Many good things came out of going to Toronto for the World Fantasy Convention last year. I got to network my ass off with a bunch of peers, and meet some of my writing heroes. I got to live on poutine and crullers for a few days (and some amazing Indian food). I also got to make some valuable connections around the world–like a fellow candy aficionado in the Halifax area.
After a discussion about good chocolate prompted by my previous post about Theo and fair trade chocolate, a plan was hatched. Addresses were exchanged, and the first Fringe Candy Prisoner Exchange took place via mail. I broke my bounty out and have decided to do four reviews/posts based on what was contained within.
First up, we have the deceptively simple Maple Crusted Milk Chocolate bar from Sugah, a confectioner in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
And I’d like to go on record and say that when it comes to food, simple is often a good thing. Sugah makes their weapon of choice the old fashioned way, with authentic ingredients and a big copper kettle and then worked on marble slabs. Starting with the basics–making a smooth, quality chocolate base–is essential. If your chocolate is too sweet, or chalky, or waxy, then it doesn’t matter how you dress it up. And at the heart of Sugah’s chocolate bars is a very high quality chocolate.
Now here comes the twist.
I can hear some of you skeptics saying, “Wait, so they added sugar to a chocolate bar and that matters HOW exactly?”
Shut your PEZ hole and let me lay some learning on you.
There’s all kinds of sugar. Most people think it just comes from sugar cane, if they think of it at all. In 2009, 20% of sugar produced worldwide came from beets. And this isn’t a new thing. They’ve been extracting sugar from beets for over 250 years. And then there’s maple sugar, like what is used on this particular candy bar. Maple sugar has been cultivated before Europeans came over the pond and started fucking up the place. Maple sugar is about twice as sweet as cane sugar, plus it’s only about 90% sucrose, the other 10% being fructose or glucose, which accounts for the slight (but undeniable) difference in flavor.
The crusting of Sugah’s milk chocolate bar is light, and primarily on one side. It gives the bar a light crunchiness. I expect the sweetness of the chocolate itself might have been toned down to keep the maple sugar on top from being too overwhelming, but I can’t prove it. The overall effect was a very light crispness to the bite, followed by a delightfully melty chocolate. The actual maple flavor wasn’t something that hit me over the head immediately. Instead, it was a warm glow of flavor that lingered as the chocolate tones faded. There’s no mistaking maple flavor, and it’s perfectly balanced here.
As an introduction to gourmet Canadian chocolates, I found this bar to be a beautiful starting place.
Would I go out of my way for one again? If I lived in Canada where I could get them easily, this would certainly end up in a regular rotation. I can see it pairing wonderfully with a croissant and coffee, or maybe some tea on a rainy day. If you ever get a chance to try one, or anything from Sugah, don’t hesitate. I have two more bars from them I’m saving for my near-future review that are well worth seeking out. At this point, they could dip a beaver paw in chocolate and I’d probably take a whack at it. I don’t know how long they’ve been around…since 2005 at least, but I can’t find a comprehensive history of the company. But with a chocolate like this, I expect they’ll be around for a while.