There are some chocolates (or candy with chocolate in them or on them; it depends on who you ask) that can be found just about anywhere on the planet. Like Hersheys. Or Snickers. (Disclaimer: Hopefully I’m not starting another passionate debate on what constitutes REAL chocolate. When it comes to brands, I really don’t take sides. I have absolutely no problem with talking about M&Ms and Dick Taylor in the same sentence, nor would I have any problem whatsoever with eating both of them in the same weekend.) I’m not a chocolate “snob”. Nor do I have anything against chocolate “snobs”. (From what I can tell, they call themselves that, and it’s all in good-natured fun.) (They’re missing out on the M&Ms, but apparently they’re not worried.) (Yes. I just entirely overused parentheses just now.)
In contrast with the-found-just-about-anywhere chocolate, there are the chocolates that are found just-about-nowhere. Just as there is a certain allure of limited editions in the wonderful world of literature, limited edition chocolates also exists. Both are designed to make you feel special. While I’ve never gotten swept into the limited edition book craze (despite being so much of an avid reader in my youth that my mother had to impose a limit of one book a day to save my eyesight), I seem to be dabbling in limited edition chocolate.
News reached my ears (via social media) that Mantuano debuted a special limited edition chocolate bar in honor of Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe, the 2016 winner of the Basque Culinary World Prize. Only 500 of these bars exist (if I have the story straight). Out of those, only 200 were shipped to my neck of the woods.
The prospect of getting my hands on a bar was intriguing, but there were two issues that made me hesitate. The first bars made their debut at a store I never make it to. Secondly, the flavor happened to be aji dulce. Peppers – even sweet ones – aren’t my first choice when it comes to inclusions. Or my third choice. Or even my tenth or 25th choice, for that matter. (Yes, I could easily name 25 things I’d rather find in my chocolate than peppers.)
So, I thought maybe I would sit this one out. Remain impervious to the tantalization of getting my hands on a limited edition and all that. I didn’t NEED it. And, after all, was there really any sense in making an extra trip for a chocolate I might not even like?
Fast forward to after work one evening. It was casually mentioned at the tale end of a conversation about a shopping trip that there was a new addition to my chocolate drawer. My mom had gotten it, because it didn’t look like something I had gotten before and therefore might be something I might like to have “for pictures”. Correct and correct.
Mantuano aji dulce, in addition to holding the honor of being – if I am not mistaken – the second limited edition chocolate I have ever tasted, also holds the honor of being the first chocolate I have ever owned that came with a dried sample of the inner inclusion:
(See that cute little dried pepper to the left there?) I must be honest. I was not joking that there are literally 25 things (minimum) I could name that would be tastier (to me) than peppers in chocolate. This is just my opinion. (I generally LOVE Mantuano and still can’t decide whether my favorite is granola, lemon, or ginger.) On the plus side, the peppers were sweet instead of spicy, so I was able to eat it without too much trouble. To me it tasted like creamy chocolate with unidentifiable chewy bits, until the chocolate taste dissipated and the rest started tasting like stirfry or fried onions or scrambled eggs (or whatever I associate with aji dulce!)
That concludes my latest unusual-chocolate experience, but I’m always up for more. If anyone decides to put whole edible flowers in Venezuelan chocolate, sign me up! Or olive oil. Haven’t tried olive oil chocolate yet. Or matcha. Or… well, I’ll leave my list of 25 chocolate bar inclusions (that I would like to try but haven’t yet) for