 5 to a box. We have 15 lbs. of this chocolate. (I don't have a picture of the block...maybe later.)
In addition to these chocolates, I have 20 lbs. of baking cocoa (comes in a 50-lb. bag, which we divided), 10 lbs. of sweet ground chocolate which makes the best cup of hot chocolate I've ever in my whole entire life had from a mix, and 12.5 lbs. of chocolate liquor which I've tasted plain and actually enjoyed in very tiny bites. See, not that much. Just kidding.
It's a lot of chocolate, I know. You have to love chocolate to place an order like this, but that's not really an issue for me. And the possibilities are endless. I have all the chocolate I need to make anything chocolatey I want over the next year at least. Ninety-seven and a half pounds of chocolate should last me a while. What better Christmas present could I have than that?
*I say generally because ever since my last pregnancy, I can no longer stand the Ghirardelli 60% cacao squares.
**Again, from Wikipedia: "Chocolate liquor, also known as cocoa liquor and cocoa mass, is a smooth liquid form of chocolate. It contains both cocoa solids and cocoa butter in roughly equal proportion. It is produced by taking cocoa beans that have been fermented, dried, roasted, and separated from their shells and grinding their center, the cotyledon. The chocolate liquor can then be cooled and molded into blocks known as unsweetened baking chocolate. The liquor and blocks contain roughly 53 percent cocoa butter. Chocolate liquor contains no alcohol."